Friday, September 29, 2006

Space blog

Last night I read an article about Anousheh Ansari, the first female space tourist. Her blog of the expedition on the International Space Station is fantastic. I came to it a little late, since as of today she is now back on earth, but the posts about her journey in the past two weeks are worth going back and reading. Read Page 2, where she writes about the weightlessness, the view of earth, and trying to wash your hair in space. I like how she writes about the details of everyday life and about her personal thoughts. You really get the sense of how meaningful this is for her. Video clips are included, too. In one you can see her necklace floating as she speaks to the camera, and you think, wow, she really is in space. It's a very interesting site, definitely worth visiting.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Here's an interesting Q and A with the obituaries editor of the New York Times.

The one-year plan

It's past midnight. The first minutes of Thursday morning. It's hot and there's no A/C. I'm in a contemplative mood. I've been keeping mum about a lot of things since I don't want to write some long, emotional rant about everything and nothing. I save that for pen and paper. But sometimes it helps me to write here, to write about myself, to take a step back and try to make sense of my life. So here goes.

Last night I made a list of four scenarios of what I could do in the next year. Four scenarios, all very possible, four different directions my life could take. Honestly, from one day to the next I change my mind about what I want to do. One day I'm so enthused about one direction, the next I think it's lame and want to do something else. I think about jobs I could do, degree programs I could apply to. I think about whether I want to have money or whether I want to have time. I think about how most people hate their jobs and how I don't want that to be me.

I think about this stuff all the time but I don't make concrete plans. In some ways I'm so organized--I'm a very scheduled person, I'm always on time, I did well in school. And yet something about planning rubs me the wrong way. The one-year plan, the two-year plan, the five-year plan. It reminds me of a corny John Mayer song. A professor once asked me, what do you see yourself doing in five years? I didn't have an answer. I don't think about the future very much. I never really have--in high school I saw adulthood as some big blank space that I'd figure out when I got there. Maybe I thought I'd die before then? Even now I don't think of the things I do as means to an end, they are just things I do to make pocket money and keep busy. I suppose in many ways I don't see myself as a full-fledged adult. I still think of myself as a kid and have the attitude that careers are for "grown-ups". The day I commit myself to something is the day I give up my freedom. I'm also self-defeatist and I think that even if I did have this grand plan it would never work out anyway. For whatever reason I don't really have a plan. But I'm 24. I should make some plans soon.

So the four scenarios, the four alternate versions of me. Sometimes I tell myself, just pick something, damn it. You can start in one direction, but you can always quit somewhere down the line. But can you? It gets more and more difficult once you are committed to something to backtrack and try something else. I wish I could see down the end of each path. But I can't, it's all just trial and error, and the errors can be harsh. Right now, one looks superior to the rest, but who knows about tomorrow? Yeah, I'm lost, I'm confused, I'm just like everyone else.

I have one comfort in all this, which is a belief that no matter what I choose I will eventually end up where I need to be. Call it faith or a belief in fate or whatever, but I think all rivers lead to the same ocean. Even if I make a rotten choice or two.

Bootsie the dog

My dog Bootsie. Photo taken May 2006.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Further complicating my attempts to understand what postmodernism is, today I read this description of modernism by Berman from 1982:

"There is a mode of vital experience - experience of space and time, of the self and others, of life's possibilities and perils - that is shared by men and women all over the world today. I will call this body of experience 'modernity'. To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world - and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. Modern environments and experiences cut across all boundaries of geography and ethnicity, of class and nationality, of religion and ideology; in this sense, modernity can be said to unite all mankind. But it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity; it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish. To be modern is to be part of a universe in which, as Marx said, 'all that is solid melts into air.' "

Fall is here

The unofficial first day of fall--as of today the heat is turned on and the swamp cooler shut off until spring. Kind of a sad occasion since I hate winter and cold weather.

Monday, September 25, 2006

UTEP lost :=(

Unfortunately, UTEP lost to UNM this weekend, 26-13. I watched the whole mess play out live on digital cable on Saturday. I really get a kick out of the pictures of the fans--they seem to be a lot more fired up this year than in years past. Check out this guy who quit his job so he wouldn't miss the UTEP-Texas Tech game.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Update: dinner came out well. Everyone seemed to like it, anyway. Asparagus was slightly overcooked, but no cooking disasters. Who knew, I can cook.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Random thoughts

Today is my mom's birthday. I volunteered to make her birthday dinner--steak, mashed potatoes, baked asparagus, and garlic bread. We'll see how this turns out, I may be in over my head.

I filled up my car with gas for what seems like the hundredth time this month. I really hate waiting in line to get gas. To me it doesn't seem worth it to wait in line at the cheapest gas station. I'd rather pay $.05 extra per gallon if it means I don't have to wait.

Tuesday night I watched Knife in the Water on Turner Classic Movies. This movie gave me a scare--it was midnight, it's in Polish, and I totally expected someone to get murdered.
I like this post. Current priorities: 1) freedom, 2) family, 3) fun, 4) force, 5) fortune, 6) fame. Does that mean I should be a college professor?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In this week's Time magazine, the two songs The Edge says he wish he had written: "Wonderwall" by Oasis and "You Get What You Give" by the New Radicals.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Last Kiss

Last night my sister and I went to see the midnight showing of The Last Kiss. It was pretty good. It reminded me a lot of High Fidelity as far as the subject matter. Here's a good quote from the movie (I'm paraphrasing): Love doesn't matter because it's only a feeling and because it's a feeling it only matters to you. The only thing that matters is what you do to the people that you say you love.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Top 10 Nostalgia Shows

My top 10 nostalgia shows. I'm talking pre-2000 shows that I would totally watch a marathon of if I came across it while channel-surfing. Apologies in advance, I know this list sounds like an episode of "I Love the 90's".

  • Picket Fences - This was a show about Rome, Wisconsin, the weirdest town in the world. A pretty mature show for me to watch at age 12 or 13, but that was part of the appeal.
  • Blossom - My slightly nerdy, introspective teen role model.
  • The Wonder Years - Two words: Kevin Amold. *cracks up*
  • Full House - Growing up as the oldest of three sisters, I could relate to this show. Could never decide whether I was more like DJ, the oldest, or Stephanie, who was my age.
  • Saved by the Bell - Spent way too much of my childhood watching Zach, Screech, Kelly, Slater, Lisa, and Jesse. I watched an episode of this the other day and still thought it was funny.
  • Murphy Brown - Why I wanted to work in the news.
  • Quantum Leap - Loved the concept of this show plus Sam Becket is still my ideal man of all time.
  • Hey Dude - A Nickelodeon show about a bunch of teenagers who work on a ranch. Cheese factor was very high even for a kids show.
  • Party of Five - Theme music alone is worth watching this show for. Mopey, but you'd be, too, if your parents died.
  • Dawson's Creek - Caveat: first two seasons only. Dawson and Joey, that song by Sixpence None the Richer, the Paula Cole theme song. Sigh, this show is the 90's for me.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I love Poetry Friday on Reassigned Time. Poetry is not really my thing, but this English professor comes up with some amazing selections that keep me coming back week after week. This week's poem: "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by Keats. I also have to mention "Pleasures" by Denise Levertov, the fantastic poem posted two weeks ago.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Magazine meme

I barely noticed I was tagged with this meme. How exciting, I've never been tagged with a meme before. Here are the magazines I read:

  • Time - I've been reading Time since I was 12 years old. What can I say, I was a weird kid. I don't always read it cover to cover but I usually try to get through as much as I can each week in the attempt to stay aware of national news.
  • O, the Oprah Magazine - I adore all things Oprah, but especially this magazine, which manages to rise above ordinary women's magazines with some really great articles and in-depth interviews. There's even a section about books.
  • Discover Magazine - Yes, I'm a geek.
  • Reader's Digest - I borrow this one from my dad. My dad always challenges me to the Word Power quiz. Plus I like the interviews.
  • USA Weekend - This comes with Sunday's paper and for some reason I end up reading it every week. The articles are hit-or-miss fluff, I mostly read it for the gossip page.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


For some reason I was thinking about PopText, a blog I used to read back in the day that had great reviews of pop music plus actual MP3s to download. I checked it out today and it looks like its on hiatus, but the "I'm taking a break from blogging" post is worth reading, along with the archives, of course.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The date on the calendar

It's hard not to notice what day it is. At work Sunday night I had to type in today's date a few times, which I found sort of strange given all that has come to be associated with it. When you see that date in print or hear it in conversation, everyone knows immediately what subjects are probably going to be brought up next, but there it was showing up as just another day, a mere matter of record-keeping. I almost feel like that date should be shelved and not used in the regular rotation of days, just taken out and set aside as sacred.

Before I left for the night I checked the wire service and there were at least a dozen stories on the anniversary of the attacks. I read a couple of them. Shortly after that I left the building and walked out to my car. As I often do, I glanced up at the Wells Fargo building a block away, probably the tallest building in El Paso, with its windows lit up in the pattern of an American flag. I have probably looked at that building a few hundred times before, but tonight a connection clicked in my mind that had never been made before. My brain froze for a second and I had a strange feeling in my stomach. It could happen here. I know how remote that possibility is, but I know that it's true all the same. It could happen anywhere and on any day at any time, even a beautiful clear September morning, and that's the scariest part of it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Rosie on The View

So I finally watched Rosie O'Donnell on The View. In high school I used to watch her show every day after school while eating a stack of Oreos and drinking Pepsi. I think I secretly wished Rosie O'Donnell was my cool but still nice older sister. There's a little of the same magic of the old show there. Surprising the whole audience with tickets to The Wedding Singer, that's something only Rosie O'Donnell would do. Finally The View is bearable to watch again. Oh and check out Rosie's blog,

Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz is the most honest book about Christianity (or "Christian spirituality," as Miller puts it) I've ever read. Not everything in the book rang true--some of the ideas were a little too nutty and liberal even for me--but so much did resonate with me, being a Christian but not the type of Christian that votes Republican and doesn't listen to secular music and gets married by age 21. It's different from many other Christian books I've read in that it dares to tackle the messy realities of life today--the postmodern condition and the uncertainties we all have about faith and relationships and ourselves. There are some really refreshing thoughts about faith, thoughts that I think most of us have at one point or another but that most Christian authors wouldn't dare to put down on paper. I'm talking about doubt here especially, an issue that most Christian authors won't touch with a ten-foot pole. It's a really smart book, and I especially like that it's not preachy, the author just kind of says what he has to say and leaves it to the reader to learn more if they are intrigued. Read this book if you're interested in spirituality, Christian or otherwise.
I so wish President Bush would actually give this speech.


I was reading through an assigned chapter about postmodernism and the world facing college graduates, and this description stuck in my mind:

"We have the feeling we live in a decentered world, a realm of fragmentation and incoherence, without a nucleus or foundation for experience.....Ours is declared an age of image and spectacle, and we are daily bombarded by a variety of sensory assaults--from the shopping center to the TV....We live in an age of "simulacrum," of simulations that take on a life of their own, appearing more "real" than what they represent--even more real than immediate material conditions....For those with the means and the time, life becomes a rich succession of manufactured events, a simulation of the past or future, the end being detachment from the concrete material and social conditions of one's historical moment. One defeats time and space and escapes the depressing features of daily life--the dark side of the new regime--through manufactured public performance."

From "Chapter Three: The Postmodern Predicament" in Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures by James Berlin

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Books I read in college

"I would never attempt to dissuade anyone from reading a book. But please, if you're reading a book that's killing you, put it down and read something else, just as you would reach for the remote if you weren't enjoying a television programme.

Your failure to enjoy a highly rated novel doesn't mean you're dim - you may find that Graham Greene is more to your taste, or Stephen Hawking, or Iris Murdoch, or Ian Rankin. Dickens, Stephen King, whoever.

It doesn't matter. All I know is that you can get very little from a book that is making you weep with the effort of reading it. You won't remember it, and you'll learn nothing from it, and you'll be less likely to choose a book over Big Brother next time you have a choice."

from "How to Read" by Nick Hornby

I read this a couple of weeks ago and thought it was awesome. I had just been thinking about this subject the other day as I was thinking about college and all the amazing books I read during that time. My idea: to write down all the books I read in college, for my own recollection and for others to possibly get some ideas of good books to read for themselves.

Before college, in high school particularly, reading books was a chore to me. Junior and senior years, on top of the novels and plays we read as a class, we had to read "the classics" for reading comprehension tests that were given every six weeks. You could pick any novel off an approved reading list provided that you could pass a computerized test on it at the end of the six weeks. I always had the best of intentions, but about 90 percent of the time I ended up finishing the novel the day I had to take the test. The Hobbit. I think I read this but I don't know since I don't remember a thing about it. Jane Eyre. I rushed through the ending so I could finish it on time, which basically ruined the meaning of it for me. The Grapes of Wrath. I rushed through this one, too, not to mention the fact that I hated it. This was a horrible, horrible way to read novels, I think everyone would agree.

Even the books I read for "fun" on my own time were well-known classic-type books since I considered popular fiction to be trashy romance, horror, and mystery novels written at an elementary-school reading level. I was a book snob, and many a classic was slogged through just to say I had read it. At least there was no time limit like there was in school, but reading was still like running laps around a track at 6 a.m., done because it supposedly was good for me but with no real enjoyment. I struggled through Beloved and Slaughterhouse Five, not finding either to be nearly as fantastic as they were supposed to be. I bought a copy of Catch-22 at Barnes and Noble once, having heard it was a great novel, only to find it so weird that I read one chapter and never finished it. I tried to read Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. Booooring (except for Pride and Prejudice, which I liked). I managed to read a few books that I liked and were meaningful to me, but for the most part I found reading a book about as fun as climbing up a mountain.

College was different. Freshman year I discovered the browsing section in the basement of the UTEP library with its cozy low velvet armchairs and amazing selection of new books. It was like finding a secret treasure. It was there that I found books like Geeks and Microserfs and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, books that were funny and modern and ironic and emotional, books that I actually enjoyed reading. I don't remember the first book that I checked out where it clicked for me (hey, reading books can be fun), but I do know that some time during freshman year I gave up on the classics altogether and started reading anything and everything I thought looked interesting--books recommended from bestseller lists, reviews in magazines, Oprah's Book Club, websites and/or blogs, whatever. I read what I liked and if I didn't like it I quit reading it. I read a ton of nonfiction with some modern fiction thrown in for good measure, and it was one of the most fun aspects of my life in college. Most of the books I read weren't considered great literature, but they all meant something to my life, whether they were funny or serious or informative or just had a great point-of-view. Most importantly, the books I read left me wanting to read more. Completely opposite from how it was in high school, now I go into a library or bookstore with great anticipation, even excitement, of what I might find, and that's really the only way it should be. Honestly, if you don't feel that way about reading, then don't read. Life's too short, find something else to do that you can get excited about.

Anyway, so here is my list of books I read in college that were most memorable. There are probably many that I've forgetten that I'll add later on, but here are the ones I remember most and would recommend, categorized more or less in order of how much I would recommend them:

On the Road Jack Kerouac
Breaking the Limit Karen Larsen
Assassination Vacation Sarah Vowell
Blue Highways William Least Heat-Moon
Around the Bloc Stephanie Elizondo Griest

Into the Wild Jon Krakauer
Into Thin Air Jon Krakauer
Ice Bound Jerri Nielsen

In Cold Blood Truman Capote
Under the Banner of Heaven Jon Krakauer

No Greater Love Mother Teresa
Traveling Mercies Anne Lamott
A History of God Karen Armstrong

My Life Bill Clinton
Living History Hillary Clinton
Girl, Interrupted Susanna Kaysen
The Spiral Staircase Karen Armstrong
The Seven-Storey Mountain Thomas Merton

College crisis
What Should I Do With My Life? Po Bronson
Working Studs Terkel

How to Write Richard Rhodes
Bird by Bird Anne Lamott

The Bridge Across Forever Richard Bach

Geeks Jon Katz
Moneyball Michael Lewis
A Brief History of Nearly Everything Bill Bryson

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers
Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte
Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Dave Eggers
Microserfs Douglas Coupland
Mr. Ives' Christmas Oscar Hijuelos
How to Be Good Nick Hornby
I Don't Know How She Does It Allison Pearson
Lying Awake Mark Salzman
The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
Hooray, Alex the Girl is blogging again.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The end of civilization

Outkast was on The View this morning.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Cool blogs

  • The Irish Trojan by Brendan Loy, who was featured in Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. Here's a post explaining the blog to viewers of the HBO documentary.
  • The Ross Blog by Ross the Intern on the Tonight Show. I've heard the blog mentioned on the Tonight Show a couple of times, so I decided to check it out. It's funny! If only they did give Emmys for "Best Flamboyant Television Personality on a Late Night Talk Show" (see Aug. 27).
You must try bubble tea at least once in your life.
I wish it would stop raining.