Friday, June 29, 2007

Photos from UTEP

Here are some photos of my favorite spots at UTEP that I took a few weeks ago. Click on the photo below to see the entire set.

annette_c_a's UTEP photos photosetannette_c_a's UTEP photos photoset

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mandy Moore has a new album. I like Mandy Moore. Somehow she strikes me as far less vapid than most pop singer/actresses. I think my opinion of her changed after she dyed her hair brown and even more when she took a role in Saved.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's a quarter til 9 p.m. when my Italian class lets out and after that I head straight to Starbucks. I want something cold and I want something with chocolate in it. I see a raspberry mocha frappuccino advertised as the special so I order that. I wait in line, there's one guy in line in front of me. A few minutes later I get my order. It comes with a nice crown of whipped cream and some raspberry glaze drizzled across the top. Nice. I take it outside, sit at a table on the patio. No one else is out there. The air has the feel of a warm bath and I just want to sink into it. So I sit for awhile and watch the last bit of the sunset. There are some clouds dark against the still-blue sky in the west. A lone star is out (actually, it's probably a planet, according to a book I read once).

I wonder if I'll ever go to Italy. Instead of a Starbucks, maybe someday I'll be at a real Italian cafe where I'll sit on a sidewalk and tell the waiter, Vorrei un cappuccino, per favore. I wish. Something about Italian agrees with me--the vibrancy of it, the constant "ch" sound, the full vowel sounds. Italiano e molto bello (Italian is very beautiful), and I am happy at the progress I'm making in my continuing ed class.

It's the height of summer and I have these long stretches of time that I have no idea what to do with. Time just extends and extends, and I am uncomfortable with it. Who's to say what is a good use of time, though? Just because I'm not being productive as far as making money or earning school credits, does that mean I'm wasting time?

This has been causing me a lot of anxiety lately, but my angst melts away sitting outside Starbucks. For first time this year I recall what summer is all about. It's 9:00 on a weeknight and I don't have any place to be. I can spend 20 minutes watching the remnants of a sunset and sipping a frappuccino. It's beautiful and peaceful and once I finally take the time to sit down and appreciate the moment I don't feel guilty about it. Those 20 minutes end up being so enjoyable that I leave thinking I should watch the sunset every day.

I wonder if I'll remember this summer five or ten years down the road. I wonder what I'll be doing next summer. I can honestly say I don't know. Some people plan their whole lives out. They have career plans, time tables, agendas. At the very least they have some kind of image in their mind of how they see their lives playing out. Maybe I'm stupid for not having that. I think many of my failures in life have been a result, at least partially, on a lack of planning.

But the truth is, life frustrates me and people frustrate me and maybe I've always secretly been waiting for some way out of the whole business, some way to escape the conventions of society and still do something important. So far I've managed to escape a lot of the conventions but I have yet to do anything I consider very meaningful.

After a certain point of sitting around with all the time in the world, the boredom lessens. Your mind is free to start thinking about possibilities. You start thinking about what you have and haven't done, what you'd like to do, how you're going to save the world. You start thinking about having cappuccinos in Italy. And it ends up being pretty cool.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


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Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Assault on Reason

I've known for some time that the policies of the Bush administration are deeply flawed (thank you, Jon Stewart). However, I have to admit it has been a while since I've thought very deeply about the U.S. system of government--its Constitution, the intent of its founders, the rights of the individual, and the system of checks and balances. It seems every day you read a news story about another ethical violation of the Bush administration. But up to now I had never really connected the dots and thought about those stories in terms of the Constitution.

Leave it to Al Gore to put it all together in The Assault on Reason and show us just how outrageous the policies of this administration are. Gore explains in clear language why this administration's policies have violated the very core principles that this country was founded on. He explains in detail the administration's perpetuation of misinformation (including the selling of the Iraq war on false premises), obsession with secrecy, and drive for an ever more powerful executive branch. This is a president who has suspended the rights of habeas corpus for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and has supported the use of torture.

However, The Assault on Reason is not simply a listing of the Bush administration's (many)wrongs. Gore's larger argument is that what is wrong with America is a decline in reason as the basis for in decision-making, and the Bush presidency is only a sympton of that. He sees the decline of print and the rise of TV as the major source of information and entertainment as a key factor in people's disengagement with the political system, as people feel a sense of powerlessness because of the one-way flow of information television provides. And televison plays on the emotions, rather than engaging people's reasoning abilities, and because of that PR experts, e.g. those in the Bush administration, are able to manipulate the population using fear-based tactics. People form opinions based on what they see on sound bites or 30-second television ads rather than reading about the issues.

This makes a lot of sense to me. While I don't think it explains everything that's wrong with society today, clearly the dominance of television is a big part of it (along with the failing educational system, but that's another story). People are just plain uninformed about government and politics. How can you possibly get a good grasp on current events from TV news? For example, I have never seen local TV news program explain candidates' positions on issues during an election in any level of detail. And these days even CNN isn't beyond ad nauseum coverage of celebrity "news".

This is not a fun book to read, but it's definitely an important book to read. The Assault on Reason should be required reading in high school history classes. I appreciated the fact that the book isn't based on petty politics or a personal vendetta against George W. Bush. This is a sober look at policies that violate the U.S. Constitution, and Gore expresses an appropriate level of anger that I think every single American should feel at the Bush adminstration's actions. We should all be marching in the streets about this stuff. But we're not.

Gore is optimistic that the rise of the Internet, as a two-way medium will spur people into political action and get them more involved in the issues. Honestly, I don't know if I am quite so optimistic. Sure, the Internet is definitely better than television as a way to obtain information and possibly get involved in politics. But isn't the Internet becoming more like regular television every day with the rise of YouTube? How do you get people to quit watching funny videos and start caring about political issues? I don't know the answer to that. But despite my lack of optimism about the Internet, Al Gore is still my hero and I am 100 percent convinced that if he were President right now there would be no need to write this book.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too

I've been claiming "You Get What You Give" by the New Radicals as my favorite song for years (since the first time I heard it back in the '90s, actually) without owning the CD it was from. I finally broke down and decided to buy Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too when I saw a used copy for $1 on Amazon ($4 with shipping). Not a great sign when an album goes that cheap, but I thought I might be pleasantly surprised. If anything, at least I would have another copy of my favorite song.

This album is odd in that I don't know whether to recommend it or not. True, I can't stop listening to it. There are some really catchy, sophisticated pop hooks on here, both fun and melancholy, that draw you in. Besides my favorite song, which is, of course, awesome, a few of the other tracks show similar brilliance. But the lyrics are another story, ranging from immature to crude to just plain cheesy. Case in point, "Someday We'll Know", possibly the cheesiest lyrics I've ever heard in my life. Most of the songs are about some guy pouting because this great girl dumped him, and given how immature and under the influence this guy sounds, you can't really blame her.

However, maybe I'm weird because I find the cheesiness of the lyrics sort of funny, and Gregg Alexander's subversive commentary on society is good for a few laughs. So my final recommendation is to buy this if you like pop music and can stand a few stupid lyrics.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The NBC Nightly News was broadcast from El Paso tonight. You can watch stories from the broadcast via this website (click on Tale of two Cities for a profile of El Paso and Juarez), and here's a blog entry about it with comments from some El Pasoans.
Today was the first time I bought beer and didn't get carded. I am getting old.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday, Father's Day. It was a perfect summer day. My cousin hosted a family get-together for the first time. My cousin, married, with her own house, it's hard to believe. We had steaks and salad and yogurt-and-berry pie, yummy. It was so hot outside, near 100 degrees, but we still sat in chairs outside on the shady back porch talking.

I never know what to get my father. I finally settled on a gift card to Applebee's because I know he'll use it. Too impersonal? Maybe. I've given up on meaningful and have settled for functional.

I had to buy gas after work so I went to the gas station on Mesa and University. On the way to the freeway I drove down University Avenue, through the UTEP campus. The campus was deserted, as might be expected. I have three sets of memories of my time at UTEP: undergrad, grad school the first time, and grad school the second time. But the memories I had on this night were of undergrad years and as I drove I felt a twinge of sadness at the realization that those days are never coming back. Sort of like losing a favorite photograph. That chapter of my life is lost and becoming more lost every second.
Cool blog: David Byrne Journal (yes, of the Talking Heads).

Friday, June 15, 2007

Blog gossip

I opened up my newsreader to find it was a milestone day for blogs:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I'm slightly bored at the moment. There is embarrassingly little going on in my life. I wish there were 14 hours of daylight when I had papers to write and work was exploding. But I am not in school and this is the slowest time of the year at work, so I find myself with an insane amount of time to fill. So far I've signed up for an Italian class (Come stai? means How are you?, Quanti anni hai? means How old are you? and pomodoro means tomato) and a strength training class on Saturday mornings (just like gym class, only for old people). Maybe if I ever go to Italy I can impress people with my language skills and my well-developed biceps? lol.

Besides those classes I have a stack of books I'm planning to read, which I'll probably end up writing about on here, and there's always Netflix. Enough to keep me quasi-occupied as my summer of boredom continues, I suppose....

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Cool idea from The Assault on Reason by Al Gore:
"The relationship between faith, reason, and fear sometimes resembles the children's game of rock, paper, scissors. Fear displaces reason, reason challenges faith, faith overcomes fear." (45)
This is the only non-textbook I've ever read where I've felt compelled to underline key points. Highly recommended.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Today around 1:00 in the afternoon my sister called, crying, saying, "Annette, you have to come now. I got into a car accident at the post office." My heart skipped a beat, but apparently she was well enough to get to the phone and wasn't in the emergency room, so I didn't ask any questions, just said, "OK, I'm going," hung up the phone and ran straight out the door to drive to the post office.

Later on it occurred to me that that's really the definition of a family. There are four people in the world that the second they call and say, come now, I need you, I will drop everything and go. And I know they would all do the same for me.

It turned out to be a relatively minor fender-bender, with the right corner of the car dented and the back side panel partly detached. It wasn't her fault--the other driver rear-ended her as she was making a turn. My sis was crying but not hurt at all, thank God.

Car accidents are the worst. Even a minor accident is traumatic and even if it's not your fault it's a huge hassle and a humiliation. When something like this happens, you realize what is really important. Cars can be fixed or replaced, all I really cared about was that my sister was OK, and right now I'm indescribably grateful for that.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Check out this Sims music video of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" on YouTube. LOL. via Leonard Martinez's column in the EP Times.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Q: How do you fit an elephant into a Safeway bag?
A: First, remove the S in "Safe". Now take out the F in "way"....

Friday, June 08, 2007

I love this interview with J.K. Rowling from 2000. Tiny excerpt:
Joanne Rowling is no good at small talk. In fact, there is a chance she is
incapable of it. Within minutes of sitting down she is talking about death and
fate.....Life does not come in a neat package, I say, and she pounces on this.
"People do want life to be neat. That is undoubtedly true. But you know the four
great truths of Buddha: the first one is 'Life is Suffering'. I love that. I
LOVE THAT. Because I think YES. Life is not supposed to be neat. And it's a
comfort. It's a comfort to all of us who have messed up. And then you find your
way back, bizarrely. And I'm sure to mess up again at some point - though, I
hope, not on such a grand scale."

Hometown pride

Story about astronaut/hometown hero Danny Olivas. Local news media are really hyping this. Apparently it's still a big deal to travel into space. Cool.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's Day 3.5 of my cold and I'm starting to feel better. Yay!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

It took a while but yesterday I finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Book 5 of the series. I honestly can't remember the last time I was so into a book that I couldn't put it down. Crucial secrets are revealed, and there's the constant question of which character is toast this time. There is a satisfying complexity in this book, an intricacy that is really amazing. I finished the book thinking that J.K. Rowling is a genius. It's a daring book in the way Rowling completely dismantles the world of Hogwarts and takes on more mature subjects. In the Order of the Phoenix, the takeover of Hogwarts is an obvious metaphor for how a government turns into a dictatorship. Another theme is mind control and the clearing of the mind, which I found spooky and fascinating.

One thing that's interesting about these books is that on the one hand, they are about an epic struggle between good and evil, and on the other, they are about some friends going through school together, dealing with mundane things like homework and tests and relationship issues. Somehow Rowling manages to have both storylines without it seeming absurd. OK, it does seem a little weird sometimes, but it's really a feat that she's able integrate the two storylines so well most of the time.

One more book to go, then I'm caught up to read Deathly Hallows.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

- No doubt about it, I have a cold. Darn.
- is my latest musical discovery. My loyalty still lies with Pandora, though.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Interesting post and comment thread about American vs. European higher education.

Friday, June 01, 2007

According to this, I'm a good liar. I wonder if it's true.
In general, when I compare myself to the characters in Hollywood movies I feel like a total social misfit weirdo. On the other hand, the characters in indie films make me feel like I'm completely normal and well-adjusted. I don't know which I prefer.