Tuesday, July 31, 2007

From a funny essay about swimming pools in TIME: "Most people, like most pools, have a deep end and a shallow one." The house I grew up in had a pool in the backyard. Steve Rushin is right--a swimming pool is dangerous and indulgent but also tons of fun.

Another interesting word

anomie - n. 1. Social instability caused by erosion of standards and values.
2. Alienation and purposelessness experienced by a person or a class as a result of a lack of standards, values, or ideals: "We must now brace ourselves for disquisitions on peer pressure, adolescent anomie and rage" (Charles Krauthammer).

Source: American Heritage Dictionary via dictionary.com

Friday, July 27, 2007

I caught the mouse

Yesterday morning I caught the mouse. My mom and I really hadn't been too aggressive about catching it before. We had set out some wimpy glue traps and moved some of its food sources out of the bottom cupboard thinking that would give it incentive to move on. But enough is enough. I was seeing it nearly every night, I could sometimes hear it gnawing inside the kitchen cabinets, and I kept finding droppings in the kitchen. On Wednesday night I laid out two heavy-duty glue mousetraps, basically long plastic trays coated with about a quarter-inch of super-sticky glue.

The next morning the mouse got caught in the sticky mess. It was a tiny gray-brown thing. Its little legs were trapped in the goo and it was exhausting itself trying to get out. I grabbed the trap, a bottle of oil, and a pencil (to unstick it with) and went outside. I went down the block and crossed the street to where there is a huge expanse of desert. I poured some oil into the tray and proceeded to try to unstick the mouse. Its hind legs came free, then I tried its front ones. It wiggled like crazy and I grabbed it and tried to pull it free. At that point the mouse bit my finger, hard. But it was now free from the trap and I dropped it into the dirt. It stayed next to a bush for a few moments, its fur stained with oil, and that was the last I saw of it. I turned away, crossed the street again, and when I got to the house I immediately washed my finger.

My hand hasn't turned black and I am not foaming at the mouth so I don't think I got some deadly disease from the mouse bite. But poor mouse. It was so cute, cute enough to be a pet. But this was no pet mouse. I thought of how I'd seen the mouse previously, how it moved so smoothly and quietly in the night. It could get into the tiniest of spaces. Then I thought of it in the trap, having the crappiest day of its life so far, trying so hard to get out. And me dumping it out in the desert. At least I didn't kill it outright with poison or with a snap trap. I don't think I could have taken that. Did I effectively kill it by leaving it out in the desert? On this point I think ignorance is bliss.

So that's the end of the story with one mouse. There might be another one roaming around. Mom supposedly saw a fat mouse in the kitchen cupboard one morning and the one I trapped was definitely not fat, so the traps will stay out. I really hope I won't have to do this again, though. Bugs are one thing, I don't think twice about killing them, but causing harm to cute little rodents is not something I enjoy doing.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Funny mime performance of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn (scroll down to No. 9). Natalie Imbruglia is a really good sport.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

- Progress on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: p. 137. I'm generally not a very fast reader. I usually like to take my time reading a book, even with Harry Potter.
- The mouse made another appearance last night. As far as I know we have cut off its major food supply. Hopefully it will move on soon.
- "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" is currently playing on Pandora, reminding me that The Darkness is a pretty cool band.
- I keep wavering between wanting the summer to be over and wanting it never to end. I'm conflicted.

Try this banana pudding recipe

I've been cooking more in the past few weeks. Yesterday I made tuna patties (tuna, carrot, onion and bread crumbs dipped in egg and cooked on a skillet) for dinner. I also made brownies for dessert :-). Two weeks ago I attempted my mother's favorite recipe for banana pudding. It was surprisingly easy and it is really delicious (recipe reprinted from this site on about.com):

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1-1/2 cups cold water
1 (4-serving-size) package instant French vanilla pudding and pie filling mix
2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
40 vanilla wafers cookies (about)
3 to 4 medium bananas, sliced and dipped in lemon juice from concentrate
4 vanilla wafers, crushed to crumbs for garnish

Combine sweetened condensed milk and water in a large mixing bowl. Add pudding mix and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Refrigerate pudding mixture for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whip heavy cream to stiff peaks. Fold whipped cream into chilled pudding mixture until combined. Select a large (3-quart) decorative glass bowl. Spread 1/2 cup of pudding around the bottom of the bowl and top with one-third of the vanilla wafers, followed by one-third of the bananas and one-third of the remaining pudding. Continue layers, finishing with pudding on top. Sprinkle with crushed vanilla wafer crumbs. Chill at least 4 hours before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Monday, July 23, 2007


Inspired by an article in the El Paso Times from a few weeks ago, I ordered Fandango from Netflix. This movie is the very definition of gonzo and I can understand why it is considered a cult classic. It's about five guys (the "Groovers") taking a road trip through West Texas after their college graduation. It's over-the-top and there are gaping holes in the plot but this is the type of movie where the plot is besides the point. And of course I loved the setting for the movie; if you've ever driven through West Texas you will recognize the landscape. The ending was filmed in San Elizario, and my dad informed me that my great-uncle was an extra. Very cool.

Friday, July 20, 2007

In August issue of Discover magazine, Bruno Maddox speculates on why science fiction has ceased to matter:

For one, it was around that time, the mid-1990s, that fiction—all
fiction—finally became obsolete as a delivery system for big ideas. Whatever the
cause—dwindling attention spans, underfunded schools, something to do with the
Internet—the fact is these days that if a Top Thinker wakes up one morning
aghast at man’s inhumanity to man, he’s probably going to dash off a 300-word
op-ed and e-mail it to The New York Times, or better still, just stick it up on
his blog, typos and all, not cancel his appointments for the next seven years so
he can bang out War and Peace in a shed. If one truly has something to say,
seems to be the consensus, then why not just come out and say it? If your goal
is to persuade and be believed about the truth of a particular point, then what
would possess you to choose to work in a genre whose very name, fiction,
explicitly warns the reader not to believe a word she reads?

It's an interesting essay, worth reading in its entirety.


Thirteen hours until the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I am probably more excited than I should be considering that I'm 25 and not 10. For the first time I'm even considering going to one of those midnight release parties. It would be just for fun since I already pre-ordered a copy via Amazon. It hasn't been easy to avoid reading anything about the plot of the book. Somehow the NY Times already has a review. How did they manage that? Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting the book and sequestering myself in the house for a few days.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mouse in the house

This is gross to admit but there are mice living in my house. In the past month or so I've seen mice scampering across the floor a few times, usually at night. A few weeks ago an exterminator gave my mom and I some sticky mousetraps to trap them but with no luck. Then this morning Mom found a fat mouse in the cupboard eating flour. She trapped it in there but the question is what are we going to do with it now? I don't want to kill it. Is it really so bad to have a few mice living in your house? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I upgraded the blog template and added a new poll about pet preferences on the sidebar. Dogs all the way for me. Props to Blogger for adding the new functionality. I was able to change the template while losing only a few of the changes I had made to the sidebar, a major breakthrough.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Best (and worst) concerts I've been to

I'm not too much of a concert-goer, especially lately as funds for concert tickets have been low. But I've been to a few good concerts (and a few bad ones) and I thought it might be worth recalling the best and the worst:

The best:
1. Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Classical music on steroids. The music was top-notch, the light show was mind-blowing, and last time I went they even had fake snow. Wow.
2. John Mayer, opening act Maroon 5: Maroon 5 was near the peak of their initial popularity and they played an amazing set. Could it also be that I have a tiny crush on John Mayer? Possibly. John Mayer is a great guitar player and he played through the gap between the last song and the encore, a poke at the stupidity of encores that I thought was hilarious.
3. Vertical Horizon, opening act Sister Hazel: My first concert. Sister Hazel played a cover of "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" that I loved. And Vertical Horizon had a whole line-up of great songs.
4. Matchbox 20: Maybe Matchbox 20 is way too Top 40 in a lot of ways but you forget that these guys are actually pretty good musicians. The band played a fantastic cover of "Jet".
5. Fleetwood Mac: For being older, this band put on a very energetic show. And Stevie Nicks, need I say more?

The worst:
1. Hall and Oates: It's kind of embarrassing to admit that I went to a Hall and Oates concert. I don't know how you manage to make elevator music more boring, but they did. A very rote performance and they barely talked to the audience at all.
2. Nickelback: I had to stand through the whole concert, I got beer spilled on me, and halfway through I realized that I don't like Nickelback's music very much.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

- I am oddly excited that David and Victoria (Posh Spice) Beckham are coming to America. But it just makes so much sense to me, the glamour couple coming to live in Hollywood.
- There's nothing like The Motorcycle Diaries to make you realize how bad your Spanish is.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Yesterday I went to see Sicko, Michael Moore's documentary about the need for health care reform in America. It's a documentary that makes you laugh and makes you cry and then makes you want to write to your congressman or woman. I liked seeing this movie in the theater because you could hear other people's reactions to it. I was on the verge of tears a couple of times during the film and there was a collective gasp at seeing the amazing benefits of the French social welfare system. And Michael Moore gets out the bullhorn one more time, this time on a boat outside of Guantanamo Bay. Even as the movie was still playing, I could hear a guy start to discuss it with the person next to him, kind of annoying but it's cool that a movie is able to inspire that kind of reaction.

What's sad is that the health care horror stories in Sicko probably won't be surprising to most of us, since if you live in America you've most likely experienced yourself and/or heard others' stories of the unfairness and cruelty of the current system. It's a system based on greed where the interests of the patient often come last. We treat health insurance like it's a luxury when it really is a necessity.

I know Michael Moore's movies tend to be one-sided and not show, for example, the downside of having a generous social welfare system. But after seeing this movie I was completely convinced that a government-run health care system is the way to go, even if it means higher taxes. In the current system, it's a struggle to even get insurance in the first place, and even then you really don't know what will happen if you get sick--your insurance company may drop you or refuse to pay for treatment because it's 'experimental', and even with coverage you may still go bankrupt paying sky-high medical bills. There's no peace of mind. Maybe state-sponsored health care won't fly with conservatives (sigh), but at the very least couldn't we have a system where everyone has at least a minimum amount of health insurance? And some way to control health care costs? It's about time. Sicko is definitely a thought-provoking movie and I hope it will inspire some desperately needed reforms.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Shall we gather by the river
Where bright angel feet have trod;
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?"

From my piano book, lyrics from "An American Hymn" by Robert Lowry. Almost as pretty as the music.
Excellent NY Times editorial mapping out a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq:
This country faces a choice. We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out
this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are
withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as
possible to stop the chaos from spreading.
Best movies I've seen so far this summer: Ratatouille (SO cute) and The Commitments.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Why are you so quiet?

During a break at my exercise class the other day a girl came up to me and said, “You’re so quiet. Are you always like this?” And I half-smiled and just said, “Yeah.” What I really wanted to say is, is it still that obvious that I’m shy? There, I said it. I’m shy.

This isn’t exactly a new development. In my earliest memories I am shy. I remember being too inhibited to talk to the other kids at a birthday party. I remember sitting at the coloring station in kindergarten afraid to talk to the girl sitting next to me. I was always sure the other kids wouldn’t like me, a feeling that has persisted for years and years. I don’t know where that came from, since my parents never told me anything like that. If anything, they spoiled me and thought everything I did was great. As far as I can tell I was born shy.

Some people grow out of shyness but unfortunately I wasn’t one of them. I just couldn’t understand why it was so easy for other people to just open their mouths and say something and why everyone else seemed to have more and better friends than I did. This wasn’t a case of being “a little shy.” This was a bizarre fear where I just couldn’t get to know people. I was a good student but a complete dunce socially. You often hear the adjective “crippling” attached to shyness. It really is crippling, sort of like having two broken legs. You’re not able to get around socially. As a result of being shy, I was a lonely and often unhappy kid. The middle school years, especially, were nearly unbearable.

When I was old enough to reflect on this I tried different things to cope. I told my parents but after awhile I realized that they couldn’t help me. They tried, but I think that they just couldn’t understand the depth of the problem. I made resolutions: I told myself that this year I’m not going to be shy, I’m going to be very outgoing and talkative. This usually lasted about a month, at which point I found it too difficult to keep up and I’d go back to being my quiet self. I tried prayer, but I found that God couldn’t help with this one. I tried positive self-talk—I thought if I just had the right attitude about myself I wouldn’t be shy anymore. That didn’t work either. Nothing seemed to work.

I struggled on and by high school things had settled down a bit. In high school I would say I was surviving socially. I had mostly accepted my shyness and thought that this was how it was going to be for the rest of my life. Things still weren’t great but I had a few misfit friends I could talk to. I still didn’t know what was “wrong” with me or how to “fix” it, but I was reasonably content.
I was 17 before I knew anything worth knowing about shyness. One day in the school library I happened to pick up a copy of Psychology Today magazine and there was an excellent article on shyness. Its conclusion: there is nothing wrong with shy people, medically or psychiatrically, and the solution to shyness is simply to develop better social skills. OK, maybe this seems extremely obvious. But I had never read anything about shyness before, ever. And it was such a relief to know that 1) nothing was wrong with me. I really had thought that something was wrong me for which I should possibly be taking medication. And 2) there was something I could do about it, a difficult but effective solution backed up by plenty of research.

Knowledge is power, and this article changed my view of shyness completely. It was like turning on a light after years of stumbling around in the dark. It was also around this time that I got on the Internet (the good old days of AOL) and found the newsgroup alt.support.shyness, fairly useless now but a godsend at the time, as I had never known anyone who was as shy as I was. Finally I didn’t feel alone in this struggle. At 17, I knew more about shyness than I ever had before.

I can’t say that things changed immediately after I read that article and that suddenly I wasn’t shy. I was still shy, but I realized that I had the power to change things and began to work in earnest on my social skills. And it actually worked. As soon as I started to work on things like “small talk” skills, things did improve for me. I did feel more confident in social situations. However, it wasn’t easy to change patterns of behavior so ingrained in me from such an early age. A lot of times it was two steps forward, one step back. And I still struggle though I think I have become progressively less shy over the years.

In Shyness: A Bold New Approach, a book based on his Psychology Today article, shyness expert Bernardo Carducci likens shyness to hay fever, and I think it’s a great comparison. Like hay fever it’s a source of discomfort that will never be totally cured, but you can find appropriate ways to deal with it. “[Allergy sufferers] don’t have to live in sanitary, plastic bubbles, but they will stay away from gardens in bloom, springtime fields, and florists’ shops. They can enjoy life once they learn to control their exposure to what makes them uncomfortable.” (46)

Part of the reason I’m writing this is that I find that most people do not have a good understanding of shyness, especially the type of chronic shyness I have struggled with. Unless you have this particular problem yourself, most people can’t understand being so shy that you have great difficulty starting conversations and making friends. Hence situations like the one in my exercise class. Even so-called professionals don’t understand shyness. I’ve been to therapy a couple of times, and both times I found the therapists unsuccessful at helping me deal with this problem. One told me to “just accept yourself.” Another gave me some self-esteem exercises to work on. If either of them had read Carducci’s research they would know that neither of these approaches is optimal. Which leads me to believe that treating shyness is not generally taught as part of therapists’ training, and it should be.

I spent so much time in my childhood and adolescence unhappy and I think it’s really awful that I wasn’t able to find some help for this until I was 17. If I had only known, or my parents had known, how to deal with shyness I think I could have avoided some of the hell of loneliness I went through. Maybe I would have actually gone to the prom in high school. Or not, since proms are kind of stupid anyway. But friends are always good, and I didn’t have enough of them growing up. Maybe I would have even been able to lead more of a normal life and not think of myself as a freak. And that’s the main reason for writing this, so that someone else might read this and not have to struggle as much as I did.

Here are the best resources I’ve found for overcoming shyness, three of which I’ve already mentioned:
Psychology Today article by Bernardo J. Carducci, Ph.D.: A great article. Read the whole thing.
Shyness: A Bold New Approach also by Carducci: The only good book about shyness, in my opinion. Must-read for anyone struggling with shyness.
alt.support.shyness FAQ: Some good information. I wouldn’t recommend the actual newsgroup at this point, though.
Some great, practical advice for overcoming shyness from someone who has been through the experience.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I finally found a copy of this on the web (scroll down the page): You Know You're From El Paso When..... Funny.

My favorite mix CD

Created June 9, 2005
1. "Four Seasons" Vivaldi
2. "You Get What You Give" New Radicals
3. "Lost in Space" Aimee Mann
4. "Disappear" Hoobastank
5. "If I Ain't Got You" Alicia Keys
6. "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" The Proclaimers
7. "Find Your Way Back Home" Dishwalla
8. "The Sound of Silence" Simon and Garfunkel
9. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" Tears for Fears

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Summer fun at the Diablos

I skipped Italian class yesterday in favor of baseball, $3 tacos, and fireworks. Yes, the Diablos. The tacos were a major disappointment with pre-packaged taco shells. That's blasphemy, especially in this town. And more points off for no salsa. I guess that's what you get for $3. The family and I had great seats in the sixth row near third base, and there were some pretty enthusiastic fans in our section. "It was IN!" this guy yelled, leaping out of his chair on a bad call by the umpire, nearly into the laps of the two people sitting next to him (including me). They also kept ribbing the other team's batters. A batter with shoulder-length blond hair is up: "Let's get Goldilocks out of here!" Then a guy who looked about my height (very short) goes to bat: "Who let the bat boy play?" Unfortunately the Diablos' effort came up short: they lost 9-6. On to fireworks. They were spectacular, as usual, with music from the EP Youth Symphony. The tacos were bad, the team lost, the fireworks were good, so they went one-for-three. Ah, whatever, I think it's impossible not to have a good time at a Diablos game.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Check out the gorgeous pictures in Anne's Food, a Blogger Blog of Note. Now I'm getting hungry...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Dispatches from the Edge

Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival (2006) is Anderson Cooper’s memoir of his experiences reporting on some of the most horrific wars and natural disasters of the past 15 years—Bosnia, Rwanda, the 2004 tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Iraq, and others. It’s compelling subject matter, and Cooper brings an immediacy to each story through his lucid but choppy writing style. I could so easily imagine Anderson Cooper reading this on 360, even the sections about his own life. But despite the choppiness of it, Cooper does a fantastic job of describing what really goes on during a crisis situation. Cooper describes the stories that you don’t get to see on the news, and as you may expect, they are heart-wrenching. Over and over again, Cooper seeks out dangerous situations and comes face to face with violence, death, and suffering. In particular, the section about Hurricane Katrina is shattering.

Cooper seems addicted to the rush of a crisis, but there is a deeper reason for seeking out these disastrous scenes than just the adrenaline rush. It seems telling others’ stories of loss helps him make sense of his own pain from the deaths of his father and brother. Throughout the book, Cooper weaves in his attempts to come to terms with these losses. At times this seems awkward, like maybe he should have written another book with that as the focus. But I suppose his point is that death and suffering are universal; even the author with his privileged background hasn’t escaped tragedy.

I liked the fact that Cooper doesn’t gloss over the sensationalism of TV news, the push to find the most shocking story and record it on camera, and he expresses some guilt over it. However, you get the impression that he does care deeply about helping people and about bringing attention to causes that warrant it.

Maybe this book isn’t for everyone. However, if you have a strong stomach and are interested in news, Dispatches from the Edge is a well-written, emotionally affecting look at the life of a TV correspondent that is definitely worth your time.