Monday, June 30, 2008

My lack of interviewing skills notwithstanding, voila, I have a new job. I won't divulge all the details, since this is a public blog, but I will say it is a job that involves news. It's a great job, really, a job I'm lucky to have been offered.

I am very excited about the new direction, but I'm also a little sad to think of what I'm giving up, mainly the placid life of an academic. Today was my first day and I think I'm still shaking all the cobwebs off my brain since I'm still in summer mode. I'm not used to any of it--dressing up, getting up early, dealing with co-workers. Time to relearn how to deal.

So much can change in a little over a week. I think right now I'm just in shock. Now that I've gotten what I said I wanted, what am I going to do with it?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

- Yesterday morning I went to a casino. I was doing well with a video poker machine at one point, but then moved to the slots and it was all downhill from there. I left the casino $20 poorer. Yeah, I'm a big gambler. I don't think I'll ever understand how people can just sit at slot machines and feed money into them all day. Isn't it just darn depressing to be in a dark room losing all your money? There's an occasional payout, but come on, can't people realize the general trend, that gambling is a habit where you lose money nearly all the time?

- In my continuing quest to learn Spanish, I was trying out listening to some Spanish-language stations and I found a really cool one: Orbita 106.7. The station plays a wickedly awesome mix of rock en espaƱol and alternative rock in English. Quite rare that you find a station that plays music in two languages. Unfortunately, the station doesn't have a website, so you can only listen if you're in the El Paso area.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm liking Aimee Mann's new album @#%&*! Smilers. The lyrics are up to the usual standards of cleverness: "You love me like a dollar bill/You roll me up and trade me in/And if you had the chance, you will/And if you get the chance again..." on "Phoenix." Also, the special edition CD comes with an awesome little book with the song lyrics and funny illustrations.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Border fence

TIME's cover story this week is about the new U.S.-Mexico border fence:
The fence is not likely to win any architecture awards. It's a hodgepodge of designs. The best--sections of tall, concrete-filled steel poles deeply rooted, closely spaced and solidly linked at the top--are blatantly functional. The worst--rusting, graffiti-covered, Vietnam-era surplus--are just skeevy walls of welded junk. Whether you think it's a sad necessity of a crude brutality, the fence is not a sight that stirs pride. The operative question, however, is not, What does it look like? but How does it work?

The article goes on to detail the effects of the wall on immigration border areas such as Yuma, Tucson, and San Diego. Living in El Paso, it's interesting to see how other areas deal with immigration and "the fence." TIME's general conclusion is that the fence is a deterrent, but only in combination with other enforcement strategies, like more border patrol agents.

One thing the article fails to cover in detail is the controversies involved in actually building the fence. Congress has allowed the Department of Homeland Security to waive all sorts of laws in order to build the fence quickly. The DHS is planning to build a new section of fence nearby, and of course, it's a big issue here. People in El Paso are generally opposed to the fence and the hasty manner in which it is being put up. The city of El Paso, El Paso County, and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (which represents the Tigua Native American tribe) filed a lawsuit against the federal government last month to slow down the fence's construction. Reports the El Paso Times:
The department wants to build 670 miles of border fencing this year, and Chertoff has said he would use authority Congress gave him to waive more than 30 laws that could get in the way.
[El Paso County Attorney] Rodriguez said the waivers allow Chertoff to bypass federal, state and local laws that leave the county wondering which laws it can and cannot enforce.
Tom Diamond, lawyer for the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, said the Tigua tribe joined the lawsuit because the fence would impede access to parts of the Rio Grande where they have conducted religious ceremonies for centuries.

The U.S. government has the right to build the fence, but they need to do it the right way, with respect for local laws, Native American tribes, and the environment.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

- VH1 rolls out the series "I Love the Millennium" starting tonight. Um, isn't it a little early for this? Not that it will stop me from watching and having a delicious time reminiscing about the last eight years of pop culture.
- MySpace for Hercules and Love Affair, a disco-influenced band that was raved about in the NY Times. This seems like it would be awesome music to work out to.
- Nice review by El Paso Times writer Doug Pullen of Tom Waits' concert in El Paso. According to Pullen, Friday's concert involved "A cop on stage. A key to the city from a councilwoman in a black dress. A startled singer in a bowler hat at a piano." He writes, "Friday's performance play[ed] out like some twisted journey through a house of broken mirrors that reveal the ugly truths of man's most primal instincts, and the ragged beauty of the species' most tender, vulnerable moments." Wow.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Job interviews, lack of posting, etc.

Sorry for the lack of posting. I think I need to follow some advice from this article (lol, the cat picture).

In a strange turn of events, this week I actually managed to be halfway-busy. I ended up going on three job interviews. I don't generally like job interviews (who does, really?), but considering the circumstances lately, it kind of gave me a boost to be put to the test.

The first interview was a total bust. I ended up handing back my application and walking out. It did not seem like a good place to work. On Friday I went on two job interviews. As I was parking my car before the earlier interview, I ran over an empty beer bottle with my right front tire. A horrible popping noise resulted, and about a hundred jagged brown glass pieces exploded all around the sidewalk. Maybe it was the first sign that this interview wasn't going to go well. Yeah, I don't think I'll be called back anytime soon. But the interview after that one went OK, I think. *crosses fingers*

After I got back from the interviews, my sister called and we dissected the whole process. My sister just landed a great job, so she felt compelled to offer me some interview advice. I slapped my forehead just thinking about all the things I did wrong. I hate to think of interviewing as a skill. I like to think I can just be myself and let my qualifications speak for themselves, so that I'm OK just winging it, but "winging it" rarely works out for me. Even on the last interview that I thought went fairly well, I ended up rambling or not knowing what to say at times because I was so nervous. Hopefully I'll be better prepared next time.

Anyway, so the summer and the HOT weather continue. Temperatures have been in the 100s all this week. I can't say I love the weather, but it's better than cold. Yesterday was the first day of summer. This actually makes me sad in a way, because from now on the days will get shorter and shorter until December.

More posts soon, I promise. It's weird how at times when I'm reading, things will stand out to me, like, you must blog this. But sometimes stretches go by where that doesn't happen, and I don't want to post about things that are not that noteworthy, that no one is going to care about, so the blog lies dormant. I suppose the more you read, and the more diverse things you read, the greater the chances are of finding things worth posting. I'll work on it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Equally shared parenting

There's an interesting article in this week's New York Times Magazine about "equally shared parenting." Writer Lisa Ekdahl provides some statistics on the typical distribution of labor in the home:
The most recent figures from the University of Wisconsin's National Survey of Families and Households show that the average wife does 31 hours of housework a week while the average husband does 14 — a ratio of slightly more than two to one.

But then break out the couples in which both husband and wife have full-time paying jobs. There, the wife does 28 hours of housework and the husband, 16. Just shy of two to one, which makes no sense at all.

She quotes University of Buffalo professor Sampson Lee Blair, who finds the "sadly comic" result that even "in married couples 'where she has a job and he doesn’t, and where you would anticipate a complete reversal, even then you find the wife doing the majority of the housework.'" Wow. How unfair can you get?

Ekdahl then profiles several couples who are committed to the idea of equally shared parenting. Most seem to arrange approximately equal work hours for both partners, for example, each parent arranging a four-day work week or working opposite part-time schedules. Then each parent will have certain designated times for child care. Household responsibilities are also roughly equally divided (though in all the profiled couples, it seems the wife still tends to do more of the chores and have more of a manager role in the household). One couple even tracks their time commitments with a color-coded chart.

It's a great article in that it's lengthy enough to give readers a look at how this really plays out in practice, rather than an airbrushed view of what some might dismiss as a "cute" idea. I'm struck by how, even in the profiled couples who seem to represent the (I'm guessing) very small percentage of Americans who make equally shared parenting a top priority, there is still a strong tendency for childcare and chores to default to the woman. The arrangement involves a lot of compromise and constant struggle against societal expectations. But despite the imperfections, I think if more couples did this, it would be nothing short of revolutionary--for women, of course, in countless ways, but also for men. Why shouldn't work and personal time be more balanced for all individuals, regardless of gender? It's an ideal that I think is very much worth striving for.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Some lovely words of advice from Alex the Girl:
Let go of the snark, your worries, your anger and fear and give into possibility, action, joy and life. Do. Do some more. Stop thinking about you. Stop blogging about just you and your kid and your pet. There's a world out there to connect to, really connect to. Being of use is more important than being popular. Think about the lady down the street, the person at the drive through, the man fallen in the street, about politics, the environment, healthcare, another country and then do something about it. Never stop at thinking.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer update

I don't have a job this summer. This means three months of trying to occupy myself until the fall semester starts. Is it good or bad to not work for three months? Ask me at the end of the summer. Here's what I've been doing lately:
  • One of my goals for the summer is to learn more Spanish. I signed up for a continuing ed Spanish class only to get a call a few hours before the first class that the class was cancelled due to low enrollment. This sucks. I guess I'm stuck learning Spanish on my own. My latest tactic is to read articles in Spanish-language magazines and look up every unfamiliar word in an Spanish-English dictionary. It kind of works, though I still can't speak Spanish worth anything.
  • Also on the agenda: brushing up on my web design and computer programming skills, in the hopes that these might be useful in a future career. I feel like I've forgotten everything I've ever learned. It's frustrating.
  • I've been reading a lot lately: novels by James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence, the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, short stories by Alice Munro. I tend to read mostly nonfiction, but this summer I'm reading a ton of fiction. Books are good, especially when you've got the time.
  • Oh yeah, and I'm supposed to be working on my thesis. It's a stop-and-go process--one week I'll get a lot done on it, and others I won't work on it at all.
So I've got some stuff going, and yet on these hot days I have the urge to dissolve into a puddle of laziness, stay in bed all day, watch TV non-stop or be glued to the Internet all day. Sometimes I give in, but most of the time I try to do something productive.

It must be hard to live like this all the time. It would seem like this type of life is easier than going to a regular job every day, and it is, in some ways, but in other ways it's more difficult. Mentally, mostly, and socially in not having people around to talk to every day. It will be a relief to go back to work, I think.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

TIME's Josh Tyrangiel sums up perfectly my aversion to Coldplay: "Get past the obscenities, and the criticism amounts to this: lead singer Chris Martin is a cornball solipsist, the melodies all have the same mass-produced 'character' as a Pottery Barn table, and Coldplay's albums sound like crib-safe versions of Radiohead--a band that, while commercially less successful, is infinitely more hip and worthy of adulation."

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Contact lenses

For a week I have been trying out contact lenses. I briefly wore contact lenses seven years ago but I stopped wearing them for reasons I only vaguely remember. This week I remembered the reason: because they irritate the hell out of my eyes. They don't hurt, really, they just dry out my eyes a lot. I've gotten more used to wearing them in the past few days, so I can wear them for about three or four hours now, but then I take them out and there is such relief to go back to wearing my glasses.

I admit I like the way I look without glasses, but is it worth the discomfort? With all the cleaning with solution and application of eye drops, contacts are just as bothersome as glasses, plus there's the irritation of having plastic in your eyes all day. I don't know how people get used to it. I think I'm giving up on contact lenses. Maybe LASIK is the answer, someday when I can afford it? I don't know.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I finally sat down and watched Season 1, Disc 1 of The Wire. Not a show for the faint of heart, given that a) it's super gritty and violent, and b) you really have to pay attention to understand the intricate plotlines. So far I'm impressed. I'm not quite ready to crown this the greatest show of all time, but I do recognize that this is a more ambitious kind of TV crime drama than what came before. This is light years away from a Law and Order-type series, where basically the police and the attorneys are always good and the criminals are always evil. The series shows similarities between the criminal and the law enforcement hierarchies, which I think is pretty daring. Also, the glamour factor is reduced, and you can see how cops and drug dealers alike face politics and incompetence and hassles, just like in any other job. If you want to understand the criminal justice system, this seems like the drama that gets closest to what it's really like. On to Disc 2 then...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Spring at the UTEP Library:

Sunset views:

The new season of 30 Days starts tonight. I love this show.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Brian Greene writes an eloquent argument on why you need to "Put a Little Science in Your Life":
But here’s the thing. The reason science really matters runs deeper still. Science is a way of life. Science is a perspective. Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding in a manner that’s precise, predictive and reliable — a transformation, for those lucky enough to experience it, that is empowering and emotional. To be able to think through and grasp explanations — for everything from why the sky is blue to how life formed on earth — not because they are declared dogma but rather because they reveal patterns confirmed by experiment and observation, is one of the most precious of human experiences.

The whole thing is worth reading, especially if you're science-phobic.
If you have HBO, Recount is definitely worth watching. The film is about the chaotic aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, aka, the era of the chad. This is a well-crafted political thriller--twists and turns abound, even if we already know the ending. The film strikes the right balance of pointing out the absurdities of that election in a serious way and also incorporating many humorous elements. The writers and actors have some fun impersonating the individuals involved, especially Laura Dern with an over-the-top Katherine Harris, yet the film doesn't devolve into caricature. Kevin Spacey excellently captures the mix of cynicism and idealism of Ron Klain, leader of Al Gore's post-election fight. Gore and George W. Bush are portrayed only in passing and in voice impersonations; they aren't central characters, which I think was a wise decision. I was surprised at how many times I was left in suspense as I was watching this, my memory of 2000 getting a little spotty, which just goes to show why films like these are necessary. Recount is a well-executed and relevant analysis that never gets boring.