Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top 10 favorite lists for 2009

(Note: Some of the stuff below I know was not released this year but it was what I watched/read/listened to this year.)

Movies
(500) Days of Summer
The Class
Entre Líneas
Everlasting Moments
Food, Inc.
The Hangover
Man on Wire
Rocket Science
Sin Nombre
Up

TV
"How I Met Your Mother"
"In Treatment"
"Lost in Austen"
"Mad Men"
"Top Chef"
"The Wire"
Didn't watch enough good TV to fill out the next 4.

Books
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Lost in Translation by Eva Hoffman
Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki
King Dork by Frank Portman
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
The Idiot's Guide to Philosophy by Jay Stevenson

Music
"I Love the Unknown" by Eef Barzelay
"This Modern Love" by Bloc Party
"If You're Thinking of Me" by Dodgy
"This world is not for the faint of heart" by Hypernova (don't know the name of the song, only this lyric from the chorus)
"Heartbreak Warfare" by John Mayer
Wait for Me. by Moby
Grandes Exitos by Shakira
Far by Regina Spektor
No Line on the Horizon by U2
Boy for You by Astrid Williamson
- RE: my last post - Is it really such a big deal to be so uncommitted? I'm 27, not 40. *sigh* Too much thought.


- I think the allergies that made my life miserable earlier this year may be back. *double sigh*

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Uncomplicated

It was around a year ago that I was describing my life to someone and the adjective that I used was "sheltered." In the years since I graduated from high school (in 2000), it seems like I've made an art out of dodging major social and financial entanglements. In the first big decision of my life, I decided on good old UTEP right here in El Paso for college. It was simpler that way, that was the main reason -- I had a scholarship, so I didn't have to spend anything on tuition, and there were no dorms or flights at holidays or credit card debt. I finished my bachelor's degree (well, education is the exception, at least there's *something* I committed to) but I didn't get into a "real" career straightaway, instead meandering through years of grad school and working part-time at a newspaper, not a career choice I think most grad students in computer science typically make. Even as I've settled into more lucrative work, I still have never had a car or house payment. Too much commitment, even if I had the money for it. I have lived with my mom all except for one year out of my life. I've never been married or even had a serious relationship, and I've never had a kid to take care of.

Am I very weird? Maybe I just don't take so-called achievements or life milestones very seriously. I didn't really want the degree from a name brand college or the high-pressure job that pays a lot of money. To me loans and debt have always seemed like having a bag of rocks tied to your ankle for life. I'm happy with my old Honda and upstairs bedroom and four-year-old cell phone. I laugh at status symbols, nice clothes and iPhones and shiny new trucks, I like to think I don't need them to prove my worth. As for romance, I don't really like the idea of being chained to another human being, especially a man. Men who I have previously admitted that I don't understand. Don't I have enough quirks of my own, without adding someone else's unpredictable neuroses to the mix?

I've stopped just short of living in a convent with the simplicity thing. Looking back I see the simplicity as a choice, a willful act of defiance, because the default seems to be complexity. Complicated finances, complicated relationships. But looked at another way, I suppose there's something else in the self-imposed course of avoidance. A fear. I fear investing too much of myself into anything, only to have it not work out. And immaturity. I've written before about being shy, and I've read that shy people are slower to reach life milestones like the ones I've written about. Not that it's true for everyone, but it has been true for me. It's taken me years to get a tentative grip on the career and relational issues I gather that most other people figure out much earlier.

I think all this is on my mind because I see things about to change for me as I head further into my late 20s. I anticipate admitting more complexity into my life as I get older. I tell myself, the pared-down life is weird enough in your 20s, in your 30s it will just seem absurd. I can't see myself as George Clooney in "Up in the Air," with nothing in the backpack. I've already moved into a somewhat stable career. My car will break down at some point, wouldn't it be nice to get a new one? A place of my own seems more and more tempting. And as I see friends and family my age getting married off and starting families, won't I want the same someday? It terrifies me now, but maybe one day it won't.

But can't we just toss out the timelines, that you get a real job at 23 and get married by 27 and have your first child at 30? I don't much care if I'm the exception. At this point I don't think I'm a general commitment-phobe. It's more like I'm running things on a case-by-case basis these days, and I think that it's just not the right time for some things in my world, that's all. But maybe it will be soon.
Another Christmas has come and gone. My Christmas loot: $75 in Barnes and Noble gift cards, yay! I don't know yet which books I will choose. A couple of sweaters and shirts. A box of truffles. Day-by-day calendar of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (why did they include the word "die" in the title, it sounds so morbid). A scarf. Money from Mom and Dad. Etc.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'm getting addicted to New York Magazine. This end-of-decade reflection is awesome:

Ever-increasing bandwidth and mobile computing brought us tantalizingly close to a world of infinite, instantaneous communications. Those who saw this coming convergence at the start of the decade were the winners. Those who didn’t were the losers.
...
Is all this good or bad? Depends where you sit. If you’re reading this magazine, meaning you’re capable of maintaining your concentration for more than 140 characters, it’s probably bad.
...
The fear now is that no one is in charge. That we are all adrift in a vast, roiling sea, the contours of which none of us can fully discern.

Monday, December 21, 2009

2009

This has been a good year. I've been to London and back. I got a job I really like, the job I kinda/sorta envisioned myself having at this age when I was a kid. I was able to forgive people when I very well could have chosen not to. I started Spanish classes again and plan to continue them. I was busy, but not too busy to hang out with interesting friends and see indie films and read good books.

Looking back, the continued positive direction of my life seems so tenuous. One unexpected disaster or unpleasant circumstance could have made this year something different, but it didn't. Some wonderful things in my life this year were just plain luck, blessings that I don't deserve and can't take much credit for, and for those things I say "thank you," for God's grace shining down on me for one more year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Nice Sunday night -- good dinner, excellent company, a movie starring Harry Potter, and no work tomorrow.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The NY Times asks, "Can Anybody Make a Movie for Women?". Apparently Nancy Meyers can. Upwards of $12 million per film. Wow. I don't love all her films but I've seen "The Holiday" three or four times and find it a nice bit of escapism.
Can't remember the last I was so grateful for a Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas shopping update

As of yesterday I'm done with 98 percent of my Christmas shopping. Yay! I went shopping during the day and thought the stores wouldn't be crowded, but they were. Toys 'R Us was an especially unpleasant experience -- babies crying, almost getting run over by shopping carts, long lines. They also didn't have any good Twilight merchandise, which is what I was looking for. Fortunately I was able to find nearly all of the stuff on my list at other stores within three hours, so I won't have to make a return trip to the mall and surrounding stores. Thank God, that's really a Christmas gift in itself...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Juárez

Before I start, let me make clear that the following is all my own opinion and not those of any current or former employers. OK, enough with the disclaimer.

So my friend and I are standing outside an El Paso bar on a Friday night and the topic of conversation turns to Juárez. She said she has heard from her Juárez friends that the violence there is getting worse and the situation is more hopeless than ever. The family of her friend was carjacked, and there was a shooting at the nightclub her friend's brother owns. Her friend is planning to move away to another city in Mexico to get away from the violence.

"When will the violence be over?" I wonder aloud.

She doesn't answer me and we fall silent. There's not else much we can say about the drug cartel war in Juárez, the Mexican city across the border from El Paso, where over 2,250 people have been killed this year. Here is a good summary of the current state of things, if you haven't read much about it. Body after body has been found gunned down on the streets. Some are found tortured and dismembered. The victims have included women and children. There are also reports of a rise in crimes like extortions, kidnappings, and carjackings.

Reports of the violence across the border typically come to me secondhand as above, through a friend of a friend or through the media. Enough for me to give a polite "I'm sorry to hear that" sort or reaction, not enough to provoke the gut-wrenching reaction that comes when the crime is against someone you know well. The streets of El Paso remain very safe, and even when it's in the city nestled right up against my beloved hometown, the violence to me is still in the abstract, a shadowy, humongous problem that there's not much I can do about, like AIDS in Africa or global warming.

Am I hopelessly insular, that I have so little direct knowledge of Juárez, its citizens, and the violence tearing it apart? Even before the drug cartel war started, I always associated Juárez with danger. It was the place my mom always said she was afraid to go. I suppose that childhood fear is why I can count on two hands the number of times I've been to Juárez. Three times to visit the mercado, once to Villa del Mar, a seafood restaurant, three times to a church camp. That's seven times in 27 years of life, none of those visits in the past two years, when the war has been going on.

Also, unlike a lot of native El Pasoans I have no family members in Juarez. I have acquaintances who live there -- people I went to school with, former co-workers, friends of friends -- but no one in my inner circle, which I suppose makes me lucky. It's not my parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, or close friends getting killed or seeing the bodies pile up.

But when the media do their job and start digging into who these people being killed actually are, I am reminded how closely these two communities are connected. People who lived and worked and studied in El Paso have been killed. Some of the most disturbing headlines this year:
A 7-year-old? Yeah, it's unbelievable, it's utterly horrible, tragic, despicable, and unfair. But solutions that will end the violence aren't forthcoming. The Mexican government has sent in thousands of soldiers to the city. It seemed like the answer, then it failed. Decriminalizing drugs in the U.S. has been suggested, but that likely is not going to happen any time soon.

The U.S. government has added more southbound inspections to curb weapon and currency smuggling into Mexico, and some Juárez groups even want to bring in U.N. peacekeepers. Meanwhile, the BBC suggests poverty and corrution are the real problems.

The experts have done the analyses and some solutions have been tried but the killings continue, and we're back to "what a pity" then silence. It's like this wall of frustration builds up. We need the facts on why the situation is getting worse and not better, but it's not a situation where we can get all the facts, given the dangers for anyone who dares to investigate.

And what's really frustrating is that there is so little that any one average person can do. Tell people about it, I guess (part of the reason I'm writing this). Write to representatives in Congress or to the White House, maybe, and some protests have been organized.

But I think the attitude that "there's nothing I can do" leads to complacency. I'm frustrated by the lack of urgency in the conversation at this point in the war, the attitude that the murders are unstoppable. Especially here in El Paso, where you'd think we'd be hypersensitive to what's going on just across the border, people like me who don't have close ties to Juárez continue on with our lives that are mostly undisrupted by violence, and it starts to fade from our consciousness. I've been guilty of this, too. I'm busy with my own life here, and I am tired of thinking about drugs and violence and death. But in this situation it's not a matter of choice. With about 4,000 people killed in the past two years, and an average of between 200 and 300 killings a month now, we in El Paso and the rest of the U.S. and the world need to keep thinking about it and keep talking about it, and express our solidarity with the citizens of Juárez.

No, I don't have answers for the problems plaguing Juárez. I'm as bewildered by the situation as anyone as I sit here writing from my safe perch. All I'm saying is the fire's still raging there, and we shouldn't allow anyone to forget about it.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

TIME calls the '00s the "decade from hell": "It was almost as if we as a nation said in previous decades, 'Why do today what we can put off until the first decade of the 21st century?' But we didn't rise to those challenges. What we just lived through, then, was the chickens coming home to roost."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Snow storm

Woke up to this bleak scene:



Took these photos near my house after the sky had mostly cleared up in the afternoon:




Makes me not mind winter so much.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ben Casnocha on immigration as an antidote to world poverty. Great argument, also includes a link to this graphic on the current process of obtaining American citizenship.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

Another good Thanksgiving this year. Plenty of turkey and holiday pies and I ended up playing about 30 rounds of hide and seek with my little cousins. I forget how much fun it is to play with kids. They are so grateful for the attention, and it was really refreshing not to talk or think about grown-up stuff for awhile.

I was thinking this morning about how much I have to be thankful for -- family, friends, health, a job, an abundance of food, living in a community that is safe despite a war that rages on across the border just a few miles away. I get caught up in my little day-to-day stresses sometimes but the truth is I have nothing to complain about.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

- Interesting profile of Sonia Sotomayor in the latest issue of Latina magazine. According to Latina, Sotomayor is a Supreme Court justice who "makes tasty salads and hooks up a mean churrasco with a tangy lemon marinade."

- Hair tip from Zac Efron: "Shower before you go to bed, and then sleep on your wet hair. Towel-dry it. In the morning, it's all messed up naturally. If you have that messed-up thing going when you wake up, it's more willing to stay that way. That's Zac's hair tip."

Warning: this doesn't work for girls with long hair.

- My mom bought a Dyson and I can't think of another time I've been so impressed by a machine. It's lovely and amazing. This takes my vacuuming hobby to another level.



- My teeth finally don't hurt as bad today. And I'm off the all-liquid diet.
- I'm starting a new job tomorrow. But you'll have to e-mail me if you want to know what it is.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wisdom teeth gone

I had my wisdom teeth extracted today. I've put off doing it for years, but I couldn't ignore them any longer. One was jutting crooked into my lower left molar, causing my front teeth to crowd in an unsightly way. I do not want to be known as that woman with bad teeth. And then I was horrified when about two weeks ago I noticed my upper left wisdom tooth breaking through the gumline. Something I've always wondered -- how are teeth programmed to come up or fall out? Why at age 27 is there an urgent need for these teeth to appear? It's like an invasion.

Anyway, I went in at 7:45 and the surgery took about an hour. I got an IV with anesthesia so I don't remember anything about it. I remember the dentist putting in the IV then asking me, "Do you feel anything right now?" And I said no. And he said, "You will very soon." Then nothing. I don't remember nodding off or feeling woozy then going to sleep or anything like that. The next thing I remember is waking up and leaving the dentist chair. It was like getting up from a good night's sleep. I thought it was strange that I felt so fully awake and not detached or disoriented after being so soundly asleep.

My mom drove me home, where I promptly lay down on the couch and slept for a few hours longer. So I guess I wasn't as awake as I thought. The lower half of my face was numb for about eight hours after I got home and I had to keep changing gauze pads out of my mouth to soak up the blood.

But really, the pain hasn't been bad even after the numbness wore off. I took some Motrin, that helps. My jaw feels like it's bruised in places and I can feel large gaps in my gums where the teeth were removed.

I think the worst part of all this will be not eating the foods I'm used to eating. Yesterday I ate a spicy chicken burrito just because I knew I wouldn't be able to for a while. Some staples of my diet like salad, fruits, gum and crunchy cereal will be out for another couple of weeks *sigh*. I like to eat and yogurt and pudding for dinner just don't do it for me. I can move on to soups and noodles tomorrow, according to the dentist. Whoo, exciting. I'll be very glad when my jaw and teeth function normally again.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Moby writes about insomnia:
"insomnia is so odd, as it's so self-destructive, but yet solely the product of the self. it's only the self. the self at war with itself. the brain deciding it somehow knows best, even though it's crippled by delusion."

Friday, November 13, 2009

It has been another intense week in which every day I get home from work and don't have the will to do anything besides watch a few hours of TV. I am now a fan of Castle, Top Chef, and Project Runway and a sort-of fan of Dancing with the Stars. I also watched Jay Leno's show a couple times this week. I don't think it's as funny as it was in late night but I still like it better than Conan's.

I feel a little guilty about my TV habit. I like to think of myself as the sort of person who would rather read than watch TV in her off-hours. I have the best intentions of doing work for my Spanish lessons after work. And blogging, of course. But somehow none of those things happens on a weeknight as a numbness of mind sets in.

Has work turned my non-working self into a zombie? I guess that's what weekends are for, to snap out of the work-TV haze.

Sunrise


It's a rare day that I'm actually out of bed to watch the sun rise.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

- Forget violent video games, I think piñatas at kids' birthday parties are really able to bring out children's violent tendencies. I just watched one particularly brutal beating where the kids went about ten rounds before the thing was finally torn apart. The youngest kids in line were three years old! But I'm not so PC that if I had kids I wouldn't allow them to have one.

- Last night I watched the season 3 finale of "Mad Men" on DV-R. Of course it was amazing and reminded me why I watch the show, for its un-nostalgic portrayal of the '60s. Here's an interview with the show's creator where he talks about the finale. I was close to tears by the closing song. That, my friends, is art.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Technological genius

This whole week there wasn't a dial tone on any of the phones in the house. I finally called the cable company on my cell yesterday to find out what the problem was with the digital phone line. After getting through the voice recognition answering system and not one but two customer service representatives, we finally got to the bottom of the problem: the line was plugged into the wrong phone jack on the back of the modem. Nothing mechanically wrong with the line, it was merely plugged into Line 2 instead of Line 1, which I inadvertently switched when I unplugged the modem and then plugged everything back in. If I had thought about the problem for more than a minute I probably could have figured out the answer. D'oh.

I bet it gets pretty annoying to answer dumb calls like that all day. But in fairness, I think it's an easy mistake to make based on the design of the modem. The Line 1 jack is actually below the Line 2 jack. This problem is probably right there on their FAQs list.

I just hope there weren't any important calls I missed during the week. Fortunately, the "land line" isn't the number I typically give out for important stuff.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Love when they play moody British rock on the radio in the mornings:

Friday, October 30, 2009

I just bought another box of Claritin. The 12-hour kind, not the 24-hour kind, since it freaks me out to think of being on any drug 24/7. I don't know what the deal is with my allergies. It's been over three weeks since I first felt all this throat congestion, and if I go off the allergy medicine it seems to come back right away.

It's strange, I wonder what has changed. I was living and working at the same places last year and I didn't have this problem. Is this how it's going to be from now on, the boxes of Claritin and tissues, the stuffy nose, the coughing, etc.?
Picture taken yesterday morning from the balcony. Snow in October, it's hard to believe.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I wrote my fingers off today, wrote until I had to stop to make sure the words I was writing still made sense to anyone besides me. Sometimes I find myself typing phrases into Google to see whether people actually ever use it or if I'm making up a new grammatically incorrect phrase. It's kind of hard to know what's "correct" in writing a lot of times, because sometimes there is no correct or incorrect, only smooth or awkward, and the line between those gets blurred sometimes.

When I talk in Spanish and say something unfamiliar to me, I'll ask my teacher, is this common? If it's not then I don't want to say it. I think with languages, that's all you can go by, really, what's common and what's not.

Whatever the standards of correctness, it's funny how writing still makes me happy. Finding out the right information, smoothing out the transitions, correcting the spelling and punctuation until it's all clear and strong and powerful. I smile inside at that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I think I've reached the point in the year where I get home and immediately wrap myself in a blanket. It's frigid outside. I'm also wearing my flannel pajama bottoms with cute little sheep on them. Why does winter have to come around every year?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

- It's genuinely cold in El Paso this week, not merely a little chilly in the mornings. I turned on the heat last night and I'm wrapped in a blanket writing this post. I don't like cold weather. But it is the last week of October, so we've had a pretty long spell of warmth. I should be grateful for that.

- I went to the dentist yesterday for a consultation on getting my wisdom teeth out. The dentist did a good job of explaining all the risks and benefits of the surgery. Mostly I am concerned about all my front teeth turning crooked, which I noticed has been happening more in the past six months. The surgery is scheduled for Nov. 20. *sighs* I'm not scared but I'm not exactly looking forward to it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I must give a plug to Movies in the Canyon. I went to see "Back to the Future" last night as part of the outdoor movie series in McKelligon Canyon and it was really amazing. The quality of the picture was great, the amphitheatre itself is beautiful in the mountains where you can see all the stars so clearly (even a couple of shooting stars), the ushers kept the audience orderly (well, with the small exception of a couple dumping popcorn on each other in the row in front us), and the admission was free. The weather was surprisingly not too chilly even at 9:30 on a late October night. And really, who gets tired of seeing Marty McFly and Doc Brown and hearing "Power of Love" even after the millionth time? It was a great time, so kudos to whoever thought up Movies in the Canyon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Good column by Judith Warner on the "Female Happiness Conundrum":
Life for women has not come together...Our workforce and education system is still sex-segregated, operating along generations-old stereotypes that steer most women into low-paid, low-status, low-security professions. Women pay more for health insurance than men, have more extensive health needs than men, and suffer unique forms of discrimination in their coverage...Regardless of the number of hours they work, they continue to do far more caretaking and housekeeping work at home than do their husbands.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Today I had another drive home on a rainy night, the kind of drive I'm so fond of writing about. At one point the windshield wipers were on maximum speed and I was driving at a crawl. On the radio, "Sweet Child of Mine" then a program in Spanish where two women were discussing the health benefits of eggs. I stopped paying attention when it got too rainy. When I got home I put a plastic bag on my head and made a run for the door.

Now it keeps raining off and on. I don't dislike rain, I just wish it would rain for a short time then stop and not rain again for another month or so.
Can't say I disagree.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another weekend where I didn't go out much. My illness, which I still suspect is not a flu or cold but just a bad case of allergies, cleared up some but I still sound hoarse and still have regular coughing fits. So I'm not the best company these days.

It was actually really nice to have an excuse to catch up on my magazines: America Ferrera interviewed in Latina (what does she say about her alleged feud with Lindsey Lohan?), how bacteria communicate in Discover (gross), the state of the American woman in TIME (should give men more credit, they seem to accept women in power OK), the kidnapping fixer in The Atlantic (saw it on kottke, yes, it's worth reading).

Also finished American Wife (as I thought, more of a study of a woman's life, albeit a woman who is quite similar to a certain First Lady, than political satire). Curtis Sittenfeld may be my new author hero.

Funny how much I don't miss going out. I think my natural inclination is to be to be a shut-in. Which is exactly why I don't let every weekend to turn into read-a-pile-of-magazines weekend.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The New York Times reports from Juarez again, this time about how Mexican law enforcement investigates crimes:
The federal government refused to provide statistics on how many arrests had resulted in convictions, how many suspects were still under investigation or how many arrests had proved to be mistakes. But independent reviews by scholars suggest that only about a quarter of crimes in Mexico are ever reported and that only a small fraction ever result in convictions.

Compounding matters is the sheer number of crimes, especially murders. On a single September night in Ciudad Juárez, 18 men were shot to death in a drug treatment center near the border, more than the number of killings all year long in El Paso, just across the Texas border.
This video is also worth watching, if gruesome.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I don't know why I'm so stubborn about not staying home from work when I feel sick. I know some people are much less so. Midway through the afternoon, I was coughing up a storm and my co-worker literally touched my forehead and said "a little warm, are you OK?" My throat was burning and my head throbbed. I was exhausted, too -- I hadn't slept well two nights in a row since I kept waking up coughing. If I were being honest, I would have said, "No, I feel like crap, but I'm staying here until 7 regardless." But instead, I said, "Yeah, I'm OK." Just so I wouldn't have to explain.

Me and my stupid principles. Is it really so bad to stay home if you're merely sick, not deathly ill? I think it makes me brave or stoic or something to not stay home at the first sign of sickness. But after a certain point it just makes me sicker and makes everyone else sick, too. I think I reached that point today.

Oh well, I made it through my allotted work week, now I finally feel free to rest and get better.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The end of the experiment

So my little experiment of posting to this blog at least once a day for 30 days is at an end. From a ratings point of view, this seems like a failure. Here are my page views in the last month. As you can see they haven't shown a clear increase since I started the experiment. Twelve views in one day was the high point. Not what I was hoping for.



And here are the page views over the past year:



Nothing much happening there, except a continuing slight decline. Though to be fair, I didn't start until nearly halfway through September and October isn't over yet. I continue to have only one "follower" on Blogger. I guess people could be reading through newsreaders and I wouldn't know about it. I've had a few more comments, which is good, though I don't know how much that says about readership.

I sometimes wonder why I keep this blog. My blog is a contradictory thing, since I both want people to read it and want to keep it a secret. I suppose some people keep blogs so their friends can keep up with them. But that's never been what this has been about. I don't advertise the blog to people I know. It's more for random strangers to stumble across and be fascinated with and come back and become regular readers. But the days of that happening on a regular basis seem over, as indicated by my stats. This past month it has been more like something I do for myself, something to prove I still have something to say as a blogger with my writing, photos, and links.

It has been interesting to be reminded of why I was drawn to blogging in the first place. I had forgotten what it was like to constantly think "I should blog about this" when something happens. Andrew Sullivan once wrote that blogging was like jazz in that it's improvisational. It's not high art, generally not stuff you would publish in a book. It's on the fly, conversational. It's also personal. For me, I've always seen a blog as like a confessional. Sort of like what they used to do (still do?) on the "Real World," where you go into that little room with the camera and say what you really think about your roommates. You say things you wouldn't say to people in real life, but somehow posting it to the Internet is OK. That instant intimacy can get you into trouble, but it's also what makes blogs fun to read. Some of my secrets have come out in the course of these 30 days, and I think that's fine.

This has also been an exercise in forced creativity. It has been good to try to coax a little creativity out of myself. Some days I can't think of anything to post, but there is always *something* to write about, even if it's just some random musing about work or being tired or a link. The idea of applying principles of work to your hobby is a little foreign to me, I'll confess. But the end result can be worth it. Forget the ratings, I made it through 30 days of posts! *pats self on back*

Will I continue to post every day? I don't think so. Better to shut up when you don't have anything to say and save the words for when you do. Let me come home from work and not feel obligated to get on the computer, ah, that will be nice. But I think the reward for putting more work into my hobby is proving that yes, I still have a voice and yes, I can force myself to be creative day after day. And it's made me more energized about blogging. Maybe I won't neglect my blog so much in the future, and maybe I'll be more motivated to put some work into it and produce some decent posts.

One final thing: if you're reading this, would you drop me a line in the comments section? I'd appreciate it.
After looking it up on WebMD, I don't think I have a cold, pneumonia, TB, strep throat, the regular flu or swine flu. As far as I can tell I just have allergies. No fever and three days since it started I don't feel better or worse.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I'm giving myself a break from tonight's blog post for medical reasons: I have a runny nose and a cough and I'm really tired. Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chick lit weekend

I skipped the bars this weekend and caught up on my chick lit instead. I watched all three hours of "Lost in Austen" plus the behind-the-scenes featurette. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit how incredibly entertaining I found this mini-series. The star Jemima Rooper is like your favorite fun-loving female friend, and it was really fresh to see the characters of "Pride and Prejudice" in a new plot with new clever dialogue to recite. Plus I'm even fonder of the palaces and countryside of England now that I've seen them in person.

Keeping with the chick lit theme, I'm also reading "American Wife." Halfway through I'm still trying to figure out if it's a serious study of a woman's life or a political satire. I almost hesitate to call this chick lit, since it seems too high-brow and chick lit seems to denote more of a guilty pleasure, but on the other hand, I really can't imagine a man reading this book and getting the same enjoyment out of it.

Yay for chick lit, eating pastries in bed, and not going out.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I learned the following in Spanish today:

zapatos de tacón high heels

al revés upside down

en ves de instead of

pecera fish bowl

My original plan was to speed through the textbook in record time, but I'm going much more slowly than expected because I ask my teacher to explain every little thing I don't understand. It's kind of frustrating to be going so slowly, but I realize focusing on the little details is exactly what I haven't done that I should be doing as far as learning Spanish. It's classic me to get the general idea of something but not ingest all the details. Maybe learning something slowly but thoroughly is the better way to go.
Yet another reason I *heart* President Obama: He won the Nobel Peace Prize! And gave a fantastic inspiring speech afterwards:
We can't allow the differences between peoples to define the way that we see one another, and that's why we must pursue a new beginning among people of different faiths and races and religions; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.

And we must all do our part to resolve those conflicts that have caused so much pain and hardship over so many years, and that effort must include an unwavering commitment that finally realizes that the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security in nations of their own.

We can't accept a world in which more people are denied opportunity and dignity that all people yearn for -- the ability to get an education and make a decent living; the security that you won't have to live in fear of disease or violence without hope for the future.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I'm "good tired" tonight, that is, super tired but not caring that I am, resolved to stay up as much as I possibly can, fit in as much as I can because why should you sleep your life away anyway? It's kind of exciting going through life fighting sleep. On the other hand, being tired means I'm not very coherent, so no long-winded blog post tonight. Will resume tomorrow.

By the way, here's a video to go with yesterday's song lyrics. Who makes these YouTube videos? So bizarre. At least you can hear the song.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Song lyrics from this morning on the radio:

I'm waiting for a friend to come, to help me off the ground
Better come sooner than later, can't stop feeling down
Scattered memories drifting back from my stereo
Of how we dream this could be and how we let it go

If you're thinking of me, you've got to let me know
'Cause loneliness seems such a waste, I can't stop feeling low

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Tonight I called a friend I haven't called in months. I called her once after she moved away in June, then tried to call her a few weeks after that but she never called me back. I also wrote her a letter (responding to one she sent me) but didn't hear back. So I stopped trying these past few months.

But I felt bad about the whole thing, wondered if we were ever going to talk again, if we were still friends even, so I finally tried again. She picked up the phone and we talked and it was like nothing ever happened. Things like that happen all the time with me. I take things hard, I take them as signs of rejection, I wonder if I'm turning myself into a pest and figure I should just quit being so abnormally needy. Maybe I'm too sensitive. Actually, I think it's called "being shy."

One of my best memories with this particular friend involves a moonlit walk one night around this time of year with her, her husband and my sister. She let me borrow her jacket, which was way too big for me. We walked on the dark roads among the trees and falling leaves, talking and laughing. I remember we cut across a field at one point, and I had no idea where we were. I'm usually afraid to walk around outside at night, and I hate the cold, but there was no sense of fear this time, and I didn't mind the cool weather. A good memory. Memories like those make being so far away that much harder. Hearing her voice on the phone was nice, but it's not seeing her face or borrowing her coat or talking under a moonlit night sky.

Why can't people stay put?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Another day. I was about to write "just a boring, generic day," but that's not true. With my job, every day is its own crazy mix of adventures. Like shaking up a kaleidoscope, you never know what you'll end up with. I sometimes think I could remember each day of my job individually. If you just say, remember the day when x, y and z happened? And it will come to me, oh yeah. Xday, X the Xth.

Michael Jackson died on a Thursday. The tsunami happened on a Tuesday. We found out about the guy found dead in Juarez on a Wednesday. (OK, so I just had to look up the dates of those events, so I proved myself wrong. But I do tend to remember when things happen at the beginning, middle, or end of the week.) And the narratives of the events themselves are sharp and bright in my mind like they are in a kaleidoscope. They're part of my consciousness now. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

More about the Chamizal from the National Park Service:

"In 1968, Congress established Chamizal National Memorial to commemorate the Chamizal Convention (treaty) of 1963. The Chamizal treaty finally ended a long-standing border dispute between the U.S. and Mexico

...The memorial fosters goodwill and understanding between the people of the United States and Mexico and provides a center to present activities that celebrate cultural exchange."

Will have to go back sometime when it's not dark.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A night for Chopin

I attended the Chopin Music Festival tonight at the Chamizal National Memorial theatre. It was a rainy, overcast evening, the perfect night to stay inside and hear some romantic piano music.


Actually, I think the pianist really shined playing Mussorgsky rather than Chopin. But she was wonderful on all the pieces, of course. At so many points, the performance seemed like a magic trick. My eyes couldn't keep up with the pianist's hands flying over the keys and producing the intricate melodies.

Did you know the Chopin Music Festival is blessed by the Pope? According to the festival website, "His holiness the Pope sends prayerful good wishes for the El Paso Chopin Music Festival and he invokes God's abundant blessings upon you and upon all taking part."
You need to read this: "Polanski, rape, and the myth of Not Like Us."

Friday, October 02, 2009

Nothing like National Geographic Traveler magazine to reignite my dreams of traveling the world. Last month I was longing to go to Sardinia. This month it's their 50 Places of a Lifetime. I like the magazine but the articles are frustratingly short. How can you describe places like these in one photo and five paragraphs? Maybe the articles are only good to spark your interest so you can experience the place for yourself.
And the Olympics go to...Rio? Chicago didn't even make it to the second round. I'm genuinely disappointed after all the hype. But I suppose it's only fair that a South American city can finally host an Olympics...

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Interesting article about hybrid books that mix in video and web features with the regular book text. I was just thinking about this when watching "Food, Inc." I started but never finished the book "The Omnivore's Dilemma," which covers a lot of the same ground. I remember reading Michael Pollan's pages-long description of the avalanche of corn produced in America but seeing the mountain of corn on video was still much more striking. If only that were in the book...

Hybrid novels don't sound nearly as appealing, though. The article mentions adding video clips to romance novels, which I think is stupid. If you're going to do that, why not just watch a movie instead? But I think it would be cool if a novel mentions music to include that with the text, i.e. a music-enhanced version of "High Fidelity."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"I'm late to the sunset" is what I found myself thinking earlier today and I found it odd. How can you be late to the sunset? Late to a meeting. Late to a movie. But late to a sunset?

I don't get to see the sunset very often. I'm usually occupied indoors, and even if I get a few glimpses of the rays I don't pay much attention to it. But I was walking back from getting the mail and my curiosity to see it overtook me so I walked over nearer to the desert. The mountains looked positively volcanic under the red rays of the sunset. At that point I was right on time, the height of beauty.

I hoped the vision would stay while I ran back to the house to grab my camera, but sadly no. Yes, it is very possible to be late to a sunset. This is what I did get after going back with my camera, the tail end of the daily drama.




Not the very best of what I saw, but it is something. I love watching the clouds on the horizon like that. The vastness of the sky seemingly headed toward that one point, and somehow YOU are headed there with it.

And the moon there to greet me on the walk back. I have yet to take a good picture of the moon. It would require a better camera. But there it is, seemingly so small. Somehow it reminds me of the marshmallow moons in Lucky Charms.


Those photos will have to suffice until the next time the sun sets and I am there to pay attention. Next time I'll try to be punctual and get the "wow" shot.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

7:45ish - Wake up.
7:45-8:30 - Internet stuff. E-mail, Facebook, blogs, etc.
8:30-9:40 - Get ready for work.
9:40-10:00 - Commute.
10:00-7:45 - Work. Spend about 80 percent of that time on the computer.
7:45-8:00 - Commute.
8:00-9:00 - Eat dinner then wash dishes.
9:00-10:00 - Internet stuff. E-mail, Facebook, blogs, etc.
10:00-11:00 - Watch the news and read a book before going to sleep.

TOO MUCH INTERNET.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Random photos

Flowers from the weekend:



I love this window. Very mod. You can only see the sky and clouds if you lay your head at the foot of my bed:



The landscape of my bedroom ceiling:



Bootsie patiently awaits her morning walk:

Spotted the first Halloween lawn decorations I've seen this year on a walk this morning. Can it *really* be that time again?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

- Saw a horror movie last night called Food, Inc. OK, it's actually a documentary about how food is produced in America. It's truly astonishing how much power the food companies wield. It's not too gross as far as showing animal abuse but it is frightening.

- Article in TIME about getting paid to tweet. Reminds me of when it was the new thing to put ads on your blog. Says one woman interviewed for the article: "'I do understand the arguments against Sponsored Tweets,' says Dance, the Tennessee blogger, who plans to take fuller advantage of the service (she won't disclose her price). 'But ... there's nothing subversive about it. It's just a little payback for the four years of my life I've invested in my blog.'" I would have to disagree...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review: Lost in Translation

I finished a book called Lost in Translation: A Life in A New Language by Eva Hoffman. The book is a memoir about Hoffman’s emigration from Cracow, Poland, to Vancouver, Canada, in the late 1950s and her struggle to adapt to a new culture and language.

Hoffman writes lovingly about her childhood in the first part of the book, which she names “Paradise.” She details playing in the countryside with her friend Marek, burrowing into haystacks and standing under waterfalls. She learns to play the piano from various teachers and eventually goes to music school to train to become a professional pianist.

It’s the little moments she describes that stand out to me. I think it’s only in childhood that you have those moments that are so overcome with feeling, that are completely new and as a child you are incapable of describing, and I’m glad she does take the time to go back and try to capture them in words:

The Planty are another space of happiness, and one day something strange and wonderful happens there. It is a sunny fall afternoon and I’m engaged in one of my favorite pastimes—picking chestnuts. I’m playing alone under the spreading, leafy, protective tree. My mother is sitting on a bench nearby, rocking the buggy in which my sister is asleep. The city, beyond the lacy wall of trees, is humming with gentle noises. The sun has just passed its highest point and is warming me with intense, oblique rays. I pick up a reddish brown chestnut, and suddenly, through its warm skin, I feel the beat as if of a heart. But the beat is also in everything around me, and everything pulsates and shimmers as it were coursing with the blood of life. Stooping under the tree, I’m holding life in my hand, and I am in the center of a harmonious, vibrating transparency. For that moment, I know everything there is to know. I have stumbled into the very center of plenitude, and I hold myself still with fulfillment, before the knowledge of my knowledge escapes me.
But Hoffman’s childhood wasn’t altogether easy, and her account is quite dark in places as she writes about her war survivor parents, and the increasing influence of the Soviet Union in Poland and oppression of Jews, which leads to her family’s emigration to Canada.

I suppose I’ve never really grasped what an intensely painful experience it must be to lose your language and culture and be forced to learn entirely new ones. The next section of the book is called “Exile,” and clearly the teenage Hoffman is not happy to be in North America, where her family goes from a middle-class existence to struggling to make a living, and she feels extremely alienated from her peers at school. Even the houses seem to offend her Polish sensibilities:
The spaces are so plain, low-ceilinged, obvious; there are no curves, niches, odd angles, nooks or crannies—nothing that gathers a house into itself, giving it a sense of privacy, or of depth—of interiority. There’s no solid wood here, no accretion either of age or dust. There is only the open sincerity of the simple spaces, open right out to the street.
But it’s the loss of a language that hits her the hardest:

The worst losses come at night. As I lie down in a strange bed in a strange house—my mother is a sort of housekeeper here, to the aging Jewish man who has taken us in in return for her services—I wait for that spontaneous flow of inner language which used to be my nighttime talk with myself, my way of informing the ego where the id had been. Nothing comes. Polish, in a short time, has atrophied, shriveled from sheer uselessness. Its words don’t apply to my new experiences; they’re not coeval with any of the objects, or faces, or the very air I breathe in the daytime. In English, words have not penetrated to those layers of my psyche from which a private conversation could proceed. This interval before sleep used to be the time when my mind became both receptive and alert, when images and words rose up to consciousness, reiterating what had happened during the day, adding the day’s experiences to those already stored there, spinning out the thread of my personal story.

Now, this picture-and-word show is gone; the thread has been snapped. I have no interior languages—those images through which we assimilate the external world, through which we take it in, love it, make it our own—become blurred too.
In the last part of the book, named “The New World,” Hoffman writes about her life as an adult, navigating through Rice and Harvard and forming a professional life as an author and “New York intellectual.” Years after she arrives in America, cultural barriers still stand between her and her “American Friends.” According to Hoffman, we’re a young and too open culture that is continuously “trying to reinvent the wheel.”

My American Friends and I are forced to engage in an experiment that is relatively rare; we want to enter into the very textures, the motions and flavors of each other’s vastly different subjectivities—and that requires feats of sympathy and even imagination in excess of either benign indifference or a remote respect.
...I have to translate myself. But if I’m to achieve this without becoming assimilated—that is, absorbed—by my new world, the translation has to be careful, the turns of the psyche unforced. To mouth foreign terms without incorporating their meanings is to risk becoming bowdlerized. A true translation proceeds by the motions of understanding and sympathy; it happens by slow increments, sentence by sentence, phrase by phrase.
I didn’t like this section as well as the earlier two. Perhaps the struggle to find your way in American culture is all too familiar to me. By this time Hoffman has taken the American psyche into her own, along with its neuroses. Stylistically, I thought this section was too weighted down with words, too academic, like she’s trying to form a complicated diagnosis of American culture. The cloud of words does eventually work in getting Hoffman’s point across, but it’s a bit much.

Hoffman returns to Poland as an adult, but she realizes that there can be no alternate self, no person she would have been had she stayed.
“Of course, your life is so much more interesting there,” she says.
“No, that’s not it,” I say, and truly, I don’t know how to compare the interest of our lives. “It’s just that it happens to be the life I happen to have lived.”
“Ach, darling,” Danuta says ruefully. Of course, she understands—the poignancy, and the inevitability of having only one, peculiar version of a life, and living it within the confines of the first-person singular.
I suppose I was particularly interested in Lost in Translation because it is very much about language. As was hammered into me in grad school, language forms our reality. After reading this book, I realize that having to relearn something so fundamental as the way you express yourself, even the way you talk to yourself in your mind, is basically like having to relearn who you are as a person. Hoffman succeeds in bringing us with her on that difficult journey.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Jon Stewart interviews Rod Blagojevich. Not what I expected--Stewart actually wonders whether Blagojevich could be the next Richard Jewel. Hmm...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is it such a great thing to be human? Some people glorify the "human experience." But I think I'd give it up if given a choice.

My dog seems so much happier than I am, wouldn't it be better to experience life like that? Or it might be nice to be some sort of sophisticated robot that could only think beautiful, amazing thoughts but not feel. Or to be a supernatural being, an angel, maybe, where there is no choice but to do God's will. (Or is there? I've never really understand about fallen angels).

But instead, muddling through a soup of feelings, thoughts, and desires is the plight of the human. No choices offered. I can't help wishing it were different. I wish life made sense, I wish it made sense all the time, not only some of the time, and even then only partway. I wish it wasn't up, then back down, then back up, then back down yet again. Sometimes I wish there was only one way to see things and one way to go.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Uninspired

So I'm a little out of inspiration. I was going to only link to this story from the Today show since I thought it was cute (Wow, you and I do look a lot alike. Wait a minute, are you adopted?). But I'm not sure I could post it without sarcasm.

Then it occurred to me to find something interesting on YouTube, but that turns out to be as easy as finding a needle in a haystack. It might take me all night to find just the right thing.

I read a bunch of news stories today at work, but none of those will work. Too serious.

When did I become so picky with what I post on my blog? I think hardly anyone clicks on the links, anyway. So therefore it really doesn't matter what I post, right? Once I posted a clip of Presidential Jeopardy from the old Tonight Show and I got lots of referrals from Google searches that week. Maybe I should post something like that everyday.

No, I think there is an art to linking. It has to be something that interests me, but not only me. It can't be the straight news, because, well, who needs a blog to point that out? And something with a nice juicy quote in it is always good.

Posting every day is turning out not to be easy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Five things I am grateful for today:
1. I got to sleep in until past 8:00.
2. Warm, sunny weather.
3. Turkey, Swiss cheese, and spinach sandwich with Dijon mustard on Italian bread.
4. "Dancing with the Stars" followed by "Castle."
5. Crickets chirping on the upstairs balcony.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More newspapers are going to start charging for online content, according to the AP: "Separately, more than 1,000 newspapers and magazines have signed nonbinding letters of intent to join an Internet fee system being assembled by Journalism Online LLC. It intends to begin collecting money on behalf of publishers before winter."

I also find this very interesting: "Preserving the value of their print franchises is one of the main reasons for publishers to charge for Web access. That's because newspapers still get most of their money from print ads, which accounted for $35 billion of the industry's revenue last year. Newspaper print ads are on pace to fall below $30 billion this year. Online ads, in contrast, contributed just $3.1 billion in revenue last year."

Mistaken for a daughter-in-law

Something that happened this week that I forgot to write about:

I walk into work one morning and the receptionist tells me, "Your mother-in-law left this for you."

It's a rectangular block wrapped in Saran Wrap and on top is a burrito wrapped in foil and a plastic bag. She puts it on the counter and answers the phone and holds up her hand to "Wait" before I can try to explain that this must be a mistake.

Could my own mother have dropped this off? My mom hasn't dropped off my lunch for me since I was in the ninth grade. I remember sitting in the Math Lab one morning (which, of course, was where all the cool kids hung out before school) and my mom walked in with my bag lunch, which I had forgotten at home. I admit I was much more embarrassed than grateful at the time.

But my mom wouldn't do that now, especially considering that she leaves for work about three hours earlier than I do.

I take another glance at the food. I'm sure whatever is inside the Saran Wrap is tasty and homemade, and I haven't had a burrito in a while...

"I don't think you have the right person," I told the receptionist when she hung up the phone.

"Are you sure? She came by just right now and said, 'Soy la mama de su esposo'," she said.

"Well, see, I'm not married, so it can't be me."

"Oh, um, OK."

I go further into the office to clock in, leaving the food behind on the counter with regret. What a sweet mother-in-law. I hope whoever the food did belong to realizes how lucky she is to have a mother-in-law like that.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rivalry game

My enjoyment of football tends to range from "slight disgust" to "tolerance" to "moderate enjoyment." But even though I'm not a huge football fan, every year it's a tradition to go to the UTEP-New Mexico State game.

I'm a proud UTEP graduate. My dad is a proud NMSU graduate. It definitely makes things more interesting when one of us is guaranteed to end up gloating at the end of the night, the other one guaranteed to end up disgusted and a little sad and forced to endure some good-natured ribbing.

The EP Times makes it out to be a "do or die" game this year. All I can say is the Miners better not lose. I really don't want to see that smug smile on my dad's face at the end of the night, as has happened the past two years.

Game starts at 6:30 p.m. in Las Cruces. I'll update the blog with the results.

UPDATE: So the game went something like this: We get there, and the stadum is packed. The game starts (at 6, not 6:30, oops), and shortly thereafter UTEP scores a touchdown. Go Miners! This is going to be awesome!



However, the dark clouds in the background of the stadium are looming closer, though there is no rain, only lightning. With about 12 minutes left in the first quarter, a lightning delay is called.

Then a few minutes later it starts pouring down rain and it will not stop. To make a long story short, the game resumes at 9:10 p.m., about three hours later. I spend most of the delay in the women's restroom of Aggie Memorial Stadium. Not fun. But, hey, I'm taking one for the team, right?

Finally, the game starts again. At this point there are now only a scattering of people left, the bleachers are soaked, the air is cold and damp. But at least the Miners are on top of their game and score touchdown after touchdown. Woo hoo.

A few minutes after this picture was taken in the fourth quarter, the score is 37-6 favoring UTEP. Tired of the damp night and satisfied that the Miners have it wrapped up, I ask, "Are you ready to go?"

"I was ready to leave about 20 points ago," says my dad. Poor Dad. It has been a wet, miserable night AND he doesn't have the consolation of his team winning. UTEP wins the game with a final score of 38-12, but I don't have the heart to give him any grief about his team losing. Still, I'm ecstatic the Miners did so well. Their first win of the season, against their arch-rival. Yay, yay UTEP.
My blog friend Stu (who I met) has an excellent post about storytelling and, well, life.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A productive day as far as my Fridays typically go. I got a hair cut at a "salon and spa." Nothing too wild, just about three inches shorter than it was. I don't do colors or bangs:


I sent some e-mails and warmed up some leftover soup for lunch before going to my Spanish class. Yes, I'm back in Spanish classes. My teacher was impressed with my vocabulary. I can name all the body parts in Spanish: la cabeza, la mano, los pies, las piernas, las rodillas, el cuello, los brazos, el estomago, etc., etc. Vocabulary is my strong point. Having an actual conversation is not.

Fridays off definitely make life easier.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm wondering if other human beings feel as insecure as I do on a daily basis. I wonder if anyone out there just wakes up and thinks they are great and doesn't worry at all that they are failing in life and doesn't worry about people liking or not liking them.


Is life a test? I think it is. I think it's a hard test, and that we all will have to answer for our choices one day or other. Somehow I think sitting in front of the computer eating chocolate bars is not going to make the grade.

But what will? Feeding poor children? Working extra hard at my job? Being kind to others?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy 16 de Septiembre

Happy Mexican Independence Day! Kind of unfortunate that it's not a holiday I ever celebrated, even growing up in a Mexican American family on the border. I didn't even know what "El Grito" was until yesterday. From Wikipedia:
Just before midnight on September 15, 1810, [Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Castilla] ordered the church bells to be rung and gathered his congregation. Flanked by Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama, he addressed the people in front of his church, encouraging them to revolt. The exact words of the speech are lost; however, a variety of "reconstructed versions" have been published. Hidalgo is believed to have cried: "Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe [a symbol of the Amerindians' faith], death to bad government, and death to the Spaniards!"
The celebrations looked like a lot of fun. Here's more on the Mexican War for Independence, which I confess I am also woefully ignorant about.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yet another reminder of how cruel cancer is. The release of "Dirty Dancing" coincided with the rise of the VCR as a new technology, and I ended up watching our VHS copy of "Dirty Dancing" over and over (and over) again as a kid. Patrick Swayze is the reason I'll always dream about finding a man who can teach me to dance.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The girls


I have a fondness for movies and TV shows about families of women. "Mermaids", "The Upside of Anger", "Gilmore Girls", "Little Women", and even "The Facts of Life" remind me how I grew up as a teenager, with the template of the world-weary mom and the fun-loving, wise-cracking daughters seeking their independence but also guidance and support.

It's inevitable that a mother's authority becomes diminished when her children reach adolescence, but I think it was even more so living in a house with three teenage girls. Mom became less of a mom and more like one of us. As my sisters had their first boyfriends, my mom was making her way back into the dating scene after her divorce. I'll admit we had a pretty good time poking fun at some of her dates who took themselves a little too seriously (i.e. Jim the Corvette guy). But I didn't feel too bad since my mom would laugh along with us.

Our house became one of pretty, feminine things. My mom's bedroom was her sanctuary alone, so clean and neat with a brown lace comforter on the bed and delicate antique furniture, and not a man to be found among the pictures on the wall. Going into the bathrooms you'd find make-up bags and hair straighteners and long strands of brown hair covering the floor, no more of my dad's shaving stuff or deodorant or strong soap. Even the backyard was small and filled with flowers, perfect for a single mom.

Looking back, our family bond wasn't exactly that of the March sisters or Lorelai and Rory. My sisters and I became more and more separate over those years, especially when we got cars and could come and go as we pleased. We got our first real jobs, places like Wal-Mart and Village Inn that would work you into the ground. We sometimes ate and sometimes didn't eat Mom's quick, microwaved dinners featuring canned vegetables, the only kind she made since she was always working, trying to keep the family afloat financially. My mother couldn't do everything, couldn't be everywhere, and so I'd fill in for her sometimes, and I became sort of a second mother to my youngest sister. I drove my sister to school and work and would generally keep tabs on how her life was going. Women, admittedly, can be emotional, and you could feel the angst in the air many times. My sisters fought each other like cats and dogs, with me the neutral one.

I think those years were more drama than comedy, more "Mermaids" than "Facts of Life." But it wasn't always tense. When we all did spend time together we could always make each other laugh (if all else failed, just bring up Jim's Corvette). Mom (who is nothing like Cher, really) made responsible choices when it came to our family, and we respected her for it. And there was always the unquestioned knowledge that we would be there for each other when we needed it.

Out of those years four smart, independent, beautiful, achieving women have emerged, which is what you see in the picture. It's been seven years since we've all officially lived under the same roof, though both my sisters have come home to live for periods of time since they graduated from high school. I think it's been good for our family to live our separate lives. Rather than tearing us apart, living apart has lessened the tension and allowed our bond to shine through more brightly.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Experiment

For the next 30 days, I'm going to post at least one item per day to the blog. The blog could use a little more creative juice these days. Links are great, but don't I have anything to say for myself? I'm curious to find out if giving myself a daily requirement will by itself result in more readers and better quality of posts. Maybe I'll find that more posting isn't necessarily better posting, but I think more posts, at least some of them interesting, will be better than the few mostly unoriginal posts I come up with most weekends. The experiment begins tomorrow...

Friday, September 11, 2009

I'm liking the Regina Spektor album I bought. "It's like forgetting the words to your favorite song..."



Wednesday, September 09, 2009

So I have my first silver tooth filling. I've had a couple of small fillings before, but the dentist said this one was deep. He even took an X-ray to make sure I didn't need a root canal. A root canal?! Oh no. I also needed another, smaller filling on the adjacent tooth.

There's nothing like the sound of that dentist drill and seeing little bits of tooth come flying out of your mouth. It's pretty horrifying, even if the right side of my mouth was fully numb and I didn't feel a thing. The dentist put some metallic stuff onto the teeth and I waited for about ten minutes and it was all over. I rinsed in the sink and saw the right side of my face drooping down in the mirror, and that really scared me, too. Is that how it would look if I had a stroke?

My tooth doesn't look silver. The inside of the back of the tooth with the big filling actually just looks black. I ate hot food and drank cold soda and it didn't feel too bad. The cold felt kind of strange, I guess.

I tend to see cavities as personal failures, as in why didn't I floss more? But today it occurred to me it's something else: it's yet another sign that I'm getting older. No one's teeth improve with age. I think of my parents with their multiple root canals, my grandparents with their dentures, and it is not a pretty dental future. Not pretty but something I will have to deal with, one procedure at a time.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Another reason why I love our President:
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
...
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
What a great idea. I really can't understand why anyone is criticizing this speech rather than applauding it when we so desperately need students to take more responsibility for their education in this country.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

This week's TIME cover story points out the multiple ironies of NBC's decision to put Jay Leno in primetime. It's also a good snapshot of the TV business as it is today:

But the difference between Conan's and Jay's Tonight is not just about personal style; it's about two different philosophies of TV.

The idea behind giving Conan Tonight is that there are no more Johnny Carsons. No one is going to unite a mass audience of all ages and persuasions and from all walks of life every night.
...
And yet few entertainers are more antithetical to this idea of niche programming than Leno, Mr. Big Tent...

Leno grew up when mass media were mass. He recalls how "comforting" it was to watch Eric Sevareid with his parents, before kids had TVs in their rooms and a different network for every stage of childhood.

After reading the article, I don't find the decision too surprising, more like, why didn't they do this years ago? And I'm really glad Jay Leno is going to be back on TV. Somehow Conan just doesn't do it for me.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Christopher Rosen on the hiring of Diane Sawyer to anchor ABC's "World News":
"The hiring of Ms. Sawyer is a nice story — two of the three broadcasts being anchored by women is nothing to sneeze at — but in the grand scheme of things, it amounts to the adjusting of an armoire in a stateroom on the Titanic."

Gmail Quote of the Day

"Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are." - Kurt Cobain

Friday, August 28, 2009

I just finished the last disc of "In Treatment" Season 1. I saw it was the last disc, so I rushed to add Season 2 to Netflix, but it hasn't been released. No!

I wasn't too familiar with Gabriel Byrne before this, but now I can't even imagine that he could be different from his therapist character Paul Weston, he's that good of an actor. I like how the series doesn't just stay on personal intrigues a la "Grey's Anatomy" but seriously explores some philosophical topics, like what is the real value of therapy, or can you really know a person just by talking to them. One character even compares therapy to prostitution, in that you are paying a person for intimacy.

Watching the series play out, it's not always clear what the creators want you to think. Sometimes it seems like there is a moment of unbelievable insight into these characters, that Paul really nailed down why the teenager tried to kill herself, or why the couple can't make their marriage work. But other times, you're thinking, this is just a bunch of therapist BS, they should stop talking and get their money back because it's not doing any good. And then therapist Paul can't even handle his own emotional life and goes to another therapist, casting even more doubt on the value of analysis. At its root the show is about how human behavior defies explanation, even for a so-called professional.
I successfully made it to my dentist appointment yesterday. Too bad I have two cavities that need to be filled :-(. Time to banish the soda and candy from my diet.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Leaving

So C. is leaving.

"By the way, I'm moving next week," she told me last Saturday over lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant.

By the way, I'm moving? If I was moving, I'd tell people months in advance. I'd have a job lined up and money saved, and even then I'd still be freaking out about it. But I know that's not her style.

I always knew El Paso couldn't hold her, not someone who has lived in Abu Dhabi and visited Paris twice and wants to make films for a living.

I'll miss our adventures. "I'm up for anything," she once said, and it was definitely true. Film festivals, salsa dancing, trendy restaurants, protest marches, we turned this town upside down and did a lot of amazing things together.

But there's another side to C. besides the cosmopolitan adventurer. This is the same girl who doesn't read the paper and makes a perfect Jell-O salad, and who would invite a nerd like me to parties with her other cool friends. There's a lack of cynicism in her deep green eyes, a Midwestern innocence that I hope she never loses.

Yeah, I know it wouldn't be right for her to stay here, but the selfish kid in me wants to beg her to stay, because I am going to miss her terribly.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Saving the World's Women" is this week's topic in the NY Times Magazine:
Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism.

...

Why do microfinance organizations usually focus their assistance on women? And why does everyone benefit when women enter the work force and bring home regular pay checks? One reason involves the dirty little secret of global poverty: some of the most wretched suffering is caused not just by low incomes but also by unwise spending by the poor — especially by men. Surprisingly frequently, we’ve come across a mother mourning a child who has just died of malaria for want of a $5 mosquito bed net; the mother says that the family couldn’t afford a bed net and she means it, but then we find the father at a nearby bar. He goes three evenings a week to the bar, spending $5 each week.
Here's the full article.
Update: I realized after posting yesterday that my dentist appointment is actually for next Thursday, so I didn't miss it. Yay. But I think not missing it actually proves me more absentminded, not less, since I both mixed up the date AND forgot what I thought was the right time for the appointment.

Friday, August 21, 2009

- I completely forgot about my dentist appointment yesterday despite writing it on my calendar and thinking about it several times earlier in the week. Can memory loss start at 27? How is it going to be 20 or 30 years from now?

- I bought two new CDs off Amazon today. It has been so long since I've bought any real new music (as opposed to old albums I buy used). I have no idea what's popular, which is scary. I consider myself a Moby fan but didn't even know he released a new album earlier this year. And ever since hearing a piece on NPR about Regina Spektor I've been meaning to order her newest album. I finally got around to it. I am so old-fashioned when it comes to music technology. I still have my old CD player that is at least 10 years old, and I don't do MP3 downloads or iPods or anything like that. Perhaps that should change. Maybe when I start making more money.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saw this short film last night. It was great to see a project filmed entirely in El Paso and Juarez. It was also really refreshing to see a movie about the border that's not about illegal immigration and/or drug smuggling.
Yet spending on health care, by families and by the government, is crowding out spending on almost everything else. As a nation, we now spend almost 18 percent of our GDP on health care. In 1966, Medicare and Medicaid made up 1 percent of total government spending; now that figure is 20 percent, and quickly rising. Already, the federal government spends eight times as much on health care as it does on education, 12 times what it spends on food aid to children and families, 30 times what it spends on law enforcement, 78 times what it spends on land management and conservation, 87 times the spending on water supply, and 830 times the spending on energy conservation. Education, public safety, environment, infrastructure—all other public priorities are being slowly devoured by the health-care beast.
From "How American Health Care Killed My Father" in The Atlantic's September issue. Worthwhile reading as the issue of health care reform comes to the forefront.
It was a bummer of a Friday night. I debated for a long time whether to go out or not. I woke up around 5 a.m. that morning and stayed awake for an hour and a half before finally falling back asleep. I was tired all day at work thinking about car wrecks and executions. But my friend texted me. "I'll be at the Plaza around 8:30 if you want to meet me." OK. "Rocky Horror Picture Show" at the Plaza or sit alone in my bedroom and watch "In Treatment"? Tough call, but might as well DO something, right?

As I headed out to Downtown I was kind of pumped up seeing the last remants of the sunset. It was beautiful, as always, and the creeping darkness promised excitement. By the time I parked in the underground garage it was dark. I drove around and around the garage trying to find a parking space. Garages have a way of making one claustrophobic. Finally I parked in the last row.

I crossed the street, looking at the groups of people going by. When did I become so much older than college-age? Hipsters, ugh. I stood on the outskirts of the melee. Some overweight people in portable lawn chairs. A guy break-dancing to an oldies/funk band. He was pretty good. Some people who sounded like they were from Austin. Do they stage a lot of these events in Austin? Probably. It seems like outdoor movies are exactly what progressive cities are supposed to do. I thought I saw my social butterfly (though unusual) cousin with her friend (boyfriend?) but I lost them in the crowd before I could say hi.

I saw a girl I recognized. "Lisa?" (Her name isn't really Lisa.)

"Oh hi."

"I'm here waiting for C."

"Oh, yeah, she said she'd be here."

She said something I couldn't hear.

"Good turnout, don't you think?" I said. Was there a more pointless thing that I could have said?

"I'm going to get a beer, you know always gotta have my beer," she said, turning away and then speedwalked away from me before I could follow her.

I think I'm better about rejection these days, but yeah, it hurts not to be liked.

So it was Alone for some more, watching the screen slowly get set up, a couple moved in beside me, the guy surrounding the girl with his arms (gross), some guy talking about getting spam e-mail from a musician (must be annoying).

I have mixed feelings about going to events Alone. I don't usually do it because people tend to think it's socially unacceptable, so I do the socially acceptable thing and go with another person. But I don't feel that uncomfortable about it. Especially at an event like this, I didn't feel that out of place just people watching, soaking up the ambience, enjoying the warm night. A shy person gets used to these things. Most of my freshman year of high school, I spent lunches eating outside in the courtyard, then going to the library, and I wasn't really sad about it. I liked the sunshine and the books.

Still. I feel like I try so hard. Try to meet people, try to make conversation, try not to be such a loner, but here I am yet again, alone on a Friday night.

My friend texts me: "FYI won't be there until about 9:30."

At this point I'm finding it hard to find a reason to stay here. My feet are tired from standing. I'm tired. I realize "Rocky Horror Picture Show" is not a movie you watch alone, and it sounds crude and offensive anyway. The operator presses the DVD to start the movie. A huge cheer erupts from the crowd. Meanwhile, I start walking back to my car. Fine, I was upset and near tears at that point. I'm disappointed the night didn't turn out the way I wanted it to.

"I'm tired and going home," I text to my friend. I don't feel too bad about it since I know "Lisa" is still there.

So that's how I ended up back home at 10 p.m. I guess social life has its ups and downs and not all experiences can be positive. I remind myself that I've had a lot of good experiences, too. Still, last night makes me want to spend more nights watching "In Treatment."