Friday, July 31, 2009

No lightning this week, just the kind of lull that makes you think it's about time to start something new. I wrote for over an hour last night in an attempt to analyze myself, my behavior, my motivations. Funny how definite patterns emerge. It can be hard to try to look at your own behavior from a distance, but it's worth the effort, even if you can never really understand why you do what you do.

Lately I've been realizing how idiotic it is to just crave people's attention and acceptance all the time and use that as some kind of measuring stick. So much better to set a course, any kind of goal, even if it is something simple. I challenged myself not to eat a chocolate bar for the whole month of July, and I have actually done it. I haven't touched the vending machines at work, and I finally stopped prowling the candy aisles at Wal-Mart. Mastery over chocolate, it's quite an accomplishment for me. I've been working out with weights twice a week, and I notice my arms getting stronger, and I can't help but get a boost of pride from it. I spend time reading the Bible and about physics, instead of checking my e-mail incessantly or reading women's magazines, and I feel smarter for it. These micro-accomplishments make me think, what else could I do, if I just set my mind to do it? It's gratification via accomplishment, versus other things like food or people's attention. It's the feeling of control.

I officially call this July "the month I finally stopped being an idiot and got a life."
Article about how to outsmart Facebook (via I loathe Facebook but I still use it because I feel like I have to. Actually, I think I am averse to all social networking sites. I don't think Blogger counts.
More than ever.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lightning storm

It's rare that a storm really scares me. Even as a child I was never scared of thunder. Only when I'm out driving and the road is covered in two feet of water, and the windshield wipers can't move fast enough to keep up with the rain, OK, then I get anxious. But this week I was like a scared kid.

It was the thunder, not the rain or lightning, that woke me up early Wednesday morning. The thunder was so loud I knew I'd never get back to sleep. When I opened my eyes I saw white lightning zoom through the air in a circular motion, spirit-like, maybe 20 feet away from my bedroom window. Then the angriest thunder I've ever heard ripped through the night not a second after the light disappeared. The smoke alarm in the upstairs hallway went off for a few long seconds, further scaring the hell out of me. I had never been in the middle of an electric cloud before, and I had no idea what was going to happen next. My thoughts ran to God and death. In my dopey, half-asleep state, I thought, this is it, God's wrath unleashed, the power that has come to take me home. I wondered if the next lightning bolt would set the house on fire. The rain pounded furiously and I imagined water could come pouring through the roof any second. I imagined all the household appliances being rendered useless. But of course, there I was still lying in bed in my pajamas. Way to prepare for a crisis, I know.

The thunder and lightning continued like that a few more times, though not quite as bad as the first I saw. It still seemed close, but the thunder wasn't as loud. Gradually, there was a space of a few seconds between the lightning and the thunder, which means the storm is moving away. I stayed awake until I was sure the storm was far away and not coming back.

The house held up, nothing was set on fire, the power didn't even go out. We were lucky. But the display stunned me, and the powers greater than you or I made their point about who's really in control. One electrified moment and we're done for. I got it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Excellent article in Mother Jones about a Mexican journalist seeking political asylum from the Mexican military in the U.S. Mother Jones lives up to its promise of "smart, fearless journalism":
There are two Mexicos.

There is the one reported by the US press, a place where the Mexican president is fighting a valiant war on drugs, aided by the Mexican Army and the Mérida Initiative, the $1.4 billion in aid the United States has committed to the cause. This Mexico has newspapers, courts, laws, and is seen by the United States government as a sister republic.

It does not exist.

There is a second Mexico where the war is for drugs, where the police and the military fight for their share of drug profits, where the press is restrained by the murder of reporters and feasts on a steady diet of bribes, and where the line between the government and the drug world has never existed.
Thanks to Intersections for the link.

As a side note, I attended the press conference at UTEP mentioned here and heard from Emilio Gutiérrez Soto in person. At the time I didn't know what to make of the accusations. I thought it was strange for journalists to be fleeing the military rather than the cartels. This article sheds some light.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


sedulous - diligent in application or pursuit's Word of the Day, three days ago, according to Gmail

Monday, July 20, 2009

- Parties are exhausting. Is that how it is for most people, or is it just me?
- I missed the Plaza Classic Film Festival last year, but I am going to have to go this year. I saw the schedule for it yesterday in the newspaper and thought, I want to see ALL of these.
- I went outside before 8 a.m. and it was already hot. Another sweltering day. I'm ready for some relief.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I was invited to three parties this weekend. When did I become such a socialite?

15 books meme

Not tagged with this meme per se, but decided to answer it anyway. Fifteen books that have have been memorable for you or have impacted you in some way:

Cosmos Carl Sagan
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers
Into the Wild Jon Krakauer
Traveling Mercies Anne Lamott
A Solitary Blue Cynthia Voigt
Jacob Have I Loved Katherine Patterson
The Bible (especially Ecclesisastes, Psalms, Romans)
A History of God Karen Armstrong
On the Road Jack Kerouac
Shyness: A Bold New Approach Bernardo Carducci
Little Women Louisa May Alcott
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix J.K. Rowling
A Grief Observed C.S. Lewis
One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Blue Highways William Least Heat-Moon

It was tough to narrow it down. To decide, I asked myself, would the book be worth reading again?

If you're reading this, I hereby tag you with the meme.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Caitlin Flanagan on the future of American marriage:

The fundamental question we must ask ourselves at the beginning of the century is this: What is the purpose of marriage? Is it — given the game-changing realities of birth control, female equality and the fact that motherhood outside of marriage is no longer stigmatized — simply an institution that has the capacity to increase the pleasure of the adults who enter into it?
Or is marriage an institution that still hews to its old intention and function — to raise the next generation, to protect and teach it, to instill in it the habits of conduct and character that will ensure the generation's own safe passage into adulthood? Think of it this way: the current generation of children, the one watching commitments between adults snap like dry twigs and observing parents who simply can't be bothered to marry each other and who hence drift in and out of their children's lives — that's the generation who will be taking care of us when we are old.
I consider myself pretty liberal in most respects, but I tend to agree with her traditionalist argument. Probably because I saw my own parents' divorce up close. For the other side, see this column in The Atlantic.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Argument Starter from Reader's Digest: "Having a husband creates an extra seven hours a week of housework for women … A wife saves men from about an hour of housework a week. Source: University of Michigan"

Sounds plausible to me. Seven other Argument Starters are included on the slide show.

More thoughts on the value of an M.A.:

When I think back on the things I used to mull over on a daily basis in graduate school -- the future of education, the definition of writing, postmodern philosophy, literature, feminism, class issues, race issues -- I'm delightfully shocked that at one point my occupation was to think about those things. I'm very jealous of my former self. A little over a year ago, my whole world was writing paper after paper, the prof hands out the assignment sheet and the paper's due in one month, start thinking about it now. Decide on a fabulous topic and read 10 books from the library, write your notes into Microsoft Word and cut and paste and delete and expound until you were sure you'd get an A.

I like to think that I'm still that idealistic person that questioned the status quo in paper after paper. I was going to change the way students learn to write, and set the academic world on fire with my theory on feminism and technology, and form my own resistance movement against hegemonic forces. I would like to believe the notion that an education stays with you, that it forms your mind forever and shapes all your future work. But the truth is, none of the things I studied tends to be on my mind on a daily basis right now.

Ugh, the real world. It is SO different from my life back then. My world is now a world of lists. Every day I make lists and check the items off one by one. The working world seems to reward doing over thinking, so "doing" has become my specialty and thinking gets left by the side of the road. My motivation is statistics, a measure of whether what I'm doing is effective, and underlying that, of course, is money. Money, ugh.

Where did my education go? I feel like I locked it away in the back of a closet in my mind, just like all my school notebooks are now sitting next to my shoes in my bedroom closet, most likely never to be looked at again. Did I forget everything? Who has time for the revolution these days?

But once in a while I'll take a deep breath and take a step back from my work, the clouds will part and it will come through clearly, oh, this is an example of what I learned in school. This is exactly how technology is changing how we communicate. That is how women are still being objectified. That Foucault guy was totally right about a lot of things. The things I learned during my M.A. don't help much with the lists, and that's frustrating, but once in a while I'll think about things in a "meta-level" way and see that the theories are based in reality.

It begs the question, What is the point of an education anyway? At the most basic level, the point of school is that you're supposed to get out of it eventually and apply what you learned. Sure, you hope school can help you with the day-to-day grind, but can't it also include those meta-level moments, so you don't just see exactly what is in front of you and nothing beyond that?

On reflection, the price was steep for it. Not so much the tuition money itself (though it was not cheap) but two and a half years of my life, isn't that a bit much time to have spent in the library reading about philosophy of language? Wouldn't it have been better to have started on a career earlier? I have four years less experience than most people my age.

I wish I could end all this with a triumphant conclusion that *of course* an M.A. was worth getting but I don't know if I can say that. Maybe the biggest problem was my mindset, not taking school more seriously, not having a goal with it, which made it not as useful as it could be. I approached my M.A. the same way I did piano lessons -- nice to know how to do, I put in a decent effort but didn't go all out, knowing I wasn't exactly going to be playing a Chopin concert anytime soon. Maybe it was an impractical thing to do, something that shouldn't have been Number One on the life to-do list if I really wanted to get ahead. But does everything have to lead up to a predetermined goal? The listmaker in me says yes, but the student revolutionary doesn't seem to think so, and well, you know which one has my heart.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sometimes I think my biggest problem is that I think about things too much. Other times I think the problem is I don't think about them enough.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The NY Times asks, "What is a Master's Degree Worth?" I'm asking myself the same question. In monetary value, the consensus seems to be an M.A. is not worth much :-<.

I tend to agree with the third writer's take, though:
"Earning an M.A. degree can be fun; it can provide knowledge; and can stretch the imagination. A cynic might conclude that the M.A. degree is the stepchild of the university community, is increasingly a commodity offered by universities in order to earn tuition dollars devoted to the Ph.D. programs. But in the marketplace, it adds to one’s personal narrative. It makes one more interesting."