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.


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


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


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