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."