Friday, December 31, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My new favorite at Starbucks: the caramel brulee latte.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I've been thinking about what would make me really happy in the new year, and the thing that popped into my mind was writing. Sometimes I think it's so stupid to write these posts that no one reads. To vent my emotions through writing when no one will listen seems like a personal failure to me sometimes.

I think about all the meetings and parties and dinners where I've sat silent and listened and just waited for it to be over after having given up hope of getting a word in edge-wise. Maybe this is a bad thing, but it seems my whole life I've had a different way of connecting. Writing is what makes me feel alive. This is where I can say what I want to say. This is where I can be myself. Even if it's stupid or needy I *need* to write.

It disappoints me that I have stopped developing as a writer. Being a writer is being an artist, it's developing your skill with practice and with reading and appreciating things that aren't crap. I can still write a paragraph (fortunately) but I feel like a tenth-grader could out-write me at this point.

I'm not sure what this means, if I'll do another month of writing a blog post every day, or start working on some long essay-type posts, or try to get published somewhere. But I think part of why I have felt so lifeless is because I've stopped writing. Time to wake up.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Favorite things I watched, read, listened to in 2010

(Yes, I know, not all of these were actually released in 2010):


The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language by Eva Hoffman

Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife by Lisa Miller

Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1 by Robert A. Caro



Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Broadcast News

Cemetery Man

Cinema Paradiso

The Best of Youth

The Social Network


District 9



Prime Suspect

Top Chef

In Treatment




Yay for the year of the iPod Touch!

Begin to Hope by Regina Spektor

"Baby, I Love You" by Aretha Franklin

"Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" by The Dramatics

Bach Double Violin Concerto

"Alejandro" by Lady Gaga

The Overture & The Underscore by Sarah Blasko

"Labios Compartidos" by Mana

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Something I listened to on the drive home:
But Sister Anna Joseph Van Acker says she's weary of shallow relationships rooted in texting and Twitter — and finds the depth she's looking for in God. "He has the love you don't find by someone leaving a message on your Facebook wall," she says. "It's way better than someone saying, 'I'm eating pizza for dinner right now,' or whatever your Facebook status says right now. You don't get fulfilled by that. Ultimately, all you want is more. And here, we're thirsting for more, but we're constantly receiving more as well."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

- Somehow the kitchen now has about a million cookies in it, and I feel obligated to help out by eating them. I think I might gain 10 lbs. by the end of the holidays.

- I had a super-productive day in which I cleaned the fish tank and the bathroom, did laundry, washed the car, and finished my Christmas shopping. Wow, I am usually more of a slacker.

- Mark Zuckerberg, Person of the Year. I have to say I don't see him as a likeable person, but then again my perception of him is based on his "60 Minutes" interview and Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal in "The Social Network." Also if there is something I find annoying or too intrusive about Facebook I always personally blame Mark Zuckerberg. I don't know if that is a fair thing to do...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Have a listen

Three-day weekend to look forward to. Ugh, why am I so cranky lately? I go to bed early but somehow feel like I never sleep enough.

I'm trying to be less of a Grinch: I signed up to make cookies for the office holiday party.

I complain sometimes but in all honesty 2010 turned out to be a pretty good year.

Maybe another resolution for 2011 should be to to post more links and more well-informed opinions and not just these tired musings. Oh, but how I love tired musings.
This is hilarious.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So I feel like I'm inching closer to being a recluse, despite a few attempts to engage. Another resolution, stop being a recluse, but it's hard to get motivated. I feel like I'm stunningly awkward when I try to talk. I can never say the right thing. I am tired of trying.

Friday, December 10, 2010

- What a creepy story.

- "Bea Arthur was a truck-driving Marine," says The Smoking Gun. Not explained is why she denied her service even when she was in her late 70s. Hmm...

- 140 page views this week. Thank you, Sun Bowl searchers.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It's taken me awhile to truly appreciate Christmas lights, but I think this is finally the year.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Any volunteers?

Something I've been thinking about lately: I should volunteer more. Maybe it's because I'm shy and not a natural leader but I tend not to volunteer for things. Looking for volunteers in the church nursery? No, I'm not good with kids. Money to buy winter coats for children? Nope, I'm trying to save. At work, looking for people to bring food for a potluck? Well, I could but what if people don't like what I make?

But then I think what a sad world it would be if everyone were like me. $0 to buy coats. No office potlucks. Nowhere for kids to go at church. I always assume "someone else will do it." Oh, that nice lady who doesn't have a regular job, she will do it. Those people making buckets of money will donate, my co-worker who's a lot bossier than me will take charge of the meal. But I know that's a bad attitude to take. Maybe someone will step up, but what if they don't?

I also kinda think volunteer projects are a lot for show and often to pad people's resumes, but even if they are for show, well, good things are still being accomplished. And many people do have a genuine spirit of generosity about the work.

So this is something to work on, an early New Year's resolution.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

I had a conversation last night where I know I sounded really depressed. To the point where my friend asked me, "Are you OK? You seem down." And I said I'll be OK, I just need to sleep. Which was true, since I had one sleepless night this week, then worked the early shift Friday and was pretty wiped out by Friday night. Strange things start to happen when I don't sleep.

But I have to admit my emotional state hasn't been OK for awhile, and it goes beyond one sleepless night. I need to be more honest with myself than I've been.

I ask myself, what do I need to do to get out of this state? I make plans to do x, y, and z and hope they are the right prescription to move forward. That's all I can do, really.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My new favorite chore: handwashing sweaters.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Have you ever had something so good or so bad happen to you that you don't want to put it in writing, not even in a private journal? It's a rare feeling for me, since writing is what I typically use to cope. But some things I just don't want to relive, and others I just don't want to reduce to sentences. My version of speechlessness.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Water bottle

I left my water bottle at the coffee shop yesterday. I shouldn't have even brought it to the meeting but I was forced to take it inside since I was running late. I set the shiny green metal bottle with the black plastic top to my left side. I listened a lot, asked a few questions, laughed when appropriate, took a few notes. Then I left. I dropped the paper cup that had held my coffee into the trash, walked back to my car.

It was on the drive home that I realized I didn't have it. If I had it it would have been dumped on the passenger seat. At the stoplight I reached for it but didn't feel the cold metal. I even dipped my hand down to the floor of the car in front of the seat. Nope. Darn it, darn it, darn it, I am such an idiot.

I got home and I was dead tired but I forced myself to Google the number to the coffee shop. I told the guy where I was sitting, he went back to check but said he didn't find anything. *sighs*

It's just a water bottle, right, not like I lost my purse or wallet....but my mom gave the water bottle to me. It was an unexpected gift, she returned from Walmart one day and said, 'Which one do you like better, the green or the blue?' just like when I was a kid. A week earlier we had been talking about not using so many plastic water bottles during the week, and here she was being thoughtful. I knew these water bottles were not cheap. How could I be so stupid? I could only hope that one of the people in the meeting had picked it up and was possibly going to return it to me later.

And then today, well, that was exactly what happened. My co-worker strolls in, says I bet you didn't think you'd see this again. Aww, I could have hugged him. My faith in humanity (other than Mom, of course) is restored. Sometimes we mess up, and sometimes it turns out OK anyway. There is goodness in this life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

This is something I've often wondered about: Why are siblings' personalities so different? Here's an interesting theory I heard via NPR:
The second theory has a slightly confusing name; it's called the non-shared environment theory, and it essentially argues that though from the outside it appears that we are growing up in the same family as our siblings, in very important ways we really aren't. We are not experiencing the same thing.

"Children grow up in different families because most siblings differ in age, and so the timing with which you go through your family's [major events] is different," says Susan McHale, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University. "You know, a parent loses a job, parents get divorced. If you are three or five years behind your sibling, the experience of a 5-year-old whose parents get divorced is very different from the experience of a 9-year-old or a 10-year-old."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My lasagna is in the oven. Or should I say my attempt at making lasagna. I ran out of filling by the third layer. Oops. And who knew it would take so long to prepare? I started at 3:00 and got it in the oven at 4:30. Plus one hour of baking time. Which is why you'll never see lasagna on 30-Minute Meals.

Update: Lasagna turned out good but not exceptional. I think a Stouffer's ready-to-bake lasagna is about as good.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I ordered a fake gingerbread latte at Starbucks today: decaf with soy milk. Coffee without the buzz, it's not quite right...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wow, so it *is* that time of year. Again. My blog friend Stu introduces Review 2010.
I'm alive, not dead.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

I'm excited: In Treatment is back. Gabriel Byrne talks about why he hasn't gone to therapy himself: " 'This is the thing I have a problem with. Can you pay for true empathy? True intimacy, true empathy, true compassion. I have a problem saying, "Can I pay for that?" Should I pay for that? Shouldn’t I be finding those things in my life with people I know? Maybe that’s why I haven’t gone to therapy.' "

Monday, November 01, 2010

I finally bought a new black sweater today. My old sweater was getting pretty faded and had two buttons missing since last year when I started bringing it to work almost every day. Yes, every day, even in the summer, since the office is so cold all the time. I think it's time for my co-workers to see me in something new. Good-bye, sweater, you served me well.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review: Where Men Win Glory

Where Men Win Glory, the biography of NFL player turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, is classic Jon Krakauer. Misunderstood subject with grand ideals? Check. Painstakingly documented journey? Check. Grisly and tragic ending? Check.

The book is a character study of Tillman, who Krakauer paints as super masculine yet soft hearted through research and interviews with family, friends, and fellow soldiers. Those around him said Tillman was a man who lived to challenge himself. He was a hard-driving if undersized safety for the Arizona Cardinals. After 9/11 he suspended his NFL career, giving up millions of dollars and a comfortable life with his wife Marie to fight in Afghanistan, where he would meet a horrible end.

Tillman doesn't come across as a saint (check out how much he curses), but he does seem like the rare person who was motivated primarily by principle rather than by money, power or fame. In the last chapter Krakauer compares Tillman to Friedrich Nietzsche's Ubermensch, "an exemplary, transcendent figure." In the end Tillman does seem like a sort of superman, a real-life hero of legend.

Besides chronicling Tillman's life, the author offers the clearest description of the lead-up to the war in Afghanistan I've read. Krakauer tackles the cover-up of the true cause of Tillman's death with ferocity, and it's truly stunning to learn about the details. It makes me wish all journalism could be like this, cutting straight through all the B.S. with a laser light. As with Krakauer's previous books, it's heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, but it's the truth.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ahh, a day off. I was starting to forget what one of those feels like.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Coffee shop show

Sunday night. I'm sitting at a coffee shop determined to inject some culture into my life. My sister V. and I find seats near the window on the corner of wooden table. On the other side of the shop a band is setting up to play.

While V. gets coffee for her and soda for me I examine three pieces of art, pages of newspaper with the Virgin Mary painted over them. Through the paint a headline is visible: "3 slain in Juárez." In one frame the section title of the page, "Borderland," has been modified with paint so it is now "Murderland." Art from a newspaper, hmm...

The bands start to play. We listen and don't actually see the bands since we don't want to surrender our seats. The first is high energy and pleasant, the second is totally forgettable. We actually get out of our seats for the third. The band is arty with jangling guitars that put me in a trance and lyrics that I can't really make out but seem esoteric. The lead singer looks about 20 and has red hair. After the set he mingles with the crowd. He points out to me and my sister that we have the same shoes (they're not the same, but both pairs are black flats).

This place is hipster central. Skinny jeans and carefully sloppy hair. I'd say average age is 21. It seems like a lot of people here know each other. Everyone's drinking beers in short rounded brown bottles.

The last band starts up. The band is called Women and when I first saw the show advertised I thought it was an all-female band. That would have been cool, but no, it's four guys from Canada. Like the band before they also start with the jangling guitars but every once in a while they whip out some amazing Beach Boys-style harmonies. Ooh, nice. I don't know crap about music but V. later points out that they sound a lot like My Morning Jacket.

It's late and my sister and I get going only partway through the set. She's heard enough and I've put in a full day at work and am really tired. We flee Hipsterville and drive home in Mom's car. Do I feel more cultured? Slightly. A few more of these and I might know something about it.
The secrets of Mad Men Season 4 finale revealed. Don never picks the smart one. Finale was good but I gotta say I didn't like this season quite as much as the previous ones.

Friday, October 15, 2010

So...I really need to update this thing. Friday, my second day back at work and I'm already tired. I guess that's what happens when you wake up shortly after 5 a.m. It was so dark I had to turn on all the lights while I was getting ready, and I even put my car heater on for the ride to work. I hate to admit it but it really does feel like October now :-(.

I'm up and I'm down and I'm both excited about life and cynical about its sameness.

I wonder how God would judge my life. If I'm wondering about it you know I can't be optimistic.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

At the corn maze

Me trying to figure the way out of the Mesilla Valley Corn maze.

A pumpkin patch! Haven't seen one of those before.
Oh, Regina Spektor, she gets it every time *sighs*:
this is how it works
you're young until you're not
you love until you don't
you try until you can't
you laugh until you cry
you cry until you laugh
and everyone must breathe
until their dying breath

this is how it works
you peer inside yourself
you take the things you like
and try to love the things you took
and then you take that love you made
and stick it into some--
someone else's heart
pumping someone else's blood

and walking arm in arm
you hope it don't get harmed
but even if it does
you'll just do it all again
on the radio
you hear november rain
that solo's awful long
but it's a nice refrain
you listen to it twice
cause the dj is asleep
on the radio...

Friday, October 08, 2010

Does this thing still work? Finally, on my day off, an hour when I don't feel so overwhelmed. And all I can think is that a nap would be really nice right now.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

26 views of the site this week. I think it's a record low. Hello, anybody out there?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Love this. Aimee Mann so rocks:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

In reference to last Saturday night

It was a Saturday night and I was tagging along with my dad and his significant other yet again, this time at a football game. For a fleeting moment I thought, wouldn't it be nice to have a guy, a real boyfriend, to take me out every Saturday night? A person to sit with and talk to and be affectionate with at games or movies or dinner or whatever. A Saturday night date. For a second it was the one thing I wanted, and I felt more lonely than I have in a long time, in the middle of this big crowd.

Yeah, I can list all the benefits of the single life: Going where you want, when you want to. Hanging out with a big group of friends and it not being weird. Not having to deal with the other person's psycho side. Not being jealous. Being able to pursue hobbies, interests, etc. Blah, blah, blah, but I'm still so damn lonely, as evidenced by moments above.

It's hard for me to see my single status changing. Partly because I see myself as perpetually ugly, despite any efforts to dress better or change my hair or whatever. My flirtation skills suck, I don't know how to meet men, don't know what to say to them. I'm possibly too educated for 98 percent of the men in this town. Most of the time on a Saturday night (when I'm not hanging out with my parents) I'll stay in and watch DVDs rather than call someone up. I don't really like nightclubs or bars. Actually, I would say I really dislike them.

Does that mean a future as the dog or cat lady? I mean, I know there are things I could try to change in the above paragraph, but do I really want to?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thoughts jotted down last week:
- It's a rare person who really understands shyness. I think a person needs to understand that barrier to understand me, which is frustrating and I wish it weren't so.

- I regret sometimes that I'm not the computer programmer that my college education trained me to be. I see the missed $$, I wonder if that would have been a smarter career choice. I wonder if I gave up on something too quickly because I found it too hard, and maybe I should have stuck with it. But if I really am honest with myself I think I'm a whole lot more content where I am now than I likely would be in that theoretical programming job, where I probably would have been thinking right about now that I should have dared to go for something that better suits my talents and interests. Even if it doesn't pay as much and I don't get to feel like a nerdy smarter-than-everyone software engineer.

- If I complain so much about not having a "creative life" I should do something about it. I should *make* time for it, not wait for that time to fall into my lap because it will not.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Some interesting musings from Ben Casnocha. Apparently celibacy is the best option if you really want to get a lot done:
My thesis is that In a Relationship is just as much of a time and energy sink as Single and Looking. There are various reasons, but one big one. With Single and Looking there's a great deal of emotional energy spent contemplating your lack of dating success, there's stress around existing dates, and of course, wondering, "Is she interested? Am I interested? Do I play like I'm interested?" You spend a lot of cycles thinking about your dating life even when you're not going on dates.
This week's reading: "The Lady of Shallot":
There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tuesday morning

I had Monday off then got into work Tuesday morning only for my boss to tell me I'm working the night shift the next two days. So there I was in my work outfit, a green and white polka-dot blouse and black slacks, make-up, faux pearl earrings, leaving the office at 8:15 a.m. What the heck am I going to do until 5:00? I went to the bank to withdraw money, then headed to Barnes and Noble.

I think 9 a.m. on a Tuesday may be the best time ever to go to the bookstore. It's quiet, the workers are there with the big rolling carts of books, making it seem pleasantly more like a library. I got a seat in the cafe! I ordered a green tea with vanilla and coconut, ooh, so soothing. I tried to get into this book but it wasn't happening for me after the first couple of chapters. So I bought this one instead, using the remainder of a gift card. I am just so darn literary, ha ha. Tuesday morning at Barnes and Noble, that will likely not happen again anytime soon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I had such big plans for my day off...then my car battery died. *sighs* Time to call Dad.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Working too hard?

It's a constant tug-of-war with me. I wonder if I'm working too much or not enough.

Not enough -- I feel as if I'm not living up to whatever potential I have. I always feel behind at work, no matter what I do. I feel like I could be doing so much more. I've been working on a research project outside of work, and it feels really good. Like my brain is in gear. What other outside work projects could I realize if I made them a priority? But how many hours are there in a day?

Too much -- I'm constantly tired, I feel like I never have time to try something new. I've put my "creative life" on hold, as in the me who used to care about blogging and personal writing in general. The me who used to watch weird foreign films and seek out interesting experiences. I thought about taking a class, just to learn something I don't know about. Who has time for that, though?
So it's Sunday evening and it's nice not to be morphing into work mode about this time. Since I am not going to work tomorrow. I can't remember the last time I sat down to watch "60 Minutes," which until about a year ago was something I enjoyed doing every week. I don't know what changed but I almost never watch it now, though I still like the program in theory. Too much news in my life? Too much thinking about ironing and other worries about tomorrow, or do I just prefer the fictional "Mad Men" to spend the daily hour of TV time that I allow myself? I'm not sure what it is.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

- What is in a Starbucks Vivanno smoothie: "mocha flavored sauce, a whole banana, milk, whey protein and fiber powder, and ice." 270 calories. I can't decide if this is a healthy food or not.

- I am so glad that it's the weekend.

- My allergies returned yesterday afternoon. Could it be because there's a slightly cooler note in the air? I had one more dose of Claritin. Time to buy another box.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Take time

My mom has posted this poem somewhere in every house we've had. I read it again today while I was doing my laundry:
Take Time
Take time to think...It is the source of power.
Take time to play...It is the secret of perpetual youth.
Take time to read...It is the fountain of wisdom.
Take time to pray...It is the greatest power on earth.
Take time to love and be loved...It is a God-given privilege.
Take time to be friendly...It is the road to happiness.
Take time to laugh...It is the music of the soul.
Take time to give...It is too short a day to be selfish.
Take time to work...It is the price of success.
Take time to do charity...It is the key to heaven.
Sometimes I feel like I only take the time for one of those items, that is the second to last one. I'm glad I took the time to read this poem today. Food for thought.
So I just spent $46 at Wal-Mart, which is kind of a lot for me, but for that amount I got the following:
- pesto ingredients that are usually expensive -- pinon nuts, parmesan cheese, basil leaves
- chicken
- six-pack of Miller Lite
- a copy of "The Girl Who Played with Fire" ($5.97, wow)
- eggs, fruit, turkey lunch meat, etc.

Not a bad deal at Wal-Mart. And it wasn't that crowded considering it was a Saturday morning. I waited in line less than 10 minutes.
Today feels very fall-ish. Excitement tinged with sadness. I have a hard time saying goodbye to summer.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A fish dies

So the day I was dreading came yesterday. One of my fish died (or more accurately, my sister's fish). It was the fish I liked the most, Molly, the balloon-bellied molly. I had deemed her the extrovert of the group, since she (he?) was always first to appear at the surface of the water when I dropped in the fish food. She seemed like a friendly fish, if you can say such a thing about a fish.

Anyway, I saw the fish body floating in one place for too long a time. My fear was confirmed when I looked in at the tank. I told Mom and she watched as I scooped her up in the green net. I wrapped the body in a few layers of toilet paper and flushed.

I think this is the worst part of having fish, not cleaning the tank or buying new filters. I haven't gotten a hold of my sister, I don't want to tell her the bad news. Not like I cried but it is sad.
My favorite observation from today's visit: "She said Obama smelled of subtle cologne when he hugged her."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lazy Saturday/book review

I had the best intentions today of dusting and vacuuming the whole house. That didn't happen. I did manage to do my laundry, pay some bills online and return my two-weeks overdue library books. One of the books had a section falling out of it that was not falling out when I checked out the book. I felt horribly guilty about this and confessed to it at the checkout counter rather than just dropping the book in the bookdrop.

The now falling-apart book I read was called Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris. From the Publisher's Weekly review:
When poet Norris (The Cloister Walk) found her way back into church in the early 1980s, she was unsettled by what she calls the "vaguely threatening and dauntingly abstract" vocabulary of the church. Many of the words, like "Christ," seemed to her code words churchgoers used out of convenience when they could not find other words to use. Other words?like "salvation," "conversion," and "dogma"?seemed to Norris to be too abstract to reflect meaningfully her own experience. In this "vocabulary of faith," Norris draws upon her considerable poetic skills to refashion the vocabulary of the church into her own religious vocabulary. In each of these meditations, Norris uses anecdotes and humor to invest these words with fresh meanings.
It's a fantastic idea for a book, though I think Norris is uneven in her execution of it. She sometimes follows through to perfection, and other times seems to miss the mark with chapters that seem way too short, offering anecdotes that seem too lightweight given the immense baggage attached to some of these words.

Still, I enjoyed the tone of this book versus one written by a clergy member or professor, in the way it combines academic knowledge with personal reflection. She often delves into Greek word origins and into the spirituality of Benedictine monks, with whom she has apparently spent a lot of time. Hmm, interesting. Norris also acknowledges doubt and her agnostic past, which I think is brave.

Yeah, it's really too bad that this book is so battered up for the next person.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

One day I will write a real blog post again.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Video: Two dogs

Something new for me: I recorded my own video. I'm taking care of my dad's two dogs, Maggie and Auggie, for the week. Maggie is the large wolf-like one, Auggie is the small poodle-like one. I didn't know Maggie's crunching would come through so loud.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Eat Pray Love the movie

There were plenty of people at the 10:30 a.m. showing of "Eat Pray Love," many of them women who traveled to the theater alone, just like me. I kind of wished we could form an impromptu discussion group after the movie was over.

I was divided over the book, enjoying it as a travelogue enough to overcome my philosophical differences with the author, namely that I can't really applaud a story that involves walking away from a marriage, going on a solo journey to find yourself, then at the end, well, falling in love with another guy. It does seem like a very Hollywood story in that way, that the end of every journey must involve falling in love. But who says you have to be in perfect sync with the author's worldview to enjoy a book?

Anyway, getting back to the movie...I did think Julia Roberts looked the part of the smart, likeable author and played miserable and exuberant equally well. And as much as I hate to admit it, the movie was much more effective than the book at transporting me to plates of delicious Italian food, the floors of an ashram in India, and finally to the beaches of Bali.

I do wish Hollywood could do as much justice to the "pray" part as it does to the "eat" and "love" parts. It mostly just shows her being frustrated with it and making some friends at the ashram, skipping the electric sort of meditation experience she has in the book. I wonder why. Are moviegoeers that uncomfortable with spirituality?

No, a movie can't possibly match the intimacy of a book. And no, they didn't rewrite the story to my liking. Still, I'll take a beautiful-looking movie about self-discovery over an action flick any time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Dry Land at the Plaza

Yesterday I got to see a screening of "The Dry Land" at the Plaza Theatre. I originally bought the tickets because, well, America Ferrera was going to be there! I've admired her work ever since "Real Women Have Curves." Second I like to see projects that talented current or former El Pasoans are doing. The director, Ryan Piers Williams, graduated from Hanks High School, and I remembered that last year parts of the movie were filmed here. Yay for El Paso.

But as for the movie itself, I didn't know what to expect. I knew it was about post-traumatic stress disorder, but I didn't expect it to be quite so jarring. There are scenes so brutal I know they would never make it into a mainstream movie. A woman in the row in front of me wiped tears from her eyes a few times. The man sitting next to me covered his ears whenever a shotgun blast seemed imminent (which was a few times).

I thought about the thousands of soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss, and some of the scary situations that have made headlines lately. Sometimes I forget the power of film to educate and raise awareness, not merely entertain. I've browsed through many articles like this over the past few years, but I think this film finally made the issue of PTSD personal and three-dimensional.

I was impressed that the director really seemed to have his heart in the right place with this film. During the Q&A he said five years of research went into the film, and I think it shows in the details of the settings, the characters, and the portrayal of the symptoms of PTSD and how the characters react to it.

"The Dry Land," go see it if you can.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

So what day is it again? As I was leaving work I was happy thinking I had just completed my Wednesday.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

This is pretty cool:

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

There is a world beyond the computer...


I made combination brownie-chocolate chip cookie bars last night. So delicious, my gosh:

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Interview with Univisión anchor Jorge Ramos: "The U.S. is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, with the exception of Mexico. It means — and I am completely convinced of this — that the first Hispanic President has already been born."

Monday, August 02, 2010

- I'm trying to decide if I should shell out the money for Microsoft Office since my trial version is about to expire. I downloaded OpenOffice and it seems to work pretty well. I think I could live without Microsoft Word, but I do want to have PowerPoint around just in case I ever have to do a presentation. But how often does that happen?

- I'm unusually happy for a Monday night since I don't have to work tomorrow. Two days off, one day working, two more days off. Now there's a schedule. Maybe I can write another post tomorrow instead of being a blog slacker?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Time once again to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes I think I might as well be on Twitter since I don't have much to write, beyond a few sentences here or there.

I did my usual Friday night routine, which is to go out to dinner then fall into bed by 10 p.m. Unusual for me I woke up in the middle of the night, thinking of everything. I wandered into the loft area, sat in a big chair, thought, I have to make some changes. I have to decide what's important, forget about the rest...but not now, since I am soooo tired. I tried to read but I found my mind couldn't engage. As soon as I'd close my eyes for a second I'd start to fall asleep.

Can I just not require so damn much of myself? I have a finite amount of energy. I can't be perfect. I can't do it all. That is a fact.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ooh, Mad Men returns tomorrow. What's up with Peggy Olson's hair? I'm resisting the urge to read the advance reviews.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Yet another adventure driving in the rain

The rainstorm came so suddenly this afternoon that one of my co-workers gasped and said, "Look outside" and ran to the window. A solid wall of water was rushing down the side of the building. The air was so white it looked like we were on the inside of a cloud. We were entertained for a few minutes before we all sat down and got back to work.

5:40 and I finally escaped work. Upstairs from my desk I had seen a couple of people walking through the parking lot under an umbrella. An umbrella would have been nice. Downstairs a crowd had gathered at the front door, waiting out the rain, I suppose. I didn't want to wait that long. I put a plastic bag on top of my head and walked fast. The rain wasn't so bad, it was the puddles that caused the problems. My black flats, nylons and the bottoms of my pants got soaked. These days I am afraid to ruin my clothes, and I was horrified at first but relaxed after I realized the water wouldn't really ruin them.

I drove through several fast-moving streams of water getting to the interstate. Looking back my rule *should* be, you can never be too cautious in a potentially dangerous driving situation. But honestly I was just tired and eager to get through this wet mess as quickly as possible. I was fording these streams without much thought.

I was waiting at a traffic light and saw a truck stopped in my lane ahead. A man was getting out of the truck. What's this guy doing? I thought. He got down into the water and propped up a construction sign that must have fallen in the rain, which otherwise all the traffic would have had to go around. Woo-hoo, this guy is my hero.

More rain-related fun on the way home: I narrowly missed getting hit by a pickup truck after traffic stopped suddenly in front of me and I made a quick lane change. Incidents like these make me debate in my mind whether I'm a bad driver or not. I'm a "bad" driver in the sense that I don't have good instincts for the physical act of driving. I'm a "good" driver in the sense that I usually follow traffic laws to the letter. That is, except when I am very eager to get home and start getting careless. Rain and rush hour, double reason to slow down.

The finale of my latest driving in the rain adventure: a rainbow.

Wouldn't it be cool if there were a pot of gold at the end of it, at the top of the mountain? But no pots of gold, instead another go at rush hour tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My friend Stu has a nice review of "Inception" (WARNING: Don't read unless you've seen the movie!): "There are essentially two parallel stories; the heist and Cobb’s 'emotional journey'. Nolan’s trick is that one group of viewers may consider the heist to be the main story, the dark romance the sub-plot. For the rest of us, it’s the other way around."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tonight's task: I made Rice Krispies treats, I mean Cheerios marshmallow treats. Meaning I substituted Cheerios for the Krispies in the recipe. The taste reminded me of Lucky Charms. It's pleasant enough but I think I still prefer the original.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Relax...I wish I could. I spent 43 hours in a nearly news-free zone, went to the movies, slept late, saw friends and relatives, ate some good food, and yet at this moment I don't feel rested. Maybe I need to try yoga or deep breathing exercises to get this knot of tension out of my chest. An extended vacation? I wish.
I really want to see this. Jesse Eisenberg seems a little too nice for this role, though:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Shopping at the iTunes store

Downloaded from iTunes this morning:
"One" by U2
"Bad Romance" by Lady GaGa
"Paradise City" by Guns 'n Roses
"Superstar" by the Carpenters
"I Love the Unknown" by Eef Barzelay

Love the nearly 7-minute version of "Paradise City" versus the radio version. I was trying to find a song to download that showcased Lady GaGa's more serious side...Um, does Lady GaGa have a song like that? I didn't find one. "Brown Eyes," maybe?

It's been such a long time since I listened to the Carpenters. I used to listen to their Greatest Hits over and over again when I was about 12 years old. "Long ago/And oh so far away/I fell in love with you/Before the second show..."

I have $8.66 left in my account. Any suggestions?
Are the French really "green"er than Americans? Not much, according to this columnist:
"But when it came to living greener, the French behaved pretty much like Americans. The plastic Evian bottle reigned and I did not see one reusable bottle the entire time I was there. I saw a chain of stores that sold only plastic wares, boldly named Plastiques. At the supermarket, I did notice an absence of plastic bags but the amount of packaging on products was insane."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

- I'm trying to identify the lizards that live near my house. According to this article, they could be collared lizards.

- 9 a.m. today, I'm at work and realize there is a pretty large dried-up water stain from ironing on the left side of my pants. It's the kind of stain that if I tried to scrub it out in the bathroom I might have made it much worse. So I did nothing. I would like to believe that no one noticed it.

- I woke up last night because I felt suffocated by the hot, humid air. Thank God for the refrigerated air A/C. July is *not* my favorite month.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Colorado must be heaven if you love climbing mountains and/or drinking beer. Too bad neither of those are my hobbies. Nevertheless I did have a good time taking in the scenery in Colorado.

I liked the cows and pianos on 16th Street but overall urban Colorado (Denver) didn't impress me much, especially when I saw a middle-aged couple wade into the fountain near the county building. Ugh, I could have lived without seeing that.

Good thing our final destination was not in the city but the mountains: Estes Park. Getting there was perilous. It was raining like crazy when my sister A. drove on the mountain roads at night. I prayed. But my sister is a capable driver, and we got there in one piece.

The next day was blue skies and sunshine, fortunately, and I was stunned when I took a short walk and saw the Rockies up close. In Colorado I questioned whether I had ever really seen mountains before. Mount Rainer, I suppose. The Franklins look like a few hills in comparison. I saw pine and aspen trees, ducks, chipmunks, even a couple of elk, exotic plants and animals for someone used to the desert.

Our inn was literally something out of a '40s novel. It was the sort of place you could spend a week with the family hiking in nice weather and playing cards in the library when it rained. It smells like the wood it's built out of, and like burnt firewood in the nights and mornings. No TVs in the rooms. I could see myself going there to work on a memoir, Reflections from the Mountain, or something like that.

Besides hiking we drove around and took a brewery tour, which I liked more than I expected, and saw the Stanley Hotel, the hotel on which the setting for Stephen King's The Shining is based. I didn't feel scared, maybe because I haven't seen the movie The Shining or read the book. But I honestly thought our inn would be a scarier place to be snowed in than The Stanley, since it's even more isolated.

It was a short trip and I left thinking there is so much more to Colorado. I got a few snapshots to take home, but I know there is a grand epic in those mountains for those who desire it. I want to go back with hiking boots, a tent, and a fishing pole.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Does anyone else think this is a crummy graduation speech? Do NOT major in philosophy, whatever you do. Come on, Anna Kendrick, couldn't you write something better?
So Much for That by Lionel Shriver is too cynical and depressing for me to recommend wholeheartedly but it has its moments:
...But when Zach typed an a it was magic. His iPod was magic. His digital TV was magic. The Internet was magic...Collectively, the human race was growing ever more authoritative about the mechanics of the universe. Individually, the experience of most people was of accelerating impotence and incomprehension. They lived in a world of superstition. They relied on voodoo--charms, fetishes, and crystal balls whose caprices they were helpless to govern, yet without which the conduct of daily life came to a standstill. Faith that the computer would switch on one more time and do as it was asked had more a religious than rational cast. When the screen went black, the gods were angry.
For After Glynis had discovered a terrible secret: There is only the body. There never was anything but the body. Wellness is the illusion of not having one. Wellness is escape from the body. But there is no escape. So wellness is delay.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Found this post while looking for some new blogs to follow: "...I’m not concerned that women don’t engage in enough building of self-confidence or self-esteem. I’m worried about something much simpler: not enough women have what it takes to behave like arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks." Ha ha, I've noticed that, too. Many women (myself included) are bad at self-promotion and they *shouldn't* be. This book was an eye-opener for me and has some very helpful tips on this topic. I encourage all women who work to read it.
Could this be true? It seems more plausible the longer you watch.

Friday, July 02, 2010

- Work, work, work. Maybe I'm addicted? This week it seems I haven't thought of much else.

- I'm thinking of joining Twitter. Anyone have arguments for or against?

- I'm leaving for Colorado on Sunday. I'm trying to see more of the world. But whereas travel is a frequent thing for some people, it's actually a pretty infrequent thing for me. I don't typically do weekend getaways, more like a few big trips per year.

- It's 9:30 p.m. and I'm exhausted. I wish it wasn't so. I do want to write down my thoughts so they aren't forgotten. I also want to find a good book to read and go out to watch Eclipse and take the dog for a walk and finish watching The Wire. In that order.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Starbucks is cool after all

Sometimes it pays to stay at Starbucks for more than two hours. I met a group of people at one of their locations this afternoon. My friend brought to our meeting a whole pan of brownies covered with ganache that made the Starbucks brownies look pathetic. Fortunately, three of us bought drinks soon thereafter, so we weren't just a bunch of people sitting around eating outside brownies. Whew.

We talked for over two hours, exhausting our drinks in the process. The manager in the green apron came over and asked us, do you need anything else? Business was slowing down, and I was thinking, this is our cue to leave. We all said no except one guy who had the audacity to ask for a glass of water. Oh geez. Then, to make matters worse, my friend, who had kind of covered up the brownies, not only uncovered the foil from the pan, but offered one to the manager. I was ready to hide under the table. Here comes the scolding: "You're not supposed to have those in here."

Instead, the manager got a napkin and took one. He went behind the counter then brought out the water and said to my friend who made the brownies, that was really good. Then to top it all off, he brought us four cups of free coffee and a cup of creamer. What?! I guess Starbucks is supposed to be a different kind of corporation, but to actually reward us for breaking the rules?

Not that I'm complaining. Maybe this is some sort of counterintuitive strategy to get us to go back there and tell all our friends to go there? If it is, looks like it worked. I am writing a whole blog post about it after all. I doubt if all managers are that flexible about the rules, but I did leave the place thinking that Starbucks is very cool, even if it is a ubiquitous corporate chain and I laugh inside every time I order a "tall" anything.
You should read this article in Time about the dire state of state and local government finances. It hits close to home, though El Paso, and Texas, too, have been fortunate to escape the worst of it. This paragraph is a bit tangential to the topic but I read it and thought, that is so true: "But the long recession has cast a glaring light on the fact that public and private workers increasingly live in separate economies. Private-sector employees face frequent job turnover, relentless downsizing, stagnant wages and rising health-insurance premiums. They fund their own retirement through 401(k)s and similar plans, which rise and fall with the tides of the economy. Many public-sector workers, by contrast, enjoy relative job security, and the number of government jobs rose even as the overall unemployment rate shot just past 10%."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Not that I had a bad day but John Mayer has some good advice if you are:
What do I do when I'm having an awful day? I time travel. Well, sort of. Here's how I cheat the math:

Question: Is this problem going to change your life forever or will there come a day this problem will no longer exist?

If you decide the problem won't exist after a certain period of time, then you can file it under "temporary."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Back to it

At lunch my whole body cried, "Tired!" and I wanted to take a long nap instead of going back to work. Not enough time to sleep. Not enough time to enjoy my new computer. I'm reading three books at once (typical me, can't read just one) but haven't made much progress in any of them this past week. I barely fished my copy of this week's Time out of the mailbox. I can't blog this way, not properly, anyway...
Good article on why Facebook can't genuinely connect people: "If we write on someone’s wall, who else will see it? If we comment on someone’s status, whose newsfeed will it show up in? Sometimes it’s as if Facebook is a hidden microphone that threatens to expose what we’d really like to say. Without that ability to be vulnerable, it is difficult to really connect with friends."

Friday, June 18, 2010

I slept until nearly 10:00 and still feel tired. I hate when that happens.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Heaven, the book

If there were a star rating system on this blog, I'd give three stars out of four to Lisa Miller's Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife. I could have done without some of the cutesy stories and details about what the interviewees drank during the interview, but for a book written for a popular audience, it covers some of the most-asked questions about the afterlife with surprising thoroughness, like, How do you reconcile different religions' versions of heaven?, What can you do to get into heaven?, and Does heaven get boring?.
Here's an article for a lonely Saturday night -- the case for settling for Mr. Good Enough: "When we’re holding out for deep romantic love, we have the fantasy that this level of passionate intensity will make us happier. But marrying Mr. Good Enough might be an equally viable option, especially if you’re looking for a stable, reliable life companion...Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way."

Friday, June 11, 2010

New computer!

I named my new computer Blue Bunny, since I ordered the blue tower at an additional cost of $20. So far I'm still in awe. The new monitor is so big and the picture is so clear and crisp, I feel like I'm swimming in it. It doesn't take 10 minutes to warm up like my old PC, and it's quiet -- you don't hear it start to make a humming noise when multiple programs are running. The computer has Windows 7, which is lovely, and I also finally joined the rest of the world and installed Office 2010 and iTunes. And, what the heck, I ordered new speakers, too, which are big and black and sound amazing.

Interesting how a computer to me is now more like another body part, another arm or another set of eyes to see the world through, which is how I justified the cost of the upgrade. It really is that essential. But yeah, it's also a lot of fun.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Saturday

It's Thursday, aka my Saturday. For the past month or so my "weekend" has been Thursday and Friday. It's odd how much a Thursday can feel like a Saturday. I get two days off then I work the real weekend. What I call "the weekend feeling" goes on for four days, it's very strange.

I also do two night shifts during the week. I think my days working the night shift are my most productive. Not because I'm awake more hours, but because I can sleep all I want and feel energized for most of my waking hours. I can usually get a couple of chores done before work. This is unlike working the day shift, when I come home tired and spend a couple hours vegging in front of the TV before collapsing into bed.

I guess now that it's summer it's not so unusual for people to be out during the week, but one of my favorite things to do is to go to a grocery store on a weekday afternoon, when it's mostly senior citizens and homemakers with their shopping carts, not everyone and their husband and sister and kids. It feels very liberating -- look, world, I'm not at work, ha ha.

On the other hand, I missed Mother's Day with Mom, and I was at work for the American Idol finale. I'm a few beats off from most everyone else. People are doing important things while I'm sleeping until 10 or reading blogs at 2 on a Tuesday afternoon. I sent out an e-mail Monday and almost wrote that today is Wednesday. On a Saturday night I really thought it was a Tuesday. It's not a bad schedule but it does mess with your head.
More from Doris Lessing in the intro to The Golden Notebook:
Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this:

"You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others, will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself--educating your own judgement. Those that stay must remember, always and all the time, they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society."
I say to these students who have to spend a year, two years, writing theses about one book: "There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag--and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty--and vice versa. Don't read a book out of its right time for you..."
She is so cool and definitely qualifies as one of my author heroes.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Golden Notebook

If you want to read a good feminist novel, try The Golden Notebook. No, this is not an easy read, but it is satisfying if you dare to take it on. The whole structure of the novel is a challenge -- a conventional novel interspersed with pieces from four diaries, each detailing one aspect of the life of Anna Wulf, the main character in that novel.

The Golden Notebook is about much more than feminism -- it's also about communism, colonialism, and psychoanalysis, among other things. But the parts that resonated most deeply for me were those where Doris Lessing takes a magnifying glass to the indignities and uncertainties of being a woman. In the introduction, the author says the book was criticized for its depiction of female aggression: "But this novel was not a trumpet for Women's Liberation. It described many female emotions of aggression, hostility, resentment. It put them into print. Apparently what many women were thinking, feeling, experiencing, came as a great surprise." Even in this supposedly liberated age, nearly 50 years after its publication, I think the novel still holds some shock value with its honesty. This character who is a successful but now blocked writer/lapsed communist/single mother, who jumps around from one relationship to the next, is still unusual. To reach sanity, you must unify the diverging narratives of your life. Is life really this complicated? Yes, but most of the time I just don't want to believe it.

Friday, June 04, 2010


Ten years out of high school. I won't say that time has flown by and it doesn't seem like that long ago, because it seems like ages ago. On my 28th birthday I dressed up in a jean skirt and what I thought was a cute purple top and looked at myself in the mirror. I no longer weigh 100 lbs. like I did when I was 18 but I deemed myself not fat. My face is not wrinkled but some of the freshness of youth had worn off compared to my high school graduation picture, which sat helpfully on the dresser near the mirror I was looking into. I would say I look "more mature" rather than "older," ha ha.

As I looked at the photo I remembered the deer-in-the-headlights feeling surrounding my high school graduation. Theoretically it's a day I should have been preparing for my entire young life, but I wasn't ready for it. It never really occurred to me that I would be free at age 18, and as a legal adult I could have done whatever I wanted. Blown off college. Gotten a job at a convenience store. Gone traveling around the world for a year. Maybe it is part of the public school process and/or societal attitudes, that somehow I both hated what I saw as the assembly line of life where everyone knows college follows high school but still went along with it. It has taken me a very long time to grasp what it means to be an adult. I think some people realize this much earlier, before they finish high school, even, but for me it was a much longer and more painful process.

Just over a year after my 18th birthday I would go through the classic 19-year-old crash and burn. This was the second-worst experience of my life, next to my parents' divorce. There's no picture of this, but in a lot of ways it was just as important of a milestone as a graduation. Looking back I can recognize this as fundamentally an identity crisis. I had never really gotten to the bottom of the questions, Who am I and what am I planning to do with my life? At the end of the crisis I still didn't know.

Perhaps inevitably, at age 23, I would crash and burn all over again. I had gone to computer science grad school mainly because I didn't want to get a real job in that field (I wouldn't admit this to myself at the time but it was true just the same). After two years of grad school I was (predictably) miserable, facing a dark abyss where my future should have been. Uggghhh, 23-year-old self, what were you thinking? This time I broke out the self-help books and tried to answer some questions I had never bothered to answer.

I want X. I am doing Y to get X. I passed my calculus classes in college, I studied logic and algorithms in grad school, but somehow I failed to grasp that fundamental concept. Five years, another round of grad school and three jobs later, I won't claim to have the identity issues resolved but I haven't had another "who am I" meltdown and doubt I ever will again. It's the blessing of being 28, not ever having to relive that particular feeling of lost-ness. I'm so much more willing now to rip up the four-year degree plan, cancel those classes and get my money back, call about the trip I've always wanted to take, and take time off if I need to, if it's what I need to be happy. No, I would not want to be myself at 18, 19, or 23 again, even if it meant rolling back the pounds and erasing a few blemishes from my face. Geez, I was dumb back then. The innocence of youth is more like the stupidity of youth.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Sometimes I think my 9-year-plus fixation on blogs is coming to an end. Lately it seems I spend more time doing other stuff on the Internet: browsing craigslist and Amazon, going through Facebook, checking e-mail, even watching music videos on YouTube. The number of blogs I read on a regular basis is dwindling, and lately I haven't found new blogs to replace the ones I don't follow anymore. Maybe I just need to find some new blogs to be excited about. (Any recommendations, btw?)

Could it also be that I see the Internet differently? Maybe I am slowly coming to see the Internet as a giant mall.

Or maybe a blog is now simply another tool in the ever-expanding social media toolbox. The longer version of a tweet or status update (though I like to see a blog as having a more artistry. OTOH, see my last post).

In any case, even if I don't find blogging as essential as I used to, I'm still here after 9 years. There's still a place for it in my life. I still read blogs and I will continue to churn out posts, some about sandwiches, some about more profound matters.
There's now a sandwich with two fried chicken breasts in place of the bread? What has the world come to?

Friday, May 28, 2010

After watching "District 9" I'm wondering why this movie didn't win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Today is my birthday. Last year I was returning from the UK. This year I'm also lucky enough not to be working, but it's not quite as exciting. Instead it's the morning routine -- feed the fish, walk the dog, check my e-mail (thanks to everyone who said happy birthday, I'm very grateful), a little "Regis and Kelly." Chocolate cake for breakfast seems like a good idea.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Steven Johnson defends "oversharing" on the web:
There used to be a large crevasse separating the intimate space of private life and what's exposed by the klieg lights of fame. But in the Facebook age, that crevasse has broadened out into a valley between the realms of privacy and celebrity, and we are starting to camp out there and get the lay of the land.
Now, we have to choose whether we want to venture into the valley of intimate strangers, and how exactly we want to live there....It requires that we acknowledge that certain kinds of sharing can, in fact, advance a wider public good, as well as satisfy our own needs for compassion and counsel.
Anyone with a virtual life has dealt with these not always easy choices. I think for myself and a lot of bloggers web sharing has gone in reverse of Facebook: at first by default everything in your life is fair game for your blog, then you don't share much of anything private when you realize people are actually reading the blog, then you move somewhere in between. In between is a good spot, I think.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I heard "Walkin' on Sunshine" on the car radio the other morning, in a parking lot, and was compelled to stay in the car to listen to it. Isn't it just impossible not to smile at that song, no matter how blah of a day you're having? Then this update on Katrina and the Waves comes out on NPR. It's a mostly happy story, I'm glad the band has made a lot of money on the song.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

- My caffeine-fest yesterday turned out to be a very bad idea. Coca-Cola with lunch, iced caffe mocha at Starbucks, iced tea with dinner. Awake at 2 a.m. I think the caffe mocha did it.

- In poker, as in life, no guts, no glory.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My computer monitor conked out yesterday. I would turn the power on and the screen would flicker on for about 2 seconds before making a little noise and going black. Maybe the 4 1/2 years of constant use were too much for it? Now I regret the times I've left the computer and monitor on all night, sometimes for days in a row. I switched over to an old monitor today. Funny how bulky and archaic the old one seems. Curved glass screens are such a thing of the past, and I had to sit the monitor on a coffee table book and a few magazines to make it the right eye-height. A new computer and monitor are likely in order. Good thing my birthday is coming up.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Update to my post on the new fish tank: The fish do have names, according to my sister. Zelda is the one with the triangle marking,the leopard danios are Leo and Dan. The orange one is not a puffer but a balloon-bellied molly named Molly. The algae-eating one is a plecostomos named Falcor. Yay, fish! They are all still around. I'm cleaning their tank tomorrow, wish me luck.

Does anyone actually respond to these?

In my spam folder:
Hello to you
I miss you more than words can say and my love will reach any distance and fly to be in your dreams (URL redacted)
I'm looking for a man who will be both my partner and friend. With whom I could share my life and every bad and good moment.
I really enjoy life but I miss my soulmate to share it with. I am caring, honest, sincere, patient, like healthy lifestyle. I enjoy quiet evenings at home, eating ice- cream late at night.
I would like to meet a man for a serious long term relationship where we try to understand each other, to love and to care for.
It doesn't matter where I will find that man or where I will live in the future here or in another country I just want to be happy.
Too bad I am that woman, not a man :-). I like the part about eating ice cream late at night. Nice touch.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Toast to Juarez?

I had a mixed reaction to this piece I read in a local weekly newspaper, basically, "let's drink to help Juarez":

We can’t fix Juarez. But we can help, a little, and reclaim a little of our Juarez, the one we remember. I propose that next Friday we go to the Kentucky Club. We can do it to pump a little money into the local economy, or we can do it for our own selfish gratification. We’ll sit at the bar, and drink Kentucky Club margaritas, and watch the long shadows cross the street. We’ll tip the bartenders, and they’ll take the money and buy groceries, and the money will flow through the Juarez economy, percolating up instead of trickling down.

Um...OK, you do that. Interesting idea, sort of noble, but more tongue-in-cheek than anything. In short it's the sort of thing I'm usually up for. On the other hand, I don't drink and have no nostalgia for the "old Juarez," and even if I did I probably still wouldn't go now out of fear of the remote possibility that something *could* happen. Judging from the reactions published in the article it seems a lot of people feel the same way.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Check it out: a reimagined international bridge.

Tank girl

My exciting news of the week: I have five new pets. A. dropped off her fish tank at the house on Tuesday since she is moving away until October (sad). Honestly I never thought I'd have a fish tank. I had wanted to get a fish tank seven years ago and decided against it because it seemed way too complicated. No thanks, I'd rather have a dog, if I'm going to go to that much trouble. Dogs are much more affectionate than fish :-).

Looking over the array of accessories we took out of my sister's car, it did seem like a lot for a few fish -- a net, a bottle of chemicals, a siphon, three cylinders of food, filter, heater, light-timer, bubble-blower, etc.

I saw something move in the water while we were carrying in the heavy tank. "They're in there now?" I asked. "Yup." Five fish were in the tank: a big gold one (puffer), two silver ones (danios), one with a big triangle on it (?), and an algae-eater that usually doesn't come out of the castle.

We carried the tank up the stairs and plopped it down next to the TV in the lounge area. A. brought in loads of water from a white plastic bowl to fill it up. Suddenly I didn't know if I was going to be able to do this. So much could go wrong. I asked question after question: How often do I clean the tank? Do I have to dump out all the water when I do it? How much should I feed them? When do I turn on the light? How do I know when it's dirty? What if the filter breaks down?

My sister went over how all the gadgets work but seemed nonchalant about it. "Just clean it when it looks a little dirty, around every two weeks." Ah, but what if all the fish are dead when you get back?

Two days in and they're still alive, so that's a good sign. They seem complicated to take care of but most of it is automatically controlled. I'm enjoying these fish so far, somewhat unexpectedly. The whir of the tank was there to greet me when I got home late the last couple of nights. I fed them first thing when I got up this morning, watched them come to the surface to eat the particles of fish flakes. I peered into their world and wondered what it's like to spend your whole life in a 10-gallon tank with four other fish. In my nervousness I forgot to ask A. what their names are, or if they even have names. They should have names, I think.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thank you, Time magazine, I finally know who Justin Bieber is other than a trending topic on Twitter. My gosh he is young.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Love story

I raised an eyebrow at a lot of Michael Moore's generalizations in "Capitalism: A Love Story" (capitalism=bad, socialism=good), but there were some really shocking facts in this film. Who knew about "dead peasants insurance"? And that new airline pilots can make under $20k per year? The facts page on Moore's website is worth going through after you've seen the movie. You can call this movie one-sided but he isn't making this stuff up.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

- Three parties in two days. With enough practice, could I be a decent conversationalist and not a person who sits there and says nothing? I don't know how people can love parties. I get to a party and start plotting how early I can leave without it looking weird.

- I don't want to say good-bye to my sister.

- Working on a Sunday feels wrong.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Music to drive home to: I bought a ticket to the world/But now I've come back again....Huh hu hu hu-uh hu/I know this much is true

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Time to break out the Claritin again.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

NY Times poll: Fifty-one percent of Americans say the new Arizona law on immigration is "about right" in its approach, even though 50 percent say it will likely lead to racial profiling. Only 13 percent of respondents were Hispanic.

"Three quarters said that, over all, illegal immigrants were a drain on the economy because they did not all pay taxes but used public services like hospitals and schools." But the NY Times writers note, "In fact, many illegal immigrants do pay taxes into the Social Security system, but never see a return on their contributions."

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Another thing to consider with the article linking chocolate and depression: obesity is also linked to depression: "Obesity, Luppino and colleagues found, increases the risk of depression in initially non-depressed individuals by 55 percent and depression increases the risk of obesity in initially normal-weight individuals by 58 percent."

Peace and prayer for Juarez

May 1. The International Peace and Prayer Day for Juarez. I almost didn't go to Saturday morning's event at the Chamizal National Memorial. I had stayed up until past 2am, and there was laundry to do. But I thought back on the horrors of Wednesday and felt I needed to go to an event like this. I wrote last year about a need to express solidarity with the citizens of Juarez. Well, here is a chance to do this, to show up and say I am not OK with the way things are going. I was late but I was there, the white ribbon a volunteer gave me in hand.

I sat down in the grass at the outdoor amphitheatre and my first thought was, wow, there are not very many people here. A few hundred people were in attendance. I've seen the Chamizal packed with thousands of people for summer concerts, and this was pretty skimpy in comparison. I don't know what it is about El Paso. I know it is not that the people don't care about what is happening in Juarez. They do. I think that is just not this city's mentality to get up on a Saturday morning and show up at a rally. (Actually, I wrote this and then saw this story about Arizona immigration law protests, where around 400 people showed up. Maybe it depends on the issue and the type of event?)

I listened to alternating choirs and speakers. An all-girls choir sang in heavenly harmony "This little light of mine/I'm gonna let it shine." A women's group leader read (in English and Spanish) a powerful long prayer written by some women from Juarez. She said, I want my mother not to tell me, God watch out for you when you go out and when you return. Her voice cracked with emotion. A reverend invoked Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, and even the book of Exodus in comparison with the oppressive violence in Juarez. Then another choir followed with gospel songs. "I Never Lost My Praise" is the one I remember most. It's a thought-provoking song. How can you be joyful even when you are suffering? Over five thousand murders in the past 2 1/2 years, and you can still find a way to praise God?

It was such a beautiful morning. The sun finally came out after two days of hiding. I looked at the border fence a few hundred yards away from where I was sitting and thought, the sun is shining just the same on the other side. There is still sunshine in Juarez, still joy, still good people, even with the seemingly never-ending stream of deaths.

The portion of this event I saw was beautiful and I'm glad I attended. Still, I was a bit frustrated by the lack of specifics. A couple of speakers prayed that all evil would end. I don't disagree with a general sort of "deliver us from evil" prayer. But my mind knows that it is the specifics that will help put an end to Mexico's drug war: laws, money, and focused courses of action. What do community and religious leaders agree should be done to help Juarez?

The other thing was, well, I wanted to see more anger. I'm all for peace and tranquillity, but I think there's a place for anger, too, even at a peace rally. I found myself thinking about a different sort of event that could be held with picket signs and loud rock bands, something that might draw more attention (and possibly more people).

But I know there are different ways to demonstrate, some quiet, some loud. Does every event have to involve marching down streets and shouting slogans? Here the emphasis was on peace and healing, solidarity of the community, and connection with God.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

- The winds today are so annoying. I can taste the dust.

- My root canal and crown ordeal is over. It only took nearly $500 and five visits to the dentist and endodontist. It's strange that one of my teeth isn't real.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Great article in Time, even if the subject makes me blush. I was embarrassed to take a magazine with an article about "The Pill" on the cover to work with me. Should I be?

Here's an interesting quote from the article:
"When I was growing up, Rob and Laura Petrie didn't sleep in the same bed, but we were taught about birth control in health class," recalls Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood. "And I grew up in Texas! Not exactly the cutting edge. My kids grow up with sex everywhere, but birth control is not talked about in school."
Accompanying video is good, too:

Monday, April 26, 2010

This story from NPR is disturbing (to me) but not exactly surprising: eating a lot of chocolate is linked to depression.
So three researchers from the University of California, San Diego asked 931 people who'd come in for an unrelated study about cholesterol how many times a week they ate chocolate. The people also filled out a depression questionnaire.
People in the group with screening scores suggesting that they might have major depression ate 12 or more servings a month.
It could be that people are self-medicating. The researchers can't say that on the basis of this study. Other possibilities: depression may somehow initiate chocolate cravings, or chocolate may trigger depression (though they note this isn't likely).
My pet theory: women are more prone to depression, and they are more likely than men to go for chocolate versus the salty stuff. But apparently using chocolate as an anti-depressant doesn't work, at least not in the long term.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Here's the next in the stream of nonfiction books about women that I have read: "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot. Quick plot summary: In the 1950s, doctors take cancer cells from Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman from Virginia, without her permission. Scientists are looking for cells that can grow in culture and won't die quickly. Lacks' cells don't die, they keep on growing, a breakthrough for biological research. Lacks dies, leaving five children behind, and her family doesn't find out her cells are being used extensively in research until 20 years later. They think about suing but ultimately don't see a penny of the money that has been made off Lacks' cells.

It's a great premise: the author takes a footnote in a biology textbook and literally writes a book on it. The book is about science, yes, but it's also about history, ethics, racism, and poverty. In the first part of the book the author jumps between two very different worlds: Henrietta Lacks' life of hardship and deprivation, culminating with her death from an acute case of cervical cancer, then to the 1950s Johns Hopkins research lab where scientist George Gey is looking for a breakthrough.

Skloot then goes into painstaking detail on the decisions regarding Lacks' cells and the handling of her medical records. In the process she brings up a slew of ethical questions. The scientists who took Lacks' cells were not acting improperly, according to the standards of the time. But as a massive industry developed around these "HeLa" cells, shouldn't the family have benefited from it in some way or, at the very least, been informed on what was taking place? The author also talks about the development of informed consent procedures, which weren't put in place until the 1970s, something I found shocking.

One thing I particularly liked was how Skloot doesn't shrink from describing the poverty of Lacks' relatives. She writes about visiting Lacks' elderly cousin in a two-room wood cabin in rural Clover, Virginia, and how she befriended Lacks' daughter, a woman with many psychological and health issues. It seems like poverty is really a key ingredient in this story: poverty means not having the resources to hire a lawyer, and it means not understanding enough of what's being done with your relative's cells to be able to protest.

"Quietly passionate" is how one reviewer describes this book. The details build up and at the end you are finally just enraged at how unfair this situation is for Henrietta Lacks' family.

UPDATE: Worth a look -- Rebecca Skloot's blog