Sunday, January 31, 2010

- I think I may have to buy Patti Smith's new book. There's an interesting profile of her in New York Magazine: " 'A day doesn’t go by where I don’t create something,' says Smith. 'Sometimes it’s a rough day and I’m about to go to sleep at eleven o’clock, but I’ll get my Polaroid and take pictures of a series of things. Then I go to bed really happy because I have something to look at, something I did.' "

- Departures is an amazing movie.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A good analysis of the iPad:
An iPad won't do everything a laptop does. It's not supposed to do everything a laptop does. The relationship between iPad and laptop is similar to the relationship between a microwave oven and a set of pots, pans, and cooking utensils. The pots, pans, and cooking utensils can produce more satisfying meals than the microwave can, but often you just don't want to drag all that stuff out and clean up afterward. A microwave is a good complement to a well-equipped kitchen.

Night of the nerds

I didn't expect to spend my Friday night eating atomic wings with five nerdy guys. "Do you want to join us?" my friend asked after our reading group. I hesitated. I glanced at their T-shirts and hipster-ish hair cuts. I know next to nothing about animated series, comic books, Star Trek or trendy music, which I had heard them discussing earlier. "Uh, sure..." I'll try anything once. I could go in anthropologist mode, observe and take mental notes.

We spent 10 minutes deciding what wing package to order and how to pay. One guy's wallet was literally made out of duct tape. The dinner basically turned into a contest over who could eat the most atomic wings. I joined in laughing as faces contorted and changed colors. Two of the boys ate 4 or 5 each, a vegetarian knocked back a huge glob of sauce, one guy didn't eat and spent most of the night texting. I ate one and it was enough for me. Such a girl.

As expected, the 20-minute discussion of South Park flew right over my head, and I think I insulted a couple of people when I said I hated Snow Patrol. Smile and nod, eat a wing and some fries. I definitely have a geeky side, but no, I am not that kind of nerd. Time to go.

I was the odd girl out, but whatever, I did it. Would I do it again, NO, please give me someone who knows more about the news than anime, but for one night it was OK.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Moby asks, has anyone else noticed that almost every movie has roughly the same indie soundtrack? Yes.

No such thing as privacy on Facebook

I totally agree with this article about Facebook changing its privacy settings: "350 million people signed up for Facebook under the belief their information could be shared just between trusted friends. Now the company says that's old news, that people are changing. I don't believe it." Neither do I. I think it's all about $$$.

I really DON'T want the whole world to read my dopey status updates. Nor do I want a record of every time I comment on or 'like' someone's status update, or to wade through what everyone else on my 'friends' list has commented on or 'like'd.

I find it very scary that Facebook users have so little control over how the company uses their information. A cautionary tale.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Work notes

I think in every job there is a ratio of things you love versus things you hate. Let's just say, in other jobs the percentage of "things you hate" was a lot higher than it is now. Let me preface this by saying that I like my job, I really, really do.

Still, a job is a job is a job, and I don't know if I'll ever stop pining to be back in grad school. Last week an acquaintance and I were comparing notes about dress codes and work lunches and sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day. "What I miss most about school is the flexibility, being able to choose your own schedule based on what you want to do." Oh, yes. Actually, what I miss most is learning about obscure stuff then talking about it with smart people.

Work reminds me of the "other" school, the K-12 years, going to bed early and being told when to take a lunch and when you can use the bathroom. Seeing the same people every day and caring what they think. You seem to spend a lot of time counting down the days, hours, and minutes.

In the midst of the stucture you can only dream about that other life that you know is out there, the one besides rush-hour traffic and meetings and presentable clothes. The existence where I could stay up late and walk outside in the middle of the day and I could wear jeans and it wouldn't be frowned upon.

I've noticed the number of people I hang out with on weekends has been steadily declining since I got out of school. I was actually invited to go to a club on Friday night but I said no because I was about to pass out because of tiredness. Last week I went to bed before 10 p.m. a few times.

It's funny but I think if I was still in school I'd have had a totally different response to the Haiti earthquake. I'd get on the Internet and look at stuff for hours. I'd reflect on it more, take some time for it to absorb instead of what I did, which was acknowledge it then quickly move on to business as usual. How different of a person am I from what I used to be? Am I that fundamentally changed?

But this is what you do to have your good name and money in your bank account. Yes, of course, a job provides its own forms of freedom, financial and opportunity-wise. And I really don't miss forking over several thousand dollars every semester, over-long lectures, and wondering if what you're studying ultimately matters in the real world. Maybe I'm also forgetting about the stress that came with school, the homework and the uncertainty. Still I can't help thinking about those years as the golden years. They may have ruined my outlook on work for life.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Adventures in cooking

- I used Google to find out what fennel is.
- I now know how to supreme an orange.
- Probably better to grate the cheese before you actually need to use it.
- Spaghetti carbonara is *really* good.
- It took me much longer than 30 minutes to make one of Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals. False advertising or am I just a disorganized cooking dunce?
Jennifer Lopez grows up.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Last night I finished reading Columbine, Dave Cullen's comprehensive account of the Columbine massacre. It's kind of hard for me to admit to buying this book. Even at the checkout at Barnes and Noble I wondered if the clerk thought I was some sick monster for wanting to read so much about this horrific event.

It's really not that I'm fascinated with the crime and wanted to take in all the gruesome details, I just wanted to finally know the truth of what happened after all these years. I was a junior in high school when the massacre happened in 1999, and I remember how much it shook me up. I was only a year younger than the attackers, and from what I read about Columbine High School, it seemed the school was scarily similar to the high school I went to. I always felt the truth was not all there in the news reports about the attack. Mostly I thought the "why" of the attack was always absent, which is what I really wanted to know. From the news media I came away with the idea that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were motivated to kill by bullying, Nazism, and violent video games. But, as I suspected, the media were off the mark, according to Cullen. It wasn't the violent video games, more like one psychopathic kid enlists a suicidal depressed kid to help carry out a sadistic plot. Not so much a product of the high school environment in the late 20th century but the kind of anomalous evil occurrence that has happened since the beginning of human existence.

My other interest in the book was to find out how the media got it so wrong. It's so disturbing to me how easily one story gets put out and never gets corrected and people just accept it as the truth (i.e. the Cassie Bernall story). It goes to show that sometimes you do need a book to tell a story of this magnitude, not CNN headline news or a 20-inch newspaper story. Cullen provides some insight into how the media perpetuated the myths surrounding Columbine. He writes about the feedback loop that all the live TV coverage created, with some students' "eyewitness" reports being influenced almost immediately by the TV coverage. He also discusses how the sheriff's department investigating the Columbine massacre took an entire year to release official reports about the attack, leaving plenty of time for misinformation to spread.

The book is a lot of tragedy to stomach, which is why it took me about six months to finish. I would read a few chapters then put it away for weeks. I suppose a book like this isn't meant to be a quick and easy read. Overall, Cullen does a good job of balancing narrative and exposition in the book's organization. He focuses on the victims and their struggles as much as the killers, which I think is the right approach. At some points I wished the book had more of the artistry of a novel, rather than the sort of "Reader's Digest" quality the storytelling has to it. On the other hand, I appreciated that Cullen wasn't unnecessarily gruesome and didn't glorify the attackers in any way in his account of the events.

I really respect an author like Dave Cullen who goes after the truth and takes the time to get the facts right and set the record straight. The book is groundbreaking simply for how well it does that after all these years of myths and misinformation.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Once again, NPR reports from Juarez:
But Clara Rojas, who teaches political rhetoric at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez, predicts it will take decades for the city to recover.

The violence stems from deep social fissures, she says, and until those are fixed she predicts the killings will continue.

She traces the roots of the current violence to the murders of hundreds of women in the 1990s that are still unsolved. Most of the victims were young women, many of them factory workers or students, murdered and in some cases tortured and sexually abused.

Rojas says that impunity for that wave of killings sent a signal to the drug cartels and other thugs that Juarez is "fertile ground" for criminal activity.

"There is no way you can change anything if everybody thinks this city is a trash can for whatever they want to do," Rojas says.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Sun Bowl

I never really go to Sun Bowl games for the football. For me it's more about the spectacle. El Paso on display. My notes on the day:

- The sloooow Sun Bowl shuttle has me thinking I don't want to rely on public transportation in the near future.

- Stanford in red, Oklahoma in white. What else do you need to know, really?

- I have never seen Sun Bowl stadium that full. Ever.

- I was *obsessed* with the Stanford tree.

- I think part of the fun of any sporting event is the $10 lunch of nachos and Sierra Mist. Where else does that meal make sense?

- I heard two guys talking about El Paso while I was in the line to get nachos: "There's nothing to do, but everywhere you go, people are so nice." So true.

- David Archuleta is the cutest. Too bad he was facing the other side of the stadium. Here he is on the Jumbotron:

- Final score: Oklahoma 31, Stanford 27. Didn't see the end of the game, unfortunately, because I had to work. But I saw most of what I wanted to see. I had an amazing time with my older cousin who doesn't live around here.

- Great bowl game. Let's do it again next year :-).