Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This almost makes up for Qwikster

Dear Annette,
Thank you for being a Netflix member with a DVD subscription. As a gesture of thanks this holiday season, we'd like to offer you a free bonus DVD rental to supplement your DVD subscription. Simply click here to redeem.
We hope you enjoy this bonus, and Happy Holidays!
–Your friends at Netflix

Monday, December 12, 2011

On the other blog, thoughts about starting a Twitter account.
For Occupy, will 2012 = 1968? Interesting look ahead from New York magazine.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Stuart's take on Zooey Deschanel:

She is understated. Human. Even more so than Martin Freeman whose main crime is not being Simon Jones, which is odd because Zooey is neither Susan Sheridan or Sandra Dickinson. But unlike either of those her Trillian seems like someone you could meet at a party, fall for, but who'll ultimate leave with some other, spacey guy, unless she's in the mood to make you think better of yourself, work through your low-self esteem and one day make you cool.
Love the photo with the post (part of Review 2011, which you really should be reading). I'm starting to understand her appeal, though I wouldn't say I'm a fan. Thank you, Stu.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Dream

Claritin has been giving me weird dreams lately. Last night I had a dream that I knew was about death. I was riding in a van over a highway overpass, wearing a white robe. Then I was at an airport. I checked in at the counter, which resembled a regular baggage check-in and had red walls in the background. Funny thing was, there were no signs indicating the destination. There was no anxiety about it, though, just a peaceful and mildly happy feeling during the whole journey.

Maybe I need to take Claritin on a less regular basis.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Our Tragic Universe

Continuing my fascination with author Scarlett Thomas, I downloaded her latest sci-fi and chick lit blend, Our Tragic Universe.

This time our protagonist is Meg, an author of paperback novels and book reviews, who lives with an awful boyfriend and a dog named Bess (affectionately known as "B"). I've noticed that Thomas often has a claustrophobic quality in the setting of her novels. In PopCo, the protagonist is at a retreat with her coworkers she can't get away from. In The End of Mr. Y, it's a world inside your head that you have to make your way out of. In Our Tragic Universe, it's a foggy little seaside town, the relationship Meg seems to be stuck in, and a set of financial circumstances that prevent her ever getting around to doing what she really wants, which is to write her "real" novel (and find true love, of course).

Early on, Thomas sets up one of the central ideas of the novel in a (fictitious) book Meg reviews, The Science of Living Forever:

According to Kelsey Newman, the universe, which always was a computer, will, for one moment-- not even that -- be so dense and have so much energy that it will be able to compute anything at all. So why not simply program it to simulate another universe, a new one that will never end, and in which everyone can live happily ever after? This moment will be called the Omega Point, and, because it has the power to contain everything, will be indistinguishable from God.
The consequences of the Omega Point being that every human will be resurrected and never die again. But Newman gives an out of the Second World (the current universe we're living in) with the Road to Perfection, a sort of blueprint to get to heaven, attained only by "becoming truly yourself, and overcoming all your personal obstacles."

Hmm, it's all very New Age-y (and sketchy). Funny enough, it's based on a real theory by physicist Frank Tipler. The theory seems meant more as a jumping off point than anything else. No, Meg doesn't really buy into it. But how does she explain the seemingly supernatural occurrences in her life, which, it seems, are many?

Thomas also uses the "Omega Point" theory for winding discussion of story that continues throughout the book -- the "storyless story" versus the simplistic formula story of a paperback sci-fi novel, and the "storylines" that occur in real life.

And in this novel. Several times I wondered if this novel was a storyless story. It's not, but it is close to that. It has a dense, winding, talky, inconclusive way about it. It is frustrating for a reader not to get that emotional payoff at the end but I respect Thomas is trying to do something different from a conventional novel and not just forgetting to give it a true conclusion. There's less "happily ever after" here than in her other novels, which brings it closer to real life. Good if you like realism, bad if you're looking for an escape.

I liked Our Tragic Universe as a book of ideas. In that respect it matches the smartness of her other novels. Really an interesting discussion of the supernatural and fate and the idea of the story. And Thomas can't go wrong with writing a likable female lead who I wish was my best friend. But even for a close to storyless story I wished there was more of a sense of it being finished. Call me unsophisticated, but I wanted something *amazing* at the end, and I was left disappointed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Oprah phenomenon

Caitlin Flanagan has the best explanation of the Oprah phenomenon that I've read:
Oprah, more than any other broadcaster ever, understands the ways men can hurt women, and it is this knowledge—hard-earned and openly shared with her audience—that has allowed her to forge such a powerful bond with her fans. That she can move so easily between episodes about, on the one hand, rape and domestic violence and, on the other, shopping and decorating, demonstrates not a lack of focus but the fact that she understands the full equation of the female experience, in ways that few others before her have.
Really a great article that weaves together the full range of Oprah.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bleak week

Last week was one of the worst in recent memory. I was facing a development that rocked the work boat to the extreme. Meanwhile most of my friends were facing different (and far worse) crises of their own, making me both sad for them and hesitant to burden them with my comparatively lightweight problems.

I feel so tired of the daily routine. And I've really been doubting myself, more than usual. I'm not half as important as I used to think I was. I have stopped thinking I'm smart. I've never thought I was pretty. I don't know how to write anymore. I am lonely and don't think I'm a good friend to anybody.

I don't really like November. Cold and cloudy, short days, winter jackets. The cold months get me down, this year is no exception.

I'm definitely entering a new chapter of my life, work-wise. Things are not going to be the same, and it's not really by choice but I have to deal. Not only at work but otherwise, too. I started up my 30 things blog with the idea that I'd try some new things, and I have. I've done more than I've written about, actually. I've read through Walden again and got myself a Twitter account, I've run a 5K and listened to some fantastic new (old) music. Joni Mitchell, where have you been all my life? It has been invigorating (until this week anyway, when everything came to a screeching halt) but it's also been a thoughtful time, where I haven't even cared if I've shut myself in the house for a whole day reading or listening to an album a couple of times. Sometimes I feel like the "solitary me" and the "work me" wouldn't get along if they met each other. I am two different people, I wonder if this is a bad thing?

I guess being sad sometimes is a natural part of life. I've dealt with it horribly, though, and I haven't been accepting of it as a process. I've blamed myself and berated myself. I haven't been honest about my emotions. Maybe the best thing to do is just be vulnerable and experience it then get over it, not fight it or try to cover it up with things like food or shopping or working too much. Then I will feel OK again.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Love this from A Nun's Life - Madonna wanted to be a nun at one point: "By time I was in the fifth grade, I knew I wanted to be either a nun or a movie star."

Saturday, November 05, 2011

What's it like to run in a 5K? Read about it here.
Quote from the late Andy Rooney: "A writer's job is to tell the truth."

Friday, October 28, 2011

The tiredness continues. This morning I was really tired, like "I should not be awake, this might be dangerous" kind of tired. I woke up at 5 to go over my notes for the reading group tonight. Should I cut that out of my life, because it's too much work? I don't know. I don't want to.

I've also been getting into a routine of waking up with a jolt at 3 a.m. I am usually able to fall back asleep right away. Still, it is weird and I wish it didn't happen.

Anyway, I think sleep will be good medicine tomorrow. I promised myself not to start on the chores until noon.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Photos















Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sleepy

I think I'd be a lot better at my job if I got an extra hour of sleep every night. I woke up today and thought, if I could just sleep in until 8 a.m. I would feel *so good.* But no, into the shower, point the blow dryer at my head, sit at the computer all day. I've discovered that napping after work just tricks you into thinking you can stay up until 10, thus making you feel even worse the next day. So it's just tiredness until the weekend. One day away. I don't drink coffee in the mornings, I'm starting to understand why so many people do...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My OWN addiction

I seriously think I could get addicted to OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network, in case you didn't know). It just became available on basic cable. Yesterday I started watching "Our America with Lisa Ling." It was about transgender people. It was the second episode I've watched (the first was about faith healing) and I think it's a great show. A sensitive look at the issues without dumbing them down. "True Life" without any of the trashiness and actually featuring some people over 30.

Today I saw Lisa Ling tweet about Season 2, "The shows are AMAZING, I swear." If it was anyone else I might think they are super arrogant. But in this case Season 2 just might be AMAZING.

Monday, October 10, 2011

On my other blog: The Third Man.

From Netflix

Dear Annette,

It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.

This means no change: one website, one account, one password…in other words, no Qwikster.

While the July price change was necessary, we are now done with price changes.

We're constantly improving our streaming selection. We've recently added hundreds of movies from Paramount, Sony, Universal, Fox, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM and Miramax. Plus, in the last couple of weeks alone, we've added over 3,500 TV episodes from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, USA, E!, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Discovery Channel, TLC, SyFy, A&E, History, and PBS.

We value you as a member, and we are committed to making Netflix the best place to get your movies & TV shows.

Respectfully,

The Netflix Team
........................................................................................................

Thank God!

On a different note, Qwikster sounds like a cute name for a hamster.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Five days off

I took five days off work this week. It's amazing how many of the "have to"s of life have gone away this week. I don't have to get up at 5:05 a.m. I don't have to drive home in afternoon traffic. I don't have to make a list of have tos and check each one off one by one.

I guess I've never really noticed how much anxiety every obligation creates. I've tried to notice this week when a knot of anxiety bubbles up. One did yesterday. I was waiting for my sister so we could go to lunch. She was ten minutes late. I started worrying, did she forget? What are we going to talk about? What if she doesn't like the restaurant I chose? I sat there on my bed, waiting, worrying.

Then I said to myself, why are you even worrying about this? Like I was talking to a small child I told myself to take ten deep breaths and get a glass of water. I don't have to do this. If my sister never arrives I could sit on my bed all day and no one would care. If she arrives two hours late, we'll go to lunch two hours late. Not like I'm on a schedule today. Something inside me let go and the worry floated away.

I checked my text messages. From my sister: "Of course I'm running late but I'll be there soon. :-) sorry, I suck."

I started playing a puzzle game on my iPod Touch. I hardly ever play games anymore. I think they can be a waste of time. Usually I have other stuff I deem more important. But not this week. I sat there and played it and enjoyed it. My sister came by at 1:30, we had a nice lunch then watched TV reruns (another thing I usually consider a time-waster but allowed myself to do this week).

I suppose this week just makes me question what are the things I really do need to do, that are worth some anxiety, and what are the things that I stress about when I shouldn't. Maybe there is a pathway out of anxiety somewhere in this week.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Day 2 of vacation and I'm looking to see if there is enough dust accumulated on my desk to make dusting worthwhile. I think the answer is yes. Darn.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happiness for Life?

What I wrote Tuesday:

I was looking forward to my two days off SO much, but the weird thing about days off is sometimes they are not any better than days at work. I can sleep late, so that's great. But is it really so much fun to make phone calls, and drive down to the courthouse and spend over $400 in a day, and not have anyone to talk to, and think about things too much?

I grudgingly admit that work is necessary. Often it is fulfilling. Sometimes it is fun.

It's a fallacy to think if I had enough money not to work for the rest of my life, then I'd be happy. It's easy to think that when I'm at work, tired at my desk from too many early mornings.

I wonder what the answer is to stress and anxiety. Those two monsters will never go away. But how can you manage them? But what can you do so life isn't just a reaction to one stress after another?

...

I wrote that and literally started to write, "Why am I unhappy?" and started thinking about the reasons.

Then the door bell rang. A man who looked about 19 or 20 was at the door. He wore a jacket, he was overweight and he had a friendly smile. He said he was a Christian student and was selling several books to make money for school.

The first was a cookbook full of healthy recipes. I looked at it to be polite but said I wasn't interested. So he showed me another book, a book of Christian inspirational stories with a poem on the back. I said I couldn't buy it because I've already spent too much money this month. (So true.)

Then he brought out a small book titled Happiness for Life. It had a hummingbird sucking nectar out of a flower on the cover. He said there was no charge for this one.

The title was so blaringly obvious I almost had to laugh. And yet I took the book the way a hungry fish takes the bait at the end of a fishing line. I gave him $2 out of my wallet for it (even though it was supposedly free), thanked him and sent him on his way with a bottle of water.

Is there really such a thing as happiness for life? Was this person God's messenger, sent with what I needed to hear? Or just a student selling books to make cash and selling people on a concept they want to believe exists?

To the author's credit the book is actually much less simplistic than I expected given the title. The chapters are about repentance, commitment, obedience and prayer. Nothing about how God wants you to have a million dollars or if you pray you will get whatever you want. The book is 61 pages (not two or five, like most religious tracts are), and thankfully doesn't include diagrams.

The final chapter is titled "Happiness for Life."

Was Jesus happy? Says the book, "It is often said that Jesus wept, but that He was never known to smile. Our Savior was indeed a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief, for He opened His heart to all the woes of men."

As for happiness, "The life of those who imitate Him will be full of earnest purpose; they will have a deep sense of personal responsibility. Levity will be repressed; there will be no boisterous merriment, no rude jesting; but the religion of Jesus gives peace like a river."

Ack, personal responsibility.

"Happiness that is sought from selfish motives, outside of the path of duty, is ill-balanced, fitful, and transitory; it passes away, and the soul is filled with loneliness and sorrow; but there is joy and satisfaction in the service of God; the Christian is not left to walk in uncertain paths; he is not left to vain regrets and disappointments. If we do not have the pleasures of this life we may still be joyful in looking to the life beyond."

I believe it but Happiness for Life is a seriously deceptive title.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Green chile chicken

I made this recipe for dinner. Easy and quite tasty, though I wish the green chiles I had were hotter.

The White Album

I listened to The Beatles' White Album for the first time yesterday. It blew me away! If you've ever listened to it you know what I mean. Here's what I wrote about it on my other blog: http://30thingslist.blogspot.com/2011/09/29-listen-to-five-albums-i-dont-have-on.html

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Interesting post on Undefined Value on iPhone vs. Android phones: "My biggest beef with Android is that the whole thing just feels like a second-rate knockoff of the iPhone and iPad, and I've never liked using second-rate products."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

So I'm in the middle of what has turned out to be a busy week. I need some down time. I seriously need some sleep. I could have fallen asleep at my desk at about 2 p.m. today. A four-day weekend is coming up, which I am thankful for.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Netflix apology

I got a version of this e-mail early this morning from Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings. It begins, "I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation." He continues, "Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly. When Netflix is evolving rapidly, however, I need to be extra-communicative. This is the key thing I got wrong."

Um, yeah. Why didn't I get the e-mail about the price hike? And now I have to be subscribed to two services? I went into my Netflix account and changed my settings. Downgraded from three DVDs at a time to two. *grumbles* But what else am I going to do on a Saturday night?

This is reminding me of Facebook in an unpleasant way. But Mr. Hastings gets points because I know Mark Zuckerberg would never write a letter like this.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

On my other blog: Rereading Walden, No. 11 on my list.

New phone


So I finally did something I probably should have done years ago: I got a new phone and joined a monthly plan. The phone is hardly an iPhone but it is loads more advanced than my old one. I love the wide display with its beach wallpaper, the keypad is easy to use, and the applications are conveniently placed on the home screen. The phone is a step up from the cheapest possible Nokia, but I thought it was worth it both for the (hopefully) better quality and because it avoids the look of cheapness.

I'm also excited about saving money under the new plan. Unlimited minutes and texting for a good price, much better than my old "pay as you go" plan.

My old phone was, well, let's just say it was old in 2005 when I got it. It's the kind of phone that got laughed at frequently. But I will always defend that old phone because it rarely let me down, which is why I held on to it for six years.

I will miss that phone for sentimental reasons, but it was definitely time for something new. I feel like I've moved forward in time 12 years.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The right words

My blog friend Stu has the right words for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Friday, September 09, 2011

- I've been contemplating buying a new car and selling mine, but the whole process just makes me happy to have my somewhat clunky, dependable old car, in the stylish light blue color.

- Two new fish have been added to the tank: a big black one and a small silver one, to replace two fish that passed on recently.

- Went to Chico's Tacos tonight. What stood out to me on this visit was the unpretentiousness of Chico's -- decent food at a cheap price, a clean (enough) and comfortable setting, a little music from the jukebox. No mystery to the menus, no waitstaff you need to tip, no dessert trays, no fancy flavored tea. I like Chico's.

- From one week to the next, it is undeniably fall. I thought I would never see the end to triple-digit temperatures.

- Seems I have been craving simplicity lately.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Here it is

Check out my new blog.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Random notes

- OK, so my texting addiction is dying down. I think I literally received three text messages last week. Now I feel like a pathetic loser but on the upside at least I'm not addicted.

- I'm looking at cars to buy. Latest was a Sonata with a V6 engine. I've never driven a V6. It's amazing how fast it goes from 0 to 60. I didn't buy it, due to the low miles per gallon. But it was fun to drive, plus it had a sun roof. I kinda wish I was into that sort of thing.

- Yesterday my contact lens tore while I was wearing it and I didn't have my glasses so I just had to wear it like that the whole day. Gosh, that is really irritating. By the end of the day I was ready to claw that thing out of my eye. Now I remember why I don't wear contacts all the time.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Lauren Bush marrying Ralph Lauren's son...do the math...Lauren Lauren? LOL.

I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone

Some perspective from Alanis Morissette, as heard yesterday on my car radio:


Friday, September 02, 2011

Feeling especially mean today after a week full of cynicism. Seemed like all my bad habits came home to roost this week. Do not want to relive this week.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I woke up 12 minutes late today. The alarm didn't ring, I think I forgot to set it. Luckily the internal clock was working and it was 12 minutes, not two hours.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lunch at home

So I did something today that I rarely do: I went home for lunch. The drive is about 25 minutes each way. I get one hour for lunch...so that leaves about ten minutes to eat.

I had two somewhat stupid reasons for doing it -- bread and my cell phone. I left my cell phone on the charger at home. Not that big of a deal but without it you think, what if there's an emergency, what if I miss someone's text. So *sigh* I went home and got it (one person had texted me, but they had also e-mailed me, so what was the point of that?). Second reason, there was some delicious bread my mom had bought that I had wanted to pack in my lunch but didn't. And at 11 a.m. bread started to sound really, really good.

I was speeding slightly on the way home, lucky to avoid a wreck in a construction zone, which I would have seen as a punishment for this frivolous trip.

Twenty or so minutes past that I was finally home. Work is a hotbed of stress. Home is a light-filled quiet oasis of tranquility. The dog didn't even notice I was home until I went upstairs, then she offered her usual greeting and hung around as I warmed up beef stew. The bread did indeed taste good soaked in the stew. What I really wanted to do after lunch was go upstairs and take a nap.

But I didn't even have time to eat my orange before I left again. I did some more speeding down the highway, listening to Fresh Air and hoping I wouldn't be late, and I wasn't. I walked back into work at 12:30 on the dot.
Listened to this Fresh Air piece at lunchtime and was oddly spellbound by it:
Playing with unexpected flavors and scents plays a big part in (Grant) Achatz's kitchen. Some of Alinea's dishes are served alongside a pillow case with tiny holes in it, designed to release certain fragrances while diners eat.

"We've done firewood ashes, we've done leather, we've done grass," says Achatz. "There's a lot of smells that you can't necessarily consume. You're not going to go out and chew on a baseball glove. But, in a lot of ways, a lot of smells that aren't necessarily edible smell good, and they remind you of certain aspects of food. So making those associations with what smells good or smells a certain way and pairing that with actual edible ingredients is one avenue that we take creatively."

It's amazing that someone can design that kind of experience for a meal.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Liked this open letter to Sinead O'Connor on A Nun's Life blog, after O'Connor apparently said she was "in the peak of my sexual prime and way too lovely to be living like a nun":

I feel bad that this essence of a nun’s life has eluded you and that the joy and meaning that you seek seems to have been reduced to sex and a stubbily companion. While both of these things can truly be awesome, they are not what makes you who you are as a person. That starts from within.




Had my nails done yesterday. Woo, sparkly!


Here's my screensaver this morning:



Hard to believe I was there six weeks ago. But hurricane weather makes me think twice about my dream of living on the beach.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

It's my day off, why the heck am I on a computer?

I just realized I have nothing interesting to link to now that I don't read TIME magazine anymore. Should I resubscribe? The other day someone asked me what I thought about the Gadhafi situation in Libya. I said I really didn't know that much about it. *So embarrassing* since I work for the news! But not international news. Still, one should at least have some understanding of world news just for awareness, even if it's not a big part of my work.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Things I wish I wasn't addicted to

- Skittles
- Texting

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Some things I scribbled down in my journal last night:

Maybe what is lacking is a way to express myself, truly. If I could just have one moment of honesty with the world I would be happy. For that moment, anyway.

I think if one person could just see me for who I really am and see some goodness there I would be happy.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The week

So I made it to Saturday. I complained to just about everyone I know about having to work the weekend shift last week, then a regular five-day week this week, for a total of seven days in a row. The outrage. But is it really that big of a deal? I've done nine days in a row. And it's not like this is required of me that frequently.

But it did put a squeeze on my time, moreso than usual. I went out, tired, after work last Saturday, Thursday and Friday. The reasoning being if I don't force myself to go out after work then all the relationships I've built will wither up and die. I would try to pick things up the next week and it wouldn't be the same.

Is it so selfish to ask for a day to myself? Where I don't feel like a work robot? Where I don't feel obligated to be somewhere or that I have outstanding chores to do?

The past couple days I haven't even felt tired, I've felt that exhilaration that comes when you push through the tiredness and don't even care anymore.

Anyway, now that I've vented a little I feel better. I will clean the bathroom today (because it *really* needs it) then take some time to enjoy the rest of the weekend. "Enjoy" is a verb I need to become acquainted with again.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The weekend

A weekend of going to work...I think I'm used to the weekend shift by now. I tried not to think about the softball game and mornings of sleeping late that I missed. On the weekend you're more in control, which is both a good and bad thing.

I went to see "Underworld" at the Plaza Classic Film Festival yesterday. Silent film from 1927 with live music accompanying. Characters named Bull Weed, Feathers and Rolls Royce. Loved it. Watching a silent film all the way through is a unique experience. I haven't done it since film class in high school (and probably won't again until next year's film festival). But it's funny how you don't really miss the dialogue all that much. Isn't there some statistic that says 90 percent of communication is non-verbal? You can tell what's going on very easily.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I'm making rosemary and lemon chicken and spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce for dinner tonight. I squeezed the lemon juice by hand and bought fresh rosemary for the marinade. Hopefully it will be good. As for the sauce, I did buy canned tomatoes but the basil is fresh.

As I've said previously, it's nice not to work on a Thursday. Everything quiet. I don't feel the same urgency to do the household chores.

I'll write an update on how the dinner came out.

Update, as promised: The chicken came out quite good, if I do say so myself. Tender, lemony, the rosemary adding a nice note of flavor. Spaghetti was decent, though I tend to like things spicier. Some fresh parmesan made it better.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Unbroken

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. The title is quite self-explanatory. And yet the story holds sharp turns, surprises, and descriptions of circumstances that will make your eyes pop out, all told through the unflinching prose of Laura Hillenbrand.

Our hero Louis Zamperini is a resourceful, mischievous, pie-stealing child of Italian parents in Torrance, California, and after that a college track star. He's even good enough to earn a spot in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

But then the war begins and this becomes a different story, one of B-24 planes, the Pacific, and the Japanese.

The story takes a turn for the astounding when Louie's plane crashes, killing all but three aboard. How does he survive six weeks on a life raft in the Pacific, when food and water rations have run out, sharks are below and Japanese bombers threaten above? It seems literally impossible, forcing you to wonder, What are the limits of the human body? And even if the body survives, can the mind and spirit?

After that it becomes a POW story. It's different to hear the story of World War II from the eyes of a POW. The war to Louie becomes years of cruelty with no end in sight, in particular from one Japanese man who is bent on torturing him. News of battles is from new POWs and smuggled, translated newspapers. "Resilience" as a word doesn't begin to capture what kind of inner fortitude Louie and the other POWs needed to survive daily beatings, starvation, disease, and psychological torture.

And finally, there's redemption. Louie comes home from the war, begins drinking heavily, is tormented by nightmares, and is on the brink of divorce from his new wife. But his story couldn't end like that...could it? Again Louie averts a disastrous fate.

This is a fantastic work of nonfiction that deserves its spot on the bestseller list. It's a great story that is told very well -- with beautiful, flowing prose, and in a way that is inspirational but not saccharine. I am buying Laura Hillenbrand's next book.

Monday, August 08, 2011

I'm back at softball again. I didn't think I ever would be :-). After one season I'm OK to play right field and catcher (but only if the team doesn't have enough players, lol).

One can't be good at everything in life.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Movie meme

via feeling listless

1. Movie you love with a passion.
Say Anything. "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that"

2. Movie you vow to never watch.
Black Swan. Too creepy.

3. Movie that literally left you speechless.
American Beauty. Will never watch this movie again if I can avoid it.

4. Movie you always recommend.
Cemetery Man.

5. Actor/actress you always watch, no matter how crappy the movie.
Russell Crowe / Toni Collette.

6. Actor/actress you don’t get the appeal for.
George Clooney / Jennifer Aniston. Don't these two play the same character in every movie, really?

7. Actor/actress, living or dead, you’d love to meet.
Kate Winslet / Daniel Radcliffe.

8. Sexiest actor/actress you’ve seen (with picture).


Gerard Butler.

9. Dream cast.
The Hours.

10. Favourite actor pairing.
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

12. Favourite decade for movies?
Toss-up between '80s and 2000s.

13. Chick flick or action movie?
Chick flick. I think action movies can have so much "action" it's mind-numbing.

14. Hero, villain or anti-hero?
Anti-hero.

15. Black and white or colour?
Color.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The end

So the Boyfriend is no longer. The relationship terminated. Actually, more like dissolved slowly over the last months. In the end I didn't know which was more painful, keeping it going and feeling pretty miserable or ending it and being ALONE again.

Of all people, J.Lo had some wise words about a break-up: "To understand that a person is not good for you, or that the person is not treating you in the right way, or that he is not doing the right thing for himself if I stay, then I am not doing the right thing for me."

*Ugh* I think there is a point where it simply *cannot* go on longer. It seems inevitable for it to end. Trying to stop it is like trying to stop gravity. That's hard to accept, though. The good times of the relationship were really good. They made being alone seem like hell in comparison. On the other hand, the low times made being alone seem liberating. There's a simplicity to being single, a simplicity that seems welcome after awhile.

Part of the problem was I never felt like I could be my most natural self with him. He never saw me in glasses or frumpy work clothes, rarely without make-up. I pretended to be interested in beer, because he was. I didn't go into my long analyses of current events that I do with my friends, afraid I would bore him. I didn't talk about religion, afraid of the conflict it would cause. I never showed him this blog. To be fair, I suspect he may have also altered some things about himself trying to meet my expectations (which some might say are too high). I guess this is part of every relationship. But I suppose a long-lasting relationship means the person accepts you for what you are, mostly. What you are naturally is what pleases the other person. Like the song, "I love you just the way you are..."

We were far apart in many ways ... and I ignored it. We had different expectations for the relationship. In the end I was waiting for an "I love you" that never came.

Were the sweet times worth the hurt? Right now it seems like they just make the pain worse.

I'm sad, I'm hurt, I'm rejected, I'm angry. I'm punched in the stomach. The biggest question: Can I be happy being alone? I think the answer could be yes but it's going to take a while.

Haters

You know what? I get annoyed with people who say they hate El Paso, too. I get so tired of people saying I wish El Paso had [insert quality of life feature] like [insert bigger, wealthier city]. Or people here are so dumb, or rude, or you wish they spoke English and blah, blah, blah. *Of course* there's room for improvement, but if you're going to criticize, at least make it constructive. And if you really can't stand it, you can always move.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Life on the line

New York Times Magazine writer Andrew Rice takes on "life on the line" between El Paso and Juarez. It's always interesting to read an outsider's attempt to figure out what makes these two cities tick. He says the two cities "lie together uncomfortably like an estranged couple." In effect he's taking a snapshot of a region still in transition because of the drug war. It's undeniable that things have changed in El Paso in the past few years. "Nearly everyone I met in El Paso — whether they spoke Spanish or English, were liberal or conservative, rich or poor — told me the same thing: no one outside really understood this crisis they were living through," Rice says.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Downtown library

So I ventured to the Downtown library during my lunch hour today. Pretty nice place. Walking in it has a cafe with coffee, muffins, sodas, etc., an auditorium and even a used book store.

As far as the book selection, the bestsellers collection had Keith Richards' autobiography, a find compared to what's at the local branch. I looked for Room and the latest Scarlett Thomas novel but neither was available, unfortunately. I did run across an Alice Munro book I've sought for awhile. They had a borderland books area and copies of newspapers on microfiche, not for the casual user but something to keep in mind if I ever want to do some research.

When I asked where the biographies section was, a woman directed me to the basement. "Do you know where the stairs to the basement are?" I said no so she directed me there.

It was a strange little room with low ceilings and old men reading at the tables. I browsed through the lives of people A to Z but nothing really stood out to me in the five minutes I had before I had to go back to work.

I didn't check out any books this time but I probably will on my next visit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

10 years

Wow, my friend Stu's blog turns 10 years old today! Here's an interview we worked on to commemorate the occasion.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

OMG, this is exciting! And for the record I loved "Hey Dude" when I was a kid.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

TIME to make a decision

I'm considering letting my subscription to TIME magazine expire. I still like the magazine, and I've subscribed since I was 12 (yeah, I was a weird kid) but I'm thinking about hanging it up.

Some thoughts:

- If I'm being honest I tend to only read one or two articles from every issue, if that. I will sometimes throw an entire issue unread into the recycling bin, just because I don't have time to read it.

- I get three other print magazines per month with my Maghound subscription. Maybe I should focus on reading more of those? As of now I do not have time to read everything. I could get rid of Maghound, but it seems like a better value than a subscription to just one magazine.

- Maybe there are better weekly magazines out there to try -- the New Yorker, the Economist, Newsweek? Sometimes I am underwhelmed by the contents of TIME. On the other hand, sometimes they have great analysis that I end up linking to on the blog.

- I don't like TIME columnist Joel Stein.

- Yes, I could get all their content online for free, but I ask myself, would I ever visit TIME.com just to browse? The answer is probably not. I like the packaging the print magazine offers. I like that I can take it with me on my lunch break or read it before bed. I don't have an iPad and I don't think I'd like the Kindle edition since it's in black and white.

- If I didn't get TIME or another newsweekly, I would probably read even less national news than I do now (which is not much). Scary thought.

Anyone out there have any advice? I'd love to hear it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

First day back at work *sigh*

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Florida



Four days and three nights on Florida's Gulf Coast. My sister and I had been planning the trip since February. I'd never been to Florida for a vacation, though I've been to a few beaches in my life -- Caribbean beaches on a cruise, the beach at Santa Monica in California last year, another LA beach on a family trip to California when I was a kid.




But when we arrived, the vastness of the ocean (er, Gulf of Mexico) still startled me. I sat on my beach towel on the white sand and just stared for a long time at the constant rush of waves, the whitecaps, the sea birds, the occasional fish jumping out of the water.

Then I had to go up and touch the water. I got in ankle-deep at first. A wave would wash up. As it washed away I could feel the wet sand sliding away under my feet. I got closer and took a look at what the wave was bringing in: groups of small fish, sand, shells, sea weed. Thankfully no trash and no jellyfish.




Eventually I sat back on my towel and started building a sand castle, collecting sea shells, and getting even more tan.






Yes, the beach was as wonderful as I could imagine.

It was also absolutely wonderful to stay at a place where you could fall asleep listening to the waves. The B&B was amazing.

Not so wonderful was the weather -- a rain storm continued for most of the day Monday. The weather finally cleared up in late afternoon and my sister and I ventured down to the inn's beach.

I brought my O magazine and came across a poem appropriate for the occasion: "Exultation is the going / Of an inland soul to sea..."

Yes, something like that. Hard to come back home knowing such a beautiful place is out there. I brought back a few shells, some white sand that lingered in my shoes and about a million photos reminding me there is joy and awe and wonder on the beach.


video

Friday, July 15, 2011

Crankiness on my last day of vacation

Today is my last day of vacation. I had such grand plans for the day, but instead ended up staying home until 4 p.m. as my car had some work done on it. OK, so I guess it was better for me to take care of this now instead of on a Saturday after a long week of work, but somehow I envisioned my vacation being this constant stream of fun and self-discovery, going places and doing new things, not watching "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" on Netflix while waiting for the phone to ring.

Another thing - why does life have to be so expensive? $160 to have the transmission oil changed. I think I got ripped off. $10 to get the appropriate aquarium light bulb in hopes that another fish doesn't go belly up because of the wrong light. $27 to get photos printed. And a $20 Target gift card for my friend's birthday. I was going to buy a cover for the Kindle, but decided against it because the cheapest one was $30. Wow. OK, so I did end up splurging on a $4 candy bar today. I could do better as far as conserving money.

Anyway, I guess the lesson this week was life's annoyances don't end just because you are on vacation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

One of my fish passed on tonight. Wondering if the new fluorescent light bulb I installed in the tank had something to do with it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Kindle


The Kindle was a happy surprise birthday present from my sister this year. I would most likely not have ever bought one for myself. When it comes to gadgets I ask myself, do I really *need* x - an iPod Touch, a Nintendo DS, a new phone, a new desktop PC? Usually, the answer is no. On the other hand, "need" can be a relative term, since when you actually own the gadget, you wonder how you ever lived without it. No, I don't *need* a Kindle but it sure is cool.

Some notes on the Kindle, starting with the pros:

- It is more compact than I thought it would be. It's smaller and thinner than a standard-size paperback and very lightweight. I even took the Kindle to work by tucking it into a compartment in my purse. The Kindle is made to travel.


- Reading on the Kindle is different from reading on a computer screen or on my iPod. It feels eerily close to reading a book on paper, as in there is no glare on the screen and my eyes don't feel tired after reading it for over an hour. The "electronic ink" is genius.

- Battery power is great. I went a whole week without recharging it and probably could have gone longer.

- There's a huge selection of Kindle books on Amazon, delivered in less than a second to your Kindle with one-touch purchase. The Kindle is going to get me to buy more books, but I can't say that's a bad thing...

- Interesting that it shows you sections of books that other users have highlighted. It also prompts you to review the book once you've finished. Reading a book, usually a private experience, becomes more interactive (but not annoyingly so).

And some cons:

- The menu display is clunky compared with a touch screen. It relies on up or down buttons to select things. I think the designers (correctly) assumed most people would spend more time reading the e-book than going through the controls. This is probably the Kindle's biggest drawback, though for a person like me who's just using the device to read for fun, it's not a fatal flaw.

- The screen doesn't light up in the dark. This would be a nice feature since I like to read before bed.

- I don't really mind the lack of color, though it would be nice to see the book's cover in color.

- The Kindle vs. Nook, aka my e-reader is better than yours, thing annoys me. Wish I could buy Kindle books at Barnes & Noble.

It's kind of sad to think that e-readers mean the end of bookshelves full of books, bookmarks and loaning books to friends. On the other hand, now that I've actually tried the Kindle I don't think e-readers take much away from the old experience of reading a book. I'm impressed that the Kindle feels more like a book than a machine.

Back from the beach



Saturday, July 02, 2011

An off week

So...this was an "off" week for me. First of all, I had a cold. I probably should have stayed home from work altogether Monday. Work becomes even more of a struggle when you're sick. I exhausted the box of tissues on my desk. I also erupted into coughing fits around my coworkers. Yuck.

I ended up being so sick and tired I didn't go out outside of work at all. I missed my softball game Sunday (as previously mentioned), missed church, missed seeing my dad, missed church home group. And the boyfriend was out of town.

I ended up doing a lot of reading. Followed by moping and thinking, I am the loneliest person in the world, and other self-destructive thoughts. It was sort of nice to have time for self-reflection but I do think problems can get bigger in your head when you're alone.

Anyway, the good news is the cold has passed now, and hopefully I won't have to be the "loneliest person in the world" again this next week.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Ghosting

Ghostwriting is a mysterious profession. It's something you really don't hear much about, for obvious reasons. When I do think about it I have a vaguely negative reaction, mostly against the person who allegedly wrote the book. Sort of like how I feel about cheating, but then I remind myself, writing doesn't come easily to all. Is it really so bad to hire someone to help you turn a better phrase?

I've read quite a few accounts of writers writing about writing, but never of a former ghostwriter coming clean and writing about ghostwriting.

Jennie Erdal gives a glimpse into this world in Ghosting, her memoir of writing for UK publishing icon Naim Attallah. Attallah, who she refers to only as "Tiger" in the book, is the eccentric, overshadowing presence in the book, as he is in her work life, for nearly two decades. In the book's first few pages she writes "the bird of paradise is already standing there in all his finery... His eyes sparkle like precious stones ... His voice is velvet and beguilingly accented..."

She paints a picture of a larger-than-life man who spent lavishly on clothes and furnishings (including a tiger skin for his office) and vacations to a retreat in France, and who took daily visits to the barber and dental hygienist. In one moment he's the most fun, generous person you've ever been around, with the ambition and energy to follow through with some humongous ideas, but in the next he's a "vainglorious dictator," a child obsessed with having things his own way.

It's an odd matchup with Erdal on the surface. The person tasked with writing in his voice comes across as mild, intellectual and pragmatic as she describes working on a slew of plum writing assignments -- a book of interviews with famous women, two novels, a weekly column for a major newspaper -- under the name of her famous boss.

She discusses her translation work and her role in interviews with celebrities with relish. But it is the novels that she anguishes over: "Can one write from another person's heart? I'm not sure it can be done ... It is of course possible to fake fiction, but it is difficult to see how it can be meaningful or eloquent." She proves successful at ghostwriting, earning good reviews (even for the novels) and a steady stream of work.

In the midst of her professional memoir, Erdal mixes in her own life recollections. These seem much quieter compared to the extravagance of her employer -- childhood elocution lessons, sneaking to a Catholic friend's Holy Communion rehearsal, the breakup of her first marriage. But there is an emotional honesty that shines through in these quiet scenes that show her skill as a writer. She gets at the heart of a divorce in an amazing way.

You have to wonder, why did she do it? Why did she give away all the glory and do something that is not quite on the up and up for that many years? "In the world in which I moved, there was a feeling that lying, pretending and dissembling were all just part of the repertoire," she explains. And "... I felt aggrieved at being exploited but I think I also enjoyed a sense of having become the power behind the throne; I had imagined myself immune from delusions of grandeur, but no -- a feeling of importance, the proximity to celebrity, my vital role in the construction of a rising scribbler -- these things gave me a vicarious kick."

Hmm, I can buy it. The way she describes it, it seems like a situation seems that could happen to anyone. I think most of us give away a part of ourselves in our work -- we don't get the recognition we deserve, we succumb to demands and do things that we wish we didn't have to.

But it is a shame that she didn't get the credit she deserved for her obvious talent, as displayed in a book that is entertaining, poignant and heartfelt.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

This TIME analysis of the "economic recovery" is pretty dismal:
Half of Americans say they couldn't come up with $2,000 in 30 days without selling some of their possessions. Meanwhile, companies are flush: American firms generated $1.68 trillion in profit in the last quarter of 2010 alone. But many firms would think twice before putting their next factory or R&D center in the U.S. when they could put it in Brazil, China or India.
...
A bigger issue is that the available skills in the labor pool don't line up well with the available jobs. Case in point: there are 3 million job openings today.
...
And let's not forget the youth-unemployment crisis. The youth unemployment rate is now 24%, compared with the overall rate of 9.1%. If and when these young people return to work, they'll earn 20% less over the next 15 to 20 years than peers who were employed.

Sick day

I'm missing the final two softball games due to illness: I came down with a cold yesterday. Probably not a good idea to spend two hours in 105-degree heat, spreading my germs to everybody in the dugout. Not going to pull a Nowitzki and play through it. Ugh, I hate getting sick.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wind and dust made two softball games unpleasant today. "Like a hair dryer blowing right on your face," said one of my teammates. And we lost both games :-(. My bright moment was when I caught my first fly ball.

I'm going to have to look up how not to strain my quadriceps. I'm thinking the solution will involve stretching exercises.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

So after reading all the stories I mostly think the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But once in a while I can see that life is still good, people still go out and have fun and make connections. And there's nothing like a dog to cheer you up when you're down.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More Healthy Bite

Is Healthy Bite becoming an addiction? The special today was a turkey sandwich. $6 for a turkey sandwich and a glass of iced tea? Is the cost justified when I can make myself a turkey sandwich for less than $1 with materials from home?

But the sandwich was quite tasty - toasted wheat bread, fresh-tasting turkey cold cuts and Swiss cheese, nice green leaf lettuce and tomato, honey mustard. And I think more than that I enjoyed the ambience. I sat in a tall chair at a dark wood table, read my book, occasionally glanced out the window to see people walking by. In a cafe like this I can imagine I'm in some trendy place like New York, one of the few places in El Paso where that's possible. $3 for the sandwich, another $3 so I can escape for an hour. I think I can live with that.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The real ER

The real Cook County hospital sounds even worse than the one on "ER," based on Dr. David Ansell's interview on Fresh Air:
Health care at County was very different from care at private or university hospitals. When Ansell first started treating patients, County had no air conditioning, poor sanitation and limited patient privacy. "The beds were lined up one after another, separated by curtains, but there was really no privacy," he says. "Patients would roll in and they'd be lined up around the walls of this one room, and the middle was lined with stretchers and wheelchairs. You were forced to take histories and examine patients under these conditions."
As usual, the audio version of the interview is better, and Ansell has some interesting things to say about the inequality of health care in the U.S. and attempts at reform. From the text version:
"The only fair way to do this is where people have a card that gets them in, where that card is accepted widely and broadly by everyone, and [giving people] choice," he says. "So you could go anywhere you want, you get the care you want, and choose your own doctors — and that would be some sort of universal plan — Medicare for all, single-payer. We need a system that really gives patients — poor or rich — adequate care."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I left an apple in my car for a few hours, by the time I bit into it it tasted like a baked apple dessert. That's summer for you.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Finally, I play in a game where our softball team wins! Wasn't looking forward to playing in the summer heat but it was surprisingly not that bad, due to the shady dugout and a breeze. I didn't sit on the bench this time; I even got a hit and landed on first base once. Sports can be fun, I'd forgotten...

Friday, June 10, 2011

I told my mom,"My goal for this weekend is to be less grumpy." Life gets stressful, I really need a break so I can stop snapping at people for not very good reasons. We'll see how I'm feeling on Sunday...

Yesterday at Healthy Bite

The special for $5.99: half-tuna sandwich and cup of soup of the day, plus iced tea. Took it to go since the restaurant was full. Sandwich was on bread that tasted homemade, tuna had some cilantro in it. Unfortunately the soup of the day was clam chowder. Clam chowder and my stomach usually don't get along. It tasted good but I had about half and threw the rest away.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Article by Roseanne Barr on show business, feminism, and the lack of diversity on TV in NY Magazine:
To survive the truly hostile environment on set, I started to pray nonstop to my God, as working-class women often do, and to listen nonstop to Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power.” I read The Art of War and kept the idea “He that cares the most, wins” upmost in my mind. I knew I cared the most, since I had the most to lose. I made a chart of names and hung them on my dressing-room door; it listed every person who worked on the show, and I put a check next to those I intended to fire when Roseanne became No. 1, which I knew it would.

Status: Unrecoverable

What I thought was a virus got into my computer a couple weeks ago. I was frightened it would render my computer unusable, so I did what I used to do on my old computer on a regular basis: I got into System Restore and had the program roll my computer back to a point in time two weeks before that.

I restarted the computer and it was just fine after the System Restore. Whew. Or so I thought. Yesterday I was about to upload some new photos into the computer when I realized I couldn't find any of my old photos: Trip to Chicago, gone. Easter holiday, gone. Trip to NYC, gone. My cousin's wedding, gone. I did a search for "img" and only one photo came up.

A horrifying feeling came over me. I checked the Documents folder. Also empty. My thesis, gone. A journal article I had worked on for months, gone. School papers I had saved for sentimental value were no longer there.

Google had a few answers. Users in a forum suggested some recovery software to try. $50 later I had about 120 pictures back: my cousin's wedding and some photos from London, mostly. Another software program yielded about 14 more recovered files, my trip to Colorado and a few from LA. Tantalizingly the software program would show you thumbnail previews of the old filenames, but when you would mouse over them, almost all of them would say "Status: Unrecoverable." Damn it. Like my life flashing before me, unrecoverable.

I tried not to panic. Facebook has many of these same photos. I've printed out a lot of the sets that are most important to me. Also in my favor, I've had this computer for less than a year, and a lot of photos (actually, most of them) are still on the hard drive of my old computer in the garage. Same with the documents -- a lot of these are stored on my old computer, or I can get a copy somewhere else. All is not lost, not by any means. Still, there *are* photos and documents that are literally gone forever, and for the ones that still exist somewhere out there it's going to be a hassle to recover them.

If I'm so upset about this, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for people who really have lost everything, in a fire or tornado or flood. I suppose losing records of memories isn't the worst thing that could happen; losing your health or life or family members would be, of course. Still, with something like this it feels like a piece of yourself has gone away, the "virtual memory" you have in addition to the one in your brain.

Right now I'm trying to accept that these really are gone, that no software is going to magically recover them tomorrow. The lessons for the future: 1) Keep the anti-virus software up-to-date. 2) It really is important to back up files on an external hard drive or online. I've never done this and it finally caught up to me. 3) System Restore can mean different things on different computers. 5) Losing things isn't the end of the world. It hurts but it's going to be OK.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A very strange scene out my window -- an overcast sky with the tantalizing prospect of rain. It hasn't rained here in 118 days. As much as I prefer dryness, this is ridiculous.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Review: God Is Not One

Curiosity and a bout of soul-searching led me to God Is Not One, Stephen Prothero's primer on eight world religions. As a reviewer points out, the book's title is misleading since it's not so much a long argument against the idea that all major religions essentially worship the same God but an introduction to each one.

It's a book that often made me feel like I was a student in Prothero's World Religions 101 class at Boston University, and I mean that in a good way. You can sense Prothero's enthusiasm for the subject matter. Each chapter is lengthy enough to go beyond the basics of the religion and into some truly searching questions.

I was long overdue to read a book like this one since I had never really studied world religions. I've studied Christianity (and a bit about Judaism in the course of that) and I once read a book on Islam. But I knew only a thimble-ful about Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism, virtually nothing about Confucianism, and I hadn't even heard of Yoruba religion.

For each religion, there were aspects that I thought jibed with the human experience and that even made me think I should become a convert. It's also interesting how concepts repeat across the religions -- bodhisattvas and divine grace, stories, rituals, mysticism, and getting in touch with your "true" self, just to name a few.

Another thing I found surprising is how many religions are focused on the here and now of life, not on trying to understand the divine. "Ultimately Buddhism is more about experience than doctrine," Prothero writes. And, "whatever 'religion' there is in Confucianism takes place here and now in this world of pain and overcoming."

The tour of religions ends with a coda on atheism, where Prothero asks if atheism itself is a religion. Hmm, interesting...

So maybe there are similarities among the religions, but is there any one common thread running through all of them? "Even in traditions of escape from the sin and suffering of this world, religion works not so much to help us flee from our humanity as to bring us home to it," Prothero says in the conclusion. Something I'll continue to ponder....

But he quickly gets back to the argument that rather than trying to force all religions into some false unity, we should strive to get to know and understand faiths other than our own, and have a dialogue in a non-combative way. It seems like the right approach, though easier said than done.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Inside Job

"Inside Job" should be required viewing for every American adult. The 2008 financial crisis is not easy to explain but this film does the best job I've seen yet. You will definitely be angry after seeing this film, winner of Best Documentary at this year's Academy Awards.

Oprah series finale

So I watched Oprah's series finale yesterday. Oprah was solo on stage delivering a mixture of sermon and commencement speech. I was surprised she touched on so many spiritual themes. Predictably, I got a little teary-eyed by the end. The transcript is worth reading in its entirety, but here are a couple of highlights:

I've talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'


I have felt the presence of God my whole life. Even when I didn't have a name for it, I could feel the voice bigger than myself speaking to me, and all of us have that same voice. Be still and know it. You can acknowledge it or not. You can worship it or not. You can praise it, you can ignore it or you can know it. Know it. It's always there speaking to you and waiting for you to hear it in every move, in every decision. I wait and I listen. I'm still—I wait and listen for the guidance that's greater than my meager mind.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Birthday No. 29

Another birthday has come and gone. I'm 29. Somehow I already felt like I'd reached it even before the day. Yes I feel old. And I'm going to feel older next year, and the year after that. Bummer.

But on the bright side my sister made me a poster and bought me a Nintendo DS. I'm going to have an excuse to play video games now :-).

I think one of the best parts of birthdays is hearing from people I don't usually hear from. My out-of-town cousin, former co-workers, my aunt who I don't see often enough.

I grumble about getting older but I like birthdays.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Image and exposure

Interesting advice from business columnist Aliana Apodaca:
Long-term business success is based on three factors: (1) performance -- how well you do your job; (2) image -- appearance, attitude and communication skills and (3) exposure -- business and personal contacts, connections and visibility. These three factors add up to 100 percent.

Here is what many don't know. For long-term business success, the factors are weighted this way: performance, 10 percent; image, 30 percent; and exposure, 60 percent.

Review: The End of Mr. Y

Another book to add to the "finished" list. The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas is categorized by a reviewer as "chick lit for nerds." Seems like the narrator in this book, Ariel Manto, is very similar in nature to the narrator in the last book I read by Thomas (Popco) -- a sassy, intellectually curious woman with some personal life issues.

Ariel, a student doing research on thought experiments, finds a long-lost book with the recipe for a potion to transport a person into the "Troposphere," a quasi-spiritual realm of consciousness. Excerpts of this (made-up) novel, The End of Mr. Y, are included and are some of the book's most riveting.

Of course, things don't go so well for Ariel after she makes up a batch of this potion. Some ex-spies start chasing after her, leading to plenty of twists and turns in the plot.

I don't know enough about quantum physics and parallel universes to tell if the "Troposphere" is in much alignment with real science. Seems to me it's more like an exercise in imagination loosely based on a few popular science theories. Not that there's anything really wrong with that, but I think in the hands of a science fiction novelist, the novel could have risen beyond chick lit and into an instant classic. I thought Thomas didn't take it far enough ideas-wise as far as time travel, spirituality, quantum physics, computer theory, etc., which she briefly gets into but then just wraps up the story.

And the love story seemed like it was there because well, every chick lit novel has to have one, right?

Maybe that's the whole problem with the chick lit genre *sighs*. Still, Scarlett Thomas proves in this novel (again) that she can write entertaining novels that actually make you smarter. She's still up there on my favorite authors list. Next up: Our Tragic Universe.

Thoughts on the world not ending

- I dismissed the prediction as bunk, but couldn't help taking a look at the clock at midnight Saturday (local time, when the earthquake was supposed to go off in New Zealand) and wondering, what if they're right...



- If you are a Christian, you do have a certain belief about how the world will end, and it does involve a Second Coming, Judgment Day, Armageddon, etc. Yeah, the Bible also says no one knows the day, but if you are a Christian you believe it will come.



- Global warming sure seems like something out of prophecy. Destructive wildfires, big floods, big freezes, are these what we have to look forward to in the next few decades?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Healthy Bite, part 3

Lunch special: flatbread honey ham and cheese sandwich with scallions, side salad, iced tea.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

American Idol

I'm not understanding "American Idol" lately. Usually America waits until the final two to send the true best contestant packing. But first there was Pia, then there was James, and now Haley?! What's up with the voting? Lauren and Scotty must each have a hell of a fan base.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Early shift

Three days in a row of the early shift, as in go to work at 6:30 a.m. I guess it's not bad once you get used to it. It's 5:20 p.m. and I'm at home, whereas I'd usually be stuck in traffic somewhere on I-10. But I do find myself yawning a little more during the day.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Interesting study:
Researchers also asked 50 students to screen e-mails containing hypothetical job applications from women. The candidates who had kept their maiden names were more likely to be hired and were offered salaries averaging 40% higher than their name-changing peers.
I honestly don't think I could be convinced to change my name.

Working on a Sunday

Worked on a Sunday again. It's not so bad. I kinda like being the only person in the office for a few hours, answering all the phone calls. I missed church with a good excuse.

Now I'm going to spend some time doing my laundry then I'm going to fall asleep.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Culinary adventures

- I made lemon poppy seed muffins last week. Even though they came from a box I think they looked pretty good:



- This rosemary chicken recipe is definitely a winner. I made it with Giada de Laurentis' recipe for linguini with sauce made of sun-dried tomatoes, basil and green olives. Good dinner, if I do say so myself.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Ask a Mexican: Can a Gabacho Be More Mexican Than a Mexican? I find this column consistently entertaining.

Career advice for a quarter-life crisis

One of my friends seems to be having a quarter-life crisis. We always seem to talk about career change when we hang out. Here's his main question: Everyone always seems to give you the career advice, do what you love. But how good is that advice, really?

He's thinking about going back to school for speech pathology to get out of a current dead-end position. But he tells me, "It's not like I go to sleep at night dreaming of the day I can become a speech pathologist."

Five years ago I might have told him, dig a little deeper and find what you love. If you want to be a screenwriter or a video game designer or an English professor or a travel writer, go for it. My advice being highly influenced by this book, which is mostly about finding your passion as far as work.

But these days I wouldn't say the same. These days I would probably say speech pathology is a fine choice.

These days I'm all about realism, as the recession hits hard and dreams fall by the wayside. I think you have to be somewhere in the middle of "My dream is to be an artist and paint all day" and majoring in something just because "everyone is hiring for it." At either extreme you will be miserable: the former because you won't be employable and will have to take a job you probably don't like to make a living, the latter because you've studied something you don't really like and will likely find a job but wish you could be doing something else.

The main career question to me is, what can you live with? What kind of lifestyle do you want, and how does a career fit into that? Can you live with making under $30K for the next 10 years? Can you live with working in a cubicle for the next 40 years? If you harbor artistic ambitions, are you OK with teaching or temping on the side to make ends meet? Are you OK with working 50 or 60-hour weeks? Do you like working with kids/adults/elderly/no one? How much stress are you willing to tolerate? What do you want to have accomplished by the time you're 50?

Some might say I have landed a "dream job," that is, a creative job in a "glamour industry" (news media). So it can work out to go for your dreams....right?

First of all, I consider myself extremely lucky to have landed at the job that I have, a job I find intensely interesting and also get paid for, especially since I have a degree in a different discipline. But honestly I don't expect most people to be as lucky as I have been. I think landing a job like mine, the way I did, is like winning the lotto -- the exception, not the rule. Please, people, think before you leap.

Second, it's funny to me how even a "creative" job is so much about being a good organizer, planner, teammate, communicator, and business person. You get into a field because you love _____ (in my case, writing) but you end up doing drudgery work just like everyone else, anyway.

Third, low pay is the price you pay for this "glamour" job. I turn green with envy over a speech pathologist's salary.

Fourth, things change in every industry, so better to find a degree for a career you believe in for the long haul than simply to land a job you can get now. Remember how in demand teachers were five years ago? And opportunities even exist in journalism if you're willing to look for them, believe it or not. Opportunities will follow if you believe in the work.

So that's my career advice, from my experiences thus far. Anyone care to agree/disagree?

Friday, May 06, 2011

- I tried Starbucks' new Mocha Coconut Frappuccino today. For the $4.28 and 310 calories I spend on it, better be good. It was. It reminded me of chocolate and coconut dessert bars.

- "I feel like going somewhere far away and forgetting about everything" is what I said today.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

TIME's TV critic on how American Idol has gotten too sweet:
The problem with liking everything is that it becomes meaningless to like anything. Deciphering Idol judges' comments now requires kremlinology: you listen for the shadings that distinguish "That was great!" (I truly loved your performance) from "You know you're great" (I like you too much to specify why your performance was bad).
You know everyone's favorite judge was Simon, even if he was occasionally off the mark.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Night to remember

My sister A. convinced me to go out with her and her friend D. on Tuesday night. She works at a restaurant so gets odd nights off, and I was needed to work Saturday so had a gaping hole of a Wednesday off.

I arrive at the bar just as my sister does. We both park in a few spaces on the side of the building adjacent to the bar. No one else is parked there, I figure it's just not filled up yet since it's a Tuesday.


The bar seems to me like a converted old house, with several dark rooms where loud music is pumped in and pop art decorates the walls. This is an old haunt of A.'s, back in the day.


A. orders me a cherry lime drink with vodka. I'm not a teetotaler like I used to be but I'm still wary of alcohol. I still think of it as sinister. But I want to go along and not be lame, so I sip it slowly. A. and D. get brown bottles of Newcastle. We go outside to the patio and sit in the corner. It's a little windy but not cold.


D. is studying to be a medical technician. Apparently he has a few brothers who sometimes get into fights at bars. He seems nice enough, the kind of guy you go to the latest action movie with, the kind of guy you go with for a few drinks at a bar.


D. goes up to the bar and returns with three Jager bombers. Apparently you're supposed to down these in one gulp but I still haven't finished my first drink.

No, I am not fun to drink with.


A. starts talking about her trip to Vegas with D., last summer when she worked in Colorado and did some traveling. Things I didn't know, it's interesting to hear my sister talk like this...


I confess to A. about a conflict I'm having with this guy I've been dating. He might have enjoyed a few beers with us if I'd invited him.

She's sympathetic. "You've got to remind him it's a two-way street." *sighs*


I start on the bomber, which apparently has Red Bull and Jager in it but tastes like cherry cough syrup. I don't want to throw it away, though, so I drink it slowly and try not to gag.

A.'s other friend arrives, a skinny girl with brown-red hair and glasses. This is what I like (and don't like) about hanging out with A. -- she always has a bunch of friends around her.

C. is easy to talk to, outgoing like my sister. We start talking about jobs. I tell her I work in the news.

"Does it make you happy?"

I reply that I don't think of it that way, that a job can make you happy. You serve in a job, not the other way around. But I say that I think it's a good fit with what interests me and what I'm good at.

She bemoans that she just serves food for a living, but then turns philosophical: "Any job can be meaningful, because in every job you can affect people's lives, and they can affect yours."

"You make me want to join the Peace Corps," D. says.

C. treats us to a round of shots. I still haven't finished my bomber. In any case, I won't have a third drink, though I feel bad leaving the shot untouched.

It's 12:30 a.m. A slight buzz has crept into my brain, a vaguely pleasant feeling despite the nasty cherry taste in my mouth. I'm ready to go home. I say good-bye to my sister and say "good to meet you" to her friends.

I find my way out the bar, back to where we parked our cars and....? The worst sinking feeling goes through me. Our cars aren't there. I double check that this is where we parked. It is, next to an office-looking building. My car has been stolen, is my first thought. But could thieves make off with two cars in 2 1/2 hours?

Our cars have been towed. We parked in a 24-hour towing zone.

I go back inside and find my sister at the bar. "Are you serious?"

The bartender gives us the number of the towing company. I call them. Yes, they have our cars. They close at 2 a.m. Cost to get out is $145 *each*! Good news is the impound lot is not too far away.

Ten minutes later, I'm in the front seat of C.'s Chevy Nova and we're driving through Downtown. I love the classic car, despite the circumstances. It feels like being in the padded interior or a tin can.

We turn left at the street the towing company is on. Yup, there it is, the big tow truck, and a bunch of cars inside the gates. Car jail.

A man directs me to get my vehicle registration out of the glove box. My sister has her insurance card.

In this tiny, dimly lit little shack in the back of the lot, we show him our driver's licenses.

My sister pulls money out of her wallet.

"Do you take checks?" I ask.

"No."

"Do you take credit cards?"

"No."

Oh geez.

But A. saves the day by putting $300 in cash on the table. I give her all the cash in my wallet, about $45, and write her a check for $100.

The man gives me my receipt, directs us outside and opens the gate so we can get out. C. is back in her car, and A. and D. are in her car and backing out before I even get a chance to thank everyone and say goodbye for the last time.

I'm out of there, too. I'm driving through Downtown, extremely glad to have my car back. Ah, here is what I get for partaking of the devil's drink, right?

I feel kind of guilty, but by the time I get home I feel like this is more a case of overzealous towers eager to make a buck. If there is a next time, I'll be more careful where I park.

A. sends me a text message when I get home, apologizing for the evening and asking if I'm OK. I'm OK. I miss my sister and I need to hang out with her more often.

Maybe I'm not a free spirit but I try to be open to new experiences. Even if they involve drinking a cupful of cherry cough syrup and getting my car towed. It's a night we'll laugh about 10 years from now, might as well start now.

Breakfast

How about this breakfast yesterday? Eggs with salsa, turkey bacon, crispy hashbrowns, buttered toast and orange juice. Ooh, yummy. Makes up for all the bowls of cereal I've had this week.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My blog friend Stu on the royal wedding: "Some of you might be moderately surprised to learn that I'm rather looking forward to tomorrow and that with the usual caveats about how badly Diana was treated and Prince Philip, I'm quite the monarchist."

Interesting to read, since here in America the political and historical perspectives are not really first and foremost in our minds.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Says Ricky Martin: "Someone said that in this life you have to write a book, plant a tree and have a child."
I'm considering how big of an accomplishment it is to finish a book. I suppose it depends on the book. The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Baines Johnson, Volume 1 would probably rank in the middle range, and the most points would be for Russian novels.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is probably on the lower end of accomplishments as far as books go, though it is long-ish, so points for that, right? I thoroughly enjoyed the last book in this series, even though I thought things ended a bit too nicely, especially compared to the second book. I finished it sad there will be no new adventures with Lisbeth Salander.

Well, off to find a new book to read so I can brag about finishing it later.

Healthy Bite, part 2

Since I didn't pack a lunch I made a return trip to Healthy Bite. This time the special was a cup of tortilla soup, half salad and tea. Tortilla soup surprisingly spicy and had cheese cubes that didn't melt, half salad had spinach, cranberries, almonds and a bit too much feta cheese. Tea good as usual.

The alarm that didn't ring

I woke up at 5:55 a.m. today and had to be at work at 6:30. I don't know why the alarm didn't go off. I am almost 100 percent sure I set it before I went to bed. I checked right now and it was indeed set to 5 a.m. Did I turn it off while I was sleeping? Anyway, I was suprisingly less panicked than I expected. I had already taken a shower the night before. I just didn't do some of the things I usually do before work, like eat breakfast, make a lunch, read the paper, and put on make-up. I was 7 minutes late to work, whereas I'd usually get there 5 minutes early. I woke up late and it wasn't the end of the world. Imagine that.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Poem presented at church this morning. Reminds me a bit of the Serenity Prayer.

The weekend

- FYI, $10 buys you a giant blue coconut margarita at Coconut's bar.

- That men are from Mars, women are from Venus thing may really be true.

- I'm trying to pace myself with the Easter candy. I have eaten about three chocolate eggs today plus jelly beans.

- I only got whacked on the head with a cascaron once today.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Soul Surfer

I teared up twice watching "Soul Surfer" yesterday. Maybe it was just my mood, or maybe it has something to do with getting older. I never used to cry in movies unless it was really, really sad.

And here's a rose

Easter egg

Mom found a bird egg in one of her flower pots today:



Here's a close up:




Friday, April 22, 2011

So I'd expect Barbara Walters to be in London to cover the royal wedding, but Brian Williams and Diane Sawyer, too? Is it *really* that big of a deal?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Clear plastic bottles

Speaking of softball, I was in the park on Saturday and was absolutely disgusted with the metal trash can filled nearly to the brim with empty plastic bottles. Now I'm thinking hard about every plastic bottle I use, even if I put it in the recycle bin. You see, I have this habit of bringing a disposable plastic bottle of water to work with me. If I could just get rid of that habit, that's 248 less bottles to recycle or trash. Imagine 10 people kicking the water bottle habit. 2480 fewer bottles per year. Etc., etc.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Feeling overwhelmed. Again. Softball is turning into a big time commitment. Over two hours of playing time, on top of that an hour of drive time today. I suppose I knew this going into it. Plus we lost again. I wish there was an ounce of encouragement somewhere in there.

There are just not enough hours in the day. There are books I am just dying to read, but the chores can only be put off so long. And gotta spend some time with friends so as not to be a social outcast, right? Plus the usual 40 hours of servitude. I want to write my long pontificating blog posts and come to some conclusions about my current situation. But there is no time to reflect. *long tired sigh*

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Softball

So my latest adventure is that I joined the work-sponsored softball team. As you may recall, I said I needed a new project after I dropped out of guitar class.


You might say I was deprived as a child because I never played team sports. I played sports in PE, which was lame, but I never played on an actual team.


This is my first time to wear a jersey with my name on it, to sit in a dugout, to do team practices. Last Sunday I got my first hit and made it to first base! But I also got whacked in the knee with a softball during practice, resulting in a large purple bruise, and strained my muscle sprinting to first base, making it painful to walk for a couple of days. Ouch. We also lost both of our first games, double ouch.


We'll see how this adventure goes.