Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Alphameme: A-Z

Greg from Greg's Brain just tagged me for this meme. It requires a post with one entry or comment for every letter of the alphabet. The rules are:

Each player starts with some random facts/habits about himself/herself. As you are tagged you need to post the rules and your responses on your own blog. At the end of your post, you need to choose some people to tag, list their names and, of course, leave them a comment, telling they have been tagged and they need to read your blog for more information.

Greg's interpretation of this meme is very much in his style, and is a great read. Go check it out.
I will do my best to complete the meme in a way that reflects who I am, so it will inevitably turn bilingual. For instance, you will notice my alphabet has 27 letters, as opposed to the 26 you are used to. That is because I am using the Spanish alphabet, which is what I learned when I was growing up.

1- A: Awareness is key. I start off with a cliche, but it is one I truly, deeply subscribe to. One of my goals in life is to learn better what makes me tick; to understand the patterns of my behavior, the triggers to my moods (both high and low). By stepping outside myself and examining my behavior, I get more attuned to my perception of the world. It helps ground me.

I am not necessarily as interested in finding out the why of my behaviors. It is something I may never know. Some people are fond of going back in time and analyzing their personal history. I say memory is a construct, often unreliable, and the significance of a small, trivial occurrence may escape the adult mind obsessed with finding the great markers of the past. Also, two people may go through similar life experiences and react in completely different ways, so the past is not necessarily a guarantee of present behavior.

2- B: Boricua. I am a proud boricua and always will be. But although it may have points in common with other people's, my definition of what a boricua is applies only to myself. My experience as a Puerto Rican growing up middle class on the island, with college educated, liberal arts oriented folks, is very different from that of someone who grew up in New York or Chicago, different from contemporaries of mine who grew up poor, wealthy or Christian; and different from my daughters' experience growing up middle class in Texas. It is also different to the experience of my nieces, who both grew up and still live on the island. The differences are due in part to location, economics, and moment in time. Also, to a certain extent, to personality.
I can't claim to have a stronger boricua identity than someone who was born and grew up outside the island. By the same token, I should not be seen as less authentic because I write a blog in English and married a gringo.

3- C: Cámara, por favor. When I was growing up in Puerto Rico in the 1970's, every afternoon after school I would watch Cine Recreo con Pacheco on WAPA TV, channel 4. Pacheco (real name Joaquín Monserrat) was originally from Barcelona, Cataluña. He came to Puerto Rico by way of Cuba and remained on the island to become a popular children's TV personality. He was Puerto Rican TV's closest thing to Mr. Rogers, someone warm and kind to the children, beloved by generations. He basically acted as an MC for the afternoon cartoon hour, but he had kids as guests of the show, and every day he read letters and showed pictures mailed to him by audience members, taking the opportunity to impart some lessons in the process, like on this clip, where he cautions kids to not fly kites near power lines. At the end of the clip you'll hear Pacheco say his catchphrase cámara, por favor, which was the cue to segue into either commercials or cartoons.

4- Dios (God). I don't believe in God, such as the major religions portray him. I am not presumptuous enough as to assume there is absolutely nothing. The most I can do is accept that I can't possibly know with certainty whether there is a divinity or not, and try to develop a sense of spirituality that is grounded (pun intended) in this world.

5- E: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my favorite movies. Every time I stumble upon it on TV, I stop whatever it is I am doing and sit down to watch it. I always cry, and I always cherish that bittersweet ending, the sense that it is better to go for it and take a chance at love, even if it's almost guaranteed to end in heartache, than to not take a risk at all.

6- F: Fuck. Fuck, fuck fuck fuck. Fuck! There is no point to this opening, other than to show I am quite fond of saying fuck. It's my blog and I'll curse if I want to. The truth is curse words serve a function as a means of expression that no watered down version can substitute. It is important to learn what are the appropriate environments to use the various kinds of jargon we speak. I don't use curse words at work, for example. But outside of work it's every mouth for itself.

7- G: Gabriel. He's my husband, my partner, my equal.

8- H: Home improvements. We are currently getting quotes and applying for a home improvement loan so we can rip out the carpets and replace them with bamboo floors. We have been warned by some people that the percentage of home buyers in our area that like bamboo floors is not very high (depending on who you listen to, it's either 10% or 35%). Still, I will not consider any other wood. At least bamboo grows faster and regenerates; the same can't be said for the trees they cut down to make those beautiful wood floors home buyers are so fond of.

9- I: Isla del Encanto/Isla del Espanto. Puerto Rico is also known as la isla del encanto, or the Island of Enchantment. I don't know where it originated, although I want to say it came from a song. I am sure one of my readers from the island will know. If I am not wrong, la isla del encanto is also the official slogan of the government, used in tourism ads and on local license plates.

Isla del Espanto (Dreadful Island or Frightening Island), on the other hand, is the way locals turned the official slogan on its head. A play on the similarity of the sound of the words encanto and espanto, it is used to highlight the many ills and things that go wrong on the island.

10- J: Jello. The girls love it. I have always hated it. What is the point of Jello? Don't even get me started on the ones with fruit stuck inside. Fochi (Yuck).

11- K: Kangaroo. The kangaroo is one of my favorite animals. Some day I hope to go to Australia and see kangaroos in the wild.

12- L: Lili. My sister's name is Liliana. Her nickname is Lili. My sister and I are not as close as I would like. I know I should seek her out more, and I feel bad that I don't.


13- M: Mallorca. Besides being the common name of a popular pastry in Puerto Rico and one of my favorites ever, Mallorca (English spelling Majorca) is also the biggest of the Balearic islands in the Mediterranean, a part of Spain. The pastry I so adore is original from the island from which it borrows the name we know it by in Puerto Rico.

It is believed that most of the Spanish immigrants who came to Puerto Rico were from Cataluña, Asturias, Galicia, the Balearic islands, the Canary Islands, and the Andalucía region in Southern Spain; this last region in particular has a very strong Arab heritage. Together with immigrants from other countries, as well as the large African slave population (most of which came from from the Gold Coast, Nigeria and Dahomey); and the Taíno Indians (who seemed to stick around longer than traditional historical narrations suggest), they comprise our genetic makeup.

In short, the majority of Puerto Ricans are mutts, very mixed and mostly unable to trace back our ancestry (at least beyond the 19th-20th century) the way Americans are so fond of doing, because of scarce, poor or nonexistent demographic records.

14- N: Nanowrimo. It starts tomorrow. Yikes! What have I gotten myself into?

15- Ñ (sounds like GN): El Ñame is my favorite fake news site (in Spanish, from Puerto Rico).

16- O: Oprah. I am at work, so I don't watch. But even if I was at home, I would not watch her show. Just because everybody else does. I refuse.

17- P: Plany al mar (lamento al mar). In the early seventies, years before it became fashionable to speak of global warming or being ecologically conscious, the magnificent Joan Manuel Serrat wrote this very beautiful, sad song. Sung in his native Catalan, it is a lament on the state of his beloved, increasingly depleted and polluted Mediterranean Sea. On a separate clip prior to the song, Serrat translates the lyrics of the song into Spanish and speaks about the inspiration to write it. I listened to this song growing up, its haunting melody never failing to move me to tears.

18- Q: Queso de Bola. A large number of Puerto Ricans (on the island at least) are quite fond of aged Edam cheese from Holland. I am sure it's a Spanish heritage thing. Back home you can walk into any supermarket and buy Edam, but in Texas I can never find it. When I find Edam cheese it is not from Holland, it is not aged, or both. People here seem to be more fond of Gouda, and you can find aged Gouda here. But I don't like it as much.

19- R: ROI. I hope when I am old and infirm my daughters will take care of me.

20- S: Sonia. My mother's name is Sonia. She turns 68 next month. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around that fact. In my mental image of my mom, she is stuck in age sometime around the early nineties, not long after my father's passing.

21- T: Toño. My brother's name is Antonio. His nickname is Toño (pronounced Togno). My brother is going through a bit of a hard time lately. After 20-something years of marriage, his wife and him have separated. The relationship is over, but they are on good terms and have not gone ahead with divorce plans yet. Although it will come. Lately I have been in touch with him to express my love and to let him know I am there for him no matter what.

22- U: UPR (la iupi). I am a proud alum of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus, class of 1990. I very much enjoyed my college years. It was a time of awakening and exposure to mind opening ideas and people. Sure, not everything was perfect. But the good outweighed the bad by far.

23- V: Volatile. Although in English the term volatile seems to be mostly used in the realms of science and economics, in Spanish we use the term volátil to designate someone who has quite the mutable character. It is not quite exactly the same as saying someone is unstable, though. It's more like being quick-tempered.

24- W: Working. It's what I should have been doing instead of writing this. Deadlines keep looming, people!

25- X. Xenophobia. When people try to justify xenophobia by saying it's an evolutionary trait, it kinda sickens me.

26- Y: Yoruba. The development of the Santeria religion is generally attributed to the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria and Benin, who co-opted important figures of the Catholic religion they were imposed, and syncretized them to represent the main attributes of the gods they believed in. This allowed them to practice their religion right under the noses of their owners and the priests of the Catholic Church.

It is generally accepted that Santeria originated in Cuba and came to Puerto Rico by way of immigrants, especially after the Cuban Revolution. Or at least that is the common belief among many Puerto Ricans, especially those who look down upon Santeria as primitive or the realm of the uneducated, refusing to accept a part of their cultural heritage. Personally, I have a hard time believing that the slaves in Puerto Rico did not hit upon the same idea as the ones in Cuba. After all, the ones in Haiti and the Dominican Republic did.

27- Z: Zoologist. It's what Paula says she wants to be when she grows up. She loves animals. When Flower died on Meerkat Manor, Paula was inconsolable. By the way, those meerkats are dropping life flies lately. As soon as Paula came to me crying last Friday evening, I knew something was wrong. "Who died now?"- I asked. "Mozart"- said Paula between sobs. Flower, Kinkajou, and now Mozart. Kinkajou's death did not affect Paula much, but she was as attached to Mozart, the survivor, as she was to Flower. She sure is learning a lot about the reality of life in the wild.

I had a lot of fun answering this meme and I am now tagging Pen and the Sword, Paisley and MPJ. Should they choose to accept the challenge, I think each of them can do a great interpretation of the A-Z parameter.

Happy Halloween


Yes, it's a holiday with "pagan" roots. So what?


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A late thank you for an award

My dear fellow blogger Pen & the Sword gave me an award a week ago, and as I am still way behind on my blog reading and writing, I had not had an opportunity to thank her until now. Thanks, Pen! You are a gifted writer, so I feel honored that you like my blog.





My Happy Place

I am writing this too late to meet MPJ's original group writing project deadline. But she said she might post some late entries from others, so I jumped into the bandwagon. If you have never visited MPJ's blog, I urge you to do so. She is a great writer and pretty cool all around.

My Happy Place is an idealized world, where the gap between the haves and the have-nots has shrunk to the point of being non-existent. Everybody will be middle class, with access to things that are now reserved to the wealthy. In industry, there will not be huge gaps in pay between high executives and the rest of the company. There will be profit sharing on an equal scale to all. The accumulation of wealth will be seen as something obscene. Politicians will not lie.

Healthcare would be seen as a basic need of society, not a business area. Every town would have an extensive library and a performing arts theater. People will be free to embrace their diversity under an atmosphere of tolerance. Multiple languages will be spoken everywhere, and at school children will be taught two foreign languages as a requisite. There will be no fences on the border of any country. Everybody will be free to move from one place to the next. Women would have a one-year paid maternity leave and the guarantee that they will have their job when they come back. All beaches would be public and no construction would be allowed to restrict or block access to them.

You get the idea.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sunday Scribblings- Hospitals




This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "hospitals."

My dad died at a hospital, after a weeklong stay. Complications from diabetes landed him there, but it was a blood clot in his lungs that took him away from us. That was almost 18 years ago and I still think of him often.

I remember sitting in the waiting room, completely numb and spent, while my brother and my mom dealt with doctors and arrangements. I was 21 years old, way too young to lose my father. In my grief, I tried to trick myself into feeling his presence, imagined his ghost at the door to the waiting room, watching over me. I very much wanted it to be true, for me to be able to say goodbye to him. But it wasn't. There was no shadowy presence by the door. I was all alone.

The day my oldest niece was born, my mom and I were pacing that waiting room like crazy. A nurse came out to show us a beautiful girl. I was sixteen and had never seen a newborn at such close range, much less one who shared my blood. It was such a thrill. The next day I was taking the college entrance examination test, and during our lunch break I convinced a group of friends to drive me over to the hospital to visit. Good times.

Thirteen years later, I gave birth to my oldest daughter in the same hospital my niece was born, the one by the sea. I had been going to an OB-GYN practice that had several doctors, and I had been encouraged to see all of them at one point of my pregnancy, so that when the time came, I was familiar with the doctor on call. I saw them all, except for one, the youngest of them all. It turns out he was the doctor on call when my labor came, and he was fantastic.

I had a natural birth. I refused the epidural but could not handle the pain, so they gave me Demerol on an IV. Shortly after Paula was born, a nurse handed me a quivering newborn, still covered in blood and fluids. I hardly had a chance to realize what was going on, and promptly fell asleep from the meds. A couple of hours later, I woke up in a recovery room and they brought my daughter to me, wrapped in a bundle. I held her in my arms and was overcome with such love and emotion that I could not hold back the tears. She was the most beautiful being I had ever seen, and I instantly felt a bond such as I had never before experienced.

At that time I also felt a presence by the door, looking down upon us. Maybe I imagined it in my postpartum fatigue. Or maybe my father was paying his respects.

My new camera arrived yesterday evening

I am so excited! I held it in my hands so lovingly and pictured (pun intended) all the images I will capture with it.

I have manuals to read on how to operate the camera before I can start using it. I certainly don't want to screw up mounting the lens, for example.

Does anybody know any good online tutorials? Or maybe a good book on photography basics?

Where are they?

Someone else from my blogging circle (I can't remember who) asked about Seiche recently. His blog link is down. Does anybody know what's going on with him? Is he OK? I always enjoy reading his posts and I hope he's just taking a break and will be back.

I also miss Wolfgang, who has been so busy lately with work. I hope he is doing OK.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Show Josie some love, please

I am so behind on my blog reading that I had completely missed the recent happenings in Josie's life, specifically regarding her daughter. Josie and her daughter are going through a tough time the last few days. I want to dedicate this post to them and ask you to pay Josie a visit and show her some love, if you have not done so already.

Sleepy

I am still so relaxed and sleepy from my massage. Hmmmmm...

I am supposed to be following up on the feedback from this morning's meeting. And I will this afternoon, as soon as my mind finishes cooking up what I need to draft.

I am also awaiting the publication, scheduled for sometime today, of third quarter market figures from one of the analyst companies that tracks the industry I work for.

Lunchtime Therapy



Guess what I am treating myself to in about half an hour!!!

After the long and stressful day I had yesterday, this is just what I need to re-energize. This morning's meeting went well and I have a ton of action items. But I will slow down for one hour and allow someone else to take care of me and help me relax. I can't wait!

New Day

I am a little tired this morning. I went to bed around 11:45 PM last night. I woke up at 5:30 AM. I wish I could have slept more, but it could be worse. My presentation is ready. At 9:00 AM we meet with the SVP. My boss wants me to drive the review. I am understandably nervous, but I think the slides are good.

I am sitting here drinking coffee and listening to music, trying to achieve zen-like calm. In ten minutes I will start getting ready so I can get to the office early.

The girls spent the night at my in-laws. I called there a few minutes ago and they slept well and are getting ready for school/daycare.

Today is Fiction Friday, we'll see when I can get around to doing it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Frantic

It's work, what else?

Incredible stress, deadlines piling up, people pulling at me from all directions, having to do wonders with limited feedback, bracing myself for a face to face presentation to our SVP tomorrow, the first time I ever meet with him for a review.

I stopped for a second to breathe. I am thinking of people who are having a hard time also. JW's husband relapsed. There are people in California still at the mercy of the wildfire. And many more things that I can't even fathom because I have to go back to fixing other people's bullets.

The unbearable whiner

What is it with all the whining in this blog lately?

Looking back on the last few days of blogging, there has been so much complaining. I swear, most of the time I am quite easy going. I may not be as laid back as Gabriel, but certainly try to be very accommodating, very much in the spirit of making the best of things.

I did not have a good day at work yesterday. Deadlines have piled up and I don't have enough time to do everything perfectly. I got raked over the coals over some commentary bullets I prepared for an exec report. I got them done hurriedly because I had another priority, and I ended up spending my whole afternoon going back and forth with my boss editing it, and the slides were turned in late. Now I am behind on my other projects as well.

Like I said on my Three Word Wednesday entry from yesterday, I am longing for the wekend.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Three Word Wednesday- Longing


This week's words are:

Care
Unexpected
Weekend

Oh, how I dream of the upcoming weekend. I long to leave the stresses and frustrations of work behind for a couple of days, not a care in the world except volleyball games, grocery shopping and a good book or movie. I love it when the weekend unfolds unplanned, and we are free to take an unexpected turn on the road if we so desire.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tic tock

It is 2:10 PM on a Tuesday afternoon. I have quite busy this morning, but I can't shake this feeling that what I do is so inconsequential. I mean, I like it, for the most part. I enjoy making all these projections and getting all this data in a form that is palatable to users. But there are days when I wonder if I will ever be able to do something that will make me feel like I am contributing to the greater good.

In other news, I have been a naughty Ingrid. I ended up buying a camera. I have wanted a new one for the longest time, and I did not want another point and shoot camera. When I was younger I took some photography lessons, although most of it is forgotten and was irrelevant anyway, being related to 35mm film development. I will have to train myself on photographic techniques, aperture, shutter speeds, etc.
I wanted a new camera so I could go around and take unexpected pictures, then write words to accompany the images. I would love to have a collection of images that are incongrous to their location. I want to write stories and have pictures to either support them or antagonize them.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's Monday and, as usual, it sucks

Blah. It's raining and that is quite possibly the highlight of the morning. I woke up in pain. Last night I had to do a breathing treatment before bedtime. This morning I woke up with my left side all sore. I don't know if it's muscular or something else.

I am in a grouchy mood. I don't feel well. I don't want to go to work today. But I have to, unfortunately. There's important stuff to review today. We have to chase people and get them to answer questions that they resent being asked.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What I am doing with a little bit of spare money

The other day our company stock went up and I took the opportunity to sell some stock options I had. It was only a very small amount, but when all was said and done I had a couple thousand spare dollars in my hands. I have dedicated this spare money, to improvements around the house. This is what I have done with them so far:

1- Bought ceiling fans for the master bedroom, the living room/TV room, and Paula's bedroom. Someone will be coming next week to install them. The installation is about as costly as the fans, but at Lowe's they gave me a 10% discount on the cost of the fans, because I asked. Total cost: $650

2- Bought replacement water filters for our refrigerator, plus a new shelf to replace the one Gabe broke last year. Total Cost: $175.

3- Bought new trash disposal to replace the one that's been dead for almost a year now. With installation, taxes and everything, it came to $275.

4- The A/C guy is coming back next Wednesday and to make some repairs and improvements. We are also buying a one year maintenance contract. Total cost: $500.

I have very little money left, and I am kinda bummed out because I wanted a new camera, possibly a digital SLR. I can't buy one with what I have left, it's not enough. But I'll survive.

Sunday Scribblings- Queen of the World?


This week's prompt is: "My first act as Queen/ King of the World will be..."

I am completely uninspired by this prompt. I don't want to be queen of the world. I don't want to live in a world that has a queen or king. I don't like the world we live in, it's far from perfect. It's downright horrible at times. But having a queen up in her ivory tower issuing orders is not going to fix things. I don't want to be a queen, reveling in my riches while millions live in subhuman conditions. I don't want to be a queen, holding fancy dinner parties and eating off the Royal China while there are people sick and starving all over the world. I don't want to parade in my carriage, all regal and superior while there are people stuck in poverty all their lives, kept there by the very structures that keep me up. I don't want to give addresses speaking against injustice in generic terms, turning a blind eye while my own people, and my friends and allies, rape and pillage everywhere they can.

No, thanks. I don't want to be queen. I am not interested.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fiction Friday- Snapshot



This week's challenge: what happens when a character, while cleaning out a house before moving out, finds a roll of film?


SNAPSHOT


She was alone when she packed up their belongings. He had been her only family for the last ten years. And now, no more.

She had always hated that house, so big, so full of clutter. Now that he was gone, the weight of everything left unsaid threatened to crush her. Living there had become so unbearable that she decided to move to an apartment and put the house on the market.

As she was emptying his sock drawer into a trash bag, she felt something rattling inside. A roll of film. Her heart raced. She could make a quick run to the nearest Walgreen's and get it developed in one hour. But would she be ready to face whatever was in it? Did she want to? Hadn't she suffered enough already?

Curiosity won over her trepidation. An hour and fiteen minutes later, she walked out of the neighborhood drugstore slowly, clutching the little carboard pouch. She sat in her car, took a deep breath and took the pictures out.

From the pictures she realized it was an old roll; no wonder they could only develop a handful of prints. An old roll from olden times. She stared at a younger version of herself, smiling, glowing, her belly massive, almost full term. She looked at him, his arm around her shoulders, protective, proud. It was possibly the last time she had smiled, the last time they were so close.

She had expected to see proof of his deceitful nature, of his cheating dog ways. Perhaps pictures of his divorced colleague, from one of the various business trips they took together. Possibly racy pictures of the young and sassy college interns he was so fond of mentoring, who kept calling the house weeks after he was gone. Maybe pictures of the woman he had secretly been seeing for the past year, and for whom he left her. She had been ready for anything, except that, the photos a reminder of all that they lost. How perverse of him to leave that behind.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Update: Full results?

Ok, it seems that the results of the poll are back on. We do have a tie, folks!

Physical Attraction 4 (23%)
Sense of Humor 4 (23%)
Financial success 1 (5%)
Intelligence 4 (23%)
Capacity for Empathy 4 (23%)
Age 0 (0%)
Health 0 (0%)

Votes so far: 17
Poll closed

The poll is closed, but something is funky

The poll I was running is now closed, but something seems to have happened yesterday with Google, and a whole bunch of votes were wiped out. I got as many as 15 votes, and now only 6 are counted.

When I last looked at the poll, Physical Attraction, Sense of humor and Intelligence were tied with 4 votes each. Next was Capacity for Empathy, with 3 votes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Syndromania

Syndromes. Chances are you suffer from one or more of them. These days there are labels for practically everything under the sun.

Do you compulsively pick the skin of your fingers and bite your fingernails? Perhaps you suffer from dermatillomania and/or onycophagia.

Do you get so angry that you explode sometimes in episodes of rage? Do you throw or break stuff when you are angry? You might suffer from intermittent explosive disorder.

Do you have trouble focusing at work? Are you a chronic procrastinator? Do you get bored easily and find it hard to pay attention when something is repetitive? Is your house a mess? Is your sink full of dirty dishes? A diagnosis of attention deficit disorder may be in store for you.

Do you feel intense sadness sometimes for no particular reason? Are you afflicted by feelings of dread? Do you have trouble sleeping at night? You may be clinically depressed.

Do you drink too much, smoke compulsively, use drugs? Are you a religious zealot? You could be suffering from addiction.

I could go on and on and on. Some of these labels have affected me personally. Others have touched friends or loved ones.

What is one to do? On the one hand, I think looking at some of this phenomena in a scientific light is an improvement over blaming everything on character flaws or considering that someone is lazy, indulgent, or a drama queen/king. On the other hand, I am not sure that the cure to all these problems is popping pills or looking for clues in one's past. There is also the danger of biological determinism, of people just giving up (it's genetic, why fight it?), embracing their labels and not working on overcoming whatever handicaps they have been dealt.

What do you guys think?

Three Word Wednesday- Tulips and Sequoias


This week's words are:

Field
Hide
Second

My mom used to have these beautiful books on gardening. When I was little I would love browsing through them. I have always dreamed of standing in a field full of tulips, ever since I saw pictures of these huge tulip fields in Holland in one of her books. The fields I dreamed of were vast and colorful, complete with a windmill.

Since I was little, I have also dreamt (sometimes literally) of seeing giant sequioas, trees so huge that you could hide behind one of their roots and go unnoticed. Someday I hope to have the opportunity to visit the silent giants. It is more likely that my second dream will come true than the first, since it is easier and more affordable for us to do a road trip to California one summer than it is to travel to Europe. But I hold out hope that I can do both. I sure would love to see those tulips.

No sleep, no inspiration

Forgive me for just doing journal entries these days. Last night I had trouble sleeping, and I woke up so brain-fogged that I can't think of much this morning. It will get better as the day goes by, I'm sure. I am in good spirits, not upset or anything. Just tired.

Yesterday I made soup with two kinds of meat, potatoes and carrots, using sofrito and chicken broth. It came out yummy and we have leftovers, so guess what I am having for lunch today.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Heartbreak

More on the pet massacre, from El Nuevo Día newspaper.
The total animals killed was 80. The legal division of the island's Housing Department is investigating the incident to determine whether to press charges under the local Animal Protection Act of 2004. The private contractor, in the meantime, denies that the animals found under the bridge are the ones they confiscated. He says he has the bodies of the euthanized animals in his facility in San Juan. But many people are definitely not buying it. The following quote from a ten year-old girl broke my heart:

“Yo vi a los gatos míos en la jaula que los metieron. Y después los vi en la televisión, después que los tiraron por el puente. Me los mataron y yo los vi, eran los míos”

Thalía Pérez
residente de 10 años

Translated as: "I saw my cats in the cage they put them. And then I saw them on the television, after they were thrown off the bridge. They killed them and I saw them, they were mine."

It's a freaking mess. And why did this happen? It is one of those unfortunate cases where a moron lets power go to his head. On October 1st, the management of the public housing projects passed from the state government to the municipal government as part of a pilot program. I guess the town mayor decided he did not want pesky animals in the projects under his rule, even though neither state nor federal laws prohibit residents from owning pets.

The mayor is trying to separate himself from the actions of the private contractor, and threatening to sue them because the incident is ruining the public image of his municipality, but he should not be let off the hook. If he had not tried to unilaterally obliterate the residents' right to have pets, none of this would have happened. If the local government officials and the private contractors had not coerced the residents into handing over their pets by threatening them with eviction, none of this would have happened.


CNN -http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/10/12/puerto.rico.pet.massacre.ap/

BCC- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7042792.stm

Puerto Rico Pet Massacre

My mom sent me the link to this news item this morning. I was horrified by what I read and by the fact that this is the kind of story about us that makes the international news.

This story is not only about animal abuse, but it is also about abuse of the poor. And it makes me sad. I doubt very much that something like this could have been done to people in a more affluent community.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Jobs


The prompt for this week's Sunday Scribblings was jobs: first job, worst job, dream job.

As I have said before on my blog, I have a career by accident. To me jobs have always been that which you do to get money so you can live, and also to get out of the house so you don't wind up climbing up the walls. If I was domestically inclined and we could afford it, maybe I would be a homemaker. But I am a terrible housekeeper, and I like to have money of my own, so that is out of the question.

1- First job: When I as little, my parents had a small store where I worked. To me that did not really count as a job. My first real job was at 16, a summer job at the Berwind branch of the Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito Manuel Zeno Gandía. I was an office clerk, doing a lot of filing for the most part. I was paid very little, but I loved it.

2- Worst job: My worst job lasted about three or four months, I think. I worked as a secretary for this software developer guy who was a total douche. He was a terrible administrator of his business and had zero people skills. He was downright abusive to his employees when he was in the office, which was not very often. Once he called me into his office excitedly. "Mira lo que te tengo aquí" (look what I got for you here), he said. What he had was a complete mess of folders and papers strewn all over the floor in his office. Obviously the dude had been looking for something and felt the urge to throw all his shit on the floor. And who better to pick it up than his secretary?

The same guy had the nerve to call me into his office to falsely accuse me of spending all my day making personal calls on the office phone. If he even remotely paid attention, he would know I am most certainly not a phone-chatting person. He was stressed out and cranky about who knows what, and decided to take it out on me. I am pretty conciliatory in life and mindful of keeping on the good side of bosses. When you need the money you learn to be. But this time I could not take it. The boss was full of shit and I was not going to admit to something that was downright untrue. So I called his bluff and said he was wrong. He said "what kind of a world we live in when a man can't call his secretary into his office and scold her?" I told him I was quitting, grabbed my purse and walked out. I had never before done something like that, and I have never again had the need to do it again. It felt so good, putting that jerk in his place. It felt even better when his second in command kept calling me begging me to come back to work. But there was no way in hell I was going back to that dump.

3- Dream job: I don't have ONE dream job, although there are quite a few things that I would love to do. For instance, I would love to be a software tester, a super user, the kind of person who is given software in development to play with it, figure it out, find the bugs and kinks and report on ease of use and other factors. I would also love to be a freelance writer of short stories. One that I would love to do in the future, maybe as a volunteer if time permits, is to be an interpreter/patient advocate for Spanish-speaking hospital patients and their families who do not speak English. Years ago, when I lived in Wisconsin, I once volunteered in this capacity and I would like to have the opportunity to do it again someday.



READERS: Please answer my highly unscientific poll (see right-hand menu). Pretty please?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Non-fiction Friday- Non-sentimental ending



Here’s this week’s challenge:
Use this quote as the spark for anything you want.

“I’m not one for sentimental endings. Not this time.”


I have written before about a non-sentimental ending in my life. When it comes to the end of romantic relationships, there is always going to be some emotion involved, obviously. But being sad about an ending and being sentimental about it are not the same thing. You may not agree, but to me being sentimental is giving up power. When people are sentimental they usually idealize the other person and give their ghost (or their memory, if you'd like) a power over them that they do not deserve to have.

In the particular case I wrote about before, you could say I had been addicted to this person over the summer we dated. I was all by myself that summer because my daughter was in Puerto Rico, so my days all revolved around him. But that candle burned so fast that in the end there was nothing left and I had no desire to delude myself. Once I was done crying, instead of waxing sentimental about our summer of unbridled love, I decided to look at the unadorned truth. And I did not like what I saw. I saw an older man who wanted a younger woman at his beck and call; sexist, racist, an alcoholic. And I saw myself as he had seen me, a hot tamale who had become less fun and carefree once her daughter came back into the picture.

Because I was tired of the whole crying breakup thing, I decided to get incontrovertible proof that the guy was a scoundrel and in no way sad and mourning the demise of our ill-timed relationship, as he had tried to make it seem on one of his e-mails. When I posted my fake Yahoo Personals ad, I knew exactly what to say. My character was Latina, single, no kids, mid-thirties, looking for a good time and no ties. There was one other detail that I knew would catch his attention. The woman did not like intellectuals or people who put on airs. Hook, line and sinker, hello!

You might say that was devious and that laying a trap was not fair. Phooey, I say. If he was really so despondent, what the hell was he doing perusing the personals just days after our split? Why would he be propositioning Latina Hottie the same day her ad came out, asking for a face-to-face meeting and inquiring if she would be willing to drop everything at a moment's notice if he wanted to take a last-minute trip?

The response I got to my fake ad wasn't a boost to my ego, but it proved what I knew all along. I was interchangeable to him. Three days after our breakup he was already looking for his substitute exotic chick, only without the inconveniences of a child and a strong temper. It made me wonder who came before me, whom did I substitute?

Sometimes the truth is hard to digest. But I wanted it that way.



READERS: Please answer my highly unscientific poll (see right-hand menu). Pretty please?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Please participate in my new poll

I just started a poll. It is posted on the right-hand column. This poll is not scientific at all. I am just curious to see what people perceive as the most important quality in a potential partner. Would you humor me and answer it?

Random thoughts

The boundaries between the sane and the insane are not as as clearly delimited as most people would like to believe. Many times, people's capacity for impulse control and keeping the appearance of normality make the difference between being labeled mentally ill and just being stressed out or overwhelmed.

The term insane has been traditionally used to ascribe negative value and condemn that which is different from established social norms. Established social norms are not monolithic. They vary depending on the place and evolve throughout history.

Josie's questions


My friend and fellow blogger, Josie, has started a feature called "One Question Wednesday." Every Wednesday she will answer questions posed by her readers. For every question you ask Josie, she gets to ask one question in return. This is what she asked me yesterday:

Here's your One Question Wednesday question.... "If you had it to do over again, would you move so far away from home.... if your husband spoke Spanish would you try to talk him into relocating to Puerto Rico?" (I'm awarding myself a related bonus question, feel free to send me another too, if you want. :-) "What things do you miss most about Puerto Rico, what things do you like best about the US?

Below are my answers:

1- If you had to do it over again, would you move so far away from home? Absolutely. No doubt. You gotta go where life takes you. And in the grand scheme of things, Texas and Puerto Rico are not that terribly far from each other.

2- If your husband spoke Spanish would you try to talk him into relocating to Puerto Rico? Yes. But conditions would have to be right for that kind of move. I don't see the situation back home improving any time soon. And not only would Gabe need to learn Spanish, he would need to pass the local bar. On the other hand, right now he could practice locally at the Federal Court level if he wanted to.

3- What things do you miss most about Puerto Rico, what things do you like best about the US? I miss the ocean, I miss the mountains. I miss speaking Spanish every day, everywhere (Texas has a lot of Spanish speakers, but it is not the same). I miss the Caribbean flavor of my culture. I miss the playful sense of humor and the warmth. I miss the song of the coqui frog. I miss the food. More than anything, I miss my family. I don't miss the overcrowded conditions, the traffic, the local politics, the constant fear I lived in, the crappy salaries and lack of good jobs, the inefficient and bureaucratic government, the lack of foresight regarding economic development, and the dependency on the US.

As for what I like about being here, I like the fact that I have a good job with a good salary and benefits. I found my love here, and have a chance at having a family again. I like that I have met people from so many different countries since I have been living here. I like that my daughter can go to public school here and get a decent education. I like the pride of place that Texans have, I can see the similarity with Puerto Ricans' pride and love for our island. I like that most people here have been friendly to me, not rude. I like driving fast on the big, wide roads that just keep going and going. I like doing road trips and visiting beautiful places. What I don't like about here: the extreme individualism to the detriment of others; the rabid religious fanatism; the intolerance towards that which is different or not mainstream; the political direction this country has taken; the ignorance of some people regarding Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

FSM




I may have finally found my faith, y'all!

Three Word Wednesday-Random Thoughts




This week's words are:

Initial
Knock
Weather

Random thoughts


1- On names: Just the other day Gabe and I were talking about names, how amazing it is that our names become such an integral part of our identity. We infuse them with such meaning and turn them into something unique, despite sharing them with thousands, maybe millions of similarly-named folks. This reflection was prompted by watching our 2 and half year old and marveling at how, from an early age, she already appropriated her name with such authority. We play with her sometimes and ask her silly stuff like "are you a banana?" or "are you a kitty cat?"; she invariably answers "nooo, I'm Isabel."

Do people feel the same bond to their middle names? I know there are people who ignore their first name altogether, and use their middle name as their anchor. When I was in middle school I has a classmate who was one of six sisters. The sisters all shared the same first name, which was their mother's name as well. Not surprisingly, they all went by their middle name. Similarly, my ex went by his middle name because he did not like his first name, which was unconventional by modern standards, and which he shared with his grandfather.

These instances are understandable. I wonder, how many people are there who feel a strong bond to both first name and middle name? Other than combo names, like John Henry or Ana Maria, where this would be expected, I suspect not many people are as bonded to their middle name as to their first name. But maybe I am biased by my own experience. I have never identified with my middle name. I only use my middle initial on rare occasions and for official documents.

2- Knock on wood: When I was a kid, I used to play "toco palo" or "al esconder" with my neighbors. Sometimes home would be an actual "palo" (tree), sometimes it would be a light pole. I never would have made a connection between the phrase "knock on wood" and my childhood game of tag. Wikipedia suggests there might be a relationship:

It is commonly thought that knocking on wood has been a superstitious action to ward off evil throughout history. Some believe it has to do with knocking on the wooden cross. Another explanation for this practice is the pagan belief that spirits (dryads) lived in trees. By knocking on the wood of a tree while making some sort of a bold statement, the speaker could prevent the spirit from hearing him and stop the spirit from interfering.

However, there is no evidence for either theory, and the superstitions have not been traced beyond children's games of tag of the early nineteenth century. According to Steve Roud, the earliest documented references to "touching wood" are from 1805 and 1828 and concern chasing games like "Tiggy-touch-wood", where you are safe from being "tagged" if you "touch wood". Says Roud, "'Tiggy-touch-wood' was an extremely well-known game, and it is most likely that the phrase passed into everyday language."


I like better the pagan belief as possible origin of the phrase. I can see my superstitious side knocking trees to keep mischievous spirits from ruining my plans.


3- Hurricanes: We are not off the hook until November, but despite a very active early hurricane season, things seemed to have calmed down. Let us hope the weather continues to be benign until the season is over. I would knock on wood right now, but I doubt that the spirit of the IKEA Kids green chair next to me is listening.

Meh

Yesterday I was reading a post on Freakonomics and it depressed me. Not the quoted Craigslist ad from the so-called gold-digger, but the answer from the supposed investor, and especially some of the comments and reader postulations that followed the thread. Reading several of these got me in a funk. Some of the comments belied such a transactional view of marriage that it just sickened me. And the sexism that was so rampant in a lot of the comments made by males apalled me.

The glass


Hey, Wikipedia:

Seeing the glass as half-full doesn't automatically make me an optimist...





Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tu recuerdo

Reader and fellow Carolina, PR native, Enid, left a comment on my recent post about Chambao's Pokito a poko song, telling me about Ricky Martin's song Tu recuerdo, a duet with the singer from Chambao. Diligently, I got the song and listened to it.

I was a bit skeptical at first because I have not been enamored of Ricky Martin's stuff after the time of Vuelve. The whole English language, Vida Loca/She Bangs period was just strange. But I gave the song a try because Enid said it combined different musical styles. Since last Saturday I have been listening to it obsessively. The song is good, but I know that what gets me more than anything else is the sound of the Puerto Rican cuatro. At times, as I listened to it tears rolled down my cheeks and my thoughts would take me back to one of my favorite places in the word, the area around the Puerta de San Juan, the beautiful song of our national instrument definitely striking a chord (pun intended) and making me long for home.


Snow

Growing up in the Caribbean, the concept of snow was totally alien to me, something you only saw on movies or Christmas cards. By the time I was born, in the late sixties, Doña Fela's stunt of bringing in a plane full of snow and dumping it on the Parque Muñoz Rivera for the kids was a distant memory. I sometimes wished I had been around for that.

In 1993, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and experienced first hand the White Christmas that I had been hearing about throughout my childhood. Nobody had ever mentioned to me that snow melts and refreezes, that it gets dirty, that it is so freaking cold.

I hated it with a passion.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Monday mood

I was rather down this morning, for no particular reason other than the ostensible "it's Monday."

Despite the mood, I got dressed and went to work. The day went by fine, a little slow at times.

I am home now, exhausted. Paula is in volleyball practice. Isabel is walking around with her teddy bear. Gabe is as exhausted as I am. Just another day.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Casting

When they called everybody with a disease to the front, I pondered and decided to go. I suffered from recurrent UTI's and was not sure that would qualify as a big enough disease for the healer to pay attention to, but I wanted so badly to feel God's presence, to have somebody show me the way. I was twelve years old at the time, on my first ever church retreat.

They made us stand in line, facing forward. The healer would move from each person to the next. He laid his hands on them, his booming voice invoking God's infinite power to channel through him and heal the wretched. People erupted in sobs and loud moans. Some fell to their knees, quivering in ecstasy.

I remembered seeing scenes like that before, when I was five and my neighbor took me to their Pentecostal church to perform a singing number we kids from down the street had been rehearsing for weeks in my neighbor's informal biblical school.

En la escuelita bíblica yo aprendí
que Jesucristo murió en la cruz...


My friend Denise and I stood backstage waiting for our turn while the service took place. At some point my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to take peek through the side door. It was not often that I had a chance to attend a church, much less a non-Catholic one. I was not prepared for what I saw. There were people wailing, screaming at the top of their lungs, jumping up and down the aisles, yelling words I had never heard before. Stunned and fearful, I refused to take part in our group's singing number. The ride back home was spent in silence.

The church's antics went unexplained. Our neighbor did not even address the matter and my mom shrugged off the whole incident. I never went back to my neighbor's biblical school.

Now I had a preacher standing in front of me, spewing rapid-fire invocations, laying the trinity of his index, middle and ring fingers on my forehead. In the short interval between him touching me and pronouncing me healed in the name of the Holy Spirit, I waited for the rapture that never came. Nothing felt different, I was not healed, my cup was not filled by the Lord.

While I tried to hide my disappointment, the preacher sensed that I needed encouragement, so he applied pressure on my forehead, pushing my head back while increasing the volume of his litany of praise. How could he expect me to fall to my knees? Did he not notice that Jehova had decided to pass on my miracle? I pushed forward, annoyed. He increased his pressure, but I did not budge. I lifted my head and looked him in the eyes. He held my gaze, briefly, before taking his hand off me and moving on to the next person in line. As soon as he touched her, she collapsed on the floor screaming, generously offering what I had been incapable of giving.

While the rest of the faithful joined in a tight circle around the girl with the demon inside, I hung my face down and slowly made my way out the chapel door.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Hearing voices

My computer talked back to me today, in my voice. It was strange. The voice she used is mine, no doubt, as I had just fed her the first series of notes I have recorded the last couple of days. My English voice was OK, cringe-inducing but familiar to me, having listened to its litany on my various phones (office, home and cell). But upon hearing my Spanish notes, it was obvious that something was definitely off. The rythym was all wrong. What was thrown back at me was not the cadence of a Puerto Rican's voice. Instead of the familiar quickfire singsong, a slow-paced, strange staccato hybrid of Colombian, Peruvian, Costa Rican and Chilean accents greeted me. At first I thought some kind of perverse Univision prankster hacked into my computer and rerecorded my notes in a network-generic accent, but after listening to them a couple more times I realized the disembodied voice was mine, albeit different. Ack!

Until recently I have worked in the Latin America division of my employer. Of my 10 years in the company, 7 of them have been spent in Houston in the company of a regional team that is composed of multiple Latin American nationalities, speaking frequently with contacts throughout the whole region. Obviously that has had an effect on me. Or maybe I have been away from the island for too long. The last time I visited was Christmas 2005.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Non-fiction Friday- Chequi Morena



This week's challenge was: use the first line of a nursery rhyme (your choice) to start your own story.

My entry this week is non-fiction.

El juez le dijo al cura ¡curita!
El cura le dijo al juez ¿qué, juez?
¿Que a donde está ese rimo, caramba
del merecumbé?

Chequi morena, chequi
Chequi morena, ué
¿Que a donde está ese rimo, caramba
del merecumbé?


Un pasito a'lante
y otro para atrás
Y dando la vuelta
y dando la vuelta
¿Quién se quedará, ué?


When I was little I loved to sing and play chequi morena. At school during recess we got together and made a circle. One girl stood in the middle of the circle and danced while the others sang and clapped. Then she would close her eyes and twirl with the finger pointing forward. Once she stopped, whoever she was pointing at would take her place in the circle. In my school we were not that many kids, so boys and girls played together. It was funny whenever a boy was it.

Being chosen to be in the center was always a source of excitement and embarrassment to me. I absolutely loved standing in the center and shaking it, but I also dreaded being perceived as a goofy dork. In the end the excitement always won over the self-consciousness. Among playground song games, chequi morena was my favorite.

At the time I wasn't entirely sure what the words I was singing meant or what exactly did they have to do with the game. Now I know that chequi morena was Caribbean Spanish for shake it, morena (morena being a dark-skinned woman), and that I was pronouncing rimo in error, the correct word being ritmo, or rythym. What rythym was that? The merecumbé, which is a combination of merengue (Dominican Republic) and cumbia (Colombia). At the time I did not know that either. I thought the Merecumbé was some faraway country.

To me the rimo del Merecumbé alluded to in the song was some kind of mythical, cattle-like creature that was lost. The priest and judge of the song sure seemed to be keen on finding the rimo, so it must have been quite an important animal, I thought.


http://www.solycanto.com/lyrics.htm#chequi

http://www.padresaldia.com/tradicion/juegos_content.html

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Houston Race for the Cure

This Saturday is the Houston Komen Race for the Cure. This will be my second year doing the race, in celebration of my mom's triumph over breast cancer. My friend Amanda is also doing the 5K, so we are meeting that morning and doing it together.

I committed to raise $100 and thanks to the generosity of friends, I have exceeded that amount. If you wish to make a donation to support breast cancer research, you can go here.

Capturing my thoughts

Well, I did it. Following the advice of various of my commenters, I finally broke down and bought myself a voice recorder so I can record all the ideas that come into my head while I am in the car or otherwise unable to write them down.

It's a digital voice recorder (no tape, yay!) with more minutes available than I will ever need. It can be connected to the computer using a USB cable, which means I can transfer my recordings to my hard drive. It's easy to use and pretty cool. I have used it a couple of times this morning. I am glad I did, as I have already forgotten most of the thoughts and ideas I recorded, and those I still remember seem to be inside my head because I expressed them in words earlier.

Now I have no excuses. I can't complain that I come up with great ideas only to forget them because I have nowhere to write them down.

In other attempted writing news, I just signed up for this year's NaNoWriMo challenge. I am a little hesitant in doing so, as last year I joined and was not able to finish. But I got nothing to lose really, and I feel it's better to try and fail than to not even try.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Three Word Wednesday



This week's words are:

Feather
Misplaced
Useless

I will continue the word association mode that worked a few posts back.

Feather: Many things come to mind when I think of the word feather. I think first of cheap and tacky feather dusters with hot pink feathers, such as we used when I was a kid and our family owned a little store at the local mall. I miss our little store. We had to close it because business was not going well, but we spent many happy days there and it was one of the things that kept us together as a family. Then I think of beautiful writing instruments, and classic works written using quills. The first one that comes to mind is Don Quijote de la Mancha, and the classic portrait of Miguel de Cervantes with that elaborate white collar around his neck. Last, I think of peacocks. When I graduated from elementary school in sixth grade, we had our ceremony at the Caribe Hilton Hotel. Back then they used to have a couple of peacocks roaming the grounds of the hotel. I was fascinated and spent quite some time trailing them. I was the valedictorian of my sixth grade class, if there is such a thing. My grandma helped me write my speech for graduation day. I miss my grandma, she was such an awesome human being. I think the older I get, the more I am longing for my childhood past. But I digress.

Misplaced: Everything in my house is misplaced or gets misplaced at one time or another. I live in a chaos of clutter. It drives me nuts, especially all the papers and junk mail that accumulates. How I long to just have it gone from my life. Thanks to Three Word Wednesday, that may just be in the cards. I just went to the Direct Marketers Association website and filled out an online form to stop all this junk mail from coming to my house.

Useless: This is an embarassing confession. The most useless piece of equipment that I have ever bought was an Ab Energizer I bought off HSN in 2001. I can't believe I still consider myself an intelligent human being when I fell for such a load of crapola, but I guess everybody wants to believe in quick, easy fixes despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary. It turns out that the FTC sued the makers of the Ab Energizer for false advertising and got a $2 Million settlement, of which $1.4 M were for "customer redress". It's funny, but I have not gotten any compensation yet. I guess I have only myself to blame. Sucker!

Blah Days


Most days I like to think that life is worth living, that no matter what crap we are subjected to by scumbags public and private, walking this earth and having the chance to live and love is a wonderful gift. On days like that I believe in the potential for change and improvement, and dream of an utopian future where we have conquered many of the inequities and injustices that plague our modern societies. Yeah, I know, I think I may have watched too many Star Treck: The Next Generation reruns.

Then there are days like today, when I am neither happy nor sad, mainly bored and apathetic. On days like this I notice pain and suffering in my fellow bloggers' posts, and I feel powerless to help. How I wish sometimes that I could swiftly wipe away their problems with a blink of my eyes or a wiggle of my nose.

Among the family deaths, suicidal confessions and the people being kicked while they are down, there is one piece of good news from my friend and fellow poster Shannon. Not everything sucks, at least.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Books

Yesterday I was drawing a complete blank, so I skipped posting on the blog, which is uncommon for me nowadays. But I am back, thanks to getting tagged by the amazing MPJ at A Room of Mama's Own. If it wasn't for this book meme, I would have a hard time getting started on the blog this morning. The meme asks for my total number of books, the last book I read, the last book I bought, and five books that are meaningful to me. One of my early posts was about books, so I will link to it here for reference. The answers may vary, mostly because that first post left out my favorite books in Spanish.

Total number of books?

I have not counted them, but we have a whole wall of bookshelves in our library/home office. Between Gabriel and I, we own somewhere between 1,000 to 1,100 books, not counting the children's books. Throughout my life I have gotten rid of many books due to moves and other life changes. Most of them stayed behind at my childhood home or ended up as donations to the library of my Alma mater. Sometimes I feel like a good purge is in order now, as there are lots of books that I have not read and that I do not think I ever will.

Last book read?

The last book that I remember reading in full is Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. I know I have started many books since I finished that one, and I have at least finished reading one, but it must have been pretty forgettable because I can't even recall the title or what was it about. I hope that's not a sign of early senility on my part.

Gilbert's book is really, really good. Although the title might suggest a self-help manual, the book is anything but. In fact, some of his findings/thesis are counter intuitive to what most regular folks (like me) would accept as common sense.

Last book bought?

I have been busy buying books lately. The latest I have bought are:

The Dew Breaker, Edwige Danticat
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein

Five meaningful books?

I can't mention just five! These books were all important to me, for various reasons:

  • Cat's Eye, by Margaret Atwood. This is one of my favorite books, period. I read it at the right place and right time, and it's stayed with me for years. Long before it was even discussed in the mainstream, her depiction of childhood friendship dynamics and the awful, cruel things that little girls do to each other was dead on.
  • Short stories by Julio Cortazar, in various books. Specifically the stories in Bestiario, Final de juego, Las armas secretas, Todos los fuegos el fuego and Octaedro. It is hard for me to say specifically which book I would favor over the others, because all of them are impeccable and excellent. I have not reread his stuff in years, but Cortazar is my favorite author. When I was in college and writing short stories, he was definitely an influence. For English readers interested, I would recommend the anthology Blow-up and Other Stories.
  • Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges. Borges has been called one of the greatest short story writers and I agree completely. He also was an influence on me when I was writing in college (not that anything I did could even remotely compare). To see an English translation, click here.
  • Dry, by Augusten Burroughs. Burroughs writes very well. This memoir of his time in rehab for alcoholism manages to take readers to the pit of his despair with spurts of humor along the way.
  • La guaracha del macho Camacho, by Luis Rafael Sanchez. Luis Rafael is one of the most famous Puerto Rican writers, and the fame is well deserved. This book showed me what we are capable of. It was a radical departure from the stuffy Puerto Rican literary canon we had been taught in school. The link I include is to an English translation.
  • Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer. This book haunted me long after I finished reading it, and was the first in a line of books I have read on failed Artic/Antartic expeditions, the Galveston hurricane of 1900, the true story on which Moby Dick is based, and various books on sea storms. I have a very specific inclination towards stories that highlight man's attempts to prevail over nature, and nature's ultimate supremacy over us.
  • In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez. This novel is based on the real-life story of the Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic, members of a resistance movement during the last days of the Trujillo dictatorship. I think someone tried to make a movie of it and it was awful. I deliberately avoided watching it. This book is beautifully written, sad and inspiring at the same time.

I will not tag anybody at the moment, but if you are interested, feel free to take up the meme and let me know, so I can check out your blog.