Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I heart Christmas

I put up my in-laws' Christmas tree, I guess none of them like to do it. It reminded me of all the happy times I've had with my family putting ours up and decorating it together. Yeah, we never made popcorn and strung it up, but it was pretty homespun nonetheless. I'm pretty sure our tree topped is STILL the paper plate angel my brother or I made in kindergarten, complete with pipe cleaner halo. And most of the ornaments on the tree are handmade by us or by friends, or at least have a story behind them. It will never grace the cover of Martha Stewart (school project ornaments rarely follow a consistent color scheme), but it's a happy catalog of years of Christmases together, strung up alongside each other, hodgepodge and cozy.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

New Life

Very dear friends of ours just had a baby a few days ago, and we were lucky enough to be able to go see her when she was less than 24 hours old. She was a c-section baby, so she was absolutely perfect and probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. I've heard so much about the "miracle of life" that it was one of those things that became a cliche to me before I ever got to see what they were talking about. Seriously? I can't think of a better way to describe it. Just walking through the maternity ward, I thought of all the little people in the rooms who weren't on this planet a day, or several hours before. Families growing larger, hopefully embracing and loving these new little beings. They are so tiny and fragile, such a tabula raza. No sin or worry wrinkling their little brows, just sleeping and eating.

And how could such a perfect little thing have formed inside my friend? It just blows my mind. I mean, we are so complex, and yet it all managed to get put together well enough in nine months that it came out as a human being? Amazing.

Mom and baby are both doing very well and got to go home only after a few days. We'll get to go see them again wehn we come back from our trip to Reno. She'll be well over two weeks old by then! Sheesh. I don't know if I'll even recognize her!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What does it say about our country...

that we are willing to kill a man nominated three times for a Nobel Prize, once for a Nobel Peace Prize? Would Arnold have spared him if he had won? Don't know how I feel about Tookie, but this whole thing makes me sick and has put me strongly in the anti-death penalty camp, whre I was on the fence before. Who else would we be willing to put to death? What if Mother Teresa had committed a terrible sin before she became who she became? A bit extreme, maybe, but really? Where do we draw the line?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Culture at Social Security

I had to go to the friendly local SS office today to help another student, and the hour and a half we sat there provided the opportunity for some amazing socio-cultural observations. First, it appeared that the more affluent/educated (and white) people made appointments, and therefore did not have to wait until their number was called. Rather, they had their names called and only had to wait a fraction of the time of we of the rabble. Of course, they still had to wait a while, but not nearly as long as the rest of us.

The exceptions, those who looked higher class but did not make an appointment, were the only ones who ever vocally expressed frustration and irritation at the process. One Lycra-legginged came in, apparently after missing her number being called, and complained rather bitterly about how she had been here twice already today and done all the errands she could do, now couldn't she just drop off her original birth certificate? Umm, lady? We've all been sitting here patiently and I'm sure we all have better things to be doing too, but we're smart enough to know that the Social Security Office is well aware that they are far more powerful than pretty much any single American, so sorry, but you're just gonna have to pull another number. Why not try actually WAITING this time!

Other observations were more cultural than economic. I was there with a female Japanese student, who is pretty in the way that most 20-ish Japanese women are. This man, who was definitely there to get his SS check, so he was no spring chicken, kept looking at her and not in a friendly way. He was downright creepy. There was a moment when I was distracted by a Spanish-speaking mother asking me for help (more on her later), and while I was looking away, Creepy Man used the chance to start a conversation with my friend. Umm, if your conversation wasn't creepy, why not talk to her when I was paying attention? Yeah, because you knew how creepy and dirty your intentions were. I could just see the thoughts going through his mind: "innocent, pure Japanese woman" and all the horrible steroeotypes/fantasies dirty old white men have around that ideal. Yuck! I'm not sure if she understood what was going on, but I'm glad I was there for her.

So the Spanish-speaking mother I mentioned was the cutest thing ever. She was MAYBE five feet tall, looked like she could have passed for a very young teenager, or less, and had two adorably chubby-cheeked little boys with her (the only reason I thought she was older than 12). She stood in a corner by the door for a while, didn't take a number or anything, and didn't make any indication of needing help. After a while, I heard her say something in Spanish about knowing Spanish (to me, closest person to her). I told her I could speak a little and told her she needed to take a number and fill out this form. She said she would go to her car and fill it out (I think), but my Spanish wasn't good enough to understand more than that.

While she was in the car, another vaguely Hispanic looking couple with a little boy came in. They were clearly more well-to-do, their little boy wearing an adorable mini shearling jacket and tiny boots. We smiled at them and the little boy, as he managed to spit out more of the apple slice that he was eating than he actually ate. They were attractive, young and middle class. When the other woman with her two boys came back in, I asked her if everything was fine, and she said "No," and then something I couldn't understand. I turned to the other Hispanic couple and asked if they spoke Spanish. They said yes, and she went over to sit next to them. What happened next, I never could have predicted.

I presume the young mother had her question answered, but I couldn't tell for sure, since I don't think they spoke more than five words to one another. Oh, the middle-class mother seemed nice enough to her, but I could sense the waves of discomfort. Could it be that these people thought they had worked hard enough to not be mistaken for one of "them"? The young mother and her boys were clean and dressed neatly, but not stylishly. Her lack of English strongly suggested a recent immigration, or at least a lack of assimilation. Or could it be old country prejudices? The middle class couple looked like they might have had more Spanish in them, lean faces and light skin. The young mother and her sons were much rounder and definitely darker. It was easy to imagine them coming from a remote village or at least being predominantly Indian or mestizo.

For the time we remained sitting across form this cultural divide, the middle-class woman either didn't meet my eye like before, or she sent me uncomfortable glances, since I was the one who put her in that position. I never meant to imply anything about them or what I thought of them; all I knew is that my Spanish wasn't going to be able to help this woman through the maze of Social Security, and if someone had a better command of the language, they would better be able to help her.

Thankfully, we got through it all, my friend got her SS card, and it only toook us an hour and a half! I can't wait for the day I have to go to change my name to my new married name. Sheesh, is it worth it?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Reduced to talking about the weather

Not really, but I am going to talk about it. It's just been pretty crazy here! So I so wasn't exaggerating the winds last time. It really was bad. I'm glad we stayed inside and that our windows didn't break, we really thought they might and other obviously did.

The day after the winds calmed down, I walked to class and thought, "Hmm, the clouds kind of look like snow." So I went into my class in the basement, and when we came out an hour later, it looked like an inch of snow on the ground! For some unknown reason, I had it in my head that it only snows in the afternoon, so I was completely unprepared for this. It kept right on snowing until nighttime, and we probably ended up with at least a few inches of snow. Yes, it was beautiful, but that was the beginning of the damn Arctic cold front that's been freezing the country this week. Yeah, a high of 10? It definintely got below zero at night, I was so thankful for a roof and walls and our warm down blanket! I never went outside unless I was forced to do so. It's warmed up to almost 40 today, so I may once again venture outside my doors. I'm such a homebody sometimes! (I'll post the pic of our view of the snow when I get it uploaded. It is pretty, I will say that. But careful what you wish for!)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Breaking Wind

Wow! OK, I thought Reno was windy, but it doesn't hold a candle to the wind coming off the mountains here. It has been blowing so hard it literally is shaking the windows, and it's been blowing this hard since 3 AM today. I didn't sleep well last night because I would get woken up by the wind regularly, and when I woke up, I would be doing my Japanese morphology project in my sleep. How restful! The craziest part about the wind is that it doesn't stop. There might be a few minute lull here and there, but it's still blowing, just not as hard.

Some poor unfortunate left their laundry on the line. I was impressed by how long it magaged to stay on the line; they had some good clothespin skillz. But nothing could withstand this wind forever. We're pretty sure some of their clothes ended up lodged against the balcony of a second story apartment across from us, the rest was at the base of a fence for a while, but has since disappeared. Only one bright pink child's shirt managed to get wrapped around one of the lines and was the lone holdout, at least it was a few hours ago. A few brave kids were out in the courtyard, trying to catch the leaves swirling around in the baby tornado we've had out there for the past 10 hours. I was honestly afraid they would get blown over.

Peter and I ventured out to get the mail. We had to push against the wind to get there. I wore flip flops (because it's not like there's snow on the ground and it's literally a five minute round trip) and a down jacket (because I'm not a complete idiot!). By the time we got back (the aforementioned five minutes), I was pretty doggone cold. I'm glad we didn't have anywhere to go today and could just hibernate in our apartment.

I bought the tickets to go to Las Vegas and Reno for Christmas tonight, so that's good. They weren't even really that expensive, even though I am well into the 2-week lead time you normally have to have for a good fare. The way it is now, we chould have a nice amount of time in both places for both families. We may even be able to meet with some of our friends! I will never begrudge Reno its wind again!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Oh Man!

It's what, the fourth of December? So thanks to an error in my uploading, I'm maxed out for my bandwidth for the month for Flickr! That means I only made it four days into the month... D'oh! I really ought to get an upgrade. I mean, it's only $25 a year. But I need to be a good person and wait to see what our financial situation is going to be. I really want to quit the call center right now and not even make it to the time-and-a-half finals week, but I don't know if it's worth it. I didn't go yesterday and I'm scheduled to work the only nights this week that I don't have any meetings. Peter leaves on Friday, so I won't have another night free until after he's gone. I'm really tempted to just give my resignation now, since I don't even know how much of that lucrative week I'll really be able to work anyway. I'll ask Peter tomorrow and see if we can swing it. Thank God I got that other job! (The one I can't write on the internet about. Hush hush work, you know).

Just another week or so until I can go to Vegas myself and then home to Reno. Whoopee! I'm very excited about Christmas at home with the fam. I think it's going to be very nice. I just have to make it through the next few weeks...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

What I'm wishing for

Our View
Originally uploaded by shanbrite2.
I know I don't really like snow in general--harder to walk, crazier drivers, it has to be cold--but there is something about the wonderful hush that you can only get when it's snowing, even in the middle of a city, and it's a heck of a lot prettier than the naked trees everywhere now.

Reno didn't have as many trees, so I didn't notice it as much, but there are trees everywhere here and since fall is pretty much over, that means there are dead leaves all over the ground and bare limbs up above. It just seems dirty and depressing. But if there was snow everywhere... It just seems more festive and cozy when there's a (thin) blanket of snow everywhere. As long as I don't have to walk to class in it!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday at Midnight

So what am I doing? Well, I'm playing with my toys on the Internet ( Flickr, Blogger, and Netflix) while poor Peter is sleeping on the couch. He called in sick to work again tonight and despite sleeping 20 of the last 24 hours, he still not feeling well. Maybe I'll be able to convince him to take some medicine tomorrow. Regardless, I'm really happy he didn't go in to work the past two nights. I'm pretty sure he would be ready for the hospital if he had.

I also have various projects I keep going back to work on. I finished some formatting for our Morphology group project on Japanese so it should be ready for our meeting tomorrow, I ought to be working more on my Phonetics project, doing some of my annotation work for one of my jobs (can't talk about it, don't want to get Dooced) and I should get started on my Morphology take-home final. Ah well, all in due time.

I'm going to try to upload some more photos to my Flickr account, since I just discovered how to blog pictures. This should be fun! Now I just need to seriously consider upgrading my membership so I don't run out of bandwidth so fast...

Me & Mom-Boulder Falls

Me & Mom-Boulder Falls
Originally uploaded by shanbrite2.
This is a pic from when my mom came to visit us in Boulder a couple weeks ago. It was pretty darn cold and windy, but she was a trooper and we were able to spend a few frosty minutes looking at the pretty waterfall before hustling back to the car.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I love Flickr 'cuz its so delicious!

Flickr is the best thing ever, I just need to suck it up and pay for the pro membership if I'm going to use it to its full potential. The best thing about it, aside from the really cool technical support, etc., is that some really incredible photographers use it and I can just go around and look at amazing photography all day. It really inspires me to get out there and take some great pictures, but I feel like I need some better equipment before I can take the kind of pictures I want to. My poor little Nikon Coolpix is over 2 years old now and it never was an SLR anyway. Maybe someday I'll have a real job and an extra thousand dollars to spend on a camera. Maybe.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Scary Potter.. har har

We FINALLY got to see Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire today, after an agonizing weekend of attempting to avoid all reviews and articles talking about the movie. Usually, I like to research movies before I go see them, because no use wasting $8 on a movie I probably won't like anyway, since I tend to agree with the critics for the most part. Sidebar: if Hollywood wants to get out of its box office slump, it needs to stop making crappy movies. $8 is a bargain movies these days, but when there's two people and not much income, that's a lot of money!

Returning to the subject at hand, I personally thought this was one the best movies in the series, especially considering that this book was one of (if not the) largest in the series so far. The director/screenwriters did a very good job of sticking to what they could cover and trying not to go into every detail or plot twist J.K. Rowling's book offered.

I also read in a cnn.com article that the director, Mike Newell (the first Brit to direct a Potter movie) really tried to focus on the emotional progression of the characters rather than relying on CG to blow the audience's collective mind. I think that's why I really liked this movie best of all. For the first time, I actually cared about Movie Harry and his friends and understood on an emotional level what it must feel like to be in his postition. In fact, I think I understood the characters even better in the film than I did in the book, partly because I read HP books for the escapism and I don't like to escape to a place that is more stressful than my real life. In the book, I couldn't understand why Rowling concentrated on the Yultide Ball so much. I could care less if Harry found a date or not. I went through that trauma already in real life, why relive it? But I thought that sequence of the film was a really refreshing break from the tension of the Triwozard Tournament tasks, which no doubt was the original intent of the Ball!

So yeah, go see it, but don't demand absolute fidelity to the book if you've read it. The book is much more nuanced, but I strongly agreed with the choices the director made in what to cut out and what to adapt. Unlike previous "episodes" of HP movies, I didn't see any changes that could or would affect the overall understanding of a non-reader as far as future movies go. Let's hope all the following movies are as good as this one!