Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It Rolls off the Tongue

My TESOL class observations have started back up. I was previously sitting in on an advanced class, but this time decided to see what one filled with beginners is like.

Last night, the takeaway was an emphasis on pronunciation: there is a big difference between tequila and vanilla. And it also changes a lot if someone has nine children, or none children.

Tonight's class included everybody's favorite false cognate, "embarazada," which does not translate from Spanish to English as "embarrassed," as one might guess, but "pregnant."

Monday, June 29, 2009

I Hear Their Spanish Has a Softer, Faster Cadence

Wouldn't you know that two days after I book a flight to Honduras (para estudiar español en una escuela idioma), the army hauls the President off to Costa Rica and puts in someone else? I hope things will be settled soon for the sake of the Honduran people. And for my four-week departure date. And for the people who'll have to encounter my embarrassing spanish skills if I don't get two weeks of intensive study.

In reading about the conflict, I'm finding a HUGE disparity in how the events have been portrayed (media bias or sloppy work--surprise, surprise). By and large, Western media are labeling it a military coup and calling for the President to be reinstated. Media in Europe and Central America are claiming the President's attempt to stage an illegal poll is only the most recent in a string of actions that go against the country's Constitution.

The fact that Hugo Chavez supports the Honduran President makes me question the President's actions and intentions.

I hope all media do a little more homework in covering this tense situation.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


(Grandpa Joe and Louie.)

Today I saw all four of my cousins together, for the first time in I-don't-know-how-long. One of them I haven't seen in over ten years. That reunion only lasted two minutes, but I'll take what I can get.

We had gathered in Ventura County for the baptism of a cousin's newborn. After the pomp and circumstance, there was lunch outside, photos shared via iPhones, a chicken coop, a trio of dogs, LOTS of family, and plenty of good conversation.

It was also a chance for BO to talk with my oldest brother in their second time meeting (the first being our wedding).

It was a chance for me to talk with my God Daughter, whom I haven't seen in four years.

It was a chance for my grandpa to tell us about another auto company he almost worked for (I think I will always be finding out more about his career).

BO and I drove six hours round trip today. I would've driven to Florida in a Miata without air conditioning or a radio, and no carpool lane, to make this happen.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Verge" by Z Egloff

I heard about this book from a friend. I liked it. A bicycle, some nuns, film school aspirations, a love story, dysfunctional families, all set in the hot northern California valley. The end may have been a bit predictable, but I enjoyed the ride.

Friday, June 26, 2009

For Jim

In remembrance of Jim, we swam out to The Cove's quarter-mile buoy this evening. Many thanks to Kevin Koresky for organizing the event and purchasing the leis.

When I pulled up at the buoy and lifted my goggles up to my forehead, there was a one-breath summersault contest going on (the winner did twelve; yes, you should be impressed; it was a flurry of pointed toes and a tucked head). It was just the type of thing Jim would've organized, egging people on to join in.

Leis were placed on the buoys, a few words were said. Then some continued further out for a longer swim, and some high-tailed it back to the shore for the potluck. I bobbed around the buoy for a bit. It was my first ocean swim in a year and a half. It was good. But soon I got cold. Really cold. (No wetsuit). But it was still good. I will be back before another year and a half passes.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You Park in a Driveway, Drive in a Parkway, and Cruise over a Curb

In sitting outside Starbucks every morning, I see my share of poor driving. The SUV that backed into a light post; cars that pull too far in and scrape the parking block; everyone backing out at the same time; near accidents; one minor accident; and everyday, far too many cars going the wrong way down a one-way aisle.

Part of it could be chalked up to nothing: everyone makes mistakes. The other part could be the morning commute: everyone in a rush.

Today, two cars drove over two different curbs. One happened right in front of me (don’t worry, Louie and I pulled in our paws). As the BMW’s right front wheel breached the curb and pulled onto the sidewalk, the woman behind the steering wheel tightened her mouth into something, an expression I couldn’t interpret. On this new footing, the car rocked back and forth a few times. The woman turned her steering wheel, which turned her tire wheel. The car bumped back down to the street, and as it rocked back and forth a few more times, the woman let out a full-fledged grin of elation.

Perhaps she was hurrying to a morning meeting. It’s possible she didn’t want to be late for a doctor’s appointment. I prefer to think of her as someone getting a minor thrill from driving a little off kilter.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver doesn't like bananas. She really doesn't like bananas. Who knew they were so evil?

This book was helpful in getting me to think about where my food comes from. Am I going to till up our grass and plant tomatoes? Not a chance. Did I just today sow beet seeds in a small planter box? Yes.

I don't buy organic for several reasons, but I agree that buying locally, when possible, is a good idea.

What bugged me about this book was how annoying smooth everything went for the Kingsolver family during their experiment (which, if you don't know, was to go a year eating only what they grew or obtained locally). Were no crops eaten by deer? Didn't they ever get annoyed by having to bake bread every single day? And the ending--their turkeys successfully bred? Are you kidding me? Part of me wanted a little more realism in this book.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

There was a cat...and a lady...and a door...do you know this movie?

I've already blogged about the six-month period of time when my grandpa Joe was calling up music stores and singing "Coco heart" to them, asking for the name of the song.

On the phone tonight, he told me about a movie he was watching. It involved a cat that wouldn't stop scratching at a door, but when the woman opened the door, the cat didn't do anything but sit there. He didn't know the movie's name, and this bothered him.

Anyone know this movie? My grandpa's worked too hard in his life to resort to calling video rental stores, describing the scene in the same way he described it to me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"A Widow for One Year" by John Irving

I am in developing countries for eleven days with no gastrointestinal issues. I am back in the US for one full day, and I get food poisoning.

When I wasn't listening to the tv, on the couch in the fetal position, I was finishing "A Widow for One Year". Irving's books are unlike anything else--so rich and full and the stories skip along at such a lively pace that you feel completely sunken into another world.

The protagonist in "A Widow for One Year" is a literary writer, and at one point she's plotting her next novel. Of course I wondered if her method is how Irving crafts his stories. There's an interview with Irving at the end of my edition of this book, and after reading it I think their processes probably are similar. Although I still have no idea how he composes such foie-gras-fed stories.

Also in the interview, Irving address criticism that he's a sentimentalist. Who knew Amsterdam prostitutes, abortion, Vietnam, or feminism were sentimental concerns? They're just the stuff of freaking good stories.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


These past eleven days, I neither checked email nor shampooed my hair. I think I’m a better person for it.

Here are some pictures of what I was doing with all the time afforded to me by shirking excessive hygiene and technology:

(The weekend market in San Ignacio. The locals are a clever bunch.)

(In the ATM cave.)

(Cave tubing at Jaguar Paw. Hop on inner tubes, link yourselves together, and let the fun begin.

(Las Ruinas Tikal en Flores, Guatemala. ¡Qué estupendo!)

(Mark makes some local friends.)

(On Caye Caulker. This crabby little lady was preggers. Check out the eggs on her belly.)

(The dock at our hotel. Unfortunately it was the best thing about the hotel.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009


(Yesterday's hail. We're hoping for better weather in Belize.)

Off to Belize with my partners in crime, my margarita amigos, my Maya ruins mates, my kayaking companions, my trekking teammates, my snorkeling sidekicks, my husband and brother.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert M. Pirsig

My brother Mark owns a motorcycle. It makes a lot of noise and kicks up dust in the desert. This book is about a totally different type of motorcycle.

The book's a modern classic, so I thought I'd see what I'd missed out on by arriving late to the seventies. The last book I read made me think about the types of books I like to read. After Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I've decided I don't like to read philosophy. Pirsig weaves together stories of a motorcycle trip, his past struggles with mental illness, and philosophy--mainly a discourse on "quality". I sometimes became impatient with the philosophy, but the first two human components were really affecting. I suppose Pirsig would philosophically disagree with my implication that philosophy isn't "human."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Veni, Vidi, Vici

Here is my confession: I took Latin in college so I wouldn't have to speak a language.

Now that I have begun studying language acquisition, I know this decision came from the fact that I have a very high effective filter. I hate making mistakes!

I've been observing ESL classes at a local adult school, and today's class began with a discussion of current events. The first topic was a recent face transplant, which led to a discussion of organ donation. One student said if she were in a vegetarian state--you know in a hospital and surviving on machines (and broccoli?!)--that she'd donate her organs.

Then later on, a student pronounced the word "sheet" with a short "i" sound. Say it to yourself...wait for it...yes, that's right.

And with these two mistakes, I realized that my high affective filter has caused me to miss out on a lot of fun. Perhaps after Spanish I'll take on an East Asian language--something where an extra dot on a character will mean I'm giving away my first-born.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Two men took the chairs beside me at Starbucks this morning. They were quiet, and it wasn’t until I’d looked up that I realized they weren’t simply staring off into space, but were conversing in sign language.

One man was hearing, and he told me his friend was about to have an MRI, and had just taken a sedative because he’s claustrophobic. The pill took thirty minutes to work, but only a few minutes must’ve passed because he looked nervous.

My heart went out to him. I, too, am claustrophobic (no, I won’t go cave-tubing in Belize next week; you can’t make me). I couldn’t imagine having to be in one of those MRI tubes, and I am able to hear and easily communicate with people.

The hearing man was trying to ease his friend's anxiety with humor, saying if the sedative worked too well, he might have to carry him into the doctor’s office. This was the deaf man’s third MRI. He'd undergone the first one without a sedative, and had panicked in the middle but wasn’t able to explain to the staff what was wrong.

The hearing man told me all of this, and nimbly orchestrated a conversation between myself and the deaf man, in which I asked questions and wished him well with the procedure. They left ten or fifteen minutes after having arrived, the hearing man helping his friend--now drowsy--out of his chair.