Sibling rivalry and a little psychology

Siblings on a plane On Saturday, capsule Adrian and I were lounging around the house when we got into a mini-argument fueled by classic sibling rivalry and vanity.

“Let’s ask mom who she think is her best looking child.” I suggested.

“She’s going to say me, you know she is,” Adrian retorted.

“No. She won’t even answer the question. She’ll stay out of this one,” I reasoned.

We interrupted her Christmas decorating so that she could serve as a referee.

“Mom, who is your best looking child?” I asked.

Without taking a moment to think it over, she responded, “Adrian.”

Adrian smirked.

“Hey!” I exclaimed feeling a bit betrayed that she chose the baby of the family over the future PhD.

I turned to my supposedly handsome little brother, “whatever, you may be the best looking, but you’re also the youngest and research shows that if you’re born later in the family, you’ll have a lower IQ.”

Adrian looked a me confused and annoyed that I had used my nerdiness to come out on top.

I guess doing the assigned reading for class that week had paid off. While reading the education chapter of David Halpern’s Social Capital, I came across the following passage

Partly this result [educational attainment is higher for children from two parent households] is expained by the fact that having two parents around, as opposed to one, implies more child-parent contact. Further support for this simple structural interpretation lies in the finding that having more brothers and sisters, or being later born in a family, is associated with marginally lower IQ and worse educational achievement (Zajonc & Markus, 1975 [more on their research]). Essentially, having more kids in the household ‘dilutes’ or reduces the time that later-born children are able to spend with their parents (pp. 145-146).

I had never considered the link between family size or birth order and achievement, so the passage stuck out.

Needless to say, I won the argument with a little science, even if the link between intelligence and birth order has been disputed in longitudinal studies.

Older siblings, you can thank me now. Your younger brother/sister may be better looking, thinner, funnier, more athletic and what not, but you can say “psychologists have shown that I’m smarter ’cause I’m the first (or second) born!”

Four days in the Heights

When ever I come back from holiday weekends, pilule everyone asks, “how was your [insert holiday here]?” Rather than give the rundown on everything I did during the always too short break, I just say fine and add something like, “but I got sick…”.

In case any of you are wondering, here’s the rundown of my four day weekend.

No matter how I feel about the origins of Thanksgiving (or as lots of my friends like to call it, Thankstaking), I don’t think I’ll ever pass up the opportunity to hang out with my family and eat good food. Come to think of it, we d that fairly often, but it never comes on a Thursday. This year wasn’t much different from every other Thanksgiving I can remember. We gathered at my Madrina Chilo’s house in East LA for dinner. The adults did their thing, we picked out names for the Christmas gift exchange, and the “kids” played some game of my choice. I always choose the games, and this year it was Trivial Pursuit Disney Edition. I’m still mad I didn’t win.

For some strange reason, I actually woke up at 6 something in the morning to go shopping with my mom, Lori and Adrian. We hit up one of the department stores for clothes and shoes we convinced ourselves that we need. Prior to Friday, I’d never shopped on “black Friday” and thus expected the whole experience to be much worse. I suppose it would have been worse if I was going later in the day, had to wait in line on my own, or was shopping at one of the big electronics stores.

Later that day, I headed out to Ontario for what was originally supposed to be a movie date with me and my 11-year old cousin Valerie. I try to make our movie date an annual thing so that I can keep up to date on the latest kids films. For some reason, when my siblings found out about our date to see Happy Feet, they all joined in. Lori’s boyfriend, Mikey, came along too. Valerie’s older sister, Vanny, and her boyfriend also tagged along.

I liked the movie, but was annoyed through most of it because there were a bunch of loud kids and crying babies.

I stayed in most of the day on Saturday and tried to catch up on schoolwork. I’ll probably air out some of my thoughts about my study on Latino college students majoring in the sciences in a future post. I’m told that one of the goals of good research is to be able to describe it in lay terms for an audience outside your discipline.

I got up early once again to go to Mass with my family. Did I mention that it’s quite weird for all six of us to be together in one place these days? I can’t even remember the last time Danny, Lori, Adrian and I all joined my parents and grandparents at the 8 a.m. Spanish-language Mass.

After Mass, we went out for breakfast with the grandparents. Depending on which sibling you ask, the breakfast incentive may have been the motivating factor in going to mass at 8 am.

The rest of Sunday was rather uneventful and boring. I stayed in most of the day because I’m getting sick. Not fun.

So there. That was my long weekend. Exciting!

The world makes sense now

It finally happened. I gave in to my desires.

Thanks to my sister and Mikey, diagnosis I now own an iPod. It’s black, bronchi shiny and loaded with music, some episodes of Lost season 2 and a smattering of podcasts. I named her Cindylunares. I like it. A lot.

Two years ago, I dealt with my little white cord envy by simply telling myself the following things:

  1. I couldn’t afford an iPod. I was, and still am, a poor graduate student.
  2. Getting an iPod would mean constant auditory stimulation. Silence – or at least relative silence – would be a good thing for me.
  3. I don’t like ear buds, they don’t fit right in my ears and are rather uncomfortable.
  4. My money would be better spent on concert tickets and more new music.

But for everyone of those reasons, I was able to rattle off many other reasons for the usefulness of an iPod. I needed to clear some of the music off my hard drive. I wanted my music collection to be mobile so I could take it with me on my many trips.

I also wanted to have the perfect song at the perfect moment. I had one of those moments earlier this year. The song was deliberately chosen and it complimented the ambience perfectly.

I’m now one of those students on campus with the conspicuous little white cord going from her ears to pocket.

I like it that way. After all, the world makes more sense when Los Amigos Invisbles’ “Gerundio” (mp3) is playing as I walk VR and the smog has transformed a boring sunset into pink and orange.

California girl

Not quite what the Beach Boys envisioned, visit but so what.

I’m proud to say that according to the How California Are You? quiz, I’m “totally like 90% California!”

The short description that goes along with my results is quite accurate:

Thank God — another native. You’ve probably slept overnight on Colorado Boulevard to watch the Rose Parade…. or you just sleep there all the time because you’re homeless. Seriously, housing prices are ridiculous!

Yup. I’m a “native” and I’ve slept on Colorado Blvd in anticipation of the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. I’ve also marched in the parade and gone to the Rose Bowl afterward.

If I’m only 90% California, where is the other 10% of me from?

Travel annoyances and the best news ever

The man sitting next to me fumbled through his wallet in search of a few dollars. I looked out my window, diet annoyed that my flight to Oakland had been delayed 45 minutes and I’d probably miss my 5 o’clock meeting.

My level of annoyance rose as I realized I had forgotten the free drink coupons I received in the mail a few weeks ago. ‘Dammit, cheapest ‘ I thought, ‘a beer would have been really good right now too.’

A frazzled Southwest Airlines flight attendant with blonde hair approached our row and asked, “what would you like to drink?” The blonde business professor in a sleek black suit chose Coke, the tired middled-aged man with a 60-gig iPod asked for white wine and I chose my usual on Southwest flights, ginger ale (it goes well with the peanuts).

An hour later, the plane touched down in Oakland and I said goodbye to the man next to me who was kind enough to give me his peanuts. He said they didn’t go well with white whine.

Unfortunately, my travel plans once leaving the plane weren’t as smooth as they should have been. I took AirBART to the Coliseum BART Station and then boarded a train toward Berkeley. That part was smooth, but I second guessed myself and got off at the wrong BART station. I finally ended up near the campus and walked the 15 minutes with my luggage to the campus.

I wasn’t happy when I got to UC Berkeley’s Eshelman Hall. I was tired, hungry and not in the mood for a meeting that wouldn not end until 9 pm.

I set up my laptop and began to check email and the news on the rally at UCLA surrounding the taser incident. A few seconds later, I forgot that I was frustrated and hungry and in a bad mood.

Chispa sent me the following IM.


All smiles as she talks to her fiancee I cried with happiness at the news that Chispa had just passed the bar. The day before she told me she’d be getting her results. She was nervous… very nervous.

Chispa had just received the news 5 minutes earlier and was still in awe. She was crying and utterly elated. We both lamented the fact that I was a few hundred miles away and could not drive over to take her out and to celebrate. This wasn’t one of those times when my friends share their success and I feign happiness (César/EMC describes this quite well) while secretly harboring feelings of jealousy.

We’ve prayed for each other many times over the years. Sometimes, the outcome wasn’t one we wanted or expected. But this time, it was perfect.

Chispa: we’ve come a long way since then*
you’re in a phd program
and i just passed the bar

Yeah, we have.

Congratulations, Chispa. I’m glad California has one more of the “right kind of lawyers”.

*First year at UCLA, when we used to giggle over our statistics professor’s pronunciation of “focus” as “fuckus”.

Food poisoning and police brutality

Powell (College) Library
The now infamous Powell Library

You know what sucks? Food poisoning.

You know what sucks even more? Food poisoning when you’re far, approved far away from home.

Perhaps its not just food making me sick lately. I think the “taser incident” on Tuesday night might have contributed to my upset stomach. [Read about the taser incident here and watch the video and be prepared to be seriously disturbed.]

It’s been on my mind a lot, which bugs me because I have a lot of other things to worry about. I tried to articulate my thoughts on the whole thing, but it wasn’t right and I was still left with a lot of questions. The use of excessive force against this student was wrong. Without out a doubt that’s clear to me. But all the questions remain.

Was he racially profiled as an Iranian man? Was this civil disobedience a la Rosa Parks? Should the student have complied to university regulations as outlined in Student Code of Conduct? Are those regulations fair? Was the student responsible for any of what ensued? What level of force would have been acceptable, if any? Where is the line between keeping students safe and infringing on civil liberties?

Thinking critically about the incident and my experience at UCLA, I’ve settled on a few things.

  1. The repeated shocks with the Taser were excessive. Duh. No doubts about that one.
  2. UCLA isn’t the safest college campus. Just a few examples I can think of from my several years as a student: just a few weeks ago, I walked into my office and saw a notice posted by the UCPD about a stabbing involving a non-student on the steps of the building; a few years ago I refused to go to the bathroom without a friend accompanying me after learning about a few rapes/attempted rapes in campus bathrooms (the notices were posted by UCPD); four years ago a woman living in the residence halls was raped by the three men who were not UCLA students. Ensuring that only students, staff or faculty occupy spaces such as the library late at night doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me. There’s a reason we have BruinCards: to prove we’re UCLA students.
  3. I’ve also witnessed examples of UCPD officers abusing their power or racially profiling someone. I’ve seen a Muslim man be cited for jaywalking in a turnaround near a parking lot, and then arrested. It was completely uncalled for. I’ve also seen the UCPD drive their motorcycles dangerously close to us as we marched on the sidewalk with a few spilling over on the street. One of our advisors (a campus admnistrator) was then mistreated when he called them on it. I still remember the officer’s name even though that incident happend 6 years ago. I’m generally wary of police officers. Hell, one of the biggest events of my young life revolved around the Rodney King beating. That video is ingrained in my mind.
  4. I’ve also felt “served and protected” by UCPD and the Community Service Officers (students employed by the UCPD, run the escort service late at night and do walk-throughs of campus facilities including the dorms) on a few instances.

Last, I was checking out the official Student Code of Conduct (pdf) and saw the following:

Students are members of both society and the academic community with attendant rights and responsibilities. Students are expected to make themselves aware of and comply with the law, University policies, and campus regulations.

102.16: [Types of Misconduct] Failure to Comply
Failure to identify oneself to, or comply with directions of, a University official or other public official acting in the performance of his or her duties while on University property or at official University functions, or resisting or obstructing such University or other public officials in the performance of or the attempt to perform their duties.

I wonder what will come of this aside from a nice settlement for the student involved. I do hope the independent investigator appointed by the acting chancellor Norman Abrams will conclude that the use of force was excessive.

P.S. Abrams is also getting a ton of criticism for his handling of this issue (mainly because of this sentence in a press release, “Indeed, this incident arose out of a university policy that is designed to ensure student safety, which requires persons in the library after 11:00 p.m. to be prepared to identify themselves.” I’ve met Abrams on a few occasions, he seems like a nice guy who is very concerned about students. He actually listens to concerns and issues unlike the previous chancellor. He’s got to deal with pressure from the black community and students cocerned over the embarassingly low number of black freshmen students (103 in a class of about 4,800) and this latest scandal. I’d hate to have his job.

Mil palabras: Isa

Happy Birthday, <a href=read Isa” />

Isa loves telling people about her first impression of me way back in the summer of 1998. According to her, prothesis I was a snob and because (a) I was from Hacienda Heights and (b) I was in the UCLA band. Lucky for me (and I do mean lucky), Isa and I were placed in the same sections for our composition and political science courses that summer. She was kind of enough to let me use her computer to write my papers and we studied together for poli sci. I’m not quite sure what made her initial impression wear off, but I’m glad it did.

Since that summer, Isa has become one of my closest friends and confidants. I can (and have) tell her anything. She knows me so well that she can tell when I’m lying or holding back on the truth. I can’t lie to her. We’re a lot alike and love to compete with each other. The only times we even get close to fighting or arguing comes in the middle of a Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit game.

Isa moved into the apartment over 2 years ago. It’s been a difficult two years, but having her across the hallway has made it easier.

Happy birthday, roommate!

Swing and a miss (the next generation)

Birthday parties these days aren’t too much different than the ones I used to go to as a kid. Sure, they have jumpers and petting zoos with pony rides (well, my cousin Juan and his wife Millie are probably exceptions), but they still have piñatas and they’re still as crazy as I remember them.

Birthday parties these days aren’t too much different than the ones I used to go to as a kid. Now parents go all out with jumpers, case petting zoos with pony rides (well, surgeon my cousin Juan and his wife Millie are probably exceptions). However, viagra dosage you can’t go wrong with classics like the piñata.

The Beating

The beating. Here you have Martin (my cousin Martin’s son) trying his best to hit the piñata. Lined up behind him are his cousins, Reese and Sarah. In a wider frame, you’d notice the parents and adults keeping a close watch so that no over eager kid runs in for fallen candy while the other kid is still swinging. Up on the roof behind Martin, my cousin Victor holds one end of the rope while another cousin’s boyfriend holds the other end.

I didn’t get any photos of Reese who came right after Martin. Reese hit the piñata pretty hard and knocked off one of the horse’s legs. It came flying at me as a I tried to take a picture and grazed my finger. Reese finished off the piñata, one of the adults shook out the rest of the candy, and the kids rushed in.

The Melee

The melee. The whole point of beating the crap out of the piñata is to get some candy. I like candy. So do the kids, as you can see. The cool thing about this melee is that the kids missed a lot of candy and I picked up a few Twix bars, some M&M’s and Skittles. I shared of course.

The Negotiations

The negotiations. Once everything is cleaned up, the kids need to show off their goodies to someone. Here Alejandro (the birthday boy) and his big sister, Sarah, show their candy to their grandma. I remember doing this with my mom too, and hating it when she’d take some candy as if it was her fee for taking me to the birthday party.

The Lineup, I

The lineup, I. Millie, mother of the birthday boy, tried her best to get all the kids together in an orderly fashion for a group picture. As you can see, some weren’t into the idea. I like this photo because Martin, Reese, Sarah and Melissa (my cousins’ kids) are standing next to each other. It reminds me of the times when I used to be running around at birthday parties with their dads, Robert, Juan and Martin.

The Lineup, II

The lineup, II. Reese really liked that horse’s leg. Martin and Reese are barefoot because they were going in and out of the jumper/bouncy castle. Soon after this, everyone got their pictures and Millie passed out their goodie boxes.

The Lineup, III

The lineup, III. Can you guess which kid had too much sugar already?


In the past few weeks, capsule it has happened three times. I visited one of my favorite blogs and found a few simple or eloquent and an accompanying image that told so much more.

This is my girlfriend, discount Mari. She’s beautiful and she’s kind. I love her very much. (Oso)

I asked…she said “Yes”. I love you Noni! (Gustavo)

This past Saturday, discount rx Nov. 4th, Ale and I got married through the Church. It was a beautiful happy day.

Our family and closest friends surrounded us with their love and best wishes. The Mariachi filled the church with loud and lively music. (Agustin)

Those guys don’t know it, but the instant I read their news I smile from ear to ear. I curse the limits of the internet and the hundreds of miles between me and my fellow blogeros because I can’t give them a huge congratulatory hug. A comment with too many exclamation points and no (or little) trace of sarcasm will have to suffice.

If Oso, Gustavo and Agustin might have made these announcements before my birthday, I would have given a Scrooge-like response. It’s true. I found out a few times during the summer about engagements and upcoming weddings. I rolled my eyes at the friend who changed her MySpace name to “the Future Mrs. Fulano de Tal” and skipped out on three weddings for friends I’d known since high school.

I’m not anti-love or anti-marriage. I just didn’t care to celebrate anyone else’s love (exceptions: César’s wedding and my cousin Ernie’s wedding). It was hard for me to really be happy for someone else when my own situation was kinda crappy.

My situation changed on my birthday. He gave me red roses and said, “I love you, Cindy.” It was the first time I heard him say that. As cheesy as it sounds, I actually found it difficult to stay on my feet as I processed the words.

Things aren’t perfect, but I’m in love and in a general happy place.

Two friends pointed out the change recently. One said, “you look great! You’re glowing.” I brushed off the comment and attributed my “glow” to soap, a comb and the fact that I was at the end of the laundry cycle and wearing a skirt rather than jeans. A week later, while taking a break during “study hall” another friend looked at me and said, “you look different… you’re smiling.”

Thankfully, there are a lot of things that have made me smile lately. My grandparents are healthy and just back from a trip to Zacatecas for las Fiestas de Octubre. My parents are doing well, though my mom has had some health scares. Danny is doing good and singing his heart out with his a capella group. Adrian is no longer working in a bowling alley and instead at Express. We also took a great trip to the Bay Area a few weeks ago. Lori and her boyfriend, Mikey, bought me an iPod as a belated birthday gift (yes!). She’s also the employee of the month at her dealership and the recipient of a nice raise and an even better bonus. The rest of the familia seems to be doing good and I can’t wait for the Thanksgiving holiday.

And last, but not least, blogeros in love make me smile too.

Canto Funebre

“Let’s call Girlpants and see what she’s doing,” I told Adrian as we walked from the BART station to the parking lot.

Our conversation quickly changed from lighthearted chatter about our trip to the Bay Area to something quite somber.

“I don’t know if I should tell you, or if I should let dad tell you,” she said softly.

“Just tell me.”

“Mando-lo passed away today.”

“Ooooh. Hold on, let me tell Adrian.”

I turned to Adrian and told him, “Mando passed away.”

“Oh shit,” he exclaimed, his eyes widening a bit and face growing concerned.

Lori continued to tell us what else she knew about Mando. He passed away on Saturday morning from complications to diabetes. My parents found out that morning and had seen him recently.

I hung up with Lori. Adrian and I left the BART station in a somber mood, thinking about Mando.


Mando and my dad met in 1997 (or maybe it was 1998). They worked together in finances and would often meet at my house before going off to meet with clients. And that’s when I met Mando.

He made an immediate impression. In a know-it-all manner, he told me what I needed to do to prepare for college. I’d have to search for scholarships, apply and get them. Mando knew that my parents couldn’t afford to pay for college and I’d need to help myself. It was good advice, but it rubbed me the wrong way.

From then on, Mando was frequently around. My dad and mom got to know him and his family well and as a result, Danny, Lori, Adrian and I all got to know Mando too.


“You know, it’s weird how much Mando and I have in common” my dad said. He went on to list the many ways they were alike.

“We’re the same age.”

“Really?” I asked rather surprised. Mando seemed a lot older than my dad.

“Yeah, we’re both from ’54, he’s just a few months older. We’re also from East LA, we both went to Garfield, we did the same work in financial services, and we both love to sing.”

“You guys do have a lot in common,” I admitted, but I was left feeling uneasy.

I don’t like my father comparing himself to a man who had just passed away.


“You know what I’ll always remember about Mando?”


“That song he sang, the one about the vato.”

She tried putting together what she could remember of the lyrics.

“Oh, I know! ‘Hey, baby que pasó? I thought I was your only vato.'”

“Yeah, that’s it. That song will always remind me of Mando.”

“Me too.”


At Mando’s funeral, I stood between my parents as dad introduced me to Mando’s family.

“This is our older daughter, Cindy. You met the younger one, Lori last night at the rosario. I don’t know if you remember, but they sang Las Mañanitas for him at his 50th birthday party.”

I had forgotten about that until dad mentioned the party. I don’t sing Las Mañanitas too often for people, and even less often when it’s around many people.

I didn’t remember feeling nervous at all. Lori and I did our best to emulate Mando that night. We sang just to bring joy to our family and friends.

Rest in peace, Mando. Hope you get to sing “Hey, baby que pasó?” with Freddy Fender soon.