Question of the week: Autumn

My summer is officially over. Classes have started once again at UCLA and this week has been packed with receptions and orientation meetings. I’ve been swamped at work making sure everything is squared away with the freshmen and sophomores in the program.

Even though I’m exhausted, I can’t complain. Last weekend, we finally got some rain and cooler temperatures. The Bruins are doing okay. Ugly Betty and The Office are back with new episodes. I shouldn’t watch as much television as Melanism, but somehow I think I’ll find something to replace Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls. The Dodgers are out of playoff contention and may barely be ending the season above.500, but at least I can cheer on the Bruins. Finally, there’s the concerts: Rilo Kiley, Rodrigo y Gabriela and Café Tacuba.

But what am I looking forward to the most? (We all know what I’m dreading)
Café Tacuba’s new album Sino in less than two weeks!

La pregunta: What are you looking forward to most this fall season?

Reluctant promotion

The first time I met X, he told me I looked familiar. I’d never seen him before. I would have remembered. But he insisted that he had met me. For a brief moment, I wondered if he “knew” me via the internets. Did he lurk on my blog? Had he come across my photos on Flickr? MySpace? Facebook?

Nope. Our paths had crossed in a much more simple way, at school.

A couple weeks later, X introduced me to some of his friends at the Los Lobos concert and I heard the same comment from his friend.

“That’s what I told her when we first met,” X said.

“Yeah, but it was a pick up line,” retorted M, another one of his friends.

“No, it wasn’t,” he defended himself. “She really did look familiar.”

Once again, I froze. Why was I familiar to this girl I’d never seen before? I really hoped it wasn’t my blog. But it was much easier. She had billed me for an ad in La Gente de Aztlan, a student-run magazine at UCLA.

And what if X and his friend did know me from my blog? Would that be weird? Yeah. I suddenly quiet down whenever my blog comes up in “real life.” I mumble an affirmative response whenever a new acquaintance asks, “so [insert mutual friend] tells me you have a blog. He says you’re a blogger.”

Ugh, yeah.

I’m no good at self promotion, shameless or otherwise.

I really need to get over this. I’m proud of the words I write here and I like the fact that someone reads them… even if that person knows me in “real life.”

Nails and bullets

The truth is, you are a phenomenal person and I’m just average.

Those words still make me smile. They still take my breath away even though the man who said them is hardly a part of my life and the pain I felt after our break up has long since faded. It was horrible. I moped. I cried. I got angry. I felt lonely. I was distracted at work and when driving. I even got in a car accident. I didn’t foresee how I could go from feeling shattered to feeling okay. I made it through. I forgave and moved on.

Since then, I’ve felt that pain again… rather recently in fact.

Thinking about that pain, breakups and moving on reminded me of a line from Sandra Cisneros’ Caramelo. When I first read the novel four years ago, I jotted down my favorite quotes. I searched for that list of quotes because I wanted these words:

Like they say, one nail drives out another… Yes, and the second bullet dulls the pain of the first.

As violent and pessimistic as these words seem, I still find them oddly reassuring.

Study Group on University Diversity

UCSA rally outside the UC Regents meeting Disclaimer: These are all just unformed thoughts. I’m sick, barely slept and have traveled through way too much California in the last 30 hours.

I got back from Davis a few hours ago. I unpacked my backpack, changed in to pajamas and plopped on the couch to simultaneously watch the Dodgers lose to the Colorado Rockies and go online for the first time since 8 am.

Davis is a small college town near Sacramento and the site of the UC Regents meeting. In the past couple of years, I’ve gone to a lot of Regents meetings. I’ve spoken about financial aid issues, my concerns about the rising student fees, the crisis in the diversity, and the need to really address this problem by fully funding academic preparation (outreach) programs. This time, the Regents would be discussing the outcomes of a study group to assess the impact of Proposition 209 — which banned the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions and hiring at the UC and other state agencies — on diversity.

In case you haven’t been reading my blog very long, the issue of racial and ethnic diversity at the UC campuses has been a big issue on my radar since I was in high school. I was part of the first class admitted under the affirmative action ban in 1998 and that experience profoundly impacted my outlook on the issue.

While at the meeting, I was pretty astounded to hear the so-called findings. Did a study group made up of regents, students, and UC Office of the President staff/administrators really need a year to figure these things out?

1) Diversity is fundamental to UC’s mission, quality, and service to the state of California. The importance of diversity to our University is very well expressed in the Academic Senate’s Diversity Statement, which reads in part, “Because the core mission of the University… is to serve the interests of the State of California, it must seek to achieve diversity among its student bodies and… its employees.”

2) Change is needed to more effectively seek and support diversity. While there are many pockets of success and innovation, the University needs to focus greater and sustained attention on its diversity efforts.

3) Clear, consistent, and regularly produced data are necessary to “shine a light” on the University’s efforts to increase and support diversity and to hold University leaders accountable for progress in this area.

Students behind me snickered as the UC provost presented these findings. They wanted some meat, something concrete, but all they got were these recommendations*:

1) Adopt as Regents Policy the University of California Diversity Statement adopted by the Assembly of the Academic Senate in May 2006

2) Affirm that change is needed to achieve a level of diversity among students, faculty, and staff appropriate to our mission, as well as an open and inclusive climate on each of our campuses

3) Require the President of the University to report annually to The Regents on the status of diversity at the University.

Following this, the president of the UCSA and another student presented their views on the report. They called for specific action which would address admissions requirements as well as funding for academic preparation (outreach) programs.

And then the comments started. It was weird. Suddenly all the Regents — the same body, though not the same people that passed SP-1 which banned affirmative action at the UC in 1995 — were patting themselves on the back for producing this great report. The report was the brainchild of the 2006-07 student regent, María Ledesma, a graduate student in education at UCLA (woo woo!).

As I listened to the comments by the appointed and elected regents, I was pretty astounded. I wondered what would really come out of this report. I’ve seen the numbers and didn’t need the report to tell me there was a problem. Like the other students at the meeting, I really hope the report doesn’t get shelved and forgotten.

[*To be fair, there's more to the report. The overview is 31 pages and in October a consolidated report from the 4 working groups (undergraduate, graduate & professional, faculty, and climate) will be published.]

Question of the week: Urban myths

Why nobody walks in LA
People walk in LA, but sometimes it’s tough with construction on the sidewalks.

I hate when people say that folks in LA are all fake/plastic and that everyone just wants to get in to the entertainment industry. I also dislike when people think that nobody walks in this city ’cause I know people who regularly walk, bike and take public transportation.

La pregunta: What myth about your city/region do you hate the most?

Adrian at 22

This summer, Adrian introduced me to Guitar Hero. I re-introduced Adrian to Harry Potter (he stopped reading after book 5). We both got hooked. We’d play GH against each other after we bought a second guitar. Adrian would play on expert, while I was still having trouble with medium. When we got tired of GH, we’d find a cool spot in the house and read HP aloud to each other. Later in the week, he’d call and text message me with his thoughts regarding the books. It was fun.

¡Feliz cumpleaños, Adrian!

La Bamba

La Bamba (1987)

Director: Luis Valdez

Starring: Lou Diamond Philips, Esai Morales, Elizabeth Peña and Joe Pantoliano

Neighborhood: Pacoima (San Fernando Valley)

Based on a true story: Yup, which is what makes anyone with tear ducts want to cry when Connie Valenzuela learns of her son’s death in a plane crash. There really was a Ricardo Valuenzuela whose name was later changed to Ritchie Valens to “broaden his appeal.” He lived in Pacoima, California where he taught himself to sing and play guitar. He gained fame while still in his teens, but we all know how that ended. That creepy incident where the planes crash over the playground and kills hi best friend? Yeah, that was real too but Valens was absent that day. He went to his grandfather’s funeral. According to a close listener of the DVD commentary who posted on the discussion board at Ritchie Valens Tribute the following aspects of the film were fictional: Ritchie’s crush on Rosie; trip to Tijuana and visit to the curandero (what a surprise); Ritchie’s tattoo (not a flying guitar, but his initials instead); doing a rock rendition of La Bamba was Ritchie’s idea (Bob Keene, says it was his idea).

Edward James Olmos connection: No Olmos, but there’s definitely a connection. Luis Valdez wrote and directed La Bamba as well as Zoot Suit, which starred Olmos as El Pachuo. Esai Morales and Olmos both starred in Mi Familia.

Main themes: rags-to-riches, fame, family, interracial dating

Memorable quotes:
Richieeeeeee!

And pretty much anything that comes out of Bob’s mouth. I’ll add more after I watch the movie again. I’ve been meaning to do so all week, but haven’t gotten around to it.

Bonus: Joel/DCNatsWin featured La Bamba as part of his Film Vault Tuesday in January 2006 (link). Check out why he loves the movie despite bad acting and cornyness.

Question of the week: Kid theories

When I was a kid, I believed only white people had allergies. Really.

In fact, if I didn’t read books like the Baby-sitter’s Club series and watch television, allergy would not even be in my vocabulary. No one in my family talked about breaking into hives or sneezed around cats and dogs.

It wasn’t until much later, possibly when I was in college, when I heard a Mexican person say “I’m allergic to _____” that it all clicked. I guess white people weren’t the only ones who had allergies.

La pregunta: What kind of weird ideas or theories did you have as a kid?

Slow and dirty torture

Michigan Alum calls it slow and dirty tortute. Stanford Alum calls it academic hazing. I just call it quals.

As higher education PhD students, we’re expected to write three ten-page papers. The first question we’re given is supposed to be tailored to our specific research interest. The second is a general question on something we should have learned in our higher education coursework and additional reading. The third paper is a critique of an article pulled from a major higher education journal. Three days. Three ten-page papers. At the end of it, we get to advance and start working on the dissertation proposal. Well, that’s if you pass. If you fail, you can retake the exam. If you fail again, you’re out.

It’s just an exam. It shouldn’t be so bad, right? And even if I did fail once (or twice), leaving my program wouldn’t be so bad. I mean, who really wants to spend the last few years of her twenties in school?

Of course, I don’t want to fail. I want to be prepared so that when I see the questions I’ll be set and know exactly how to answer them. In order to prepare, I’m working with six other students including Michigan Alum and Stanford Alum to draft abstracts of important articles and books on a plethora of higher education topics. This part of the quals preparation is simple. The tough part will be working on my worst habit: procrastinating. If the weekend of the first-year exam is any indication, I have a lot self-improvement I need to do. Here’s a list of all the things I did during that 3-day weekend to avoid writing the two 6-page papers:

  1. Eat lots of candy.
  2. Visit Alfred (for the hookup!) at the Coffee Bean.
  3. Listen to Dodger games or follow the play by plays online.
  4. Go to a Dodger game with A.
  5. Go to dinner at a Los Feliz diner full of hipster kids with A post Dodger game.
  6. Write blog posts and read blogs.
  7. Clean my room.
  8. Wash the dishes.
  9. Play solitaire and freecell.
  10. Take random pictures.
  11. Sleep.
  12. Have dinner with my mom and play with the puppy.
  13. Mess around with Isa and her friend.
  14. Go for a jog.
  15. Change clothes a lot, fix my hair, and shower more than I needed to.
  16. Look at photos on Flickr.
  17. Write haiku.
  18. Chat on IM with a few friends.
  19. Catch up on celebrity gossip in Us magazine.
  20. Eat breakfast.
  21. And check and write email.

I have ten weeks to find mis ganas, mentally prepare myself and try out different strategies for using my time wisely. Wish me luck (or give me useful advice, I need it!).

Question of the week: Dealing with the heat

It was really hot in LA last weekend. The mercury reached triple digits and was the cause of way too many deaths and blackouts. In my west LA apartment, I closed all the blinds and tried to keep it as dark and cool as possible. I’ve lived in the same place for 7 years and have never needed a fan. I dressed in light clothes and drank lots of cool water. And when I couldn’t handle it anymore, I went and watched a movie.

Back in Hacienda Heights, it was much worse. My grandparents were the main beneficiaries of the new portable air conditioner which only cools up one room of the house. The rest of the house — which gets a lot of sunlight — was as hot inside as it was outside. Lori and I washed my car and tried to cool down with water from the water hose, it helped like it did when we were kids. A cool shower didn’t help much, according to Robbie, a family friend. Robbie said the cold water ran hot for at least ten minutes.

Further east in Ontario, my cousin Valerie asked tío Pancho if she could turn on the central air conditioning. They never turn on the a/c, even though it gets pretty hot out in the Inland Empire. Valerie didn’t want a/c so she and her sister could cool down. Nope, the a/c was for the crying puppies. As soon as the house cooled down, the puppies quieted down, snuggled together and fell asleep.

La pregunta: How do you deal with the sweltering heat (and humidity, if that affects your part of the country)?