Shout Out

I just wanted to direct you to an article on the Global Kimeeza II (which was what my trip to Uganda was all about) written by one of the Ugandan participants!

Also, not surprising to me, but a reinforcement as to why we need this war in Northern Uganda to end, a new report states that 62% of children living in internally displaced peoples camps are sexually abused. One of the more distressing statistics was: Among the supposed victims, 34 per cent said they were compelled to have sex in exchange for basic needs. Read more here.


Workin' Hardly

I know I've been awfully quiet as of recent. Part of it was that I was in Cancun, which was a nice break from reality. But now I've just been busy as hell preparing for the big move out of my house and for my Europe trip, both of which are taking place in March and April! I officially put in my two weeks at work on Monday (YAY, Wahoooooo, Yipeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!) but of course it's my busiest time for work, right before we release a deliverable to the client and since I'm Quality Assurance, this is my busy time. Of course I don't feel like doing anything anymore for my job, so I'm trying to balance that, get enough done so I don't fall behind but really not push myself to excel either. After all, next Friday I'll be DONE FOR GOOD with this stinkin' job. Can you tell I'm a little bit giddy about that?

So I've been quite swamped as of recent and will be for a while until we're settled in North Carolina, our new location. This is the first big decision I've made with my life and I'm scared to death, but that's why I have to do it! If something scares me then I aim to conquer it. I don't know if it's always the best philosophy since it stresses the hell out of me, but hopefully it works out for me in the end.

I'm excited to pursue what I'm really passionate about (Social Work) and I'm hoping that doing something I care about and enjoy will leave me energized for the rest of my life, unlike now where when I'm not at work I carry that unstimulated drained dull feeling I get from my job with me into the rest of my life. It's amazing to me that I can be so exhausted at the end of the day from work when I barely doing anything, but I think I'm just so exhausted from the lack of any stimulation whatsoever. It gives me an incredibly lazy feeling and makes it difficult for me to feel motivated to do the things I enjoy such as work out, write, read, etc. All I want to do is vege on the couch because I feel partly brain dead from the day, probably due to lack of use.

Even though at this point I'm totally in slack mode for my job a part of me really doesn't feel bad (usually I'm quite the perfectionist and people pleaser) because not only did I specifically tell my boss a month before I was moved from Project Coordination (which I was actually enjoying) into Quality Assurance that the only area of project work that I wasn't interested in and didn't enjoy was, of course, QA. Well a month later our QA guy quit and my boss stuck me in the position because he didn't want to hire anybody new. On top of that, a couple of weeks ago my boss sent me a copy of this personality test I took before being hired (he was supposed to give it to me right away but forgot until now) and it said things such as should not work in a monotonous routine job, thrives off of interacting with others, needs to be challenged, is motivated by new projects, etc. Basically describing everything BUT a QA position which is monotonous, you can go days without having to interact with people and is the same every freaking Spiral (stage of the project). Yeah, and you wonder why I've wanted to shoot myself just about every day at work and am in tears every Sunday night about having to go into work the next day. I think my boss is okay on many levels, but the fact that he put me in a job that was completely unsuited for me and he more than should have known that makes me not give a crap about finishing off strong, I worked my arse off trying to do good at a job I despised with every bone in my body which I never should have been put in, so screw it, I'm going to relax and enjoy my last two weeks here! Do some research for Europe and on Nintendo DS games (hubby just surprised me with a Nintendo DS for Europe, in pink! Isn't he the sweetest ever?) and get all the necessary closing/selling your house stuff done.

Done ranting, sorry.

I hate my job and in less than two weeks I will never have to do it again. Right now, there's nothing sweeter in the world.


What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal]: A Review

What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal] by Zoe Heller is a riveting, dark and deeply disturbing novel written in intelligent and elegant prose. The novel is told through the point of view of Barbara Covett, a teacher whose loneliness draws her into an obsession over new school teacher Sheba Hart. Barbara's voice is strong and stirring. She appears to be bluntly honest in her narration, but her character is so layered with years of solitude and twisted obsession that you can't help to wonder what she still remains to keep to herself. Through out the novel, Barbara chronicles the love affair of her fellow teacher, Sheba, and a fifth year student, Steven Connolly. Barbara states "This is not a story about me" - but of course it is about her. It's about her addictive need to be needed by Sheba and her obsession with Sheba's life, even in the disturbing details of Sheba's affair with a student at the school they teach at together. It is with sophistication that Barbara tells Sheba's, and her own, story. And with this sophistication you cannot help but to sympathize with not only the bitter spinster, but the child molester as well.

In reminiscence of Lolita, we once again get into the mind of a child molester, but only this time as told by a friend of the pedophile. Taken straight from the headlines, Heller delves into the deeper mind of women molesters. As someone who strongly advocates for women and children rights, it is extremely hard for me to sympathize with pedophiles, but Heller did what Nabokov failed to do for me in Lolita. I grew to like and care for Sheba. I even sympathized with her for a long time before realizing by the end of the book she was just plain crazy and totally self absorbed. In Lolita I never once sympathized with Humbert Humbert. While I was in awe of the writing, perhaps the best written book I've ever read, by the end of the novel I was in such disgust with Humbert that the only thing that got me to finish reading the novel was to find out what happened to Dolores. I pretty much disliked Humbert from the beginning and the dislike grew quite comfortably into a despise. And it's not just that it was obvious how much he was damaging Dolores, because I think by the end of Notes we can see that despite Barbara's defensive claims that "the boy" was not traumatized by any of the events that Steven began to show signs of the strain of the relationship, and since we got a very third person view of him, I'm sure it was even worse than we were shown.

What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal] is a complex and highly suspenseful novel. I finished it in two days (record time for me with my busy life) and was thinking about it when I wasn't reading it and long after I was finished reading it. I even had trouble getting into the book I started reading after finishing Notes and felt almost dogged down by the drastically different style of writing between Notes and Richard Ford's The Sportswriter. Gone was the intensity and vivid scenes of Notes and here I was reading a leisurely paced book with tons of back story, sporadic scenes and theoretical rants about life by the narrator. The intensity and the characters of Notes are addicting and I fed off of Barbara's obsessiveness to the degree that I was solidly obsessed with the book for a couple of days. I'm still raving about its power and eloquence to anyone who even looks like they could read a book for fun. And fun this novel is, from the emotional roller coaster ride to the deep complexity of the characters, I was hooked from the beginning and am still hooked days after finishing the last haunting page. It is an end without an end, an end that leaves you imagining what will happen to the characters afterwards (do you ever imagine your own ending when novels leave the endings ambiguous?) But it is an end that in it's own way is satisfying and perfect. It is the only ending that Barbara would have ever told.

I'll be trying to see the movie version this weekend. So far it's only in our specialty "artsy" theaters, so I'll be trying to manage over to downtown Cincy for a show. I'm really excited to see the movie, I think this book lays the script for an excellent movie. And since I'd seen the commercials for the movie before I read the book, I could only imagine Sheba and Barbara as Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench, which actually really annoys me. I like to imagine the characters myself before having them fully formed in a movie, but oh well. There was no avoiding that.

Oh, and I wanted to mention real quick, I'd read in other reviews of Notes the long and tedious name of the novel and at first I was inclined to agree. However, after reading the novel I couldn't think of a title that would fit Barbara's academic snobbery better and after all, it is her writing the book, isn't it?



Feeling Ill

I had started a post on my second day in Uganda (I know, it's going to take forever to get through all 15 days of the trip!) but I'm actually feeling very ill. My hubby just got diagnosed with a sinus infection and now I'm exhibiting many of the symptoms he started out with... yeah, so not looking good. The worst of it is that we're leaving for Cancun, Mexico on Wednesday. Nothing more fun than being on vacation sick! Let's hope I can get over it. I need to rest right now, I can barely see the screen and everything in my head aches.


The Cleaner: A Review

The Cleaner by Brett Battles is an international espionage thriller that will be released on June 26, 2007. At first I was a little nervous reading a book by my friend, Brett. What if I didn't like it? And if anyone knows me they know I'm not a good liar, quite the contrary I'm very blunt and possibly more honest than people would like.

Getting into the book was a little slow for me. Part of that I know is because I don't read many espionage/thriller books and so I got really wrapped up in being suspicious of everybody (trying to figure out the mystery before it was really set up, rookie mistake I'm sure!) and getting the hang of the different genre. Also, since it took a little bit for the stakes to be raised it was difficult for me to see where the plot was going. However, Brett picked up the pace real quick as we delved into my favorite part of the novel... the International settings!

Brett takes the readers from the US to Vietnam and then finally to Germany. Brett writes about these locations with authority, given enough detail to make the reader fell like they are literally there. One of my favorite scenes that still sticks with me is when the hero, Quinn, and his apprentice, Nate, walk out of the airport and Nate is literally accosted by a boy trying to carry his luggage for him (for a small fee of course). The details of Vietnam and Germany are very naturally and convincingly written and for a person who has been to neither I felt rather intimate and knowledgeable about both places by the end of the book.

The other aspect of the book that picks up in Vietnam is the relationship part of the book, not necessarily just the romantic relationships, but Quinn's relationship with his apprentice, his past relationships are reminisced about and brought up in various ways and you get a more fuller picture of Quinn. Once the novel gets taken to Germany though is when the real mystery/thriller part of the book explodes. Germany was a full ride of suspense and action and I can say honestly that I flew through the last part of the book, dying to know what was going on, thinking I had it all figured out, only to find out that I had no idea. So let me just clear it up for you all, the Mastermind behind the whole thing is... Ha! Did you really think I'd make it that easy for you?

I'm not really sure what I should or should not say about the plot since information is revealed to you bit by bit, and I don't want to accidentally ruin that for anybody, except that at the beginning of the novel I was baffled by all the seemingly random clues and pieces of information that didn't seem to fit together and then by the end it all impossibly and yet perfectly and yet not at all implausibly fit together!

And possibly the best show of restraint and honesty an author can show, Brett ended the book in a realistic and yet satisfying manner in which not everything was tied up with a red bow with smiley faces all over it, and yet it was realistic and what you'd figure would happen in real life, but also it was a good ending.

The Cleaner is a satisfying, education and fun read. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it thoroughly and am looking forward to reading more of Jonathan Quinn's adventures. And before I forget, let me just mention that it's so cool that the main character is not the cop, the detective or anything else so glamorous, but the guy who cleans up the dead bodies. What a creative idea! Though at first when I read the title I thought the main character was some janitor by day, detective by night guy and I thought that that would be really cool, but that's just because I really like janitors.

I definitely recommend this book when it is released, hell, you can pre-order it now if you want!


I apologize for the delay in getting this review out, I usually like to get the reviews out within days of finishing the book so that it's still fresh in my mind, but due to my computer difficulties I was unable to. Just to keep you updated, I'm still not sure if I can get the data off of my fried laptop, but Hubby and I decided to buy a new desktop either way since my laptop was slow as heck with all the stuff we had on it and obviously not very reliable since it liked to overheat, so we'd been planning on buying a desktop for a while. Yes, we went to the dark side, much to the detriment of my brother and some of my friends! We got an iMac. I've heard nothing but good things about Macs through my research (virus free for 7 years now, runs multiple applications flawlessly) and it's definitely been an adventure for me to learn the new operating system, although the rumor is that Vista, Microsoft's new operating system, is modeled after the Mac's operating system so if I were to buy a new PC I'd probably have to learn a new operating system anyways. Well, yeah, so I'll stop justifying my crossover to the dark side for now and I'll let you know how it goes... so far I can honestly say I like it. It runs more smoothly than any PC I've ever had and seems actually simpler to navigate around.


Technically Inept

I've never been known as someone who's good with technology, especially coming from a family of computer programmers, I'm used to being seen as a little bit as a dummy when it comes to technology. Well, these past couple of weeks have reenforced this view of me to myself and my friends and family.

It first started with the fact that when I got my lost luggage back from British Airlines and found everything suspiciously soaked (though I found nothing broken in the luggage and also found out my trip companions also found their luggage in a similar condition). My cell phone charger was soaked, but my phone was dead so I decided to shake it around a little bit then plug it into my phone. It not only did not work but I think it damaged my battery since after that incident my phone has just turned of randomly (when the battery's not even close to done) and then is all scrambled when I try to turn it back on.

Then I lose my second blue tooth... okay, that has nothing to do with my technology ineptness, but it just sucks. Luckily I was able to find this one (the first one I lost is gone forever), especially since this blue tooth is really my hubby's, who insisted that I take it so I wouldn't kill myself when I talk on the phone in the car. (Yeah, he's sweet, isn't he?)

Then I fry my laptop, possibly damaging the hard drive, which means losing everything on the computer... I had most of my stories backed up, but not all, and all my pictures and music is on the laptop... I mean ALL of my pictures from last year which I hadn't backed up yet. My laptop will be examined by a computer doctor today and I'm just praying that we can retrieve the data. I really don't care if the laptop is trashed, I just want my data. :( Grrrr, how I wish I weren't so technically inept.

So, say I do need to buy a new laptop, any suggestions? I was really unhappy with the Dell laptop that I have now because it would overheat too easily (hence it's current fried condition) and I've heard that this is a common problem in Dells. I'm thinking of switching over to the dark side of Macs, but I'm a little scared, not going to lie...

Sorry for the lack of posts as of recent, since I had no computer at home I was unable to continue my Uganda posts nor post my review for Brett Battles' The Cleaner, both of which I'll get to very soon, I promise!

I also wanted to mention that I'm getting completely out of hand with my book obsession. It has finally happened that I've forgotten which books I own and I added a book to my Amazon wish list that I already have! Luckily I happened to see it in my bookcase and deleted it from my wish list before I bought it, but I thought it was a note worthy moment in my book obsession.


Football Translated

"When you don't understand the rules, it just looks like big men running around wrestling," says China-born Kevin Mo...
And so came the great idea for the American Football Encyclopedia:

Blitz = Lightning war against the QB

Hail Mary Pass = Miracle long pass

Onside kick = Gambling kickoff

Play action = Pass after fake run

Pocket = Protection arc

Punt = Give it up and kick it back

Sack = Capture the commander in chief

Touchdown = Step on the enemy's territory

Glad we're making such an effort to market American Football in China. But, for safety's sake, I thought I'd post these up on my blog for some of those unfortunate Americans who don't know much about football...

You know who you are.

We think Sunday's game would be more fun to watch if Phil Simms kept yelling "It's a lightning war against the QB!"

- Deadspin
Couldn't agree more. We can only hope Simms has accessed and read the American Football Encyclopedia or better yet, my blog.

Oh, and while we're sort of speaking about Chinese spam mail, anybody else get Chinese spam?? I mean, spam in Chinese characters? I really don't know how they got my email address, but my spam box is flooded with it. Scary thing is that I can actually read some of it, and I might have purchased some Chinese special herbs that have yet to come in the mail.

Damn Chinese spam!


The NFL Has Way Too Much Time On Its Hands

Really, I couldn't put it much better than they did, so I'm not even gonna try. I know, I'm a lazy bastard today.

How Can You Help If You Don't LOOK?

One of my biggest pet peeves is when proclaimed animal lovers refuse to watch Animal Planet's Animal Precinct or when people who adore children don't want to talk about child sexual abuse. I say bullshit. If you care so much about animals and/or children then you need to actually SEE the abuse that they are forced to endure in order to help them at all. You can't truly help someone unless you understand what is happening to them. I will force myself to see things that make me want to puke, but it's because I want to help and I know that no matter how hard it is for me to see what they've gone through, I'm not going through it so I'd be quite the shallow bitch to complain or say I can't handle it. It's been with this attitude that I've gotten through some Rape Crisis calls with a woman covered in blood, or with a mentally retarded child. I've always made a promise to myself and to the women and the children of this world who are in pain that I will never turn away and I will always try to shine a light in the dark places of this world that nobody wants to look at.

It is with this in mind that I was quite distressed when I read this on The Smoking Gun. It's a report talking about how a new Dakota Fanning (who I love) movie Hounddog isn't finding any buyers at the Sundance Film Festival. And why? Because the movie depicts a rape scene of a young girl. You can read the script of the rape here, and it's very clear that it doesn't show any indecent shots of young Fanning, yet people are still balking at the thought of a rape of a young girl being shown. As Smoking Gun says, yes, it is a very disturbing script and it is probably even more disturbing to watch, but the fact also is that it is Reality! Girls are raped more often than our country wants to admit and to shun a movie that accurately depicts this is a travesty and just absolutely disgusting to me. No, it would not be an easy scene to watch, but that's the point. It's supposed to evoke horror and disgust from you, and hopefully then you might be moved enough to do something about it or at the very least be more aware for your own children's safety.

The film industry has disappointed me by their cowardness.

Speaking of ignoring the abuse of women and children, more abuses by the Janjawid.

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