Friday, February 23, 2007

Matt's a nerd

For the last eleven years, Matt has flaunted his perfect 20/20 eyesight. Everyone told him he would never get out of college without getting glasses. We were wrong. Then we all told him that there was no way he would get out of law school without getting glasses. Wrong again. Finally, a mere month after his 30th birthday, I made an eye appointment for him, and guess what? He needs glasses for reading, computer work, and driving. He's officially a nerd.
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Monday, February 19, 2007

Trip Planner

I just found a feature on Yahoo! Travel that lets you plan your trips, blog about it, and post your pictures. I just returned from a weekend visit to Philadelphia, and now you can read about it
here. The link will also be on my main page.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ines of my soul

The good thing about plane rides is that they give you a large block of time to read. Going to and from Seattle, a five hour flight, I had plenty of time to start and finish the latest novel by Isabel Allende, Ines of My Soul, which was published last fall.

Allende, a Chilean author now living in California, tends to write about those two places, and this novel was no exception. Taking place in Peru and Chile during the Spanish conquest, Allende introduces us to the real-life Chilean historical figure, Ines de Suarez. Born in Spain, Ines travels to Peru in search of her husband and adventure. After learning of her husband’s death, she is determined to stay in the New World and later takes up with the Spanish conquistador, Pedro de Valdivia. Together, she and Pedro de Valdivia decide to found Chile, and conquer the native people in the process.

The book goes into many details about the wars between the Spanish and the natives, and does not sugarcoat the hostility between both sides. Yet, despite her role as conquistadora, Ines proves to be a very sympathetic character, a fictionalization I’m sure.

Actually, the sympathy I felt toward the Spanish was a little surprising to me. The Spaniards did terrible things to the native people, and the natives fought back with equal brutality. In the book, Ines says she does not blame the natives for fighting for their land, since the Spanish did the same when the Moors invaded Spain (if you look at the cover, you'll see that the figure they chose to portray Ines has some Arabic features...). This view, I’m sure, was not shared by the original Ines. However, one cannot help but feel sympathy for a group of people who, with their food supplies practically destroyed by the Indians, are forced to eat puppies in order to survive. Yes, puppies.

This sympathy leads to the question: which side do I root for? As a Mexican American myself, with both native blood and Spanish heritage, these types of things needed to happen in order for me to exist. Often times, we assign brutality to the Spanish side, but the natives were no less brutal. We forget that the Inca had systematically conquered other native tribes before the Spanish conquered them. And we find out that Pedro de Valdivia meets a terrible end at the hands of the Indian youth, Lauturo, who (according to the book, at least) he had treated like a favored nephew.

History is relative, however, and historical fiction even more so. My own research could uncover little more than what is widely known about Ines, mainly because most of the books written about her are in Spanish and have never been translated. I’m glad that Isabel Allende is giving Ines a greater audience than she had previously had before.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

charitable donations

Its tax time again. For me, that means gathering up all tax-related documents, including charitable deductions, for 2006. After looking at our contributions, Matt was a little chagrined that we aren't really keeping up with our tithing as much as we should (7 percent of our total income), but I pointed out that we do give to several non-profit organizations, and even gave money to organizations which we can't deduct (thank you, Webb for Senate, even though we don't live in Virginia, but that's another story).

Of course, giving isn't about how much we can deduct on our taxes. I honestly believe in the work of every organization that we give money to. In an effort to up our charitable donations for the year, Matt and I have agreed that we will give a set amount to a charity every month, and will alternate who chooses the charity. This month, I chose the local public radio station, since its pledge drive time (why does it seem that its always time for a pledge drive in public radio?).

Speaking of giving money, seems to be upping his charitable donations as well. He'll be donating ad revenue from his site to a local DC organization. That's a class act, if you ask me.

I encourage everyone to give back to their community in some way, whether it be by volunteering time or making a financial contribution.

Poor George

Well, the day after I wrote about using my George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine, I tried using it to grill some fish. The machine didn't really heat up very much and a lot of the controls didn't work. I think the innards got wet. Bah.

However, this did call for a trip to Target, which I always love, to purchase a brand new George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine. I ended up getting one with removable grill plates to make it easier to clean. Today, is the inaugural use of the new George for Sausage Fest. I have about 9 lbs of sausage, including half smokes, which is DC tradition. I got inspired to buy half smokes after reading about them in Washington City Paper.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Where is my motivation?

After a brief and small (3 lbs) success early on this year, I've managed to gain those back in the last 2 weeks or so. My excuses: Matt's 30th birthday blowout, conference in Seattle (although I ate a lot of seafood), just plain laziness. Matt has decided to get back on Weight Watchers and that helps. This week I signed up for 10 hours with a personal trainer, in one hour increments. I hope to start that next week.

I've been really hungry lately, so I'm making it a point to eat oatmeal every morning. Last night I got out of work late and it was a real challenge for us to not go out to eat at our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant, Dino, because it was right there. We managed to stagger home and make dinner together: boneless, skinless chicken thighs on the George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling machine, steamed zuchhini, a great quick mashed potato recipe from the WW cookbook. As I was inhaling my food, Matt said, "I bet if we were eating shit on a shingle it would still taste good to us right now." I beg to differ. Shit never tastes good.