Miles, not calories


I count miles, not calories. I’m into running, not dieting. Many people are obsessed by the number of calories they eat when they should be exercising more. Now I’m not one to preach about the benefits of any form of exercise, but people always seem to know the exact number of calories I’m about to consume when I raise a soft drink to my mouth or get ready to order junk food.

Lately, people have been asking me how I lost so much weight. I dropped about thirty pounds and went from a 36-inch waist to a 32-inch waist. They’re disappointed when I tell them that I run about nine miles almost every day. They either don’t have time to run or they have a back injury or bad knees that prevent them from running. I don’t have time to run, either, but I make time to run because I enjoy the physical exercise and the time for ruminating about my daily activities. I work out some of my daily problems and plan my day while running. When I don’t run, I feel as if I’m missing out on something vital. Yes, eat, breathe, sleep, run. They’re all very important. And just as important, reading, writing, running.

And in order to keep running, I eat fruits and vegetables everyday. Every morning, I eat a banana, an apple, and an orange. I also enjoy eating a granola bar and a yogurt in the morning. I’m not happy unless I eat three pieces of fruit everyday. I also eat peanuts and/or pistachios everyday. I love eating peanuts and pistachios! I used to work in a peanut butter factory and I could eat all the peanuts I wanted. And I enjoy drinking orange juice, the pulpy kind. I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan, but I like going without meat on some days. I once tried being a vegetarian, but I only lasted about a month before I began craving meat, any kind of meat. I guess deep down inside, I’m a carnivore!

My daily goals are to run as much as possible each day, or at least walk a mile or two, and eat some healthy food before I eat all the other junk food and sweets that I crave and can’t seem to live without. Overall, I feel good, but people I shocked that I run so much and by some of the things I eat. Well, I’m not here to please others. I want to enjoy my life. I can only please others or please myself. I choose me!

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Juan Goytisolo


Juan Calduch, Juan Goytisolo, and Dr. D. in 1999.

There are famous people and then there are famous people you never heard of.

As a graduate student in Hispanic Studies, I had to read a novel, La saga de los Marx, by Juan Goytisolo for a seminar on Modern Spanish (as in, from Spain) Literature. I had never even heard of Juan Goytisolo. Then the professor who assigned the novel assured the graduate seminar that he was world-famous. I just took her word for it. But I was suspicious of just how famous he was.

Well, regardless of his claim to fame, I began reading La saga de los Marx. I was captivated by Goytisolo’s writing. I couldn’t identify a protagonist or a setting. He inserted foreign languages sans translations. There was no storyline to speak of. Or standard punctuation, for that matter. He seemed to have studied grammar and stylistic rules only so he could break as many rules as possible. However, the writing piqued my curiosity and I read the novel in a mere two sittings.

When the class met to discuss the novel, only one other student said she had read the entire novel. But she wasn’t sure if she really liked the novel. I, on the other hand loved it! I immediately decided that I would write my seminar paper on this novel. I was intrigued by the postmodernist style.

As I was writing my paper, I decided to reread the novel to find supporting citations for my paper. Curiously enough, I enjoyed the novel even more upon reading it a second time. I loved it so much that I decided to write a letter to Juan Goytisolo, c/o of the publisher. Imagine my surprise when he wrote back! Usually when I like a writer that much, he or she has already been dead for a long time. Sometimes dying even before I was born. How rude!

Well, this paper inspired me to further my studies and become a doctoral candidate. I showed Juan Goytisolo’s letter to the seminar professor and she asked me to invite him to speak at UIC. He accepted the invitation and spoke at our university, with me as the guest of honor because he came on account of my letter and I was writing my doctoral dissertation on his novels. I was truly honored. I was also surprised at how many people came from miles around to hear Juan Goytisolo speak and plug his latest novel. He was a fascinating man, as I discovered while giving him a tour of the Chicagoland area.

Well, Juan Goytisolo truly is world-famous. Every year he gets nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. One of these days, he may actually win it. But to think I had never heard of him before that graduate seminar!

Photoshop


Photoshop at work!

I enjoy reading, but lately I’ve really enjoyed reading computer books. Well, with the computer books I read, it’s not actually reading. Most of those books for dummies and idiots are hands on guide to using various programs. I’ve learned a lot about computing reading those books, despite being neither a dummy nor an idiot. Maybe I’m just a nerd, but I love reading those computer books. I can now do many things with many programs. The downside is that someone is always asking me how to do certain things on the computers.

I learned to type on an old typewriter I found in our attic on Wood Street. I also found an old typing manual from which I learned how to type. When I was in the Marines, I took that typing manual with me and in my free time I did every single exercise in that book. And now I can touch type. So, it was a natural progression for me to start reading computer books to learn how to use programs.

I used to buy the books despite being very expensive. Then, they almost immediately became obsolete. I would use them once and remember all the commands that I planned on using. I had a huge pile of expensive, obsolete computer books that I eventually gave to the used bookstore. I always had the latest software and I always read the latest books. I still don’t understand how the latest knowledge on computer programs is directed at dummies and idiots. Apparently there’s a huge market. I don’t buy these books anymore, but they’re available through the Chicago Public Library for free. Some branch in Chicago always has the book I need.

Photoshop has been the most difficult program for me to use. The main reason I bought the program was because my iPhone used it to download the pictures to my computer. But then I found other uses for Photoshop.

I’ve been writing my blog for years. No frills, nothing fancy. Just plain vanilla text and formatting. Then, some of my readers started asking me when I would upload pictures with my posts. I was truly surprised! I had readers! That’s right! Readers! As in more than one. And they were actually reading my blog! They thought pictures would enhance my blog. So I started taking pictures for the blog. I must admit that Photoshop has improved my pictures due to my lack of photography skills.

I read every Photoshop book available through my library and I learned quite a lot. Last May, I went to an educational seminar in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where I attended two Adobe classes where I learned more about how to use Photoshop. I never realized how many commands are available. I know I’ll never even use half of them, but it’s nice to know they’re available.

Alice in Wonderland


Do you have any idea why a raven is like a writing desk?

As I once learned from a great philosopher, I should begin telling a story at the beginning and then stop when I reach the end. And so I will. I will try, that is.

I have always loved Lewis Carroll. I have read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass a couple times as an adult since there are so many allusions to his work in our culture. As a boy, I was only familiar with the works as cartoons, so they were a very interesting read when I grew up. Now, I have a strong urge to reread them when I have time.

So I went to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. I have seen most of his films. Not that I’m crazy about Tim Burton, but I love Johnny Depp movies. So I went to see Johnny Depp’s Alice in Wonderland.   If Johnny Depp is in a movie, I will go out of my way to see it. Oh, yes, I’m also a huge fan of Helena Bonham Carter. When Sweeney Todd came out, I was ecstatic that the movie starred both Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

No one wanted to go see it with me. Not one person I knew was interested in seeing Sweeney Todd. In fact, not many people had ever even heard of Sweeney Todd in any of its previous manifestations. I’ve learned from personal experience a long time ago that if I want to see a movie, I should just go see it even if it means going to the show alone. There are so many movies that I regret missing simply because I was afraid to go to the show alone. So, for the last twenty years or so, I go see movies I really want to see even if I have to go alone. I went to see Sweeney Todd alone. I went to see a noon showing on a Tuesday. If you think I felt uncomfortable, you’re sadly mistaken. Yes, I went by myself, but there were about sixteen other people in the theater. I felt right at home with them! You see, they were all alone, too! We were spread all about the theater by ourselves, all alone. United by our individuality. We all had something in common. None of us could find someone to see Sweeney Todd with us. We were together, yet alone. Life is funny that way!

Oh, yes, I was writing about Alice in Wonderland. Of course, Johnny Depp and Helena were brillig, I mean brilliant! I went to see it with my oldest son. Occasionally, someone will go to the show with me. Don’t ask my son how the movie was because he fell asleep. He was in his own wonderland. We went to see the movie in 3-D, as the movie was intended to be seen by Lewis Carroll. I kept lifting up my 3-D glasses to see how 3-D worked. Or, to make sure it really was 3-D and not some sort of scam to charge us extra hard-earned money to see a faux 3-D movie. Well, I’m pretty sure it was 3-D because whenever I raised my 3-D glasses the picture on the screen looked blurry.

Johnny Depp played the Mad Hatter, and if you ask me, I will vouch for him that he truly was mad. But isn’t Johnny Depp a little mad in all his movies? In fact, for the final battle scene, I could swear that he resembled Jack Sparrow ever so slightly when he fought. Oops, I better not ruin the movie for you!

Okay, I think I’ve written enough. I’ve reached the end.

T-shirts


UIC student t-shirt

T-shirts with messages always attract my attention, especially if they have an intriguing message. So how does a clothing item that was originally an undergarment come to demand so much attention? Well, I’ll tell you. No one seems to know. If you wear a t-shirt with text, I will read it. If the message is partially obscured by a sweater or jacket, I will ask you to let me read it. If for some reason your message truly intrigues me, I will ask you to let me take a picture of your t-shirt. I hate it when I ask the wearer of a particularly mysterious message to explain the significance of the message and they don’t know. How can they not know? Well, usually the t-shirt was a gift. Well, I wouldn’t wear a t-shirt to disseminate a message that I didn’t understand. Yet, many people do. I just don’t get it!

Nihil


Talk about potential!

Sometimes I have crazy ideas. Okay, maybe a little more often than sometimes. If you’re a regular reader, you know what I mean. Well, my latest idea–actually, I’ve thought about this one for years–involves renting an empty storefront. I would paint a simple sign in the window: NIHIL. I would set up a desk with a computer where I could write. I would also surround myself with my books in bookcases. There would be inviting desks, tables, and sofas for for the curious to come in and be creative. Or, if they’re not creative, reading would also be permissable. If no one came in, I would sit there in public view writing my blog or working on my website. Anyone would be welcome to come as long as no one talks and interrupts the creative process of anyone present.

For the uninitiated who entered and asked, “What does ‘Nihil’ mean?” I would say, “Nothing.” Or perhaps I would say nothing. And maybe they would catch on that they were not supposed to talk. I would point at the available furniture. If they left, so much the better. This way I could keep writing. If, however, they stayed quietly, I would feel as if I had accomplished something.

This is a crazy idea for me because I basically do that at home right now. Whenever I’m at home I sit at my computer writing something or other without any interruptions. Or, I read. Some people can’t do anything productive at home, but not me. I’ve always been at my most productive while at home! Besides, I can’t afford to rent an empty storefront.

Reading


Reading and camping in Wisconsin

Reading has been my lifelong passion. I have always loved reading! Even when I went camping with my friend Jim, I took books along. He took a picture of me reading while I so engrossed in whatever book it was I was reading. 

I loved the first grade when we started reading. At that level, it didn’t matter that I didn’t know English. Our homework involved reading to our parents at home. My mother thought that was too much trouble for her after a long day’s work, so I would read to my abuelita. Unfortunately, not only did she not speak English, but she was also blind. But she loved when I read to her. And I was grateful to have someone to listen to me read. 

When I was a little older, I used to go to the library to read. I mostly read joke and riddle books, but that still counts as reading in my book. In the seventh grade, Divine Heart Seminary let me check out books from their library via the USPS. I only remember two of the books that I read. One book was about Father Damien who was a missionary on a leper island in Hawaii. And the other one was Fighting Father Duffy who was a U.S. Army chaplain during World War II. Now would a seminary only send me books about priests? I’ve always wondered about that. 

I like reading at the library because I had more privacy. If mother saw me reading comic books or even books, she would criticize me for be lazy. When I finally bought my first car, I would drive to Marquette Park just to read in my car. When I would come home, my mother would ask me what I did. When I told her I went to the park to read, her blood would boil. Then she would tell about other constructive things I could have been doing around the house. 

In general, the uneducated masses don’t understand why anyone would want to read a book. When I worked in the peanut butter factory, I always carried a paperback in my back pocket. Whenever the production line stopped or I was on break or lunch, I would pull out my book and start reading, even if I had to stand. No matter who my boss was, he would come by and tell me to pick up a broom and start cleaning up my area. No one at the factory really understood why I liked reading so much. 

Ironically, the books I chose to read were the books that I refused to read in high school. In high school, I spent most of my time reading chess books. For two years my life revolved around chess.  But once the books weren’t required reading, they piqued my curiosity. Why were they required reading in the first place? So, one by one, I read all the books I once rebelled against. Suddenly, I felt a certain sense of fulfillment. 

In the Marines, I bought the Great Books set and I would read them every free moment. My fellow Marines thought I was a bit crazy, but maybe that’s why no one started any trouble with me. That and I told everyone I knew kung fu. No one wanted to risk starting trouble with me.