Riled Up

June 27th 2013 by cybertoad in commentary 2

I am not one who typically engages in political discussions because they can get so heated and personal and often times, no minds are changed among those arguing but… the events of the past couple of days has riled me up more than usual.

I simply want you to think about the following: the issues debated recently (SB5 in the Texas Legislature & DOMA) are/were about taking options AWAY from *consenting American adults*. They are NOT about forcing anyone who does not agree to agree to them on a directly personal level. No individual will be forced to choose to have an abortion, no church will be forced to perform same sex marriages.

The USA is not homogenous by any means. We are not all the same religion, some of us do not even follow a religion, we are not all the same color, same ethnicity, same socioeconomic status, same education level, or same sexual orientation but we ARE all Americans.

Choose not to accept homosexuality in YOUR church. Choose not to have an abortion YOURSELF. But don’t try to take my rights away or try to surreptitiously limit them under the guise of protecting me while in fact worsening the situation surrounding the issues via restrictive governmental policies. Reality check: we don’t all follow your God or represent your idea of a “traditional” marriage.

I know change takes time and I will continue to voice my opinion through votes and personal example. I am heartened to see that values are slowly changing with each new generation. Tolerance is growing, even as we deal with setbacks. And that is what keeps me hopeful.

Thanks for listening!

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New Blog – The Social Toad

March 8th 2013 by cybertoad in commentary 0

In case you didn’t know, I have started another blog where I will ruminate on my thoughts and experiences as social media manager. Go check it out if you are interested!

The Social Toad

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Review: Oh Myyy!

March 6th 2013 by cybertoad in library 4

Oh Myyy!
Oh Myyy! by George Takei
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this not realizing Takei had already written an autobiography and that this was more of a follow-up based on his unprecedented rise in popularity through social media, especially through Facebook.

The book is still very personal but it takes you through his social media experience. As a social media manager, this was a happy surprise! I found myself highlighting a few good talking points and even though what he was talking about wasn’t new to me, I felt it was a great read and gave me some insights into social media engagement.

I think the general public would enjoy but I think the book is most enjoyed by those of you are already on Facebook and Twitter. If you aren’t, then I am not sure the book would keep you sufficiently interested. It focuses so much on Facebook and the various memes he’s been involved with. If you are still using dial-up and don’t know what a tweet is then this book may not be for you.

To make a long story short, I come here recommending this book as a nice intro to social media engagement, even for business users. The thought process & strategy behind how Takei interacts with his fans on social media ring true across the board and his anecdotes can be used as the backbone for how businesses can get the most out of social media and increase their fan engagement numbers. He even delves into the Facebook mystery that is called EdgeRank.

So, a good read for my fellow social media fans or for those of you starting to look into how to get your business started with social media.

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Review: What Alice Forgot

February 13th 2013 by cybertoad in library 0

What Alice Forgot
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a quick read with a pretty linear story. Characters were relatively well-written although I was getting annoyed at how Alice kept describing herself and her peers who were 39 (no spoiler here – she has forgotten the past 10 years of her life and thinks she is 29). The way she described it was as if 39 was so old… and sorry, but nowadays, as someone who IS 39, I was put-off by all the wrinkles and gray hair these women supposedly had. In my head, I imagined women in their 50s by her description.

I also dropped it a star because it was a little hard to relate with all the personality changes she had in a short 10 year span. I have been with my husband 15 years already and I can look back and say that yes, I have changed but not as drastically as Alice did in some core ways and in some of her values. To me it’s like she had regressed to be like someone in her early 20s & in a steady relationship, not 29 and married. I think I would have liked the story to have had a larger memory gap – maybe 15-20 years – to justify the drastic changes.

Anyway, not an disagreeable story but not that thought-provoking either. An easy vacation novel that won’t have you thinking too hard.

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Favorite Museums

February 11th 2013 by cybertoad in travel 3

I’ll be heading to NYC in a couple of weeks for a business trip + a few extra vacation days and I plan to visit the the Guggenheim while there and finally see The Met’s Cloisters. It got me to thinking that I have been very fortunate to have already gone to some amazing collections and seen such amazing art and archeological artifacts. Thanks to my parents and living in Houston, I have been going to museums since I was little and always try to research and visit one museum per major trip. I have been fortunate enough to have visited huge institutions like El Prado (Madrid) and the Louvre as well as small museums focused on one artist (Miro, Picasso) or that were actually once private collections (these are typically my favorites, they are more intimate ). I have seen every major artist – Picasso, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Mondrian, Caravaggio, Velasquez, Klee, Seurat, Ernst, Leger, O’Keefe, Kandinsky, Gaugin, Warhol, Dali, Matisse, Magritte, Sargent, Renoir, Goya, El Greco, da Vinci, Miro, Rothko, Lichtenstein, Haring, and more (I lean towards the impressionist & more modern names though, can’t you tell?). Anyway, I started to make a list of the museums I’ve visited – since this is from memory I am sure I am missing some…

Do you have any favorite museums? Any you love that aren’t on my list that I must go see if I get a chance?

My Favorite Museums:

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What I’m Watching

January 22nd 2013 by cybertoad in domestic, general 2

So Kenny and I devoted to Tivo – so devoted that we dropped Uverse for several reasons including that Tivo was not an option. As some of my favorite shows finish their seasons, others have just begun and yet others aren’t back yet. Just thought I’d share what our Tivo is recording for us at this time that we just can’t miss an episode… how does our list compare to what you are watching? Anything we are missing?

30 minute sitcoms:

  • Big Bang Theory
  • Happy Endings - cheesy, yes, but nice for a light-hearted comedy.
  • 30 Rock – last season!! Ack!
  • Parks & Recreation – I <3 Ron Swanson – & Xena his GF!
  • Go On (with Matthew Perry)
  • Up All Night – Christina Applegate has come a long way from her Married with Children days.
  • How I Met Your Mother – will they finally introduce her??
  • Hot in Cleveland – guilty pleasure – I <3 Betty White
  • Community – been missing it, can’t wait to have it back on!
  • Archer – animated & irreverent
  • Portlandia – We laugh because we see ourselves or our friends in the characters.
  • Modern Family – some of the best writing out there!
  • Louie – Louis C.K. isn’t for everyone but we enjoy his dark humor.

Longer shows:

  • The Walking Dead – watched online to catch up with new season
  • Mad Men – Started watching online last year to catch up – can’t wait for its return now!
  • Downton Abbey – Yay, so happy the season started back up!
  • Parenthood – Season just ended – boo! I always need tissue when I watch.
  • American Horror Story: Asylum – Watched online & caught up only to have the season end this week! Look forward to 3rd season. Jessica Lange is amazing!
  • Doctor Who - it’s torture waiting for it to return!
  • Falling Skies
  • White Collar – Matt Bomer. Enough said.
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Experiencing Cuba as an Habanero, not as a Tourist

January 9th 2013 by cybertoad in commentary, me, photography, travel 2

I wrote up a short travel essay about my trip last year to Cuba. It was published at the end of last year over at the travel website DIWYY so I decided to post it here as well… Here is the essay in its entirety. Slideshow from my entire trip is at the very end – you can click on it to go to the set on Flickr or (click here to see the photos):

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Back in late May I made a trip that I have dreamed about for years – to meet my family for the first time. You see, forty-four years ago my parents left Havana, Cuba with my then two year old sister and left behind all they had known to start a new life in the U.S., where I was born. A measly but politically significant 90 miles of water had kept us apart for far too long.

I’ll preface this to say that this is not a typical tourist account of my visit, simply because I was not a tourist. I did not stay in a hotel, I did not eat in any restaurants, I did not go to any night clubs. I experienced Cuba and lived like a middle-class family does in a supposedly class-less Spanish colonial city of over 2 million.

EMGhi-9176

This essay is not meant to comment on the political climate although it is hard not to talk about it. It invariably touches on every aspect of life, from who is allowed to purchase a car to the random power outages to the government issued “libreta“ to the dual currency system. But despite the isolation that has kept Cuba in a state of seemingly suspended animation - evidenced by the prevalent almendrones (classic American cars) seen everywhere - time has marched on. Flat screen TVs, cell phones, DVD players with USB ports and name-brand clothing sent by relatives in the U.S. are prevalent.

To be clear, there is a level of poverty but from what I saw, Cubans are not lacking in the basics. They simply sacrifice too much for those basics. For example, there is state TV but satellite TV is illegal; there is clean running water but it’s typically not hot; dishes and clothes are washed by hand, not by an appliance; you use brooms instead of vacuums; eating out is a luxury and staple items like whole milk, beef, fish, even mayo are luxuries.

Pink Lada, er, Ford?So what did I experience? A daily cafesito (pre-sweetened espresso), chatty neighbors that can hear everything through the open windows, deliciously creamy homemade arroz con leche, 30 minute power outages, black market street vendors calling out their wares (ranging from brooms to homemade pastries) and once, even the sounds of a santeria ritual. I watched telenovelas and pirated HBO specials or read the Granma (the daily propaganda filled government newspaper) while rocking in the chairs my grandparents sat in 50 years ago. I was caught in a downpour while walking through the University of Habana’s campus and took shelter with students, I swam in the unbelievably clear aqua waters at the nearby beach and I walked the streets of a beautifully restored Old Habana. I even started to enjoy the cold shower after the oppressive hot & humid days.

But most importantly, I got to experience my history. I stayed in the house (built in 1917) where my mother and aunt grew up and I visited the church where they had their First Communion in 1950 just a couple of blocks away. I drove by my mother’s high school, saw the church where my parents were married in 1964, stopped by the house where they lived as newlyweds and where my immediate family began and saw where my grandparents were buried. I saw my family’s beginnings and endings, our past and our present all in just eight days.

This history is extremely significant to me because it was so far removed from my life until now. My parents left their country and their family with just a few suitcases and settled into a brand new one with hardly any material possessions. I can’t even imagine this sacrifice but this trip drove it home for me, pun intended. And it made me finally experience the family history that I knew I had but never really felt due to the politically imposed distance.

I met strangers that, despite living such contrasting lives, felt like the family they were the second we met. I was amazed at how comfortable we all were and I saw for the first time people whose mannerisms, behaviors and physicality reminded me of myself. The way they argued over which bus route was better, my Aunt’s sense of humor, the shape of my cousin’s face. I was surrounded by more family on this trip than I have left here in the US and it was comforting.

My last day was spent with family doing the stereotypical Cuban activities – drinking Havana Club with a splash of Cola, playing dominos in the sweltering heat and listening to music. And even though I was ready to go home, I was already looking forward to the return to my Cuban home.

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Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge

December 31st 2012 by cybertoad in library 5

Yay! I set a goal of reading 15 books in 2012 and I made it – a modest goal, I know and I wish I had read more but I’m happy I made it either way!

Click here to see my list over on the Goodreads site – and to get links for each book

The books I read in 2012:

  1. Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson & Susy Flory
  2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  4. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
  5. Cowboys and Catalans: A Texan Rambles Through Europe by Charles L. Sizemore
  6. The Oblivion Society by Marcus Alexander Hart
  7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  8. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  9. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  10. Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know by Julie Sweig
  11. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
  12. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Wells
  13. Whiter Shades of Pale by Christian Lander
  14. In My Father’s Country by Saima Wahab
  15. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

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2012 Holiday Letter

December 27th 2012 by cybertoad in domestic, pets, photography, re-caps, travel 0

I have sent out a one-page holiday card each year in our holiday cards since 2001. I thought I’d share this year’s…

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Kenny & I hope this letter finds everyone in good health and good spirits! We may not see many of you on a regular basis but you are all in our hearts. Here’s the recap of how we’ve been…

Work: Kenny continues to work at Chevron ETC in Downtown Houston and traveled to Angola, Africa for 3 weeks at the end of the summer. Definitely an experience! I celebrated my 6th year at Luby’s Fuddruckers and survived my 1st year as Social Media Manager, even speaking on my first panel on Facebook marketing in San Francisco.

IMG_0947 Pets: Pascal and Rosie have bonded like true siblings. Rosie definitely acts like the little sister and she is very protective of her home and her humans, especially me. We think we’ve narrowed her mix down to Weimaraner + Italian Greyhound. She is tall & lean! Pascal on the other hand loves everyone and can be petted all day by anyone he can sucker in with his big brown eyes. One minute they are wrestling & growling, another minute they are licking each other’s ears lovingly. It’s a happy co-existence! And as a PSA, please consider rescues when considering adding a new pet to the family! You save a life and they are the most loyal animals! Oh, & be sure to spay/neuter the pets you do have! Too many animals need homes already!

EMGlo-2945 Travel: This has been the theme for the year! Between travel for work, personal and destination weddings, Kenny & I have packed in a lot of miles this year! As I mentioned, Kenny headed to Angola and went on a couple of domestic business trips. I headed to Chicago, Atlanta & San Francisco for various conferences; Las Vegas and the California Sonoma wine country to photograph destination weddings; and Havana, Cuba to meet my family (more on that below). Together we also celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary early & headed to New England for the fall foliage trip we have always wanted to do. We rented a car and visited Portland, ME; the White Mountains area in New Hampshire; Burlington, VT; and Montreal. To the left is a picture of us in Montreal. It was an amazing trip. My favorite part was driving through the White Mountains on the scenic Kancamagus Highway. What colors!

EMGhi-9005 Havana, Cuba: After saying for years I’d make a trip to Cuba, I finally made it happen. As most of you know, my parents left back in 1968 & never returned. I still have family there that includes an aunt, her husband, my two cousins and their children. We had never met but we finally did in May of this year. It was an amazing trip and I do hope to return. Despite never having met before, I felt at home with the people, the food and of course the culture. And I could see so much of the family resemblance in my aunt and my cousins! It was weird to essentially triple the family I knew on this trip but so worthwhile! Too much to put into one letter but ask me about it next time you see me! To the right is a picture of the house my mother grew up in – the center one in light green and coral. My cousin lives in it now & it is where I stayed during my 8-day visit.

Happy Holidays & Happy New Year!

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Thirty-nine.

December 17th 2012 by cybertoad in commentary, general, me 2

Another year has gone by and last Thursday, I entered the last year in my thirties. It was a quieter birthday than most years… Kenny and I haven’t even technically gone out for my birthday dinner yet because we have been busy with other events on our calendar. It didn’t help that I was sick the days leading up to my birthday with a cold, that I am still congested and that now Kenny isn’t feeling well.

Still, I feel good starting my 39th year. That outbreak on my chin I blogged about right before this one has indeed responded to the antibiotics and has cleared up. I have stayed on track with my diet and am down almost 12 lbs. I actually like my haircut nowadays (it’s the little things, I know), work is going well and I really like the people in the department I work in. Kenny and I are doing great, the pups are happy and healthy and I look forward toward 2013. I am already thinking of some vacation destinations – an Alaskan cruise maybe for our 15th wedding anniversary?

The upcoming holidays will be spent quietly as well. Christmas cards went out today, 99% of my holiday shopping is done and I am looking forward to the days off between Christmas and New Year’s.

Thanks to all of my friends who make me a better person and for being part of my life. I can’t wait to spend my 39th year with all of you!

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