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Saturday, January 30, 2010

iPad Time ... Not the Right Time

By Silvia Uribe

Whatever the name is, I want one. Let me rephrase that: I want one…now. Actually, this might just be the product that will make me transition from Windows (to which I have been forever loyal) to Apple. In fact, I think I can make the switch even though they decided to call it iPad, as they had threatened - a name which, I think, won't be appealing to most women just by association of ideas - I still want it.

Apple simply seems to be getting ahead of the game, as far as I am concerned, not only in design and technology, but also in security. I have other, more mundane reasons for wanting the iPad; its functionality, its size (9.7 inches), and its weight (only about one pound). Another important consideration is that about every three years, I usually go for a technology update. As a writer, I need the best tools to be able to focus on the creative side of my profession, right? Of course!

I can already visualize myself going with my very lightweight iPad to sit in front of the Santa Barbara Ocean, and write for endless hours (provided that its battery life is as good as the rest of its features) without anyone interrupting me at home with questions such as: What are we going to eat? What groceries do we need to buy? Or when are we taking Pancha to the vet?

What part of "I'm working" is so hard to get?

Unfortunately, in this climate in which business is slow, and income is not anywhere close to where it used to be, we need to analyze any expenditure we want to make. We appear to have moved from what I call "spontaneous" shopping to "scrupulous" shopping.

As much as I fantasize about my iPad and how it could be my ticket to peaceful writing time, it is too bad this "dream product" comes out at a time when I am, like many, almost broke. I cannot spend between $700 and $1,000, simply because I want an upgrade, and for the privacy I long to have.

"This is just the way it is now", my friend Jody (not her real name) told me at a gathering last night, when she shared that her retired husband will have to go back to work to be able to make it. "Everybody, at every level, has felt the heat, and no one is shy about admitting it."

I agree. In fact - and God knows how much I hate to accept it - I believe that what's happening with the economy is making us all finally understand that our lifestyle needed to change. It was already too demanding and too self-indulgent. Just for this reason, this crisis is (ouch!) beneficial.

Now, we can see how much we've splurged, how much debt we've accrued, and in how much greed and competition we were living. The financial pains that we're globally suffering, like any other kind of pain, have sobered us up, and have made us realize that we needed to change our ways.

As certain as the fact is that we need to change our habits, is the fact that I very much want my iPad little toy. Oops! Excuse me, my little working tool. That's why I had to go through the same process I put my children through when they were stubborn about something they wanted: Ask yourself - I used to say - will you die without it? Can you still do what you have to do, even if you don't have it? So, can you then wait for a while before getting it?

The positive thing about not buying the iPad now is, that when I finally do it, in a year or so, it will not be the hot new item that it is right now, and its price will be considerably lower. Not only that, but I will also have one additional benefit - the unavoidable glitches of any first version, will be fixed for the following models.

Waiting has its benefits, after all.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dejemos Que Nos Cuenten, Pero Seamos Precavidos.

Por Silvia Uribe.

Si amigos, todos contamos y a todos nos deben contar. ¿A qué me refiero? Nada más, ni nada menos que al Censo 2010 que comenzará en marzo.

Por supuesto que todos tenemos preguntas sobre este proceso que solo sucede cada 10 años. Pero antes de enfocarnos en las preguntas generales, quisiera responder a una en particular, que muchos de nosotros nos hacemos: ¿Utilizarán el censo para localizar a aquellas personas que no están legalmente en este país? La respuesta es un rotundo NO.

Es más, la ley indica que la información que se recibe en el censo no se puede compartir con nadie, ni siquiera con otras agencias u oficinas gubernamentales.

Así es como funciona el Censo: usted nada más tendrá que contestar 10 preguntas y ninguna de ellas incluye su estatus legal, o su número de seguro social. En otras palabras, el propósito del Censo es únicamente el de saber cuántos somos, en qué estado y distrito vivimos, nuestra edad y nuestra ocupación. Con esta información se calcula cuánto dinero se le debe de dar a cada estado en relación a la población que tiene y a la distribución de la misma.

El Censo también sirve para efectos políticos: para determinar distritos legislativos y congresionales, así como el número de personas que deberán servir a dichos distritos tanto a nivel local como estatal. Por último, el censo sirve para determinar los servicios comunitarios necesarios para atender a dicha población: escuelas, hospitales, otros servicios sociales y nuevos proyectos de vivienda, entre otras cosas.

Maria Dupras, Gerente de la Oficina del Censo Local, explica que por cada persona que se cuenta, se reciben $40,000 en un período de 10 años. “Por eso es muy importante que los cuestionarios se contesten y se regresen por correo; para que todas las personas sean contadas”.

En todos los países del mundo se lleva a cabo un censo cada diez años y es así como sabemos cual es la población mundial, comenzando por los distintos países, estados, ciudades y pueblos.

La buena noticia este año es que será más fácil y rápido que nunca completar el cuestionario del censo. Sólo tendremos que responder a diez simples preguntas y no nos llevará más de diez o quince minutos hacerlo.

He aquí lo que tenemos que hacer: inmediatamente, cuando recibamos el cuestionario durante el mes de marzo, deberemos llenarlo inmediatamente y regresarlo cuanto antes en su sobre; no necesitamos ponerle estampillas. Por favor, no lo guarde para hacerlo después, ni se lo de a nadie más para que lo vea y, por favor, no lo tire por desconfianza, por miedo o por pensar que no es importante. Si usted no regresa el cuestionario contestado, más tarde recibirá la visita de un empleado del Censo y esta persona le hará las preguntas personalmente.

Pero le recomiendo que tenga cuidado….

Cuando alguien toque a su puerta y le diga que es un empleado del Censo y que desea hacerle preguntas, asegúrese de verificar su identificación. Los empleados del Censo tendrán su identificación (regularmente colgada al cuello) y una bolsa del censo. Antes de dejarlo pasar pídale que se la dé en la mano, léala con cuidado y apunte el nombre si es necesario. Si la persona no cuenta con una identificación, no le permita el paso al interior de su casa.

Recuerde: los empleados del censo no tienen por qué pedirle sus tarjetas de crédito, ni ninguna información sobre éstas. No le pedirá información sobre sus cuentas de cheques, ni los números de las mismas, ni nada que tenga que ver con los impuestos que usted pagó en años anteriores. Los empleados del censo tampoco le pedirá su número de seguro social, su pasaporte o su tarjeta consular. Es importante recalcar también que la visita de los empleados del censo es gratuita y usted no deberá pagar por ella.

Ya lo saben amigos, todos contamos y a todos nos deben contar.

Monday, January 25, 2010


In Goleta? Get Out!

“There was a what?”

“A tornado.”

“What? Where?”

“Here, in Goleta.”

“A tornado in Goleta? Yeah, right.”

“Yes, there was a tornado right by your house,” my daughter explained to her best friend Greg, a student at UC Berkeley, as they were chatting on Facebook. “It was a very small one, and it only took a tree up from its roots, damaged a flag pole, and it peeled off a rooftop, nothing else. Call your parents, maybe they felt something too.”

“Are you serious?”

“I promise.”

“Ok, I’ll call them, but I think you’re making this up, and if you are, you’ll hear back from me.”

She didn’t.

He was not the only one reacting like that. “Tornados only happen in the Midwest, not in our backyard,” asserted Betty, an elderly friend of mine. “That’s why I live here. I’ve been living in the area for almost 20 years, and never heard of one before.”

Whether Greg or Betty believed it or not, the fact is that we had a small tornado touch down in Goleta a few days ago, and another one in Santa Barbara. See video of the latter's aftermath here. We also had a couple of thunderstorms, you may have noticed; the possibility of a tornado increases when there are thunderstorms warming the air up with their lightning and all.

The first time I ever heard the words tornado and Goleta together was on January 24, 2008, when a tornado warning was issued for our city. Those 2008 warnings were issued for exactly the same week of the year that the little tornados happened in 2010.

According to the Fujita Scale for tornados in relation to the speed of winds and the damages they cause, our unexpected tornado was an F0. Introduced in 1971, the Fujita Scale is now the official classification system for tornado damage. It is also a simple enough method to use in daily practice without involving much additional expenditure of time or money. The Fujita scale goes as follows:

F0 – Gale tornado, 40-72 mph: Some damages to chimneys, breaks branches off trees, pushes over shallow-rooted trees, damages sign boards.

F1 – Moderate tornado, 73-112 mph: Peels surface off roofs, mobile homes pushed off foundations, moving autos off the roads

F2 – Significant tornado, 113-157 mph: Considerable damage. Roofs torn off houses, mobile homes demolished, large trees snapped or uprooted, light object missiles generated.

F3 – Severe tornado, 158-206 mph: Roof and walls torn off well-constructed houses, trains overturned, most trees uprooted.

F4 – Devastating tornado, 207-260: Well-constructed houses leveled, structures with weak foundations blown off, cars thrown and large missiles generated.

F5 – Incredible tornado, 261-318 mph: Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and carried considerable distances to disintegrate, trees debarked, steel reinforced constructions badly damaged, automobile sized missiles generated

One very important thing to remember is that the size of a tornado is not necessarily an indication of its intensity. Large tornados can be weak, and small tornados can be violent.

While doing my research I learned that according to California Tornado Statistics, our state has had some 303 tornados from 1950 through 2004.

These are the counties with the highest number of tornados during this 56 year period:

Los Angeles County, 41 tornados; Orange County, 28 tornados; San Bernardino, 27 tornados; Fresno County, 23 tornados; San Diego County, 20 tornados.

Who knew! California’s had its share of tornados at a rate of five per year, give or take, and Santa Barbara County appears on the list with three tornados during that period, plus two more this year, so far, for a total of 5.

Hmmm. I’d say we don’t need any more. We have enough to be concerned about what with earthquakes, fires, and landslides, don’t you think?

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at the

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dining at the Movies

By Silvia Uribe

Movies are supposed to capture not only our attention, but also our sensations, and make us live the stories that we're witnessing on the silver screen. But this year, the whole movie thing was the most complete experience I've ever had. It was not only the film, although I must admit some of them were memorable for a variety of reasons, but watching how people behaved at times, was priceless.

For example, one night, with a completely full theatre, we were waiting for the previews to start. Suddenly, one person on the front row stood up, and went to the back exit as if he was leaving. I kept looking. With the door open he looked around and he whistled loudly and yelled, "Here". By then he got everyone's attention in the theatre. We were more than curious. Was he trying to sneak someone in? People were already looking at each other and shaking their heads in disapproval.

We realized what was going on when he came back in with the medium-sized pizza that he had ordered, which, as soon as he sat down, he shared with his friends. Some people laughed, some others didn't like it, and many, I'm sure, would have taken a piece if offered. I thought that was very odd, but I was truly surprised when I saw what happened next.

Encouraged by this, others sitting closer to us, had no guilt when they made some hot dogs appear from the depths of their jackets and started eating them, too. Go figure! I thought that someone would complain, but no one did. Although the air was filled with pepperoni, cheese and onion smells, no one from the administration seemed to notice. I couldn't believe it, but given the calm way in which they did it, I think this was not the first time. Live and learn.

Notwithstanding the frankly weird and bold behavior of some of my fellow moviegoers, I was able to focus on the film and I enjoyed that particular movie as much as a couple of others:

* The Blind Side, with Sandra Bullock - Being an adoptive mom, I was able to identify with the whole story and the hurdles that each family member had to jump when faced with societal prejudice and criticism.

* It's Complicated, starring Meryl Streep - Its fresh approach to marriage, divorce, long time friendships among women, female/male insecurities, plus the constant strokes of humor raised it as one of the best, funniest films of the year.

* Avatar - I didn't know that it was a three-hour, 3-D movie until I had to pay $10.50, and I protested the price. I didn't know most of the actors, but I'm kind of oblivious, anyway, so it didn't really matter. I enjoyed it all -- the effects, the characters, the message and even the story. It didn't feel long, even though I'm usually ready to leave the theatre after an hour and a half during any given movie.

(Question to those related to the movie industry: How come we still need to see 3-D movies with special glasses? It's been like that all my life. It is difficult to believe that no new technology has been developed so we can watch it without the very uncomfortable glasses. And, pretty soon, we will have 3-D TV's. Are we going to need the silly glasses, too? If so, can we just skip the 3-D TV and move ahead to the cool, cool hologram TV instead?)

All in all, it was fun to have some days off and get up to speed and ready for the upcoming Film Festival and for the Oscars. I hope you also had some good, restful time off during this Holiday season.

For 2010, I wish you a healthy year. May you get closer to those you love, and to accomplishing your dreams. Hope you live a full life and that you intensely enjoy it. We only have one life, and this is not a dress rehearsal.

Happy New Year!

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at