Thursday, October 18, 2007

Loving you was so easy.

Today, I cried about a dog. Maybe it was the carcinogenic seasoning affecting my brain, or maybe I connected with a bit of life that hits me in precious moments too few and far between.

There was a guide dog that was helping a blind lady on a crowded bus on my way home. He was a medium-sized dog, with shiny black hair. What caught my attention, besides the fact that he was a cute animal, was that he crossed one of his front paws over the other while he sat. From my perspective, he looked so sad lying with his belly on the bus floor next to his owner's feet, surrounded by a cage of swaying legs and shoes, trying not to skid around while the bus lurched forward and ground to way too many unnecessary halts, meanwhile making himself as immobile as possible to avoid being stepped on. Oh well, the bus lurched again and his tail was stepped on by a lady who lost her balance. The poor dog didn't make a sound, just tucked its tail forward and kept its head down.

I've seen a few guide dogs on the subway, but this one really moved me. I felt sorry for the dog, not for the blind human. I felt bad that the dog was forced into a life of servitude, destined to lead a human around and not enjoy its own freedom. I was amazed at the dog's courage to confront human rush hour on public transportation every day, heed what his owner wanted to do. I leave for work either at 7:45am or 9am just to miss the masses, because I have a choice.

I felt a lump grow in my throat and tears start forming. Luckily, it was a few minutes before my stop. Tears flowed free on my walk home, though!

While I'm relieved that I am still able to feel spontaneous emotion, I'm concerned that I felt more compassion for this dog than for the human. Is that just me?

I hearted fries.

I don't know if it's all the pro-organic, pro-vegetarian, sustainability books I've been reading recently ("The Food Revolution" by John Robbins and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan), but it may be affecting the way I taste (food, not me personally).

For the past year, I've generally tried to avoid fast food as much as possible. No temptatious nuggets, no pungent hamburgers, well, the occasional grilled chicken sandwich because it must be healthier than the other stuff on the combo menu! But there's no way around the fries. I crave fries every day. I love Burger King fries, they always seem to be fresh.

But today, I got Wendy's. It honestly tasted like there was a slimy coating of melted plastic wrapped around each fry. The more I chewed, the more it "crunched" between my teeth, but not in a good way. No fry has ever tasted like this to me before. . . . I imagined my stomach being assaulted by carcinogenic seasoning and butane-laced grease. In disgust, I slowly and regretfully stopped eating, and ended up throwing the majority of it out. And I had made it a medium! $1.55.

I hope this change is for the good cause I thought fries and I had a beautiful relationship. . . .

Gonna go watch Fast Food Nation now. What a coincidence it came in the mail.

Monday, September 17, 2007

More notable Sinfest!

Helps you breathe and remember to smile!

Sinfest, September 17, 2007

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Deep Relaxation Response

I've become an avid fan of mental and physical stress reduction brought on by racing thoughts, constant sitting posture, life pressures, and social stressors. I go about this in several ways. They include massage (once a week), acupuncture (once a month), and meditation (daily, when I remember). I'm hoping to incorporate yoga, exercise, and other regular hobbies to have a more varied routine (and to reduce the financial output -- massages run about $90/hour...).

I've noticed a pattern in the deep relaxation response that occurs when I'm "undergoing" stress reduction that I thought would be interesting to share, and to inquire if others experience similar -- or different -- effects.

During Massage:

  • Increased salivation
  • Ringing in ears (tinnitus)
  • Tingling up the base of the head, and throughout the crown of the head, especially when another part of the body is being treated
  • Tingling throughout body
  • Muscle "jerking"/sudden release of tension
  • Automatic smiling
During Acupuncture:
  • Transition of color spectrum in vision (green tint to red to green, blue tint to red to blue, and so on)
  • Muscle "jerking"/sudden release of tension
During Meditation:
  • Increased salivation
  • Warmth spreading throughout body, especially in the extremities
  • Tingling/buzzing in area between eyebrows
  • Ringing in ears (tinnitus)
  • Overall muscle relaxation
  • Even breathing
  • Decrease in racing thoughts
  • A feeling of stability and security
Looking at the list, it's amazing to notice how the body responds naturally and consistently throughout different types of sessions, and to ponder the reasons it does so.

OM Restaurant, Harvard Square, II

Promptly at 6, we were led up to the second floor, the second "level of enlightenment," according to the restaurant's website. A quieter, more private setting.

[Continued from previous post, OM Restaurant, Harvard Square.]

We were led up the rich wooden stairs and emerged on the second floor. It had a very earthy, but sparse decor, with small clay and stone sculptures in nooks and crannies in the walls on, and a nicely lit centerpiece painting on the ceiling.

As we were seated at a clean, clothed table for two, the service started immediately. A bowl of herb-and-cheese seasoned popcorn, and warm bread were placed between us. It was refreshing to be attended to by a respectful, mature, well-dressed, and alert group of servers, some with the role of simply clearing the table when we had finished a course. A very smooth operation.

After ordering, we were given a complimentary amuse bouche, a bite-sized hors d'oeuvre to whet the appetite in anticipation of the main courses. Now, I had never had an amuse bouche, but had learned about them in a Top Chef episode, the cooking competition show on Bravo. I was excited to try one and see what the glamorous fuss was all about. I was expecting an amuse bouche to be a single bite of tasty solid food (as they were in Top Chef), but it came as a frothy light-green liquid in a shot glass. Described to us as a puree of cucumbers, Thai curry, basil, and other things I can't remember, we hesitantly sniffed, sipped, and smacked... the cucumbers made it oddly refreshing and light, the Thai Curry introduced a playful and sensual aroma into the back of the mouth and nose, and overall, the extreme saltiness curled the stomach and prickled the salivatory glands into second gear. I admit that it was beyond anything I had ever experienced because it was such a daring combination of completely separate ingredients (drinking a cucumber and curry shake, who wudda thunk??). A+ for originality.

After the majority of the amuse bouche was cleared away, without reproach from the staff I might add gratefully, the two starter courses came. The young greens salad with shallots and herbal "Banyuls" dressing, and fried cucumbers (notice a theme?) were delectable in their own unique way. I'm a fan of fried foods, although I am advised to stay away from them due to a particularly sensitive digestive system, and I can say that I am a huge fan of the fried cucumbers -- the batter was crispy on the outside, light on the inside, and the cucumber was juicy and soft. To top it off, the mayonnaise sauce was a stimulating compliment to the subtle flavors of the cucumber. I would go back again just for that!

The young greens salad was a bit more challenging in that the dressing was, again, infused with exotic herbal flavors that I had not experienced before. Had I been a little more fearless, I may have enjoyed it for its uniqueness and divergence from the standard "balsamic vinaigrette," but honestly, it left me feeling like I was eating from an aromatherapy garden. Soothing at first, but feeling drugged towards the halfway point. I gave it up for my sister to devour, while I finished off the fried cucumbers. Good deal.

Then the main course. Elephant Trunk Sea Scallops was presented in an artistic flourish of sweet English pea puree with basil and mint, luxuriating in a bed of smoked bacon, red onion, and mushrooms. What an unexpected combination of flavors, you say! Yes indeed. This was a thrilling plate because scallops are one of my comfort foods, and dipping the soft body into the thickness of the puree was grand. The contrast of seared scallop and sweet pea/sweet basil/refreshing mint was not so intimidating as one would expect. In contrast, there was balance and everything seemed to melt in your mouth. The aggressive flavors of bacon, onion, and mushroom served well to refresh the palate between bites of scallop, just to keep the party going, so to speak.

And indeed, it was a party. Stuffed and no room for dessert. I'll let my sister talk about that!

Overall, a positive dinner experience with many firsts. The next time I feel exploratory, I'll be sure to come back for new eats, and to meditate on the Buddha god.

For more information:
OM Restaurant
92 Winthrop Street
Cambridge, MA

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sinfest Faves

I read Sinfest every day. It's been my ichi-ban suki-na online comic (number-one favorite) since I discovered it 7 years ago when I was studying Japanese in the Cornell FALCON program (no connection between the two besides the aforementioned). Here are four strips that I particularly like.


Everything's Gonna Be All Right

Day in the Life 5

Messed Up Life

I'm striving to be like the Buddha character. Peace within and happiness in life sound good to me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

OM Restaurant, Harvard Square

My sister and I tried "OM," a restaurant offering modern American cuisine by Chef Rachel F. Klein. Located on the inner skirts of Harvard Square, it is a regal and exotic treasure amidst the flurry of Hahvad students, crazies, homeless, and the rest of academic civilization.

I had known of its existence since the beginning of my stint in Cambridge two years ago, but had always assumed that it was an overfluffed Indian restaurant judging from the name and symbol of "OM" emblazoned on the large sign lit brightly enough for all to see.

I suppose I should have been more interested in/open about it before last week when I actually went in and tried it for the first time. I was missing a bonding place.

Immediately upon entering, I was attracted by the cleanliness of the interior. We were greeted by a running wall-fountain that spanned the entire entrance, wrapping me in a blanket of comfort and protection. Until the dining floor opened at 6pm, we were directed to enjoy the lounge whose windowed walls were was open (unfortunately) to the ground-level mini-quad that is also shared by Pete's Coffee, ex-Tower Records, and Grendel's Patio outdoor diners. Sounds quaint until you realize that the green grass is littered with trash, and the air smells faintly of dumpster trash, littered cigarette butts, and unwashed wandering bodies. And if you enjoy your privacy, the loads of people walking by isn't particularly helpful. Such is the current situation in good ol' Harvard Square.

The waitresses/hostesses were beautifully made-up and smiling. The cocktails were beautiful and appetizing. The lounge was beautiful, the sofas were sleek and I wanted to lean all the way back and fall asleep on them.

The most dominant and impressive feature of the lounge is the wall to wall Thangka painting of Kali, perhaps; the goddess of creation and destruction. Ironically, it was a truly enlightening experience to observe the looming image and see the hope pervading the surface amidst the chaos and existence of death and suffering. It was an experience true to the vision of the locale for sure.

Promptly at 6, we were led up to the second floor, the second "level of enlightenment," according to the restaurant's website. A quieter, more private setting.

[to be continued when it's not past my bedtime]

Coolio cups!

Thanks to the positive review and pretty pictures in Wired Magazine, I gave in to the consumer temptation to purchase the new Bodum Canteen cups: the double glass wall thermo cup with handle.

It's after 10pm and I'm sitting here drinking a steamy cup of decaf green tea, enchanted by the hovering inner sanctum. I can't help but smile spontaneously every time I glance at the shiny liquid encased in a layer of air. I don't usually drink tea at night ever. Or during the day. Except at Asian restaurants. What a cool cup.

How ingenious. How magnificent. It makes me really wish I could drink lattes. Creamy, rich lattes would look really good in those glasses. I might have to bust out my rice milk now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bad Boy

There's a survey at BostonNOW that lets you rank the MBTA and tell stories every day ( I couldn't resist.

Pulling out of Harvard Square station on the bus and past the light, we stopped in front of the Cambridge Post Office as usual. It was a particularly hot day with a particularly packed bus. The driver stopped nicely and let some people on. Because the bus was packed all the way to the door, she closed it, perhaps not seeing a man carrying packages just miss the door. As we were pulling away, there was a loud bang and the driver screeched to another stop, flinging a few passengers into each other's arms. The driver opened the door, having realized that the man had hit the bus intentionally, and scolded him.

"Do not hit the bus, sir! Step away! Step away!"

Then, she righteously closed the door on his face. As we pulled away for the second time, I breathlessly watched as he raised his leg and kicked the bus door with all of his might. He disappeared in a cloud of bus smoke.

It must've been a really bad day for a bad boy.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

How 'bout some boiled fish?

One of the scariest things happened this weekend. Well, knowing my life, just about anything can be scary, but read on.

I've had my fish tank with big black-and-orange Earl and red baron Monty for a while, about a year now. I've seen both of them grow from biddy babies to middle-age dominance. Earl himself is about 7.5" and Monty is 4.5" going on 5". Earl still tries to eat Monty, but things have been a lot more peaceful recently, perhaps because Monty saved Earl's life (I'll get to that). I also had two algae eaters, Big Succubus and Little Succubus (because they suck on everything in the tank, glass, gravel, plastic plants, filter, large pellet food, other fish . . .). Things were all good, until one fateful night.

In the past month, I've been having premonitions that the water heater was going to call it quits. I actually suspected that it would malfunction and electrocute the water, frying all my fish. Little did I know that it was going to attempt mass-homicide by boiling instead.

Pet shop employees should warn fish owners about this. Monday night, I notice that Big Succubus is lying against the glass upside down, so it looks like he's standing up. He's still breathing, and the other fish look fine, so I look away and immediately forget what I saw. Bad move.

An hour later, after having watched half of Chinatown (the movie), I remember that one of my fish was in danger, so I run back into the office to check on them. Shock and catastrophe!!! Both darling succubi are belly-up, Big Succubus is stiff as plastic, Little Succubus' mouth is twitching, and Big Earl is pale as death, shooting from one side of the tank to the other, up and down the sides, desperate to get out. He's making waves in the tank that cause the dead succubi to sway eerily, like living zombies in a graveyard. Monty, meanwhile, is acting normal and happier than ever (which I still can't figure out -- maybe being a genetically-mutated species has something to do with being resistant to heat).

Helpless and stomach turning, I call for my hero boyfriend who comes and says, "The water's too hot! Feel the side of the tank!"

Of course, I kudda thought of that myself, but I didn't. It was burning up! The water was probably 120 degrees. The doggone heater was the suspect. After unplugging it, we ran around and started emptying the tank, replacing it with cold water to get it back to a healthy 80 degrees. The dead succubi grew even more upset, floating around and making every nerve in my body tingle with revulsion.

Earl was barely moving a muscle, green as cardboard, and waiting at death's door. Monty probably heard him knocking. Believe it or not, the formerly bullied and cowering victim darted into action. Ignoring the two humans intruding in his tank, the buckets, and general chaos of cold water being dumped into the tank, Monty continuously throws himself into Earl's body, scratching him with his sharp fins, chewing and tugging on his lower lip, poking him around the eyes.

Caught between life and death, Earl responded by floating away, then he didn't respond, then he responded again, then he didn't respond. . . until Monty ended up pushing the big pale mass of a body 3 times the size of his own around the tank, wiggling his own small red one.

Eventually, Monty got to him somehow. Earl, most regally, in the throes of desperation, chooses finally to fight back. He grabs Monty by the head and shakes. Monty is unrelenting, he bites Earl's mouth and hangs on. Monty is unfazed by the defensive stance that Earl has taken, Earl's mouth gaping wide and making sudden lunging movements at Monty.

I've never seen either of these fish do what they're doing. Monty became the dominant overbearing bully and Earl the victim. It's moving to see a smaller fish stand up to a really big fish, especially in the face of such dire circumstances. I wonder.

Was Monty trying to save Earl by keeping him conscious? "Don't fall asleep on me, pal! You're gonna be okay!"

Or was he simply taking advantage of Earl's sickly plight to get his aggressions and final revenge out on the sucker? "You sonovabich, how'd ya like that! Not so great anymore, huh buddy!"

Or does heat trigger a passionate aggression in blood parrot cichlids? "Must. . . attack. . . big. . . fish. . ."

What was it??

Six days later, it is only Earl and Monty in the tank. Big and Little Succubus are forever gone, a lucky find for a cat or garbage-sorting technician. There's a new Visi-Therm Stealth heater and aquarium thermometer in the corner. There is no trace of the heroic comradery that Monty showed in the face of destruction, his compassion for his own bully, the forgiveness that he conveyed in putting his own life in danger by provoking the big bastard.

Earl is a little more timid, perhaps. A bit daunted in general. But he can still jump out of the tank when he sees his nutrition pellets, while Monty runs away and cowers behind a rock upon my approach. Earl still tries to grab Monty's fins and eat his scales. And he still steals all of Monty's food. How's that for thanks?

Meanwhile, I continue wondering about the miracle that happened in 100 degree water. How a boiled fish can be my role model. . .

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Lisa's Book Update!

A couple of books I've gotten through recently:

  • "np" by Banana Yoshimoto - similar to her other books, "np" takes place in every day life, but is filled with hints of an other-world, one that is very real, but floats mid-way between our perception and oblivion. There is nothing explicitly mentioned as magic; perhaps that's what lends its eerieness to the circumstances that the characters find themselves in. Victims rather than captors. Fate rather than flexibility. Originally written in Japanese and translated into English by someone other than the author, I don't know whether to applaud the translation, or ridicule it for its glaring lack in fluency -- that is, phrases that seem like Google Translate could come up with just as well. Was that intentional, or was it naivety? The resulting effect certainly played with parts of my brain that had not been stimulated before, leaving a sense of foreboding, nausea, and a suspicion that things are not what they seem and I have been missing it all my life. Had the translation been chipped into top English shape, would it have been as effective... or more so?
  • "Once Removed" by Mako Yoshikawa - I don't usually cry too hard reading books (the most significant exception of "Where the Red Fern Grows" comes to mind). But this book was so sad! Classic Japanese psychology -- the concept of the sakura flower is written all over this book. Something so sensual and so prevalent that it overtakes your entire senses, vision, peripheral and all, only to fall and disappear in the blink of an eye. Experiencing the sights and smells of the week-long cherry blossom season is something you desire to hold on to forever. But as the climax is only one week long, so is life they say -- intense happiness and joy of life, mixed with the acceptance of imminent death and emptiness. The loss of a father, a mother, a stepsister, health, a purpose... but all is not lost. The sakura will bloom again next year.
  • "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" by Dan Millman - the cover got to me! So cool... plus, it seemed like there was a subtle customer interest at the bookstore. A bit cheesy, a bit unbelievable, a bit like a cop-out. What was the point of the book? To tell us that our minds limit us from experiencing true reality, true living. Our minds are caught up with the demands and pressure of a life uprooted from nature. Of simply being -- calm in the present moment. We are so accustomed to letting our minds run our daily lives that we have forgotten how to enjoy the simpleness of each moment. We are so used to feeling and needing to be driven by external stimuli that we become lonely and confused if we start to really be aware, and realize that there is enjoyment in slowing down and focusing on your self. This is the type of book that I need to re-read several times to see if it has a helpful pointers that I just missed along the way.
Still working on:
  • "The Right to Write" by Julia Cameron
  • "Wherever you go, There you are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • "Woe is I" by Patricia T. O'Connor
  • "Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling" by Jane Hyun
Waiting list:
  • "On Looking" by Lia Purpura
  • "A Writer's Book of Days" by Judy Reeves
  • anything by V.S. Naipaul
  • anything by Vladimir Nabokov

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Living in a euphemistic world

Not so...

The second I heard that the gunman was identified as Asian-of-some-sort, one thing went through my head as I tuned out the reporting over live images of ambulances and the VT campus that I'm sure went through the minds of all Asian-looking people in America: "Oh frick, I hope he's not [insert your Asian nationality here]."

I've realized that, although my friends from college and subsequent years have brought me into an inclusive and healthy developmental experience, America does not only represent people who respect you for who you are.

The act of one in a group represents all the members in that said group, especially when they share non-white physical traits. Coming immediately after the Imus scandal, the fact that the shooter is Asian is only exacerbated. Racism is the first thing people will pounce on -- and ironically, the first thing people do is notice the race of the shooter.

On the other hand, even though I do occasionally fear for my life due to racial retaliation, insight into the shooter's culture and history will help explain more accurately why he chose to commit such a desperate and inhuman act. If anything is at stake, I feel it's the mental sanity of Asian and Asian-American students who constantly strive to become more integrated into American society. This is a perfect time to more thoroughly delve into the effects that being brought up in a traditional Asian family among an American backdrop has on a people that already naturally tend towards grievous amounts of self-consciousness and a childhood filled with family duties, high demands, and competition for the No.1 spot in any minor activity.

I'd like to know more about Cho's developmental history -- it's known that he had lived in the US since he was 8 years old, but what demands were put on him by his family and country that he couldn't defend himself against? What opportunities were missed for him that could have served as outlets to de-stress and feel like a worthwhile participant of his own life? Where are the positive role models who reached out to him when he was a kid? There were a few times in my life that I felt trapped and desperate, and most of those times had been during college. Luckily, I had my dad to cry out to during the first event, and a counselor that had an incredibly positive role in rescuing me from my delusions in the second.

I feel that the desperate shootings may have been an unparallel urge to release all of that anger, frustration, pressure and judgment, but without a constructive how. Anger at the external world, especially, since he did take action against more than just himself. A huge moment when his emotions and reality spiraled out of his control, with no more space to let it go but outwards.

If any progress is to be made in Asian-American psychology, we need to use this opportunity to educate K-12 teachers and counselors who have the potential to prevent repression like this from escalating to a desperate situation in college years, when cognitive adjustment becomes more difficult. In addition, I really believe that the unruly demands of parents who have not let go of their children needs to be addressed. It is an epidemic of sorts -- where most Asian Americans share similar harmful traits -- that prevent us from living life free from self-judgment and guilt.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Territorial problems.

I spy Earl hovering with graceful ease at the top, his crown place supreme. He looks over his kingdom with chin high and a leery eye, ready to pounce on his people -- intruders into his house, taking up his precious space, laying their waste on his precious stone floor, eating the food that was provided especially for him by the gods who provide air to breathe, light to see -- how generous need he be, after all. This is his land -- what's rightfully his, by golly! He commands the high seas!

And there! A flash of neon red. The Red Baron: Monty by name, is it, that's what they call him. A small and insignificant creature in Earl's opinion, with ne'er the size nor will of this worldly crown prince. Eat my food, dare he?? Earl's instincts flash and he's off in a rage!

Colors explode round and around the tank as Earl bullies Monty back into the hole he belongs in. Shivering and cowering in the darkness of stone shadows, Monty admits temporary defeat. Earl harrumphs and turns mightily away, ready to arrest another foul plot-in-progress.

Meanwhile, hunger drawing out his desperation, the Red Baron slides out yet again of his hiding place and circles around the opposite side of the stone pillar, out of King Earl's sight, out of mind... if he can only maintain his stealth. Monty calls out to the gods, and the they respond, creating a distraction of a mirage! A large finger appears and seizes Earl's fascination while Monty captures another piece of flakemeal, and darts back to his hole, what a treat! Praise the lord! Starvation escaped yet another delicious minute.

Earl suspects. He circles around the pillar, giving a threatening jab or feigned-attack, and Monty is still ever the prisoner of a place that is also rightfully his. If only he weren't so small or brainless...

The never-ending story of my fish, Earl (Tiger Oscar, 5") and Monty (Blood Parrot Cichlid, 2.5").

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"Classic" sweetness.

Check this song out. More analysis later!

Click here to watch the video or write a comment at!
Nas feat. Rakim, KRS-One, Kanye West - Classic (Remix) (Video)

Socialization is key.

I really want to comment on the topic of the blog post by Carmen Van Kerckhove from (alas, the paradox of drawing attention to this topic while desperately trying to pass it off as "not a big deal." Is it really a big deal to me? If only my subconscious could speak up about this.):

Quick read: Barack Obama and white women?

I view the manipulated image of Obama's book as I do when people yell Chinese-sounding verbalisms at me — what's that? oh, a fly around my head *swat* — it’s just another one of those random things that the pubescent of mind put out to justify their otherwise questionable life experience (i.e., to get a laugh at another’s expense, to feel like they have marginalized the other). The last resort before physical assault occurs.

Although things like this are intended to reduce the respect of whoever is targeted, I feel that it is actually no more effective nowadays than a smear report on FoxNews, insignificant, since we've seen stuff like this over and over and over. . .

There was another reader who commented with another perspective (as opposed to my own "swat it and look away"):

"Do not stand for it, joke about it, or even shake your head in playful disgust. Confront it boldly and work to erradicate it. It is our duty as humans."
-- Mordecai
If only I were so enthused. In secondary school, parents and educators may believe that the child will grow out of bully tactics and use detention as a holding place, but what can we do when the child has grown? I really do believe that one way to eradicate racism is what many places have been doing for decades -- to introduce diversity into the school, workplace, and other social venues. The more one personally identifies with another, the less likely one is to automatically reject others of the same kind. Re-socialization is key, and just by being involved and visible in your community can be a motivator for change.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is that racist?

Holding up a "PC for Dummies" book, she approached me and said, "I should ask you because you obviously know more about this stuff than me."

This was the "excuse me, can you help?" that I got from a middle-aged white customer, looking for beginner's advice on digital conversion and imaging.

(OK, all you out there probably know what I'm going to say next.)

My gut reaction was to take the book from her and riffle through it -- fine.

My (split) second reaction was to wonder: Waaiiidaminit.Why should I obviously know more about computers than she would? THAT'S RACIST!

My third reaction was to admit to myself: But I do know about computers... I guess the stereotype is true that all Asians know more about computers than the general white population.

My fourth reaction was to admonish myself: That's silly, that whole statement could be false and conversely so as well.

My fifth reaction was to wonder if that's what she meant by her first statement in the first place. Maybe she actually meant "you young person" rather than "you Asian person." Perhaps??

My sixth reaction, and this was close to a millisecond before I reacted to her inquiry, was to give up my usual recursive thinking process and despair that every single thing said to me by any kind of person would be considered racist by me.

Do you ever get that feeling?

If someone asked me out of the blue, "where's the nearest Japanese restaurant?" is that racist? (true, I probably would have been able to give them an answer. . .)

If someone bowed their head in passing on the street to acknowledge me, is that racist? (true, I would have bowed my head back. . .)

If a touring Asian couple intentionally avoided asking me about map directions and went to ask a white employee instead, is that racist? (true, I probably would have directed them to the same white employee cause I'm clueless about my surroundings, never mind directions. . .)

Tell me if you do or don't, but I find myself scouring every input and output for any trace of even the slightest possibility of racism when none may exist at all. Or on the other suspicious hand, it may permeate all interactions. I've realized and forgotten over and over that there is a fine line between racism and altering behavior based on cultural background. All of those scenarios above define people I know. Is it worth getting angry about if there's no hostility intended? I suppose we get angry because there's a definite frustration that people aren't educated in our specific situation. "We aren't Asian, we're Asian American. Our native language is English, not Chinese. We are integrated into the American culture, not foreigners. So stop treating us like we are!"

The question we have to ask ourselves: How can someone tell if we're Asian or Asian American? African American or Haitian American? French or French American? Does the label really matter? Should it matter? Should there be an initial assumption that we are all, by default, acclimated Americans until proven otherwise?

And more importantly, should we be focusing so much of our attention on it? I'm getting all riled up and confused as we speak! This recursive thought loop has spun out of control.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Nerds because we choose it?

I was probably considered a nerd in high school.

At least, I considered myself one. . . and was slightly traumatized all my pubescent life thinking I was one. . . and idolized my sister who was a punk&grunge dude-person three years below me.

In a moment of needed quiet today, I read the first few pages of Hackers & Painters, by Paul Graham. His first idea is that nerds are unpopular because they are too busy being smart, or rather, striving to increase their arena of knowledge. Becoming popular, as he says, is a constant effort, a “following the consensus,” of which nerds don’t have as much passion for, as much as learning how to create things.

My moment of quiet eventually turned into a nice afternoon nap, of which I’ve just woken, but I remember thinking as I slid into peaceful oblivion that I didn’t quite agree with Paul the Nerd. Was I really not bothered enough to really want it? Was all the passionate hatred of sweatpants, obsession with scrunchies and facial hair, writing down and scrutinizing every outfit that Claudia from the Baby-sitters Club wore, not wearing my owl-eye glasses to the prom to look prettier (but a lot more blind -- let’s save that for another post, shall we?), stealing moon-eyed glances at Danny and Chris whenever I got the chance, and sheer desperateness to get any sort of acknowledgment from any of the girls in the in-crowd – was it all “not really wanting it”?

I agree with Graham that, eventually, it became more of a conscious choice not to keep trying, and to take it off the priority list and onto the wishful thinking list. But I don’t agree that it was because I was smart. I think it was more because I was naive. Believe it or not, I do recall being popular back in nursery school, all the way through 2nd or 3rd grade, which culminated in all its glory by going to a really popular student's house with a whole bunch of other popular students to film a science project.

That's when the trouble started happening. I wasn't allowed to go out until I had finished my homework and practiced piano, which oftentimes ended up being too late in the day, as my parents needed to check my stuff. I couldn't make or receive phone calls from boys. I couldn't attend social events that had boys in it. I couldn't sleep over a girl's house. But I could talk on the phone with "girls only!" to ask about homework, and get straight A+'s, and win piano competitions.

Being raised in America by conservative parents, who were raised in Eastern Asia until their early 20's, really affects the level of awareness that makes its way (or doesn't make it's way) into a developing child's mind, their idea of choice and control. The same family environment that I experienced may have propelled me into popular-dom in Asia, but there was a fear left exposed in American society that prevented me from getting farther than 2nd grade. Perhaps for Graham and other American nerds (OK, so this post isn't quite PC. . .), interest in constructive projects led the way to nerd-ity, but for me, it was fearful innocence that led me to fall behind in the "social" system, and choose to go for something easier and more predictable: the academic system.

And so, myself in my early 20's, a fresh awareness was wrenched out of me that has helped me determine the quirks of what we call life -- unlike the academic world, there's actually the concept that there is no wrong answer and there doesn't have to be any judgment.

So I'm not a nerd.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Try your mouth at soup




Ah... Mm-hmm!


Ah... This soup is so good, so warm...

I look up in the deserted room. No wait, it's not deserted, I recall, after seeing that the tables around me are filled with my fellow employees on their lunch break. It's amazing how quiet people can eat. As I look down to savor another delightful spoonful of Au Bon Pain chicken soup:


I look up again, just quickly enough to catch a number of pairs of eyes dart back to their own meals. They were looking at me because... huh? I scan my memory of how I dressed this morning, of how I was seated at the table. I happen to glance at my soup on my way down.

Ohhhh... oops.

The culture conundrum strikes again!

After learning how to fully savor the flavor of hot soup, while cooling it off by vacuuming it full speed into my mouth, thanks to Japanese tradition, I have remained faithful to that technique -- and it has served me well while eating hot ramen noodles, steaming nabeyaki udon, and yes, the occasional store-made reheated chicken soup. While previously unconscious of using this delectable skill, having only used it in Asian restaurants or at home with my culturally-educated ("imposed" may be a closer word) significant other, I had a sudden reverse culture shock after now almost three years back in the States. We don't slurp hot liquids in America. Duh. That goes for hot coffee and green tea as well, I remind myself now. Such a sad, sad thing. Americans are missing out on the fun, I must say.

Not only do you risk burning your tongue by directly pouring fundamentally undisturbed hot substances into your mouth, all the flavor is left undisturbed, still nestled within the liquid itself. Plus all the trouble of trying not to make any sounds -- that's a toughie. So how do you get to savor the aroma of the food?

OK, take wine tasting. Hear the sounds that experts and the gargles that amateurs make? Each one of those sounds has a purpose, which is to direct the scent molecules -- the essence of the food -- into the nasal cavity to make it a fuller, more enriching and distinguishing experience. That's the purpose, and it's not strange in that situation. In fact, it's weird if you don't make the slurping noises. (As chewing is a parallel for solid food.)

With practice, hot liquids also become aerated enough during the process to drop in temperature, adding another layer of satisfaction -- one of not having your tongue turned into rubber the next day.

A challenge: I recommend that this week, you try a bit of soup or tea "the Asian way" and see what you think. I've had the occasional splash-in-the-eye from a delinquent noodle, yes, but those of you who persevere will be richly rewarded. I was a doubter too, but here I am!

Monday, March 12, 2007

When will the noises end?

At last, there was something that happened unusual enough to spark me to write. I'm talking this time about the state of racism. Ironically, the "aggressors" in this case are often enough the purposeful victims in a majority of other cases, screaming their outrage on public TV.

I'm not trying to be hostile here, I'm just telling it like I see (and today, experienced) it. What happened was this. My sister and I were walking down Mt. Auburn Street, the main road that runs from Harvard Square in Cambridge to Watertown. Close to a main intersection, there was a bus that was parked off to the side chock-full of black kids, probably at the first or second grade level. There was a huge ruckus coming from them, a byproduct of high doses of Kool-Aid and the freshly minted just-got-out-of-school-yay!! rush, I would venture to guess.

As we approached, we started getting excited hellos and cat calls -- dozens of boys sticking their arms out the half-open windows and leaning to get our attention, "Hey!! You're beautiful!!!" (Though I would not consider this unusual from any race). I braced for it, because I just knew it was coming. I didn't have to wait long for that bitter mix of satisfaction, for being right, and disappointment, for what really did happen. It was as pure and as sword-slitting smooth as the first time Rosie O'Donnell uttered her own "Ching Chong" slur. As we passed the bus, we were followed by high-pitched Chinese-sounding noises, a continuous stream of shouts reminiscent of pop-culture TV desperately trying to mimic Chinese food stalls and dry-cleaning joints.

I knew it was coming, but I was astounded by the sudden, very sad realization that these kids are our next generation. Not to mention that they, the race that has withstood just as much obvious racism and perhaps more in its history, were being brought up, in current times, insensitive to the effects of "the word" -- or in this case, "the noises."

If these kids weren't so young, I would have labeled them hypocrites, but how could they know any better than what their own society and family values are teaching them every step of the way; every input they get, every role model they see? We say we the U.S. are so far along, we're so much better than we were 10, 20, 30 years ago. Then why am I not surprised anymore? Why have I begun, in my post-babied life, to need to learn how to take the racist slurs, noises, and cat calling, and just "deal with it"?

My grief is this: in one of the most liberal and intelligent places in the U.S. as Cambridge, how is it imaginable that even these children here are no different?

I am saddened by the thought, and there's no way out.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The duty of reporters, the duty of the people.

A comment (not my own) in response to Washington Post article:

Al-Qaeda Suspects Color White House Debate Over Iran
By Dafna Linzer, February 10, 2007

. . . I would just like to say to the Washington Post staff that promotes this sort of propaganda and when I say propaganda I am talking about the way you are reporting this crap as newswothy - instead on jumping on the bandwagon of making this administration accountable for making a mockery out of the media including yourselves. . . . Do you not know the seriousness of the way this country is going? Please think long and hard about the way you think you have the power of the pen. . . .

-- By danders5000 | Feb 10, 2007 2:33:54 AM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this reader is blaming WaPo journalists for "supporting" the Bush regime by not opposing it. Read that sentence again; it is a very sad set of circumstances on many levels (e.g. the need to blame people for supporting our President). In any case, this accusation upon journalists seems rather unfair due to the ethics rules that are the guiding light of good journalism, which include neutrality and unbiased reporting.

This reader told WaPo journalists to use the power of the pen to create change in today's society, to hold the Bush administration accountable for what they've done. Although I agree that journalism should be used to balance the powers of lawmakers with the powers of the people, I don't agree that it should be used to spoon-feed one-sided ideas into the public's mind, even if they seem like good ideas at the time. With the continuing illegitimate behavior of the Bush administration, it may seem deserving and justified that the media cater to the anti-everything-Bush majority or even cater to the vengeance of having been deceived by the White House on many topics, especially concerning the "War Of Terror" which Borat aptly names it. There is now a sense of betrayal when one does not preach to the choir, as seen in the impassioned comments of the WaPo reader.

What the reader did not consider is that the role of journalism in a democratic society is to serve the truth, like it or not; to provide un-opinionated reports to give to the people for the people themselves to interpret, opinionate, and take action. To make liberal use of the pen would be to violate the neutrality that is useful in order for the public to respond logically and in all varieties of ways that mark us as an individualized society.

I believe that the WaPo article states the facts and sheds several perspectives from various sources on the situation, and in no way seems to support the issue on either side. In fact, they document that:
Five administration officials were made available for interviews for this story on the condition that they not be identified. Other officials who spoke without permission -- including senior officials, career analysts and policymakers -- said their standing with the White House would be at risk if they were quoted by name.
How is this spreading administration propaganda? It's true that there is no in-depth analysis of the further consequences of the situation, and the article doesn't offer suggestions as to what the "correct" future approaches could be, but isn't that what we the people are partially here for? Aren't we supposed to take the information from the journalists and use it to write our own letters to government, and our own opinion pieces? Journalists are necessarily under a tighter rein when they are blessed (cursed) with providing "just the facts, ma'am," and to let the readers judge as they wish, and react as they wish. That's proper journalism, no?

(What I was ranting about in my previous post was the incomplete analysis of a given situation, not the incomplete analysis of a possible propaganda scheme.)

Why not. So I did it.

You know how you have unresolved questions after you've finished reading a newspaper or magazine article? You know I did when I read this article on WaPo today. It talks about how ExxonMobil has turned a new leaf with regards to the way it's handling its response to global warming, including having cut funding to an unnamed Washington think tank, which the reporter seemingly implied to be the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), but we can't be sure:

Exxon Mobil Warming Up To Global Climate Issue
by Steven Mufson, February 10, 2007

So I did the previously unthinkable and actually posted a comment to the article. Now I know that usually, posts border along the side of "rant," so I'm proud to say that mine was fairly civil, and I hope that someone responds equally as civil.

If ExxonMobil claims that they cut funding for "a Washington think tank critical of climate change actions" in 2005, then why is the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) still at it with their $10,000-for-IPCC-critique solicitations in 2007?

Unless the AEI isn't the Washington think tank that had its funding cut, or the percentage cut was insignificant.

I really do want to give ExxonMobil the benefit of the doubt, but it's difficult to believe their dedication when the pro-emissions trend of prominent think tanks have not changed despite the supposed absence of the largest oil company's influence.

Can someone clarify?

--By lisalin55 | Feb 10, 2007 11:45:55 AM
That's it. Don't be surprised when I've disappeared in a week; my darkest fear of the consequences of vocalizing rational opinion, you know! ;)

Seriously, I don't particularly like it when the article writer neglects to bring relevant questions to light such as the claim of certain policymakers/corporation conglomerates as compared to the actual trend of performance and results. It's been two years since the claimed funding cut, and still no observable change? And what does "funding cut" actually mean? ($1)? A cut is a cut, no matter how you slice it. And who exactly is this Washington think tank? God forbid it's just a little league tyke.

Of course I hear and feel ongoing hatred, apathy and disbelief towards the possibility of ExxonMobil, and other related companies, starting to cater to the ever-dominating anti-emissions crowd; and that they could possibly mean well. Yes, I said that I want to give ExxonMobil the benefit of the doubt, because I really do. Me being the shiny-eyed princess that I am (that was sort of a joke), it's hard to tell what is a real effort to be genuine and what is most likely a fertilizer-coated PR campaign to rejuvenate their grease-tainted image.

It's been two years, where are the results?? Perhaps the reporter should have found this out, as a journalist.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Surface Analysis of Obama Announcement Preview

The eve of the anticipated day has come. I just got an e-mail from Barack Obama's campaign committee telling me to go to this link for a special video message. (Yay)

I was excited to see what the promise of Obama had in store for us all, but again, there was a curious feeling, one that furrowed my eyebrows and got my head in a tilt while I clicked on "Play."

He looks tired. It's expected of all people campaigning for any highly publicized role, especially President, to spend "150%" on the role, to rally the people, to exude confidence and utmost determination, friendliness and understanding. All while trying to spar and elude the viciousness and unprecedented attacks from the opposition and its minions (we all know what I'm referring to), and to look good while doing it, goddammit! In other words, it's known that they'll be exhausted in the process.

So why does it shock me so to see a paler, hesitating, soft-spoken, slightly thinner Obama than I was expecting? It really does look like he's gotten the air knocked out of him with all the uh-'s, and the absence of, well, passion!

"uh- Obviously, uh- I'm extraordinarily excited about ... uh- the possibilities of this campaign..."

Did you notice that he didn't smile or look excited through the whole thing? Did you notice that he got slower and slower as the video went on?

I wonder if he trying to be serious-and-determined, or if he wasn't feeling-it, or if he was just nervous? I'm worried. Clinton can get away with layers and layers of foundation and makeup to round out her features, but she has always been consistent with the strength and confidence behind her stance and voice. She emits infallibility, especially through times when even the strongest women were susceptible to running over their husband three times with their Mercedes... or driving from Texas to Florida non-stop while wearing a diaper...

Surely Obama's team could have done a better job in preparing for his special and very significant rallying video with a little more makeup to warm his appearance, a suit jacket to give him more bearing and presence, a scripted and practiced dialog to convey confidence and security, and a more upright head posture so he doesn't look so lax and ... tired.

Not that I'm being picky or anything, but I want him to mean it all the time! It's not bedtime yet! Well anyway, I'm not going to go into a rage about this man. We'll see how he does tomorrow.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

I admit that he might be right... "maybe"...

I just read a rather calm and level-headed article on how people have settled into a partisan mindset of either "you're with us and therefore against every idea that the Bush administration puts forth" OR "you support a policy issued by Bush and therefore you are against us," which, I admit, I was very much heading towards. Anyway, it was a wake-up call for me to be more complete in my assumptions and judgment of the state of things, though "completeness" is something I've found particularly difficult to, well, judge.

See for yourself and let me know! Here's the article: Don't Think I'm Defending Bush, But..., by Clive Crook (National Journal Group, Wealth of Nations).

RANT: Jumping the climate gun

Global warming is a fact. That's good to know. Now the question is, what's the cause?

Something bugging me today. The Washington Post (and many other news groups) are still using the word "probability" to suggest the "possibility" that global warming and climate change "may" be caused by human activities.

Alright already! Despite the IPCC's report that gives us the supporting evidence we need, the public world, for some reason, is still in wishy-washy mode. Granted, the actual report came out only yesterday, but I'm on the edge! And I have a feeling that many journalists are too. Reading the WaPo article, it seems to me that this writer uses numerous "maybe"-type words painstakingly, as if each was a deliberate term that was inserted over much unwillingness and fretting against the writer's conscience; terms such as "overwhelming probability" and "90 percent certain."

I'm excited and frustrated at the same time. How much longer do we have to wait until the media start treating our contribution to the Earth's pollution as fact, not theory? Let's face it, nd humans have caused significant increases in global warming, and that is a fact, whether we contributed to it 60% or 90%, it still dictates that we need to change our way of "doing business around here." If it is indeed on the lower percentage side, all the better for us to start "early" and avoid sea level increases of 23 feet over the next 100 years, wouldn't you say?

And of course, we haven't been let down by the critics of the IPCC report, may I mention, with obvious conflicts of interest:

... the George C. Marshall Institute, a think tank that receives funding from Exxon Mobil, ... issued a statement urging "great caution in reading too much" into the report until the panel releases its detailed scientific documentation a few months from now.

... adding that "the underlying state of knowledge does not justify scare tactics or provide sufficient support for proposals . . . to suppress energy use and impose large economic burdens on the U.S. economy."

(from WaPo article)

So, the U.S. economy should be held above the well-being of all living things on Earth. I expect that they would be all in favor of Bush's request for an additional three-quarters of a trillion dollars (yes, you read that right) for the purpose of defense and war spending. That does a great thing for the U.S. economy, yes it does!

To explain Bush's superb request, I go to U.C. Berkeley professor, George Lakoff, who explains that neoconservative thought promotes the idea that creating a national deficit is good because it prevents the development of democratic social reform groups, for example: government assistance for health care, education, social security, well, basically the managed well-being of its citizens. In other words, neoconservative rationale is that all deserving citizens should be able to fend for themselves. And the government should be able to take the strict-father position of sitting in a recliner with a belt. "Be home by 11! ... and bring me back a paper!"

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Revenge vs. Rationale

Oh boy, boys and girls, and the faux-madrassah story continues with a direct response from the Obama committee against Fox News. What's more, it's actually a pretty redeeming feel-good story, that is, until you address the nagging in your gut.

So, the Washington Post is reporting that due to Fox's irresponsible and illegitimate mud slinging concerning Obama's past, the Obama camp is "freezing out" all Fox reporters and producers, declining them access to speak with the senator or to participate in following his presidential campaign route. Revenge, sweet and simple.

While the actual truth of the matter is as dependable as "unnamed media sources" are, this does seem like a deliberate retaliation on the part of the presidential candidate if Fox reporters are whining about feeling like they're "in the freezer" and that the other people at Fox who didn't do anything against him are now the ones who are bearing the brunt of the snub.

Now I do have sympathy for the struggling new journalists at Fox who might naively believe that their station practices true unbiased journalism, and that by Obama sharing his stories with them, everything they report would be conveyed by Fox's broadcasters in the way that Obama and the journalists themselves intended it, without all the spinning, the skewing, the condescending tone of voice, the raised eyebrows of the broadcasters. This is not obviously not reality, and Obama's group is intelligent enough to suspect otherwise.

However, the question is, although it feels good now to admonish Fox for what they've done by giving them the silent treatment, what good will it do in the long run? Fox caters to a third of the American news-watching population (34% of Republicans, 20% of Democrats in a Pew Research Center study), more than any other single news station, leaving us to ponder the worse(r) of evils:

  1. If that large slice of the population does not get their daily fix of Obama-vibes, albeit spun in a negative light, will they all lose interest in his persona?
  2. But if they did hear skewed commentary on Obama, would they be more likely not to vote for him?
  3. Would they really vote for Obama anyway, seeing that they regularly watch Fox, the neoconservative station?
  4. Would it balance out favors for Obama to make a personal appearance in their states and be featured in their local news instead?
On a higher level, is it really right for Obama to turn his back on Fox? Though it feels justly validating, it is what it is: antagonism, which is ultimately a negative trait for a legislator to hold. Drawing that implication out, would he continue to ignore Fox if he got elected president? Would he hold out on talking to groups that actively dislike him? We have to remember that while Fox did actively attempt to discredit him, they did not skew his own words out of turn, which is what they did with the Hillary campaign. That may be a significant distinction.

I hoped that Obama would have been the bigger man by directly addressing the issue of Fox's childish reporting behavior with a completely mature (and fully publicized) response, perhaps even on Fox News itself, to clarify the issues. Not this childish counter-bullying (as far as I can tell, did I miss his statements?), which may be construed as hostile and irresponsible itself. But we shall inevitably see what ensues as a result. Will Hillary join in?? How long will it last?

Perhaps the only good thing about this news line is that we all now know what a madrassah is...

Friday, January 26, 2007

P.S. Re: my previous post

Let me know if I really am going insane... I should get off the topic.

The world is driving me slowly insane...

I'm proud to announce that I have officially entered into the realm of the small-time activist. This morning, I followed an "action" link from an e-mail sent by and chose to send a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to "help save polar bears from global warming" as described by the promotional e-mail:

The Bush Administration is beginning the review process to decide whether to protect the polar bear, threatened with extinction due to global warming, under the Endangered Species Act. But we must speak up before February 23, 2007, or they will not hold public hearings on this critical matter.

Please help by sending a message directly to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, letting them know you want public hearings on polar bear protection. They are not required by law to hold such hearings, but they can be swayed if we all speak up.
While polar bears may not be my main concern, the reason I did take action this time may be three-fold:
  1. The really cute, poor little animated polar bear who couldn't find a resting spot on any solid floating ice-patch while swimming in the ocean (which, yes, was shown in An Inconvenient Truth, where else?), causing him to eventually drown, but they don't show that.
  2. The "U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service" in Anchorage, Alaska seemed like a fairly benevolent organization that would most likely not, in my unfounded opinion, arrange for vengeful retaliation against citizens of the world, unlike my feelings for the EPA or FCC, who seem to be more closely connected to the executive branch of our government, to whom I strongly desire to send action/opposition letters, but am too scared that something similar to 1984 will happen to me and my loved ones... eeeekk.
  3. I just couldn't stand by and watch our mathematics and science curriculum degenerate into writing classes, oil companies dictate international politics, media skewing/hiding world events relevant to the general public, public officials involved in a leak conspiracy trying to do a cover-up on what should be an exposure, and remain complacent. I'm mad as hell, and I won't take it anymore! *makes another desperate passing swipe at apathy*
If, upon the occurrence of the unlikely, and my identity is suddenly put out of existence, at least you'll have a sneaking suspicion of why!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty...

How many of you haven't watched An Inconvenient Truth, yet? Just so you know, it's one of the few things that has been able to light a fire under me, just enough to get me involved to this extent (i.e. doing online research and actually caring about political decisions). I've recently also been considering submitting letters to the EPA via the Union of Concerned Scientists webpage... Dang, I'm losing it! *makes passing grab at apathy*

But s-e-r-i-o-u-s-l-y now, I'm really excited about the report coming out next Friday (Feb. 2nd) by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). For a little background, the IPCC is a scientific review panel consisting of more than 2,500 researchers from over 130 nations, with the mission as stated on its website:
"to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data or other relevant parameters. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature." [italics mine]
After 6 years of work, they are ready to release a report to policymakers, and the world, that assesses:
  1. what progress has been made in understanding and attributing human-induced vs. natural climate change.
  2. the implications based on observations made of the atmosphere, oceans, sea level, and snow.
  3. how the climate been behaving for the last hundreds of thousands of years.
  4. the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change.
  5. the projections of future changes: negative and positive consequences of climate change.
  6. the options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise mitigating climate change, and options for adapting to it.
I'm sure it will be a rather unnerving learning experience for all of us who are willing to listen with an open mind, and who are willing to hear the real and immediate consequences of inaction. With the larger significant changes to our globe in recent years and, especially, with international involvement, I desperately hope that these current efforts will not yield the same results as the report by U.S.' National Assessment on Climate Change in 2000:
"The National Assessment was attacked upon publication by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), an industry-funded think tank with an anti-regulatory free-market philosophy and a longstanding history of opposing efforts to address global warming. CEI filed lawsuits seeking to have the NACC report declared unlawful and to suppress its dissemination. These suits were dismissed "with prejudice," which means they had so little merit that they could not be refiled. In an interview, James R. Mahoney, admitted that the Climate Change Science Program has been constrained in its ability to use information in the National Assessment." (on Wikipedia)
Bush has recently defended the current unprecedented release of carbon emissions based on the one-sided belief that lowering carbon emissions standards in automobiles and industrial factories would be a devastating blow to the American economy, and would therefore be out of the question.

Let me ask you this. Would losing our freedom in 50 years due to climate terrorism also be considered a devastating blow to the American economy? What then?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

VIDEO: nutty fiend

Digg said it best: "Apparently someone attached a speedometer to their furry friend's wheel to find out just how fast their four-legged pet could sprint. The little fella gets the speed count pretty high before the wheel gets the best of him and spins him around TWELVE times. I haven't laughed this hard at a hamster in, well, ever..."

Check it out!
"High-speed Hamster" Video (1:07)

Losing my data... gaining a muse...

I had a post coming this way, but there was a temporarily long disconnect with the Blogger/Blogspot/(dare I mention Google?) server when I "PUBLISH"-ed it. Alas, when I pressed "Back" on Firefox, there was no data there, just the same "sorry" page.

I suppose I had it coming to me 'cause I was hit with a mental scenario very similar to this one last night right before I went to sleep, where Blogger went down and I lost all my posts. Go figure that I didn't type up my post today ON A VERY IMPORTANT SUBJECT MIND YOU on a local editor.

Maybe I should meditate on my lost post tonight and it'll appear tomorrow. If only the universe really worked that way, although such events of foresight/suspicion do correlate often with similar resulting coincidences, for example, when I meditate on certain friends that I haven't talked to in ages and they shockingly contact me the next day... what a trip! I do believe that Fate must have a muse after all...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Go Dems, part II: "Barry"!

By now, we all may have heard about Fox News' anti-Muslim Obama "smear campaign" (what else can we expect from these guys nowadays). Started by Insight, a conservative magazine published by the Washington Times, without a proper source or background check (I guess Insight's reports are based solely on, well, insight rather than fact), it was claimed that [1] Barack Obama had studied at an Islamic madrassah in Indonesia, which translates as "school" in Arabic, but in current times implies a location for ideological and political training grounds with the purpose of spreading hatred and violence against the Western world (in the Islamic fundamentalist tradition). The newscasters on Fox and Friends also repeatedly made an issue of the fact that [2] Obama was raised Muslim for the first 10 years of his life, and that his Muslim father gave him the middle name, "Hussein." As if his conversion to Christianity and living it the majority of his life meant nothing.

Not only targeting Obama's reputation, Fox chose to include an additional, indirect, smear on Hillary Clinton by referencing Insight magazine's "insight" that [3] it was the Clinton campaign committee's idea to research Obama's background which produced this "secret" information. Fox went further to attribute these hostile intentions on the suspicion that the Clinton campaign felt financially threatened by his running.

It was indeed discovered by CNN, after investigating the claims by going directly to Obama's school in Jakarta, Indonesia, that [1] the whole madrassah story was fake: the school-in-question that he attended 40 years ago was a public elementary school (and not a madrassah) which follows a national curriculum, and where his classmates called him "Barry." In other words, it is not an Islamic school, doesn't focus on religion, and in fact doesn't give preference to one religion or another. [3] It was also revealed that Clinton's campaign had no connection to the false allegations, and that both Obama and Clinton campaign groups were outraged by the reports.

I want to comment on the truth of [2], that Obama was initially raised Muslim - and I want to parallel it to my own experience in Japan. Living in a foreign country for an extended period of time, sustained by daily interaction with the native people is a true cultural and human learning experience. At first, there definitely is that culture shock and rebellion, but live there long enough and it eventually results in an innate understanding of a distinct set of basic beliefs and perceptions of how the world functions. As a child, I suspect that Obama would have absorbed the legitimate perspective of a Muslim culture, and upon his residing in the U.S. also absorb the equally legitimate perspective of the American culture.

Ever since the start of the Iraq War, and further beyond, there has been a need for politicians who understand the true concept of "new" terms such as "globalism" and "internationalism." Specifically, in this case, not just how U.S. citizens view and react to the Muslim community, but also how the Muslim community views and reacts to the U.S. in all its meanings and implications. There is an obvious imbalance in this regard, where the current administration views foreign relations as an "Us-Them" paradigm, rather than the much more civil "We."

I fully believe that Barry Obama's unique cultural experience and understanding of the Muslim world would serve as a clear paradigm shift which will benefit the U.S.; he would be one of the few able to relate to "those people over there whom we are fighting" on a humanistic level, and even more, to empathize with their fundamental needs and bring that back to a practical level in the form of the education of U.S. citizens and our democratic politics. Isn't that what we are trying to create over there, anyway? It's ironic that our idea of democracy is based on the needs and goals of the people being governed, yet we are trying to build a democracy in the Middle East for people we don't understand. Gotta love the logic!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Go Dems!

Has anyone been keeping track of the democratic presidential candidates so far?
Disclaimer: For my own sanity, this is a completely partisan posting.

(The following are taken from President4-2008, Congresspedia, and the Washington Post's "The Presidential Field," which I'm sure will be updated accordingly, for those of you interested in following along. As for me, I'll be following the latter link because there are pictures of the candidates to judge from. Awesome... ;)

Official Candidates

  1. Christopher J.Dodd, Connecticut Senator
  2. John Edwards, North Carolina Senator
  3. Dennis Kucinich, Ohio Representative
  4. Tom Vilsack, Iowa former Governor
  5. Mike Gravel, Alaska former Senator
  6. Randy Crow, no affiliation
Exploratory Candidates
  1. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Senator
  2. Barack Obama, Illinois Senator
  3. Bill Richardson, New Mexico Governor
Unofficial Candidates
  1. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Senator (Senate website)
  2. Al Gore, no affiliation (Washington Post profile)
  3. John Kerry, Massachusetts Senator (Senate website)
At first glance (based solely on character, as Dave Chappelle advises), I'm leaning towards the two candidates who are not yet quite candidates: Clinton and Obama. It slightly worries me that these are also the two candidates who have been receiving boosted media coverage - am I a victim of media influence?? I suppose I'm being too sensitive as usual.

On the topic of sensitivity, I'm going to barge right into a glass wall (never mind treading on broken glass) by saying that, while I fully support Hillary Clinton's ability, intelligence, and experience, not to mention that the person closest to her was a very successful President himself, she is a woman. All right, before all y'all start raisin' a fuss, I really want to point out who we're dealing with across the oceans abroad. We've all heard the stories of Afghani women not being allowed to step out into the public without at least first covering their entire bodies and being escorted by a man. Women tend to have substandard rights in that region, often not being valid enough to speak, let alone vote. And I can't imagine that Kim Jong-Il would bother consulting with women (other than his harem, for other reasons), either.

Imagine the leaders of these countries, with all of their preconditioned conceptions of women, confronted with a woman who is vocal and unhidden, with a mind to communicate on an equal level with them. What would they think, how would they react on a humanistic level, and how would they respond politically? Would the United States gain any support or trust or even respect from them? Now, I know that with regards to all of the other thousands of issues on the president's plate, Middle East/North Korean/etc. Foreign Relations is only a part of the pyramid, but I can just see it: "[Insert country name] refuses to negotiate with U.S. on terms of female president. Conflict continues without end."

Why, oh why, isn't the world fair and objective??? We need a female president to temper the flaming testosterone and pompousness that make up the administration (and the world) today. Someone reasonable and gentle, yet strong; easy to approach, yet comfortable with control. Someone who is open to discussion and willing to compromise without foregoing confidence, or degenerating into automatic warfare. Someone who holds pure democratic values, yet is able to put them to practical use. I see all of that in Hillary Clinton. In fact, she has the potential to bring domestic policy to the highest levels of quality yet to be seen.

But, I need to be convinced of the viability of her presidency in international policy. Thoughts anyone?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Let us pray.

"Dear Lord, I thank you for this time to give praise to you, for your everlasting mercy, love, and grace."

This opening, albeit a standard kickoff, invokes a myriad of reactions depending on your experiences. Distaste, repugnance, wariness, triviality, incomprehension, defensiveness, hatred. Or it could be gratefulness, hopefulness, security, calming, warmth, understanding, focus.

It is globally understood, though, as an offering of a spiritual prayer - the beginning of the outpouring of an individual's hopes, dreams, worries, and angst.

"I want to offer up my devotion to you, and ask for your guidance during this time. I feel lost, Lord, unaware of my path, unknowing of where to step next."

Here is where it gets sticky. Replace the concept of the Christian "Lord" with a general "anybody out there" or "mom" or even your own name, then take away the religious wording, and you get the type of thought that most people whisper to themselves during times of crisis and doubt. The feeling, at least, is universal no matter what religion you do, or don't, believe.

"I pray to receive strength and comfort in knowing that you are here watching over me, and in knowing that the future is secure in your ultimate plan."

We'd all love to know that what we're doing at every point in our lives is contributing to a greater good, whether it be for humankind or any other desirable kind. To know would help us make decisions easier, take action easier, remain inactive easier, even let breathing come easier. In other words, living life easier.

Life, I find, is full of heaviness and unhappiness. By all means, please prove me wrong, please. Where does this dreariness come from? A lack of purpose? A grinding guilt emanating from our childhood? Our role-model caregivers? Capitalism and bureaucracy? The "War in Iraq/Iran/Syria/North Korea/Darfur/Israel/Palestine/Sudan/Afghanistan/Mexico/Mother Nature" and other global state of affairs? There seems to be no limit to the sources of darkness - if we don't see one immediately, we can readily conjure one up.

I've heard on TV (yay!) that this general malaise and apathy is a natural reaction of human beings toward being exposed to the goings on in the world today. That's reassuring. To combat it, how about this helpful tip from a "Positive Thinking" magazine: If you fake happiness, you'll eventually believe it. Radical. I also recall hearing some straightforward logic in which it doesn't serve any productive function to be negative - it gets you nowhere and only pushes you down - so, why not be positive and save yourself the grief? A somewhat convincing rationale, I must admit. The first time I heard it, I really tried to give positivity a shot. But somehow after the fourth and fifth times, I just kept forgetting about it and reverting back to mundanity.

Prayer, or its more popular second cousin, inner cries of despair, however, is another thing on its own. It naturally spurts out now and then, doesn't it? "Oh man, this sucks." or "Help me, someone... anyone?" or "I'm so friggin' tired of this." or "What the hell am I supposed to do now?" Asked, or rather, tossed out there into the vast ether of space and time. Interestingly, upon the utterance comes a definite moment of repose, an almost release from the heat of the moment. Perchance could there also be a split-second expectation of an answer to the mindlessness somewhere in that moment? One would have to analyze oneself honestly to find out, but I suspect it would be true.

"Dear God, thank you so much for your love and forgiveness. I pray that you will continue to fill us with warmth and a passion to serve you through the journey that we are each taking. I trust that you will lead us to glory. I give this time to you. Amen."

For those of us not on the religious bandwagon, there has to be a way to refocus our inner cries of despair and guilt into concrete thoughts, recognition of a fundamental trust toward life, disregarding of self-judgment, and developing true acceptance and thankfulness toward the life you are living, with the will to keep going on the journey. A meditation of sorts, where it's just you and "the ether of space and time" communing, no judgment, no expectations, no pressure. Perhaps that will be enough to rise above the deathly doldrums. For me, with enough daring and patience, that may be the way away from Lexapro-and-friends. Let me not forget...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reading in circles.

I've got nothing today, friends. My mind is utterly preoccupied with the overwhelming amount of reading there is to do in order to understand the current state of democratic events here... I'm trying to read 4 websites:

  • Huffington Post
  •'s instructional section on "Understanding U.S. Foreign Policy"
  •'s coverage of the National Conference for Media Reform
  • Wikipedia's entry on "Hezbollah"

at the same time and getting absolutely nowhere and I started at 11 this morning. Talk about productiveness... give me a break! OK, so all four readings are on completely separate issues, but hey! I'm trying to make myself into new woman here.

Transform me...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Doing my homework... Where's the instructor?

There's a ton to keep track of when the news media doesn't do it for you, huh! Here's a list of 39 issues that are dominant in maintaining order in the United States (taken from Project Vote Smart -

Do you know where any of your legislators stand on the issues? But first, do you know how you stand on these issues? For my part: "No, sadly, except maybe Obama's" and "On a generally whimsical level," but I'm going to try and see if I can become an active-thinking member (yes, it's a dash, not a comma... Gotta respect that apathy!) of this democracy even if it kills my eyeballs...

  1. Abortion Issues
  2. Agriculture Issues
  3. Animal Rights and Wildlife Issues
  4. Appropriations
  5. Arts and Humanities
  6. Budget, Spending and Taxes
  7. Business and Consumers
  8. Campaign Finance and Election Issues
  9. Civil Liberties
  10. Civil Rights
  11. Congressional Affairs
  12. Crime Issues
  13. Defense
  14. Drug Issues
  15. Education
  16. Employment and Affirmative Action
  17. Energy Issues
  18. Environmental Issues
  19. Executive Branch
  20. Family and Children Issues
  21. Foreign Aid and Policy Issues
  22. Government Reform
  23. Gun Issues
  24. Health Issues
  25. Housing and Property Issues
  26. Immigration
  27. Labor
  28. Legal Issues
  29. Military Issues
  30. National Security Issues
  31. Regulatory Issues
  32. Science and Medical Research
  33. Senior and Social Security Issues
  34. Social Issues
  35. Technology and Communication
  36. Trade Issues
  37. Transportation Issues
  38. Veterans Issues
  39. Welfare and Poverty

This calls up to mind Dave Chappelle's bit on "Killin' Them Softly" (2000) about a "cultural thing" - "He knows who he's going to vote for, he's just not gonna tell me ... White people do not like to talk about their political affiliations. It's a secret..." So good, though plenty of cussing, mm-mmm: (6:27 total, but watch at least the first 2:30).

So there, my predicament. I'd love to tell and discuss the issues - is this the right place for it?? Ah well, on with my search regardless.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Apathy and Anger - an overreaction and analysis

Is it me, or are people becoming more and more apathetic and less responsible towards their fellow citizens in these times of war and financial turmoil?

I realize that most of you have experienced the event that I'm going to write about, anyway, but frustration needs venting!

Walking across the Star Market parking lot, I watched in horror as a middle-aged woman, too lazy to walk to a proper storage area, heaved her used shopping cart across the aisle towards the mulched curb at the edge of the lot, and right into the side of my car. Apparently, she didn't account for the way the pavement slanted, making the cart veer slightly left and pick up speed as it crashed. I was speechless with disbelief and anger at her inconsiderate attitude! Where is the love?? True, she may not have purposefully aimed for a car, but she didn't even care to look at where the cart was headed the second it left her manicured, spoiled little hands.

My first instinct was just to watch (how apathy rears it's ugly head!), but a very close second reaction was to shout after her to watch where she threw her crap. Unfortunately, that split second reaction was already too late - she was getting in her shiny car backing out of her spot. I wanted so badly to run right up to her driver-side window and pound on it, yelling profanities, but the realistic side of me said, "She might have a gun in her glove compartment." Who knows these days with the state of things, but it was probably just a lame excuse not to get involved.

So, ashamed as I am for it, it ends up I did nothing but gawk and get really hot in the face, standing in the rain-soaked lot next to my dear, violated Corolla. More upset at my lack of reaction rather than the actual occurence itself (there were no marks on my car), I spent the rest of the day and half of the next day regretful and furious over how apathy and irresponsibility have settled like a dark cloud over the major populice of these times. Just how many people truly operate like that woman, I don't know, but the pessimistic side of me feels that it must be the majority of the nation. The optimistic side of me tells me to have hope, look at the exceptions, and give the "populice" a chance. I don't know about you, but I am always surprised by those exceptions - the acts of friendliness that shatter my reality. Are you?

There is a common theme here, something I attribute to the steady decline of the state of the country, the way that news reporting is being monopolized into infotainment such that the public is no longer given a chance for action through democracy; it has all become a sit-and-watch-other-people-suffer,-isn't-it-fantastic?! method of brainwash into futility. There is a definite lack of relevant news focusing on our government policies, and implications of these on the nation and on the rest of the world. Wake up! There is life after America, after all! The network stations aren't giving the public a chance to fight for democracy and ultimate good - apathy and inaction ensue. That woman was apathetic enough not to return that shopping cart where it was supposed go in the first place, apathetic enough to not to care whether her actions were going to damage someone else's property, apathetic enough not to look at the results of her handiwork, and my own apathy in not sharing my feelings about her actions directly to her face.

Someone pass the Zoloft, unless you have a better idea.