Friday, December 24, 2004
Meant to post this a while back. Anyway, figured I'd post it tonight. It's Christmas Eve and I'm having my family over for dinner tomorrow night. Tonight involved cleaning, preparing the place for tomorrow and,of course, the remaining last-minute shopping items. All done, finally. Now, I'm just listenting to music and relaxing. In other news, I've decided to take up golf and last weekend I purchased my starter set for just $89 (originally priced at $299) at Big 5. Not a bad deal! Went to the driving range yesterday, and even managed to hit a few good shots for my first time. Tomorrow, I'm going to start the day with a relaxing morning at the Montclair Golf Course -- of course, not a round of golf, but a bucket of balls and practice swings at the driving range again. Pretty excited. Then, it's getting ready for Christmas dinner. It's been quite a number of years since I spent Christmas with my family; for the last few years I've been away this time of the year, travelling. Looking forward to this one. Hope some of you will enjoy the recommendations below. Merry Christmas! November 2004 : List of Recommendations Books The Assasination of Julius Ceasar: A People's History of Ancient Rome by Michael Parenti The Motorcycle Diaries: A Latin American Journey by Che Guevara DaVinci Code by Dan Brown Articles: Death of Environmentalism by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resource for A New American Century A Report of The Project for New American Century (PNAC), 2000 Movies: Garden State The Motorcycle Diaries Music: Keane: Hopes and Fears Eats: Unicorn: Pan Asian Cuisine (Berkeley) Banana Leaf Restaurant (Milpitas) Nan Yang (Rockridge)
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Having recently read "Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World" (download pdf version from The Breakthough Institute), a compelling paper on the past, present and future of modern enviromental movement by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, I went to listen to Adam Werbach speak on the subject at the Commonwealth Club in San Francsico last week. It was a powerful talk laying the foundations for the spirit behind not just environmental movement, but progressive movements as a whole, in the present and in the future. Both the paper and the speech reaches out to a broad audience and proposes a well-rounded solution. Whether you consider yourself a hard-core "environmentalist" or just an interested member of the society (like myself) , you should definitely check this out. Both pieces are remarkable in content, structure and delivery. A good review of the Shellenberger & Nordhaus paper on Two Steps Forward blog. Audio archive of his speech can be found at the Commonwealth Club website.
Monday, December 06, 2004
mindFrame PhotoCanvas Series: "Pearl of the Pacific" Photographed in Valparaiso, Chile (2003) Modified with Adobe Photoshop "Amo Valparaiso, cuanto encierras, y cuanto irradias, novia del oceano" - Pablo Neruda Last year while we were travelling in South America, we spent quite a lot of time in Valparaíso, one of my favorite cities in the world. Situated about 72 miles northwest of Santiago, Valparaíso is the second biggest city in Chile and the home to the Chilean National Congress. In 2003 Valparaíso was declared a World Heritage Site, due to its historical importance, natural beauty, original architecture and layout. Colorful walls of old homes line the beautiful, winding streets of the hills of Valparaíso as you climb to get a great view of the bay. It reminded me lot of San Francisco architecturally as well as in its spirit. You will also find one of Neruda's homes here, La Sebastiana, perched high up on a hill with spectacular views of Valparaiso. If you haven't been there and are travelling to Chile anytime soon, make sure to stop over there. You will find more photographs from our trip on our old website, South of the Equator.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
My best friend sent me a link today to a website which has initiated a landmark endeavor to bring change to the progressive cause in American politics. When I began this chronicle last month, I referred to the "fulfilling blend of a sense of conclusion and hope" that Friday mornings often brought for me. Well, today isn't Friday, nonetheless, I enjoyed the same feeling as I read about what I am about to share here. It's a small step, but a powerful statement. A pioneering proclamation, a proactive movement, a constructive vision. On November 15, the former president of the Sierra Club, 31-year-old Adam Werbach, posted his "Theses on the Failure of the Democrats" on the door of the Democratic National Committee in Washington D.C. And, a new movement began in America laying the grass-roots foundation for a reform of the Democratic Party and the progressive movement in America. The words of one member from St. Paul, Minnesota, posted on November 3rd Theses website, embodies the spirit behind the movement perfectly: "On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther dealth the symbolic blow that began the Reformation when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. Luther's action was not a revolt against the church but a movement for reform from within, inviting debate on matters of practice and doctrine. Luther saw the Reformation as something far more important than a revolt against ecclesiastical abuses. He believed it was a fight for the gospel.Today, November 30th, 2004, We as Democrats are here at 255 E. Plato Blvd., St. Paul, MN, to perform a similar act. By posting these nineteen theses on the door of the DFL Party Headquarters we seek to engage our own fight for the gospel, or truth, of the Democratic Party. Through this act we begin the process to reclaim those core values of what it means to be a Democrat in the United States of America." (source) November 3rd Theses (click on the image for a larger view)
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Strangest thing happened last night on the way to the market. As I was walking into our neighborhood Safeway, a man selling the Street Scene outside asked for donation. I replied, "Sorry" since I normally don't like giving out money to people on the street. But taking two more, I turned around and asked the man, if he would like something to eat from the store. He replied "Oh, thank you, brother. That would be wonderful. Could you please get me some chicken strips from the Deli." He paused and then added, "But, you know, if they don't have chicken strips, could you please buy me some macaroni salad." I nodded and walked into the market. Along with my grocery, I picked up the man's Pesto Macaroni Salad from the Deli and feeling somewhat proud of my good Samaritan gesture to a stranger on the street, I decided to pick up a bottle of orange juice and a Crunch chocolate bar for a small desert after his dinner. At the check out line, as I watched the check-out girl put each of these items in a plastic bag, I thought about the 1-minute communtity service that awaited me outside the market and imagined the smile on the man's face when I hand him the chocolate bar and say, "And this is a small desert. Might as well enjoy a full meal. Have a wonderful evening." And, how he would be so happy that someone cares and how I would be happy that I made a difference - even if it meant only a night's meal. Well, such was not the outcome. I exited the store and the man was nowhere to be found. Street Scene and all, he was gone. I waited for a few minutes, disappointed, as my good Samaritan heart sunk in the cold, cold night. With no sign of the stranger's reappearance at the scene, I began to walk to my car. At the parking lot, another homeless man stopped me and asked "Spare some change, please?" I replied my usual "Sorry." And then, "But I do have some food I just bought. Would you like some." Somewhat interested, he leaned forward to peer into my grocery bag as I pulled out the Pesto Macaroni Salad and said "Would you like this? It's a Pesto Macaroni Salad." This time, it seemed like his heart sunk as his expression turned from one of hope to one of disappointment, and he said "Nah..." and walked away. I put the salad back into the bag and continued to walk towards my car. I couldn't help but question: What went wrong though the course of the night? Who knows. I'm currently reading Choke by Chuck Palahniuk (link) and as he would say following an experience, "Disenchantment isn't the right word, but it's the first word that comes to mind."
Sunday, November 28, 2004
mindFrame PhotoCanvas Series: "Fingerprints from the Battleground" Photographed in Valparaiso, Chile (2003) "What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?" - Mahatma Gandhi, Non-Violence in Peace and War
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
mindFrame PhotoCanvas Series: "Una Chica en Providencia" Photographed in Santiago, Chile (2003) Modified with Adobe Photoshop
Sunday, November 21, 2004
"Fly from space to your home town. Visit exotic locales such as Maui, Tokyo, Rome and Paris. Satellite imagery makes it real. Explore restaurants, hotels, parks and schools. Think magic carpet ride!"I quickly downloaded a 7-day trial version on my laptop and went on my own magic carpet ride. Here are a few snaps. I started my trip in Oakland and I was quite surprised at the detail resolution available in these images - I could see my building, rooftop, carport, and even some of the windows when zoomed in enough (for those of you who know us, click to see if you can find our place). The details were astonishing. Continuing on my journey, I flew over to the Golden Gate Bridge and found the satellite images revealing the surface below the water level clearly -- notice the elliptical ring below the bridge tower (image). You could also see the terrain profiles below coastal waters around the area. Then, I took a trip to the nearby Candlestick Park (image) to find a packed stadium and one can almost see the scrimmage on the field when you "zoom" in, although it is pretty blurry. Finally, I went to Paris and included a snap from their here as well - it's just as beautiful from an ariel view as it is when walking the Parisian cobblestone alleys. On my way back, I stopped in Manhattan, St. Louis and Washington DC and then called it a night. While in some ways these images conjured up a frightening sense of Big Brother watching us, at the same time, I cannot deny the feeling of overwhelming joy I sensed from seeing our planet from a bird-eye view in distance space. Check it out for yourself. This is pretty amazing for $29.95/month.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
mindFrame PhotoCanvas Series: "Allende" Photographed in Chile (2003) Modified with Adobe Photoshop "Let those who want to turn back the clock of history and ignore the will of the majority of the people realize that even though I am not inclined to being a martyr, I will not retreat." - Salvador Allende First in a series of photocanvases I am hoping someday I will be able to print. Hopefully, that day will come soon when both time and money will permit furthering this interest. Laura and I moved into a wonderful apartment earlier this year in Oakland, CA and I have yet to do something with the hundreds of photographs we took when we were travelling in South America last year. We have been wanting to print a series or two for our hallway walls to share with friends and family when they visit. Another project yet to be completed. In the meantime, I thought I'd post some of them here as part of this scrapbook. I would love to get some feedback from some of you.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
An excerpt from an in-depth, thought-provoking article via blatanttruth.org on the possibility of a military draft in 2005: "Here are the facts on the Skills Draft, an account confirmed by (1) the internal Agenda document recovered through the Freedom of Information Act, now posted on the Web and acknowledged as real by the SSS, and (2) the statements of the Pentagon, Selective Service Congressional liaison Richard Flavahan, and Acting Director Lewis Brodsky. We now know that on February 11, 2003, Charles Abell, the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and William Carr, Deputy Undersecretary for Military Personnel Policy, met with Lewis Brodsky, the Acting Director of the Selective Service, Flavahan, and some other officials. This is the highest-level meeting you could have about the draft, outside of Rumsfeld and his inner circle. The proposed changes discussed in this meeting include:
- Allow a non-combat draft for shortages in critical skills, without calling a combat draft. This non-combat Skills Draft would induct men and women ages 18 to 34.
- Fill labor shortages of all kinds throughout not only DoD but the Dept. of Homeland Security and other agencies as well, especially high-paying professional positions like computer networking specialist or linguist. However, truck drivers, cooks, and several hundred other skills are also considered "critical."
- Create a single-point, all-inclusive database, in which every young person would be forced to send in a "self-declaration" -- like an IRS form -- of all of their critical skills, chosen from a long list of several hundred occupations, similar to the Air Force Specialty Code with Skills Identifier. The usual penalties of imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine would apply to all non-registrants.
- Upgrade the Medical Draft so that it collects data on skill sets and other information in the same way the Skills Draft would.
- Reduce induction time from being able to deliver all inductees in 193 days down to just 90 days for skills and medical inductees..." (source: BlatantTruth.org)
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
There is much discussion in the news about Election 2004 and the "Old Confederate States". A recent CBSNews.com article, published day after the election on their website, quotes: "No section of the nation received Mr. Bush's values-laden message more enthusiastically than the Old Confederacy." (full story) Even the speaker on this mornings KQED Perspective: Look Away, Dixieland shares a candid and humorous perspective on this same subject. Although, I admit it seems a bit outlandish to draw such literal parallels between two historical events separated by almost 140 years, it still intrigues the mind. I wonder if Mark Twain was referring to such historical analogies when he wrote: "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."
Friday, November 05, 2004
irony /arni/ noun (pl. -ies) 1 [U, C] the amusing or strange aspect of a situation that is very different from what you expect; 2 [U] the use of words that say the opposite of what you really mean, often as a joke and with a tone of voice. (Source: Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary Online) Friday mornings - a fulfilling blend of a sense of conclusion and hope so perfectly delivered each week. Besides I get to work from home, a convenience that I am fortunate to have been able to negotiate with my work over the past couple of years. As a result, it is also the only weekday that I get to eat my favorite meal - Breakfast. A cup of tea, toast with butter and jam and an egg - nothing too extravagant or gourmet, but quite satisfying nonetheless. As ridiculous as it sounds, breakfast on a weekday resonates a sense of liberation of some sort that I cannot express easily in words. Fridays also present a rare opportunity to catch up on sleep (although only a hour or so extra), the news and any other tidbits that I may have missed out on during the other weekdays. The closest feeling I can relate to this "Friday morning bliss" is the feeling one gets waking up late on the first days of summer vacation when one's a school kid, except that this feeling for me comes every week of the year, all 52 weeks, all fours seasons. A point to note, however, is that I do work hard on this day, although I can understand if some of you are not so easily convinced. So I won't try, but continue with what I wanted to share in the first place. This Friday I decided to take some time out of my work schedule to start something new -- this weblog. But how does one start something like this? What does one write as his or her first words? As easy as I thought this would be -- to write again (while traveling in South America last year I kept a weblog (http://www.southoftheequator.net/), but it has been a while since I updated that) -- I found myself struggling as I began. Much of the morning had passed already and not a single word occupied the naked page in front of me. I felt like a tumbleweed battling up a steep hill in San Francisco as I tried to pen down my first scribbles in this chronicle. The morning was quiet as I sat alone in the unintended silence that seized the surrounding air. The occasional sound of random keystrokes often broke the silence as I attempted to compose a new sentence each time, but was quickly followed by several furious taps on a single keystroke returning me to the original state of desolation. This pattern repeated itself as the clock on the wall ticked away, while I desperately tried to grab on to the fading shadows of words I wished to share before I had begun. Discouraged, I stared at the emptiness and zoned out. As seconds passed, I slowly felt my mind ridding itself of all thoughts and emotions, almost a physical sensation was felt inside my head. All that remained was one word, carefully preserved, perfectly chosen: Irony. So I began this chronicle with just that word. Somehow it seems to fit well considering this week's events here in the United States. The election is over and a nation stands ever so divided. Since the outcome of the elections in 2000, over the last 4 years, I have tried (like many of you) to further my awareness and understanding of social, economic and political issues on this planet. I have tried to be a more informed citizen, anxiously waiting for November 2nd 2004. And, it was here finally. This election day, I promised myself that I would make informed and comprehensive decisions on the ballot. I investigated each proposition and measure on the ballot in great detail for days and proudly made my markings on the ballot sent to my residence. Early Tuesday morning, my girlfriend and I walked together to the polls, two proud and energized young voters, ready to cast our votes. The rest of the day, I spent in great anticipation of what I believed, like many around the world (not just the nation), as the inevitable outcome -- the end of Bush regime. This was to be a final halt to this madness caused by the likes of Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, William Kristol, Fox News, Bill O'Reilly, Project for New American Century, Iraq War, extravagant tax cuts for large corporations and the rich at the cost of the working class, education, health care, social services, and the list goes on, was almost here. There was no way the they could win, I thought. People will rise and their voices will be heard. It was time for change, time to move forward and not backward as we had been heading for a while now. As we all know, the outcome was not so. President Bush had been re-elected. The results shook me, disappointed and discouraged me. I cannot deny that over the last couple of days, my emotions were overwhelmed with thoughts of gloom and doom, taken over by an almost irrational sense of dismay. The results, in my mind, reaffirmed President Bush's convictions and actions, giving him and his peers an official mandate to do whatever they please and stripping them of almost any sense of accountability that may have held them back over the last four years. This thought frightened me. Grasping on as tight as possible to any thread of rationality and hope that remained, I tried to re-energize myself after two days of depression that followed the election. I realized that fear and frustration got me nowhere, just dragged me back into dark recesses of inaction. While many political analysts stressed that President Bush won the largest popular vote (59.4 million according to CNN) in history, it is also true that 55.9 million people on this election day voted against the George W. Bush (not including those who voted for candidates other than the Democratic Candidate, Senator Kerry), highest number of votes against any presidential candidate in history. As much as the victory of George W. Bush brought grave disappointment and frustration, the voice of 55.9 million others brings strength and hope. The President of the United States may still be the same man, but I sure know that I am not -- this election and all that has led to this day, has strengthened my desire and motivation to get more involved in one way or another, even if starting with something small such as attending talks on social and political issues, getting involved in community events, staying continually informed about current affairs (local, national and international) and volunteering in local organizations. I haven't figured out exactly what I am going to do, but I know that this is the beginning of something new in my life. As I see it, this is the birth of a new citizen in me. Finally, why did I decide to start this blog? Well, definitely not for political reasons alone. There are many political blogs, websites, media out there -- a plethora of information scattered for all of us to frisk through and process. This blog is just one man's chronicle of thoughts -- an exploration to learn, share and grow. It is the closing of one chapter in American history and the opening of a new chapter in one man's life. And, keeping with the tradition of Friday mornings, seems like this day has served yet another "fulfilling blend of a sense of conclusion and hope".