Wednesday, March 24, 2010

happy ada lovelace day!

like most internet trolls out there, i manage to come across the most interesting and amazing subcultures.  by and large that has to be my favorite thing about the internet.  i am by no means tech savvy, culture savvy, or socially savvy.  hell, i can barely function in social situations enough to not spill a drink on myself or unknowingly talk shit about a guy to his girlfriends face.  so i dont often find myself in art galleries saying oh how droll thaddeus, you are such a rascal!  nor do i sit outside hipster bookstores complaining that banksy is just the next shepherd fairey, exchanging his politically inflammatory and damnable art for that which the masses can appreciate and feel a part of the underground culture.  and then they buy coffee table books of the street art to put on their ikea tables next to their dwell magazines.

but back on topic.  the internet allows for the dissemination of intellectual discourse even for the most unsociable.    recently, through my normal habit of following links from a musician interview to his fav bands to their favorite webpages (with a few quick stops at wikipedia to remind myself what a selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitor is; not kidding, that was my last wikipedia search).  by and by i found a website called finding ada.  its all about ada lovelace, and how she wrote the first computer programs for the first computer that was more than a calculator, the analytical engine.  she has been called the first computer programmer, and the modern computer programming language is named ada.  so today, march 24, is ada lovelace day.  to commemorate this special day we are taking the time to bring attention to other unsung women in the world of technology.  at, thousands of people are writing about a woman they think has made an important contribution to technology today.  so here goes mine.

i hope no one gets snippy, but the woman i chose did not actually have much hands on work in the field of technology.  but nevertheless, without her we would be years, maybe decades behind in the fields of gene therapy, cloning, even the polio vaccine.  although she died in 1951, she has been in the news recently because of a new book called the immortal life of henrietta lacks by rebecca skloot.  ms skloot was on the colbert report recently to discuss her new book, a clip of which can be found here.  to explain in just a few sentences, when henrietta lacks was treated at a hospital for cervical cancer, some of her cells were removed to be studied later (without her knowledge).  possibly because of inadequate treatment, her body became riddled with tumors and she died at the age of 31.  but upon studying her cells, it quickly became apparent that they did not die soon after division, basically they were immortal cells.  these cells were able to then be used to create vaccines, were the first cells to be cloned, and were even shot into space (a nice timeline can be found here).  her family was not told until years later, and seemingly have received no compensation.  the only legacy is that the cell line is called HeLa.  for more specifics on how the science of genetics and immortal cells work, i suggest checking out the new book.  i know i will, as soon as i live in a country that has it available :)  or of course you can spend the day on wikipedia, going from link to link, until the work day is done.

so maybe ms lacks did not create any major technology by her brainpower or ingenuity.  however, the cancer that ended her life has saved thousands, if not millions of others.  so we will give back in the only way we know how, buy spreading your story and your sacrifice.  even though you were buried in an unmarked grave, the people that know your direct impact on science and technology that continues today, we will remember you in our hearts.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

we heart tees!

ok, since my last blog posts have been waaaayyyy to heavy, here's a nice little break.  this post is all about how to show some sweet love to that soft cotton gently caressing your skin.  i love laundry, and i love my tees, and i want them to last.  so here is how i have found to best take care of your since-broken-up band t shirts, ones you got that proudly show you have been to gainsville florida or niagara falls, or one from that boy/girl friend that broke your heart and left you but forgot their shirt, and you still sleep with it every night.  although, be warned, washing will remove the boy/girlfriend smell, so if you are really that creepy, do not follow this advice.  instead, go get yourself laid.

t shirt care starts as soon as you take of your shirt.  forget what your mother told you about putting all your shirts right side out so she doesnt have to do it when folding.  dont.  take the shirt off over your head like a normal person and leave it inside out.  this will be important for both the washing and drying steps.

alright, the wash.  do separate colors, at least to some extent.  if all you listen to is metal, i'll assume all you have is black.  but for those of us with more diverse interests, remember that your whites will really look blah if you just throw it all together.  for detergent, i have never really found that the detergent matters much, but thats just me.  just something mild, colorsafe if you want, but i dont bother.  just dont use very much of it.  seriously, like 1/4 of what is recommended on the package.  put it on a gentle cycle with cool water, and let it go.   chose a short cycle time.  now, the reason it is best to have the shirt inside out is the design on the outside will be protected from rubbing up on everything as it is sloshing around in there.  also, if something got in the wash that you didnt mean to, something that was in a pocket or something, if it stains the shirt it will hopefully just be on the inside of the shirt.  it may leak through, but hey, youve got a better shot this way.


ok, drying is the most important part to protect your beloved t.  now, living in asia, i have gotten used to line-drying my clothes for years, because people rarely have dryers.  it is cheaper, more eco friendly, your clothes dont wear out as fast and they dont shrink.  if you cant be bothered to line dry, stop reading right now cause i dont give fuck about your laziness.  others more inclined, follow along.  now, if you do have a washer that will do a quick spin to get rid of the excess water, you can use that.  then take your wet shirts to your line.  your line should be in the direct sunlight if you live in a humid or cold area, indirect if you live in a very hot, dry location.  i dont like to hang the shirts on a hanger, because i am a girl and i dont want them too long if they stretch.  so i hang them on a drying hanger or rack thing, usually used for towels.  its great cause i can hang a bunch together.  now, when you hang them, the inside of the shirt is out, and the front should be facing down, so if anything touches them, or the line is dirty, or you forget and leave your clothes out for days and days and they get sun bleached, its the inside of the back of the shirt that gets messed up.  leave them there for as little time as possible as to avoid sun damage, but make sure they are totally dry.  you dont want them getting mildewy later.

ok, time to fold.  now is the time to turn the shirt right side in again.  i used to just leave them inside out at this step, because i liked to grab a shirt at random not knowing whet it was, and wear whatever i got.  but is a reason to turn them out.  obviously, if you can see the design you can find the shirt you are looking for.  but the more important reason in this: you know when your shirt with a vinyl design starts to get cracks?   that is from both the dryer and from folding.  you can see sometimes the cracks are right around the middle, because that is a fold line.  to reduce the fold line as much as possible, the vinyl should be as far away from the crease as it can be, which means the shirt should be folded right side in with the front (or design side) folded to the outside.  it would be better to fold in thirds, but they always seem to get messed up on my shelf that way, so i like to fold them in quarters.  so grab the bottom corners of the shirt so it is upside down, shake out the wrinkles (this will also line up the seams, and fold in half and then in half the other way.  now you can see the design, and i recommend putting them all in the same direction so when you stack them they are easier to look through.

now, this is obviously not the best way to protect a shirt., its just the best way with my particular means.  if you wanted, you could hang them (but i dont like the shoulder points), or lay them all flat (i dont have the room).  basically i wrote this because every time i do laundry i have a reason for each step, and i wanted to organize it.  this is clearly not important at all, but it really does work.  i have tshirts that i absolutely love, and i know they will wear out eventually, but i want to wear them for as long as possible.  i know the vintage look is in, but i dont want that fir my colorful, artsy t shirts.

oh, and another thing i noticed is that messenger bags or any bags that go across your chest will wear out a vinyl design if the shirt is not of the highest quality.  there are tons of awesome small time t shirt designers where i live, but a lot of the time the shirt quality is sub par.  so i am extra careful with these.  this is my most recent favorite.

hope my rediculous method of caring for t's has helped someone out there.  probably not, cause if you havent already figured this out for yourself, or have your own method, then you probably couldnt care less.  but i realize i do so many things in my life pragmatically (even if my reasoning is sometimes incorrect), maybe i should keep track of just how loony i am.  so there you go.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

your mission should you choose to accept it is...wait.

so the last mission was hectic, full-blast craziness.  4 of us with 6 packages for pickup, missed timing, police, the whole bit.  this mission was the antithesis, 8 days of my partner in crime and i waiting and waiting, and yup, you guessed it, waiting.  the lunar new year had made crossing more tricky than expected, and so every day we got a call that there was no movement yet.  we went a little stir crazy with cabin fever, stuck in a hotel room, informing the front desk that we would be there just one more night.  and one more.  and so on.  (conspicuous much?)  anyway, i did take the initiative to see some of the amazingly beautiful landscape around us since i had the time.  i cant really show many pictures or go into too much detail (for obvious reasons), but i can tell you it was stunning.  i saw the sparkliest temple in existence, gorgeous organic tea plantations (and im a bit of a tea nut), beautiful waterfalls, and some amazing ethnic villages.
 i rented a motorcycle and rode some ridge trails, and got to get really off the beaten path to see an incredible range of villages whos inhabitants had rarely seen a foreigner.  if i stopped for a drink, the whole town would gather round, and even just riding through the main road, an entire soccer game stopped to watch me go by.  neat, but a bit odd.  i finally had to turn around at one point when i found myself climbing a super rocky hill alone on the bike, in a tank top with no proper shoes, having no clue where i was.  i hated turning around before i found where this road went, and of course in doing so i dropped the bike and reduced the clutch lever to the 2 finger variety.  i knew i should have just kept going!  but for once i played it safe and returned to the hotel unharmed.

when we finally got the call for the pick up, our packages were waiting for us nearby.  it was just a mother hen and her youngin that we were taking, but there were also a couple others there that had been part of another group that we were not allowed to take with us because they were part of a different program (weird, i know).  this was the most heartbreaking thing i had seen since starting this job.  here we were, seemingly hand-picking these two to take to safety, and telling the others that they had to make their own way.  there was no risk for them at this point, eventually they would all end up at the same place to get processed.  but of course they didnt really know that, the tears were freely flowing, and they were breaking down into near hysteria.  i think it was a decision on our part that should be made differently next time.  but we are all new at this, and it is part of a learning process all the way around.  anyway, once the four of us got into the car, it was a quick hop into the car and a leisurely (with a few tense points at police checkpoints) 12 hour drive back home to safety.  now im not usually a kid person, and the thought of having a little sticky handed, whining brat in the house was not that appealing to me.  but this kid turned out to be crazy smart and totally hilarious.  he would mimic my english perfectly while we played our own version of chess (he somehow managed to win every game).  i watched him carefully examine a tripod, checking each knob and joint before returning it to its original state.  and his mom man, this chick was fierce, and i mean that in the best way possible.  they were going on to ROK and not the US, so they would be staying in the "waiting" prison.  she knew her energetic son would have a difficult time, so she loaded up on games and toys, and prepared the best that she could.  we were disappointed they werent going to be staying with us for more than a few days, but she had family in south korea, and was set on going there.  it was probably the right decision, but it sure would have been a lively house with such a little character here.

so there are obvious flaws in the process as of now, a big one being communication of timing.  sometimes we are hours late, other times days early.  but its also exciting to be involved at a time when the protocol is literally being written.  after every mission we will understand more about what works and what doesnt, and how to be as prepared as possible.  i was asked in an interview recently if this procedure seemed sustainable.  well, there are a million ways we could improve it, and we will, one at a time.  but how sustainable do we really want it to be?  i mean, isnt half the point of this to create enough awareness so that the prison doors will soon swing open?  if this process has to be sustainable for very long, we are not doing our job on other fronts of the fight.  so lets keep that awareness spreading, and put me out of a job as quickly as possible.

Monday, March 8, 2010

new moon to full moon and love love love

so my last blog post may have seemed a bit disjointed, we got the call for the next mission literally as i was typing it up.  so i didnt get to finish the half that i wanted to write for valentines day and how much i adore and appreciate all of my friends with their unique attributes and amazing qualities.  i'll focus on that here, and leave the next blog post for the discussion of the most recent mission.  here we go!!!

one of the greatest blessings of my life has been all of the inspiring, dedicated, talented people i have met over the miles and years.  and of course, most of them dont even realize how effin awesome they are.  and it can start in a flash, a chance meeting that leaves me stunned with amazement about the fantastic person i just met.  (i know this will all sound ridiculously gushy, but hey, i missed v-day so i get to let it out.)  anyway, for example theres amy lee, whom i met just crashing on her couch one night when i was on tour in the states for this non-profit, and after a few hours of chatting about our goals, ambitions, fears, i knew she would forever be in my heart.  kismet is the only word.  of course im sure it will be like most of the people in my life, we will connect off and on as long as i am in the same country,or at least work in the same group.  but as time goes we will have even bigger dreams we are working on, and think of each other only with sweet reminiscence.  but thats okay.  because already in the months of knowing her she has encouraged and propelled me in my own work, and brightened my life in having a small glimpse at her realizing her own goals.  she is selfless without being a martyr, and driven without bring aggressive.  i am fortunate for having known her, and look forward to following what i know will be a successful career and a beautiful life, even if i am not there to share it with her.  and to sweeten it even further, she is now dating one of my favorite men.  clay, a man that is so gentle and kind but still exudes a comforting masculinity, he is a rarity.  i joked on my facebook that i think i may be happier that they are dating than any relationship i could have of my own, but i think it is actually true (no pressure guys).

i promise not to wax nostalgic about all of my wonderful friends, but just a few words while i am feeling such a rare explosion of emotion.  teddy, i miss you so much, there's no one else i can love the ocean as much with, and then go back and be catty about the bitches on project runway.  lila, you will find what you are looking for, i promise.  you are too rich of character to languish without direction, if you dont find it, it will most assuredly find you.  adam, for the first time with anyone i think i am not as envious of your life as envious of those who get to share it with you.  kaz, i should tell you every day how much you mean to me.  you are the best and truest friend a person could have.  i did not remember that enough in my time of suffering, and i know you have forgiven me for that, but again, you are a man without equal, compassionate beyond compare.  i love you so, and hope i can share this with your new beautiful daughter.  julia, i would tell you to get over your self-consciousness and let others see what an amazing woman you are, but i will just let you be you and get to savor that knowledge all to myself and the others who see your greatness.  raul, i have always felt like you are my number one cheerleader, and you have given me more support than you realize.  brandt, with all you went through, for you to give me such heartfelt words of support when i needed them most, i will never forget that.  every accomplishment i am making now is in part due to your support, and i will love you always for it.  artoff, i dont care if you think its weird that i say this, but i so wish i lived near you cause i think we would hang out constantly and be the absolute best of chums.  or id like to think so :).  and there are so many people i only met a few times that have impacted me permanently, so much so that i think you would be freaked out if i kept naming names.  but to all of the people ive met in the last years who have inspired me; stephanie, sachi, ben, sam, sunny, jesse, mark, you touch people more than you know.  the only thing that was missing this valentines day was a crush, someone to pine over longingly, to ache to be near, or just talk to.  but i think my love quota has been more than filled my these wonderful friends, and i will consider myself lucky to exchange the passing fancy for the everlasting friendship.

if you havent all stopped reading already (if you even started) feel free to break off now, but i have got to tell my father exactly how much he means to me.  sometimes i have gotten angry with him, and have blamed him for not living up to my expectations of what a father should be.  and im sure i will due so again, i am as selfish and short sighted as the next person.  but while i am here and salient i will tell him what is honestly in my heart, without being skewed by perceived hurts.  dad, i love you more than i can ever express in words.  i know that you feel that you may have not lived up to the expectations you had as a young man.  you have reached a time in you life that we all come to, questioning the roads taken; and those that you passed by with a glance, maybe a longing glance at that.  i of course cannot tell you which decisions that you made were right or wrong, or where you may have taken a misstep.  but i can tell you that your decisions have allowed your daughter to live a life she never thought possible.  i dont really remember having great ambitions as a child, i never wanted to be a ballerina or an astronaut, didnt know how i felt about college until i got there, i just figured things happened as they did, and i would let them.  these were not negatives, it was because i had a sense of openness, that why limit myself to one choice because i could do anything in the whole world that i wanted.  and it was because of you, because of the strength and security you gave me that i could feel comfortable with such a seemingly unstable existence.  and in my short time here i have accomplished more than i would have ever expected.  it has been hard at times; heartbreaking, frustrating, incomprehensible.  but that is what makes the beautiful parts of life so worth living.  so many times i have looked through the streets of kyoto with the cherry blossoms falling, or over the mountains of laos with the winding mekong in the distance, or most often on my moto, singing, or even screaming to myself in my helmet because i just cannot contain my joy.  all of those times i have thought of what you have done for me and our family.

i know that sometimes i will forget all of this.  forgive
me, i am human,  the slights we feel to our hearts seems to ram any remembrance of kindness out of our minds.  but please remember that deep in the core of who i am as a human being, i will be ever grateful of your sacrifices.  i know that at times you wish it was you out there hiking the jungles in kauai.  but i also know that you would give up your chance to do it every time if it meant that your child could do it in your stead.  so dad, i have this picture of us together up here in my room at the shelter, of us with rommel getting ready to leave on a bike trip up the coast.  i think you have the same one at your desk.  (i am so hoping that no one else is reading this because the cheesiness has gotten out of hand, but i dont care.)  im looking at that photo right now (as much as i can see through the tears), and i think i feel for the very first time the thing you have been talking about, being disappointed that there is no afterlife.  i have always said that the experiences that i have had already have been fulfilling enough, and i dont need anything to come after it.  well its true, except for the fact of how much i would love another life with you and cameron and mom.  luckily when i am gone i wont actually be able to miss you, because i didnt miss you before i was born, so i wont miss you after i die.  but my goodness i miss you now.  so in making sure that we make the most of our meager time here, i'll continue to play out all of the amazing adventures to you, even the seemingly mundane details that make the story so much richer.  and i will thank you every time we talk, and remind you that while i may have been able to do some of these things without you, i would never have been able to feel so complete, and certainly not so loved.  i love you dad.  (and cameron, i love you because you're my brother ;).  and for orating since dad cant work a computer.)

new moon: a dated post, but better late than never...

this point on the calendar marks the celebrations of a new lunar year, reminiscing on old loves, or if you are as fortunate as i am, maybe both.  for the celebration of this particular evening, i am headed down to the local chinatown later tonight, to watch the revelers, the dragon dances, partake in a bit of snacking (i plan on eating all of the candied lotus root i can get my stubby little fingers around).  but my celebration isnt just for this night, or the promises of a new year.  my rebirth happens every morning.  every day i know that i have yet another opportunity to do something great.  great in the eyes of who?  maybe just myself, but for me thats plenty.  (although as soon as i complete something that i once saw as great, in my mind it becomes so obviously easy, and not notable at all. funny how that works).  anyway, i cant say too much in acknowledgement of the sensitivity of the subject, but i recently completed my first mission as a part of the underground railroad which brings north korean refugees to safety.  my part was merely a tiny turn of a cog in a machine vastly larger than i can even imagine.  but it is a part that i feel fortunate to play, and is one thing that i will be able to look back on with pride when my body cannot take me as far as it does now.

things could have gone terribly wrong, like any situation where a small group of people is standing in direct opposition to a powerful and ruthless authority.  but luckily, i risk only a few months of my own freedom, where others risk there lives, so i never felt much in the way of fear, or even anxiety.  very briefly, myself and a small team went to a border location and made a pick up of a group that was waiting for us.  them waiting around in a public location certainly wasnt in the plan, it was just one of the many thing that had gone wrong.  just to note a few, miscommunicated drop off points and number of people, 26 hours of non-stop driving (and i managed to only hit two stationary objects, yay me!), refugees that had no idea we were coming for them, splitting up the team by plane and van because of miscues, and the refugees and two team members getting chucked into the back of a police van.  whew!  but quick thinking, adaptability, and a team of cool characters managed to put everything together and get every one of those refugees to safety.  amazing, but true.  and the nk's themselves are amazing.  sweet, friendly, excitable, and oh so charming.  an elderly couple was part of the group that we all claimed as our adopted grandparents.  every person that laid their eyes on them just smiled in awe.  i swear, it was almost a detriment to the mission, they were so adorable that people just followed them for a few steps, like they were in a trance or something!  the image of gramps squatting in the courtyard with a ciggie hanging from him mouth, sinewy arms resting on his knees, surveying the area in front of him after he had raked all of the leaves into a pile biger than himself (not hard, this man and his wife were both shorter than 5' me), will be with  me always.  it was so amazingly surreal, after the long drive home and the adrenaline had worn off after passing through the last checkpoint, here i was giggling with some 20 year olds girls while picking out some shorts (what prudish me would almost consider booty shorts), and chatting with gramps about the war.  but these were not giggly girls from my college or even south korean tourists comparing fashions.  but this WAS the chat with my own granpda about the korean war, but this fellow happened to be on the other side.  and i know in my heart that neither if these two men would have begrudged the other.  when the team interacted with each other, it was a lot of cheery grins and i knew it would all turn out okay.  and maybe we did think so, even at the most dire moments.  but im pretty sure all of us at one point were like, this cannot be real.  how am i sitting here with a bunch of nk's  who have lived through the most oppressive regime imaginable, who have spent their lives in hiding, some of them tortured and traded as sex slaves?  and yet they sit here with us, laughing when we choke if the kim chi is too spicy, or listening to korean pop music (i happen to have the artist rain's full discography, my version of a sex god). 

the tenacity of the human spirit, the ability that we all have to overcome the most desperate trials and come out on the other side able to still laugh, love, and yes, other normal emotions as well; be petty, selfish, angry, and hurt.  to just be human.  to just be.

a few of them have gone on to south korea, but two amazing, beautiful girls are still with us here in the house.  we have already been giving them english, computer, and culture lessons, and they have already paid us back in full (not that they needed to) by making us delicious kim chi every day :).  i cant say it enough, my life is one of the most frustrating, difficult, lonely, inspiring, amazing, and beautiful lives imaginable.  it is bittersweet in the most pure sense of the word.  i am overcome with the beauty in the world as often as crushed with the injustice.  it is amazing how similar both feelings are, the wave of emotion that nothing in the world could make you ignore.  my mother once was baffled when i answered that finding peace is not my end goal (as it is hers she assumed it to be everyones).  not having peace is probably the hardest thing about life.  but it is the most rewarding, the most heart-wrenching, and the one thing out of every thing that i will never regret if i never find.  because peace is acceptance.  and i will never accept, and never stop.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

oh the sunstroke :(

hi all.  i have had three blog posts in the works for some time now, about my two adventures with refugee pick ups and one that i was the most excited about, proclaiming my love for all the wonderful people in my life (should have coincided with valetines day).  but because of situations beyond my control, i have been constantly kept away from the computer.  i have tried to take notes (a rarity for me), so i hope i can remember enough to recreate some of the incredible experiences i have had over the past month.  but it turns out the amazingly inefficient local bureaucracy has not only caused immense frustration, but is quite literally bad for my heath.  i recently returned from a visa run, and because of the overwhelming inefficiency and stifling heat, people were passing out left and right.  i thought i must be doing really well, because the first day was almost intolerable, but i felt perfectly fine the second day, even while others were miserable,  but as time went on i realized i was sweating profusely, and didnt even feel hot.  this was the first red flag, and pretty soon i became aware that something was seriously wrong.  i puked up the fruit that i had eaten for breakfast, and from that point on i spit up even the water i was trying to keep hydrated with.  i would have to run out of the immigration line to upchuck in the bushes.  i was dry-heaving the whole way back on the train.  so im pretty sure i've got a pretty serious case of sun poisoning.  ive had heat stroke before when i was pretty young and my dad thought a bike ride in 112 degree weather sounded like a goof (ha, typo and it stays) idea.  all i remember is someone dragging me under a tree and seeing red sparkles everywhere in the sky.  this was even less pleasant, as i was traveling alone and didnt have anyone to rub my back as i heaved into the bushes.  there was a very kind (and quite handsome) german guy pretty worried about me, but i'd rather not ask him to hold my hair as i barf.  another bonus of short hair.  :)  so i havent been able to update as i wanted to, but i promise updates on the missions as well as some upcoming book reviews.  i have become reacquainted with akutagawa, so i'd love to share some of the beautiful flowing language that he has to offer, at least what can be preserved in the japanese to english translation.  so anyway, i promise full updates as soon as i can keep something more than vegetable juice down.  i have missed you all so much, and have been neglecting to tell you all how important and inspiring you all are to me, in so many distinct yet unified ways.  i love you all, and promise not to be so neglectful in the future.  oh, and picture is unrelated but it made me laugh.  over and out.