08/9/15

stream of consciousness: aug 9 ’15

Another stream of consciousness—wherein I write whatever comes to my head and I only go back to correct for grammar and formatting.

I just finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s a story about a Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who comes to the U.S. as a student and becomes a blogger who comments on her racial experience as someone who “became” black only once she came to the States. There are about 20 of the character’s blog posts in the book, and it contains some of the best writing on the experience of intersectional racism/sexism of black women. The story that encases this commentary is a love story which isn’t bad as far as those go. Adichie’s writing is beautiful too, with just enough descriptive flare to suck you into certain moments in the story but not too much to be tiresome.

Anyway I definitely recommend it.

~

Very much into ibeyi right now. They’re twin sisters, 19 or 20, of French-Cuban descent and are the daughters of the percussionist from Buena Vista Social Club. Their music is just gorgeous and soulful and…Mmm!

>> Youtube video of their show at KEXP Seattle <<

~

Random thoughts about trade policy/innovation still swimming around in my head that I can’t nail down.

I’ve started three different long pieces trying to make sense of them and I keep scrapping them. Can’t tell if it’s just a bunch of obviousness, that I’m just saying something someone else has already said but then I know that if they had, I probably would have read it or known about it.

~

That’s it for now. bleh.

mood: intellectually, creatively constipated

 

 

 

07/26/15

It’s all about REGs.

I *love* a good immersive puzzle. It began with the annual Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt, which I’ve done for the last three years with my colleagues. For that you run around a square half-mile area in the FiDi/China Town/Russian Hill/Embarcadero area while the Chinese New Year parade happens in the middle of your 4~5 hour quest.

Then I heard about the “Escape from the Mysterious Room.” It’s called a Real Escape Game (REG), a genre of puzzle-hunting where they trap you in a room filled with clues, and you only have a limited time, usually an hour, to escape. They hold it at the New People center in J-town, tucked between the floors of anime stationary stores and Lolita boutiques. That one was the first series to hit the Bay Area. It was definitely fun but way too hard (apparently only 1~2% of people got out in time and beat it).

Now there’s a new one—Escape from the Puzzle Room—which is the one I did today. It was GREAT. The crew that I came with, I gotta say, did a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of puzzling. They make you work with everyone who shows up (11 ppl in all), and the strangers we got really had no idea what they were doing. oh wells.

Escape from the Puzzle Room

But we won!! (Well, we didn’t actually escape the room, one of our teammates figured out where the key was just as the buzzer was going off. It was close enough and we solved every puzzle soooo…..)

Puzzle hunts are awesome because they make you process information on so many different levels. You have to be a sleuth, and look for clues and find patterns at every moment. You have to remember factoids. You have to be willing to take risks and think creatively. You have to be good at working with others, know how to communicate well, and recognize when and how to delegate tasks or when you step up and support someone else as they lead. And you have to do all that under a ticking timer.

It feels so good to have all of these different parts of your brain stimulated at once in a pleasant frenzy. It’s also a kind of entertainment that’s not based on consumption (of a good nor mass culture), and you come out feeling so accomplished. Win win and win.

Anyway, you should check it out if you’re in the Bay Area, but see if they might also have it at a Japan town near youuuu~

 

07/20/15

rise of the third place

The late architect Victor Gruen is called the grandfather of the American mall.

It was distressing for him to see people increasingly consumed by the automobile in the 1950’s and 60’s. He said: “their threat to human life and health is just as great as that of the exposed sewer.” Yup, he *hated* cars. So he wanted to bring cohesion to the suburbanite lifestyle by giving rise to a “third place,” outside the home and workplace. He wanted to build mixed-use spaces that could serve as a place for leisure and community.

He eventually became disgusted by the very thing he helped create—these climate-controlled private spaces, national monuments to American consumerism.

gruenday

We celebrated him, and the rise and fall of the modern mall, on Gruen Day yesterday at the Bayfair Center in San Leandro. It was the fifth mall he had designed.

It seems to be an empty shell of what it once was. The woman who leads the management for the space repeatedly decried the use of the term “mall,” calling it a four-letter word in the industry. Everything the management does now is geared towards de-malling. They want to gut it and completely re-design the interior so it can house offices, maybe even residences.

Gruen, who gave rise to the mall and became one of its fiercest critics, would probably be thrilled to see this happen to his own creation.

p.s. ICYMI: 99% Invisible did a great episode about him.

 

06/21/15

the drought is no joke.

 Bass Lake, June 21 2015my friends and I came here four years ago and kayaked around this meadow when it was still underneath a lake. we were shocked to see Bass Lake more than 3/4’s empty…this was the first time the drought felt so visceral and real to me. 

 floating docks sitting un-used.   
a small stream feeds into the lake. houses that once sat on the waterfront are now hundreds of feet from the water. 

05/25/15

a peek at monsanto’s evils.

I don’t have a problem with GMOs, but I do have a problem with Monsanto.

First I heard about the multinational agricultural biotech firm was in high school, when my dad told me about how they’d sue farmers for having crops that contain traces of their patented plant genes—including threatening their neighbors, for simply having their farm nearby a farmer who used Monsanto seeds, the genetic traits of which could get transmitted through pollen that floated or carried over to them by bees. I just did a quick search to find out about their other evil doings, and found these:

  • They’ve continued to sue farmers for having “improperly reused their patented seeds.” Yes, they have invested millions into their R&D for their products, but it’s perverse for them to go after farmers for reusing seeds when that’s what farmers have done for literally thousands of years. Farmers are under ever-increasing pressure to yield more and more crops (esp. corn and soy beans), and making these farmers dependent on Monsanto’s products to remain competitive seems dangerous and unsustainable..

Sooo on Saturday, I ended up going to the March Against Monsanto in San Francisco. Food safety and anti-pesticide activism isn’t one of my fights, but I deeply respect those who’ve taken up the cause. It also happened that one of the dances that my political-dance-flash-mob does, Toxic, fit perfectly with the demo’s message. On some level, I felt bad that I suddenly showed up to perform (which as I said in an earlier post, feels more like activism-cheerleading than anything else) and join their protest. But I think it’s actually okay to be peripherally involved in a cause like this, especially if you’re already focused on a different one.

evilcorn

There’s only so much anger one can muster in a week. My day job is to wrangle with a massive trade agreement that could obligate its signatory countries to various bad awful digital regulations, and really threatens to upend public interest policies from across the board. It’s already been a struggle for me to try and stay positive and focused on the things that we can do to stop the TPP, so I have to be okay with letting others lead and fight in those trenches to do what they can on issues I also care about.

Anyways, I’ll just end this post with this awesome video on Youtube, “Lobbyist Claims Monsanto’s Roundup Is Safe To Drink, Freaks Out When Offered A Glass.

And a photo of me in a gas mask, which was really fun dancing to Britney Spears with. :)

mai_gasmask

05/11/15

film: encounters at the end of the world

iceburg_herzog

I watched Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World this week, a documentary that beautifully captures the indifferent expanse of Antarctica as it peers into the lives of those who’ve somehow ended up there. At times the film was breathtaking, suspenseful, absurd, and meditative. Through intimate human moments that take place in this gorgeous icy frontier, Herzog shows you some of the consequential/inconsequential collisions between humans and “nature”. He guides you through this in his signature narration, delivered with his melodic German accent.

For real though, it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a while that *doesn’t* make me want to punch a wall. And it’s on Netflix.

05/3/15

celebrating the Everett Program

As an undergrad at UC Santa Cruz, I spent all four years with a student organization and academic program called the Global Information Internship Program (GIIP), now called the Everett Program. It teaches undergrads how to become “social justice entrepreneurs”, by training them in practical tech skills, as well as in professional advocacy, such as doing needs analyses, project management, grant writing, and other tools to execute an internship with a non-profit.

About 17 years after it began, it’s now a Major and Minor study under the UCSC Sociology department and it get a yearly contribution of 0.33% of the student body’s combined tuition (a couple $10,000’s per year) following a student initiative that was a passed by vote. It then received an endowment that supports the staffing and management of the program, establishing a new chair for the program—the Dorothy E. Everett Chair, named after a woman who spent years dedicated to the cause of free, universal higher education in the state of California.

So this past weekend we celebrated the retirement of the incredible sociology professor, and my mentor, Paul Lubeck, who built this program, and the launch of the new Chair of the Everett Program, Chris Benner. It was really exciting to see how much the program has grown and to think about new ways it will continue to expand.

The Everett Program is what converted me from an unfocused student with broad, but deep discontent about the world, into a practical, effective advocate and activist. It changed my life most profoundly because it was a program that was run *by* undergraduate students *for* undergraduate students. It taught us how to take ourselves as activists seriously in a way that most of us never knew how.

So now, as a big side project to my work at EFF, I’ve founded an alumni foundation to connect all the incredible people who’ve gone through this program together. Between the more than 100 of us, we have resources, experiences, and networks that can be harnessed and shared to make us all more involved in pragmatic change-making.

 

04/6/15

finding Fresh Roots

“Fresh Roots”, a poem by Rumi.

I started reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander this weekend. So far, it feels like I’m finally paying attention to a deep rot that I knew has always been there, in my already decrepit house—my country. I have a lot of thoughts already but I’ll save them for when I finish the book.

03/29/15

ISDS: the crown jewel for global plutocracy

Wikileaks has publicly exposed another chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, and in effect, has delivered a massive blow against this secret, multinational trade deal. This time it was the text on Investment, which has, among many other things, language on what’s called “investor-state dispute settlement,” or ISDS for short. This investor-state process essentially enables corporations to file lawsuits against governments—federal or state/provincial—over policies that the company claims harms their investments or “expected future profits.”

There have been ISDS cases involving oil companies suing small countries, like Ecuador, which tried to enact rules to protect the forests and rivers. There have been cases where an energy company sued a country for deciding to shut down its nuclear power plants. And there have been cases where a court found that an over-broad medicine patent was invalid, leading the pharmaceutical company to challenge the ruling in an ISDS process.

I’ve briefly ranted about ISDS before. Now that we’ve seen the text, we can confirm it’s utterly as evil as we expected it to be. This is about corporations having sovereignty, and having the power to challenge government rules, even if the law was passed democratically and is seen as totally legitimate in the eyes of the people. Given all the other provisions in trade agreements, such as those on “Intellectual Property”, ISDS enables corporations to challenge the way government interprets those provisions as long as the corporation can claim that the law stifled their profit-making abilities.

Think about that.

These rules mean that private industries can unravel public-interest policies, through the singular, self-interested justification that their ability to make money has been made more difficult…Since when do companies have an unalienable right to profit, at the expense of everyone else’s concerns?

More importantly, why the hell are public officials selling us out to mega-corporations? Are they just getting lobbied so hard, and have become so intimate with myopic corporate representatives as to believe that this is remotely compatible with an actual functioning democracy?

 

03/15/15

stream of consciousness: march 2015

this is a stream of consciousness—i’m writing anything that comes to my mind.

On Friday I went to the dentist and they fixed a tooth that got chipped while I was eating a bowl of salad I made with Trader Joe’s fancy Red Quinoa. This particular tooth was already fucked up—a snaggler that jutted out taller than the others on the front bottom row of my mouth. In middle school, when my appearance became a sudden and painful new part of my every day consciousness, I was really embarrassed of it. I covered my mouth when I laughed to avoid people noticing it. But eventually I got over it and didn’t care anymore. Every time I changed dentists and they asked me if I wanted braces, I’d defend its right to stay. “It’s fine and it’s not gonna hurt me right?” But on Friday they changed it. They first added whatever gunk they put on it to account for the missing chip, then asked me if they should just file it down. “Uhhh…Yeah.” I nodded, while my mouth was held open. “Great! It’ll only take a second.” When they started, I realized that it’d lose it’s charm. My teeth would be boring now. I’d lose my ability to make weird bite marks on apples…! But it was too late. They had an electric filing device in my mouth filing that lil’ guy down…

~

Saxophones haven’t been cool for as long as I remember. It was at its pinnacle while John Coltrane and Charlie Parker ruled the jazz scene. But then who killed it? Kenny G might’ve been the first wave of uncooling, then was the sexy sax man the final nail in the coffin or was it just making fun of the complete utter deadness of its cool? Anyway, I think it’s creeping back into the mainstream. It’s in that Ariana Grande song, in Macklemore’s Thriftshop, and Big Gigantic does it electronica-styles.

One night a few weeks ago I was under-the-influence wandering around the Internet and I found this Tiny Desk Concert session with Moon Hooch. They sounded nothing like anything I’ve heard before, despite being just three white dudes who looked like they just got plucked out of Humboldt County. I was hypnotized by their performance, recorded in that awkward little NPR studio. So I immediately bought tickets to see them when I saw that they were coming to SF.

The show was on Friday and it was pretty amazing. As Andrew said they were a mix between being really talented musicians and being strangely comedic in their performance. I feel the same way, but I wonder if it’s just because I still can’t shake the thing about saxes being the butt-of-the-joke instrument. But that actually made me enjoy the show MORE. I feel like I mostly see the same instruments being played on stage, and while I appreciate talent with those, they’re just something extra eventful about seeing that kind of artfulness with instruments you don’t usually enjoy. So yeah, it was good.

~

In the bathroom I found this sticker on the stall door. This is how I feel about writing/painting/reading:

FullSizeRender

– fin –