Archive for the ‘news’ Category

An Inconvenient Truth

Have you seen this yet?

Preya’s post about warmer than normal weather in Hanoi this year reminded me that I haven’t written about this amazing film yet.

I will admit, I am very prone to attaching myself to causes – especially political issues – but this is so devestating, I honestly can’t believe the whole world isn’t panicking. Well, I’m pretty sure most of the developed world is panicking, except for the US…

Yes, I like Al Gore. I voted for him when he ran for President. But this goes far beyond liking someone. His presentation is so clear, rational, and powerful that it’s impossible to ignore.

Climate change is real. While we lived in Germany everyone was talking about the horrible summer floods in central Europe which devestated so many cities (and have now become an annual disaster). And then in 2003 (repeated again in 2006), the heat wave that killed thousands across Europe. Next came the tsunami here in S.E. Asia. And then the hurricane in New Orleans. How is it that the US is not paying attention yet?

I borrowed this DVD from a friend, but it’s going to be the first one I buy when I get home for the summer. If you haven’t seen it yet – go out and buy the DVD today. And then visit the site to see how you can make a difference. You can even calculate the impact you have on the environment. We only have the one planet, right? That’s got to be worth the $20 it’ll cost to buy the DVD.

Image: http://www.duncans.tv/images/an-inconvenient-truth.jpg


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Blood Diamond

I consider myself to be socially conscious. I have been an active member of Amnesty International for the last 10 years or so, I try to pay attention to what’s going on in the world, and I make an effort to put my money where my mouth is. But, even I succommed to the diamond industry. Alex and I dated for about 7 years before we decided to get engaged, during that time I swore that not only would I never get married (who needs that piece of paper?) but that I would never buy a diamond engagement ring.


The whole never getting married idea changed pretty quickly when we moved to Munich and I realized that we had no legal ties to each other and if something should ever happen, we basically have no rights. That said, as soon as we decided to get engaged I suddenly developed an all-encompasing lust for the perfect solitare engagement ring. I can’t quite explain how it happened. I knew all about conflict diamonds, but something inside of me decided I wanted a ring. A diamond ring. And thus, my beautiful Tiffany Lucida solitare was bought. At the price of about 2 months wages with a hefty extra month’s worth of tax plopped on top for the privelage of buying the ring in Germany. Now, I did go through an intensive interrogation with the somewhat sullen saleslady regarding the origin of my diamond, it’s certificate of authenticity, and serial number, just to make absolutely certian that I was not participating in the horrid exploitation of so many innocent people.

Sadly, I have now come to realize that there is absolutely no way to know if your diamond is a conflict diamond or not thanks to the fantastic movie, Blood Diamond. If you haven’t had the chance to see it yet, go! I hate to admit that sometimes it takes a Hollywood version of a tradgedy to make it real, but it’s true. After leaving the theater I was embarrased to have my wedding ring on my finger. I know I tried my best to ensure that it was not part of this nightmare reality, but in the end, I don’t think that makes a speck of difference.

Amnesty International and Global Witness have started a joint campaign to fight against conflict diamonds based around the film:

“Global Witness and Amnesty International are supporting the film, Blood Diamond, as an important way to raise awareness about how diamonds can fuel conflict. We hope that as a result of the movie, people will ask more questions before buying a diamond, and that the industry will take action to make sure companies can provide consumers with adequate assurances that the diamonds they sell are conflict-free.”

I am so thankful that movies like this are becoming more and more common – and becoming widely recognized at awards events that traditionally honored, shall we say, less educational films. Last year The Constant Gardener, and now Blood Diamond. I think Hollywood is finally on the right track.

I participate in a book club here in KL and this week we discussed one of my favorite new reads: The World is Flat. During our conversation we talked about globalization (of course) and the need for “global corporations” to have some sort of moral watchdog or code of ethics. I think, I hope, that movies like this can educate the public to be more aware of what is happening in the world and how our consumer desires can literaly destroy entire countries. I’m certainly not perfect, and clearly I am also a sucker for media-hyped temptation, but what’s that G.I. Joe says? “Knowing is half the battle.”

Image 1 from: http://z001.ig.com.br/ig/55/36/142820/blig/amodiamantes/imagens/lucida_shopping.jpg
Image 2 from: http://www.popmatters.com/images/news_art/b/blood-diamond-poster.jpg

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Now, I haven’t seen Snakes on a Plane, but I do appreciate the clarity and imagery provided by its truly unique title. I was also quite fascinated to hear about all the media attention the movie was getting when I was home last summer. But that was back when we all thought it was an original idea. Now we know the truth. This kind of stuff actually happens in The Philippines, at the Manila airport, where, on Wednesday, more than 130 reptiles were confiscated after attempting to board a flight to Bangkok:

“Dozens of lizards, wearing diapers to conceal the stench of their urine, and 60 snakes concealed in water bottles, were discovered Tuesday inside two suitcases belonging to a Filipino woman, airport officials said.”

I think the key phrase for me is “wearing diapers to conceal the stench of their urine.” As far as I’m concerned, this is someone who’s really thought through the process of attempting to smuggle reptiles on a plane. This person is officially (at least, “officially” according to me) a professional reptile-plane-smuggler. I mean: what kind of diapers do lizards wear? How did this person come up with this idea? How did she successfully force all those lizards to wear the diapers? How were they supposed to get through the x-ray in the first place?

I wonder how surprised the woman was to get caught. I’m imagining her look of utter shock and disbelief that the reptiles didn’t actually make it on the plane: How ever did they figure it out? I put the diapers on and everything! They couldn’t have found them by smell! This was a fool-proof plan!

Image 1 from: http://www.firstshowing.net/img/snakesplane2.jpg
Image 2 from: http://www.thenewparentsguide.com/images/AMZ%20diaper%20classic%20cloth%20diaper%205%20pack.jpg

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And this is why I’m kind of scared to go to Singapore… It seems like an interesting place – like Malaysia, only really clean and organized (as they say here: same, same; but different). It’s kind of like the Germany of South East Asia in my mind.

But there’s just something about a country that:

  1. forces it’s citizens to register as “gum chewers” before they can buy gum (which is only available in pharmacies);
  2. canes foriegners for vandalism (sure, you have to do something about it, it’s just the type of punishment that’s a little scary);
  3. and most recently, sends people to jail for latching on to an available wifi connection that they didn’t pay for.

Sure, I think we have to have some rules, and I’m certainly not out to criticize the Singaporean government (in case I ever find a reason to travel there, please, please don’t arrest and/or cane me), but to me, this seems a bit OTT (as Alex would say).

Image from: http://www.nationsonline.org/gallery/Singapore/singapore_city.jpg

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Links for the week

As you know, I was on holiday for one week, two weeks ago. Therefore, I have spent the last week catching up on the thousands of articles in my aggregator. I will admit that I may have marked large sections as “read” without actually reading them, but these are a few that really sparked my interest. Perhaps you too, will find them interesting:

  • I’m embarrassed to say that I have somehow lost my own absentee ballot so I was not able to vote this time around as absentee ballots were due on October 31st (truthfully, this happens almost every election. Where does that pesky ballot end up?) This makes me especially upset when I read things like “Bush Legalizes Martial Law — what Constitution?.” Obviously I can’t afford to loose that ballot. We need to get out of this mess before it’s too late. Oh, and I love this article from The Onion.
  • Apparantly Apple is trying to promote a YouTube style popularity of it’s iMovie software through this insomnia film festival contest. I love the idea, but I also love sleep.
  • I seem to be developing some sort of early onset Alzheimer’s. I wish I was joking, but I am actually kind of worried about it. This week I went to pick up my cute, pink lunchbox from my desk and it wasn’t there. How odd? I think to myself, I remember carrying it over this morning, I can feel the handle in my hand. I can see myself picking it up. But it’s not here? How can that be? Then I go around the office asking everyone if they’ve seen my lunch (which kind of sounds like I’m accusing them of taking my lunch), and eventually resort to buying lunch in the canteen. Hours later, back at home, I see my lunch happily resting on the table where I left it in the morning. I assure you, this is not an isolated incident. Thankfully, it appears that there is a solution in sight.
  • You know I have a secret desire to travel in space (and meet the aliens, etc, etc). Well now I’ll know exactly what to wear. Those trendy Japanese. They always know what’s cool before the rest of us….
  • Remember back when you were a kid and making a fort out of couches and blankets was the coolest thing in the world? Well, cardboard boxes add a new, more challenging dimension. This combines my child-like glee for anything made out of large boxes, with Alex’s never-ending interest in mazes. I think we should make one. But where can I get all those boxes?
  • I know I said I want to travel to Iran, but it wasn’t because I need a kidney. Yikes.
  • If the government is doing it, wikis must really be catching on.

What have you found interesting online lately?

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I have to admit, I actually feel a bit upset at myself that we went to Bali last week. I like to tell myself that I’m a socially consious traveller. I think about where I’m going before I go, and I try to think about the impact my visit will have for the country and (gasp!) the world. I want to make sure my US dollars are doing some good (even if it’s minimal) and not supporting, oh say, military dictatorships while the rightful leader of a country is imprisoned in her home, for example (more here, take action here). So, when we decided to go to Bali, it was more of a last ditch “we have vacation and we have to go somewhere” sort of thing than “oh, my! I’ve been wanting to visit Bali my whole life and now’s my chance!”

statedeptnov1298-09.jpgIn fact, for many years I insisted I would never travel to Bali because of Indonesia’s horrible treatment of East Timor (and I suppose most of the rest of the country as well). I used to go to rallies in DC during university and occasionally worked on behalf of ETAN. And now, even though East Timor is (kind of) independent (but still terribly struggling) I justified it in my own mind, that now it’s officially OK to go to Indonesia (no, not really).

Well, lo and behold, upon our arrival at the “visa on arrival” booth, I see that a 7 day visa is US$10, and anything over is US$25. We’re staying 8 days (natch), so we have to pay the US$25 each, plus, of course, the US$10 departure “tax.” dsc01964.JPG These are the kinds of things that make me not want to travel to these countries. I can see how my US dollars directly affect the quality of life for the wonderful owners of the Villa Sonia in Nyuh Kuning, just outside of Ubud, and our fantastic bike tour guide, Darma. But, these visa and “airport tax” dollars are going straight into the corrupt government. And when I think about the number of tourists that are paying US$35 just to enter and leave the country, just through the Bali airport… Yikes. That’s a lot of money…

daw_aung_san_suu_kyijpeg.jpgAnd then I come home to this, and am once again reminded why I WILL NOT travel to Burma until Ann Sun Syu Chi (more here and here) is released from house arrest and a new government formed (because, truth be told, I was kind of wavering in my opinion about traveling to Burma too). Even if the New York Times thinks it’s OK to write travel reviews of the country. How can visit a country, knowing about things like this?

It scares me to think about how far I have drifted from my old activist roots. How do people balance all of their interests when they are so different? I spend so much time reading about tech developments and learning about education and taking courses and, oh yes, working, that I don’t feel like I have a second to spare for activism.

I used to think I was going to be a human rights lawyer. What happened to that superkimbo? In Munich I was the Chairperson for the only English speaking Amnesty International group in Germany. And I ran the AI students group at school. That wasn’t enough, but at least that was something. Why am I not taking the same kinds of actions here? This frustrates me, yet I know I feel too overwhelmed with other stuff to actually do it….

Image 1 from: http://hrw.org/images/home/2006/200/eastti13223.jpg
Image 2 from: http://www.sinkers.org/ETimor/StateDeptNov1298-09.jpg
Image 3 (mine)
Image 4 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Daw_Aung_San_Suu_Kyi.JPEG
Image 5 from: http://schema-root.org/region/international/non-governmental_organizations/amnesty_international/amnesty_international_logo.gif

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An astronaut you say?

I’m reading all about differentiation for my Ed Leadership class, and it makes me wonder about when I was in school… Sometimes I wonder if I didn’t have the “proper encouragement” as a young child to go into the technology and science field. You know how you always see stories about young women who are excelling in the science field and they always says how their parents and teachers enouraged them? Actually, I’m kind of referencing my favorite movie here… Well, I wonder if I was encouraged. Because growing up I always thought I was bad at math and science and strong in English and history. Now, I can barely spell and I have no concept of grammar, but I love all thing scientific and technological. The reason I say all this is because, when I go through my news aggregator in the morning, these are things I find so interesting:

  • Well, I think we all know why I find this item interesting.
  • But are you genuinely excited about this upcoming movie? ‘Cause I am.
  • And I think this is pretty cool too.
  • I love that UK drivers are so smart.
  • And, I’ll definitely be commenting on this article since we all know I love my Mac so much.
  • I was also very interested to see that the US population has reached 300 Million. But I think there are still more English speakers in China than there are in the US…
  • Did you know that scientists recently discovered a lost city? Of course the Wikipedia entry on the subject is thriving.
  • This one is quite old, but it still makes me laugh: Have you considered buying milk on Amazon?

I’m also loving the viral video world:

  • Check out the Aurora-borealis. I need to go to the Arctic. But I hate winter. What to do?
  • I watched this OK go video a while ago, but was recently reminded how funny it is. I love how bands can now become popular just based on YouTube! And, I’m sure you all know that Google just bought YouTube, right?
  • I’m not sure how Aleksey Vayner fits in, but I think it’s pretty funny. Even The New Yorker is interested. Now that’s a story!
  • I’ve already shared Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty with everyone at school. I am just blown away by the power of this short flash animation. Lucky for me, I’m teaching Flash this quarter…

Anyway, to bring it all back around. Sometimes I wonder if I had been “properly encouraged” in the science and technology field, might I be an astronaut today?

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