30 January 2009
1. A real-life Sleeping Beauty, awoken by a kiss from her husband.2. Strangers coming together through the Dream Foundation to help a woman battling breast cancer have the wedding she could never have afforded on her own.
I like finding evidence that people are good and have big hearts.
What's your favorite 'good news' feel-good story?
29 January 2009
28 January 2009
1. Shakespeare asked what was in a name, claiming that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Well, sometimes, the bard is wrong, and it just isn't true. Imagine being one of these people and how old the jokes would get. I vow never to make fun of anyone from being from a place like Crapstone ever again.
2. A creepy answer to "How do you know society's obsession with fame and reality entertainment has gone too far?"
3. In more positive news, John McPherson shows that one can make a difference in seemingly tiny ways.
27 January 2009
I've had a few, shall we say memorable, experiences. When my partner and I were taking a train to the Venezuela-Brazil soccer game, we jumped onto the moving train while asking if it was the right one. (We could almost hear the "Indiana Jones" soundtrack as we caught the right train in motion-- and didn't maim ourselves in the process.)
Yesterday was such an occasion. We were supposed to fly to San Luis Obispo via Phoenix on an airline that will not be mentioned (cough, cough, US Airways). Our flight was supposed to depart from Boston at 4:30pm, we'd catch our connection in Phoenix around 8:30pm, and we'd be in San Luis by 9:30pm. Sounded great. Except that said airline announced that we were making an unexpected stop in Nashville, Tennessee, which would get us into Phoenix around 10:30pm. They said everyone with connecting flights should go back to the ticketing agents and no, they would not be putting anyone up for the night.
We leapt up and got back in line (and waited while the staff cut in front of us-- so much for customers first), and they said they couldn't get us into SLO in time for my partner's interview at 8am the following morning. We finally canceled the flight altogether and decided we were on a mission (cue "Mission Impossible" music) to get to SLO by 8am, no matter what it took.
We ran over to jetblue, bought tickets and hopped on the next flight to Oakland. (Once we were charged $15 for our one suitcase and saw signs for $2 sodas on the other airline, jetblue seemed like an oasis of luxury with their unlimited snacks and beverages.) For those of you who are familiar with San Luis Obispo, a charming little town on the Pacific coast about halfway between L.A. and San Francisco, you'll know that Oakland is not exactly nearby.
So, we arrived in Oakland around 11:30pm, and we were almost thwarted again as the car rental company we'd reserved through (Budget, who said they'd be open till 1am) was deserted and definitely closed before midnight. We checked the remaining companies and finally found our godsend at Avis around 1am and set off. My partner and I each drove half of the three hours and arrived in San Luis Obispo at 4am, checked into our hotel-- and my partner went to his interview without a hitch in the morning. Yay! (Cue "Rocky" music.)
Now, all we need for the happy ending is to get the job offer. With a huge bonus for trumping the travel-disaster gods and getting here in time anyway. Like unlimited funds to go traveling around the world, for example.
26 January 2009
It was pretty mindblowing. Friends from middle school, high school, college-- people I hadn't seen in ages and ages-- were all there. Many, smiling with spouses and babies, and many, working in fancy jobs. Time flies, and so much happens-- and the miracle is that when you reach out to long, lost friends, it's as if you saw each other last week. It's a beautiful experience, and I feel so grateful to have connected with such amazing people. Thank you!
Meanwhile, the future has arrived:
23 January 2009
22 January 2009
“Let the remaking of America begin today,” declared The Guardian, in Britain. The Independent called Inauguration Day “a day for hope.” In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of “a truly great hour for America” that offered “a multitude of opportunities.” The Times of India welcomed “a new beginning.” In Northern Ireland, The Belfast Telegraph asked: “Can Obama save us all?”
21 January 2009
I hope you had a chance to share this momentous occasion with others, too, and may we all (Americans and non-Americans alike) enjoy a better future with the new leader of the United States, President Barack Obama.
P.S. My favorite moment: when President Obama, in his excitement and nervousness, took a little while to say his oath (video). It shows me he is human and, though usually immaculately eloquent, can experience that spark of childlike exhilaration, too.
20 January 2009
So, here you go. Six of the coolest things I found in this crazy place called Internet (aka Procrastination Land). It's a lot of clicking through, so not for the faint of heart (i.e., those who want to get work done). Enjoy!
1. The coolest batteries ever. You recharge them by plugging them into your USB port. Genius!
2. People art. Those Turks know how to move... (And for the record, yes, it is a bank commercial. A work-of-art bank commercial.)
3. The hotel room of the future. No angles anywhere. You can change the color on the walls. A robot brings you drinks. A bathroom mirror that doubles as a computer screen so you can check your email. Whoa, right? And get this! The clincher? You can tell the bed to rock you to sleep, and it will. Voice command + bed that rocks you to sleep = neato.
4. Four life skills learned from living overseas. Not sure if you'll need them right away, but it probably wouldn't hurt to have them in your arsenal.
5. If you just want to be completely depressed or feel your life is tough and need to put it in perspective, just read this or this. Very powerful, very sad. Why is there so much suffering in the world?
And the bonus #7! A phone that you don't have to plug into a wall called a cellular phone. Amazing! Just kidding. I've heard of those and even use one. Occasionally.
18 January 2009
On the first day of third grade, my partner's teacher told everyone in the class to make a name sign. "Like this," he said. He held up a piece of construction paper and wrote his name on it in clear, big letters: LETON. He told the class to come in the next day with colgaropas (this was in Bolivia) and their name signs. Apparently, colgaropa could mean either clothes pin or hanger, though, so the next morning, when the teacher instructed the students to attach their name signs to their shirts, everyone was confused.
It turns out half of the kids showed up with hangers, and half the kids showed up with clothes pins. Frustrated, the teacher changed the subject. "All right, let's see everyone's name signs." The little hands held up their name signs, and half of them had written LETON on their signs instead of their own names. Poor Leton. I guess he needed to be a little more specific.
Now, I know purple was the 'it' color this past fall and all that nonsense, but I have to admit: if I saw this book in a bookstore, I would very likely have run away from it. Purple and pink -- and not just any pink, but pink in a curly font? A hokey title like Love Languages, complete with a couple walking into the sunset with a heart on the beach and the word, "Heartfelt"? HECK, no. Shoot me now.
16 January 2009
3:29 The plane reaches 1000 feet then 500 feet. The passengers are told to 'prepare for impact.' The plane ditches (i.e., crash lands in the Hudson River) opposite West 42nd Street. Miraculously, the aircraft remains intact.
3:31 The first ferry and tourism boats arrive on the scene to begin rescue.
Pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger is declared a hero, and all 155 people aboard the plane are fine. I feel like the kid in "The Incredibles," who yells "That's wicked awesome!"
For more coverage, the Huffington Post does a pretty good job (and is updating, too) here.
15 January 2009
14 January 2009
Anyway, in the Be, Do or Own (Bedouin) competition, I would rather Be. To me, owning something offers little appeal. I believe one's possessions end up owning the owner (cliché #1), and even now, living in a little one-bedroom apartment, I feel I've accumulated too much stuff and want to simplify. To do was a popular choice-- it's the American way, right? I think it is important to do (and not loaf around), but to do above all else to me means to be so focused on the destination that the journey becomes forgotten (cliché #2). This doesn't mean one shouldn't have goals-- it just means that they shouldn't take precedence over all else.
To me, choosing to be means living every moment fully and making the effort to be the person you always wanted to be: the one you wanted to grow up and become, the one your child self would be proud to see herself as. It means being focused on the present, every moment of it, on little surprises that come up and being open to what life brings you. It promises little in the way of reward or social recognition, but those are shortlived highs. Seeking others' approval = a life of slavery. Feel free to disagree.
Onto part II. My partner was the one who came up with the phrase, 'a life of cool experiences,' and it really resonated with me and what I considered living life fully. When I'm old and growing barnacles on my head (yes, this is something that happens to people and not just old ships), I feel that that is the life I will not regret. Within this life, it is also possible to have a great family life and some success, but again, the journey is what drives you. And it is very possible to serve humanity while doing so-- it just might not be in a traditional way.
By this philosophy, traveling is the obvious answer. I feel like, even though I would advise traveling without hesitation if someone asked me this question, most of rational society would counsel taking the job. And say things like 'Oh, but going off and backpacking is so irresponsible-- what if (list of horrible consequences)?' Or 'What a waste of good talent. Talk about selfish.'
And so on. But isn't that what life is all about? Pushing out those voices of narrow-minded condemnation (disguised as rational, responsible logic) and doing what you feel will make you feel like a liberated, enlightened human being? Or am I just glorifying my desire to traipse around the planet?
Which brings me back to the title of this post. I want to seize the day every day (cliché #3), and perhaps I will feel that my limited number of days have not been wasted but were actually lived. I am beginning to suspect that the term, 'growing up,' was invented by someone justifying their so-so job and boring existence.
So, yes, it is a luxury to not be financially responsible for anyone but yourself (I remember being humbly silenced by a student who said he had to help support his family as soon as he graduated, and that was why he was taking the finance job that he didn't want), but if you have the opportunity to pursue your dreams, it seems crazy to me not to try.
Last part of the sermon. (Yeah, I know, sorry-- and for all of the clichés, too. No more journey/destination crap, I swear. I wonder how many I have officially offended, insulted and alienated with this post.)
Living the life of your dreams doesn't cost as much as people think (unless, of course, your dream life involves being filthy rich), and not trying is the greatest waste of all. My twenties have flown by, and I'd never want to relive them, but I have no regrets and love all the nutso things I tried. And maybe I just have too many wild oats to sow, but the idea of settling down into a job that you will go to every day for the rest of your life while living in a home that you will stay in for the rest of your life just looks a little too much like death to me. And annual weeklong trips to Hawaii or anywhere else, really, just aren't enough to revive you from the numb monotony.
It is a daunting challenge to say 'I want my life to be full of wonder and exploration and adventure.' All of those people who advised you to be normal and responsible will only be too happy when you fail, but imagine if, every time you failed, you learned something from it, got up and tried again. (And anyway, we are in debt to the normal people (who are too responsible to take risks) who keep civilization running. They allow the small minority of us to experiment with the wacky vagabond life.)
The hope is that eventually, you will have created a life so full and so magical that even if fraught with failure, it will be a beautiful thing to behold. And maybe most people would rather witness it as a spectacle of art than experience it, but for those who want to live it, I say go for it! (And that means me, too.)
(Ducking to avoid incoming hurled stones.)
13 January 2009
Okay, so it seems people are pretty split on whether it is better to take a prestigious job or to go backpacking around the globe, and arguments for both sides have raised good points. The funny thing was that in the last day, largely due to your feedback, I was starting to lean away from a year of traveling and towards going to a nice little college town-- and my partner was starting to lean towards traveling and giving up the tenure-track position. Of course. I guess we'll have to hash this out some more. (I am guessing we were both trying to 'see the other's perspective'/be nice.)
Also funny: we were hanging out with another couple we are friends with, and their reaction to our job vs. traveling was incomprehension. As in 'how could you even ask such a question?' To the job offer, 'congratulations!' To the backpacking possibility, 'again?' (Mind you, the last time my partner and I went backpacking was in 2005 to Croatia and Slovenia-- it is not at all like we go backpacking every other weekend.)
So, here is another version of the same question. On your deathbed, looking at your life, would you rather say, "Ah, I'm glad I decided to _______ above all else"?
(Sounds like a game where the answer is Bedouin, but no, sorry, that's not the answer.)
To be means you have fulfilled your potential. You said THIS is me at my best, who I want to be in life, and that is the life you lived.
To do means you set out specific goals to accomplish, and you can review your accomplishments with pride when you look back on your life.
To own means you want to build something to leave behind, either for future generations or in a museum or some other form of legacy. This is a life in which you cultivate something for history's sake.
They are certainly not mutually exclusive, and I realize that this is starting to sound like one of those zen chain emails (an oxymoron, if ever I heard one-- talk about the stress and un-zen reaction I get when I get a *&%$ chain email...). But bear with me for part II.
A final version of the same question. Again, on your deathbed (if hindsight is 20/20), which life do you want to have led?
1. The perfect family
2. A life of cool experiences
3. A life of success
My partner was wondering if he had a duty to use his scientific ability to serve humanity-- not in an egomaniacal way, but in the sense of 'am I slacking off if I go travel?' I believe travel enhances everything we do, but then again, I am a travel addict.
So, if family life is the goal, then a small town which is safe, full of nice and grounded people and good school districts is the way to go.
A life of cool experiences means you always go where your comfort zone will be stretched, and you seize every opportunity to live more fully that comes your way. When you die, you have an incredible array of stories and experiences to share. The downside: you have no guarantees and cannot follow a carefully prescribed plan, you may never find conventional success, and your searching may lead you wandering for the rest of your life. When you die, you may have nothing but stories to share.
A life of success for my partner could mean doing a post-doctoral research fellowship (my partner would rather eat pocket lint), but then he would be able to be a professor at any of the most prestigious universities in the world. Short-term sacrifice for long-term goals.
All right, that's it. Your thoughts?
12 January 2009
So, back to Mexico. My partner's mother has no fear. Kind of like the scene in "Finding Nemo" where the kids taunt each other for touching the boat, she kept inching closer to these pelicans when we were swimming in the ocean one afternoon. Now, these were no ordinary pelicans, which are already large birds. No, these were modern-day pteradactyls with approximately six-foot wing spans, and they were divebombing out of the sky into the water for fish. She grinned as she swam between them and said, "Look, they're not afraid of us at all!" I thought to myself that they were not afraid for good reason, and that maybe she should not be treading water between three very large ones. But, she was fine (and I kept my distance). Here is a photo of a pelican in Mexico (and a man named Ernesto) I found online, to give you an idea.
My partner's papi had been pushing us for babies (even before we were properly married- gasp), but all of a sudden (I think it may have been the near-death experience of swimming with pteradactyls), he and my partner's mother had switched gears and were telling us to travel, to have fun, to enjoy life. Scratching my head but excited by their new advice, I turned to my partner to see what he thought about this. I'd always thought it would be neat to backpack around the world for a year. Why? I have no idea. It sounded cool. You'd have time to explore the faraway places you flew to rather than having to turn around and head home after a week. But, I also wondered how much of it was not curiosity to see the world but childish bragging rights and that nagging type-A desire of wanting to check a box off the list. And I had already been fortunate in how much I'd been able to travel. So, I never gave it serious consideration.
My partner, who now has an offer for a tenure-track professor position (go, honey!), shrugged and said he'd be game. Of course, that was before he received the letter that said he should be on campus by August. Now, with a little more than a week to choose, which is the better life decision? I love the idea of wandering around the globe, but in a way, I've done that. There are certainly more places to visit, and I do want to go there, but I don't have to take a full year to do it. In this economy, when half of the universities had canceled their job searches, my partner is really very fortunate to be offered such a job (and straight out of his Ph.D., too).
On the other hand, once we start popping out babies, backpacking for a year will be near-impossible. Doable but much more complicated. In a way, this year would be our last chance to really rough it and go exploring freely. It was easy to say 'sure, let's do it' when nothing but time was at stake, but I understand those concerns of will I be able to get a job after traipsing around the globe for a year, how do I explain the empty year on my cv, etc. (And incidentally, it isn't just the prestige of the job that attracts him but the work itself that he would do, the people with whom he'd work, etc.)
I have told my partner that I'd be 100% cool with his accepting said prestigious job and traveling for seven weeks this summer. That's still a pretty awesome chunk of time, and as my partner says, he doesn't feel he's earned the right to go dillydallying (not his words) for a year yet. I would definitely see it as win-win if we backpacked this summer, and then, he started his fancy-pants job in the fall-- but then, I think, wow, a year. What's your take?
09 January 2009
But I have to tell someone: I got to see penguins! And they're awesome. I thought they lived on large, floating blocks of ice. Not always, apparently. Here is what I saw:
Grasslands! Who woulda thunk? But there you go. A highlight from my trip. Oh, and I will only post on weekdays from now on. I don't know exactly who is reading my blog, but I can see the numbers, and it looks like people relax from the internet (i.e., don't procrastinate from work) on the weekends-- so I will, too. :-)
08 January 2009
It was great to be traveling, but it's such a nice feeling to come home, too. I forgot the feeling of getting tired of living out of a suitcase/backpack and how nice it was to unpack and sleep in my own bed.
So, my partner and I spent yesterday eating ramen, catching up on email and unpacking, saying we weren't leaving our little apartment until it resembled a home again (and not some burglarized hovel).
Once I have all of my pictures uploaded, I will share stories from my travels. In the meantime, I thought this was a good simultaneously uplifting and grounding piece: Nick Vujicic went to visit a school in Hong Kong, and here is the video clip. (Once you get past the Chinese titles, it's in English.) Enjoy!