27 February 2009

Implicit bias

Do you think you have implicit biases? Here is an excerpt from Charles M. Blow's op-ed:
Project Implicit, a virtual laboratory maintained by Harvard, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia, has administered hundreds of thousands of online tests designed to detect hidden racial biases. In tests taken from 2000 to 2006, they found that three-quarters of whites have an implicit pro-white/anti-black bias. (Blacks showed racial biases, too, but unlike whites, they split about evenly between pro-black and pro-white. And, blacks were the most likely of all races to exhibit no bias at all.) In addition, a 2006 study by Harvard researchers published in the journal Psychological Science used these tests to show how this implicit bias is present in white children as young as 6 years old, and how it stays constant into adulthood.
Want to take a test? Here are some tests that my partner and I found interesting. We both took the race test and found our results interesting. Have fun!

26 February 2009

How Disney portrays race and gender

This 52-minute documentary, Mickey Mouse Monopoly, provides a pretty compelling argument for rethinking the influence of 'simple children's entertainment.' You can watch the trailer here or watch it in five parts on youtube starting here.

For you Harvardians, you can watch a screening of it tonight at 7:30pm at Fong Auditorium.

25 February 2009

A beautiful music video

Every once in a while, I come across a music video that I consider a work of art. Of course, my disclaimer is that I don't see many music videos, and maybe they are all works of art now. At any rate, Neko Case was featured in the New York Times magazine, and I really enjoyed this video: Maybe Sparrow.

Some say she is indie country, and if this is where country is headed, I just may have to stop disliking it. Enjoy!

24 February 2009

The serious need for play

I came across this Scientific American article, The Serious Need for Play, and it made me very happy. The article covers some pretty heavy stuff (how most murderers never played as children), but it also links free play to a number of positives, including creativity and intelligence. So, if play makes us smarter, more sociable and more creative, what are you waiting for? Go out and play!

The original caption: One study found that kids who played with blocks scored higher on language tests than kids who had no blocks. Perhaps the children with blocks simply spent less time on unproductive activities such as watching TV--but the end result was good for them in any case.

And as if the New York Times were reading my mind this morning, here's an article on the necessity of recess.

23 February 2009

Falling in love with change

An old friend recently told me she's been wanting to leave Asia and move back to the States for ten years, and I know someone else who has wanted to go from the States back to Asia for equally long. Seeing how unhappy they were in their current lives made me question my desire to move back overseas. When I say I was so happy living in _______ and want to move back overseas again, what am I looking for? Are we actually happier in those places we seek? Or are we just looking for something new and different?

President Obama's change campaign is obvious-- people were dissatisfied with life under George W. Bush, so change was generally considered desirable. In most of our normal lives, however, change is not necessarily obviously better than no-change. So, why do we seek change? Are we just bored?

And what about 'people fear change?' Well, funny enough-- the people who talk about wanting change are often the same people who don't actually change anything. So, yes. We love it and fear it. And if we should follow what we love and fear, then it seems we should all embrace change.

So, what is something that you're scared of but cannot stop thinking about? What's preventing you from trying it?

20 February 2009

It is better to do than to have

Or at least that's what this article says: Study: Experiences make us happier than possessions. I found the readers' sometimes hostile reactions to this equally interesting.

It's a valid point to say that cool experiences often aren't cheap and that some possessions (like musical instruments and board games, for example) can actually create many happy memories for years to come.

What do you think makes people happier? Do people need material objects to feel safe? Are experiences more enriching than objects? Does it depend on the object? Do you think it's simply personal preference?

At any rate, I thought the long-term affects were interesting-- how material objects faded in time, but memories often grew even more enjoyable.

If your birthday were coming up, would you want a material gift or an experiential one? Which would make you happier? Why?

19 February 2009

Is Black History Month still necessary?

I thought this was a pretty interesting article, debating this issue.

You have proponents who are pushing for an integrated curriculum in which children learn about all races and their contributions to society. Some are saying a separate history perpetuates separation, and some, like Morgan Freeman, are saying that it is ridiculous to have a month dedicated to black history because "Black History is American history."

Others argue that most history courses focus solely on white people and their successes and failures and that if we get rid of Black History Month, there will be no more black history taught in our schools.

What do you think?

18 February 2009

Age is really just a state of mind

At least it is for this woman. Wow. Mr. K said he got this from a friend who said she was 90 years old. I better start practicing my moves if I want to be anywhere near as good as she is!

And you really must continue watching, as it gets better and better. Enjoy!

17 February 2009

Need some grounding?

Visit my high school English teacher's website: thewhichway.org. I don't email with him every day, but I'm starting to think that might not be such a bad idea. He says the goal of his site is to help him think through and prepare for death.

He's 72, which is young, if one hopes to live to 100, but he is also surrounded by peers who are similar in age and much more frail than he is. While he is hiking and biking and going backpacking with his son in Europe, many of his peers are developing shaky hands, losing their vision and hearing, and unable to walk long before getting winded. One of his friends has been sent by his wife to a distant nursing home. (Just thinking about that breaks my heart.)

Mr. K, as I still call him, reminds me to stay close to nature, reminds me when I'm writing to focus on the characters, reminds me of what matters. He inspires me by living a healthy life, a caring life, a love-filled life. He encourages me to embark on adventures and to be kind and patient with others. He pushes me to face reality and to let go. And he humbles me when my head gets a little too big.

Thanks, Mr. K. You're like the dad I always wished I had. So, stop preparing for death and just live forever, okay?

16 February 2009

The honesty challenge

I came across this neat wikihow, How to Practice Radical Honesty, and I thought I'd pose the challenge to you: Do you think you could be 100% honest for a day? A week? A month? How honest do you think you are? What's your opinion on 'little lies'? Do you believe in too much honesty? What do you think the world would be like if we were all completely honest with each other all the time?

If you don't practice 'radical honesty' already, give it a try. Some say honesty is refreshing, and who doesn't want to be refreshing? Who knows? You might become addicted.

14 February 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

I don't usually post on Saturdays, but I thought this NYT piece was both a nice and informative little story.

So, cheers to healthy hearts (emotionally and physically), and may you have a happy day of love today! And don't forget: love can be doing something you love, going somewhere you love, spending time with people you love or just treating yourself in a little expression of self-love. Have fun!

13 February 2009

Heartwarming disaster stories

Maybe whoever said "it takes the worst to bring out our best" was onto something. It seems, after every disaster, stories of unsung heroes and love surface. Here are two.

I think one would have to be a heartless rock not to be a little touched by this story about a couple of koalas who survived the Australian bushfires.

The Reuters caption for this photo: A koala named Bob (top), rescued from last week's deadly bushfires, puts his paw around new friend and fellow fire survivor Sam as she recovers from her burns at a wildlife centre near Melbourne Feb. 11, 2009.

A coworker of a friend of a friend was on US Airways flight 1549, and he sent this email and photo to his coworkers in response to many of them asking to hear what happened that afternoon. It's a pretty amazing story.

Hello, All.

I realize many folks have expressed an interest in hearing (1st hand) the full details of flight 1549...

But, before I go into that, let me begin by saying THANK YOU! I can't thank everyone enough for all the support, emails, text messages, and voice-mails I've received. This event has made me extremely proud to be an Accenture employee and has made me realize how blessed I am to have such a great network of colleagues and friends to lean on.

The story:

I flew up to New York late Wednesday night for a quick client meeting on Thursday morning. I had booked a 5PM return, but since we wrapped up around noon, I decided to head to the airport early and jump on the earlier flight (flight 1549).

Everything was normal on takeoff... We lifted off under full throttle and after a minute or so, the pilot throttled back and continued climbing. It was at least 2-3 minutes more before we heard a loud crash that shook the cabin. At this point, it sounded like the captain quickly backed off on the throttle and leveled the plane. We made a few turns, but seemed to be flying level and straight. Although, initially, there was a gasp, the sudden quiet brought about a sense of relief across all of us... We were still flying, and it seemed like we would be going back to the airport. However, at that time, we started to smell some smoke in the cabin (to me, like an electrical burnt smell). While concerning, I still felt like things were alright because we seemed to be flying ok.

We continued to cruise, what seemed to be level for the next several minutes. It was clear we were following the Hudson River, but I really had no idea both of our engines were completely out.

Then came the announcement... "BRACE FOR IMPACT"... It was a very calm voice and in the same demeanor as you routinely here the Captain say, "Flight Attendants Prepare the Cabin for Arrival".

In my mind the first thought was, "You've got to be kidding me, right?" Then it sunk in... We were going down, and we were going to do it in the river. The next thing that went through my head was a quick prayer... "Dear Lord, please help us through this... I could really use You right now".

The flight attendants were giving quick instructions... Head between your knees, grab your ankles. Then they started to chant, "Tuck and Brace, Tuck and Brace". The plane appeared to be descending normally, maybe even slower than a normal landing.

I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and powered it up... Maybe I'd have a chance to call my wife and tell her that I love her and to make sure she tells my 2 year old son that I Love him every day. The phone started to come up, but I never did get any bars to make that call.

They say your life flashes before your eyes in the final moments... It didn't for me. I was focused on how my wife would manage, how I'd never get to see my son grow up. I was also very glad I opted for the "7X my salary" on the life insurance.

Still looking for bars on my cell, I could tell, we were really close to the water. I did what the flight attendants said and quickly 'tucked & braced', holding on tight... Then we hit the water. It was pretty bumpy and it felt like we took a hard left turn in the water, but we came to a stop. I was expecting the worst... Maybe the plane would flip... Maybe it would break apart and flood quickly. It didn't.

I was sitting in the bulk head row just behind first class (seat 4D). As we stopped, the Captain announced quickly, "Abandon Plane, Abandon Plane!" Within seconds, the stewardess in the front was popping the doors open and we were sliding out to safety. I went out the front right door which turned out to be probably the best option as only the front doors had inflatable rafts that deployed.

As I got to the end of the raft, I looked towards both shore-lines... My thought was if the raft was too full, could I swim it? There wasn't a chance, it was approximately 1/2 mile in each direction and you could tell the water was "Titanic-style" cold. At this point, people were pouring out of the plane onto the wings and it was a great feeling to know we were all getting out. Another quick look at the shorelines, and I realized there was a ferry approaching fast... In fact, there were 4 ferries and they all arrived simultaneously.

Once everyone from our raft was on board, the Ferry quickly made tracks for the Manhattan shoreline and the ferry terminal. It wasn't more than a 2-3 minute ride before we docked and all headed into the terminal.

They used the terminal as a holding area in order to establish counts of us all. Luckily, I had already made several calls to my wife, and was now focused on reaching out to a wider group of folks to let them know I was fine. I quickly received a voice mail from Wayne Busch trying to find out if I was on the plane. After returning his call, I was able to provide him with the details and asked him to contact the Employee Assistance hotline.

The Employee Assistance Program was truly a 'God-send'. They immediately contacted my wife, keeping her up-to-date. They also purchased a plane ticket for her so she could fly up to NY that evening to be with me. They arranged for a car service to come down and retrieve me from the docks, took care of booking me a hotel room and handled the travel arrangements for my return flight on Friday.

Wayne Busch took charge of the car service and came down to the pier to take care of me. The whole area was blocked off by firemen and police, so I figured there was no way for him to get in... Sure enough, he slipped by wearing his long overcoat, looking very much like many of the detectives on the scene. After a few more minutes, I ditched my American Red Cross blanket, and still wearing my suit, I slipped out with Wayne the same way he came in. I couldn't wait to be back somewhere warm, and somewhere I could get away from the chaos of the day.

Back at the Hotel, there was food in the room waiting on me (thanks Dan Gietl!). I had also mentioned that I needed a phone charger and there were two brand new chargers ready to top off my phone. On another table there was a full set of toiletries. A few minutes later a bell man arrived with a wardrobe of clothes in my size from Lord and Taylor. It turns out, my wife had provided my sizes to the employee assistance group and they took care of the rest.

I didn't have much time before I jumped in the car service and headed to the airport to meet my wife. Seeing her come down the stairs to baggage claim was about the greatest thing in the whole world. The crash was quite surreal and left me feeling with a sense of, "Am I really alive, or did I really go down with the plane and I'm just dreaming all of this." When she came through security and was finally in my arms, I knew it wasn't a dream and that everything was truly ok.

I made it back to Charlotte Friday afternoon... We got home just before 4PM and rushed over to pick up my son from the neighbors. The tears were unstoppable as I thought about how lucky I was to hold him in my arms again.

An event like this really puts into perspective how important your family is and how easy it is to take them for granted. As consultants we work many hours and I find that when I'm home, I just want to relax and unwind. It has only been a few weeks, but I believe I've experienced a fundamental shift in that regard. The time I spend with my family has become real quality time and every moment is cherished.

I'd like to close this with a few thank you's to some amazing folks within the Firm. First, Wayne, you are the man! I can't imagine how much more I could have taken being stuck in the ferry terminal area. It was also great just having a beer with you and putting the day behind me. Second, I can't say enough about the support I received from Dan Gietl. He jumped into action and made an attempt at retrieving me from the docks. At the Hotel, he made sure my wife and I had everything we needed (as well as a few things beyond what we needed). Most importantly, he made sure we were comfortable and convinced me that I should take some down time to spend with Family (I'm so glad I took your advice!). I want to thank Cyndy Fremaux who led up the incident from the Global Asset Protection group. I really feel you provided amazing support and in true Accenture fashion well beyond my expectations. Lastly, thank you Mary Birks who immediately contacted my wife, and with repeated phone calls, helped to facilitate her flight, as well as coordinated with other groups in helping to insure I had all I needed. According to my wife, Mary provided the support she needed for her as well, lending an invaluable "virtual" shoulder to cry on.

Thank YOU all...

12 February 2009

Sharing and the power of green, blue and red

Sharing is good. Here are two nice stories:

- a Canadian shared his lottery winnings with the waitresses that used to help him pick lottery numbers, giving them each $30,000.

- a Texan couple bid $20,000 on ebay for a family in Georgia that had put all of their possessions online to help pay for their children's medical bills. And then told the family they could keep their furniture and other goods.

If you'd like a free love e-book (just in time for Valentine's Day), click here. The description of the book:
I’m delighted to present you with a fantastic new option for Valentine’s Day. This one doesn’t die or wilt (flowers), it doesn’t harm trees (greeting cards) and it doesn’t cause a sugar high, a sugar low or unsightly poundage (candy).
My favorite was the last poem. The book is only available through the 14th, and you can donate to Career Gear if you'd like (but it isn't required).

In green power news, I was surprised to learn that the U.S. is the top producer of wind power in the world and expects to overtake Germany in becoming the top producer of solar power in the coming year as well. And google is pushing smart meters-- which do sound pretty smart.

And lastly, color matters. Want to look more attractive? Think more precisely? Be more creative? Check out the NYT article, "Reivent Wheel? Blue Room. Defusing a bomb? Red Room."

11 February 2009

Books or electronic readers?

Wow. I've been a real-book snob, but just look at this fancy new gadget: the kindle 2. People who have a Sony Reader claim that it feels like reading a page rather than a screen, but I clung to my old paper and cardboard relics like my life depended on it. Now, though, wow! I'm not running out and buying one of these, but maybe by the time the kindle 3 comes out, I might go crazy for it. Hmm.

A strange argument against it that comes to mind, though, is that I want my children to read real books. One would likely point out that I have no children at the moment. Right, BUT if children mimic everything parents do, then parents should read real books (and develop good habits before the little ones come along). It isn't fair to read a sleek little thingamabob when the kids are sleeping and then haul out the encyclopedias when they're around-- and many kids are clever enough to figure out that something is fishy when the dusty old tomes come out and their parents are just a little too smiley.

So, what's your take? Real books or fancy electronic readers? Real books at home and a doodad for traveling or commuting on the subway to work? How would that work when one was halfway through a book? Would one have to own both the real and electronic versions? Yikes.

I do love the feel of a real book, though: turning the pages, seeing steady progress and finally getting to the end. So, for now, I'll stick with the real deal. Kids or no kids. Yay. I resisted the temptation of a shiny new gadget. And when kindle 3 comes out, I'll take deep breaths and try not to look. Whoa. I just checked to see how much these devices actually cost, and the kindle 2 costs a whopping $359, and the Sony Reader, the 'more affordable alternative,' cashes in at $269.

So, yes, as I was saying, real books are the way to go.

10 February 2009

Yes, it is personal

Who says plants and animals have no feelings?

Scientists have found that cows who have names (and thus treated like individuals) produce more milk.

Similarly, the nalca (or pangue) plant, photographed in Chilean Patagonia here, can be eaten-- but it tastes bitter if the stalk is cut with a knife. If, however, you break it with your bare hands, it tastes sweet.

So, keep on playing classical music for your plants and showering your pets with love. They might not tell you how much they like it, but it makes a difference.

09 February 2009

21 days

I once read that it took 21 days to form a new habit (perhaps replacing an old habit). It worked when I flossed for three weeks and then just did it automatically every night after that. It worked when I started exercising, too. What people don't tell you is how easy it is to fall out of a good habit.

My partner and I got so busy that exercise became sporadic in the fall and then non-existent this past January. So, when I read the article about exercise making us feel nine years younger/living nine years longer, we started exercising again. That was Thursday, February 5th, and now, we're on day 5. Just 16 more days to go, and that sounds immensely doable.

So, for those of you who have also, er, lapsed with your new year's resolutions, have faith! We have eleven months of 2009 left, and all it takes is 21 days to get back on track. Want to quit smoking? Start eating more vegetables or drinking more water? Or anything else? Try it for 21 days, and see what happens.

Interested in running? Here is the couch-to-5k plan. Prior to last summer, I don't think I'd run since middle school P.E. So, if I can do it, just about anyone can.

If you need extra motivation, betting is apparently the new way to go. According to this health and fitness article, people stuck to diets (and other goals) when money and the opportunity to compete were at stake. People competing with co-workers have loved the thrill of surpassing their peers, and as the race tightened, they started leaving gourmet chocolate for each other. But they would also ask each other if they really wanted that sixth cheeseburger. For those who need something stronger, you can give your hard-earned money to a cause you absolutely detest (say, the Guns for Babies Coalition) if you don't carry out your plan.

So, there you have it. What are you going to do with your 21 days?

06 February 2009

Educating the creativity out

One of my students pointed me to this video, in which Sir Ken Robinson talks about modern education. You may already have heard that education today is structured in more or less the same way it was two hundred years ago-- in other words, when education was designed to create better factory workers. So, many have argued that while innovation and creativity may not have been as appreciated in a human=cog setting (and even seen as inconvenient, a waste of time and 'rocking the boat' for some), times have changed, and education, too, needs to adapt to the new world.

I agree with much of what Robinson says (and with good humor, too)-- the question is how do we reward creativity in schools? How can one assess another's creativity? What if little Johnny does the best he can, and it just isn't that creative? Some argue for project- and portfolio-based assessment, but do exams and papers not have their place? What do you think?

If you were to design a truly well-rounded modern education, preparing today's youth for both modern society and the future that they will rule, how would you design it?

05 February 2009

What do flossing and sex have in common?

This isn't a crude joke. They both make you live longer. So, for all of you who, like me, want to live to be at least 100, here are ten things you can do to live a longer, healthier life.

And exercise sure sounds a lot more palatable if you get to live nine years longer or feel nine years younger! Nine years!

And speaking of living longer through good relationships, here is an article on the power of cookies. And not those you find on the internet, but the real deal. Obama + cookies = happy Republicans and Democrats alike.

04 February 2009

Spontaneous music + Paris + dancing children

= happiness (video of Menomena's "Wet and Rusting"). I love discovering great new music, especially when it's so artistically presented.
Every week, we invite an artist or a band to play in the streets, in a bar, a park, or even in a flat or in an elevator, and we film the whole session. Of course, what makes the beauty of it is all the little incidents, hesitations, and crazy stuff happening unexpectingly. Besides, we do not edit the videos so they look perfectly flawless, instead we keep the raw sound of the surroundings. Our goal is to try and capture instants, film the music just like it happens, without preparation, without tricks. Spontaneity is the keyword.
Here is another artistic take (video of Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible") in an elevator.

I don't know how many instruments they crammed in there, but it's impressive. The strings are beautiful, and the percussion is very creative. (If you aren't into watching them just look cool, you can go to about 3:50, as the song starts a few seconds after that.)

03 February 2009

The power of ordinary women and other discoveries

Women + respect for life = amazing power. And the first female president in Africa. Amazing story that I learned about in this op-ed.

The "25 Things" has really caught on, and it's been really fun reading everyone's lists. Thanks for sharing! Keep 'em coming!

And in my further study of this crazy internet thing, I've come across some nice places to visit (in no particular order):

- zenhabits, where you can read about the secret to being insanely creative, for example.

- postsecret, where art and secrets combine. Some are heartbreaking.

- lyved, which abounds with life lists. Some are better than others, but they are interesting to ponder nonetheless.

- 43things, where you post a goal and can be cheered on as you make progress.

Sometimes, even commercials can be works of art, like this one (a 'time sculpture'). It reminds me of how much I loved this old favorite (with the great song, "Heartbeats," by Jose Gonzales) when I first saw it.

Oh, and the world's weirdest hotels. I stayed at the Celica in Ljubljana (#6 of 15), and their photo doesn't do it justice at all. Yes, it is a converted prison, but it is really a work of art. The outside is bright and colorful, and the interior is filled with artistic details. A different artist designed each room, and there are some absolutely beautiful rooms there now. Like the blue room in which my partner and I stayed:

I took this photo, and it doesn't quite capture the room, either, which is a loft! If you look up, the round thing is actually a round bed that we slept in. Lofts + round beds = pretty groovy. Oh, I just found more photos, so here are some more details of the art in our room:

From our round loft bed.

A close-up of our wall.

And this last one is where you check email, next to where you eat. As they picked the dreariest photo, I just felt I had to show the true (vibrant) colors of the Celica. No, I am not getting paid to clear their name, and yes, I highly recommend going there.

02 February 2009

Just 25 things...

can make one person so different from another. These little lists have been circulating around facebook and have been great fun to read (and write!). The challenge: define yourself in a 25-point list. Well, I'll try...

1. When I was very little, I enjoyed taking my mother's lipstick and drawing all over my face and then eating it. I also enjoyed taking all of her shoes out of her closet and making a mountain of shoes under the piano in the living room. When my little brother was a baby, I fed him a tiny piece of blue construction paper to see what would happen. He threw it up immediately. (I hope my future children will be like my husband and not like me.)

2. When I was a little girl, I wished for an older sister, to be popular and that my asthma would go away. All three wishes came true. I should have been more specific.

3. Most of my teachers felt I was smart enough but talked too much in class. In 7th grade, my squishy, angry teacher picked up my desk and threw it about three feet only to discover I had not been playing with video games and that it had been the kid next to me. She never forgave me for it.

4. Before college, I grew up in Nevada, California and Taiwan, and if you include places I lived in for a month, I'm now living in my 39th home. The place I've lived the longest (so far) was my home in Taipei on Shi Pai Road, where I lived from 7th until 12th grade.

5. I loved TAS (Taipei American School, my middle and high school) so much, it took almost ten years to recover. Only when I moved into the graduate school dorm did I feel I was loved just for being 100% my-weirdo-self.

6. One of life's greatest gifts is connecting, really connecting, with another human being, and one of life's great miracles is when you find those people again, and it feels like only ten days, rather than ten years, have passed. Thank you!

7. I thought I wanted to go into politics when I went to college but decided quickly I wasn't cut out for politics. I spent the first two years of college in DC and felt that had been enough. I told my mom that one went to college to learn how to think, claimed I knew how to think and declared that I was dropping out. That didn't go over well, so I went abroad instead. I spent my junior year in Paris and Geneva, during which I skipped three months of school to go backpacking, and was happy to discover I had enough credit to graduate in 3.5 years. Instead of graduating early, I took the fall semester of my senior year off and went to Capetown, South Africa.

8. While trying to figure out how I could save the world and also be creative, I dabbled in journalism in DC, working for an NGO in Switzerland, advertising in South Africa, graphic design in L.A. and working for an art gallery in New York. After graduating from college, I went to LA to become a cinematographer and ended up an actor, moved to San Francisco when I tired of L.A., went backpacking in Thailand before starting grad. school, then graduated again and taught in a correctional facility for teenage boys in Somerville. Now, I'm a full-time writer.

9. I said I would never move back to the east coast, would never go back to school after college and would never get married. Now, I live on the east coast, have a Master's degree (that I don't use) and am married. Never say never. Unless you want it to come true.

10. I had a small speaking role in a movie with Leonardo di Caprio, directed by Steven Spielberg, and got an imdb page for it. I don't have a wikipedia page and am grateful for that. I like my privacy.

11. I wrote for a travel guide for one summer, covering Croatia and Slovenia. I am glad I did it, but I wouldn't do it again.

12. I tried to start a social enterprise/open a bakery cafe with two old friends and designed a (very simple) website for it. The business never took off, but we are all still friends, and I'd take that over the business any day.

13. San Francisco is my favorite city in the U.S., but I don't have to live there again. I find it difficult to separate the people from the places, but the places where I have been the happiest are Taipei, Taiwan; Geneva, Switzerland; Dakar, Senegal; Moorea and Bora Bora, French Polynesia; and Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Cambridge would be a contender for favorite city in the U.S. if winters didn't involve so many below-freezing days. I know I've lived here too long when I look at the weather and say, "Oh, yay! 28 degrees Fahrenheit! It's getting warmer!")

14. I finished my first novel and screenplay adaptation this past fall and am now working on my second one. (A literary agent in New York is currently reviewing my manuscript, and I hope she likes it enough to represent me.)

15. I love traveling, homemade French Vanilla ice cream and Thai food.

16. My family is crazy, but I love them with all my heart.

17. My husband never ceases to amaze me, and marriage has brought us even closer. I think I just may be the luckiest woman in the world to have snagged my Honey.

18. In lieu of human babies or live pets, my husband and I have some plants and two stuffed piggies named Piggyboo and Pierro.

19. I will have 2.5 kids one day. (I believe in compromise, and I want two kids, and my husband wants three.)

20. I will not really have a half-child, and I would love to live the rest of my life without owning a car. (I love walking, and I hope to live somewhere where I won't ever need or even want one. Like Paris. Or Singapore. Or...)

21. My 10th grade English teacher inspired me to write, and we still email about writing, politics and life, in general. Mr. Krieckhaus rocks my world and has already changed my life for the better. The writers he introduced me to are still the most influential in my life to date: William Faulkner (on my writing), Joseph Campbell (on my spirituality) and Henry David Thoreau (on how I live my life).

22. I saw a student die in October and started a blog, which I continue to publish on weekdays.

23. I've survived three pretty serious car accidents (none of which were my fault). Seriously. Yes, I know the stereotype of Asian women drivers. And yes, I feel I owe the universe for sparing me and giving me more chances at life.

24. Most of the things I love doing most I've never had formal training in: writing, painting, photography...

25. I believe in dreams coming true and working hard until they do. I love life and if I were to preach, I would tell people to take the path that frightens them but refuses to stop beckoning. There is no such thing as failure. There is only another opportunity to learn, reminders to be humble, and trying again. That's the cost and reward of living a breathtaking life. When I lay on my deathbed, I hope to look back on a life that was an adventurous, joy-spreading work of art.

Phew, that was long. Thanks for reviewing my life with me. In return, I'd love to see your list of 25 things. It's a neat exercise that I would recommend trying, if only to see if your life is what you wanted it to become. (And if you don't want to publish it publicly, please email me directly at serendipityberries@gmail.com.)