May 8, 2008

Commonbond Communities: Journals and Reflections

Just some of the notes I wrote earlier...finally slapped them up now in chronological order...minus dates since I never wrote them...I only reworded things I originally wrote so they'd make more sense, but I didn't change anything really.

First Write

I finally started to come to Commonbond after over a month of confusion about when I was supposed to start coming…this was sad, and I blame myself for not having enough initiative to try and solve this issue on my own. Anyways, finally started going back, and I forgot how nice it is. I am struggling with the names of a few of the kids who I haven’t seen since last December, but (thankfully?) they still enjoy picking on me and bullying me?

I managed to call Mike ‘David’ accidentally, which actually never happened last semester, so I felt like a jerk. They are clearly two different people! Both nice, brown-haired white coworkers, but tripping up like that is something I have a habit of doing. I kind of puttsed around my whole first time here, not knowing exactly what to do, since most of my offers to read to the kids were turned down or ignored after I started reading. If I have to read “The Wheels on the Bus? one more time, I think I might start losing it, but I do love it since whoever I read it to generally gets into it and is willing to sing along with me. Yay! There was also a new volunteer I had never even seen before named Karen I think, but we didn’t really chat between each other.

It took a while, but I’m finally back in the game!

One thing that makes me sad is that the kids are so shy of me. Feven, who was always teasing me and finding ways to embarrass me, was even shy when I tried to say hi and read to her. Hopefully I can pull through and get to know some of these kids more.

Second Write

Last week, I tried to come to do some service hours, but apparently they had their Spring Break that week, so I had to wait again until this week. Today was great, since we mixed it up a little and made drawings between (and mostly instead of) reading. I think the springtime is having an effect on everyone, myself included, and our attention spans are not what they used to be.

I actually nabbed an awesome kid named Awad from the Homework center area (and then the off-limit elevators), who I just got to know recently. He and his slightly more aggressive brother were who I spent most of my time with today. We just played around, and Mike and I spent a good deal of the time deflecting a barrage of heart breaking insults such as “your hair stinks!? and “you make NO sense!? ; Nothing like an ego boost from grade school kids! It’s always funny, since I don’t even have to say anything remotely witty to tease back at them, and they still get a rise out of it. Mwahaha, I enjoy teasing little kids, I think I’m a sicko…

Third Write

Heck yeah! We are playing outside now at my service site! We take the kids who come to the Reading Room around 4:00-4:30 and go to the fenced play area outside. Two playgrounds and some open paths and grass…and beautiful weather to compliment it all! Hmm and the kids all enjoy playing on the swings, cops and robbers, and tag: I’d do this on my free time any day!

Though there are some people who I don’t know yet who are on the playground (I’m still struggling with names…), I am for the first time recognizing and getting to know a few people. Maybe this is because the people who come to Reading Room are more constant this semester than last, but heck I know the kids somewhat now! (I’d write names…I’m scared to mix them up though. I know that sounds like a cop out, I’m sorry, but I swear I don’t want to spell names incorrectly…like…Mohammed? I have no idea which way it is spelled…)
Anyways though, I played the role of monster throughout the day, chasing and carrying kids around on the playgrounds, and I absolutely love the excuse to climb around out there. If I have time to kill, an adjacent playground, and no adults around, I’m pretty much guaranteed to be running through it, most likely giggling and imagining myself on some ancient quest in some palace or kingdom or whatever scenario I can think of. I’m kind of sad like that.

Fourth Write

This is more of a writing about the past few times I went to Commonbond than anything specific. We got to go gardening this week, though, and that was way cool! The kids mostly did the work on their own, while the supervisors gave what advice they could and tried to break up fighting that went on. Mohammed picked a few fights and said some mean things, which makes me sad since sometimes he is exactly like how most kids are: giggly and happy. He gets grumpy and demanding, though, and usually tends to order people around somewhat forcefully. It’s ok since he’s still a good kid, but it’s funny since his little brother is so much more meek and friendly than he is.

One boy named…James? I feel awful, but that’s what I will call him on this (I need to figure that out ASAP), but anyways, he managed to eat 8 of the snack packages that were distributed…and he also proved to be the fastest in chasing me down. There was running around since, again, we got to go to a playground once we finished setting all of the soil down! Yay!

The big attraction for the rest of the afternoon was the swinging tire at this playground. We just rotated the kids around in groups of 3, and most of the kids came to help push the tire around. Life isn’t so bad sometimes, and playing with these kids completely removes other worries and issues that are going on in my life with good fun. I used to spent a lot of time in high school volunteering and babysitting for kids, and have had around 18-20 little cousins to play with my whole life. Once college started for me, I lost those parts of my life mostly, aside from holidays and when I come to Commonbond. I’m very much mentally refreshed every time I head home after spending an hour or two here.

Cops and Robbers is the big game now, and we play that very intensely. Usually, it is Mike and David and me who are cops, but after the first game, there are always a few kids who want to join us with it. And way have a very hard time catching all of them! They are a bit more agile than we are, but man it’s fun! I don’t have to pretend to try and catch them and fail.

Off tangent, I also became the equivalent of a horse to the kids. I immediately get asked to carry someone on my back the second I arrive every time, and I have to rotate turns on who gets to get on me next. It’s pretty fun, and I truthfully am terrified the entire time I’m outside playing with the kids that I’m going to do something stupid and hurt one of them, but the only suffering caused from the piggyback rides so far has been on my back. Sorry, I don’t mean to give myself credit and sound like a pretentious snob, but I get a pretty intense workout now from playing with the kids.

Commonbond Communities: Semester Wrap-up

This is my last journal entry for the semester, but I’m pretty confident that I’m going to keep coming regularly still. From my last entry, it definitely is back-intensive work that I get to do, and the weather keeps being awesome for every Wednesday that I come in. Some of the Homework Center kids came out on the most recent time I went, and they were pretty cool people; I was a little sad that I never really interacted with them until then. We did more cops and robbers, with the occasional swings sessions and turns riding on available bikes. Overall, I had a great time the past year at Commonbond. It was something that was a bit removed from the rest of my life, but that isn’t a good thing, and it turned out to be a great stress reliever for me, in addition to the fun times I managed to have with the kids there.

I’d just like to say that I’m very lucky to have gotten the chance to volunteer there, and to anyone who might possibly read this, you should definitely check Commonbond Communities out. I mentioned it before, but they are a Non-Profit housing and services provider, and they take in families that are (primarily) newly adjusted to living in the culture of the US. Some awesome people work there, and the kids that I got to play with and read to were absolutely great. If you have time to kill, and maybe want to help out with some kids at their afterschool program like I did, please do so. I’m going to keep going there now, I’m not sure if I will increase how often I go to more than once a week. We’ll see, once I find a summer job or two. Anyways, again, it’s a great place with great people, and I am grateful for them putting up with me klutzing around.

May 3, 2008

Responses to MDG Projects (My Section & Honors)

Well, I must say that I wish I went about my own group project a little differently after viewing the ones that others did in the course. I felt that the responses in our own presentation were not as strong and planned out as many of those who gave their presentations, and I felt that my own was too wordy and relied too much on its text to define itself. Here are my thoughts on a couple of them.

(I haven't decided how to use images with the text for now, since I'm still writing my own thoughts and they are about other groups' work, but if I find some images that are relevant, I will most certainly be fitting them in)


2) Honors Presentation: Goal #3: Promote gender equality and empower women

The honors presentations were fantastic. I'd write about the honors group that focused on Child Mortality, since it was my favorite of the lot, but I don't want to write entirely about something that I'm sure many people have wrote about, given that they have a wonderful video posted on Youtube.

Instead, my next favorite group project was the one focusing on Woman's Rights; Goal #3: Promote gender equality and empower women.

It was a smartly laid out presentation, that made point to draw in the other Millennium Development Goals to support their plans. They observed that Goal #2: Achieve universal primary education, was the first step towards enlightening the women in the country about the freedoms they deserve.

This is a bit off-tangent and a little personal, but I know I could never imagine what the pressure of any societies and cultures on women. I wish I could, and I'll try as much as I can, but I almost never have to worry about bombardment from others telling me that I am inferior for my body type. And I don't have to worry about being sexually harassed as much as an average female, either. It is alarming to know that in the majority of the world, there still is a social distinction between the "roles" of man and woman, even within my own country...it kind of reminds me of the shock I feel every time I realize that the civil rights movements were within my own parents lifetimes, and that only in the past couple decades has there been a widespread "tolerance" towards people of differing races and sexes. Eek.

My older sister spent a year in Cairo for her junior year of college, and she dealt with constant assault and abuse, verbal and physical, from people in the city. Because she was going to school, dressing "liberally", and traveling a lot, she was subject to jeers and degradation from locals, and even from other students in the region. She frequently was bombarded with offers of sex from passerbys in the streets, and regularly had to defend herself, verbally and physically. I know that if I went to Cairo, or any other city that had a heavily rooted culture in older traditions and beliefs that put women down, I wouldn't have any issues like that myself. I find it very frustrating, since I disagree with these customs so incredibly much, but at the same time I know I don't understand how much they can psychologically damage those living within them. Just from her year living in Cairo, as much as she had the time of her life there and had so many wonderful things to say about it, she felt exhausted from trying to defend herself, and started to seriously question who she was and if she actually was as worthwhile as any of her male peers.

I'm sorry this example is not reflecting well on Egypt, I don't mean to be a hater, since I myself have never left the Northern hemisphere, but this seems to be a really disturbing aspect to the culture there. And I'm generalizing, I know there are plenty of places where it isn't so bad like this, and it really mostly comes from bigots living in the city, but try not to get too angry with me. Sorry if I am being ignorant, I am young, stupid, and sheltered.

Anyways, a long ways back to the Honors presentation, I felt that they nailed their cases for education dead-on. Tackling the issues from where they come is the best way to do it, and by giving the girls (and hey, guys too) better educations, they can learn and act for themselves in regards to their own problems in their society. This response that puts the fate of the situation in the hands of those involved was what made me really respect this group, in addition to tackling a subject that man guys tend to rule off as "unnecessary" since they never have to see or experience issues of gender inequality in their daily life.


1) Section Presentation: Goal #4: Reduce child mortality rate

The group within my section that stood out most to me was the last group to show their work, which was a shame since they clearly put a lot of work into their designs. Their presentation focused on Goal #4: Reduce child mortality rate.

There isn't much I have here (yet), but I did put in a decent amount into my thoughts and reflections on another group presentation below!

April 16, 2008

"Olympolitics" matter (Tibetan focus)

Featured images taken by myself at the Human Rights Torch Relay rally at the University of Minnesota in April 2008

Be warned: I am in support of boycotting the 2008 Olympics in Beijing for human rights abuses, and though there are multiple areas I could elaborate on, my focus will be on the persecution of the Tibetan people.

*(This is a re-write of the second blog prompt. I deleted the first one since it wasn't any good, and this ties in much better to my work in Arch 1701)

Before reading what I have to say, take a crack at researching about China and some of the human rights abuses documented there. Any Google search about them, and the controversies over the 2008 Beijing Olympics, can be easily found.

Free Tibet Campaign
Photos provide the real picture on Tibet violence
Tibetan Government in Exile's Official Web Site

There are some pretty graphic pictures posted on the site if you look under 'News and Media'...I would post some of the more horrific/bloody images, but I don't know if it would be pushing it. Here are some photos here of victims from Kirti Monastery.

This is a posting that I've decided to write because my primary influence in learning about this issue is from my Millennium Development Project; It concerns the Human Rights violations in Tibet, and the controversy of that (mixed with many other issues) that are causing people to boycott the upcoming Olympics.

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My Millennium Development Project for ARCH 1701 is concentrated on the architectural response to the extreme poverty and hunger in Beijing and the surrounding provinces; were this not the case, I would have an even smaller understanding of the economic and political issues than I do now.

I was at a protest today against the 2008 Beijing Olympics outside of Coffman...and I actually learned enough to take a side on an issue and push for what I believe in! Tibetans were the main protesters, along with some people involved with the local Twin Cities governments, and they faced opposition from Chinese who took offense at the slamming of China. The Tibetans were protesting China and the Olympics for the human rights abuses on certain minority groups (clearly with Tibet being an area of prosecution), and they simply wanted to raise awareness for governmental violence. The gathering was originally them setting up booths to raise awareness, but an even larger group came to protest against them.

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To me, this is a no-brainer. With undeniable evidence that the Tibetans have and are under harsh treatment from the Chinese government, they have every right to try and protest this. The protesters seemed furious at them at the rally, and their main argument on the opposing side was that politics shouldn't be brought into the Olympics, especially when China is in such an important state of development.

Fuck that!

Anywhere in the US, if people protested against human rights violations made by our government, people would accept, expect, and support that generally. The protesters were genuinely angry, though, and were shouting things like "lies!" and "fakers!" to the Tibetans. I was laughing at some of the comments the people on the Chinese side were saying to the crowd I was in, like "have YOU ever actually been to Tibet?!", since my side immediately replied with "have YOU!?" The crowd on my side was on the smaller side, but it was diverse in people of different races and ages. The other side was entirely Chinese, with the majority of them students and a few adults. I couldn't help but notice how passive-aggressive the anti-Olympics side was compared to the other, and how civil it was in not starting arguments (though they certainly had some comebacks when they were verbally attacked).

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I don't know a whole lot about this issue, but Tibet is technically a part of China, and has on a few occasions over the past century to separate from the state for arguments of persecution and for being so secular. The Dali Lama, who is head of what is known as the government of Tibet in Exile, which is under attack from the state for disrupting the peace (heavy, heavy crackdown). But they try their best to work on their own independently of the Chinese government, and claim that China is silencing their voices from the rest of the world on the abuses the government has done and is doing to Tibetan people.

Afterwards, I was walking away, and a woman from the Chinese side offered me a pamphlet on why bringing in politics into the Olympics was wrong. I turned her down and said "no thanks", and held up the pamphlet that went against what she was advocating; this is HUGE for me. Really, it is, since I'm never able to say "no" to anyone, and it may have been the first time I've turned down (bluntly and quickly) a solicitor.

The group that was here on campus was the Human Rights Torch Relay (this is a good site), a world wide NPO that is mainly focusing on the events in China and how it is unacceptable for the Olympics to co-exist with them there.

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Anyways, again I just wanted to write to show support for those who are going to boycott the Olympics this year, and to possible give a little awareness to the situation. If not awareness, hopefully an incentive to try to be, though I know that my own blog post here is naive and covers next to nothing about the issues going on.

April 6, 2008

Cover Page for MDG: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

Here is the cover page I made for my group's cover-page. I only just started learning how to use Adobe Photoshop CS3, and I plan on updating this blog post with newer and better pages I make.

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The final image, however, mostly goes to the credit of another group member of mine. Here is their piece (not mine, again I should stress, but any images our group used were pooled together and we figured out what ones to use from there).

mdg image cover2.bmp

March 4, 2008

Speaking of Legos

My very first step into the world I as I know it came from duplos that I played with when I was two-ish. There were plenty of other toys I had (thankfully, nothing playmobile; they are worthless), but the number of ships, societies, and friends I made out of them really were the bridge for me to my surroundings. I can't remember much anything before I was five, but of the select memories I have from that earlier time period, all I can remember is falling out of my crib and the duplos.

I have already touched on these wonderful toys in a previous blog, but that is because

1) they are easily the best toy ever created, and
2) they remind me of the time that I started taking things in.

Walks and stroller rides with my dad were what first really stuck nature to me; I remember looking up at blurry seas of red, orange, and yellow, and along with that the smell that comes with autumn. My interaction with water (to my memory right now) was with the plastic mini-pool that was in my old house's backyard, and I won't be forgetting anytime soon how it feels after it has been sitting in the sun for a long time, or how horrifying it can be to realize that I was swimming in water that had grass and leaves in it.

This is a pretty picture of autumn leaves, but it pales in comparison to my memories

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This image is provided by "Mind flirting with thoughts"

I feel like I took in so many wonderful experiences with the things I could feel and see around me when I was young that I can only remember the initial feelings I had when I first experienced them; I can't see a sunset or be out in the rain or east snow or lay in the grass without thinking about earlier experiences I've had doing the same thing.

For the longest time (all of my time in grade school, pretty much), I was a devote Catholic, and I went to mass regularly and had been surrounded by religious influence at my Catholic school. A lot of the magic that I once had in seeing the world was slowly disappearing as I was losing faith in the church and the Bible...I definitely saw the world in a very much more "black-and-white" way than I do now (ex: weather was dictated by God's "feelings"). Any issues that were taking place in my life and in the world were just "tests" and I felt that everything we did was predetermined and stemming from a higher plane. I've lost most faith I had in the church, and in having a magical world of clouds to go to when I die, but I still find appreciation in nature, and I believe that because it exists, there has to be some form of higher power at work than what I can see and touch and feel.

I don't know, imagry like this would make anyone feel strong emotion. I just still am not able to take it in and put my faith in Christianity...I really want to; maybe it would make things be more colorful again.

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These images are provided by "Our Lady's Warriors"

I see there are some very complex systems in our world, and (this sounds clichéd) the more I learn about them and the world we live in, the less I realize I understand. I do see things more mechanically than I did when magic and divinity were the driving force for all that was unknown to me. The interconnectedness of every part of my life is pretty funny when I think about it; any one thing I do or say or think about comes back to me in another form at some point in the future.

My main point with talking about my memories in relation to my understanding of the physical environment around me is that they ARE the physical environment; even though it is all in my head, what I read and type here now may also just be what my senses are taking in to my brain. And Legos are what make most sense to me in breaking down the world into pieces and the method to their construction.

The legendary battle of good versus evil continues in the adventures of the Aquanauts and the Aquasharks (my personal favorite Lego theme)

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This image is provided by "Peeron.com"

Commonbond Communities: Past Reflections

This isn't really about my service site experiences from this semester. I won't even start at my service site until a week from now, and at that point I will be going 2 hours a week for the rest of this course (resulting from my own stupid lack of aggressiveness in tackling my service opportunities; I thought they would tell me when to come in, but that was presumptuous of my to think).

I do want to talk about the experience I had with Commonbond Communities last semester, though.

Commonbond Communities is a non-profit housing and service provider in the Midwest area. You can read about Commonbond from their homepage here, but for the most part, they've been around for almost four decades, and they started in good ole' Minnesota.

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Image provided by "The Patriotic Vanguard" http://www.thepatrioticvanguard.com/article.php3?id_article=2061

For any questions you, the reader, have about Commonbond and what they do/if you are looking for housing, check out their website in the link above, e-mail them at findhousing@commonbond.org , or call them at their HQ: 651-291-1750

My duty when I worked there in the Fall of 2007 (and this past Spring of 2008) was to help maintain the 'chaos' that was the after-school reading program. I worked in the reading room in the basement of their Skyline Towers site, working on Thursday afternoons for about an hour a week with K-3 Graders.

I was and am very impressed with what Commonbond is, and definitely found the idea of housing services coupled with services to help adjustment to our culture incredibly genius, even though it is simple in theory. I've worked with kids the majority of my life, and considered myself very good at just jumping in and befriending others, but it took a little longer than usual for me to adjust at this site.

My "main-man", Mike, goes to school at Macalaster, and he is my quasi-supervisor (or at least was for the hour I spent in the reading room every week). He helped introduce me to some of the people there, and showed me around the place. Granted, the whole area I worked in was only a couple rooms total, but my hardest problem was with remembering names and faces. Again, I consider myself good in social situations, and remembering those kind of things usually is pretty easy for me.

I felt awful the entire time working there, though, since I felt like I was using them entirely. I'm sure Commonbond would go about just as easily without me, if not have an easier time without having to find things for some random college kid to do to get his service hours in. I had a great time, and though I'm only now getting to know the kids, I can't help but feel like dead weight to the other workers. Maybe I can learn to be more helpful and prove that I actually do care about the kids I spend time with, but we'll see if I get many opportunities to prove myself in those regards.

February 27, 2008

I've got nothing. Nothing.

Ahhh...the real world.

I often have a very hard time connecting to this; sadly, I listen to my I-pod and watch movies too much to acknowledge that I am only escaping from the world I life in (which, in my case especially, is pretty good, all things considered). I always told myself that service work would be the core of what I do when I am an adult. The only
problem is that I think I technically am an adult now, and though I still have the maturity of a 4th grader, putting off my own life really isn't viable anymore.

Dammit! WHERE IS QUEEN FROSTINE?!?!

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This image is provided by "Autononomous Source"

(Sorry, she was my crush for the first 6 years of my life, and I played the game every night with my Dad)

I've been wrestling with this question for quite some time, and I regret to admit that I still have no clear idea about how I can apply myself most in a way that would benefit others in the best way. I'd love to study medicine, but I'm worthless with chemistry, and I would also love to study engineering, but I am worthless at math. I've always been afraid of studying International Relations or Environmental Studies, but I'm scared that once I have a degree in those fields, I won't be able to apply myself as much. I decided last year that I would do computer science, partially because I feel that creating code is such an important aspect to making new, innovative tools, but yeah, the math thing...

Maybe I could build houses with...Legos! I'm one mean Lego constructor; who wouldn't want to live in a Lego house?

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This image is provided by "Pixin Bricks"

I hope to try and do architecture, despite some grade issues (again, that god dammed math...), but even with that I'm not sure what I can do to help. Would I even need a college degree to be able to do as much good as anybody else?

Alright, I apologize; even right now I'm procrastinating from thinking about this seriously.

To best help my environment, there would be an infinite number of things to do if I wanted to do good. Befriend elderly, pick up trash, write to people in office, volunteer at various information/food service sites, donate money, etc. I know that service is essentially a core to what we are trying to do with architecture, and though this is particularly interesting to me, I have to wonder how this works; and I think I know how now.

With anything in history that has even been of impact for a greater good, spreading information and influencing others seems to have been most efficient, and in my situation, the best bet for me to do something with myself. I usually try to do good things here and there, and am usually quiet about whatever it is I do simply because I don't want to be some self-righteous jerk that is seeking attention. I want to be more vocal about these things, though.

I kind of feel like Jon Arbuckle sometimes; this comes from a site where they remove Garfield from all of the comics...it is pretty hysterical

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This image is provided by "John minus Garfield"

This wouldn't require me to rethink my life and become another person; on the contrary, I can be myself as much as ever by trying to spread information. My entire existence has been dependent on others, along with whatever values and understandings I have, and I know I won't keep growing alone, under any category. This is why I feel that working under a field based on technology would be most helpful for anyone; namely, Information Systems (or IT, I suppose).

I work at the Minnesota Daily in its "IS" department, and as nerdy as it may sound, I do feel like I am contributing to everybody else there since I am the techy who is in-charge of the computers and network there. I really feel that offering people as many options as possible in accessing information is incredibly important, and given the rise of the internet and computer in the past few decades, I'm 100% behind continuing to make these connections more and more accessible. Sure, the writers are the ones who are pumping out the thought-provoking stories, and the Advertising Production team offers unique imagery, but I feel like the better I can supply these people with the means to communicate between them and others, the better their work can be, and the more people can take away from that.

Think about it; people in the farthest reaches of the world that are entirely isolated from everything can still get on a computer and read about the politics of a nation they could never have fathomed to exist. Heck, the freedom of speech in things such as YouTube and Facebook are only the tip of the iceberg in fostering creativity and knowledge. The big problem here is that not everyone can afford a computer, let alone food and water.

Just take a look at Pakistan; they've had to block YouTube entirely throughout the country because of some depictions of the Prophet Muhammad that are featured in a couple of the billions of videos listed. You can read about this here. This is definitely discouraging to me, and I very much wish this wasn't the case, but I am very hopeful about that situation as well. Even the people who authorized this block are aware that their citizens are learning about freedom of speech existing in other places, and that there are liberties that they are being denied. I feel like it will be inevitable for a country like Pakistan to allow sites like YouTube to exist, and for the country as a whole to adopt more civil liberties. My older sister just came back from a year in Cairo, and despite women being treated there as second-level humans by the majority of males there, she said that there are strong women learning that they aren't just sub-humans, and that in some places, they are valued and treated humanely. Sure, women who go against the cultural norm there to be submissive have a hard time, but they are growing in numbers.

This video is provided by "YouTube"

I'm not entirely sure how to personally go about bettering people's lives, but I know plenty of people do exist that are already making efforts to do this. I'd even go so far as to vouch for video games having an impact on people (which I feel that they do, in a positive way) by offering (again, this is nerdy) friendships across the internet, team-building skills (RTS and FPS games), critical looks at our culture and philosophies (again, I throw the Final Fantasy series into this category, maybe a little bit of Metal Gear Solid while I'm at it).

I'd say any way of pushing computers and internet technology on people is essential to getting the world closer to unity and peace (forgive that statement for how cheesy it is). Raising money for NPOs to send these things and help connect poorer and disconnected peoples get access seems simple. Pushing this technological revolution in legislature more would be good, too. Thankfully, this is a movement that is very much being picked up on, and I for one am very excited to see where the world is when I'm an old man and there is (hopefully) universal online access to the world around us.

February 19, 2008

A lack of white mages

I always thought saving the world required me to get my hair just like Meg Ryan's...

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This Image is provided by "Webshots"

When our 1701 discussion provided a list of worldwide issues to choose from, I didn't have that hard of time distinguishing what were the most pressing matters at this moment in time.

Goal #1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
Goal #2:Achieve Universal Primary Education
Goal #3: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases

Before I go into the things that I personally identify those issues with, I want to tell a little story about myself.

I've heard of all of these issues throughout my entire life, but it was only a couple years ago that I managed to shake myself out of apathy towards what wasn't immediately visible to me. I know I'm a spoiled brat now, that hasn't changed, but I at least am able to identify with that and at least try to be conscious of others (a vast majority of others) who are not as well off as me. The following characteristics I have would give me the upper hand in many parts of the world; I'm a healthy white male living in the United States and attending college. I am also "middle-class", aka richer than 98% of the rest of the people on this earth.

I lived in a fairly sheltered environment the majority of my life, so the instances that I was able to consider others outside of my little world stand out. I was also a fairly large video-game whore until recently, and though I spent mindless hours in the virtual world raising little animals solely for the purpose of having them fight each other (oh how FEMA would hate me), the majority of video games I played were based around a "Hero's Quest". The process of saving the world, making friends, finding your one true love, maturing into an adult, and becoming an invincible warrior was pretty seamless in my young mind; heck, I've played out those scenarios at least a dozen times in the past year.

Take this one crisis that took place in my lifetime: the Second Rwandan Genocide

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This image is provided by "Linda Melveren"

All of this seemed fine and dandy to me as a youngin' at the time; I had WAY to many Pokemon cards to collect to worry about things that were practically in another dimension to me.

"If the pictures of tens of thousands of human bodies being gnawed on by dogs do not wake us out of our apathy, I do not know what will."

-Kofi Annan in 1994 during the genocide in Rwanda

How about rich little bastards like me get some information on things like this, hmm? I feel like I dedicated my time to overdramatic hero video games because of a lack of real, tangible things I could have worked for. Wish I had YouTube a few years earlier...here is a good video about it:

This video is provided by "YouTube"

I was more worried about making friends in the second grade than any kind of world issue, which may sound understandable, but I didn't know about the Rwandan genocide until I was a junior in high school. I guess I didn't have many outlets to help me learn about things like this, but still this is pretty pathetic on my end.

Back to what I'm having a really hard time articulating. Much like the several thousand fantasy films that have come out in the past few years, there is always some kind of person involved who declares "I want to fight!" and the word "Freedom" is flung around in them as much as the word "gay" is in any rural part of the United States. Though it is completely watered down to nothing these days, the idea of going out on a quest to take down an evil dictatorship/disease/meteor is incredibly appealing, mostly because it is MUCH LESS work than it takes in the real world (trust me, if I knew it was possible to get a group of friends together and travel country to country with medieval weapons challenging corrupt rulers and succeed, I would do it in a heartbeat!)

Take a look here at this image released from some rouge journalists in Tibet: Some of the violence the Chinese government has exerted in the past on the Tibetan people for racial prejudice and the tensions that have built up over the issue.

According to an article on Reuters, rioting and protesting in Tibet tends to end in violence and death, with all of the numbers being on the Tibetan side, and not at all related to the Chinese forces that 'stabilize' the 'chaos'. A lot of the violence is between Chinese and Tibetan civilians, though, and I'm sure there are unjust offenses made on both sides. Don't have too many problems like this in the Twin Cities, otherwise it would be a national event.

This image is provided by Some Source

Having that said (hope it wasn't too much of a ramble), even though I know the process of working towards any of these goals is insanely difficult and that results don't always come from efforts made, but for that reason, I feel that there needs to be inspiration and support in every way possible in order to endure the hardships of trying to treat millions of dying AIDs victims or trying to research most every field in order to attempt to make solutions to overpopulation and a lack of resources (whew).

I offer this music list, since I find some of these melodies personally upbeat/nostalgic in my life, and I know I'm weird for some of these entries, but you can bugger off if you have a problem with them.

*The entire Lord of the Rings OST by Howard Shore (every beautiful bit of it, minus the annoying evil music)
*STARS: Your Ex-Lover is Dead
*The Hopefuls (Olympic Hopefuls): Any song
*Ingrid Michaelson: The Way I Am
*Lemonpeeler: Any song
*Billy Joey: Lullaby
*Nobou Uematsu: The entire Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy X OSTs

These are here because they remind me of some of the best times in my life; anything Lord of the Rings related reminds me of the final movie's midnight showing I was at with a huge group of good friends where we all were sobbing at the end of it. STARS was what I listened to during the time period that I spent with an old friend, and The Hopefuls remind me of my entire high school experience. The rest of the music reminds me of family...pretty much in all of the areas I've touched on, I've been blessed, and am forever grateful for having them and the people in my life I've shared then with. Nobou Uematsu has music in videogames that (on sad little ways) made me want to be a better person and dedicate myself to good causes in life from them having themes that touched on poverty and truth and companionship and...well I could ramble for days about the themes in those games since they did inspire me.

These things may not reflect on the goals themselves so much as they reflect on where I am coming from, and I keep them close to my heart for when I will be facing such terrible things in my life, or that I hope I will be facing when I am out of college (though how I go about to try to help in the fight against disease and poverty and under-education, I have no idea). Or maybe I'll just get a normal job and live "comfortably" for the rest of my life and ignore the rest of the human race.

February 3, 2008

Lifestream at Midgar

I could basically write about how everything in a city is inner-connected and how things evolve and change as people and their roles change, but that is only scraping at the surface of what that "idea of energy, flow and transformation through the city" really is. Sure, many different kinds of cities exist in different ways, but a general city works as a machine with the people around it (I'm taking what I know about the two major cities near this campus as more "normal" examples of a city).

Midgar, the fictitious city from Final Fantasy VII, evolves over time from an urban community, into a sprawling metropolis, and eventually back into nature as ruins.

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This image is provided by "Zell's Fantasy"

I may have an incredibly limited knowledge of about everything around me, but I will still try to offer what knowledge I know about cities that make them what they are. We all know about the various rings cities encompass, ranging from the inner-city to rural, suburban areas, as well as the process of trade and business that bring everyone together here. But what about the personal interactions between people themselves? Every city has its own personality and characteristics, just like how any person embodies elements about them that makes them who they are. Sure, some cities are larger than others, and some in more ideal locations than others, but that doesn't majorly define them. The people in specific are what cause the flow, and as was said in the film that we watched during lecture. As an example (though based on fantasy), the city of Midgar in Final Fantasy VII (a video game...I apologize...) represents the characteristics of those who were living there: when it was a nice urban community, it was under more of a republic, and eco-friendly. As a metropolis, it was under more of a dictatorship, and very bad for the environment, and finally, as ruins, it is dominated by the hands of nature.

The city itself takes on the persona of the people living in it. The built up layers of what people bring and take from a location are what ultimately shape it, and as times change and as cities rise and fall, there will always be a presence to a spot. Something like a city, even if it was long since abandoned and began to become forested, will always maintain something of its presence, and the soul of the city and its being will always remain. I kind of have this feeling that anywhere I go there is a presence that goes beyond what is just visibly there, and I attribute that to images of the past (even though I may have no idea of what those images were).

History is so crucial to a place, regardless of what changes it undergoes rapidly. I had a project in my ARCH 1281 course last semester that researched the Midway area between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, and I had no idea about the changes the place went under in the past century. Once upon a time, it was nearly going to be the central merging-point for the twin cities that would be home to the new mega-city in Minnesota, whatever that would have been. It underwent transformations due to the growth in train transportation, and it evolved from a rural farming community into a park-filled residential dream. Now, sadly, it is in a lot rougher shape, despite many urban planning efforts being made to revamp the area to its former glory. It is filled with crime and pollution, and though it still serves as a middle ground for the twin cities, freeway I-94 has removed most of its relevance today.

It may have been a little harsh of me to say that; things like the Saint Paul Saints keep still Midway somewhat classy. They've been a constant throughout the area's life.

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This image is provided by "Life is a Ball Game!"

Like in the Midway area, the history keeps a location relevant, no matter what changes have occurred. There are people who remember and are trying to rebuild and rethink the areas that have fallen into lower standards. How this kind of place is defined, the city, is by those who remember and understand. I'm learning that there are no ways to go about improving conditions of an area without an understanding of the area within the entire spectrum of time it has existed in.

January 23, 2008

Tiny bit about me; not much to tell

Hi there! I'm Pat Hayes, and I have done a tiny bit of blogging before...I'm still a little new to it (at least on this site, I used another site for another class I took).

Anyways, I'm from the Twin Cities, and am switching out of the IT Department to rid myself of the evil Computer Science major. Goku from the Dragon Ball TV shows is kinda my role model, along with my Dad, an English teacher I had last year, and a couple good friends I have that currently live throughout the Midwest. I used to be a big video gamer, but other things have taken up some of that, like running, reading (Golden Compass, Harry Potter, and Wicked reign supreme), and mainly spending time with family and friends. I have a lot of both, something I am very thankful for. "Spoiled" doesn't come close to how lucky I am...and I'm learning these days that I'm not very deserving of all of the blessings I have...

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(My current role model, Goku-son of Dragon Ball Z, from "Legendary Goku". He is naive and childish, but his pure heart and good will make up for that...I don't have a lot of quality traits about myself, so I guess I can only hope that I can make up for that by being good-natured and honest)

Anyways, hope that I can learn to be good at blogging at the end of this course; I'm not terribly experienced at it, and my writing has gotten very bad over the past couple years...but so yeah! I'd talk more about myself, but this is a blog about myself in relation to the world around me (between architecture and service)...plus I already gave too much away for anyone reading to care much about ^_^.