as seen through a blog
It’s not that I’m necessarily a bad person. At least I gave it some thought; a bad person wouldn’t have even considered it. That has to count for something.
This week has been cold. Not Siberia cold, or even Midwest cold, but cold for Portland. It’s the coldest this winter has been yet. Cold enough that I was glad my schedule called for taking the train into work, rather than again freezing my fingers off on my bicycle.
I started taking the bus and train into work a few months ago after injuring my knee and having surgery (which is an option I am fortunate to have). This means that rather than entering my office building through the parking garage, I enter through the main lobby, a path to which takes me by Brian, a gentleman who lives on the street. I’ve seen Brian there for a very long time, even before my modified route took me by him. He is at a set of trash cans on the northeast corner of the block – every single morning. Always polite, never aggressive.
I know Brian’s name because one day as I went by him on my crutches he befriended me. No, I did not befriend him, it was definitely him who reached out and expressed sympathy for my plight. He’d been there. Every day he would ask how I was doing and how my knee was progressing. We would chat for a few minutes: he leaning against the garbage can with his “Anything helps” sign, me on my crutches; he would never ask for anything.
Today, as I got off the train and walked to work, I again stopped to say hi and ask how he was. I know winter is awful for those who live outside. It’s been a rough week he said. Food poisoning, delays on getting his food stamps, unable to get enough money to cover both bus fare and daily needs. And it’s cold. It snowed today. I looked at him and mentioned that he seemed nice and warm bundled up in a lot of layers.
“There’s only so many clothes you can put on,” he replied.
Despite two or three hoodies and a jacket, he was still freezing, his face red from the chill, cutting wind.
You cannot put on enough clothes to stay warm.
After another minute of, now awkward on my part, conversation I went inside the building where I work a well-paid job, ducked into the gym office workers have access to so I could take a hot shower (having just come from physical therapy), and happily noticed that there were brand new, thick, soft towels.
As I felt the plushness of the towel I remembered Brian, whom I’d only seen 30 seconds ago, still outside freezing. My own face flushed at the self-centeredness of my towel pleasure. The contrast of our situations – my privilege, his lack – and that I’d so soon forgotten his hardship in the face of my stupid luxury.
I’m not a bad person. I at least thought about it and saw the injustice. That counts for something, doesn’t it?
This morning, as I’m sitting at my desk creating complicated web-based data visualizations for large-scale client websites, listening to Brooke Fraser albums, soon to be munching on Tim Tams, my mind is thousands of miles away. Seven thousand, three hundred and four miles away to be exact.
Ten years ago today I arrived for the first time to Aotearoa New Zealand.
I was a month shy of 19 years old. As the northern hemisphere slid into winter, the southern was climbing into spring, though it snowed the day after I landed. I’d never been away from home on my own for more than a week. Apart from a quick family trip across the border to Canada (before passports were required), I’d also never been out of the country. Yet (and this has never happened in any of the more than a dozen countries I’ve been to since), as soon as I stepped off of the airplane I felt at home and a sense of a peace strong enough that I stopped and took a mental note of it.
This evening I plan to take some time to reflect on the past ten years. I want to look back at why that trip happened, how it cascaded events after it, and what that means for my future years. It was such a life-defining trip: so much that has happened in the intervening years has been shaped by it. Maybe it’s because I’ve been back several times since, but it doesn’t seem like it’s been nearly a third of my life ago.
It’s important to take time away from the comings and goings of life, to step back and reflect upon one’s life itself. I want to evaluate where I’m at, in the context of where I’ve been – what I thought and told myself back then – and see what changes I should make for tomorrow.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
– J.R.R. Tolkien
Late last night, when I should have been sleeping to give my body much needed rest so I could focus on the coming work day, I finished reading The Hunger Games. I borrowed them from a friend a couple weeks ago thinking the three books would take me several weeks to read as I generally only have time during my 30 minute bus commute to work and back home. That’s how it started too; I would read a little here, a little there. Sometimes I had to stand on the bus, or couldn’t focus because of the noise, so I would only get a couple of pages turned. This was the first book – I already knew the storyline from watching the movie, but then one day I looked up from the bus to find I had missed my stop. I kept reading on the extended walk back home. The second and third books only took me about a day and a half each. I devoured them.
And even so I’m not too sure how much I like the series. Funny how that works.
If you haven’t read the books, go away right now. I’m not really sure what I’m going to write about regarding the books, but there will be spoilers. I hate finding out how something turns out in a manner the author didn’t intend, I’d rather you don’t either, and I don’t want to whisper, so go away.
About a month ago there was a bit of a to-do on the web over a particular iOS app. The app is called Girls Around Me. Yep. Now, at this point I think it’s been pulled from the app store (for various reasons relating to technology, not the content). It may be back, I honestly haven’t kept up with it the past few weeks. A lot has been written about the app and what it does. I’ll let you read up on that if you’re interested. Basically, what the app did is mash together publicly available information of users on Facebook and Foursquare (an app that lets you “check in” to a location or venue). It then compiled that data together and geo located it for you on map centered on you. “These are the girls around you right now and the details we can glean from their public profiles.”
Creepy? Sure. Illegal? Nah. All it did was do the hard work of gathering that information for you. There has been plenty of debate on whether or not what the app does is ethical or moral. A lot of people cried foul at the developers of the app.
Then there’s a great article by one of the girl’s who was randomly pictured in a screen shot of the app on one of the write-ups. Go read it, I’ll wait. It’s basically what nudged me to write this little post.
Because along with all the outcry against what seems so creepy, there has been plenty of people saying “You put that information out there, ladies. You checked in, you posted your picture. So you must be okay with people stalking you and hitting on you.”
In that article you just read, Marie ends with this winning conclusion:
I don’t believe that having a public persona online needs to be a risky enterprise, and it seems like plenty of people are able to manage that without being attacked, stalked, or otherwise targeted. If we’re saying that’s only true for one half of the population, then I don’t think this is really a conversation about internet privacy as much as it’s a conversation about whether it’s safe to be a woman and live in public.
If the answer to that is “no”, then I think we’ve got bigger problems than ‘Girls Around Me.’
And that’s exactly the issue here. A big conclusion of this thing has been that it’s risky to be a woman and live publicly. And that should never be true. There’s an issue at the root of this that is much, much bigger than an app for a smartphone. Culturally, we have some problems to address. Some deep problems about how we respect and act around each other. Privacy isn’t the issue, the issue is humanity not being able to treat well those who choose not to be private.
I know I’m rambling and am not really making a point. I’m sorry, I usually try to be a bit more focused when I write. Honestly though, I’m not really sure how to start this conversation or what to do to help. I just don’t think the right of life is shutting up women in a house with no windows or internet for their own safety is a good option. I’m also confused because there is a weird balance between chivalrous protection and pandering over-protection. Not that I know where that balance is…
I guess the point of writing all of this is I just needed to say something, and add my little voice in support of Marie’s ending point, and to hopefully spark some thought and conversation with you.
The bus is a funny thing. It’s one of those few places with a constant rotation of a completely non-homogenous group. School kids, openly amorous teenage lovers (gay or straight), homeless, those with disabilities (mental or physical), fathers with daughters, mothers with sons, errand runners, business people, teachers. The list goes on.
Each one with their own story.
But this is the bus. You walk on, pay, and then either put in your Apple white earbuds, pull out a book, look at your phone, or look asleep. Those who do none of those simply look bored and disconnected. This is the bus, you don’t connect with the other humans on it.
Maybe it’s because simply riding the bus doesn’t give you enough in common to breach the Talking to Strangers barrier. But I’m pretty sure as I watch all of these people board and disembark that they all have interesting stories if only you’d ask.
There’s this older couple that’s on the same bus every morning. She seems to have a slight mental disorder. She asks questions with the speech impediment of a child, and also their unquenchable persistence. While his face is tired, his arm is constantly around her as he patiently answers her repeated questions. Now and again there is a quick kiss.
In two days I’m heading to the apparently desolate and frigid land of Fargo. Did you know there are at least five other states with cities named Fargo? And it’s also not frigid there, at least not yet. While it’s chilly and rainy here in Oregon, Fargo is boasting sun with temperatures in the 80s! For a place that’s known in pop culture because of the snow-filled movie, that really shows what a lack-lustre summer we’ve had here in the Pacific North West.
To preempt the question that everyone asks, I’m going to Fargo because I was asked to work with the video crew (I assume as a cameraman) for the last week of shows from Impact World Tour, the group I’ve worked with overseas in the past. No biggie, I can scoot over a few states for 5 days to do live video shooting for some performance shows.
Well, this morning that’s changed.
I was told by my technical director today that he won’t be able to join the team for the shows. I’d expected him to direct the video crew. In addition, there have been changes with the gear and team we’ll be using. So now it looks like I may be directing the video myself. I’ve done this twice before: once for something like 12,000 people on my first tour in New Zealand (yeah, that was stressful) and again for a show or two last summer in the Philippines (the first show was with non-native English speakers on camera). So while I’m relatively inexperienced, this should be pretty easy by comparison. But I may not be directing, because depending on the team we round up, I may be required to be the technical producer during the show itself. I did this for a couple small shows in the Philippines as well. It’s a bit more weight, but really, while it sounds big, and will definitely be fun, it’s a bit easier. I need to make sure the camera team knows what to expect and help the director during the show. Sound should be a cakewalk and the lighting tech is phenomenal and worked these shows for years.
My tech team director just wanted me to be ready to make whatever we end up with work and pull off the show. I’m game!
I decided several weeks ago I need to start writing more. Obviously that hasn’t gone well for me.
Earlier this month I was reading posts from Jeffery Zeldman of his perspective during and after 9/11/2001. He lives in New York and it was fascinating to read first-hand recent history accounts of the event. I also read an article that referenced other news pieces about what was happening in the week or two leading up to the attack. As vaporous as online content is, I know using a blog to record thoughts and events is hopeful at best, but considering it is my profession to work on the web and I own my own domain and website, it gives me a much greater hold over my content.
I’ve been told a few times that I’m a good writer, a fact which even helped me secure a web design job once. So I’m thinking of writing more, perhaps less deep so that I can do it more frequently. But so often I feel like sharing my thoughts on different topics or news items, and getting into this habit will help me.
Topics like how the web is changing so much and won’t be the same again. I love the coding practices and community of designers these days, but man, I really miss the simplicity of working on the web from 10-15 years ago. But really, that’s a much larger topic for me and would be best in person, so consider that a teaser to entice you to seek me out face-to-face. You can take me to coffee and we can talk about social psychology, Orwellian states, and being human. Yes, all of that from that above linked article on the end of the web as we know it.
With that intro to why I’d like to be writing a bit more, here we go.
It’s late-morning on Saturday the 21st. Jesus will be coming back to get us in a few hours and some (more) massive earthquakes will be set off (sorry to steal the limelight, Japan). Or was that rapture bit supposed to happen at 6pm New Zealand time, since that’s the beginning of the day according to the International Date Line? I never quite got the story straight.
In actuality, this whole rapture end-of-the-world business has been unsettling to me. Something is just wrong with the whole situation, and I’m not talking about the obvious. Sure, I’ve poked my fun, laughed at the jokes, but I can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. It isn’t just the situation either, there’s something wrong with us.
Last night, I told a friend that I had thought about throwing an End of the World party, or at least a See-Ya-Later-All-Us-Christians-Are-OUT party, but that as amusing as it would be, it just seems a little, well, blasphemous. I’m a Christian, I believe Jesus. I suck at following his example, but I still believe in it. Which means I also believe that there’s more to life than this mortal coil. I don’t know how this so-called rapture will happen, or what the prophesied return of Jesus will look like, but I think it’s wrong to so blatantly scoff at the idea of it. I went to a birthday party instead.
As a Christian, I’m supposed to be looking forward to the return of Christ. I know 99.99+% of Christians believe literally in the Bible verses that say we don’t know when it will happen and it will be surprising. But I haven’t heard any Christians talk lately about how excited they are for that to happen. Instead, it’s laughter and derision. Sure, that’s because some guy who apparently knows the Bible better than anyone ever is predicting dates and hours. But I find in myself not a desire that he be wrong because it would show him to be a loony bin , but frankly, because I don’t feel ready for it. Remember that verse about the sheep and the goats? (Matt 25:31-46) Or Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”
Let’s be honest, verses like those are a little scary. Do I think I’m a horrible human being? No. Am I knowingly trying to use and abuse the name of Jesus for my own gain? No. Do I sometimes disconnect from the real meaning while I’m working audio / visual for an evangelistic performance tour? Yeah, it happens. Have I walked by the hungry, the needy, the thirsty, the sick, and ignored them while hoping they don’t look at me? A lot.
Selfishly and with earth-bound thinking there is still stuff I want to do. Places I want to see, things I want to accomplish. In that sense, I don’t feel ready. But in another sense, I feel like I’m failing my savior and my soul by skipping like a goat past the homeless guys under the bridge by my office. At best, it would be downright embarrassing if Jesus came back right now.
I could be, but I doubt I am, alone in this.
Which leads me to think: We’re doing it wrong.
But you know who is excited about the rapture? Who really cannot wait for it to happen? Atheists. And pretty much the rest of the world. Atheists are stoked for the rapture! They’re planning post-rapture parties and getting ready to loot the left over stuff. I’m pretty sure as much as they don’t believe in a god, they really want this one part to be true.
Because then we’d all be gone.
Wait, what? All the Christians are gone and the rest of the world throws a party?
We’re doing it wrong.
If we’re too busy making sure our pets are taken care of to the point that we are ignoring people, something needs to change.
Actually, as silly as it sounds, in a weird illogical logical way, that isn’t a horrible idea. If the rapture is going to look like the Left Behind series, wouldn’t a good pet owner make sure their animals weren’t left out in the cold to die when Jesus takes the owners home? But wouldn’t a good Christian care more about making sure their neighbors (in the broad Jesus sense of the word) were cared for, or better yet, came along with them instead?
This is the crux of the whole issue: the response that the “non-believing” portion of the world is having right now is shining a light on the fact that Christians as a population are viewed as crack-pots, not a loving and serving people that the rest of the world would miss. Think of it this way: when you move away, do you want to be missed and remembered by people? When you die, do you want people at your funeral because they will miss having you around? Apparently, when Christians leave, they won’t be missed. Yeah, there will be a goodbye party, but it’s not the kind you want.
Christians don’t love and care for people and the world enough that they will still want us around. The rapture? Good riddance.
I guess when you visit a single country four times people start wondering why you don’t just live there. I’m getting ready to leave for the fourth time, but am feeling less and less okay about that.
I’ve had at least three people seriously ask me when I’m moving here (not to mention many half-joking questions) and four serious offers for visas to help with residency. Also, the immigration officer I spoke with suggested, off the record, that I find myself a nice girl. I met with this officer because the customs officer who stamped my passport upon arrival noted my many other NZ visas and asked when I was moving permanently.
Yeah, the officials are in on it now too. Maybe I should listen to that.
Lastly, while hitchhiking back to Christchurch, the 11 or 12 year-old son of the lady giving me a ride asked me when I was going to move here.
Out of the mouth of slightly-older-than-babies babes?
Hitting the road to Queenstown <– apparently I can’t embed a video directly.