The Power of Situations

Lately, I have been pondering about how much control we have over our futures, how much personal will matters in a life full of different restrictions. I previously thought that people had more control over where they went and what they ended up doing, but now I realize that that was false. What sparked this understanding was a conversation I had with my dad (one of the very few) about the reasons he chose to live in Cerritos.

I thought that he must have had some sort of reasoning, some specific goal to live in Cerritos, or else why would he have decided to live in such a random, boring suburb? But in fact, it was simply a result of circumstance. It turns out that one of his co-workers at the time had just recently bought a house in Cerritos and my parents went to check it out. While they were there, they decided to drive around to look for houses. They found a house for sale, walked inside and realized that the real estate agent for that house was one of my dad's friends. After that, they struck a deal and bought the house.

We like to think that we have control over our futures. We comfort ourselves by believing we know what we will do and where we will be, but all of this is just an illusion. We can effect our futures to a certain extent, but now I believe situational forces are predominant most of the time.

What an interesting blog post for New Years Eve!

1994 Corolla

My parents recently bought me a 1994 Toyota Corolla. Needless to say, I am not happy with the decision I made, but I do not regret it. It is extremely inconvenient to live in LA without a car, especially living in the suburbs.

Of course, the thought did occur to me to ride my bike instead, but I have become very afraid of riding recently. This emergence of fear is unexplainable; I have not experienced anything out of the ordinary in the past months.

Even though I have had to adapt to special circumstances, my plan is still to live without a car, and I look forward to that day.

A Different Perspective of LA

I have recently found a new job here in LA as an ESL instructor. My first week just finished and I still have to get through a trial period, but if everything goes well, I will have a stable part time job that will hopefully pay for a quarter of my graduate school fees. The job is located in Korea town so I have been taking the commuter rail from Norwalk to Union Station. From there I take the subway to my workplace which just so happens to be located near Marlon's condo. I believe I have taken the LA metro maybe about 2 or 3 times before in my entire life so this new experience has given me a new perspective of LA.

Previously, I thought LA was a city with horrible public transportation that only poor people took and generally speaking, I was correct, but I was mistaken in regards to the passengers downtown. There were a diversity of people riding the subway and it actually reminded me of DC. Growing up in the suburbs being surrounded by cars, I have only known LA from the perspective of the automobile. It was really interesting and refreshing to see people taking the subway here. Honestly, for most of my life, I did not even know that LA had a subway system.

I just looked on Wikipedia to collect some facts on how many people ride public transportation in LA vs NYC and the numbers are not very surprising. Over half of the people living in NYC take public transportation while only 2% of people who live in LA do. Maybe I am pessimistic, but I do not think that there will be a significant increase of public transportation riders here in the future just because of the sprawl of the city itself. The population density for LA is 8,205/sq mi, and for NYC it's 27,532/sq mi.

I would like to mention another thing that happened to me a couple of days ago although it is off topic. When I was taking an order at the pizza store on Wednesday, a customer started to get angry at me because she could not pay with a debit card. I told her that we did not have the machine and that there was nothing I could do. She persisted that there was something I could do and wanted to speak with the manager. I told her that the manager was out of the country, to which she responded “that's convenient.” The unpleasant conversation with that woman really affected me negatively; I am such a sensitive person. Even though it was not my fault and there was nothing I could do, I still felt bad. It bothers me how angry we can all get over the smallest things.

Children and Religion

I would like to spend some time to express my opinions on raising children a specific religion. I have previously pondered about this topic but refrained from writing anything due to the unclear nature of my thoughts. To an extent, my opinions on this topic are still not conclusive so alteration is almost inevitable and therefore, it might do this entry more justice if I categorize it as an elaboration of initial reflections. The decision to enter this discourse now was made shortly after finishing The Limits of State Action by Wilhelm von Humboldt whose ideas made me reflect on my stance on children and religion.

According to von Humboldt, “the true end of man is the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole”, and in order for man to develop himself to his fullest capacities, he needs individual freedom. Freedom, however, cannot exist without security and since man cannot provide this security himself, the state must provide it. However, there is an important distinction between providing security and implementing “positive welfare” which the state may not do, according to his beliefs. Positive welfare is defined as actions taken by the state which are aimed at forming a moral character. The consequences of such actions would be a “nation of uniformity” and a weakened state of vitality, for man cultivates his faculties through his own activity.

One example of such positive welfare is religion. Religion encompasses a process of self-development, of moral perfection. But true self-development and moral perfection can only happen through the free will of the individual. Von Humboldt states,

“Whatever does not spring from a man's free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very being, but still remains alien to his true nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness.”

He further writes,

“If...he [the state] seeks directly to promote a religious spirit; if he protects certain definite religious ideas; or if, lastly, he dares to require a belief according to authority instead of a true and sincere conviction, he will hinder the spirit's aspiration and the development of the powers of the soul; and, although he may work on the citizen's imagination through his feelings and succeed in bringing his actions into conformity with the law, he can never produce true virtue.”

Von Humboldt's reasoning for his belief of the limits of state action could be applied to the relationship between parents and their children to a certain extent. It is true that whatever does not spring from man's free choice remains alien to his true nature and that man cultivates his faculties through his own activity. Thus initially, it seems that von Humboldt's reasoning could be used as an argument against parents raising their children with a specific religion. However, upon further reflection, one would realize that it is not the act of passing on a religion itself that produces a “nation of uniformity” and a weakened state of vitality, but rather it is the lack of independent thinking. If parents accompany their teaching of religion with the teaching of critical thinking, then they would not be stifling their children's self-development. But if they only impose their religion onto the next generation, then they would not only commit an injustice to their children, but also to the religion itself. I can only imagine that God does not want his followers to be machines.

Having said that, I would like to clarify that I do not believe that every parent who does not raise their children how to think independently is at fault. The question of fault and not at fault implies that there is a choice and not all of us have the same choices. There are many parents who do not know how to think independently themselves and therefore, would not be able to teach their children. Hence, even though they are technically not doing something they should be doing, they are not at fault.

September Update

The more I experience life, the more I feel that I belong in academia. I went to a green networking event yesterday filled with entrepreneurs. There were 4 main presenters who were looking for investors and other random people who were interested in clean technologies. Needless to say, I felt so out of place being there. There is only a certain amount of conformity and status quo that I can take in one day and that event exceeded that limit. I was extremely unhappy to the point where I just exited the room and started to stare at a world map.

I have been pondering about why I dislike networking so much and I have come up with three reasons. The first two are obvious which are because people are fake and they do not care so much about what you do. The third reason is that I feel as if I cannot offer anyone anything they want. I dislike talking with someone and having them conclude that I am useless to them.

In other news, I have been doing a lot of reading. I ordered 8 books on Amazon and plan on ordering at least 11 more. Not having a job presents me with the perfect opportunity to study all the classics that I have heard so much about. So far they have not been disappointing; I have already collected quite a few rules of tyranny. I wrote Noam Chomsky and my former politics professor to tell them about my book, and both replied by saying that the idea was interesting. Hopefully, my book will not turn out to be a disappointment. I have big plans for it!

The other day, I went to a non-profit after school program called Think Together to take a pre-employment test. I applied for a tutoring position there and part of the hiring process is a math and English test. The test was extremely easy so obviously I passed and now I am just waiting for them to contact me. It seems more likely that I will be staying in LA this year and I am not sure how I feel about that. If I stay here, it will probably mean that I have to get a car which of course I dislike. But, realistically speaking, I need to get a job. Although I would like to sit around all day and surround myself with academia, I need to save up money.

Speaking of academia, I have been doing a little bit of research into Masters programs and I found one at the University of Essex in philosophy, politics and environmental issues. Amazing. I would probably have to focus on one of those, but nevertheless, it is a wonderful opportunity to be able to have that on my resume. It would almost be killing two birds with one stone.

Rousseau and A Well Constituted State

After reading Rousseau's On the Social Contract, it is even more clear to me how difficult it is to have a legitimate government in theory. Even Rousseau believes that right from the founding of a state, there are internal institutions that seek to destroy it, “The body politic, like the human body, begins to die from the very moment of its birth, and carries within itself the causes of its destruction...The best constituted state will come to an end, but later than another,”

Therefore, the question essentially becomes on how to delay the death of the state. However, what makes constituting a state even more delicate, is to design it so that it does not destroy itself too quickly from its success. Allow me to explain.

According to Rousseau, the sign of a good government is none other than the growth of the population, “the government under which, without external means, without naturalizations, without colonies, the citizens become populous and multiply the most, is infallibly the best government.” The reason behind this is because the goal of the government is “the preservation and prosperity of its members.”

However, in another part of this discourse, Rousseau writes that the state is destroyed when the population institutes representatives. “Sovereignty cannot be represented for the same reason that it cannot be alienated. It consists essentially in the general will, and the will does not allow of being represented. It is either itself or something else; there is nothing in between.” He further writes, “the moment a people gives itself representatives, it is no longer free; it no longer exists.”

Now the question arises on why people choose to give itself representatives. Rousseau mentions a few reasons, “The cooling off of patriotism, the activity of private interest, the largeness of states, conquests, the abuse of government: these have suggested the route of using deputies or representatives of the people in the nation's assemblies.”

The necessity of representatives due to the largeness of a state is quite understandable as the practicality of popular involvement diminishes as the distance required to travel is increased. Not to mention the superior order and discipline people must have to not occupy the time with other issues. If this logic is applied to Rousseau's reasoning, then a good government will lead to its destruction because the increase of population would require the implementation of representatives.

To be clear, Rousseau does not say that representatives are necessary in a large state, but he also does not prove this suggestion to be odious. In fact, he does not mention it any further. Therefore, it may be safe to assume that he agrees with this logic, although it would lead to the destruction of the state.

Rousseau concludes by saying the following. “All things considered, I do not see that it is possible henceforth for the sovereign to preserve among us the exercise of its rights, unless the city is very small.” Again, Rousseau does not explicitly mention that large states require representatives and therefore states should be kept small. However, he does not attempt to discredit this logic so I am speculating that it is one of the things he considered.

Ultimately, from his two beliefs we can understand that there is only a small window in which a well constituted state can exist which is the time between when the population prospers and when the city becomes larger than very small. Hence, the very success of a state would lead to its destruction. So the question I pose is, “Is one of the ways to delay the destruction of the state to slow down its success?”

Job Rejection

I found out today that I did not get the job. They said it was due to the high qualified applicants that applied. My feelings right now are a mix of disappointment, sadness and anger. I do feel like they should have hired me. I know that other people might have been more qualified, but I bet anything that I was more passionate.

It is my opinion that for non-technical jobs, abilities do not vary greatly. I feel that most people could have completed the tasks required by that position. Of course, some people would need to be trained a little bit longer, but in the end, they would be able to do whatever was necessary. I am confident that I would have been able to do that job. Ability, I do not think is the key. Passion is the key. Passion is what separates the good and the great. They should have hired me because my passion would have given me the strength and creativity to contribute greatly to their cause.

Although I am sure my relationship with them is not over, I wish I had the stability of a job right now. My current plan is to fly back home to LA and write that book. I will probably be unemployed for the next two months so that would allow me to focus. I might apply to graduate school next year, I still have not decided.

Because I did not get that job, I am not satisfied with my previous year.

On Gay Marriage and Prop 8


It disgusts me that in the year 2010, there still exists senseless, illogical debates on crucial issues that pertain to liberty and equality. One would have hoped that by now we would have learned the lessons of our recent history by accepting the fact that people should be treated equally under the law. This nonsense continues through present day in many different shapes and forms, though all characterized by illogical rhetoric. One such onerous debate is regarding the question of gay marriage, and it is to this topic that I dedicate this short discourse.

Before we dive deeper into this somewhat philosophical debate, we need to agree on the principle that one may do whatever one wishes so long one does not harm others. In other words, one's freedoms end when they infringe on another's. Since our current society generally accepts this principle, I feel no need to defend it. Interestingly enough, what angers me about this debate is that it continues regardless of the fact this fundamental principle of freedom is accepted. My position is that gay marriage does not do enough harm to other people to warrant illegalization.

As far as I could tell, the proponents of prop 8, through their advertisements, have purposed three reasons on why gay marriage should be banned. 1 – gay marriage should be banned because the definition of marriage should be preserved. 2 – gay marriage should be banned because if not, our children will learn that it is ok for gays to get married. 3 – gay marriage will ruin the institution of marriage.

The first two reasons obviously do not suffice. Regarding the first reason, I do not see any way how changing the definition of the word hurts other people. In fact, I fail to see how it would even AFFECT other people. Would it make other people sick? Are they going to go to the hospital? Are they going to be stolen from? Of course not. The second reason is almost just as ridiculous. If some people have a personal belief that gays should not marry, then that is what they teach their children. Having their children taught something they do not agree with is not enough to warrant the ban. If it were, then it would be justified to ban interracial marriage if people were to disapprove of it. I find their third argument to be the strongest because I believe they are inferring that gay marriage would lead to the undermining of our society, which would be a legitimate threat. If there were evidence of this threat and if this threat were to be great, then a ban on gay marriage should be considered. However, proponents of prop 8 failed to provide any evidence to support this claim as you shall see in the following passages.

Now that I have gone through the basic principles of this issue, I feel it appropriate to introduce more concrete details. The following excerpts were selected from the prop 8 court case Perry v. Schwarzenegger. The selections that I have chosen basically sum up the proponents' reasons for prop 8 and the court's ruling.

I must say that I enjoyed reading this court case very much; I recommend my readers to read it in its entirety. It reveals, without a doubt, the lack of evidence the proponents of prop 8 have for their claims. Without evidence, their claims are just prejudices, and prejudice alone is an insufficient reason to limit other people's freedoms.




Proponents put forth several rationales for Proposition 8, see Doc #605 at 12-15, which the court now examines in turn: (1) reserving marriage as a union between a man and a woman and excluding any other relationship from marriage; (2) proceeding with caution when implementing social changes; (3) promoting opposite- sex parenting over same-sex parenting; (4) protecting the freedom of those who oppose marriage for same-sex couples; (5) treating same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples; and (6) any other conceivable interest.

PURPORTED INTEREST #1: RESERVING MARRIAGE AS A UNION BETWEEN A MAN
AND A WOMAN AND EXCLUDING ANY OTHER RELATIONSHIP

The evidence shows that the tradition of restricting an individual’s choice of spouse based on gender does not rationally further a state interest despite its “ancient lineage.” the evidence shows that the tradition of gender restrictions arose when spouses were legally required to adhere to specific gender roles.

Proposition 8 thus enshrines in the California Constitution a gender restriction that the evidence shows to be nothing more than an artifact of a foregone notion that men and women fulfill different roles in civic life.

PURPORTED INTEREST #2: PROCEEDING WITH CAUTION WHEN IMPLEMENTING
SOCIAL CHANGES

Plaintiffs presented evidence at trial sufficient to rebut any claim that marriage for same-sex couples amounts to a sweeping social change. See FF 55. Instead, the evidence shows beyond debate that allowing same-sex couples to marry has at least a neutral, if not a positive, effect on the institution of marriage and that same-sex couples’ marriages would benefit the state. Id. Moreover, the evidence shows that the rights of those opposed to homosexuality or same-sex couples will remain unaffected if the state ceases to enforce Proposition 8. FF 55, 62.

The contrary evidence proponents presented is not credible. Indeed, proponents presented no reliable evidence that allowing same-sex couples to marry will have any negative effects on society or on the institution of marriage.

PURPORTED INTEREST #3: PROMOTING OPPOSITE-SEX PARENTING OVER SAME-
SEX PARENTING

The evidence does not support a finding that California has an interest in preferring opposite-sex parents over same-sex parents. Indeed, the evidence shows beyond any doubt that parents’ genders are irrelevant to children’s developmental outcomes. FF 70. Moreover, Proposition 8 has nothing to do with children, as Proposition 8 simply prevents same-sex couples from marrying. FF 57. Same-sex couples can have (or adopt) and raise children.

PURPORTED INTEREST #4: PROTECTING THE FREEDOM OF THOSE WHO OPPOSE
MARRIAGE FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES

These purported interests fail as a matter of law. Proposition 8 does not affect any First Amendment right or responsibility of parents to educate their children.

To the extent proponents argue that one of the rights of those morally opposed to same-sex unions is the right to prevent same-sex couples from marrying, as explained presently those individuals’ moral views are an insufficient basis upon which to enact a legislative classification.

PURPORTED INTEREST #5: TREATING SAME-SEX COUPLES DIFFERENTLY FROM
OPPOSITE-SEX COUPLES

The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples. See FF 48, 76-80. The evidence fatally undermines any purported state interest in treating couples differently; thus, these interests do not provide a rational basis supporting Proposition 8.

PURPORTED INTEREST #6: THE CATCHALL INTEREST

Finally, proponents assert that Proposition 8 advances “[a]ny other conceivable legitimate interests identified by the parties, amici, or the court at any stage of the proceedings.” Doc #605 at 15. But proponents, amici and the court, despite ample opportunity and a full trial, have failed to identify any rational basis Proposition 8 could conceivably advance. The resulting evidence shows that Proposition 8 simply conflicts with the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Many of the purported interests identified by proponents are nothing more than a fear or unarticulated dislike of same-sex couples. ..The evidence shows that, by every available metric, opposite-sex couples are not better than their same-sex counterparts; instead, as partners, parents and citizens, opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples are equal.

A PRIVATE MORAL VIEW THAT SAME-SEX COUPLES ARE INFERIOR TO OPPOSITE-SEX COUPLES IS NOT A PROPER BASIS FOR LEGISLATION

Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples.

CONCLUSION

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite- sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

Reflections on Previous Year

Every year during the time which shortly precedes my birthday, I reflect on the accomplishments that I have achieved the previous 12 months. And upon reflection, I come to the realization that I have not done anything great this previous year. This is, however, not out of the ordinary as I am always disappointed at myself for not being as productive as I should have been. But then again, I assumed and still assume that my productivity would increase every year due to becoming wiser and connecting with more people. This, I feel, has not happened to the extent that I expected it to.

Having said that, this previous year has not been without its promising events. It was about a year and a half ago when I started to do research on cradle to cradle and since then, have learned so much about the environment. I feel as if I had studied a completely different major while not forgetting all the lessons that political theory has taught me.

Six months ago, I started my short-lived-but-nevertheless-critical project, Cradle to Consumer. I say critical because it was this project that attracted MBDC to notice me. And even though my idea was quite novel, for some reason, I felt the project did not have a bright future and so I ended it. Instead, I decided to start an online magazine about c2c which I still maintain today and has turned out to be much more fruitful. I receive more Facebook fans every week and even though I still have not broken my goal of 100 visitors per day yet, I should be able to attain that number within 2 months.

The uniqueness of my site has gained much attention, both from c2c fans and from MBDC. It was because of this 2nd project that I had the opportunity to talk with one of the project managers over the phone. That event, consequently, gave me the opportunity to meet another project manager in person, which ultimately led to my job interview with them today. At their request, I will not be recording the details of the job process, so this will be the last mention of it.

If I do get this position, it will be around the same time as my birthday which would be very symbolic seeing how I have journeyed the past year and a half to this point. It would be nice to say that I attained something great on my 25th birthday, that I entered my next stage of life after having lived a quarter of a century. If I do get this job, it would mean that my last year would have been a year well lived.

Steve

I apologize for not continuing my introductions in a orderly fashion; random things have distracted me from finishing this project, but since my mind is currently more at peace, I would like to introduce Steve.

I should say that Steve was not originally my friend; he started out as Joseph's friend and he was closer with Joseph than he was with me for much of our childhood. He for the most part, as well as my other close friends, was also absent from my school life. He did attend the same schools as I did, but during high school, the time when we became closer, he was transferred to another high school because of his poor performance.

Steve was one of those genius high school dropout types that did not really care much about anything, but he did eventually change when he got into university. He recently scored very high on the LSAT which reflects his intelligence and makes me curious to know how much more intelligent he would be if he had applied himself earlier on in his life.

He is the most intelligent person that I know and unlike my intelligence which was all trained, I feel his intelligence was more of a gift. I remember even when we were little, Steve and Joseph would have very deep conversations that I would not be able to follow.

And now, because my intelligence has caught up with theirs, I relish the time we spend together; every moment is a learning experience with them. I am not sure what his plans are for the future, but I am sure that he will be successful in whatever he chooses to do.

This concludes my series of introductions.

On Love and Relationships

After reading John Stuart Mill's autobiography, I realized that he wrote very little about his love life. The only reason I can imagine why he would leave such a large part of his life out is because of the lack of utility it would have on others who would eventually read about his life. However understandable this reason may be, I find it such a pity that people will never get to know him from a different perspective.

Seeing how I have received such inspiration and knowledge from him, it makes sense that I would like to live a similar life of an intellectual. However, unlike him, I would want people who read my writings in the future to have a holistic understanding of what type of person I was and therefore, I find it appropriate now to explain my current status on love and relationships.

It is very difficult for me to be truly attracted to someone. As I have become older, I have had a better understanding of what type of person I would want to be with and my current desire is to be with a fellow intellectual. I should say that I have always been picky in the past, but for different reasons. I have had many changing criteria ever since high school, but I never really stayed true to them, so to be honest, I am not quite sure how true I will stay to them next time.

I find most women my age to be immature. Most of them I meet are into shopping and do not care much for the world. Most of them do not enjoy deep conversations and seem to have to no interest in developing themselves as an ends in itself. Is it too much to ask for someone with passion and intellect?

I have been single for about a year now and I do admit that I miss holding someone and being held. But at the same time, I would not want to shortchange myself by being with someone who did not attract me with their mind and heart. And so I wait.

Regarding My Faults

My oldest sister came to visit me over the 4th of July weekend; she was attending some conference in DC so she decided to spend the holiday with me. We ate together and hung out with some of her friends and then watched the fireworks at the National Mall. It was a fun 4th of July filled with deep conversations.

When I reflect on that weekend, a few things come to mind. One thing is that sometimes my sister knows me better than I do which actually makes sense because she has known me since I was a baby and my memories only go back to when I was six. Anyways, the reason why I say that my sister knows me very well is because of the adjectives she used to describe me when we were conversing. She called me narrow-minded, stubborn, and selfish.

Of course hearing this was displeasing so I started to defend myself. But upon further reflection, I do admit that there is some truth to what she said.

First of all, I should say that I do not believe I am narrow-minded. On the contrary, I feel that I am very open to new ideas. As long as the other person can logically make their argument, they will be able to convince me of their position.

Regarding stubbornness, I think there is truth to that. I believe I am stubborn when it comes to principle. I put a lot of thought into my strong beliefs and therefore, it would be difficult for someone else to change my mind unless they were very logical and moral. So yes, I suppose that makes me stubborn, but I do not think that the way I am stubborn is necessarily a bad thing.

Since I spend much of my time trying to live a moral life, the third adjective she used to describe me displeased me the most. She brought up this word because she knew that I determine my actions based on what I think and not what other people think, which is a very true statement. For example, if my parents' friends were hosting an event and my parents wanted me to come, I would probably just wear whatever I was wearing that day to the event. But my parents would probably want me to dress up nicely so that I would look presentable. However, my belief in the unimportance of appearance would make me reluctant to do so, even if this were to anger my parents.

Having said that, I believe the reason I would refuse to dress up nicely is not because of selfishness, but because of my failure to weigh the cost and benefits. I am a person who focuses strongly on morality, but sometimes this focus leads me away from other things I should be considering. It may very well be worth it to break my belief in order to please my parents. Weighing the cost and benefits is a skill that I should master and it is one that I want to master. Therefore, I do admit that my problem is failing to consider multiple principles simultaneously.

The last thing that I want to mention is that since I began to live in DC, I have really come to appreciate eating out; it is a luxury that I took for granted too often before. I hope I continue to live modestly for as long as possible so that I may truly appreciate my comfortable life.

C2C Job Application

Dear MBDC,

First of all, I should say that working for you is my dream job, I cannot imagine anywhere else I would rather work. However, before I get into the details, allow me to give you some background as to how I became familiar with cradle to cradle.

I was first introduced to the idea by watching a TED talk given by William McDonough. The talk was so interesting that it led me to start researching the design philosophy and its practical applications. And through my research, I came across a city called Venlo in the Netherlands that wanted to implement C2C. I was in Germany at the time so I decided to visit Venlo and some of the key players in the movement.

After my visit, I started a project called Cradle to Consumer which was a series of videos in which I introduced C2C certified products. I have since then discontinued this project because I did not think it was going anywhere. On a lighter note, I decided to start another project called The Cradle to Cradle Portal which is a website that contains all C2C related news.

I would like to mention that I did all of this research out of pure passion. I did not at anytime receive money for my efforts to contribute. In fact, I have personally invested money into my pursuit of contributing to C2C. Furthermore, I have spent countless hours pondering about how I could get into the movement because I truly believe in its cause. In my opinion, it is the ultimate green philosophy because of its focus on being good rather than less bad. The only alternative would be primitivism which I do not support.

Again, my research and independent projects were done out of pure passion in my free time. In my official work time, I have had multiple internships that were related to C2C. For example, I currently have an internship with the Responsible Purchasing Network which is a non-profit that helps states and municipal agencies purchase green. We publish purchasing guides on specific product types and provide webinars on green product developments. I have helped edit two charts on green purchasing: one on how it can attain STARS points and one on how it can attain LEED points. Both of these charts will be published soon. Furthermore, my current project with RPN is to write a report and publish another chart on eco-labels.

Another one of my internships was with a green consultant. Our goal was to not focus on products, but rather operations. We had our own checklist and rating system by which we measured a company's sustainability. On my first day of work, we went to a company that manufactured and sold compression hosiery. Our scorecard analysis took us from room to room and was very comprehensive.

Through these two internships, I have learned about both green products and green operations which I think is essential at MBDC.

I want to stress that my understanding of and experience with the environmental field is comprehensive. For example, one of my former internships required me to research and analyze environmental policy. And recently, I have just finished taking LEED Green Associate classes and will be taking the test within the next month.

In summary, I have a good understanding of cradle to cradle, green products, green operations, green policy and green buildings.

Due to the above experiences, I honestly believe that there is no one else better suited for this job than I am. Other people might have more professional experience, but they are in no comparison with me when it comes to passion.

Sincerely,
Jason Chen

Information and Education

I have recently received an email from someone who has complained that I republished one of their articles, in its entirety, without their consent.

Receiving this email really made me frustrated with people's mentalities regarding information and education. First of all, before I can dive into this subject, I should explain the background.

On “The Cradle to Cradle Portal” I post articles that I find all over the internet, in their entirety, while also mentioning the author and original source. The person who wrote the email is correct to point out that I did not ask for permission. I never ask.

Having said that, the reason why I am frustrated is because of this person's position on information and education which I think is a morally weak one. This person only believes in spreading his information through his website. I disagree with this notion. Education should be spread freely.

Here is a portion of the email:

“We appreciate the sharing of information, but the method you use does still amount to copyright infringement as you copied the entire post. By copying the entire article you take any benefit we receive from creating, and paying for, this original content.”

If you notice carefully, the argument he uses is a legal one and not a moral one. Copyright infringement is a legal issue. Plagiarism, however, is a moral issue, but one this person could not mention because I gave credit to the original author.

If you look at the second sentence, it talks about the benefits that they do not receive from writing the article. This point is correct. Some people will not click on the “original article” link because they have read the entire article on my site. The problem I have with this position is that, again, they do not want to freely spread information. Their main goal is not to inform and educate the public because if it were, they would love for people to re-post their articles. However, it is not, they want their BENEFITS. Therefore, they believe in sharing their information so long it is through their website. This is a morally weak position that does great injustice to the field of education.

Book and Grad School

My internships are supposed to end this month, but I do not have concrete plans on what to do afterwards. The two obvious possibilities that present themselves are finding another job here in DC or going back home.

Ideally, I would find a paying job in the environmental field in DC so I would not have to relocate.  Actually, I have recently applied to a job here with the National League of Cities which is a non-profit that represents the municipalities of America. The position would require me to research and write about best sustainability practices that different cities have implemented. The position is paid and includes reimbursement of basic health care coverage. For me in my current state, I do not believe that I could possibly find a better opportunity as this which, of course, makes me doubt that I will actually attain this position.

If that opportunity falls through, then I have the option of going back to LA and finding some mundane job so that I could save up money. This is not entirely negative however;  being at home has a couple of  advantages. For example, I would have home cooked meals every day which would free up my time to maybe start a new project.

Speaking of a new project, recently, I have been entertaining the idea of writing a book about how to be a tyrant. I have always been fascinated by this topic and I thought that it would be beneficial to develop my study of it. To be clear, the purpose of this book is not to create modern day tyrants, on the contrary, it is to enlighten the common man of the rules of oppression so that he is more readily prepared to fight against them. I think this book would provide an interesting perspective into the discourse of power and control. Instead of writing about how people can be freed, I will write about how they can be enslaved.

Another idea that I am entertaining right now is going back to school to attain my Masters degree. There are two schools in Germany that I would apply to next year if I decide to follow through. Not very many, I am aware, but it is better to study something you enjoy than not. The reason why I choose Germany over America is because one, I like the country, and two, the cost of education is significantly lower. I find the tuition fees here in America to be utterly ridiculous and unacceptable. There would be no way for me to pay for the costs without accumulating debt and I REFUSE to accumulate debt! There is not much worse than having one's limbs bounded by the shackles of monetary necessity. I have already decided to dedicate my life to the improvement of mankind and seeing how difficult it is to be wealthy while undertaking this cause makes me believe that I would live forever in debt if I were to study here.

Governments and War

In this excerpt from Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, Paine speaks out in favor of republics and against monarchies and aristocracies.

It is attributed to Henry IV of France, a man of an enlarged and benevolent heart, that he proposed about the year 1620 a plan for abolishing war in Europe. The plan consisted in constituting a European congress or, as the French authors style it, a pacific republic, by appointing delegates from the several nations, who were to act as a court of arbitration in any disputes that might arise between nation and nation.

Had such a plan been adopted at the time it was proposed, the taxes of England and France, as two of the parties, would have been at least ten millions sterling annually, to each nation, less than they were at the commencement of the French revolution.

To conceive a cause why such a plan has not been adopted (and that instead of a congress for the purpose of preventing war, it has been called only to terminate a war after a fruitless expense of several years) it will be necessary to consider the interest of governments as a distinct interest to that of nations.

Whatever is the cause of taxes to a nation becomes also the means of revenue to a government. Every war terminates with an addition of taxes, and consequently with an addition of revenue; and in any event of war, in the manner they are now commenced and concluded, the power and interest of governments are increased. War, therefore, from its productiveness, as it easily furnishes the pretense of necessity for taxes and appointments to places and offices, becomes the principal part of the system of old governments; and to establish any mode to abolish war, however advantageous it might be to nations, would be to take from such government the most lucrative of its branches. The frivolous matter upon which war is made show the disposition and avidity of governments to uphold the system of war, and betray the motives upon which they act.

Why are not republics plunged into war, but because the nature of their government does not admit of an interest distinct from that of the nation? Even Holland, though an ill-constructed republic, and with a commerce extending over the world, existed nearly a century without war; and the instant the form of government was changed in France, the republican principles of peace and domestic prosperity and economy arose with the new government; and the same consequences would follow the same causes in other nations.

As war is the system of government on the old construction, the animosity which nations reciprocally entertain, is nothing more than what the policy of their government excite to keep up the spirit of the system. Each government accuses the other of perfidy, intrigue, and ambition as a means of heating the imagination of their respective nations, and incensing them to hostilities. Man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of government. Instead therefore of exclaiming against the ambition of kings, the exclamation should be directed against the principle of such governments; and instead of seeking to reform the individual, the wisdom of a nation should apply itself to reform the system.


How interesting that what Paine says for monarchies and aristocracies could be a fitting description for our current “democratic” system!

Passion and Motivation

I watched a very thought provoking video recently about what motivates people. The speaker cites multiple studies in which they assign people tasks and reward good performance to see if people really were logical beings that behaved accordingly to their economic benefit. What they found was that this was not always the case. It turns out that for mechanical tasks, incentivising good performance worked great, but for tasks that required conceptual, creative thinking, monetary rewards did not work.

According to the speaker, money IS a motivator; if people are not paid enough, they will not be motivated, but as stated previously, money does not lead to the best performance when it comes to creative tasks. Therefore, the best strategy would be to pay workers enough so that they do not need to worry about money. Moving beyond that, there are three factors that lead to better performance: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy is the freedom to do whatever you want. Mastery is the urge to get better at something. And purpose is the reason why you are doing what you are doing (hopefully a positive one).

I completely agree with this speaker. I have always strongly believed that money is not the right motivator (in the work place and in life). Deeper factors like autonomy, mastery and purpose are what people need to be motivated. Furthermore, I believe there is an innate need for people to be creative and productive, to see self-improvement and self-actualization.

I am extremely interested in this aspect of the human psyche and what makes humans humans. This is one of the reasons why I ask people what their dream job is, that is, the job they would do for free. I would love to be able to bring out the human in people, turn us back from robots and into the creative and passionate beings we are!

My interest in this topic began in college when I studied political theory. Specifically, there was one text by Marx called “Alienated Labor” which sparked my curiosity. The text basically said that humans, under capitalism, are alienated from their labor because we are just working for money and not because we want to. Under capitalism, we work to live when we are supposed to live to work. He compared humans under capitalism to animals which do things to survive. When they build shelter, it is because they need somewhere to sleep. They need THIS, so they do THAT. But humans do things just because we want to! There is something innate in us that makes us different from other animals this way. He calls it our species being, this natural characteristic of just doing things because we want to (not a perfect analogy in my opinion). Under this species being, we are connected with our labor. We make something because we want to and therefore, it is connected with us. It is the fruit of our labor and we enjoy it afterwards.

My analysis of this text was basically a rewording of Marx's words. I believe what he meant to say was that humans are different from animals because we have passion. Passion is what separates us! It is what makes us unique. Ever since reading that text I have kept passion in such an important place in my life philosophy.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that we abolish capitalism. All I am saying is that I agree with the speaker's point that deep factors lead to motivation. The reason why I mentioned passion is because the presentation reminded me of it. In fact, passion and motivation are actually quite similar. Maybe the former is a deeper version of the latter, I do not know. I leave that thought till another day.

My Life Continues

A lot has happened in my life since the last time I wrote an entry. I decided to end my Cradle to Consumer project because I felt like it was not going anywhere. It was a sad decision to make, but ultimately I am sure it was for the best. Around the time I decided to end Cradle to Consumer, I came up with an idea for another project, a website to be exact. The purpose of this website is to be the central source for cradle to cradle related news and I am happy to say that I bought a custom domain for it yesterday. www.c2cportal.net

I sent the link to a few people who work for McDonough and they all responded with positive comments. In fact, a project manager at MBDC asked me if I wanted to get on a conference call with them so that they could give me some feedback. As you can imagine, I was thrilled to receive this email and literally yelled out loud. After the thought of actually speaking with them sank in, I began to feel afraid because I did not know what they were going to say. It was very possible that their comments were going to be negative.

I am relieved to say that we had the conference call yesterday and that it was positive. Long story short, they thanked me for my ongoing support and told me that they liked the website. What is really amazing is that they also told me they would bring me into the formal loop so that I would get news before it was officially released. In general, I was happy about the conference call even though it made me feel unsatisfied with my life. Let me explain.

The conference call reminded me that I have not yet done anything great in my life. This bothers me tremendously. One of the main reasons why I have not done anything great is because people cannot see the potential within me. They want me to show them pieces of paper to prove to them that I am capable of doing something. Well I do not like the fact that I need pieces of paper; my passion and intelligence should be enough! I know that what I am saying is not very reasonable and yet I am still saying it.

I want to do great things now, I KNOW I can do great things now and I do not want to wait till tomorrow.

I would like to mention one other thing before I end this entry. My recent experiences have made me realize that things that seem purposeless in the beginning might not remain that way in the future and therefore, one should not hold oneself back from doing something just because one thinks it is pointless at that time. If I were to have had a different attitude than what I had when I decided to start my projects, I would not have started them and therefore, would most likely not have gotten into contact with the c2c people. Admittedly, my projects still have not brought about anything great, not to forget I just wrote about how I am unsatisfied with my life, but all that aside, I am closer to my dream because of them.

My Story

First, I should say that I've wanted to save the world ever since high school. But unlike now, at that time, I didn't know how I wanted to do it, I just knew I wanted to make a difference. I decided to major in politics to see where that would take me, but eventually I decided I didn't want to pursue it. I don't regret choosing that major however, as it taught me many enlightening things. In fact, it was responsible for much of my intellectual growth.

Towards the end of my study, I started to get interested in the environment because I decided that it was the basic necessity for mankind's existence, the bottom of Maslov's hierarchy of needs if you will. But what field in environmentalism I didn't know at the time so I started to read about a variety of green topics including food, energy and policy. Every field I learned about was very interesting and the more I learned, the more it became clear to me that this is what I wanted to do.

Then one day, I watched a TED talk given by William McDonough on Cradle to Cradle design which blew me away. To be honest, I didn't think too much about it at first, I just thought it was a cool idea. It wasn't until I started thinking more about environmentalism that I realized how important the c2c philosophy was. Currently, I believe it is the best green philosophy due to it's focus on being good and not less bad.

Having decided to focus on c2c, I started to learn everything I could about it. I watched every video and read every article. Through my research I learned of a city called Venlo in the Netherlands and how this little town was trying to implement c2c. After some thought, I decided to take a leap and contact the people who were some of the key players in the movement there. And to my surprise, one of them actually responded and invited me to meet him in Venlo.

Naturally I was very excited about this invitation, but I thought to myself that it would be crazy if I actually went there even though I was in Germany at the time looking for a job. But after careful consideration, I concluded that I had to go because a life spent not chasing after your dream is not one worth living.

Overall, the trip was interesting but less than ideal. I was hoping that I could find a way to contribute to the movement, but the only advice that I received when I was there was to become an entrepreneur. Hearing that advice dampened my spirit because I am anything but a businessman - I'm not a person who cares much for money. And so, I left Venlo contemplating again what I should do with my life. The thought of not pursuing c2c looped in my mind over and over.

I spent countless hours trying to figure out how I could help and eventually came up with Cradle to Consumer. I have no idea where this project will take me, but I will continue to develop it as long as possible.

This project is a manifestation of my dream to save the world.

Two New Internships

Yesterday was the first day of my two new internships. My boss from the green consulting firm picked me up at 9:15am to go to the company for which we were going to do an assessment. The company makes compression hosiery which is something that people with bad circulation wear.

Their office was typical; they had some single office rooms and some cubicles. Everything was in the basement level so there weren't any windows which exacerbated their indoor air quality problem. In fact, there was a stench in the office that hit me immediately after walking in and I assume it came from their large stock of hosiery in the back room.

We started by asking them basic questions about their operations. Do they recycle? Do they buy green products? etc. The lady that was responsible for us kindly answered all the questions she could. After that, we went to every room to see what kind of electronics they were using and so forth.

When I was going through the office, I was thinking of all the green products that they could use; of course cradle to cradle was going through my mind. Generally speaking, they did not use any green products (the only exception was their mail packages which were USPS priority mail). Nevertheless, they seemed honest about everything and sincere in their interests of going green which added to the positive experience.

The assessment took about 2 ½ hours so I thought it was quite extensive. To be clear, we were focusing on the operations of the business and not on their product. Doing a life cycle assessment of their hosiery would require a separate organization and significant additional time.

After everything was complete, I left directly to go to the Responsible Purchasing Network.

My first day at RPN was quite slow; I met my co-workers and was assigned a desk. I did, however, learn about a current project they are working on which is actually very interesting. They are putting together a chart which explains how purchasing green products can be used to attain LEED credits. I will probably be finalizing this project.

One of RPN's main tasks is to compile purchasing guides for their members. They currently have around 15, all of them focusing on specific categories of products. They mentioned to me that their next one might be about green furniture so I hope I will be able to contribute to that.

Overall, my first day was good. I cannot wait to see how I develop myself in these two internships. I am hoping that what I am seeing now is the beginning of my career.

On Consumption and Development

I believe that there are two parallel movements that should happen simultaneously: one is reducing consumption and the other is cradle to cradle. At first glance, these two movements seem to be opposing because one denounces consumption while the other does not. Given how consumption is designed today, this observation is correct. However, they do not have to be opposing in the future.

If our society can truly be cradle to cradle, then consumption would be ok because everything would be in closed loop cycles, but until that day has arrived, consumption will continue to be bad and therefore should be reduced.

Another thing that I want to make clear is that I am not against development. I am only against how it is designed today in a specific context. This is a little different from a common negative attitude towards development that many environmentalists have. Many of them are against it in general and believe that primitivism is the ideal. I disagree with this notion. I do not think that primitivism is the answer because it is against people trying to extend their lives. Under primitivism, modern medicine and technology would not exist and as a result, people would die much earlier. Unless we think that using our intelligence to ward off death is not ok, primitivism is not the answer.

However, there is a way to be against development and not be a primitivist - which is the stance I believe environmentalist should take - and that is to be against luxuries. We must keep in mind that there is a difference between what is development in first world countries and development in third world countries. Development in the United States means Iphones and BMW's, while development for Africa means vaccines and safe drinking water. Therefore, I think it is a just stance to be against development when it is in the former case.

In summary, I believe the best stance on consumption and development is to be against luxuries until they become cradle to cradle.

Machiavelli and Iraq

The following is a passage from Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy.

...the method is to be noted of how a divided City ought to have its order restored, which is none other than to kill the leaders of the tumults, and it is not otherwise to be cured, and it is necessary to take one of three ways: either to kill them as the Romans did, or to remove them from the City, or for them to make peace together under an obligation not to offend each other again. Of these three methods this last is the most harmful, less certain, and more useless; for it is impossible where much blood has run or other similar injuries inflicted that a peace made by force should endure; for seeing themselves together face to face each day, it is difficult that they should abstain from injuring each other, as new causes for quarrel can arise among themselves because of their intercourse every day.

I want to discuss the uselessness that results from the holding of towns by having a divided government. First it is impossible for a Prince or a Republic to maintain both old parties. For, by nature it is given to men to take sides in any difference of opinion, and for them to prefer the one more than the other. So that, having one party of the town discontented, the first occasion of war will cause you to lose it, for it is impossible to guard a City that has enemies outside and inside. If it is a government of a Republic, there is no better way to make your citizens bad, and to make your City divided, than to have a division of parties in the City; for each side seeks to obtain aid, and by corruption of every king to make friends for themselves. So that two very great evils arise. The one, that you do not make friends of them because you are not able to govern well, often changing the government, now with one humor, now with another. The other, that such favoring of parties of necessity keeps your Republic divided.


The first thought that came to my mind was how this passage relates to the situation in Iraq with regard to the Sunnis and the Shiites. It would seem that according to Machiavelli, the US should remove one sect so that there may be peace. What concerns me however is that there is no mention of morality anywhere in the passage; the fundamental question of the right to make that decision is not even brought up. It is my belief that any action that might hurt others should always be preceded with the consideration of morality.

The second thought that I considered was the applicability of this passage to the situation in Iraq. It is likely that what Machiavelli had in mind when writing this passage was different from what Iraq is experiencing now. Seeing how I know very little about Iraq and its history, I can not comment any further on the passage's applicability.

My final thought is that it would be very cruel to apply the first method and that it should be attempted last, if at all. One would hope that exiling the second party or allowing them to create their own state would suffice. Furthermore, it seems to me that the third method would actually be ideal, but the fact that it is the least effective I am willing to accept.

Ken

The next person I would like to introduce is Ken. Ken and I met because of a video game in high school, so I met him relatively recently in comparison to my other best friends. Despite this, he and I quickly grew close because of our commonalities.

The first thing I want to point out is that his thoughts and actions are very different from any other of my friends which is actually very odd given our environment. I shall explain what I mean by this.

The people who live where I grew up do not care about the world. I am sure there are exceptions to this statement, but I believe this is the case generally. This complemented by the tendency to stay close to home, strengthens the continuance of their indifference. I think it is safe to say that UCSC greatly shaped the way I am today. My experience there showed me another side of life in America and so I can only assume that I would be more like my high school classmates if I had stayed close to home.

Having said that, my best friend Ken is a perfect example of one of the exceptions. He is a person who has stayed in a bubble practically his entire life, but his personality does not reflect that. He is a person who greatly cares about the world and whose sense of morality shines brighter than any other person I know. To be clear, I am not saying that my other best friends do not care about the world, I am saying that Ken cares the most.

Of all of my friends, I deem him to have the most potential. Anyone who meets him would realize that he is extremely intelligent. If he were to focus his energy on developing himself, he would be able to do amazing things. 

The last thing I want to point out is his honesty and realism. He is a person who hates to mislead people and is not afraid to say things that other people are cautious to say. His directness acts like a breath of fresh air that we all need from time to time.

I can not wait to see what he makes of himself.

Angeline

In writing this series of introductions, I have realized that it is difficult to attribute specific developments to specific people in my life. I assume it is because the combined influence of everyone around me has shaped me the way I am. However, there is one person who I believe is specifically responsible for a large part of my development and that person is my sister, Angeline Chen. I would like to state here that I was not born with any special gifts; any skills that I have right now have been attained through work and study. And the source of my study, the reason why I even started to truly learn was because of the direct actions of my sister when I was in high school.

I was like most high school students; I only wanted to hang out with friends and play video games. The problems of the world were completely out of mind and I think it is safe to say that I might still be indifferent if it weren't for my sister giving me books to read. Those books made me open my eyes to more issues and philosophies, and although reading those books did not specifically make me the person I am today, they are the original source. Therefore, I am forever grateful to my sister.

It should be said that she was not always like this. In fact, our relationship was largely absent before I was in high school and I attribute this to our age difference of 9 years. When she matured, she probably realized that she needed to play a more important role in my life.

She continues to be a person who I look to for advice.

Silver Lining

My draining search for paid employment has finally come to an end; I have recently been hired to teach English at Lado International College. I went to check out the school yesterday and it was smaller than the previous school where I worked at, but it seemed like a comfortable place to teach. Unlike my previous students, my new students are going to be mostly Latino so I think it will be an interesting experience for me. I start this Thursday.

Another aspect of my life that may turn out fruitful is a new internship. There is an organization called the Responsible Purchasing Network which helps businesses go green by offering consulting services, information and networking opportunities. A large portion of their efforts goes into researching green products and they are looking for an intern to help them do just that. I had a successful phone interview with them a couple of days ago and I am going in tomorrow for an in person one. Having the opportunity to work there would be unbelievable; I would be such a perfect intern.

The last thing I want to add is a progress report of my Cradle to Consumer side project. Generally speaking, it has been going well. I now have about 10 videos, three of which have received over 100 views. I know that does not sound like much, but taking into consideration how few people I know and how specific the topic is, it is actually considerable. Furthermore, random people have been adding me on Facebook because of my project so I am happy to see that there is a small following of Cradle to Cradle products.

Machiavelli Quote

To reconstitute political life in a state presupposes a good man, whereas to have recourse to violence in order to make oneself prince in a republic supposes a bad man. Hence very rarely will there be found a good man ready to use bad methods in order to make himself prince, though with a good end in view. Nor will any reasonable man blame him for taking any action, however extraordinary, which may be of service in the organizing of a kingdom or the constituting of a republic.

It is a sound maxim that reprehensible actions may be justified by their effects, and that when the effect is good, it always justifies the action. For it is the man who uses violence to spoil things, not the man who uses it to mend them, that is blameworthy. A prince should therefore disregard the reproach of being thought cruel where it enables him to keep his subjects united and loyal. For he who quells disorder by a very few signal examples will in the end be more merciful than he who from too great leniency permits things to take their course and so result in chaos and bloodshed; for these hurt the whole state, whereas the severities of the prince injures individuals only. It is essential therefore, for a prince who desires to maintain his position, to have learned how to be other than good, and to use or not use his goodness as necessity requires.

Everyone sees what you seem to be, but few know what you are.

Disappointed Fan

There was a Howard Zinn tribute earlier tonight at a cafe called Busboys and Poets and guest speakers included Amy Goodman and Ralph Nader. As you can imagine, I was very excited to attend this event. I brought all of my camera equipment because I wanted to record them speaking and luckily, I ended up getting a good seat with enough space to set up my tripod.

As I was recording their speeches, I kept thinking to myself how I was going to approach Nader. The entire event took about 3 hours so I had to wait until the end before I could talk to him.

He was sitting at a table with a couple of other people and I waited until he seemed free. I asked if I could ask him a couple of questions and get a picture with him. He said that he had to meet with someone else, but I could get a picture. Immediately after he agreed, other people started talking to him and I thought I was going to lose my chance, so I waited again. After waiting 5 minutes, I got the opportunity to pose with him, but before the person who had the camera could take the picture, Nader asked if it was possible to not use the flash because it hurt his eyes. So the person did not use the flash and the picture came out almost pitch black. Right after the picture was taken, more people started talking to him so I did not even have the chance to say that he was one of my idols.

This entire experience has left me extremely disappointed. Almost everything just went wrong! But I have to say that the most disappointing thing that happened was the hesitant impression that he gave me. I guess I just expected him to be more friendly.

What I take from this experience is that I need to learn how to be more aggressive. Everyone else was taking the initiative; I was being pushed around and walked all over. Another thing I take from this is that everyone, even great people, are at the end just people, like you and me.

Joseph

Living across the street from me was another one of my best friends, Joseph. I do not remember when we met, but I believe we went to the same elementary school for maybe a year or two. Again, like my other friends, he did not, for the most part, attend the same schools as I did; he spent most of his childhood in Taiwan because his father lived there. He did, however, go to high school in America, although in a different city. After that, he attended UCR and I UCSC.

One thing I would like to note is his strong ties with his ancestry. Of all of my friends, he is the closest with his ethnic roots; I assume this is due to his spending many years in Taiwan. The reason why I mention this is so that you may better understand the social and cultural environment in which I grew up. The majority of my city's population is ethnically Asian with a large number, if not most, being immigrants. My generation, the first generation Americans, have mostly assimilated to American culture and with that, have lost the majority of our connections with our ancestry.

Another thing I want to point out is his conversion to Christianity. I do not remember any mention of religion when we were children and so I was very surprised when I found out that he had become a devout Christian. I want to mention here that I am not religious, but I am nevertheless very tolerant of people who are. This acceptance is a direct result of the positive impressions that I have received from Joseph of Christianity. He is currently the most religious person I know.

Joseph is also the most industrious of all of my friends. This characteristic of his I greatly admire. He is occupied everyday from morning till night, constantly doing something. Sadly, I cannot say the same for myself.

The last and most important point I would like to make is that Joseph is one of the very few people with whom I can have logical and productive debates. Because of the importance of such debates to me and because very few people enjoy having them, it is very difficult for me to make new close friends. This loneliness that I experience when I am away from home only makes me cherish even more my time with childhood friends. The more experience I gain in life, the more I realize how irreplaceable these types of friendships are.

Guiding Philosophy

For the past few years, I have lived my life according to a philosophy which has determined my actions in regards to my quest to improve the world. Although this simple philosophy is very logical, I believe it is a common error of man to disregard it. Therefore, in order to give others a suggestion and for you to better understand me, I find it fitting to explain what this guiding principle consists of.

When it comes to deciding what one's actions should be in regards to improving the world, three things should be considered: the importance of a problem, the most effective way to solve that problem, and one's skills and passions. It is my belief that efforts to solve a problem should be proportionate to the size of that problem. This, of course, does not mean that one should only attempt to solve one problem at a time, but rather that one's focus should be allocated well.

The second thing one should consider is which means will result in the greatest good. Seeing how there are multiple ways to solve a problem, some being more effective than others, I see no logical reason why one would not abide by this principle, unless of course, it were to conflict with the third factor, which is one's skills and passions.

Not everyone can solve the same problem equally well; we all have our strengths and weaknesses. This basic fact coupled with our interests greatly limits our potential. It is safe to say that if one were poorly equipped or lacked interest in solving a certain problem, it would be best if one's efforts were focused elsewhere.

Although these three principles are simple and logical, great difficulty lies in acting on them. Specifically, it is difficult to realize what all three are and then balance the first two with the third. But such is the journey of life!

Cradle to Consumer

Ever since I started doing research into Cradle to Cradle, I wanted to contribute to the movement somehow. I traveled many miles to meet some of the key players in hopes that one of them would provide me with an opportunity. I posted on many forums to ask other C2C enthusiasts if they had any suggestions for me. Unfortunately, neither of the above provided me with that chance.

After my journey to the Netherlands, I gave up hope that I could somehow further the development of C2C without being an entrepreneur. My mind for the past couple of months has been occupied with environmental policy and everyday worries; therefore, my C2C passion has been sitting idle in the background. This was true until a few days ago when I came up with an idea to make a series of videos in which I introduce C2C products. It was like an epiphany, it came out of nowhere and was quickly accompanied by euphoria. Three days later, I already had three videos uploaded onto the internet.

Although, I do not know how successful these videos will become, I nevertheless feel as if I can now make a difference with C2C. I believe my videos have a lot of potential due to their practicality. Furthermore, my situation here in DC actually provides me with a good advertising opportunity because many like-minded people work in the environmental movement.

I now have a more positive outlook on my life and I am looking forward to see how I and my videos will develop. The title of the video series is Cradle to Consumer.

Walter

The next person I would like to dedicate an entry to is Walter Yuan. Walter and I attended the same kindergarten and the same elementary school for about a year or two. He had to change schools because his family moved away, although I am not quite sure where. I must point out here that I do not remember most of my childhood. One of the reasons is because I have a bad memory and another is because my childhood was uneventful.

I do remember, however, that Walter used to go to my house after school on Fridays to play video games. That soon ended when the family moved away. I believe he went to junior high in Colorado and then high school in San Diego. So unlike Marlon, Walter was absent for most of my life and unfortunately, continues to be. Nevertheless, we always make time to see each other whenever I go home and because of this, I always feel as if he is near.

Another thing I would like to point out is Walter's creativity; he is the most creative of all of my friends. In my opinion, he has a natural talent in the field of art and I look forward to seeing his work every time I visit. His creativity coupled with his acute skill of working with his hands enables him to create art that even I can appreciate. I must say that I never knew Walter to be gifted in this way when we were young and so I was extremely surprised after he showed me his work for the first time.

He continues to be one of my best friends.

Marlon

Since these writings are intended to supplement my autobiography, I find it relevant that I dedicate one entry to each person who has had a significant influence in my life. This entry will be dedicated to one of my best friends, Marlon.

I first met Marlon maybe at the age of 6. I do not remember clearly how we met, but supposedly he came up to me one day when I was in front of my house and offered me a sticker. His house was 1 house away from mine and he continued to live there until university.

Growing up with him was an interesting experience because we never really attended the same school; his parents thought it was best for him to attend private school. We grew up near each other, but we were also far apart at the same time. Due to this situation, all the memories I have of Marlon are outside of school.

Till this day, this seemingly contradictory close/far relationship remains. I have spent the last 7 years away from home, but everytime I return, it is like I never left. Our friendship never fades. I could be away for many years, but when I come back I would still be able to share comfortable silence with him.

Of all the people that I know, I believe him to be the most pure; his heart is incorruptible. It is difficult to explain why I think this, I can only say that this conclusion is a product of years of being his friend.

I am certain that we will remain friends until the day we die.

Internal Struggle

Haiti was hit by a 7.0 earthquake yesterday, the largest earthquake in 200 years. Thousands are presumed to be dead. This event (and many others) make me reflect on my actions and on my potential actions. I know I can help by donating some money, but at the same time, it is difficult for me to reconcile that urge with the urge to be selfish, especially when I'm unemployed.

Furthermore, I am afraid of going down that slippery slope. Why not donate more? And why stop at the Haitian earthquake? I understand and accept that I will not be able to fight most problems, and in order to prevent myself from being emotionally distraught, I decided to focus on one issue and to largely ignore others. Whether or not this is a justification for my lack of action I do not know, but my initial feeling is that it is not.

Purpose of My Writings

Although it seems a bit late to explain what function I want my writings to serve, it, nevertheless, should be stated so that whoever reads them will better understand how I decided to live my life. In short, I want my writings to be a supplement to the autobiography which I will write in the future. Having my daily recordings will present in more detail all the interesting experiences and reflections that I have had. My autobiography, in contrast, will present a more general analysis of my life, hopefully written with the most perspective acquired from a lifetime of experience.

My writings here and my autobiography will be written with the utmost honesty and humility. I will attempt to leave no dream unmentioned, no lesson unexplained, and no mistake unannounced. I would like to show that I strived to live a life guided by morality.

Ecocradle

Finally, cradle to cradle styrofoam!

 

EcoCradle™ is a natural choice
EcoCradle™ packaging is literally grown, not manufactured. We use a growing organism to transform agricultural byproducts like cotton seed hulls and buck wheat hulls into a beautiful protective package. Our patented process is inspired by the efficiency of nature, and uses a filamentous fungi (mushroom roots) to bond this packaging into almost any shape.


EcoCradle™ protects your product and your planet
EcoCradle™ packaging provides the same cushioning, strength and protection as petrochemical based materials such as Styrofoam. But unlike Styrofoam, EcoCradle™ won’t persist in a landfill, or as litter, for an eternity. When you’re done with EcoCradle™, it can be tossed into your garden or compost pile, and EcoCradle™ is anaerobically compostable, so it won't persist in landfills.


Using EcoCradle™ in your garden
Using EcoCradle™ in your garden is a great way to add nutrients to your soil! Simply break EcoCradle™ into smaller pieces, toss it in your soil and water. Using EcoCradle™ as a mulch helps your garden retain moisture.


Composting EcoCradle™
Composting EcoCradle™ is a breeze! Just toss it into your composter or compost pile and wait. To move the process along faster, break EcoCradle™ into smaller pieces.


Throwing EcoCradle™ away
Throwing EcoCradle™ away is an environmentally friendly choice because unlike petroleum based products, EcoCradle™ will decompose in landfill conditions within a short period of time. 


Find out more at http://www.ecovativedesign.com/

Natural and Civil Rights

An excerpt from Thomas Paine's Rights of Man in which he distinguishes between natural rights and civil rights.

Natural rights are those which always appertain to man in right of his existence. Of this kind are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind, and also all those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the rights of others. Civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society. Every civil right has for its foundation some natural right pre-existing in the individual, but to which his individual power is not, in all cases, sufficiently competent. Of this kind are all those which relate to security and protection.

From this short review it will be easy to distinguish between that class of natural rights which man retains after entering into society and those which he throws into common stock as a member of society.

The natural rights which he retains are all those in which the power to execute is as perfect in the individual as the right itself. Among this class, as is before mentioned, are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind: consequently, religion is one of those rights. The natural rights which are not retained are all those in which, though the right is perfect in the individual, the power to execute them is defective. They answer not his purpose. A man, by natural right, has a right to judge in his own cause; and so far as the right of the mind is concerned, he never surrenders it: but what availeth it him to judge, if he has not power to redress? He therefore deposits this right in the common stock of society, and takes the arm of society, of which he is a part, in preference and in addition to his own. Society grants him nothing. Every man is a proprietor in society, and draws on the capital as a matter of right. 

From these premises, two or three certain conclusions will follow.

1st, that every civil right grows out of a natural right; or, in other words, is a natural right exchanged.

2nd, that civil power, properly considered as such, is made up of the aggregate of that class of the natural rights of man which becomes defective in the individual in point of power, and answers not his purpose, but when collected to a focus, becomes competent to the purpose of everyone.

3rd, that the power produced by the aggregate of natural rights, imperfect in power in the individual, cannot be applied to invade the natural rights which are retained in the individual, and in which the power to execute is as perfect as the right itself.

Fiction

It should be stated here that I do not read fiction. I am not exactly sure how this came to be, but I assume it was because I was never really fond of reading. When I started to read in university, my mind was kept occupied with books related to political theory, all of which were non-fiction. Needless to say I became infatuated with the subject and decided to dedicate most of my academic time to furthering my understanding of it. This, it seems, has led me to the situation in which I do not consider fiction; there is simply too much non-fiction to read.

It may seem to a third person that I undervalue fiction, an observation I would completely agree with. I do not, however, believe it is pointless. In fact, my favorite quote was written by George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright. The wisdom he used to write the quote can only be manifested in all of his works and I fully admit that it is the fault of mine to not have read them.

However, I do believe that, in general, non-fiction is more for education and the other more for entertainment. When I want to develop my mental capacities, I do not look towards fiction to provide that need. I believe I am undervaluing a great deal of literature, but this is nevertheless how I feel. I await the day when I have the epiphany of realizing the worth of fiction.

Having said the above, it would seem that I do not read for the sole purpose of being entertained, which is absolutely correct. However, it is worthy of noting that I have recently discovered a book in which self-written personal stories of sex workers are presented. I have read about half of the book and I must say that I find the stories very entertaining. This has been one of the very few books that I have wanted to read simply due to enjoyment. Maybe after I acquire the habit of reading for fun can I then move onto fiction.