Thursday, April 30, 2009

something more serious than swine flu

As this whole swine flu "crisis" spirals out of control I can't help but feel sort of hopeless with mankind. In the past 6 days we have seen countries all over the world closing their borders to Mexico, cancelling flights, closing schools and businesses, and dedicating hours upon hours of riveting media coverage to the sitation. It's really incredible the extent that people have acted--and how quickly. Which is why I feel like we are all a little deluded.

I am a little ashamed that people have reacted to strongly to a virus that hasn't actually affected that many people in the grand scheme of things, especially as the there are many much more serious situations that are largely ignored. The one that weighs the heaviest on me is the war in Darfur. Since it began, there have been as many as 675,000 deaths--murders I should say as it is actually a genocide, and more than 5.5 million people have been displaced.

I will be honest, I did not know the extent of this terrible situation until I read the book What is the What, which is the story of Valentino Achak Deng who was a refugee of the Sudanese civil war in the 80's and 90's. Although his story mainly takes place before the current war in Darfur, it gives a heartwrenching account of how and why the whole conflict began in the first place. All of the proceeds from the book help to fund the The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation and to aid the Sudanese in both American and Sudan. Their website has so much information about the war, and also about how people can volunteer. Another very good organization is World Vision, which focuses on sponsoring children.

I also recently read this comment on a blog post:

I taped a map of North Africa over my bed and studiedDarfur. The war appeared in the media in 2004 but it had begun in the 1890s when the English drew borders that boxed the Arab north and African south inside the same nation now known as Sudan. The English developed the north but left the south a desert. After Sudan gained its independence in 1956, the Arabs saw themselves a degree better than the Africans, and since then both have fought over the identity of the nation. In between the rounds of war, old rituals continued. Each season, Arab herders drove cattle tothe southern region of Darfur, where Fur, Masaaleit and Zaghawa tribes welcomed them. The cattle fertilized soil and helped carry supplies. In 2003, adrought in the North dried wells, turning earth to sand and forcing Arab herders south. They wanted more than grazing for cattle; they wanted new land. Rifles were handed out to African tribesmen. Anger crystallized into rebel groups, among them the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and EqualityMovement. After the rebels raided a military outpost,the Arab dominated government, flush with oil money, bought weapons for the Arab herders creating a militia we now know as the Janjaweed. They galloped into villages; shooting men down, ripping women apart, stuffing bodies into wells or ravines. Refugees fled to the neighboring nations of Chad and the Central African Republic. In the years that followed, 2.5million people were driven from their homes and up to 255,000 were killed.

I hope that more and more people become aware of this situation and talk about it. Something needs to be done soon.

I guess the whole point of this post is to communicate my frustration with how the media selectively covers stories, and blows them out of proportion or leaves them out altogether. We rely on them to let us know what's going on in the world, and they rely on us to get in a tizzy and panic when they say we should. There are a lot more important and serious things going on right now than the swine flu--at least for the flu there are vaccinations and anti-virals. But what vaccine can we give the people of Darfur to save them from the misery they endure every single day?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This Weekend

Why oh why does the weekend go by so fast? I really shouldn't complain, because I just had three weeks off from my "job" and I leave again for Spain this Saturday. So I wont complain, I'll just point out the Saturday and Sunday go by much more quickly than all the others.

The big-bad-visa-application. That's a two inch binder there. I am so ready to get this thing out of my life! And I'm in luck, because I will be applying and sending it off the day after I get back from Spain, so if you would please pray, cross your fingers and knock on wood for me it would be much appreciated. I'm still yo-yoing between optimism and despair about the whole thing. And then I think to myself, I am busting my a$$ to live in a country where I have to learn to drive a stick shift on the other side of the road. A country where you have to apply for a license to have a tv in your house. A country where there is no Mexican food. A country that has rules against having electrical outlets in your bathroom. Ah, but they speak English, and the have fish n chips, and PUBS, and charming elderly people who drink milky tea, and quaint villages and cities to explore, and Easy Jet!!!!!, and most importantly Sam. I'm so excited, but it still doesn't seem real at all.

Now, onto a completely different topic, I have in my possession the first book of the Twilight series. If reading these is anything like reading Harry Potter was for me, then I probably will not be doing much posting in the near future--or really anything else. I adamantly refused to read Harry Potter, they seemed so dumb, but oh my goodness, I loved them. Perhaps partly because I read them when I was living in Taiwan and needed a nice fairy-tale land to escape to in order to maintain my sanity, but also because they are so enchanting. They are so easy and sweet--I bet that they haven't been described as sweet before, but they were to me. So I have been hearing about these Twilight books for a while now, and instead of saying I would never read them, I said I would read them when the fickle finger of fate deemed it appropriate. The time has come.

Something really weird happened here, the entire thing just turned into a link to the picture I posted. I can't figure out how to make it go away so I'll just leave it. Good grief.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

who to believe

I just had an interesting conversation with my friend Leslie about the FDA and food regulations, and what's safe to eat and what's not. It lead to a broader conversation about how to weed through all the information out there to find out the truth about things. Thanks to the internet you can find out almost anything immediately. For instance, when my soon to be in-laws were in town, we were trying to figure out the weather in both farenheit and celcius. Gail went for the dictionary and and found the equation I went straight to Google and printed out a 3 page chart of conversions.

There's just so much information, and I find it frustrating. How do you find out what's actually true--which organization or website do you believe, and why do you believe it over myriad others stating opposing facts? I received an email the other day about the dangers of drinking water from plastic bottles that have been left in the heat. Almost as soon as I sent it my inbox was flooded with responses including links to websites that both disputed and supported this information, as well as emails from friends saying thanks for sharing. So basically, this did nothing for me, I still don't know if it's safe or not, and how can I?

I personally believe most of the things we ingest, whether proven safe or harmful, probably each contribute in some miniscule way to health problems. Sometimes I don't rinse an apple before eating it--the horror! Is this going to cause cancer, probably not. But it could be a contributing factor along with using skin cream that is not all-natural, and heating my leftover maccaroni in a plastic container, and sitting near a smoker in a bar, and eating a hamburger that is not organic and talking on my cell phone, and drinking a coke and so on and so forth. And these are things I simply cannot worry about when I have to do things like pay bills and apply for a resident visa in another country and drive an hour to work everyday. Of course we should not be careless, and should avoid harmful things when we can--which is why it's important to know what even is harmful.

This particular issue, the watter bottle issue, is not that big of a deal to me, but others are. Political issues, for example, are more important to me. I do not want to know only the liberal's or conservative's point of view, I want to know the truth, and I fear that I rarely am exposed to the truth through the media. Does the US really supply 90% of guns to Mexico, or does it supply 90% percent of the traced guns which is only about 60% of the total. Hmmm. Who actually knows the answer? Who is the ultimate decider? And why do we trust these people so much anyway, they could tell us anything.

My personal conclusion is that you have to take it all into account, ponder it all and then forget about it. If anyone knows of any 100% reliable websites that are confirmed by other 100% reliable websites with information pertaining to anything beneficial to me please let me know.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I am wondering why people still don't recycle. Oh wait, I already know the answer to that. Because it's so inconvenient. In most neighborhoods STILL there are no recycling programs, no truck comes by to pick it up. Well why not I ask you? And who do I need to talk to about this?

At my house we recycle cans, glass, plastic and paper. But we have to do it ourselves. Which means that once every bin is overflowing and we can't park cars in the garage anymore, it's time to take the recycling in. This requires stopping by three different places, in three different parts of town to get everything where it needs to go. This is annoying. But it's well worth the effort in my opinion. And it doesn't actually take that much time, especially if we work it in when we are going by those places anyway.

The interesting thing is that by recycling there is so much less trash, so the number of garbage cans out by our curb is fewer than before. It seems like if everyone recycled, people would be putting out less trash and fewer garbage trucks would need to go around. So the conclusion I come to is that maybe some of those garbage trucks would be able to pick up some recycling every other week. Of course it wouldn't be as easy as that, but come on! It can't be that hard either.

And while I'm at it, why don't fast food restaurants (for a start) recycle either? Wouldn't it just take like three different trash cans? One for paper, one for plastic and one for gross food leftovers? In Taiwan, every business and residence was required to recycle. When we went to McDonalds we separated our trash. It took all of 10 seconds. And our apartment building had one entire room devoted to collecting and separating recycling. Why in Taiwan but not here? In California, some companies get tax incentives for having their employees work from home so they use less gas and so the roads are less congested. Why not in Houston--the traffic is horrific? In England, even the most remote hamlets have recycling trucks come by every other week. Why not in Tomball?

I don't want to sound overly enthusiastic about this, but I do urge each person to live a more responsible life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


My future in-laws were just here for a week, and we had an extremely pleasant time. We did a little road trip and they were able to meet lots of family and friends. They got on famously with my parents and we all had a jolly-good time.

If you're from Texas, or if you live here, I am sure that at some point in time you have probably had a conversation that goes something like this;

"So, where are you from."
"Oh, I hate texas. So did you vote for Bush or what? Isn't Texas just a big desert?"

There are several variations of this conversation, and you usually get a pretty good idea of how ignorant the person asking is. Well, in my travels I have had many conversations along these lines. I actually had a conversation with a guy (not in a mental hospital surprisingly) who said he hated Texas, especially Houston, it was a horrible place, but he had never been here. What an idiot. I find it sad that Texas has such a bad rap. Yes, there are places in Texas that are not that great--Houston for instance, and there are people who are not that great--as much as I'd like to name a few I will refrain. The key is who you are in Texas with, and whether or not they know of the good places to visit. Since I do actually have a degree in Tourism I may as well use it, even if it is just on my blog as a post that is mostly just making fun of myself.

This post will serve as a tutorial on how to make your visitors like Texas (a prerequisite is that the person doing the showing is not boring). First off, try and get them to come during a nice time of year, this is tricky as you simply never know. Go for late spring or early fall, when you have a better chance of being able to predict the weather, and chances are it wont be too hot or too cold. Next, choose your destinations wisely. Is Galveston really a good choice? Not right now, thanks to Hurricane Ike, and even in the best of conditions, you would never want to take someone there if they have ever been to a decent beach unless you are trying to impress them with the ugliest one on earth. This seems like a good time to mention that a key to making someone like a place is to artfully leave out the places that would give them a bad impression. Such as Waco. Never take a visitor to Waco. Instead, try a place like Gruene:

This is the main building of the bed and breakfast where I took Sam and his parents to stay. This is in Gruene, Texas. It is a quaint little town on the Guadalupe River and is very enjoyable to visit. Our room had a nice porch overlooking the river complete with rocking chairs, and was an ideal spot for knocking back some beers and eating chips and salsa. This place was a big hit with the future in-laws, and they want to go back. Keep in mind these are people who are from Somerset England (aka Heaven Itself).

After spending a day and night in this lovely town we were all ready for something a little more metropolitan, so we headed to San Antonio. This is a good place to bring visitors because most people have heard of the Alamo, or have seen the movie. It is important to note that people from other countries have a fascination with the "wild-west", and so a city with a rich cowboy-culture and history is ideal and almost just plain mandatory. My future mother-in-law, for instance, read cowboy books growing up and always wanted to see places where the stories occurred.

We stayed on the River Walk, at the Omni Mansion del Rio hotel which is wonderful. The River Walk is a good place to watch people and also to consume beverages like these....
Margaritas are key in convincing visitors that Texas is a delightful place. This trip was their first experience of frozen margaritas, and I believe the final touch to a pretty good little road trip. Needless to say, they loved it here and can't wait to come back. I am both shocked and very happy to know this, and also feel a tiny little bit of satisfaction knowing that I have helped get the good word out there. No, Texas is not my all-time favorite place, but it is much under-appreciated. There are some good spots, and anyone with half a brain can find them.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I love this place! Just look at it. I mean, why wouldn't you want to live there? My only regret is that while I did live there I didn't have a car so I didn't explore nearly enough. This was taken on the way from Eagle Airport back to Eagle-Vail where we stayed with...
Townsend (the one in the sweet pjs and guitar) and his crackin' roommates. They were so much fun and we had an excellent time. Lots and lots of laughing.
Three out of the four days we went snowboarding looked like this. It snowed (snew?) so much it was incredible. Conditions were great--especially because I did not have to work a single time!
This is chair 5 out the back, very cold and very windy. As you can see (I hope) there was so much powder and no one was out there. It was during the week so it was just dead--we owned the place.
Here we are sitting on Chair 5. We were riding that day with Andy (on the right), a friend of the roommates, and he was very pleasant company. He drives a big blue van with all the interior taken out and redone, so there's a big seat at the back and then all of his mixing equipment (he's a musician) and other devices for traveling around the country in a van--complete with a shrunken head hanging from the rear view mirror. I thought it was great, so him. Very glad we met up with him and got to spend some time learning about his life.
That's a bunch of underwear and bras. Girls take their underwear off and throw them at this tree--it's not so easy while wearing boots and a snowboard or skis, not that I have tried--it's too cold!!!.
And this is what it looked like on April Fools Day, just look at all that new snow! It was a great day out there, probably one of the best ever. Many thanks to the boys for letting us stay, to Continental for having cheap flights, and to the economy for not letting us find proper jobs so we'd have time off to go! WhooHoo!

Friday, April 3, 2009

The British are Coming...

One if by land... Two if by sea... Three if they're joining your family tree???

It's true, my British finance and his parents are coming to visit dear old Tomball, Texas. Which totally defeats the purpose of having my wedding in Playa del Carmen but what the hell. We are going to have a great time. When rumor began that they may be coming for a pre-wedding-meet-the-parents trip things got a little weird around here. It's weird enough that I still live with my parents, but now things have really heated up. My roommates started caring about what the "garden" looks like, and about the state of the garage. It's kind of funny. I am really excited for the big meeting, and am confident that everyone will love everyone and there will be much consumption of wine--which I totally approve of. I can't wait. I have planned a really good week of travel and meeting friends and family, and I really don't think it could be improved on at all. I will most definitely post an update to this story and let you know how it all goes down.

In the meantime, I just returned from my beloved Vail, and would like to write a bit about how wonderful it all was, but I'm still suffering from post-trip depression so that's going to have to wait. I also haven't uploaded all the pics yet, and can't possibly tell the story without them, so you'll have to wait (all three of you). Just know that it was as great as you can imagine and I wish I could still be there. **Sigh**