The way to do more is to DO more…

IMG_5509For years, one of my new year’s resolutions has been to read more. Until last year, however, I didn’t make it a point to read more. In years past I have bought so many books I would one day like to read, and sometimes I would start a book but seldom finish it.

One day last year, tired of this trend I decided to focus and allocate a little time to reading. While I had set a goal to read 10 books in the year, I only read 7 – which I know is dismal for those who are avid readers, however, 7 is far better than 1 or 2 at most that I was reading prior to focusing.

Additionally, I read fiction books! Prior to last year, I had only read fiction books when mandated by school curriculum – and since I have been out of school (and classes that require reading fiction) since city college, I haven’t read a fiction book in 13 years!

In the year I read:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and LOVED IT! This book is in the category of speculative fiction that speaks to the importance of books, knowledge, and control by the ‘state’ (as in government). What a fun read – it took me no more than a couple weeks at most to finish while on our travels to Paris.

Why We Run by Bernd Heinrich is a book that blends running and biology together. (It’s in the category of Nature) It analyzes and compares the traits of various animals and the different components used in running, for example, fast/slow twitch muscle of various mammals, or endurance of birds, and the cardiovascular system of dogs, etc. While it’s an interesting and educational book, it can be a little dense if it’s the last thing you read after a long day.

Sin Miedo; Lecciones de Rebeldes by Jorge Ramos was an excellent book. I read it in Spanish to keep the brain engaged in a different way. This book is about the lessons Ramos takes from each of his courageous interviewees. Often these are historical/political figures. From this book, I have learned of a few individuals about whom I would like to learn and read more. (Sin Miedo was in the category of Politics)

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware was a frivolous easy read to just be amused, read a current widely read book that was entertaining. The beginning took a while to get going but it was worth the read. This is the kind of book you take on a flight or vacation. Easy, peacy.

In Paris, at the Shakespeare & Company bookstore cafe next door to Shakespear & Co bookstore which opened in 1919, I found a copy of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury with French text on one side and English text on the other. This is perhaps my most fun and quirky souvenir of our Paris adventure. While this is a fiction book in the speculative fiction or sci-fi category, I am reminded of it as I read about Elon Musk and his exploration and ambitions toward Mars. Maybe it was a far-fetched book, but maybe it’s not.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis had been on my shelf for years – so much so, that I just found my original book this past week at my parent’s house in my old room. I had read the Screwtape Letters and enjoyed them so much that I bought Mere Christianity but I think the times I had tried starting it before, I was too ‘young’ or immature to stay with it. This book is a simple text, yet as profound and complex as expected. It could be read quickly, but it should be digested slowly. I can definitely see it being a book I will have to re-read in a few years.

Lastly, I read Evicted by Matthew Desmond about the housing crisis in America. Being a Political Science major it’s not surprising that I enjoy a book delving into social and political challenges that affect our society. This book was recommended for a virtual book club by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, and although I signed up for the virtual book club, I didn’t get any emails about it. However, I really enjoyed the book and the way in which it was written – by telling the first-hand account of several individuals (both tenants and landlords) in Milwaukee. This book, although it reads partly like an academic study, it also reads a little like a play. I am looking forward to hearing the author next week when he speaks at UCSB.

Additionally, to learning about a variety of subjects and enjoying my time doing so, or contemplating life on Mars, etc I also kept track of all the words that I do not know well enough to define on my own. It’s actually embarrassing to admit how much I do not know, but by noting them, researching them, and then applying them is how we learn and grow. So that’s fun too.

Many times, we wish we did more of x but wind up in the exact same place year after year. (X could be reading, writing, exercise, etc) The time exists – we just have to allocate it correctly. I found reading time by cutting minutes away from watching TV at the end of the day. While I still watch a couple shows with my husband, we don’t need to watch the same quantity we were watching before, and reading (especially from a book, not a screen) helps the mind quiet down and unwind. So, what is it that you’ve been wanting to do more of, but have not done?

By the way, another of my new years’ resolutions that have been unkept for many years is to write more, so hopefully, I will also start doing so – as time permits, or as I make time for it.

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Philosophy 101: If a murder is streamed live and isn’t watched or shared, does it have an impact?

This title, of course, is a spin on the everlasting Philosophy 101 questions of the tree: if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it,  does it make a noise? Similarly, one can ask, if a murder is live streamed and nobody watches it, will it become a common occurrence, or have the impact that it seeks to have?  A lot has been said about the recent murder that occurred via a live stream on Facebook. What I have heard, from pundits and callers to radio shows, is that the blame seems to lie with the killer and/or Facebook, but I think the society that we live in,  ultimately, is to blame.

How could Facebook have done something to prevent this crime? Well, murder online may be new, but not unthinkable, the 2008 movie, Untraceable had a premise of viewership being the culprit of the murder taking place online. Sure, now that this happened, Facebook could establish changes, whether that’s a delay in displaying videos (like on award shows after Janet Jackson’s boob incident), or software, or some other “safeguard” against this type of thing. However, if Facebook makes it impossible to live stream a murder, what’s the guarantee, that Instagram, or Snapchat or any broadcasting platform will also be as prohibitive?

If we don’t watch it (which btw I did not watch it, I mainly listen to the radio for news and read newspapers) then it will not be as appealing to broadcast. My understanding is that even newscasts have shared almost every part of the video with the exception of the murder itself. Now, this means, not just the viewers, sitting on Facebook and those sharing it are to blame, but also news shows because they are also getting eyeballs and thereby profiting from this story.

What most astounded me is that not many people reported the crime to authorities (or flagged it) compared to the number of people that viewed it. This is not an isolated instance, the sexual assault that was live streamed in Chicago recently had 40 live views and also no reports to the police. Hmmm. Hello!!

This isn’t a new problem, it’s the old ‘bystander problem’ but now online. The bystander problem was first a subject of interest when in 1964 in NYC there was a half hour chase and then a stabbing of a young woman, Kitty Genovese. There were 38 bystanders who watched the assailant chase the girl and stab her on three occasions, and not one person reported it. Social Studies were conducted by Bibb Latane of Columbia University and John Darley of NYU, and ultimately they found that when people are in a group, responsibility is diffused – meaning you assume someone else will take the needed action to help.

I believe that if as individuals (since that’s how we make up society) we demanded more, do the right thing more (reported incidents) and put up with less crap (via our time, and money), things would change.

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“Three things are missing.”

“Three things are missing.

Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality of information. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features…they show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.

And the second?

Leisure.

Off hours, yes. But time to think? If you’re not driving a hundred miles an hour, at a clip where you can’t think of anything else but the danger, then you’re playing some game or sitting in some room where you can’t argue with the four-wall televisor. Why? The televisor is ‘real’. It is immediate, it has dimension. It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right. It seems so right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest, ‘What nonsense!’…

Only if the third necessary thing could be given us. Number one, as I said, quality of information. Number two: leisure to digest it. And number three: the right to carry out action based on what we learn from the interaction of the first two. ”


“I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths. No one wanted them back. No one missed them. Ant then the Government, seeing how advantageous it was to have people reading only about passionate lips and the fist in the stomach, circled the situation with your fireaters.


While on our trip to Paris, I had some downtime to read. I read Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury for the first time, and these two passages (well, the whole book really) reminded me of how important it is to read, digest and take action.

I have two preferred actions with information I seek and process, one is to write and share online which then genenerates online dialogue, the other is to discuss with individuals equally willing to engage.

This is the only way in which we can grow in a meaninful way. With that, I’ll just say, I’m hoping to get more reading, discussing, and writing done. Any recommendations for interesting books, or articles etc, please send them my way (via twitter @osum). Have you read anything recently that you’re still holding onto?

P.S. Needless to say, I very much enjoyed Farenheit 451 because it was a fun, quick, thoughtful piece. A week after reading this, I heard an episode on On Point on NPR about the current rise of readership and demand from publishers for speculative/dystopian fiction. This can be science fiction for some predictions for others.

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What’s the effect of all that marching? What comes next?


An organizer I met years ago asked on Facebook: “Radical and organizer friends: Is it significant that the movement forming against Trump isn’t about a specific cause or platform, but in opposition to an entire government? Should we give ourselves permission to pretend that today was much more radical (though NOT more effective) than it actually was?”

My response was an abbreviated version of the following: 

Marches-in my opinion are not effective. But the collective anxiety, anger, disapproval of Trumps policies (not the entire government) could only be physically manifested by well a manifestation or march. So, it speaks to how many people are active now. Sadly as you and I know from experience, everyone who voted for Obama 08 or believed in ‘Hope’, or marched on 1-21-17 didn’t stay and won’t stay involved in policy, details of the grind, calls to legislators on bills etc. Without ongoing collective meaningful action, things don’t change – but yesterday was a moment of doing something – anything with all those feelings.

I for one wasn’t going to march because I don’t think marches are particularly effective. But then I saw a post around 9 am on my Facebook newsfeed originally posted by Andrew Mayzak and shared by Jennie Ekdahl. 

I decided to march after all for two reasons:

1. To show DJT that the numbers actively against his agenda are ‘yuge’ – since numbers really build or bust his ego.

2: For Hillary. In honor of her years of fighting for the very rights (and more) that are on the table agin and again.
The post read as follows:

“Can we talk about this for a minute?

This is a Yale-educated law professor, First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State who:
-Endured 25 years of smear campaigns
-Lost the Electoral College by 80,000 votes

-Won the popular vote by 3 million votes

-Attended her opponent’s inauguration 

-Received no handshake from Trump

-Was booed by the crowd when she appeared

And goddammit… LOOK at her. Polished and confident, wearing white for the Suffragettes, her husband taking *her* arm instead of the other way around.
Symbolism matters.

Perseverance matters. 
She matters.
This is the godmother of New America, a rational, pragmatic, imperfect human being who was born 50 years too early for her gender to be a non-issue in an election. 
While she missed the presidency, she arrived just in time to show us all, in unflinching terms, the deep undercurrent of sexist double standards in our society. 
And in doing so, she taught generations of girls and women that yes, you DO matter and yes, you CAN do anything.
This is Hillary Clinton.

Lastly, a lot of people are left wondering: Now what? 

Because there is no way to redirect all that action I suspect many if not most will return to what they were doing before – this time sinking their head underground even further – because no good news is coming anytime soon. 

I find that there are four alternatives for effective action which luckily are non-mutually exclusive:

1: Love more – seems corny but really it’s a hard thing to do – it’s choosing to react with love towards a neighbor when they are aggravating, annoying or irresponsible because we don’t know what’s the circumstance and we can only control our reaction and what we put out in the world. Maybe one person changing their attitude a day isn’t much but – 2.9 million might. That’s the same as the number of marchers yesterday. This may seem like the easiest option of the four but appearances can be deceiving.

2. Volunteer – whatever issue made you put on your shoes and give up a Saturday, find an organization in your city that works on that issue and volunteer. Most advocacy nonprofits do amazing work with little money and little staff and could accomplish SO much more with a sting volunteer force. Imagine a 2.9 million volunteer influx! 

The Santa Barbara Independent – our small town free paper – published a pull out catalog called ‘A Practical Guide to Action‘ which lists advocacy nonprofits by issue along with a small description and an info blurb. You can get online and find local organizations or if you live in a conservative area you can call national organizations and ask if they have small but local chapters. 

3. Donate – If you can’t give of your time, maybe you can donate. Recurring donations even small ones have a big impact on small organizations.

4. Engage in local politics. It’s not going to be pretty and it’s not easy. But just like with any other endeavor worth undertaking, it so satisfying. The american rating of Congress is at an all time high and everyone abhors career polititians – or at least pretends to then reelects incumbents over 65% of the time – so then the question is do you trust yourself to take better decisions? If so, join a board or a commission. If not, are there friends or family members that you would trust? Encourage them to get invilved and support their process. Get involved in local campaigns. You get to meet likeminded people that are passionate, you get to learn a lot about politics and the process, and you’ll learn to appreciate our elected officials a little more after all that. Remember Donald Trump is an anomaly, usually presidents don’t come out of nowhere, they come from congress or the senate who come from state office who come from city councils who come from…you guessed it: boards and commissions. 

So there ya have it. You decide what comes next!

I did see the Woman’s March website has these additional action steps for the first 100 days.

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2017 We Choose How To Respond to Trump

The election of Mr. Trump was a disappointment to say the least. Infuriating and frustrating often. 

While one response is to ignore it all and another is to fight it all and resist – I made a third choice. 

It seems unlikely I will successfully fight the forces that be – the president elect, the senate, the congress, the supremes. However, it’s also unlikely that I will hide and avoid reading about it. 

Instead, each time I read something infuriating, hateful, appalling, I will focus on doing something of good for my community. I will be of service in a way that eases the difficulties being brought by others. Maybe I can’t accomplish something on a grand scale but I can do a lot more that just yelling at the TV or arguing with people of different opinions. 

I will let each thoughtless Trump tweet and action be a reminder for me to do good in whichever way I can that day. 

“Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou

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President -Elect Trump. Election Night Reflections 11.8.16

trump-vs-clinton-1

“I can’t belive this,” is the most common text message I get from friends, and see on social media. Of course being from a California bubble, we are stunned. We can only have a Californian perspective. But how do we handle this surprise?

I for one am given to thinking so that I may process my feelings.

First the facts, it seems Democrats no longer have a path to the presidency. Hillary Clinton has now called to concede the race to President-Elect Trump. Republicans have won the senate majority hitting the required 51 Senators, Republicans have maintained the control of Congress with the necessary 218+ Congress members, thereby effectively winning the Supreme Court.

What happened? So far there’s a lot of theories and there will be more Monday morning quarter backing  tomorrow, Wednesday, but ultimately we learned America is more sexist and more racist than we expected. It turns out the story is that women didn’t vote for Hillary in the numbers expected, Latinos didn’t show up to the polls in droves and Blacks weren’t even close to the electorate of the Obama elections. So there ya have it. Why did each of these groups vote as such, is an even deeper question, where the blame game will no doubt dominate in the following weeks. Ultimately it comes down to personal responsibility – no scapegoating allowed. I heard commentators say Latinos didn’t vote because they didn’t feel invested in – I for one, as a Latina feel like that’s a cop-out – its your future, you put in the investment. Ultimately if you’re as stunned as I am,  America isn’t what you thought it was. [Updated at 6:06 am on Wed] I should have my Political Science Degree revoked – but so do all Political Scientists, and our professors. This election does not follow any existing pattern, and if the average person couldn’t see it coming, it’s because there was no long term warning in the history of America before Donald Trump appeared on the scene. Also, as someone who has worked and volunteered on political campaigns since 2006 in countless races, it’s unthinkable to believe that despite outraising him and outspending him on TV, and more than doubleing the ground game through well established systems, that Hillary would not result triumphant.One more thought – which you will not hear on any network or on the media, but if we are to share blame they should take responsibility for the billions of dollars worth of free media that they provided to Mr. Trump to line their own pockets through viewership, and ads revenue.]

What will happen? Answering the first question leads us to the second. If America and American voters aren’t who you thought they were, then who is America and who is this American electorate that made this happen? These Americans are fearful, hateful, resentful, largely uneducated, and liars – because this type of electoral surprise occurs when people lie to pollsters. Why do they lie to pollsters? Because they’re afraid to be identified as the aforementioned type of Americans. America will now have a leader that is a bully, that sets an example that hate, tantrums, yelling is not only acceptable but clearly a winning strategy. Denying obvious truths repeatedly is the way that Donald ran his campaign and the way he will run his administration. I don’t for one minute doubt that this victory will embolden the bigots, the sexists, the racists, and the haters. I fear for LGBTQ friends, for bold women who will be made to cower, for the undocumented individuals that I know, that I work with and that I am friends with. I fear for disabled individuals. I fear for the children who will grow up in this hostile environment. And although military families tend to be and vote Republican, I fear for them too because a President that does not understand diplomacy will put our men and women in the military in harm’s way.

What didn’t happen? As a long time Hillary supporter, the kind that passionately tried persuading democrats in the 08 primary election this is a particular hurtful thought. We didn’t elect the first woman president! We didn’t break the glass ceiling. We didn’t elect the MOST qualified presidential candidate (man or woman) who has devoted her ENTIRE life to public service – even while in college when she was a Republican. We didn’t believe in her experience.  We didn’t believe in ourselves that we could make a difference, we didn’t believe we were worth the time to vote, or to take this election seriously. Even worse, we didn’t believe in each other to move forward together. We didn’t believe in the best that is within us. We didn’t believe that maybe women ARE equally capable and deserving as men. We didn’t believe in the character of hard-working immigrants to just like any of us.

I am angry about what happened. I am fearful about what will happen and I am heartbroken about what didn’t happen.

So much is out of our control and I have learned  from W. Mitchell, that “it is not what happens to us, but how we respond to it” that matters. For now I don’t know what that will be for me, but I hope it’s in a positive way, in a loving way, and in a way that can make a small difference.

(Tweet me at @osum)

 

 

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Questions I can’t answer: How much did you weight at birth?

– How much did you weight at birth?
– Do you have an identical twin?
– Do you have any biological brothers or sisters?

– Did your mother have problems with allergies while she was pregnant with you?
– Did your mother smoke while she was pregnant with you?
– For how long did your mother breastfeed you? Your best guess is fine.

– Do you know anything about the ancestral origins, such as birthplace or ethnicity, of these biological relatives? Please check the ones for whom you do.

– Have any of your first-degree biological relatives (i.e., parents, children, siblings) been diagnosed with type II diabetes?
– Have any of your first-degree biological relatives (e.g., children, parents, siblings) had a heart attack?
– Has your biological father/mother had any of these? (list of medical conditions follow)

IMG_0519Most of the time I don’t even remember that I was adopted in Mexico in a closed adoption (meaning there is no available information about my birth parents or family).

Because of this, I finally decided to do the 23 and me DNA, Ethnicity and Carrier Status reports for $200. Just a couple weekends ago I sent in a little tube, a bunch of spit. It was gross.

Now I’ll wait for many weeks to find out more about myself. Unfortunately, this test won’t answer any of the questions that stumped me, but I’m hopeful to at least learn about important carrier status details.

 

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