Posted in awareness, Books, Culture, Events, Quotes, Social Justice, Technology

Aspen Ideas Festival

No Idea Is So Outlandish That It Should Not Be Considered With A Searching But At The Same Time A Steady Eye

– Winston Churchill

Enjoyed this year’s invigorating Aspen Ideas Festival these past few days. Various leaders around the world engaged in a deep discussion of the ideas and issues across many disciplines that both shape our lives and challenge our times. It’s virtual and free to attend. Past videos from this weekend have been archived and ready for the public to view. For more information: https://www.aspenideas.org/attend/festival

Posted in awareness, Books, Quotes, Social Justice

Book Recommendations that Speak Out Against Injustice

Hello everyone, the moderator of our alumni book club wrote me an email a few weeks ago, and I wanted to share with everyone who may be interested apropos of current events.

Hi Sa,

“Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.” -Toni Morrison

In light of the current moment, many resources and books have been circulating that may promote understanding and facilitate meaningful conversations about injustice. As such, we understand that your reading priorities may be shifting directions. We support book club members in reading whatever literature speaks to them at this time. We will continue to send information and questions related to our summer reading period. Feel free to jump in to the Online Forum (http://tamusa.pbc.guru) whenever you’d like to engage with the group or to share and discuss some of the books you are reading independently this summer. 

Additionally, we imagine our book club members are seeking books and other resources that speak to the preexisting and immediate conditions from which many communities suffer. Such topics might include justice, equity, equality, diversity, the systems that built, support, block and/or degrade these principles, how we got here, and ways in which we can be agents of change in working to build a better world. In line with this goal, we think you may find the following works to be of interest and of value on that journey:

Recommended Resources

A list of book recommendations to get started:

When considering where to buy books, you may be interested in checking out this list put together by Lithub of black-owned independent bookstores that offer ordering/shipping options.

Similarly, we welcome members to share book recommendations in our Book Recommendations thread within the Introductions and General Topics category in the Online Forum (http://tamusa.pbc.guru). Please know that we believe in the importance of this community reading books from a range of voices and perspectives, and we sincerely welcome your input.

Be well,
Tessa
Texas A&M-San Antonio Alumni Book Club
Online Forum (http://tamusa.pbc.guru)

Posted in Awards, awareness, Books, Concepts, Crafts, Culture, Dance, Dreams, Events, exercise, fiction, flashback, Food/Recipes, Freedom of Expression, Makeup, Music, Nature, Photography, poetry, Quotes, Social Justice, Technology, Volunteer Experiences

Twenty-Four Seven | Daily Inkling #7

Daily Inkling

Just when I think I’m going to be doing haikus for the rest of the year due to my tight schedule…

Blogger “Normal Happenings” has tagged me in an interesting challenge that seems to coincide with a random daily horoscope I received a few days ago from a free Vedic astrology app called Yodha. (By the way, I like your new branding! It’s bold and glowing like a neon sign. 🙂 )

Happy new year! For those of you who are new to my blog, welcome! Thank you so much for following my blog, and I will be swinging by to read yours as well. I see a lot of new faces out there, and I just want to say hi! This is my fun, personal blog where I typically write about all sorts of subjects in a variety of formats: poetry, story, photo-story, music. I’m about to start another blog for school related stuff, but that’ll be shared on another post!

Image from Shivashakti

You may wonder how did I encounter Vedic astrology? Well! One day, I was chatting with a young lady about the staggering synchronicity in both our lives, and she told me about how she regularly talks to her Vedic astrologist for all sorts of decisions. She said that she made some of the best business decisions of her life with his guidance and that it is a lot more accurate than western astrology. I was skeptical because there are a lot of quacks out there as you well know, but intrigued nevertheless.

So, I downloaded the free Yodha Daily Horoscope app where authentic Vedic astrologists from Nepal share with you their insights. I started learning more about it. Apparently there are Indian universities that offer advanced courses in Vedic astrology despite scientists protesting about it being a pseudoscience. Jyotisha is the traditional system of Hindu astrology. Its etymology is from the Sanskrit term, “jyoti” meaning “light heavenly body”. The term Vedic astrology came about later around the 70s.

Below are the sort of messages I get. This is one I received this morning:

“Due to your nature, you are a rather positive person. You are someone who can find a silver lining in most of the situations. Perhaps you are aware of this gift and know how to implement it. At times, you can put a smile on your face even when the circumstances don’t naturally warrant it and in doing so you can spread good vibrations to others. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that not everyone has that gift and you may be dealing with someone who doesn’t. The planets are encouraging you to show how it’s done.”

Astrologer P. Bhattarai

Anyway, back to the horoscope that inspired this post! She mentioned how when time and money permits, I enjoy traveling to an exotic locale and experiencing new things. However, lately, I may be seeking a more spiritual experience which may not be a physical location: a journey to understand myself better, gain a deeper understanding of myself, be more conscious and aware. I thought Daily Inkling’s prompt might help me explore this arena!

Write 24 talking points between current you and you from seven years ago. Consider teaching yourself something you’ve picked up since then.

Twenty-four Seven

Seven years ago was the year 2013. A pivotal point in my life: the beginning of a lot of new things, drastic changes to my lifestyle. This is a rare occasion when all of my category boxes on my blog have been checked! I’ve chosen 24 random topics to discuss in no particular order: then vs. now!

1) Career

2013: Grocery store cashier – Served a lot of people from all walks of life! I love to meet new people and listening to their stories.

Image by Charles Thompson from Pixabay

2020: Technical writer for a cybersecurity firm & vacation business manager – nice balance between the two!

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

2) Books

I read a lot of books during both years, but I’ll just mention two for now:

2013: Shantaram, an epic, philosophical tale of an Australian convict opening up clinics in the slums of India

“Some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths are so painful that only shame can help you live with them. Some things are so sad that only your soul can do the crying for them.”

― Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram
Image by billy cedeno from Pixabay 

2020: The Atlas of Happiness: The Global Secrets of How to be Happy – People worldwide share unique testimonials of what made them happy

Optimism isn’t frivolous: it’s necessary. If we feel hopeless all the time, if we’re always in crisis, the natural response is to give up and stop trying altogether. But we can’t let snark win. Problems are there to be solved. Challenges, to be met. We can be aware of the bad while also being mindful of how we can make it better. … Empathy is essential, and learning what matters to people on the other side of the world helps us all. Understanding how different nations view happiness can impact how we interact with one another going forward.

Helen Russell
Image by Daniela Dimitrova from Pixabay 

3) Friendships

2013: Friends were there to lift my spirits, give me warm cup of tea when going through a new challenge, have fun in the cosplay contests at school. Really enjoyed checking out the Ghostbusters!

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

2020: All of the above still applies, but my friendships seem to have more depth and honesty. Also, true friendship has a way of helping me see things in myself that I didn’t think was capable.

5) Nature

2013: I took my family and friends to check out the Arboretum gardens in Dallas, TX during special holidays like Mother’s Day

Image by: Dallas Arboretum

2020: I hope to visit Vanderpool, TX sometime and bask in the warm glow of the “lost maple trees” during autumn

4) Love

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

2013: Infatuated by a gentle young man I met one beautiful autumn day while feeding the birds at the pier down by the lake. A rather electrifying meeting, though the relationship never developed due to my fear of commitment.

Image by philpace from Pixabay

2020: Enjoying a long term relationship of 4 years. Its been a dream come true filled fun adventures, humor, and passion with the normal ups and downs of life.

6) School

2013: Attended community college on a digital forensics academic track. The most memorable project was where I developed a website for a hypothetical geologist living in Colorado. He was studying various types of gemstones he found during his excavations. I researched stories of legends surrounding their origin.

Image by Robert Ramsay from Pixabay

2020: Currently working on an online masters program for technology and innovation management track. The most memorable project so far involved a hypothetical four million dollars granted to me to develop a civil engineering software application from start to finish.

Image by dewikinanthi from Pixabay

7) Volunteer Cause

2013: I worked with a group of friends with Habitat for Humanity. Learned a lot about house building and painting!

Glendale

2020: Currently helping a school teacher collect cans and plastics with the Rotary Club for a contest with Pepsi Co.

Novyy Urengoy, Russia – June 17, 2018: Bunch of different empty soda aluminium cans.

8) Music

2013
2020
2020

9) Recreation

2013: Had a thing for barre workouts!

Image from Haute Living

2020: About to do Hot Yoga with my cowokers!

Image by Sofie Zbořilová from Pixabay

10) Sustainability

2013: Back when Google+ was around, I heavily got involved with a sustainability discussion group for many hours. The discussions intrigued me. I wanted to learn how to be eco-friendly and be up to date with all of it.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

2020: I’m itching to get plugged into community initiatives regarding sustainability issues. They’re looking for ideas, and I hope to contribute in someway!

Image by 95C from Pixabay

11) Blogging

2013: I fancied the idea of being a student blogger on campus. I applied, but was turned down for the position. It may have been because the writing sample I sent was about the sound of a lovely bell ringing off in the distance as I was walking around the campus lake to class. Maybe they want more samples about student life? 🙂

Below is the walkway of the lovely campus I used to walk by often.

2020: Didn’t matter! Here I am blogging my heart out on my own without anyone else’s approval! I don’t know why I thought of it sooner! 😉

Blogging my thoughts has been a freeing, exciting experience. Thank you to my readers for making the experience so worthwhile!

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

12) Fashion Interests

2013: Bold floral-print Sunday dresses

Image from Popsugar

2020: Bandage skirts, Currently love them! Sorry no picture of me in them, but I love to wear them with leggings

Wheretogetit.com

13) Television

2013: 30 Rock, CSI Miami, Supernatural, Glee

Image by CW

2020: Meteor Garden, Witcher, Miraculous Lady Bug

Image by Otakucart

14) Movies

2013: Frozen, Iron Man III, Man of Steel, The Croods, Monsters University

Image by PixarPost

2020: Star Wars (2019), want to see Mulan, Artemis Fowl, Sonic

15) News

There were a lot of news stories that deeply affected me and my path trajectory.

2013: Nelson Mandela’s death, Boston Marathon bombing, Edward Snowden

Nelson Mandela was a leader whom I was captivated by. Boston Marathon and Edward Snowden prompted my interests in security.

2020: Hospital Janitor Forges Lasting Friendship Between Two Boys in Isolation After Noticing a Love of LEGOS

The news story above impacts me because it deals with one of my favorite childhood pastimes. My first major Lego project was a pirate ship. Always fascinated by adventure even then! Will be going to a Lego Brick Fiesta event with some friends this year to indulge in this interest!

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

16) Sports

2013: Followed Maria Sharapova tennis matches quite a bit since I practiced developing my forearm swing at the tennis courts!

The Guardian

2020: I might go check out some Spurs basketball players play! Matt Bonner signed my basketball. He was so down-to-earth and friendly!

LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 25: Matt Bonner #15 of the San Antonio Spurs drives the ball against Trevor Ariza #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the game at the Staples Center on January 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Spurs 99-85. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

17) Technology

2013: I was really curious about consumer drones. Always felt tempted to buy one to take awesome aerial photos and videos from the sky!

Phantom Quadcoptor

2020: Right now, I’m super curious about the Click and Grow smart garden!

Image from Click and Grow

18) Favorite Hang-out spots

2013: White Rock Lake, Dallas, TX

I enjoyed walking sections around this park almost every day. Seeing the scenery change with the seasons is a great beauty. I once walked around the whole park which took four hours! There are some incredibly beautiful views, expansive hiking trails, fishing spots. There’s also a well known ghost story as well about the Lady of White Rock Lake! One of my favorite memories is sitting on a wooden bench on top of a hill and seeing the sunset as the breeze is blowing the tall grasses.

Image from Applespice

2020: Riverwalk & Pearsall Park in San Antonio, TX

I enjoy walking downtown and checking out the riverboats with curious spectators gliding by in this river. At night, it’s bustling with tourist activity. Families and couples are dining in the restaurants. Some of my favorite memories here was when my brother visited me and we got to listen to a beautiful mariachi band singing a lovely serenade and when my boyfriend and I celebrated Christmas slow dancing in the island platform.

Riverwalk, San Antonio, TX
Image by: Thrillist

I love to go jogging here with my exercise buddy early mornings! The fields and the hills are incredible. Breathing in the fresh cold air is refreshing.

Pearsall Park, San Antonio, TX

19) Languages

2013: I was trying to continue my Spanish studies on Babbel

Image by Babbel

2020: Duolingo’s mascot, a little owl, has been guiding me in learning Spanish and Vietnamese basics. It’s been fun learning from their podcasts too!

Image by Duolingo

20) Theatre

2013: For an English literature assignment, I had the opportunity to watch a live Shakespearean comedic play, Taming of the Shrew.

2020: Curious about the Miss Saigon musical in town!

21) Environment

2013: Fascinated by Google’s chart that compiled deforestation rates by country

2020: Currently checking out Mongobay’s environmental snippet summary

Image by Mongobay – Lemurs!

22) Health

2013: Learned about Healthcare.gov’s crashing website as millions of Americans tried to sign up for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act. Stress is relative though!

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

2020: Everyone around me is getting the flu! Got my flu shot. Learning about personalized AI medical care innovations

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

23) Games

2013: Played Juice Cubes a bit!

2020: Curious about Smash Hit and Megaman Zero!

24) Quote I lived by

2013: Eleanor Roosevelt impacted me from an early age.

Do the thing you think you cannot do. You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

Eleanor Roosevelt
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

2020: Right now, these below! More to come later!

Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction

Germany Kent

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

Socrates
Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

 That was fun! See you soon everyone! Hope you enjoyed it! 🙂

Posted in Awards, Books, Dance, fiction, flashback, Music, Nature, Quotes, Social Justice

A Sunshine Odyssey

Good evening everyone! There’s a lot for me to celebrate in life today! I just love to do the best I can with what is given to me. It’s a thrilling feeling to partake in such a creative adventure! When I receive a gift of an award, it’s a confirmation of appreciation from the giver. Someone out there has appreciated something I wrote and shared. If I left the world a more inspired, compassionate, and hopeful place, an award to me serves as a catalyst for me to continue reaching for better horizons.

I’ve been nominated at least 15 times this past year for Sunshine, Mystery, Solidarity, Kindness, Liebster blogger awards. I’m grateful for your friendship and support via your comments. It gives me great joy to consistently be recognized for these qualities here on WordPress. Moreover, I’m glad I don’t actually receive any real trophies because I don’t have space for that. 😉

Many thanks and kudos to these hardworking bloggers! Rory @ A Guy Called Bloke, Sadje @ Keep it Alive, Mr. A @ Barbarian in Gentleman’s Clothing, Irene @ My Slice of Mexico, Mel @ Crushed Caramel, Kiwi @ Kiwi Katastrophes, Laura Bailey @ All the Shoes I Wear, Jenna @ The Sunshine Artist, Myexpressionofthoughts @ Beauty lies within yourself

I have taken a different approach with my award nominations today and wrote a story from their questions about myself in third point of view. Pictures are from Pixabay. It will be a blend of fantasy and truth! 🙂

I was inspired by Word of the Day – Odyssey

“HOW DARE YOU DEFY ME?” Ciar, god of darkness, gradually began to suck the remaining light in the galaxy into his mouth which resembled a terrifying black hole.

Sa, space warrior princess from the kingdom of Texas, was temporarily distracted by his impeccable rock hard abdominals, but she was more preoccupied with his black hole. One non-negotiable, unalterable term in this life, is that Sa will survive.

“Sorry? What’s that? I can’t hear you!!!” Sa just used her most commonly spoken phrase against the god of darkness. Will you look at that? 🙂

“Golly, whatever did I do to him?” She unhappily fought against the immense forces that threatened to kill her. What does Sa do to cheer herself up when she is unhappy? She hums a tune of an electrifying song. In this case, the theme song of Ghostbusters galvanized her and became her saving grace.

Ghostbusters 2016 Theme Remastered (Walk the Moon Version)

She pulled a glittering lever, and was not prepared for the recoil. Space X’s Falcon Heavy rocket thrusters propelled her out of Ciar’s influence. Elon Musk gave her a parting gift, his most powerful rocket, and wished her good luck on her odyssey. Commandeering a rocket ship is one talent Sa would love to improve upon! Sa thought back to when she read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy scanning her memory for any clues. “YEE-HAW!” Ciar’s bad breath is the least of her worries.

Ciar’s army has besieged her beloved hometown. Ciar’s rhetoric was powerful, and he has swayed the minds of various citizens to commit heinous acts and convinced them they are doing right by the kingdom by terminating who they felt to be the enemy. Who was the enemy? A neighboring community whose was seeking asylum from the ravages of their own war-stricken home? It’s an event that has changed Sa’s perspective on how we live in society.

In the next twelve months, Sa looked forward to the day when the migrants would be settled into their new homes with the help of RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. One of her friends told her how hard she has been working around the clock to help furnish their new homes. Sa shared a value with her friend: caring for those who have difficulty defending for themselves. If she won a lottery, she would love to get each of the boys she met while visiting her friend a pair of printed Oxford leather shoes and help them feel fabulous.

One great thing about being in outer space is that Sa isn’t like the dwarf, Sneezy. Her seasonal allergies don’t act up! Drenched in sweat, Sa glanced outside the window and marveled at the moonglade against Earth’s ocean surface. “Now this is something to write home about on my blog!” Filled with nostalgia, she missed swimming in the sea with the dolphins and her friend, a marine biologist.

Sharing an oceanography and geology course together, Sa admired her friend’s determination. The marine biologist was studying and documenting how the threat of global warming was affecting the dolphin population. The dolphins were having a difficult time adapting to the changes to their habitat, changes to their migration schedules, and it’s even affected their ability to reproduce.

Sa opened up her laptop and began typing a post so that her family can read her latest adventure! Sa was grateful for her parents for teaching her how to be brave in the midst of adversity. She once studied her family tree in the genealogy department held in the third floor of the public library. Even though her roots were derived from diverse backgrounds in monasticism, education, art, aquaculture, one quality was clear: bravery was the connecting link to Sa’s ancestry line.

One of her fondest memories was with her father when he taught her how to play basketball despite her not being too athletic. He pushed her to the edge of what she may have thought her limitation was, but he showed her that she isn’t as fragile as some people made her feel. He nurtured her bravery every step of the way.

She pondered on what they were doing now. She missed washing dishes side-by-side with them. A single tear floated in zero gravity. It’s the little things that seem to get to her. Before Sa left Earth to fight a galactic battle, she filled out a Texas Tree Survey from the Arbor Day Foundation. She felt so proud of herself for taking the time out to complete this survey. She received a gift for 10 free flowering trees (5 American Redbuds and 5 Dogwoods).

Despite being a space cadet, she remained hopeful for a better future for Earth and all its creatures. She knew that there were other people out there who would be wiling to plant trees, rebuild habitats, and help nurture the planet back to health. Her only regret is she might not see the delicate trees grow into the royal beings that they are. Its blooms are startlingly attractive to her when cloistered together.

Her penpal, Cassandra, would get a kick out of this blog post! Although Cassandra chose the monastic life in the convent as a nun, she loved reading about her childhood friend’s adventures in the world. The last time Sa connected with her was by passing her in while shopping in a mall outlet. It felt so good to see an old friend!

If Sa died in outer space today, she would want the world to know that she loved Earth so much. She is a caring, adventurous gal with a sense of humor who would do anything including fighting the god of darkness to protect her loved ones! ❤ 🙂

Posted in awareness, Concepts, Culture, Events, flashback, Freedom of Expression, Photography, Social Justice

Freedom of Expression – Revival!

Hamsa Hand

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20190702_1100085419560629203168971.jpg
Home decor at Big Lots store

Good morning everyone! Hope you had a wonderful weekend! I looked up a Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of revival to refresh my understanding and this is what popped up:

  • a new presentation or publication of something old
  • renewed attention to or interest in something
  • a return of strength and importance

When I visited my niece, I noticed reoccurring symbol in her artwork that captivated me. An eye in the palm of a hand. She herself didn’t knew what it meant but I was surprised because I’ve suddenly encountered the symbol a lot in my environment. Following my curiosity, I learned that it is known as the “Hand of God” (or Hand of Fatima), an spiritual symbol of protection from the evil eye to bring health, wealth, good fortune, happiness, good luck, and fertility. Ooo la-la!

Hamsa’s earliest origins were in the middle east. Several celebrities (Jennifer Aniston, Heidi Klum, Jay-Z, Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna) have been spotted wearing it. To learn more about the symbolic significance in various religions, you can visit this website! https://aromantly.com/blogs/spirituality/hamsa-meaning

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20190718_1453346230710039855445266.jpg
Saw this pretty necklace in the jewelry store and got it for my niece

A Visit Back to Yesteryear

Richa shared some wonderful quotes which made me reflect on my past life a bit. I was browsing through LinkedIn today and came across an article about burnout and this section prompted a flashback:

Ten years ago, I had my first experience with burnout in my early years of college. I was in need of delimiting my responsibilities. I was studying many things that I was passionate about in combination with subject matter that I was not interested in. I wasn’t getting as much sleep as I should have and lost weight from not eating properly because I was trying to keep up with my peers and stay on top of my scholarly workload.

One day, a childhood friend once noted and said to me, “You don’t pray often, do you?” I felt a little irked and thought to myself, “How would she know if I prayed in my private time? Can she really assume?” A nagging question suddenly dawned on me though. I wondered if an individual’s interior life of prayer can affect one’s external life.

Despite me conducting so much research on my assignments and looking for answers, I was cognizant of the fact that there are some things that cannot be answered via research database. One night, I lied in my bed and stared at the ceiling. Though I loved what I was doing in college, paradoxically, I also prayed for some way of escape…at least temporarily.

During my time on campus, I became aware of a religious awakening spreading throughout the student body. Many people described it as a “revival”. Speakers shared stories with a sort of fervor that I was unaccustomed to. Many students from a variety of faith backgrounds mingled, sincerely listened to each other, studied together, prayed for one another through their troubles, and offered assistance where needed.

Quenching the thirst of my curiosity, I also read academic books on the history of prayer and the power of intercessory prayer. I also poured over various religious books of wisdom while hanging out in prayer houses. I suddenly became very intrigued by these ancient books. My mom was entertained by my fascination with these dead authors. 😉

After years of the frost of cynicism covering these student lives, I witnessed dramatic transformations and strengthened relationships. Admittedly, it felt unreal to me to experience a beautiful scene of an integrated diverse community where people didn’t just tolerate differences in one another, but wholeheartedly embraced all the quirks within each other. Some developed a fresh zeal to tackle on local problems in society like hunger, diabetes, homelessness, trafficking, etc.

So! That’s what revival has meant to me in my life. What about you? 🙂

Posted in Concepts, Culture, Dance, Music, Quotes, Social Justice

A-to-Z Challenge: Justice


Hello everyone! Lady Justice wants to say hello as well. This morning I read an article from opendemocracy.net :

Six boys, one cop, and the road to restorative justice

I’ve been meaning to explore a concept that caught my attention a few years ago. My former ethics professor once told us there was a Fulbright scholar in town where one of his research interests is in “restorative justice“.

In this article, six young men between the ages of 10 and 13 committed a felony and broke into a chemical processing plant. Officer Greg Ruprecht who was on the night duty, was shocked at how young they were, arrests them, and prepares to enter them into the US criminal justice system. Here is what he initially believed about justice:

Ruprecht believes his job is to arrest everyone who commits a crime and throw away the key. Justice means punishment: an eye for an eye, no questions asked. You do something bad and you get what you deserve. There’s a clear line to walk.

But what occurred at the chemical plant that night changed him forever by awakening a very different sensibility: instead of an instrument of vengeance, justice requires that we work to restore all those who have been injured by a crime.

The next morning, Officer Greg Ruprecht finds out that this case is redirected into a restorative justice process where in his skeptical mind was “an easy way out for offenders… some sort of hippie gathering where everyone would hug. ” The road to getting these boys’ lives back on track was different than he imagined.

Representatives from the boys’ families and the chemical plant discussed with the boys the consequences of their actions, possible life stressors that influenced their decision to break in, what they would do differently. Apologies were made, and contracts were created which involved a hundred hours of sweat equity and alcohol awareness classes. The boys would write about what they learned and it would be published in the newspaper.

Here’s what the officer learned from this experience:

  1. Money and time was saved going this route than the judicial process
  2. Face-to-face accountability where offenders directly listen to the victims
  3. The brain doesn’t fully develop until the age of 22 and fear-inciting prisons had a bigger impact on young adults.
  4. Recidivism dropped to ten per cent, and surveys showed high rates of satisfaction with the process among everyone involved
  5. Usual suspects weren’t cycling through the police department anymore

In conclusion, while this particular story worked out well, I do feel that there are a variety of cases that are more complex than this one. The article concludes with the following:

“The role of justice, as portrayed by Lady Justice’s scales, is to bring back balance, to make things right again. Punishment and the warehousing of human beings in prisons destroys vast amounts of human potential. By contrast, restorative justice meets the needs of everyone involved in the most humane ways possible – those who commit crimes, and those who suffer from them. In so doing, it brings humanity back into the justice system.

It converts a limited worldview based around isolation and individualism into a much more positive vision that is rooted in honesty, accountability, and the visible connection of causes with effects. And it works in concrete terms by cutting recidivism and costs. Most important of all, it nurtures new relationships and a strong sense of human unity. In this sense, the root power of restorative justice is love expressed in action. “

In the end, I think about a variety of rehabilitation programs such as this one in the video below.

Filipino, Philippines “Dancing Inmates” from Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), a maximum security prison, were treated to a visit by Michael Jacksons long-time choreographer Travis Payne and dancers Daniel Celebre and Dres Reid to learn performances from THIS IS IT.

Justice Quotes

Previous Posts in 2019 A to Z Challenge 
A B C D E F G HI J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

In response to:

  • FOWC with Fandango: track
Posted in awareness, Books, Culture, Events, Quotes, Social Justice

A-to-Z Challenge: Becoming

“My hope is that this book will inspire everyone to tap into their own journeys of becoming and to share those stories with one another.”

Michelle Obama

Who will you become? I recently finished Michelle Obama’s fascinating book, “Becoming”, for our alumni book club. The Washington Post does a good job covering key scenes in her memoir in their article, “For eight years, Michelle Obama watched every word. In her memoir, she’s done with that.” For me, the title “becoming” reflects a desire to constantly grow, evolve, and learn . She urges all of us to take action on our “becoming” by concluding:

There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there is grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.

CHICAGO, IL – NOVEMBER 13: ” Becoming”, a book by former first lady Michelle Obama, is displayed at the 57th Street Books bookstore on November 13, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. In the book, which went on sale today, Obama describes her journey from Chicago’s South Side to the White House. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

I want to share a few quotes by Michelle with you and reflect on them because they really hit home. It’s going to get a bit “real” as her penetrating stories have got me riled about one story in particular…

A few days ago, I was upset as I was listening to my coworker’s story. She had severe bruises on her arm. Her boyfriend was drunk one night and punched her to demonstrate just how strong he was. He said some of the most awful things to put her down. Marriage is definitely off the table and she moved back home with her mom. Through her tears, she tried to reassure me that she was alright. I gently hugged her.

My hands involuntarily clenched into a fist as I was doing my best to control my anger. I absolutely don’t condone this violence towards her. I ponder on the sort of culture we currently live in for her to tell me she’s alright. Her tears tell me, “No, I’m miserable. Help me.” It was very difficult for me to find a shred of sympathy for this weak, insecure guy. I knew he was going through his own problems. His parents divorced and he felt trapped in his life, so he took it out on her. No excuse. I wonder if he will feel any regret for what he has done, but I feel like he’s desensitized to many things.

It is so important to find people to lift you up, who believe in you, and who will support you. As I read her book, I felt inspired by how she defined what power meant.

After my previous post, I thought these quote resonated with me. The “what-ifs” could stop you from taking action and making any sort of progress. There will always be people who don’t know anything about you who will say all sorts of things.

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In response to:

  • Fandango’s One-Word Challenge: Condone
Posted in awareness, Books, Culture, Quotes, Social Justice, Technology

#Book Review: Spare Parts

Spoiler Alert! I have written some thoughts that will definitely give away the plot. This review also covers some controversial topics.

“This is an exploration mission. Exploration means discovery of the new – and unexpected. This competition will push your imagination and technical skills. Enter the event with the spirit of men and women explorers who have set out into the unknown.”

2004 Marine Advanced Technology Education
ROV Education Design and Building Specifications

Around the end of last year, my alumni book club read Spare Parts- Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream written by Wired magazine reporter, Joshua Davis. We have a Q&A discussion that is hosted by our moderator, Jon Seipp. I have posted my responses to his questions, but I have added some new thoughts.

I was excited to get my hands on this intriguing book for a variety of reasons:

  • Robotics is near and dear to my heart. (See: #Shape Poem- First Love) I was curious about what kind of robot they have built especially after learning that it can function underwater.
  • I live in the state of Texas where the southern border and immigration issues are currently a hot topic.
  • Several classmates of mine and the children I tutor were impacted by various immigration laws, and I wanted to understand their struggles better.
  • I also wanted to understand the various facets and problems with illegal immigration and rampant human trafficking, especially after the local news of a trailer of migrant deaths.

INTRODUCTION & CHAPTER 1

This section of the book introduced the main characters of Spare Parts, including the teachers and students who are the true stars of the book. We learn the students and Fredi are all immigrants to the US. It is this shared background that will bring them together.

We see Oscar wants to join the army but is unable to because of his illegal status–what did you think of his willingness to fight for this country, despite being blocked from doing so? The team recruits Luis specifically to lift the robot–how does his role illustrate that old adage, there are no small parts? Do you think there is value in having niche skills among team members when you form a working group? Share your thoughts with the group below!

To learn more about armed forces regulations for the inclusion/exclusion of immigrants, check out this article: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/immigrants-in-the-us-armed-forces-3353965

Jon Seipp on Pages 1-47 (The Beginning)

Considering that there are many citizens that don’t want to fight for this country, Oscar’s willingness and bravery to do so should be recognized and praised.

I do understand there are various security risks, some of which were mentioned in the article that you shared. “If the non-citizens comes from countries with a reputation of hostility towards the U.S, they may require a waiver.” There has been cases of foreign born recruits turning on their own teammates. Reading this article makes me think that even with these rigorous standards, there are other issues to take into account. Measuring one’s character is a complex challenge when taking account a variety of variables including their background and other influences. Even though slapping a label is efficient and streamlines decision making, there are clear problems with it as well.

“The military benefits greatly from the service of its foreign-born. Non-citizen recruits offer greater racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity than citizen recruits. This diversity is particularly valuable given the military’s increasingly global agenda.” I do agree that there are a variety of advantages to having a diverse team, but again I think there’s another side as well. One of my professors published a paper on group dynamics, and I think there are certain qualities that make a group gel better than others. It seems that there are times when a diverse team can impede progress. So, I wonder how “diverse” could a team be and still maintain productivity? I do think having niche skills among team members is essential. What is one team member’s strength is another weakness. There are a variety of roles that need to be filled if attempting to accomplish a common goal.

CHAPTER 2

In this section, we learn more of the character’s background stories–what brought them to this country and the challenges they met. As the team gets to know one another, they also face some challenges, with an early competition loss. Yet, they do not let that stop them.

Fredi’s childhood bounced between Iran and the US–what challenges would this make for him and what personal strengths might these experiences have helped him to develop? Despite some early losses, the team decides to go national and compete against college teams–what did you think of this decision? What does this decision say about the team’s personal and collective strengths? Share your thoughts with the group below!

While reading, I found myself curious to know more about these robotic competitions. I found the following website to be an interesting and informative resource:
https://www.marinetech.org/rov-competition/

Jonathan Seipp on pages 47-91 (Struggles, Setbacks, and Strengths)

I think Fredi’s experiences helped him better empathize with his students. I think the students respected him and listened to him more after realizing the challenges that Fredi faced such as falling victim to bullying and finding one’s path in life despite his parents’ expectations. Fredi also understood what it felt like to be targeted and unwanted by society which is what a majority of his students go through. Those experiences didn’t stop him from being a high performer on the track team or building an incredible hovercraft. He was able to motivate his students to achieve high objectives and was a positive role model.

It was interesting that Fredi and Allan brought up the idea of competing against college teams initially believing that losing to a team like MIT would still be honorable. Originally, it was a strategic move to increase the self-esteem of the students and opened up learning opportunities that might not have been available in the high school division. That was a risky, yet bold decision.

There was a risk that these students could have been overwhelmed by the requirements and the rigor that was needed to accomplish these tasks. Yet, the team rose to the challenge. They were able contribute to the project with their knowledge and experiences, and were very resourceful and innovative in their approach to a variety of tasks.

As someone who formally participated in Lego robotics challenges, the MATE competitions look like a lot of fun!

CHAPTER 3

In this section, the team has shifted their goal towards Don’t Finish Last. Simultaneously, they are also faced with the universal challenge of needing money to finance their robotics builds. They seek out donations from friends and family to offset their costs and material needs. Despite their limited finances, they manage to make it to a national competition.

What did you think about the team’s new goal of Don’t Finish Last–is this reasonable, humorous, or something else? During a trip to California, the team gets stopped at an internal border control checkpoint–what did you think of this situation and how would you react? In general, what do you think of internal checkpoints? Share thoughts with the group below!

I decided to do some research on how border control checkpoints function and how they can affect people. Check out this article about it–how would you feel to be living in such an area. Better still, how would you feel if these borders could personally impact you, by leading to your deportation: https://www.aclu.org/other/constitution-100-mile-border-zone

Jonathan Seipp on pages 92-133 (Bordering at Last)

I thought it was fascinating how the team manage to finance their project. Their approach on how to present what they were working on with the community was vital to their fundraising success. Reading about how they initially called the experts to inquire about various parts, but being able to have have these companies loan the parts for use was great. They showed a genuine interest and a hunger to learn about the services and products the business was offering. I was marveling at the generosity of these companies. It made me ponder on how to partner with businesses to accomplish goals for my own community.

I was laughing along with Lorenzo when he laughed at the thought “not finishing last”. Understandably, given his background, Oscar was not too keen on this goal. They were trying to set a reasonable, realistic goal for their robot. I think the team was fully aware of the predicament they were in, and they didn’t want to get their hopes up too high. They knew that the odds were stacked up against them, and were doing their best to work with the cards that have been dealt to them. This is a team that is used to facing disappointment in other aspects of their lives. It was also a reflection of the inferiority complex they felt. In the words of Rick Riordan, “Humor is a good way to hide the pain.”

The routine border control checkpoint made me feel concerned despite being commonplace in the region. I felt so worried for the students. I can’t imagine the anxiety they felt knowing that their whole life can be turned upside down again from this one checkpoint. If I had to move back to where my family came from, adapting to a new culture that’s completely foreign to me is going to be a major culture shock and adjustment. Again, I was amazed that Fredi was able to quickly respond to this situation.

It feels suffocating to live in this sort of environment, and yet this is the reality for many Americans. It seems as if the Border Patrol is in dire need of a system of checks and balances itself seeing how big it is. Yet it seems like a futile effort to enforce the work of internal affairs. From 1953 to now, the organization has grown dramatically due to the political climate and the voiced concerns of various citizens who felt unsafe. Government regulations are ignored because Border Patrol seems to be serving the interests of the private companies that are providing financial incentives for continued militarization.

CHAPTER 4

In this section, two of the students are graduating. However, they can still continue in the competition, along with the rest of their team. Unfortunately, due to poor grades, Hanck is no longer permitted to be on the team. This requires the rest of the team to take on new roles. Meanwhile, the team has to be equally adaptable as they design their competition robot. Their hard work pays off with unexpected outcomes at the competition.

Oscar has to step into a new role once Hanck can no longer serve as pilot–what did you think about his adaptability in this situation and how do you think he was able to so quickly manage a new role? This team could have faced a real setback when one member could no longer perform–in your own function on teams, how can you avoid such challenges or be better prepared to manage them when they do occur? Share your thoughts with the group below!

The Spare Parts team showed adaptability to their circumstances. If you want to improve your own adaptability, check out these tips: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201508/5-ways-make-the-best-bad-situation

Jonathan Seipp on pages 134-181 (Adaption and Teamwork)

I think Oscar’s ROTC background helped prepare him to adapt to his new role as a pilot. ROTC programs are designed to meet the challenges that today’s conflicts face. Students learn how to fight in chaotic and complex environments in which their opponent may not use traditional tactics. Thus, Oscar learned to develop flexibility, adaptability, and creativity to meet those challenges. The program also instilled values of responsibility, self-confidence, and leadership abilities. Those skills that he gained transferred to this role.

A risk management plan may serve well in these circumstances. Prepare by having a back-up plan to handle unexpected situations to make best use of the time. Expand your network so that you may call for assistance or solicit advice when you need it. Honest feedback and insights will be helpful in getting your team back on track. I think team members need to diversify their roles in case a team member does drop out for any reason.

Clear your mind by stepping back and taking a break helps as well. When you come back to the problem, there’s a renewed focus. I liked how the Spare Parts team decided to pursue a fun robotics project just for pleasure outside of their main one. They could relax, have fun, and learn a few things that could help them with their goals. That experience allowed them to the freedom to be creative and take risks.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This week I want to discuss pages 182-222 (Part 4) of Spare Parts. This section describes the aftermath of the successful robotics competition. Carl Hayden Community High School determines to continue not only having a robotics team but also to host their own competition. The author also relays the team’s individual outcomes after high school, with some having continued success, while others face unexpected barriers that completely alter their lives.

The robotics team faces unique challenges when the national competition occurs in Canada–they are unable to travel there–what was your reaction to this potential setback and the way they dealt with it? After graduation, Oscar faces significant ups and downs in his life–what was your reaction to his story and how does it continue to illustrate his resilience? What were your reactions to the other outcomes? Share your thoughts with the group below!

Family separations at the border have certainly been in the news lately. To learn more about the current political and legal state of this controversial situation, check out this article:

Immigrant family separations are over. Now what? Republicans and Democrats agree that the U.S. should no longer separate immigrant parents from their children, but they are miles apart on figuring out how to resolve the problem.

I liked that if the students from Carl Hayden weren’t welcome to participate in Canada due to their undocumented status, they created their own opportunities in their own backyard. Fredi and Allan didn’t let it deter their students from crucial learning experiences. Life handed them some lemons, and they made great lemonade.

What a journey Oscar faced! After receiving accolades, recognition, and highest honors from his college after graduation, I didn’t anticipate Oscar going back to his run-down childhood home in Temosachic, Mexico. He was very brave, and despite his stoicism, I can only imagine the fear he experienced. Yet, he was able to survive in a dangerous environment with few resources. I was so glad that Fredi and Allan stayed in touch with him. That lifeline means so much. Even more awe inspiring was when Oscar achieved the rank of sergeant in the US army after he came home to the United States as a citizen.

I felt bad for Christian who wasn’t able to complete college due to the tuition increase after political environment changed the laws. I felt a pang in my heart as he found a creative outlet creating robots in his garage with materials from his workplace. Yet, I had an image of Steve Jobs in similar circumstances: college dropout, but a passionate inventor tinkering away, experimenting with innovative ideas. Lorenzo explored his passion with cooking and behind the scenes, serves many customers who will never know about his accomplishments. Luis worked as a janitor in the courtrooms quietly observing everything. Their stories aren’t over yet. Where they come from doesn’t indicate where they will be going. I wish the best for their lives.

Posted in Concepts, Culture, Events, flashback, Photography, Quotes, Social Justice

VJWC: The Dormant Volcano

“This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive. ” – Alice Waters

“I wish I was a dormant volcano because I get to hibernate for a long time.” My sister expressed a wish a long while ago. When someone rubs her the wrong way, she can explode and afterwards she returns to being a sweet beautiful vision.

My family is generally active in the world, but when we’re gathered together at home or in a motel room during our family road trips, we enjoy sleeping and resting like a family of hamsters in the same space. On second thought…more space is called for. 🙂

Hamsters
http://www.fuzzytoday.com/2013/04/03/hamster-pile/

It’s great to gather with friends and talk about our latest research assignments and encourage each other when facing challenging, yet rewarding work situations. We also celebrate being able to multi-task with 30 tabs on a single window. 😉

DSCN5864.JPG

Gathering with people with similar concerns to discuss the impact behind an inspirational film and how our trials are woven together can also empower us to make a difference in the world around us.