Archive for December, 2010

Common Ground Youth Coalition Interview

December 28, 2010 - 7:40 pm 1 Comment

A few months ago, I participated in a Common Ground Youth Coalition interview. According to CGYC, “The goal is to showcase young people from all walks of life who have been successful at making a change in the world, in any sector – public, private, political, religious, social, cultural, non-profit, etc.”

Givology is growing well, but I often wish I had much more time to dedicate myself 100% to the cause. Ironically, such an action would conflict with our 100% volunteer spirit, which I believe lends us a unique character.

Quick Pre-Holiday Update

December 21, 2010 - 5:38 pm 1 Comment

Holiday cheer abounds in New York City, albeit more commercial than spiritual, but nevertheless, uplifting. So much has happened since my last update – I’ll try and re-cap some of the main highlights since Thanksgiving.

Givology is going well. Over the last few weeks, we’ve gotten substantial support from a few volunteers of Google, and we’re making great use of their expertise and perspective. In addition to providing meeting space for our New York City chapter on weekends, the Google team challenges us to question our model and data collection methods – an outsider’s view of our operations to help us optimize our existing systems. The New York City chapter is working hard to organize a large promises auction in February, hopefully to raise a substantial amount of funding in support of our projects and partners. Being back in the loop feels great; event planning takes so much work (plenty of experience from single-handedly holding fundraisers at Oxford), but with a fun group of people involved, the promises auction should be great!

With the conclusion of our Givology video challenge and the announcement of the winners [big shout out to Burke for leading such a great effort!], we’re launching our 20-1:1 Holiday Campaign. Please, I urge you – my readers – to sign-up for the challenge – it takes such a short amount of time and effort, yet the cumulative result really adds up. Our intent is to make 2011 the year of 1:1 giving, and your time and enthusiasm makes all the difference! Plus, we have great prizes for any participant who completes the challenge.

We’ve gotten some great new partners and supporters on Givology recently as well, thanks to the efforts of our team and network. From the Kakenya Center for Excellence to the Shining Hope Foundation, we’re bringing on new grassroots partners with innovative solutions to deliver quality education to some of the most vulnerable children. Jenn Q and I met with M. Night (the film director) to discuss potential avenues of collaboration, and in January, the NYC team will be meeting with the 10×10 foundation (documentary project of Peter Jennings Foundation) to discuss our cooperative efforts to promote girls education.

Outside of Givology, life in NYC is great. Lauren and Aaron came to visit a few weeks ago, and we had so much fun walking around town, from seeing Rockefeller Center awash in winter lights at night and dining on tasty sushi in East Village to taking a tour of NBC studios (if I watched more television, it would have been more of a spectacle!). I also saw an off-Broadway play with a family friend, and laughed so hard that my sides near split in pain. One Friday night, I went to see my first Toshiro Mifune film, Samurai Rebellion, which I found particularly intriguing given my closet adoration of samurai anime over the last decade. Without a doubt, the animated scenes I’ve become so familiar with parallel the cinematographic techniques of the film! I also dabbled into my first yoga class, which was a lot more challenging than I anticipated, and tried so many different delicacies of the city – exploration at its leisurely best!

This last weekend, I had a great discussion with a friend intending to launch a new business – it’s such a cool idea that I can’t wait until it finally enters the market! That same day, I went to the ITP Winter Show, which definitely ranks as one of the most intriguing and innovative art exhibitions I’ve ever seen, melding technology (lots of sensors, automation, and engineering) with creative designs and implantation. From DJ controls based on hand movements in the air and an empathy connection based on electrodes synching muscles to “human cheese” [literally, different types of cheese made from humans] and street graffiti made of moss, the exhibitions tantalized the mind and senses.

Work is going well – the one most rewarding aspect is how informed about the world I feel. News about Iraq, Afghanistan, and budget politics no longer feel like an external occurrence in the world, abstracted from my studies. Rather, I feel somehow suddenly so connected and enmeshed. I officially started with my group in September; honestly, I can hardly believe that four months have passed. The work force is not the same protected, insular community as academia. Sometimes I feel lost in navigating the new environment and understanding the unofficial rules of human conduct, but I won’t let that discourage me!

I’ll be going home for Christmas this Thursday night. In taking the 11 PM bus, I’m hoping to evade all the traffic, but we’ll see. In thinking over all that has transpired in 2010, the changes in my life have been pronouncedly dramatic. As I think about my goals for 2011, my long-term aspirations have not changed one bit, but my day-to-day priorities have certainly slightly shifted.

Thanksgiving

December 6, 2010 - 6:15 pm 1 Comment

It has been a long time since my last update, so this blog entry will be a poor attempt to highlight just a few major developments. Holiday cheer abounds in New York City, and I find myself constantly in high spirits. This re-cap is through Thanksgiving – I’ll post later about my adventures in the following weeks!

The weekend before Thanksgiving, my little sister and her friend came to visit me in NYC to attend a Jin Akanishi concert. Both girls had looked forward to this concert for ages so I wanted to orchestrate the best weekend possible! On Saturday, after a hearty breakfast and a tasty melon-pan at a local Japanese bakery, we visited two specialty bookstores, followed by the Christmas market at Bryant Park and a short tour of Grand Central station. When Grace’s friends left for a karaoke marathon, Grace and I strolled down Soho, including a tour of the newly opened Pet Hotel at PetSmart. It’s quite interesting – you can get a private suite for your dog at $60 per night, complete with a flat-screen TV that plays animal-themed movies, tailor-made dog ice cream (I tried it when offered…), and a daily phone call with your dog. When one considers that two-fifths of the world lives below $2/day, the extravagance seems rather unjustified, albeit understandably, people adore their pets, thus a market exists for such products and services. For dinner, we went to Ninja, a themed restaurant complete with waiters dressed up as ninjas, magic tricks, and amazing décor. Overall, Grace and I such a great time together, sister time at its best!

The next day, the Jin Akanishi concert really surprised me in terms of its quality. After waiting in line outside at Times Square for an hour, shivering madly, I admittedly was in a grouchy state at the start of the show. Yet, the concert put me in a good mood with amazing theatrics, lots of visual special effects, and frenetic dance moves, from break dancing to popping. Even though the artist professed to start his Yellow Gold tour in the USA with the intention of sharing his music with the world, I bet a good 70% of the audience flew from Japan just to see him perform. The die-hard fans truly astound me in their devotion – they are honestly willing to sacrifice time, money, and basically anything available just to follow him. The premise of idol-worship confuses me, however. Why spend so much time, money, and energy learning everything about a celebrity and collecting his or her merchandise, while knowing that he or she will never know you exist? Alas, seems like a fruitless enterprise to me… If the motivation is sheer entertainment value, then I can understand, but just from observing this crowd, their drive went far beyond that!

The next weekend, I went home for Thanksgiving – a true joy considering that I’ve missed this wonderful holiday for the last two years. Although I had a great time celebrating at Rhodes House, Balliol MCR, and my MFE friends (gosh, it feels so long ago…), going home and spending time with family surpasses any other feeling of elation! My dad cooked a feast beyond imagination, with the best, most tender roast turkey I’ve ever tasted. Our family watched Inception together too, a thought-provoking movie that questioned the line between dream and reality.

I’ve never done Black Friday before, but Grace, mom, and I woke up around 5 AM to go to Best Buy. By the time we arrived, the line had already wrapped around the building with no chance of getting the door buster deals (loss leader goods from an economic perspective). Even though we missed the computer deals, we got Grace a Samsung Fascinate android phone for $1! My little sister was certainly so excited to have such a powerful phone; she couldn’t stop playing with it for the entire weekend. That evening, after I finished working from home, my dad and I went to see a Capitals vs. Lightening game at the Verizon center with Lauren and her dad. It was really fun to go together, especially since the game ended in a total domination victory for the Capitals (a sight that I was never privy to see from a few years ago when the team was in complete disarray).

Saturday passed by lazily, with lots of tasty homemade food, family hiking time at the botanical gardens, some Givology work, and most notably, a hotpot dinner. I haven’t had one in ages! We all sat around a steaming hot pot and shared our stories and thoughts, a family once again reunited. Having been away for two years, I missed these simple pleasures the most, such as joking with my dad about being too impatient to let everything cook properly or listening to my mom’s stories of her co-workers.

Earlier in the day, we had gone to Home Depot to buy a Christmas tree so we set it up after dinner – for me, the end of Thanksgiving marks the start of Christmas cheer! (For the entire weekend, we had Christmas music play on our intercom system non-stop.) Rather than buy ornaments, I proposed that we make them ourselves – anything hand-created has so much more meaning. While Grace and mom sorted through an issue, I settled down to make 70+ ornaments – gingerbread men and women, snowflakes, and other sparkly decorations, in which I glued the sequins on one at a time. The endeavor took a lot of painstaking effort, but the overall effect of the tree once my dad got the position of the tree and the lighting correct was astounding! I’m really proud of our collective effort!

Sunday, the day of our departure, is always sad. I had booked tickets late on Sunday evening so we dropped Grace off first. My mom, anxious to send us off with lots of her homemade specialties, gave us each bundles of her special he-zhi and roasted meats, and my dad gifted me with a large hunk of his famous Irish soda bread. Arriving back in NYC at 11:20 PM was not particularly fun, but with such a great Thanksgiving weekend behind me, I felt completely refreshed for the start of work on Monday.