Posts Categorized: ideas + opinions

A Local Problem became a National Problem: Hope in a Changing Climate

“It is the people who have made the changes.” – John D. Liu
“I am amazed that in as short of 5-6 years you can get water this clean.” – Ethopian professor Lagessa on how vegetation traps moisture and brings clean water
“Restoration is critical for Africa, particularly for Ethopia. … This is regional, national, and international.” – Prof. Legasse
On the Hope in a Changing Climate documentary (via

The film “Hope in a Changing Climate” is created by John D. Liu, the director of Environmental Education Media Project (EEMP). The EEMP is dedicated to continuous research and collaborative learning in environmental, sustainable development and public health subjects; and to producing, gathering and distributing high quality audio-visual materials to support public awareness of these crucial issues.
This documentary demonstrates that it is possible to rehabilitate large-scale damaged ecosystems, to restore ecosystem functions in areas where they have been lost, to fundamentally improve the lives of people who have been trapped in poverty for generations and to sequester carbon naturally. This approach has been dramatically proven on the Loess Plateau in China, the highland area spanning some 640,000 square km in north central China. It is the birthplace of the Han Chinese, headwaters of The Yellow River and home to a new environmental and economic paradigm: A degraded ecosystem of more than 35,000 square km of land now teems with life and supports the sustainable economic, social and agricultural activities of its people.

Today is World Water Day.

Resound #11, One Word: Forward

#resound11 Prompt 31: One Word
Earlier this month, we wrote about our one word to describe 2011. Today, let’s write about our one word for 2012. What word do you want to use to describe how you will approach 2012?
Will it be awesome? Will it be frugal? Will it be open? Will it be the year of yes? What is your 2012?
How will you resound?

Sat 12.31.11 – Before I look to 2012, allow me to look back a bit.
Me on Twitter today:

@msjen: Actually, I am looking forward to saying goodbye and don’t let the door hit you on the way out to 2009-2011.

Then @technokitten RT’ed with a +1, to which I replied:

@msjen: @technokitten +2012 I want to move forward rather than a holding pattern w/great effort to not fall back which is how the last 3 yrs felt.



Yesterday, my mom, sister, and I went to what my mom calls ‘soul comfort food’ for a rainy day – Ashoka the Great in Artesia.
I love the dal makhani at the Ashoka the Great’s buffet, as it is a thick multiple bean stew/curry perfect to put on top of rice and just on the edge of my ginger capacity. The cooks put 1/8″ fresh ginger cubes in the dal and while it is tasty, it is almost too much ginger for me.
My mom loves fresh ginger and loves lots of it. Through much of my teen years she would use nearly a whole root in dinner which was too much for my palate, as the dish would seer my tongue with ginger fire. If I would complain she would tell me that she didn’t really put much in at all.
Seeing all the ginger in yesterday’s dal, I encouraged her to go get some, when she came back from the buffet and sat down I saw that her dal had many ginger chunks in it. She ate about half her dal and then told me, “I don’t taste any ginger in this.”

Fantasy, Science Fiction, Imagination, Faith, and Modernity

There has been quite the internet blog-o-sphere to do revolving around Michael Weingrad’s essay “Why There Is No Jewish Narnia“, which led to D.G. Myers asserting that “Fantasy is a Genre of Christianity“, where upon E.D. Kain proposes that it is not Christianity but Anglophone culture that is the root of Fantasy literature in “Fantasy and the Anglosphere“.
In “Fantasy and the Anglosphere” Kain writes,

“When I published my fantasy piece in the Atlantic it was linked (reproduced?) by Richard Dawkins’ site and a number of the atheists in the commentariat had scathing things to say about fantasy literature. Apparently it is not enough that readers of fantasy do not, in fact, believe in their make-believe. Apparently the fact that dragons and sorcery are not based in science is enough to earn the scorn of some anti-religious types.
This reminds me of the reaction of many conservative Christian groups to various fantasy novels, from Harry Potter to The Golden Compass and the attempt by some conservative groups to ban these books in schools due to all that witchcraft and other devil-worshipping (you know, all those satanic rituals Harry Potter and Hermione engage in before the strange sexual acts begin.)
But many, many Christians and atheists and people of various other faiths enjoy fantasy. “

It struck my absurdity bone as darkly funny that folks are unable to enjoy fiction because it is not science.
And then being the internet it gets better, as Alyssa Rosenberg jumps in the fray with “Is Fantasy Inherently Christian?” and Adam Serwer joins in with “High Fantasy is a Subgene of Fantasy“, wherein Mr. Serwer brings in the fantasy traditions of many cultures worldwide.
What I find interesting is that none of the writers above, after name checking C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Chesterton, with one or two brief references to Arthurian legends of the high Middle Ages, discuss the Romantic and Victorian infatuation with all things that we would now label as Fantasy: elves, fairies, the sublime, the door between the worlds, other worlds, etc. Not just the folks in the British tradition, but also Wagner (The Ring Cycle), the Russian literature around Baba Yaga, the Welsh Mabinogion, the Celtic revival of Yeats, Wilde, et al, etc etc.
Or how about the writer that both Lewis and Tolkein gave much credit to, George MacDonald. While MacDonald was a poet, writer, and minister, many of his tales border between a mash up of older Scottish fairy tales with the early Modern Christian allegory tradition, wherein the fairy tales come out a bit stronger in his stories than any claims to a 19th Century version of Pilgrim’s Progress.
Wherever we want to trace the history and genealogy of contemporary Fantasy literature, it is far deeper and broader than Tolkein, Lewis, and Chesterton. The Bridge of Birds immediately leaps to mind.
Also to say that Judaism is only concerned with the here and now, and thus couldn’t produce a tradition of Fantasy is also only looking at the last 100 years or so of history. I would love a time machine to take me back to 1100 or 1200 AD to Cordoba or Granada to sit at the feet of a Jewish storyteller and hear of the tales being told in that moment in Andalucia. Maimonides may have had a few good fantastical stories to tell that weren’t all theological in nature.
We, a people who have lived through and beyond the age of the early Modern explorers, the empires where stories leaked back and forth between subject & subjector, as well as the Modernist love of all things industrial progress and the rational, dip into many strands of fantasy in our TV, books, films, and now internets, of which many of these strands may have root in the primary culture we live in right now or the stories may scamper up and down other trees and roots of places we have not yet seen nor heard of.
Many of the stories we now think of as Christian or Medieval are stories that have been radically reshaped or completely created anew in the last 200 years the Industrial Revolution, the Romantics, and the various Revivals of the late 19th century. How much of the current genre we call Fantasy is not necessarily the creative child of Christianity but really the rebellious teenager of rational Modernism?

Platform Agnostic and Current Friendly

One of the great promises of HTML5 with CSS3 and Javascript is that eventually, after much wrangling & negotiation, one will be able to write apps that can work across many devices regardless of platform and ecosystem. In the meantime, while we are waiting for HTML5 to have access to the contacts or camera on the mobile you could be possibly carrying, we can use future friendly practices to develop and design flexible web sites and apps.
Until the future web accessible world arrives, from a pragmatic standpoint, many of us if we want to access contacts, or the camera, or a variety of other APIs and features on our mobile devices, we find ourselves delving into hybrid native-web mobile worlds or diving into native mobile apps be it through a SDK or PhoneGap or the like.
Thomas Perl in a post-Nokia World 2011 blog post, Comparing Mobile OS SDK availability by platform, builds an argument for a very salient point for folks who are currently developing for native mobile apps:

“Now, people can argue that one can set up dual-boot or virtual machines to support all OSes, but that’s not the point. The point is that if the SDK is available on all Desktop platforms (note that this is not the same as SDK targetting all mobile platforms), developers can retain their choice of Desktop OS on which they develop on, and are not forced to use OS X or Windows for development of apps for the corresponding mobile platform (I also understand the reason why these companies only provide the SDK for their own Desktop platform, but that is not a good reason from a developer’s point of view).”

I agree with Mr. Perl. I don’t want to be told which desktop platform I must use so that I can develop for a certain mobile. I find working in virtual box to be tedious after a short span of time. I would like the system I develop for to respect me enough to let me to make the choice about what desktop/laptop OS I prefer to use.
Bravo to Android, Qt, and PhoneGap.


The post I wrote last night on 9.11 and then published this morning, I have set back to draft as I need to work on it a bit more. Given that I leave soon for the zany Buttonwillow road trip, I will do a bit of editing/re-writing and re-publish this evening.
Have a lovely day.

Buttonwillow or Bust

Updated Sat 09.17.11 – One week ago late on Saturday the 10th of September, I wrote the following personal essay piece about the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. Within hours of publishing it, I turned it back to draft as I wasn’t ready for it to go live, especially not on the day that was meant to remember the dead and thank the living rescuers and heroes.
What I was trying to communicate with this piece is my anger and frustration at the media, Bush administration, loss of freedoms (for what? more fear?) and culture clash politics that have erupted in the ten years since. My own reaction on Sun 09.11.11 was to participate in a wee bit of dada-esque absurdism with my sister and not to listen to / watch / consume any of the media’s disaster porn.
As I stated in the essay, I am not angry or frustrated at those who died nor their loved ones, but at our cultural and governmental responses.
Am now republishing.