Friday, November 27, 2009

El Salvador relief

A friend of mine is spreading the word about El Salvador flood relief. Below is the text of the flyer he has been distributing:
The situation in El Salvador is critical in six of the country's 14 departments (provinces) following torrential rains from Hurricane Ida and subsequent flooding and mudslides. As of Thursday evening, November 12, the confirmed death toll stood at 157 nationwide with 500 people missing just in the area of San Vicente. Some communities are without electricity or running water. More than twenty bridges have collapsed and road destruction has isolated many Salvadorans. The affected Salvadoran population is in need of food, clothing, bedding, water, hygiene kits, medicine, and shelter. We are calling out to our friends and supporters to assist us in our efforts to help those affected to rebuild their communities and their lives. Funds will be critical to both the emergency effort and subsequent rebuilding. Please contribute what you can and share with other concerned people who may be able to help.

All contributions are tax deductible and can be sent to:
US-El Salvador Sister Cities
P.O. Box 2543
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
e-mail and website for more information:
My friend has chosen to direct funds to US-El Salvador Sister Cities both because he knows the people involved, and because they have a well-established relationship with an organization in El Salvador, CRIPDES, so they can direct assistance to El Salvador immediately. CRIPDES, the Association for the Development of El Salvador, is an association of 300 rural communities in El Salvador. CRIPDES strengthens and develops rural community organizing. You can read more about the Sister Cities/CRIPDES relief efforts at

This is the organization that my friend recommends. However, if you want to contribute but only if you have the convenience of being able to do so online, there are organizations helping with El Salvador relief which accept online donations, including Oxfam America, Plan, and Save the Children.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A good day

Happiness is going rollerblading on a warm (by November standards) sunny day, and then on the way home, hearing a song on the radio that was my favorite when I was about 5, and singing along to the radio. What more could anyone ask for?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving thanks, 2009

It's that time of year again to think about what I am thankful for. Here's what's on my mind this year:
  • It seems the most precious times are the times we spend with loved ones. I am grateful for a large family. I am grateful that my family has expanded, with the addition of my nephew and his mother. My family members follow such diverse paths -- pro-technology and anti-technology, traveler and homebody, athlete and scholar. What they share is the value placed on each person following his or her unique path. They don't seek to conform to a mainstream mold, nor do they tell me how I should live. I am grateful for family and friends who understand and share my values, style of expression, and lifestyle. I am grateful for all the friends who once touched my life, even though now many of their paths have diverged from mine. I am grateful that for the current time in my life, a close friend is there for me every day with kindness, intelligence, and wit.
  • Among those values my family shares with me are that integrity and kindness are more important than wealth and prestige. But it is a luxury to be able to disdain wealth. I only can disdain it because my material needs are met. I am grateful that I never have to worry about not having enough food to eat or not having a place to take shelter from the cold. I am grateful to have a car that runs and the ability to drive it, so that I can easily visit relatives, go grocery shopping, go to concerts, etc.
  • I am grateful that my body is more or less in working order. Last winter when I broke my wrist, it was at times a struggle to function. I think it would be even harder to lose the use of my legs, or my eyesight, or my hearing. It's so easy to forget, but having our five senses and our mobility makes life so much easier, and it's something that can be lost at any time in a sudden accident.
  • Another thing that's easy to forget is the earth, which sustains us with air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and beauty to inspire us.
  • I am grateful for the opportunity to do radio shows. Planning playlists is a fulfilling creative outlet for me.
  • I am grateful for my spirituality and values, which keep me grounded through the vicissitudes of life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How to fix the world

A story on NPR this morning told of a 3-year-old shot by police in South Africa. Apparently some believe that violent police are the only way to curb crime. I wished the reporter had also told us what social science tells us about reducing crime. Does violent law enforcement work? Is there anything else that works equally well or better?

In another story a little later, NPR quoted someone from the US Institute for Peace. It seems that at the US Institute for Peace, people actually try to figure out how to reduce violence and build peaceful societies. I think that's what we need to do. Being outraged about the 3-year-old shot by police is easy, but how do we actually build a world where that kind of thing doesn't happen? I think if it were easy, we would have done it already.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Latest edition of what to do with my life

I am constantly trying to figure out what to do with my life, as can be seen in previous posts with tags such as careers, goals, or paths. My latest thoughts are not really anything new, but they include:
  • Health is a real issue. I can come up with lots of grand plans, but I may not be able to carry them out.
  • It's important to me to be part of a community where people are committed to treating others with respect and doing the right thing.
  • While I think I want to live in a small city/town similar in size to where I live now, it's also important to me to spend a significant amount of time in a more natural/rural environment.
  • I've often thought of how who my sister was at age 2 fit so well with who she grew up to become. At 2, she was scaling the high chair and somersaulting off beds. Now she does capoeira. I felt that if I knew who I was when I was a kid, maybe that would give me some clue as to where to find my niche in the world. When I expressed this sentiment to my grandmother, she said that when I was little, I was always keeping track of people. That made a lot of sense to me. I recalled that while many children enjoy playing Let's Pretend, my interest was in inventing a cast of characters and their relationships with each other, rather than in creating a story of the character's actions. I also recalled that at around 6, I briefly took up gardening, and my interest only lasted enough to start a notebook of gardening tips. Even then, my focus was on compiling information, rather than on hands-on activity. Throughout my school years, including in graduate school, I would make lists or diagrams of the students in my classes. Now in my job, it is fitting that I keep track of students. My most recent day at work, 1) a student told me it's cool that I have such a good sense of which student goes with which advisor, and 2) I discussed with a coworker who all her nieces and nephews were.
  • I like where I live now better than where I used to live, because I feel there's more equality. Where I used to live, I felt there were more extremes of wealth and poverty. Someone told me that this perception was incorrect, so I looked up some data on income distribution in the two metropolitan areas. Just as when I did similar work in school, I enjoyed both 1) the sense of empowerment that comes with using data to get answers to questions, and 2) the process of working with data.
  • Sometimes I think the right career for me would involve using some technical skill, such as working with databases, spreadsheets, or statistics.
  • Other times I think that a job using a technical skill in this way would not be right for me, because the most interesting thing to do is to have a flock of people to keep track of. That is, I want to know the people I keep track of. Just a list of names is not as satisfying.
  • Using technical skills and keeping track of people are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and in fact, one of the things I like about my current job is that I get to do both.