Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Stopping Your Inhibition- Kony 2012

Please! Just watch this above video!!!

What just happened there? You took a moment to think about what you were just asked to do. Your eyes went up the rectangular play button as you gave the thumbnail picture a once over. You instantly doubted the words of a stranger asking you to click on a link. You don't like being bossed around, or suckered into what might be a scam or silly trick. And yet you're still reading this, trying to get more information, trying to decide whether or not to watch the above video.

If you're anything like me, and 99% of the rest of the world, you still haven't watched the video (if you're the 1%, then hats off to you). Why should you, after all? You know nothing about it, and chances are you stumbled onto this page completely on accident. Google Images probably brought you here. But I'm asking you to stay just a while longer. A part of you is still curious, still willing to listen.

We've all dealt with inhibition before: the moment of decision, of weighing pros against cons, of evaluating the risks and benefits of any given situation. It took me about twenty minutes to decide whether to take a chunk out of my night today to write this, if it was worth it to come back to my blog after a month or two of inactivity. But if even one person, out of all the readers who happens upon this (it could be you!), decides to take a leap of faith and watch the video, then it will all be worth it to me. In all seriousness, just do it. Just watch the first few minutes of the video so you know what I'm talking about. You made it this far, so I'll even provide another link HERE. Come back after you know a bit more about what I'm talking about.

Kony needs to be stopped. There is no doubt about that, and I'm sure 99% of you people out there agree with me. But why is it that this conflict has dragged out for so long? It's inhibition. We watch a video, feel sad and enraged, experience a twinge of guilt, decide mentally to contribute... and then what? We go about our day. Our inhibition takes over. It's an automatic process, as we start to weigh the value of the effort needed to DO something. I'll be the first to admit the irony of my situation, but it's something that everyone deals with.

Inhibition prevents things from being done. In a world dominated by Facebook and the internet, why not use that to our advantage? Don't think about what your friends and family will think when they see that you've shared another "chain" link as your status. Don't check to see what the thumbnail will be, and what others will think about you posting it. Don't stop to contemplate whether or not you'll get enough "likes" or comments to make your effort worth it. See? You're inhibiting yourself now.

Until there is instant communication between people and nations, ignorance is the real threat. I only learned about the Invisible Children organization a few months ago, by chance, when our school had an assembly about the conflict in Uganda. There are more than 300 million people in the United States. If everyone knew about Joseph Kony, he would be arrested in a heartbeat for his unimaginable crimes. You are now one less person who has not heard the word. The beauty of "Kony 2012" is that like anything else on the internet, it has the potential to go viral. But let's make it happen.

I'm scrolling through my Facebook feed right now after sharing the Kony 2012 video. I don't care that I've gotten only one "like" since I posted it. What's cool is that I see three more of my friends donating their status to the cause. I scroll down in my history and see others that posted/shared the message even before I did. It's hard to trace it to just one of my friends, but I know it's because of Facebook that I'm writing this post right now. Unlike other chain statuses, I truly hope this doesn't die for a while. Here is one of my friends' awesome, inspiring, summarizing words after sharing the video: (his exact status) This dude Kony is seriously a piece of shit.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Be encouraged by small acts

Tumbling, scrambling, clawing, lunging, heaving, floating, tugged, dragged through Life. It's small acts that keep you grounded. Little things that prevent you from being washed away entirely by the rushing torrent. When kindness springs on you, it's like a breath of sweet air, a comforting sigh, a moment of resurgence that keeps you going. How often have you been ready to quit, to throw your hands up in despair, to bury your tears in your pillow, only to be encouraged by a random stranger, uplifted by a smile or hand on the shoulder? The simple acknowledgement of your struggle, effort, time, pain... a subtle hint of congratulation... the moment of empathy... the bursting of approval... the emergence of support and loyalty...  somehow these moments make it all worth it. Those are the moments to live for.

How small a piece of kindness it takes to wipe away a gray sky from your day! How spontaneous and effortless, compared to a whole day of drudgery. It's all it takes to cheer your mood and make you smile when everything has gone wrong. No, not necessarily gone wrong, but gone into routine. Day after day of work or struggle, the same events, the same thoughts... School for one quickly becomes a monotone of action and reaction and class and homework, but never forget to look for the small miracles- a compliment from a friend, a word of praise from your teacher, a simple second of eye contact from a complete stranger. You have to watch out for them, small flashes of silvery scales in the water, mullets darting by and daring you to reach out and catch them.

Three words were all it took for me to be reinvigorated with my writing, my imagination today. Thank you, stranger, for caring, for proving to me that it's all worth it, for reassuring me that my words aren't going to waste. Because life never should be- it's the little things that prove that.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

VERSE- Discarding Worry

Matthew 6:34
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

It's easy to get caught up in the flurry of activity that happens each and every day. It's easy to lose track of the hours, the days, the weeks as you keep looking ahead. Sometimes it's out of fear or dread- a midterm to study for, a paper or project that needs to be finished, an interview to prepare for. Sometimes it's out of anticipation or longing- looking forward to the next break from school just as one finishes (I've been guilty of that). This verse always helps me to calm down, to slow down my thoughts and instincts to plan ahead, and instead to see the beauty in each and every new day.

I think as a whole, teens are more versed with stress than any other age group, especially in the variety of things that stress us out and the way they always build off each other. It's a very vulnerable stage to pile on so many responsibilities, expectations, relationships, fears, hopes, dreams, and changes. During my junior year I felt like I was constantly drowning in things to do- SAT prep, AP courses, clubs, music, sports- and yet I always wanted to take that "break-" a night to go out with the guys, a weekend to relax and catch up on sleep, a movie with the family. Add procrastination to the mix and I was a wreck many nights during the week. I would stay up past midnight, feeling guilty about losing sleep but also wondering if I could be any more productive. During showers I mentally ran through a list of "Things to Worry About," which added my own expectations and goals on top of my homework and extracurriculars. I would wake up each morning feeling stressed, as if I was always forgetting something, wondering what the day would bring, how I would survive to the next weekend, which sometimes were even more loaded with activities and responsibilities than the weekdays. It definitely wasn't a good feeling.

I wish I realized then the futility of always anticipating the future, of worrying about tomorrow even before it happens. It multiplied my fears and stress levels when in fact each school day was very manageable. The problem was that I put the weight of the entire week onto one school night. And if you're still in high school, here's a tip that I picked up: the next time you look down in your planner and just groan at the amount of STUFF you have to do, banish all negative thoughts from your mind. Stop thinking that it'll "take you forever" or that "you have sooo much to do," or that you're the "unluckiest and busiest person in the world," or that "my life sucks right now." Seriously, just don't do that. It's a rather annoying mechanism of the mind, but one that I find just makes the situation worse. You'd be surprised how much you exaggerate your own misfortunes. Say you do a school sport and get home after a game, eat dinner, and it's 7:30 pm. You have an average of four and a half HOURS before midnight (sometimes more, sometimes less). If you actually truly think about what you have to get done, often it doesn't take as long as you think (or fear) it will. The dread and apprehension clouds your mind and makes the horror a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tell yourself that you have plenty of time and that you'll be fine. Finish up the day's work and breathe a sigh of relief.

That's why Matthew 6:34 was and is so important to me. There's no use in worrying about tomorrow if you don't even know what tomorrow is going to bring. What's the use of planning the rest of your life, for example, if the world's just going to end in 2012? The point is to surrender your life to God. Once you do, you realize how meaningless certain pressures in your life become. To an extent, God's not going to care what you get on that chem test, or how well you hold up on your job, or how "overachieving" your activities compared to others. He DOES care about how much faith and trust you can place in him. The story from Mark 12:41-44 reassures me, about the poor widow who put in two copper coins, which was all she had. She probably wasn't worrying about tomorrow or how she would feed herself the next day when she gave her offering. And if she could do that, place tomorrow's anxieties into God's caring hands, with basically her entire life on the line, you can certainly start to do that as well.

Take your life one day at a time. Trust God and allow him to lift some of the burdens in your life right now. Remember Matthew 6:34 whenever you are up late at night, worrying about tomorrow and whether or not you should go to sleep or work some more. Remember, God doesn't want you to live in constant worry or anxiety. That's how you get gray hair and wrinkles. Seek God and then go to bed easy, knowing He will definitely take care of you.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Hunger Games (Suppressing Reality)

We've all suppressed reality before, one way or another- a gripping movie, a book you can't put down, a musical that moves you to tears, a TV show that pulls you in. You lose sight of reality for a moment, even if just for an instant, that makes you doubt the world you're in. It's a strange feeling, emerging from that sort of experience: shaken, unnerved, restless. You see the real world slightly differently as you come back into it, hesitantly easing back into your daily routine. Missing the world you were enveloped in but having conflicting views about the one you're in. It really makes you think. And wonder. And live.

The reason I'm writing this is I just finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the first book in a trilogy that is a real mixture of genres. It came on very high recommendation from my friends and I am glad to pass that on. It's a superb book takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, so there's a degree of sci-fi in it, but the main character is situated in a poor, starving distract that retains village atmosphere with miners, hunters, butchers, bakers, and the sort. As the title may hint at, there is an incredible amount of action, adventure, and suspense, as well as a lot of other elements, but I refuse to give anything away because it would take away slightly from the experience. I have to admit that I haven't been able to pick up many books for pleasure-reading since high school and all the required readings for English, but The Hunger Games was completely and utterly worth it. It reads in a very young-adult style, but that's what I love most so I'm ranking it way up there with Ender's Game (more sci-fi) and Eragon (more fantasy) and the Pendragon Series (more questy).

Even the posters for The Hunger Games are awesome...

Go read! Enjoying Suzanne Collins' genius and brilliant craft has made me miss the days I read fantasy and young adult books like crazy. And it's such a different experience from a good movie, though I'll never pass  up the likes of Inception and Sherlock Holmes. People who read epic series like Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings in novel form first in addition to watching movies can attest to the differences in feel and emotion that books and film adaptations bring. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 blew me away in a completely different way than it did when the book released in the summer of 2007. One experience was spent sitting on my bed, eyes riveted to the pages, ignoring my mom's call to go to sleep, constantly checking the pages to see how many were left, totally captivated by the story and wishing I could go to school in Hogwarts, while amazed by J.K. Rowling but still mad at her for killing off my favorite characters. The other was spent at the theater, with friends (some crying), trying hard not to tear up myself, trying hard not not to tear up because it was the last film, wondering if the end really meant the end of my childhood, laughing at the ridiculousness of Voldemort hugging Malfoy, still mad at J.K. Rowling for having Dumbledore and Snape and Fred die but having forgiven her slightly as I've gotten older and understood the need for loss.

So yeah, I literally finished reading The Hunger Games about an hour ago and I've only slightly gotten over the stupor of its incredibleness (though it's more than a pleasant read, there are still some feelings deep down that I can't exactly place). It's unsettling how fast reality sucks you back in though. I still have homework to do, parents to deal with, responsibilities to accomplish. It was such a nice read and break from all that. I don't think anyone can live without entertainment and the thrill of stopping to invest time and energy and emotion into a good book or a good movie. It sticks with you. And the best part for me right now, is that I still have the second and third books to look forward to, to live with the characters and pretend I'm in their world. That's one advantage books still have over films- the duration and pace of the plot is entirely up to you. But I still love the moment when you finish a book and it's concluded, even if it is the first book in a trilogy. A sense completion, a sigh of relief, the feeling you get after just finishing a delicious meal AND an ice cream sundae. My emotions were being played by Suzanne Collins, as I knew they were, especially in the end. My heart was still thumping and my mind was in a whirl. There were elements of the book that I hung on to, other elements that I marveled at, some that made me inexplicably sad, some that made me enamored, others that made me question the world. In short, it was a good novel. I really, really hope the movie (to be released March 23rd) lives up to the book. The trailer below also has phenomenal music, which is a promising start.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Years Eve!

Wow. It's that time of year again- a day for everyone to go crazy and think of more and more elaborate ways to celebrate the coming of a new year. It's been a pretty good year, and like everyone else, I'm thinking ahead to this next year and all the things I want to do. My opinion on New Years resolutions? They can be good and bad. On the one hand they can really inspire people to start over with a "clean slate," to have a fresh start, to get rid of old habits and start new ones. On the other hand, it implies that New Years is the only time you can do that. I think every day should be cherished like New Years- every morning you wake up is another chance to start over, to live your life. But regardless, I'm still happy it's being celebrated all over the world.

The other side of the world is 12 hours ahead of us... they're already 4 hours into 2012. The picture above is one of Taipei 101. Needless to say, they celebrated by blowing a lot of stuff up. And Sydney, Australia? They're pros at this kind of stuff. People look forward every year to the new spectacles that Sydney Opera House will bring.

I guess this time of the year always brings need for a little reminiscing as well. A whole year's of memories can come crashing down on you if you just delve back into the past a little. It's a bit weird for teens, seeing as how we chronicle our lives in school years and the start of each new grade, but I can still remember last year's January 1st and New Year's Eve, the feeling of going back to school, the amount of snow still on the ground, waiting for February break to come... Anyways, I'm looking forward to tonight because I'll be spending time with friends and then later, after all the celebrating is over, spending some time in thought, reflection, and anticipation of the new year.

Enjoy New Years! Here's some premature celebration, but still pretty cool to watch. Handy if there aren't any midnight firework shows being planned around your area.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


It's awesome how my "weekly challenges" aren't weekly at all. I should call it "sporadic challenges" instead. Answer the question or challenge and I'll write about a blog topic of your choice!

Songs have different uses. Some are meant to make you cry, some are meant to make you laugh, some are meant to be sung at the top of your lungs in the car with all the window cars down... I have very different playlists for when I'm doing the things I like and when I'm doing my homework. Inception music, for example, is always a good kick to get you started on problem number one of your math homework. But what about creative writing? I never listen to songs with lyrics when I want to do some serious writing because they would distract me. Primavera is a beautiful song that I listen to over and over again because it sets me in a relaxed, peaceful mood. Here, try it yourself.

-So, what's a good song to listen to when you want to do creative work?
-Email me at with any suggestions and blog topics!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Christmas Story

Merry Christmas 2011 everyone!!

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.'" Luke 1:10. No matter how many times I go back to the bible and read about the birth of Jesus and the shepherds and the angels, it always strikes me as such a miracle. How miraculous was it that God actually sent his son to be born in the humblest of ways here on Earth! He came as the Savior for us all, and I think it's so amazing that people all over the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus right now. Not only are we celebrating Jesus' birthday, but we're also celebrating the salvation and love that he brought to Earth. It's not even a holiday limited to one country or one culture, but one for ALL the people. That's what I think makes Christmas stand out... it's not all the presents and Christmas trees and cookies, but the meaning of the day to people around the globe, who are celebrating in spite of hardships and financial difficulties. In the end, though, you're never too old or too knowledgeable to hear the Christmas story again. This retelling of the Christmas story by the children of St Paul's Church will make you smile.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays! There's something about the Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah season that warms the heart and lifts the spirit. It's something that is hard to pinpoint, but it lingers in the chilly December air around us. We have little reminders everywhere- small decorations in grocery stores, Christmas trees tied to the roofs of cars, holiday displays in stores, the surfacing of ugly holiday sweaters... people are excited. The year is coming to an end and people need a break from school and work. It's always a happy and eventful time of the year, but also one that is stressful. Go to the local mall and people are crowded in stores, waiting in lines, furiously shopping and preparing gifts. That nagging responsibility to buy gifts is stuck in the back of your mind. Sometimes it's good to just take a step back and smile, to appreciate all the winter holiday cheer without being buried in the stress.

The best part to the winter holidays is getting to spend some time with the family, though. With school over (thankfully), I can really take some time to just relax. The gifts and food are nice too, but it's important not to focus on them so much that you neglect the really important things in your life. Take a moment to really talk with your siblings. Watch a movie with your parents. Go out shopping with friends to spend time together with them and not necessarily to buy gifts. Though we're a bit lacking in snow in Syracuse this year, I still love the entire winter season and all the excitement leading up to New Year's. These are some of the best moments of the year, and I want to make sure I don't miss them. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bracelets to Change the World

I've always been a bracelet person. I like the individuality that comes with wearing something so simple and yet subtly noticeable. They're comfortable and not as bulky as watches. They come in just about every color and pattern. And for me, wearing a bracelet is like making a commitment- I always wear them for an extended period of time, for as long as I can. Whether it's one my friend made or one I bought one from some sort of fundraising event, I like to wear the bracelet until 1) it falls off from wear 2) I lose it 3) I'm forced to take it off during the school soccer season according to the rules of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. (And even then I made sure to put it back on after the game).

I don't think I'll ever completely forget any of the bracelets I've worn during my life. Like songs, bracelets too can be tied to memories or certain periods of my life. Like the plain brown one I made at Sabattis Boy Scout Camp way back when, or the white-green-blue-black one I wore when my family went back to Taiwan to visit relatives, or the Salvation bracelet I made this past summer with my elementary small group at church. They looked something like this, and were especially meaningful to me because the colors explained and reminded me of my faith.

Other people certainly know what I'm talking about when I say I get attached to my bracelets. Some of my buddies on the soccer team never took off their bracelets or headbands during the season and taped them down instead, claiming that they were their "lucky bracelets" for all the games. There's also so many variations of the Livestrong bracelet out there that people seem to have their own personal version/combinations on their wrists at any given time.

The thing that really popularized Livestrong bracelets and just bracelets in general, I think, is the strong association they have with cause or mission. Livestrong bracelets were originally founded to raise funds for cancer, and have sold as many as 80 million individual bands so far. Other fundraisers consistently use bracelets as an eloquent and attractive way to make profit as well as spread popularity and awareness.

The one I'm wearing right now, pictured above , is a bracelet I bought at my church to help support a mission  trip to Guatemala. It's a constant reminder on my right wrist to pray for those less fortunate in the world and also for those who may not know God.

And the way I see it, bracelets have and will be a way to change the world. A few weeks ago, my school held an assembly to talk about the Invisible Children organization and showed the video Tony, a powerful documentary detailing the story of how young people across the nation have been rising up to help the children their age in northern Uganda. For years the area has been plagued by war, riveted with violence and child abduction led by Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army that is responsible for much of the war. Invisible Children is a non-profit organization that is looking to raise funds to provide education and scholarships to students in Uganda, to improve village and refuge camp conditions, and to create global awareness to pass legislation and suppress some of the terrorist actions led by Joseph Kony. The bracelet campaign by Invisible Children as explained here is something truly motivating. It ties in everything there is to say about the situation in Africa, and makes the contribution that much more personal and memorable by including a story about a child in need.

After the assembly at my school and some time spent watching all the videos on the Invisible Children website, there's a profound emotion that's still pulling at me. 75% of you right now are reading this from somewhere in the U.S. Another 20% are from the United Kingdom or Canada. How many children in Africa do you think have access to the internet? How many in northern Uganda even have a safe home to return to? And I'm not saying we should just focus all our attention on Africa- there are so many parts of the world that are not as privileged as we are. They're not fortunate enough to have basic amenities or a place to stay. Half a million Americans are homeless right now. And yet all I'm doing right now to help them is typing on a computer screen, sitting in a chair and wondering how much of an impact words really have. We HAVE the resources to make things right in the world. All we lack is time and effort and commitment. Which is why I like the bracelet campaign so much, because having something to wear really reminds you and keeps you conscious of the things outside your own life. So could bracelets change the world? Maybe. But the awareness that they bring would be a pretty good start. 

Daft Hands - Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

This song brings back memories of working out over the summer at LeMoyne college. Great song, but this person takes creativity to a whole other level. Seriously, who has time to think up something like this? Kudos to them I say, I was bored for the first 50 seconds but was smiling for the whole rest of the video.