Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's a beautiful thing.

I have had a weekend of sleep, books, naps, movies, and lots more sleep. It has been absolutely wonderful. Mental clarity has returned, along with proportionate emotional responses, conversational skills, and the ability to operate a motor vehicle without feeling like I'm in a video game. Or as much as I ever really possess these things. Some more than others.

Things of note:

  • If you haven't already seen the new Star Trek movie, do so. Even if you're not a fan of Star Trek. I've never been, in the slightest. It is a great movie, and a ton of fun.
  • If you live remotely near Houston and have an extra $1000 laying around, go see this. Better yet, buy me a seat (and plane tickets.)
  • Mamasan's Taiwanese beef noodle soup is the perfect compliment to watching MST3K.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Futzing around with the formatting on here, and I seem to have monkeyed it up, without knowing quite how to fix it. Imagine that. On the upside, the 87 shades of blue please me.

Still could not sleep last night. Well, I did eventually - got about 4.5 hours, which would be not too bad on a normal night, but horrible when you've gotten less than ten accumulated for the whole week. Did not add to the list of random things I do, because I was so exhausted and frustrated that I did nothing but lay there and silently scream at the universe. Also a bit of undignified weeping.

There's another reason I can't sleep, and that's because last weekend I caught one (possibly two) men, shining flashlights into my living room windows a little before six in the morning, while still pitch black dark outside. I only caught them because I'm an insomniac and was still awake, and because I chose that very moment to get up and open the indoor wooden shutters on those windows so the light could come in when the sun rose. It was a cool night and all the windows were open in the back and sides of the house to let the breeze in. Once I realized what was happening, I grabbed my .38 special, and raced around from bedroom to bedroom slamming and locking all the windows. That seemed to take forever, and they were gone when I got back to the living room.

It rattled me then, but not half as much as it has in the days since. It took a bit to sink in that I was incredibly lucky that I was awake and happened to choose that very moment to open the shutters. Had I been asleep in my bed, with all those windows open, and my gun in the desk in the living room, I don't know what would have happened.

I live in such a quiet, idyllic little neighborhood. Where until this year I've never worried about leaving windows open or even locking the back door. I'm not stupid or naive, I moved here from a borderline neighborhood in Chicago, and before that a downright ghetto in West Philly. It's just that quiet and safe where I live. Or was, anyway.

So, yes. I will admit to being a little scared to fall asleep now, uneasy in my own home. It's an awful feeling.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Things I Do When You're Asleep (Or, Insomnia is Effing Boring)

  • Devised brilliant weight loss plan using heat from laptop battery that's been on for six weeks to melt fat away. Put into practice.
  • Wikipedia surf: Began at Samoa, ended at foot binding.
  • Discovered Things of Interest when I stumbled across amusing linked page on Geocide. Spent much time clicking around Sam Hughes' site.
  • Watched new movie trailers online, told myself to go see them in the theater. I won't, but I will maintain my false conviction until such time as I actually have to act.
  • Fluffed and smoothed India's fur in various fashions for maximum kitten stylishness.
  • Made some lists. I like lists. Lists of lists.
  • Attempted to prove Fermat's last theorem in my head, via deductive reasoning and hardly any math, in ten steps or less. Took quite seriously. Felt confident in my success, and proud of my previously undiscovered mathematical genius. Suck it, Andrew Wiles.
  • Put on high heels to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen for water, to enjoy satisfying clicking noise on hardwood floor.
  • Started this list.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Help yourself

I just stepped out on the porch to get my mail, and found a stranger in my front yard eating grapes from the grapevine that covers the fence next to my driveway. He looked up and saw me, waved, and smiled. I just waved back, and went inside. I'm really sick of those grapes. All yours, random guy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Half a world away, right here in my heart.

Have been speaking today with one of the Iranians I've been following on Twitter since Saturday. Soliciting help from the computer savvy to provide him with secure paths around the filters.

I asked him if he and his friends and family were okay. He says "for now," and since he is one of the technical guys, he tries to remain anonymous.

But then, he said if I don't see him update for 24 hours, something is probably wrong... and then he gave me his full name, and asked me to spread the word let the others know if that happens.

That hit me harder, and made me cry more, than any video or picture I have seen.

To my Iranian friend - you are so very brave. Thank you for your trust, and I hope I never, ever have to speak your name.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I see a lizard wearing a sombrero

Took this tonight, a couple minutes before I got really wet.

Monday, June 15, 2009

#IranElection weekend continues

It has been an exhausting, heartbreaking, riveting, emotional, inspiring, unforgettable weekend.

It wasn't too long after I posted my previous entry that it all became old or common news. The #CNNfail twitter phenomena was noted and talked about in several articles on a half dozen news sites as well as many blogs. We were hailed as "media watchdogs." I don't doubt that CNN's coverage would have increased dramatically as events unfolded, and I don't want to overestimate the effect the online beating they took from twitter and the organizations that ran with the story - but man, did they step it up. Props to CNN, as they are currently running at least a half dozen separate articles on the situation, as well as Q&A interviews on if and how the elections were rigged, etc.

I continued following #IranElection on Twitter yesterday and through the early hours of the morning. Over the weekend, about a dozen men and women inside Tehran became the voice of their plight online. Their accounts gained hundreds, then thousands, of followers, and their twitter user names were listed on many websites for people who heard about the Twitter coverage of the election and wanted to know who to follow. Watch the feed for a while, and you can separate the conversation into three groups - the Iranians providing updates, the core group of followers who are familiar with them, and newcomers who are astounded by what they are reading and are tagging #IranElection to alert their friends.

Thousands of us watched the feed anxiously as one of the Iranian students sent increasingly urgent messages from a Tehran University dormitory, where he was barricaded inside with several friends, some of them injured and in need of medical attention, shortly before daybreak in Iran today. Many dorms were raided that night by what the Iranians say were the Ansar-e Hezbollah, the unofficial thugs of the Ayatollah. Most accounts agree that about 100 students were arrested and over a dozen killed that night.

Here are some frightening photos of the aftermath.

Some of the Iranians we were following on twitter left us to find friends and family, go to prayers, sleep, or lost communication. There was always a palpable sense of relief when they reappeared, and the #IranElection feed would flood with comments welcoming them back. Some of the Iranians I have been following have not been heard from in some time, but most have managed to send the occasional update if not more.

There was a growing sense of community as users began to change their avatars to reflect their support for the Iranian protesters - either by shading their current pictures green, the color of Mousavi's campaign, or changing altogether to messages, white on green, reading "FREE IRAN" or "Solidarity" or "Where are their votes?" or just green images. The feed became a steady stream of green on the left hand side of the column, and people were linking to websites that had changed thier logos or backgrounds to green as a show of support (and yes, that is the reason for this temporary color scheme). A movement started as people around the world pledged to wear green today, and for a while, that became the dominating message, followers tweeting friends, celebrities, asking them to do the same.

The color of our clothing and websites will not have the slightest impact on the developments in Iran today and in the coming days, but it gave people a sense of solidarity, and a small way to feel like they were doing something. As the support and awareness grew, so did a sense of helplessness, and this alleviated that a little, symbolic though it may be. These dozen Iranians we were communicating with had become the core of our community, uniting tens of thousands of strangers in support of their plight. Everyone wants to help them, everyone wants to do something.

I began seeing people I know, my friends on my contact list appear in the feed, offering messages of support. Some began retweeting important updates. Neil Gaiman showed up, and I saw him retweeting the latest working proxy servers. #IranElection remains the number one trending topic on Twitter as of this posting.

I spent a lot of the evening doing what little I could. In my exhaustion I wrote a passionate, emotional letter to the Obama administration asking him not to legitimize the stolen election by accepting the results*. I contacted local media. I used the best Farsi to English translator I could find to follow Iranian news sites. I used the reverse translation to send (hopefully not too garbled) emails to those reformist sites, with the IP addresses and ports of working internet proxies for the protesters to use (these were being created and shut down constantly and spread via the twitter feed). And yeah, I wore green today. I would be very surprised if anyone thought twice about my choice of clothing today, let alone had any inkling of the "wear green" movement. Doesn't matter. I know why.

*Note: I am fully aware of the consequences of such an action, regarding our offer of open dialogue, our aims at diffusing their nuclear ambitions, our relationship with Israel, our tens of thousands of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan whose governments support Ahmadinejad, and a dozen other issues that could/will be affected by Obama's response. I understand the arguments. I understand what is at risk. Please don't reply and try to engage me in a dialogue or argument about what Obama should do and why if you disagree. That's fine if you do. I don't want to argue about it, I'm too tired, and that's not what this post is about. Another time.

What touched me the most, and what will stay with me long after this weekend, was the unity and understanding of the issue at hand. The people showing support came from all across the political spectrum here in America, and I would assume as well abroad. Yet we did not argue our politics or how we should respond. This was about them, and we understood that. Every so often, someone would wander in and ask if it really would have made a practical difference had Mousavi won, doubting that much in Iran would have changed. When that question came up, people in the feed were quick to point out that it didn't matter - that wasn't the point. This was about Iranians fighting for the voice and the vote that they had been promised. This was about how their election had been stolen from them. They had been told that their voices mattered, even if under the limitations imposed by the Ayatollah, and that had been a lie. It didn't matter who the candidate was, or their platform - their fight is for the very cornerstone the United States was founded upon - freedom to elect representation. And everyone, everyone got that. I have never seen such a large and diverse group of people uniting behind one common cause, one that did not benefit them, in my life. It moves me to tears.

When the sun was coming up here in South Carolina, the Iranian protesters were organizing for the march today, that is taking place right now. There was a great deal of confusion at the last minute - conflicting reports of whether or not Mousavi had called off the protest. That message went up on Iranian sites, then disappeared, then reappeared. BBC reported it, then took the story down. Ahmadenijad had declined to issue a permit for the march and declared it illegal. Word was that Mousavi had been warned that police had been armed with live ammunition and had been given the go-ahead to open fire if the protest took place. The Iranians in Twitter, these dozen people we had come to know this weekend, traded messages back and forth - was it on? No, Mousavi called it off. Yes, it was on, the regime was simply spreading rumors in an attempt to disorganize the protesters. Mousavi's account had been hacked. He would be there.

I didn't know then, and I still don't know, if there was a legitimate effort by Mousavi to call off the protest and if the rumors of shoot-to-kill orders were true. In the end, it was too late to stop the march even if it was true - hundreds of people were already congregating in front of the University. The march was taking place regardless, and no one seemed to know if Mousavi would be there, if they would be walking into machine gun fire.

What I do know is that I watched our core group of Tehran-based protesters tell us they were unsure if they should go, and were discussing it amongst their friends and brothers. Were they willing to die for this?

In the end, the answer for nearly all was yes. We watched them sign off, going to join the crowd, fighting for their voice to be heard and counted. Unsure if they would face batons or bullets, they went. Their bravery moved us all.

Change_for_Iran's last updates, posted around 6 AM this morning, EST:

  • IRG threaten to open fire at people if they try to participate in Mousavi's rally
  • I'm not sure about going to mousavi's rally anymore, we're talking about possibilities.
  • there are now rumors of mousavi's site being hacked and the whole rally is IRG's trap. gun placements at azadi square confirmed
  • government is now playing a masterpiece mind game, all people here are so confused about what is real and who to trust
And, finally:
  • it's worth taking the risk, we're going. I won't be able to update until I'm back. again thanks for your kind support and wish us luck
He has not updated since.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Revolution in 140 characters or less

While I fully admit to being somewhat of a news junkie, I didn't create this blog to editorialize world events and politics. That said, I cannot skip past what had me absolutely riveted yesterday afternoon through the wee hours of the morning, and again today.

As most of you are aware by now (I hope), Iran held its presidential election on Friday. In the days before the election, Moussavi (or Mousavi, or Moosavi, depending on what source you are reading/regional dialect), a reformist candidate opposing Ahmadenijad had a surge of support, especially after a debate between the two. On Friday, Mousavi's supporters turned up in droves at the polls. An overwhelming 80-85% of the eligible population voted that day, lining up long before the polls opened, and polls were kept open 4 hours later than planned to allow for the unexpectedly massive turnout. Many analysts predicted Mousavi's victory. At the very least, all agreed it would be a very close race. Ahmadenijad still had staunch support in rural areas, but the reformist youth's activism had recruited many members of their family who had not voted in decades, or ever, to come out and cast a ballot for change. The median age in Iran is 27.

The scenes on the news were heartwarming on voting day - rallies and cheers from seas of people in Tehran, clad in green, Mousavi's color, throwing up peace signs, smiles on every face. Then, the results started to come in - Ahmadenijad was claiming well over 60% of the vote, with Mousavi less than 30%. How could that be?

In fact, much of the "results" did not make sense.

Iran casts paper ballots, which are time consuming to tally. In the previous 9 elections, tallies did not start to trickle out of the Interior Ministry for hours after the polls closed, in small numbers, from each region and city. Friday night, shortly after the polls closed, results were announced in tens of millions of votes, giving Ahmadenijad a landslide victory lead.

As each new tally came in, from every region, the ratio was the same, uniform across the country, in rural and urban areas alike. In fact, even in Mousavi's and Karoubi's (another reform candidate) hometowns, strongholds of their belief systems, they lost by the same margins.

When plotted, the vote counts as they came in, make a nearly perfectly linear graph. Nearly statistician and analyst I have seen quoted on this calls those results "statistically impossible."

Here's the chart:

However, it is worth noting that statistician Nate Silver argues here that this is not so unusual, though many readers pointed out flaws in his analysis.

Another blogger summarizes here:

On the basis of what we know so far, here is the sequence of events starting on the afternoon of election day, Friday, June 12.

  • Near closing time of the polls, mobile text messaging was turned off nationwide
  • Security forces poured out into the streets in large numbers
  • The Ministry of Interior (election headquarters) was surrounded by concrete barriers and armed men
  • National television began broadcasting pre-recorded messages calling for everyone to unite behind the winner
  • The Mousavi campaign was informed officially that they had won the election, which perhaps served to temporarily lull them into complacency
  • But then the Ministry of Interior announced a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad
  • Unlike previous elections, there was no breakdown of the vote by province, which would have provided a way of judging its credibility
  • The voting patterns announced by the government were identical in all parts of the country, an impossibility (also see the comments of Juan Cole at the title link)
  • Less than 24 hours later, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene`i publicly announced his congratulations to the winner, apparently confirming that the process was complete and irrevocable, contrary to constitutional requirements
  • Shortly thereafter, all mobile phones, Facebook, and other social networks were blocked, as well as major foreign news sources.

Our own government here, as well as Canada's, did not accept the results, citing the irregularities as cause for concern. This was reported by all the major media networks, and if you have been following the news, you are likely already aware of all I have said so far.

Which brings me to the subject of this post - what most people were NOT aware of yesterday, unless they were on Twitter. Yep. I know how that sounds, but read on.

Yesterday afternoon I logged into twitter to check on what my friends were up to, as I do once or twice a day. Glancing at the "Trending Topics" list, I noticed that #IranElection held the number three spot (at the time), and four or five others were related - Mousavi, Ahmadenijad, Tehran, Iranian. I have never before clicked on, much less followed, any of the "trending topics," but being the political news junkie I am, I was intrigued, and clicked on the feed for "#IranElection."

What I found was astounding. Tweets were coming in faster than 100 per minute. Most of them were tweets and re-tweets of posts from Iranian citizens in Tehran describing the massive protests and riots taking place in the city. I learned that facebook, twitter, SMS texting, BBC Persia, and cell phone service had been completely shut down, effectively cutting off communication to the outside world. The few Iranians still able to update were using illegal satellite uplinks, and what they communicated was shocking.

User "mousavi1388" was posting regularly and uploading photos as fast as he could to his flickr page. Links to ahriman46's youtube feed had constantly updating videos he took with his cell phone. Here is one from Saturday.

After seeing this video of students being tear gassed, I sent ahriman46 a message thanking him for his bravery in taking these videos and getting them out to the world in defiance of the media crackdown. He wrote me back, saying:

" thank you very much for your supports, right now im trying to upload as the latest news so the whole world get the massage of iranian people.
and again thank you for your support, we will never forget it."

As I write this, he is still uploading videos of today's protests and riots.

The twitter feed was nothing short of riveting. The few users posting from inside Tehran painted a picture of massive chaos, police brutality, burning of ballot boxes. One or two journalists in Tehran also managed to leak updates to twitter.

Jim Sciutto, ABC news Sr. Foreign Correspondent posted these twitter messages to the #Iran and #IranElection feeds yesterday mid-afternoon (EST):

  • #iran Coup? Reformers and rts groups say military has closed opp offices, taken control of sts and forced maousavi to accept defeat
  • #iran violent protests in downtown iran. mousavi supporters clashing with riot police on motorcycles swinging batons, firing tear gas
  • #iran ahmedinejad. police confiscated our camera and videotapes. We are shooting protests and police violence on our cell phones
  • #iranelection Riot police wear body armor & ride two to a motorcycle, one in back swinging a baton. Images of Mad Max
  • #iranelection, by the numbers. what's confusing is how mousevi, an azeri, lost his home city tabriz, an azeri stronghold
  • #iranelection. More broadly, these results would make ahmadinejad the most popular iranian pres. ever. that stretches belief for some
  • #iranelection Police chief says police acting to 'protect the people's votes' [posted 4 hours ago]
Last night many of us were following @Change_for_Iran, a student who was posting from a rooftop across from one of the buildings of Tehran University - events unfolding in real time early Sunday morning in Tehran:
  • black riot guards with black vans, it's my first time seeing this people, no badges! probably Intel ministry #iranelection
  • they are joining with police motorcycles in front of student's dormitory buildings firefighters are leaving the area right now #iranelection
  • Internet barely works, Speed is near 2kbps #iranelection
  • I guess the Intel ministry guy is trying to convince university's security to open the gates #iranelection
  • my brother thinks they are after a student council activist. the council known as Tahkime Vahdat and belongs to president era. #iranelection
  • from the looks of it they are waiting to arrest all the students! it's also explains the vans
  • some people are now parking their cars in middle of the street trying to block the vans. #iranelection
  • police demanding people to move their cars and start crashing car windows. more people are coming. I will try to get a better view
Minutes later:
  • tear gas #iranelection
  • my eyes are burning hard to keep them open #iranelection
No further updates for half an hour, causing many of us to worry, then finally:
  • I'm dizzy but ok. some people are getting shelter in the nearby unfinished bank building. police arresting a middle aged man
  • it's 9:54 AM -Amirabad street near Pasargad bank and to be honest I don't have the courage to leave the roof right now #iranelection
According to many, Mousavi and several other reformists had been placed under house arrest. was updating with stunning photographs.

Their website has since been banned by the government.

So there we all were, thousands? Tens of thousands? on twitter, following the #IranElection topic, watching a possible revolution unfold in real time. Of course, while the videos and pictures could be verified, rumors were flying through the topic, and we all wanted independent verification. Anyone can make a twitter account and pretend to be posting from Iran. So we turn to the media to see what they are saying about the protests... and the answer from the American networks, at least last night, was... nothing.

BBC had this coverage (graphic violence warning):

Al-Jazeera was purportedly streaming live coverage on their english channel according to many tweets, but I was unable to install the plugin I needed to watch.

In the US, the only real front page news of the protests and riots was from the New York Times, excellent coverage from Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic (I highly recommend reading this, as he provides many more links and updates and insight than I can here) who was updating as often as he could. Nico Pitney of the Huffington Post was doing the same (both still are). Laura Secor of The New Yorker released an excellent online-only inside account of Iran's stolen election. NPR was also said to be covering the unrest, though I cannot verify that.

What about CNN? MSNBC? FOX? Headline News? Their websites had stories on the election, but had not been updated in hours, and little to no coverage on the protests, violence, arrests, burning buses and buildings taking place in Tehran we had all been following on Twitter for hours and hours. Prompting Andrew Sullivan to update his coverage with this post - The Revolution Will be Twittered.

The lack of coverage, most notably by CNN, prompted the Twitter followers to add the hashtag #CNNfail to their posts. Within an hour, #CNNfail was third on the list of trending topics. Don Lemon (@donlemoncnn) began responding but quickly became defensive as CNN continued to be bashed for their lack of coverage. Here's an article from cnet news on the Twitter #CNNfail story.

Not long after #CNNfail hit the 3rd spot, CNN changed their top story from the bankruptcy of Six Flags to the Tehran protests.

As I write this, it is now front page news on most network sites, as it should be. Mainstream Media has finally started covering what all of us on Twitter knew hours and hours before. #IranElection is still the number two topic as I write this, and the Iranian citizens I have been following are still giving us updates in real time. I think some of them have yet to sleep.

While I already recognized Twitter as being uniquely suited to follow world events in real time, I never thought I'd see the day where I had to rely on it for coverage of one of the most important political events taking place on the planet as it happened. Friends and family I spoke with last night were completely and totally unaware of what was happening in Tehran, as CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc spent their air time going round and round about the Letterman/Palin feud, showing reruns of Campbell Brown, and the confusion surrounding the switch to digital television.

I realize that the mainstream media networks cannot simply run with whatever is being posted to twitter and publish it. There is a delay between real-time updates from social networking sites and articles or broadcasts for a reason - the networks need time to verify the information and sources, and write comprehensive articles to be published or broadcast on air. That said, several foreign networks like the BBC had coverage long before the American media, and CNN in particular took a beating due to the fact that they were far behind MSNBC and other network news websites in making the Tehran unrest their top story.

I will be checking my regular news sites for updates on the situation in Iran - but not as often as I'll be checking #IranElection for from-the-source updates as they happen. Twitter might function mostly as a platform for people to inform their friends what they had for breakfast, but last night it proved itself to be a more effective journalistic tool than I think the founders ever could have imagined. Mainstream media, you have some work to do.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Brokedown journalism

Some of you may remember a film with Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale from the late 90's, called Brokedown Palace. They play two high school graduates who vacation in Thailand and are arrested for drug smuggling, after meeting a guy who either sneaks heroin into their bags, or convinces one of them to try and take it with them - you never find out what exactly happened. But they are quickly tried and imprisoned in Thailand under deplorable conditions, sleeping in the dirt with cockroaches, given little sustenance, and suffering at the whims of the guards and other inmates.

It's a fictional movie, received mostly "meh" reviews, but it struck a chord in me when I saw it 10 years ago. I could imagine the fear and hopelessness of being arrested, tried, and imprisoned in a foreign country for a crime I didn't commit. Having my comfortable Western lifestyle snatched away, no way to return to my family or friends, under the jurisdiction of a legal system that affords detainees almost none of the rights to a fair trial and representation that we take for granted.

The arrest and subsequent sentencing of Laura Ling and Euna Lee in North Korea reminded me of the movie. Only the horrors of the judicial system and prison those two fictional characters faced, seem like a trip to Disneyland compared to what these very real American women are going through right now.

North Korean labor camps have an estimated 20-25% death rate. Former detainees who have escaped from N. Korea tell stories that I have a difficult time wrapping my mind around. Even the most mild political statements are enough to incarcerate someone - and several generations of their family along with them, including young children, who are not exempt from the 15-16 hour days of hard physical labor. Starvation is common, only the most meager rations are given to keep the prisoners alive. Women are routinely raped, and then given forced abortions - by having a large syringe of salt water injected into their womb - as late as 8 months into their pregnancy. Biological and chemical weapons experiments are carried out on prisoners. Eyeballs are removed. Beatings occur with such ferocity that splintered bones are exposed, and salt is then poured into the wounds. A google search for "North Korean labor camps" or "North Korean gulags" will tell you more than you ever wanted to know. The only difference I can discern between the N Korean gulags and the Nazi concentration camps, is that sometimes prisoners are released at the end of their sentence, if they survive that long.

This is what the two American journalists face for the next 12 years, and what hundreds of thousands of North Korean citizens go through every day, for "crimes" such as singing a South Korean pop song. Women no different than me. It is difficult for me to imagine such conditions are real, and occuring right this very moment across the globe. My mind wants to turn it into fiction, make it another movie, and stop thinking about it. I never did until the arrest of these two women, to be honest. I knew North Korea has labor camps, but I never bothered to learn the details about them, or contemplated the horrors or injustices of what their prisoners face. Nor have I seen, in all the news broadcasts and articles, hardly ANY reporting on the torture and experimentation that takes place in these camps. They say starvation and labor, yes, harsh conditions, yes - but nothing of the personal accounts of torture, biological and chemical experiments, rape, forced abortions, imprisonment of generations of families for one individual's offense, young children laboring alongside adults. Very rarely do these articles contain any of the horrifying examples or details of what these prisoners face. I had to do my own research, look for information on my own.

That angers me. It is hard to hear, hard to comprehend, I know. It is graphic and uncomfortable, but should not be glossed over. We may not be able to immediately do anything about it, certainly not as individuals, and recent events show that North Korea is bound and determined to do exactly what it wants, regardless of international pressure and sanctions from the world's leading countries, but that doesn't justify turning a blind eye. Political relations with China and Russia, North Korea's closest "allies" get in the way of taking a harder line. I understand the delicate balance of politics and power among our nations, especially with China emerging as such an economic force. In fact, China refuses to recognize those who have escaped into their countries as refugees, and routinely returns them to North Korea, where they face certain torture if not execution in these camps. Perhaps this is why the details of torture and brutality of the gulags are usually absent from our media reports on the arrested American journalists? I don't know. I don't have an answer as to what should be done, how it should be handled, how we balance politics with doing what is right, because every action has a consequence. If I had the answers I'd be working on Capitol Hill. I do know, however, that the answer is not to turn a blind eye.

Because of the international attention these two women's arrest has garnered, and because their sentence is likely another move in the political chess game Kim-Jong Il seems to be playing right now, many articles I've read state that the women are likely to receive better care than most, that their release will be negotiated for. I don't know what "better care" means. They won't be tortured, just worked and starved? I pray that is the case, I pray we get them out of there and safely home, very very soon. My heart breaks for those women. But my heart breaks as well for the North Korean men, women, and children who suffer in these camps, with no media appeal, no hope for intervention, no chance for liberation. Their names unknown to us, their sufferings unreported. They will not be negotiated for. They will not be saved.

Shame on all of us for accepting that.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Go, tripod, go!

All week I've composed lengthy blog entries in my head, but have yet to find the time to actually write them out. Today is no different. After running around and visiting Mollie this afternoon, it's time to head out to the ballpark for the Blowfish game (that would be minor league baseball). When I finally do get around to properly updating, I'll try not to Tolstoy. In the meantime, enjoy this pic of Molliedog racing around at Mach 2, despite missing one leg, and having another in a cast.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Here I go again.

The other day I found my old blog from the early-mid '00s on the wayback machine. Only a few entries appeared, but they made me smile. Apparently I was fairly witty in my early to mid-twenties, with lots of friends who followed and commented on what I had to say. Now I'm a boring grown-up with a boring grown up life, and blogging has gone the way of facebook and twitter (and yes, I have accounts on both). However, regaling the interwebs with details of my mundane existence needs more than 160 characters at a time. Now you can all read lengthy accounts of how much I hate Excel, love my porch hammock, and enthralling anecdotes, such as how my deodorant exploded this morning. I know you are all very excited, but please, try to contain yourselves.