The World

If I were a world leader and had a Facebook page…

Tweeting the White House Social-networking got a big boost last week when the White House entered the Twitter fray with its first ever tweet about the swine flu. The Obama Administration has been pushing Washington to utilize and master the universe of cyberspace as a way to promote government transparency and accessibility.

I’m neither President Obama’s Facebook friend nor am following him on Twitter. This is mostly because I’m don’t like jumping on bandwagons. However, I’ve made many friend requests with world leaders such as Nicolas Sarkozy and Hugo Chavez on Facebook and they have yet to respond. Maybe it’s because world leaders have too much on their hands to seriously befriend a nobody like me.

But that was until I found a Facebook Group for world leaders…. [….]

Earth Day 2009

Solar powerToday is Earth Day. There are many things we can do to be good caretakers of this planet and to be ever more aware of the impact human activity has on the environment. It wasn’t until recently that I became aware of how much electricity I waste in a typical day. With all our appliances, computers, and lights left on and unattended during the day, electricity simply escapes into the ether and is never recouped.

According to Energy Information Administration, the government’s official energy record-keeping office, the average American home uses about 936 kilowatthours (kWh) in 2007. At home, refrigerators are biggest consumers of electricity (about 14 percent of that 936 kWh).There are calculators that estimate how much electricity you use in a typical day. And if you want to measure exactly how much electricity household appliances use, this little gadget does the trick. But one has to wonder whether this device itself would eat up a lot of electricity.

For myself, the largest amount of electricity I use is lighting. Because I’m a night owl, having lights on for long periods of time late into the evening and the morning hours really adds up financially and also contributes to waste. Switching to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) certainly saves energy. I’ve also switched to LED lights for my reading light. Granted, these lights are pricier to purchase, but the initial investment is well worth the reduced footprint on the environment, power production and waste. [….]

The myth of the model minority

Binghamton shooting Another mass shooting. This time in Binghamton, New York, and the alleged gunman is Asian American. This is the second of such shooting where the perpetrator is Asian American. When news of the Virginia Tech tragedy first broke two years ago, I did not believe for the longest time the gunman was a fellow Asian American. I said to my roommate at the time that Asian Americans just don’t go around shooting people. Being Korean American himself, my roommate nodded with me in agreement. If you grew up Asian American, you were taught from a very young age to excel in school so you can get into a good college so you can graduate, find a good job, start a family, live happily into old age. Your whole life is wrapped up in reaching this end. You’re hard-working, disciplined, enterprising. You were told not to make a fuss about anything else. You’re a model for what it means to make it in this country; you’re the paragon of immigrants in America; you’re the par excellence of the American Dream.

But this label isn’t true. Asian Americans are just like everyone else, we struggle deeply with our family relationships, our jobs, our identity, our place in this world. We struggle with divorce, depression, homelessness, poverty, broken relationships, teenage pregnancies. The list goes on. Yes, we work hard and we seem to have everything together. But we have real problems that no one seems to notice. The label of “model minority” is a misnomer, a misjudgment of character that the majority culture has placed on a minority. This label makes our problems and ultimately our own being invisible to the majority. This is what I call linguistic colonialism. We are not the paragon; we’re just as messed up as the person sitting next to us. The shooting today goes to show that there needs be evermore attention given to helping and assisting minorities and immigrant in their plight, whether social, psychological, or physical.

The Binghamton shooting is sad, reprehensible and evil, that anyone, let alone an Asian American would commit such heinous murders. This tragedy jarred my memory back two years ago to Virginia Tech. It soon hit me that that anyone can brandish a gun and shoot down people, whether you’re white, yellow, red, black. Hatred and anger isn’t the function of race; they’re functions of the heart. If anything, I’m just like everyone else; I’m a mass murderer ten times over because I’ve already committed murder when I have hatred in my heart.

Reconciliation blues


On Thursday night around 11:55 p.m., just five minutes before the Iranian New Year, Norwuz, the White House release a video wishing Iranians around the world, especially those in Iran, a happy new year. The message is conciliatory and groundbreaking, with Obama asking Iran to pursue a new day of engagement and dialog with the U.S.

Will the Iranian government respond in kind? I really hope so. The White House’s message (see the full text of the message here) is calculated and strategic. The fact that the White House released the video before Nowruz and utilized the theme of the new year signals the administration is sensitive to the context of the Iranian people. This approach postures an attitude of sensitivity and mutuality, acknowledging the richness and valuable contribution of Iranian culture to the world all the while maintaining there exists serious differences between the two governments. This is a smart move, a move that signals the realization that the U.S. can no longer operate on the geopolitical stage without bringing other views to the table of the “community of nations.” The challenge for the U.S. is whether we can demonstrate leadership on the world stage and to move from estrangement to engagement. Global issues demand global engagement, and this message to Iran signals the start of an engaging posture toward the world.

Introducing Semaphoric

flagSo it begins: this blog was set to launch at the start of 2009 when procrastination took over the better of me. Although this first post dates back to January, it took some three months to get this project off the ground. I’m still putting this blog through its paces — there are a number of content and technical issues being worked out. Instead of having semaphoric launch in entire completeness, I’m planning to fill in the space as the blog progresses. For the most part, semaphoric is off and running.

What is semaphoric? From the Greek word sema for signs, semaphoric simply refers to semaphores, a system of visual signs designed to convey a message. Used primarily on ships and railroads, semaphore is the simplest way to signal and transmit messages.

Why semaphoric? From the obvious — billboards, traffic lights, spam ads, trademarks, to the less obvious —  maps, metaphors, hip-hop artists, a peacock’s plumes, signs are all around us. We make and utilize signs to interact with the world, and in turn, signs influence how we see and understand the world.

semaphoric examines signs of culture and faith and considers how both influence the way we understand ourselves, shape our theology, and how we perceive the world. For the most part, semaphoric is like any blog with its contents reflecting the thoughts and musings of its author.

Who is semaphoric? Entirely conceived by me and one else. I hope you enjoy the great-taste-and-no-filling flavor of semaphoric!

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