Sunday, 24 January 2010

techy response to haiti

my life has been consumed with haiti the last 10 days. it looks like there is an 80% chance i will be down there this time next week. it feels daunting but i am excited to be on the ground and be able to connect some dots.

there are some wonderful ways for people to help haiti that i want to share. they don't require going down OR sending money. if you look at the bottom of this page i have added a link for people looking for people.

this video is a brief introduction to the work that crisis commons is doing.

they had an all-day crisis camp yesterday at the NPR headquarters and in 10 cities around the world. they will hold camps again next weekend. i am working with them to expand the hospital capacity finder work to include clinics and convalescent centers. you can check out the crisis commons website to see if you can join one of the camps are in your area. or if you are interested in starting a crisis camp in your area, let me know and i can hook you up with the people.

here is a brief summary of what happened over the weekend in DC alone:
CrisisCommons in collaboration with National Public Radio, hosted CrisisCamp Haiti in Washington DC to provide volunteer opportunities to create technologies and provide technical assistance to assist relief agencies, diaspora communities, non-profits, faith-based communities, non-governmental and community organization to assist in the response and recovery of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. On the same day, CrisisCamps (organized locally) were hosted across the world in 13 cities such as Bogota, London and Miami with hundreds of volunteers participating. In addition, such technology centered locations such as Silicon Valley and Boston
also participated.

Since the earthquake, CrisisCommons has empowered approximately 20 cities and hundreds of volunteers to give their expertise (virtually or via CrisisCamps) to assist in the humanitarian aid relief efforts. Accomplishments include the "I Have, I Need" a "Craigslist" of donation management, Crisis Wiki, UN RSS Feed request, PersonFinder, French/Kryol Translator apps for the iPhone and Android and WiFi firmware router enhancement which boosts WiFi signals.
Ushahidi is also doing cool stuff in conjunction with Crisis Common. if you are a techy person, please check these sites out (and pass this along to your techy friends). there is a heap that people can do.

if you have friends connected to NGO's on the ground, please pass this along to help us start inventorying what is going on where.

Mapping NGOs in Action

NGOs are the "boots on the ground" in Haiti. Hundreds of NGOs have ongoing operations in Haiti. But who's who and where are they? This project is gathering information to create an overview database of relief assistance that is deployed to Haiti. The project will create a directory of organizations, people on the ground, where they are, what they are doing, and what they need. The team will create a Drupal database relating people to programs.

Friday, 15 January 2010

sarla is saved

one of the blessings and curses of doing the work i do, is when disasters happen, i often know people who go to them. the earthquake in haiti had a different tilt. i had collegues who were there to work on HIV/AIDS stuff. i had learned in a meeting yesterday that they still had not been located. we knew they had been dropped off at the hotel shortly before the earthquake, but that was it. and we didn't know if all of them were at the hotel or just a few.

it was super scary to hear. i felt this way when the hotels were attacked in mumbai too. these are people doing what i do. the feeling of "i could have been there, that could have been me" hits.

plus these are amazing people. smart, compassionate, diligent.

then i start feeling really crummy because it takes actually knowing some people there to feel the magnitude of the loss and the pain that others are feeling. i think i purposefully avoid letting myself get in touch with the pain of these disasters. if i were to feel it all i would be rendered fetal in a ball of tears for days. it is just too much pain!

this morning, i woke up to an email from another colleague saying
Hi Everyone – Sarla Chand has survived and her picture is in the headlines of the NY Times email edition I just saw.
i just started crying. i think i had just not really let myself think about it much, but knowing that she was okay meant others were too.

i opened they NYT and saw this:

Sarlah Chand ,65, smiles as search and rescue workers tend to her after they rescued her from under the rubble of what is left of the Hotel Montana more than 50 hours after the massive earthquake destroyed the hotel January 14, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Planeloads of rescuers and relief supplies headed to Haiti as governments and aid agencies launched a massive relief operation after a powerful earthquake that may have killed thousands. Many buildings were reduced to rubble by the 7.0-strong quake on January 12.
(January 13, 2010 - Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images South America)

this is a link to video of her being saved

Search and rescue workers carry Sarlah Chand, 65, on a litter after they rescued her from under the rubble of what is left of the Hotel Montana more than 50 hours after the massive earthquake hit Port-au-Prince

i feel relief and gratitude. but i also feel so bad for those who don't get this type of news. and for those who get no news at all.

makes me think, once again, that we never know when we will die so we should live courageously now. say what we feel and share ourselves fully with others. it is human connections that makes life not only doable but joyful.

as a follow up to henry's first email about sarla i got this:

The others who were with Sarla: Rick Santos, Ann Varghese, Sam Dixon, Jim Gully and Clint Rabb are also ok. The were trapped in the lobby of the Hotel Montana and were rescued late last night. Praise God!

Praise God indeed!!! and may He be with those whose news is not so good and all those who have no news. the anxiety of not knowing is torturous! and as much as i love and respect my colleagues, i wasn't worried about my partner or parent or child . . . i really can't/don't want to comprehend that! but i send my compassion out to those that are having to feel that right now.

UPDATE (10:26)
i thought everyone at the hotel was rescued, but i just learned that one of my CDC colleagues has yet to be rescued. devastating.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

riding out winter

for the last couple of years, i have commuted on my bike through the winter. since i moved from cap hill, it is even more of a necessity. my commute is about 10-15 on my bike (depending on lights) and 45 mins on public transportation (it will never happen). on the days that i really CAN'T ride my bike, i usually work from home. i just don't have it in me to sit underground or on a bus for that long. plus i still have to walk a bit outside. all told, the bike commute is the best.

one benefit of riding in the winter is people are super nice to you. not the cars, the cars still hate the bikers. but the people in my building are. EVERY time i go through our security all red and frozen i feel like the guards and the others who are just getting to work are extra nice. then in the elevators (coming or going) people start talking to me about riding to work. i have made so many friends in my building just because i have a beanie, ear muffs, helmet, scarf, coat, gloves, and cycling shoes on. it makes me feel like i am both a champion and very popular (which has always been a goal of mine).

if you are a winter bike rider, i might suggest getting on of these cool helmet covers/wraps. and if you get one for yourself, don't hesitate to send one to me either. i would totally love one!

the other day, i had THE most treacherous bike ride ever. it was a day when i should have just worked from home. it was 25ºF outside. it was windy something fierce. i bundled up and felt like a total champion for riding. the wind kept cutting from different directions. i seriously had to lean into the wind. a couple of times the wind pushed my bike to the right. then there were the times when the direction of the wind would change dramatically because of the buildings i was riding between. the sudden change was dangerous. i would be leaning into the wind and then suddenly it would shift directions and i would nearly fall down. somehow i managed to keep riding . . . between the cars and everything. i think if i had one of these helmet covers the whole thing wouldn't have been so scary.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

natural drain cleaner: vinegar, baking soda, and hot water

seems to me that being zen is also being green . . . so i believe this is apropos.

my house is old (like over 100 yrs old) and has most of its old pipes. they are okay, but they have heaps of build-up and probably could use a good scrubbing. they also have funky twists and turns which means that it is easy for stuff to get caught up in the pipes. for a worst-case-scenario please see this link.

when i remodeled my bathroom, i increased the size of the bathtub. in order to do it, i had to move the pipes from the west wall to the east wall of the shower. this created an additional curve in the drainage pipe. instead of going directly down into a drainage pipe, it had to turn to the west and go underneath the length of the tub and then hit the drainage pipe.

long story short, i was having real issues with the bathtub drain. i had been told that using drano was a bad idea. it ate away at existing pipes (which are already old and could fall apart at any moment) and it really messed up the environment. all that junk eventually ends up in the potomac. the plumbers told me the best thing to do was to have them come and snake the pipe once every six months. at $150 just for the visit, NO THANK-YOU.

so i did what any self-respecting home owner would do. nothing. i pretended nothing ever happened and played scarlotte o'hara not to be troubled right now . . .

obviously, that is a plan that leads directly to more clogged drains. so when the drain would not drain anymore, i searched the internets for a solution. here is what i found

Step 1 – Put the DRY baking soda down the drain. I use about 3/4 of a cup.
Step 2 – Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar down the drain after the baking soda. Be sure to cover the drain immediately afterwards with a rag or plug, filling the hole completely so nothing can escape. This is because the interaction of the two will cause a “mini volcano” that will want to come up and out of the want to keep it down there.
Step 3 – Leave this concoction in the drain for about 30 minutes. While you are waiting, boil a tea kettle full of water.
Step 4 – After 30 minutes, remove the plug and slowly pour the HOT water down the drain.

All done! Your drain should flow smoothly now. If not, just do it again.

My drain was SUPER clogged. I did this 5 times, but then clean as a whistle. I got one of those drain hair catcher things and decided I would do this once every 3 months just as a preventative measure.

lemeno if you try it and it works for you too.

Friday, 1 January 2010

welcome year of

this year is going to be my year of zen. zen is kinda a loaded and confusing word. it might mean a bunch of different things to different people. i can't explain what zen means to me in a pithy quick statement. i have a feeling it might take me a year to even really understand what it is. i will try to explain my current understanding, or at least what i mean by it, in just a moment. first i want to explain how i decided on this year's theme.

at the end of november, i was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma on the end of my nose. after a couple of days of flipping out and being scared (even though i knew eventually the day would come: fair skin and light eyes growing up in AZ and not wearing sunscreen and laying out with baby oil on, is really the perfect combo for getting skin cancer), i suddenly felt like i had a new lease on life. my mortality had hit me in the face: literally. suddenly, i felt like i had permission to do all the things i had been really wanting to do. it was pretty grounding.

i was explaining to a friend how the diagnosis was kinda a gift and how it had made me start doing things i really wanted to do or at least prioritize things differently. he asked me what had changed the most. i was kinda surprised by my answer. the most significant change i had made was that i started a daily yoga practice. i was surprised that of all the things a new lease on life could have done, it made
me do yoga. i was also surprised at what a significant increase of harmony i felt within my body and those around me.

i am starting this year with a bright red and scabby face from round two of the treatment that is supposed to get rid of the basal cell and the other pre-cancerous stuff on my face, arms, and hands. i am also starting it a bit more centered and feeling a bit more grounded.

there is something really interesting about having a giant gaping wound (like from a bike wreck) or a broken arm, or a brightredscabby face. people see it. they ask you what happen. show empathy. open doors. are extra kind and patient. etc. having a visible wound seems to give people permission to be kind and gentle. unfortunately, we often walk around with hurts and wounds people can't see, and still need the same kindness and gentleness -- maybe even more. i am hoping that being zen, will help me see myself and those around me as both beautiful and whole, but also wounded and brightredscabby -- in need of gentle loving kindness.

zen, at least my definition, also relates to feeling centered and grounded. it is about showing loving-kindness to myself and to those around me. keeping both feet on the ground. not getting so caught up in the anxiety of the future or the regret of the past, but living with both feet on the ground now. i can spend a lot of time in my head making up all sorts of doomsday scenarios and creating unrealistic views of the now. sometimes i think i choose to ignore big signals telling me that i am not living in reality. i will ignore the cues that challenge my fantasy. being grounded for me means keeping both of my feet in reality. taken in all the information. seeing the whole of the other, etc.

being centered has something to do with integrity and loving and respecting self. i think i do an okay job of loving those around me, but i am not sure how much loving-kindness i show to myself. this year i will work at really practicing love tripartite that Jesus talks about when He says that the first commandment is to love Him, and the second is to love "your neighbor as yourself". sometimes i think in my current life it might be more meaningful if He said love yourself as you love your neighbor.

zen is also about being present. living in the now. experiencing now,
now. it means feeling sad when i feel sad and feeling happy when i feel happy. for years i have run away from negative feelings, only to feel them swell and then suddenly my ability to contain them would fail and i would be overwhelmed with negativity. this would spiral into some depressed and/or an angry state. suddenly the most benign irritants would make me irate &/or super sad.

i grew up in an alcoholic/drug addicted home, and like many others who experienced the violence, isolation, neglect, and instability of such an upbringing, i learned to mask pain with words and actions i thought/hoped would restore peace. i often ignored my own feelings in an effort to create harmony or get stability. i became expert at ignoring myself. another part of the year of zen is re-training myself to live honestly in discomfort. to live in reality. to live and accept the mess of life. not run away from pain, but feel the pain and then let it go.

sometimes i think pain is like a bully on the playground. if you just confront the bully, he usually will back down. he keeps bugging you when you run away. i am going to face off with pain a bit this year. ;)

there are a bunch of things i will do this year to help me get to this spiritual and emotional goal of zen. for me, alot of connecting spiritual and emotional things comes through physical effort. my mind/body connection is SUPER tight. if i am depressed, i get sick. when i exercise, i get happy. when i do yoga, i get chilled out. so, this year i will do more yoga, and will focus my energy and bringing peace and joy to myself and others. i think part of why i love yoga so much is it requires emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical effort.

i am also going to continue gardening (super zen) and doing triathlons (probably not really all that zen). i signed up for a half ironman in june. i am nervous about it. and i am hiring a coach to help me be ready. i think it will be cool to do something new like that. to do something intimidating. it will be a physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual effort too, i am sure.

i really loved the year of awesome. it was a wonderful year long mantra, that i am sure will not entirely fade. but i am also excited to release some of the expectation of being awesome and relax into being authentic, relax into zen.

as decisions have to be made, i will ask myself, what is the most zen thing to do? or what will bring the most zen? should be interesting. i am excited!