What's going on here?

I've made a commitment: to do one good deed per day. Large or small, it doesn't matter. Self-sacrificing or not, extraordinary or mundane, it doesn't matter. Just one thing every day, that's all.

The more I do good, the better I feel about myself. Truly, to benefit others is to benefit yourself. I hope this journal may inspire others who also yearn to do good. So join me on this journey, if you will, and think about the difference you can make in your own life.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Final post: 365 DAYS OF GOOD DEEDS COMPLETED!

Today's post completes one full year of good deeds. A year ago, when I got the idea for this blog, I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep it up. I wasn't sure I would come up with enough ideas. And in the last month or two, my Internet connection was so terrible that I couldn't record deeds on a daily basis and ended up with many very short and colorless posts. But despite all that, I completed the blog.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. It made me happier each day to know I'd done my part. My favorite deeds were serving food to the homeless at House of Charity, organizing the Genocide Prevention Ritual, and of course my signature deed: picking up trash.

So am I giving up daily deeds? No way. This blog is done, but the deeds go on.

Thank you to those who gave me support this year!

To browse this blog, search using the LABELS menu in the right-hand column below. Check out the "essays", "poetry", and "prayers" labels for special features on Martin Luther King Day, Darfur, the Iran controversy, Obama's inauguration, and more.

No bag please!

I've started requesting "no bag" whenever I get food to go from McDonalds. They also stuff it full of napkins that I don't use, and the bag itself is a waste of paper. Why not go easy on the environment?

ONE GOOD DEED: Get food without the bag, thus saving paper.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Apple Cider for R's Family's Thanksgiving


I got to go to the Thanksgiving of the family of my girlfriend R today. They are such an easygoing bunch! It was a nice change from the awkward tensions of my own family. I was deeply greatful that I could share the holiday with them.

ONE GOOD DEED: Bring apple cider for R's family.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Philanthropedia

Please check out this website for its value in choosing causes. They rank nonprofits based on opinions of networks of experts in appropriate nonprofit sectors.

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness for Philanthropedia.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Listening to R


My girlfriend R was going through an emotional rough patch tonight. She was frustrated with herself, and it was difficult for her to communicate what she felt. I just listened and offered the best responses I could. It made me sad to see her in pain. I wanted to just fix all her problems for her, but I also knew that wouldn't help. All I could do is support her in her own struggles.

ONE GOOD DEED: Listen to and be there for R in a tough time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Apple Cider for Thanksgiving


I love Thanksgiving. You just get to see people and enjoy food without all the pressure of giving and getting gifts. This year, my girlfriend R came to my family's Thanksgiving. Grandma and everybody were very welcoming of her.

I brought one of my favorite recipes: apple cider made by wrapping ingredients (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, orange peel, etc.) in a cheese cloth and letting them infuse the juice with spicy goodness.

ONE GOOD DEED: Bring apple cider for everybody at Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Trash after the test


Today I took an interview test in Japanese to qualify to become a Japanese teacher eventually. I think (hope) I passed!

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash at the university after my test.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My last day at Wellstone

Today I finished the 100 hours of classroom time required to get into my teacher licensure program. Wellstone International, a high school for immigrant students, was a fantastic school at which to volunteer. I am going to miss seeing those kids each week.

While at Wellstone I got in good with the teachers, and now they are starting to give me substitute teaching assignments. I'll do my second assignment next week. And I get paid!

ONE GOOD DEED: Volunteer at Wellstone International.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nearing the final post of this blog (Oh, and I picked up more trash today!)

The last day of this month will make 365 days of good deeds recorded in this blog. November 30th will be the final post!

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Children's Hospital

At the checkout counter of my local CVS, the cashier asked me if I wanted to donate a dollar to the Children's Hospital. I was taken aback, and after a moment replied with a hearty yes.

ONE GOOD DEED: Donate to the Children's Hospital.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Monday, November 16, 2009

And still more trash

Yeah, so sorry again about all those "trash" posts. My Internet connection at home sucks, and it's only when I get to a coffee shop that I can post with any reliability. Hence, I needed to be efficient in my posting. And besides, I couldn't remember what else I did those days. But I do pick up trash each day regardless of what else I may do, so at least it's honest.

Today too. Trash all the way.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

R's home sick-- cookies to the rescue!

My girlfriend R has come down with the flu. I started feeling early on that I should do something special to care for her. I remember a day in the past when I fell ill with a strange exhaustion--as soon as I got up, I would get completely exhausted and would have to lie down again--and the girl I was with stayed by my side all day. All day! I couldn't believe she did that, and I would never expect anyone to do it again. But she did it, and it made a lasting impression. So I wanted to do something special for R. I brought her medicine, soup, and TV shows to watch. And I baked her cookies.

ONE GOOD DEED: Bake R cookies while she's home with the flu.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Volunteer teaching at Anwatin, last day

I volunteered at Anwatin Middle School for the fourth and last time today. Each day was a new shocker--I really had never seen such hellions. But at least they were consistent.

On the other hand, the few advanced students I worked with in the Japanese class were outstanding. They wanted to learn, and brought enthusiasm and humor to the table. They even made me a goodbye card, which I was not expecting at all. I never thought I'd miss Anwatin, but I'm going to miss those Japanese students at least.

ONE GOOD DEED: Volunteer at Anwatin Middle School.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Class presentation with... that guy

We're doing presentations in pairs in the Japanese class I'm taking at the university. The day pairs were assigned, guess who didn't come to class-- that guy who never comes to class. And when he does come, he isn't prepared, and when the teacher asks him a question he just stares back with a worried look on his face.

So the guy shows up for class today and... oops! looks like he needs to join some pair as a third wheel. I have to admit I wasn't actually planning on inviting him to join our pair. My partner did. Now that he did though, I don't regret it. And it feels like a good deed after all.

ONE GOOD DEED: Let the guy who nobody wants to partner with join our group.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sorry... internet connection is crap!

My internet connection has been so terrible that I have hardly posted for two weeks now. I am continuing my good deeds, but I just can't record them publicly at the moment.

I have also resolved to complete 365 days of good deeds and then discontinue publicly posting. I will continue the deeds but posting has become a bit of a chore. The web site will remain, though.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

R's Show at Memory Lanes

My girlfriend R is in a band called Samwell Rowan, and they played at Memory Lanes tonight. I really wanted to see the show, for my own enjoyment as well as to support her. Not only that, but I also got the opportunity to invite my cousin R, whom I haven't been able to hang out with much lately but who loves music concerts. It turns out he knows the bassist Sam from years ago!

ONE GOOD DEED: Support R at her show and invite my cousin R as well.

Friday, November 6, 2009

House of Charity with R

My girlfriend R and I both had today off from work, so we decided to volunteer at House of Charity. We served lunch to over two hundred folks fallen on hard times.

ONE GOOD DEED: Volunteer at House of Charity.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Helping my cousin R move

My cousin R helps me out a lot with my car, so I was happy to return the favor by helping him move out to St Louis Park.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help my cousin move.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween mustache

R and I went to a Halloween concert tonight. The headlining band was All the Pretty Horses, a local dark goth band featuring Venus, a transsexual who plays topless with breasts flying everywhere. It was an awesome show.

Everyone came in costume. R and I did our falcon and falconer duo again. We met another couple who were dressed as Luigi and Princess Peach. The Luigi guy had this big bushy mustache, and the main reason I started talking to them was so I could ask if his mustache was real! It was.

ONE GOOD DEED: Compliment "Luigi" on his fantastic natural mustache!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Anwatin Friday

Another day volunteering at Anwatin. And another day when the students were complete trouble-makers. Oh well. You're dreaming if you expect students to behave like angels.

ONE GOOD DEED: Volunteer at Anwatin Middle School.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trash

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Boring but beneficial: every day is trash day!

So, due to my horrid Internet connection at home, I have not been able to record my good deeds. Now I don't remember so well what I did each day. However, I pick up trash every day no matter what. So I'm just gonna report picking up trash for each day that I can't remember doing anything else. Apologies for the monotony, but it's better than nothing!

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Other people's junk mail

Why do they throw it on the floor in front of their mailbox? And why doesn't the apartment complex put a recycling bin there? So many questions, so few answers.

ONE GOOD DEED: Recycle the junk mail other people threw on the floor.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Compassionate listening

Lounging in bed this morning, my girlfriend R and I were talking when I suddenly noticed she was crying. She felt terribly embarrassed about something she did the night before. I was surprised because I thought it wasn't worth a shrug, but she was actually crying. I didn't know what to say, so I just listened and held her tight. I let her get her feelings out without feeling rushed or judged.

ONE GOOD DEED: Practice compassionate listening with R.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Volunteering at Anwatin Middle School

I've started doing a second volunteer teaching experience, this time at Anwatin Middle School in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood. Anwatin, I must say, has some of the most unruly classes I have ever seen. It's almost enough to make me think twice about becoming a teacher. Nevertheless, I stuck it out and did some good teaching today.

ONE GOOD DEED: Volunteer teach at Anwatin Middle School.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Victor Hugo for Victor Hugo

There's a student at my school whose name is nearly the same as the famous french author. The student's name is Victor Hugo O. So today I handed him a print-out of Victor Hugo's wikipedia page and the cover of Les Miserables. He laughed when he saw the pages.

ONE GOOD DEED: Introduce my student to his accidental namesake.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

R's senior thesis art project

Last night I asked my girlfriend R to show me the senior thesis project she did at MCAD (Minneapolis Academy of Art and Design). She has a tattoo based on some of the designs in her project, so I was curious to find out what it was.

When she showed me the project, I was blown away. It was both absurd and beautiful. She had carefully studied the stationary in a high school supplies closet and composed booklets and animations conveying the seemingly dry, boring contents of the closet. I don't know how she did it, but she made it come to life! A supplies closet--actually interesting! Who thinks to pay attention to supplies, much less the beauty of supplies? She had diagrams and illustrations and detailed text entries on everything from staplers to push pins. It was an absurdist dream, a real breath of fresh air.

I expressed how impressed I was. It seems like it shouldn't count as a good deed because I really was impressed, and I wasn't trying to do good. But her face lit up and I could tell it made her feel good to get such positive feedback.

ONE GOOD DEED: Gush over the creativity of R's art project.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Trash walking to Wellstone

Nothing like a little good deed on the way to work.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash on the way to volunteering at Wellstone Intl High School.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Trash after my Japanese midterm exam

My Japanese class had midterm exams today. Fortunately, it went okay. I think I got a good grade. After the exam, I felt like celebrating with a little of my favorite hobby...

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash around campus after the exam.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A ride for my cousin E

The romantic evening at the cabin was fabulous -- all alone on the lake shore, in a cabin with no electricity, with only the crackle of the fireplace and each other to keep us warm.

On the way back we visited my aunt and uncle, who live up there. Their daughter was just finishing up work and needed a lift home, so we volunteered to do it. It gave us a good opportunity to talk to E alone in the car.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give my cousin E a ride home from work.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A trip to Ely, a bird for R

My girlfriend R and I went up to my grandparents' lakeside cabin near Ely. The trees were illuminated with fall colors as we made our way up to northern Minnesota.

When we got to Ely, we meandered around the town for a bit. R dashed into a nick nack shop and found a cute little porcelain bird. Later, after exploring the rest of the shop, she came back to buy it, only to find it was already sold! Who could have bought it?

ONE GOOD DEED: Buy a porcelain bird for R.

Friday, October 16, 2009

And again. Today there was a man with a severe disability that caused him to flail his limbs wildly. It was heartbreaking to see someone like that with no one to take care of him.

ONE GOOD DEED: Volunteer at a food center for the homeless and chemically dependent.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Serving food at the House of Charity

There's something called the House of Charity on the street between my apartment and the lightrail station. This week I finally stopped in to find out what it was. It's both a home for homeless and chemically dependent people, and a food center for the public. Today and tomorrow are MEA days, which means no school, so I had nothing to do-- a perfect time to volunteer.

The other volunteers today were doing community service for minor offenses. I talked to a number of folks and heard their hard-times stories of mistakes they made in the past. I particularly enjoyed listening to W, who served time as an accomplice to murder, and now volunteers as a way to give back to the community.

ONE GOOD DEED: Volunteer at a food center for the homeless and chemically dependent.

Treating my cousin R to a movie



My cousin R has been down on his luck for some time now. He helped me with my car engine a bit yesterday, so in return I treated him to dinner and then a movie he wanted to see. I was indifferent toward it but he was really excited. We saw It Might Get Loud, a rockumentary about three guitarists: Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), the Edge (U2), and Jack White (The White Stripes). It consisted largely of their dry, off-hand comments, mixed with a few stories of how they developed their unique sounds. There were a few interesting parts for me. As a writer, I could identify with some details of their creative process. For example, Jimmy Page mentioned how he knew there was a threshold to volume, so he focused on trying to get more sustain out of his guitar. It may seem like a tiny little detail that no one would notice or care that much about, but he cared and he put his heart and soul into it. I feel that way with much of my spiritual writing, pushing the boundaries of seemingly insignificant nuances that actually mean the world to you. So, long story short, I came away with a few nuggets to think about. My cousin, on the other hand, who is a musician himself, was totally blown away by the movie. Music buffs go see it.

By the way-- yes, my cousin R and my girlfriend R are two different people (just in case the pronouns weren't enough to tip you off!).

ONE GOOD DEED: Treat my cousin R to a movie.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trash in the streets

With one fluid motion, walking and picking up trash, walking and throwing it in the bin.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash while walking in the streets.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Scary guy at McDonalds

At McDonalds today there was a homeless vagrant, quite drunk, with a huge build and a demon-like gravelly voice. He just wanted to talk to people it seemed, but it made everyone intimidated and frightened. The atmosphere was tense. Nobody wanted to look at him. I was a bit intimidated myself. But when he asked where he could sit, I pointed out a few empty chairs for him. There, he was able to have his lunch more or less in peace, apart from the occasional outbursts of profanity directed at no one.

ONE GOOD DEED: Look past appearances to be courteous and kind to a stranger.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A lazy Sunday with R

Without really planning it, my girlfriend R and I ended up hanging all afternoon and on into the evening. We relaxed in the apartment, went shopping at Ikea, had dinner together at Famous Dave's, and then saw Zombieland with Woody Harrelson. What was great about it was how we kept doing little things for each other, treating each other to this and then that, helping each other out with things-- a circular flow of good deeds.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give and receive in a relaxed flow of mutual good deeds with R.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Making syrup with my "rival"

So my girlfriend R and I went to the birthday party of the guy she was dating immediately previous to me. Awkward! Or at least you'd think so. When we arrived, he was trying to make a minty mixed drink of some kind when we arrived. He couldn't get the syrup right. I had the instinct to say something like, "Ha, ha! She's mine now, sucker!"

But we made syrup together instead.

ONE GOOD DEED: Bond with my girlfriend's ex-lover instead of getting into a fight.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Trash while waiting for the bus

Standing around, waiting for the bus-- a perfect time to pick up that trash you've been staring at!

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash while waiting for the bus.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A wonderful night with R

Not all good deeds are self-sacrifice and public bravado. Some good deeds are private, known only to one person, when you give yourself over to them entirely, attending to their every need, their every pleasure, making them feel loved, making them feel wanted.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give all of myself over in a wonderful night with my girlfriend.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Treacherously going out with an ex-girlfriend

Things have been going great with R, but she and I share circles of friends with an ex-girlfriend of mine (whose name also starts with R--we'll have to call her Rh). We'd be bound to run into her now and again. So when Rh called and wanted to hang out with me for old time's sake, I wasn't sure what to do. Did Rh just want to be friends, or was she looking to start something up again? Would R be jealous? Would Rh act out later if I snubbed her? Hm... what to do?

I decided to go for a casual night out with Rh, and snuck R's name into the first conversation-- to make clear that I was in a relationship and not looking to rekindle anything. After that, the night went smooth--just friends.

The good deed in the situation was finding a way to avoid hurting anybody's feelings. R, knowing that Rh just wanted to be friends, didn't have to feel threatened. Rh, knowing about R, got a clear message and didn't have to feel snubbed. And I feel comfortable now too.

Yikes, some good deeds are complicated.

ONE GOOD DEED: Find a way for both my current girlfriend and ex-girlfriend to be feel at ease with the current situation.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Trash on the way to Wellstone

On the way to Wellstone International, the high school for immigrant students where I'm volunteer teaching-- as good a time as any.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pickup trash on the way to Wellstone.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Humanist Manifesto for R

R thinks Humanism might be the closest thing to her spiritual orientation, so she was intrigued by the manifesto on my shelf.

ONE GOOD DEED: Let R borrow my copy of The Humanist Manifesto by Paul Kurtz

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Helping R get her car home

My girlfriend R has been borrowing her parents' Lincoln for the longest time and needed to get it back to them. I proposed a road trip. So last night we went through a huge rigamarole to get the car running again after sitting for three months, and then today we returned to her parents' place out west. We had lunch with her folks, whom I hadn't seen in forever-- her mom just happens to be my high school art teacher! R showed me her art, and her mom gave me some photocopies of my old high school sketches. I hadn't seen them in more than ten years! What a blast from the past.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help R get her car back to her parents' place.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

And the book goes to... R

I found a book in the rain on Thursday, though it had hardly taken on any water. Sometimes the universe gives you things, and then you have to figure out what to do with them. I tried a couple of people who might like it, but in the end I give to my girlfriend R-- who I did not think would like it. But she wanted it, so there you have it. It left me as unexpectedly as it had come.

The book was Einstein's Dreams, by Alan Lightman.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give R the book I found in the rain.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A ride home for my uncle after his back surgery

I visited my grandparents today, and it just so happened that my uncle was staying there, recuperating after his back surgery. He's not supposed to drive for a week after the surgery, so I offered him a ride back to his home in St Bonifacius (about an hour away).

ONE GOOD DEED: Give my uncle a ride home after his back surgery.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A book lost in the rain

It was raining cats and dogs on the way to work this morning. As I hurried toward the lightrail station, I noticed a novel humbly soaking in a sidewalk puddle. I snatched it up like any other piece of trash, but this one I might have to find a special home for...

ONE GOOD DEED: Clean up a litter--a novel--from the sidewalk.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Toe socks for R

I don't know how long I had those tiny little toe socks stashed among my clothes. They'd just turned up in the wash one day, obviously forgotten by some previous person. They were far too small for my feet. I guess I just thought eventually I'd find somebody who fit them.

Not exactly like the story of Cinderella and the glass slipper, but R fit the toe socks just the same.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give R a pair of toe socks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

An audio essay for the Tribeways podcast

A burst of creatively flowed out of my tonight. I recorded an audio essay about the relative un-importance of belief in ADF religion, and sent it off to Tribeways, the ADF podcast. This is something I do fairly frequently, on an entirely volunteer basis since there is no compensation (although I do enjoy hearing myself speak, which is reward enough!).

ONE GOOD DEED: Volunteer an audio essay to the Tribeways podcast.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Gonna use your transit pass?

Shucks! I saw that my metro transit pass would expire ten minutes before the next time I'd have to get on the light rail. Oh well... I'll just have to buy another one.

That's when a guy near me asked if I was going to use my pass.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give my transit pass to someone who could use it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Kendama and a Hebrew alphabet for cousin R's boy



My cousin R has a boy who's half-Jewish and will soon start Torah-Talmud school. When I unearthed an old set of wooden tile Hebrew alphabet letters I'd engraved years ago, I wondered if he might like them.

I also found a Japanese toy called a kendama, which consists of a ball on a string tied to hand-held stick with several plates and pegs. The goal is to get the ball to land on the plates and pegs.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give cousin R's boy a set of Hebrew alphabet tiles and a Japanese kendama.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Flowers for R

I wasn't back in the states more than a month when I met R. She's the best thing to happen to me in a long time. I wanted to say something special to her, but how? Walking through the Minneapolis Farmer's Market, I noticed an extraordinary bouquet with ornamental kale and vivid red flowers like sea anemone. Immediately I knew how to say it.

ONE GOOD DEED: Have a bouquet of flowers delivered to R at work.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Can I get a ride back to South Minneapolis?

"Sure, I can take you."

Her bike tire had blown on the way to the Reserve Teacher Orientation in Northeast Minneapolis today, and she had to hail a cab to get there. I was happy to reply to her anxiously implore.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give a fellow prospective teacher a ride home from the orientation.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Okuribito tip for P


The double Oscar-winning Japanese movie Okuribito (Departures) will be showing for free at the Nolte Center in Minneapolis. Boy was my Japanophile friend psyched to hear it.

ONE GOOD DEED: Tell my friend P about the free showing of Okuribito.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Trash at the library

Locking up my bike, picking up trash, one fluid motion.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash while parking my bike at the library.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Trash on the way home from shopping

Arggh! Never before have I ever had problems with colors bleeding in the laundry. I had to go get some Oxi-Clean to take care of it, and took care of some trash on the way back.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash on the way home from shopping.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Trash around Loring Park

R and I took a romantic stroll through Loring Park this evening. Ducks, geese, every kind of flower, and... trash.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash at Loring Park

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Helping kids learn to get along

I went to my hometown airport's fly-in breakfast today. Two of my second cousins, each about 5 or 6 years old were there too. They got into a little tiff over whose turn it was to fly the kite, and I overheard them arguing about it afterward. So I made up an excuse to separate them and then talked it over with them with their respective parents.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help my second cousins learn to get along.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Trash at Lake Harriet

I went on a date with R tonight at Lake Harriet. There was a band and a movie at the bandshell, and we had a picnic on the grass.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash at Lake Harriet

Friday, September 18, 2009

Buy cousin R's gas

My cousin R is always giving me rides and buying me pizza, so when he forgot his wallet today I happily paid for his gas at the gas station.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pay for my cousin R's gas.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Amnesty International - Fighting Human Trafficking

Today I was approached by an Amnesty International worker on the street. She told me that Minnesota is currently one of the biggest cities for human trafficking in the U.S. Duluth, a city up north on Lake Superior, is apparently an international port with relatively lax security, making it attractive to traffickers.

ONE GOOD DEED: Become a member of Amnesty International to work toward their membership goal of one million, which number will be used to lobby for human rights in Congress.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kurt Vonnegut for R

I met a wonderful girl named R. She likes Kurt Vonnegut, and I happened to have his collected works collecting dust on my shelf. Gee, what to do?

ONE GOOD DEED: Give R the collected works of Kurt Vonnegut.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Trash around Uptown and Loring Park

I took a long walk around Uptown and Loring Park today. It's been a long time since I hit that part of town. Loring Park is especially beautiful, an oasis in an urban desert.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash around Uptown and Loring Park.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Volunteering at Wellstone International High School

Today I got set up to start volunteering at a high school called Wellstone International. It's 100% ESL students, which means they are mostly immigrants still learning English. I will be volunteering three days a week, helping out however I can in actual classes. I need the classroom experience to fill a prerequisite for the teacher licensure program I'll start next June. I'm also excited to be working at such an interesting school. It's 60% Latin American, 30% East African, and 10% Southeast Asian. ESL is what I want to teach as a career, so I'm pumped to witness ESL teaching in action.

ONE GOOD DEED: Become a volunteer at Wellstone International High School.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Where's the library?

A couple of young guys on the street were lost. I was happy to help them find where they were going.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help two guys find the library.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Helping an old lady

Cruising through Savers, I overheard an old lady complain that she couldn't find the spoons. I tried to talk to her but she seemed hard of hearing and a little senile. Finally I went to the aisle and brought back spoons to show her, then pointed. Her face lit up with gratitude.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help an old lady find the spoons at Savers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Trash around the University

And more trash, this time on the way to class (I'm taking Japanese classes).

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash at the university.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Trashy

I guess now I can say my life is pretty "trashy."

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash around town.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Chick Tracts for my cousin

Cousin R loves Chick Tracts too. You know Chick Tracts? They're those obnoxious religious comic book pamphlets that condemn everything from Islam to Dungeons & Dragons.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give R my Chick Tracts.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Akira Kurosawa magnets for my cousin

My cousin R loves Akira Kurosawa-- the director of Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Rashimon, etc. He came over to my apartment last night and helped me arrange the place. He loves interior design, but he says no one takes him seriously because he's not gay! So he gave my place "a straight man's touch."

ONE GOOD DEED: Give my cousin magnets with Akira Kurosawa movie paintings on them.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ren Fest turkey leg for... that guy-gal over there

I went to the Renaissance Festival with a friend today. You know those giant smoked turkey legs they have there?--I just had to have one. My friend was indecisive though. I thought she finally said "yeah", but when I got back with two turkey legs, she said it was actually a "naah." So I gave it to the trannie in a Maid Marion dress she happened to be talking to.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give away a turkey leg to a stranger.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Baby daiper in the road?!!

Who leaves a full baby daiper just lying on the side of the road? Ugh. The things you find when picking up trash.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash, including a baby daiper, from the streets.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wine for the party

A new friend invited me to a party tonight. I met her for the first time the other night, but she happens to be from the same hometown, and her mom was my high school art teacher! Anyway, it was a nice outdoor BBQ with her friends. I'm getting plugged in to the community!

ONE GOOD DEED: Give wine to the hosts of the party.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Trash at the university

I passed my Japanese placement test today! Now I can take the courses that will allow me to get rated as a public schools teacher of Japanese.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash around the university.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Supporting my musician friend

I went to a friend's CD release party tonight. It's just a self-published deal, nothing major. He's trying to drum up cash to go on a "tour" (road trip).

ONE GOOD DEED: Support my friend by buying his CD.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mountain Dew for my brother's birthday

When my brother's birthday came around, I could only think of one thing to get him--the sugary green ichor that flows in his veins and supports his very life.

ONE GOOD DEED: Buy Mountain Dew for my brother's birthday.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Trash in Minneapolis

More trash collecting today as I explored my new neighborhood.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash in Minneapolis.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Trash around Slater Square

I moved into my new apartment today! It's in Slater Square in downtown Minneapolis.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash around Slater Square.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cream puffs and strawberries for grandma

Tonight was my last night at my grandparents' place, so I bought them cream puffs and strawberries for dessert that night. We played cards together and had a great last night.

ONE GOOD DEED: Buy dessert for my grandparents.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Trash around Minneapolis

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash around Minneapolis.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Let someone else use the outlets at Starbucks

I've been spending all day every day at the coffee shops, using the wifi to search for jobs, apartments, and so forth. Today, I went to plug in my laptop, but someone else said they were hoping to use the outlet. I'd been using the outlet so much, I was happy to let her use it, even though I was there first.

ONE GOOD DEED: Let someone else use the outlet at the coffee shop instead of me.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cleaning grandma's cupboard handles

She's getting older and slower. Things aren't as spic and span as they used to be. When I noticed some of the cupboard handles above the stove were caked with grease, I grabbed a scrubber.

ONE GOOD DEED: Clean grandma's cupboard handles.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cream puffs for all

I got a car today! It's a 2001 Honda Prelude. My uncle helped me a lot with the complications of the deal, and my grandmother has been graciously cooking for me while I stay at her place. So, I wanted to say thank you. I found out they really liked cream puffs, but hadn't gotten them for a long time. When I went to look for them, I just happened to get lucky. Their faces beamed that evening at dessert time.

ONE GOOD DEED: Say thank you to my uncle and grandma with a gift of cream puffs.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Waiting in line at the DMV

I had a complicated question to ask at Department of Motor Vehicles. I didn't even wanna think how long it would take (although it ended up being sorted quite quickly!)

ONE GOOD DEED: Let the next guy in line go before me at the DMV.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Helping my relative get his boarding pass online

One of my relatives came to visit my grandparents. He wanted to check-in for his flight online. This guy's no geezer but he's no spring chicken either. He hunts and pecks the keyboard and when he punches the mouse key he really punches it! Suffice to say he's not the most Internet-literate guy around.

ONE GOOD DEED: Walk my relative through the online process to check-in and print out his boarding pass.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sushi for my cousin

I visited my cousin today. We played croquet in the park with his little boy that his ex-wife dropped off for the day. This boy is entering first grade, and reading at a seventh grade level! We put a newspaper in front of him and asked him to read the first line, and he could actually do it! Then we pointed and asked, "What's this word?" He sounded it out: "ar-bi-tra-tor." (!) He didn't know what it meant at first, but when we explained that arbitrators help people who have arguments, he understood. My cousin (his father) asked, "Who needs an arbitrator?" His boy replied matter-of-factly, "Mommy and daddy."

On the way to my cousin's place, I got a flat tire on the freeway and he came to help me change it. Naturally, that night's dinner was on me.

ONE GOOD DEED: Buy sushi for my cousin.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Support my local meditation center

With all the job searching, apartment searching, car searching, university research, and family business that I've been dealing with, I was sooooo ready to get back to the old meditation center I used to visit--Common Ground, in Minneapolis. I attended an all-day retreat today, meditating with a group from 9am to 6pm. At the end of the day, there was a circle where we could all say what we were grateful for. When I mentioned how happy I was that the guiding teacher Mark put his talks on the Internet, so that I could listen to them even in Japan, Mark broke a wide grin. I think it made him feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

ONE GOOD DEED: Support my local meditation center with a donation.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Help grandma make dinner

I've been doing so much online research trying to get myself re-established in Minneapolis that I was really ready for some good old-fashioned manual labor. I helped grandma make dinner. She let me make the salads -- probably wise that she gave me the simple part!

ONE GOOD DEED: Help grandma make dinner.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Trash in Minnetonka

I had job interview today way out in Minnetonka, a suburb of Minneapolis. I got there way ahead of time so I was able to check out the area, buses, and so on. And I didn't forget my favorite little hobby...

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash in the parking lots of Minnetonka.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Help grandma set the table

Little things count.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help grandma get dinner ready by setting the table.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More trash in Minneapolis

Never any shortage of trash in the city. :-)

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash in Minneapolis.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Trash in downtown Minneapolis

I think I found an apartment today. There are some financial things I have to rearrange before the application goes through, but I think I can swing it. I'm gonna be living just on the edge of downtown Minneapolis in a hip neighborhood, and the rent is cheap. I can't wait.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash in downtown Minneapolis

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Trash in Battle Creek Park

P and I went to Battle Creek Park outside of St Paul today. It was a beautiful wooded area just across the river from a freight train station. Strangely, the creeks of the freight cars on the tracks actually added to the experience. It lent the woods a haunting soundtrack.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash in Battle Creek Park.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yokan for P

I dropped in on an old friend today. He's a painter with a... unique... personality. I missed him and our unforgettable conversations.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give my friend some yokan--a kind of sweet red bean paste jelly--from Japan.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bowling with Grandma

"Let's go bowling!" she said. I had a vision of her 88-year old body sailing after the heavy ball and crumpling in the lane. "Are you sure, grandma?" I said. Well, she was sure. So, hell ya I'll take my grandma out bowling! We had a great time. They gave her a ball no heavier than a loaf of bread. She dropped it onto the lane and it meandered its way down till it finally nudged a pin. And--magically?--they all went down! In the third game, she got 150 points! I couldn't believe it. Beaten by my grandma.

ONE GOOD DEED: Take my grandma out bowling.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Helping my paraplegic uncle

I headed into the twin cities today. I'm staying with my grandparents till I find an apartment. My uncle also lives with them. He gets by pretty well for a paraplegic, but sometimes need help. He was working with a digital camera that was just too small for his semi-paralyzed fingers.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help my paraplegic uncle with his camera.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yet more family biz

The story gets old but the deed stays good. :-)

ONE GOOD DEED: Help out in the family business.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And more family biz

Trying to find apartments online today, in-betweeen whizzing around the airport doing errands for the fam.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help out in the family business.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Family Biz

I made it home to little Hector, Minnesota, the town of my birth.  My folks are busy busy with their cropdusting business, so I found no shortage of ways to help out.

ONE GOOD DEED:  Help out in the family business.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Last trash in Japan

This evening I get on my flight to go back to the US. This is my last day in Japan.

Once more for old time's sake...

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash in Japan for the last time.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Oak Leaves for my friend in Tokyo

Oak Leaves is a publication of an organization to which both I and my friend in Tokyo belong. Not wanting to carry the weight all the way home, I was happy to give him all my hard copies.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give my friend in Tokyo all my Oak Leaves magazines.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An ivory melon for my Japanese teacher

I left my town of Obira today. My friends gathered at the bus stop to see me off. I even cried a bit after the bus pulled away.

Today I am visiting my Japanese teacher in Eniwa one last time before flying from New Chitose Airport tomorrow. I gave her a rare kind of melon called an ivory melon, which is only grown in my town and a handful of other places in Japan, and can only be found in this season.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give my teacher an ivory melon from Obira.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A computer for my successor

The new teacher who is taking over for me in Obira arrived last night, and I am training him in today. One of the things I'm leaving to him is my desktop PC, since I'm getting a laptop anyway and I'd rather not pay to ship the thing home anyway.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give my successor a computer for free.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Coins for Tatsuro

A neighbor boy has gotten interested in coins from around the world, so I gave him all I had left from Thailand, Malaysia, Canada, the EU, and America.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give Tatsuro my foreign coins for his collection.

One last book for the library

Everything's all packed up and ready to go. But I found one last book that I couldn't bear to throw out. The library will make a better home for it than the trash.

ONE GOOD DEED: Donate a book to the local library.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A beautiful clean apartment for the next teacher

Tomorrow I have to move out of my apartment to make way for the incoming teacher. I cleaned all day today. In fact, I think this is the cleanest the place has been in five years! I left a few simple decorations too. The next guy will arrive to a nice, homey, welcoming apartment.

ONE GOOD DEED: Clean and beautify the apartment for the next person.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A signboard for M

My neighbor M, who had me over for dinner at least once a week, sometimes twice, invited me to one last curry dinner. I made a special gift for her, a signboard with a message from me and a bunch of pictures of us together arranged artistically.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give M a signboard as a parting gift

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Wild rice soup for the party

One of my neighbors wanted to have one last dinner party with me. I have so loved talking with her and her husband, and playing with her kids.

ONE GOOD DEED: Bring Minnesota wild rice to a dinner party.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trash while carousing

Out for a goodbye party with my taiko group, weaving between the streets... oh, hey, there's some trash.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash while pub-crawling.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Massive great big pile of PET bottle caps

I just got back from camp. We went through plenty of PET bottles, and guess who managed to save the caps?

ONE GOOD DEED: Recycle the camp's PET caps for charity--goes toward medicine for children in developing nations.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Volunteering at HEC Camp

From today till the 29th I will be volunteering at an English summer camp for junior high and senior high school students. HEC (Hokkaido English Challenge) is one of the best things I have done as a teacher here in Hokkaido, and I am happy that I can finish my time here with one final camp.

SIX DAYS OF GOOD DEEDS: Volunteer at an English camp.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Last trash in Onishika

Today was my last class in Onishika (actually my last class, period). Once more, for old time's sake...

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash on the way to work.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Parting gifts for the adult class students

Today was the last class with the adult students. We had a party with lots of delicious food and drinks, goodbye speeches, and parting gifts. My students gave me a set of Japanese jinbei (sort of like pajamas), and a magnificent album with all their photos and parting messages.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give away parting gifts to my students.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trash and parties

So many goodbye parties! I'm about to collapse, but I'm also extremely happy. Tonight I partied with the folks that used to be in my office before they transferred away. I was so happy to hang with them one last time.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash between bars while hitting the nightlife.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Drawing my friends' faces

When I mentioned the horrible failure of a monster of a portrait that I drew the other day, two more of my friends requested drawings. We drew each other and came up with hilarious results.

ONE GOOD DEED: Draw my friends' faces as a parting gift.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Trash in Rumoi

After getting my haircut, I thought I'd hang out at the park and read for a while. Boy, did that place need a clean-up.

ONE GOOD DEED: Clean up trash at the park.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sharing my bounty

An adult student of mine has been throwing his garden's vegetables at me. I can't eat them all, so I brought them over to my neighbor's house and we had a nice vegetable salad.

ONE GOOD DEED: Share the fresh vegetables I was given.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dumpster diving for PET caps

Walking to the local convenience store... ooh, hey, there's a bunch of PET bottles in the trash bin outside the door. I can recycle those caps for medicine for chidren in the developing world! Gee, this is like dumpster-diving only... miniature.

ONE GOOD DEED: Collect PET bottle caps from a trash bin outside a convenience store.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Books for the other kindergarten's library

I said goodbye to the other kindergarten today, and gave them English books for their library as a parting gift.

ONE GOOD DEED: Donate books to a kindergarten library.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A drawing for my friend

As a parting gift, my friend requested that I draw her face. I like drawing portraits, so I was happy to oblige. Unfortunately, the drawing went horribly awry! Arggh. It's the thought that counts?

ONE GOOD DEED: Draw my friend's portrait.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The race to end cancer

Support research to end cancer!


ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness for cancer research on Facebook.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

More PETs at the beach

PET bottles, that is.

ONE GOOD DEED: Clean up PET bottles from the beach.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Obira Shrine Festival

Today was my town's Shinto shrine festival. Every shrine has a festival once a year where the sacred objects are taken out and placed in an o-mikoshi, which looks something like the ark of the covenent. The o-mikoshi is then paraded around town on the shoulders of local men, accompanied by loud shouts and lots of sake.


The shrine festival is probably the single most important thing keeping Shinto alive in the hearts of the general public.


ONE GOOD DEED: Support my local shrine by playing taiko in its festival.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mad money at the kindergarten fundraiser

Onishika Kindergarten, which I just said goodbye to you yesterday, had a fundraiser tonight. There were games and food for small fees. I was happy to fill up on chicken-on-a-stick, soba noodles, chicken nuggets, and potato mochi, while playing mini-bowling and a superball lottery.

ONE GOOD DEED: Support the kindergarten by spending money at its summer fundraiser.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Books for the kindergarten library

I made my last visit to Onishika Kindergarten today. I will be returning to America next month to pursue a career in ESL teaching. The kindergarten kids were so cute--they gave me a picture of me that looked like Ernie from Sesame Street! It was a happy sayonara.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give English books to the kindergarten library as a parting gift.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Help a family adopt Ellie

This request was sent to me by Wendy over at Spread Change, a great site for good deeds. Her friends are trying to raise funds to aid their adoption of Ellie, an Ethiopian girl. You can read all about it here.


Wendy writes: "I'm recommending people do a "give up coffee for one day for Ellie" (and donate their Starbucks money for that day) or "cook dinner for Ellie" (invite 10 friends over for a meal and everyone chip in $5 for an Ellie donation). Just little things. We're all about the budget philanthropy over at Spread Change! Anything you can do to help would be great!"




ONE GOOD DEED: Spread the word about a friend's fundraiser, and donate.

Promoting my town

A Hokkaido travel guide by and for foreign teachers is being revamped. I was happy to write up all the little lovelies of my town.

ONE GOOD DEED: Promote my town in a Hokkaido travel guide.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Release Gaza aid ship!

On the 30th of last month, the Spirit of Humanity, a ship delivering aid to the Gaza strip, was abducted in international waters by Israeli forces. Its aid, including medicine, olive trees, and toys, were confiscated.

I have always found Israel's policy toward Palestinians loathesome, at least as much as the terrorist response it has inspired. Yet the question of U.S. censure of Israeli excess is a tricky one. Israel is our ally, it is a foothold in a region crucial to our energy needs, and it commands sympathy from many U.S. voters. Furthermore, it is doing nothing that we did not do in our nation's expansionist history. To do anything but support Israel would be a strategic blunder. To turn our back on them would be unthinkable--except for the tiny fact that it may be the right thing to do.

Realistically, due to the delicate nature of the situation, our president can only censure Israel in small ways. Perhaps this aid ship situation may be an opportunity to show America's growing disgust with Israeli aggression.

You can sign a petition requesting that the Obama administration demand the ship be released and its mission continued.

ONE GOOD DEED: Sign a petition for the release of the Gaza aid ship the Spirit of Humanity.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

More PET bottles at the beach

But at least I didn't get sunburned this time. :-)

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up PET bottles after enjoying lunch at the beach.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Books for the library

The one vice I have truly indulged in these five years in Hokkaido: books. Amazon has been my drug dealer. I can't believe how many I have to ship home now.

With much pain and whining, I picked out the ones I didn't absolutely need. This ought to double the number of English-language books at the local library!

ONE GOOD DEED: Give books to the library.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Support the Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009

Conflict minerals are raw materials mined in war zones. Many components of our cell phones and electronics--particularly tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold--come from the Congo, where rampaging militias use mineral revenues to support their campaigns. These militias are notorious for their use of forced child soldiers and rape as a weapon of terror.

The Congo Conflict Minerals Act is a senate bill that fights such trade. Among other things, it proposes that the US military publish a map of armed groups in mineral-rich areas of the Congo. This would make it easier for industries to avoid conflict minerals and trade only in those unstained by blood.

The bill includes the following measures:

· support for further investigations by the UN Group of Experts on Congo;
· mapping of which armed groups control key mines in eastern Congo;
· development of a U.S. government strategy to address conflict minerals;
· inclusion of information on the negative impact of mineral exploitation and trade on human rights in Congo in the annual human rights reports; and,
· guidance for companies to exercise due diligence.
(quoted from here)

Raise Hope for Congo, an Enough! campaign, provides an electronic form letter to urge your senator to cosponsor the bill.

ONE GOOD DEED: Urge my senator (after months of election dispute, at last Minnesota has a senator!) to cosponsor a bill to fight trade in conflict minerals.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Broken glass at the kindergarten

Yikes! Better not let that stay there!

ONE GOOD DEED: Notice the broken glass lying outside the kindergarten before the kids do.

Everybody loves slugs

It had rained early this morning, so there were puddles around. On the way to work I came upon some elementary students marveling at a bunch of slugs. Some of them wanted to step on them or torture them, but I put an end to that.

Who knows if such simple life forms really experience "suffering"? Probably not so much. But what is certain is that we humans need to learn to respect other forms of life.
Being a teacher is not just about teaching your specialized subject, it's also about modeling good character.

ONE GOOD DEED: Encourage students to respect the lives of slugs.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

PET bottle caps

Ha, ha! Got another friend to collect caps for me!

Everything is going according to plan... (evil laugh)

ONE GOOD DEED: Recycle PET bottle caps to raise money for medicine for children

Monday, June 29, 2009

PET bottles on the way to work

"I'll take that" he says as he snatches up a bottle lying the grass.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up bottles on the way to work.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Trash at the beach

The beach is the better for out, but my legs are not. Why didn't I put on sun block? Argh!!

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash at the beach

Friday, June 26, 2009

PET bottles at the seashore

Sit down by the planks and rocks at the seashore behind the sports center, and wait a minute or two. At first you'll see just muddy water, but after a few minutes things will start to crawl about. Bottom-feeder fish, crabs, and little shrimp-like creatures, acclimated to your presence, will come out to bask in the shallow, sunlight-warmed water. Life teems at your feet.

And what better way to acknowledge this tiny miracle than to clean up the area a little?

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up PET bottles near the seashore.

Celestia - explore our universe


Celestia is a program that allows you to explore the universe in gorgeous detail. You can fly anywhere, at any speed and at any time in history. The cosmos is rendered according to highly accurate astronomical theory, and planets appear in high resolution. Imagery from Celestia has been used in movies such as the Day After Tomorrow and the Andromeda Strain. Best of all, it is available for download for your home PC, absolutely free.

Let's take a moment to unpack the historical significance of a program such as this...

There was an age when this sort of information was sacred. Access to it was kept secret. Astronomical numerology shows up in the Vedas, Mesopotamian texts, and the king lists of the Old Testament. These texts functioned in part to transmit the sacred knowledge required to decipher the motions of heavenly bodies. Later philosophers were awestruck by planetary motion, which they called the music of the spheres. Now, in the age of computers and the Internet, you can download it in a few seconds, poke around with your little mouse cursor, and go "huh." You don't even have to pay for it. No previous generation has ever had such an opportunity. What's more, if peak oil theorists are right about the impact of declining energy availability, future generations might not have this opportunity either. The Internet and personal computers may become too expensive for the average person, leaving our children to once again gaze up at the starry sky and wonder what makes it all go round.

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness for Celestia, an educational astronomy program.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trash around the kindergarten

There's nothing like a horde of two-foot tall munchkins hanging off your every limb and laughing. I love going to the kindergarten. Almost as much as I love picking up trash.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash near the kindergarten.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Theano's Day - blog to honor women philosophers

Today is Theano's Day, a day to recognize women philosophers. The day is named after Pythagoras' wife, Theano, who was a competent philosopher in her own right.

To participate, simply post to your blog, journal, or other platform, and then send the link here. See others' posts here.

I posted in my livejournal about Diotima of Mantinea, teacher of Socrates.

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness for women philosophers by participating in Theano's Day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Minnesota wild rice

The nurse at one of my schools was confounded when I told her about the black rice we can get in Minnesota. So today I brought her a little gift.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give Minnesota wild rice to a co-worker who'd never seen such a thing before.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A plea to those following the Iran election controversy

This is a plea for open hearts and level heads.

Like many I am following the Iran election controversy. I don't doubt that the election could have been rigged, and my heart goes out to the protesters suffering and in some cases dying for what they believe in.

At the same time, I am noticing an extreme bias in certain US reporting. For example, the NY Times has been giving the story massive coverage. It has headlined multiple stories almost every day since the election results were reported (ten days!). This is far out of proportion to coverage we normally see of similar events in countries that are not so strategically critical to our foreign policy. It doesn't take a professional analyst to realize that there is a connection to America's current delicate, potentially explosive, stance toward nuclear Iran. Nor is it arcane that Iran is a key player in the theater of our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. And perhaps most importantly, it's no secret that the idea of democracy in a Muslim nation tugs at American heartstrings, and can be used to push our buttons.

It's natural that the media should prefer stories that interest the public, so some disproportion in coverage is to be expected. But what's going on right now is disproportionate enough to raise the question of agenda. It was not long ago that we were fed the "Saddam is genociding the Kurds" story, followed by the "our military isn't ready" story, and the "weapons of mass destruction" hoax. And let's not forget that during that same period our very own nation saw an election which was every bit as questionable as the current one in Iran.

Please note that just because the headlines hide an agenda, it doesn't mean they aren't true. Saddam was a bad guy, a really bad guy, and the Kurds did suffer. But those true facts were falsely used to pump us up for wars, actions with motivations other than "good vs. evil." In the same way, Ahmadinejad may be worth questioning. The election results may be worth questioning. And our moral outrage may be required. But we do not have to be dupes about it. If we keep our collective cool and look at this rationally, we'll be much more likely to make wise decisions in the future.

Please also note that the presence of agenda does not necessarily validate conspiracy theories! The public is quite capable of hypnotizing itself, through nothing more than "herd culture" behavior, without anyone directing the panic from behind a curtain. Presidents and other leaders may bear particular responsibility, but ultimately we can only point fingers at ourselves. It's up to us, the public, to grant or withhold assent.

It is particularly difficult to keep our cool when outrage is or appears to be justified. But even when such is justified, uncritical reactions never lead to a happy ending.

So, please, as you follow this story, don't let the headlines hypnotize you. We are only effective when we keep both our hearts and our heads in the game!

P.S. One way to take the brainwashing machine off spin cycle is to compare headlines with foreign newspapers. Check out BBC News, Moscow Times, China Daily, and the like. Look specifically for newspapers with different foreign policy agendas and views contrary to your own. Don't trust any one newspaper over another, but observe overall trends that emerge.

The Iran election controversy

I posted a brief essay calling for level heads with regard to the current Iran election controversy. It's so easy to cry bloody murder when it's the other guys at fault. We need to be compassionate, and we can't let anyone become "villains."

See the following post for the essay.

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness for critical thinking in a time of public outrage.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A farewell party

Four of the foreign teachers in this area of Hokkaido, including myself, will be heading home in August. I helped organize a farewell party, which turned out quite moving for everyone. I even got a little choked up.

ONE GOOD DEED: Organize a farwell party for all the foreign teachers leaving soon.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trash no longer where it was

Because I picked it up!

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash along the road.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ask Obama to reveal his peace plan for Darfur

President Obama has included Darfur in his speeches but has yet to reveal a concrete plan of action. The Save Darfur Coalition has prepared an electronic letter to the president demanding a plan for peace in the Darfur region. Just follow the link, edit the letter if you wish, sign your name to it, and click send. It takes all of thirty seconds.

I have posted numerous times on the Darfur situation, and since then I've learned a fair amount about it. One thing I've learned is that US military intervention could very well prove counterproductive. The Save Darfur Coalition tends to include a military option within its purview of potential actions, so you have to be careful about what letters you support. This one bears no military language and pursues helpful and necessary goals.

By the way, please do not trust my judgments about the viability of military action. Read up, and make your own decisions.

ONE GOOD DEED: Send a letter asking to Obama to reveal his Darfur peace plan.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Infecting the world with PET cap fever

At last, a disease worth having. Symptoms include the complusive collection of PET caps to donate for medicine in developing countries. Patients may also show signs of frugality and compassion.

ONE GOOD DEED: Get a neighbor to donate her PET bottle caps!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Supporting the local Shinto shrine

Every town in Japan has a shrine, and each shrine has a festival once a year. The fishing village to the south of me had its festival today. While the customary monetary donation is miniscule (5 cents, given because the coin has a hole in it like Chinese coins and is considered lucky), showing support is necessary for keeping Shinto alive. I can't imagine Shinto would last long if people ever lost interest in the annual festivals.

The caretaker of the shrine invited me to a special dinner table inside it, and taught me about its various sacred objects (showing me as much as could be shown without violating taboos).

ONE GOOD DEED: Support my local shrine by participating in its annual festival.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mushroom tea for M

I ran into my neighbor M today and saw she had a cold and a nasty cough. Later I went over to her house and gave her some shiitake mushroom tea. It's not as nasty as it sounds! In fact, it tastes savory, and feels good on the throat. I hope it helps her feel better.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give mushroom tea to a sick neighbor.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Here trashy trashy

Call me the Trash Hunter.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash around the neighborhood.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Little blue thingies WTF??!

In the middle of a gravel walking path, a puddle of blue... uh... what are those?

They look like segments of plastic straws. I figure they were leftovers from some construction project, and the bag blew away, snagged on the gravel, and broke open. Man, it was nearly impossible to clean up! Finally, I realized that if I shoveled rocks and all into a pale of water, the plastic bits would float to the surface. Success!

ONE GOOD DEED: Clean up plastic mess from a walking path.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Trash on the go

You can get fast food on the go, coffee on the go, so why not trash?

ONE GOOD DEED: Clean up trash from sidewalks while walking to places.

A stranger on the bus

Actually, she wasn't really a stranger. We've been riding the same bus for almost five years, every Thursday, for all of three blocks. She gets on at the stop just before I get off, and always sits in the first seat while I sit in the third (strategically positioning myself away from the blaring radio speakers). We've nodded to each other and smiled plenty of times. I thought why not finally introduce myself. Her face broke into a big, warm smile.

ONE GOOD DEED: Talk to an old lady that always rides the same Thursday bus.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shu cream for grandpa

I was given a shu cream (a kind of custard pastry). But since I'm not so hot on them, and my neighbor M's father is, I conceived the perfect deed.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give a neighbor's father his favorite desert.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Invisible Children



Invisible Children, which emerged from the above documentary film, educates people about the effects of war on children, and grants scholarships to children in Uganda without enough money to finish secondary school.

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness for Invisible Children on Facebook.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Eco bulbs

Save energy, save the cheerleader. Er... wait, no!

I mean, save the earth.

ONE GOOD DEED: Replace all my light bulbs with eco-friendly ones that use 75% less electricity.

Friday, June 5, 2009






The Come Clean 4 Congo video contest aims to raise awareness for how electronics fuel the deadliest war in the world. Tin, tungsten, and tantalum are mined in the Congo, and those revenues directly fund a war that has claimed 5 million lives, forced children into military service, and inflicted hundreds of thousands of rapes.

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness for the Congo.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Trash all around

A little here, a little there
Makes a good deed.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash around town throughout the day.

Survey says

A fellow co-religionist wanted to find out information about people in our religion. I was happy to oblige.

ONE GOOD DEED: Take a survey for a friend about ADF religion.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cookies for class

Just makes everyone smile.

ONE GOOD DEED:  Bring cookies to the evening English class.

Peak Oil and Kriscan on Facebook

I happened upon a peculiar peak oil video by Kriscan. She uses her goods to get it up (awareness that is, to get awareness up)!



ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness for peak oil on Facebook

Monday, June 1, 2009

PET bottle caps

80 more caps recycled. 100 is medicine for one child!

ONE GOOD DEED: Recycle bottle caps to fund medicine in developing countries.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Everyone makes mistakes

Today there was a festival in my town, and the brass band from Onishika Junior High played.  One member, the trumpet player, is particularly good.  Everyone is always amazed.  But today he completely choked.  Afterward, I saw he was almost ready to cry.

ONE GOOD DEED:  Give my student a pep talk -- everyone makes mistakes.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Need a ride?

On my way home from Rumoi I noticed an elderly lady from my town waiting at a bus stop.  She's a rather eccentric one, wearing kimonos everyday rather than for special occasions, so she's hard to miss.  She's also a devoted member of the community, always helping out in school and town events.

ONE GOOD DEED:  Give an elderly lady a ride home.

Oh, you so did not want to drop that...

Walking home from work, I happened upon a lone photograph lying in the side walk.  It had writing on the back like it was meant for somebody.  "Oh great, I'll deliver this and that'll be my good deed!" I thought.  I picked up and what do you suppose it was?  A picture of a fat, hairy condom-covered cock!  The writing on the back was to some girl, commenting on how to use spermicidal jelly.  "Yikes!" I thought.  "Somebody really does not want this floating around."  I tore it up, and that was my good deed.

ONE GOOD DEED:  Get rid of someone's very embarrassing lost photo.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Trash in Onishika

I'm sure it looks rather funny when I show up to work with an armful of empty beer cans.  "No, really, they're not mine!"  Right...

ONE GOOD DEED:  Pick up beer cans from the side of the road on the way to work.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nature-based religions survey

I got this survey request and was happy to oblige.

ONE GOOD DEED:  Fill out a survey on Nature-based Religions for the University of Sydney.

Giant plastic thingies magically appear

Maybe they're covers for some kind of garden plant?  Who knows.  Whatever they were, they weren't supposed to be in the ditch.

ONE GOOD DEED:  Pick up trash in the neighborhood ditch.

Monday, May 25, 2009

And pay it forward again

Keep spreading the love.

ONE GOOD DEED:  Give to a neighbor some nice bath salts I got from my friend's wedding.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pay it forward

...which is better than saying "regift it."  Why do people look down on regifting?  It's a great way to spread the love.  If you get something you can't use, why not give it to someone who can?  It's economical and redoubles the joy of giving.

ONE GOOD DEED:  Give coffee cake and foot massager I got from my friend's wedding to a neighbor who wasn't able to go.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My student's wedding

A former student of mine got married today. The wedding was in Sapporo at the elegant Keio Plaza Hotel. Like most Japanese weddings today, it was almost entirely Western in style. Yet to the trained eye, a few vestiges of tradition stand out. For example, the bride changes dresses--white for the wedding, and then half-way through the reception she appears in a red dress. This preserves an old tradition where brides wore a white kimono on the first day of wedding celebrations, then red the next day, and another color on the third (now condensed into a single day). I was told this represents how the bride is initially pure (white), and then is colored by the groom with the colors that make her happy. I can't help but suspect this is a vestige of a still earlier custom, where white would have represented physical virginity and red the blood spilled on the bed sheets through consummation.

ONE GOOD DEED: Support my student by attending her wedding reception and giving the traditional monetary gift.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

An open letter to President Obama about Darfur

The following is from the Save Darfur Coalition:

It's become clear that the Bashir regime is not committed to peace—and that peace is dependent on President Obama's leadership.

That's why 41,938 people have already signed our citizen open letter and sent it to President Obama, and why Darfuris from across the country will march in front of the White House Friday and call on the Obama administration to act.

If we can get to 50,000 signatures by midnight tonight, we'll bring copies of the letters with us to the White House. Don't delay!

Just hours left—sign on to the letter now.

In the last two weeks, the Sudanese government prevented Darfuri delegates from traveling to a peace conference in Ethiopia, and appointed a man wanted for war crimes in Darfur as the governor of South Kordofan, a critical border region between North and South Sudan.

And Bashir's regime has yet to make good on promises of unfettered access for humanitarian groups to provide clean water, sanitation and essential health care services.

But our movement is refusing to be silent. Actress and activist Mia Farrow stoically undertook a 12-day fast in support of the people of Darfur. Richard Branson, Peter Gabriel, Representatives Donald Payne and Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, and hundreds of people worldwide carried on when her health forced her to stop the fast.

On Tuesday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus announced they are joining the fast in support of the people of Darfur. And on Friday, Darfuris and Sudanese from across the United States will march in front of the White House and call for action.

These courageous actions are bringing awareness of the crisis to millions. Now, it's up to us to transform that awareness into a powerful message for the White House: we need bold action now.

Sign our citizen open letter—if we get to 50,000 co-signers by midnight tonight, we'll bring copies to the White House!

Thank you for all that you do.

Sincerely,

Suzie Armstrong
Save Darfur Coalition

P.S. For more about Mia Farrow and the committed Darfur activists and members of Congress joining her fast, click here.

Donate to Help Save Darfur
Help build the political pressure needed to end the crisis in Darfur by supporting the Save Darfur Coalition's crucial awareness and advocacy programs. Click here now to make a secure, tax-deductible online donation.


ONE GOOD DEED:
Sign an open letter to the president to help Darfur.

Miss the bus--pick up trash

Well, what else are you gonna do with an hour's wait?

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash after missing the bus home from Onishika.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Great Plains Institute for Sustainable Development

This nonprofit works toward accelerated the process of adapting our society to renewable-energy, low-carbon technologies. They bring together key public and private leaders to facilitate exchange, develop consensus, and catalyze change.

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness for sustainable living on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Oops, you dropped this...

Sometimes good deeds are simple. You might not even think them worth mentioning, but they mean something to the other person.

ONE GOOD DEED: Alert a person to his dropped glove.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Play Oligarchy for peak oil!

Explore and exploit!

Search, drill, and rape the world's oil fields. Ignore environmental protesters, bribe the Nigerian government, and hire mercenaries against Iraqi insurgents. Oh, and you can the rig the livin' daylight out of elections, too! All from the comfort of your home PC browser.

Play Oligarchy! (and wake up to how this is really happening in our world)

This game was brought to you by Molleindustria, an Italian team devoted to delivering serious messages through games. "Don't hate the media, become the media."

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness for the peak oil crisis by promoting a related browser game.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Trash in Dad's Woods

A retired forester took my friends and I to a place he calls "Dad's Woods." It's a picturesque area deep in the forested hills of this part of Hokkaido. There we picked wild vegetables and mushrooms and took them home for a delicious sukiyaki lunch. I hauled away a bag of trash. It's amazing--so deep in the woods, you wouldn't think there would be much garbage. But so deep in the woods, there are few to pick up what's there. So it stays till you come along.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash in Dad's Woods.

Down by the river

I feel so lucky to have a river almost in my own backyard. It's public property and lots of people walk or jog down there. Of course that means... plenty of trash.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash down by the river.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Broken glass

Yikes! Don't want kids to be stepping on that!

ONE GOOD DEED: Clean up broken glass on the sidewalk.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

And more trash

Still plenty of trash around here. Does it grow out of the ground like weeds?

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash around the neighborhood.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More peak oil


After watching another good documentary called The End of Suburbia, I did some more raising of awareness on Facebook.

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness for the peak oil problem through Facebook.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Trash around the neighborhood

You go by it everyday, and you just keep staring at until you finally decide to do something about it!

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up ugly trash along the walk to work.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Education survey

For today's deed, I helped out a university student who was doing a survey on education in Japan. I reported my experiences as an Assistant English Teacher here in Hokkaido.

ONE GOOD DEED: Fill out a survey for a university student's project.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

It's Mother's Day

Have you talked to your mother yet today?

ONE GOOD DEED: Call mom on Mother's Day.

Trash over the place

Trashmonkin', trashmonkin'...

I should write a song.

ONE GOOD DEED: Pick up trash at the beach, by the river, and all over.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Peak Oil Awareness

What happens when the world's oil runs out? Oh... uh... well, heh heh, cross your fingers, I guess.

Nearly everything in our modern society is based on cheap energy provided by oil. The gasoline in your car, plastics in your computer, petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides in our fields-- the list goes on. The ramifications for society when oil production passes its peak will be vast, and we could face a long period of serious economic hardship. Extreme scenarios even predict wars, famines, and other symptoms of civilization in decline.

Peak Oil Awareness is a facebook group that is waking people up to this problem. Donations through it benefit the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO-USA).

There are many interesting presentations of the issue, including a documentary called A Crude Awakening and a podcast with expert James Kunstler. And while most discussions on the subject are depressing at best, a note of hope can be found in The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness and donate money toward the problem of peak oil.