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.

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.