Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert?

On 10/30/10, two opposing rallies with gather at our nation’s capitol. These banners speak for themselves as these two public figures parody the divide in our nation.

My question is this: Stewart or Colbert?

In my humble opinion (haha), if I were to find myself in DC that day, I’d be supporting Stephen Colbert. Stewart may be a better activist, but Colbert is the better comedian. Stewart takes himself too seriously, while Colbert has no discernible agenda. I mean, I just like Colbert, b/c he doesn’t try to seem this or that. Other that what I’ve said, I don’t really know why I like Colbert more. Maybe b/c I want to believe that he is parodying the parodying of what his show is about.

So, which rally would you attend? I’d be at the “March to Keep Fear Alive.”

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Too Many Blogs to Write…

I’m currently at Assilomar in Pacific Grove, CA for Foundations of Digital Games Conference. I just spent a week (or so) on the east coast. Most notably, I got to help out with a group in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Wilmington. Then, I went to E3 for the first time, and today, I drove 6 hours to get to this conference (to present the first paper of my life’s work). When I get back to Santa Cruz, Zwak will be visiting for a couple days.

This post is to list all the posts that I have yet to write… Here I go:

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Children, Suicide Bombers, and That Place Between Privilege and Despair

Many people have heard of the invisible children in Africa, but there’s a recent TED talk about schools for children suicide bombers in the Taliban. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy worked with children under training and with Taliban recruiters for a year to document their efforts. Recruiters target poor families and promise free food, care, and compensation. 5 step process: (1) separate parents from children from poor regions, (2) teach the Koran heavily distorted with no access to any media, (3) make the children hate the world with beatings and harsh living circumstances, (4)  talk about the glories of martyrdom, (5) effective propaganda. First, the brain-washing and training … Continue reading Children, Suicide Bombers, and That Place Between Privilege and Despair

The Significance of Humility: Rick Warren Speaks About Purpose

In 2006, Rick Warren talks about purpose, life, and God at TED. Not too long ago, did I really start appreciating these talks.

  • What are TED talks? As far as I know, they are invited talks of leading experts to share ideas that benefit humanity in some shape or form.
  • How many TED talks are there? Well, I just checked and it looks like there are 702 currently streamable from
  • How many of these TED talks are about god? 10 of them are tagged with ‘god.’
  • How many of these talks are about Christianity? 3 of them (tagged).
  • How many of these speak about Christianity as an informed professional or expert? 2 of them… Rick Warren and Billy Graham.
  • Who is Rick Warren? Best selling author of “Purpose Driven Life” and pastor of Saddleback Church in California. Warren also gave the invocation at Obama’s inauguration.

Why Reclaim?” is a post by co-blogger Chris Zwak, and one thing that I especially find to be unclaimed is the space of intellectuals. For me, that’s a big reason for “Why Reclaim?” Someday, we’ll have our own TED talks, as this will speak to our culture of instant information and the rising ubiquity of expert knowledge.

I digress…

Rick Warren gives an amazing TED talk. In my opinion, much better (or, at least, more personable) than Billy Graham’s talk from 8 years prior.

At first glace, Rick Warren does not look like some hot-shot televangelist or celebrity christian. (haha… he looks like he could be a car salesman.) I remember wondering what the big deal was about this guy and his book. After watching that talk, I am both encouraged and inspired by his approach and manner towards religion.

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Since When Did Having Faith = Not Thinking?

These are called "tracts"

You’re walking down the street and there’s a group of people handing out pieces of paper. You open it up, and it asks you if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. What do you do with the paper?

What do I do? I read it… twice … haha.

First, I read it to see if there is anything for me to learn. Second, I read it as if I did not already believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Honestly, though, I don’t know anyone who enjoys receiving an evangelism tract from a total stranger.

You can imagine my skepticism as the church I’m currently attending starts up “evangelism training” in preparation of going downtown to hand these out.

I asked myself, “could I see myself handing out these?”

Yes, it’s like a fun game. Yes, I’ll do anything, if there will be a good story to tell. No, people will think I’m that kind of Christian. No, I don’t want to turn people off. No, I have better things to do. Yes, there might be that one person who really needs it. Yes, God might magically work through the piece of paper. Yes, it is an act of service to God.

Ultimately?… No, I can hang around and pray, I’ll hang around and sing songs with the choir, but I don’t see myself handing these out. Why?… because, I don’t see the value in giving away pieces of paper that no one will read or will reinforce some outdated stereotype of Christians.

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Comedian, Sarah Silverman, Makes a Good Point

If you know me well, you’ll know that the only channel I watch is CNN (and sometimes Comedy Central). On April 20th, the comedian, Sarah Silverman, was on Larry King Live (Comedy Central meets CNN). Sarah Silverman is known for her (seemingly) boundless toilet humor, which made me thoughtfully surprised by her insights and personality on Larry King. Here’s an idea of that discrepancy:

KING: All right, Sarah, is anything off limits? Is there anything you won’t joke about?

SILVERMAN: Probably not. I mean I think — a lot of people say you joke about rape and aids and everything. But I’m not joking about those things. I think that’s more of a reflection of people reacting to buzz words and not really listening to the content or the context, you know.

I’m almost always the idiot in my jokes. And the subject matter just happens to be about dark, dark things. But I guess if there is anything I wouldn’t talk about, and people ask me that. And I always kind of think — and it’s so specific, but like fat jokes about women.

That always bums me out because I feel like we live in a country where fat women — at least in white America — don’t deserve love. You know? And I — I don’t think that’s true for men, you know. You see every sitcom star is like a fat guy with some gorgeous wife.

But we live in a country that it really feels that way. It feels — it’s in the ether. And that just makes me sad to make a joke of it or to make light of it. It tends to be more mean-spirited, you know. You know? I know that sounds so specific.

More than anything, the comment that sticks with me is her reply to Larry King’s question about her teenage depression, “it felt very chemical. It just felt like a cloud coming over the sun. I didn’t understand it. And I remember my stepfather was the one person who said like what does it feel like? And the only way I could describe it is it felt like I was home sick, but I was home. So there was no way to satiate it, you know?”

Sarah, I totally feel you, and I give you major props for putting it so elegantly. I believe that my friends, my peers, but mostly the Christian ones, should all know the feeling that Sarah described.

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My Grandmom Lives in Chinatown and is Racist

Everytime I visit my grandmother I bring her a stuffed animal

I live in Santa Cruz, and my (Chinese) grandmother, she lives in Oakland. Whenever I’m in the bay area, I make a stop over to Oakland to pay her a visit. The following is inevitably what happens everytime:

  1. I bring grandmom a stuffed animal
  2. grandmom makes some comment about my appearance/weight
  3. I pretend that the question “do you have a boyfriend?” is lost in translation
  4. grandmom serves roasted duck for dinner (she must think I really like duck)
  5. I take a picture from the rooftop of her retirement complex
  6. grandmom tries to give me some article of clothing (from shoes to scarves to sweaters)
  7. I go with grandmom to church

Now, she’s probably the most grandmotherly of all the other potential candidates, and, by the way, we aren’t biologically related (very long story). And actually, this post isn’t really about my grandmother at all. It’s about the church she goes to in the Oakland Chinatown.

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Hope for Haiti Happy Birthday

“Sherol,” he says.  (I don’t like it when someone inserts my name into the middle of a conversation like that.)

“Hey…i just wanted ur input on something.”

Oh gosh, did something happen?

“So im trying to help out this org at my school to help raise money for haiti. im not affiliated with them. just wanna help out.”

Whoa, that sounds awesome… keep going.

“Im thinkin of sending out a facebook event thing to everyone on my list.”

How are u going to raise the money?

“And my idea is to have people contribute… and sign a t shirt… a hope for haiti t shirt.”

What happens with the shirt?

“The purpose of the shirt is to show all those who showed support as well as be an example for others to possibly emulate.”

Nice, well, it sounds like you have it figured out.

“Well… im having my doubts.”

Really? why?

“I feel like people wont be responsive …especially to a facebook event thing like that… and im worried that i wont be able to collect anything significant”

To which I respond: “If you are worried about being discouraged, don’t worry.  ‘Cause you will be discouraged.  Thats the cost of doing stuff that matters.

What stops us from trying?  In that conversation, I completely understood the feelings which ran through his mind.  It’s a moment where you know you need to do something, and yet, you feel like you won’t be able to do anything, especially if it involves convincing other people that it’s worth their trouble too.  I know that feeling, because, again and again, I put myself out there, and, again and again, I feel my powerlessness inching me towards indifference.

Nevertheless, I go for the things regardless of whether others are on board, because I’d rather look like a fool than fool myself into believing that nothing can be done.  Now, ReClaiM is about “inspiring a spiritual awakening,” so appropriately, I will write about what inspires me.

My friend’s desire to do something that matters, not because everyone else is doing it, and especially if no one is doing it, inspires me to no end.

So, I told him: “if u do it… i’ll contribute…$100, but only if u do it, and u have to make the facebook event tonight… otherwise.. no deal…”

“Wow… thats a lot of money.. are you serious?,” he asks.  Of course, I’m serious, and, no, it’s really not a lot of money.  I respond, ”  its nothing… i just like seeing people do crazy stuff like that…its worth the money…”

It’s worth it… worth it because if I wanted to give that $100 to Haiti, I could have regardless of how my friend decided to spend his birthday.  However, what makes it invaluable is, here, we have someone with a genuine desire to do something, and he just isn’t sure whether he can.  Well, he doesn’t need to be sure, I’m sure he can, because the truth is, we’re never sure we can do anything, we never know what difference it makes, and whether people will care.  If we fear the failure that results in nothing happening, then how is it any better to do nothing instead?

The “win,” as we call it in academia, is that we do something, and that something is worth well more than $100.   So, after the jump, you will find the link to the facebook event for Pio’s “birthday party,” and if you are even a little bit inspired, join the party.  If you don’t have the time or money to give, that’s fine, even clicking on the link is something— worth more than you realize.

“=) thanks sherol! u just gave me a whole lot of confidence in this.  i hope ppl will follow ur actions”

me: it doesnt matter if they do or not, but i have a good feeling about it

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My Weekend with Christian Graduate Students from Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UC Santa Cruz

Graduate Students listening to a lecture on having "Confidence in Complexity"
Small group discussion

At my age (26), Christian “retreats” seem far less frequent or, maybe, less memorable as they’d been when I was a teenager.  This last weekend, I had one of those “it’s so great to be alive” retreat experiences much like when I was younger.  Those who’ve gone to retreats know what I’m talking about, and if you are a Christian, who’s never gone on a retreat, you should.  For people who aren’t Christian, I really don’t know how I’d explain to you what it’s like.  Maybe I’d say something like this…

Conference Center

Last weekend, we went to a conference-center like location in the Santa Cruz mountains for 3 days with PhD and Masters students from Stanford, Berkeley, and UCSC.  It was a great networking opportunity where we were broken into small groups to discuss issues on faith, spirituality, and our vocation.  All of us, in addition to professing the same faith, are working towards becoming (leading) experts in our respective areas, such as: Computer Science, Chemical Engineering, Physics, Biology, International Relations… etc.  In addition to lectures and discussion, we had a lot of relaxing, reflection time, and casual conversations.  The main speaker, Josh McPaul, had the challenge of speaking to some of the most analytical students in the world and did it so well (There’s going to be at least one more post just on the important points he made that weekend.)  A more formal version of this would be InterVarsity’s Following Christ Conference.

Instead of telling you about the great discussions and lecture content I’ve left with, I wanted to describe the off-schedule and, perhaps, most valuable times I shared with these fellow researchers: the sharing of research, sharing of books, and sharing of music.

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You know what’s a beautiful thing? When a girl needs a tampon, she just needs to ask any of the other girls around her, regardless of whether she knows the person or not.  You can always get a tampon that way.  It’s like a universal understanding among all females.  We all know what its like, and we will always help if we can. As Christians, there is a lot of overlap; although, I find the tampon exchange to be a more elegant example for what it means to be a human in community.   Similarly, as Christians, even though is … Continue reading Tampons