3 12 2009

I just posted a link for on the side under Just for Fun.

A vocabulary word is shown, with 4 possible meanings, choose the correct meaning and 10 grains of rice are donated by sponsors of the program to the UN World Food Program.

First they start out by giving you a few test questions to gauge what level you should start at. From then on a new word will pop up, and after 3 correct answers the difficulty level increases; if you get one wrong you drop a level. Over Thanksgiving break my friend and I got to level 40, and there are 60 levels in all.

If you’re bored or just have some free time, this is a great way to improve your vocabulary and feed the hungry at the same time! Here’s the official “About” blurb.

FreeRice is a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Program. Our partner is the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

FreeRice has two goals:

  1. Provide education to everyone for free.
  2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

This is made possible by the generosity of the sponsors who advertise on this site.

Total grains of rice donated as of Dec. 2, 2009

FreeRice began in 2007



Running ASA: In Search of a Leadership Bible

16 08 2009

This is an article I wrote for the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) newsletter. I lazily copied and pasted it here with some slight edits. But since this article is about ASA I would like to share it with you all.

I have been Co-leading Asian Students Association (ASA) with Jen Phung since Spring 2008. When we took over ASA, my hope at the beginning was to merely maintain it. Despite my ambition, I was a freshman needing to learn how to run an organization at Haverford from scratch. Unavoidably, I made some mistakes such as advertise events too late or rush Jason McGraw, the student activities coordinator (a big no-no). ASA put on few new events, mostly small scale cultural activities. The only big event ASA did was the Pan-Asian  Cultural Show last year. It was a success. But overall, I did not get the sense that ASA was vibrant and  active enough.

Now move on to Fall semester of my sophomore year. New freshmen! I was anxious to recruit them. Membership and retention were my constant worries. Nothing really happened in the first few weeks. We introduced ourselves and I asked what kind of activities they wanted to see happen. Very often, there was silence. I worried too much about membership retention that I hesitated to ask them to take on a task if they did not volunteer. By then, I realized the way ASA was running was not very effective.

ASA’s structure was too loose; there wasn’t a strong sense of community; and most importantly, ASA lacked a clear overarching vision. I wanted ASA to be big and influential. But that was too vague to be productive. Then I thought about ASA as an affinity group. One of it’s main goals should be to create, maintain and expand support networks for it’s members and Asian students at Haverford in general.  By support network, I don’t just mean a safe space for members to talk about important issues. It includes any resources that can help them thrive at Haverford.

ASA has been diligent in asking funding from the CPGC, the OMA and the SC to go to conferences and put on different events. But I hesitate to measure ASA’s success only by how many big events we put on or how many people came to our events. For example, we brought in comedian Eliot Chang last semester. The Founder’s Great Hall was filled with over 200 people. It was certainly a success, but a fleeting one. I always felt some sense of emptiness after I put on a big event. Now I know why. It’s the problem that every student leader is facing: what would my organization become when I graduate from Haverford?

With that concern in mind, my focus became building ASA’ organizational structure. I know only a solid structure can carry out ASA’s vision and ASA future leaders’ vision. I’ll list some of the structural changes we made.

1.Most of the active members have a position (Coordinator of Current Affairs, Coordinator of Community service, Public Relations, ASA Lounge Monitors, Coordinator of Special Events, Media Director…etc). Those positions are being constantly refined and substantiated.

2.We have an agenda for every meeting, usually one page long.

3.A central communication method. We used as our official email. We also use Google Doc and Google Calendar extensively. The calendar is for notification of events and meetings. Google Doc is very convenient for internal plannings and it also serves as an archive for all our institutional documents (Agendas, posters, sign-up sheets…etc). All of our active members have the password so they can easily add and modify events and documents.

4.We created a wordpress blog to publicize what we do. The blog is gradually being built up. By the end of this summer we’ll have a substantial amount of posts and media. Again, all our active members have the password.

5.End-of-year leadership planning marathon. All members and interested people are invited to this planning marathon. We’ll sit down and plan things out for the next semester and the entire year. We don’t leave until we’re done. I figure the planning marathon would last 5 hours, or longer.

Structure helps to build a sense of community. Gmail and WordPress allow information to be shared faster. But more importantly, ASA becomes a collective project instead of co-heads’ burden.

Camping in Kohler-Andrae State Park

2 08 2009

Hi All,

Just came home from camping in Wisconsin this past week. I live in a suburb of Chicago and am really tight with my extended family in the Milwaukee area. Kohler-Andrae is about an hour north of Milwaukee and on Lake Michigan, so the drive up directly would have been about 3.5 hours from where I live.

One of my uncle’s has cerebral palsy; he’s wheelchair bound, deaf, and has very limited control of his upper body movement. However, that has never stopped us from getting him involved in family activities.

Approximately… 7 or 8 years ago, my family in Wisconsin started a tradition of going to one of the 7 state parks (we’ve double/triple visited a few of the really good ones) in Wisconsin that have wheelchair accessible cabins with my uncle. The cabin has one bedroom, one bathroom, a kitchen, family/living room, and a sealed in porch. When the kids (my generation) were younger, we used to all sleep like sardines on cots in the cabin; now that we’re older, we crash in my cousin’s pop-up camper on a nearby campsite while the adults take the cabin itself.

These cabins are booked solid for the entire summer. Sign-ups begin January 1 and each family is limited to 4 days in the cabin so that as many people as possible can use it.

This trip, we took it pretty easy… went to the beach one day, went on a really long walk exploring the park another day, and sort of posey-moseyed the rest of the time around the cabin. Of course we would build a campfire every night, but we only had smores on the last night. We are getting older after all, and actually need to make sure we eat fewer than 10,000 calories worth of chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows a night. 😉

This is the Kohler-Andrae cabin. And yes this is the same Kohler that makes toilets and other bathroom things. And yes the bathroom in this cabin was exceptionally kick-ass.

I have really fond memories of going camping with my family at these cabins. I think it would be awesome if every state made the same effort to make their state parks so accessible.

By the way, if anyone every does venture into the Wisconsin state park system for camping… make sure you go up to Door County– it is absolutely beautiful. [SIDE NOTE: so if you think of Wisconsin as the back of a left-hand mitten, Door County would be the tip of your thumb.]

Good times. Hope summer has been treating everyone right. I’m going back to work Monday… yuck, but soon we’ll all be back at school anyway. Live it up during your last few weeks of freedom and I’ll see you all soon.

Take care,
Kristin Tan

Summer @ Ford

19 07 2009

Hi friends!

I hope you are all enjoying your lovely summer,wherever you are.=)

I am doing math research with Curtis Greene and Jon Lima’10 at Haverford for ten weeks this summer. It has been super funnnn!!! I took two math classes with Curtis last year,and he is simply amazing! I was lucky enough to get the chance of working for him,along with Jon. We are mainly working on symmetric function inequality using combinatorics. I had very limited knowledge on symmetric function and combinatorics,whereas Jon has already taken a combinatorics class with Curtis. As you can imagine,I was pretty nervous at first.Peer pressure!ahhh! Luckily,I got to start two days earlier than Jon,which gave me more time to catch up and do some background reading beforehand.

Curtis had two projects in mind,and the first one was about homogeneous symmetric function in degree 3 and was already started last summer. It took us about four weeks to prove the conjecture,and another week to write up the paper. Now the paper is already done and will be published later! My first academic paper!YAY! So now we switched our geer to Schur functions(one of the symmetric polynomial families) and also some programming in Mathematica.

Other than the academic stuff, living in the apartments over the summer is also full of joy. I shared an apartment with Heather’11,my awesome CP.:) Living in HCA during the summer is much much nicer than during school days because you actually have the time to use the kitchen instead of having to take a long walk up campus just for a meal in the DC. Many of my friends are spending the summer here,so it’s fun to hang out with them without worrying about unfinished homework.haha.

My job will be ending this coming Saturday,and I can finally go back home,although I was told Shanghai has been ridiculously hot now,with the highest degree up to almost 100 degrees!!>.<

Enjoy the rest of your wonderful summer and we’ll talk more when school starts in about a month(so sooooooon!)!

Lots of love,

Emily Xu

Mission Trip to Quito, Ecuador

28 05 2009

I just got back from an 8 day mission to Quito, Ecuador (more specifically Rancho Alto, Ecuador) with my home church: St. Elizabeth Seton in Naperville, IL.

For immediate clarification, St. Elizabeth Seton is a Roman Catholic church, I’m Catholic, and the goal of the mission was not to convert people to Catholicism (even if it was, 94% of the population is already Catholic), but to go with open minds and open hearts, and to be the hands and feet of Christ: there were specific projects that needed to be completed, or at least worked on, but the trip was also about our presence there as representatives of St. Elizabeth Seton, as Americans, as college students, as young people, and as a positive influence and a source of hope for the people of Rancho Alto. Whenever we go on mission it is very heavily stressed and understood that we are going as humble servants of serve the people in the community. It is not our job or position to judge or decide what work needs to be done or how we can best help the people there, but rather we go to do whatever they ask/need us to do.

Instead of trying to explain everything, I guess the photo gallery gives you a pretty good idea of what was going on during the trip. We spent one day in the city itself, and the rest of the time was spent on the work sites. We would go to work after breakfast and finished in the middle of the afternoon; we would rest for a little while and then went to eat dinner with the Sisters.

Pictures!! Courtesy of the other missionaries who brought cameras…
(Click on the individual pictures to make them larger.)

We didn’t have hot showers the whole time, and everyone who dared to take a shower in the icy water said they wish they hadn’t after they got out. The water was so painfully cold it gave some people headaches.

If you couldn’t already guess from my second-hand description… I didn’t shower the whole 8 days we were there. Did I feel disgusting? Of course I did. Was my hair so filled with dust and grease that it basically stayed in place after I took out my hair rubber band? Why yes it was. BUT thankfully the temperature stayed in the seventies or sixties; so even though I know we all sweat during the day, you were never dripping the way you’d expect to be after a day of working under the sun. [NOTE: When I did get home, I essentially dropped my bags, said hello to my mum, and went right into the shower.]

Between when we stopped work and when dinner was served, we had a good amount of downtime. There were always a bunch of kids around, either for the youth group that met in the church within the convent or for a safe place to hang around until their mothers came to pick them up. Lots of times the guys on the trip with me would play soccer with the little kids. I spent most of my time chilling on the steps pictured above and kids would come up to me asking for some of the bubbles we brought (a HUGE hit) to play with.

The night the youth group met (p.s. these kids were high school aged +) they were playing music in the church and since we had some musicians of our own with us, we joined them. They had electric guitars, a drum set, and I think 4 microphones. Of course all of the music was in Spanish, but it was still cool to support them as listeners and hear what they could do. Eventually Jonathan (a med student at Indiana University) and Victor (a soon to be senior at Western Illinois) each took their places and played music of their own. Jonathan sang and played his guitar which he brought all the way from Chicago, and Victor played drums.

The youth group and our guys took turns playing music and eventually took turns and then we all just started talking in small groups.

All in all, it was a great experience. I feel very blessed that I had a chance to go to Quito with a great group of people and help the people in the community of Rancho Alto. Any questions about the trip, feel free to ask and I can elaborate more, but this post is pretty lengthy as is…

Enjoy the rest of summer!

Pop Culture ALERT!!

26 05 2009

There has always been talk about the “lack” of Asian Americans in the US entertainment business. We are starting to see some Asian American actors and actresses such as Daniel Kim and Lucy Liu in American mainstream media.

What about the music industry? Mixed Asian American artists such as Cassie of Filipino and African American ethnicity, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park, and Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls have achieved success in the mainstream American. However, what about other Asian American artists such as Jin and Harlem Lee who has been trying to go mainstream for years? What is preventing them from breaking into mainstream American culture?

There is this assumption that it is easier to break into film industry than the music industry for Asians? Could this assumption be relatively true concerning the nature of acting vs. singing? Or is it just another false urban myth?

What I find even more interesting is that some Asian Americans have chosen to go abroad to Asian countries to pursue their celebrity dreams. Some actually find success such as Stephanie Hwang (Tiffany) of popular Korean group SNSD.

At the same time prominent Asian artists from Asian countries are trying to cross over to the United States. Rain (Bi) has caused a sensation when he was name one of TIME’s Top 100 Influential Person in 2006. However Asian artists have been trying to break into the US industry for a long time before Rain even became an entertainer. What has changed, or what people feel has change, is the publicized recent increase of amount of Asian artists that are trying to crossover.

And this leads to the reason of my post.  I like to introduce Utada Hikaru. Utada Hikaru was born in NYC with a musically influenced childhood. In 1997 she tried to debut in the US under the name Cubic U. She failed and  moved to Japan where she became a superstar, with now more than 15 millions album sold.

She is now releasing an album in the US to come out March 24th, 2009. This is not the first US album she released, it will be her third. Her previous album did not garner much sales in the US. I won’t lie, I have been an Utada Fan ever since I was 11 years old and heard her song “First Love” in a Japanese drama.  I have been anticipating her US breakthrough ever since I was 13 when she released Simple and Clean as a theme song in the Kingdom Heart game series.

And I am anticipating this album more than her previous albums. I am not saying this because I think this album is more musically artistic. I am saying this because Utada admit that she composed this album specifically towards the mainstream culture of the US.

I find her situation so interesting. Why did she feel the need to go to Japan? Why is she returning to the US?  And at a time where there is a cross over between Asian American artists and Asian artists to another country, what is it like to be an Asian American-born artist that is considered to be as a foreign Asian artist in the US?

Please check out her song “Come back to me”, in her new album “This is the One”. The song was released in Japan March 14th and will be release her March 24th.

Youtube link:

Note: This song is very pretty different from her works. Check out her other works and there is noticeable difference.

So I am curious. What do you guys feel about this situation?

-Yen Phan