So I’m a wonk

21 May

The other day I was going on to my co-worker about the importance of the result in PA-12 special election for this November. (ie voter enthusiasm, the overblown-ness of the Tea Part movement, etc) When I had finished with my piece he turned to me an simply said, “Your such a wonk aren’t you?” Thinking to myself I decided that, based on numerous reasons, including the fact that I even follow elections in the middle of May, in fact, yes I was.

For those of you who dont know what a wonk is I did a little research today. Here is what I found courtesy of (I have taken the liberty of editing out definitions that I don’t particularly like.)

wonk [wongk]
–noun Slang.

1. a student who spends much time studying and has little or no social life; grind.
I have a social life…I promise.

2. a stupid, boring, or unattractive person.
I mean I think I’m at least mildly attractive.

3. a person who studies a subject or issue in an excessively assiduous and thorough manner: a policy wonk.
Third times a charm. This one seems the most appropriate. Forget about those other definitions… doesn’t know nada.

I mean who cares if I check Nate Silver’s political blog at least ten times a day, and durning election nights have their twitter feed texted to my phone, or that I learned about a completely different electoral system just so I could follow the elections in Great Britain. I have come to learn that elections matter and if I have to watch poll numbers go up and down to stay connected thats alright with me.

I’m also trying to prove that you don’t have to be a “stupid, boring, recluse” to be a wonk. Try it you just might like it.

Also according to a more reputable source,, the number one definition of wonk is:

1. An expert in a field, typically someone who is fairly young and very intelligent.

I’ll go with that. Besides if I’m a wonk, what does that make Nick Krafft?


Lost and Found

12 May

It has been a while since I wrote you say? Yes, yes it has and I apologize for lapsing in my writing. You know, a year is a long time, and I don’t think I realized just what I was committing to in this blog. If you were hoping for a better excuse tell your friends I took to a cabin in the woods where I have been chopping my own wood and composing an album. It will be titled, “For Emma, Forever Ago.” Ok so that is Bon Iver, but still…you should listen to it.

Upon receiving constant harassment from my old compatriot, Chris Johnson, I’ve decided to start writing again. I will probably devote several posts in the coming months to ensuring his demise, but I will save hate-filled rhetoric for another time. For now, I will try to squeeze an update on my life into less than 500 words because, frankly, I’m not interesting enough to write any more than that, and I value the time of the 4 of you who will read this.


Back in September I had a letter to the editor published in the Seattle Times newspaper about a proposal floated by a Seattle City Councilmember to make “aggressive panhandling” a civil infraction.

Earlier this year it was officially released. The ordinance would have made solicitation within 15 feet of someone engaged in a parking or ATM transaction, or immediately carrying a document related to that transaction, a civil infraction and imposes a $50 fine for each violation. I might add that aggressive panhandling is already illegal under current law.

The law as it was written left an enormous amount of subjectivity to the enforcing officer and lowered the burden of proof to the point where it could violate the due process of the ticket person. Additionally, the data that was sighted showing a need for the new law was incredibly faulty.

Real Change assembled a coalition of over 20 organization and campaigned against the passage of the ordinance. A week before the council vote it looked certain to pass with a veto-proof majority. Throughout the week organizations and others lined up in opposition. Due mostly to a report by the Seattle Human Rights Commission that recommended unanimously that the council reject  the ordinance.

The Mayor said he would veto it, so the council would need at least six votes to overturn it. The vote was on Monday and on Sunday night the vote count was 6-3 in favor. At the last-minute one of the Councilmembers who had told voters in the fall he would oppose it decided to hold true to his promise and changed his vote.

The next day the ordinance past 5-4, but was vetoed by the Mayor. Lacking a sixth vote the Council President said he would not seek a vote to overturn the veto.

Basically I just used almost all of my 500 words to tell you….WE WON!

I’m gonna go ahead and check off my New Years resolution of fighting bigotry. How many idealistic resolutions have you finished?


On the home front things are going well. Oh, except one of our housemates moved out in March because she was offered an amazing job in Connecticut. Which as all of you geography nerds know is not exactly in the Northwest.

My green thumb is getting…well….greener. So I have undertaken re-landscaping the entire back yard.

I tore up all the weeds, moved some rocks around, and tilled in some compost. The beds are ready to plant, but because most of it is in the shade I still need to decide what would grow best.

The garden is doing well. I just harvest our over wintering carrots. Tasty, but their root growth was severely stunted by the cold. It’s spring, so we are at the start of the growing season. My romaine is happy…except for the slugs and the aphids. I’ve tried to kill them, but so far all my beer slug trap has managed to kill are two beneficial spiders.

There is much more to tell, but I’ve wasted enough of your time. I’ll try to post every week, and at the very least keep you update on the backyard.

In honor of my renewed commitment to posting I also renewed my theme. What do you think?


5 Jan

It’s a new year and time for goal setting. I’m not entirely sure what New Years Resolutions are suppose to mean besides over crowed gyms and a bane to the tobacco industry, but here are some numbers I found from a study at the prestigious University of Scranton on a non-credible website: (I mostly like the blinking candy cane with the bow tie.)

The following shows how many of these resolutions are maintained as time goes on:
– past the first week: 75%
– past 2 weeks: 71%
– after one month: 64%
– after 6 months: 46%

Using my percentage skills, I have learned that half of us may get healthier while the other half will wait until 2011 to try again (if you believe in the eschaton just put them off until 2013 and you should be good).  Perhaps more importantly, wait until February to start your gym membership and Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet. The gym will be emptier and the drive-thru line should be shorter…errr  or longer.

Whatever your resolutions are I wish you the best of luck. Having completed all of my seventh grade self’s “long-term” goals years ago…I will not be taking part. I instead will be starting a Resolvolution. A real revolution, not some made up one like the aptly named Tea Baggers.

Ok so it might not be widespread and I might not get any coverage on Fox News, but I will try and make a difference. I’m not going to pretend like I know where I’ll be on New Years 2011, or what I can expect from the next 360 days, but I will try to actively fight against bigotry, self-centered individualism, and yes, probably unrestrained capitalism. Sorry Adam Smith. More so this is a year where I’ve already been able to define myself and my role in a small Seattle non-profit. I will try to build my non-monetary capital to prepare myself for whatever I try and do next. (To my mother…don’t ask what that next thing is.)

Above all, the most important thing I will do this year is fight against the time consuming, draining, needless waist of saying: “two thousand and ten.” If Twitter is only gonna give me 140 characters, you only get 2 syllables to say the year.

For those curious here are my seventh grade long-term goals:
1. Fly First Class ✓
2. Graduate from High School with Honors ✓
3. Go to Notre Dame ✓
4. Go to Africa ✓✓✓

One last thing…Where’s the flying car I was promised!

Poema: Presentación

28 Dec

Jessica Isla
diciembre de 2009

This poem in English / Este poema en inglés

A la poeta y activista, Suyapa, quien inspiró este poema

Soy este cuerpo dibujado a golpes
Que camina día tras día bajo el sol,
bajo este cielo incierto de máquinas aladas,
en medio de ráfagas de humo y
el sonido de fusiles
Soy infinidad de rostros:
el de un chico asesinado,
el de la abuela que camina
el de la gente lenca armada de una paciencia infinita
El de la pintora de mantas,
El de la chica de las muletas
Que se enfrentan de a pedazos o en conjunto
A las murallas verde olivo cargadas de violencia

Puedo decir que de mi cuerpo salen muchos olores
El de la montuca fresca
El de la tortilla y los frijoles
El de manos sudadas y cuerpos cansados,
pero también
el olor de sangre derramada
el de gas y pólvora
el olor a muerte y a miedo.

Mi garganta
está poblada de voces:
Estoy en las discusiones acaloradas de las asambleas
en el grito de la maestra
En el relato de la joven violada,
En la protesta de los golpeados, de las torturadas
En la voz que canta en las calles

Soy miles de sombreros y
cientos de palabras,
soy abrazos, lágrimas,
ternura, carcajadas.
Estoy llena de
sonrisas que iluminan el día
colores que vienen de todas partes
tengo alegría, ganas de bailar,
tengo esperanza.

Porque sin mí las calles
Se quedarían solas,
Porque sin mí las paredes no dirían nada
Porque soy tus manos, tus pies cansados,
Tu voz.

Yo soy la resistencia

A Merry Cherry Abbey Christmas

15 Dec

If you think we did it right in the fall,
Check out Christmas, come one, come all.
We’ll provide dance party playlists and high fives galore,
Just make sure you’re MONOCHROME and bring something to pour.
So wear all
red, all green, all gold, perhaps all snow…
There may just be awards for “Best in Show.”
Cheers to simple living, streaking and desserts,
With Paul Grubb “chaperoning,”  it’s bound to be berserk.

And so began the annual Cherry Abbey Christmas Party. At precisely 5 o’clock Brendan let it be known that he was going to start drinking and that everyone was invited to join him. I decided to try and drink responsibly by keeping track with tally marks on my hand. This is probably a good idea if you are drinking at a bar, but a bar tender I am not. A three count of rum just doesn’t seem like enough, does it?

People were already dancing on furniture by 7 and the Christmas tunes were overrun by Top 40 hits at 8:30. When someone took the monochrome “seriously” the party took a new turn. That is when people started….*scene missing*…and that’s why you never give a cat a bowl of soup. O man. Ridiculous.

Per usual, I was in bed at midnight. Getting too old for this stuff I guess.

Merry Christmas from Cherry Abbey!

Chicago, Weddings, and a Fantasea

7 Dec

I would say that one of the most depressing things I’ve done was when I walked into the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, asked for one ticket, and stood all alone in front of an ocean background while a photographer asked me to smile and say “I love fish” while happy families and school children bounded past. Although the aquarium was awesome, and might I add free, it’s not quite as fun when you’re trying to share an intimate moment you had with Kayavak, the beluga whale, via text message. I have also discovered that parents tend to frown on strange men talking to their kids about sea otters. Fair enough. I’ll keep my comments about oyster eating to myself in the future.

My lonely wanderings in Chicago came about last week following the beautiful wedding of my friend Kim Kim in Bettendorf, Iowa. For those of you taking a second look, that is now her legal name. Of course, this is despite her heroic attempts to go by Kimberly. Six of us from the SIT Uganda study abroad program were able to finagle this trip into the middle of the corn belt, and boy am I glad I did, at the very least for the open bar. Sorry Mr. Quinn, but you signed your warrant when you made that decision for a college age wedding. The celebration certainly lived up the the invitation that I received, that I’m pretty sure had gold leaf. I would expect nothing less for Kim Kim, and even though we were only to hang out for less than 24 hours, the journey was well worth it.

In order to afford the flight on the pittance I make in the name of “volunteering” I had to stay in the Midwest for three more days. I was easily talked into this by a one, Christopher Hilliard Johnson. He said, “O it will be great. Come stay at my place for a few days.” “Ok,” I reply, “It will be great to see you.” Of course, this is not how it worked out. You see, a week before I was to leave, Mr. Johnson decided to play ski bunny for another winter in Colorado in leu of a real job in Chitown. He is lucky I am popular and have so many friends.

Luckily, my friend Lisa is now a resident of the Windy City, and her life involves equally ridiculous antics. You can read about those here. She took me in off the street and even had a real mattress. She may tell you differently, but I won the first game of Clue, even though her roommate, Brandy, sabotaged me. Professor Plum you devilish fiend.

On Monday, I spent the day at the Shedd taking in the sights and smells of fish. Their big attraction is their Fantasea event. This is where a “special little girl” (ie an audience plant) is selected to embark on a magical journey into the animal kingdom. Complete with sirens, glowing medallions, and falconers. Also there are some people in penguin costumes, leaping dolphins, and my new love, Kayavak, the beluga whale. Mostly there’s just a lot of embarrassing costumes going on there. I begrudgingly admit I was entertained. Of course, you can only look at fish for so long so I took off and met up with Bill DiPiero and Brandy to go coat shopping. Bill and I can now at least give the illusion of being grownups in our new pea coats.

On Tuesday, Lisa and I wanted to go exploring and had a hankering for Mexican hot chocolate. What does one do when confronted with such desires? You go to Pilsen of course. A neighborhood that was a described by one friendly Chinese thrift shop owner as a place with “many many Mexican people.” After a two mile hike through an industrial park we found a little restaurant in the basement of an apartment building. It was quite possibly the best Mexican coffee and guacamole I have ever eaten. Combine that with some mariachi tunes and ramblings from Bobby about el revolución and you have yourself a great evening in the Lower West Side.

The excitement of Tuesday was succeeded by the laziness of Wednesday, and Brandy and I were reminded how much daytime TV sucks, even when you have cable. 1735 miles and a showing of “Elf” later I was back in Seattle, plus one pea coat, minus one phone charger. It is amazing how little I am actually willing to grow up.

♫ Turn, Turn, Turn ♫

25 Nov

For anyone who doesn’t know who Pete Seeger is, he is a 90 year old folk musician activist who still chops his own fire wood and lives in a house that he built with his hands. I watched a documentary last month, “The Power of Song,” on the life of a man who at one time was banned from television, but never gave up the fight for what he believed was right.

Sometimes its good to be inspired by someone who devoted their entire life to social justice and lived a peaceful and simple existence. Really cannot think of a better role model for a JV. Lord knows, I can use some inspiration right about now. It has been about a month since my supervisor left and I’ve barely had time to eat lunch.  I’ve been working on a premiere for a documentary that was put together last year by an Americorps Volunteer at Real Change. It’s called Turning Points and it highlights the lives of eight of our vendors. I did the packaging design and the posters for the event. They turned out really well. I’ll be proud to see them around the streets of Seattle.

It turns out that I really like doing design work. I’ve recently taken to seeing good (and bad) design everywhere. Definitely could see myself doing design and communications for non-profits or social justicey things in the future. Watch out Paul Horn here I come. (Communications Director at the Center for Social Concerns at Notre Dame)

Other than work, I treated myself to tickets to the MLS Cup Final last weekend. Real Salt Lake beat LA Galaxy on penalty kicks. It was a great night that was preceded by a free pre-game concert by Third Eye Blind. What up favorite middle school band! And, of course, any story is instantly made better when you find money. Which I did. $20 bucks from the ground to my pocket. I guess sometimes the Universe, when its not being a jerk, likes to kick some goodness my way.

For the sake of not rambling on my life. I’ll leave you with a sweet little diddy originally written by “King Soloman” (or more accurately, a non-Hellenized intellectual in the milieu of the Temple in Jerusalem source: Wikipedia) translated into song by Pete Seeger and made famous by The Byrds.