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Remember When We Ran In The Rain?

Remember when we ran in the rain? We were both sad we found the place we were looking for, empty. So we slowly started walking back to our hotel.

I held your hand and saw your face. Made it half a block when it started pouring rain.

Do you remember when we ran in the rain?

The tropical warmth of a July evening rain washing away our pain. 

We took shelter under a bus stop, where just as suddenly the downpour stopped.
Time may have stood still, but I could not tell a tick for a tock.

Do you remember when we ran in the rain?

It was a deluge we could not avoid, so we waited for the drops to wane.

We may not have made it very far, and soaking got into that taxi car.
But what mattered the most, and what matters still, is that we’ll be forever together through good and ill.

Where Am I, Where Am I Going?

Sometimes, like today, I sit alone in a coffee shop, or the side of a creek, or up in my bed, and reflect. I think about the why and the how. Where am I going? Why is this important? But today, I’m thinking about my health. I work hard, at least I think I do, but that obviously is taking a toll on me. I’m starting to feel cranky, to feel like the world is out to get me. I’ve tried to do other things to keep me occupied whilst I’m away from work, but work is all I can think of. Sometimes I even feel guilty for taking a day off to see the doctor. This year, I found out I have an elevated hemi-diaphraghm, medical jargon for «your lungs ain’t workin’ the way they should.» I don’t feel any different, I hardly show any symptoms for anything more serious, but that is not what keeps me up at night. The voices inside my head keep ringing –«There is just so much work that needs to be done.»

All the work I do, it’s not for me or my health, I’ve paid my dues. It is for those that come after me. The younger generations of children being infected by the current trends, who learn to not care about the world, because to them it seems like no one cares about them. I consider my self a teacher though I don’t hold a teaching position. Currently I am not sure how to explain my role at the school when others ask me. Its both exciting and excruciatingly embarrassing: «I’m a full time substitute teacher» as is my official title. And then comes the reply «So you’re hoping to have a permanent teaching position?» Sometimes I don’t know what I do. I’ve been told that I am «the glue» in a sense that may be true, but I don’t think I am that person.

Sometimes I want to branch out and leave the education world for something, well, different. Doctors are Doctors, and within the field they are experts in their sub-fields: Neurology, gastroenterology, optometry, gynecology, etc. I want to be able to say I am an expert at something, that I am the go-to person for that particular thing. I don’t really know what that is at this point, but I know that I know a lot about a lot of things, and I what I don’t I am just as eager to look up and absorb like a sponge. Not that I don’t like being the «tech guy,» but honestly, it isn’t very flattering. Even the people in charge of cleaning our bathrooms and picking up garbage have a cool title: «Custodian.»

Being very transparent, this summer I was ready to hang up the towel. To call it quits and look for another job. Doing something else. With a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, it shouldn’t be that hard, right? But I just couldn’t bring my self to do it. I’m sure the school would continue to chug along without me as it had before I started working there 4 years ago. But in the famous words of a former president:

All of us came here because we knew the country couldn’t go on the way it was going. So it falls to all of us to take action. We have to ask ourselves if we do nothing, where does all of this end. Can anyone here say that if we can’t do it, someone down the road can do it, and if no one does it, what happens to the country? All of us know the economy would face an eventual collapse. I know it’s a hell of a challenge, but ask yourselves if not us, who, if not now, when?

We can adapt Regan’s words to the current situation in the particular school I work for:

All of us (Teachers) came here because we knew [this school] couldn’t go on the way it was going. So it falls to all of us to take action. We have to ask ourselves if we do nothing, where does all of this end. Can anyone here say that if we can’t do it, someone down the road can do it, and if no one does it, what happens to [this school]? All of us know the [education system] would face an eventual collapse. I know it’s a hell of a challenge, but ask yourselves if not us, who, if not now, when?



What a fitting title to a blog about a newbie developer. Let me begin by telling you a bit about my self. I, by nature, am a tinkerer. I am fascinated by Rube Goldberg Machines and trinkets and gadgets. I learned about my passion when at the age of 12, or somewhere in my childhood, I wanted to get bigger sound from my tiny Casio boom box and took a screw driver to take it apart. I got some spare parts my dad had laying around the house, a speaker terminal plate, a spare car speaker and I got to work. The result was a frankenstein piece of work that could have potentially gotten me severely electrocuted since I didn’t have the sense to unplug the boombox while I was testing the speaker connections.

But perhaps I knew earlier. When my brother got an old IBM computer loaded with…

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Reading For Revolution: Animal Factory

For our first book we will take on Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment by David Kirby. It promises to be an eye-opening book that talks about the modern problems with the mass production of marketable and package-able meat products. A modern age «The Jungle» by Upton Sinclair if you will. The book it self is 512 pages in the hardcover print edition, but should prove to be a quick read in a little over 3 weeks. I know we all have busy lives, but lets commit to reading the first two chapters by week’s end. I will update this post with some questions that come up as I read, but other than that its pretty straight forward. Feel Free to leave your comments and suggestions at the bottom of this post.  Now, lets get to it!


Reading for Revolution

As the days get warmer, I start feeling the urge to get outside more and look forward to the summer break. Some of my friends that have «real» jobs cant afford that luxury to take 2 whole months off in the summer. But please don’t misinterpret me. I still have lots to do this summer and I still have to work to get paid for those two months. However, I have had the need to engage in intelligent and stimulating conversations. Lately all my stimulus has been coming from tech blogging sites where I get all giddy and happy when a new gadget gets announced and end up talking to my self about things only I understand, like specs and pixel density, NOC servers and programming frameworks.

That is why I am inviting all my friends and colleagues as well to join me in a virtual book club of sorts. I stumbled upon UC Berkeley’s recommended summer reading list here and got excited about the theme for this year: REVOLUTION. It is a topic that has been on my mind recently. Our government needs a revolution. Our education system needs a revolution. We need to be agents of change in our communities and for the most part, we have. But I am sure these books can oil our gears and get us talking not about work, but the bigger picture. Lets analyze society, question the intentions of the media machine and ultimately the priorities of our government.

The list includes 12 books, of which most of my friends have said they will commit to reading 2-3 after we. The list is quoted below, please scroll down to make your selections:

book cover

movie posterThe Charterhouse of Parma


London; New York: Penguin, 2006

(Original publication date: 1839)

Prima della Rivoluzione (Before the Revolution)

Bernardo Bertolucci


The topic of revolution got me thinking about the fact—which first became obvious when the French Revolution turned into the French Empire and then turned into the European Reaction—that revolutions fail, and that this failure is part of their history. If you’re going to think about revolution, you also need to think about the almost-routine sequel: Reaction, Stalin, Reagan, yuppies, crack, AIDS, etc.  That is why I proposed two interlocking texts: one Stendhal’s 19th century novel that begins with Waterloo, the end of the French Revolution, and portrays the Reaction that followed the Revolution in Europe, and the other Bertolucci’s 20th century film, based on that novel, that problematizes today’s leftist hopes of a revolution.


John F. Hotchkis Professor

English Department

D.A. Miller works in the areas of nineteenth-century fiction, film, and gay and cultural studies.  He writes a regular column for Film Quarterly.

book coverCan’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation

Jeff Chang

New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005

Ambitious in scale and wide ranging in scope, Cal alumnus Jeff Chang’s novelistic nonfiction account of the rise of hip hop tells more than the story of a genre of music. It also discusses how a handful of creative, impoverished people living in the destitute Bronx of the 1970s used little more than wits and ambition to foment the development of a genre that became a viable, multicultural, and eventually a global subculture. I’ve taught this book in my College Writing R4B course for several years now, as it’s the best example I know of a book about music that’s also about race, politics, and changing the world. Chang’s forthcoming book on the rise of multiculturalism, Who We Be, promises to be a fitting sequel.



College Writing Programs

Kaya Oakes is the author of three books:  a poetry collection, Telegraph, winner of the Transcontinental Poetry Prize; a work of nonfiction, Slanted and Enchanted: the Evolution of Indie Culture (a San Francisco Chronicle notable book of 2009); and the memoir, Radical Reinvention, forthcoming in summer 2012.

book coverBlood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education Of A Reluctant Chef

Gabrielle Hamilton

New York: Random House, 2011

Hamilton puts parents, foodies, and college in a burr grinder, all in a good cause. With every affectation thrown off, we see a creative career take shape in the worst of times. In Down And Out In Paris And London (1933), George Orwell showed that the social order of his day was illuminated by kitchen drudgery.  Orwell walked out of the kitchen; Hamilton stays in it with no slogans and unsparing honesty about her “education.”


University Librarian & Professor

Graduate School of Journalism

Tom Leonard is the author of the books Above the Battle: War-Making in America from Appomattox to Versailles; The Power of the Press: The Birth of American Political Reporting; and News for All. He focuses much of his research and teaching on the role of the press in society.

book coverThe Boston Tea Party

Benjamin Woods Labaree

New York: Oxford University Press, 1964

What a good read this book is! Colonial America: scheming, attempts at persuasion, changing of hearts and minds, and even a bit of buffoonery. On November 29, 1773, Bostonians awoke to see notices posted everywhere stating, “The hour of destruction or manly opposition to the machinations of tyranny stares you in the face!” The famous Boston Tea Party came a couple of weeks later, and England’s response galvanized the colonies. Within a couple of years, war broke out. The rest is history.

Was the Tea Party about “taxation without representation”? The monopolization of tea importing? Was it a “macho” response to the haughty English? And why tea? Read the book to learn the subtleties at play. Labaree’s writing is splendidly understated; reading his book feels as if you were listening to a smart friend telling you a story.


Outreach/Instruction Librarian

Sheldon Margen Public Health Library

Michael Sholinbeck is the Assistant Head and the Outreach/Instruction Librarian at the Sheldon Margen Public Health Library. He is responsible for the Public Health Library’s instruction to both the campus community and to State of California public health professionals.

book coverRevolution, Rebellion, Resistance: The Power of Story

Eric Selbin

London; New York: Zed, 2010

Eric Selbin argues that we need to look beyond the economic, political, and social conditions to the thoughts and feelings of the people who make revolutions.  In particular, he argues, we need to understand the stories of past injustices and struggles that people relay and rework as they struggle in the present towards a better future. Ranging from the French Revolution to the Battle for Seattle, via Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam, and Nicaragua, Selbin makes the case that it is myth, memory, and mimesis that create, maintain, and extend such stories. Revolution, Rebellion, Resistance identifies four kinds of enduring revolutionary story — Civilizing and Democratizing, The Social Revolution, Freedom and Liberation, and The Lost and Forgotten — which do more than report on events, they catalyze changing the world.


Clinical Professor of Law

University of California Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall)

Professor Fletcher is the director of the law school’s International Human Rights Law Clinic. The Clinic marshals the resources of the faculty and students of UC Berkeley to advance the struggle for human rights on behalf of individuals and marginalized communities. It clarifies complex issues, develops innovative policy solutions, and engages in vigorous advocacy. Fletcher’s work focuses on transitional justice and accountability for mass atrocity crimes.

book coverLife

Keith Richards

New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2010

Music has the power to start revolutions: social, cultural, and political. Keith Richards’ roller coaster story attests to this. With a memoir spanning from post-war London to the present, Richards finally tells all. The early days of The Rolling Stones, the band’s sudden fame and friendly rivalry with The Beatles, the tragedy at Altamont, and Richards’ legendary drug abuse all come to life in vivid detail. His rocky relationship with Mick Jagger and his “lost weekend” with John Lennon are noteworthy bonuses. If ever there was a revolutionary rock outlaw, Richards can proudly claim that title. A highly recommended page-turner with vital lessons for our tumultuous times.


Library Assistant III

Technical Services/Moffitt Library 

Alvaro Lopez-Piedra is Library Assistant III at the Monographic Receiving Unit in Moffitt Library. He handles Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, and all Latin-American collections.

book coverThe American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island: Red Power and Self-Determination

Troy R. Johnson

Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008

Johnson’s book compellingly recounts this seminal event of the American Indian revolution of the 1960s. It was not an action organized by the American Indian Movement. Instead it was led by students from San Francisco State and UC Berkeley and the Bay Area Indian community. A worthy read.



Ethnic Studies Library

John Berry is of Choctaw/Cherokee/Scots-Irish/German heritage, an Oklahoma native, and a traditional stomp dancer. He is listed on the Native American Authors pages of the Internet Public Library, and has published poems both in print and on the web.

book coverThe Scarlet Pimpernel

Baroness Orczy

New York: Modern Library, 2002

(Original Publication Date: 1905)

One of my favorite books about the French Revolution is The Scarlet Pimpernel. The story is a thrilling mix of romance, history, and reckless daring deeds, spanning scenes from the glittering London of the foppish Sir Percy Blakeney and his beautiful but troubled wife, Marguerite, to the dark Reign of Terror in France. Infamous men and frenzied mobs hold deathly sway over Paris, and the Scarlet Pimpernel snatches aristocratic victims from under the very blade of Mme. Guillotine. A piece of doggerel for the ages has come from this wonderful book: «We seek him here! we seek him there! / Those Frenchies seek him everywhere! / Is he in heaven? — Is he in hell? / That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.»

Jean Dickinson

Slavic Cataloging Librarian

Jean Dickinson is responsible for cataloging Slavic, East European, and Central Asian language materials in all subject areas for Berkeley students, faculty, and researchers, and for the international community of Slavic scholars.

book coverAnimal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment 

David Kirby

New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010

I teach a course on Deviance and Social Control and am considering assigning this book for the next time I teach instead of a far more expensive textbook. The book uses the experiences of three rural farmers to describe the impact of hog and dairy factory farms on their lives. In their effort to fight the pollution, deleterious health effects, and degraded quality of life, they find they have to organize locally, form liaisons with activists, and fight government’s cozy relationship with agribusiness.  It’s appropriate for a “Revolutions” theme because (a) the introduction of factory farms was itself a revolution in food production; and (b) the process of trying to stop them is also a revolution.



Sociology Department

Leora Lawton is a lecturer in Sociology, the Executive Director of the Berkeley Population Center, and the owner of a research company, TechSociety Research.  She is a family demographer and her research covers a broad range of topics.

book coverBorn Red: A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution

Gao Yuan

Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987

This is a fascinating, moving memoir of coming of age in China in the late 1960s during the Cultural Revolution. It is a first-person account of being a teenage participant in a movement that invested incredible power in the nation’s youth. Centuries of tradition of respect for elders, intellectualism, and cultural history were turned upside down, with incredible personal cost as people’s lives, careers, and spirits were destroyed and broken. This book captures both the euphoria and excitement of the start of the revolution and the slow realization of the ultimate toll in human suffering as the movement spiraled out of control.


Associate Professor

Mechanical Engineering

Sara McMains’ research interests include geometric algorithms for design and manufacturing, layered manufacturing, computer graphics and visualization, virtual prototyping, and virtual reality. And also reading good books.

book coverSteve Jobs

Walter Isaacson

New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011

No one would be surprised to learn that Steve Jobs was at the forefront of a revolution, not just in personal computing, but in movies (Pixar), music (the iPod, and iTunes), telecommunications (the iPhone), and retail (Apple Stores).  Walter Isaacson explores what drove the man who drove Apple: an unquenchable pursuit of perfection that pervaded his personal as well as his professional life—from overseeing the design of the many incarnations of the Mac to living in an unfurnished house because of an inability to find the ideal couch.  Far from hagiography, the book exposes its subject, warts and all, including Jobs’s on-the-job temper tantrums and his propensity for being brutally honest.  Through much of the book, Jobs speaks in his own words, culled from more than forty interviews.



College Writing Programs

John Levine teaches composition, public speaking, and creative writing courses for CWP.  His plays have been workshopped and produced from coast to coast.  His most recent play, “You and Me and She and I,” appeared in New York in the spring.

Gettin’ Back in «daGame»

It’s not often that I pour out my emotions on paper, much less on a public forum such as this one. I need to admit it to myself and to the world. I AM DEPRESSED. Stop. Don’t hold your heart in compassion while sighing out an audible «awww.» I’m corrosion free. I hurt and I heal, that is just the nature of how I have learned to cope with my emotions. Just like a body builder, I must break down my emotional muscle to grow bigger and stronger. There is no limitation to the power I hold within, but sometimes, I just can’t see it. I avoid looking at it. As an immigrant to this country I often see myself as being stranger in strange lands, I can never call this place «home» nor can I evade it. It is where I live and where I work. It is where I have made my life. I am blessed to have the support of my friends and my beautiful wife, who’s been there day and night. But above all, my family is what I am most thankful for. I have no excuse to not visit my family, even though they live just a few blocks away. I know that my mom, just like any other worries, and can sense when I’m feeling down, and often times, a call is all it takes to regain center and balance.

But sometimes I just go deep in thought. Looking back at past decisions and mistakes and I feel infuriated that I cannot reap the full benefits of  being an «American Citizen» just as I have yet to see the fruits of my Bachelor’s in «Spanish, Option D Hispanic Languages and Bilingual Issues» from U.C. Berkeley. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. I love knowing that I may have helped someone be able to reach their dreams. My father would say I should be working doing something else, where I get paid more money, but I doubt my self sometimes.

When I graduated High School in 2003 with honors as a salutatorian, I thought I was going to go on to become a mechanical engineer. Berkeley slapped me in the face to wake me up a little and said «son, you don’t have the qualifications» then I said, well maybe I’ll be a computer scientist. Again, I was shut down. Spanish is what I know, and I am fascinated by language acquisition, so I took a few courses, and by the time I wanted to turn my ship it was too late.

I work at the High School I graduated from, and although I have a strong connection to this community and this school, I still feel a certain emptiness. My role here is as a «jack of all trades.» I started teaching ELD because that is what I thought I wanted to do, but soon realized that it was not something I was prepared to do professionally. Maybe my expectations for my students were too high, maybe I was not adequately trained on how to teach the subject. Maybe the support I received was not the right mix of hand-holding and creative ability. What ever the issue, I couldn’t let myself hurt the children I so desperately wanted to help, so I stepped down from the classroom. I then became a permanent on site Substitute Teacher. Soon enough, little by little, I started to become the de-facto tech person on site, book room person, office assistant, locker dispatcher, security guard, site testing co-coordinator, still being paid a substitute teacher position. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t do what I do for the money. But its gotten to the point that I need to ask my self if this is really what I want to do.

And to a certain degree I do. I don’t mind doing all that I do because I feel needed, I feel the satisfaction of completing multiple projects, sometimes 3 at once. But I’m starting to feel like margarine spread. On everywhere too thin. I’m starting to get «burned out.» And I want to re-ignite my candle. Of the things I also enjoy are reading about technology, and engaging in discussions about the BlackBerry Smartphone. I like doing websites, and being an enigmatic character on Twitter. I would love to be knowledgeable enough to build mobile apps to help educators. I want to be able to have proof that I am good with computers and technology. I want to DJ at my friend’s weddings. But I have to sink in my chest and sigh, because there is no time for those things. I hardly have time to let my thoughts run free. I feel caged.

I know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that this will all be worth it in the end. And that there is hope that I can still accomplish some of those things. I just got to get up and shake off all my insecurities like a wet dog and push forward. But I am at a cross roads. Should I stay put? Should I search new horizons? I must say that honestly I’d feel bad leaving behind my school at a pivotal point in a huge transition. That now, more than ever, they need not just my help, but everyone’s help. But I am beginning to feel tired. My arms are getting weaker. I need to replenish to grow, and I feel like I’m not getting enough sunlight.

Working and Blogging

Its hard to do. But maybe I don’t want it that bad. Please remind me to post and blog, This is for me, this is for you, this is for the community at large. I will make an increased effort to publish some of my literary thoughts, drafts and musings. Please, do ask me hey! Mikel, why haven’t you blogged? It really would mean a lot to me. Thanks for your support.

Home is where the heart is

They say home is where the heart is
I open my chest and nothingness lies within.
I seek and I search but don’t understand what the art is.
Has my heart traveled to some far off land?
Dreaming about the evolution of the condition of man?

They say home is where the heart is
But in my pectoral cavity there is nothing but rain and wind
I stay awake at night trying to understand this
Fantasizing about fixing my mistakes with the shake of a wand
But at the end of the day, the realization comes that our lives are no more than a line drawn on the sand

They say home is where the heart is
They say home is where the heart
They say home is
They say

Tumbling Crumbling Falling Down

Tumbling, crumbling, falling down
That’s all I see when I look around
How does it feel to hold a dead child
Why must we burn it all to the ground

Yesterday I saw a baby, pretty as could be
I pictured rainbows and unicorns did I see
There lies a loved one on the pavement
And it got me thinking, tomorrow it could be me

What happenned to dreams and aspirations
This I could not believe, that because of desesperation
Our children stop to breathe

Love me hold me, for tomorrow I must part
We are flying specks in the ether and must hit our mark
Give our children hope, and to their dreams they’ll rise,

We can together change the future,
If we begin from the start

No me conoces, no te conozco

A diferencia de otros días, hoy desperté antes que el ensordecedor grito desesperado de mi alarma. La ansiedad no me dejó dormir. Estuve dando vueltas y vueltas como agitador de lavadora vieja en mi cama toda la noche, en ratos agudizando mis sentidos y escuchando la a lo que parecían ser gatos maullar justo fuera de mi ventana. Y en otros tan frustrado con mi falta de sueño que solo escuchaba mis graznidos de desesperación. Después de varios minutos de batir las piernas inútilmente para ponerme cómodo, pude escuchar al vecino roncar profundamente dormido a través de la pared. ¡Lo que hubiera dado en ese momento por ser él!
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