Sex Offenders - A Thin Line

I should be working right now. But it's Friday, and I've got this on my mind so I've got to get it out.

When I received a mailer in support of Jessica's Law back in October 2006, I read it over with mixed feelings. It proposed tightening the existing law in jailing and monitoring registered sex offenders, spouting off a bunch of verbiage to persuade me into believing that the current law does no good whatsoever and the new law would fix all the problems. After reading it I felt sick. I usually don't use the word hate, but I think I will now. I hate how politicians and law makers will take such a sensitive subject and twist and mangle and slant it to achieve their own designs. I felt sick for the families who have endured the horrible pain and suffering as a result of child sex crimes, which sometimes lead to the death of the child (such as in the case of Jessica Marie Lunsford, after whom the law was named). It makes my heart break. However that very issue is used as a platform for politicians who might feel morally involved in the cause (but probably not), but who need a "hot issue" to boost their campaign and usually stand at high financial gains if the law is passed. That's what makes me really sick. "If this bill is passed, will it even do any good?" I asked my wife. My top concern was that the new law did little to actually protect children and nothing to empower them to testify against offenders, it just punished the offenders more heavily. According to the mailer, its presumed "highlights" were:

  • Electronically monitor convicted sex offenders for life, if they are ever released from prison, through GPS tracking.
  • Create a 2,000 foot “predator-free” zone around schools and park (sic) to prevent sex offenders from living near where our children learn and play.
A 2,000-foot bubble in which no sex offender could reside. Now, the existing law already made provision for these restrictions with certain offenders. I guess I'm ok with GPS tracking for life (argh... it still doesn't seem right to track a human being for life...), but what good will a "predator-free" zone do? What real difference does it make if someone is 2,000 feet away or 2 miles away (10,560 feet) from a park or school, if they have bad intentions? As I was asking these rhetorical questions to my wife, she looked as concerned as I did. We both agreed that creating a legal force field around schools and parks would not deter many offenders (some drop off the radar the minute they register anyway) and those who did abide would be in quite a predicament: for anyone who has been in north-central OC, you know that there's a school or park every half-mile or so (that's 2640 feet right there), so where would they live? We feared the worst, that this law, if passed, would force large numbers of registered offenders into small areas. These offenders, whose crimes are gross but are still human beings, would be caged together in the worst parts of town with nothing to do all day (very few business hire registered sex offenders).

It turned out that in Orange County, the bill had a landslide victory, with 75% of voters supporting it. It seems that the politicians were able to pull our heart strings enough throughout the state as well and the law now stands on the books. With life as busy as it is, I forgot about the law and moved on with life until this morning when I read "Sex Offenders Moving to Garden Grove Motels" in the paper. Here's what caught my attention:
"We feel like we've been flooded," Garden Grove police Capt. Mike Handfield said. "This has gotten to the point where it's just too many [offenders] in one place. We just have to let people know they are out there."
There are just three locations in Orange County where parole agents can house recently paroled sex offenders that fall outside of the half-mile radius of schools, Handfield said. Garden Grove, Anaheim and Costa Mesa have motels that fit the requirement. Parole agents were unaware so many offenders had been packed into one location, Handfield said.
Motels? That's considered homeless. Talk about marginalization. And the parole agents - the people who had no say in authoring the law but are expected to enforce it - are taken by surprise by their new expectations. Is this really the way to approach the problem? Can't we put our tax money into services for these offenders instead of slapping a tracking device on their arm and throwing them into the streets? The crimes these offenders commit are sickening, their total disregard for life and human dignity and their gross abuse of vulnerable individuals. But it's also sickening to me that some politicians and law-makers can do the exact same thing, in the name of Justice, and get away with it.


Marginalization - Stay within the lines (lanes?)!

What is marginalization? As far as I understand it, it's anytime something (or someone) is pushed to the periphery, forced into a position of non-normalcy or made out to be "the other" amidst a mass of the status quo. As a white (at least I "pass" as white), Christian, straight, medium-height, thin-build, non-smoking, non-drinking, college-degree-holding county employee, you'd think that I'd be the last one to be marginalized, right. Well, think again.

Recently, I read an article in the local paper about how riding a bicycle in the bicycle lane is a dangerous thing to do in OC. It mentions two riders who were killed within 11 months of each other on the same stretch of road, as well as addressing the literal disregard of some drivers towards bike lanes. This article was printed on April 12th, 2007. Six days later a cyclist was killed right in front of my parents-in-law's house. This man was swept under a passing truck's tires as he moved from sidewalk to road. Hear that? No bike lane, but from sidewalk directly to the road. As dangerous as bike lanes are, they at least provide a space for cyclists. What about roads with no bike lanes?

As a person who rides his bike to work every day, through a very non-bike-friendly neighborhood, I've learned that according to both automobile drivers and pedastrians I don't belong on the streets. The roads that I take to work don't have bike lanes, nor do they have shoulders and they barely have gutters. After too many close calls (you get used to the trash piles in the gutter forcing you out into the road, but the whizzing of side mirrors past your ear is too much!), I made the decision to take to the sidewalks. There's only one problem - you're lucky if you can find a city in OC that allows riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. The rest of the cities say it's illegal. This problem is complicated by the fact that many pedastrians, who are powerless in the streets so must assert their power in their domain, don't care to acknowledge that a bicyclist is making a b-line straight for them. Last week a man was standing right between the bus stop bench and the bus stop sign. He saw me coming, looked the other way and stood his ground like a Kensington guard. I had to stop, squeeeeeeze through the gap between him and the bus stop sign, then shift down from a dead stop (you cyclists will appreciate that experience) so I could start going again. He just stood there, looking the other way. There was this other lady who did something similar. I can't tell you how many cars have honked at me, while I'm still on the sidewalk! Argh...

As a cyclist, I don't belong on the streets. The roads are reserved for the automobiles - that's the whole reason these roads were constructed. The sidewalks are made for pedastrians - that's the whole reason they were made. In some areas, there are bike lanes that supposed provide a safe space for cyclists to use, but that is not necessarily true. In the areas with no bike lanes, where am I supposed to ride my bike? In the cracks in the pavement, on the grassy hump next to the sidewalk, through the parking lot full of parked and reserving cars. My existence is acceptable to the others using the city streets in their designated space as long as I don't get in their way. Whoa, this could be a social commentary. But that's another post.


My brain's too small for blogging!

The last few days I've had thousands of things swimming around my head that I want to put down in blog form. Ok, not quite thousands but sometimes I feel like it. So, I'll do a roundup of what's been on my mind. This is what I call a weak-sauce attempt at being a blogger:

  • First of all, Triết posted a great analysis of the improving/declining relationship paradox between Vietnamese Americans and Vietnamese in Vietnam. It sparked a lovely banter between us, which resulted in some great perspectives being raised and dissected. Instead of blogging it on my own, I'll just "blog ké" with his: A Tale of Two Peoples. Update: another good discussion I'm a part of can be found at OnlyBlue.org.
  • I've started uploading videos - ok, only ONE video - to Google video instead of trying to stream my own. I like the flexibility of doing my own, but trying to encode and script and stream my own flash videos when Google can do it all for me is like trying to make and kneed and bake my own pizza crust when I can buy one that's already done. Oh wait, I do that too. Anyway, here's my first video, or just view it right here.
  • Mitt Romney - I posted a while ago about him, and I've tried to save my breath whenever I feel like asking myself (on the blog, of course) "Is he serious?" Evidently, I'm not the only one thinking this, and it happens to be a somewhat-famous someone who's asking the same question. See Orson Scott Card's view of Romney as President (which I actually find quite entertaining, and a decent analysis of the whole "Mormon" issue)
  • I've been planning a post on my garden - spring sure does wonderful things to those ugly plants out back. Ugly during the winter. But not as ugly as Utah, at least mine stay green. The jasmine is bursting with white flowers and filling the air with its sweet fragrance, the blueberries are actually turning blue (which I thought wouldn't happen because I didn't think bees flew up to the second story), my first try at quế, tía tô, kinh giới (Vietnamese herbs) are growing like weeds (see guys, we were right!), and the banana tree just sprouted another leaf. Ah, spring... here are other posts about my garden.
  • My mommy just started her blog, which she is totally stoked about. She's a writer, so this should be a cool blog once she gets a good base of posts. Go, mom!
  • Much has been happening in Vietnam as of late. I can't put it all here, but here's an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal. This is a copy-and-pasted version of the article made on Google documents, which deals with the democracy movement currently taking place there. It's a good read.
  • Last month, a news story resurfaced about a handful of Chinese nationals - supposedly spies - who were accused of passing US defense secrets to the Chinese government. I don't know about that... the articles I read sounded too much like something from the movies. Police tapping phones, installing mini cameras in peoples' houses, arresting them right as they approached the terminal at LAX on the way to China... it's hard for me to believe the charges fully, especially considering the current mentality of America towards terrorism and China's rising economic dominance in the global market. See what you think: it happened in Anaheim, so here's the first article from 2005 from the local newspaper and the next from 2006. Also, another site with more detailed info and a whole gaggle of news stories.
  • I started a post on immigration, since the issue is getting hotter with the presidential election nearing and Jim Gilchrist losing his Minute Men to "hijackers," but it's turning out to something more like a senior thesis than a blog post. I'll see what happens. In the meantime, here's an interesting article about illegal immigrants, namely American citizens in Mexico who refuse to learn Spanish, assimilate or even watch soccer.
  • And last, something I feel necessary to address since it's such earth-shattering news: The Virginia Tech shooting. I'm sure anyone reading this will know more than I about the shooting, but along with the sorrow that is felt in connection to this incident, there is pent-up anger and even hate. The first thing I thought when I heard it was an Asian gunmen was "Oh, please don't be Vietnamese." If you thought something similar to this, then you already know that it is because once the ethnicity is named, that community becomes the first target of any hate crimes, violence or retaliation. I fell across a blog post today that compiles many articles addressing this very topic: it's ironic that it's called "Angry Asian Man."
That's all for now.


The Unfair Trial of Jesus

Throughout the scriptures we find instances of righteous people facing spurious charges, the most detailed of course being the trial of Christ. Another example is Abinadi - after a ridiculous trial, the king pronounced the following verdict, punishable by death: "For thou hast said that God himself should come down among the children of men." Here's the kicker. You'd think that if this was the real reason why Abinadi was on trial, then the king might release him if he signed some contract to never preach such things again, right? Get this, the king's next words: "and now, for this cause thou shalt be put to death unless thou wilt recall all the words which thou hast spoken evil concerning me and my people." (Mosiah 17:8) Ah, and thus we see that the king was a bit irked by Abinadi's words against him, not about God coming down.
Christ's trial is similar - the Jewish leaders' positions were threatened by this revolutionary character, so they made up a reason to kill him. They bond Jesus and took him to the high priest. In attempting to find an accusation worthy of death, they threw out things like "Oh, um, he said he'd, like, destroy the temple in 3 days." but none of their testimonies agreed. Finally the high priest, who was on their side anyway, got fed up and just asked Jesus: "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" A loaded question, but Christ knew his time had come, so he answered: "I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Now the high priest had a witness, however false it was.
"What need we any further witnesses?" exclaimed the high priest, "Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye?" So on this wise was Christ crucified.
Now this is interesting: I came across a humorous IM conversation of two law students about whether or not Jesus should be held accountable for Judas' suicide. When I first read it I found it quite entertaining, but I got thinking about it and I realized that if that accusation were to play out into a full-blown trial, how identical it would be to the unfair trial that Jesus endured before his death. As spurious as can be, but twisted so as to present it as valid and even just. That's the world we live in - Your legal status as innocent or guilty, regardless of what really happened, depends on how much money you have and your lawyer.

Click here to read IM conversation

(thanks to thesiegeperilous for a great post)


The evolution of my transportation

Well, I did a sad thing the other day. I donated my van to a charity. I don't think I could have made a profit by selling it, what with the rusted roof, the poofy ceiling (thanks to Phu) and dying transmission, so I decided that the next best thing is to donate it. The charity I really wanted to donate it to - a local org that helps disadvantaged children in the area - seemed to disappear the minute I decided to donate the van. And true to form, I saw a new billboard for it on my way to work today - right after donating it to someone else. Of course. But I did find a decent Christian charity that will use the proceeds for "spreadin' the Word." So I guess I feel ok. Except that a piece of history is now gone forever. Where I'm from, you just leave the old piece of junk out back so you can look at it now and then and remember... but here it just gets towed and they charge you for it. :(
Ok, before this turns into a (an?) eulogy, I'll shift gears (which my van couldn't do, that's why I had to donate it) to my growing list of modes of transportation. Click on the image to take my transportation tour. I've grown increasingly "green" over the past few years, and now my vehicle has got to be the best on mileage (as well as health), though I fear for my safety everyday I go to work.


Serving in Japan

I just got this from my sis who is serving a mission in Japan. It cracks me up because I've heard it all before...

So, I`m loving Japan. I can`t even imagine serving anywhere else. And just for fun, here are the Oyama sisters` top five favorite rejections! (Translated from Japanese by yours truly. . .Sis. Packer )

5. "I`m about to enter the tub." (That`s okay. Cleanliness is next to Godliness.)

4. "This house is Buddhist" (That`s fine, we`re not trying to baptize the house.)

3. "I don`t believe in God." (But He believes in you.) also (Even the devil believes in God)

2. "My ancestors are god." (Cool! Did your ancestors give up their lives of their own free will, then resurrect themselves, like my God did? They didn`t? Oh, they`re still dead? Oh, that stinks. I hope they can do better for you than they did for themselves.)

And our number one favorite . . .

1. "There`s no one here." ( . . . What do you say to that?)

Have fun ;D
I love you!


I have a Testimony... of antioxidants

Ok, I know they don't look like blueberries, but they are. Before they turn blue, that is. I've been growing this little bush since last fall in hopes that I can have some fresh blueberries to eat with my breakfast. I started eating blueberries about two years ago, when my wife and I bought a big bag of them at Costco for some reason, but that reason did not use all of them so I had to eat the rest. These little blueberries changed my life. Or at least they changed my breakfast. I haven't paid a penny for my cereal for the last 4 years. How? Basically all the old bác I know who get food from the food bank but don't like cereal - they give it to me. Every month I get at least 6 boxes! And I eat about that much, too, since I have cereal every morning. In case anyone's interested, I also have a fridge full of cheese, another food that does not agree with most Vietnamese palates or digestive systems. Then I got poor, so I opted for raisins which are also found at Costco but for 1/4 of the price of blueberries. A trusted source (i.e. the chart on the back of the blueberry bag) informed me that next to the very berries I was holding in my hand, raisins have the highest amount of antioxidants. I figured that must be a good thing, so I've been eating raisins in my cereal ever since. I guess I got desperate after two years of plain "Crispy Hexagons" or "Crispy Rice" or "Tastee O's" and blueberries or raisins have fulfilled that need ever since.

Here's the cool thing. Even though sometimes my wife tells me I'm crazy about health stuff, I had no "health" motive in putting blueberries and raisins in my food. I just needed some variety in my life and in my cereal. But after several months of berry-raisin-eating, which happened to be the winter months that get me sick every year, I looked back realized that I hadn't even had a cold through that whole time period. I firmly believe in the power of the mind for healing the body, so I thought that this might just be the placebo effect, since blueberries are so high in "antioxidants" which are supposed to be healthy. But I didn't even care about that, I was just eating them for the taste. However, I just passed it off as coincidence, and went on my way. Now, two full years later, I have not had so much as a coughing spell and that's including the stress-filled graduate-marriage-car-stolen- new-job-wife-in-vietnam-general-election season late last year. So my conclusion: blueberries and raisins are a part of your balanced diet and will help you stay healthy (it probably helps that I ride my bike everyday and eat fruit like a monkey). I did my homework and I guess over time our insides "oxidize" and the "antioxidants" fight it. So I see it as keeping my innards from rusting.


The Homeless - Have you ever met one?

During my two years of full-time service in the Orange County area, I ran into a lot of people that might not have been on my "People to meet" list. Then during the two years that I took the bus to school (because UCI students get free bus passes :) I quietly observed the other bus frequenters, usually those who don't qualify for a drivers license. Many of the individuals I met and observed during this four-year period were homeless. Those whom I did get a chance to speak with showed me a sense of determination that impressed me. It sometimes seems like the general sentiment in this area is that these "lazy bums just need to get up and find a job" but many of them can't. Recently, I was riding my bike home from work, and as I turned a corner I saw two men in each others face at an intersection. Suddenly, as I approached, one man pushed the other man hard into the road (luckily no cars were coming) and started cussing at him and kicking him. I had to swerve to avoid the fallen man, and was too stunned to stop and do something. Down the road I stopped, waited for the assailant to leave and turned around to help the man who was still laying in the road. Once he got on his feet and put his glasses on, I asked him where he was going - he came up close to me, much like he did with the other man, and just started crying. After several minutes of trying to talk to this man, I realized that he has difficulty talking, probably due to a speech disorder. He stands close because he can't see well. Finally, he turned to leave without a word. As I rode home, I realized that some people are on the street because they've been pushed there, just like that other mean guy pushed him into the road.

I read an article today that brought my memories about homeless people to surface again. It illustrates the systematic inconsistencies that result in the postponement or failure of any major effort to help the homeless.

She could rock the house -- if she had one

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)