Undocumented immigrant or illegal alien?


I spent my morning today reading quite a tale. It was this New York Times article titled “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” I recommend you read it before you continue reading this post (though it’s no means a requirement).

Jose Vargas moved to the US at the age of 12 without knowing that he was coming here illegally. His mother had sent him here to live with his grandparents in California in effort to give him a better life, and he has on many accounts succeeded in taking advantage of the opportunities that this country offered. He has worked incredibly hard to becoming a prize-winning journalist for the Times and The Washington Post. The other side of this is that he has had to deceive a lot of people into believing he was allowed to be here via fraudulent documents. However, he believed things would sort themselves out given time, hard work and good “citizenship.” Eventually, the pressure, the anxiety and the secrecy of the whole matter became too much, which led to the writing of this article that essentially lets go of everything and enables others to decide his fate, if you will.

While the article was undoubtedly revealing of the type of person an undocumented immigrant can be, it was probably more revealing of the character of some people who are 4th, 5th, 6th generation immigrants. I knew diving into the comments that people would either be supportive of Mr. Vargas and encourage his life here or tell him to leave the country. There are plenty of both. But for the people who are criticizing his actions, I have to wonder whether they would be able to face the kinds of decisions he had to make and burden the pressure he felt.

I classify as a 1.5-generation immigrant. I came to the US with my parents when I was relatively young. They filled out all the legal documents, they applied for a green card and then for citizenship, took all the exams, paid all the fees and did everything they were supposed to do. I tagged along as well, going to finger-printing sessions, meetings and the oath ceremony. This whole process took almost a decade. It is by no means easy, so I empathize with people who argue how unfair it is how legal immigrants have to go through all this work to become an American.

But I also empathize with people with whom my family shares motives and values  – the people who will leave everything behind in order to gain freedom and better opportunities. In that sense, I side with Mr. Vargas, because I absolutely understand his perspective. He has worked incredibly hard, paid taxes, reached for career goals and become essentially what an American should be. If I remember correctly, the US was formed with people who had similar aspirations of success. Those people were sincere individuals who wanted nothing but the best for their new country. He doesn’t belong in The Philippines where his mother is from, as he says he barely remembers it. Once you come to a country at a certain age and reside here, you can’t and will not want to go back. Your whole life is here, your community is here and your future, in your heart, will be here too.

To those to say it doesn’t matter what success he’s achieved, how much he’s persevered or how he American he feels, that he is just an illegal alien, I ask that you imagine yourself in his place. Because what would you have really done?


It’s so easy to make things…


…but it’s so hard to get rid of them.

Our stuff either goes to:

1) The trash, 2) The recycling, 3) Storage, 4) Someone else who will buy or receive it, 5) Earth via you throwing it out the window.

I prefer 2 and 5, but I always end up taking it to 1, 3 and 4.

Yesterday, I found an old desktop calendar a friend had given me years ago. It’s made of plastic, chipboard, magnetics and a wax coating, which are all bonded tightly to each other. Where did the makers of this product imagine it would end up when 2003 (the year I was supposed to use it) was over? I find it really interesting that we often only consider the “life” of the product. Among non-designers, the birth and death are usually absent from conversation, the same way those topics can be tricky when applied to living things. When the end is the landfill, the object is placed out of sight, as if it never existed. It’s crushed and squeezed so that it no longer keeps its form or usability. It’s rejected. We hope that it’s goes away even though it doesn’t.

We keeping ignoring the problem, which is that the large majority of what we make is trashed. But what if the garbage trucks stopped coming to our doors and no more landfills were created? Would we finally cease the desire to create and want more and more and more? We would be forced to actively think about how to get rid of things.

This article proposes charging corporations for taking back their product at the end of its life cycle and recycling it while eliminating landfills. It’s not about planting one tree on earth day or switching to CFLs. It’s saying we have a giant problem with how we deal with what we make, because eventually it’s going to harm us.

We have a flawed system in which corporations are endangering our livelihoods. The end result is collective apathy through individual selfishness. Call it human nature, call it hopeless; but you’ll always know that there’s a better alternative.

Mass-produced Beats


I was listening to the radio today while driving home like I always do, and as usual, they play the same ten songs over and over again. You start noticing things, like, the amount of repetition in top 40 songs, the monotonous melodies, the same four-chord structure, the insipid lyrics, the over-use of synthesizers and the predictable build-up and ending of each song. I won’t give examples, because I think you know what I mean.

You can call the station and ask them to play different songs all you want, but it won’t make a dent. Today’s radio industry isn’t built on what people really want to hear. Sure, songs are tested beforehand through “call-out research,” but it’s up to the record labels to put out songs they want the public to hear and program directors of the radio stations to add the songs they want on their station. It’s not your decision, it’s theirs. Every Monday and Tuesday, new songs get added to the playlist in every top 40 station around the country. Some are added, because they are up-and-coming. Others because the artist is already a successful, established star with previous hits. Some others are sent out by radio stations and will never be played. Either the song fits with everything else being played or the record label spends what it needs to in order to promote the single.

Why am I bringing up radio? The way radio plays music reminds me of essentially how businesses put out products. Radios will play hits, regardless of whether they are actually good for us. They know what a hit is: a song that is preferably less than 4 minutes, which appeals to the short-attention spans of today’s youth; it’s often in 4/4 time so it’s easy to dance or clap to, plays at around 120 bpm and contains simple lyrics that are as singable as possible. The point isn’t to create diversity; the point is to create something that will stick in your head no matter how ridiculous it is, because if it sticks in your head enough, you might even start to think it’s alright, good, great, heck I’ll buy it on itunes.

A single song can be played around ten times in one day by a single top 40 station and over 14,000 times in one week across the country. Good or bad, it will be played, because it is being played by so many other stations. A large majority of the country’s top 40 stations are owned by one company: Clear Channel Communications, Inc. Others are owned by CBS Radio, Citadel Communications, Cumulus Broadcasting, etc. Clear Channel has huge influence over what reaches the ears of hundreds of millions of people every day. The monopoly it has on radio is reminiscent of all sorts of corporate control in other sectors. Think Monsanto and the farming industry. Maybe it’s a stretch, but it seems that for many, profit will trump quality.

How many times have you seen a product that is actually detrimental to people using it and is doing well, because people will buy it? I can think of a number of products that not only harm us, but every other living organism too. As much leverage as the consumer has on the product, it’s up to the company, in this case the record label, to put out quality material. They can do business, but they have to hold onto their souls too.

More Awesome Shtuff.


Go visit the Inception Chair, created by Vivian Chiu – furniture design student at RISD. I saw this at the furniture show at Woods Gerry Gallery earlier during the spring semester. It’s crazy in a completely great way.



I want this phone/watch. It projects time onto your wrist and includes a transparent roll-out screen that becomes your cell phone. Obviously there is some technology in this concept that may not be realistic quite yet, but I’m looking forward to when something like this will be made.



Georg Jensen collection – Vivianna Open Bangle Watch by Vivianna Torun Bulow-Hube.

This is my favorite watch design *ever.* I love watches, and I don’t think they’re obsolete. This one is absolutely stunning and crazily simple at the same time. I would buy one, but they’re rather pricey. Guess it’s time to start the watch fundraiser…



This clock unfolds as the hours go by. There’s a video of how it works in the linked article. It’s a really intriguing object.



These ad are both minimalist and powerful. They get the point across so simply.


IBM Selectric Typewriter


Thank you, Eliot Noyes, for being so amazing. This typewriter functions because of a ball containing all the letters of the alphabet and more and some mechanical systems to make it work. This is way cooler than a lot of laptops.


This article talks about differences in how men and women see environmentalism. It comes down to the types of values women have – community, empathy and the ability to nurture that make us see the world a little differently. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it makes a lot of sense.


Engineers Without Borders Canada created a site called Admitting Failure.

Not enough people admit failures, and people make the same mistakes over and over again. This site (geared towards NGOs) gives people the opportunity to admit something that didn’t go well, so that the public can learn from it. Fantastic stuff and relevant to my earlier rant on failure.


The Story of Plastic Review: “Susan Freinkel’s new book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), is a funny and interesting look into our relationship with plastic and how we just can’t quit this material that started off as an almost miraculous solution to so many human problems and that has now become an permanent part of our lives.” I’m curious to read this book.


THE most beautiful shots of earth and beyond you have ever seen. “The Mountain”


An inspirational video that explores the meaning of life with random strangers on the NYC subway. Brilliant.


“How to Rise From Poverty” This article really explores the power of psychology in climbing the socio-economic ladder. It’s how you think about your circumstances, not just how you are, that allow you rise from poverty.


Finally, this is late, but THANK YOU to Holstee for featuring me in their blog. I brought the Holstee T-shirt down with me to NASA over winter and took a photo with the shirt next to the NASA sign. It’s the only shirt I have that has a pocket located in a convenient place. Pretty awesome.