This is Awkward

Hello and thank you to all who have recently stopped by. Particularly from Saipan; Garapan; Tamuning, Guam; and the entirety of the CNMI.

No doubt you have questions, doubts, skepticisms. About me.
About what I want. About what I offer. About the WHY.

I’d ask for open-mindedness, but I realize that isn’t fully possible. I know that any claims towards my abilities may seem arrogant or defensive or condescending. I know I shouldn’t offer such “open truths” about my own struggles and hardships. I know how I experience judgment and dismissiveness. How I am labeled. How I am predetermined to be incapable, if I live in poverty or must’ve failed in some manner- to once become homeless and on welfare.

Huh. Okay. Please get all that out of your system.
Please consider my words. What have I asked for?
Not one thing other than a conversation.

I am aware that I have a very capable mind. That I think differently than most. Again, I don’t mean to boast, and this is not intended to reflect any sort of egotism. My point is that the “status quo” is hard to fight. We each spend our entire lives building up our own belief systems. Trying to challenge that with innovative solutions or unique views is already nearly impossible. Add on that I offer so many reasons for anybody to discredit me.

– He must want something.
– There must be something wrong with him.
– His story doesn’t sound possible.
– Maybe he’s crazy or delusional.
– Why would he want to move HERE?
– Our problems can’t be fixed.
– He thinks he knows better than all of us, that’s absurd.

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So, why Saipan? Why the CNMI?
Simple, from my perspective.

I wish to move to a new, permanent home/region. Help work to solve the hard issues. I figure I understand hardship about as well as anybody. I understand the uphill battles. I know how it feels when the world and society disowns you. I still hold my spirit and want to fight. For myself, for others, for a better world. For a specific community. To feel valued, to belong, to believe I am important and have made an impact. To help others. To use what skills I believe I have. I’m talking about seeking out the most impoverished communities and regions. And the CNMI seems a lot more appealing than Cleveland or Detroit or East St. Louis IL or Camden NJ or El Paso. Yeah? Make sense? Okay.

Also, I must recognize that these major cities (like Detroit, for example) have many capable people. They have more available funding, more visibility. Within a much larger community. I said I want to fight the hardest problems, so what about an insular economic community, a U.S. Commonwealth that isn’t even an afterthought to most Americans? A place as far away in mindset and miles as the Philippines or Japan. And also lacking in visibility, economic opportunity, educational institutions, stricken with corruption, and less economic aid.

But a beautiful island culture and environment! Okay!

So, I start with where I’d wish to go. To start the next portion of my life. If there is no opportunity, then I can still try to connect with Detroit or Cincinnati or others. There is always hardship, everywhere.

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Please allow me, indulge me.
I’ll use a 5-point scale, or spectrum, to define things:

Yes, I’m using a more ‘absolute’ negative than positive.

Okay, let’s set a baseline. Putting your savings into a bank account that earns less than one-half of one-percent APR interest while inflation rates at 3%+ per year is an absolute negative. You lose spending power, that’s a guarantee. A net loss. An “absolute negative (failure).” Make sense?

Now, let’s consider some various problems and solutions.

All those on welfare are a net-negative to the economy. No, this is no judgment on a person or people. Please understand, I am one such person. I mean, it draws costs. Without return. Negative. And it perpetuates. Unless that person can gain employment and become a working citizen again. Productive, tax-paying, economic contributor. Positive. Value.

Food banks? Soup kitchens? Homeless shelters? Net-negatives.

I’m not claiming they hold NO value. Not true. But there are ways to turn these programs into positive economic values, we just have to recognize completely different solutions are available. Instead of employing (paid) staff to serve, drive, haul, administrate, etc… Instead of relying on donated canned foods. Instead of perpetuating a cycle of need. What can be done?

Why not start a community garden? Have disadvantaged and low-income people help tend to fruits and vegetables. Once a week, young students can use it for after-school care and learn agricultural techniques, learn to appreciate our environment. That’s also free child care for low-income working families. Do you know that over 60% of all people living in poverty have at least one household member working full-time? It’s true. Crops can go towards the needy. Perhaps some crops can be sold at farmers markets or to local restaurants. Drivers can be hired to collect compost, turning it into valuable soil. Or maybe organic, aquaponic techniques are used to cultivate the food. Lessening the footprint and increasing yields. Less transit time, no carbon, more shelf days of freshness. More nutrients. Lower costs.

It’s all about matching unmet needs with underutilized resources.
Brainstorm a problem, any problem, and there are solutions available that can address multiple challenges at once.

So, human capital? Absolutely. Okay, maybe some cannot work on the garden. Live too far away, students in school, whatever reason. But we now have a replenishable commodity– produce: fruits, vegetables. Somebody wants to “volunteer” to help paint a school in need? Or help coach a sports team? Or mentor foster children? Again, anything where labor cannot be afforded at minimum wage, or lacks funding. Okay, work an hour and receive a voucher for fresh produce. Now more food stamps budget can go towards essentials like baby formula. Make sense?

Expand the circle, the supply chain. A local restaurant wishes to have their windows cleaned and sidewalk swept weekly. But, budget is tight, the economy is tough. Minimum wage is rising, costs continually go up. Okay. A local resident regularly cleans their streetfront. That’s worth produce vouchers. Those are now exchanged with the restaurateur. She uses them to purchase vegetables for her menu, and feeds the worker in exchange. Why does this work? Because labor costs for food prep are already set, rent is already set. Food costs are roughly 30% of menu pricing. So, essentially… The worker gets a $10 meal for an hour’s work. The restaurateur exchanges $3 in labor costs. The community farm earns income that helps pay for supplies and equipment. Everybody benefits. A STRONG POSITIVE.

How many were positively affected? How much “more” did this cost compared to staffing and running a food bank? What about the work skills to all those involved. A sense of training, of responsibility, of belonging. Of being valued.

It is my belief that ANY major issue can be solved in this manner. Let’s figure it out, let’s talk.

Could the CNMI consider some program like an alternative currency? To help solve multiple issues with extremely low financial obligations. Not necessarily a literal replication of either model. But the framework of either. It’s all about matching unmet needs with underutilized resources. Maybe it is renovating blighted or typhoon-damaged buildings. Or opening a greenhouse for food justice and employing the disabled.

– A sort of community currency to improve and sustain the beautiful environment of the CNMI. This proof-of-concept example in Brazil quickly converted one of their poorest favelas into a recipient of the United Nations Environmental Program’s highest award, the Globe Sustainable City Award.

A Saber system (not necessarily for education), but one that exchanges work for another need. With an important “multiplier” to optimize financial resources and solutions to critical needs within the CNMI.

My Efftoobee community currency proposal to Fresno, CA is here as a viewable, downloadable, print formatted PDF.

BUT WAIT. You wonder about counterfeiting? I mean, it’s a currency. It’s valuable. I’m speculating on your response, but trust that I have heard it all before. Let’s follow this. Nothing is that difficult. Hire some local woodworker to make 2,000 tokens out of bamboo. Make them labor intensive enough that it isn’t worthwhile to counterfeit. No, we don’t need to waste funds on getting BSI to manufacture custom casino chips, as cool as those might look. Ours could be even better. Take discarded compact discs, divert them from landfill. Help save the landfill site(s) from further overflow and save the precious environment. Punch them into “coins.” Then find a local silk-screen printer with what is called a “pad stamp.” Like they use to imprint golf balls and other irregular objects. Put a silk-screened logo on them. Nice.

Can’t afford their services? Really? Exchange some free meals from one of the participating restaurants, again at less than 50% of value by trade. Or with a participating retailer. We just cut costs. We just got business to a printer, a restaurant, a community farm. To the disadvantaged people in need. We created jobs. Training, employable skills, networking. Sales of produce helps produce income. Therefore, this could become a revenue engine and possibly self-sustaining. Future funding could then address another need– let’s say an improved water supply or advanced education. Maybe a public transit bus system. Whatever.

Now, just think, isn’t ALL OF THAT better than simply perpetuating a food bank? Sucking more funding. (I have nothing against food banks, they do good and noble work. Just an example). Always supplying a demand, but never solving the actual problem? I think so. And I know it can be done. It’s been done all over the world. Throughout history. Over 4,000 alternative currencies are in operation right now, today. They work.

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So, why did I title this post “This is Awkward”? Oh…

Uhhh, oh, yeah. Because I really don’t like bringing up myself and talking so much about me. Putting my personal info out there. Describing more of my challenges or difficulties. Justifying things that are unknowable. Any who have tried to find me on social media, I’m not active on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. You won’t find me active on Yelp. I don’t use my Real Name for Amazon reviews or on Yelp or Meetup. Sorry. My life has been threatened by my own family. So, I don’t want them to find me. Sure, I could create a ‘fake’ name and accounts. IMO, it’s all the same. Then I’d be required to lie. Then I’d eventually need to explain my deceit to those I am asking to trust me, to work with me. Awkward.

Oh, my site analytics and tracking shows that one person out there found some Easter eggs. No, not really. I mean, followed through to my Disqus (private profile) and went onto my SF Giants blog. Hey, no worries. It’s public domain. It’s gotten more than 250,000 page views in the two years since I launched it. Even if I don’t optimize my SEO for personal reasons (family, again). I applaud you. Whoever YOU are. One person in the CNMI. That’s my type of thing. I do that. I follow what you did, I do that type of thing myself. I appreciate your thorough investigation. Props. I wish you’d drop me a line or comment, per-maybe-haps we think alike?

Here’s my flickr photography account: ambientimages

I’m not shooting these days. I struggle with so many things. Mostly trying to better my life, constantly fighting uphill. Against my human rights, my civil rights, for opportunities. But I’m proud of some of my images, some of my work. I especially enjoyed my period of “experimental photography.” I made my own film developers (yes, film!) from all sorts of household ingredients. It started with developing film in coffee. Then tea. Then orange peels, rosemary, Tang, wine, juice, tree bark. Yes, seriously. It was wild. I dreamt of one day having a gallery show. I had gained a fair amount of attention with my work. I always thoroughly enjoyed doing it. And sharing, building community.

This image was created on two cameras using multiple exposures on Fuji Sensia 100 film. One camera was medium format, so a larger film frame size, hence the variance in what I call “interlaced images.” And “shooting through the sprockets.” You can notice the emphasis of longer wavelengths (reds and oranges) compared to shorter color wavelengths (blues) in how the multiple exposure images “interlace” between the light and shadows:

For this image, I used a technique called “microclicing” to slowly advance a multiple exposure on Ilford HP5-Plus 110-format film. I developed this in my own homemade half-coffee, half-tea film developer I called CaffandHalf. The sepia toning is an inherent quality of the developer ingredients:

This was taken in a science museum (Exploratorium) exhibit about “How Comets Are Formed.” Shot in black and white JPEG. I colorized it to effect in post-processing (Photoshop and other editing software). The exhibit drops tiny pieces of dry ice from a conveyor belt into a vat of water, they spin around and form exciting “comet tails.” That’s this:

I shot this image just days before I met, hung out with, and shot with one of the most spectacular, world-famous photographers Ben Von Wong. Sometimes your whole life of learning, work, preparation, and enthusiasm can help you get lucky. Here’s a fire performer that uses two lighted “Fire Whips.” Both are cracking here, and those are the flame trails you see. Believe it or not, this was shot with the cheapest interchangeable lens camera (Sony A3000) ever sold, and a $100 manual focus legacy Zeiss Jena Tessar 80mm f/2.8 lens from the old M42 camera mount. Hey, use what you got, and do the most with it:

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Dang. I didn’t intend to turn this into a photo blog.

To a more somber topic.

I’m currently facing eviction. No, not for any sordid reason. Because I’ve lived for 16 months in my current apartment, often without access to hot water. And occasional running water shutoffs without notice. This is California Civil Code 1941.1, known as The Implied Warranty of Habitability. And about a dozen building code violations. Certified by the Code Enforcement Inspector and his expert report. I am quite familiar, due to my housing rights advocacy experience and other social justice work. So, I withheld rent until this problem was at least discussed with me, or resolved. Instead, my landlord denied conversation and retaliated by serving me an eviction notice. The day after I called Fresno Code Enforcement and filed a complaint, I got served my first 3-day pay or quit notice.

I’m advocating for myself and my own tenant rights, but also for 50 other apartment units in my complex and nearly 75 residents that cannot or will not speak up for themselves. Realize that there has been only ONE communal one-hundred gallon hot water boiler for all 50 of these units. For years. I’m fighting and jeopardizing my housing. To fight for social justice for all. This is what I do. I am capable, I know my rights, I don’t accept that some slumlord should be entitled to “get away” with this simply because due process is so intimidating and exhaustive.

I’m somewhat frightened to post my full personal info (including address), but I really don’t even care any longer. Come what will. I’m tired of hiding, tired of fighting for my personal privacy. I want better than this.

These are horrific people, beyond what most can even imagine.
Reddy, my landlord, is a direct relative of Bay Area slumlords. Criminals. Human traffickers. Rapists. Killers. Convicted of witness tampering, immigration fraud.

I’m not dense. I know I could blackout my personal info before uploading it. Or otherwise blur/edit it. Six years I’ve lived my life in fear of my own sick and abusive parents. Enough. I won’t continue living like that forever. So, whatever. For so long I’ve suffered what I never deserved in the first place.

Good news? Do I have ANY? Well, yes. I got a new toilet, sorry I don’t mean to be crude. My bathroom and kitchen sink were repaired. My front door got replaced, I had a one-inch gap in the doorknob cut-out that allowed air in, and rattled. My font door strike plate didn’t allow my deadbolt to latch shut, that’s fixed. I got a functioning smoke detector. Not bad. But it cost me, I’ve jeopardized my housing. Stupid trade-off, I know. And my security deposit was paid by a nonprofit, so I won’t get it back. I cannot afford to move. Oops.

Here’s a photo I took of the water main pipe that connected to our water heater just two weeks ago. Yes, every apartment tenant was drinking and using water from this pipe, until recently. The only way to bring attention to these MAJOR issues was by standing up to my slumlord property owners and calling Code Enforcement. Otherwise this water main wouldn’t have ever been noticed– or replaced! Imagine.

As if I don’t have enough issues…
No hot water, no running water… Slumlords… Eviction…

I’ve got two finance issues to contend with. The IRS claims I owe back taxes for the year I was homeless. When I addressed them with my dispute, they denied my defense. I get no judge, no jury, no trial. I know what happens. The same agency that made an error won’t admit to it. Regardless of my proof. That I never lived at the claimed address, that other people share my common name and surname. That I have evidence I had not worked or earned any income. That my social security number proves this. That I even formally closed my business of record. So? IRS wiped my bank account in an imposed bank lien. $450 *GONE*. All my savings. No recourse. They set the law, they are the law.

Meanwhile, my credit union drew in the numeric field of my personal check. I made payment for my January 2017 credit card bill. How did they overdraw my account by $1,000? How did that “i” get drawn on my check? What about the LEGAL requirement that they honor the amount as it is hand-written. How did CHASE bank honor this and convey the wrongful amount? My credit union is to blame, but they simply voided the transaction and said “sorry.” CHASE claims it doesn’t verify in the universal electronic clearing house software (“Catalyst”). So, my $1,000 is floating in hyperspace. Unavailable to me to live on for the past three weeks.

I swear I couldn’t even make this stuff up. What happened when I called the Fresno Police Department? I got a callback from a Fraud Department Detective. Here’s my conversation with her, in summation:

Me: “A perfect sequence of events had to take place for this error to happen. I find that unlikely. I’d like to request an investigation. If for no other reason, so that this NEVER happens again- to anybody.”

FPD: “But there’s no fraud, you said it paid your credit card bill. So you have all your money.”

Me: “It wasn’t that much. They overdrew funds. There is an added number written by hand on my check. They are required to use the hand-written amount. How did CHASE not also confirm the handwritten amount? Where is the balance of my funds? I do not have that $1,000. I’d clearly describe this as ‘not having my money.'”

FPD: “There is nothing I can do. There is nothing you can do. There is nothing to be done. I am telling you this isn’t fraud. Your money isn’t gone. It paid your bill.”

Me: “No, it OVERDREW my account. And my bill wasn’t that much. And the balance isn’t in my accounts. I don’t feel the issue here is whether these funds paid MY own credit card or not. The process is flawed. Would you take this more seriously if the payee were somebody other than myself? Because, the “error” is the same. And the money is missing just the same.”

FPD: “Let me tell you something. You need to learn how the world works, and learn to deal with it. I won’t take a report. I won’t file a fraud case. You said yourself that you paid your own bill. There is no issue. There is no theft. There is no fraud.”

Me: “Respectfully, that is untrue. I don’t have the money. How can anybody be certain that this isn’t fraud. All I wish is that you confirm it. And help ensure this confluence of errors is never allowed to happen again- to anybody.”

FPD: “Okay… (laughing loudly)… You want me to start, give you a case number. Start a file. Do you know where that report would go?”

Me: “… I don’t know… Probably straight to the bank?”

FPD: “MY. TRASH. CAN.”

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How does a police Detective talk to a citizen in such a manner? I did nothing wrong. I have no criminal record. No drug history. No history of violence. I did not raise my voice. I did not curse. I explained. I asked, I requested help.

I know that this world is full of people like this. I know I can help others…

So. Out $450 due to a wrongful bank lien. Out $1,000 due to some non-fraud with my bank and credit union. No water, no hot water. Today I got served my Unlawful Detainer (lawsuit/eviction). Like the police and medical professionals and social services didn’t once steal away my entire life already. Without cause, without justification. I got no trial. I had no hearing. I was given no opportunity to even defend or explain myself. The ACLU wouoldn’t even take my case. Free legal services wouldn’t even listen, only hearing that I must be crazy. An INVOLUNTARY commission (5150) is a clinical definition. A wrongful label I live with. In poverty. On welfare. And every sort of judgment and condescencion most people cannot even imagine. Like I’m not even human. Pathetic. Useless. I get ridiculed. I know. If you’ve ever felt this way, believe me I KNOW.

All because my family could gain over $600,000 from me, my property, my possessions, my bank accounts. My condo, my car, my photography gear, my belongings. And no, they didn’t own them. I did. Stealing my beloved dog away from me. Overdrawing all my bank accounts. Not even paying off my credit cards or utilities. Leaving a wake of credit destruction upon me for seven years. Leaving me unable to get a drivers license because of however they sold my car. I don’t even know. I just know that I cannot get a license, I’ve tried.

Oh, and dang. I started my morning with my water shut off. Using bottled water to fill my coffee maker, I accidentally broke my coffee carafe. Great, just great. Uh-huh. lol.

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So, why Saipan? Why am I available to do such work for so little?
Why do I wish to move? How could I have no friends or support network?

The bigger question is why the heck do I care to help the world that has done nothing but destroy me?

I don’t know. I keep trying to figure that one out. My brain doesn’t quit. My spirit is relentless. It is inherent in my nature to enjoy helping others. Maybe I still believe in myself only because that’s all I have left, when nobody else does. But, just maybe, I can stop similar hardships from happening to others.

If only somebody somewhere chooses to believe in me and ever give me a chance.

I’m ready. I don’t ask much. Only for a chance to do some good.

http://www.soju.org/2017/01/21/i-want-to-help-saipan/

I’ve received a fair amount of traffic here. I appreciate it. But not because of some vain notion based on social media. Because you have taken time, because you invested your own energy. Please, share my offer to help Saipan. Maybe you know an educator or nonprofit or business owner or politician. Maybe you are poor yourself. Fed up, wishing there were more opportunities for you. I cannot BRING them with me. But I believe that I can help create them. But not alone. With you, with your help, with others in the CNMI.

Internet and social media doesn’t have to be solely for weather reports, cat videos, whimsical memes and GIFs, and porn. I know of many instances where it started something magnificent. Ben Von Wong quit his day job to do photography when he reached 100,000 Facebook followers. An Apple engineer got recruited from New Zealand and hired from his LinkedIn profile. I know a photographer who sold his image from flickr to Frank Zappa for an album cover. I know a garage band from Michigan that sold a song (from their old MySpace page) to Nike for tv commercials. I was once hired to cover two successive SF auto shows for a well-recognized car website. Three days later, the founder thanked me. He claimed my images “got picked up by the AP newswire and other media agencies and delivered him an unusual surge of 60,000 additional page views. Here’s one before-and-after of my delivered images:

I could go on and on. If there are ways to help yourself, me, and the rest of the CNMI; what is it worth? A few minutes? Linking or referring somebody to my offer to help? Sending me an email or responding via Disqus comment? Ask me anything. I’m doing all I can. How can a cause for justice gain momentum? Don’t do it for me. Do it only if you believe in trying, if you deem there is any chance of doing good and making an impact. If there’s an inkling in your mind that the velocity of getting me to the CNMI could be beneficial. Or, simply to ask a trusted friend, “Hey, do you think this guy is for real?”

Yeah, I’d love to move to Saipan and the CNMI.
I want to help. I want to contribute.
I want to fight for SOcial JUstice for All! soju
I appreciate your time, interest, and consideration.

I’m tired of one-way conversations where I do all the ‘talking.
I’d like to hear from you. Thank you.

My Open Letter 2016

It’s been a long while. I am desperate.

After basically running the business incubator program at Fresno State for a couple months, I am again seeking work. My Scope of Work was not renewed because they wanted to further exploit my vulnerable position by cutting my workload to 35% of what I was getting. 15 hours for July at $30/hour. Because they’d often schedule me for only one hour per day, I’d have nearly three hours of public transit time and suffer severe physical pain- to be ordered to not include most of my work hours as billable. Legal misclassification of Independent Contractor versus employee is only one of the major issues here.

Everything is in serious jeopardy. I basically worked hard for nothing. My net income is less than 5%; after taxes, work-related expenses, and Disability benefit deductions. My PASS plan application has already been denied. My appeal was denied. My Disability “overpay” appeal was denied. Essentially, all of my previous work income goes to pay Social Security Disability for what they determined I now owe them.


I am working to distribute this “Open Letter” to any and all who are willing to read it. I want to help create social justice. I cannot do it alone. I cannot engage in conversation because I cannot find those who are willing to listen. Together, let’s change the world.

I hope to hear from you.

My Open Letter to Help