Tuesday, February 17, 2009

thoughts on co-working

Coffeeshops with change in its social norm
You are probably familiar with people gathered in Star Bucks or local coffee shops with their lap tops. I've even walked into a coffee shop in Williamsburg where it is dead quiet except for the sound of espresso machine and typing keyboards, all seats occupied by people with their lap tops, the energy is focused and says don't disturb me. I was there to chat (not with IM) with my freind and found ourselves whispering not to disturb these cafe workeres. We got our drinks and found the only table that was available in the coffeeshop. Guess why it wasn't occupied. It had a little sign saying "No computer on this table. Reseraved for conversations." I found it quiet funny. Since when you whisper at coffee shops? Aren't they made for conversations? It makes me think of a highschool principal with authoritative voice saying "Kids, play. No study allowed!"

The laptop friendly coffeeshops
It is everywhere. Coffeeshops filled with people with their Mac Pro or rather bigger Dell lap tops.
Since I started working away from my home office in Columbus, OH until I left them recently, I searched for the perfect coffeeshops to work out of. I just simply couldn't work from home. It is just too distracting with my cat Bil
constantly sitting on my keyboards to get my attention. And if I think about it I've never done homeworks at home while I was in school. I maybe wrote love letters. The criteria has been...

  • sunlight
  • good music
  • good coffee drinks and inexpensive sandwiches
  • restroom
  • WiFi (this is the key - but I found it interesting when the system breaks down and peopel are forced to chat with others : ) )
  • atmosphere that doesn't make you feel a total looser for spending more than 4 hours at your seat.

I've found about 3 to 4 good places that fits this criteria "Eat records and Champion in Greenpoint and Phoebe's cafe in Williamsburg. Although I've got all these I wanted I felt irritating when I had to be on the phone because coffeeshops can be loud. I also wanted more human contacts. I went to Williamsburg coworking space that my co-worker Dan found for me on google prior to my move to NYC.

Escape coffeeshops and go coworking

I've joined a coworking group last summer when I moved from Columbus Ohio to Brooklyn, New York. There are this co-working communities where people gather and work together out of home or an office all over the world. This group I joined is located in a Williamsburg gallery called the change you wanna see (http://thechangeyouwanttosee.com/) and it is ran by an art activist group called not an alternative (www.notanalternative.net). Since I have a lot of people looking confused when I say what it is I will explain it here.

the fun part
I got to participate in several fun events in the last few months held by the gallery organizers.
- Guantanamo sewing project, twitter vote report, election day party...and more.
- One of our coworkers said it right - water fountain talk minus politics
- Stay up to date with multiple industries -I've got great exposure to IT world and non profit sectors as I am constantly around people in the industry

I recommend full time office workers and freelancers working from home office to step out of their office and spend a couple of days a week and expose yourself to the world of co-workers. There are open house events. Go look it up here at Jelly. http://wiki.workatjelly.com/

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

the negative airport lexicon

Why do we hate airports? I've recently had this conversation with a few friends and thought it is worth a new blog post. I am a frequent air traveler for work and fun. Since my clients and family are about 18 hours away in Korea, I've got used to the idea of surrendering myself to what airports have to offer... but I still like to talk about it as I had rather difficult experience as a visa holder in the last 9 years of living in the states.

When I think of the word Airport, these are two events I think of immediately...

Jail night 2001
: This one explains why I dislike airports pretty obviously. I've been put in an airport jail before I got kicked out of the country in 2001 for some stupid mistake I made with the travel documents. I got lock up in an airport cell with a Latin lady who was wearing a bright yellow pants suit, long curly hair and lots of makeup. She completed the look with yellow high heels. I wasn't sure why she was getting kicked out of the country since she didn't speak much English and me Spanish. During the 6-8 hour lock up until I was escorted out by a policeman who kept apologizing for the way I was treated (no water or food) I sat in the cell filled with minimum amount of stainless steel furniture; a toilet you can't flush from inside and a bench under bright florescent light. The yellow woman sitting down next to me, would not stop LAUGHING. I was pretty upset by the thought that I was not allowed to go back to my home / my boyfriend / my life in Savannah after 2 month of backpack trip. I felt that I have no control over the situation and felt anxious. Well it was not the time to be sad and teary anymore. This yellow lady was going to continue laughing and drive me insane. I made her teach me how to count in Spanish. UNO.. DOS.... I say that was the longest night in my life. What followed this event was even worse - but I rather keep this event to myself and close friends since it is somewhat embarrassing to blog.

Minority among the minority 2004: Again, I was backpack traveling in 2004 winter and returning to the country. I was nervous about coming back into the country with my OPT card (optional practical training) that you get after graduating a school in the states as a foreigner. Well, you never know what would stop you from coming back to the country. As I was flying in from Mexico, I was in a long line with most Mexicans in the Non-residential alien line. While American citizens go through their lines quickly with their proud passport or green card, I was waiting nervously in my line. Right on my turn, as I have this fake smile on my face to look nice waiting for the immigration officer to stamp my passport, the computer system for the entire airport went down. Since there are lots of Spanish speaking people go through the airport, there were Spanish airport guides helping them out about what to do. Me, pretty much the only Non-Hispanic, Non-American, No Idea. Three hours went by and I finally went through the line but missed my connecting flight. I stayed at a near by hotel in Houston. I say to myself "What am i doing in this country?"

Trips 2008: trips went beautifully & flawlessly since I finally got my green card. Well I have to mention though it was after I got stuck in Mexico City for a couple of weeks as the Green card came out while I was traveling outside the country for work. But I definitely prefer Sheraton jail to the airport one.

Here are my summary of reasons why airports get a bad rep for both citizens and aliens:
  • To my friend's point, there are only the beginning and the end - no sense of the process. Time and space completely lost. Eurail trips would be the opposite example of this with beautiful scenery outside. I haven't tried Amtrack yet.
  • Artificial space with artificial air like chain fast food joints - no characteristics. It is like a gigantic machine. Walmart tops this category though.
  • Extreme example of public obedience - you open your bag, you stand in lines - obey no matter how many times they ask you. No naughty items. you will be judged. I was even sprayed with some unknown germ killer by a polite flight attendant on the way to Mexico from Sao Paolo in 2008.
  • Clear class distinction - the rich gets treated like human being. The rest not much better than being in a chicken coop for 18 hours. How about the members only club? Being a Delta Medallion member makes me a "special citizen" yet not quiet the king and queen like people with more millage. I only have a limited access to the "crown lounge" with my current status. This becomes even more obvious during the holiday season when there are delays.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

your online accounts after your death

What happens to your emails, facebook account, all the pictures you posted on the web...etc. after your death? I have over 6000 emails in my yahoo account. And since I hear that these days some parents would start their baby's facebook account from day 0 I can't imagine how much information the new generations would be storing in this cyber world. I guess after inactive use the account would close up automatically. You would have less chance of your personal memoirs being found out by your family or friends after you are gone. I am private person so I prefer that. I spent many my teenag years feeling paranoid by my mom reading through my diaries.

But it makes me sad in a way. The love letters that carry so much weight and meaning to one's life will simply disappear. No process of paper and ink decomposing and becoming a part of the earth. It just goes away. boom. Like it never existed.

What would be a smart solution for that?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

thoughts on twitter, blogger, and facebook

I've done it all. I've joined my space, i love school, cyworld (these are Korean popular sites), facebook, twitter, and bogger. Not to mention other sites like flickr, myfamily for photos. But especially with Twitter, I have been amazed by how powerful it has been especially for the last presidential election as well as any kind of events - you will know about it through twitter first.

Twitter and facebook drive certain social behaviors...
Last night, I joined over 100 people meet up technology event and had interesting discussion about cyber identity over $7 Heineken in the city. My friend, xxxx (identity protected) a greenpeace worker first brought up how it is uncomfortable for her that she has hundreds of followers in twitter and facebook that she shares her daily thoughts with, regardless of the audience group. This actually happend to me inside and outside cyberworld. I don't necessarily let my coworkers know how I spent my saturday nights in details but I would with my close friends. I am selective about the kind of information that I share with my parents too. They probably don't want to know that I am traveling to Mexico city all by myself and staying at a drag queen hostel over christmas. (unfortunately they are pretty religious and anti gay. and yes I am a blacksheep) Even among friends, I have groups of people that I don't mix up. Facebook and twiitter naturally removed that categorizing behavior - and I'd water down my comments or avoid certain topics to make sure that I am not offending anybody.

This is a positive aspect of the selective identity.
When it comes to blogging, i had to carefully choose which role I am going to play. I've been writing about my experience being unemployed in the last couple of weeks because I feel that it'd be something I'd want to know if my friend is going through especially in this economy. But how would it affect my job searching journey...? Well I'll find it out soon.

So I chose the "unempoyed me" when my friend chose to blog about going through a surgery and getting stuck in bed for a week. She told me that how her friend she hasn't met for over 20 years wrote her about her own experienc getting stuck in bed over 8 weeks. Another example, I recently read through bunch of ladies' blog who were cheated by their spouses and how they are coping with the pain. The anonimosity allows people to open up and be connected in an unimaginable scale. Before blogging, if you have such event, you cope with it yourself.

Facebook and twitter has been a great tool for me to stay connected with friends and be notified about events, and also get the latest news professionally. BUT.
I realized that when I meet somebody in person and I want to actually get to know the person, I don't give them my email address because it would turn it into a cyber relationship. I give them my phone number. I call them. I've often noticed myself connecting with people on facebook and feeling that I did a homework. Putting them in my friend's list and getting their status updates every now and then means I know them? The relationship often dies there.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Unempoyment week4

So couple of weeks ago, I filed for unemployment and now I found out that one of the requirement is to register under labor exchange system to find a job. After searching for a labor department website in Brooklyn, I found a location 15 minutes subway ride from me in down town Brooklyn. First thing I noticed as I walked in this "workforce 1" center? Me being total minority out of minorities. It was mostly blacks, and some Hispanics. On top of that, me being the only person with I-pod and Mac Book (well and my $300 boots) in the waiting room stood out pretty nicely. It reminds me of my friend Josh's experience at a sleepy Waffle house somewhere deep south with his laptop checking his work emails. Well, anyways I got there around 11:30 am in a good spirit (I had a nice cup of Cappuccino in my polish neighborhood bakery) and found out that I have to wait for about an hour until they have an "orientation." I waited until the security guard told us to make a line - which was quiet long. And we were told they only take 40 people at a time. I was at my 33! Bunch of people had to go back home. Obviously there are more demands for the service that the supply here. Mayor Bloomburg extended office hours since last December.
So after sitting in the classroom for registration for about 4 hours here are things I learned from a serises of Powerpoint presentations (well of course I enjoyed Bad art on each slide)!

1. You make $9/hour as a tele marketer if you are bilingual - spanish/english (not korean / english i understand) and 7.25~7.50/hour just for english.

2. Telemerketer entry level position doesn't care about your criminal history

3. You gotta MARKET yourself to join the today's WORKFORCE

4. They also offer a GED classes along with basic computer skills, resume writing...etc.

5. no FUNNY email addresses or DJ style voice mail greeting if you wanna be taken seriously by companies like time warner (well as soon as I heard this comment I started brainstorming about how to make my voice mail greeting GROOVY :) )

6. Today's employers seek people with COMPUTER skills OMG

7. The offered areas of available position this week are... health care, security guard, cable technician, ah and something else I forgot

8. Of course you gotta be quick standing in a line

Finally, I have to say I am being a total smart ass about this public service and people who are trying to help me...but seriously, I have to say it was pretty tough to get through the program learning what opportunities lie there + having to explain what a design researcher does.