japan, possibility

my story as a Thai-American...

Hello community!   I've been meaning to write to my community ever since coming back from Asia and really thankful to the Thai Community Development Center for hiring a great gentleman to encourage a few of us Thai Americans here in Los Angeles (young and old) to share our message with our communities.    What I discovered while presenting Friday night is regardless of whether you are Thai or not, my story is fundamentally about the joy of volunteerism and an invitation to go out there and make a difference!!!

A few of you have requested to read my last draft and thanks to those of you who have already provided feedback - I'll incorporate these changes into an upcoming Pecha Kucha piece and yes, there is a video of Friday night that has yet to be posted.   Enjoy!

Engineer Turned Dancer

Sawadee-krup.  My name is Chinarut Ruangchotvit.   I am an American-born Thai and raised on the east coast before I moved out to Silicon Valley to start my career as an engineer.   I love to experiment with my life and one of the best things I’ve ever done is commit to live in Thailand for 4 years.   Not only did I discover my roots but I also discovered the unexpected results that happen when people get your passions in life!

So let’s set the record straight, I love technology - my dad handed me a computer when I was 8 and it became my best friend.   You can imagine at 8 years old, it’s pretty much a toy like everything else in life!   So ever since then, whether it’s a computer, programming, being on the Internet, the latest gadget like the iPad - it’s always fun.  I mean if it’s not fun, just like any kid would, you’ll put it down and go onto the next thing that grabs your attention.  and as you know in our modern world, there is no shortage of technology to play with!

I eventually took on engineering and my first job was at Intel.  I’m really grateful for Intel for having a “new-hire network” - a place to socialize and make new friends.   It didn’t take very long to realize for some reason the network was dominated by Asian folks.   In case you haven’t experienced this yourself, women who want to learn how to social dance need guys to drag to lessons.   You can just imagine how awkward this was but hey, we were young and we played along!   I eventually found a salsa teacher I could really learn from and have never since lost my partner dance spirit.

Now the interesting thing I discovered next is there was another network inside Intel that was mostly non-Asian.  they were the smartest people who you think of when people say “work hard, play hard”   We would go to all kinds of parties and sometimes I’d find myself dancing all night long!   We even found a “dancing happy hour” that amazingly enough had people after work *dancing* by 6pm on a wednesday night in downtown SF.   we would finish by 9pm and it was always enough time to go home and go to work the next day!   That was the beginning of the end of late night dancing for me and is also an aspect of American culture I fell in love with is how creative we are in socializing.

So how does this fit with my career as an engineer?    I had to take my love for “building things” somewhere!   That is when I stumbled upon a seminar that changed my life.   I started to realize the kind of community I wanted to build was a dance community and one that was really passionate about working together and creating something bigger than ourselves.

One day, we ran into a gentleman who said he doesn’t dance because people laugh at him.   Well - we thought this was pretty normal - why don’t you show us how to dance?   WOW - we couldn’t believe someone could dance so badly! :-o   So with his permission, we coached him on some basic movement and a week later, I’m dancing at a party and he comes up to me and gives me a big hug and says “You don’t know what you’ve done!   I can dance in front of 200 people and have fun!”

That’s when we knew we were onto something.

So we invented a workshop called “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching” - we wanted to address the issues people encounter that stops them from dancing.   Everyone knows dancing is fun - you can see it on people’s faces!    We wanted to help people get to the bottom of what they were dealing with around dance.   We saw a vision of everyone having fun with dancing - I mean EVERYONE.

We experimented with a career center and realized we had discovered a really great way to open people up - we had job searchers who were depressed and ESL students who were afraid to speak chatting away after 2 hours.

This is when my opportunity to volunteer in Thailand for 4 years showed up.   I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, be able to support a live-in partner and make ends meet - whatever money we received was always enough!   We were invited to share our work with kids and never dreamed it would turn into a 4 month program that would open kids up to creativity and give them the desire to learn.   The parents of these kids called it “Dance Chalat” - Chalat in Thai means “smart” - parents realized dance was a fun way to make kids smart!

As an engineer, I see dance as a “tool” - dance has the means to change the culture of organizations, teams, and groups and we just stumbled upon the power it had on communities - we struck gold!

I think one of the most memorable moments is when we got our kids up on stage and they invited 40 adults to come up on stage - one child invited all the adults to jump around like cats & dogs - these are kids - so they did it!   One woman next to me eventually stood up and said “are we in Thailand?!?  I’ve never seen anything like this ever before!  This is not what Thai people do in front of 200 strangers!”

That’s when we knew we were making a contribution to Thai culture - we had something we developed in America and through some stroke of luck - had the opportunity to share what we loved in Thailand and it opened up people’s eyes as to what’s possible in life.

So this is a bold invitation you bring your passion back to Thailand and have everyone get what makes you so proud to be a Thai-American!!

Thank you!
japan, possibility

outta the closet

no - i'm not gay - however i know there are some of you out there that think i am - u know who you are! :D

i haven't posted to this blog in ages - in fact i haven't posted since by birthday went by on Aug 12th so happy birthday to me!

so what really happened is i just kinda felt bummed out about things and me being the silly human i am - just didn't think i had anything to share even though that's just how life is!  [whoa - i just checked my journal and there are 5 private entries - dare i just expose my life and make em all public?   i tried to write - really!]

well - life has gone through it's trials and tribulations and really happy to share that Dance Labs really started whizzing by at light speed at the end of August!   In fact, the night of the burn - we had our very first dance experiment for kids!   you can read more about it in our dancelabs community journal - i just posted there yesterday (go check out our video!) not to mention i come outta the box more often in my Dance Labs suit :)

anyhoo - one of the reasons i'm posting now is this discovery that LJ is not my first blog to the despair of many of your LJ loyalists - however, I am most loyal to posting updates here and just want you to know there is this thing called Blogspot...ahem...I mean Blogger - I started my blogspot back in 2002 and rereading my first entries - what the hell was going through my head?!?

well - thanks to Google - blogger is out of beta and works decently well now but not enough to want to dump LJ.   However I am getting a bit ticked off about the changes they've made to the RTF editor in this update journal page - it is slooooooow!    so i hope LJ gets it's act together and at the very least, give us a checkbox to get our ole fashioned editor back cuz i was damn happy with it not to mention blogspot's new editor is now putting you to shame!

point of the matter is my blogspot still lives on in it's own context - it's always been a bit of a playground, with lots of techno talk, experimenting with just about every someodd website or software that gets born every minute that sports a feature to post to my blog.   I think it suffices to say my playful self is in that blog and who knows, maybe some of you will prefer that blog over this one or even demand that I bring that way of beingness to this blog cuz my tone has gotten somewhat bit dry over my years in Thailand (ironically enough) - right?   now that my professional face (ie. my life and blood) is now dedicated to Dance Labs and I've sprouted my not-for-profit efforts with my first website design for the Amana Media Initiative - I can give up looking good in this neck of the woods!

ok - it's gettin late and crazy me pulled an all nighter last nite for absolutely no reason at all (i was up for a total of 29 hrs before taking a 6 hr "nap") - I'll be a happy camper to get up at the crack of dawn if i hit the hay now.   however, I will say I'm reading this kick ass book called Cultural Creatives and only have 50 pgs before I start sharing about the culture I'm committed to inventing (which very much has to do with Dance Labs of course!) - more on this later... there are some of you out there that don't even know this blog exists and it's been over 5 years since I've been in touch so a big hello in the spirit world!
japan, possibility

call anyone in Thailand for free

they did it again! the world of ICT has flipped upside yet again - empowering us folks around to connect with each other and encouraging us to actually talk to each other rather than email each other as we've taken for granted over the past 15 years!

Michael Roberton gives a really great account on how you can supposedly call the pope

I have yet to try an extended with anyone over Gizmo and can say I tried calling myself (yes, I get that bored) on my cell phone and it really worked - I heard my own greeting message and when I got up this morning to listen to it - it wasn't perfect but quite usable! I suspect a real-time call would sound even better given my experience with Skype.

so it's time to drop that keyboard and start callin people - essentially a wake up call (ahem - no pun intended) to get back to basics Alexander Graham-style!

here's more info on what ya gotta do

what's the catch - umm...yes, there's no free lunch - stay conscious and you can get around lots of marketing ploys and work the system - we do live in a free world full of choice right? ;)

oh - I'm about halfway through a book called Coercion by Rushkoff - it's great so far - I'll never see a mall the same way ever again - the design of Paramus Park, the mall my parents went to while I grew up in New Jersey completely unfolded in front on me!

have a goood wkd and ta ta for now!
japan, possibility

journey through greenery

It's been awhile since I've posted here!

My Dance Labs partner, Ted Ko, wrote a blog entry on Reducing Gas Demand - carrot or stick? He makes a really great point in regards to what "carrots" would significantly change my use of gasoline and the short answer is I use gasoline quite indirectly while in Thailand now!

So I thought I'd share about my adventures through greenery and my relationship to transportation over the past 20 years (2 decades!)...

I've never owned a car while in high school and admittedly, did borrow my parent's car quite often. in college, Pittsburgh really wasn't that interesting to me so I seldom really had the need to go off campus. So when I landed my first job at Intel and moved to the bay area, it was obvious I needed a car right? wrong. I just didn't see life the way I do now.

What happened is my dad was nice to help me buy a car and we bought a SUV so it would have "utility" - I wasn't into trucks and admittedly, wanted something I considered to be sexier. I asked to trade my car with my dad's Accord V6 and sure wish I had a picture to post here! Some of my friends thought I was crazy - SUVs were so in style at the time.

So my love for SF put this car to the test. Being my energetic self, I found myself driving on many wkds fri, sat, and sun roundtrip from the south bay - that is a total of 300 miles a wkd! I don't feel so guilty cuz I invited just about anyone who wanted to come with me to check something out in the city - it really wasn't hard to fill the call given how cool SF is - eventually, people like Suzanne started to fill my car for me and I quickly became a designated driver happy to have people "along for the ride" :)

My job moved to SF and that's when my car started getting dusty - being in the garage sometimes 2 or 3 weeks at a time. MUNI was s much fun and with the advent of NextBus, I'd pull out my laptop in the morning and it would report precisely how many minutes it would take for my train to arrive at the stop 2 blocks away. It was the kind of thing where 6-7 minutes was a leisurely walk, 4-5 a brisk walk, 3 it was time to run, 2 it's the olympics and you'll probably find yourself chasing that train! long live GPS - this is one of the best applications of technology I'd ever seen.

Eventually, I packed up to live in LA and found the public transport in the Santa Monica area surprisingly usable in a city that is infested with cars. The biggest experiment I ran was how easy it would be to get to my brother's house on the *way* other side of town near Cal Poly Pomona - I think bout 50 miles away! Well - it wasn't too bad! It was time to give up the car.

So here I am in Thailand. I don't own a car and have explored public transit quite a bit outside of the basic train system. It's interesting to find locals that don't even know what bus routes to get on and others who have lived and breathed the system (ahem - the air quality downtown sucks) all their life. It's novelty has worn off and now it's a bit of a chore to get downtown. I do everything I can to telecommute, to coordinate work online, to stay in my office most days. Yesterday, I never even left the house. My desk is one of the most ergonomic desks in Bangkok and I'm proud of it. It supports the way I work.

I dream about the SkyTrain or subway coming out to this area (Thonburi) - it's supposed to happen but another 5 years? What am I to do in the meantime?

I'm still an advocate of public transit and finding myself using taxis to get myself to a trains more and more these days. Being in a back of taxi has a flavor of peace to it - a chance to be with myself, away from the computer, really be with nothing - I don't have to pay attention the road and can just watch life going by. I get to the train station and can be with the predictability of my arrival - it's a completely different state of mind.

So the reality is it comes at a price. It costs at max US$5 to get downtown which is not a lot for people from the states. It is quite a bit for locals who take a bus for less than 10% of this (20 baht for an air-conditioned express bus, 6 baht for a street bus).

I've grown up in the states, earned a salary to support myself as an engineer and find myself wanting to learn the way of your average everyday citizen in Bangkok. I've become a relentlessly cost-cutting entrepreneur supporting myself in Thailand using my savings and happy project opportunties for the things I love in life (ie. dance!) are now showing up.

I suppose it's time to rework the grassroots budget for dancelabs!

Say no to cars until after Feb 2007!

I have no idea what happens then - it's just a silly promise I made to myself and committed to keep despite temptation.

On that note, time to be with my choice ;-)
japan, possibility

globalization vs self

[dear LJ community: please excuse any lack of participation in your blogs - I'm doing my best to keep up the LJ spirit during this time!]

I just read an old post I wrote 2 years ago and wow - a lot has happened in 2 years!

Over the years as I talk to friends and family - many see Thailand as the good life and paradise - well - that I'm sure it is when you're visiting the country and it's a whole other story to work here! [don't get me wrong - a lot is possible here!]   However I don't necessarily agree with sacrifices on the "globalism" front I mentioned 2 years ago - life here is quite global - so much so I realize I begin to lose touch with my fellow Thais every so often.   So I'm really grateful the Asia Commons came into my view to keep me focused on this continent! :)

Qualify of Life (QoL) is a mixed bag in many respects - it really works provided you choose to be healthy, exercise, eat well, and have a commitment to well being.

So a quick bulleted update before I begin the day:
  • still seeking to look in the same direction as folks :)
  • my back is much better - still dealing with general soreness.  I decided to make yesterday a 1/2 in the office and it felt great - only issue is I kept on working - doh!
  • instead of being just in my bed, I spent what probably seems like an ungodly amount of time in my apartment and Thonburi - it's nice to settle down to some degree - I do my best to get outta the house so thanks for all of you who encourage me - you know who you are!
  • I don't have a health coach in Bangkok but I did find a colleague of mine I met at a communication course who is a health coach in Malaysia!  she's a really great person with a great listening for me and requested I complete a "wellness wheel" something I want to get done today.
  • Morn and I went through quite the journey together - we're no longer together and as some of you know, we almost (and didn't) have a baby.  We're still really good friends and pursuing a new relationship with each other and inquiring into what's possible - it's how we met in the first place!
  • I'm probably more online than ever and seeking to balance it.  I tend to avoid IM like the plague as some of you notice in favor of voice.  I need your support to let me walk around, lie down, sit down, do whatever I need to do to keep moving.  My long term vision is to be dancing around the world not in front of my computer ya know ;)
  • I'm starting to shift my communications from email to community forums and spaces (more about current trend).  It's a long transition after being ingrained in email for well over 15 years.  I'm happy it's happening - I've successfully turned off email notifications for most of the community spaces I'm in and really have to thank the Omidyar Network for designing something that really seems to work in the area of collaboration - in particular, giving one the ability to oversee a broad number of conversations, contexts, projects, communities without having to leave the space (ie. jump to another website).  The other side perks for you recent change junkies- it encapsulates notifications at different levels which I find really nice.
  • it's no longer expensive for me to call people - in fact, I have complete freedom to call almost anyone I want during the day (5am-5pm)!  DTAC decided to give me this "happy buffet" program that allows me to call anyone in thailand (not just Bangkok!) at a flat fee of 299 baht/month - that's UD$7.50!  hook that up with Skype which let's me call the states and europe for 1 baht (2 cents/minute) and I never look back - it's been a godsend!  now to work on giving myself more freedom to calling peeps at night...and staying productive doing the knowledge work I have to get done!
  • thanks to volunteering for the Burning Man Project, it's been fun playing around with conference calls - trying to make it work.  I just recently decided to create a "party line" amongst middle school buddies I've been out of touch with for years - that was great!   now the only thing missing is the chips and beer :P
  • SMS works rather well if you want to page me: +6617138620  be happy to call you back if I'm near a computer - I'm not quite at the point where I can make international calls from my cell phone - I'm working on it - coming soon ;)
okey doke - time to take a short break before I start the day - I'm really excited about chatting with the wikiindex folks this morning!

ps. this pending "mass email update" thing keeps nagging me - I think I'd be much happier if I didn't have to worry about it and use this blog - I don't feel like I could possibility miss anyone with this being public! :)   That said, If you prefer I send you email updates, please let me know and we'll get creative!
japan, possibility

choice: divergence or convergence?

Ha - I just got stuck in the machinery we call human. Something was really bothering me and looking to empty my head.  This I've been doing for the past 4 hours! :-o

I brushed my teeth and was pretty much posessed to write a private entry to myself and then I decided to post to the community so dearest to my heart, dancelabs!

I thought about a msg I got from good ole Bill Gates this past week (no, I'm not buddy buddy with him - it's a mass email) sharing his vision for "The Unified Communications Revolution." While I thought the email was a bit wordy [not to mention salesy towards the end], he makes an important point - we are in the process of transformation, transforming the way we communicate - a "communications revolution." A growing number of are scattered across different devices, spaces, and vehicles on and offline and we are looking to integrate them.   I personally think Google is way ahead of the ball - I continue to reap the benefits of the Google Mail and Google Talk integration!

"Communications divergence" is not anything new - ever since email and the Internet became popular - it's been on everybody's mind! It's just been over a 15 year journey for many of us. We are all looking for ways to communicate effectively - it is our access to life!

Not choosing to communicate often is a powerful choice for me - a chance to go to my cave, appreciate computer technology for its basics. When I first got my Tandy Color Computer 3 (go coco3!) when I was 8 - there wasn't a network - you made the machine do what you wanted it to do and there was no driving force making it do anything you didn't choose for it to do!    Reconnected with long time middle school friends, Manish and George, and it was good reminisce in the good ole days and realize how far we've all come!

So I'm now doing my best to share how the "communication explosion" looks to me. I have the following seemingly divergent ways of communicating with everyone:
  1. personal journal (chinarut) - I can choose to share publicly or just with friends
  2. I can talk to anyone who is the room (if anyone)
  3. someone may very well knock on my door
  4. It's a given there is email waiting in my inbox
  5. I may have missed calls or voicemail waiting
  6. I may think of people to call ((home phone, cell phone, VoIP)
  7. a community journal I've brought to the forefront ( dancelabs)
  8. social networking sites (friendster, myspace, hi5, tribe.net) (until I see a hint of collaboration, I will rarely spend time in these spaces)
  9. a new Dance Labs Omidyar.net workspace (discussions)
  10. I can join a chatroom (IOSN, Burning Man, and yes - there is a Dance Labs room!)
  11. I go knock on my neighbor's door
  12. various online discussion groups, some of which I help moderate (Getting Things Done, cmcrossroads, tigris, a few Yahoo! and Google Groups here and there)
  13. Second Life
  14. I can go play with a wiki and share knowledge with you
  15. Ad Naseam! it is exhausting getting present to it all - I don't even have a blackberry, PDA, or pager like some of you do!
Then there are way to be with myself (focused on a communication/writing front):
  1. personal journal (chinarut) - wrote a private entry this morning in fact
  2. I could dance!
  3. I could meditate and be with myself
  4. I have this thing called a GTD Binder
  5. I can go to my wiki of choice and shape a bit of knowledge or create a new gem
  6. I have various written (ie. paper) journals with different contexts (whirlwind, education, asia-commons, home, dream)
  7. ring notebooks (Dance Labs in particular)
  8. Sometimes I'll grab loose leaf paper (ie. no association - like creating from nothing) - I can choose to let it go or process it.
What is really subtle is the wiki is in both places and the power of the wiki to integrate communications.

Question is the wiki (as you see on wikipedia.org) a self-contained communiation tool or does it necessarily have to integrate with the rest of the world?

I found some insight into this question....

I had an extraordinary conversation with Mark Dilley earlier this week and he mentioned Social Text - I've spent all of 1 minute looking at the page but what captures my attention is their desire to integrate blogs and email.   they are onto something and it presents a fundamental diverengce in philosophy - one must choose to either give up "old world" paradigms for communication and live in the wiki world or embrace these "bridge technologies" which in the end - can clutter up the vision for the wiki or may very well be the future - I am not the one to judge!

Please do share if you have experience with Social Text - it'll save us some time evaluating the tool and by all means, if it looks interesting to you, try it and please come back and share!

In the meantime, us hackers wonder what we can do to transform this gem called the MediaWiki of wikipedia fame ;-)

ok - time to take a lunch break!
japan, possibility

Dance Innovator is reborn

ok - this is quick post to let everyone know that I've chosen to give up being alone and take on sharing Dance Labs as if it's my life.   It has been a vision that has woken me up every day this week and there is no doubt in my mind it's still alive.  In fact, it didn't take very long to realize just like riding a bike, you just get on it and viola! :)

So from now on, I will be posting "Dance Innovation News" to our dancelabs community journal.    Not to worry - I will continue to post here occasionally so I don't firehose y'all with our dance explorations - all I can do is encourage ya to tune into the prescribed channel and whatever you do, don't stop dancin! :P

japan, possibility

another wkd bites the dust

I've been a wee bit out of touch with respect to sharing here on my journal - part of it is i'm in a bind around whether this is a personal or professional blog (see the eclectic mix of entries below) and part of me realizes life is just life so what's the difference!   anyhoo - I'm really happy to be back in the conversation around Dance Labs again - this is clearly my driving force in life thanks to countless people!   I thought I'd share an email I wrote to some friends in Bangkok after a wkd outing - I'm clearly confronting [ie. in the present] how challenging it is to keep dancing living the life I love!

ok - a big thanks to everyone for helpin me stay in the conversation around dance and gettn my ass outta the house - y'all sure beat me up in regards to "what is Dance Labs?" and ok ok - i'm workin as fast i can god dammit! at least it's fun answering your questions :)

to those of you who made chicks rock - it sounds like you guys had a good time at the blue's bar - my bad for not goin up to the door and just tellin ya we were at the bar and lettin ya know many of us weren't in the mood to drink booze and weren't feelin the vibe. at the end of the day, I wasn't lookin at the brighter side looking out for ways to just make it work. it was easier to just avoid it (ie. walk away) and that kinda sucks!

what i can share now is we're really excited to put another dinner gig together and create a "dance circuit" around RCA - we were pretty amazed to see RCA changing so fast and find a lil trance bar in the middle of hip hop haven and TimeOut was actually pretty impressive with their layout and the house scene they're pushin - it sooooooooooooo reminds me of San Francisco! (yes, we're including the Universe, the biggest gay club in SF - we never doubted their taste in house all the times we've went!)

okey doke - there are some others of ya that apparently aren't in bangkok or perhaps never made it out so you could be with family and/or do more work. more power to ya!

time for me to eat lunch so have a good week and we'll connect real soon!


ps. i'm cross postin this to my journal - it's a been a long ass time - double thx! :)
japan, possibility

reinvention is work - yet fulfilling!

ok - i debated whether i should comment to my own thread and realized I, the blogger, am the main thread! :D

I wrote up town hall notes for the community and spent most of day organizing my thoughts around Second Life and writing Philip a nice followup note which led to sharing this vision with him:
You dance away to your favorite music and it feels so good.   You love it when you're dancing alone.   Another dancer steps into your space and for a moment, a tinge of shyness comes over you.   But wait - you're an avitar and you're still alone in real life!   You give up that thought and keep dancing free in your self-expression - uncontrolled by the judgement of others.   You dance like nobody's watching.   What's so is they do see you and they absolutely love it.   You continue to interact in-world and you play with dance moves - you mirror each other - it's just like this in real life!   So you keep in touch and choose to meetup on a dance floor in real life.   You both discover a connection unreal - individually and then as partners.   You've found a partner you may explore every aspect of your life together: business, dancing, career, well being, you name it - you come to the realization and look each other in the eye that you are dance partners for life.
Enjoy - it's time for me to get some winks and just relax and chill out tmrw!  it's been a great week - close one door, open many others - thanks 4 the reminder g! ;-)
japan, possibility

My Second Life

ok - I clearly feel a bit nuts for being online at this hour - it's 4:30 AM!  Getting up at this hour is not really all that abnormal for me - I actually like it and it's my intention every night to go to bed by 10 PM (yes, in my younger years, I clearly made fun of folks like myself and now I get it!)

Evonne was cool to tell me about the Town Hall with Philip Linden (aka Philip Rosedale).    I told myself if I was up at this hour, I'd go - well - I went to sleep at around 11pm and I promptly got up at 3:45 AM, did some stretching and feel great!   the event is going to on in about 1/2 hour - it's only 3pm for you folks in California ;-)

okey doke - I had better jump in-world - I'm really excited to hear the CEO of Linden Lab speak and give my inspiration to be an International Liaison some umph.   I applied for the position and didn't make the cut and nothing's going to stop a vision to bring "virtual dancing" alive.   We're not talking about Komami's Dance Dance Revolution here folks - we're talking full blown, you can see me dance on this nice wood floor I have in my office here in Thailand anywhere in the world!

I am very well aware the virtual world sheds many barriers for many of you out there so given I, myself, is included - more power to us dancers!

See you in-world!
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