Hometown Baghdad

This is a site that I’ve seen a few places, including digg. For me, this really represents the power that computers and the internet bring to communication. Hometown Baghdad is a film project started by a New York-based company (Chat The Planet), following the lives of young, 20-something Iraqis. When the city became too dangerous for the Americans, the Iraqis began filming themselves.

If you haven’t seen it, please check it out. The result is often very compelling. In an instant, with the click of a mouse, I can have a glimpse into another person’s life — across thousands of miles and inside of a combat zone. Not only that, but the technology required to do so becomes cheaper and easier to use every day. The result is the rise of user-created content, which may not adhere to the same journalistic standards as the New York Times, but can provide a truly unique perspective. The stories on this site are intensely personal, which might be their real strength. Technology gives individuals, kids even, the opportunity to help create the discourse surrounding current events, as the news is breaking. Today, Ann Frank would have kept a blog.

Every now and then, something on the internet really fills me with hope. It is so easy to look at computers as gadgets, but they have augmented our communication abilities like nothing else. In less time than it takes to walk to the fridge I can experience life thousands of miles away. It’s an amazing time to be alive.

I’ll end my optimistic rant, but I’ll re-post a couple videos from Hometown Baghdad.

My dad in the Cadillac News

I got an email from my dad this morning, saying that his picture was on the front page of the Cadillac News. You can find the story here. There’s also a little video clip of him marking trees.

Pretty cool. The story doesn’t say a whole lot — it talks about some objections to the management plan for the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Always good to spread the Sapak name I suppose.

My Garden

I’ve planted a garden on the balcony of my apartment this spring. I’m growing a couple tomato plants, a couple pots of pole beans, some onions, some herbs, some peppers, and a few other plants and flowers. We’ve had great weather for growing in East Lansing; it’s been warm and has rained regularly. Everything is really taking off. I can’t wait to eat some veggies, but it’s nice just having plants around. Between the plants and the finally-green trees, the balcony has become an awfully nice place to hang out.

Here are some blurry pictures of the plants. I still can’t seem to take very good pictures with my roommate’s digital camera, but I’ll get it figured out.

About this blog

So I’ve finally gone and done it. I’ve purchased the sapak.info domain, paid for web hosting (through site5), and installed b2evolution as my blog engine. I’m going to use this first post to explain my goals and intentions with this project.

I’ll be using the mike.sapak.info subdomain as my personal blog/webpage. The blog will include some day-to-day occurrences in my life, but will also include posts about topics of professional and academic interest to me. These posts will probably cover technology, international relations, and the intersection of the two. The balance of personal to academic will be ironed with time.

I could have built a site like this, for free, in my university-provided web space. I went with a commercial web host because I have other goals for the space. In addition to maintaining a personal site, I’m hoping to improve my web development skills, which are rudimentary at best. The university-provided space provides no database access and can not run PHP, Ruby on Rails, etc. Hosting out of my apartment on my own server isn’t an option, as off-campus upload speeds are severely crippled.

Additionally, this arrangement allows me to host other sites. I’m currently creating a student-run blog for my college (James Madison College at Michigan State University). It will be a place for students to write about topics of academic interest in a professional manner, but less formally than academic papers. I’m hosting this site for the summer; hopefully Madison will pay for a host come next fall.

In summary, this page is one part of a larger project of mine. One one level, I hope to take increased ownership over my online identity by creating a cohesive identity, under my real name. (Look for a longer post about this soon) This should also serve as an excellent professional reference. Through all of this , I will increase my own technical skills.

This is a boring post, but I wanted to get my goals written down. Now I have no excuse for not getting things done.