Chain Reaction

Insecurity breeds suspicion.

Suspicion leads to misunderstandings.

Misunderstandings bring out the worst in people.
It’s as if we didn’t already have enough to worry about on daily basis to go the extra mile to be insecured about ourselves to be suspicious of others just so that we can misunderstand each other. C’est la vie.

It’s Been A While…

It’s bee a few months since I last actively blogged. Maybe it’s time to pick it up again…
It’s been seven months since my dad passed. And in this seemingly long time, quite a bit has since taken place — the birth of our daughter, a huge almost grant-like photographic assignment, a well-paying full time job that my cousin hooked me up with, and a fallout with the same cousin that got me the job over the very job he helped secure… Oh, the ironies of life…
The busy life style of the job, coupled with the fall out with my cousin, makes going to work somewhat unpleasant. Yes, the money is very good but the life style and all the misunderstandings that caused the fall out with my cousin make it almost unjustifiable. I now know that when money was more of an issue but time and patience weren’t, everyone seemed happier then. There are certain things money just can’t buy — time and happiness being on the top of my list.
The same client who hired me to photograph her action pistol shooting event offered me more money to help promote her cause by becoming her campaign manager of some sort. I know that I can pretty much name my price and she’d be happy to pay for every penny with her trust in my work. But after some soul searching, I decided that I just couldn’t be part of any campaign that has anything to do with pro-guns (even though the whole campaign is really about her, not the guns, but because of the nature of the work, dealing with the NRA and pretending to not dislike that part of the world is a prerequisite… something I can’t live with no matter how much I’m paid).
The real reason I stopped blogging was a promise to myself to first finish my clients’ projects before I can indulge myself in blogging. Today I finally posted the final edits of the “gun event” for the client to see. Technically I still owe her a few things that came with the package. But I think I’ve crossed the biggest hurdle that’s made me feel uncomfortable about doing what I like before giving my clients my priorities. I’m thankful for my clients’ patience to allowing me to slack for a few months… I’ll find some time to post some images shortly… and hopefully even find time to post process images of my own family!
I love photography. But until I can find a way to live off of it comfortably, being a programmer will have to do.
To be continued….


I thought pretty hard on what to write or even how to begin on a new blog entry following the last one. No topic seemed appropriate. And it felt too soon to start blogging again. But then I thought it’s probably better to start writing than to bottle things up inside like my father did.

While I didn’t have any gripes with my father when he passed away, I feel incredibly… helpless for not being able to “see him off” at the funeral. I feel useless for not being able to help out with all that has to be done for the funeral, the ceremonies, the legal dances and everything that supposedly marks one of the defining moment in a man’s life. I don’t have a closure.

Everyone tells me my father wouldn’t blame me for the situation… for not being able to be there and for not being able to help. He’d understand. But I still don’t feel that a closure is upon me anywhere or anytime soon.

I recall this is how one can be messed up for not getting a closure to something important in life. Well, I don’t see myself going crazy anytime soon. But I am still looking for a closure that I can’t have, a way to say goodbye to my father, a way to find peace in myself and accept that he’d have understood my circumstances. Something like this made me question the wisdom and logic of the decisions I’ve made in the past several years, and how all this would have been averted if I had just…

Yes. There were a lot of “what ifs”, “what might have beens”, and “what could have beens”…. But I am living with “what is”…. I live with facts that I can’t change.

Now I will also have to learn to accept that maybe not everything has a closure. I’ll just have to live with my non-closure in peace — whenever I find it, the peace.

Exit Strategy

Grace: “So how long will it take Tibor to replace both break pads?”

Me: “He said two to three hours…”

Bryan: “Me talk first….”

Grace: “Bryan, please don’t interrupt. It’s impolite. It’s your turn when daddy and mommy are done talking.”

Home phone rings… Ignored.

Grace: “So to replace both breaks, it’d cost….”

Grace’s cell phone rings…

Grace: “Hello? Hi, Ma… Ok…. Hold on a second…”

Grace, wide-eyed, walks toward me extending her arm out to hand me the phone.

“It’s your mom. Your dad passed away.”
The news came very unexpectedly. But then, any news bearing the death of a family member always does. It was like a 6-foot-3 guy throwing a punch in my stomach with his full weight behind him — shockingly painful, but at the same time, numbing.

How was I supposed to feel? The sound of my mom’s trembling, sobbing voice sent more shock waves through my empty mind than the news did. I simply had no idea what to make of all this.

Finally I concluded it was a mistake. Mom always jumped to conclusions.
In the back of my mind, there was always a way to get out of this immigration hell hole I am in now, a way to finally resolve everything that’s stopping me from realizing my full potentials, a way to finally take good care of my parents like they did for me. I had an exit strategy — all planned; almost everything set in motion… all except for this immigration hell hole I am in.
The heart attack swiftly robbed any chance of him ever seeing his grandchildren and denied him of seeing his other son and the only daughter getting married. He’d worked so hard all his life, but the only time he got to rest was when he took his last breathe. Fate has its ways to mock a man.
So my exit strategy is probably flawed. It doesn’t account for emergency situations delicately, especially with the kind of shitty predicament that I am currently in. Maybe it’s time to revisit this again sometime. I’ll revisit this when I am in a better mood, or when there’s enough money in the bank, or when Taiwan has a new president, or maybe when… Whatever.
It’s funny how time is conceived and measured in such precise terms. Scientists can measure almost anything relative to the time. And yet, to us humans, time is just an abstract concept that really doesn’t mean anything. And it’s relative only to the mind that perceives it. To Bryan, a two-and-a-half-year-old, having to wait for a minute to speak is like a life time — because a minute relative to his young life IS indeed a much bigger unit in proportion to his life than what a minute is to an adult. Time literally loses its meanings when human perceptions are thrown into the equation.

What I thought I had years to do and plan for turned out to be all garbage and fruitless idealistic dreams when the news of my dad’s death struck. It turned out that there was simply no time for all of that. It was either done or never to be done. The false hope that “time” will eventually take care of everything simply tramples any hope and opportunity that might have left to actually bag the issues in question.

With that, all plans will be re-assessed and re-valued in a more concise manner — especially with Grace’s pragmatic approaches, my dad’s legacy shall be to have brought us a new set of objectives, maybe a new direction, and maybe a new life. And that is our new exit strategy.

Intelligently Designed Mess

I’ve heard some “interesting debates” (to say the least) about the idea of Intelligent Design that somehow all people were “intelligently designed” by this supreme being living up in the heavens. And this supreme being is almighty and can do no wrong.

My answer to that is: that being could take some industrial design lessons down here on my humble Earth. And while he’s here, I’d like to ask him a few questions as to why he designed things the way they were if they were supposedly so intelligently designed (NOT!).

Anyone who’s tried to pick his/her own child’s ear can attest that the way ear wax are formed inside a child’s ear canals proves that the ears aren’t so intelligently designed. Some wax hug to the wall of the ear and seem to have root grown inside them. Sure, there are remedies to use and techniques to try, but my point is, if the ears were so intelligently designed, the damn wax would always fall out of the ear “by design”!

Evolution is dirty and messy, and that’s the way things work. Anyone who tells me there’s a God up there who so intelligently designed everything so perfectly can try to dip his head in the water for 10 minutes and tell me if the fact that we can’t breath under water was so intelligently designed by this God of his. When everywhere else in the world is in a hurry to fund math and [real] science, it’s hard to comprehend that here, in the United States, arguably the most advanced nation in the world, even has a movement that’s seemingly winning the “Intelligent Design” war in education. Are they really serious? Or is this just a big hoax by the Religious nuts?

Religion belongs to the heart and private homes; it has no place in education, politics or government.

Sorry. I was frustrated trying to pick some of the weirdest ear waxes in Bryan’s ears. And I thought this stupid Intelligent Design idea is just insane and poorly conceived…. hence the rant…

Making Decisions on Tough Choices

I’ve been lucky in that most of the tough choices in my life had easy answers — which school to go to; what to do after graduation; whether or not to take that risky startup job in NYC; if uprooting from NYC and moving to California was the right decision; how did I know if Grace was the right girl… etc.

Most of the time these choices would have the answer staring me in the face before I even had to lose sleep over them. But deciding whether or not to end a house pet’s life was an abstract concept that required some soul searching and constructive voices from others to help clear the fog in the head.

In that, this is an open thank-you to Jason and Alicia for all the emotional and moral support they’ve provided in the past month over Baobao’s condition.

We are also very pleased with our pet ER with their handling of our very difficult cat. And they also provide very sound medical and practical advise from various perspectives. For anyone living in the San Jose area, I can’t think of a better place to take his/her pet to in the case of emergency…

Another reason I recommend them is, they don’t sell any products in their clinic. So this could only mean that every penny they earn, they’d have to earn it from the servicing and treatment of the animals they admit, which is a pretty drastic departure from almost all the other day-clinics I’ve been to, where the lobbies are stuffed with overpriced products and brochures. And to know for a fact that they don’t charge much like other day-clinics, it makes me wonder if they actually do this for the love of the animals, not trying to take advantage of pet owners who’d probably pay anything just to get their pets out of whatever dire conditions their pets are suffering from. I don’t know how they do it, but they have my respect and trust. And that’s a good feeling.

Respecting Death

Confronting death isn’t something one does often nor is it something one would choose to come to grips with if given alternatives. We almost had to make that decision on behalf of one of our cats today — and it was painful.

Wawa (the friendlier, skinnier cat of the two) uncharacteristically came to the bedroom and meowed so loud that it woke me up this morning. She’s never done that unless something was wrong especially when Grace had already been up in the kitchen all morning! Soon I learned that Baobao was having another asthma attack and had to be rushed to the vet for emergency care…

After a series of events, the ER vet finally delivered the bad news — there’s a chance our cat may not make it… and I needed to give her permission to euthanize Baobao if her condition drastically plummets beyond humanly tolerable level even without my presence. Also, given Baobao’s feisty personality, it may be in everybody’s best interest to euthanize her so that she wouldn’t have to suffer through another asthma attack should she refuse to take any prescription drugs.

That’s when it hit me that all of a sudden, I’ve been entrusted with a monumentally important decision to make on behalf of another living, breathing mammal… After talking to Jason and Alicia, we thought we should probably give Baobao a fighting chance for survival — after all, she’s tried so hard to stay conscious and alive having been labored to breath all day. So we brought her home with some prescription drugs to see how much we can squeeze from the marvels of modern medicine and her own will to live.

One side note, on the vet’s billing statement, apparently the oxygen (something we take for granted) was the most expensive item in the entire treatment process. I found it ironic that often something that is free and abundantly available sometimes will cost the most if the alternative is unacceptable. On the flip side, it’s also good to know that things that are free and abundantly available are also priceless — the air, love, life, happiness, health… etc. Some of them are irreplaceable while others cost handsomely (monetary and emotional wise) to gain just a little… I wonder if people becoming more and more materialistic has something to do with this — trying to replace something that’s, in essence, irreplaceable with material belongings that ultimately nobody really gives a rat’s ass about during the final moments of one’s life.

But that’s an entry in itself and maybe for another day…


A few updates on Bryan… No, not brags. Just updates.

He’s now the king of puzzles… He can complete a relatively complicated puzzle mostly all by himself with little help (even ones without any mirroring images printed on the board itself). He’s attracted to anything that requires tinkering of some sort… mechanical or otherwise. I am worried that when he’s older, I might one day come home to a disassembled DSLR camera, or worse, my MacBook Pro…

Bryan can also blow his own nose without assistance from a stupid nasal aspirator or a syringe. This new learned ability totally makes our lives a more quality one.

He’s also a total maniac during parts of the day — he refuses to apologize or back off if he thinks he’s right; he trashes the apartment about 10x a day; he yells, screams and explodes like any 2.5-year-old; he will jump, hop, pounce and stomp on the bed when he’s supposed to nap, but the upside is, when he’s out of the juice, he drops and takes a nice long nap all by himself; he’s exactly like Grace in that, when he’s in the mood, everything has to be positioned and aligned at exactly 90 degrees — even shoes and his toys; he will do things by himself and refuses help until he gets it right by himself — that frustrates him sometimes because his fine motor skills just aren’t there…

I admire so many of his qualities that it reminds me that we, as adults, should probably stick to some of the basic principals Bryan adheres to so strictly and naively. Sometimes we make less-than-good compromises out of convenience, guilt or lack of character, forgetting that we were better than that when we started in this seemingly complicated life.

As Bryan grows, so do we. I think we are learning as much from him as he’s learning from us.

“Back to basics” is hip again.

Another Inspirational Speech

A friend from college sent me a link to Professor Randy Pousch’s “Last Lecture” about play, work and life. Considering he’s literally dying of cancer (he was given 3 – 6 months to live in August, 2007), he seemed incredibly cheerful and upbeat about everything. It’s a great and very gravitating speech that just sucks you in. Even though I only got to see it online, his “full-of-life-ness” and positive energy are hard to ignore.

If you are short on time, skip all other parts of the video until you hit his speech. This is the 2nd best speech after Steve Jobs’ at Stanford. Love it!

Some similarities:
1. Both men had pancreatic cancer; though Steve Jobs survived his, Randy Pausch’s is terminal;
2. Both men delivered basically exactly the same messages — they both believe in Karma, paybacks, something greater than self; follow your heart in doing what you do;
3. Both men used stories from their lives to make outstanding points about life and everything else that matters;

Some differences:
1. Steve Jobs is a lot more serious and “corporate; Randy Pausch is the exact opposite;
2. Academic v.s. Corporate America;
3. Steve Jobs’ speech was short and sweet; he gets to the point and basically delivered what Randy Pausch did in 15 minutes; but Randy’s speech was just as unforgettable but it takes a lot to go back and dig out the “good stuff” buried in all those jokes and stuff;
4. Steve Jobs’ speech could’ve affected the stock market if he hadn’t made it clear that he was cured from his cancer!

Bending Reality

Brian and I used to talk about how toddlers would distort reality in their own minds and become obsessed with this one thing that s/he really wants at that very moment. And for that moment, and in that moment only, the notion of reality is just him and the action/item — nothing else matters. And some adults sometimes are quick to dismiss and discourage that altered reality.

I’ve come to find that the theory is also quite profoundly true when applied to adults. The notions of fate, faith and reality get all twisted and intermingled that sometimes it’s impossible to tell which is which even when the adult is at his most capable mental moments. We all bend realities in our minds to suit our circumstances to some extent — let it be fantasies, make-believes, wishful thinking, dreams, illusions or just blind faith. But sooner or later, all these altered realities have to land at some point. And the higher we spring above reality in hope to reach possibly the impossible, the harder we land when the indifferent gravity that is reality yanks us back to earth. We can always dust ourselves off and try again, but sometimes the collateral damages are too great when the landings make too big of splashes.

Now, some people may attempt it again and again until even the collateral damages are internalized and calculated as part of “doing business”. But others may be so timid at going at it again that they are fixated only on the tangibles.

I am sure I had a point when I started writing this. But now it’s all just an idea with which if I ever get locked in in a conversation with Brian, this topic would be discussed and debated for hours on end while dueling on few games of chess.

Saying Good-bye to Cambridge Again

作者: 徐志摩
  1928.11.6 中國海上

Saying Good-bye to Cambridge Again
–by Xu Zhimo

Very quietly I take my leave
As quietly as I came here;
Quietly I wave good-bye
To the rosy clouds in the western sky.
The golden willows by the riverside
Are young brides in the setting sun;
Their reflections on the shimmering waves
Always linger in the depth of my heart.
The floating heart growing in the sludge
Sways leisurely under the water;
In the gentle waves of Cambridge
I would be a water plant!
That pool under the shade of elm trees
Holds not water but the rainbow from the sky;
Shattered to pieces among the duckweeds
Is the sediment of a rainbow-like dream?
To seek a dream? Just to pole a boat upstream
To where the green grass is more verdant;
Or to have the boat fully loaded with starlight
And sing aloud in the splendor of starlight.
But I cannot sing aloud
Quietness is my farewell music;
Even summer insects heap silence for me
Silent is Cambridge tonight!
Very quietly I take my leave
As quietly as I came here;
Gently I flick my sleeves
Not even a wisp of cloud will I bring away

A Beautiful Mind

My friend Linda told me about this story. But it still amazes me to have seen a recording of it.

This is further proof of a theory I read about that stated human brain actually never ever forgets anything. But instead, when we “forget” something, our brain simply loses that connection to access that specific part of the memory that allows the brain to retrieve it to the consciousness. The brain also helps to keep “normal” individuals sane by purposely blocking out most of the information that it deems unimportant so our consciousness can actually stay focused on tasks that matter (i.e. running away from man-eating tigers). A recent study on Alzheimer’s disease has also shed some light to similar effect (heard it on NPR).

Note: The amazing guy profiled in the story is Stephen Wiltshire.