Sunday, September 30, 2007

Greetings from New England!

I'm on vacation with my family over in New England. We spent the last two days in Maine, which seems a bit like the boondocks of the east coast, but I gotta say I love it. It's so beautiful and everything's slower, which is a nice change of pace. The scenery is a welcome change with rolling hills and old weathered mountains covered with a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees, some of which have turned a powerfully saturated shade of red. The bare stone shoulders of the mountains slope gently into the sea creating hundreds of bays, alcoves, and islands, making up what is the beautifully formed coast of Maine.

Several other things that caught my attention. The lobster is, of course, to die for as is their blueberry pie. And most impressively, no seriously, they have the world's cleanest bathrooms, hands down.

About the lobsters, yesterday we went to this lobster hatchery today and saw baby lobsters (very cute) and learned all these cool things about raising, releasing them to sea, and maximizing their chances for survival... and then we had one delicious lobster dinner. It admittedly felt a bit wrong...

Today we went to the Fryeburg County Fair -- I swear I have the only Chinese family that would fly thousands of miles to attend a county fair in Maine. They say they attract over 300,000 visitors in the one week they're open. It seems that in 300,000 people, only four are Asian: my parents, my sister, and I. Despite feeling a bit out of place, I had a great time looking at the baby goats, arts and crafts, and watching the horse pulling competition. In case you're wondering what a horse pulling competition is, it's a competition only men would think of, and as a man, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Basically, you already know what it is. There's something big and heavy, and you pull it with a horse. Specifically, the weight comes in the form of concrete blocks on a sled and the horses are gigantically built strength-exuding steeds who'd make any man feel inadequate. Great times. I need to see monster truck races next.

Alright, tomorrow, off to New Hampshire. Until then...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ireland pictures up!

My pictures from Ireland are now up in my Photo Gallery. Sorry there aren't too many pictures of me riding. My friends and I were too busy flying over jumps to be taking pictures! Enjoy.

Life is shaped like a diamond

As I sit at home by myself watching TV shows from my childhood, I can't help but think that life is shaped like a diamond. If you can imagine walking from one end of the beach to the other from the beginning to end of my life, I began alone, one set of steps, joined quickly by those of my immediate family. Then as time went on, I was joined by more and more until in college, there were footprints everywhere and the edge of my world stretched far past the horizon. Now the world is narrowing again, I can once again make out the faint outlines of the edge of my world, my possibilities. The number of prints left in the sand decreasing; I'm walking onward with fewer and fewer of them until one day it is just my own two feet again.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ireland Part 2: Success and even more Ibuprofen

A bit late for part 2 of this series, I know. But better late than never. I'll go ahead and transcribe what I wrote for myself in my journal. A bit of it overlaps with my previous post, but oh well.

Greetings from Ireland! I am here at last after wanting to come for many years. I really should remember to travel more often; the world is such a wonderful place and my time and freedom are of limited supply.

This place is as wonderful as I'd imagined it to be. Everything is Irish green, the country side is beautiful with rolling hills, tall limestone cliffs, the gentle Atlantic Ocean, stone walls, cute houses and thatched roof cottages, and puffs of white sheep everywhere. The best part of it is everyone's relaxed attitude. Honesty, Ireland could be the 51st US state and fit right in. It's almost like the Midwest of Europe. It makes me feel very comfortable, relaxed, and at-home, something I never quite felt in England.

The best example of such an attitude was our first day at the Clonshire Equestrian Centre. For our second lesson of the day, Dan, one of the owners took us out onto the cross country course which was, as they say here, brilliant. I thought he was going to give us an introductory ride around, show us all the jumps, and leave it at that, but no, he sent the entire lot of us packing over all the jumps on the course. Of course, I completely freaked out because the most I'd jumped before this trip was maybe a few foot-tall fences -- fences that fell down if you hit them, and here I was presented with logs, stone walls, water-filled ditches, chicken coops, and large dirt berms. This is when I took the proverbial "plunge" like I did freshman year when I followed the Stanford Band into the pool with all my clothes on. I decided that though I was unskilled and inexperienced, I believed that if I dug deep and stuck to the basics, I could make it over the jumps without falling off the horse.

That belief got me safely through all but one jump, an up bank followed by an immediate drop. It was the only jump I had any real doubts about. I lost both my stirrups on the up bank and landed on my horse's neck. Then, with me clinging onto his neck for dear life, he proceeded to jump off the multi-foot drop. After hearing a large gasp from the crowd watching me, I fell off smacking my head, shoulder, and butt on the ground. Luckily, the ground was soft and I came away with minor bruises and a very sore bum the next day.

Fortunately, after many more arena jumping and cross country jumping lessons, I started to solidify my form over jumps to something more safe and controlled. Tanya and Heather wanted to try some flat work, but I must admit I was there solely for the jumping because boy did I find the horse to learn on.

His name is Baltimore and he's an Irish sport horse. He's calm, very professional, and knows how to jump better than any horse I've ever ridden. Learning on him is incredibly easy because he's the perfect crutch for a beginner like me. He handles 100% of the jumping: gait, pace, striding, takeoff, and landing. He does the absolute bare minimum required to clear the fence and he does it without any fuss. This is my dream horse, the "trusty steed" that I seek. As Tanya pointed out, my relationship with Baltimore is purely pragmatic and very "manly." There are no emotions clouding judgement; he does his job, I try to do mine, and we both go over the fences expediently and as safe as my position will allow. Apparently, one day, I want to buy an Irish sport horse.

Unfortunately, not all the horses are so safe and calm. Laurie's horse, Tough Guy, took too big a jump over one ditch, popped her loose, and she fell (for a second time). She ended up going under the horse which scared the living daylights out of me because his rear seemed to step on her chest. Luckily, he only kicked her on the thigh, but her knee and ankle are pretty banged up. This is all very sobering seeing what can happen even to the best of us.

By the end of the week, I'd slowly replaced some of my sheer recklessness with some skill and was getting more solid and consistent with the jumps. Unfortunately, I couldn't acquire enough skill in time and took another spill over the tiniest of walls. I had ducked because I didn't want to smack my head on a low-hanging branch while going over the jump, lost my balance and came loose. To my surprise, I landed on my feet! While I was busy admiring the fact, my horse, Baltimore, decided it was time to make an escape and bolted all the way back to his stall at the barn. This made the whole ordeal a bit embarrassing, but I was just happy I'd made it safely to the ground yet again.

The last day we were there, I decided to take it easy and went out on a gorgeous trail ride and bid the green Irish countryside farewell. I honestly can't wait until I visit again -- there are very few places in the world I feel truly at home. Ireland is one of them.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Night Owl

My friends and I have joked for many years that I'm a night owl. I always dismissed it as a result of poor self-discipline and not wanting to go to sleep at bed time, but now I'm sitting here in LA enjoying the wonderfully warm summer evening and I'm beginning to think there's actually some truth to it, that I really am partly nocturnal.

I was bemoaning the fact that as I've grown older, I seem to have lost a bit of imagination. I used to think up these fantasy scenarios, like a place surrounded by palms lit from the bottom just so, another with an outdoor theater with a lit spanish-style arcade. I noticed the trend that all of these overly-romantic, evokative images in my head were all set in warm summer evenings.

As I lay here, enjoying the southern california warm summer evening and the smell of the cooled down earth, the sounds of the chirping insects, the otherwise quiet, my imagination stirs again. There is something truly magical about it. I feel comfortable, in my element, relaxed, and at home. During the day, I feel like one of a billion people carving his way through the world, an ant, yet at night, I feel like I am center stage, the only being around under the spot light, enveloped in the dimly-lit set of the universe.

And thus, proof that I've not completely lost my imagaination.  It's only that where I live now, northern california, evenings are not special, are not worshipped like they are here. They are merely dark and cold. If I could only import the night that is here!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Ireland Part 1: Ibuprofen

Greetings from Ireland! I must say this place is everything I hoped it would be. The people are wonderful, everyone is laid back, the grass is green, the clouds puffy, the sheep are too, and there are horses and great riding everywhere. It has been raining every day here, but there are hours of sunshine to break up the wetness and lift the spirits.

Our first stop was Galway. Getting there involved a crash course on how to drive on the left side of the road, manage a left-handed stick shift, and navigating roundabouts and intersections without the help of any street signs. We got there safe and sound, however, and enjoyed two days of wandering the western coast of Ireland which had gorgeous sea cliffs, cute seaside towns, and large limestone mountains bathed in lush green grass dotted with little fuzzy white sheep. I also had my first taste of Guinness straight from the homeland tap and boy was it an experience. Guinness is so incredibly good here. The stuff in America is pretty good, but this stuff here is to die for.

Yesterday, we headed south to Adare and the Clonshire Equestrian Centre, one of the most prominent centers in the area. Today, we had our first lessons there. In the morning I began by jumping 1' fences in an arena. For the non-riders, 1' fences are for beginners, and they consist of a pole supported by two stands on either side. If this horse hits the pole, the falls to the ground and no one is worse for wear. This is about the level of jumping I've done in the past. In other words, I don't really jump at all.

Our second lesson was a cross country ride out in the 100+ acres of the riding center. At first I thought we were just out for a grand tour. It was our first day, after all, and I was a beginner jumper. Surely they wouldn't be having me jump ditches, stone walls, tree trunks, dirt birms, and small ponds... I was casually following our instructor and the other horses when I started noticing that the horses were taking a quick hop up something. To my horror, I realized that we were jumping up a large stone embankment and that in 20 seconds time, it would be my turn. Facing something completely out of my league, I had two choices: 1) Tell the instructor there was some kind of mistake 2) Throw caution to the wind and just go for it. I chose #2 and had a blast. After that, we went cantering around the fields jumping random things that were not only way higher than 1', but went up, down, around, and none of these obstacles would fall down if I messed up.

Things were going wonderfully until I bit off more than I could chew and fell off my horse. It was funny because I could hear the entire class gasp as I lost both sitrrups, landed on my horses neck with one jump remaining, and then completely bounce off and onto the ground after the last jump. Luckily, I landed on by back/butt/neck and am obviously fine. Nonetheless, I took some Ibuprofen and will be feeling poperly horrible tomorrow.

One thing of note are theses Irish sport horses. I usually ride Thoroughbreds whom I consider completely crazy. They would never allow me to jump down an embankment into water, up the other side, and over a chicken coop. My Irish sport horse, however, was absolutely brilliant. He took me, an absolutely cluelesss beginner, all over that course without any fuss. He clearly knew what he was doing and jumped everything wonderfully and under control. It was so wonderful having a horse take care of me for once, instead of me trying to keep the horse sane all the time.

And another random note, Peter Lynch of Fidelity owns an incredibly large estate next to the riding center completely with the most gorgeous gardens, ponds, and fields I've ever seen. Strangely enough, the landscaping reminds me much of some of the most beautiful Chinese/Japanese gardens I've seen. Imagine, a lush green field tens of acres large sloping downards in the center towards a large pond lined with cattails and small groomed trees. In the center of the pond is an island with a single large tree with gigantic green canopy.

I look forward to more cross country jumping tomorrow. Hopefully I'll stay on top of the horse the entire time this round!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Flashback Episode 2

Just moved over all my 2004 entries. Man there were a lot back then. Knock yourself out.

Adventures with Reco

For those of you who don't know, I ride a horse named Reco (short for Reconciliation). He's owned by my friend Jen and is a fun thoroughbred -- usually sane but sometimes... excitable we'll call it. It never seems to be a dull moment riding Reco, so every once in a while, I'll send Jen the next installment of my serial, Adventures with Reco. I'd think she'd be sick of these emails by now, but she seems to enjoy reading them as much as I like writing them.

I was perusing them while cleaning out my email and came across this fun one. Some background so you understand: 1) Altamont is a street in the super-rich neighborhood of Los Altos Hills, 2) "two-point" is the position you see jockeys ride in, 3) Horses spook like crazy if there are loud sudden noises behind them.

hi jen,

Just wanted to let you know that I got Reco out today. We went traipsing around Byrne doing our usual canter bit. At one point while I was cantering up Altamont in two-point w/ my butt sticking out, these two teenage punks zoom up behind us in a BMW they obviously didn't pay for and scream "Ride it baby, yeah!!!" Scared the shit out of me, but didn't phase Reco one bit.

After I'd calmed down from thinking things like, "What the hell, are you TRYING to kill me?!" it occurred to me I'd just been cat-called by a couple teenage boys. HAH! I hope they both go home and pretend they didn't just check out a guy. Who knew my ass was that cute anyways.

Albert

Monday, June 11, 2007

Missed Connections

Recently, a friend of mine significantly advanced my quest to spend as many hours as possible mindlessly browsing the internet. He introduced me to the "Missed Connections" section of Craigslist.

It all began when a flight attendant caught his eye. Apparently, the "look" was reciprocated, but he was too shy to take any action. He was telling us about this story over lunch and how he regretted not getting a number when someone at the table mentioned that there was a Missed Connections section on Craigslist exactly for this purpose: to post would've, could'ves, and should'ves in the vain hopes that, upon invoking the powers of Fate and Destiny, the object of affection would read the post and make a connection.

We all laughed that something so ludicrous yet tantalizing could exist on the wonder that is the internet and hounded him into posting on it just to see what would happen. Of course, none of us expected anything to come of it, yet we were entertained by the concept and thought it would be fun for him to try, so he did.

Three days later, after we'd long forgotten about the curiosity that was Missed Connections, my friend came bounding up to me and exclaimed that he had gotten a response! It wasn't from the flight attendant, but from a friend who knew the person. I was floored. The world is funny place.

That caught my attention and I had to see this section for myself and found that it wasn't exactly what I expected. Predictably, there are a lot of posts like, "You were at Starbucks Thurs 5pm and I thought you were really cute but was too shy to ask you out." The unexpected content was the sheer number of people who knew the person they loved or wanted and were just online, venting into the black hole of the internet their happiness, misery, lust, anger, or feelings of closure. I was struck by the sheer amount of candid human emotion on those pages. It seems that anonymity is all that's necessary for people to bare themselves to the world. The result is a wonderful display of homogeneous human feeling.

To give you a taste, here are some interesting posts I found on there. Until we meet again... on Craigslist.

---

I vote that next time you aren't so modest with your blue shirt. - w4m (downtown / civic / van ness)

You stopped by my cube again, only to leave too soon. You were wearing that blue shirt that I like so much, but this time you made use of too many of the buttons. You were fired up and excited and now I am. Bring that fervor to our next encounter, leave out all forms of modesty and I'll help relieve you of your tension.

---

was I just paralyzed by your gorgeous eyes at Coffee to the People? - m4w - 28 (haight ashbury)


Sitting with our backs against the wall, 4:30ish.......
Of course I thought you were cute, but (being attached) was not seriously considering getting flirtatious.
But on your way out, you just murdered me with those eyes!
Wow.

---

You should think. - w4m - 37

Just had dinner with your wife.
Me. The other woman. One of a few, I know.
Your wife is beautiful. Funny. Smart. Vivacious.
And so am I.
You should think about the amazing women you f*ck over, and why that is.

---

To my old boyfriend... - w4m

Hey there.

I hope you're well. I hope these lines somehow make their way over to you.

Though I won't reach out to you directly with this, I just want to express that I'm not angry with you anymore. I hold nothing against you and do hope you know that when I did, I did really love you, even if only in a peculiar way of MY very own.

Know that I've finally reached that place where none of it hurts at all anymore. My fists are no longer clenched as I do really forgive it all.

I guess I also needed to say this for myself... that I made it, that I'm finally here... and wow, it feels really good.

So as to keep within the rules of this forum, here's a missed connection for you and me - a missed connection with peace - that I wish had come to us both a long, long time ago.

Be happy and always remember to take good care of yourself and yes, of course I'll do the same.

Your old girlfriend.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Pet Peeve of the Day

Contrary to popular belief, apologizing for something (even ahead of time) does not make whatever it is suddenly okay. If I anyone says to me, "I'm sorry to be a bitch, but < insert bitchy comment >," and expects me to be alright with everything one more time, I will wring his/her neck.

Happy Wednesday.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Choice

There's been a lot of talk lately within my circle of friends about Fate and Destiny, one's lot in life and how most of it is just dumb luck. The context is usually that we should feel lucky and not take our wonderful lives for granted, a common example being that we are lucky to be well off, well educated, and living in a country that despite its faults, is a great place to live in and truly a land of opportunity.

While I agree that I had nothing to do with any of that, instead of giving dumb luck all the credit, I decided to dig deeper. I did not choose the comfort and wealth of opportunities I've enjoyed, nor did I choose to be born in the US where those items are more easily had. My parents chose them for me. They chose to work hard for themselves and their children. They chose to give up a life near their families and everything familiar in Taiwan and move here because they wanted my sister and me to enjoy the fruits of this country and their labor. My parents, in turn, were afforded this option by their parents, who worked hard to provide and educate their children. Their parents did the same.

The chain goes on and on into the past. I did not just get lucky, a great many people worked hard to make it this way for me. It's no wonder some cultures worship their ancestors. They recognize that their forebears had as much to do with their current circumstance as any of the gods that control the wind, the land, and the sea. Believing that our lives were completely ruled by fate, destiny, or luck would be giving far too little credit to ourselves and to others in our lives. Though much of our given lot in life is ultimately out of our control, we must remember that the deck can be stacked and that behind every card played, there is a human choice.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Barbaro

I read this morning that they've finally had to euthanize Barbaro and it made me quite sad. It's the one aspect of the equine world I've never liked. You breed a horse and when it's still a baby, you run it and if it breaks, you kill it. On the surface, it seems so cold hearted, yet now that I've been immersed in this world for almost four years, I know for a fact that this is not the case. I know that each horse out there is surrounded by many people who adore him, who wake up early, say hello, exercise him, feed him, shoe him, clean him, care for him. So why do they still make horses run on hard dirt in this country? They've switched to much better compounds all over the world, yet we're still breaking horses left and right, horses we apparently care for.

One thing I read in all the articles was how brave Barbaro was during his career and throughout his ordeal. Before I really got to know horses, I always figured people were too busy anthropomorphising their horses to notice that a horse really only had three modes: sleeping, eating, or running. Now I know better. They're social animals, just like us, and therefore, share most of our basic emotional language as well. And one emotion stands out the most: fear. Horses were born to run away from things, so I truly believe them when they say a horse is brave, and that it is no small compliment.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Brrrrrr

Okay, it's really cold right now. And it was the day before and the day before that. The frost has killed the flowers I was so proud to have planted and kept alive (for once) and frozen my windshield washer fluid. Yes, like any normal Californian, I'm pretty sure I had just plain old water in there. I did learn one interesting thing though. My room is difficult to heat because it shares 3 walls with the outdoors and half of one wall is a glass patio door. All that I have to keep me warm is a less than effectual baseboard heater and for the longest time, I'd always wake up freezing. Then it occurred to me that it wasn't the lack of heating that was freezing me; it was the fact that the thermostat is conveniently located 5' off the ground, 3' above me when I'm in bed. The baseboard heater doesn't generate enough airflow so by the time morning rolls around, there's a bubble of warm air 5' off the ground and the rest below that (including me) is freezing. So now I just leave a fan on in the room and I'm all warm and cozy.

Besides the being constantly cold thing, I've also been a bit "on-tilt" lately. I've traced the cause to two specific things: 1) lack of exercise 2) uncertainty in the horse dept. As most of my closer friends know, riding is the foundation of my sanity, especially when work, girls, or life in general is trying to kill me, so any perturbation there has ill effects.

I've basically come to an impasse in my riding. I haven't made any measurable improvements in the last year, so something has got to change. First thing is to start riding more often which will take some life priority changes (riding take an inordinate amount of time). Then I have to decide if I want to keep riding my current horse, Reco, or if I want to switch and lease another horse. This other horse would likely be Puck (real name: A Midsummer Night's Dream. get it? get it?) who is this tiny little five year old Morgan who was raised like a puppy and therefore behaves like one. He will honestly try and sit in your lap if you let him and he enjoys nibbling and licking people all over. He's oh so very cute.

The funny thing is, since I've considered switching horses, Reco has been extra friendly to me. It's as if he knew and was trying to win my love. One day I visited him and he spent the next 20 minutes making a fuss of me, nuzzling me all over and trying to swallow my shoe. Last week, we turned him out and he seemed so happy to be playing with me and following me all around.

Anyways, hopefully I'll know the way soon enough.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

It's time for the flashback episode

You know how when TV shows run out of budget or stories for a season, they'll smack together an episode composed almost entirely of flashbacks which basically amounts to watching a really boring clipshow? Well, I'm going to steal the idea and use it on my blog. I've been meaning to port all my old posts (think vintage 2003) over here, so I'll use this opportunity as an exuse to take a walk down memory lane by posting them in batches. It's interesting to see where I was in life three, four years ago and also the change in my writing style. I think engineering has really pounded any eloquence I ever had into oblivion. No matter.

I've just finished copying and pasting all the 2003 entries. The dates are accurate (the times are not). I hope you enjoy the old posts. The 2004 series will be coming soon...

Happy New Years!

Happy 2007! Normally I dislike doing the whole New Year's resolution thing because I feel like I should always be trying to better myself regardless the time of year. In fact, last year was the first year I ever made a New Year's resolution. I changed my mind because I figured it wasn't a bad idea to have an annual meeting with myself and realign my goals, priorities, and rally some motivation to shake myself out of complacency. The only caveat I give myself is that I'm only allowed to make resolutions I intend to and know I'm capable of keeping, just like how I only make promises that I can and will keep.

Last year the resolutions were simple: 1) Get a girlfriend, 2) Eat out more with my friends.
Unfortunately, #1 was ultimately unsuccessful and more offputting than anything. #2 was fun and now I know a few more nice places to go eat and hang out.

This year, I'm leaving things more open-ended and long-term, mostly because I have too much for one year and being at a sort of cross-roads in my life in all aspects, I'm not exactly sure what my situation will be in a year. Here's the list:
-- Go travelling. I maxed out on vacation days this year (7 weeks) and had to keep selling them back because I didn't go on a single vacation. I'm in my mid-late 20's and am unattached. The next time I'll be this free is when I'm retired. Places I want to go include: southern France/Spain and Monaco for the Formula One Grand Prix, Ireland to ride horses, South America, and Taiwan. I already have a trip scheduled for Hawaii this April.
-- Cook. NVIDIA has been serving me lunch and dinner ever since I graduated almost five years ago and thus I've been able to dodge what most would consider a necessary life skill. I've decided it's time to finally bit the bullet because I'm horribly sick of cafeteria dinner and because I would love to make someone a nice homecooked meal.
-- Ride more. Ride MORE?! Yes, I'd like to ride at least twice a week from now on. I've plateaued in my riding and it's driving me insane. I want to be good. I want horses to like me instead of pinning their ears back whenever I get on them. Also, I've taken a real liking to the idea of having a closer connection with the horse I'm riding. In the end, it's the communication and relationship with the horse that I enjoy most about riding.
-- Improve my Chinese. I'm thinking of starting a Chinese club at work where we sit down for one hour a week and speak only Chinese. This is pretty much the only way I think I can maintain my rapidly deteriorating speaking skills.
-- Girls?? Verdict is still out on this one.
-- Career path. After four years, I'm finally doing what I wanted to be doing and it's everything I thought it could be! However, arriving at a destination means enjoying the view and then choosing a new destination to hike to, so my task is to come up with the next stop.