Tag Archives: Life

The Earthquake

For the last two Sundays in a row we went to ride bicycle at the Bicycle Sundays event at Bronx River Parkway (Every year from April to October a 7 seven mile stretch of the Parkway closes to automobile traffic on Sundays 10am -2pm so cyclists can enjoy the road). It was a breezy and very relaxing 2 hours ride. I saw lots of people take their kids out with them. The older kids would get their own little bikes to ride along side the parents; the younger ones, who couldn’t ride by themselves, would sit in a trailer that was towed behind their parent’s bike. It was a family event. Everyone was enjoying it and they all looked so happy.

Then came the news of the Sichuan earthquake. Tens of thousands lives lost, families destroyed. Small luxuries in life like riding a bicycle on a Sunday morning suddenly look so insignificant and precious at the same time. I think of the things I feel unhappy about in my life, then I think of those who have lost home, children, and parents in the earthquake. Things like this really change your perspective. It makes you realize what is and what is not the most important in this world.

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Something Money Can’t Buy

I’ve said in my previous DWTS posts that I didn’t really understand why Mark Cuban, a billionaire entrepreneur, decided to participate so soon after his hip replacement surgery. Someone posted this on ABC’s DWTS forum and I have found the answer. From Mark’s blog post on Sep 7th, 2007:

“I’m the first to admit that I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I can honestly say I wake up every morning with a smile knowing what a wonderful family, friends and life I have. It’s the exact same way I felt when I was broke.

Money makes so many things in life easier, but it can’t buy you a positive outlook on life. Fortunately, how any of us approaches each of our days is completely up to us. It’s not something you can buy or sell. It’s not hard to put a smile on your face every day, but for some reason some people find it impossible to do. Not me.

The opportunity to do something unique that makes me smile is something I try not to pass up, Dancing with the Stars is just that.

It’s not about how well I can dance. It’s about the opportunity to compete at something I enjoy. It’s about doing something that makes me smile every minute I’m doing it or even thinking about it.

Since I started blogging sometimes I wonder which type of blogs I like to read more, a personal journal with random thoughts on everything in daily life or a blog about a specific subject. I always pick personal journal, and posts like this are the exact reason why. There is nothing like getting inspiration from real people from all walks of life and people you’ve never met before.

Truly, there is something money can’t buy.

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Kabab Cafe: An Egyptian Experience

An old Chinese proverb says, 民以食为天 (Men deem food as God). After spending a delightful evening at Kabab Cafe, Astoria, I came to the thinking that if food is not a man’s God, it should be at least, as Ali the owner says, his soul.

We first heard of Kabab Cafe from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on Travel Channel. It was featured as one of the most popular restaurants in “Little Cairo”, the middle-eastern neighborhood in Astoria, Queens. Astoria, with its “sizable and diverse immigrant population”, is said to have “some of the best and most authentic food in the country”. Continue reading

Another Fable: The Old Man and The Children

I read this story first on a friend’s blog (3rd comment from bottom). You can either read the original Chinese version there or read my English translation here:

The Fable of Motivation: Who are you “playing” for?

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The Fable of an Apple Tree

This seems to be a famous story circulating around the internet. The original text is in Chinese (English translation follows):

成长的寓言:做一棵永远成长的苹果树

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Living with a Foodie

There are many good things about living with a foodie. The best of which is you find yourself spending lots of money and time in all kinds of strange restaurants, whether you want it or not (most of the times, you want it).

If someday there is a contest on simply the number of different cuisines you have tried at least once in your lifetime, I think we are in pretty good shape.

So, here’s my list of CIHTALO – Cuisines I Have Tried At Least Once. I need to write it down because I want to have something to be proud of when I die. Continue reading

My 10th Anniversary as an Immigrant

Sky

I arrived in the U.S. on Aug 22, 1997. It was a sunny day, just like today.

The moment I stepped out of LGA airport, I looked up and saw the sky. It was unusually high (I learned later that wasn’t unusual. It merely appeared higher because of the better air quality). Friends who came on the plane together with me, I still remember their faces clearly. We were picked up by a few senior students I contacted earlier. One of them has the same name as my brother’s.

The first trip to PathMark was a curious one. Because we were living in an apartment complex outside campus, shopping was a major problem. None of us had driver license. The senior students took us to PathMark right after we arrived so we could have something to eat for the night.

Everything was so expensive. Fruit and vegetables especially. One of things I bought was Taco chips, recommended by one of the seniors. It turned out to be one of my favorites in the early days. Almost everyone bought cup noodles. They were popular in China back in the time when we were growing up, and they were cheap. Graduate students’ monthly stipend was only $800-$900 and we hadn’t even seen the first paycheck yet.

During the first orientation seminar they offered free lunch sandwiches, very cold Turkey sandwiches. I’m sure it was very healthy and nutritional but I couldn’t finish them. It was tasteless (now I eat those sandwiches on regularly basis). Instead I went to the cafeteria at Student Activity Center nearby and bought a slice of pizza. I was the only new student that did that, though everyone seemed to hate the sandwich.

I met HM in an unusual way. My then b.f. was visiting me and an hour after he left for the train station, I got a call from a girl I didn’t know. She said her name was HM and she just met my b.f. at the train station. She said they had a little chat and he learned that she was also a new graduate student in CS dept of our school, and he gave her my number. I then invited her over to my apt and we chatted. Just like that, I got a new girl friend.

Computer Science Department building didn’t impress me when I first saw it, but that doesn’t matter. It was a very special place because of all the time we spent there, and all the people I met there. The computer room. The Ping Pong room. Our office. My lab. Library. Professors’ offices. The guy in my lab who quit (for a job) after only a few months. The two seniors with the same name Bao in the middle. The guy who took me to Flushing for the first time. The guy who introduced himself by saying he had a girl’s name.

And Theo.

Theo was the reason I bought a TV earlier than everyone else. He was (part of) the reason I was always looking to talk to non-Chinese students, trying to avoid, not very successfully, speaking Chinese all the time with only Chinese students. He said my English was not very good, even though I secretely thought it was alot better than most of other students. He suggested me listen to talk shows to improve listening. I did exactly that, but found the talk shows were much easier to understand than him.

He had a very heavy, thick Greek accent. None of the talk show hosts sounded like him.

Theo was my professor, who I was working closely with as a research assistant.

Not being able to understand him fully was the biggest challenge I faced in my early days. I don’t remember much about other courses/projects except some were harder than others. I did best in Algorithm but never got chance to take Networking in my 3 semesters’ stay. I enjoyed the 2-D barcode decoding algorithm I was working with Theo and the time I spent in SBL as an intern. It turned out to be the only working experience I had other than my current job. All the people there I still remember. My Polish mentor (his “top model” picture in his cubicle). Two Joes. The Taiwanese girl. Michelle.

Starting from ’98 summer, instead of cooking most of the meals I ate mostly on campus. Roth cafeteria. SAC cafeteria. Hospital cafeteria. Smith Haven Mall. I’d gotten driver license and bought a ’88 Toyota Tercel for about $1,000. It saved lots of time and energy. And I found out I was really good at driving and enjoyed every minute of it.

The end of SB era was a little blurred in my memory because something happened in my personal life that summer. All I remember is I had to put everything aside and start looking for a job. By then I had already moved to another apartment where I no longer had a roommate. But HM was there in my hardest time. I didn’t attend graduation ceremony. I can’t even remember the day I left.

For the next eight years, I worked. Some years flew by as if they were a few days. Some days felt they would last forever. I realize how impossible it is to write about the last few years. I realize there are experiences in life that cannot be expressed in words. You succumb to the power of life in awe and sometimes, in fear. But in all the times, you have no choice but endure, live on, and learn, so you can be better prepared for the next time.