Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 131 - Hay Bales

Thought of the day: We are leaving Steamboat today.  We had a great time sharing the vacation with a few other families.  Both Jasmine and Lila loved the attention they got.  With shared cooking, cleaning and babysitting duties, we got to ski more, relax more, and had more fun than if we had done it alone.  Friends are indeed blessings on so many levels.  We are grateful to have these wonderful people in our lives.

Photo of the day:

Hay bales, electric poles, and cattle fences are common sights on the way back from Steamboat Springs.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 130 - Hot Tub

Thought of the day: Since Saturday, I have been seeing a lot of black skiers in the lodge and on the slope.  I don't think I have seen so many black skiers in a single weekend.  In fact, the last time I  remember seeing and talking to one was back in Lake Tahoe a couple of years ago.  I thought something must be going on and checked with one of the skiers.  Sure enough, there's a summit of National Brotherhood of Skiers in Steamboat this weekend.  According to NBS, it's the largest ski convention in the US with more than a thousand skiers attending.  Apparently, NBS is organizing this event to raise funds to help develop young black athletes.  Their goal is to place black skiers in US Ski Team who can win medals in Winter Olympics.  With their dedication, it's only a matter of time before a black skier wins a gold medal in downhill skiing.  That makes me wonder: I don't see too many Asian American skiers winning medals in Olympics either, but why is there no national ski club for Asians?  I think it may have something to do with the fact that the blacks seem to possess a much stronger racial and cultural identity than the Asians.  Asian population is just too fragmented.  It's more likely to have a Chinese ski club, Japanese ski club, and such, than an Asian ski club.  Perhaps for the same reason, even with a few Asian individuals shining bright in the political arena, Asians have far less political influence than the blacks as a group.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine relaxing in a hot tub after a day of skiing.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 129 - Ski

Thought of the day: I had an epiphany tonight when I was looking at some photos.  It's nothing groundbreakingly new, but it suddenly occurred to me that having kids makes one feel young and more resilient to the sufferings that life inevitably offers, even though the taxing job of being a parent may age one physically and drain one financially more than any other job.  Being a parent is like being a cameraman who pays much more attention to what's in front of the camera than what's behind.  Your subject of focus is, of course, your children.  Since they are young, energetic, learning and growing everyday, you feel young and energetic as well.  And with your children now in focus, your other subjects of interest may fade in comparison.  Of course, it doesn't mean that you no longer love your job, your hobby, your parents, your relatives and friends as much as before.  You still love them with the same intensity, but you just don't cling to them as much.  People age or die, situations change or deteriorate, but as long as your children are well and healthy, everything seems tolerable.  In a way, my children are making up for my lack of a faith.  For that, I'm thankful.

Photo of the day:
We took Lila and her friend up the gondola and ski a little bit today.  Lila is a natural and we look forward to skiing with her soon!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 128 - Snow Play

Thought of the day: We have been pretty lucky with the weather.  It snowed another 12 inches in the past 24 hours which made it another great day for skiing in powder.  Of course, with two little kids, we just can't ski all day, as much as we would like to.  This morning a friend and I took the kids to the hot springs in the rec center.  It was a great experience to step into a hot spring in the cold air, to watch the steam rising up to meet the snow flakes, and to feel the snow melting on your skin.  The soothing and peaceful feeling can be better experienced than described.

Photo of the day:

There's plenty of snow for Lila to play with!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 127 - Shadows

Thought of the day: It's a day with very mixed emotions for me.  On the bright side, we had a great day skiing in the powders and trees and had good friends coming up to join us.  On the dark side, I had a bad news from China that my dear uncle just passed away.  My uncle was a very good and intelligent man but he had had some pretty bad luck in his 82 years of life.  He was an expert in traditional Chinese culture.  After college, he volunteered to live and teach in the harsh Manchurian region.  In a few years, he became a well respected educator.  Unfortunately, then the cultural revolution started and he was among the first to be purged and saw twenty of his most productive years wasted away in the shadow of the "revolution".  In the 90s, he retired and was finally able to move home.  At first, he lived in our countryside home where he grew up in.  The country air, village life, and the abundance of time when he could dive into his beloved traditional literature suit him well.  He was a happy man when I saw him there.  Sadly, in a few years, he had to move away to the neighboring city to help his son, who was struggling to make a living at that time.  He lived in a dilapidated apartment in the city, where he could hear the city noise from dawn to dusk and take in the polluted city air in every breath.  And then the unthinkable happened - his son, my cousin, passed away from cancer at a healthy, young age.  That delivered a terrible blow to him and I don't believe he had ever recovered from that.  Unfortunately, I had not been able to spend a lot of time with my uncle other than one summer month when my brother and I lived in Manchurian with his family.  I had a lot of respect for him though because of who he was and I also had a lot of sympathy for him because of what he had been through.  I wish I had known him better.  The news of his passing away hit me hard.  One phrase stuck in my head: "we mortals are but shadows and dust, shadows and dust, shadows and dust..." I am not able to talk about it yet.  But at least I can write about it.

Photo of the day:
Shadows when we went up on a ski lift (cell phone photo).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 126 - Reading

Thought of the day: It felt great to relax in an outdoor hot tub after skiing.  The perfect combination of cool mountain air, hot steam, and blue sky created a magical world.  Lila loved to sit at the edge of the tub and let the hot steam wrap all around her.  She was so happy that she couldn't stop smiling.  I think the word "heaven" is invented for moments just like this. 

Photo of the day:
Jasmine browsing books in Bud Werner Memorial Library at Steamboat Springs.  It has a beautiful Children's section.  It's a great place for kids to relax when they take a break from skiing.  For parents, hot tubs will do just fine.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 125 - Snowy Hill

Thought of the day: We had a fun day skiing at Steamboat today.  The base was pretty good to begin with and it snowed an additional 6 inches yesterday, so we got some pretty good skiing in the upper mountain and in the trees.  The scenery of white, snow covered trees sparkling in the sun looked more like a postcard picture than something real.  Serenity, which flows naturally when you are immersed in pure beauty, is your best friend in the mountains as it can make you forget about yourself and become one with the nature.  Maybe that's why some people like to ski in the trees so much.  What's your worst enemy in the mountains?  I don't think it's the trees or the ice or unpredictable snow.  I think it's your fear as it creates a barrier between you and the nature.  Instead of feeling joyful by being one with the nature, you feel helpless and resentful by alienating yourself from it.  I have an example of that today.  We took Jasmine and her friend, both pretty good skiers, down a double black run called Christmas Tree Bowl.  It was steep in the first segment and her friend froze with fear at some point.  That caused Jasmine to panic too.  We eventually did make it down but only after a bit of fuss and a lot of tears.  With their skill levels, they could have made it down comfortably if fear had not taken over.  To be honest, I can see the same problem in myself too.  I usually ski in a terrain that I feel most comfortable with.  I like the speed but I don't challenge myself to ski in a different or more difficult terrain.  On one hand, that makes me feel "safe" so it's a hard habit to break.  On the other hand, that's a limiting factor for me to get better with skiing.  I'll need to learn to overcome my fear to ski at a higher level.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine and her friend running down a snowy hill next to our condo.  Fun activity.  Bad idea.  Their ski boots had to be removed to be cleared of snow afterwards.  (cell phone photo)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 124 - Driving

Thought of the day: Today we drove to Steamboat Springs.  We like to take a ski break in late February as the snow is often good at that time and the weather is usually not quite as harsh as in the winter break.  This week starts with the President's Day and ends with another no-school day which makes it a perfect week for our ski break. I am looking forward to spending another fun and exciting week in Steamboat!

Photo of the day:
I took a lot of photos on the beautiful drive up Steamboat Springs today.  It's great to be a passenger who has no other tasks at hand than taking photos.  I experimented with low light, high contrast photos and also photos with foreground motions. It was fun!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 123 - Lila

Thought of the day: Lila is a very independent little girl.  She likes to do everything herself - get up by herself, dress up by herself, eat by herself, read by herself, go to bed by herself, etc.  She attaches "myself" to pretty much every sentence that describes an action, whether it makes sense or not. Tonight she was very tired so I asked her if she would like me to carry her to her room.  She replied in her cute little voice: "No! I want to carry me myself!!!"  It's so typically her that it cracked us up.

Photo of the day:
Lila reading by herself on the bed.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 122 - Macky Concert

Thought of the day: We went to a Boulder Philharmonic concert at Macky Auditorium tonight.  We had an evening of spectacular music, but my favorite had to be a little piece played by clarinetist Richard Stoltzman.  When a piece of music resonates with you, it can really do some magic to your state of being.  For as long as the music is playing, you are no longer bound by time or space and you feel intensely alive.  I am grateful to the clarinetist and to the composer Bill Douglas, who was also on stage tonight, for transporting me to a different universe, albeit briefly.

Photo of the day:

Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra on the stage of Macky Auditorium.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 121 - Toy Car

Thought of the day: This morning I biked down with Lila to meet friends for breakfast and then go to the playground.  Lila was very happy to be on the bike again.  This has actually been a very bike-friendly winter so far as in most days the road was free of snow or ice.  However, we haven't biked together for a while as it was either too cold and windy for Lila, or one of us was sick, or both of us were out of town.

Photo of the day:

Lila enjoyed playing with a remote control car and racing it downhill fast.  It was certainly a fun day to be out, with or without toys.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Week 17 - Colorado Public Radio

I heard about a scary proposal this week to cut the funding of NPR and PBS.  Can I imagine a world without Newshour and Nova, without Sesame Street and Arthur?  No, I can't.  Can I imagine a world without public radio?  No, I can't.  Driving would be so much more boring without public radio.  This ridiculous proposal serves as a reminder for me to support CPR.

Day 120 - Calm

Thought of the day: I learned a lesson from a small incident today.  I arrived on time in a hair salon for a cut.  I was in a bit of a hurry as I just had enough time to get a cut and then pick up Jasmine and Lila from two different locations and then take them to an activity.  To my surprise, my hairdresser just started working on a woman's hair as I entered the door.  I peeked into her appointment book and confirmed that it was indeed my turn but now I had to wait and would probably be late for my kids.  And then I overheard the hairdresser said something to the woman to the effect that she would not rush her hair, and she didn't acknowledge, explain, or apologize to me about the situation.  I had two choices - to feel slighted, leave, and switch to another hairdresser, or to accept the situation as it was, wait, and hope everything would work out.  Luckily, I chose the latter.  With a bit of a rush and some help from a super-friendly co-worker of hers, everything did work out in the end. I left her a good tip and told her that I would be back.  I didn't ask her what happened, neither did I see a need for it.  It could have easily been one of those things that happened despite good intentions of all parties.  If the same thing happens again, which I don't think is likely, will I make a different choice then?  Perhaps, but it is still my choice to make.  I felt good about the choice I made today, and the fact that I felt good about it told me that I had made the right choice.

Photo of the day:

Our favorite Indian restaurant.  I always felt calm inside this restaurant - perhaps the interior, ambiance and aroma combined to have a calming effect.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 119 - Farm House

Thought of the day: My realtor is quite a character.  I met her the first time during my previous trip to the bay area.  We were planning to meet in the townhouse that I would like to put on market, but I forgot the key.  So guess what she did?  She took out a bathroom window and climbed in.  I liked her and hired her on the spot.  I interviewed another realtor the day before who I also liked.  That realtor showed a can-do attitude as well, but she did that verbally as opposed to my realtor who did that in action.  When it comes to the building of trust, actions speak louder than words.  So if you are an aspiring realtor, I suggest that you acquire some climbing skills, and pray that your potential client forgets the key at the first interview.

Photo of the day:

A farm house along Broadway in North Boulder.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 118 - Winter Park

Thought of the day: I took the Eskimo Ski Shuttle up to Winter Park/Mary Jane today. It took only two hours door to door with myself driving for only about 10 minutes.  The rest of the trip was either on a carpool or on the shuttle bus.  It was a beautiful ski day - sunny, warm, no wind, no crowd, good snow.  What else could one ask for?  The ski runs seemed to go on and on and on, and all your worries just melted away in the whiteness of the snow and the warmness of the sunshine. On the way back, people on the shuttle bus shared snacks, wines and good moods after a day of great skiing.  It can't get any better.  I am surprised that not many people know about Eskimo Ski Shuttle.  It seems to be a well kept secret and I am so glad to have found it.  I will use it over and over and over again.  And perhaps I will even bring a friend or two to join me next time.

Photo of the day:

Winter Park/Mary Jane (cell phone photo).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 117 - Valentine Candy

Thought of the day: It was one of those days when nothing seemed to have gone right.  It started with Lila cutting her fingers in a razor, ended with her getting another finger caught in a door, and in between there were a myriad of small incidents on top of mood swings of multiple family members.  I was exhausted by the end of the day and that's when I started looking through the pictures I took today.  What a refreshing surprise!  I almost forgot that there were so many beautiful moments during the day.  Pictures are recorded history and it can truly give you perspective to review them after the fact.  When your mind is quiet and is no longer absorbed in the details of the moment, it's finally free to experience above and beyond what the moment gives.  So, thanks to these pictures, I had a revelation tonight: contrary to what I thought, I actually had a pretty good day today; and that's probably true for most of the days that I thought were lousy.  Now, I just need to bring this perspective back to every moment that I live as I live it.  It would be hard but it would certainly make me much happier.

Photo of the day:
Lila enjoying her Valentine's candy from Jasmine's classroom party: it's a heart shaped lollipop!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 116 - Birthday Candles

Thought of the day: I think Jasmine is pretty athletic.  Whenever we do a Rody horse race in the house, I always lose to her, usually by a wide margin, no matter how hard I try.  Perhaps that tells more of my lack of athletic ability than her possessing one, but there are a few sports that she is pretty good at.  We haven't encouraged her to take any one of them seriously yet.  The reason is simple - if you take a sport seriously, it gets too competitive and too serious too fast.  This week I read about a local mom whose children, ages 7 and 9, both qualified for national championships for the American Bouldering Series. When I read that, I was thinking - well, that could have been my daughter! And then I read on until I saw that to get to their level, these children trained for an average of 12 hours a week!  That means they are pretty much stationed in the gym after school.  I don't think I can do it.  There is a special league of moms who are capable of helping their children pull miracles like competing for a national title at age 7, but I don't think I am in their league or will ever be.  Will I feel guilty for not pushing my kids hard enough to achieve beyond their wildest dreams?  Perhaps, but that's a question for tomorrow.  Tonight I just want them to be kids.

Photo of the day:
Birthday candles and cupcakes in a party Jasmine attended today.  The kids are either 7 or 8 and they are all so beautiful and so happy.  It's a sweet and innocent age and I wish it could last forever!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 115 - Wine

Thought of the day: I love Colorado.  The one thing I don't like about it is the brutal wind in the winter.  In the worst time, a strong and chilly wind can roar on and on for a week.  If you are unlucky enough to be caught in a wind storm in Eldora, your day is pretty much ruined, at least as far as skiing is concerned.  It has nothing like the comforting sound of rain drops hitting your roof, or the pleasant sight of snow flakes floating in the sky, or the refreshing scent of a summer afternoon thunderstorm, a brutal winter wind is just that - a brutal winter wind.  You stay out of its way.  And you can't even escape it entirely inside the house, as it cries and screams into your ears all night long.  Luckily, our house is pretty solidly built, so we don't usually feel shakes or vibrations.  And when we wake up in the morning, the chance is that we will still have a roof above our head.

Photo of the day:
Nothing drowns out the howling wind better than a little glass of wine...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 114 - Lila

Thought of the day: In the past few days, I have been intrigued by the events unfolding in Egypt.  In fact, when I was driving back from Lafayette yesterday, I was following the Mubarak speech on NPR so closely - apparently more closely than I was following the route - that I ended up taking a huge detour back to Boulder.  My most intimate knowledge of contemporary Egypt came, not too surprisingly, from a book.  It's titled "The Yacoubian Building", a popular book written by the Egyptian writer Alaa Al Aswany.  The book painted a pretty bleak portrait of modern day Egypt, where corruption, economic decline, and social despair seemed to be drowning out any signs of fairness, progress, and hope.  The book was clearly written by someone who cared deeply about Egypt.  One character in the book that left me with a lasting impression was a poor but ambitious young man, who lost his hope after a bitter struggle against the society and finally caved in to religious extremism. Clearly, big changes need to happen in a society like this for people to regain hope.  The sweeping events in the past two weeks have now led Egypt to a pivoting moment.  With Mubarak finally stepped down, there is now a chance for Egypt to bring in the changes that it desperately needs, but there is also a chance for the opportunity to be squandered or, even worse, for the country to descend into military or clerical rule or chaos.  What's unfolding in Egypt will have implications on the entire mid-east, and with the mid-east being the region with the world's biggest oil reserve as well as being the breeding ground of religious extremism, what's unfolding in Egypt may eventually have an impact on all of us.  That's why I care so much about what's going on in Egypt even though I have no connection to it, or should I say, no direct connection to it. In this global village, we are all connected, one way or the other, sooner or later.

Photo of the day:
With the warmer weather finally returning to Boulder, Lila got to spend quite some time outside today. What's happening in Egypt today may have an impact on her some day, and in the very least, it will probably be in her history books.  However, at this moment she cares less about any such grownup nonsense than finally a chance to scoop up some wet snow with her little hands.

Week 16 - Bright Beginnings

I decided to support Colorado Bright Beginning program through the Parenting Place.  The program sends staff and volunteers to visit parents at home. They give the parents information, materials, and community resources to help their children get a brighter start in their lives.  This would be an invaluable help for new parents.  I think I would have appreciated that a great deal if I was given such help when Jasmine was little.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 113 - Fire Hydrant

Thought of the day: I have books piling up at home.  When I find titles I am interested in, I would first try to get the books online from the Boulder Public Library.  The library carries a good half of the books I'm interested in.  For the rest, I can almost always get them from Amazon.  The whole process takes less than five minutes and I'll usually receive the books in a matter of days.  Of course, it would be more economical, less wasteful and pretty much instantaneous to get e-books.  We have several e-book readers at home and I have tried hard to like them but, sadly, have not yet succeeded in doing so.  I'm staying with the good old physical books for now.  Reading a good book, especially a good book on an interesting yet unfamiliar topic, can be an exhilarating and mind-opening experience. The challenge is to find time to actually sit down and read.  Perhaps, I should write less and read more.

Photo of the day:
Fire hydrant in the snow in the east of Boulder. The plain to the east of Boulder is one of the many locations that I would like to do a photo shoot at.  Just like the every-growing stack of unread books at home, I have an ever-growing list of things/places that I would like to take pictures of.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 112 - Snow

Thought of the day: It had been really cold in the past few days.  I look forward to some warmer weather for the rest of the week - at least warm enough for it to be pleasant to be outside again.

Photo of the day:
Snow capped deck rail.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 111 - Cold Cows

Thought of the day: I am not a fan of Valentine's Day celebrations in school.  I experienced that phenomenon the first time when Jasmine started her preschool in Boulder.  The school asked everybody to send a valentine's card to everybody else.  There were 44 kids in total and a couple of teachers in addition to that.  That's a lot of cards to make for a 3 year old.  So I ended up doing most of the work myself.  In return, she received 40+ cards - mostly flimsy store bought ones but a few were nice hand made cards which made me wonder the amount of time it must have taken for the poor kids, and parents, to make.  Anyway, the whole experience felt laborious, forced, and artificially sweet with all the candies attached to the cards.  Some schools take a different approach and let the kids decide who to send cards to.  The downside of that is there will always be kids who are left out.  Imagine the loneliness and sadness a child must feel when she doesn't get a valentine when everybody else happily receives theirs.  It's as easy for happiness to be taken for granted like the air you breathe as it is for sadness to cling to you like the shadow.  In my opinion, the inconsolable misery of a single child can't be compensated by the fleeting happiness of a hundred.  So, I am not a fan of Valentine's Day celebrations in school.  I wish this tradition would be replaced by a heart-felt field trip to a retirement home, a homeless shelter, or a hospital.  It's never too early to learn that love has a much richer meaning than simply being admired.

Photo of the day:
A photo of some cows and a truck from inside my car.  It was so cold that I wouldn't even roll down the window to take this shot.  It was so cold that the cows practically begged to be moved into the shelter.  I suppose that one way to show your love to your cows is to give them shelter when the weather is so harsh outside.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 110 - Stairways

Thought of the day: Since last summer, I have been spending at least a week in the bay area every month.  I just came back three days ago and have already booked the next trip.  I must be tied to the bay area by some invisible threads, and every trip seems to create a new thread to pull me back. I am feeling a tinge of bay area travel fatigue.  I am lucky that Lila is a good traveler and never complains.  She is happy wherever she is, as long as she is with one of us.  As for me, by the time when I need to board the flight again, I'll be ready for the adventure.  I am just glad that it's not going to be tomorrow!

Photo of the day:
Lila dashing down the stairways at home, too fast for me to take a clear picture of her.  Yes, a daring and happy little girl she is.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 109 - Qi Pao

Thought of the day:  Being a Chinese American has its special benefits.  One of them is that you get to celebrate the New Year twice - the solar/western new year and the lunar/Chinese new year.  What seems to follow naturally is that you get to have a second chance to make a new year's resolution.  On the last New Year's Eve, I was too busy philosophizing about "the new year's resolution" to make one for myself.  Now I got a second chance, and I gladly took it.  Of course, life is an one-way street and there's only going forward and no going back, but let our mind wander for a minute: what if you get the second chance to relive every day?  I think it will be pretty boring, with the possible exceptions for days when grave misfortunes befall you.  But if you choose to relive a bad day, you may be able to avoid some bad luck temporarily, and get yourself into an even bigger trouble in the future.  The best, and the only, thing to do is to keep moving forward.  I just read a book called "The Walk" by Richard Evans.  Some terrible things happened to the main character and he lost his family, job, and pretty much everything else in a couple of weeks.  He almost gave up but then he decided to walk - to literally walk across the continent, from Seattle all the way to Key West.  Along the journey of over 3,000 miles, he learned powerful lessons and gradually walked away from the shadow of his past and into the light of his future.  Life is a walk, and he just made it literal.  Some days you walk uphill, some days you walk downhill, some days you walk under the sun, some days you walk in the snow, but no matter what, if you keep on walking, the landscape will keep changing, you will see interesting things, hear interesting stories, and meet interesting people.  That happened to the guy in the book, and that's happening to every one of us every day.  If we take life as a walk, instead of a climb or a race, perhaps we'll be more gentle, more humble, and less likely to give up on missteps or misfortunes.

Photo of the day:

Jasmine wearing Qi Pao in a Chinese New Year party.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day 108 - Haircut

Thought of the day:  Lila is a very strong-willed little girl.  There was a good example of that tonight.  I didn't read to her before sending her to bed because of a mutual agreement.  At least I thought it was a mutual agreement as she chose to do something else instead.  But in any case, this was the first time that she went to bed without a book.  She got very upset and ended up "reading" on the bed on her own.  She went through some Chinese books, some German books, and a whole bunch of English books, for an entire one and a half hour, until she could no longer keep her eyes open and drifted off to la-la-land with a book still tightly clutched in her little hands.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine getting a haircut.  I don't think Jasmine was quite as strong-willed as Lila at her age.  But maybe she was and I just forgot.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 107 - Lila Reflection

Thought of the day: I am now sitting on a couch at home after spending a week in California.  It feels as if I had never really left the couch and California was just a dream.  Perhaps in a number of years, I will feel the same way about Boulder and Colorado.  In fact, when I finish the cycle of life, perhaps I will feel that the entire journey was but a dream.  What makes the dream interesting and meaningful is that it interwines with the dreams of others and perhaps makes theirs interesting and meaningful as well.

Photo of the day:
Lila in San Francisco International Airport.  I wonder if and how much she will remember of the flights and travels she has tagged along since she was a little baby.

Week 15 - Humane Society

Well, friends are making it really easy for us this week.  Jasmine's friend is requesting a donation to Humane Society instead of buying her a gift for her birthday party.  Jasmine requested donations to victims of Four Mile Canyon Fire in lieu of a birthday gift for her last birthday.  Looks like it's becoming a trend!

Why are parents and kids so generous and altruistic?  I can't speak for others, but for ourselves, other than good, charitable intentions, we do have our ulterior motives.  I am getting tired of receiving so many gifts on Jasmine's birthdays.  Sometimes she receives wonderful gifts, but more often than not, the gifts just add to the mess in the play area.  Fewer birthday gifts mean less work for us.  Hooray!  For Jasmine, it's a no-lose deal either, as I promised her something she had always wanted - a horseback riding camp.  For sure, she cared about the people displaced by the fire, and I think she would have done it anyway without the promise of a camp.  But having the promise certainly made the deal sweeter.

In any case, Humane Society it is for this week.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 106 - Dad

Thought of the day: Today is the Chinese New Year.  It's the biggest, loudest, and most celebrated holiday in China.  However, in the bay area, it's just another work day as usual.  When I came down Arastradero bike path this afternoon, I saw a man selling flowers on the roadside.  I stopped by to get a pretty bunch for my parents.  He said "Happy New Year!" with a big smile.  It took me by surprise and warmed my heart.  I biked the rest of the way home in a pretty good mood.

Photo of the day:
Dad at lunch.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 105 - Lila and Path

Thought of the day:  In the past two days, while I was in town running some errands, I drove past the who's who in tech industry which gave me an adrenaline rush (for better or worse).  It was exciting to see actions in town.  It reminded me of my first visit to the bay area almost 14 years ago, when I had been most impressed by three things: the sunlight, the green foliage, and the tech companies around every corner.  It's still the same today.  With all its "vices", the silicon valley is still the mecca for people in tech industry and it's probably going to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Photo of the day:

Lila was happy to run on the bike path.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 104 - Misty Window

Thought of the day: I had an interesting conversation with a Chinese couple tonight.  They came to this country illegally with little education and no money at all.  Now, sixteen years later, they are lawful residents, owners of a house and a local company, and parents of a son who is attending college.  We heard of many families like theirs. We were wondering why so many first generation Chinese immigrants, whether they were from China, Taiwan, Hongkong, or southeast Asia, could start their journey in the US under impossible circumstances, and still managed to make themselves into the middle class or above.  We agreed that it might have something to do with ambition.  It may be cultural stereotyping, but I do observe that Chinese tend to be ambitious and love to plan ahead for the future.  Menial jobs are seen as stepping stones for better jobs in the future.  A dishwasher is not merely a dishwasher, he is the future owner of a restaurant or restaurant chain.  A construction laborer is not merely a laborer, he is the future owner of a construction company or remodeling agency.  A laundromat operator is not merely an operator, she is the future owner of a laundromat and apartment buildings.  They work hard on any job, no matter how menial it may seem, as it feeds their piggy bank.  The constant growth of the piggy bank is crucial for implementing their dream. With careful planning, hardworking, and sometimes working as a team, they can often make it.  I think this is rooted, or at least manifested, in Confucianism.  Confucianism teaches one to first develop oneself morally and academically, and then build and raise a harmonious family, and then bring order to the country, and finally bring peace to the world.  It's a big ambition implemented in multiple steps, and that's exactly what a lot of first generation Chinese immigrants do, albeit in a much smaller, and more personal, scale.  Of course, another historically popular philosophy in China is Taoism, which teaches people the opposite - to just be and live in the moment.  But as far as I am concerned, the well respected people who practice "just be" are people who have already achieved intellectual superiority and served the country and were forced out for whatever reason.  A simple peasant who practices "just be" would be ridiculed and considered unambitious or just downright lazy.  Well, unfortunately that's exactly how some Chinese regard people of different cultures like Mexicans, Australians, or French.  The cultural gap is so deep that it may take a few generations of co-existence in the same society for the differences to be reconciled.

Photo of the day:

What's the story behind the misty window in the early morning?