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The New Normal [Sep. 9th, 2017|04:29 pm]

"What color is the sky?" the teacher asks the class.

"White!" the children respond for this is all they know.

Smoke. Haze. Fire. Our Pacific Northwest summer, the one season where we reliably see blue skies, overcast by wildfire smoke raging across the region. We haven't seen a blue sky in days. The sun burns red. My mouth tastes like smoke and I try not to go outside. I feel like a dinosaur after the meteorite which kills them all.

On the other side of the country, epic hurricanes tear through sprawling suburbs and Irma promises more. People dead, homes destroyed, flood upon flood upon flood. This is our new normal. 

So what can we do? So what MUST we do?

Have one less child/adopt a child. Drive less. Fly less. Eat less beef. But most of all, demand more. More from your governments, more from your corporations, and more from your sustainable self. 

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Bike Touring, Bike Camping, and Big Sur [Oct. 28th, 2016|11:19 am]
I'm sure there is a more clever way to do this, but after battling blogspot over picture placement and HTML code, I'm over it!
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Cotonga- Five Years in the Making [Jun. 22nd, 2016|05:40 pm]
Last night Laura and I went to Cotonga for our 2 year anniversary. I chose the place because five years ago, when we first started dating, Laura mentioned to me that she would love to go there. I immediately tried to get reservations, but it was one of those places that filled up a month ahead of time- the moment they released reservations.

Thus in May, when I was in Taiwan realizing that we were within one month of our anniversary and I needed to pick some place to go, suddenly this long lost dream became a reality. Although at first I could only get reservations for 9:15pm (long past our normal dinner time of 7:30pm and pushing our bedtime of 10:00pm). Luckily, they called to confirm those reservations and I told them I would love an earlier one if a cancellation occurred. It did, and we had a perfectly timed 8pm reservation instead.

When I used to hear of this meeting time in movies and tv shows I thought these people ate crazy late, but it turns out when Laura gets home just before 7pm, 8pm is a perfect time. I changed into my wedding shirt and vest, she arrived, she changed into the fantastic boob shirt, we danced to My Wish, we clanked glasses with RJZ, we ate avacado/hamon/cheese toast for appetizers, I put on a my gray blazer, and then off we went with no rush to dinner.

And while an Italian place will never be my style, Laura loved the pasta dish I ordered and I liked hers so we switched and gobbled each other's up. We both loved the pizza which was $19, cheaper than Tony's! Maybe I'll make reservations again and we'll just order the pizza- the nerve! Only later did I realize I had basically a meatless day, just a couple slices of hamon tiding me over. Don't worry, I'm making up for it tonight with a surf (Artic Char) and turf (short ribs) dinner tonight!

Conversation flowed and dinner lasted till almost 9:30pm, what grown ups we are. When the bill came, our server asked if we had valeted and we both laughed, since our bikes were in viewing distance outside. We still bike, if you can believe that. Most people think we are weird, but it's really the other way around. Why sit and argue over directions in a car when we can feel the breeze on our bikes!

And I can't express how nice it was to take a day to celebrate us. Reminding us to hold hands over dinner and looking into each other's eyes smiling. To toast to us, to have our friends toast to us, to have Facebook basically toast to us. To remember that our love is special and needs kindling. To look across the table and know, this is the love of my life.
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Same-Sex Marriage is Legal in the United States of America! [Jun. 26th, 2015|10:02 am]
I remember when Prop 8 passed, when my fellow citizens, when my neighbors, voted marriage was only between a man and a woman. I remember because I was thinking of coming out that day, if it had passed. I remember sitting in my dining room, looking outside at the porch, in disbelief that the love I was feeling was wrong. And I remember being scared, feeling guilty, and shamed.

That’s the importance of today’s ruling. By November of 2008, when Prop 8 passed, I had already dated my first girlfriend, a whirlwind mutually closeted romance that left me completely torn apart and poignantly alone without anybody to talk to about said closeted romance. By 2008, I was already dating my second girlfriend after a slew of failed gender normative relationships where I was desperately trying to be straight, to conform. We dated in secret for another 2 years until she insisted, rightly so, that I come out to my mom. I hid not one, but two relationships in shame, internalizing the homophobia that we built into our society. Besides, I rationalized, we would never get married anyway, it wasn’t legal for us, the majority of Californians had voted it so (and then our highest court had affirmed this vote less than a year later).

Later, driving down to Southern California for my youngest sister’s graduation, I asked my mom if she believed in gay marriage. I had to sit in oppressively awkward silence as she tried not to verbalize what society had taught her and validated in law. I told her she couldn’t come to my future gay wedding if she didn’t believe in gay marriage.

I had to gender neutralize who I was dating to people I met and even dear friends, dropping the “s” in “she,” pretending that my toes had tingled because I met a new man. My web of lies trapped me. If you can’t introduce your friends to your girlfriend in fear that they will discover you are gay, then you can’t spend time with your friends. I lost a lot, so afraid people would judge me for who I was, that I pushed even my closest friends away.

The first time you come out of the closet, it’s hard. Every good reaction makes it easier, until it doesn’t become a thing you have to do anymore, but rather, just another part of who you are. So in another November, but this time of 2011, I started dating my current love, my love of all time, my wife. As we were starting to discuss marriage, the first same sex marriage equality law was voted in. We eventually got married in that state, Washington. In 2013 the Supreme Court of the United States made it legal in our home state, California. We felt so lucky, openly dancing the streets of Pride. Now, if you openly bashed gay marriage in public, you were legally a bigot. Today, exactly one year after our legal marriage date, the Supreme Court has done it again. We are overjoyed.

This time, it’s equality across all states. So whether you are Alabaman or Montanan, you can marry who you love, regardless of gender. And you can live your life, openly with the law on your side. And I sincerely hope, for that confused and lost teenager in the depths of the South, that this landmark decision makes your life a little easier. That you will know, even if your friends, family, and church aren’t on your side, your laws are and there are people just like you all across our great nation just trying to love who we love. And that we love you.
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Livejournal [Jun. 12th, 2015|10:14 am]
Today I found R's long abandoned LiveJournal. And then out of curiosity for a comparison, I reread some of my own from the same period.

I remember doing this once, trying to start from the beginning, with my teenage self's RaNdoM CAPS and horible spellinz. Needless to say, I stopped immediately. But today, since R's journal started in 2002 when he was in college, I went back to 2005, when I was the same age (adding a few years to compensate for maturity levels- his higher than mine, of course).

The journal I happened upon was a review of a book which inspired me to run for office (and only one spelling error! "what" written as "wut" as in, "wut was I thinking?!"). Even then I was enamored with local office.

Fast forward to today. I sit on my first politically appointed board position (Contra Costa Transportation Authority's Citizen Advisory Board). I run the small non-profit arm of Contra Costa County Probation Department (Juvenile Hall Auxiliary). I hugged two mayors this month (don't worry, I'm 98% sure neither know my name). Today, after working for the state government, the county government, the city government, after seeing the rise and fall of Obama according to public opinion, after fundraising and hand-shaking myself, I feel myself jaded about public office.

I feel like more time is spent money raising than policy making, leaving hard decisions for the future. I value my privacy and home life more. I see the bureaucratic machine more clearly, towering so high, it threatens to fall upon itself or me.

So now, what next? Do I try and slay the giant? Do I turn inward to family life? Do I take my triumphs in the non-profit world? Is helping more people the answer? Is helping less people deeply more honorable, more true? Is just helping my own chosen kin enough?

Well, at least I got my yearly blog post out of it.
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The Big 3-0 [Aug. 23rd, 2014|01:31 pm]
Today, I turn 30. A time for culturally enforced reflection as I begin another decade in my charmed life.

When I think about the person I was at 20 vs. today at 30, some things are exactly the same. Exhibit #1, a picture of me wearing my favorite black t-shirt when I was 21. Exhibit #2, I am in the exact same shirt two weeks ago.

Yup, Jess came to my wedding 9 years later.
                                           This is not my baby.                                                                              
Some things have changed a lot. When I was 20, I thought I knew it all. I thought I was done growing and the world was mainly comprised of idiots or me (or people who thought like me). I thought I was always right. Hilariously enough, this is how I feel now when I talk to most people in their early 20’s. Yes, Justina included.

In our culture, turning 30 seems to be a big deal. It’s the first birthday people try to hide. In fact, the other month, somebody was joking, “Is anybody really 29 or are they all lying?” At the time, of course, I was. There’s this expectation that you should have it figured out by now.

Well, news flash, nobody ever has everything figured out perfectly, ever. But here are some things I did figure out.

1.      I like women. In fact, I married the love of my life on the longest day of this year, June 21, 2014. The wisest advice I’ve ever received is who you choose to marry is the greatest predictor of happiness. I love my wife so I love my life. She always challenges me to be a better person but is endlessly gracious when I turn out to be just human. I’m in awe of her maturity, depth of her love, and brilliance. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my decades with her and thrilled I finally found her. She was worth the soul searching, the coming out, and the wait.

2.      My friends and family are still exceptional. Throughout the years some have fallen away and new ones have entered. But on my very special day, as so many have called it, we got the best presents- friendship and kinship. Showing their love by flying in to celebrate with us, some from as far as Taiwan. By being endlessly helpful- playing/singing music, cooking, cleaning, taking video, dancing, moving tables, setting up, landscaping, toasts, day of coordinating, carpooling, making bouquet/boutonniere, loaning us equipment, loaning us a venue, paying for rehearsal dinner, hauling compost, officiating, and making us laugh, cry and feel loved. Every single guest was so thrilled to help, thanking us for letting them, (this is just nuts). It made our wedding small, intimate, and fiercely unique. This is just one example! It’s been a lifetime of amazing friends and family.

3.      Kindness is key. I still joke that if the first description of somebody is “nice,” that is a huge problem. But the older I get, the more I appreciate kind people. People who put others in front of themselves, who are generous with their time or money, who are open minded, and who look at the world as an inherently good place filled with people doing the best they can.

4.      I still lead a blessed life. I have use of all my limbs (and digits too!). I still think I’m smart. Most days, I love my job. I’ve deeply examined what is important to me (relationships, environment, saving the world) and I live according to those values. If I were born at any other time, I wouldn’t be able to. In another decade, I couldn’t have gone to law school or married a white person. Less than a half century before that, women couldn’t vote or own property. Just 2 years ago, I couldn’t have married Laura. Just 2012! I’m so lucky!

Ultimately, it’s just another day. I’m going to live my life like I do every day. I’m going to spread love, be the best self I can be, and continue to make the world a better place.
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Biggest Baby In The World [May. 29th, 2013|03:09 pm]

Here I am holding the world's largest baby. Take a moment and guess how old this little one is.

...No cheating...



...I'm waiting...



Five months. This baby is five months old and in the top 99 percentile in weight, height, and cuteness (numbers may be hyperbolized). After this morning of holding her in my admittedly, very tan arms, I felt chest pains like I was being crushed. But it was so worth it. Baby C is a delight in every way, I spent a lot of the weekend just watching her watch the world. Everything new and unusual. Every second changed. From smile to laugh and even cry, she was the highest form of entertainment.

Mad respect for the mommy's out there. Baby C required attention what seemed like 100% of the time. There were 4 of us and we just barely managed to feed the gal (not me), change the gal (not me), and check facebook (sometimes me).

A couple of months ago, some friends asked us to co-house with them. I've always been a fan of the idea. Not only is it more sustainable to share housing, but the workload can be spread over more people. In our little community with our little one bedroom apartments, we each need to pay a wi-fi bill, clean, make dinner, and generally try to be adults. The idea of getting to share some of this pain (and joy) makes being an adult seem less daunting and less isolating. After all, some weeks the only people I talk to are from work and L. When I see friends at parties, our conversations rarely reach past what we've been up to. And if I only cared about that, then I'd just check facebook and call it a day. Tell me your hopes and dreams. Tell me your fears and problems. Tell me...

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Confession: I Read Yahoo! News [Dec. 29th, 2012|12:45 pm]
Years ago, before Google and Bing, I used Yahoo! Search. And as part of the ecosystem, I read their news too. This tradition has continued today. When I have time, I check NYTimes Cover Page, Most Popular Section (saving them to GetPocket.com and thereby subverting the 10 article limit), anything my facebook friends link to and then, Yahoo! News. I know, I should've gone with Sarah Palin's "I read everything" and left your image of me intact, but there we go. I love the dating advice, ignore the sports stories, and get a kick out of seeing Tom Cruise every once in a while.

Today though, a facebook friend linked me to a Yahoo! article that I really liked. The 10 Habits of Remarkably Charismatic People. Now while I find this numerical article writing system catchy perhaps at the expense of content, I still fell for it. My comments/emphasis in italics. 

1. They listen way more than they talk.
Ask questions. Maintain eye contact. Smile. Frown. Nod. Respond--not so much verbally, but nonverbally.
That's all it takes to show the other person they're important.
Then when you do speak, don't offer advice unless you're asked. Listening shows you care a lot more than offering advice, because when you offer advice in most cases you make the conversation about you, not them.
Don't believe me? Who is "Here's what I would do..." about: you or the other person?
Only speak when you have something important to say--and always define important as what matters to the other person, not to you.
This is so true and it so deserves to be #1. I always used to say I genuinely like to listen to people. From content, to turns of phrases, to simple word choice (which I'm constantly high fiving people over), I do like to listen to people. And although sometimes I complain strangers open up to me for no particular reason, I do so in jest. And I guess if the world has forgotten how to listen, then it makes sense that just somebody listening would inspire others to open up so much. Give others a chance to relieve their pressures, just listen (whoops, unsolicited advice, not charismatic Janet!)
2. They don't practice selective hearing. All people are important, self-explanatory.

3. They put their stuff away.
Don't check your phone. Don't glance at your monitor. Don't focus on anything else, even for a moment.
You can never connect with others if you're busy connecting with your stuff, too.
Give the gift of your full attention. That's a gift few people give. That gift alone will make others want to be around you and remember you.
Again like #1, why is this something special? Of course if you are listening to somebody you should be giving them your full attention. Of course whoever is on your phone can wait. Because, get this, they are not there!

4. They give before they receive--and often they never receive.
Never think about what you can get. Focus on what you can provide. Giving is the only way to establish a real connection and relationship.
Focus, even in part and even for a moment, on what you can get out of the other person, and you show that the only person who really matters is you.
This Christmas I had to work. In the morning, the non-profit I work for gave out basic gifts of hygiene products and clothes to hundreds of children held in Juvenile Hall. Because it is a maximum security facility, their families (if they had any), have strict visiting schedules. It felt amazing to give on a day most people are thinking of receiving. I just recently watched Money Can Buy You Happiness If You Spend It On Others. How incredible! And for those I've taken more than I have received- thank you and thank you again.

5. They don't act self-important…
Unless it's a joke, which is one of my favorites. I am one of the most pretentious people you know in all things that don't matter (e.g. Violinist are more talented than Violists).

6. …Because they realize other people are more important.
You already know what you know. You know your opinions. You know your perspectives and points of view.
That stuff isn't important, because it's already yours. You can't learn anything from yourself.
But you don't know what other people know, and everyone, no matter who they are, knows things you don't know.
That makes them a lot more important than you--because they're people you can learn from.
Recently I was talking about politics with my friends, who have many of the same opinions as I had (we are friends after all). As we sat around quoting news articles from newspapers we all read I realized, this is just an excuse to pat each other on our backs. You really can't learn anything from talking about yourself or people like yourself all the time. Other opinions, even if you don't agree with them, are important.

7. They shine the spotlight on others.
No one receives enough praise. No one. Tell people what they did well.
Wait, you say you don't know what they did well?
Shame on you--it's your job to know. It's your job to find out ahead of time.
Not only will people appreciate your praise, they'll appreciate the fact you care enough to pay attention to what they're doing.
Then they'll feel a little more accomplished and a lot more important.
My parents are from Taiwan and I was raised without a lot of praise. If they weren't harping on me, that was good news. It worked out for me, but it also means I find it hard to give praise. I vow to get this one down.
8. They choose their words.
The words you use impact the attitude of others.
For example, you don't have to go to a meeting; you get to go meet with other people. You don't have to create a presentation for a new client; you get to share cool stuff with other people. You don't have to go to the gym; you get to work out and improve your health and fitness.
We all want to associate with happy, enthusiastic, fulfilled people. The words you choose can help other people feel better about themselves--and make you feel better about yourself, too.
I don't know when I became a grown up, but associating with other grown ups sometimes feels like a big attempt to sound the most busy. As a result, we often are complaining about stupid meetings, stupid people, stupid projects, stupid project managers, blah blah blah. Somehow, over time, I adopted this attitude too. And it's amazing how a room can fall silent when you start being that person who is a complainer. And guess what I did instead of being happy and enthusiastic- I complained more! To more silence. Time to revise my act.

9. They don't discuss the failings of others...
Granted, we all like hearing a little gossip. We all like hearing a little dirt.
The problem is, we don't necessarily like--and we definitely don't respect--the people who dish that dirt.
Don't laugh at other people. When you do, the people around you wonder if you sometimes laugh at them.
There is one friend in particular who I find hilarious and it is because we both like to gossip. Oh everybody says they don't, but it turns out, there are entire industries built around gossip (tabloids anyone?). But it's so true, the problem with gossip is it makes you wonder if you in turn are gossiped about. And that is not a good feeling, it does not inspire trust

10. ...But they readily admit their failings.
Incredibly successful people are often assumed to have charisma simply because they're successful. Their success seems to create a halo effect, almost like a glow.
The keyword is seem.
You don't have to be incredibly successful to be remarkably charismatic. Scratch the shiny surface, and many successful people have all the charisma of a rock.
But you do have to be incredibly genuine to be remarkably charismatic.
Be humble. Share your screwups. Admit your mistakes. Be the cautionary tale. And laugh at yourself.
While you should never laugh at other people, you should always laugh at yourself.
People won't laugh at you. People will laugh laugh with you.
They'll like you better for it--and they'll want to be around you a lot more.
For a long time I was in the closet because being gay made me different and I was taught it was shameful. So I hid my first girlfriend and didn't come out until my second one forced me to. I lost a lot of friends this way because I didn't share with them a huge part of my life. I didn't share people who were so important to me and I didn't rely on others through a difficult time for myself. But one day I realized I wasn't being fair to my friends. I was putting up a pretense of being perfectly successful when I was desperately worried about the impact my sexual orientation would have on my career, family, and friendships. As it turned out, they didn't laugh at me and most of them accepted me for who I was (in fact, sometimes I wish they made a bigger deal since it took me so long to figure it out for myself!). All my life people have told me I'm an incredibly genuine person. I am proud to be that person again. And I am happy to be able to share myself with others. 

So there you are, be honest and true. Listen to others. Laugh at yourself. And then, someday without any intentions of being charismatic, you'll get people asking you how to be so.

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(no subject) [Mar. 12th, 2012|02:51 pm]
Lately I've been feeling like writing, probably a legacy of my profession and past. I've been admiring the way friends, acquaintances and even perfect strangers select words, turn phrases, and create clarity. Oh what delight cleverly spun sentences brings.

So here it is, my triumphant return to the blogosphere. I do apologize for the absence, but I took a hiatus when my my arm was in a cast and, as often the case with hiatuses, it lingered until I had forgotten about the very habit I was taking a break from. I consoled myself with emails and verbal consultations, but alas, nothing is quite the same as some focused wanderings of the mind.

First let me address the broken finger. For almost a month, I wore a dorsal splint which prevented me from using my dominant hand and rendered my typing skills into that of a non-technology dependent 50 year old. That is, while I could muster semi-normal use with my left hand, right handed keystrokes required jumping the keyboard. A schizophrenic keyboard dance.

After the cast came a phantom of opera type mask for my hand, which gave me the freedom to use two digits and, since it was removable, showers. Nothing quite makes you appreciate the human body and simple everyday tasks like removing the ability to do them. Texting, showering, eating, all became a delicate balance mostly dominated by the left hand. Not to mention being benched from my [then] usual skiing, biking, and rock climbing.

It did give me some sympathy at work though.

I can still remember that day when they decided to graduate me from plaster. My hand, a disgusting shade of flaky white, was still swollen and stiff. When the doctor asked me to clasp it fully, I could only bend it half way. This, somehow, was impressive to them. Apparently, most people can't even move. Oh I would be fine, they said with smiles. So then came physical therapy. Hand exercises 6 times an hour. Putties. The tiniest massages ever (done with the back of a pencil). Hot to cold hand bathes. I did them religiously. Every week I returned, the occupational therapist was more than impressed. Of course I wasn't. I wanted my hand completely back to normal- 100%. I remember the day he told me that would never be possible and I should be happy with the progress I was making. And he was right, even today when I clasp my hand in various position, it hurts. I'll never be a jar opening hero again. But I can't complain, his horror stories of people never being able to make a fist again puts me in the solidly sold section. Of surgeries upon surgeries in hopes of the finger regaining its natural rotation. The true meaning of pins and needles.

And I'll never forget the first time I biked to physical therapy. The San Francisco streets mine again. Open skies, potholes, and what do you know, the biggest smile a girl can plaster.
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Too much reading, not enough analyzing. [Jun. 22nd, 2010|11:24 pm]
These days I spend a lot of time reading.  Like Sarah P., I read "everything."  Magazines to newpapers to blogs to books.  Often times I'll find something I want to update about, but never get around to it.  Usually it's because my thoughts are flittering between the space of facebook and livejournal.  Too long and too short, respectively.  Well tough cookies, I'm updating anyways.

The current issue of Newsweek is about "Healthy Living."  In it, there is an article, "This Is Your Brain.  Aging." which talks about the dreaded effects of getting old.  Apparently, after 25, it's all down hill from here.  And without a doubt, I often chose to relent instead of critical think.  Usually it's when an article is talking about advanced math and I don't really feel like following along on a separate sheet of paper, so I read on for the conclusion.  Analysis done by somebody else.  Sometimes, I'll force myself to work through the problem, and I can feel old gears turning, ever so slowly, but surely. 

Now Newsweek never does this for my brain, as their analysis is usually on the sparse rather than dense side.  So much so, that quite frankly half of the Newsweek's I read I throw down in anger (only to pick up later).  Whether contradicting themselves between issues (or even worse, WITHIN issues), their one page article "Takes" that are merely overreaching opinions guised as journalism, or being plain WRONG, sometimes, I wonder why I read Newsweek at all.  Oh right, the free access helps a lot.

So take with a grain of salt, what I am reporting that Newsweek reported.  There is a $13 million business for brain-fitness software- and I would know, Brain Age is the main reason I bought my Nintendo DS.  Unfortunately though, many of the software only drill very specific skills, such as pressing a button when a green light shows up on the screen to improve the specific skill of reaction time but nothing else.  The only software that has overall brain-fitness results is by Posit and small chunk of change: $395 of it.  It boasts of exercises such as a pattern is moving in one direction and then a second pattern appearing before the brain is finished processing the first.  "By training the brain to improve its signal-to-noise ratio, information goes through more accurately and faster."  In a study of 65+ adults using Posit one hour per day for 8 weeks, their processing speed improved to those of 40 year olds.

No offense, Posit, but having a freakin' pattern move one way, then a second one move another is basically advanced PONG.  NICE TRY, but how about I take your little patterns, morph them into ARMIES which I MICRO AND BUILT, using a down to the second ORDER, timed and marked by fiscal EFFICIENCY and call it ANY REAL TIME STRATEGY GAME.  Which is why I'm pre-ordering Starcraft 2, and when I disappear from the world, you guys can miss me but will never convince me to come back as I will be improving my overall brain fitness, so I can be a lonely 80 year old with the brain fitness of a 30 year old, kthnxbye.
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