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  • 岳父

    12天前,岳父因病医治无效,离开了我们。

    岳父和帕金森氏病搏斗了很多年。帕金森氏病一般从手抖开始。

    岳父是个热爱生活,眼明手巧的人。比方说,吃饭时一片废纸,他都会叠成一只漂亮的小船,用来放骨头。每次离开美国回国以前,他都会不厌其烦地给我们叠很多只小船。

    孙女们还小的时候,岳父也经常把她们的小衣服叠得整整齐齐的。我军训时学过把被子叠成方块型,费了九牛二虎之力。但是岳父能把小孩子的衣服叠得更整齐,像豆腐干一样。

    一个手巧的人,生帕金森氏病手抖了这么多年,心里一定会很难受。但是我想,岳父一直勇敢地与病魔搏斗,心理应该也很强大。

    Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

    今天早上在加油站,看到一辆闪闪发亮的运油车。二十多年前,我们第一次在美国一起自驾游的时候,岳父经常指着高速公路上闪闪发亮的运油车,说:看那,又是一道风景线。

    以后,看到一辆辆运油车,我都会想起岳父的。因为,岳父的一生,也是一道闪闪发亮的风景线。

    亲爱的岳父,您一路走好。我相信这不是永别,我们还会再相见的!

  • Our tools shape us

    My friend told me a story yesterday. A group of Korean researchers asked kids what they wanted to build using Legos. If the researchers showed the Lego pieces to the kids first, they wanted to build common things like cars and houses. If the researchers didn’t show them first, then the kids wanted to build uncommon things like spaceships. It reminded me of the Maslow’s hammer. Maslow wrote: “I remember seeing an elaborate and complicated automatic washing machine for automobiles that did a beautiful job of washing them. But it could do only that, and everything else that got into its clutches was treated as if it were an automobile to be washed. I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    I travelled in Germany recently. There are so many fantastic beer gardens. I assumed I’d gain weight because I ate and drank a lot every day. I took a deep breath before stepping on the scale after the trip. I was happily surprised that I lost a couple of pounds in two weeks. For the weight loss, I should thank the last-mile-travel tools there. In Europe, people use bicycles or just walk instead of riding Uber or E-Scooter. When I travelled there, my legs were tired in the first couple of days. Then they felt great as they were shaped by the daily walks.

    For long distance travel, the tools we use shape us even more. Here we mostly use cars and planes for long distance travel, while people in Europe and Asia mostly use mass transit tools like buses and trains. After several international visits, I believe the mass transit tools are essential to our future. First, those bus and train systems are well connected. The short distances between the connections make my daily walks as workout and not labor. Second, the mass transit tools save energy and climate: “A train uses up to 70% less energy and causes up to 85% less air pollution than a jet aircraft.”. Third, the mass transit tools shape how we live. As the article US Infrastructure bill explained: “We need to get people out of cars and onto mass transit…… we need to get people comfortable with living in greater concentration…… urban lifestyles are more efficient in terms of carbon footprint.”

    Photo by Elena Saharova on Pexels.com

    I no longer consider planes as mass transit tools. Planes are becoming more and more unreliable while “The climate challenge for aviation is worse than anyone expected.” In April, my flights were cancelled due to pilot shortage. In June, my flight was delayed for hours due to baggage handler shortage. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

    My wife told me a joke a long time ago. Aliens send a report back to Mars after observing America. The report says: “America has lots of parasites, called human, living in moving metal boxes, called cars”. Let’s get out of the cars. At least, let’s drive an electric car instead. Earth.org research showed: “as battery technologies continue to improve…… emissions deriving from the manufacturing of EV batteries are dropping…… emissions generated during production are highly compensated during the electric cars’ lifetime.”

    Photo by S Migaj on Pexels.com

    As Marshall McLuhan said: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” These days, we are mostly using tools instead of making tools. We are predominately tool users instead of tool makers. Our tools are now shaping us more than we shape them. Let’s think about the tools we rely on. The smartphones we are holding. The apps we are using. The air conditions we are running. Reuse, remake and relearn.

    工具人

    昨天朋友告诉我一个科研结果。韩国研究人员问孩子们想用乐高积木搭建什么东西。如果研究人员先把积木给孩子们,他们会想搭建一些普通的东西,比如汽车和房子。如果研究人员没有先给他们积木,孩子们就会想要建造不寻常的东西,比如宇宙飞船。这让我想起了马斯洛的锤子。马斯洛写道: “我看到过一台自动洗汽车的机器,洗得很干净。但它只能做好这一件事。放进去其他任何东西,都会被当作一辆汽车来对待。我想,如果你唯一的工具是锤子的话,你会把一切都当成钉子来对待。”

    在德国旅游的两个星期我每天吃喝很多。那里有很多很好的啤酒花园。旅行结束后,我在踏上体重秤前深吸了一口气。结果很惊讶地发现体重掉了两斤。我应该感谢德国的短途交通工具。在欧洲,人们使用自行车或步行,而不用 Uber 或 E-Scooter 。在德国旅行最初的几天,我的腿走很累。之后感觉就好了,因为我习惯了每日步行。短途交通工具塑造了我。

    我们使用的长途旅行工具更加能塑造我们。在美国,我们通常使用汽车和飞机,而在欧洲和亚洲,人们通常使用公共汽车和火车。经过几次国际旅行,我深信公共交通工具对我们的未来至关重要。首先,地铁,汽车和火车系统可以紧密连接。连接点之间的短距离步行是一种运动而不是劳动。第二,公共交通工具节约能源而且环保:“与喷气式飞机相比,火车使用的能源减少了 70 %,空气污染减少了 85 %。” 第三,公共交通工具可以重新塑造我们的生活方式。正如美国基础设施法案所说:“我们需要让人们从汽车里出来,坐上公共交通。。。我们需要让人们习惯于都市生活。。。都市生活方式在碳足迹方面效率更高。”

    我不再认为飞机是大规模的交通工具。飞行变得越来越不可靠,而且“航空业面临的气候挑战比任何人预想的都要严重。” 我四月的航班因飞行员短缺而取消。六月的航班因为行李搬运工人手不足而延误了几个小时。五花八门的原因让人无法信赖飞机交通。

    我太太很久以前给我讲过一个笑话。外星人在考察美国之后向火星发回报告。说: “美国有很多寄生虫,叫做人类,生活在移动的金属盒子里,叫做汽车。” 让我们从汽车里出来吧。至少,我们改用电动车。Earth . org 的研究显示: “随着电池技术的不断完善。。。电动汽车电池制造过程中产生的排放正在下降。。。生产过程中产生的排放在电动汽车的寿命期间得到高度补偿。”

    正如马歇尔·麦克卢汉所说:“我们成为我们Behold的。我们制造工具,然后工具塑造我们。” 现在,我们大多数都是使用工具,而不再制造工具。我们主要是工具的使用者,而不再是工具的制造者。现在,工具塑造我们要超过我们制造它们。让我们想想我们所依赖的工具。我们手中的智能手机,我们使用的应用程序,我们家里的空调。。。重复使用、重新制造和重新学习。

  • Open road

    Autobahns are motorways in Germany that are free of speed limit. Tired of watching out for speed limits and police, I looked forward to driving the autobahns during my trip in Europe.

    The right lane is usually full of 18 wheelers going at 120 kilometers per hour. The middle lane has cars cruising pass those 18 wheelers. And the left lane is open for cars zooming by in a blink of an eye. Free at last! The open road seemed to be asking:”How fast can you go?”. When driving at high speed on autobahns, the trees by the roadside were flying backward, the dotted white lane marks became solid lines, and the car felt like a boat gliding on water.

    Sometimes when driving at 180km/h in the left lane, a sport car pulled up behind me. I tried to speed up, but the SUV couldn’t accelerate quickly given the weight it’s carrying. The sport car started flashing their lights. I wished I didn’t have all the luggage and was driving a sport car instead. Sometimes I had to merge lane quickly. Once to avoid a collision in the left lane, I cut into the right lane at high speed. The car in the right lane honked at me. Initially, I was angry thinking they drove too slowly. At the end of the day, it occurred to me that it was an open road for them as well. They were free to drive at the minimum speed.

    If there is just one lane on an autobahn, the driver in the front chooses to drive at minimum speed while the driver in the back chooses to push the pedal to the metal, whose preference has more weight? When there is a speed limit, the range of speed difference is small. Hence less conflict between personal preference. Without speed limit, there is more conflict because the speed difference is bigger.

    What does free-of-speed-limit mean? Free to get the adrenaline rush on autobahns, or free to cruise and enjoy the scenery. Free to push the car to its limit, or free to save gas at low speed. Free to attempt risky maneuvers, or free to choose safety. After the 3000 kilometers’ road trip, I understand its meaning better.

    Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

    Life is like autobahn. Free to take the opportunity; free to resist the temptation. Free to lead the way; free to follow the lead. Free to demand individual right; free to sacrifice for greater good. And life is asking:”What’d you choose?”.

    I look forward to driving the autobahns again. Hopefully in a sporty convertible with the top down. You will probably see me in the middle lane though, most of the time.

    无极高速

    Autobahn是德国的高速公路。 很出名,因为它没有限速。厌倦了为限速和路警操心,我一直期待着在德国的Autobahn上开车。

    Autobahn的右侧车道通常是18轮集装箱运输车。它们往往开到时速120公里每小时。中间的车道通常是汽车稳稳得超过那些集装箱运输车。而左边的车道通常是开放的,时不时有汽车嗖嗖嗖得飞驰而过。这就是无极高速。

    这次去德国开车终于自由了!空旷的道路似乎在问:“你能开多快呀?”。在Autobahn上高速行驶时,路边的树木向后刷刷刷得飞去,路上白色的虚线连成了实线,汽车轻快得像船在水面上滑行。

    有时我在左车道以180公里/小时的速度行驶。一辆小跑车追到我后面。我试图加速,但因为SUV 太重,无法快速加速。小跑车开始不耐烦得闪烁大灯。要是我没有那么多行李,可以开一辆小跑车多好呀……

    有时候我不得不迅速变道。有一次,为了避免在左车道发生碰撞,我切入了右车道。右车道上后面的车生气得按喇叭。我觉得它原来开得太慢,所以我才超过它的。一开始,我很生气它对我按喇叭。不过到了晚上,我想到Autobahn对它来说也是没有限速。它可以自由地以最慢速度行驶。

    如果Autobahn只有一条车道,前面的驾驶员选择以最慢速度行驶,后面的驾驶员想要超车,谁的选择更重要呢?普通的高速公路有限速,车辆之间速度差的范围小。因此不同车速之间的冲突会比较小。在没有限速的情况下,由于速度差异很大,Autobahn上不同车速之间的冲突应该会比较多。

    无极高速到底是什么意思呢?是我可以享受高速的刺激,还是它可以一边巡航一边看风景?是我可以挑战汽车的极限,还是它可以低速驾驶节省汽油?是我可以尝试快速超车,还是它选择漫步田园?经过3000公里的自驾游,我更明白了无极高速的意思。

    生活就像无极高速。我们可以抓住机会;也可以抵抗诱惑。可以做开路先锋;也可以甘心跟随。可以要求个人权利和自由,也可以为更伟大的牺牲。生活在发问:“你们选择什么?”

    我期待着再次去德国的Autobahn。也许你会看到我开着一辆敞篷小跑车,不过在中间车道……大多数的时候。

  • Ocean fishing

    United States and China are similar in size. But the lengths of their coastline are quite different. United States is ranked #2 while China is ranked #11 based on the World Resources Institute. China has 9000 miles of coastline in total. While in the United States, just the Pacific coast is 7600 miles long. Thanks Alaska!

    For residents close to the Pacific coast, there are many ways to enjoy the coastline. My favorite activity is ocean fishing. Last Sunday, I got up at 3am, drove two and half hours to Westport, went ocean fishing for 10 hours and drove back home at 7pm. My family and friends devoured the 2 lingcod and 7 rockfish in a couple of days. It is not easy to find fresh fish at the grocery stores. But they are way more delicious, especially when cooked with skin and bones.

    If I could, I would go ocean fishing every weekend. It’s called fishing, not catching though, because there are slow days. However, even when fish don’t bite, the nature can take my breath away. Sunrise on the ocean alone worth getting up early. The endless horizon and fresh air clear my mind every time.

    Besides the tasty treat and natual beauty, the ocean also surprises me often. In the spring and early summer, we are greeted by humpback whale sometimes. Dolphin sighting just makes everyone happy. Seals are our regular competitors. And sea lions often welcome us back to port.

    Ocean fishing is a real sport. Reeling up a ten-pound fish from two-hundred-feet deep is a workout. If you still don’t believe me, check out the Deadliest Catch on the Discovery channel. The ocean can be rough and unpredictable. But the captain does a great job servicing the charter boat, preparing anglers for safety and checking the weather forecast.

    Thanks to the charter boat captain and deck hands, usually the anglers caught their limits for the day. For first timers, check out the helpful information at the Westport Charters. For convenience, the Deepsea Charters provides availability and booking online. There are several other charters at the Westport, WA. Of course, there are other fishing towns along the vast coastline. So, let’s go fishing!

  • Sacrifice in peace

    “What mother wouldn’t sacrifice herself for her child?” Safin asked Bond in the movie No Time to Die. Although Bond didn’t answer right away, he replied to the question with his action. At the end of the movie, Bond sacrificed in peace.

    As a parent, I am still learning to sacrifice in peace. When my baby girl was little, I dreaded about getting up every two hours. I got irritated by the baby screams at night. After rocking my baby to sleep one night, I held her a while longer to sleep deeper. While half awake, I heard her breathing in the middle of the night. And I could feel her heartbeat in my arms. It suddenly dawned on me how lucky I was. A precious life depended on me dearly. Although I wasn’t the air she breathed, I was pretty darn close to it. Afterwards, I was able to carry out those mid night routines in peace.

    Photo by John Finkelstein on Pexels.com

    What’s still tough for me is to sacrifice in peace while waiting for natural consequences. Not all natural consequences. When my kid wrecked the Volvo, I paid for the repairs in peace because nobody was injured. She now drives more carefully. She also chipped in for the insurance increase. When the mold grew in the bowls that my kid left unattended for weeks, I cleaned the bowls in peace after she apologized. She screamed and stormed out of her room when seeing the moldy bowls. Such natural consequences are righteous. I’m in peace because those are reconcilable.

    Would I be in peace if my kids failed to get educations as natural consequences? Such natural consequence did happen. Despite of support and encouragement from parents, my kid failed a subject last Spring. The Covid-19 pandemic has been hard on students especially. “Between 2019 and 2021, the overall percentage of students who met state standards on the math portion of the exam fell by 20 percentage points…In English, the portion of kids who met the standard fell by 9 percentage points.” The drop was steep across the board.

    Data from the latest state assessment

    My kid had to join the summer credit recovery program. However, she received the credit within two weeks of the summer program. I was petrified. What kind of natural consequence grants a semester’s credit with just two weeks’ work? The Chinese book 三字经 says “教不严, 师之惰”, which means if teaching isn’t strict, the teacher is lazy. On the other hand, the pandemic is hard on teachers. “Teachers have been working longer hours. They’re more stressed out. And many say they’ve considered quitting.” One of my coworkers used to be a teacher. I couldn’t image myself teaching teenagers virtually month after month. I truly appreciate their hard work. But still two weeks? That’s a slap on her wrist. Not righteous.

    Would I be in peace when righteous natural consequences ultimately happen to my kids? Not if it’s too late. The book 三字经 also says “养不教, 父之过”, which means if raising kids without teaching, the parents are irresponsible. An 800-years-old Chinese story accompanied that saying. A spoiled child grew up untaught and became a bandit. He broke many laws and was sentenced to death. When hugging his mother for the last time, he scolded her: “Why didn’t you teach me earlier? Now it’s too late.” Another translation of “养不教, 父之过” is a child is better unborn than untaught.

    Photo by Cup of Couple on Pexels.com

    Thousands of parents in Washington state are sacrificing without peace. School enrollment dropped significantly during the pandemic. “The year after COVID hit, the number of missing kids shot up to roughly 27,800, the following year more than 29,000.” I’m not a tiger dad. I don’t helicopter over my kids. But I find peace in strict regimen of the Washington Youth Academy instead of the summer credit recovery program. “It enrolls 16- to 18-year-olds from across the state who have dropped out of high school or are close to dropping out. The residential program uses military-style training, rigorous schooling and mentor relationships to help students earn credits”. In China, I had one year military-style training, like a gap year before the college. It was tough to get up at 5am every morning. It was tough to walk for miles with blisters on my feet. It was tough to eat potatoes as the main vegetable for months. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

    Some natural consequences are unreconcilable. Parents and teachers have to be strict sometimes. James Bond, welcome to the parent club! Great to have a killer in the camp!

  • 忌题

    我想写有关死亡的博客有一阵子了。我的嫂子 41 岁就去世了。她周年时我只能草草的回忆。我的朋友子睿在一年前去世了,享年 36 岁。他们都很勇敢,也很努力。但是因为癌症,他们的生命过早地终止了。他们在被确诊前都很健康,都没有不良习惯,也没有癌症家史。

    我还记得那两个婚礼。我的哥哥嫂子的婚礼是我参加过的第一个世界级的婚礼。他们在 2009 年做了互联网上的现场直播。世界各地的家人和朋友可以在一起庆祝婚礼。发言中,我戏称自己是他们的媒人。我的朋友子睿的婚礼是我参加过的最精致的婚礼。一切都很完美,绝对不是因为我是婚礼主持人。那是不到四年前的事。

    这么快他们就走了。美好的回忆早早就褪了色。更不用说那些悲伤的记忆,比如癌症和治疗了。他们的早逝让我怀疑自己的明天。我比他们大。什么时候轮到我呢?希望我不像辛弃疾写的少年人:”少年不识愁滋味,爱上层楼。爱上层楼,为赋新词强说愁”。 我问过自己很多问题。。。为什么?为什么!

    首先,再回首又能如何?亲朋好友一去不复返。无论回忆是喜是悲,幸存者如何生存下去?我的哥哥,我的侄子和侄女,我嫂子的父母。我朋友的妻子,她的父母和我朋友的父母。。。举个例子,这周我嫂子的妈妈摔伤了腿。哥哥天天在老人的医院和孩子们的学校之间奔走。

    其次,问过为什么后,发现他们的悲剧与保持健康、好习惯和家谱无关。为什么我的嫂子( 41 岁)和我的朋友( 36 岁)这么年轻就去世了?为什么在第一次被诊断时,就已经处于晚期癌症了?为什么我朋友不早点告诉我他患了癌症?为什么我一开篇觉得有必要澄清他们的健康,习惯等等?

    为什么癌症仍是一个忌题?癌症可能在任何年龄发生, 无论我们如何防护。希望社会能意识到这一点。除了防护,大家更需要及早诊断。

    最后,为什么与正能量无关。为什么我只听到哥哥关起门后还努力压抑的呜咽?为什么我朋友的妻子只是私下悲伤? 为什么我过了一年多才能写出这一点感受?

    为什么心理健康仍是更大的忌题?心理不健康是常见病,不是精神病。是时候像奥运选手 Simone Biles, Chloe Kim and Michael Phelps 那样倡导心理健康了。

    P.S. this blog has the same content as the original one, Taboo subjects. I’m translating it to Chinese here.

  • 幸福快乐

    Alegria 是太阳马戏团的经典表演之一。它现在正在西北地区巡回演出。这场演出充满了精彩的马戏和著名的配乐。根据韦氏词典, Alegria 在是快乐的意思。根据西班牙语词典, 它也有幸福的意义。英文中常常祝愿别人“幸福快乐”。快乐和幸福的区别是什么呢?

    上周看Alegria 马戏表演时,帐篷里充满了欢声笑语。两位小丑在暴风雪中的表演是快乐和幸福的绝佳例证。这暴风雪是用巨型鼓风机,吹出成吨的薄纸片做成的特效。当我置身其中时,我不禁伸出手去抓飘舞的纸雪花。当看到纸片落满其他观众的西服晚装时,我不禁捧腹大笑。这个暴风雪特效很接地气,让我感到很快乐。

    当白茫茫的雪花大多落下时,我又能看到舞台了。那两个小丑在暴风雪之前因为争吵分手了。现在却手拉着手,一起对抗着风暴。他们曾经是失散的,但现在找回了。他们曾经是破碎的,但现在重圆了。小丑的表演让微笑浮上我的脸庞。我感到了幸福。

    在圣地亚哥的时候,我带着三岁的女儿去参观铁路博物馆。她当时喜欢火车玩具,比如托马斯和朋友。在博物馆里,参观微型火车和铁路,搭积木做手工,我们快乐得玩了好久。

    铁路博物馆位于Balboa Park公园里。参观后,我们在公园的一个庭院里休息。那是一个宁静的星期二下午。庭院里没有其他游客。女儿自己在草地上,在花丛中玩。我坐在喷泉边,晒着圣地亚哥的太阳。女儿玩累了,摇晃着走了过来。她爬上喷泉,坐在我的腿上小憩。那一瞬间,我觉得心里好像也喷出了幸福的泉水。

    Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com

    快乐是外在的,比如一个愉快的笑声。幸福是内在的,就像一个会心的微笑。

    快乐就像暴风雨一样,是可以预测的,比如看一场经典的马戏表演。幸福就像雨后彩虹,是无法预知的,就像分手的伴侣在风暴中重归于好。

    快乐是实实在在的,比如陪女儿玩火车玩具。幸福是妙不可言的,就像那个周二在阳光下的喷泉旁。

    祝你幸福快乐! 或者用西班牙语, te deseo Alegria!

    进一步阅读: 快乐与幸福的列表比较。以及葛培理对它们的理解。最后,这里是Alegria主题曲的MTV录影英文歌词

    P.S. this blog has the same content as the original one, Alegria. I’m translating it to Chinese here.

  • Taboo subjects

    I have been struggling with mortality for a while. My sister-in-law passed away at the age of 41. My friend Zirui passed away a year ago today at the age of 36. They fought their fights. Their lives were cut short because of cancers. They were healthy before being diagnosed. Neither had bad habits. And there was no family history of cancer either.

    I still remember those two weddings. My brother and sister-in-law had the first world-class wedding that I have attended to. It was live casted in 2009 so families and friends across the globe could celebrate together. In my speech, I jokingly claimed to be their matchmaker. My friend Zirui had the most exquisite wedding that I have attended to. Everything was perfect, definitely not because I was the wedding presider. That was less than 4 years ago.

    Now they are gone. Just like that, fond memories turned grey. Let alone sad memories such as cancers and treatments. Their tragedies made me question my own mortality. I’m older than them, being healthy and so on. When is my turn? I hope I’m not like the youngsters in a classic Chinese poem: “少年不识愁滋味, 爱上层楼. 爱上层楼, 为赋新词强说愁”. (Teens haven’t tasted sorrow yet they fantasize about it in poems.) I asked myself many questions. Why, why, why?!

    First, it’s not about reminiscent of those memories, fond or sad. It’s about my brother, my nephew and my niece. It’s about the parents of my sister-in-law. It’s about my friend’s wife. It’s about her parents and my friend’s parents.

    It’s about how survivors survive, without their loved ones. For example, this week the mother of my sister-in-law had leg injury. My brother has been hard-pressed with double duties between the emergency rooms and the kid schools.

    Second, it’s not about being healthy, good habits and family trees. It’s about why so young my sister-in-law (41) and my friend (36) passed away. It’s about why the cancers were at stage 3 already when first diagnosed. It’s about why my friend didn’t tell me about his cancer earlier. It’s about why I even felt compelled to clarify that they were healthy and so on.

    Why cancer is still a taboo? Cancer might happen to anyone at any age. Hopefully recognizing that will usher in early detections.

    Third, it’s not about being strong like the Olympians. It’s about why my brother muffled his cries behind closed doors. It’s about why my friend’s wife grieving in private only. It’s about why I couldn’t write about the tragedies for a year.

    Why mental health is an even bigger taboo? It’s time to advocate mental health like Simone Biles, Chloe Kim and Michael Phelps.

  • Alegria

    The Alegria is a Cirque de Soleil show. It’s touring in the Northwest region now. The show is full of classic performances and famous soundtracks. Alegria means happiness in Spanish based on the Merriam-Webster. It also means joy in Spanish based on the Spanishdict. We often wish someone “joy and happiness”. What is the difference between joy and happiness?

    Alegria cover image from https://cirquedusoleil.fandom.com/wiki/Alegr%C3%ADa:_In_A_New_Light

    When I watched the show Alegria last week, the big tent was filled with laughter for two hours. The blizzard scene with the clowns is a great illustration of joy and happiness. When I was in the blizzard made out of tons of tiny pieces of tissue paper, I couldn’t resist from reaching out and catching the paper snowflake. I laughed when I saw other audiences in fancy dresses covered with tissue paper. The special effect was engaging and funny, and I felt happy. Then the whiteout started to settle, and I could see the stage again. The two clowns who separated after fighting each other before, were now holding hands fighting the storm together. They were lost but now found. They were broken but now reunited. The clown act brought smile to my face, and I felt joy.

    When we were in San Diego, I took my toddler to visit the Railroad Museum. She liked the choo choo trains, such as the Thomas & Friends. In the museum, we checked out the miniature trains and railroads, and played with hands-on activities. We were happy. Afterwards, we chilled out in a courtyard at the Balboa Park. It was a quiet Tuesday afternoon. No other visitors in the courtyard. I let my daughter playing by herself in the grass and with the flowers. I soaked in the sun sitting on the edge of a fountain. She waddled back after roaming around, climbed up and rested on my lap. In that moment, I was filled with joy.

    Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com

    Happiness is outward like a good laugh. Joy is inward like a knowing smile.

    Happiness is predictable like a storm, e.g. watching a classic circus show. Joy is unforeseeable like a rainbow, e.g. discovering two broken souls amended during the storm.

    Happiness is tangible like a kiddo playing with her favorite toy. Joy is sublime like cushioning my baby by the fountain in the sun.

    Wish you joy and happiness! Or simply, te deseo Alegria!

    Further readings: Happiness vs Joy, and from Billy Graham: their difference. Last but not least, here are the music video of the Alegria theme song with the lyrics.

  • Chicken ribs

    I miss the Salt Lick BBQ beef ribs. I like the grab-and-go pork ribs. But I’m not sure about the chicken ribs, even if they are free-range. 1800 years ago, the Prime Minister Cao Cao (曹操) was also unsure about those during a war. At the dinner time, a solder came in and asked: “Please name the safe word for the night guard”. The Prime Minister was eating chicken and replied: “chicken ribs” (鸡肋). The soldiers were puzzled. Probably you are as well. Let me explain.

    The safe word reflected the Prime Minister’s top-of-mind. On one hand, the chicken ribs were boring to eat (食之无味). On the other, he felt pity to waste those (弃之可惜). Just like his military conquest at that time. The warfare got into a stalemate, and the opponent disrupted his supply chain. Although the military victory seemed beyond his reach, the Prime Minister wasn’t ready to retreat either. You may read the full story in Chinese here.

    Photo by HM Grand Central Hotel on Pexels.com

    Since then, “Chicken ribs” became a popular saying in Chinese. If you look around, there are chicken ribs everywhere. Literally, shall I eat two-days-old leftover, or throw it away. More seriously, shall I join my friend’s birthday party in person, or continue to isolate in the multiyear long pandemic. And for Seahawks fan, shall we keep the defense captain, or save millions against the salary cap.

    Chicken ribs are tough choices. But they are different from “to be or not to be”, because they are not life and death decisions. There might be drama, but life goes on whether we choose to eat those up or cast those away. Chicken ribs are tough choices. But they are different from “damn if you do damn if you don’t”, because one or both choices may turn out just fine. If you find a matching English idiom describing “chicken ribs”, I’d love to know.

    Chicken ribs are tough choices, exactly because of the same reasons above. We may procrastinate because they are not life and death decisions. Analysis paralysis is more likely to occur because both choices may seem equally fine. And we may swing back and forth between the choices. For example, I told my friend that I’d skip the party, only to change my mind on his birthday. My friends had to rearrange logistic to accommodate me at the last minute.

    Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

    Sometimes, it takes a crisis to break the spell of Chicken ribs. The Great Resignation is an outcome of millions of dissatisfied workers decided to quit their jobs, after the pandemic shed new light on their work and life. Similarly, the Chinese minimalist lifestyle Tang ping (躺平) started during the pandemic as well.

    Resignation rates image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Resignation

    How to proactively evaluate Chicken ribs? First, understand ourselves better. Instead of being triggered by the pandemic, we may periodically reflect on our work and life, our value and belief, and our relationships with others. Second, communicate our thought process with families, friends and colleagues. Both choices are fine: to eat chicken ribs or to cast those away. However, our decision will likely impact people around us. And we may decide differently from each other. Lack of communication may cause rifts among us. Last but not least, appreciate the opportunity. Having chicken ribs to start with is a good thing. And after all, those are just chicken ribs.

    Photo by jenvit keiwalinsarid on Pexels.com