Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Old Journals

I'm going through one of my old journals dating between Apr 16, 2000 and May 6, 2001.

I'm reading through each entry and some of the entries are making me cringe as I remember how different I was back then. A lot of memories of lost opportunities reinforces my thoughts on blaming it as youthful ignorance. Analyzing the writing makes me worried for the person who I was then. My script/handwriting was wild and erratic. My mind was in a severely emotional state.

A couple of notable observations-

A victory on achieving my learner's license on June 27, 2000.

Talking about my second knee surgery in August 2000, as well as about getting the staples removed the following week.

Sessions of ez2dancer with a friend at Richmond Public Market

Generally giddiness talking to girls

Apparently I did something called VOing. Not convinced but I think it might have had something to do with a game called Virtual-On

Being able to date with precision the first time I met a friend

I'm not sure I actually wanted to read most of this journal. It creates mixed emotions of mostly negative feelings. I thought I had buried most of who I was back then, and that's mostly true. Though reading through these entries stirs up the old feelings of doubt and disappointment. I was hoping this exercise would have provided catharsis but I think it may have done the exact opposite instead.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The 5 educational games that need remakes

This list of 5 games are my top choices for games that need a refresh and re-introduced to the market to educate children of today. The game market of today isn't as youth-friendly or helpful in creating truly valuable learning experience (that I believe) that I experienced when I was younger.

These are in no way saying these are the best educational games out there, I just found these the best inspiration that helped me learn important lessons that apply to the real world in a format helpful to a younger audience.

5) SimCity
-Urban planning
-Resource management

SimCity is one of those games that helps kids understand how a city grows naturally and how the people that inhabit it will affect certain changes. It also covers building and construction management basics.

4) Warcraft 2/Starcraft

-Micromanagement [Worker time allocation, army placement]
-Macromanagement [Base development, defense/offensive economy spending]
-War mechanics[chokepoints, advantage/disadvantage strategy]

I have to admit this choice isn't purely educational, it is fun, but it teaches valuable lessons about economy management, logistics planning with army, and city planning and development. The game system is so complex that there is (or was) even a course at UC Berkeley that teached the theory of the game in order to understand the lessons of deep economics that apply to the real world.

3) Oregon Trail
This game taught me the basics of logistics (and avoiding dying from dysentery). From learning to collecting resources, and allocating food rations, as well as transportation mechanics, this is definitely a timeless classic that everyone should play (and finish, at least once).

2) Jones in the Fast Lane
-Time management
-Understanding career development
I love this game. This was the first game I ever played on the PC (which was at that time an IBM PS/2, I think). Playing against the computer or playing against a friend, Jones in the Fast Lane gives me warm, fuzzy memories of panicking to pay rent and get my education done and be happy, all at once.

1) Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
There are so many different versions of this game, a television show, a cartoon show, and I adored all of it. This game taught me so much about different places, names and highlights of different cities and countries in the world. If I had to attribute my love for traveling and exploration, I have to credit this game because it taught me to embrace the differences of all the cultures there are in the world.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The fight against fear

"Failure is an option but fear is not" -James Cameron

All my life I have struggled to talk to people. As a young child my parents were worried because I would not speak. By my parents account, I was a late talker since I didn't start talking until I was three years old. They even went to a Chinese opera theatre (specifically the Fujian kind, Gaojia) and asked the performers for some food. They gave it to me to eat because of a superstition that it would help me talk.

When I was eight years old, friends of my sister were over at our house. One of them exclaimed, "He talks. He talks!" My sister's friend apparently thought I was mute, or something to that extent. I am a relatively silent person to most people I don't know. As to how much of that constitutes as shyness and how much as just fear is what I have most of life trying to figure out. It may sound ridiculous, and I'll concede the concept is, that I psycho-analyze myself. The question is though that even if I am aware of it, why am I not able to surpass my fear of talking.

It is a constant struggle dealing with my situation to overcome the paralysis that my fear creates. There is definitely shyness and maybe some fear of embarrassment, but there is also one part a fear of the unknown. Sometimes I have something to say and I am vocalizing in my mind, but no sound comes out.

I used to be afraid of the world. Everything was a threat. I held it in. Man up. Don't be afraid. Don't let them see you're afraid. And you won't be. Hide your fears. Unfortunately for me, this is and was self-destructive. By holding it all in, I merely empowered my fears. My silence manifested into fears of trying things. I was bullied when I was younger and I held it all in. I never screamed out my anger and it created a deep hatred in my soul.

The difference between realization and real-ization
It starts as a small doubt. A small annoyance. A small fear.
A shadow waits in your mind like a tiger stalking ready to pounce. Waiting. Seething. Grinning.

The failure to acknowledge its existence is the instant it becomes real. Ignoring it only feeds it to grow; flourishing every time you choose to disregard it. 

 A small doubt. A terror of heights. A momentary dread of talking. A flash of anger. A burst of restrained grief. All these glimmers of doubt and fear controlled and then repressed into the mind as bottled emotions.

These small instances blossom into fully developed irrational phobias, a complete and utter hatred of someone or something, or a terrible sorrow that holds the heart and the mind captive in the grasp of the shadows of doubt.

This is what happens every time you fail to real-ize a doubt. You have to make it real by saying it out loud. To vocalize it. If you hold it in your thoughts and deny yourself its power, you only cause the doubt to bloom into a behemoth of incalculable fear in your heart.

Understanding its existence is insufficient to dissipate its power. Only once you have said it out loud can you truly defeat it and remove its hold over your thoughts. There is a natural resistance to expressing ourselves and that is partly why there is so much suffering. We hold each doubt in our hearts like caged beasts. Ignoring it like animals in a zoo. They lie in wait clawing at the bars of its prison until your mind fractures. Then it feasts on your anger. Your hatred. Your insecurities. It will break you from the inside out.

This is why in the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort holds so much power even with his name. People fear saying his name, and in doing so, the people empower the fear even more.

Facing your fears
Most of the time, our fears hold us hostage. This is mostly due to the fact that we have not given the fear a physical form or thought. It is incorporeal in our mind and shapeless, and thus unassailable.

Instead of just focusing on the fact that your fear is making you miserable, list out the facts that you can think of that define the fear. Most of the time, if you can assess the actual root of the fear, the fear itself does not look as immense as before. This is required for you to define the wall in front of you and gives you a better idea of how to climb over it. If you try to avoid the thought and resist addressing the wall right in front of you, you prevent yourself from seeing yourself on the other side of the obstacle.

Conquering the fear
I couldn't function normally in high school for the most part. Depression set in and I didn't want to talk. I was a walking cloud of gloom-and-doom. In order for me to be free, eventually I had to let all the pain in my heart go somehow. My outlet came to me in poetry. I wrote all my sorrows and misfortune into verses of pure expressive grief. When I read the words out loud, I released all the years of confined doubt and emotions. 

To not speak its nature. To hold your breath. Is to open your heart to darkness. Speak its name.  And hold your flame to its face and tell it that you do not fear it. Only then shall you conquer your doubts.

Expressing your fears and getting it out into the world will instantly resolve fears for some, but not for all. However, the importance is in releasing it from its jar so it does not keep building pressure, imaginary or otherwise. By expelling it, you have given it a form that you can now face instead of a mere essence that looms around your heart.

The next time doubts arise in your mind. Before they have the strength to gather a storm, describe it and it shall be gone. To conquer your fears, you must define them.

A journey into my roots

My current trip to the Philippines has mostly been to attend my grandmother's (on my father's side) 2nd-year death anniversary. This trip has become a journey into exploring my roots and my ancestry to discover more about my grandparents. I just returned from a journey down to Bicol, the southern region in the Bicol peninsula, by the southeastern region of Luzon.

I was able to visit where my mom grew up, Naga City. I never met my grandfather on my mom's side as he passed away before I was born. I didn't attend my grandmother's funeral when she passed in 1996 and never got a chance to visit either of their graves until now. The day we visited was a good day to go as by coincidence it would have been my grandfather's 100th birthday.

Journeying into the province gave me a glimpse into how people in the rural areas of the Philippines lived. The countryside is filled with rice fields tended by farmers and as expected most of the towns are poor rural communities. As we travelled around Bicol I was able to find out more about my family's story. The details are mostly fuzzy and not entirely accurate because they are mostly told from my parent's memory (and guesswork on details they're unsure of).

All of my grandparents were born in China. Three were born in Amoy, China while one was born somewhere else in the Fujian province (I will have to look it up). All of them moved to the Philippines because of civil unrest in China that lead up to the Chinese Civil War. They first arrived in Manila, then each ended up in adifferent part of the Philippines.

On my mom's side (Lee family):
My grandmother's family ended up with roots in both Manila and Aparri. My grandfather met my grandmother in Manila. They ended up moving to Naga City and starting a rice mill company. That's where they ended up starting their family and most of their kids (including my mom) moved one by one back to Manila. There's more complicated details about my grandfather's family and cousins/step-siblings (though I won't go into it because I don't exactly understand all of it either). My mom's family also has an interesting story of intrigue regarding property disputes and family rivalries. The dispute has already been going on for a long time and is mostly history though still unresolved because of the end result. It's exciting to note that there's still bad blood between the families so that there is a family feud (that I inherit from my mom's family) that I may have a rival family to shake my fist at.

On my dad's side (Qua family):
My grandfather (on my dad's side) was a copra trader. My grandfather's job had him based in Legazpi. His job eventually led him to travel between Daet and Manila. He met my grandmother who was already in Daet and they got married. That's eventually where my father and his siblings grew up.

Though the details of my ancestor's voyage down to the Philippines are vague, I feel that it gives me a better connection to who they are and where I come from. I didn't really know much about this before and I never thought about asking. I wish I had the opportunity to ask my grandparents themselves though that chance is gone. The details about my ancestry doesn't change much about who I am as a person, but it does give me a better perspective on who my parents are.

This picture of my parents and I are at the remnants of the buried town of Cagsawa. The bell tower of the town's church is the only remaining structure of the town which was bombarded with tephra from the an eruption of Mayon Volcano.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Image of Positivity

It has been a shock to me how much I have changed but it seems that it runs the other way as well and how much people perceive that I have changed. The change has been more physical than anything else. Although I have not really felt that I have changed too much, I can chalk it up to a lot of small changes. The obvious difference that people comment on is my weight. I have lost about 20 pounds since a year ago, about 10 percent of my total weight. On top of that, my recent LASIK surgery gives me freedom from my glasses. I have also recently dyed my hair. It is uncommon as I rarely do so. However, it seems that I have redefined myself with all these changes that every person I have run into tells me that I am completely different and a new person. Literally from head to toe, I am mostly a different person. I didn't really feel all that different with all these changes until after everyone started commenting on it.

I am used to letting comments, whether it be good or bad, to roll off and not affect my feelings. However, this influx of comments, positive ones thankfully, have started affecting my confidence. I feel like a truly different (and much more chipper) person just because of the waves of positivity and I am truly grateful that it has made me feel happier.

I have also been trying to change how I think. I am not a completely depressing person, but I feel like I should be more cheerful as I feel like the last two years have been quite heavy on me. I have started taking a couple steps to achieve this. I have started meditating everyday (or at least try to) focusing on chakras and calming my mind usually at either the start or the end of the day (or any time during the day, it does not hurt to just calm yourself randomly). I don't want to push people away, but sometimes it's necessary and I feel that some friends bring out the negativity in life and we truly are what we surround ourselves with. The more I ask myself where I want to be, the more I have kept saying "somewhere else". Be more dynamic. Take risks. Fear is an illusion. I'm jumping into the unknown with personal and professional decisions so that I reach for the stars. The biggest obstacle is seeing the ground beneath me and hoping gravity doesn't bring me down. For now I'm ignoring it and look up. The ground will always be there for you to land no matter how hard, but the sky and the heavens are endless. Dream for the stars and hopefully you can defy gravity.

The last but most important step for me is chanting my happiness mantra at the end of the day before I go sleep. "I will find my happiness. I will find my path. I will find my passion." This defines my current mission in life and helps me focus on changing my life for the better.

2010 has been good so far for me. Here's to hoping it lasts forever (or at least for a while). Riding on the wave of positivity 2010. =)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Life after LASIK

I had a lot of reservations about going in to get LASIK, a laser-assisted refractive surgery of the eye to repair vision problems. The foremost fear is the possibility of going blind. On a lesser note, there is the possibility your vision actually gets worse instead of better. It's definitely a possibility, it's not some kind of myth of people going blind, but people need to understand the entire picture of those consequences is mostly from bacterial infections that occur after the surgery rather than the procedure itself causing direct harm. (I am still currently applying anti-infective and anti-inflammatory medicinal eye drops).

The risks
Once you get past the initial possibilities of going blind, the next stage is calculating the cost-benefit analysis for the hefty price tag for the procedure.

The cost of the surgery.
It's not cheap. Although I did get mine at a cheaper cost by doing it in the Philippines, the cost is still pretty substantial. I paid about USD1300 for the treatment, and the price tag in North America is probably more than double that.

The rewards
One could argue that I didn't get my money's worth as much, or that I didn't really need the surgery because my eyes (at the time of the screening) was only +1.00. My eyes weren't that bad, but everything at a distance was blurry enough that I needed to wear glasses. For me, +1.00 or +9.00 makes no difference, you still need to wear glasses to see things clearly. The potential upsides for me is definitely worth the cost.

Freedom. The obvious one is not needing to wear glasses. (I won't go into contacts because I never felt comfortable in using them. I've never tried) No more clunky eyewear to obstruct my view. No more reliance on corrective lenses to be able to see something at a distance. Freedom to see the world as it is. This may sound really ridiculous for people who don't wear corrective eyewear, or people who are far-sighted, but I feel that it's a huge burden. Wearing glasses for reading is a different argument altogether and I'm going to ignore that discussion.

Driving. The only time I really feel like I was compelled to wear glasses was when I was driving. I have a great fear of not seeing signs or judging distance properly. The surgery definitely minimizes that crushing fear.

Sunglasses. I hated not being able to wear sunglasses because I wouldn't be able to see without corrective lenses so I never bothered wearing them. There's clip-ons, but those feel clunky too. Now, I can wear shades! Sweet.

Worrying. My parents always have issues with not being able to find their glasses. I don't lose mine as much, but there is always the burden on your memory to always remember to bring it if you leave it somewhere and also the cost of having to find it when you do realize you've lost them again.

Confidence. I never realized how much I used my glasses as a metaphorical crutch. Playing around with it when I'm nervous and using it as an excuse that I didn't notice something. I found out the past few days that I kept reaching for my glasses even though I don't wear them anymore. I definitely feel a lot more confident about how I look without glasses framing my face. I think the simple fact that I can see everything around me clearly without having to rely on the glasses give me some psychological sense of security. I guess it's the idea of a barrier or reliance that generates a feeling of dependence.


Day 7 after LASIK. I am satisfied with the lifestyle change. I'm still suffering some bouts of Phantom Glasses Syndrome and fighting the urge to reach for glasses that aren't there. From someone I've talked to who have had the procedure, they told me, I quote "best decision ever. should have done it earlier." I'm pretty doubtful I'll have any regrets, but I will have to see if I'm still happy with this in a few weeks.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The journey for Japanese noodles at Narita Airport

I was strolling through one of the many food booths at Tokyo Narita Airport's Terminal 2. This lady was bouncing along to the counter ecstatic at the opportunity to try Japan's national food of ramen noodles.

She puts her finger down on the menu card on one of the choices"Japanese noodles?".

The vendor replies "Yes. Japanesu noodles. Hai!" The woman bubbles in glee and beams a smile at her fortune.

"Pork?" The vendor shakes her head, "No pork. Beef"

The woman takes a slow breath in disappointment rethinking her options. Then she points to another picture on the menu card. "This one?" The vendor nods, "Japanese noodles and beancurd."

The woman cracks a smile again. Success! She hops in excitement. "Yes! Do you take Canadian money?" The vendor again shakes her head, "No, we accept US dollars."

The woman's smile disappears and morphs into an expression of eternal sadness and disappointment. Crestfallen at her final defeat she whimpers and trudges on in search of another chance for a bowl of Japanese noodles.

(I never did figure out if she got to eat noodles. The irony here was that there was a currency exchange centre about 50 feet down the concourse of the terminal from the food mart)

Mesmerized by this roller coaster of emotional crescendos and falls I was almost as excited as the lady watching her experience the tumult of excitement and disappointment.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Olympics Vancouver 2010

I am disappointed I will not be in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics. How many times can someone experience the Olympics coming to their city? It's a catastrophic failure of opportunities, but equally I have to weigh the benefits of not having to deal with the insane traffic and congestion that will probably cripple the city's streets. The multiple venue structure has the potential to create havoc in Whistler, Vancouver, West Vancouver, and Richmond, maybe cascading into a problem for the majority of the lower mainland. There's also the fact that Vancouver now poses as a target for security threats and terrorist attacks.

Those are probably relatively small prices to pay for the opportunity to see the Opening or Closing Ceremonies, Canadians winning on native soil, and hopefully Canada taking the gold for ice hockey.

If I was going to be in Vancouver, I really wanted to be a volunteer. The chance to represent the city, the nation, and participate in something as huge. This is something that happens so rarely and maybe only happens once in a lifetime. I'm torn at the conflict but I have obligations to attend to so I do not really have much of a choice.

Do you believe?