The Arbiters of Awesome

Great pearly gates, waiting to judge, to arbitrate. Are you worthy? Are you ready?

I have been afraid of posting, of writing, of facebooking, twittering, connecting. Because once you do, there is a trail, a record of you not already being totally awesome. Of already being ready. Of already being worthy.

Of finding out that I never had the ability to be awesome.

Stepping back for a moment, as teacher, a mentor, you would probably say. How short sighted. How dumb. How could you know if you didn’t even try? How do you learn, to grow, to become the awesomeness you wish for if you do not go through the stumble and fall?

Are you just waiting to one day wake up and simply be the awesome you wish to be?

Are you too afraid to discover that you may not be awesome at all?

I have been sitting on an amazing idea that people encouraged me to quit my job for. Afraid that perhaps it is not as amazing as I and they think it is. I half-wish that I encounter more negativity so that I have something to overcome. I have had to wake up because my co-founders recently asked me what our timeline was so they could plan when to quit their jobs.

All I could think was: what have I done.

Am I a brash arrogant CEO to be who misleads people with inflated dreams and powers through situation fueled by self-serving pride, through an incipient belief that I can never be wrong?

Inside, I certainly do not feel that way. I feel a turmoil of doubt, fear, terror nestled in between the truth and the conclusion that I despise not trying as much as I do boredom and regardless of my mental mantra, I will never stop seeking to accomplish the goals the dreams that I have envisioned for myself. My cofounders trust me, my friends say they believe in me. Strangers tell me they see a bright future for me and my ideas and inside, I feel a wave of confusion. Why do they believe in me? Do they believe in me because I am a mythical beacon they simply want to believe. Or do they believe in me because what they say is true, that they see something in me. Something that can change the world.

Every kid wants to change the world. What makes me any different?

Sure my track record with accomplishments is vast and I have become known for attempting and succeeding at seemingly impossible things. People use both factoids as reasons for why I should believe in myself and should not complain about fears of failure. After all, I have already attained so much. I have already proved I can be successful, that I am inherently awesome.

Except to me it feels like they are telling me, I have no right to complain. That anything I say will sound like bragging, not a desperate attempt to ask for opinions on my sanity.

They tell me, I have no right to feel fear, to feel terror. And I am tempted, to bury my head. To go back to sleep. To just get another job, after all they are recruiting too, to say I am just not ready yet. Do not give me your hope, your belief, your dreams. Your trust.

If I just do not do anything, they will continue believing. If this is all fictional, if I am a fluke, an imaginary beacon not of my own design then to preserve the perception that I am worthy, the only reasonable move is to not play at all. The child who has achieved a high score on a game, the higher the score, the more tempting it is to stop while one is ahead, to stop playing.

It makes me want to disconnect. To sleep and hope that when I wake up, the arbiters of awesome will have judged me already worthy.

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Why at 17, Joshua Wong, is on my list of role models

In 1997, Hong Kong, a British colony is returned to and liberated by Communist China.

In 2012, at 15, Joshua created a student movement called Scholarism to protest the patriotic education reform that threatened the inclusion of democracy among other topics being taught in the schools of Hong Kong. Arrested on multiple occasions, he continues to present himself as a public target to rally students to protest the reforms from China to convert Hong Kong into a proper Chinese territory.

In 1945, Taiwan, a Japanese colony is surrendered to and liberated by Nationalist China who rename the island the temporary base for the Republic of China. Two years later, an accidental shooting of a civilian erupted anti-mainlander sentiments into violence leading to martial law and a period of time known as the White Terror where thousands, in particular intellectuals and leaders, were jailed or killed for suspicious politics. Two relatives of mine were directly affected. One given minutes of notice fled into the night only to dare contacting his family recently for fear that they be harmed from the association. The other, jailed for nearly a year, was rescued from near death by his wife through persistence and bribery.

Spring 2014, Lin Fei-fan and Chen Wei-ting start the Sunflower Student Movement in Taiwan to organize student protest against the ratifying of Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement in a black box fashion, without proper agreed upon review of the treaty by all parties of the legislature and interested general public. It is feared that the trade agreement, which contains a legal framework for mainland China’s participation in Taiwan’s future economic policies, may lead to the loss of the de facto independent democracy which Taiwan currently enjoys.

At age 6, my parents sent me alone to the United States to stay with relatives who likewise had been sent abroad to study for fear of safety. Raised in the land of democracy, I became active in local politics by 17 and went off to the land of Berkeley, intending to study Political Economics with a focus on environmental regulation and developing nations of Asia. At 19, I learned that attempting to publish on anything Taiwan related could bar me from programs and fellowships with ties to China. Additionally, I could be banned from traveling to China and have anyone related to me be put on lists for monitoring for suspicious activities.

Unwilling to create problems for an extended family I do not know the full scale of and a lifetime of being the prized only child told not to sacrifice, I left politics. If this path was not so bright, perhaps I could contribute more in some other studies. It seemed like the smart thing to do and if I was indeed as smart as people told me, I could simply be really good at something else.

Summer 2014. Joshua Wong holds a press conference to reveal his university entrance exam results due to overwhelming interest. He qualifies for university with average scores.

And rain in the haters who cast down hysteric laughter at the poor misled folks of Hong Kong, desperate and con-fuddled to believe in a middling of the pack intellectual. One comment stood at to me: “Have to imagine what the response would have been if he had gotten a bunch of 5**s though…”

5**s being the top possible grade on these entrance exams.

Here is what I think. If Joshua Wong had been a person who was capable of attaining all 5**s and the sort of person who would prioritize achieving all 5**s, he would be a coward like me.

He would be so afraid of no longer being the best or potentially marring his great big bright future. He would be afraid of the repercussions of having a record of arrest, of having extended family affected, of being barred from leaving or entering the nation of his birth. Of being jailed for the rest of his life.

If he had been someone told his entire life of what a huge effect he will have on the world one day. He would be so terrified of doing something to prevent the attaining of that future that he become too afraid to do anything at all.

Joshua Wong, along with Lin Fei-fan and Chen Wei-ting, did what I was too afraid of doing. Being involved with the politics involving a home that I love and a behemoth that could destroy my family and my future. They deal with what I was too afraid to face. Fei-fan is only six months older than me, Wei-ting two years younger, and Joshua even younger. Fei-fan and Wei-ting have been barred entry to China. Joshua deals with constant surveillance and threat of confinement. Yet he spoke what needed to be said and continued when others were willing to give up. He did not let it be someone else’s fight to save his own future life. His fight is for his region to attain universal suffrage and a truer democracy.

For all those haters who question following a leader without perfect grades, a fight for higher grades is a poor excuse for not fighting for a life worth living. The contrapositive being that, fighting for a life worth living can be worth not having higher grades.

I hope that I will not regret that I did not become brave earlier. A recurring theme for me of late seems to be: to force oneself to fall, is to learn to truly struggle.

Aways Successful: the Tale of Truly Excellent Sheep

Aways Successful: the Tale of Truly Excellent Sheep

Caught in between my fingers, the hesitancy wraps itself around as spindly ligaments congealing, holding in place. My hand hovers above the to be clacking tiles. Hesitation suffocates me. Perhaps another day, I think. Another time. Perhaps later, the right words will flow. Perhaps later, the fist in my throat will unclench and the words fighting in mind will unravel enough to spill out. Perhaps, one of these days, I will be strong enough to listen to myself. Again.

Today, it is mid-September. It has been six months since I quit my job to work on my own project/start-up. Let’s refer to it by its current not-really-a-code code name: Mosaic. Four months since I wrote the post committing to chronicling and pursuing the development of Mosaic.
Continue reading “Aways Successful: the Tale of Truly Excellent Sheep”

Life Changes

When I was in elementary school, I had a wall of clippings from magazines. Actually just from the Times Magazine Kids edition.

The Era of Awe: 1995-2000
Everyone says childhood is a time of fairy dust and magic, to me, it was an age of the wonder and discovery. My wall was a mosaic of tributes to the construction of the International Space Station, discovery of fossilized eggs and feathered dinosaurs in Asia, Mars Pathfinder’s first images of our neighboring planet, Jane Goodall’s life and discoveries among the prides of Africa, the cloning of Dolly, Nelson Mandela’s release, Gandhi’s quote “be the change you wish to see in the world”. I got to go to the national lab at Berkeley during their yearly open house and a poster of their Cyclotron joined my collection. Little did I know, it’s description of how to smash atoms together to reveal the mysteries of the nucleus would hold significance in the next decade of my life.

When I started writing this, I had thought the change occurred at the epoch most think of: 9/11. But really the birth of a nation wrapped in fear, the death of awe and wonder started a few years prior. I remember vaguely the death of Princess Diana and the condemnation of those who did nothing, more vividly the anxiety of India and Pakistan’s nuclear weapon tests, becoming afraid of cow meat, confused on what could lead someone to commit the Columbine shooting, and the yearlong insecurity of whether or not Y2K would crash our economy and the world as we knew it.

I remember my early childhood, playing in the streets, garage doors left open as neighbors gazed on, front doors left unlocked and open. I remember not being afraid of running down the street two blocks over to see if my best friend was around. I remember garage doors coming down, windows blinds now always drawn. I remember being told I had to call to make sure they were home before I headed out and to call again when I had arrived two streets away. I remember streets emptying of children and friendly neighbors. And then there was the tragedy. Continue reading “Life Changes”

Attacks Ad Hominem

Yesterday, I was told that I was incredibly selfish, naive, the owner of a hyper-inflated ego and self-worth, unprofessional, lacking in moral character, inconsiderate, arrogant, unworthy of respect, short-sighted, deluded by my parents’ praise and those of my peers, having communications skills worse than the person’s two year old, and too incredibly young to understand how things worked in the real world.

I suppose in their defense, it was a sudden thing to do, to ask to speak with them on Monday and tell them that I was going to quit at the end of the month which was essentially a week away. According to them, I was a breaker of my contract, a contract of at will employment which does include a clause of a request for four weeks notice and additional time if possible. According to them the at will portion of the contract only means that it is not a set time contract. According to what I have read about at will contracts, at will means either party can cease the terms of employment at any time for any cause. Linguistically, the clause about four weeks was a request and not a requirement. Though I have noticed that they are the sort to arrange contracts in their favor, after all, the source of my original disgruntlement was that we had a verbal agreement that I had flexible hours and could work from home. I had wanted the contract to be edited, but was brushed off with a “that is just a standard contract,” just for formalities’ sake. Uncomfortable with that brush off as I had been with the brush off when I had requested to know more about their business plan. I was told vague hopes and desires, but nothing concrete. Either there existed an actual plan which I was too unimportant to know or that was all there was.

To put things in perspective, this is/was a, including me, three person company, myself being the only code/electrical developer. I walked in to a device with essentially zero documentation and mangled code-base. I spent the first month just trying to wade through ~4-5 thousand lines of code, much of it not in use and create documentation from analyzing the only working device that I was not comfortable taking apart to figure out for fear of breaking the only semi-working model I had. The second month was caught up in the company moving to a new location, my contracting and recovering from strep throat, and strange issues that cropped up which could not be easily determined were physical or code-inspired. Finally this month, they were determined to be physical mechanical/electrical issues. This past month has been spent writing about 3,500 lines of new code using a completely different approach, focusing on timing and accuracy. Continue reading “Attacks Ad Hominem”

Day 5: Mishap

Yes it is actually Day 7 now, but as others have back-posted, I am going to assume retrospectively in my role as event administrator that back-posting is allowed. The reason I have not been posting is that I got sick and by got sick, I mean I had severe sinus pain/migraine/horrible pain behind your eyes. Which was resolved via the glories of Vick’s Vapo Rub, but did not resolve the fact that I was having some trouble breathing, slightly feverish, and very tired. And while one might assume that I was merely sick, apparently my allergies are back.

For those of you who have not heard of my splendid (stressful) adventures in the land down under, one of the highlights was my first severe allergy-driven respiratory attack. The full on fingers tingling, face-puffing up, can’t-breath-hysterical-laughing/hyperventilating-crying thing that apparently really does happen. Thus now when I feel as if I am having trouble breathing, feverish, and shooting pain behind my eyes, I wonder not how long I will be sick but rather, crap, what am I allergic to this time. Currently, I am fairly certain that it is something airborne and seasonal, since I am usually fine and my symptoms usually are no worse than some funky sinus-issues and a little lethargy. And the worst situations I have been in have all been in the presence of something or many things being burnt (Australian bush fire and Las Vegas… who knows what).

At the same time, this past week was the first in awhile that I have had more than 2  meals eaten out (instead of home-cooked, etc) and given the experience of several of my friends with allergen-issues, I do wonder now if the rapid descent into allergy-induced-illness was brought on by perhaps something I ate (I say allergy-induced in that 24 hours after taking allergy pills, most of the symptoms have gone away). Thus this is why today’s back-entry will be on food!

I have discovered in this past month of mostly-not-eating out and my penchant for citrus fruits, that using the fruit in cooking can lead to usually good results! Two things that I have learned though. 1. bigger does not mean better, oftentimes the more potent fruit are the smaller ones you are less likely to want to eat on their own. 2. citrus juices have a tendency of creating reactions. ie. curdling with milk or dairy, creating bubbles with liquid bases.

To solve both issues, I have found that using zest or the peels of citrus fruits may be just as good as adding their juices, without the annoyance of reacting to other liquids as readily. Currently, I favor mandarins because their skins are fairly thin so you can just chop them up instead of shaving the skin of a larger fruit. I usually tear chunks of the skin into small to medium pieces and cook it with stir fry, adding a little bit of the fruit juices, wine, or water so that the skin’s aromas seep into what it is you are cooking instead of frying to a crisp.

And here’s an orange oatmeal yogurt cookie recipe I made up in SB with Max! Mostly designed/defined by what ingredients do we have that we should use up.

2 cups of flour
2 cups of oats
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar (brown)
2 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp baking powder
.5 tsp cinnamon
.5 tsp nutmeg
1tsp vanilla extrac
1tsp zest (or citrus peel)
2 tbsp orange juice (no sugar) – this reacted with the baking soda, would potentially replace with more zest and/or chunks of citrus fruit
1 cup yogurt (or sour cream or ricotta cheese)
1 cup chocolate chips

In retrospect I would definitely mix all of the dry ingredients first. Add the zest with the dry ingredients and save the orange juice/pieces for the very end (ie. after yogurt).

Bake 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Outcome: a very large batch of semi-cake-like-density orange-y cookies.

A Brand New World

Chills down my, not spine, shoulders.

For, I am happy. Stranger words than once I had thought I would ever say, now is what comes to mind when I try to describe my state of being.

Words, streams of bubbling, the irritable, the irrational, once never ceased to distract, perturb me from my current locations. Now there is quiet, a restful, peaceful stream in my mind. I feel at ease. For the most part. I do not know what needs to be said. For the first in my life, I feel I am safe. That I have been saved. Continue reading “A Brand New World”