May 13, 2017 #book

Book Thank you for being late

"The twenty-first century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today's rate of progress".

That's the time we are living at, and the book takes you on a trip to walk you through the accelerations in technology, climate and market, how they are collectively affecting our lives and how we as individuals, organizations, countries and human beings should learn to adapt to this new pace of change.

I love 2/3 of the book.

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No matter if you check technology news regularly or not, it's a quite well-packed content that can give you a real feeling of how life could be in the future, and what to do when technology accelerates faster than humans can cope.

Also, the story about folks in Africa, had to leave their home and head north, but stuck in the middle and probably can never meet family again, truly touched me.

Quoting the books:

Tell these young African men that their odds of getting to Europe are tiny and they will tell you, as one told me, that when you don't have enough money to buy even an aspirin for your sick mother, you don't calculate the odds. You just go.

no work in the village, went to the town, no work in the town, heading north. (And never ended up going Europe or back home)

And in the chapter "Is God in Cyberspace", it reflects issues about current social media like harassment, fake news, echo chamber, angry mobs, etc. It sets the context in the political situation, but I think it applies everywhere.

Our social media experiences are designed in a way that favors broadcasting over engagements, posts over discussions, shallow comments over deep conversations. It's as if we agreed that we are here to talk at each other instead of talking with each other.

It's the one chapter I do want to read again.

What I don't like much, firstly is the title of the book. To me it's a bait, "Thanks for being late" is also the title of chapter 1, and it doesn't really capture the whole idea of this book at all. As for the meaning of "Thanks for being late", I'm a person who doesn't like to be late, and holds a moderate tolerance of waiting for the late people, the title gives me too much "fake hope" or "fake image", "it's not something I imagined or something you promised", it feels like that.

Next is the slogan in the subtitle: "An optimist's guide to thriving in the age of accelerations", is not deeply explained. Some reviews in Goodreads also expressed similar thoughts, and his "return to Minnesota" perspective was long on nostalgia and short on being a "guide to thriving". I rarely say this about books, but I do want to take back my time on reading the 2 "Minnesota" chapters.

What I dislike the most, is the way he implicitly displayed as if only America is the "hero" country who fight against Russia, China and so on - so to keep the peace of the world and save from those "evils". Throughout the book, he set the scene in a global scope and did a good job analyzing the world nowadays, but in the end, as for the most important answer of how to cope, it suddenly srhinked to America only, what a waste.

That's the 1/3 I disliked but overall, I liked the experience, and that's the most important thing. It fed my brain and provided the opportunity to reflect technology as a whole based on my experience. Also took me to as far as Africa continuent, as close as inside Google's self-driving car, I appreciate the work and I got a lot out of it.

"Thank you for being late "on Goodreads

December 18, 2016 #memoir

You might have heard lots of successful stories about kids growing up in families in which the parents speak more than one language, those kids mastering 2 languages effortlessly like second nature. To some extend that might even feel like cheating. Well, I can assure you one thing - you won't see that in this story.

Continue reading...

I was born and raised in China, same as my parents; we are Chinese Korean - descendants of Korean emigrants who now live in China. There're about 2 million of us, mostly spread in northeast China. We're referred to as Chaoxian-zu (朝鮮族) in Chinese.

I was taught Chinese and Korean. I don't have any memories before 4 years old, but according to sound tapes from my early age, I was able to recite Chinese poetry and sing Korean songs. But my dad said I mix the two languages a lot, like attaching a negative prefix from Chinese to a Korean adjective, as if I thought I was speaking one language. Those days were easy. Little errors were not a problem, and my parents were happily celebrating my growth. That is one of the perks of being a baby.

My dad is the evangelist in the family who treats the Korean heritage seriously. The family tree of my dad traces up to hundreds of years, and he is so proud of it. Among the many fantasies he has for me, the least he expected was that I would not speak Korean.

Sadly, things didn't go well for him.

My mom always talked to me and my dad in Chinese. And I was surrounded by friends of Han Chinese (汉族, the largest ethnic group, statically 92% of Chinese are Han). I didn't feel any different. We played together, I had no problem speaking Chinese to them. That language already climbed up and became dominant inside of me.

My dad was more than angry, I guess I could call that furious, about me only speaking Chinese at home. I remember a scene vividly: I was crying at the dining table while my dad yelling at me, "No food for you if you don't speak Korean! Say it, say you want to eat, in Korean!" He realized that if he didn't do anything, I might end up in the other side he didn't want me to be.

For this, my dad had blamed my mom a lot. He said she was a bad example, of not speaking Korean at home and that was why I followed her path. Mothers have a significant impact to their children, and she should understand that. Thus, my parents fought a lot. I wondered why my dad married my mom in the first place.

I couldn't understand why suddenly I was not allowed to speak Chinese, when that was ok before. Although I could understand Korean without a problem, it was never the language I wanted to speak, as the only audience was my dad. Maybe that would be hard for a 4 year old boy to understand the importance of Korean heritage.

My resentment kept growing. More and more such encounters followed up, and it brought these questions to me: Why I wasn't just a normal Chinese, like the boy next door? Why I was born as a Chinese Korean? Why I was not allowed to speak the language I knew the most? Why must I suffer like this? When would all of this come to an end, if there is one?

I hated it. I hated it with all my passion. I even cursed my ancestor, more than once.

I desperately needed a way to channel that hatred.

Take one step back, it wasn't just me who struggled with this identity crises. How to avoid children from being swallowed by this "Han Chinese vortex" had been a major issue for my dad's generation. You know, we have our own languages, names and traditions, but we are clearly in the process of being "localized."

Chinese Korean who lived in the countryside fared slightly better than those in the city. In the city, Chinese Korean were spread among the dominant Han people and were outnumbered, whereas in the countryside, they tended to live together, similar to a tribe. That provided the strength to hold up the tradition, hence Korean was their day-to-day language. That was a significant difference.

My mom is from the city. That explains everything: her education, friends, work, social life and home language are all in Chinese. My dad is from the countryside, he has fought his way to the city (back in the day that was quite an achievement in China), and still kept the strong tradition, but that didn't unfold well for our family.

After I attended a Chinese Korean elementary school, where both Korean and Chinese were taught, in that specific order, I found more fellow classmates who shared the same pain. We city boys disliked the Korean lesson, we even made fun by calling it "The Demon," because the lesson name 어문 ("uh moon" - National language) in Korean, shares similar pronunciation 恶魔 (è mó - Demon) in Chinese. That was quite bizarre; where we could read and write in Korean, but never used it voluntarily to anyone or in any context, except in exams.

Visiting relatives in countryside was more than mundane but a painful experience. A simple greeting in Chinese like "Hello Aunt!" was considered inappropriate, disrespect and rude.

My dad was ashamed of my behavior. I became silent.

Then in junior high school, I realized that I didn't even know how to exchange greetings in Korean properly. Teachers didn't teach me these manners, and I couldn't recall if my dad had taught me how, or he if did I had shut the door to my brain subconsciously. I felt humiliated to ask, and indeed humiliated by him when I did ask. I could only bear the lectures from my dad every time. I wasn't proud of myself either. But I've got to tell you this, a twisted feeling emerged; there was a sense of victory whenever I saw my dad fired up. In my mind, I thought "You just say whatever you want, I won't get hurt by you anymore."

I guess I had already given up on myself. "I'm just a failure to you, alright then." That was the narrative.

My dad considered transferring me to a countryside school, where the students were less "Han-ized." Even though the education level was less vigorous, he still considered that possibility. About ten years later, when I already started my career as a software engineer in Japan, one day my dad suddenly called me and dropped a bomb out of nowhere: "Forget about your career, go to Korea for 2 years to master the language. How dare you throw away what our ancestors started centuries ago?! And end in your generation?! Such a shame! You're the disgrace to our family!"

I knew my dad had good intention, but every time he pushed me, he only pushed me away.

How does my dad picture himself back then? What is his identity? His physical form is trapped in China, but spiritually he always wants to be in our ancestors' home - Korea? Or has this Chinese-Korean forged into distinctive ethnicity that is neither full Chinese nor full Korea? I mean, who are we? These questions still pop up constantly inside.

Watching football was one of the few things I recall as "bonding time" for us. I loved to yell with him at every shoot, analyze the situation, celebrate victory and exchange opinions over the long-running league. Once, we woke up in the middle night to watch the 1999 UEFA Champions league final match. Bayern Munich led 1-0 the entire game but Manchester United never gave up; they scored 2 goals in the last injury time and became the champion of that year. That was my sweetest memory with him, we went absolutely crazy. In the end, he didn't forget to remind me that "never give up" spirit as a life lesson, but he had no way to hide that big smile from his face, as if we were in the same age, as if we were, friends.

The bonding through football was great, but when it came to Korea vs. China, it was totally different story. My dad rooted for Korea for sure. You know football casters tend to be super biased toward their national team - like Apple attacking Android at their conference and vice versa. I hated both. I hated the Chinese casters over-glorifying the team, and I hated Korean casters making fun of the Chinese players. I simply expected a great game out of the 2 teams, but my dad's zealous support of Korea made me extremely uncomfortable.

That wasn't the first time I saw my dad fighting against - I guess I could say - China (the country) and Chinese (the people). Growing with the same Chinese Korean friends from elementary to high school, I had no chance of experiencing discrimination from the Han people. But I did know swear words from each side to describe the other. My dad worked at a government organization, had countless encounters of being "showed the door" from some meetings because he is Chinese Korean. "Nothing personal," the head of the bureau kindly added. There were definitely some significant conflicts between the two groups, not that harmony I learned from school.

But my dad didn't blindly love Korea the country, or the Korean people either. There is a Korean town in Shenyang (my hometown) called Xita (西塔), where once my dad was invited as a translator to a conference for Korean businessmen. I remember that day he came home, his voice and body was shaking with insult and rage. "Those bastards think they're superior, they treat us like shit!"

It turned out that after a whole day of business meetings, the Korean businessmen wanted "night life entertainment," and they wanted my dad to take them to those places. "Sorry, I didn't sign up for this" my dad rejected. And that triggered their hidden contempt towards the Chinese, including us Chinese Korean, to the max. Those businessmen were only rich-in-money, some had lovers or even illegitimate children in China, and all night clubbing was the norm for them.

I've never sensed any desire from my dad that he wants to move back to Korea, even after his trip to our ancestors' hometown in Korea. I guess what lies in his core belief is the admiration and worship to the heritage and family tree itself, it doesn't necessarily tie to a place or a nation.

As for me, despite all of the hatred I held toward Korean, I was super proud of my name, the name my grandpa gave me, not that long before he passed away. I inherit this typical Korean family name 朴 (박, Park), and my grandpa looked through various dictionaries and finally picked up my first name 起煥. I love it from every possible way: the pronunciation in Chinese and Korean, the Chinese character, the meaning behind it, the balanced hieroglyph. The first syllable is kind of soft and subtle but the power is carried forward, and the next syllable gives it a delightful burst. It is perfect to me, and is perfect for me. I confess I'm a narcissist on this.

Then my journey of seeking my identity had its Chapter 2 after I went to college.

I started a part time job in the biggest Warcraft 3 game news website in China, I was responsible for finding and translating news from Korean websites to Chinese. I was super committed to it - I love the game myself and also love to be able to spread the information to more people with my own words. It fulfilled my desire of gaming and writing/journalism, Korean language itself was a mere tool for me.

Back in the day, there were no TwitchTV, no YouTube or any other live streaming things yet. Normally a big grand final match happened in Korea - the most advanced country in eSports - the world knew the result afterwards. One day my boss asked me if I could find a way to do it in real time. I found the editor's email form the Korean website, composed an email to him and introduced myself and the possibility of collaboration.

I was sure that my Korean business email writing was terrible, that thing I had never learned from anyone. And I wasn't sure if the editor in Korea would get my idea, or if he would like to take the request. There came the reply, so touching and full of excitements! He called me 교포 (Korean diaspora), and was fascinated by the idea 우리 (meaning "we" but stronger bonding) not just found each other but also were working on the same thing! He shared an internal account with me to watch the final match online. I was the only one who could watch it realtime outside Korea in the world.

Then the final game started. I wasn't translating. I was watching it and writing as fast as possible to "live streaming" the game, through plain text. Our website barely held up - entire Warcraft 3 fans in China were watching me. It was like the whole nations' football fans were listening to the radio for World Cup final match, only slower and the radio was the words written by me.

I was thrilled.

That first contact to the editor was the first time in my life, that I wanted to use Korean to start a real conversation with someone. Until then I was only obliged to speak Korean to my relatives, my teachers, in my school exams. That moment, when I truly connected with someone far away on the internet with the language I had been taught for 20 years, that was fantastic! It was like my built-in Korean genes had slept for the entire time finally got awakened, it was a deep and ancient feeling, I could tell the warmth flowing in my blood, every heart beat only pumped more excitements. That was such a profound pleasure, it showed me where my roots was, gently, softly and powerfully. It was absolutely beautiful.

It struck me permanently that I was hating the wrong thing. It was not the Korean language, in fact, I love it with my every single bone and gene!

I hated the way it was forced upon me, brutally. I hated it was presented as if it was some kind of sins if I didn't speak in Korean, I hated when I asked for helps but only got humiliated. I wish I could have got a better "sales pitch" - that demonstrates how beautiful the language is, with some patient for the little kid to catch up.

Now I'm living in Japan, I could imagine that kind of desire to pass down your heritage to your children, the language, the tradition, especially when you're the minority and in another totally different environment. If one day I will have kids, I hope whatever I'm carrying on will eventually enrich their lives rather than make it more complex.

(Children inevitably find their ways to blame their parents. That is absolutely true. But the intention of this post is not to redirect all my flaws, my inabilities to my dad. The purpose is to represent you the story, my story of how a Chinese Korean lived in China, the struggle, the doubts and somewhat the self realization.)

December 13, 2016 #memoir

He was 2 years older than me, the boy who lived next door, in this small suburb Laodaokou of Shenyang. Ever since I had memory, we were already playing together.

Among all the activities, arcade games were our favorites. You could find Street Fighter in every arcade. Back in the days in my hometown, arcade was a place that took some balls to get in. Everything was offline, the player you fought against was the guy stood next to you. If you won the game, you were literally costing the money of him, you could only wish the guy had a good temper, which those street fighters normally didn't acquire.

Continue reading...

Arcade was a hunter-prey place, where spoiled domestic boy like me had a great chance to get myself hunted, like a lamb to the slaughter. It was dark and dirty and smoky, perfect set up for such violence scene. Some even made it a job, robbing money from little kids.

Age and height were the dominant factor in this stage of fighting. One day, I got knocked down unconditionally, the guy was taller than me, my coin and money were taken. I cried and ran back to my neighbor, I told my friend what happened. "Let's revenge!", he took me back, punched the guy who hit me minutes before, and got all my money back and also, all belongings of that guy too, as little punishment.

Knowing I was short and powerless and labeled by the local hunters, I never went there without my friend. He would normally just watch me play single player mode, and when someone put a coin and challenged me, he would make sure there was no any suspicious move from the guy. If the guy dared to pick up a fight, he would give the guy a slap and normally that'd be enough. I had never seen any guys fought back after a slap. It was like the most effective move, you didn't need to master a course of kung fu at all.

Later I got my first gaming console. I surely invited him a lot to my house and we played together. By the time his infamous street reputation - smoking, fighting, robbing, stealing - had spread among the parents of the suburb, my dad officially forbid me to hang out with him.

Of course I didn't listen to that order right? We came up with some secret code, whenever he shout that outside, I would prepare myself and go to his house to play. I even put the gaming console there for the ease of "transportation". To me, it mattered more about how he act in front of me, I never saw him using any violence when it was not needed.

Oh we even talked about girls! Uh... yeh I was still maybe around 7, maybe too early for such thing but I remember I started to notice myself wanting to stare at one girl specially at school, and I didn't know what to do about it, I thought there was something wrong with me. Once I heard he was talking to another guy who was similar to his age about girls, so I chimed in and shared my little secret, awkwardly. They burst into laughter, "That is totally normal! Good job yo!", he assured me that I was fine, I was not a weirdo.

One summer vacation of elementary school, I got the assignment of writing composition with the title of "My Best Friend", I chose to write about him instantly. Until that moment, I had worshiped him, idolized him, honored him. He was like my brother, my protector, my mentor, my best playmate, my go-to for everything. Maybe deep inside, we all eagerly longed for such brotherhood stuff in early age.

After I showed him what I wrote, he gave me a short but satisfied smile, and turned it back to me immediately. "Well done", I thought he was flattered.

Meanwhile my dad was still doing his education on me, saying he would affect me in a bad way, it was dangerous to hang out with him. He couldn't afford any snacks, books or games. He was simply using me to get what he wanted. No one would play with him except me, that didn't make me look good.

None of them kicked in my head.

1 or 2 years later, we went to a totally different district of the city, it had been a while since we played in the fields. We went to an arcade for Street Fighter, like old days.

"Hey hey, you, yeh you, you got any money?". Suddenly a local hunter came close to me, he was so small, a total head shorter than me. I admired his bravery, and moved my gaze toward my friend, I was already kind of used to such situation, I was confident to even protect myself.

"We are just here to play games, could you leave us alone?", My friend showed his courtesy.

"F**k you, you wanna die today hah?!"

The boy raised his right hand as if we would hit us. He definitely got the motion, but my friend already slapped him 3 times in a heartbeat, pushed him to the corner and gave him quite a "good lesson". It seemed the little boy only learned how to do the posturing but was never once into the real fight. Maybe it was his first hunt. It was like a successful commercial - always intruded in the middle, but you watched it through and it even make you laugh a bit.

A few minutes later two bigger figures approached us. They were the "brothers" to the little boy, I saw the image of myself inside him, it was the exact same version of me seeking protection from my friend. They weren't that tall, but the way they walked showed experience, they were definitely older than us, and more dangerous. "Let's go for a walk", one of them spoke in a very demanding and commanding tone.

So we followed them to the middle of nowhere. I did my calculation. It was a simple 2 vs 2 situation. They seemed strong, but if I managed to pin down one of them, then my friend would join me after he knocks down the other, I was certain he was capable of doing so, together we might claim the victory. I simulated lots of possibilities in my head, running away was none of them. They had been grining from the beginning, they were confident. I hadn't realized that it was me doing all the "negotiations", and I hadn't heard a word or even noticed any signals from my friend.

One of them suddenly slapped my friend, there was no any sign of upcoming violence, it left my friend with no time to prepare, if he was going to. He immediately burst out crying, like an infant, looked so vulnerable and innocent. I couldn't tell who were more surprised among 3 of us.

"Wow wow stop, stop, where was that tough guy who slapped my friend hah? Man-up! Come on!" I never imagined my friend would collapse with a single slap. Soon enough, I understood the situation, there was no chance for us at all to get out of this without "penalty". Fighting at this age was always one-sided, there were rarely back-and-forth fights, the result was decided from the encounter.

I surrendered, gave in all of my money, and made sure they didn't hit my friend anymore. It was my turn to protect him, if it was not too late. I tapped his back and tried to calm him down, we took bus home afterwards.

It seemed they had taken more than just pieces of metal coins from me, part of my admiration, belief and fantasy toward my friend was taken too. Or quite the contrary, perhaps they brought me back to the reality: I was simply blinded to see him straight. He was mere 2 years older than me, he couldn't save me every time like a hero, a non-exist figure I wanted him to be. Maybe it was my overconfidence that led us there. if I didn't follow those guys so quickly, if I included the submission of him in the calculation, if I could notice his pale face earlier, if we decided to run on our bare feet, we may still got a chance...

Everything had changed permanently. That was almost my last memory of him. Give-and-take, master-and-servant, old-brother-and-younger-brother, whatever the relationship was, it was gone. Perhaps I could take care of myself and needed no more his protection, perhaps he was shame of what happened, we didn't hang out much after that, none I could recall.

Was I being used? When that single thought along with other sayings from my dad kicked in, I felt nothing but disgusting. I hated myself to even doubt the motivation of our friendship, yet I couldn't eliminate that thin possibility that some part of my dad might be right. I felt I was manipulated, brain-washed, even though at the time I didn't know about these words, that self-hatred feeling was there and never went anywhere else. Nevertheless, when I showed him my writing, his smile was sincere, that was enough.

My family moved shortly after the incident, and I've never met him after that. There was no Facebook, no smart phone, no email, not even a phone or pager in the house. The place we lived now is in the middle of some modern highway, no single piece of information I could collect.

His name is 张亮 (Zhang Liang).

I would love to meet him again if possible, and say thank you in person. Thank you for those years, it was you that made me feel safe in the street. Thank you for your company, and hey, I wrote about you again.

December 12, 2016 #memoir

There was one bridge frequently appeared in my dream, uninvited. Whenever I tried to cross it, I always dropped off it and got myself killed. Sometimes the bridge was cut off in two, people on the other side were cheering me up, and I jumped following the run-up, and I fell and died. Sometimes I walked on the bridge and next step my foot sensed nothing but gravity, and I fell and died.

I was surprised how creative my subconscious was. There were so many ways to get myself killed with the bridge. It was like living inside the movie Final Destination, full of surprise to kill you. It was a constant nightmare.

The bridge was real, you can't Google it, but local people called it the Sky Bridge.

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The Sky Bridge (天桥, pronounced as "Tian qiao" in Chinese), located in Laodaokou (老道口), Shenyang, Northeast China, was one road that we must pass everyday to work, school and basically anywhere to the city. I spent my early life there, from 2 to 9. For a kid magically everything scaled bigger than it was supposed to be, the Sky Bridge was like it really meant to connect to the sky, so giant that it was the symbol of my whole childhood.

The bridge, opened in 1912, consisted of a 5 meters wide main road and two 2 meters wide sidewalks, overall about 200 meters long. Below the bridge were a dozen railways, connecting the city to Beijing and other parts of China.

My mom used to put me onto the backseat of her bicycle and rode across the bridge to drop off me to school. "I couldn't ride my bicycle on the bridge at first, I was so scared", my mom recalled, "I could only hold the handle of the bridge, and pushed myself forward one step at a time." I forgot how tall it was, but I guess it was high enough to make an adult shake his/her legs. And apparently I was too small to fear the height, I wish I could possess that ability till today.

My mom overcame that fear soon. "Everybody was no problem, and they looked at me as if I was an alien. I knew I need to get used to it." When life pushes you to the edge, you acquire whatever ability to survive.

By the year I went to elementary school, the bridge was already too old like an ancient tree, I started to notice the twisted scars. The wood covered in the surface started to fall apart, more and more holes were revealed that you could literally see trains traveling beneath your feet - least thing you would expect from peeking through a hole. When a car drove through, the entire bridge vibrated. I can't stop thinking that why the thought never occurred to me at that time - if I fall from the bridge, I'm not just gonna die because of the height, I could also be hit by a fast running train, die twice in a single try, not as fun as "buy one get one free" Domino Pizza.

One day after school, several of my friends and I were heading my home to play console games. They were supposed to be "tough guys" in the school, at least that was how they wanted to be pictured. One or two of them already started to show some of the "bully" traits, but anyway, we were good friends. So we arrived at the bridge, only to notice there were no one following me after I took several steps on it. "Do... do you cross this bridge everyday?", one friend asked in his shaking voice, another was kneeling down and nearly bursting into tears, mumbling "I can't do this... I can't do this..."

That was a shocking moment to me. You know, I had been walking across the bridge for 4 years then, if not counting the year I was still in a baby car. No matter how old or how broken that bridge was, I was so used to it, so were my family and other local people. It was just one thing on our way to lives. To others, however, that was a utterly shattered bridge that no one would take it as bravery to walk across it.

A few years later, my family had moved to another place, I decided to revisit the Sky Bridge in a summer vacation of junior high school or high school I forgot, and guess what? I couldn't even move a single step onto the bridge, as if that one step would take my life eternally. By the time the sidewalks were shutdown completely because of the unfixable damage, and no cars were allowed on the bridge either. Trains running below filled in the sights of increased scar-holes, as if they were part of the textures of it, and yet people were still there, still walking across it, some were even selling a range of merchandise, completely at ease. In the end, I took another route like my "tough" friends did, who I mocked as "pussy" back in the day. It was that experience triggered my nightmare of falling down the bridge, and had haunted me my entire 20s.

Time passed. I had already left the city for more than 10 years, one day I went back to my hometown and wanted to give it another try, or just to confirm if my horrified experience was real or a mere fantasy. Yet I couldn't find a single piece of metal or wood, the Sky Bridge was completely gone, and people started to refer to it as the "Old Bridge".

November 27, 2016 #book

I like to peek into people's workflow and tool kit. It can be watching how a person drips a cup of coffee, from grinding the beans to pouring into a pre-heated mug; It can be observing how a chef cooks a dish, from choosing the ingredients to presenting it on the plate; It can also be, exactly what I'm gonna write about - reading a book about how a writer thinks and writes, from mastering basic principles to adjusting the attitudes.

Continue reading...

Ever since I turned into 30, I've noticed an emerging needs to pin down who I once was, to ponder on who I really am and where I'm heading, to seek the meanings of life from all sorts of unexpectedness. My two great companions on this quest have been reading and writing. This book is perfect: it kills two birds with one stone. (Not like I got my 2 companions killed.)

I am a writer and I'm not. I am a writer because I write stuff regularly, but before that I love to think about stuff. Whenever I'm not talking - my majority life has been like that - I'm thinking about something inside. Meaningless or not, it doesn't matter. That something keeps me alive, and only through writing I can put those thoughts in a logical order and make sense out of it.

I'm not a writer in terms of professionals who publish some books and make a living with it. But I won't stop day dreaming that one day I might reach more readers not with better stories but with stories that are written better.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book. No matter what type of writers you are, this book give you some guidance:

On writing skills (principles and methods)

  • How to choose and tweak words, lead and end
  • How to organize long pieces of information and where to stop
  • How to put your style, your symbols into your writing?
  • Should or should not indulge a humor that you're worried about whether the reader will "get it"
  • How to tweak rhythm and alliteration
  • Why rewrite is so critical
  • ...

On different formats of writings

  • How to write about people, place and yourself (memoir)
  • How to write subjects out of your specialty
  • How to write reviews and critics
  • ...

On attitudes

  • Who are you writing for ultimately?
  • How to fight fear, find confidence and have fun
  • ...

I especially enjoyed the technique of using thesaurus dictionary to choose words, not just to find more precise ones but also to make it sound good. Readers not just read your words, they also hear them. I think that's one of the secret ingredients why good articles read instinctively good - it's fine tuned for our palate.

And I loved the attitudes part the most. Even though the author is targeting non-fiction writers, the fundamental about writing or perfection can be applied to any fields that requires hard work and craftsmanship.

He also showed me writing well is not about talents but constant efforts:

"What do you do on days when it isn't going well?"

The professional writer must establish a daily schedule and stick to it. Writing is a craft, not an art, and that the man who runs away from his craft because he lacks inspirations is fooling himself. He is also going broke.

"What if you're feeling depressed or unhappy? Won't that affect your writing?"

If you job is to write ever day, you have to learn to do it like any other job.

"Ultimately the product that any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is. What holds me is the enthusiasm of the writer for his field." As a person who has never lived in any English-speaking countries, learned it as 3rd language and only holds limited vocabularies in hands (can't blame anyone for this), I'm never confident enough to write with it. But language is a beautiful thing - with simple words and sentences I can still be myself and further find some missing fragments of myself within it, which can't be found in my native language.

I'm gonna continue this journey with 4 core lessons learned from the book: clarity, simplicity, brevity and humanity. Now I've doubled my dual weapons, I hope and I can go out hunt for 2 birds, or 3.

October 6, 2016 #random

I had a bad day, I’m having bad days. My journal is supposed to be a place for self-realization but instead, nowadays I’m more like dumping my stress, depressions, or even anger there.

With all that, today was different, some “magic” happened.

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I picked up a book in a bookstore. I opened it. There was just one single phrase on the first page, and it goes:

Always look at the bright side of life - Monty Python

I don’t know why it strikes me like thunder. I’m sure I’ll just skip it in any of my “ordinary” days but, it has the power to turn me to look at literally the bright side of things I’ve been going through. Indeed they are bright, but with a price. Don’t forget the vision, don’t forget the bright side that brings you here in the first place, that’s the message, don’t know how much I appreciate it and the book.

Then, a second one kicks in later. I heard it a while ago from an evangelist at a local church, I don’t believe in god but it still resonates with me.

All the things you’ve been going through, they’re all under god’s plan, you just haven’t understood the reason yet.

(Originally it was in Japanese: “今までの全てはきっと神様のご計画通りで、我々はただまだそれを理解していないだけ”

Let me show you the 3rd quote now, it’s very similar to the 2nd one:

Things don’t happen to you, they happen for you.

Yes, they happen for me, it’s ultimately relying on how I interpret it, react to it, it’s up to me to find the reasons, the meanings behind it. Those are just events, they can be bright or dark, light or heavy, but it’s me who lead it from there, towards the goals I’m been dreaming about. I have the control, I have a choice, just like another great quote says:

Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.

July 31, 2016 #product

Here are the specs:

  • iPad Pro 9.7 Wifi model: 437g
  • Smart Keyboard: 230g
  • Smart Cover: 110g
  • 3rd Party Cases: 100~300g

And for comparison, here are the laptop specs:

  • MacBook Air 11 inch: 1.08kg
  • MacBook Air 13 inch: 1.35kg
  • MacBook Pro with Retina 13-inch: 1.58kg
  • MacBook Pro with Retina 15-inch: 2.04kg

Cited from from Apple official website with latest model.

That means iPad Pro 9.7 + Smart Keyboard is 667g, about 62% of lightest MacBook Air 11 inch(1.08kg), 413g lighter.

I considered about Apple's Smart Keyboard as the first option, I also got the chance to try my friend's Smart Keyboard, but at that time I felt it's a bit heavy. Maybe because I was using a iPad mini so when upgraded to iPad Pro 9.7, the tablet itself already felt heavier. I've looked for some 3rd party cases but a lot of them weight more than the Smart Keyboard(more than 230g). There are some "light-weight" 100g-ish cases but all feel not attractive...

So I ended up going back to Smart Keyboard. If it's almost the same weight, a portable and comfortable keyboard could help me in various ways I couldn't imagine(and it did!), the overall weight of the combination is 437g + 230g = 667g, almost half of MacBook Air 13-inch.

Note that there's no official data from Apple about the Smart Keyboard, I found it on some blogs, and some says it's 225g some says 230g.

July 27, 2016

Some people strike me as mountains - always there when you look upon, no matter how the environment changes.


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Some of them are my close friends. Whenever I visit their blogs I know there’s new content waiting for me. Or I log in to the game I’ve been AFK for such a long time, they’re there inviting me to the party.

Some of them are connected on the Internet, they don’t know me but I’ve been following them for years. Michael Hyatt’s “This Is Your Life” podcast is the central place for my mental nutrition and self-improvement, Miyagawa’s for trending tech news and Japanese anime/books/culture, Sensus WoW Rogue whenever I want to catch up my World of Warcraft rogue skills, and Blizzard Entertainment for high quality games all these years.

I’m not here to promote any of those things, what I want to say is, it’s not hard to start anything nowadays, and if you get lucky you may even grab some spotlights on the stage, but it’s always hard to keep going, even for games!

In this fast-paced noisy world, those “mountains” give me a sense of order, calm me down when everything is in chaos. It shows me a way how to find a spiritual connection and emotional support, just like the same old friends. No matter if you’re a blogger, a YouTuber, a gamer, a writer, or any content provider, as long as you keep the persistency and frequency, you create reliability.

I don’t want to be a sky - too unstable and unpredictable, suddenly shout out with rain and thunderstorm. I want to be a humble stone, that shares certain similarities to a mountain. Nothing lasts forever - sun, stars, diamonds, but I hope the next time you pick up the stone of me, it’s still the same old stone, and gives you a sense of calm and safety.

July 9, 2016 #evernote #apple notes

In the last post I wrote about migrating from Evernote to Apple Notes, here I want to show you how to organize your notes with similar features of Evernote.

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Here is a screenshot of my Apple Notes notebooks.

Apple Notes folders - ordering and nesting

Create Nesting Folders

In Evernote you can create a Stack Notebook, you can do it too with Apple Notes, but seems like it can only be done in Mac, not iPad/iPhone.

  1. Create a new folder(Cmd + Shift + N)
  2. Drag this folder to the parent folder

Apple Notes create nesting folders

Tip: Hit “Enter” key to rename the folder, it’s easier than single click the folder and wait for one second.

Difference Between Evernote Notebooks Stack

In Evernote you can’t move any notes into a Stack Notebook itself, it’s like a pseudo folder. But in Apple Notes a parent(stack) notebook is just like normal notebooks that can hold any notes. You may find it handy.

Ordering Folders

By default folders are in alphabet order, you can not move around notebooks to change its order. A common practice here is to assign some index numbers to the notebooks, like a notebook with name “00 Important” shows higher than “10 ABC”.

Note that the default folder “Notes” is fixed, you cannot rename it nor reorder it, it always sit under “All iCloud”, so you can use it as the inbox of all your notes.

Inbox Zero?

Inbox Zero is a technique to keep the inbox empty – or almost empty – at all times, and in the context of notes taking, it means you set a “Inbox”, all notes go to that folder first, then at the end of the day you move the notes to respective folders.

I’ve heard it long time ago, and I’m applying same technique to Google Inbox. But for notes taking it feels overwhelming, at least for me.

Right now I’m only putting certain notes – blog ideas, inspirational quotes, receipts etc, that I know exactly where it belongs to, and have a good chance to review them later – to folders, for others they just remain in the default “Notes” folder. I don’t want to waste brain energy on each note thinking “hmm.. which folder should I put it”, most of the time I can find it through search so that’s enough for me.

I find myself with the nesting folders and good orders, I had no difficulties transfer from Evernote, and the overall experience with Apple Notes has been great.

July 9, 2016 #evernote #apple notes

Evernote recently changed their price plans, free accounts can only sync across 2 devices.

The change itself is okay, you can’t blame the company trying to make some money and make better products for their core users, but after using it for 7 years, and all the “improvements” the company has made during the time, I realized it’s not the right tool for me. I don’t need presentation mode, nor chat, or any other collaboration/business features; I just want to take notes. I did upgrade to Pro user before but I found I was never using any of those features heh. This change of prices gives me a perfect chance to look for alternatives.

Continue reading…

Apple Notes, on the other hand, is getting better and better. Some of the benefits are:

  • Free: No more Evernote “Upgrade” noise, nor limitation of sync devices. Yes it’s limited to Apple devices, but if you’re an Apple user then this is not a problem, plus you can access for the web version too.
  • Clean UI and minimum features: In its core it’s just a simple notes taking app, with right enough features to make it powerful. You can create folders to organize your notes, and even nesting them. There is no tag system but I can always find my notes with search.
  • Better integration with Apple products: probably just a personal preference, but when I browse websites or reading on iPad, I really love the split view to open Apple Notes, lightening fast and easy to use, and after dropping the notes I can easily get back.

Import Notes from Evernote to Apple Notes

  1. Cmd + A to select the notes you want to export to Apple Notes, click “File -> Export Notes…” and save as a .enex file.

  2. Open Apple Notes, click “File -> Import Notes…” and choose the previous .enex file

  3. Notes will be imported into a folder called “Imported Notes”

Further reading

Organize Your Apple Notes with Folders - Nesting and Ordering

Fun reading

Recently I tweeted about another article about this change.

This isn’t really about Evernote in particular. It’s about how we all use services today without really owning anything. Downloading an app and paying a subscription fee doesn’t entitle you to much, ultimately. Evernote, like so many apps we love, is really just granting you a license to use its service when you sign up for an account.

It raises a reasonable concern. The web and tech industry is changing rapidly, 10 years later which service can still be there, and what happens when it hit and end, or an action-required kind of change, what options do we have then? What do we really own?