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innocence lost May. 10th, 2019 @ 05:36 pm
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April 20, 1999.  Just another Tuesday in high school.  It may have been during late morning or early afternoon, I can't remember exactly when.

But I do remember it was during the beginning of PE class. For Physical Education, once everyone changed into their school workout t-shirts and shorts, all the students would pour out into the gym and line up. On this specific day, we were sitting down waiting for our PE teachers.

I remember Michelle C. sitting right next to me, since our names would always be next to each other in roll call by alphabetical order for last names. And that's when our PE teacher showed up with an announcement.

"There has been a school shooting in Colorado."

For most of high school kids, Colorado wasn't a place we were familiar with in the slightest other than it being another state on the map. Thus, this news didn't really have that much of an impact on us. The day went on as usual.

But of course, as we all now know, Columbine changed the country.

And like so many other places in the nation, Columbine ended up affecting my school too. During the rest of my high school years, there were a few "close calls" about violence breaking out. I do recall one time when there were rumors about a gunfight possibly going down in the Town & Country shopping plaza across the street. Fortunately, nothing ended up happening. But I believe the perpetrator was caught and expelled; I never saw him again. If he was actually the guy I heard about, he and I actually went to the same elementary school too.

Even with that, plenty of students around me had the mentality of "This is Palo Alto, a safe city! It can't happen here."   And so far it hasn't. I hope to God it stays that way.

I don't know. I think Columbine was the day when America lost a part of its innocence. Sure, the first of anything horrible stands out. And that's the sad part of it... "the first".   Because prior to '99, I don't remember any school shootings going on (or maybe they did happened earlier, but I was too young to hear about or comprehend them).

So sadly, Columbine is "the first" incident in which our schools became a dangerous place.

I wonder when there will ever be "the last". 
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

an end to war Apr. 22nd, 2019 @ 11:25 pm
There was a senior officer in the United States Army who served both in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He was a combat veteran, but was no war drummer.

His name was Hal Moore. With his friend, Joe Galloway, he co-wrote the book We Were Soldiers Once... and Young (which was the basis for 2002 Mel Gibson movie, We Were Soldiers), as well as its follow-up book We Are Soldiers Still. 

At the end of We Are Soldiers Still, there is a very profound sentence that stood out to me:

".... the beginning of an end to war has to lie in higher education."

That sounds pretty corny, but so does "I love you."  Yet, when people say the latter, it's generally accepted. But it's just not the subject of war that education has such a big impact on; it's our future in general. Recently, a colleague left the company I'm at to become a full-time teacher. It's a big career change for her, not to mention a big pay cut. The fact that she has built a huge nest of savings over the years is besides the point. It's no secret that teachers are under-paid. And of course, I can't imagine the pressures they have to deal with -- not just dealing with potential unruly kids who could be carriers of germs and diseases (thanks, anti-vaxxers), but from higher school staff and demanding parents as well.

And most importantly, teachers are literally forming this country's future... as well as the world's. If we want a better tomorrow, the next generation needs to be better than us and the ones before. If they are to be better, then they need to start off with a good education. No, I'm not talking about fancy Ivy Leagues or even the recent college admissions scandal. I'm simply talking about the importance of having access to quality education that is the basis that forms young kids' minds so that they won't end up on the streets.

I recently heard that's what the current President of Mexico is trying to do. His logic: want to stop the cartels and the gang wars in the long run? Don't confront them head on. Focus on the youngsters. Help them in poverty. Help them get an education. Show them a better path than ones that leads to the gangs and drugs. 

As for war... unfortunately, war has been around for as long as mankind has. And it probably will be for years to come. I'm not so naive to think that it won't. We need an Armed Forces, just like we need local law enforcement.

But in general, the key to having a better future lies in our kids. (A part of me feels weird saying this considering that I don't have any kids.)   If an education is out of their reach because of tuition that is too exorbitantly $$$$, poverty, etc.... then no one wins.

And to the overworked and underpaid teachers/tutors out there (Dale, Janie, Sara, Thao, Rachel, Hitomi, Xinlei, Cynthia, Ann).... you're more important than you know.

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

Tokyo Comic Con 2017 / 東京コミックコン 2017 Apr. 9th, 2019 @ 11:34 pm

Yes, this entry is very much belated but that doesn't make it any less special.

When I first found out about Tokyo having their own Comic Con, I knew I had to go.

First and foremost, I love Japan. And this was yet another excuse to go back.

Second, as much as I'd love to go to Mother of all Comic Cons in San Diego, I hear that that one is just absolutely insane... for good reason. But also that it's very difficult to get tickets.

The Japanese's Comic Con wasn't actually in Tokyo... it's located in Chiba, which is a preferecture on the eastern outskirts of Tokyo.  And JP's Comic Con is only a few years old. But there were a lot of people there, not surprisingly.

And as you can expect at any Comic Con, people wanted to take pics with or of each other. I had my Captain America backpack shield and a few folks asked me about it...... my simplest response was Amazon.

One Japanese fella was wearing the same Cap America outfit as me... and his outfit was actually better, not to mention more accurate.

His girl (also a Cap America) actually wanted a pic with me too.

Of course, the biggest reason to go to any Comic Con is the guest celebrities. In this case, they were:  Karl Urban (Star Trek), Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad), Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale), Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy), and of course.... Stan "the Man" Lee himself.

I bought Photo Ops tickets with Karl, Nathan, & Stan. For Karen, I purchased an autograph from her (which I'll get to soon).

Karl was a nice dude; he complimented me on my jacket. I wanted to shake his hand, but we just did a fist bump instead. Hey, I understand... shaking hands with thousands of fans means germs.

With Stan, the big man was in a wheelchair, and didn't do much but just sat there and smiled. Didn't really say anything which was understandable considering that he was in his mid-90's at the time. I was glad to take a pic with him because he'd pass away the next year.

Nathan was a VERY friendly guy. I've heard that about him and saw videos of him joking around with his fans. All I can say is that those comments about him are 100% true. Unlike Karl, he shook hands with me and introduced himself, "Hi, I'm Nathan."   Of course, I knew who he was. But the way he spoke to you just put you at ease, as if the two of you were friends. Even Emiko, my friend who went to Comic Con for a day, said that he was a very nice man... and she didn't even know who he was! (It's ok -- she's Japanese, and as cool as Nathan is, he may not be that famous in JP). Anyways, because of Nathan's friendliness, I was in total fanboy mode.

And finally, there's Karen Fukuhara.

I don't know why I decided to get an autograph session with her. Usually, I'd go for photo ops with celebrities (like with the ones above) instead of just autographs. Because most of the time, they're around the same prices and I feel that photo ops are more personal than autographs.

But I'm glad I purchased an autograph session with Karen. The line wasn't as long insanely long. So that meant you could spend longer than 10 seconds with her unlike the photo ops sessions; plus, you also were allowed to take a personal picture with her at no extra charge, which was sweet.

When it was my turn with Karen, I could tell that the second I opened my mouth, she was caught off guard -- my accent was 100% American. And I don't think she was expecting that... after all, this was TOKYO Comic Con. We chatted for a few minutes (much better than a 10 second window!). She said she was also visiting relatives in Japan and was recovering from a stomach bug. I told her I was sorry to hear that, as that wasn't the ideal way to spend one's vacay. Anyways, that was definitely awesome getting to interact with a celebrity on a personal basis even if it were just for a few minutes.

I was sharing my celebrity and Comic Con pics with friends via phone -- Alberto, Darren, Greg, Krystal, Steve D, Pat, and John (whom replied, "I'm a bit jelly"). That's how much geeking out I was. And I could tell that they were excited too.

And promotions for Black Panther were aplenty since the movie was only a few months away from release at that time.

Some more pics:

Mads Mikkelsen

And of course, I met up briefly with Sawako, who is a true Star Trek fan.

So I'll probably go back to another Tokyo Comic Con in the future, depending on the celebrities guest lists.... hopefully, with friends, next time. =)

Tags: ,

All Good Things... Mar. 2nd, 2019 @ 02:27 pm

... must come to an end.

That was the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And it crossed my geeky mind when our beloved First Aid Services Team (F.A.S.T.) recently had its last business meeting at the Red Cross's Silicon Valley Chapter.

I joined the F.A.S.T. team in July 2012.  As a volunteer organization of first responders, F.A.S.T. was just about to have its biggest event of the year -- the Gilroy Garlic Festival.  In fact, that was my very first event volunteering with the team. I remember being nervous because a lot medical calls happen there especially in the summer heat. So I consider Gilroy Garlic my personal "trial by fire". I joined the team just in time to attend what would end up being my first of 6 consecutive Gilroy Garlic Festivals, all with the F.A.S.T. team.

In fact, back then I wrote a blog about my first few events with F.A.S.T..... I was definitely a newbie.

Over the past 6 years with F.A.S.T., I've attended numerous events all over the Bay Area. With a few exceptions, most of these events I never heard of, much less been to. With the F.A.S.T. team, we were able to hang out at them all and got some free food in the process. Some of the events I've been to are:

Gilroy Garlic Festival
Obon Festival
Greek Festival
San Jose Jazz Festival
Art & Wine Festivals (in Mountain View and San Carlos)
Bay to Breakers
Nike Women's Marathon
numerous corporate Xmas parties (including Google, Lam Research, etc)
countless foot races: Bubble Run, Hola 5K, Double Road Race, Easy Bay 510K, Glow Wars, Ruth Anderson Ultra Marathon, Run d'Armore Ultra Marathon, etc.
Cinco de Mayo
Island Reggae Festival
Women's March in downtown San Jose
Marion Cottle Park Fall Festival
Santa Clara County Fair
BMAGIC Backpack Giveaway in SF
Tet Festival
CSU Hayward College Graduation
Safe and Sober Grad Night in Livermore
Packard Picnic
UnScruz (ie. a smaller Burning Man version in Santa Cruz)
Stroke Walk
King's Day in SF
Tour de Cure bike race
Autism Speaks walkathon
Orchid Festival in SF
Indoor Motor Cross
Dia San Jose
Singapore Sports & Family Day
San Mateo Bacon & Brew Festival
Wine Festival in SF
Hispanic Rock Concert
Marin Century Bike Race
Black Cuisine Festival in SF
Veterans Day parade in downtown San Jose

Sure, there were days when I grumbled about having to sleep early on weekends and then getting up before the sun rose for some crazy foot/bike race.

And there were times when I had to volunteer 3 or 4 weekends in a row because the F.A.S.T. team needed more help at this or that particular event.

But by far and large, the F.A.S.T. team was one of the best things that's happened to me.  I learned so much in the area of "dirt medicine", gained valuable experience "out in the field", and although I am by no means a perfect first responder who knows it all, I've gained confidence in my skills as a medic and a field leader. I feel I can stay calm and focus in dynamic situations that can change in an instant.

And although I haven't seen everything there is to see out there in terms of medical emergencies, I've seen my fair share. I'm just glad that we were able to help so many people over the years.

Last but most importantly, I've met a lot of wonderful people on the F.A.S.T. team.  The people with the breadth of skills and experiences were second to none. I'm grateful for all the EMS skills and concepts I've learned from them over the past 6 years. And above all, I'm very thankful for the friendships I made that'll last beyond the F.A.S.T. team's closure.

So in a way, this feels like the end of a relationship for me.

I'm definitely going to miss F.A.S.T.  There have been rumors that the team will be transferred to a non-profit outside of the Red Cross, so it's possible that it'll go on in some way, shape, or form. And there are other organizations out there that work in the same function as F.A.S.T.  But it definitely won't be the same. Regardless, I would like to keep my medic skills fresh going forward and will have to find some avenue to make it happen.

Anyways, enough words. Here are some pics as a walk down the memory lane.

Free entry @ the Academy of Sciences for the Lam Research Xmas Party

Some events started before dawn, like the Nike's Women Marathon....

.... while others lasted throughout the night till morning, like this Ultra Marathon.

Gilroy Garlic Fest was a annual (and very hot) tradition for the F.A.S.T. team.

To be honest, Christmas's won't be the same for me without annual Google holiday parties in San Francisco.

Before F.A.S.T., there were many events I never knew about, such as the Burning Man in Santa Cruz

In the past 6 years, most of my trips to San Francisco were due to F.A.S.T. events like this Double Road Race

It was interesting to try some of the foods at the festivals, like a bacon root beer float @ the San Mateo Bacon & Brew Fest.

And at a few of these events, I ran into some friends, which was always awesome:

Of course, this in addition to all the people I've made friends with on the F.A.S.T. team. It was something I truly enjoyed, and I'm definitely grateful for each & every time I went out there.

I just want to say a big THANK YOU to Matthew and Peg.  I looked up to both of them (and still do) as the leaders of our team, and I'm very thankful for all that they did for F.A.S.T.  Without them, I wouldn't enjoyed the last 6 years as much as I did.

And of course, I can't forget everyone else I've met and befriended:  Harold, Kaitie, Aaron, Lucinda, Nhi, Brenda, Doan, Danica, German, Doug, Rachel, Sarah M, Yousof, Tom, Sarah G, Don, Emilio, Christina, Inho, Gary, Randy, Hawley, Liz, David B, Ross, Brian/Karen, Dave C, Andy, Arndis, Ishan, Michelle Y, Genesis, Diana L, Michelle P, Jennifer, Dennis, Diana V, Mars, Margaret, Justine/Larry, Jeff, Euna, Cy, Rada, Judy, Paul/Monica, Quyen, Theresa, Bonnie, Kian, and countless others.

Except Yelena. She's mean to me. =P

I will never forget you.

Current Mood: sadsad

fun films, serious messages Oct. 20th, 2018 @ 05:46 pm

Alberto always brings an interesting perspective with him, including when it comes to the movies he watches.

Take Avengers: Infinity War, for an instance. That movie was awesome. But even though it's just a superhero film, there is a serious underlying message to it. The reason why Thanos wants to kill half the life in the universe is because it's, simply put, overpopulated. When life is left "unchecked", it needs to be "balanced out."

Don Cheadle, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Sebastian Stan, and Danai Gurira in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Afterwards, Alberto drew the parallel with real life today. There are now 7 billion inhabitants on this planet, and Mother Earth has limited resources. And I'm not talking about just oil, which fuels our vehicles. It's scary to think that there's a lack of food and clean water for everyone. Fresh water is definitely a resource that I worry about running out of. Sure, our planet is mostly water, but I'm sure most of it is sea-salt water, which us humans don't usually like. Fresh water is probably not in abundance, but it is something we cannot do without. As the main villain in Daniel Craig's Bond film Quantum of Solace claimed, H2O is "the world's most precious resource". That's why the baddies wanted to control it.

Image result for quantum of solace water.

Another movie we were watching was Battle: Los Angeles, in which aliens invade the earth because of our.... ta da, you guessed it: water.  The movie is an American military sci-fi/action film that focuses on US Marines battling it out with the nameless sinister aliens. During the film, Alberto (who immigrated from Costa Rica) said to me, "Your country has never known what it feels like to be invaded, has it?"

And in actuality, he's right. Even accounting for Pearl Harbor and September 11th, the US has never had a foreign invasion force land on its shores and having to fight them on our own soil. (If I'm mistaken, please point it out to me.)

So yeah. I enjoy watching fun movies, but even they have serious messages hidden beneath. As they should be because then they're not just brainless action flicks. Although that's not a bad thing either.

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Other entries
» that "sexy" thing
Several years ago, Stacy told me that if I wanted to be more attractive to girls, she suggested that I do the following:

1.   Get a Smartphone
2.   Get into sports

The 1st point has long been checked off, but I didn't do it to get girls -- my old cell died. So it was finally time to "catch up" with society in terms of getting the latest-and-greatest cell tech.

As for the 2nd point.... to this day, I'm still not into sports (I like to swim, but only as a form of exercise). Stacy said that she didn't used to be either, but Bobby was into football/basketball. So as a result, she got into it. And she found it sexy that Bobby was so passionate about said sports. It's not the only time I heard of the wife initially not being interested in something, but eventually was: Katie said she started watching UFC/MMA fights because of her husband Kyle.

Krystal once told me that a girl likes it when their guy is passionate about something, because then that means he can be passionate about HER. (Another example: she liked it that Chris was so passionate about video games, as geeky as it may sound to some.)

Anyhow, I digress. Stacy said that I should get into sports. Because girls found it sexy. And I also heard that girls found guys sexy when they play some kind of musical instrument, which I don't really do either.

If someone were to ask me what my passion was, the first thing that'd come to mind is helping others. That's why I volunteer. There's just something personally gratifying about lending a hand to someone else, even if it's nothing dramatic (no, I've never brought someone back from the brink doing CPR). I do it because I enjoy doing it, not because to get girls.

Although if the latter were a secondary benefit, I certainly wouldn't object. But again, it's not my ulterior motive.

But I know that may not be considered "sexy" by a lot of girls out there.

I was talking about this to Suzanne, how volunteering is not a hobby as exciting like sports or music. She said, "You're right. Volunteering isn't sexy. But it's important. We need more people like you."

And then there's Cameron: "I think what girls like is that you're truthful to yourself."

Deep down, I've always known that. I volunteer to help others. Simple as that. 
» "As friends" (from a Guy's POV)
I remember speaking earlier with a female coworker about dating.... she's in her mid-to-late 20s. Out of her own dating woes, she said something like, "Why can't guys just start out as friends with girls? Why can't we just get to know each other as friends first?"

Immediately, I could hear the voice of 2 other coworkers (but both male) lecturing me in the not-so-distant past:  "You gotta tell her you're interested her EARLY ON. You gotta make your MOVE! Otherwise, she'll FRIEND-ZONE YA!"  

Their words weren't too far from the truth. This is what happened back then... I got friend-zoned by a girl I was really into.

I conveyed about the guys' fears of being friend-zoned to my female coworker. I said that at least with dating apps such as Coffee Meets Bagel, the guys' ulterior motives are known -- they're speaking to the girls in the first place because they want to go out on dates and be MORE THAN friends. So if the guy is pursuing the girl, at least she won't be "shocked" by his intentions.

But if the guy is indeed just "a friend" with the girl whom he's interested in.... the second he tells her that he likes her, chances are she'll be startled (at a minimum) or feel uncomfortable because she doesn't see him in the same way. To her, he's just another guy friend.

The guy, however, wants to let her know how he feels. He's gotta take the initiative while concurrently taking that risk of pushing the girl away once he opens up about having feelings for her. Even if the result ends up with the guy & girl no longer staying as friends... it's a big gamble. But doing nothing isn't a good option to begin with.

I explained all of this to my female coworker, from a guy's POV. None of it occurred to her and she understood in the end.

So she said:  "Derek, on behalf of all the girls out there, thank you and to the rest of the guys who take the initiative."
» doing better than the bully?

I've been bullied before. Fortunately, I was never beaten to a bloody pulp or anything close to that. But I do know what it's like to be teased constantly, being made fun of, etc.

This mainly occurred during the middle school years, and 6th grade was the worst. I was this quiet, nerdy, little Asian kid with braces and thick-framed glasses as big as dinner plates. So for bullies, that's an easy target.

Plenty of kids -- mainly boys -- come to mind and unfortunately, I still remember their faces. One of them in particular. He was the worst and I admit I was downright scared of him at the time. I tried to stand up for myself but wasn't really good at it; he'd just pick on me more.

Now, it's 20+ years later. For some reason, his name crossed my mind and I wondered what his status was nowadays. So as weird as it sounds, I looked him up on LinkedIn. Needless to say, his LinkedIn profile isn't all that stellar. Don't get me wrong, I'm no Mark Zuckerberg myself. But based on the jobs he has held and their desriptions, it looks like I'm doing better than he is.

This isn't to say I wish ill will upon him, or anyone who treated me badly in the past. That's just not in my nature. I could care less if anything bad happened to them, but I'm not one to hope that misfortune be bestowed upon them or anything.

And of course, I'm not saying I look down on people with low-paying simple jobs, such as custodians. Those folks are doing what probably few others would want to do, and somebody has to be a janitor. For the janitors at my company, every now and then I thank them for what they've done. It's simple courtesy.

But I guess there is a certain... somber satisfaction to see that I am doing better (at least, professionally speaking) than the guy who bullied/made fun of me so much in the past. This isn't going to make me jump and down with cheers. However, it's good to know that I've turned out all right and have done well in my career.

And no one can deny me that.

» happy bday -- Janie

I haven't done one of these in a while... and I'm a week late already.

Most of my friends on Facebook, I knew beforehand. But there are a select few whom I actually met through Facebook, believe it or not. Janie is one of them.

We're both members of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, and just like every other organization out there, the Auxiliary has their own Facebook page. She was asking questions about the "Gold Side" (active duty Coast Guard), and I posted a lengthy response, making sure I actually knew what I was talking about. And then from there, we became "friends"! That's how it goes in the 21st century. =)

Later that year, I posted that I was going to visit Washington DC for the first time. It was a memorable trip because I'm a huge history buff and our nation's capital certainly has a lot of Hx.  Janie saw the post and was like, "We HAVE to meet up!!"

Which we did. She and her other half, Rob, took me out to dinner. It was kind of a small world -- not only was Rob also from the Bay Area, if memory serves correctly, but so was the waiter who served us! 2 koinikidinks in a row.

It also turned out that Janie's actually related to Alex Penkala, one of the soldiers who fought with the Easy Company, a US paratrooper unit in World War II. A HBO miniseries was based on them, called Band of Brothers.  What're the odds, that I'd meet an actual descendant related to perhaps the most famous American unit from the Second World War. I recall Janie saying that even though she never met "Uncle Alex", it was still eerie and strange for her seeing him "die" on the HBO miniseries.

But while being related to a Band of Brothers trooper is awesome, that's not why Janie is cool. We've KIT through Facebook and also had several convos over the years, both through messaging and phone. Despite being a wonderful full-time mom, she still made time to chat with me in times of support (and I could ask her for advice about women... ahem). Finally, our involvement with the Coast Guard Auxiliary is something I have in common with her, but with very few others. So that's special.

I truly hope to see her one day again. Another trip to DC is overdue.

Meanwhile, I hope she had a great bday.  =)

» Cathay Pacific flight attendant
I was flying back from Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific. One of the flight attendants was serving breakfast. Out of the 2 choices -- eggs or noodles -- I asked for eggs as I was tired of having Chinese food for the past 2 weeks. It seemed like a lot of people were ordering eggs though, because it looked like she was having some trouble finding an egg dish. So I told her, "If you only have noodles, then that's fine."  Just wanted to make her job easier for her. She managed to find an egg dish and told me, "You're too nice."

Later on, she dropped by and asked me to fill out a Cathay Pacific survey. I felt singled out (not that I mind in this case) because no one else around me was asked to fill one out. I wonder what the "critieria" is to be picked out for filling out one of those things.

Towards the end of the flight, the flight attendants were collecting UNICEF donations (sponsored by Cathay). Feeling a little charitable -- hey, it's not like I haven't donated $$ before -- I filled one out. The same flight attendant said that was very nice of me. I guess donations from flight passengers don't happen too often.

Anyways, nothing big happened. Just small nice moments with her.  =)
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