Sunday, November 27, 2005

Make Your Own South Park Character

For fans of the potty-mouthed comedy South Park, you can now create your very own character !

I just had to do one. Do you see the resemblance ?

Create your own personal character here ! You have to do a screenshot to save it to .jpg.

Many thanks to my friend Dizzy for the link; you can see his very aptly decorated character here. :)

Japanese Restaurant with Attitude

This is the Japanese restaurant in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City.

Yeah. Right back at'cha !

Thursday, November 24, 2005


One of the most anticipated milestones of any product launch is FCS - the First Customer Ship. For the product I work on, this is the only acronym that matters right now. The entire team has been putting in an extraordinary effort to tweak and test our product in every possible way, to make it fit for public consumption.

FCS. It has taken over our lives. It flavors our food, circulates through our bodies, invades our dreams. We live it, breathe it, love it. It is all that matters.

As per my policy, I did not bring my laptop on my vacation. I thought I was free from the grasp of FCS. I thought I was safe. Until I saw the license plate of the PT Cruiser rental car that was given to me at the airport.

I am a slave to the First Customer Ship ! Now, on my vacation, 2,600 miles from my cubicle, it taunts me. It calls to me, pulling me into its grasp, refusing to relent though I fight it with all my strength. It has claimed my very existence.

I cannot log into work, and I cannot test, until I arrive at home tonight.

And when I do, I will resist it, for a while. But I know I am powerless to the tenacious hold of the god we call FCS.

Fast, Hot and Sinfully Delicious

My father has dubbed his new, industrial-strength, bistro-quality espresso/capuccino machine as "The Ferrari of Espresso Makers."

I couldn't resist adding an adornment to illustrate this most appropriate nickname. :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Je me souviens

Every time I visit Toronto, my city of origin, it is always an adventure to discover what type of vehicle the rental car company has set aside for me. This weekend, I touched down on the red-eye to find a perky white Chrysler PT Cruiser waiting for me in the lot.

It is a nice machine to boot around town in. It's spacious enough to fit all my luggage in the back compartment with room to spare. But there is something unique and special about this particular vehicle that I just happened to be assigned. It has a license plate from the province of Québec.

Québec is the primarily French-speaking area of Canada, a neighbor to the east of Ontario. It has a unique culture that renders it quite unlike any other province in this country. The license plates on their cars have a slogan on them that epitomizes the French Canadians' dedication to their history. It reads "Je me souviens."

Literally, this phrase means "I remember myself." But figuratively, it means "I remember my history. I remember my past."

This statement, adorning the plates on my vehicle for the week, rings true for me as well.

I have returned to my hometown for a birthday celebration for my father, his 60th. I write this entry while sitting in the same computer room I used to sit in while chatting with my BBS friends in 1991 - back when the Internet was something only a select few had even heard of. Since my arrival, I have bought groceries at the store I used to shop at when I was in high school. And I have driven the same route downtown that I used to take to my first full-time job.

Je me souviens. I remember my history.

The real Cadbury chocolate. Hockey Night in Canada. Tim Horton's. Peameal bacon. Bad drivers. And the cold - oh, the cold ! My first step outside, and it steals the very breath from me. I am a prisoner to its inescapable wrath. No layer of clothing is impermeable to the bitter wind, pushing with all its force, mercilessly biting into every inch of uncovered skin.

Living in California for the past five years, the memories and sensations of this place have inevitaly faded. But every time I step off that plane, and into the world I once called home, they come rushing back with feverish enthusiasm.

Life here marches on in this place, as it does everywhere else.

New stores and plazas have gone up in droves since I've been gone. The once-unassuming mall down the street has been transformed into an upscale shopping mecca. The area around the northern office of my previous company has been completely built up, with numerous restaurants, stores and donut shops surrounding it.

My relatives and friends are still the same great people I remember, but each is little different. Some have gotten older, others have become healthier. There are a few new young additions, and those that have been around for a while have become taller, smarter and more talkative. Life is growing and evolving all around me.

I remember my past.

I remember my youth in the suburbs of the east end of the city. I remember the disastrous move to a podunk north-town that was quickly undone by a second move a year and a half later. I remember the tumultuous times of high school and college, and the various people that shuffled in and out of my life in that time. I remember the growing pains, the interpersonal conflicts, and the long days and nights of studying, partying, chatting online, discovering the Internet, and selling computers to help pay for my college residence fees. I remember striking it out on my own for the first time, getting my first real job, buying my first set of business clothes, buying my first house.

Life marches on.

Since my relocation to Silicon Valley, the business clothes are ancient history; much too big for my current figure, and no longer needed for the casual attire that is customary at my current job. My old house is still in the family - first purchased from me by my parents when I relocated, and now recently sold to my youngest sister and her new husband. I barely recognize it for all they have done to it. Even so, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

My parents have put their house up for sale. They don't need all this space for just the two of them. Their house, in which I sit at this moment, has been the cornerstone of our family for years; the place where everyone lands when Sunday lunch time comes around. Life won't be the same without it. But the memories will always be there, for as long as we care to reflect on them.

I remember my history.

The snowflakes have started to fall, gently and delicately, onto every outdoor surface. The dusting of snow on the houses, the cars and the naked trees is breathtakingly beautiful. I can only look out this window in awe at nature's handiwork.

I don't miss the cold. I don't miss the roads rendered treacherous by snow, sleet and ice. I don't miss being forced indoors by the unrelenting chill. But this scene outside my window, right now, gives me a sense of peace. It is familiar. It is a part of me. It is my roots. No matter where I travel, no matter where I end up, it will remain with me forever.

Je me souviens.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


One of the Weight Watchers "Tools for Living", a collection of inspiration and real-life tactics for weight and life management, is something they refer to as anchoring. Find an item, they say, that has intrinsic meaning to you. Carry that item with you as a visual representation of your commitment to your goal. When you feel yourself slipping, bring out that anchor to help set you back on track. Many have found this to be an effective method of keeping their focus.

I was reminded of this recently when talking to Rick, a friend and coworker, about relationships and compatibility. Raised by rambunctious families of Italian origin, and driven by boundless energy, it takes a certain type of person to put up with the likes of the two of us. I surmised that those similar to us would be best suited with a partner who is calmer; someone that can pull us back if we propel ourselves too far into orbit.

"So," he said to me, "you're looking for an anchor, right ?"

Am I ? That question stopped me in my tracks.

Do I truly need an anchor ?

And must that anchor be another person ?

Inner stregth. Trust in oneself. Healthy outlets for stress. All these are tools that we, as adults, often use to ground ourselves in times of emotional turmoil. An anchor, if we have one, can be a tactile reminder of the strength within. But the strength itself cannot originte from the outside. When one "needs" another person to keep them grounded, it means that one's own inner fortitude is missing.

My anchor cannot be another person. My anchor must be myself.

There are times that I have faltered. There are times that I have experienced the agony of emotional upheaval; the sleepless nights, the hours of pacing, the tears of grief. I have lain awake at night, staring at the ceiling, unable to even close my eyes. I have buried my face into my pillow and sobbed uncontrollably, stopping only when I could not muster the strength to continue. In dark times such as these, everyone - all of us who who feel emotion, all of us who are human - need and reach out for the love and support of those around us. I am fortunate to have this, with the friends and family that I am blessed to be surrounded by. It is these great people, their support and unconditional love, that has helped me to right myself, to face the next day with courage, and to lift up my chin and push on, even in the face of grief and pain.

Our friends, our families, and our loved ones are those that can provide strength and inspiration in times of need. Their strength is not the source of ours; rather, it supplements that which already exists within us. Such is the distinction between relationships based on mutual respect and equality, and those based on insecurity and need. One is healthy, the other is not.

I have a little keychain, in the shape of a 10, that was given to me by my Weight Watchers leader after I lost 10% of my starting weight. All members who achieve that milestone receive one. Mine is now adorned with the small golden Lifetime Membership key that signifies reaching my goal. This keychain is a symbol; it is a reminder of my ongoing journey of healthy living. Yes, it is my anchor, but it is not the source of my strength.

The source of my strength is within me.

It is the trust that I now have in myself for the first time in my life. It is the self-assurrance, the security, and the inner fortitude I have built over the last four years of self-discovery and renewal. It is the confidence that I, with the support of those around me, can weather any storm that I face.

The keychain is a token that reminds me of the journey so far.

And, it is a symbol of hope for the future that lies ahead.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Another Public Service Announcement

Before executing a vigorous sequence of jumping kicks in karate class, be sure to put a secure double-knot in the string that holds your pants up.

Good thing the traditional gi top does a nice job of concealing my butt.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Public Health Alert

Breaking news ! California's first case of Bird Flu has been reported in the southern region of the state.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I am tired.

Not just lack-of-sleep tired. Not just working-too-many-hours tired. I am completely, thoroughly, and unequivocally exhausted.

The long, ardurous days at work, testing our product for its first release to the public, combined with a very busy social and sports calendar of late, have finally caught up to me.

I could barely keep up with this evening's karate class, wavering at times while executing my katas. I respectfully declined an invitation from some of my coworkers for dinner. It was all I could do to lug myself and the bag of cat food up the stairs to my third floor apartment.

I think this is what is referred to as "hitting the wall"; when one stretches oneself to the absolute limit of one's physical and mental capabilities. Long, stressful, busy hours at work, and several consecutive days of social and sports activities, can easily bring that about. It has for me.

I am so not going to the gym tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Public Service Announcement

When proceeding to the biggest, zaniest, most highly-attended Halloween party on this side of the continent, be sure to go really early, park on the other side of the City, and take a cab. It will save you driving around for over an hour searching unsuccessfully for a parking spot.

Lesson learned for next year. Till then, the San Francisco Castro Street celebration will remain an elusive mystery to me.

Oh well. At least my costume was cute.

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