Farewell Rackspace

To my most affectionate Rackers,

April 1st is my last day at Rackspace.  It has been quite a journey this past 8 years growing and sharing experiences with you all.  We’ve laughed together and danced together and sweat through rough times together.  We’ve labored through long days and toiled through late nights and built digital monuments together.  And I wouldn’t trade any second of it for the world.

I am moving to China in May to start a company with a friend, and to teach English at the same time.  For the next few years I plan to travel all over the world living in various cities to experience the culture and learn the language.  Maybe one day I can learn to speak all the major languages of the world and be some sort of ambassador for mankind. Ambitious I know, but a guy can dream 🙂  Wish me luck!

I’m not going to be able to see each and everyone of you to say our goodbyes.  Please hug each other on my behalf and pass the hug on.  Maybe someday in some distant land I’ll get a random hug from a stranger and he or she’ll turn to me and say “That hug was from so-and-so, from this date and time, and has found its way to you.”  That would be so cool!

Thank you for everything!  You all will always hold a special place in my heart.  Take care of yourselves and each other. May our lives intersect again one day.

Much Love,
Huey

p.s.  You can follow my adventures by subscribing to this blog or friending me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/huey.ly).

You can also reach me on Skype (huey.ly) or Google (hueyl77@gmail.com).  I’d love to hear from you, don’t hesitate to send some love once in a while :).  <3

lyrics – xa em ky niem

Xa Em Kỷ Niệm

Ngày ta yêu nhau mùa thu đến có lá thu rơi
The day we fell in love, Fall had came, autumn leaves were falling

Đôi ta bước bên nhau không nói năng chi tim yêu chứa chan.
We walked side by side not speaking, only our hearts are filled with love.

Rồi đông trôi qua mùa đông trắng xóa tuyết trên cao
Then winter drifted pass, the whiteness of winter covered the snow up high

Đôi ta lở xa nhau câu nói yêu thương nay đã xa rồi.
The pair of us now far apart, our talk of love now far away.

======

Em yêu ơi, tình nầy dâng hết đến em với bao mặn nồng.
Oh my love,  this love ran out we were deeply in love.

Trong tim yêu riêng anh chỉ có biết em, yêu em trọn đời.
In my heart, it only knows you.  Will love you all this life.

Em yêu ơi, tình dù ngăn cách, với em anh xin một đời.
Oh my love,  even though this love is separated,  I want to be with you all my life.

Anh yêu em anh xin yêu mãi với em riêng em mà thôi.
I love you, I want to always love you, to be with you and only you.

======

Nhớ những lúc đắm đuối bên nhau, em yêu nay xa rồi.
Remember the loving times together, the one I love now far away.

Nhớ những lúc quấn quýt bên nhau, nay riêng anh lẻ loi.
Remember the times we were close together,  now I’m all alone.

======

Về trong cô đơn mùa thu đến vẫn lá thu rơi
Returned to loneliness, Autumn came, still the leaves fall

Anh vẫn bước lang thang trên lá thu xưa tim đau xót xa.
I still wandered on the ancient autumn leaves, with pained heart tormented

Giờ em nơi đâu trời đông gió rét quá thê lương
Where are you now, the winter wind is too cold and dreary

Đâu đây có dư âm ánh mắt đôi môi nay đã xa rồi.
Here there are only echos of your eyes and lips from a time long past.

A Tale of Two Wives

According to my mom, my dad married two women on the same night.  One of them was my mom, the other was his real love.  This my mom told me, and of course I didn’t fully believe her.  That’s so crazy, like something out of a television drama!

(old family pic with youngest aunt, mom and dad,
grandma and grandpa, and us kids)

It was in Cho Lon, a city near Saigon, around the mid 70s.  My dad was a poor man living in an apartment on the fourth floor of a run down complex that serves as a temple to Guan Yu Gong, the god of War and Righteousness.  For the free rent and a meager salary, he had acted as the undertaker for the temple.  But when the communists took over, the organization that owned the temple could no longer pay him, and he had to find other means of income.

Nga, the woman whom he loved, was the sole daughter of a wealthy family, the youngest sister with five older brothers.  Because of the communist revolution, all their wealth was stripped away.  Her mom had left her tons of jewelry, and Nga would make the occasional trip from her smaller village to the big city to pawn them for money.

She was introduced to my dad by a mutual friend, and he helped her find buyers for her jewelry.  My dad was great at making friends, and had a lot of connections.  He was also the most honest and trustworthy person anyone could ever meet.  Perhaps those were some qualities that made her fall in love with him.

So they started their love affair.  And even though my dad didn’t have much money, she didn’t care.  He didn’t have much family either, but he had many friends who loved him, and together they pooled their resources and bought gifts and went to the village where Nga’s family lived to ask permission for her hand in marriage.  But, because my dad was poor and didn’t have a promising future, Nga’s father rejected him.  My dad was not worthy of marrying his daughter.

So that was that.  Maybe they dragged their love affair out a little longer in secrecy, but the relationship was going nowhere;  My dad couldn’t make Nga his wife.

read part 2 >

A Tale of Two Wives, pt 4

< read part 3

There’s even more craziness to how this story ends.  Being the only daughter he had, Nga’s father had given her an ultimatum after the wedding.  She’d be excommunicated from the family if she didn’t leave my dad.  So that particular night when she was visiting them, she made her decision, took a few of her clothes, and left her family.  She loved my dad so much that she left everything behind to be with him and my mom.

And then, around the early 1980s, my mom isn’t quite clear on the exact dates, Nga’s family decided to charter a boat to sneak out of Vietnam.  Lots of people were doing this at that time, because the communist oppression was getting quite out of hand.  Vietnamese refugees would brave the harsh waters of the South China Sea to Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, or wherever there was a first world country presence that would accept them.

(random image I found of the “boat people”,
this was probably what the conditions were like on that boat)

Nga’s father sent one of her brothers to Cho Lon to find her, and told her that the family was leaving the country, and she should come home to say goodbye to her dad, as they may never see each other again.  Nga agreed, and left with her brother to go back to her village.

The “saying goodbye” part was really a trick, as they wanted her to go with them!  When she refused, they tied her up and threw her on to the boat.  Nga was kidnapped by her own family as they escaped into the ocean that night.

My parents had no idea what happened to Nga. They looked everywhere and asked everyone if they had seen her, but all to no avail.  She just disappeared.  They suspected that she left with her family, without saying goodbye.

A few months later, they received a letter from Nga.  She had written it while on the boat, with our address on it, and a kind fisherman had delivered it back to my mom and dad.  Nga poured her heart out explaining to them what had happened, that her family had forced her against her will to go with them.  She said she loved my mom and dad and us kids very much, and hope to find her way home someday.

Nga eventually made it to France, but there was no way for her to return to Vietnam, or my parents to go visit her.  Back then, everyone was poor and it was really hard to fly between countries just to visit.  They kept in touch through letters for a few years. When we left Vietnam to come to America in 1987, they lost touch with each other.  While in transit to the Philippines, the authorities somehow lost a container carrying important documents and photos, including Nga’s correspondence.  My mom was devastated.

We don’t know where Nga is now.  She is probably still in France, with a family of her own.  She is 5 years older than my mom, which means she is about 60 years old right now.  I wish there were some way we can meet her, I know my mom and dad would still very much like to see her again.

So that was the story of how my dad had two wives, and how we had two moms.  I’m not sure how much of it is true, but it is quite a story.  And from the photos and the conviction in my mom’s voice when she told us the story, I have to believe that at least some of it is true.

===============================================

If you’re interested and know Cantonese, here is the sound byte of my mom telling me the story.  I’ve heard it before in passing, but didn’t believe her until I saw the photograph of her and my dad and Nga.  So when I visited her last year, I made her retell the story as we go do some shopping.  I’m so glad I recorded it because I would’ve gotten a lot of the details wrong.  Love ya mom :).

Sound byte of the interview with my mom about Nga

A Tale of Two Wives, pt 3

< read part 2

But my mom noticed a strange woman at the wedding that tagged along all through out the day.  She had a gloom about her, and was always a step behind, looking sad and forlorn.  She even fought her way to sit in the front seat of the wedding car.  Who is this crazy woman? thought my mom.  All through this my dad kept silent, and it was too hectic for my mom to continue to care.

(mom and dad in their wedding car)

Then at the banquet that night, my mom noticed the exchanged looks and began to suspect that there was something between the strange woman and my dad.  Eventually, someone told her that she was my dad’s ex-girlfriend. They told her my dad and Nga’s entire story.  My mom was of course angry, she’d never heard of this woman until then.  After most of the guests had left, Nga was still there!  She was sittting at another table, looking sad and confused.  My mom made up her mind and went straight to her table, to the horror of my dad and a few older women, who thought she was about to start a fight.

But that wasn’t her intention, my mom is one of the most kind-hearted person I know.  She felt really sorry for the woman.  She asked her, “What is your name?”.  But Nga didn’t reply, and just stared at her.  She then asked, “Do you really love him that much?”.  Nga still didn’t answer.

My mom thought, well, my granddad had three wives.  It’ll be okay if my husband have two.  So she placed her wedding veil on the woman’s head.  She then took off her ring and my dad’s ring and placed them in my dad’s hand.  She asked the manager of the restaurant to set up a new table, they were going to have a second ceremony.

And so, that day, my dad married two women within a few hours of each other.  I know this sounds crazy, I didn’t believe it either when mom first told me the story.  Who would be so open-hearted that she would allow her husband to marry a different woman on the same wedding night?  But, knowing my mom’s unusual generous personality, I couldn’t completely dismiss it.  Then one day, we found a photo in her old stuff, and my doubts were even further appeased.  It was a photo of my mom, my dad, and a woman to his right also wearing a bridal veil.  I snapped a picture of it with my phone, because I knew I would want to write their story down one day.

(my dad and his two wives, my mom is on the left, Nga on the right)

After that, the three of them lived together in quite happy circumstances, according to my mom.  The two of them were like sisters, and did everything together.  She said Nga stayed with us and was our second mom until Vinny and I were three or four years old!  However, I don’t really have any recollection of her.

read part 4 >

A Tale of Two Wives, pt 2

< read part 1

At the same time, my mom’s granddad had developed a close relationship with my dad.  They were great friends, and my dad reminded him of his lost son who had died years earlier.  There were also other reasons my mom explained involving the compatibility of our last names and such, but it went over my head.

In any case, my great granddad saw that my dad was already 39 years old and unmarried, and decided to rectify the situation.  He had four grand daughters, but the youngest one wasn’t of age yet, so he showed pictures of my mom and her two older sisters to my dad and told him to choose one of them.  At first, he probably refused, he was still in love with Nga.  But he eventually had some sense talked into him and gave in.  He picked my mom, she was 21 years old at the time.


(a younger photo of my mom)

My mom had of course refused, she hardly knew this man and he was so much older than her!  And she had plans of becoming a nurse.  She even ran away for a while, but being the obedient child that she was, she returned home, and begged her grandfather to change his mind.  Her grandfather then took a nail, handed it my mom, and told her to nail it into the mango tree in their garden, and said “Leave older businesses to older people!  If you can take that nail out of the tree, then you can make your own decisions.”  But try as she might, she couldn’t do it.  If I were her, I would’ve chopped the darn tree down.

So my mom agreed to the marriage.  Not soon after she agreed, her granddad passed away.   They had to mourn his death, as all chinese families do, for 100 days.  On November 10, 1975, the 105th day after her granddad’s death,  my mom and dad had their wedding.

(mom and dad on their wedding day)

Lots of people came.  As I mentioned before, my dad was well liked by everyone and had a lot of friends.  He was a really good person and had a lot of “yi hei” (Cantonese word meaning “personal loyalty”;  Someone who is willing to stand up for or help their friends in need).  His friends probably helped chipped in for the wedding.  In any case, from the photos and what my mom told me, it sounded like a glorious wedding.

read part 3 >

Growing up in Vietnam: Flaming Paper Airplanes

Vinny and I caused a lot of trouble when we were kids.  I mean, we weren’t spoiled brats or anything.  We were obedient, respectful of our elders, and fairly good kids, considering.  But man, we were curious and active and got into everything! Case in point, here’s a memory I have of one of our misdeeds.

Growing up in Vietnam, we didn’t have TVs or Playstations to keep us from being bored, so we had to come up with creative ways to entertain ourselves.  One day, we decided to light paper airplanes on fire to see what they would look like floating down.  Our family lived on the fourth floor of a huge apartment complex that had a narrow alley way on the side.  We could look down on to the alley way through a small window in our kitchen, and it looked fairly safe.

So, we made paper airplanes, lit a match, and set one on fire.  Then we tossed the airplane out the window to watch it float to the alley below.  To our horror, the fire didn’t go out on the way down as we expected, and the plane landed on a pile of rubbish!  Even worse, the fire started getting bigger!  Being the creative problem solving young minds that we were, Vinny and I started running back and forth between the faucet and the window, carrying these little cups of water and dumping them down at the burning rubble four stories below.

Needless to say, our efforts proved futile.  The fire got progressively bigger and bigger as we panicked and frantically dumped water faster and faster out the window.  Eventually, an adult downstairs poked his head out and looked up at us.  When he noticed our two panic-stricken heads looking down, he shook his fist at us and started yelling something obscene.  He then went and put out the fire as we ran away to hide. The adult told on us later that day, and we got a beating from our dad.

Memories like these are faint and fading.  I’ve forgotten so many of these tidbits as the years roll by.  The environments of the clean and orderly U.S. is night and day compared to the chaotic environments of Vietnam, and there is very little mnemonic landscape for us to hang on to.  I’m only grateful that I can still remember some of these memories, if only a glimmering trace. We never tried flying flaming paper airplanes again.

Why I Want to Teach English in China

This was the letter I wrote to the academy in China where I will teach English for 6 months starting in September.  The interview process took a few weeks over several Skype sessions, and I officially accepted their contract today.  I’m so excited!  But if you’re curious to know why I’m quitting a well paying job to do this, you can find out by reading what I wrote.  It’s kinda cheesy,  I know, but it worked!  😀

====================================

Why I want to teach English in China
Huey Ly

I love the study of linguistics, and have always found it easy to learn a new language.  Growing up in Vietnam, we spoke both Cantonese and Vietnamese at home.  My brother, sister and I would speak Cantonese with our Mom and Dad, and Vietnamese with our friends at school.  When we moved to the United States, English came naturally to us.  We were speaking English to each other within a few years of coming to America.

Language and linguistics, to me, is the essence of thoughts.  The collective sum of our experiences cannot be described and remembered without the use of language.  Advance thoughts and complex concepts cannot be formed, analyzed and processed without the use of language.  Indeed, to learn a person’s language is to be able to think as that person.  Language is more than a form of communication, learning a language can give a person insights into the culture of which it belongs to as well.

Furthermore, I love traveling and learning about the different cultures around the world.  Every city has its own characteristic, and the people living there seem to see the world in a slightly different light.  I want to be able to experience these differences, quantum leaping thru the heartbeat of each city until I’ve seen them all.  Learning about the language and culture of a place will bring me closer to that place, and eventually, the rest of the world.

And that is why I want to teach English in China (or Vietnamese, or any other languages for that matter).   It gives me the opportunity to share my love for languages with others, and at the same time help me learn new languages from the other side.  I plan to quit my cushy job as a software developer and travel the world in the next few years, teaching English and learning new languages as I go.  I plan to stay at least 6 months to a year at each location, but my schedule isn’t rigid.  I can stay longer or shorter depending on the situation.  Hopefully, by the end of it, I could say I’ve lived in all the major cities of the world, and picked up a handful of languages a long the way.

Thank you for your time and consideration.  I would love to join your institution to follow this dream.

Huey Ly
January 14, 2011

 

I Took the Strength Finder Test Twice

The company I work for have stacks and stacks of the Gallup Press’s Strengths Finder books.  Everyone that work for us have to take the test to find their top 5 strengths.  New recruits will have a print out of their strengths by the end of the orientation process, to be taken to their cubicles to proudly display it on their desks.

When we got acquired by Rackspace in 2007, this was one of the things we had to do as part of the HR transfer process.  I played along (I’m not a big consumer of self-help books).  There were reasons for me to believe that this test was a bit bogus, which I will get into in a bit.  But overtime, the results and philosophy of this process grew on me, and I’ve come to change my mind about it.  So recently, as Borders was closing its stores all over the country, I went into one and grabbed a couple of extra copies.  I gave one to my friend and kept one for myself, so that I can retake the test completely independent of the first test and see if the results match up.

Here’s how it works.  Each book contains a code that allows the owner to go to their website, register, and create an account.  It can only be used once, so you’d have to buy multiple copies of the same darn book if you want all of your employees to take it.  Once registered, the user can take the strengths finder test by answering a series of eHarmony-like questions.

The format imitates some personality tests I’ve seen in the past, where they offer two different statements that best describes you, and you are to pick which statement you’d lean more toward.  Here are some sample questions:

  • I am a sensitive person;  I am a logical person.
  • I get to know people individually; I accept many types of people.
  • My view of humanity guides my life;  My ambition guides my life.
  • I enjoy giving recognition;  I enjoy receiving recognition.
  • I enjoy relaxing;  I enjoy cleaning.

As you can see, some of these descriptions are pretty obvious in terms of what type of person would pick them.  But others are a bit more vague.  I mean, I enjoy both giving recognition and receiving them!  Some days I enjoy relaxing, other days I want to go clean things!  You can’t put labels on people this way because our moods change from day to day. Furthermore, the answers I gave became almost arbitrary.  When I came up against a vague question, I would randomly just pick a radio button, without analyzing it and making sure that it even matches my personality, because any answers could be correct depending on the day of the week and what was happening at the time.  So I became skeptical on how accurate the result would be going through these tests.

The first time around, these were my top 5 strengths:

  1. Connectedness
  2. Intellection
  3. Includer
  4. Strategic
  5. Input

If you want to get in depth with what each of those strengths mean, you can read the descriptions of a few of them on my About page.  But apparently, they were able to categorize the whole spectrum of human skills and capabilities into 34 different labels.  Another bogus flag went up for me.  It sounds almost zodiac-like!  Indeed, if you read some of the descriptions of these strengths, they read like a paragraph out of a horoscope.  For example, here is an excerpt from the Intellection strength:

This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings.  The exact focus will depend on your other strengths.  On the other hand, this mental activity may very well lack focus.  The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; it simply describes that you like to think.

I mean, doesn’t that read like a horoscope entry describing people of the Pisces sign or something?  Also, many people will be able to identify with the above statement, going “Yea!  That’s me!”.  Furthermore,  I noticed they sprinkled their descriptions with these tidbids of general facts that makes you inadvertently agree with them.  Sentences like “The earlier time was a simpler time.  It was a time of blueprints.”  And “The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity.”  Yes!  Those statements are true!  So the whole paragraph seems to be more truthful and official.  Sneaky sneaky!

But despite my skepticism, I did eventually buy into the whole thing.  Yes, take the test with a grain of sand, but it can be useful in its own right.  Firstly, it forces the test taker to analyze his or her own personality, making that person spend more time thinking about what they are good at.  We often go about our daily lives without spending so much as a second for introspection.  But introspection is the ultimate catalyst for growth, and we should really do it more often.

Secondly, sometimes the person grows into the role.  The test says I’m an “Arranger”, so I’m just gonna go start arranging things!  Yea, more meetings! This placebo behavior did have its effect on me.  One of my strengths was “Includer“.  Most people I work with would go “Oh yea … you are definitely an includer” whenever they see my strengths.  Which really just means I’m friendly and sensitive to people’s feelings at certain times.  But it did make me become even more empathetic and making sure no one feels left out more so than before.

And lastly, they make great icebreakers and water cooler discussions, and provide a legitimate way to throw labels on each other and not waste too much time trying to actually figure out what a person is really like.  Yea, sarcasm.

So, all that said, let me reveal what I learned after taking the test the second time around.  I wanted to see how accurate (or precise?) this test was based on how closely the results of the two tests reflect each other.  To my surprise, they were pretty similar.  Here is the result of my second test:

  1. Intellection
  2. Connectedness
  3. Context
  4. Developer
  5. Input

As you can see, my top two strengths are still there, but swapped places.  Of the 5 top strengths, 3 of them still remain after the 2nd test.  The two that got swapped out were Includer and Strategic, which honestly I feel that I’ve care less about those traits recently.  I bet they’re still in my top 10 though.  And you can also argue that people strengths do change over time, as the environment or the experiences they went through slowly shape them.  An ideal test would be to force a subject to take the test once, wipe his memory of taking it, then make him take the test immediately after.  Regardless, the test doesn’t seem as arbitrary to me anymore after seeing these results.

So, for $24.95, this book maybe worth it for you if you’re into this kind of thing.   The analytical self-help setup adds a level of legitimacy to the process.  And it does help you think about yourself in clearer, more productive terms.  I know my company believes in its value, and on certain days, certain parts of my brain do too.

Playa del Carmen, part 2

< read part 1

We fought our hangovers and got out of bed relatively early the next day (around 9 o’clock).  After a hearty Mexican breakfast at the resort’s buffet, we prepared to go on our jungle excursions by grabbing as many beach towels as we can find.  Berger and Angela hugged them like they were going out of style.

Pat and Leticia had planned the day for us to be at the Selvatica, to do the “Zip-line and ATV” expedition.  The tour package was $129 per person, and included a full day of activities involving zip lines, ATVs, and a cool natural spring.  They even provided a “home cook” meal for everyone at the end of the tour.  The photos and videos were extra though.

The first activity had us putting on hooks and harnesses and hardhats and leather gloves.  We were going to climb up the rickety ladders into the treetops and zip-line our way into the Mexican jungle.

When I heard “zip lining”, I thought it would be a one time ordeal lasting less than a minute, and was shocked to find out that it’d take about an hour to complete the trip.  They had rigged line after line 2 kilometers deep into the jungle and back.  We had to zip across somewhere between 10 to 15 lines (I lost count), our legs tucked in and our leather-gloved hands hanging for dear life, straining with all our might from crashing into the trees ahead.  Fortunately, the well trained staff were there to catch those that couldn’t stop themselves.

The people working at the Selvatica were awesome.  They were fun, humorous, super friendly, and were professionals at their jobs while keeping everyone safe.  For the faint of heart, they even “escorted” you across the lines at your request.

Gliding through the trees with the greenness spreading out in all direction and the ground 30 feet below, it felt pretty surreal.  But being an out of shape computer programmer, I was exhausted after a few zip-lines.  Even though the idea may sound scary at first, it was extremely safe and any fears you have will become unfounded after the first zip across the trees.

We completed the first activity in a little over an hour.  After that, we were loaded on to a “mexican limousine”, as they were called by the always joking guides, which was a rickety looking army truck with no seat-belts and spouted gas fumes like an oil refinery.  We bounced our way through the pothole ridden trail to the ATV station.

After some brief safety instructions, everyone donned their safety gears and picked an ATV for the next leg of our journey.  It had been raining the past few days, and the trails were wet and muddy and full of slush.  We formed a single line and played follow the leader into the wet wilderness.

There were huge puddles of dirt and water everywhere, and there was no avoiding them.  If you go across them at full speed, the muddy water would splash as high as your head.  We were completely drenched and dirty a few minutes into it.  But after a short while, you cease to care, and the dirtiness became liberating.  The trip took about half an hour.

Covered from head to toe in mud, we parked our ATVs and were lead to our next destination, a natural cold spring in the middle of the jungle.  This was some well strategic planning on their part, because this last activity also served as a way to clean  ourselves off.  And even though the rain was still coming down in a light drizzle, we took off our shirts, put on some life jackets and headed to the edge of the spring.

They gave us three options for diving into the water.  1) Just jump off from the edges of the cliff “freestyle-like”  2) Use the hanging handholds and zip-line into the middle of the spring and let go, or 3) climb down the wooden ladders cautiously and be made fun of for being a wuss.  Everyone opted for option 2.

The water was refreshingly cool, and the dives were exhilarating.  Even though it wasn’t that warm, our exertions quickly overcame the chilliness.  We took turn launching ourselves off the platform, some even tried doing fancy tricks like going into the water face-first.

We spent maybe another 30 minutes at the spring before we had to leave, but not before the guides pulled a prank on the group.  As we were exiting the trail, it looked like one of the guys was poking frantically at something in the grass with a stick, screaming for help.  When we were close, another guy that was hiding behind the foliage jumped out screaming and wiggling a dark tree branch as though a snake had launched itself into the air.  I think Pat screamed the loudest, we all had a hearty laugh at his expense.

The mexican limousine shuttled us back to the main area, where we dried ourselves off and browsed the giftshop.  Shortly after, they sat us all down and served us our “lunch” (at 4pm in the afternoon), consisting of grilled chicken, rice, and re-fried beans.  It was surprisingly delicious (but it might be because we were starving)!

They also showed the photos and videos of us doing the activities throughout the day, and it would cost another $100 to take them home with us.

We went back to the resort exhausted, but knew the day wasn’t quite over.  It was our last night in Mexico, and by gosh we’ll make the best of it.  Everyone adjourned to their rooms for a quick shower and got dressed for the fancy Italian restaurant they had in the resort.

The food was, once again, delicious.  I don’t think we had one bad meal the whole time we were in Mexico.  They served penne pasta and meat sauce spaghetti as appetizer for gosh sakes!

Leticia joined us and organized the trip downtown.  She wanted to take us bar hopping, but with the state of the group after the long day, I think bar “limping” would be more accurate.  We ended up going to an open air, laser filled club called “Danzantes”. “It’s just like dancers but in spanish!” said Leticia on her Facebook post.   We had table service full of Redbull and Vodkas and flaming shots of liquid death!

So they blasted the music and we broke it down on the dance floor until our legs fell off while attractive women get hit on by Reed and Brian downed the Greygoose.  Vinny made some new friends while I danced with the old and the night wore away like the shifting sand.

We couldn’t do too much after that.  Tired and intoxicated from the day’s adventurers, we went straight to bed.

It was gorgeous and sunny the day we had to leave.  Here is the journal entry I wrote while in flight back to Texas.  I think it’ll wrap up the trip nicely.

==============================================
“Feb 13, 2011
Somewhere between Cancun and Houston.

On the way back from Playa del Carmen.  The blue sky and cool caribbean breeze made it so much harder to leave.   Amidst white sand and emerald water and among the company of good friends, the weekend seemed to have rushed pass in a blur.

My whole body aches from yesterday’s action packed excursions.  We zip-lined and rode ATVs and dove into cool natural springs.  The dancing at the loud and laser filled open air bar didn’t help.  And boy did we danced!  Sometimes you just got to give into the music.

Wish we could’ve stayed longer.  The trip had been almost surreal, like a commercial break between a reality TV show.

The plane is about to land in Houston.  After that, home sweet Austin home.”

==============================================

So the short and sweet weekend trip was over, and we’re back to our daily lives.  Happy 30th birthday Ange!  And thanks everyone for sending my brain to paradise and back.  Let’s do it again some day.

Love,
Huey

Playa del Carmen, storm’s 30th

For her 30th birthday, Pat Matthews flew his little sis, Angela, and the entire Matthews clan to Mexico to celebrate.  Only a handful of friends managed to book the last minute flights to join them.  The 30th birthday seems to be a big deal for the Matthews, as they’ve thrown crazy parties for both Pat and Brian when they’d turned 30.  It is as though it was some kind of rite of passage, like they’d leave the immaturity of their younger years behind and enter the responsible landscape that is adulthood.  But before doing so, they have to go out with a bang!

We’ve decided to all stay at the Playacar Palace, an all inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen’s hotel zone, but only a few blocks away from downtown.  Vinny and I paid $1,174.00 for the superior deluxe room with 2 full-size beds and an ocean view for 2 nights,  making it roughly $300 per person per night!  The price included all our meals, unlimited drinks, room service, and $100 credit toward the spa.  But, as you will see, we didn’t take full advantage of the “all inclusive” part of the deal.

After checking in, we went to the resort’s main bar (they have 3) and met up with Berger and Reed, two of Pat’s long time friends from his younger days.  With them was Anson, Berger’s fun and loving wife.  Despite being married with kids, Berger can still keep up with us single boys when the occasion arises.  While Reed seems to be in a state of perpetual intoxication.  Pat showed up a few minutes later, sporting his metro-sexual shirt and his bemused signature smirk as he gave us hugs and welcomed us to Mexico.  Vinny and I promptly started downing mojitos and tequila shots.

Julianne, Pat’s girlfriend, arrived not long after, accompanied by Pat’s mom, Sylvia and baby Mason.  That kid has been to more places than some of the people I know.  Pat’s dad, Mickey, followed after, wearing a full suit and shiny polished shoes.  Someone had told him we were going to a fancy restaurant, which is true, but not that kind of fancy.

It took a bit of time rounding everyone up, but eventually the rest of the crew joined us.  Angela and her two friends, Katie and Jeanie, were all staying in the same room on the 4th floor.   Brian and Lauren were on the 5th.  All in all, counting baby Mason, there were fifteen of us that showed up for this south of the border excursion.

We headed out of the resort and boarded a shuttle that Pat had arranged earlier to 5th avenue, a street where a majority of the clubs and restaurants were located.  Pat had made reservations at a place called “The Glass Bar”, which turned out to be more of a fancy restaurant than a bar.

Angela, Katie, and Jeanie had been friends for ages, and this was a great occasion for them to reunite.  Everyone had been here a day ahead of us, and were telling us the state “Storm” was in the night before.  “Storm” is a nickname that everyone lovingly called Angela, from an era long passed.  When I first met her, I’d asked “Why do they call her ‘Storm'”?  The answer, “Well, if you hang out with her when she’s drunk, it’d feel like a storm had came through.”  Fortunately, the Storm doesn’t rage too often anymore.

The food was amazing, we had everything from grilled octopus to raw kobe beef and battered calamari; the best calamari I had ever had.  But those were only the appetizers, we waited for Leticia to show up before ordering the entrées.

Leticia is the girlfriend of a good friend of ours, Ryan Carter, who had recently made Playa del Carmen his home.  Unfortunately, he was out of town this particular weekend.  But Leticia more than made up for it.  She was a talkative, fun, and friendly chica who wanted everyone to have a good time.  Leticia played hostess and helped us out the rest of the time we were there.

Sylvia took baby Mason home a little bit into the night (after buying a bunch of shirts as souvenirs and handing them out like a female Santa Claus).  After the delicious dinner and the yummy birthday cakes, Leticia rallied the troops to a place down the street called “Coco Bongo”.  Take a Las Vegas show like Cirque Du Soleil, mashed it together with a huge bar slash club, then fill it with pop star impersonators and dancers and trapeze artists and you get something resembling the Coco-Bongo.  Leticia lead us through the VIP line to our table near the stage.  Around us the music blared and the crowd roared and the dancers danced and balloons and confetti dropped through the air.

At one point they started letting random girls danced on the bar at the center of the club, and Lauren and Katie wanted to join them.  But as we were heading there, they caught the eyes of a bar staff, and were lead backstage.  The bartenders assured me that it’ll be okay.  Moments later, Lauren and Katie appeared at the top of the main stage as spotlights focused on them and they proceeded to shake their booties like the world was on fire.  It was the craziest experience at a bar ever!

The rest of the night became hazy.  We left Coco Bongo a while later and shuttled it back to the resort, where a few of us donned our bathing suits and went down to the beach for a late night splash.  The water was a bit chilly, and we moved to the pool.   There were a couple of resort staff standing around keeping an eye on us, and when I asked if we can jump in, one of them nodded.  However, only after 15 minutes or so, their manager came out and kindly informed us that the pool was closed and we should go to bed.  I think the drunken laughter and excessive clamor was a bit too much noise for the resort at 3 in the morning.

So we went to bed, dreaming of flying men and burlesque dancers.

read part 2 >

My Brother’s Old MySpace Blog

So I’m cleaning up my files and found a saved archive of my brother’s MySpace blogs.  I don’t know why I saved it 4 years ago, but it only took a few mouse-clicks and I figured what the heck.  Well, it’s 4 years later and he no longer uses MySpace.  He thought he saved the blog posts but can’t seem to find them now.   Lucky for him, I got them on my hard drive!

So, here ya go Vinny.  Your meager amount of blog posts from 2006-2007.  It may seem trivial, but it is a slice of your life.  Keep it safe, I’m sure it’ll give you some form of amusement when you’re an old and forgetful 80 year old man.

===========================================
Vinny’s MySpace blog
===========================================

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Beauty Tips
Time-Tested Beauty Tips (not really)

For attractive lips, botox.
For lovely eyes, lasik.
For a slim figure, go vegan.
For beautiful hair, get a wig.
For poise, don’t get up in the morning.

People, even more than things, have to be judged, criticised, and condemed.
Reminded and scold and scold and scold. Never throw out anybody, unless they’re worthless. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, beg and whine.  As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping yourself help yourself.

– Vinny “Sam Levenson” Ly

===========================================

Monday, March 12, 2007
What turns you on?

So, I was thinking… isn’t it weird that female breasts turn men on, but not vice versa (or is this not the case?), then I got to thinking, is “what turn you on” a natural thing at all, or is it all programmed by society and experiences?

Bare with me here (hehe pun), what if young male kids were taught that say, EYES, or more specifically, irises, are “forbidden” to be viewed in public, because of their sexual nature, and all females go around bare-chested, but with their eyes covered either via thin veils or sunglasses or some such… would the male-of-age then see breasts as an ordinary thing, like seeing an ankle, and would pop a boner if they get a glimsp of say, the color of a pair of eyes instead?

I mean, I am almost certain it’s possible to see breasts and go meh and not be turned on, i.e. viewing a classical nude painting, or in the case of indigeous tribes in places like Africa where it is common for male and female to go barechested, because of the climate, for breasts to not be this “object of sex”, like as it is for the young pubescences male of the modern western world.

Let’s say in an alternate universe where this is the case, that the irises are to be covered for revealing them in public is a sexual taboo (for both male and female)… let’s think of the implications here.

– Kinky eyewears, half a lid, slightly see through, velvet goggles… mmmm …
– Strip shows involving a big screen with the camera focus on the eyes …
– “Hey buddy, my boobs are down here” …
– Kissing with your eyes open …
– Streaking will be… quite interesting …
– Looking into each other eyes will be foreplay …
– Playboy and Playgirl magazines featuring pages and pages of peepers …
– Jennifer Conelly, Angelina Joline, George Clooney  … sexy sexy sexy …
and on, and on, and on…

mmm… succulent eyeballs …


===========================================
Monday, November 13, 2006
WGAF?

Why isn’t this a popular accronym?

I am going to start using it and hope it catches on right about …  nah, wgaf?

===========================================
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
On Intelligence

I just realized the other day that my two passions at the moment (and have been for a while) are… all things brain and all things space.

Space… well, I’ll get to that later.  Just know that I read a lot of sci-fi by the greats such as Sagan, Asimov, and C. Clarke, and although their works are fictions, their implications are profound and … quite plausible.  But again, later.

Now for the brain…

Amazon for the book “On Intelligence” by Jeff Hawkins.  It is an AMAZING read.  He discussed his theory of what it means to be intelligent and how he thinks the brain is built to support this.

Here’re the main things that really grabbed me, in bullet points pew pew style.

* The brain stores EVERYTHING in patterns via neurons in the neocortex, regardless of the source.  i.e. sights, sounds, tastes, touches, thoughts, motor memory, every senses, once they passed into the higher region of the brain, are stores exactly the same.  There’s no difference for the patterns representing a visual image, a song, or the feel of your butt on a hot pavement.  They are all just neuron signals.

* The brain processes and groups everything in a hierarchy, meaning… it will group things together in sets, such as a face has 2 eyes, a nose, and a mouth, cheeks, chin, etc.  An eye have pulpil, eyelashes, iris, color…  A book have chapters, which have paragraphs, which are made of sentences, formed by individual words, words are letters… and so on.

* The brain does not store exact patterns, it stores relationship between patterns.  i.e. The eyes are these far apart, this big compare to the rest of the face, this color compare to other colors.  This is how you can recognize the face of your friend even if you see her in profile, from faraway, in a dark room.  He called this invarient representation.  Not only that, it doesn’t just stored a pattern for a “concept”, it stores both spatial and temporal patterns for them, i.e. it stores both the physical attributes of the “object”/”concept” (spatial), and how that patterns change over time (temporal), such as the feel of a coin as you move your finger over it.

* Memories are stored as associative memory.  The brain is built so that if you give it a partial pattern, it can retrieve the whole pattern.  So you can hear a part of a song or feel a part of your sunglasses and will be able to instantly retrieve the entire song or the “concept” of your sunglasses in your head.

* And finally, he theorize that all that Intelligence is, is the ability to remember (from experiences), and to make predictions base on those memory and what it is experiencing now.  Your brain is constantly making predictions, like for instance it is predicting how this sentence will end with a period as you’re reading this.  And it will instantly notice if the sentence is weird in some w@y.

So basically, the brain is a memory and prediction machine.  That’s not what being a HUMAN is though, we still have all the excessive garbage such as emotions and hormones and taxes… only that “intelligence” is part of our attributes.

The brain doesn’t “compute” answers and solutions, it retrieves the solutions from memory, base on current facts.  This is why you can catch a ball thrown at you easily, or instantly recognize a face in a crowded room, while if you were to program a computer or a robot to do this, it would be extremely difficult.

That is all intelligence is… memory and predictions, and it makes a lot of sense, as least to me.  He does go a bit into how creativity and ingenuinity are formed.  He also gets into very deep technical detail on how the neocortex and the rest of the brain do all of the above, but I won’t get into that.  Read the book 😛

Neat stuff!

Now if only I can redirect myself to doing something related to these 2 fields for a living … I would be one happy man.

===========================================

Friday, August 18, 2006
Oh Sh*t Bar

You know what’s a great invention?  The OH SHIT bars in car.  So simple, yet so … genius…ish.  It goes straight to your fight or flight response.  When something goes wrong, you look for things to hang on to.

I wish there were Oh Shit Bars in everything in life.  Your office, your bed, space at interval on the sidewalks, right next to the toilet…



Other Oh Shit medium would be nice too.  Buttons, switches, a big fricking siren you can activate.  Something that let’s the world, and yourself, know, OH SHIT,  THIS IS NOT GOOD.

Also, everyone should have an Oh Shit Person.  Somebody you immediately run to when you’re in a state of pure panic.  My Oh Shit Person is my twin brother.  He probably doesn’t know it.  Other Oh Shit People are parents, siblings, significant other, George W. Bush.

God too, don’t forget him, but he probably doesn’t give a ratass.

===========================================

Thursday, August 10, 2006
The Wind Beneath My Wang

I cranked this out in 10 minutes a few months back in a moment of pure geniusness, and posted it in some of my favorite forums.  Because it’s such an awesome display of pure genioussey, and I am afraid that it might be lost to time, I’ll just re-post it here for keepsake.  Enjoy!

The Wind Beneath my Wang:
– By Vinny

It must have been cold there in my shadow
To never have sunlight on that place
It was content to let me shine, that’s its way.
But I am always a step behind

It was the one with all the glory
And it was the one with all the strength
But only a thing without a name … that’s so long
I never once heard it complain!!!!

Did you ever know that you’re my dildo!
And everything I’d like to be
I can fly higher than an eagle
If you are the wang beneath my wings

It might have appeared to go unnoticed
But I’ve got it all here in my … err
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know
I would be nothing without you

Did you ever know that you’re my dildo!
And everything I’d like to be
I can fly higher than an eagle
But you are the wang beneath my wings!
You are the waaaaang beneath my wings…

===========================================
Tuesday August 8, 2006
Lease-A-Kitten

So my bro and I were doing our usual mindless rambling and musing while looking at http://kittenwar.com/.

And we were like, KITTENS ARE SO CUTE!!!!  awwwwww.  Why can’t kittens stay cute for ever?  Our cat Ajax was absolutely adorable… for about 3 months.  Then poofed, no more kitten-cuteness.

So  … we thought, what if?!?!?  (that’s how genius-ness always come about btw, what if …), what if we start a kittens farm and a service called “Rent-A-Kitten”?



See, we just get a buncha horney cats, and we breed them and breed them and breed them, and get loads of kittens…  people can “rent” them for a few months until the cuteness is gone, then they can return it and get another.  Kitten cuteness all year round until the day you die!



Ok, so I know you’re asking …

What do you do with the kittens after they’re returned?

Well, some can be use for breeding … the rest we can harvest.  Give them a nice gentle perma-sleep (pc term), then we can stuff them for decorations or toys, farm their body parts like their fur for soft coat or intenstine for violin strings, lament their heads to be hang on dashboards, etc.

So, Lease-A-Kitten,



Coming to a personal hell near you.

===========================================
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Impulse buy

Just went a bought a massage chair.  Quite expensive.  Impulse buy you say?  No, I been thinking about buying one for a while.  It’s all premedetiated.  Hopefully it’ll make my back happy.

I see it as an investment on my personal enjoyment… because … hell, if you can’t spend money on things that makes you happy, what’s the point?

… then again, you can say the same thing for every dumb decisions and purchases you have ever made … and that’s definitely frowned upon.  I mean, George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine?  Comon!!!

So, Massage chair?  Good.

GFLMGM?  Bad.

Nostalgic Blacksburg

I made this video in the winter of ’09 before I left Blacksburg for Austin.   It’s only been a year, but those days seem so long ago.  I miss everyone there, thanks for being a part of my cherished memories.

On a side note … I figured out to convert a video to flash and embed it into a webpage without going through YouTube.  YouTube kept stripping the audio because of the song.  But the video isn’t the same without it.

zhou hua jian – peng you – video and lyrics

朋友 – 周华健 Pengyou by Zhou HuaJian

这 些 年 一 个 人
Zhè xiē nián yī gè rén
All these years, all alone

风 也 过 雨 也 走
fēng yě guò yǔ yě zǒu
through the wind, through the rain

有 过 泪 有 过 错
Yǒu guò lèi yǒu guò cuò
With tears shed, mistakes made

还 记 得 坚 持 甚 麽
hái jì de jiān chí shénme
I still remember what to hold on to.

真 爱 过 才 会 懂
Zhēn ài guò cái huì dǒng
Because I truly loved, I can understand

会 寂 寞 会 回 首
huì jì mò huì huí shǒu
I can feel lonely, I can look back

终 有 梦 终 有 你 在 心 中
Zhōng yǒu mèng zhōng yǒu nǐ zài xīn zhōng
I have dreams, I have you, in my heart.

朋 友 一 生 一 起 走
Péng you yī shēng yī qǐ zǒu
Friend, we walk together always

那 些 日 子 不 再 有
Nà xiē rì zi bù zài yǒu
and those days will never come again.

一 句 话 一 辈 子
Yī jù huà yī bèi zi
A sentence, a lifetime,

一 生 情 一 杯 酒
Yī shēng qíng yī bēi jiǔ
eternal love, a cup of wine.

朋 友 不 曾 孤 单 过
Péng you bù céng gū dān guò
Friend, you`ve never been alone,

一 声 朋 友 你 会 懂
Yī shēng péng you nǐ huì dǒng
Friend, you`ll understand.

还 有 伤 还 有 痛
Hái yǒu shāng hái yǒu tòng
There are wounds, there are pains,

还 要 走 还 有 我
Hái yào zǒu hái yǒu wǒ
But we still go on, and I`ll always be there.

(repeat)

DC Events on Oct 30th

A few people on the Daily Show forums has expressed interest in finding out which special events are going on that day after the rally.  Being the helpful guy that I am, here’s a compiled list of noteworthy links and events for October 30, 2010.  I tried to list only events that are after 5pm.

This is by no means a comprehensive list.  In fact, I bet it’s less than 10% of all the actual events that are occurring that day.   I made this list just to give you a glimpse of the varieties of things going on.  Please do a search yourself to find an event that interest you.

Some good links:

http://washington.dc.eventguide.com/days/01030.htm



http://dc.about.com/od/specialevents/a/OctoberEvents.htm


http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/search/q,dates_20101030,sortSpecifier_Date,group_Events.html

http://dc.metromix.com/browse/events?date_type=custom&date_range=2010-10-30,2010-10-30

http://www.kennedy-center.org/

http://eventful.com/washingtondc/events/categories/music/pick-dates?t=2010103000-2010103123

Events of interest:

5 p.m. – 1 a.m. Nightmare on M Street 2010
The season’s most spooktacular bar crawl!

5 pm Fright Fest 2010
Once again Six Flags brings back Fright Fest. Spooky characters, thrilling rides, and trick or treating for the kids.. Six Flags America Largo, Maryland. (Festival – Holiday Event / Party). 301-249-1500

6:30 pm Disney on Ice: Toy Story 3
Presented live. 1st Mariner Arena. (Performance – Ice Skating Show). 410-347-2020

6:30 pm – 7:30 pm Capitol Steps
Former Congressional employees perform satirical skits and songs every Friday and Saturday in the Amphitheater. Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. (Performance – Show Comedy). 202-312-1300

6:30 pm Fright at the Museum
National Museum of Crime and Punishment
This isn’t just a museum for artifacts, it’s a haunting ground now. From 1916-1960 one hundred and twenty five men were executed in the Tennessee electric chair. This Halloween that same eletric chair makes it’s way into the National Museum of Crime and Punishment and there’s something freaky going on.

7:00pm – 10:30 pm  Spooky Hollow and Haunted Trail
Family Halloween Festival. Valley Mill Camp. (Festival – Holiday Event / Party). 301-948-0220

8 p.m. – 2 a.m. Fright Night Monster Bash
The State Theatre – 220 N. Washington St. – Falls Church
For the first time, two of the area’s biggest Halloween bashes unite.

8:00 pm- 10:00 pm Laugh Riot at the Hyatt
Live standup comedy show with 5 local comics, $25 cash prize joke contest for non-com audience members after the show. Rated R,… Hyatt Regency Bethesda. (Performance – Comedic). 301-657-1234

8:00 pm King Arthur
Synetic’s inaugural season in Crystal City will kick off with a new, wordless epic, drawing from a rich pool of centuries-old my… Crystal City Theater. (Performance – Theater). 800-494-8497

5:00 pm-2:00 am Karaoke @ Peyote Cafe
Happy Hour every night except Saturday. Peyote Cafe. (Dining – Happy Hour). 202-462-8330

11:00 pm Halloween Party at La Tosca
Drink specials, DJ and dancing, and a costume contest with cash prize will be featured on All Hallow’s Eve. La Tasca – Arlington. (Dining – Dining Specials). 703-812-9120

Kennedy Center Events for Oct 30

(http://www.kennedy-center.org)

6:00 PM Hard-Hearted Hannah and Other Stories – Free
Brighton-based Cartoon de Salvo cleverly mixes storytelling, improvisation, and live music, captivating audiences with its highly accessible and irreverently honest brand of theater.

6:00 pm /  9:00pm Shear Madness – $42
Set in present-day Georgetown, Shear Madness engages locals and visitors alike as armchair detectives to help solve the scissor-stabbing murder of a famed concert pianist who lives above the Shear Madness unisex hairstyling salon.  The show combines up-to-the-minute improvisational humor and a mixture of audience sleuthing to deliver a unique performance each night.

7:30 PM HAIR – $25.00 – $115.00
The tribe of the Age of Aquarius is still protesting the war, freeing their love, letting their hair down, and baring it all in HAIR. “The kids are all right,” says the New York Times. “Quite a bit more than all right.”

8:00 PM – Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker – $22.00 – $60.00
Known for visually striking designs, Brazilian dance ensemble Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker presents Mix, a full-length program showcasing daring feats of athleticism and acrobatics deemed “impossible” (The Sunday Times).

8:00 pm – NSO Pops: A Date with Idina Menzel / Marvin Hamlisch, conductor – $20.00 – $85.00
Glee favorite and Tony-winning star of Wicked Idina Menzel opens the NSO Pops season with a diverse program of classic pop, musical theater favorites, and her own original songs.

8:30 PM – A Life in Three Acts – $25
The story of celebrated performer and key figure in Britain’s post-war gay liberation struggle, Bette Bourne, A Life in Three Acts is more than a memoir. This solo performance by Bourne is a moving celebration of liberation.

9:00 PM – KC Jazz Club: Kevin Mahogany in Old, New, Borrowed, and the Blues – $26
With his gift for bebop, ballads, blues, and swinging jazz, Kevin Mahogany has been called “the standout jazz vocalist of his generation” by Newsweek.

Austin Paperweight Ping Pong Tournament

For the past few weeks, I’ve helped organized the first Cloud ping pong tournament here at the Austin Rackspace office.  You’ll be surprised how much a simple ping pong tournament can bring your co-workers together!  We completed the finals yesterday and as an added bonus, I’ve recorded the events as memory keepsakes for the top players.  Enjoy :0)

Devdatta v Nick Bailey:

Nick Bailey v Zachary Carberry:

Richie Ren – dui men de nuihai kan guo lai lyrics

This guy rocked this Richie Ren song, and he can’t even speak the language.  Love his version as well.

richie ren – kan guo lai – rklosdunn’s rendition

And here are the lyrics:

==========================================================

對面的女孩看過來, 看過來, 看過來
Duìmiàn de nǚhái kàn guòlái, kàn guòlái, kàn guòlái
The girls across the way, look over here, look over here

這裡的表演很精彩,  請不要假裝不理不睬
Zhèlǐ de biǎoyǎn hěn jīngcǎi, qǐng bùyào jiǎzhuāng bù lǐ bù cǎi
The performances here are wonderful, please do not pretend to be cold

對面的女孩看過來, 看過來, 看過來
Duìmiàn de nǚhái kàn guòlái, kàn guòlái, kàn guòlái
The girls across the way, look over here, look over here

不要被我的樣子嚇壞, 其實我, 很可愛
Bùyào bèi wǒ de yàngzi xià huài, qíshí wǒ, hěn kě ài
Do not be scared by my appearance. I’m actually very cute.

寂寞男孩的悲哀, 說出來, 誰明白
Jìmò nánhái de bēiāi, shuō chūlái, shuí míngbái
A lonely boy’s sadness, said out loud, who would understand

求求你拋個媚眼過來, 哄哄我 逗我樂開懷
Qiú qiú nǐ pāo gè mèi yǎn guòlái, hōng hōng wǒ dòu wǒ lè kāihuái
Please throw your flirtations over,  coax and tease my joy and happiness

我左看右看 上看下看, 原來每個女孩都不簡單
Wǒ zuǒ kàn yòu kàn shàng kàn xià kàn, yuánlái měi gè nǚhái dōu bù jiǎndān
I look left, look right, look up, look down.  Turns out every girl is not so simple

我想了又想 , 我猜了又猜, 女孩們的心事還真奇怪
Wǒ xiǎng le yòu xiǎng, wǒ cāi le yòu cāi, nǚhái men de xīnshì hái zhēn qíguài
I’ve thought and thought, guessed and guessed.  Girls’  thinking are really strange

寂寞男孩的蒼蠅拍, 左拍拍, 右拍拍
Jìmò nánhái de cāngyíng pāi, zuǒ pāi pāi, yòu pāi pāi
Lonely boys’ fly-swatters, left beat beat, right beat beat

為甚麼還是沒人來愛, 無人問津 真無奈
Wèishéme háishì méi rén lái ài, wú rén wènjīn zhēn wúnài
Why are there no one to love, no one interested, so helpless

對面的女孩看過來, 看過來, 看過來
Duìmiàn de nǚhái kàn guòlái, kàn guòlái, kàn guòlái
The girls across the way, look over here, look over here

寂寞男孩情竇初開 需要你給我, 一點愛
Jìmò nánhái qíngdòuchūkāi xūyào nǐ gěi wǒ, yīdiǎn ài
Lonely boy need first love please give me, a little love

Hi…Hi…Hi…….

我左看右看 上看下看, 原來每個女孩都不簡單
Wǒ zuǒ kàn yòu kàn shàng kàn xià kàn, yuánlái měi gè nǚhái dōu bù jiǎndān
I look left, look right, look up, look down.  Turns out every girl is not so simple

我想了又想 我猜了又猜, 女孩們的心事還真奇怪
Wǒ xiǎng le yòu xiǎng wǒ cāi le yòu cāi, nǚhái men de xīnshì hái zhēn qíguài
I’ve thought and thought, guessed and guessed.  Girls’  thinking are really strange

我左看右看 上看下看, 原來每個女孩都不簡單
Wǒ zuǒ kàn yòu kàn shàng kàn xià kàn, yuánlái měi gè nǚhái dōu bù jiǎndān
I look left, look right, look up, look down.  Turns out every girl is not so simple

我想了又想, 我猜了又猜, 女孩們的心事還真奇怪
Wǒ xiǎng le yòu xiǎng, wǒ cāi le yòu cāi, nǚhái men de xīnshì hái zhēn qíguài

I’ve thought and thought, guessed and guessed.  Girls’  thinking are really strange

愛真奇怪 來來來… 歐黑歐…
Ài zhēn qíguài lái lái lái… ōu hēi ōu…
Love is really strange … lai lai lai oh hey oh

來來來… 歐…
Lái lái lái… ōu…

Rally Location

Jon Stewart announced the official location of the rally a few days ago, and it’s not at the Washington Monument as we previously assumed. It’s going to be on the east end of the Mall, with the Capitol Building as the backdrop. Here’s the video, Jon always cracks me up.

The Daily Show – Rally Location

Here is another map I whipped up using GoogleMaps. I circled the stations with the colors of the metro lines that can get you there.

Also, to give you a brief idea of how much it’ll cost and the time it’ll take to ride the metro, I looked up the fare and time it takes from the furthest stations of each line. The estimation is to the Smithsonian station, but other destinations near the mall will cost you about the same fare and time to get there.

Estimates are calculated from http://www.wmata.com/.  Note, times listed are travelling time and does not include time waiting for trains.

Vienna/Fairfax-GMU:  $2.75 – 32 minutes
Franconia/Springfield: $2.75 – 38 minutes
Hungtington: $2.15 – 37 minutes
Branch Ave: $2.15 – 19 minutes
Morgan Blvd: $2.15 – 23 minutes
New Carollton: $2.75 – 25 minutes
College Park: $2.15 – 33 minutes
Wheaton: $2.75 – 35 minutes
Rockville: $2.75 – 41 minutes

Below are a few images of the area to give you a rough idea of what it’s going to be like at that location.

The last image was of the Million Mom march (borrowed from member PATyler from the Daily Show forums: http://forums.thedailyshow.com/?page=ThreadView&thread_id=31964)

So you're coming to the 10/30 Rally to Restore Sanity?

We are all intelligent adults who can whip out our iPhones and find a good restaurant on Yelp in a moment’s notice.  That said, there are some of you who are too busy, or lazy, and just need a little help planning your trip.  If that’s the case, you may find this guide helpful.  You can also find plenty of help at other venues, such as the Daily Show Forums or the Facebook Event page.

Edit: The official site now has a useful FAQ page, check it out.

More Edit: Here’s a useful blog  that keeps continual updates with info about the rally: http://stewartrally.blogspot.com

Getting there:

There are plenty of ways of getting to Washington D.C., and if you’re a reasonably intelligent member of society, you shouldn’t have any problems finding one.

I’m coming from Austin, Texas (I recently moved here from Virginia) and did some research on how much the prices are going for around that date (10/29 – 10/31).  Airfare from AUS to IAD (Dulles, where my family lives) is only around $300.  I also looked up the prices for Greyhound and found it to be more expensive at $350.  Amtrak is slightly cheaper, only $197, but the trip would take 50 hours!  Flying is still the best way to go if you’re more than a state away.  Remember, rates fluctuate daily, so check rates from your city and book early.  After two weeks before the event, prices climb.

Links to other travel options:

Buses: http://www.dcrallybus.com/RallyToRestoreSanity

Carpooling: http://www.pooled.in/rally/view?source=tds

From Europe: http://forums.thedailyshow.com/?page=ThreadView&thread_id=31271

From Charlottesville, VA: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Easy-Going-Riders-Cville-to-DC-10302010/115290108528010?ref=sgm

From Winston Salem, NC: http://www.meetup.com/f-a-c-t/messages/11482393/

From Bloomington-Normal, IL: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=153519798013391

From Chicago: http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=109553292439557&ref=ts, http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=163034690380126

From Oklahoma: http://forums.thedailyshow.com/?page=ThreadView&thread_id=31347

From Louisiana: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=128449923870962&ref=mf

From Cincinnati :  $75 a person.  Leave Friday at Midnight and Return to Cincinnati (Blue Ash Area) on Sunday morning at 8am, We will be in DC from 10am till 9pm Saturday.Our goal is to get 45 people and so far we have around 20.  Please email dave@finddave.com if you are interested!

From Milwaukee: … need to fill a 55 passenger Greyhound bus — bathroom on board, wi-fi.  $125 round trip.  Leaving Milwaukee Friday 10/29 at 6 p.m. arriving in DC Saturday morning.  Leaving Saturday night at 6 pm. home on Sunday morning.  No hotel costs.  Need to know and have moolah by 10/4.  contact brendakoehler1@att.net

From New Jersey:  Donna from Jersey posted: “there’s a super cool bus in central New Jersey, there were about 10 of us to begin with so we chartered a bus but still have a few seats to fill.  a mere $47 round trip, which includes coffee and donuts as we gather in the morning, and water bottles for the ride home  join us!!  (leaves from Jackson, NJ, the departure location is right off Exit 21 of I-195)  http://www.busforprogress.org/dc-rally


Getting around using the Metro Rail

Even without a rally, the Greater Washington area tends to be a bumper to bumper fusterCluck. If you’re not staying in D.C., I don’t recommend driving into the city or even taking a taxi unless you plan to sit in traffic. Fortunately, there is a decent Metro Rail system to help you get around.

Here’s a handy map for the metro stations, when booking your hotel you should ask them for the nearest one.

http://www.wmata.com/rail/maps/map.cfm

There are reduced fares on the weekends, so it’ll cost you about $2 – $6 both ways depending on where you’re coming from.  But if you plan to do other things in D.C. besides going to the rally, you can get a day pass for $9.  You can buy tickets at the stations, and they accept credit cards so you’re fine if you’re like me and don’t like to carry cash around.

The rally is going to be near the Washington Monument (edit: this statement is now false.  See paragraph below).  Someone mentioned that it is going to be on the North side of the monument but I’m still unsure since nothing official has been issued.  Nevertheless, it really doesn’t matter.  You should be able to just start heading into D.C. and ask random people that seem to be going to the rally where they’re headed.  The closest stations to the Washington Monument is the Smithsonian station on the Blue and Orange lines, or the  L’Enfant Plaza station on the Green and Yellow lines.

Edit: The Daily Show has announced the official location of the rally, it is going to be on the east end of the Mall near the Capitol Building.  Check out the map in this new post: http://hueyluvsyou.com/wordpress/2010/10/rally-location/

Hotels and Lodging

Your best bet is to find a hotel outside of D.C. and take the metro in on the day of the rally.  Use a hotel search site (such as tripadvisor.com or hotels.com) and look for a hotel in one of the cities on the metro map listed in the above section.  e.g.:

Virginia: Annandale, Arlington, Ballston, Clarendon, Fairfax, Falls Church, Springfield, Vienna.

Maryland: Bethesda, Glenmont, Rockville, Shady Grove, Silver Spring, White Flint

I did some searches to see what hotel prices are like for that weekend, and I think you’re looking at spending about $150 a night at a decent hotel.  Here are some price ranges of hotels in Virginia I got from tripadvisor.com:

Arlington: $100 (Best Western) – $570 (Ritz-Carlton)
Vienna: $80 (Hilton Garden) – $260 (Residence Inn)
Falls Church: $80 (Budget Inn) – $170 (Westin)
Bethesda: $100 (American Inn) – $240 (Residence Inn)

Edit: Ellen from the comments below posted that hotels further away from D.C. are a lot cheaper, she was able to find a 3.5 star hotel in the Herndon/Dulles area for $45 a night.  If you’re looking to save money that’s another option.  If you don’t have a rental car you’ll just have to take the bus or a cab ride to the closest Metro station to take you into D.C.  I don’t recommend taking a cab all the way in, the cab driver won’t be able to get that close anyways, and it’ll cost at least $60 if you’re coming from somewhere like Herndon.

Here are some area further west in Virginia you should consider if you can’t find ones closer:

Chantilly, Centreville, Manassas, Burke, Herndon, Reston

Other options:

Preparing for the Rally

Before heading to the rally, you should consider bringing the following items.
  • Water or non-alcoholic beverage of choice (no glass)
  • Some snacks to munch on
  • a trash bag
  • Something to sit on, like a beach blanket or portable chair
  • Suntan lotion if you burn easy
  • poncho or umbrella if it looks like it may rain (it usually does on Halloween)

Remember, you can not bring alcohol or weapons of any kind to the Mall.

The temperature will probably be in the 60s, I recommend having a sweater with you just in case.

The Metro usually runs from 7 AM Saturday to 3 AM Sunday,  but this is subject to change for special occasions.  For example, on July 4th they don’t start running until 10 AM.  Check with your hotel or look it up the day before and prepare accordingly.

Restaurants and dining

You can find every style of cuisine in the Greater Washington area.  Doing a search on Yelp or Washington Post’s Going Out Guide will yield more than enough results.  Here are some suggestions just to give you an idea of the variety to choose from:

Vegetarian – Sun Flower ($11 – $30)
Italian – Tosca ($31 – $60)
French – Montmartre ($31 – $60)
Dim Sum – Mark’s Duck House ($11 – $30)
Pho – Pho 75 (Under $10)
Vietnamese – Viet Bistro ($11 – $30)
Korean BBQ – Honey Pig ($11 – $30)
Indian – Tandoori Time (Under $10)
Seafood – Hank’s Oyster Bar ($11 – $30)
Sushi – Kotobuki ($11 – $30)
Thai – Thai Noy ($11 – $30)

Things to do in D.C.

If possible, you should spend a day before or after the rally to tour our nation’s capitol, especially if you have never done so.  There are plenty of museums and memorials that are free.  Even if you’re not into museums, you should still take the opportunity to visit some of these places just to say you did it.  Here are some recommendations:

  • National Gallery of Art (http://www.nga.gov/) – Free
    If you’re into art and have never been here, this is a must see.  It has everything from classical paintings to sculptures to contemporary art.
  • Museum of Natural History (http://www.mnh.si.edu/) – Free
    Dinosaurs, anthropology, and more!
  • Air and Space museum (http://www.nasm.si.edu/) – Free
    Go here if you’re an airplane or astronomy nut.  Check out “Space Station 3D” or “Hubble 3D” at the IMAX ($9 adult $7.50 kids) if you’re into space stuff like me.
  • Nation Museum of American History (http://americanhistory.si.edu/) – Free
    Visit here if you’re a history buff.
  • National Zoo (http://nationalzoo.si.edu/) – Free
    This zoo is huge, and it’s free!  Probably a good idea if you are bringing kids with you.

Those are just some of my recommendations for places to go that are free in D.C.  Just do a search for “museums in washington D.C.” on your preferred search engine and you’ll get several dozen suggestions.

Nightlife

As for bars and nightlife, there are also many areas to choose from.  Sites like bardc.com or washingtonpost.com should give you a rundown of all that’s available.   Here are some good neighborhoods that are popular with locals and visitors alike:

Georgetown – D.C.
Clarendon – VA
Arlington – VA

Edit:  Added a random list of events also occurring that day after the rally:

Safety and More

D.C. and the Greater Washington area, which includes Northern Virginia and Maryland, is a shining example of the melting pot culture that we should all be proud of.  Contrary to what some believe, the population is not comprise mostly of refugees and embassy staff of third world countries hiding from a revolution in their homeland. There are a lot of different ethnicity and culture that make up our population, and that is a beautiful thing. We’re now living in a society where we’re not judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. Whenever you make a decision based on the race of another individual, you’re stepping on the graves of these civil right heroes who have given their lives to advance our society to where we are today. Freedom rang, from all corners of our country, and is still ringing regardless of the minority few who are still too narrow-minded to see otherwise. Let’s try to keep it that way.

So back to the topic at hand.  D.C. is like any other major city in the world, there is crime and traffic and bad neighborhoods.  Just use common sense and don’t go wandering through shady streets alone at night, or get too drunk you’re stumbling in traffic on I495.

Why you should go to this rally

I’ve asked myself this question.  What exactly are we marching on Washington for?  We didn’t really lose our sanity, that’s just an exaggerated gimmick satirizing the previous rally to Restore Honor.  We are not marching to stop segregation, or an unjust war, or even an exaggerated notion of “losing our freedom.”  What we are doing, however, is making a statement that the majority of Americans are intelligent, reasonable people.  Just because we haven’t been in the spot light hogging the headlines doesn’t mean that we don’t exist.

The message is that we are tired of extremist media skewing the image of who we are.  That we’re not a nation of small-minded religious fanatics filled with fear and hatred.  And we are not going to allow fear mongering radio hosts to represent our ideals and values.   So you should come, if only to swell the ranks and show this nation, and the world, that what’s usually in the news is not the majority of America.

Plus, how often do you get to come party with this many people at our nation’s capitol?  Bring a blanket and a bottle of water, and an umbrella in case it rains, and join your fellow Americans in the biggest picnic of our lifetime.  I have a feeling it’s going to be an easy going day of love, of brotherhood, and of mild justification that there are still many of us who are decent human beings with decent thoughts in our reasonable heads.

Excellence Playa Mujeres, Cancun

I did not know the resort was meant for couples and honeymooners when I booked it for my brother and I.  It  got 4.5 out of 5 stars on Trip Advisor (out of 1200+ reviews) and the price, $1080 per person for an all inclusive package, including airfare, all your meals and drinks, and three nights lodging, was just too good to pass up.  But that didn’t stop up from enjoying this wonderful resort, everyone was there to have a good time, and as long as you’re enjoying yourself you’d fit right in.

The Excellence Playa Mujeres resort is located in the northern part of the area, secluded away from the chaos that is downtown Cancun and the hotel zone.  It boasts 8 restaurants, 11 bars, and 7 swimming pools, and being an all-inclusive resort, guests can use any and all of these services gratis!  Even the room service was free.

The room was the best hotel room I’ve ever stayed in.  It has a marble floor, a jacuzzi, a large walk in shower, fancy leather couches, and a huge king size bed.  Vinny and I took turn sleeping on the couch and the bed, alternating every other night.  The mini fridge was fully stocked with water and coronas, and right outside our back door was the lazy river, inviting us to dive right in to cool off from the humid Cancun air.


The service at the resort was excellent!  As soon as you arrive, they give you a glass of champaign and a warm clean towel to freshen up.  After checking in, they take your luggage and take you to your room, giving a tour and rundown of the resort on the way.  Everywhere you turn you see nice touches to the resort that hints of the thoughtfulness they put in making your stay wonderful.  Everyone is friendly and eager to help, should you need directions or a drink or have questions regarding tours and such.  We tipped when appropriate, but we saw many people not tipping and I don’t think it was a big deal.  The all-inclusive package did say “tips included”.

The resort had 8 restaurants, offering the following cuisines: Mediterranean, Italian, Asian, French, Mexican, Tapas, Lobsters, and Steaks. We only had the opportunity to try 4 of them.  We had dinner at The Lobster House the first night, breakfast at the Barcelona the next morning, dinner at Chez Isabelle the next night, and finally tapas at the Flavor Market the last night there.  The tapas were my favorite, although if you are into lobsters, the grilled lobster at the Lobster House was excellent as well.  There was a wide selection to choose from, and being an all-inclusive resort, they’re all paid for.   You just roll up to any restaurants and ask for a table.  The one bad thing, however, is the wait time it took to get seated.  All three nights we had to wait 30 to 45 minutes to get through the waiting list.

The 7 swimming pools in the resort included 2 lazy rivers that wrap around the 8 buildings that houses the hotel rooms.  There are bungalows and beach chairs lining them on either side, and hammocks hung at strategic places.  You can spend the whole day relaxing in the resort.  I saw many loungers and couples just chilling reading a book or drinking mai-tais during the couple of times we decided to go for a swim.  Being the hurricane season, there weren’t many people there and the pools weren’t very crowded.  And if you wanted to swim in the ocean, the beach is just a hop and a skip away.

There were so many things to do in Cancun, I immediately regretted only booking the trip for three days.  The resort itself provided free activities such as rifle shooting, poker by the pool, wind-surfing, snorkeling, yoga, archery, just to name a few.  They even have nightly shows for us to watch.  Outside the resort, we can choose to go visit Mayan ruins, swim with dolphins, four-wheeling through the jungle, visit the XCarat water park, among a million other things.  They do cost money however, ranging from fifty to a couple hundred dollars.

Speed boat tour, 2 hours, $60 (dollars) each.

Chichen Itza, the famous Mayan pyramid, $99 (dollars) each.

Included in the Chichen Itza tour, we visited a water hole/springs where part of an underground river is exposed and you can jump in and swim with the blind catfish with vines hanging all around you.

All in all, we had a great first visit to Cancun.  The resort we stayed at was awesome, and Cancun itself was beautiful.  We did risk it by going during the rainy hurricane season, but it only rained at night during our stay.  I was sad we had to leave so soon.

Here’s the link to the photos of this trip on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=205812&id=508893098&l=c7e976421e

Also, read my warning about timeshare sellers if you’re planning to go to Cancun:

http://hueyly.com/2010/09/word-of-warning-regarding-timeshare/

Word of Warning Regarding Timeshare

This was our first time to Cancun, so we didn’t know where to go or what to do, and I’ve forgotten to print out the vouchers and instructions telling us where to meet our ride to the hotel.  So Vinny and I decided to approach one of the official looking men under the “hotels and tours” sections near the airport exit.

The man that helped us, let’s call him Jorge, was very friendly and told us where to go to find our shuttle.  But before letting us go, Jorge asked if it was our first time to Cancun and if we plan to do any tours or excursions outside our resort.  We said we did, and he proceeded to offer us all kinds of discount that were up to 50% off the normal ticket prices.  He even offered us a rental car for free!  We were excited, are all Cancun’ers this friendly?  He claimed to work for the government too, so we thought maybe this is part of a Mexican government program to help tourists enjoy their stay.

In exchange, we were to meet him at the resort he worked for, the Krystal, a newly developed five star hotel near downtown, for a tour of the place.  A red flag went off in my mind right away screaming “timeshare!”, so I said “sorry, we’re not interested anymore.”  Of course Jorge was not appeased, he said it’ll only take 90 minutes and there are no obligations.  I looked at Vinny and he had this “let’s do it” look on his face.  He was thinking “we can walk away anytime, let’s get the discounts!”

Vinny ended up paying around $70 for the discounted tickets we would receive, and were to meet him at the hotel at 9 am the next day.  Then we left the airport and met up with our transportation’s representative.  When he told us we have to get our voucher signed in the morning, we replied that we had an appointment at the Krystal.

He looked at us with this incredulous look on his face and said, “You didn’t signup with one of those men in there did you?” pointing at the airport entrance.

We said we did, and he shook his head, “no no no, you know what that is right?  They are going to sell you timeshare, you don’t want to do that.”  We told him it would only take 90 minutes, and he laughed, “that’s what they tell you.  But it’ll take at least 5 to 6 hours!  It’ll ruin your whole day.  The guy talking will be in a nice suit and he will offer you drinks and he is a very smooth talker, and it’ll be very hard to say no.”

And he said if we just walk away, we will not get any of the stuff he promised us.  “Go get your money back, if he refuse tell him you will get the policia.”  I said it’s only $70, let’s just walk away from the thing and chalk it up as a lesson learned.  “You know $70 will feed a family in Mexico for a week right!?” said our representative, “march back in there and get your money.”

So Vinny marched back in there and got his money back.   He ended up tipping the timeshare dude 5 dollars, and since we were thankful we tipped our representative $10.  Vinny had already spent 15 bucks to get out of a timeshare meeting and we had just arrived in Cancun!  But I’m so glad we did because it would’ve ruined our whole trip.

On our way back to the airport a few days later, we met a couple from Houston who had a similar story to tell.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have a nice representative to rescue them from the timeshare trap.  They were approached by someone in their resort, the Temptation, to buy a 24 year package for timeshare to that hotel.  She said that the meeting took the whole day, time she could’ve spent at the beach.  And she did end up writing a $1900 check as a down payment to the package, (they were drunk by the end of it).  Her husband did went back the next day to cancel the whole thing and to get their money back, but it would take 10 business days for the money to be refunded.  I hope they got their money back.

So, if you ever come to visit Cancun and didn’t know about these traps, remember this.  When you’re exiting the airport you’ll see a bunch of guys dressed all nice in blue shirts and black pants, looking like they can help you with whatever you need, just walk on right pass them and out the door.  They are not there to help you.

Car2go Austin

Stu and I took a little time out of this hazy Sunday to test out the new car2go program that recently launched here in Austin.  Created by the German automobile manufacturer, Daimler, this car-sharing service has just recently completed its beta phase and is now available to the public.  Being the hip and trendy nerd-geeks that we are, Stu and I are all about innovation of any kind.  Plus, we were bored and I needed to go spend money frivolously.

We signed up for membership through their website last Wednesday and had received our membership cards by Saturday.  There are no membership fees and no startup fees, you’ll just get charged at the rate of 35 cents a minute, or $12.99 maximum for the hour.  There is also a day’s maximum of $65.99, meaning if you rent the car for the whole day, that’s all you’ll get charged for.

It is a bit high, I thought, until Stu pointed out that it is cheaper than a cab ride (including tips), if you’re just moving around downtown.  Plus you don’t have to worry about gas or pay for parking.

So, you first locate an available car using their website or a smartphone app.  The above iPhone screenshot shows that there is a car 3 minutes from me (on foot) with a 42% fuel level.  There are about 200 cars scattered around the city and I was surprised to see a bunch close to where I live, which is further away from the main downtown area.  Stu found one just a block away from his apartment on 4th and drove to my place on 11th to pick me up.

Checking in was relatively simple.  To unlock the car, you’d hold your membership card up to a scanner shown thru the windshield.

When you’re in the car, you’d enter your secret pin that you picked during the registration process.   Once the pin has been accepted, it’ll instruct you to grab the key from the glove compartment to start the car.

So we took the car and cruised around downtown, and it was pretty speedy and easy to handle.  I was disappointed that these cars aren’t electric or even hybrids, but I hear they’re coming soon.  Even so, these cars get pretty good milage, from 33 to 40 miles per gallon.

I drove first and we stopped near the State Capitol.

Stu is behind the wheel, we switched off taking turns test-driving the car.

At a stoplight I jumped out and took off running further down the road so I can get shot of the car in traffic.

We even took the car on to a highway to test it at a higher speed.  It went up to 75mph without a problem.

If you are running low on gas, there is a prepaid gas card in the glove compartment.  According to the website, you can pull up to any gas station in the service area, enter the milage and number on the card, and fill up the tank.  They’ll even give you a small credit as a “thank you” for the time you spent refueling the car.

You can park in any of the legal parking spots, including metered spots (for free), and they also have designated car2go parking spots scattered all throughout the city.

There is a little cargo space in the back, enough for you to put laptop backpacks or small luggages.

It is illegal to park the car vertically against a curb, but we tested it out anyways.  It looked so cute next to that bike!

So we rented the car for about an hour, and I spent $12.99 for the sake of research.  Stu is pretty psyched about it, since he doesn’t own a car, and this program will make his life a bit easier.  I am psyched also, for a different reason.  This program has a hint of “futurism” in it that may change our way of thinking about transportation in general.  No, it probably won’t lead to the days where we can zip around in transparent tubes like in Futurama, but at least it is different and kinda cool.  I hope this gets adopted throughout all the major cities in the world.

I also hope they’d lower the price.

My Uncle, Who Is Named Sam

I’ve always wanted to hear the story of how my uncle came to America, because without him, the rest of our family wouldn’t be here.  One day I decided to give him an interview about his trip from Vietnam to the U.S.  It is such an amazing story, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to jot it down before it becomes a lost piece of our family’s history. Had an interesting time writing it, hope you enjoy reading it too.

=============================================

My family worked really hard to save money to buy gold, because the boat owners didn’t take cash.  Once they’ve saved up nine gold rings to pay the boat owners, they sent my uncle out to shore in the darkness of night so he can board the boat to sneak out of Vietnam.

(family pic of grandma and grandpa and our aunts and uncle Sam in the middle)

This was in 1979, the war had ended a few years prior and conditions in communist Vietnam were getting worse.  Thousands of Vietnamese were escaping the country to any other places that would take them.  They were dubbed “the boat people” by the international community, and my uncle was one of them.  He was twenty one years old.

The plan was to have small groups of about twenty people per group sneak out secretly in separate boats to a bigger rig waiting further offshore.  From there they would aim for one of the countries that would take them:  Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, or Hong Kong.  If they were caught, they would be thrown in jail, fined, and severely punished.

The four small boats had met up where the rig should be, but there was no rig.  They searched and waited until around five in the morning and still nothing.  Either something had happened or they’ve been cheated.

Some of the men became aggressive.  They saw a bigger fishing boat nearby and decided to hijack it.  By this time two of the four boats had disappeared.  The three fisherman on board the fishing boat was forcefully agreed to help, and the people from the leftover boats boarded the bigger fishing rig and they headed for Malaysia.

The trip was only meant to last two to three days, and they’ve only loaded enough provision for that amount of time.  By day three, all the food were gone.  They had to find help or they would starve!  Luckily, they spotted another fishing boat and flagged them down for help.

What they thought were another fishing boat turned out to be a group of bandits.   Men with machetes boarded their boat and proceeded to rob them of everything valuable.  Jewelry, watches, nice clothes, they took everything.  The refugees were too scared to fight back.  My uncle lost his watch and a bunch of his clothing.  But luckily, the gold ring that was hidden in his pants stayed safe.

After robbing them of everything worth taking, the bandits left them.  No one was killed but they were very much shaken, and still without food.  They sailed on.  Eventually they spotted another boat.   They were scared that it may yet be another group of bandits, but they were desperate.  Luckily, these people weren’t bandits and actually threw some fish and water into their boat before moving on.

Some time later, they encountered an oil rig.  He said it was a huge ship, several stories high.  My uncle’s riggity fishing boat pulled along side and yelled for help, claiming that they were refugees and that they didn’t have any food or water on board.  The people in the rig threw down provision and water, but they didn’t let them board.  So my uncle’s boat attached itself to the rig and wouldn’t leave.

They were along side for three days until they lost patience and started climbing up the rig.  It was very dangerous, and he said the people on the rig eventually threw down ladders and helped them up.  They were fed western food and taken to a refugee camp in Malaysia.  It had been one week since my uncle began his journey.

(picture I found in a wiki article about “Boat People”)

He was in the refugee camp in Malaysia for another week before they rounded everyone up to send them to an island where there was a bigger camp.  Nine small boats were tied together, and a big ship lead the pack and towed them out to sea.  On board, my uncle saw that there were lots of food and water and thought it was their supply for the next camp.  But this was not the case, they were lied to.  The camps were getting overcrowded and there were no room for the new refugees.  The ship towed the boats to open water, cut them loose, and sailed away.   The refugees were left floundering at sea.

My uncle said the boats were overcrowded, with barely any elbow room.  There were about two hundred people spread across the boats.  Some of the men took charge and they decided to head for Indonesia, where another refugee camp may take them in.  Four of the boats agreed and followed them, but the next day, they were somehow separated and my uncle’s boat was all alone.  They spent two weeks in the ocean before making it to Indonesia.

Aides from the U.N. and various nations were there to help the refugees.  My uncle stayed in the refugee camp in Indonesia for five months, during which time he registered to the countries that were accepting immigrants.  First, Canada rejected him.  Then he tried Australlia, but also to no avail.  But on the third try, the U.S. accepted him and soon after, he and a smaller group of refugees were flown to the States.

By this time, the plight of the boat people were in the world news.  Reports about drownings and piracy were generating concerns in the global theater.  Luckily for my uncle (and for us), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had negotiated an agreement with the government of Vietnam.  What came to be known as the “Orderly Departure Program” that lasted from 1980 to 1994, thousands of Vietnamese refugees were able to obtain green cards in a relatively short time.  At that point, he was able to “sponsor” any members of his immediate family over to the U.S., and that was what he did.

My grand parents and the three unmarried aunts went first, in 1985.  My family followed after in 1987, my brother and I were nine years old.  My uncle became a U.S. citizen that year, the rest of the family followed suit over the decades that follow.

So now we are all here, drinking koolaid, watching football, and living the American dream.   We escaped the oppressive land that was Vietnam, and came to the land of opportunity, to pursue whatever hopes and dreams we care to pursue.  And it is all thanks to my uncle, who is also named Sam.

(uncle Sam is furthest right, sporting a big smile)