Mind Wide Open

Yesterday¡¯s FreshAir featured journalist Steve Johnson, who recently wrote a book: Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life. It was truly a fascinating subject. I was mesmerized.

According to Johnson, different types of memory are stored in different types of brain cell. It is kind of like a hospital beds, some of them are in normal multi-patient rooms, some of them are in the hallway, and some of them are in VIP rooms. Apparently all memories associated with fear and sadness is stored in the VIP rooms. In addition our brain tends to remember a lot more details during the moment of danger rather than a moment of happiness. As if the brain automatically switches to high resolution mode when it is taking a snapshot of the moment of great danger. All these are because the need of survival.

Cool, huh?

¡°Our brain is constantly on-drugs.¡± Johnson said. Our brain is capable of producing all kind of chemicals to suit the moment or to alter our mood. For example, there is a particular kind of chemical that will shield us from stress. When our brain is giving out this particular drug, no matter what happened, we won¡¯t feel stressed at all. When a woman is breastfeeding, this drug is produced in high quantities in the mom¡¯s brain. Johnson¡¯s wife gave birth to a baby on September 8th, 2001. They returned to their Manhattan apartment on September 10th, 2001. The next day, as WTC were destroyed to rubbles twenty blocks away, Johnson himself was under tremendous stress, pacing the apartment trying to figure out what to do next with his young family, would it be safe for a three days old baby to be out in the streets with all the debris in the air? Would it be safe to stay where they are? His wife, on the other hand, remained amazingly calm and detached. Later, she felt guilty for her detachment, surprised at herself being such a heartless person. What they didn¡¯t know was that she was tricked by her brain which was trying to protect a young mother from stressful emotions!

Journalist Steven Johnson

He’s the author of the new book, Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life. He writes the monthly “Emerging Technology” column for Discover and is contributing editor at Wired. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Guardian. Johnson is also the author of Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, which was named as a finalist for the 2002 Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Apartment Hunting in SF (2)

I went to a boarding school during my high school years in Beijing. V was my classmate, and we became very good friends even though we weren¡¯t living in the same dorm room. She could leap into thoughtfulness in a split of second even though we could be joking wildly the minute before. Then she would smile a brilliant smile and all seriousness evaporated. One day she made a comment about me, in one of her thoughtful moments.

¡°You are easily breakable. Like iron, unlike steel, which could bend. You don¡¯t bend.¡±
¡°What do you mean?¡± I threw her a puzzled look. I don¡¯t remember what we were talking then, but her comment seemed so out of blue.
¡°I¡¯ve never seen you asking for anything twice no matter how badly you wanted it.¡± She explained, as if decipher a complex math problem. ¡°Sometimes the other party¡¯s refusal could be delivered in a joking manner, yet you wouldn¡¯t be pursuing it any more.¡± She smiled, ¡°I¡¯m very different. If I want something, I would ask again and again and again until the other party relent¡­¡±

Years later in my junior year in college, a friend told me, ¡°You could have anything you want, but you have to want it really badly first.¡±

Based on these two somewhat contradictory evaluations, what would you conclude? That I¡¯m easily defeated? That I¡¯m aggressive?

I was thoroughly exhausted after the first day of apartment hunting. Came home with a thundering but persistent headache, I was dreading the prospect of a second day with this demanding task. Little did I know, a rose bouquet was waiting quietly at home for my arrival. It was from Mi! Suddenly my strength was back and all was sunny in my life.

The next day I set out again, full of hope, and armed with four more potential candidates and a few looks-good-on-paper backups.

I fell in love with the first one I saw.

It was hard to contain the happiness I felt as I walked out the apartment building, dreamily. I stood on top of the hilly street right outside the building, admiring the beautiful view of Twin peaks in front of me I took a deep breath. It was a gorgeous day. The rain clouds hadn¡¯t arrived. I decided to skip the next open house on the agenda because it was merely a one-bedroom place with no view, while the one I fell in love with had two-bedrooms; also it was on the other side of town while the other two open houses were all close to where I stood. I walked downhill to the long stretch of green that was called ¡°Panhandle¡±. Walked on the grass, watched people walking their dogs, children playing on the swing set, muscular runners passing me wearing their headphones, even homeless dragging their bag of recycled cans. All seemed peaceful. There were many large stately looking eucalyptus and Douglas Furs standing around me. I sat on a bench, called a few close friends to inform them of my good luck.

I also called a few property managers to ask whether I could see their rental places today since I happened to be in-town. Only one of them returned my call. I knew I should at least see a few more places even though I was already happy with one.

The second place I saw that day was also on top of a hill (a native San Franciscan friend told me that the city actually had 49 hills). It was located in a motel-like two-story apartment building. The manager on site was a nice middle-aged lady who reminded me of my aunt. Chatting friendly with me, she led me to the second floor and showed me one of the two vacancies. It was a spacious one-bedroom apartment. Hardwood floor in the living room, carpet in the bedroom. Both rooms were large enough to be comfortable, but not large enough to segregate out a piece of space for office. But what a view it had. Through both room¡¯s north facing windows, there was a view of the bay and golden gate bridge at the end of the city sprawl at our feet. There was an open balcony connecting both rooms as well. The bathroom had a skylight. The nice lady told me this unit was the better one among the two because it was at the end of the building, so it only shared one wall with a quiet neighbor. I took a copy of rental application, thanked the nice lady and walked out to the drizzle.

My heart was still set on the first place, because it had character and charm.

The next two open houses both located on very congested neighborhood, whose narrow streets were parked full to the rim. After circling around for over half an hour at each location, I had to throw my hands in the air and gave up. Both places indicated ¡°Street Parking Only¡±. Under the circumstances, I couldn¡¯t possibly spend over half an hour each evening at the end of a long commute. It would be enough to drive anyone insane.

My last candidate looked comparable on paper to the first place I saw. It was also a top floor, two-bedroom apartment, and it also included parking. It located in the southern side of ¡°Panhandle¡±, closer to Height-Ashbury, slightly more expensive. Its owner was also the only one called me back. We had an interesting conversation.

¡°We have an open house this afternoon between 3 and 4pm.¡± A man with an eastern European accented English informed me on the other side of the phone.
¡°Okay, I would come by around 3:30 then.¡±
¡°What exactly are you looking for?¡±
¡°ugh, what do you mean? I¡¯m looking for a two-bedroom apartment.¡± I was a bit surprised by his question.
¡°Do you have any particular requirements?¡± He sounded slightly annoyed, ¡°Because if you want something specific we should discuss now. For example, if you want hardwood floor, then don¡¯t bother. I don¡¯t want to waste your time.¡±
I glanced at the rental description on the printed out, it said ¡°wall-to-wall carpet.¡±
¡°Okay. It doesn¡¯t have to be hardwood floor. So it says wall-to-wall carpet?¡± I carefully asked.
¡°Yes, it is all brand new carpet.¡±
¡°Oh, yeah, I remembered something specific that I care for. Which directions do the windows face?¡±
¡°What?! That I really don¡¯t know. You have to see for yourself.¡±
¡°Okay, can I take a look this afternoon then?¡±
A landlord with an attitude. Interesting.

The neighborhood was just as bad parking-wise. At the end, I called the landlord again, maybe he could give me some pointers as to which small street I should head for possible street parking? Very nicely this time, he told me to park on the drive-way right next to his van. After multiple attempts I finally managed to squeeze my integra onto the driveway without smashing into the tightly packed cars from the neighbor. Note to self, need to practice parallel parking. The drizzle had turned into insistent shower by then.

His name was Leon. A middle-aged slender man, hairs started graying on the sides. Putting away the vacuum cleaner, he led me to the door and asked me to take off my muddy shoes before walking onto his beloved egg white colored new wall-to-wall carpet. The living room was spacious. The decoration was all newly upgraded. Beautifully done bathroom with large dark titles and elegant washbasin, the windows were all double-pane. The kitchen was the spacious one I¡¯ve seen so far, with loads of counter space. But it had no view. The living room window opened to the street, we could look straight into another living room of the building across the narrow street. It was new but it didn¡¯t make my heart leap. As I was checking out the cabinets, Leon started shooting questions at me.

¡°What do you do?¡±
¡°I¡¯m a programmer.¡±
¡°Which kind of language?¡±
¡±Which kind of application¡±
What the @#$%%, I was secretly cursing in my mind, is it a job interview for god¡¯s sake! Instead, I laughed and asked back, ¡°So are you a programmer, too?¡±
¡°Yes, used to be.¡± Probably sensed my annoyance, he changed topic.

¡°Will you be the only tenant?¡±
¡°No, my fianc¨¦ will be moving in with me.¡±
¡±What does he do for a living?¡±
Oh, great, here goes again. ¡°He is an Art Director at an advertising company.¡±
I waited, but no more questions came this time.

It is amazing how little we know of other professions¡­ 🙂

He showed me the laundry room and the designated covered parking spot. I took a copy of rental application, left him with my email address. He wanted to email me some pictures of the place plus an electronic version of the rental application, so I could fill them on my computer. Ah, how thoughtful! It took one programmer to know another.

I walked back into the rain, drove south toward home. The thought of the first apartment of the day filled my heart with sweat happiness.

It had to be you,
wonderful you
It had to be you

When two people met, there was always the question of chemistry. But how would you explain falling in love with a place? Could it also be chemistry? But I did fall in love that morning. Was it because of its hardwood floor throughout everyroom? Was it because of the French doors? Was it because of the arched windows in everyroom? Or was it because of balcony enclosed by sheer glass windows. Despite all its faults, I fell in love. The bathroom was small, the kitchen was not upgraded to modern standard, the windows don¡¯t face south as my Chinese mind had thought I definitely required, and it was not that close to either southbound highways I would need to use every morning, but it won me over as I laid my eyes on it for the first time. It had character! What a treat! All the other places I’ve seen so far lacked. They were nice, they were modern, but they were dull.

It had to be you,
wonderful you
It had to be you

(to be continued)

Apartment Hunting in SF (1)

During the peak of dot com boom, finding an apartment in San Francisco was an Olympic style 100 meter dash, both physically and mentally. I¡¯ve heard numerous horror stories where a couple of dozen people fighting over a shabby hole, at a hefty price, too. It required not just money but also techniques to win over your prospective landlord, presentation and strategies were all required in order to succeed.

I¡¯m very glad that second wave of gold rush is over.

Being somewhat fortunate I bought a house soon after started my first job, in 1995, when it was the darkest days of the last recession. The housing market in the bay area had collapsed, people who lost their jobs had to sell their houses at a lower price than what they had bought it for a few years ago.

As a result, I am a complete novice in the art of apartment hunting.

¡°How would you pick if you find a bunch of them that are relatively similar?¡± I was puzzled, staring at the long list of rental listings on craigslist and metrorent. They all sounded good on paper.
¡°Oh, you always know!¡± Gui assured me, ¡°At least that was always the case for me. You¡¯d see some very bad ones, then some mediocre ones, then you¡¯d see THE one and you would just know, this is it.¡± She frowned and continued, ¡°I had to see so many bad ones that I already started to worry will I ever find the one, then, boom! There it is!¡±

It sounded dramatic enough. Still half doubting myself, I set out to the city. On Friday night, I printed out a stack of listings from my on-line search, planned to see four open houses on Saturday and another four on Sunday. In addition there were a few backups that I would try to call and make an appointment on the fly in case I found myself in between open houses and have time to kill. Knowing my bad sense of directions, I even planned my entire driving route on yahoo maps. They were all neatly labeled and stapled in order of their open house time.

The truth is you could never plan as fast as things change. Even before I finished breakfast on Saturday. Mom quizzed me on my knowledge of San Francisco neighborhoods. Unlike me, she has been watching evening news everyday and apparently quite a few neighborhoods has deteriorated to their pre-dot-com days. Such as the mission and south of market, even Sunset is no longer safe. I dug out the city map and immediately realized my very first target was in a fishy neighborhood.

Okay, one down, three to go.

I went straight to my second target. It was on the same street as one of our favorite restaurants– ¡°Strait¡¯s Caf¨¦¡±, one block away from Geary, four or five blocks away from the ¡°New Chinatown¡± on Clement street, where my favorite bookstore Green Apple and the lovely Blue Danube Caf¨¦ were at. Good neighborhood. Good public transportation. Despite its proximity to Geary, the street itself is very quiet. On-line, this apartment had by far the best looking interiors and it boasted 1100+ square feet of living space! I¡¯ve exchanged emails with the owner during the week and he said he would meet me at the door at 1pm. I arrived ten minutes earlier. The apartment building looks nice, too. I waited. 1pm, 1:10pm, 1:20pm. On one showed up. I called the number on the listing, his voice mail picked up, saying he is probably out showing apartment to other clients. But, I am the ¡°other¡± client! Eventually I left a msg with my cell and asked him to call.

Continued on to my third target. First I had to go to an agency on upper Market, in the heart of Castro district; picked up a key to the place after leaving $20 key deposit. I would have an hour to view the apartment. Based on my clubbing experience, I remembered this neighborhood was extremely difficult to find parking. But maybe everyone was down at city hall getting married that day, I found street parking right away. What a miracle! Too overjoyed by my good luck with parking, I didn¡¯t look at the map carefully before I set out to look at the apartment. I managed to get lost right away. The Upper market/Duboce Triangle/Twin Peaks area had always been the most confusing place for me. I had never been able to drive out this maze of one-way streets and many dead-end streets without getting lost. The curbs of all the narrow streets were full of parked cars. I couldn¡¯t find a place to stop and take a good look at the map before continuing on. I drove around in circles for about twenty minutes, finally I just parked at someone¡¯s drive way and realized mentally I¡¯ve placed myself on the wrong side of Market Street.

Finally I arrived at my first apartment viewing. On paper it was described as:

Charming Victorian! Top floor, newly decorated; sunny, quiet, some view, shared yard. Good public transportation. Shopping nearby. 1 bedroom/1bath, with one extra room! Hardwood floor!

Nice, huh? Between the two of us, we have two desktops and two laptops. I was thinking the extra room we could convert to our computer room. And who would resist ¡°Charming Victorian?!¡± 🙂 Some View, too! Wow! All for $1475 a month, what a bargain!

It was on the southern end of Noe Valley, which was a full-fledged yappie colony. While I was working as a consultant, majority of my co-workers lived here. Instead of barhopping, one weekend evening we did apartment hopping in this little neighborhood. Every apartment I had been to that night was somewhat unique. Old houses tend to have more character than the cookie cutter ones we have out in the suburbs. Some of the place had high arched ceilings, some had mexican red tiles, some had lavely bay windows and claw-foot bath tub in the bathroom, etc. etc.. They were, truely, charming.

It was not far from a stone church, I circled around once and found street parking one block away. Not a bad sign. As I was walking toward the building, I noticed the keys in my hand. There were two keys. Both were painted rainbow colored. Hmmmm, a gay landlord, maybe? Gay tenants, too? Interesting. Maybe Mi would be interested in photographing their stories!

All the excitement was shattered as I fumbled to open the front door. The door itself was squeaking. The stairway was dirty and cracking as I walked to the second floor. When I opened the front door to the unit, a strong and potent moldy smell almost gagged me. All the rooms were tiny, hardwood floor was old and darkening, there were holes on the room doors, the walls were pealing off, and it was dark. I saw no view. Most of the windows either faced other tenants windows, or to an empty sorry looking opening in the middle of the house, it was covered with concrete. So people would pay $1475 for these?! I felt my heart was slowly drowning in despair. How much I have to pay in order to live in a ¡°decent¡± place?

I stood in the hallway, ready to leave. Wait, maybe I should look at it more closely maybe there were some ¡°charm¡± I missed? Maybe, just maybe I could live here? So I tried again, walked from room to room, peering over the windows, trying my best to find some charm some courage in me to say, yes, maybe it is not so bad.

But it is. I cannot possibly live here. No way.

As I returned the key to the agent, he said, ¡°There is another one that is having an open house right now. It is just around the corner, you could walk over and take a look. It is also 1 bedroom for $1475 a month.¡± I was skeptical. I didn¡¯t need more depressant. But as I walked into the sunlight, I turned toward the place anyway. What would be the harm? I¡¯m already here.

Thank god I went. It lifted my spirit a little. First of all, it is bright! The kitchen was large and was just upgraded with marble tiles. There was a little sunroom off kitchen, completely enclosed with glass windows, bathed in sunlight. It was small, but could be lovely for an eat-in place. There were hardwood floors throughout the bedroom and living room. It was newly painted. Too new almost, and seemed to be painted in a hurry. Lots of cabinet doors were either jammed or sealed by the paint that I couldn¡¯t open. Somehow I felt a sense of faked cheerfulness in this place. The new paint seemed to try to cover something up. And the hardwood floors near each radiator were all completely black. What had this place endured? What did it look like before this new coat of paint? The marble floor in the kitchen looked detached from the rest of the house. Something was off-balance. Not quite right. A couple was there when I went in. I was alone for a while after they left. Then in came this girl carrying a small daypack. In her thick British accent, she exclaimed happily, ¡°Oh, how lovely!¡± ¡°A bit expensive, though.¡± I tried to look at this place through her eyes. I still couldn¡¯t block out the black molding patches under each radiator and the roughly painted walls. Yes it was a hundred times better than the ¡°Charming Victorian¡±, but is it really THAT ¡°lovely¡±?

(to be continued)

A Democratic World

It is one of the best articles I’ve read recently regarding the difference between Democrat and Replublican parties, as well as what is missing from this country’s politic scene since 1970’s. From current issue of The New Yorker (02-16-2004): A DEMOCRATIC WORLD –Can liberals take foreign policy back from the Republicans?, by GEORGE PACKER.

Perhaps this was a shrewd political intuition on Bush¡¯s part¡ªa recognition that Americans, for all their passion after September 11th, would inevitably slouch back to their sofas. It¡¯s fair to ask, though, how a body politic as out of shape as ours is likely to make it over the long, hard slog of wartime; how convincingly we can export liberal democratic values when our own version shows so many signs of atrophy; how much solidarity we can expect to muster for Afghanis and Iraqis when we¡¯re asked to feel so little for one another.

¡°Why does not democracy believe in itself with passion?¡± Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., asked in ¡°The Vital Center,¡± his 1949 book about totalitarianism and America¡¯s anxious postwar mood. ¡°Why is freedom not a fighting faith?¡± The only hope (Schlesinger turned to Walt Whitman for the words¡ªwho else?) lay in ¡°the exercise of Democracy.¡± The process of struggling for freedom, accepting conflict, tolerating uncertainty, joining community¡ªthis would allow democracy to survive and not die. What if we now find ourselves, at this stage of thickening maturity, in the middle of a new crisis that requires us to act like citizens of a democracy? It¡¯s impossible to know how the public would respond to a political party that spoke about these things¡ªbecause, so far, no party has.

Gay Marriage in the States

NYT 02/18/2004: Gay marriage in the States.

Opponents of gay marriage have been loudly calling for a constitutional amendment prohibiting any state from recognizing gay marriages. Despite the parade of horribles they haul out, their greatest fear appears to be that giving gay men and women the right to join legally and permanently with the ones they love will work out just fine, and that the American people will see that the fears being foisted on them are unfounded.

Vacancy Rates Up, Rents Down

From CNN Money Magazine, Feb. 11, 2004: Vacancy Rates Up, Rents Down.. According to this article:

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research, argues that falling rent prices portend a housing bubble. “Historically, rent prices and sale prices have moved together,” he said.

The same forces that drive home prices — such as demographic trends or a shortage in land — should also drive up rents. But when the cost of renting and owning diverge greatly, as they have in some places, would-be buyers decide to rent (pushing down housing demand) at the same time landlords decide to convert their rentals to co-ops (pushing up housing supply).

In other words, if rents go down, the theory holds that home prices will eventually follow.

I HEART San Francisco

Saturday was gorgeous in San Francisco. Sparkling sunshine, crisp breeze, you could smell Spring in the air. I was in the Castro/Noe Valley/Duboce area, apartment hunting. On Market street, two large guys in their late thirties walked past me, hand in hand. The bearded one turned to the clean shaven one and exclaimed, ¡°It is a perfect day to get married in San Francisco.¡± Hearing it, I smiled. Earlier when I drove past City Hall, I saw the long line of people waiting outside the front door, ready to get their marriage license. Around them were happy citizens and tourists taking photos, shooting family videos. Passing cars on the busy Van Ness Avenue were hunking horns to sound their support and congratulations. Yes, indeed, it is a perfect day to get married. It is the best Valentine¡¯s Day present given by this city by the bay.

As I continued walking down Market Street, at the corner of Sanchez, a group of fraternity college kids stood by the lamp post. They were having a discussion among themselves, but purposely loud to make sure all can hear them. ¡°Why would they want to get married?¡± ¡°Yeah, I mean, what is the point?¡± ¡°Crazy xxxxx¡­¡± They didn¡¯t seem particularly angry. They sounded cheerful.

Later that day, I met up with Gui and Matthew at Civic Center. The line was still long, people dressed in all types of fashion. From tuxedos to Halloween customs, many were holding babies. Balloons, flowers, and laughter were abundant. It is festival like.

I must admit, it is the most genuine Valentine¡¯s Day in my life, the entire city seems to be celebrating. Walking on the streets of San Francisco, one can¡¯t help but feeling a sense of hopefulness. No matter what happened in the court, no matter how GWB and the conservatives will amend the constitution. A city has spoken, and the people are listening.

If you¡¯re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you¡¯re going to San Francisco
You¡¯re gonna meet some gentle people there

For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

All across the nation,
such a strange vibration
People in motion
There¡¯s a whole generation,
with a new explanation
People in motion, people in motion

For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

San Francisco’s Gay Weddings Continue

“Ripley’s Game” Reviewed by Anthony Lane

A movie by Liliana Cavani, showed in Europe but not in the States. Now available on video tape and dvd, “a privilege traditionally granted to pornography” 🙂 And it is currently showing in New York’s Walter Reade Theatre, Lincoln Center; “as part of a fine season¡ª¡°seventeen of the Best Unsung New Films from Around the World¡±¡ªorganized by Film Comment magazine. ” Lane’s writing is lyrical and humourous as always. Not to be missed. Both movie and review.
THE CREEPIEST, by ANTHONY LANE. From the New Yorker, Issue of 2004-02-16 and 23.

A Sudanese View: ‘Thank God for George Bush!’

This is an interesting point of view! I’m fascinated.
A Sudanese View: ‘Thank God for George Bush!’

I’ve heard a similar point of view before, that the US’s democratic human-right talk is usually perceived as weakness in the muslim world, especially when it is not backed with decisive military actions. Talks are cheap, and actions are more Manly. Supposedly it is a world of the fittest survive. So the guity can’t go on unpunished.

Punishment by trail is not harsh enough, not bloody enough.

It is a markedly different world-view, where people are ruled by force, and force is the only effective communication method.

How sad is that?

Entangled Currencies: US, Asia, and Europe

This article explained in crispy terms how the downward spin of US dollars caused changes in Asia and frustration in Europe. The interdependencies are fascinating.

The fall of the dollar against the euro has frustrated exporters and political leaders in Europe, and there is little hope that they can reverse the policies of either the Bush administration, which seems content to let the market push the dollar downward, or Asia’s central banks, which have intervened heavily to curb the rise of their currencies against the dollar.

From today’s New York Times:As Group of 7 gathers, Europe Looks Like and Outsider, by MARK LANDLER¡£

The Road from Apolitical to Political

I¡¯ve been voting regularly since 1996. It had less to do with passion in politics than a sense of obligation. Voting is a sacred right. I treasure it. It might have something to do with the fact that I grew up in China.

We watched the vote count of 2000 race and we were disappointed at the final outcome in Florida. But what could one do? I shrugged it off. Went on a Thanksgiving trip to Paris. There I went to a friend¡¯s friend¡¯s birthday party. In the little Paris suburb apartment, surrounded by sophisticated Paris yappies, I was asked the same question in limited English over and over again, all delivered with wide-eyes, raised eye-brows, ¡°How come the people of US took the outcome so calmly? How come there is no protest on the street? No riots? Even us here in Paris felt edgy and concerned watching it! You don¡¯t feel outraged?¡±

To be fair, I was thoroughly puzzled by the outcome. Like almost all the liberals, I couldn¡¯t believe 50 million people voted for GWB. It was understandable for the top 2% to vote Republican, but as those poor rural states one after another fell into GWB camp, I was dumbfounded. How could people be so blind? At time I still had that blind trust in the US constitution, the Senate, the Congress, and the Court, surely someone will curb GWB¡¯s power when he gets too out of hand?

Everything changed after 911. With Afghan War, Bush¡¯s Tax Cut, Federal Government¡¯s refusal to help the states, creating war and enemies instead of jobs in the middle of the recession, Iraq War, drastic healthcare premium, etc. etc. etc.. All these events kept on drawing my interest deeper and deeper into politics.

The reason that I¡¯m going through all these mundane details is that maybe it is a common enough road that many has traveled too. Going from apolitical to political. I just read one of the top articles on blogdex, which blasted all the MovableType weblog users. It basically said that because of MovableType¡¯s ease of use, the internet is now flooded with repetitive rather than original insightful contents. He made a short list of the major topics being covered by all the bloggers out there, and ¡°Presidential Election¡± being the number one on his list.

Is that really a bad thing, though? I think not. It is a good sign that more people care about elections and policies. It is afterall the first Presidential election after 911. I think many people want their voices heard. Since Bush stood on Ground Zero and announced that the terrorists attacked us because they hate Freedom and Democracy, well then let¡¯s find out for themselves which kind of Democracy and Freedom we have that worth thousands of innocent lives. How can that be a bad thing?

This is the first Presidential primary that I¡¯m closely monitoring via the net and NPR.

I¡¯m pleasantly surprised by the positive messages sent out by all the candidates. I¡¯m hugely relieved that almost no one employed nasty back-stubbing, dirt-digging, and negative companioning. I¡¯m amazed at how Democratic Party¡¯s messages are holding national headlines day after day after day. Suddenly toppling GWB no longer seems impossible. There is still hope! Hallelujah! I think if we have a team of the two John¡¯s. We would be in very good shape! 🙂 I don¡¯t really mind either of them being the President.

Here is a profile on John Edwards also by the New Yorker: THE NEWCOMER, by NICHOLAS LEMANN

It talked about how Edwards became one of the nation’s most successful trial lawyers, by representing the little people, in cases that challenged large corporations and powerful interests. And how it might help him in the southern states where Democratic influence is week (one of my puzzlements!).

In most places, liberal politics rests on labor unions¡ªbut not in the South, because it is a region where unions are weak, and where industries came, in part, to avoid unions. Non-economic liberalism, based on causes like environmentalism, legal abortion, and gun control, doesn’t work in the South, either, because it is such a socially conservative region. The South does, however, still have a deeply ingrained underdog consciousness, and one place where that manifests itself is in the personal-injury courtroom. Throughout much of the South, trial lawyers are, in effect, the left: an influential group that, instead of converting populist sentiment into redistributionist legislation, converts it into big rewards for a small number of people who have stories of having been screwed by powerful, uncaring figures. Big jury verdicts in tort cases are what the South has instead of unions. It does not seem at all far-fetched to imagine that this version of liberalism could someday reach a national audience. The country is moving more and more toward a courtroom-style politics of anecdote.

And here is the complete set on all the candidates, also from the New Yorker: THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL


bluishorange is one of my favorite weblog. Its owner, alison headley, doesn’t update often. But whenever she does, I eagerly devour her entire entry, whatever the topic may be. Afterwards I always always want to write something of my own.

Her words never fail to make my heart tingle. Her words makes me want to pour something out, something as moving and true. From the past or the present. Anything at all.

Once my sister and I were discussing Hemingway and somewhere I saw a discussion regarding Hemingway’s openings. So I had an impulse to imitate one myself.

“In the early summer of that year we lived in a small apartment by the highway, with orange colored roofs like those on the shores of the Mediterranean. We could hear the sprinklers turning on in early morning, and tennis balls bouncing off rackets when it was on the weekend. Along the paved narrow path leading to the stairs there were bushes of hydrygenia with large blue flowers, wet and fresh in the early morning mist, and snails were confused and slowly moving from one side of the path to another. In order to catch the first flight out of SFO every Monday, Kate had to leave in the predawn darkness, which was so dense, even the chilly air had a hard time to penetrate it, let alone any hint of sound.”

“It is good.” My sister said then, “But it is not as impressive as Hemingway’s original. Because he had a purpose, wanted to communicate a desolate feeling on the ugliness of war. What are you trying to convey here?”

I didn’t know. I still don’t. But the paragraph stuck with me and I constantly thought of it. It was a beginning of a possible story. But somehow I never felt quite ready to write it out. My sister was right. It was not as ambitious as Hemingway’s because it is not trying to ridicule or to express anything grand. It is the beginning of a relationship. There is a sense of tenderness and wonderment. Simple and naïve.

Those were the people who once held our happiness in their hands, and now we’ve left them in the past. From time to time, we look back onto the days and moments that touched us. It is a little sad to realize that so much had been invested in something that was doomed. But that cant’ be helped. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I wouldn’t want to, or be able to, hold back anything. Sometimes I thought it must have been destiny, for all those little moments leading up to the first meeting to go exactly so. How could anyone not treasure such a miracle? Unfortunately, relationships seem to be synonymous to heartaches and unhappy endings, until one day you met the one. It is like a apprenticeship. Should we wear our past scars like heroic medals? Or hide them in the dark and spider webbed corner?

How does a bruised heart look like? Will it be “bluish orange”? I wonder.