My First Cello

28 06 2009

Not too many people know this, but growing up, I played the cello for several years. Like nearly 10 years, starting from 5th grade all the way through high school. It was a long journey, and only added to my nerd status growing up. Playing in the orchestra was definitely not as cool as playing in the band.

The one key lesson I learned from all those years of playing cello was that natural talent only goes so far. I had a an aptitude for learning new music and techniques very quickly as a child. Armed with that knowledge, I would do what most kids in that position would do, take it easy. In my world, things were easy, so I could just float by on raw talent alone. This was my downfall later on in my musical career as those who practiced far more than I eventually became far better cello players than me. I was slow to get over  a certain plateau, and never did quite make it further.

As I look back on those days of my musical past, I am forced to realize one single fact: I never owned my own instrument. We had always used an instrument provided by the school. I never really cared as a kid, I was able to do well enough with the school cellos. My music teacher would always tell me to get one. I never did. Until today. It has been a full five (5) years since I last touched a cello, but today I found a basic starter cello that I actually own.

It seems odd that it took more than 20 years for me to own a cello. And, quite frankly, I don’t have all the time in the world to play. However, I do have two small daughters whom I can teach the basics of cello to, and who already seem quite enamored with it and the opportunity to play. From there, I can get in a couple hours a week of quality practice time. With a solid foundation, I truly hope to branch out musically in ways I was never able to as a kid.

Despite my torrid past with the cello, one thing it did give me is an understanding and appreciation of music and a desire to pursue music as a way to express myself.



5 11 2008

What a night. In my short time on this earth, I have been witness to a few events in history, but all of them had little to no effect on me or my family. Tienanmen square, the fall of the berlin wall, even the attacks of September 11 while close to home, had little direct impact on my life (yes, I’m not counting the police state that followed shortly after). But today, the dawn of a new day, a new moment in history, the first African American President. The different between those other historic events, and this one is those others were clouded in fear, terror and suppression. Last night’s history represented change, hope and promise.

As an avid Internet user, I was watching the chatter floating along the tubes, and all of it was so positive, as if the Internet breathed a collective sigh of relief. Relief that the stupidity of the previous two elections had managed to not repeat itself. Relief that hope has prevailed over fear.  Relief that democracy still alive in the heart of America.  While the country can’t ignore it’s recent past, it now has the leadership and capability to deal with those issues intelligently and move on.

As I watched Barack Obama’s acceptance speech last night, I couldn’t help but grab my two daughters close. I knew it was a joyous moment. I wanted to have them there to listen to what was being said, because at some point in the future, those words would have a positive effect on their lives. They would look back in time and ask, “Daddy, did we listen when we when the United States elected Barack Obama”. I wanted to give them the honest ability to answer yes to that question, and be proud.

While Obama will not be the magic bullet to all problems, I do feel that he is the right man for the job. A man who actually does represent me, personally, in the executive branch of the government. He does represent hope, and that is what this country needs after eight years of agonizing fear and terror.

Personal Evaluation

23 08 2008

Every now and then, it’s worth the time to take a step back from your regular life and ask some important questions. What questions you ask yourself depends highly on your character. Here are a few questions that I want to know the answers to:

  1. Would the your 8 year old self like the you of now?
  2. Is this what you thought you’d be doing 5 years ago? 10 years ago? Ever?
  3. What have you missed that you wanted?
  4. What do you have that you never wanted?

The purpose of this exercise isn’t to make you (me) cry, or to try to bring up regrets of the past. This is a gut check. This is to make sure that all the turmoil in your life as it’s occuring now is the life you really want. And, while it can’t change over night, with the knowledge you gain from answering these questions, perhaps you can make a change or two that will realign your journey along life to the path that will be the most fulfilling to you.

Starting from the top:

Since my 8 year old self was 24 years ago, it’s pretty tough to know how I would react to myself. I’d like to think that I would be able to get along with my 8 year old counterpart. However, being the introvert, I’d have a hard time talking to him, and getting him to talk to me. Although, I would easily bring up the subject of computers, and video games and get a whirlwind of words.  I think my 8 year old self would still find me funny just because I still seem to have a way with kids.

Five years ago, I was leaving Colorado after having been with IBM for five years. It was a tough time, and I never thought I would have a chance to work for Intel. Ten years ago, I was just finishing college with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. Clearly a time for joy and happiness, if for no other reason that I didn’t have an exam or a homework assignment due the next day.  From a career standpoint, I should be further along. I’ve had some pitfalls and bad luck along the way. I’d had to learn many things from the school of hard knocks, but I’ve become a better professional for it. I feel I am on the verge of taking it to the next level as my technical skills have never been in doubt no matter where I’ve gone. From a personal standpoint, I had no idea I would be the first amongst my closest college friends to settle down with a family. It has been a pleasant surprise, and it has encouraged me to be a better person one day at a time. Some days, that doesn’t quite happen, but I try to learn from those days. I always had a plan for my fatherhood. I knew I would do things a tad differently to my kids than what my parents had done for me. That’s not because my parents did anything bad; far from it. However, there is always room for improvement, and I want to do things for my kids the way I thought would have been best for me in my childhood. The bottom line to the question at hand is, sure, I thought I would be doing what I am back then. Although, some things I would have thought were to happen later, occurred earlier.

Have I missed out on some great opportunities along the way? Sure. The best examples I can think of are: High School prom and two month trip to China, as well as just time wasted doing meaningless things like watching television. While it was just a one night thing, the High School prom was just one of those things that I wanted to know what the whole fuss was about. This isn’t anything other than curiosity. The trip to China would have been pretty neat though. I had studied mandarin Chinese for one year at college level up to that point. I was to leave after school, but before my working adult life. I should have gone, is all I can say. While I have no plans to rectify that error, I still wonder how I can achieve a trip like that with my current responsibilities. It may seem odd to some that I married a Korean woman, yet I try to pursue learning the Chinese language. I am a student of the world, and I admire aspects of all cultures. However, I found that throughout my life, I have constantly gravitated back to the Chinese culture. Perhaps its the history, the odd government, or just the sheer contrast to American culture, the Chinese language, art and culture just keep peaking my interest. And it’s not to say that the Korean culture doesn’t interest me, I found many sites and history compelling on my trip to South Korea (over 5 years ago).

What do have now that I never asked for? The easy answer, my kids. The second easy answer, my health. The politicaly correct answer, my wife. I know that none of these answers contains any of the material things I do have these days. I have a nice house, a decent portfolio, relable cars. The other items in my possesion that are priceless to me, other than my family are items like this blog, my work of photography over the years that shows me growing as an artists versus an analytical computer guy. These photos can never be restored if lost, which is why I have gone through great pains to back them up in several places: and a 4-disk redundant drive array.

Other opportunities that I’ve seized were the chance to get married to a woman who was able to see the kind of man I was, and would become despite an extra 70 pounds. I jumped at the chance to return home when offered a job back in Tucson, only to jump at the chance to work for one of the computer industry’s revolutionary companies, Intel. I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit New Zealand, if only for a week. I’m most happy that I decided to become a physically active individual using cycling as my vehicle to a better life. I never thought I would ever have the ability to ride my bike across the Rocky Mountains, or from one large western state to another. Cycling as changed my life, and I will have to ask for more from one of my favorite pastimes.

What does all this reflection tell me? I don’t know yet. I’ll explore these questions in a near future post. Thanks for allowing me to indulge myself, and feel free to send me any comments regarding my experiences or answers.

Back in My Day

8 07 2008

I was having a conversation with someone today, and a mysterious thought occured to me: My generation is currently living a social transformation very similar to the one that happened back in the early 20th century.

The 1900’s in America and the World were just starting to industrialize. But, modern society as we know it today didn’t happen until there was wide spread use of automobiles. Indeed, many historians will go on and on about the days before cars (the horse and buggy days) and the days with cars (urban sprawl days, present day). They will mention the huge societal transformation from quiet rural towns and small communities to huge megalopolis’s.

The people born in the late 1890s saw the whole world change in their lifetimes. They saw cars evolve from their very beginnings, to the affordability of the Ford model-T to the luxury liners. They also witnessed their way of life change. No longer was it fashionable to walk to the local store to get your groceries. If you had a car, you were high class. Hence the drive-in movie phenomenon of the 1950’s. In all, it was a huge shift.

Fast forward to the end of the 20th century, and cars are an all too common family item. But, a couple of new revolutionary devices made their ways to the mainstream culture due perhaps to their sheer utility. The Internet and Cell phones have become the two catalysts of our generation.

While it was born in the middle of the century, the Internet has grown into the vital tool for everyday communication and entertainment. In fact, the Internet is a vital component of many businesses. It is also a mainstay in or household. When we first moved in, the cable guy happened to be outside hooking things up. He said that he could have TV up by the end of the day. I quickly thanked him, but asked if we could have the Internet turned on instead. I have not subscribed to cable TV since then. Not a day goes by that I don’t use the Internet. These days, if it’s not on the Internet, I just don’t need it. All the information I need to get along with my daily activities is provided somewhere online. Electronics, check. Money, check. Clothes, check. Food, check. Books, check. Education, check. Friends, check. News, check. Everything is there. This is a huge shift from my own childhood when computers were luxury toys that were expensive and slow. My how fast times change.

The days before cell phones were difficult. If we were in trouble in the middle of an interstate highway between major cities, we were left to the mercy of the passersby to stop and lend a hand. If we didn’t make carefully laid out instructions to the late night rendezvous, we would never meet. Now, the electronic leash keeps us in touch with our friends, or sends us messages when we have events due on our online calendars. Sometimes, we even talk on our cell phones. Indeed the days before cell phones were nasty. I find it hard to believe that kids nowadays may grow up without ever knowing what a landline is, just as I never grew up with a rotary dial in any house but my grandmother’s.

All this makes me wonder: is this sort of social transformation on some sort of cycle? If so, what is it? At first glance, it seems that it’s comes about once a century. If that is the case, I can only wonder what awaits my children’s children when they grow up. What sort of major change in lifestyle will occur that I can’t even imagine?

So Much To Do, So Little Time

2 07 2008

Every so often, my big life To Do List makes an appearance on this blog. It’s always a good idea to revisit your life lists to make sure that you are gaining any ground, or to see what is really important to you. Things that were important to get done one or two years ago may not seem so high in priority now.

Looking at my 4 year old list from 2004, I notice that some things on here had no chance of being done. Traveling to other countries wasn’t going to happen due to the demands of having a family.

Learning is the core of my being, and it shows in my old list. However, I think I never learned how to learn without instruction. Thus, I never followed through. I still would like to learn the chinese language. I still want to learn the philosophy and beauty of kung fu. I want to experience the joy of playing cello again. I want to feel the rush of being in a real band as a smokin bassist.

Somethings that were never on the list are now a big priority in my life. I have committed myself to being a better software engineer. I will also find time in my life to volunteer at the lower opportunity schools as one of the best impacts Intel has had on me.

Learning cello. That item is there in reference to my childhood as the nerd with a cello. Growing up, I don’t think I appreciated what I had. Now that it isn’t there in my daily life, I miss some part of it. I also want to pass that along to my kids to experience the joys and challenges of learning oneself through music.

In all, I haven’t made the progress I had hoped on my list, but then again, I’ve also done some worthwhile things that weren’t on the list. Now, it’s time to redouble my efforts somehow, and to prioritize what’s important to me, and to be able to leave with no regrets.

Remembering the Moment

29 06 2008

Recently, a couple of friends of mine began to grow their families one baby at a time. All of them are experiencing the things we last encountered two or three years ago. I’m not sure if it’s the drum beat of daily life, or just that we have all grown to become accustomed to each other, but it’s been a while since I thought of my girls as the little babies they once were. And, a recent video of a friend with his newborn had me living through my own first day experiences with Eliana.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my kids, and how to make sure their lives will be pleasant and rewarding. Having a child, someone who will rely on me for so many things, whose lives I will revolve around for the rest of my own life, was a very difficult concept for me to grasp those few years ago. It’s not that I couldn’t handle the responsibility, actually, I think I took to the role quite well. My wife can attest to that. But, for nearly a year, something in the back of my mind was watching my go through the motions of being a first time Dad. Perhaps it was my own youth, the rapid change from just a married guy to a married guy with a child. Or the fact that someone else’s life was actually depending on me; that was something that had never happened to be prior to my first daughter’s birth.

Indeed, I have thought a little about those days recently, mostly in that the growth of our children make it easier for us adults to measure the passage of time. When I look at, and talk with Eliana these days, I can’t help but marvel at her. Her mannerisms, her wit, her charm, everything that has developed before my very eyes over the last 4 years. Annabelle is growing just as fast. Some days, I think I am literally watching her grow as from one day to the next, she seems to have sprouted longer legs. I know now what it must have been like for my parents to see us grow up so quickly, from diapers to college in the blink of an eye.

Kids, they grow so fast, yet, we also should realize that we grow just as fast, with them. We are not young forever. We need to capture the moments with our kids at every opportunity. Daily life can turn into a daily grind, and as the children learn to assert their individuality, some days will be more difficult than others. Rest assured, that even on those days, I try to remember that those moments are what makes life worth living. Those are the experiences we will all remember as we all travel through this world, with our families as our guides and companions.

A Beautiful Family

18 06 2008

Recently, we’ve again been caretakers of two korean girls because their parents are hard working individuals that need our help. I love the extra company, and our girls love having friends over for the night. In all, it’s an interesting, but fun situation. Yesterday, however, we decided to pick everyone up at the gym pool. Letting the kids play in the pool is an easy way to let them all get tired for bedtime (a sneaky trick, I know, but they enjoy this one).

So, it was my, my wife, my two girls, and our two guests playing at the pool at dusk. Usually when we’re done, we all grab towels and make for the indoors as the indoor pool area is humid, and keeps everyone warm. Since there was a total of 6 of us this time, instead of the normal four, we all looked like one big family. As we were walking back to the locker room, I heard someone say

“Wow, what a beautiful family.”

I’m sure the comment was based on all six of us walking together, and that means that the comment was aimed at the family she thought she saw: A husband and wife, leading their four kids, two of them obviously no theirs by birth, to clean up after a fun day at the pool. Normally, I think our family is above average, but I guess with two extra girls (who aren’t ours) we’ve moved up a few notches (whatever that means).

We were moving too fast to say thanks, but it did get me thinking. I mean, I am perfectly fine with having only two kids right now. At times, it seems even that is more than we can handle. However, I have always thought that at some point in my life, I (rather, we) would adopt an unfortunate child or pair of siblings. My argument is that since our lives are blessed with so much, from a financial and well-being standpoint, that we could afford to spread the wealth and give someone a chance in life who otherwise would have none. But it’s not all about financial stability; it’s about having a warm heart, and the patience to help other children through life’s hurdles.

This comment reminded me of that thought as I wondered how things would be if we adopted a couple of kids who were past the baby stage (I’m totally done with that).  I still can’t answer that as it all depends on personalities, and a number of other factors. But still, the thought remains.

As our girls play with our guests this morning, I still wonder if we could really deal with a larger family. I know they all get along now basically because they don’t see each other all the time. But I still wonder…