Tuesday, April 26, 2005

How Happy/Depressed is your city

This MSN article lists the 20 happiest and 20 most depressed cities in the United States.

Can't really pick out a pattern. Can you? The climate is often said to be a factor, but Los Angeles, Tampa, and Arizona cities are among the most depressed cities. Wealth? El Paso, TX and Fresno, CA aren't exactly known to attract multi-millionaires, so we know money can't buy happiness. Politics? Both lists have a good mixture of cities from "blue" and "red" states. Religion? The happy list has 5 cities from the Bible Belt, but Salt Lake City is among the most depressed cities.

One pattern I do see is the depressed list has a lot of big cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Detroit and the happy list consists of mostly small cities that most of us have not visited.

Most of my blogging friends reside in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City and they are both among the 20 most depressed cities :(

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Random Useless Thoughts

I love the English language and all of its quirky expressions, but here is one I should think twice about using because of my Korean ethnic background.

While petting a dog, "Oh, you are so cute, I can just eat you up."

Monday, April 18, 2005

NPR Essay

This is my first pass. I am not very happy with it. It has a few slow spots and awkward transitions. Keeping it under 500 words is tough.

On a sultry Southern California day, I made my first foray into my high school campus in almost 20 years while in the area. As expected, the stroll through the tree lined thoroughfare triggered a flood of memories of my formative years here which started shortly after my family’s arrival in America.

The surrounding area and the campus had been fully developed back then, so very little of the landscape had changed, which made the flashbacks a little too graphic for comfort. My time warp stroll eventually brought me to “the Grove.”

The Grove was the hangout for the most popular kids known as “Grovies,” most of whom were from some of the wealthiest areas in the city, and possibly in the country. The jocks brandishing their biceps, the girls flirting incessantly, and everyone glowing with a radiant smile made the place resemble a scene from a teenage romance movie.

The hangout was a source of both resentment and envy among the outsiders. I initially felt the latter more than the former as a kid determined to fit in by leaving my immigrant subculture and assimilating into the mainstream. But it soon became clear that I would never be accepted into the exclusive clique and resentment replaced envy.

But the quest to fit in continued in my post high school years. In college social groups and even in church settings, I secretly desired to be seen with the most popular and liked. I also found myself fending off overtures from those who didn’t seem as desirable. It was subtle, yet persistent. Some people just weren't cool enough to be seen with.

But slowly, as a Christian, I became mindful of Jesus’ preference for the rejects of society. Most of his friends were among “the least of these.” They were the lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, and other notorious sinners ignored and ostracized by society and the religious establishment.

Eventually I became appalled by what I saw in my heart, trapped by the same vanity which I despised and saw in the Grovies. I was no different from them even though I should have known better.

This wasn’t a drastic revelation which changed my life overnight. I did not pursue a new career as the next Mother Teresa living among the poorest of the poor. It has been a slow process in which I have learned to reach out to people I come across in life regardless of their status in the social hierarchy and to do what Jesus would do.

The “Grove” was where my quest to fit in began. It took a few unexpected turns along the way and eventually transformed into a story of redemption. Almost twenty years later, I was back, no longer imprisoned by the same quest but liberated to forge my own identity as a free man. Perhaps as a result of the transformation, some people may have benefited, but I can humbly say that I am the primary beneficiary of my changed outlook.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Enjoying the process

Some exciting as well as challenging things are happening in my life, and I am anxious to see how they will eventually pan out.

But a very wise friend of mine admonished me to relax and "enjoy the process" as things unfold and reminded me of the importance of stopping and taking time to "smell the roses" along the way. My pastor once said that there is a reason why the present moment is called "present." Every moment is God's gift to be treasured and enjoyed. Oh, how I easily forget that.

As a UCLA football and basketball fan, and I try to watch every game from start to finish. During one of our usual fights for the remote control in our teenage years, my sister blurted out, "why can't you just watch the news and get the final score" to which I rolled my eyes in dismay.

It's how the game is played out, I tried to reason with her. The players involved, whether the ball is moved through the air or on the ground, the quarterback's poise and leadership under pressure, the linemen in the trenches, the intracacies of play calling by the coaches, and a host of sub-plots taking place on the field from kick off to the final whistle. Most sports fans know that the "process" involving how the drama unfolds throughout the game is why we like to watch and play sports, not just the final score. Two games with the identical score can be a world apart from each other in terms of drama and excitement.

Nobody likes to hear the conclusion of a movie or a novel without having watched or read it from the very first page, so why should life be any different? I personally cannot get enough of The Two Towers in the Lord of the Rings triology. Put a copy of it near me, and I will make a reflex lunge to it and get lost in it for the umpteenth time. Frodo's journey through the treacherous terrains of Emyn Muil. The appearance of Gallum. The fate of the Middle Earth hanging in the balance as Saruman's powerful army descends on Helm's Deep with the overwhelming show of force. The rapidly thickening plot through the many setbacks and deaths. Ah the drama! The courage from unlikely heroes. And this is the second of the triology. And it still has me riveted.

At times, I may not necessarily like the ending of a movie, but I often walk away savoring certain aspects of it such as the acting, memorable quotes, character development, poignent moments, etc. Likewise, many things in my life do not conclude in ways I like, but I am still entitled to treasure the aspects of the process and use them as sources of enrichment.

This poem sums up the perils of living in the future really well.
First I was dying to finish college and to start working.
Then I was dying to get married to have children.
And then I was dying for my children to grow up
so that I could go back to work.
And then I was dying to retire so that I might finally do
all the things I had always wanted to do.
And now I am retired and I am dying...
and suddenly I realize that I forgot to live.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

God Save the Queen

This is so kewl!

My friend Jenny Smith found out that the President of her school is the Chaplain to the Queen of England. And she knows him. She even drove him to the airport on Saturday.

What that means is that Jenny is only one degree of separation away from the Queen of England. And since I personally know Jenny, yours truly is only two degrees of separation away from the Queen.

Now how cool is that? Okay, that doesn't do me any good, but still...

Monday, April 04, 2005

Calling on my fellow bloggers

NPR is inviting ordinary citizens to submit brief essays about the "core beliefs that guide their daily lives." The website has detail instructions. The authors of selected essays will get to read theirs to the national radio audience.

There are some very talented writers in my circle of blogging friends who should really consider this opportunity. Are you listening, JRA? American Girl? Jenny? Jenn? I'm planning on it. What say you?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

One of the cutest pics ever

(click for larger)

This is my first attempt at writing a photo essay. If you are interested in really well done photo essays, go check out my blog friend named American Girl (aka photo freak).

The picture above is from dooce.com created by a Salt Lake City woman named Heather Armstrong. Her Internet notoriety as well as celebrity originate from having been fired for blogging about work a few years back. Now she publishes mostly musings about motherhood, religion, her dog, marriage, etc. She is viciously funny. She's written some of the funniest stuff I have ever read on the Internet.

Isn't that the cutest photo ever?.