I spent most of the day reading up on Albert Einstein and his relationship with Mileva Maric and Elsa Lowenthal. Some pretty interesting observations, although by no means do these explain anything. Albert and his girlfriend Mileva got pregnant shortly after Albert graduated from university, but this baby disappeared when Albert was 23 years old and his girlfriend Mileva was 27. They didn’t get married (in January of 1903) for at least a year after the disappearance of their daughter, who is said to either have been given up for adoption or died in infancy, although neither spoke of the situation. Mileva ended up having the baby by herself at her parent’s house in Novi Sad, Serbia (where she was[…]

doing some research on the Paektu Volcano in China/North Korea —   Known as Changbaishan 长白山, a famous tourist location in Jilin province – very famous in both Chinese and Korean history, literature, and the mythology 150 kilometers from the volcano to my wife’s hometown (Qidaogou 七道沟) Known as the birthplace of the dude who founded the Korean Empire, Dangun, as well as the birthplace of the progenitor of the clan which eventually conquered China and created the Qing dynasty, Bukuri Yongson (of the Aisin Gioro people) In the caldera of the explosion created in 945 A.D. is a lake called “Heaven’s Lake” Interestingly, the first major Korean kingdom known as the Goguryeo (from where we get the name Korea)[…]

First, a true story. Before my trip in 2003, I perused the local library for any information on China, and all I could find were pictures of men and women dressed in blue uniforms, riding bikes from a book published in the mid 1980s. China wasn’t in the news, wasn’t a rising power, but most importantly to me was different, a literal Wild West for a native Californian who had grown up in the Silicon Valley during the 80s. In many ways, my experience mirrored Anna Leonowen’s experience in Thailand during the 1860s (she also thought her employment in Siam would be a romantic excursion), and continues to mirror the experiences of expatriates working in China even today. I would[…]

I come from a long line of uncommon teachers. An uncommon teacher is one who teaches or trains in the duties of an everyday work life, rather than in a classroom. My father was a videographer who far preferred explaining the intricate guts or the laborious editing process than the actual job of shooting a wedding or editing the event afterward. In his spare time, he would elaborate on the way a car engine was put together, why the clouds were cumulus before a storm, or the exact process of how to perfectly cook a soft boiled egg. My mother was celebrated as an encourager, a trainer, and a mentor. She relished in the act of taking a neophyte through[…]

Standing in front of a crowd of around 600 students seated in an auditorium, I held up my hand to silence them. In the quiet atmosphere of nervous silence, one of the girls sitting in the front row looked at the test and began to explain (in a rather loud voice) her displeasure at the nature of the test, speaking in a loud voice and prompting students behind her to peer over their desks like curious cranes at the little squawking bird flapping her wings. In all my years of teaching, that girl wasn’t the last outburst during a test I encountered – but never had I witnessed such an emotional reaction to an exam. Little did I know how[…]

My first “real” teaching experience was standing in front of a crowd of four year-old children, holding up cards of colors and numbers, and then dancing until my audience was giggling so hard that they forgot they were speaking a foreign language. While not all teachers may have had origin stories as kindergarten teachers, my journey into the teaching profession began quite unexpectedly. What you realize (even as a kindergarten teacher) is that teaching begins with relationship and only after a relationship has been established can learning take place. When the eyes of the teacher lock with the child and there is a spark of trust – then, only then – can learning begin. As children grow older into adults,[…]

yi2 da4 dui1         我有一大堆问题 (因为我的问题太多了),因为我住在中国          他讲了一大堆 nian2nian2de         夏天太热了,我的身上粘粘的 (因为我出了很多汗)         年糕(nian2gao1=rice cakes)吃起来粘粘的,很好吃         我有一大对吃起来粘粘的年糕         一个星期没打扫(da3sao3=clean),我的地板(di4ban3=floor)粘粘的 qian1ming2         你需要我的签名吗?         请在这签名吧         (不能说”签名”你的名字)         树(shu1=book)上有我的签名         填表(tian2biao3=fill the form, biao3=form)的时候需要签名 ca1diao4 (mo3diao4=wipe away [abstract form])         请你把墙(qiang2=wall)上的脏(zang1=dirty)东西擦掉         把你的签名擦掉         把这个粘粘的东西擦掉/擦掉这个粘粘的东西         我要把我的记忆(ji4yi4=memories)抹掉 dian4zi3         中国的电子业(ye4=industry)正在进步(jin4bu4=progress)中         在考试中,学生不能用电子词典(ci2dian3=dictionary)         时代广场卖很多电子产品(chan3pin3=products, shang1pin3=commodities, 商品) gan1ga4         他问我一个很尴尬的问题 (问我是不是一个星期没换(huan4=change)衣服(yi1fu)了)        […]

The first time I heard the word career was in a high school business class. “You want to make sure you choose the right career, something you are really passionate in,” she said. “If you choose the wrong career, you may later come to regret that decision.” At the time I was sixteen years old. For years, I had been traveling with my parents to Amway conventions; most of these adventures I spent a majority of my time in the hotel room watching movies, swimming in the pool, or exploring the hotel for any secrets it might hold, but in recent years I had begun to attend the actual seminars, and when I turned 16 I bought my first IBO[…]

Depending only on our assumptions to understand a culture is dangerous. Trompenaar and Hampden-Turner (1996) state that the only way to manage cultural change is to use stories to rewrite our assumptions about implicit culture. In this short essay I am going to talk about assumptions I had about Chinese culture (based on my initial reactions to experiences I had), and then relate several stories that changed my mind, and through these experiences explain some of the key differences between an American upbringing and Chinese culture. “The Funeral” When I first came to China, I had an opportunity to attend a funeral in the mountainside. Even though this was a funeral, I was curious to know how funerals among Chinese[…]

Society is fundamentally ruled by the powerful, who maintain their power by offering others security. The powerful offer physical security, personal security, familial security, and quite often moral security that is based out of how that particular powerful group views the family and how they view the interplay between different members of the community. Opposing this “security” is more often viewed as a threat to the whole and put down immediately. The Pope was a shining example of how a leader could offer both moral authority and security, while at the same time stand out as a monstrous vehicle of power and dictatorship, “the leader of the world.” However, the United States was one of the first forces to truly[…]

There are certain moments of sublime clarity I remember from my childhood. Sitting at home at the dinner table, the wax from two red candles burning between a baked turkey and a Chinese rice dish, and the prayers of my mother before the meal asking that God would watch over not only my brother and I during the school vacation, but also the Chinese family that lived with us as they were adapting to life in the United States. I remember visiting my friend from Iran and eating dinner with his family, studying the golden-framed paintings all over the house and trying to understand why a family would place so many sculptures in so many places. I remember a missionary[…]

I am attempting… to re-construct several of my stories into the world they were meant to be. The process has been a longtime coming, and I am not sure if/when the completed project will be finished, but I have started on the basic skeleton. If I can find enough threads in the stories so far I may add to it, but I will also need to do some rethinking and rewriting. All just takes time. Twine is a new program that is used to create hypertext stories, although I believe the more important value may be in constructing hypertext novels. Most hypertext stories are very short, taking the reader through short moments and highly programmed. The hypertext novel is just[…]

Memories of Old Beijing: the swirling, stone fairytale bridges of Beihai, crossing over crystal clear lagoons of budding flowers and jeweled rocks. People pace on the hillside, reading from the classics, while children run and hide in the caves beneath, playing hide and seek from their shadows. A long corridor of brightly painted wood shadows them as the readers descend from the hill, where they sit and watch the small waves curling in the vast lake beyond, little boats dotting the water like intrepid explorers. This is Beihai, the treasure land of Beijing. I am walking up the hill, toward the towering and bulbous White Dagoba, the crown of a four hundred year old temple that was built from the[…]

“How much farther?” she asks me, her breath already starting to sound heavy. The air is thinner up here, and the cars less. A few pedestrians pace on the sidewalk, while a gentle evening breeze comes on, racing through the shadows of skyscrapers. “I can see it, up there,” or at least I think I see the building. In truth, there are so many trees and buildings blocking the view, it’s hard to tell if the building up ahead is actually the tram center for Victoria Peak. We decided to take the Mid-Levels tour, a staggering 800 meter-long escalator that runs up the belly of Victoria Peak from the sea. It was mostly because last time we were in Hong[…]

I stepped through the portal and felt an ethereal sense wash over me, as if I had donned a new skin and personality. There were dragons playing among waterfalls and sharp crags before me, and I could hear the sound of battle-axes and war cries from the distance. A faint green hue flooded the room, giving the walls an ancient, decrepit look. Painted onto the walls was an elaborate mural showcasing a great war between men, beasts, and even fouler things, with magical energies swirling about their strange horned mounts and a sky torn open by a rift. Before I could take another step into the maelstrom, however, a waitress cheerfully greeted me and asked me how many to seat.[…]

Lecture Goal: Give a broad view of contemporary American fantasy literature and where the ideas came from   1. Sword and sorcery in the 30s-60s, based on Weird Tales and Lord of the Rings Weird Tales in the 1920s, born from Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft (Cthulhu) Fantasy, horror, myth, and swordplay – Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard Fritz Leiber, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and the idea of true adventure, from Conan   2. Heroic fantasy and dark magic in the 70s, 80s and 90s, based on Dungeons and Dragons (1975) Michael Moorcock, Elric of Melnibone, combination of heroic myth and popular fantasy Roger Zelazny, the Chronicles of Amber, and castles, dungeons, monsters and sorcerors Tanith Lee,[…]

I admire Lu Xun. Not for his timidness, which he was not; not for his resolve, which faltered often; not for his calculating mind, which carried the burdens of a man blinded with inhibited sorrow; and not for his kindness, which crossed blades with his cruelty so often he might have been his own doppelganger; rather, I admire his perspicacity with words, his transparency of soul, and his exuberant passion in the movement of ideas through the vehicles of people and systems. Once a teacher myself at Peking University, Lu Xun exhibits ideals I wish I had but also showcases the dangers of adorning the armor of a hundred ideals, each engaged in civil strife. “The present passes step by[…]

The filmy dust of the new year floats, no, hovers over the edge of the earth. Coming back to familiar territory, I hit a sudden realization that Brazil has finally arrived. The paint on buildings is flaking off like waves dried against a tombstone, and my breath is heavy with the weight of fallen dreams. But unlike those visions of the future, something is amiss. In the corners of this world, where shadows meet light, there is laughter and joy. The scent of boiled pork and herbs, the feeling of fresh steam escaping like clouds into the sky, and the light inside people’s hearts shining through the gloom – these are differing alignments, hopeful buds on trees that are only[…]

Whisperings under lantern.   A god goads me from the wall, and around him pumpkins dance. Red apples shine from the slick wipe of a dishrag, stacked in symmetrical circles over a plate of ivory memories. Children are fleshed out in our words, giving life to space which would otherwise remain motionless.  The patterns of letters and sounds coalesce into models of tranquility and chaos, transfixed with a key centrality which I have yet come to understand fully.

A curious thing, setting aside various inhibitions, is to stare outside the window while staring at your feet at the same time. You get a unique understanding of where you actually are. The clouds overhead become like whitewash, filling the skies with a dull sense of being *someplace* familiar yet set apart. The birds twittering tells you the morning has come, but don’t birds also sing in the evening? My horizon is a green burough of leaves, cement pathways, and red brick memories clustering together in a menagerie of voices and images hard to forget.

In reviewing the New York Times “Notable Books of 2011” I started compiling what I hope to be a different kind of categorization of fiction and nonfiction. As a writing teacher, I find it imperative to teach how good writing can flow from the classroom into society, and so in this categorization I am looking towards a fundamental understanding beyond already established genre classifications. While working at Barnes & Noble in the late 90s, I learned that classifications of books had become so ridiculous that fiction even had labels like “aviation fiction” and varying degrees of romantic fiction which I do not want to post here; nevertheless, as a teacher I find it impossible to teach good, solid forms with[…]