Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Can't be cuter

I always believe that when there is love in people's heart, they feel the happiest and look at their best.  Just look at the five of these young folks:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dim Sum at Asian Delight

Rosy was very kind to invite Ed, Tom, Janice and me for Dim Sum at Asian Delight in Silver Spring yesterday.  She has not seen Tom, Janice, and Ed for quite a while.  It really turned out to be a Dim Sum feast for all of us, because Rosy ordered 27 items!  Retirement, vacation, traveling, hiking, grand kids, and family reunion were topics around the table.  We all can't help to feel how times have flied over the years.

Rosy and I have known each other for, good grief, 38 years! I met her at her 18th Birthday celebration.  Lydia from Midway invited the Bible Study group to Rosy birthday party, when we dropped her off at Midway after the Study. On one snowy day of that same year, Rosy and Helena knocked at the door of my apartment in Lexington, seeking help to find a place to stay when they moved from Midway to Lexington.  That started the long relationship between Rosy and me.

Florence gave me two pairs of socks with very cute cats.  To have a sister in the Lord is a blessing in my life.

Christmas eve with Joshua

It's Joshua's first Christmas eve, spent with his parents, his YeYe, his Yau Yau James, and me, the Grand Yau Yau.  He has been in a good mood all day.  He loves to be held, and walked around to look at people and things.  Elizabeth and Dan took him to the Mass later in the afternoon, and reported that Joshua has been really good and quiet.  Dan said that after the Mess, many people commented on how good and beautiful is Joshua.  The smile on Dan was delightful. The smile simply says "we know!"  Elizabeth is nursing Joshua, and would talk sweetly and humorously to him when he enjoys the "meal".  Both Elizabeth and Dan are becoming more and more "confident" with their parental roles.  I am so happy for them!

Ed played with Joshua quite a bit.  Joshua definitely liks music.  Ed was teaching him "conducting" the music.  They both enjoyed it tremendously!

James asked me if he would then be Joshua's Yau Yau.  Ed and I told him yes he definitely is Yau Yau James.  The youngest uncle to Joshua in Huang's family.  I always liked my Yau Yau title - the youngest aunt in my family.  I hope James likes his new title and would allow Joshua to call him so.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Love me, love my cat

James moved to Berkeley and we have not seen each other for quite some time.  He seems to have grown more mature.  We had a nice dinner together.  He got a kick out of the glamours pictures I took in Taipei.  Ya, those pictures that made me look 40 years younger, but only vaguely resembled me. Anyway, we had a good laugh with it.  Bowtie was happy to see James, and be stroked by him.  Bowtie really needs to lose some weight.


Today I drove Ed to Elizabeth and Dan'd place to visit.  I was able to hum a lullaby to get Joshua to sleep twice.  (He woke up after a VERY short sleep twice in a row though).  I was able to tease him to smile and even tried to talk a bit!  Wow, just 1.5 mo. old.  He is going to grow up really smart!

My First Class

Yesterday I went to the Parkville High at 2600 Putty Hill Avenue to talk to 26 of 9th graders (14 years old) on "Achievement Counts".  This is a volunteer work through McCormick.  My mission is to teach these kids about their transcripts count; setting goals; the relationship between salary and expenses (can you afford it); and Maryland Scholar. Maryland Scholar is a program that a student must have a GPA.  When a kid studies hard, and meet the criteria to become a Maryland Scholar, he or she can have a better chance with college or job applications.

I tried to engage the kids.  I guess it's always the case, you win some and lose some.  As long as that I can make a positive impact on one kid, it would be worth it!  According to the feedback, all together 22 of them, 10 marked me as "exceptional", 7 marked "good", 4 did not mark anything, and 1 marked "not helpful".  I guess I did okay.

One kid, Rachael Baxter, asked if I would remember them. Before I could answer, their teacher, Mr. Miller said that "Rachael, please don't make Ms. Huang lie".  I told Rachael that I would wish them all to be successful in life, as an older person telling the younger persons.  And I really meant it, even though I know some of them likely will not be too successful.

I also remember this young black student , Elijan Woantee, as a very nice young man.  He knows his stuff and wants to do well.  I would definitely wish Elijan be successful with his life.  I just wish that his teacher would give him more encouragement. Mr. Miller strikes me as such a frustrated middle aged man who simply lost patience with all the kids he has to deal with everyday.    Obviously he does not see teaching as a calling.  The first thing he told me when we met was "This is a rowdy class". I just did not see the kindness in him that  I had experienced with my teachers when I went to school in Taiwan.  Such a pity.

I asked to take a picture of the students.  And of course some were very happy to pose for the picture, and some were not interested at all.  That's okay.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Last Performance Appraisal

Today I handed in my last performance appraisal to my boss.  I said to him "shall we go right to the bottom line?"  (After all the rating on goals achieved, personnel's attributes, etc, there is at the bottom of our PA form, the Employee's Comment, The Manager's Comment, and the Next Level Manager's Comment.)  Before he reacted, I said that my Employee's Comment is that "I am grateful for McCormick & Company, Inc. and its people."  I skipped the whole part with rating numbers and stuff.  He looked at them briefly, and said he agrees with what I put down.  He said that he appreciated that I took upon other projects (meaning my help with Lyny's projects.) He said that he would have more to say at my retirement tea. .....about the legacy I built in China......  I said to him " Just don't embarrass me, or make me cry."  We were amiable. It was an amiable exchange.   And then it was all over, a five minutes event.  I would expect nothing else.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Most precious the affection from a child

Meghan was performing as a mouse in the community play of Nutcracker ballet during the weekend of Dec. 4 . Her first public performance.  I enjoyed the show and of course most of all the excitement of the big event.  Elizabeth brought Matthew to join Tom, Janice, Alexander, Margaret,  me, and the big Meghan to see the show.  It was Matthew's first too.  David is still too small and was staying home with his Grandpa Joe.

When a child smile at you from its heart, be grateful for the moment and the opportunity to build a special bond.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fiscal Responsibility

My secretary Anita thinks that I am an utterly control freak when it comes to fiscal responsibility of retirement.  I used almost every free calculator available on InterNet to estimate if I have enough net worth to sustain myself by retiring next year.  I used calculators to do a budget on my projected monthly cash flow.  I planned out for the next five years how to allocate money to the three buckets:  (1) ready cash and laddered CD, (2) funds for year 5-10 (value stocks, laddered bonds, etc.), and (3) funds for after year 10 through 30.  I also estimated the risk of longevity (use calculators to project when will I die:  it turned out I will live to between 83 - 93.  I guess I did everything I could think of so far trying to be responsible.  Then I am going to leave it to God for the rest of my life.

Now I need to stick to my cash flow budget, and see if the projections and my plan works out well!  Other than that, I just have to be thankful and enjoy life.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Trip to Hokkido, Japan - Day 1

I joined a tour to Hokkido led by Rita and Paul during Oct 14 - 22, 2010.  I have rather mixed feeling about the trip, mixed with pain and pleasure. But such is life, never a perfect time 100% of the time. It took me a while before I feel like make a record of the trip.

We arrived Sapporo (a word derived from the Ainu - the indigenous residence of Hokkido meaning "a river running along a reed-filled plain") the evening of Oct 15 via connection in Narita Airport in Tokyo.  Following is a picture of the hotel we stayed.

Early the following morning, Joan and I took a walk near the hotel.  I was intrigued to find a graffiti at the lower level by the river.

Otaru is a city and port northwest of Sapporo.  (within 25 minutes of drive).  It has some shopping malls along the canal that were converted from originally stone or brick built warehouses.  An old time charm is provided by the gas lamps along the canal.

Otaru is famed by its glass works and music boxes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Life Long Learning (LLL)

I have been checking out on various live long learning opportunities that I might engage myself in after my retirement.  Shu-Jen was in Oxford in October, visiting with her husband Simon, was kind enough to obtain a copy of the brochure from Oxford's Internal Study Center. They have a very  attractive summer program.  One can live in the dorm of Oxford with meals included. One goes to classes, and all sorts of programs sponsored by the Center/University.  One can simply soak oneself in the atmosphere of that great teaching institute, and all!  But it certainly is not cheap.  5200 pounds not including air fare and spending money for 4 weeks.  I have to get myself ready (like reading up on a lot more books, etc.) before I can consider going and be able to get the most from the program.  Perhaps this can help motivate me in designing some more specific activities in 2011 in preparation for a possible trip in 2012.

Another interesting program is the Renaissance Institute at the College of Notre Dame in Maryland, which features a pear governed LLL. All members are 55 years old and up.  The annual membership is $385 which is more affordable, and the campus is just on Charles Street, Baltimore.  I can follow-up on this program and plan possibly join them in  the Fall semester, 2011.

Johns Hopkins and Towson University also have LLL programs:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two Paths of Destiny

I was able to visit Teacher Yen, my class (who taught us Math) teacher, Ms. Yen, when I was in Taiwan on Oct 31.  Teacher Yen, who with her younger sister and Mom moved to Taiwan in 1949, while her Father, and her second elder Brother stayed in Mainland.  Her Father instructed a student of his to take the three women to Taiwan for safety.  Her eldest Brother was a student in UK at the time, who actually was mad at Teacher Yen, because he thought she was the one wanted to go to Taiwan.  The three women were cut off from the rest of the family when Communists completely took over Mainland.  Teacher Yen held up the responsibility to find a job, and supported the Mother and the younger sister.  She had a very good teaching career at the First Taipei Girl's High School.  Her eldest Brother at 1950 tried to go back home, and was captured as soon as he arrived Hong Kong, as he was considered high value intellectual (he went abroad for education under the government, although it was the Kuo Ming Dong who awarded him the fund).  During the Culture Revolution, both of her Brothers tried to commit suicide as they could not stand the torture (being beaten and sent to far away farms).  Her second Brother died (he hang himself), but her eldest Brother survived as he could not kick off the Bang Dang underneath him.  After China removed the iron curtain, she was able to see her eldest Brother again, who had once scolded her for wanting to go to Taiwan.

Teacher Yen says that she was never afraid.  not when she was going to Taipei alone to look for a job, not when her husband died of cancer, not now in her 80's.  I guess she is a real tough lady.  BiFang is the classmate who works as a Pathologist in Taipei, a real smart, hard-working and kind lady.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Passionate about okra

I have been eating okra for a few weeks now, using the special way of preparing the drinks before three meals every day.  It has helped keeping my blood sugar level at bay.  I have not seen the effect of weight loss yet, but am remaining hopeful.  So okra drink has become a routine in my life now.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Devils's Postpile and Mono Lake

During Sep. 3 - 8,  I went to SFO for a reunion of my high school.  After the big reunion dinner on Sunday evening (about 170 people), one bus load of classmates went on a trip to Yosemite.  This is the third time I visited the Park.  However, this is the first time I visited the Devel's Postpile and Mono Lake, and was quite impressed by them.  Mono Lake is located to the immediate East of Yosemite, and is the westernmost basin of the Basin and Range province, which stretches across western North America between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada.  Mono Lake is a vast inland sea nestled at the feet of 13,000ft peaks of the Sierra Nevada Range to the west, the ancient volcanic Bodie Hills to the North, rolling oceans of sagebrush to the east and the towering cones of the Young Mono Creaters to the South.  The Native Americans who lived in the Mono Basin collected the abundant alkaline fly pupae and used them as one of their main food sources.  These Indians were called Monache ("fly-eaters").  Monoche was shortened to "Mono" and applied to the region and the people living there by early explorers in the 1850.

Devil's Postpiles are columnar basalt, formed by basalt lava from volcanic erupts, vents and cools.  The lava shrinks and then cracks and sometimes form vertical  columns. When homogeneous lava cooled at a uniform rate, it created well-developed columns like those at Devel's Postpile .

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mushrooms, mushrooms, on the hiking trails

Joan and I met at Trader Joe's parking lot at 8:00 AM this morning.  Then we car pooled to the Hilltop parking spot where we would meet up with Rosy and Florence at 8:30 to start our morning hike at the Patapsco Valley State Park again.  We started from the Barzard Rock, connected a bit on the Sawmill Branch, cross over the creek to the Charcoal Trail, and found where there are cabins and campers..  From Charcoal trail, we went down the Glen Fire trail, which linked us back to the Tunnel, and looped unto the Barzard Rock trail back to our cars.  It was on the Charcoal and the Glen Fire trails that we saw a lot of mushrooms.  Some were quite colorful.  And we were delighted!

Those vulnerable emotions

I did not feel loved by my parents when I was growing up.  There was too much confusion, anger, and sadness for my young and tender heart to handle well.  I was, however, convinced later that my Father did love me very much.  The conviction came rather late in my life, after he had passed away, and after I had a better understanding of myself, life, love, and loss.  And then I learned that when at the end of the day, driving home from work on a summer day, I would come to tears looking at the beautiful blue sky, and think of the people that had loved me and the life that was once shared.  It has been almost close to 20 years.  But the blue sky on a summer day still could break my heart.