Small Moments

July 21, 2013

Much of my life has always been about the big goals. The awards. The degrees. The next step for the next thing for the next line to feed my growing resume. There’s a lot to say about the expectations that comes with being at the bottom end of an upside down tree. Raised to follow the legacy of a family where the adults outnumber the children 3 to one, if not 6 to one. Maybe someday I will talk about that instead.

The problem with a life that revolves around the big goals is that it produces mostly big memories. Ones that I, to be honest, don’t care all that much about. It isn’t to say that I’m not proud. They’re just not the memories I reminisce.

When was the last time we talked about how we walked across the stage and got that important piece of paper? More likely it was about how that whitewater raft almost tipped. Or when we drank a little too much wine on that bus.

It wouldn’t be a problem, if making memories wasn’t such a numbers game. You spend your time making a couple big ones. Or you spend it making a lot of little ones. And most days I feel like I have invested poorly.

One day. If I am lucky. I will be old and no longer functional. An old man sitting in an old chair thinking about old times. And, again if I am lucky, I will have the privilege of remembering what I’ve done and accomplished.

I wonder. When that time comes. Will I be thinking about the papers I’ve published and the recognition I’ve earned? Or will it just be strings after strings of pointless, useless, small moments that have come to define who I am?



November 1, 2010

Over the weekend I found out that one of my friends had cancer and had to have surgery. Last month I found out a friend from high school has been fighting leukemia for the past 2 years. I have two friends who were married and divorced. I have friends who were diagnosed with high cholesterol, eating disorders, you name it. It’s a sad realization to know that I’m hitting the age where those statistics you hear on TV, or at charity fundraisers are becoming a reality.

Back when I was younger, the statistics were simple: “98 out of 100 people you know are healthy as a horse.” I never did understand that saying though. Horses don’t get sick?

Now it’s more like 75 out of 100, in 10 years it’ll be less, and in another 10 years not only will it be less, but the statistics will be more grim. It won’t be about failed marriages or too much red meat. It might not even be about fighting cancer. It’ll be things like “One in 6 people by heart attacks” or  “One in 10 from a stroke.”

I don’t think about death too often. It’s just not a pleasant thing to think about. It’s not that I’m afraid of dying. I mean what is there to be scared of? I don’t believe in a hell. How can there be eternal torment if you are already dead? Pain and agony is kind of meaningless if there’s nothing to back it up. You’ll just get used to it. And if it’s just total oblivion afterwards, then… oh well? Can’t really complain about nothingness.

No.. what scares me about death isn’t that it’s going to happen to me, but rather that it’s going to happen to the people around me. That at a snap of a finger, the people I care the most about and mean the world to me can just be gone.  To me that finality, that end of opportunity, is more frightening than the most gruesome of hells.

I don’t like the idea of people around me becoming statistics. Points and percentages next to some 1-800 number on the TV screen, or on some stupid slideshow during a fancy dinner. When I was younger, I wanted to be a superhero so I can save the world. These days the only people I want to save are the ones I love and care about, and the only statistic I want them to be is the portion of the population that lived a long, long fruitful life without any regrets. Other people can go fill in the rest.

You know… I’ve become quite the selfish bastard over the years.


August 23, 2010

So I got contacts a couple weeks ago. They were suppose to to be year long contacts, but then I lost the left one after half a week. So now the eye doctor gave me some monthly ones to try out(which I find more comfortable).  The first day was awful though, because I couldn’t figure out how to take them out. I think it took almost 3 hours.

Putting them in and taking them out is a lot easier now, but I still can’t wear them for more than 10-12 hours before it starts annoying me. Also, text doesn’t seem to be as clear, which is annoying when I have to work in front of the computer all day. All in all though, I really like them. I didn’t realize how much the little bar from my glasses annoyed me until it wasn’t there anymore. It’s also nice having peripheral vision in case I need to run from large predators.

Health, April 2010

April 22, 2010

Some time a little while back, I realized that I’m only kind of still young. I can still get away with a lot of things, but in general I need to start paying attention to my lifestyle. Gone are the days where I can eat whatever I want and burn it all off by the time I get to bed, or where I can randomly decide I want to run two miles after three months of not exercising and not even have to worry about stretching. Most things I do nowadays will come back to hunt me in the future, be it being super sore the next day, or heart disease in 10-20 years.

With that in mind, I decided that I should probably start making changes. The problem of course is that, as most people who know me will testify, I am very much a creature of habit. It takes me quite a while to adjust to large sweeping changes. This is especially true if there is nothing motivating me outside of myself. In those cases, I just start regressing back to old habits. So to make changes in my life, I have do it slow. Small things, bit by bit, that eventually becomes habits themselves. Being habitual isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you have good habits.

So here we have the things I’ve changed in the last half a year or so that I’m a little bit proud of:

Flossing – Good for your teeth and gums! It actually feels weird to not floss at night now, like it feels weird to not brush my teeth.

Eating Better – Well, honestly I still eat plenty of crap, but I think now I’m more conscientious about it. I try to eat a salad for at least one or two meals a week. I add more vegetables into the stuff I’m cooking, and just cook more things myself in general. I eat significantly less bad fast and easy stuff, like fast food(maybe once every two month) and ramen. Unfortunately, I still have a huge weakness when the food is free. Like for example, yesterday one of my labmates left a TON of cake and cookies in the lab that were leftover from his thesis defense(and the party afterwards). So I’ve been munching on that all day.

High Fructose Corn Syrup – I’ve decided that I want to cut this stuff out of my life entirely. It is honestly one of worst food substance I can think of. It’s been strongly linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even memory loss. What’s worst is that it’s in just about everything. I was drinking a cup of Amazon ice tea the other day and guess what was the second ingredient? Overall this meant I’ve cut down quite a bit on sweet stuff, particularly soda. The only time I’ve drunk soda with corn syrup in the past 3 months is when I was at Dans, and mostly because it looked like he was going to toss it out (Cursed free food!). If I really feel like having a sweet drink, then I’ll buy a smoothie, or a vitamin water, or high quality soda, like Jones Soda which is made from cane sugar(and even then very rarely).

Stairs – I never feel like I get enough exercise. This is especially true in the winter when I can’t run outside. So a lot of the time, the only excersie I’d get would be the 20 minutes(40 both ways) walk to and from my lab. So to help remedy this, I’ve started taking the stairs for just about everything. This might not seem like a big deal(and I guess it really isn’t), but I live on the 9th floor. So it usually ends up being a decent workout, hauling 50+ pounds of groceries up the stairwell every week, especially after walking it half a mile from the store.

Overall, there are still plenty of things I’m not happy about. At the top of the list is probably that I eat too much sugar, which makes me worried about getting diabetes. But in general I like the direction I’m going. If I can remember, I’ll try and write another update in half a year or so and see if I’ve progressed any.

Lock Jaw

April 1, 2010

For the past few day my right jaw has been really hurting. It’s not a sharp pain like a tooth ache, but more like a sore muscle where it restricts movement and hurts if I try to open my mouth too wide.

It took me a while to figure out what caused it. I didn’t hit into anything, and I don’t think I slept on it funny, so for a little while there I thought maybe I had tetanus. Although that’s not entirely out of the question, I think it’s too localized for that (also I don’t play around with rusty nails… and I should technically be immune).  Anyways, I think what caused it is that I’ve just been too stressed out for the passed 3 weeks. I never noticed it before, but I clench my jaws really tight whenever I’m focusing really hard. It’s never really been a problem, but now my jaw hurts everytime I have to concentrate on something. In fact, during the writing of this post, I’ve had to stop in mid sentence 3 times to relax my jaws.

Oh, another side affect, since the right side of my mouth is more tense than the left, sometimes it makes me sound like I have a speech impediment. Fantastic.

Busy Busy

November 21, 2009

Whew.. what a busy month, two conference papers deadlines a week after each other, an exam, and all sorts of random stuff. I have to make 3 trips down to the NIH in the coming weeks and that’s not really fun, since I have to take the bus to the train station, then the train down to DC, then metro from DC up to NIH in Bethesda. It ends up being 2-2.5 hours each way.

Also, I’m so behind on sleep. Last Thursday I forgot to set my alarm, and work up at 5:30 in the afternoon. At first I thought I had woke up at 5:30 in the morning, because it was already dark outside, but then I realized I was way too hungry for it to be the morning.

Anyways, interesting things in life: It looks like I’ll be getting a small raise because of the fellowship I’m doing with the NIH. Probably still not enough to get a car, but I should have some spending money. Next weekend I’m going down with Dan and Duffy to NYC which should be fun. Mmm…. the new horrible for my health food is these Domino’s Pasta Bowls, which has replaced pizza as my order out food.  Not much outside of that… okay bye!


Home Improvement

September 12, 2009

These days I seem to be all about self improvement. I don’t know why, but I constantly feel like I should be doing something better. Maybe I just have too much free time without the internet at home, or maybe it’s some primal instinct to raise my self worth, like a magpie enriching his nest with an assortment of shiny objects.

Regardless the reason, the big problem with the whole ordeal is that I have absolutely no resolve to keep anything going longer than I feel like it. I.E. the minute I lose interest, whatever it is I was doing will be dropped and something new will fill its place. As a result, I end up cycling through a number of activities, keeping none longer than a month or two.

From what I can tell, these activities can be generalized into three main groups: Fitness(various exercises) , Arts(reading, sketching, piano), and Health(food, hygiene, sleep schedule).

For the past few weeks, I’ve been stuck in the last category. As a result, I’ve been trying to eat salads more regularly, and lay off the fried/junk food. I also started using mouthwash at night. I don’t know what they put in that stuff, but I honestly can’t taste anything for half a day afterwards(including breakfast the next morning).

Thinking about it, I really should be able to improve all three categories above simultaneously, but whenever I try, I just end up dropping all three. I guess being able to do one is better than none. My hope is that as time goes on, I’ll just slowly incorporate each into my permanent lifestyle. Or maybe I’ll just go back to playing video games and eating potato chips all day.

We’ll see I guess.


August 4, 2009

The deed is done: my hair is shortened.

The result?

Well… at the time I thought I showed the lady this picture.

But thinking back, I must have shown her this one by accident.

Because that’s how it turned out.

What’s in a Name?

July 31, 2009

I’ve noticed lately that I have a very poor name to be into academics. There are literally a bijillion professors out there with the exact same name, scattered in every possible field.  In addition, “Min” is shorthand for the common math function: Minimum. This means that if someone was trying to do a literature search on my work, not only would they have to trudge through countless papers that are entirely unrelated to my field, but they would also get millions of hits for prominent math papers not even written by a Chen.

The pros? I can use it for all sorts of great puns!

I’ve been considering getting rid of the long hair.  I want to bring it down to something short to medium length. Short enough that it’s not everywhere, but longer than the standard asian cut I’ve sported most of my life.

The problem is that looking for a haircut online is like trying to buy a used car. You have no real idea of how good it’s going to be until it’s actually yours. The only difference is that there’s no lemon rule.

Also, I’d perfer something that’s pretty low maintence, and most stuff out there take like half a bucket of gel to pull off.

At the moment the top contenders are:


If you see one you think would look good, feel free to take a picture and send it this way.