Kevin’s First Annual Newsletter

I started this blog 6 1/2 years ago on a whim to keep everyone aware of what’s been happening in my life. It’s taken some odd turns here and there, including fiction, papers for class, food, tutorials, and more, but my life has been the core of it, with different facets of it coming into view at different times. I slowly transitioned from broad summaries to specific observations in my life, and although it makes blogging more engaging for me, it also leaves a disjointed trail for you to follow. And now that I’m at the point where my friends and family have dispersed, it seems more relevant now to pick that back up.

My mom still mails out a Christmas newsletter to family friends, but since it appears that snail mail is dead and no one reads their email, this blog seems like the right venue for that. The fact that it’s publicly viewable doesn’t bother me too much: my rule of thumb is that I’m willing to write about anything I would tell someone sitting next to me on an airplane. Most of the important facts are also available via any number of social networking sites as well. So, here’s the rundown.

I ended up graduating with my degree in Symbolic Systems this past June, right on schedule. My concentration was in “learning,” which was just a convenient way for me to fit the classes that I wanted to take. In reality, my studies were more directed towards computational models of cognition. Think of it as the flip side of artificial intelligence: instead of trying to make computers intelligent for its own purposes, I looked at how we could use the same technology to better understand how people think. I applied to PhD programs in psychology hoping to continue that type of work. That isn’t what I’m doing now, and I often skim over that fact by saying that I decided not to do that. The more complete truth is that I didn’t get accepted to anywhere that I applied to, so there wasn’t much of a choice. Instead, I decided to finish up a master’s in Computer Science at Stanford as part of a 5-year program that I was already accepted to.

Instead, I’ll be working at Zanbato, a startup in Mountain View that I co-founded, as a software engineer and have been working at part-time during school. Currently, I’ll be finishing up my degree at the end of March and going full-time after that. The basic pitch is that we’re building a marketplace for infrastructure investments. Infrastructure, such as bridges, powerplants, and schools, has a pretty fragmented market, and given how much interest there is from both sellers and investors, it’s a shame that it isn’t easier to work in this space. If you’re interested, check out the 5 minute video at sokoni.com on what we’re doing for Africa. Although it’s not quite what I envisioned myself doing a year ago, I legitimately think that this is the most important thing I could be doing right now and can change the world with it.

As such, I’m planning on staying out in the Bay Area for awhile. Meanwhile, my parents ended up never moving to Boston and will now be staying in Houston for the foreseeable future. The house is a little more empty, and all of my possessions are in (many, heavy) boxes, but it’s still good to see everyone around here.

StackMap, the other startup I’m a part of, is going well. We hired a CEO and have been picking up clients and making improvements. You can see it live at appstate and Stanford, where it’s hopefully making students’ lives much easier. It’s been around for 3 1/2 years now, but I think we’re just starting to make things happen with it. Given how many student startups fail, I’m proud to see us endure through all of that and still offer a valuable product on the far end.

Cooking continues as you’ve likely seen between my blogs. The biggest change happened this summer when I tried the mostly-vegetarian thing, which Julie, as my co-chef, also endured. She actually puts my attitude best in that I don’t cook meat for myself. I’ll happily eat meat when I go out to eat but have switched to meatless sandwiches and various alternatives for dinner. Future goals for cooking might show up in my new year hopes.

I played quite a bit of sand volleyball during my senior year, taking it 2 out of the 3 quarters. I haven’t played much since, but I have been playing racquetball regularly. Although we aren’t going to the national championship, I spend another season obsessed with Stanford football. Throw in a bit of Starcraft and ton of awesome potlucks, and that’s pretty much what my life is like.

Getting Past Plans

After playing racquetball and eating dinner with Ben last week, I found myself with nothing to do for the evening. I pulled up my Stickies on my computer, but my green to-do sticky note was empty. My eyes drifted over to my procrastination list, and after rejecting any intensive reading, I decided to play “No One Lives Forever,” a PC shooter themed after a goofy, James Bond-style spy flick. I rebooted my computer into Windows and settled in for an evening of video games.

Playing it didn’t go so well. It’s a well-designed funny game, but I didn’t find myself enjoying it, and after a few minutes, I just quit the game and tried to figure out what else I wanted to do. I visualized my procrastination list and went through the items. Again rejecting all of the reading, I decided to instead chip away at a very long “Movies To Watch” list. I moved the coffee table in my living room out of the way and dragged the couch to 5 feet in front of the TV for Julie & Julia, the Nora Ephron dramedy. In my defense, I mostly wanted to watch the movie because it was about food.

I admit, however, that I enjoyed it far more than I would have just for the food. The acting was good, there were some laugh out loud moments, and I was engaged by Julie Powell’s plan to cook the 500-something recipes from Julia Childs’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year and blog about it. With a cooking blog myself (that I’m not ashamed to plug), I imagined how much fun it would be to have a project like that. Thinking through the whole year, though, I could never do that myself. Julie couldn’t have had time for anything other than her day job and this cooking project; what about the rest of her passions in life?

Julie had a single-mindedness that I have had a lot of difficulty finding. I fill my life with plans, like an activity tonight, dinner tomorrow night, a weekend trip a week from now, my class schedule a month from now, my living situation a year from now, and my life goals a decade from now. And my procrastination list fills the time in-between all of those events. Apparently, I even plan for when I don’t have plans.

The lists and planning are good, until they become the goals themselves. Lists can conveniently list things to get done, but in the end, the list is just the representation of the goal. I think there’s a small satisfaction in crossing off an item from a list, but that’s peripheral to the reason why it was on the list in the first place. For example, about 3 weeks from the end of the school year, I wrote down every academic commitment I had left. I was excited every time I could scratch off a line, and I even liked throwing the entire list in the trash. All of that, however, was a slow march towards graduation, another step to the big payoff.

Reviewing my procrastination list and how I treat it, I think I might be using it the wrong way. Once, the list was a memory aid for things I might enjoy, but when my focus turns to the list itself, I end up playing video games not for the fun they actually are, but for the goal of deleting that line out of my Stickie. If I finish that item, and the next item, and the next item, all the way to the end in the same fashion, I might successfully complete my procrastination list at some point, but I would have also missed the reason it exists a long time before.

So I have tossed a few lists, like my reading and video game lists, and trimmed a few, like my procrastination list and movie list. My friend RJ mentioned the other day that he had finished watching a TV show and was wondering what might be up next. If he can get by without a backlog, I think I’ll manage with only 3 TV shows to finish. I still need to offload some of my memory into a usable form.

In trimming these lists and plans for my life, I still don’t think I’ll find the same single-mindedness that Julie did in cooking through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I’m a step closer to relieving myself of the items on the backburners and throwing myself wholeheartedly into a yearlong project on a whim. On some level, even those 500-something recipes for her were put together as a plan in a list. I’m sure she had her share of breakdowns and moments of disillusionment, but I guess those are the moments to see through the plan for the goal behind it and figure out why the plan existed all along.

 

(Author’s Note: this post is a sliver of some bigger things I’ve been thinking about recently, and for awhile, this post was going to turn far more intense than either I’m comfortable with or what you likely care about. Even so, here are a few nuggets and insights into my writing process that didn’t make it into the final cut)

In some ways, plans are just like lists, too. I enjoy planning events and figuring out details. I also have panicked and fretted when plans don’t pan out, but often, things turn out fine anyways, and the only problem was worrying about the plan.

I should appreciate the fact that I have the capacity to be juggling the various things I’m doing at all times, but this mindset also means that I’m always juggling things. Since the end of my freshmen year, I have had no fewer than 2 jobs at any time and have been averaging more than that. I always think that things are going to get better soon, but because I believe that, I jump at the opportunity to be doing more, and things stay just about the same.

  • I have my life in plans and lists
  • I’m willing to finish things
  • always have a backburner
  • need to do less to do more
  • get by without it all

Getting a Handle on Things

Some people have really good internet handles. Day[9]. Moot. The Numa Numa Guy. lonelygirl15. Birth names really don’t matter so much as the handle assumes most of the identity. Given that the tubes look like they’ll hold up for awhile yet, I have been wondering whether I should try to switch over to using a new handle.

So far, I have stayed true to using the same ones forever. My first AIM screen name was warstrekkid, and it’s stuck. Although multiple, changing screen names was popular in junior high, I thought it was inconvenient and to this day use it for AIM and my non-gaming internet activities. It made sense: I liked Star Wars, I liked Star Trek, and I was a kid. I’m still a fan of both of those science fiction franchises, though perhaps less so, and every day, kid becomes less appropriate. And it’s kind of a mouthful, too.

My gaming handle has always been DeathSoror. I started playing games online in either 7th or 8th grade beginning with the Red Faction demo. The community was small, but we were dedicated, and we became fairly familiar with each other. In the morning, I would wake up, eat breakfast, then head up to my room and start up the dial-up internet. For about 15 minutes before school, I would play with a few guys from Australia who were presumably gaming at a more sane hour. A kid from somewhere in Canada gave me my first and only handle after pointing out how ridiculous and not helpful it was that my name was “Default”.

I’m starting to not like that one so much, either. It’s also difficult to repeat, since soror isn’t a real word, unless you’re referring to a member of a sorority. In that case, it’s just confusing. And “death” seems much, like something a junior high kid would put together. Handling 2 different handles becomes trickier with gaming-like communities, and I just wish I had a single identity. So, I’m trying to think of a new handle.

My first thought was to come up with a clever pun, like “SwedishChief” or “Hippocampy.” Although potentially funny, they also feel somewhat gimmicky. A step back from that is the random adjective-noun combination, like “JumpySofa” or “AngryHat.” Two words is sometimes a stretch, and a single word can be acquired as an identity, like “Boxer” or “Fatal1ty.” And then some people use even more meaningless ones that are just pronounceable, like “idrA” or “HuK”. Even pronounceable might be too much work, like “qxc.”

I am worried that I’m going about this the wrong way in trying to find a new handle. My first handle took me almost no time and no thought to create, though the quality reflects that. Many people have good stories about where their handle came from, like any good nickname, and “thinking about it for a long time” doesn’t really qualify as a good story.

There’s no rush, of course, to think of a new one, and I’ll continue to keep it in the back of my mind the same way I listen for good band names. I’m waiting for the handle that I’ll instantly identify with and pick out, but that could be trying too hard as well. Maybe I just need to pick one and let it become me.

No More Excuses

As of this past summer, I am an American citizen. So far, I have learned that my life really isn’t so different. Permanent residents pay taxes, don’t have to stand in the immigration line at airports, need to sign up for selective service, and can whine as much as anyone. As a citizen, I can apply for federal government jobs that I wasn’t looking for, run for elected office that I’m not actively working towards, and vote for officials and policies that I don’t fully understand yet still have strong opinions about.

And vote I will, unless I forget to check my PO Box in time. For years now, I have expressed strong opinion on complicated matters and complained about policy all under the justification of not being allowed to vote. Although I technically could have followed the friendly banter to return to my country of birth, I considered it excuse enough. That allowed me to ignore all content in political ads and blow off any true demand for me to defend my beliefs. Even with election hubbub abound, only when Julie pointed out that I can now vote did it hit me: I can vote.

My trained reflex was to blow it off glibly with some detail intended to deflect the point, but digested for a few hours, it suddenly seemed like a good thing to do. Here existed one less thing to be a hypocrite about, and I determined that I would register to vote. Come time to execute, I could always not if I felt uninformed on the issues, but that was far away. Uncertain of how to vote, I remembered getting a facebook email notification from a friend inviting me to a voter registration drive in the middle of campus. It took less than 5 minutes that fit nicely into my bike path, and I have officially exercised my civic duty.

Which is not why I did it. At least, not out of any patriotic sense. I prefer to think of it as something more pragmatic, like a desire not to live in a dump. As I mentioned, I have strong opinions on issues I don’t understand, and I would like to see those issues put into policy. Prop 19? Well, why not? Prop 23? I think we can work towards dealing with climate change while creating more jobs. Meg Whitman? Don’t know that much, but she’s a Republican, so that’s a little unfortunate.

In 6th grade, everyone is my social studies class participated in a survey where we all “voted” in the presidential election. I voted Nader just to be strange since I didn’t actually understand the issues, and it wasn’t like my vote actually mattered for anything anyways. It’s a shame that 10 years later through the core of my education, I frankly don’t feel much different from then. What’s worse is no overwhelming desire to change that situation. I would like to keep up on current events, but since I no longer have extremely convenient access to paper copies of The New York Times, I don’t. And California politics are perhaps even a step below that on priorities. I kind of wish someone else with my ideologies could just tell me what I should write down on my ballot. But I guess that’s not much of a democracy, eh?

21 Days of Being 21

3 weeks ago, my 21st birthday passed. Because I don’t drink, I instead chose to do brunch and have some good afternoon relaxation. Thanks to great company and a delicious carrot cake, my 21st was the happiest birthday I have had in memory. Because I don’t drink, this specific year wasn’t so important. In fact, I don’t feel 21 at all.

Part of it is apparently my appearance. A few months ago, I was going through airport security and handed the ID checker my ID and boarding pass. He looked down at my ID, I looked to see how quickly the lines were moving, and he asked me how old I was. The question surprised me, and to reinforce the idea that my age doesn’t matter, I responded, “21. I mean 20.” He offhandedly mentioned that I looked young and handed back my ID. When I related the story to my mom a few night later at the dinner table, she matter-of-factly said, “Of course you look young.”

In that moment, I felt like my mom had revealed the great purpose of my life. I knew that both of my sisters looked young, but that it should apply to me was a revelation. That fact remained a curiosity to me for a few months, and I tried to slip it into conversation as non-awkwardly as possible, just to read reactions.

“Wow, I didn’t know your birthday was coming up. You don’t look like you’re 20. Do you think I look like I’m my age?”

“Your brother is 2 years younger than you? I’m surprised. How old you think I look?”

“Great job on your chemistry test. Do you think I look young?”

I was riding the train with a friend the day after my birthday, and I asked her if I looked young. I noted that although we often say that people look young (she looks much younger than she is), it’s rare for anyone to look older than they are, or to at least say so. “Well, some of the other guys are bigger, right, so they kind of look like they’re what they are. You’re kind of… slender.” That was the confidence boost I needed right there to tackle the first day of the rest of my life.

Even though I mistook myself for an older man in front of a government official, I’m still not ready to deal with the consequences. On a recent Trader Joe’s run, I did the math on the cost by weight and ended up with a large jug of balsamic vinegar that we still haven’t dipped into. While I was rolling up to the checkout counter, I noticed how much like alcohol the vinegar looked like while I was judging whether my cart would pass in the express lane. I wondered whether the cashier might mistake my vinegar for something far more potent and put me in an awkward spot trying to explain why a minor had what looked like alcohol. Only then did I remember that I was actually 21 and have a driver  license that still says “UNDER 21” to back me up.

I got my vinegar without any trouble.

And at a reception recently, servers walked around with beverages while the crowd mingled and discussed important but esoteric topics. All the old people reminded me that the sparkling apple cider was actually champagne, though the orange juice looked quite good. I almost reached for it, though two others grabbed the last two before I did. Although I was disappointed for a moment, I enjoyed my sour grapes moment when one of them told me that it was a mimosa, not orange juice.

Before I left for college, I was talking to a friend who had just completed his freshmen. Since he as well had gone to college far from home, we were discussing the merits of running away. When I said that it was my chance to break off from my life as it was, he responded, “You’re still going to be the same person you were.” On July 31st, 2010, I was the same person I was on July 30th, 2010. I’m not really sure when, or even if, I’ll pick up my first drink. If my peers are right about my appearance, though, no matter when it happens, I think I’ll be carded. If not by the server, then by myself. Just to make sure.

On Hoodie

Throughout high school, I never developed an affiliation with any college sports teams. With college admissions looking almost like a lottery today, I figured I wouldn’t risk the mild embarrassment of attending a rival school to my favorite team. After I decided to come to Stanford, however, I no longer needed to worry. By declining them, UT became my next-favorite college for graduating both of my sisters and many of my friends, and nearly me too. Oddly enough, my sisters together own less burnt orange than I do, with my wardrobe dominated by a Texas hoodie. That hoodie has seen me through so much from the day my sister got it for my birthday after graduating from high school until last Tuesday  when it landed at the bottom of my hamper.

It’s not the first time it’s been washed, though it badly needs it for smelling like campfire. Worn thinner over 3 years, retirement seems best after I tore open part of the cuff while re-adjusting. I stood in the middle of my room with it in hand for several seconds, thinking about whether I should wear or give up on that hoodie. I knew it wouldn’t last forever, and I knew I had to put it down. I don’t think I could stand to watch it fall to pieces.

Thinking back, though, it was always in shoddy condition. From the day I got it, the stitches were awful around the armpits and cuffs where it began to open. That poor workmanship did give me my first sewing lesson.

Even so, I always treasured it for its weather versatility and the many memories I have with it, direct and indirect. Strangers around campus would occasionally “Hook ‘Em,” to which I don’t I know how to respond. Just to feel special, I wore my Texas hoodie only at Stanford and my Stanford hoodie back in Texas. Even in the student section at football games, any fan could pick me out as the one burnt orange dot in a mass of cardinal red.

It wasn’t my first all-weather overgarment. From receiving it at the end of sophomore year until graduation, my high school letter jacket almost never left my side. I sized it slightly large to get the feeling I was living inside of my jacket and for it to be just like all of the letter jackets of the bigger upperclassmen. That jacket also has the memories it carried me through, but that tie was broken easily as soon as I graduated. I can’t remember if I had any lingering expectation of its warmth and comfort when the following opportunity to use it came, but I knew when it was done for.

My new hoodie is nice; it’s from my freshmen dorm and remained unworn for about 2 1/2 years in the shadow of my Texas hoodie. A hoodie is a hoodie, but it’s not. Having worn the other hoodie for so long, I immediately recognized the fuzziness of the inside, the slightly smaller stomach pocket, the looser hood string, and the wider head opening. Maybe it will soon mean something to me, but for now, it’s just a hoodie that I feel too guilty to never use completely.

Last quarter, a friend who I saw regularly saw me without my hoodie once when the weather turned nice, and he commented that he had never seen me without it on. For how little I concern myself with my attire, I’m impressed by how much of an impression my tendencies make on other people, whether it’s denim shorts at marching band rehearsal or a heavily faded burnt orange hoodie at all times. Clothes don’t make the man; I don’t define myself by this hoodie, but it matters. We cling to the pieces that become so regular in our lives, serious or silly, big or small. A hoodie is a hoodie, but it’s not. At least, not the way I wore it.

Wide Open Spaces

I’m fresh off Spring Break and back to school after a good week relaxing back at home in Texas. Having lived in Texas from 4th grade, I think I’m pretty familiar with the Texan lifestyle. In some ways, Texas became my characterization of the US as a whole. Although I figured that the rest of the country didn’t drive as many SUVs and pickup trucks or have as good Mexican food, there are some parts of Texas that I just didn’t realize weren’t normal until I moved away.

First, apparently most people didn’t face the same discipline in school. Here are a few things that I’ve learned from college friends about how other schools work:

  • they WERE allowed to leave campus for lunch
  • they did NOT have a pay a fine to get back cell phones that were visible at any point during the day
  • they were NOT subject to random drug tests
  • they WERE allowed to have facial hair
  • they were NOT patted down at graduation to make sure that no unapproved items were brought in

Second is the one that’s only become apparent to me very recently: Texas has way too much space. Everything has a parking lot. Every mall has a huge parking lot. Gas stations on every corner, and I have never had to parallel park. Anywhere. I’m positive because I’m pretty sure I can’t parallel park.

That was a big shock for me when I went to Boston a few weeks ago. At first, things seem the same. Pull out of the driveway, get on the road, go somewhere, park, get out, do your thing, go back. The first thing that seemed a little strange were the tunnels. When I asked about them, it was pointed out that there were real buildings and roads on top, and it wasn’t just a convenience. And we didn’t pull into parking lots; we either parked on the street, or parked along the street and went along until we found what we were looking for.

It made me think about how inefficient the sprawl design of Texas is. Sure, we in Texas complain about the heat, but to be honest, I’ve had to deal with the heat more here in the Bay Area than in Texas. In most cases, we really don’t go outside in Houston. When we leave home, we hop in an air conditioned car, drive 15 minutes to another air conditioned location, and rush in. A very car-oriented society is convenient in that sense as no one wants to stand out in the sun waiting for a bus.

The car-dependency, however, seems to be a huge liability. I can’t imagine not having a car in Houston. As a student here in the Bay Area, I can travel far and wide on a variety of trains, subways, and buses because the area is built to handle it. Most of the time, though, I don’t need to travel far because everything is close. I can even feel smug about having a smaller carbon footprint for all of it. That, however, would never work in Texas. Things are far and decentralized. I don’t even know where I would go from my home to get to public transit. Thank goodness for cars.

Homecoming

On the car ride back from the airport, my mom asked me which room I wanted. I instinctively wanted my room, but I waited for an explanation instead.

“The bed is now in Nicole’s room, and there’s just an air mattress in your room,” she explained, eyes fixed on I-10 and the rain.

“Well, is most of my stuff still in my room?” The bed sort of matters, but I would like to be with my collection of old video games, Dilbert comics, Star Wars books, and other junk that define who I am or, at least, who I was.

“Not really. Most of it is hidden now.” I can understand that. Nothing says classy to prospective house buyers like Star Wars action figures. “Your dresser is in Nicole’s room now, so that will probably be the most convenient.”

I was surprised by the layout of the room when I got here. I shouldn’t have been since I helped to move all of Nicole’s old furniture out when I was here in September. As my mom said, my dresser is now in here, stuffed with my high school t-shirts and other personal effects. The bed and the computer desk I’m using right now are also from my room. I am positive, though, that the throw pillows and lamp were not mine.

The setup is certainly nice. It’s somewhat misleading to say that it’s Nicole room since she hasn’t lived here in about 4 years for more than a couple weeks at a time. I can’t really figure out when it stopped being her room, though, so maybe it still is.

Looking at it now, you would never know that she lived here. As I mentioned, the furniture is all different. Her and my dad’s handiwork in painting the room is covered by a tan-beigeish color that covers most of the rest of the house as well. Even the carpet stain from a painting mishap that I thought would mark this place forever is gone; we replaced the carpeting with hardwood years ago.

The rest of the house has changed just as much. I can still count steps from the top of the stairs to doorways in the dark, but turn on the lights, and I might as well be a stranger. The new fridge is nice, but the new handles on the kitchen drawers feel strange.

It’s the disappearances, not the additions, that surprise me the most. Not only have we removed a ton of junk, we’ve squirreled away most of what makes the house livable. Last night, I was half-way through flossing my teeth when I remembered that I hadn’t seen a trash can anywhere in my room. With the end of the floss still tied around my left index finger, I stumbled into my old room and found the “X-Men” trash can hiding in the corner, without a plastic bag. I took the trash can, then went downstairs to find a bag to line it with.

I knew the leftover “Kroger” plastic grocery bags would be under the sink: where else would anyone ever keep leftover bags? I made it to the kitchen without knocking over any displays and flicked on the lights. Going around the counter, I grabbed the new handle to the cabinet under the sink and didn’t see the mass of plastic bags on the inner left of the cabinet. I knew they were still around. The trash can under the sink had a plastic bag. A search through the washing room cabinets revealed nothing, and I went back and put the floss in the trash can, bagless.

The house feels like something out of a movie. Have you ever really thought about how the house in “Family Guy” is designed? The layout is so simple, but where is the closet with the vacuum cleaner? And how about washrooms on the Enterprise? Captain Kirk probably has to take a washroom break sometime, and if he seriously had to wait for the turbolift to get him to a different deck for him to go, he might just miss a chance to talk a computer to death from the bridge.

Anyways, this is how the house is. My mom told me to not spread my stuff out in case someone comes by to look at the house. That probably means I’ll be living out of my suitcase, which is fine. The house will stay like this until it sells, which also means that I’ll be coming back to Houston for breaks until further notice. Sorry for crying wolf with my blog post about moving, but consider this my lame duck period. Or maybe it’s more like a death bed.

I wasn’t completely lying about it, though: it’s pretty clear that we’ve already moved out of this house.

Voice: not as important as you might think

The school year has started well, thanks to a roaring start including a podcast, 3-seat couch, great faces to see on campus, and a sweet English class. Well, perhaps I wasn’t so roaring.

Last Sunday, I very suddenly lost my voice after dinner. I was somewhat distressed by how quickly things got worse since only have to clear my throat a couple times during a podcast recorded several hours earlier. Although I thought it was hilarious, I realized how much of a problem having the audibility of a hummingbird would be if I couldn’t speak in lecture on Tuesday.

Losing one’s voice isn’t the worst ailment one could have. I noticed that it got me significantly more sympathy than other, more severe illnesses. Most people are probably inured to coughing, hacking, wheezing, sneezing. Quite the opposite, a phlegmish cough will get you 4 words hoping for recovery while everyone runs yelling and screaming away from the plague that your breath apparently contains. When you lose your voice, though, all the kind people around you will offer their best suite of teas to wash away your muteness in a sea of scalding, vaguely bitter water of a color that doesn’t look much healthier than whatever might be coming out of your body.

Not that I didn’t appreciate the attention. I think everyone needs a moment where everyone wants to make you feel better. And barely whispering to everyone gets more attention than hiding in a closet to cry. But in all seriousness, it’s not that bad. Although there was a very clear symptom to my illness, I otherwise felt as fine as in any cold, which is still pretty good. Perhaps the biggest downside that I can think of is the bizarre first impression I likely made on the many people that I met. The timing isn’t great, as I’m sure many people think my voice is a little faint, and I missed a lot of handshakes trying not to infest others, but maybe it makes me more memorable to the many I met.

So I don’t recommend that you try to lose your voice, or fake losing your voice. If you do get sick, though, it isn’t nearly as bad a symptom as it might seem. At the very least, it beats having one of the most powerful people in the world tell you that you shouldn’t run for office.

Moving to Boston

When my mom told me that her and my dad would be moving to Boston, I wasn’t quite sure what to say. Congratulations? Better luck next time? I wasn’t completely surprised. My dad is finally coming home after working in China for several years, and HQ for his company is in Boston. It had been discussed as a move back possibility maybe a year ago. Ironically, I had been talking to my sister about my dad coming home earlier that week, and I had mentioned that I didn’t think my mom would move to Boston, but apparently I was wrong.

I wasn’t really sure how this affects me. Really, it only means I’m in Boston for those 5 weeks a year during breaks instead of Houston. It certainly means a lot less than the 50 I would have spend had we moved when I was in high school.

It means I don’t know where to say I’m from anymore. The line I’ve been using is that I’m not sure what to tell people when they ask me where I’m from. Well, I’m not really from Houston anymore because I don’t live there anymore and don’t like it. I have as much of an attachment to Boston as I do to Camelot. And I haven’t lived in Toronto for over 10 years. Maybe I’m from Houbosto? That sounds like a bad chili sauce.

I know my mom is happy that they’ll be closer to Toronto. Instead of it being a planned air flight, it’s a flexible day drive. That probably, hopefully, means we’ll be making trips back to Canada over break to see family. And I can get my crunchie, coffee crisp, and win gums refilled regularly.

I don’t leave Houston entirely cold-hearted. I’ll miss the Tex-Mex. And maybe I’ll miss the people, too, some. The flurry of FB messages for my birthday made me remember everyone who I left behind hwen I left for college. Whether the loud guy in my history class or my fellow tuba drill instructor or just someone I was around a lot, there are many people who I depend on breaks to see again. Quarters mean I’m rarely around when most of them are, but I realize it’s always worth the effort to see someone again.

I guess my general difficulty to come up with more meaningful consequences either means that I can see about as far as Mr. Magoo, or that it won’t affect me too much. The first was certainly true when I moved from Toronto to Houston. To an elementary school kid, an extra baseball season means a lot more than culture, quality of schooling, or availability of good dim sum. It doesn’t seem like I miss a lot of things until they’re already gone. For example, I thought being in the same room as Lee for the summer would be fine. And mostly, it has. I anticipated having less space, which is okay. Now, I miss being able to shift in bed. We learned the first night our bunked beds are held together by some variant of jello, so even turning over results in a lot of shaking and irritation for the other.

But back to moving, the only appropriate response would seem to be to savor the present and get excited for change. Switching from a PC to a Mac has made me realize that there’s another way. Starting to brush my teeth with my left hand was good. Listening to podcasts instead of 30 Rock means I get fresh content. Most relevantly, going to school on the west coast has been a great experience, and I can’t imagine I would have been exposed to so much had I stayed in Texas for school. Even as things change, though, I have to appreciate the way things are. My high school computer science teacher once told me that each year of your life should be better than the last. It’s a great way to live, but a good chunk of having a better year is having had a last one.

(edit: oops. some bad pasting resulted in a half invisible double post there)