BMV Wedding Blog Back in Service!

My amazing wife has graciously agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to start posting to our wedding blog again (bmv wedding blog). In fact, this whole blogging thing got started because of our wedding web site - I hadn't really wanted to get into the blogging scene before that. But after posting a few to the wedding blog, I realized that many of my thoughts are either completely irrelevant to our union and therefore don't belong on a "wedding blog" or are just plain embarrasing to my wife, so I needed to find somewhere else to "let loose." I'm glad I did because it's pretty fun to blog. It takes the place of talking to myself in the shower.

The thing I'm so excited about is that I've hoped my wife would start blogging along with me. I love her humor and personality, but sometimes she doesn't like to show it. Part of the reason she's motivated to resuscitate the ol' wedding blog is because we would like for our family members in Vietnam to know what's going in our life. Hence, the bilingual approach. And shhhh, don't tell her I said this if you read closely you'll notice hints of the Vietlish (Vietnamese + English) that we speak to each other. I hope our kids have that choice on their "Home Language Survey" at school - "My home language is Vietlish."



I've been blessed with a pretty strong body. (hic, I just realized how that sentence sounds, anyone reading this who knows me might be rolling on the floor laughing. Get up! That's not what I meant!) I think I'm pretty immune to most food bacteria, probably from all the dirt and glue and ants I ate as a child. I usually don't get sick from what I eat, even though most of the stuff in my fridge is past due. I think the worst I can remember is when I went to Vietnam and ate cháo gà (chicken rice porridge) late at night - I think those strips of chicken had been sitting on the table all day - in Móng Cái on the Vietnam-China border. Oh my goodness, it's moments like those that I really appreciate the health that I take for granted each day!!

But last night I was hit with something new. I have this spot in the upper-middle part of my back that collects my stress. According to my mom, it's right above my guilt-collecting and pressure-of-saving-the-world-collecting spots. Oh man, it hurt last night. It felt like I was getting acupuncture with a wooden spoon. But I wasn't stressed, I was spread too thin, I wasn't even busy. Fortunately, I was able to fall asleep despite by backpain (it just occurred to me that someone might have been doing voodoo on me...lol) and this morning I had an epiphany in the shower as I pondered the reason of my sudden pain. I had poisoned myself. Even though I had a great Memorial Day, it wasn't such a great Memorial evening and night (my own fault) and I fell into a cycle of thinking negative thoughts. I was really just pouting, but I allowed these negative thoughts to dig deep enough that it got to me somatically. That's scary. It happened in like 20 minutes, a slippery slope that ended in my aching back. I know the current health push is "detoxing the body" - I recently read that drinking water every morning that has sat all night in a pure brass cup will help cleanse your system of toxins, sounds like it might repel vampires as well - but what about the mind? My body, that can withstand so many kinds of bacteria for such a long period of time, just crumbles beneath negative thoughts. Those thoughts are the poison that knows no immunity or barrier. I'm just glad I kept my mouth shut (mostly) and didn't spread my poison on to my wife.

ps. mom, I'm feeling better now :)


Remedial Life Lessons 101

Well, I learned a lot during my little break. First and foremost, I'm not a machine. Part of the reason that I took a break from blogging was to focus on other areas, mostly my church responsibilities. The first week was great, I think I had something going on every night of the week. But, as a bona fide human being, I failed miserably in the subsequent weeks - a classic case of burnout. The lesson I must learn (actually, this is one of those "relearn" situations where I've been through these exact experiences a hundred times but I think that this time it will somehow be different) is that I'm not a machine, I'm not made to do just one thing all the time, nor can I keep up the intense pace I like for the entire duration of a project or calling. I shouldn't run faster than I am able (Mosiah 4:27), because I just end up crumpled on the ground doing nothing, just lying there feeling guilty about what I should be doing. Back in the day when I was young I could stay up all night and come swooping to the rescue of any situation at the drop of a hat and keep the kitchen clean at the same time. But I'm an old man now, I'm married and old and way slower than I used to be. This transformation happened faster than I expected and I'm still adjusting, which is part of my problem. The other part of the problem is that I think I'm a superhero who assumes that he has to do everything himself or else it won't be done right. Dốt quá! So now I'm trying to take those high-school disillusions of invincibility that somehow survived four years of college and dissolve them out of my mind for good. Then maybe I might be able to do things right. Maybe.

Another lesson I learned in the past month is that I need a hobby to balance out my responsibilities as an old married man. The work I take part in everyday (work, church, community orgs) doesn't count as my hobby anymore - it needs to be something that relaxes my mind and gives me time to refocus on life. So when I "went off" blogging (my predominant hobby at the time) it was pretty hilarious how crazy I went. I fell into a hobby-finding craze and just recently recovered. Trying to convert my sun-drenched west porch into a pleasant garden experience has been an ongoing project since last year, and I've found great joy in expanding it slowly over the past few spring months. Now I have a small forest garden on the east porch, too, along with my herb garden and homemade (aka jimmy-rigged) Japanese arch. But having so much time at home because I was done blogging and too burnt out to visit more people from my church allowed me to concoct crazy plans for making an open terrarium with desert plants, which turned into tropical plants, which turned into half-desert half-tropical, which turned into a lizard and frog and snake cage, which promptly turned into nothing after considerable "counsel" from my wife. Next I had several web projects surface in my head, which I beat down quickly (blogging vs web design - big difference). I won't bore with all the potential hobbies I've entertained in the last 3 weeks, but I will say this: I'm not a machine, and I definitely need a hobby to provide balance in my life. I return to blogging under new guidelines, mainly to moderate how much time I spend on this thing. It should be more enjoyable that way anyway.

Probably the coolest thing I did while on break was go to the Huntington, which has a very cool Japanese garden portion. Here's some pics:


Also, I'm trying out remote blogging from an email account that allows me to send raw html emails. Unfortunately the email is tagged with an ad at the bottom, which I deleted here but I won't be deleting while in Vietnam.


Time for a break

Dear Everyone (all 5 of you who ever read this blog - Triet, Jennie, Linh and Anonymous. And of course mai wife):

I love blogging but it takes me forever. I know some people who can crank out a sweet post in 15 minutes - it takes me at least one hour for something even decent. Also, the winds of change are blowing through my life - just like the 90-degree winds of Santa Ana are blowing through my window right now - pointing me in a different direction. For now.

Currently, my whole day is taken up by thoughts such as "What can I blog next?" and it's not so healthy for me. God's been hinting to me for some time that I better get back in the swing of things (like, ummm, helping other people instead of sitting in front of my laptop all day), but I've been trying to lay low and hope he doesn't notice me. Yeah right. That just means he puts away his cell phone, skips the bull horn and goes straight for the 2x4. He pummeled me last week and I'm still sore from it, but that's what it usually takes for me to acquiesce - a good solid hit to the head, then a helping hand to lift me back up. So I'm done blogging for now, hopefully I can take care of everything that needs to be done in the next few months.

I have a sneaky suspicion that the nature of my blogging might change when I get back. I started this thing to keep in touch with my family, but as of now I don't think it even gets read by them. Once I finished (or gave up on) the layout, I found that deviating from the strict "travel-log"-style blog was enjoyable and actually quite fulfilling. Finding interesting tidbits in the news or in a recent event in the Vietnamese community that doesn't directly relate to me, but is nonetheless in the society that shapes me, and then dissecting it and analyzing it and taking a stance on it, then posting it all on my little cyber soapbox has been quite a treat. It reminds of my days in school, when I would read a book in a week and have to write a paper for or against it as if I had been arguing it my whole life. Except there's no deadline. :) The intellectual stimulation from researching an issue for an hour, then acting as if I was an expert is fun, too, even if I sound like a dork.

But all of that takes so much time for me. I might revert back to just telling what's going on in my life. As for right now, I don't have much of a life, except for blogging. So I have to make things up to write about. hic Ahh... the dilemma. We'll see what happens.

I'll be taking a break until the end of June. Once I start up again, I'll be in Vietnam. Yes, my wife and I are going this summer - we've decided to put out the money and go on a real honeymoon (not that we minded having our friends with us on our last one!) We'll be there until mid-August, and I'll try to keep the 5 of you updated with pics and all.

So friends, adieu until next time (or for the phim tàu fans, hẹn ngày tái ngộ).

p.s. The blueberries are ripe. Click to see the Flight of the Blueberry......


"The Mormons"

Having recently watched "The Mormons," a two-part PBS documentary on historical and contemporary aspects of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was planning a hugely huge and deeply in-depth analysis of my impressions for my blog. However, I actually just got back from a Priesthood meeting (I myself am "A Mormon") and I feel that the Lord has better uses of my time than to regurgitate what countless others are producing on their blogs. So I'll just sum it up.

In a nutshell, I learned some new stuff, I found some new stuff to be offended by, and I walked away with the overall feeling that my faith had been strengthened. Briefly, the treatment of Joseph Smith as a contradictory character, saying some things and doing others, editing and revising his own experiences, displaying his human foibles on his sleeve shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, including Church members. Although we don't focus on our leaders' weaknesses, did anyone ever except that Joseph was perfect? His shortcomings don't invalidate his experience or his teachings. Let's say he was an incredible liar and an outrageously power-hungry man (two things that could be inferred from the film) - but as long as he taught the law of God, those who followed him will be blessed and not tarnished by his personal conduct. It is similar to Christ's treatment of the scribes and Pharisees (see Matt 23:1-3), that as the official holders and teachers of the Word, though hypocritical and vain, they should be hearkened to, but not emulated in action. It's easy to attack a person's character, but how do you denounce their faith, and the fruits of that faith? Ok, enough about defending Joseph. I believe him and accept him completely, visions and teachings and lies and sins and all. His human weaknesses make him real to me.

The other main foci of Part I were contemporary polygamy (of course) and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. These issues will live with the Church forever, but I appreciate the Church's treatment of their depiction in the film, rightfully categorizing them as "elements of Utah history" and not necessarily inextricably tied to the Church. Most of Part II was very inspirational, focusing on personal experiences and faith. Some time was alloted to excommunicated members and the pain they go through as they are no longer affiliated with the Church. One woman in particular was excommunicated because of her persistence in speaking out. "I cannot be silent," I believe is what she said. When she's that committed to her own interpretations and conclusions of Church doctrine, then how can she be committed to the inspiration that comes through the small voice of the Spirit of the Lord? It's like blasting the radio and assuming that you'll hear your phone vibrate when your Father is trying to contact you. I think the excommunication in this case was necessary, although the Stake President's stifling treatment of the woman in question was unfortunate and definitely unnecessary. As a member of the Church, you are automatically, unconditionally and always a representative of it - all of your words, teachings and actions make a statement on behalf of the Church, and of Christ himself. This is a promise that members make every Sunday at service. So for a member, who has made sacred promises to stand as a witness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to persist in teaching and perpetuating personal findings that go contrary to the message of the Church and expect full fellowship by that Church is to walk on thin ice.

I've also scoured some of the forums that focused on this documentary over the last week, and it's the comments and sentiment and rhetoric expressed there that I feel is intriguing, perhaps more so than the film itself. Judging by the comments I read, there are three kinds of viewers of this documentary: really closed-minded Mormons on one side, really closed-minded anti-Mormons on the other, and a full spectrum of quiet people in the middle (I tend to lean to the closed-minded Mormon side, unless I can catch myself). Both extremes are very loud and write their comments to infuriate the other, so I won't give my opinion on them. To them, it wouldn't matter anyway. But to the quiet middle, I think this film is a catalyst for good. To the quiet Church members, it might challenge their faith with things they did not know, which leads to deeper soul searching and prayer and stronger faith; to the quiet non-Church members, it might challenge their own beliefs and contextualize the LDS Church, perhaps leading to further investigation of our faith. Both will take what they learned from the film and apply it to their lives, then take what offended them and throw it out the back door. And then they will move on. That's real religion, not just listening to a sermon, not debating a lot about theory and principles and precepts (which is what I'm doing right now) - it's talking a little, listening a little more and then doing much, all for the good of our fellow beings.


Gradually Falling

For the last two days I've been looking for a good picture manager and I finally came across one that is everything I wanted and more. that basically means it's free It's called FastStone Image Viewer, and it packs quite a punch for a little free program. I've been using Picasa2 but it's the first Google product to kind of disappoint me. Not disappoint, but annoy. I takes 20 minutes to load until it finds all of the new pictures on my computer (I guess I am running Windows XP and should be able to multitask, but I like waiting till it's done before I start editing photos. I grew up with Windows 3.1, ok!), and I couldn't find my shared folder to add to it's folder manager so I couldn't touch those pictures. I think I dislike that most - Picasa is so intuitive, but it compromises my ability to do things how I want to, which is search for my files manually. Anyway, I've been using Microsoft Office Picture Manager on my laptop, but that came with Office and my new desktop doesn't have it. FastStone is super, or maybe it's just because I am finally done searching. For now.

ANYWAY, talk about a tangent, this all leads to the reason I'm posting tonight. While looking through some old picture folders, I ran into a little poem thing I wrote a long time ago. It looks like I wrote it on note paper, probably during some class that I was supposed to be paying attention to but I was pondering life's mysteries instead. If you've ever read my stuff or heard my songs, you'll know that I'm constantly plagued with a guilty conscience, or at least fighting off my own devils and Goliaths. This is a good illustration:

Internment Camps on eBay

In writing a comment on the previous post, I googled "interment camps" and found an interesting discovery:

Click here to see what I got when I googled "internment camps"

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)