Saturday, March 27, 2010

I believe I can fly

This was a song I first heard on radio in early 1990s. Of course Michael Jordan's commercials during that period of time reinforced my memory of it. As is the case for many songs I like, I just know a few lines of its lyrics, and its main tune, I could never sing the song in full except "I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky, I think about it every night and day, Spread my wings and fly away, I believe I can soar ....".

Ever since I graduated from Caltech in 1995, I had trouble finding a job. In 1997, I was a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech, looking for a permanent job. Many fellow students\postdoc I knew switched field from engineering to computer science and found jobs. I thought about changing field, but decided against it - I did not want to give up on Mechanical Engineering/Applied Mechanics - the field I studied, researched and worked in for 15 years - that was my expertise, that was where I could differentiate from others. I knew that all I needed was a chance to show off my expertise. I had several prospects in my field in academia and industry since late 1996 but did not land on any of them. I was anxious and worried.

One day in March of 1997, I heard this song on the radio at home, the apartment off Caltech campus, again:

" .....
I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar ..."

How accurately it reflected my state of mind then. I could not keep back tears - how I wished I just had a chance to show that I could "fly" in my field.



" .......

See I was on the verge of breaking down
Sometimes silence can seem so loud
There are miracles in life I must achieve
But first I know it starts inside of me, oh
....

Hey, if I just spread my wings
I can fly
I can fly
I can fly
hey If I just spread my wings
I can fly Fly-eye-eye"


I stayed in the field of applied mechanics/mechanical engineering, I endured .

I just spread my wings

I can fly!




-------------------

Note: One can hear the song on youtube.com


"I believe I can fly"

I used to think that I could not go on
And life was nothing but an awful song
But now I know the meaning of true love
I'm leaning on the everlasting arms

If I can see it, then I can do it
If I just believe it, there's nothing to it
I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar

I see me running through that open door
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly

See I was on the verge of breaking down
Sometimes silence can seem so loud
There are miracles in life I must achieve
But first I know it starts inside of me, oh
If I can see it, then I can do it
If I just believe it, there's nothing to it

Hey, cause I believe in me, oh
If I can see it, then I can do it
If I just believe it, there's nothing to it
Hey, if I just spread my wings
I can fly
I can fly
I can fly
hey If I just spread my wings
I can fly
Fly-eye-eye

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Break at Millwood State Park

For short trips, we visited Parks around north Texas, southern Oklahoma and west New Mexico for the past several years. This year we decided to visit our northeast neighbour - Arkansas. Initially we picked Lake Ouachita State Park and Hot Spring National Park for a spring break visit - unfortunately all campsites, cabins were sold out weeks before spring break when we tried to make reservation. We eventually picked Millwood State Park .

Millwood State Park of Arkansas is near the boarder of Texas and Arkansas, about 200 miles from Plano. Drive time is about 3 and half hours. We visited the park and camped there on Thursday and Friday (March 18 and 19) due to weather forecast of potential inclement weather on Saturday, March 20 (How lucky we were considering the rain and snow on Saturday!).

Leaving Plano after lunch on Thursday, we arrived at Millwood State Park shortly after 5 pm. Setting up our tent, we went for a hike along the Waterfowl trail. The late afternoon Millwood Lake at this corner was beautiful .

































After picnic, it was getting dark and chilly - we set up camp fire. We enjoyed a starry night sky and the new moon by the fire.








The next morning, Nicholas and I got up early, we went for a walk along the lake shore. It was a beautiful morning - sun was rising, fog floated near the surface of the water, Canada geese were making calls and fighting each other from time to time - it is mating season! All sorts of birds were singing in the woods - they were at the top of very tall trees, flying in the sky. However it was not easy to take good pictures.




















After breakfast, we went hiking on the 4 mile wild life lane trail. Unfortunately, the trail path was swampy, we had to return to our tent after about 1 mile hike. We did see golden eagle soaring above the trees, turtles resting on logs in the water and we also found an animal skull. On the way back to campsite,we collected some fallen tree branches for another night of camp fire.





























































It was near noon time , and it was warm enough to canoe and kayaking on the lake. We rent a solo kayak and a canoe for half day. Justin started kayaking and the rest of us canoeing. It was perfect time for boating on the lake - the water was calm, it was sunny but cool with breeze. We had a lot of time on the water, we visited a beaver's lodge at one side branch of the lake, we also paddled to the Millwood Lake Dam - looking at the flood gates at water level.












































We paddled for about 2 and half hours on the water before having lunch break around 1:30pm. Then Nick went kayaking solo! He was very comfortable in the kayak, and soon he started to chase a goose around a small island. The rest of us followed him in the canoe. Later we had a canoe - kayak race - we let the kayak win the race :). When everyone else was tired, I kayaked around by myself - speed rowed a bit, chased waterfowls to see them flying on the water, observed crows and sea gulls eating fishing baits left in the middle of water by a fisherman. By 4pm, we were done for the day's main activity.
We finished showers by 5pm and enjoyed a lazy afternoon - Lily and I sitting on a swing facing the afternoon sun; Nicholas was watching Justin working on a wood stick by our picnic table. When Justin was done with his woodwork, the whole family played cards in the tent. Our laugh and noise attracted curious kids from neighboring RVs to our tent to see what was going on.
When it was getting dark, Lily started cooking, Nicholas and Justin went to play soccer with some boys from next site after we started camp fire. We had salad, sausge, bread, the kids had sprite, Lily and I had a beer for a dinner by the camp fire. We sat by the fire in the starry night, listening to Lily singing some old Chinese songs, then Nicholas and Justin sang english songs. It was another beautiful night.






Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Relaxing Day

I am a person who can not easily let things go. Due to circumstance at work, I have been extremely busy this year. I work at night daily, and work on weekends between household chores. This significantly increases my stress level, especially when things are not going as expected. I know that this is not sustainable, even my boss told me: "Don't overwork too much, don't kill yourself!".

My work is interesting to me so it is not easy to get away from it. Other things I do have to be either urgent or equally interesting. I am trying many means, read a good novel, write my blog, exercise out of the house, work in the yard, taking Nicholas to his soccer game...... Last Saturday was one day I relaxed very well.

In the morning, I set up a few models for running at work via remote desktop, and scanned through a dozen resumes for a job opening at my group, before taking Nicholas to his soccer game. At the soccer field, I talked to his coach and other soccer parents briefly and then started walking around the park before the game even started. I left the field because I could not resist coaching from sideline even though I am not the coach any more, which is as exhausting as being the coach. The Carpenter Park of Plano, where the field is located, is a recreation park, it has many soccer fields, one baseball field and a recreation center. I walked briskly around the perimeter of the park, slowed down to watch a game in a nearby field momentarily, observed neighborhood houses, looking up at the blue sky from time to time - which has been a rarity this year. I did not think about anything, just let myself assimilated into this lively morning at the park. After two laps, I went back to the field about 5 minutes before the game was over. Less than 30 seconds at the sideline, I started coaching, telling our boys "staying in your position!", "defense!" "pressure the ball!" - Fortunately the game was over soon, and our team won for the first time this season.

After lunch, I went to backyard to take down the stair tower to our swing set, which was ant infested. I was totally focused on the task at hand - checking the structure to see how to dismantle it efficiently, matching wrenches to the various sizes of bolts, cranking the wrench to unscrew the screws repetitively more than 50 times .... It was hard physical work. Lily came to help after she took Justin to dentist's office, Justin and Nicholas wanted to help as well, but I kept them away due to potential hazards from falling woods, moving saw or a swinging hammer. Lily and I worked together in the backyard for a couple of hours, chatting on and off about maintenance of the house - not worrying about anything else - not work, not research, not kids' grades .... Just on completion of this simple project before dark. When we were done, we were really physically exhausted but felt total relaxation mentally - refreshed. We slept very well that night as well.

Simple physical work, such as this or other yard work helps me to unwind mentally every time. Last Saturday we had a lot more twosome time than usual - which was a weclome byproduct. That night, we decided to indulge ourselves a bit more, we watched a movie together after putting the boys into the beds.




Note: 1) the first picture was taken during a practice, not the game.
2) the portion of the swing set that was taken down was not visible from the second picture. The picture was taken last summer.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Winter Olympic Games

We love skiing, so naturally we had great interests in this winter Olympics. That it was being held at Vancouver, made it even more appealing since we just visited that beautiful city. Because of these, we made exceptions to the rule "no TV weekdays except evening news" , so that we, especially the boys can watch the games.

We were thrilled by the down hill skiing speed the Olympians reached, we appreciated how difficult the Slalom, Grand Slalom, Super G were, we were amazed by the aerials, we enjoyed the figure skating ..... ; Bode Miller (skiing), Lindsey Vonn (Skiing), Sean White (snow boarding), Apollo Ohno (short track) and the games were daily topics at our dinner table during these past two weeks.

I watched the games sporadically due to overtime at home. What I liked the most was figure skating. Human Stories made moving touches on some golden performances

Ice Dancing

I happened to check in at the right time that day, the best pair from Canada Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir were to skate. They were so beautiful! Their dance was even better - elegantly flowing on the ice, smoothly transition from one spin to another, matching the music perfectly - a flawless presentation, sheer beauty, a total visual enjoyment.

Mogul

NBC profiled Canadian Alexandre Bilodeau before they showed his gold metal winning performance down the mogul course. Alex has a brother who suffers from cerebral palsy ( a form of paralysis that one cannot control muscles) - The profile showed how Alex taking care of his brother, and the brothers having fun together. Bilodeau said his brother helped him keep things in perspective all these years. "Even if it's raining, I'll take it, I'll go train," Bilodeau said. "He doesn't have that chance, and he's having a smile every morning he wakes up."

On the course, his disabled brother cheered him from a wheelchair, on the platform, Alex had tearing eyes as "O Canada" was played, Red Maple Flag was raised.

Shen and Zhao - Pair Figure Skating

The names were not known to me - but from NBC announcers' comments, it was apparent they were some elite figure skaters. Their story was then told in a profile. At the peak of their careers, they won Olympic Bronze for two times due to some unfortunate accidents, and then retired from skating, got married to each other. But they still had the dream of being Olympic champion, they returned to skating at age 31 (Shen Xue, the lady) and 36 (Zhao Hongbo).

They skated brilliantly in short program, and ranked 1st. They skated the last in the long program. I was rooting for them, hoping they would realize their dream, the whole arena was rooting for them - that was the power of human connection, the power of empathy.

They skated excellently with one minor mistake. At the end of their performance, he was overpowered by emotion, knelt down on the ice, buried his face in his hands; she smiled widely, waved to the crowd. They eventually became Olympic champions.

I did my best, Mom!

Canadian lady ice skater Joannie Rochette skated well, she jumped with power, spun with poise, and skated with style. At the end of her short performance, she broke into tears - her mom died suddenly four days ago while waiting to watch her game. What a determination she had to skate under the circumstance! While waiting for her score, she spoke to the camera and spoke to her mom, with tears in her eyes, in French, she said "Mommy, I did my best!" - What a poise this young woman had, what a way to remember her mom, what a character! I had tears in my eyes.