Sunday, May 18, 2008


From time to time everyone needs a little inspiration. I’ve been looking forward to attend another ESM commencement ever since my first one in May of 2006. To be an alumnus of the Eastman School of Music, one of the world’s most reputable music schools, is and always will be my greatest pride. The speeches at the commencements here are always profound and thought provoking. However, most important of all it is exhilarating to be surrounded by people who are driven by love and passion in a world that is motivated by money and power. Never have I met people with so much dedication in pursuit of their dreams. This is my little slice of heaven. I can spend a whole life time sinking into a seat in the grand balcony under the largest chandelier in North America and loose myself in the music. It is here I can feel the warmth of love and hear the pulse of passion. Even though I don’t play anymore I still feel like this is where I belong. It’s like being in an orchard that is no longer there. I can still see the blossoms in my mind and smell the fragrance in my imagination. It’s comforting to know for certain that the love of music is a life long commitment and it will always be a part of me for as long as I live.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Counterfeiter

Who would have known that the music of Hugo Diaz would go so well with a film about Holocaust? I was a bit surprised at first but as the story unfolded I began to understand the appropriateness of the music. Tango tunes are simple music with complex emotions: a dash of sadness for unrequited love, a pinch of nostalgia for yesteryears, and a touch of melancholy for the fleeting moment but never anything definitive. Tango is a dance of the moment. When we dance there is no past and there is no future. We live by the music. Every beat dies a little death. Maybe that’s the parallel.

I walked over to Spot for a little pick-upper afterwards. Films relating to the Holocaust are rarely uplifting except when you consider the strength of the human spirit. Come to think of it four of my favorite movies are of the same topic: Life is Beautiful, Lives of Others, The Pianist and The Counterfeiter. I’ve never being particularly interested in the time frame but it’s always inspiring to see ordinary people overcoming extraordinary circumstances. It makes my problems, whatever they might be, seem like no problems at all.

Movie Synopsis:

" Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Language Film.

The COUNTERFEITERS is the true story of the largest counterfeiting operation in history, set up by the Nazis in 1936. Salomon "Sally" Sorowitsch is the king of counterfeiters. He lives a mischievous life of cards, booze, and women in Berlin during the Nazi-era. Suddenly his luck runs dry when arrested by Superintendent Friedrich Herzog. Immediately thrown into the Mauthausen concentration camp, Salomon exhibits exceptional skills there and is soon transferred to the upgraded camp of Sachsenhausen. Upon his arrival, he once again comes face to face with Herzog, who is there on a secret mission. Hand-picked for his unique skill, Salomon and a group of professionals are forced to produce fake foreign currency under the program Operation Berhard. The team, which also includes detainee Adolf Burger, is given luxury barracks for their assistance. But while Salomon attempts to weaken the economy of Germany's allied opponents, Adolf refuses to use his skills for Nazi profit and would like to do something to stop Operation Bernhard's aid to the war effort. Faced with a moral dilemma, Salomon must decide whether his actions, which could prolong the war and risk the lives of fellow prisoners, are ultimately the right ones."

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I might not have many talents but when it comes to stress I’m the expert. I was stressed when I was in school; I was stressed when I was on vacation; I was stressed when I was working; I was stressed out in Argentina; I was stressed out in Vegas and now I’m stressed out in Rochester. What’s worse than being stressed out all the time is that I somehow have the natural ability to disguise most of it and appear perfectly fine to others. So I don’t even get a sympathy hug. Next time when I get an opportunity to answer such question as “What is your greatest weakness?” I’ll have to say my inability to express intense emotions other than rage. I’m not the kind person who breaks down easily or act super excited at surprise parties. I’m never excessively nervous or dramatic. I’d probably make a bad Italian except when it comes to arguments. I’m so stressed out all the time that my shoulders are undoubtedly the toughest muscle in my body.

I’m getting pretty frustrated with job hunting and that’s an understatement. After four and half years of school, 2 degrees, and 90K in tuition I have zero employability. I have seen zero return on that investment. I have easily applied 200 jobs just this year (including 20 last night) and heard zero call back.

Yesterday I started to study for GMAT. Sentence correction problems are kind fun considering I just taught English in Argentina for couple of months.

Last night I looked up information on actuary exams and thought about getting down and dirty with some statistic books. For some reason working in statistics or accounting has always been one of my worst fears along with working at a highway toll booth. Mom always nagged me to take those exams even though statistics was by far my worst subject in school. Well, that and music theory. Everyone thinks just because I’m Asian I should automatically be good with numbers. I have no problems with number as long as we’re talking about 5th grade math, the usual +, -, x, /. If someone told me 6 years ago that I’d consider being an actuary I probably would have ended my life right there.

Knowing how difficult it is to get a job in finance nowadays I have channeled most of my search into secretarial jobs. I can read, write, type, answer phone calls and file. What exactly are they looking for? I actually saw one posting on Career Builder looking for someone with a secretarial science degree. I didn’t even know such thing existed!

I know I’m ranting a lot here but it’s frustrating that I have no one to complain to. Nobody understands how stressed out I am. Everyone just tells me that I’m a smart cry baby and if I try hard enough I can get a job just like the rest of the people in the country. I know plenty of average people with jobs but I don’t know what exactly I need to do to get one myself. I was told that I’m over qualified for a $10/hour job and so far I don’t seem to qualify for anything I’ve applied. Could somebody please let me know if I have a gigantic DONOT HIRE sign on my forehead? I’m starting to feel like the 40-year-old virgin only with jobs. I wish people could understand; I do try.

My other weakness is that I think too much. I’ve had many people telling me the same thing including professional psychologists and lately my roommate Andy, who has a degree in psychology from Albany. He suggested that maybe my inability to physically process any kind of alcoholic beverage has forced me to think things through by myself under many tough circumstances. My brain has pretty much being in the 5th gear since I could comprehend words. If only I could use all that energy at a job I’d probably be super rich by now.

More and more I feel like it is human nature to look for a sense of belonging, a niche where we feel some sort of equilibrium. Although I’m stressed out with the whole job thing, the lack of belonging and hopefulness is also starting to bother me. Everyone belongs to some sort of group, democrats, republicans, dart league, pool league, employed, unemployed, college educated, non-college educated, majority, minority, married, single, straight, gay, bi, whatever it is there seem to be a support group for it. I used to think I belonged with the musicians but those days are long gone. Now I don’t know where I fit in. I don’t play guitar, dance tango or go to school anymore. I will have been working at the same club on and off for five years this fall and I never felt I belonged there. My full time job is to look for a job. I loved Buenos Aires but I didn't belong there. People think I’m Chinese in the US and Chinese think I’m American in China. Where is the support group for people like me? Knowing that I belong to someone at end of the day makes it a bit easier to sleep at night, most of the time.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Hardware Failure

First day back to Rochester, it’s strange to be surrounded by so many NY State license plates again. The weather is beautiful today making a drive down East Ave. especially pleasant. The flowers are blooming and spring is in the air. I’ve never felt so much appreciation for this city until now. After being on the road for almost a year and half living out of my suitcases I am more than ready to find a place to call home. Ironically my camera stopped working today. I suppose after all the traveling it’s time for that little thing to retire. Unfortunately, that’s not the only hardware failure I have to deal with. My laptop is on the verge of a total breakdown. The CD player hasn’t worked since last spring and now the USB port is dead along with the battery. I periodically hear clicking complains from the hard drive and the internal memory is down to zero capacity. It’s time for a replacement. This is end of a journey and beginning of another. I’m relieved to be back and I’m excited to reconnect with old friends and start a new chapter.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I'm Back!

4,200 miles later I’m finally back to where I started: Rochester, NY. I arrived just past midnight. Not sure if I was too tired or it really has been that long since I was here, I got totally lost after I got off I90. It took me a good half hour and some directions on the phone to get back to Dave’s house. Just out of luck I found someone renting out a room exactly one floor above my old apartment on N. Water St. I am absolutely thrilled about moving back to the same building again. I guess it’s as close as I can get from going home for now.

Lunch Stop at the Windy City

I’ve driven over 24 hours without stopping now. Somehow it’s hard for me to blow through Chicago without a quick lunch break at my all time favorite Chinese restaurant in the States: Old Sze Chuan. Anyone who comes in contact with me knows that I have a passion for food and spicy food is something I can’t live without.

Lao Sze Chuan is a well-known establishment in Chicago Chinatown that has been catering to native and American dinners alike over the past decade. I can’t remember exactly when I first came here but since then it has been a must-stop destination every time I come to the city (along with a Brazilian steakhouse chain name Fogo de Chao). After getting directions on the phone from Rob and Eli I finally made my way to Chinatown. The restaurant was completely packed as usual but I didn’t have to wait for long for a table. The menu has been updated to a new colorful one instead of the old black and white printouts in plastic see through sleeves that had gradually become less clear over the years. The prices hasn’t changed much despite the recently inflation on food and don’t even get me started on gas. You can always count on getting a bang for your buck here. Although I have the habit of ordering the same dishes every time I’m sure all of them are memorable.

I’m an adventurous person but when I find a good one I like to stick to it. There’s a restaurant in Rochester called Mamasan’s and I’ve been ordering the same dish there (Basil Beef) since high school! There’s nothing like a good reliable meal. I heard majority of people prefer that over sex. Here’s the logic: if I have something excellent I’ll keep ordering the same dish; if I have something above average I’ll go back there and try another dish; anything below average I won’t go back to the restaurant again unless I’m there for reasons other than food (i.e. meeting people). In my opinion it’s not love unless it’s something I can’t live without.

My dishes at Lao Sze Chuan are Mapo tofu and Lamb with alfalfa. To me Mapo tofu is the single measuring stick for all Sze Chuan restaurants. The southern Chinese province is known for its spicy cuisine and this is one of the most distinct dishes coming out of the area. I’ve had it in many places from its original birth place to Buenos Aires. Two Sze Chuan restaurants that have impressed me so far are this one in Chicago and a smaller place on Spring Mountain in Vegas. But the mapo tofu here is one of the best you can possibly get without a thousand-dollar flight to China. It’s too bad the pictures I took came out blurry so it’s hard to see all the peppers and hot oil but since you would have been looking at them with tears in your eyes anyways I guess it really captures the essence of the meal. The sautéed lamb here is extremely tasty especially with alfalfa seeds. It’s probably an herb most people are not familiar with outside of few Middle Eastern dishes. Alfalfa seeds have a very distinct aroma and it’s often used with lamb or other meat with strong flavors to accentuate their natural taste.

My father side of the family is originally from Sze Chuan so I was born with hot chili peppers in my blood. Having only been to Sze Chuan once when I was very young, eating deadly spicy food makes me feel close to my heritage. There are many things I can live without but I can’t live without the mouth-numbing, tear-jerking, sinuous-clearing, temperature-rising, sweat-pouring Sze Chuan chili peppers.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Ida is a Ho

Idaho, that’s one place I most likely not going to visit again. I started driving out of Seattle around 10:30 this morning. The scenery was very beautiful going through the mountain passes just outside of the city on interstate 90E. Just before crossing into Montana I got yet another ticket for driving 82 at 75. The cop might as well just pulled me over and robbed me. The speed limit went from 75 to 55 within 10 miles and went right back to 75 again just cross the border to Montana. At first he tried to tell me I was driving 82 at 75 and 75 at 65 but I knew we had just passed the 65 sign within 20 feet. I told him I was trying to slow down. He said he didn’t see my break lights go on until he turned his lights on. Where does a highway trooper learn to BS like that? After he wrote me the ticket he told me to be careful getting back onto the highway. Well, if he was so concerned about my safety he shouldn’t have pulled me over in the first place. If I get run over by a truck getting back onto 90 he’s going to hell for it. Idaho is quickly becoming my most hated state in the US. California is up there too but at least the tickets there were legitimate.