Saturday, December 30, 2006

Knowing Someone

Sometimes people like to say that they actually "know someone", but it's somewhat of a moving target. The "knowing" is perhaps only in the comfort of one's mind. The "knowing" could be considered a mindset or an outdated stereotype of a person perceived, but is it accurate for the dynamic reality of a living being?

With a young baby, the growth and development is quite apparent. Hikaru isn't the same person he was a year ago, or even a day ago, or even a minute ago. Seeing his changes makes him interesting to watch (at least for the parents).

This afternoon in the light of the setting sun, Hikaru noticed his long shadow. With the sun to his back, he noticed the movement of his leg's shadows, and he hopped up and down on alternating feet with joy and delight (excuse the pun). Perhaps a small realization, but in that brief instant of time, our baby "changed" with the sunlight.

Of course, as we get older, our biological changes and shifts in neural patterns aren't as drastic. And sometimes we don't even notice ourselves changing from day to day without taking some notes of introspection. But as we accumulate our daily experiences, everyone changes, learns, grows -- and hopefully this will continue, even when we're a hundred years old.

If it wasn't for "change", life might lose some of its "zing", and degrade into a stale boredom. Relationships can also stay fresh and interesting because we change (and hopefully we're all changing with our acquired wisdom for the better).

So for the coming "new year", you don't know me anymore, and I don't know you either, but that's OK. Our memories will remain intact of times shared. But there's now a happy new tree ring of growth on our trunks from the past year, and that's something to really celebrate.

Wishing everyone (including all the new babies and older folks) a wonderful new year of growth and change in 2007!

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Holiday Photo Card

You probably got yours in the mail or email already, but this was our holiday photo card this year. (Click on the photo for a larger image.)

This is the first year we sent out a "photo card", and it was easy to do, but the hardest part was to get Hikaru to look at the camera. This particular photo took about five re-takes. Unfortunately, Hikaru always smiled "after" the shutter on the camera closed, so you don't see his smile in the photo. For some reason, he likes the flash.

Seems like many of the holiday greeting cards we received from our friends this year were photo cards. I guess, people like the way they can personalize a card with their own photo and message.

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Feeding Frenzy

We probably mentioned before that our baby likes to "eat". However, now he resists our attempts to feed him, and he would much rather feed himself. He makes a big fuss and cries if we don't let him touch his spoon and bowl.

However, there doesn't seem to be a very tidy way to do this. And after every meal, we usually have to sweep up around him, and the bits and crumbs of food that fall to the floor. Which Hikaru usually picks up and eats later, if we don't get to it first.

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Anyone who has a young infant knows they are "very" curious. Hikaru is no exception. His non-stop hands go everywhere, and he notices everything and anything -- from tiny specks on the floor (which he also tastes for flavor) to an unopened package we just received. He'll open and close any unsecured drawers, cabinet doors, boxes, bags, whatever. The airport should hire him as a security guard. Now that he's more mobile, he can reach farther, and go to places faster than we can stop him.

However, there's also the saying that "curiosity killed the cat". Hikaru got into a little trouble the other day. He was staying at my mother-in-laws house, and he climbed over a barrier they placed around their home heater, and burned both his hands and one foot on the hot grille. (My in-laws live in an old house where the furnace and hot air comes out from under the floor.) His hands now have burn blisters in the form of a grid pattern, and with a "cross" burned on one foot.

It looks pretty ugly, but Hikaru is doing ok, and recovering from his burn incident with a little Motrin and Chinese medicine. We've been a little stressed out from worry, though.

The incident gave me some stuff to think about. In addition to some better child proofing and monitoring policies, it also made me think about "curiosity". Curiosity is a basic human instinct. We wouldn't be who we are, including our interests and hobbies that we enjoy, if we weren't curious people. The sense of mystery, wonder, and exploration is the "stuff" that gives life some purpose and meaning.

As I was thinking about ways to restrict Hikaru's adventures, I also became a little concerned that our "care might kill his curiosity". I wondered what effect our repetitive "NO's" might eventually do to him. I wouldn't want Hikaru to turn into a well-behaved, but motionless zombie baby. At the moment, though, he has a pretty strong will, so nothing seems to deter him. But we should probably maintain a good balance between educating him on life's dangers, and continuing to encourage him on his discoveries.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Night Before Christmas

It was the night before Christmas, and Hikaru needed sleep in the car. So we drove around the streets, but not very far. And we saw some holiday lights and decorations, and even some stars...

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Hikaru Goes to Caltech

Hikaru went to college today. Here he poses for a photo at the Mudd Geophysics and Planetary Science Building at the California Institute of Technology. If an earthquake hits LA, this is a place to find out more about it.

It is during the holiday break, so it was very quiet this morning. Not a whole lot of students in sight today, as we take a stroll down this corridor and to the Olive Walk.

If you're bored over Christmas and New Years, and looking for something to do, there are plenty of job opportunities being posted...

This is the Guggenheim Graduate Aeronautical Lab. Note the airplanes decorating the sides of the doors.

In the photo below, we look up to see a few oranges on the trees.

There are many fountains of knowledge on campus. The water makes graceful parabolic arcs in this fountain at the Beckman Institute.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Second Day of Winter

Today is the second day of winter, but here in Los Angeles, it feels more like the second day of autumn. Hikaru enjoys playing with the leaves.

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Holiday Party

Today was our holiday potluck party for Little Tokyo Service Center (my workplace). It's one of those traditions that happen every year for as long as I can remember. As always, we had a diverse gathering of delicious food contributions (as well as people), entertainment (from our talented staff), and games.

This is Helen's creation/artwork which a partially-eaten house of graham crackers and M&M's. If you have a hard time figuring it out, you're not the only one.

A competitive game of "fruit basket" is also a holiday tradition here -- which in the photo below has turned into musical chairs. Sharon Ramos is this year's champion.

Hikaru also had fun. He had a cookie -- and got plenty of attention from people, including being entertained by Nancy.

Finally, here is our LTSC family picture. Photo courtesy of Amy Phillips, and taken by Tom Sogi.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006


American football is a game where you run around with a pointed prolate spheroid.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sense of Humor

I took my usual morning walk at 5 am. It was a cool 38 degrees F. Some people in LA would say "it's freezing", but they usually exaggerate by a few degrees. While walking along the road, I was thinking on "humor" and laughing at my own jokes. Why do people find some things funny, and what is it that makes us laugh? I don't really know.

Finding out what's so funny isn't as easy as it sounds. It's often a matter of the moment, the timing of the event, and the context and background of a situation. It's also depends on one's mood at the time, and a number of cultural elements are involved too.

Hikaru bonks me on the head with an empty plastic water bottle, and he thinks that's really funny. He also likes to pull my nose, and thinks that's funny too. Our baby's level of humor is currently in line with the Three Stooges. However, depending on how sleep deprived and tired I am, my level of amusement may vary significantly.

Humor is also a sign of mental health and appropriateness. If you find something funny, and other people laugh with you, then it probably means everyone's happy and fine. But if you find something really funny, and other people don't share the laugh, then it probably means you're a little off somewhere. A recent example is the case of comedian Rosie O'Donnell's "ching chong" Chinese accent impression -- totally unfunny and uncool. Reminds me of seventh grade.

We usually find at least a few things to laugh together about during the day, so it's probably a healthy sign relationship-wise. Yes, my significant other is one of the "few" people who laughs at my puns and "sees" what's so funny (the lowest form of aqueous humor). I just had to write that to my significant other. That's probably why we're each other's sole mate. After a long hard day, it's always good to come home, take off our shoes, relax. Laughter is good for the feet (the soles). So I'm taking a little break from my walk now.

By the way, if you were expecting for me to write something profound, please keep in mind that this is only a blog. I'll need to think more on this topic at a later date...

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Desert Design

Something called Crassulacean acid metabolism photosynthesis is one thing that allows desert plants to conserve water and live in dry climates (like Southern California). Took a few photos yesterday afternoon of some cacti...

How are they able to survive with so little water? Photosynthesis is the process plants use to convert light energy to food, and in a simple way is

carbon dioxide + water + light energy → glucose (sugar) + oxygen + water

In addition to having thick "leaves", desert plants close their pores (stomata) during the hot dry day to save water, and use "stored" carbon dioxide (collected during the night) to carry out photosynthesis.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Rain and Snow

We had some rain yesterday in Los Angeles (in the valley) that ends up as snow in the higher elevations (in the mountains). It's always nice after a rain in Southern California. The view below overlooks the San Gabriel Valley and in the direction of Mount Baldy. (Click on the image for a slightly larger photo.)

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Tunnel Vision

Sometimes it's hard to tell what's really at the end of the tunnel besides the light.

Copyright © 2006 by WEb

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lights in Alhambra

This photo is from the intersection of Garfield Avenue and Main Street in Alhambra, California (where reindeer can be found among the palm trees).

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Mission Statement

If the Christmas holidays seems to lose their meaning at the shopping malls, maybe it's because one has lost sight of the main mission. We have a local neighborhood mission called the "San Gabriel Mission" or "Mission San Gabriel Arcángel". It's part of the famous chain of missions founded by Junípero Serra in (Upper) California. This Sunday afternoon, we took a family stroll in the area.

The original mission was found in 1771 (in Montebello), but it got wiped out in a flood in 1776, so it moved to this location five miles away. We wondered why this particular place was chosen. Could it be that San Gabriel has better Chinese food than Montebello?

The photo below is a Christmas tree on the mission grounds that was decorated with what appears to be aluminum pie pans. Quite fascinating. At least it will scare all the pigeons away.

Hikaru gets very excited. Here he points to the sights and the lights.

We also discovered this mysterious "map" imbedded in the sidewalk which might unlock the secret route of how the Spanish came to California. Could this be from the Piri Reis or Zheng He? Please note: Just kidding here. All the tiles were created by local school kids and placed in the walkway around the mission.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sleep Like a Baby

Does sleep deprivation result in premature Alzheimer’s disease? A few months ago, we thought we were losing our brains. I was driving Hikaru to his grandmother's house, and forgot where I was going. In fact, I forgot where Hikaru was, and went to work instead. He was sleeping in his car seat when I realized that I never dropped him off. Mommy was going to make rice, and she went to scoop out some powdered baby formula for the rice cooker (instead of the rice).

If anyone says that they "sleep like a baby", we're pretty sure they don't have one. Having a baby is a great joy, but the associated sleep deprivation can literally kill the parents. In our years BC (Before Child), part of our happiness was getting the required 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. During our past year AB (After Baby), we've experienced the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture. A lack of sleep can result in emotional mood changes -- irritability, anger, pessimism, paranoia, sadness, and stress. It can also cause lapses in memory, confusion, hallucinations, and psychosis. Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system and reduces white blood cell production. We haven't been sick as many times as in this past year. In laboratory rat experiments, sleep deprivation leads to death. Besides being mentally and physically tired, we didn't realize the seriousness.

One study by a researcher at the University of Chicago Medical School, showed that in otherwise healthy adults, glucose metabolism can fall by up to forty percent in sleep deprived people who were only getting four hours of sleep per night. Also, levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher as well that affect memory, and tissue repair and growth. In very simple words, one feels tired (of course) and health is adversely affected.

With insufficient sleep, metabolic activity in the brain also drops, and the neurons cease to function normally. Apparently, these changes in neural activity can be inferred from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans. The brain's frontal cortex needs adequate sleep to function. Insufficient sleep affects the frontal cortex's ability to control speech, access memory, and problem solving skills. Scary stuff.

But one doesn't have to be a new parent with a newborn to be sleep deprived, though. It is estimated that one quarter of all adults in the United States are sleep deprived. Maybe one simple solution to improving your life is to get some sleep. Here's a few random website links about sleep deprivation, if you're not too tired to check them out...

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep Deprivation Can Hinder Sports Performance

Physiological correlates of prolonged sleep deprivation in rats

Brain Activity is Visibly Altered Following Sleep Deprivation

The real victims of sleep deprivation

A lot of computer guys we know are sleep deprived...

Are sleep-deprived engineers hurting the Web?

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Who Looks Like Who?

When new parents have a baby, this is a question that "always" comes up. "So who does Hikaru look like?" As far as a facial similarities go, we hope the following will finally answer that question... or maybe not.

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Tool Man

This is "Tool Man" Hikaru. He's 15 months old. His word of the month is "Woo-Wah" (as in the sound a barking dog makes). This usually means "Dog", but it could also be any other four-legged animal (squirrel, bear, lion, etc.). He looks out the window with hopes of seeing or hearing a "Woo-Wah".

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Walking in Moonlight

This past Tuesday after work, the "hiking club" went for a hike at Debs Park in Montecito Heights. On this one, we had Nancy, Hiroshi, Veronica, Jun, Mark, and Felix. It was about a 2.5 mile loop trail up to the top of the hill and back down -- enough for an aerobic workout, but not too much...

A full moon was our guiding light in the sky, and we heard the occasional rustle of leaves from a surprised coyote or rabbit (that also surprised us). Our hike had a very "Christmasy" feeling with wonderful trail views of the nighttime downtown skyline and the surrounding city below. It was fun to point out streets and landmarks from their lights.

The "hiking club" is an association of co-workers at Little Tokyo Service Center and friends. We usually meet every Tuesday evening. The club has gone on hikes in Griffith Park, a section of the Mount Wilson Trail, and even to the famous Hollywood sign. We're looking for suggestions for interesting hikes (and night hikes) in the Los Angeles area, so please let us know (or post a comment below) if you can recommend anything. Thanks!

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Some Dim Sum

This past Sunday, we had a dim sum gathering of relatives who converged at Empress Pavilion in Chinatown. This is an annual tradition. Eventually, I hope to learn enough Cantonese to know what's going on.

We prepared Hikaru's food, a couple toys, and other items for him to survive the ordeal, and he did very well! For some reason, everyone wanted to pinch Hikaru's cheeks. I guess, it's hard to resist.

This is a family photo taken by cousin Raymond (who may have some news for us in the near future).

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Downtown LA Views

This past week, the skies have been so crystal clear that I wanted to share a few more views from my part of downtown Los Angeles. This photo below is looking into the heart of downtown and the tall skyscrapers. (Clicking on the photos below gives a slightly larger image.)

The St. Viviana Cathedral is presently undergoing restoration into an arts complex. It was damaged in the 1996 Northridge earthquake.

The black monolith is the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters Building. It looks like an alien starship from the "dark side" that landed. By the way, there's a cafeteria on the ground floor, and the salads are pretty reasonable.

Here is view looking toward the intersection of Second Street and San Pedro Streets which is Little Tokyo. The San Gabriel mountains are in the background.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Eating is a Hobby

Hikaru likes to eat. Life is simple.

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Horny Furniture

Apparently in the 1890's, furniture made from cow and buffalo horns was a popular item. We just happened to be browsing through the Gene Autry Museum of the American West and noticed this exhibit. We wonder how animal rights activists feel about this one?

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Yosemite Art

Over the weekend, we visited the Autry National Center to see an art exhibit focusing on Yosemite National Park. There's additional information on the website, but a highlight was seeing many of the original prints by Ansel Adams (one of my favorite photographers).

Hikaru (lower right corner) slept through most of his visit to the museum. Does the invention of photography give fewer reasons for artists to paint landscapes like the one below by Thomas Hill?

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Wall Street in Los Angeles

Many people have heard of Wall Street in New York, but who's heard of Wall Street in Los Angeles? Wall Street, LA is a narrow street that runs from the lower edge of Little Tokyo into the Toy District.

I just wanted to share some of the scenes from the city. The photo below is a view looking down Wall Street from Casa Heiwa. (Click on the photo for a closer look.)

Wall Street is always bustling with activity during the day. Whether you're looking for inexpensive wholesale Hello Kitties, Red Bull, or DVDs, this is the place to be.

I usually get my lunch from a truck (ie "roach coach") that parks on Wall Street offering some of the best Mexican cuisine. Try their tortas (Mexican sandwiches) for $3 -- they're pretty good!

This is also Skid Row. So at night, you'll find many of the homeless (urban campers) sleeping in the streets. That's part of life in downtown.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Doing Time on the Road

It would be great if we could "beam ourselves" instantaneously around from place to place (as in Star Trek), rather than having to drive cars or taking public transportation.

I can't complain, though, since it still beats walking (but not considering the aerobic exercise benefit of walking). But this year we had to spend an extra hour on our daily commutes to drop Hikaru off at grandma's house (our childcare provider) and then to work. I estimate that I've spent roughly 360 hours in the car this year. That's a lot of time to spend inside a metal box with wheels.

So what did we do with those 360 hours inside the car? For Hikaru, he spent most of this time sleeping. I wish I could have spent that time sleeping as well (due to our sleep-deprived state), but of course, I'm the driver. So here's a few things that I've done with my time on the road.
  • Contemplate the day and the meaning of life
  • Think about what to eat for lunch
  • Think about what to make for dinner
  • Listen to crazy people on AM talk radio
  • Listen to podcasts (I have an iPod for this reason only)
  • Sing a song or compose a tune (which only Hikaru hears)
  • Observe how other people drive
If anyone has other ideas or suggestions, please comment below. Sometimes driving on the freeway is like riding in an elevator and watching the numbers change for each floor. When the correct exit appears, we get off (using very little brain activity).

Driving in downtown rush-hour traffic is the certainty of stop-and-go due to accidents, road construction, or just too many other cars. I've learning better, though, to not stress by keeping a "go with the flow" attitude -- eventually we get to where we wanted to go.

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