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January 22, 2005

Seeking Courage

The scene is one from the movie "Gladiator". Two great armies are preparing for battle and bloody carnage is about to ensue. The commander is rallying his troops by giving them a talk to raise their courage. Most of them will die, but that is not what he will dwell on. He must raise their spirits and convince them that death is a little thing not worth being afraid of. It goes something like this:

'You are about to be written into legend. The fame you gather from today will live on forever, while all else on earth gathers dust. It is the only thing that matters in this life. Everyone dies, but fame comes only once. Your entire existence leads to this single moment. So go out there and take the fame that is rightfully yours!!!'

The scene is from "Alexander". The rallying cry from Alexander the Great before drastic battles are very similar.

'Do you want live a long life and die as someone unknown? Or do you want to live on in the memories of generations that come after? They will revere your name when they speak of you and tell great tales of the courage which you've displayed in your life.'

There is some piece of wisdom in this question which (if you are lucky) will be posed to yourself every once in a while in your life. In specific moments, you will be asked whether you are willing to risk it all. The bounty of the risk will be something very naive. It could be "the love of a good woman", "to be the single person standing for what is right", or just "to live in the memories of generations to come". If things don't go just right, your life will be forfeit. What would you do?

It is the most simple but most difficult of all questions. If you answer too quickly, you are either a fool or you cling too closely to life. There is great fear in betting your life. You have to take enough time to weigh the consequences. Allow yourself a moment to reel back from the fear that arises. (fear is your friend, it is a normal survival instinct) When the moment is past, lay the fear aside and do what you have to do.

Courage takes practice.

January 07, 2005


Sean Penn was asked on one episode of "Inside the Actor Studio": what is the one word that describes what he dislikes. His answer.... "desperate". For 2 years after I have seen that clip, I still remember it. And each time reminded, I agree with its sentiment.

Not many of us have ever been in a desperate situation. But those that have, would agree that it is an uncomfortable place to be. Desperate is truly a scary place to be because many times it is a tether between life-and-death. Not only are you caught between a rock-and-a-hard-place, usually the only choice facing you is a rock. Desperate situations don't disappear quickly either, they linger and numb you until all the hope is squeezed out of your being. You are hanging on the edge by bare fingernails and a slight brush of wind might tip you into oblivion.

Funny as it sounds but sometimes we don't make the hard life choices unless we are faced with a desperate situation. We don't come to grips with reality until everything we have in this world is stripped away. When the rug has been pulled from under our feet, it suddenly dawns in our brain that there is no safety net as we rapidly plunge to the ground. What we are left with in the end is a raw, untainted view of the world and of our lives. For one slight moment, we are truly real. Where we choose to go from there, is no longer tainted by "what we want the world to be".

November 20, 2004

Bad Time to visit Europe

The Euro is at an all time high against the dollar. Yup, since the forced conversion which required most European currencies to be converted to the Euro , it has surged way beyond expectations.

Obviously this is a bad time to be visiting Europe eventhough the lower off-season cost would tend to make it an attractive choice for a vacation. I have some Euros left which I haven't a chance to convert. Maybe that vacation idea isn't so bad after all.

Does anyone know of a good way to do money exchange with a medium-to-minimal exchange fees? I was about to exchange it at Wells Fargo in Vegas 2 1/2 years ago, but didn't get a chance. I currently don't have any major bank accounts but belong to a credit union instead.

Posted by Hoang at 04:23 AM | 1 Comments | TrackBack | Common Sense

November 09, 2004

The Journey or the End-goal

The journey is more enjoyable and valuable than the end-goal. Pause and soak in life as well as smell the roses when you get the chance. I need to teach myself that lesson. I know that this is not a point-of-view that is acceptable in this day and age. However, it is something that I (in my own lifetime) have found to be true. My entire life has been spent in pursuing goals. Our whole society is bent in the pursuit of following and achieving goals. To tell you the truth, so far they have only lead to many many reasons to be unhappy.

Today, I have seen the blue feathers that peek out from a duck's wings. Today, I have seen palm trees bend so gracefully in the force of strong winds. And my life feels richer from noticing the things I have never bothered to notice before. And I realize that there are so many other things I have never bothered to stop and notice before. The things such as the shimmer of a lake as strong winds blow and make ripples upon the water.... I have never noticed before.

I am reading the book "80/20 principle: the secrets of achieving more with less". I agree with the author to some of his points but I laugh at the attempts the author takes to exploit these principles. It is naive to believe that we can actually exploit life. The study of science teaches us to exploit life. There is something inherently wrong with that. Does anyone else notice?

Posted by Hoang at 04:17 PM | 3 Comments | TrackBack | Common Sense

November 03, 2004

Notoriety via the Web

Just for kicks, I decided to do some web searching on an artist friend of mine Kai Hoang. He has spent most of his life doing abstract art in various localities. Back in San Jose, we used to have coffee and talk of abstract matters. Although he considers himself obscure with an occasional gallery presentation here and there, I have been able to dig up (without too much effort) these tidbits about him:

Like it or not, the internet makes your life a little more transparent. I have been wanting to tell him to put more of his art on the internet for exposure but apparently it has already been done.

February 03, 2004

Using SciTe as an outline editor

For some time now I have been wanting to use a simple editor to write emails and articles. The tool doesn't have to be complex but the main point is that it should allow me to organize my thoughts while composing. Ideally, the outline feature that Microsoft Word provides is what was needed. However, Word (like the other applications in the Office Suite) is very bulky when compared to the other extreme (notepad). On a moderate machine, Word can take upwards of 20 seconds to load. This takes a toll on a person's patience and the usability factor is greatly diminished. So, for some time after not finding a usable tool, I dismissed that desire.

For the past year, I have become quite enamoured with a programmer's editor feature: code-folding. In many sense, it fits in well with the Object Oriented way of thinking. What I mean is that the object should hide the details and only expose enough information to allow the designer to work at a higher abstraction level. This is absolutely the exact concept of an outliner. The new editors have the feature to hide code with are "between the curly braces". This is great, and for coding, it can't be beat. However, outlining ideas "between the curly braces" is something a writer would not willingly embrace.

Enter Python. Python uses white spaces instead of the C/C++ favorite "curly braces". A writer can just use the editor and separate sub-topics with a blank space. Additionally SciTe (a popular free code editor) already has Python recognition built-in. SciTe is small, fast, and simple to use. Voila, an outline editor within code-folding.

January 21, 2004

Candle in the Wind

It is the Oak Hill cemetery in San Jose, California. It is not the first cemetery that I have visited, but I sometimes come to remind myself that I too will be under someone's feet one day. It is a pleasant reminder that for now I can still inhale and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. The name and dates engraved on the gravestones are endless. They signify our passing through this world.

The traditions of burial are our attempts of holding on to this world after we are gone. We only exist in the memory of the living and yet we still try to carve out the six feet plot that will be ours for eternity. We couldn't let go in life and still refuse to let go even in death. The statues, the carved stones, the words.... time will erode them all as it did our bodies. We are each a brief candle in the wind.

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