Riding above the level of mediocrity

A "duffshot" is an improperly planted sapling, planted too shallow in scree and not deep enough to reach the life giving top soil. It is usually a sign of laziness and means having to replant an entire plot. It is a reminder to me of doing things with integrity.

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Location: Calgary, Canada
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Friday, December 28, 2007


I find myself sitting at the newly "regifted" piano, headphones on, as everyone else is sleeping. It's like visiting the elementary school, years after graduation. The waves of sights, sounds and smells, preserved in the glass cases of forgotten memories, are pleasantly suffocating. I flip open the tattered blue binder, whose cover is decorated with stickers I once thought were cool. It dawns on me that all of my Grade 10 music was photocopied, the implications of copyright infringement not quite appreciated then. My fingers reach for the keys. Despite the fact that I've dabbled in jazz lessons, shown off familiar riffs to sell the occassional grand piano, and even accompanied a good friend for a singing contest, I find my fingers nervous, confronted with the task of playing songs they once mastered but have now mostly forgotten. Very gingerly and slowly, I go through each song. They're familiar enough that I know when I've played a wrong note, yet I cannot command my fingers to avoid hitting the incorrect keys. After slowly stumbling my way through each song, 45 minutes have passed. There's one song left and I deliberately left it to the end. Chopin. His' was the music that would make a kid pee his pants. Too many chords that spanned more than an octave (a constant challenge with my small Asian hands), too many embellishing 32nd notes, too many double sharps. Each song was a painful try out that, if you survived the gory affair, led you to some of the world's most beautiful music. Feeling no bladder urgencies, I position my fingers, scanning the myriad of black dots populating the page before me. These dots seem random, but in some way, they are a road map for my fingers, its journey will, hopefully, create a decent sounding Valse. I apologize ahead of time to Chopin for the butchering I am about to do.

My fingers putter at first, threatening to stall, but I press on. I grab the next bar, quietly celebrating my triumph over the first passage. Then something happens: my fingers remember! They start taking a life of their own, awaken from what amounts to be a 14 year slumber, when I was last in Chopin-performing shape. The sheet music is now just a point of reference, reminding me of when to move on to the next section. It was both a shocking and exhilirating experience all at once!

So, perhaps that's the hallmark of greatness. It is often measured by AT THE MOMENT: how breath taking the sight of a mountain top is AT THE MOMENT, how tantilizing a well prepared meal tastes AT THE MOMENT, how hearty the embrace by someone you care deeply about is AT THE MOMENT. But when the moment passes, so does our experience, along with the perception of that experience's greatness. We tend to be a forgetful creatures, needing tokens and trinkets and photos to remind us of that moment. However, something is truly great when no intentional reminding mechanism is needed; it's just remembered. Spontaneous re-experience!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


His name is Colin. I cannot claim that I knew him. We passed each other often, him with a bucket of water being delivered to another room that he was about to stucco; me with another wheelbarrow of dirt. We barely exchanged words, just the occasional, dismally delivered "Kwan Jani" greeting first thing in the morning. He always had a silly grin on and I'd like to believe that this was a reflection of the happiness he felt inside.

"Unfortunately I'm writing to you guys today to inform you of some bad news. Today I learned that Colin was stabbed and killed on Friday night. I feel like I should say more than this, but I don't know what else to say. I think that it's safe to say that we all knew that he was a gentle soul, and it goes without saying that he will be missed."

May my current reality not allow me to forget a the one I recently connected with.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


The large coffee that kept me warm as I visited both of my grandpa's wanted a quick exodus. The most logical place in a mall would be the food court. So, as I'm finishing up, the door of one of the stalls behind me opens up as the toilet flushes. Out walks Santa! I guess, after how many hours of having scared/whiny/indifferent kids sitting on his lap and taking a pic, he probably needs a bio break as well. Had my hands not been occupied, I might have whipped out my phone to snap a cool candid shot of Santa. Before I have a second thought, he bolts, to join his rent-a-cop escort waiting outside. What?! SANTA DIDN'T WASH HIS HANDS AS HE RETURNS TO THE MOB OF KIDS WAITING TO GET A PICTURE WITH HIM!!

Don't mess with him, though!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Tis the season to be merry. The weather gets nippier, malls are buzzing more than usual and neighborhoods get colourfully brighter. It is also a time of increased work-related celebration functions, making it nearly impossible to make reservations at most restaurants or finding an available cab at this time of year. It is also a time of higher occurrences of career limiting moves.

After a full day at the manager's meeting, a social function thoughtfully name The Cocktail Creation, was planned and we were personally invited by our Senior VP to attend. I arrive at the Suede Lounge in Edmonton and am ushered towards the bar, where our event is to take place. Just my luck, the Senior VP is sitting there with one of our other VP's. I plop myself in the seat on the other side of our distinguished host. Armed with stories from my recent South African adventures, I start chatting it up. At some point, he invites me to try one of the martinis. As any good employee would do around essentially the most powerful person in the business unit, I want to toast him congratulations on the spectacular year we've had. I swing my glass towards him and it is at that moment that I learn that liquid in a martini glass does not behave like liquid in a wine glass or beer pint. Before I can retract, there is gin and vermouth flying towards my Senior VP.

We are all having a great time at the Chicago Chophouse. This is after we've picked up our jaws off the floor because we notice that on page 35 of their 35 page wine list there is a $50,000 bottle of wine. But, based on the quality of the food we had that night (the only way I can describe their truffle macaroni and cheese is orgasmic), I'm not surprised to find such luxury here. Personally, I was happy that they served Hoegaarden beer as there seems to be a shortage of Belgium blonds in Calgary. By the time we got to dessert, everyone was in great spirits. I have learned that I start articulating more with my arms when I am in greater spirits. This is not good when they've placed the good wine at the other end of the table and one's manager decides to go and pick up for himself 2 full glasses of said wine. I don't remember what I was talking about or why I needed my arms to illustrate the point but, just as my manager was returning to his seat beside me, I was at the climax of my arm swinging exaggeration. The said wine never made it into my manager's mouth. Instead, it ended up all over the front of his shirt. I'm not sure who was more shocked, him or I. After gratutitous amounts of Wine Away and apologies, things got back to normal. In fact, I think he thought it was hilarious that this happened a week before he was to do my annual performance review.

Time to polish the resume.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


South Africa pictures


If memory serves me correctly, it would have been 1995. I became better friends with D because we were both in the "advanced" Phys Ed program at Port Credit (although one look at my grade 12 mug and, clearly, I didn't get in because of my physique). He was into biking then and told me about an awesome deal. Though it wasn't a recognizable brand name, it had all the latest components: Shimano LX (yes, this is even pre SIS days), quick lock wheel nuts and saddle post and, best of all, a light weight Cromoly frame! After a bit of haggling with my parents, I was the owner of a new Mingo 6700. I quickly retrofitted it with fluorescent green (only because anything fluorescent was cool back then) bar ends and cages for the pedals. Throughout the years, I learned a lot about how a bike works on her, as she allowed me to do a lot of routine maintenance and repairs. I've never been in a single accident with her, despite the many miles she accumulated while commuting me to various work places, countless Sunday bike rides, and even one triathlon. Recently, the bottom bracket has become irreparable, and I've been commuting in on my mountain bike. Well, I found out that Bow Cycle was taking in old bikes, refurbishing them and then donating it to a Bike-For-Kids program. So, I bid Mingo a heart felt farewell. Thank you, faithful friend!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


God bless my father's heart. His motivations are always pure, just the execution is a bit clumsy.

I received a call from my Mom who was a bit frantic. I was worried, because she was calling me from her land-line, and not Skype. I just spoke to her yesterday and it would only be an emergency to hear from her 2 days in a row. She had arrived home to find a new computer sitting in the place where her old computer sat. New gear excites me, but it frightens my Mom. After finally figuring out how to turn the thing on, alien blue lights and all, she tries to open a document she was working on. No dice. After some fussing around, she realizes that this new one cannot connect to the Internet.

When my Dad returned home that night, he had some great news to share. "I took the computer to one of my deliveries asked a guy how to make my computer faster. He laughed and said there wasn't much that could be done. So, I bought a new one!" Obviously, my Mom didn't receive this as good news at all, and immediately got on the phone with her son.

After 2 post sale service calls, a transfer of all the files from the original computer, a long distance call to Calgary for the router WEP key, the computer finally gets set up.

And kudos to my Mom. She is able to do some pretty advanced things: composing spreadsheets and documents in Chinese (through keystrokes, not with a tablet), emailing people in various languages and with various attachments and, if said recipients can't view the various attachments, she knows how to scan a "hard copy" and then resend as an attachment! She shared with me that most of her peers have steered clear of computers, perhaps out of fear, perhaps out of laziness. I'm really proud of my Mom!

I'm proud of my Dad too. He is always thinking not of himself, but of others. No one can fault him for that.

Friday, October 05, 2007


We celebrated the birthdays of 3 of my colleagues today with cake and song. As we disbanded, I wished Nick happy birthday...

Hey Nick, happy birthday man! Thanks for giving us a reason to have cake today!

Actually I was induced by my parents 2 weeks early.
(*blink blink*)
My parents won a sales award, a Safari trip to Africa. They weren't going to let me stop them from going, so they induced my birth 2 weeks early.


An excerpt from We Africans Have Long Stories by Laura Pope (a book written by a daughter of one of my South African teammates)


Pinky, Gift, Presilla, Dauna and I are walking single file along a dirt path surrounded by maize crops on the way to our next Home Based Care patient. Dauna is talking with Presilla.

Presilla, what a beautiful dress! It looks so good on you.
Why does it look good?
It fits your shape and your figure. You have a beautiful figure.
But what use is a figure when I have no husband?
Would you like to marry?
No, I don't need a man.
That's right, you don't need a man. You're a strong woman.
I just need gode.
O, a goat? Yes, then you can milk it and provide for your family?
Well a goat provides a better relationship than a bad man anyway.
Yes, a goat. That's a good goal.
I finally interrupt: Dauna, she's saying GOD!