Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Late night in my study

Just finished the monumental landscaping of the back yard of the Carmel house. Part of the effort is to install slate flooring in my study room and give its walls a new coast of paint. It is almost done also. Now I can walk to the study from the terrace stairs instead of exiting the front door and walking around the house via the long and dark pathway.

It is rather indulgent to have such a space, four French windows open to the backyard, high-end stereo system, real stone floor imported from afar, large desk with great computer screens. I do enjoy the time spent here by myself. Many times I stay till the wee hours of the night without knowing it. Listening to cello music by yo-yo Ma and Dvorak, reading news and articles, a glass of red wine to my right, it is such a treat. However, many times I also question the productivity of myself while in this room. And often I felt somewhat guilty; there are millions of families in the world that don’t even have the size of space for the entire family. Many of them work harder, longer hours and perhaps more talented than I am. That said, I am glad that I am lucky enough to enjoy this peace, quiet corner of the world. I just hope my contribution back to the world worth the generosity I have received.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Content to be mediocre

Been practicing cello for 4 months now. For a 44-year-old, I am impressed by how fast I learn and also surprised by how much I enjoy playing. I play for about 20 minutes in the morning in the top floor bedroom with the big bright window open my eye to the spectacular Carmel scenes and Santa Lucia Mountains. I go through all the assignments by Wendy Geiger, the instructor in Carmel Valley, playing each piece twice and then focus on the measures that I do not do well a couple of more times. In the evening, I play about 30 minutes in the back of the smaller bedroom upstairs, I usually can play a couple of tunes that I like but not assigned.

I viewed those cello playing clips on YouTube by Yo-yo Ma and was mesmerized by the music and his charismatic performance. When I started practicing tonight, I felt so inferior. However, I am not frustrated. In fact, I am still contented in a peculiar way, like a tiny weed sitting next a big tree, small yet enjoy the same splendid sun.

I got this cheap cello with brand name Cicilieo, for it price, it is well build but the set up is not done correctly so I have to adjust the bridge and finger board by myself. It is nerve racking but I have no choice, it does not want to play B flat on the A string!!!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Chaotic time in a chaotic taipei city

Spending time with folks in Taipei. It is a city on the move but going no where. I do enjoy the chaotic yet somehow rhythmic pace of the city. It is, after all, the place I was born, raised and shaped.

Within the next couple of years, a confusing milestone will be reached for me. I will have spend more of my life in the U.S., a place I like and work for many years, than in Taiwan, a place I felt passionate about.

Upon reflection, I can see how the surroundings affect my schedule. Since there is no structure of my time any more, there is no specific place for me to work anymore, I am just floating with the events that are not under my control and have no intension to make my work easier. In a way, living in my parents house as a guest, I have to accommodate their schedule. Not a problem when I am really vacationing but challenging when I am working.

The weather does not help, it is hot and humid, not as bad as a few years ago but still annoying enough to distract me from being as productive as I have wished.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Moving forward by stepping back

The end of the semester is close. Today marks the last day of Senate meeting, I organized a certificate for Dan Fernandez. I enjoyed showing appreciation to other people that have genuine contribution. I decided not participate senate activities much from now on, it is interesting and worthwhile, but the efforts I put in and the achievement I get from it is disproportional to my time spent.

I will be in few committee next year, not in the CEHI, Foundation board, not in postgraduate and research committee, not in resource and budget. I should dedicate my time to advance research, career and entrepreneurship. I have noticed that most of my time are dealing with urgent but trivial issues. At the end of a day, when I ask myself when have I accomplished, the answer is usually pitiful.

Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you've never been hurt and live like it's heaven on Earth. ~ Mark Twain

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Options and Burdens

Glad that I can accompany Fang to go to his boy scout activity and hike in Point Lobo State Reserve. Even we have been there a few times, it is still a enjoy enable experience for us. Especially the side trip we took to the whaler’s cove. A place rich with history, including a short chapter of early Chinese settlement. Jung Choy. Don’t know hundreds of years from now, will there be any records of we staying in Monterey and Carmel.

It is leisure and enjoyable Sunday. From most perspective, a fulfilling day. However, I woke up from my afternoon nap and felt anxious that a full day gone by without much achievements.

I reflect on my work and felt most of it are meaningless. I guess it is part of the middle age. Suddenly I start to negotiate with life on the nickel and dime level because I start to feel so little is left. I enjoy my work, my family and my daily life. It is peaceful and enjoyable, but there are parts of my heart that are not fully content. Need a break through.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Middle Age

Reading a book about middle age. Interesting but not surprising that most people going through similar experience during the middle year 40-50 years old.

Moving forward as fast as possible no longed seemed to be the only way. Stop and enjoy the journey become more of a norm in a daily routine. Play tennis for 4 hours and the body will let you know it can not sustain such abuse anymore. After yet another day of long tennis playing, it is painful even just want to flip on bed. My right knee is developing a crippling arthritis, because of a skiing accident about 10 years gao, it is painful to move it every Sunday afternoon because of all the exercise over the weekend.

Middle age let me really feel the end of life is indeed there. Before I hit 40, the end of life is like black holes in the outer space. Yes, I know they exist, but as more of a abstract concept than real beings. Now, I calculate the return of my time investment on almost all large projects I work on because I know my time is limited.

I decide to keep a habit of writing a page of something every night. To use that as way to keep myself productive, keep me moving forward and keep a mark in my life which is fading away really fast.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Father's piano lesson

Going with Yuan to her piano class with Mr. Lyn Bronson. For half an hour, I sit next to Yuan and enjoy both being a proud father and refresh pieces of lessons I heard many years ago but did not learn. Yuan, even at 8, is learning pieces that are challenging for 10-year-old. Many of the pieces are hard for me also.

At night, I sit next to Yuan and Fang when they practice the piano, when their finger dancing on the keys, my eyes follow the notes and as if I am practicing also. When they make a mistake or finish a piece flawlessly, the frustration and triumph are complete felt as my own.

Yuan and potentially Fang will enter local piano competition April 1 with many of Mr. and Mrs. Bronson's pupils. The Bronson's holds Friday "performing classes" regularly. Their house is on a hill in Carmel Highland with beautiful ocean view. They four Steinway's sound great and we were amazed how great those teenagers play.

I appreciate the opportunity to teach and learn music with Yuan and Fang, it is not only their lesson, it is also mine.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Stary nights

Clear night sky. Full moon with stars. Late night at home office. Familiar music from nice stereo. Kids asleep, Herb tea is hot and generating a slight steam. I should be contented. Mostly I am, but when I read any magazine about the people making noise in the world, and return to work and have to deal with trivial issues, I felt anxious to get out and break away from the current comforts and limited success.

It's been 21 years since I arrived at the county, two more years, I will have been living in the US longer than I have in Taiwan. That would be a milestone. Not sure what the milestone is leading to, but an important point in my life nonetheless.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Pieces of Daily life

Played tennis at the new Meadowbrooks Club. It was a nice match. I played single with Leonard today, double with Mike and John. Even I lost the match but it felt good, I have not play single for years.

It is a great day, sunny with a little overcast. The club is about 10 min from home in the city of Seaside. Seaside is a working class city, the member are mostly middle class. When I talked to the care takers: two old ladies: Gin and la Voy, they emphasized we don’t the “snobby stuff”, La voy brushed her nose. It is rather affordable: $250 initiation fee and $75 per month for the entire family, compared to the Spanish bay: $17K to start and $240 per month. It is a bargain. My body is not as resilient as before, after two hours of tennis yesterday and today, aching and pain everywhere, I felt great!

After reading Sun Zhen’s book, I felt it is important to keep as much detail as possible of my life. Don’t know if all these pity details are usable in the future, but I know if I don’t carefully collect them, they are fading away soon.

Watched Ring II, Crank, panic room and a few other movies. Felt it is waste of time to watch mediocre movies. The other day I watch a clip of video from a Hollywood mogul describing work to young people: Most people think they work 8 hours a day, but with all the chatting, useless emails, walking around, futile meetings, and general fooling around, it is more like 4 hours, so in a year, a typical person works only 800 hours. A “hard working” person, spend both Saturday and Sunday on effective works and can produce 800 hours of extra work per year! They are at least twice as productive.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Nights in the office

Getting used to the basement office of the new Carmel home. With the dim light and music, I start to enjoy my solitute retreat. Thoughts about reserface the floor, but actually feel the lack of improvement will enable me to work harder.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Old Blogs from etao.blogger.com

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

George Bernard Shaw: The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Reading the Technology Venture by Dorf and Byers.

Plan: before I resign from my post, I should leave a legacy of "10 opportunities to make CSUMB the best place for student to learn"

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Random thoughts. Organizing my new office in the basement of the new house. Decided not to pave the coarse concrete ground. The harshness, instead of a plush surrounding, might help to remind me the road ahead is far less from comfortable. Often times, comfort is the nemesis of success.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reviewing a substance change proposal from a private university in Fresno. I can see the struggle a small, private higher-ed institute for the last fifty years. It is interesting to be on the WASC substance change board. One can observe both the disarray and genuine discussion happen in the conference room. The challenge for me is to write the review report with the appropriate tone of language. It is distinctly different from science, engineering or everyday writing.

Read a couple of books these days. One about Tien Chang-Lin, former president of UC
Berkeley. I am intrigued by his quick ascend to the presidency of the most prestigious public university of the world. I was looking for a key point in his life which I am contemplating these days: from academic to administrative. What prompted him to leave the post as professor and Chair of mechanical engineering department to VP of research? Any why after 7 years of Berkeley presidency he resigned abruptly and intend to go back to be a pure academic? The book did not say much. I am very interested to find out.

Another book is "High Salary Club", it listed 10 areas a successful professional should excel in, and people want to join the "club" would need to run the career like a CEO of a business. I should learn more about the theory and practice of marketing, it seems to be the weak part of my knowledge base.

Still struggle everyday with MIST funding, when the university coerces us to move the program from a well-funded, self-support, successful program with more than $700K/year budget to a under-funded, state-support, bureaucracy-ridden one with a meager funding of less than 20% of the original funding, I was rather upset. Especially when I was told that my compensation for running the program will be completely cut. But I never give up, I might retreat from a battle, but I always win the war.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mortality becomes tangible in my life the last couple years. I guess it is a part of the symptoms of mid-age. Whenever I have long term plan, it is no longer next 3 year, 5 years, but what would happen if I pass away.

It does not upset me or unsettle me any more, it is just part of the planning, the exit plan, the conclusion, the hand-over. Overall, I am happy but not satisfied. I will always want more, more achievement, more creation, more resources, more help to others, more spiritual enlightenment, more food, more fun, more excitement and more time to do all these. I also want more time to plan, more time to reflect, more time to relax. I recognize it is not possible to accomplish all these, especially the idea of mortality sets in. So it take planning and prioritizing. It take careful consideration of “to be or not to be”.

Monday, August 28, 2006

It sounds easy. You listened to a great motivational talk and you stayed up at night so excited that you would turn your whole life around just by practicing the what was preached. And then next day you woke up. It is just another disappointing day.

Will this happen to me? Of course not. One of the benefits of having so many failure and challenges in my life is that I know how to turn it around.

So the lesson today is simple: don't spend more than 20% of your time worrying and thinking about the problem. Spend at least 80% of my time working on the solution!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Saturday the campus is peaceful and quiet. Working on finalizing faculty search and reading papers on blended learning. The e-learning field is changing fast and I believe we can make significant contribution in this area.

Planning the trip to Taiwan in the summer, National Health Research institute invited me to run a workshop for online learning instructor training. It is quite a honor and challenge since my background in more in software engineering. But with the years I dedicated to the enhance learning through innovation and technology I am excited to take it on.

I enjoyed most part of my work. Colleague and the management treats me with respect, however, the natural lethargic of large public agency frustrated me often. Mediocrity is prevalent; innovation and high standard many times are avoided by the university. But over the years I have learn that the mountain of public agency can be moved, and indeed it is constantly moving. It is just painfully slow and any moment we stop leaning on it, its tendency is move back to the lowest performance point.

posted by Eric at 12:26 PM

Moving forward is not an option - thoughts while riding my bike

Took my bike out today and rode for about an hour. It is rare to see people biking in Carmel, the steep hills make is all but impossible, especially consider a typical Carmel resident is beyond 55.

Rode the inland side of Hwy 1 and checked upon the tennis courts. Without a regular partner, I was hoping the practice court was available, but saw two rather good players there. Their playing style is interesting; obviously having good forms, but both of them are out of shape so can not run the balls down, they resort to aggressive playing try to end the point with one or two strokes.

On the bike, paddling hard, I have to admit that the age is catching up with me. During regular semester that I can maintain a regular exercising regiment, but during breaks, it is harder. Without exercising for only two weeks, I can feel my stamina sagging fast.

I was very surprised to find another household with last name Tao on the Carmel Hills Dr. It is unusually last name even in China, let along in the US.

While biking, stop is not an option. Moving forward is no only get you to new places, it is the only way to survive. Stopping directly incur failure. Many other entities are like that, e. g. Shark or business. When they stop, it is beginning of death.

Living the dreams

I used to just nod politely saying "just fine", when people ask me "how are you doing?".  I decided to change that. ...