positive is positive?

Yesterday I went in for a routine physical. Part of the reason for the physical was for me to check if I needed any immunizations for an upcoming trip. The other main reason was to ask for blood lab work to be done. I was curious about my cholesterol levels, especially since I haven’t done much cardio for a couple of months. I guess I’m kind of a hypochondriac. Actually I take that back. I’m actually a massive hypochondriac.

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Today I started receiving the results from my tests, so I’ve been checking the website as the test results come in. The third test result I received was this: VARICELLA ZOSTER VIRUS, POSITIVE. So of course the hypochondriac in me kicks in and I convince myself that I have a life threatening illness. First order of business, click the link above that says “About this test.”

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Clicking the link does not ease my worries one bit. It lumps all the viral tests together, including HIV, which I know I definitely don’t want to be tested positive for. The third sentence is particularly worrying: “Viruses cause disease by destroying or damaging the cells they infect, damaging the body’s immune system, changing the genetic material (DNA) of the cells they infect, or causing inflammation that can damage an organ.” So now I’m convinced that I must be dying. Since the website doesn’t have much information on my particular viral outbreak I turn to trusty Google for more information.

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So it turns out that a positive Varicella Zoster virus test result means that I’ve had the chicken pox before. It means that I should be immune to a future outbreak of chicken pox. Reading that on a random website was a huge relief, but it’s information that probably should be on the test results page. Or at the very least it should indicate that testing positive in this case is something positive (i.e. constructive or good) unlike the case of HIV where testing positive would be unequivocally bad.

a funny thing…

2.5 weeks ago I was able to watch as the ER doctor pushed my bone back into my hand, washed the bloody wound with saline solution and stitched up the big gash across my hand.

Today I almost fainted as I watched the nurse pull out the stitches. There wasn’t even any blood.

Adrenaline is a funny thing…

Also, I heard some awesome news today.

“Starting tomorrow you can get your hand wet.”

It’s really a funny thing how the most mundane piece of news can be extraordinarily great news in the right context. In the context of my healing it means my wound has finally closed. It means there’s no longer any worry of infection. It means I can finally take a shower without a bag taped over my arm. It means that I’m on the mend and I’ll be back to my usual self pretty soon, though perhaps slightly more ambidextrous than I used to be.

the weeds

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here. (And it’s been even longer since I’ve written a post that had any real depth of thought.) My excuse is that I’ve been without internet at home for a while (I’ll explain why later), but mainly I haven’t posted because I’ve been waist deep in the weeds.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALiterally speaking, I’ve been waist deep in the weeds. A lot of my spare time in the past few weeks has been spent pulling weeds, in an attempt to make the outside of my house look somewhat presentable. I started out with a yard full of weeds, waist high, grasping and pulling at them for what seemed like an eternity. Lately the remaining weeds have been somewhere between ankle and knee high. I’ve resorted to nuking the stubborn weeds that are left with concentrated weed killer, and letting it seep in and die, before resuming the never ending grunt work of grasping and pulling. It’s been tough, but at the same time it’s given me a lot of time to think.

A lot of those thoughts have been about weeds. Some of them have been practical thoughts– thoughts about how to best get rid of those weeds with the least amount of work, thoughts about how to prevent weeds from coming back, thoughts about how at least these particular weeds will soon no longer be my problem. But a lot of these thoughts have been about weeds in the greater context of life.

Literally speaking, I’ve been waist deep in the weeds. But perhaps in an even more real sense, metaphorically speaking I’ve been waist deep in the weeds. There are many ways that you can be in the weeds metaphorically. It could be in relationships, it could be in your career, it could be physically (how the hell did I let myself get so out of shape?!), it could be spiritually, it could be in anything really. It’s very easy to find yourself in the weeds. Those weeds are constantly growing, but to find yourself waist deep in them you have to ignore them for some time. And that’s surprisingly easy to do. What it really comes down to is complacency. Being waist deep in the weeds literally has made me realize that I’ve been complacent in so many ways.

To get out of the weeds takes a lot of work. And to stay out of the weeds takes a lot of discipline. In a literal, physical sense I’ve been doing the work lately. In a metaphorical sense, I guess I’m starting to do the work too.

I mentioned earlier about the lack of internet at my house. It’s basically because I’ve pretty much moved out of my house and had my internet service transferred to where I’m temporarily staying. The house that I’m temporarily staying at apparently has never had DSL internet, so they have to pull new lines, which has been delayed several times. I’ve moved out, transferred my internet, and have been pulling weeds because recently I decided to sell my house. I’ll be moving to somewhere with different grounds, a different separate of weeds. I’m hoping that in starting over on new ground this time I’ll have the discipline to keep out of the weeds, both literally and metaphorically.

a dream

Guilt. Guilt and remorse. Guilt and remorse for something that as far as I know, never happened. That’s a weird thing to keep me up at night…

Last night I had a dream. It started off as a pleasant enough dream.

In my dream I was a youth counselor, like I had been in years past. The kids were younger, maybe third or fourth graders, and they were Korean kids. It was like I had gone back in time a couple of years, to when I helped with Davis Korean Church’s Awana program.

Like many Korean kids, these kids were involved in a lot of extra curricular activities. There were two brothers who had just come from Taekwondo practice, and they were still in their martial arts uniforms in church. They were full of energy, wanting to spar with all the other kids. I told them to leave the other kids alone, and then they started sparring me, kicking and punching at random with their little legs and feet. They weren’t really causing any pain, at that age their kicks and punches don’t do much damage, but they were being really annoying and I was trying to corral the other kids to start their bible study lessons.

After about a minute of it I was getting annoyed, so I pushed the older brother away. He landed on his back pretty hard, and his head hit the ground. His eyes started to bleed, so I grabbed a towel and started carefully dabbing the blood away from around his eyes. After a while the bleeding stopped, and so I told him to open his eyes, and he responded that he couldn’t see, that everything’s dark.

“I’m scared,” he said, “everything’s all dark.”

Before I knew it, his mom had been called and he was on his way to the hospital, and I was left holding a blood stained towel. I distinctly remember looking down at the bloody towel in my hand when an overwhelming feeling of guilt and remorse came over me. It was agonizing, to the point where it woke me up, and try as I might, I couldn’t get the picture of the bloody towel out of my mind.

And so I was left with a feeling of guilt and remorse, for something that as far as I can remember, never actually happened. Sometimes I wonder if dreams have a meaning. If so, what would the meaning of this dream be?

programming, prayer, doubt & faith

This morning at work, in a rare stroke of genius, I came to realize that setting
   ClientIDMode = System.Web.UI.ClientIDMode.Static; 
would solve all my problems. Okay, well that’s an exaggeration. I guess it won’t solve ALL my problems. I guess in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t solve much. But it did help with the programming project that I’m working on currently. And I guess it wasn’t really a stroke of genius on my part, it was more like a fortuitous Google search that revealed the solution.

Interestingly enough, it’s something that I shared in prayer during small group last night– I shared that I had a programming project deadline coming up and that I was having trouble feeling motivated to finish it. So I guess that little programming revelation was an answer to my prayer request.

My prayer requests in general tend to be small superficial things. I suppose my life is okay as it is– I don’t get sick often and I feel pretty blessed in general, I’m not really lacking for anything (although according to my parents I should probably pray for a wife.)

Tonight I went to a different sort of prayer group. My friend Osmond wanted to go to a healing prayer ministry. His dad wouldn’t drive him to it, so he asked me to drive him. And so I agreed, partly out of curiosity.

If there’s anyone I know that needs prayer, it would be Osmond. Blind from birth, and now suffering from a debilitating joint problem that makes him unable to walk, I could see why he would want to go to a healing prayer meeting. It was the joint problem that he asked the prayer team to pray for. They asked him a few questions about his physical state, and a myriad of questions about his emotional and spritual states. They asked one pointed question, that if he believed he could be healed, to which Osmond responded with “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” which is from Mark 9:24.

“Well said!” They replied, then they proceeded to pray for him. I don’t want to make any judgement, but it was definitely different from the prayers that I’m accustomed to. They repeatedly prayed for various spirits to be “banished to chains of darkness.” Then they anointed his knees with some kind of oil, and then they asked him to try to walk across the room.

I was next to him the whole time, and when they asked him to walk, I could tell that Osmond was skeptical. He slowly and gingerly stepped up out of his wheelchair and then leaned his entire weight on my shoulder while making tiny steps across the room. It was obvious that he was in pain. When he slumped back into his wheelchair, he seemed defeated, so the people praying for him said that there are miracles and healings, and that while miracles are instantaneous, healing takes time.

By that point Osmond seemed defeated and doubtful.

This past Sunday’s sermon at UCC was about faith and doubt. The pastor had two main points– faith does not exist without doubt, and it’s what we do with doubt that matters. So doubt in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. I guess the way we act on that doubt makes it good or bad.

For me, the great inequality that exists in this world is a big source of doubt. A lot of times when we talk about inequality it’s about income inequality, the 1% of the richest vs the 99% of the “normal working stiff.” But there is obvious inequalities even within our circles of friends. How come Osmond’s life is so tough compared to everyone else’s?

Faced with this doubt, and being the introverted and introspective guy that I am, my response to this doubt is to reflect. And sometimes I’ll even write candidly about it on my blog over a cup of tea.

On the one hand this inequality makes me realize how blessed I truly am, on the other hand it makes me realize I have no answers, and it makes me wonder about God– and how this inequality could be loving and just. So maybe in my case this doubt is good and bad.

the foolish life

This morning I had a somewhat foolish thought. For a brief moment I thought about quitting my job, selling my house, and buying one of these bike trailers. Without a job or a house I’d be free to just wander around the country by bike.

I think it’s a really smart and well designed trailer. The top portion folds out into a tent. There are stabilizers underneath the trailer for leveling the tent on uneven ground. Underneath the tent portion is a decent sized storage area. It looks like I could store weeks worth of food and gear in there.

Last year I went on a crazy bike trip. I chalk it up as my last bit of youthful foolishness (I was still in my 20s at the time…) There were some hard days and some rough riding, but in the end it was an incredible experience, and I’m truly glad that I did it. All I had was my bicycle and four panniers full of gear and food, and I rode through a lot of wet and cold weather, but for some reason I was happy.

Quitting my job and selling my house and traveling around on a bike sounds like a foolish life decision. But you know what? I really like biking and I really like camping. I don’t hate my job, but I can’t honestly say that I really like my job either. In the end it’s really just a means for me to have money to go biking, camping, and traveling.

In small group today we finished the book we’ve been studying, Tim Keller’s “King’s Cross.” It finishes with the resurrection of Christ. Christianity pretty much hinges on the resurrection of Christ. Keller quotes Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 15 about the resurrection: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

It implies that the Christians at the time were living in a way that they would be pitied by the rest of the world. Perhaps they were living like the church in Acts 2; “42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Actually now that I think about it, I don’t know if I would pity someone who lived like that. It actually sounds like a joyful life. But it definitely sounds somewhat foolish by today’s standards, selling properties to give to those in need– Who does that nowadays?!

I wonder what my life would like if I truly believed in the resurrection. In some way I do believe. That’s what a life of faith is. But do I really, honestly, truly believe, in such a way that if the resurrection were found to be false, my life would be pitied? Or I guess the question is, do I live that sort of foolish life? If not, what would that sort of foolish life look like for me?

I suppose it doesn’t necessarily mean selling all my possessions and going to serve in Africa (perhaps in my case becoming a bicycle builder there). At least in small group, that’s what the consensus seemed to be, that living foolish doesn’t necessarily mean big things like that. It sounded to me like we were trying to come up with small, practical ways to be “foolish.” Practical, yet foolish– sounds completely oxymoronic to me…

So that leaves me with the question again. What does a foolish life centered on the resurrection look like?

I wonder.

the fiddler

This weekend I saw the “Fiddler on the Roof” at a local community theater. It was my first time watching a musical at a community theater, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It turned out that the performances were surprisingly decent and the ticket prices were less than half what they would have been at one of the bigger theaters, so I’ll probably be watching more community theater productions.

The story in ‘The Fiddler on the Roof’ centers around the family of Tevya, a poor Jewish milkman living in Russia. Tevya has five daughters, the oldest three are of marriageable age. Tevya is a very traditional man, (in fact the opening song is about Jewish tradition), and wants his daughters married according to Jewish tradition. Each of his daughters’ marriages move farther and farther away from the Jewish traditions that he holds on to.

The eldest daughter is arranged to marry the town butcher, who is much much older than her, but Tevya agrees to the marriage, thinking his daughter will be better off by marrying the rich butcher. But she instead wants to marry her childhood friend the tailor, despite the fact that he is very poor, and so she convinces the tailor to ask her father to allow them to be married. Tevya is stunned and angered by the breach in tradition but eventually relents and allows them to get married.

The second daughter falls in love with a Marxist revolutionary, who gets called away to Kiev to work for the revolution. Before he leaves he asks for her hand in marriage. Tevya initially refuses, but after some soul searching allows them to get married. He realizes the world is changing, and his daughters are marrying for love instead of through the Jewish tradition of matchmaking. Tevya, who himself had an arranged marriage with his wife, asks his wife if she loves him. (Funny how the topic never came up during 25 years of marriage). She dismisses the question as foolish, but eventually admits that she does in fact love him.

The third daughter falls in love with a Russian. This is where Tevya draws the line, he cannot allow his daughter to marry a non Jewish man. She ends up eloping with the Russian, leaving Tevya wondering where he went wrong.

The story ends rather abruptly with the Jews being kicked out of Russia. Tevya, his wife, and his two remaining daughters pack their belongings, planning to move to America. The story ends with the fiddler playing a song on his violin. Tevya nods to the fiddler and the fiddler follows along on the family’s journey to America.

I didnt’ really understand the whole part about the fiddler, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia The Fiddler is a metaphor for survival, through tradition and joyfulness, in a life of uncertainty and imbalance. So that makes sense. The story ends rather abruptly, with the family scattered but I guess the fiddler traveling with Tevya symbolizes that life goes on.

Despite the obvious differences (Jews living in Russia versus Koreans living in America, and five daughters versus two sons) the family in the story actually kind of reminds me of my family.

My parents weren’t really an arranged marriage, but I’ve often wondered if they really love each other. In truth I thought they would divorce as soon as my bro and I finished college (maybe that’s a subconscious reason why neither my bro and I finished our four year degrees.) But I guess they’re better nowadays, they’ve learned to live with each other, so I guess that’s some sort of love.

My dad kind of reminds me of Tevya. Lately he’s been really getting on my case about marriage, getting to the point where he’s actually even arranged dates for me. A few months back I got into a huge argument with him about how stupid I thought it was that he was arranging these dates. My dad’s not an overly traditional person, but I guess in his generation people would’ve been married by the time they’re thirty. Nowadays people are getting married later, and I’m not sure why, but for some reason I always thought that thirty-two would be the age that I would want to get married. And he wouldn’t really outright say it, but I’m pretty sure he’d want my bro and I to marry a Korean girl, even though neither my bro nor I have dated a Korean girl for any real length of time. So I guess that’s where the ‘tradition’ is with my dad– probably like Tevya he will be forced to live with his offspring turning away from those traditions.

Things I’m thankful for:

  • cheap tickets for musicals
  • stories that make me think about my own life
  • despite not knowing how to play violin, the fiddle continues to play

post review

As one year ends and a new one begins, I find myself reflecting on the past. For me this year marks the end of a decade and an end of an era. Since zero through nine years is the first decade, turning thirty marks the end of the third and beginning of the fourth decade of life. When I came to that realization I felt really old for a while, but then I realized that there’s still a lot of living left to do.

For most people the third decade is a decade of change. It’s the decade where most people graduate from college and start their adult life, building careers and families and what not. For me it was also a beginning of a new life. It’s the decade where I became a Christian and got baptized. Sometimes I wonder where I would be if I never found Christ in college. I have no clue what my life would look like, but I know that without a doubt my life would be completely different.

I started randomly browsing through my picture albums from the last few years. It made me realize how immensely blessed I am, with good friends and a job that is pretty flexible. And I’ve come to realize that a lot of those blessings came from the church. That’s not to say that I don’t have great friends through work or through school, I have awesome friends from my old job at CalPERS and at my current job at POST, and have awesome friends from high school and college too. Despite being such an introverted hermit I somehow have been blessed with great friends, and for that I’m thankful.

moments to remember

Not too long ago I fixed up my file server. (Yes, I’m nerdy enough that I have my own home file server). So anyways, it had been out of commission for a while, so I forgot what I had on it. After it was up and running again I browsed through the stuff on the hard drive and found a pretty decent collection of Korean movies. So lately when I have some downtime at home I’ve been watching Korean movies.

Recently I watched a Korean movie called, “A Moment to Remember.” The Korean title actually literally translates to “The Eraser in my Head,” but that’s a terrible title in my opinion. I’m guessing the main reason why I downloaded this movie was because Son Ye Jin was in it. I used to have the fattest crush on Son Ye Jin. Okay I lie. I still have the fattest crush on her.

<Warning, I’m pretty much going to spoil the entire movie if you read further>

Anyways, she plays this ditsy forgetful girl whose forgetfulness leads her to meet a man who she falls in love with. To make a long story short, they get married and live happily together. Then one day she goes to the doctor and finds that she has a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

She begins rapidly losing her memories, with the most recent memories disappearing first. She starts forgetting who her husband is, mistaking him for someone from a past failed relationship. But once in a while she would have flashes where she remembers everything, and it’s during one of those moments of clarity when she realizes how much she’s hurting her husband. She runs away and checks herself into a mental institute. He searches for her but to no avail. Some time later she has another flash of memory and writes him a letter. He uses it to track her down at the mental institute, but sadly finds that she basically has no memory at all.

He decides to try to jog her memory by recreating the moment that they met. So he recreates it with all her family present. As the camera pans slowly as she’s looking at the faces of her family, the camera zooms to her face. It seems as if she’s starting to remember who they are and asks, “Is this heaven?”

Anyways I pretty much spoiled the entire movie (but it’s definitely still worth watching and I’d actually be down to watch it again.) I wouldn’t normally write about a movie, but this one really made me think. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve slowly come to the realization that experiences are far more valuable than possessions. If anything this movie made me realize even more that those memories and experiences — those moments to remember — truly shape who we are. I also thought a lot about the question the wife asked at the end of the movie, “Is this heaven?” I don’t think that heaven can truly exist on earth, but if you surround yourself with good friends and family I guess it can start to be like heaven on earth.

time and money

So let’s do something different today. I will start today’s post off with a mathematical proof.

Haha just kidding. I don’t honestly believe this equation’s conclusion that girls are evil. OK, that’s a lie. I do believe girls are evil, but not for the reasons stated in this equation. (I believe both girls and guys are evil– that’s fair right?) The problem I have with this equation is the premise that time equals money.

Recently I’ve been hanging out with some of my old coworkers from CalPERS. I heard through them that my old team lead had retired. I thought for a while whether I wanted the job. I’m pretty happy with my current job– I like the work that I do and I have a lot of freedom. The only real problem I have is the pay. I made a lot more money at CalPERS because of all the overtime. Where I work now, there’s really no opportunity for overtime. I mentioned this during a conversation with one of my old coworkers. Here is his exact response, which I’ve pasted verbatim from the google chat log…

“But dont forget: Time is your only unrenewable Resource”

I never really thought about it before, but he’s right. Time is nonrenewable (apparently unrenewable is not a word but nonrenewable is). We can always work for more money, but we can never add a day to our lives, all we can do is manage our health to try to prolong our life.

This week a good friend of mine asked me to be a pallbearer for his grandmother’s funeral. His grandmother had lived to the amazing age of 98. My friend said that it made him realize that life is short. 98 years is not a short life by most people’s measure. 25 years is short. 27 years, 28 years, 31 years– those were short lives, lives that were taken away early by accidents, asthma, gastric cancer, lung cancer. That’s the other thing I’ve come to realize about time. It’s uncertain.

And so to revise my old coworker’s advice as a reminder to myself-

Don’t forget: Time is nonrenewable and Time is uncertain.

Things I’m thankful for:

  • Good advice and reminders from friends
  • The time that I’ve already had