Hello Again and Welcome Back

It’s been a long time! A lot has happened since I last wrote here. Had two beautiful girls and created a edtech startup. Although it fits into a little sentence, it was one of the most amazing and thrilling chapters of my life.

And now begins another.

I am now a part-time stay-at-home Dad. My first daughter was born when I created my startup. It was challenging to split my focus. I don’t want to do that again. The whole reason I created a company in the education space is because everything I do is for my kids. Sometimes the best way to do that is simply to be there for them, especially in their early years.

This also means, hey, I may be able to start writing again. So hello again! Welcome back.

On Hiatus

You may have noticed that I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been working on a few exciting ventures and haven’t had the free time I once had to write.

This is an official hiatus. I still love to write and will definitely return to it in earnest someday. For now, I’ll be concentrating on other priorities.

In the meantime, if you’re craving more to read, here are some nice starting points:

  • Best Of – A collection of essays that are either my personal favorites or are popular with my readers.
  • Conversations – Personally, I love conversations. I love having them and writing about them.
  • Dating – I’m no longer single (sorry ladies!), but this category seems to be one of my most popular.
  • Theories – I have lots of theories. You may not agree with them all, but perhaps some will make you go, “Hmmm.”
  • Travelng – Who doens’t like traveling? If you like reading travel stories, you’ll like this category.
  • Values – Curious about me and what makes me tick? Here are a collection of essays that reflect my core values.

Thanks!

Conversations with a Barber: On Doing What You Have To Do

“I was refugee in Hong Kong for one year,” said Hiep the barber. “I no speak any Cantonese. Some Mandarin, but no Cantonese.”

“Are there many Vietnamese in Hong Kong?” I asked.

“No.”

I waited until he removed his shears before shaking my head. “That sounds rough.”

“And you know, I get job. With no Cantonese, I still get job.”

I looked up at him. “How?”

He smiled. “I walk into office and ask for it. I speak some Mandarin and I…” He waved his hands around, trying to find the right words.

“Ad libbed?” I asked.

He continued waving his hands around. “I point, I move hands…”

“Ah okay. So you communicated with your hands and with a little Mandarin.”

“Yes!” he smiled again. “That is how I get job.”

He crossed behind me with an electric razor. The buzzer mumbled his next few words.

“…job in factory. I make motors for blenders. Little motors. Engineering work.”

“Pretty impressive for having no Cantonese,” I said.

“Yes. I have no experience to make motors. But I learn. Just like I have no experience with Cantonese. But I learn. I do what I have to do.”

I nodded. “That is pretty amazing. A lot of people would have a hard time doing that.”

“I have no. I need job.”

He circled around me again and started buzzing my sides. I watched him carve the wild hairs down.

“I get job for my brother too,” he continued. “All brothers. I bring them to factory. They get job too.”

“That company must have loved you then.”

“Yes. But then – I leave!” He grinned and straightened his back proudly.

“You what?”

“I leave factory! I get another job. I get another job make more money and do something else.”

I chuckled. “That’s pretty cool. Did the factory mind?”

“No, they no mad. Brothers no mad too. I get bored, want to learn something new. I saw another job, ask them to teach me, then get job.”

“Did your brothers go with you?”

He laughed and shook his head. “No, they like factory to make motors. They stay.”

The shears came back and sliced away a few errant hairs. One fell on my nose and I blew it away.

“What did you do at your new job?” I asked.

He looked around his barber shop, then pointed at the chrome handle of a chair. “You see shiny? This shiny?”

I paused. “Shiny. You mean the chrome handle?”

“Yes. This.” He tapped the handle. “I take this, dip into chemical. Make shiny.”

“Ah, so you put chrome on these materials.”

“Yes. Dip into many chemical. Not just one. Need many to make shiny. I have no experience to do this. I have to learn on job.”

I nodded. “That’s pretty impressive. Sounds like had to learn a lot there. Cantonese, a new country, new jobs…”

“Yes. Because I have to. Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do. If you have to learn, you will learn. Me, you, anyone can.”

Conversations with a Barber: On Starting a Business

“Starting a business is easy,” Hiep the barber told me.

“Oh?”

“Yes,” he nodded. He looked at the back of my head, then trimmed a little off the side. “Being nurse or doctor, that hard.”

“I have to agree with that, but many people don’t find it easy to start a business,” I answered.

He mulled over my statement and my hair for a beat. “Business,” he started. “Is hard. Yes. Not easy to start business. But if you think this, you never start.”

He walked around to the other side of my head and pulled out the electric razor. “Better to think business is easy,” he continued. “Because if you no think this, you never start.”

“Ah, I see what you mean.”

The buzzer hummed as it started to mow my sideburns. I watched him flick the comb over my hair and trim the strands that stuck out.

“I start as delivery driver,” he said after he shut off the buzzer. “I drive truck all day. That my job before this.”

“That sounds like hard work.”

“Yes. Hard work. Then truck company cut back hour. Cut my hour to five hour a day. I start work at seven in morning. By twelve, I done. What I do then, huh?”

“Relax and watch TV?” I asked.

He laughed. “I tell you, being busy is good. Not busy lead you to trouble. I tell my sons that too. You must always be busy.”

“How did you keep busy then?”

“I tell you. I always want my own business. So I talk to friend one day. Friend wearing white coat. I ask, ‘Are you a doctor?’ Friend say, ‘No, I’m student in cosmetology school. I learn to be barber.’ I say, ‘Where school? I want to learn too.’ So I learn.”

He motioned to the clock and continued. “For one year, I drive truck from seven to twelve, then attend school from one to six.”

“It took a year to get your cosmetology license?”

“Yes, because I work too. Otherwise, only nine month. But I part-time, so one year for me.”

“That’s dedication.”

He picked up a spray bottle and misted my hair. Then he grabbed a pair of scissors and began to chop away. “I work as barber for many year. But shop far away. Long drive. So I save money and open up this shop here, to be closer to family.”

“Wow, so you learned enough about the barber business from that other shop to open up this one?”

“Yes. And I do everything myself. This whole shop, I do myself.” He pointed at the mirrors on the wall. “I put these up.” He pointed at the tiles on the ground. “I put these tiles in.” He took a step back and scanned the tiny shop. “When I first get shop, it look very different. I put everything except…” He pointed to the neon sign in the window. “I hire someone to make neon sign.” His gaze moved to the back of the shop. “And plumbers, electricians. I hire them too. I no can do that myself.”

“Wow, that’s quite a bit you had to do yourself!” I enthused.

“Yes. Lot of cleaning. Lot of painting.” I watched him smile as he surveyed his shop. “Lot of things, I do.”

“That’s a lot of hard work.”

He turned his gaze to me. “Yes. But hard is good. If easy, everyone do, right? When I open business thirteen year ago, not many barbers here. Now, more. But before, not so many.”

“That’s very true,” I nodded. “A hard business to get into means less competition.”

“Yes. Starting a business is hard. But hard is good. Tell yourself business is easy, so you start. But choose a business that is hard, because hard is good for business.”

10 Things Not To Say During an Interview

Foot-in-Mouth disease doesn’t just strike dates. For some, it strikes during interviews too. Here is a list of what hopefully never comes out of your mouth during an interview.

  1. “What I want to know is, how do I get your job?”
  2. “Honestly, if you must know, I really hate people.”
  3. “Can you give me an alphabetized list of everyone in this office, including their home addresses and social security numbers? I like to do a background check on all of my coworkers before joining a new company.”
  4. “Ohmigod I’m so drunk right now I think I’m gonna puke…”
  5. “The receptionist is totally hot. I can’t wait to get hired so I can bang her.”
  6. “I’m prone to violent and homicidal fits of rage whenever I’m disappointed. So, I have the job, right?”
  7. “No, I don’t think this company really has any potential or will go anywhere. I just want a paycheck.”
  8. “Hold on, I hear my phone ringing.”
  9. “My hobbies? I love FarmVille! I can’t stop playing it all day long, sometimes for hours on end!”
  10. “So how the fuck are ya?”

What else should a candidate not say on an interview?

A Son’s Proud Achievement

This is a true story. You may not believe it. I didn’t when I first heard it. Too absurd to be a true story, I thought. But sometimes the most absurd stories are the true ones.

Some details have been obfuscated for the privacy of those involved.

It starts with a mother and her young, developmentally-delayed grade-school son. The son is entirely enamored of all things mystical and medieval. Dungeons and dragons, wizards and warriors, swords and spells. He spends endless hours at his computer, conquering quests, earning treasures, and leveling up.

Every time he reaches some kind of monumental achievement, he enthusiastically shares the victory with his mother.

“Mom, mom, I just freed the city of Mithrendain!”

“Mom, mom, I just found the Dragonbone Staff!”

“Mom, mom, I just defeated Ser Cauthrien and his guards!”

To these exclamations, Mom always replies with a positive, “That’s great, that’s great. I’m so proud of you, honey.”

“Mom, mom, I just reached level 43!”

“That’s great, that’s great. I’m so proud of you, honey.”

Sometimes he’ll even call Mom during work, so strong is his excitement. She accepts them as any Mom would, with a calm cheer. It’s during one of these calls that our story begins.

“Mom, mom,” his little voice hollers. “I just captured a dwarf!”

Mom nods at the receiver. “That’s great, that’s great. I’m so proud of you, honey.” Then she hangs up and continues her work. It is a busy day and she wants to get through her tasks quickly.

Thirty minutes pass. Another call. “Mom, mom, I just captured a dwarf!”

She mumbles her quick reply, “That’s great, that’s great. I’m so proud of you, honey.” Then she hangs up, a little flustered at the break, but happy to be a constant part of her son’s life.

Thirty minutes pass. Another call. “Mom, mom, I just captured a dwarf!”

“That’s great, that’s great. I’m so proud of you, honey.” When she hangs up, she shrugs at a coworker. “He must really be excited about his game. This is the third time he’s called me today.”

“Third time?” asks the coworker. “That’s an awful lot for him. Maybe you should go home and check on him, just in case.”

She ponders the suggestion. “I don’t know, I have so much work to do here…”

“I can cover for you here. Go on, get out of here. You’ll be back in no time.”

Mom smiles and gives the thoughtful coworker a hug. “Oh, thank you so much.” Then she scoots down the hallway and over to her car.

When she arrives home and opens the front door, her son greets her energetically. “Mom, mom, I captured a dwarf! I captured a dwarf!”

“Okay honey, I’m so proud of you,” she answers and pats his head.

“Do you want to see him?”

“Sure honey, show me the…” She looks up. Her jaw drops.

Various pieces of furniture are stacked against the door to the hallway closet. Tables, chairs, even some shoes. Some are wedged into place, others are piled on top of each other.

“Wha…?”

“Mom, mom, come take a look! I captured a dwarf!” He takes her hand and pulls her to the closet. There is a sound coming from the closet. Something scratching or banging or moving around.

Mom grabs the furniture and digs her way to the closet door. Tables, chairs, shoes are all tossed aside. Her son is standing besides her with a great big beaming smile. Proud.

All of the furniture is pushed aside. Mom swings open the door.

And out runs a very short man. A midget. He is dressed in a suit. He darts across the hallway, out the front door, and down the block with nary a word.

The son is jumping up and down, clapping his hands and shouting, “The dwarf! The dwarf!”

Mom stands there, motionless, speechless. Clueless. She isn’t sure if she should ask her son what happened, or tell him she’s so proud of him for capturing a… well, you know.

Busy Up the Wazoo

You know the feeling? You’re in a trash compactor with sewage water is up to your waist. The walls are closing in, fast. And your trusty protocol droid just can’t seem to figure out how to save you.

I’ve been feeling that lately. Just looking at my laptop would send shivers of stress up my spine. I’m not the only one too. There are quite a few others who are also equally tense. Maybe you’re one of them.

Continue reading “Busy Up the Wazoo”

Liquid Cocaine

You know what I love? Liquid Cocaine.

Back at my previous job, there are cozy cafes that serve up free espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, chai teas, and more. Every so often, the baristas would concoct special drinks with different blends of syrups, like the Mint Chocolate Chip (mocha with mint syrup) or the Strawberry Shortcake (macchiato with strawberry syrup and whipped cream).

Continue reading “Liquid Cocaine”