Archive for October, 2005

Sunday October 30, 2005

October 30, 2005 - 1:08 am 2 Comments

[I did well at this tournament, but I feel morally obligated to make a few vituperative statements. I’m a little nervous about putting this up on the public domain, but alas, my conscience begs me to open up a little sore wound so that a clean scab forms quickly.]

This weekend, I went to my first collegiate debate tournament this year, held at Suffolk University of Boston – ironically, the location of the last debate tournament I attended my senior year of high school. Since Lincoln-Douglass debate in college is basically one-man policy, quite evidence heavy, our team has been shouldering a strategic disadvantage of having no coach, only weekly meetings, and no sizeable research pool. Nevertheless, this tournament has proved to me that we can do well with analytical arguments, exposing the fact that 80% of the time, intelligence trumps having a fluffy card that claims too much and rationalizes too little.

Topicality, Inherency, Workability, Solvency, Advantages, Disadvantages…FIAT!

Ah…the wonders of this new debate jargon. I find in many ways that the quality of debate is inferior to some of the exciting rounds of high school Lincoln-Douglass because questions of morality, in my opinion, stimulate much more interesting discussion than specific policy actions of the US, most often passing an amendment to revise a currently obscure and insignificant piece of legislation.

Cards. The bane of my existence, for now. I do have a problem with the fact that a rather thick-headed, screechy girl is able to say, “I win because I have a card that says if you remove sanctions on Burma, businesses will flood in and then democracy happens”. Of course, she completely ignores the fact that businesses have little incentive to invest in a country ruled by a communist military junta that currently abuses human rights and is likely to extort US businesses who dare take the risk to set up a factory, there is no rule of law to ensure the requisite stability critical to business needs, that Burma’s industries are in shambles due to civil war, that the overall increase in trade volume is quite small, that profits of trade will be pocketed by the junta to finance the war against their own people, that the removal of sanctions will be seen as a concession and victory for the junta, that allying ourselves with the abusive junta of Burma in a plight against China (“strategically located”, she said) would violate all the human rights rhetoric the United States stands for, that democratization is not such an easy process that can be enacted just through the establishment of bilateral trade agreements, that removal of unilateral trade sanctions doesn’t make a big difference (since the US is one of the few nations that have sanctions, open bilateral trade results in trade diversion vs. trade creation, which thus makes the plan insignificant), that even without the sanctions, the increase in trade volume is minute because Burma would be exporting shoddy goods at comparably higher prices, which goes against the efficiency of global capitalism, and that the junta is currently taking an isolationist position, and that if she really wants democratization to occur, the US must actually send troops and apply military force, which it certainly can’t, since the War on Iraq costs $7 billion a month and has left the US vulnerable and overextended…

And worst of all, she SCREAMED, BELLOWED, make sarcastic statements, and ridiculous claims such as “My plan is amazing. Great!”

This happened to be my semi-final round, by the way. How did she get there?

I lost.

Good news: I’m qualified for nationals. Got 2nd place overall LD speaker. Semi-finalist ranking. Two trophies (quite hideous actually…I’ve never seen ram head trophies before…)

[It was quite interesting because after my preliminary rounds, I thought I did so horribly that there was no possibility of breaking. After my fourth round, I changed into normal clothes. Then, I discovered I actually made it to elimination rounds…and well, I frantically scurried to change.]

Nevertheless, I guess despite the acrid tones of bitterness still left in my mouth, I can comfort myself with the fact that a lot of people who observed the round (probably 30 in total) had a lot of good things to say. The coach of Ithaca College said that I was incredibly smart to have come up with so many attacks instantaneously, that my cross examination was right on target (pretty much showed that she doesn’t have a sound background in economics), and that he expects me to do very well. The coach of St. Anselm said something like he would have voted for me, if he could. A lot of spectators (Lafayette, various colleges) mentioned that they’ve never seen such an exciting round in terms of my response to the claims made by her.

I guess she was exciting to watch in the sense that as a hefty girl (I would say around 250 pounds), she turned an interesting shade of red due to asphyxiation.  

Anyway, we need more evidence. If I had more evidence, I pretty much would have secured the round. One of the judges who voted for me was actually the former UPenn debate captain, six years my senior. He had a lot of insightful comments, and offered to answer some of our questions, which I found really nice.


Anyway, I’m so proud of our team!

Ahanta, one of our novices, an international student from India, ended up being showcased in the Novice finals. With a preliminary record of 3-1, she performed spectacularly. I am really proud of how far she’s come along, given limited preparation time and lack of formal training beyond what I’ve informed the team. 

All the speech people did excellently too, judging from raw scores. Since our team is not as indoctrinated in the “conventions” of speech, we’ve been known for taking risks and doing things differently, thus earning a lot of extra points for being creative, adventurous, and truly within the spirit of competition. As of now, I don’t know how all the speakers matched up to the rest of the pool (we had to leave before awards to catch a flight). But once I find out, I’ll be sure to let everyone know.

Well, this tournament has taught me how tiring administrative work can be. Besides registration, getting people to places on time without having a car and relying solely on public transportation is difficult. As the inherently nervous person that I am, I fulfilled the role that parents generally did in high school. I got the team to the airport early by three hours in fear of missing a flight, made the morning wake-up warnings at 6 AM, made tons of phone calls to find the best transportation strategies, brainstormed arguments with those who felt confused by a specific topic or rule, tried to make sure that I knew where everyone was at critical times of the day, and managed the allocation and receipt collection of our cash funds.


I wish we had a coach, sometimes.

Nevertheless, I love debate. I view it as a panacea for my ills and self-doubts. I guess my teammates thought I was somewhat odd because I came out of every round beaming about how much I loved debating and how fun it was. Somehow, debate always manages to make me happy, regardless of how well I do.

Saturday October 22, 2005

October 22, 2005 - 9:49 pm 6 Comments

Eulogy to my blue trash can
Time of Death: 9:22 PM, 10/22/05

We met in sixth grade.

At the Container Store, my mother shuddered at the high prices, but I, upon glancing upon your sleek blue clear plastic façade, could not resist your beguiling charm. I clutched your rotund figure and would not let go. $20 secured our lifelong friendship, until your tragic demise.

For nine years, we have remained steadfast roommates. You flexibly fit into the décor of the many rooms I have inhabited – a reminder of my innocent elementary school days. Patiently and without hesitance, you accepted my mediocre work and the refuse of my lifestyle. As a true friend, you never disclosed the secrets I disposed to you.

The guilt plagues me for I take responsibility for your death. As I opened the trash chute on the twentieth floor of my residence, my fingers slipped. You tumbled down the dank metal tunnel; even Dante Alighieri did not encounter such a quick, melancholy descent to perdition.

In a desperate last attempt to save you, I called UPenn facilities, hysterically stammering the circumstances of your untimely accident. They don’t understand…you were special.

Forgive me, my friend.

Alas, I quell my sadness with the token you have left me. Your blue rim graces the area formerly reserved for you – a reminder that the ones we love never truly leave us. By my side, a part of yourself will forever remain with me.

Saturday October 22, 2005

October 22, 2005 - 12:06 am 1 Comment

There is something intrinsically soothing about Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto in D major and Mozart’s flute and harp sonata in C major.

This past week has been hellish. Not only do I find myself quite sick and somewhat blind, I’m once again within the clutches of consistent nightmares, feelings of inadequacy, and a general sentiment of extreme, self-imposed solitude. I feel as if the world moves around me, as if I were a mere spectator in a sequence of events I have no ability to impact. When will I ever be able to do enough to the point at which I am satisfied with myself? 

I should lose myself in a satisfying book. When my health improves, I’ll be back to normal.

I miss home. I miss feeling as if I belong somewhere.


Monday October 17, 2005

October 17, 2005 - 8:09 pm 1 Comment

Diagnosis: Blunt eye trauma. Retinal swelling. Magnificent bruising behind my eye. Increased risk of retinal detachment for the rest of my life.

Feelings of the subject: Upset to have wasted today’s afternoon, coincidentally the last day of my Fall Break, sitting in a waiting room at the ophthalmologist office instead of doing something fun.

Argh. Over a stupid soccer ball.

[Switching over to something more pleasing.]

My mother has seriously gone out of her way to make the assortment of Chinese dishes I adore. From Thai basil eggplant, clam and winter melon soup, stir-fried green bean sprouts to meat and water chestnut wrapped in bean curd skin, slow-cooked roasted beef (Chinese-style), red roasted fresh fish, and homemade dumplings, I’ve dined heavenly. 

Though I feel bad for the hours she’s spent in the kitchen, I’m very grateful! There is no better mother in the world! Mother always makes me feel better.

“So does Gracie. =D,” says Grace, peering over my shoulder.

Sunday October 16, 2005

October 16, 2005 - 8:23 pm 2 Comments

Tomorrow, I am almost 100% confident that I will wake up with one heck of a shiner…

This weekend constitutes the beginning and end of my short, relapsed stint with soccer, after a three year absence from a career of approximately twelve years. As a “guest player” on my sister’s team, I donned the red jersey for Vienna, and just let the events dictate themselves. Considering that to have a fully legitimate game, there ought to have been eleven players for each side, I was the much-needed seventh, a fill-in for a rocky season filled with injuries and academic commitments. Seriously, the girls drop like flies – at least three of my sister’s teammates cheered from the sidelines, waving a happy assortment of crutches and knee braces.

7 versus 11 players – no subs (obviously) for us and six subs for them. With the team adopting a defensive strategy, as one of two forwards (and no mid-fielders), a 5 on 1 situation was not uncommon.

There was no chance of victory…

Those who think ice hockey is a more physical game, well, I laugh at you! Soccer is downright more unclean and grueling. I kind of forgot when I first started playing, almost idyllically pleased, flashing a big dumb smile, until I got shoved hard in the gut by an overzealous defender rushing the ball. Afterwards, there was a moment in which I literally flew a few yards and did an impromptu gymnastics routine after a rather large girl slammed into me when we were both attempting to trap an aerial ball off a goal kick. But years of ice hockey has taught me to just pick myself up as fast as possible, and to get on with the game.

Ah…the clincher. One-on-one against the sweeper…she gets to the ball first, I’m just a foot away…she kicks the ball hard…it’s airborne…

…and slams right into my left eye at full power, due to the proximity.

My contact fell out sometime in the process. I emitted a frightening screech of pain and to my embarrassment, fell to the ground. My mother started stammering, half-English and half-Chinese, “It’s her knee, I knew it would be her knee…why did I let her play?” [FYI: I have no history of knee problems.]

For ten minutes, I seriously cannot see anything out of my left eye, possibly the most frightening ten minutes of my life. I’m escorted off the field, but I think the hit to my eye damaged my temporary memory. Suddenly, I’m plopped down in my dad’s lumpy green lawn chair, my eye horrifically red and tearing – me, rubbing my grubby muddy hands against it.

And of course, dear mom, blubbering, “Oh my god, it looks so red, I can’t believe it! You’ll lose your cornea…you’ll go blind….”

And then my father, who after glancing at me for a short ten seconds, whips out his camera to take a few shots, and promptly returns to the game, cheering for my sister, who seriously, played her heart out, saving at least ten goals from an onslaught of fresh, rested players. [Thanks Dad, for caring. Yeah, I'll be confiscating those pictures.]

0-2 final score.


Saturday October 15, 2005

October 15, 2005 - 11:43 pm 1 Comment

[Attach to yesterday’s entry, but with discretion: Legal Studies 210 and 220 have truly befuddled my brain. As I flipped through the listings of the corporate sponsors of the Kennedy Center, I couldn’t help but shake my head, thinking, “What a waste of a corporate social responsibility program, especially for those companies with a special ability to service an urgent need!”]

A lazy Saturday, the highlight of which included a long soccer game on one of the most beautiful, comfortable fall afternoons imaginable, and a long session with the scandals of Greg Palast, curled up in a lawn chair outside.

The downside was my father accidentally dropping my accounting textbook into the mud. I screeched in a way I once considered impossible.  

For dinner, I had a steaming bowl of my mother’s famous beef soup noodles. In preparation for my stay a home, my mother has assembled a menu of the foods I love the best! (Also, the foods that she thinks will help save my liver, which up until now, I have no idea would need saving…)

Saturday October 15, 2005

October 15, 2005 - 11:26 pm 2 Comments

I’m home.

Fall Break has never felt so wonderful! I find myself taking languishing, dreamless, thick naps to the soft words of my mother and the laughter of my father. In the words of my sister, it feels as if I never left – as if life at Penn were just a parallel figment of my imagination. Passing almost horrifically quickly, the past two days made me realize how regimented, dutifully scheduled, my life has been. Here, even nothingness – a plain day – is a pleasure.

[Friday, October 14, 2005]

In high spirits due to the positive results of my accounting test, I spent my morning accomplishing what little work I can finish in a house full of distractions before my mother returned in late afternoon. As a belated birthday gift, she had bought two tickets to a performance of the Beijing Opera at the Kennedy Center, a spectacle of song, drama, and martial arts.

After dropping my sister off at her violin lesson, we left early evening, and arrived at the Kennedy Center at approximately 6 pm, two hours before the performance. We wandered the luxuriously decorated halls, enjoyed the night view and the grandiose fountains on the balcony, scrutinized the exhibit of Chinese modern fashions, and spectated a rather odd free concert on Millennium Stage, featuring an Irish harpist and a jazz tap dancer.

Ah, a glimpse into the life of the resplendently wealthy. One of JFK’s quotes, engraved on the exterior marble edifice, remains in my mind.

“There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts. The Age of Pericles was also the Age of Phidas. The Age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the Age of Leonardo Da Vinci. The Age of Elizabeth also the Age of Shakespeare. And the New Frontier for which I campaign in public life, can also be a New Frontier for American Art”

Moved? Not really – I don’t find the connection hard to explain. Yet, I had this sudden image of our monkey president, scratching his head, and stating plainly in a rather ungainly southern drawl, “Phiiidaaas who?”

The opera was…breathtaking. The elaborate costumes, graceful acting, almost physically inhuman martial arts stunts, witty dialogue and song, Chinese traditional orchestra…

Three hours, completed enamored with the exciting story-line, situated in the edge of my seat…knowing that my mother, beside me, knew the story by heart from her love of history, and would help ensnarl the complex family lineage. My mother understood that a story with feminist roots would appeal to me quite strongly! To imagine, in the Song Dynasty, there was the legendary Mu Guiying, whose martial arts defeated those of her defunct husband’s, and the nine female generals of the Yang family! So many idioms of Chinese culture arose from this historical incident – my mom, whose wealth of knowledge in Chinese history and culture is unparalleled, shared only a glimpse of what she knew, and I was amazed. The American audience found the style of song and dialogue somewhat odd, but I understood, perhaps implicitly, the subtlety of the social dynamic.

What a beautiful spectacle! I am quite amazed of how deep the roots are of my Chinese heritage – the complexity of the civilization, a style of opera so different from the west. [Of course, my father disdains it, claiming that Chinese opera is too “abstract”. For many reasons, I disagree, though I must admit, there is a rather creative extension between the use of a feathered wooden pole as a substitute for a steed.]

[From the Kennedy Center]

Female Generals of the Yang Family
Offering a stunning synthesis of stylized action, singing, dialogue, acrobatics, dancing, juggling, costumes, and make-up, the China National Peking Opera Company is widely regarded as the nation’s best in upholding the highest expression of Chinese culture. In 1980, the Kennedy Center was among the first to pre-sent the company to American audiences. For the first time in 25 years, the company returns to the Center to present its acclaimed production Female Generals of the Yang Family. Based on the history of the Northern Song dynasty, but fictionalized for the stage, this tale of female ingenuity and strength follows 100-year-old She Taijun as she leads her family of widows into battle to avenge the death of her son. With the help of a white horse, an old apothecary, and military maneuvers that explode into fantastically choreographed fight scenes, they charge forth to vanquish the invaders.

The opera ended almost 3.5 hours later and a long, drawn-out battle scene epilogue. Still giddy with the excitement of the brilliant performance, my mom and I drove home in high spirits, discussing every detail of what we saw. On the way home, we went out for a midnight meal at one of my favorite Cantonese-style restaurants. Over a bowl of wonton soup and a plate of beef chow fun, we contemplated Chinese opera and culture.

To spend such a wonderful evening with my mother is truly a great gift. There is no mother in the universe that can rival her knowledge, wit, charisma, and absolute devotion to her family. Tonight’s mother-daughter evening was plainly magical, beyond time and place.

Wednesday October 5, 2005

October 5, 2005 - 1:08 am 3 Comments

Time: 12:50 AM.

Two accounting practice midterms, two personal essays, two internship and fellowship applications, and one debate case accomplished in the last five hours. Not bad, I suppose, but my conscience gnaws when I see the fastidious efforts of others in preparation for the accounting midterm, while I – writhing in the monotony of the subject – am averse to the idea.

Ah, the wonders of peer pressure. When everyone studies, I feel the need to study. Would this constitute a network effect? (As my roommate slaves away on her endless set of Organic Chemistry problems, assigned not by her professor, but by her insistence that doing all is the key to learn, I am researching Myanmar for debate.)

As pretentious as this claim may be, I’ve always considered myself very fortunate to have a knack for learning material faster than the average individual at Penn. [Unfortunately, my surprisingly good short-term memory finds its shady counterpart in a weak long-term memory] This skill has been invaluable, especially in tandem with my many clubs and jobs.

The incoherency begins…

I woke up at an obscenely early hour to deliriously arrive at the ice rink for practice. Today is the second time that my statistics professor finally recognized one of my questions as being “good”, which is rare, though this positive assessment did little to change the fact that he did not answer it. [I am seriously one of the few people who dare to ask questions in the class. He has this way of looking down his nose and squinting meanly like a provoked llama at those who dare break the stupor of his drone.]

Legal Studies is my highlight of the day because of the stimulating discussions and the brilliance of my professor, who is renowned internationally in his field and one of Wharton’s most eminent minds. I get my confidence and my fix for intellectualism in Wharton through this class, a seminar of only eight. A lot of my peers have worked at supranational institutions – the UN, the World Health Organization…

…makes them more cynical.

I wonder what that says about the world?

Goals for tomorrow:

  1. 9-10:30: Accounting…
  2. 12-3 pm: Study accounting (I intend to take another practice test and do more of the suggested problems). Engaging myself in this subject requires a great fortitude of mind, for I cannot think of a more boring subject.
  3. 7-10 pm: Write my debate case with the team  
  4. 10:30-what is physically sustainable: Accounting…
  5. Ah…I have a violin lesson on Thursday. Not quite prepared.

My accounting test is this coming Monday, a little too close for comfort already.