Inspiration to write (Somewhere over New Mexico, 2019)

Upon boarding my Friday afternoon flight, I had the option to continue working, read articles on my iPad, or listen to music while zoning out.

I was tempted to just get work done as quickly as possible. There was an unchecked box on my professional to-do list and I’m a leave-no-box-unchecked, deranged person.

Knowing that I needed the mental break and realizing that there was no urgency to completing the task till Monday, I popped on the AirPods and chilled out for 10 minutes to Fur Elise and Suite No. 1 in G major. I flashed back to a day in grad school when Yo-Yo Ma came to campus to speak about how automation and art had a harmonious future.

I bought none of it that day; I think our President just paid Mr. Ma a lot of money to make a celebrity appearance. He spent 10 minutes talking non-sense about machine learning, artificial intelligence, and nothing about music. Right about the moment I began thinking Yo-yo Ma is a fraud, he lifted his cello and start playing Prelude No. 1. It was as if he knew he was losing the technologist crowd with his attempt at speaking our language1 and then suddenly reversed to say “Alright, I’ll just do what I’m good at and why you’re all listening to me in the first place.”  

As I often do about people I admire, I mentally photoshopped my face onto Yo-yo’s stiff but firm body, flowing but controlled arms, and embarked on a 3 minute day dream of playing the cello. Papa and Mama Chao would’ve been proud.

Like Eminem raps in “Lose Yourself” though, Snap back to reality.

My mind was rested enough and I also had a backlog of articles to read within my iPad so I started a Zach Lowe article on the newly minted NBA champions, Toronto’s Raptors. He’s a talented writer, and I enjoy the facetious arrogance, deep knowledge, and social commentary all packed into his weekly 5 minute articles analyzing the NBA.

Then it occurred to me that I wanted to write. Perhaps, reading and good writing inspires more pen to paper,finger to keyboard.  I had a lot to think about recently, so this was an opportune moment. This week was an avalanche of to-do’s overwhelming my notebook; I also let my unread inbox pile up to triple digit numbers. This never happens.

I didn’t take moments to catch my breath, let alone read anything of value. WSJ accounts of crude prices or Facebook’s new cryptocurrency don’t count.

Maybe the solution is to force myself to read; make it a nightly task. Or find a moment on a flight in the cramped seat3 of 14C to read and then type with T-rex arms.

Whatever it is, I need to develop a habit, stat.

“He’s known as the globetrotter
Lonely roads, God only knows, he’s grown farther from home, he’s no father
He goes home and barely knows his own daughter
But hold your nose ’cause here goes the cold water
His hoes don’t want him no mo, he’s cold product
They moved on to the next schmo who flows, he nose dove and sold nada
So the soap opera is told and unfolds, I suppose it’s old partna,

But the beat goes on”


1 I don’t proclaim to be a technologist but the crowd clearly was. By transitive property, I was therefore a technologist that day.

2 Pete Wells of NYTimes restaurant reviews is also another personal favorite.

3 I normally wouldn’t complain about being in an economy, aisle-row seat. It’s a privilege to be able to fly at all, but I just wanted peace and quiet today. 14A really wanted to share all eight seasons of Game of Thrones while 14B reciprocated with his love for the Marvel universe. I have never gotten closer to buying noise cancelling head phones.

My Modus Operandi: Straight-up Hater, Die-Hard Lover

As my time in Boston comes to a close, I’ve been appreciating moments as if they were my last. The final pristine, snow-blanketed morning walk to school. The last time I would take a nap under MIT’s dome. The final jog along the Charles River Esplanade in my winter tights and running gloves. Albeit dramatic, its also an opportune moment to reflect upon my two years here.

My thoughts eventually drift toward an underlying sobering reality – I’ll be moving to Texas this upcoming fall. I won’t lie – I chose Texas for a career opportunity1. I will struggle with the new environment and I’ll definitely sit in a park alone and wonder what am I doing with life.

I rationalize the choice by understanding how I have always operated. I despise my new environments when I move. Berkeley felt like a place that vehemently opposed everything I stood for as an 18 year old coming out of Southern California suburbia. I gave Boston so much hate my first year here that I unintentionally and inadvertently persuaded friends not to visit. Shame on me.

Fast forward a year after I moved to each city, I fell in love with them. I embraced the social consciousness Berkeley embodies, waxing poetic to this day about how you can find professors, students, homeless, and Tibetan monks all sharing pizzas at the Cheeseboard cooperative. The walkability of Boston cast a spell on me, and the city flirts with me each time I eye the brownstones of the South End on my weekly walks through the city.

Knowing that my M.O. is starting as a straight-up hater but ending up as a die-hard lover, I’m installing tools to help me adjust. A friend from school as a roommate is a blessing. I’m also purchasing a Houston Rockets jersey (I haven’t decided which one though. Harden seems reverential and of the moment but Yao Ming would be classic and embrace my heritage). I’m not one to purchase or act symbolically but hey, we all evolve right? Lastly, I renewing my focus on enjoying foods and restaurants that allow me to understand a community. I had difficulty in Boston due to my schedule and the lack of a food culture I found tasty. Having Houston as an underrated but top 5 food city in the US is certainly going to help the transition.

Nothing grows in a comfortable place, Jeff. You’ve grown and learned so much from the communities you’ve been lucky enough to live in. Berkeley opened your eyes to learning about the world. Boston taught you how you can make your mark on this society. Houston and what’s next will be no different; Texas will bring unimaginable gifts.

Bro, let’s go.


1 Although my moves to Berkeley, San Francisco, and Boston have always been for the purpose of a furthering my career, I never struggled with these moves because I always lived as if I was returning home one day. Back to Southern California after the Bay Area. Back to California after Boston. Neither of these ever happened and its daunting to realize that I am not living with the comfort of pretending to know what’s next.

Vacation: checking kicks out since 3rd grade (Montevideo, Uruguay 2017)

I awoke to a sliver of sunlight singeing my upper thighs. The sounds of Montevideo lazily waking up poured through my open windows as I checked for itchy spots on my body – signs of surviving the night without any more mosquito bites. Realizing I went unscathed, I reconfigured my body to avoid the slice of mid morning sunlight.

Sure, I was trivially irritated from my clothes sticking on my body due to the lack  of air conditioning and from having a single half-functioning toilet for an apartment of eight friends. However, I was more amused that I had woken in a situation far away from my Boston life, physically and especially, mentally.

The previous 16 months had been a hustle. Not your Forbes definition of hustle but rather my own mid-20’s definition of the word. I didn’t save lives nor set out as an entrepreneur. Instead, I relentlessly explored career opportunities and threw myself into business school activities in the hopes I’ll learn something from it all. I became a markedly different person – more urgent, less forgiving, and a whole lot more tired.

But something was different that morning in Uruguay. Everything slowed and I felt refreshed.

Having walked a couple blocks to a bookstore turned coffee shop, I was seated in a shaded courtyard enjoying a simple medialuna, a croissant brushed with sugar and baked so that the ham and cheese melted within the pastry. It was satisfying and I felt fully present ..

.. listening to the Spanish spoken around me .. how is my Spanish so poor despite eating in Mexican taquerias my entire childhood? ..

.. reading about the weakening fishing industry in Cambodia .. its been too long since I’ve felt my heart throb during a fishing strike and it’s a shame how little I exercise my fish conservation college minor knowledge ..

.. and observing the shoes on everyone’s feet ..  How are New Balances so popular here? Am I really that vain? I’ve been checking out everyone’s kicks since 3rd grade ..

My mind wandered, connecting the past and present in a way that my scheduled and structured school life never allowed it to.

2017 is the first time I uttered the words “I need a vacation.’

Fortunate enough to be able to travel, I’ve always jetted with the intent of exploring a restaurant, seeing loved ones, or immersing myself in an unknown culture. Never has a trip meant to be relaxing – all inclusive resorts in the Maldives never sounded appealing and still don’t.

However, if a trip allows my mind to enter a reflective state, to connect the dots of my life, and to appreciate it all, then sign me up – I’m all about vacations too.

I’m about to embark on an adventure where I’m doubling down on my career. It’s a deliberate decision to give up some time for my hobbies in the hopes I find a fulfillment in a professional career. Maybe I find it. Maybe I don’t.

More importantly though, I hope to never forget the taco trucks ubiquitous in my home state California, the trout filled rivers of the Sierra Nevada, or my lifelong disdain for New Balance running shoes. Cause these shaped who I am and where I hope to go.

And if a plane ticket abroad is what’s required to weave all this back into my everyday, then you’ll find me thinking away in a foreign café, observing people’s shoes.

On vacation.


Dr. Pablo de María 1185
11200 Montevideo, Uruguay

“Good Night Old Man Jeffrey…”

Organizing Life

Friday night – the moment some have been anticipating since Monday post lunch coma. We are all excited for the opportunity to do what TGIF entails – happy hour with friends, a late night movie, a chance to head out of town.

I chose my Friday to organize life. After deflecting invites for drinks and dinners, I plopped down for a selfish night of me time – a night involving the gym, a prolonged shower that environmentalists would chastise me for, learning about livestock feed made of farmed insects, discovering the Amazon of Personal Services (check the startup out, its cool), among others on my ever growing Evernote to do list.

I always wondered how strange it sounded to others when I had to explain that I always needed to carve out time to organize life. Jam-packed days of Friday-esque activities is my lifestyle – Mondays after the after lunch lulls, Wednesday 10pm. Often, I fully believe that this 1990 JC model is going to run into some problems, whether mechanical or mental.

And thats where organizing life comes in. Oddly, its become a trend that I choose Fridays to be my “cheat” days where I become in sync with Pandora’s “Easy Listening” channel. On the day the NSA receives the most telecommunication traffic data from cell phones to hang out (self note: big deal the last 2 weeks), I remove myself from the social network and fuel myself for the weekend activities. Its almost an adage that the” best times are often shared,” but equally important are my sacred “me” moments – the uninterrupted hours of calm, meditative moments where thoughts, ideas, and emotions ebb and flow.


At 9pm, I wrapped up whatever masterpiece, foolishness, or junk that I had concocted this evening, and a friend gchats me.

“Good Night Old Man Jeffrey..”

…the state of being everywhere…

Ubiquity: [yoo-bik-wi-tee] noun: the state or capacity of being everywhere.

While strolling the canals of Amsterdam, I came across a billboard with a single word, Ubiquity. It immediately struck me as the way to describe my 2012 summer, of where I had been thus far and what I had yet to uncover (~15 more destinations around the world).
I wasn’t doing a soul searching, pilgrimage trek across the East .. nor was I a “Corporate Downsizer” like George Clooney on a quest to bolster America’s unemployment numbers.
I was just plain blessed to step foot in 18 different countries and the two non-contiguous states of the Stars and Stripes, at the invitation of my family and friends.


Beginning on the island of PengHu (Taiwan) where I rode a moped up to 100km/hr in my second try ever on a motor powered 2 wheeled vehicle.
… Bowing in front of Sukyabashi Jiro (Tokyo) only to be shooed away by Jiro’s apprentice
…Engaging in the juxtaposition of third world Cambodia: tourism of Angkor Wat while children suffer from starvation just steps away from Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider temples
…Gorging on 4 Michelins starred meals of Hong Kong in 24 hours, yet spending less than $50 USD combined on the cheapest Michelins in the world
… Drinking bottles of wine and eating kebabs at the base of the Notre Dame de Paris along the river Seine, only to wake up the next day with intense stomach and head aches
… Discovering a heart touching 70’s Danish punk band in a downtown Copenhagen dive bar
…Learning that German youth spend 10 years of their early education on being reticent about their nation’s past.
… Conducting swim workouts in the Mediterranean in both the Cinque Terre (Italy) and along the eastern coast of Spain (Sant Pol de Mar)
… Piercing cold sweeping throughout my body as friends and I stood through the rain and wind on the Kenai River (Alaska) fishing for Coho Salmon
… Having those special life conversations on a beach front resort patio as the sun set along the Kauai coast.


Along the European stretch, I dined at some of the culinary meccas of our time. Many of them with Pellegrino and Michelin accolades disappointed my palate, but Louis XV of Monte Carlo dazzled and left me speechless. More on this in a separate post.


Originally September included a multi-week solo excursion in New York City. It was to include naps in the various urban parks and splurges at some restaurants I longed to try or return to (Saam Bar! Robertas!).


After all the travels, the mission of this summer evolved.


Summer became just as much about the family and friends in my life as my original mission: a last hurrah before corporate life begins. The autonomous trip to NY just didnt make sense, realizing that the summer was one of the last moments of enduring freedom…
Enduring freedom to hit up LA’s K-town bars on a Tuesday night… to plan an impromptu road trip/friend visit to Phoenix and Vegas… to sleep in till 11am whenever I wanted… to have home cooked meals every night of the week…to conduct whatever shenanigans for all the shits and giggles I wanted at anytime of day.


I collected more postcards, spent more time on a bed/couch/floor, and ate out more than I have ever had and probably ever will in a 4 month period in the summer of 2012, but in a more profound sense, I have never felt so many moments of calm.. so many moments where everything was just perfect.

Red Benches, Beer, and Conversation

It was a Red Bench by the ocean.

The tall grass, who mightily swayed to the wind, stood between my feet and the white grain sand.  The dance of the greenery resembled a pattern of a thousand rats racing through the grass in unison just below the grassline, out of sight, and occasionally changing direction as the wind decided to shift slightly west.

Sunrays radiating on my skin and waves lightly beating the shore, I popped open my 台灣啤酒, a.k.a. Taiwan Beer, and lied down watching the clouds move at unreal speeds. It was a classic moment of having the legs propped up and lying down while clouds race across a crisp blue sky. But how many times have we actually done such a thing?

Two benchlength’s away, the pop of a newly opened can signals my uncle joining me in our alcoholic hydration. We proceed to have Conversation: temples about the ocean God of the island, the lack of wood leading to stone buildings, riding motorbikes, women in bikinis, and more.

It was the kind of talk where I felt the heartstring being touched, despite the level of conversation hovering at the border/verge of reaching actual depth due to my Chinese language limitations.

Over the years, I’ve been about taking advantage of all the time available in vacations and seeing everything, squeezing every last pulp of the “What to Do” Guide. Either growing up or understanding that vacation is only a few weeks a year has gotten me to understand that a single moment like this could define an entire vacation, rather than seeing every last tourist attraction.

Heck, these slow, surreal moments in the middle of a busy week just seem to make the work that much more meaningful, the sky that much more blue, the connections that much more real.

What a blessing life is .. appreciating every Red Bench, 台灣啤酒 , and Conversation.


Getting What You Wished For

2008, I had 3 gmail contacts online, even during prime evening hours.

During a freshman seminar class taught by a senior undergrad, he projected his Gmail home screen onto the whiteboard, revealing a list of 20+ green dots paired with names. I felt so unpopular at that moment. Being a freshman at Cal, you’d understand the feeling of not knowing enough any people.

Four years later , I’m that senior with 30 + green dots, 30 + red dots, 30 + yellow dots, and hundreds of those other grey dotted people who lurk invisible.

…. How I ( & Gmail Contacts) have grown.




Finding Owls

Owls are ridiculously difficult to see in the wild. I once read a photographer laid in the snow for 40 + hours to get a shot of a Great Horned Owl snatch a rabbit in some tundra.

Nocturnal + Camouflage = No Owls for You.

Except when you have a sign like this ….

I spent the next 20 minutes gazing upwards toward the tree line…..

peek a boo, i see you.

I felt so giddy, like the first time I tore open a Pokemon Card booster pack and got a holographic Charizard, both events involved me grinning like a fool and looking left and right for someone to share my excitement with. (I usually settle for some typical Jeff tribal dance gestures until I realize someone might catch me in my absurdity).

You must understand, you just DON’T see owls in the wild.

I’m going to miss you, Berkeley. Owls and all.


(Check out news about this owl here)

Captain Cook’s Piano Lounge

Walking past a piano lounge, Bach Invention No. 13, with A minor melodies and harmonies chasing after each other, catches my attention.

I stop to marvel at that piece in which I was a young piano award winner a decade ago.

Beethoven’s Fur Elise follows, and so I grab a chair and sit down among the senior vacationers aboard the Norwegian Sky cruise.

Figuring that it was the right thing to do, I flipped through the drinks menu, scanning through the Bahama Mamas and Johnnie Walkers. I was by far the youngest lad in the room full of whitened hair, polo khaki fashion, and forceful breathing, so I put the menu down. Already feeling old enough being in a piano lounge while those within 30 years of my age were upstairs rocking out to “Sexy and I Know It” , I didn’t need that scotch on the rocks to enhance the experience.


One of my favorite moments of my final spring break (among many in the Bahamian high seas). Life really slowed down during Chopin’s Turkish March and pensiveness really took over when Andrea Boccelli worked himself into a classical piano adaptation.

Perhaps it was me knowing that this would be the final hurrah of a spring break before my professional life begins, where my 70 days of vacation as a student atrophies into a meer 10 days per year. Or was it the self realization that 4 years of swagging around without any responsibility but to learn and grow at Berkeley was coming to a close?

I’m still not sure… but what is set in stone is that upon returning to the Bay, I’ve found a couple music lounges to re-create similar elderly adventures. That I’ll have a new life to attempt to “swag” myself through as a young professional. And that I’ll have 10 days a year to re-capture the magic of Captain Cook’s Piano Lounge aboard the Norwegian Sky cruise.

… may my blog life begin.