Tuesday, March 27, 2012

5 States in 5 Days

This business trip late March took me through 5 states in 5 days:

Minneapolis (3/26 Mon)
Brookings, SD (3/27 Tuesday)
San Francisco (3/28 Wednesday)
New York City (3/29 Thursday)
St. Louis, Home (3/30 Friday)

Slideshow:




Click to visit photo album:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lock & Key Story

We recently rented out our condo to a young couple from SLU. Everything was in perfect condition except one thing -- the door lock for the storage room. Not only was the key missing, its lock tongue and groove seemed misaligned so the door wouldn't lock.

I decided to get the lock replaced today as the young couple already moved in over the weekend. Before departing for the condo, I checked my toolbox for used door locks/keys that might be reused. There was a set of lock but no keys. So I went checking a drawer where all of our keys were kept, including a dozen or so unknown ones. Without finding any keys matching to the used lock, I was disappointed and blamed myself for the total disorganization. I took the keys to the condo door (just in case I need to access it). And then for whatever reason or thinking, I grabbed all the unknown keys and put them in my left pocket before rushing out with Jonathan to his swimming class.

Being quite anxious, I wanted to drive to Home Depot first to buy a key-set. But then, midway and realizing we might be late for class, I changed plan and drove directly to YMCA. I would say that I rarely changed mind to be earlier for something but I overcame myself at that moment.

After dropping off Jonathan, I drove to Walmart for a new door lock set. The newly renovated Superstore in Kirkwood was beaming with life and friendliness. A sales clerk in his 60s kindly, with a gentle smile, pointed me to the hardware section for the lock and then followed over to make sure I found it. I raised the lock with a smile and thumbed up to thank him. I haven't had such experience at Walmart for a long time.

On the way to the condo, I called Elaine to say I wouldn't have time to pick up Jonathan, estimating it would take at least one hour to figure out all the issues then replace the lock. I felt very sorry making the call.

After parking in the visitor lot, I walked up the hill and stopped in front of the storage door. There it was, the door with missing keys and misaligned parts. Right there, with almost some kind of conviction or certainty, I grabbed the unknown keys out of pocket, pulled out one from maybe a dozen, and inserted it into the key hole while lock was engaged (door is open). I tried turning the the key counter-clockwise. Slowly, the key kept turning inside the lock ... And it unlocked!

Before comprehending what happened, I immediately solved the second problem by pushing the door slowly in to give the lock tongue time to engage the groove. And the door completely close-shut and could now be locked!

Altogether, this took me about 60 seconds and I was now walking down the hill towards my car and calling Elaine to say I could go picking up Jonathan, which I did with time to spare after getting to YMCA.

So, I have experienced an amazing episode of things-working-so-well-beyond-belief: a helpful Walmart clerk with a smile, a working door lock, and a matched key to the lock.

It beats probability -- as one perfect match rose from a dozen options in first try. It defies rationality -- as my plan was to replace the key from the beginning and not find a key among these unknowns.

As the sequence of events unfolded later in mind and now in writing, I experienced the amazement and gratitude again. More importantly, I was just so happy to be able to show up on time for Jonathan, and be a father who took care of his son.

If we make the right choice and put in efforts to find the right key to the lock in our life -- subconsciously, purposefully and faithfully, things will work out, as our Father is more capable and thoughtful in planning and taking care of us.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"This American Pie"

In America, the news media tends to be highly political on one end and opinionated on the other, with equilibrium reached in the middle from fact-based, journalistic and truthful reporting. As a Chinese-American, I pay close attention to stories and news that touch on the life of both sides of Pacific. Over the years, I have also evolved from being emotionally reactive to rational analytical to the media industries in China and America. I do like the American one better as it reflected unrestricted human thought and reasoning in a non-distorted way. In contrast, the Chinese media I grew up with, was propaganda on one end and sensational on the other .

However, the American media equilibrium has been tested recently by two episodes which implicates its dark side. When the lines between news-reporting, story-telling and opinion-telling become blurry in the age of digital age and 24/7 news cycle, the freedom and trust bestowed to media workers can wreak havoc when they went unchecked, unscrutinized and unchallenged.

In the first case, Rush Linbaugh, the famous Republican talk show host, and by the way, a soon-to-be-named famous Missourian, called a college student who testified for contraceptive coverage a "slut" and "prostitute" on the radio, for three straight days. He eventually had to apologized only under the pressure of bailing advertisers .

In the second case, Mike Daisey, a writer and performer who is known for his theatrical monologue, produced a program called Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory" that was aired this January on NRP's radio show "This American Life". Mike told his encounter of under-aged workers and an old worker whose hand was crushed by machines and later got fired by the factory. In a stunning turn of event. This American Life retracted the story yesterday and then aired a full-hour episode with host Ira Glass telling listeners that they can no longer vouch for Mike Daisey's "reporting". Ira explains how Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz tracked down Daisey's interpreter in China — a woman named Cathy Lee — who disputes much of Daisey's story. And Ira talks about how Mike Daisey lied to TAL during the fact-checking process, telling Ira and producers that Cathy was not her real name and that she was unreachable. Ira also stresses that, without Cathy's corroboration of the story, This American Life never should have run the story in the first place.

It's quite clear that Ira Glass dropped the ball. He let Mike's excuse go unchallenged to the point that there is absolutely no corroboration and evidence from another person for the story. It might be easier to understand if the source is from a journalist, however, Ira knows well that Mike Daisey is a performer and story-teller. The fact-checking process is almost a joke when there is no fact to begin with and no checking happening at all.

So why is Ira Glass, This American Life, and National Public Radio so blind-sided by a one-man artist pulling his stunts? Let us keep in mind that Mike Daisey is simply trying to sell his show through various channels - road show, theater performance and online download. He probably wouldn't risk all his fortune for a shot of fame by TAL. Or maybe he would, at the enticement and encouragement of producers wanting to believe and eager to push the story. This is a huge enticement - Mike gained national fame in the media onslaught against Apple, labor issue, outsourcing and China. He became a go-to source for such topic and even showed up a business channel CNBC. That is also probably why he would not budge to Ira and would continue to stick to his story, just re-categorized from journalistic reporting to theatrical story-telling. The anti-China rhetoric (NBC and CNN, any channels?) and politicking (Mitt and Donald, anyone?) added to social undertone that story as such could not be untrue. The media at this point, fell victim to conformity and also became a perpetrator. Towards the end, those with TAL/NPR pushed the limit of media equilibrium and got what they deserved - a brilliantly-told lie wrapped in the journalistic gift bag.

But how about the millions of American who were led to believe the story is true and took in action consequently?

Who will truly suffer from this episode? I think to say the least, are those factory workers in the Shenzhen factory, who need a voice of justice and grace on their behalf. They are not getting it from the Chinese media, and apparently not from a storyteller from the other side of the ocean.

More from:

Mike Daisey embroiled in 'This American Life' controversy (Seattle Times)

This American Life Retraction (NPR)

"This American Lie"

In America, the news media tends to be highly political on one end and opinionated on the other, with equilibrium reached in the middle from fact-based, journalistic and truthful reporting. As a Chinese-American, I pay close attention to stories and news that touch on the life of both sides of Pacific. Over the years, I have also evolved from being emotionally reactive to rational analytical to the media industries in China and America. I do like the American one better as it reflected unrestricted human thought and reasoning in a non-distorted way. In contrast, the Chinese media I grew up with, was propaganda on one end and sensational on the other .

However, the American media equilibrium has been tested recently by two episodes which implicates its dark side. When the lines between news-reporting, story-telling and opinion-telling become blurry in the age of digital age and 24/7 news cycle, the freedom and trust bestowed to media workers can wreak havoc when they went unchecked, unscrutinized and unchallenged.

In the first case, Rush Linbaugh, the famous Republican talk show host, and by the way, a soon-to-be-named famous Missourian, called a college student who testified for contraceptive coverage a "slut" and "prostitute" on the radio, for three straight days. He eventually had to apologized only under the pressure of bailing advertisers .

In the second case, Mike Daisey, a writer and performer who is known for his theatrical monologue, produced a program called Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory" that was aired this January on NRP's radio show "This American Life". Mike told his encounter of under-aged workers and an old worker whose hand was crushed by machines and later got fired by the factory. In a stunning turn of event. This American Life retracted the story yesterday and then aired a full-hour episode with host Ira Glass telling listeners that they can no longer vouch for Mike Daisey's "reporting". Ira explains how Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz tracked down Daisey's interpreter in China — a woman named Cathy Lee — who disputes much of Daisey's story. And Ira talks about how Mike Daisey lied to TAL during the fact-checking process, telling Ira and producers that Cathy was not her real name and that she was unreachable. Ira also stresses that, without Cathy's corroboration of the story, This American Life never should have run the story in the first place.

It's quite clear that Ira Glass dropped the ball. He let Mike's excuse go unchallenged to the point that there is absolutely no corroboration and evidence from another person for the story. It might be easier to understand if the source is from a journalist, however, Ira knows well that Mike Daisey is a performer and story-teller. The fact-checking process is almost a joke when there is no fact to begin with and no checking happening at all.

So why is Ira Glass, This American Life, and National Public Radio so blind-sided by a one-man artist pulling his stunts? Let us keep in mind that Mike Daisey is simply trying to sell his show through various channels - road show, theater performance and online download. He probably wouldn't risk all his fortune for a shot of fame by TAL. Or maybe he would, at the enticement and encouragement of producers wanting to believe and eager to push the story. This is a huge enticement - Mike gained national fame in the media onslaught against Apple, labor issue, outsourcing and China. He became a go-to source for such topic and even showed up a business channel CNBC. That is also probably why he would not budge to Ira and would continue to stick to his story, just re-categorized from journalistic reporting to theatrical story-telling. The anti-China rhetoric (NBC and CNN, any channels?) and politicking (Mitt and Donald, anyone?) added to social undertone that story as such could not be untrue. The media at this point, fell victim to conformity and also became a perpetrator. Towards the end, those with TAL/NPR pushed the limit of media equilibrium and got what they deserved - a brilliantly-told lie wrapped in the journalistic gift bag.

But how about the millions of American who were led to believe the story is true and took in action consequently?

Who will truly suffer from this episode? I think to say the least, are those factory workers in the Shenzhen factory, who need a voice of justice and grace on their behalf. They are not getting it from the Chinese media, and apparently not from a storyteller from the other side of the ocean.

More from: