July 23, 2018
The church must be the conscience of the state

Here's another quotation from MLK Jr's Strength To Love that I found relevant for the evangelical church today:

The Greek Church in Russia allied itself with the status quo and became so inextricably bound to the despotic czarist regime that it became impossible to be rid of the corrupt political and social system without being rid of the church. Such is the fate of every ecclesiastical organization that allies itself with things-as-they-are.

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.

In my opinion, the evangelical church in America's move towards political activism and being so closely linked to the Republican Party has been a huge mistake. I believe it has reduced the church's esteem in the minds of the non-churched, making evangelism more difficult and contributing to the decline of church attendance in the younger generation.

More significantly, it's caused the church to have to water-down its prophetic message. When I see church leaders defend Trump and excuse (though not support) his personal immorality, the church has lost its prophetic power. I can think of no greater example of political entanglement leading to loss of power as with Focus On The Family's silence on the separation of families at the border. The organization's name is literally about families. In years past, they led initiatives for protecting the unity of immigrant families. But they can't speak on the issue because it will alienate their white Republican donors with whom they've become inextricably linked. When Focus On The Family can't focus on the family, something has gone wrong.

5:40 PM
July 20
A Tough Mind And A Tender Heart

I just read Martin Luther King Jr.'s Strength To Love, a collection of his sermons, and I found it enormously thought-provoking. One thing that amazes me is how relevant they still seem today. His preoccupation is understandably with segregation, and on that issue it's no longer the same, but the mindset behind segregation that he criticizes remains. It feels like the same mindset behind the anti-immigrant sentiment today, an us against them mentality that denies the humanity of others.

His first sermon is entitled "A tough mind and a tender heart" and is based on Matthew 10:16 - "Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." He contrasts the character reflected in this verse with their opposites - soft minds and hard hearts. And as I read, it felt impossible to not draw a parallel with today. Trump is the hard heart. He supposedly has no real friends, clearly has no compassion, and only cares about himself. He reflects his self-centered hard-heartedness in his demagoguery and scapegoating of minorities and immigrants. His followers are the softminded, who non-critically eat up his message. Sadly, this includes many Christians. And this apparently is nothing new. Much of MLK Jr.'s writings criticize Christians who support obviously non-Christian values - in his day segregation. His message resonates today. You cannot be a Christian and deny the humanity of all others, recognizing in everyone the image of God.

I'm going to quote a bunch of passages from the sermon, just because I found it so good.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

This prevalent tendency toward softmindedness is found in man's unbelievable gullibility.... Few people have the toughness of mind to judge critically and to discern the true from the false, the fact from the fiction. Our minds are constantly being invaded by legions of half-truths, prejudices, and false facts. One of the great needs of mankind is to be lifted above the morass of false propaganda....

This has also led to a widespread belief that there is a conflict between science and religion. But this is not true. There may be a conflict between softminded religionists and toughminded scientists, but not between science and religion. Their respective worlds are different and their methods are dissimilar. Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary. Science keeps religion from shrinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obstructionism. Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism.

We do not need to look far to detect the dangers of softmindedness. Dictators, capitalizing on softmindedness, have led men to acts of barbarity and terror that are unthinkable in civilized society. Adolf Hitler realized that softmindedness was so prevalent among his followers that he said, "I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few." In Mein Kampf he asserted: "By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell-- and hell, heaven.... The greater the lie, the more readily will it be believed."...

The toughminded person always examines the facts before he reaches conclusions; in short, he postjudges. The tenderminded person reaches a conclusion before he has examined the first fact; in short, he prejudges and is prejudiced....

The hardhearted person never truly loves. He engages in a crass utilitarianism which values other people mainly according to their usefulness to him. He never experiences the beauty of friendship, because he is too cold to feel affection for another and is too self-centered to share another's joy and sorrow. He is an isolated island. No outpouring of love links him with the mainland of humanity....

The greatness of our God lies in the fact that he is both toughminded and tenderhearted. He has qualities both of austerity and of gentleness. The Bible, always clear in stressing both attributes of God, expresses his toughmindedness in his justice and wrath and his tenderheartedness in his love and grace. God has two outstretched arms. One is strong enough to surround us with justice, and one is gentle enough to embrace us with grace. On the one hand, God is a God of justice who punished Israel for her wayward deeds, and on the other hand, he is a forgiving father who heart was filled with unutterably joy when the prodigal returned home.

I am thankful that we worship a God who is both toughminded and tenderhearted. If God were only toughminded, he would be a cold, passionless despot sitting in some far-off heaven.... But if God were only tenderhearted, he would be too soft and sentimental to function when things wrong and incapable of controlling what he has made.... God is neither hardhearted nor softminded. He is toughminded enough to transcend the world; he is tenderhearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.

1:45 PM
June 20
Japan

We spent the weekend in Japan - Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. I was struck mainly by two things. One, it's kind of ridiculous how cash based Japan still is. All the transit systems and most of the restaurants we went to only took cash. It strikes me as so primitive - there's no other country I've been to that's still like that. It's strange.

The other thing that surprised me was how pervasive Korean was in the public signage, even more common than English. I find that a stunning reflection of how wealthy Korea has become.

I first came to Korean in the summer of '95, for a summer school program at KAIST in Daejeon. It was unlike the Yonsei program most kyopos went to in that it wasn't exclusively a Korean language program - we also took classes in things like sociology and even modern physics. I still remember some of the lessons from those classes today. For example, the physics class is where I learned about the gravitational equivalence principle, and thus why time elapses more slowly the higher you are in a gravitational field. I also remember the sociology professor mentioning that South Korea was a 3rd world country.

That stunned me just because I had a mental concept of what a 3rd world country was like - mainly stuck in abject poverty - and Korea didn't seem that. But the professor was speaking from some academic standard that was true at the time. And it was strikingly different from today. The streets regularly smelled of sewage. Everything was pretty dirty. Really, the only truly rich Asian country at the time was Japan, and that was reflected in their tourists - you have to be rich to be able to travel in large numbers. So for the longest time, anywhere we traveled in the world, like Tahiti on our honeymoon, we were greeted with "konichiwa" and Japanese menus.

So to me, there being so much Korean in a foreign country is a big deal, it means Korea is truly rich. It has been for a while, but seeing it in Japan made it really striking.

6:15 AM
June 10
Korea

We're in Korea right now, got here Saturday night. I come to Korea every few years, infrequently enough that it feels different every time I come. This time, I was immediately struck by how many more foreigners (and by foreigners I mean non-Asian looking people - I've seen lots of Chinese / Japanese tourists before) there are. Tons more in the airport. We took the express train to Seoul Station and our car was full of English speakers, a lot of them young. I have never experienced that before. It made me wonder who they are - gamers maybe? No clue.

Same in the areas we've been in - Insadong (where we're staying) and Itaewon (where we went to church). So many more foreigners, including multiple groups of blacks, which again, I've never seen before. Craziest to me is we went to this restaurant after church and the wait staff were not Korean. Again, mind-blowing to me. I guess this change has happened gradually as Dave didn't seem to think it was a big deal, but I've never seen this before. Korea is changing.

I don't love Korea. I like it a lot, and always enjoy when I visit, but don't love it. And because I have so few relatives here, I don't feel a huge need to come that often. In contrast, Jieun *loves* Korea. And virtually all her family, both immediate and extended, is here - it's only Jibin that's in the U.S. So she would like to come every year if we could.

I think part of it is related to identity. I think with each passing year, I feel less and less Korean. I barely encounter Korean Korean people, and I wrote before how while I feel there's a part of my core identity that's Korean, that's almost entirely wrapped up in my church upbringing. We haven't gone to a Korean church in a long time, not even an Asian church for a while, so I feel increasingly less connected to that as well.

Jieun on the other hand, seems to feel more Korean every year. As she's gotten older, she's gravitated almost entirely toward Korean media. She almost only watches Korean TV. On planes, she watches Korean movies first, before watching U.S. movies. I find that baffling because to me, U.S. media is objectively of higher quality than Korean. That's obviously opinion, not fact, but I still find it weird. But Jieun finds seeing faces like hers in the entertainment she watches appealing. I don't know why it's so important to her (and not to me), but if I had to guess, I think it's related to our differences in identity.

Practically, it means we barely watch any TV shows together anymore; the sets of what we like is too disjoint. But it's actually OK - makes it easier for us to binge our respective shows. Plus it lets me watch at 1.3x speed without feeling bad.

It's weird how disjoint our tastes are though. Like, I love certain aspects of reality TV - namely how real people respond to artificial situations, and what that says about human nature. Jieun hates reality TV because for her, TV is escape. So there's this show Heart Signal that I'm kind intrigued by, it's like a Korean take on Terrace House but more dating-oriented. It's the one Korean show I'm mildly interested in, and Jieun has zero interest.

3:31 PM
June 5
St. Augustine on Morality

I'm reading St. Augustine's Confessions for the first time and I came across the most reasonable explanation for standards of morality that I've ever read:

"True inward righteousness takes as its criterion not custom but the most righteous law of almighty God, by which the morality of countries and times was formed as appropriate to those countries and times, while God's law itself has remained unchanged everywhere and always, not one thing in one place and something different elsewhere. by this norm Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and all those of whom God spoke approvingly were indeed righteous; they are accounted guilty only by persons of limited experience who judge by some human day of reckoning and measure the conduct of the human race at large by the standard that befits their own.... Foolish are people who grow indignant on hearing that some practice was allowed to righteous people in earlier ages which is forbidden to the righteous in our own day, and that God laid down one rule for the former and a different one for the latter, as the difference between the two periods of time demands; whereas in fact both sets of people have been subject to the same norm of righteousness... Does this mean that justice is fickle and changeable? No, but the epochs over which she rules do not all unfold in the same way, precisely because times change. Human beings live on earth for a brief span only, and they lack the discernment to bring the conditions of earlier ages, of which they have no experience, into the same frame of reference with those they know well."

To paraphrase (and probably poorly), God's standards of righteousness never change, but the application of them, the expected rules of morality for a society, do change because they must to fit circumstances and times. This is eminently reasonable to me. For example, war is generally bad, and in modern times it may be possible to try to avoid it at all costs. In ancient times, however, that's not a reasonable standard, as going to war was expected as a matter of course; it's impossible to avoid war when everyone around you is warring. Attempting to apply modern standards to ancient times would be suicide, though the general principle that war is bad may be the same.

Obviously, this is standard Christian teaching, but reading it struck me simply because I'm so steeped in a secular culture that applies the exact opposite standards. A common criticism of the God in the Bible is that his rules seem to change so much; He seems even a different God in the Old and New Testaments. Stranger to me though is that secular applies the opposite standards to its own judgment of morality. When pressed, I don't think most secular humanists would acknowledge that there is an absolute moral truth - that would veer too close to faith and religion. At the same time, they increasingly post-judge historical figures by modern standards of morality, on issues like racism and sexism. Like with people wanting to remove Woodrow Wilson's name from all Princeton programs and buildings because of his racism. It's not necessarily wrong. But the principle behind it makes no sense to me. If there is no absolute truth, how can you judge anyone in the past? How can you even be sure our current moral standards will remain the right ones?

2:29 PM
June 4
I'm not a tiger parent with piano

I'd say my mom was a tiger mom (at least to me - for some reason I've never understood, she kind of let up on my sister and let her quit everything). So it's kind of surprised me to discover that I'm not a tiger parent at all. Maybe it shouldn't be surprising - for some reason, it seems like a lot of my peers who were raised by tiger parents (and there are a lot of them, us being 2nd-gen Asian Americans) have gone in a totally different directions in their own parenting, so I'm not at all unique. The thing is, for me, I had so little self-motivation as a child that I wonder to this day what would have become of me had my mom not pushed me so hard. (Although I also wonder how the cause and effect worked there - was I not self-motivated because my mom was doing all the motivation? Would I actually have been more self-motivated had she not pushed me? Or was she forced to push me (which is what she says) because I would have done nothing otherwise?) I'm happy with how my life turned out so there's a part of me that wonders if, by not pushing my kids in the way I was pushed, I'm denying them certain opportunities in life, opportunities I received by being forced to achieve.

In the end, I just don't care enough to push it with my kids. It's arguably laziness. But a bigger thing is, I think 2nd gens realize that all the emphasis on academics that our parents pushed actually doesn't matter as much in life outcomes as our parents thought. For them, it was the be-all and end-all. And it's possible that from where they came, it was actually true. But that's not true in the U.S. From what I've observed in my work life, at least in engineering education only matters to get your foot in the door, and then it matters almost not at all. So it's difficult for me to get too riled up about it.

It's also hard to care because there are other things more important, things like happiness. There's the spiritual dimension as well. I think that's the biggest blind spot of my parents generation. They wanted to make faith the highest priority, but in how they behaved, they practically placed academics first.

Anyway. Piano has turned out be important to me in my life, and it's surprised me a bit that I don't push piano with my kids as much as I was pushed, since I value it so much, and even though my parents don't understand music to the level I do at all. Both of my kids actually have a decent amount of talent - if I really pushed it, and forced them to practice like an hour a day, I think they could be good. I just don't think the fights are worth it, even if it means them not reaching their full potential. My goals for them with piano is 1/ to reach a certain level of proficiency, basically enough to play any pop music and 2/ for them to realize that with certain things in life, there's no substitute for putting time into it, and as a corollary, when you put time into something, you get better. I've kind of arrived at a compromise of 20 minutes of practice a day - it's enough (although barely for Abby's level) to get better, but while avoiding the torturous fights that would ensue with an hour a day. At that level, they'll never be amazing, but they should be good enough and learn what I want them to. I think it's working, though not sure. They had a recital yesterday and they both seemed proud. I hope they've internalized the process by which they got there.

Jieun incidentally has different goals and possibly thinks I am a tiger parent with piano. She just wants them to be able to play worship music on piano. She would be fine with them quitting earlier than I want, and cares a little less about the practice. But I assure you, by the standards of my childhood, and by the standards of the better piano teachers in the area, what I ask for is nothing.

3:51 PM
May 23
Calling

We had a small group leader's meeting at church on Sunday and they gave us a book: Strengthening The Soul Of Your Leadership. I'm not normally into leadership books but this one is resonating with me. It's thesis is that your solitary times with God need to be the foundation of your leadership. Really, it needs to be the foundation of anyone's life. And it's an obvious message, but for some reason, the way it's presented is really hitting me. Part of it is, each chapter ends with practice for solitary time, and it includes poems and prayers that I'm jiving with. One simply said "Don't give up on me, God". Honestly, that's something I find myself wanting to pray all the time.

One chapter asks us to reflect on times when we felt God's call and how we obeyed, so we can use that to discern how He might be calling us now. This was a tough one for me. To be honest, I'm not sure I've ever in my life really felt a sense of God's call when it comes to vocation. I feel like I've stumbled through everything that's happened to me, and I can see Providence only when I look back. I entered college intending to be a doctor; I started taking programming classes when I happened to see Eddie doing his CS homework and it looked interesting. I stuck around to get a master's because I had nothing better to do. I went to my first job because of a classmate. Stuck around too long because I didn't know any better, then went to Yahoo! because of Lee. Then Facebook because of Blair. I still remember thinking it was just another Friendster; he persisted in recruiting me. Went to Branch because of Daniel. Each step of the way, things happened to me. I don't think I've ever felt a clear sense of call or mission and then pursued it wholeheartedly.

The only thing I've learned to do is to say yes when things come my way, even when it doesn't seem to make sense. That's the only thing I can kind of take credit for in my life. Everything else has just kind of happened to me.

Since this has been the pattern my whole adult life, I've been operating under the same mentality for what to do next. I haven't been proactive in pursuing things. I've just been waiting for things to come to me, and ready to say yes. But I've been wondering a lot if this is right, or if I've reached a point in my life where I really need to figure out what I'm supposed to do and make it happen as opposed to waiting. It's just difficult because 1/ it's against my nature 2/ I don't know what I'm supposed to do and 3/ I've never felt a sense of call for my vocation so I have no personal example of what that looks like, which makes it difficult to discern now.

11:53 AM
February 20
Crazy

I had a thought-provoking conversation with my 1st cousin once-removed's spouse last summer that I'm still thinking about. It was in regards to old people going crazy. As people get older, they get crazy, and when I talk to my friends about their parents, it seems they're all entering the age where this becomes pronounced. I'm using overly harsh language - I don't really mean crazy in the sense of insane, it's more that as people get older, their thinking becomes less flexible so they become more difficult to reason with or change their minds. It happens to all old people.

We were talking and commiserating about that a bit, but my relative is a bit older than me, and they said something that is completely obvious, yet something I had never really thought about before. They mentioned that while they saw it in their parents, they had the self-awareness to recognize that they were also on that journey towards craziness. It's not just older people that go crazy - it's us. When their kids complained about them being "crazy", they partly understood why.

I have no idea why I never thought about this before - that because this is universal, I also myself am starting to become inflexible in the same ways I see in older people - but I hadn't. Egocentrism I suppose. But ever since that conversation, I can't stop thinking about it, and I recognize it to be true. I *am* more inflexible than I used to be. I think I am more difficult to reason with, or to sway. I used to be a really good listener, but nowadays I find myself wanting people to hurry up and finish so I can say my peace.

I can easily envision my children chafing against this. The listening vs. talking thing is already a bit of an issue. Man, it's humbling. I'm already becoming a crazy old person. I have no idea why I ever thought that would never happen to me.

10:03 PM
February 19
Progress

I doubt anyone will be able to relate to this, but I just read a mind-blowing essay by Karol Berger from Bach's Cycle, Mozart's Arrow: An Essay on the Origins of Musical Modernity that I need to write about. The basic idea is that in the 18th century, the structure of music changed to reflect changes in how modernity viewed time. I just read the interlude, and it doesn't mention music at all, but is strictly about that teleological shift, roughly from Augustine, who believed in God and an eternal, external end, and Rousseau, who didn't see God as necessary and believed in a normative idea of progress in this world. It's only about 40 pages but it's a fascinating, broad, sweeping essay that blew my mind, and I'm only touching on what it discussed.

What's sticking with me in the end is his discussion of progress. He mentions a theory that in premodernity, societies didn't believe that history reflected linear progress. Instead, they viewed history as cyclical. This is reflected in premodern rituals and religions, in which cycles are prominent, in particular connecting with the cycles of seasons. But ideas of reincarnation was also common, the idea that even every life is a cycle. Messiaism and Christianity actually broke with these ideas, presenting a view of history that moved to some end. But even then, the idea that such a thing as progress exists and that history reflects that didn't really take off until the modern age, and Berger rightly notes that it was likely related to the rapid changes brought on by the Industrial Revolution. With the changes it brought, it was not difficult to see history as being a gradual but certain march towards something better. And I'd say it's virtually taken for granted that time brings forth progress.

Here's the thought I had - what if that's not true? What if the rapid rate of change in the time since the Industrial Revolution are not indicative of a permanent shift, but a one-time only time period? What if at some point, most progress will end? That might sound crazy. But for the vast majority of human history, global GDP growth was essentially 0. Over many, many years, life didn't get better overall, it just changed. There was shifting, but no "progress". What if that were to happen again? What if there are actually limits to scientific and economic progress? Everyone assumes there isn't, but is there any way to know?

Part of why I think this is because of a fascinating talk I heard a few years back from Tom Standage (editor at the Economist) where he said that the death of mass-media in favor of social media is actually a restoration, not a new thing. For almost all of human history, most media was social media. Mass-media was a historical anomaly that occurred only over the past 150 years. It might have been easy to assume that mass-media was a permanent artifact of the Industrial Revolution, but that may not be true.

So what if other things we assume to be permanent also aren't? Despite the massive changes in technology, economic productivity is actually slowing. What if there's an end to it, and society returns to a state where productivity mostly doesn't change with time?

Honestly, I doubt that's the case. But it's interesting to think about, simply because the idea of historical progress is so ingrained in people. I'm curious how people would view history if it no longer matched the world view of progression.

10:14 PM
May 20, 2014
Identity

The third act of This American Life this week was really interesting. Story's about an African-American woman living in Paris. There are three things she mentioned about her experience there that I resonated with also, partly from my own expat experience.

First, she talks about how she realized that French don't see or treat black people in the same way Americans do, for both good and bad, and how that was a bit of a shock to her self-perception. I've related to this a little bit in the past couple years living the UK also. Because Asian-British are not seen in the same way that Asian-Americans are. I can't even quite explain the difference. I'm probably not even aware of the full difference. But for example, I find the Asians (I mean East Asians - not the South Asians Brits mean by "Asian") here are simultaneously more and less integrated. On the whole, I feel like their English language skills are better and they feel less like immigrants. At the same time, they feel never fully integrated. I'm doing a poor job explaining it, but it's a weird feeling.

There's also that the high-achieving areas aren't dominated by Asians here, and that also affects how we're seen. There's no Stuyvesant or Lowell or Whitney in the UK, good schools that by virtue of their quality became dominated by Asians. Not sure why, maybe it's just a different Asian population that ended up here. But it affects the perception. All this to say, I feel like Asians are seen slightly differently here than they are in the States, and it's a kind of odd, unfamiliar feeling.

The most interesting thing she says in the TAL episode is how shocked she is when French people say how American she is. That totally gets to the heart of the minority experience in the US. But I think for her, me, and probably most minorities, we never feel fully American in America, never fully comfortable, always feeling slightly like an outsider. It's shocking for her to be called American in character because she's never fully felt that way. And it's even more shocking to realize that it's true - she is American. I totally relate to that as well. I had a conversation with a coworker about this last night. But most people don't have enough bandwidth to categorize people by subtle distinctions. So when interacting with other people here, I kind of have to choose which category is most me, Asian or American. And to my shock, it's my American side. I'm totally American.

It's only shocking because in America, I think I'm categorized by others as Asian. If you ask me in America what category I belong to, there's no question - it's Asian. So it's an odd feeling to be categorized as something else. And to resonate with those different categories in both places.

The last insightful thing she said related to how, despite gaining fluency in French, she at times reverted to a bad American accent, specifically because she wanted to be treated like an outsider. And when she thought about it, she realized it's because there's a part of her that's actually more comfortable being on the outside.

I totally recognized myself in her comment and realized that explains a lot about me. And maybe that's another odd part of the minority experience in America. But I also find that I'm more comfortable being on the outside. For example, when there are too many Asians around (read: Cupertino schools), I feel uncomfortable. Jieun thinks it's a weird self-loathing thing. But I think the TAL gets to the heart of it more accurately. Whether it's from accommodation or whatever, I'm more used to being on the outside, so I'm more comfortable there. I prefer to be a minority. It's weird.

9:22 AM
May 6
Holy Spirit Songs

One thing that struck me about the church we visited in Malaysia was that we sang a song addressed to the Holy Spirit in the second person. I felt myself feeling slightly uncomfortable about that, not because it's wrong, but because it's so rare. In fact I can't think of a single worship song that's sung to the Holy Spirit. There's Father, I Adore You and Spirit Touch Your Church, but both those songs start off by addressing other persons in the Trinity. Songs sung just to the Holy Spirit? Can't think of any.

My mindset towards the Holy Spirit and the charismatic has changed a lot in the past 15 years. Someday I'll talk about it.

7:10 AM
April 9
Crimea

For no particular reason, thoughts on Crimea.

One thing I've liked about working in the Facebook London office is how international it is. So I've talked about the Crimea thing with Russians, Ukrainians and even one Crimean. It's really interesting to get insiders' views on foreign affairs; it's much different than just hearing things secondhand from the media.

In terms of what I've learned from them, Fresh Air had an interview with some expert and it was surprisingly accurate, or at least very much in line with what my Russian / Ukrainian coworkers told me.

The interesting thing is many Ukrainians find Crimea useless and annoying. They're poor, so somewhat supported economically by the rest of Ukraine. And their population is very Russian, which skews the entire nation's politics. Most of the country leans pro-West. Crimea leans pro-Russia. So there are not a few Ukrainians who think it wouldn't be that bad if Crimea left - they'd be getting rid of a drain on resources and a drag on forming stronger ties to the West.

The only thing they value in Crimea is some base or port, can't remember which. That base or port is valuable because Russia gets access to it in exchange for low natural gas prices. That deal is already off and Russia's gouging Ukraine now. The other concern is that Russia won't stop there. Crimea first, who knows what's next.

Another complication is that there's an ethnic Tatar minority in Crimea (that I think has the longest ties there), They're Muslim. And my Crimean coworker is actually Tatar. The USSR treated Tatars horribly. There's a real concern that Russia would do the same. So they're one group within Crimea that's very wary of going back to Russia.

It's also not true that Crimea is solidly pro-Russia, even among the Russians there. The election to join Russia was (obviously) rigged. The issue is that Ukraine is in some ways a better Russia. Russian is spoken everywhere, it's culturally similar, and there's actually a very free press and free elections. It's like Russia with more freedom. So even many of the Russians in Crimea are wary of joining Russia. But it's impossible to say how many because the election was rigged.

So it's a super complicated situation. Many Ukrainians don't really care about Crimea save the precedent it would send in losing it. It's unclear how many Crimeans actually want to join Russia. And in the middle of it all are the Tatars. So what should the EU / US do? Who knows.

9:24 AM
March 29
Random Observation

At the grocery stores in the UK, there are no baggers, and they don't help you at all. Like at the old Pak N' Save, you have to bag all your own groceries. I kind of find it stressful, especially if I'm with the kids, managing them, paying and bagging everything without holding up the queue.

3:59 PM
March 17
Bonds of Marriage

At church on Sunday, the vicar made an announcement of upcoming bonds of marriage, along with a proclamation that if anyone knows of reason why they shouldn't get married, he should be informed. Fascinating. Apparently, in the Church of England, this process is legally required - the announcement must be made in the parish they attend and in the parishes each one resides in - up to 3 in all. And apparently, the history is that this was done to make sure they're not already married to someone else, or to ferret out other such shenanigans. Probably made more sense when said parishes were the ones they grew up in all their lives and they knew them very well, as opposed to today in the city when everyone is so transient. But that's the law.

I'm guessing this is the origin of the US wedding tradition of "speak now or forever hold your peace", and to me it makes far more sense - giving time for people to object before the wedding as opposed to at it.

I'm still interested in how US wedding (and other) traditions came to be, because I kind of assumed they had their origins in antiquity but Brits find many of them bewildering.

4:28 AM
February 3
Super Bowl, Identity

Hats off to the Seahawks. I hate them, but they were the best team in the league this year and deserved to win. As a 49er fan I'm just gutted because now it seems clear they were the 2nd best team in the NFL.

I cannot express how annoying the UK coverage of the Super Bowl was. The announcers kept making really bad mistakes: one repeatedly referred to Seahawks receiver "Daniel Baldwin"; the main (Scottish) guy claimed at halftime that Seattle was winning because Russell Wilson was "on fire". Uh, was he watching the same game? Seattle's D (and special teams) utterly dominated. That was the game. Sometimes we complain in the US about announcers saying dumb things, but the UK just takes it to another level.

I enjoyed Khaled Hosseini (author of The Kite Runner)'s tribute to Candlestick Park. It made me realize one reason why I love football so much: it's probably the first thing in my life that made me feel really American. Asian-Americans have these complicated issues of feeling split and mixed identities. In my early childhood, I was raised Korean. I spoke only Korean at home, ate Korean food, went to a Korean church. So I remember feeling really out of place when I first attended school.

But once I got in the 49ers, I felt a commonality with my "American" classmates. I might eat weird food, they might think my house smells funny, I might have a bad Asian bowl haircut, but we could at least relate with the 49ers. I think that bond with my schoolmates is one reason why football means so much to me.

Speaking of identity, I realized something interesting about being a Korean-American in the UK. Being here, I'm kind of forced to choose which side - Korean or American - I identify with most. And I was trying to figure out why that is. And I figured out it's purely for other people - like it or not, other people need some sort of framework to understand who I am. And here, most people don't understand the nuances of being Korean-American; saying that confuses how they understand me rather than clarifying. So I have to choose. And which one I identify with subtly affects how people relate to me. I would be treated differently in the office if I categorized myself as Korean. Not necessarily badly, just differently.

But I identify myself as American, because of the two, that's closer to who I really am. And here's the weird thing - since that's how I categorize myself here, I find myself acting more "American" here than in the US. Like, I think I'm vocally louder here. Still not at all loud, just louder than I would be in the US. Because I'm playing the role of an American. Because that's how I identify myself here. Because I need to identify myself in one category to help others understand how to relate to me. It's weird.

Anyway yeah, Super Bowl. In the local papers the Super Bowl got news coverage but I'd say roughly equal (or slightly less) than the 6 Nations Rugby Tournament. It's still seen as an American curiosity more than anything else. People who think London can support an NFL franchise full time are delusional.

Also, are the Winter Olympics big news? I feel like it's hardly mentioned here, probably because Great Britain is not that good at winter sports. If it weren't for the ads on US TV shows, I wouldn't even know when they were starting.

3:02 AM

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