Friday, December 2, 2011

Salary of Non Profits' Top Officials

First, look at the picture below. 

Alright, in the spirit of not being judgmental, I did a quick Googe on the salary of top officials in non profit organizations. And I partly understand the argument that non profit has to compete with corporation to get the best and the brightest. But, still, six digit figures touching the veneer of $500,000 (or double that in some cases) seems a little bit unsettling to me. I am not a big corporation guy so I have little idea about the benefits and compensation in that kind of surroundings, but combining the idea of non profit dealing with malaria in Africa with the six digit figures spent on a holiday in Montreal is ..... a painful mental exercise. 

I am almost tempted to urge the non profits to simply settle with the brighter mind and look for the brightest heart instead. In my imagination, someone who is not motivated by dime (or in this case, hundred thousands) and who will voluntarily choose to be under underpaid (notice the double 'under'). There must be someone like that out there right? 

But after scrutinizing the report, it comes as a shock to me that World Vision, the organization that I wholeheartedly support, is on the list. Having read the book that Rich Stearns wrote, he definitely does not come out as a selfish greedy old guy, I can feel the passion and genuineness surfacing from his writings. So, no reconciliation yet to be made about this, I guess I'm just trying to be open minded and patiently waiting for a better explanation. 

I'm not arguing that the top executives should suffer and sacrifice his / her life, I guess what I'm calling for is a further re-evaluation of what salary range is acceptable or appropriate. How does compensation or benefit or salary is justifiably allocated? Should it be commensurate with his / her dedication, or how much money he / she raise that year, or seniority or a soft re-calling to that deep dark place often untouched nowadays called conscience?  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Charity This Christmas - Where to Donate?

There is at least one time in a year where people care about charity and more gleefully rummage their pocket to find some money to donate. Yes, the highly advertised season of joy and blessings is just at the corner. Because of this, I am sending an early gift for you guys by listing some of the charities that I am supporting / proposing and hopefully this will help some of you to decide which charity to give this Christmas. And since Christmas is again the season of sharing and helping, I ask you guys to list your charity or non-profit giving in the comment section to help other readers to decide too.

First and foremost, World Vision. You can adopt a child for $30-35 per month. This will not only pay for their school, but also to build their community by building infrastructure and facility.

2. Kiva: A micro-finance type of charity, supporting entrepreneurs all around the world by loaning money.

3. Room to read: building schools and library to educate children. They believe the world change when children are educated!! Amen to that.

4. If water is your thing, charity:water may be a good channel. Committed to bring safe and clean drinking water.

5. The hunger project: their vision is to end a person's  hunger not by giving them fish, but by empowering and teaching them "how to fish"

What about you? Please don't hesitate to share charities that you want to support or call out!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ted Video - David Gallo and Alexander Tsiaras

I think these two cool videos deserve more coverage (although I don't think my blog will boost their number of views that much), but still, I can't help not to share it. Some objects are not easily captured, and most of the time remain foreign to the eyes of the average Joe, but these two experts did some serious undertaking to visualize and capture and made it unknowable to us the mystery lies in the deepest & darkest part of the ocean and also the miracle of a cell's conception.

If there is one feeling that these videos should evoke to us is the feeling of awe and wonder (jaw dropped) of how little we actually have discovered and how many more things remain unfamiliar to our mind. Like what one of the speakers said, "its magic, its miracle, its divinity", something that beyond comprehension of any humans' mind. Enjoy.

David Gallo shows underwater astonishment

Alexander Tsiaras: Conception to Birth - Visualized

Monday, November 7, 2011

Models of Social Entrepreneurship in Ohio

All good things deserve some good publicity, right? Whenever you listen to spectacular concert or watch an Oscar winning movie, you can't help not to open your mouth and spread the word. And they deserve it, good things need good publicity to be heard and known. And this is what I'm doing with some social business or entrepreneurship here in Columbus, OH.

Try to google "social business in Columbus" and you will get a sparse result. Not enough publicity is given to all these great and noble businesses which put social benefits on top of profit, which value employee's welfare more than the company's reputation. So, this post is a short summary of some social businesses or social entrepreneurship that operate in Ohio, and some of the impacts that they have made in their community.

1. Passion works (Athens, OH)
This is a collaboration effort between artist with and without developmental abilities. They truly believe that every humans have the ability to create somethings valuable and people with disabilities are no exception. With this collaboration, they are able to create a beautiful piece of art, and even one of their artwork, Passion Flower, has become the official flower of Athens. I have the privilege to visit Passion Works last year and here is the link.

2. Freshbox Catering (Columbus, OH)
The tagline explains it all, "Feed your appetite, nourish your community". They are committed to provide a healthy great lunch, and to empower the community by its employment system. The workers that Freshbox hires are mainly homeless people who they hold to an extraordinary standard. The tiered level employment system is developed to filter the uncommitted and unwilling thus only allowing those who are motivated enough to go through the three training stages.

3. Pearl Interactive Network (Columbus, OH)
Often disabled veterans, military spouses and people with disabilities are workforce that are being overlooked for their potentials or even worse, being discriminated against. Luckily, Pearl Interactive Network see their potentials and based its business system on tapping into this unique workforce. Some of them are hired as home-based sales person, or customer service representative, or even as market researcher.

4. Eartha Limited (Columbus, OH)
One of the hallmarks of Eartha limited is its emphasis on eco friendly product or service. They help businesses to achieve sustainability by implementing waste control methods. For example, installing energy efficient lighting, recycling all aluminum or plastic bottles or cardboard from a restaurant, even to introducing a beer on tap system to eliminate bottle waste. Some creatives initiatives are also introduced, like converting football food waste into compost for garden, or gallons of used vegetable oil for bio-diesel. In addition to that, they also produce green products like cutlery, plates, to-go box from plant materials (corn, palm leaves, etc).

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Year After ...

Been a year without your phone calls, no one tell me to "drink more water" again. How's life up there with him? Still think you went too quickly mom, still look at the places we visited together here and can't help not to think of you. Went to Chicago several months ago, and still wish you were there. Planning to go to Hongkong with papi etc this Dec, and can't help to wish you can go with us, and enjoy the trip together. We never travel together right, the five of us, not that papi will allow it though ;p

Miss you...  I know it's your anniversary up there, but it does not look like an anniversary down here. They went to your site to place some flowers though, or should I say to shower you with flowers. Not that you care or could be happier with that, knowing that you have more beautiful flowers there, but we, still in our flesh, can't help not to do it. At the very least, it makes us feel better, even me who only look at the picture. I guess each of us has to express something, with our own way of handling it.

I did some stupid things too, sometimes I wonder if that comes from my lack of faith or simply just an act of "showering flowers". But God has been gracious though, well, I think you know him better now than I. Glad that He is taking care of you there, must be a hell of a year.

Well, till we meet again?

This is beautiful, I hope you like it, considering how much you like flowers. Happy one year.

You Are God's Critic, But Do You Have the Answer?

Throughout the year, I learn to stop asking the question "why", because sometimes God chooses not to answer our question. Not because he doesn't have the answer, but simply because he does not prefer to - just like how he shut Job's mouth when Job was demanding an explanation.

Job 38
1 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
 2 “Who is this that questions my wisdom
      with such ignorant words?
 3 Brace yourself like a man,
      because I have some questions for you,
      and you must answer them.

 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
      Tell me, if you know so much.
 5 Who determined its dimensions
      and stretched out the surveying line?

 6 What supports its foundations,
      and who laid its cornerstone
 7 as the morning stars sang together
      and all the angels
 shouted for joy?
 8 “Who kept the sea inside its boundaries
      as it burst from the womb,
 9 and as I clothed it with clouds
      and wrapped it in thick darkness?
 10 For I locked it behind barred gates,
      limiting its shores.
 11 I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
      Here your proud waves must stop!’

 12 “Have you ever commanded the morning to appear
      and caused the dawn to rise in the east?
 13 Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth,
      to bring an end to the night’s wickedness?
 14 As the light approaches,
      the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal;
      it is robed in brilliant colors.
 15 The light disturbs the wicked
      and stops the arm that is raised in violence.
 16 “Have you explored the springs from which the seas come?
      Have you explored their depths?
 17 Do you know where the gates of death are located?
      Have you seen the gates of utter gloom?
 18 Do you realize the extent of the earth?
      Tell me about it if you know!

19 “Where does light come from,
      and where does darkness go?
 20 Can you take each to its home?
      Do you know how to get there?
 21 But of course you know all this!
   For you were born before it was all created,
      and you are so very experienced!
 22 “Have you visited the storehouses of the snow
      or seen the storehouses of hail?
 23 (I have reserved them as weapons for the time of trouble,
      for the day of battle and war.)
 24 Where is the path to the source of light?
      Where is the home of the east wind?
 25 “Who created a channel for the torrents of rain?
      Who laid out the path for the lightning?
 26 Who makes the rain fall on barren land,
      in a desert where no one lives?
 27 Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground
      and make the tender grass spring up?
 28 “Does the rain have a father?
      Who gives birth to the dew?
 29 Who is the mother of the ice?
      Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?
 30 For the water turns to ice as hard as rock,
      and the surface of the water freezes.

 31 “Can you direct the movement of the stars—
      binding the cluster of the Pleiades
      or loosening the cords of Orion?
 32 Can you direct the sequence of the seasons
      or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens?
 33 Do you know the laws of the universe?
      Can you use them to regulate the earth?
 34 “Can you shout to the clouds
      and make it rain?
 35 Can you make lightning appear
      and cause it to strike as you direct?
 36 Who gives intuition to the heart
      and instinct to the mind?
 37 Who is wise enough to count all the clouds?
      Who can tilt the water jars of heaven
 38 when the parched ground is dry
      and the soil has hardened into clods?
 39 “Can you stalk prey for a lioness
      and satisfy the young lions’ appetites
 40 as they lie in their dens
      or crouch in the thicket?
 41 Who provides food for the ravens
      when their young cry out to God
      and wander about in hunger?

Job 39

 1 “Do you know when the wild goats give birth?
      Have you watched as deer are born in the wild?
 2 Do you know how many months they carry their young?
      Are you aware of the time of their delivery?
 3 They crouch down to give birth to their young
      and deliver their offspring.
 4 Their young grow up in the open fields,
      then leave home and never return. 5 “Who gives the wild donkey its freedom?
      Who untied its ropes?
 6 I have placed it in the wilderness;
      its home is the wasteland.
 7 It hates the noise of the city
      and has no driver to shout at it.
 8 The mountains are its pastureland,
      where it searches for every blade of grass.
 9 “Will the wild ox consent to being tamed?
      Will it spend the night in your stall?

 10 Can you hitch a wild ox to a plow?
      Will it plow a field for you?
 11 Given its strength, can you trust it?
      Can you leave and trust the ox to do your work?
 12 Can you rely on it to bring home your grain
      and deliver it to your threshing floor?
 13 “The ostrich flaps her wings grandly,
      but they are no match for the feathers of the stork.
 14 She lays her eggs on top of the earth,
      letting them be warmed in the dust.
 15 She doesn’t worry that a foot might crush them
      or a wild animal might destroy them.
 16 She is harsh toward her young,
      as if they were not her own.
      She doesn’t care if they die.
 17 For God has deprived her of wisdom.
      He has given her no understanding.
 18 But whenever she jumps up to run,
      she passes the swiftest horse with its rider.

 19 “Have you given the horse its strength
      or clothed its neck with a flowing mane?
 20 Did you give it the ability to leap like a locust?
      Its majestic snorting is terrifying!
 21 It paws the earth and rejoices in its strength
      when it charges out to battle.
 22 It laughs at fear and is unafraid.
      It does not run from the sword.
 23 The arrows rattle against it,
      and the spear and javelin flash.
 24 It paws the ground fiercely
      and rushes forward into battle when the ram’s horn blows.
 25 It snorts at the sound of the horn.
      It senses the battle in the distance.
      It quivers at the captain’s commands and the noise of battle.
 26 “Is it your wisdom that makes the hawk soar
      and spread its wings toward the south?
 27 Is it at your command that the eagle rises
      to the heights to make its nest?
 28 It lives on the cliffs,
      making its home on a distant, rocky crag.
 29 From there it hunts its prey,
      keeping watch with piercing eyes.
 30 Its young gulp down blood.
      Where there’s a carcass, there you’ll find it.”

Job 40

Then the Lord said to Job,
"Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?
      You are God's critic, but do you have the answers?"

And with that, I am silenced .......

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Praise You in this Storm

"Sometimes God calms our storm, sometimes He chooses to ride the storm with us." Praise you in this storm. Great song.

Praise You in this Storm
I was sure by now, God, that You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"
and as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away 

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone, how can I carry on
if I can't find You
as as the thunder rolls
I barely hear, You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
and as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away

I lift my eyes unto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes unto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego replied to him, "King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of god you have set up."
 Daniel 3:16-18

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mere Christianity Discussion / Study Guide. Part 2

This is the part two of my post on Mere Christianity and its study guide / discussion questions. Here is the link to part 1. Again, hope this helps.

Book 3 - Christian Behavior
Chapter 1 - 3
1. What do you think when you hear the word "morality"? Make it practical and think of some of moral issues we or the world is facing today.
2. In chapter 3, do you think Lewis is proposing a Christian society? Do you agree that Christian society would be an utopia?
3. In the same chapter, Lewis talked about cherry-picking some values from christian morality which conform / confirm our pre-existing belief. Point out one that is evident in today's society.

Chapter 4 - Morality and Psychoanalysis
1. Lewis stated that psychoanalysis and Christianity share similar technique. How are they similar? "Freud ... is not in the least contradictory to Christianity. Its technique overlaps with Christian morality at some points ..."

Chapter 5 - Sexual Morality
1. Understand Lewis' analogy of sex and food (the bacon strip tease). Looking at how prevalent sexual immorality is in today's society, how does Lewis' argument helpful? Does it relevant, does it give a counter argument to current culture? What are some objections to sexual abstinence?

Chapter 6 - Christian Marriage
1. We often heard that love is not a feeling but a commitment. "If love is the whole thing then the promise can add nothing, then it should not be made" or "And in fact, whatever people say, the state called being in love usually does not last." The implication of this is, marriage is not only based on love, but more on commitment. And if feeling will go away, do married couple actually has no more love for each other and simply view the relationship as a binding commitment? As you read, think of some biblical basis to support or refute that statement.

Chapter 7 - Forgiveness
1. On paragraph 3, Lewis said that, "It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven". Does this mean that divine forgiveness depend on us?
2. Refusal to forgive a person usually translate into a form of punishment ( par 8). What kind of punishment do you usually deliver, and when is the last time you blow that punishment?
3. Looking at the atrocities in the world (imagine Hitler or 9/11 or even a person who has hurt you profoundly deep), is anyone ever beyond forgiveness?

Chapter 8 - The Great Sin 
1. Lewis argued that "the utmost evil, is Pride". How do you agree or disagree with that statement.
2. We hear a lot of saying that we need to take pride in our body, in our nation, in our achievement, or maybe in our sexual orientation (gay pride etc). Does Lewis speak against this? Explain.
3. I personally believe that this is one of the greatest piece about the topic of Pride. Highlight several statements that stand out to you and please share.

Chapter 9 - Charity
1. Lewis argues that to love someone, we need to stop to manufacture the feeling and just go to the action (par 5). Is motivation important then? How could we justify doing something when we do not feel like it (or still have impure motivation)?

Chapter 10 - Hope
1. In paragraph 2, Lewis states that "something has evaded us". What are the things that have evaded you in your personal life?
2. Lewis implies here that humans tend to be hopeful and later be disappointed in life. Among the three alternatives he provides in dealing with hope, which one reflects you the most? Provide example.

Chapter 11 - Faith
1. Lewis seems to imply that faith must come from reasoning or intellectual argument: "My faith is based on reason" (Par 2) and "faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted" (Par 5). What about people who has no intellectual reasoning with Christianity before and just come to Christ by experience?
2. Lewis argues that it is moods (or imagination or desire) that usually take away / shaken our faith. What usually challenge your faith? When St Paul talks about "walk by faith and not by sight", how does our sight shaken our faith too (in connection to our mood)?

Chapter 12 - Faith
1. After reading this chapter, what do you think is the relationship between Old Testament and New Testament, or in other words, relationship between good actions and faith in Christ?
2. In paragraph 4, Lewis says to discover is to "really finding out by experience that it is true". How does experience help us to discover better in comparison to only knowing or understanding that it is true? 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mere Christianity Discussion / Study Guide. Part 1

Some books are harder to understand, some authors are endowed with amazingly coveted skills to write complicated yet insightful sentence, which often only resulted in perplexed frown from its laymen readers. This book, this author, more than any other books, always leave me in that state of confusion and it is with that problem in mind that I write this post.

Mere Christianity, arguably one of the best Christian books out there, is soaked with gems of insight and biblical truth that it would be unforgivable for a Christian to left this book unread. I strongly recommend this literature, and go to the extent of giving out study guide / discussion questions for the more serious and committed readers out there. Not by anyway perfect, but I've used them for our book club, and they have their own charm.

Book 1: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe
Chapter 1 and 2
1. One of the big ideas that Lewis discussed in these two chapters is relativism. Do you think this idea is still relevant in today's world? If so, how do you see this idea being manifested / popularized by the culture?
2. Lewis stated three objections against moral relativism and argued that moral relativism is flawed in its essence. Try to read these chapters on those light and think of practical examples / cases of each.

Chapter 3
1. Pay close attention to how Lewis developed and expanded the idea of the law of nature.
2. In chapter 3 paragraph 1, Lewis talked about the consequences of the "very idea of something being imperfect". What are the consequences he had in mind?

Chapter 4 - 5
1. In reasoning with the problem, "what lies behind the law", Lewis laid out what the world think about it, how do they approach it, the problem with the approach, and his proposed solution. Be on the lookout for all these points.
2. There are two bits of evidences about the Somebody - he is not good and not soft which led Lewis to conclude that we were on a deep trouble. "This is the terrible fix we are in". Closely observe the connection between the two evidences and the conclusion.

Book 2- What Christians Believe
Chapter 1 and 2
1. In the beginning of chapter 2, Lewis concluded that atheism is then "too simple". How is so?
2. Lewis here argued the relevancy of Christianity in explaining the world and its surroundings. Dualism as he argued, has less explanatory power to make sense of the world we are living in. "Dualism, in a strict sense, will not work". So what distinguish Christianity and Dualism, and why does Christianity do make better sense?

Chapter 3
1. Lewis brought up the idea of "free will". What does this concept contribute to our understanding of human nature, sin, and the world?
2. What are the implications if people regard Jesus only as a great moral teacher?
3. Imagine if you were in that day and heard people talking about a teacher forgiving sins, how would you react?

Chapter 4 - 5
1. Read paragraph 8 and 9 closely. "But unfortunately we now need God's help in order to do something (read: repentance) which God, in His own nature, never does at all - to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die." The point being is, the reason we have the ability to repent is only because God has done and showed it in the first place.Sin is the prerequisite for repentance. And if God as human is free from sin, then he has no need to repent. How then he gave us the examples of repenting and surrendering without having the prerequisite of sins?

2. Chapter 5 is entitled "The Practical Conclusion". What is so practical about it, and how you could use this "practical conclusion" today?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Joplin, Three Months After

Joplin, MO is the destination and thus the 13 hours drive on Tuesday night with a team of 17 (10 adults and 7 kids). Brief background story: On May 23rd, a massive tornado hit Joplin destroying 1/3 of the city and killing at least 154 people. And thus here we are, three months later, cruising 705 miles from Columbus to Joplin with sheer intention to help with whatever tiny muscle and how-tos we have. 

Welcome to Joplin
The statue was "moved" from a park nearby by the tornado and landed safely at this concrete 
Although some areas are pretty much cleaned up, there are still some areas, like this, that remain untouched. 
What's left from the house. People write their house number and street address because the area is so destroyed that people don't recognize what street they're at. 
This is the tree that we're supposed to cut with an electric chainsaw. But none of us seems to know how to use such incredible tools and when one of us tried (me unfortunately), it took me prob 3 minutes to do the job (and 5 secs for him). Do the math, so we're being "liberated" from the task for the sake of efficiency and he let us watch and enjoy the show. 
The same tree, before being cut off, carried to the curb by the help of a larger tractor. 
This was a residential area before the tornado but now what's left of it are broken trees, vacant lots and foundation of houses.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Newseum, Pulitzer Photographies and Reflection

There is a famous saying by Maya Angelou, "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away". Last weekend at Newseum in Washington DC was the moment that continuously and repeatedly took my breath away. The experience was powerful and emotional; I looked inward to my small world full of insignificant and transient "breath of life" that I pined and held on so dearly and I looked outward to all the bits and pieces of history laid out clearly before me, and I was undone.

Eyes are too often deceiving as they are highly selective to what the beholders want to see (remember that we are told not to walk by sight but by faith?) One set of eyes could see the injustice happening one block away while another set of eyes could overlook the poverty right under his nose and ironically is only drawn to the sport car blazing right before his very eyes. 

My eyes are susceptible to that too, but all the great exhibits hanging in front of me immobilize my eyes from looking anywhere else, sucking my entire attention. In that moment, I choose to see the helplessness yet innocence of this baby during a war in Kosovo, having to be passed back and forth as his family was separated by a barbed wire. 

I choose to see the face of evil in the ruthless and gruesome act of lynching people and then banging the head with folding chair. Some grinned. A public spectacle. I choose to see the fate of an innocent one year old after a brutal city bombing. I choose to see the face of famine and drought, and I choose to look deeper until it dawned on me that some children died the most disgraceful death: devoured by vultures. 

I choose to see and try to understand why would a person burn another person to death?  I choose to see the agony of a sister wailed in grief as she saw her brother's feet buried under the rubble, unable to pull him out. I choose to see and clearly I see that every person has a story but unfortunately, those stories are often unknown and only rarely captured. Only once in a while, it is shared, and immortalized, by a click of a camera.

Even once they are captured, they are often treated like a hidden archive - exist but unknown. It is not only the eyes that choose not to see, but what most accessible to the eyes are often the rubbish and cheap imitation of life. Look at a magazine stand and what the eyes could see is a complete betrayal of reality: a thin model posing glamorously, a mouthwatering $40 meal, a shiny sport car and the latest technological gadget. Look at your Facebook stream and what you see is an imbalance of passion between reality and fake reality.  People posting, commenting, and shouting proudly about their "greatest dinner ever", "happiest vacation", "where could I get this, I want!!".

I see a distortion here. There is nothing wrong with deep passion for food, gadget or nature, but clearly I have a problem when a restaurant gets more review and exposure than these people out there. Enjoy food, enjoy beauty and enjoy money. But with people, don't just enjoy them, love them, with even greater passion! As beautiful as the mountain is, or as delicious as the food is, they are no way near as precious and beautiful as human beings. You know that, right? 

If your house is engulfed by fire, are you going to run into the fire and save your stunning picture with the great and mighty grand canyon? Are you going to risk your life for a recipe book, or a gadget or a book? I know I'm not but why do I care so much about where do I want to eat tonight? Why am I making my dinner meal as the headline news of the day? 

Truly, life is measured by the moments that take our breath away, and we need eyes wide opened to see what most precious in life. Some things can take your breath away, momentarily and never give it back to you, waiting for you to be suffocated. Some other things can take your breath away, and then re-breath it in back to you, and give you life. Switch your eyes for a while and look to the other end of the world or even look to your neighbor, look beyond your fortress of comfort and pleasure and you'll see what my eyes have been blessed to see. Behold and let your purified eyes be the judge, what do I wanna see today? Do I wanna see life, or do I wanna see the counterfeit?

*all the pictures were taken from my visit to Newseum thus the crooked pictures. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Insightful Quote

It doesn't matter, really, how great the pressure is, it only matters where the pressure lies. See that it never comes between you and the Lord - then, the greater the pressure, the more it presses you to His breast.

- Hudson Taylor

Monday, June 20, 2011

Birthday rambling

Today is her birthday, been exactly 8 months since she left.

Thank you god for giving me strength to go through all these, thank you for letting me find comfort and strength in you.

I do still wish she were here and we could celebrate birthday together, I still wish I could buy her present and blow her 53th candle.

Isnt it ironic that it is when she is gone that I remember her birthday, and it is with the same freakin ignorance mind that I  missed and forgot her birthday in the last two years.

But thanks be to God for now the best birthday party ever, for the surprise dinner from the king.

Happy birthday mom, I know you have a blast.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nespresso C-100 Review

Due to my daily demand of caffeine intake, I decided to buy an espresso machine that could satisfy my craving for coffee while could also save my wallet from the costly back and forth trip to Starbucks. After some heavy considerations, my choice landed to Nespresso C100, a home based automatic espresso machine that uses prepackaged ground coffee pressed in a capsule / pod. Here is what I think about it.

One of the winning factor this product has is its ease of use. As simple as ABC, first you turn on the machine (wait for approx 30 secs until it heated up), insert the capsule, and press the button to start brewing. No frill, no spill of ground coffee, no splashing or dripping of water, no five minutes waiting anymore. Perfect for you who always on the rush yet can't leave the house without coffee.

Trust me, in terms of flavor, they taste great. My favorite is Ristretto (intensity 10). When it starts to brew, the crema starts to come out right away. I am in no way a coffee connoisseur, so if you ask me about how good the crema is, I would say that as long as you have crema, it is a step up, it's an espresso shot.

They also have great aroma. I dare to say that it is comparable to Starbucks, I love love love the taste of my Nespresso. Put two or three pods of Ristretto, use Aerocinno to produce your steam milk, pump in one pump of Monin Vanilla syrup and drizzle light caramel on top. Perfect.

Bottom line: for everyday consumption of coffee, nothing beat the easy practical quick result of Nespresso.

My Espresso Station
Nothing really. I know there are lots of raving out there about the price. But really, think about it, Starbucks cost you $5 for a triple grande caramel macchiato. Compared that with $1.8 for Nespresso. Alright, count in the milk and syrup, it will end up $2.50 max. So, even a four year old know that $2.5 is cheaper than $5.

More grumpy users also complain about having to order the pods online, exclusively at Nespresso website. I understand how this can be inflexible, but as long as you plan them well, you can always order in bulk, pay the fixed rate shipping of $6, and have your Nespresso supplies for months. Unless they discontinue their production or run out of their pods, this is no sweat for me.

I have petty disgruntlement about the shot though. Maybe this is my feeling, but I feel the intensity of the caffeine is pretty weak and stale. Three shots of caffeine at Starbucks will surely keep me wide awake, pumping my heart beyond its capacity, but three shots of Nespresso do not seem to do the trick. I do still yawn with teary eyes, maybe it's me being too jacked up, maybe it's the espresso, but what I know for sure is I would not dare to go for the fourth shot. Please have mercy on me.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tips for Passing Search Advanced Google Exam

Looking for tips for passing the Search Advertising Advanced Exam for Google Adwords? You stumble to the right blog post. I understand the frustration of having to gorge the whole modules from the learning center, thus it is my burden to help you focus on the right chapters or topics.

First, the test is pretty tough compared to the fundamental exam. The passing score is 80% and I scored 89%, which was not bad I supposed. But, I literally crammed my brain during the test, forcing and squeezing the remaining brain juice left. Fortunately, you have ample of time to finish it, Google gives you 3 hours time to finish 109 questions. So, you have the privilege of time.

Here are some pointers to the topics that were heavily covered:
1. Invalid Click. Definitely read through the whole module (sorry I can't be more helpful, lol) But it is a short chapter, and I can assure you almost all the topics there were covered. Know the common causes, how Google prevents invalid click, and what an advertiser should do when they are suspicious about certain clicks.

2. Adwords Tools. Easy chapters yet tons of questions, this is where you want to score. Know what the purpose of all the tools. As far as I can remember, the questions were pretty straight forward. If you want to X, which tool would you use? Check check check.

3. This question is still vivid in my mind and it is still haunting me, even two days after the exam. I still can't figure out what's the difference between standalone keyword tool and account keyword tool. I googled it, search the term in Adwords Help Center, all to no avail. Please please someone help me find the answer and let me know once you have it.

4. For Adwords Editor and MCC, I highly recommend you to actually use the tools for your campaign. Majority of the questions test your experience in using the tools, not so much your reading / memorization on the subject. So, use them, get familiar how to get around and know these: how to give access level in MCC, different kind of access levels, and of course, the main benefits of those tools.

5. API. Most people never use it, I don't. But there are still some questions about it. I would recommend to just know the highlight of this tool, know what it is for, the purpose, the benefit, etc. That's it.

6. Conversion Optimizer: the relationship between CPC and CPA, read thoroughly the "troubleshooting" part (if you see decrease in traffic / conversion, what might be the cause), which feature compatible with conversion optimizer.

7. There are still lots of questions from the basic fundamental exam like keyword, location targeting, or even definition of CTR. So, those are bonus points for you.

Well, I think those were some topics that pretty much slapped me on the face. And as lame as this sounds, I still strongly recommend you to try experimenting with Adwords for a while, especially the tools like Editor, MCC, Keyword tool, My change history etc. Nothing works better than experience right, and it is much truer here, majority of the questions are not theoretical but practical; not straight forward but hypothetical case questions like, if X want to target Y location, also Z person who has V behavior, what should X do to increase M ?

Look, if you know how Adwords works, those questions can be answered pretty quick, but without proper understanding of the concept, it may turn you upside down begging for help (or Google). So, the quickest way to pass this exam might be the longest path, but in the end, here is the reward for those who are persistent.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Las Vegas in Snapshots

Rare view of the Bellagio Fountain - was eating at this Japanese restaurant, Yellowtail. 

 I know buddy, life in Vegas can be pretty rough. 

Double rainbow, lol. These people have a sense of humor. 

Looking for great yet cheap meal in Vegas? Pretty tough mission to accomplish.
But this sandwich nails it. Find them at Planet Hollywood. 

One of the greatest dessert place ever: Jean-Philippe. They have this largest chocolate fountain.
Assortment of cakes - mouth watering. 
Banana foster crepe. I wish my friends were with me to
try the rest of the dessert. 

That's why we have online check in buddy. Smart move,
I skipped all those lines. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mere Christianity - Book Club

It started on last September, and after a grueling seven months of reading, scrutinizing and reflecting the text, we finally reached to the end of the chapter. Last Sunday marked the last session of our book club on Mere Christianity, one of the best books I've ever read. Praise the Lord for sustaining and blessing each session with crunchy yet spicy discussion from each fellow book clubbers. Here are what they say about it.

"Being a reader, this book club helps me to learn to read in a different way, being more critical of what I am reading and to think much deeply into the text. The book itself is not an easy read, therefore being able to discuss with my peers really helped me to understand many points that I can't figure out on my own" - Anggrini Kwok

"I really like the way C.S. Lewis invites people to think about God from the secular point of view. Joining the book club also motivates me to enjoy reading. Having fellow friends makes learning a lot more enjoyable because we can share with each other what we learn, we can give opinions or ask questions without being afraid to be judged, and together we learn about how to apply it in our lives" - Ria Pangestu 

"We had a lot of great discussion about faith, hope, forgiveness, charity, pride and ultimately about the nature of the Son of God and our transformation to become his begotten son. I would certainly recommend anybody who is interested in digging more about God or Christianity (but may not be as driven to read) to join one of these book clubs" Pauline Ie

"This is the first time I have ever joined a book club and never thought I would love it like this. During the book club session, we would discuss together the point that we agreed or disagreed with the author. We tried to find some bible verses that support the view and discuss some of the contradictory world views. Then, we pull out some application. It was a really worth it experience." Angeline Tan 

"To me, the book club has been a lot of help by enforcing a discipline and a habit to read (e.g. I am somebody who don't read book as often if there's no book club). Being in a book club allows me as a reader to squeeze more juice out of the book - as we are now analyzing the book through five different perspective instead of one. It certainly is a blessing and a privilege to get a chance to be in the book club. Hopefully there are future similar opportunities to come =) " Hendy Tohan 

To let the momentum fizzle out is a shame. The engine has been set in motion and now it is the time to let it run in frenzy, like a roller coaster hysterically going through all the loops and turns. The next book club is coming in a week, and I hope more and more people do appreciate the acquired taste of reading. Sweet in its simplicity, yet rich in flavor. One chapter of a good book can open up one window of knowledge to the world. People often talk about going abroad for the experience, but what most people often neglect is, book can do that too, if you allow it. So, happy reading :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mother's Day - Down the Memory Lane

I don't know why, but God seems to send me here today to Vegas, on Mother's day for some reasons. My mom and I went to Vegas the last time she was here in the US, and being here again just brings all the memories back. One of my biggest regrets is my failure to buy her flowers Mother's day last year. Now, it is only a desperate wish. So today, even though I can't pull that off and it is definitely not the kind of Mother's day I am expecting, I thank God for sending me here and giving me the opportunity to celebrate my own kind of Mother's day.

Strolling Down Memory Lane

Monte Carlo - the hotel that we stayed at. She had the habit of taking pics with the hotel she stayed in;
some kind of her unwritten rules I guess. We came out from our room one night and took pics here.

Small patch of indoor garden at City Center - she loved this spot, apparently she had special affection
for flowers / grasses / gardens.
The Cup at City Center - their sales girl walked around and gave us a free sample. I loved it, so
we decided to take some rest here and slurped some gelato.  
Bellagio Fountain - she was not a big fan of the fountain. 

The conservatory at Bellagio - She was thrilled to see all the bright beautiful colors. This was one of the rare
times she asked me to take pictures of her with the garden.  
Miracle Miles at Planet Hollywood - she tried on several dresses here, loved them, but they were either too tight or too loose. I remember she asked about the point of buying all these dresses when she only had one year to wear them. It literally broke my heart. I was wordless. 
Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Hotel - Upon my recommendation, we ate at this French restaurant. She was afraid of the
escargot, and did not seem to enjoy the meal very much. From that day onwards, we tried to eat Asian if possible. 
I know it is Vegas, but even in the hustle and bustle of the casino machine and piano bar, every people here shares a story, and if you look far enough beyond all their bling bling and hollering, Vegas reminds them of something - either losing money to this casino, or getting married at this chapel or throwing up on this street. For me, this is my story; a story that happened in Vegas, but the one I refuse to let it stayed in Vegas. Simply because it was too sweet and sometimes too bitter to keep it to myself. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eliminating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship Summit 2011

On April 15th,  I attended the third annual Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship (APTE) summit at OSU. The main objective of this summit is to empower people to take action and eradicate poverty, not through fundraising or donation, but through entrepreneurship.

The summit was pretty enlightening, convicting and inspiring. The speakers came from a variety of background and area of expertise.  The keynote speaker, Jessica Jackley from Kiva, gave a poignant and inspiring talk, urging people to see the possibility of eliminating poverty and to embrace changes and propose innovation. All, just like Kiva, began small and simple.

Erin Krampetz from Ashoka reminded us to do what we love to do. Sonya Perez from Opportunity International taught us to give a hand-up rather than a hand-out. Mark Rembert & Taylor Stuckert from Energized Clinton County emphasized the importance of finding local or community-oriented solutions to address global problems.

One underlying similarity that I identified from all these speakers was most of them, if not all, started to develop the passion for poverty eradication from traveling. By traveling, I don't mean a five star cruise to Caribbean or a trip to Las Vegas but an eye-opener kind of traveling where you visit a place that is not on the top 100 travel destination list. The experience is powerful, it humbles you and slaps you at the same time. It forces you to behold the reality outside your shell of comfort and to acknowledge the devastating effect of poverty. It exposes you to a different kind of world - a world where freedom is non-existent.

I was glad that I participated in this summit. I should admit that this topic has been a seasonal on-off kind of thing for me, going through a harsh season of hibernating and a season of reawakening. But, the passion has always been there, lying dormant until something trigger it. And this summit definitely gave me the jolt.

So, what resulted from that summit?

Pebo and me, following what Jessica said to "make things official", gathered several friends who have the same passion to start taking actions - as simple as brainstorming ideas or identifying problems or sharing resources. This, we hope, is the community that would see the possibility in eliminating poverty, this is the community that would challenge today's problem and propose solution for a better tomorrow. This, we hope, is the start of something big.