All posts filed under: Reflections

New Beginnings – Columbia

The past month has been a whirlwind, from my departure from the City of Los Angeles, my cross-country roadtrip, to my first week at Columbia University. A lot has changed. I am no longer engaged in building public policy or writing feasibility studies. Everything has become a blessing after the hardships I endured the last eight months. There is much truth in the idea that new beginnings allow you to do something new and be someone new or even to feel something new. I have never worked so hard or felt as assured in my life, from handling grad school coursework to really trying to organize and bond our cohort together. This change really came from the lesson during my time at DCP, especially the last months. The importance of knowing the people you see and work with everyday cannot be understated. Babak, Cally, Nina, Jason, Iris, and Angela you taught me so much during the last few months we spent together. I cannot thank you enough. Though everyday has been pretty much a 9 …

Flowers for Algernon – Knowledge and Distrust

Where do I even begin to discuss this book? With everything that has happened over the course of my life, the impact now is more profound than if I read the book any earlier than I did. To put it simply, it is about the journey of a man who undergoes an operation that lifts him from ignorance to knowledge. The book contains a multitude of themes I have yet to ruminate over, but here I want to discuss the issue of knowledge breeding distrust. As Charlie becomes smarter, he wants to learn more to know more about himself. Through that process he realizes that the people around him all have something to hide; they all have imperfections. He becomes ashamed of himself as well, because of his own past and imperfections. His coworkers at the bakery, though they take care of him, laugh at him because of his lack of mental acuity. The professors who performed his intelligence enhancing operation are not motivated by his well-being but rather their own professional advancement. His mother …

Public Policy 101: Understanding Policy

It is important for the public to understand how to understand policy, especially when it is in the process of being deliberated and adopted. As a policymaker, I want to share some of the finer points of policy making, especially into today political climate. *My views do not represent the City of Los Angeles or the Department of City Planning. Every year, a large number of policies are deliberated at all levels of government. Some are passed, some are postponed, some are dead upon arrival. In a democratic government, almost all of these policies are heard in some form or another by the public. However, there are a lot of nuances to understanding them and because the public are not generally versed in understanding policy, there are ways to get policies passed by influencing public sentiment or despite public sentiment. To make it easier for you to understand policies, especially those you care about, the following are three important things to look for to avoid supporting a policy on misguided assumptions. They are listed in …

Letters on Tues(Thurs)days – Departures

Dear Wilton, The shift in delivery from Tuesday to Thursday has been unintentional. With the holidays coming up, my schedule has been packed full, both inside and outside of work. In many ways holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, are about reunions and returns, however I wish to take up the topic of departures. It is the opposite side of the same coin; to return and reunite means that you are departing from somewhere, some place you currently are. Therefore, it is not necessarily an unrelated or opposing topic. Finally, I am sure it is a poignant topic for you, as our family returns to Taiwan after 20 years abroad. It is always hard to imagine leaving a place for good, or even for a few years. You might not know it, but bonds are easily developed and can quickly thicken. Like roots, they hold you in place and they want to hold you in place. Yet, you will find as you approach and finally go into your twenties, departures become more frequent. The bonds you develop …

Letters on Tues(Thurs)days – A Travel Plan Without Plan

As the rain encroaches… Dear Wilton, As you know I went to Panama last week for four days for a short Thanksgiving vacation. It was a surreal experience and here I am to discuss the trip and my planning (or rather the lack of) as a metaphor. No matter how much you plan, life always have something else in mind – not that I was big on plans to begin with. Fortune, good or bad, will always lead you somewhere, whether you want to be there or not. The decision to go can be considered spontaneous, but I have known that I was going to Panama since September. Though, to keep in that spirit of the spontaneous, I neglected to plan anything. This type of spontaneity has been a big part of my travels since college: spontaneous road trips, flights, visits. What made it different this time is that I did not even look at any points of interest until the day before. Even then, all I found where places to go but not how to …

Letters on Tuesdays – Thanksgiving

Mom and Dad, circa 1988? Dear Wilton, In light of the recent world events, it is a good time to reflect on something more positive as Thanksgiving is here. Perhaps, to you, it is just a prelude to a long winter holiday. I remember those days when I was your age. Thanksgiving, as an American tradition, held no meaning for our family. However, since coming to the States and having spent several Thanksgivings with my dear friends and their families who hosted me, I learned that it is indeed a good thing to have a day set aside to reflect on the positive. Every year, every day, every second something can easily go wrong. Sometimes it can go so wrong your life depends on the next move you make. So, it is because of this exact unpredictability and fragility that we should celebrate gratitude. I will keep it simple today. Let us remember to thank those who came into our lives. Let us reflect on the beauty of the natural world and all the positive …

Letters on Tuesdays – Seeing the World

Dear Wilton, We have been very privileged. Remember to thank mom and dad. Our parents never really stopped us from exploring the world around us, though sometimes it definitely made them uncomfortable. They were not passive either. Indeed, you can recall the numerous times that they took us on vacations to different countries in an effort to broaden our worldview and our horizons. Travelling and seeing the world take on different meanings as you grow older. As a kid, I was fascinated by the physical differences of all the places we went. Every place looked different and felt different. Some, like Singapore, was hot and humid. Others, like Thailand, was more rural and resort-like. Still others, like Japan, was highly technologically advanced. I was focused, always, on the present moment and present location. Slowly, however, I began to become more interested in the fabric that makes each place unique: history, environment, people, culture, etc. Perhaps the change was driven by my own interests in history and biology, further developed by my pursuit of an anthropology …