Wednesday, February 08, 2012


There was a death in my family recently.

A very significant one.

I wrote about death a few months ago, but I'm revisiting the topic now. It's something you can't really understand or grasp until it's staring you in the face. You hear about people dying all the time, either by accident, premeditated murder, war, tragically, and so on...and while you can feel sympathy for the people affected, you can't really empathise until death falls upon someone you know.

It's surreal night I'm on the phone with my mom talking about my uncle visiting my grandfather, and the next morning there's a voicemail on my phone saying he's passed.

It's funny, I can't even recall his name...I just know him as Grandfather. Out of all my grandparents, I knew him the best. I still have vivid memories of me visiting Taiwan as a kid, and him taking me to buy videogames (Mega Drive, that's wassup) on his scooter. Zipping through the mean streets of Tainan at 70+ years old is no joke...and did we zip. We also had the same taste in food, (braised pork belly and minced pork) and I remember him taking me to buy it to eat each morning.

As I grew older it became even more apparent how much my grandfather cared for me by his actions. It's one of those things you kind of understand, but don't really appreciate and fully understand until later. I'm the only grandson on my dad's side of the family. I thought it was kind of cool, hence the tattoo on my back...but seeing how I was raised in America I didn't really get how important it is in the grand scheme of things.

Pin for the eldest grandson

In Taiwan, as it is in several Asian countries, sons are very important. It's pretty traditional and old school, but it is what it is. Sons eventually head the family and have the capacity to pass down the family name. Daughters can get married off and take the name of their husbands, and if they have any sons those sons will pass on the name of the husband. So with that, grandsons are placed on the same level as sons. This was made very clear to me during the funeral ceremonies for my grandfather.

The Sons

During the ceremonies, each family member wears a pin and wears different garments signifying their role within the family:

Sons get white string on a net backing, daughters get a blue string on a net backing, eldest grandson gets a white and blue string on a net backing, daughters of sons/son-in-laws get a blue string, daughters of daughters get a yellow string, and sons of daughters get a green string. Seeing as I was the only grandson, I got the blue and white pin on a net backing.

In addition to the pin, the eldest grandson has a significant role in Taiwanese funeral ceremonies. These funerals typically take ~10 days, with each day containing different ceremonies to partake in. I arrived in Taiwan just in time to "lead" one of the ceremonies. The next couple days I found myself in the center of many ceremonies, and it was a little overwhelming because I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. A side effect of this is since I was focused on what to do, I didn't really grieve properly. There were moments during the funeral where tears welled up, but nothing significant. I felt like I had to be strong, and my mind was focused on following directions. I kind of wish I didn't focus so much on directions, as I still get these moments when I'm alone.

Chen Family spread over 4 continents

My grandfather's death put a lot of things into perspective.

Life is short...very short. You really need to make the most of your time here, and do things that will have a positive impact on others. Small or large actions, it doesn't matter...if you can make someone's day better at all then you're moving in the right direction.

What's the point of living if you do everything on your own or for yourself? You may accumulate things, you may accumulate experiences, but at the end of the day it's the relationships you develop with others that matter at the end.

You can choose a lot of things in life, but you can't choose your family. They've sacrificed so much to make sure you live a better life than they've had. Make them proud.

The past few weeks have had a pretty big impact on me that I haven't fully digested yet...but a reevaluation of my priorities will be in order. Changes will be coming...hopefully for the better.

RIP Grandpa, I love you.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I've been getting into shoes lately.

This past year, I've bought 7 pairs of shoes, with only one pair that can be dubbed sneakers.

Why? Tastes change as you grow older, and shoes stop being solely (ha, solely) functional but an expression of your personality.

I'm no longer in college, and I can't just wear the same [adidas/puma/nike/reebok] white sneakers everywhere.

The thing with shoes here in comparison to the shoes in America are that it's much more European; it's widely accepted to wear pointy shoes, whereas in America it's frowned upon. In America you'll most likely see round toed shoes or square toed shoes...and for dressier chaps, cap toed/classic Oxford shoes.

*Note: If you wear monk strap shoes, go back to Ireland you leprechaun.
*Note 2: Do not buy shoes from Aldo.

Here are five basic guidelines I follow for wearing shoes. Guidelines, not they can be twisted to your personal style.

1. If you're wearing a belt, the shoes and belt colours need to match, or at least complement. Period. No black/brown combos.
2. Shoes should complement your pants/shorts/jeans, not match them. The only exception is if you're wearing a suit or tuxedo. (Some people say shoes should be darker than your pants...whatever)
3. Never wear white socks unless you're playing sports.
4. Socks should match/complement your pants.
5. If you're not wearing a belt or your belt really doesn't match/complement your shoes, your tie should match/complement your shoes. If you're not wearing a tie and not matching/complement, GTFO.

Clark's Desert Boots

Great all around shoe that can be worn with a t-shirt, sweater, polo, or button up shirt. Best paired with jeans, but shorts if you can pull it off. Kind of wish I got camel ones instead of black ones as it's more versatile. Made out of suede and a crepe rubber sole.

Brando Cap Toe Oxfords

This is my first pair of Italian shoes, and they're made with genuine calfskin leather. Shoes made of this material need to be broken in (they still do after 4 months,) and breaking shoes in is a BITCH. It's like walking in clogs until the leather softens up. I sympathise with women who buy leather shoes. The upkeep on these is kind of crazy, but it should last a lifetime if taken care of properly. Goes great with jeans and trousers that are all shades of gray or blue. Dress shirts a must.

Dior Pointed Dress Shoe

I got these because I liked the lacing, since it's much different that normal. This is mainly worn with trousers and with jeans on some occasions. Dress shirts a must, and made out of leather and a rubber sole.

Urge Vroom (Brogue Suede Shoe)

This is my most recent purchase, and something I've been eyeing a while. Goes great with blue/gray/cream/white jeans and shorts. If wearing with shorts, sockless is the best way to go. Goes with all kinds of tops. Made with suede and faux wood sole.

Maians Fabric Plimsoll

Another great all around shoe that can be worn with anything. Best paired with jeans and shorts of most colours, and very useful on a boat.

Supra Assault Sneakers

I pretty much only wear these with jeans, as I think all black sneakers look a little funny with shorts. Best paired with shirts (crew, scoop, v-neck.) I wear these when I want to feel like a rebel or a skater (which I'm obviously not.)

Urge Randy Shoe (cool name, I know)

My current go-to shoe. It's summertime and I'm not a big fan of thongs (flip flops,) so I wear these as a replacement. They're similar to Tom's but they're way more comfortable. Goes with jeans and shorts of all colours, and with all types of shirts, henley's, polo's.

There you have it.

My current philosophy on shoes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

STOP SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act)

I've been meaning to write this post for about a month now, but my little bro was visiting during that time.

Anyway, regular readers of my blog are well aware of how disillusioned I've become with the American government (the people are amazing though, don't get me wrong) and recent developments have further solidified my opinion.

Scumbag Obama

For those unaware, Obama recently signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after previously stating he'd veto it. Due to how vague this bill is, what it allows is the indefinite detention of everyone suspected of terrorism, including American Citizens, without trial regardless of geographic location. This is an egregious violation of Constitutional rights, considering your only recourse for due process would be under a military court. As a side note, a big FUCK YOU to Carl Levin...if I were still registered to vote in Michigan I would vote your ass out.

Fuck You

Getting to the point of this post, SOPA and the Protect IP Act.

This is a two pronged attack by Congress and the numerous corporations backing this bill.

SOPA is ugly...real ugly. It's so ugly that it makes the nearly equally ugly PIPA look like a good idea, and passable through Congress.

What does SOPA do?

The bill would authorize the U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders against websites outside U.S. jurisdiction accused of infringing on copyrights, or of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.[4] After delivering a court order, the U.S. Attorney General could require US-directed Internet service providers, ad networks, and payment processors to suspend doing business with sites found to infringe on federal criminal intellectual property laws.

This is effectively censorship of the internet. The freedom, innovation, and opportunity that the internet enables that we all enjoy daily would be stunted FOREVER.

Want to visit a website that's been simply accused of infringement? Blocked by your ISP.
All those music videos on YouTube? Gone.
reddit? Out.
Mediafire, Megaupload, and so on? Peace.
Google searches? Most results blocked.
Flickr? Bye. GTFO.
Vimeo? So long.
Twitter? No chance.

PIPA is just as bad.

The bill provides for "enhancing enforcement against rogue websites operated and registered overseas", and authorizes the United States Department of Justice to seek a court order in rem against websites dedicated to infringing activities themselves, if through due diligence an individual owner or operator cannot be located.

Are you serious? The US government is able to shut down websites operated overseas? Oh hey what's up Big Brother?

This means the US government can effectively block websites across the whole world, simply by an accusation of infringement.

This bill is opposed by Google, Facebook, Mozilla, Yahoo!, eBay, American Express, and more.


A big THANK YOU to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden for stepping up and placing a hold on PIPA earlier last year and getting the word out on SOPA.

Please contact your State Representatives and Senators to stop these two ridiculous bills from passing. Unfortunately, since I'm registered in DC I have no vote...I can only spread the word to others.

Please spread the word.

Visit for more information.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012



Originated in France, popularised in America.

Jeans are great; they're durable and can be worn for nearly any occasion. Smart casual work affair? Jeans. Need to round up some cattle? Jeans. Going to a concert? Jeans.

It's easy to dismiss a pair of jeans as simply something to wear, when they're clearly's a statement of your personal taste and style. My views may differ from others because my mode of transportation is walking, so while some people like to get around in a nice car I like to get around in a nice pair of jeans.

I bought a pair of raw selvedge denim yesterday and I can't wait to break these bad boys in.


I picked up the jeans at the opening of the Sydney store of Andres Denim, a local independent denim label run by a really cool guy named Jeffnik. I bought two pairs of raw denim from him last year after stumbling on his website from a random Google search. It was really cool, because shortly after I put in the order online he e-mailed and said he could simply drop off the jeans at my place and would refund the shipping cost since I lived in Sydney. Now that's customer service. When I told him I wanted to try other pairs he told me to stop by his booth at the Young Australian Designer's Market in Paddington instead, and he'd answer any questions I had. Badass.

That's me behind the white bar, I'm the first customer!

If you don't know what raw denim is, let me fill you in.

Typically when you buy jeans from a store they've already been washed once, and the biggest giveaway is when the jeans already come with a fade. Raw denim is denim that's unwashed after dyeing, which allows for a custom fade. The appeal of this is that over time, the jeans become unique to the wearer and your character/life story is all in your jeans. This is because it's suggested you wear the jeans as much as possible and that you don't wash raw denim for at least 6 months. Gross? Nope! Awesome!

Please read the directions

It's pretty cool seeing the fades start to come in over time; you just need to be careful when it rains so the jeans don't bleed everywhere. (You also need to be careful not to keep your phone in your front pocket unless you want a phone outline forever.) The only downside is that it gets kind of funky when your jeans start to get...funky. However, there are ways around this, like freezing your jeans, airing them out in the sun, and even some Febreeze.

Cool trim.

On top of fading over time, you can create your own custom fade by doing things like washing your jeans in the ocean, rubbing coral on the jeans before washing, and so on. These jeans will be yours, and only yours.

In addition to raw denim, there's selvedge denim.

The mark of selvedge

Selvedge denim is higher quality denim made by old-style shuttle looms. Because of these looms, the denim is more durable and forms a clean natural edge that does not unravel (self-edge.) This prevents the edge from fraying, so you don't get that messy look at the bottom of your jeans that happen over time.

Selvedge denim and raw denim does not have to cost a premium, and I promise that once you get a pair you will not go back to regular jeans.

Jeans are awesome.

Get some...and get some from Andres Denim.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Fatty McFatterson

Every new year is like a reset button, a chance to start on a clean slate whether you had a phenomenal year or a disastrous one. People typically make resolutions to improve themselves with each coming new year because hey, who doesn't like to become a better person? One of the most common resolutions each year is to lose weight, since it's way too easy to pack on the pounds over the holidays and getting older doesn't help.

At all.

Your metabolism slows down, you feast more during the holidays, and if you work long hours and live a sedentary lifestyle it's easy to eat out of boredom. Whether you stick to this resolution is a big indicator of your resolve as a person. If you're a regular gym goer and you've been the first week of the new year you know it can be hell. It's funny seeing who sticks to their resolution because 4 weeks later there's usually a dropout rate of over 60%.

Circa 1991

This year I'm going to be a cliche and make a resolution to lose weight, but I will be making a concerted effort this time (promise!) Weight is something I've struggled with since I've been in elementary's ridiculous, I know. From the time that I was born up to around 10 years old I was rail thin and my parents feared I was going to grow up with health problems. This was not the case, because as soon as 5th grade rolled around I was plump as a little pig.

Pizza Hut in Taiwan

I gained enough weight that my mom started to become concerned with the fat accumulating on my body and even asked my paediatrician about it. I remember him saying it was just "baby fat" and thinking to myself, but I was skinny as hell when I was a baby! This continued on throughout middle school, and it affected me enough that I was too self conscious to take my shirt off at swimming pools. Funny, right? Considering that I don't remember much about teased for my weight at the time, I can only assume it was all in my head.

Thanks, baseball!

I used to play baseball for Rec Ed in middle school, but in high school I started playing for my school. Due to a combination of this, taking a weightlifting class and switching over to diet soda, I lost about 15 pounds. Seriously, I used to drink 2-3 Cherry Coke/Dr. Peppers a day back in middle/high school and ate fast food once a week or so. That stuff adds up, so it caused me to acquire a taste for diet soda early (water, schwater.) Shortly after, the lifetime yo-yoing weight began. I gained about 5 pounds the following year and stayed the same weight up until college.

Thanks, Hydroxycut!

Everyone's heard of the freshman 15 right? I gained the freshman 20 in one semester (I've destroyed all pictures of this period of my life.)  By then I was teetering on 170 pounds, and it was then that I tried some drastic measures. I started to calorie count (I still do, and I've gotten so good at it I can estimate caloric values of food in my head before I consume them) and started taking a product called Hydroxycut when it still contained ephedra. Ephedra has since been banned by the FDA, except when you need it for asthma or bronchitis. Hydroxycut was AMAZING. The first time I took half a pill, and I was awake and alert all night. I gradually upped the dosage and a month later I lost 15 pounds.

Thanks, pledging!

I stopped taking Hydroxycut over the summer and stayed about the same weight up until the fall of 2002, when I started pledging for Lambda Phi Epsilon. By the end of pledging, I lost another 20 pounds. My cheeks were sunken in and I was almost the skinniest I've ever been in my life. After I started eating like a normal person and working out and taking supplements, (protein, creatine, Hydroxycut, multivitamins, and flaxseed oil) I gained 7 pounds back and was in the best shape of my life. This lasted about a year, but soon enough I gained 15 pounds again.

15 FTW (2004)

I stayed this weight until I became single, and went back to exercising like a fiend and taking ephedra pills (Hydroxycut was banned at this time.) This time I lost about 10 pounds, so there's a trend here of gaining more weight and not being able to lose just as much weight without nearly killing myself, as well as being more fit while single. Interesting...

Oh God...why (2005)

What happened next? I kept it off for close to two years, but then you guessed it, I gained another 15 pounds throughout 2007 and 2008. In this time I developed a philosophy to exercise in order to eat more, instead of staying healthy. Smart move, I know (explains why I'm a fatass.) With that, I went back to my tried and true exercising like a fiend and taking ephedra. I lost 12 pounds.

BHC 2008 

TAF 2009

So it's getting to that time again where I've gained 10 pounds since 2009. This time I'm moving forward with a different approach. A couple friends have been raving to me about the Paleo Diet, and it's time to give it a go. The difficult part with this is that it isn't a diet, but a lifestyle change. However, considering the fact that my weight has been fluctuating my whole life this is a probably a good thing.

The main philosophy behind this diet is that you will eat like how our hunter-gatherer ancestors of the Palaeolithic era ate...meaning nothing from the agricultural revolution. No grains, no legumes, no dairy, no alcohol, no refined sugars, and nothing artificial. Essentially you would be eating meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and berries, and relegated to drinking water, coffee, and tea.

That's pretty hardcore...and it sucks because I'm like Joey from favourite food is sandwiches!!! The results should be worth it. I'm going to be doing this diet in conjunction with intermittent fasting and a regular workout regimen over the course of 60 days starting tomorrow to see how my body responds. If all goes well, this may no longer be a resolution I will ever need to make again.

Wish me luck.

(Side note: I'm well aware that I'm really not all that fat, but I have high standards for myself.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Time is of the Essence

So I was talking to my friend the other day about dating, and what he said was kind of depressing. He turned 30 a few months ago, got out of a long term relationship recently, and what he told me was to find someone NOW and to lock it down. I kind of scoffed at the thought because man, I have plenty of time...right?


He's been going out with women in his age bracket (lol bracket) and I don't know if it's because of the area he lives in, the particular women he's been going out with, or the type of women he attracts, but there's a common theme with all of them: they all want to settle down and start a family. Whoooaaaa! Big reveal, I know! Granted, that isn't too hard to fathom as many people start to get married around their mid-20's with it snowballing from there...but the way he was explaining it was that these women just want to find someone to take over the role of husband and father, and they didn't want to be with you for you, but what you can provide. That SUCKS!

I hope I misinterpreted what he was saying or that he was just biased, because that's a terrible reality to live in. You want to marry someone for love and not out of practicality right? At least, that's the romantic side of me speaking...but then again, love marriages are a pretty western and modern concept in comparison to marriages in eastern cultures where things are more "traditional." We're all familiar with Asian parents wanting their daughters to end up with doctors, lawyers, and the like, and I'm beginning to think I'm in the minority for the type of woman I'd like to end up with amongst my Asian friends. The guys seem to want someone who stays at home and cooks/cleans, so basically a housewife. Can't say I'm a fan.

Anyway, it really does. But who does it suck for more, the men or women? I never really gave this much thought because I still think turning 30 is so far away (it isn't.) Upon further examination though, I'll have to say it really sucks for the women, but only if they want babies. That's plural. I used to think being a woman at 30 was no big deal if you wanted to get married and have a kid...but exactly that. To have a kid. If you want more than one, 30 is cutting it waaaaay close unless you want children with birth defects.

It's hypothetical time! I'm just using arbitrary numbers here that would seem realistic, so bear with me.

As a woman, say you meet someone and start dating them at 30. You date for a year, then decide to move in together as the next step. You live together for a year and see that you work well together as a team and can cohabitate. By now you're 32. You decide to get married and set the marriage a year later. Now you're 33. You get married, go on your honeymoon, spend a month or so getting acclimated to the married life, and a few months later you realise you're pregnant. 6 months later you're a proud new parent. By now you're 34. You have one "good" year left to have children without running a much higher risk of having a child with birth defects.

That sucks!

I know this deterioration affects men as well; we're susceptible to age (we die earlier don't we?)...except instead of having one egg a month we have millions of sperm, so our odds are much better.

I can understand why a woman would get in "husband mode" or whatever once you get in your 30s...but maybe having kids isn't for everyone. I guess you could always be a single mom, do the Ted Mosby/Barney Stinson raising a kid as straight friends thing but with your girlfriend, or just roll the dice. At some point it gets selfish though...just adopt a kid. If you have kids when you're older you're making it worse for everyone involved. By the time you're ready to retire, your kids will just be getting out of college and may still need financial assistance...meaning you can't retire yet. Or if you do retire and you need financial assistance due to health or whatever else, they won't have much disposable income because they'll have to take care of you and so on.

Biology is a bitch...

In that regard I can see how the scales can tip in favour of men once we get older, so dating gets easier...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I read this article titled Japan singletons hit record high earlier today and I found myself drifting off and imagining a life where I'm still single past 34. It's never really crossed my mind to think that I'd still be single that age. That's in a little over 6 years. I graduated from college 6 years ago.


I can only speculate why this is so high in Japan compared to other countries. My guess is that while it's very modern and its standard of living is still very high in comparison to many other nations around the world, it's also gone through a brutal recessionary period the past 20 years. So you have a culture where traditional gender roles are still pretty prominent, but men can no longer be providers because there are no opportunities. Because of this, the men find different ways to occupy their time instead of on women, and with the women not being approached by men they do the same in return. Because of the bad economy, these people also tend to live at home with their parents well into "adult" age.

Think about all the vastly different things Japan has in terms of hobbies, foods, literature, and all the activities you can do. You can occupy your time in endless ways. It's a totally repressed culture that has some of the craziest ways to let shows and fashion for example. It's easy to stay single well into your 30s with all these factors at hand.

Anyway...relationships are interesting to think about. The longest relationship I've had ended over 7 years ago, and lasted roughly 2 years. Since then I've had 3 girlfriends and I've dated several other women. Throughout these years I've tried several approaches to meeting women; through friends, through organisations I've participated in, volunteering, at the bar, from yoga class, at the grocery store, online, and chance encounters.

One of the main things I've learned is that you have to be have to be doing whatever you're doing for the right reasons or people will see right through it. Like if you go to yoga, you have to really want to do yoga and meeting women needs to be a secondary objective or it's not going to happen. You can see how well that worked out. Just kidding...I do enjoy yoga, but I hate it when there are only 2 guys in the class including myself, and of all the places the other guy can place his mat, he places it in front of foul man, party foul.

Another thing I've learned is that when you meet a new woman, you have to immediately act a certain way in order to not be slotted into the so called dreaded "friend zone." The friend zone sucks! Imagine getting to know someone really well, who laughs at your jokes and has a lot of fun with you. You think there might be something there, so you take your time to build courage up to say something, and while you're doing this you're building up expectations or an idea of who they are in your head and not who they really are.

You end up pining away for someone who enjoys your company but in the end they don't reciprocate your feelings because they don't see you "in that way." It makes you wonder why and causes you to think about how you would do all these things for them and you make yourself out to be a martyr and what not. It's self-pity and unhealthy really. This is something that took me a while to learn in and after college, as I was a naive young boy instead of a well adjusted young man.

So...the way you have to act is expressing your interest in her as more than a friend...or in other words, flirting (revelation of the ages, I know.) The context can be in terms of dating, just a hookup, or marriage if you so choose...anything. If you don't do this then they'll just assume you're not interested in them in that way (no duh) or if they didn't consider you in that way in the first place, they will now. You have to do this in the beginning before you get to know each other too well or it's the fast lane to the friend zone.

Ever since I came to that realisation shortly after college, a couple things changed. I started dating more women (this is a relative term, as it was not many at all before) and my relationships became shorter. My initial reaction to why this was happening is because I became more direct in my intentions so less time was wasted if someone wasn't interested, and I now had more options if things weren't working out (as bad as that sounds.)

Upon further inflection I think it's because I didn't get to know these women on a deeper level, and I wasn't ready for commitment, at least not the level they were looking for...or they would feel that way about me. When you primarily communicate with someone by flirting and don't get serious with them...they don't really get to know who you are and vice versa. It feels like you're wearing a mask; I didn't feel like I was being myself; the version they got of me when I was around them was not who I really was, but a caricature. You get caught up so much with not being in the friend zone that you force yourself not to act in a way you think may place you in there, so in the end you're witholding yourself and being disingenuous. You're not really there.

So where do you go from here? I have a lot of platonic female friends...a lot of guy friends give me crap for it but what can I say, I enjoy the company of women even if I'm not seeing them "in that way." It's been a blessing because I've learned a lot about women because of these relationships and they are not nearly as foreign to me as before. The problem with this is because I am friends with several different types of women who are amazing in their own regard, when you date a woman whose personality isn't as awesome as one of your female friends it's a bother, especially after the honeymoon period when all the sexual tension ends and you see them for who they are without their "mask."

I've come to an impasse in my life about how to get into a relationship with a woman.

I heavily prefer getting to know someone first before getting involved with them physically or intimately. It feels more natural and not as hitting on someone at the bar. You want someone to want to be with you for who you really are, and not how they imagine you to be or off first impressions. However, if you do that you run the risk of getting slotted into the friend zone. If you don't, at least from my experience, you don't really get to know the woman for who they are and they of you...because it's a superficial getting to know you that's mostly based on sexual attraction and tension. How do you reconcile the two? It's something I'll need to figure out in the future...

Don't get me wrong, I'm content being single at the moment, but I don't imagine I'll be single when I'm least, I'd rather not be.

Relationships are interesting.

Maybe I'll turn Japanese.

Maybe not.