Wild wild city known as Bmore

So last night, again I had the unfortunate experience of young black kids with nothing better to do seeking to take my bike.  After last year’s experience of some kids throwing a sledge hammer at me in an attempt to take my bike during my evening commute, 4 kids tried to again take my bike.

It seems, their strategy is to put fear in the biking commuter.  Biking up St. Pauls St right by Penn Station, one kid wearing a ski-mask tried to unsuccessfully push me off balance while biking in the opposite direction of me.  I use a relatively heavy mountain bike in the streets of the city so his feeble push did not move me much.  The next thing I saw was a child putting a black hand gun he was waiving into his belt to try to throw me off mentally.  I identified it as a black bb gun designed to look realistic.  Also, having been held up in my past by a real hand gun, it looked way too light to be a real gun, but it definitely held my attention.

Then the actual kid that wanted to take my bike jumped off his bike and tried to push me off my bike and shouted “get off the bike” and tried to strike me on my head.  He hit my bike helmet and I believe his hand must have hurt though I felt nothing through the helmet.  His buddy asked him “are you all right?” as he went back to his bike.

I shouted “Don’t you guys have anything better to do?” in an authoritative voice!  Three of the boys immediately took off and the one that struck me got on his bike and tried to bike off.  I saw him fall off his broke down bike about 100 yards away and looked to be in a panic to get his bike to move again.

I stopped for a few seconds trying to decide what to do.  Should I make chase and have the police catch them so that they get put in juvenile detention and continue to go down the spiral of violence and crime?  Or should I catch up to the kid that struck me and try to talk to him and try to convince him there are better things to do than to try and steal bikes from evening commuters.

In the end, accepting my inability to shift this particular situation, I chose to just shrug my shoulders at the imbalance in the world and bike on.

Lunar New Year 2016 just began, and the mischievous monkey has shown its naughty face reminding us to be mindful and aware every where we go.


Biking home today

So as I was biking up Fallsway by Central booking on my daily bike route, I saw three young black kids blocking the bike path. Two of them had bikes, one didn’t. I immediately sensed their desire to take my bike. As I approached, one boy was on a bike trying to block the path. The other two seemed waiting. Maintaining steady eye contact with the other two kids, I made sure they knew that I “see” them. As I passed them, the one trying to block me started biking and yelled in an exasperated tone something at the other two. I calmly biked on thinking that the problem was averted.

After traveling a block or so on Guilford right in front of my children’s elementary school, I saw a hammer fly on the concrete sidewalk next to me. I quickly turned and noticed one of the boys from earlier was on a bike and tried to throw a hammer at me. He quickly turned his bike and biked away.

It is again, very sad that children feel the need to throw a hammer to hurt someone to just steal a bike. Should people flee this very real suffering and live in richer cities or suburbs? Or should we stay and engage this city with compassion and responsibility? How can you live in a city like Baltimore with class privilege and not be a target? Such questions we will struggle to answer.


Asian Americans committing suicide

Originally published Wed, 17 Oct 2007 02:16:52 -04:00

Through the course of my life, I have been close to several Asian Americans who chose to take their own life.  Given the gravity of yesterday’s events at Virginia Tech, I am again reminded of their tragic stories.


Sam was an American Desi who attended Purdue University trying to make it as an engineer like all good Asian American boys seeking to please their parents.  As a group of Asians (Thai, Indian, Taiwanese, Indonesian and Malay) we would all go play basketball together against the Indiana farm boys.  Sam and I were the tallest guys there, but Sam played ball like a guard.  My own personal basketball hero was Hakeem Olajuwon (7 foot tall center for the Houston Rockets) so I always had the privilege of playing center.  Of course at 5’11 and 130lbs with an average vertical, I had a little trouble playing against the tall guys I had to guard.  It was all in good fun, at least from my perspective.  Our goal was to outrun the other team since there was no way we could play them in a half court game.  (I would almost always foul out since that is the only way I could stop a guy that was bigger and taller than me)  I remember when racist comments happened on the court, I would get inflamed, but it was nothing like the anger Sam had.  His anger was vicious whenever some disrespect happened.  Of course he wasn’t much heavier than me so we had level headed friends in our group to calm us down.

What was unfortunate about Sam was that he wasn’t doing well academically.  He dropped out of the engineering college and switched to accounting.  He also wasn’t able to score well in accounting.  I remember he would say “I am the dumbest Indian you will ever know”  We tried to reassure him but he seemed to get more and more distant from us.  After winter break during my second year in college, we found out that he had bought a shotgun and blew his head off in his dorm room.  Apparently, the pressure to be a “smart” Desi was too much for him to handle.


As a college student, I was very active in the movement for self determination in Taiwan.  In the early 90’s there were still many Taiwanese democracy activists who would be imprisoned for exercising their right to free speech.  Many of these activists left Taiwan in the 1960’s and raised their children in the US.  They would get involved with the democracy movement and then be subsequently black listed by the authoritarian dictatorship in Taiwan and not be allowed to return back to Taiwan.  In the early 90’s, the black listed leaders of a Taiwanese democracy organization went back to Taiwan to support the growing democracy movement in Taiwan.  This would unite the work done by overseas Taiwanese immigrants with those working in Taiwan.  Many of these immigrants had Taiwanese American children who were born and raised in the 70’s.  Many of us grew up together and were childhood friends.  When these leaders went back to Taiwan in opposition to the black list, they attended a banquet and all were arrested.  They were put in prison for committing “sedition” and for trying to overthrow the government.  Amnesty International promptly adopted them as prisoner’s of conscious.  As college kids, we saw them as Alvin’s dad or Stella and Rita’s dad was in jail for nothing but going back to Taiwan and we wanted to know what we could do to get them out.

It was through those efforts that I got to know Dave.  I remember how sincere he was when he was expressing concern for those people he saw as his uncles.  We organized petitions, letter writing campaigns and eventually they were all set free.  Many of them are politicians in Taiwan today due to the success of the democracy movement.  At Taiwanese American community gatherings, I remember playing ball with Dave.  After we graduated from college, and saw Taiwan develop into a democracy where the people in Taiwan had their first presidential election in 1994, many of us started to lose touch.  Dave and I met at that gathering after the presidential elections.  I sensed he was depressed.  He didn’t seem to have a direction.  He had a typical corporate job but was recently laid off.  He was asking me what was the point?  Earn money, buy a car, buy a house, why bother?  I was worried about him.  At the time, as a young college grad, I had bought a two bedroom apartment in the Chicago suburbs for cheap which I was trying to remodel in my free time.  In our conversations, I asked him to come move in with me in my extra bedroom and we could hang out in Chicago.  Of course I was hoping to recruit help to renovate the place, but at the same time, I felt his loneliness and thought that it would be nice to hang out.  He said “I think I’d like that” A month later, I found out he jumped out of a 12 story building to his death.


Albert was an athlete.  The first time I met Albert, we were at a Taiwanese American youth camp riding the bus together.  He told me that he ran track and I said, oh, I ran track also!  What events?  He said “100 yard dash”  I was impressed.  I mean, I was a long distance runner without the athletic talent to compete with much speed.  A sprinter had that explosive muscle that few of my peers had.  I asked, how did you do?  He then looked left and right and bashfully said “I beat o-lang (black people in Taiwanese)”  Later I found out that he ran in the Maryland state championships and actually placed in the top 10.  He would tell me “I never let a white guy beat me!”  In just about any athletic event he chose to participate, his natural athleticism was obvious.  In basketball, he would dunk the ball with authority.  He was my height but had springs on his legs.  In volleyball, he was all about “6 packing” the opponent with a thunderous spike.

In the summer of 1990, I was an intern in Washington DC for the Asian Resource Workshop (ARW).  The organization was set up to push for human rights in Southeast Asia, Korea, and Taiwan.  It was my first summer in the east coast away from the midwest and it was truly exciting.  Being a young college student filled with idealism, learning about these human rights abuses and believing I could do something about it made me feel like I had a dream job. Albert lived in Bethesda and I was staying in a house in Bethesda that summer.  Since we lived in the same neighborhood, we spent that summer in Washington DC  playing ball, watching movies and just hanging out and going to clubs.  I remember our talks about life, parents and of course girls we thought were hot.  His parents were always a sore subject.  Albert had trouble with his academic work.  His goal was to be an engineer, have a wife and several children living in the suburbs.  He even had a time line on when he wanted to achieve certain things.  Not only could he not meet his own expectations, but also his parent’s academic expectations.  They even went so far as to call him fat!

Albert’s body was an Adonis body.  There was not an ounce of fat on his body.  He was rippling with muscle and of course it was all quality muscle.  I couldn’t believe his parents negativity.  He had the most positive attitude of anyone I knew.  It was as if he was fighting the negativity of his parents all his life that he clung to positive thoughts as a drowning person would cling to a floater.  The only time I ever saw Albert angry, was when one time I was feeling a bit down about myself and I said something negative about myself.  Then, with a ferocity which startled me, he shouted “NEVER cut yourself down Tim, there are enough people, places and things in this world that will cut you down, don’t add yourself to the list.”  The following school year, I went back to school in Indiana and him and another friend were taking a road trip to the midwest.  On their way to the midwest, they were driving fast.  He was going 120 mph wearing his seat belt.  Our friend Mike was not wearing his, Albert was passing a car on the shoulder, hit something on the road, and the car flipped over.  Mike went through the windshield, but Albert was unscathed.  If you ever read “Albert Camus – the stranger”, Albert’s response was similar to the stranger.  He was emotionless and matter of fact.  The police put him in custody for manslaughter.  Mike’s family didn’t press charges and he went back to college.  The Taiwanese community gossiped like you wouldn’t believe.  The pressure from that must have been great.  When we talked again, there was now a distance between us.  Whenever I went to DC, I seeked him out, but we never had a good conversation since the accident.

Time passes, I was 24 and working in Chicago, he was also 24, yet he had not yet graduated from college.  As I said earlier, he struggled academically.  I received a call from a mutual friend who told me that he shot himself in the heart.

When we think of the shootings in Virginia Tech, it is easy to have compassion for the innocent victims.  The young students, their families, and the fear that has been created throughout the campus is understandable and unfortunate.  But in our society, it is so much harder to have compassion for the shooter.  As we know, people who are broken inside  can do great damage.  All of us have a responsibility to make sure we will not break as human beings and if we have a chance to help others around us, we must do our best.  Sometimes, we find that we are powerless to help those who need it, and of course we must accept that we have done all we can.  From that, we forgive ourselves for our failings, move on, and live life as best we know how.

peace and blessings to you all!


Fighting the cockroach war

Initially published March 14, 2005

There are many tactics of taking out cockroaches. Having been apart of the early wave of gentrification in the Baltimore ghetto, I lived and fought this war within a roach infested building. This building was eventually transformed into a beautiful living space/taekwondo school. But when we first started, the roaches lived there and we needed them out. My sister forced us to limit our tactics to non-toxic pest control since her daughter (Ui-seng) was only 4 months old then and willing to stick everything into her mouth.  No roach bombs were allowed to be utilized.

The roaches were EVERYWHERE

While we were doing construction on the building, I still remember waking up in a panic with roaches crawling over my face and into my ear.  Images of Chekov in the Star Trek II movie flashed in my mind as I dug the bug out of my ear.  I had made the mistake of sleeping next to my check book box  A quick Web search then taught me that roaches eat cardboard glue.  Next thing we did was dump every bit of cardboard from our building.

The roaches take round 1

Non-toxic tactic failure one:  Boric Acid and Citrus spray.

Going to those green web sites on pest control, they suggested both.  I spent hours spraying that stuff everywhere.  I even dumped boric acid powder on top of one poor cockroach which seemed to cause it nothing but slight discomfort.

I still remember running around the building spraying the citrus spray at the cockroaches seeing it do nothing but be a minor irritant.  Friends like Rick and Rex who came to visit us and politely chose not to spend the night with us probably have fond memories of holding a conversation with me while I rudely jumped up cursing and started running around the room spraying citrus spray.

Alas round 2 also goes to the roaches


The first time I went to the basement of our building, I was freaked out!  I mean usually, cockroaches run away from you when you turn on the light of the room.  These thumb sized monsters didn’t budge.  When going down the steps of the basement, it was almost like going into the insect house of the zoo where they showed the HUGE cockroaches, only these roaches weren’t inside a glass box!  On top of that, there seemed to be hundreds of these big monsters.  A friend suggested backing powder so I went to our local Save-A-Lot (the ghetto grocery store) and bought 5 boxes of backing soda and dumped it everywhere in the basement.  I then left the basement for the evening.

Walking in to the basement the following morning, I felt like I was walking into a holocaust.  Those thumb sized cockroaches were everywhere on the ground, only they had imploded with their guts everywhere!  In a sense, I wondered what sins might be added to my soul as I caused the torturous deaths of so many roaches in that one night…  The ghastly image of hundreds of blown up cockroaches all over the floor will always be etched in my mind.

I take victory in round 3

The knockout blow…

The backing soda did its job on the big suckers, but now the roaches were acting like normal roaches in a house.  You would see them there, you knew they were there, but they were small and were scared.  They were still everywhere, but only the small ones were left.  I was still trying the citrus spray, boric acid and backing soda with dead ones turning up, but they still didn’t leave us alone.

A visit to a Taiwanese family friend who runs a restaurant gave us the “final solution”  Biological warfare was needed.  He showed me his secret.  A roach gel which at the time, you can only get from whole sale pest control dealers.  COMBAT roach gel with Fibronil.  What is Fibronil?

Well, the key is to understand the evolutionary masterpieces of the cockroaches.  All cockroaches are hermaphrodites.  Thus, they can maximize their breeding potential.  If there are 20 cockroaches, they will always have 10 couples thus maximizing their broods.  On top of that, they eat EVERYTHING.  Especially the corpses of dead cockroaches.  Though I thought I had won round 3 by blowing up the big huge cockroaches with backing soda, what I had actually done is create food for their young ones thus explaining why though I was dumping backing soda all over the place and they were still getting blown up, they still stuck around since they had food everywhere.

Fibronil will make cockroaches sick.  They will then hang out with their buds and make their buds sick.  After they all get sick, they will eventually die.  If their kids eat them as most
assuredly they will, the kids get sick also.

Thus, with the biological agent of Fibronil, the brood of cockroaches in our now finished renovated building was finally killed off.

Final victory, Tim Chng takes it, though the roaches fought back hard, they have been out of our building for the past 5 years.  If the roaches dare to face us again, I will be ready and armed with the knowledge and experience of this past war!