Thoughts from Wing Tek Lum’s Poetry


I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you might nudge the world a little or make a poem that children will speak for you when you are dead. – Tom Stoppard.


I have godlike amounts of work 😦 – Jason Lee.


Came back to Brown and discovered that I have so much to do. This week alone:

1. Applied Math 33 Project- Wed

2. Applied Math 165 Pset- Thurs

3. CS Pset- Thurs

4. CS Project Design Check- Fri

5. E&M pset- Fri

6. E&M project design- I don’t even know. 

7. Biomaterials Paper- Wed 


But that’s okay, that’s manageable. There are worse things in life. Like dying. Like torture; like black despair, and the unspeakable cruelties that humans inflict on one another in the name of war, for the sake of… something.

Helping out for YoC this afternoon, sat and listened to Poet Wing Tek Lum read a few poems from his collection about the NanKing Massacre during the Second War. Sat idly in a chair, in a very nicely decorated room, with my heart pounding and throat dry. Eyes closed, wishing, I could close them again against the flashes of photographic images conjured forth by this speakers easy voice.

Visions of rape, of torture, atrocities commited against. The use of POW’s as meat, in all sense of the word- for pleasure, for amusement, for practice. A POW tied, to be used as bayonet practice. “This is real, I am going to die.” And you talk about post traumatic stress disorder. War opens up your eyes to the reality that you are only meat, and nothing more. How impolite. How improper.

A corpse bridge.

What kind of soul does it take to be a poet, how much does it cost you to set words on paper, that describe experiences so intimate to being a human that it is almost unbearable to listen to. And people ask why Iris Chang chose to leave this party early.




This is Internet Surfing.


4:26 am Sunday morning, head drenched with information’s white foam. Just came up three hours under the torrents of the internets. Terrible sleeping schedule, but there there is so much to explore on this world wide web. So much good content. 

Catches from the sea tonight. 

1. Penelope Trunk. Writes with fearless wit. About sex and work and lots of social advice. 

Interviewing. Emailing

2. Jason Shen, on increasing your luck surface area. Exactly what it sounds like. 

3. Rejection Therapy. Starts tomorrow: http://rejectiontherapy.com/rules/

4. Foodie’s delight. http://lingboli.com/


Thanksgiving in Silicon Valley


Life has been too kind to me. At SFO, about to board the plane back to Brown, to school, to work, but I thought I’d take a moment to recap the great memories lived with Kenneth Tiong over the course of this fantastic week in Silicon Valley (and be advised, I guess its not so much an advise post as it is a reminiscence post). 

1. Friends are the most important thing one can have. The investments you make in people are reciprocated a thousand fold, and they will go out of their way to amaze you. 

Example-in-Case: I had three Thanksgiving dinners, with three groups of amazing people. Wednesday night was with Dr. Lynn Rothschild, beloved advisor of our NASA Brown-Stanford iGEM team. Thursday was with the delectable chef and compassionate friend, Dina Yuen, Ms. Asian Fusion, and the wonderful Gio. 

And of course, tonight, was fantastic- Thanksgiving Prime at Chez JJ, the hottest new place to live in mountainview. 

2. The joy in connecting people. I always thought this was an abstract concept, but to see it in practice is fulfilling to no end. There are so many great people out there, and by just getting a few together in a room, one can provoke great things to occur.  

3. The Important of having a house/base of operations. Jaap’s house at Brown. Jade’s house this weekend. It was a place to invite people to, and the place to cement relationships. 


Arrived back at Brown a few hours ago, and look ahead to a week of work and projects yet again. But that’s okay. Having had such a wonderful experience over the last few days, I am willing to work hard, especially as Ken and I have a new project to play hard at 😉

Lets get this shindig started 😀



MIT-CHIEF, or I’ll see you on the Mountaintop


This past weekend was MIT’s China Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (CHIEF), a two day blitz of reknown speakers and fantastic panels. The topic of interest was Innovation, and the theme running through the discussions focused on two main issues:

1. Can China innovate. If so, how?

2. How does China fit into the world?

These questions were asked and answered from a host of perspectives, including

Wang Shi Yu Lu. (the dialogues of Wang Shi)

There were also moments of rare philosophy and humanity. Wang Shi, the founder of VanKe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_Vanke), the biggest real estate developer in China, gave a talk in english (he’s only been in the states for 1.5 years!) about his journey and some lessons he’s learned interfacing between East and West cultures.

He said three profound things:

1.”I only spend 1/10th of my time on business. Back in the day when I was running Vanke, I spent 9/10 of the time training for climbing mountains. Now that I am a student at Harvard, I spend 9/10 of the time studying.”

This followed on the heels of another professor who talked about innovation, saying that entrepreneurs these days are a little too pedal-to-the-metal. Its not good form to go all out- one must cultivate a balance between life and work. The truly successful people are not the ones who apply themselves infatigably, but those who have developed and matured in all dimension.

2. Understanding religion is hugely important for grasping cultural backgrounds in the states. I plan to study here at Harvard, and then in Istanbul, and Jerusalem, the epicenters of the world religions. When was the last time you heard a Chairman of a multibillionaire corporation say that?

3. Combine your expertise. He holds the world record for highest paragliding, because he leapt off one of the tall western mountains in China. Some people might call it unfair, but he defends himself: “What I did I don’t think anyone in the next ten years will break. Paragliding is hard to learn, so no mountaineers do it, but mountaineering is equally hard, so no paragliders think about it. To make my record, I had to climb up the mountain with 60 kg of paragliding gear. What I did was an achievement, like any others.”

Bringing Marketplace Problems to the Problem Solvers

Professor Charles Cooney, of Deshpande Institute at MIT, also gave a lecture about the importance of innovation, and the ecosystem that MIT has in place to develop.

But moreover, he stressed a key idea. Humbly, he said “Something that MIT is not really good at if figuring out what exactly the Market needs.” This is the idea that the innovative creations that people generate in research labs are important contributions to basic research, but more often then not they remain theoretical in application. If we wish to truly generate value, we must tie the developments in house closely with the needs and pains of the society, so whatever does develop will be worthwhile and fruitful.

High Altitude Climbing

Both Wang Shi and Charles Cooney showed pictures of their passion during their slideshow- little black dots of human figures huddled close to the snowcaps of the worlds tallest mountains. There has been a recurring theme of mountains in this blog lately, and I don’t think its all coincidence. What is the draw of mountaineering to these immensely successful people? Something poetic, the grueling physical feat of climbing rewarded by the awe-some view from the mountaintop. Stand on the tip, and survey your kingdom.

But Cooney had two interesting things to say:
Risk management- he tries to minimize the amount of risk he undertakes, but understands that risk is about . In his presentation, there were two pictures: one of him, taking a picture of his son climbing on the mountain before him, with a vertical drop of 5000 feet under his feet.

And the second, as he is ascending the mountain himself, his head is bowed and looking at his feet, because he knows that the real goal is not the mountaintop, but getting down the mountain.

What wonderful words, thoughts.



Walking through the alley between Stata 32 and 34 today at MIT (will post next time about the chief conference), I came across a tragic sight. A magnificient hawk laid sprawled on the ground; crumpled, wings broken. The cruelness of gravity was offset by a serenity, eyes closed,

Gravity’s puppets, we are, for all of our dreams of mountaintops- we shall visit the same cement pavement. Some furious, some trembling…

Nex to the hawk laid a mouse, belly still bloodred from the friendship of hawk claws. The two side by side was almost a comical sight, I almost expected them to get up and resume their dance. But the brief interruption was eternal, possibilities collapsed against the dark concrete pavement. A ballet in hiatus. It was the saddest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

Crocodile tears. I’ll be lying if I said that I don’t feel anything, but its not devastating either. There are ways of being sad without salt.




It’s good to be brought back down to reality every so often. Tonight, watching a documentary with Jaap, Ethan, Sherrie, about the College tuition crisis, and then about the hyperinflation that will consume the US economy. The idea that 1) college tuition is obscenely overvalued, 2) the economy is in shambles, and 3)  the US government has moved in to make education affordable in the same way that it moved in to make homes affordable, passing legislation that makes them the sole authorized distributor of easily obtainable student loans.  One year of college costs 27k right now. The average student is in 25k of debt by the time they graduate.Do you don’t have to listen very hard to hear the refrain of the 2008 financial crisis. Except this time its much bigger. Recently. college tuition loans have surpassed credit card loans to be 1 trillion dollars this year. 

That should make alarm bells ring in your head. Holy. Shit. And then projected food prices, inflation skyrocketing as the only way to offset the us deficit. Other cataclysmic change that I am too tired to capture right now. …


Three things:

1. Is it real? I am not looking for some bullshit considered opinion, just the hard fact of y/n. Problem is that it is unanswerable until it happens, by which it is too late. 


2. I think about the prophet, returning from the mountaintop with tablets of stone, eyes wild from staring into the storm clouds too long. Mute. How do you share this grand idea with others, in casual conversation? You cannot. It is too big to digest, and shallow talk does not provide enough volume of media to capture it. 

3.  And of course, the most promising- What can we do? Invest in gold and silver right now, as the friendly fellows from the NIA suggest? Or be cautious of such rash reflex action. Appeal to people’s sense of fear, and then get them to buy stuff. Confusion. And also a sense of perspective, that is a good contrast from this week’s earlier feverish posts. The world is a lot larger than you can comprehend, and you are not such a powerful actor after all… 


Why High School Sucks for Smart People

Thanks to Viv, have discovered the treasure trove of Paul Graham’s essays. 

This will probably be the first of many, as I slowly digest his collection. 


Idea: why are smart kids miserable and unpopular in high school? 

Answer: Unconventionally: because while they may care about being popular as much as the next shmuck, they also care immensely about being smart. Not school-smart, trying to do well in school, but life smart. Trying to learn skills that will later be useful in life. Discovering what they really like. 

In the real world, daily life is determined by the value you deliver to others in exchange to acquire the value that others deliver to you. What you do matters. 

High school is an alternative reality. I think back to my eclectic high school experience, and note that the biggest trend running through all of them was the idea of college. How to get into a good college. Then, of course, there were the distractions, what to do with the puddles of free time between asinine homework assignment to assignment. 

In some, it was more intensely focused than others. @ RDFZ, one of the premier secondary school in China, school was an unforgiving taskmaster that molded you into the perfect test-taking machine, in preparation for the Grand Examination that determined where you went to college, and hence the trajectory of the rest of your life. 

At Shanghai American School, it was a world of privilege and bourgeois, where I wandered art galleries in my free time as a means of sophisticated culturing activity, 

Notable quotes: 

1. Suburbia: