My first Photoshop World in Las Vegas was a real treat. It was an intense training camp packed with tons of really cool stuff. It was so intense I hardly had the time to hit the slots!
It was a bit overwhelming and intimidating at the start. I recently started getting more serious about photography and there I was sitting in a room packed with designers and photographers, being inundated with so much information about editing and shooting techniques and drooling over the newest, coolest and most expensive gear. But I quickly realized that instead of dwelling on the fact that I am a beginner I should draw inspiration from these seasoned professionals, learn as much as I can and, more importantly, enjoy every minute of it.
The session that I enjoyed most in the entire convention was the panel discussion, The Art of Digital Photography, that featured the work of eight elite photographers. In the panel, these remarkable photographers discussed the how’s and the why’s behind their most stunning and moving works. It was absolutely awesome. They clearly reminded me that having fun is key to taking great photos. I left the room with so many ideas and with so much inspiration.
Other highlights of the conference were Jack Davis’ Lightroom demonstrations, Joe McNally’s live photo shoot focusing on lighting, Joe Glyda’s live shoot showcasing food styling and food photography and Jay Maisel’s Light Gesture and Color, a retrospective on his amazing work on natural light photography.
Kudos to the National Association for Photoshop Professionals for a very successful Photoshop World.
Check out my Flickr photostream for more Las Vegas photos.
I finally did it.
After over four years of bunny suits, graveyard shifts, short weekends and transpacific travels, I am leaving Silicon Valley. I am finally moving on. Demanding 10-hour-minimum-work-days and the frustrating drop-all-your-weekend-plans-we-don’t-care-about-your-personal-life attitude have taken all the fun out of doing research. I am just so burned out.
For too long I’ve been afraid of leaving my job and giving up my paycheck. Wait a few more years, I kept on telling myself. But the more I waited the more I got frustrated about how much my life revolved around my job. Dennis and I even moved out of the city, for crying out loud, so that we can live closer to my work but soon realized that life didn’t get any better. It was not all about the money. Clearly, I was not happy. Clearly, it was time to move on, take the plunge and pursue my passion.
I cannot tell you enough how much I am excited about this change. I have so many plans and I am bursting with so many ideas. I know it’s not going to be easy. Change is never easy. Starting over is never easy. But all this is not foreign to me since I have been through big changes before in my life. Perhaps, the biggest one so far was when I decided to leave home and start a new life here in California eleven years ago. It was difficult. But looking back I’m so glad that I took the risk and did it. I’m so amazed at how much I have learned and how much I have grown through the years.
Dennis gave me this very thoughtful card, which reads, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” I just cannot wait to see what the rest of my life would be like.
Swimming is a lot of work. Seriously.
I sprained my left arm last night and both of my legs were sore this morning from too much flutter kicking. After an exhausting swim class I thought, a triathlon may very well be too lofty a goal.
I am learning how to swim (again) at UCSF’s Bakar Fitness and Recreation Center in Mission Bay. The indoor pool is heated, the facilities are clean and the center is two blocks away from home, what do I have to lose? I originally signed up for a basic swim class but when I learned last night that it’s really designed for beginners I kicked it up a notch and decided to do the more advanced class. After all, I did take lessons before in my undergrad. It just wasn’t too successful.
The program runs for five weeks and we meet twice a week for a 45-minute lesson. I liked that the class is small, only three men and four women. And I also liked that the pool is only 4 feet deep at its deepest end. I can stand up if I need to anytime without worrying about treading the water.
On our first swim class, we practiced kicking. We started with flutter kicks and then learned the frustratingly complex breast stroke kicks. Kick and squeeze. Kick and squeeze, we were instructed. I was kicking and squeezing but I was not moving anywhere! I had to stand up, catch my breath and propel myself forward. I actually sprained my left arm last night because I clutched onto the kickboard like my life depended on it, like I was going to drown in a 4-foot deep pool. I was too tense. Jeff, our instructor, quickly pointed out that I should just relax. I should just relax my arms, my shoulders and my neck and focus on kicking. Clearly, relaxing is easier said than done. But I actually enjoyed the class even though it was so sapping. I’m looking forward to spending more time in the water. I just need to relax and have fun.
And by the way, I’m still not ruling out that triathlon.
Watching the hilarious new comedy Glee brings back a lot of memories about high school.
Sadly, however, it brings back horrible memories of very tumultuous times.
I seriously hated high school. I was, obviously, one of those Kurt Hummel types but not quite exactly. Unlike Kurt Hummel, I was not a trendy fashionista back in high school. I think the trendiest piece of fashion I owned was a pair of Tretorn shoes.
And unlike Kurt Hummel, I was not part of Glee Club. I remember wanting so badly to be part of Glee because almost everyone who was friendly to me was part of it. But, alas I could not sing. I remember auditioning with Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time in a capella, cutting short the chorus and storming out of the room in tears because I sucked big time.
The past is past and I have moved on but every now and then I look back and regret that I hated life in high school so much, primarily because I was not out. I was too afraid to come out. I was too afraid to be true to myself. In last week’s episode of Glee, unitard-clad Kurt Hummel was brave and honest enough to come out to his dad who turned out to be totally accepting and supportive. It was a sweet coming out scene that, I guess, I would never have with my own dad. I’m sure my dad knew and I’m sure he would have been totally accepting and supportive, too. Probably, a dramatic coming out scene would not have been necessary. So I guess I shouldn’t really dwell in the past anymore. Life is too short for regrets.
In hindsight, I may just be bitter about high school because I never got laid back then.
Glee airs Wednesday nights on Fox.
I hate to admit it but I have become a very impassive supporter of gay marriage and the health care system overhaul. Although these are issues that are very dear and important to me, I have become very apathetic, maybe because I have become too jaded after Proposition 8 passed in California. Or maybe because I just don’t think there’s an immediate need or a clear benefit for Dennis and I to get married. But I think I need to step it up and be more active in supporting these issues. More so now that I just learned that Dennis and I can be denied of a right.
Since we are registered domestic partners in the State of California, both of us are covered in my employer’s health care plan. Dennis runs his own small business and for all those who are not familiar with the current system, health care for small businesses is very expensive. And so we decided to get covered through my employer’s plan, which is a far better deal even if the Internal Revenue Service considers domestic partner benefits taxable income, in contrast to spousal benefits that are tax-free.
But if I were to lose or leave my job or, heaven forbid, die, Dennis cannot get health care coverage under COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1995. COBRA is a federal law that requires companies with 20 or more employees to continue medical benefits to spouses and dependent children in the event of death, divorce, reduction in hours, termination of employment and change in dependent status. Same-sex domestic partners are NOT legally included in the COBRA entitlement. This is just outright discrimination. A heterosexual married couple can continue to have health care coverage through COBRA but Dennis and I cannot because we are a homosexual unmarried couple. This just makes me furious.
Marriage is not about religion. It is not about procreation. Marriage is about civil rights. Same-sex marriage is about the rights, happiness and equal treatment of millions of gay men and women. America has come a long way to embrace gay rights but there’s still a lot of work to be done. I think it will come eventually but I am hoping that it will come soon.
I am crazy about Stanford. I am crazy about the way he lays on his back and raises his short legs way up when he wants belly rubs. The way his butt sways when he walks. The way his pointed ears perk up when it’s time for his walk. The way he barks when you say speak. The way he rolls over for a treat.
I am so crazy about my little boy.
Dennis and I adopted Stanford in 2008. We wanted a Pembroke Welsh Corgi so badly and was having no luck in finding one in the Bay Area until we came across Stanford’s profile at Petfinder, the on-line database of adoptable pets. Stanford was a stray rescued by Shannon and Kim of 4 Paws Rescue in Ogden, a suburb of Salt Lake City. We instantly fell in love with Stanford’s handsome photos and even though it meant either flying or driving to Utah in the middle of winter, we were determined to take the chance and hopefully take him home to San Francisco.
We flew to Salt Lake City the weekend after our application for adoption was approved. We rented a car and drove to a local pet store just outside Salt Lake City where we would meet Stanford for the first time. I can remember very clearly how Dennis and I were very anxious as we entered the store. We were so worried that we wouldn’t be a good match but as soon as we saw Stanford’s smiling “please-take-me-home” look on his face inside his crate, we knew for certain that he was ours.
After going through the paperwork, we got him a dog tag, bought supplies for the long drive home and said our farewells to Kim and Shannon. Off to the city we went. Luckily, the drive through the Sierras was not at all bad. We stayed the night in Winnemucca, Nevada and then continued the drive back to California the morning after.
Stanford has been enjoying life in the city. He loves to eat. He loves to run and chase balls in the park. He loves anything that squeaks. He doesn’t care too much for window blinds, vacuum cleaners and paper shredders. We actually have been through quite a lot in terms of vet visits in the past year and a half, from scratched eyelids to tummy aches. When we first got him, Stanford would limp after too much running. We later found out that his limping was caused by being a little bit overweight. Did I say he loves to eat? But he is now slim and trim at 30 pounds and, overall, he is in excellent shape.
Whenever Stanford greets me with his handsome face every morning and each time I come home from work, I can’t help but be thankful that we found each other. It breaks my heart when I picture Stanford as a stray looking for something to eat out in the cold. But it warms my heart that Stanford is now safe and enjoying a happy life with Dennis and me.
I think all dogs (and cats, too!) deserve a second chance. A second chance to a happy life of belly rubs and squeaky toys. The San Francisco SPCA is a great resource for anyone looking to adopt homeless cats and dogs in the city. And for anyone looking to rescue corgis in particular, the Golden Gate Pembroke Welsh Corgi Fanciers is a great place to start your search.
In her memoir, My Life in France, Julia Child writes effervescently about how her love of French food sparked her fiery passion for cooking and teaching. She was 36 when she moved to France with her husband, Paul. She spoke no French, knew absolutely nothing about France and had no clue what she wanted to do with her life. I actually find myself in the same situation. No, I am not moving to France but there are days when I wonder if I really know what I want to do for the rest of my life.
Like Julia, I am in my mid-thirties and I am still discovering myself. But unlike her, I oftentimes get bogged down because I am too afraid. Too afraid of making decisions and standing by them. Too afraid of making mistakes and owning them. Too afraid of facing rejections and accepting them. No amount of rejection fazed Julia. She struggled to fit in at Le Cordon Bleu and she faced rejection right and left while trying to publish her now celebrated Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But Julia persevered. She pursued her passion and led a full life and enjoyed a rewarding career.
It may sound overly romantic but I want to try and pursue my own passion, whatever that passion may be. I guess that’s what I’m trying to figure out. I just need to stop being too afraid and start facing the omelet pan and start learning how to flip my own omelet. Life is too short to be always afraid.
When I was a kid growing up in Manila, I hated sports. Truly hated sports. Everyone was so into basketball and I simply did not see the point. I so dreaded gym class. In college, I almost flunked swim class because I freaked out in the middle of my freestyle exam when our instructor told us to start swimming at the deep end of the pool. I panicked because I had been training to start at the shallow end where I could reach the floor. They had to haul out a long wooden pole so I can hang on to it and they can pull me out of that pool of embarrassment. That stupid mistake almost wiped out my chances of graduating cum laude.
I was the complete opposite of anyone athletic until I started getting hooked on running in 2006. That was the year I ran my very first race, the San Francisco Marathon. It was a huge deal for me considering I never ran a marathon before let alone a 5K. I signed up and trained with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which made it more meaningful since I was helping raise money for a very good cause.
After 26 weeks of training, over 400 logged miles, two pairs of running shoes, one shin splint incident, two blistered toes, a pair of sore legs, and a pair of numb feet, I finished my very first marathon. I still vividly remember that fateful marathon day. It started dark and early at 3:45 AM. The first 18 miles were smooth and scenic but soon became hilly and hard. We ran along the Embarcadero toward the Fisherman’s Wharf, up and over the steep hill by Fort Mason, and then along the Marina toward the Golden Gate Bridge. The sight of the two northbound lanes of the Bridge filled with runners on a cool and crisp summer morning was absolutely amazing!
After crossing the bridge and running back, we proceeded to run toward Golden Gate Park passing through Baker Beach and the Sunset and Richmond neighborhoods. Sunday in the park was not an easy stroll. I began to tire at around mile 18 because of the hills and the heat. I had J-U-N spelled out on my chest in big bold red letters cut out of red duct tape and so I felt the love from everyone who yelled out Go Jun! along the course. I definitely needed all the love once we entered the Haight, the Mission and the Dogpatch when it became unbelievably hot. It felt like 90 degrees.
I will never forget the feeling while I was running the last mile stretch from China Basin toward the finish line. I felt not only nauseous because of exhaustion but because I was so emotional. I was having a rough time with relationships during that year. I was miserable and I was losing confidence in myself. And this was partly the reason why I signed up to run a marathon. I needed a distraction. I needed something to help me move on. And so, on the last mile stretch I kept on reassuring myself that I have trained hard and I have to finish strong.
I did move on and I did finish the race. Four hours and 37 minutes. Injury-free. Not bad for a first time marathoner.
Two full marathons and six half marathons later, I am still hooked on running. Last Sunday, I ran the second half of the San Francisco Marathon. This last race was a little tougher than previous ones because I did not have the chance to train consistently for it. My left leg started to hurt at mile 4 while running through foggy Golden Gate Park. I tried to ignore the pain and just focus on finishing no matter how long it takes. I finished the race with a time that was a minute longer than my usual pace, which frankly is not at all that bad.
I still get choked up whenever I cross the finish line. I always felt so insecure and unhealthy growing up. Seriously, I was the clumsy kid who nobody picked to join their team. But now I feel more confident and fit. I hope I can stay healthy and can continue to run races but one of my lofty goals in life right now is completing a triathlon. I personally think it is too ambitious considering I have to get over my fear of water. But I think I will try.