Sunday, December 18, 2011

Finals, Winter Break, and Reflections

This round of finals felt miserable. Yeah, it's whiney again, but I don't know what it was about this round. I had one extensive multiple choice final and one extensive essay. They were both four hours long. Maybe, one thing that added to my misery was that they were spaced one day apart. Even though it was only one day apart though, I disciplined myself to study for my last final first so I wouldn't run out of time. Or maybe it was because I had to do grading, though it wasn't terribly bad the grading or time consuming.

I also had one paper due. It turned out to be a thirty page paper for my laws of war class. It's on Terrorism Responses, Demilitarized Zones, and the Nuclearization of a Peninsula. Like most of things I write, I found it an interesting topic and enjoyed writing it. But with the added pressures of finals, I was unhappy.

I remember starting my paper. I whispered, "I FO*&)(*& hate my life." I was in the computer lab. I didn't think anyone heard me but someone did. He replied, "Pardon, me?"

"Oh," I said, "Did I say that aloud? You weren't supposed to hear that. But if you must know I said, 'I f)(*&)(*& hate my life.'"

The guy laughed at hearing my statement.

I remember going to the student lounge. I was reviewing a practice Wills and Trust examination. Part of the reason these rounds are so painful, at least for me, are the following. One, I know to do well, I have to study more than other people on average. Some people in my law school are just gifted at test taking. I know, because some of them are my friends and brag about their test taking gifts. Two, reviewing old exams makes my mind work in overdrive. I can feel it start to process the law and facts and ask: "What are the issues? What are the laws? Oh, that bastard professor it making it so bloody complicated." I put my hand over my face, rub my eyes and start again. In the student lounge, I again whispered, "I don't want to do this anymore." The girl, playing the piano said, "I'm sorry, am I bothering you?"

"No. No. I just said, 'I don't want to do this anymore.' I just finished a final yesterday and I have one tomorrow."

"I get it. You must of had Bainbridge's Business Association yesterday>"

"Yes, that's right. He's an evil professor because 20% of the exam wasn't even lectured on. Like problem 23. It was answer (c) because blah blah blah.."

"Oh my God, I got that problem wrong," she says. "I hate my life too." She continues to play the piano.

Most finals finished Thursday, 12/15. I wrote my paper up until Friday 12/16 - the last day of the semester. I was up at the library tower. There was nobody there. The law school was so quite, so peaceful. This is how a war zone must feel after the nuke just blasts the area into a ground zero. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. I'm almost done. I could have turned in my final paper on a Thursday if I really pushed myself. I didn't want to do that. I already felt burnt out. The last of the work I did on that Friday was make sure my i's were dotted and my t's were crossed. Did I have two spaces after every period? Did my footnotes look correct, meaning, did I italicize the right words? Did I small caps the write titles? (It's bloody annoying, painful tedious work.) I wish badly I could've outsourced the work for $100. $100 USD is a lot, I think. But then again, it's worth a sound mind.

Incidentally, a traffic court judge told me that's the most important thing a lawyer should do. Incidentally, that traffic court judge just threw out my last traffic ticket on a brief I wrote. I suppose, he was satisfied enough that I had crossed my t's and dotted my it's.

I was partially done. I left one piece of work in progress - meaning I'll finish it by next semester.

To celebrate, I called my little brother Sasha. We both had sushi on me, of course. It was enjoyable. I was happy to see Sasha before we parted ways for the break. I then had dinner with my roommate.

I woke up the next day - the first time I've had nothing law school related on my mind. I felt so mentally exhausted. It felt like I was experiencing a deep depression, and I didn't want to leave home. Except there was no depression. There was no urgent work. There was just time to kill. The experience of it all was catching up with me.

I sat down in my room and watched hours of tv. House to be precise. I haven't done this - since I can't really remember when. I was just droning out, watching house and drinking coffee while Los Angeles experienced winter. Again, it was like I was in some strange depression zone.

Dinner with father came next. By that point, I somehow snapped out of my zombie mode. We ate at a usual place - where my father had ordered the choicest meats for his son finishing finals. Fine pieces of beef rib, t-bone steak marbled with fat. Problem is I don't eat a lot and let him know that up front. It was all very good!

We had a conversation, in which he kept talking about how my cousins, his nieces and nephews were doing in school. Some were doing not so well. Some were doing just fine. But it's always school with my dad. The waiter was nearby to hear our conversation.

"Father, if someone wanted to be a car mechanic that would be a fine job. Isn't that so, waiter?"

The waiter smiled and said, "Yes, of course."

"See, Father?"

My father said nothing.

"And father, if someone wanted to be an actor, that would be a fine job. Isn't that so, waiter?"

He smiled and said, "Yes, yes. Of course."

"And father, if someone wanted to be a veterinarian, like I should've been, that would be a great job too. Isn't that true, waiter?"

At this point, the waiter found it humorous that the son was lecturing the father. He said, "Yes, yes. Of course."

My father then said, "Well, if you want to be a veterinarian now, in your older life, no one is stopping you."

"Well Father," I said, "This is a good time to bring up something else. I'm going to Europe again this Saturday."

"Oh, you know your mom was right that you were a crazy kid. You were just there, weren't you?"

"Well Father, we only live once you see? And if you don't have fun, while living, what exactly is the point?"

We were talking different languages, even though we were both speaking Korean.

"And Father, I need that $500 you owe me. You lost the bet."

"What bet?"

"Remember, how you revealed how the cousins are doing? Well, the one we bet on didn't get into UCLA. I bet against him. You bet for him." The look on his face confirmed that he was indebted to me.

Then he said, "I remember no such thing. And you're a rotten, crazy boy to bet against your relatives."

"Well, you remember such a thing. And you shouldn't enter bets you know you aren't going to win."

Here's an insight. It shows the difference between my decision making and his. For dad, blood is thicker than water in making decisions. For me, I attempt to look at the truth - those most objective one possible. I then make a decision. See, so betting with family is not always the best way to go.

I came home later to my mother's place. Luka meowed announcing my welcome. I picked him up, and we watched Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen together. He licked my eyebrow while watching. I said, "Mom, I want to go on that show."

She said, "Do as you wish. I don't think your dad will be too happy though." I slept at my childhood home in peace.

I woke up and thought to myself my priorities. They are as follows:

-Update my music on the iPhone
-Clean the fish tank
-Fix the aquarium filter
-Get the electric short on the car fixed
-Get the scratches on your car removed
-Have dinner with law friend
-Make dinner for law friend
-Have family dinner before I go to Europe
-Buy European friends gifts
-Get my C.K. postal bag fixed (I do use it everyday).
-Plan my two week European vacation (Before people think I'm wealthy, I spent only 40,000 miles of American Airline miles for a free airticket in July).
-Apply for Hell's Kitchen contestant
-Maybe purchase a new aquarium fish

Medium on the priority:

-Sort out my BAR application

Low on the priority:

-Find a legal job
-Rewrite my legal paper for publication
-Resubmit two legal papers for publication

Monday, November 7, 2011

South of France


It’s been raining. When I say raining, it really has been raining. I’m in the South of France right now. Apparently, I am in the sunniest area of France. People do drive nice cars here because the

rich live where the sun shines.

I go out once in awhile with my two French hosts, even in the rain. One host is named Remi; the other is Olivier. We both have language barriers. I speak no French, and their English needs some polishing. In any event, they also have a cat named Azazel. She’s black with light green eyes. I can see why the named her after a demon. She doesn’t have a mean spirit, but she definitely behaves like a temptress. Whenever, I attempt to work, she comes up to me to distract me. I tell her, “Look kitty: I need to do this work. Otherwise, they will think I am a stupid American.” Like kitty cares. She only cares about herself.

We went out Friday night, making our way through the labyrinth of the ancient, Medieval city of Aix. One day, everyone is joyous from the drinking. They introduce me to a friend, who says, “Wherez you fromz?”

I say, “Los Angeles.”

He presses his hand against my face, and moves my hat to a whacky position. He then says, “Ah, now you look like you’re from Los Angeles.” How intimate to do this. How bold of him. They are French. They are different because they have passion.

My host promises to make me a French National Dish, one I’ve always wanted to try: Pot Au Feu. It’s like Irish Stew, except the French version of it. My hosts hardly do any work. It is quite shocking to me actually how little anyone does here. I wonder to myself – how does this society maintain itself? My host has some common expressions. I like all of them.

“Go slow. It’s ok.”

“Enjoy life. You live and you die.”

“I don’t care about politicians. They – they – steal from me to be rich for themselves.”

“I don’t care about Sarkozi. I care about travelling and life.”

On rainy afternoons, I am working on PowerPoint Presentation for International Trade Law and Human Rights. It takes ten boring hours to finish. But it’s pouring outside, I do not feel like going out. Once in awhile, I take afternoon naps because I am so jetlagged.

My hosts, no doubt, think I’m crazy. They hardly ever work. They take half days on Fridays. They have long lunches with me. Their cat jumps on my computer to tempt me to stop working. They’re always feeding me cheese and wine. And I think, they think I’m crazy because I am constantly working on this PowerPoint.

Why? Why do I work so hard on my presentation? Because, I know, I really know: that these French already have it in the back of their minds that Americans are stupid. I am aware that if I perform (yes, it is a bit like drama), to their standards, they will wonder why I came all the way from Los Angeles to present. It makes sense. So for 10 hours, I think through my presentation, my slides, and what I will say. I will not use notes. I almost never use notes. Notes prevent you from feeling the pulse of the audience.

Before the food is cooked, however, the host and I have a philosophical conflict. I tell him the Pot Au Feu would tast better if we braised or roasted it first. He says, “NO NO NO! Myz grandma never did that. We do not do this! It is a bad thing.” I think to myself, this recipe must be as ancient as time and as nice as that is, get with the times. I keep my opinion to myself. It is so obvious in that moment, I represent the new world and he the old one.

PowerPoint presentation done. Pot Au Feu is ready too. Mmmm. The smell of spices, vegetables, and meat diffuse through the air. We sit together on their black table. They speak no English. But we all have a common understanding: Food is good. Food should be eaten slowly. Dinner takes four hours long. The cat takes its begging place. They give me a shot of French alcohol. I down it. My host says, “You American! You drinkz it too fast! Enjoy! Enjoy! Slow! Slowly and surely.”

The day after, I do some tourist stuff: museums, cafes, bars, etc. It’s a beautiful and ancient place. I meet a French contact. His English is much more superior than anyone else I met. We eat crepes and drink cider. Have you noticed a theme: eat and drink and do nothing! We have a great conversation. I’m not a usual traveler. Not in the sense that I am at a place to see the common things and do the common things. No. I like to build up my networks. I am planning on world domination one day. It is still pouring. The last time I was in France, it rained the whole time. France rains – all the time.

The day I give my lecture, the glorious sun comes out. It shines and drives the darkness out. People are happy on the street. As I walk down the streets of Aix, people stare at me because I look so different. I am wearing a spiffy British outfit, but I’m also a short Asian guy. They stare and stare. They know I am not from here, but it’s not an ugly or mean stare. They are curious and fascinated by the short Asian guy with black hair. One guy in the street even says, “Bonjour.”

I respond, “Como seva?” (How are you?) He looks surprised for a split instance as he realizes I respond as any human should to another.

And he smiles and shouts, “SEVA! SEVA!”

Wow, I think. It’s like I’m in a movie. The more I walk on the street, the more the old and young again stare and say, “Bonjour.” I respond, “Bonjour!” What a beautiful world we can all say “Bonjour” to each other.

I make my way to the law university, the faculty de politique. My director, who invited me to the lecture, gives me a tour. The place looks so Medieval. It is not like my law university. It has no technology. The computers are old and ancient, like the city itself. I think to myself, how do these law students not learn to integrate technology into their practice?

He introduces me to the students and faculty. The students, again, stare, but this time for a different reason. I’m sure with the name Paul Cook – they were expecting a white American guy. A second reason they stare, and it’s probably the more prominent of the two reasons, is that I look their age. They cannot believe I will be giving a lecture.

My director tells me that he wants a longer lecture than I have. I said, “You know, in America we work very hard to keep to the time. Make short presentations. Cut out the trash.” My director reminds me of someone who could be in French Intelligence for some reason. Black suit. Dark colors. Brief case.

He says, “Oh, I knowz. I knowz. But here, we lovez long lectures – even if they can get boring.”

Are you serious? I think. The American way is the entertainment way.

Before lecture starts, one student tells me, we’ve thought the last two international lecturers very bad. Both were Asian. I smile and say, “Well, I am Asian too. So that makes three of us. But do not worry, I will not bore you.”

The lecture starts. I do plug in a PowerPoint projector that is from the 90’s in this ancient, medieval looking hall. They are eager as what I will say. I feel the eyes scanning over me. I remove the layers of clothing I have been wearing, my jacket, and then my vest. Underneath my vest, is my dress shirt, suspenders, and very bright blue and gold tie. (The bright colors represent my alma matter and my law school – both are the same school). I walk in front of the podium, signaling to the students that I WILL NOT be using the podium. I start my lecture by saying, “Let us all move down from the back seats to the front. I am Paul Cook. I am your lecturer this evening. Even if you are not confident in your English, you will – I repeat, you will come out of this lecture with an understanding of how international trade law intersects with human rights.” I smile to show them I believe this. “Let’s begin.”

I present, in total 70 slides within the 50 minutes. The students have been engaged the whole time, not missing a beat of my words. After, my throat feels dry. I do not want to lecture anymore. I feel like I’ll choke. I ask if there are any questions, I get seven. My professors tell me this is incredible for a French audience to be so attentive.

After lecture, several students approach me and ask me to have drinks with them. We reschedule for breakfast. My professors tell me that students have never asked a lecturer to go have breakfast with them. I know that it’s a big deal to these students – them asking me to breakfast.

My director and professor and I eat at the best French restaurant in AIX. We chat. We laugh. We eat, as they say, slowly. He says, “Ho ho ho! Brilliant lecture, Paul. I think you have a great career ahead of you.” I said, “Why thank you.” I return the compliment and say, “A toast to my hospitable host.” I raise my glass of decantered red wine. I believe I ate the best appetizer in my life at that restaurant, foi gras ravoli over a bed of sautéed mushrooms. Could life get better?

Tomorrow, Bavaria to see my Bavarian friend.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Finally published!

Well, I know my blog was "whiney" yesterday. My roommate pointed it out. But I was really, really frustrated by everything. Like the title said, "It was one of those days," and it truly was. Today was not one of those days.

I finally got published!

For my WCC friends, check out the acknowledgements I think you'll be surprised.

For my New Zealand friends, check out the fact that I used Sir Hillary as one of my examples.

For my German friends, my conclusion uses a German case study.



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One of THOSE days...

Today was one of those days. Your morning goes bad, and it just doesn't get rehabilitated. I don't think I've argued with so many people in one day before. It can't be good for me...

It all started this morning when I woke up late. I was planning to run to school, but instead I drove in. See, this starts having a downstream effect. The parking garage at school was full. How is it full when I pay so much for a pass? This added to my anger against UCLA Parking. I had to park illegally in a different lot, where I could get ticketed. I was late to class because I was looking for parking.

Then, during Wills and Trust Mom calls. I take the call. It's about my 15-year-old-kitty Lukas. I found blood on his cheek. HE was coughing up blood, poor kitty. So she takes my adorable, orange and white kitty to the Vet, a Vet I never met by the way. The Vet tells me the bill is going to be some whooping $700-$900 to remove a tooth. I ask him to break down the cost. When he does, there are definitely services I DO NOT Need. I make it clear Luke does not need that. He needs his tooth removed and the abscess cleaned. THat's it. He doesn't need xrays and blood tests and everything else they wanted to give him. It's so expensive; and I make no income. My mom doesn't either. Not knowing what to do - and obviously knowing the guy was a rip-off, I told the Vet please give him some antibiotics and bring him home. I was going to think about this decision later.

BUT OH NO . . . the Vet Casillo, who has already been subjected once by the way to discipline by the State board says he'll report me to the humane society if I don't treat Luka. He then claims to be my pet's advocate. Both the threat and he's implied claim that he loves Luke more than me just made my blood boil instantly. Also, this advocate nonsense incensed me. Under American and Common Law, pets are property. Property doesn't have advocates. And even if they did, I would be the advocate because I obviously care more about Kitty than the Vet who wants to make money does.

I said, "You go ahead and call the Humane Society. I have every right to go back to my original Vet." He said, "Well, good you can tell the Humane Society that." And I said, "You just blackmail people. Either pay the money or get reported. I'll have none of it. And for your retaliation, I'll report you to the Board as well."

That started getting his attention. He said, "Oh, ok... I'll give you a few days to get me proof you went to another Vet." My blood was still boiling that I started telling him how he's blackmailing me and overcharging me. This Vet was terrible. Maybe it's because my father knows how to nickle and dime people, I see how emotional leverage is used. I love my cat, and I love him dearly. I was just not under any compulsion to go with him, and I knew the tooth infection was causing him great pain. Yet, it wasn't a life-death situation to be resolved this instance. At the end, I told Mom to take him to the original Vet. My OG Vet, charged much less and was much more honest. And that made me, even more angry at rip-off Vet. I mean, seriously, how could people take advantage of their pet's love to extort them!

In any event, I posted a nasty Yelp review, which listed his Board discipline record and reported him to the Vet Board. He deserved it. I really hate, how certain merchants take advantage of you and attempt to force you to go with them. He essentially told me go with him or put Luke to sleep. I wasn't going to kill my cat over a tooth infection. The whole event colored my whole day, leaving that nasty taste in my soul.

THEN - my publisher for my academic article told me they published the wrong version of my article and couldn't fix it since it was in print. I flipped out. There's mistakes in the previous version. People can read it. Mistakes make me look so stupid. How could he do this?! I wrote him a letter, which wasn't very pleasant. He didn't respond back. This only threw even more fuel onto the fire! I talked with my mentor for forty minutes, who thought I did the wrong thing. I said, what was I supposed to do? We didn't have a sound answer. It just made me think about people like dumb Vet today, do people respond better to force or diplomacy? Vet, obviously responded better to force.

Since I was already in an oscar-the-grouch mood, I decided to write a threatening demanding letter to UCLA Parking, cc'ing the Daily Bruin, the Chancellor, and the CEO of Parking. Why not, aye? They always tell me that they aren't responsible for Parking - even though they are Parking. I smiled to myself a bit. Here's a system. I'm injecting a lot of energy into it. Energy is not destroyed, it is only transferred. So, we'll see how it comes out on the other end. I'm interested.

All of this, all of this, put me behind on my work, which made me skip out on my run today. I walk back to my car. It's almost midnight. I want to go home. I see green fluid and a puddle. Hmm, me thinks, someone's car's radiator is busted. The owner comes to the car coincidentally, and I can tell he's clueless with cars. I explain, "Hey man, you can't drive that too far. If you do, your car's engine will break. Your radiator is busted." I show him. He thanks me profusely and we come up with a game-plan to help him get home. He thanks me again.

I wonder, would you think me a Saint or a Sinner after you knew about my day today?

I call my mom, later, and said, "Mom, that f)(*&)(*& VET!"

She understands I'm angry and my mom ain't very understanding, I think. She only says, "Calm down, Paul. Calm, down. We just won't take him there again."

"Yeah, but he -"

"It's alright, Paul, just calm down."

"And he tried to report me to the humane -"

"It's ok, Paul. Just calm down. Luke's coming home tomorrow. Everything is fine now."

And I just thought, yeah Mom, you're right...

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Projects

The start of 3L year has been the year of entrepreneurial projects. I just counted, I have 8 projects on the go.

Some coincide with school, some do not. I can tell you, 8 live projects with school eats up a lot of time and effort. I think what keeps me going is injections of fun in my life and that these projects serve me. The last line is important: these projects serve me.

Unlike working for, let's say my father, or for another corporation, I work for me. I've taken a novel approach to the whole series of projects. I've started up all low risk projects with very little of my own resources or use of none of my resources. One of the projects has a sponsor. I recognize that the odds are against me. There's an 80-90% failure rate for entrepreneurs. That's a higher failure rate than marriage.

But, these projects are like pawns. The world is like my chessboard, and I am my own chessmaster. Each project advances. I watch and observe. The army of pawns progress slowly across the board. Some will die. Some will be sideswiped. Some will be blocked. Certainly, some will capture the garrison forces. And the rest will advance, one step at a time. I only need one to be graduated as a queen. That's called: jackpot!

I'll give you an example of one of my fun projects. I don't really expect this one to go anywhere. But, recently I was inspired by this article. In this article, photographer Mollison was asked to promote human rights through photography. What he decided was that he was going to take pictures of children around the world with their bedrooms. The results are powerful.

That got me thinking, I'm not a great photographer. But I do know how to tell a story. If only I could take better photographs, tell a story with them by both words and pictures. I don't have the time to be schooled in photography. I don't have the resources to afford such a school. So, what I'm going to do is do a history lesson in photography. I'm going to start with Christopher White's photographs. Then, I'll move forward in history, analyzing great photographs. I'll then pick a theme, a goal, a message, and start my project by meeting people, interviewing them, photographing the relevant message. We'll see where it takes me. I wonder if that pawn will move across the chessboard.

Who knows?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The First Day of School and the last Day of California Dreams

For those, who have been on the reader’s list for awhile, here’s a simple message: Time goes by fast. The last few weeks, have been the first weeks of my last year. There’s also a law school axiom:

They [the law school] scare you the first you.

They work you the next year.

The bore you the last year.

I can see the blasé settle in my fellow 3L classmates. They just want to get over with. I’m not bored. I have so much on. But I can say, the axiom is right in this sense. You no longer are afraid of being cold-called and drilled. You no longer have to be afraid if you look stupid in front of your classmates. If you are, like me, everybody already knows it. (That’s some self-deprecating humor, if you didn’t pick up on it.) All in all though, I feel like I have so much work on. The workload of the summer just seemed to continue into the fall. Even when I was in Belize, I was writing and writing. Now that I’m back, I’m writing, arguing, and strategizing for the battles ahead.

My classload this year is exceptionally heavy. People ask me why I take such a high class load. Everyone tells me, it’s not required. I guess my philosophy has been this: You pay a king’s ransom for your education. You might as well learn everything you can. So, I try. I would like to hope I do.

This year’s schedule:

1. Wills and Trust: How do you keep your wealth in the family? In other words, how do you ensure that the next generation (especially the children you really like) and NOT THE GOVERNMENT, keeps your wealth? I have to admit, this class has gotten me thinking about writing a will. My readers know I have a classic mustang. Who should I give it too? I think, at this moment in my life, my cat Luke is the most likely recipient. =)

Except, I think I see the age of time working its evil against my pet Luke. At the age of 14, it looks like he has arthritis. So sad… But, thank God to, I bought affordable arthritis medicine for kitty, so hopefully, it’ll help him through the day.

2. Business Association: How can one sue and defend a corporation?

3. Laws of War and War on Terror: I’ve always believed that all is fair in love and war. Apparently, that is now only true in your pursuit of love. War has its rules and laws. It’s turning out to be an interesting class, though, there are days I do feel like a 1L and ask myself: What the hell is going on? I hate that feeling. All in all, it should be a good class.

4. Deposition Clinical: How do you take and defend a deposition? This class is a clinical. What that means, is we get simulated practice on taking a deposition with actors playing the deponent and lawyers playing lawyers. How do you deal with the objection? How do you deal with people saying: “Don’t answer that.” How do you squeeze out as much information from an adverse witness as possible?

5. Independent Project 1 – the Taxypayer Standing Project: As my readers know, I lost my case against the mayor and the City of LA at trial. Yet, as my judo instructor would say: “Get back and get the hell back out there and fight!” I fight because it’s in my blood to fight. Someone once told me, “Aren’t the Koreans known to be the Irish of Asia?” I think this true. Whenever I go to court, my father tells me, “Make your old man proud and kick a**.” My response is very professional, “I will do my best.” Who knows what’s to come? I’ve won a mini-hearing within this battle. My standing ovation moment was when the judge asked why I continue to pursue this. I stated, “Your honor, these hard economic times are troubling for everyone. Yet, the City cannot just design creative systems that violate our fundamental right to the due process of law.” Silence, for a second or two. He smiled and said, “Then, you can tell it to the Court of Appeals.” Small victory for the battle. I’ve been in front of judges multiple times this year. You know what I realize, they treat me like a little boy! How will a boy win a war?

6. Independent Project 2, The Publication Project : Under the supervision of an upcoming war, security, Muslim, and terrorism scholar, I will try to publish a human rights paper I wrote last year. It regards invoking the hard law of International Trade Law against China’s violation of children’s human rights. Again, we’ll see how it goes.

Those are the six classes to come. I think the key to having an amazing education is to take control of it as much as possible. The scholar should design as much of his curriculum, just as much as the school designs it for him. I’ll keep everyone up to date on what happens on the California Western Front.

I am a bit sad though that summer is coming to an end. In California, summer is almost eternal. Trust me, it makes for a happier life, for me, my family, and Luke too. Incidentally, the happiest cat I ever met was on a beach in Belize. It was fat, and it acted more like an American cat than a local one. I went on one knee to pet the thing, when its owner came out. She was an American woman who retired in Belize. She told me the thing used to be the most anti-social cat. Then they moved to Belize and let the cat live out on the beach. From that moment, it became sociable and ultra-happy. The message is a simple one again: Sunshine is good. The cold is bad. Returning back to California summers, I think my summer is drawing to an end. This tells me, summer is more of a mentality than a physicality.

However, sometimes Belize visits you. I met a Bavarian guy and his girlfriend in Belize. We connected instantly. He came to Los Angeles with his brother and brother’s friend. We toured East Los Angeles in Julia, my 1967 candy-apple-red-mustang convertible. We did a bit of food tour of Mexican, Hong Kong, and Korean food. We also visited Pasadena, drove through the City skyline and had lots of fun. After they left, I really knew my summer-mentality and summer-dreams were coming to an end for this year.

Time to return to Man’s curse: work. See, in an ancient time, Adam loved Eve more. After she plucked and ate, Adam did too. I believe it was because Adam was so utterly in love that he could not bare to be alone again and return to solitude. Let’s see, do you chose: the woman you love or the curse of man for the rest of your life? The choice is simple. I would choose the woman I love too, wouldn’t you? You only live once, and you don’t have to see the future generations in your lifetime.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Caye Ambergris - The Final Part of This Journey

San Pedro is the main city on Caye Ambergris. I would spend most of my time there. I didn't do all that much on Caye Ambergris.

One thing I liked and hated about San Pedro was that it was sooooooooo
American. Of course, I'm American too. But when you go on holiday, loud, obnoxious Americans are the last thing you want to
see. They're always easy to spot. They speak a decibel louder. They're usually overweight. And they say dumb things, like, "Ma, where's the ATM?"
The island caters to Americans too, with pizza and burger places. Not a huge fan. But,
I did like that they had more cafes.

I ate lobster and fish.

Of course, I had a few drinks.

Reading was fun.

And then there was meeting locals. . .

That's me with Ms. El Salvador. Ironically, I took this pic a few days before I hitchhiked back from the Casino. An ambassador and other woman were in the car. The "other woman" said she was here for Costa Maya, the Central American beauty pageant.

I said at a risk, "I hope El Salvador wins."

The lady said, "REALLY!? That's my daughter!"

I said, "I'm glad, I didn't say Honduras then. You would've kicked me out of here." We all started laughing. Then I paged through my camera and showed her the pic above and said, "That's my daughter."

What were the odds?

And then, I had to say Good Bye to Belize. I had the time of my life. And you better Belize it!

(Me on the jetboat, looking back at the island).

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Dive Trip Gone Wrong - Good Bye Caye Caulker

I left Caye Caulker, the two mile and a half long island. I had to force myself to leave. I was becoming really attached to the island. I was developing relationships with the artist, his wife, and his daughter. I would bike to the lobster fisherman's house in the evening and say, "Hey Mon, how you been?"

The hostel owner and I would chat during the hot days about how much he missed his Korean girlfriend. I would listen. Then one day, I said I was going to leave. The people looked surprised but tried not to show it. Of course, I have to go. I even postponed going by two days.

I went to the hostel owner one night and just told him the news. "I'm leaving." He stayed quiet for two seconds longer than he should have and said, "Oh. . . "

I left early in the morning, 5:30am. We took a rough boat ride out, the 20 of us to the Lighthouse Reef. As above in the picture, you see the reef surrounding the blue hole. But in the center, the water crushed a cave that was on surface before the ice age. As a result, a sunken cave that goes down to 130 meters exist.

The dive company, Aqua Dive, should never be trusted. That was the sketchiest most dangerous operation. First, the toilet on board failed. Why is that a big deal? It's not too bad, but in the overall scheme of things, it shows that they don't properly maintain the boat. This becomes a bigger deal over time.

Then, they forget to pack my wetsuit! I was so upset and I started up in my aggressive mode. "Where's my wetsuit? How could you forget? It's not that hard. How do you expect me to dive without one?"

The dive master just said, "There's no dive shop out here, Mon. Make the best of it." It calmed me down because the rationale part of my brain said, What can you do? Nothing. So, I dove without a wetsuit.

Then, some people's regulators start hissing air. The dive master said the same thing, "A little hissing, Mon, is no problem.

The blue hole dives were supremely overrated. You spend a total bottom time of 10 minutes at 130' or 40 meters. There were some sharks. The stalactites were nice. But overall, a very expensive dive for a total of perhaps 25 minutes.

When we were leaving the cite, one of the boat engines fails on us. At that point, I just scold the dive crew and said, "Your problem is you don't inspect and maintain your equipment. This is really dangerous, the way you're operating this operation." The Germans on board look at me and you could tell I'm making them worried. But, they acknowledge too, that this is the worst dive operation they've ever been a part of.

Instead of having a 3.5 hr boat ride home, it was now like 7 hours. Another rescue boat had to come to guide us through the reef, otherwise the boat would've crashed on it.

So - this is how I left Caye Caulker. The dive boat dropped off the divers on Caye Caulker. Then we changed boats, and left for Caye Ambergris. I could see Caye Caulker getting smaller and smaller as we approached the capital town of San Pedro on Ambergris.

I knew, as I looked behind me, this part of my journey was now finished.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

An Accident Gone Wrong at Sea

I developed an unhealthy overconfidence of the water. A few days ago, I had canoed out 8 miles, far out into the calm sea a couple days ago. Last night, a great storm ripped through the island. The thunder and lightning tore through the sky and woke up everyone in the hostel. In fact, the lightning and thunder came simultaneously. I had slept through most of it, believing that it was all in a dream.

The storm was dragging itself out into the morning. I was trapped inside my hostel until the midday. Then around 11:30 the storm had relented and left. I thought to myself, you need to do your daily physical activity. P.E. in the Caribbean Sea you can say.

I thought to myself, impulsively, to take the canoe out again. Instead, I kayaked in the direction of another island, in the direction of Belize City. I go out, in the Kayak, by myself. There’s no life jackets in the canoe. After about a half a mile out, I reach a point where the winds began cutting through the water. I think this is no good. I want to head back. Let me jump out for a swim. I do.
When I come back out, I think why is the canoe so far away. So, I start swimming and the canoe is still far away. Alright, time to put some real energy into this. I sprint-swim towards the canoe. I can see myself getting closer and closer to it. However, I’m also feeling more and more exhausted. I reach the canoe, and I realize, I don’t have enough energy to thrust myself out of the water. Uh oh.

I make the decision to abandon the boat. I then realize, I’m in the middle of the open ocean. There’s no one!!!! Oh )P(*&()*&! I’m so screwed! I sea some ships anchored about 10 meters away from me. “HELP ME! Help ME!” I scream and scream. No one is there, great. I have no more energy. The wind is making waves hit my face. I need to relax and rest.

()&) ME! I think. I'm here. I'm by myself. I'm alone. Calm down, I tell myself. Calm down. THe panic will only make things worse.

About 10 meters away, I see a marker. I swim to it. I hang onto it for dear life and breath. I’m waiting for boats. But boats won’t be coming out today. I know it. All the trips were cancelled because of the storm. I probably hold onto the marker for about 15 minutes, as I realize boats aren’t coming out.

Well – the mangrove forest is about half a mile away. I see it. Time to swim. So, I watch the canoe floating away, while I exhaustively swim to the mangroves. I was feeling my spirit break, when a voice in my head said, “Today, is not your day to die.” That belief, that thought, that hope, somehow gave me enough energy to help me swim to shore.

Even though the Carribean Sea is warm, I also began feeling my body chilling. It’s because the blood has surfaced to the skin. Even with the warm water, it’s not at body temperature. The water, as I so often have experienced, is eating away at my body heat.

When I finally arrive onto land, I try to stand. But I have such an incredible headache, standing up does something to increase my headache. Also, when the wind touches my body, it makes me go through even more chills. As the wind dries off the water, the water sucks up a bit of body heat. The result is another chill. I feel pain, misery, and adrenaline all rushing through me.
I walk to the other side of the island – it’s another mile away. I feel strange. My body’s just dumped a chemical cocktail of endorphins, adrenaline, and euphoria and energy all in one. It’s the best high I’ve ever felt but worry is still coursing through me too. I’m at the boat gas station. There’s no one there, except the owner.

I tell her my story. She picks me up in her golf cart, which are the cars they use on the island. She takes me to the fisheries, who do nothing for me. At this point, I’m catching my breath. My diaphragm hurts and is feeling sore. I quickly walk back to the hostel.

I tell the hostel owner what happens. He quickly rushes to get a speed boat. He says, “I don’t think we’re gonna find it, Mon.” It’s like literally finding a needle in a haystack. I wait around. 20 minutes later, he gets a speed boat.

Five of us travel, on the deep blue sea. We head off to the five mile water mark. He sees a speck at the horizon. He turns to the right, and Hallelujah, there’s the kayak with all my gear inside.

I think I have a new respect for the sea and a new gratefulness for life. But I'm like a cat, more than nine lives.

Price for the boat service: $75 for the Captain's Service
Price for the Petrol: $25
Price for not having to buy new gear: $275
Price for not buying a kayak: $450USD
Price for having my life, learning a lesson - priceless.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Lobster Fisherman and His Son

Caye Caulker at Sunset
Before coming to Belize, I was struggling on whether I should bring my free diving gear. I have good gear, and I was going to a poor country. The combination wasn’t pretty. But somehow, my Russian roommate convinced me to bring it. I guess what the turning point for me was one question: “And when was the last time you used your dive gear?”
I replied, “In New Zealand.”
And he said, “Uh huh.”
I stayed silent for a few seconds, feeling kind of stupid. It’s like women, who have fine China but never use it.
So what was I going to do with my gear? Well, my favorite sea sport is lobster hunting. I picked up the hobby in New Zealand. With a pair of Kevlar gloves, you can grab the lobster. You look and see where their little antenna are. You float around them, as they notice your movement. Then, when they least suspect it, you grab their horns and pounce on them. It’s like how my cat Luke, who was reincarnated from being a human, would pounce on lizards, gophers, and birds. I think he has arthritis now. (As a side note, watching him age makes me afraid of getting older too.)
So, when I arrived on the island, I wanted to know where to hunt for my lobster. The locals were pretty straight up, instead of sending me on a wild goose chase. They would say, “Hey mon, it’s far out there. Straight into the sea.”
Well, going straight into the sea costs a pretty penny. I was looking for lobster right outside the mangrove forest outside of my lobster. A plump, jolly Mexican looking fisherman on a boat said, “HEY Mon! I could hit you wit my boat. You get out of the water.”
“Pardon?” I said.
“Hey Mon, I said you have no buoy! You can get hit by a boat. Get out of the water, Mon.”
“Oh, hey where are you going?”
“I’m going out lobster hunting, Mon.”
“Then you’re taking me with you.” What a coincidence, a lobster hunting boat almost hit me when I was looking for lobster.
“No, Mon. I cannot. I don’t have my tourist license on me.”
“You’re taking me with you,” I insisted.
“No, Mon, I said I cannot. “ He started driving the boat away. I couldn’t believe I was hustling in the deep blue ocean.
“Yes, you’re taking me with you. I’ll pay you.”
“How much, Mon?” Now, I knew it was a game I won already.
“$20 USD.”
He turned around. I swam to his boat. I lifted myself onto the deck, like one would do a big pushup.
He had a boy on deck. He looked at me suspiciously. He wasn’t very kind at all. He too was already getting a bit plump too.
The lobster fisherman was tanned dark. He had scruffy facial hair but red rosy cheeks. He was weathered by the sea and wind.
He said, “I take you out, Mon. But you know it costs like $150USD to usually go out. I do it cheap for you.”
“Oh really?” I said. I had already known the truth but acted like it was a new revelation to me.
He revved the boat up. That started our journey on the bluest dream. The water looked like an artist palette, with different patches and pools of blue colors. Some shades were darker patches because of the sea grass underneath. Some patches were lighter because of the white sand underneath. And when you looked out at the horizon, it looked like someone drew a line across a piece of paper, and the sky and sea were only separated by different shades of blue. The nature of the water was still and tranquil and reminded me of the undisturbed sleep of a child.
He started telling me his story, as we went through the speedboat. “Mon, my family has owned these waters for three generations. My father and his grandfather hunt lobster here. Next, my son hunt lobster too.”
“How old’s your son?”
“Mon, you shouldn’t be swimming where you were. There’s crocodiles there.”
I shrugged like it didn’t bother me.
“I brought us food and water. There’s ice in the chest with water. You help yourself, ok?” He arrived at the location. He halted the boat engine. He pointed to his son, “Hey Boy! Hey Boy go anchor the boat.”
The boy grabbed the anchor and dropped it off the side of the boat. The father came and picked up the rope and tugged on the tension. “No boy. What’s dee matter with you! I raise a stupid son. You need to drop it like this.”
I asked, “What did he do wrong?”
“I don’t know, Mon what he did wrong. But it’s fucken wrong.”
The father fixed the problem.
Then the lobster fisherman said, “Hey Mons! Come on! There’s lobster in dees water.”
I geared up. I jumped in. I swam in. He said, “Hey Mon. Don’t murk the water, Mon.”
I free dove underneath 12 feet (3 meters of water). Underneath a sheet of corrugated metal, I saw the little antennae of the lobsters sticking out. The fisherman used a hook. When it would come out, sometimes he grabbed the lobsters with a hook. I remember the first lobster I grabbed. I pounced on it with my Kevlar gloves and it was mine.
These Caribbean lobsters squeaked when they were caught. Did it make me feel bad for them? No. When we fished out the lobster, we all drug ourselves back on the boat.
Back on the boat, I grabbed a broken off lobster leg. I started eating the raw flesh in it. The fisherman smiled and said, “Aye, Mon. I used to do that as a kid too.” His ten year old boy finally warmed up to me and asked, “Is it good?”
I nodded and said, “Of course. It’s real sweet.” I picked up a lobster leg and gave it to him.
He cracked it with his teeth and sucked on it. He smiled. I asked him, “Is it good?” He just nodded.
We scoured the seas that day, going after more and more lobster. We took a break for lunch, at which point the fisherman boy handed me sweet bread. It tasted like Hawaiian sweet bread. He also handed me a can of Vienna sausages. We ate the meat and bread. The fisherman gave us some ice water that was in baggies. You bit at it, and the sweet cold water rushed through your mouth. The boy and fisherman and I bonded, hunting for the lobster. At one point, the fisherman gave me a softie lobster. A softie was a lobster, whose shell was still soft and was not hardened by molting. I twisted the tail off from its head. I killed the thing instantly. And I ate the sweat meat, while the thing was still alive. And as barbaric as it was, the food tasted good!
We hunted for lobster for 3 hours that day. He brought me back into the lagoon of my hostel. The hostel owner saw a fishing boat come in. He saw me jump off the deck, carrying my catch, and my gear. He asked, “What’d you do?” He was wondering what I pulled that day. I wasn’t the regular backpacker. Of course not, I had experience.
“I went out with the lobster fisherman.”
“How’d you go out with the lobster fisherman?”
“Well,” I started, “it all happened when the fisherman told me I shouldn’t be swimming out there and . . . “ I began to recount the story of my day with the lobster fisherman and his son.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Belizian Dreams

The Chinese-Korean Restaraunt

Since I was 8, my father and I would eat at this chinese restaraunt in Korea Town. The owner is the same, and the lines in his face and wrinkles are much more pronounced now that I'm older. He still remembers me.

We always order the same food. I get, what's in literal translation, "Dry Flavored Shrimp." It's an ugly literal translation. I would call it Dry and Sweet Prawns. Father always gets either spicy noodle soup or bean paste soup. I always like the seafood versions.

This is the best dry shrimp I've had. It looks like they made it extra crispy. MMMMMM. We talk. I tell him the news.

"Father, I'm going to Belize."

"Where?" he asks.

"It's in Central America."

"Hmmm, how long are you going?"

"21 days."

"What?! Have you lost your mind?!!!"

That's how that conversation went.

Home in Baldwin Park

I'm carrying my cat Luke with me to the kitchen. He's hanging there limply, not resisting. He looks at my mom with those green eyes of his.

She screams, "Get the cat out of here."

I said, "No, mom. He's a human being. You're hurting his feelings."

She said, "He has hair. He sheds hair!!!"

I said, "Mom, you know he's a human being. He was reincarnated from another life." I used to make up a story that Luke was reincarnated for bad behavior and his punishment was to have a master like my mother. She never knew whether to think the story was humorous or spiteful against her.

She rolls her eyes and leaves this fight alone.

I sit on the kitchen table. Luke's on my lap. He doesn't last there long. He jumps off and goes to the door. He turns around. Looks at me. He "Meows." Its my sign to open it for him. He runs eagerly out into his kingdom.

"Mom, I'm going travelling."

"Oh, yeah where?"

"To Belize."

"Where's that?"

"It's south of Mexico, but they don't speak Spanish."

"They don't? I thought everyone speaks Spanish south of Mexico."

"I thought so too, but not there."

"How long you going?"

"3 weeks."

"Oh, you're so damn crazy?!!!"


"You just take these long trips. By yourself sometimes! You're just crazy! Oh, well. I'll give you some money. Have fun."

"Ok, be good to Luke ok? He used to be a human being." She rolls her eyes at me again.

The Mentor's House

The mentor asks me, "What are you going to do in Belize?"

"I don't know."

"Where are you staying?"

"I don't know. Lay at a beach. Read a book. Something like that."

"For that long?!"

"Well, I do have some essays to write."

"Well that makes more sense."

Rick and his wife then pray for me to have a safe trip. I feel a sense of peace cover me.

I arrive at the airport at 5:00am. I check in at 5:30. I get scolded by American Airlines for cutting it to close. Oh well.

Why did I chose Belize? That's simple. I have all these miles, these useless British Airway Miles. And the only place that made economical sense to go to was Belize or Central or S. America. So, there we have it. A free airplane ticket.

I arrived into Dallas, TX. I only have to wait one hour in transit. I fly to Belize. I still don't know where I'm staying. I don't know where to go.

I notice the flight is not full. I ask the flight attendant if I could move seats. She says, "of course." I get the best coach seats I can all 5 of them. I go to the front row of coach, right behind the curtain of business class, and enjoy the spaciest seats available. The flight attendant tells me, "Good one."

Belize City

There is no public transport from the airport to Belize City. A taxride is $35-$50 USD. I'm not paying that. I hitchhike out of the airport. By my watch, it'll take me less than 15 minutes to be picked up. It always has in the past.

Less than 15 minutes pass, and a truck full of luggage stops.

In Jamacian accent the black driver says, "Where you going?"

"To the junction."

He drives me to the junction. He goes, "Do you want a ride to the City?"

I said yes.

He drives me. An armed police officer looks at me in the back of the pickup. I wave. He says, "Ni hao." I think Ni hao to you too.

The driver stops. His tall, very athletic looking, with long braids. We have a conversation. He says, "This is the best fried chicken in town." So he orders some fried chicken, as do I.

His right, in only that they cooked it at the right temperature, the batter was the right texture. The problem was that it was bland and not salty. My first meal in Belize was fried chicken. That's also Luke's favorite meal, that or bacon.

He says, "I'll take you to the pier."

He takes me to the pier. I give him $2 USD as a thank you and say, "God bless you." I buy my water jet taxi to a Caye (we in American say Key and in England its Quay).

On the water taxi, I'm doing a complex mathematical equation to pass the time. People think I'm a braniac, crazy, or weird. But they are noticing the X's, Y's, and numbers on a piece of napkin I'm scribbling on.

Most of the tourists here are German. I stop and speak some German. They didn't understand. Then I repeat myself and they go, "Ah, it's Deutsche." Yeah f*(&(*&ers, just because I'm asian doesn't mean I can't speak German. They're even more surprised I have perfect English and they had to ask: "Where are you from?"

At sunset, we arrive at Caye Caulker. I arrive at my island in the sun. I have internet at my hostel, so I can do my work. I ate a lobster for dinner with beirs and rum and coke. It was awesome. I paid $10USD for the lobster cooked. And again, it was awesome.

I'm chatting it up with people. I'm sure they think I'm weird I have work on.

I'll go out lobster diving today at the Carribean Sea. When it gets too hot, I'll start on reading my essay.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Winning, Losing, and Still Celebrating

This was a week of winning, losing, and still celebrating.

My win was a small one, but a great victory for the victim.

I'm not sure how, but my summer jobs rarely included selling lemonade. Though, for my audience, I used to be roustabout working on an oil rig once. I remember that job clearly, always coming home smelling of what you would recognize as diesel oil and a smudgy face. I was only 17 then, working on a scorched oil field. The only thing better about that job than this one is that it actually paid more than my summer job now. Lawyers just aren't in that great of a demand in Los Angeles. Too much supply. (Incidentally, I like how the word diesel sounds. My next cat will be a cat called Diesel.) In Korean it would sound like "Dee-juhl"

My summer jobs in law tend to be criminal in nature. This summer I work for the prosecutors. Please don't hiss or spit at me. I have been getting a lot of terrible feedback about it all.

However, it's not as bad as you think. I work for the juvenile prosecutors. The experience is a good one, as I am in court everyday! I see the machinery of law. The district attorneys have even had me write one significant motion for adult court. He used it almost all in full force and effect and won his hearing.

The district attorneys and the public defenders and the judges all have one goal in common for juvenile justice, and that is: "rehabilitation." We all want to make sure that these youths reform. The question is how to accomplish this. Everyone has a different perspective on this. The defenders want the juveniles to go home. The judges want to make sure that they really change. I think the prosecutors do too, except they do believe in having the youth pay for consequences for their actions. All in all, I'd rather be a prosecutor for juvenile justice than a public defender. We've already seen one kid shot by being sent back home to parents who have no control over their delinquent youth.

I suppose, a big part of why I like the prosecutor's office in juvenile is that they are training me in prosecuting sex criminals, rapists and the like. I had my first hearing, where the victim was abused sexually by the 16 year old jock. As a result, the victim had to relocate. I was able to win the hearing with help from the prosecutor, and get her financially compensated for all the Hell they went through. There was no better feeling to shake the hand of the victim's mother and smile and say, "I did my best." She smiled back and said, "I know you did."

Of course, the private attorney, who was most likely making $10,000-$15,000 USD on the case was angry and even yelled at me in the court, "He's just unreasonable!" Of course, I asked for the most amount of money I could. The attorney training me later said, "I wouldn't have asked for that much, but I'm glad you did. Shows how aggressive you are."

Onto losses now. I had my hearing. I was so confident, the night before, I would win my hearing against the City's motion to dismiss my case. The City had a pathetic brief with pathetic case law supporting them.

Everyone in the court room was interested when the speaker voice called out: "Paul Cook in pro versus the Mayor of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles, the Chief of Police, and the City Council." The defendant attorney started his argument.

I said, "Your Honor, this is just a waste of everybody's time. Your time. My time. The defendant hasn't prepared a brief with only one case, and that case he cites cites only to dicta. [dicta means it's just words, not actual rule of law.]"

The judge then said, "How do you respond to that?"

And like an easy judo spar, I was putting tremendous pressure against the opponent. It was time for the "Coup de gras (finishing move)"

The judge then said, "You were very persuasive both in your brief and oral argument Mr. Cook. But judgment for the defendant. Demurrer sustained without leave to amend on all causes of action." I wish I could have said I was shocked, but something in my mind said, "Get him on record Paul. Get the judge on record. It's what you've learned working for the prosecutors."

So I did, "Your honor. May I ask for the reasoning behind this ruling?"

And he, not wanting to say the reason only said, "The statute lets me dismiss it."

I collected myself. Walked out. Two people in the courtroom thanked me. The defendant attorney shook my hand and said, "I wish I got your experience at your age. Good fight." He did respect me. I could tell, but I was then angry and in shock. I said, "Well, I suppose I'll see you at appeals."

I walked out of the court house. It was raining on a Los Angeles June day. June Gloom as they call it. I called my professor - no answer. I called my mentor. He just listened to my frustration.

I had a fix it ticket I got that morning, and it made me almost late to court. So, I went to see Father. I told him I had lost. He said, "I knew you would lose. You're taking on the City. You think you can win."

I explained, "Dad, my car needs to be fixed. I got a fix-it ticket. The brake lights aren't working." He went to work fixing it. I called my mentee, Sasha, and told him I had lost. He seemed surprised too.

It was raining on both of us. My father yelled at me, "Don't you have any sense of shame. Don't tell people you lost." This was the same father who was thrilled I won my prosecution hearing. It was then, I realized he operates from a different cultural value then me. Mine operates on transparency and getting the emotions out. He operates from honor and shame.

I drove to my Hollywood home in Julia, the 1967 mustang convertible. It was drizzling. I called my support networks. My lawyer, who's like an older sister just said, "Paul, it's hard. It's hard to fight injustice. You see how the system is now."

I called my trial teacher. I asked him, "How do you deal with losing?" I think the reason I was so angry was that in my opinion, this wasn't a 50/50% win lose case. This was really a 95% to 5% win/lose probability. And the judge wouldn't even tell me why he ruled the weight he did.

My trial teacher said, "Have you ever heard of a Martini? Because that's what I had to f)(*&)(*& drink when I lost my hearing yesterday." I felt worse for him. His hearing dealt with a special education teacher's assistant, who was laid off by Los Angeles Unified School District because the District lost the assistants paperwork. After they retrieved the paperwork, the LAUSD said that it was too late, he was fired. It's the way Cities and Governments are coping with the budget cut. Then I thought, well, that would be harder for me to tell a client who unjustly lost his or her job, I lost the case. Here, I don't have a real client - except me. He didn't give me a satisfactory answer on coping with losing. I put so much time in writing that brief. How could I have lost? He only said, "Get used to it. It happens."

Then, I had to deal with telling my sponsor the bad news. I met up with my mentor. We went through it together. This is how you deliver bad news, Paul. You start with the verdict. Then you go through the reasoning. Then you lay out the options. And you give your recommendation.

The next day, I call my sponsor. I tell him, "We lost. I don't know the reason why. I asked for it on record and the judge wouldn't give it. I think he doesn't want to deal with the politics of ruling against the City of Los Angeles. Our options are do nothing or appeal. I think an appeal is a good idea because I have a good chance of winning the Appeal."

Without a hesitation, he said, "Appeal it. You've already worked this hard. You wrote an excellent brief. You have great arguments. I know you did your best."

Hey that made me feel a lot better.

My professor called me the day before. She too was very comforting about the whole thing. She's also seasoned, so she expects these kind of rulings. Today, I called an attorney who was helping me with the project. He empathized with my loss and supported the appeals. I also recruited another professor, who supports the appeal.

I told myself, when I first lost, "When you win, you have friends. When you lose, you lose alone." (Spin off of a Korean proverb.) I now know that is not true. I lost, and I did not lose alone. I lost with a community who supported me to get back up and once again fight the good fight. The grief subsidized as I began my research for the appeals process. I was moving forward, I was going to fight my way up.

I saw my gym partner on Friday and we watched X-Men together (awesome movie by the way.) My gym partner Sean says, "Come on Paul. You'll have appellate experience. How many law students can say that?" Well that's true I thought.

And on Sunday, June 19th, I took a break from it all. I was celebrating me bday. The night before my mother and I marinated Korean bbq. We went out to the beach and 8 close friends came by. We charcoal cooked the bbq. One comment, a friend made was, "Wow, this is real food at the beach. not like hot dogs and hamburgers." The food cooked fast. We had a cheesecake for my bday. We drank yummy drinks as well. They sang me happy bday. And as the 9 of us watched the beach sunset, I knew I was a wealthy person.

I turned 21 that day. =)

And that's how my week went. Busy week, aye?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Finals and Beyond

It's been awhile that I've written in my journal. Let me explain why.

From the end of April to about the end of May, I had final examinations for law school. It was a miserable time. They always are. I had a thought though. With all the examinations I've taken since age 6, this may be some of my last ones. I have one year left, that is two more rounds of finals. Then the BAR Examination. That may be the end of my testing life.

Now, that I'm writing in retrospect, I can't really remember how painful it was. I think my mind's blocking it out. But I do, clearly remember staying in the library from 10am - 11pm every night. I had a permanent seat. It was here in the library tower:

I had two written exams this semester.

When I took one of them, I definitely had the thought: I can't believe that )(*&)( P*&UY@#$ PO*&U@#$, put that on the exam. I hate her!

On my second exam, it was criminal procedure. All multiple choice. That was a four hour exam. I thought the same thing - I hate him! I ran 7 miles home that day to keep myself sane.

I made finals a fasting, spiritual time. Your mind is focused. Your miserable. I gave up drinking for four weeks. I even took up running long distances. I started running 5 miles (8 kms) every other day. By the end of finals, I was running 12 miles (19.2kms) a day.

I thought, why not? In my New Year's resolution post:

I told myself I'd retake up martial arts. What that really meant was that I wanted to be healthier physically. What that really meant was I wanted my high school 6 pack of abs back. That was 13 years ago!

I failed so often at this goal. I wasn't fat when I started. And I knew I was actually not that far away from having awesome abs. But, I always failed at getting this. I tried several types of diets, but at the end of the day, it never worked. Dieting books don't really target my audience, an athletic guy who is at plateau at about 15% bodyfat.

But when you fail at a goal, you gain new insights and information about yourself. I was finally in a position to put it altogether to reach my goal. I sat down with a calculator, pen, and paper. I loved doing the math.

Alright, Paul, I told myself. You're at about 15% bodyfat. A 6 pack requires 10% or less. You are at 143lbs. 5% of bodyfat to you is 7.15 lbs of fat. You need to lose 2 lbs a week. If you lose less than that you'll probably go crazy from enduring at your program. At 2 lbs a week, you have about 3.5 weeks. That coincides with finals - not too bad of a time to suffer even more.

Every week, you need to create a deficit of 7,000 calories. You burn 1,500 calories a day. If you take away 500 calories a day, then you would be creating a 3,500 calories deficit. That's one pound. To lose the second one, you need to run. Your running schedule also changes as you need to burn more calories the less weight you are. Week one, you need to run about 30 miles, then 35 miles, then 42 miles a week. Yes, losing weight takes effort and work - despite what all these miracle dieting books tell you.

Week one, I lost 1.7 lbs. Week 2, I lost about the same. Ok, the math was working out. Your theoretical assumptions were right in practice. At the end of finals, I had my desired goal. it took lots of work and focus. And now, I want to lose the last four pounds to be super healthy.

The doctor took a blood sample and said, "Your blood level is at athletic levels. Keep up the fitness." So, that's good.

For the rest of my finals, I had three bloody papers.

In one, I looked at the nature of sexual abuse in male juvenile detention centers. It's sad. 1 in 8 male teenagers will be sexually abused. And it's 90% likely to happen from staff! It's the first research of its kind - so I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.

In my second paper, I wrote a brief to the Appeals Court on why Arizona should not be allowed to pull Mexican school children out of their schools and isolate them from the rest of society.

In my third paper, I wrote on the flawed approach in fixing our terrible public high school education.

I finished my brief on a Thursday. I was exhausted. I had finished two finals and three papers. A few moments after finishing my last paper, the City of Los Angeles served me in a nasty fashion. They moved to dismiss my case. It was a reminder that my break and rest would be short.

Then my editor of the Journal of Business and Strategy writes to me and says, "Get your article in."

I then had to start work four days later. This was all so much work.

But in any event, I still attempted to enjoy my few days off.

My friend Pierre and I ate some yummy food to celebrate me being done and his bday.

Notice the champagne sort of ended my fast.

And here's me driving in my toy through Beverly Hills. So much fun!

Work has started. I wear a suit. I can't stand wearing such formal attire everyday.

I finished a draft of my opposition motion against the City. I have a hearing on it June 16, 2011. I told my father about it. He said in Korean, "Fight the good fight."

So besides, fighting this law suit, writing this journal article, I wonder where should I go on holiday? It's between Indonesia or Belize now. What do my readers think?

Until next time. . .

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Voices of Warfare

I sought out the maesters of war. I sought out the living and the dead. The dead live through their written word.

The first maester I needed to seek, was the one my ancestors had called upon so many years ago.

General Sun Tze wrote his text circa 100BC. He was dead. But even the dead remain alive in their writings. He wrote his war philosophy in the Great Work, Art of War. In Chinese, it's called The Soldier.

"General, I am a young solider from the House of Yi. My mother's lineage of Yi sought your advice centuries ago. Admiral Yi Sun-Sin, with your advice, in the late 16th Century never lost a battle at sea. He fared 23 naval battles. I seek the same wisdom he sought years ago. My cause is good." I show him my insignia from the House of Yi. It's the National Korean flower.

File:Imperial Seal of Korea.svg

The General just listens. The silence becomes awkward.

I plead my case. "General, I fight for good. The Kingdom of Los Angeles is corrupt. Their -"

The General interrupts me, "Soldier, tell me not about good or evil. All war is based on deception. Warfare is not about good or evil. I cannot help you if you seek moral advice."

I restate my case, "General, I seek you for what you know about the strategy of war."

"That, I can help you with. The Art of War is the lifeblood of the State."

He continues, "Where are you in your war, Young Soldier?"

I explain to him where I am at. He listens and nods. He speaks, "At this moment, you only need to know two principles: 1) Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move. 2) The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand."

"General, what does that really mean?"

"Young Soldier, if I gave you every answer, would I be a good teacher? Go now. That is all you need to know for now and nothing more. Come back. I am alive, when you seek my advice."

"General, what offering must I pay?"

"Nothing. The Art of War is truly priceless and has no cost when sought out. The wisdom is there for those who will work to find it. I give it to you now."

It is time to approach another Maester.

File:Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

I open up his book, "Maester Machiavelli, I summon your wisdom. Help me."

I imagine to plead my case of good and corruption before Maester Medici.

"You awaken me for this talk of good and evil. You're just an inexperienced, young scholar." He laughs at me. He mocks me!

"You wish to start a war. Have you not learned, Young Scholar, that all unarmed prophets die. Only armed, prophets survive. Where is your army? You have no one. Before all else, be armed."

"Maester Medici, that is not true. I am armed with the knowledge of law. Behind me is the resources of the scholars of law."

He says nothing. He thinks. He listens. He asks, "What do you need from me?"

"Maester Medici, I fight the King of a place called Los Angeles. The King and all his men will crush me if I do not have your counsel. " I proceed to tell him about my resources and strategy. He listens. He knows how to listen.

He answers, "There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to institute the new order of things."

Now, I listen. He continues, "Because your resources are limited, remember Lady Fortune can equalize the battle. You must capture Lady Fortune. You must tie her, beat her, abuse her. You must let her know that she cannot get away from you. If she escapes your grasp, she will turn against you and destroy you. Fortune is a fickle lady, who goes here and there as she pleases. She lusts for different men with a change of tides and with a change of desire. Signor, capture her, use her, and never let her go. By dominating her, you can wield her power of misfortune against the King and all of his men."

I listen a bit horrified as the Maester seems -so - so, evil. Machiavelli, however, was considered the amoral political philosopher. Why is he telling me this?!

I also find it ironic that Maester Medici recognizes that the lady fortune may be lacking physical prowess over men; however, she has a mysterious power to destroy all those who stand aginst her. "Master Medici, how do I capture Lady Fortune?"

"Signor, Lady Fortune is like a river. When you build levies, dams, and flood controls, you can control the river, even when it floods in wildness. It then will not destroy your Kingdom. However, if you take action after the river floods, Lady Fortune destroys your Kingdom. She is impossible to control. She will make you pay for your stupidity, for there was a time that the cost was so small to control her. So many enemies have fallen slain because they have neglected to control Fortune at the right time. For you, control everything that can go wrong before the battle starts."

"Graci, Maester Medici."

"See me again, Signor. You keep me alive, when you read my works and practice the principles."

I see my primary Maester. She is in the War Room. She is the only person I see today that is alive, and not dead. Her words are spoken, not written.

She criticizes me for some communication mistakes I had made with stakeholders.

"Paul, to do such, does not show confidence. You always want to appear confident and poised. To appear to aggressive shows insecurity." the Torts Master says.

I listen. I understand.

She stands in a tai chi position. "See my position. It is not threatening. It is not weak. This is where you need to be." It reminded me of my own stance in judo fighting. In judo, I fight with my right rib facing the opponent. Therefore, there is less surface space for them to strike. Contrast this, to a fighter who fights chest to chest.

I sigh. I had messed it up again with being too aggressive in my communication. I know I can be like this. I need to learn better. I learned this in New Zealand. Why do I go back to my old ways? I said, "Yeah, this is what you don't learn in law school."

She replied, "That's right. You almost never learn this kind of strategy in law school."

I then said, "I'll get another chance. I'll do it better next time."

She says, "What you need to do now is send me a summary of all the weaknesses of your legal arguments. Also, tell me what you think the City of Los Angeles' greatest counter will be. That way, we'll see how well you are sizing up the opponent. We will see how smart the opponent is as well."

I bow. I leave.

I need my messenger.

That day, I approach my envoy. He's a Frenchman. Only in Los Angeles, would a Korean American have a French envoy deliver a message to a Mexican American King. I need this message delivered to the King and all his men. I seal each message with my insignia. "Go, now. God be with you."

I then walk up to the library tower. It's my war room. A Professor, waging a War against Arizona asked me to write a brief for the Court. Surrounded around me is my arsenal of facts, cases, books, and law. However, as I write, I keep getting distracted.

Will my French envoy be alright? I walk to the East Face of the tower window. I can see the King's Seat of Los Angeles in the distance. He is somewhere in the labyrinth of the King's seat. Is he lost? Will they trap him? Will they trick him?

I pace around the library tower. I'm pacing, pacing, pacing. He hasn't called me. I try to work on my brief. I look out of the East Window again. He's there somewhere. I can only control what I can do. I work on my brief again.

My French envoy comes back alive. Mission accomplished. He wasn't harmed. Good. He informs me that he was tricked and ensnared by the King and his evil men at one point. However, with his own wit, he managed to escape. I smile. I'm relieved. I'm excited. It's all so much for the human spirit to experience.

I go and look out the east window again of my library tower. I see the Los Angeles skyline against the backdrop of a pink, smoggy, artificial sunset. I think: Who am I to take on the King and all his men?