By Alan Tien
“Be proud you’re Chinese. We have 5000 years of history, and America only 200,” my mother admonishes me in one breath, and then, incongruously in the next breath, she reminds me, “Teacher says you’re handicapped (as in mentally) speaking Chinese at home.” I’m a stranger in my own birthland. Thirty years later, in ostensibly my “true” homeland, China, I’m still an outsider, a banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside). We Asian-Americans are the hyphenated race, culturally aware of both sides but not fully accepted by either. We are the diagonal mediator between…
Written on March 14, 2014 — Pi Day
“Let him through. He’s just the pizza guy.”
‘Just,’ I think. That about sums up my life.
I shoulder my way through the anti-vaxxer crowd. They’re pretty rowdy, waving hand-scrawled signs and shouting non-sensical slogans like, “Check the facts! Don’t get vax!” I smell alcohol on some of their bearded breaths, unfiltered by their lack of masks, even though I’m wearing Razer’s neon-lit helmet. Yeah, I look like a dork, but its fully enclosed filtration system protects me from the germs of non-masker idiots, though clearly not their smell. I kinda regret…
Compress life to shadows,
Collapse a dimension,
Drain colors away,
Glow the stark reality of the divide:
The Have-Homes and the Have-Nots,
While the Sheltered saunter by,
Ignorant and ignoring the polite pleas,
The silent screams for our shattered attention.
But who do we help?
So much need,
Wracking pain packed high,
How to decide?
Even with charity in our hearts and
Wallets in our hands,
Even Gates opening only feeds a few,
Educates a handful,
Cures a touch.
If a genius gillionaire cannot turn the tide,
What can the rest of us do but cry?
Written by Alan Tien
“Prepare for liftoff. All systems go.”
My heart pounded hearing these final words before the infamous countdown, even though I had gone through this 100 times in the flight simulator. But this time was the real thing. I stretched against my tight restraints; I tried to take deep breaths to slow down my panting. I thought back to my Master’s coaching: “Max, calm yourself, clear your mind. Remember, you’re the result of 1000 generations of genetic optimization, to create the perfect being to save your species.”
It made me feel a little better. I…
Poem by Alan Tien, November 2017, inspired by a random conversation in a bar with the couple who sat next to us while we watched a Stanford football game on TV. Having heard that I went to Stanford, the lady mentioned her uncle went to Stanford and then the Navy. Before I could say anything, she said he was dead, but she followed up immediately with the fact that her uncle’s Stanford college mates who came up for the funeral were really “upright men.”
His time came too early
A man sheathed in Glory.
His time in the Navy
February 19, 2017
By Alan Tien
D: “Hey Luc, George left his computer unlocked again!”
L: “That idiot, didn’t he learn his lesson last time when we mucked with his simulation?”
D: “Guess not. What should we do this time?”
L: “I don’t know how he does it, but he’s in the damn lead again, that geek. I think he’s autistic or something. He can focus on such tiny details. I can’t see how it makes a difference in the overall outcome, but there he is, top of the charts again.”
D: “Well, it’s his own stupid fault for not…
By Alan Tien
December 12, 2017
Yesterday, my teenage son came home from school, visibly distraught. He avoided eye contact, answered questions monosyllabically, slumped through dinner and escaped to his boy-cave. Through careful coaxing from his loving mother did he pull out of his shell, only to deliver the shocker, “I’m so stupid.”
We were dumbfounded. My son is not prone to melodrama or self-defeating talk. In fact, he’s generally very even-keeled and optimistic. So what was up? He had gotten his PSAT test score back, and he had scored lower than two of his (very smart) friends.
Man has evolved from apes. Economies have evolved from hunter gathering and farming to distributed networks of specialization. Government has evolved from tribal leaders to democracy. Religion has liberalized from an absolute force to a relative choice. Technology has advanced us from face to face communication to far-flung telecom and anonymous internet. All these changes have made our physical lives infinitely better: we live longer, healthier, safer, and more comfortably with far greater freedom. But the cost of these material gains is the decline of morals and ethics. The codes of honor that used to control us, the religious rules…