Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Threat Assessments

According to the S.F. Chronicle, FBI agents are doing a national "threat assessment" of prisoners who might have become radicalized in prison. The FBI wants to disrupt any prisoner with radicalized ideologies which advocate violence. It's worried that groups with extremist ideologies may be trying to convert prisoners to become terrorists.

The fight against terrorism reaches everyone and everywhere.
There's no discrimination.

Speaking of violence, the prison administration is always promoting violence. As an example, California prisons forbid the showing of any R-rated movies to the prison population because of sexual content. However, the showing of violent content such as stabbings, shootings, explosions, killings, and bombings are okay.

I'm just wondering...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Out of Touch

I'm out of touch with Chinese and Asian pop culture. It's been a long time since I've listened to the latest music from Asia. I only remember those popular songs from the '80s. Anything else is foreign to me. Somehow, I never went out of my way to get some Asian music during my incarceration. I became too Americanized.

It was a treat for me to listen to some Korean and Japanese music by artists like Leeds, To Eng Young, Tei, and Curious today. I also listened to Vienna Teng's CD Warm Strangers. On track #12, she sings "Ludao Xiaoyequ" in Mandarin. The lyrics and melody made me remember the OG singer Deng Lijun who popularized the song.

Being out of touch with certain things can be a blessing because everything will be fresh for me.

Monday, August 29, 2005


When was the last time you saw 5,000 people gathered together to fight for the rights of the elderly in the Asian American community?

In 1977, eviction of Filipinos and Chinese tenants from the International Hotel in San Francisco became one of the historical struggles for Asian Americans.

Today, a new International Hotel is open on Kearny Street in San Francisco. It is writing a new chapter of history. Yet, the solidarity among ethnic groups within the Asian American community has become less visible since the good old days of the '60s.

Let's hope that we will always learn from our history and continue to be there for each other in all forms of struggles for justice.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Quote of the Week (34)

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."

- William Shakespeare

Saturday, August 27, 2005

O.D. on Death Row

Recently, a condemned prisoner overdosed in San Quentin's Death Row. He was shooting heroin.

After the prison administration completed its investigation, it had no idea how drugs could have gotten into the high security area. That was that. Case closed.

Well, what the public may not know is that drugs of all kinds are accessible to prisoners in all jails and prisons. As long as you have money, you can buy any type of drug.

Where do all the drugs come from?

Prisoners find ways to smuggle drugs or other contrabands into prison. However, the easiest way is for prison guards to bring drugs in since they don't get searched when they go to work. (It's kind of like the theory that certain government agencies fly in shipments of drugs from South America and put them on the street.)

It seems like drugs are part of the prison culture. There is no stopping people from getting high or making money.

Friday, August 26, 2005

SBC Monopoly

I picked up the phone to make a collect call today and realized the telephone company was switched. There was no notice of the sudden change.

As I listened to the phone company's automated system, it identified itself as the SBC long distance service. After I heard the new price for the call, I knew the SBC corporation had monopolized the contract for the jail.

The first minute is $3.65. Then, each additional minute is $0.65. A 15-minute phone call will cost $12.75.

The previous telephone company charged $3.30 for the first minute and $0.30 for each additional minute.

Also, all phone calls are subjected to being recorded. There is no confidentiality between attorney and client.

So, not only is Big Brother watching us, it's laughing to the bank.

Who says crime doesn't pay?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Friendly Visit

My friend Bradley from Southern California is in town for a music gig. He decided to drop by for a visit. It's been about 5 years since we saw each other. Somehow, I didn't feel distant from him at all.

During out visit, I noticed that I ended up doing most of the talking. I'm a talker. Whenever you give me the mic, it's all over. I'll talk your ears off.

Bradley is working on his second CD of Mether Theresa's messages. I look forward to getting an autographed copy. I still have the first CD at home.

Get busy, Bradley.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Yes, that is a word. According to author Azr Nafisi, upsilamba was one of Nabokov's fanciful creations he had invented out of upsilon, the twentieth letter in the Greek alphabet, and lamba, the eleventh. Nabokov used it in his book Invitation to a Beheading.

In Nafisi's book Reading Lolita in Tehran, she asked her students to invent new meanings for the word. Her students thought up meanings according to their relations to the word.

For me, upsilamba means to take advantage or utilize every minute of free time I have while mixing powdered milk at work. You see, I take a book with me when I got to work. It takes me 30 minutes to make about 45 gallons of milk. After I set things up the mixer does the stirring. I sit on a bucket and read. Also, whenever I'm on a break, I read.

As you see, I'm upsilamba every day.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Missing Daylight

One of the disadvantages of living in the kitchen workers' area is that I don't get to see any daylight except when I can go to the Roof or when the kitchen door to the street is open briefly during food delivery. Aside from that, I wouldn't know whether it's sunny or raining outside.

That's why whenever I get to see some sunshine, it brightens my eyes.

The less I get to see daylight, the more I cherish it.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Evo, sorry for the delay in responding. I just received your comment. If you sent the card with three poetry books, they arrived on my birthday. They were returned because the books have to come from the vendor. Please shoot the card again. Thank you for the awesome poem. I'm humbled by your words. Let's motivate each other and keep on keeping on.

Poem for Evo

Just when I think
no matter what I do
there will be no redemption
to atone for my past destructions
your spirit uplifts me
with your bag of words

You who see
beyond the iron bars and serpentine wires
wrapped with apathy and propaganda
that somehow
it is easier and better
to condemn
to hate
to throw away the key

Yet the key
you choose to hold or discard
dictates your future my future our future
the future of the next generation

You who reach
within your revolution of constitution
to reach out and acknowledge
my blossom in the mud
have discovered the course of my nutrience
how we are connected

As you pump up
to study the laws of this land
I wonder
Will this home and land
have security

Always remember
to check in with your roots
I will be right there
watching you grow
one petal at a time

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Quote of the Week (33)

"Misfortune is a test of people's fidelity. Those who protest at injustice are people of true merit. When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out."

- Ho Chi Minh

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Does Killing Stop Killing?

Does killing stop killing?

Does hate stop hate?

Does perpetuating violence stop the cycle of violence?

Can loving stop love?

Can laughing stop joy?

Can breathing stop breathing?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Who is the Next David Wong?

On August 9th, David Wong was deported to Hong Kong after spending 12 years in a New York prison for being framed on a murder charge. David is free. For him, freedom was more important than doing time in immigration detention to fight for his stay in the U.S. Can you blame him?

Because of David, a group of compassionate individuals from the Asian community came together to fight for his freedom from New York and the Bay Area. Now that mission is accomplished, what is the Free David Wong Committee going to do?

There are over 2 million prisoners in the United States and many of them are innocent. Some innocent men and women are waiting for their chance for justice and freedom. You can make a difference.

I applaud the Free David Wong Committee for its indefatigable effort to seek justice for David. Thank you for caring.

Now, I impore you to find the next David Wong.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hunger Strike

About a dozen detainees refused to eat for three meals.

What were they protesting?

The loss of their TV privilege.

There was a problem in their dorm and someone got rolled up. According to the standing policy of the jail, anyone gets rolled up, and TV privileges get suspended for a week (read the Collective Punishment blog entry on June 18, 2005). Because they lost their TV for a week, those guys decided to go on a hunger strike. Their mentality was simple: they didn't do anything wrong, so why should they get punished?

I don't agree with the collective punishment policy myself, but going on a hunger strike for a TV is not something I would participate in. I can understand if they're protesting against the conditions or policies of the jail. Not the stupid box. No.

Such is the power of TV.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Breaking the "Bamboo Ceiling"

Like many Asian American voters, I'm happy and relieved to read that California assemblywoman Wilma Chan is focusing her energy to run for a Senate seat in 2008 instead of running for re-election.

I'm happy because Wilma Chan is overqualified and has the potential to be the first Asian woman senator in California.

I'm relieved because the Asian community and I don't have to choose between supporting Wilma Chan and Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker, who is running for the assembly seat.

Chan and Lai-Bitker are both awesome women and loved by their constituent. It would be awkward and conflicted to have to choose between the two.

They have my support because they took time to meet with my parents and supporters and made extra effort to support my parole and fight to stay in the U.S.

Too bad I can't vote, by my family and friends can.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Manmade Tornado

I notice that prison guards and jail deputies share a special talent. They know how to create a scene that looks like a tornado swept through an area. If they lose their jobs one day, they can probably work in the movie industry as set or prop specialists. However, they must have to wear uniforms. Or else, their universal talent will not reach its potential.

There was a shakedown in the kitchen workers living area. It was the second one within a month. The deputies patted everyone down before we exited the area to go to work. After we returned from work, what awaited us in the cells was a manmade tornado scene. Our sleeping mattresses were on the floor, paper and books were scattered everywhere, and blankets and sheets were torn from neatly made beds. Even though I was used to the tornado scenes in prison, it's still beyond my comprehension why the deputies enjoy their artistic specialty so much. I wonder whether all the guards and jailers in uniformas went to the same school. If so, they all have selective memories because it's a violation for them to create manmade tornadoes.

It must be the uniform.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Right Wing Nut? Not

Right wing, left wing, chicken wing, buffalo wing, as long as it is a wing, it has a purpose. But a nut? That's scary.

Then again, what's in a name?

Murderers are everywhere. Unfortunately, those murderers who haven't been caught and convicted are roaming the free world. As you're reading these words, the nurderers are killing people in the name of freedom; they're killing in the name of religion; they're killing in the name of love; they're killing in the name of peace; and they're killing in the name of life.

Then again, who am I to judge?

I do know that Mike and Stephen have served their time according to California State Law. I do know that they are rehabilitated. I do know that they deserve a second chance.

After all, I was there when we learned and taught Alternative to Violence year after year; I was there when we shared with at-risk youth and adults about our crimes and remorse in hopes of preventing them from committing crimes and going to prisons year after year; I was there when we held hands and prayed for our victims and loved ones; I was there when we sang songs of peace, love, and freedom; I was there when we felt there's no light at the end of the tunnel; I was there when our mothers cried after visiting us and when our parole was denied year after year; I was there when we wrote poems, essays, and vignettes about pain, suffering, and love.

Most importantly, I'd learned to love them as brothers. I would trust them with my family.

As for understanding the nature of my crimes and my friends' crimes, please come visit me in Yuba County Jail and I will share with you. You can visit or write to Stephen Liebb C-60825 at San Quentin State Prison and Mike Ngo E21895 at Soledad State Prison.

About my friend who lied to get a job, he lied to feed his three children, to hold an honest job, and to survive. I'm making a justification for his lying again.

Maybe he should get on welfare, sell some drugs, rob people, and go to prison.

I totally agree with you that it's important to judge a book by its content. We just have to bypass the cover and read the book.

I do thank you for your comments. You make me think. I send you peace and compassion. Welcome to my life.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Quote of the Week (32)

"To whom do we tell what happened on the Earth, for whom do we place everywhere huge mirrors in the hope that they will be filled up and will stay so?"

- Czeslaw Milosz's "Annalena"

Saturday, August 13, 2005

There's a Time for Everything

"To everything turn turn turn. There is a season turn turn turn..." The melody and lyrics came to mind as I was reading the eloquent comment from "Thought & Humor" by Howdy. My friend Rico and I always had fun whenever we sang that song during Catholic mass.

I will embrace your heartfelt suggestion and let it be.

"Hope is the thing with feathers..." Emily Dickinson wrote when she needed hope. "Despite everything, I believe all people are good at heart..." Anne Frank refused to give up on humanity. Victor Frankl never gave up hope when he awaited his turn to the "oven." Nelson Mandela had hope for freedom. Hope is what keeps us alive. Without hope, death is certain.

More than ever, now is a time for hope.

For Grant and Jeff:

Beauty is everywhere when we take time to look. Without patience, we will never see the beauty of a butterfly. Thank you for accepting me. Welcome to my life.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Write a Letter

When was the last time you wrote a letter to your mother? I'm not talking about a birthday card or other greetings cards. I mean, a righteous letter to Mom that expresses your feelings.

I ask because I haven't written a letter to my mom for a long time. It's so easy to pick up the phone and call her once a week. However, I do remember writing to Mom often when I didn't have access to a phone for 11 months while I was in prison. My Chinese improved quite a bit because Mom would correct my mistakes.

It's more thoughtful and meaningful to write a letter to Mom than talking on the phone.

Let's write a letter to our mothers, fathers, or someone we love.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Never Forget Nagasaki

I just read in the S.F. Chronicle that Japanese citizens were not the only victims of the United States' mass destructive atomic bomb. The A-bomb killed Dutch, Australians, Chinese, and Koreans. Somehow, I didn't learn that from the history books I've read.

Attention focusing on the Nagasaki bombing pales in comparison to Hiroshima. To date, there is no account on how many foreign A-bomb victims perished.

Something is wrong with that fact.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Climbing for a Cure

There is no cure for cancer.

Some of my friends have cancer, but they are able to beat it and recover. They're fortunate to detect cancer in its early stages. After their recovery, each of them appreciates life to the fullest.

Zheng Hui Guang, a mountain climber, lost his sister to cancer. He wants to raise funds and awareness on the deadly disease that does not discriminate by climbing the highest mountains. That's his way to make a difference.

What can you do?

For more information on Zheng's mission, check out

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Writing Secret

I haven't been writing as much as I used to. My friend Bradley reminded me of what writer Natalie Goldberg said: that we must give ourselves permission to write the worse junk in the world.

When I write, I often let my writer and editor brain work at the same time. That's the cardinal sin of writing. That's why I'm a slow writer. Bad habits are hard to change.

Bradley told me "the secret to writing is writing." So I'm writing.

Speaking of writing, I wonder if Helen Zia was able to finish her latest book. I look forward to reading it.

What's the word, Helen?

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword

A pen can be used in many ways. For it to becomes mighty, it's up to the person who's holding the pen and how she and he is using it.

Todd (Hyung-Rae) Tarselli's pen is mightier than the sword because he uses it to draw political artwork behind bars and stars. Hyung-Rae is a prisoner in S.C.I. Greene. His political artwork that depicts and exposes the injustice in the world have been published in books and magazines.

However, the prison authority is afraid of Hyung-Rae's pen. Therefore, prison officials harrass him by moving him around the prison every 30 days, sending him to solitary confinement and confiscating his mail along with drawings and writings. Those are some of the common tactics the prison system employs to silence any critical voices.

Please keep your pen sharp and keep on slashing, Hyung-Rae.

Your pen is mighty.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Quote of the Week (31)

"To be nobody - but - myself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting."

e.e. cummings

Saturday, August 06, 2005

An End to Nuclear Proliferation

Sixy years ago today the United States of America murdered over 140,000 innocent lives when it dropped the A-bomb in Hiroshima, Japan.

The Japanese Imperial Army surrendered and World War II ended.

If then U.S. government didn't drop the mass destruction A-bomb, who knows how many people would've continued to die and how long the war would've lasted.

However, does killing innocent lives for peace justify killing?

On this 60th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, the U.S. still has the largest and most deadliest arsenal of weapons of mass destruction A-bombs in the world.

Where is the peace? If having nuclear weapons is a mean to achieve peace, then every country should have it because peace is desperately needed.

An end to nuclear proliferation is the beginning of peace in humanity.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Life After Deportation

Did you know that some of the ICE detainees will face jail time or persecution after they're deported to their countries?

A few of the guys from El Salvador who are waiting for deportation are afraid of the uncertainties of their fate. It's a policy of the El Salvador government to imprison those deportees who are gang-affiliated or have tattoos for 6 months before releasing them. However, if family members of the deportees can go pick them up from the airport, they can avoid prison time.

For deportees going back Guatemala, they could be killed.

For deportees returning to CHina, they could face fines, jail time or harrassment depending on the circumstances of their cases.

Either way, it's all bad.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Take Me With You

A friend bought me a story "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allen Poe from the Travelman Short Stories when she visited London.

I'm the past, whenever some friends went on vacation, they would send me pictures or postcards.

For many years, that's how I fulfill my dream of travelling around the world. Until I can travel myself, I'll continue to do my eye travelling.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Stumbling on My Blog

Since the launching of my website and blog, many strangers have stumbled across them. Whether it's through word of mouth or googling, people are drawn to my unique experiences and sharings.

I'm grateful to everyone's interest and support in my blogging. Each time you log on, you're acknowledging my presence in this world that we share.

After all, "Without you there is no me, for I'm a reflection of society and society is a reflection of me..."

Please keep logging on and passing the word.

*Thanks for your comment, Kate. Welcome to my life.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Paul from Minnesota

The last time I talked to Paul, I asked him to recite two of my favorite poems that he wrote among many: "Shock and Awe" and a poem about his lovely wife Andrea.

We were in Solano Prison's visiting room. Paul was leaving California to go to his dream job in Minnesota's Macalester College. I was in the presence of a great poet for a private performance. What a blessing!

Last month, Paul was performing at Berkeley and sold about a thousand dollars worth of his CD and book of poetry.

Today, somewhere in the poverty striken pueblos of Peru and El Salvador, children have school supplies, books, and toys to share with each other for a little while.

You too can get a taste of Paul's awesome poetry and compassion. Just send him an email and buy his CD and book. The children will thank you as well as your heart and mind.

Please email That's Paul from Minnesota.

* Congratulations Zac and Sarah! Be happy!!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Black August

Somewhere across the Prison Industrial Complex of California and the United States, men are fasting, exercising, and studying their history to raise awareness and commemorate those who had died for freedom and fought against injustice.

Black August commemoration originated in the late '70s and celebrated mostly by African Americans to remember their fallen comrades and expose the oppressive and inhumane conditions inside prisons.

One of the most talked about persons in the month of Black August is George Jackson, an African American prisoner who was killed by San Quentin guards in August of 1971 during an alleged take over of a section of the prison. (For more on Jackson, read "Soledad Brother")

The Black August commemorative gatherings in the communities is going on its 26th year.