Friday, March 31, 2006

Reality Show

I never thought that I would be participating in a reality in jail. But unlike the unreality show on TV, there's no winner or money or fame. It's also involutary.

The kitchen staff installed three cameras in the work areas today on top of the existing two. Tomorrow they'll install two more to make a total of seven cameras. The purpose of the camera is to monitor the workers in case they steal food from the kitchen.

Someone is getting a kick out of watching the reality show, except for the involuntary participants of course.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Good Samaritan

The last time I found a ten-dollar bill, I turned it into a correctional officer at San Quentin State Prison. She took it, put it in her pocket, and thanked me for giving her lunch money.

When I was growing up in China, all the kids were taught to turn in anything valuable we found on the street to police officers or teachers, even if it was a penny. It's a good virtue to have.

I admire the man who turned in the million-dollar loot that he found in the police station. That's a good Samaritan.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I'm Here

It's my day off from working in the kitchen. I enjoyed the quiet time to relax. I watched a couple of movies, slept and read newspapers. I didn't have to worry about anything. I'm physically here and I'm alive. I'm moving with time. It's not where I want to be, but I'm here. So here I am.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Thinking of Bruce

It's been years since I've seen a Bruce Lee movie. I remember the first time I watched one. It was at my mom's workplace in China. I believe it was the year of 1980. Bruce Lee movies weren't shown publicly. My family was able to watch it because my mom worked for the Chinese government as an accountant. There was a special viewing of the movies at her job site. I watched Bruce Lee kick major butts on the movie screen in an office. It was awesome.

Over the years of doing time in the Pen, people on many occasion have called me Bruce Lee because of my defined physique. I always feel a sense of pride to be identified with Bruce. He's definitely a hero in breaking down racial barriers.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Finding Sanctuary

I heard from a friend who is surviving prison. He wrote,

"I got a new job the other month (vocational landscaping)...About the job, it's amazing. It's like being in another world up there. I look forward to every moment that I can spend away from this place. And when I am up there, oftentimes I forget the reality these walls always subject us to. It actually sometimes reminds me of what it used to be like when we were free."

In any type of physical confinement, we're forced to find ways to survive. Once we're able to find our own sanctuary, our minds are freed. Time no longer dictates life.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Quote of the Week (64)

"A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her."

- David Brinkley

Saturday, March 25, 2006

No on HR 4437

HR 4437 is the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005.

According to the Immigration Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, if HR 4437 passes the U.S. Senate, it'll have a devastating effect on the 12 million illegal immigrants and all legal immigrants as well as citizens in this country.

Some of the negative effects of HR 4437 are...

- HR 4437 criminalizes organizations and individuals assisting undocumented workers.

- HR 4437 criminalizes undocumented immigrant status.

- HR 4437 grants state and local law enforcement agencies "inherent authority" to enforce immigration laws.

- HR 4437 furthers the erosion of due process.

- HR 4437 turns many minor crimes into aggravated felonies, which carry the worst possible immigration consequences.

Millions of people across the nation are protesting against this draconian law. Everyone should become aware of HR 4437 and take action against its passing.

For more information on HR 4437, pelase log onto

Friday, March 24, 2006

It's the Look

Somehow, the people in custody are always surprised that I'm educated. Before they talk to me, they make a judgement about me based on my looks. Once they have a conversation with me, they are shocked. And when I tell them that I've been incarcerated for two decades, they are in awe.

This white guy who is in his third year of college said that I sounded very education about 5 times during our 10-minute conversation. He was expecting me to speak broken English and have nothing to say. Then, the three guys who were ear hustling gathered around me in disbelief to hear that I had been locked up for so long. They introduced themselves to me. That's how barriers get broken, stereotypes weaken, and minds get enlightened.

Dialogue is an opportunity to make changes.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

It's Time to Work

Well, all my Chinese students are gone. They are able to start pursuing their idea of the American Dream. Unfortunately, they will have to start working right away to pay for the debt they had accumulated to come to the U.S. Education will not be their priority for a while.

They promised me that they would not get on the wrong path. I hope they will be successful one day.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

One More to Go

Finally, all the testimonies for my application for adjustment of status to stay in this country were completed this afternoon. Four of the expert witnesses testified on my behalf. They unanimously believed that my presence in the U.S. will be beneficial to society at large.

The judge did not make a decision on my adjustment. He wants us to present our Convention Against Torture case and then make a written decision on the entire case. Therefore, my final hearing on my deportation case is scheduled for APril 13th at 1pm.

The weather was beautiful in the City today. I'm grateful for all the witnesses who had testified and the people who had attended the hearing. I'm continuously encouraged and humbled by your presence.

I want to send a special appreciation to the generous lady from L.A. County. It was a pleasure meeting you.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Arranged Marriage

I've read and heard about arranged marriages in different cultures. However, that seemed like it only happened back in the old days.

To my amazement, I found out that arranged marriages still occur today - in the United States. Thise Southeast Asian shared with me that he was married when he was 14. The parents of both sides got together and arranged the marriage. About 6 years and a kid later, they have divorced. They didn't get to know each other.

I guess it's difficult to break tradition no matter where you go.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Restorative Justice

The S.F. Chronicle reported that about 30 teenagers in Oakland smashed car windows for fun on their way home after a party. The kids are said to be students from Westlake Middle school where I had attended my seventh and eighth grade.

What's so fun about smashing and destroying other people's property? The better question is: would they have done it to their cars or their family's car?

Obviously, those kids had no respect for other people's property. I also contribute their stupid and destructive behavior to peer pressure due to lack of values.

The punishment for those kids will have having them work and pay off their damages to the car owners and go to counseling. They'll learn the hard way then.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Quote of the Week (63)

"He who is slow to anger is better than a strong man - a master of his passions is better than a conquerer of a city."

- Ben Zoma (Jewish scripture)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Youth Support

I was surprised to find out that the San Francisco Youth Commission expressed its support for my stay in the United States.

I'm grateful to the Youth Commission for believing in my commitment and ability to make a positive difference in youths' lives and become a contributing member of society. I look forward to collaborating and learning from the Youth Commission in the betterment of our community.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Hope in Victory

"Aaazmaiz Mushkil Hai."
"Magar Howsala Boland Hai."

"Yes, this is a very tough battle, but my hope in victory is even tougher."

I'm grateful for my Muslim brothers' encouragements and prayers from the belly of the beast. My victory will be your victories.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Freedom Within

"About my job, it's amazing. It's like being in another world up there. I look forward to every moment that I can spend away from this place. And when I am up there, oftentimes I forget the reality these walls subject us to. It actually sometimes reminds me of what it used to be like when we were free."

That is how my friend Marc feels working in vocational landscaping in prison. He's growing with time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It's All About the Bling

You can take away a man's freedom, but you can't take away his Bling. In jail, we all wear different color-coded uniforms. Every piece of clothing is made in sweatshops around the world.

However, within this confined environment, some inmates slash detainees guts to have their Bling. They draw Nike, Adidas, and other designer name brands on their shirts, pants, and shoes. No diamond or gold studs in their ears? Don't fret, there is always a remnant of a comb or pencil, or some string to replace them. Oh, let's not forget sagging their pants to their butts.

Bling, Bling...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Prayers from Afar

I learned from my friend Bradley that Sister Salome who is Nairobi, Sister Aucy who is in Calcutta, and other sisters from the Missionary of Charity have been continuously praying for me. I'm grateful for their prayers.

It feels great to be reminded how blessed I am. No matter where we are physically on this earth, as long as they are prayers, we are always connected.

It's no wonder even in my darkest moments, I have never felt alone.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Day and Night

We never know what's going to happen from one day to the next. For James Tramel, he was in prison one day and out in Berkeley the next day. After serving 20 years on a 15-year-to-life sentence, he has finally received his freedom.

Tramel was waiting for the governor's approval of his parole when I left the same prison in 2005. The governor rejected his release. This year, the governor took no action one his parole so he was released. Now he's the assistant pastor for the Episcopal Church of the Good Sheperd in Berkeley.

James Tramel earned his release from prison. He will continue to pay for the crime he committed by serving the community. That's redemption.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Quote of the Week (62)

"Education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern but impossible to enslave."

- Henry Peter Brougham, Baron

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Lack of Direction

On my trips to San Francisco for court, I've seen some homeless people sleeping in front of businesses. It's a sad scene. I can't help but sympathize with their situation.

When I read about those young men who beat up a homeless person in CHinatown, I knew that they didn't have any direction in their lives. If they did, they wouldn't have been out on the street at three o'clock in the morning assaulting a homeless man.

The truth is that many youth and young adults are in dire need of direction in their lives. We all have a responsibility to provide resources to those who are lost.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Gun in School

Recently, a high school student was caught selling an unloaded gun to another student at Palo Alto High School. There was comment that the student thought it was cool to have a gun. Luckily, no one was hurt physically. However, those students will be in a world of hurt due to their stupidity.

I can see guns in the school of America where assassins are being trained. Aside from that, guns and schools don't mix, not even in the ROTC.

It's definitely not cool to bring a gun to school. What is the school going to do to prevent guns in school?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

APEX Express

When I was in prison, I used to tune into APEX Express every Thursday night from 7 to 8pm on KPFA 94.1 FM radio. It was important for me to keep up with the happenings in the Asian American community.

About three years ago, APEX Express aired an interview about my case. I appreciated the program for giving me the air time to share my story.

On Thursday, March 16th, from 7-8pm, APEX Express will air another interview with my sharing my continued struggle for freedom. I invite everyone to tune in.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Dia de Mujeres Internacional

Last year on this day a woman delivered the news of my parole approval in Solano State Prison. It was one of the best days of my life. That is why International Women's Day will always have a special place in my heart. Besides, women rock anyway!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Chinese Parade

I'm not talking about the parade in San Francisco. There's an annual parade to celebrate the CHinese lunar year in Marysville, California. Even though I'm only a few doors away from where the parade takes place over the weekend, I don't get to see or participate in it. However, I do get to watch it on the the local TV station.

Who would have thought that oldest Chinatown in California is in Marysville? Chinese culture is celebrated everywhere.

Monday, March 06, 2006

It's a Small World

It's not longer unusual for me to come across someone I know while I'm reading a newspaper, magazine, or book. Today, as I thumbed through the pages of the book Asian American X, I recognized two names I had connected with while I was in prison.

While reminiscing the circumstance of my connection with people, it reminded me how small this world is and how everyone is connected.

I'm almost certain that I know someone who's a friend of a friend of a friend of President George Bush. The president just hasn't met me yet.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Quote of the Week (61)

"A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar."

- Lao-Tzu

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Having it Her Way

I haven't had the pleasure of reading any books by Anchee Min, but I happened to see her on C-span talking about her memoir Red Azalea. SHe appeared to be a high energy and self confident woman. Clad in a red traditional cotton coat, she expressed how it wouldn't have been possible for her to write freely if she were still in China. The United States provided her with a safe haven to share her experiences in her homeland and creativity in the art of writing.

Anchee Min is having it her way.

I do have a copy of her novel Empress Orchid. I'll have to find time to read it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Believe in Yourself

We often doubt our abilities to achieve greatness in our lives. Whenever something good happens to us, we can't believe it or we act surprised. We forget that the reason good things happen to us is because we earn it. Yet, to our friends, they can see clearly into our success. They have no doubt in our abilities.

So, for those who are in the process of achieving greatness, believe in yourself and keep on striving.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I've seen many guys doing the sudoku pussle, but I didn't try one until today. I did the easiest one and it was fun. I haven't been working with numbers for awhile so my brain has been on holding pattern. I worked on my second puzzle with higher difficulty and made one error too many. I had to start over. I have to get each number in its square or it won't work. The puzzle teaches patience and accuracy because one wrong move will ruin everything.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Marching Forward

Yesterday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to support my stay in this country so I could utilize what I've learned in prison to make a contribution to society.

I'm floored by their vote of confidence in me. I'm also grateful and humbled by their compassion and resolution. As a result of their faith in me, there is no way I will not maximize my potential to be a productive member of society.

Thank you for all your kindness. When I do get to stay in this country, I will let my actions do all the talking.