QotD: Reflecting on September 11th

What are your personal memories of September 11th?

Here are the my posts from 2003 on TypePad. Repost here for those who only start reading this blog recently.

Two years ago my day technically started when I left
my office a few minutes past midnight. As I walked toward the WTC to
grab a cab to go home, I looked up and marveled at how lucky I was to
have the opportunity to work near these two buildings.

Slightly over eight hours later, I woke up to a nice Tuesday autumn
morning. I wasn't needed in the office until noon that day because of
the late night before. The "This Morning" show on NBC was showing the
usual rubbish.

Everything changed a few minutes later when I arrived at the gym in
the basement of my apartment building. A group of people was crowding
around the TV in front of the reception area. All of them wore the
shock expression on their face. One particular woman, probably in her
fifties, was sobbing that someone she knew was there.

As I turned to see the picture on the TV screen, my first thought
was terrorism. May be I was conditioned that way after spending over
ten years in the UK, with the IRA threat hanging over the population
everyday.

We all thought that it could be an accident, and that it was
probably just a small plane. We all had so much confidence in the
firemen to put out the fire soon. But we knew different thirty minutes
later when we watched, live, the second plane hit the south tower. I
knew then that that day was going to be a turning point in human
history…

For the rest of the day (and week), I was glued to the TV and my
computer. Despite the lost of phone line and cell phone connection, my
DSL connection to the internet was working fine. Thus, email and
instant messaging became the de facto mode of communication for that
day and rest of the week.

That day, I knew New York City is my home. It doesn't matter that I
was born and raised in Hong Kong and that I spent my teenage years in
the UK. NYC is my home from that day forward.

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Tennis in Flashing Meadows

Ever since eiron and I went to our first ever US Open last year, we were hooked. So this year we went there again with our friends last Wednesday evening. This time we went to the game in the second week of the tournament so there were less matches for us to catch but higher quality (in my opinion at least). We caught the quarter-final of the women's single first (Sharapova vs. Golovin) and then the men's single (Roddick vs. Hewitt). Our seats were a little bit better than last year. We were at the very top of the stadium last year (second to the top row). This year, we were half way between the top and the third level.

The women match was not as exciting as we hoped. Sharapova was not at her top form and her forehand shots were wild at times. Though I have to say her serving technique was close to perfect. I wish I could serve like her! Unfortunately Golovin did not raise her game enough to win so Sharapova went on to win this year tournament.

As for the men's quarter-final, Roddick won the match in straight sets and again not very exciting. We all hoped that Hewitt would put up a good fight and took it to at least 4 sets match.

Nonetheless, Wednesday was very enjoyable and we noticed that the tournament was much better organized this year compared with last year. There are more choices for food (indian, sushi, and even crepe! Of course we had to try out the new food. We ended up having Baluchi's indian for dinner and then had crepes during the break between matches), more giant screens around the area for people to watch the game while taking a break, etc. American Express has much more freebies for card members this year. All card members received a free single ride Metro card. We all got two free cards, once on our way in and another on our way out. Then there was the free radio AMEX gives out so we could listen to the TV commentary live inside the stadium. It made the whole experience so much richer, since one of the major missing ingredient in going to a live match is commentary.

However, MTA still did not run extra trains when about 20,000 fans came out from the stadium at around 12:15AM. We've just missed the 12:06AM train and the next one was not due for another hour! We ended up getting a car back to the city and then subway home.

Then on the next day I got lucky. One of the guy I worked with had two tickets for Saturday day game and wasn't able to go due to family function. So eiron and I went to Flashing Meadows for the third times in as many weeks yesterday and watched two very exciting men's semi-final matches.

The weather turned out to be much hotter than we expected, with the sun beating down on us with only a slight breeze inside the stadium. Lots of water and cold drinks were consumed at the highly inflated prices, but what can you do. I hope some of the profits go back to the USTA or the Tennis Center so our money is not spent in vein.

The first match was Federer vs. Davydenko and the Russian put up a decent fight but ultimately was no match for the world's number 1. The second match was Roddick vs. Youzhny and was much closer fought. Twice they went to tie-break and each player won one. Roddick's big serve and forehand powered him through the match in the end.

We left the stadium around 6PM and after having been on the go for nearly nine hours, we decided not to go to a friends' party at 7PM. We did manage to grab some Chinese food on our way home to satisfy our hunger. The hot dog and chicken wings did not fill us up enough, despite the rather large amount of money I paid for them.

All in all, very enjoyable US Open and we will definitely go again next year. Hopefully we will be able to get even better seats next year. Perhaps on the second level!

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QotD: I Get Around

How many places have you lived in your life?

Country-wise, three. Born in Hong Kong, emigrated to Britain, and escaped to USA.

Location-wise, six. Born and raised in Hong Kong, finish school in Shropshire, got a degree and met eiron in Manchester, got first job in Wiltshire, escaped the countryside to London, found the place I want to work and live in New York.

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Believe in me

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I don't get insult/stress/windup easily. Mainly because I believe in that the insult only works if one believes in it. For example, if you were to call me stupid, why should I get angry at you? Is it because I am not stupid? To me, it is preciously because I know it is not true that I have no cause to get angry.

So whenever 'faithful'
people tell me that not believing in God will mean I will burn in hell,
my reply always is, "I don't believe in Hell, so why would it bother
me?"

Anyway, I don't wear my religious belief (or there lack of) on my sleeve.
As a science graduate, I obviously have no religion yearning but I have
no issue with other people's religions/believes. They can practice whatever belief system they want. But like a portion of the American population, I have been alarmed with the increasing swing to religion for answer in almost everything. The moderates sugarcoats it as 'faith' while the hardcore fundamentalists (i.e. evangelicals) just plain called it 'religion'.

But being an Atheist is not easy, even with thick skin like me. Newsweek has an article about being an Atheist in America isn't easy. Good read and it raises good point about both camps.

I found this to be particularly alarming:

In a recent NEWSWEEK Poll, Americans said they believed in God by a
margin of 92 to 6—only 2 percent answered "don't know"—and only 37
percent said they'd be willing to vote for an atheist for president.
(That's down from 49 percent in a 1999 Gallup poll—which also found
that more Americans would vote for a homosexual than an atheist.)

Best quote from the article:

"Tell a devout Christian … that frozen yogurt can make a man
invisible," Harris writes, "and he is likely to require as much
evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that
you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by
an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he
fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he
seems to require no evidence whatsoever."

Anyhow, if someone with 'faith' can answer these following questions (not the full list of course, just some that pop into my mind right now) without invoking the Almighty God, aliens from Andromeda, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then I'll even spend some of my brain time chunk it over.

  • Why do people need religion to explain (justify in my opinion) their action?
  • Why is moral teaching the sole domain of religion in this country (or any other predominantly Christian countries)?
  • Why does someone must believe in something/someone because otherwise that person would not ever be happy?
  • Why only people with 'faith' can do good?

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