I want to travel the world

Lately, I have been dreaming of selling all our stuff and jetting off to some exotic destination where we can experience a different lifestyle and grow closer as a family.  I know it sounds a bit naive and romanticized, but living abroad in Shanghai whet my appetite for this kind of lifestyle.

I want to be a nomadic family.  There, I’ve said it.

I have always wanted to travel, it’s a core part of who my am.  My biggest beef with life is that I can never decide what life to live because I want to live ALL THE LIVES. I wish I had 100 lives so I could be an artist in downtown NYC, a soccer mom nestled behind the white-picket fence, an actor on Broadway, a lonely National Geographic photographer, a busy book publishing exec in stilettos, and a warm psychologist with an inviting cream-toned office.

For me, travel is the answer to this dilemma. I can’t live 100 separate lives, but I can essentially live as many lives as I can find destinations.

Pre-China I was definitely living the young mother in LA suburbs life–I would go to mommy group play-dates, take the baby to the library and the park, eat at Chik-fil-A while my son enjoyed the play area, made DIY crafts, and made oh-so-many meal plans.

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At the park with Gavin

And then BAM, I find myself in Shanghai, living in a HUGE city (upwards of 24 million) for the first time in my life.  Suddenly I’m dressing chic as I hail a cab to meet up with a friend at a trendy cafe, dancing on the 87th floor of the Jin Mao Tower in the financial district, squeezing (and I mean squeezing) onto a subway during rush hour on my way to work, jetting down the insane chaotic street on my scooter to pick up my son from his international bilingual preschool.

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It was intoxicating.

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It was also hard and complicated.  Pollution was a big problem.  School had it’s challenges. My son missed out on some things–his language development slowed down as he tried to learn a second language (this is perfectly normal for bilingual children and their language skills are often more advanced later in life). He really missed his extended family. It was nearly impossible for us to sign him up for team sports like soccer. He literally had no idea what go-gurt, pirate’s booty, or pop tarts were, which I’m actually ok with, especially since his favorite foods were red bean paste steamed buns and xialongbao.

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There were many benefits as well. He was exposed to friends from all over the world, got a chance to see that not everyone is like us, and learned how to make friends on the fly.  He knew that the world didn’t revolve around him like it often does in this artificially kid-centric world. He became basically the easiest-going kid ever, learning that yeah, sometime you need to walk far when you are tired because we are still a few blocks from home.  We backpacked across Vietnam with him and brought literally two toys and did no “kid activities”–you know what? He was fine.  He was more than fine, he LOVED it!

So how do I balance the benefits of family, school, and kid-oriented activities with the desire to teach my son to be open-minded, flexible, and adventurous?

No seriously, I’m asking, what are your thoughts?

Here is the best I have come up with: summers abroad.

This is a compromise.  Its not what I really want: to be nomads living in different places, or be exapts living abroad on several-year assignments.  I loved being a part of an expat community, we were so tight-knit.  If you ever get the chance to live abroad, I would definitely take it! You’ll find that you will go, have this amazing life-changing experience, return home, and find that everything is mostly the same.  Or maybe Trump will be president and that would be a shock to the system, like what happened to us, but otherwise everything else was mostly the same.

I told Chet when we got married that I waned to have a decade abroad, like when we are 50 and the kids are all out of the house, we sell the house, quit our jobs, and live in 5 different places for two years each.  Enough time to feel established and really get a taste of what life is like in those places.  But you know what? I don’t want to wait until then!

Ok, so back to my compromise. The main thing holding me back is school, I just feel like Gavin is really flourishing in school right now, so much more than before.  I don’t trust that I could do as good of a job at home, though maybe I could if I really applied myself.  But for now, I don’t want to take school away from Gavin.

So I was thinking we could pick a different destination each summer, and live there for about two months, and return home for school, family, and the typical American childhood. If nothing else, it could be an educational bonding experience for our family, satisfy my travel craving, and be a test for life abroad, giving me a better idea before I dive in.  So yes, its a compromise and isn’t the ideal, but I recognize life is about compromises and I am not the only person whose needs need to be taken into account.

Have you or someone you know ever done something like this? How did you decide to take the plunge? How did you work it out with your/your spouse’s work? Where did you go or where would you go?

Article Mock-Up

I’ve been lucky enough to be participating in Grow with Google and Udacity’s Front-End Web Developer Scholarship.  I’ve been participating in a front-end web development course offered through Udacity and sponsored by Google with the hope of being selected to get a scholarship to take Udacity’s Front-End Web Development Nanodegree for free. This has been a huge opportunity for me and a great learning experience.

Here is a mock-up I made in HTML from a pdf image.  It’s my first mock-up so I wanted to mark the start and watch my skills progress.

Humans vs. Machines: An AI Odyssey

By Christopher Watkins

March 10, 2016

***Breaking News: AlphaGo has won the first two matches!*** In this, the third in our series on the epic Go matches being played between AlphaGo (Google’s Artificial Intelligence software) and Lee Se-Dol (Current Go World Champion), we look at the history of Humans vs. Machines, and the innovations that have led us to this incredible moment in time.

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For as long as humans have built things, we’ve wrestled with the implications of what we’ve built. In many cases, these philosophical and ethical wrestlings have made for great drama—think Frankenstein, or 2001: A Space Odyssey. Often, the hypothetical scenarios we envision come remarkably close to true, and the discoveries we’ve made in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning make clear that a “computer with a mind of its own” is going to take over the world not such a fantastic thing to imagine any longer.

The Triumph Of Deep Blue

Perhaps this is why we are so captivated by human vs. machine competitions, because the idea of being overcome by that which we’ve created speaks to something very deep within our collective consciousness. When IBM’s Deep Blue faced off against Garry Kasparov1, the event resulted in more than three billion impressions around the world, and when IBM’s later creation Watson challenged the champions on Jeopardy, millions of viewers were glued to the proceedings.

DeepMind’s AlphaGo

Taking place right now, there is an event that, while not likely to scale the same media heights, may in fact have far greater implications when it comes to the future of “intelligent” machines. On March 9, in Seoul, South Korea, a computing system know as AlphoGo (built by researchers at DeepMind—a Google Artificial Intelligence lab) began a five-game match against Lee Se-dol, one of the very best players in the world at the ancient game of Go.

Why is this so significant?

Here is how the DeepMind team explained it in their paper Mastering the Game of Go with Deep Neural Networks and Tree Search:

The game of Go has long been viewed as the most challenging of classic games for artificial intelligence due to its enormous search space and the difficulty of evaluating board positions and moves.

Put another way, winning at Go is a kind of Holy Grail for those who strive to create machines that can “think” on their own, because success at this uniquely complex game seems to require something more than just skill, knowledge, and experience. It requires intuition. Feel. Style. Characteristics we associate with humans, not with machines.


1 Garry Kasparov is a Russian chess Grandmaster and former World Chess Champion

Succulent Rehab

Turns out, I’m a bad plant momma. Even the sturdy succulent isn’t resilient enough to survive my combination of neglect and smothering to grow unscathed.

While many of the mysteries of keeping things alive, besides my kids, still elude me, I have discovered one key succulent mistake I was making. If you’ve ever wondered why your succulents are stretching out instead of looking like the cute little rosettes you naively left the nursery with, the answer is likely not enough sunlight.

Our last apartment was literally a cave, so needless to say my succulent babies did not thrive there. Within a few short weeks they started to stretch out and grow up, slowly leaning towards the only (yes only 😢) window in the living room. Soon they were so weak and stretched out they started drooping all the way to the table. It was sad.

Now we are in our new home that is filled with blessed SUNSHINE and it’s time to do a little succulent rehab.

You can’t unstretch succulents, but you can propagate new baby succulents from your existing collection. You can take leaves from your already stretched out plants and lay them out to propagate on their own. Simply pull the leaf off at the base and lay it out for about a week. Little roots will start to grow and a week or two after that, a tiny baby succulent will make its appearance. I do this all the time because I’m obsessed with baby succulents.

As for your existing plants, you can do two things. First, trim the plant a few inches from the base, preferably leaving a leaf or two, and a new bud will sprout and grow from there. My poor guys didn’t have any leaves towards the base, so I just trimmed it. You can see a new little bud sprouted in its own, so exciting!

With the cutting, trim the end about an inch or two down and lay it out. Once the end scabs over, you can simply plant it in the dirt and water generously. It should sprout roots and continue growing. With the left over stem, you can pull off the remaining leaves to sprout. I noticed one of the stems grew roots on its own, so I’m interested to see if I get any growth from the remaining stems.

There you have it, succulent rehab. I felt bad trimming my little guys, but it’s for their own good! I’ll update on the growth in a few weeks.

Feel free to shoot me any questions you have about the process or if you run into trouble, I can help trouble shoot!

January 2018

We rang in the New Year in Texas, basically lounging around in our pjs and recovering from the frenzy of the holidays. I normally hit the ground running January 1st, but this year I just needed some r&r time with family.

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I felt like in 2017 I created too many restrictions for myself, constantly uptight at my inability to live within all these arbitrarily created restrictions.  So this year I decided to let thing fly a little freer, and free they have flown.

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While in Texas we snuck out for a quick date at Rudy’s BBQ and Dave & Buster’s.  It was so nice to get out for a little fun, just us.

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While in San Antonio we hit up the Witte Museum, saw the Zoo lights, and just hung out with family.

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Back home I couldn’t look away from What the Health and decided to eat a more plant-based diet.  (Sorry, no movie convince me to give up cheese.) We are now quasi-vegan–I’ll share my plant-based eating philosphy soon in a future post.

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Gavin received the Citizenhip award at school.

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Once the weather warmed up, we hit the beach. And then we hit it again.

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What I didn’t do is set New Year’s Resolutions, for the first time in years, but I did start listening to The Life Coach School Podcast and it is rocking. my. world!

There you have it.

February, here we come!