My 2016 in Review

  • Published Date:
  • by
  • Category:

Well, I sucked at writing blog posts in 2016. I'm actually cheating now and back-dating this post by a day so there's an entry in 2016. I did think about writing a lot of posts since it was an interesting year. Here's a quick recap, as much for my future reference as anything else.

We started powerboating in earnest this year. Michelle and I were sailors before we had kids, but last year we tried cruising powerboats and really enjoyed it. We chartered again in February and decided we could even enjoy winter cruising, so in June we bit the bullet and bought a 47 foot Selene trawler. After some refitting and renaming her Tonic (her former name was Eric K), we cruised her up into Canada as far as Princess Louisa Inlet (really stunning). We spent most weekends aboard through the summer and fall and look forward to more cruising. Since we're only a few years from being empty nesters, we're also using this boat to see if we could realistically downsize and live aboard. Stay tuned on that front.

Tonic in Princess Louisa Inlet
Tonic in Princess Louisa Inlet

Andrew (19) scouting ahead as we cruise in Canada.
Andrew (19) scouting ahead as we cruise in Canada.


I also continued to race sailboats with my buddies this year aboard the J-24 Rajun' Cajun. We moved from racing in the Lake Washington J-24 fleet to the much less competitive (and more fun) Duck Dodge races in Lake Union. We've been racing together for so many years that we've lost count, but this was the first year I drove the boat for a few races (since our skipper Rico was out cruising on his new boat). We didn't do as well as usual, but it was fun and a good learning experience (except the part where I hit another boat, causing a bunch of damage to their outboard...)
Rajun Cajun sailing with sails backlit by the sun


Aside from boating, we had a quick trip in June to Chicago for my cousin Eric's wedding. It was a fun occasion and great to see family from all over the country in one place.

Me photobombing Eric and Melodie while Andrew (19) looks on. Michael (16) is on his phone, as usual.
Tony photobombing Eric and Melodie


Three generations of Chor boys and Michelle
Me, my dad, Andrew (19), my brother Ives, Michelle, and Michael (16)


Michael turned 16 this summer and got his drivers license. I'm not sure who is more nervous, Michelle and I or Michael (although he is a good driver). Oddly (at least to me), Andrew (19) never got his license. He's gotten back into rock climbing in a big way when he's not playing PC video games with his friends online or telling me everything is my fault.
Michael (16) focused on his driving


Andrew (19) finished his first year at Evergreen State College. He decided to take some time off, so he's working at a nearby ramen restaurant now. We also had our first drink together in Canada, where the drinking age is 19. It was fun to hang out in a pub near the marina we were in and shoot pool together.
Andrew (19) shooting pool


I started going to JabX Kickboxing, a nearby gym, in November of last year. I was a mess when I started; I couldn't even get through the ten minute warm-up. Here's me lying the on the ground after my first warm-up.
Me lying on the ground at JabX

Despite the inauspicious start, I kept it up all year, going most weekday mornings at 6:00am for the hour-long workout. I'm much stronger now. I also lost about twenty pounds and two inches off my pant size.

I got called to jury duty again, just a little over a year from my last time. This time I had a civil trial involving a slip-and-fall outside a local grocery store. Although the plaintiff was severely injured and was really sadly impacted by his injuries, we found in favor of the defendant. Despite the inconvenience of being on jury duty again, I thought it was interesting to see a civil case and contrast that with the criminal case from the year before.


On the work front, I completed my third year at Amazon. I continued to lead the Detail Page team (we make the shopping pages that have the information about each product like the picture, title, price, reviews, etc.) and added the Shopping Experience Platform team (we build the user interface framework and key API platform for Amazon's shopping experience as well as ensuring the site is great for customers with disabilities.) Despite whatever reputation Amazon has for being a bad place to work, I still really love it there. A big part of my team is in Bangalore, so I went there three times this year. On one trip, I ran into a bandh (protests), trapping us at the hotel for two days and forcing us to leave the office early one day. Fortunately, we had fun on other trips. I got to catch a performance at the Hard Rock Cafe by a local band, Agam, that two of my teammates were in. The Hard Rock staff apologized about the high cover price saying there was a "famous Indian band" playing; we told them we knew the band. They were skeptical until our friends came down to welcome us. It was cool to see the crowd all singing their songs. They're really good and worth checking out.



I also finally left the airport in Dubai and spent a little time exploring there with some of my colleagues. We checked out the Burj Khalifa, hung out with some friends from Beijing, shopped around the old areas of Dubai, and went dune bashing in the desert (where our 4x4 got stuck and had to be rescued). Here I am in the desert, waiting for help. The Facebook caption contest returned themes Dune, Star Wars, Lawrence of Arabia, lost golf balls, new Amazon offices, and how generally dumb I was to wear black into the desert.
Me standing in the desert with a black shirt on my head

Of course, I was most happy to find the "pork room" in the Burj Khalifa, a big deal in a Muslim country.
Pork room sign with Arabic writing

In the new year I'll be starting a new job in the same division, leading the new Shopping OS team. I'll keep the platform parts of my current team and add more platformy parts. We'll be building the next generation of Amazon's shopping application platform. It should be interesting, but I'll miss the detail page part of my team.


Personally, I learned to enjoy my life more. I stopped commenting on politics on Facebook. It was no fun and frankly kind of stressful to get into those kinds of discussions with friends, especially in such a contentious year. I was also reminded that our time on earth is precious. Two of my former teammates lost their spouses unexpectedly and a teammate on a partner team suddenly passed away. They were all younger than I am and were apparently healthy. We need to really enjoy every day.

Here's to enjoying every day of 2017!

A slow start -- but a start

As I committed to publicly on January 25, I ran the Magnuson Spring Series 5K last weekend. It was a cold and windy day (25+ knot winds -- lots of wind surfers out). Waiting around before the race was pretty uncomfortable, but fortunately the race wasn't super crowded so I was able to park close to the start (and wait in the car).

Once the race started, things felt better. The sun came out, and hills blocked the wind for part of the course. As usual, I started out too fast (even though I was trying not to). I was hurting by the end, but I managed to push out a 30:56 overall time. This was slower than my goal of 30 minutes, and slower than all of my previous 5K runs nine years ago, but I was happy to average just under 10 minute miles (9:59/mile). My splits were 9:29 (too fast!), 10:10, 10:12 and (on track for) 9:10 for the last .1 mile.

Being older definitely makes things harder, and to be frank, I didn't run nearly enough over the last two months to expect anything else. The friend who signed up with me bailed, so I wound up doing this alone. In the end that was probably better, so no one I knew saw the agony on my face.

According to the official results, I finished 56th overall out of 142 runners. Unfortunately, they didn't report results by age group.

All that aside, it was fun to test myself and motivational to have the goal of running the race. I need to figure out my next goal race now.

Magnuson Series sign with starting line and Lake Washington in the background


GPS track of Magnuson Park 5K

Getting off my fat ass. Again.

Long time readers (hi, Mom) know that I've done some long distance running and biking events over the past few years like the Mercer Island Half Marathon and the "Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party" bike ride. However, I fell off the wagon once we moved to China and never really picked it back up. More than ever, I need work out, so I've decided to use the same formula I did nine years ago - signing up for an event with friends and committing publicly to it. I seem to need a clear goal and some accountability to motivate me.

This time, I've signed up for the Magnuson Spring Series 5K on March 21. It should be a flat 5K (I ran there before); I mostly just need to get out and start running to get this one done.

Anyone else want to join me?

A Nice Hike Up Little Si

  • Published Date:
  • by
  • Category:

Since the weather was so nice today and since they spent most of the day playing video games and watching TV yesterday (for Michael's 11th bday), the boys and I got outside today and went for a hike on Little Si. This was the first time I'd been there, although Michelle had taken them there before.

Little Si is a nice hike about 25 minutes from our house. It's around five miles round trip from the trailhead with 1200 feet of elevation gain. Most of the hike is through the woods with some scrambling up rocks in sections. The views at the top are great. It took us about 1:15 up and :50 down. It was a popular hike today, so the parking lot was pretty full. Andrew (14) enjoyed it and wants to do more hiking; Michael (11) was inexplicably grumpy today (as you can see from the photo below).

Here's us at the summit (actually standing at the highest point:
Michael, Tony, and Andrew standing on the top of Little Si

You can see the breathtaking view here behind Andrew (this is looking SE, I think).
Andrew standing in front of a great mountain-and-valley vista.

RoadID - Don't Leave Home Without One

I've been meaning to blog about RoadID for a while. As longtime readers of this blog know (thanks to all four of you, especially my mom!), I run and bike on occasion. I have a long standing paranoia, though, of being found dead or injured on the side of the road, and first responders not knowing who I am or how to reach my family.

My RoadID

So, to address this concern, I always wear a RoadID (usually on my ankle because it's out of the way). These are bracelets with your emergency info engraved on them. They have a few different varieties (e.g. one that you can lace into your running shoes). I now have one for China and one for the US. They're inexpensive and well-made -- I whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone who runs or bikes.

(As a side note, when I'm on the road or vacationing, I usually slip a note with my name and hotel info into my pocket. It's not as durable, but it's better than nothing.)

RoadID logo

Rode from Seattle to Vancouver and Partied (A Little...)

Well, I did it. As promised, I did the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party (RSVP) last weekend with my friends Eric, Jason, Chris, Clint, Whitney, and Gregg. We had excellent ride support from Chris' wife Leslie and son Zack, Eric's girlfriend Sam, and our friends Kellie, Barbi, and Juli; they kept us well hydrated and fed the whole time.

The crew at the starting line: Chris, Clint, Whitney, Tony, Jason, Gregg, and Eric.

To be honest, I didn't feel great the first day. Even twenty miles into the ride, my legs were bothering me. We separated into two groups for most of the ride: the "varsity" fast riders (Whitney, Clint, Gregg, and Eric) and the "JV" slower riders (me, Jason, and Chris). After a hot, thirsty start, a long climb to Lake Stevens, and then a brutal push into a heavy wind in the Skagit Valley, I wanted to quit, wondering why I was doing it. I rested a bit in Bow and then pushed on for the final ten miles or so -- a big climb up Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham. This turned out to be a highlight of the first day -- a great view and not nearly as punishing as I had heard (certainly better than windy flats) plus I rode by my favorite oyster farm -- Taylor Shellfish. At the end of the 105 mile/7:20 riding time first day, Michelle and the kids met me in Bellingham where we stayed at the very lovely Chrysalis Inn and had a nice pasta (gotta get more carbs!) meal at D'Anna's. I slept very well indeed.

Jason and Tony on Chuckanut Drive.

RSVP Day 1 Route

I felt much stronger the next day for the next eighty miles. Jason and I caught a long line going through the countryside at a good pace for us with four pretty girls and a guy rotating the job of leading, so we just drafted along for the first twenty miles (drafting in a line cuts about 30% off your effort). We stopped in Lynden at the Dutch Bakery for a late breakfast. Jason has had a long, passionate affair with banana cream pies from this bakery. Apparently, they don't always have them so he ordered one ahead. We picked it up and bought another chocolate caramel pie, eating them both on the street in front of the store -- way better than Gatorade and Gu! (The whole crew at the pies, not just me and Jason...)

Jason and the amazing Dutch Bakery banana cream pie

Shortly after Lynden, we rode to the Canadian border. At one point we were separated from Canada by a little ditch; there was a road running on each side (the Canadian side looked like it had much nice roads) and telephone/power poles on each side with the lines facing into the appropriate country. Odd. We had a painless border crossing at Aldergrove and then proceeded on our ride.

US on the left, Canada on the right. Little ditch between the countries. 

About twenty-five miles into the ride (just after the border), while I was drafting behind Chris, I bumped up against his back tire and went down. Fortunately, no bikes or cars were behind me. I got unclipped from my pedals pretty well and managed to roll a bit, so the damage was contained to two skinned knees, a frayed glove, torn up bar tape, and a smashed rear flasher. This was the first time I had really crashed; I feel lucky it went down as well as it did and that I didn't take Chris down with me. I brushed off my bike and ego, and we continued on.

Tony, Jason, and Chris just after the border (photo courtesy Leslie).

As we rode, Chris' bike started acting up, dropping his chain and making a lot of noise. At a stop in Port Moody with about twenty miles left, a ride mechanic proclaimed Chris' bike dead and told him he was done. Jason and I rode on while Chris threw his bike onto his car and drove on. With the end near, Jason and I picked up the pace the powered along the Barnet Highway and into Vancouver. We climbed up and down through the residential neighborhoods in Burnaby (really? more hills?!) and then sprinted light-to-light in downtown Vancouver. Unfortunately, the finish line was a bit anti-climactic at the Coast Hotel; you sort of just pulled into the garage. The finish at STP was much nicer and more fun. Still it was great to finish. I felt really strong the whole second day. (I don't have accurate data for the second day, but I think the riding time was about 5:30 -- I forgot to turn my GPS back on for a little while.)

RSVP Day 2 Route

We had a nice group dinner at Glowbal Grill in Yaletown that evening -- lots of sangria and stories. I turned in after dinner to recoup and spend time with the family. The next day, I felt fine except for my knees which were bugging me after the crash (they're still giving me trouble as the skinned parts heal.)

RSVP was definitely a harder ride than STP despite being short; there's just tons more climbing. I liked that it was way less crowded (I think there were 1000 riders vs. the 10000 for STP); at times it felt like just another weekend ride with my friends (albeit a really, really long ride...).

I'm glad I did it. Time to find my next goal event...

(Check out Chris' account of the ride.)

Time to Ride

RSVP-08-sm Back on January 1st, I said I'd ride the RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party). Well, tomorrow morning at 6:30am, we take off. A bunch of us will be doing the 183 mile, two day ride together up there so it should be fun. I didn't ride nearly enough to prepare for this, but I think if I keep a good pace, I'll be alright. I am more concerned about the warm temperatures forecast - 85-90 degrees F (and maybe a little higher!) We'll have to drink a lot the whole way.

Anyway, much to do tonight before I leave, so I'll see you on the other side.

(P.S. Here's the route if you're interested. No, we're not riding up I-5.)

Not Off to a Good Start

As I mentioned earlier, I had hoped to ride my bicycle in the Chilly Hilly as part of my training for RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party). Well, it was today, but I didn't make it. I came down with a sinus infection and have been feverish, congested, and generally miserable for the past few days with no relief in sight. Too bad too -- it was a lovely day today -- not chilly at all. I did manage to get a few rides with friends; good to get an early start on the season. Once I recover, I'll need to get moving again. Oh well.

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2008! I'm not really one to make New Year's resolutions, but I have been thinking about things I want to do this year. Mostly, I have a list of things I've wanted to do for a while that I never quite got around to. Over the past few weeks, I took some steps to get going on these. Here are a few things I want to do and the steps I've taken. (Blogging about them will also help create a little public accountability.)

Spend more time with the boys
I think the kids and I do quite a bit together already, but I think these are the prime years I have with them where they're old enough (7 and 10) to really participate and still don't mind hanging out with dad, so I want to double-down on our time together.

The kids have been bugging me to go camping beyond our backyard for some time, so I thought I'd start there. I haven't ever really camped (OK, we went once when I was two), so I've been dragging my feet a bit, but I really want to try it as well. I looked into camp sites last summer, but it was almost impossible to reserve one at that late date, and I didn't want to chance driving somewhere and not having a site. So, this week, I reserved a choice site at Deception Pass State Park (close enough to home that we can bail out if it sucks) in June. I'm pretty excited and will probably book a few more dates just in case we love it.

Incidentally, the Washington State Parks reservation system is pretty good. They show you the individual sites with descriptions and ratings of quality and privacy, have photo(s) of the site, and make it easy to see what dates are available. Good use of our tax dollars.

Work out more
As I've chronicled on this blog, I've been up and down with my working out. I definitely do best when I have scheduled events I'm working toward, so this morning (the first day of sign-ups), I signed up for the RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party). It's a ride like the STP (Seattle-to-Portland) that I did two years ago. I tried to sign up last year, but I waited too long, and the ride sold out. I'll do the Chilly Hilly again in preparation too, but I'll probably skip STP. Good to have the goals on the calendar now. I may do another half marathon (probably Kirkland in May instead of Mercer Island in March).

Learn to play an instrument well
I took piano lessons on and off growing up (mostly off) but never really reached a level of reasonable competency. I've always wanted to play well, so I started piano lessons last month, taking the half hour before Andrew's lessons (can't skip my lesson without making him miss his). We also just had a little Yahama grand piano delivered yesterday. It's been fun playing again, and my instructor has me working on theory as well to better understand what's going on. This had added an interesting new dimension.

I thought about starting guitar instead (which I've also always wanted to play), but I'm much closer to competence on piano, so I figured that was wiser. (I also played clarinet for six years, but I don't have much interest in picking that up again. Not too many social opportunities for clarinet...)

Learn to speak another language to adult fluency
I grew up speaking Chinese at home, suffered through eleven years of Saturday morning Chinese school, took a year of Chinese in college. I also took four years of high school German (enough to get by as a tourist). However, I can't really do business or carry on adult conversations in either language. Since I'm closer to fluency in Chinese, I decided to build on that base. Although I'm basically illiterate in Chinese, I figured I'd start with my listening and vocabulary skills. I started listening to Chinese language podcasts. There are a few good ones, but my favorite so far is by a guy named Serge Melnyk (really). More on these later.

I have lots of other things I want to do, but I figured this is a good start. Hopefully, I can stick with these and build some good habits. What are your plans?