Chùa Điều Ngự (Dieu Ngu Temple)

Last week­end, I had plans to go on an Atlas Obscura tour, but then my par­ents decided they would be com­ing down for a sur­prise visit. My mother’s local Bud­dhist tem­ple told her that the Dalai Lama was com­ing to West­min­ster to speak at the grand open­ing of a new Viet­namese Bud­dhist tem­ple, Chùa Điều Ngự. I wanted to play with wolves, but see­ing the Dalai Lama was an oppor­tu­nity of a life­time! Plus, you know… spend­ing time with my par­ents over Father’s Day week­end.

Dalai Lama


My par­ents picked up Dong Ha and Gam­bit on Fri­day and drove down, meet­ing up with me as I got off work. We met up with my aunt’s fam­ily for din­ner at Mirada Restau­rant in Foun­tain Val­ley. My aunt told us that it is appar­ently Thai-owned and His­panic-staffed, but well known for their Viet­namese food, par­tic­u­larly the canh chua (sour soup) and cá kho (braised fish). My cousin, though, told us the most impres­sive thing about this place was that the His­panic waitstaff’s Viet­namese was bet­ter than hers. Since we were already in the area, we swung by the tem­ple after din­ner to pick up our tick­ets. This is when I learned it was a two-day event, not just Sat­ur­day. I sat in the car since we parked in a tem­po­rary no-park­ing zone, but my par­ents got a brief tour of the tem­ple.


The gates were sup­posed to open at 8 and ser­vices begin at 9. Since it was a bit of a drive from my place to the tem­ple, we left at 6, parked at the nearby mall, and caught a shut­tle to the tem­ple. We got to the mall to find a huge line wait­ing for the shut­tle, and stood in that park­ing lot for almost an hour. Then the shut­tle took us within a block of the tem­ple (the roads imme­di­ately sur­round­ing the tem­ple were closed for secu­rity) and dropped us off into a new line to wait to be let into the gates. This line moved slowly at first, but sud­denly picked up a great deal of speed. Then peo­ple walked back and told us the grounds were com­pletely full and closed to addi­tional vis­i­tors. We went for­ward a lit­tle fur­ther until this was con­firmed by West­min­ster police offi­cers work­ing secu­rity.

It turns out the West­min­ster fire depart­ment had set a limit of 1,500 atten­dees for safety and secu­rity rea­sons, and the City had required the tem­ple to print tick­ets accord­ingly. The tem­ple, though, worked like a club pro­moter and printed much more than 1,500 tick­ets. And the morn­ing of, they started let­ting peo­ple in early (at 7:30 instead of 8) and not even check­ing for tick­ets, so any­one who showed up could get in. So frus­trat­ing!

It all worked out, though. We ended up spend­ing the day with extended fam­ily that we do not get to see every often, includ­ing an aunt vis­it­ing from Viet Nam.


We revised our game­plan for the sec­ond day of the Dalai Lama’s visit. First, we slept at my aunt’s house, which was slightly closer, to save a bit of time. Then, we dropped our par­ents and aunt as close as pos­si­ble to the tem­ple and Dong Ha and I parked as close as we could and walked back to join them in line. By start­ing ear­lier and skip­ping the shut­tle line, my fam­ily was able to make it into the tem­ple this time. As we went by the secu­rity check­points, the police offi­cers on duty men­tioned that Sun­day was going much more smoothly than Sat­ur­day did.

Once we got in, the logis­tics were amaz­ing. There were jum­botrons to help the crowds see and hear what was going on. Vol­un­teers went through the crowds and up and down the bleach­ers giv­ing out free sand­wiches and pas­tries, water bot­tles, desserts, fans, and even sun­screen! A lady next to us in the bleach­ers told us that they turned her away from the gate on Sat­ur­day morn­ing but she stuck around and was able to get into the after­noon ses­sion. I guess we could have seen the Dalai Lama on both days if we had stuck around, too.

The morn­ing started off with a lot of pomp and cir­cum­stance. Announc­ers spoke in both Viet­namese and Eng­lish, and they rat­tled off every local dig­ni­tary and named every monk and nun who appeared. Then the Dalai Lama came up to the stage and the local dig­ni­taries took turns offer­ing him praise and com­mem­o­ra­tive plaques.

After all that was out of the way, it was time for the Dalai Lama to give his keynote speech, which focused on increas­ing youth involve­ment. He started by say­ing he has been to many new tem­ple open­ings, and he always tells them, this is a beau­ti­ful tem­ple that will last for 1,000 years. But if you do not involve the youth, it will be empty long before then. His solu­tion was to focus on tem­ples as learn­ing cen­ters, both for younger and older gen­er­a­tions. He said he that he him­self is still learn­ing daily, and no one can rest on their lau­rels. Actively learn­ing was the best way to get youths inter­ested in learn­ing as well.

After that was a short Q & A ses­sion for addi­tional dig­ni­taries and then a lunch break. All atten­dees were offered rice plates. The after­noon ses­sion was a big Q & A ses­sion for youth mem­bers of the audi­ence. We heard from a friend of my mother’s that after the after­noon ses­sion con­cluded, the Dalai Lama was doing a more inti­mate ses­sion at a nearby Tibetan tem­ple, but my par­ents wanted to get ready to drive back so they would not get home too late.

All in all, it was a great week­end. I got to see a bunch of fam­ily, ate some great Viet food, and I can now say that I saw the Dalai Lama speak in per­son! (One of the ques­tions asked was about the rumors that His Holi­ness the 14th Dalai Lama might choose not to rein­car­nate, mak­ing him the final Dalai Lama. He did not give a def­i­nite answer if he was going through with that or not, but he did say that he felt the Lama tra­di­tion is sim­i­lar to the feu­dal tra­di­tion and has per­haps become out­dated. If you get a oppor­tu­nity to see him speak, I highly rec­om­mend you take advan­tage, as there may not be many chances left!)

In And Of Itself

Before the Magic Cas­tle tour started, I told Siegfried that I saw Bor­rowed Time on his sug­ges­tion and loved it. He told me that Helder used to do an amaz­ing show called Noth­ing to Hide with a part­ner, Derek Del­Gau­dio. They had been doing the act at the Magic Cas­tle for a while, but Neil Patrick Har­ris thought it was so great it needed a big­ger audi­ence, so he set them up with a run at the Gef­fen Play­house. That became such a hit, they even took it to New York for off-Broad­way per­for­mances. Sadly, the show has ended, but Derek Del­Gau­dio is now doing a solo show back at the Gef­fen called In & Of Itself.

In & Of Itself at Geffen Playhouse

And Frank Oz is the direc­tor? Say no more, say no more! I looked up tick­ets as soon as I got home that night. The crit­ics’ reviews are off the charts!

It’s hard to imag­ine any evening at the the­ater being more per­sonal, more mov­ing, or more mag­i­cal.” – Los Ange­les mag­a­zine

Derek has cre­ated the best magic show I’ve ever seen and that might be damn­ing with faint praise. It’s Mar­cel Duchamp and Andy Kauf­man if they could do per­fect bot­tom deals.” — Penn Jil­lette

I got to the Gef­fen a bit early and got a drink in the lobby. Unfor­tu­nately, they told me that I could not bring food or drink into the the­ater, so I had to down my beer. Between the lobby and the the­ater was a small room with a peg­board hold­ing lots of lit­tle tags, each one printed with a dif­fer­ent “I am…” state­ment. The staff asked us to each pick one before we went in. I was sad to find that there was no “I am Bat­man!” tag, so I had to make do:

I am ... a Hero

Then I shuf­fled into the the­ater and the usher took the bot­tom half of my tag as he showed me my seat. The stage was set very min­i­mally, but your eyes are drawn to the six win­dows in the back wall, mir­ror­ing the six-bul­let revolver from the show poster.

In& Of Itself stage

The show is still on-going, so I will not give away any­thing that hap­pens. I will tell you, though, that the crit­ics were right. The tricks were amaz­ing, but more than that, the story was mov­ing and it all tied together really well. I did not see the ele­phant or find the brick. Hope­fully you will see the show for your­self and do bet­ter than I did.

May 2016 Training Update

As May 2016 comes to an end, time for a quick update on my train­ing progress. I antic­i­pate that most of my train­ing posts will be one-offs or a short series as I develop new skills, but body train­ing (i.e., diet and exer­cise) will be indef­i­nitely ongo­ing with roughly monthly updates.

Body 2 May 30 May Diff
Weight 210.8 220.0 +9.2 (4.4%)
Body­fat 29.3% 31.1% +1.8% (6.1%)
Waist 43 18 44 58 +1 12 (3.5%)
BMI 34.0 35.5 +1.5 (4.4%)

As you can see, this month was not good for me. Partly due to a stretch of veg­e­tar­i­an­ism I did for reli­gious rea­sons which led to eat­ing more carbs. Partly because of more travel back up to Nor­Cal and also Nor­Cal folks com­ing down to visit me and the “vaca­tion” eat­ing that spurred.

But really, it was on me for fail­ing on more of a daily level. Being lazy and eat­ing out instead of cook­ing healthy for myself and not track­ing my intake in my calo­rie counter app.

My goal for June is to not eat out any week­night.

And as for the expen­di­ture side of things, here are my lift­ing num­bers.

Lift April 1RM May 1RM Diff
Bench Press 212 219 +7 (3.3%)
Dead­lift 273 284 +11 (4.0%)
Over­head Press 143 148 +5 (3.5%)
Back Squat 184 191 +7 (3.8%)
Wilks 477.21 484.27 +7.06 (1.5%)

As you can see from this table, I am still on Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 pro­gram. While I did have some gains, my “body” num­bers above sug­gest that I need to do more. Since mov­ing to LA, I have only been going the main lifts, but my goal for June is to rein­cor­po­rate the “Big But Bor­ing” acces­sory lifts and find a way to add car­dio back into my régime.

220 is the heav­i­est I have ever been since I start­ing track­ing my weight five years ago, and it offi­cially puts me into the 35+ BMI “Class II Obese” range. Hope­fully, the changes I plan for June help me get back down and I can say that I will never again be this heavy.