Farewell HuaFeng Xu

27 May 2005 // places

One of my colleagues in the lab is leaving and I am sad. Huafeng Xu (HFX) a.k.a. Chinese Blade a.k.a. Eye of the Blade a.k.a. the Jewish-Asian magician David McKowski has decided to bid farewell to academic science on the West Coast for the pulsating glories of commerical research on the East Coast.

Oh, and his future-wife-to-be is also waiting for him there as well.

HFX, I am afraid to say, is a die-hard romantic. This was not evident at first, but he left clues. I stumbled on the first clue in, of all places, his PhD thesis. Normally, a thesis is a grindingly boring piece of prose that budding scientists are required to do. It is no joy to write. The only real emotion in a thesis is normally found in the preface/acknowledgements - I vented a few of my frustations in a page long diatribe. Not HFX. His preface was a five-page effusive outpouring of scientific romance,

"...my mental image of a theoretical chemist was a solitary figure walking down the Long Island Beach with his advisor. They would exchange a few words now and then, or squat to write some esoteric mathematical equations on the sand with their fingers. Theoretical chemistry seemed too romantic to be for me..."

Reminds me of the story about the Christian walking along the beach. Looking back, he sees that for most of the journey, there are two sets of footprints faintly impressed upon the sand - his and the Lord's. But then the Christian notices that occasionally there was only one set of prints. "Why," he asked the Lord, "did you abandon me?" "No, my son," replied the Lord, "when there was only one set of footprints, it was I who was carrying you." Think of that story as an allegory for the many conversations that I had with HFX in our journey to the truth. Sometimes only one of us would be right, then there would only be one set of footprints in the sand, as one of us would carry the weight of the error of the other. Man, does HFX like to talk. We talked about everything, the meaning of life, love under communism, the future of business in a melt-down world, chinese poetry, ethical dilemnas involving members of one's own family, the meaning of the second order pertubation expansion in the Schrodinger equation, the symbolic order behind a glass of wine in Sideways. But his is always a generous and expansive conversation, and more-often-than-not, funny as hell.

HFX has the face of an innocent child but the heart of a prankster. One of our favourite activites would be to draw cartoons in the middle of a seminar with a visiting professor and try to make the other crack up. We would write pseudo officious pronoucements that would be irresistibly funny to us but (apparently) not to anyone else. But over the last year, I saw HFX flex his writing muscles, transmorgifying his writing into something substantial. HFX reinvented himself as the blogger chineseblade, a trenchant social critic and a witty commentator of the world around him.

Talk about flexing muscles, I cannot fail to mention the time that a bunch of us, staying late at night on a Friday, decided to do a fashion parade down the catwalk of our work cubicles. One by one, we would play a song on Banu's laptop, and slither down our imaginary catwalk, strutting our stuff. When it was HFX's turn, he disappeared for a good 5 minutes before appearing in King's oversized leather jacket. He glided down the catwalk like a panther, and when he reached the end, with a well-practised motion, he whipped off the jacket to reveal his naked torso.

Many a dull afternoon at work was enlivened by an impromptu card trick from HFX. The tricks got better and better such that one night, we organized a private show. Of course, a magician cannot use his everyday persona, he must draw something from the world of fanatasy, and so the persona of David McKowski, a chinese-jew was born - son of a hasidic master of magic, refugee from Nazi Germany, who forms an illicit relationship with a simple chinese peasant girl. Growing up, Mckowski discovers his mystical roots, and learns to manipulate cards, eventually fulfiling his destiny as a Magician.

And so, I end this post, my farewell gift to you, HFX. Adieu.