9: Jen and Ben Tsai

My in-laws Jen (Chu-Jen) and Ben (Yi-Ben) Tsai moved to the US over 50 years ago to earn advanced degrees. They know my history and my mom but also have interesting life stories of their own to share, including the struggles and dangers of growing up in rural Taiwan and being the first in their immediate families to move to the US.

After a nine-year fight with lymphoma, my father-in-law died on January 31st, 2018. With deep respect and appreciation for my in-laws, I share this conversation I recorded in their dining room in July 2017.

Additional Notes:

Ben Tsai died of lymphoma. If you’d like to contribute to lymphoma research, please send a check to:

Stanford Cancer Center Clinic “C”
Attention: Dr. Ranjana Advani
875 Blake Wilbur Dr.
Palo Alto, CA 94305

We heard about flooding and earthquakes in Taiwan. By one measure, Taiwan leads the world in being at risk from natural disasters, with 73% of its population at risk of three or more types of natural disasters -- more than any other country. See Table 1.1 on page 4 of the World Bank article “Natural Disaster Hotspots: A Global Risk Analysis”, 2005.

My father-in-law helped instrument Taiwan with hundreds of seismic sensors. That network of sensors was completed in 1996, allowing Taiwan to collect a significant amount of data when the tragic Chi-Chi earthquake struck in 1999. The earthquake measured 7.6 on the Richter scale and, according to a FEMA article, “As a result, at least 2,400 people were killed, 8,700 were injured, 600,000 people were left homeless, and about 82,000 housing units were damaged by the earthquake and large aftershocks. Damage was estimated at US$14 billion according to this FEMA article on natural disasters in Taiwan.

Here's an early report after the Chi-Chi 1999 earthquake, including a summary of the seismic instrumentation program my father-in-law helped implement.   


Photo: My family with my in-laws on a hike in San Francisco.

Photo: My family with my in-laws on a hike in San Francisco.