Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Migraine

Had a horrible migraine Monday night. Left work early and crawled straight into bed. Not sure if it was due to monthly hormonal changes, or the 10°C drop in temperature overnight. I slept for over 14 hours and I'm better now.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Baking

I've been baking a lot recently. Behold:


Chocolate Chip Cookies


Chocolate Cranberry Pecan No-Knead Bread (I subbed cranberries for the cherries)


Pumpkin Surprise Pie ("surprise" = cheesecake layer)


Lemon Polenta Cake


Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake


Pumpkin Pecan Pie


Banana Muffins

workout log

Friday 5 Dec
Body Balance class - 50 mins

Thursday 4 Dec
20 mins elliptical (~3.8km), Level 7; 1 hr strength (core) training with trainer

Wednesday 3 Dec
Body Balance class - 60 mins

Monday 1 Dec
Elliptical trainer - 67 mins on the elliptical, 7.8km, Level 7

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reflections on the election

A little late, but here are some beautifully written reactions to the election:
Judith Warner's Tears to Remember
and
Shuna F Lydon's Where Did My Hope Go When It Was Lost?
The lines that strike me the most are the ones that speak to the fervent wish that America is turning away from being the land of the greedy and rich, and where "patriotism" will not be confused with "bellicose provincialism."

Hope that the hope is not misplaced - he's normal, he's not radical (he's just like us!), he's smart, curious, and post-Boomer (he's just like a few of us!).

And finally, as a former corporate speechwriter (of admittedly bland ones full of corporate buzzwords), this article on Barack Obama's oratory is instructive.

Happy Thanksgiving all. There is much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

workout log

Credit my brother's team workout log. I need motivation, hence a public workout log.

Friday 28 Nov
30 minutes elliptical

Thursday 27 Nov
25mins elliptical, Level 7, stayed b/w 8-9kph. 1 hr weight training with trainer: 3×20 standing rows bending forward, 3×20 ab curl on a balance board and balance mat, 3×20 leg throw down (ab exercise), 3×20 outer thigh/hip swinging lift while on a stability ball, assisted stretching

Wednesday 26 Nov
Elliptical trainer - 10 mins, Level 7, averaged b/w 8-9kph
Body Balance (yoga-pilates-tai chi mix) class - 60 mins

Monday 24 Nov
Elliptical trainer - 30 mins, Level 7, tried to avg 9 km/h but fell to b/w 8-9 in the last 10 minutes while watching CNN but sweated a lot), 5 mins warmdown

mystery fruit hubby brought home...

...may be quince - excited!

See this picture.

Bush is a sneaky slimeball and Yellow Hat is incompetent

While listening to the Leonard Lopate podcast while driving, I've learned that President Bush has been really underhanded and slimy as he undermines environmental protections, including last-minute environmentally policy changes and opening public land for drilling in Utah (of which the announcement was made on Election Day).

I was further riled up when I went to Yellow Hat to get my brake pads changed. This is the second time I've already been this week; I went Sunday to get the pads changed along with my oil, only for them to tell me they didn't have the parts and would have to order them. Fair enough. Then, they ordered the wrong model. So now I have to go back a third time. Not a happy camper.

I thought I'd at least treat myself by going to the Grazie restaurant next door for their mentaiko pasta. Unfortunately, they must have changed the recipe because it wasn't as flavorful as usual - I think they skimped on the mentaiko - it didn't have the salty lushness that the dish is supposed to have.

The evening was not all lost - did go to Costco where they (as usual) pleased me with their efficiency - exchanged a tub of mixed nuts that had already (!) been opened. Gross! Some people have no morals. So shoppers - unscrew the tops and make sure the security shield is in place before putting it in your shopping cart!

Friday, November 14, 2008

First attempt at bread baking

With my lovely new-ish Emile Henry stoneware crock (purchased from Costco at about half the average online price) and a jar of active dry yeast found in the fridge, I thought I should finally try the famous No-Knead Bread that has made it's way around the baking blogosphere.

It came together well at first:


But then, perhaps precisely that the yeast has been in the fridge for an indeterminate amount of time, it never really rose much from this:


I baked it anyways, and it was ok. Much more successful was the lentil soup I made to go along with it. But I'm going to get some fresh yeast, and try again this weekend - this time the chocolate-cherry pecan version.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Our neighborhood goes Vegas

About a week or two ago, I was pleased to see a line of red lanterns snaking up the hill to the temple next to my home. "Great!" I thought to myself, "If anyone comes and visits, all they need to do is follow the lanterns."

Then, as I turned around the corner on my way home a week ago, I ran into this:


The local neighborhood temple had gone Vegas. We had flashing Christmas lights, colored landscape lighting, lit animal sculptures, and more. I'm not quite sure what the temple was celebrating, but after a week or so of a very colorful spectacle (including a two-day Chinese opera-looking performance in a temporary theater set up by the side of the road) and some firecrackers, they packed everything up yesterday.

It was fun while it lasted.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Woo!

Yay! One big step forward for the U.S. and the world!

Congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama!

And lastly, I was struck by this photo on the NYTimes website:



To me, it just sums up this election, with the multi-language voting sign and the long line of voters waiting. The caption was: Voters waited for as long as an hour and a half to cast their ballots at the Ronald Emonds Learning Center in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. The rest of the photo essay is worth looking at. The photographer was Robert Stolarik.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Return to the peak and beach

Went to the beach for the first time in a long time and boogie boarded. Thankfully, the water is not yet cold!



I've fully recovered from my second trek up Jade Mountain. I was definitely less fit this time around, which probably explains my small bout with altitude sickness. But, we had great weather, and the peak was so much more pleasant with windproof gear!



It's beautiful up there, but I think that will be my last time to the peak - been there, done that (and my knees will thank me).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

History: doomed to repeat itself?

I've been listening to the Leonard Lopate Show on podcast; a recent episode on the Panic of 1873 was absolutely fascinating. Professor Scott Reynolds Nelson of the College of William & Mary was the guest describing parallels between the current financial crisis with the Panic of 1873. It's completely compelling and alarming. Basically, the start of the crash happened in Europe due to rampant real estate speculation that occurred while their underlying economies were fundamentally unsound - "wheat exporters from Russia and Central Europe faced a new international competitor who drastically undersold them" - American farmers. The effects soon spread throughout the world and eventually caused American railroad companies to collapse. Financiers Marcus Goldman (founder of Goldman Sachs) and J.P. Morgan emerged as the winners of this period. Other parallels and lessons: poor economic conditions caused voters to turn against the Republican Party, and anti-semitism increased in Central and Eastern Europe, and anti-Jewish pogroms followed. (There's an article in Reuters today on ugly election incidents due to U.S. racism.) The New York Times has an article on Nelson's argument, along with some clips from their archive. I highly recommend listening to the podcast, at the very least, and then reading the articles for more color

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Back from Paris and London

I just got back from my holiday to London and Paris. A big thank you to Eve, Tom, Nicky, Caroline, Camil, and Candice for their hospitality - 'twas a lovely trip! Some thoughts:
  • We walked a lot - we averaged about 20,000 steps a day. Note that the health professionals recommend 10,000 steps a day, so we really went above and beyond.
  • Great weather in London, too chilly for my acclimated sub-tropical self in Paris. Gloves and a hat would've made my visit so much more pleasant.
  • Favorite London museum: National Portrait Gallery (thanks Tom, for taking us there!)
  • Pret a Manger is to London like 7-11 is to Taiwan. Unlike 7-11 in Taiwan, it is not open 24/7, you cannot buy everything from socks to piping hot fish balls on a stick, and you cannot pay your utility bills and send DHL packages. But they are all over the place. And they offer tasty food.


Wall of cheese at Neal's Yard Dairy. Borough Market was great, but incredibly crowded on Saturdays. No offense to the Brits, but I didn't take to the meat pies. I did like the cheddar's at Neal's Yard Dairy (there was a really fabulous floral one, the Isle of Mull?).



I prefer the macarons at Pierre Hermé (pictured above) to Ladureé's. If you are a filling person, go to Ladureé, but the appeal of the macaron is the texture of the cookie. We had an amazing passionfruit and chocolate macaron at Pierre Hermé.



Amazing yogurt and peach gelato at Pozetto. Neil had nocciola (hazelnut) and fior di latte (literally, milk's flower - pure fresh milk) - also very good:




Fresh figs!



We spent much more than budgeted at Denise Acabo's chocolaterie. She is a hoot - very engaging and an excellent salewoman.

More impressions later.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Twitter-like posting

Getting over a head cold.

Relieved the weather has finally cooled; ~35C (~95F) high humidity is brutal.

Unbelievable that Lynn Spears (Britney's mom) was castigated when Jamie Lynn's unplanned pregnancy was announced (bad example for our children! delay Mama Spears book deal!) , but Sarah Palin and daughter Bristol are praised ("it's not that big of a deal, stuff happens") - hypocrisy?

getting longer...

Quote from Peggy Noonan (Ronald Reagan's main speechwriter):
I'll tell you how powerful Mrs. Palin already is: she reignited the culture wars just by showing up. She scrambled the battle lines, too. The crustiest old Republican men are shouting "Sexism!" when she's slammed. Pro-woman Democrats are saying she must be a bad mother to be all ambitious with kids in the house. Great respect goes to Barack Obama not only for saying criticism of candidates' children is out of bounds in political campaigns, but for making it personal, and therefore believable. "My mother had me when she was eighteen…" That was the lovely sound of class in American politics.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Boo to Hasbro!

The one Scrabulous game in which I am finally doing well against my brother (I'm not getting my butt kicked by a 50 point spread! I'm actually ahead!), and Hasbro decides to sue the founders of Scrabulous. Of course, Hasbro's authorized online Scrabble version isn't open to users outside of the U.S. and Canada. Get with the program people! It's the age of the Internet, which crosses borders. The whole point of an Internet game is to be able to play with people that you can't play with in person! Grrrr... How am I going to get my Scrabble on?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Diabetes: Underrated, Insidious and Deadly

The New York Times recently published an article on diabetes. The article mentions:
...diabetes is anything but minor. It wreaks havoc on the entire body, affecting everything from hearing and vision to sexual function, mental health and sleep. It is the leading cause of blindness, amputations and kidney failure, and it can triple the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Last night I went to visit my aunt in the ICU of a hospital far from their home. She and my uncle were on the way to the airport to pick up their son when she collapsed, and she has been unconscious ever since. I'm praying that she gets better; it's really difficult to see her there, and my uncle, who is alone by her side.

My aunt has diabetes. Although she is nominally diagnosed with a lung infection, I have no doubt that her condition is related to her diabetes. Please take care of your health; the gift of human life that is given to not just you, but that is shared with your family and friends as well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Windows Live+Vista = Mac copy

Nothing new to the technophiles, but as I recently installed Windows Live Messenger on my work computer, the installer asked if I wanted to install other features. I hadn't heard of these, so I looked them up:

Windows Live Mail = Mac Mail.app (which has been around for years, with the same functionality)
Windows Live Photo Gallery = Mac iPhoto app
Windows Live Spaces = The service formerly known as .Mac, and now (I think) MobileMe, also Yahoo 360 (is that still around?)
Tabbed browsing in IE = Firefox...that's so ~4 years ago

So, not so innovative. At least now I know what all the names mean.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

essential online reading/current obsessions

Everyday when I get online at home, I read these websites in the following order: The Page by Mark Halperin at TIME (one page summary of what's going on in the election; the Google News page can get too distracting with all the links), McCainBlogette by Meghan McCain (great behind-the-scenes look of life on the campaign trail; while I disagree with McCain's policy views, I respect him and wife Cindy McCain (should she get most of the credit?) for raising such an articulate and gregarious daughter), and finally, Pink Is The New Blog (to feed by celebrity gossip obsession). I used to read Pop Sugar, but I find the one page format of Pink to take less time.

Lately, I've also been following the Sirius' Whatever Radio show blog. Jennifer seems to be really sweet and positive, and Alexis (Martha's daughter) seems to be a baking and household neat freak like her mom. I like that. I can be a neat freak, too. Actually, I aspire to be as organized and aesthetically talented as Alexis, but unfortunately I'm not.

I also like that although she is wealthy, she does her own housework. I find housework therapeutic, too. Neil thinks my housework as therapy is strange - last week when we were watching Prison Break, whenever I thought a scene was getting too intense or suspenseful, I'd run to the kitchen to wash a dish or organize a drawer to calm down. And then, of course, ask him, "what just happened?"

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What do Muslims really think?

Interesting article in the CS Monitor on what Muslims really think, from a Gallup poll.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Warren Buffet said it, not me...

At a press conference this past Monday, Warren Buffet said
"I think that the US has followed and is following policies which will cause the US dollar to weaken over a long period of time," he said.

After voicing support for Obama, Buffett nonetheless noted the US economy had managed to do "awfully well" despite a depression, two world wars and many financial crises.

"They say in the stock market ... buy stock in a business that's so good that an idiot can run it because sooner or later one will," he added.

"Well, the United States is a little like that. We can take a little mis-management from time to time," Buffett said.
In other news, when I haven't been obsessively following the U.S. presidential election, I've been obsessively reading foodie blogs and baking cupcakes. Is this recipe better or that one better? What has the blogosphere had to say about one recipe or the other, if at all?

I made chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting (almost vegan except for the butter in the frosting) and last night I made yellow cupcakes, which I plan to frost with a tub of Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate frosting which Mike gave to me and I need to use up. Pictures to follow...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

NYTimes: Who Will Tell The People?

I read this op-ed in the New York Times and was compelled to share. Click on the title above to read the full article; highlights are below:

Our president’s latest energy initiative was to go to Saudi Arabia and beg King Abdullah to give us a little relief on gasoline prices. I guess there was some justice in that. When you, the president, after 9/11, tell the country to go shopping instead of buckling down to break our addiction to oil, it ends with you, the president, shopping the world for discount gasoline.

We are not as powerful as we used to be because over the past three decades, the Asian values of our parents’ generation — work hard, study, save, invest, live within your means — have given way to subprime values: “You can have the American dream — a house — with no money down and no payments for two years.”


I'm worried that the youth today—not just in America, but in Taiwan as well (and quite possible the world over)mdash;get the wrong message. Buy the bag, the shoes, live the celebrity lifestyle - but how is that possible with average salaries?

If all Americans could compare Berlin’s luxurious central train station today with the grimy, decrepit Penn Station in New York City, they would swear we were the ones who lost World War II.

How could this be? We are a great power. How could we be borrowing money from Singapore? Maybe it’s because Singapore is investing billions of dollars, from its own savings, into infrastructure and scientific research to attract the world’s best talent — including Americans.

Nothing like a little travel to give you an idea of how we're keeping up with the Joneses. Thailand's new airport in Bangkok is great, far nicer than LAX, and it's a developing country.

Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, just told a Senate hearing that...“China, India, Singapore ... have adopted biomedical research and the building of biotechnology clusters as national goals. Suddenly, those who train in America have significant options elsewhere.”


America is still a truly wonderful place to get an advanced education. I believe American universities are at the top of their league. In fact, a lot of America's growth can probably be contributed to those who trained in American and chose to stay. But if they have options elsewhere...?

Much nonsense has been written about how Hillary Clinton is “toughening up” Barack Obama so he’ll be tough enough to withstand Republican attacks. Sorry, we don’t need a president who is tough enough to withstand the lies of his opponents. We need a president who is tough enough to tell the truth to the American people. Any one of the candidates can answer the Red Phone at 3 a.m. in the White House bedroom. I’m voting for the one who can talk straight to the American people on national TV — at 8 p.m. — from the White House East Room.

Who will tell the people? We are not who we think we are. We are living on borrowed time and borrowed dimes. We still have all the potential for greatness, but only if we get back to work on our country.

I don’t know if Barack Obama can lead that, but the notion that the idealism he has inspired in so many young people doesn’t matter is dead wrong.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mist in the midst of hills

You know those classical Chinese paintings where there are layers of discrete clouds in the midst of hills? This morning when I got up to take my shower, the view outside the window was just that. Very pretty. Unfortunately, by the time I got dressed and got my camera, the mist had already rolled in. But it was a great way to start the day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Organic vegan chocolate chip cookies

Last night I came home late for work and really wanted to bake, but not put in a lot of effort. I had a Goodbaker mix that I've been wanting to try, so that's what I used. It was really simple - empty the bag, add a little oil and water, mix, and scoop out.

The organic vegan chocolate chip cookies were really good!


They did taste healthy, in a really good way. There was good texture, depth of flavor, and enough salt to contrast against the sweetness. I'd definitely get them again.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On Hillary and Barack

Last summer I was torn. I'd read Barack Obama's book, Dreams from My Father, and found him to be a compelling politician. One of the most compelling and inspiring politicians, in fact. Especially when most politicians say the same old circular nothings, he actually had something interesting to say.

On the other hand, I respected Hillary's tenacity and hard work. As a feminist, the thought of the U.S.'s first female president was particularly appealing. And she seemed to have the upper-hand - she was consistently ranking higher in the polls, by about 20 points, if I remember correctly.

So both candidates were appealing. I was torn over who to support.

After witnessing the primaries so far, I have definitely become a Barack Obama fan. Say what you will about his experience, but running a primary campaign ought to reveal a lot about a politician's managerial skills, and he has certainly run a better campaign. He's come back from behind last summer to the leader in pledged delegates by building strong grassroots organizations.

As reported by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, the Clinton campaign didn't have a Plan B, they thought they would have the nomination wrapped up by February 5.

Last week she told reporters that she “had no idea” that the Texas primary system was “so bizarre” (it’s a primary-caucus hybrid), adding that she had “people trying to understand it as we speak.”

Hello? Aren't you supposed to know these things when you run for office?

Another New York Times article quotes her senior adviser, Harold Ickes, as saying:

“It’s hard to draw conclusions about her management style because she is, in fact, not the manager of her campaign.”

Um...but you're the candidate. You ought to have some management of your own campaign. The Washington Post has an article on the incredible dissent within the Clinton team.

In contrast (and this is a different, marketing-based perspective) - Obama has a "coherent, top-to-bottom, 360-degree [branding] system at work." Newsweek quotes graphic designer Michael Bierut as saying:

The thing that sort of flabbergasts me as a professional graphic designer is that, somewhere along the way, they decided that all their graphics would basically be done in the same typeface, which is this typeface called Gotham. If you look at one of his rallies, every single non-handmade sign is in that font. Every single one of them. And they're all perfectly spaced and perfectly arranged. Trust me. I've done graphics for events --and I know what it takes to have rally after rally without someone saying, "Oh, we ran out of signs, let's do a batch in Arial." It just doesn't seem to happen. There's an absolute level of control that I have trouble achieving with my corporate clients.

I've done corporate communications. I know how hard it is to stick to the branding. There's management skill there.

Finally, Hillary's behind. For her so-called wins last week in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island, she and Barack are where they were before those elections. If you do the math, it's highly unlikely that she's going to get enough delegates to win the nomination before the Democratic convention.

Again, it's her fault. As reported by the Rolling Stone, the Obama campaign decided to invest in states like Idaho. Clinton apparently didn't have one staffer, there. As a result,

Obama won with eighty percent of the vote, netting fifteen of the state's eighteen delegates. While Clinton was spending lavishly to win New Jersey with 600,000 votes, Obama more than offset his delegate loss there simply by mobilizing 17,000 Idahoans to caucus for him.

Again, there's another example of vision, strategy, and management.

Overall, he's run a better campaign. He's been able to last in the race as long as he's had, and be ahead in the delegate counts, because he had the foresight to have multiple plans for varying situations, monitor and use his resources carefully, and be strategic. Don't you want to have that kind of person be the President of the United States?

On a final note, here's two more interesting articles. One, marketer Seth Godin's perspective on sunk costs and quitting, and two, David Sirota's analysis of Clinton's "electability" argument.

Biofuels not as clean as it may seem

The New York Times ran an article yesterday on pollutants from the production of biofuel, the latest in a reminder that corn and soybeans may not be the answer to our fuel consumption. I've also read that because of increasing demand for corn-based ethanol, the price of corn (and thus, tortillas) - staples of the Mexican diet - have increased drastically, making it harder for ordinary people to afford their traditional groceries.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

La Dolce Vita

It's almost February, and we leave for Sri Lanka on Friday for an early start to the Lunar New Year holiday. Meanwhile, here is a photo of Malapascua, a small island off of Cebu in the Philippines, where we spent the western New Year's.



While there, we ate at the best restaurant on the island, La Dolce Vita. We were so busy enjoying the food, I forgot to take photos. Thankfully, this blogger did.