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Sunday, April 30, 2006

California, Here I Come... 

Monday, May 1, 2006. 3:00pm

We're back at Narita Airport - in the NWA lounge.

It's 3:00pm on a Monday here.
Our flight leaves at 4:00pm.

Thanks to the International Dateline, we're scheduled to arrive at SFO on Monday, May 1st at 9:15am.

That means that we'll be arriving before we leave!

If you think about that too long or hard, it'll make your head hurt :)

We had such a great trip, but it's time to go home.
That's one of my favorite things about living in San Francisco: I'm always happy to be home again.

See you on the other side.

Our last day in Tokyo 

Sunday, April 30, 2006. 4:40pm

Today is our last full day in Tokyo. We leave tomorrow morning to head back home.

We spent the entire day in Harajuku which is an area that is known for shopping, and the outlandish outfits that the local teenagers wear.

We walked around Omotesando-dori, which is the Toyko equivalent to the Champs Elysees. There are several blocks of high-end name brand stores. We eventually found ourselves on Takeshita-dori which we both found much more interesting. This seems to be the street that the young locals shop in - lots of small shops for inexpensive clothing, music and fastfood. (the crepes looked especially yummy!)

We ate at a little fast-food italian restaurant (which are apparently quite popular here) and sat in a window seat. We sat directly across from a store named All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling which cracked us up. From the looks of the window display, they sell a lot of goth/harajuku clothes for teens.

All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling

I had to drop into Snoopy Town to find some goodies for my sister. I never did find any Raggedy Ann merchandise here in Japan, but Snoopy was a good alternative. The store was filled with fun goodies.

Snoopy Town

We finally made our way around to the section of the neighborhood where the harajuku teens hang out. We saw some great outfits - it didn't disappoint. I was surprised to see how many "goth" outfits we saw. I haven't seen so much black outfits and black-eyeliner since being in art school.

Harajuku Girls

We also stopped to watch a local band playing on the street. Their name was Jet Robot. We really enjoyed their music, and bought a CD. :)

Jet Robot

After making our way away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds, we walked through a gorgeous wooded area to the Meiji Jinhu Shrine and gardens. The gardens were really beautiful. Unfortunately, we were about a month early. The iris bulbs are sprouting and I can imagine how gorgeous this area will be when the irises are fully bloomed. The shrine itself was very beautiful.

Dick standing in front of the gate leading to the shrine

We came back to the hotel in the late afternoon to take a break before going out to dinner tonight. We've been doing a lot of walking over the past 3 days, and are feet are pretty tired. We're looking forward to relaxing with a nice sushi dinner tonight.


Dick and our platter of sushi
We had a very good sushi dinner tonight at a local sushi restaurant that our concierge recommended. Very good maguro this time around - we were not disappointed!

The Park Hyatt Bar

We came back to our hotel and decided to have a drink in the bar. It's such an amazing view of the city from up here. As Dick explained, it looks like a scene out of Blade Runner. All of the buildings in the area are tall towers with red blinking lights at the top. Dick ordered a martini, and I had a yummy herbal tea with strawberry ice cream. (yum!) Dick decided to cap off the night with a Cuban cigar.

It was the perfect way to celebrate our last night in Tokyo.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Happy Greenery Day 

Saturday, April 29, 2006. 8:10pm

Today is a national holiday in Japan. Greenery Day (not to be confused with Green Day) is celebrated every April 29th, and marks a week long appreciation of nature.

We slept in this morning after a very good night's sleep for both of us.

We treked back out to Shinjuku Gyoen, the park that was closed yesterday in preparation of Greenery Day. The park reminded us both of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. It's very beautiful, and large. It has gorgeous Japanese Gardens, tea houses, green houses, and also French and English Gardens. According to this article that I found on the web, Shinjuku Gyoen is a main park where Greenery Day is celebrated annually. It was free admission, they had events and activities for kids, and we noticed a lot of groups with guides describing different plants, trees and animals. My favorite part of walking around the park was seeing all of the gorgeous Cherry Blossom trees which are just now losing their amazing pink blooms. We loved seeing the ground covered in a blanket of pink underneath the trees. It was very magical.

Sitting underneath the Cherry Blossom Trees

After spending a bit of time walking around the park, we took the subway to Ginza, which is one of the main shopping districts here. Unfortunately, it started to rain, which is a shame, as there were plenty of pretty flowers and displays set up for Greenery Day.

We walked around Ginza for a bit, doing a bit of window shopping, and ended up at Hakuhinkan Toy Park, which is a toy store that Andrew had told me about. I was hoping to find some Raggedy Ann merchandise here in Japan, but alas, there was none to be found. Raggedy Ann had a short stint at popularity here a few years back, and merchandise featuring the different Raggedy Ann characters were made exclusively for the Japan market for a while. I was lucky enough to be photographed and interviewed for the Raggedy Ann and Andy Japanese Fan Book in 2001!

Once we finished walking around Ginza, we took the subway to the Asakusa Kannon Temple. The temples themselves were busy, but at first had to make our way through the crowds and market area of tourist shops. This was the only area that we've come across so far that has had so many tourists and tourist vendors, which was a bit ironic, since we were visiting a temple. We found a few smaller temples around the main one that weren't as crowded, and there we were able to really enjoy the beauty and spirituality of the area. We read our fortunes through the same I Ching fortune system that I learned in China from my Grandma in 1992. We also burned incense, and lit candles. It was really nice.

By the time we finished at teh Temple, we were pretty exhausted and returned to our hotel by 6:00.

Tomorrow, we're planning to spend the day in Harajuku. I've been looking forward to this for a long time!

Friday, April 28, 2006

A very early day... 

Friday, April 28, 2006. 4:12pm

Well, we did it: we managed to wake up at 4:30am today to get to the Tsukji Fish Market! I think this is a record for both of us: I've never woken up that early before - at least not without having stayed awake all night!

We were out of the hotel by 5:15, and took a cab to the fish market (about 20 minutes). I have to say: it was certainly worth waking early for - we were so happy that we did! People aren't kidding when they say that you'll never see anything like it. These fish (tuna) are ENORMOUS! It was very hustly-bustly there, and we kept having to dodge men pulling and driving carts. Our guidebook says that 90 percent of fish eaten in Tokyo passes through this fish market, and now I understand why. We were able to watch the auctions from a distance, which was pretty interesting. We also walked around the booths and witnesses one of these giants being cut up into (still) enormous slabs of tuna. I am glad that we went as early as we did - the market opens at 5:00, and we were told that the earlier you get there, the more interesting things you'll see.

The auction

Dick and the Giant Fish Head (perhaps this should be the name of Dick's band?)

The fish (whose head Dick posed with) being cut into slightly smaller sections

After we escaped the crowd of the market, we hopped into one of the many stalls to eat a sushi breakfast. We didn't know which one to choose (unfortunately, I got Sheri's suggestions too late!) and chose one that was very crowded with locals. Unfortunately, we don't think we chose very well. The maguro that we had just just okay - certainly not as good as sashimi that we've had in San Francisco and Hawaii. Perhaps we're just spoiled in having had really great sushi, but it wasn't nearly as good as we were hoping it would be.

By now, it was about 7:00, and we thought we might go back to the hotel for a nap. As we walked along the street, we passed a Subway station, and I suggested that it would be much more adventurous to take the subway instead of a cab. We fumbled our way through the subway map and ticket system, and figured out how to get back to Shinjuku. We thought we'd check out the Shinjuku station (one station away from the one closest to our hotel) since it's one of the largest stations. Once we got there, we thought we'd have a small breakfast (because a couple of pieces of sushi at 6:30am just didn't do it for us) and found a pastry shop.

The pastries gave us a bit of newfound energy. Add that on top of our victory over figuring out the subway system, and we decided to continue our exploration around the city. We consulted our guide book, and decided to check out Shinjuku National Garden. It's cherry-blossom time, and a gorgeous day, so it sounded perfect.

We made our way to the Shinjuki Gyoen-mae station, and found it right away. We found a side gate and realized that it didn't open until 9:00am (we were 15 minutes early). This cracked us up, as we're never too early to anything! We walked around the neighborhood for a bit, and by 9:00, we had found the main entrance.

Here’s the sign that greeted us there:

Check the date: April 28.
Apparently, we came on the one day that it’s closed!

Tomorrow is a national holiday here: Greenery Day. I think they were preparing the garden for the throngs of visitors they’re expecting tomorrow.

Okay, that’s a bummer. We sat down to figure out what we wanted to do next. We found another garden in our guidebook: The Imperial Palace East Garden. It was so gorgeous out, that we thought we really should spend it outdoors in a park. Another subway ride later, and we found ourselves at Hibiya Park, a little park that we originally mistook for the Imperial Palace Garden!

It was really beautiful, and inspired us to design our backyard with similar trees and plants to create a little Japanese/Asian style garden.

The beautiful Hibiya Park

Once we managed to find our way across the street to the actual Imperial Palace East Garden, we were (again) disappointed to learn that it was closed!

Denied again!

Our guidebooks states “Daily 9-4”.

Our guidebook sucks!

So, we had attempted to see two parks today (all before 11:00am) and we were denied both times!

By this time, we had already had a full day, and were tired, but we were also determined to see something before we headed back to our hotel.

We decided to check out Roppongi Hills – a main tower building with an observation deck, galleries, shops, etc., Surely, this would be open!

It was about 11:30, and we decided to grab a quick lunch of noodles and tempura over rice at a local shop in the subway. (yummy!)

We took the subway to the Roppongi station, and walked around the plazas and shops a bit before making our way up to the 54th floor observation deck.

A view from up high

By this time, it was around 2:00, and we were simply beat. We came back to our hotel at 2:30 to just relax before our 6:30 dinner reservations.

Oh – almost forgot to mention:

Today is my birthday :)

Yep, we’re spending my birthday in Tokyo. How cool is that?

To celebrate, we made reservations at The New York Grill – the restaurant on the top floor of our hotel. It’s supposed to be outstanding! :)

I’ve been on my computer ever since we got back to the room. I should really sign off now, and take a quick snooze...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A scary accident back home 

I just read this article about a terrible accident that happened on Castro Street at home!

The photos are just awful. It was so surreal to see them since we're so far away from home right now.

Christopher just blogged about his first-hand experience and what he saw.

Lost in Translation 

We made it to Tokyo! We woke up early this morning (6:00) and caught a cab to the Pudong airport for a 10:00 flight. The flight was uneventful in the good way, although there was a little bit of turbulence towards the end.

After getting our luggage and going through customs, we made our way to the ticket booth for the Airport Limousine Bus which depart frequently for all areas of Tokyo.

We're staying at the Park Hyatt, Tokyo, which is Dick's favorite hotel in the world. I can understand why. I've been hearing tales about it for almost 8 years now, and it has lived up to my expectations! It was the hotel that most of the filming of the movie Lost in Translation was filmed in. I'll have to watch that movie again when we get home.

our hotel room at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

We just got back from a fabulous Shabu-Shabu dinner, and now we're completely exhausted. It's been a long day, and a long week - especially for Dick since he's been working.

We're going to attempt to wake up tomorrow at 4:30am to make it over to the Fish Market. It's supposed to be an amazing experience - unlike anything you've ever seen! If we're not up for it tomorrow, then we'll sleep in, and go on Saturday morning instead.

..and now it's time for bed.


I really am Chinese! 

Thursday, April 27, 2006 - written around 9:30am on the airplane

One of the most notable differences of China between this trip, and when I went in 1992 is how Westernized the country (or at least Shanghai) has become.

The last time I came, I stayed in a large city in Southern China and in Beijing. It was very clear to me, and to the locals that I was not from there. I remember a lot of people asking me what I was. No one ever asked me if I was a Chinese-born American. Instead, they asked if I was from Japan, Korean, and once, Hawaiian (which made the most sense to me). I remember thinking that I wasn’t considered Chinese at all.

I naturally assumed that the same thing would happen this time – boy was I wrong! Because the culture in Shanghai is so westernized now, it turns out that I blend in with all of the locals! I had several workers from our hotel (which caters to International travelers) approach me and speak to me in Mandarin. I also had people at restaurants speak to me in Chinese, even though they had just spoken to everyone else in the group (Dick and his colleagues) in English. Imagine their surprise when I look at them with absolutely no comprehension, and I tell them that I don’t understand in English.

The irony here is that even if I did speak Chinese, my family speaks Cantonese, not Mandarin.

While I was spending the days by myself site seeing, I noticed that a few people spoke to me in Chinese before realizing that I didn’t understand. I think this worked very well for me. When I joined Dick’s group in the evenings, they would occasionally asked if I was approached on the streets by the men selling fake merchandise (watches, purses, etc.,) The truth is, I hadn’t been approached at all. They were amazed by this because tourists here are notoriously approached by these scalpers. I guess the fact that I’m Chinese, and I intentionally walked around with a sense of authority led many people to believe that I’m from here!

The best story I have about “being Chinese” happened last night.

A funny thing happened when we returned to our hotel last night...

We had spent the evening with Dick’s boss and colleagues. We had dinner at “Laris” (thanks for the name, Aditya!), on The Bund, and then went over to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Pudong for drinks and cigars afterwards. It was extraordinarily cool, by the way. The bar is on the 84th floor of the building.

Anyway, Dick and I returned to our hotel sometime after midnight.

We started walking towards the elevators, when we were stopped by one of the hotel staff.

He said something in English, but all I heard was “friend”.

What? We have a friend waiting for us?
We have a message from a friend?

The next thing I know, the guy turns to me, and starts to speak quickly in Chinese. I told him in English that I didn’t understand him.

That’s when Dick and I figured it out: this guy didn’t realize that Dick and I were “together” (this has happened a few times, including when we checked in). Dick told him that we were together and we went directly to the elevator.

As we talked about what happened, I told Dick that I think this guy had assumed that Dick was an American visitor, and that he was bringing a “Chinese friend” up to his room with him! I remember reading a section in the Hotel information folder in the room, there were specific rules about “bringing guests to your room” and what was acceptable, and what wasn’t.

So, just so we're clear:
They thought I was a hooker!

This is Dick's new favorite story.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Kitsch Day 

Wednesday, April 26, 2006. 6:40pm

Today was "kitsch Day" on Shanghai in 3 days with Trina Chow.

Pudong from The Bund

I took a cab ride over to The Bund this afternoon. The Bund is the waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River. It's lined with gorgeous buildings, built as early as the 1880s, which were former headquarters of foreign banks and institutions. The Bund has a great view of Pudong, which is considered to the future of Shanghai.

Inside The Bund Tourist Tunnel

I thought it would be cool to cross over to the Pudong side of the River to get a view of The Bund from the other side. I decided to take the Bund Tourist Tunnel which my guidebook describes as "Easily the most entertaining way to get over to Pudong...". Why not?! You ride through the tunnel (which is 2,213 feet long) in glass-enclosed capsules. Sounds cool, right? okay, the kitschy part is the tunnel is filled with strobing lights, neon, projections, strange blow-up figures, etc., It's very hard to describe. There was audio, too, but I wasn't sure what it was trying to convey. I periodically heard words in English like "Meteor Showers" or "flying lights". The ride was certainly less than 5 minutes each way, and turned out to be a pretty economical, and yes, entertaining way to get across the river.

Here I am! Looking at The Bund from Pudong

Once I was on the Pudong side of the river, I strolled along the promenade looking back at the Bund. I took a fairly lengthy walk around Pudong, (which is also where we had dinner Monday night) and eventually found myself inside the ginormous SuperBrand Mall. (10 stories!) Again, I got overwhelmed, but I managed to find a bakery that featured cream puffs!

The best cream puff ever

When I was back outside, I found myself facing the Oriental Pearl Tower. The Pearl Tower is a 1,535 foot TV and radio tower, and a Shanghai Icon. It hadn't even occurred to me until now that I should probably take the ride up to the top. I figured why not. I'm here. It's there. Let's do it.

The Pearl Tower

So I paid my 100 RMB ($12.00 USD or so) and took the elevator up to the top bubble. I've got to say, it was pretty cool, and I'm really glad I did it. Although it was very overcast/smoggy today, it was a great view of the city. Kitschy, yes, but it was cool, too!

View from the top. You can see the pink of the middle bubble (the pink part) at the bottom of the photo.

After spending an hour or so on different levels of the Pearl Tower, I decided to head back to The Bund via the Bund Tourist Tunnel again. It was just as odd and surreal as the first time.

I walked around The Bund for a bit, admiring the architecture, then finally found a cab to take me back to the hotel. (not an easy thing to do during rush hour!)

Here's how high i was! I'm looking across to the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Dick has been up to the 87th floor of it.

Now I'm back at the hotel, and waiting for Dick to come back from work. We're having dinner tonight with some people in his group. I think we're going to a restaurant in The Bund. Today is "Bund Day"!

We leave tomorrow morning for Tokyo. I wasn't sure if I'd have time to write more tomorrow morning, so I thought I'd better get it all out of my head now.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Museum Day 

Wednesday, April 26, 2006. 8:35am.

I had a great time visiting two museums yesterday: The Shanghai Museum and the Shanghai Art Museum.

The Shanghai Museum

Unfortunately, a few of the permanent exhibits at the Shanghai Museum were closed, so I wasn’t able to see The Calligraphy, Sculpture, or Painting Galleries. I was able to see the Ceramics Gallery as well as the Seal Gallery. They also had a great special exhibit: "Master Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art: Cezanne to Pollock," an exhibition featuring 72 drawings on loan from New York's MoMA. There was also an interesting exhibit called "Light and Stone" which featured more than a hundred precious stones from the collection of Michael Scott - who just happened to be the first President of Apple Computer.

I left the Shanghai Museum around 3:00, and thought I’d better find some lunch. The Shanghai Art Museum is located across the street from the Shanghai Museum. I’ve figured out that it’s usually easiest to find underground or overground tunnels to get to the other sides rather than crossing the busy intersections. While I was underground, I managed to stumble on a mall (which there are plenty of here) and found the local food court. Dick had told me about the food court in the Mall by his office, so I thought I’d give it a go. After much smiling and pointing, I bought two orders of dim sum – one with pork and shrimp, the other with greens. It was 7 pieces total, and coast a whopping 12 RMB (that’s equivalent to about $1.10 USD). It was very yummy, and I was proud of myself for bypassing the McDonalds, Burger King and KFC that were also available in the food court.

Dim Sum lunch in the Mall!

While I was walking around Renmin Square on Monday, I discovered that the Shanghai Art Museum was having a Giorgio Armani Retrospective exhibit. I found out that it is an exhibition that was originally organized and previewed at the Guggenheim in New York. Even better, the Exhibition Design was by Robert Wilson – an amazing performance and installation artist also out of NYC. I know of him through my friend Sam, who is a huge fan of Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach. I have also found out that my friend Alice studied with Wilson when she was a teenager in the 1970s. (pretty cool!)

The Entrace to the Armani Exhibit

Anyhow, the Armani Exhibit designed by Robert Wilson was simply phenomenal. It blew my mind. There were over 500 articles of clothing spanning his 30+ year career. It was so much more than a fashion exhibit – it was an entire experience! Each room set the different styles of clothing in a new artistic way, and everything was strung together through music and multimedia. The way that the clothing was displayed was just incredible. They seemed to be worn by invisible bodies, and rather than being put behind glass or roped off area, then were displayed as if they were standing or walking, and the audience could walk amongst and in between them. One of my favorite exhibit rooms was the one with the clothing that had been worn by, or made for celebrities – whether it be for the Red Carpet, or made specifically for movies. Such amazing and beautiful pieces of art – and I’m not even into fashion as much as most of my friends! I feel so fortunate with my timing here –the exhibit was only here for one month, and closes on May 3rd.

Red Carpet Fashion

After finishing up at the Shanghai Museum, I thought I’d walk around the Square a bit more. I’m amazed at the number and enormity of the shopping malls throughout the entire city! They are an interesting blend of American and European fashion stores, mixed in with various Chinese stores. I walked through a very small part of The Shanghai No. 1 Department Store, which I think was about 10 stories of ONE department store! I seriously got overwhelmed, and had to leave!

Miles of escalators at the Department Store!

Last night, we had a Shanghainese Dinner with Dick’s whole team – about 30 people total. It was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed meeting and hanging out with all of them. Dinner was really good.The most memorable part was the shrimp plate which consisted of a plate full of small shrimp, but also had a bowl with a lid in the center. That bowl held a different type of small fish – which were still alive and jumping!

Dick playing ping pong.

After dinner, we took a walk through the rain and found a local game hall where we could play ping pong. The game hall was really interesting. It had all kinds of games available – billiards, bowling, mah-jong, shuffle board and ping pong. It was really fun watching everyone play ping pong. These young men and women have been playing since grade school, and could play really well! We all took a turn, but I was just happy to get a nice, friendly rally in :)

not pretty 

It turns out that my face breaks out in China.

It's a good thing that I'm behind the camera in all of these pictures that I'm taking.

I wonder if it's the smog, humidity, food, travel....???

whatever it is....not so pretty!

..and did I mention that my hair is flat, too?!


Monday, April 24, 2006

An American in Shanghai 

Tuesday, April 25, 2006. 10:54am

I ventured out to Renmin Square yesterday, and had such a great afternoon.

The huge model of Shanghai circa 2020

My first stop was to the Urban Planning Center - a museum of sorts which showcases Shanghai's architectural development - past, present and future - through the largest models and dioramas I've ever seen. Dick had told me about this after his last trip out here, and I really wanted to check it out for myself. I figured it would be a good choice to do on my first day here - what better way to get a feel for the lay-of-the-land than here. Shanghai is gearing up to host the 2010 World Expo, and most of their developmental goals are centered around that.

The lovely park in Renmin Square

I spent the entire afternoon in Renmin Square, which is also known as "People's Square". There's a gorgeous walled garden area that I strolled through that was so quiet and peaceful compared to the rest of the hustly-bustly city. I also walked around and admired the architecture of the Shanghai Museum, City Hall, The Shanghai Grand Theater (where The Lion King is currently playing) Shanghai Art Museum, Park Hotel and Tomorrow Square. Actually, I took the elevator up to the 84th floor (the reception floor for the Marriott) to admire the view. It was only then that I fully realized just how serious the smog conditions are here.

I've been toting around my Time Out: Shanghai guidebook, doing my best to blend in, and not look like a bumbling American. As most of you know, I don't speak a lick of Chinese, and I'm reminded of that every minute that I'm here. The guidebook has been very helpful so far, and I've learned a lot about the history of this city, as well as the individual neighborhoods.

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower all lit up

Last night, we went out to dinner with Dick's colleagues. We are traveling with two other from CA, and had dinner with 3 guys who recently transferred from Dick's team out in CA to live out here. We had an amazing dinner at a restaurant on the Pudong Side of the River overlooking The Bund. Everything is so gorgeous when it's lit up at night. What struck me most about dinner was the presentation of each dish, as well as how much chili and chili oil they used in each. Unfortunately, I have a very low tolerance for spicy foods, so I wasn't able to try as many dishes as I would have liked.

The carrot bird

Shanghai is such an interesting city, and I imagine, very different from other cities in China. Everything is so very new and modern, and so much seems to be "westernized". Every once in a while I'm reminded that we're in a Communist Country. It's subtle, but noticeable. For example, I noticed yesterday that I wasn't able to access some of my friend's blogs yesterday (because I'm still trying to keep up with all of you). When we were out to dinner last night, one of the guys who lived here had mentioned that site on blogspot.com were all blocked. A-ha! I'm able to read anyone's blog posting who have their own domain name, but I can't read those which are hosted on blogspot (Christopher, Philip, Kimi, etc.,) Apparently, the Chinese Government doesn't want me reading your blogs!

Another thing that struck me was how inexpensive things are here compared to at home. Yesterday, I took a taxi out to Renmin Square (about 25 minutes away) went to a musuem, had a snack, and took a cab home. I only spent about $16 USD all day. Back in SF, that would have been the cost of a cab ride from my house to Union Square.

Fido Dido Lives!

Today I'm planning to go back to Renmin Square to visit the Shanghai Museum and the Shanghai Art Museum.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Monday morning in Shanghai 

Monday, April 24, 2006. 10:28am

Good Morning, from Shanghai!

Our flight from Tokyo to Shanghai went well. We were in the upper deck of a Boeing 747 jet. They had upgraded the seats in the business class since the last time that Dick came, so the seats were the same as the cool ones on the Airbus A330. (that should make Omar happy)

Aditya and Johnny met us at the airport and had arranged for a van to drive us to our hotel. We checked into our hotel around 10:00, and I promptly passed out by 11:00pm. Our arrival time seems to have worked perfectly. We both got a solid night's sleep, and woke up at 8:00am. We met Dick's colleagues downstairs for breakfast at 9:00. Their office is only about 10 minutes away, so I walked with them through a park most of the way just to get my bearings.

It's a gorgeous day here so far. We're staying in a section of town known as the French Concession. I think my plan for the day is to acclimate to the time zone, and just stay locally today. I also need some time to study up on Shanghai by reading my guide book. Tomorrow I plan to be a bit more adventures and travel out to The Bund, and other sections of the city.

We have dinner planned tonight with Dick's colleagues, and perhaps a massage afterwards.

Greetings from another airport! 

We're in Tokyo! Well, we're in the NWA lounge at the Narita airport. We have a two hour layover until our connecting flight to Shanghai.

The flight was terrific! I think it was about 10.5 hours. We were in business class on a enormous Airbus A330. It was the best flying experience I've ever had. The seats were very close to laying flat for sleeping. I actually didn't manage to sleep much - probably less than an hour. I was plenty entertained, though, by watching 3 movies on the flight (via the on-demand movie screen) and playing solitaire (again, on the built in screen and remote). It was exceptionally cool. :)

I think the flight to Shanghai is another 3 hours or so. It's almost 5pm here on Sunday afternoon/early evening. We've crossed the International Dateline. Like my sister says, it's like being in part of one of those time-space continuum in Star Trek.

We're sitting here in the lovely NW lounge, enjoying the free wireless. (or, at least I am. Dick has now easily convinced his work colleagues that I'm more of a geek than he is.)

Dick was really excited to get to the lounge so he could pour himself a beer from the magical beer-dispensing machines. I was excited to get to the lounge so I could update my blog and post photos. Okay, I guess I am more geeky when it comes to some things.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Greetings from the airport 

Here we are sitting in the NWA lounge – eating cheese & crackers and baby carrots, and connecting to their free wireless network! :)

So far, the trip is terrific!

We’ll probably board within the next half-hour or so.

Just wanted to touch base before we leave.

I’m glad I brought my computer with me already!

Next time I connect, I’ll be on the other side of the international dateline. So then, my today will be your tomorrow :)

See you on the other side!

Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto 

Time to brush up on my Japanese.

Horray! We're leaving for Shanghai and Tokyo in the morning! :)

Dick has a team set up in Shanghai, and plans to travel there a couple of times a year. We thought it'd be fun for me to tag along on this trip, and we're also tacking on a few days in Tokyo on our way home!

I'm bringing along my trusty, rusty laptop with me, so I hope to keep a travel journal via my blog. Stay tuned.

I'm very excited! I've never been to Shanghai before, although I did travel through part of China (Southern China villages, and Beijing) with my family in 1992. I've also never been to Japan at all, and I'm really thrilled to be going.

Uncle Christpher will be here taking care of the kitties and our home. It's nice to be able to leave and know that everything will be well taken care of.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Milestone Day 

I just launched my first e-commerce site!

This is for my client Unveiled. It's a wedding/event store in Walnut Creek.

I first designed and launched their regular site last summer, but we've been working on the e-commerce part of it for the last several months. There are several dozen more items that I'll be adding soon, and I'll sure we'll be adding more information, etc., but it feels good to have the actual e-commerce store launched!

Check it out! (and order something, if you need some wedding/party goods!)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Time Suck 

I've been working on two big work projects all day.

It's 10:15pm, and I just decided that it was time to get ready for bed.

...and then I realized that I hadn't worked-out, or taken a shower today.

I suck.

100 Years Ago Today 

April 18, 1906: The Great 1906 Earthquake hit at 5:12am and lasted for 40 seconds.

Anyone who has ever been in an earthquake knows that 40 seconds is a really long time for an earthquake to last. I can't even imagine...

The fires that were caused by the earthquake burned for 3 days after. It was the fires that devastated the city, and left more than half of the population homeless.

Now is a good time to think about Earthquake Preparation.
We have our earthquake kit(s) in the basement right by the doorway. They are filled with canned food, water, a can opener, cat food, bowls, flashlights, batteries, clothing and shoes. Now that I think about it, we should swap out some of the food and water that's been sitting in there for a couple of years. I've also been meaning to buy one of those hand-cranked radios to keep in there. We also have a wrench sitting right next to our gas valves in the basement.

We've been watching a special about the 1906 earthquake on the National Geographic Channel. We're about half way through, and so far, it's been very interesting. We didn't realize that SOMA (South of Market) was built on landfill, and that it was the area most hard hit by the earthquake itself. When I think of San Francisco landfill, I only thought of the Marina, and the Financial District. It's good to know that our house is sitting on solid bedrock. Although our house was built right after the quake (1908) it is on a solid foundation, and even fared well during the 1989 quake. My friend Andrew lived in the upstairs condo at the time, and he's told me that only 1 hard plastic Raggedy Ann figure met it's fate on that day.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter! 

(although I could do without the rain!)

Here's a card that my Mom sent me this year. It cracks me up, and makes me wonder what my bunny slippers are up to!

Dick and I took a walk around the neighborhood today (and got rained on in the end). We saw lots of people walking around in pink outfits, bunny ears, and GREAT Easter Bonnets! I love our neighborhood.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Ohio T-Shirt 

You know the one (see post from yesterday).

"friends don't let friends live in Ohio"

Well, I know why I think it's so funny.

I lived there for a year.
I also have been going there for almost every year since 1986.
I've had several friends who have moved there (for color guard) who never got out.

We call it "The Black Hole of the Mid-West".

Again, nothing against the lovely people who really do live there. (I actually find native Daytonians to be some of the nicest people I've ever met) With that said, though, I'd really rather not live in Ohio ever again, and would not recommend it to my friends and family.

But I digress...

Apparently, this shirt is a HUGE big-seller!

I went back to the store today to buy another shirt (for my sister). They only had 3 left - all X-Large.

I inquired whether or not they'd get another shipment in soon, and indeed, they just put in another order.

The guy told me that they've sold more than 110 of these shirts so far! It's their best selling t-shirt!

Now again, I know why I like it, but why is everyone else buying them?

Is it that it's just a funny phrase?
Is it because Ohio was the final swing state in the last election? (I suspect this is the big draw)

Anyhow, it cracks me up that this t-shirt has become so popular.
They should be getting in another order next week.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I'm Back! 

Oh, My! What a great time I had.

Tammy and I woke up on Sunday morning, checked out of our hotel at Noon, then eat a scrumptious breakfast at Bob Evans (again).

After breakfast, we headed East about 25 miles or so to the Jeffersonville Prime Outlet Mall that my friend Blane had told me about. What was the big draw? Why, they have a Pottery Barn/Williams-Sonoma Outlet Store! Yep - many a good-buy was had by all, and we spent a couple of hours there.

By this time, it was mid-afternoon, and we thought we should be on our way back home to Chicago (Tammy usually does the drive in 6 hours or so from Dayton). However, we couldn't leave the State of Ohio without one last decadant treat: Graeters Ice Cream. We had found a Graeters Store in Centerville while we had been driving around the previous day, and decided to make it our last stop before leaving the state.

Tammy had asked me to drive that day because she was having back problems. Apparently, I have a lead foot: we made it to her house in record time: 4.5 hours!

Monday was a day for relaxing, visiting with friends, and Chicago Food! We had a late lunch with Eileen which consisted of Chicago Style Hot Dogs. Yum! (Hi Eileen! As you predicted, the photo made it onto the blog)

We drove into the City on Monday night to meet my amazing friend, Jason. We ate at My Pi (that's Pi - as in the symbol) for some delicious Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza. What a treat.

Tuesday morning, we had just enough time to eat Breakfast, and make a quick trip to Costco! That's right, Costco. Your favorite store, and mine. Actually, I had introduced Tammy to the fabulous world of Costco when I came for a visit 3 years ago. She has one (with a gas station) within a mile or so of her house! There were a few items I had recommended to her, and we thought it would be fun to make one last trip together!

Here are a couple of highlights from our Costco adventure:

A HUGE stack of Xbox 360s! Where were these 3 weeks ago? (Perhaps they were always there- in Carol Stream, IL)

The BEST Light Saber EVER! (and for $80.00, it had better be the best!)
It was Super Cool! It made all the right sounds when held, being moved, and hitting something. It also came in different colors, depended on which character you wanted to be. (Blue for Luke, Red for Darth, and Purple for a Jedi Master)

We went straight from Costco to the airport where a grabbed a salad from Wolfgang Pucks, and boarded my plane.

I got home just in time for dinner: Christopher had made his famous Meatballs! Yum!

And last but not least, here's a picture of Tammy and I wearing our "road trip shirts". The "Friends don't let friends live in Ohio" shirts were a huge hit with our WGI friends. No offense to anyone who really does live there, but so many of us had moved to Ohio, and did not have a good experience! We were careful not to actually wear them in public (in Ohio) as to not offend anyone, although a couple in Indiana got a real kick out of them!

I also bought one for Mykail and gave it to him after his finals performance! He loved it. We actually met each other in 1990 when we both lived in Ohio, so it was perfect.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Yep, that's about right... 

Time check: 4:30am EDT.

It was a great night - good shows, great friends, and a smokey bar.

...and now it's time for bed.

I just phoned in a wake-up call request for 11:00am. That should get us up and out by the Noon check-out time.

Good night, and good morning!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A day of decadant eating, shopping deals, and a little bit 'o color guard 

Well, what a day it's been so far.

We woke up at 8:00 (there's nothing like jumping into a time zone!), and were out enjoying the sunshine in lovely Dayton, OH. We had an amazingly decadant breakfast at Bob Evans (which seem to be popping up on just about every block here) then made our way to cross the border of Kentucky.

The Gap Clearance Center did not let us down. After 2 1/2 hours, and multiple trips to the dressing rooms, I walked out with 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of slacks, and 7 tops. Total damage: $77.27 after tax. I LOVE this place!

We drove back to Dayton, and found a terrific tea shop that Tammy had found online. We had an amazing High Tea experience - egg salad, tuna, and cheese & onion sandwiches, 2 homemade pastries, and scones with homemade jam and cream. YUM! (and oh my gosh, am I full right now!) The Earl Grey Tea we had was also perfect!

We're taking a short breather for an hour or so, then we're off to see the WGI World Class Finals! We're purposefully going a bit late so we'll only watch top 5 of Scholastic World, and all of Independent World.

We're both really looking forward to seeing a few shows, and to seeing all of our friends tonight!

Oh, what a night!

Dayton will never know what hit it!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Greetings from Dayton, OH 

We're here! After a 6 hour drive, we checked into our lovely Courtyard Marriott Hotel in beautiful Miamisburg, OH. We were actually pleasantly surprised to see that the hotel has been updated since we last came, and it's actually very nice. Bonus: Tammy brought her laptop (poor thing has to get some work done this weekend) and we have free high-speed internet in our room!

The drive was fun, and rather easy. We stopped somewhere in the middle of Indiana from some Frozen Custard! Mmmmmm. We checked into our hotel, and made our way out to dinner. We planned to eat at Truffles out in Centerville. This is a favorite restaurant of my friend, Sal, and I've had lunch here in the past. Last year, Tammy and I were denied because we arrived at 4:00 for an early dinner, only to find that they didn't open until 5:30. This year, I thought we were set: I printed out the menu and map, and noted their hours of operation. We drove around for about 15 minutes to find it - by this time we were both tired and very hungry. When we arrived at the address, we found that the business is either closed, or under renovation. Alas, no dinner at Truffles again for us. Denied for two years running!

By this time we were starved, and decided to eat at Fricker's, a local chain specialing in buffalo wings. After eating our dinner which consisted of chopped iceburg lettuce, and 6 fried chicken wings each, we were quite satisfied.

Tomorrow, we'll make our trek out to the state of Kentucky to do some serious shopping at the GAP Clearance Center. Tomorrow evening is all about color guard shows, and socializing with old friends!


Just saw the scores from WGI Prelims:

Independent World (Fantasia is in first place!)

Scholastic World

Thursday, April 06, 2006


As I've mentioned before, we're having our fence rebuilt in our backyard. We've been at the mercy of the Rain Gods so far, and haven't had many non-rainy days for our contractor to work.

Our crew came at 7:30 this morning, and promptly let me know that one of the huge trees in our backyard had fallen from all of the rain. I hadn't noticed it from inside the house because the tree was being propped up by one of the fence posts. Luckily, we have no love for the two trees in the back - they always kind of creeped me out, so I honestly wasn't too sad to see one of them go. Our fence crew took their power saws, and cut the tree up to manageable pieces to be hauled off later on today. It really opens up the back corner of the yard, and I look forward to planting another tree there once our fence is complete. (If it ever stops raining)

Road Trip 

I'm leaving today for my (almost) annual trek to the Mid-West. I'm flying to Chicago today to visit with my long-time friend, Tammy. Tomorrow, we'll pack up the car and drive 6 hours to glorious Dayton, OH. We're going to WGI - Winter Guard International. The Color Guard Championship Competition that I've been attending since 1996. I've only missed two since then - I don't know whether that's a good thing, or a bad thing! ;)

Our trip these days really isn't about the color guard competition at all. Truth be told, we only go to watch about 4 hours of the top guards on Saturday night, and that's it. What I'm looking forward to is what happens after the competition! Hundreds of people make their way from the UD Arena to the Marriott Hotel about a mile away. We all hang out in the lobby, the bar, and the banquet rooms - sipping on cocktails, and socializing with old friends. Tammy and I routinely still 'til 4:00am or so. Since I used to move to the Mid-West (1 year in Dayton, and 2 years in Madison, WI) to participate in specific color guards, a lot of my friends from those years still live in the mid-west. It's such a wonderful opportunity for us to visit with so many friends who we only see once a year.

Tammy and I look forward to this trip every year. There's nothing like a good 'ol road trip to catch up with an old friend!

We'll be doing all the usual things: big breakfasts each morning (including the ever-decadent Bob Evan's!) a stop or two at Dairy Queen (mmmmm.... Blizzards!) a trek to Graeters Ice Cream in Cincinnati, a Chicago-style deep dish pizza..... Yep, it's basically all about the food! ;)

And last but not least, there's the day-trip from Dayton to Hebron, Kentucky when we drive to the Gap Clearance Center! Yes, we really do drive to the next state over just to find some bargains!

I almost forgot to mention: I just bought "Road Trip Attire" for us to wear our Ohio adventure. Christopher found them for me at a cool t-shirt store on Castro Street. They are brown t-shirts with an outline of the state of Ohio. The best part is the text that's written around the state:

"Friends don't let friends live in Ohio"

That's my new motto.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


We had a gate installed on the outside of our house this morning. We've been having problems people going down the stairs towards the basement on the side of our house. When I've mentioned this to people, everyone assumes that we've had problems with homeless people sleeping in the alcove.

Oh, no. That's a problem we would have had at the old house in the Mission.

Our problem here is that we keep finding used condoms at the bottom of the stairwell.

You do the math.


Christopher is appalled, and has already apologized on behalf of his "tribe".

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Once in a lifetime event 

(this is from my friend, Barry)

On Wednesday, this week, (April 5), at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be:   
01  :02   :03    04/05/06.

Cool! :)


On my walk home through the Castro tonight, I realized that it's becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate between the crazy people who talk to themselves from the people who seem to be talking to themselves, but are actually having a phone conversation through their Bluetooth earphones.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Spring Forward 

I woke up pretty early today, considering it's a Sunday. Marcel's food timer didn't open up his food early enough, and he was very vocal about it. I woke up to feed him, then couldn't fall back asleep.

Once I was at my computer, I remembered that today is the first day of Daylight Savings. So, instead of waking up at 7:00, I actually woke up at 8:00. That actually sounds pretty reasonable.

Don't forget to set your clocks ahead. :)

I just read this on MSNBC.com:

President Bush has signed a law changing the dates of daylight-saving time, effective in 2007. Then, daylight time will start three weeks earlier, March 11, and will end one week later, Nov. 4.

Why are they changing the dates?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Raise the Roof! 

Yay! I got a call this morning from the Roofing Company manager guy who said he was outside our house, and ready to start the repair! I had no idea that today was even an option, but they knew that we were anxious to get the roof done, so I really appreciate that they squeezed us in on a Saturday morning.

The roof problem is not on the main, larger roof - it's the small roof that covers the sunroof in the back of the house. When we had the building inspected two years ago (when Dick bought downstairs) the inspector mentioned that it should be repaired, but we just kept putting if off (lesson learned). With all of the rains that we got early this year, we soon realized that we had a leak in the roof, and that the water was seeping into the wall. Not good at all.

So then I was frantically calling different roofing companies, getting bids, deciding on contractors, signing contracts, and then.... waiting. Waiting for the rain to stop so we could fix the roof so that the water would stop leaking in.

It was a pretty quick job. A team of 3 got it done in about 5 hours today. They totally ripped the old shingles off the small roof, checked for damage, and replaced it with a new set of shingles. They also did some gutter and drainage work to (hopefully) alleviate the problem in the future.

It all looks good.

Of course, we won't know until it rains again, and the new system can be tested...

Pocket Mod 

Dick just showed this to me. It's really cool!

Pocket Mod

Check it out, and print one out for yourself. It's very clever.

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