Alright, sorry, the title is just to grab your attention. As you read on, you'll find out that we're not famous, not even remotely so...
But something happened today that made me feel *almost famous* for a brief few seconds. You'll recall that we took tons of pictures while we were in Europe, and we posted some of them on Flickr. Fast forward a few weeks, I got an e-mail in my inbox this morning, from someone who said they're a reporter writing a news article about long delays at Heathrow, and they want to use the picture depicting a monstrously long line at Heathrow we had taken for their report.
Is it AP? Reuters? Or at least NBC? OMG, we're going to be famous!! Well, my illusion of grandiosity quickly got popped like a bubble when I read on and realized it was for a public news website that anyone can contribute to... After I recovered from the sense of loss that fame has been robbed from us, I checked out the article and the news site, Now Public, and found that even though it's no Reuters, it's actually quite legit and informational.
And here's the article, with our picture depicted as a tiny but respectable thumbnail in the corner, with proper credit to us and everything. Check it out, it's actually quite neat, the idea that anyone has the power to contribute to the news that we read every day to keep informed of what's happening in the world around us. Feels like we're finally part of the digital revolution of the 21st century (at long last).
As my sister's due date is quickly approaching, me and my mom have started planning for her baby shower. Even though it's not in Chinese tradition to throw expectant mothers these sugary parties, this is one of the few occasions in your life you can openly invite people to buy you presents. I'd say it beats Chinese traditions like eating pork hock any day.
Plus I get to go on a paper-shopping binge with the excuse of making her invites. Nothing's more therapeutic than spending endless hours wandering in my favorite paper store, Flax (pictured here), touching, feeling, smelling papers from every corner of the world. And for a few bucks, you can bring one of these beauties home- much more economic than shoe-shopping, and they'll never stare at your with contempt and disappointment from your wardrobe when you've gained a few pounds. But, I do admit, a few bucks here, a few bucks there, it does add up quickly. And that's why I'm seeking help from PA (Paperholic Anonymous).
And where exactly does this paperholism stem from, you ask? Is it stress from work? Is it the mundaneness of life? Or is it some sorrow deep down inside I'm trying to drown ("does Bryson really love me or is he just using me for food?")? Who knows.
What I do know is each piece of paper has its unique charm, and in every piece of paper lies endless potential. When you're able to use your senses and your hands to bring these various elements together to create something more beautiful than they are individually, it's like striking the most harmonious chord in the world. I just can't think of a better way to give yourself an endorphin boost... OK, maybe a sugary cupcake will also do.
And if I may say so, aren't these baby bunny invites just adorable?
This is the reason why you haven't heard from us for the past couple days... And it doesn't help that Bryson is hogging the book, which he thinks is his new textbook at Hogwarts.
This much-awaited 759-page finale to the Harry Potter series is not only keeping the midnight oil burning, it's even caused a few domestic disputes- accusations like "Why did it take you 5 hours to do laundry?", and "This dinner taste like charcoal" kept flying around the house. I suspect the collective GDP of the world has probably taken a hit this past week.
And you know the only thing scarier than Lord Voldemort himself is how you just can't walk away from the book- it is literally spellbinding (a bit of magic for you muggles). And like a great vacation, you see each page go by but you just don't want it to end.
And for those of you who for some reason have missed out on the magic, or who has an aversion to reading (well, but then you wouldn't be reading this blog, never mind), try the Audio Books for the series. It's particularly advisable if you often find yourself stuck in traffic, the time just flies by and you wouldn't even mind being cut off by that road-rager. But, be warned, you may be more liable to tardiness since you may find yourself sitting in the car at your destination, not wanting to turn your stereo off. But trust me, it's all worth it.
Finally, July 21, 12:01 a.m., Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is here!
Being the ever loyal HP fans we are, we couldn't wait to introduce Bryson to the magical world of fanatic Harry Potter mania. We of course have already pre-ordered our book online, but who can resist the opportunity to dress up your dog in the finest wizard robes and attend the nerdiest book party in town? We couldn't. So after laboring over his attire (shamelessly taped and glued together by his very talented mother), we set off to the magical land called Barnes and Noble, Emeryville.
(For more pix of Bryson's first day at Hogwart's, check out our photo album here.)
We were awaken this morning some time before 5 a.m. with a jolt, a 4.2 earthquake epicentered just a few miles to our east around Oakland. It seemed to go on and on and on (when in fact it was only about 7-8 seconds).
Living in earthquake country, we've been through many earthquakes in the 3-4 range, but this one took us by surprise by how strong it shook (probably since it's so close to us), and the fact that it woke us from sleep (I wear earplugs so I wasn't roused until Jacques and Bryson were already jumping all over me).
This is also the first time we sustained any earthquake-related damage- a vase fell off the bookcase and scattered sharp shards all over the place- a small damage, but enough to rattle a nerve. It also got us vacuuming at 5 in the morning since we've had enough vet visits lately. Our building (Besler Building) has been standing since the 1920's as a steam engine factory and then as residential units since the 80's, and has lived through Loma Prieta (a 7.1 earthquake that caused widespread damage in the Bay Area) without any major damage. With that thought, we all went straight back to sleep.
I happened to be sitting down in front of the TV with my bowl of thousand-year-egg jook tonight when this documentary, Diamond Roads, aired on the Discovery channel, and before I knew it, I sat there for 3 hours and watched the whole thing.
As you can imagine, it's another attempt to raise awareness about the greed and exploitation behind the diamond trade. It's a well-made documentary that delves into lives of people, from the mega-rich at the De Beers cartel to the slave labor in Sierra Lione, whose entire lives hinge on these stones in vastly different ways. As with other efforts in the past to expose the ugliness of the trade (like Leonardo DiCaprio's Blood Diamond, and the book Diamond: the History of a Cold-Blooded Love Affair), it makes you look at your ring finger and feel little goose bumps all over. Even though we were assured that the diamond we bought was not a conflict diamond, how do you really know? Why are we willing to pay what we pay for them, and why do we- otherwise intelligent people- believe De Beers' "A diamond is forever" slogan? Since when has a little stone represent undying love?
In fact, the program tonight suggests "alternatives"- not your department-store variety cubic zirconia, but synthetic, or "cultured" diamonds (like this one on the right). Yeap, diamonds are being "grown" in factories for years now, and have recently made the leap from industrial use to the gemstone market. They're chemically exactly the same as the real stuff, but at a fraction of the cost. But my question is, why spend the money on these home-grown diamonds, when a 3-carat CZ ring at Macy's cost $38 ($28 during their 4th of July sale)? You'd know the purchase of that CZ ring isn't funding any warlord in some suppressed corner of Africa, it looks just like the real thing (at least to most peoples' eyes), and you wouldn't fret over it even if you accidentally left in some public restroom's sink after a night's hard partying.
But the hard fact is, nothing will ever replace natural diamonds, however real, or inexpensive, or conflict-free the alternative is, at least as long as De Beers and its marketing machine are still around.
In the mean time, I'll make my $15 monthly donation to Greenpeace so I can sleep tonight.
Just an update on Bryson for his fans. He's doing much better after 2 days on antibiotics and anti-inflammatory. He's finally coming out from the corner he's been huddling in fetal position for the first couple days, and for the first time since he got sick he's cracked a small smile this evening (boy, did we miss that).
He still couldn't eat hard food yet, so I've been making him a ground meat/veggie/rice soup every day, and grinding his medicine and mixing it in his soft treats twice a day:
One thing I learned is how being a parent is truly a thankless job. You serve your kids on hands and knees, making sure they get all the TLC they need to recover. But somehow he's come to associate all the pain and discomfort with the medicine I've been giving him (maybe they're bitter and aggravate his wound?), and now he's avoiding me like the bully on the playground. He wouldn't even let me touch him, I end up chasing him all day around the house (and at the dog park, to other dog owner's amusement), and even when I hand out free treats to cheer him up, all he was capable of was a sideway glance and a quick "dine-and-dash"...
Seems like his abscess will heal soon, but somehow it might take longer for him to trust the hand that's feeding him the bitter pills.
We just came back from the vet with Bryson (with a big hole in our wallet).
We've been noticing a bit of running nose, eye redness yesterday, and he seemed to be wincing a bit as he chews. We thought we'll just keep an eye on him, but when today his spat out his beloved Sam's Yam sweet potato treat and yelped in pain, we know something's seriously wrong...
The vet was extremely patient and gentle, and even then Bryson almost bit off her finger when she tried to open his mouth. So they had to put him under to do a thorough exam and take some expensive x-rays. After a couple hours of nail-biting anxiety, the diagnosis came... he has a retrobulbar abscess. You're not the only one asking "Retro huh?!" Well, the vet explained to us that something sharp (a stick, bone, or foxtail) has punctured the gum behind his upper molar, causing an infection to track into his sinus all the way up to just behind the eye, causing all his painful symptoms. I've seen plenty of unfortunate dogs suffering from unfortunate problems like this on TV (like the excellent show E-Vet Interns), never thought it could happen to us...
Guess anything can happen on Friday the 13th.
We've reached the point where we have so many photos we don't quite know what to do with them... (such is the problem when you have the world's most adorable dog and a new camera)
It took us a while to catch up with 21st century technology, but we've discovered the many ways to store and share our photos with all of you. Bear with us, we're still experimenting. Here are the few ways you can see what we've been up to (other than reading our blog, of course):
Feel free to tell us what you think about all these difference sources of updates/photos. It sucks? TMI? Just tell us. We won't cry, promise.
Picasso came over for his usual Wednesday play date with Bryson, little did we know he was keeping a secret till this morning... It's his 2nd birthday today! Woo-hoo!
Picasso: What are those things your mom slapped on our heads?
Bryson: I have no idea, but she seems awfully pleased. Do you think they're edible?
Picasso: Donno, let's try after she's done with this picture!
Bryson: Good plan.
It's that time of the year again- no, not time to set off all those leftover illegal firework from July 4th so you can set your neighbor's house on fire- it's time for the Baseball All Star Game/Home Run Derby!
And why is it extra-special this year? Coz this year it's held in one of the most amazing cities in the world... you're right! It's here in San Francisco!
I admit that the atmosphere could have been a tad bit more festive had the Giants not been dead last in the NL West, but hey, the season's only half way there, and what couldn't be fixed by a little steroid and growth hormone, right? (OK, sorry, no more Barry Bonds joke, he totally deserves to be left alone)
I mean, seriously, where else in the world could you say, "Come on! Honey, junior! Paddle hard! We've got a baseball game to catch!" (Photos of fans paddling to and congesting McCovey Cove, the famous body of water behind the San Francisco AT&T Baseball Park where many "splash hit" long balls are caught, and even more poor souls dived into the freezing water only to come up with a handful of seaweed, courtesy of SF Chronicle)
Singing Take me out to the ball game with 30,000+ of your best friends on a beautiful summer evening like this one, that's how I fell in love with the game... how could you not? (OK, we weren't there tonight, but we imagined)
So, Vladimir Guerrero won the home run derby today, and tomorrow's the All-Star show down. All that's great, but I'm just glad that our beautiful and slightly eccentric city gets to be showcased on this national stage- now you know why we pay an arm and a leg to live here- you wouldn't want to live anywhere that you couldn't paddle to a baseball game, would you?
Hi everyone! Bryson here. Feels like I haven't written for a while, in case you're missing me, here's what I've been up to recently.
I finally get to meet my grandparents for the first time! They came from somewhere called Hong Kong, mommy says that's where she came from, and it's very, very far away. I'm glad that they came such a long way to see me.
When we first met, I was a little scared, I admit... Grandpa seems to be following me everywhere, always calling out "Hello, Bryson, where are you? Hello! Hello!" in a very sugary way. Mommy used to tell me that's how the boogy man lure away little kids, so it made me a little nervous. Later, I realize that all he wanted was to play with me, and he was very, very, nice, always giving me tons of treats, and would even let me climb up to his lap and eat the other end of the sandwich he's eating, which mommy would never have allowed. I love Grandpa.
Grandma was also very nice, but in a different way. Mommy said Grandma is afraid of anything small and furry and walks on 4 legs (I don't understand why). I feel sad that Grandma suffers from this strange disorder, but I'm determined to help Grandma overcome it with my biggest smiles and best doggie etiquette. I know even though she calls me "roast pig" she really does love me. I'll eventually melt her heart and she'll realize I'm the best grandson she'll ever have.
Just a few departing thoughts on our trip...
Before our trip, people warned us that Parisians are rude to Americans. We found out from our experience that it's completely untrue- Parisians aren't rude to Americans, they're indiscriminantly rude to everyone. Don't get me wrong, Parisians are rude, but not in a mean-spirited way. They're just rude in the I'm-too-busy-to-worry-about-anyone-but-myself kinda way, much the same as New Yorkers or Hong Kongers or any big city dwellers. And yes, some Parisians do look at you like you're stupid and not worthy of their time since you don't speak French- but it's not so different from what I experienced here in America when we first moved here from Hong Kong and don't speak the language.
So there you are, we've met the kindest, most gregarious cab driver, we've met the snootiest salesladies at LV ("touching of the merchandise is forbidden"), we've met the sweetest schoolchildren who got all giggly practicing English with us, and we've met the pushiest family who could win an Olympic gold for Line-Cutting. None of it is attributable to Frenchness or being Parisian. It's called human nature. I bet you can find all of the above personalities in every corner of the world, just disguised in different hair color, different accents, maybe different outfits, but probably the same stuff inside.
Another observation is how the French is completely obsessed about the quality of their food. Parisians just do not put up with crappy food and sell out to quantity (like we do). And one of the delicacy they seem to particularly favor is blood. Pork blood, duck blood, bat blood, you name it, you'll find it on a menu (OK, bat blood was made up). Anyway, it's so ubiquitous that I decided to try it out one day (which isn't quite as appalling as it sounds, we Chinese eat plenty of blood pudding as well).
And here's what I got:
Pork blood sausage (boudin noir) with grilled apples. Not even the fact that it's arranged in a bloody smiley face could cheer me up after I ate it... Not that it taste bad or anything, in fact, it's quite tasty, but after a few bites and you look down on the plate and see all that black, mushy, coagulated blood and think about where it came from and where the few missing bites are now, it literally made me sick... The lesson here? Don't ever think about what you're eating.
Having had enough blood to last me the rest of my life, I decided to go for something more traditional the next meal. Simmered cabbaged stuffed with meat and bathed in a tasty broth- totally unassuming, the best French comfort food before stepping out to a cool Parisian night
Left: Vietnamese spring roll (or rouleau de printemps if you're French) Right: roasted goat cheese salad, followed by cheese in your main dish and cheese for dessert (no amount of Lactaid will help you here)
And what's the Brit's answer to all those French gourmet food? Maltesers! (as you can tell I absolutely adore it)
And finally, some completely random pictures that just don't fit anywhere else...
We were at this department store in Paris called Printemps, where they were selling these 400+ euro leather helmets. Doesn't it make me look suddenly stylish and irresistable? (My hubby thinks so)
Speaking of my hubby, we actually spotted his long-lost brother (the other one) while having tea in London's Harvey Nicks. Seriously, they've got to be related, he just doesn't know it yet.
"Dear Bryson, wish you were in Paris with us. Here you can walk into any restaurant and be treated like a VIP. You might even meet a nice French poodle. Never mind, scratch the poodle. They may harbor French fleas..."
Look, hon! I evaporated all other tourists at the Louvre so we can have the place to ourselves
The Museum at the Louvre consists of 3 expansive wings- Denon, Richelieu and Sully. We've been told that trying to see all 3 equates committing suicide with sensory overload, but there are pieces that just seem irresistable at each wing... so fueled by macarons, we took our shot at Mission Impossible- covering all the pieces we'd like to see in less than 3 hours spread in the 3 wings. By the time we finished the last painting and made the mad dash out just before closing, we felt like a couple of marathon runners crossing the finish line, limp arms flailing, feet numb and barely shuffling forward, exhausted but proud to accomplish such an amazing feat, then collapse in exhaustion... (and no, we did not actually see everything we had hoped to see, in case you're wondering)
Grand is an understatement to describe Les Invalides- you can probably see that glittering gilded dome from Mars. How rich do you have to be to pile on that much gold on top of a building meant to be a hospital?
One of our favorite museums- Musee d'Orsay. Not only did we get to see masterpieces like this (Renoir's Moulin de la Galette) up close and personal- unlike the Mona Lisa which you see through bullet-proof glass that's about a mile thick, it's also much more manageable compared to the Louvre. We also scored a bonus special exhibit while we're there- collection of the impressionism-era super-agent Ambroise Vollard. I had no idea who he was before we went in, but came out with a much better appreciation of how this one person has helped shape the world of impressionism the way we know it today. It's definitely one of the best 9 Euros we've spent in Paris.
We had no idea what museum this is, nor did we care. I didn't even know I was sitting in front of something that looks so impressive until I see this picture. I guess this is called Museum Fatigue Syndrome (and don't be fooled, the smiley face was strictly for photography purpose only)
We tried. We really did. We tried so hard to avoid committing the one cardinal sin of traveling- packing in too much activities- but we failed. Paris is that kind of city that has something so intriguing around every corner, it just ruins every one of our plan to sit at a cafe or park bench and do nothing.
Despite of all the backaches and painful blisters, every bit of the abuse we brought on to ourselves was all well worth it. Climbing to the top of the twinkling Eiffel Tower at night, sipping expresso at a sidewalk cafe on a cobblestoned street watching the world go by, cruising along the Seine on a rainy evening, as cliched as they sound, we can now appreciate why they are cliches. They're so uniquely and wondefully Parisian that you wouldn't think for a moment "this could be anywhere else in the world" (which you sometimes do when you find yourself in the Starbucks in Hong Kong and think it looks exactly the same as the one in San Francisco).
The world is getting smaller by the minute, we're glad that we get to see bits and pieces of Paris, however touristy and commercial, exuding the French's pride in their history and their obsession with beauty and style and great food. We wouldn't trade our experience for anything else... althought next time we'll probably find time in our itinerary for regular naps.
This is one of the most romantic moments in Paris I can recall- us trotting along the cobblestone street glistening in the twilight after a shower, trying to catch the last boat that's about to whisk us away along the Seine to somewhere far, far away (or so we imagined)
Alternatively, we rode the Metro. One thing quite peculiar about it is how some train doors are still hand-operated. People have the habit of lifting the handle well before the train stops, which causes the door to open prematurely while the train is still moving, resulting in action-movie-like scenes where people leaped out onto the platform as if trying to abandon a burning building. I find that quite amusing.
Sacre Coeur- the funicular was under repair the day we got there, so we were both semi-dehyrated and delirious when we finally hiked up there (just look at that face...)
Eiffel Tower- from the Seine and from the West Pilier ticket line. It's just amazing how a pile of steel someone put together over 100 years ago became such an enduring icon of Paris
La Conciergerie on the Ile de la Cite, next to Notre Dame, where Marie Antoinette spent her final days during the French Revolution before her public execution. This is the main Hall of the Men-at-Arms, a beautiful medieval structure that drew us in (not only because of the splendid architecture but also due to the suggestion that this place may be air conditioned)
A mass was going on at the Notre Dame when we walked in- there's something about the way the place feels quietly holy and majestic even though it was overrun by noisy tourists. Maybe it's the grandeur of its legendary gothic architecture, maybe it's the way the sounds of the choir stirs angelically in the lofty nave, or maybe it's the hundreds of significant historic figures buried right under your feet here that makes you feel completely humbled.
Arc de Triomphe- OK, we've seen it. Now where can I get my expresso?