Troutgirl

Troutgirl¡¯s laidoff story has made it to today¡¯s number 1 spot on blogdex.com. I find her writing witty and entertaining, especially because she is also working in the Silicon Valley, I could relate to lots of her daily experiences. Even though, as Gui points out, her geeky level is way above all of us combined. When I send off a few entries url to my co-worker, she immediately asks me whether she is Asian. It turns out that Troutgirl is Korean-American.

My favorite entry is:Java haiku.
A few more interesting posts to get you started:
Pet peeve
Reading music
Eng BBQ
-And if you live in Sunnyvale and are in need of a realtor, Troutgirl has just the one for you: Realtor supreme
Last but not the least, Troutgirl archives

English->French Breakfast Conversion Table

Ha! Thanks to Jennie! 🙂

English->French Breakfast conversion table:

Pancake -> Crepe
French Toast -> Toast
French Fries -> Potato fries
Hashbrowns -> Potatoes
Coffe -> coffe diluted in water
Double expresso -> coffe
Cappuccino -> coffe with a bit of milk
Latte -> Milk with a bit of coffe
Napa -> Bordeaux
Bad Beer -> Bad Beer
Dasani -> Evian
Egg McMuffin -> what?

I, Claudius

Robert Graves’ I, Claudius is my newest audio book selection. The same narrator as in Green¡¯s The Third Man read it. As his heavy British accented voice filled my car, reciting Roman history in that conversation style, it was like listening to Grandpa telling family stories by the dinner table or on the porch in a summer night, under the brilliant stars of Milky Way, recounting the deeds of great men and evil scheme of generals, senators, mothers, sons, tutors, gods¡­

Fascinating.

So far I¡¯m amazed at the similarity between ancient Roman courts and ancient Chinese courts. Especially in terms of treachery, plots of ambitious men and women, and their strong faith in omens and prophesies. However, the one main difference lies in the Roman ideal of a Republic and their misgivings toward Empire and tyranny, their firm belief in liberty and equality among all Romans, those, as far as I remember, never seemed to have crossed the minds of Chinese ruling class. I wonder why.

BBC adaption of I, Claudius
Rome: History

Amateur

On my way back to SFO last night, I caught the latter half of “Bobby Jones Stroke of Genius”. Bobby Jones remained till today the greatest golf player. He remained an amateur player throughout his grand but short career(he retired at the tender age of 28, after winning the Grand Slam).

A quote by Bobby Jones in the movie:

¡°The word ‘Amateur’ comes from Latin root ¡®One who loves.¡¯ To play is to love. When one starts to play for money, it can¡¯t be called love anymore.¡±

The Life of a Business Traveler

It is a strange sensation. I am like an outsider watching in through a glass wall, and I am the only one that is aware of the wall. Knowing it will end today makes such a huge difference. I could actually step out of the presence and float.

This reminds me of a previous life, wakes up a different me. I can feel the aggression wakes up inside my heart, yawned and gleefully tiptoed out of the fog. Step back into my old skin. I wonder if this is how superman feels when he puts on his suite. Or how spider man feels when he starts to swing across Manhattan.

Toronto is still that graceful city in my memory. The lake sparkles. Glass skyscrapers shine.

Hotel clerk¡¯s over-enthusiastic smile still makes me uncomfortable. Hotel room still fails to impress me. Long distance travel, connection via O¡¯Hare airport, isle seat, fellow business traveler¡¯s only free hand holding a cup of Starbucks, laptop briefcase, newspaper in the morning, fancy dinner paid by red-faced non-stop talking senior VP, young and lively consultants working to the wee hour of the morning, all these remain the same. A world rotates happily along as I had settled into a real life. Fascinating. I wonder which world is more important in God¡¯s eyes. One is the lubrication for the capitalist machine; another is the source or the goal.

Collateral

It was known as “the movie in which Tom Cruise played a really bad guy.” That was as far as i knew before we walked in Coronet, our neighborhood theatre that had definitely seen better days.

The giant auditorium was occupied by forty or so audiences. We congregated under the center of the giant dome like a herd of lost sheep huddled together on a stormy plain: stay close enough to be aware of each other’s presence but far enough to avoid eye contacts. City sheeps. 🙂

The mood projected by the movie fit perfectly with this audience.

The opening sequence resembled a 007 movie. Jigsaw of images: Thai newspapers and street signs, airport crowd, expensive looking leather suitcases changing hands between two handsome but rugged looking men in silk Italian suits.

But then, the pace suddenly slowed down. Chaos was replaced by order; high adventure was replaced by mellow dialogs between a black cab driver and his passenger. The enclosed space of the taxi cab allowed the audience to see every facial expression shifts of the two characters, the shifting of the eyes, the pause of an opened mouth, the contemplation of an answer, a smile, a sigh,. It was meticulously done, polished and intimate.

As LA’s neon nights flew passed outside of the taxi cab, like a languid river winding down to the ocean, we rode with the characters in that particular non-007 mood throughout the movie: melancholy and contemplative.

Moments I enjoyed the most:
Continue reading

Left VS. Right

Someone in the Chinese blog-sphere linked to my English weblog and the blogger commented in Chinese, something to the effect of ¡°A blog by a Beijing kid who has gone to the States. Her English is good, but she is kinda opinionated.¡± The fact that I was called ¡°a kid¡± amused me. When I mentioned this comment to my mom, she was puzzled because apparently she never considered me opinionated. [grin]

I pointed out to mom that probably my point of view on legalizing drugs could be considered opinionated.
¡°Oh, I see.¡± She said, ¡°I guess you are kinda on the right.¡±
¡°huh?¡± I thought she had slipped. ¡°Did you mean to say I¡¯m kinda on the left?¡±
¡°No, definitely not. You are on the right.¡± Mom sounded very confident.
¡°NO WAY!¡± I was horrified.

It took us a while to realize that definitions of left and right in China were the exact opposite of definitions in the West.

In China, the hard core Leftists were the most loyal to the Communist Party. Most intellectuals were considered in the Right Wing because they were for moderation, human rights, and softer rules. They were not radical enough for the Left.

When I told mom that GWB represents the far Right in the States, it was her turn to feel horrified. During the Culture Revolution, many intellectuals who dared to speak up against Communist Party¡¯s hardliners were titled with being part of the ¡°Right Group¡± and sent off to the country side and forced into manual labor. It was hard for mom to think of those ¡°liberal¡± humanists on the same side of GWB.

As a universal rule, the conservatives are considered Right, while the more progressive ones are considered Left. In China, the Communists considered themselves to be the most progressive force of the society, thus they were the Left. Even thought Chinese Right¡¯s agenda is much more closer to American Left.

Everything is relative. How fascinating!

Artichoke Bread from Pascadero

Pascadero is a sleepy little town on the coast of Pacific Ocean. It is not far from High Way 1, situated between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. Luckily it is mostly forgotten by the touristy industry. It is allowed to remain in its sleep.

My friends Gui and Matthew love to explore smaller roads off the main high ways in the bay area. They came upon Pascadero in one such excursion two years ago. They told me of the delicious creamy artichoke soup from the local diner. I tagged along a few weeks later on a sunny August Saturday.

A couple of moments remain deliciously fresh in my moment from that trip.

One, we were on a small beach. It was one of those rare summer moments when the Pacific coast was sunny. The ocean was roaring like a beast, we settled on the sands, each with a book in hand. I think I was reading either Perfume by Patrick Suskind, or the new Harry Potter book. Anyway, one after another, all three of us fell asleep in the sun and wind. By the time we woke up, fog had sneaked onto the beach and wrapped us up. The sun was gone. It was rather surreal. As if we were still in a dream, to open our eyes and to see the fog staring us in the face. We could hardly see the ocean a few feet away. Even though we could still hear its roar.

Two, We grabbed a freshly baked bread from the local market of Pascadero. It was labeled as ¡°Fresh Artichoke Heart Bread¡±. It was still hot. Later we drove out of the fog of Pascadero and into the sunlight of Santa Cruz mountains. As Gui and Matthew¡¯s green Beetle happily climbing up and down the winding mountain road, redwoods, firs, and oaks surrounded us, the sunlight streamed in through the dense foliage, the interior of the car smelled of heaven. I can¡¯t think of anything that smells better than freshly baked artichoke bread. It tasted wonderful as well, fluffy warm bread with chunks of fresh artichoke embedded in. Bread melted in our mouth. If sunshine had taste, that must be it.

Later I found out Pascadero means fisherman in Portuguese.

It is August once again. To escape yesterday¡¯s scorching hot sun of the peninsular, Gui and I went on a short hike in El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve, slightly north of Pascadero. Afterwards, following our hungry nose, we headed to Pascadero, towards the wonderful smell of artichoke bread and cream of artichoke soup. Pascadero was, without fail, in the fog. We were lucky to hold the last artichoke bread in our hands as we drove away. Once again, the car was filled with the heavenly smell of freshly baked bread. Once again, we drove into the filtered sunshine of Santa Cruz forest.

What a blessing, to have heaven at one¡¯s arms reach!

Writer’s Almanac

MONDAY, 2 AUGUST, 2004

The Garden
by R. S. Thomas

It is a gesture against the wild,
The ungovernable sea of grass;
A place to remember love in,
To be lonely for a while;
To forget the voices of children
Calling from a locked room;
To substitute for the care
Of one querulous human
Hundreds of dumb needs.

It is the old kingdom of man.
Answering to their names,
Out of the soil the buds come,
The silent detonations
Of power wielded without sin.

Maria Full of Grace

This is the harrowing story of a (not quite) typical mule: Maria Alvarez (Moreno), an intelligent and fiercely independent 17-year-old girl from Colombia who agrees to smuggle a half-kilo of heroin into the United States.
Maria Full of Grace, Yahoo Movies.

Walking out of the theatre, I found myself at a loss of words.

What struck me the most about the story was how un-exaggerate everything was. Let it be Maria’s job, her village, or her family. They were portrayed with moderation and care. The result was impressively real and honest. Maria’s job was not uncommon for a third world country’s village girl of 17. I’ve read far worse treatment and horror stories of factory workers in ShenZheng, China. The real evil was in the lack of a choice. All Maria had was the job in the flower factory. It was the only economic opportunity presented to Maria. It was what her family, even her entire village depended on. Sounds familiar? I thought of that British mining town in Billy Elliot.

Like all country girls who rebelled against their fate, Maria made a choice, the same choice all country girls in her shoes made, to go to the city. On her way, she was tempted away from the possibility of becoming a rich family’s maid; instead, she was offered an adventure. Traveling, America, and American dollars added together proven to be too big a temptation to turn down for a rebellious country girl. Was there really a huge difference for her, between pulling thorns off roses and swallowing cocaine pellets and carried them to America? Both were rich people’s merchandises, both were beyond her reach. She was one little link in the economy chain. The latter sounded a lot more exciting than the former, and it would take her beyond the depressing village outside of Bogota. She was, finally, presented a choice.

The subsequent story made me admire Maria’s intelligence and coolness. But it also chilled me to the bone to see how cruel and brutal the drug world was (is).

Would legalizing drugs clean up all these brutality? Would legalizing drugs prevent Maria and her fellow Columbian women from participating in this dark and ugly trade?

If so, then why wouldn’t any country take that step?

“Because drugs are evil and hurt people who use them. How could you legalize something so damaging to our very selves? How could any government give out any signal that drug abuse is ‘legal’, therefore, ‘ok’?”

Because not legalizing it made it worse? Because the huge profit margin is driving the drug trade into a frenzy, and it is killing poor people like Maria left and right? Cigarette is legal, isn’t it? It is harmful to people’s health, too. Why is that okay to endorse but not drugs? Since when human being became such innocent creatures?

“If you legalize drugs, then more people will become drug addicts. That would be disastrous and self-destructive.”

Okay. People have self-destructive tendencies. There are evils in these world, too many. People always have the choice of whether to become drug addicts, just like people have the choice of whether to smoke a cigarette. Are you saying that government has the right to make the choice for its citizens that the government knows what is best? What about education? What about the fittest survive? It is not like I don’t get drug offered when I walk down Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley, it is not like high school kids don’t get drug offers in parties, at playground, on their way to school, anyways. It is happening right now. How much worse could it get? Besides, once it became legal, it could take away the “adventurous lure” it has right now to the rebellious type. Couldn’t it?

Drug abuse is part of modern societies already. We have to deal with it. But if legalizing it could take away the huge profit for the drug lord, then it could reduce their incentive to produce them. It could dry up so many money sources for terrorist groups and anti-government organizations. It could save Maria and girls like her the fate of dying on ruptured cocaine pellets that they carry in their stomach. It could save them from being treated like animals (“mule”), whose stomach was cut open so their cargo could be retrieved. Mule’s life was of no consequence. The dehumanization of Maria and her fellow mules was not caused by drug’s own evil-ness directly. It was made possible by the huge profit of drug trade, and its huge profit came from their illegal status. It was made possible because of human being’s own greed.

If government wants to do good to the society, then it could place the choice into everyone’s own hand. Take away the possibility to make people even more greedy than they already are. Don’t tempt them. Trust them.

In Chinese modern history, there was a much revered national hero, General Lin Zexu. Who initiate the fight against the British in 1840’s. He burned all the opium he could gather in a huge public display. His angry words are still recited in today’s Chinese elementary school classrooms, “Opium is evil, it weakened our people, our soldier, our country…” But the fact was, Chinese society was weakened from inside before opium even appeared. The closed society has been quietly rotten away from top to bottom for centuries. There was little outlet for real talent of the society. There wasn’t much progress happeneing for the society as a whole. Corruptions were prevalent. Opium provided an escape. A dying plant happened upon a killer disease. It was easy to blame the disease. Even though General Lin Zexu won his opium war, the final treaty between the British and the Qin Dynasty turned out to be the first of many humiliating treaties to come in China’s Modern History. Burning Opium didn’t help General Lin’s cause. Burning the entire country might. That was exactly what Chairman Mao tried over a century later.

There is a little analogy in gardening. When a flower attracted diseases, it was often because the plant itself was weak and unhealthy, either from lack of water, light, or too much water, etcetera. To prevent disease from happening, you either make the plant strong and healthy, or you try to shut down all disease sources. The latter has proven to be a harder path. Shutting down flow of air would usually cause more problems to the plant. Exposing the plant to the natural elements was usually more healthy for the plant. As long as the plant was healthy, often it could fight off many diseases using its own strength.