Last Supper in Pompeii

What a wonderful show to mark the beginning of “return to normal” after the pandemic.

Last Supper In Pompeii

Even though the title is called “Supper”, there are actually surprisingly few artifacts demonstrate what dishes were served in Pompeii at 79 AD. But there are plenty about wine and what ingredients were included in a Pompeii dinner.

From top left, clock wise: A fresco of a politician distributing bread to voters; a terracotta jar to fattening dormouse before eating them and a jar to prepare snails (let them empty contents in their digesting system before eating them); A rabbit eating figs before the rabbit will be cooked; a rooster eating pomegranate before the rooster itself will be eaten; carbonized fig demonstrated how fig was served in pompeii–first halved and lay flat, apply honey, then close up with another halved fig like a sandwich, resulting in a giant peanut shaped “coupled fig”; fish sauce that was made from fermented fish, one of Pompeii’s local specialty.

After spending so much time admiring the bronze from ancient China, I’m struck by the common usage of bronze in Pompeii daily life, and their exquisite details. Oil lamps, hand washing pan, lamp stand, fountain fixtures, water heater, wine mixter, wineskin shaped jug, food mold, small dining table, etc.

This bronze statue of Bacchus has its eyes still intact. A rarity thanks to the pumice that enveloped Pompeii at its entirety before the volcanic ash fell upon them. Found this interesting explanation by the Met of what was used to make an eye: marble, frit, quartz, and obsidian.

But what took my breath away and stayed with me days after seeing the show were the three giant garden frescos in the first exhibition hall. The verdant plants, shrubs, trees, blooms, birds were so detailed, accurate and beautiful. Olive trees, bay, oleander, cypress, palm, strawberry, rose, daisy, black bird, dove, pigeon,.

Frescoes from a garden room
Roman, Pompeii, House of the Golden Bracelet, salone 32, second quarter of 1st century AD

The House of the Golden Bracelet was a palatial residence on the western edge of Pompeii, laid out over three floors to accommodate the sloping land scape and the city walls. On the lowest level were the garden and two lavishly painted rooms: a summer triclinium (dining room) and a small reception hall. Both open on one side to a lush garden with a fountain and pools, while beyond the terrace stretches a panoramic sea view,

The north and south walls of the small room (on view here, left and right) are painted with a similar scheme of garden statuary set in a verdant landscape filled

with birds and flora. A scalloped marble fountain is flanked by two marble herms, each holding a decorative panel (pinax) with a relief of a reclining female. The female herm on the left holds a picture lent hold of Ariadne, the lover of the god Bacchus. The male herm, with a satyr’s wild face, holds a panel s a maenad, one of the followers of Bacchus, pair showing of theatrical masks hangs from the top. The garden scenery fresco the middle (to the left) is decorated with a pair of marble circular reliefs (oscilla). Evidence that this room contained a small couch (kline) suggests that it, like the adjacent triclinium, might also have been used for dining.

This show in British Museum back in 2013 reconstructed the actual room of #32. South wall here has a small window.

After some research, I realized there were more fresco in the original UK show but didn’t make it to San Francisco. For example, this three paneled fresco on the south wall of an adjacent room (salone 31).

In the room #31, eastern wall was decorated with glass mosaic instead of fresco, the center opening is no a small window like in its neighboring room #32, but a waterfall cascading down to a small pool at its base.

VI.17.42 Pompeii. Summer triclinium 31, original nymphaeum mosaic pattern reconstructed in exhibition apse. Now in Naples Archaeological Museum.  Inventory numbers 40689A-G. See Conticello, B., Ed, 1990. Rediscovering Pompeii. Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider. (194, p. 275-280).
VI.17.42 Pompeii. April 2019, on display in Antiquarium.
Summer triclinium 31, detail of original nymphaeum mosaic pattern reconstructed in exhibition apse. 
Photo courtesy of Rick Bauer.

There is another bigger pool outside of room #31, that has 28 water sprouts built around it. Archeologist has identified room 31 as a dining room. Fountains in the fresco, fountains behind the wall, fountains everywhere.

During my Roman garden research, i came upon this Pliny Younger’s villas and garden letters

At the upper end is a semicircular bench of white marble, shaded with a vine which is trained upon four small pillars of Carystian marble. Water, gushing through several little pipes from under this bench, as if it were pressed out by the weight of the persons who repose themselves upon it, falls into a stone cistern underneath, from whence it is received into a fine polished marble basin, so artfully contrived that it is always full without ever overflowing. When I sup here, the tray of whets and the larger dishes are placed round the margin, while the smaller ones swim about in the form of little ships and water-fowl. Opposite this is a fountain which is incessantly emptying and filling, for the water which it throws up to a great height falling back again into it, is by means of connected openings returned as fast as it is received.Fronting the bench stands a chamber of lustrous marble, whose doors project and open upon a lawn; from its upper and lower windows the eye ranges upward or downward over other spaces of verdure,… In different quarters are disposed several marble seats, which serve as so many reliefs after one is wearied with walking. Next each seat is a little fountain; and throughout the whole hippodrome small rills conveyed through pipes run murmuring along, wheresoever the hand of art has seen proper to conduct them; watering here and there different spots of verdure, and in their progress bathing the whole.

All of these reminded me of moorish gardens in Alhambra.

Noah’s Hermit Crab

A few months ago, Noah’s homework packet came back with a slip that says, this semester, Noah’s classroom has 5 hermit crabs that students can adopt at the end of school year, since there were 5 crabs, and 21 kids in the room, there will be a lottery. If parents are okay with their child participating in the lottery, sign here.
So we signed the paper, half hoping Noah wont’ be so lucky.

Lo and behold, a week before school ended, Noah came back all excited saying he would get a hermit crab to take home!  That was a Friday, we had one weekend to prepare since the crab would come back on Monday!

I started researching what we needed to buy, what Yangmama has that we could use. Initially i thought we will just go to the pet store and buy a set.  Then came the surprise. Apparently everything the pet store sells for a hermit crab was the wrong thing:

  • The hermit crab sand they sell are poisonous to the crab because of the color and material.
  • The water dish you see in the pet store are the wrong kind. They needed fully submersible “pool” not a shallow dog-dish.
  • The hermit crab food pallet are the least healthy for a hermit crab.
  • painted shells are poisonous to the crab, those crab in pet store wearing painted shells were all forced into them hoping for better sale. Crab will abandon them in a heartbeat if there are any other suitable natural shell choices.
  • The worst is the depth of the sand. In pet store, you will see a very thin layer of sand at the bottom of the tank, what hermit crab need is a thick layer (usually takes up half of a 20 gallon tank) so they could dig a tunnel and bury themselves to molt.
Molting is the most fascinating thing about hermit crabs. They bury themselves (crab and shell together) under the sand, then they shed their outer shell and skin. This is a time of renewal. Any limb that was missing prior to the molt will regrew itself during this time (even eyes can regrow!). While they live deep in their sand tunnel waiting for their new skin/shell to grow back and harden, they ate the old shell for nutrition and energy. Molting could last a few weeks to a few months!! Depends on the size of the crab.
Because of all these mistakes that pet store marketing to the buyers, most hermit crabs die after one year or less. mostly because they couldn’t molt.  While with correct condition they could live up to 15, even 30 years!
Among the five crabs from Noah’s classroom, two were giant ones, three were small. Noah ended up with largest of the 5.
By Monday we setup the tank based on the initial research i had done.
Once the crab is in the tank, we had more problems to solve.

First the salt water pool and fresh water pool’s edge were too high above the sand surface, and the tapperware wall was too slippery, Crab couldn’t climb in, and once its in, it might not be able to get out.

Noah solved this by building two lego stairs!

San Francisco was in a heat wave during the couple of weeks prior to the crab’s arrival. But the heat wave ended right after the crab came home.No matter how we try the humidity couldn’t reach the 80% required. The temperature is also too low (ideally 80F or warmer).
Mi made another trip back to my Mom’s on Tuesday to pick up the heat lamp and an extra cover. bought a heatpad from the pet store, correct chemical to condition the tab water. I ordered a digital Thermometer-Hygrometer.
Initially i had a bubbler running to increase the humidity. But both Noah and Mi thought it was too loud, crab didn’t like it.  Maybe it was the loud bubbler, maybe it was the new environment, maybe it was because the crab had been in pet-store like condition for so long (even in the classroom setup, the sand was only a thin layer) that it was dying to molt, by Tuesday evening, the crab had disappeared. Buried itself in the sand completely, with its giant shell.

By Wednesday, all was well, we had both heatlamp and the heatpad running. the digital thermometer-hygrometer is more accurate. turned out our temperature and humidity were both okay. humidity above 80%, temperature above 80F. the previous analog thermometer and hygrometer weren’t accurate. whew.

According to the internet, hermit crab bury itself in the sand, sometimes to de-stress (especially after coming to a brand new environment), sometimes to molt.  If the former they will re-surface after a few days. Molting could take much longer.
The day when the crab came home was 5/22. It buried itself on 5/23.  It didn’t come up after one week, i thought, okay, it is molting. three weeks later, still no sign.  Mi started saying it must be dead by then. But we couldn’t dig it out. Since a molting crab is very vulnerable. digging it out will mean certain death.  After a month, i started to wonder whether it would ever come back up.
Noah completely bought into my molting theory. Every time when Mi hinted the crab might be dead, Noah would protest, “It is molting!” 它在换皮!and he still asks me from time to time when should we transfer the tank to Grandma’s place since we won’t be around during our vacation, and someone has to look after it.

Today is 6/29, almost 5 weeks after it has buried itself.  I checked the temperature and humidity this morning, it was around 76F and 77%. i turned up the heatlamp temperature a little bit. and went to work.

Mid-morning, Mi sent me a message, “I see sands all over the legos and the sea sponge dish, could it be alive?!”

OMG! It is alive! after five weeks buried in sand! (the red part is its claw)

Noah was so happy to hear the news, he drew a picture in the car on his way home. The top was a hermit crab in spacesuit (the label says NASA), the middle was a hermit crab in water, and the last was a hermit crab in our tank.
The crab’s claw changed color after molting. Prior it was a dark orange. Now it is a bright red. Noah decided to name it “Strawberry.”
Here is our Hermit Crab Album.

P.S. Last night as i was writing this post, Noah came by and saw the title, “Noah’s Hermit Crab?!” He demanded that I read the whole thing to him. Afterwards, he drew another picture.
Note the four triangle in a circle on the four corners were meant to indicate this was seen from a camera, a diver's camera. and the three T-shaped stand by the stairs are balconies.

Bay Area Camping and 15 Years Ago Today

Went camping in a Redwood grove at Memorial Park of San Mateo (near Pescadero) with Noah’s 1st grade cohorts. Everyone had a blast. San Francisco Bay Area has so many amazing nature resources that are so close to us. I kept on forgetting.
Digging through our old camping albums, i came cross a trip i did with Gui and Matthew almost exactly 15 years ago today. It was such a wonderful trip! And boy I couldn’t believe this was my writing!

“Steinbeck Country” – Labor Day Weekend, 2001

“The Salinas Valley is … a long narrow swale between two ranges of mountains.
I remember that the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation,
so that you wanted to climb into their warm foothills almost as you want to climb into the lap of a beloved mother.
They were beckoning mountains with a brown grass love.
The Santa Lucias stood up against the sky to the west and kept the valley from the open sea,
and they were dark and brooding –unfriendly and dangerous.”
– John Steinbeck, East of Eden (1952)

Santa Lucias – Big Sur and Nacimiento Road, Sep. 1, 2001
So we visited Steinbeck Country. Starting from the formidable Big Sur to the west, we rested in the redwood forest of Pfeiffer State Park, admired McWay Falls plunged onto a secluded beach at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, drove over Santa Lucias via the incredible Nacimiento Road while a sea of fog lingered beneath us; Santa Lucias looked golden and seductive under the setting sun. If Steinbeck had seen what we have seen, would he have had a different opinion about this mountain range? Eventually, we descended onto Salinas Valley as a red moon rose over the peaceful land of oaks.

Salinas Valley – Pinnacles and Fremont Peak, Sep. 2, 2001
We woke up in Soledad, a sleepy farming town with unusually wide streets. Everywhere we looked, vineyards were extending to the foothills of mountain ranges on both sides of the valley. Driving toward Pinnacles, we passed two Mexican Cow Boys by the field. They waved at us and bowed slightly, sitting high on their handsome horses.
Hiking on the sun-baked Balconies Trail, and climbing Chokestone Dome helped us to return to the time and space we were familiar with. However, once we left the park, the Chalone Winery amist more vineyards on the gentle rolling hills slowly but surely transferred us back to Steinbeck’s time, Steinbeck’s country. The gracious host, Mr. Dale, who greeted us at the tasting room was as wise as Adam’s housekeeper/friend/cook/philosopher Lee from East of Eden. When we asked whether the towns we have passed – Greenfield and Soledad – had seen better days. He laughed, “It is the better days!”
Still dazed and deliciously drunk from the aroma of the lovely Salinas Valley, we stood on Fremont Peak at San Juan Bautista, watched the Gabilan Mountains turned golden then red in the setting sun and the day slid to a comfortable darkness…


SFMOMA has been closed for three years since the summer of 2013. This May, it reopened its door. I finally had a chance to visit today. I’ve read the New Yorker article on the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta. I’ve devoured all the local newspaper articles on the new design. I even subscribed to SFMOMA’s instagram. I was fully prepared to love the new space.

But i didn’t.

Many have detailed how the new design will “open up” the lobby by removing the original zebra stripped granite stairs. When Mi went there a few weeks earlier, i was eager to find out his first impression of the lobby. “The Lobby? it looked the same.” He wasn’t sure what i was hoping he would have found.

The same?! how could it be the same?

Then today i saw it and I knew. It was not the same, but the new design definitely did not “open up” the lobby. Maybe the new architect underestimated the power of the dark granite floor, the entire lobby was just as dark as before. Worse, removing the zebra stripped stair cases actually removed the focal point of the entire building. The stair used to connect the lobby all the way to the giant diagonal sky light above. The stairs kept the visual element flowing from the stripped dark granite lobby to the stripped airy skylight above, It was a transition and linchpin, going from dark to light.  With that gone, the giant sky light floating high above, and the dark brooding space weighted even heavier on the visitor’s visual experience. Now there was nothing to connect or transition the two.

That dark brooding feeling stayed with me almost the entire visit, all seven floors(2 floors more than before) of it!

The newly added side stairs that connected all seven floors were somewhat hidden from view. Itself was very airy and bright. The geometrical style, the narrowness of it, and the visual interconnectedness from floor to floor reminded me of both de Young and New York MOMA. But one has to appreciate it when you are in it, very unlike the zebra stripped granite stair case, it contributed zero visual element to the entire building. It is functional and pretty. But somewhat disconnected from the rest of the museum. Often I had to look at the floor map to locate it.

When i look back on the photos i took, i noticed i took a photo of the large square window almost at every floor. It reminded me of the windows in SuZhou Museum. These windows were all designed to frame a very different view of the city or the museum itself. It also became a magnet to the visitors. I personally feel my being drawn toward the windows was because the rest of the museum was so dark and heavy. I really needed that light from each window to breath.

The exhibition space also didn’t flow quite right, either. It felt like a disjoined odd rooms laid around randomly. I constantly had to look around or double back to see if i missed any room completely. Maybe it has something to do with all the current exhibition were pieces from the museum’s own collection. There currently isn’t a significant new exhibit.

The much raved white rippling backwall couldn’t be viewed at its entirety by any visitor. It was meant more for some drones flying high outside at certain angle. As an visitor, you get to see pieces of it here and there.

The giant living wall with Calder’s mobile sculpture was very lovely. But i don’t understand why the cafe inside wasn’t extended to the living wall so we could enjoy a cup of hot chocolate while admiring it. Instead, you could either drink coffee inside the dark space on the other side of the floor, looking at fluorescent screens displaying modern art, not even has a view to the living wall. Or you could taking selfie of yourself freezing to death with the massive, super lovely green living wall and the colorful sculpture.  You couldn’t even take your coffee into that courtyard while you taking the selfie. urgh!

During my previous visit pre-renovation days, the giant skylight was never far from one’s view. But this time, when i happened upon it on the 5th floor, i was so surprised. until i turned that corner, i totally forgot about its existence. And once I finished walking pass the darling sky bridge. I promptly forgot about it again.

I went back to read the 2013 New Yorker article again. It described the firm’s specialty as to manage “Pschology of space”, removing frustrations from people’s movement inside a public space.

It sounded very nice then. Now looking at the new museum, i started to wonder whether they spend too much energy trying to direct human foot traffic like guiding big school of fish in the sea, but they didn’t pay enough attention on the visual pleasure that also matters to these human “fish”.

We used to enjoy walking around in SFMOMA because the architecture element was fun and we enjoyed taking random photos while we were in it. But after seeing its public spaces once, Mi didn’t even want to go back in with me today to see the exhibit. “Somehow the whole architecture just turned me off. I have no desire to go back unless there is a brand new big show that i really want to see.”Mi said this morning.

Looking through the old materials from the museum’s own collection, glimpse of single pieces from the old masters reminded me of all the showed i enjoyed viewing it here before. Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Diane Arbus, Robert Bechtle, George O’Keeffe. I hope SFMOMA could put up new great shows like they did before. Then maybe we would have a chance to learn to love the new architecture space of the museum itself.

Until then, I will probably not be coming back.



Maker Faire 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 3.53.53 PM

We took Noah to Maker Faire on Saturday (5/21/2016). It was the first time for all of us.

We decided to park at S. SF Caltrain station and took the train south to Hillsdale station. Mainly because Noah wanted another train ride. It turned out to be not the best choice of transportation. We will opt for driving and then shuttle instead the next time. S. SF Caltrain station has probably the worst road signage we’ve ever experienced. We drove around in circles three times before we finally decided to take the unmarked entrance.  Coming from San Francisco, exiting from Grant Ave. left at the end of off ramp, and then left at the first light (Marked as Grant Ave.), THEN, took the first left, follow the unsigned road to the station parking lot right underneath the overpass.

Walking from Hillsdale station to San Mateo Event center is actually pretty long, approximate 12 minutes. It was okay in the morning. It was a complete nightmare at the end of the day when everyone, especially the little guy was dead tired.

We took the 9:31am train from SSF(turned out to be 5 minutes late). 90% of the seats were taken, but we managed to find some empty ones that were reverse facing (the last coach). Arrived at the door around 10:15am.

It was a little overwhelming for us since we had no idea what it will be like.  There were booth that were shooting flame into the air right by the door. ZM took Noah to visit a friend’s booth. I went back to the door to get us wristband. We didn’t get the child tracker since there were two of us and Noah is in general a cautious kid who won’t run off on his own.

Later we realized that we should have make a round through all the big company sponsored booth to pick up freebies.  There were some googlers giving out protective goggles at the door (we entered from South Gate/Zone 1). That became the only schwag we got for the day. Later in the day we saw some people carrying this black nylon sack with Intel logo. ZM went by their booth and found out it was long gone.

Initially we wondered around and let Noah decided what he liked to watch and play. As a result, four hours into the day, we still haven’t made past Zone 2!


While Noah was building his little lego battle ships, ZM went off to explore the rest of the ground. Reporting back how many great stuff we haven’t seen, Mi dragged Noah off to get more over-stimulations and sugar rich food.


We did a whirl-wind tour of the remaining ground in another 2 hours. It was 4:15pm, 6 hours after we arrived. Noah still didn’t want to leave. But he was noticeably tired and getting cranky.  We half threatened half coerced him out of the place. ZM carried him on his shoulder to the train station. We longingly looked at all the people who got on the shuttle at the door. Next time!

Noah’s favorite activities: paper trax, building cars, NIMBY bowling, Lego models of aircraft carrier, building his own lego battle ship, Dark Room activities, Spider robot, Drone racing, cardboard Robots. We didn’t go see the battlepond cuz we got there late and the line was super long.



Only in San Francisco…

Our five-year-old started going to a San Francisco Public School last Fall. He has been enjoying his year in Kindergarten. Doing Kindergarten stuff: Pokemon Card, Legos, soccer practice, Star Wars (his favorite character is Darth Vador), they recently made up a game where he and a bunch of his fellow K kids running around the school yard during recesses pretending to be chipmunks searching for food, and trying to trick bad guys (cats). He loves to draw battle plans, flowers, rainbows and hearts. The normal K stuff.

Then came the surprise this morning. On his way to school, Noah told his Dad in the car, with a very serious face, “Don’t vote for Donald Trump!” His Dad was surprised cuz we rarely talks about the election in front of him. He asked Noah why not. He said the Kindergartners have been talking about the general election among themselves. Their conclusions were Trump “destroyed people’s lives in his town, and not a peace builder. Therefore, he is not a good person. ”

I know San Francisco is a very progressive town. And I know quite a few of Noah’s classmates parents work in law and/or government, one of them is a senator. But I have never expected a bunch of five and six-year-old took their civic duty so seriously!

I wonder what will the Kindergartners think next if voters of this country disappointed them?


Succulent Fever

I got infected with “Succulent fever” about a year ago.  San Francisco’s Mediterranean weather seems so tailor made for succulent growth, it is very easy to get addicted. It is one of the most satisfying gardening experience i’ve had because such a vast varieties of succulent can grow so well with next to zero effort from the grower. Nature takes care of it all!

Spring seems to be the time that Succulent loves to bloom.


more blooms are on their way.


J.M.W. Turner Show at de Young Museum

Went to see J.M.W. Turner show at de Young last Friday.
I didn’t know much about Turner beforehand, the introduction on de Young site looks interesting because they amassed 60 of his paintings!

Afterwards my feeling was mixed. In general, his watercolor had much better quality and consistency than his oil paintings. But he did paint some amazing ocean scenes in Oil. “You can’t do this in watercolor.” Gui explained to me.

Other than the ocean scenes, most of his other oil were pretty blah. The curator tried very hard to find something nice to say about them, but the words couldn’t help the paintings themselves being so unremarkable.

On the other hand, i liked almost all of his watercolors.

The entire exhibit allowed viewer to photograph all the paintings except two watercolors from private collections. Ha. One of them i really liked. It was called “Lake Lucerne, the bay of Uri from above brunnen 1842”. As i pulled out my phone to type this title into my phone, the security guard was on high alert and stood right over my shoulder to make sure i won’t sneak a photo of it.

I didn’t think i would be able to find it on-line. but i was wrong! here it is! 🙂

Walking the City

By pure accident, we started walking San Franciscan streets this weekend.

Usually on weekends we drove Noah to various places to keep him entertained: a few city playgrounds that we alternate, California Academy of Science, Exploratorium, Discovery Museum, SF Zoo, Lands End, Ocean beach, Fort Funston, Aquatic Park, etc.. Sometimes we took the MUNI if we have a prescribed routes with specific destination(s) in mind.

On Saturday, i suggested Randall Museum which Noah and ZM have been once but i have not. Noah loved the train set there. We thought we would drive since last time they went by MUNI and noticed there was a parking lot and not full. But right before we headed out, we decided to stick to MUNI because it was such a nice day and all of us wanted some exercise.

The climb to the Museum was steep, but it was a pleasant walk. I just became interested in succulents lately and started taking notice of various front door gardens along San Francisco streets. The weather was so beautiful, too. Sunny but not too hot. Breezy but not too cold. Unfortunately by the time we climbed up the steep hill, we were greeted by a “closed for renovation sign”. No train set no museum. We admired the gorgeous view from the picnic area around the museum, then went downhill to the little playground, where Noah seemed to really enjoy those old fashioned play structures that have become increasingly rare in the City.

It was obvious that Noah has more energy left unspent, so we thought we could stop by Dolores Park playground to keep him going. As i was checking for directions on Google Map I found out it was only 16 minutes away on foot, 13 minutes if we wanted to take a bus. As I mentioned this option to ZM, he immediately decided it was best if we walked there. so off we went.

What a great walk it was! We took a little staircase from the bottom of the Randall hill to Douglass Street and walked to 18th, then it was a straight shoot from there. We promised Noah with the Bi-rate icecream as we made the long walk. He took a couple of breaks sitting on the sidewalk. I didn’t mind at all, enjoying the sunshine and the various lovely front door gardens along the way. Noah also had his first encounter with a naked man sunning himself on the sidewalk in front of a cafe on the 18th. I was a little nervous that Noah might stare. We walked past him as nonchalant as i could muster. Noah didn’t stare, he walked with me as if nothing happened. I was very relieved. Half block down, he turned to me and said, “That person didn’t wear any cloths. But he wrapped his peepee to prevent leaking, right?” I was dumbfounded. So he did notice, but it took him half a block to work out a reason. I thought his explanation was better than any i could come up with. So i nodded yes, probably.

Miraculous, there was no line at bi-rate!

We picked up a Gyro on Castro, so sitting on the wooden bench outside of Bi-Rate, the three of us shared the giant Gyro, and two icecream cones. Fed and sugar high, we walked the two blocks north along Dolores to the playground.

J train was right by this playground, so we headed home around 2:30pm. Noah was still energetic enough that he didn’t fall asleep on the train.

We all loved this walk so much that we did it again on Sunday afternoon after Noah’s swimming class and lunch at home.

This time we took J to Duboce Park around 2pm, checked out the playgrounds there, then walked to Lower Haight. At Duboce park, i took notice of the sign atop of the N train station right by the playground, “EAST PORTAL”. It took me a little while to realize the symmetry with “West Portal”, which was a well known neighborhood in the south side of the city. It was where the light rail trains enter a tunnel. So the exit of the tunnel is here in “East Portal!” and interesting that this neighborhood end up being called Duboce instead of East Portal. ha.

None of us had walked the lower Haight before, so we really enjoyed the change of scenes. Originally i thought we could end up in Hayes valley, checking out the Octavia playground, but I over-estimated Noah’s energy level in the afternoon. Luckily that the walk from Duboce to Van Ness were all Downhill. We ended up having three-twins icecream on Fillmore, then took bus 49 on Van Ness and headed home. This time, Noah fell asleep almost instantly on the bus and slept the full 20 minutes.

Noah also seemed to prefer these walking/Muni trips over driving. I think it is because we interacted a lot more during the trip than if we were driving. Driving really projected a false sense of intimacy, especially for young children who prefer physical interactions over a conversations. Physically we were isolated in our own little spaces even though we were physically not too far inside the car. But walking and Muni rides means i was holding his hand all the time, he could sit on me, dragging me around, pulling my hair, kissing me or hugging me, or talk to me face to face.

I need to pick out more routes for the coming weekends. getting to know more neighborhoods, stores, gardens, playgrounds, and buses. Best of all, to see what other explanation that Noah will come up for this bizarre and beautiful city of ours.

One City, Two Flower Delivery Startups

I’ve always thought that flower delivery service such as 1-800-flowers was a marketing trick. Why should i pay so much more money for something i can grow in my backyard? Occasionally (once a year maybe?) I will buy a bouquet of sun flowers from the farmer’s market or trader joe’s for $5.99. Sometimes on Mother’s Day, ZM would buy me roses from those lone latino vendors wondering the Mission street a couple of blocks from our house.

All these changed when i got this little bundle from my co-workers last month while i was home recovering from a nasty pneumonia.


There were roses (white, pink, and champagne), peony, ranunculus, anemone, snapdragons, and freesia. The container is a paint can wrapped in burlap strings. The arrangement was so beautiful that I couldn’t stop myself from snapping photos of it left and right. Further more, I could take some of the flowers from the bouquet and make my own single or double rose arrangement for other places in my house.

It was from a San Francisco based startup company called bloomthat. Their specialty was any day of the week between 8-7, your flowers can be delivered within 90 minutes of your on-line order submission.

I fell in love with their specialty arrangement in the paint can (bloomthat calls this style “the shortie”).

After the flowers wilted, i reused the paint can and made a little herb arrangement using what i have from my backyard.
While browsing yelp, i found out their actual claim to fame is actually normal bouquet of flowers wrapped in burlap (donated by a local coffee roaster). “Cute presentation!” not sure how many happy customers said that in their review.

So i got one burlap wrapped bouquet for myself today. It was $20 cheaper than the bouquet shortie my co-worker got me earlier. But it still has roses, tulips and ranunculus. I definitely like it better than the traditional dozen roses. How could i not? not only it was wrapped in recycled coffee burlap, but also came with a kale!

Today I saw someone posted a bouquet that was even more pretty, also wrapped in burlap, but it came from a different company. I thought, “what the heck. Everyone is wrapping flowers in burlaps now? I thought bloomthat was original!”

So i looked up the new company “farmgirlflowers“. It was also SF based! So i wanted to find out the difference between the two.

1. Variety
bloomthat has a limited design (three long flower bouquets in burlaps, and two shortie arrangements), they refresh them every month.
Farm Girl had a very different approach. Their flowers arrangement changes everyday depends on the flower supply from their local farmers. But they will only have one design a day, and customer won’t know what it is beforehand. They sell them in different sizes (S, M, L). They also has flowers come with vases instead of burlaps (also three sizes, S, M, L). They guarantee the number of flowers included into each size and they guarantee they look great. Customer can browse their sites for arrangements from the past. For special occasions such as V Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, they will design one special arrangement.

Here are some of Farm Girls’ past arrangements.
For large, impressive arrangement or creativity of each day’s creation Farm Girl wins hands down. For personal small token of joy and predicability bloomthat.

2. Delivery
bloomthat focus on speed, they deliver everyday of the week, and guarantee 90 minutes delivery within order. But bloomthat is expanding city by city. Right now they have San Francisco, quite a few cities on the peninsula, and LA.
farmgirl currently delivery to the entire state of California. But only same day delivery in SF (provided the order is received before noon), next day delivery for the rest of California including bay area outside of the City. SF delivery was done by bicycle messengers.

bloomthat is definitely faster.

3. Price
bloomthat flowers starts at $48 and no delivery fee.
Farm Girl starts at $30 but charge a $15 delivery (for SF at least, not sure for the other areas)
So for SF residence, the price is about the same.

4. Burlap wrapping
bloomthat’s burlap was donated by a Marine Coffee roaster.
Farm Girl got their burlap from four different coffee houses in SF. As an exchange, Farm Girl provided free flower arrangement to the coffee houses each week.
This was the most interesting part. Who started the burlap trend? Apparently Farm Girl. Since they were ~ two years ahead of bloomthat in existence. After bloomthat came along and stole their wrapping idea, Farm Girl was mad. So mad that they first applied for “burlap-wrapped bouquet” as a trademark in 2013 (same year when bloomthat came into existence). And filed a lawsuit against bloomthat end of year 2014, shortly after their trademark was approved.

In the lawsuit, Farm Girl claimed that bloomthat having burlap wrapped flowers confused many customers who thought bloomthat and Farm Girl were from the same company. And that bloomthat’s lower quality damaged Farm Girl’s brand. Some of the comments i saw on line also claimed Farm Girls’ flowers were more fresh and lasted longer than Bloomthat. That piqued my interest since the two deliveries i got from bloomthat were gorgeous, but i did notice some flowers were damaged in both instances. and they barely lasted a week.

I would definitely try Farm Girl when i want flowers the next time, and see for myself whether there is a difference in quality.

Meanwhile, i’m super interested in the outcome of the lawsuit. I wonder how each of the two startups will fair in the long run. They each has their own specialty: bloomthat’s speed of delivery, Farm Girl’s brand new design every day with local sourced flowers. Will both of them survive? Will they be able to disrupt the big guys in the industry?

When I first fell in love with the bloomthat bouquet a month ago, i definitely didn’t expect finding out about a lawsuit behind those gorgeous flowers. What a fascinating time to be a San Franciscan!

Green Apple Books and Music – 2nd Store

Green Apple Books and Music – My favorite bookstore in San Francisco – just opened their 2nd store near Golden Gate Park.  ZM and I used to love the original store on Clement for the books that we care about(ZM: Photographer Monographs, Me: used book of certain author i happened to be fascinated with at the time).
Recently we started taking Noah there and found out they have an amazing children’s book selection, too. It became one of Noah’s favorite places to visit after dinner on weekends.


First visit with Noah back in April. He picked up a great copy of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”

We visited the new store over the weekend. Fell in love with the children’s section. Noah even picked up a book.

After we left the bookstore. I walked across the street to pick up some macaroon, and told ZM and Noah to continuing back to the car and i will catch up. Noah was so eager to get going with his new book, they ended up sitting down at a sidewalk garden one block from the bookstore, and Noah started “reading” under street light.

Green Apple’s co-owner talks about how they thrive in the age of amazon, a fascinating read. 

This is my favorite passage from the interview:

But numbers don’t tell the story. Within our walls are real human interaction (sometimes for the better, sometimes not so much): parents read to their kids in our store, couples meet for the first time, Robin Williams and Dave Eggers once connected over our bargain bins, Tom Waits recently told us which book about him “really sucks,” a man had a heart attack and died in our military history section, a drunk lost control of his bodily functions in poetry, every day a lost soul finds someone to talk to, and it was at Green Apple that I was set up with the woman who became my wife.

Green Apple Books and Music
2nd Store: 1231 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122
Flagship Store:506 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

The Last Day of Summer

In San Francisco, the real summer temperature only occurs during Spring or Fall.

The entire September has been sunny and relatively warm, and we even got hit by a heat wave starting middle of last week. Temperature rose to the 90’s in the east bay. I dug out all my short sleeve shirts and managed to wear them all.  I even wore a skirt yesterday!

The children section of the new Green Apple Books is awesome!

The children section of the new Green Apple Books is awesome!

Tonight we checked out the new Green Apple Bookstore in the inner sunset after dinner. The street was filled with people. Lovely days. Even though one could already feel a hint of chill in the breeze after the sun set.  Tomorrow will likely to cool down. Goodbye, Summer!

“In Summer”

by Josh Gad, “Frozen”


Bees’ll buzz, kids’ll blow dandelion fuzz
And I’ll be doing whatever snow does in summer.
A drink in my hand, my snow up against the burning sand
Prob’ly getting gorgeously tanned in summer.

I’ll finally see a summer breeze, blow away a winter storm.
And find out what happens to solid water when it gets warm!
And I can’t wait to see, what my buddies all think of me.
Just imagine how much cooler I’ll be in summer.

Dah dah, da doo, uh bah bah bah bah bah boo

The hot and the cold are both so intense,
Put ’em together it just makes sense!

Rrr Raht da daht dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah doo

Winter’s a good time to stay in and cuddle,
But put me in summer and I’ll be a — happy snowman!

When life gets rough, I like to hold on to my dream,
Of relaxing in the summer sun, just lettin’ off steam.

Oh the sky would be blue, and you guys will be there too
When I finally do what frozen things do in summer.

Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George

Before today, when I thought of O’Keeffe, I thought of sensual flowers, abstract paintings, New Mexico, subdued color tone. Everything about her was cool, collected and quiet.

The Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George show at de Young changed everything. Her work could actually be so vibrant, colorful and warm. There were so many paintings I have never seen before and they were all so good!

She painted so many beautiful trees! Why isn’t there a Georgia O’Keeffe’s book of trees? I would never grow tired of looking at them.

Modern Nature- Georgia O'Keeffe and George Lake

And amazing landscapes and even barns.

Modern Nature- Georgia O'Keeffe and George Lake1

And her still life could totally stand up to Cezanne’s. Look at those rich and saturated colors!

Modern Nature- Georgia O'Keeffe and George Lake2

Under comparison, her signature petunia and abstract almost seemed boring.

Modern Nature- Georgia O'Keeffe and George Lake3

The show also quoted many of her own words, which were so beautifully written. Now I’m curious to read more of her writing (e.g. My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz)


After snap this photo, i’m told there is no photo allowed. So i had to type them down her words on my phone.

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way… things i had no words for.

I had a garden at lake George for some years. The growing of corn was one of my special interests–the light-colored veins of the dark green leaves reaching out in opposite directions. And every morning a little drop of dew would have run down the veins into the center of this plant like a little lake–all fine and fresh. 1976


Corn, No.2, 1924

A Satire of SF & One of NYC

Someone in the name of Peter Shih wrote “10 Things I Hate About You – San Francisco Edition” on Aug. 14th, last Wednesday.  I learned of its existence the next day on Twitter, where it was causing lots of anguish and harsh words. Shih tried to soften the tone of his article by adding a clause claiming it is satire, and also removed some of the most offending clauses, these all happened on Thursday.

I told ZM about this incident over the weekend. Today ZM sent me a Chinese news article talking about Peter Shih! and the Chinese news article also indicated that Shih has removed his essay and apologized! wow!

Apparently the Shih Storm is all over town (literately) and all over the news.

So i went back to reread the screen capture of Shih’s original article.  To be honest, quite a few items he listed are very true, such as how bad SF’s public transit is, how monotonous SF is comparing to any real city.  I remember commenting to friends after watching Billy Elliot on 2000, that it was so depressing to be born into a mining town and all you are expected to do is to be a miner. My friend Jennie at the time laughed at me, “and how different do you think the silicon valley is?”

What surprised me was Shih liked NYC, while complained about the various shabby elements in SF, such as transvestites, homeless, and unsafe areas.  I asked ZM, who lived in NYC for nine years, isn’t NYC even more dirty and dangerous and has more weird people than SF? ZM said NYC is larger and more segregated(gentrified?). Just like Shih said, an uptown guy doesn’t have to mingle with the shabby elements if he chooses.  But in San Francisco, such a compact city, everything is jumbled together. People like Shih couldn’t live in a bubble even when he has lots of money.

Shih is also correct about San Francisco’s nightlife (or the lack of).

This whole incident reminded me of the famous monologue delivered by Edward Norton in “25th Hour”.  ZM and I watched that movie in a little theatre off Union Square in NYC. That satire monologue was even more extreme than Shih’s “hate -list”, it was about NYC.  And while we were in that NYC theater, that monologue earned a standing ovation from the crowd. Everyone was clapping, laughing and cheering.

When i told ZM about 25th hour, his first reaction was real life is very different from the movies.  I made him read the monologue and suggested, “could it be possible that New Yorkers are more secure than San Franciscans?”  ZM contemplated a bit and reluctantly agreed, “maybe. Maybe because New Yorkers are a much more diverse group. While San Franciscan are mostly of the same type.”

I thought ZM had an excellent point. Basically we are back to monotonousness vs. metropolitan.  San Francisco has a limited categories of residents, while New York City has many. Going down the list of Norton’s 25th Hour monologue, i could safely say none of the guys listed in Norton’s list are watching that movie in that theater, or very few.  In other words, Norton’s list didn’t make a left-wing liberal a target, who is probably the target audience of that movie.

But Shih’s attempt at satire was met with a much limited audience as well as resources. He didn’t have much choice at who to pick on.  And whatever he picked on happen to belong to the group of people who is reading his publication.

I happen to love both cities: San Francisco and New York City. I wish San Francisco will grow into a real city some day, with great public transportation, a functional public school system, and the diversity of New York City, while keeping our great weather, interesting architecture, and our nice parks. I wish San Franciscan will become more secure and tolerant of people with different opinions. Next time when someone deliver a Norton style monologue about San Francisco, we can have the confidence to call it a “love letter”, give it a standing ovation, instead of threatening to chase him out of town.

A Sense of Well Being

After such a crazy year, this 2 week holiday break has been much anticipated and it didn’t disappoint with 3 more days to go. Things started mellow out a week before the holiday break began. Many people have taken off then, the office was getting quieter and quieter by the day. The sense of wellbeing started with a simple meal.

As i mentioned before the cafe in my building was considered by many to be too healthy. It became my default cafe to grab lunch because there would never be a line even during peak lunch hour. However, there will be days even i would avoid it. The cafe only has one main meat dish a day. I am not picky but i draw the line when it comes to turkey. Holiday season usually means lots of turkey. So i had to branch out.

Unfortunately the other two cafes in my office complex both are extremely popular which means super long lines between 12-1. But there is other ways to avoid the lines. One of my co-workers would opt to get noodle soup which never has a line. I found something else. One of these cafes always put out two extremely great pasta dish every day, one meat, one veggie. Some sample entries to give you some idea how great these pastas are:

Day X:
* Whole Wheat Saffron Tortiglioni with Creamy Butternut Squash Puree, Toasted Walnuts & Citrus Zest
Whole Wheat Pasta (Whole Wheat Flour, Semolina Flour, Egg, Saffron), Squash, Cream, Walnut, Onion, Carrot, Canola Oil, Salt & Pepper, Parsley, Thyme, Wine, Cheese, Corn Starch, Lemon, Mild Pepper
* House Made Spaghettoni with a Braised Veal Ragout & Caramelized Shallot
Semolina Pasta (Semolina Flour, Egg), Beef, Onion, Celery, Carrot, Shallot, Wine, Chicken Stock, Cheese, Tomato, Sugar, Thyme, Citrus, Corn Starch, Canola Oil, Salt & Pepper, Parsley,

Day Y:
​* Whole Wheat Pasta with Grilled Endive and Beurre Rouge
Whole Wheat Pasta (Whole Wheat Flour, Semolina Flour, Egg), Endive, Pequillo Pepper, Onion, Butter, Red Wine, Butter, Garlic, Citrus, Canola Oil, Salt & Pepper, Bay Leaf, Parsley, Sage,
*​ House Made Angel Hair with Mussels in a Bacon & Mushroom Cream Sauce
Semolina Pasta (Semolina Flour, Egg), Mussel, Bacon, Cream, Wine, Mushroom, Shallot, Garlic, Corn Starch, Thyme, Canola Oil, Salt & Pepper, Parsley,

Day Z:
* Whole Wheat Penne with Sauteed Arugula in a Crimini Mushroom Cream Sauce
Whole Wheat Pasta (Whole Wheat Flour, Semolina Flour, Egg), Arugula, Cream, Mushroom, Butter, Cauliflower, Wine, Canola Oil, Salt & Pepper, Parsley, Thyme, Corn Starch, Cheese, Truffle Oil
* House Made Buccatini with Braised Pork Belly in a Roasted Garlic & Tomato Sauce
Semolina Pasta (Semolina Flour, Egg), Pork, Tomato, Onion, Garlic, Canola Oil, Salt & Pepper, Parsley, Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Sugar, Corn Starch, Cheese

Incomprehensibly there was never a line in front of the pasta station. So i would load up in both pastas, then get a soup and a salad. It reminded me of those days traveling in Italy.

One such day right before my holiday break, i got my lovely pasta and a great salad with all kinds of green, walnuts, and pears. This simple yet delicious meal made my day. Not only the tasty pasta reminded me of our happy travel days in Italy, but also the greens reminded me how we craved for fresh veggie and fruits while we were in Paris one Thanksgiving holiday. Whereelse could we be blessed with such abundance of fresh foods if not in the Bay Area, in the dead of the winter?

Things only got better since then. Watched good movies in the theatre, did some shopping, took Noah to all kinds of places that I haven’t been for a while, the Sutro bath ruin on Ocean beach, the Flora Grubb nursery in Bay View, an empty playground in a rainy day, the local library, our farmers’ market (again loaded with all kinds of fresh fruits: apples, persimmon, all kinds of oranges, grapes, avocado, and even raspberry), or just a walk around our neighborhood blocks. It also didn’t hurt that Noah has been so cooperating, he seemed to enjoy these activities as much as i did.

This afternoon when Noah and ZM were napping. I took the car out for an oil change. Read a surprisingly entertaining article in the latest New Yorker magazine while i waited for the car to be ready. As I was driving home, after days and days of continued rain, the sun broke through, and the blue sky started to show. That moment of bliss seemed so complete. I thought, “This is it.” Everything was in balance in my life. My world is a perfect circle.

I will try to remember that moment when things get tough again.

New York City Trip Highlights

Gui said once that the biggest advantage of living in SF is you rarely gets “post-vacation-blues” because this is such a damn beautiful city. No matter which vacation spot you just returned from, SF is so unique and lovely that it could always hold its own ground.  The only exception will be during the summer of SF. 🙁

For the first time in his 22 months of living on earth, Noah tasted the sentiment of “home sweet home” last Saturday night when we got back. He stepped into our living room and started screaming in joy to be reunited with his old toys and familiar surroundings. I figure he probably had no idea what had happened in the last week while we were in NYC. Maybe he thought we have moved to NYC for good.

Chatting with Gui on the phone this morning, she laughed, “my apartment looked so NEW!”  I nodded in agreement, “yeah, our place has so much SPACE! and my roses are blooming like crazy in the BACKYARD!”

Before i’m settling into the comfort of San Francisco living. I want to record a couple of more highlights of our trip.

1. High Line Park in Chelsea

I’ve seen lots of photos of High Line park on the net, i’ve heard the rave review of its design. I had very high expectations of this park.

High Line Park Photo from the web.

High expectation usually means disappointment when one sees the real thing. But not high line park. It exceeds even my hyped up expectations. It is original, creative, and such a perfect fit for New York City. When design is done right, it not only provides pleasing and original visual, but it is also highly functional.  It is such a perfect park for this metropolitan.  Even for visitors like us, we thoroughly enjoyed it during our short visit.  The elevated pathway gives every visitor more space to breathe and a different perspective of the city.

Pictures don’t do its justice. One has to experience High Line park by being there to appreciate it. The environment, the sound, the various aspect of the neighborhood as you stroll along the park pathway from 14th street all the way to 30th.

Noah Loves Highline Park

so did i…

2. Met Opera

I’ve only heard of Wagner’s The Ring Opera series from serious Opera lovers. When Gui suggested Siegfried as pat of our NY trip. I happily agreed. Even though it is five hours long. I haven’t seen an opera for over three years. It was such a treat. Not only the stage design and lighting were creative and beautiful, but also the story line and music were rich and full of twists and turns (unlike most typical opera’s story line that just goes on and on about some silly love story).  Not to mention the thrill of being entertained by real actors for such a long stretch of time!

Watching this in New York City added another layer of attractiveness to the whole experience. It is one thing to drive home after a show like we do in SF. It is totally different to walk into the warm night, catching a subway train at Columbus Circle, surrounded by the still alive nightlife of a big metropoli. It makes the whole experience more “alive”. It made me feel part of a city–an almost alive organism that has its blood running 24/7.

We loved Siegried so much that we wanted to watch the next and final opera of the series which was scheduled to show on the Thursday of the same week and it is six hours long! But all the sub-100 dollar tickets were gone by then. We didn’t want to shell out $250 per head. Maybe next time when it comes to San Fran…

3. Metropolitan Museum

I forgot it was supposed to be the Louvre of the States until i saw the room after room filled with Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, and Monet. Until we asked a gallery attendee 10 minutes before closing time, “Vermeer?” and he replied, “We have five Vermeer…” FIVE!!

What a treat!

Vermeer @ Met

Picasso @ Met

Modigliani @ Met

Bees! Bees!

Coming to work today I got a couple of warnings from facility about thousand of bees swarming in a corner of our building complex. Our building cafe’s chef even did a special post about “swarming behavior“. Basically a beehive split into two when a new queen bee leaves and takes thousands of worker bee with her.

So this new group of bees coming out and doing house hunting in our neighborhood yesterday, and they decided to settle on a flowering tree in the front of our building.

The looped off area is on the right hand of the photo. In the center of the looped off area is the said flower tree.

I snapped the photo above from my window. It is raining and i saw people walking by and taking photos of the flowering tree with their cellphone.

Here is a close up photo our cafe chef used in his post:

Closeup on the bees on the tree trunk

Facility is trying to figure out how to gently tell the bees that this real estate is not for rent and they  have to move.

We’ve all heard all the cellphone towers have reduced bees population lately. And there happened to be a few mobile carrier’s cell installed on top of our building. We are wondering if the bees are attracted to these signals in the air?

Update: A little more research on Colony Collapse Disorder in bees, turned out the cause are not cellphone related, but more to do with infections or chemicals.  So our little plaza may not be a bad place for them, afterall, except all the foot traffic…


Holiday Party onboard USS Hornet

When i joined my current company, i went to its holiday party (with Gui) then just to check out the scene. ZM refuses to go to any social gatherings that has a dress code. I wasn’t into holiday parties. So i’ve never been to a holiday party after that first year.

The venue of this year’s party is so unique that I was intrigued. When i told ZM, he expressed interest too. It became an even easier decision when i found out there is not really a dress code. Anything from Black-tie to jeans and t-shirt are welcome.

We spent most of the time below the party–engine room, sick bay, Torpedo berthing–or above the party — flight deck, the Admirals Bridge, the Pilot House, and the Combat Information Center. Fascinating! The scene at the party was equally good looking. The 40’s theme goes very well with the interior of the hangars of the aircraft carrier. Many guys showed up as sailor or pilot. Some were in dashing Navy Officer suits. Most women showed up in full 40’s style wear to the t. The music was chosen from the 40’s as well. So were the dancing.

What really caught me by surprise was how good the food was. The open bar certainly helped. I also loved the desert table, which has the name of “Port of call – France”. yumm.

Holiday Party onboard USS Hornet

Holiday Party onboard USS Hornet

I looked up “40’s fashion” before hand, and they really aren’t my cup of tea (thank heaven’s I didn’t have to live in the 40’s). Since ZM was just going wearing his everyday clothing, I don’t need to be too formal either. So i just threw something together from my wardrobe. I stayed warm and comfy, and i get to wear this skirt that i bought for a song many many years ago and never had a chance to wear it! (I had on a very comfy pair of boots under that skirt).

Shuttle Roulette

We’ve been planning Friday evening dinner with friends on a very adhoc fashion. When deciding the actual meeting time, I always start from the point i get home, then determine the travel time from home to the restaurant. Since i take company shuttle, we had to plan our dinner based on the shuttle schedule.

Not until a few weeks ago did i realize i don’t have to plan everything based on the limited shuttle time that reaches my neighborhood. Instead i could take advantage of all these shuttles that reache different neighborhood of the city and just meet friends in the said restaurant. duh!

But one drawback is i often underestimate the effort required to walk one block of San Franciscan street, especially when steep hill is involved. Last time we met in Zarzuela. I got off the shuttle at Van Ness and Union, and had to pick up my jaw from the floor. The “only 3 blocks to Hyde on Union” happens to include two consecutive steep hills. I really earned my dinner that day.

Today in a minor panic i realized i just missed the Noe Valley shuttle i meant to take. ZM was going to pick me up from the shuttle stop and go north to Chinatown for dinner. Quickly i glanced the upcoming shuttles in SF. and realized there are 3-5 shuttles coming a few minutes apart that will drop me along the way from Noe to North Beach.

I could just play shuttle roulette. Whichever one i happened to catch, there is a way for me to get to dinner on time.

I wonder if an European style public transportation will damp my admiration for our shuttle system someday… I pray that day to come sooner…

City Living

1. Crossroad Cafe
A serendipitous morning like this makes me appreciate the beauty of city living.

For the first time, we made it to Crossroad Cafe on Delancey street for breakfast. Because I heard they have bagels shipped from New York City. The bagel was so-so. But their patio was spacious and beautiful, with nicely landscaped trees, plants, and bird-bath. It reminded me of those cute little courtyards of “bed and breakfast” during our travels. In the back of the courtyard, a large wrought iron gate framed the languide view of Embarcadero Blvd. with the expansive bay as its backdrop. San Francisco Marathon was in full swing on the boulevard. The morning was overcast but temperature was perfect. Warm coffee in hand, sitting under the shade, surrounded by lush garden, watching the runners passing, what more could one ask?

2. Two Picasso Exhibits
There are currently two Picasso exhibits on display in San Francisco. After seeing both, I much prefer the less expansive and less crowded The Steins Collect MATISSE, PICASSO, AND THE PARISIAN AVANT-GARDE at SFMOMA. Maybe because i’ve been to the PIcasso museum in Paris a few times, so the paintings in de young seemed less impressive to me. Meanwhile, those in SFMOMA seemed more interesting partly because many are new to me, partly because having both Picasso and Matisse on view made the exhibit richer and more interesting.

3. Foggy July
In my limited experience of living in SF, July has always been the most foggy and cold. Last July was especially so. I remember having to wear thick sweaters at night after coming home with Noah. This July, heavy morning fog materialized as usual, but temperature has remained warm. We can wear short sleeves at home most days. Bliss. Cereus has been blooming nonstop in the last couple of weeks.

The Wall

For those who is reading “A Song of Fire and Ice” series, “The Wall” has a special meaning. But today I just want to talk about a normal climbing wall.

Shortly after i joined my current company, i’ve heard a group of people were trying to get an indoor climbing wall put up on campus. I was ecstatic when i first heard. Imagine that! A wall right at our door step. i don’t even need to leave campus! I could pop in whenever i have half an hour to spare, try a route, sweat and feel all the stress melting away; then walk back to my desk and continue working. No gym membership fee, no driving. Ah, how grand that would be!

As the years went by, it kept on falling through. Each time there was a gym renovation, the mirage of “the wall” would appear. We the bright-eyed wall lovers would dream of “the wall” for a while. Then the gym would finish renovating, reopen, and no wall. 🙁

After a couple of incidents like this, i stopped dreaming.

But the small group of people who started it didn’t give up. Last May the dream came true! We got a wall installed in a lobby of a building that just finished renovation! What’s more, i found out one of the guys B, who led that small group of people, turned out to be a new director who came to our department not too long ago! B told me the group started pushing for a wall since 4-5 years ago. Persistence paid off!

But by then i was 2 months away from delivering Noah. And my department was scheduled to move to the opposite end of the campus from where the wall is located. Then i hurt my left wrist nursing during my maternity leave and it took months and months for it to heal.

Fast forward to this year. My wrists are good to go. I’ve left my department during a re-org. Now i work directly across the street from the wall. Yet i’ve been dragging my feet.

W is new to the company and joined our team a few months ago. He is a big outdoor person, and has been taking full advantage of the wall and loving it. He kept on inviting team member to go with him during one of his climbing sessions. Yesterday i finally said okay i would go and i would bring my shoes. He said there are harness and self-belay ropes, which means even for top-roping you don’t need a partner! There are also lots of bouldering routes.

So i made sure to have a few minutes this morning dashing to the basement to grab my climbing shoes and chalk bag, before leaving for work. In the afternoon, managed to drag myself away from all the meetings and walked across the street in the warm South Bay sunlight.

It, Was, Awesome.

The bouldering area is approximately only 1/3 of the size (length) of the bouldering “cave” in Santa Clara Planet Granite. But there are quite a few good routes. (Oh, climbers in the company set up the route themselves) I spent about half an hour trying out two routes, and worked out quite a sweat. I forgot how happy i get when i’m on a bouldering route. Pure Joy.

The best part was how convenient it all was. It takes less than 5 minutes for me to walk downstairs, cross the street and be on the wall. There is also a gym in my building, so i could use the locker room on my way back for a shower.

Remembering the days when i was working in Sunnyvale, I thought it was already very nice that i could drive over to PG during lunch time and have a bouldering session for an hour, then drove to a deli for food, and back to my desk 2 hours later.

I’m now in heaven. My arms are sore but my heart is dancing, hands sweaty.

Gonna try bouldering at least twice a week from now on. W was very eager to show me how the self-belay rope worked. It looked neat. But i found myself happiest on a bouldering route.

Oh, and B, the new director who started all these, who keeps his climbing shoes in his car, still hasn’t made it out to the wall, not even once. W said he will for sure drag him there one of these days…

The Trial and Tribulation of a KDFC Listener

San Francisco Bay Area had an excellent classical radio station, called KDFC. It occupied its own preset dial in our car and our stereo system. Same was true for our friend Gui & Matthew. We also bookmarked its website on our phone and laptop so we can pinpoint what was playing at any given time, too.

The frequency was not terribly strong, and especially bad around where we live now. So after we left Cole street, we haven’t been able to listen to it at home. We still had it in our car.

One day out of the blue we found out that it was bought by public radio. What does it mean? I vaguely remembered hearing about people protest such a move, but it didn’t really register in my mind until i get in my car one day and found out 102.1 FM no longer broadcasts classical music! Only then did i realize this has been the one and only classical radio station in the entire bay area.

It became unbearable when i drove to work a couple of times last week. I found myself turning off the radio all together. There must be a way!

Last weekend, i sat off to find a way.

Starting from kdfc’s website, where i learned the radio station has changed its frequency to 89.9FM and 90.3FM. Didn’t sound so bad! Happily, i started tuning my stereo at home trying to see if we can get any signal. Nothing but white noise. 🙁 Same for the car radio when we were driving around for errands.

What else? indicated that web streaming is another way, that means i need a speaker set for my laptop at home and probably a dedicated laptop if we want to listen that way semi-regularly. Not practical for the car.

Then i saw it has an iphone app that turns the phone into a little radio. This could work! Our car has an Aux cable that can connect to a MP3 player. At home i will only need a speaker set for an iphone.

I quickly tried the app on my iphone. it worked great! And we also have ZM’s old iphone 2G that had been laying around doing nothing. We could use the iphone 2G at home and use my iphone when we get in the car.

Except ZM had unlocked the iphone 2G when he just got it so he could use a non-ATT SIM when he was traveling. It means the phone’s OS was frozen in time. The time it was frozen in happened to be pre-app store. I decided to upgrade the phone even if it means it would be locked again. Since we weren’t planning on using it for a phone anyways.

But what i didn’t expect was that once upgraded to its proper OS minus the hacking, I can no longer activate the phone without a proper AT&T sim! Now i have a little brick that only allows me to dial 911. urgh.

So back to jail break land. Being the original iphone is like being the only dinosaur survived the ice age. I went through three different processes, which all claimed to work for iphone 2G. but none did succeed. Just when i thought all hopes were lost. Last night, i found yet another jailbreak site for the original iphone. Lo ‘n’ behold, it worked!

Finally, we welcomed KDFC back to our lives. Oh, the Joy!

“Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Beyond” @de Young

After seeing the amazing “Birth of Impressionism” exhibit at de Young in July, we’ve been impatiently waiting for the second half: “Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Beyond”.

It is finally here!

Gui and I went to see it yesterday (a Thursday). And we were disappointed.

It is good and worth seeing, but not great. Certainly not as great as “Birth of Impressionism”. Maybe because of the famous names in the title, it was a lot more crowded than the previous exhibit. As a result the overall enjoyment of the show was further diminished. 🙁

“Birth of Impressionism” was great because it was so consistently good from beginning to the end, great paintings in every section. Quality of “Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Beyond” was very uneven, it had a few good Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne; basically each artist had its own room, less than 10 from each artist; quantity-wise is far from enough, quality-wise it is not impressive either. And the proportion of paintings in the “Beyond” part was too large–about half of the show, and paintings in the “Beyond” section were uninteresting.

My favorite painting from this exhibit is “The Portrait of Gaustav Geoffrey” by Cézanne.

The Portrait of Gaustav Geffrey by Cezane

The Portrait of Gaustav Geffrey by Cézanne

WebMuseum has a detailed commentary about this painting, parts of it explained why i liked it so much.

It is not a revealing study of the face, but an image of the man of books, the writer among his things. Cézanne often reduces the singularity of human beings; he is most happy with people like his card players, who do not impose themselves, who are perfectly passive or reserved, or immersed in their tasks. The portrait becomes a gigantic still life. The world of objects absorbs the man and lessens the intensity of his person; but it also enlarges him through the rich and multiple surroundings. His repressed activity is transferred to the complicated articulation of his books, the instruments of his profession. Indeed the arrangement of the books behind him, projecting and receding, tilted differently from shelf to shelf and ending in the open volumes below, seems more human than the man, reminding us of a long twisted body in classic counterpoise, like Michelangelo’s Slave in the Louvre, a work that Cézanne admired and drew.

I’ve read and re-read Irving Stone’s Lust for Life, which used to be one of my favorite biographies. I’ve cried so hard during each read. Despite Stone’s fictionalizing of Van Gogh’s life, the book gave one a vivid image of the artist and its inspiration, as well as all the backstories of each of his painting. I remember the famous yellow room was painted in anticipation of Gauguin’s visit, and it was used to decorate the room.

While visiting Italy last fall, I finished reading Moon and Six Pence on my iphone. Even though i was never crazy about Gauguin’s paintings, the book painted a good portrait of the artist, and gave a complete overview of his life.

I fell in love with impressionism after my first European trip in 1997. I feverishly read on the period history, and browsed through every artist in this category at WebMuseum. At that time, one of my favorites was Cézanne. I search high and lo for his paintings on line, downloaded them and made them into my screen saver. I used to sit in front of my computer and watch the slide show over and over, mesmerized.  I never thought i would love a still life till i saw those done by Cézanne. Naturally i felt cheated when there were only two still life by Cézanne at de Young this time. What a let down!

Even with its shortcomings, this exhibit still delighted me. It was like seeing old dear friends again after long absence. Makes one feel all warm and fuzzy inside…

“The Pulse and Shadow of the Fan”

Electric ceiling fans always remind me of romances in the tropics, like scenes in sepia tone from movies such “The Lover” or “The English Patient”. With phrases such as “They lie in each other’s arms, the pulse and shadow of the fan on them.”

In reality, they totally don’t look the part.

Our current house comes with an electric ceiling fan and lights combo installed in the master bedroom. When we moved in, we took one look at the thing and thought that was the first thing must go. They look UGLY! Then we procrastinated, and the fan stayed till this day.

When the first heat wave hit earlier this month, during the hottest day of that wave, when the evening stood steaming in the breezeless night, we were wondering how the three of us would fall asleep in the heat. I remembered the fan! The cool breeze felt like magic.

Now we are at the supposedly the last day of the longest heat wave i remembered in San Fran, we’ve been using the fan whenever we were in the bedroom.

Yesterday afternoon, both ZM and I were taking a nap with the baby in between us. I woke up for a brief moment. The bedroom was in a golden hue even with the curtain drawn. Setting sun drew large bright square on the curtain, there was a little breeze coming from the open window, the curtain sway in it slightly. The fan was on. It was like a scene from a movie… and it was romantic.

Sunny Weekend, TV series, and Inception

The weekend started off nicely with a gorgeous sunny day in San Fran on Saturday (what a rarity in summer!) when Alice arrived. I finally made it out of the house and visited the Farmer’s Market on Alemany Saturday morning. How wonderful it was to be finally out and about.

Noah happened to born into the most gloomy month of the City – July. We were lucky to be treated to a couple of sunny ones when he was discharged from the hospital. But ever since, we have been mostly sitting in the glooms.

But since autumn just started yesterday, we seem to have entered the real warm month of the city. Hoping to see more sunshine as well. fingers crossed.

Suddenly I’m following three TV series: Mad Men, Rubicon, and Sherlock by BBC.

Mad Men season four has been a huge disappointment to me so far. I think i finally figured out why. There hasn’t been enough advertising cases in the show! There used to be at least one advertising case study in each episode, and turned out that’s one of the major reason drew me to the show.

In the first three episodes of the new season, there has hardly been any advertising case at all! it is all about the melodrama of Don’s life, which i only care as a side show. :-/

Rubicon is a bit slow after the more engaging/thrilling first episode, but I’m giving it some benefit of doubt and hoping it will get more interesting soon.

The New Sherlock from BBC, where Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were placed in today’s London has been spectacular! Episode one especially, episode three was wonderful too. episode two is a bore. 🙁 I guess the script writer really matters for a TV show, like the director to a movie.

I’ve heard so many great reviews of Inception, the movie, that I came to the theatre with high expectations.

I was disappointed.

It is intricately built. It is clever. But it is soulless. There is nothing human about the story, nothing connects me with the characters. It is a show, in which i have no part of. I feel sympathy for no one in the movie. I couldn’t care less whether any of them made it out of their self-built maze.

Many has compared Inception to the Matrix. I try to remember why i enjoyed the Matrix so much. ZM thinks it is because the Matrix has simplicity, audience could actually enjoy the entertainment. Inception is too exhausting, and at the end, all that mental effort produces very little reward. What’s the point of it all?

Loved this “counter-inception” via Twitter today.

“Birth of Impressionism” @ de Young

Went to see “Birth of Impressionism” @ de Young with Gui since she has a membership at the museum and offered to bring me in for free! We were hoping today being a weekday we might be able to see the exhibit without the crowd.

How wrong we were! It was totally “people mountain people sea”! 🙁

Luckily the exhibit itself is really good! Both the quantity and quality of paintings are not to disappoint. Quite a lot of them were new to me even though i’ve been to d’Orsay a number of times before. Made us looking forward to the next installment in late September: Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay.

Sisley and Cezanne are still my favorite. I also enjoyed quite a few Manet (e.g. The Fife Player), The Magpie by Claude Monet (1868), American expatriate Whistler’s Arrangement in Gray and Black, known to many as “Whistler’s Mother.” The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875)…

San Francisco is not so bad after all. Gui and I were content as we walked out into the dismal summer afternoon of SF: cold, windy, and cloudy.

The Fife Player by Edouard Manet (1866)

The Fife Player by Edouard Manet (1866)


The Dancing Lesson by Edgar Degas (1873–1876)

The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875)

The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875)

Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother by James McNeill Whistler(1871)

Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother by James McNeill Whistler(1871)


When Gui and M used to live in Toronto, every summer they could watch firework competition on the lake Ontario right from their living room. I watched it once with them when i was visiting. It was lovely!

While we were living on Cole street, I noticed that one weekend in May, there were fireworks display above Embarcadero in the evening. We could watch it from our roof, or just walk uphill half a block to watch it on the sidewalk of Fulton street.

Later i learned it was sponsored by a local radio station KFOG, called KFOG Kaboom Festival. They put up a concert on the piers in the late afternoon and end the party with half an hour fireworks starting sometime after 9pm.

It was probably the best firework we get to watch in San Francisco every year. July 4th fireworks is impossible because of the hellish parking situation around fishermen’s wharf. New Year’s Eve fireworks is easier because i could time it such that to drive north on 280 then Embarcadero Blvd a little before mid-night. and just park on the stopped traffic right below the Bay Bridge and watch. But it was usually cold and sometimes rainy.

Last night Gui called me to give me an unbelievable good news, this year’s KFog Kaboom festival will be at Candlestick Park. It means we could watch the firework right from Gui’s balcony!

So i went over to Gui’s place last night to watch the fireworks, like the good old days in Toronto. I checked out the event information page before i went, and noticed the fireworks barge was positioned directly in front of Gui’s balcony on the bay!

It turned out to be the best fireworks “seat” i’ve ever had. We were so close to the show and with a non-obstructed view! We could also hear the music that was to go with the fireworks directly from the stage. The weather was perfect as well, no fog, and not windy either.

Here is a video clip I recorded using my phone. Of course it doesn’t do justice to the dream like quality of any fireworks, or how close we were to the grand display! I hope they would keep this location from now on.

Tani’s Kitchen

It has been almost two years since Jennie recommended this little hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant in Daly City to us.  We finally made it in on Friday for lunch and we loved it!

I had chicken teriyaki and tempura combo. ZM had Unagi Donburi.  He said it is the first Unagi Don he had in the bay area that actually cooked the Unagi in open fire. On my end, I’ve never seen chicken teriyaki cooked this way before. It was boiled with lots of ingredients, so it was like a stew but minus the soupy part. The meat was very well cooked that they fell out of the bones. Yum. I liked their tempura too.

Next time maybe i will try their “Japanese Beef Hamburger” or teriyaki beef. We saw them on other customers’ plates, and they look yummy!

Very reasonable priced, and huge portion!

Oh and it is run by Japanese. 🙂

32 Park Plaza Drive
Daly City, CA 94015-1301

Sunday Morning Rain -Rambling

Gloomy Sunday morning, browsing web in bed using my SIM-less iPhone, kept on coming up with new ideas for the on-going renovation.

As I am typing this, the promised rain has started, soft but insistant pattering on the skylights, like little feet.

After a couple of months on nexus one,I am delighted to find out that typing on iPhone is actually not so bad, almost acceptable! What does that say about N1? 🙁

Waiting for ZM to wake up so we can go for brunch in the mission…

Random Thoughts on SF Weather

It is drizzling. The ground was barely wet. The drizzle was so soft that even our cat Mars didn’t mind when i let him out to the backyard this morning. As i was walking to the shuttle stop, i was trying to think of a word to describe the drizzle. In Chinese it would be called “Smoke Rain”, means the rain is so light that it resembles a film of smoke floating about. Then i realized it didn’t quite work in English. Not for me at least. Because the word “Smoke” in English is heavily tinted with the smell of smoke. While the word “Smoke” in Chinese, when used as an adjective, means merely the visual representation of the smoke that you see from far away, no smell is associated with it. In Chinese, the twisting shape smoke(either from a cigarette or a fire) resembles as it travels slowly about sometimes was used to describe a beautiful woman’s walking style, mysterious, seductive even.

The weekend was glorious in the City. We went to Golden Gate Park on Sunday, I to botanic garden area to check out the cherry blossom(it seems we were a little late, the blossom has passed its prime), ZM to hippie hill to check out his old stumping ground for photos. Later we met in de Young’s Cafe for a bite and realized the price there has doubled since our last visit!! Does that imply inflation?!

But the sun light was so lovely, i was almost giddy. I love San Francisco in the sun, so pretty, so pretty. Best season of the City. No Fog, no wind, all that blossoms dotted the landscape, pastel colored houses lined the streets, all were sparkling in the sun.