Pork Store Cafe

Saturday we woke up to a typical foggy morning of San Francisco. It was Mi’s first morning in our new apartment. I suggested that we could walk to a cafe in Haight-Ashbury. I read about it in CitySearch and it serves all American breakfast we enjoyed in the Greek Diner whenever I went to NY to visit him: eggs, pancakes, sausage, etc.. It turned out to be a long walk since I didn’t remember the name of the cross street and not even the exact name of the restaurant. I was confident that I would know once I saw it. Half the walk was in the panhandle where ancient trees grew tall and the grass was green with dew in the cool fresh morning air. I’ve never seen Haight street this quiet before, though. I guess 9:30am was a bit early for the colorful gangs, who were probably still nursing the alcohol from the night before.

Just when Mi started doubting my memory and suggested maybe we should turn back and drive to Clement, I spotted the line of customers across the street waiting under the old stain glassed sign that says “Pork Store Cafe”. “That’s it!” I happily announced and we ran across the street to take our spot at the end of the line. People in line looked like either regular locals or tourists. “None of them spoke English with an accent!” Mi marveled, “And no one is wearing black!” Ha, New Yorker! The place looked small, we could see every table and estimate where next available table might be. Meanwhile, I was trying to get over my surprise at seeing any restaurant open before 10am on a weekend morning. Having lived in the suburb for too long, I forgot that San Francisco, no matter how small it is comparing to New York, is still a city. And I am officially a city dweller!

The host was a big guy wearing a blue t-shirt, looked more like a bouncer at a club rather than a server at a breakfast joint. Through the glass windows, we watched him cleaning up newly vacant tables, set down napkin and forks neatly and placed enough copy of menus, before ran out to the front and called in the next lucky group. As we were rapidly approaching the front of the line, and more people came from both ends of the streets to line up behind us, the host struggled to open the front door again with a pot of fresh coffee, a stack of paper cup, and a box of creamer. We were the first lucky customers in the morning chill to be served hot coffee that morning. He asked us to just pass the creamer to people behind us when we were done. But the group of young women behind us mistook Mi for a server, extended their coffee cups to him and let Mi serve them cream along side of the host. Ha.

The host thanked Mi for helping him and sent us to the end of the counter when two spots opened up there. We watched the two amigos making breakfast with lighting speed: pork chop, fresh patty sausage, scrambled eggs, spinach, etc. etc. were cooked on the open fire grill and placed onto their platters. Every ingredient looked fresh and juicy. The portion was huge and our smiling server kept our coffee mugs full at all times. I had Banana Pecan pancakes, and Mi had scrambled eggs with patty sausage plus fluffy biscuits. During the meal Mi chatted up with an elderly looking guy with a middle-eastern accent who came in from the back door and we suspected that he might be the owner, who introduced us to the manager Mike, who seemed to know every customer around us. At the end of our meal, Mi offered to cook there if they were shorthanded. To my horror, they laughed and actually encouraged him to go behind the counter!

As they were being cooked, we’ve identified quite a few entries for our future brunch. We know we’d come back often. I wonder how many neighborhood restaurants like this we would find in our newly adopted neighborhood? Ah, I love living in the city.

Pork Store Cafe

1451 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94117
Cross Street: Ashbury and Masonic streets
Phone: (415) 864-6981
Mon-Fri 7am-3:30pm
Sat-Sun 8am-4pm
Customer Review at City Search
History and more info fro GoCityKids

NYT on Netflix

From today’s NYT, WILLIAM GRIMES did an informative piece on Netflix. Living Room Film Club, a Click Away. In addition to introducing the DVD rental service, Grimes also evaluted its customer service, analysed its competitions, spelled out its weakness and numerated special affects the service has on viewers, “The flat-fee system elicits two responses: more frequent renting, and more adventurous renting.” And even some funny blurbs about how his wife and him are fighting over the control of Netflix queue£¬

…At the moment, a domestic battle rages for control of the Netflix queue, which can be revised and reshuffled at any time. It is disputed territory….

We each judge the other’s selections harshly. I scored a major victory with “Mon Oncle” by Jacques Tati, a director I once dismissed as tedious, annoying and far too French. He is now a god in our house. But I have had my back against the wall after “L’Atalante,” a film I had never seen but knew to be, by expert consensus, a towering masterpiece. Less than 10 minutes after the opening credits rolled, the atmosphere in the living room grew frosty. I lost control of the mouse for a week.

The Evening Song of a City

The sound of a city at night has always seemed romantic and distant. It is sound that come out a movie. Living in suburbs, I wake up to birds chirping on a spring morning, bellowing wind on a winter one…

Back in 96, when I was working for a client at Phoenix, a friend used to call me at night from his Russian Hill apartment in the City. I always knew when he was standing near one of his open windows because I would then hear the sound of buses passing by, the siren of a fire truck, happy bells of a cable car, or foghorns from the bay occasionally. I remembered how I loved those calls. Not because of what we talked about but because of the background sound of a city.

When I visited Mi for the first time in New York, I remembered waking up to the sound of morning traffic on the street. How lively it sounded! I even attempted to describe it in a poem.

But then again, maybe the romance and exotics also come from the association with foreign travels, when I usually checked in little hotels in the city center, Paris, London, Barcelona, etc. Waking up to the sound of traffic usually means waking up under a foreign sky¡­

Last night was the first night I spent in my new apartment. The biggest surprise was the sound of occasional evening traffic. The Law School of USF separates our building from a major thoroughfare. There is a bus stop on the same block. I got to hear the bus as it¡¯s loading and unloading passengers. It sounded so much like an old man¡¯s laborious coughing. Funny.

I¡¯m so in love with our new place. Especially now that most of the rooms are empty, it is exceptional spacious. I noticed little details that delighted me. Our bathroom has the best evening view. It looks to the south, where the hill of twin peak lies and all the city lights spreading below. Our kitchen has the second best view, which looks out to the bay. Lying in bed in the morning, looking out the arched window, I could actually see a sliver of blue sky behind the law school¡¯s roof; if I looked out the bedroom door, I could actually see the black and red mobile hang off the tracking light in the living room and it moves slowly in the morning breeze. Walking out onto the balcony in the morning was refreshing and peaceful; our landlady actually laid new tiles for the shared garden blow. I was so tempted to step out onto the fire escape and sing!

The phone line has been turned on, but DSL won¡¯t be connected for another week. No internet, no TV. I finally got to read Ted Chiang¡¯s ¡°Stories of Your Life and Others¡±, which has been sitting on my nightstand since Christmas¡­

It is always the unexpected little things that put a smile on our faces. Maybe that¡¯s why I enjoy the sound that roamed evening streets of a city. They are chaotic but full of little details. That¡¯s what our lives are made of, isn¡¯t it? Little things, chaotic but alive.

Monsieur Ibrahim

The setting was in the 60’s Paris, a working class neighborhood in Paris. The story is the friendship between two unlikely characters (especially unlikely in today’s atmosphere), a teenager Jewish boy and an elderly muslin immigrant from Turkey.

The film was calm but not boring. Often when I just start to wonder where it is going, a spark will appear, it will be either funny or moving, and I am reengaged. Unlike any Hollywood movies, it doesn’t treat audience like an idiot and try to explain every little thing. That is very gratifying. One has to pay attention to every detail in order to appreciate the beauty of the film. The story flows like a creek in the forest, light and innocent.

A few moments that stood out for me. First has to be the mental imagery of Momo during his sexual initiation. As a woman, I often wondered what it was like for a man during sex. This little scene was completely unexpected and I was thoroughly amused. The other is when Momo asked Ibrahim to adopt him in a offhand-ish way and Ibrahim immediately accepted. Momo, unable to conceal his happiness, danced in the dark and narrow aisle in the grocer. His eyes sparkled. Then there is that scene when they were sailing from Greece to Turkey, as Istanbul’s skyline appeared in the golden misty setting sun, my heart leaped up and flew to that magical city.

A few pearls of wisdom Ibrahim lavished on Momo:

“You have only one pair of feet – take care of them,”
“When you want to learn, you don’t pick up a book, you talk to somebody,”
“A man’s heart is like a caged bird – when you dance, your heart sings.”
“It is your love, there is nothing she can do to it. You invited her to participate, and she declined. Then she loses on it.”
“Whatever you give, it is yours forever. Whatever you keep, will be lost to you.”

Reference materials that are worth reading:
1. A little blurb written by Omar Sharif on the movie

2. Interview with the director Francois Dupeyron and actor Omar Sharif

Quote from Dupeyron during the interview:

“Momo is one of those children whose parents were unable to transmit to him anything but a bunch of sad and rigid rules. Ibrahim is not imposing anything because he has nothing to impose. His religion is, in the end, only a mystery, two dry flowers left in his Koran. Belief divides, but not the religious feeling. This feeling is born out of real humility, out of tolerance, out of humor, out of intelligence… but not the one you find in books. It can be born very simply from looking at a cloud, or walking in a forest, or meeting the eyes of a child. It is the essence of all that makes us human beings.”

Rome, Madrid, Iraq, New York

Zeldman is the site i go to for all kinds of technical references regarding website design. Occasionally he would write a piece on things other than technology, and those pieces, almost always move me to tears.

Rome, Madrid, Iraq, New York is such a piece. It makes me laugh at first.

…in the fantastical city of Rome ¡ª a town filled with so many naked statues, a thousand John Ashcrofts could not cover them all.

Then it gets sad when the topic turns to Madrid on March 11th. At the end it makes me angry with this newsline:

Right now we know that a leading Pakistani scientist has sold nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, to Iran, and quite possibly to members of Al Qaeda. But instead of finding out who bought what weapons and where they are now, my country¡¯s leaders are looking the other way. In return, Pakistan has agreed to help the U.S. find bin Laden before the U.S. presidential election in November. (The deal has been reported by the International Herald Tribune, The Economist, and the BBC. You might even find mention of it in an American newspaper.)

Enough said. How does GWB achive the peace of mind in the dead of the night? It is beyond me…


Today¡¯s New York Times reports China¡¯s amendment to Chinese constitution to allow private property ownership. China Approves Amendments to Constitution on Human Rights, By CHRIS BUCKLEY.

The very last paragraph touched on something else:

Mr. Wen also dismissed a recent call by a prominent Chinese surgeon, Jiang Yanyong, to reverse the official condemnation of the Tiananmen Square political protests of 1989. At the outset of the parliamentary session, Dr. Jiang circulated a letter calling on top government and party leaders to review the student-led protests and condemn the use of force to squelch them.

¡°Unity and stability are really more important than anything else, and that’s what I’m most concerned with as Prime Minister,” Mr. Wen said.¡±

The fact is, while the constitution was being amended during the past weekend, two of the largest weblog hosting company shut down their services: blogbus and blogcn. Approximately 90% of my Chinese RSS subscription come from those two services. Suddenly my rss reader went deathly quiet. All the names, characters, voices, words, funny or sad lines, suddenly disappeared. As if a vibrant universe suddenly darkened.

The reason?

Some of their subscribers were circulating the same letter mentioned by Prime Minister Mr. Wen.

It reminded me of South America, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and all those places that have been torn by civil war, when people¡¯s loved ones start disappear without any explanation.

What are happening in Chinese weblog world are virtual disappearances.

It is funny that NYT actually adds ¡°Human Rights¡± to the end of the title on this report; does no one know what is happening to Chinese people¡¯s freedom of speech? Did media turned a blind eye to all the disappearance in Chile, Sri Lanka, South Africa, too? Is this a pattern?

I find it ironic that Chinese parliament chose to show their gesture at expanding Chinese people¡¯s material freedom at exactly the same time when shutting up people¡¯s voice. What¡¯s even more bizarre was that Western Media seemed to be in full agreement with Chinese government. Maybe the only freedom that any institution or mass media really cares is nothing but material freedom. As long as people have the freedom to consume, then capitalism won¡¯t die. Who cares if the consumer is forbidden to speak his/her mind?

One of those weblogs that disappeared this weekend belonged to ¡°zeze¡±. Her weblog¡¯s name is ¡°Witch zeze¡¯s magic plant¡±. I always liked her tag line, which says, ¡°A plant is a creature that will continue to grow, as long as it is not dead.¡± I found that aspect of anyone¡¯s blog appealing. When I am too busy to update my own weblog, I would remember that tag line and think, it is okay, it is not dead, it will continue to grow, it is just taking a break, it is hibernating. When any of my beloved weblog stops updating for a while, I would say the same thing to myself, believe that someday, somehow, it will spark a tiny new leaf, to let us know, it is still growing¡­

I truly wish these suddenly disappeared weblog will return someday, somehow, and continue to grow¡­


I was never into jewelries or makeup while I was growing up. I didn¡¯t even use to look at myself in the mirror. I still remembered in High School, one day I caught a passing glance of my face in a mirror and was shocked by this image of a stranger! How different I looked from what I thought! It was similar to hearing my own voice on a recorder. So that was ME?! That was how others listened to and looked at and perceived to be ME?! It was so different from the me in my mind! Shocking!

I¡¯m still startled from time to time when I hear my own voice on friend¡¯s answer machine or even listening to myself announcing ¡°This is Jean¡± on my own cell phone. But I¡¯ve finally gotten used to the way i look, thanks to the full length mirror i bought for our hallway.

Jewelry, however, still eluded me till¡­I watched Lord of the Rings. ¡°One ring to rule them all, One ring to find them, One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness¡­bind them.¡± A ring is cool.

Now I finally have a ring of my own. I LOVE it.

From the top, the two fluid and curvy lines remind me of the typical tai-chi hand gesture, holding one¡¯s essence in the shape of an invisible ball. In this case, a brilliant diamond. Delicate engravings further up are hinting at leaves and branches, as if the two hands grow out of a tree, a lively ancient but wise creature, like an Ent! 🙂

From the side, it looks like an innocent fat bird sleeping, the two engraved arms turn into featured wings, obediently drooped around the little bird¡¯s round body. All is quiet, all is peaceful, all is lovely.

This hand of mine that has been free from any jewelry all these years is surprisingly at ease with the new addition. As I work, i could feel this little beauty hugging my ring finger, quietly reminding me of its existence, reminding me of someone dear, something pour…

Did I mention I love the ring? 🙂

It is designed by Mi¡¯s friend Yuko, who is a talented jewelry designer in New York City. Check out her other lovely pieces at LADYBIRD NEWYORK. (In the Ring section, don’t miss the piece “iggy”. Really cute!)

Thank you, Yuko! Thank you, Mi! 🙂

Random Encounters

I first learned the author’s name Paul Auster in London, 1997.

London was the last city of my three weeks vacation. The city was humid, by then I was tired of foreign places, and the plane that would take me home was three days away. During the night, I treated myself to musicals; during the day, I roamed the streets of London aimlessly. Sick of museums and touristy sites, sick of the not-so-adequate air-conditioning in public places, I couldn’t wait to go home. On the second day, even the streets stopped look appealing to me, I saw a nice little bookstore and I went in. I was like a kid in the candy store, not only because I love books but also because among all the names on the most popular novels covers there, i only recognized one or two. Wow! Amazing! So the Brits with their funny accent also read read different authors than the Americans. Excited by my new discovery, I browsed through all the books on the store’s top ten list and settled on a new name Paul Auster. Funny enough, the title was actually “The New York Trilogy”. I had to fly across the Atlantic ocean in order to read a book about New York.

It was a strange book. Auster’s main characters seemed displaced, like ghosts gliding through a noisy and crowded world without being seen. There I was, alone in a strange city, a place almost no one knew my name, my life, reading a book about someone living a similar kind of existence. Naturally I associated that feeling with London.

Many years later, when I read of a book called Leviathan from some other novel, my curiosity made me combed my local bookstore and purchased it. Reading Leviathan reminded me of “a British writer I once read.” I went to my bookshelf and dug out The New York Trilogy again, then I realized they were by the same author, and he was not British.

Tonight, after watching Donald Trump’s much raved reality show The Apprentice, I found myself channel surfing through Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Will and Grace; and eventually stumbled onto KQED’s Charlie Rose! My friend sab had been trying to get me to watch Charlie Rose since five years ago, “You’d love it! It is right in your alley! He always interviews authors, actors, directors, etc. You know, the kind of people you’d dig. He is a great great interviewer! Trust me on it.” Sab was the one originally introduced me to FreshAir, so I absolutely trusted his taste. But I don’t watch much TV and I have always been a night person. Apparently Sab always watched Charlie Rose on Sunday morning 8am! It proved to be an impossible task and I haven’t watched one show till tonight. Who would have thought?

What’s more, tonight, Charlie’s last guest was no other than Paul Auster. It was amazing to watch an author one had known only through his words. He wasn’t what I had imagined. But then again, I always imagined him to be in a trench coat and bowler hat, walking through a futuristic bladerunner-like dark streets of New York City, tall and slender, a lonely shadow. I’ve never imagined his face. He has a sculpture-like face, very large and carved in eyes, square face, square mouth, and square eyes. He reminded me of Giants in Picasso’s paintings.

Rose was asking him about his new book, Oracle Night. They talked about how he started writing this book and how it was completed. How he worked (no computer, no type-writer, and very slow writing, could take a couple of weeks to find the next sentence), how he defines love (the highest form of love is forgiveness), how he was inches from sudden death multiple times (once a person sat next to him was struck by lighting, once his fellow passenger died in a car crash that he was able to walk away from, etc.).

Sab was right, Rose was a marvelous interviewer, as good as, if not better than, Terry Gross. As for Auster, I’ve decided that him in person is a lot more likable than his characters (okay, I admit his last bit of sappy confession on love being forgiveness did get to me). 😉

I guess I would make a habit of watching late night shows again. 🙂

10 Pieces of Furniture

10 pieces of furniture no home should be without, by Barbara Karth.

1. A pair of matching chairs:
2. A square game table and four chairs
3. A medium-sized chest
4. A console table
5. A large storage ottoman
6. An occasional table
7. A stool-cum-table
8. A bench
9. Decorative yet functional screens
10. An antique or vintage piece

I won’t necessarily agree with all of them, but I do appreciate the suggested uses for each piece. Most of them seemed very practical and versatile. One could imagine moving from dwelling to dwelling and each piece ends up gaining a new life, a new function. As if a loyal friend that had followed us through life¡¯s thick and thin, remained a reassuring presence that connected our life stories together like the thread of a pearl necklace.

3. A medium-sized chest: A chest can stand alone in a foyer providing a reliable hideaway for keys and cell phones, gloves, scarves and hats. In the dining room, it becomes a small server; in the living room, an end table; and in the bedroom, a bedside table. Move it to the breakfast room for storing table linens or the bathroom for stowing towels.

5. A large storage ottoman: Families with young children can eliminate those unsightly bumpers around the coffee table with a large ottoman in place of a coffee table. One with a top cushion can open for generous interior storage. It doubles as a hideaway for toys and, as the children grow, it becomes a repository for games. For relaxing, use the ottoman to elevate tired feet. For less casual use, place a large tray on it to stabilize coffee cups or martini glasses.

8. A bench: The bench can complete a conversation grouping or act as a finishing touch in many different areas, including the foyer or at the foot of a bed. Because a bench has no back or skirt, it is a see-through piece that can easily be placed in front of a fireplace or an expanse of glass without blocking the view.

Scharffenberger Chocolate Maker

Could you imagine living in Europe during the days before the Spaniard landed in Mexico? To live without the heavenly creature called ¡°chocolate¡±? Never.

Among a small circle of friends and co-workers I was known to be the chocoholic. Not merely because of the quality of chocolate that I consume but also because of the sheer quantity I could devour in the most efficient manner. I used to have a co-worker who always checked the floor under my desk whenever he came to see me, ¡°Where are you hiding the wrappers? I know you have them!¡± I used to have a stack of Toblerone boxes right next to my monitor, in all colors. People used to be astonished to find out they were all empty. I¡¯ve since hidden them.

So there was no surprise that I jumped at Gui¡¯s suggestion of a free factory tour in a local chocolate maker: Scharffenberger. Even though I¡¯ve never heard of this brand of chocolate before, I was curious about how chocolate was made.

Not only did I enjoyed learning how ignorant I had been about this lovely ¡°food¡±, but also found myself fall in love with Schenffenberger chocolate. Schenffenberger specializes in extra dark (70%-82%) species which are my all time favorite. In addition to the rich bitter taste of coca, the sample Schenffenberger chocolate we were given during the tour also had a strong citrus flavor, like mini-explosions in ones mouth. Pleasant surprises.

A few surprises:
1. the cacao fruit grew directly on the trunk of the tree like a football shaped tumor.
2. cacao beans need to be fermented prior to roasting, similar to wine making
3. Scharffenberger was founded in 1996!
4. ¡­by a winery owner and a physician!
5. Everyone could make chocolate using the following household appliances in her kitchen: A hair dryer, coffee grinder, and mortar and pestle.

If you are a chocolate lover and find yourself in the bay area, you might want to consider taking an hour out of your schedule and checking out this lovely factory tour. They are in Berkeley, and the tour is free.

Self Policing DNA

Interesting article on DNA’s dynamic nature. Computer scientist should surely take notes. Maybe this is how an operating system should behave, too?
Constantly In Motion, Like DNA Itself, By NATALIE ANGIER, Published: March 2, 2004, New York Times.

Dr. Barton proposes that the DNA molecule polices itself electronically, periodically delivering a flow of charged particles from Point A to Point B to check for mutant, misplaced bases that might be skulking in the corridors. If the electrons proceed unimpeded, she suggests, all is well. But if there is a kink in the sequence, the smallest sign of a nascent mutation, the flow would short-circuit. That break would in turn sound an alarm, alerting the cell’s DNA repair crew to fix the mess now, or at least sometime before lunch.