28 December 2006

So long, Gerry

Mike, Gayle, President Ford, Mrs. Ford, Jack, Susan, and Steve on the South Lawn of the White House. September 6, 1976

27 December 2006

Thanks ya'll

My family stopped acknowledging holidays and birthdays when I was a kid, so it's nice to know that I have friends that are thinking of me during the holiday season.

Thanks for all the snail mail. I love getting fun things in my mailbox.

Thanks for the gorgeous handmade flourite and peridot drop silver necklace and comb. The necklace is simple and sweet -- hopefully a reflection on its wearer. If I'm lucky, the comb will make me as smart as Franu.

Thanks for the very badass skull necklace that looks so dainty and real (with a jaw that opens and closes!). I love it and plan on wearing it to work on a regular basis.

Thanks for the lovely Bath and Bodyworks gift basket containing all sorts of skincare goodies (shower gel, lotion, etc) plus an aromatherapy candle and bath scrubbie.

Now, none of you know each other (or are in contact with each other), but in addition to your wonderful holiday wishes (much love to you as well) you included soap, jewelry and a comb.

Um, are each of you trying to tell me something???

Do I smell? Do I need to comb my hair? Do I need to dress better? :-)

Why do people always tell me that?

Has this ever happened to you?

Used to happen to me all the time when I was growing up. Explains a lot, now that I think about it.

25 December 2006

Good movie

Pookie, Ann and I went to watch Blood Diamond Saturday night. Damn, when did Leo grow up and turn into such a phenomenal actor?

The movie is good, and if you've got some time to kill, completely worth watching.

It tugs on the same heartstrings as Hotel Rwanda in that it puts the things that were in the news into context and on a more human scale. My only complaint, and it's not even a complaint as much as an observation, was that I thought the idea of a self-sacrificing mercenary that believes in integrity and honor to be contrived. But, bringing that element into the picture allowed the movie to make some interesting detours into the less often heard plight of whites in Africa. Not all whites in Africa are corrupt and exploitative, and civil unrest doesn't discriminate. The movie also poses an interesting question -- what would Africa look like today if it didn't have all its natural resources. It might be a better, more peaceful place.
Interestingly enough, according to this article in Grist, the diamond industry has mounted a defense against this movie in an effort to curb any unfavorable publicity. It seems strange to me since even though the movie's storyline is fictional, this is what happened in Sierra Leone. While the civil war has ended, the diamonds are still bloody -- children are still being captured and families are still being torn apart in Africa in some part to the diamond industry.

Merry Christmas and observations on language differences beyond the Mason Dixon line

Merry Christmas from NC!

American Gothic revisited. I love this picture of Pookie and Ann because it reminds me of Grant Wood's famous painting. (Click on the picture of Pookie and Ann to see the album.)

Pookie and Ann have invited me to visit them in their new digs in Ballantyne, NC -- a golf course dotted, swimming pool specked, tennis court checkered planned neighborhood in surburban Charlotte. I just barely managed to fly in yesterday morning and have yet to get over the size of their home.

For the same monthly mortgage as they paid for their junior 1 BR in Bayside, Queens, Pookie and Ann now have a 4 BR (this includes a ginormous master suite), 2.5 BA, formal living room, formal dining room, huge family room which is overlooked by another sitting/recreational area upstairs (which leads into the other 3 BRs), huge modern kitchen with breakfast bar, breakfast nook, separate laundry room, fireplace, deck, swimming pool, 2 car garage and a yard. A real yard!

In NC, Pookie and Ann's house is known as a "starter home." Which leads me to the conclusion that while New Yorkers and Tar Heels both speak English, the Mason-Dixon line holds more than geographical or historical significance; the invisible demarcation between former Union and Confederacy states also marks a language barrier. In New York City, a "starter home" is a 380 sf studio apartment on the top floor of a 6 story walk-up building with no laundry or parking, and the monthly mortgage is several hundred dollars more than Pookie and Ann's.

After admiring Ann's taste in furniture and decor and starting my loads of dirty laundry, yesterday involved going out to eat, napping, a movie, eating some more, and then going to sleep. Pookie and Ann watched in amazement (or was it disgust?) as I inhaled two entrees of NC-sized proportions for lunch. Once again, my theory on the Mason-Dixon line language difference proves correct as NC dishes are easily twice the size of NYC sized plates.

After a full day of eating and napping, I still managed to sleep a full 14 hours, which played well into Pookie's master plan of sitting at home, doing nothing and watching TV as Ann could no longer drive to the Blue Ridge Mountains (sorry Ann!). When I woke, Pookie and Ann were debating whether they ought to wake me or not. After my 12th hour asleep, Ann was starting to worry that I might be sick. Pookie, who knows me too well, felt they ought to let me sleep. There was nothing wrong with me other than it's been a long long time since I've slept in real king-sized bed in a room that doesn't have all the prerequisite noises of a prewar apartment building in NYC (your neighbors having sex, the radiator, the pipes, fire trucks, etc) and not had to wake up to go to work or run errands. It was incredibly restful. Thanks Pookie!

23 December 2006

Greetings from Charlotte, NC

It's 5:00am on Saturday morning, and I've been up all night. That's because I didn't get home from work until some time around midnight. It was just one of many recent early mornings and late nights at work.


My brain's shot. I sit and stare blankly at the television until 3am when I finally force my exhausted body to get off the couch. I have to pack. I have a flight to catch at 7am.

Two weeks ago, I promised Pookie that I would visit him for Christmas. I don't know what I was thinking; I should have stuck to my guns and insisted that I spend Christmas alone. The only day I have off from work is Monday, and it's an extremely busy time at work at the end of the year. But, my visit to Pookie was long overdue, and I have a sneaking suspicion that he and Ann didn't want me to be alone for Christmas.

I like spending time alone. Many people don't believe me because the art of being alone is largely lost on people in the 25-40 age group. There are far too many in that age range who can't do anything unless they have someone at their side for even small things that require minimal interaction like going to the mall or the movies.

What I think people don't always understand is that aloneness can be very liberating. When I'm alone, I'm come and go as my whim desires. There are no appointments that I'm obligated to keep, no one to coordinate schedules with, no need to check in with anyone, no one to answer to but myself. I act according to my mood and motivation, and I can change my mind about what I'd like to do at any given moment without concern that I'm being a "flake" and wasting someone else's time. When I'm alone, it's incredibly relaxing to know that I'm not bound by the needs, commitments or schedules of others, but that my time is my own time to use or waste as I please.

I suspect that those same people may even pity me when I tell them that I prefer to be alone because they don't believe it to be true. When asked what I did over Thanksgiving, I replied, "I had a great weekend. My roommate spent the week at her bf's, so I had the whole apartment to myself. I slept in, went to the gym, ordered dinner in, watched movies, read, and napped." I see the slightly pitying glances that say, "poor girl, she must not have any friends or family." I don't really care, and nor do I try to explain because attempts to make others understand would be misconstrued as defensiveness. It'd only confirm their misguided belief that I spend time alone because I have no other options. The reality is far different.

My desire to spend time alone might be because I don't get enough "me" time -- time to go through the stacks of unopened mail piled up on my desk, to file away bills and documents, to work on my photography, to update my blog, to edit and post pictures that range from my day-to-day adventures in NYC to big trips like Costa Rica (2 years ago), Portland (9 months ago), Hawaii (6 months ago). The end result is that my personal life is made up of piles. Piles of urgent things that need to be addressed right away, like bills, and piles of things that I'd like to work on or put away when I have more time. The "urgent" pile will eventually get addressed when it grows to an alarmingly unbearable size. The "when I have more time" pile hasn't been touched in two years.

It's now 3am, and I'm staring at piles. Piles of three weeks worth of dirty laundry -- the laundry I've been meaning to wash for two weeks but haven't had the time. I open my underwear drawer. It's empty. Even my emergency underwear is gone -- the ugly granny one that can mysteriously be found in every girl's underwear drawer even though she wouldn't be caught dead in it and would never have bought such a hideous thing for herself. Great. Just great.

I dig through the pile of luggage under the rolling clothes rack that serves as the second half of my closet in my 100 square foot room and retrieve my extra large L.L. Bean duffel bag, the humongous one that more closely resembles a me-sized body bag. I start filling it with the piles of dirty clothes. Even my sheets and towels. I've got two hours, and the car is picking me up at 5am to take me to LGA.


Anyhoo, back to the present. The best thing about having no clean clothing is not having to think or plan what to pack. I drag my extra large duffel bag out of the back of the Lincoln Towncar and into the airport. It's 5:40 Saturday morning, and I haven't slept since Thursday night when I managed to squeeze in four hours of QT with my mattress before heading back to work. As I punch my info into the self check-in terminal at the JetBlue counter, I can't help but feel slightly impressed that I managed to make it to the airport on time. I'm notorious for showing up at the airport at the last possible minute. Yes, I've even missed flights (Hawaii and Hong Kong to name a few). The terminal blinks at me: "There is a problem with your reservation. Please contact an agent."

Still feeling pretty good about making it to the airport before the last possible second, my drag my ginormous duffel over to the JetBlue ticketing agent, "Excuse me, there seems to be a problem with my reservation. I can't print a boarding pass."

"Your destination?" says the nice lady in blue.

"Charlotte, NC."

"Ma'am, this is La Guardia. JetBlue only flies to Florida from La Guardia. Your flight leaves from JFK." I glance at the printout with my reservation details. She was right, and I'm a moron. How typical of me. Go figure.

"SHIT!" I throw my duffel over my shoulder and run out the door. I jump in a yellow cab that's just dropped off a passenger and ask, "Hey, I have to catch a 7am flight out of JFK. How long does it take to get there?"

"30-45 minutes at best, and it's starting to rain, so it'll take longer now." It's now 5:50am.

"Listen, if you could do your best to get me there in 30 minutes or less, I'd really appreciate it." It's time for damage control. If I'm going to miss the flight, I need to call Pookie before he makes the trip to the airport, and he needs to think that I didn't miss it on purpose because I'm trying to avoid a trip down there. I leave him a short message.

While I'm rushed, I'm in no way stressed. When you spend 12-14 hours a day in an environment where everything is urgent and needs to be done right away (even when it doesn't), urgency takes on a new definition. In both my professional and personal life, my sense of urgency or pressure has lost perspective. Breathe. Control what you can control and let everything else fall to the wayside (Some days, I'm not very good at doing the latter). I can't make the cab drive faster, and I can't do anything about traffic, so I'm not going to sweat it. I close my eyes and nap.

It's 6:20am when my yellow cab pulls up to the JetBlue departures terminal at JFK. I thank and tip the driver $20 for his timeliness. This time, my boarding pass prints out at the self check-in terminal with no problem. I check my duffel. I'm one of the last people to make it on the flight, but I make it. Once again, I've caught my flight at the last possible minute. Guess some habits are harder to break than I want to believe, but hey, no sweat, right?

22 December 2006

The puny pony has its own website!

After RC sent me the article of the Puny Pony, B found its website. Thanks folks!

Go to: http://www.worldssmallesthorse.com/

Check out the pictures. The history of how mini horses came about is quite interesting. Apparently, some miniature horses were bred to work in mines...

Don't run with sharp objects

This is what happens when I finally have some free time for the first time in weeks. Instead of packing to go to NC, I go out and buy a new toy -- the 2006 Starboard Carve! Unlike the picture below, my board will arrive without man or dog (the dog would have been nice). Nevertheless, I am very excited.

Unfortunately, this is an example of why B doesn't think she ought to leave me alone for extended periods of time.


Considering my two major purchases lately, I think I know which one is the better value, and it's not the one I'll use 2 months out of a year.

17 December 2006

This book sucked

I just finished reading this book. It sucked.

I read it because B told me I'd like it. Because half the women who saw me reading it told me that it was good, and I'd like it. And, after I finished reading it, they told me I ought to watch the movie because the movie was better. I should have just skipped the book and waited for the movie to come out on demand. Any book where someone tells you the movie is better is probably not worth reading.

The book was painfully boring and could have easily been half its length. I hated it. But, because everyone I knew who had read the book told me they liked it, I wanted to like it. I read page after page of bitching and moaning about how hard work is, how mean the protagonist's boss is, how horrid life is because of the long work hours, and how guilty the central character feels because she has to choose work over family and friends. After a while, I began to resent the book because even though I thought it was a drag, I felt I had to keep on reading because everyone was convinced that I'd like it. I kept waiting for the part of the book that everyone was convinced I would like; I kept hoping that the book would eventually redeem itself. It never did.

The book was just an excuse to rattle off lengthy lists of couture clothing. While I like couture as much as the next girl, I don't have to read 368 pages when I can just surf the web, call Bergdorf's or go to Soho. To my disappointment, even the end of the book was boring and predictable. [SPOILER. STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK AND PLAN ON DOING SO.] The central character is faced with a situation where she must choose between a successful career and the people she cares about. She tells her boss to "Fuck off." Wow, shocker. The book just managed to have the same ending as most pre-teen coming of age novels.

As many of us who live and work in NYC know, sleep deprivation, unreasonably demanding bosses, conspicuous consumption, status symbols and social climbers are examples of just another day in the big city. For most of us, lives like that don't come with fancy clothes or perks. Neither is it difficult or interesting. It just is.

Go Kobayashi!

Here's a cell phone picture of this year's countdown board at the Nathan's Annual Hot Dog eating contest where Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut duked it out. Kobayashi won with 53.75 hot dogs in 12 minutes and immediately upchucked all the contents of his stomach as soon as the contest ended, prompting his competitors to cry foul. Instant replay showed that he managed to keep everything down until after the buzzer. Chestnut followed a close second with 52 hot dogs.

What was interesting was that the crowd made the contest into an "us versus them" event. When Kobayashi was announced, he stood on a cherry picker over the crowd. He flexed his biceps and raised his oversized shirt to flaunt his six-pack abs. The crowd booed. When Chestnut was announced and raised up in a cherry picker so he was level to Kobayashi, the crowd cheered him and chanted "USA! USA! USA!" Chestnut preened before the crowd, also flexing his biceps. The cherry picker operator then raised Chestnut so he stood above Kobayashi, and the crowd cheered.

I tried to figure out how competitive eating relates to nationality but drew a blank. The sort of athleticism exhibited by both Kobayashi and Chestnut in the realm of competitive eating is true talent no matter what language either one of them speaks, what country they call home, or what they look like. The crowd booed Kobayashi because he wasn't "American." What does that mean? Was it because he he wasn't white? Because he didn't look like them? Because he doesn't speak English? I still don't know.

It was one of the best July 4 days I've had in a long time. JS had called that morning with the brilliant idea to go to Coney Island to watch Kobayashi, and despite the three hour wait and the blistering heat, we had a lot of fun. JS is uncanny in that he always knows what I'd find interesting from random spur-of-the-moment activities to my fascination with competitive eating. Love alone wasn't enough to make things work, but at least I have memories of good times and was able to walk away with happy thoughts.

13 December 2006

This changes the nature of the sport!

I'm sad.

The face of competitve eating, the sport we have all come to know and love, has taken on a new dimension that may possibly mar it forever.

Eating even organizers are being pressured to favor speed over quantity for health purposes, and they're giving in. Can you believe it?!?! It shows an obvious lack of understanding and respect for the nature of the sport.

For 15 years, competitors have traveled to the World Pie Eating Championships in this northwestern English town to gorge on as many meat and potato pies in three minutes as they can handle.

This year, in tune with the government's healthy eating drive and after sustained pressure from the Vegetarian Society, organizers overhauled the sport's rules, presenting the award to the contestant able to eat a single pie in the fastest time. They also introduced a vegetarian category.

Just because one is a fast eater does not make one the "most" (therefore the best) eater.

06 December 2006

This just takes the cake

This ban just takes the cake -- the cake containing trans fats that is. I know New York City had been thinking about this, but I really didn't think people in their right mind would actually let it pass. Does anyone realize that once the private sphere gives ground to the public sphere, it's extremely difficult to regain it back? Seriously, people.

When NYC banned smoking indoors, I was able to live with that. After all, it was arguably regulating the negative externalities of secondhand smoke, not the actual act of smoking itself. I agree with parts of what the city is trying to do with this new law -- restaurants ought to provide nutritional information on their menus. People do need to be more aware of what they eat and how that affects their health. The spirit of this new law is in the right place: to protect the people.

However, it's overstepped its bounds. If this is appropriate legislation, what's next? What if the city makes a determination that listening to music with headphones is bad for hearing? That only certain religions are safe for public consumption? That minorities pose a public danger since they don't fit in? That childbirth is dangerous to women? There are plenty of other things that are dangerous (and illegal) for people living in this city -- guns, vandalism, aggressive taxi drivers to name a few -- that can be changed. So, why this?

One of the things that makes this country so great is that there's always choice. A lot of choice. Choice fosters competition. It encourages creativity and innovation. Without it, we'd just be a second-rate Singapore with slightly less educated and less technologically advanced citizens. (You know Singapore" The city-state that bans chewing gum because it causes people to litter, bans the press for being critical of the prime minister, and bans podcasting during elections. A place where the people have a voice only when it's "good" for them.) I ought to be able to choose what I eat, not the government. After all, who determines what's "good" for me? If it makes me happy to eat food that contains trans fat, and I place a higher premium on my happiness than my health, I should be allowed to eat as much food containing trans fat as I want.

The way our representatives today seem to be able to justify giving up our privacy and freedoms for "our good" is very scary and not good for me at all. Once again, the long invasive arm of the law overreaches.

05 December 2006

The Intrepid

Leaving NY and passing the Statue of Liberty.

The first was taken by a coworker from his apartment balcony. The second was taken by another coworker from the building where I work.

Still looking

found: 1 pair of white gold and sapphire earrings (!)

lost and still looking: 1 RUNNING MOJO. Reward offered if found.

I clocked a slow 3.75 miles on the treadmill tonight. I should have run more, but I got bored and...stopped.

D and T (D's gf) are off to London this week, and then he's off on location with his famous movie star client the week after. SL (pilates instructor) is gone all next week shooting a fitness video for Shape magazine. Guess I'll be on my own the next two weeks. I need to figure out how to snap out of this lazy funk.

Safari Planet (that's CRAZY!)

Here's a clip of when Brian Fellow thought rabbits couldn't cut hair. Of course rabbits can cut hair. Duh. That's CRAZY!

Here's a clip of when a parrot tried to steal Brian Fellow's identity. Stupid bird. That's CRAZY!

Here's a clip of when a goat with devil-eyes called Brian Fellow a doo-doo head because he thought goats couldn't talk. That's CRAZY!

In case you haven't noticed, this was just an excuse for me to show my favorite Tracy Morgan character when he was on SNL. That's CRAZY! And, he's hilarious.

03 December 2006

A new play in NYC

There's a new play in town by my favorite playwright, Tom Stoppard. I can't wait to see it!

The Coast of Utopia Part One: Voyage

The man's brilliant.

(I think I was the only person who teared up during The Invention of Love, which I saw twice. Once with John Wood at the RNT, and once at The Studio Theatre in DC. Yes, that's how lame I am, but his work is hella awesome.)

02 December 2006

Just in the nick of time

I did it.

Remember how I mentioned HC and I stopped in Barbara Bui last week (because I saw a gorgeous bag in the window display and had to take a closer look)?

Well, I went back, dragging B with me. To say I have to drag B anywhere when shopping is involved isn't just a gross exaggeration, it's a blatant lie. B loves to shop, and I'm usually the one being dragged somewhere to look at various articles of clothing or accessories. This may sound strange, but I hate to shop and will normally only do it out of necessity (aka the "in-and-out") or when I know exactly what I want and am looking to see if such a thing actually exists. Very rarely will I see something that I adore that I don't need or wasn't looking for, but if I'm still thinking about it after a week, I go back and buy it. It was my lucky day. Barbara Bui was having a one-day sale where almost all bags and shoes were discounted 40%.

The assistant store manager, a fabulous man, recognized me immediately and asked where HC was. (Apparently, she was still sleeping, since she text messaged me around 4pm to tell me she had just woken up and was going to buy paint for her new room.) He was kind enough to tell me that there was only one quilted bag left (the larger one, in cognac), which he was hoping to buy for his sister if it was still left at the end of the day. Should he pull it off display for me?

Yes, of course yes.

Not only did he remember me, but he was just a friendly and helpful as I remembered, bringing out bags in styles he thought I'd like and striking a pose as he modelled each one on his shoulder or arm. At one point, he exclaimed, "My goodness, what I am doing still trotting this around?" Apparently, he had gone back to working on the store displays with a forgotten handbag still on his arm. He really was adorable.

There was also a pair of boots that I would have happily taken home with me -- the assistant store manager very sweetly offered suggestions on how they ought to be worn (could he tell that I'm horrible at dressing myself?) -- but they had entirely sold out of my size. Apparently, there had been a run on the boots since Kate Hudson was seen wearing them in October. (Of course I had to come home and google it.) Bummer.

B told me later that there was bag drama while I was elsewhere trying on boots. A woman came in asking about the bag and was unhappy to hear I had the last one. She demanded B tell her whether there would be a chance that I would not buy the bag (obviously, until I actually paid for it, there's a chance I wouldn't buy it) and then insisted on standing over the it until she saw me pay for it. The assistant store manager, being fabulously smart, asked me for my credit card and left both the bag and card at the register.

Anyhoo, I bit the bullet and bought the bag, and I LOVE IT! I didn't even notice that there was a woman who was eyeing me and the bag like a hawk as I paid for it (I don't always pay attention to when people stare or talk), but B noticed. Drama.

I hope my next bag is going to be black; I seem to be stuck in a brown bag rut.

29 November 2006

Now THIS is a puny pony

My car's name is Puny Pony because it's literally (no, not figuratively) small in all respects, but this puny pony beats all. I shit you not, this is real.

Thanks for sending it to me, RC!

Standing just 17 inches tall ... the tiny mare is so small she would struggle to leap over a bucket.

But such things are of little concern for feisty Thumbelina who has just been officially recognised as the world's smallest horse.

The five-year-old received the title from the Guinness Book of Records after her astonished owners realised she was never going to grow any bigger.
'When she was young she found the dog kennels and decided she wanted to bed-in with the dogs, rather than with bigger horses...
'She spends all her time playing with the spaniels, but we have to try and stop her grazing on grass, because she is not allowed to eat too much.'
Thumbelina survives on a cup of grain and handful of hay, served twice-a-day.

27 November 2006

Could it be?

Last Friday, HC and I found ourselves in Soho after a bout at my favorite neighborhood pub. I dragged her into the Barbara Bui boutique. Big mistake.

Suddenly, I was overcome by a strange feeling. Um, could it be love? Is this what love feels like? Perchance it's lust?

Whatever it is, everything at Barbara Bui was sumptiously delicious. Even the staff was friendly and helpful, a rare New York occurance.

Check out the Barbara Bui website. Take a look at the gorgeous clothes if you have the time.
(Incidentally, B has noted that whenever she shops alone, shop staff never approach her. However, when she shops with me, salespeople approach me like insects to a light. It probably has something to do with the fact that I sport a huge sign that says "Sucker. Will buy anything you say.")

24 November 2006

Rock Paper Scissor anyone?

Check out the World Rock Paper Scissor Society which hosts an annual Rock Paper Scissor World Championship.

23 November 2006

Since Katie G did it, I had to too

Yes yes yes. If everyone jumped off a cliff, I'd probably want to know which cliff...
Click here for Katie G's.
Your Birthdate: April 3

You are more than a big ball of energy - you are a big ball of hyper.
You are always on the go, but you don't have a type a personality.
Instead of channeling your energy into work, you instead go for fun and adventure.
Witty and verbal, you can have an interesting conversation with anyone.

Your strength: Your larger than life imagination

Your weakness: You tend to be pretty scattered

Your power color: Lime

Your power symbol: Lightening bolt

Your power month: March
A few thoughts on the above:
  • Lime is really no better than lilac.
  • I suppose I'll have to carry lightening bolts in lieu of my Wonder Woman cuffs. Sorry, but no, I will not wear my underwear outside my tights. Does anyone know where I can find lightening bolts?
  • March is the beginning of windsurfing season, albeit the very cold beginning.

What do you think?

Not sure if you even notice a difference, but if you do, let me know if you like the new blog layout or the old one better.

I always like to see as much information on the same page as possible, therefore as many words as possible, but I've heard that some people get overwhelmed by "too many words."

(I would like to point out that words are prerequisite to both reading and blogging.)

Welcome to the World

Check this out. Seriously.

21 November 2006

Have you seen it?

One of the things I like about New York is that you can be anonymous. And even when you're not, people just don't give a shit who you are. Maybe it's because New Yorkers are surrounded by a disproportionate number of high profile, high powered individuals and have been desensitized to fame, wealth or power, or maybe it's because New Yorkers are self absorbed and have a lot of things going on in their lives.

For example, a few weekends ago I ran into Paul Rudd while crossing the street in the meatpacking district. It was a busy weekend morning and the crosswalk was crowded. He was holding his kid. Everyone brushed past him. No one cared that he was moderately famous. No one stopped him to ask him for his autograph. There was not a camera in sight.

I was home sick today. As B can attest, my solution when I don't feel well is to either eat or exercise or both, although preferably not at the same time. B had a 103 fever once, and I told her that she'd feel better if she went outside and took a walk. It was the dead of winter and bitterly cold out. I'm glad she didn't take me up on my asinine suggestion or she might have become more ill.

Around 5pm today, after I had eaten the fridge empty, I dragged my congested head out of bed and went to the gym. I tried to run. About a mile in, I looked to my left and noticed a very familiar person: Kiefer Sutherland. He was also running. He is just as cute in person as he is on TV, although short.

So here I am, one pizza, gnocchi with tomato and basil sauce, mixed green salad, calamari, french fries, fish sticks, three chocolate cookies and a handful of maple oatmeal cookies covered in sugar later, at the gym, running a few treadmills away from Kiefer Sutherland (have I mentioned he's cute?), and do you want to know what I was thinking about? It wasn't about how I was only a few feet away from an extremely talented actor who also happens to star on one of my favorite TV shows. I wasn't thinking that he was cute, although that did cross my mind. Nor was it about why he might be at my gym since I've never seen him there before. I was thinking about my mojo.

HAS ANYONE SEEN MY RUNNING MOJO? Because I seem to have left it somewhere, along with my watch and my sapphire earrings. (I know where I left my watch, but when I returned, it was gone. However, I still have not found my sapphire and white gold earrings. It makes me sad.)

I have been suffering from runner's block lately. I've lost my running mojo and have been looking all over the place for it. To date, it's still missing. I'm stuck at an 8:30 mile and seem to hit a wall after four miles.

So, my thoughts were:
  • What do I need to switch up to figure out what's crowding my mojo? Do I need to stop wearing heels, because my knees have been killing me lately? Should I focus on staying lean, because I've let myself go to fat a bit? Do I need to lose weight so I can get lighter to get faster?
  • Should I start running with the New York Road Runners, which I joined a while back but haven't run with?
  • Should I get a running coach who'll help me amp things up?
  • Is this what going to the gym would feel like if I got out of work at a decent hour? Is this what the gym looks like when people who work normal hours go to the gym as opposed to going to the gym at 10pm at night when it's empty?
  • My God, I wish I got out of work at a decent hour.

The only two thoughts I had in passing about the man running a few feet away from me: 1. he's cute, and 2. he's short.

So why is it easier for celebs to be anonymous in New York compared to cities like LA? Could it be because people in New York City are self absorbed and have too much of their own shit going on to worry about other people's issues? It's very likely. Could it be because they might have LOST THEIR RUNNING MOJO? Absofuckinglutely.

19 November 2006

What I've been up to lately

Thanks for the emails and for letting me know I've been MIA on this blog for most of November. It's good to know that there are people out there that are occasionally interested in what I have to say. It's also been good for me to have a place to just write -- even if it is about my vapidly insipid life and interests -- (ir)regardless of whether anyone is listening. In case you were wondering, if a tree fell in the woods and no one was there to hear it, it makes no noise whatsoever.

Here's what I've been up to lately. I've tried to lump your questions together in a way that made sense. It was interesting to see how similar some of your questions were even though most of you don't know each other. If they were similar, I tried to write the question only once.

Did you join a cult?
Jeebus, is that you? Jeebus, are you speaking to me?

So, did you buy your farm yet?
No. I've decided to wait a while longer, but will continue keeping an eye out. Who knows when the right opportunity will present itself, but when it does, I''d like to be ready. If I don't spend my life savings on handbags first.

Have you forgotten about me?
No. I don't forget people who are important to me. Don't be a jackass face.

Because I've been bloody tired lately and have needed more alone time than usual. I spent the first two weeks of November in training, where I learned about leadership, management, and the firm. It was a little exhausting because I had to make up some of my time out of the office by working after training, but it was worth it. The rest of November was spent catching up from two weeks out of the office and celebrating Thanksgiving (I'll post that separately).

Training was great because I got to meet and work with my counterparts from other parts of the firm that I would have never otherwise met. At one point, we broke up into teams and "ran" companies that competed against each other, and my team won. (yay!) I learned a lot about my communication and leadership preferences and have some things to think about in terms of how I can be more a more effective leader and communicator.

For one of my leadership and communication workshops, I completed a HDBI assessment and learned that while I have the ability to move into other quadrants at anytime without regard to preference, I prefer to use the upper and lower right quadrants of my brain to think, learn, comunicate and make decisions. In other words, I use my intuition and like having options, being creative and flexible when making decisions. I'm not as good at following process, gathering details or abiding by rules. I almost don't prefer to make decisions based on facts, data or logic.

Based on the assessment, I'm good at interpersonal stuff, non-verbal cues, engendering enthusiasm, persuading and conciliating, seeing 'the big picture', recognizing new possibilities and taking risks, integrating concepts, challenging established policies, synthesizing unlike elements into a new whole, inventing solutions to problems, and problem solving in intuitive ways. I'm less inclined to follow rules, structure, organization, attention to details, being methodical, analytical or quantitative. My responses under stress were consistent with my responses under normal circumstances, so I'm no different even when under stress.

People with my thought and decision making preferences are often teachers, facilitators, in the arts (writing, music, design) or in a 'helping' field (counselor, psychologist). Compared to the profiles of other individuals that have taken this assessment, my profile most closely matches those of social workers, people in sales or entrepreneurs. While I can see myself as a social worker, I doubt I'd be a successful salesperson or entreprenuer. I'm still trying to figure out my "special purpose," and when I do, I'll be sure to write home about it. Maybe I'll be a forest ranger when I grow up.

Is your blog the only way you'll communicate with friends?
You can't pick up the phone and call anyone anymore?
Unfortunately, yes. My email at work is strictly monitored (as in read by someone else) and recorded and should be used primarily for work purposes. I'm blocked from external messaging sites (e.g. hotmail, gmail, yahoo, IM) the 14+ hours I'm at work. This is my message in a bottle.

I'd be happy to give you a call whenever I get a chance as long as you don't mind if it's around midnight since that's when I know I'll definitely be home and have time to talk. Hope you'll be okay if I'm not particularly interesting or entertaining then, since I'll be all talked out, having spent a good 4-6 hours talking to clients or their lawyers. But, I'd love to listen to anything you have to say if you'd like to talk to me.

So, you got good news or what?
Well, now that I know how I communicate, I have a lot to think about in terms of being a better manager, a better leader and a better communicator. I'd say that was pretty good news, wouldn't you? Oh, and ADub told me I am going to have a "good year" whatever that means. Hopefully something good. Good enough for a farm or ranch or just a big ass pieces of land in the middle of nowhere someday... Or, a pony. I've always wanted a pony. Not that miniature miniature pony though. I might lose it. That would be almost as bad as Brian Fellow's comment that rabbits can't cut hair. Rabbits can too cut hair. Duh.

Are you seeing someone? I bet you are...you sneaky lady you.
So who's the new person you've been keeping a secret?
Are you dating?
Have you met someone?

Ok, I'm offended that more than one of you thought to ask this question. Seriously, do you think that if I started to see someone, I would stop keeping in touch (either via email, phone or this blog)? What kind of friend do you take me for???

You got time? Shall I detail my boy woes to you?

How's work? Are you swamped?
Let me guess! MONTH END!
Is it month end?
Month end!
I'm a little embarrassed that more than one of you wrote this to me. Is this really my rote answer when you call or email? Has it truly gotten so bad?

Wait, don't answer that. I know it's bad because Pookie has asked me if it's month-end even when he's called or emailed me mid-month. (Pookie, this is why you are annoying, and I HATE YOU. Other than that, I'll see you and Ann for Christmas. Love ya!)

Look, when your busiest periods at work are at the beginning and end of the month, suddenly, the one week in between those two bookends are consumed by other work-related things you let fall by the wayside during month-end. What can I say? I know I'm pretty focused at work; I want to get things done so I can leave at a decent hour. Seriously, people. I am so sorry. I am a jackass face.

If you've ever wondered why month-end is my busiest time of month, it's because there's a week before the beginning of the next month where clients that I haven't heard from all month (sometimes all year) will call or email and tell me that they need something done in time for the beginning of the next month. They usually think a week is enough time. It won't matter that I may have 62 other products that also need to be launched at the beginning of the month and up until that morning, I only knew about 40 of them. The thing is, if a client calls the day before the next month and tells me they need something done by tomorrow, I will do everything in my control to have it done even if it means being at work until 3am. Depending on how one looks at it, it could be good or bad that clients do this. Good because it means I'm doing my job and my clients think that I'm solely there to help them and no other client. Sucky because the end of the month is usually full of fire drills, and it's always a race to the finish line. Then again, it could also be because clients don't really care how much work I've got provided their stuff gets done. :-)

Frankly, the importance of the beginning of the next month has always baffled me. It shouldn't make a difference when a new product is launched provided it's a good product. However, everyone seems hung up on wanting to launch their products on the first of the month as opposed to any other day of the month. All those other days of the month are getting the shaft. They ought to get even. They ought to cancel New Year.

16 November 2006

Do you know what makes you happy?

Apparently, most of us don't.


Our culture implores us to buy bigger, newer, better things, but research shows "stuff" does not buy happiness. By and large, money buys happiness only for those who lack the basic needs. Once you pass an income of $50,000, more money doesn't buy much more happiness...

Our genes hardwire us to reproduce, but children have a small negative effect on happiness, research shows.

"When you follow people throughout their days, as they're going about their normal activities, people are about as happy interacting with their children, on average, as when they're doing housework. They're much less happy than when they're exercising, sleeping, grocery shopping, hanging out with friends... Now, that doesn't mean they don't occasionally create these transcendent moments of joy that we remember as filling our days with happiness."

Finally, our imaginations fail us...because when we envision different futures we see either perpetual gloom or happily ever-after scenarios. In fact, neither unhappiness nor joy last as long as we expect. As you've probably guessed, winning the lottery will not guarantee a life of bliss.

So what makes us happy? In general, the older you get the happier you get -- until you reach very old age.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, the happiest age group is men 65 and older; the least happy: men 18 to 29.

The survey also found:
  • Married people are happier than singles.
  • College grads are happier than those without a college degree.
  • People who were religious are happier than those who aren't.
  • Sunbelt residents are happier than other U.S. residents.
  • Republicans are happier than Democrats -- but both are happier than independents.

15 November 2006

Best steak I've ever had in this city

D turns 35 Saturday. To celebrate, G and I treated him and T (his girlfriend) to dinner at The Strip House. Dude. Best steak I've had in this city so far. Considering my industry and client base, that says a lot.

The restaurant had a nice feel. There was none of that cigar and wood-panelled decor and old boys club feel that annoys me about most quality steakhouses. Instead, the proprieters played up the restaurant's name with a burlesque theme -- framed pictures of burlesque performers against the blood-red wallpaper. Clever.

The service was a little slow. It was a Wednesday night, and we arrived 15 minutes early for our 9:30 reservation and weren't seated until 10pm when D and G started getting antsy. The thing about being 6' tall and over 200lbs of pure muscle (six pack and all) is that it comes with a raging metabolism. Add an 6'3" tall person with a similar physique, and it suddenly sucks twice as hard to have to wait to eat when you're hungry. That poor maitre'd -- it must be intimidating to have two tall beefy men standing over you demanding to know why they have to wait 45 minutes for a table when they arrived at 9:15. He apologized profusely and explained that a few tables had already paid but were lingering, and he couldn't make them leave. D asked, "Do you want to me to talk to them?" and made a move as if to walk to the table. It sounds harmless in print, but if you've ever seen D, you'd realize how scary that looks. The expression on the maitre'd's face was funny. Needless to say, we were comped drinks and dessert.

If you have the chance to go, get the strip steak. It's what the place is known for, and it's the best steak I've had in this city so far. It's done impressively well. For desert, try the chocolate cake. It's amazing. (Just order one. The thing is huge.)

Excluding our comped cocktails and the amazing chocolate cake, dinner for four (4 steaks, various sides and wine) came to approximately $500. The food was so good we all overate. Afterwards, I practically had to roll myself home.

05 November 2006

All Carbon Speed Racer

I met up with EB to race autocross in his BMW. For someone who likes camping, hiking, backpacking and just being outside in general, I'm notoriously bad at directions. Fortunately, I have no issues with asking complete strangers where I need to go. Chances are, if left in a paper bag, I'd have to ask for directions on at least four separate occasions before finding my way out. I lived in the same North Dupont Circle / South Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington DC for 3 years, shopped at the same "Soviet" Safeway on 17th Street (dubbed "Soviet" because the produce was usually half spoiled and the shelves were bare; everything was almost always out of stock) until Whole Foods opened up on 15th Street, and there were days when I walked out of the grocery store in the wrong direction for two blocks before realizing that I was heading away from home, not towards it.

So, it was no surprise to me that on the way to meet EB at the NJ race location, I missed my on ramp turnoff and had to stop a total of three times to ask for directions. Laugh all you want, but three is on the low end for me. I stopped at two gas stations and one police car.

The first gas station gave me directions that were probably clear, but confused me anyway. So, when I saw a police car stopped on a small side street, I pulled up next to it. The cop rolled down his window and glared, "You know you just drove the wrong way down a one way street?"

"Yeah, but I wanted to talk to you. I'm lost and was hoping you could tell me where to go."

"Where are you trying to go?" I tell him where I needed to be. "Oh, that's easy. Take a left at the next light. Go over two streets. Take another left, and you'll see signs for the on ramp."

Now, I know myself well enough to know that there was no way in hell it was going to be that easy. I was going to get lost another seven times before finding that damn on ramp. "Promise? I've been driving around for 20 minutes looking for that on ramp."

He rolled his eyes. "Okay, follow me." He then proceeded to escort me -- a left at the next light, over two streets and another left -- to the turnoff for the on ramp, where he stopped dead center on a busy five lane street. The flow of traffic split around him. He turned on his police lights and motioned for me to drive up alongside his car. He pointed to the on ramp and said, "You go there."

I thanked him and waved goodbye. He waved back as I made my merry way on to the proper road, on to autocross.

EB and me in our racing garb. When B saw the pictures of me with helmet and sunglasses, she squealed, "OH MY GOD, you look like a boy!" My worse fears have been confirmed. People DO confuse me for a small boy. Great.

This is EB and me in his fancy M3. While the seats in my Honda Civic only slide or tilt front and back, his car is so fancy that in addition to the standard front and back movements, the seats also go up and down, have heat, adjustable lumbar support, and nifty "wings" along the sides that wrap around you so you stay in the seat better. I spent a good five minutes playing with my seat. Dude, so many buttons...

I was amazed that EB was able to tell which car in the parking lot was mine. He told me that all he did was go towards the car that had hub caps, and if I looked around, I'd notice that all the other cars there had rims, not hub caps. Um, what are "h-u-b c-a-p- s"?

Autocross is a lot of fun, but since it's more technical than track racing -- 90 degree turns, 360s, etc. -- it's not as fast as I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, as it's still fast. Also, it's safer than it sounds, as each car races the course on its own and rankings are based on time. However, there were definitely cars that spun scarily out of control. At one point, EB and I spun out 30 feet before regaining control while doing figure-eights. I thought it was fun, but I don't think it helped EB's time.

I'll post video as soon as I figure out how to do that.

01 November 2006

Significant Emotional Events

Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders. -- Light in August, William Faulkner

Dad loves loves acronyms. Probably because he’s a product of business school since he also uses words like supply chain logistics and total quality management, but whatever it is, there’s an acro he likes to use whenever we have big-picture-meaning-of-life conversations. He calls it SEE, short for Significant Emotional Events.

The idea is that people are creatures of habit, capable only of changing for short periods of time before reverting back to old habits. This is especially true when change is imposed externally. The only exception -- the only time people undergo real and permanent change -- is when they are faced with a SEE that forces them to take a hard look at their lives, themselves and their priorities. And, despite the fact that it’s an acronym, Dad’s theory has some value.


Around the end of September, I become pensive. I think about who I am as a person, my development, events of the past year, my relationships and goals. While it could easily and rationally be attributed to a multitude of factors -- the end of summer, the change in weather, the beginning of the holiday season, daylight savings -- it’s something that's only happened the past two years and always around the same time of year.

I’m weirded out by the idea that my brain might have some internal alarm clock. Those who deal with me daily will attest that my memory has more holes in it than a sieve. I rely heavily on reminders like B, my address book and calendar to function on a daily level, and yet, my mind can recall an annual event without prompting. It remembers that three years ago, my life made an abrupt and unexpected ninety-degree turn and left me where I stand before you now.

It was then that I came to the difficult and unpleasant realization that I didn’t know who I was anymore. Coming to terms with that and re-finding myself was one of the scariest and most difficult things I’ve ever faced, but it's one of the best things to have ever happened to me. It forced me to pay attention to what my mind already knew but I refused to acknowledge.

I realized that what I want is sometimes different from what I think I want. I started paying more attention to my intuition, to how I really feel instead of how I think I ought to feel. I used to ignore my emotions or instincts in favor of empirical evidence and logic, but I’ve learned to temper logic and rationality with my intuition. My intuition usually notices things way before I do and it takes some time for my mind to catch up.

I’ve come to appreciate and embrace the fact that life is messy, irrational and uncertain. There’s no such thing as a “right answer.” One of the benefits (or curses) of being human is that I can change my mind or opinion when I want to or if I want to. My life and my circumstances are what I choose to make of them, and if my current plan of action doesn’t work out, there are other options to choose from. For a long time, fear of being unable to achieve perfection and indecision from not trusting my intuition paralyzed me. I was so afraid of making the “wrong” decision, I often couldn’t make decisions at all.

I set boundaries and learned to ask for help. One of the things about going through a tough time is how quickly I lost friends. My true family and friends loved me even when I had nothing to give. They stuck by me even when I didn’t agree with them. We told each other things we knew the other wouldn’t want to hear, and our relationship became stronger for it. I needed my family and friends to be there for me. I had nothing of myself left to give and couldn’t play my usual role as the person who was always there, who never said “no” (even when I wanted to). I was empty inside. Their support, concern and strength helped me tremendously.

I stopped lying to myself and being neurotic. I used to tell myself that things didn’t bother me when they did and that it was “ok” when it wasn’t. My inability to recognize and resolve the things that were on my mind caused me to act out in strange and unpredictable ways: I would get disproportionately upset at small things unrelated to the issues on my mind, and the more upset I got (or the more I felt obligated to give more of myself than I was wanted to), the more perfect everything had to be, the more I controlled my environment by cleaning and organizing. Since I started listening to myself more and articulating my feelings, I no longer exhibit the same patterns of behavior. It’s unfortunate, since my apartment is a mess, and I’m constantly losing things.

I learned to say I love you. I realized the importance of showing the people who are important to me how much I care about them, how highly I think of them, and how special they are. I cut ties with those that demanded much from me but gave very little in return, and I haven’t noticed the loss of any of them from my life. Instead, I’ve been unburdened of the weight of obligation or the need to be considerate to those who wouldn't do the same for me. There is no such thing as unconditional giving or love. Relationships are predicated on the idea that “we’ll continue to be friends provided we treat each other respectfully” and both parties need to give and get back what they need.

Three years ago, I received a long overdue wake-up call when several things happened within a short period of time and none of them were positive. It was a blow to my already tenuous emotional state; I had spent too long giving more than I could give to compensate for the shortcomings of others. By the time September rolled around, I had been emptied of all the things that made me me. I felt brittle and wondered if I might break if I received yet another piece of bad news. Having been through a dark period in my life, I now know that I can handle them, and they'll eventually pass. In hindsight, my mind had been trying to tell me that everything was not okay for quite some time, but I ignored it.

While it was arguably one of the most difficult periods of my life, it couldn't have happened at a better time. It forced me to look hard at where I was headed, at my priorities, my values and at me. I was forced to pick up the remaining pieces of myself and rebuild, and I had to decide if I wanted to continue down the road I was already on or make some life-altering changes. I'm thankful it happened when it did, because I haven't looked back since. Life has been great, and I don't plan on living it cautiously or with any regrets.

27 October 2006

I got this letter today

Inclusion is considered by many as the single highest mark of achievement.

I didn't know you liked dog food

My pilates instructor showed me a picture of her dog last week. It's a great dane - lab mix, 100 lbs, has a head like Mocha's, the coloring of a hound and the body of a dane. I love big dogs; they're great companions and very huggable.

Thinking about dogs got me thinking of my folks. Then again, I was thinking of my folks before then -- it's the start of the holiday season, and family is always on my mind about now. Probably because I only see them every three years or so, and everyone thinks about their folks around this time of year.


Mom started with one cat.

A cat made sense. We needed a low maintenance pet. There were already too many people -- Mom, Dad, Grandpa, KC (bro), the housekeeper and myself -- living in our apartment overlooking the heart of HK.

We had had other pets, but with little success. There were the tropical fish in a ginormous aquarium. They weren't very interactive and needed a lot of care, so once we tired of them, Mom donated the whole kit and caboodle to my high school Biology department.

There were the birds. They were smaller than my palm and came in shades of yellow and white with the occasional peep of green. Like most small birds in HK, they lived in tiny cages that could be moved from room to room whenever we wanted the company. However, we never took our birds for walks like some of our neighbors.

The birds brought color and song into our red silk and gold brocade, rosewood, lacquer, glass and porcelain Chinese home. They were there to greet the mahjong players on the nights Mom or Grandma hosted. They kept Grandpa company in the early light of morning and fading hours of the afternoon when he sat on his small stool on the balcony overlooking the harbor, cultivating clippings he'd collected on his daily walk and pruning plants so they grew into tiny, graceful, perfectly shaped bonsai trees. Afterwards, he'd perform his daily tea ritual. Those were my favorite moments with Grandpa. Since I can't speak Chinese and he can't speak English, tea was the one thing we could do together.

Then, the birds were gone. The cage doors had been left open while they were on the balcony. Mom feared the birds would die unless we got them back right away -- they weren't bred for the wild. We left the cages on the balcony with the doors open and feeders full, hoping the birds would come back, but we lived on the 18th floor of a 28 floor high rise apartment building. Birds smaller than my palm can't fly up that high. Eventually, Mom gave up, and we gave the cages away.

So, none of us protested when it became two cats. We put up with cat hair all over our clothes, the occasional cat "accident," the frequent cat poo in the tub (a nasty habit), the unexpected and traumatizing scratches and the hissing catfights that broke the silence of the night whenever two or more cats encountered each other while prowling the dark rooms of our home. We put up with it because we knew it made Mom happy, and we wanted her happiness.

Eventually, we had five cats.

After the Asian financial crash in the late 90s when Dad was let go from his joint venture (and joint ventures in southeast Asia fell out of favor for a long time), Grandpa had passed away and KC left for college, Mom and Dad moved to a duplex in the suburbs (New Territories). They had a garage for the car and a small yard where Dad grew papayas, mangos and lychees. To keep him company in his free time, he got a dog. After all, Mom had five cats.

I went home over Thanksgiving three years ago, and Dad and I went hiking, sightseeing in China and hung out at home while Mom was at work. We spent countless hours walking the dog, playing with the dog, and occasionally, we'd water the plants.

So, it came as little surprise when I got a call from my mother a few months after I had returned to New York, "Your father! That man! He spends hours with that dog. He's spent so much money on toys for that dog. He comes home from walking that dog and acts like it's a contest between his dog and other dogs, saying things like, 'Guess what, our neighbor said our dog was the best looking one in the neighborhood. Even better looking than the Chu's dog down the street.' He treats that dog better than his kids!"

When Dad got on the phone, I teasingly feigned offense and jealousy, "Hey Dad, how's the dog? I heard you treat him better than you treat your kids. You got him toys and you play with him a lot? You never bought us toys or played with us when we were growing up."

There was a moment of silence. Then, "Well, I didn't know you liked dog food or I would have gotten you some years ago."

26 October 2006

Kevin's Band Plays at the Red Lion

Fugue State
Thursday, Nov 2
At the Red Lion
7:30 pm

Are ya going to be there, or what?

25 October 2006

A bourgeois uprising?

Now this is ironic.

Isn't the bourgeoisie what modernity is all about? The death of religion, the focus on creature comforts, success in the here and now, yada yada.

Oh right. We're past that. It's not enough to just be comfortable anymore. There goes the American Dream. We're post-modern now.

Got it.

...the hopes and dreams of today's educated class are based on the idea that market capitalism is a meritocracy. The unreachable success of the superrich shreds those dreams.

"I've seen it in my research," says pollster Doug Schoen, who counsels Michael Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton, among others. "If you look at the lower part of the upper class or the upper part of the upper middle class, there's a great deal of frustration. These are people who assumed that their hard work and conventional 'success' would leave them with no worries. It's the type of rumbling that could lead to political volatility."

Lower uppers are professionals who by dint of schooling, hard work and luck are living better than 99 percent of the humans who have ever walked the planet. They're also people who can't help but notice how many folks with credentials like theirs are living in Gatsby-esque splendor they'll never enjoy.

There's only so much of this a smart, vocal elite can take before the seams burst - and a bilious reaction against unmerited privilege starts oozing from every pore. Especially when it's clear to lower uppers that many ultras are reaping the rewards of rigged systems: CEOs who preside over tumbling stock prices, hedge fund managers who barely beat the market.

Sweat and tears

I'm not sure I buy this. While I'm certain most of us fall well within the bell curve and only excel by hard work, I do think some people just have natural abilities that others are born without. For example, no matter how hard I work at it, I'll never be a pro-football player. No matter which way you look at it, I'll always have some natural disadvantages.

What it takes to be great.

...You do not possess a natural gift for a certain job, because targeted natural gifts don't exist... You will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. And not just any hard work, but work of a particular type that's demanding and painful.

Scientific experts are producing remarkably consistent findings across a wide array of fields. Understand that talent doesn't mean intelligence, motivation or personality traits. It's an innate ability to do some specific activity especially well. British-based researchers Michael J. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sluboda conclude in an extensive study, "The evidence we have surveyed ... does not support the [notion that] excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts."

The first major conclusion is that nobody is great without work. It's nice to believe that if you find the field where you're naturally gifted, you'll be great from day one, but it doesn't happen. There's no evidence of high-level performance without experience or practice.

Reinforcing that no-free-lunch finding is vast evidence that even the most accomplished people need around ten years of hard work before becoming world-class, a pattern so well established researchers call it the ten-year rule.

And as John Horn of the University of Southern California and Hiromi Masunaga of California State University observe, "The ten-year rule represents a very rough estimate, and most researchers regard it as a minimum, not an average." In many fields (music, literature) elite performers need 20 or 30 years' experience before hitting their zenith.

The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call "deliberate practice." It's activity that's explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one's level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.

Consistency is crucial. As Ericsson notes, "Elite performers in many diverse domains have been found to practice, on the average, roughly the same amount every day, including weekends."

Evidence crosses a remarkable range of fields. In a study of 20-year-old violinists by Ericsson and colleagues, the best group (judged by conservatory teachers) averaged 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over their lives; the next-best averaged 7,500 hours; and the next, 5,000. It's the same story in surgery, insurance sales, and virtually every sport. More deliberate practice equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance.

For most people, work is hard enough without pushing even harder. Those extra steps are so difficult and painful they almost never get done. That's the way it must be. If great performance were easy, it wouldn't be rare. Which leads to possibly the deepest question about greatness. While experts understand an enormous amount about the behavior that produces great performance, they understand very little about where that behavior comes from.

The authors of one study conclude, "We still do not know which factors encourage individuals to engage in deliberate practice." Or as University of Michigan business school professor Noel Tichy puts it after 30 years of working with managers, "Some people are much more motivated than others, and that's the existential question I cannot answer - why."

21 October 2006

Closing time

It's officially chilly out although I think I knew it a few weeks ago when I unrolled my sails in the middle of the living room and wiped them down for the last time and dug my soccer flats and shinguards out of the bottom of my closet. Putting away my summer play things and bringing out my fall ones signal the passing of a season which always makes me both a little introspective and retrospective.

This is a picture of EH on one of our last windsurfing days before the end of the season.

As I wiped down my 4.5 and 5.5 sails, cleaned off my carbon masts, dried off my boom, emptied the sand out of my quiver bag, and rinsed off my wetsuit and booties, I thought about the end of the season. Another summer. My goals going into the summer were to learn to rig my own equipment, beach and water start, jibe and plane. How much of it did I get done?

Am I happy with the speed at which I've been progressing? What should my goals be for the next season? What are the things I can do in my off season to make it easier for me to move to the next level next season?

I've been windsurfing for a little over 12 months, and since I live in the Northeast, that effectively means the amount of time actually spent on the water is more like 5 months. In that time, I have learned to consistently beach start, plane and rig my own sails (albeit slowly), as I own two of them (plus a roofrack for the Puny Pony and a plethora of extraneous equipment such as beach chairs, board shorts, rash guards, beach hats, a dozen bottles of sunblock, etc.).

While I'm no prodigy, I'm not unhappy with my progress. I definitely could have worked harder, but I didn't get out on the water until August so I didn't have as much time to practice as I would have liked. And, while I wish I have the skills to be a pro-windsurfer, I don't, so there's no need or pressure to progress at the speed of light. The most important thing is that I'm learning (not just the moves, but about myself) and having fun, both of which I do every time I step on the water.

Next year, I would like to own my own board, learn to jibe and beach start. In the meantime, I'll work on core strength, getting lean and balance. Here comes fall. Bring it on.

20 October 2006


This is so tacky.

A public relations firm has revealed that it is behind two blogs that previously appeared to be created by independent supporters of Wal-Mart.

The blogs Working Families for Wal-mart and subsidiary site Paid Critics are written by three employees of PR firm Edelman, for whom Wal-Mart is a paid client, according to information posted on the sites Thursday.

Last week a blog called "Wal-Marting Across America," which appeared to be created by a man and a woman traveling the country in an RV and staying in Wal-Mart parking lots, also turned out to be underwritten by Working Families for Wal-Mart.

Quick, hide me!


Scientists are boldly going where only fiction has gone before — to develop a Cloak of Invisibility.

In this first successful experiment, researchers from the United States and England were able to cloak a copper cylinder.

In an ideal situation, the cloak and the item it is hiding would be invisible. An observer would see whatever is beyond them, with no evidence the cloaked item exists.

In a very speculative application, he added, "one could imagine 'cloaking' acoustic waves, so as to shield a region from vibration or seismic activity."

Natalia M. Litchinitser, a researcher at the University of Michigan department of electrical engineering and computer science who was not part of the research team, said the ideas raised by the work "represent a first step toward the development of functional materials for a wide spectrum of civil and military applications."


Wg and Ch are engaged!

Who cares???

Great, so George O'Malley is played by a gay dude. So what?

Climate changes in the Northeast

From the Appalachian Mountain Club release:

In early October 2006, the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA), a collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a team of independent scientists, released the findings of a two-year study, “Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast” ... UCS uses science-based information to guide policy recommendations. The report indicates that without substantial measures taken to curtail heat-trapping emissions in the Northeast, global warming will substantially affect the Northeast’s climate and quality of life.

Regional and global climate change will directly affect the natural areas ... outdoors enthusiasts care about due to increasing temperatures, which have been reducing annual snowfall in the New England region. In addition, climate change has some nasty side-effects on air quality, including increasing risks to hiker health and decreasing visibility. AMC has been monitoring air quality in the mountains since the early 1980s.

Click here to do something about climate change.

Mark Jenkins leaves Outside

My favorite columnist from Outside Magazine is moving on. Looking forward to see what his next project will be.

19 October 2006

A glutton for punishment

In 2003, JF and I promised ourselves we'd pick up a wintersport. We spent two weekends breaking our tailbones trying to snowboard. It was hella fun, and if I had stuck to it, I might have actually been able to link turns at some point, but it got warm and spring put an end to our masochism.

As you might be able to guess, JF is a better photographer than he is a snowboarder. This shot taken in March 2003 is a lazy man's picture; JF had fallen and was too tired to get up.

I wasn't aware that my picture was being taken, but I vividly recall that moment. That's no cool snowboard pose. We had been busting our butts on the bunnyslope for hours. I was wicked tired and scared that if I sat down, I wouldn't want to get up again. The board kept me standing.

(This picture is for you EB.)

Those two weekends, give or take a few disastrous attempts to learn to snowboard in slush or on ice, about sums up all the snowboarding I've since done. This year is looking to be a great snow year, so I am going to try the wintersport scene again, even if it means I take a week, head out to the mountains by mydelf, and subject myself to being black and blue on a daily basis.

It'll be great, I'm sure. Ok, I'm lying. I'm a glutton for punishment.

Michael, what happened?

Jeffrey wins the season finale of Project Runway.

Maybe it wasn't an accident after all

Coincidink? Me thinks not. It's a Sting Ray conspiracy!

A leaping stingray stabbed an 81-year-old Florida boater in the chest, authorities said Wednesday...

Fire Department officials in Lighthouse Point, about 30 miles north of Miami, said James Bertakis was in a small recreational boat with two grandchildren Tuesday when the spotted eagle ray leaped aboard and struck him.

"It's just a real freak thing," Lt. Mike Sullivan told Reuters, saying the incident occurred on Florida's Intracoastal Waterway, where stingrays are rarely seen leaping in the air.

18 October 2006

someone, just let me sleep in for a day. the ramblings of a kiss-assy worker.

I am tired. Just got back from a client event, and...I'd just like a day where I can sleep past 6. That'd be nice.

Even nicer would be a few days to sleep without waking up to the melodious tunes of my fucking annoying alarm clock. But, that's just the slacker in me talking. I'll get over it tomorrow when I'm at work fielding 3 phone calls at a time and trying to respond to the hundreds of emails that flow through my inbox because well...when it comes to client related stuff, everything is urgent and needs to be actioned IMMEDIATELY. Right?

Man, I miss ADub. I can't wait for her to come back from vacation.

Looking forward to soccer practices starting soon. Can't wait to get out there and run around like a maniac. I'm still recovering from a cold, and as a result, haven't been very active. Last time I ran, I was moving at an 8:45 mile pace over the course of 4 miles. I'd really like to get to an average pace of an 8 minute mile over the course of 5 miles. Then, I'll amp up the mileage. Who knows? I might get to 26.2 miles at some point. First, let me get over this damn cold though because it's kicking the shit out of me.

I invited G to the client event tonight, and he mentioned on his way out that "work" me is a completely different person from "normal" me. Apparently, "normal" me doesn't give a shit about anything or what anyone thinks, but "work" me is very "kiss-assy." Look, I didn't make up that word -- he did.

Right out of a James Bond movie



17 October 2006

PC comes to town

PC was in town for a wedding, and as has become something of a tradition whenever he's here, we did dinner and a show. PC and I saw Wicked and then had dinner at WD-50 on Friday the 13th.

Wicked was hella cool. I got a little teary eyed, and I don't even really like musicals. (No, I'm not embarrassed to admit it.)

WD-50 was disappointing. I haven't been to the restaurant in over a year, and the place no longer feels innovative and experimental. The food is boring and gimmicky. The service, however, is still as amazing as ever -- I love the staff there.

PC and Me at WD-50

Franu -- PC remembers Ans! Something about him, W and Ans camping out at Turtle Cove...? He didn't realize you two are married. :-)

It's crazy to think that PC and I have known each other since our junior year of high school and managed to stay friends for the following reasons:

1. Man, are we old. (Not really, but I like saying that. Sometimes, I almost feel almost grown up.)

2. How did PC and I become friends in the first place? PC and I had no common friends in high school. He hung out with the Chinese kids and spoke fluent Catonese. I was a twinkie -- my parents wrote our home address in Chinese on a piece of paper that I carried on me so I could show strangers in case I got lost and didn't know how to get home -- and my high school friends were what can kindly be referred to as freaks and geeks. Myself included.

PC and I didn't play the same sports. He played tennis. I ran cross country and captained the crew team.

PC and I didn't have the same classes. This explains why I have no idea what classes he took. In the meantime, my classes were heavily into history, humanities, literature, political science and English.

3. And, once we became friends, how did PC and I manage to stay friends?

For this, I have to give PC most of the credit, since I am notoriously bad at keeping in touch -- one of my reasons for starting this blog.

PC moved to LA in our senior year of high school. Yet, he always remember to check in with his friends overseas. My mother adored him because he never called at odd hours despite the time difference, and he was always polite. To this day, she still asks how he's doing and what he's up to.

(Franu, my mother still asks about you and Ring as well.)

We went to college in different states, and afterwards, PC ended up in San Francisco. I did a stint in DC before ending up here. We have stayed friends over time and distance and seen each other through some of the requisite rituals of age -- boyfriends and girlfriends, jobs or career changes, the highs and lows, changes in address...the list goes on.

Some friendships are founded on shared interests or common acquaintances, but our friendship is built on a foundation not immediately apparent...to even ourselves. (Sometimes, those make the best kinds of friendships.) Even though we may not see or speak to each other on a regular basis, when we do hang out, it's always fun and like hanging out in high school all over again. There's no telling what lies ahead in life for either of us, but PC knows he has a friend in me, and I a friend in him.