Thursday, November 20, 2008


Went to the SOFA art show in Chicago. Since the show is called the Sculpture Objects and Functional Art Fair, there wasn't much paintings. Surprisingly, there's quite a lack of "functional art" as well; unless, you classify those $4000 wooden bowl functional art. Seriously though, would you use a $4000 bowl to toss a salad? I think not. One of the most equisite pieces I saw was this display of miniature kimonos, rugs, exquisite chinese robes, etc. completely made out of tiny beads by an artist named Madelyn Ricks. Wow! My sister makes minuature purses out of beads, I should ask her to try to make these instead. Much more profitable. They are worth much more -- like in the range of $10000 to $15000. Wow!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sticker Shock in the Emerald Isle

So, other than the sticker shock with $8 soups, here’s a run down of the other shocking prices:

Taxis starts at £3.00
Appetizers are about £4.95
Entrees are about £14.00
A simple rain coat cost £70.00
A linen bag for groceries is £12.00

The exchange rate is about 1 USD to £2.00

Monday, October 6, 2008

Spending pounds in the Emerald Isle

I suppose I should have better checked the weather before I left. I was thinking that the weather should not be too different than Chicago. Of course, now I realize that Northern Ireland is a little further north than Chicago. I didn’t pack an umbrella or a sweater. I did have my sport coat and I could have sworn that I packed my rain jacket. In any case, it rained almost every day while in Ireland and it was much colder – hovering around high 40’s to low 50’s. I had my sport coat on everyday and for the most part, it was sufficient since it was just a short taxi ride to the office. However, the sport coat was not enough for Saturday. It started raining on Friday night and lasted well into Saturday. I decided to take a walk and I was drenched through the coat and all about 15 minutes into the walk. On Saturday, I had to break down and get another rain coat. And what a sticker shock that was when I checked out the prices. The cheapest rain jacket I could find was about £70. That’s $170 USD!!! OMG. That really made me appreciates the shopping scene in the US. Most things are expensive in the UK. We go out to dinner and the prices on the menu seems pretty normal until you remember that you are actually seeing the prices in GBP (£). So, a £4.95 bowl of soup is actually like an $8 bowl of soup in the US. I guess it is possible to eat cheaply but as a visitor without a car, it would be quite difficult to know the cheaper places to go. The front desk at the hotel is no help at all when it comes to asking for restaurant recommendation or anything like that. In fact, my first shock came from the hotel when I had breakfast on Monday morning. The breakfast buffet at the Holiday Inn in Belfast charges £18.95 for breakfast alone!!!!!

To the Emerald Isle

Saturday 9/27 to Sunday, 9/28, 2008.

The flight to Belfast was quite enjoyable. It was not as long as the flights to Asia – that’s for sure. I even got upgraded to Business Class at the expense of 15,000 miles but I guess that is what Premier status on United is for. The whole business class experience is quite different than economy. The seats are highly configurable – the incline, the leg rest, the head rest, reading lights, and on and on. United Airlines still really needs to up its antics on their entertainment system as so many airlines are now on the entertainment “on demand” standard. The United Airlines model offers multiple channels on a regulated start schedule. The meals in business class are a totally different experience. The flight attendants actually offer courses starting out with appetizers and salad, entrees and then dessert in three separate trays with real silverware and porcelain plates. Hot towel was served before meals and unlimited alcoholic beverages – not that I drink or anything. I actually got some sleep and rest on the flight and was none too worse for the wear of flying across the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in Belfast quite refreshed.

Had heard some horror stories about Heathrow Airport but I guess if you arrive at 5:30 in the morning and that there aren't too many other flights arriving that you should be pretty safe. The airport is quite big and so it took quite a while to get from the terminal where the flight arrive to transfer to the domestic terminal where my connecting flight to Belfast would be. The gate at Heathrow was quite perculiar in that there really wasn't a counter or anything and I started to worry about 20 minutes before the flight departed. Just as I was getting up to go check, the announcement came that the flight was boarding. I guess I am still TYPE A!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New York City

Went to NYC for Labor Day weekend -- mostly to visit friends and family. Not a big fan of NYC because it seems crowded all the time. This being Labor Day weekend, the crowd condition just seems exacebated -- good thing I stayed out of Mid-town. Lower Manhattan/Chinatown was not any better but it was a little more manageable. The other reason why I don't like NYC is the exorbitant hotel prices -- again made worse by this being Labor Day weekend. I stayed at the Chelsea Inn -- it was in a pretty nice neighborhood and pretty convenient to everything but the place was run down, old and dingy. My "room" was only six feet wide and about 18 feet long with a double bed and a TV. The worse part -- I had to share a bathroom that is in the hallway. Yuck! Maybe I will stay in Brooklyn the next time I go to NYC or maybe not go to NYC anymore. Yes, I am spoiled!

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Day in the Park

Sunday, 8/24/2008, was a beautiful day. Not too hot and not humid at all. Since I purchased a new Nikon D60 and my friend, Ben, purchased the Cannon Xts, we decide to put our photogrpahy chops to the measure. We spent a lovely day with a few other friends walking around Lincoln Park, the Conservatory and the Zoo and took some pictures. You be the judge.

It was really hot in the Conservatory/Green House but I think it was well worth the effort.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Part 3 to the Journey of 2 Parts

So, the famous rant about the journeys of 2 parts now has a part 3. Because of their delays and equipment failures, all passengers on that fateful flight to Narita, Japan was offered a discount voucher. So, I was thinking that I would use that discount voucher to purchase a ticket to New York City to visit my cousin who just had a baby girl (Yeay!!!!). So, I booked my flight on and when it came time to pay for the ticket, I could not find a place to enter the voucher code. Ok, time to read the fine prints. Therein lies my rant -- the fine prints indicate that in order to validate the "authenticity" of the voucher, it must be turned in at a ticketing counter or mailed to the office in Detroit. I guess there must be tons of these vouchers floating around or something. And, to compensate you for the inconvenience of a delayed flight or equipment problem, they give you more inconvenience -- having you drive to the airport to get a ticket issued. I should charge them for gas. And because the flight is less than 14 days away, I couldn't mail it to Detroit. Sigh! I guess I really felt like being cheap (hey, New York is expensive) so I drove to the airport -- it was a $150 voucher so it was nothing to sneeze at! Finally, after an hour and a half drive round trip, I finally have my ticket. NYC here I come!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Crazy Summer Weather in Chicago

Wow -- so, Monday evening was perhaps one of the scariest weather I have ever experienced. It started to get really dark with all the cloud coverage and then it got really windy. I wasn't even sure how windy it got until I surveyed the damages the next day. Continuous lighting bolts with thunder claps following immediately after. The news was plastered all over the paper and news report on Tuesday. According to the Chicago Tribune, at the peak of the storm, more than 800 bolts was fired per minute. For the duration of the storm, nearly 90,000 thunderbolts hit Northern Illinois. There were reports of three tornado touch down in Northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana. Roofs were ripped off homes in Bolingbrook, IL and Griffiths, IN. Trees fell on cars, and street lamps were strewn around like toys. I did a survey of the nearby parks along the lakefront -- another devastation. A lot of the beautiful, gigantic trees had branches torn off, garbage bins were blown over, debris everywhere. Again, Mother Nature is retaliating. My deck was a mess, plants blown over, dirt everywhere, broken pots. Sigh . . . time for cleanup.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Green Zebra

Celebrated my friend, Ben's, birthday last night and we went to Green Zebra. A vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the River West area of Chicago. It is mostly vegetable dishes with the exception of one Tofu dish and a Halibut dish. A lot of the dishes were raw too -- uncooked vegetables. The food was of high quality -- fresh ingredients -- and tasty with a nice use of herbs. But for the food, the restaurant was kind of ackward. The tables were mostly at at angle and tight, there is pillar right in front of the main entrance and, again, the entrance is set at a 45 degree angle. But I think the most noticeable thing is the price tag -- the portions were tiney but any measures but with a pretty hefty price tag attached. I know, I know -- we are all used to the LEYE portions and I, for one, could use with smaller portions but COME ON! Four little ravioli and a bunch of shaved asparagus on a salad plate (I think if you reconstituted the shaved asparagus, you would get a total of 1.5 asparagus) AND costing 12 bucks is a little pricey! The waitress even went as far as to inform us that we should order something from each of the four sections -- Salad, Soup, Appertizer and Entree to have a filling meal. That's how small the portions are. Another pricey point is the wine list -- nothing in the $20 to $25 range. The wine seems nice but the price, to me, are really pricey. The cheapese is a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for $28. Although I liked the food, Green Zebra is probably something that I would reserve for VERY SPECIAL occassions and only with people who absolutely have to have vegetarian.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Deck 2008

Some pics of plants this year.

The Deck 2008

Some of the plants on the deck this year. Most of it came back from last year except the annuals.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It's been awhile -- I am boring!

It's been awhile since I posted and I guess it is because I am basically a pretty boring person; often choosing sedentary over activity. I have been planting and taking care of my plants though. They are on the deck and enjoy the (arguably) warmer weather here in Chicago. This year, I spent only about $100 on plants -- which is significantly less than past years.

Most of my plants came back this year -- which is great! The Clematis are blooming like crazy -- the Josephine is gorgeous, and I am seeing the Crystal Fountain for the first time this year. Seems like the Crystal Fountain will need another year to get fully established. One of the Brugmansia finally bloomed at the end of the season last year but I think it is in need of a little more time to establish itself again this year. I sort of cut the tree in half in late winter and rooted the top half again. The bottom half had root so it just put out additional branches. I am hoping that the Brugmansia will bloom mid season this year as opposed to late season like last year. From what I saw, the blooms are large and very fragrant.

The plumeria all came back this year as well. Some took a little longer than others but they are all putting out leaves now. Don't know if I am going to see bloom anytime soon but I am just glad that they are all alive. I got a Clivia from a friend last year that was a baby from his mother plant. I didn't expect much but, the little darling, is blooming right now. What I did was started watering in early Spring and used some Bloom Plus fertilizer, it didn't do anything for a while and then when the weather was warm enough (above 50 degrees), I put it outside. I kept watering but didn't really paid much attention and then the other day -- lo and behold, there was a flower scape. I have 2 other baby Clivia that I bought last year, they are getting bigger and putting out more leaves. Hurray! I started a bunch from seeds as well last year and of the lot, five survived. Will keep working on them but who knows when they will become a tree like plant!

The Goldfish plant was looking pretty sad during the winter after having lost quite a bit of leaves but it is rebounding well since it has gone back outside. New branches are coming out and it looks like it is going to be pretty full looking by mid season. Don't know if it will bloom this year but the other one is blooming so I am not complaining.

The Michelia Alba also rebounded well. I went on a three week vacation in the winter this year and when I got back, the leaves on the Michelia Alba had all dried up. I watered it on and off during the winter and in the spring it started putting out buds. Some of the buds are now branches and the tree looks a littel lop sided but who cares. As long as it is alive and happy and will, eventually, bloom for me, I am happy.

The fuchsia also came back strong this year. Hasn't started blooming yet but I am expecting it to bloom soon.

The Amaryllis Lemon Lime also bloomed in the winter and even had a seed pod even though I did not propagate it this year. One of the bulbs seems to be putting out a side-shoot as well. I stared some from seeds too and three survived. I repotted them this year into one large bowl. I noticed they are starting to have their own little bulb. How cute!

Tuber rose came back too! I think it decided to do it by itself. I had it sitting on the window sill in the kitchen and then, all of a sudden, little green shoots started coming out. I think it decided that it was warm enough to take a peek.

So, that's all of the major plants I have -- at least those that I can name and those that I can't are doing well too.

Now, a moment of silence for the casualties -- Alocasia Black Mask, Brugmansia Coral Pink, Euphorbia, Star Jasmine, and a Gardenia plant. Rest in Peace.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chick Car?

I was in Detroit for a day for a project planning meeting and had to drive from DTW to Clinton, MI. Went to Hertz to pick up my rental car and they gave me --- wait for it --- a RED VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE CONVERTIBLE. Full leather interior and everything. It was a zippy car to drive but I just couldn't help feeling a little CHICKY! Drove for about 100 miles round trip and it used only about 7/8 of a tank of gas (about 2.5 gallon). Much as I like that, it is not a car that I would consider buying -- it was really noisy inside the car when you are driving. You have to turn the stereo way up to hear what's playing and you can't really talk on the phone either. I can't even hear the GPS' directions when I am driving so I had to keep looking at the map when I have to make quick turns in the city.

Plumeria Bit the Dust

The Scott Pratt that I successfully rooted last year bit the dust today. It fell over the railing of the deck at the end of the season last year and broke into two. The lower stub is still in the pot with roots (I think -- can't really see into the pot) and I tried to re-root the upper stub. It seemed to be doing fine for a while but then the cutting got softer and softer and browner and browner. So, I finally decide to pull it out of the dirt to see what's going on. The center core is mushy and not white and milky. I decided to cut away the brown stuff but, as I slowly move up the stem, I found that they were all brown and rotting. Sigh . . . so, into the garbage it got chucked! Let's hope the lower stump put out a branch or something. Sigh!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's DONE!

Yea . . . it's done and it is final! Jason Castro is no more. HOORAY!!!!!! It's about time that America gets it right! COME ON . . . FINAL FOUR???? What were we thunking?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Vietnam to China

Talk about all day on the bus. An epiphany -- never join a tour that requires a change of hotel everynight and spend most of the time on the bus!!!! So, this is the third day of Chinese New Year. We boarded the bus after breakfast to head to Vietnam's border town. Again, everything is closed. We barely found a restaurant that is opened and while we were eating the tour guide took our passport to the immigration office for stamps and clearance. So, after lunch, we waited for the tour guide to come back and then it's on the bus again to go to the border with our already stamped passport. We waited for our "alloted" time slot to cross the border. So, you show the immigration officer your passport with the stamp and then you have to drag your luggages across this long bridge to the other side and go through the same procedure except that you have to complete the visitor card for China and then -- get this -- climb down this huge flight of steps with your luggages. Needless to say, I had to help my parents with theirs. Oh, what a workout. Then it is back on the bus for a long road trip to Nanning. Had to take a little golf cart to the bus parking lot first. Good thing they were able to put all the luggages on one golf cart. When we got to the parking lot, guess what, it is the same dingy bus that we had complained about in Vietnam. The uproar was so loud that it might have registered on the Ricter scale. Well, there was really nothing they could do because the tour company is based in Guilin and we're in some middle of no-where border town. So, we boarded the bus, complaining the whole time. Half way to Nanning the bus broke down. This did not go over well with the passenger and the men on the bus actually had to push the bus to get it started. That was the highlight of the trip. Everyone was in a foul mood by that time. When we got to Nanning, all we could say was, "I wanna see your boss".

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Vietnam Day 2

So, woke up early and had to pack everything into my bag -- we're going to Ha Long Bay today. Had great expectations for breakfast -- Pho! But alas, that is not to be. Supposedly Pho is south Vietnam cuisine and so is not available (well, not exactly) in the north. The northern fare seems to be milder in taste and the broth fresher. Also, my favorite Vietnamese spring roll is also missing. Very disappointing. After breakfast it is a long bus ride to Ha Long Bay. Again, it was like a ghost town, everything was closed. Upon arrival, we checked into the hotel and went to lunch. After lunch, we did a bus tour of the city of Ha Long Bay and then went on a boat ride of the Bay. The ride itself was nice enough but again the boat is pretty dingy. The Europeans got this ride -- a nice boat came alongside ours and it was like a huge junk with private balconies and airconditioning and a smaller speed boat in tow in the back. The scenery was pretty amazing though. The ride was smooth and the limestone mountains with uniquely shaped natural formations (one that looks like a rooster, another that looks like a dog and one that looks like a chinese junk) and limestone caves to visit. There's also an abundance of fishing activities and we were able to visit a "kelong" where the fishes that are caught are housed in a floating home with nets placed in holes in the floor. Also, the abundance of fresh tropical fruits being hawked by motorized sampans was a nice touch too but soon became an annoyance. Lunch on the boat was nice and all in all a good day. The day ended with a underwater puppet show, where the puppeteers are waist high in FILTHY algea infested water and a folk dancing demonstration. The puppets are essentially controlled by bamboo poles that are submerged in the murky water. The folk dancing demonstration provided a good opportunity to appreciate different tribal costume.


This actually happpened in February but I am only posting it now -- yeah, yeah -- so I procrastinated. In any case, while I was in Singapore for my somewhat irregular visit, my parents and I took a trip to Vietnam and China over the Chinese New Year holiday. A word of advise, don't go to Vietnam during Chinese New Year (at least not the first few days) -- everything is CLOSED. Granted, we didn't go south, only north Vietnam, but from the looks of things, seems like it is a prevalent practice. We arrived in Hanoi in the afternoon on the first day of Chinese New Year. Immigration was really slow -- don't know if this is a phenomenon of the holiday or if it is just how things are. There were twenty four of us in the group and perhaps the smallest and dingiest bus on the lot was there to pick us up. Most of the people in the group are from Singapore and, as Singaporeans go, started complaining abuot the bus. There is a certain amount of legitimacy to the complaints -- the bus is too small -- really, it is. There is this huge bump inside the bus where the wheels are so even if they put seats there, you can't really comfortably seat a person there. The luggage compartment is too small -- come on, its a Singaporean group and this is day one -- we haven't started shopping yet! It was so small that they had to put some luggages stacked in the back seats of the bus, which is a major safety issue. If the driver should have to perform an emergency brake, the bags would have gone flying and someone would either end up with a nasty bruise to the melon or be decapticated. Anyway, bus issue aside, we went sight seeing directly from the airport. There really wasn't anything much to see -- everything was closed. The only place open was the Ho Chih Minh Memorial Square and you can't get too close to see anything and a temple. Next to the temple was a museum but that was closed to. After that, it is dinner and the hotel to sleep.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Journeys of 2 Parts -- the second journey

So, right after I arrive in Chicago from Orlando, I was suppose to turn around in less than 24 hours to get to Singapore to visit family. Part one of the flight was suppose to leave from O'Hare at about noon. Boarding process went smoothly and we were all sitting down and getting comfortable but we just sort of sat there for a really long time. Finally, the pilot came on the PA to say that they were having problems with the climate control system -- one of them isn't working. So, we sat and we sat and we sat and finally, at about 3PM, the pilot said that there was going to be a plane change. At that time, I was pretty sure that I was going to miss my connecting flight in Narita, Japan. We finally boarded the other plane at 4PM to depart. The climate control system on this flight is working but the video wasn't working in half the seats. That's the problem with the Boeing 777 -- you get your private screen but if the screen is broken then you're SOL -- no video entertainment for the entire duration of your flight.

As I alluded to earlier, most of the traveller on the flight missed their connecting flight and so we were all put up in the ANA Airport Hotel which was nice. They fed us dinner and breakfast the next day and it was nice to be able to take a shower. Part 2 of the journey -- the flight to Singapore the next day departed at about 10:30AM. It was an ANA (All Nippong Air) flight it was nice! The entertainment system was fully self controlled and it even included games. The food served was better than what I was used to on some of the US airlines. Arrived in Singapore at about 6:00PM. Pretty eventless but it was kinda disappointment to lose a complete day due to airline delays.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Journeys of 2 Parts -- the first journey

I've meant to write this for a while now but, of course, things get in the way. What do I mean by the journeys of two parts? Well, just look outside your window -- it is probably snowing. Honestly, I've about had it with the white stuff this year. The first journey of two parts was on 1/31/2008. I was coming home to Chicago from a week-long seminar in Orlando. Of course, it was snowing like crazy in Chicago and so I ended up waiting hours in Orlando International Airport without knowing if I was ever going to leave the ground in Orlando. I was tempted to purchase a ticket with Southwest Airline and fly to Midway instead of O'Hare but Southwest was giving the same information -- delayed flight and no information about whether the flight was ever going to leave the ground in Orlando. I decided to save the money and wait it out on United. No point wasting the money, in my opinion. Well, we did finally take off -- at 7PM as opposed to the 5PM scheduled time. Well, we landed and all was well -- or so I thought -- until I got to see the road conditions on the shuttle to pick up my car. Oh my, that was a long AND TIRING drive home from the airport -- what would normally have taken about 45 minutes at 8PM at night took over 2 hours to accomplished. Needless to say -- I was tired and wired when I got home.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Ok! 2 words -- American Idol! It is now season 7 but there are still so many delusional people that audition to be the next American Idol. There are so many deaf Americans or maybe star struck or something -- OMG, have you heard yourself singing? That's not singing -- it's screaming! Some can't even hold a tune!!! And the number 1 excuse this year seems to be "But people stop when they hear me sing!" -- yeah, from shock, you moron! Reality check, people! Just becuase your family is being supportive does not mean that the rest of the world will be. Admittedly, a couple of people that auditioned did sing well but are not right for the show. For those people, I say keep singing and hopefully things will work out for you one day!

Monday, January 21, 2008


I guess I really can't complain -- I did choose to live in Chicago -- but, can you really blame me? It is probably one of the coldest weekend in Chicago for a really, really long time. Woke up in the morning on 1/19/2008 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit temperature and it just got colder from there. I think the lowest temperature during the day was at about -6 degrees or something like that. I started the car in the morning and heard and un-godly sound coming from the engine. It was like the car was tell me, "Are you frigging out of your mind? It is so g*d da*n cold, you should just go back to bed and don't even bother to try and start me up! You crazy moron!"

Monday, January 7, 2008

Don't sprain anything . . .

I had to give myself a pat on the back -- while trying not to sprain anything in the process. My laptop bombed -- don't really know what it was but got the blue screen of death from Windows. So, I wiped the hard drive clean and attempted to reload Windows. Attempt failed. I thought maybe my disc was scratched or something so a friend provided me with an extra copy of Windows that he had (it is all legal! I am not a software pirate!). Anyway, I wiped the hard drive again and loaded the OS. Everything loaded fine and I was happy. Getting the latest Windows update, etc. and then . . . . . . it boomed again! So, I am thinking -- this cannot be a software problem. Did some research, asked around and determined that I maybe need a new hard drive. Was going to take the laptop to Best Buy or Microcenter and have them fix it for me but before I did that, I thought I would take a peek "under the hood" so to speak. Lots of unscrewing and careful manipulation later -- I figured, I could probably do it myself. I went to Circuit City to try to get a hard drive from them but they only had the REALLY big ones -- 160GB! Bear in mind, the current hard disk on my laptop only had 60GB and it is no where hear full. So I went to Microcenter to try to find a smaller one. Found a 80GB from Seagate that said Ultra ATA on it -- who knew that Ultra ATA is the same as IDE? Well, I know now. LOL! Got the hard drive home and read the packaging -- Recommend installation by the professional -- oh oh! Will I be able to do this myself? Maybe I should take it back to Microcenter. Oh well, let me give it a try -- doesn't really look that difficult! Besides, I've installed hard drives and even second hard drives on desktops before! Ok, deep breaths!!!!! Opened the case again, remove the WiFi card, remove the old hard drive, slip in the new one -- making sure to stay grounded and not pick up any static electricity. Put back the WiFi card, close the cover -- put only one screw back and power on the laptop. Deep Breaths!!!!! Viola! It worked. Recognized the hard drive, installed the OS, updated the patches, installed all the drives and I am back in business. I have to say that I am kinda impress with myself but I think that fear was the biggest obstacle in this whole process. One thing that I do have to say though -- no STATIC ELECTRICITY! You don't want to fry your components before you install them! Now, I am thinking of maybe replacing my DVD/CD RW drive with a DVD R/W drive. We'll see. LOL!