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I went to the ATM today and took out some money. I was surprised when it dished out the new $20 bills. My wallet still contains the Canadian bills, so it's rather colorful in there.
It rained a bit today, and it's quite cold. My neighbors are moving out today, and my little home still looks like it did when I first moved in. I think I know exactly what I want in terms of furniture for the place -- I need a few more bookshelves and maybe some more stuff for the bedroom. But I need to get the study area finished, and I hope to do that this weekend.
The weather has changed much since I came back to the Bay Area. The first night I was here, one could wear shorts and a t-shirt at midnight and still be comfortable. Last night, it got cold, with a strong wind blowing through. Tonight it's even colder out. They say it'll drop to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius) tonight, with a pretty good chance of rain tommorrow.
I got my quizzes back yesterday. I did pretty well, but still made some mistakes. I was supposed to go out for yam cha today with my Cantonese class, but I had to work, and given that I've taken a few more days of vacation than I should have, taking a super extended lunch probably wouldn't have been the best idea.
Changing timezones always screws me up. I was quite comfortable on Edmonton time, but now I'm going to bed and getting up too early on Pacific time. It's nice to be home, but I forgot what a disaster it was when I left, since I tore my apartment apart looking for my passport. I think this weekend will be a home improvement weekend, where I finally put up the bookshelves and organize my books and dvds.
After being stranded in Edmonton for two days, I'm finally back home in San Jose. It's nice to be back home, although it's quite a contrast from Edmonton -- It's quite warm here, and quite cold there. I'd write more about the trip, but I really ought to be studying now. Nonetheless, it was quite an interesting trip.
It's pretty darn cold here. It's cloudy outside, and the temp is 5 degrees Centigrade (That's 41 degrees for us Americans), and I'm wishing that I had brought my leather longcoat. I just brought the wool jacket my parents gave me for Christmas a few years back, which, although warm, is very thin. The weather is very much like Chicago in the springtime. Had I known it would be this cold here, I probably would have packed differently.
1:10PM, Somewhere in Oregon, Altitude 31,000 feet.
I love traveling, but I really hate airports. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it's because airports hate me. Since 9/11 I've never been able to make it through airport security in any less than 20 minutes. They always pull me aside, rummage through my stuff, make me pull out my computer and take off my shoes. When I was traveling to Japan, guess who got pulled aside? Yep. Yours truly. This, after I had a long blog entry denouncing the policies of homeland security and our screwed up President. Coincidence?
Since my midterms are over, and I've had a most hellish week at work, I decided to take a little vacation. I'm actually on the plane now, on my way to Seattle before switching flights. I hurriedly packed my bags this morning in an hour, and I'm positive I forgot something, which always happens.
I'm in Seattle now. In the airport. Doing what I hate the most. Waiting. I tell you, airports hate me. My flight's departure was delayed. The reason given was servicing. I hope it's nothing serious. Outside, I see a bunch of twin-prop airplanes sitting on the runway. I wonder if one of them is the one I will be taking to complete my air travel for the day. I've never flown on a twin-prop before. The smallest plane I've ever flown in are those DC-10s and MD80s.
Surprisingly, my cell phone works fabulously here. 5 bars.
I worry about the weather, and if I've packed enough cold-weather clothes. I'm sitting under an AC vent and the AC is turned up way too high, as I freeze in my California clothes.
They have those red-LED signs here flashing messages in Japanese, Chinese and English. The signs are all labeled in Japanese too. I feel as if I'm in Tokyo Airport again. They hand out free coffee before noon, the little Horizon Air - Starbucks coffee counter says. With the counter sitting right under an AC vent, I have to wonder how warm the coffee is.
On a whim, I try to see if they have wireless here, and they do, but you have to pay. 6.95 a day. That's a bit much, especially when I'll only be here for another 10 minutes. They have a flight to Walla Walla, and I am at a loss to where that is.
4:39PM, Enroute to Edmonton, Altitude 31,000 ft.
The floor of the plane is cold. My backpack has been sitting there for the last hour, and my laptop case felt like a carton of ice cream when I picked it up. I will remember the next time I fly to use warmer socks on the day I fly.
We finally took off about 3 quarters past 3, and it was a good thing I didn't buy the internet connection, since they had the boarding call about 30 seconds after. I've slept most of this part of the journey -- we're flying way above the clouds, and only in certain areas can one view any landscape below. I think we're flying over the rockies right now, but I can't be sure. It's a lot of mountains, as far as I can see.
I'm on-board a CRJ 700, which I believe is the Canadian version of a DC-10. Instead of 5 people per aisle though, there's only 4, and the seats are wrapped in leather (or leather-like vinyl), so imagine what an airplane would look like if it was all first-class seats, and that's pretty much what it looks and feels like... although the 4 seat seating arrangement is very non-spacious, and one still feels cramped. The plane is a dual engine jet, much to my disappointment. I had hoped to fly in those twin prop planes, but I guess now that I think about it, those planes wouldn't have had the range or the speed to take me however many miles it is from seattle to Edmonton.
The sun is still bright outside, which is a marked change from the overcast skies of Seattle. I remember hearing once upon a time, that the further north or south one goes from the equator, the longer the days (or nights) become. I've always wondered what it must be like to live in one of those places.
I wish I knew the geography a bit better -- I might be able to identify some of the landscape features -- it's just a huge lake, with lots of farmland surrounding it.
We must be getting close to landing now, as the plane feels like it's dropping in altitude, and the land seems closer.
I arrived in Edmonton with fairly little trouble. The airport feels so far away from the city. We landed, and I had thought I had landed in farmland. The city was far off into the distance, the the skyscrapers creating the unique cityscape. I rented a car (a white Chevy Monte Carlo) and drove to the hotel. Driving to the hotel from the airport on Canadian Highways is an interesting experience for the California driver. The first thing is that everything is metric -- the speedometer is km/h and the unit of length is km. 110 km/h is only about 50 mi/h so it feels slow to me in getting to places, just because the speed limit is so much lower here. The second thing is that Highways appear to be unidirectional -- instead of a center divider with the opposite traffic immediately on the other side of the divider, the city block is the divider. Third, I can't believe that no one has had a City of Edmonton race track on any car video simulation games -- the city seems full of interesting twists and turns and little steel grid bridges. It was pretty exciting to drive.
I got to the hotel and was assigned a room, but I found out the hotel had wireless access, but only in certain rooms. I asked them if it was possible to change rooms, and the concierge was very kind and moved me. I was on the 6th floor. Now I'm on the 18th. The view out my window is pretty breathtaking at night, just miles and miles of lights.
honeyfields struck me with this survey. now it is your turn. take the thing, put your answers on it and post it to your blog. :)
1. WHAT IS YOUR Middle name?
The name my parents gave me is Shi Xing. It uses the Chinese characters for "World" and "Prosper". I use Shih for most educational/legal documentation, and simply "S." for everything else.
2. WHAT kind of PANTS ARE YOU WEARING and what color?
Denim Jeans. Blue.
3. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
I'm listening to the hum of the engine of a DC-10 airplane and the banter of the flight attendants in the aisle cabin.
4. WHAT ARE THE LAST 4 DIGITS OF YOUR PHONE NUMBER?
home? 9937 cell? 8777 work? 9022
6. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
gray. Definitely gray. I always find myself in the in-between places.
7. HOW IS THE WEATHER RIGHT NOW?
It's sunny outside. Inside the airline cabin though, my feet are freezing.
8. LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
9. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT THE OPPOSITE SEX?
hmm. I think the first thing I notice is the smile. Maybe the eyes.
10. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT YOU THIS?
yeah, she's a nice person.
11. HOW ARE YOU TODAY?
I'm alright today. I finished my quiz, and then boarded a plane to take a little vacation. It is not a normal day.
12. FAVORITE DRINK?
Alcoholic? Rum and Coke. Carbonated? Coke. Non-alcoholic and non-carbonated? Water. When I need to stay awake? Cafe Sua Da (Vietnamese Iced Coffee with condensed milk).
14. FAVORITE SPORTS?
The only thing I will ever go watch live is ice hockey. Everything else is boring.
15. HAIR COLOR?
black with a few highlights of blond on occassion.
16. EYE COLOR?
17. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
18. SIBLINGS AND THEIR AGES?
grace - 24
christina - 22
19. FAVORITE MONTH?
probably december, since it's a time for family and friends.
20. FAVORITE FOOD?
21. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
22. FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR?
I don't really have one.
23. ARE YOU TOO SHY TO ASK SOMEONE OUT?
24. DO YOU LIKE SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDING?
Happy ending. Scary movies freak me out. When I was younger, I'd use a blanket to cover my face for the scary parts of movies. If I ran the world, everything would end happily ever after.
25. SUMMER OR WINTER?
I think I like the summer better. There's a lot to like about winter too, like hot chocolate and snow, but I've never seen snow fall and everyone knows that California only has two seasons anyways: hot and hotter.
26. HUGS OR KISSES?
yes, but not in public.
28. CHOCOLATE OR VANILLA?
29. DO YOU WANT YOUR FRIENDS TO WRITE BACK?
Of course. I don't write letters for nothing.
30. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
31. WHO IS LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
Someone who doesn't check e-mail daily.
32. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING?
I just finished the five people you meet in heaven on saturday. I haven't read anything new since then.
33. WHAT'S ON YOUR SCREEN SAVER?
trees. forest. naturey type things.
34. FAVORITE BOARD GAME?
carcasonnes, a clever tile game.
35. WHAT DID YOU DO LAST NIGHT?
I ate, I studied. I slept.
36. FAVORITE SMELLS?
cat's perfume that her grandmother gave her
37. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING?
What time is it? Can I sneak in a little more sleep?
What a crappy morning I had today. I start off by waking up at 5am and not being able to go back to sleep. Then as I'm leaving for class, I manage to lock myself out of my place. I was going to copy the keys last week when I went to OSH, but their key duplication system couldn't do my keys. So I end up calling a locksmith, just before my cell phone dies.
I had one more quiz in Cantonese today, which I did ok on, not to be confused with ngukkei, which means home.
Now I need to go to work and tell my boss I won't be around for the rest of the week.
Time certainly does warp perceptions of things. Take this past year for instance -- we're halfway through the 10th month of it, and the events that happened earlier this year seem like they happened a lifetime ago.
Since we are so far behind in our Cantonese Class, the midterm was moved until we finish Chapter 4 (somewhere around 3 weeks from now, I suspect), and we will have a quiz on Wednesday. I still have a quiz on Thursday for Mandarin. I am not too worried about my Cantonese quiz -- I've gotten perfect scores on the quizes in that class so far, and this chapter, although harder than the others, doesn't seem too bad.
I also have homework and a composition to write in Mandarin class due in Wednesday, so after Thursday, I ought to be able to relax a bit.
I went to the ren faire today, where I watched some jousting, some medieval performances and ate good food. As much fun as the ren faire is, it does leave a person extremely tired, sweaty, and covered in dust and dirt.
I picked up a new book at the bookstore today: The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which I devoured in about an hour and a half. The story is about a man named Eddie, who believes he lives a meaningless life, dies, goes up to heaven, where he is visited by 5 people from his past, which makes him re-examine his life from other perspectives.
I don't want to live a meaningless life -- I think that would errode my spirit, day after day. I don't think anyone really plans on having a meaningless life, nor do I believe that any life is truly without meaning.
When I think about my life, it's a pretty charmed one, and honestly I don't really have any right to complain about all the little things in my life -- I know there are people out there whose lives are in far worse shape, where my problems are the problems of those with far too much leisure time.
My sister said two things to me that have been on my mind as of late:
It's easy to take for granted close friends and family, just because you expect them to be there or know how you feel. and then she said to me: I hope you know who cares for you, and that the people you care about know that too.
I got my quiz back yesterday, and I got another 8 out of 10. This is not bad, considering that I was up until 1:30 that night chatting online, didn't go to sleep until 2 and I had to wake up at 6:30.
Last night, I went to Hunan Garden in Palo Alto for dinner. The food was awesomely yummy, and our group polished off 3 Peking Ducks, along with a large assortment of other entrees.
I'm feeling pretty horrible right now, as I work and go to school. I feel as if I cannot devote enough time to both of them. I do not think people realize just how much time school takes up, and even with only 8 units, it's still a pretty large chunk of time for homework and studying.
Work is not nearly as challenging as school, but it's still a big part of my life.
Tami called me out of the blue today, just to say hello and see how things are. She asked me why I didn't move back home after I got laid off, or why I've been hard to reach as of late. (Ans: Because living at home would be tough, and my cell phone gets crappy reception). It's always nice to get an phone call from old friends.
I was watching this past Wednesday's episode of Smallville, and there was one line in particular that really resonated within me.
Lana: "If you don't open up to the people who love you, you'll always be alone. I can't believe you want to spend your life like that."
Clark:"I may not have a choice."
Lana: "You always have a choice."
I have always had problems opening up to people. I don't quite know where it stems from. I guess I'm afraid that if they knew the real me, if they knew who I really was, they wouldn't like me anymore or even hate me. I've only been myself with the few people I am close with, but even then, it doesn't always work out. I guess in this way, I am like Clark...
I took my quiz this morning, and I did alright. Again, I forgot some strokes for some of the characters, so I won't be getting a perfect score, much to my dismay.
Our company signed The Contract yesterday, so we have funding for the next couple of months. Everything is moving full speed ahead now, and it's really going to suck doing both work and school. The funny thing is I always wind up like this -- split between two or more equally important priorities, and finding myself torn in all directions.
Fanimatrix, one of the first Matrix-style fan films.
I woke up late this morning, but I still managed to make it to my first class. We got our last quiz back today, and I did about as well as I expected. My professor announced a vocab quiz tomorrow, and in Cantonese, I have another quiz sometime this week, and a midterm on Monday! eek!
Christine and I went into the city yesterday. Christine drove, which I was grateful for, seeing as I hate driving through the city of San Francisco and doing the most torturous of San Francisco driving activities -- finding street parking.
Driving in San Francisco is one of those activities that I absolutely despise, not just because of the crazy way the streets are laid out, or the tremendously steep hills, but because of the people factor. People are stupid and horrible drivers in San Francisco. People are stupid and horrible pedestrians in San Francisco. Add stupid drivers, horrible pedestrians, and an impossible parking situation together and you have a city unpleasant to drive around in.
After circling the immediate area for what seemed like hours (we spent 8 miles circling), we managed to find a spot not too far from our first stop, Grace Cathedral, with its cast replica of "The Gates of Paradise". Christine needed to take some notes on it in order to write a paper on the art piece. I took some pictures of the bronze reliefs on the door and of the Cathedral.
There was an airshow going on over the city while we were at Grace Cathedral, so every few minutes would be punctuated by the roar of either the Blue Angels or the Snowbirds flying overhead. It was a little disconcerting seeing those fighters fly so close by.
"Dopamine" is part of the Sundance Film Series and is a movie about love, exploring the question of whether love is this special, magical thing, or just a result of chemical interactions. The movies in this film series have a limited 2-week run at 10 select Loews Cineplex theatres, and then afterwards they'll be shown on the Sundance Channel. I watched the movie yesterday, and afterwards, the director of the film spoke to the audience and answered questions we had about the movie, and the process of making the film. The movie was set in and filmed entirely in San Francisco, the director pointed out, unlike another film which used pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and then filmed everything in Vancouver.
We parked at a interesting garage, where each of the parking spaces was labeled with a fortune-cookie like proverb. We ate at a place called Figaro, where we had a some yummy bruschetta and gnocchi (mushroom with 4 cheese sauce and spinach with creamy pesto) . Christine had an Appletini and an Italian Flag to drink, and that in combination with the bottles of wine she had the night before, she was a bit too buzzed to drive, so I drove us out of the city and back home.
I did alright on my quiz today. I forgot the characters for huxiang and bugandang, so I'm sure I'll lose points there. I have no problem with single character words -- it's the multiple character words that give me a great deal of problems.
I met with the IRS today for a research audit. Basically, they wanted to go over some of the losses and gains I reported and find out if I ever received the $300 dollar tax relief check from President Bush. But taking care of all this financial stuff has made me realize two things.
1) I need to get my finances in order, and the sooner, the better.
2) I should probably find someone to keep my finances in order after I sort it all out.
I say these things, not because I don't want to deal with it, but because I don't have the time to deal with it, nor do I deal with it well.
In other money related news, the U.S. $20 Bill gets colourful. They're starting to color U.S. bills now, instead of them being all green. Since they are just out today, I have yet to see one. Having new money come out is always confusing, a lot of people think the new bills are counterfeit, and won't take them at first. Most countries have coloured bills already, so I suppose the US is just slow...
I felt super sick when I woke up this morning. My throat was dry and scratchy, and I really didn't want to get out of bed. I'll probably take a nap later. I've had this cold for almost a week now. Usually I recover from a cold in 2 or 3 days, but because of my schedule, I haven't have much time this week to sleep it off.
I got yesterday's vocab quiz back today. As a whole, the prof said, our class did not do well. I got 8 out of 10, which is exactly what I expected. He said because we did so poorly (many of the students recieved scores from 1 to 3) from now on, every chapter we cover will have a vocabulary quiz as well. That means more studying for me. I want to get at least 9 out of 10 on all the quizzes.
I also finally took my Cantonese quiz on introductions (gaaisiuh) and got a 3 out of 3. On Monday, the professor asked us what the most important lesson we learnt on Friday was. Because I take pretty decent notes, I wrote down what I thought was most important, which was another pattern of grammatical structure -- ngoh hai place. He made me go up to the board and write it out for the class. Apparently, I was the only one who got it. So now, some of the students come to me for help with their study sheets, which just feels totally weird, because some of the students looking for help speak it at home, and I just study and practice really hard. I know my classmates can hear me practicing before class with some of the other students, but I know I don't speak that well. I would think that I would be mixing in Mandarin or Taiwanese or Japanese words into my speech, but so far, that has not happened.
I think the more educated one is, the more liberal they tend to be. Seeing California just elect Schwartznegger as the new governor has really strengthened my belief that the majority of the voting population are idiots, and the stupid people outnumber the educated. In politics, the more often your name is mentioned in the paper the week prior to the election, the more likely you are to win. It was hard to escape from the media blitz of Arnold during this week -- even negative publicity was getting his name heard. Now he'll have to prove he can do the job.
If you own Nokia stock. Sell. Sell now. The N-Gage, a cellphone/handlheld game system was released today. It's a disaster in the making, for the simple reason that even though even kids have cell phones these days, they don't actually use them to play games. If kids want to play games, they'll use their Game Boy Advance, not their cell phone. I've always hated the concept of the all-in-one does everything device, because it does everything mediocrely and none of it particularly well.
I had another quiz in Mandarin this morning -- it was a small vocab quiz, where one aspect of the words would be given in pinyin, chinese characters or english, and we had to fill out the rest of chart. Friday we have a chapter quiz (covers 2 chapters). Yao Laoshi then broke us up into pairs to create a dialog about finding a car. After the class finished their dialogues, he said the class speaks better Mandarin than we can write, so he might be focusing the class on more writing. I find the memorization of the Chinese characters pretty tough. It's one of those things that I wish was taught to me when I was younger. When I look back on life, there are many things I wished I learnt when I was still a kid.
I was chatting today with my old friend Mik (who I've known for over 18 years), and we started catching up, as old friends do. He gave me two pieces of wisdom: "Do and be your best in everything that you do, and you will never have regrets, for there was never a better choice to make" and "Assumptions are the termites of relationships". He attributed the latter piece of wisdom to me, much to my surprise. I don't think I've used termites metaphorically in my life...ever. Still, it's good advice. It's been a while since I've really done my best at everything. I usually end up sacrificing one thing for another. It's hard to find balance in things sometimes. Take the last couple of years: when work is good, my personal life is bad... when my personal life is good, my professional life is bad... and so it goes.
Right now, this moment, every moment, we make decisions. Some decisions are made with some thought behind them, some are made unconciously through our actions or inactions. With an uncertain future ahead of me, I try not to worry too much that the decisions I make are closing more doors than they open.
William Steig, dead at 95. William Steig is well known as the creator of Shrek, but my first encounter with the works of William Steig was a book called Doctor DeSoto, about a dentist mouse who helps a fox out with his dental problems.
You're Most Like The Season Spring ...
Fresh faced, with a young outlook on life - you smile at the world and expect it to smile back at you. You're mostly a bubbly, fun - innocent person. Described as cute possibly. However, you're a little naive about things and tend to be a little too trustworthy.
As the first season, It Makes you the youngest - and so most immature - but people are inclined to look out for and protect you.
Well done... You're the most fun of the seasons :)
Yes, you will always be remembered for your good ways. You seem to be close and caring around your family and other people you really know. You will be a major loss for them. There will be an empty spot once you are gone. It may sound morbid to you, but it could also be good. Keep on with your great ways. You will have a beautiful funeral.
How the heck did I get this? I don't really think about my funeral too often, but when I do, I don't envision a lot of people there. I see a casket being lowered into the ground, within a nice grove of trees, everyone dressed in black, carrying umbrellas while the rain falls.
I spent the weekend upgrading an old iBook with a new harddrive. For those who think this is a simple task, it isn't. The walkthrough for the project says in the beginning that "This upgrade is, if everyone else is to be believed, impossible", and good lord, while it isn't impossible, it's pretty damn hard. We started the project at about 4pm yesterday, and finished putting the computer together at about 8pm today. At about 10pm last night, we ran into a roadblock -- a small screw which we managed to strip. It was incredibly frustrating, given that this one small screw was preventing us from accessing the rest of the computer. We used a power drill to drill out the core, then used a screw extraction tool to pull it out.
On the plus side, I've watched a ton of movies this past week. Last weekend I saw Lost in Translation, about an old tv actor doing commercials in Tokyo, and his culture shock in a land where it looks like our world, but is completely different. When I went to Japan last year, I described it as walking through the looking glass, and this film captures that feel pretty accurately. This weekend, I saw School of Rock, the new Jack Black film, which is pretty damn funny. Jack Black plays a wanna-be rocker turned substitute teacher, and hilarity ensues. I watched The Importance of Being Earnest, a movie which, despite the British accents and Reese Witherspoon, was also pretty entertaining.
Lord of the Rings Trilogy is going to be shown on the big screen in December. You won't see me doing the marathon thing for LOTR. After seeing the Two Towers so many times last year I don't think I can watch it for a while.
Dr. Leung showed up today, apologizing for the car trouble on Wednesday that made him miss class. We didn't have our quiz today, but instead moved onto the next chapter (Hobbies). Maybe on Monday we'll have the quiz. I'm ready and prepared, so it should be no problem.
My mother always said that after a meal, one should drink tea to cleanse the body from the harmful things in the food. It's interesting that what I once held as cultural knowledge is now scientific knowledge.
I spent the night tossing and turning, wondering about mistakes I made and whether or not correcting any of it was possible. I've thought about my life, and how it's changed, and I wonder what the future will be like. I find myself constantly teetering on a balance of happiness and unhappiness these days. Some are good, some are bad, and sometimes it's tough to tell the difference.
My Cantonese prof didn't show today, and we were supposed to have a quiz today. Some of the students and I went to the department office to see what happened. The department office didn't have a clue why he was missing. Dr. Leung wasn't feeling well on Monday, so I hope nothing bad happened to him.