Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gold Star

Weezer's new "Pork and Beans" video gets a gold star from me. Funny and smart use of YouTube. Definitely worth a mention. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Smile on Your Face

This is a "chug." He's half chihuahua, half pug, and is 3 months old. I hope this picture puts a smile on your face.

Friday, May 16, 2008

In Search of Survivors, Hope

It's been five days since the massive quake hit Sichuan. I have to be honest, I still can't look at a video, photograph or a news article without getting teary-eyed. It's hard for me to grasp the magnitude of the quake, the immediate damage it caused and the ongoing ordeal that will ensue. The lastest reports on Friday show that the death toll now stands at 22,000, with that number expected to rise to at least 50,000 in the next several days. Possibly hundreds of thousands of people are still buried.

There have been some amazing stories of survival about children, but there have also been many tragedies. The infrastructure of schools have come under attack after several schools completely crumbled on Monday. I've read and watched numerous stories of parents sitting at former school sites, hoping that their children are safe. There was one story out of Hanwang where rescuers found a boy alive, and a man came rushing to the survivor half laughing, half crying, sure that that was his son. The boy needed to be rushed to the hospital and the man was prevented from going close to the boy, but the video shows the rescuer embracing the father as he wept. Another story shows a distraught mother who's found her daughter under rubble, but is unable to get to her. The mom is pulling gently on her daughter's legs. The mom recognzied her daughter's shoes.

I know this earthquake has affected millions of people. For me personally, I can't help but to think about my students in Chengdu, the ones who lived in the villages north of Chengdu hardest hit by the quake.

On a side note: The Wolong Panda Reserve is near the epicenter of the quake. It's home to 86 giant pandas and red pandas. Many, including my mom, wondered if the pandas were hurt in the quake. The head of Sichuan's tourism bureau said this week that the pandas were not hurt.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dujiangyan, Sichuan

New York Times. Destruction in Dujiangyan, the epicenter of the earthquake.

The New York Times. The parents of a child killed in the school collapse in Dujiangyan. The child's body is covered with cloth.

Many people have never heard of the town Dujiangyan (pronounced "DOO-jang-yan") in Sichuan until yesterday when media reports cited it as the epicenter of Sichuan's 7.9 magnitude earthquake. It is believed 10,000 people died in this town alone. But the most horrifying story is how 900 students are believed to be trapped and buried under rubble after their school collasped. This morning, China's state news agency says hope is waning for rescue crews to find many survivors.

I remember Dujiangyan. I remember it fondly.

I had been living in Sichuan for a month, and my "grand-uncle" (a transliteration of what I call him in Chinese) and his family took me to Dujiangyan on a weekend trip. We met some of their family friends there, and I remembered the son of the other family prepared an English report for me on why Dujiangyan is special. He was very bright and his English was quite good for a 12 year old. He told me that he was very proud that he was from Dujiangyan because the city's irrigation system is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We spent about an hour and a half touring this irrigation system, but I wasn't quite sure why we were all taking photos of this structure.

The structure was built in 227 B.C. during the Warring States Period of China by the general Li Bing (who is very popular in Chengdu and has many statues and temples dedicated to him). The town was very prone to flooding due to its proximity to the Min River, so Li Bing commissioned an artificial levee to redirect a portion of the rivers's flow to discharge excess water to the plains.

Later in the day, we went up Mount Qingcheng, home to Taoist temples. It was beautiful up there: lush, tranquil and calming. We had dinner that evening in Dujiangyan City, and I remembered writing in my journal on the car ride home, "What an amazing and strong city."

That was the last memory I had of Dujiangyan. But as I see pictures of the earthquake's aftermath in Dujiangyan, I can't help but to think back what I wrote in my journal. Such a tragedy, and I can't even begin to think how much strength that town needs for the parents, the families.
This is a picture I took on Mount QingCheng, Dujiangyan.

Family Okay

A big relief this morning, I heard from my relatives in Chengdu this morning and everyone is okay there. My grandmother, aunt and uncle, cousins live in Guangdong, and they're okay. The earthquake was more damaging to the north of Chengdu and Sichuan. People in southeast China felt the aftershocks, but nothing as strong as Sichuan and Gansu.

Monday, May 12, 2008

7.9 Earthquake in Sichuan, China

(Map Courtesy of the New York Times)

I'm sure many of you have already heard about the earthquake in China that happened Monday afternoon. As of 11:00 AM Pacific time, China's state media reports that 8,533 people are dead, including as many as 5,000 people in a single county. (This number is expected to climb throughout the day). There's also reports that 900 students are trapped beneath a collapsed high school in Dujiangyan City in Wenchuan County.

News of this is especially hard for me because I lived in Sichuan when I was a teacher at a communist boarding school there. I know, and I've been, to the cities and provinces that are being mentioned in the news reports. I've been trying to get through to my relatives, my friends and my former students; however, communication to China is difficult now. Several cell phone towers are down, and many people are trying to phone their relatives.

The New York Times and CNN are doing a great job with updating the latest information about this earthquake.
UPDATE 7:15 PM (Pacific Time)/Monday May 12, 2008:
No luck. I still haven't been able to get through to my relatives in Chengdu. I've been calling on day. There have been times when I get a dial tone, other times, it's just silence and then an operator says my call didn't go through. One time, instead of a dial tone, I heard a very unusual and somewhat eerie musical tune. It was odd, because it sounded "pretty," but the melody was just unnerving. The tune played for 30 seconds and then it cut to the tone you get when you're on the phone and you get disconnected. I've been thinking about all the people I know in Sichuan, and I have this really uneasy feeling. I think about the school, my students, the shopowners I met, and the people who I didn't know but saw and encountered during my stay and travels there. The AP, CNN and The New York Times are reporting that at least 10,000 are feared dead; I know that that number will go up as we head into the evening and tomorrow.


It's heeeeeere. There've been rumored reports about the release of Blackberry's long-awaited new phone with an amazing interface, and today the company unveiled it. "The Bold, or 9000, has twice the screen resolution of the current Curve model, making for a very sharp display. It matches the resolution, but not the size, of the screen on Apple's iPhone." Here's an article from the Associated Press.

New top-of-the-line BlackBerry doubles screen resolution
By PETER SVENSSON – 1 hour ago

NEW YORK (AP) — Research In Motion Ltd. on Monday introduced its first major new BlackBerry model in more than a year: the Bold, a high-end model that further demonstrates the company's desire to make tools for both work and play.

The Bold, or 9000, has twice the screen resolution of the current Curve model, making for a very sharp display. It matches the resolution, but not the size, of the screen on Apple Inc.'s iPhone, which has emerged as a potent competitor in the "smart phone" category.

AT&T Inc. on Monday said it would be the exclusive U.S. carrier for the Bold.

It also has much more internal memory, a glossy metallic look, and adds corporate-strength Wi-Fi capabilities to third-generation cellular and Bluetooth radios.

Otherwise it stays close to the formula of the Curve, with a horizontal screen above a trackball and a keyboard with one letter per key.

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM didn't announce a price for the Bold, nor agreements with specific carriers. It said the phone would be available from various carriers this summer.
AT&T is the only U.S. operator with a cellular broadband network compatible with the initial Bold model. Later versions could work on the Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Wireless networks, according to RIM co-chief executive Mike Lazaridis.
Like the Curve and the Pearl, BlackBerry's consumer-oriented phones, the Bold has a full-size headset jack and a camera that can also capture video. At the same time, it has dual-band Wi-Fi, a feature previously only found on a model aimed at the corporate market.
The Bold will also have exchangable back plates in different colors, a first for a BlackBerry.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day...

...Mom and all my friends who are moms. Words can't express my thanks to my mom. I hope you have a fantastic day today.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Myanmar or Burma?

Page One headlines from the New York Times and the Washington Post, May 8, 2008.

It's been nearly a week since the devastating cyclone hit Myanmar in South East Asia. At the start of the week, I heard many mispronunciations of Myanmar ("MY-an-mar" is wrong). It's pronounced"MEE-ehn-mar" or "mee-AHN-mar." There's also been some confusion about the name of the country with newspapers and television stations going back and forth between Myanmar and Burma. Slate has an article about this issue, and the writer goes into origins of the name, and how certain organizations label the nation. http://www.slate.com/id/2191002/?GT1=38001

Regardless of the name or the pronunciation, Myanmar's military regime needs to open the country's doors to receive relieft aid. As of this morning (5/10/08) , the junta allowed one U.S. cargo plane to enter the country with food and other relief supplies. Let's hope for the best.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Tavern on the Green Comes to SF

The iconic New York City restaurant is making its way to the west coast, finding a home in San Francisco's Metreon. The 30,000-square-foot restaurant will overlook Yerba Buena Gardens, and will feature some of its Central Park signatures: Verdant topiaries, white lights, and of course, a plethora of tourists. TOTG opened in 1974 and remains one of the largest-grossing independently owned restaurants in the country. Even if you've never been to the Central Park establishment, TOTG has made cameos in movies and television shows, including "Ghostbusters," "Wall Street," and "Sex and the City." Many restaurant critics have given lukewarm reviews of the restaurant for its long wait and satisfactory food. We'll see what happens when TOTG comes to San Francisco. I hope it doesn't turn out to be a tourist trap, and that the new chef (Brian Young, former chef de cuisine of Michelin restaurant Le Bernardin and executive chef at Citarella the Restaurant) will create...good food.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Gas prices are high, and I've resigned to the fact that I'm going to have to pay up when I fill up. There's no going around it. Sometimes I'll shut my eyes to avoid looking at the digital numbers on the price window of the pump, sometimes I won't wait till my tank is empty to fill up so my final price won't be high. But none of that works. Gas is expensive, and I've embraced it. As I thought about this, I realized I need to learn to embrace certain other things in my life with my eyes open. Specifically, men.

I need to realize that certain behaviors in men (the ones I know) are a given or constant and no matter how hard I try to rationalize them in my head...nothing's going to change, it might in the future, but I should take things for what they are, accept it and be okay with it.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

May, May, May

Not my name, but the month. I forgot to post on May Day (Thursday), but back when I was little, I dreaded the month of May because classmates would feel the need to make "extra" fun of me because of my name. I also got the "Is your name May because your birthday's in May?" The answer is no. I still get that nowadays; but I also get comments like "It's your month! You should milk it." I won't. Usually when May (the month) rolls around, I like to use the Chinese spelling of my name, Mei.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Go Wyo

It's not that often that the New York Times cover small towns in Wyoming. Living two years in Wyoming did not make me a "Wyomingite;" however, I do feel a bond to the Cowboy/Equality state. So now, every time I see an article or news item about Wyoming, I get excited.