Monday, November 5, 2007

Public Service Announcement

On October 31, the Bay Area experienced a 5.6 magnitude earthquake. Though only 10 or so kilometers from our house, we experienced little damage but lots of shaking and rattling. This got me off my butt to start preparing a little more for natural disasters. My work gave us a earthquake preparedness kit with food and first aid.
What we were missing was a fire safe records box. We got a 1.2 cubic feet one from Costco that is SentrySafe brand - water, fire and security (they also have models for media protection). Couldn't figure out the fingerprint lock though - always errored out when scanning in our fingers.

Now the trick is figuring out what to put in the safe. Good thing JPL on AllFinancialMatters gave us a checklist.
So for all of you procrastinators out there, not more excuses - get a safe deposit box, and be safe!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nobelaureate Gore?

There's been a lot of speculation lately that Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States, may recieve the Nobel Peace Prize.
My first reaction - are you serious?!?!?

Sure, he might have raised awareness for global warming through his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." But I don't see the statistics of people actually changing their behavior after watching the movie. If anything, it just confirmed what people already knew and affirmed those who already advocated for "greener" lifestyles.

I'd rather the Nobel Peace Prize go to someone who has made a more direct impact to humanity.

Update: Sigh, he did win. What's next Nobel Peace Prize for Angelina Jolie's humanitarian work? I guess the only positive is that maybe this news will spread the news of global warming even more.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

How Close Should We Get?

After visiting Sydney Australia, I have a better appreciation for the native wildlife that live there including Koalas, Wallabies, Tasmanian Devils, and Wombats. Part of this new found enthusiasm was because we were able to get up close and personal and pet the Koalas at Featherdale Wildlife Park just outside Sydney. Within Sydney, it is illegal to pet the animals and they are lobbying to have all touching of animals banned. Some say this is for the protection of the animals from human diseases or being irritated. Others say the ban is to protect humans from the animals (Koalas are known to get vicious when woken up from their naps).

This was also a controversial subject when Steve Irwin "The Crocodile Hunter" would get up close and personal with the animals in filming his documentaries. His life was ended when he was stabbed in the chest by a stingray. To me, if an animal is tame enough for picture shoots at the zoo, visitors should at least be allowed to pet them. It's obvious when they're cranky because they'll move away from people so you make sure they're on frequent rotations for shifts. I think once you've been able to make a connection with not only sight, but also touch, you'll want to make sure that these animals are preserved for future generations (though in some parts of the world, they're not in danger of extinction).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What Do You Make?

Do I really want to know how much money other people make? claims that they have the salary information for over 200,000+ positions throughout the country. "Danwei" is the Chinese term for organization.

On the one hand, if I was job hunting, this may be a useful tool to help negotiate my new salary. This tool could also give me leverage if I found out that I was severely underpaid and want to ask for a raise.

On the otherhand, if I was severely underpaid and wasn't in the market for a new job, this might make me feel the injustice of being unfairly compensated and motivate me to start job searching. However, it doesn't account for whether the person who was paid more has been in the industry longer or possesses certain skills that warrant the higher salary.

All in all - transparency of information should level the playing field and give more power back to the employees.

I'm just glad that I'm neither job hunting nor underpaid.

Another company,, also give company salary data, but it's on a subscription basis. At $9.95 per month, I'd rather just stay ignorant and happy with what I already have.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Chinese Irish

Growing up, my teachers called me "Maureen" because they couldn't pronounce my Chinese name. I didn't think it was strange until Jr. High when someone told me that Maureen was an Irish name.

Last week, I returned from a business trip to Dublin where I ventured out to city center and experienced my unofficial heritage for the first time.
The Temple Bar area was just as I imagined it with Guinness signs everywhere and cobblestone roads. On Grafton Street, the shops were mostly the same as you would find in any big city with the exception of Butlers Chocolates.

The ironic part of the entire trip was when my coworker suggested that we have Mongolian BBQ for dinner in Dublin. I suppose that is better than the traditional meal of potatoes and beef stew of some sort. At over 25 Euros for a decent meal, I would still prefer the cheap eats in the Bay Area where less than 5 Euros would buy you a full Chinese dinner and then some for leftovers.

  • As for my name, I've long since dropped the nickname Maureen, but people still call me "Mo".
  • Monday, August 20, 2007

    The Big Three Four

    My husband loves surprises (planning them - that is). Every year for my birthday, he tries to top the last with a fun activity planned even though I would be happy just going out to a nice dinner. Since his birthday is just one month after mine, it sure sets a high bar!
    This year, my birthday fell on a weekday. When I came home, he had already started dinner and the dining table was laid out with a printed menu that he created restaurant style.
    I thought that the "Evening Activities" section was a nice touch. Knowing that I probably would choose the Ratatouille video game (the movie was too cute), he had gone to the video store to rent it out the previous day.

    My birthday surprise was extended to the weekend, when he packed up gear, bought rowing gloves, and took us for a twilight kyaking trip to Sausalito on the Richardson bay with SeaTrek. The pictures below are a before, during and aftershot (with our instructors). We were able to row close to sea lions and where the houseboats docked along the bay. Overall, it was one of the best birthday ever!

    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    Emotional Intelligence

    Which would you rather have, high IQ or high EQ? Daniel Goleman suggests that high IQ will only get you so far and that it's high EQ that distinguishes us in the workplace - measuring our self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-control. He cites the famous marshmallow experiment where kids are given one piece of marshmallow and are told that they can get two if they just wait to eat the first until the researcher returns after running errands. Only a third of the kids can actually hold out that long - delayed gratification.

    At a recent talk at the Silicon Valley high tech firm I work at, Daniel Goleman came to speak and pointed out that our firm typically hires employees who typically have a small range of very high IQs but a wide range of EQs. Therefore, to suceed, it's those with the high EQ that matter. However, I disagree, at tech companies, those who are rewarded are the ones who can build and demonstrate immediate results. Those that maintain, sustain and scale are typically not in highly visible roles. To that extent, delayed gratificationi is not as valued. So does high EQ really matter for these companies? May only to the extent that it's related to Social Intelligence - how we interact with others. This is the topic of Daniel Goleman's latest book - which I'm eager to start.

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Pineapple Fiber

    This week I was researching ways to naturally supplement our diet with fiber and was led down an interesting path. There's an abundance of summer fruits in California right now - pluots, grapes, peaches, nectarines, pineapples, mangos, watermelon, honeydew - the list goes on. I figured one of these fruits would be a good source of fiber. I picked pineapple to Google since I always get little pineapple threads stuck in my teeth (which on second thought, I should have picked mangos).

    Since the site wasn't explicit which part of the pineapple produce this wonderous fabric, I was imagining that perhaps it was the core. What would happen if we ate this as a dietary supplement or drank it down in a finely blended smoothie? But upon further research, I was disappointed to find that it's the pineapple leaves that makes piƱa. The picture from Wikipedia shows someone "scraping a pineapple leaf to reveal its fibers"
    Leaf or not, pineapples do have quite a bit of fiber. Each cup contains 70 calories about 2 grams of fiber. Mangos though have even more 107 calories, 3g fiber per cup. compares the fiber content from various fruits, both fresh and dried. Guess which fruit is the king of fiber?

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Asian Heat

    Bill Buford's Heat describes his triumphs and trial as an apprentice in Mario Batali's restaurant Babbo from fine dicing carrots into perfect cubes to deboning dozens upon dozens of ducks. Then he takes us to his travels to Italy where he learns to make tortellini by hand and to meticulously butcher a whole pig. The book received rave reviews on Amazon.

    Like these reviewers, I also found the life of an apprentice chef facinating and went on a search to find more stories in the same vein. I was recommended
    The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain, Roasting in Hell's Kitchen by Gordon Ramsey, and The Kitchen Diaries by Nate Slater. Most of these authors trained in Western European culinary arts where form is treated as equally important as taste.

    Then it dawned on me that I couldn't find any books about an apprentice that aspired to be the next Martin Yan of Asian cooking. How could this be? Is it because there is no form in Asian cooking - who cares if carrots are perfectly diced?
    Is it that there are too many different types of cuisine that could be considered Asian - Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese - never mind that within Chinese, there are four main food regions: Peking, Shanghai, Szchwan, and Canton. Is it that Asian people don't know how to write or it would be considered too much of a risk to quit your day job to work as a "kitchen slave?"

    How great would it be if someone would take up this challenge and give us some behind the scenes insight into some of the greatest Asian restaurants in the world (or even just in the US is fine too). I even have some potential one/two word titles picked out - Wok!, Gan Bei, 5-Spice, or MSG.

    Sunday, July 22, 2007

    5 Learnings about Blogging

    It's been about two months now since I started blogging.
    I've learned quite a bit about the process (thanks to my husband and sister).

    Below are the top 5:
    5. It only takes about 10 minutes to write an entry, but it's uploading those picture and videos that take up so much time.
    4. Having a blog makes you think about privacy and exposure so much more. Hence, I'm refraining from the social networking sites until absolutly necessary

    3. When I have a hard time thinking of topics, it makes me realize just how boring my life is. Hmmm....then again, there's nothing wrong with boring.
    2. People leaving comments is a great motivator to keep writing even when there are only two people who ever leave comments.
    1. To keep those comments coming, it's probably a good to respond with another comment.

    Knowing Known Books

    I admit it. I'm a book hoarder.

    Today I went to two used bookstores (Know Knew Books and Book Buyers ) and spent three hours browsing through their selection. As you can probably tell from their websites, BB seems to be much more organized and has a bigger selection. KKB is clearing out their entire inventory right now for 50% off all books to make way for 50,000 books they currently have in storage. I wouldn't be surprised if they are going to be renovating their space as well to compete with BB.

    I was able to buy four books from KKB for a total of $18 - 'Tis by Frank McCourt, Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, Waiting by Ha Jin, and The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan (hardback).

    Not sure when I'll be able to start these books since I'm concurrently working on Wicked, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Carly Fiorina's autobiography, Germs, Guns and Steel, The Bean Trees, The Rape of Nanking, Saving Fish from Drowning, and Heat. Not to mention Businessweek magazine, bible reading, blog readings.

    Not sure what starting books and rarely finishing one before starting another says about me. But eventually, I do get around to the end.

    Scary, my friend just told me about BestWebBuys which does comparison shopping on all online bookstores including used and new prices. This could be dangerous - my bookshelf doesn't have enough space.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2007

    Not Your Average Grocery Store

    Besides the weather, there are many perks to living in California. My favorite by far though is the variety of grocery stores that are within a 20 mile radius of my house.

    Not in any priority order:

    1. Mitsuwa - Japanese Grocery Store. The reviews are pretty amusing.

    2. Han Kook - Korean Grocery Store

    3. Trader Joes - Cosmopolitan Grocery Store at affordable prices

    4. Whole Foods - for the gourmet cook

    5. Ranch 99 - Chinese Grocery store

    These are the ones I frequent, but there are Indian, Mexican and yes even British grocery stores in the area.

    My sense of food stuff has been heighted since I started working for a company that provides meals prepared by some of the most amazing chefs. They've introduced new produce into my own cooking including the broccolini. Over the years, I've also noticed that fruits and vegetables that were once seasonal are now available year round. Cherries in winter? No problem! Imported from Chile.
    With this much variety, would it inspire you to try new dishes?

    Sunday, July 8, 2007

    It's a Zoo Out There

    The San Diego Zoo is one of the largest in the United States and few could barely cover a quarter of the grounds in four hours. The 100-acre (40-hectare) Zoo is home to over 4,000 rare and endangered animals representing more than 800 species and subspecies, and a prominent botanical collection with more than 700,000 exotic plants.

    As we were observing the baby gorillas, one put his face up against the plexiglass to get closer to the little kids lining the bottom of the exhibit rails. The moma gorilla hurried over to grab him away by the arm - probably scolding him for getting too close to the human display.

    Some people say that animals in captivity have an easy life with guaranteed meals and regular checkups. However, they aren't allowed to do what nature intended - to hunt, to leap from tree to tree, to have the excitment of new discoveries. Are Polar Bears really happy in the 90 degree San Diego heat?

    If you were a wild animal, would you rather be in captivity or in the wild?

    Monday, July 2, 2007

    Feeding the Hype

    Tomorrow is opening day for Transformers, the Movie. eBay was able to offer its employees a sneak preview last week. Ted said it played like a GM commercial with eBay and PayPal ad placements throughout the movie. Google also procured opening day tickets, but quickly ran out. Most of us in our thirties can still remember the theme song of the cartoon - "Transformers - more than meets the eye. Transformers - robots in disguise." Now they are making a come back and my nephew (4 years old) has graduated from Disney's Pixar Cars to these shape shifters.

    Ted found his old Transformer toys from over 20 years ago and is now selling them on eBay. The first two listings sold with both buyers snapping them up with "Buy It Now". the next two are displayed in the column to the left. Tempting to keep them, but better that they are sold to fanatic collectors. We'll always have our Star Wars collection.

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    4F's and Many More

    This summer is heading off to a busy start. Now with the weather 24/7 sunshine and daylight lasts until 8pm, it's easier to pack more into our day.

    Saturday was spent with Friends. Ted's pre-school friend who just returned from their honey moon in Tahiti was in town and we had brunch with the bride's family. They had a wonderfully large fig tree in their backyard which they share the neighborhood racoons. Then after a few errands, we went to meet my college friend and his fiance at the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco. This is a place for foodies as we made our way through the gourmet local farmer's shops and picked up some porcini mushrooms to make with pappardelle pasta. This recipe is particularly good and reminds us of Italy.

    Sunday was spent with Family. We celebrated Father's Day and Mom's 60th birthday with a nice banana pancake breakfast. After an hour or so at the Furniture store where they bought two sofas, we went grocery shopping at the Japanese and Chinese grocery stores. The day just flew by.

    A fabulously fun and fantastic weekend!

    Monday, June 11, 2007


    I attended my fifth year reunion at Harvard Business School a couple of weeks ago. As an introvert, I found myself a bit overwhelmed with such a huge turnout not only from my class but also the 10th, 15th, and 20th reunions. It was difficult to have many meaningful conversations in such a short amount of time, but I think reunions are only meant for us to spark good memories which remind us to write or call those who made an impact on us in our two years at HBS. I was lucky to spend some significant times catching up in person with people who now live on opposite coasts or abroad.

    I also enjoyed the professor lectures, which I only found out later is atypical of business school reunions. In fact, most reunions (Stanford also exclude) is just a gathering of classmates with more social agendas. For me, the lectures are sometimes more enjoyable than the pub nights where you spend most of the time shouting above the loud music. Sessions we attended: Professor Andre Perold is one of my all time favorite professors who not only had the ability to make complex finance theories accessible to the layperson, but also had me on the edge of my seat the entire semester. We also attended sessions on network affects by Professor David Yoffie, how to tell if someone is lying by their microexpressions by Professor Michael Wheeler, and how to derive more meaning from our relationship by Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone.

    Have you ever gone to a reunion? What do you enjoy the most about them?

    Monday, June 4, 2007

    New York! New York!

    For those who have never been to New York, it's a bit like putting different colors of construction paper into a blender with a bit of water, turning it on high and what you end up is a brown mushy mess.

    However, those initial pieces of color are sure beautiful.
    Take for instance, the American Museum of Natural History. The exhibits are spectacular where the African and North American anmical collection are posed with such life that it becomes more active than a live zoo. I enjoyed the frog exhibit the best with the posion dart frogs.

    Then there was the food, oh glorious food, Bathazar, Grimaldi's, Katz's Deli, Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, Ess-A-Bagel, Dunkin Donuts, John's Pizzerria.

    What I would pass up though are the hot dog vendors. Our friend was right, Costco hot dogs still rule, hands down. Picture below of different hot dog vendors.

    This last picture is of a famous New York landmark. Though it might seem obscure, if you have been there, you'd know exactly where this little piece of wood came from. Any guesses?

    If you're looking for great guides to getting around in New York, check out TripAdvisor. Otherwise, just keep walking - there is always something happening in the Big Apple.

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    After Work, It's All Play

    I finally got a chance to take a tour today to see a little bit to Beijing. Going to miss the Great Wall and Ming Tomb this time around, but I think I've had my fill of the city for now.

    Today's tour was actually pretty good, but the guide didn't really say much when we were on route - i was hoping for a little history lesson and tidbits about China. We took an hour just picking people up and another hour dropping people off.
    First stop - temple of heaven - neat story about the 28 pillars, but we didn't stay there long.

    Lots of groups of exercisers doing taichi and little feather hacky sacks.

    Second stop - Silk factory - saw the two different kind of silk worms - one with an individual worm used to spin thread and the other with two worms that are strech out one of them to make blankets.

    Third stop - Tian anmen Square - not much there except a very large square facing the picture of Chairman Mao. They erected a countdown to the Olympics on the face of the National Museum that is currently undergoing renovation.

    Fourth stop - Forbidden City - much of it was undergoing construction. Walked by the Starbucks that infiltrated the City. The sign is down, but the aroma of coffee is unmistakable.

    Video of one of the courtyards in the Forbidden City - can you spot the Forbidden Starbucks?

    Fifth Stop - Lunch - it was ok, but they served a dish of french fries - that was weird.

    Sixth Stop - Pearl shop - they explained that if you rub real pearls together, it produces pearl powder and you only need to buff the pearl to make it shine like new.

    Seventh Stop - Summer Palace - took the dragon boat across and saw the marble boat. We didn't get to go into the temples or climb the stairs - instead, we just walked along the infinite corridor which was ok. Nice breeze.

    Last stop - instead of going back to the hotel, I had them drop me off at the silk street market (aka counterfeit market.) I didn't get much, but I did get a "silk" table runner and a "Nike" shirt for Ted.

    From there, I just walked walked walked for about 3 hours. I went into the friendship store, the walked past the Hyatt and from there down a street where there were a lot of shops and turned left at the end where it was night time and there were lots of food stalls with lanterns. Scorpions and Centipedes. Yum. Don't worry, I didn't have any.

    For dinner, I had 8RMB noodles at the food court and a 16RMB watery orange julius - highly disappointing. Passed up starbucks more than once here which is selling more than at home!

    Overall a satisfying first trip to China.

    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    First Day in China

    We landed around 2pm in China and upon debarking, we walked down a hallway lined with Visa advertisements endorsed by world famous faces such as Yao Ming and Jackie Chan. I normally wouldn't have taken notice, but in a payments article written 2005 years ago, the author noted the same experience.

    The customs process was fairly easy but I was reprimanded for not writing my full "given name" with my maiden name "Lei". The Intercontinental Beijing Hotel is pretty amazing, complete with complimentary bottled water, flat screen tv (sound piped in to the bath area with a window for easy viewing), and modern furnishings.

    I debated whether to book a tour for Saturday after the conference or go for a self-guided walk, but I figured for the first time in China, better to be in a group. Everyone is extremely friendly. I think I surprised the concierge by wanting to find the food court for some cheap eats. He recommended a sit down restaurant, but that wouldn't have been as interesting. I headed towards the nearest shopping centers and soon felt out of place in my skort so I was looking for three things - ping pong paddle (Butterfly brand), Li Ning sports wear, and a pair of pants.

    The first shopping center was definitely for the locals - booths side by side - crammed and a bit overhwleming. You can bargain for the goods, but everything is already marked down significantly. Ping Pong paddles are everywhere, but the Butterfly brand is hard to find. One vendor had only one without the instructions and the other told me that I wouldn't be able to find any since it's "too high class." After touring the food court, I went back downstairs and found a vendor with a nice pair of tan pants. She said she would sell it to me for 90 RMB, I started to walk away, but she pulled me in and asked what I wanted to buy it for. I said 40 RMB - I hadn't really figured out the conversion yet and it was taking me too long to calculate in my head. She said 60 and I said 50 and she started to chuckle saying that she wouldn't even sell it to the local for that low. What do I know. I said my Mandarin was poor, but my mom told me to always bargain. So she said to come in, I stepped in hesitantly and she sold it to me for 50RMB which I calculated later to be $6.50. Not bad. I think the easiest wasy to convert the approximate price is just to divide by 7. Close enough. As for the Li Ning sportswear? That's a surprise for Ted.

    I walked around some more, found some mangostene fruit (4.5 RMB - 26 cents) Went back to the food court - had no idea what I was doing in selecting some ingredients to steam and sautee so I followed the person in front of me. (7RMB - $1) and then to the dumpling stall (18 for 5RMB - 80 cents) for takeout. Awesome. Not sure if I liked what I ate, but you can't beat the price.

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    Monterey Bay Aquarium

    This year for the annual cousins' trip, we embarked on a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but not before we decided to hand decorate bright pink t-shirts so that we can be easily identified as being related. Thanks John for the great idea and for the guys to agree to wear pink!

    Since this is my first blog, I will be brief.
    We had a great time at the Aquarium - spend over 5 hours there going through the new jellyfish exhibit and the sea otter habitat exhibit - I guess it's not so new, but we haven't been there for over 5 years.

    We watched the blue jellyfish swim about (points for anyone who know the actual name of these species)

    Then there was the sea otter feeding which was also considered part of their training. They used to give them clams in their shells, but the otters tried to break them open on the plexiglass. Needless to say, the trainers stopped that practice by doing the work for them.