February 4, 2011

Honeymoon: Our Cottage in the Mara

POST #    3082

Back to the photos from our honeymoon in August! I should really get through all of these sometime soon before the details slip away.

While in the Masai Mara, we stayed at The Lodge at Saruni. This wasn't a rustic camp at all. It was a beautiful lodge with six cottages overlooking the planes. As an open camp, animals were free to wander through the area. We saw elephants on the first day, saw water buffalo off in the distance another day, heard hyenas one night, and I saw a zebra steps away from our actual cottage (it saw me, we stared at each other for a few seconds before it snorted and ran off with its group).

These luxurious cottages weren't without their drawbacks — it would get really, really cold at night. When we were in Africa, it was winter and colder than we expected. While it wasn't cold like much of the United States is experiencing now, it was still pretty cold. You have to keep in mind that there was no heat and the sides of the cottage were essentially canvas with screens for windows. One thing's for sure, the cool temperatures meant we got dressed very quickly before our morning game drives.

Posted by tien mao in Honeymoon, Kenya, Photos, Travel at 7:30 PM



January 11, 2011

Christmas in Lacon, 2010

POST #    3081

My first Christmas in Illinois with the in-laws! In previous years I was just a boyfriend or fiancé. But now a son/brother-in-law. Crazy times! As always though, it was a fantastic time with an absurd amount of gifts.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Illinois, Photos, Travel at 5:43 PM



November 29, 2010

Honeymoon: Video of Our Time in Africa

POST #    3080

Honeymoon in Africa from tienmao on Vimeo.

Our honeymoon to South Africa (Cape Town area), Kenya (Masai Mara) and Tanzania (Zanzibar).

As it's taking me forever to put up photos of our honeymoon, here's something to keep you entertained for at least nine minutes. Shannan put together a video of our time in Africa using clips that she shot on her iPhone 4. It features white sharks, lions, leopards, elephants, me dancing and many other things. Fun times!

Posted by tien mao in Kenya, South Africa, Travel at 4:15 PM



November 9, 2010

Honeymoon: Day 2 in the Masai Mara

POST #    3079

Finally, the photos from day 2 on safari. This was our first full day on the Mara — waking up at 5:30 AM in a freezing room, heading out before sunrise, a bush breakfast, heading back out in the afternoon after a nap and watching the sunset with a sundowner. The long day was not without some great sightings.

It seemed like this day was a lesson on the lifecycle of the Mara. While we would head out each morning hoping to witness a kill (predators hunt in the early morning and evenings), we didn't see one this morning, but we did get to see hyenas feasting on the carcass of a wildebeest.

The previous night at dinner, we were told about a lioness who had her cubs killed by a male lion that recently took over the pride. In the morning, we spotted her walking across the plains calling out for her two cubs, which all the other animals took note of (3rd photo). Our bush breakfast was cut short when our guides heard that someone spotted a leopard. We quickly made our way to the scene to look at the rarely seen cat. There wasn't much to see as the leopard was just lounging around on the rocks.

In the afternoon, we saw two lions mating (the same lioness looking for her cubs). Let me tell you, if you weren't watching, you would miss it. Except for maybe the fact that the male lion lets out a furious roar at one point. On our way up to our sundowner, eagle-eyed Shannan spotted a cheeta. It turns out that cheetahs are very rarely spotted in the mountainous area where this pregnant cheeta was spotted.

Posted by tien mao in Honeymoon, Kenya, Photos, Travel at 10:48 AM



October 19, 2010

Honeymoon: Day 1 in the Masai Mara

POST #    3078

After our stop in South Africa to kick off the honeymoon, we were off to safari in Kenya's Masai Mara. The number of animals in the Mara was especially plentiful while we were there because of the Great Migration, when nearly 2 million wildebeest zebra migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Mara.

In our first day in the Mara, we managed to see three of the big five (lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards and rhinos). Not to mention the zebras, wildebeest, ostrich, Thomson's gazzelles, giraffes, topis, Grant's gazelles and other animals.

Posted by tien mao in Kenya, Photos, Travel at 1:20 PM



October 11, 2010

Honeymoon: Wines and Cheetah in Stellenbosch

POST #    3077

Our final stop on our whirlwind tour of the Cape Town area was Stellenbosch, the "Wine Capital of South Africa." It was an awful day, weather wise, with rain, rain and more rain. Despite the rain, we were able to visit the cheetah outreach project at Spier winery. At Spier you can get close enough to pet a cheetah — something that you obviously can't do while on safari.

In addition to cheetah petting and lunch at a winery, we sampled the wines of several wine farms, including Delheim (the 3rd picture).

Posted by tien mao in Honeymoon, South Africa, Travel at 9:06 AM



September 25, 2010

Honeymoon: Lion's Rump in Cape Town

POST #    3076

After recovering from cage diving with great whites, we made our way to the Lion's Rump, also known as Signal Hill. This flat-ish hill is right next to Lion's Head and Table Mountain. The hill offers views of Cape Town and Table Bay.

Posted by tien mao in Honeymoon, Photos, South Africa, Travel at 12:46 AM



September 20, 2010

Honeymoon: Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai

POST #    3075

One of the main reasons we added South Africa was because of the great white sharks that swim in the country's waters. I've been fascinated with sharks since I was a kid — probably because of the Jaws movies. While the movies portray the great white shark as a terrifying creature, I was always interested in seeing them (as well as other sharks) up close. Not where a shark is taking a piece of my leg, but close enough to observe.

Our time in South Africa provided us with this opportunity and it was one of the highlights of our honeymoon. Shannan even says that it was her favorite part. We were originally scheduled to go white shark cage diving with the White Shark Diving Company the day after our arrival in Cape Town, but the waters were too rough to venture out. Thankfully, the water on the second day was "calm" enough for our adventure.

After an early-morning pickup (before 6 AM) at our hotel, we were transported about two hours to Gansbaai (Bay of Geese) where we would be viewing the sharks. Following breakfast and an orientation ("we've never had accident while using this cage"), we were off to find the great white shark. The White Shark Diving Company provided us with all the gear we would need for the cold water (it's still winter there), including wet suits. They didn't provide any sea-sickness pills though, which is something that I should have purchased before going.

Once we set out and found the spot that we would anchor, the crew of our boat, "The White Shark," started to add chum to the water (crushed tuna/skipjack or sardines). The smell was pretty awful, but similar to Chinatown in NYC on a summer day. Sure enough, the sharks arrived shortly. In groups of 6 people (I think it was 6), we made our way into the cage to view the sharks from the water. The crew would yell "down!" whenever a shark was close, occasionally adding a direction to look once we were underwater. We did this several times. On occasion, we saw more than one shark once submerged.

The most frightening part of our time in the water was when a smaller shark managed to get its head caught in the cage between me and Shannan. The shark was lured in by a fish on a rope and as it went for the fish, the shark managed to lodge itself in the cage. The shark seemed to be stuck for minutes, but it was more likely just a few seconds. Another group had a white shark land it's front quarter on top of the cage.

All told, we saw eight sharks, the largest one at 3.5 meters (11.5 feet). I think I came out of the experience a little more scared (at least of snorkeling in the trip), and missing my breakfast. But it was an awesome experience and I'm very happy that we were able to do it.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, South Africa, Travel at 6:50 PM



September 16, 2010

Honeymoon: Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

POST #    3074

Also in Cape Peninsula National Park is the Cape of Good Hope. As you can see in the sign (taken at the tail end of golden hour) is that it's the most south-western point of the African continent! Yep, we can say we were there.

Not only can we say we were in the most south-western point of the continent, but we also saw ostriches walking next to the road. Shannan was a big fan of the park (and the ostriches).

Posted by tien mao in Honeymoon, Photos, South Africa, Travel at 6:53 PM



September 15, 2010

Honeymoon: Cape Point, South Africa

POST #    3073

The destination that we were driving to on our first day in South Africa was the Cape Peninsula National Park, which is home to Cape Point. Cape Point is thought to be the meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, but the actual meeting point varies in an area between Cape Point and Cape Agulhas in the Western Cape of South Africa.

But what Cape Point does have is a lighthouse (ooOOOooohhh)! Two, in fact! One is still in operation. The historic lighthouse, which has many visitors and signs marking distances to other cities, was in service from 1860-1919. It was found to be somewhat ineffective during fog, causing some ships to come dangerously close to land. In fact, a 1911 wreck of the Portuguese boat Lusitania resulted in a new lighthouse being built that is closer to the water and closer to sea level.

If you visit the lighthouse, you can also walk on a path that gets you very close to the new lighthouse. You can easily see the new lighthouse in the last photo.

Posted by tien mao in Honeymoon, Photos, South Africa, Travel at 6:42 PM



September 14, 2010

Honeymoon: Boulders Beach, South Africa

POST #    3072

After our stop in the surf town of Muizenberg, we made our way down the coast to Boulders Beach, home of an African Penguin colony.

The penguins roam the area around the beaches, but are largely fenced in. Despite that fencing, park signage asks those visiting to check under their cars for the birds.

Posted by tien mao in Honeymoon, Photos, South Africa, Travel at 5:51 PM



September 13, 2010

Honeymoon: Muizenberg, South Africa

POST #    3071

Ahh. Wedding done and we're back from our honeymoon in Africa. Now you get to live through all the photos I took! We went from South Africa to Kenya and finally onto Tanzania.

On our first day in South Africa, we drove south from Cape Town towards the Cape of Good Hope. On the way, we stopped in the beach town of Muizenberg. On the beaches of Muizenberg are these colorful beach huts that weren't open while we were there. Perhaps it's because they cater to people during the summer months (it's winter in the southern hemisphere).

Posted by tien mao in Honeymoon, Photos, South Africa, Travel at 7:30 PM



August 24, 2010


POST #    3070

Look what we did over the weekend: We got married!

The ceremony and reception was at Benmarl Winery in upstate New York. The photo above is by the wonderful Steph Goralnick, who took photos for us. Our wedding even made it into The Times (with a photo in the print edition too!). Steph's got a couple more photos online as well.

And if you're curious about our honeymoon, here's the plan: Africa! We've gotten our shots and are going to South Africa (cape town), Kenya (Masai Mara) and Tanzania (Zanzibar).

Photos when we get back, I promise!

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Photos, Travel at 10:32 AM



May 19, 2010

Phoenix Suns vs. San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center

POST #    3027

Even before I drove down to Texas with Neil, I was thinking of things to do outside our eventual arrival in Austin. Austin has a ton to offer, but seeing that it was maybe my second time in Texas ever, I was hoping to do some things besides just eating tacos and BBQ.

Luckily for me, the San Antonio Spurs advanced past the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Also lucky was the fact that I could actually make one of their home games in their series with the Phoenix Suns. Seats for were plentiful on Stubhub, but as you can see they were super high up (not to mention expensive). So high up, in fact, that we were on the same level as the guy controlling the spotlights.

The game itself was close for two quarters — the 2nd and 3rd. The Spurs jumped out to a 9 point lead after the 1st quarter and the Suns chipped and chipped away that lead until they trailed by just one point after three quarters.. Then the Goran Dragic of the Suns exploded for 23 points in the 4th quarter (!!) to give the Suns the 110-96 win and a commanding 3-0 series lead.

Phoenix went on to a 4-0 series sweep, the first time they beat San Antonio in the playoffs since 2000. The Suns lost four playoff matchups in a row to the Spurs before finally winning this year.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Sports, Travel at 2:20 PM



May 17, 2010

Taco Time in Austin

POST #    3026

I was in Austin a couple of weeks ago and ate a lot of tacos. From top to bottom:
- Taco Deli
- Izzo's Tacos
- El Chilito
- Torchy's Tacos

I went to Torchy's several times and got the Ranch Hand again and again. So good!

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Photos, Travel at 12:55 PM



February 25, 2010

Eating Portland: Le Pigeon

POST #    3021

D'oh! Really, really slow in getting to these images even though I told myself that I would be better about it.

One of the "fancier" places that we ate at back in our November visit to Portland was Le Pigeon, which is barely in Southeast. I say "fancier" because in Portland, there's really no such thing (or at least that I experienced). But a reservation is recommended and I think the guy sitting next to me was actually wearing a sportscoat, thus making Le Pigeon fancy.

Le Pigeon is an intimate restaurant with an open kitchen with three chefs doing all the work. We elected to sit at the bar (I enjoy watching the pros cook) for our meal. Since the meal was so long ago, I can't really remember what we ate (oops), but we had a gnocchi to start, Shannan had the fish, and I had the beef cheek bourguignon (something always on the menu). There was also a burger at the table. I do recall that we all loved our food. My dessert was a crème brulée with what I think was a coffee pot de crème.

In 2007, Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon was named one of Food & Wine Magazine's best new chefs.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Friends/Family, Oregon, Travel at 6:29 PM



January 25, 2010

Photos of Wulai, Taipei

POST #    3015

Wulai is a rural town on the southern outskirts of Taipei. It's mostly known as a destination for its hot springs as well as the native Atayal people. To get there, you take a bus ride up the mountains from the subway stop. The route has many, many turns which overlook the river far, far below. All this on a two-lane road with a bus driver that drives like he's very famliar with the road. Standing while he drives, which we did most of the way, is quite an adventure and a workout on the arms.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 5:59 PM



January 20, 2010

At the "Slumping Cliffs" of Longpan Park in Kenting National Park

POST #    3014

The "slumping cliffs" in Longpan Park are a result of wind and wave erosion over the years, which is understandable because it's really windy there.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 7:00 PM



January 15, 2010

Not Much of a View From a Cloudy Taipei 101

POST #    3013

So we didn't get much nice weather when we were in Taipei. It was cloudy most of the time and it was rainy at times too. But I had to show Shannan Taipei 101 anyway as it's still a sight to be seen. At that point, it was still the tallest building in the world. It was just overtaken by Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

As you can see, it was cloudy at the top of the building. And not just a little cloudy, but really cloudy. In fact, you could only partially see out of two sides. The other two sides had no view at all. It was also really windy, but they let you outside on the "observation deck" anyway. The wind was so fierce, that it caused the fencing on the roof to vibrate and make noise like a bunch of tuning forks.

One of the cooler things we saw in our "scenic" trip to the building, was the what's pictured in the last photo. It's a hallway with a cloud projection onto the floor. But once you walk over the floor, the clouds clear up behind you. Oh, that Asian innovation, so nice.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 5:50 PM



January 13, 2010

More Pizza Photos — This Time from the PDX

POST #    3012

What do we need more of on this site? Pizza photos! Duh. From our trip out to Portland in November, here are photos of two pies from Apizza Scholls and slices from Escape From New York Pizza.

The pies from Apizza were their Apizza ‘Margo’rita and their Tartufo Bianco. The pizza was very good. Could it have been better than Di Fara, which I just went to over the weekend? I would say it's possible! I can't say the same for Escape From New York Pizza though, but it did taste like pizza from any slice joint in NYC.

If you're wondering, I will not be following this up with photos of pizza from Taiwan as we didn't have any while there.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Oregon, Photos, Travel at 4:45 PM



January 7, 2010

Sail Rock in Kenting National Park

POST #    3009

Sail Rock in Taiwan's Kenting National Park gets it's name because, from a distance, it supposedly looks like a sailboat about to set sail. But up close, it apparently looks like Nixon, so it's sometimes called "Nixon's Head". I don't really see the resemblance to either.

Plus, this dog really loved us (mostly, Shannan, it seems). He followed us around this stop on our tour, but he was probably expecting food. Obviously, we didn't give him any.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 4:49 PM



December 29, 2009

Timberwolves vs. Blazers: Rip City Goes Crazy for Chalupas

POST #    3006

How do you get 20,000 (mostly white) people on their feet in Portland, Oregon? Offer them a free Chalupa from Taco Bell if they cheer their team on to more than 100 points, that's how.

Back in November, we went to the Timberwolves vs. Trail Blazers game in Portland, a game the Blazers won 116-93. The people in Portland love their basketball team.

But to sum up the experience of a Trail Blazers game, I refer you to this Bill Simmons column: "First, that's the whitest NBA experience you can have that doesn't involve the words "Salt," "Lake" and City." They didn't play hip-hop either before the game or during the game, each team seemed to have more African-Americans than the entire crowd and the pregame video right before the introduction of Portland's starting lineup was a local grunge band singing "Ballroom Blitz." And second, during a second-quarter timeout, my buddy House and I ran into the concourse to grab beers and noticed there was NOBODY else in line for anything. We felt like Will Smith in "I Am Legend." There was no sign of human life other than the workers. Everyone else stays in their seats. At halftime, those same people pour into the concourse like it's halftime of a football game. I've never seen anything like it. I don't know whether the Blazers have the most loyal, passionate, dutiful fans in the NBA, but at the very least, we can say nobody else tops them."

Search "Rose Garden" in the article for the whole question/answer about Sports Guy's stop in Portland.

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Photos, Sports, Travel at 3:31 PM



December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009 in Lacon

POST #    3005

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Illinois, Photos, Travel at 9:49 AM



December 24, 2009

Frankie and Oliver

POST #    3004

Christina's lovely cats.

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Photos, Travel at 12:52 PM



December 23, 2009

More from Timberline

POST #    3003

Three more from Timberline on Mount Hood. So close to November skiing!

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Photos, Travel at 1:49 PM



December 22, 2009

Timberline Lodge and Ski Area on Mount Hood, OR

POST #    3002

Up on Mount Hood in Oregon is the famed Timberline Lodge and its ski resort, which is almost open year round. We went up in November just a week after the resort opened and it was covered in snow already. We didn't have any of our gear, so we didn't even attempt to ski/ride.

And I've made a end of year resolution to myself to go through all my photos of Portland, Taiwan and some others by the end of the year. So for the rest of December and January, there should be many incongruously ordered photos for you to see!

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Photos, Travel at 9:46 AM



December 9, 2009

Soup Dumplings at Din Tai Fung

POST #    3000

What's a trip to Taipei without a stop at Din Tai Fung for soup dumplings! On our first full day in Taiwan, we went to Din Tai Fung for lunch, on what happened to be Japanese Tourist day (Monday). Even by the time we arrived (which was before noon), there was a line outside. Thankfully, they didn't run out of food yet.

How did we know it was Japanese Tourist day at DTF? Well, the place was packed full of Japanese people, the wait staff was speaking to us in Japanese (despite us not being Japanese, obviously) and the soup dumpling instructions even had Japanese on them (no picture). In fact, every time they came to our table, they spoke to us in Japanese! Eventually they caught on when we replied to them with our blank stares.

Needless to say, they were awesome as usual.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 12:15 PM



December 7, 2009

Breakfast in Taipei at Yong He

POST #    2999

After flying halfway across the world to Taiwan (with a stop in Anchorage where we could see Russia), we landed at around 7 in the morning. Tired with jet lag, hungry and wanting to check into our hotel, we were unable to do so for a while since it was so early. So we wandered the streets around our hotel looking for a place to eat. Shannan ruled out anything even slightly western, which was fine. But we were kind of limited in our options because of my out of practice Chinese.

We ended up stumbling upon Yong He, which working out well for our needs. Nevermind the fact that it didn't have an English menu (not that I expected it to) and that I can't read Chinese. There was a lot of mixing and matching of pictures/characters to order, but we ended up getting the food that we wanted, so it all worked out!

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 4:42 PM



December 1, 2009

Sunset in Kenting, Taiwan

POST #    2998

Apologies for the lack of updates, but we were away for a week in Taiwan.

While I still have plenty of Portland photos to go through, here's one from our trip last week. It's from the beach of our hotel in Kenting National Park.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 3:54 PM



November 19, 2009

Eating Portland: Bunk Sandwiches

POST #    2997

Another lunch spot we hit up (non-cart lunch spot), was Bunk Sandwiches in Southeast. Much to my dismay, they didn't have the pork belly sandwich that even the cashier recommended on the day we went. So I went with the meatball parm hero instead. It was good. Better than most pizza place meatball parms that you get, but much smaller as well. I guess I didn't need the extra calories anyway, considering all the other stuff I ate on the trip.

If you do go to Bunk though, be sure to avoid the busy lunch hours. We got there at 11:30 or so and there was a line out the door 20 minutes later.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Oregon, Photos, Travel at 6:49 PM



November 18, 2009

Eating Portland: Nong's Khao Man Gai

POST #    2996

Portland's food cart scene is ridiculous. The food carts in Portland don't seem to be of the mobile variety (like the ones in NYC), but mostly parked in parking lots around the city, and mostly concentrated in the downtown area. There are so many carts, in fact, that there's a blog dedicated solely to food carts in the city. For comparisons sake, the sheer quantity of carts in just one of PDX's parking lots puts the Red Hook Ball Fields to shame (in quantity of carts and possibly quality of food — no he didn't? Yes, I did).

In the 10th and Alder (Southwest) parking lot is Nong's Khao Man Gai a Thai cart that specializes in Khao Man Gai, or chicken and rice. They're so specialized, in fact, that it's all they have on their menu. For $6, you get your chicken and rice, a side of ridiculously tasty sauce and some slices of squash as well as a soup (perfect for a chilly Portland day).

As good as the food is, sitting in front of Nong's and watching Nong Poonsukwattana interact with her customers is just as enjoyable.

Possibly the only thing I regret not doing in Portland during this trip was eating at more food carts. I only had time to eat at two. And one cart was actually sold out of meat! WTF?!

More information:
- Nong's Khao Man Gai website
- Nong's on Food Carts Portland
- Profile of Nong on Serious Eats

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Oregon, Photos, Travel at 1:08 PM



November 17, 2009

Eating Portland: Slappy Cakes

POST #    2994

If you like pancakes and you like cooking food at your own table, then Slappy Cakes in Southeast Portland is your heaven. At Slappy Cakes, which just opened two weeks ago, you can make pancakes at your table with your choice of toppings. But don't worry, if you're not into paying to make your own food (which I totally understand), then you can order pancakes from the kitchen. And if you don't want pancakes, they have other food for your tummy.

The way it works is you order a bottle of batter (buttermilk, buckwheat, vegan and gluten-free and carrot) and then cook your preferred pancakes at the oiled griddle at your table. The downside of Slappy Cakes, much like Korean BBQ and any "self-cook" restaurant, is that you leave smelling a little like the food you were preparing. And no matter how easy pancake making is, you can still fuck them up (see 4th photo). You can also order a bacon strip in your bloody mary, something that apparently isn't very popular yet.

I'm wondering how long until New York City gets one of these.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Oregon, Photos, Travel at 11:10 AM



November 16, 2009

Eating Portland: Mother's Bistro & Bar

POST #    2993

Get ready for an onslaught of food porn from Portland. While out there last week, we ate our way through the city (kind of, anyway). After asking people where we should eat in Portland, several people responded with suggestions.

One of those suggestions was Mother's in Southwest (the city is divided into five areas, primarily using the Willamette River for east/west and Burnside Street for north/south). I ordered the wild salmon hash while Shannan had the grilled portabella mushroom scramble. Delicious!

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Oregon, Photos, Travel at 9:10 AM



November 9, 2009

Hello from Portland

POST #    2992

I'm told that November in Portland is pretty rainy, and after two days here, I can tell you that that's been very, very true. But ever so briefly on Saturday, the rain let up and there was a rainbow!

More rain in the forecast for most of this week. Fun times.

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Photos, Travel at 12:41 PM



October 14, 2009

Scenes from Vermont

POST #    2989

There's nothing that screams Fall like a foliage and an apple festival. This past weekend, we went up to Grand Isle in Northern Vermont (we're talking really close to Canada) with a group of friends for a relaxing retreat. It also happened to be the South Hero Applefest which was like a craft fare, yard sale and celebration of apples all rolled into one. One vendor at the Applefest was selling maple cotton candy, which I'm crowning as the best cotton candy I've ever had (and I love me some cotton candy).

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 12:40 PM



July 29, 2009

Disney World. Third Stop on the trip: Animal Kingdom

POST #    2980

Who needs a safari when you can go to Disney's Animal Kingdom! That's a giraffe right next to our safari-like vehicle.

The Tree of Life is the central "attraction" in the park. It has different animals carved (formed, really) into the fake tree.

Not pieces of leather, but bats.

Oooh. Tigers!

Dinosaur skeleton in the "DINOSAUR" ride. It was an awful, awful ride (and there are lots of those). Shannan couldn't stop laughing, but kids in front of us were terrified. It was also really, really loud.

Expedition Everest in the background. That was actually a good ride.

The next stop on our Disney adventure was Animal Kingdom. I actually believe this was the favorite stop for Shannan and her sister at a non-water themed Disney park. There is lots of stuff to do at Animal Kingdom — rides, zoo-like things, safari. And they have those huge turkey legs like every other Disney park (nobody bought one here though). Wikipedia says it's the newest of the four main parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios being the other three) and the largest single Disney theme park in the world.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 6:15 PM



July 23, 2009

Disney World. Next Up: Magic Kingdom

POST #    2979

The iconic Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom.

There's Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. Well, statues of them.

These turkey legs are naturally large! No, probably not.

The evening parade through the streets of the Magic Kingdom. I'm not sure how parents kept their children up so late. Oh yeah, bottles of Coke for their 5 year olds!

Hey! It's Mickey Mouse. I think the only time I saw him on the trip.

Chip and Dale play the piano.

Cinderella in her pumpkin carriage with Prince Charming (not pictured).

Donald Duck!!

Next up on our adult trip to Disney World was Magic Kingdom! It's probably the most child-targeted Disney Park, which is saying a lot since they're all targeted at children.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:18 PM



July 20, 2009

Disney World. First Stop: Hollywood Studios

POST #    2978

These people are excited! Even on the tram.

I'm wearing the hat from The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Only a hat this large could work for my head.

The theme continues.

Inside The Hollywood Tower Hotel.

It's quite scary.

No pirates nearby on the studio backlot tour.

Earthquake! Fire! Flood!

Didn't see Steve Zissou...

or LiLo.

I'm not sure the last time I went to Disney World (I'm sure my mom will tell me), but last week, I went down to Florida with Shannan, Mickala and Brian for an adult vacation at the Disney parks. It's like I won the Super Bowl! It was both Shannan and her sister's first visit to a Disney park. Our first stop was Hollywood Studios.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:14 PM



July 8, 2009

Gay Head Cliffs in Martha's Vineyard

POST #    2977

Apparently down below the cliffs at Gay Head is a nude beach. They didn't have signs pointing this out on the cliffs. I do wonder if that kid using the telescope discovered the nude sunbathers though.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 2:21 PM



July 6, 2009

Scenic Falmouth, MA on 4th of July Weekend

POST #    2976

Over the weekend, we headed up to Cape Cod with a bunch of friends. We all stayed in a beautiful house with what seemed like 40 other people. While the water was freezing, it was still a beautiful weekend.

More pictures to come.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 4:58 PM



June 2, 2009

Manhattan From a Helicopter

POST #    2970

My transportation out to Long Island for that little airplane thing wasn't by car, or by train, but by helicopter (!!), which was also a first for me. It was surprisingly calm, but really, really noisy (I took the headset off for a second to take a listen). We flew up the West Side from 30th St. and, over Manhattan, over Queens including LGA and eventually into Long Island.

Posted by tien mao in NYC, Travel at 6:37 PM



May 20, 2009

Shannan in the DC Metro

POST #    2967

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Photos, Travel at 1:29 PM



May 13, 2009

Obligatory Picture of the DC Metro

POST #    2965

Dupont Circle station in the Washington DC Metro.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 5:47 PM



May 11, 2009

Ying and Pat's Wedding

POST #    2964

This Saturday, Shannan and I drove down to Maryland for my cousin's wedding at Montpelier Mansion. Since we had a 4 hour drive down to the wedding, we decided to change once we got to the wedding, which we got to just as it was starting. We sat down as Ying was walking down the isle with her father.

Lessons learned from this wedding: Don't let my uncle (or my dad, for that matter) speak at our wedding and there's a reason, the bride and groom don't traditionally speak at the wedding.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Photos, Travel at 1:08 PM



April 21, 2009

On Mountain BBQ in Vail

POST #    2960

While skiing at Vail, you can eat barbecue at 11,000' at Wildwood Restaurant. As with all the on-mountain food, it's not cheap. But if you've already eaten your homemade sandwich for a really early lunch, a late lunch of BBQ is good stuff. And since the weather was so nice on our final day, we ate our food outside in the glaring sun.

Posted by tien mao in Colorado, Food/Drink, Friends/Family, Photos, Travel at 6:21 PM



April 6, 2009

Snowy Trees in Blue Sky Basin

POST #    2957

We're leaving Vail on Tuesday after getting here late last Thursday. We were scheduled to ski for four days, but unfortunately Shannan broke her arm on the very first day. While Matty was able to get all four days in, I was only able to get onto the mountain for two days. Today (my 2nd of the two days) was great though. We had awesome weather and made many, many runs. It was a good way to end a trip with upsetting moments. On the plus side, Shannan did break her arm in one of the places with the most orthopedic expertise in the country.

Posted by tien mao in Colorado, Photos, Travel at 9:58 PM



March 31, 2009

No Time Like the Present to Go Skiing

POST #    2956

Thursday afternoon, I'm heading west for a few days of skiing in Vail. Now you may think that April means spring skiing conditions, but thanks to Mother Nature, there will be mid-season-like conditions. In the last 7 days, 34" of snow have been dumped on the mountains of Vail. It's been snowing for what seems like 10 days straight and it's going to be awesome.

(Photo above from a 2007 trip.)

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 6:51 PM



February 24, 2009

A Room With a View

POST #    2946

A small group of us went down to Atlantic City this past weekend to celebrate Johnny's birthday. The Borgata was nice enough to upgrade us to a suite ("sweet," said Johnny). We didn't spend all that much time in the room, but the view was pretty nice. We could see the Atlantic Ocean from the room as well as Harrah's and Trump Marina.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 1:56 PM



January 6, 2009

My Year in Photos / Project 365 For 2008

POST #    2925

On January 1st, 2008, I started out on an insane project that many other people have done: taking at least one photo every day for the entire year. After taking the photo, I eventually (usually not the next day) put them onto flickr. Some, but not all, of the photos have appeared here. But the photos are all in one set on flickr.

You may think taking a photo every day for 365 days is easy, but I actually found it really, really hard. It was extra hard in 2008 because there were 366 days.

I encourage you to take a look at the photo set that turned out. It's an interesting capsule into one year of my life.

Posted by tien mao in Film, Food/Drink, Friends/Family, Illinois, Mortimer, NYC, Photos, Randolph, Sports, Travel at 12:08 PM



December 29, 2008

Christmas Tree in Lacon

POST #    2922

After a horrific day of travel on the 23rd (we're talking like 15 hours to get to our final destination), we did up Christmas with Shannan's family. And I challenge anyone to show me a tree with more gifts under/around it than this one. There's a whole toy chest with gifts in it as well as some obscured gifts on the left side. It puts our tiny Brooklyn tree to shame. Shame!

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Illinois, Photos, Travel at 6:56 PM



October 1, 2008

Colorful at DTW's McNamara Terminal

POST #    2868

I've flown in and out of Detroit International Airport's McNamara Terminal plenty of times, but I've never seen this tunnel to get between concourses before. If you happen to fly with one of Northwest's code share partners (Delta, Continental, etc) into or out of Detroit, you might see this colorful tunnel. It goes from the A terminal to the B and C terminal. The colors change behind the curved glass behind the wall and you can hear sounds of a rain storm while you ride the people mover. Probably not the best sound in an industry that can be affected by weather.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 6:36 PM



September 30, 2008

Looking at This Sandwich May Give You a Heart Attack...

POST #    2867

but it may also make you salivate. Saturday morning, a few of us went to Zingerman's for breakfast. I decided to go with the breakfast B.L.T.: Applewood-smoked bacon, Vermont cheddar, lettuce, tomato & mayo on toasted Bakehouse white bread. Topped with an over-easy egg.

Mmm...heart attack!

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Photos, Travel at 5:25 PM



September 29, 2008

Panorama of Michigan vs Wisconsin at Michigan Stadium

POST #    2866

This weekend, we took the annual trip to Ann Arbor to watch Michigan Football. The weather on Friday was a little daunting and I wasn't sure we would make it out of NYC at all, but to my surprise, we were only delayed about 45 minutes.

The game was great, and a tale of two halves for Michigan. In the first half, Michigan turned it over 5 times and had only 63 feet of total offense. Yes, that's right, they only had 21 yards! By the end of the half, Wisconsin was winning 19-0, a margin that should have been much, much larger. But the second half, Michigan finally got things going offensively. They managed to piece together the biggest comeback in Michigan Stadium history, fittingly on the day they played the 500th game at the Big House.

It was yet another awesome game that I've witnessed at Michigan Stadium. Ahh, memories.

Much larger version of the photo here on flickr.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Sports, Travel at 5:39 PM



July 14, 2008

Jason and Elena's Wedding

POST #    2814

This weekend, Shannan and I went down to Virgina for Jason and Elena's wedding. Not only was it a perfect day for the wedding (not too hot, not too humid), but it was a super fast and casual wedding. No long ceremony and I got to wear shorts. That's the perfect wedding in my book.

Not so perfect was the occasional flyover by F-15s (even though I thought it was awesome).

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Photos, Travel at 12:45 PM



April 23, 2008

Old Towne Grove Chapel in Groveland, IL

POST #    2761

Jessica and Chanse didn't actually get married in this tiny chapel, but the larger chapel in the same "complex". The Old Towne Grove Chapel was much more picturesque though.

Posted by tien mao in Film, Illinois, Photos, Travel at 5:25 PM



April 22, 2008

A View of a Palm Tree

POST #    2760

This is what it looks like when you're looking up while laying on a beach in Jamaica. Well, at least the beach I was on. I think I had a frozen beverage in my hands too.

Posted by tien mao in Film, Photos, Travel at 6:08 PM



April 21, 2008

Sunrise in Jamaica

POST #    2759

This was the view of the sunrise from our hotel room in Ocho Rios. It was shortly after 6 AM local time (7 AM in NYC).

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:13 AM



April 10, 2008

Heading to the Beach Again

POST #    2757

It seems like all I do when on vacation is go to a beach. Blame Shannan. While the temperatures in Ocho Rios and New York were similar today, it looks like they aren't at all similar the rest of the week.

We'll see how frequently I update this site while in Jamaica.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 6:09 PM



April 9, 2008

Limes Are Sour, Learns Young Colton

POST #    2756

A lesson from his Aunt Shannan.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Illinois, Photos, Travel at 6:09 PM



April 8, 2008

Jessica and Chanse Get Hitched!

POST #    2755

I've got a lot more images from their wedding, but I have to sift through them all. I especially like this image that I took. And because Shannan loves her brother so much, we're going to tag along on Jessica and Chanse's honeymoon.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Illinois, Photos, Travel at 2:48 PM



April 7, 2008

Stuck for a Night in Chicago

POST #    2754

This past weekend, we went to Illinois for a wedding. Little did we know, we would be traveling on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Because of crappy East Coast weather on Friday morning, we missed our connection in Chicago and spent the night there (many thanks to Whalen and Brynn). Early Saturday morning, we finally made our way to Peoria for the wedding only to return to Chicago and NYC on Sunday. Way too much flying for a short weekend.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 11:02 AM



April 2, 2008

Hong Kong Island in Black and White from Victoria Peak

POST #    2751

In continuing the whole image manipulation thing with Lightroom, here's a photo from last year's trip to Hong Kong. You can see a similar picture on flickr.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 5:15 PM



January 28, 2008

Snorkeling at Paradise Island in the Dominican Republic

POST #    2703

Remember Paradise Island? That tiny sand dune that is somehow called an island?

Well, we finally developed the underwater pictures from snorkeling in the Dominican Republic. Man, those underwater cameras kind of suck, huh? I'm not sure if it was the camera or the developer, but there were some pictures that had some issues. Oh well.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 11:13 AM



December 31, 2007

Colton's Got a Tasty Glove

POST #    2684

There's nothing quite as tasty as a fleece glove to young Colton.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Illinois, Photos, Travel at 9:19 AM



December 27, 2007

Colton Can Fly (With Help)

POST #    2682

Note the cute reindeer slippers!

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Illinois, Photos, Travel at 5:28 PM



December 26, 2007

Christmas Day in Lacon

POST #    2680

For the past few days, Shannan and I went to Lacon, Illinois (that's Lacon, like bacon) for Christmas with her family. In addition to gift giving/receiving, it was also the first time that we got to see Shannan's new nephew Colton.

Santa was good to me, because I got some mighty good gifts: a Holga camera, Guitar Hero III for the Wii, a Wiimote charging station, Top Gun (collectors edition DVD), V-MODA vibe earbuds, a copy of The Simpsons Movie, Taboo, a copy of Sneaker Freaker magazine, a nice shirt, another thin wallet (mine is falling apart), and a gift card to Pizza Hut (mmm!). Shannan and I also got a chair, some towels, and a wine refrigerator. Thanks to Santa (and those that act on his behalf) for all the great gifts!!

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Illinois, Photos, Travel at 10:39 AM



December 20, 2007

The Hills and Water from the Dominican Republic

POST #    2678

I kind of like the first picture because the camera miraculously captured that stick in almost the exact middle of the picture. But as you can see, the northwest coast of the Dominican Republic has some nice rolling hills to it.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 4:08 PM



December 19, 2007

A Tobacco Plantation in the Dominican Republic

POST #    2676

While on the bus back to Puerto Plata, we stopped by a cigar factory (if you could call it that) to inject some U.S. dollars into the economy. Tourist that I was, I bought some cigars to bring home. I'm not that big a smoker though, so who knows if I'll ever get to them.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 3:39 PM



December 18, 2007

Mangroves in the Dominican Republic

POST #    2675

After snorkeling around Paradise Island and before we made our way to Punta Rucia, we stopped by a little inlet where I took this photo of the insane mangrove trees.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 12:30 PM



December 17, 2007

Approaching Miami From Above

POST #    2674

In honor of the Dolphins finally winning their first game this season, here are three shots I took on the way to the Dominican Republic via Miami. In the first picture, you can see Dolphin Stadium on December 1st. That's a day before they lost to the hapless Jets.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 12:46 PM



December 13, 2007

Punta Rucia in the Dominican Republic

POST #    2670

After snorkeling at Paradise Island, we took our speed boat to Punta Rucia for lunch before our trip back to the hotels. It's really not much of a town, but the guide told us it's a fishing village, which seemed possible based on the looks of things. We wandered a bit during our free time there and saw a lot of abandoned lots.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 1:29 PM



December 12, 2007

Paradise Island off the Coast of the Dominican Republic

POST #    2669

Early one morning (we're talking 6:45 early), we took a trip to go snorkeling at Paradise Island. To get there, we had to take a bus to a "speed boat" (a small boat with a 75 horsepower engine on it) to this thing they called an "island". It's essentially a sandbar on the coral reef but the size apparently varies depending on the time of year and tides. Despite the pathetic "island", the snorkeling at Paradise Island was a great time. On the island, they have some huts, light snacks, and refreshments. Thankfully when we got there, no other groups there. By the time we left, the island was packed with people. The only shitty part of our trip was the weather. It actually rained a few times while we were there (including once when we were in the water) which actually proved to be somewhat cool. Also cool, dolphins swimming alongside our boat en route to the sandbar.

Eventually, I'll have some underwater pictures from snorkeling. Who knows how they look though.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 1:05 PM



December 11, 2007

Sun Village Resort & Spa in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

POST #    2668

I think the number of photos that I took on this trip reflects the amount of things Shannan and I did. I only walked away with about 100 photos (many of which I will delete), which means that we didn't really do that many activities during our week away. Most of the time we spent at Sun Village Resort & Spa in Puerto Plata (Cofresi, to be precise) was either by the pool or by the beach. I don't even think I took my camera to the beach once. The resort was kind of sprawling, which you can see from this photo on their website, so you had to walk about 5 minutes to get to the beach and walk up a fair amount of steps to a couple of the restaurants. If it wasn't for all that walking, I'm not sure how much more weight I would have gained during the trip.

Pictured here are the views of the ocean from one of the pools, the view east towards the mountains around the resort and one of Sun Village's many pools.

And we're totally trend setters. Puerto Plata was named one of the 53 places to go in 2008 this past Sunday by the NY Times: "Puerto Plata, the rowdy beach resort on the Dominican Republic's north coast, is about to get rowdier. Maxim, the racy men's magazine, is opening a 108-bungalow resort on Cofresi Beach, near the Las Vegas-style Ocean World Marina and Casino. Expect the drinking to start onboard JetBlue, which is offering nonstop flights between Kennedy Airport and Puerto Plata next month." That Maxim resort is opening up as part of Sun Village and Ocean World was right next to Sun Village. See, trend setters.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 10:57 AM



December 10, 2007

A Butterfly From Our Resort in the Dominican Republic

POST #    2667

We're back from our vacation in the Dominican Republic and home to a 40° drop in temperature. Believe it or not, I welcome the temperature change. I didn't take too many photos on the trip (another believe it or not) because how exciting is lounging by the beach or lounging by the pool? We did go snorkeling while there, so it's possible there will be some photos of that.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:49 AM



December 1, 2007

Away on Vacation

POST #    2666

Hey all you faithful readers...I'm away for a week on vacation in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The weather looks pretty nice compared to Brooklyn. Then again, it might be a little too hot for my taste.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 11:20 AM



October 11, 2007

Meal at Sun Moon Lake

POST #    2626

While the food looks pretty good, I don't remember it being all that awesome. It was supposedly an example of the local cuisine in Sun Moon Lake though.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 12:30 PM



September 26, 2007

Hsuan Tsang Temple in Sun Moon Lake

POST #    2614

Here's yet another temple at Sun Moon Lake.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 11:02 AM



September 20, 2007

My Cousin's Daughter Catherine

POST #    2609

Which makes it my...? I was never good at the whole 2nd cousin, 1st cousin once removed stuff. So confusing! That or I'm too lazy to remember how it works.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 11:47 AM



September 18, 2007

In Taipei, They Can English

POST #    2606

Whatever that means.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 8:44 AM



September 11, 2007

Sun Moon Lake

POST #    2599

Sun Moon Lake in central Taiwan is the largest natural lake on the island nation (or rogue territory if you wish). Though we ate lunch in a restaurant overlooking it, we didn't spend all that much time at the actual lake. The eastern part of the lake is round (like the sun) and the western part is shaped like a crescent moon, which is how the lake gets its name. I didn't really see the sun-moon aspect of it, but maybe that's because of the haze. There is an island in the middle of the lake that was much bigger before water levels rose when a hydroelectric power plant was built and water was redirected to Sun Moon Lake from other lakes.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 11:17 AM



September 6, 2007

From Far Away, Taipei 101

POST #    2596

I almost think Taipei 101 is like the World Trade Center used to be. For me, the WTC was an anchor in lower Manhattan, something that you could use to navigate if you needed as it was almost always south. It was also there whenever I got off the subway and looked downtown when I was growing up.

Taipei 101 is slightly different as it's not really in one specific area for all people - north for some, south for others, etc.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 10:26 AM



September 5, 2007

Wenwu Temple at Sun Moon Lake

POST #    2593

Wenwu Temple on Sun Moon Lake was originally built in 1938, combining two old temples that were moved when a dam was built. It was rebuilt in 1969 in its current form. The pair of lions (one pictured) are the largest ones in Taiwan. Wenwu Temple is dedicated to Confucius and the ancient Chinese generals Kuan Kung and Yueh Fei.

The historic staircase was originally the only way to access the temple, each step representing a different day of the year. There are 336 of them, including 2/29.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 9:10 AM



September 4, 2007

Sun Moon Lake Peacock Garden

POST #    2594

At Sun Moon Lake is a Peacock Garden with more than 200 peacocks. It was one of Madam Chiang Kai-shek's favorite places to go when they would go to the area. I don't think I've ever seen so many peacocks in one place before.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 7:53 AM



September 3, 2007

Our First Meal in Taipei

POST #    2595

When we arrived in Taipei, it was rather late and my dad and I were hungry. Nobody else was, so we ventured from our hotel to find some food. We found a local restaurant on while walking around that liked serving seafood dishes (as evidenced by the seafood noodles, fried cuttlefish, and clams). The one non-seafood dish we had was stinky tofu.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 8:13 AM



August 30, 2007

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

POST #    2591

Onto Taiwan! What better to start the pictures of Taiwan than Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei. The CKS Memorial Hall is named after the late Kuomintang leader, who was the first President of the Republic of China after it moved to Taiwan (I'm butchering a little history, but that's essentially right).

There's been a recent movement by President Chen Shui-Bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (opposition of the KMT) to rename the hall the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (the DPP doesn't like anything with ties to the KMT). Apparently the name change was repealed, but the old name wasn't exactly preserved. It was an ugly fight between the two sides, with the city of Taipei (controlled by the KMT) also stepping in. There were times when signs were installed with the new name, but later removed by the city and such other drama. Wikipedia has a nice section about that craziness.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 10:11 AM



August 29, 2007

The Hong Kong Subways, Everything NYC's Aren't

POST #    2590

It's unfair to compare New York City's subway system with that of other cities. After all, it's older, larger, and transports more people than most other systems. Because of this, it lacks a lot of the newer, modern features that are in other cities. This is slowly changing with the new cars on the 4/5/6, 2/3, L and the new R160s that are rolling out, but cars are only part of it. If the 2nd Ave. line is ever built, then NYC will have something that is comparable to that of other cities.

In Hong Kong, they have platforms that prevents debris/people from falling onto the tracks, modern stations, smooth rides, and you know when the trains are coming. While I do love NYC's subway system (most of the time, anyway), there's definitely a lot that can be improved. Then again, there's a shortage of money too.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 8:55 AM



August 16, 2007

Offerings from McDonald's in Hong Kong

POST #    2579

Why eat at McDonald's when you're in a foreign country? Never underestimate the power of air conditioning and the knowledge that they have clean bathrooms.

Pictured here is the red bean pie (not nearly as good as the apple pies at non-U.S. locations or the sweet taro pie), corn (not very good), and a coffee from the McCafé.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 9:49 AM



August 15, 2007

The View From Victoria Peak in Hong Kong

POST #    2578

Hi above Hong Kong Island is Victoria Peak, the island's tallest mountain at 552 meters (1,811 feet). It's also Hong Kong's biggest tourist attraction, drawing about 7 million visitors a year. Once you get to the top of Victoria Peak via the Peak Tram (it gets to what seemed like at least a 45° angle at points), there's a modern mall (complete with an EA Sports zone and Bubba Gump restaurant) that you walk through before reaching the observation deck at The Peak Tower.

As you can see, the observation deck offers a great view of Hong Kong. It's a shame that it was so cloudy again.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 8:33 AM



August 14, 2007

Ngong Ping Skyrail

POST #    2577

While you can get to the Giant Buddha in Lantau by car or bus, the newest way to get there is the Ngong Ping Skyrail. It's a 3.5 mile (5.7km) cable car that takes you from Tung Chung station on the MTR to Ngong Ping Village. It's probably the longest cable car ride that I've ever taken and certainly the only tram/gondola that I've been on that passes through two stations where the actual route changes (see map). The ride from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping takes about 20-25 minutes. The skyrail offers nice views during the ride, but they would have been much better if we experienced nicer weather.

Construction on the skyrail started in 2004 and it opened in mid-September, 2006. Right now, it seems like the skyrail is closed indefinitely after an "incident" in June. Apparently, a gondola cabin fell from the cable for no reason. Nobody was hurt and the skyrail remains closed while they investigate the accident.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 9:20 AM



August 8, 2007

Nestlé's Mango Madness

POST #    2572

In case you were wondering, the Mango Madness ice cream cone does in fact taste like mango. It definitely hit the spot on a hot day at Ocean Park.

P.S. - Sorry for the late update, I had about 3" of flooding in my basement because of the wild storms this morning in New York City.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Hong Kong, Travel at 11:39 AM



August 7, 2007

Jennings Beach in Fairfield, CT

POST #    2571

I hate the beach. It's hot, sand gets everywhere, and it's hot. Sitting in the sun and sweating my ass off isn't exactly my idea of fun. That said, sitting under the shade in a chair at Jennings Beach on Saturday was surprisingly enjoyable. I still got sand everywhere and it was still hot though.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:48 AM



August 2, 2007

The Ocean Park Tram

POST #    2568

Like many amusement parks, Ocean Park in Hong Kong has a tram to get from one part of the park to another. Except at Ocean Park, there are two distinct parts to the park where you have to use the tram to travel from one side to the other. The tram goes small mountains (or are they very large hills) right by the water. It makes for some pretty cool, but scary, views. I can't imagine what would happen if the tram suddenly broke down.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 8:38 AM



July 31, 2007

More of Hong Kong's Urban Architecture

POST #    2565

I would say that most of the buildings in Hong Kong look like these. They aren't skyscrapers, nor are they the neon-lit buildings lining the harbor, but functional gritty buildings that give the city character.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 8:43 AM



July 30, 2007

A Colorful Building Facade in Hong Kong

POST #    2564

This was just down the block from Calvin's Grandma's veggie stand.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 9:10 AM



July 26, 2007

Angry Hong Kong Garbage Can

POST #    2561

This purple garbage can is clearly tired of having stuff thrown into his mouth.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 8:17 AM



July 25, 2007

Pizza in Hong Kong

POST #    2560

I can't really remember exactly where we got this pizza, but it seemed like a restaurant that turned into bar at night and it was on a somewhat secluded street that had a bunch of bars on it. Nice, right? I think after a few days Japan and a couple more in Hong Kong, I was definitely craving pizza. Pictured is a sausage and olive pizza, which was actually pretty good. I'm not sure if it was good because it was actually good or because I missed pizza that much. If you're so inclined, here's a pizza upskirt.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Hong Kong, Travel at 8:38 AM



July 24, 2007

Grandma Wong's Vegetable Stand

POST #    2559

One of our stops in Hong Kong was to the vegetable stand that Calvin's grandmother used to own (Calvin's great aunt currently runs it). While his grandmother is now in New York, the stand is still there. I thought it was a pretty cool, non-touristy stop for us.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Friends/Family, Hong Kong, Travel at 8:22 AM



July 18, 2007

Sad Pandaless Ocean Park

POST #    2552

Our biggest disappointment when we arrived at Ocean Park was that the panda exhibit was closed! The panda exhibit, which was one of the main reasons we even went, was closed for construction. When Johnny asked if we could get a discount for entry to the park, he was met with a blank stare from the ticket salesperson.

All I could do is take this lousy picture with a panda sign.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 9:22 AM



July 17, 2007

Over the Streets of Hong Kong

POST #    2551

Competing for the eyeballs of pedestrians in Hong Kong must be really hard. I can't imagine how much electricity is used with all the signs that hang above the streets in Hong Kong.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 9:07 AM



July 12, 2007

Night View of Hong Kong Island from Kowloon

POST #    2547

While New York City's skyline is famous, it can be argued that Hong Kong's is even more famous. Both skylines are mentioned in top-skyline lists, with either New York or Hong Kong taking the crown. I'm a little biased to New York, but Hong Kong's is pretty nice. One thing's for sure, Hong Kong's is much more colorful.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 8:11 AM



July 11, 2007

In a Past Life, Happy Valley Cemetery

POST #    2546

You might say that I have a slight fascination with photographing and visiting cemeteries, but I don't really think I do.

This is a photo of Hong Kong Cemetery in...Hong Kong. Founded in 1845, It used to be called Happy Valley Cemetery, but for some reason they changed the name, but not all the signage. I took this photo while on the way back from Stanley on the bus, which is the reason for the reflection of my shirt and the interior of the bus. It's hard to tell in this photo, but the cemetery is essentially surrounded by buildings. Despite the reflection, I still like this photo a lot.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 7:41 AM



July 10, 2007

The Aquarium at Ocean Park

POST #    2545

As if a dolphin show wasn't enough fun at Ocean Park in Hong Kong, we also went into the aquarium. There, they had sharks, lots of fish, and some of the animals seen here.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 8:12 AM



July 9, 2007

Our First Meal in Hong Kong

POST #    2540

Our first meal in Hong Kong was breakfast. What did we get? No, not dim sum, but noodles and Hong Kong-style French toast.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 8:03 AM



July 6, 2007

Tian Tan Buddha (aka Big Buddha)

POST #    2542

On a plateau on Lantau Island in Hong Kong sits a huge statue of Buddha. In fact, it's so large that it was once ( a Korean one eclipsed it this year) the largest outdoor bronze statue of Buddha in the world. The statue is 34 meters high and weighs a whopping 250 tons. Construction of the Big Buddha started in 1990 and finished in 1993 and I think of it as a huge tourist attraction more than a religious attraction, but that's just me. Lantau Island is also the location of Hong Kong's International Airport and Hong Kong Disneyland.

To reach Tian Tan Buddha, you have to climb up 268 steps. Not fun in Hong Kong's humid weather.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 2:17 PM



July 5, 2007

The Dolphin Show at Ocean Park

POST #    2541

People don't usually go to Ocean Park in Hong Kong for their dolphin show (they usually go for pandas, but more on that later). I can't really blame them, because while watching dolphins jump in the water is always fun, it gets old. Not for all the people in the crowd though - I don't think they've ever seen a dolphin show before. Or seen a dolphin for that matter. The show was packed, with a butt in every seat.

Also amusing, they had a band beforehand that played some country jazz-like music and sang in English. I suppose music is universal though.

Posted by tien mao in Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 8:33 AM



July 4, 2007

A Guinness in Stanley

POST #    2539

Let's start the photos of Hong Kong off right! With a beer!

While in Hong Kong, we went to Stanley the childhood town of Calvin's mom. We wandered around a bit and grabbed a pint at the Smugglers Inn, a bar that's "that's very popular with both tourists and expats." It even had its own drunk white dude in the middle of the day! One thing that seems rather popular with bartenders in Asia is the shamrock on the Guinness. We saw them a lot in Tokyo as well.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Hong Kong, Photos, Travel at 9:26 AM



July 3, 2007

Final Photos from Tokyo

POST #    2538

Okay, it's taken forever, but I've finally worked my way through my photos from the Tokyo part of my Asia trip. Next up is Hong Kong.

Seen here are:
- The crazy amount of advertising in a Tokyo subway car - they even have ads on the handles.
- A random building in Tokyo's electronics district.
- The Asahi Beer Hall in Asakusa. The building, designed by Philippe Stark, is topped by a "gold flame" that weighs over 300 tons. It's known as "kin no unchi" or "golden turd" by the locals.
- An old school apple pie from McDonald's. Possibly the best thing about McDonald's restaurants outside the United States is the apple pie.
- Bape store
- Takeshita Street in the heart of Harajuku
- Bape store
- A man with a dressed up dog on his shoulder.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:37 AM



June 28, 2007

A Smattering of Street Art in Tokyo

POST #    2532

I wasn't actively seeking any street art out in Tokyo, but I stumbled upon these as we were walking around.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:41 AM



June 27, 2007

A Yoshinoya Beef Bowl

POST #    2531

The Yoshinoya chain of restaurants specializes in gyudon (a bowl of rice topped with beef) and is actually one of the larger fast food restaurant chains in Japan. We stopped in one day for lunch and it seemed pretty popular. Not surprising as it's relatively inexpensive and tastes good. I believe that this is just a beef bowl, but I can't be certain as I couldn't read the menu. There was some pointing and nodding going on.

Looking at their US website, they have tons of locations on the West Coast and it seems they even have on in NYC.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Japan, Photos, Travel at 9:08 AM



June 26, 2007

The Canopy of Trees Around the Meiji Shrine

POST #    2530

All around the park that surrounds the Meiji Shrine are a lot of wonderfully tall trees that shade most of the walkways in the park. It's rather beautiful when you look up while walking in the park.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 7:42 AM



June 25, 2007

The Busiest Intersection in the World

POST #    2528

In New York City, you get your fair share of busy pedestrian intersections, but you haven't seen busy until you've seen the crosswalk outside Shibuya Station in Tokyo. They use a scramble crossing where traffic is stopped in all directions, and pedestrians can cross in all directions. It's a bit crazy. Especially during busy times. The 2nd photo above is during a relatively crowded time, but the animated gif was early on a Saturday morning when it wasn't so crowded.

Also, check out this youtube video of the crossing.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 10:31 AM



June 20, 2007

Porno Graffiti? Yeah, That Makes Perfect Sense

POST #    2522

Graffiti porn makes sense, but porno graffiti? Maybe it's one of those things that was lost in translation?

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:32 AM



June 19, 2007

Some Japanese Cats Have Extra Stinky Poo

POST #    2521

At least that's what I inferred from this kitty litter packaging.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:39 AM



June 18, 2007

Manneken Pis at Hamamatsuchō Station in Tokyo

POST #    2520

Back to the Japan Photos!

While we were on the subway one day in Tokyo (I think we were headed to the Akihabara district to look at electronics), we saw this odd statue at the Hamamatsuchō Station. With a little research, I found that it's a Manneken Pis statue. According to Wikipedia, Manneken Pis is a landmark in Brussels with a legend that dates back to the 1100s or the 1300s, depending on which legend you believe.

Like the Manneken Pis statues in Brussels, the one at Hamamatsuchō Station changes his costume throughout the year. It looks like he was wearing a police officer's outfit here.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:29 AM



June 13, 2007

Recovery Slow in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans

POST #    2515

While the French Quarter of New Orleans mostly escaped damage from Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding that came when the levees broke, not all of New Orleans was so lucky. One of the places with the most dramatic scenes of destruction was the Lower 9th Ward. As you can see, there's still some work left to be done. Some buildings are still abandoned, awaiting demolition.

As we went through the neighborhood, we saw some demolition in progress, some reconstruction, and we could see that some people have returned to the neighborhood. One of the biggest problem the city, and its neighborhoods, faces is that so many residents have yet to return. The city's population was 484,674 before Katrina and, as of March, it was only at 56% of its pre-hurricane population. The lower 9th, it seemed, was at way less than 56% of its previous population. There are tons of empty lots, waiting for families.

I also walked into Alfred Lawless High School, an abandoned school in the ward. Being inside the school, setting foot in Ms. Tucker's bio and physiology class, was very creepy. The rust that covered everything reminded me of our trip to Alcatraz.

Posted by tien mao in Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 9:47 AM



June 12, 2007

St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

POST #    2514

With its rich history New Orleans is a city with many famous cemeteries. We weren't able to take any cemetery tours because of time constraints and our schedule, but since Neil had been to New Orleans before, he took us to two of the more famous ones.

Our first stop was St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, which was established in 1823 (it's not far from No. 1, established in 1789). This cemetery is close to the French Quarter, but not in the nicest neighborhood. From what I saw walking around, it also needs a little maintenance. Some of the tombs are falling apart and there are bottles and garbage in some out of the way areas. As I was the only person walking around, it was a little creepy wandering amongst the rows of tombs.

Next was Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, established in 1833 by the city of Lafayette. While newer than St. Louis No. 1 and No. 2, Lafayette No. 1 is the cemetery that is used most frequently in movies made in New Orleans. It's located in the picturesque Garden District and generally looks a lot nicer than St. Louis No. 2. As you can see, there are actually trees lining the main path in the cemetery. While there's no garbage in this cemetery, some of the tombs could also use a little work.

Take note of the contrast between the two cemeteries.

Posted by tien mao in Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 9:39 AM



June 7, 2007

A Louisiana Swamp Boat Tour

POST #    2510

One thing that Shannan and I were happy to have done while in Louisiana was going on a swamp boat tour. We went with Louisiana Swamp Tours (pretty straightforward name) and did the high speed airboat tour. As you can see, we had to put on sexy looking ear muffs. On the tour, we saw several gators - all of which were lured to the boat marshmallows. Thankfully, there were no snakes that fell out of the trees when we passed.

Parts of the tour really reminded me of kayaking in Virginia's Back Bay.

Posted by tien mao in Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 8:50 AM



June 6, 2007

Night in the French Quarter

POST #    2509

Not sure exactly what the first building is (possibly a hotel), but the 2nd picture is of St. Louis Cathedral.

Posted by tien mao in Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 4:05 PM



Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters

POST #    2508

Another thing tourists do when visiting the French Quarter is go to the Court of Two Sisters to have brunch. They have a jazz brunch buffet every day where they have live jazz and you eat in the ... courtyard of the building. I wasn't all too impressed by the food, but I don't think the restaurant is about the food, but about eating outside in that setting.

Shannan and I didn't have as nice an experience as Margaret, Neil, and Jonas. They saw, and talked to, George Takei - of Star Trek fame and now on Heroes.

In case you can't read it on their site, here's a snippet:
"We are far too cool to say anything or take a photo. I pointed him out to Neil and we had a smile, but that was it. Jonas is, apparently, less cool. He was running around chasing birds while Neil and I called after him, "Jonas, no!"

Suddenly, Takei speaks, "Well, hellooooooo there Jonah! (I didn't correct him.) He had a little conversation with the imp, remarking that while Jonas's throughly slobbered finger might taste good, his tasted better (I'm not even kidding about that.) A few minutes later he even said to someone on the phone, "I'm here having brunch with Jonah and his mommy and daddy!" As we were leaving he commented on what a cute kid we had and Neil responded with a "We love your work." It was, in all, a very pleasant celebrity experience."

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 8:57 AM



June 5, 2007

Day and Night on Bourbon Street

POST #    2507

Actually, you can see a baby on Bourbon Street and a strippers at all times of day. They're not just out when you might expect.

Posted by tien mao in Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 4:29 PM



Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter

POST #    2506

One afternoon in the French Quarter, we were looking for a light snack so we went to the Acme Oyster House. It's a pretty touristy destination (isn't the whole Quarter somewhat touristy), but it was tasty nonetheless. We shared the oysters (Neil's first one, I believe) and I had the Creole Jambalaya.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 8:23 AM



June 4, 2007

Drinking in the French Quarter

POST #    2505

I can confirm that the Hurricane from Pat O'Brien's are very strong. Not long after Jonas passed out, I too passed out. The Hand Grenades from Tropical Isle clearly aren't as strong. Even Jonas withstood the alcohol from them.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 3:14 PM



May 31, 2007

A Garden in the French Quarter

POST #    2499

It seemed like a lot of the houses in the French Quarter had entrances that led to courtyard gardens towards the back of the residences. This garden/courtyard was definitely not the norm.

Posted by tien mao in Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 3:59 PM



Sunset on The Quarter

POST #    2498

Posted by tien mao in Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 7:40 AM



May 30, 2007

From the French Quarter of New Orleans

POST #    2497

Perhaps the most famous part of New Orleans is the French Quarter, the area bounded by the Mississippi River, Canal Street, Rampart Street, and Esplanade Avenue. While the area is known as the French Quarter, most of the buildings now in the area were rebuilt while New Orleans was under Spanish control. Fires in 1788 and 1794 destroyed most of the buildings built in in French colonial times. The whole area was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1965 (as the Vieux Carré Historic District). When hurricane Katrina hit the city, The Quarter remained mostly dry because it's built on higher ground than a lot of New Orleans, which is protected by levees.

There's also a distinction to the iron structures that are attached to buildings in The Quarter. Balconies are self-supported and attached to the side of the building, while galleries are supported with poles or columns from the ground.

Posted by tien mao in Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 2:45 PM



Iced Café au Lait and Beignets at Café Du Monde

POST #    2496

Onto New Orleans! One of our first stops in New Orleans was Café Du Monde, a café famous for its beignets. It's a stop that every tourist to the city needs to make, no? For those unfamiliar with what a beignet is, here's a simple explanation: deep-fried dough with powdered sugar on top. The Café Du Monde website explains them thusly: "the beignet is a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar." Pretty straightforward. They also say that historically, they were sometimes filled with fruit and brought to Louisiana by the Acadians (the word that Cajun originated from). The coffee they serve at Café Du Monde is a coffee-chicory mix, a custom also brought to New Orleans by the Acadians. What can I add about the beignet? They are awesome. That's pretty much it. There's also a ton of powdered sugar as you can see. There's so much of it that the floors, tables, and chairs are covered with it. On a somewhat breezy day (as the day we went was), you can't leave without being covered by the stuff.

The coffee that I ordered while there was my first ever. Quite a milestone, I think. And if that last photo isn't sexy enough for you, check this one out.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 7:35 AM



May 29, 2007

The Bustling Nightlife of Abbeville, LA

POST #    2495

[Note: To help slog through my backlog of photos (I still have some Japan photos to go through in addition to Hong Kong and Taiwan), I'm going to attempt and do two posts a day from Monday-Saturday to help work through the glut.]

No trip to the Abbeville, Louisiana would be complete without a night out on the town, right? Right? Our first night there, I was way too tired to head out after the rehearsal dinner/roast. The night following the wedding though, we went out for Tram's (pronounced Chum) birthday. I barely have a photo of her (back to camera in the 3rd picture), but our first stop was The Oaks in Abbeville. To say that the place was dingy would be an understatement. I was told that the place was the size of a trailer. It was probably closer to a double-wide. The best part wasn't the thimble-sized $1 shots, but the light they would flip on when playing rap music. If that doesn't scream classy, I don't know what does.

After a brief stop there, we went out in Lafayette. When in Lafayette, it was super crowded out as it happened to be graduation day at University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 2:45 PM



May 28, 2007

Out in Lafayette, LA

POST #    2493

After the night got bad because of Jägermeister shots, there was some hitting/punching/maybe kicking of testicals. Luckily, I escaped that.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 11:42 AM



May 24, 2007

When in Cajun Country, Attend a Crawfish Boil

POST #    2490

The day after the wedding, Thuy's parents were nice enough to have people over to their home for a crawfish boil. Thuy's dad bought 160 pounds of crawfish and prepared them himself behind the house. He has quite the set-up back there, perfect for entertaining people.

The crawfish we had were gigantic as it's relatively late in the season and Mr. Bui actually toned down the spice on the boil this time, but it still seemed adequately hot for me.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 9:18 AM



May 23, 2007

Rehersal Dinner and Roast

POST #    2489

Thuy and John's rehearsal dinner was followed by John's roast - a first for a wedding that I went to. There were lots of off colored jokes, all of which were funny. Except the one about me.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 9:16 AM



May 22, 2007

More from Thuy and John's Wedding

POST #    2488

Because photos from the ceremony weren't enough, here are some from after and the reception at the VN Hall.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 10:16 AM



May 21, 2007

Thuy and John's Wedding

POST #    2487

This weekend was Thuy and John's wedding extravaganza in Abbeville. The wedding at St. Mary Magdalen was just a small component of the whole weekend.

A lot more photos to come.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Louisiana, Photos, Travel at 10:17 AM



May 17, 2007

Late Afternoon Burger from Standard Deli

POST #    2484

If you like to buy expensive clothes and eat food at almost the same time, there's a store in Tokyo that's perfect for you. Journal Standard, which has a few stores throughout Japan, has a location in Shinjuku with expensive men's and women's clothes on the first and second floors and food on the top floor. While I don't buy too many expensive items of clothing, I do like to eat food. The store was obviously Calvin's dream come true. We also went to their location in Shibuya, but the store and deli there are in two separate, but close, locations. They call their restaurant the "Standard Deli" and as you can see, I had a burger. I think it was the "Standard Burger", which, while decent, wasn't nearly as good as MOS Burger.

The Shinjuku location used to have a trailer where they cooked the food outside on the roof, but it's no longer there. It seems like they moved it outside the location of their Shibuya store.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:05 AM



May 16, 2007

Sushi for Breakfast at the Tsukiji Market

POST #    2482

While visiting Tsukiji Market to see the fish market is something you shouldn't miss in Tokyo, eating there is another must do. It's literally the freshest sushi you can get in the world. There are two sushi places in the market, both insanely crowded with tourists, but what can you do? We went to Daiwa. Though it's not the most ideal thing to eat at 7 in the morning, Calvin and I throughly enjoyed the experience. Johnny, not so much. I think the meal ran us about $30 something for the set meal, which worked out best because we didn't have to order a thing.

I even ate the unagi, which I usually stay away from, and what looks like the ark shell thing that I took a picture of (3rd picture). I believe Calvin and I walked away agreeing that it was the best sushi we've ever had.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Japan, Photos, Travel at 9:36 AM



May 14, 2007

Heather and Ryan's Wedding

POST #    2480

Wedding season has begun! Over the weekend, Shannan and I went to Illinois for her friends Heather and Ryan's wedding. The ceremony was at the Luthy Botanical Garden in Peoria with the reception at the Hotel Père Marquette, also in Peoria. Shannan got to catch up with all her old high school friends and, though I was feeling ill, it was a good time.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Illinois, Travel at 11:50 AM



May 10, 2007

The Asian Colonel Sanders

POST #    2477

It's all in the eyes. Seriously. It's slight, but it's there.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Japan, Photos, Travel at 10:46 AM



May 9, 2007

More from the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo

POST #    2475

Back in March I posted one image of the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. Here are some more from the early-morning trip to the market. If you ever go to Tokyo, I would highly recommend a visit. Just watch out for all the tractors and the people that are actually there to shop. I think some of the fishmongers really had disdain for the tourists, while others were somewhat receptive.

If you're wondering what's in that third picture is, I have no idea. And to get an idea of how large those frozen tuna carcases are, check out this image for scale (only a half tuna pictured). And that picture is just a fraction of the tuna that were on sale that day.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:54 AM



May 8, 2007

The Strangest Thing we Saw in Tokyo

POST #    2474

One evening, Johnny and I were standing around waiting for Calvin late one night in the Tokyo subway. As we were waiting there, with people all rushing around us, one woman runs by and a wig falls out of the area around her crotch. I don't think she noticed as she kept on running. It definitely drew the attention of a lot of passers by though, giving the fallen hair some very odd looks.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 10:29 AM



April 26, 2007

It's Your Typical Tokyo Subway Ride

POST #    2462

Man reading something, sick man texting on phone, passed out woman texting on phone, passed out man, woman on laptop, passed out man. Just your everyday subway ride in Tokyo.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 12:16 PM



April 25, 2007

Eating Teppanyaki in Tokyo

POST #    2461

One night while in Tokyo, we met up with Calvin's friend Akira for dinner. I'm not sure I ever knew the name of the restaurant (it might have been Teppanya), but it was teppanyaki, which uses a griddle to cook the food. It was really, really tasty. Insanely tasty. We also got a little tipsy, as you might be able to tell. I didn't have quite as much to drink as I nearly fell asleep at dinner (jetlag, yo).

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Japan, Photos, Travel at 9:48 AM



April 24, 2007

Sensoji Temple in Tokyo

POST #    2460

In the Asakusa section of Tokyo is the Sensoji Temple (aka Asakusa Kannon Temple), the oldest temple in Tokyo. Its history dates back to 628 when, legend has it, two brothers found a golden statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy and happiness, while fishing in the nearby river. Completed in 645 (later destroyed during the war and rebuilt), the temple is a tribute to Kannon. Because of her ability to release humans from all suffering, visitors from around the world visit the temple. The actual gold statue is not on display, but is supposedly in the temple.

Leading up to the temple is Nakamise Dori, a small shopping lane with lots of traditional and souvenir shops. It seemed like a tourist trap to me, but there seemed to be some brisk business for the many of the vendors.

Incidentally, this is one of my favorite photos from the visit to the temple.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:52 AM



April 23, 2007

The Imperial Palace East Gardens in Tokyo

POST #    2459

In the center of Tokyo is the Imperial Palace, home to Japan's Emperor. The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace are open to the public on most days, but the actual palace buildings and inner gardens are only open on two days - January 2 (New Year's Greeting) and December 23 (the Emperor's birthday). We didn't spend too much time there as they closed shortly after we got there.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 9:18 AM



April 18, 2007

Hachikō Statue in Shibuya

POST #    2454

Just outside the Shibuya Station, there's a statue of a dog. It's not just any dog, but Hachikō, an Akita so loyal that they made a statue for him. At the start of the day, Hachikō would see his owner off and at the end, Hachikō would meet his owner outside Shibuya Station. Even after his owner's death, Hachikō would wait at the station for his owner. He did this for 11 years! Apparently, they found yakitori skewers in the dog's stomach after his death, so his daily appearance may not have been out of loyalty alone.

The original statue, erected in 1934, was "recycled" for WWII, but this new statue has been there since 1948.

Posted by tien mao in Culture, Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:22 AM



April 17, 2007

Tokyo: Known Around the World for Its HUGE Traffic Cones

POST #    2453

Or their miniature versions of Calvin. And while nobody will ever call Calvin tall (not even in Japan), the traffic cone was obviously very large.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:08 AM



April 16, 2007

Getting Bombed at Propoganda in Roppongi

POST #    2452

In my first night out in Japan, I wasn't able to stay awake. It was bad. I would have a beer in hand and be falling asleep. The second night out I was a little better. We spent most of the night at Propoganda in Roppongi (a popular district for Gaijin). After teaching the bartender how to make an Irish car bomb, the three of us had quite a few.

The best part of being the person with the camera? You can edit the pictures of you out!

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Friends/Family, Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:56 AM



April 12, 2007

Breakfast from the Excelsior Caffe

POST #    2449

With Johnny away from most Western foods while in Medan, Indonesia (the third largest city in that country), he was jonesing for bread that wasn't sweet. We passed a bagel place one night, but couldn't find it the next morning, so we settled on the Excelsior Caffe. With my lack of Japanese and the lack of English from the person taking my order, there was a lot of nodding and pointing on my part. Somehow, I ended up with two sandwiches - the smoked ham & cheese, mushroom and some other "panini" - it had egg, ham, and cheese and was warmed/cooked in the microwave (the egg was still slightly runny). It might have been what they called the croque monsieur.

While it wasn't what I envisioned as a traditional Japanese breakfast, there were a fair amount of people that came in and out of the store while we were there. Calvin told us that a lot of people eat like this in Japan.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:43 AM



April 11, 2007

The Oft Photoed Harajuku Girls

POST #    2448

When you're walking around Harajuku in Tokyo, it's hard to miss all the Harajuku girls (they kind of stand out from your normal Tokyoite (?)). They stand around, hanging out with their friends, who are also dressed up in costumes to resemble anime characters, punk musicians, and other things. One of the more popular gathering spots is near the Harajuku Station, not far from the Meiji Shrine, where there seem to be more people gawking than dressed up teens. Some girls pose for the cameras (last photo), while some shun photos. Or at least don't like it when tourists ask if they can take the photo - I'm not talking about myself.

I just wonder what happens when someone shows up with the same headband thing over the nose.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:54 AM



April 10, 2007

The Tokyo St. Patrick's Day Parade

POST #    2446

While in Tokyo, we caught the local St. Patricks' Day parade. It was similar, yet different from the parade in New York. Similar - lots of green. Different - not too many drunk people, not too many Irish people, no members of a fire department or police department, no controversy over the exclusion of gays/lesbians. Also odd, the parade goes up and down on Omotesandō (a street) in Harajuku. For New Yorkers, imagine a parade that starts on 34th and Park, goes north to 42nd, and turns around the median to go south on Park.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:55 AM



April 5, 2007

Yes, That's a Chunk of Butter on My Ramen

POST #    2442

It was breakfast, so it's okay, right? One morning, we were hungry for some Japanese food, so we stopped into a little ramen shop for breakfast. This was some ramen with some pork and scallops in it. To purchase, you actually put money into a vending machine (with pictures and no English) and the staff takes your printed order.

Oh, and it was delicious. The butter just made it better.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:10 AM



April 4, 2007

A Lurker Outside Condomania in Shibuya

POST #    2441

This Condomania seemed to be closed, but there was at least one more that we spotted that was open. The location in Harajuku was doing well though.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:07 AM



April 3, 2007

MOS Burger in Japan

POST #    2440

When we arrived in Japan, our first meal wasn't ramen, udon, or any fish related item, it was MOS Burger (MOS stands for mountain, ocean, sun). Chalk it up to arriving very late and Calvin's never ending love of the Japanese chain.

Pictured above is the spicy MOS burger, French fries and onion rings, MOS burger, teriyaki chicken burger, and the MOS chicken. My favorite of the bunch had to be the spicy MOS burger, which had a nice kick to it with the jalapeños on it. The best way that I can describe the sauce on the MOS burger is that it's similar, yet not the same, as a marinara sauce. I didn't care too much for the teriyaki chicken burger. The MOS chicken is a fried chicken leg that is partially de-boned. The drumstick part still has the bone in it, making it easy to eat the rest of it. And it comes in nifty packaging!

More information:
- MOS Burger's English site
- Wikipedia on MOS Burger
- MOS Burger pool on flickr
- AHT on MOS Burger

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:29 AM



March 29, 2007

The View from Our Hotel Room in Shibuya

POST #    2434

Night and day. This was the view from our room at the Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu. The hotel was very conveniently located to multiple lines of the Tokyo subway system and near a nice shopping district (not necessarily a good thing). If you look carefully at the nighttime photo, you can see a soccer field on the roof of a building on the lower left. It seemed like it was always in use.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:06 AM



March 28, 2007

Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

POST #    2432

I'm back from my travels and now recovering from jetlag. Fun times! Expect lots of photos from Asia. I'll try to keep them in somewhat of a chronological order.

These pictures are from the Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife. Their spirits were enshrined there on November 1, 1920, but the original building was destroyed in World War II. The current one was finished in 1958. The shrine is now a popular place for weddings (the photos with the red parasol). As you can see, thousands of prayers are left on plaques by visitors to the shrine.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Photos, Travel at 8:59 AM



March 26, 2007

New York, New York - So Close to Taipei 101

POST #    2431

So, if I walk down the street from Taipei 101, I should stumble upon New York, right? Too bad I can't do that and have to take a super long flight back to New York.

Posted by tien mao in NYC, Photos, Taiwan, Travel at 5:46 AM



March 23, 2007

Straight to the Sushi Source in Tokyo

POST #    2429

A word of advice for those that are going to the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo - you're going to end up smelling like fish. It's a pretty crazy scene. While we didn't make it in time for the auction, there was still plenty of fish around. The size of the actual tuna fish is gigantic (as pictured here). I've got plenty more photos from the fish market as well as some photos of the sushi we ate. Best sushi I've ever had? Yes. Freshest sushi ever? No doubt.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Japan, Photos, Travel at 12:01 AM



March 19, 2007

Hello! From the Shibuya Apple Store

POST #    2427


Hello, dear readers! I'm at the Apple Store Shibuya, Tokyo here in Japan. Clearly, the best thing about all Apple Stores is the fact that you can check your email. One Problem is that the keyboard I'm using is a Japanese keyboard. This makes typing somewhat frustrating. Example: the apostrophe symbol is on the 7 key. Anyway, we're off to Hong Kong tonight. As you can see from the picture here, Calvin and I are doing well. Johnny is off at some museum right now, taking in some culture. Pshaw.

And you might be surprised to find out that I haven't purchased any sneakers in Tokyo.

Posted by tien mao in Japan, Travel at 12:01 AM



March 12, 2007

My New Passport

POST #    2417

Man, there are some unreasonable travel rules. I had to get a new passport for my trip to Asia because some countries require a passport to be valid for 6 months from your date of travel.

And as you can see here, I've just about had a 180° change in hair style. Not that I had the old hair style for very long. I think it was a temporary thing.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 8:08 AM



March 8, 2007

Running and Falling on a Beach in Oregon

POST #    2395

In what could be my last post from my August trip to Oregon, here's a series of me running and falling on a beach. Apologies for the HUGE file. The best is how it looks like I'm going to fall, I recover, I stumble, look like I'll recover and then fall for good.

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Travel at 9:01 AM



March 5, 2007

Alternate Focal Point

POST #    2414

Here's an alternate picture of Thursday's post. Check out the clouds rolling over the mountains.

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Photos, Travel at 9:44 AM



March 1, 2007

More from the Oregon Sand Dunes

POST #    2409

I'm not sure where in Oregon this is, but Shannan says she took it.

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Photos, Travel at 8:17 AM



February 14, 2007

Panorama of Blue Sky Basin at Vail

POST #    2389

This panorama (click for larger) is of the view from Grand Review in Blue Sky Basin. I previously had some photos from lower down the trail, but this is from very close to the top of the trail.

Again, you can see much larger over at flickr.

Posted by tien mao in Colorado, Photos, Travel at 7:59 AM



February 13, 2007

Panorama of Sun Up Bowl at Vail

POST #    2388

If you haven't marveled at the views that Vail has, I've got a couple of panoramas of the back bowls. This one is of the Sun Up Bowl. To the right of the photo is one of the mountain peaks. The one pictured is 11,250 feet. Click the image for a slightly larger version.

And if you want to view this very large, head over to flickr.

Posted by tien mao in Colorado, Photos, Travel at 9:36 AM



February 8, 2007

The Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin at Vail

POST #    2384

One of the best things about Vail is its back bowls. While the front side of Vail is more than enough mountain for me, it's always nice to take a trip to the other side to change things up. In addition to the seven back bowls, Vail has Blue Sky Basin (its newest area which opened to controversy in 2000), which offers some of the most amazing views in the whole ski area. I believe the top photo is from a lift in one of the back bowls and the other two photos are from Grand Review in Blue Sky Basin. I think Grand Review is my favorite trail at Vail. It offers stunning views and you can ski in the amongst trees without too big a risk of actually hitting one.

Posted by tien mao in Colorado, Photos, Travel at 10:43 AM



February 7, 2007

Sunday at Vail

POST #    2383

Sunday proved to be one of the nicer days for me while I was in Vail. While Thursday was cold, Friday was even colder. The same weather system that is chilling the midwest and the northeast was over Colorado on Thursday and Friday. The middle of the mountain registered at a balmy -11°. Factor in the wind and the temperatures were as cold as -49° at the peak of the mountain and that's not even including the chill you get when you're heading downhill. My face and toes were frozen solid. It was so cold that I would stop on the trails so I could regain some feeling in my face.

Because of the wind (there were wind gusts up to 40 MPH), the back bowls were closed Friday and parts of Saturday. Thankfully they opened before my last day on Monday.

Posted by tien mao in Colorado, Photos, Travel at 8:27 AM



February 6, 2007

Farewell to Vail

POST #    2382

As I leave Vail this morning to return to a frigid East Coast, here are a couple of photos I took Thursday, my first day of skiing. No, these photos aren't black and white. There was just very little color in the photo to begin with. I found it amusing that there was more accumulation of snow on the trees than New York has gotten all winter long.

And when I return, I should be used to the cold weather. The temperatures didn't get warmer than 10° on Thursday (I believe it was 2° on the mountain). Friday was worse, but I'll share that story later.

Posted by tien mao in Colorado, Photos, Travel at 6:11 AM



January 31, 2007

Heading West for a Week

POST #    2381

I'm going to Colorado for a week. If there are any updates on the site, they will be sporadic at best. On the plus side, there might be some new photos when I get back.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 6:44 AM



January 25, 2007

Time Lapse Sunrise Over Crater Lake

POST #    2376

I just posed a static photo of the sunrise at Crater Lake the other day, but this is a little different. I think it's something like 29 frames that I took every 30 seconds. It's a large file, but I think it's kind of cool.

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Photos, Travel at 8:03 AM



January 23, 2007

Sunrise over Crater Lake

POST #    2374

After spending the night at Crater Lake, we woke up early to watch the sunrise. We just made it just as the sun was peeking up over the far side of the lake.

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Photos, Travel at 8:09 AM



January 16, 2007

Some of the Sand Dunes from the Oregon Coast

POST #    2368

The coast of Oregon has a lot of different terrain to it, all of it is beautiful. These are some of the first sand dunes that we saw when we reached the coast during our trip.

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Photos, Travel at 7:57 AM



January 9, 2007

Crown Point Vista House on the Columbia River Gorge

POST #    2359

When Wikipedia says that Crown Point, "serves mostly as a public restroom," I can't really argue. I seem to recall using the bathrooms inside.

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Photos, Travel at 7:54 AM



January 8, 2007

Sitka Spruce at Klootchy Creek in Oregon

POST #    2357

This tree is no normal Sitka Spruce. It's the biggest Sitka Spruce in the country! Not only that, it's also the tallest tree in the whole state of Oregon! Now that you've seen it here, you don't need to visit the actual tree. Though it is quite big in person.

P.S. - How about that creek name??

Posted by tien mao in Oregon, Photos, Travel at 7:53 AM



January 4, 2007

The Reason Deep Frying Turkey is Dangerous

POST #    2356

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present you with the reason deep frying a turkey is dangerous. Lucky for us, the attempt was made on grass and not on a deck. And nobody was foolish enough to put the fire out with water or anything like that. Shannan's mom decided that a ham wasn't enough for Christmas dinner, so she thought about preparing a turkey. When she asked how to prepare it - oven, deep fry, etc. - I might have said something like, "I've never had a deep fried turkey." Problem is - they had never made a deep fried turkey. Despite the flame, a turkey eventually went in the oil.

The end result was less than tasty. While the meat was tender and moist, the injected marinade wasn't very good. It actually smelled pretty repulsive. I'm told that there's a large, large oil spot in their back yard now. I wonder if anything will grow there in the future.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Illinois, Travel at 7:57 AM



January 3, 2007

Homer's D'oh-Nuts

POST #    2355

I saw this in Illinois after reading an article in the NY Times that same day. The article talked about the how the blowup ornaments are viewed as an eyesore by some. Apparently they are very popular in the suburbs. When I saw this, I was not in a suburb. Not even close. While I'm not sure I would put this in my yard, I would put this in my apartment. What can I say, I'm a Simpsons fan. I'm sure the cats and Shannan would do something about my inflated Homer though.

Posted by tien mao in Illinois, Photos, Travel at 7:58 AM



January 2, 2007

Hotel Père Marquette

POST #    2354

The Hotel Père Marquette considers itself the "premier hotel" of Peoria. I wouldn't know as we didn't stay there - I've just got a picture of its neon sign. The hotel, built at a cost of $2.5 million in 1927, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Did you know that you can nominate things to the register? The nomination criteria consist of :

A. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
B. That are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
C. That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
D. That have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

If approved, benefits include:

- Recognition that a property is of significance to the Nation, the State, or the community.
- Consideration in the planning for Federal or federally assisted projects.
- Eligibility for Federal tax benefits.
- Qualification for Federal assistance for historic preservation, when funds are available.

Fascinating, yes?

Posted by tien mao in Illinois, Photos, Travel at 9:00 AM



December 27, 2006

Pardon the Appearance...

POST #    2348

Of this site while I recover from my "Midwest Adventure" over the holiday weekend. During my absence, I've gorged on fatty Midwestern food, taken in an AHL hockey game, received many a gift, passed out on a store's display bed, inhaled a considerable amount of second hand smoke, been licked and sniffed by several dogs, waited out a few plane delays, played a lot of Wii, and ran like OJ Simpson through the airport last night to catch a flight (that's like OJ in the Hertz commercial, not OJ the murderer).

And who has time to look at any photos of their trip when they land at 11:50 pm, get their luggage at 12:25 am, get home at 1:15, and don't fall asleep until 2. It also doesn't help when you have a kitten crawling all over you while you're trying to get 5 hours of sleep.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 8:17 AM



December 18, 2006

Visiting Tillamook Cheese

POST #    2338

While driving up the Oregon Coast, we stopped at Tillamook Cheese to take a little tour. Shannan was always raving about Tillamook, but it seemed like any other cheese to me. While there, I made sure to get a little something from the creamery section of the tour. I had the marionberry pie (see blurry picture here) ice cream as marionberries are a west coast thing. Marion Barry and Marion Berry are unrelated.

And if you're wondering how much Shannan likes Tillamook Cheese - we've got two 2 lbs blocks of extra sharp cheddar sitting in our freezer. She already consumed one.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Oregon, Travel at 7:57 AM



December 12, 2006

The Saugerties Lighthouse

POST #    2336

One of the things we did while upstate (besides relax) was visit the Saugerties Lighthouse. The lighthouse sits at the mouth of Esopus Creek on the Hudson River. You might be wondering why there would be a lighthouse on a river - I was a tad confused myself. Well, it so happens that the land that the lighthouse sits on juts out into the Hudson from the western bank of the river. If they didn't build the lighthouse back in 1869, I'm sure there would have been many a shipwreck on that little peninsula. In more recent times, the lighthouse did go 36 years without a light in it. To get to the Saugerties Lighthouse, you have to walk about a half mile though marshland from the access road. It's not something that I would recommend doing when it's cold and windy out. Once we got there, we found out that the lighthouse is closed in the winter.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:49 AM



December 5, 2006

A Weekend Away

POST #    2328

Over the weekend, Shannan and I went upstate and spent our time around Saugerties. While there, we stayed at The Villa at Saugerties, a little bed and breakfast in the area. It was a great, albeit brief, escape from the city at a b&b with a distinctly modern look. While the main proprietor wasn't there, her father came up for the weekend to help with the property.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 8:09 AM



November 29, 2006

The Old Man of Crater Lake

POST #    2321

When people talk about the Old Man at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, they aren't talking about some old guy wandering around the park with a cane. The Old Man is actually driftwood that has been floating around the lake since 1896. When we were there in August, the Old Man was actually grounded, but when the water on the lake is choppy or there's a lot of wind, the Old Man is known to move all around the lake.

And yes, the water really is that blue.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:55 AM



November 16, 2006

Starfish at Canon Beach, Oregon

POST #    2309

One of the cool things you can do at Canon Beach is look at the nature around Haystack Rock when it's low tide. The rock and the areas around it are a bird sanctuary, but there are also tons of starfish on the small rocks around Haystack. When it's low tide, you can walk right up to them to get a good look.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:48 AM



November 14, 2006

Clearcutting in the Forests of Oregon

POST #    2304

One of the craziest things I saw when we went out to Oregon was the tremendous amount of clearcutting. There were points where we would drive and there would be swaths and swaths of land that were treeless. The pictures above are only a small example of what we saw. While I understand that logging is part of the economy in the Pacific Northwest, it's still crazy to see all those trees gone.

There were even logging trucks leaving some of the National Parks. I'm curious as to whether the cutting there was to help control forrest fires.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:59 AM



October 26, 2006

More Crazy Dead Trees at Crater Lake

POST #    2290

Kind of like this one, but crazier.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:50 AM



October 25, 2006

Crater Lake's Wizard Island

POST #    2289

The largest island in Crater Lake is Wizard Island, an island formed when Mount Mazama erupted a few thousand years ago. The island is called Wizard Island because of its resemblance to a sorcerer's hat. When on the boat tour, you can get off an hike the trails on the island. We didn't get a chance to do that because of time constraints.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:15 AM



October 23, 2006

Michigan vs Iowa at Michigan Stadium

POST #    2287

Over the weekend, we made our annual trip back to Michigan to watch a football game. This year, it was for the Iowa game, which looked like a much better game before the Hawkeyes lost to Indiana two weekends ago. And while the game was more competitive than it should have been, Michigan still won the game.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:46 AM



October 18, 2006

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach

POST #    2283

Back to the Oregon photos! One of the highlights of our drive up the coast was the picturesque Cannon Beach. We stayed right on the ocean and you could see Haystack Rock from the windows of our hotel room. Sadly, there wasn't much of a sunset when we were there because it was overcast. The next morning while we were walking in "downtown" Cannon Beach, it rained. Rain in Oregon? Crazy!!

And I believe after that last picture, the horses proceeded to poop right there.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:54 AM



October 4, 2006

A Walk Down to Crater Lake

POST #    2266

To take the Crater Lake boat tour you have to walk down Cleatwood Trail from Rim Drive down to the lake. It's a steep and dusty trail that drops 700 feet over the one mile path. Going down was easy, but up wasn't even close to easy. I can't recall the exact number, but it's something like climbing the stairs of a 65 story building. Not too fun.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:46 AM



September 28, 2006

The Sea Lions in Newport, Oregon

POST #    2259

In Newport's harbor, there are lots of sea lions that just hang out, basking in the sun and sleeping. Their sounds can be heard from a block away. Up close, they're not so pretty and occasionally they get in little fights when one sea lion tries to take another's spot on the old dock.

Last year, a group of sea lions actually sunk a 50-foot sailboat.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:19 AM



September 27, 2006

Rogue Brewery on the Oregon Coast

POST #    2257

One of our stops on our drive up the Oregon Coast was Newport. After spending the night in town, the next morning, we took in a few sites - Mo's Chowder, sea lions (more on that later), and the Rogue Brewery. Unfortunately, we missed the brewery tour, but we did stop by the bar to sample some of the beers Rogue makes. This left me drunk after about 2 sips from each our eight small glasses of beer. Unfortunately, because of the airline restrictions, we weren't able to bring back any of the tasty, tasty beer they had.

Fortunately, at Barcade tomorrow, they are going to have 20 (!!) Rogue beers on tap. Details in the extended entry. I know where I'll be tomorrow night!!

This Thursday night 9/28 we are very excited to welcome Rogue Ales and brewmaster John Maier to Barcade as they take over our taps and pour 20 of their amazing beers. On draft:

Dead Guy Ale
"Dry Hopped" St.Rogue Red
Juniper Pale Ale
Kells Irish Lager
Smoke Ale
Brewer Doppelbock (Locker Stock #3, vintage keg)
Old Crusty Barley Wine
Russian Imperial Stout
Imperial Porter
Chipotle Ale
Glen Ale (vintage keg)
Brutal Bitter
Integrity IPA
Love & Hoppiness
Uber Pils
Shakespeare Stout
Issaquah Bull Frog Ale


Chocolate Stout (on cask)

Basically, there should be something for everybody in there. If not, then you don't like beer and you're probably not coming anyway. Also, we'll be giving away a lot of cool Rogue stuff, plus there'll be a nice bread and cheese spread too. Beer starts flowing at 6pm.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 7:48 AM



September 26, 2006

The Pinnacles at Crater Lake

POST #    2256

If you ever visit Crater Lake, be sure not to miss The Pinnacles. It's not visible from Rim Drive and the road to the Pinnacles Overlook is easy to miss. It's a longish drive (7 or 8 miles) from the rim, but it's well worth it. It was easily the best part of Crater Lake National Park that we saw to that point (it should be noted that all we saw to that point was the Pumice Desert and a smoke covered lake. Only later that day would we actually see the blue water of the lake.

The Pinnacles were formed when the pumice from the eruption of Mount Mazama were gradually eroded by streams. The pumice dates to nearly 7,700 years ago when eruptions were near their peak. The distinctive cones, or fumeroles (vents for the escape of gas), of The Pinnnacles exist because hot gasses (like 750° hot) welded the interior of the fumeroles when they escaped. The end result, pumice + welding gasses + erosion, are the cones you see in the pictures above.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 6:47 AM



September 21, 2006

Cubs vs. Reds at Wrigley Field - My First Game at Wrigley

POST #    2251

While I've witnessed the Cubs play the Mets (and defeat them) at Shea Stadium, I've never seen the Cubs play at Wrigley Field. There's certainly a lot of charm to the stadium, with its manual scoreboard, ivy covered brick outfield walls, and what's probably the best rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," but there are a couple other stadiums I've been to that I liked better. That said, Wrigley is a gem compared to the dump that is Shea. I loved the wide concourses and the views of the field as I walked up the ramps to the upper deck. Perhaps my biggest regret is that I didn't get a hot dog at the game. Not a total loss as I had two chardogs the night before. And for my beverage selection, I had to have Old Style.

The Cubs won the game, 4-0 and it was Chicago's first complete game this season.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Sports, Travel at 8:00 AM



September 20, 2006

Lake Point Tower in Chicago

POST #    2250

We didn't get to walk around too much to look at the architecture in Chicago, but we did walk by Lake Point Tower. The building was completed in 1968 and was the tallest all-residential building in Chicago from its completion until 1993. The three sections of the building are at 120° increments and it was designed so nobody could see into other people's apartments and everyone has a view of Lake Michigan.

Check out Emporis for a lot more interesting information on Lake Point Tower (including the facts that I mentioned above).

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:23 AM



September 19, 2006

Shakespeare on Shakespeare Ave in Chicago

POST #    2249

A little break from the Oregon photos for some pictures from Chicago. Despite mother nature's best efforts, we eventually made it to Chicago on Friday and eventually made it back to New York on Sunday.

Above is a picture of Shakespeare on Shakespeare Avenue in Chicago. At least, I'm pretty sure that's supposed to be Shakespeare.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:59 AM



September 18, 2006

Mo's Chowder in Newport, Oregon

POST #    2248

On the drive up the coast in Oregon is Mo's Chowder in Newport. The Newport location is the original storefront for the restaurant that now has many locations and will actually ship chowder via FedEx. They actually make 500,000 pounds of chowder a year, which seems like an insane amount.

The chowder was good, not all that spectacular or anything, but probably better than average. It was just regular New England Clam Chowder - served in Oregon. The one thing I had never seen before was the piece of butter they placed on top of the soup.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 8:14 AM



September 14, 2006

Those Funny OSU Computer Dorks

POST #    2235

Because only a computer dork would go to a unix bathroom.

Posted by tien mao in Education, Travel at 7:59 AM



September 13, 2006

Tree Moss at Crater Lake

POST #    2244

There are crazy amounts of moss all over Oregon. While we were driving south from Portland to Crater Lake, there was always moss on the highway overpasses. At Crater Lake, the amounts of moss was even more pronounced - all over the trees, dead or alive.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:59 AM



September 11, 2006

Another View of the Phantom Ship

POST #    2237

This is a closer view of Crater Lake's Phantom Ship - from a different vantage point than the first series. I like this series better, but it more tiring to get to - something like a 1/4 mile hike.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:03 AM



September 7, 2006

Cool Deadwood above Crater Lake

POST #    2238

I think this might be my favorite photo from all the Crater Lake shots so far because it's different than all the ones I posted previously. I almost think it looks like a diorama at the AMNH.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:05 AM



September 6, 2006

Running Mammals in Oregon

POST #    2236

Man and Abby the Schnauzer at Powell Butte Nature Park in Portland. Powell Butte is Portland's second largest park and is an extinct volcano. It's also covered with blackberry bushes.

The 3rd photo is what I believe is the Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel at Crater Lake.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 7:49 AM



September 5, 2006

Crater Lake's Phantom Ship from Afar

POST #    2234

Despite not being able to see much of Crater Lake from our first stop from the North Entrance, the view of the lake's beautiful blue water became much more clear when we changed our vantage point. From the vantage point above, you can see the Phantom Ship (center photo), named because at certain times of the day it looks like a ship floating across the water.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:57 AM



September 4, 2006

The Bybee Fire Complex - Smoke on the Water at Crater Lake

POST #    2233

When we first knew we were going to Oregon, the only thing we had to plan around was Brynn and Whalen's wedding. After we found out what day that was, we decided to reserve one night's stay at Crater Lake. The first place people generally look is to Crater Lake Lodge, which overlooks the lake. Naturally, this is what we did too. As we went through the reservation process, we found that reserving for August, 2006 before the summer even started was too late. We would have been fine for August, 2007 though. So we ended up staying at The Cabins at Mazama Village, which aren't sexy at all, but they do their job. When we actually got to the park, we could smell smoke in the air and once we got to the first spot overlooking the lake, much to our despair, we could barely see the lake at all (click first image for larger view of smoke).

As we drove around the rim, we found out that the fire was due to a natural wildfire nearby that didn't threaten the visitors to the lake, but did cause for smokey conditions. It would have been nice to know there was a fire beforehand, but with plans made so far in advance to see Crater Lake's natural beauty, we probably wouldn't have cancelled anyway.

The Bybee Wildland Fire Use Complex, which was actually two wildfires, started naturally around July 23rd from lighting during a storm. Because the cause was natural and for several other reasons (like the moisture of the area where the fire was), the Park Service decided to let the fire burn and take its natural course. It makes perfect sense as it's the ecosystem of the forrest and I completely agree with the decision, it's just unfortunate that it happened before our trip.

When we were there on August 21st, the fire complex was at 720 acres with 49 people committed to the fire. As of yesterday, there were 1,750 acres burned and 91 people committed to the complex.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 10:15 AM



August 31, 2006

The Pumice Desert of Crater Lake

POST #    2230

One of the first things visitors that enter through Crater Lake's North Entrance see is the Pumice Desert. The desert is about 5.5 square miles and covered with material that was created when Mount Mazama exploded. Mazama no longer exists, but its explosion was one of the events that created Crater Lake. Some of the ash, pumice and other material that flowed out of Mazama settled in the valley was once where the Pumice Desert is now. The deposits reach over 100 ft in some areas and is has a very small amount of plant life on it compared to the surrounding area.

As you can see, there is lots of haze in the pictures above (like yesterday, click to enlarge) due to a wildfire nearby. More on that fire at some other point.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:40 AM



August 29, 2006

The Road to Crater Lake

POST #    2228

Crater Lake in Oregon is known for it's beautiful views and pristine blue water, but even on Route 138 from Roseburg, one of the roads to Crater Lake, you get some beautiful scenes. The pictures above were taken from one of the many scenic stops along the road to the lake.

The three images were taken to the left, center, and right of where I was standing, something that we did for Shannan's work. We have lots of "tri-pics" - if you want to see a larger size, click on the image. I think it's worth it. More sets of three to come.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:01 AM



August 28, 2006

Multnomah Falls in Oregon

POST #    2227

We're back from a wonderful trip to Oregon after taking a fun, fun red-eye back from the left coast. One of the first stops on our trip was to Multnomah Falls, Oregon's #1 tourist attraction (yes, #1).

Multnomah Falls claims to be the country's second highest year-round waterfall, but according to the Wikipedia entry, it's actually the nation's third highest. Whichever it is, Multnomah Falls is a 620 ft two-tier waterfall (see two-tiers here) that wasn't quite as spectacular when we went because we came during the dry season of August.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:52 AM



May 29, 2006

Steak 'n Shake - Peoria, Il.

POST #    2141

The last time I went to Steak 'n Shake was in November when I went to Ann Arbor. When I heard that there one in Peoria, we had to go. It was tasty as always, but I forgot to get cheese on my Steakburger. It was tasty nonetheless.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 9:56 AM



May 25, 2006

Emo's Dairy Mart - Peoria, Illinois

POST #    2140

The first stop when we got off the airplane in Peoria was for lunch at Emo's Dairy Mart. Shannan kept telling me about how good their Coney Dogs were. They were quite delicious, but I think the actual hot dog could have been of better quality. I can't argue with the bean-less chili though, as I hate beans. A standard Emo's Coney Dog is a hot dog with mustard, bean-less chili, and raw onions.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 7:48 AM



May 18, 2006

Nature in Lacon

POST #    2129

As with most places outside of New York City, there's lots of greenery in Lacon. There's even a bald eagle outside of Lacon, which according to the Great Backyard Bird Count, has 5 bald eagles. Pictured is a baby one, which isn't bald yet.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:04 AM



May 16, 2006

Air Force Two at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

POST #    2127

Over the weekend, I went to Lacon (I have some pictures), but on the way back yesterday, I spotted an airplane with some distinct markings. It didn't seem like anybody else noticed it. It had to be either Air Force One or Air Force Two. And as the occupant of Air Force One had to deliver a speech Monday night, I deduced that it was Air Force Two.

And indeed it was. Dick Cheney was in Minneapolis to hand out an award and for a fundraiser. It seems like the award was originally supposed to be given next week, but combining a fundraiser and an award ceremony in the same day, it seems to make the most sense.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 7:49 AM



December 13, 2005

Angel Island 2 - Green Water Pump

POST #    1980

Two of two from Angel Island.

A few more photos that weren't on the site are in my Angel Island flickr set.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:05 AM



December 12, 2005

Angel Island 1 - Around the Isle

POST #    1979

Last week, President Bush signed the Angel Island Immigration Station Restoration and Preservation Act, providing $15 million for the restoration of the immigration station on Angel Island. With the bills signing, it seemed like a good time to post some pictures from when I visited the island in September. When I was there, the immigration station was already closed to visitors.

Angel Island was to Chinese and Asian immigrants what Ellis Island was to European immigrants, except with worse conditions. Unfortunately, since Angel closed, it hasn't undergone restoration like Ellis Island. Hopefully, with the restoration and preservation act, Angel Island can become a historical destination much like Ellis Island.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:53 AM



November 16, 2005

Alcatraz 5: Nature on the Island

POST #    1951

It's about time I wrapped up the Alcatraz posts, so here's the last one. The island isn't just home to the former penitentiary, but it's also full of nature. Any plants that exist today on the island are what remains from the original gardens that were planted once humans started to inhabit the island in 1848. Prior to that, Alcatraz was barren of vegetation, soil, and water. There were birds though, and birds are still on the island today. Lots and lots of birds.

- More Alcatraz on the site
- Alcatraz set on flickr

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:05 AM



November 9, 2005

Steak 'n Shake

POST #    1945

I've often lamented New York's lacking in fine burger franchises (Sonic, In-N-Out) and while I was in Michigan, I found yet another chain my fair city is missing, Steak 'n Shake. Sure real estate prices in New York might make it impossible for any of these chains to survive, but how about placing one in Long Island or in New Jersey. Plenty of land available. I would certainly make a trip.

Started in the town of Normal, Illinois in 1934, Steak 'n Shake is "famous for its Steakburgers" and has insanely delicious milk shakes. If those two items aren't enough, they also have a good list of side dishes including a Bean Crock, which has made cameo appearances in their advertising (ad #4).

While it currently isn't in the New York market, apparently a franchise opportunity is available here. Anybody out there have some money they want to throw towards this? It's a guaranteed hit! Especially with those fancy hats.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 7:48 AM



November 3, 2005

Hickory Run State Park Boulder Field

POST #    1938

After hiking up a mountain that had plenty of boulders and rocks on Sunday, we drove over to Hickory Run State Park. The boulder field in Hickory Run is the largest boulder field in the eastern US.

From Yahoo Travel:

The Boulder Field is a true relic of the past. This area is a National Natural Landmark and State Park Natural Area. It has remained relatively unchanged for more than 20,000 years. The Boulder Field appears striking because of its flatness and absence of vegetation over the large area of 400 feet by 1,800 feet. Some of the boulders measure as much as 26 feet long.

Be sure to click on that 2nd photo for a panorama of the boulder field.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:44 AM



October 19, 2005

Detroit's Edward H. McNamara Terminal

POST #    1919

When I was a student at U of M, I often found myself at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. Back then (just a few years ago), it was dumpy, but in February of 2002, DTW opened up the Edward H. McNamara Terminal. Concourse A, which is where Northwest flies out of, is gigantic. It has 97 gates and an indoor tram that can get passengers from one end of the terminal to the other in 3 minutes. McNamara Terminal also has countless people movers, which are very important when you have a mile-long (!!!) terminal.

Say what you want about Northwest, but their hub in Detroit is beautiful.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:58 AM



October 18, 2005

Michigan vs Penn State at Michigan Stadium

POST #    1918

This past weekend, I made my annual trip to Michigan for a football game at my alma mater. The football season started with such promise, but it's been largely disappointing. Saturday's match-up was between a top-10 ranked Penn State team and an unranked, .500, 3-loss Michigan team. With 111,248 other people in attendance (including a few thousand Penn State fans), I witnessed my best game at Michigan Stadium ever. Our tickets in the South end zone were pretty good as far as endzone tickets go, but much of the first half action was at the far end of the field. Lucky for us, and unfortunately for Penn State, the deciding play took place in front of us.

The first half was mostly uneventful. A couple of missed field goals by Penn State, one by Michigan and a field goal in the 1st that gave Michigan a 3-0 lead that lasted into the 3rd quarter. In the 4th quarter, things got exciting as the two teams combined to score 39 points. Towards the beginning of the 4th quarter, Penn State scored 14 points in 17 seconds. The first was on a Michael Robinson rushing TD (he was virtually unstoppable) and the second on a fumble return for touchdown. At this point, the Michigan crowd was pretty stunned. And if that wasn't bad enough, Penn State picked up 2 points on a botched PAT. At this point, the visiting crowd was going crazy.

Luckily, Michigan answered with a touchdown of its own as Chad Henne threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham. Michigan added another field goal to go up by 3 with 3:45 remaining in the game. Way too much time for Penn State. Especially considering Michigan's obscenely soft prevent defense. Robinson scored another touchdown that put them up 4 with 53 seconds remaining in the game.

At this point, there were some Michigan fans leaving, but with 2 timeouts, it the game was hardly over. Those that stayed witnessed one hell of an ending. After a huge kickoff return by Steve Breaston, Michigan drove 53 yards and used all 53 seconds on the clock to get to pay dirt. The game was won on a last second (literally) pass from Henne to Manningham that left Penn State fans and players devastated (their undefeated season gone) and Michigan fans and players going crazy. Final score, Michigan 27, Penn State 25.

The victory was Michigan's 7th in a row against the Nittany Lions and led to chants of, "We own Penn State!" (Penn State fans chant "We are Penn State!" all the time, which is clearly necessary because their uniforms and helmets don't say anything.)

- Michigan vs Penn State set on flickr, which has a lot more photos from the game

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Photos, Sports, Travel at 8:07 AM



October 6, 2005

Alcatraz 4: Inside the Penitentiary

POST #    1900

Back to The Rock! It looks like I actually took a lot more pictures outside the penitentiary than inside it.

- More Alcatraz on the site

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:59 AM



October 4, 2005

The Stihl Timbersports Series - Virginia Beach

POST #    1893

While down in Virginia a couple of weekends ago, I was quite pleased to find out that the Stihl Timbersports series was making a stop in Virginia Beach that weekend. Thrilled with the news (really, no sarcasm at all), I thought this would be a perfect way to kill some time before the wedding. It really was. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to see my favorite event, the springboard. Pictured are the events that we did see, the standing block chop, the underhand chop, the single buck, and the hot saw. It was a very enjoyable event that is very fan and family friendly. Besides, it's not everyday that you get to see a timbersports event in person.

More information:
- Results from the weekend's events
- Stihl's gallery from the weekend's events
- The Virginian-Pilot: "Lumberjack athletes show their mettle in competition at Beach"

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Sports, Travel at 8:04 AM



September 26, 2005

Nike's Next Step?

POST #    1891

Returning from a weekend trip to Virginia, I noticed something odd in the safety instructions on the flight we were on. One of the people in the instructions was wearing a pair of blue Nikes. We looked over the rest of the little pamphlet and found no other name brand shoes and no more signs of this mysterious man in the blue sneakers.

How did the sneakers actually slip into the instructions is the question. Is this a brilliant Nike marketing partnership with Safeair, the designers of the instructions, or is it just something that slipped by everyone when they were instructions were made. "Nike is proud to introduce the Nike escape. Perfect when you need to get out of that airplane in a flash."

And if it is a marketing move, I wonder how many people have actually seen it. I'm guessing about 5 people look at these instructions on each flight, but how many notice silly things like this? I believe it's the first time I've looked at their shoes.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 7:55 AM



September 22, 2005

Alcatraz 3: New Industries Building 2

POST #    1886

The New Industries Building on Alcatraz, which I mentioned was my favorite building, was built on the island in the 1940s. One reason they built the new building is because the Modern Industries Building (5th picture here) was difficult to monitor as guards in the watchtower could not see the back of the building.

While the Modern Industries has a more notorious history - escape attempts and a murder - the New Industries Building has played a major role in the 1996 film, The Rock. To see the exact scene, check out the script on IMSDB and search for "New Industries."

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:08 AM



September 21, 2005

Alcatraz 2: New Industries Building 1

POST #    1885

One of the first buildings we went into while on Alcatraz was the New Industries Building. The building quickly became my favorite. Sure, there was the actual prison part of the island that we didn't see yet, but the New Industries Building was empty when we went in and we wandered around alone the whole time, which was a creepy experience. It's possible that the building wasn't actually open to the public as the area was fenced off, but the actual entrance to the building wasn't, so we wandered on in.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:01 AM



September 20, 2005

Alcatraz 1: Around the Rock

POST #    1884

Get ready for lots of photos from Alcatraz! While out in San Francisco, one of the things I wanted to do was visit Alcatraz. How touristy, I know. What can you say though, it's one of those things you need to do. Unfortunately, when we went on the first tour of the day, it was foggy and cold, not the most favorable conditions to be visiting an island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. I'll try to break it up here and there with a few non-Alcatraz posts.

Alcatraz has a history that dates to the 1850's as a military base to defend San Francisco Bay. During the Civil War, it served as a fort for the Union Army, defending the bay. Starting in the late 50's, the island started to house prisoners, which grew gradually during the war as the Army officially turning the island into a prison in 1861.

In 1933, the Army handed the island over to the Bureau of Prisons and with its isolated location, held some of the nation's most notorious criminals: Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Alvin Karpis (Ma barker's partner), and Robert Franklin Stroud (The Birdman of Alcatraz).

On Thursday, 21 March 1963, Alcatraz closed its doors to inmates as the cost of running the isolated prison became too expensive with costs approaching $6 million a year.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:59 AM



September 17, 2005

Another Brick in the Wall

POST #    1882

I wonder why BART decided to use brick in their stations. Sure, it looks nice, but isn't it hard to clean? You can kind of see the graffiti that was once on the wall.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 9:30 AM



September 15, 2005

Briefly in Berkeley

POST #    1877

While out in California at the beginning of the month, we went to Berkeley to eat at Chez Panisse (which was my best meal ever). With time to kill, we walked around the beautiful Cal campus and felt slightly old and out of place before heading over to dinner.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:09 AM



September 14, 2005

Kristan and Josh's Wedding

POST #    1876

One more wedding down, one more to go. Last Saturday's wedding was for Kristan and Josh and in a seated clearing of a campground. It's getting closer and closer to that winter snow wedding that I would find ideal. Too bad it was 90 with no breeze.

I honestly can't wait for all these weddings to be over. As beautiful as they are, there should be a maximum number of weddings a person can go to in one year. I would like that number capped at 3. So to all my friends, I tell you now, I can only go to three weddings in 2006. I can take only so much joy and happiness.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Photos, Travel at 8:08 AM



September 13, 2005

In and Around Lacon (not Bacon), Illinois

POST #    1875

Over the weekend, I headed to the rural town of Lacon, Illinois. The town of 2000 (!!!!!) people is not far from Peoria which is considerably larger at 112,936. As I'm sure you can imagine, Lacon is considerably different than New York City. I don't think I've ever seen so much corn in my life. Okay, that's a lie, because I've driven across the midwest before. But there is some beauty to Lacon and the surrounding area. The bean fields had a wonderful yellow and green color that I couldn't really capture in the 2nd picture.

And can you make out the faint spray-painted 'B' on the watertower? So perfect.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:10 AM



September 8, 2005

Josephine and Eric's Wedding

POST #    1871

The main reason I was in San Francisco this past weekend was for the wedding of a childhood friend. I've known Eric ever since we were infants and it was great to see him get married. What's also great is that I'm halfway home in the number of weddings I'm going to this year and I'm done with my groomsman duties for the rest of the year! Of course, this shouldn't detract from the beautiful wedding that Joey and Eric had as well as the vows he gave that seemed to stir up the allergens in the air.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Photos, Travel at 7:58 AM



September 7, 2005

Dinner at Chez Panisse

POST #    1870

I'm not much of a fancy eater. I typically don't eat very many fancy foods, just the occasional fancy meal here and there, so what I am about to say might not count for much. I think the meal I had Thursday night at Chez Panisse in Berkeley was the best meal I've ever had. That's right, the best meal I've ever had. But really, what do I have to compare it to? I'm not sure what the fanciest place I've ever eaten at is and I've never been to the vaunted restaurants of New York (it's just not my scene). Then again, I'm not saying that Chez Panisse is the best restaurant in the world, it just happened to serve me the best meal I've ever had.

On the menu for September 1st was:

White gazpacho with almonds, grapes, figs, and jamon serrano
Shrimp and squid paella with quid ink sauce and allioli
Loin of Laughing Stock Farm piglet with summer vegetables baked in the coals
Ricotta fritters with warm honey and Indian Red peaches

The shrimp and squid paella might have been the best single dish - and easily best rice dish - I've had in my life (and this includes my love for Peter Luger steak). It had a smokey flavor that was outstanding and beyond delicious. I can't really describe it, but any description I give it wouldn't do it justice. Oh how I wish I could eat that paella over and over again.

Everything else was excellent as well. The gazpacho might have been the "worst" course of the meal, but it was by no means bad. I'm just not a huge gazpacho fan. Why? Because you don't make friends with salad, that's why. The pork was tender and tasty as well, but the coal baked vegetables were just okay. And the ricotta fritters were a perfect way to end the meal. I was very close to licking the honey off the plate during the dessert. I can't imagine that would have gone over well though.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 8:09 AM



September 6, 2005

Dim Sum at Yank Sing

POST #    1869

While in San Francisco over the long weekend, I had dim sum with some family members at Yank Sing. San Francisco has one of the better (if not the best) Chinatowns in the country, but the Yank Sing wasn't really in Chinatown. It was in the financial district's Rincon Center. It was kind of odd and food court like. We were sitting in the atrium of the building and eating dim sum.

That didn't detract from the tastiness of the food though.

Full sized photos in my Yank Sing Flickr set.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 7:56 AM



August 16, 2005

Congo Bongo (or Coco Bongo) in Cancun

POST #    1846

I'm not really big into clubs, so going out in Cancun wasn't really the highlight of the trip or anything for me, but on our last night, we went to Congo Bongo (aka Coco Bongo). I've got to say, as far as entertainment value, they offer quite the bang for your peso. Not only do they have your standard open bar "deals," but they also have some insane entertainment.

Pictured is a Beetlejuice (quick, say it three times) show, which was followed by some acrobats in a Cirque du Soleil fashion, and a Matrix show. Yeah, it was odd, but it was entertaining. Ignore the fact that it doesn't seem too safe to have people flying through the air in a packed club and the fact that if there was a fire a lot of people would die, and you too can have a decent time at Congo Bongo.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 7:35 AM



August 11, 2005

Sunset in Cancun

POST #    1830

The cool thing about the area we were staying at in Cancun was that it was surrounded by water on both sides. To our east was the Carribean Sea and to our west was the Laguna Nichupté. So we had both beautiful sunrises and beautiful sunsets.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:09 AM



August 10, 2005

Oooh Barracuda! Or My Poor Attempt at Fish Tacos

POST #    1836

After catching the fish out at sea, they were filleted for us so we could take it with us to eat. Little did we know that barracuda isn't the tastiest fish out there - at least not the ones in Cancun. The meat was just too tough. The first few bites were tasty though, but I chalk that up to being really hungry and the e"we just caught it, it's going to be good" syndrome.

A couple things that were tasty were freshly made tortilla chips (just fried and still warm) and the rice. Not sure what it was about the rice that made it so good.

And yes, that's a lame fish taco. What do you want, I didn't have salsa or anything yet.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 12:23 PM



Deep Sea Fishing in Cancun

POST #    1832

Early Friday morning (as in 6 in the morning early), half of us headed out for some deep sea fishing. I actually got about 4 hours of sleep, so I wasn't too bad on the boat. Most of the other people though, were up all night and somewhat drunk when we got on Stuff It, our boat. Just as we left the harbor, we were experiencing some engine troubles. Thankfully, we turned around because I was envisioning the whole Jaws scenario - we're out on the water, engine starts smoking, shark comes over back of boat - you get the idea.

The water was not calm. Even though I took Dramamine, I was a tad queasy. I'm just glad that I wasn't drunk, nauseous, or napping when we were heading out to deeper waters. I think I saw a fare share of green-looking Asians on the boat that morning.

Our captain, Orlando, said that barracudas were the most common fish that people caught while fishing. Sure enough, we caught four barracudas as well as several fish for bait, including tuna. Too bad we couldn't keep the tuna.

Posted by tien mao in Sports, Travel at 7:43 AM



August 9, 2005

Gigantic Mexican Flag

POST #    1835

On the way to deep sea fishing, there was a huge Mexican flag. In fact, you could actually see it from our hotel. And that little white line going from the top right to the bottom? Fishing line.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 10:56 PM



Sunrise in Cancun

POST #    1829

Some people were up really late the first night I got to Cancun, essentially staying up all night. I went to bed at 2 am, much earlier than not sleeping at all. Why on earth did I get up early enough to see the sunrise? Because we were going deep sea fishing that morning. So while others may have partied all night, I managed to get a minimal amount of rest that certainly helped later that morning.

And yes, Eric (the bachelor) looks a little tired and drunk.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Photos, Travel at 7:49 AM



August 8, 2005

The Beautiful JW Marriott Hotel in Cancun

POST #    1828

Last night, I got back from a very long bachelor party in Cancun, Mexico. I've yet to take a look at all my pictures, but these are from the balcony of the JW Marriott, the hotel we were staying in. Every room has a view of the Caribbean. It was an insanely nice hotel with excellent service (at that cost, it better have the service) and an amazing pool.

More throughout the week.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:51 AM



August 4, 2005

Post Kayak Dinner at Blue Pete's

POST #    1826

Immediately after kayaking in the Back Bay, we had dinner at Blue Pete's. The cool thing about eating there was that we literally rowed our kayak ashore in front of the restaurant. The restaurant is right on the river and has a good selection of food and is surprisingly reasonable price wise.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 4:18 AM



August 3, 2005

Kayaking the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

POST #    1823

Friday afternoon, we went on a sunset kayak trip in Virginia Beach's Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There wasn't exactly a sunset to be seen as it was very overcast. About halfway in, it actually started to drizzle. The tour lasted about two hours and it was a lot of fun despite some people not carrying their weight (don't look at me). Our guide said that we generally did a pretty good job, considering that some people just row in circles the whole time.

Some of the animals we saw included a muskrat, water moccasin, osprey, blue herring, and a bald eagle, the first time the tour guide has actually seen one while out with a group.

One of the great things about the experience was how there were no other people. I guess that's what happens when you have an activity at 5 p.m on Friday.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 7:53 AM



August 2, 2005

The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center

POST #    1822

What's with all the PC names of zoos and aquariums these days? Who is going to call it, "The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center" anyway. Oh well.

So the best part of the Virginia Aquarium is that it's very interactive and kid friendly. I can't remember the last time I went to an aquarium, but I suppose they're all like that, aren't they. In several of the displays, there were areas where you could touch the various aquatic life at the aquarium - sting rays, starfish, sharks, etc. Okay, not really on the sharks. But it seems to be a popular place to go. There were tons of people, which made photo taking even more difficult. It's like the aquatic animals needed to swim to live. Crazy, right?

This was one of several items on the laundry list of things to do before moving Shannan up this past weekend. Minor detail: It was me that wanted to go to the aquarium.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:53 AM



July 16, 2005

More China

POST #    1800

Is there a statue of limitations on photos from a trip abroad? Nah. Here are some random photos from my trip to China. The first is somewhere on the way to Shanghai from San Francisco and the last is the Shanghai airport. You would think that means I have closure on my China trip. Nope, I still have some photos left. When I'll get to them? Who knows.

The currency pictured are brand new 1 jiao bills (1/10th of 1 RMB). The smell is not nearly as alluring as fresh American currency.

Also, since these photos are bigger, they are better, right? Right? No, not so much.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 1:38 PM



June 3, 2005

Yum, Yum, Cheesesteak

POST #    1737

It's unfortunate that one cannot subsist on pizza, hamburgers, and cheesesteaks alone because if you could, I would be eating them all the damn time. And like nobody can replicate New York pizza if they tried, nobody can replicate a cheeseteak from Philly. Carl's, 99 Miles, nobody.

The cheesesteak above is from Jim's Steaks, which I had been to before. I was going to head to Tony Jr's, but for some reason they were closed on Sunday. It's unfortunate that I only had one cheesesteak on the weekend. Especially since I'm convinced I can easily eat two in one sitting.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 9:03 AM



June 2, 2005

Around Philly

POST #    1735

I've determined that I like Philadelphia a lot. I had a great time there this weekend, just walking around, taking a few photos here and there and enjoying the weather. The city has great architecture, great history and cheesesteaks. You can't go wrong with that combination. And momentarily, they had a limited edition $50 bill.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:56 AM



May 19, 2005

Last Meal in China - A Casual Breakfast

POST #    1717

The whole time I was in China, I was craving some local fare, but it seemed like all I ate was fancy dinners at restaurants. The last morning I was there though, I was dead-set on something more low key. When we asked the doorman to the hotel where we might get xiao shao bing and you tiao, he seemed hesitant to point us in the right direction. I'm happy that he eventually did.

If I remember correctly, the whole meal (for 5 of us) cost about 2.5 RMB or about 30 cents. Not exactly a fancy place, but it was good, cheap, and really hit the spot.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 7:46 AM



May 12, 2005

Slightly Off the Beaten Path in Shanghai

POST #    1700

More photos from Shanghai. Everyone I was with wanted to shop on Nanjing Road for something like 3 hours. I think I made it 45 minutes before I got bored with it, so I slowly walked back to the meeting point in some back alleys and away from Nanjing Road. In the end, I just ended up sitting and watching people for an hour or so.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:03 AM



May 8, 2005

Lots of Kids on The Bund

POST #    1695

Apparently, visiting Shanghai's Bund is the thing to do on a school day. So many kids, all in uniform, really quite overwhelming. Their sweatsuits are pretty cool though.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 9:30 AM



May 4, 2005

Fahua Pagoda in Jiading, Shanghai

POST #    1687

Compare and contrast Fahua Pagoda in Jiading to Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai. Can you see the similarities and the obvious differences? I'm not sure of the name of this pagoda, but the rents are supposedly researching it. As you can see, It's nowhere near as tall as the Jin Mao Tower and the two are totally different. I think there's something to be said for the beauty of each one though.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:55 AM



May 3, 2005

Jin Mao Tower - Shanghai, China

POST #    1686

Not far from the Oriental Pearl Tower is the Jin Mao Tower, which towers over Pudong at 1,380'. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Jin Mao is a mix of traditional Chinese architecture and modern architecture with 88 floors (8 is a lucky number). When I first saw pictures of the building, I thought it was kind of ugly, but when I saw it in person, I actually walked away liking the building.

And because a building can never be just a building (see the world's largest post office), Jin Mao also has the "highest hotel in the world," with the Grand Hyatt in the 53rd - 87th floors.

More information:
- Jin Mao Tower on Emporis
- Jin Mao Tower's official site
- Jin Mao Tower on Wikipedia

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:45 AM



May 2, 2005

The Oriental Pearl Tower - Shanghai, China

POST #    1685

Seeing anything scenic during bad weather sucks, but sightseeing at a location where clear skies is a must sucks even more. That's what it was like when I visited the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai. It was rainy, cloudy, and foggy, resulting in a horrendous view from the observation decks. Despite the weather, my cousins and I forged on, paying our 50 RMB for the trip up.

The tower is 1,535' and the world's 3rd tallest TV tower after the CN Tower in Toronto and the Ostankino Tower in Moscow, 1,815' and 1,772' respectively. Located in the Pudong (east of the Huang Pu River) section of Shanghai, which is the location of a lot of the new development in the city. It seems that almost every building has the logo of a bank slapped on the top. Hello, future center of world business.

Lest you think that the view is the only attraction at the Oriental Pearl, it's also home of the world's highest post office. Not just a mailbox, but also a small store where you can buy items you might need to send a letter out. When you're done, you can visit other places around the world in the lobby. Above, you'll see my cousins and me visiting the Great Wall. We opted not to visit the Pyramids of Egypt, the Eiffel Tower, or London.

More information:
- Oriental Pearl Tower on Emporis
- Oriental Pearl Tower on Travel China Guide

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:02 AM



April 26, 2005

Even More American Influence in China

POST #    1670

Some more American products in China. Two different Starbucks stores and a McCafé. I didn't sample either of the stores, but I did sit inside the Starbucks. Besides, I had McDonald's and Häagen-Dazs. But no Pizza Hut or KFC. All of these chains are all over the place in Shanghai.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 7:54 AM



April 25, 2005

More Food Pictures From China

POST #    1667

So I went to China about a month ago, and I still haven't gotten through all my photos. I took a long break in posting them and only started to get back at the end of last week. I've got this food set and another one or two food posts and then some more "scenic" china photos. Actually, I just looked at my photos again, and I've got maybe seven more China posts. Sigh. Mental note: take less photos in the future.

While I was in China, we ate out so many times. I think the only meals we at at my aunt's house were our breakfasts, the won ton meal, and one lunch. We were at her home for about 4 days. Not too much in the way of home cooked goodness. The meal pictured here was actually one of the more low key ones at a Sichuan restaurant in Jiading. The funny thing is that besides the fish, it didn't feel/taste very Sichuan-like to me.

Pictured are some vegetable dish, a spicy fish dish, Indian bread (how it can be "Indian bread" with beef in it is beyond me), fried custard/milk, some tripe containing dish (didn't eat it), and a dessert dish with some glutinous dough-like balls.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 7:42 AM



April 22, 2005

The Shanghai Subway

POST #    1663

As much as I love the NYC Subway system, it often pales in comparison to others around the world. While it's a huge system and you can get to a lot of places in New York City on one fare, it's also dirty and not really all that technologically advanced. Then again, it's also 100 years old, so there is a lot of stuff to upgrade.

The system in Shanghai is painfully small. It has four lines, numbered 1, 2, 3, and 5 (I'm guessing there's no 4 because it's unlucky) and the system as a whole is only 10 years old. Such a baby compared to NYC. One thing that's great about the system in Shanghai is there are TVs that tell you how long until the next train, and during peak times, the train after that. In the subway cars, they also have little TVs, which seemed to show news programming and possibly some commercials. It was in Chinese, how was I supposed to know! Another feature, well a debatable feature, is the ability to use cellular phones in the system. I didn't see too many people use them, but there were a few.

Fares on the system vary depending on how far you go, like a lot of other systems outside of NYC. The price ranges from 1 RMB to 4 RMB, or about 12.5¢ to 50¢.

Well lit, clean, and seemingly reliable. The three points to walk away with from Shanghai's subway system. If you must, you can add small too.

- Urban Rail's page on the Shanghai Subway
- NY Times: "Study Cites the Good, the Bad and the Just-Plain Dirty in the Subway"
- Gothamist: "1/9 Train, You Ignorant Shmut!"

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 9:09 AM



April 11, 2005

More American Product Influence in China

POST #    1645

The influence of American culture in China doesn't stop at McDonald's and Häagen-Dazs, but it reaches into the grocery stores and convenience stores too. Many of the products have a slight twist in them from the American original. McDonald's has their sweet taro pie, Sprite has some extra flavors, and the chips are totally wild. Besides that good old lemon-lime Sprite, there is also Sprite Icy Mint and Sprite on Fire. I didn't get to try Sprite on Fire, but the Icy Mint one was like Sprite with a breath mint aftertaste that left a cool (as in cold) feeling in your mouth. Kind of strange.

Also strange are some of the potato chips they had. I didn't buy the Laa-Laa or Tinky Winky chips, but I did try two Lay's flavors pictured. They nailed the flavors right on. Cool Cucumber tasted light like a fresh cucumber, but Cool Lemon was kind of strange like the Sprite Icy Mint. Lay's also had chips that weren't of the cool line, including what I think was a Mexican Meat flavor. Yeah, didn't try that one.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 7:52 AM



April 8, 2005

Some Dian Xing in Jiading, Shanghai

POST #    1640

While the first meal we had in China was some homemade won tons, the first meal we had out was at lunch at a restaurant where we ordered a bunch of small dishes. To order these, there wasn't much of a menu, but you would walk up to a table covered with food and order what you wanted.

Pictured are some sort of glutinous pumpkin item that tasted somewhat like pumpkin, smelly tofu that didn't smell that bad until you got it right to your nose, salted duck egg with mayo (yes, strange), fish, and some sort of wine in the last picture.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 1:24 PM



April 7, 2005

Outside the Confucius Temple

POST #    1637

Some photos from outside the Confucius Temple. I was told that walking barefoot on that stone path would be soothing. Not really. More like, "ow, ow, that hurts, no, this isn't soothing."

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:01 AM



April 6, 2005

Confucius Temple of Jiading, Shanghai

POST #    1636

In Jiading is home to one of the few Confucius Temples in the world. Built about 785 years ago (!!), it has 72 lions outside, each representing Confucius's 72 best students. Because of the development nearby, modern Jiading is just outside the walls of the complex now.

Oh, and "Confucius says 'play cards,'" as that's what those kids are doing in the first photo.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:04 AM



April 5, 2005

Häagen-Dazs and Hot Pot/Fondue

POST #    1635

In China, American franchises, products and stores are all slightly different from their original American form. McDonald's has the fried pies that I love so much and Häagen-Dazs is also a sit-down ice cream store. While in the Xin Tian Di area of Shanghai, we stepped into a Häagen-Dazs because someone had a craving for something sweet. Cough, cough.

There were a whole bunch of strange drinks that we couldn't really decipher as well as your standard ice creams. Nothing really all that different on the ice cream front - a green tea, mango, red bean, but nothing too crazy. We opted for the ice cream hot pot/fondue.

The hot pot (not really hot pot, but I believe that's what was on the menu)/fondu dish had something like 14 different small scoops of ice cream, some fruit, wafers, and both chocolate and raspberry dipping sauces. To dip the balls of ice cream, they give you these handy forks that were pretty much long seafood-forks. Great concept, but it doesn't really work that well. The ice cream is so hard that when you try to stick the fork into the balls of ice cream, they squirt away. And the flame that is warming the dipping sauces comes from a candle. Eventually, the ice cream melts enough that the chance of losing ice cream is reduced.

The cost was $200 RMB, which is about $25 USD, kind of pricey.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 7:58 AM



April 2, 2005

First Meal in China: Won Ton

POST #    1630

The last thing I probably wanted to do after the 13 hour flight to China was eat. Then again, eating a light meal of homemade won tons was probably the best thing I could have eaten after all that airplane food. It seems like my relatives made thousands of won tons. Clearly, it was a sign of lots of eating to come.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 10:22 AM



April 1, 2005

Too Much Airplane Food

POST #    1627

As a child, I would never eat on an airplane. I would get airsick most of the time anyway, so it didn't make sense to eat all that bad food on the flight. All I would usually need is a can of Planters Cheese Balls and some food on the stopover. Times have changed. It seems like airplane food has improved (somewhat, at least), I no longer get airsick, and I eat the food now.

In my absurd travels in the past week, I was served all the "food" pictured above. A flight to San Francisco, then another to Shanghai. On the return, Shanghai to Chicago. Nice of them to stuff me so full while I'm strapped into my seat.

- Pancakes with sausage: pancakes were very dry and absorbent, leaving me to want more syrup; sausage was surprisingly good.
- Oven roasted chicken and cheddar: also dry, but I had mustard which seemed to make things tolerable.

- Meatloaf, potatoes, peas: meatloaf was dry (sensing a theme) but surprisingly decent; potatoes were horrible; peas okay.
- Instant noodles: not much to say about those, are there? nice of them to provide some trans fat for the flight too.
- Ginger beef: ginger beef (?!?!?) was eh; rice in these meals tend to get stuck to the containers because of the heat, which isn't good; not bad, but really not great meal.

- Chicken: decent, taste and good vegetables with it.
- Instant noodles: see above
- Noodles: most horrible meal all week - foul tasting and everything - I really regret getting this selection.

Oh, and I'm well aware that the pancakes and sausage kind of looks like shit and butt cheeks.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 10:12 AM



March 31, 2005

Market in Jiading, Shanghai

POST #    1626

This local market in Jiading is decidedly different than the über-store I posted about yesterday. Perhaps this is the type of store that Auchan is putting out of business? Perhaps not. This small little market has several vendors selling the same goods. A couple of vegetable isles, a row of meat merchants, a row of fishmongers, and a few booths selling other staples. It doesn't, however, carry any bras. Much to my disappointment, of course. Any fish purchased in this market were guaranteed fresh as they killed and cleaned on site - I assume by request only.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 7:52 AM



March 30, 2005

Auchan in Jiading, Shanghai

POST #    1625

When I think China, I don't really think huge multi-functional grocery stores, but small markets. But times change and with foreign investment, anything can happen. In Jiading, one of the biggest stores has to be Auchan, a french chain, which is similar to a Super WalMart. It's huge and has all sorts of groceries, clothing, and even a parking lot. The selection of any item was enormous, not only is there one type of saltine, there are 15 different flavors. Fantastic. They also have those scanner machines in the isles if you want to look up a price. And for price check, they have employees on roller-blades that will even look up the price of a bra.

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 7:59 AM



March 24, 2005

Alive and Well Near Shanghai

POST #    1624

Woo! My aunt and uncle have Internet access in their house!! To think that I went 24 hours without it. So scary. I have a feeling I'll be in this room a lot. Well, as much as I can.

After a six hour flight from New York to San Francisco, which wasn't too bad, and a two hour layover, we all boarded a long, long flight to Shanghai. Thirteen hours long. Brutal. What's worse is that they were having problems with their movies, so I just slept a lot.

Right now, I'm in Jiading, which is the birthplace of at least three generations of Maos (my father, grandfather, and great grandfather). It's about two hours away by car to Shanghai proper. I didn't get to observe too much about the town as it was almost 10 pm when we got here. I did notice a huge, well lit KFC though. Ahh, westernization. Lovely.

Perhaps more updates as time permits.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 11:32 PM



March 23, 2005

Going to The Homeland

POST #    1622

Today I'm off for a week in China for some family business. Not sure what my Internet access will be like, so expect posts to be spotty, at best. Photos, posts, stories from the road when I return. Oh the joy that I will experience with 18 or so hours of travel.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, Travel at 5:45 AM



March 19, 2005

Note to Philadelphia International

POST #    1616

wine bar

Hey, Philadelphia International and US Air, wine bars are nice and everything, but a better inter-airport transportation system would be better too! How about a monorail between that snazzy new-ish terminal and your older ones? Do people really need to rely on that crappy, smelly shuttle bus system you have?

It's one of those things New Yorkers expect when we travel to your airport.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 10:07 AM



February 8, 2005

Gifts from Tokyu Hands

POST #    1560

My neighbor went away for about a week and asked me to check their mail for her. When I gave her the mail from the week, she was nice enough to give me a small souvenir from her trip to Japan. Some candy and rubber bands from Tokyu Hands. There's nothing like a gift of candy...and animal rubber bands from +d!

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 7:56 AM



January 22, 2005

Random Photos from Vegas

POST #    1532

Here are some more photos that I took from Las Vegas. Ahh, Sin City, how I wish I could visit again. Soon, soon.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 11:32 AM



January 21, 2005

Lights and Signs on The Strip

POST #    1530

You can't go to Vegas and not be blinded by the light. "I see the light...and it burns!!" Either from all the neon or from exiting the dark casinos into the morning (or afternoon) light. That's if you even see the light of day.

And because everyone loves neon from Vegas, check out Rion's photos and Meccapixel's photos of a vomit inducing Freemont Street. I didn't make it there on this trip, which is too bad, because I've actually won money there in the past.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 9:23 AM



January 20, 2005

The Fountains of Bellagio (with some Paris Action)

POST #    1531

If you've been to Las Vegas in recent years, there's almost no way you've missed the Fountains of Bellagio. If not, well, then it's something to see when you go. And, if you watch it to the sounds of Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman singining "Con Te Partiro", then it might be the best free show in Vegas (that's what we got over the weekend). I've also watched it to "God Bless The USA", which isn't exactly aurally breathtaking. They say it's a "breathtaking union of water, music and light" on the Bellagio site, and they are dead on.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:00 AM



January 18, 2005

Warm and Sunny Las Vegas

POST #    1525

Just got back from Vegas late last night/early this morning. It was in the mid-60's there when I left and in the high teens when I landed at JFK. Awesome. Instead of taking the Airtrain to the A, which would have gone local, I took a cab. I also didn't have to wait for the A train, a bonus when the temperature is about 50° different from earlier in the day.

More pictures of Vegas in the days to come.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:52 AM



January 6, 2005

Leftovers from Virginia

POST #    1500

Because there's nothing quite like leftovers...at least it's not reheated or anything. Just tasty like cold pizza. It's also the last of my non-cat photos from Virginia. What am I to do? Woe is me, woe is me.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:57 AM



January 5, 2005

Looking Up (and Down) in Virginia

POST #    1490

Funny, the things you can see when you're actually looking at your surroundings. And funny that the E2-C Hawkeye (last picture) was constantly circling over the Ward's Corner area during the daytime for a couple of days.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:58 AM



January 2, 2005

The USS Wisconsin in Norfolk

POST #    1498

Permanently stationed in downtown Norfolk is the USS Wisconsin (aka the "Whisky"), a battleship that has a long history, from World War II, to the Korean War, to the Gulf War (#1). It has been decommissioned three times and came to rest in Norfolk in the Winter of 2000. An Iowa-Class ship, the Wisconsin is 887' 3" long, 108' 2" wide, and 37' 8" tall. Loaded, the shop weighs 58,000 tons.

Unfortunately, the ship was not open for visits on the day we walked by.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 10:51 AM



December 29, 2004

Tacky Virginia License Plate: Fight Terror

POST #    1491

Driving around last night (well, Shannan was driving), I spotted a "Fight Terror" license plate. Because I want to fight terror too, I looked up some possible plates that I could do. Apparently, they don't have "FUSDM", but they do have "FUUSA" and "FUIRQ". Strange, no? So I settled with "OSAMA" because if my name were Osama, I would surely want to fight terror. Sadly, this personalized message is already taken (probably by those damn Virginia Society of CPAs), but if I'm the owner of the other "OSAMA" plate, I can get a new one on my "Fight Terror" plate.

Virginia has over 180 plates that anyone can choose from and it's a rather insane list. I guess there is something for anyone, including those that want to "Fight Terror" for an extra $20 a year. They don't say if that money actually goes towards fighting terror.

This hat would go great with the tackiest hat ever.

Posted by tien mao in Politics, Rants, Travel at 10:08 AM



December 27, 2004

Real Photos from the Trip Down

POST #    1487

Some more photos from yesterday's travel. Dare I say, real photos? Compare and contrast: the last photo with this photo. What a difference.

Thoughts on the Airtrain: It's a nice, but expensive convenience. While it might be reasonable from Jamaica, I took it from Howard Beach which is essentially JFK when you get into the terminal. I've been told that there used to be a bus that did the same thing, which was much cheaper and essentially a free transfer. Probably not quite as frequent though. And the Airtrain sure beats the Van Wyck.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:52 AM



December 26, 2004

Gone Fishing (or Something)

POST #    1486

Okay, not really. I'm down in Virginia and I've chronicled my travel with the camera phone. Possibly the worst invention ever after you see the photos. Taking pictures in the subway station, on the subway of cute kids and their dad, and boarding various planes in different airports.

You can view the photos of my travel adventures here and the tackiest hat ever made, which I saw at Dulles International.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 7:33 PM



November 29, 2004

A Nearly Empty Virginia Beach

POST #    1436

It's not exactly peak season in Virginia Beach right now, but it was a beautiful Sunday morning when I took these photos. A fog was in the area in the early morning, but by around 8:30, the fog had already burned away, at least on the beach. You can also see the effect of the sun on the colors in the photo as the pictures are looking left to right (top to bottom) on the beach, with the last one shooting directly into the sun (damn sun causing problems).

Side note...you know when you people go on trips and you have to look at photo albums? Well, that's kind of what this site will be for a couple of days. I'll try to fit in some normal content somewhere too.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 7:23 AM



October 18, 2004

A Weekend Away

POST #    1354

Over the weekend, I took a trip to the C-House where my parents had a "surprise" for me. They told me about the surprise more than three weeks ago, but wouldn't let me know what it was until I actually went to Pennsylvania. My mind was wild with ideas, money, car, money, money and car (really, I'm not that materialistic, but what else could possibly be a surprise for me). Turns out, the surprise wasn't really for me. It was just a "look what we did" surprise. They built a garden pond.

Totally a surprise...just not for me. As if you need something to make the countryside even more relaxing, they built it. It's nice. Nothing quite like the sound of trickling water, mini-waterfalls, rocks, pools of water, and fish that hide when it's cold. Makes me want to pee just thinking about it.

Posted by tien mao in Friends/Family, House and Home, Travel at 7:41 AM



October 6, 2004

Kingda Ka - 456 feet of Madness at Six Flags Great Adventure

POST #    1332

Holy Crap! Last week, Six Flags Great Adventure announced a new expansion to their park which will include the world's tallest roller coaster - Kingda Ka. It's scheduled open date is Spring, 2005. Using hydraulic launch rockets, riders will reach a speed of 128 mph and go up to 456 feet high. 0 to 128 in 3.5 seconds and then vertical to 90° with a quarter turn. After reaching the peak, the coaster goes straight down with a 3/4 turn.

I'm so there next year at some point.

More information:
- The Kingda Ka media center on Six Flags.com
- Yahoo! News: "Six Flags Unveils Fastest Roller Coaster"
- Previously on the annoying Six Flags mascot

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 8:06 AM



October 3, 2004

And on to AC

POST #    1324

After the Vote for Change concert, Johnny and I headed to Atlantic City. It seems like a crazy idea to head to go to a concert, then afterwards to AC, but we had a car that wasn't due until Saturday afternoon, so what the hey. It worked out pretty well. Leave the concert at 11:40, arrive in AC by 1:40 or so. There we met up with some high school friends who had a suite at the Trump Plaza and a room at the Borgata. Turns out, Johnny and I didn't need either.

He played poker most of the night, while I played blackjack for about 3 hours. Strangely, the blackjack tables start clearing around 3:30. Who knew? After looking into the room at the Borgata around 7, we decided to make the return to New York. We were up a little money and the room was about 20° more than comfortable.

On our return, we stopped at IHOP which was the perfect addition to our trifect of bad eating. Wendy's followed by a late night stop at Burger King and finally IHOP. A breakfast at McDonald's was for some reason ruled out. Good eating, good Eating.

The drive back was uneventful as I was sleeping for some of it. Worst copilot ever.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 12:25 PM



July 12, 2004

Mount Trashmore Park - Virginia Beach

POST #    1150

While in Virginia over the weekend, I spotted Mount Trashmore Park next to the highway. Intrigued as to what it could be - could it actually be a pile of trash turned into a park? - I naturally had to check it out. Turns out, it was indeed a park, and a surprisingly nice one at that.

Mount Trashmore is 165 acres of parkland that is 60' high and 800' long and was created with compacted layers of solid waste and clean soil (always a good combination). There are also two lakes, Lake Trashmore and Lake Windsor. Lake Trashmore is "fresh water" and Lake Windsor is brackish water. It even seems like Lake Windsor was actually natural. In the park, there are also running paths, playgrounds, and even a skate park.

The Virginia Beach Park's Department says that 1 million people visit the park each year. Strange that a garbage dump could attract so many people. After seeing this, I wondered if they could make Fresh Kill Landfill a park too.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 9:25 AM



June 29, 2004

Scenes From Chicago

POST #    1126

No complaints about Chicago itself. My only beef (do people still say beef?) was with the weather. Four flights were planned with stopovers in Cincinnati and Atlanta on Friday and Sunday. The original travel time was a generous 7 hours. The resulting travel time was insane. It took 17 hours to go to Chicago from New York via Cincinnati because of numerous delays while in New York because of weather. We could have driven to Chicago faster. The return was no better. Delayed in Chicago for a few hours because of weather in Atlanta and delayed again in Atlanta because of heavy, heavy showers and thunderstorms. Mental note, don't fly through Atlanta during the summer. The final flight time with delays was about 15 hours; more than double the original time.

Anyway, the rest of the photos I have are above.

Posted by tien mao in Photos, Travel at 8:31 AM



June 28, 2004

Taste of Chicago - Oh, So Full

POST #    1127

After arriving on Saturday and spending a few moment's at Rachelle's apartment, the three of us headed over to Taste of Chicago. It was similar to the Big Apple Barbeque Block Party in the crowdedness, except with about 10 times the number of food stalls.

The food we had (shared between three people):
Breaded steak sandwich, chili, coconut shrimp, 1/2 cheeseburger, cheesecake, ribs, Chicago dog, Italian beef sandwich, cinnamon role, pizza, turtle soup, caramel apple sundae, key lime pie, fried plantains, and fried dough.

All of this was in the span of about three hours with one break. It was pretty insane. Needless to say, we were stuffed to the gills. There is a possibility that I'm still full from that. Wait, what am I talking about. I'm only backed up from it.

Despite the stuffing, it was a very good experience. We were able to try all sorts of Chicago fare that is typical of the city. Chicago-style pizza, the Chicago dog, and the Italian beef sandwich among them. I had Chicago-style pizza last time I came to Chicago as well. Let me expound further on the pizza in Chicago. It's almost an overwhelming experience. Lots of cheese, lots of dough, and plenty of sauce - but maybe not enough sauce to counter the cheese and dough. While I can appreciate this mix, I've got to say that I prefer New York style pizza by a far greater margin.

More information:
- Rachelle on "People of the Taste"
- Rachelle on "More From Taste of Chicago"
- Rachelle on "Flip Us Over & Roll Us Home
- Chicagoist on "Oooohhh.. Indigestion!"

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink, Travel at 8:42 AM



June 27, 2004

On the Road Again

POST #    1125

The delay for the flight on Friday wasn't all bad - Jeannette and I got to see this great view of Chicago. It's not unlike the view of Manhattan that one occasionally gets when flying into LaGuardia. I still would have liked to get in a night earlier though.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 9:56 AM



June 26, 2004

Stupid Nature Altering Travel Plans

POST #    1124

So I'm on my way to visit Rachelle in Chicago with Jeannette and we're all set to go. The flight is scheduled to leave at 5:35, but the plane we are leaving on is delayed by the weather. Eventually, it gets in and we wait for the plane to be cleaned before boarding. After boarding, we sit at the gate for a while and then it starts to rain. The skies open up over LaGuardia Airport and thunderstorms shut down the airports in New York, Boston, and Washington. They decide to show a movie...not a good sign.

Eventually, we decide to deplane and not go to Chicago, but the announced soon after that the plane would be leaving right away. Little did we know that right away would mean another hour of sitting at the gate. Finally after pushing back, we get in a line of 17 other planes waiting to leave LGA. Eventually we get down to five planes before they reduce the number of planes departing to about two every 10 minutes.

At 8:51 p.m., we finally depart, assured of missing our connecting flight in Cincinnati. Great. On approach to Cincinnati's airport, which is actually in Kentucky, we pull back up because there was a plane still on the runway. Another 10 minute delay. Our saga ends at 10:46 when we finally land, nearly two hours after our flight was to leave for Chicago.

Lucky for us, I have an aunt that was gracious enough to let us stay in her house. Otherwise, as another passenger pointed out, it was roach motel for us.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 6:30 AM



May 12, 2004

Airline "Deals"

POST #    1026

Has anyone else noticed that airline deals that you get via e-mail or see published are really just a ruse to get you to call them? Take this great Air France promo for example, it says that you can travel to France for $505 and your companion can fly for as low as $5.05.* Now, if you actually go to the site, you have to call a your travel agent or Air France to reserve your vacation. Bah! Who wants to do that? In this age of the "Internet", why won't they allow us to check this stuff online?

Then, there are some airlines (I believe Northwest is one) that let you attempt to reserve online, but when you click-through, they don't point you to the specific deal (see here for example). What's the point of that? Can't you just limit my options to the deal? I didn't come to the site to travel outside of the five days that you've specified for the deal. I came for those days! If you're lucky, they have a star or something showing that the fare you find is a special deal. Is it too much to ask that they let you sit at your computer and leisurely look at the dates available and plan out your vacation?

I understand that they are just trying to get people to their sites with the hope that when there, you'll make some travel plans. But if I'm there for a cheap fair, I probably won't be booking a vacation for triple the price, right?

*I did not verify the quality of this deal because I'm too lazy/pessimistic to call my travel professional or Air France.

Posted by tien mao in Rants, Travel at 3:05 PM



April 26, 2004

Short Weekend Away

POST #    974

With my parents out of town, I have to water all their plants, which include their plants in Pennsylvania. I drove up Saturday morning to and spent the night there. It's nice getting away from the city at times, but I can't take too many trips there. Even though there is cable, I seem to get bored too easily.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 7:36 AM



March 12, 2004

A Driving Exam That Anyone Could Pass

POST #    844

Q: If you come upon an auto accident and find a motorist lying unconscious on the road, should you shake that person violently to wake him up?

Q: If you come upon an accident and find a motorist lying unconscious on the road, and if that person's internal organs are also lying on the road, should you pick up the organs and put them back inside the person?

Those are some of the questions that are part of the written driver's exam in China. The NY Times looks at how dangerous driving in China can be. The world's fastest growing car market had 400,000 new vehicles last year in Beijing alone. In 2003, there were 104,000 people killed in accidents, down 5,000 from 2002 when SARS kept most people home. That's about 2.5 times the number of accidents the United States has, despite China having less cars.

A 60 year old cyclist thinks that new drivers are the worst and says, "They'll drive right up onto the sidewalk and run you over. I should put a sign on the back of my bike, `I'm Old, Don't Hit Me.'" The government in China is building highways and roads quickly, but they are being overwhelmed by cars, trucks, and bikes.

Accidents abound in China, and many people have disregard towards the traffic laws. It's frightening really. Trucks are overloaded and busses are packed to the brim with people. When I went to China in the past, I've been in cars where the drivers could put the fear of God into you. This coming from someone that doesn't believe in God and rides in NYC cabs. There were times when we would speed along country roads that curved around mountains and had no barriers to keep us from tumbling into a ravine. Would the driver slow down when he went around curves? Nope. All he would do is honk. Little good this does when other drivers honk too.

The laws in China are changing though, so hopefully the situation will get better. One has to wonder why they would change the laws if they need to control their booming population. Traffic accidents = population control. Simple formula, no?

- NY Times: Chinese Take Recklessly to Cars (Just Count the Wrecks)

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 1:40 PM



January 5, 2004

Timechange Is a Bitch

POST #    683

Going to bed at 2 Eastern means going to bed at 11 Pacific. Waking up at 7 Eastern means waking up at 4 Pacific. The three hour time difference between New York and Los Angeles, while nothing compared to the New York/Asia time difference, is not pleasant. I've done the Asian time difference before, but I can usually make some time up on the flight. One big thing that is hampering my recovery right now is work. Returning to work the day after flying is really hard. Actually, I have no idea what I am talking about right now. I'm too tired to make sense. I need a nap. That or sugar.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 1:45 PM



January 3, 2004

Disney Hall and the Getty Center

POST #    680

Today, the skies cleared up over Los Angeles and Justin and I got some sightseeing in. We went to the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Disney Hall is a Frank Gehry designed building (who else would design something like that?) and was absolutely beautiful. I took a bunch of photos of it, which I'll put up when I return home. Not everyone loves Gehry's architecture, but if you saw Disney up close, it's hard not to appreciate it.

The Getty Museum was also beautiful. Getty was designed by Richard Meier, but I don't think the buildings were quite as nice as Disney Hall. Getty's views were amazing though, with its location in the Santa Monica Mountains, one can see the Pacific Ocean, the San Gabriel Mountains, and the city of Los Angeles. The Getty Museum also has some magnificent gardens that the public can walk around in as well.

Taking in these two sites was not a bad way to wrap up my trip to Los Angeles.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 8:35 PM



January 2, 2004

Rain in LA?!?

POST #    678

When I think of Los Angeles, I think of a few things - movie stars, plastic surgery, the beach, nice weather, and drought. I certainly don't think of rain, which is what we have here now. I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do when it rains? Twiddle my thumbs? Watch daytime TV? That's exciting. I wanted to take a look around town today and hit up some sites, but mother nature isn't cooperating. It's not supposed to rain all day, so maybe I can do that later. At least the rain won't interfere with going to the UCLA basketball game tonight.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 11:21 AM



December 30, 2003

Decorating With Flowers

POST #    675

Ask any guy and they will tell you that playing with flowers is their favorite way to spend their vacation. Wait, nobody would say that, but that's what I did today. A few weeks ago, my local Michigan Alumni chapter forwarded an invitation to decorate Rose Bowl Parade floats from the L.A. chapter. When I read the e-mail, it sounded like a fun thing to do. I would get to see the floats up close and see what goes into making the end product. I can't say that the actual work lived up to the expectations though. There were a lot of volunteers that came out to help, so some of us had better tasks than others. Justin and I spent all our time cutting flowers. We used razor blades to cut most of the stems off and then placed the flowers into little water things so they would stay fresh through the parade, which is on New Year's Day. Exciting, I know. We did this for almost 4 hours! In-freaking-sane. I think I have repetitive stress syndrome. There were some other people that actually decorated the floats, but I would say the bulk of the people were doing the same thing Justin and I were doing. There was, however, one great thing...there was free pizza. It was Domino's, but free pizza is free pizza.

The floats that we were "working on" were the Big 10 float, the Disney float, and the China Airlines float. We went through an insane amount of flowers by the time we left. There were at least 100 empty buckets when we were done, with 100 flowers in each bucket. You do the math. It also seemed like most of the flowers were daises and not roses. Yes, a shocker. Especially since it's called the Rose Bowl Parade.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 11:15 PM



Fire, Mini-Me, Lactating Women

POST #    674

This morning, my trip didn't exactly get off to the best start. I boarded the bus to LaGuardia and was sitting there reading my newspaper when the bus driver ran in and yelled, "get out of the bus, the back of the bus is on fire!" Not exactly what you want to hear while you are sitting towards the back of the bus. It was also nice of the driver to take his stuff and run out before letting the passengers off.

After getting to the airport, everything ran smoothly from NYC to Detroit. Well, as smooth as can be for Northwest. My flight from Detroit to Los Angeles was packed with parents with babies. Not really the most pleasant experience when you are on a five hour flight. As a bonus, however, Verne Troyer was on the plane.

Lactating women. Hmm...how do I explain this? Since there were many infants and very young children on the flight, there was naturally some breast feeding going on. This didn't occur to me right away though. I tend to like looking at young children (not in the Jacko kind of way) and making faces to see if I can get a reaction. But today, in two separate incidences, I looked at two kids and didn't realize for at least 5 seconds that they were feeding while I was looking at them. Oops.

But now, I'm here, in L.A., which is cold and in the 50s. Bah. On the plus side, I've already had In-N-Out Burger.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 2:05 AM



December 29, 2003

Westward Bound

POST #    673

I'm off to Los Angeles today and will return to New York on January 4th. I'll probably be doing entries, but just once a day, if at all. While in L.A., I'll be chilling with Justin and hopefully taking in some sites. Oh, I'll also be attending the Rose Bowl and cheering for Michigan. Go Blue!

Also on the agenda, decorating some Rose Bowl Parade floats on the 30th and hitting up In-N-Out Burger daily.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 7:15 AM



December 26, 2003

Christmas at the Casino

POST #    668

With the reflective glass, the Mohegan Sun almost blends into the sky.

Yesterday, Christmas Day, I spent my time at the Mohegan Sun with Calvin, his family, and what seemed like all of China. With my parents away, and my love of gambling, it seemed perfectly reasonable to go to gamble. The NY Times reports that Asians and Jews turned out in casinos in Atlantic City as well (man, what timing of the article). While there, we also took in a few songs of Taiwanese superstar (I've been told) A-Mei Chang, who is apparently on a "World Tour." Let's just say the concert was like no other concert I've been too. A-Mei even had a Chinese guy rapping (we called him "hip-hop"). Unfortunately, it wasn't Jin. A-Mei seemed like a cross between Britney and Christina but, unfortunately, not as slutty. Needless to say, I only stayed for about 6 songs. Overall, not a bad Christmas, minus the fact that I lost $125 at the blackjack table.

It might sound a bit strange when I say it wasn't a bad Christmas, but my family doesn't really celebrate it. The last time my family has done a "real" Christmas (by real, I mean tree and gifts) was probably back in 4th or 5th grade. Since then, it has gradually become less of an event. Through high school, I would ask for gifts, but they didn't get wrapped, I got them early, and it never came with a, "Merry Christmas!" attached to it. And since my family is not religious, we don't do the church/god thing. Granted, Christmas is no longer a religious holiday, but more of a time to be with family and a consumer holiday. I live in the same city as my parents, so the family part is taken care of, and I'm not sure I want or need a day to celebrate consumerism. I consume enough already. In fact, I look forward to Thanksgiving more than Christmas.

Perhaps this will all change if I ever move out of New York or when I have a family, but for now, I'm content with spending my time without celebration and at a casino.

- NY Times Oh, There Was Eggnog, but the Roulette Wheels Didn't Miss a Spin
- A-Mei Chang on Waner Music Taiwan (in Chinese)

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 10:20 AM



December 19, 2003

L.A. Activities?

POST #    657

With the holiday season upon us, I can do nothing but think about my vacation to Los Angeles. While I love New York, it will be nice to get away and enjoy a different city (no matter how smog ridden it is). I have January 1st taken care of with the Rose Bowl. I also plan on decorating some floats for the Rose Bowl Parade, not so much so I can play with flowers, but because it seems like a pretty cool experience (that and there is free pizza). I think Justin and I might go hiking one day as well.

I will be out there from the 29th and leaving on the 4th, so I've got plenty of time. Worst comes to worse, I take a trip to Vegas. Anybody have some other suggestions?

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 4:47 PM



December 7, 2003

Book It, I'm Going to L.A.

POST #    616

After yesterday's college football games, it's certain that Michigan is going to the Rose Bowl. Who they will play will be announced this afternoon (as a side note, the "little read book" will have an exclusive, Justin's top 15 - plus one).

I'll be in California from December 29th and returning to New York on January 4th. It will be a great time. Justin will be out there, as will Andy. Perhaps a trip to Vegas will be required. We shall see.

Now, to find out if we have a ticket or not...

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 2:15 PM



November 12, 2003

Kidneys and Liver Still Intact, Vegas Here I Come

POST #    562

Last night, I ventured into New Jersey to "claim" the "free" trip I won last week (possibly a slight over-use of quotation marks there). Many people had their suspicions about the news that I won a trip, and rightfully so. On my way out there, I thought to myself, "I won a trip, and have to go out to New Jersey to claim it? Isn't Jimmy Hoffa buried under Giants Stadium? I wonder if stuff like they show in The Sopranos actually happens?" When I arrived at the address I was given, I was pleasantly surprised that it was an actual office building and not an abandoned warehouse or an empty lot. Once inside, everything looked pretty professional and on the up and up.

When they called me on the phone last week, they said, "don't worry, we aren't trying to sell you a timeshare," which was comforting, but just because they weren't trying to sell me a timeshare, doesn't mean they weren't trying to sell. Apparently, the company is a "wholesale travel" company, which sells you 30 vacation weeks for a mere $3000. For that, you get to stay in condos and stuff. You also have to pay a membership fee. So essentially, it is like a timeshare except you don't buy one specific property. I had to talk to three different people before finally getting this form I have to mail in for my travel voucher. At least the first person was kind of hot. She smelled good too. All a ruse, I'm sure. If there wasn't a possible trip to Vegas on the line, I'm not sure I would be jumping through all these hoops.

Since I still have my internal organs, I can just go to Vegas and damage them with booze. Sounds good, no?

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 12:02 PM



November 11, 2003

C-O-N-spiracy, The Times and Nature Join in Vast "Right Wing Conspiracy"

POST #    560

Tea Cup Bowl at Vail

This weekend's NY Times travel section devoted a fair amount of coverage to skiing, just as the weather starts to get cold in much of the country. Sure, The Times coverage might be due to the impending increase in winter travel, and the weather seems to follow some sort of seasonal pattern, making this look like anything but a conspiracy. Has that stopped this site from calling things a conspiracy in the past? Nope. (Witness here and here.)

This makes me wish that snow were just around the corner, but wait...it seems to be! Woo hoo!!

To make matters worse, I got an email from Vail Resorts informing me that they just received snow at some of their resorts! Argh!

The multitude of articles from the NY Times:
- Skiing interest guide
- No Business Like Snow Business
- The Ungroomed Vail
- Change Is in the Air at Mammoth
- What's Doing: In Stowe
- Boots, Poles and Cellphone
- Skiing the Web, No Mittens Required

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 5:30 PM



November 10, 2003

Weekend in the Music City

POST #    555

This past weekend, I took a trip down south to visit Lauren, escaping the hustle and bustle of New York City, for the relative calm that is Nashville. I also thought I would be able to enjoy some warmer weather, but the cold air seemed to follow me down there.

Despite the cold temperatures, it was a fun and relaxing weekend, with lots of food packed in. After arriving in Nashville, Lauren, John, and I grabbed a quick bite to eat at a restaurant where peanut shells could be thrown on the floor. It was a strange experience throwing shells onto the floor, something I normally reserve for baseball games (this obviously isn't something exclusive to Tennessee; I might have even done it in New York once). After dinner, we met up with some of her other friends for a few drinks before calling it a night.

Saturday was reserved for watching football (as it should be) and a short tour of Vanderbilt. Lauren and I walked around the Vandy campus, which was small in comparison to Michigan's campus, but I guess that's what happens when you don't have huge school.

The Kirkland Bell Tower at Vandy.

Saturday night, we went out to dinner at the South Street Original Crab Shack (the name is even longer than this!) where I stuffed myself silly with ribs. There was also this amazing corn that I had. It was super sweet with some cheese sprinkled on top. Fabulous. After dinner, we went out for a little in downtown Nashville. There were some people walking around with cowboy hats, but it didn't seem like there were too many of these folks.

Sunday, we had brunch at the Pancake Pantry (apparently a Nashville tradition) before I returned home to New York. On the way back, I was treated to a gorgeous view of Manhattan as we approached LaGuardia Airport. I would have taken a photo, but if I got up, I think I would have been arrested under Federal regulations.

One of the many art pieces on campus. This one, covered with a flyer.

The South Street blah blah blah.

My vanquished plate at Saturday's dinner.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 9:01 AM



November 7, 2003

Tenneseein is Tennessbelievin

POST #    554

I'm heading down to Nashville, TN, this weekend to visit my friend Lauren who I haven't seen in about a year. Hopefully, the weather will be nice, but it doesn't look too promising. I'm looking forward to the trip. I'll get to experience the southern accent, meet her law school friends, and tell people that I'm in a sexy industry that some people like to call construction.

It should be a great time. Posting to be non-existent or minimal at best (not that any of you read over the weekend).

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 4:19 PM



Free Trip - Who's Coming With Me?

POST #    553

Tuesday night, when I went to the Nets game, I was waiting for Rachelle while she went to the bathroom. Someone came up to me and asked if I wanted to fill out a form for a chance to win a free trip. I was a bit wary about giving out my info, but I filled it out anyway. Today, I get a call from a strange number, pick it up and was told that I won! I won a 3 day, 2 night trip for two to one of three destinations - Las Vegas, the Bahamas, or Orlando. Guess which one I won't be going to. Hotel and airfare are both paid for. All I have to do is watch an hour long video about the company's services.

If I go to Vegas, I'll be staying at The Sahara, which is kind of out of the way. If I go to the Bahamas, I would stay at the Victorian in Freeport.

Both of those options are very tempting. Vegas during March Madness (or any time of year) and semi-warm temps, or the Bahamas during the winter with mid-70's. Decisions, decisions.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 10:45 AM



October 19, 2003

homecoming '03 - ann arbor, mi

POST #    461

the gang (left to right) - john, ryan, schreiber, tien, dan, justin, andy.

this weekend, i went to michigan for my annual football trip, meeting up with my college friends for a weekend that happened to be homecoming. besides the mandatory football game, homecoming was a chance for all of us to catch up on old times, and reminisce about all the stupid things we did. most of us graduated only three years ago, but it feels like several years ago.

it was a great weekend, but very tiring. i got there friday afternoon and met up with andy and schreiber. before going shopping for food and drinks, we stopped for a bite to eat at jimmy john's, which is a sandwich franchise with a few locations in town. delicious. back in the day, i used to buy day old bread from them for 50¢, which was a bargain. we decided to forgo the hockey game, which was unfortunate, but we were all tired from our travels.

later in the night, we ended up going to ashley's (as i had hoped) for some drinking. while at ashley's, i proceeded to spill ranch dressing on my pants, resulting in a lewinsky-like stain on my pant leg. it was the best tasting my pants have ever been though. when we were finished drinking, some of us were hungry again, so we went to bell's pizza. it's not really the best pizza in the world, but i would say that it does the trick late at night or when you're looking for a cheap bite to eat. they have a "pick-up special," which runs you around $6 for a large pizza and a soda (or pop as they might say in michigan).

saturday was the football game, but this was preceded by tailgating, which isn't a huge event at michigan, like at some schools, but it's still a good time. we all struggled to get up at 6:30 and make it to the golf course. once there, we fired up the grill, cooked some food, drank some booze, and tossed around the pigskin. tailgating when you are staying in a hotel is not the easiest thing to do since you can't really refrigerate your food or drink, but what can you do? there were several people at the golf course that had portable direct tv units to watch tv before the game. justin, schreiber, and i also played some touch football with some of our neighbors. it was an intense match-up, with the two teams trading touchdowns. our opponents were in their 30's, we're in our mid-20's, but they seemed to be more in shape than us. okay, everyone seemed more in shape than me. i was quite winded, and this was with me not even going out in coverage on defense. the actual football game was a laugher, with michigan beating illinois 56-14. i even fell asleep a couple of times during the game (this of course is no surprise since i can fall asleep anywhere). the highlight of the game was a 74 yard punt return by steve breaston. it was the greatest punt return that i have ever seen in person. after the game, we made our way back to the hotel, rested a little, and went to dinner at zukey lake tavern. it wasn't as good as i've had in the past, but it was still good. and at $15 for a 20 ounce porterhouse, i'm not going to complain. after we stuffed ourselves silly, we drank some more and called it a night. schreiber and i had to catch an early flight, so we got up at 6:30 again. just dandy. two mornings of early wake-ups.

a great weekend, as always. i'm sure we'll be doing it again next year.

oh, and michael bolton was on my plane. not michael bolton from here, but this michael bolton.

random thoughts from the trip:
smoke in bars is now strange to me.
people using cell phones while driving - also strange to me.
driving 80 and being passed is normal in michigan.
michigan is flat.
after visiting new airports, the new york airports look like crap.

info about the game:
- mgoblue.com game summary
- mgoblue.com photo gallery
- highlight reel including the punt return

my clip of the band performing at halftime (it's tiny, not that loud, and a tad out of focus).

more photos:

ryan and schreiber mesmerized by the flames.

the team takes the field.

the band at halftime.

a band member and her tuba.

schreiber has a craving.

915 s. division st crew (left to right) - jahan, dan, tien, justin.

taking the express tram in the airport.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 8:31 PM



October 17, 2003

ready to go

POST #    460

armed with my ipod, my camera, an extra memory card (thanks to rachelle), nalgene bottle, socks, and underwear (i forgot underwear once), i am embark on my trip to michigan. i make it sound like a huge trip, but it's just a weekend.

i also have a list of things to do. now, all i have to do is get dressed. oops.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 9:38 AM



October 14, 2003

the coming weekend

POST #    453

this weekend, i'm going back to michigan to meet up with some college buddies and take in some michigan football action. the weekend has been planned for a long time, but for some reason, it's sneaked up on me. i think that's what always happens to me and vacations. my friends and i try to get together every year for a football game and for some reason, we choose homecoming this year. not intentionally since we don't really do any other homecoming activities. it will be a good time. and i'm taking friday off work, it's win win.

things to do while in michigan:
- take in a michigan hockey game friday
- take in a michigan football game saturday
- eat at zukey lake tavern saturday night
- drink a fair amount
- stay out until the bars close (psh, 2 am? i can do 2 am blindfolded)
- order late night pizza from nikko's (since dan knows their number by heart), while we make up our own coupon.

***amended things to do***
- drink at ashley's
- drink some vernor's ginger ale (if anybody loves ginger ale, i can try to bring back a bottle.)

things to do before leaving:
- laundry
- buy another memory card for camera

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 11:04 AM



October 13, 2003

joyride anyone?

POST #    452

these are so heavy.

hmm, which to drive, the mercedes-benz slk or the lexus suv. decisions decisions.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 3:03 PM



September 22, 2003

the philly experience

POST #    389

some of the food i ate. i am scheduled for a triple bypass next week.

this past weekend, i went to the "city of brotherly love" (i still don't know why it's called that) to visit my friend dan and to take in a phillies game. to get to the fine city, i took the train from new york, which wasn't bad at all. the only bad part was that i had to stop in trenton's train station. even the greyhound station in detroit was better!

friday night wasn't too eventful. we just walked around a little bit, searching for food (i found a lot the next day, more on that in a bit) and a drink. we made our first stop a bar, not necessarily the greatest idea in the world when hungry. after a couple of beers, we decided to get some food. we went to a diner that, according to dan, had the best grilled cheese in the city. i must admit, it was pretty damn good. but a hungry person's judgment on food can rarely be trusted.

saturday was the big day. planned events - cheesesteak, football, baseball. what more could you ask for? after waking to the noise of screaming children and playing some video games, we ventured out for some philly cheesesteak. apparently, everything is either a 15 block or 20 block walk, neither of which is a short distance in philly. i was in the mood for a cheesesteak and we decided that it would be better to go to pat's or geno's in the afternoon on the way to the baseball game. so after walking 20 blocks or so, we were at the "hip" area of south street and nearing cheesesteak. our destination was jim's steaks, which isn't as famous as pat's or geno's, but still had a line to the corner. my first cheesesteak in philly was a provolone with (wit if you're speaking philly), which is a cheesesteak with provolone cheese and fried onions. it was D-licious. my mouth is watering just thinking about it. my only two issues were that i couldn't really taste the provolone and that i wanted another one.

after the cheesesteak, i was on a quest for water ice, another famous philly food item (i was tempted to say phamous philly phood item). after walking about 15 blocks, we finally found a place with water ice. i think water ice to philly is like italian ice to new york. it was different though. it actually tasted like fruit and not like artificial flavoring (not that i don't love the taste of artificial flavoring). some, apparently, even have fruit chunks in them.

next was some football watching, which didn't turn out as i hoped, so i'm just going to skip this and talk about cheesesteak again.

our next cheesesteak destination was either going to be pat's or geno's, arguably the two most famous cheesesteak establishments in the world. since pat's king of steaks is the original cheesesteak, and geno's is more of an ostentatious wannabe (hmm, that might be a little harsh), we decided to go to pat's. this time around i ordered a whiz with (wit), which is a cheesesteak with cheez whiz and grilled onions. it was sooooooo good. i think the whiz added a lot to do with the taste, since the flavor of the "cheese" was much more noticeable.

after my 2nd cheesesteak, dan and i went to the phillies game and used the philly subway, another interesting experience. we didn't buy tickets to the game in advance, since dan didn't think it would be too crowded, so we just got some $20 tickets for $10 from a scalper. ahh, i did a good job on that one. our seats were in center field, actually, dead center. veteran's stadium was surprisingly crowded, which is apparently what happens when your team is in a playoff race (something i wouldn't know as a mets fan). i also didn't think that the vet looked all that bad, which means very little given my choices of home stadiums (giants, mets, or even yankee). the phillies played poorly, losing to the lowly reds, 2-0.

sunday was pretty uneventful. we watched some football, had stromboli, and i traveled home.

all in all, a great weekend that leaves me craving more cheesesteak.

the vet after the game. looks kind of like shea during games. man, i love that shirt.

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 10:39 AM



September 19, 2003

brotherly love?

POST #    388

this weekend, i'm going to philadelphia to visit my friend dan. philadelphia is called the city of brotherly love, which i find odd since you never see any love when you watch sports highlights from the city. the fans in philly are renowned for their boo-ing abilities, including boo-ing their own teams. they once cheered when a member of the dallas cowboys was on the field and immobile. employees at the vet once turned up the heat in the visitor's locker room after members of the team complained it was too warm. the vet used to have it's own courthouse to service all the drunks at the eagles games. maybe the city just gets a bad rap. i guess i'll find out.

things to do in philly this weekend:
- take in a phillies game before the vet closes (one of the main reasons i'm going - to see the vet).
- have some cheesesteaks (no, i won't ask for swiss cheese).
- take in a women's world cup game at the linc (this is new idea, but why not?).

Posted by tien mao in Travel at 5:42 PM


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