Sunday, September 30, 2007

Adventures in Dutch Cuisine

I am taking my training to be a wife very, very seriously. Very. Seriously. When Martin was in Eugene, he made this traditional Dutch dish. It's basically potatoes mashed together with really finely chopped kale. It's usually served with sausages, but I actually just like it quite a bit by iteslf. It sounds simple, but it's actually really really tasty. I liked it so much that I tried to make it myself today.

Step 1: boil potatoes.
Step 2: chop kale and add to potatoes to boil
Step 3: mush together with butter and salt.
Step 4: Looks like I'll be eating lots of potatoes and kale this week...
Consume with lots of water. Potatoes can make your mouth so dry!

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm back, and I'm cooking!

It seems strange that I didn't blog at all while in New York City for the summer. You'd think there's so much going on that I'd have stuff to blog about all the time. But as it turns out, blogging is for people who are *just* busy enough to have stuff to blog about, but not so busy that they don't have time to actually blog. I fell into the latter category this summer. But now I'm firmly back into the first category.

I did manage to end my single life by getting engaged this summer. To a vegetarian. Something that's completely unimaginable to me about 8 years ago. But my taste has slowly evolved over the years from a near-complete carnivore to one that appreciates fresh vegetables and fruits. So being a vegetarian is no longer an immediate strike in my book. Martin showed up at just the right time.

Since he bought me a ring and everything, I figured I ought to learn how to cook some vegetarian dishes. Here's my attempt at turning a "green curry beef" recipe into a "green curry Thai eggplants and Shiitake mushrooms". It's possible that putting Shiitake mushrooms in such a strongly flavored dish is a sacrilege. But, whatever. I've never been an orthodox cook.

The ingredients are very simple: Thai eggplants and Shiitake mushrooms, green curry paste, Thai fish sauce, and coconut milk. And apparently, I also needed palm sugar. But oh well, brown sugar and syrup will have to do -- I figured they must taste similar... sweet.

Having been reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, I've been carefully looking at the ingredients of processed foods to try and eat less corn! I was happy to see that the ingredients of the green curry paste, the most processed thing I used in my dish, contained ingredients with names I understand: e.g. green chili. And none of them is corn.

And voila! Final product, with white rice.
And it was yummy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Well well well...

Phew. This is the first chance I've had to blog in a couple of months. Actually, this is the first time I've had time to do anything other than IBM work and POPL paper for a while. I feel like I've aged 2 years in the past 2 months. But now that POPL submission is out, I feel like a whole new woman! Only one full-time job to do :P

I went down to East Village today to get my hair cut. Oh. My. God. What the hell took me so long to get myself down here???? I *love* it. This is what I think about when I think of New York. Gritty. Varied. Not everyone dresses in the same empire-waist cut shirt/dress that's so popular this season. Second-hand shops with vintage clothes. An entire street full of nothing but Indian restaurants. I'm going back down there this weekend. The village is so much more fun than the Upper West Side!!!! UWS is too freaking sterile.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Thursday, May 24, 2007

More from Minneapolis

Minneapolis has continued to impress. The city has some very nice architecture, which stood out more today because of the good weather. The smallest suspension bridge in the world was the smallest suspension bridge I've ever walked across.
The ICSE social event was quite frankly the best conference social event I've ever attended! How can I possibly ask for anything more with Segway rides, archery, tomahawk toss, and fishing from a kiddie pool??? (I didn't catch anything. It got really old in about, hm, 45 seconds.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Impressions from the Road

I've been on the road since May 20. May 19th if you count my little evening out in Portland with Dan. Here are some impressions:

-- Montana is surprisingly beautiful! Who'd have thunk? It has these great mountains surrounding wide, open farmlands. The sky really *is* big in Montana. I'd never want to live here. But I imagine I can probably spend a week hiking the mountains. Hardly any cars were on the road, particularly toward the end of the day. It's really odd to be the only one along a highway.

-- Even western North Dakota is beautiful, too! I'd always thought all these non-coastal states are boring. But it has really interesting landscape, with canyons and rocks of different colors. Although, I did have to drive through the most awesome but terrifying rain storm. I was still driving at around 11pm, and I was very close to my nightstop in Bismarck, ND. The sky was very cloudy. I could see lightening from 10 miles away as I approach Bismarck. As I got closer, lightening reflected off of the clouds were literally lighting up the entire space. It was mostly pitch black, interjected with flashes of lightening that made the place look like daylight. Then the rain came down *hard*. So hard that I couldn't even see out of my windshield. I had to carefully pull over because I was afraid I might drive off of the road! I sat in my car for probably less than 2 minutes, thinking to myself whether it's better to sit there in the dark, or brave the rain and get the hell out of there. I decided to get going, since sitting in the pitch black night by myself on the side of the road in the middle of *nowhere* seemed like an even more horrible option. I started the car. That's when I realized that I was actually shaking. I've driven many many miles back and forth across the U.S. This is the first time I actually felt myself shaking from bad weather. And I'm not the kind to get scared easily.

-- Eastern North Dakota sucks. I drove through more rain, and really strong wind.

-- Minneapolis is surprisingly impressive! It is actually a sizeable city! I really thought all the midwestern cities, with the exception of Chicago, are just pretend-cities. But this place actually has a pretty nice downtown, with lots of tall buildings! There's an incredible system of "skywalks" connecting buildings downtown. It is all on the second level above the street, so you can walk around the downtown area for *SEVEN* miles without ever having to step outside! This is all built because of the horrendous winters they have here. But the skywalk system is a total maze. I tried to go back to the hotel during lunch break to fetch my laptop, and I got so lost that what should have taken less than 10 minutes took me 20. The only way I actually found my way back to my hotel was because a nice man asked me if I needed help, while I was standing in front of a skywalk system map, probably looking totally exasperated. I told him I was looking for the Best Western Normandy, and he said, "Oh, follow me. I work there."

-- Minneapolis has 22 lakes *in* the city!!! I knew Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes. But I didn't know they meant it literally! Good God! I'm going for a run tomorrow along the Mississippi. Should be interesting.

-- Minneapolis has a bar/restaurant called "An Irish Pub". No joke. It's the most descriptive restaurant name I've seen since "#1 Chinese Buffet". But in addition to good Waldorf salad and Guinness on tap, it has a "Kissing Room". It is literally a room with swinging doors, "Kissing Room" written above the doors, a couch inside, red walls, and dim lights. I really think it is meant to be exactly what the name suggests. Is this an Irish tradition?!?

-- My German is rapidly improving. I know how to count to 10 now. I must be a language genius or something.

-- ICSE... My impressions of ICSE is available for payed subscribers only. But I will say that I am looking forward to the outing tomorrow evening on Nicollett Island! I can't wait to hop across the world's smallest suspension bridge, throw some tomahawks, ride a segway, catch some trout, watch an Native American dance, and dance with an Native American.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Operation Diet Coke

- Yannis just received tenure from University of Oregon.
- Yannis likes Diet Coke and uses it as the sole source of caffeine.
- Yannis has a sign on his door. On one side, it says "I'M IN", on the other side, it says "I'M OUT". He flips it over everyday to indicate his location, until more sophisticated GPS-tracking technology becomes more accessible.

The Idea Man: Christoph Csallner. Born and educated in Germany, Mr. Csallner has been working for years in the prank-making industry, trying to be the first German to break into the Billboard Top 100 of pranks. Despite of heroic efforts, Mr. Csallner has largely been unrecognized by both the critics and the public. Mr. Csallner is looking for Operation Diet Coke to be his break-out hit.

The Idea:
- Replace the sign on Yannis' door with one almost identical. It says "I'M IN" on one side, "I'M TENURED" on the other. *
- Stack up cases of Diet Coke against Yannis' door.

*Idea #1 comes from Michal Young, underground prankster cult favorite, now retired from the scene.

The Financiers: Christoph Csallner, Me, Tony Kay, Reimer Behrends. The first three are Yannis' graduate students. Reimer is a post-doc. The only actual Doctor among us. As it turns out, Reimer later proved to us that there really is a difference between having a Ph.D and not having a Ph.D.

The Logistics Woman: Me. I'm good at crunching numbers for the amount of fund, sending out emails soliciting fund and labor contributions.

Operation Diet Coke was officially kicked off last Friday, when we learnt that Yannis received tenure. The first step was making a replacement sign for Yannis' door. As it turns out, Yannis' sign was made with cut-out stick-on letters, stuck onto a piece of construction paper. We found an appropriate font in MS Office that looked close enough. A manila folder was used to glue print-outs onto either side, to make it feel more like it's made on construction paper.
Sunday night, we made the purchase of 24 cases of Diet Coke, 3 cases of Diet Coke Plus, and 1 case of Diet Pepsi. This was not easy. We had to ask a Safeway employee to go into the storage room to fetch us more Diet Coke. And we had to endure very strange looks from the cashier.

The actual stacking of the Diet Coke cases took three tries.

Version 1.0: stacked them straight up. Completely unstable.
Version 2.0: This is where Reimer showed us what a Ph.D. can really do. Reimer came up with a zig-zagged configuration that looked much more stable. We tried that. But as we were almost done, the whole thing started swaying. Not good.
Version 3.0: A slight tweak of Version 2.0. We kept the spirit of Version 2.0's zig-zagged design. But rotated the formation such that the stack leans against the door for support. Much, much better. It might even stay long enough for Yannis to see it.
The Result: Yannis showed up around noon, on schedule. He was happily surprised. The pranksters are happy.

Monday, April 30, 2007

T +1day

I actually don't feel as bad as I thought I would. I am clearly sore, but I don't know if I'm any more sore than I was yesterday. I was warned that I might not be able to get up from the toilet. But I can, with a little pulling and pushing of the sink counter and towel bar. I managed to walk to school to keep my legs loose. Stepping down anything, even the curb, is rather excruciating. And I scheduled a 90-minute massage for tomorrow. I think that one's going to hurt...

The Georgia Department of Revenue's way of customer service is by attrition. I noticed that the check I mailed them for my 2006 tax payment still has not been cashed. So I decided to call this morning and ask what is going on. Not that I'm eager to have them take my money, but I don't want to get fined, either. I was on hold for 57 minutes until I talked to a person. She promptly told me that she doesn't see anything posted, and transfered me to "accounting", where I was on hold for another 55 minutes, until my phone ran out of juice. I mean, if you have to have your customers hold for that long, isn't that a sure sign that you need to hire more people????????? I called the Federal IRS, this morning, too (though by accident). And I was only waiting for less than 2 minutes before speaking to a real person! I'd imagine there are more people calling the Federal IRS than there are people calling Georgia!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Marathon: 4:38:02

I think the moment I crossed that finish line was one of the happiest moments of my life. I just couldn't believe I actually did it. Particularly when the last 6-7 miles were really brutal, and I was fading fast. I really thought that at mile 20, I would get a second wind, knowing that only 10k is left. But I didn't. All I could think of at that moment was, "Oh my God, there's still 10k left???" I had nothing left in my legs -- I don't really understand why, since I never felt like that during training. All the Gu and sports drink I had consumed was making my stomach queasy, so I didn't want to take any more. I was literally just putting one foot in front of the other. People around me were suffering, too. I saw this one guy, who had his girlfriend/wife pacing him, and his dad taking photos, and they were going at a pretty decent clip, and all of a sudden, his left leg just went berserk! It was like he completely lost control of his left leg! It was nuts. He had to stop and stretch. I never saw him again. I kept trying to tell myself that four months of training had culminated in this, and I only had so much left to enjoy it. And I really tried to believe it, too. But I just couldn't. It took all I had to make sure I didn't stop. The thought of going to the bathroom occurred to me a couple of times. But honestly, toward the end, I really felt that had I sat down on a toilet, I might not be able to get up -- my thighs were *killing* me.

I never got my "second wind" until the last 0.2 miles :) And particularly the last 0.1 mile, when everyone was screaming. I finally kicked it in. I was elated to cross that finish line. I think there's probably a really good photo of me crossing that line from the official photographers -- I literally had my fists up in the air. I think I looked like somebody who just won on "Price Is Right."

The morning started out a little chaotic. Even though I got up at 4am to make sure I had enough time to make my latte, drink it, and relax and get dressed and all that, I forgot to eat breakfast! So I chowed down a banana right before I left the house. Then, the bathroom lines were *huge* at the start. With 8 minutes remaining before the start, there were still 15+ people ahead of me and the lines were *not* moving fast. So Kasey and I just went behind somebody's dumpster. Not the most lady-like thing I've ever done. But hey, you gotta pee.

With all the rushing, I did manage the start the race on time. I ran with a sharp pain in my left foot for the first 6 miles or so. I really weren't sure if I would be able to make it all the way through with that pain. But since it didn't get worse, I figured I'll learn to deal with it. And really, the option of dropping out of the marathon was even more painful than the foot. Then miraculously, around mile 6, it stopped bothering me. The funny thing is, what I *thought* would cause me problems during the race (i.e. the foot) really didn't end up being my problem at all.

My thighs started to hurt around mile 13. They have never done that before in training. I really don't know what it is. It just goes to prove that the marathon is a rather brutal race -- *anything* can happen during the 26.2 miles. If it's a shorter race, you push through and an hour later, you're done. But with the marathon, whatever happens, you just have to live with it. For hours and hours. I was pacing with Kasey, Rob, and Ed the whole way. Ed dropped back before the half-way mark. I dropped back around mile 13-14.

I was still on pace to finish in 4:22 at mile 18. But then that's when things really deteriorated. Maybe that's what "the wall" feels like? I couldn't run any faster even though I knew I was going way slower than a 10-minute mile. My legs were just dead. It all made me think I should have finished my pasta dish the night before -- I was so concerned with not getting to the starting line feeling stuffed that I didn't finish my plate! Note to self: next time, stuff your face.

Michal Young and his wife were able to meet me at different points of the course to cheer me on. The first time I saw him was around mile 3-4. I was feeling strong, and gave him an enthusiasitic scream and high-five. The next time I saw him was around mile 7. I was still feeling pretty good then. Then I didn't see him again until around mile 14. I was visibly suffering by then, I think. I knew I didn't have the energy to give him the high-five's that he got the previous two times. That was an indication to myself that I've really gotten tired. They rode their bikes along side me for much of the last couple of miles and snapped some photos with their cell phones. I have no idea why I was even smiling in one of them -- I was feeling pretty bad. It must have been toward the *very* end.

I have to say that I'm proud to have finished a marathon. Would I do it again? I'm not sure. Probably. But most certainly not anytime soon. Maybe in a year, after I've recovered from the mental abuse -- the physical abuse will heal soon enough. I'm really looking forward to adding a little more variety into my workout for now. I'm looking forward to swimming more, and taking up biking.

I'm not extraordinarily sore. Although, I think it'll all get worse tomorrow. That's always the way it is. And the pain is coming back into my left foot. I can feel it... I iced it some today. Probably not enough. I did take a 2-mile walk from the finish line back to my apartment. So I'm hoping that helped keep me loose. We'll see tomorrow...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Prep

17 hours 'till the marathon. I'm so nervous of screwing up something that I couldn't even decide what to have for lunch -- nothing too greasy, nothing too spicy, nothing with dairy, nothing with beans... I ended up having chicken teriyaki with rice. And some chocolate -- dark chocolate is suppose to be good for blood pressure, I read recently. And certainly I need to keep my blood pressure under control right now. It's all in the name of health.

I thought the only thing that might calm me down is to document the prep. Also I was inspired by this photo, and figured I should do something of the same.

So, I decided that I'm going to wear exactly what I wore for my 21-mile run for the marathon -- everything has been battle-tested.

Our training group will have 2 separate aid stations, in addition to the aid stations provided by the marathon planners. This is nice because then I wouldn't have to jockey other runners for a spot at the water table. I also wouldn't have to carry all the gels with me -- I carried 4 packets of gel for my 21-miler and I could have sworn they were weighing me down! Today's the last day I can stop by Eugene Running Company to drop off my stuff for the aid stations. There is one bin for each station. To show how anal I am, I have shown 10 packets of Gu neatly separated into two zip-lock bags, annotated with my name. I really don't think I'll need any more than 5 packets. But just in case. It doesn't hurt to have more. I also purchased two bottles of water, one for each station. This is not just *any* regular water. This is "Smart" water, for smart people. I think I might be the only one who's ever taped her business cards to bottles of water -- but hey, I didn't have markers, and I needed someway to mark that the water bottles are mine. When I put my water in the bin though, I realized that I wasn't the only one with creative ways of marking their own bottles. Bob has decided to put highway signs on his bottles so he can spot them a mile away!

I have had foot pain for the past week and a half, and it all started when I wore these really cute leopard print flats to school. They just didn't have much support, gave me blisters, and caused me to overstretch the arch on my left foot. Dammit. That's the last time I try to look cute before a marathon! People say it may be plantar fasciitis. God I hope not! I've been icing and eating aspirin and it still hurts somewhat. But certainly much better than it felt last week. I think the adrenaline will push me through. Either way, I'm doing this thing.

The coach told us that we need some sort of mantra, something that we can say to ourselves when the going gets tough -- and it will -- to push us through. She said we need to come up with something before hand, because we won't be able to during the marathon. So I thought, well, how about this:

"I've trained for 4 months for this thing. For 18 consecutive Saturdays -- okay fine I've missed a couple when I had a little too much to drink on Friday's -- but for the most part, I've gotten my ass out of bed at 5:45am, so I can make my latte, eat my banana, and get myself to the store to run at 7am. And after all this, I really only have 4.5 more hours to enjoy the fruit of my labor. If I want to do this again, I'd have to train for another 18 weeks. So however tough it is, I should savor it, because it'll be over very fast."

So, yeah... I, too, am realizing that it's a bit long for a mantra. I think the coach had something shorter in mind. Something that can be repeated over and over again. Something like, "one foot in front of the other". And I suspect that at mile 21, when my thighs are feeling like they're in labor, and at that moment, if I tell myself to "savor the fruit of my labor", I'm going to have a strong urge to tell myself to shut the hell up. So I'm strongly considering revising my mantra... Christoph said I should picture myself punching somebody. I honestly don't have anyone I want to punch. Although, it's highly possible that I might at mile 21...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I am mighty!

I have found my personal ANTHEM!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

T - 12 days

Count down to the marathon begins. I've been sick for a week, and finally it's letting up. My cough is almost all gone. I went for a short 5-miler tonight and felt pretty good -- Missy Elliot sets a good beat to running ;) I hope somebody will be spinning some Missy on the Marathon route... I don't know why I'm nervous. I've done all the training I'm suppose to. I missed last weekend's 9-miler. But that shouldn't be a big deal, since I ran a pretty hard 5.2-miler in Sunday's relay. I'm healthy and injury free. I know it's gonna hurt, but I should be able to do this.

I've gotten serious about eating well this week. I'm hydrating myself like Oregon is running out of water. I've cut down my wine consumption. I'm hitting the salad bar like salad is the new black. And I haven't had any dairy -- usually I cheat and have diary and pop my lactase pills. But not this week. Not even goat milk cheese. I'm simply not risking it.

Okay I think I'm psyching myself out...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Team Tigercats dominates

In Eugene's Marathon Relay this morning, Team Tigercats (comprised of me, Kasey, Jen, Keri, and Lauren) dominated the competition, winning the division (all female open) by nearly 4 minutes, over a 26.2 mile course. The fact that the division consisted of only 2 other teams is completely irrelevant. The fact that the fastest team overall finished over an hour ahead of us is also irrelevant. What matters is that we won, and we won ourselves Nike hats. Nice ones. Ones that cost $20 each, when we only paid $17 each to enter the competition. Running is *clearly* a money-making business. I'm going to autograph this baby and sell it on ebay.

I set a personal record by running 5.25 miles in 44'51". Some might say that a personal record isn't hard to set when you've never run a particular distance before. Again, I consider this a trivial and irrelevant detail. What *is* completely relevant is that I ran it with a cold, a cough, and having suffered from food poisoning just two days ago. I am clearly the toughest woman on the planet.

Team Tigercats also demonstrated extraordinary sportsmenship by making disparaging remarks about the losers right in front of the losers' husbands, and dropping the f-bomb in front of a 4-year-old child. All acts were performed without malicious intent...

Saturday, April 7, 2007

21 miles...


I feel really good. It took 3 hours and 27 minutes. My back didn't hurt. Everywhere else does, but that's expected. It felt easier than the 18.5-miler.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Happy Hour

For about a month and a half now, I've been charged with organizing a department happy hour every Friday. You'd be surprised at how hard it is to get people to come out and drink a few beers. The following is my latest effort at rallying people. Despite of it being a masterpiece (in my not very humble opinion), it still only drew 4 people, myself included. And one of the other 3 is my German officemate, who really doesn't need any encouragement at all to come out and drink...

-------------- BEGIN EMAIL -----------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2007 08:52:35 -0700
From: "Shan Shan Huang"
Subject: Happy Hour -- Call to arms!

AP recently reported that 80% of Americans between ages 16-64 do not believe in the existence of "Computer Scientists". When asked why, the #1 reason for their lack of faith is that they've only heard of these "Computer Scientists", but have never seen one.

Is this the kind of world you want our children to grow up in?!? A world devoid of values, references, or reference values? A world where garbage collection is a dead-end job with no career advancement options? A world where Lisp is just a speech impediment, and Smalltalk is something you do before getting into deep conversations
about the embodiment of the meaning of life in Impressionist paintings???

Restore the faith in "Computer Scientists"! Let yourselves be seen!

Organizational meeting:
Time: 6:00pm
Place: Eugene City Brewing Company. 844 Olive St.

Shan Shan Huang

-------------- END EMAIL ---------------------------------------------

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Drinking Chocolate

I like chocolate quite a bit. I'm not willing to name my first born Xocoa or anything, but I am more than willing to make character judgments about people based on their chocolate preferences. Personally, I like dark chocolate. The darker the better -- up to about 85% cacao. Milk chocolate is for wimps. Or people who like milk. I don't like milk. I'm lactose-intolerant. I also like chocolate *without* nuts and funny crunchy things mixed in it. I don't like anything that breaks up the texture of the chocolate. I do like spices -- cayenne, cinnamon, and even anise, all taste quite good with dark chocolate.

I had this drinking chocolate in a chocolate shop in Portland some time ago. I loved it. It was thick and creamy and it is to your regular hot chocolate what Peet's French Roast is to Foldger's Instant Coffee. I think I'm a little late to the party, though. A quick search on the web tells me that drinking chocolate has been in fashion in the States for at least 2 years now. Even Starbucks tried to sell it! I don't know how it's possible that I didn't know about it. Oh wait, I do -- because I've been stuck in the South eating pulled pork instead!

So when I saw this at the store, I really just had to buy it. (Check out the rest of Kekau's savory chocolate collection. Yumm!) I followed the stove-top directions at first. But now I've gotten the process down to under a minute in the microwave. And it tastes delicious with regular soy milk -- all the better for those of us who are lactose-challenged!

I tell myself when I drink this that it aids my "recovery" from my runs.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

French Press and Mukka Express

I was actually trying to *simplify* my kitchen when I made these two purchases...

It all started with the French press. All I've had for a few years now is a Krupp's espresso machine. It's a steam-driven little thing, and it works relatively well. I'm not terribly picky about my espresso -- not *nearly* as picky as I am about my alcohol -- so the Krupp has served me well. While the latte's and cappucinos tasted ok, I can't seem to be able to make decent tasting Americano. I know it's just espresso with hot water. But whenever I added hot water into the shots of espresso the Krupp made, it just tasted like crap. I think it's because the Krupp always burns the espresso just a little bit. Now if you add milk to it, as I normally do, the milk masks the burnt taste. But if you just add hot water, the burnt taste really lingers around. So I wanted something I can make just regular coffee with, for those times when I want the kick without the milk (or soy milk, in my case). I've been impressed by the simpliciy of the French press. And it doesn't take much counter space -- counter space is at a premium in my kitchen. So I set out and bought the
Bodum Shin Bistro. It's a pretty impressive little thing. All you do is put some really coarsely ground coffee on the bottom, and mix it with hot, but not boiling, water. Wait 4 minutes. Press the screen down, and voila, you're done!

A confluence of events led me to my second purchase, the Mukka Express.

Event 1: Vicky has been using the Bialetti Moka Express for making espresso for as long as I've known her. And that's what we did in Barcelona.

Event 2: In conversation with Martin, I found out he uses the Moka to make espresso, as well. I've seen the guy drink 3 shots of espresso in one sitting, so I figured he knows his espresso pretty well. However, Martin gave a rather negative review of the Mukka Express, the cappuccino/latte making version of the simpler Moka Express. Reviews on the internet about the Mukka Express are quite mixed, as well. But my impression is that the only people complaining are people who are not mechanically inclined (read: can't screw the top/bottom parts together correctly), or can't seem to follow directions very well.

Event 3: I am on a "simplicity" kick, I found the idea of a simple little stove-top replacement of my Krupp's electrically-powered, steam-driven thing rather appealing.

Event 4: I happen to be talking to Michal Young, the U of O resident coffee expert, at the department Happy Hour Friday. I made some comments about my steam-driven Krupp's machine, and Michal said that the Bialetti for sure makes better espresso than the Krupp, because the steam-driven machines need to run the water way too hot to get enough steam -- I guess that explains the burnt taste in my espresso!

Event 5: The final event that set my buying spree in motion was that the Mukka Express was on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond for $30 off its regular price.

So I plunked down $59.99 and bought the thing. My experiences so far have been *very* positive. I made three pots on Sunday -- it is advised that you throw away the first three pots, because it takes that many times to "temper" the pot well. But honestly, they were quite drinkable. But if you're serious about your cappucino/latte, you might want to temper the thing with cheaper beans -- I realized after the three throw-away pots that I'd just tossed 6 shots worth of Peet's French Roast. The foam the machine makes is quite impressive, and I must say, the espresso does not taste burnt at all!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I'm a sucker

Last post about Barcelona. I bought this:

I'm a sucker. Note that the photo in wikipedia is actually taken in Barcelona! The tiles shown in the photo are the typical Barcelonian tiles. Joel and I paid 4 Euros each for two pieces of cardboard, basically.

Picasso, Gaudi, and CosmoCiaxa

As bad tourist as I am, I still managed to hit some of the Barcelonian highlights.

Picasso: The Picasso museum was interesting. Most of it really isn't what you expect to be Picasso at all. Apparently before he turned all abstract and cubist and blue and rose, he did lots of run-of-the-mill type of paintings. And most of them are quite average. Particularly his attempt at copying the impressionists paintings -- they were flat out bad. But the story goes that he didn't really know what impressionists were, and all he had to go on were newspaper black/white prints of the impressionist paintings at the time. So he tried to copy those and failed spectacularly. It just goes to show that it's much better to create than copy ;)

Gaudi: The Gaudi buildings are interesting. They look like they were built for the smurphs. It's definitely things that would get tiresome to look at after a while -- kindda like a crazy party dress, you can only pull it out of the closet once every few years, but when you do, it's fun. It's definitely not your classic black gown that stands up to the testament of time.

CosmoCiaxa: The science museum of Barcelona. Fantastic! As soon as we walked into the CosmoCiaxa, it became clear that the three of us are undeniably nerds. As much as Picasso and Gaudi were interesting to look at, put us in the science museum is like dropping 3-year-olds off at Willy Wanka's chocolate factory. The museum's exhibits were all very hands-on. You get to apply magnetic field to this fluid and watch its viscosity change; you get to wind up this hand-shaped wire, then unwind it, apply heat, and watch how it goes back to the exact original shape; you get to apply strobe lights of various frequencies to a bunch of bouncing balls enclosed in a while glass box; etc. The museum had an indoor rainforest, too. There were some pretty big fish swimming around the tree roots. There was also this room called "Toca Toca" that we didn't get to see -- you could touch rats and turtles and what not. And then, there's an outdoor science park, with an archimedean screw and many other things. Anyway. It's a fun time. I would definitely go back there if I were ever in Barcelona again.


You know you live in the right country when no matter how much fun you had traveling elsewhere, you're relieved to be back. I love the good old U.S. of A. My bank has already given me the provisional credit for my 120 Euros that the Spanish ATM ate. This is what happens when people don't take ciestas -- things get done!

It's cute how proud the Germans are about their efficiency and engineering prowess, sometimes almost to the point of being delusional. I flew Lufthansa from SFO to MUN. The pilot made sure to inform us that tha Airbus XXX we were flying was the longest commercial aircraft in the world, "even longer than the Boeing 747!". Good job, Airbus! And on my way from BCN to FRA, it was clear that our flight was running late. But the flight attendant kept saying, "We're expecting an on-time arrival". I was like, just because you keep saying it, doesn't actually make it true! I have a watch!

In case you didn't know, when sitting in an airplane, humans cannot distinguish between the airplane going through turbulence, and a child kicking the back of your seat. On the 11-hour flight from FRA to SFO, I had 10 hours of "turbulence". I politely asked the child to stop kicking the back of my seat. It was about as effective as politely asking the weather god to change the weather.

I think I'm getting old. I can't believe how much traveling is taking out of me these days. It seems that I use to be nonstop for a long time before really feeling the effects. But I spent the entire day yesterday sleeping. I'd only been on the road for a little less than 3 weeks. I'm relieved to not have to travel for some time. Lots of things to get done before moving to New York for the summer though.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Hunt for Churro con Chocolata

Day 1 started late. We didn't even wake up until 2pm. After sitting around the apartment and talking for 3 hours, we finally got out of the door at 5pm. Spain just sucks you into this lifestyle of late nights and lazy mornings, it seems. Or, in our case, the complete absence of mornings. The next 12 hours of our day involved 1 hour spent in the Museo de Picasso, and 11 hours hunting for churro con chocolata.

Churros are these fried little things. They sell them here along with a cup of melted chocolate, either with or without whipped cream. Apparently, they're a popular thing to eat *before* dinner, which doesn't happen until 9:30pm. So we rolled down the street around 8pm looking for these things. The first place we went to sold out of them. We were like, okay, no problem, we're not quitters, let's hit place #2. And guess what??? They were sold out, too! Then, the third place actually had some left on a plate, on display in their window. But we had to stand in line to get seated, and literally watched the last plate of churros disappear before our eyes! That was incredible! I didn't even know about these little suckers until this trip. But Joel had talked them up so much, along with the lack of availability, just all added up to me wanting them even more! I don't understand these Spaniards! No one seemed to care that there's clearly more of a demand of these things, that there's more money to be made if they just fried up more of these things! I mean, this is just bad business practice! But I guess no one here cares too much about making more money... Long story short, we walk around the city searching for these damn things, and every store was out. We took a break and ate dinner. Then finally, we ended up at this place at almost 1am, and they had some. And thus ended the epic hunt for churros con chocolata.

Today, we didn't fool around. Comes 7:30pm, we got our butts back in town from the CosmoCiaxa and parked ourselves right into a shop that had refused us churros the previous day, and got ourselves some churros.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Barcelona, Day 0

Okay, I'm not complaining or anything, more just musing about things that I've forgotten about Europe... But will somebody please tell me why, in God's name, is it that the Europeans just *love* to line up 30 minutes before the *boarding* time of a flight in front of the gate??? Do people fear that the plane would leave without them??? Has the plane ever left just to punish someone for *not* being in line 30 minutes beforehand??? And why is it that people stand up from their seats as soon as the plane lands, no matter how many times they're told to wait until the plane has finished taxi-ing? Has anyone ever *not* gotten off the plane because they weren't quick enough standing up? I mean, I literally had the guy sitting next to me climbing over me, tripping over my legs to get out into the isle! In the US, people just couldn't care less. We line up when we absolutely have to; we sit around until the plane's come to a complete stop; tripping over your neighbor's legs to get in the isle is considered bad manners. But it seems that the US, or its Protectorate Canada, are about the only places this is true -- people do the same thing in Asia. I just don't get it.

My very first experience in Barcelona is that the ATM machine ate 120 Euros of mine! The damn thing had this slot for dispensing money that looked exactly like a slot for dispensing trash. So I shoved some receipts into the slot before taking out money. Maybe that was just me being stupid after a 20 hour trip. But of the course the first 100 Euros I tried to take out wouldn't come out because of the receipts jammed into that slot. The I tried to force them out by withdrawing another 20 Euros. Lost those too. Thank God Vicky speaks fluent Spanish. She ran around the airport, made some calls. The final verdict? I have to call my bank in the US and have them resolve it with the Spanish bank. So for now, I'm just out of 120 Euros. Barcelona has already been an expensive, expensive date. Barcelona's the guy that made me pay for dinner before even putting out. That's all I'm saying.

Thankfully, I'm of the peosonality to not let little things like loosing 120 Euros ruin my trip. In the grand scheme of life, or even the smaller scheme of my 4 days in Barcelona, what's 120 Euros? Just another adventure.

It's daylight. It's bright. I'm going for a run to a little while. I'm looking forward to my next 4 days. It should be fun.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The morning after...

I have to admit, I was terribly afraid of going to bed last night because I was afraid what I might wake up with this morning. When I did my 13-mile run, I woke up more sore than I'd ever been in my life. So one could only imagine what a 18.5-mile run would do to a body. However, I woke up feeling quite well. I think the massage really helped. My back is still a little tight, but much, much better than I was feeling yesterday. Other than that and some sore quads, I really feel pretty good. Almost good enough to go on another run ;) But I think I'll just chill and pack for Barcelona.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

18.5 miles

I spent my morning running 18.5 miles.

It hurts. There's no other way to put it. It freakin' hurts. I'm not making any sudden movements because it feels like if I did, who the hell knows what might happen. Random muscles might cramp up. Random muscles *did* cramp up! I was taking off my socks, and the bottom of my right foot had this weird little reaction that was like a muscle cramp. But I quickly countered it by massaging it. So all is well. My toes will live.

I took 800mg of ibuprofen. I took a cold shower -- not long enough, because I'm a wimp. I'm icing my back. My lower back started feeling this sharp pain at about mile 18. Every step, it felt like the disks were compressing. I kept going for a while while keeping the pressure off of my lumbar. But then I decided it's better to stop. I'd already gone over my goal of 18 miles anyway. So I stretched it a lot afterwards. Though now overstretching is painful, too. So I'm just icing. I hope it's nothing too serious. (Mom, if you're reading this, don't worry about it, everything's peachy.)

Taking it slow really helped. We still managed to average 5.9mi/hour (that's 10.1km/hour for my European fans). And still then, at mile 17, we passed a couple who were jogging (probably on their mile 2). Now that felt good.

I'm glad I did this before going to Barcelona. I'm glad I did this the day *before* my 20-hour flight! At least now, I get a chance to stretch out a bit before cramming myself into an airplane seat! I should ge arrange for a massage...

I have to say, 18 miles was a huge mental block for me. I'd done a half marathon. So the 15 mile run wasn't such a big deal mentally. It felt like something I could do. But 18 just seemed like a *huge* number. I'm glad I did it. Just one more long run left before the taper. I'm ready.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

When to Blog

It occurred to me as I was drinking my morning latte and reading Ph.D. Comics that this really is the only reasonable time to blog -- I'm hardly awake, I need to be awake, I'm drinking my latte in order to become awake, I can't really do anything productive other than attempting to read New York Times to enrich my mind but eventually finding Ph.D. Comics more entertaining... Well, you get the idea. So this is the time to blog!

I'm back from Vancouver. See photos here. I really love Vancouver. I do I do I do. If Vancouver were a man, I'd marry Vancouver and have babies with Vancouver, and the babies would be beautiful and smart and grow up to get their Bachelor's from MIT and then go on to win Nobel's and Field's metals and Miss. American titles ;) Here's the thing I've come to terms with -- I grew up in a city of 15 million, I spent 9 years in Boston, 3 in Atlanta. I'm a city girl. I like being in a big city. I like having different, vibrant neighborhoods instead of just one semi-vibrant Main Street. I like people from different countries coming together to cook me different kinds of food. I like living in a fashionable city. I like living in a city where people come to make something of themselves. I like the energy of big cities -- well, certain big cities. That's all. Nothing against small cities, villages, or farm houses. I just prefer big cities.

And I love Vancouver additionally for its Stanley Park and the amazing views of the snow-capped mountains. I really like mountains. I like looking at them from afar more than I like climbing them. I like the high-level views, okay? Stanley Park is also fantastic for jogging. I love all the little Japanese ladies in their matching polyester track suits -- they're like old little Asian Gwen Stefanie's.

I'm leaving again for Barcelona in a couple of days. This is a whirlwind traveling month for me. I hardly have time to unpack. In fact, I'm not sure I really will unpack... But Barcelona should be fun.

I invested in a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones yesterday. "Invest" is the keyword -- these things are damn expensive! Shouldn't peace and quiet be a right, rather than a luxury??? Ah well. Christoph promised me that my productivity will shoot up because of these damn headphones. Well, it'd better! Otherwise it's a bummer of an investment.

After our little shopping foray at the outlet mall in Woodburn, OR where I dropped $350 on the headphones and Christoph became the domestic diva and purchased a coffee machine and coffee and wines and jams and various things that go into your mouth, we decided to go into Portland for a little impromptu trip. It turned out to be really fun. We just walked around the downtown area. They have this enormous Saturday Market that was fun to go through. I like Portland. It's not a huge city, but it's cute. We had an early dinner at this place with a huge crab on top of the building, and then, had some fantastic chocolate at Cacao Drink Chocolate. Oh it was good! They had this drinkable chocolate made with dark chocolate, spiked with pepper, mixed with milk and coconut milk. So good!

Okay. Latte's done. The end.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

15 miles

Well, I did it. You have to wonder what the hell would possess someone to want to run this far. 2.5 hours on the road. The last 3 miles was brutal. I can't believe I really did it.

I'm not nearly as hungry as I thought I'd be. Maybe it's because I ate a lot yesterday in preparation. I ate a hamburger, and then ordered a basket of bread just for myself.

It's amazing what nerves can do to you. I usually have no problem getting up at 5:45am to prepare for my 7am run. But this morning, I woke up with the alarm, and simply could not will myself out of bed. I literally stayed in bed until the very last moment -- around 6:30am -- I really *had* to get up.

Well, anyway. There it is. 15 miles. Done.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Google Analytics

I started using Google Analytics to track hits to my website, as well as my blogs. It's been rather fun. I'm getting hits from Kingston, Jamaica, of all places! And Moscow! I'm an international superstar!

Opera, etc.

I saw my first "real" opera on Saturday. My obsession with opera started when I read Bel Canto, a book by Ann Pachett. At the time, I was dating a relative of Ann's, and I was going to meet her over Christmas. I thought it might be nice to read one of her many books. Bel Canto was about a dinner party held hostage in an unnamed South American country -- though I've always pictured Peru in my head. The party was thrown in honor of a Japanese businessman, who's investment the country was trying to court. A famous soprano, the Japanese businessman's favorite, was invited to sing at a dinner party. The hostage situation turns into a love story between the Japanese businessman and the soprano, the businessman's interpreter and one of the young hostage-takers, as well as the relationships that develops among the people involved in general. The book was rumored to be inspired by the famous American soprano Renee Flemming, though the author herself has left that rumor unaddressed intentionally.

Anyway. So the book provoked my interest in opera. When Mom and I were in Rome, we saw a performance of La Traviata. It was a thoroughly unprofessional performance, done in a church. But it was good enough that I was rather moved by it. So when I came back to the States, I plunged head-first into the book, "Opera 101". I've been planning on attending a performance at the Portland Opera for some time. I finally got my act together and purchased tickets to a Saturday performance of Bellini's Norma.

Wikipedia provides a far better synopsis of Norma than I can. I have to say though, apparently, the themes of love and betrayal haven't changed a bit for at least a couple of hundreds of years -- though probably much much longer than that. There's a love triangle, there's a betrayed lover gone mad, there's the conflic between one's devotion to religion and one's love for a man, and there's the whole realizing what one's lost only after one has already lost it. The whole works. Overall, I think it was a chick flick, to put it in modern-day vernacular. The singing was beautiful. I was warned by "Opera 101" that projected English titles might be distracting. And they were at times, though I thought generally helpful. And I found myself at times not looking at them at all, when the music was particularly moving. I think my favorite role of the opera was Adalgsia, not the title role Norma. I can't really articulate why though.

Anyway. I'm pretty happy with this experience. I think I'm going to have to buy tickets for the next show, "The Flying Dutchmen", an opera by Wagner. Should be fun.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

My website

It needs a redesign! Since I don't have time, please, somebody, help me!

Switching over...

Well, as of now Google literally controls my life. They have my email. They have my calendar. They have all my contacts. They even have all my Ph.D. research because they host my code. So if somebody at Google really wanted to screw with me and make my life a living hell, oh it's so easy. I use to blog on livejournal. But I figured, why the hell not just switch to Google for that, as well! So here I am.

I really don't know what to write. It's weird to blog about your life. It's just out there for everybody to see. Whatever I talk about, the people I talk about can read about it. So I'm just going to leave it at that. When I come up with something incredibly impresonal to blog about, I'll post it here.