Monthly Archive for December, 2007

New Year’s Eve with Kōhaku

NHK Red & White Song Festival 2008As a kid, most of my New Year’s Eve memories involved having dinner (hot pot) at my grandparents home with the extended family and close friends. After dinner, the adults would drink tea (or sake) and sit around the table while talking. In the background, the TV would be blaring TV from NHK Japan: Kōhaku Uta Gassen or the Red White Song Battle (or Song Contest or Song Festival).

My family is from Taiwan, but due to the history of Japanese occupation there, my grandparents and parents learned to speak (and read/write) Japanese. So my personal New Year’s memories are a mix of Taiwanese and Japanese… with the Japanese coming from Kōhaku.

According to Wikipedia:

Kōhaku Uta Gassen, more commonly known as simply Kōhaku, is an annual music show on the New Year’s Eve produced by Japanese public broadcaster NHK and broadcast on both television and radio, nationally and internationally by NHK’s networks and some overseas (mainly cable) broadcasters which bought the program. The show ends shortly before midnight (when NHK switches to a frenzy of “Happy New Year” greetings from around the nation).

Literally “Red and White Song Battle,” the program divides the most popular music artists of the year into competing teams of red and white. The “red” team or akagumi is composed of all female artists (or groups with female vocals), while the “white” team or shirogumi is all male (or groups with male vocals). The honor of performing on Kōhaku is strictly by invitation, so only the most successful J-Pop artists and enka singers can perform. In addition to the actual music performances, the costumes, hair-styles, makeup, dancing, and lighting are also important. Even today, a performance on Kōhaku is said to be a big highlight in a singer’s career because of the show’s large reach.

While I don’t keep up with J-pop or really anything Japanese for most of the year, I always like to turn on the TV and have some Red White Song battling on to make it feel like New Year’s Eve with my family. And on the final night of 2007, I am happy to be staying in J-Town in SF with Kōhaku on the TV while waiting to meet some good friends from 8Asians and others for dinner.

May you ring in the New Year happily and safely!

Go Stanford!

This morning we got a call from our friend Dave (who lives in L.A. but is up north visiting his family) to see if we wanted to join him and his family at a Stanford Women’s basketball game at Maples in the afternoon.

Heck yeah! I love rooting for the tree!

Anyway, Dave was nice enough to get us tickets AND to sneak us into the awesome section where his family sits, just 3 rows behind the Stanford bench. (Thanks, Dave!)

It was not the most exciting of game since Stanford pretty much blew University of Washington out of the water, but it was still a lot of fun. The final score was 77-42. We did a little shopping at the Stanford Shopping Center and then headed back to San Jose where Yoshi’s parents took us out to dinner at By-Th’-Bucket Bar & Grill where we gorged ourselves and came home with tummy aches. (And I was being so good on this trip until now!)

After we got back, Yoshi was trying to take a nap, but I was goofing around taking snapshots of us. I don’t think Yoshi appreciated the hundreds of flashes that went off while I was doing this. Hee hee!

Later, Yoshi’s Mom was peeling hot chestnuts so I went to go help and we all watched a few episodes of Jeopardy! on TV.

Now it’s time for sleep because tomorrow will be a long day and we won’t get much rest tomorrow night, either!

Mochi Mochi Mochi!

YEAH MOCHI!

I usually don’t get to join Yoshi’s family until right around New Year’s Day, so I have never been able to take part in their family’s mochitsuki or mochi pounding (usually a few days before New Years) until this year.

Last night, Yoshi’s mom soaked 5 lbs of sweet glutinous rice (mochigome) before we went to bed and then we got up early this morning to pick up Yoshi’s Auntie J (who also soaked another 5 lbs of rice). We headed over to San Leandro where Yoshi’s Aunt & Uncle (D & K) hosted the mochitsuki in their beautiful home and (especially) kitchen. Another Uncle & Aunt were there when we arrived, probably with more soaked rice.

To be honest, there was no ACTUAL pounding of mochi as there were two mochi machines running which replaces the need for anyone to have to pound the mochi with a wooden mallet (causing wood splinters) or anyone to risk getting their hands smashed by said mallet while flipping the mochi.

That said, the mochi still needed to be shaped into rice cakes while HOT HOT HOT so we all sat around the counter while Aunt D pinched off pieces of the hot mochi and threw it at us to shape. Some of the ones we made were filled with red beans (yuck!), but most of the ones we did were plain.

Can I just say that fresh mochi is yummy?!?!?

Mochi!

Anyway, I can’t remember how many batches we did, but after a full day of mochi making, I was tired and I fell asleep in the car as Yoshi, Yoshi’s Mom, and Auntie J went to Costco to pick up a few things. After that, we had dinner at Mimi’s Cafe, swung by dropped some things off in Campbell at Yoshi’s cousin’s family’s place (we were introduced to the High School Musical game on Wii by the two older nieces), before finally get back to Yoshi’s mom’s place in San Jose.

So moch-i (much-y) fun!

I made it to San Jose!

I left LA around 5pm tonight and despite accidentally taking the 99 instead of the 5 and getting lost in Bako (I almost called you for help, LL!) , I made it to Yoshi’s parents house a few minutes ago. My Bakersfield adventure only sidetracked me for about half an hour and took me about 30 miles out of the way (oops), but luckily I realized my mistake at the same time Yoshi had called to check to see where I was.

When Yoshi and Yoshi’s parents realized I was lost, all 3 of them were trying to identify where I was. 3 people, 3 computers. Yoshi was looking on google maps; Yoshi’s Dad also mapped me the old school way: with an honest to goodness fold-out paper map!

Anyway, I stopped just once for a break and a snack and got a chance to catch up with friends on the phone (yes, I was using a handsfree device).

Right now I’m just trying to unwind and check messages. Yoshi + parents are screaming at the basketball game on TV.

Tomorrow I get up early to go pound some mochi.

And despite how dirty that sounds, I swear it’s not.

PS – I’m in the SJ area from now until New Years Eve and then we go up to SF for NYE. If anyone wants to get together, drop me a line.

how to pronounce joz: “jaws”

I finally wrote something up to clarify the pronunciation of “Joz.”

I know… I’ve only been blogging for FIVE years now (this coming January) and I have FINALLY gotten around to this.

Oh well.

Hopefully this public service announcement [how to pronounce joz: “jaws”] will clear things up for anyone who was not sure about how to pronounce jozjozjoz.

Christmas Eve 2007

(Written 12/27/07 @ 2:41 am)

IN1 Gaming ProjectorSometime in the last week or so, Yoshi set up the new InFocus IN1 Gaming Projector I splurged on last month for my birthday. Now we are projecting our Wii games and movies on our wall: we now have a 100″ screen on our living room wall!!! (We still have to come up with a name for the projector… any ideas?!)

-Had lunch in Little Tokyo with Keith Kamisugi while he was visiting LA. Yay for ramen + Pinkberry. Thanks, Keith!

-Went home and played Wii for a few hours.

-Watched The Parent Trap and Mary Poppins on our giant wall with Yoshi. (Special belated thanks to stkyrice who bought me the Parent Trap DVD, along with the Mika: Live in Cartoon Motion DVD and Ratatouille DVD for my birthday last month! THANK YOU SO MUCH! I LOVE ALL THESE DVDs!!!)

Going back to work sucks.

I had to be in the office by 6:45am to get ready for a 7am conference call/webex/training session when I went back to work on Wednesday.

That training session lasted until almost 1pm with only a couple of short breaks.

I can’t believe how quickly my calendar is filling up from now until the end of the year. Yikes!

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
Since I am really bad at buying Christmas gifts, I decided my present to Yoshi and my Mom would be to take them out for a nice concert. I had heard that Chanticleer was going to be in LA and performing a Christmas concert at Disney Hall.

We had dinner in Little Tokyo at Usui and despite a little rain, it was a lovely night on Tuesday night.

The Chanticleer concert was very enjoyable, a full house… we ran into at least 3 different people that we knew but didn’t know were coming in our section alone.

And the celeb sighting of the night? Gedde Watanabe sat exactly 3 rows in front of me. It’s kind of funny because this is probably the third of fourth time I’ve gone to a public event where Gedde was seated next to/near me.

Because it was raining so hard, Mom spent the night and was still asleep when I left the house to go to work at 6:30 in morning.

Glad we got to spend the time together, but sucked that I had to be up and out the door so early.

On the verge of tears…

…I hate shopping.

Especially Christmas shopping.

Seriously.

HATE.

This is why I am grateful my family does not exchange gifts. And that Yoshi usually does most of the gift shopping and giving on my behalf.

I have a new job: My Mom’s publicist.

Ok, so it’s not really a new job.

But in the last two weeks, I have booked my Mom a newspaper interview, a TV interview, and a radio interview.

It’s been a year and a half since my Dad passed away and last year was an extremely tough holiday season. It’s still hard, but this year has been better because Mom’s back from Taiwan and we are planning to spend the holidays together.

One of the things we have been doing together is volunteering for One Legacy/Donate Life. At the time that it was all going on, I didn’t want to talk about it very much but our family made the decision to honor my father’s wishes to donate all my father’s organs and tissues so that our loss could possibly help another family in crisis. One of the things we stipulated is that we not want to know who the recipients were: even though some families don’t feel this way, to us a donation is a donation and we felt that the compassionate thing to do was to try and help someone else if we could.

The One Legacy/Donate Life folks have been absolutely wonderful and caring with us. They were so appreciative of the decision and have been following our family with kindness and caring, knowing that it was so hard to lose someone we loved so much. Throughout the past year, they have had many memorial events for organ donor families where we have met other families who have gone through similar situations as we have.

One of the things that has become a little easier to do over time is to talk about it. Whereas we were extremely private about our decision at the time that we made it, especially in this time of year of giving, we think about the gift that my father was able to give as an organ and tissue donor.

Did you know an organ donation could save the lives of eight people, and a tissue donation could enhance the lives of another 50 people? (If you are in California and want to find out more about how to sign up online to be an organ and tissue donor, visit http://www.donatelifecalifornia.org/)

Joz decorates the 2008 Donate Life Rose Parade float

A few weeks ago, the One Legacy/Donate Life folks asked us to participate in the decoration of their annual Rose Parade Float. On this date, the “Ambassador” families (of those donors featured on the float) came to decorate the portraits of their loved ones. In some cases, donor families were introduced with recipient families: a very moving scene.

My Mom and I went down to Pasadena to volunteer our time toward the float and to also do a newspaper interview with the World Journal (Chinese Daily News). The interview and article was in Chinese, but it was published in the Sunday paper the next day. If you’re interested, here is the link to the article and picture of us (good luck translating it: Babelfish didn’t do a great job): http://www.worldjournal.com/wj-la-news.php?nt_seq_id=1632716

On the same day, my Mom was asked to give an a TV interview (I don’t know which media outlet interviewed her; I just saw cameras pointed at her) and also to say some things on camera, possibly to be used for a public service announcement. We’ll see if that airs anywhere at some point in the future.

While I was in NYC, I got a call that the Los Angeles Chinese radio station, KAZN 1300AM 中文廣播電台 was going to do a piece on organ donation and wanted a donor family to speak along with a couple of recipient families. Since I was supposed to be in NYC at the time, I suggested that they interview my Mom for the piece instead.

Last night, the radio segment aired and everyone said she did a great job telling the story of my father and our decision to donate. Lots of people have called her, including my Uncle Peter and various friends who just happened to hear her on the air. They said that she really touched them with our story and were inspired by my father’s noble and compassionate act to consent to being a donor and by our family’s decision to support that.

I am so proud of my mother for giving voice to such an important cause and for being brave enough to talk about her loss and our father so publicly in the hopes of helping save more lives.

She is an amazing woman and I love her so much.

The answer is 90

That’s right.

I sent out 90 postcards from NYC.

Did you get yours? Let me know!

My cousin (Lois Lane) was the only one who guessed how many I sent out, and she guessed 50.

Sorry I was such a bad blogger on this trip. I know, I’m not good about blogging about my trips, but I tried.

I’m still trying to update the posts I previously started writing.
In NYC. For realz.
What did we do December 12?

And I’ll try to get to all the days in between, too.

Running out of juice.

I’ve been sitting here, just killing time (reading Watersea’s archives) instead of doing anything productive like checking email or writing about my trip.

The battery on my laptop is running out so I’m going to shut down and find an outlet. Or at the very least go and use the restroom since all I’ve been doing is drinking tea and water all day.

I guess I’ll start playing with my Nintendo DS now. It’s been very neglected since my flight out here…

See you when I get back to LA!

As predicted…

EB is still stuck in Manchester. There weren’t any flights that were going to get him to JFK in time, so now he is flying from JFK to Ontario, California.

His flight is leaving in 20 minutes so he should get there a couple of hours before me. He says his friend is going to pick him up at Ontario, take him to LAX where he is going to pick his car up and then he’s going to drive to Burbank and pick me up.

Oy vey.

EB has turned up.

Kind of.

I still haven’t seen him, but he just called and says that he’s leaving Manchester and meeting me at JFK this afternoon around the time we are supposed to check in at the airport.

We’ll see…

Packing.

It’s almost time to check out of my hotel and head over to the airport.

Doh.

And how come I can’t get everything to fit back into my suitcase??

I’m supposed to head to JFK soon, but there is a snowstorm affecting the area. My flight may be canceled, delayed, or otherwise affected. The good news is that the two previous flights out did leave on time.

Send me good travel mojo.

And hope that EB turns up. I somehow misplaced him on this trip to NYC and he is nowhere to be found.

Oh and now that my trip is almost over, I should have mentioned that I have been twittering via mobile phone throughout my trip. I expect a few more updates there before I home. Check it out: jozjozjoz’s twitter

The deadbolt is my friend.

Thank goodness Jon was still hanging out with me in my hotel room tonight at 3am when a crazy drunk dude banged on my door and then started rattling the handle to try to get in.

We were just hanging out in the room and still talking when we both heard a single short, loud “bang” on the door. At first I wasn’t sure if I was imagining something or if something fell over in the bathroom. But Jon looked up and then started walking to the door.

I half-jokingly called out (loudly), “Don’t let him in if it’s a weirdo.”

And then Jon looked through the peephole, walks back and says to me, “There’s a guy out there and he’s trying to get in.”

I was like, “Is it EB?” (side note: EB ditched me like two days ago in is in Manchester, NH… don’t ask.)

And Jon says, “No. Not unless he turned into a white guy.” (Obviously, EB is not a white guy!)

Then I heard the door rattling violently; someone really was trying to get into my room!

I picked up the phone and called the front desk, told them that someone was trying to get into my room and that I wasn’t expecting anyone and that I was scared (not really, but I like to be dramatic when I want people to take action). She said, “Don’t be scared. It’s probably a drunk person who is trying to get into the wrong room. It happens all the time. I’ll send security up.”

Meanwhile, Jon was still peering out of the door and he offered to open the door and tell the guy that he was looking for the wrong room. The guy outside was still trying to get in.

I told Jon not to open the door and let security handle it.

A few minutes later, we heard security show up and a guy with a New York accent started talking asking the drunkard questions, “What are you doing?” “What’s going on?” etc.

The drunk guy said that he didn’t have a key and that he was trying to get into Room 2409 (that’s not the room I’m in). He was still trying to get into our room.

The security guard radioed down to the front desk to ask who was registered in 2409 and asked for ID from the drunk guy. The drunk guy said that the room wasn’t in his name and that his friend had three different rooms booked and that his ID was in one of those rooms, or some such nonsense. I guess at this time, he was knocking on other doors.

After about 10 minutes, security took care of the situation, probably via escorting the drunk guy away because we didn’t hear anything else.

Even though we weren’t scared, it was rather startling to have someone knock on the door past 3am.

Jon later told me that the first time he looked in the peephole and saw the guy, he was wearing a shirt, but that he must have taken the shirt off at some point because when he looked again the guy was shirtless and had it draped over one of his shoulders.

That visual in my head really makes me laugh: shirtless drunk dude knocking loudly on my NYC hotel room door at 3am. Heh.

Thanks, Jon, for being here with me and for being a witness to the strength of my weirdo magnet. See why Yoshi did not want me on the subway by myself???

(Written at 12/16/07 at 4:30am EST)

Just back in the hotel for a moment…

Wayne (Watersea) has just dropped me back off for the hotel so I can freshen up before dinner tonight.

On the way out…

…with Jon in NYC!

OMG!

SNOW!!!

PS – Sorry to all the people whose postcards say exactly that: “OMG! SNOW!!!” I got tired of writing and just wanted to finish my stack of postcards.

What did we do December 12?

Ok, it’s about 3:15pm on 12/16 and I’m still sitting near the gate at JFK wondering if my flight is going to get delayed.

I’m trying to sit down and document what we did on Wednesday, but it’s a big blur.

I do know that we were SUPPOSED to get up early and run around Battery Park early in the morning. However, I stayed up way too late (something like 4 or 5am) and then I kept sleeping until 10:30 or 11ish. Poor EB was awake and working and listening to my snoring. But boy, I needed the sleep.

By the time we got out the door, I think we had to go and run a few quick errands (Kinko’s/FedEx, etc) and then walked over to South Street Seaport for a quick bite to eat. We had a nice sit down lunch (should’ve eaten at the bar off the bar menu; we could have saved ourselves $20!)

From there, we took a cab over to Battery Park where we walked around a bit and then got on the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. They didn’t tell us until after we paid for the tickets that they were not letting anyone else into the Statue that day. Nor did they mention that you could do Ellis Island or the Statue, but not both. We chose the Statue. Our bad for getting there that late that day. (You can’t blame me for oversleeping; we were delayed at lunch for like an hour due to credit card issues EB was having. Due to the FIVE pairs of tickets from LA to NY booked in a 48 hour period for the same two people, his credit card company blocked his card. Not that I blame them. Then someone told him that the original card was closed and he had to pick up a new one when he got to NY. Then overnight, he determined the card was still active, but it had a daily maximum on it. He got the maximum lifted but then the “new” card was put into the system, deactivating the old one.)

After Battery Park, it was starting to get dark. We took the Subway into Grand Central Station. From there, we walked toward…

In NYC. For realz.

It’s been about 10 hours since I landed in JFK this morning and texted Yoshi (4:30am PST) that I was here. (Sorry, did I wake you when I did that, Hunny?)

Since landing at JFK, I have:
-Gotten carsick and nearly hurled in the cab from the airport to the hotel. The cabbie got lost and dropped us in the “approximate location” of our hotel. Luckily, it was only a block away.

-Checked in at a hotel which has been treating us fabulously. Since we’re supposed to be here for 6 nights, they upgraded us to a newly renovated room (yay!) and one with two double beds instead of one king bed (yay! no having to share!). They even tried to check us into the room early when we arrived, but the room wasn’t ready. We still got in early (before check-in). The catch? We are in the Financial District, just a few blocks from Wall Street. And our hotel is CURRENT BEING RENOVATED! (Jackhammering and loud noises abound!)

-We took the subway to Times Square and then walked around a bit. We passed by Macy’s, stopped in the Manhattan Mall to try and get Wi-Fi (no luck), and then headed up past the Empire State Building(60 minute wait to the top… nah!), in search of a Starbucks with a HotSpot. Found one on Fifth Ave and W 35th St, but it was totally crowded so we popped to a little cafe two doors down (Oxford Cafe), where we could still connect to the HotSpot, but get some breakfast. (Fresh OJ and a breakfast panini… yum!)

-We stopped into a souvenir shop so I could pick up some postcards. (Who wants to guess how many I’m planning on sending out this trip?) And then we started wandering toward Central Park. We stopped in the New York Public Library (free internet again) and attempted to do a little shopping before I realized I really, really needed a nap.

-We hailed a cab so we could get back to our hotel. While in the cab, I got a call from Jon. The call got dropped and since we were near the hotel, I just thought I’d call from the room.

-We got into our room where the JACKHAMMERING persisted. I took a shower and fell asleep.

-A few hours later, I woke up, saw EB passed out on the other bed. I went back to sleep.

TO BE CONTINUED…

CONTINUED ON 12/16/07 at 3pm, from JFK airport:
-Honestly, I don’t remember what happened after this. I’m guessing I started working on some postcards and then went the bed??? Man, that was a long time ago!

-WAIT! I remember now! After napping, EB went online and found tickets online for Mary Poppins that night but since we didn’t have a printer, we had to go to Will Call to pick up our tickets. We took the Subway into Times Square and grabbed our tickets (no Ticketmaster fee!) before we started bumming around Times Square for a bit.

-We ended up in the AT&T store because EB had been wanting a new PDA/cell phone, but when we went into the store, they only had a dummy sample of the Tilt (which is the phone EB wanted to check out). The Tilt they brought out was all flimsy and broken and didn’t make us feel confident about how sturdy the real thing was going to be.

Still packed and still ready to go.

I can’t remember the last time I was going to go on a trip where I was ready to go more than a few minutes before I was about to run out the door.

Of course, I also can’t remember the last time I was delayed from traveling by 24 hours… and not due to weather.

Unfortunately, I’m losing a day in NY. But on the bright side, I have a huge list of things to do which is mostly crossed off so I have a free day to catch up on some other things around the house. Whee!

Here’s the latest:
All I know is that we are now booked for a red-eye tonight out of LAX on first class.

And I’m not paying for it.

Believe it or not, Jon, I am really going to NYC. (Really!)

Packed and ready to go.

If things had worked out perfectly, I’d be on a red-eye right now on the way to JFK with my buddy EB.

Unfortunately, through a series of travel mishaps, EB was stuck in Michigan all day, routed to Atlanta instead of a connecting flight in Cincinnati, unable to take a flight into LA from Atlanta, and is now on a flight from Atlanta to Vegas.

He is going to drive in overnight from Vegas to LA, pick me up, swing by his place to pick some stuff up, and we’re heading back to the airport to catch a flight to NY in the morning.

Don’t ask.

Meanwhile, all of this has been causing Yoshi a lot of stress all day because of the uncertainty of whether or not I would be leaving tonight and at what time.

Also, our hotel situation is totally wonked up now that the flights have been messed with.

Oh well. I can roll with the punches.

I look at it this way: at least I don’t have to go to work or school tomorrow!

YAY! VACATION!!!!!

It’s the other side…

…and it feels great!

Yay for Winter Break! No more school for the rest of the year!

The paper was finished on time (if not slightly early) and the presentation went well. Not super, but we didn’t crash and burn, as I’d (realistically) feared.

So the question is what am I going to do with all my “free time?”

First of all, I am going to SLEEP! (Oh sweet sleep, how have I missed you!)

I also have a ton to do because I am going on vacation! A REAL VACATION WHERE I AM NOT EXPECTED TO WORK, STUDY OR ANYTHING OTHER THAN EAT AND HAVE FUN!

So where am I going next week? See the map below…


View Larger Map

Of if you have a dopplr account, you can find my info there: jozjozjoz’s dopplr.

24 hours from now, I will be done with school for the semester.

Now, if I can just finish this paper and presentation, get multiple copies printed in color + bound, burn everything to CD, go to work and complete a day’s worth of work, drive my butt up to campus, and then (with my group) give the final presentation to the client.

Hmm. Don’t think I’m going to get much sleep tonight.

I’ve had SO much happen in the past week, no make that month, and I haven’t had time to blog about it. I hope that I don’t forget everything I meant to blog about. Oh well, can’t worry about that right now…

See you on the other side!




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