Unplugged

We spend so much of our waking hours connected, online, communicating via computers or just watching super short video clips, reading, no more like skimming through highlights, titles of online articles, it has become a global human addiction of the 21st century. So what does it take to unplug, you ask?

It took a wind storm to bring down a large dead tree, which in turn, brought down our power line and cutting off all electricity supply into the house completely.  Until the local power company send its crew to fix the line, we could pretty much go about our daily routine as usual except for:

  • cook, including making hot tea or coffee;
  • watch TV;
  • surf the net;
  • check, read or respond to emails;
  • use the washing machine to do laundry or dish washer to do the dishes;
  • and most of all, for me, work, since I work full time remotely via VPN connection to the company network.

With a couple of camping lamp that runs on battery, flash lights and an old fashioned kerosene lamp, we can still read books and play board games at night. But of course, to endure one night and one full day without power is too much to ask a modern day family. Especially not since we had actually purchased a generator from Costco in 2012 which has been sitting in our garage for the past 2 years, just waiting for the rare power outage, so that it can finally be put to use. And by the time the power line was fixed, we had burned through nearly 7 gallons of gasoline to power the fridge over night and do some work the next morning.

I don’t want to sound unappreciative of what all I have and can count on:

  • Reliable power supply for nearly everyday of the year;
  • Same-day or next-day service to get the power back on;
  • A handy husband who can get a generator working and knows the in’s and out’s of all the circuit board controls in our house

But at the end of day or following day of the power outage, I really enjoyed the one night spent reading hard-cover books under a flash light with the kids.  Alex, my 13-year old boy and I took turn and read 5 books to my 4-year old boy. Then we also played a board game. For other wise, we’d each be sitting in front a separate screen, watching, playing different things, like now.   It reminded me of “The Book Thief”, how in times of crises, people were gathered together by circumstance out of their control and yet something good, something enjoyable can be the turn-out because a girl brought a book to read.

I don’t think I will completely give up our connectivity, but it wouldn’t be bad to have a power outage once in a while. If nothing else, I took half day off from work…

reading with flashlight 3 reading with flashlight

 

 

Early Spring

A walk in the fairway
Searching for Spring
No buds to be seen
Only bare branches
spreading shadow over tarnished green

T’s the season to reset
After the big unveiling
Colors are returning
Not yet vibrant
Still insipid and bland
From 3 months of snow embalming
Barely 2 feet under
Already missed

Not unlike the desire to linger
In bed
a minute longer
Dreading
the impending hustle and bustle

Eyes shut once more
Wishing for that last visage
Of an vanishing dream
Unwilling to let lose that
Last phantom whim
From where conscious arouse
Shunting all else morose
Until next round…

See you my love

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Florida

I have always wanted to visit the Keys. Especially after mother talked about her first visit there, driving on the longest bridge back to the peninsula in the sunset, with nothing but the endless ocean outside the either side of her car.  With kids now we will undoubtedly be limited to the breaks when school is out. Then there is the contention of visiting the Disney resort in Orlando.  Although Alex is 13 now, out-grown the Disney fancy age but Robin at 5, is just right now for that kind of theme park experience. Andy also has never been to Florida yet. The last time I was there were back in the 89. My parents first took my sister and I there for our first family summer vacation in ’87 as a token American family vacation.  This was the magical place for children as they wrote to us while we were still back in China, waiting to be reunited with them.  I could tell they must have imagined taking us there often, talking among themselves about when we’d finally be together again.Back then, the world seemed so black and white. Every where in America, it represented not only freedom, but beauty, bounty and modernity in absolute contrast to the poverty that was all around, equally abundant for everyone in China. Everything American was good and shiny down to every stick of carrot and the neatly stacked apples in grocery stores. Thinking back I remember how I gawked at the picture of those shiny apples on the picture of my mom with a shopping cart in a grocery store some where in Georgia. “Those look fake, like wax or plastic fruits. How can there be so many perfect, unbruised apples in one shop?” I would comment to my grandma.

Then in ’89 when my grandparents joint us in Atlanta, we all went again. That trip also took us up north into the Smokey mountain of Tennessee, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore… Taking a share of the drive in our brand new Oldsmobile Cutlass station wagon, I was a newly licensed driver as a 16-year old. The wagon had 3 row seats with the last row holding 2 rear facing, flip up seats only big enough for kids. They were just right for my sister and me. And there we sat for the entire journey of our vacation up and down the east coast, when I wasn’t driving. We made silly googly faces at drivers in cars behind us along the way.  We could only afford to stay in the cheapest motels along the way and made sandwiches instead of eating at restaurants. But it was pure joy for all of us.

Here is a picture of my mom, my sister and me in front of the Shamu stadium in Sea World Orlando. Oh how we have changed since that moment in time. Would there be demonstration outside Sea World for release of their Orcas? I kind of doubt that would be the case in Florida even if that were the case for San Diego.

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“Science fictio…

“Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive. Predictions are uttered by prophets (free of charge), by clairvoyants (who usually charge a fee, and are therefore mover honored in their day than prophets), and by futurologists (salaried). Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists. It is not the business of novelists. A novelist’s business is lying. The weather bureau will tell you what next Tuesday will be like, and the Rand Corporation will tell you what the twenty-first century will be like. I don’t recommend that you turn to the writers of fiction for such information. It’s none of their business. All they’re trying to do is tell you what they’re like, and what you’re like – what’s going on – what the the weather is now, today, this moment, the rain, the sunlight, look! Open your eyes; listen, listen. That is what the novelists say. But they don’t tell you what you will see and hear. All they can tell you is what they have seen and heard, in their time in this world, a third of it spent in sleep and dreaming, another third of it spent in telling lies.

“The truth against the world!” — Yes. Certainly. Fiction writers, at least in their braver moments, do desire the truth: to know it, speak it, serve it. But they go about it in a peculiar and devious way, which consists in inventing persons, places, and eventes which never did and never will exist or occur, and telling about these fictions in detail and at length and with a great deal of emotion, and then when they are done writing down this pack of lies, they say, There! That’s the truth!” — Quoting Ursula le Guin

I have been reading quite a few science fiction novels lately. Just to name a few, starting with the classics, Time for the Stars, Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed and some of the more recent publications like The Frozen Sky, Pushing Ice and House of The Sun. Whether they were written 50 years ago or just last year, I enjoyed them all pretty well. I like Ursula’s sociological planetary culture explorations as well as the very technically specific story about an alien moon-ship. Most people may think all science fiction are trying to predict the future. This is a misconception.

看连续剧学历史, Watch TV Series and Learn Chinese History

近两年看了不少连续剧. 属历史片为多. 因为初中只念了一年便移民美国, 对中国历史了解甚少. 5000 years of Chinese history contains so many classic stories, fables passed down generation by generation. While I grew up with some familiar ones, I was never a good student of history and could never string the stories together in their proper timeline…  And perhaps it’s just another aspect of getting old. As one gets on with age, one is more interested in one’s past and by association perhaps the history of one’s ancestry origin…

Following list of TV series are my personal selection which helped me in piecing together many of the famous stories I have heard or known about growing up. Many of these series made in recent years have also become more creative in how the stories are told, engaging and helping modern-day audience to relate to the historical characters and background.  I haven’t found representative movie or TV program for every single dynasty. If you know of any that you liked, please let me know.

Dynasty (朝代)

Years Spanning

Movie/TV Series
(
电影/电视剧)

Commentary (评语)

民国-
孙中山
1912 – Present 1911 (movie) Netflix instant streaming. There are many great actors casted for this film. But there are also too many events lumped into this movie which could be told better if stretched out into a mini-series.
(Qin)-乾隆 1736 – 1795 乾隆王朝 2002 Youku, 4 star (I didn’t watch this one. So can’t comment.)
(Qin)-雍正 1723 – 1732 步步惊心 (2011) Youku, 5 star, one of my favorites.The actors for 四爷, 八爷, 十三爷 all did fantastic job, not to mention the leading actress, 刘诗诗. This series is more of romance story, a tear jerker for those of you usually don’t care to watch historical flicks.The history part of the series is concentrated on the struggles between the 14 sons of emperor Kangxi to get the succession of the throne. Using time travel to bring the main character back to that era in time really helped to bring more interest and modern perspective on the turn of events. As long as you separate the story related to the main character personally from the main events that were true in history, you can still gain a lot of insight to the situation at the time.
(Qin)-康熙 1662 – 1722 康熙王朝 Youku, 4 star. Acting of all 3 actors portraying the emporer KangXi’s 3 different age are all very good. The very popular female leading actress, 斯琴高娃 plays the role of 孝庄太皇太后. This series starts with the resignation of the first emperor of Qin dynasty to become a monk and the inheritance of the throne of Kangxi at the tender age of 8. The struggle Kangxi had during his youth against his own lead of council, 傲拜 as well as the remaining uprising riots of the people trying to re-establish the Ming dynasty all made the young emperor’s life a very thrilling one.
明末 (Ming’s end) -崇祯, 朱由检 1628 – 1644 江山风雨情 (2005) Soku, rating 8.3 Story involve end of Ming dynasty and the revolution process led by李自成 and betrayal of 吴三桂 to多尔衮. It mainly portrays the eventual down fall of the last emperor of Ming dynasty starting with 朱由检登基. I like how the writer was sympathetic to all sides, not a pure political propaganda for either Ming or the Manchu’s reign, but tried to tell the stories true to each party and character’s background and circumstance and letting the audience decide for themselves. One Tip: Don’t be fulled by the first episode which is long-winded with the dialogue among the officials. It is not at all representative of the pace of the rest of the series. If you can’t stand the first episode, just skip to the 2nd.
元末明初-
朱元璋 (Ming’s beginning)
1368-1644 朱元璋 (2006) Youku, 4 star. It’s a very comprehensive story telling of the one and only emperor who rose from the bottom of the society, as an orphan of a farmer, who grew up in absolute poverty and even had to become a monk during youth. The series follows his success in coming up in ranks in the military fighting with the Yuan imperial army and follows his own political reign through end of his ruling.
(Yuan) 1206-1368
(Jing) 1115-1234
(Song) 960-1279  大宋提刑官 (2010) Soku, rating 8. If you like crime investigation stories like Sherlock Holmes, this series is pretty cool. I learnt a lot of the old techniques I  never knew that were possible for forensic research way back then. This series is comprised of mainly crime stories the famous investigator Song Ci solved. It’s a good series to watch as each episode contains a complete story and can be enjoined independently.  Also, t hrough watching these, you can learn a lot about how the people lived back then and how corrupt the Song imperial rulers and local governing officials were.
五代十国,
(5Dynasties  10Kindoms)
907-960
(Tang) 618-907 武则天秘史 2011 Youku, 4 star. This is perhaps the most popular, most told story about the Tang dynasty as this is the only time in Chinese history where we had a female emperor, Wu. So this series is about Wu’s life. They cast 3 popular actress to play the queen’s role from youth to middle age (刘小庆) to old age (斯琴高娃). All three of them are terrific actress. Compared to the previous versions of the same tale, this one beats all the rest whether you’re comparing the acting skill or the cast or the craft of good story telling.
北朝 (Northern Dynasty) 386-581 西施秘史 2012 The story of Xisi took place around 482 AD. There is very little recent movie or TV production about this era. There isn’t too much war scene in this series although there are plenty of epic conflicts and battles involved. There is espionage and romance. The main characters’ struggles between loyalty to your country vs being true to your heart are well portrait.
三国
(The Three Kingdom)
220-280 三国 2010 Youku, 4.5 star. This remake of the 3 Kingdom is the most thorough of all previous efforts. It does take quite a bit of patience to follow through to the end of the series. But as the characters are so well known, it’s fun to watch even if it’s just to review those well told parts of the era.
汉武帝刘 156BC –87BC 汉武大帝 (2005)

Youku, 4.5 star – talks about the 5th emperor of Hang Dynasty who reign over the most prosperous period of Hang dynasty.
西汉
(West Hang)
206BC – 8AD 美人心计 2010 Soku, 8.3 out of 10 pts. This series focuses on the queen, Lu (吕后), who was the one with the real power and the female/concubine spies she trained who eventually betrayed her. Queen Lu is not as well-known as emperor Wu of Tang or Cixi of Qing, but she is the first woman who gained real ruling power of China. Emperor Wu in Tang dynasty followed her example to gain control over the emperor.
王昭君 2007 Wang Zhao Jun is a biographic story about the first Hang “princess” to be married to Xiongnu territory, the start of a historical trend of Hang emperor marrying off princess to the north-west region to maintain peace. I liked this series of Zhao Jun as it’s not so serious as many other historical series. There is a sense of humor and endearment in this one.
楚汉传奇 (2012) Made in 2012, this series has the best casting for the infamous roles for Liu Bang and Xiang Yu and their epic uprising and battles to over throw Qing dynasty and the establishment of Han.
(Qing) 221BC – 206BC 古今大战秦俑情
2011
Youku, 4 star. Story about Qing Shi Huang (秦始皇), the first emperor who united the separated states and standardized the Chinese written language, money and measurements used for trade and commerce. He is most known for building of the Great Wall of course. Although his reign is only 15 years, but he is remembered for his brutality and the wall.  This series is another one of my favorites as the story line involves the same characters reincarnating into later generations in the 40’s and again in present time.
春秋战国
(Warring States)
770BC – 221BC
(Zhou) 1029 – 771BC
(Shang) 1600 -1046BC

Following Chinese dynasty timeline is copied from Chinese Wikipedia.  I like this version as it illustrates the overlap of some dynasties/kingdoms well.

中国历史系列条目



旧石器时代
中石器时代
新石器时代
黄河文化 长江文化
传说时代
三皇五帝
夏朝
约前21世纪–约前16世纪
商朝
约前17世纪–约前11世纪
周朝
前11世纪
|
前256
西周 前11世纪–前771
东周
前770–前256
春秋 前770–前476
战国 前476–前221
秦朝 前221–前207
西楚 前206–前202)
汉朝
前202
|
220
西汉 前202–9
新朝 9–23
玄汉 23–25)
东汉 25–220
三国
220–280
曹魏
220–266
蜀汉
221–263
东吴
229–280
晋朝
266-420
西晋 266–316
东晋
317–420
十六国
304–439



420
|
589

420–479
北魏
386–534

479–502

502–557
西魏
535–557
东魏
534–550

557-589
北周
557–581
北齐
550–577
隋朝 581–619
唐朝 618–907
武周 690–705)
五代十国 907–979 契丹

916–1125
宋朝
960
|
1279
北宋
960–1127
西夏
1038–1227
南宋
1127–1279

1115–1234
大蒙古国 1206–1271)
元朝 1271–1368
北元 1368–1388)
明朝 1368–1644
南明 1644–1662)
后金 1616–1636)
清朝 1636–1912
中华民国 1912至今
中华人民共和国
1949至今
中华民国台湾

Taking control of cholesterol

Bought a home cholesterol test kit to keep a close eye on my HDL and Triglycerides… How pitiful… I feel so old.
I always knew my trig is high, apparently this is inherit from my dad side… So my first round of test today have following results:

  • HDL: 36 way too low
  • Triglycerides: > 500 extremely high
  • Total Cholesterol: 136 which is within ideal range 

I don’t remember the exact numbers I had from my test 2 years ago, but I don’t think there has been much improvement… Other than eating healthy, I will have to make a much more discerned effort to exercise, starting with my new weekly Zumba dance/aerobic class… I bike to and from the class as well.  This will be the most aerobic exercise I have done for a long long time, ever since I left the Bay area where we occasionally played badminton at the Oracle gym.