Saturday, December 30, 2006

What I'd like to try/learn

In anticipation of New Year's I've started a list of things I want to try someday. I'll continue to update this as I think of things. Although there will sure to be overlap, this is not exactly the same as my list of ten things I want to do before I die, or my New Year's resolutions. How, I'm not really sure. I guess because I'm not putting a time limit on this, and some are definitely pipe dreams. But you never know!

Someday I'd like to try/learn:

1) rock climbing
2) mountain climbing
3) horseback riding
4) hand gliding
5) knitting (well, I've tried, but not successfully yet)
6) SCUBA diving
7) Bungee cord jumping
8) learning to drive stick shift (and remembering how)
9) a triathlon
10) going into space
11) taking a painting class
12) ballroom dancing
13) writing a book
14) flying a plane
15) water skiing
16) to play guitar
17) to play a drum set
18) being a parent
19) to make pottery
20) being in a rock band
21) playing clarinet in an ensemble or orchestra (as an adult)
22) zip lining
23) to sew my own clothes
24) carpentry
25) getting over my fear of spiders
26) HTML
27) to be a better photographer
28) cliff diving

and just for fun, here's an incomplete (of course) list of Things I've Tried/Learned:
1) skydiving
2) snorkeling
3) running a marathon
4) jet skiing
5) parasailing
6) riding a motor scooter
7) gymnastics
8) ice skating
9) skiing and snowboarding
10) playing piano, violin, clarinet, and saxophone
11) taiko drumming
12) radio news anchor, producer, engineer, and deejay (in college)
13) yoga
14) public speaking
15) marched in the Fiesta Bowl Parade
16) helped decorate a Rose Parade float
17) biking

What are some of the things you'd like to try someday?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays, one and all

As a Christmas present to himself (and the whole family, I guess), my father purchased a brand-new, state-of-the-art Karaoke machine. Now, we already had a Karaoke machine, but I guess it was time for an upgrade. (For those of you who wonder where I get my love of Karaoke and singing, it's in my genes!)

So two night ago, before waching a video, the family settled down to test out the new machine. As Ben sang U2's "With or Without You" my father looked and listened to the lyrics, shook his head sadly and said, "I can't live with or without you? Aw,!"

So true.

It's been great being back. Despite a brief bout with what seemed to be a 24-hour bug which I'm blaming on exhaustion, things are looking up. Got a massage, facial, and haircut; went shopping; am eating lots of good food; watched movies (United 93 and Pursuit of Happyness); played games; picked fruit; read; good talks. Oh, and sleep. Lots of sleep.

Merry Christmas greetings from Southern California, where it's finally warm and sunny and Southern California-like. I wish everyone happiness, health, and peace.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Adventures of Alvina and the Airport

I know it's crazy, but I think I forgot that it was the holiday season. I forgot why I went to so many parties these past two weeks, why I was eating so many fattening goodies, receiving holiday cards, I think I forgot why I was flying home. I must have, because that's the only explanation I can think of for my brain freeze.

Yesterday was my last day in the office, and I was flying out of Newark to Los Angeles at 7:35 pm. All fine and dandy, I've taken the NJTransit to the airport plenty of times. I checked the train schedule and saw that the 6:11 pm train got me to the airport by 6:38, which was a little less than an hour before my flight. Good enough, right? But since I had the check luggage due to the whole "no liquids" thing, I thought I'd play it safe and definitely try for an earlier train. In my mind, told myself I'd leave the office at 5:45 at the latest.

5:30 pm: I've happily finished an editorial letter I've been meaning to send for over 3 weeks now. It was looking like it might not happen before the holidays, but I felt good that it was done, that despite my lack of motivation this past week, I had accomplished something.

5:35 pm: Changing my outgoing message, setting my out-of-office email message, pleased that I'm doing this all in advance. Sorting through old emails...

5:38 pm: Suddenly realize that I'm planning on leaving at 5:45 pm to catch a 7:30 pm flight in Newark. That can't be right! What am I thinking?! Plus I need to pick up a prescription before I leave. I grab my stuff, yell "Bye" to my assistant and a few other people as I rush down the hallway.

5: 41 pm: I interrupt an old man talking to the cashier at Duane Reade. She is thankful for the interruption.

5:44 pm: I run onto the D train

5:55 pm: While running down 34th Street towards Penn Station, I answer a call from my best friend and gasp, "I'll call you back! I'm trying desperately to catch my train! I mean bus! I mean plane! Ahh!!"

6:01 pm: I look at a sea of people with suitcases trying to cram onto the 6:03 train to Newark airport. Sh*t. It is ONLY NOW that I remember that it is the holiday season. Holiday travel. Long lines. I look at the line, decide I won't make it on and might as well save some money to buy a ticket in advance for the next train. I look at both the super-long ticket machine line and just-as-long ticket counter line, and get in the ticket counter line. By this time, I'm sweating profusely. I take off two layers.

6:08 pm: Get my ticket, am told to go to gate 13 NOW and run. There's another sea of people trying to get into the tunnel to board. In my experience, I know there's an entrance on the other side, and once again, I RUN.

6:11 pm: Am on train, still sweating. Cram my suitcase into a little nook and settle in. Peel off another layer. My T-shirt is drenched. I feel sorry for the people around me. Will I make it? Will I make it?

6:13ish? Train departs. I decide not to look at the time any more. I'm trying to be zen. I can't control how fast the train goes. What's the worst that can happen? I miss my flight and have to go standby during the holiday season. Have the shlep from the Upper East Side to Newark. Augh. But it could be worse, I could be flying through Denver. I'm feeling pessimistic at this point. Picturing the long airport check-in and security lines. Hope that people will be calling certain flights up to the front. Wondering how I can face my mother when I call to tell her I've missed my flight. I had missed my connection during my last trip to LA--that time was not my fault, but still, this is not the kind of person I am. I'm responsible. I don't miss flights. Then again, I wonder how many times I have to miss flights before I become the type of person that misses flights.

6:40ish? Get off the train, run toward the Airtrain. For some inexplicable reason, the only escalator is going down, so I join the rest of the people and lug my suitcase and bag up three flights of stairs. Only slightly out of breath at the top--thank goodness for the marathon. Run and get on the Airtrain. Still haven't checked the time. It's out of my control, I'm just going to go as fast as I can.

Exit at Terminal C. I see a clock as I run. 6:46 pm.

Long snaking lines to check in. Damn that liquid bomb threat! I never used to check luggage. Should I toss out my liquids and check in electronically? Do I even have time for that? But I need my lotions, I need my contact solution, my prescription toothpaste, my shampoo. I get in line, looking for someone I can plead my case with. Commiserate with the woman behind me whose flight was scheduled to leave at 7:05, but was delayed 55 minutes. She isn't sure if she's too late to check in. The man she's with is looking into it. I'm kicking myself most because I know it's all my fault. The trains all lined up for me, I am not unlucky; I'm just an idiot.

I have about 15 minutes to make it to the front of the line. Will I make it? Should I be an aggressive bitch and cut in line? 5 minutes later, I've gone one row in the 4-row snake. Doesn't look good.

And then, from the heavens, I am saved.

"blah blah lines..." says an announcement.

"Skycab!" the woman says.

"Holy sh*t!!" I'm off again, trying to beat all the other desperate passengers who heard the same thing. Out the doors, into a line, I'm second in line! Look at my cellphone. 7 pm. I have 5 minutes before the 30-minute check-in cut-off. Have I actually made it? I'm am so happy for the Skycab. I am so happy I'm not one of the desperate passengers behind me offering to bribe the Skycab to check her in.

7:02 pm. 3 minutes to spare! I'm handing the kind man a $5 tip to take care of my tiny rolling suitcase, and am running for security, praying that my luggage makes it on, too.

7:05pm: After going to two different wrong security lines, they push me through the shorter line.

7:10: I'm through! It's at this point that I realize I've made it. I stop to pee. I stop to buy a banana. I stroll up to my gate--there are still a few people boarding, but it looks pretty empty. I cram the rest of the banana in my mouth, throw away the peel, and get in line just as they announce the final boarding call and the standby passengers for the flight.

I'm tempted to high five the flight attendants and yell gleefully, I MADE IT! An overwhelming gratefulness and peace comes over me. Disaster averted.

7:15 pm. I'm seated at the window seat. I hope I don't smell too bad. The plane is hot.

7:25 pm: An announcement--all passengers are on board, but not the luggage, and they aren't going anywhere without the luggage. I look out the window and watch as they load the bags, and hey, there's mine! It made it on, life is good.

A brief thought goes through my mind--what if this plane crashes? I rushed to make a flight that resulted in my death. I shake the thought from my mind.

It was exciting, it was an adventure. It's the ol' "It's the hard that makes it great" line. And you know what? Fine, the marathon was great. All the drama with relationships will make it great when I find the right person. Actually making it on the flight was great. But I'm tired of hard for now. I'll settle for "fine" and "good" for a while. Give me easy for a bit, please.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

iTunes and hipster parents

Two weeks ago, on December 7, I received an email to my gmail account telling me that I received a $25 gift certificate to iTunes from ?. I suspected that it was spam and was also enundated with emails at the time and didn't examine it further. But a week later I remembered it, brought it up, and it seemed legit--the email was from I decided to open it at work in case it contained a virus, but there were no attachments, just links, and it worked through iTunes. So now I have a $25 credit and have no idea who (from whom?) it's from. Is it from someone I know? They had to have had my email address to give it to me, I think. Was it just a random act of kindness? Will someone step forward to claim responsibility at a later date? Was it an early Christmas present?

At any rate, if the anonymous donor is reading this, thank you very much for your generous gift, I greatly appreciate it. I haven't yet purchased any new songs, but I hope to soon.

And the second thing is my friend Chris wrote this article about hipster parents and musical taste that I liked. And yes, the picture bears a remarkable resemblance to him.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Congratulations to Yul and random happenings

My man Yul won $1,000,000. He actually won. He won Survivor. How crazy and great is that? He played the game extremely well, and there's a great video on where he talks about how the game went down--he made the comment that the game could have very well come down to the white alliance picking off the minorities one by one, but they managed to get one of them to flop, and that completely changed the outcome of the game. That certainly was the turning point. He also talked about what he was going to do with the money, and one cause he said he was passionate about was minority bone marrow awareness because of a friend who died in college from leukemia because he couldn't find a match. As a side note, Justina Chen Headley's next novel Girl Overboard coming out in January 2008 also addresses this issue--one of the main character's friend's younger sister, who is hapa, is unable to find a bone marrow match because she's biracial.

Our mutual friend James's birthday is today. I wonder if he'll get a nice present.


Last night I went out with my roommate Rose for happy hour drinks in the 'hood. We were planning to just hit our regular spots a half a block away from our apartment (although places I haven't been in over a year!). We walked by the Banshee which was empty, went back to Session 73 which was closed for a private party, and then back to Stir, a martini bar I had gone to only once before with Tracy when I first moved to the apartment. We had two drinks before moving on, and decided to check out Session 73 again--no doubt there would be people there completely drunk from their office holiday party, and that should be good for a laugh. Was it ever. We walked in, and saw one guy dancing alone crazily on the dance floor. All other eyes were on us. We made a beeline to the bar for a drink, and immediately I turned around and there was a big guy standing behind me with glassy eyes. Just standing there, not speaking. He came up and stood right between Rose and me, but wasn't saying anything. "Uh...hi." we said. No answer. A grunt. Then he sat down on the stool that Rose was standing right behind, so it looked like he was sitting on her lap. I couldn't stop giggling and had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom. Sorry, Rose. When I got back, thankfully he was gone, but there would be more of the same. Turns out it was a hedge fund office party. And every time a guy started talking to us, a girl would come up and swoop them away. Haha--I guess I would have done the same with my guy coworkers--you can't help but feel protective/possessive. One guy--really, really drunk and still drinking Long Island Ice Teas--kept talking to me, but couldn't remember things I had said from ten seconds ago.

"'re a student."
"No, I just told you I was a children's book editor"
"So...where do you go to school?"

and then

"So, do you want to walk me home?"
"Why not?"
"Uh, because I live half a block away from here."
"Can I walk you home?"
"Why not?"
"Because I'm here with my roommate, and we'll walk each other home."

and a little later,

"Our company makes billions of dollars. I made a billion and a half this year. I could buy you some lloiud vitoiuoid"
"Uh, what?"
"I could buy you some Looouuuiiee Viiitoooon"
"I'm sorry, I can't understand what you're saying"

I finally realized he was telling me that he would buy me some Louis Vuitton. Uh, okay. "I don't care about labels" I said. I mean, I had to google it to figure out how to spell it, for pete's sake.

Anyway, I hadn't gone out like that in a loooong time, talking to random guys at bars, getting hit on, and it was fun and entertaining, especially knowing that nothing would come of any of it.


In other news, besides having a weekend full of fun parties, the Randoms, and other friends both new and old, I finally received my refund from the MTA today. A month or so ago I tried buying a $20 Metrocard and it took my money and also ate my card that had just $1 on it (leftover from trips to NJ or on the Airtrain or something). I followed the directions on the customer service line, and finally today received two letters and a Metrocard. One letter said that it was refunding my $20 to my credit card account, and the other said "enclosed please find a Metrocard with $1 on it." Great. Reminded me of when my old roommate Jon received a refund check from the IRS for ONE PENNY. $0.01. No kidding. Anyway, for some reason, the Metrocard I've been using also has and odd amount on it, so I have two Metrocards that I will have to use to go to NJ on two separate round-trip journeys, or separately for one leg of a JFK Airtrain trip--except of course I'm flying out of Newark this time.

Speaking of, I'm off on Thursday evening for Southern California where I'll be until the 29th, then back to the city for New Year's. No doubt I'll write more there, update my blog to beta, learn how to add links to the side of my blog, and figure out how to cause World Peace.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Answer to query and Blue Rose Girl weekend

I answered the query that someone asked in the comment section below over at the Blue Rose Girls blog this morning. Check it out here. Also, as a reminder, since I'm so inept at adding links to the right of my blog (maybe my brothers can help me out when I'm home for the holidays?), the Blue Rose Girls blog is where I post most of my children's book-related musings. As I've said before, I'm happy for people to read this blog, but if you haven't already discovered the BRG's blog, you should check it out now! (As you can see, I'm very good at putting links within my posts!)

I had a wonderful weekend going up to Providence on Saturday for the RISD alumni holiday sale where fellow BRGs Anna Alter, Meghan McCarthy, and Grace Lin were selling their books, prints, and crafts. Libby Koponen and Elaine Magliaro also came up/down (respectively) for dinner after the sale. Grace passed out more of her yummy cupcakes, and I stuffed myself on soup, pate, and seafood mac and cheese (delicious, but not as good as this).

Then it was down to CT to hang out with Libby: calming yet stimulating talks, great home cookin', tea with honey and milk. And then on Sunday we went for a wonderful 10-mile bike ride through town and along the beach. I saw one thing I'd never seen before in my life, although I've heard/read about it many times. I watched as a seagull beat its wings against the gusty wind going up and up with something big in its beak which I quickly realized was a clam, release it to the rocks below, successfuly shattering the shell, and then swoop down to eat the meat inside. It was pure nature at its finest, and I was delighted for a long time by it. Heck, I'm still delighted that I saw it. Seagulls are both frightening (Finding Nemo! Those eyes!) and fascinating. My parents had the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull around the house when I was growing up, and I loved reading it and looking at the pictures, and it made me want to fly. I loved watching the seagulls float in the wind, soar, dive. I told Libby then that I hoped to someday take flying lessons. I think I started thinking about it back when Linda had posted some flight and plane-related posts. Not quite the same as flying like a seagull, but I think I'd like it.

Here are a few pics.

Me and the official BRG lender bike:
Libby showing off her new scarf (made by Grace) and her beautiful blue bike:
And the sea (complete with Christmas tree on the pier):
I had a lot of time to think about this past year and figure some things out on the bus ride up to RI, and then the train ride back to NY from New Haven Sunday night. It was exactly what I needed. I'm now looking forward to my tradition of writing down all of my New Year's resolutions and wishes, and am looking forward to starting fresh next year. But now, let the holiday madness begin!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Taiwan pics and randomness

...and added them to my post below, as well as a couple more fun facts.

And what else. I'm tired. Work has been crazy every since I got back. Deadlines everywhere. Updating title fact sheets. Preparing for focus meeting. Writing catalog copy. Editing. Preparing acquisition meeting proposals. Reviewing copyedited manuscripts. Reading manuscript for edit meeting. Writing flap copy. Finalizing cover specs. Answering emails. Answering phones. Putting out fires. Not answering emails. Trying to ignore the smoke. Wanting another vacation.

And I'll stop before I have a repeat of this other post. But I feel the same way. There's too much to do. And I feel bad because I'm letting deadlines I've set for authors slide in exchange for keeping the in-house deadlines. Once again, Connie has been a life saver, doing most of the work, keeping me on schedule. Props to Connie! Woo-hoo!

I've managed to have some fun--went to our monthly Karaoke outing last night--although tonight I was planning on going out but was too tired. Watched my man Yul continue to kick ass on Survivor. Not to jinx him, but he could actually win this! He has a 1 in 6 chance now (And did you know that you can watch full episodes online?). I'm catching up on one of the best shows in television, Dexter on Showtime On Demand right now, and will go to sleep early. Twisted, disturbing, and brilliant. Kinda like your mom. (Oh, sorry, that's the kind of thing my friend James would say.)

Okay, I'm obviously delirious. Time for bed.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cool blog

I found this blog on Gothamist. Very creative. I think Linda would get a kick out of it. Heck, I think she's a RISD grad, so maybe they already know each other. I love the video of the subway swing, because it's so carefree, and also classic New York--most of the bystanders don't even flinch/react to such a strange occurence, and others immediately jump in and want to try. That's one of the things I love about New York.

I found the setting her hair free a little gross, though, although the spirit of it is nice, I guess. But ugg, imagine finding a braid of human hair attached to a deflated balloon on the ground?! Or what if you were swimming and your arm caught on it. Yuck! It reminds me of the story my friend once told me about a college boyfriend who gave her his chopped-off ponytail in a paper lunch bag for Christmas one year. What was sad is that he really thought it was a romantic gift, because he knew she never liked his ponytail. Again, nice sentiment, but *shudder*.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

She's ba-ack

Update 12/9: added pics

crying Amanda and Aunt Marjorie"2G"--the cousins
"1G"--the parents
our crazy tour bus: home for a week
the view from the top of Taipei 101
Cousin JoAnn, me, Ben, and cousin Rich

I'm back from Taiwan! I got back late Tuesday night, but managed to stay awake during the majority of my flight, so was able to fall asleep after I got home and slept soundly till 8 am. It was a good trip. Not great, but good. I'm not sure it was quite the vacation I needed at the time, because it was overscheduled and not very relaxing. But it was still fun.

I arrived in Taiwan on Sunday morning, met some of my relatives at the airport who also arrived that morning, then was off the the hotel where the rest of my relatives were staying, got on the tour bus, and was off. It seemed that every minute of the tour was scheduled. Wake up call at 7. Breakfast at 7:30. Load the bus at 8:30. We were at a different hotel every night, so each morning we had to pack up all of our luggage and go. But it was a good way to see the whole island, and bus time was time to catch up with relatives I hadn't seen in a while, nap, play cards (Taiwanese poker, hearts, gin), video games (Bust a Move!), eat snacks, watch movies--some good (Princess Bride! Snakes on a Plane!), some bad (Snakes on a Plane!), some pirated (Snakes on a Plane!). We made plenty of restroom stops at these tourist traps where the same assortment of snacks and knicknacks were on display, and the vendors called out to us as we walked by "Ni hao! Ni cong nali lai?" (Hello! Where are you from?) Most people guessed that I was from Singapore or Malaysia. It seemed that a few aunts bought some kind of snack at each stop, and once we got back on the bus, the bags of snacks would be passed around--always something different. Mochi, sesame candy, mooncakes, crackers, oranges, etc. My cousin Andrew bought a different milk tea or coffee project at every convenience store we passed. I got a papaya milk from 7-11 and BBQ ribs-flavored Ruffles. We saw a dam, waterfalls, a gorge, swam in hot springs, played ping pong, pool, video games, worked out, watched HBO in hotel rooms, went to night markets, shopped, went to museums, Tsunah, an Aborigine village, Taoyuan, Hualian, Kenting, Tainan, Taichung, Taipei. It was a packed trip, to be sure. The food was the best part. Breakfast buffets at the hotel every morning--congee every day! We didn't have a Thanksgiving dinner, but we did pig out at a fancy buffet dinner in Tainan.

Things I learned on this trip that I never knew before:

1) The crease I've always had on my arm, about an inch above my inner elbow, is apparently a sign of aborigine blood. My mother also has the mark, and said that when she was younger her classmates would tease her about it. It wasn't desirable to have aborigine blood. My father and younger brother do not have the mark. Not sure about my older brother. My mother said that my father's nose is a sign of Dutch blood.

2) When my mother told her mother that she was engaged, my grandmother was worried, because she had not yet met my father (since they had gotten engaged so quickly). So she asked my mother where my father went to college, and then called some friends/professors she knew there to check up on him, see if he was a good guy, check his transcripts. Everything confirmed that he was not bad, so she approved of the match.

3) I remember both more and less Chinese than I thought.

4) Ben can read on buses and cars--I had thought that he got carsick like me.

5) There is a Thai instrument that was made from human femur bones, traditionally made from people who have died violent deaths.

6) The Taiwanese Atayal aborigine people used to have a tradition of head hunting and tattooing.

7) I like smelly tofu.

8) I can't eat enough wax apples and kong xin cai (water spinach).
wax apples

9) It seems that Taiwanese Americans look younger than the Taiwanese who grew up in Taiwan, at least in my family.

10) Distant cousins who live in Taiwan have read my blog, particularly my Love Story post and Marathon post.

11) One (or more) of my aunts is obsessed with marriage, and doesn't think women can be happy if they don't get married. She also thinks that whiter skin is prettier than dark skin, and thinks I'm lighter now than I was nine years ago when I lived in Taiwan. She can't understand why I'm not married.

12) Taipei has a great subway system now.

Added on 12/7:
13) KFC has the best egg custard
banana egg custard from KFC

14) My family has a temple that honors our ancestors called the Hwang family temple, and my mother's relatives who maintain it own a golf ball company

Hwang family temple
golf balls

That's all I have for now. At any rate, it's good to be back. I always love coming back to New York after vacation--a sure sign to me that I consider New York to be home.

I haven't really been jetlagged much--I've been getting a bit tired in the afternoon, but not horribly so. I hope I can fend it off. I'll try to post some pictures tomorrow--I took over 400 of them. Now it's time for bed!

Friday, November 17, 2006

I'm leaving on a jet plane...

In a little over an hour, I'll be leaving for the airport on my way to Taipei, Taiwan for a family reunion. My mother's side of the family, who all live in the U.S., try to get together at least once a year. Last year we took a tour of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and this year we're off to Taiwan and taking a tour around the island. I haven't been since I lived there for about a year and a half after college--about nine years ago. No doubt it's changed a lot. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with cousins I haven't seen in a while, to eating delicious food (although I'll miss my Thanksgiving stuffing and mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce), and I'm even looking forward to the long plane ride so that I can sleep and read--although not simultaneously.

I'm not sure what my internet access will be like during the tour, so you may not hear from me for a few weeks (I'm back to NY on the evening of the 28th). But if I can, I'll post.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Okay, T.S. found this list of the 100 best children's book on the National Education Association's page (from 1999, I think). Same rules as last time. I put a star if I liked it as a kid, even if I may not like the book today:

*Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
*The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
*Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
*The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
*Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
-Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch (creepy, toilet on cover...)
*The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
*The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
*Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (this is the book that made me cry the hardest as a kid)
*The Mitten by Jan Brett
?Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
*Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
*The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
*Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein
*Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
*Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
*Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss
*Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
*Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
*Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr.
*Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
*The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
*A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
*How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
*The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
?Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
*Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
*The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
*The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
*The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
*Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
*Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
*Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
*Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
The BFG by Roald Dahl (one of the few Roald Dahl books I haven't read)
*The Giver by Lois Lowry
?If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
*James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
*Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
?Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (to be honest, I can't remember 100% if I've read this...)
*The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
*The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
*Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
*Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien
*Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (probably my all-time favorite book)
?The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
*Corduroy by Don Freeman
*Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
*Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
*Matilda by Roald Dahl
-Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
*Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
*Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
*The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
*Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman
*The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (read all 7--many times)
*Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
*One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
*The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
*The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (my favorite picture book from childhood)
*The Napping House by Audrey Wood
*Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (another childhood favorite)
*The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
*Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
* The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
*Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
*Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
?Basil of Baker Street, by Eve Titus
*The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
*Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
*Arthur series by Marc Tolon Brown (only some)
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (this has been on my to read list for a very long time)
*Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
*Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
*The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
?The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
?Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish (these books annoyed me when I was a kid)
*Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
*A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
?Stuart Little by E. B. White (when I was a kid, I hated the open-ended ending)
*Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
*The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
*Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
*Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
*Heidi by Johanna Spyri
*Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
?Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
*The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch

86%, baybee! I was kinda hoping for 100%, but oh well.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Just saw this on KT Buffy's blog, and thought I'd go through the exercise as well.

In 2005, Time magazine picked the 100 best English-language novels (1923-present). Mark the selections you have read in bold. If you liked it, add a star (*) in front of the title, if you didn't, give it a minus (-). Then, put the total number of books you've read in the subject line.

(I'm also adding a question mark (?) to indicate indifference or mixed feelings.)

The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow
?All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren (HS)
American Pastoral - Philip Roth
An American Tragedy - Theodore Dreiser
*Animal Farm - George Orwell (listened to audiobook)
Appointment in Samarra - John O'Hara
*Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume
The Assistant - Bernard Malamud
At Swim-Two-Birds - Flann O'Brien
-Atonement - Ian McEwan (didn't HATE it, but didn't really enjoy it, and struggled to finish it)
?Beloved - Toni Morrison (HS)
The Berlin Stories - Christopher Isherwood
The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood (I started this, but never got past the first chapter)
Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Thornton Wilder
Call It Sleep - Henry Roth
*Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
*The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger (HS)
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
The Confessions of Nat Turner - William Styron
The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon
A Dance to the Music of Time - Anthony Powell
The Day of the Locust - Nathanael West
Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather
A Death in the Family - James Agee
The Death of the Heart - Elizabeth Bowen
Deliverance - James Dickey
Dog Soldiers - Robert Stone
Falconer - John Cheever
The French Lieutenant's Woman - John Fowles
The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing
Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin
*Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
*The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon
*The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald (HS)
A Handful of Dust - Evelyn Waugh
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers
The Heart of the Matter - Graham Greene
Herzog - Saul Bellow
Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson
A House for Mr. Biswas - V.S. Naipaul
?I, Claudius - Robert Graves (HS)
Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
Light in August - William Faulkner
*The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
*Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
*Lord of the Flies - William Golding (HS)
*The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
Loving - Henry Green
Lucky Jim - Kingsley Amis
The Man Who Loved Children - Christina Stead
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
Money - Martin Amis
The Moviegoer - Walker Percy
*Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
Naked Lunch - William Burroughs
Native Son - Richard Wright
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
1984 - George Orwell
On the Road - Jack Kerouac
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
The Painted Bird - Jerzy Kosinski
Pale Fire - Vladimir Nabokov
*A Passage to India - E.M. Forster
*Play It As It Lays - Joan Didion (college)
Portnoy's Complaint - Philip Roth
Possession - A.S. Byatt
The Power and the Glory - Graham Greene
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
Rabbit, Run - John Updike
Ragtime - E.L. Doctorow
The Recognitions - William Gaddis
Red Harvest - Dashiell Hammett
Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
The Sheltering Sky - Paul Bowles
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
The Sot-Weed Factor - John Barth
The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
The Sportswriter - Richard Ford
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold - John Le Carre
*The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway (HS)
*Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
*To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (one of my all-time favorite books)
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller
Ubik - Philip K. Dick
Under the Net - Iris Murdoch
Under the Volcano - Malcolm Lowry
Watchmen - Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
*White Noise - Don DeLillo (college class)
*White Teeth - Zadie Smith
Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

I don't think I did too badly--almost 25%. Give me the 100 best children's books, and I'll bet I'd get over 80%. What scared me, though, is that there are a lot on this list that I've never even heard of.

If any of you absolutely loved a book on this list that I haven't read, let me know and I'll add it to my extremely large "to read" list.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

the week after

Here's a video my friend Miguel took of me during the marathon. This was at mile 11. Pardon my chomping on a Power Bar.

Yesterday morning I woke up and suddenly wasn't sore anymore--and today I'm feeling the first pang of letdown. There is no longer a physical reminder of my adventure, and I'm already wondering what my next one will be. I knew this would happen, just didn't want it to happen so quickly! It's funny how both unexpected and predictable life is sometimes.

In other news, I've had a fun week of happy hours, including the kidlit blogging drinks on Monday night--it was fun seeing so many familiar faces, and meeting some new people--I love the children's book community!

And finally...why does Grey's Anatomy have to be so gut-wrenching? Then again, you just know. That happy couple will be happy again. At least for a while.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I ran a marathon!!!!!

It's the day after the marathon, I've just slept 9 1/2 hours, and may go back for more. But first of all, I DID IT!!!

I ran the NYC marathon. And I achieved 2 out of my 3 goals. My first goal was to run the whole way (aside from the few seconds it took to drink water), my realistic time goal was to be within 5 hours, and my ambitious time goal was to do it in 4 1/2 hours. I ran the whole way (albeit slowly), and finished with a net time of 4:48:59.

It was incredible. Overwhelming. Emotional.My preparation started the night before with a pasta dinner at home, and I went to bed at 9:30. Wasn't able to fall asleep until 2 am--kept tossing and turning, thoughts running through my mind. I tried to envision myself running the marathon successfully, but only managed to picture myself tripping, or limping through it. Felt imaginary knee and leg pain all night, and my foot kept cramping up. I was itching to run, though, to feel the concrete beneath my feet. And when my alarm went off at 5 am, I was ready.

I took a cab with my roommate Rose to midtown, for her to take an official marathon bus, and me to go to the Fred's Team breakfast for bagels and coffee and fruit. After a team photo in Times Square, we set off in the buses. Buses everywhere! I had arranged to meet Rose and her friend Paula at the food area, and I'm glad I did. Despite how prepared I thought I was, I realized I had forgotten my wrist band and my watch, and also did not have enough clothes with me. It was freezing cold, and we had two hours to wait on Staten Island until the race began. But Rose had an extra sweatshirt and a blanket, and I tried to bundle up. We chilled out on a blanket, pretending to be at a beach, reading magazines. When the time got closer to line up, Rose alarmed me by saying that she was planning on taking an 8-hour Tylenol dose once an hour.
"But it's 8-hour Tylenol!"
"But I'm running a marathon!"
Paula read the package. "Do not exceed 3 doses in a 24-hour period."
"Fine. Well, I'll take one dose now, and then as needed."

I had a dose in my pocket, too, just in case. Didn't want to take it unless I needed it. Boy, would I need it.

Rose and Paula left me to line up with their numbers, and I searched the crowd for my friend Paul whose number was close to mine, and amazingly found him. We started the race together, winding up to the Verrazano Bridge, dodging the minefield of clothes. There were clothes everywhere--just as Rose, Paula, and I did, people just discarded their clothes and blankets rather than bother with checking them. It was funny to see clothes fly through the air to the sides as people discarded more while running.

I told myself to savor the whole race, that as was the case with skydiving, it would be over before I knew it. I was planning to take the first 3 hours slowly--but because I had forgotten my watch, it was hard for me to calculate/remember what my time was for each mile, but maybe that was for the best. I just ran. The view from the bridge was beautiful. Volunteers and workers cheered us on from the median. When I made my way down to the bottom of the bridge where people lined the route, I was psyched. The main thing that had made me consider running a year ago was the warmth and support of the crowd. As a spectator, I wanted to lift the runners who went by, to encourage them. I loved yelling out their names, cheering them on. And it made me want to be one of the runners, benefiting from the cheers of the crowd.

I had debated whether to spell my name on my shirt phonetically, but decided against it. I just wanted my name, the way I spell it, on my shirt, and thankfully I think I only heard one "Al-vine-a" and two "Alvinia"s the whole time--not bad! I ran mainly along the sides, partially to keep an eye out for friends, but mostly to give people high fives and hear my name. As people, these strangers, cheered my name on the sidelines, I got verklempt at how wonderful the support was. I loved giving high fives to little kids lining the route, and truly, it buoyed me, energized me. One of the best stretches was running along Lafayette Street in Brooklyn, because the narrower street was more intimate with the spectators. Just as Rose had told me from her experience last year, the cheering of the names has a domino effect--if one person yells "Go Alvina" then people farther along the route will hear that and look for "Alvina" and continue the cheer. During one instance of this happening around mile 8, I hear "ALVINA!!!" and I look back and there's Rose, making her way towards me. As we're hugging we hear someone saying, "In a marathon of 37,000 people, what are the chances..." and there, beside us, is Heather, Rose's friend. Amazing.

The first friends I saw, a Randoms contingent, were camped out on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. I stopped to take a couple bites of a Power Bar and say hi. Then Sachin was a mile later in Greenpoint, with my camera:"How do you feel?"
"I feel good--but we'll see how I feel 10 miles from now."

I looked out for Peggy and Antonella by the Queensborough Bridge, but didn't see them--but I did see Cathy, twice. I was feeling great. Happily, my left knee which had been bothering me, popping when I walked, was silent and fine. I felt good. Both the Randoms and Sachin commented that I didn't look like I had just run 11 or 12 miles.

Getting into Manhattan finally was amazing, both because I knew there was less than 10 miles left, and also because I was looking forward to running by Sloan Kettering in my Fred's Team shirt, and seeing my roommates near my own apartment. But 1st Avenue is my hood, and I felt comfortable there, familiar.

A woman spectator was running really fast trying to cross the street, and dropped her scarf in front of me. I picked it up and ran after her to return it (man, she was running fast!)--that was my good deed of the day.

I started feeling tired up in the 90s, but then saw Connie and Matt unexpectedly. "What are you doing on the Upper East Side?!" I said as I gave her a hug--she had told me she'd be in Brooklyn, but I hadn't seen her. "Cheering you on!" she said. It helped.

It took forever to get to the Bronx, but I just counted the streets as I went by. And then in the Bronx, I once again saw Cathy! Truly a dedicated spectator. "You're everywhere!" I yelled as I ran off. Once I knew there was less than 6 miles left, I knew I was homefree. That I had made it. 6 miles is once around Central Park, a run I do all the time. People say you hit the wall around mile 21 or 22, but I was just excited to be running the farthest I've ever run in my life, and I didn't really feel so bad. "It's not that hard!" I thought, amazed. I mean, it was hard, but not as hard as I thought it would be. I remembered the quote Amy and Bryan had sent me from Jimmy Dugan: "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. It's the hard that makes it great." In fact, I was a little disappointed. I wanted it to be hard, I wanted it to be great.

But then, with 4 miles to go, it hit me. My left knee. Sharp, stabbing pain. Ouch. I felt that each step was tearing something. Of course, I immediately regretted thinking what I had thought before, that it wasn't hard enough. I wanted it to be "easy" again. I started limp a little, trying to keep my left leg as straight as possible.

But I kept going, thinking about professional athletes who play through pain. I could make it 4 miles with a hurt knee. I had less than 4 miles left, I wasn't going to give up. I took out my 8-hour Tylenol and took it at the next water station. It helped a little. I stopped limping. I was going to make it.

I saw another unexpected friend cheering me on--Nancy and Jonny in Manhattan just as we were leaving the Bronx. I saw her too late, and the route was narrow, so I couldn't stop to say hi, but she jumped up and down cheering "Alvina! Alvina! Alvina!" and I laughed and waved at her.

The last 4 miles were the hardest, mainly because my knee, but also psychologically, because I felt like I was so close, but really, there was still miles and miles to go. Each mile marker took forever to come. I got a little emotional when we finally made our way into Central Park, because it felt so much closer then--but I knew that it was still a long way from East 90th Street and the finish line on the West side. As with the 20-mile training run, it was the second-to-last mile that was the toughest. And after I finally passed the mile 25 marker, it seemed like forever before I ran 0.2 miles past that and saw the 1-mile-to-go marker. But I sped up then--I was determined to finish under the 5 hour mark, and I was cutting it close.

I crossed the finish line at 4 hours, 58 minutes, and 59 seconds. When I checked my net time later, I saw that I must have taken exactly 10 minutes to cross the starting time, because my official time was 4:48:59.

Done. Got my medal. I ran a marathon. Hard to believe.

Sachin met me at the family reunion area with flowers:
then it was home for a long, hot shower. Ahhhhhh. And then on to Mo's Caribbean to celebrate with Rose, Paula, and friends where I saw this sign in the window:I found out later that Antonella had left it there for me--she had gone to cheer, but couldn't get to the side of the street she had told me to look for her, and so I passed her by. But I knew she was there somewhere, cheering me on!

Drinks and wings at Mo's was followed with Ethiopian food, and then a blissful deep, deep sleep. All in all, a very good day.

And today...I'm sore, but okay. My legs are stiff, my knee still hurts and feels swollen. Going down stairs is tough. Will I run it again? I think so. It was so much fun, so exhilarating. And I'd like to improve on my time. But maybe I'll take a year off. We'll see. Stay tuned.

Thank you everyone for your support! I couldn't have done it without all of you. And during my training, I've inspired my father to run--he's training for the San Diego marathon in June.

Here's Rose, me, and Paula at Mo's: And now it's time for a nap.

Note: a couple of photos were taken from various flickr sites. All other photos were taken by Sachin.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

pumpkin and costume answer

And the answer to the "which pumpkin is mine?" question:

Sara was right! You know me so well. But I wonder if it's because the pumpkin I carved in 2003 us suspiciously familiar:I wanted a scary pumpkin. But thanks for all of your guesses and kind reasons for why you thought a particular one was mine!

I marched in the NY Halloween parade on Tuesday in Greenwich Village, which was a lot of fun. I think 2003 might have been the last (and first) time I did it. I love seeing all the costumes, and was obsessed with a group of 15 or so people who all dressed as bananas. Here's a video:

And as for my costume, I was indeed a squid. My friend Julie's mom made this costume for her when she was in high school, and it's been making the rounds ever since.

And so's the night before the marathon and I'm decompressing (not, as I mistakenly said earlier today, decomposing). I have butterflies--am both nervous and excited. I don't really doubt that I'll finish, but you never know what can happen. My left knee has been bothering me--popping. But I think I'll make it through.

I can't believe it's here! I think it'll be a big letdown afterwards, but I'll enjoy it while I can, and I'll enjoy my after party as well. Stay tuned for an update, I'll post on Monday at the latest--I'm taking the day off to relax and recover.

Oh, and the good news is that I've surpassed my fundraising goal, so thank you everyone for your support!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

NOTE: New pic and video added at bottom of post

Just a few pics from my weekend. I should have more pics after tonight:

Pumpin-carvin' Friday (can you guess which one is mine?):
(I'll give the answer later this week. No prize, but you'll get fame and props from me)

Costume wearin' Saturday (can you guess what I am?): Alexis in the cutest costume ever: Cupcake!

Mariko is dressed as the lower east side bulding, Blue:

No candy for me, but I still like to get in the spirit of the holiday. Happy Halloween!

**Additional picture and video**

As Sara says, you can't see my whole costume, so here's a better picture of it that Mariko took. We're actually all dancing around a robot ghost:

Here's a video of it:

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ants on stilts

Great name for a children's book, eh? Maybe a sequel to Whales on Stilts?

On Saturday night while on the bus on my way to a Halloween party, I was listening to old NPR podcasts from July, and heard the craziest thing (I'm once again coming into amazing news late, so forgive me if you've heard this before).

German scientists were studying the navigational abilities of Desert Ants, and had the theory that ants somehow counted their strides to navigate. To prove this theory, they cut the ants' legs so that their stride was shorter. They found that the ants came up short of their home. So then they tested the ants by making stilts for their legs to make their strides longer. To do this, they glued hog hairs onto each leg of the ant. Sure enough, the ants with stilts were overshooting their home. Therefore, they determined that these ants somehow counted the steps they were taking to find their ways home--they have some sort of internal counting-mechanism! Isn't that crazy?

The original study was printed in Science Magazine, but the language there is so full of science mumbo-jumbo; the articles on Seed Magazine and The Economist are much easier. This is the final paragraph from the latter:
The story, however, has a happy ending. Having proved his point, Dr Wittlinger returned both stumped and stilted ants to the nest and gave them a few days to recover. Then he let them out for another run. Now that they could re-count their outbound journeys, they were able to calculate the journey home correctly. Ants may not be very bright, but it seems they have a head for figures.
And check out this picture--an ant on stilts!

Kinda scary looking, actually.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Nearest Book

This book meme was on Fuse#8 and Big A, Little A, and others.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig around for that "cool" or "intellectual" book on your shelves. (I know you were thinking about it.) Just pick up whatever is closest.

Here's mine:

He taught me structure, he was meticulous in the way he laid out structure bits, he taught me the discipline of writing for television.

Lily Tomlin, Host:
I enjoyed hosting. At least I think I did. I do remember that after the show got to be such a big hit, I hosted it again.

This is from Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live

The first bit is Dan Aykroyd talking about one of the writers on the show. What I find interesting is how the authors decided to shape the sentences of the people they're interviewing (this is an oral history). Since I was paying attention to sentences while doing this, I wondered why they ran Dan's (we're on a first-name basis) thoughts into one long sentence, while they chopped up Lily's (she's a pal, too) response into short little sentences. I'm sure it has to do with how the words are delivered. Dan, perhaps, speaks quickly and perhaps his phrases run together, while Lily more deliberately, perhaps more space between thoughts. Anyway, for you authors out there, this could be a good resource in developing "voice," especially of different characters.

I've only finished half of the book a few years ago. Perhaps I'll pick it up again and pay more attention to this.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

To meat or not to meat...

My friend Eveline moved to Beijing a few months ago, and started a blog a while ago to write of her adventures. It's quite entertaining--have you ever heard of the Mongolian spot? Want to see the cutest commercial ever?

But her most recent post beats them all. But as a warning: do not look at the pictures if you are squeamish or a dog lover. You'll be able to tell why once you see the title of the post.

Click here at your own risk.

Of course we've all heard about or joked about this before--Asians who eat dog. (Reminds me of Grace's post about wanting a cookbook to go with her book Year of the Dog.) When I was traveling in Canton, China 9 or so years ago, I saw a barbecued dog hanging in a store window. It looked just like one of those BBQed ducks, but its anatomy looked different...and upon closer examination we also noticed that the Chinese symbol for "dog" was printed on the window. But what's the difference, really, between eating different kinds of animals? One is not more or less wrong (morally) than the other, just because one animal we may consider a pet and the other a source of food, right? Although maybe there is a difference between eating fish versus birds versus reptiles versus mammals. Anyway, I've never been squeamish about meat. I eat meat on the bone, I eat whole fish, I've tried kangaroo, crocodile, rabbit, and deer. I think people who don't like to eat meat that looks like the animal it comes from are a bit hypocritical. But part of me wonders if vegetarianism will be the norm in the future. Part of me feels guilty for eating meat, mainly because I know I don't need to eat it. As I've mentioned before, I love tofu and vegetables and fruit and beans...I can go days without eating meat and not even notice. In fact, if I think back on the last two days, today I went without eating meat, and yesterday the only meat I had was shrimp. So yes--I could survive very happily as a vegetarian. But the thing is, every now and then I love a good burger, or fried chicken, or bacon. Mmm. Bacon. But maybe someday I'll make the plunge. I could live on cupcakes.

Oh, and Rita has a similar experience with Guinea Pigs in Peru.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Countdown to the marathon, and thoughts on beauty

For some reason, I've been thinking that I have 3 weeks until the marathon, but I realized suddenly over the weekend that it's just 2 weeks away. There's a counter on the official ING Marathon website that kind of stresses me out, but really, I'm ready. Well, as ready as I'll ever be! Which if good, because it's too late to do anything about it, really. So until then, I'm just planning on eating a lot of pasta, doing a few short runs, and trying to wrap up my fundraising.

Speaking of fundraising, you can donate here for pediatric cancer research. I think I've gotten one blog-related donation so far! Thank you, thank you Kristy.


For those of you in the NY area, you should definitely check out the Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx--it's there until October 29th. I went there for Chihuly Nights last Thursday for Saho's Birthday, and it was breathtaking. Here are a few pics:

Or check out an exhibit somewhere near you.

It made me think about the different kind of beauty in the world. That something so artificial , and surrounded by nature, could still be so breathtaking. This past weekend I was surrounded by different kinds of beauty. I took a trip out to Princeton with two friends to visit Julie and have a girls' weekend.

Here is some of the beauty I encountered there:

The beauty of the blue sky, fluffy white clouds, and the green in an apple orchard on a brisk fall day...

the beauty of finding my first-ever four-leaf clover...

the beauty of warm homemade apple cake topped with homemade vanilla ice cream...

and, of course, the beauty of friends.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Autism linked to television watching?

I listened to this podcast on the way to work this morning and was pretty amazed. Who knows if this is true, but I wonder if there will be any ramifications in the children's television world.

Read more children's books, I say!

Also, I'd like to direct all of you over to the Blue Rose Girls site for our first-ever Cupcake Contest! Cast your vote now, and enter to win CUPCAKES!! Yes, cupcakes. Well, or a cupcake-related prize.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Home again, home again

I'm back home in NY, flew in on the redeye that landed yesterday morning. I usually go into work after taking a redeye flight, but this time I decided to take a personal day for a change, which was good timing because my cousin Jeanne is in town and I was able to have lunch and coffee with her.

But about Oregon...this might be a boring post, but I wanted to briefly (somewhat!) get down my experiences there. And I have lots of pictures, too!

When I landed in Portland, I had two messages waiting for me on my cellphone. One from Sachin telling me that a plane crashed into a building a block away from my apartment, and another from my roommate Rose telling me that she had been home at the time, heard a strange noise, then sirens, but thought it was just a car accident until her mother called her.

It was a bit of a startling way to start the trip. But my author Gretchen Olson (I always feel funny saying "my author" but someone pointed out that authors say "my editor" so what the heck) picked me up at the airport and whisked me off to lunch at one of the many McMenamins--this one was Edgefield Manor, a renovated Poor Farm. There was wonderful art everywhere, we walked around the grounds under clear blue skies, I became obsessed with taking pictures of the water tower (above), and then we sat down for a beer sampler.
I spent the night at my cousin Julie's--she moved to Portland just about a month ago to study Classical Chinese Medicine. Thai food dinner, decadent desserts at Pix. I was also able to meet another of "my" authors David Greenberg (Slugs, Skunks, Snakes, Bugs, The Book of Boys for Girls & The Book of Girls for Boys, etc.) for lunch the next day. I've worked with David for a long time but have never met him face to face. We had a nice lunch and stroll along the waterfront.

And then SCBWI member Cliff picked me up at the restaurant to drive me the hour or so to Silver Falls where the SCBWI retreat was being held.

It was at an isolated conference center, and I have to admit that I wasn't quite prepared for how bare-bones it was going to be--no cell phone service, no tv, no internet, just a small cabin with two twin-sized beds, a small desk, a clock radio, and a bathroom. It was all fine and good in the end, but I hadn't mentally prepared for that, and also hadn't told anyone that I would be unreachable. But no worries--it was absolutely beautiful, green everywhere with hints of flame-red leaves peeking through. And the weather was still gorgeous, too: sunny with a perfect, clear blue sky, 70s during the day. Very unlike-Oregon-in-the-fall weather, everyone said.Thursday night was the dinner and welcome, and the faculty was given welcome gift bags filled with all kinds of goodies. Mine held some surprise marathon swag--I love the note that was included: There was the burning of the rejection letters (none from me, thank goodness!), and then I escaped to my cabin to finish up with my critiques and prepare for my talk. Oh, but first, the stars! I could see stars!

I went for a run early Friday morning with my whistle and bell that was given to me the night before to ward off bears and cougars (yikes), and came across a clearing where I saw two tawny-colored foxes. It was awesome, but then I got a little creeped out (what if they ran towards me and ripped my throat out?!?), so I took off running again.

The conference overall was wonderful. As always at SCBWI conferences, everyone was so friendly and welcoming and warm. The speakers were interesting and thought-provoking, the food was great (especially the desserts), and the after-parties surprising, complete with angst-ridden songs about writing and rejection letters sung to the tune of London Bridges, Moon River, and more. I wrote my own song to add to their collection--from the editor's point of view, or "payback" as they say. It's sung to Mary Had a Little Lamb and the first line is "Editors are people, too..."

I think my talk on Saturday morning went well--everyone laughed at the right spots, and I was able to expand on my parent's love story and talk about my own path to publishing. And yes, Cheryl and others, please comment on my blog! And I still want that spinach and tofu recipe...

Cliff took us on a hike to two waterfalls after my talk:The number of attendees (60 people) and length of time (almost three days) allowed me to really get to know a lot of the people there, and when it was time to say good-bye, I felt a pang--it was like saying goodbye at Kindling Words, except knowing that I probably wasn't going to see most of the people again. But I hope to hear from most of them, maybe even via this blog! And I've never actually bought anything as a direct result of a conference, but perhaps this one will be the first. Experiences like this always make me want to work with everyone, but of course I know that's not possible.

After the conference I got to have a lot of quality time with my author and incredible host Gretchen Olson--I stayed with her for a night out on her blueberry farm in Amity, Oregon in her absolutely beautiful, custom-made home. She prepared an incredible brunch on Monday, and we hung out in McMinnville all the next day where I tasted some wine, and we checked out the Hands and Words are Not for Hurting Week and her Purple Pail Partners. Particularly moving and eye-opening was a trip to the local jail, but I think that's going to take a whole post of its own.
And now I'm back to the real world. Sigh. Oh, to be sitting in a cafe in Portland sipping chai again.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Off to Oregon

I'm off to Oregon in a few minutes for the SCBWI retreat, and to visit with two authors I work with out there. I'm staying with my cousin Julie for a night, too, and am looking forward to meeting the two dogs, bunny, and bird who live in her apartment. I've never been to Oregon, so I'm really excited, although when my friends asked me if I was excited for my trip, I had to say, not really, not yet. I had too much to do--write my speech, do critiques, take care of things at work, pack. But now that I'm almost off to the airport, now I'm getting excited.

If you're going to the retreat, please say hello, and if you say the code word "bloomabilities" or "blue rose girls" (okay the latter was three code words), I'll know you read my blogs.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Origin of "snarky"...and I'm goin' for twunny!

Mitali asked about the origin of the word "snarky," so curious, I googled it. I found this:

Critical in a curmudgeonly sort of way. The adjective snarky is first recorded in 1906. It is from dialectal British snark, meaning 'to nag, find fault with', which is probably the same word as snark, snork, meaning 'to snort, snore'. (The likely connection is the derisive snorting sound of someone who is always finding fault.) Most dictionaries label snarky as "Chiefly British Slang." But for the last five or more years, it has become increasingly common in American publications, maybe ones infiltrated by British or Canadian writers and journalists.

And this:
1. Rudely sarcastic or disrespectful; snide.
2. Irritable or short-tempered; irascible.
[From dialectal snark, to nag, from snark, snork, to snore, snort, from Dutch and Low German snorken, of imitative origin.]

And this:
Main Entry: snarky
Pronunciation: 'snär-kE
Function: adjective
Etymology: dialect snark to annoy, perhaps alteration of nark to irritate
2 : sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner

Anyway, I have a new rule. I'm the only snark allowed on my blog.


I'm about to head out for a twenty-mile run this morning. I hope I don't feel too funny. More later.

1:38 pm
Okay, I'm back, and I do feel funny, but I also feel good--especially now that it's over! 20 miles in 3 hours, 27 minutes, and 29 seconds. Faster than I've ever run a long race. For the 18 miles that were scored, I averaged 10 minute and 12 second miles. Much faster than I ran the half marathon. I did it! The last 5 miles were killer, though. I kept feeling like stopping. And the second-to-last mile was the worst, but then I passed this buff guy who was walking, his arms straight out in front of him and his hands making fists, and he was talking to himself. "Almost there. Almost there." and I thought, ha--I'm doing better than this guy. And then later he started running again and I heard him muttering to himself, "Focus. Focus." and that kept me going.

Little things like that help a lot. Going up one of the killer hills that seemed like it would never end, and a woman on a bicycle shouted encouraging things to us. "Use your arms to help you up the hill. Almost there. This is the last time you'll see this hill." It helped. I'm looking forward to all of this and more during the actual marathon. It better help, because when I passed mile 16 and thought, damn, could I do 10 more miles? I didn't think I could. But I'll be pumped up, and I'll have friends at various spots on the route, so that will keep me going. And really, if I must, I'll take walking breaks.

I met up with Fred's Team, before the race, because we were doing an extra 2 miles before the 18 mile training run. I went out to the Thursday night training last week, so there were some familiar faces, which was good. It was fun to keep a look out for the bright orange shirts and bright purple shorts. Thursday, though, almost killed me. We did stairs. Including hopping up stairs on one foot. I didn't realize how hard that was until I tried it. But I must say, it helped during the race, because I thought about it when going up hills. Pumping my arms, bouncing on my toes.

Oh, and another cool thing--as I crossed the finish line, they announced my name. "And now finishing at XX:XX is Alvina L*ng with Fred's Team!" We had chips during this run, so I guess my name must have popped up on the computer. It was nice that they pronounced it right, too. I'm always afraid that people will say "Al-vine-a" instead of "Al-vee-na."

Okay, that all for now. I did twenty, and that's plenty. Now for a nice, long, hot shower.

Oh, and not that I expect the blogosphere to support my run financially, but if you're looking to donate for pediatric cancer research (it's tax deductable), you can sponsor me here. I'm running in honor of Grace Lin's husband, Robert, who, after a long run at it, is finally in remission again! Let's hope the same for everyone fighting cancer.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

more milestones and random notes

I'd like to introduce baby Samantha, born to Amy and Bryan on Sunday morning, a week early:

Hee hee--I love yawning babies.

It was a busy but great weekend that kicked off with a Friday happy hour, then Mariko's Super Sweet 25th birthday party where we surprised her with a giant replica of an iPod constructed by Sarah (we did also get her an actual iPod, although she said she would have been happy with just the cutout):

...then Saturday night was Don and Nikki's wedding in a Manhattan loft with a great view of the Empire State building (or "Mr. Empire" as the Frenchies used to call it), and Sugar Sweet Sunshine cupcakes! They guarded the cupcakes closely before it was time to eat them, so closely that when I went to take a picture, I heard one of the "guards" mutter to another, "She's too close!" But I finally got one.:

...and then on Sunday a 15- mile run. This one was so much better than my last one. For one, I didn't have to stop to drink--just plowed through it. This was the farthest I've run without stopping, and I'm not counting my 19-mile run because I stopped to use the bathroom.

Just two stories from my run in Central Park:

1) Around 75th St on the West Side where that little lake is, there was a guy performing, playing guitar and singing, and the first time I passed, he was singing a song about how "it sure can suck to be single in this town." I thought the singer had a nice voice, and the song was pretty amusing.

An hour later I passed by the same spot again, and singer was still there. And guess what. Yup. He was singing the exact same song! I didn't find it as charming as I did the first time.

A little less than an hour later I passed the same spot again and thought, "If that guy's singing that same song, I'm going to kill him" (I was cranky around then) and luckily for both of us, he was singing "What a wonderful world" which was beautiful, and especially nice because out of desperation, I had started reciting "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" except I had started at 88th Street with "88 bottles of beer on the wall" and was kinda despairing that after getting down to 50 bottles that my mind would force myself to keep singing until no beer was left, but thankfully I started singing 'What a wonderful world" instead.

2) When I was finishing up mile 11 (right around the second time I heard the guy sing about it sucking being single in this town), I ran behind a running couple. The guy seemed to be limping along pitifully, and it turns out for good reason. I heard him say, "We're nearing twenty...I'm feeling funny" and then laughing proudly at this new "rhyme" he had created, he repeated it: "Ha ha--I'm nearing twenty. I'm feeling funny" and then proceeded to "rhyme" a bit more, more that didn't actually rhyme with twenty (although all rhymed with funny): "Almost twenty...I'm hopping like a bunny. Haha. Almost twenty...I can't believe I'm not doing this for money..." It kind of reminded me of a bad children's rhyming picture book submission.

But after I ran another lap, as I found myself nearing my goal of fifteen miles, I started the rhyme game myself:" know what I mean. Fifteen...I'm gonna rupture a spleen. Fifteen...I'm feeling serene. Fifteen, I need to use the latrine"

Yeah, see, that's why I don't write children's books. Especially rhyming ones.

As for work, I've had a productive two days. Got out yet another editorial letter, responded to a bunch of LA SCBWI queries (if you haven't heard from me yet, you will! I promise!), helped my assistant with her very first editorial letter, and it's only Tuesday. More to come.

A snarky comment to my Blue Rose Girls "How I edit" post of last Friday was disheartening, and almost made me not want to blog anymore, because now I know there are readers out there who are looking for things to criticize, who are not kind, and that makes me sad. But I know it comes with the territory.