Robuchon lunch

Robuchon (HK, La Jardine) should never disappoint, and it doesn't. Birthday lunch deal was a pretty reasonable one. The main course was better than the ones we've had in Macao. The amuse and appetizer were really good (but hey, you can't beat Macao's shaved foie gras) and the dessert was a plus even though we didn't have room for the dessert cart.

I don't have a picture of the bread, but it goes without saying that Robuchon's bread may well be the best in Hong Kong. Not that I go around the island and taste bread from all bakeries, but the best bread I've had before the bacon roll was... well... the bacon roll from more than a year ago!

Amuse: Bacon foam with port. Yes, you read that right. Bacon foam with port. Maybe I need to type it again: BACON FOAM WITH PORT! Delicious and a great start.

Appetizer: King Crab Tower with Avocado. The chilled tomato sauce had a slight kick to it and really complemented the crab's freshness and the avocado's richness. The almond, however, had a slight bitterness and was too crisp for the dish. Overall very good.

Both Robuchons (Hong Kong, Macao) have main dishes that don't quite step up from their excellent amuse and appetizers. Medium rare teppenyaki pork, perfectly cooked and with good juiciness, tenderness, and flavors. While I didn't care too much for the sauce, it wasn't bad either. The stuffed sausage (foreground) was not as good though. Still, better than Macao. 

Wife loved the salmon. I'm luke warm on it... 

I did mention it was a birthday lunch, right? Happy birthday to me...!

This is caramel mousse with honey ice-cream, on top of a bed of mangoes (below the mousse - you only see the ice cream here). Presentation wise maybe the chocolate ring they love so much kind of distracts you a little bit. I love the taste of it though. Very well thought out. Awesome dessert. 

The mango... cus it looks pretty.

Good experience overall. The service was impeccable (sadly, a bit surprising because HK service at top notch restaurants have always been a bit suspect!) and really made us feel that we are pampered. They were both everywhere and nowhere, if you know what I mean. They even had their own DSLR to take our obligatory birthday picture for us and gave us the hard copy and sent the soft copy shortly after.

The lunch tasting menu (app+main+dessert) was less that USD 100 per so that's a pretty good deal! 

Oh, and the lighting was great. The bar room could be a little dark for photography, but the main dining room, elegantly separated by a glass door, is a refreshing space with plenty of sunlight.

Highly recommended.


Why are you here...?

You're the man!!!

Looking back on my CEO experience (first post here), one of the aspects that I most overlooked systematically is "why was I the person in the first place?" I say systematically overlooked because in my mind, I had an idea what I wanted to do with the company that was "given to me to manage", but I never really articulated it in a way that could have, looking back, helped me. Ex-post, alas, is better than none.

Anyway, I started writing again because I was reading about comments about Marissa Mayer being appointed as the newest Yahoo CEO. Media commentary were divided. Is Yahoo a media company that needs media people? Or is it a tech company in desperate need of product people? The hiring of Mayer is the Yahoo Board saying that shareholders want to see Yahoo revive as a tech company with new products at the core of its revival.

So why me? I had the support of the Board (Tencent representatives were  were on the Board). I was advising the CEO and all the major BUs on its future strategy for over a year. I've demonstrated god business sense. I knew Tencent products. I developed good relationships (I think) with all of the people I advised. I was a breathe of fresh air without any lingering legacy, politics, or cultural issues. 

I had some obvious drawbacks too: I didn't speak the language... so yeah, I can't read our #1 product, the portal, though Google Translate helps a lot. Being a consultant all my life, I have no operational experience. I don't have any advertising experience, and that is the lifeline of the business. I am young, considered a drawback when there are a lot of people who have been with the firm for many years.

The Board understands all the pros and cons of naming me acting / temporary / interim CEO. What I missed was that I should have thought about these pros and cons before sitting in the corner office. Based on what I am good and bad at, I could have easily foresaw what lay ahead of me, and therefore I could better plan what I wanted to do... anyway, here we go:

Consultant: the good ol' 100 day plan fits right in. Identify your allies and enemies. Interview all the stakeholders. Understand and prioritize all the business plans. Find out the strengths and weaknesses of your staff. Of your BUs. Of your company. Do a asset and resource inventory to see what you have at your disposal. 

Acting / Temporary / Interim CEO: Ops, someone might not share their full business plan with you, only the official one that was submitted. Ops, some key staff that you want to talk to doesn't want to talk to you. Ops, I'm pretty sure <insert department name> is trying to slow down your digging when they give you so much information without distillation.

Okay, it wasn't that bad, but my point is that the consultant plan is what it is, a plan. You need people to make a plan work. I think one of the most important things I learned was that since I didn't speak the language, I needed a few trusted lieutenants whom I could always trust to tell the truth. No dancing around facts and politics, just the truth. I also needed to be "out there" with my employees since a Chinese guy who didn't speak the language was going to be a pretty hard sell. I had to reach over some of my direct reports and speak directly to their direct reports so I understand their work. I had to be out there on the street with the cafes and locals to know how our product was perceived.

You need to be the CEO, the EVP, the VP, the Manager, the Analyst, the Customer, and the Consumer all at the same time.

And, looking back now, I think that's why the Board appointed me. They saw that I could connect with the people in the company despite not having the language skills. It wasn't my business mind, it wasn't my knowledge of products, it wasn't portal vs products (like Yahoo). In fact, I couldn't lead the company to the finish line (see all the cons!). But... I could stabilize a company in turmoil and steer it towards the right direction. And that I did. I just wish I did that sooner rather than wrestle with products and operations that I was in a distinct disadvantage to begin with!


From Consultant to (Interim) CEO

Wow, I haven't blogged in months!

This period of no-blogging is, coincidentally, the same period I was appointed interim / acting / temporary CEO of an Internet portal company. For 10 months, I managed the a website that, for all intended purposes, is basically Yahoo in an Asian country. Monster but declining traffic; leader in banner ad sales but being slowly eaten away by Google and Facebook; a portal that is what it is: a portal.

When consultants cease working for a consulting firm, the biggest difference is just the traveling. The mindset is ingrained into our thought process and working style. We want to identify stakeholders, scope the project, lay out an action plan, develop a fact base, draw a story line, sketch blanks, and do all these consultant-lingo things that really can be summarized into three (+1) words: solve the problem (efficiently).

Being a(n) (Interim) CEO was exactly that... with a nasty not-so-little twist: you have to convince your team to follow.

I will resume blogging soon, and this post will hopefully kick start the writing! Public commitment, even though this blog isn't THAT public, is the best motivation.

1st topic: why are you here...?


Bangkok thoughts

Yes I live in Hong Kong. Yes I work for Tencent in Shenzhen. Yes I work mostly in Bangkok for a company that Tencent acquired. And yes Bangkok is somewhat normal again, as in we finally moved back into our previously evacuated offices after a whole month on the run!
  • Week 1: nobody knows anything until the water shows up at their doorsteps. With not many options in mind, we asked all staff to work from home starting Oct 22 because the surrounding neighborhoods are all seeing water and it is impossible to drive. Two days later, I get pictures that show both access roads to the office have been turned into a tranquil lake.
  • Week 2: Waiting... waiting... as a temporary solution for both staff and company, we rented some hotel rooms for affected staff and a conference room to work out of.
  • Week 3: I finally am in Bangkok. On the cab ride from the airport, the city seems eerily empty. I see no floods. There are several cars and trucks parked on the elevated highway. Near my hotel, there's little traffic, little tourists, little people on the street (street vendors are still out in full force though), only a few food vendors, and no working girls. They say central Bangkok will be spared from the floods. For once, I believe them. They also announced that the flood waters will recede in 11 days. Nobody believes that. My staff tell me that the water may come towards our current location. I believe them.
  • Week 4: Seems the same as last week. Alas the water didn't come our way. A bit more people on the streets. Central Bangkok is as normal as it can be, but on TV you see reporters in chest deep water interviewing families who had nowhere else to hide from the water. Near the (now evacuated) office, we can access the office via convoys but not drive in ourselves.
  • Week 5: The cars have been cleared from the highways. Toll booths are back up and running. Tourists on flipflops are ranging around the hotel. Breakfast food vendors are back 80%. Working girls are back at the bars again. Nov 24, I'm sitting back in my office. About 40% of the staff is at work. And I let out a big sigh or relief.
Bangkok, you're back. Kind of. Millions of home remain under water elsewhere in Bangkok as the government sacrificed them to save the central district.


The outrage from Google's Reader fiasco

My thoughts from a while ago... but too lazy to blog. I need to blog more.

For a company that has always churned out products that are both groundbreaking (Gmail) and customer fitted (Reader), Google's recent blunders in its push towards social is quite shocking. Specifically, I'm talking about its attempt to push Reader towards G+. It's an effing disaster.

I still think G+ is a great platform and great social tool, but forcing Reader on G+ this has just been desperate and Google will probably end up in a lose-lose situation. G+ is already becoming G Staff+ (not sure if Google staff realizes that... just because they can recreate their social circle there... doesn't mean others would)... and Reader has just downgraded itself significantly to become an RSS feed since it's social aspect was stripped out to accommodate the aforementioned G Staff+.

Why do I use Reader? Because in one platform, I can subscribe to:
  • (35%) all the industry news feeds that I ought to follow (e.g. GigaOM, Tech Crunch) and all the blogs that interest me (e.g. Freakenomics, Photo related)
  • (33%) my friends' blogs (e.g. GSB folks, foodie friend in NYC) and posts for burning time (e.g.  Failblog, FML)
  • (16%) stuff that my friends read, i.e. wife sharing wife things, Satyajeet sharing Satyajeet things, Megha sharing jokes, Ivan sharing random auto things, Haide sharing new mom things, etc
  • (16%) stuff that people in the industry read, i.e. Thailand reporter sharing Thailand things.
#1 Do I wish there was an icon on Gmail that could get me access to these feeds? YES!
#2 Do I wish I could share to Facebook as easy as I can share to Buzz? YES!
#3 Do I wish Reader was more powerful so that I can find out which blogs other people are subscribed to? YES!
#4 Do I wish other people can know what I subscribe to? YES (but not completely)!
#5 Do I wish sharing was more intuitive in Reader? YES!
#6 Do I want complete control on how I share? YES!

And what does Google do? Stay put on #1 and #2, address #5 partially, and make G Staff+ the default for #3, #4, and #6. Well, congratulations, you just eliminated 32% of my reasons (stuff that people read) to use Reader. Not only that, but the remaining 68% of the reasons any RSS feed software can do! And G Staff+ can control the sharing very well, but hey, you're still G Staff+ and nobody outside of Google goes there to read what I share!

And being the person who is in love with my own vanity (I mean, come on, all bloggers should admit that), I want people to read what I write as easy as possible.

So, this is what I am going to do. Share this on Facebook (not easy, but hey, they're the SNS), Reader (Auto), and G+ through Reader. And hope that Google will listen to its users and leave Reader alone - it's a great great platform, don't force parts of it to G Staff+. Allow both, and make it easy to share to G Staff+, but don't eliminate other ways!

Google. Still needs to learn social. (But if the argument is to bolster its search engine, that's fine... but don't mess with Reader!)


Blogging again - Movie Series

In no particular order...

3 Idiots: if you overlook the simple premise and predictable plot, it's a thoroughly enjoyable movie with likable characters. And I added one sentence to arguments at home: All is Well. Recommended.

The Fighter: the pirated DVD has been sitting at home for a while... it's a pretty good movie and I see how Oscar would bless it. Love the Southee accents from both Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Totally believable. Great inspiring movie overall. Recommended.

One Day: I recognized Edinburgh right away. Then it was all London and all downhill. The book must be much better than the movie. Not recommended.

Transformers 3: Saw this on the plane... and glad I never had to pay to see a 3D version. Just a lot of metal robots messing around with each other. I don't need to fork up HKD150 for it. Anyway, I get to see my old home in Chicago go up in flames... other than that, Transformers 3 was just a lot of metal moving around. Not recommended. Oh, and just to be clear, I prefer Megan Fox.

Fast and Furious 5: dumbass plot with dumbass actors and actresses but with tons of over the top action. Sure, why not? Love the Brazilian bad guy. After checking IMDB, I can confirm his only role in US movies is being a drug lord (Desperado, Clear and Present Danger, and I'm not sure who he was in Behind Enemy Lines, but let's just assume he was a bad drug lord there too). How do you ever top that one!!?? Recommended.

Too Big to Fail: I read the book first, and the movie doesn't miss a beat at all. I wanna get Paulson's take on the movie (apparently he was spoke at Booth this past Monday... too bad I missed that by a day!). Much better than Inside Job, IMHO. And Paul Giamatti's impersonation on Bernanke was awesome. On the flip side, the actor who played Warren Buffet was not. Couldn't you get Buffet to play Buffet!? I'm pretty sure he'd say yes! Highly recommended (and the book is highly highly highly recommended)

Goodfellas: why I haven't seen this classic from start to finish is beyond myself. Highly recommended.

I think there were a few more movies that I saw on my (coach) flight from Hong Kong to New York, but I don't remember already... guess they weren't worth it. And today I'm heading back from Chicago, so looking forward to a few more!


Blogging again - Concert series

Although I am old and boring, I actually do stuff outside of work. The PNW and I went to three concerts (the forth, Paramount, was not to be...):

James Blunt: PNW downloaded all his music to my iPhone (thank you, QQ music) and I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought... EFFING HIGH!!!!!!

Khalil Fong 方大同... sad to say, I didn't know his songs as well. Got free front seat tickets from Tencent so we scrambled to download the music and learn the lyrics. His encore song PNW knew well so that made it all worth it (I think... as in it was a free ticket after all!)
Red Hot Chili Peppers: hard core band with hard core fans. I knew maybe 30% of the songs and I'm pretty sure everybody else in the concert knew 150%. Awesome crowd made the concert much more enjoyable otherwise.
Linkin Park -nuff said. I actually enjoyed the concert but "my friend" with much higher standards thought it was pretty bad. Clearly not everybody at the concert knew the songs and I think therein lied the problem. Was quite a contrast to RHCP where all the hard core fans showed up. And, uh, one of the concert t-shirts didn't have Hong Kong (WHAT!?)... come on guys, the least you can do is print right t-shirts for those who pay for them!
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2 months after G+ launched...

Admittedly I got really excited about G+ when it first came out. I'm still excited about it even though its really lost its steam. As a former consultant and current tech strategist, I've monitored some of my own behavior:
  • I get notifications much faster on G+ than I do from Facebook (Web bar rules)
  • I spend less and less time on G+ because I don't have enough friends on them
  • But the posts on G+ are more relevant for me... partly because I'm in tech
  • I also spend less and less time on Facebook because I have to split time with G+
  • I'm getting bored with Facebook
  • I post on both networks now...
  • Posts where I am seeking advice (Kindle recs) get better responses on G+
  • But none of my advice seeking posts were shared...
  • Posts where I am eavesdropping (Over the border) get better responses from my closer friends on G+
  • Posts where I am just sharing interesting bits in life also get better responses from my closer friends on G+, though they get more responses on Facebook

I wrote this a week ago and forgot to post it... here's an addition since G+ added games and Google acquired Motorola: it feels more and more like a community for Google and ex-Google employees and techies. I see 1500 comments for Larry Page, Satyajeet's lovefest with G+ games, a few comments on how G+ is quite boring, and that's about it.

Apparently combining all types of social activities is not enough, you still need a social graph that engages each other. And, guess what, I'm working at a place that has all that. Tencent! Now if they can only figure this out better than Google.

Anyway, the wars continues...


Book, TV, and Movie

In order or preference...

The Help (Book) - this fictional story about black maids and their employers in Mississippi is written by a white person. Perhaps that's why a white lady and a bunch of black maids tried helping each other and only the white lady made a future for herself... anyway, I shouldn't be cynical about fiction, right? The book touches hearts with light and heavy subjects at the same time, and is simply a wonderful read. It's incredibly raw, and you find yourself sucked into the lives of the three main characters, rejoicing and bleeding with them along the way. Highly recommended.

Dexter Seasons 1-3 (TV) - I'm pretty sure this is fictional as well. Just kidding... blood scientist with the Miami police is a serial killer who hunts down people who slip through the cracks of justice. Yeah, okay. Surprisingly good actually, even though outrageous. Recommended.

Harry Potter (Movie) - It's not a bad movie at all... I just don't know what is going on most of the time because I haven't read the book and I rarely remember anything from previous HP movies. Wizard fight scenes suck and the general fight scenes aren't that great either. I suppose it's real good if you are an HP fan, like my wife is. Not recommended.


Sadness takes over

Today, we visited Alan. I can't believe it's already been eight years.

As we mourn our loss, I can't help but notice how nice it was at the grave yard. The day was hot. But there was a nice mid morning breeze. The sun never let up. But there were clouds protecting us every now and then. A new building was being build. But there were birds and dragon flies humming and buzzing around. Alan's grave stood there. But there he was, admiring the greenery, buildings, mountains, and skies, laughing at all this foolishness of those who remain behind.

And I let sadness take over. Wish you were here bro. I know you wish that too.
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Movie time!

Oh man, I think I watched quite a few movies but never had time to write what I thought of them... here goes:

Inside Job: My old firm Analysis Group was mentioned several times in this movie (along with the very evil Glenn Hubbard) as part of the evil establishments that protect banks and bankers from being held accountable for what they did. I wish documentaries would not be as one sided and actually seek another angle to try to offer some neutrality to the story. For example, how could you not interview Andrew Ross Sorkin? By the way, Too Big to Fail is a much better way to understand the financial crisis. Inside Job is more for populists. Not recommended (unless, of course, you are a former employee of Analysis Group, defender of the evil empires).

King's Speech: A real movie finally! What a fantastic job by Colin Firth... it's rare nowadays that actors and actresses capture the total essence of the character they are playing. But Colin Firth has done it masterfully. Natalie Portman in Black Swan - reviewed a while ago - might be another... my god that makes TWO worthy Oscar wins! Guy Pierce, on the other hand, is not believable at all... Highly Recommended.

Hangover 2 - please don't have a Hangover 3. The Thai lady boy moment trumped all the moments in the original Hangover, but the rest of the movie couldn't measure up. And what's up with the Asian pre-med kid being a complete dork in the movie not caring that he's missing a finger to becoming a surgeon... oh wait, there wasn't supposed to be a plot, right? Not recommended - you're better off re-watching the first one!

X-men First Class - truth is, I don't even remember what happened in the movie, except that it was slightly better in the sense that there was quite a bit of depth in the discussions of mutants' value in the ecosystem. Overall the mutants abilities were a bit disappointing though (especially the kids... I mean... you can scream so loud that you can fly... err...) Slightly recommended.

Some HK Detective Story: I'll cut to the chase: Not recommended. It has Aaron Kwok so that's the one to avoid.


Quick thoughts on Google and +

There's tons of articles on how Google+ is going to affect the Internet landscape. Here were my first impressions...

用了Google+一个早上,Google能整合Gmail ContactPicasa,和Buzz等产品,从一开始就有一个比较好的基础。但感觉就是除了Hang out(多人视频交谈)以外,其他的都跟Facebook差不多。Circle虽然是一个很好的概念,对Privacy的了解和体验都不错,但就算能优化 体验,其实Facebook也可以抄袭的。在人与人之间的沟通,如果base能做起来,我觉得Google+有可能取代GmailFacebook Wall。但其它添加平台粘性的地方,如游戏,Google+很难有突破。


Roughly translated: Between Hangout and Circle, Google's key differentiators so far, Facebook will copy Circles pretty quickly. To regain (maintain?) its status as communication platform between people, I think Google+ is a great first step and could possibly take over wall functions on Facebook. But it lacks other "stickiness" factors such as social games... for now.

One day and trying out many different ways to use Google+ later, several things struck me:

  1. Hangout - love it... Skype is going to hate this... or rather, Microsoft is going to super hate this very very much. How did MSFT stock price still raise? Their crown acquisition just got punched in the face... twice!
  2. Circles is a great privacy tool. I'd like to see sub-circles (I organize my friends in triagles - a few at the top whom I can share everything with, a couple more in the middle trapezium whom I'd like to know (but not too much) about, and the bottom trapezium whom I have on the list because it's rude if I don't. Nonetheless, a great feature that Facebook will have to copy for sure.
  3. Buzz put the first spotlight on Google where it violated users' privacy. Google+ is much much much better. You control it with Circles. I raised an eyebrow with the "Share" function, but then I thought this is the same as a private email being forwarded... or some private Facebook status being screen captured (See Failbook for some hilarious examples). Privacy win for Google+, so far.
  1. Circles is a great idea and the animation is awesome. It is, however, a fundamentally flawed UI with the horizontal setting. It needs to be VERTICAL, like a phonebook list, and allow us to drag names towards the Circles on the right. Someone had too much fun with the animation and forgot the fundamental desire: I need to organize my contact list.
  2. I hate that Google+ is hijacking "Stream" and "Hangout"... now I have to ask people to see my stream? And hanging out with people becomes a different thing? 
  3. Google released Plus like they did Gmail, Buzz, Wave, with limited invitations. Under a close beta, they will fix kinks and bugs and improve the product to a point that it can be released publicly. Except that Plus is a product that needs the public release to truly unlocks its popularity. Perhaps a prime example of how a large established firm with its established release schedule got in the way. Within a day, all users are screaming for more invites, but Google can't give them the jewels cus the product still has bug. I suppose Social products have very little room for error from the get go!
Not sure
  1. Do you notice you can't post on other's "wall" like you do in Facebook? You can only "stream" the person... I'm not sure where this could head, but it was strange that if I want to start a discussion with someone over Google+, I need to use stream and I cannot add more people to the discussion (or maybe I can "share"...?)


Switching from Google to Steve Jobs

Finally, I gave in and dumped my old ass Google G1 phone and got an iPhone4. Well, more like my wife was sick of me hogging hers to play games so she got me my own instead. Now we can both play games at the same time and cease conversation once and for all. Technology, it's great.

The G1 and iPhone4 are of course no comparison... the Apple product is clearly the champion of smartphones... for now. Apple products, however, have a way to piss you off. The iPod, for example, still baffles me why I cannot simply drag and drop MP3s from a folder to the iPod.

Here's problem #1 with iPhone4:

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Yup, I'm ghetto, and the iPhone4 is sleek and chic and cool. I have 4 Sim Cards - HK, China, Thailand, and US. And they all fitted nicely into my G1. iPhone 4 is so nice and small it doesn't allow for any ghetto Sim Card storage.

Problem #2: like all normal tech savvy people, I use Google to manage my emails, my contacts, and my calendar. G1 was perfect in every way because it was designed to do just that. iPhone4, on the other hand, dislikes that very much. I synced email and calendar via Gmail, but contacts needed to be done via Exchange, but only after you disable Gmail. Say what!? Luckily wife has done this once and guided me back to the enlightened path.

Problem #3: iPhone4 also dislikes you trying to customize anything in a non-Apple way. In Google Contacts, for example, you can customize names for numbers, such as "Call this number after 10pm." A more practical use is that I name one of my contacts "Lawyer" and customize to "Criminal" and "Document" so I know which one to call. Well, those numbers won't appear on the iPhone4, unless you change it back to "Mobile" "Home" or "Office" cus those are the only 3 possible places where you would have a phone number associated...

Anyway, I'm done bitching. Where did I move the Angry Bird Rio icon...?


Traveling like a consultant

Perhaps it was pure coincidence that I watched Up in the Air last night... pretty good movie which I highly recommend, by the way.

As a former consultant, I maximize efficiency. At the airport, that means minimize the time I spend waiting for others. So when I switched a 5pm flight to a 10pm flight because a meeting ran overtime, I've already planned how to leisurely stroll into my seat a minute after the gates close. Game plan: leave office at 740pm, arrive at boat terminal at 8pm for a 815pm 30 minute boat ride to arrive at 845pm, giving me more than enough time to enjoy the lounge and have dinner there.

Instead, here's what transpired...

Actually, perhaps the seeds were planted even earlier...

140pm: Meeting ran overtime... going to miss my flight... checking flight scheds... email travel agent to switch me to a later flight...
230pm: Travel agent emailed "no flight at 1010pm"
240pm: WTF are you talking about (No, I didn't say that...), it's CX 709
241pm: Oh... you are flying from HK, not Bangkok!
242pm: OMG, you are a fucking idiot (No, I didn't say that...)
740pm: Leaving the office...
750pm: uh oh, the main road to the terminal is blocked for no apparent reason
803pm: 12 minutes to get a ticket, go thru customs and immigration
804pm: Sorry, we accept cash only for boat tickets
804pm: WTF... (No, I didn't say that...)
805pm: Bought ticket... with cash
805pm: Sir, you have to check in your flight over there
805pm: Sir, we can't see your reservation
808pm: (Fiddling with my Blackberry) Here's my reservation number, flight number... and my previous flight number
811pm: Sir, here's your reservation. But... we can't let you on the boat unless you have a ticket... and we can't give you a ticket unless you've paid the fee for changing your ticket...
811pm: Urrr... here's my credit card
812pm: And we can't accept payments here...
812pm: WTF... (I did say that...) let me find my travel agent at 812pm. WTF... (I did say that) Sorry, I'm not swearing at you, I'm swearing at my idiot travel agent...
813pm: (Annoying customer waiting behind me) Excuse me, can you guys open another line to serve us?
815pm: (After some phone calls...) Sir, we can let you on the boat. We've held it for you. Please run.
(WTF... couldn't you guys have done that at 810pm?)
816pm: running... running... immigration... running... other dude running after me... I have to sign a waiver in case I miss my flight... running... running...
818pm: On the boat! It's leaving 3 minutes late thanks to me!
848pm: Hong Kong Airport! Full hour before my flight... just have to pay my fine and check in...
851pm: Sir, our credit card machine isn't working... Sir, there is no ATM in this section...
900pm: Sir, sorry to keep you waiting... we've found a credit card machine...
911pm: Woohoo... finally at the lounge
941pm: (Announcement) Mr. Lam, please go to your gate!
949pm: In my seat
955pm: Gate closed! I got there a couple minutes early. Must make it tighter next time.
1208am: Finishing this blog entry
112am: Arrive at hotel lobby... fudge, I'm SPG Gold now... I miss complimentary breakfast and Internet!


World News

I'm sure we all feel the same way: the world is coming to an end, and it has all ironically started with Egypt (it being an ancient civilization and all), continued with chaos in Libya and other Middle Eastern / African countries, then concluded with earthquakes in China, Japan, and Burma / Thailand.

I remember reading a great BBC article about how the media will soon get over the "Facebook and Twitter - American innovations - helped the lower class Egyptians overthrow their dictator" angle and the only way you'll learn about what is happening in Egypt is through Al Jazeera (Their website which has Lybia on the cover but also their site on Egypt). Well, that's exactly what happened. Perhaps right now is when the Egyptians actually NEED our attention... but, alas, watching bombs drop in Libya is clearly more interesting. Just as a reminder, I came across this CNN article... food for thought.


Kindle changes my life... so far

I got a Kindle for Valentines Day... and so far, it has changed my life.

Instead of eating and watching movies, I now do three things: eating, watching movies, and reading on my Kindle!

In a month, I've read:
  • What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell: the only reason I didn't buy the book was that it's basically a collection of his articles from way back and I thought why would I shell out US$15 for this? Oh, but it is $3 on the Kindle! Awesome book, especially the chapters on the Discovery Space Shuttle disaster and Enron. Highly recommended.
  • Lost Symbol: the first time I tried the "highlight function" on the Kindle... more on this at the end of the post. Sigh. Anyway, horrible book, and I got all the twists. Dan Brown, how have I read all your novels. Arg. Not recommended.
  • Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin: I can't believe that the author is only 32 years old. His account of how the US government and other Wall Street big boys raced to save their buddies is one of the most captivating stories I have ever read. Dare I say he is better than Michael Lewis (I read the Big Short on my way from HK to Brazil - and I just realized I never wrote about that... highly recommended book on how people made unbelievably easy money from the 2008 financial tsunami). The whole thing is a gripping ride. Highly highly highly recommended.
  • 大江大海1949 by 龍應台: I've been reading about 4-5 chapters a day on my commute to Shenzhen. And not one day have I not welled up on my trip. 龍老師's detailed description on how lives were eternally altered during the war years in China were all so moving. I remember meeting her once and asking her if she regretted leaving out any stories. She replied by saying all of it - all stories that were told but not published deserved to be published. 
Well, I wanted to share a sentence in the Lost Symbol that has to do with bad writing and a penis. Why am I not sharing this now...? Cus my Kindle seems to be stolen at work. Mother fucker, I have 86 hours of CCTV to see who might have stolen it... or if I just left it on the bus.

But... it has changed my life... so far.


    Movie - Adjustment Bureau

    I swear I've seen more movies... but somehow never recorded them.

    Adjustment Bureau (IMDB): In a story about fate and free will, I thought the movie was pretty good until the last 5 minutes. Matt Damon runs a lot in this movie, and I kept thinking that he'd turn into Jason Bourne and actually change his fate with fists and guns. Anyway, he didn't. I suppose the message of the movie is that you got to grab the bull by the horns and control it. I'm cool with that message. I can't stand movies that worked so well along and keeps the audience on its toes and screws it up at the last moment (Somewhat like State of Play, but Adjustment Bureau only screws up the last 5 minutes) When Matt Damon stops running, that's when you should leave the theater and call it a night. Slightly recommended without the last 5 minutes.

    Inception: I think the last time I watched a movie three times in a year was The Mission (Canto). Well, I did my third Inception and it was better than the first two. And I think I figured out where Leo is physically and also in his dream state. In fact, it kind of reminded me of Momento, another one of my all time favs.


    Skiing in China

    Skeptically, I went skiing in China last weekend. Turned out I was the fool - the ski resort I went to was comparable to mid-sized American ski resorts in the NE and everything exceeded my expectations. The only thing I really wanted more was more grooming on the tougher slopes.

    Anyway... seeing that most of the workers on the lifts were villagers from the originally deserted town, I wondered out loud whether they knew how to ski and how they would get back down the slopes. If they don't ski down, they'll just take the lift down of course.

    Not. As I looked down the black diamond run and considered how to end my last run of the day, I saw a bunch of dots in a straight line going down... curious, I caught up. So this is how they get home...

    Yup, put your ass on a shovel and head down. I'll be back, China ski resorts!

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    The problem with Facebook...

    Much like how Google promotes the use of the Internet to strengthen its commercial interests, Facebook promotes the lack of privacy to strengthen its.

    I received the following email from Facebook after painstakingly going through it's privacy settings (PC, then mobile, then back to PC) trying to remove my phone number from Facebook.

    Hi Josekin,

    As you requested, your imported contacts have been removed. Please note: if some of your friends choose to share their email or phone numbers with friends on Facebook, you'll still see their contact information in your phonebook.


    The Facebook Team

    And herein lies the danger with Facebook:
    • First of all, I'm not sure if I removed MY number at all. And I can't figure it out. 
    • Second of all, now I am aware that others have their number that I can see. I'm no stalker, but this strikes me as dangerous especially for younger folks who have less concern for their own privacy (because they haven't realized the harm). 
    • The second sentence... "if some of your friends choose to share". Look, let's be honest, nobody knows that they just did, because Facebook has made privacy such a convoluted process to set and un-set.
    Ugh... everything Facebook does makes me want to quit it, but I can't. Doesn that make me sound like an addict? My god it does!


    Movies, again.

    Yup, apprently I only eat and watch movies.

    Middle seat coach on United from SFO to HKG - it doesn't get any worse than this, except that I'm paying a fraction of the price, so I guess I do deserve whatever they give me. Btw, DO NOT get the breakfast option that is Japanese Teriyaki Vegetables and Tofu with Rice: by far the worst ever airplane meal I have ever had.

    Even though it was a shared movie screen for the entire coach, I managed to catch 2 pretty good movies. In fact, the flight was overall enjoyable, no doubt because I didn't have to play the elbow game with my neighbors. You see, life is much better if we all stick to our personal space.


    Morning glory - Rachel McAdams stars in this girly comedy along with... wait for it... wait for it... Harrison Ford! And I'm not ashamed to say that it was surprisingly good with a lot of funny moments! Harrison's serious face (a.k.a. the Jack Ryan or "I'm the President of the United States of America" face) is still fun to watch. Recommended to watch on an airplane - the couple across the aisle kept LOLing.

    Megamind - fun cartoon featuring voices of Will Farrel, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, and the fat kid from Super Bad. haha... just thinking of Super Bad makes Megamind worth it. Fun cartoon from start to finish. Brad Pitt does an awesome job as the voice of one of the heroes. I couldn't really tell that Megamind's voice was Will Farrel's. Recommended.


    Nobu in Hong Kong

    For those who love Japanese food, Hong Kong is a pretty nice city that blends the very affordable sushi belt restaurants as well as independent high end ones. Nobu, while not independent, was one of the first Nobus opened outside of the US. Located in the harbor-front Intercontinental Hotel, it actually is one of the best dining spots you can find in Hong Kong, offering a close and unobstructed view of Hong Kong island.

    Before I delve in... here's my experience at Nobu NY for restaurant week. Also wanted to mention Gwyneth Paltrow's restaurant rec Zuma (my review)... do not go unless you don't know anything about Japanese food and want to "give it a try". Funny I never mentioned it in my original post, but the server didn't know what omakase was! And when the-PNGF and I asked where the salt was from (you know, cus it was actually tasty, the server told us "sea salt". Ugh. Zuma also ranked in top 20 restaurants in Asia for Michelin, I think. Double Ugh.

    Back to Nobu Hong Kong. We ordered the Omakase and I think the pictures cover all 8 dishes. I have the menu at home so will have to recheck later.

    Chilled tuna tartar with caviar kicks off a great meal; the combination was wonderful and really prepared me for the next few courses.
    The next appetizer was somewhat disappointing. I can't remember all the ingredients, but I do remember the tuna that was soaked in some sweet wasabi sauce (background) - too much.

    Lobster salad was very good. Slightly warm but not undercooked and still flavorful.
    Unfortunately, the seafood entree was not the black cod. The seabass was nonetheless masterfully prepared and was cooked just right. The sauce complemented the tenderness very well.

    The fatty tuna was the star of the meal - balanced, fresh, and full of flavors - and made the whole meal worth it
    Uni sushi was among the best I've had in Hong Kong

    Ebi had the subtle sweetness to it - nice piece of sushi that leads to dessert

    Flan/Cheesecake was balanced and okay - nothing surprising though.
    Overall, at HKD 1188, I thought Nobu Hong Kong was of great value and even greater taste. Combined with a unbeatable view and ambiance, it was a great dining experience. The servers, similar to those at Robuchon, however, still need better training. Otherwise, my only wish was that they had more of their signiture dishes on the Omakase!


    Flying to US means watching movies

    United's business class video on demand system is still one of the best I've seen for all long haul fights. See my review from almost TWO years ago! Oddly, however, the selection seems to be less...

    Especially strange was the TV series. I ended up watching 3 episodes of The Wire Season 1... even though it was episode 2, 6 and 11. Yup, those were the only 3 on VOD...

    Back to the movies.

    Due Date: Robert Downing Jr and the hilarious fat kid from The Hangover (who now seems to be in a lot of movies...) make a funny pair as they road trip back from Atlanta to LA. It's okay funny most of the time and I think it kept me entertained for the most part. Not really recommended.

    127 Hours: I really wanted to see this movie for some reason. Something about the story about a man being literally stuck in the wilderness that is fascinating. And the part where he has to saw off his arm. In fact, when I first read the incredible story quite a few years ago, I thought to myself that it would make a really good movie and that the hiker would gain fame and fortune from his unfortunate encounter - else he'd just be another hippie hiker. Anyway, I liked the movie although it isn't for anyone. You have to watch a good 90 minutes of James Franco struggling with hallucinations and reality - there's no real point to the movie other than our hero realized he should have told the ones he loves what he was up to when he goes on solo adventures. Oh, and there's a good 5 minutes of him hacking off his arm. Again, not for anyone. Recommended.

    Black Swan: this was a theater in LA, not the flight TV. I think the first word that comes to mind is "disturbing"... then "fantastic"... then "disturbing" again. I think I need to watch the movie again to truly appreciate it. My first thought after the screening was that damn she actually had to go through all that shit to become perfect. It wasn't until the next morning that I thought... hmmm, maybe she did imagine all of it deliberately so that she can grow into the role. Maybe she wasn't crazy. Anyway, I think the point was that perfection can always be achieved if you push hard enough... right? Natalie Portman does a masterful job in the movie and certainly deserves all the credit (she's the favorite for the ultimate prize, an Oscar). Still, a disturbing movie. (Made me think of Tiger moms for a minute actually) Recommended.


    Wanna watch porn?

    Food porn, that is. Met up with some high school classmates for a wedding and someone mentioned my blog. Shame on me since I've been making a lot of food porn but not really sharing them. Here are four pictures, two from my birthday lunch at Bo Innovation and two from PNW's birthday lunch at Rubuchon (Macao). Both meals were fantastic (Robuchon still needs a better main cource... same as my last visit) and quite memorable... should go to Bo again even though PNW doesn't really like fusion.

    I can't remember what this was; another point I will try to improve on... should be fried shrimp balls.

    Bo Innovation is known for its twist on Chinese food... this is the 蝦餃 Har Gau, shirmp dumpling
    Generous portions of Foie Gras at Rubuchon
    One of the best Napaleons I've ever had

    More food porn will come, I promise. Yesterday, I've edited pictures up to September of last year. Almost back to the present!

    Emirates A380 - How big is it really?

    Side note for Emirates from my consultant mind: when I checked in at Emirates,they simply put me in zone F, which means zones A-E board first, then in zone G for the Dubai-Sao Paulo... and I had such high expectations of their services. The flight was good, the entertainment system was good, the service was very nice, and the food was horrendous. But I thought they missed a great chance to convert me from Cathay though.

    Imagine if all gate agents asked "Sir/Madam, are you a frequent flier member on any other airlines?" If they find some Silver/Gold/Platinum/Diamond/Other exotic metal members, they immediately offer a new mileage card (fill in contact info first) and first time user privilege (upgrade, use of lounge, board first... all if available). Wouldn't you capture some new loyal-to-other-airlines customers right away? Instead, I get dumped to zone F and spent 20 minutes in line wondering why I didn't take the Cathay flight.

    All in all, the Emirate experience was still a pretty good one. I also had the chance to ride on the A380... the bigness of it can only be appreciated by pictures... and unfortunately, I wasn't flying during the day so there really wasn't an opportunity to have the A380 against a 747 or 777 to get a good perspective on its size. I shall try anyway.

    Here's one of the wing of a regular aircraft (Airplane nerds please tell me the model):

    And this is the A380... I can't even get a picture of the whole wing of the A380! And it covers the whole Kenyan Airline AIRPLANE!

    Otherwise, the inside is a bit of an anti-climax: it looks like all the Airbus internals, although it comes in 2 floors (I didn't get to go up...). The stairs, in case that would interest you.


    Movies on Emirates

    It may seem that I am only watching movies on the plane or on pirated DVDs... perhaps true. I did see Harry Potter 7 the other day. I was lost most of the time cus I had no idea what muggles was. Not recommended? (The question mark is intentional)

    One thing Emirates got right: movies that can play once you board the flight! How has no airline done this before? You get on the plane, sit down, hit a few bottons (or touch the not-very-reliable screen), and start your movie! I can sit on the tarmac for hours watching a movie without getting jittery because we haven't taken off yet. Which is exactly what happened in Dubai when a passenger had a heart attack on the tarmac and the plane headed back to the terminal. I was watching The Expendables and never made a fuss... anyway, on to the movies:

    The Expendables: Watching a bunch of macho old men run around killing people and dismantling buildings is fun. Not really... but if you want to see some ass kicking, I think this movie might do it for you. Okay, I'll admit, I've already forgotten what this movie was about except that there were some gun fires and sticky bombs and kung fu kicks. Not recommended.

    Wall Street: The classic one. Now that I've seen the original, I wonder why didn't someone make the sequel to Charlie Sheen's character... like what happens to whistle blowers against high power folks. Anyway, Michael Douglas is masterful and the whole movie just nailed New York perfectly. Also loved the music and sound effects. Highly recommended.

    Freakenomics: I remember reading on their blog that there was some documentary thing. Each section of the documentary deals with a chapter in Freakenomics and uses a different director. So you get several interpretations/illustrations of economic research plus a whole lot of background information. In fact, they deal with a lot more of the background than the actual analysis, which is good. I highly recommend the Sumo Wrestling and Incentives chapters. Recommended.

    Knight and Day: I knew it was going to be bad. I just didn't know how bad. Cameron Diaz is too old to try to look beautiful. And Tom Cruise... is just old. He didn't even need make up this time to look like the Cruise in Vanilla Sky. Actually, that might be worth the price of admission to see his face - it barely twitches the whole movie and when it does it takes us back to Vanilla Sky Cruise. Good times. Not recommended.

    Killers: You know, after watching Knight and Day, I had no choice to watch another "spy" movie... this time with Ashton Kutcher and Catherine Heigl, whom for all we know might easily morph into Cruise and Diaz when all is said and done. Anyway, here are the plot keywords courtesy of IMDB: marriage, neighbor, assassin, birthday, hired killer. They missed "atrocious" and "unbelievable... plot". Not recommended.

    Triple Tap: Chinese movie that is a sequel to Double Tap. Decent movie overall but with some fatal flaws, one of which is to try to try to mix in the financial crisis into it. It does nothing for the movie. Can we stick with people with guns trying to outwit each other? Instead, it spirals into some psychological warfare that involves offfices and women. Not recommended.

    Grown Ups: Feel good comedy with Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade. Individually, each of them have made some pretty funny stuff, and together they string together some funny lines for about an hour and a half. Slightly recommended.

    Megamind: well, I didn't exactly watch it. but since it was on like 20 screens for like 50 hours (of flight time), I think I got the gist of it. In fact, this probably happened for Avatar, Inception, The American (presumably, to fall asleep), Toy Story 3... but I want to go see Megaman when I am back in Hong Kong.


    More movies - thanks Cathay for the upgrade! (Blast from the past)

    Hmmm... found a blog draft saved in November but never posted.... here goes. Not much of a post anyway.

    Thankfully, I was upgraded to Cathay's business class (2009 review stands). Flat bed was awesome of course, but the On-Demand movie on 19-inch (I think) TVs are the best long haul invention ever.

    (These four movies might have been one of the best 4 on a flight)

    I watched Prince of Persia (okay), Cyrus (kind of funny), Inception (2nd time is freaking awesome), and Dinner with Schmucks (horrible).


    Why Chinese Mothers are Superior...!?

    I read this WSJ article a while ago about why Asian parenting is better than Western parenting. At the time, I didn't make much of it. I simply brushed it away (reason below). Then it kept being posted on Facebook... so I felt compelled to offer an opinion.

    In a nutshell, I felt that the article was all bull shit. Ms. Chua (Or is it Mrs. Chua, I'm going on a limb here and say that she's a Ms Chua) has this article to promote her new book. It needed a controversial article on a major newspaper and this is the end result. All bull shit marketing to sell more books. Thanks but no thanks.

    I also felt that there is only one type of person who would write this kind of article: an Americanized Asian woman. A real Chinese parent would never go out and boast how much they forced their child to succeed and the child succeeded. A real American parent would be horrified to see any different type of parenting done in other families.

    As for the point of the article... well, look, different parents have different ways of parenting. If "forcing your child do acquire skills" was the only way to go, supply and demand would dictate that all children being forced to work like crazy. And what if the kid just doesn't respond, or isn't good enough, or plainly hates what is being shoved down his or her throat? Do you disown him or her to prove that you are right and you are doing what is best for them?

    Give me a break. People are wired differently and that's that. Raise your own child your way and be proud that your kid turned out great. No need to go tell how others should follow your lead.


    Shenzhen bi-products

    Working in Shenzhen has its bi-products:
    • Better reflexes: I fear for my life every time I get on a car... nobody respects a stop sign and no one uses their turning lights. So one tends to develop really good reflexes on the road even though one isn't the driver.
    • Stronger abs: suspecting that every single person is trying to cut in line, all people in Shenzhen line up right behind each other. Makes me a bit homophobic sometimes, actually.Anyway, as a result, I constantly swing my backpack to create personal space. If I don't have a backpack, I'll swing my hips. Works like a charm.
    • DVDs... at USD$1 a piece, you tend to just resort to pirated DVDs for all your entertainment. Here goes...

    Lie to Me: Loved the end of season 1 with an undeniable dark turn. It lost some steam in the middle as every episode started to feel like CSI. Anyway, good TV but I have one big question... if actors can fake all the truth- and lie-telling faces, how can you detect them in real life? Recommended.

    True Blood: I swear, my wife made me watch it. So much nudity that sometimes I thought I was watching soft porn... not that I know what soft porn is...

    The Town: When the ending credits rolled out, I was shocked to see Ben Affleck directed! Not a bad effort by him. Shadows of The Heat in some of the bank robbery scenes, right down to the demise of each robber. And Ashley Judd's hand slide. It is, however, not The Heat. Affleck can try to be Michael Mann... but he can't try to be De Niro. And the guy from Mad Men is certainly no Al Pacino either. Good action flick that would have been much better if it was the first of its kind. Recommended.

    The American: This is Michael Clayton, assassin version, gone bad. I fell asleep twice and finally finished the movie on the 3rd night. The Italian town is beautiful though - always liked those narrow stone paved European small towns where everybody knows everybody. Except for the new killer in town, apparently. Not recommended.

    Eat Pray Love: I thought this would be a boring chick flick. Chick flick it is. Boring it is not. Thank god that Julia Roberts is in this movie as she nailed the role of midldle age divorcee unsure of herself. Negative points for making Bali a tourist madhouse (Our October honeymoon coincided with a book club gathering in Ubud). Recommended.

    Oh, and happy new year!


    Dispicable Me

    Well, Despicable Me is a kid's movie. And that's that. Not recommended for adults.


    Social Network

    Apparently Social Network won some early film award... I'm too lazy to even look that up.

    Saw the movie last week and didn't like the whole movie at all. As PNW said, "why did they make all the characters so un-likable in that movie"? Well, perhaps it's because all of them are filthy rich and we are not.

    The movie starts with Mark Zuckerberg being dumped by his BU girlfriend and then he runs across the Harvard campus to his dorm room so he can blog his revenge and start Facemash. That 3 minute sequence alone lost me. Why did we need to see him run through the campus? What was that awful techno-like music in the background? Why is he still running?

    Aviator, by contrast, is a much better fantasy biography movie. There was a constant struggle to judge Howard Hughs throughout the movie.

    The Social Network didn't have any of that struggle. Mark Zuckerberg was obsessed with making himself part of an elite... and nothing else. Maybe he cared about people being able to connect with each other? Help people find long lost friends? No such mention in the movie. It was one man on one mission only...

    Ultimately, did I feel that I learned anything about the characters in the movie? No. It lacked depth and I think there will be a much better movie about these Internet founders when everything is said and done. I do believe that Zuckerberg is a douche to his friend Eduardo (who himself is quite a douche too), and that's about it. Just couldn't take any of the other fantasy themes seriously. Anyway, a movie on Jobs, for example, would be sensational since he has done the ups and the downs and his personality is strong (Mark Zucherberg, on the other hand, only has a strong personality... for now).

    Not recommended.


    A trip down food memory lane

    I've been on a surprise US recruiting trip for my company the last 12 days or so... all on a carry on suit case. And no camera. Needless to say, I am in pain.

    But, it does give me a chance to chase food memories in Chicago (I just reread my post... good times!)... In four days, here's what transpired:

    Arrived in Chicago on Tuesday morning. Went to Gibson's for steak. The 22 ounce Chicago Cut was a bit too much so I settled for the 10 ounce Filet Mignon. The surface was way too crusty and it seemed that the meat was simply sub-par. And the $14 Turtle pie for 10 people only came in one size. Arg!

    Tuesday dinner, met up with b-school friends at new restaurant Gilt. Great restaurant with great food (Bone Marrow toast, pork belly, roast chicken, and some spicy pasta were all memorable and worth another try)... see? You want to see pictures, right? Me too.

    Wed lunch. I was hoping to have Apple Pancakes at the Original Pancake House to honor 2R. It was not to be - I had lunch at the GSB cafeteria.

    Wed dinner. Planned to meat up with Bainees at Frontera Grill. Wait was too long, so we walked pass Michelin 2 star restaurant NAHA, and ended up in Italian chain Maggianos. At least the lobster pasta was really good.

    Wed night. After Maggianos, I met up with BSLW and PP at the Wit Bar. Drinks were okay. Conversations were great (I miss b school so much). And the best was the making out couple sitting across from us. Actually, not sure if they are a couple, if you know what I mean.

    Thur lunch. Fogo de Chao with GSB friend. I had 10 pieces of bread, at least. Good times. Meat was great, but why do they insist of giving you double portions? I want to sample more meat. And more bread. Did I mention I ate 10 of those at least?

    Fri lunch. Planned to pass by Hot Doug on my way to Kellogg. It was not to be with the super long line outside the restaurant. I had some left over turkey sandwich after my presentation.

    Fri dinner. Joy Yee in Evanston. Nuff said... (not in the most complimentary way... it is Evanston afterall).

    At least I caught a good movie in The Next three Days.


    Red,Waiting for Superman

    Oh, I forgot the best reason for going to theaters in the US of A: 2fers!!!

    My only regret for this 2fer is that I paid for Red and didn't contribute to the box office of Waiting for Superman.

    RED: As a rule, when Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich (and Helen Mirren!) are in the same movie, you should go see it. I had no idea this was a DC Comic movie. Bruce Willis is still Bruce Willis, doing his squinting routine and "I need to look both surprised and confident at the same time" look. Malkovich is absolutely off the hook funny. Oh, and there's that hot housewife from Weeds (she can't act - but the role she got was perfect for her... in fact, I'm pretty sure she's still playing the drug dealing house mom role in this movie, awed by all the acting talent that has surrounded her). Anyway, a rule is a rule. Recommended.

    Waiting for Superman: Thankfully Red was actually funny. Waiting for Superman is a depressing documentary about the education system in the US of A. It is broken, and it doesn't want to fix itself. Thankfully the director offers a glimmer of hope with all the new types of schools that greatly expose the deficiencies of the US public schools. The only problem: there aren't enough of these new schools. Nonetheless, I hope public school administrators and teachers see this movie... they will become obsolete unless they start to address the problem: that education is about the kids and not about the adults.


    The Next Three Days

    I do miss theaters in the US of A. In Hong Kong, movie watching is complicated - you must first reserve tickets ahead of time. Who plans to watch a movie a week before it is released!?

    Anyway, it's a lovely feeling when you can just walk up to the movies and have no idea what might happen in the next 2 hours. When the theater was filled with Wizard dressing Harry Potter fans on its first night of release, I chose to watch The Next Three Days starring Russell Crowe.

    The story: Russell Crowe, a middle school teacher, insists that his wife is innocent of a murder that has put her behind bars for life. He is on a mission to break her out of prison. That's right, Wentworth Miller is replaced by Russell Crowe in Prison Break.

    But it is a surprisingly good Prison Break on the movie screens. Instead of focusing on HOW Crowe is going to break his wife out, the movie follows Crowe's struggle to make ends meet and his commitment to the cause. The first hour is in fact rather slow as you can imagine... but quickly builds amazing tension entering the last half and hour or so. Does he do it? Does he not do it? How far is he willing to go? How is he going to pull this off? Is he going to make it?

    Forget how realistic that a middle school teacher can break out his wife from prison. It doesn't matter. I enjoy movies like this one - more on the person and peoples involved and less on actions (See Unstoppable). Highly recommended.


    Salt, Blind Side, Unstoppable

    Now here is a trio of forgettable movies:

    Salt: At the start, you see a naked Jolie being tortured by some North Korean agents. Well, you don't actually see it, cus she's in a very dark room (why does torture always happen in a dark room?). Anyway, she's released and 3 years later she is a Russian spy killing Russian presidents and US presidents and trying to launch nuclear missiles to wipe out the US... or was that Russia, I can't tell. WHAT!? Not recommended.

    Blind Side: Arg, I had such hope to see a great Sandra Bulluck performance. I saw an average performance of a role that she should master. Otherwise, it was a simple feel good story that just felt okay with me. At some point, I want to see some real Oscar worthy movies! (Hurt Locker, An Education did not meet expectations). If you like predictable feel good stories, recommended.

    Unstoppable: Well, classic Denzel movie. He's a 28 year railroad veteran trying to stop a train with dangerous chemicals running straight towards a populated town. The only thing missing is his drinking problem and family struggles and his angry side. Oh wait, he was asked to retire early at half benefits - yup, that's gotta be his fuel. Actually, forget about this movie. Not recommended.

    You know, I really enjoy taking pictures and writing... it's too bad that I haven't done either for such a long time. Let me try to extend this.


    Inception; A-Team; Robin Hood

    I was a bit disappointed with the highly anticipated Inception. I guess therein lies the problem: highly anticipated always leads to disappointment.

    Anyway, the premise is quite simple: Leo is a dream hacker and can plant viruses into one's brain. The planting virus business can be quite dangerous and has led to the death of his late wife... which has in turn, from time to time, interfered with his projects. Leo needs to overcome his own created problem, team with some other hackers, and finish the next big task. My head is spinning already. Maybe I should watch it twice... Slightly recommended.

    A-Team: it's so ridiculous it is awesome. Since when did Liam Neeson do movies like this...? The guy from Hangover can now just make any movie, I guess. Recommended.

    Robin Hood: Russel Crowe in Gladiator 2! Little John is played by Keamy in Lost. I can never forgive Keamy. Why is Kate Blanchett in this movie? How did the British army just go from one place to another in a blink of the eye? Why would the King be in the front lines? Who are the orphans running around? Arg. Not recommended.

    Oh yeah, I got married (twice!) and then went on my honeymoon.... must be back on this blogging business.


    Circle of Life

    Today is Oct 9, 2010, a Saturday that I had to spend at the office because of China's ridiculous holiday schedule. My G1 made a ping sound and vibrated once. I ignore it. After 10 minutes, it does it again. I ignore it. 20 minutes later, after finishing some of my work, I pick it up to see what emails I get.

    The first was my friend Eddy and his wife Emily welcoming a beautiful little baby girl to this world.

    The second was my grandmother leaving this world.

    And there you have it, the amazing Circle of Life in back-to-back emails...


    I need to blog again

    Just because I haven't blogged in a month doesn't mean I didn't do anything... in sequence of the last few months.

    An Education: I thought this would be better than The Hurt Locker. It was not. Now I have to turn my attention to Precious to see if there was indeed an Oscar worthy film. An Education is a classic "too much expectation" movie for me. At the core, the movie was a fun but simple depiction of when the poor meet the rich. The poor will always be "too simple, too naive" because they weren't exposed to the life of the rich. On the other hand, the rich will always be taking advantage of its inherent advantage. The girl in the movie is quite refreshing. Recommended.

    Iron Man 2: not bad for a robot vs. robot blow it all up movie. Barely recommended.

    Lost: I admit, it got a little dusty at home during the finale. It's too bad the series had to end like this... I felt there was still a lot of potential in it and it had a very loyal following. Unfortunately, it wrapped up in a very rushed fashion. Recommended.

    Flashforward: I think I said I would boycott the show because the whole story line was just stupid to me. Well, TF convinced me to keep watching it with her. Let's just say I'm glad it is canceled after 1 season. Shouldn't they offer an alternative ending for season 1 when there is only season 1?? Anyway, the acting was horrible for the most part and the story just didn't have any punch to it. Not recommended, although the idea was great.

    The Cove: this is what documentaries should be about. Facts and more facts and not opinionated pieces like Michael Moore. Don't get me wrong - I really do enjoy Moore's documentaries - it's just that sometimes his facts seem a bit far fetched to be making a political point. The Cove, on the other hand, is black and white. You may disagree on how dolphins think about being in captive, but you cannot argue with the slaughter. The Cove is a powerful documentary and I prefer it over all the so called OScar films this year. Highly recommended!

    Liar Poke: Yeah, I'm about 10 years behind the time line. Awesome book with a strange similarity to the current financial crisis. Can we all agree that capitalism breeds greed and greed breeds financial crisis? And can we also all agree that this is not a bad thing? Highly recommended. And I need to read the Big Short.

    Green Zone: Matt Damon is a soldier on a mission to uncover state secrets! Sounds familiar? That's cus it is. Okay, I think we all know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Let's just move on. Recommended if you like Matt Damon. Else, not recommended.

    Shrek Ever After: Sure, it was fun. Poor Shrek. Sometimes men just need some space to be men. Recommended.

    大兵小将: a surprisingly good Jackie Chan feature where he plays a deserting soldier and not his usual general figure. This small potato runs into a bit of luck and takes the opposing general, played by an inspired pretty boy Wong Lee Hom, prisoner. He tries to take his new found luck home to claim the prize of 5 acres of land so he can be a farmer again. Evil forces have other ideas. Recommended... tho don't expect any Jackie Chan stunts.

    International: Clive Owens and Naomi Watts in conspiracy theory investigation on a bank that helps bad guys deal arms and fudge with money. Awful premise still mastered by Clive Owen's crunched face and Naomi Watt's partially stare down. Not recommended.

    Oh yeah, I'm getting married in 5 days!