New York from Above

Interesting post on the GSB. And online dating. On the latter, I'm not surprised at all. Research have shown similar people are attracted to each other... and females are often matched to males with a slightly higher income. Same job qualifies as similar; boss qualifies as slightly higher income. (See comments - an ex of a friend would probably be similar by association!)

Anyway, I promised the heli tour PNGF and I took in New York.

We took a stroll from PNGF's Wall Street apartment to enjoy some fresh air (as opposed to the subway smell) near the Brooklyn bridge. As I was taking pictures of the other New York, I noticed all these helicopters zooming around and landing somewhere near where we stood. A Heli tour hasn't entered my mind yet, but I was curious on what was going on...

Next thing you know, we're at a ghetto van buying a ghetto ticket for a helicopter tour. Reckless, maybe. Fun, definitely. Since we Asians are smaller in size (body size), we were given the front seats (yay! size matters!). Awesome view of everything. Sitting in the front is kind of interesting because you have to place you foot on the bottom glass. A bit unsettling, i have to say. For the heli-virgins, it's worth it. Sit in the front and challenge your senses. The views are amazing.

See the blade of the helicopter?

Quite a nice view of the city. It was difficult to take pictures on the helicopter as it kept moving and vibrating. I wish I had a wide angle lens though.

The immortal Madison Square Garden... housing the sad Knicks led by Isiah Thomas. We could have seen a game at MSG (Bulls visiting!) but didn't. Sweeney Todd instead... probably for the better.

And of course a requisite Statue of Liberty picture. I wish the heli spent more time here...

=) A picture from the ground was probably better.


All them critics

We met for drinks a while ago, but it wasn't quite long enough to have a meaningful conversation. So when YT and I finally sat down for dinner one day, it was a nice feeling. Similar to when I met up with KL in NYC a year and a half ago (you know, the one that bought a smile to my face), catching up with YT was great.

It's always been important to me to receive honest opinion. I don't sugarcoat anything. While that type of behavior gets me into trouble (to all those offended, I am sorry), it sometimes also gets me into long lasting friendships. The point? I respect and want honest opinion. And the relevance? YT gave me some.

As I've learned in life (and confirmed by the great U of Chicago social scientists), it's easy to form an opinion of yourself and not waver from it too much. After all, you have gone through all your experiences yourself, and nobody else has quite experienced the same.

So when YT disagreed with one of my assessments (of myself of course... no worries, I won't tell you what it is) and gave me her honest opinion, my initial reaction is to reject. Criticism. Hard. To. Take. In fact, I think I was a bit angry that she had been so direct in criticizing me. First of all, she is wrong. Second of all, even if she is right, she is still wrong. =) At the time, I of course redirected the topic and avoided further conversations on the point. I just felt that she's wrong and this wasn't worth discussing.

It wasn't until I was on the cab on my way home when it struck me that she was right. Keep them honest opinions coming. They may not be all right, but they are definitely all appreciated. You need these criticisms to keep improving.

p.s. this is a bit like consulting, isn't it... you have to be honest to your client!
p.s.2. totally irrelevant... but this freakenomic post is cool


Random stuff...

Well... since I have been very lazy (note: limited by networks in China and company), I thought just to get some pictures out.

Thank you Le Meridien for a wonderful ending to my stay in Shanghai. I rarely order room service at hotels, but since I had to be up at 5am, I figured a little bit of breakfast would have helped. As you can see, it more than helped. =)

Twas a good ending because it started very rocky: they put me at first in a room that had two TWIN SIZE beds. TWIN SIZE! Last time I slept in twin size bed was in a hostel. Ghetto. And th receptionist didn't even bother to tell me that! (Anyway, I complained and the situation was corrected with an apology note from the hotel GM. That's how you retain valuable customers, United Airlines)

Random pictures I took in different restaurants around Hong Kong. There is so much to notice in the slightest of things. The salt and pepper from Brunch Club.

An ice (great whiskey at this lounge... I need to find out the name of it) in a glass. I took it using a long shutter while trying to demonstrate what a long shutter would do. Accidental pictures are great sometimes!

Christmas Presents!

Honestly, I can't remember the last time I got a Christmas present. Before 2007:
  • 2006: In Galapagos, we got a very bad sparkling wine (no way it was Champaign) as "Christmas present." I paid for the trip though, so that shouldn't count.
  • 2005: Spent in Hong Kong. I must have gotten something from then GF.
  • 2004: I came back to Hong Kong for a wedding. No recollection of presents.
  • 2003: Present from Alan for the entire family to go to Spain.
Back to 2007... a very fruitful Christmas.

iPod nano: courtesy of my employer! I had a choice between the Nano, a Canon camera, and Nintendo DS. I have to say, I struggled mightily between the Nano and the NDS. At the end, the inability of my current iPod shuffle to indicate song name pushed me over the edge. (Speaking of which... I now have an original iPod, a shuffle, and a nano. I didn't pay a penny for any of them. I guess that's why Steve Job is so rich.

Shure headphones: allow me to say that if you haven't tried Shure headphones, you really haven't experienced headphones. These things fit nicely into your ears. And, man, the sound quality is SO MUCH better. I never knew my old iPod headphones were such crap. Thank you, PNGF!

Macro lens: Thank you, self. Christmas was the perfect excuse for me to buy something for myself (um, yeah, the salary helps as well... you know, since I haven't been paid for two years...). The Nikon 60mm 2.8 Macro (they call themselves a Micro lens; same as Macro) is wonderful for indoor macro photography. I did look at the Nikon D300, but decided that was a bit out of my skill and price range. I really need to improve my photography.

Love all my presents. Using all of them all the time.


Good weekend

Food and Hiking, you can't beat that.

Desserts from a brunch place in Hong Kong. Chestnut pancake and sesame ice cream is pretty good.

My training continues. Really need to do more. Here you can see the old Hong Kong Kai Tak airport. And also another picture for the Tai Tam Reservoir (though my favorite was from last month - in fact, that might be one of my favorites of the year).


Odd numbers...

In 2006, I posted 173 posts, almost a blog post every 2 days.

In 2007, I posted 173 posts, almost a blog post every 2 days.

I kid you not.

More than half a month into 2008, I've made a grand total of 3 posts. Here are my excuses:
  • Company network blocks where I use to post. Communist network blocks entirely.
  • Busy at work while not at home, where I can blog (like now)
  • So much going on that I don't know what to blog about... like about all my Christmas presents. Or the up-coming super Wing Squad reunion.
I did attend a wedding of a fellow GSBer in Taipei because I was "passing by" for work. The haunted Taipei Grand Hyatt is officially my second home - you see... the doorman recognized me and said "Welcome back, Mr. Lam." Anyway, I met up with another GSBer traveling from Japan and of course showed him the good food in Taiwan, highlighted by the very very yummy dumplings from Ting Tai Fung:

I've been "training" for a 50km hike - it's not the distance that's a problem; it's the time we're trying to break (By the way, I figured that if I made a public commitment, I'd be more committed to it... or whatever)I did the first 20km two weeks ago. I'm so out of shape. But my photography is still around.

Gotta love Hong Kong when the skies are clear. Sort of.

You know how bankers complain about their hours and we laugh at their career choice? Well, I'm going to go ahead and complain about travel. Some of the hotels just make me wake up sick (no more JC Mandarin, no more Hilton). I don't get it. The Shanghai Le Meriden is great though. I'll be there next week as well. Last week, I was stuck in the Shanghai airport due to fog. I decided to get back to the city... only to be stuck in traffic. I think I spent 4 hours on the taxi going back and forth from the fog-covered airport. I left the next morning at 7am. I fly too much, yes... but there are some rewards. My friend at Cathay upgraded my mileage account to a higher tier, which paid dividends right away today as I took the last seat on a full flight (not lining up like all the other peasants do apparently did the job. woohoo!).

I have the awful habit of bringing my camera while traveling just in case good photo opportunities come up. It did:


Pictures partially reposted...

Remember when I damned Blogger and Picasa for losing all my pictures on the blog? It was double painful cus I thought there were some noteworthy pictures in my December posts. They've been reloaded with lesser quality (it was the fastest and easiest way).
  • Ever wonder what a diplomatic suite (one less than the presidential one) looks like?
  • Visa commercial with me dressed as a nerd (Okay, it's a mastercard commercial)
  • Some green hiking from the concrete Hong Kong
  • I'm thinking about ALL my old pictures... arg. Just that thought gives me a headache.
By the way, I've committed myself to the 50km walk on the Hong Kong trail on March 1st. Can't wait to it... starting with training this Sunday.


New York, New York (Restaurant Edition)

Happy 2008!!

My visit to New York was for PNGF and her food. And of course the list of restaurants that are permanently tied to her food list. Yay! (Yup, it's gonna be a long long post, my friends, good way to start the New Year) In chronological order:

Jean Georges - this Michelin 3 star restaurant did not disappoint at all. Lunch was extremely reasonable with extraordinary dishes. There were several highlights, but none better than the sea urchin pictured below. It didn't look nice at all to PNGF's disappointment, but the taste was absolutely marvelous, even eclipsing the shrimp (with papaya wasabi sauce!) that I got. Service was of course impeccable, but it didn't matter. The food talked (but not the dessert, sigh).

The dessert was so-so, though it came with a lot of complimentary dishes, which were also so-so. Nonetheless, if you are having lunch, JG is a great deal. As for the Michelin stars... a bit overrated I must say.

Habana Cafe - this is the one place I always visit whenever I am in New York. Last time I was in New York for an interview, I sneaked out in the morning just to have corn at Habana Cafe. The picture will do it justice.

Sasbune - an inconsistent sushi restaurant anywhere is as rare as a good sushi restaurant in Chicago. Sushi restaurants are good when the chef has an eye for fresh and good seafood. It's that simple. Since the chefs don't change mid-meal, you will be hard pressed to find a piece of bad sushi followed by a good one. Unfortunately, we found Sasbune. Here's a perfect piece of uni sushi. Very fresh. Melted in my mouth while leaving a good taste

Oh... and then a sushi that is smothered by eel sauce. Arg. And the junior chef had the gall to advice us to "no soy sauce please..." How's about I tell you "less eel sauce please"? Disappointing. Double disappointing when the bill came out. What? I paid $130 to have someone put sauce to cast away the fresh taste of seafood? Really?

Kyotofu - Kyo.Tofu, get it? They use Tofu as the base of dessert... PNGF swears by it. I say the decor is very good. The food was decent and refreshing. It was a light type of dessert as you may suspect. Lighting was poor and I didn't get a good picture of the very nicely put together desserts.

Sobaya - met up with old GSB friend AW at a soba restaurant. Good cold noodles. Not so good for PNGF, who was allergic to wheat. Even when she didn't have it, the smell of fresh soba being made nearby must have gotten her sick. Still, it was a good and reasonable restaurant.

Fatty Crab - If you come to this 14th street restaurant right next to the bustling meat-packing district, please order the Chili Crab. It is awesome. I wish they could try the same with prawns and lobsters. Too dark is my only complaint, since I can't see if there is crab meat left in the shells. Also too dark for pictures.

Stanton Social - Okay, I have to ask: the "shared plate" concept that the waiter explains to every patron... isn't that the same as Chinese style? Or Italian family style? Funny how these marketing tactic work for these new restaurants (Fatty Crab was the first to shock me with "shared plate" concept). Call it something cool and people will rush to try the "shared plate concept!" Back to the food: Stanton Social, a ML recommendation, delivers. The shared plate concept works nicely as we get to SHARE multiple delicious plates! What an idea! We ordered six in total and got a good taste of the menu. Delicious and refreshing food in a very comfortable and down to earth setting. Highly recommended. Pictures speak most:

Wonderful vanilla bean flavor pancake with pecans
Taco filled with mango and beef - good combination and refreshing in the mouth

Heavenly friends nicely flavored (bad pic unfortunately)

Can you say no to caramel dipped donuts?

Shula - (Hong Kong has yet to offer a good independent steak house... though FY has recommended Wagyu up in SoHo) I was craving steak, so Shula was the solution. I had a 24-oz porterhouse from Shula years ago on my first real business trip. Good times. Nowadays, I can handle a 12-oz filet mignon. Beautifully cooked. Can't complain. And the super large Crème brûlée is a perfect ending to a hectic day. (The Chicago version is thinner and is much more appropriate - this New York one is way too thick and the creme isn't even in the middle)

Jewel Bako - sushi restaurant for New Year Eve. They had helium balloons on the ceilings and the strings hung down like streamers... and annoyed all the waiters who were trying to get the dish to the table without the streamers brushing on it. High comedy. Appetizer was a trio of tartars - a bit too much fat in the tartar, but overall satisfying. Entree is some pretty fresh sashimi as you can see. Nothing out of this world, but nothing disappointing either. Priced reasonably and I would go again and maybe try their other dishes as well.

Sambuca - New Year Eve should never end with mediocre dessert, as was served in Jewel Bako. After some wandering around, PNGF decided that she had had enough and Sambuca was going to be next stop for food. Excellent... and I mean more like EXCELLENT... tiramisu. Perfectly made in every way a tiramisu should be made. The rum, the cream, the lady fingers, the chocolate sprinkle, everything... in perfect harmony. I'm so glad I had this before midnight struck. Great ending to the year!

I'll be back with some 2007 year in review and feelings about my first helicopter ride (Manhattan from the sky is awesome)!