Friday, January 30, 2009

More SAMOHI on youtube

Enjoying art in Bologna, Italy

I'm not that into marching bands. I was viewing all the videos of the bands who performed in London over the New year and I must say I'm biased and partial to the Santa Monica High School marching band. It's almost like I have my own child performing in it. My niece was there performing and I've watched her grow, watched her since she's was a newborn. My eyes well up with tears of pride each time I watch. My Christmas present to her was 100 English pounds, hope she made good use of it. The next video showed them performing in Trafalgar Square.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I do live in earthquake country. Most of the time, the epicenter is too far away and the quakes are small, that I don't even know there was one. The last one was pretty big and we felt it at work. Usually it is so fast that all we can do is stop in our tracks, not knowing what to do. In spite of all the earthquake drills, everything goes out the window, we just stop in our tracks and wait to see if we need to run, dash for cover or what. The one on Friday (Jan 23) was no different except the epicenter of this one was just 2 miles away. You can say I was at the epicenter. I had just stepped into the front door, just closed the door when it happened. The house didn't shake but I did a loud sound and wasn't sure what it was. As usual I just stood there not knowing if I should run out the door or what. It was so sudden and short. I thought maybe it is the big tree in the back that has fallen so I ran to the back, the tree was still there. I later learned it was a 3.5 and centered a mile outside of Santa Monica. If it were any bigger, it might have triggered a Tsunami and my house could be under water and I could be drowned. At least it happened when I was still dressed and able to run if I needed to. What if it happened when we are not in a state of dress to bolt. It happened to me before, I was doing my business on the potty when the house shook and all I could think of was, 'please let me finish my business.'
This is no laughing matter because I'm not earthquake ready. I had to dismantle my earthquake kit a few years ago and I've not put it back together. I better start putting another one together.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Young people

It's been a really busy week and I have a huge team of young people working with me in the pharmacy. It is hard but I need to maintain a certain standard for these young team to emulate. It is very heartening to see young people who wants to emulate you and follow you into the profession even though the work is so hard. They get into huge debts by borrowing in order to pay those exhorbitant college fees. The work is so rewarding though it often doesn't feel like it especially when a patient is screaming at you but to be able to handle any situation is what makes it so worthwhile. On Friday I had the pleasure of working with an intern, a second year pharmacy student who is a recent immigrant from Vietnam. I already have as cashier, a young man who was originally from Myanmar and he aspires to go to Pharmacy school this Fall. Then, guess who came to visit, Chris, a final year Pharmacy student. Wow!
My hope is restored, I must play my part, to be a shining example for the next generation. In a week I celebrate a birthday and after almost 35 years as a Pharmacist, I am very happy, knowing that in spite of the tremendous work load, there are actually young people who wants to be a Pharmacist. The graduating class in the University of Southern California is almost 200 per year. As Americans grow older, we would need everyone in the graduating classess of all the Pharmacy schools.
The week capped off with an email from my sister in law forwarding to me a youtube video of her daughter's, one of my nieces, video of their school's participation in a New Year's day parade in London. The Santa Monica High School marching band was invited to participate in a parade in London over the New Year. We are so used to marching bands, it must be a treat for London to see them up close and in person. I was so heartened when I watched the video, tears came to my eyes. There must be over a hundred students, my niece told me, they brought their school's security guard with them to watch over them when they were over there.
I recieved another email from another brother in Canada, his daughter is teaching English in South Korea. I pray daily for these young people, in the words of Jesus, 'Father, these children (meaning all of us) You have given Me, do not let anyone pluck them from My hands.'

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Spring time, already?

While the rest of the country is buried in snow, we, in Southern California, are enjoying summer like temperatures. I haven't cut back my roses yet and they are loving it. So do passer's by they stop and smelled the roses, that's what we're supposed to do. I love David Austen roses which are what these are. I love the thousands of petals on them and they smell so lovely. I can turn the heat off for a while and save a little money. I think I'll have my gardener cut back the roses today. Ooooh, I have a gardener, I could save $1200 a year if I terminated his service. I have on one side of the property a hedge that serve as a fence, it needs constant trimming and that's what I have the gardener for. Though I might be able to tackle it, all I need is an electric hedge trimmer that looks kind of like a chain saw. I've seen Valerie, my neighbor use one, she seems pretty comfortable with it, she could give me some pointers.... maybe not.... Oh well, the gardener gets to keep his job.

Do they know it's still winter.....I guess not.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chinese New Year

I found this picture in Getty Images http://gettyimages I thought it is so cute, it depicts 2 Chinese toddlers waiting, presumably with the parents, for the train. It is the time of the major yearly migration of Chinese around China. It is about the only time in the year when they go back to their villages. I remember the stampede of last year when so many trains were not running and the crowds just went wild after the few that were. I saw images of major accidents and bus crashes on the snow covered roads of China, images of dead Chinese strewn all over the road. The Chinese government said they are ready to handle this year's migration.
We do pay for poor government management. We, in the USA, may not see dead bodies strewn all the roadsides but the carcasses of our dead 401K's. I hope that no where in our future will we find Americans living next to and dependent upon trash dump sites.
The bible, in Psalms, does say, 'Blessed is the land whose God is the Lord'. I rest on this promise every day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Research on Cairo

The Internet is such an important tool. For this trip I went online, purchased my airline ticket and booked my hotel. Now I'm researching on the major sights of Cairo so as to maximize my time there. Of course there is the museum of antiquities and the pyramids of Giza. It is all so exciting. I went on http://gettyimages to look for pictures of the sights to see in Cairo. What I found was not just incredible images of an ancient kingdom but also a very modern one, one with impressive and also paradoxical development. I know, like most of us, the struggles of the Coptic Christians, they make up 10% of the population of Egypt, like all Christians living in a repressive Muslim society. I have colleagues who are Coptic Christians and who have left Egypt and I can only imagine their struggles. Nothing prepared me about the plight of the Coptic Christians living in the Zabaleen district of Cairo. 'Zabaleen' in Arabic means trash collectors. Here the people live among the trash of Cairo, they pick through every single item and recycle about 85% of it. They have been dubbed the most efficient trash recyclers. People have trash everywhere in the homes, their yards and their whole livelihood is trash. From the cradle to the grave, their lives and business is trash. The Egyptian government have contracted foreign waste management companies to tackle the trash in Cairo but these companies could only handle a fraction of the city's trash. besides these companies threaten the livelihood of the people in the Zabaleen district. The Zabaleen population are still the most efficient but aside from that Egypt's history dates back 5000 years and was the most advanced in the days of the Pharaohs. It's hard to imagine it would be so backward now.
There are other places in the world where major population lives next to dump sites and eek out their existence from the city trash.
A primitive tattoo equipment. Coptic Christians are known for wearing a crucifix around their necks or have one tattooed on the inside right wrist. One of my colleagues have a 'Maltese' cross tattooed on the inside of her right wrist. When she told me she was from Egypt, I knew she is Coptic.
I hope to be able to visit Zabaleen when I'm in Cairo.

New Year's resolution

To lose weight? To stop smoking? None of the above. What is it then? To be more daring, to go to places I've never been, rather than the usual comfortable ones. First stop, Cairo, Egypt. I have a patient who is from Cairo, he said, if I'd gone in May, I'll be able to stay in his house. He goes back to Cairo each May. He was pleased that I'm going to Cairo. I have a lot of patients who are from all over the world. It's amazing what a melting pot I have in my practice.
Another patient came yesterday, I've served him before and from his name, I know he is a Slav. So yesterday I decided to ask him where he was from, I made a few guesses, Romania, Serbia, Croatia....? He said, he is Serbian. I started talking to him about how the world (NATO and the USA under Clinton and Allbright) turned against Serbia. I said, 'Milosevic and all the others are bad but the Serbs are good people'. He seemed to like to hear that and I know I've made a lifelong friend. I'm going to start visiting Eastern Europe especially the Balkan areas, starting with Romania in June this year. There are some absolutely gorgeous painted monasteries in Moldova that I wish very much to see and that is what I shall be doing in June. Next maybe Belgrade in Serbia, Sofia in Bulgaria, the monastery in Riga........

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's not how much you have

I posted this last year and I ran across it again looking at old journals, I touched it up a little and decided it's still good to be posted again. It is still very apt. Each morning as I open the Wall Street Journal, I still don't see any good news. One of the companies predicted to disappear in 2009 was Nortel and yesterday they filed for Chapter 11 protection. In fact the company I work for was another company slated to disappear in 2009 and I'm waiting for the other shoe to fall. My doctor asked me yesterday,'when are you going to retire?' I said, 'probably never. I definitely will be doing something to stay afloat.' In the end it will not be government or Wall Street that will save us, it will be us and our ingenuity.

It is not how much you have but it's what you do with what you have. Having money doesn't make one happy, not having money doesn't make one happy either. At least, the poor know what they want, the rich already has money. Do they know what they want? One author said,...the trick to money is having some..... I agree, it's having some money and doing the most with it.
Depression and mental illness is so prevalent these days. Everyone is reaching for a pill, the poor reaches out for a pill, the middle class and the rich does the same, the mainstream as well as the minorities. We are all united by Prozac or a Prozac like pill, the young and the old as well. We've never had it so good in the history of mankind- money, opportunities and freedoms but we are still depressed. I have no answer. I just count the many 'Prozac' pills everyday and make an incredible livelihood from mental health or the lack of!
In the end, the answer lies within us, not in a bottle of pills. We have to be contented with what we have, if not, go and make some more or save some more. I'm very pragmatic, I don't make excuses for myself, nor do I for others. I often tell myself, '...get off your tush and do it already, like yesterday....' If you are not happy, make yourself happy, do something to make yourself happy. If you have no money, find something to do to get some money, get a second job, have a garage sale, stop spending. If we need answers, go to the wisdom books of the bible like Proverbs. Have you ever read Proverbs? Read it again... and again. You'll be amazed at the answers there, there's an answer for every question. If you want to be rich, Proverbs says, 'consider the ant....' Also it says, 'a little sleep, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will overtake you like a bandit...' Some one once said, ' annual income 100 pounds, annual expenditure 99 pounds = happiness, annual income 100 pounds, annual expenditure 101 pounds = misery. How true.
There are answers out there. Matthew 22: 29 says, 'ye do err, not knowing the word of God...not knowing the power of God.'

Friday, January 16, 2009

Amusing myself

I read somewhere it is expensive when you have to pay someone to entertain you, like going to the movies or a concert or any other event. It costs more when someone cooks for you like going to a restaurant. These days, with the economy as bad as it is, more and more we need to entertain ourselves and cook for ourselves. When we get someone to do the work for us, we have to pay more than if we do it ourselves.
It is a favorite pasttime of Americans to go to the mall every weekend and end up with a little purchase here and there that eats into our budget. The best defence is to stay at home and amuse ourselves. This is one way I amuse myself, by taking out interested packages from the kitchen cabinet and taking pictures of them, upload into my computer and write a post about it, costs nothing or next to nothing and I've spent a whole day being busy and being amused.
The other thing I do is to walk to the stores in my neighborhood, what, go shopping? No, I don't bring any money or cards with me, I just mosey around, look at things but I can't buy anything because I don't have any money on me.
With the economy as bleak as it is, we must invent ways of amusing ourselves without spending any money. I am sure there are a myriad of other ways besides what I've stated here. I do this even when the economy is good, we exchange energy and time to make the money, why, dispose of it so easily?
Really we don't know how long this economic downturn is going to last. The problem is compounded in California with the budget shortfall and impasse. If we can save a penny, we should.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's official

The travel season for 2009 has officially began. The first is 5 days in Cairo, Egypt. The guide books are dusted off the shelves. I'm going to digest every word written on Cairo and cramp everything into 5 whole days. It's another marathon and it's exciting. We leave February 21 for Cairo arriving at midnight on British Airways, the fares are pretty good. This is going to be an exciting trip, imagine to visit a place that has history that extends way back into the thousands of years, the Egypt of the early bible, the Egypt that played so prominently in the bible. Even the Holy family spent a short time in Egypt when they hid from Herod after the visit of the three wise men. I was asked if I was concerned about the violence in the Gaza that is now kinda involving Egypt. I am always afraid, the world is a dangerous place. I have traveled after 911 when everyone stayed at home, I've traveled during the British baby food incident, I have traveled just after the start of the invasion of Iraq. I can easily be passed off as a Japanese and if asked in Cairo where I'm from, I think I will say, from Japan. One can always stay at home but that's not something I'll consider. The tickets has been purchased and the hotel room booked and we'll be out the door pretty soon to kick off the travel season of 2009.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Time to save money

My latest acquisition, a winter coat, noticed, I didn't say, my new winter coat. I got it at the Santa Monica flea market, paid, $40 for it. I love it, I've been wearing it everyday. It is an Eileen Fisher coat, priced originally at $338.00. Wow! What a find! I spent a lot on presents and food this Christmas, I didn't get myself anything. This is the only thing I got for myself and I really love it. It's so beautiful. It's almost time to leave on my first trip of the year and therefore time to save and 'feed the pig'.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fromage blanc

Time flies whether or not you're having fun. It was in the fall of 2007 that I was introduced to fromage blanc and till today I can't get it off my mind. I loved it. It was at a restaurant in Lyon near the hotel where we were staying that I first tasted it. I didn't know what it was. It was the dessert for the fixed menu of the day. The French lady sitting next to us was finishing her dinner and was into her dessert which was the fromage blanc. It was just a white blob in a bowl and we saw her sprinkling sugar on it as she scooped out the white blobs. She was obviously enjoying it. I knew it must be fromage blanc because that's what it was in French, white cheese. Heck, I ordered it and since it was a little sour kinda like sour cream, I began to emulate what she did, sprinkled sugar on it as I ate. It was really good, I fell in love with fromage blanc. I can't wait to get back to eat it again. We didn't see it on any menu during our last trip.
I was at a supermarket yesterday and found some farmer's cheese, it tasted more like cottage cheese not like formage blanc. Emerill Lagasse has a recipe for fromage blanc on his website. Maybe one day I'll try to make it at home. What it is, is really, the fresh curds of cheese, the curds after the milk has coagulated, before anything is done to it. That is fromage blanc. It is usually eaten with sugar or a syrupy fruit sauce or honey. If you ever have a chance to eat it, do so.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Going vegetarian

I found some really fresh and beautiful broccoli rabe or rapini at a supermarket yesterday and decided I'm eating vegetarian for the next few days. After all the turkey, roast beef, fish, roast pork and all the meat, I needed to cleanse my system. Besides I need to save some money after the huge Christmas bill. Broccoli rabe always brings back happy memories, memories of happy times spent in Southern Italy. They eat a lot of broccoli rabe in Southern Italy, with their pasta. The first thing we did when we arrived in Bari, a town in Southern Italy was to order pasta with broccoli rabe. It was great. So I decided to make some pasta with broccoli rabe. There's so much of it that I shall be eating for the next few days.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


I used to have these bright yellow drapes in my old house and they were so tiring on the eyes. They were lined with an oatmeal colored muslin fabric, so I turned the screaming yellow part to the outside and the oatmeal muslin to face the inside of the room. That was much better and much more calming. Phew, I can't stand color in the house, color means life and scrambling, scrambling for something. There's too much color and drama at work that when I come home, I don't need anymore. Over the years I have made a lot of colorful patchwork quilts and they adorn my bed, not the colorful part but the muslin backing. Again, I can't stand the colorful part, I don't know why I even bother to make such colorful patchwork quilts, I could just put two pieces of oatmeal colored muslin fabric together. Well, I just need to know that I can do patchwork quilting.
But..... when I travel, I gravitate towards color, the more colorful the better. I love colorful vignettes, old and stripping paint, colorful and testifying to the test of time. There can't be enough color out there in the world. This is a great paradox in my life. For this posting I searched for the most colorful pictures in my stock and even so they are not colorful enough.
Collioure, France.

Sospel, France

Perpignan, France

Saorge, France (this place is so cute, so adorable)

Camogli, Italy

Camogli, Italy

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Bologna, Italy

Bologna, Italy

Rome, Italy

Annecy, France

Roussillon, France. (I've seen this corner being painted, sketched and photographed in so many books and websites)

Roussillon, France.

I love color and I hate color....

Sunday, January 04, 2009

On the road again

To me, we're well into the new year, I've worked 2 whole days already, my last guests have left, the dishwasher is being emptied and the laundry is done....What's on my mind? When will I be on the road again? When will I stay in those cheap and sleazy hostels again? I'm looking at old pictures and the sight of the rumpled sheets on the bed of a cheap hostels is giving nostalgia. I don't know how you travel but this is all I can afford, 45 euros/night rooms.
That was Sophie's bed, this was mine in the corner. The window opened into a view of the sea, wow, at 45 euros, it can't be beat. I know a lot of people would faint if they're asked to stay here. It's an apartment in a sleazy corner of Catania, Sicily. It reminds me of a similar place in Naples near the train station. Here, one day, while walking back to our hostel in Naples, we bumped into prostitutes walking the streets just round the corner from the hostel, did we faint? No, we were just amused.

First day back in Catania, Sicily, it was raining, in fact, of the 2 trips to Sicily, it rained most of the time we were there. We were prepared for the rain and we trudged out to see things anyway and had the greatest time. Rain or shine, nothing holds us back. For incredible weather we could have stayed home.

Prickly pears, they're all over Sicily, we saw them everywhere.

When will we eat street food again? Arancini, we took bites out of them and remembered we should take pictures. So we placed them back on the plate, took the picture and proceeded to eat. This is typical Sicilian street food. We first had these, all of all places, the year before in Naples.

When will I eat Arancino for breakfast again? It reminds me of eating churros con chocolat in Seville, Spain. The casts on Spainontheroadagain was seen eating churros con chocolat for breakfast. It sure brings back happy memories.

When will I see those narrow and crooked ancient streets again? I love these vignettes, I can never get tired of seeing it. It doesn't matter where in Europe. Anywhere but here.

Baroque buildings. When will I see baroque buildings again? Soon, soon.....I have to be making travel arrangements pretty soon, I'll be leaving in 6 weeks....can't wait.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The feasting goes on

This is the rib roast after I've put the rub on it and it goes into the fridge for 24 hours. I've never made rib roast before, I found a recipe online at This is where I find my recipes including the one on Scalloped oysters which was really good. I've made Scalloped oysters many years ago and had forgotten how good it was. We ate and drank till midnight when the clock struck 12.01am, 2009! We reminisced about our growing up on the north end of the island of Borneo, 7 of us, all ragamuffins, not one alike and how we all ended up in Canada and the USA. The Lord has been so good to us. It has been an incredible year and we all look with great expectations towards the new in spite of the economic turmoil knowing that ultimately it is the goodness of God that will see us through.
I made some more mince pies...

How many people does it take to carve a roast? It was so lovely as I took it out of the oven and let it sit for 1 hour. Every one wanted to get into the action. There were so many cooks in my little kitchen.

Sigh, 'should all acquaintance be forgot.....for auld lang syne....' Have a great New Year.