Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cross-Country Road Trip: USA in 8 Days!

After living in NYC for two years, I've accumulated a closet full of winter clothes! Coming from a city known for its perfect year round weather (San Diego), my wardrobe didn't consist of winter coats, rain coats, rain boots, snow boots, scarves, winter hats, gloves, and an endless array of leggings! Most San Diegans can get away with a closet full of summer clothes and a fleece jacket for occasional chilly days (60 F). I simply couldn't say goodbye to my newly acquired winter clothes and decided to take a road trip to transport all my valuables, e.g. clothes, shoes, paintings and easel, from New York to California. I've always wanted to drive across the US, and here was the perfect opportunity. Luckily, I was able to coerce Nick into tagging along with me for eight days in a confined space. (Note: If you ever want to 'test' your relationship, a road trip will surely do the trick)

Using AAA.com's TripTik Travel Planner, we allotted eight days for the entire trip (3,720 miles/5,986.4 km). The web site provided exact driving directions, total miles, and estimated time to complete trip. According to the trip planner, if we were to drive without any stops or overnight stays, we could have done the trip in 55 hours and 48 minutes!!!

Although we mapped out our trip with TripTik, I bought Juan a GPS for Christmas and asked him if he wouldn't mind us "testing" it out on our road trip to ensure its reliability. He graciously agreed to let us borrow his gift, and it was definitely a LIFESAVER. Nick and I both fell in love with the GPS....even though she did get annoying at times, but then again who wouldn't be annoying after eight days of directing, recalculating, and redirecting?


In an effort to save money, I posted a rideshare ad on Craigslist offering to drive someone's vehicle cross-country. A fellow Twitterer (@jonahsigel) suggested this great idea after I posted an update asking for rental car deals and discounts. I received responses from my Craigslist ad and decided to go with Todd from Mountain Journeys. After speaking with Todd on the phone, I knew he was reliable and trustworthy. He provided several character references and seemed sincere and honest. He allowed me to drive his 95 Ford Windstar from New Jersey to Colorado. After dropping off the minivan in Colorado, I decided to rent an SUV from Budget for the remainder of the trip.

Nick and I loaded the 95 Ford Windstar with all my precious goods. A special thanks to Phippsy (@uberphipps) for letting us squat at his place in Hoboken for a couple nights.

Day 1
Start date & time: Wednesday, December 17 at 1am (14.5 hours driving)
***Drove from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, Virginia and Tennessee
***Arrived in Nashville on Wednesday, December 17 at 3pm.
***Enjoyed live country music at Rippy's. Nick ordered pork ribs and I had some catfish!
***Spent the night in Nashville, TN at Preston Hotel --- chic, modern and artsy!

"Pink Slip" by Herb Williams (www.herbwilliamsart.com)
Dress made with pink crayons showcased in lobby at Preston Hotel.

Live country music at Rippy's --- Tourists Welcome!

Day 2
Start date & time: Thursday, December 18 at 10:30am
***Left Nashville and stopped in Memphis, TN (Graceland - Elvis' mansion)
***Drove to Little Rock, AR and walked around main street.
***Headed to Texas and spent the night in Mt. Pleasant. Enjoyed some more comfort food at Herschel's (Chicken fried steak and mac n cheese)





Day 3
Start date & time: Friday, December 19 at 10am
***Left Mt. Pleasant, TX and headed to Dallas. Stopped at Red, Hot and Blue for pulled pork sandwiches. Nick ordered the All-in-One Sandwich --- beef, chicken and pork!!!
***Drove through Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas.
***Spent the night in Salina, Kansas after slurping on tortilla soup at Cotixas. The town was filled with snow.

All-in-One Burger at Red Hot & Blue (Texas)

Scenic viewpoint in Oklahoma

Day 4
Start date & time: Saturday, December 20 at 9:45am
***Left Salina, Kansas and headed to Denver, Colorado. FREEZING COLD!
***We drove around Denver and met up with Todd's friend in Boulder. Todd was kind enough to put us up for the night for driving his car safely to Colorado.
***After five days without Internet access, I NEEDED to get connected. We found an Internet cafe on Pearl Street and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Foolish Craig's Cafe. I highly recommend the veggie burger --- yummy! The service was excellent.


Viewpoint in Boulder

Day 5
Start date & time: Sunday, December 21 at 7am
***Picked up rental car at Budget. Loaded the SUV and drove through the Colorado Rockies.
***Drove through Utah and Arizona.
***Spent the night in Tusayan, AZ (right outside Grand Canyon Park South Rim entrance). We checked in at Red Feather Lodge --- warm and friendly staff!

The Rockies were magnificent!


Day 6 & 7
Start date & time: Monday, December 22 at 930am
***After enjoying a Continental breakfast at Red Feather Lodge, we entered South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was snowing and the winds were quite strong. Visibility was poor, but we wanted to see more and drove further where it was even more dangerous.
***Check out video below! My apologies for the horrible audio quality --- it was extremely windy.
***Headed to Hoover Dam (once known as both the world's largest electric-power generating station and the world's largest concrete structure).


Traffic was horrendous driving through the Hoover Dam.

*** We spent two nights in Sin City, Las Vegas!!!
*** Spent time with my cousins - The Tangs! We were fortunate enough to be invited to dinner at the Sinatra restaurant at Steve Wynn's Encore Casino -- thanks to cousin Bobby and his connections! It was the SECOND day that the Las Vegas luxury hotel & casino opened its doors!!

Sharon, Bobby, Susie and me at Sinatra.

Garden at Encore Casino & Hotel

Day 8
Start date & time: Wednesday, December 24 at 11am
***After finishing up some last-minute shopping in Vegas, we headed south to California.
***As we approached the end of our eight-day journey, heavy raindrops hit the windshield, making the perfect sound for Nick as he slept through Southern California....

Just one of the MANY photos I snapped of Nick sleeping during our road trip. All I asked was for him to keep me entertained while I drove --- apparently I was asking for too much! Luckily, I had the GPS to keep me company since my co-pilot was obviously preoccupied!

Looking back at this trip, I realized how much time and money I spend exploring other countries, yet my own backyard has yet to be explored. I can't wait for our next adventure together.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tales from Facebook: How far would YOU go..

to find someone you met ONCE?

Last week, a friend of mine who we will call "Aidan," met a woman named, "Liz" at a bar in New York City. They hit it off immediately and exchanged stories about what they love and hate about living in New York. As most people know, it's tough to date in New York City, and it's even more difficult to find a connection with someone at a bar. (Why do people always smirk when you tell them you met your significant other at a bar, or even worse, a night club?)

Liz decided to write her phone number down on a piece of paper for Aidan, hoping he would call her in a few days (secretly wishing he would call the following day) to set up a date to see each other again. Aidan was thrilled and put her number in his wallet for safekeeping. There was definitely magic in the air and they both couldn't wait to see each other again!

Aidan spent that night thinking about Liz and wanted to call her the same night, but as we all know, thanks to the 1996 movie, Swingers, you should always wait three days (or six according to Trent and Rob) before calling a girl so as not to seem desperate.

The following day, Aidan told his buddies about Liz and couldn't wait to see her again. When the time came to call Liz, Aidan looked in his wallet for Liz's number, but it was GONE! What the F@%$!!!!! He emptied his wallet three times, looked in the pockets of his jacket and pants, and basically tore his apartment upside down. He even checked the freezer, microwave, and washer and dryer!! He traced his steps from the previous night and concluded that the paper must have fallen out when he reached in his wallet to pay for the cab ride home. He was screwed!!! Liz's number was in a cab somewhere in NYC -- never to be seen by Aidan again.

Most of us would think, hey if it was meant to be, he will bump into Liz again. Or some might say, eh...there are plenty of other fish in the sea, it's no big deal.

However, this was NOT Aidan's thinking. He decided to use Facebook to find her, but since he didn't have her last name, he was pretty much out of luck. At least that's what a normal person would think. Aidan decided to go the extra mile and created a Facebook Page called "Desperately Seeking Liz." OMG - I couldn't believe it when I received an invite to become a fan of this page. Aidan posted a photo of him and Liz that he just happened to take on his camera phone the night they met which, believe it or not isn't too unusual considering how tech savvy people are these days. He asked friends and 'friends of friends' if they could help him find Liz. He included details of how they met and how he lost her number. He was candid about his understanding of how ridiculous this was for him to put it out there on Facebook like that, open for everyone to criticize. My original thoughts were, "this is super creepy and stalker-like. There's NO WAY he's going to find her this way!"

Forty-eight hours later, a friend of a friend recognized Liz in the photo and contacted her personally. The friend showed Liz the page that Aidan created and believe it or not, she wasn't creeped-out, instead, she was flattered that Aidan went through all this trouble to find her. She friended him on Facebook and they arranged for a date next week.

WOW! --- I'm still at a loss for words. Weird? Crazy? Romantic? Freaky? Unbelievable? I've heard lots of Facebook stories, but this one takes the cake. I hope it works out :)

This is actually based on a true story. The names and location have been altered to protect the privacy of those mentioned.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shameless Gold Digger - Funny Personal Ad

Looks like the notorious Craigslist personal ad that received a lot of media attention last year found its way to Johannesburg (South Africa). Click here to read the New York Times article from last year.

The original ad has been altered a bit in efforts to localize the advert, i.e. replacing "Central Park West" to "Hyde Park" and "$500,000" to "R500K".

Funny enough, Nicholas forwarded this to me after receiving it from a colleague at work in London today. Can you believe it's still being circulated worldwide?

The scathing response posted by an investment banker (see below) at JPMorgan Chase is what really made the email go viral last year, resulting in national TV and print coverage.

Dear Pers-:

I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament. Firstly, I'm not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here's how I see it.

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy business deal. Here's why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here's the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity...in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won't be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold...hence the rub...marriage. It doesn't make good business sense to "buy you" (which is what you're asking) so I'd rather lease. In case you think I'm being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It's as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as "articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful" as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn't found you, if not only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn't need to have this difficult conversation.

With all that said, I must say you're going about it the right way. Classic "pump and dump."
I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.

____________
Rob Campbell
J.P.Morgan
Diversified Industrials Investment Banking
277 Park Avenue, 16/F, New York , NY 10172

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

TRIUMPH: 4 Hours 30 Minutes and 10 Seconds Later: ING NYC Marathon



I didn't really think I'd actually get to participate in this year's ING New York City Marathon since I didn't meet any of the qualifications (below), leaving the lottery as my only chance to participate.

1) Qualifying time standards (previous marathon time 3:23) -- um yeah, not me that's for sure!
2) Completed at least 9 NYRR-scored races during 2008 calendar year.
3) Completed 15 or more NYC Marathons
4) Charity Entry - not sure if I could raise $2,500

To be honest, I've never been a HUGE fan of running. In fact, I've always used my moderate case of flat feet as an excuse to avoid the treadmills at the gym.

(Un)fortunately for me, I met two fascinating women, Molly and Katie, during a Christmas party in '07 who were both so Gung-ho about running that they spent the entire evening convincing me to join their running group, The Reservoir Dogs. A month later, I decided to suck it up and join the group and willingly entered the lottery for a chance to run 26.2 miles. Was I truly mad? Not really. I figured my chances of winning a random drawing were pretty much zero to none.

Looks like I was WRONG! On June 5th, I received text messages from my running mates congratulating me on winning the lottery. I knew I was supposed to be ecstatic, but I think I was more terrified at that moment. Five months to get myself in shape to run through the five boroughs of New York City!!!

On November 2nd, the day had finally come. It was unbelievably cold on Staten Island. The runners huddled in circles with chattering teeth and bodies stiff as a board from the cold winds.



For me, the most sensational experience wasn't finishing the race at the end, but the overwhelming positive feeling I got after hearing the cheers and applaud from millions of New Yorkers who came out to motivate and support the runners that day. As we all know, New York isn't known for having the friendliest people, but marathon Sunday is definitely the exception.

As I approached the Queensborough Bridge, all I could hear were the sounds of footsteps from runners passing me. My pace was at its slowest, my body and mind were filled with exhaustion. No more crowds - no more cheers. Just me and the other runners struggling to get across this bridge. Just when I wanted to stop and start walking, there they were again. I could hear the cheers from half a mile away, which ignited something in me to continue at full speed! It was a magical moment - this is when my I got my second wind. I ran down First Ave like I was running over water.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I couldn't have done it without the support of my friends, colleagues, running team, and the people of New York. And of course, a special thanks to the man who dragged himself out of bed when it was still dark out on a SUNDAY to see me off at the Staten Island ferry, and followed me throughout the entire course from start to finish. Thanks for being a trooper Nicholas!!! XOXO



Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Selling on Craigslist - SCAMMERS OUTED



Oddly enough, only weeks after my post about how my younger brother was scammed out of $3,000 on Craigslist, I received two responses from scam artists after posting a few items for sale on Craiglist. I've listed things to look for (below) along with the email message they sent me.

Message received from "chris marcus":

Hello,
Thanks for the prompt response and i will like you to withdraw the advert from Craigslist,i don't mind adding an extra $20dolls for you to take the advert down from craigslist so that i can be rest assured that am in hand of the item.I don't have time to come take a look. I will be paying via cashier's check,and it will be over night payment .You don't need to bother your self with the shipment Ok,i will take care of that.So i will need you to provide me with the following information to facilitate the mailing of the check.
1.Your full name
2.Your mailing address be it residential or postal address
3.Your phone number.
i will have my mover come over as soon as you have the check
Have a great day
I look forward to hearing from you!
Thank you again
Chris

Message received from "John Deng":

Hello,
Thanks for your prompt responds, However, i will need your name and
address for payment,As am only able to make payment by money order at
this time b/c i am away on assignment. It will be nice if you can send
me more pictures. It will take about 7days for payment to get to you.
As per pick-up, I will make arrangement for the pick-up after payment
has been received by you. I don't mind adding thirty dollars so you
can keep it in my favor.Please take the posting off Craigslist today
and consider it sold to me, Include your phone number.
Expecting to hear from you soon.
Regards
John Deng.

I have already reported these incidents to Craiglist, but unfortunately there is no barrier to entry for these con artists to create email accounts, which means they can and will create an infinite number of email accounts.

Both respondents (scam artists) had gmail accounts with a first and last name followed with a number:

example: chrismarcus11@gmail.com or johndengb28@gmail.com

Five things to look out for in the body of the email:

1) Of course the deceiver won't be able to meet you in person (they'll make up some excuse), so they'll suggest sending you a cashier's check or money order. They guarantee that they won't pickup the item until you have received the check.

2) The swindler will pretend to be interested and either ask you to send more images or inquire about the condition of the item.

3) Usually, they scam artist will offer additional $$ for you to keep it for them, which is BS because they aren't interested in the item at all. They just want to make you think they really want it.

4) The scammer will ask you to remove the advertisement from Craigslist. Doing this will delete the posting from Craigslist, which makes it difficult to for the online community to track nthe incident futher.

5) Last, but not least, the con artist will request for your full name, mailing address and phone number to send you the payment.

BEWARE: If you receive a response with these indicators, you have become a target! You should either report it or block them from contacting you.

The idea is that they will send you the money order or cashier's check in an amount larger than promised. They'll claim they made a mistake and ask that you cash the money order at your bank and return the outstanding amount via wire service. The scammer will insist that you keep an extra $100 for the inconvenience. You will find out a day later that the money order was not valid and your bank pulled the funds from your account. By this time, you would have already wired the money to them and voilĂ ! --- You've just become the umpteenth victim!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Twitter Addiction

I've been micro-blogging on Twitter for a few months and love it! Like most people new to Twitter, I didn't know what to do after setting up my profile. I started following social media evangelists and people in the travel industry, and pretty much kept a low profile while observing the Twittersphere.

To personalize my Twitterspace, I changed my background, included a link to my blog, and uploaded a photo of myself. I posted articles that I found interesting and included a personal tweet about what I was doing (keeping in mind NOT to overdo the personal tweets). Twitter-ers started to "follow me" and I quickly became hooked.

Why are these people following me? Who are they? Who else are they following?
Once I started to receive direct message from random followers regarding my posts, the Twitter addiction began! I opted for my cell phone to receive direct tweets and set up my cell phone to post updates in real-time. By doing this, I was able to post updates via text while I was out and about. After a few weeks, I started to understand why people tweet.

For me, it's a nice place to "hang out" with people who share similar interests. When I say "nice," I mean user-friendly and non-threatening because some online communities are intimidating, e.g. SecondLife. With Twitter, I get the feeling that we are all on the same boat. We share a fascination with social media and enjoy developing online relationships.

Twitter has helped me on a professional and personal level. Twitter-ers have responded to my questions regarding wikipedia entries, interns, road trip advice, rental car companies, and much more!

I find that early adopters genuinely want to help others by providing valuable information, but I've started to notice a lot of messages from marketers --- it was good while it lasted I suppose.

All in all, I'd say my Twitter experience has been only positive (thus far that is). If you are thinking about joining, what are you waiting for? (uh-hum - this means you Melissa)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My LOVE-HATE Relationship with Craigslist
















I first discovered www.craigslist.org during my job search after college. Around this time, Craigslist was only available in 14 U.S. cities. The site was still in its infancy, but I knew that it would expand exponentially with a blink of an eye. The network of online communities was the perfect venue for FREE online classified ads.

It didn't take much to make me an instant Craigslist ambassador! I continued to share the Web site to my friends, family, colleagues, and even perfect strangers that I thought could benefit from learning about such a wonderful online community. The simplicity and ease of navigation appealed to me. I conducted job searches on Monster, CareerBuilder, local newspapers and readers (something I would NEVER even think of doing today), visited career centers, and blindly applied on company Web sites. What was I thinking? Believe it or not, I found my FIRST job out of college from Craigslist, a central network of online communities! Welcome to Web 2.0!

Ever since then, I've used Craigslist to hire transcribers and freelance writers, sell and buy furniture, and find roommates and apartments.

Unfortunately, my experiences have not always been positive. Introducing my youngest brother to Craigslist resulted in him being scammed out of $3,000. It was devastating to witness my brother lose his hard earned money to an online predator preying on naive kids that were simply too trustworthy.

Here's the skinny: My brother wanted to sell his Playstation for $300 to save money for a trip. The buyer "mistakenly" sent him a money order in the amount of $3,300, and told him he could cash the money order at his bank (Union Bank). Once my brother received the $3,000 from his bank, he sent the remaining amount ($3,000) via Western Union. I know, I know, most of you are thinking...what an idiot!!! Hey, what can I say? People fall for these scams ALL THE TIME. Learn more about scams on Craigslist here. Scam artists are relentless and come up with new, innovative ways to take advantage of innocent consumers. Don't be their next victim!

So if you decide to use Craigslist and you receive an email that mentions a money wiring service, don't even think twice - DELETE, DELETE, DELETE!

Rule of thumb: If it's too good to be true, it probably is.

I LOVE the Internet and can't imagine my life without it! However, we have to remember that the Internet also leaves the door wide open for con artists and bad guys to commit fraud. Check out this site for more information on how people have been scammed on the Internet.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech

Barack Obama's Speech in full (Tuesday, November 4th, 2008) - provided by http://www.guardian.co.uk

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Farewell Six Flags


Phipps and I spent Sunday at Six Flags in an effort to preserve our youth. We woke up early, dressed in warm clothes, grabbed bagels and OJ, and were on our way. After a few rides, fatigue hit us and we started to feel...OLD! We were in pain everywhere from head to toe and were eager to sit down at any opportunity. The chitter-chatter from teenagers irritated us and the thought of standing in line for another two hours was no longer fun. We came to the conclusion that we simply outgrew our beloved Six Flags.


(We were exhausted and needed to take naps)

Six Flags has always brought back fond childhood memories for me --- nostalgia at its best. Growing up as the eldest child with three siblings (all brothers) and traditional Chinese parents was definitely no walk in the park. My brothers and I were expected to help with the family business as soon as we were tall enough to reach over the counter to hand customers their change. And since girls develop quicker than boys, you can only guess who spent most of their childhood helping mom and dad at the shop. That's right, it was none other than yours truly. So when my school planned field trips to Six Flags, it was something I always looked forward to --- no school, no annoying brothers, and no work!

I loved every moment. Staying up the night before contemplating which outfit I would wear and who I would sit with on the bus. Sneaking a can of Coke into my lunch bag when my parents weren't looking. Secretly asking my father for a few dollars for "emergencies," e.g. ice cream, churros, funnel cake, etc. Asking my mother for money would only elicit unnecessary dissertations about how money doesn't grow on trees, blah, blah, blah. Oh, how I envied my peers with parents who handed them a twenty dollar bill to buy lunch and snacks!

After arriving at the theme park, we separated into groups and were off on our own for seven hours! We decided which rides we wanted to go on, when we would stop for lunch, where we wanted to eat, and when we would stop for bathroom breaks --- absolute autonomy! It was my first taste of independence and I immediately became addicted.

All these years I thought I enjoyed Six Flags for the thrills and rides, but in reality that's only part of the reason why it brought back so many fond memories. Six Flags represented freedom. Freedom from my parents, my family obligations, my life at home. Don't get me wrong, I admit to being an adrenaline junkie and I love that empty stomach feeling when plunging down a steep drop on a roller coaster, but looking back at it now, the rides were just the surface because it goes so much deeper than that.

I realized that I never left Six Flags that day, but perhaps it's time to say farewell as I enter a new phase in my life --- a phase that embraces a lifelong partnership with someone who wants to explore a new theme park with rides that have never been ridden before.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Barack Obama Sail in Battery Park (New York)


During my pathetic attempt to put in a long run before running the NYC marathon in 14 days and 11 hours, the image of McCain's face on a sailboat lurking along Battery Park forced me to stop. I couldn't believe my eyes. How could anyone get away with this? I decided to take a photo of it on my cell, but by the time I had my phone ready to snap a shot, the sailboat did a 180 degree turn and Obama's face appeared! In only a matter of moments a crowd burst with cameras in hand snapping photos left and right...now that's more like it!

Make sure to check out Politico's Swing State Map featuring the most recent polling average in the most competitive states.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Holiday Inn Express Commercial - White Men CAN Rap!

I saw this Holiday Inn commercial the other day and just knew someone would surely post it on YouTube (found it in less than ten seconds). The commercial made me laugh, but better yet, I actually wanted to know which company came up with this funny commercial --- ahhhh...Holiday Inn Express! Well done - congratulations!



Lyrics courtesy of Sylko007:

Hold on to my clean shirts
And please dont get em dirty
'Cuz I know you're gonna drool
When you hear me getting wordy
'Cuz im a walkin, talkin, smackin human encyclopedia,
You thought I'd stop there?
But now I'm gettin greedier.
I'm a promotion in motion and find out you got the notion
That I got strategic plans comin out my ears,
My key points and decks will bring y'all to tears,
Turnin pennies into dimes
I shift paradigms
Now how you gonna let a marketing rep
rip your rep and slip adept rhyme schemes in
that your mind only dreams in
I bet you're all wondering why my rhyme is so tight...
I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Adam Carolla LIVE Broadcast at Roosevelt Hotel

While in California, Juan told me and Nick about a LIVE 97.1 FM Broadcast featuring Adam Carolla so we decided to tag along for the mini road trip to LA from SD while listening to podcasts from Juan's favorite stand-up comedian, Mitch Hedberg. (Note: buy Juan a GPS system for Christmas; we got lost and ended up calling friends to mapquest directions while we were on the 405N)

Ahhh...this was a great event for my beau Nick, especially since it was his FIRST time in Los Angeles! I'm sure this was exactly how he imagined a "Hollywood" event; hot blonds (some wore nothing but body paint), celebrities such as Danny Bonaduce from the Partidge Family, former 'N Sync boyband singer Lance Bass, and David Alan Grier, comedian best known for his work on the sketch comedy, In Living Color (Remember "two snaps up!" and "Homey don't play that"?), free promotional cocktails courtesy of Hornitos, and there were even MERMAIDS swimming in the Roosevelt Hotel pool!

Of course we walked down Hollywood Blvd. after the event for some grub. It was a tre fun night!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

One Couple = Three Weddings



Congratulations to Vu and Monica! These two lovebirds were recently hitched, not once or twice, but THREE times! It wasn't enough to say "I do" in Mexico, so they did it again in San Diego, and then again in Vancouver!

I've known Vu and his family since the early 80s. I have some funny childhood photos of us filed away in a family album somewhere at my parents' home collecting dust...ahhh the good old days! After my family moved to Chula Vista in the 90s, we lost touch during most of our adoloscence, but we reconnected in college and kept in touch since. Thanks to email and MSN messenger, staying in touch was pretty much effortless.

When Vu told me that he had found THE ONE only after dating Monica for three months, I knew he was serious. I never thought of Vu as the "impulsive type," so when he told me he was head over heels for Monica, I knew he had found HER, the woman he would spend the rest of his life with happily ever after.

Words can't really explain how Vu knew Monica was the love of his life, but when he talked about her, you could just sense the sincerity and authenticity of his love for her. Read about how he proposed to Monica here.

Some people believe couples should date for at least a year or two before getting hitched, but can you really put a time schedule on love? I don't think so.

So why the three weddings? She's from Canada, he's from San Diego, and what if the couple wants a destination wedding? How do you decide on the wedding location? Why not have it all and plan three weddings? Talk about over-the-top, but you know what? They pulled it off and made it all look so easy.

Nick and I were honored to attend their special celebration in Mexico.



















It was the first time Nick and I attended a beach wedding, and we both didn't know what was appropriate to wear. So if you are ever invited to a beach wedding, here are some tips for appropriate beach wedding attire for guests:

* Do wear khaki or linen pants.
* Do wear sun dresses.
* Do wear sandals/flip flops or shoes with smaller heels. It's difficult to walk on sand with 3-inch heels!
* Do wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
* Do not wear t-shirts. Wear a button-down shirt.
* Do not wear shorts. Although one or two people will show up in shorts, do YOU want to be that person?
* Remember to bring sunblock. You can be stuck in the sun for a long time before the bride walks down the aisle, so protect yourself!



I have to admit, I felt a little uncomfortable wearing my dress with sandals, so next time I'll wear a long flowy dress that covers my feet entirely.

Here are some cool beach wedding ideas to note:

As we approached the wedding setup on the beach, they handed out these cool sun umbrellas!



It was HOT, HOT, HOT! Everyone was sweating profusely and fanning themselves with the program, so the resort staff handed out refreshing, cold bottles of water to guests. GREAT IDEA!

The entire ceremony was HEARD. Thanks to the use of a microphone, guests were able to hear every poem, speech and vow -- loud and clear!

The Doghouse: Pictures are Worth 1,000 Words





Thank God this NEVER happens to me and Nick! Shame on you David Beckham!!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Combining My Worlds

Yesterday turned out to be quite a special day for me. I wasn't too thrilled about celebrating another birthday (that's for sure), but being surrounded with people who care for me reminded me of what birthdays should really be about. It's about taking the time to appreciate your friends and loved ones that have stood by you throughout the years, and not about covering up gray hairs and wrinkles --- not that I have any of course! I'm Asian, I'm supposed to look 16 FOREVER!

As we get older, developing new friendships become more difficult because we are so stubborn and can't be bothered with people who don't "get" us. We are exposed to so many people with different values and backgrounds, especially in New York City, a city notorious for being filled with "rude" people. You can only imagine how nervous I was when I left San Diego, land of the "laid back beach bums who are always tan and happy."

Nineteen months after leaving my hometown, I celebrated my birthday yesterday with old and new friends from different circles. Most people are apprehensive about combining their worlds (different circle of friends), but I was confident that my friends would all get along, which was definitely the case last night. From high school friends, former colleagues and friends of friends to running partners and friends I met while studying in Singapore (7 years ago)--- they all showed up with smiles, hugs and kisses! It was the perfect evening and I simply couldn't ask for more. Actually, there was one very special person that was MIA, but he will be flying into NYC in a few hours. I guess I can always photoshop him into the photos. Thanks for the beautiful flowers Nick!



I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who showed up last night at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in NYC, Mexican Radio. Your compliments about my new do was greatly appreciated! I love you ALL very much...until next year!



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