Zhu Zhu Hamster Pets

Every year for Christmas, my two girls ask if they could get a pet dog. The answer has always been a stern no. Part of the reason is because of the obvious: owning a pet is a big responsibility. The other reason is because my girls have a track record of killing their pets or other people's pets. My parents had two chihuahua dogs. Both past away years ago. No, my girls didn't kill them. They died of old age. Owning the pets for about 15 years limited my family from traveling because we had no one to watch them. Aside from the usual daily clean ups of urine and poop, there were expensive medical costs such as neutering the male dog and spaying the female dog, vaccinations, and surgeries. I don't want to be bound to that kind of commitment again.

Now onto the other part of the reason, my girls' deadly hands. The first aquarium that we got, my eldest daughter, who was a toddler then, would always pull a chair and dip her hands in the water to try to grab the goldfishes. They all died prematurely. The second set of fishes we bought also met their demise. My dad had two mini turtles. The ones that are about a little bigger than an inch. My girls decided to take them out from the tank and play with them. One got lost and we never found it. They were not allow to get near the turtle tank again. My brother's pet hamster died after my 8 year-old spun it in circles after it had finished eating. The hamster choked on the food it stored in the side pouches of its cheeks.

Both girls asked for a pet dog this year for Christmas and I said no. Then they asked if they could get a hamster, and the answer was again a no. In October, while Halloween costume shopping, my girls asked if I could buy them Zhu Zhu hamster pets. The answer was another no. My eldest daughter said Zhu Zhus are toy hamsters and later that day, she googled and showed me how they looked like. I told them I was going to think about it. Coincidentally, my brother told me he planned on getting his nieces Zhu Zhu hamster pets for Christmas. He said he was going to buy them early because Zhu Zhus would be hard to buy in December. Well, he bought four Zhu Zhus, two for each girl, in October and gave them to my girls.

My girls were absolutely ecstatic when they saw their Zhu Zhus. These hamsters make squeaky sound and move on four wheels. Probably 10 minutes into playing with their Zhu Zhus, one of the hamsters got lost. We searched around the living room and found it under a chair. I told my girls to keep an eye on their hamsters. They lost their hamster around the house a couple of times in a single day. The girls played with their Zhu Zhus probably for another day and lost interest in them. What a waste of money! My second daughter gave me her two Zhu Zhus and showed me the dust and hair that got caught in their wheels. My brother doesn't have kids yet and he's a softie to his nieces. Whatever they want, they get from him. I told him being a parent sometimes mean saying no and making unpopular decisions. He just shrugged. I requested from him for all future purchases for his nieces, get educational stuff like books or learning CDs. His reply was a "yeah, yeah".

Zhu Zhu hamster pets:

The two wheels on the back where hair and dust get caught in:

It's Really a Small World After All

This is a follow up to my last post "Funny Earthquake Story"...

The one image that I remember most from the 1989 earthquake was two cars dangling in the middle of the collasped section of the Bay Bridge when a span of the upper deck crashed onto the lower deck. Only one fatality was reported and the identity of the driver was a Middle Eastern woman but this fact was incorrectly reported.

A few years back, I heard two stories about two men who died when the upper deck collapsed to the lower deck which makes me believe the fatality on the bridge was under reported. The first story was told by my cousin's wife who knows the victim's family. The man lived in Oakland and was off work that day. His kids wanted to go to San Francisco to buy some stuff. Something happened and he decided to not take the kids with him so he went alone. He was on the Bay Bridge when span collasped and died in the car. I don't remember too much details about the second story other than the man died leaving three young kids behind.

It's a small world after all...the day after the 20th anniversary of the 1989 earthquake, my brother and his friends were joking around about what they were doing when the earthquake happened and all of a sudden, one of the friends' wife choked up and left the room. It dawned on them that it was the day her father died. Her father was the one that died leaving three young kids behind. She was eight years old and the youngest of the three kids. Soon after the father died, her mom went into a deep depression and lost her sanity. The mom has mental illness now and is on medication. The family was compensated by the bridge insurance but the money was mismanaged by the husband's siblings. My brother's friend only received a small sum of the compensation and the money was ill invested by the eldest brother. I only learned about this about a month ago.

I was in disbelief when my brother told me the story. Speechless as a matter of fact. His friend takes care of her mom and gives her medication everyday. She works fulltime and takes turn taking care of the mom with her other two brothers. When I hear what people endured and the pain they suffered, it really makes me grateful for what I have in life mainly my family.

Photo Credit: Bridge

Funny Earthquake Story

I don't remember exactly how my conversation with my friends moved to the Loma Prieta earthyquake we had in 1989 but here's a funny story to brighten up your day! We had two major earthquakes so far in San Francisco. One was in 1906:

The other one was in 1989:

I remember I was talking on the phone with my best friend after school when the earthquake hit us in 1989. My friend asked if I felt the earthquake and I said "yes" but we brushed it off because the initial shake was very subtle. Then the ground shook hard and I felt my house swayed left and right. I dropped the phone and called my brothers to take cover. My experience was pretty ordinary but my friend's was hilarious. She said she was four at the time. Her mom was sewing clothes and when the earthquake came, her mom quickly grabbed her baby sister who was only a couple of months old and took cover under a table. My friend said her mom just left her sitting on the sofa. She remembers being frightened and calling out for her mom but her told her it was going to be ok and to just sit there. My friend says, "Yeah, my mom grabbed my sister and left me sitting on the sofa".

Photos credit: 1906, 1989 houses, freeways

A Typical Day Riding the Train


I don't usually catch the city train but yesterday was a beautiful day and so I thought, why not? I caught the train for a dental checkup. While waiting for the train, a man talking to himself immediately caught my attention. He was sitting on the sidewalk and talking to himself. At first I thought, "ok, maybe he has his cell phone head piece on" but it didn't take me long to single that thought out. He was just talking to himself. He walked away, I think, after he noticed people were looking at him.

There were two moms at the bus stop with their toddlers. They were standing in the area I was standing so I know they needed to pay their fares when they boarded the train. If you have your bus fare, you can board in the middle or back of the train. If you don't, then you would need to board in the front. Our public transit company hires security guards to do random fare checks. You have to show your bus fare to them when they ask for it. If you don't have your fare, you are given a ticket. So, seeing the moms with their kids, my intention was to let them board first because I know first hand how cumbersome it is to pay for your train fare and holding onto your child. The first mom boarded with her daughter and I made space for the second mom, who also had a stroller, to board. Well, two other passengers zoomed right past me and the other mom. How rude! I boarded after the second mom and her baby. Guess what? The train was full and it wasn't a surprise to see no one stood up to offer the lady and her baby a seat. So there she was holding onto her daughter and stroller. I looked at the seated passenger's faces and they looked at the mom but didn't do anything. Hmmm...perhaps they were thinking whether or not they should give up their seats? Or they hope she would find a seat in the back of the train? As I followed behind her to the back of the train, there was one seat available and she quickly took it.

It's weird how passengers tend to look the other way when they see something that they know they should act on. I mean, are they really that tired that they can't give up their seats to someone else? I've seen elderlies, pregnant women, women and men with babies, and even disabled people standing on a crowded bus and no one offered them a seat. People would just glanced and then became intensively interested at a staring spot.

Well, as much as I hate seeing passengers looking the other way when they know they should have better etiquette, making a remark about it would most likely lead to an argument and that's just bringing unwanted attention to myself. With this day and age where most people have video capability on their cell phones, a recording of my argument on Youtube is the last thing I want.

Photo courtesy of About SF

Cell Phone Radiation Precautions

At my last job, employees were not allowed to keep their cameras and cell phones in plain view at their desks for security reasons because we handle customer sensitive and confidential information. This means that we had to keep our cell phones in our drawers or purses and the ringtone had to be set on vibrate. One of my coworkers had this small radio that she used to listen to music. I kid you not, each time right before someone's cell phone went off, her radio would get static interference. Whenever there were this unusual extended statics from her radio, we knew someone's phone would ring a second later, which helped us because it was hard to hear our cell phones ringing when they were set on vibration. Now there's scientific reasons why the radios would get interference and why we feel a bit tingly when our phone goes off.

Although there's no concrete proof that cell phones cause brain cancer and other health hazards, I think it doesn't hurt to exercise precautions and get into good habits of using them safely. Here's a jist on how cell phones work: Cell phone transmits electromagnetic radiation called radio frequency energy, also known as RF, to send signals from the phone itself to a nearby tower so that the phone can be identified. When the transmission occurrs, radiation comes into and out of the cell phones. When you use your cell phone, it sends a wave out to locate the nearest tower, the waves go into your brain. I found Dr. Mehmet Oz's Cell Phone Precautions to be sensible and worthy to follow through. Here's a brief overview of his precautions:

1) Children under 14 should send text messages or use head sets or phones on speaker phone.
2) Use a headset or speaker phone because they emit almost no RF.
3) Stay off the phone if the signal is poor because it may be emitting more RF as it tries to locate signals. Also avoid talking on the phone while driving because you increase your RF exposure risk since the phone signal must move to several wireless towers.
4) Avoid wearing wireless ear pieces if you are not having a conversation on your cell phone. Wireless ear pieces is still searching for signals, therefore, you're still getting radiation transmitting to your brain.
5) Don't keep cell phones in your pocket or attached to your belt.

You can read more in depth details on information outlined in this post here.

Tax on Text Messages?

I first heard about this tax on text messages proposal back in May of this year introduced by a Green Party in Ireland. It was a very unpopular proposal and was eventually withdrawn. Just recently, there's been more buzz about this tax and a few cities in California is actually considering proposing it to restore their depleted tax revenues. A few cities like Vallejo and Sacramento have already included this measure on their ballots for voters to consider tax on text messages.

There's already a utility tax that mobile phone users pay on their phone service. I'm charged with a $22.00 "Government Fees and Taxes" on my phone bill. The way I see it, it's double taxation if they taxed us for text messages. Advocates for this proposal say it would not hurt mobile phone users but instead would lower the overall utility tax on their phone bills. Are they serious? I think people text more so than they use their cell phones.

As cities and countries are strapped for cash, they come up with all these great tax ideas. We are in the worst recession since the 1930's Great Depression where unemployment rate has hit record high. Isn't it obvious that many people are struggling financially and wouldn't have the means to pay extra for anything else other then life basic necessities? My city raised its sales tax from 8.5% to 9.5% in April of this year in addition to an increase in our property tax to raise revenue for our schools. Everywhere you look, it's increase tax here and there. Isn't it awfully backward that during economic prosperity, our taxes are reduced and in economic recession, our taxes are increased? Let's see how the people vote for the tax on text messages on their ballot. My city hasn't proposed it yet but I'm sure we will follow the footsteps of other cities soon since we are in dire need of revenues too.

Crabbing Gone Wrong

Crabbing season just kicked off in San Francisco so a couple of days ago, my ingenious brother and sister decided to go crabbing. Now they've never done this before and following the lead from my sister's boyfriend, the game plan was to go to the ocean during low tide and catch some crabs. According to the boyfriend, during low tides, the crabs come up to lay their eggs and he claimed to have done this before. Hearing how easy this method was, my siblings, sister's boyfriend and some friends went to the ocean around ten at night to catch their crabs.

My brother says surely enough, it was low tide when they arrived at ocean beach. The water had receded very far back and they walked deep in looking for the crabs. My sister didn't want to get wet so she and a friend stayed back while the others walked deep in the ocean. Did I mention that neither my sister nor my brother can swim? Anyhoo, my brother says not too long into the adventure when he noticed the water was coming forward unusually high. The first waves came up to his calves. He was a bit alarmed but brushed the thought aside. The second waves, which came fairly quickly, went up to his knees. He looked out into the ocean and saw a tall wave coming. Now at this point, my brother said he thought of running as quickly as possible but was afraid he might trip and fall and that would have been more dangerous. So he didn't run and just stood there. The third waves reached up to his underarms. He's 5'10" so I thought if my sister, who is 5'5" was with him, the water would have reached up to her neck which, by the way, is beyond scary for someone who does not know how to swim.

After the last high waves, everyone, except for my sister and a friend, was too wet and cold to continue so they went home. When I heard this story, I just shook my head. I asked my brother what in the world was he thinking? His answer? "Food for dinner". He said he'll try again this week and see if he could catch anything. I told him to wear some swimming arm floaters in case he gets washed away. Casting all jokes aside, I told him not to do it again and just go to the supermarket and buy the crabs. He still wants to give it another shot but says he knows now to start walking back when the water gets high to his knees. At least he learned from his first experience to be more careful the second time around.

Embarrassing Driving Lessons

I remember on my first driving instruction day, I made a couple of mistakes that were scary then but hilarious now. I was talking to my family and friends over dinner last night about the mistakes we made while learning to drive. I don't know if the guys were not being truthful but none of them had any embarrassing moments. Well, on my first day with an instructor, I was told to make a right turn at a four way intersection. I turned right into the curb and the instructor had to quickly help me correct the steering wheel because there were oncoming cars. After that horrible turn, I was taken to a quiet neighborhood to practice my left and right turns.

On my second day, I was again, at a four way intersection with traffic lights. This time, the instructor told me to make a left turn. There were two or three cars in front of me, making their left turns too. By the time it was my turn, the traffic light turned yellow and I just stopped. I just blanked out and stopped. My instructor said to turn but I guess I just got too nervous seeing the traffic light at yellow. I stalled for a bit and then it was too late. The light turned red and cars were approaching. I was blocking one lane of traffic and the other drivers each stared at me. I couldn't back up because there was a car behind me. It was so embarrassing! I wish the "Student Driver" sign was on the top not the back of the car so the other drivers knew I was just learning how to drive. I had 8 hours of driving instructions and (phewww!!)I passed my driving test the first time I took it.

My sister said on her test day, she forgot to reshift to 'drive' after being asked to reverse backward in a straight line. When the examiner told her to drive up and then pull out of the parking lot, the car jerked backward because her car was still in 'reverse' gear. My friend said while learning with an instructor, her head and hands always moved in the same direction. If she looked to the right and over her shoulder before changing lane, she would move the steering wheel as she turned her head. It took many practices to control that habit.

Does any of you have any funny or embarrassing moments you'd like to share while learning to drive?

Breakfast Ideas

If you're the cook in family, you probably can relate to this post. Before going to bed last night, like every night, I think ahead of what to cook for breakfast the next morning. I don't like the typical cereal and milk to kick off the day mainly because eating sugary food with cold milk is simply not healthy at all in my opinion. I make the habit of cooking a hot breakfast for my family. Call me crazy, but last week, I got up an hour early at 5:00 A.M. to bake apple bread for breakfast because that was all I could think of to make. The bread takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to bake so once I popped it in the oven and set the timer, I went back to sleep.

Lately, I'm running out of breakfast ideas. Here's my usual round of breakfast: waffles, eggs and toast, pork or chicken porridge or congee, potstickers, Chinese dim sum, Chinese buns (bbq pork or custard), chicken noodle soup, and quesadilla. I want to try something new. If you don't mind sharing, what do you normally eat for breakfast?

Dream of the Afterlife

My brother came over to my house yesterday and he told me about this bizarre yet fascinating dream. I think he came specifically to tell me about this dream. It's amazing how much he remembers because you usually forget your dream when you wake up. For me, I try to write down meaningful dreams so as time goes by and my memories fade, I can read back on it.

So here's my brother's dream: He was in an elevator dressed in normal clothes. He looked around and everyone else was wearing white. His first thought was "ok, this is awkward and weird". Surprisingly, the elevator ride was quite long. He heard people talking quietly to each other. He heard one person asking another person, "Why are you here?" and "Where are you going"? Strangely, he said he can only hear the questions and not the responses. When the elevator stopped, the door opened to a bright and illuminating room. He didn't' know what to do so he stood in the elevator for a moment before deciding to follow the others as they walked out. He saw four doors and he saw people walking in different doors so he walked to one and before he reached the door knob, a voice from behind told him he can not go into that room. My brother turned around and met a woman. He asked her why not, and she said he didn't belong in there. He asked her what was inside but she didn't reply. Instantly, he was brought to another place, a town, and he was standing near a water fountain. He said he saw a lot of people walking around going about their business. The atmosphere was so pleasant and mellow. He asked the lady where and what was this place and he forgot what she said. She told him he needed to go back and it was not his time yet. In talking to her, and even though she didn't straightforwardly tell him, he got a sense that he had to help four people. He woke up afterward.

I got the chills as I was listening. He asked me what did I suppose he saw and I was lost at words for a second and muttered, "Well, you had a glimpse of something wonderful". He said he didn't feel scared at all. He felt like he was at home when he stood in front of the four doors yet in awe at the brightness of the place. You know, that's exactly what some people who experienced near deaths experience say, they see a really bright light that beckons them to walk to tit but in my brother's case, he was in a bright opening with four doors. He said the place felt heavenly and I joked that of course because hell wouldn't be that color or inviting.

I think it's great that he was gifted to see what lies ahead. I have countless friends and relatives who are not religious at all. I always ask them how can they not believe and the answers have always been because there is no proof. In my opinion and this is the same thing I tell my atheist friends and families: I would have lived and believed then to die and find out that heaven does exist.

How about you, do you believe in a higher being?

Have You Ever Wonder...?

Have you ever looked at a homeless person and wondered what caused or led this person to such an existence? I often wondered why the family of the homeless people didn't step in to save them. Did they not have any family to turn to? I read that many homeless people are mentally ill. So what happened to them? Did they run away from their family because they didn't want to be a burden? That's such a selfless act if that was the case. I know many people are homeless not by choice but by economic circumstances. They lost their jobs and can't find work. It is sad that they have no one to turn to for support. If my brother lost his job and couldn't afford rent or food, I would open my home to him. Never in a million year would I looked the other way and let him live in the streets. So I often wonder, what happened to these people's family and why they didn't reach out to help them.

I used to walk past homeless people every day on my way to work. No matter how routine it had been for me to see the same sight everyday, I was always bothered and saddened to see people in such low points of their lives. Last December was probably the coldest winter I have ever known in my city. We don't get snow in San Francisco but the cold air felt like tiny needles prickling on your face. Each time I dropped some money into a homeless person cup or can, I would get glances from other passerbys. Some glances were innocent ones, like the person just wanted to see how you look like. Other glances, and these are the ones that annoyed me the most, were the ones that looked at me in disgust. You should never feel that way when you see someone extending compassion to another human being. My mantra has always been, "whatever you throw out there in the universe, it will come back to you, good or bad".

I have two vivid and memorable experiences with homeless people. The first time, I was at McDonald. I had just emptied my food tray into the garbage when a homeless person came right to where I was standing, dug in the garbage can, and started to eat the leftovers. I told the homeless person, don't eat off the food and that he might could get sick. He just ate so hungrily. I handed him some money and told him to buy himself some food. He looked at so surprised. Well you know what? A customer at McDonald yelled at me, "You are f**ing stupid! Why don't you give money to the hungry kids in Africa!?". That customer walked out of the restaurant after making that remark. I looked at the homeless man and said to him it was okay.

The second time, and I kid you not, a man yelled out loud after he saw me handing some money to a homeless person eating off a street garbage can. I told the homeless person to don't eat out from the garbage can and then handed him some money. I got another "f**king crazy" remark again. I screamed back at the man, "Just continue walking and mind your own damn business". The man yelled back as he walking away, "He can find a job, he has a choice, he has hands and feet".

I don't know why or what it is that bothers people when they see another human being helping another human being. I think no matter how lazy, how unfortunate, how ill, or how low a person gets, the choice to go homeless has got to be a very tormenting and embarrassing choice. You absolutely have to let go all ego and self esteem to beg in the streets. I know homelessness is a societal problem that every country has and is probably one of those problems that will never go away. I hope the more fortunate people have compassion and sympathy and just give when they can. If they can't, then don't react in disgust when they see someone giving money. Again, whatever you throw out there in the universe will come back to you, good or bad.