DC vs. NYC Round 2: Getting to the Airport

October 30, 2010 at 6:26 am (new york city, travel, washington dc)

I’m back in California, where the weather is unexpectedly gloomier than the beautiful fall weather that I left in DC.  But to get here, it was so easy.  No transfers from one line to another, no transfer to an airport line, no need to leave an hour to get to the airport.  I just hopped on the metro and it takes you right to National Airport.  Dulles is another story and more complicated than NYC airports and Bay Area airports, but it was so easy to get to National.

NYC: 1

DC: 1


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Good eating day

July 19, 2010 at 6:56 pm (travel)

White peaches from Okayama

Giant octupus grilled tepanyaki style. Before they cooked the octupus, they held up the giant octopus, still alive and squirming, for us to select a tentacle. I was definitely taken aback and not sure about whether we had made a good choice.  But given language difficulties, it was too late to turn back.  Not having much experience selecting giant octopus tentacles, we went with whatever they wanted to give us. It turned out to be quite delicious. And definitely fresh.

Tempura shrimp with lotus root. What are you imagining? Some shrimp fried in batter with some lotus root on the side? It was actually lotus root stuffed with shrimp and some sort of leaf. And that was then battered and fried. Yum.

Peach mochi. And because you can never have enough mochi, we had some cherry blossom and plum mochi.

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Preview of July 4th weekend, 2010!

May 27, 2009 at 6:18 am (travel, wedding)

The inventor's old farmhouse and barns

The inventor's old farmhouse and barns

Imagine chairs and an aisle here...

Imagine chairs and an aisle here...

Lots of hiking trails through the woods and around the...

Lots of trails through the woods and around the...

... the reservoir

... the reservoir

I think this spot would be great for photos!  But I'm not sure whether there will be flowers in July.

I think this spot would be great for photos! But I'm not sure whether there will be flowers in July.

Fire pit and horseshoes!  A perfect match!

Fire pit and horseshoes! A perfect match!

Or maybe you're more of a volleyball person... HOOOOO!

Or maybe you're more of a volleyball person... HOOOOO!

And if you're still not satisfied, there's tennis (courts are off in the distance), kickball, whiffleball, softball, or whatever other game you want to play on the open field

And if you're still not satisfied, there's tennis (courts are off in the distance), kickball, whiffleball, softball, or whatever other game you want to play on the open field

And don't worry... there are also plenty of lovely spots for relaxing.

And don't worry... there are also plenty of lovely spots for relaxing.

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Parisian Carb Count…

April 17, 2009 at 2:03 am (bread, dessert, food, international, travel)

… so far

Baguettes: 2

Croissants: 3

Pain au chocolat: 2

Macarons: 7

Assorted other pastries: too many to count



This baguette is from Boulangerie Julien.  It’s the pain de tradition.  So amazing!  The crust is perfectly crispy and the inside is flavorful and chewy.  The worse “crispy” and “chewy” don’t really capture how amazing the textures are.  When you break into it, it sounds and feels like heaven.  And that’s even before you bite into it.



More on the macarons later. I’m off to take advantage of the beautiful spring day and explore and eat more.

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It’s April, time to go to Paris

April 4, 2009 at 12:17 pm (dessert, food, international, marriage, travel, wedding)

Mark’s on a project based in Paris now and I get to go visit him!  I leave next week.  Maybe I’ll have some stories about April in Paris soon!

Here’s a little preview.  They’re some treats that Mark brought back a few weeks ago:

Macarons from Laduree in Paris

Macarons from Laduree in Paris

Iowa, check!  47 more states!  We’ve already picked a wedding venue, in Massachusetts, but it’s nice to know that now there are 3 states where everyone can get married!

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My new favorite building: Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC

October 3, 2008 at 5:40 am (architecture, review, san francisco, travel, washington dc)

The curves and textures and colors are so beautiful.  Yum.  And they’re going for a natural/organic look, but it doesn’t look overdone.  The interior is also breathtaking:

These photos aren’t mine.  Click on the photos to link to the original sources.  But pictures don’t do it justice.  This is the sort of thing you have to experience in person.  Fortunately, once you get yourself to DC, entrance into the museum is free!

As you can see, the interior is mostly a vast open space.  So there are very few exhibits and they’re quite small.  All the exhibits are displayed beautifully, but it’s not really done in a way for you to learn much.  I think the idea is for you to look at the forms and colors and textures and shapes and walk away with an appreciation of their beauty.  There was one exhibit on living native peoples that had more “educational” content, but that was done in the exact opposite way – too much information!  The gallery on the 1st floor has a lot of amazing pieces of pottery.  I was drooling.

Here are other previous favorite buildings (again, click on photos to get to original source):

San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, especially at night –

Interior of the SF MOMA

Getty Museum in LA –

I’ve only seen the outside of the new California Academy of Sciences building.  I left SF before it opened to the public.  But I’m sure I’ll love that too –

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No gas at the gas stations, but I found some gas in Atlanta

September 30, 2008 at 5:34 pm (friends, politics, travel)

I just got back from Atlanta, the land of gas shortages.  And the land of really long and disorienting escalators.  For some reason their subway system is really far underground.  So are various parts of the airport.  So they have these really long escalators.  To make it even worse, they put tiles next to the escalators that aren’t lined up with the up and down as gravity sees it.  So in the middle of these escalator tunnels, you can’t see anything outside of the tunnel to orient yourself, and they have these confusing tiles.  So you don’t know which way is up.  And you don’t know if you’re going up or straight forward.  I would hold on to the railings to steady myself, but I recently heard about how someone witnessed a person rubbing body parts against the escalator railings in a subway station… you’ll have to find this person yourself and ask her for more details.

Which way is up?  Is Mark standing straight on a moving walkway?  Or is he going down an escalator?

Which way is up? Is Mark standing straight on a moving walkway? Or is he going down an escalator? This is a photo from a trip to ATL a few years ago.

Other than these issues, I had a fun time.  That brings me to the second part of the title of this post.  I visited Rosa and Baron and their new outrageously smiley and adorable baby Braelynn.  (It’s okay to talk about gas when it’s coming from babies.  Farts and burps are cute when they are baby farts and baby burps.)

Da, for some reason, decided to call her Bubbly while she was still in utero.  It turns out that she was very prescient.  Or maybe she just realized that all babies have gas and make spit bubbles.

It doesn’t take very much to make this baby smile.  Waving a blanket in front of her face makes her ridiculously happy for an amazingly long time.  When she holds the blanket her self, she moves it to her face, makes snorting noises, and has a huge grin on her face and kicks her feet in excitement.  I’m not sure what’s she’s getting out of the snorting the blanket, but it is very stimulating for her.  Actually, this baby is continuously excited and doesn’t stop kicking her feet.  I wonder if she’ll wear herself out!

We also went to the aquarium.  I saw the big whale sharks and the big manta ray.  They’re BIG.  The tank is also big, but you don’t really get that feeling because you can’t see the whole tank at once.

Guess which one is the whale shark...

Guess which one is the whale shark...

Whale sharks apparently are filter feeders.  We watched a feeding… they look like vacuum cleaners and the water just gets sucked right into their wide flat mouths.  I couldn’t get a good photo because when they are feeding like this, they are also moving fast, and those photos came out very blurry.

It was all pretty mesmerizing, for adults and babies alike.

Okay, so maybe the huge football stadium-sized tank wasn't enough to keep Braelynn's attention for the whole time, but there were lots of people to watch also

There were other mesmerizing things at the aquarium, like the blinking lights on my camera.

Now I’m back in DC.

On an unrelated note, I hope I don’t get disenfranchised.  I had to reregister because I moved.  But I’m not sure that it went through.  But this is an important election year!  I’ll be registered in California, so my vote probably won’t matter much for the presidential election.  But there are other issues at stake:

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DC Cupcakes

September 26, 2008 at 7:08 am (dessert, food, review, travel, washington dc)

To break up the monotony of museum-going, I’ve been sampling cupcakes around DC.

Caveat – I’m not a big fan of cupcakes.  No, that’s not true.  I’m not a big fan of cupcakes as they are sold in cupcake stores.  They’re usually too sweet and have way too much frosting.  So, of course, I prefer the way that I make cupcakes:

Hello Cupcake – I tried one with chocolate cake and peanut butter frosting, and one with lemon cake and raspberry frosting.  The cakes were flavorful, moist and tender.  That’s good.  They were a little too dense, in my opinion.  And slightly too sweet.  The flavor of the frosting was good, but I’m not a fan of the texture, which was too crystally and not smooth enough.

I also tried Georgetown Cupcakes.  Mark and I tasted 4 different kinds – Key Lime, Caramel Apple, Red Velvet, and Chocolate (cake) Mint (frosting).  The cake texture was more bready, a little less tender than the Hello Cupcakes.  But still pretty moist.  Like the Hello Cupcakes, I thought these were too dense.  The sweetness level (not too sweet) of the cake was pretty good (but still not unsweet enough!).  The frosting was smoother, lighter and fluffier, which I prefer, but it also wound up being kind of crusty on the surface of the frosting, which was not appetizing.  You can see this crustiness in the photos below where the frosting has shifted around and the crust has cracked.

I don’t prefer either place.  I think I’d want to combine features of both – the GC had a sweetness level that I liked, but the flavors were a brighter and stronger at HC.  I prefer the cake texture of HC, but I prefer the frosting texture of GC, despite the crustiness.  The only things that really distinguished one from the other were that GC was $0.25 cheaper, and the cupcake display was much lovelier.

Am I alone in preferring cupcakes that are more fluffy and less dense?  Or in preferring less frosting?  Or in preferring less sweetness all around?  Is there a market for such cupcakes?  If I didn’t think the cupcake market was saturated and the cupcake trend on the tail end, and if I thought that there’d be a market for cupcakes like these, I’d consider opening a cupcake place.  But since both of these conditions are probably not met, I’ll stick to my day job.

Here’s my prediction for the next dessert trend – macarons.  These are merenguey cookies made from almond paste, egg whites, and sugar.  And they have filling sandwiched between two of these cookies.  They’re already getting some attention, and their popularity is going to explode.  My friend Hamutal introduced me to them in Paris back in 2002, and it was nice to think of these as our secret treat.  And you had to be “in the know” to know where to get them.  They are more available now in the US, but the tradeoff is that it’s no longer our secret treat.

Eating macarons in Paris

Eating macarons in Paris

The macarons are from Laduree

The macarons are from Laduree

Macaron from Miette in SF, after I took a bite out of it

Macaron from Miette in SF, after I took a bite out of it

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Dr. Chiang Goes to Washington

September 21, 2008 at 6:18 am (travel)

I’m on the east coast.  In DC specifically.  Here’s proof:

The skies on the east coast are so much more exciting compared to the west coast.  Plus, I kinda like how the clouds are only on one side of the Capitol… What does that mean…  Here’s an aerial view.  Of a scale model:

Here’s something else that’s different out here in the nation’s capitol.  I had to go to the ER.  (Don’t worry, everything’s okay!  That’s a story for another day, maybe.)  I signed in with my name and sat down in the waiting room.  I noticed that the triage nurses would come out and call people’s names and look around the room to see who responded.  When it was my turn, the nurse came out, looked directly at me, and called my name.  I feel so special!  Actually, it’s just there are very few Asians around here, and I was definitely the only one in the waiting room.

Another story for the ER:  You know how you have to wait around for a long time in the ER, once you get out of the waiting room?  Here, they have nurses coming around to offer free HIV testing.  While you wait.  So no extra time and no extra cost to any of the patients.  And they test your saliva, so it’s easy to get samples.  Very smart thing to do.

More things that are different in DC compared to SF:  The statues are really statues.  I saw the guy below on a sidewalk.  There were some people taking pictures of him and with him.  I kept expecting his mouth to start whirring and for him to make robotic movements, like all the silver guys that you see on the sidewalks in SF.  Then I thought, wow, this guy is pretty good at being like a statue.  No, he’s actually a statue.  Unless he really fooled me!

I love the free museums!  It means that I can go in and out and I don’t have to worry about getting my money’s worth!  Museums are much more fun that way.  So far, I’ve gone to half of the Natural History Museum – and I can go visit the other half any time that I want!  And here’s a photo of the Nat’l Building Museum.  The building was pretty interesting.  Very over-dramatic, with an odd mismatching roof.  Their exhibits were okay (Da, you might like it), but the exhibits took up less than 10% of the space in the museum.

Mark’s doing a fellowship at the National Academies.  Here’s a photo of a quote on the side of the building:

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Be inspired to dance and travel

July 26, 2008 at 1:32 pm (international, random, travel)

This video made me laugh and smile.  And it made me want to dance.  And it made me want to travel around the world and see all those amazing sights and meet interesting people.  Fortunately, I’ll be able to have a post-PhD trip so I’ll be able to do all those things!

Here’s a video of outtakes:

If you still haven’t had enough of the silly dancing and of the beautiful sights, here’s one more:

Any suggestions for where we should travel?

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