Seeing Shinjuku
(view from hotel room)

August 31, 2007

Thursday was rather busy but we met up with Ino-san for dinner at Rajmahal in Ropponji for favourful but mild Indian food.

Friday morning, observed fish maneuvering at Tsukiji Market. Who knew that those cold-blooded creatures have so much blood in them! Of course, fish killing was followed by yummy sushi breakfast.

Friday afternoon, overheard lots of people speaking Shanghainese while speedwalking through the temple in Akasuka. Picked up a couple pieces of 'sushi' for Candice on Kappabashi Dori.

Decided to transfer to JR line at Ueno Station and was overwhelmed by the number of train lines. Finally arrived at Tokyo Station only to discover that the N'Ex train that I had aimed for was cancelled. Got through airport security 10 minutes before boarding, so I grabbed some sake for Carl and some chick-shaped sweets for moi. Sayonara Tokyo!

August 29, 2007

Tuesday morning, ran 3 miles east towards Hanzomon then around the moat of the palace then back. Running is such a great way to see the city. Since I had a conference call at 8 am, I ordered room service breakfast in cute dishes.

Wednesday morning, ran 6 miles through Hibiya Park and reached the palace at the southeast corner. Willow branches carried by the wind. Got breakfast at a convenience store near Akasaka-mitsuke station + more green tea pudding.

In the evening, delicious veggie teppanyaki and fish. I know, veggie teppanyaki sounds like such a oxymoron but it was so good.

August 27, 2007

Monday morning, ran 6 miles around Aoyama. Was semi-lost for a while because I mistook the aoyama 4 chome station for the aoyama 1 chome station. Took pictures of cute signs.

In the evening, since we have yet to receive data and model from the client, I decided to hit the onsen. I transferred to the Yurikamome Line at Shimbashi to reach Odaiba, a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay. I love the JR lines since they are above ground and offer wonderful views.

At Odaiba Onsen Monogatari, I got my very own shoe locker. Lots of cute Japanese girls running around in matching yukatas and taking pictures of themselves. Also lots of yummy food to be purchased. But the Fish Pedicure was my favorite.

It was almost 11 when I got back to Shimboshi but the grocery store was still open, so I grabbed some green tea pudding.

August 26, 2007

Sunday afternoon, arrived at Narita with Arvind. The All Nippon Airways flight attendants were very cute, as can be expected.

We acquired Suica cards, which can be used on all three systems in and around Tokyo. With the help of a very nice girl working at the Japan Rail (JR) travel center, we literally jumped into the Narita Express (N'Ex) as it left the platform. After getting off at Tokyo station, it took us a while to realize that we had to surrender our N'Ex tickets to exit the JR system. Four stations east on the Marunouchi Line took us to Akasaka-mitsuke, which is a block away from the New Otani hotel complex.

In the evening, we purchased and redeemed 750 yen noodle coupons & saw a Kabuki show in Ginza. I love the rhythm of the speech but it took me a while to get used to the high pitched voices of the child actors.

August 25, 2007

Tuesday, first steering committee meeting. Dinah, who initiated Young Women's Leadership Council, is leaving Chicago Foundation for Women. It will be challenging without her but we shall do our best.

Wednesday, evaluations contest at Trademasters meetings, with support from guests from the PwC club. My first time being Toastmaster, so it was not the most well-organized meeting. Jenny attended as a guest.

Dinner at hot chocolate with Yiding, Jenny & Jenny's friend. Mussels in lemongrassy coconutty green curry was flavourful. The kobe steak had nice marbling going on. But Chocolate #1 (a warm soufflé tart, salted caramel ice cream and pretzels) was simply mindblowing.

The rest of the week was work work work from 5 am to 5 pm. Did run 9 miles on Monday evening and 4 miles on Wednesday morning. Saturday, off to Tokyo to eat sushi and jog around the imperial palace!

August 19, 2007

Saturday, 16 miles in nice & cool conditions for a change. I consumed swiss oatmeal as well as yogurt cup at corner bakery, while listening to some girls talk about their nutritionists. I take what I eat pretty seriously, but not that seriously. Evening, grocery shopping with Yiding and prepared chickpea + mango + olive + grape tomato salad.

Sunday, work work work in the morning. Met up with CJ in the afternoon but could not picnic due to pouring rain. We ate the salad in a theatre while watching Borne Ultimatum. Best action flick I've seen in a while, intense but subtle. He bought steak at Whole Foods while I picked up dried mango & bacon chocolate. Grilled steak + corn on the cob was very good, as was the second episode of Planet Earth.

August 17, 2007

Tuesday, we met with Ken to discuss our progress with Lillian. He suggested setting up a group that meets regularly so we can help each other with writing proposals and making client presentations.

Wednesday, Sam and I took Tom out for lunch since it's his last week. We went to Rosebud and Sam made fun of Tom & I for ordering healthy food. I have to say that the salad was awful, although the rare tuna was yummy.

Friday, transported Yiding's luggage to my place; we had to take a bus as the taxis refused to take us. For Leanne's last night in Chicago, we went to Uncle Julio's Hacienda for dinner. I drank lots of water in preparation for my Saturday run.

August 13, 2007

Saturday morning, 15 miles under the sun resulted in salt crystals on skin. While laughing at a joke, I tripped over & scraped my knee. In the afternoon, met up with Katie at Yolk, a brunch place in my building. She attended the Little People of America conference in Seattle recently. Apparently, there was a session on interspatial relationships. How clever.

Sunday, met up with Kavita & CJ at Diversey Driving Range. Let's just say, I have no golfing skills. Then we went back to CJ's place and did a girls versus boy game of Cornhole. Afterwards, we got halibut at Whole Foods, grilled it & ate it. Never grilled halibut before, so it was a bit of trial and error. We watched the first episode of Planet Earth. Baby polar bears learning to walk. Too sweet.

Monday, :( because I limped the last 5 miles of the 15 miler but :) after I got a runner's massage at spaspace. Best 95 bucks I have ever spent!

Aegon to buy Merrill Lynch units for $1.3B

August 8, 2007

Tuesday, seven miles on a humid morning. After work, CJ and I picked up Snoopy & Garfield, as well as pebbles and fake water plants.

Then, we joined Arvind, Deep, Saba, Taania, Ravi & Alison for dinner at Duck Walk. We each ordered a cucumber salad (generous serving size), split a tom yum soup (just the right amount of spicy for me) as well as #5 (sauteed glass noodles that was tasty but not greasy). Then, we all attended Chris O's summer school.

Wednesday, my fouth speech at Trademasters. Phil, my evaluator complimented me on the use of short sentences with clear start and end. He also said that I could do with less notes & less unnecessary hand gestures. Other audience members suggested more pictures, more drama, more vocal variety, better voice projection & longer eye contact. I love getting feedback!

August 5, 2007

Work really picked up the last few weeks. Can't wait till Jenny gets here >.<

Thursday lunch, attended Trademasters Exec Meeting to talk about our website, among other things. Thursday evening, went out for dinner with Milliman consultants from Amsterdam. Sam and Ken debated the average age among the members of the Union League Club.

Saturday, 10 miles because tis cutback week + swiss oatmeal + fruit cup.

Sunday, I cooked pork (+ carrot + sprouts + onions), shrimp (+ yellow pepper + snow pea) and salmon.

After lunch, CJ and I checked out the Gold Coast artfair. Inspired, we bought a canvas and are in the process of painting a bouquet of goldfishes.

For dinner, we dipped strawberries, kiwis, bananas, raspberries, frozen cherries & whole grain pretzels in dark chocolate fondue. Later in the evening, he almost set my apartment on fire by throwing a pillow at my Monet's Garden candle.

July 29, 2007

Saturday, 13 miles along the lake shore. Jeff, my pace group leader, did not register for the Chicago marathon but he plans to run the last 10 miles with us. Should be great! Afterwards, I inhaled swiss oatmeal at Corner Bakery. Jeff ordered the Commuter Croissant. I recognize the need to consume more calories since we are running a lot but there is no way I would consume 51 grams of fat in a single meal!

Sunday, CJ & I went to Magic Waters. We tumbled down the body slide, sailed through the tube slide, floated around the lazy river and had 1,000 gallons of water dumped on us. I packed a healthy lunch consisting of turkey sandwich + mango/edamame/chickpea salad + date/walnut bar.

After lunch, the line for the watercoaster was crazy long so he told me a story about Hanuman finding a life saving herb called Sanjeevini to revive Lakshman. The ride turned out to be amazing: rollercoaster-like but smooth and dripping wet!

On the way back to Chicago, we stopped at this Indian buffet place near his work and indulged in Gulab Jamun (fried milk solid) dipped in Mango Kulfi (frozen milk). Me thinks that I should not look up the nutrition info. I complained about not getting back early enough to pick up Snoopy & Garfield (our goldfishes). He said that, if I felt a great sense of urgency, I should go on my own. I threw a hissy fit ... again ... but apologized later >.<

July 24, 2007

Saturday, hang out with parents. We split Vietnamese-style grilled meat, XL pho & mango chicken for lunch. I bought tonnes of candy at the Chinese grocery store. Watched the latest 007 on Dad's latest high definition TV.

Sunday, slept in till noon! Watched Miss Little Sunshine with mum & dad. In Stephanie Zacharek's words, the nuttiness of families is sometimes the crazy glue that keeps them together. We went for a ninety minute walk, then watched the Last King of Scotland. It's an interesting movie for sure, but I'm concerned about certain stereotypical elements.

Monday, met up with Wei at Marche and sipped some ginger juice with my turkey sandwich. Then Stephen and I checked out a few galleries in the Distillery District. We had a drink at Mill Street Brewery: coffee porter for me and girly raspberry beer for him. While waiting for Denise, I got another ginger juice from Marche; I swear it's addictive! Met up with Denise and Candice to celebrate Stephen's birthday at Lee. The Singaporean slaw (19 ingredients including daikon, carrot, shallot, citrus and sautéed onions) was a fabulous fusion of textures. The matchstick potatoes were interesting to behold. But Wendy prefers more traditional Chinese food la.

Tuesday, ran 12 miles to Edward Garden and back. Mum biked along and provided water support.

Wednesday, off I go to Chicago, until next time ...

July 19, 2007

Sunday, CJ and I played mini golf and air hockey. Me being me, of course I took it very seriously! We also considered laser tag but decided against it when we realized that we were surrounded by ten year olds. Afterwards, we went over to his place, where I rearranged his furniture and got my paws on some grilled yam + corn on the cob + chicken.

This week's foodage: egg beater omelette + salsa; mango chicken; edamame pork; mushroom scallops.

Thursday, YWLC social at Carrie's Mum's place, a beautiful house near Armitage Avenue. We talked about plans for the next fiscal year as well as random fun stuff while chewing on yummy pizza.

Friday, off I go to Toronto!

July 14, 2007

Shirley is in town again for the annual Future Actuary meeting!

Friday, at le colonial, we started with pho and debated whether MSG was used. I hope not. I love the sautéed jumbo shrimp with eggplant in a coconut curry sauce, the melt in your mouth eggplant being the best part.

Saturday, 8 mile run at 6 am. We walked north along the lakeshore and lunched amidst the palm trees at the oak street beachstro. Afternoon was spent wandering around Armitage: she got a dress, I got skirt + shorts, both got chocolate from Vosges.

Around 6 pm, we were too tired to walk and randomly walked into a movie. Ordinarily, I would not watch a movie that I have not looked up on Rotten Tomatoes but I loved you kill me! Tea Leoni is, according to the tribune, a tough broad with murderously effective timing and phrasing.

We showed up at la creperie around 8 pm. Had to wait an hour for a table but was thoroughly entertained by the rowdy trumpet + accordion + vocals. We started with assiette de pate and stuffed ourselves with crepes: Ratatouille & Poulet au curry. Had we not, I would definitely have gone for the Suzette a la Germain!

July 12, 2007

Monday, renewed my cell phone plan. Got a product red MOTORAZR, which will provide 70 nevirapine treatments.

Tuesday, joint I&R and SD meeting. Audre came and gave us lots of help in planning the financial skills training.

Wednesday, for my third toastmaster speech, I talked about giving a massage, without notes. My problem when I speak without notes is that I tend ramble on. Had to skip the tips section to make the 7 minute time limit. Also spilled grapefruit & mint body oil. But it was a lot of fun!

Thursday, met up with Chin-Chern at Shikago (Chicago + Shikami, as in Kevin & Alan Shikami). She's a buy side equity analyst covering insurance. Very interesting to hear her perspective. We had seared yellow fin tuna followed by almost fluffy pork followed by almond brown butter cake. Mmm. My new fav place in the loop.

schmap is using my photo of Jackson Park.

July 10, 2007

When I read McKinsey white papers about other industries, I'm like: this makes a lot of sense. When I read Mckinsey white papers about insurance, I'm like: huh? For example: Creating Breakthrough Innovations in Life Insurance and Annuities

Other industries (automotive manufacturing, for example) approach product design from a different perspective, referred to as “design to cost.” They pursue products they can design quickly and at lower cost and they create platforms from which variations of a standard product can be built readily. Product developers seek to maximize the number of component parts used across different products, and thereby avoid building products from scratch. The same approach could be applied to life insurance and annuities and has the potential to accelerate the process of product development and to substantially reduce costs.

For example, the core annuity product, designed to provide a guaranteed income stream over a lifetime, could serve as the platform for various products designed to meet the needs of many different markets. A college savings plan designed to provide specific guaranteed payments at the start of each college term is one example of a product built from the same platform as a guaranteed lifetime annuity but positioned to appeal to a different market.

Huh? Product development is time consuming because there are infinite possibilities for packaging components and different packages suit different markets. We sensitivity-test packages, not individual components, for the behaviour of the economy and the policyholder because components interact. Actuaries don't sit around all day recoding cash flow projection logic. We sit around tweaking and rerunning models. Over and over again.

There are two distinct possibilities. One, I am too entrenched in the insurance industry to envision a radically different approach. Two, insurance is very different from automotive manufacturing. I will go with the latter to make myself feel better.

July 7, 2007

Saturday morning, ran ten miles with CARA. The pacegroups range from 8 to 12 minutes per mile. Our pacegroup has been leaderless; this guy Jeff was apparently forced to help us out this weekend. In the beginning, he was like, I can't believe I got talked into getting up at 5 am. In the end, he volunteered to pace us for the rest of the season.

Afterwards, we did breakfast at Corner Bakery; the berry almond swiss oatmeal had more fruit than actual oatmeal. Yummy! One girl in my group is an interior designer. When I mentioned that I work at Milliman, she informed me that she designed our office and proceeded to describe various textures that I have never noticed. Various people complained about the heat. I have realized why endurance sports are called endurance sports.

Saturday evening, met up with Jeff Gebler + friends at Wabash Tap. We ended up eating pizza at his place and watching Chasing Amy. I love, love, love this movie. At one point, the girl justifies her bisexuality by saying that, it is difficult enough to meet the right person, so why cut half the world off that list? I think I know the answer to this question. Life without constraints is a recipe for endless searching, endless questioning of aspirations.

Listening: John Mayer - Gravity
Admiring: Belinda Baggs

July 4, 2007

Tuesday, Jeff and I ran twelve miles right before the storm. So tired afterwards that I passed out watching fireworks, lightning & Office Space. According to Roger Ebert, the film has many of the same complaints as the works of Kafka and the Book of Job. Jeff's like, the new hires better not take my stapler when I'm in Australia.

Wednesday, cooked zucchini, salmon and portabella to celebrate July 4th. See image above.

Listening: OneRepublic - Apologize
Chewing: Kind Bars

July 1, 2007

Sunday was an improvement. Morning, ran eight windy miles with Jeff. Afternoon, checked out Niki in the Garden. The sculptures are so much fun and the tropical setting feels like paradise. Evening, saw a beautiful film with a surreal dance sequence that deflected time. The Earrings of Madame de ... glitters and dazzles, and beneath the artifice it creates a heart, and breaks it. Unmailed letters torn into bits and flung into the air to become snow.