Seeing Shinjuku
(view from hotel room)

December 30, 2007

Sunday, met up with Wei at Yoga Lounge. Then Hong and Wei cooked super fancy lunch for me at their new condo.

Monday to Wednesday, movie marathon with parents. Blood Diamond is wonderful. The scene where the African comes to New York and sees a diamond necklace in a store window is heart-breaking. Transformers is exciting although that kind of humour annoys me. Wedding Crashers and Nacho Libre are both hilarious; dad almost fell off the couch both times. Meryl Streep is more than marvelous in The Devil wears Prada.

Thursday, yoga at the Yoga Lounge with mum, followed by shopping. Eaton Center is full of teenage girls! I got three bamboo sweaters from RW & Co: white, light purple and dark purple.

Friday, dinner at Maria's. Her husband Eduardo produces soundtrack for short films and showed us some of his work. Apparently, when Maria and Eduardo first met, Maria was dating a super controlling guy and the three of them were involved in a car chase sequence.

Saturday, met up with Brish for dinner at Avli. We talked about everything from work to relationships to Xichel (Xi + Rachel). Afterwards, we met up with his friends, Kareem and Kavita, for dessert at Marche and bowling. Team Peter Pan and Wendy lost but we had a great time!

Sunday, met up with Stephen and Denise. We chatted for four hours at Taro Cafe. Can't believe we have known each other for ten years. So many stories to remember.

December 25, 2007

Morgan Stanley's deal to sell a $5 billion stake to China marks a bold move by Chief Executive John Mack. If it pans out, it also will owe some of its success to the long experience and local ties of Wei Sun Christianson, Mr. Mack's steadfast lieutenant and point woman in China.

December 22, 2007

Wednesday, Rachel's dinner at Blu Coral. Can't wait until she comes back next September!

Thursday, fourth salsa lesson with CJ. Learnt very complicated move that I cannot begin to write down. Friday morning, we went for a walk and grabbed coffee. Very special since he's usually out of the house before I wake up to avoid the traffic.

Saturday, off to Toronto!

Beauty and success: Just over a decade ago Dr Hamermesh presided over a series of surveys in the United States and Canada which showed that when all other things are taken into account, ugly people earn less than average incomes, while beautiful people earn more than the average. The ugliness “penalty” for men was -9% while the beauty premium was +5%. For women, perhaps surprisingly considering popular prejudices about the sexes, the effect was less: the ugliness penalty was -6% while the beauty premium was +4%.

Since then, he has gone on to measure these effects in other places. In China, ugliness is penalised more in women, but beauty is more rewarded. The figures for men in Shanghai are –25% and +3%; for women they are –31% and +10%. In Britain, ugly men do worse than ugly women (-18% as against -11%) but the beauty premium is the same for both (and only +1%).

December 20, 2007

“IT IS important to be a bit institutionally paranoid, especially when things are going well.” Thus Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs at a conference in November. After the year Goldman has had, Mr Blankfein cannot be far off hearing imaginary voices.

The second cause for concern surrounds Goldman's finely balanced (or horribly compromised: take your pick) business model. As well as acting as an adviser and financier to clients, Goldman makes lots of money from putting its own capital to work. Proprietary trading and investments accounted for two-thirds of the firm's revenues in 2007.

December 18, 2007

Two more I&R conference calls. Format for Winter Action Saturday is down!

Saturday afternoon, third salsa lesson with CJ: hand switch, rock step, travel on three, turn turn turn and stablize on one. More importantly, we are learning to figure things out without criticizing each other.

Saturday night, holiday party at Marche: champagne, team shot, lots of marvelous food and creme brulee.

P.S. SOA approved my PD plan.

December 11, 2007

Wendy: Please give me my followship.

SOA: Our initial review shows some areas of concern. Specifically, the write-ups for your training sessions appear to be shallow, considering the amount of time that was spent in the training. To achieve full credit for a seminar, you must provide a summary for each breakout session.

Wendy: Please give me my followship now.

December 9, 2007

Saturday afternoon, second salsa class with CJ. We learned two patterns, one in open position and one in closed position, that involved initiating turns while I face away from him. It was a bit frustrating as we felt totally out of sync, but we got it at the end. Also tried a couple of fancy hand-gesturing and hair-tossing moves :)

Sunday morning, Jim and I ran/walked/slid 6 miles. To congratulate ourselves for gracefully dealing with icy conditions, we did dim sum in Chinatown.

December 8, 2007

Tuesday, meeting with Colin, my new Ameriprise advisor. On my way to work, grabbed Wow Bao (Gotta Love Hot Asian Buns) for the whole team. My favorite is whole wheat green veggie.

Wedesday, lunch with Sandra, new member of I&R committee. Didn't know there was a Tokyo Lunchbox in the Merchandise Mart. Steaming udon noodles perfectly complement snowy days.

Thursday, chat with Jamie, another new member of I&R committee. We seem to be attracting plenty of lawyers.

Friday, Julie responded with contacts for Winter Action Saturday. First Friday at the MCA with Jim, Jeff, Jenny, Arvind & CJ. Ran into Mark, Mark's new girl that he met through four degrees of connection, Adam, Max & co. We stared at Tino Sehgal's Kiss (two live dancers engaged in a romantic ricochet) and offered Sympathy for the Devil. Afterwards, Jenny got two piggy-back rides and we sipped rich rich chocolate at the Four Seasons.

December 5, 2007

Sent Christmas cards to New York, London, Beijing, Guangzhou, Montreal.

Angelina Jolie, goodwill ambassador to the UNHCR, hopes for progress in bringing war criminals to justice

December 2, 2007

Wednesday, YWLC meeting to discuss Winter Action Saturday. We are working on a voter education event for March 1. I love setting our own goals and timelines, as well as meeting energetic new people. My involvement with the foundation has definitely been one of the highlights of my time in Chicago.

Saturday, first salsa lesson with CJ. Due to the weather, only four students showed up, so Miguel showered us with attention. Some tips: keep it straight on the cross body lead; maintain distance with your partner as you turn. New moves: cross body + left turn + his turn + hand twist; right turn w/o letting the left hand go + basic + travel.

Afterwards, we caught Beowulf in 3D, which I found extremely entertaining from beginning to end. Many people complain that it's nothing like the poem. I think that's a good thing, as action films featuring straight-forward heroes are annoying. Afterwards, we sneaked into Enchanted, in a theatre full of little girls. I'm not sure which is cuter, the movie or the little girls giggling.

For dinner, we visited Icosium Kafe in Andersonville. I was served super-strong, cardamom-infused Turkish coffee in my own ibrik. I ordered the crepe de Paris with lamb sausage and tricked CJ into eating escargot.

Sunday, 6 miles in patchy rain.

November 27, 2007

VA VA Voom: Indeed for traditional products, risk management has often happened at the back end, through the discretion that companies have had to alter the policy conditions once sold, through setting bonuses or changing the underlying asset mix. These opportunities are not available under variable annuities,where the pricing and policy conditions are determined up front and policyholders drive the asset allocation. It is therefore much more important that the products are structured in such a way as to minimise the exposure to unwanted risks, and priced so that the hedging strategy is funded by the product charges

November 25, 2007

Saturday morning, 6 chilly miles on my own. Sunday morning, 5 somewhat less chilly miles with Jim, who described spending 5 days on Lake Michigan due to the lack of wind.

Sunday night, tried Puerto Rican food with CJ: mahi mahi in lobster bisque, yuka, traditional stew + plantain chips. Afterwards, in our living room lit by museum lights, he quizzed Jenny and I on the size of an inch.

Flipping through an old issue of Vogue at breakfast, I ponder over an article about shopping. The writer suggests that, when women shop, they inadvertently ask themselves, "Who do I want to be?" If boyfriends are the best accessories, then the same can be said about dating.

November 24, 2007

Despite the delay, AXA claimed North was the first such product in Australia, and came about due to investor's inherent lack of discipline.

General manager of sales and marketing, Adrian Emery, referred to a scenario where an investor suffered a market downturn two years before their retirement, losing much of their gains in the process. 

“You’ve got two years to go before your retirement … would they remain invested for the remaining two years in the market, or would they say to their adviser ‘I need to secure the money we’ve got, please put me in a lower risk asset.’ And our experience of what clients do is at this point they become very risk adverse and change their asset allocation at the very worst time.”

“If you bought equities and you … stayed there for twenty years and you were disciplined enough to do it, you wouldn’t need a guarantee. The facts are people aren’t disciplined enough to do it," he said.

This comment is so weird in so many ways.

November 23, 2007

Finished reading Freakonomics.

Stephen & co are releasing inflow this weekend.

Wendy wants a white blood cell for Christmas. "Don't let his cute looks fool you -- this highly trained killer takes out enemy cells with extreme prejudice. Learn how to stay on his good side."

November 22, 2007

Thursday, chilly air. "Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower." Lincoln Park Conservatory with Jenny, Howard & Durgesh, who claims that the weather is great, without irony. A rainbow of chrysanthemum. An ensemble of dancing orchids. A splinter of paradise.

A short sojourn at Starbucks, followed by Lars and the Real Girl. Must love boys that resuscitate teddy bears. Durgesh treated Jenny, Clair and I to Thanksgiving dinner at Bin 36. Fragrant flight of Pinot Grigio + Riesling + Gewurztraminer + Relationship Talk. Durgesh: "Why would you want to change the person you love the most?"

Friday, Durgesh and I revisited the art institute. We start "On the Beach". In our favorite, we discover Angels ascending/descending from heaven, or tropical waters, or wherever it is that angels come from. Then we explore Grey with Jasper Johns. What is the difference between 0-9 and 0 thourgh 9? What makes a map a map? Love the fluidity of ink on plastic. Hart Crane was referenced.

The captured fume of space foams in our ears— 
What whisperings of far watches on the main 
Relapsing into silence, while time clears 
Our lenses, lifts a focus, resurrects 
A periscope to glimpse what joys or pains 
Our eyes can share or answer—the deflects 
Us, shunting into a labyrinth submersed 
Where each sees only his dim past reversed.

Lastly, William Pope.L—Drawing, Dreaming, Drowning. "If black is beautiful and beauty is more than skin deep, ..."

November 18, 2007

Thursday, met up with CJ and Jim at the YWLC fundraiser. 2 girls and a guy from Spitfire performed stand-up. During the silent auction, I bid $40 for the goodie basket (olive spread, vosges cacao, walnut in lemon honey, etc.)

Saturday, six soothing miles in semi-rain. When I run, I just feeeel that I'm doing the right thing. I can see myself running the Chicago marathon next year, the New York marathon the year after, and so on and so forth.

At work, it's a different story. At times, I feel that I'm doing things right. First twelve-month period, focused on technical skills. Second twelve-month period, focused on communications skills. Third twelve-month period, focusing on project management skills. But I never feel that I'm doing the right thing. There seems to be a million deadlines and I cannot possibly meet each one to the best of my abilities, so I need to focus on the projects that contribute the most to my personal development.

Listening to Drastic Fantastic, the marvelous new disc from KT Tunstall. This little universe between our backs ...

November 11, 2007

Friday, CJ came over to help me move the cabinet upstairs. We munched on baked fish with artichoke and sweet potatoes.

Sunday morning, yoga with Rachel and Jenny at Chicago Center for Body Movement. The space is lovely, filled with the sound of water flowing over a mesh screen. Standing up straight made me realize how awful my posture has been. Afterwards, we debated the China-Japan issue as a prelude to the evening. Having lived in China for the first ten years of my life, I fully understand why Rachel feels that "they" cannot be forgiven without an apology. What bothers me is the fact that, after WWII, Europeans decided that war is bad while Asians decided that Japanese imperialism is bad. Both conclusions are correct, but one is more useful than the other. Perhaps it's a matter of time.

Sunday night, made dinner with Jenny for Rachel and CJ (tender mustard chicken with white wine; chicken sausage; pasta with sun dried tomato and basil). Afterwards, we went to Landmark Theatre and saw Ang Lee's beautifully detailed period piece (Lust, Caution). When my parents were in Chicago, my mum couldn't wait to see the film. As she described the plot to me, I was like, "Great, another movie about a woman being weak". Now that I have seen it, I feel that what is right is not as important as what is human, that a woman's tendency to follow her heart is the ultimate sign of strength.

November 4, 2007

Friday night, Jeff J hosted a runners' dinner at his place. I cooked shrimp (pseudo-thai with lime juice, ginger, chili paste, fish sauce) and rice noodle (tossed in sesame oil) and made use of the fancy serving plates. CJ came along and tried to convince people that he works as a lettuce washer (>.<) Afterwards, we dropped into Rumba for a couple hours of salsa, the location of our first date back in April.

Saturday morning, first ever Action Saturday event organized by Young Women's Leadership Council. Shawna secured a beautiful venue at DePaul. Karen put together an amazing registration desk. Jenny D arranged for free tea and raffle prize from Argo Tea. Mari brought Chicago Foundation for Women bags and t-shirts for all the participants. Both presenters, Julie Kong and Jennie Goodman, were lovely. The atmosphere was energetic yet intimate.

Saturday evening, Jenny, Rachel and I took Ji Eun out for dinner at 312 Chicago. Scallops in truffle oil was delectable. The parmesan bread was flavourful without being overly rich. Afterwards, we listened to a set of jazz at Pops for Champagne. Ji Eun and I ordered demi-sec and rose champagne, respectively. I'm really into rose these days; the gentle overtones of red make it more interesting than regular dry white. Jenny went for sparkling sake (tastes like fancy Japanese soda) while Rachel went for a dessert wine made from grenache.

Sunday, Wendy ordered a new piece of furniture from West Elm.

October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

October 28, 2007

Tuesday, visited a client in Des Moines, which is a very pretty place in the middle of nowhere.

Moving in with Jenny into a two bedroom apartment with the perfect view of museum campus. CJ bought us some fancy serving plates and made yummy pom dessert (just add honey and lime juice). Rachel came over and we celebrated at Oysy. Can't get over the tofu (3 super creamy scoops with mayo, chili & sesame, respectively) and super white tuna (perfect texture and use of lemon juice).

October 21, 2007

Saturday night, celebrated Jenny Jin's eighteenth (=P) birthday at Coast Sushi Bar with ten other Waterloo people. We enjoyed tonnes of great sushi but my favorites were sunny side up shitake and tamarind duck. Wendy wants to start using tamarind in her cooking. Arvind swallowed a huge chunk of wasabi for 20 bucks. Then we headed to Cafe De Luca for birthday cake and more singing. I love the interior of this coffee shop, full of high ceilings & crumbling walls, like an old Italian movie.

Sunday, haunted house with CJ. Framing the art. Pumpkin carving. TBE

October 14, 2007

Lula Cafe with CJ. New golden mystery pet snail and (real) water plant. TBE

October 7, 2007

Tuesday, dinner for Rachel at Opera.

Wednesday, full council meeting.

Parents visiting. Marathon Expo. Argyle lunch. Chicago marathon (Big Hugs to Mum/Dad at mile 2, CJ at mile 8, Sam/Marta/Aakash at mile 14, Mum/Dad at mile 18, Jenny/Rachel at mile 21.5, CJ at mile 23). Dinner at FP Chang's. TBE

New favorite product, minced ginger.

September 30, 2007

Poster making with CJ. Watching Dallas Cowboy game on TV. TBE

September 16, 2007

Tuesday, presented at Tri-State Conference in Columbus.

Friday, CJ got spa stuff.

Sunday, ready to run 20 miler. TBE

September 9, 2007

Carl visits. Biking to the end of the trail. Buddy Guy's. Wow Bao. Water Tower Shopping. Windy City Wine Festival. Grilling at CJ's. Tour of Wrigley Field. Tour of Goose Island Brewery. Signature Lounge. TBE

September 1, 2007

Saturday, up at 5:30 when it was still dark outside and ran 18 miles. My feet felt as if I had walked up Mt Fuji. Ate the usual yogurt parfait + swiss oatmeal at Corner Bakery with fellow runners.

Sunday, Jackson Park with CJ. TBE

A picture I took of Pitti Palace can be found on schmap's guide to Florence.