Saturday, October 28, 2006


A newspaper article reported that consumers could be in debt from purchases made during the holidays in an average of $1,000 per family. At 19% or 21% periodic finance charges, that would amount to approximately $45 per month if the person remits only the minimum payment required. These minimum payments of $15 or $20 are tempting as a quick and easy solution when the person has other essential bills to take care of.

I am not against the usage of credit cards. I appreciate the convenience the service offers. In September when we had the sewer back-up problem and had to enlist the service of Rescue Rooter, we were able to pay with Discover Card instead of running to the ATM machine to withdraw cash at midnight. My husband puts his Discover Card (DC) to use as often as possible at places that would accept DC. Currently I carry three cards and rotate the cards when making purchases as I try to accumulate enough points for rewards.

A few months ago I was lured into signing up for a MasterCard with Barnes & Noble (B&N) by the promise of a $50 Gift Card after the first qualifying purchase. B&N MasterCard offers one reward point for every dollar purchase and for every 2,500 points, I will automically receive a $25 B&N Gift Card.

Earlier this year, I was sweet-talked by a sales person at Target to sign up for their Visa card. I do my shopping for household items such as detergent, shampoos, toothpaste etc. at a local Target store. That particular month my total at checkout was almost $250. I was offered a 10% off (=$25) the total purchase if I agreed to fill out an application for Target Visa. The incentive for this card is that I will earn one point for every $1 spend at Target and one point for every $2 spend elsewhere. When I accumulate 1,000 points (equal $1,000+ in spending), I will automatically receive a Rewards certificate good for 10% off a full day of shopping at Target.

Over the years, I have different cards during stages of my life. When I was young and foolish, I was willing to pay $150 annual fees to carry the Gold American Express (AE) card. I fooled myself by believing that the AE card was proof of my social status and that I was an important person. My other cards were from Citibank, department stores such as Bloomingdale's, Steinbach, Fashion Bug and a few others that no longer in business.

In 1995, my husband and I attended our first Notre Dame (ND) football game. As we walked around the campus, on impulse, we signed up for a ND Visa card. As a joke, I put down that I was unemployed (I was a graduate student at Saint Louis University) and that I have zero in my bank account. The next month, I received the Visa card. The reason must be that I had good credit records and the company was willing to take the risk.

There are many offers such as $25 Starbuck gift card from Chase Visa, $50 gift cards from Citibank or 25% off from department stores for purchases over $500. Advertisements from this weekend's newspaper showing purchases of furnitures or appliances could be deferred until January 2008 with 0% interests. These are offers that are very hard to refuse! The moral story is it's only money, and money will not buy happiness unless it is someone else's money and you don't have to pay for the purchases!

Friday, October 27, 2006


Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals on winning the 2006 World Series Championship.

The Flying St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Crawling Detroit Tigers tonight in Game 5 at Busch Stadium. Wednesday night, after waited for almost two hours for Game 4 to start, the people had to go home because the game was cancelled due to heavy rain. These ticket holders must be so happy and forgot the suffering on Wednesday night because they were able to celebrated tonight when the Cardinals won the deciding game.

The St. Louis Cardinals became only the second team that won World Series title in the new stadium. The New York Yankees is the only other team.

I feel sorry for the City of Detroit for the loss of revenue that would have generated if there were Game 6 and Game 7. According to a report in St. Louis Post Dispatch, the City of St. Louis enjoyed an estimate of 35 millions of revenue from the three World Series games played in St. Louis. I am sure more money will be spent from fans who are willing to spend money on merchandise and tickets for next season.

Here is to the St. Louis Cardinals - It is a winner!

Sunday, October 22, 2006


I thought the title is a good fitting for my entry of personal connections while the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals batting to win the 2006 World Series. I change the title from the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Couching Detroit Tigers, Hidden St. Louis Cardinals.

The movie Couching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was one of the top movies in 2000. The plot was about two warriors in pursuit of a stolen sword and a notorious fugitive are lead to an impetuous, physically-skilled, teenage nobleman's daugher, whose love story created the dramatic soul of a Greek tragedy and the sweep of an epic romance. The movie captured the audience's attention with requisite fight scenes on the rooftops, atop the branches of bamboo trees and a blend of action, romance, and the conflicts between individual spirits and social obligations.

So here are a few interestings between the two cities, Detroit (DET) v. St. Louis (STL), based on my personal connections.

DET - My husband was born in Detroit. He graduated from Lawrence Technology University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
STL - We purchased our first home together. My husband bought the house in Michigan before we got married.

DET - In February 2006, we went to our First Superbowl in Detroit. The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Seatle Seahawks to capture the NFL Championship.
STL - On Tuesday, October 24th, we attended our First World Series game, also the first WS game in the new Busch Stadium.

DET - The City's nickname is Motor City with automobile headquarters Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and Volkswagen of America.
STL - The City's nickname is Gateway City with the famous Arch.

DET - The City is also known for one of the most popular musical style called "Motown" with well-known artists such as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson.
STL - Tina Turner grew up in St. Louis (born in Tennessee) and famous for the song "What's love got to do with it?".

DET - The Detroit Red Wings plays at Joe Louis Arena, named after the boxing hero who grew up in the city. The Red Wings won 10 Stanley Cups.
STL - The St. Louis Blues never won a Stanley Cup.

DET - The City has the Fox Theatre.
STL - The City has the Fox Theatre.

DET - Whenever we go to Detroit, we enjoy visiting Hamtramck, the best well-known Polish community.
STL - Every September, we enjoyed going to the Polish Festival sponsored by the Polish Falcon-St. Louis Chapter.

DET - My husband and I got married at St. Hedwig Catholic Church, downtown Detroit.
STL - We probablly will spend our retirement years in St. Louis.

Finally, a little of history of the Cities -

DET - Founded in 1701 by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac who began a fur-trading center where downtown Detroit is today.

STL - Founded in 1764 by Pierre Laclede (there is a place in St. Louis called Laclede Landing by the riverfront) and Auguste Chouteau. St. Louis also became a fur trading hub.

Here is to the better team - either the Crouching Detroit Tigers or the Hidden St. Louis Cardinals. And here is to the boys of summer! I am ready for hockey - let's welcome the boys of winter!

Thursday, October 19, 2006


There are two newspaper articles I thought would be interesting to write about.

A commentary written by an independent journalist named Mvemba Phezo Dizolele. The story was about the Mushangi area in eastern Congo's mountains, far from Kinshasa, the capital of Congo (Africa). The hills of Mushangi are abundant with strategic minerals such as coltan, cassiterite and wolframite that are essentials to cellphones and other electronics. For the last 10 years, Mushangi has been at the crossroads of a conflict that claimed more than 4 million lives. The flow of small arms has emboldened militias to challenge the central government authority. The illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources generates large sums of revenue. At the core of the conflict is the militias struggle for control of natural resources and mineral wealth.

Congo holds 80 percent of the world's reserves of Coltan. Refined coltan yields tantalum, which is used for the production of mobile phones, laptop computers and video games. The writer called for actions from United States and Western countries to send a message to corrupt Congolese government officials that the resources should be used to help the people of Mushangi so they could live in peace.

After reading the commentary, I ask myself should I stop using my cell phones or my laptop? Am I indirectly adding to the conflict by my purchasing of these products? Should I write letters to the leaders (U.S. President and United Nations) asking them to take action or should I make monetary contribution to organizations that are helping the people of Congo?

Another article was about an auction of watercolors and stretches, mostly landscapes depicting cottages, churches and pastoral hillsides. The auction took place in Lostwithiel, England drew special attention and protests because the artist was Adolf Hitler, the dictator of Germany who ordered six million European Jews murdered. The unknown artist was the same tyrant who plunged the world into a war that took over 40 million lives.

Adolt Hitler was thought to have done hundreds of paintings as a struggling artist during breaks from the front while stationed in Flanders, Belgium during World War I. According to the book entitled, "The Most Evil Dictators in History" by Shelley Klein, Adolf Hitler applied for a place at both the Vienna Academy or Art and the Vienna Academy of Architecture, but to his life-long fury, both Academies rejected him.

Adolf Hitler became the dictator and the master of mass emotion, able to manipulate eighty millions people to the point of hysteria simply by the power of the spoken word. Like a skillful magician, Hitler used technical devices such as the radio and the loud-speaker at mass rallies to cast a spell over the audience and deprived them of independent thought.

I would like to know whether the professors at Vienna Academy of Art and of Architecture who rejected Adolf Hitler's applications ever felt responsible for creating the evil dictator. If Hitler was accepted, he could have been a famous artist. He would have been a professor of art, encouraging his students to be patient in learning the art of paintings and not the dictator who hypnotizing thousands upon thousands of young people to become soldiers all dressed in identical uniforms, all marching in unison to the same beat and all become poisoned in their heart with hatred and crimes against humanity.

If Adolf Hitler was never rejected by the Academy of Art, would another person take his place and become the dictator with different name? How would we know if our minor decision would cause major changes in others' lives? We don't have the power to know what the future will hold when we make our choices today.

I often think of how my late father working so hard driving the taxicab in New York City. He always had a positive outlook and unwavering spirit. He told me that he tried to be nice to his passengers with his friendly smiles and being courteous. And that in turn would help the passenger to be positive when he arrived at his office or in good spirit when he came home to his family.

There are so many conflicts and causes in the world that I wonder if we ever truly live in peace. I don't know whether it is good to gain knowledge and not able to make any changes or not willing to take the risk and fight for justice. I admire people who stand up for their belief. Each of us in our own limited ability is making a contribution. How we take care of our family and how well we do our job will determine how society as a whole will maintain its stability. This is something to think about.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


People often asked me what my original name was and why I adapted an American first name. I was also asked how I could tell the person's ethnicity from their family name.

Let me start with a few Vietnamese family names. For example, Nguyen and Tran are like Jones and Smith in America.

Vietnamese, unlike the Chinese characters, is a monosyllabic tonal language with three distinct dialects based on distinct regional differences, Northern, Central and Southern. Again, unlike Chinese, Vietnamese people from all three regions use the same spoken language with minor differences in vocabulary. Under the French colonization in the third century, Viet Nam adopted a modified Roman alphabet and added diacritical marks with vowels to mark the appropriate tones. The French dominated Viet Nam for more than sixty years which explained the strong presence of French language and in Vietnamese cuisine.

A Vietnamese family name such as Ly often is mispronounced by Americans as Lai. Someone told me that people in Quebec knew to say Lee because y is pronounced as ee in Vietnamese as in French.

So, here are few examples of family names to help non-Asian person to know where an Asian came from -

Ly - Viet Nam

Lee - Hong Kong or Korea

Li - China

Tran or Truong - Vietnamese

Chang or Chen - Chinese

Park or Kim - Koreans

Re or Pak - Cambodians

Singh, Patel, Mythily Kamath, Pattabhi Maddipati, Asha Premachandra, Sujata Vinjamuri - East Indians

Filipinos have family names that are similar to Hispanic. For example, Eduardo Gonzales, Alberto Viloria and Esther Figueroa.

Japanese names are identified easily because of the trade relations between the two countries. Fujiwara, Hoshino or Shibusawa are a few Japanese family names.

A person with a name such as Boonchanh Soukpraseuth is from the country of Lao.

Someone from Thailand would have name such as Kongsak Tanphaichitr or Sombat Meungtaweeponysa.

By now, you probablly wonder whether I have made up all these names, especially the lengthy family names. I found these names from the Directory of Ethnic and International Resources published by International Institute of St. Louis.

As an Asian person, 95% of the time I could tell the ethnicity of the person from their facial features. Of course, the family names are secondary information to identify the country where the person came from. I hope the above information is helpful to you. Stay tune for the next discussion of the meanings of the first name and the person's social status based on their family name.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Someone told me that watching a baseball game is like watching grass grow! As mentioned in my profile, my favorite sports are hockey (NHL) and football (NFL). Since almost everyone in St. Louis loves baseball and the town is known as "Cardinal Nation", I thought I should learn a few things to understand the game of baseball. I know to cheer when a player hits a home run or when a player successfully steals the base. The knowledge comes in handy at business meetings when I could talk about last night's game just like one of the boys!

Right now the talk of the town is the battle between the St. Louis Cardinals v. the New York Mets to win the National League Championship Series. The team that won this Series will square off against the Detroit Tigers for the World Series. Exactly 22 years ago, October 14, 1984, the Tigers made their first appearance in the World Series. The last time the Cardinals won the World Series was in 1982 and the New York Mets won the title in 1986.

I thought it would be fun to compare the two Cities based on my personal information. So here are a few interesting things about my connections between St. Louis, Missouri (STL) and Queens, New York (QNY) -

STL - I have lived here almost 12 years (since 1994)
QNY - I lived in Elmhurst about 5 years (1981-1986)

STL - I took a photo standing next to Mayor Francis Slay, Mayor of City of St. Louis.
QNY - My sister, V, has a picture of her and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City.

STL - I could visit Anheuser-Busch world headquarters every weekend and get free taste of beer.
QNY - I could always get a seat on the #7 train from Flushing station or Grand Central Station.

STL - Public transportation called MetroLink carries 15.7 million passengers in 2005.
QNY - A total of 1,449,000,000 people ride the Subway each year.

STL - I walked across the Eads Bridge last month. The Bridge was built in 1874 and spanning the Mississippi River.
QNY - I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge in 1988. The Bridge was built in 1883 and spans across the East River.

STL - The Gateway Arch stands at 630 feet. A tram took me all the way to the top of the Arch. My most recent trip to the top of the arch was last year when my Mom, my brother L, his wife and my favorite nephew J came to visit.
QNY - The Lady Liberty stands at 305 feet. The last time I walked up to the crown was in 1988.

STL - I graduated from Saint Louis University in 1999. I was awarded scholarship and did not have any outstanding loans when I graduated.
QNY - I earned my Bachelor's degree from Hunter College and an Associate's degree from LaGuardia Community College while working full time. I paid for all the tuitions and did not have any student loans when I finally graduated in 1988.

STL - I am a homeowner. It is a modest ranch style house. We paid off the mortgage a few years ago.

QNY - I rented a small room in a house in Woodhaven for $300 a month. I had to share a bathroom with two other renters.

Looking at the above comparison, I have come to the conclusion that I should cheer for the St. Louis Cardinals based on the fact that I have lived in St. Louis longer than the time I spent in Queens. However, I will need to re-evaluate my support once we know which team will square off against the Detroit Tigers.

One thing for sure, no matter how long I live in St. Louis, my favorite hockey team will always be the Detroit Red Wings. For now, take me out to the ballgame so I could yell "Go Cards"!


I enjoy watching the game show called Deal or No Deal. The show consists of one contestant each round, Mr. Howie Mandel is the host and 26 lovely young ladies carry 26 sealed briefcases. The young ladies are in beautiful dresses that are always very flattering to every right measurements of their bodies. The styles of some of the dresses are very suggestive such as plunging neckline and about 10 inches above the knees. A few look more like nightwear than to be seen on national broadcasting. The briefcases contain amounts from 1 penny to 1 million dollars. No one knows what amounts are in the briefcases.

At the beginning of the show, the contestant picks one briefcase he/she believes containing one million dollars. In comparison to real life, it is like marriage. Most of us choose someone to marry because we love the person and believe that he/she is the right partner who we would spend our entire life together in rich and in poor, through good and bad times, until death do us part.

Next, the contestant begins to randomly select six briefcases. As each briefcase is opened, the contestant and their support group of 3 people who are family members or close friends, and the audience (I am included) either celebrate if the amount is small (on the left side of the column) or become discouraged if the amount is in the six-figures (the amounts on the right side of the column are $100,000 or higher).

One contestant was so unlucky that the first briefcase he picked contained the 1 million dollars. After all six briefcases are open, the unseen banker would offer an amount to the contestant. At this early stage, the contestant usually turned down the offer by answering "No Deal" or just slam the cover over the red blinking button because the amount is very low.

In real life it would be like dating. You never know the person would like you enough to go on a second date or you can't stand the person that you could not wait for the date to end. Or the job offer that you turned down because after you were introduced to the manager, you know you could not work with him/her.

Next the contestant will open 5 more cases. If the large amounts are in place, then the offer will go up. Mr. Mandel will ask the contestant "Deal or No Deal". If the answer is "No Deal" then, the contestant will open 3 more cases. A higher offer is made if the 3 opened cases contain small amounts.

In real life, this is when we made major decisions such as accepting job transfer that require moving to another state or to go back to school. The last three years, I have been a regular customer of Stoner Dry Cleaner. I always try to have singles and exact change when I pick up my clothes. Last week I was informed that the owner sold the business and would be going back to school to obtain his degree in electrical engineering. I was assured that the services will be the same high level. I told Mr. Stoner that I admire his will for higher education and wish him luck in his future.

The show usually ends with the contestant either accept the offer when he/she, at the encouragement of the family and the audience, feels that the amount is high enough. Some people will leave with a few hundred dollars while others willing to take a risk and could be lucky to walk away with half a million dollars. I have not seen anyone won a million dollars yet.

Like the people in the audience, I become involved and got very nervous when the contestant picked a briefcase that contained large amount. The contestants are very emotional, crying, dancing, jumping, running around the stage, rushing to hug their family members or hugging the host, "Howie".

The show in some ways is the way our lives unfolding in the daily tasks and in the decisions we make. The briefcases represent the awards we receive or the unexpected problems in the choices we selected. When we accept or reject an offer, whether a date, a job or friendship, we say "Deal or No Deal" without knowing what will happen next.

We base our decisions on our experiences or the knowledge what could be. Sometimes we have regrets and wish we could turn back the clock or given another chance. In the end, we each select one briefcase, until we open all the other briefcases, we will not know what we have. If my family did not take the risk to escape Viet Nam by boat, we would not be living in America. We have to learn to make our own decisions to say Deal or No Deal.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Disclaimer: The following story is about my personal ordeal. The information is not intended to be used as suggestions or recommendations of investment or any legal interpretations. Please consult your financial advisors or accounting professionals before making decisions to invest.

I broke my left foot on Sunday, December 22, 2003. I forgot the fancy name of the bone that was broken. I do remember how it happened. I was walking out of the bookstore near my home. Somehow my shoe got caught in an opening of a broken moulding that was supposed to hold the carpet to the floor. As my body moved forward, my left foot was held back and I could hear the popping sound of the bone being broken. I could not walk and had to hop to my car with my healthy right foot.

I had to use crutches for a week before I was able to walk using an orthopedic walker. January 16, 2004, during my visit with the orthopedist to check how the bone was healing, I was told because of the restriction on the movement of my leg, I had developed deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), DVT is a fancy medical term for blood clots in deep veins.

I was kept at St. John Hospital overnight for observations and was given injections into the lower abdominal every six hours. The doctor explained to me that the blood clots could break off and travel through the body to block artery in my lung and that could be fatal.

The following weeks, I had to go to a lab for blood test first every other day, then once a week and then once a month. I was on Coumadin (medication for blood thinner) for six months. The blood tests were reported to my physician to adjust the level of Coumadin. If the dosage was too high, I could be bleeding internally or bleed to death from a minor injury.

After the first few blood tests, I noticed that the waiting room was always full. I began reading about the company and found out that there would be more labs open not only in St. Louis but nationwide. The company planned to begin distribution of the new diabetes kits for home usage. The kits were approved by FDA early that year. I purchased 50 shares at $61 per share. A year later, the shares went up to $92. Six months later, the company announced a stock split that resulted in the doubling of my investment to 100 shares. The stocks have been steady at $60 or more per share.

Looking back I realized I could have been dead if the blood clots were not discovered in time. The enduring of not able to walk normally for six months was not very pleasant. The only thing good came out of my broken left foot was strong returns on my investment. And that was my blood money.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Last month we had our first unpleasant experience with sewer back up that resulted in minor overflow in our basement.

It was around 8:30 p.m. on a Tuesday evening and we just finished our dinner. I did not have a business or community function to attend that evening and was looking forward to getting a few things done at home. I was in the kitchen when I heard a loud crashing noise coming from the basement followed by my husband's cursing. I rushed down the stairs to find my husband trying to get up from the floor that was flooded with sewer backup. C told me he was alright. I asked him to move his arms and legs to make sure he did not break any bones. Together we picked up the items that C knocked off the shelves trying to break his fall when he stepped on the wet area rug near the opening of the pipe.

C tried to fix the problem with a few tools he had. An hour later, we decided that we needed professional help. We looked up in the Yellow Pages and called Rooter Rescue because the advertisement stated that "60 Minute Service". Later we learned that "60 Minute Service" could be interpreted as the company would let you know within 60 minutes from the initial phone call whether an emergency specialist could be available or not. Then it would be another 60 minutes before a Rooter Rescue truck showed up in your driveway.

The Rooter Rescue technician named "Aaron" finally came to our house at 10:30 p.m. My husband took the RR person down the basement where the overflow took place. He quickly provided an estimate and explained that the flat rate is $250 and it would take about 1 hour to fix the problem. The labor rate for additional hour would be $40 plus other cost if more equipments were needed. We did not have any other options but to ask the RR person to begin his work. The RR person went to his truck, unloaded his heavy duty water-propelled "cobra" saw and carefully carried it down the stairs. He also showed my husband through his motorized video camera that tree roots had poked through a weak spot and created a partial blockage in our sewer pipes. For the next 45 minutes, from the living room upstair, I could hear the "cobra" at work cutting away the intruding roots.

The total cost turned out to be about $400 and Rescue Rooter accepted credit cards. We put it on our Discover Card so at least we would get some cash back! Finally at 2:00 a.m., the work was completed. We spent the next hour cleaning up the basement because the smell was unbearable. We took showers after that and went to bed at 3:30 a.m. The next day we both went to work.

A week later, we saw the headline in the local news, "Thirsty roots wriggling into sewer lines cause big mess". What a coincidence! We thought it only happened to us. According to the newspaper article, basement backups caused by blocked mains have grown to 775 in 2005 compared to 310 in the previous year. The report further explained that dry conditions in St. Louis had caused the roots to go deep into the ground looking for damp soil. Once the roots found voids or cracks in the sewer pipes, then it was "nutrient sink" for the roots to do the natural thing - grow!

For now Rescue Rooter guaranteed the service will last for six months. From this experience, we learned that the City offers an assistance program called "Sewer Lateral Repair Program". The funding came from an establishment of a $28 annual fee collected with the State Real Estate property tax. Because of the large number of sewer lateral repairs done in the first few years, the fund was exhauted. Since 2002, a cap of $3,000 per home was instituted. I inquired with others at my workplace and learned that the total cost to replace our clay pipes with PVC plastic pipes could be up to 10K or even 15K. $3,000 would not be enough to cover the excavation and repair, replace of the failed section of sewer lateral which could include patching of the driveways, sidewalks, curbs and hauling away pavement materials that were removed to make way for the repair.

This sewer problem sure smells bad and another ways that our hard-earned money gone down the drain.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


There were two incidents happened this past weekend that Mr. T could have featured in his new reality television show for TV Land, I Pity the Fool, scheduled to premiere Wednesday, October 11, 2006.

Mr. T is an actor who is well-known for his roles as Sgt. Bosco "B.A." Baracus in the 1980s television series The A-Team and as a boxer playing opposite of Rocky in the 1982 film. His trademark is the distinctive Mohawk hairstyle he adopted because the style is of an African Mandinka warrior.

This past weekend, my workplace conducted a weekend retreat with the Board of Directors at a conference center at Lake of the Ozarks. We requested a full breakfast buffet since the meetings started at 7:00 a.m. We asked the banquet staff to remove the food at 9:00 a.m. but leave the coffee and refreshment until the meetings were over at 11:30 a.m. On Friday morning, the staff promptly removed the breakfast at 9:00 a.m. As instructed, the coffee pots remained in the room but there were no coffee mugs. It took about 15 minutes before the hotel staff brought back the cups as well as the creamer and sugar for the coffee.

The next day, the breakfast buffet was ready at 7:00 a.m. but there were no plates, utensils nor napkins. Again, we had to notify the hotel staff and it took another 15 minutes before plates, utensils were provided. When I registered my disappointment with the Conference Manager, she apologized for the mixed-up claiming that the person who was assigned to take care of our group did not come to work on Friday and was late on Saturday. I was not satisfied with her reason. Whoever was responsible for the setting should know that the guests needed plates and utensils to eat their breakfast and cups to drink coffee. How else would the guests drink the coffee or eat scramble eggs?

The second incident was at a shopping outlet. Believe it or not, I don't care much for shopping. I don't spend a lot of my vacation time at a mall. My husband and I had an hour to spend together before his (golf) scheduled tee time. After breakfast, we stopped by a shopping outlet. C went into a tool shop and I just started walking around. A woman in a wheelchair struggled to open the door of an American Eagle outlet. These doors were not automatic and definitely not handicapped accessible. Two young people, male and female, stood nearby chatting and laughing. I rushed over and opened the door for the woman. How could the young people not seeing the woman in the wheelchair needed help?

Common courtesies are the foundation of a civilized society. What happened to good manners? Don't people use to words Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me, anymore? Are we all turning into Fools?

Saturday, October 07, 2006


What can a person buy with $125 million? How about a property with pricey marble and 24-karat gold fixtures decorate bathrooms? The famous seller is Mr. Donald Trump. There is no need to give description of who Mr. Trump is. Someone told me that Mr. Trump does not have or carry his business cards. His reason is that if the person does not already know who Mr. Trump is, then that person is not important.

If you think $125 million is too much, then there are other properties for less. An estate in Bridgehampton, New York is only $75 million and a house in Lake Tahoe, Nevada listed at a flat $100 million. Until I win the lottery, I will be happy with my humble ranch home in St. Louis. I definitely will avoid watching the show, "Lifestyles of the Riches and the Famous".

Back to reality, St. Louis Lambert Airport is planning to provide a wireless fidelity network or Wi-Fi to its passengers. Wi-Fi networks are short range radio waves to connect laptop computers and other wireless devices to the Internet. Lambert Airport is a late comer to wireless Internet compared to West Coast airports which began the trend in 2000. Personally I am excited about the news even though I don't travel much and I don't plan to bring my laptop when flying. Last weekend I brought along my recently purchased laptop to a work-related weekend at Lake of the Ozarks. I enjoyed using the hotel complimentary Internet connection. What a luxury to be able to pull up documents and find out the latest news! I could also envision the passengers while waiting for their flights, scrolling through messages on the Blackberry, checking bank statements, watching movies, shopping on-line, downloading music, and family members sitting next to each other talking on separate cell phones as if they were strangers. This is a very sad reality.

Enough about being poor and this sad hi-tech world, let's celebrate a special holiday, The Moon Festival. The day of the Festival often falls in September, though this year it comes on Friday, October 6th. The Moon Festival - also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival - is a favorite holiday in China and Viet Nam as well as many other Asian countries. The festival is celebrated on the 15th day of eighth month of the lunar calendar. On this night, families gather together to enjoy the moon's beauty and to find fulfillment in the closeness of being with other family members. I remembered as a child in Viet Nam, I was given pretty lanterns that were made of shining paper. The lanterns were made with bamboo frame, designed in the shapes of dragons, rabbits or flowers, covered with decorated bright paper and a lit candle inside.

I missed seeing the beautiful gift boxes contained the round moon cakes. My favorite fillings are sweet bean and tasty egg paste. I always ate the center egg first and then try putting the half eaten slice back into the tin for someone else. Other fillings including sweet combination of fruits and nuts, date paste and lotus paste. I also loved the story about the beautiful moon lady who could only see her lover once a year during the festival.

In the corner of my life in St. Louis, Missouri, these are some of the stories in the news this week.

Monday, October 02, 2006


It was a pleasant surprise when I found out about my Chinese roots in the book entitled, "China: Its Most Scenic Place - A Photographic Journey through 50 of Its Most Unspoiled Villages and Towns."

My husband and I would like to visit China and Viet Nam. Our plans was delayed a few years ago when the SARS epidemic took place. Last year we again delayed the trip because of the Bird Flu. We both would like to see the Great Wall and my husband would like to visit Viet Nam to see the village where I was born.

The book mentioned that more than 1,000 years ago, near the end of the Tang Dynasty, a group of Hakka people, also known as the Jews of China, built an earth towers, a ring-shapped, self-contained housing complex, resembling a circular fortress. The towers were so well-built that they protected the Hakka people from Japanese pirates while other provinces became much easier targets.

I learned from my brother L that my ancestors, the Hakka people, are nomads from Kwangtung. Nomads are members of a wandering tribe. This is so fitting that my ancestors left China in the early 1920's. After the communist took over South Viet Nam, my family were among the boat people in late 1970's risking our lives in the open seas in search for freedom and liberty.

It is also a perfect fitting that the nickname for my sister V is wandering feet. It explains why I am well-adjusted when moving from New York to Michigan to St. Louis without much trouble adepting to the new environment. It is in our roots that we found evidence that we are the people of wander. Our strength and our determination sustain us through our early years struggling to survive in America.

I only have one regret that my late father did not have an opportunity to visit China. Even though he was born and grew up in Viet Nam, he always considered himself as Chinese. He tried teaching us Hakka at home and made every efforts to send us to Chinese schools so that we learned to read, write and speak Chinese. I remembered the notebooks my father deligently wrote sentences with pronunciation of Hakka and their meanings in Vietnamese. The notebooks become the unofficial textbooks passing from me to my younger sister and then to my youngers brothers.

I still remember the words my father spoke to us, "Don't forget your roots." I hope to learn more about my Hakka ancestry and to visit China in the near future.


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