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Thanks to some more organizing people, I finally get to celebrate Chinese New Year in North America, first time in eight years So I am really excited. Just thinking about all the dumplings you can eat and all that.

My husband did not understand, he was like, ‘so what, you ate dumplings every couple of months anyway, i could not see anything special about eating them on this specific day thing.’

I was like, ‘well, whenever you go to Subway, you get a turkey sandwich, so that must feel like a Thanksgiving celebration every time.’

Early Universe Poem

At the beginning, our universe was in a hot, dense state;

Tiny quantum fluctuations all around in the space foam;

Then the universe inflated;

In such a short time, much less than one-trillionth of a second;

Fluctuations grew to be big, made some places slightly denser than others;

Those were the seeds for the galaxies in the sky;

But let us looked back;

At the baby universe when it was younger than a thousandth of a second;

It was like a huge factory;

But not a very successful one;

Particles and anti-particles were produced quickly;

But they disappeared almost as fast;

Matter and anti-matter are the ultimate star-crossed lovers;

They reach for each other’s hands;

And disappeared in a poof;

The universe was getting cooler, as it was expanding;

Anti-matter lost the battle and was nowhere to be found;

The protons were turned into neutrons;

And they started to stick to each other, and helium was made;

Three quarters hydrogen, one quarter of helium;

That was our entire universe, a simple recipe;

Nuclei captured electrons;

Atoms were formed;

Photons were bouncing around,

Atoms went back to nuclei;

Until the universe was too cool;

For photons to separate the nuclei and electrons;

They were left free, travelling billions of years;

Then they reached an antenna, like the one on your TV;

The atoms formed the cloud;

And galaxies were made.

This is the end of our story;

Which all started with a Big Bang.

The Smelling Orange

Disclaimer, this is not an orange that is smelly, or an orange that smells. It is about the orange to be smelled.

I envy the people who can sleep well under any pressure, for me, sleeping sometimes is a task that I need to input effort to yield result.

So at some point this week, my schedule began to look like this:

from 10am onward, I looked like a normal person.. and at around 9pm, my body suddenly broke down and I would fall asleep at the location convenient, around 11pm I would wake up energetically and worked for two hours, go back to sleep at 1am, then bizzarly I would wake up at 3am and would not be able to go back to sleep, and worked another two hours and went back to sleep again.. and at 9:30am, I woke up and became normal….

It seemed on average over a day, I was still getting an adequate amount of time, it was just the precise time I was getting them was weird…. Until I was hired to work from 9am to 12pm… things became complicated…. I really could not afford waking at 3 or 4 and work for two hours and go to sleep for two hours…and get awakened by the alarm… somehow it did not work.

Getting desperate, I went on Chinese google, to see what my lovely ancester had to say about sleep loss. The solutions, in addition to the normal ones, combing your hair before sleep, drinking warm milk, there was one that really caught my eyes: smell an orange!

We happened to have loads of oranges at home, some around 30 pounds. and I do not want to suffer from the weight I gained by drinking night milk. So I decided to give it a go. And it works! Miracly!

The correct way to smell the orange, is actually to open the peel to let the scent come out strong to the nose, then somehow, like magic, I did not know what happened after that, because I fell asleep!

Well, on the other hand, my husband found it was funny that everyday he woke up and saw his wife in the bed holding an orange slightly peeled.

Now I am using one orange per night, since the one I used once would lose all its aroma the next day and would be no use besides being eaten .

We are thinking about of breeding some especially strong scented oranges for this purpose. Let me know if you have heard of some specially aromatic oranges!


The Business Encounter

As somebody who is passion about getting everybody to love math and physics, I have a few ads flowing around in the website to advertise to be a math and physics tutor for ALL levels, which as a physics graduate student after many many years, ALL was not really exaggerating. Until a couple weeks ago, I was truly flattered.

Here is a summary of what I get from my client’s request, “we are two business school students, we are taking this course Business Decision Model, we wonder if you have ever taken or taught this course, or if you can help us.. we are desperate..”. Well, I had never heard of that course before I got that email, and I guess I had to prove that I am able to teach ALL math courses. So after exchanging a couple of emails and glancing through some of the material, I accepted the job.

It was fun to learn and teach at the same time, but also super stressful. On the other hand, I was thinking about becoming a quant (where it seemed over educated physicists were needed the most), and had read a lot about how to go into an interview of such a career and learned how serious they are. (And I guess my best quality that I am able to be funny without realizing myself was not the merit they are looking for) and all that, like dress code, or do not eat cherry tomato at a formal lunch (or not eating at all might not be a bad choice). So I was a bit nervous meeting these two potential business woman, and even picked a button-down shirt to wear in the morning. As if that was not killing me,  I decided to put a bit makeup on. I looked in the mirror and tried to smile confidently instead of fainting, went over my notes again several times.

Then the time had come, I went there, looked over excited (because I was very proud I could actually do this, learn something in 4 days and then give a review session about it). Kindly refused the coffee they offered.. I was already shaking when I was talking out of excitement, a coffee might just explode me.

It all went well, I thought, the girls seemed to be happy about my class, we finished what we wanted. And I could finally get out of the shirt and slip into my pajamas again. I went into the bathroom, and froze: ZOMG, what I saw in the mirror was a very seriously dressed business woman with hair nicely combed and face covered with a adequate layer of powder and slightly brushed cheek, except..

EXCEPT: I have chocolate all over my mouth. The one I had on the way to the meeting room!


Solve the Problem Or No Food for you!

When I was in high school, my math problem solving ability is almost flawless, or as close to flawless as a human being can be. There were hundreds of exams throughout those three years, working only for some points in three days (btw: the Chinese education system by then was to wipe out all history about how you did in those three years, except these three cold hard digits out of seven fifty from the university admission committee. The admission became super simple, “we want one hundred students, these hundred thousand applied, we would make a cut of the first hundred, produced a milestone, and announced it and sent congratulations to these people). My classmates seriously believed I was AI instead of flesh and bones, god that might be nicer when I knocked myself into the tree or something.

So what was the secret?

A lot of people: who will take the tests themselves, whose kids will take the tests, and who are teaching the people who will take the tests ask me.

Well, after I told them, none of them were interested to follow the my routes any more…although they were still interested in perfect score in math…

So here is the deal.

A bit of background: when I was about five or six or it might be even 3 or 2, my family was quite poor, so our house was about 300 square feet (30 square meter) at most. And a significant part of that was kitchen for some reason. My father was high school math teacher and decided that he should give me an early start for the competition of this entrance test, which was like an army of ten thousand people crossing the one-person-bridge. So he would hand me a piece of paper with twenty arithmetic problems on it, and gave me the following instructions: solve all of them and if you get them all right, we will eat dinner, or else you will get another piece of paper of twenty questions    and this process will repeat. And I would be in this huge kitchen with this problem set and food that i could smell but not eat.

Being a hungry little girl as I was, I quickly realized that doing them all right the first time was definitely going to lead me to the food faster than doing it twice….

So the secret is “Solve the problems or no food for you!”


Do not practice this on your child: I fear not many children were as obedient as me, and the results might still vary. (my cousin was much smarter, he just refused to do the problems and eventually he still got to eat, but that was six years later, so I did not get to learn that technique.)

When I was Fat: Seeing Culture Different through Privacy

When I first came to America, I was not very used to spending dollars. The calculator in my head always secretly converted dollars to Chinese yuan, RenMinBi. By then the currency exchange was even more controlled by Chinese government, it was like one to eight something, so I was very enraged to discover that a mere green pepper cost about ten yuan instead two. Everything edible was so expensive comparing with China. But there was two things I immediately got addict to:

Orange juice: in China the “orange juice” meant it contained two percent of juice and the rest was sugar water, the best you can get was about thirty percent, the hundred percent not from concentrate juice was only available in Pizza Hut, the most fancy, girls most dreaming dating restaurant (yes, that was right, maybe I will elaborate on that some other time), and a tiny glass cost two dollars, which was enraging for dining in China.

Ice cream: Chinese were not very good at making ice cream, the ones they imported from other countries were super expensive. While in the supermarket, there was always this crazy deal about buy one get one free, so I can get really decent branded ice cream for five bucks per gallon.

That was basically the most important component of my diet for almost half a year. I drank a gallon of orange juice every other day, and finished two gallons of ice cream every week, (actually I got them on Friday, and they were gone during the weekend.)

It was in the fall semester, and “the winter is coming”, so I behaved like an animal about to hibernate: I ate a lot and put a lot insulation on me.

It was when I went to my aunt’s house I finally found out my development. I stared at the number on the scale and could not believe my eyes, that was about 25 pounds higher than I have ever been, also first time ever crossing the overweight line on the BMI chart.

So.. I killed myself to get back to my weight, yaliyada, but I took my driver’s license’s picture before I managed to lose them all, so there was an evident what I had been.

The next winter break, I went back to China. And I was telling the story of juice and ice cream and handed my driver’s license around. I got some really nice comments:

1) How did you become so fat?

I shrugged innocently: I did not have a scale.

But I thought you would have a mirror in your house?

2) OMG, I could not even tell if you are a girl or a boy

3) Now you looked like a laughing Budda

4) I need to put your driver’s license on top of my bed as a motivation to lose weight..

Then I realized how come I gained so much weight, because the Americans were so polite that they would never comment on my weight issues! When I was in college, if I gained anything more than 5 pounds, my friends would be poking at my belly in the public bathroom and laughed at me. Surrounded by friends that observant, I was so shapy.

So rude or polite, what can we tell?

At least that one time in my life, I really hoped there were some “rude” friends around me to stop me from turning myself into a beast.

But man, orange juice and ice cream are tasty.


“Going” to Sail

Who can resist living on the lake, every morning when you wake up, you will see blue lake outside the window, sun shines through, green trees surrounding, boats floating around? Not me, so after my insistence, my husband finally agrees that is where we are going live(btw: my adviser thought the house was our summer resort, haha), with one condition, we need to buy a sailboat.

So we bought a sailboat almost as old as us, and launched it together and happily waiting for the first windy day to come.

With a twenty-two footer, we were very ambitious, and felt at least we should take six friends out. So when we felt the summer breeze that afternoon, we started calling and collecting people to our house. Everybody was very excited, after all, owing a sailboat was not something common among graduate students. Then we found we forgot one fact, the sailboat was parked around thirty meters away from our tiny dock, and we had nothing but a dingy to ship people to and fro. We normally just swam across but we did not tell our guests to prepare for that. And let me mention this: the dingy can fit only two people, and it is RECTANGULAR shaped.

Let us do some simple calculation: two people go on the boat, one person has to come back, and another two can go on, including ourselves, that is a grand total of seven trips, oh, yes, six returns as well.

So, let the transportation begin!

I was not too unhappy, since I liked to paddle around, even in a dingy, so I became the person who shipped people around, and my husband, who was more familiar with how sailboat functioned, was leading the people on the boat to start preparing the sail and whatever other things need to be done. (To be frankly, I am not that big fun of sailing, but sitting in a boat moving around the lake is kind of cool. I prefer to decorate our boat with pirate flags and mead and saying ‘Arrr”). Then I found I underestimated the difficulty to move in the water in a rectangular container. At first, I tried to keep myself heading the same direction, i.e. directly going to the boat or the shore, where people eagerly waiting, then I found there was no hope. Actually, I should just keep paddling, and the dingy would sort of rotate and drift, which turned out to be faster than me constantly changing paddling to direct it.

Some two hours later, with some friends taking my spots for a couple turns as well, we were finally all boarded! The boat was ready long time ago. We were all smiling, and hooraying, and untied the boat from the mooring.


Things happened so fast that I did not know how to describe this, but a strong wind started on the lake, towards the shore, with the full sail up,  in one minute, our sailboat was blown to the dock, the rain began to pour….

We ran back home, a little disappointed, but then started laughing uncontrollably.

The Leaf Spider

Background: I have a very hardworking adviser. When the story happened, his wife was in another city so he found no reason to go home and worked on campus until late all the time, he also showed up before eight.

In order not to look like a lazy bone student, I decided to go back to campus to work after dinner. It was always dark and I had fifty four stairs from the lake to highway to climb to my car. It was on the side of the highway, with absolute no light around it except the light from the lamp inside some other houses that leaked out. And somehow I always had this imagination that there would be some bad dude sneak into my car and just hid there and would kill me once I got into the car.. for no reason, so each time in the very dark, I would try to look inside the car very hard until I made sure nobody was hiding there to take my life away and then get in and immediately lock the door and drove to campus.

One solution of all this fuzz was to take one of my friend home and go back with him, so he could fight my imaginary enemy. But he was very afraid of spiders. (I laughed at him for a long time after I learned that, until I was bitten by one and it swollen so bad that I had to go to the doctor to get cream to soothe it. )

It was one of these nights, when we both sat in the car and I started the car, I began to tell him this weird fear of “my  friend” hidden in the car, and then he suddenly said, look behind. I shrieked loud before I turned to look behind. “Wow, you are not joking.. you really thought there was somebody.” “Who knows, he could be lying down there waiting for me to lose alert. ”

It was a night in the fall, and then a breeze started, suddenly my car window was covered by this bunch of fist sized things, so I shrieked again, “spiders”,

“where is it ?”, my friend said nervously and his voice began to shiver, and soon both of us are shrieking.

Then I stopped, and said, “sorry, they are just leaves. ”

Wind was blowing again, a lot of these leaf spiders falling off my car window.

Who knows, maybe some spiders look like leaf, and some leaves might be spiders instead.

Why do I come to North America?

Or what kind of freedom do Chinese people actually have in their country?

The story happened when I first took my husband back to China. I needed to fill out some forms to get back, (that will be a very different long story another time, visa is not something Americans are used to, here is a hint: my mother-in-law banned the word after I explained once to her what I needed to do every year I got out of U.S. and tried to come back). And as common as you think computers are, the ones in the internet cafe are not good enough for these forms, because only a certain kind or range of word is able to open those forms. So I contacted my friend from college and went to his office to fill the form out.

We took him and his girlfriend out for lunch as a note of thank you (which is the most common thing to do in China, and even if it is clear we are the ones paying, we will still fight very hard to get the position to pay.) His English was very minimum, so he always turned to me for help when my husband asked him “where are you from?”, he would be asking me what is the meaning of that in Chinese…. on the other hand, as a physicist, he would talk in English fluently about “positron” and “beta decay” that occurred recently in the physics news. Anyway, blahblahblah, my husband had the brilliant idea to ask for his opinion on Chairman Mao, (he believed I was the craziest Mao Enthusiast ever alive on the planet.. and then tried hard to change me..).

There was this awkward silence on the table, then my friend looked around to make sure nobody else was paying attention to our table. Then he made a very weird, smirk, funny face, and said it very very seriously, one word at a time, “Mao, is, the, greatest, leader, who, leads, us, forward. ” His face was clearly telling what he was really thinking, but he did not say.

That reminded what I read from Chinese facebook, “There are only two things that are not allowed to do in China, everything else you are free to do. These two things are: you cant do this, and you cant do that. ”

Or a dialogue between a Chinese boss and his employee:

Boss:”I heard you would immigrate to America, is that because you are not satisfied with the pay?”

Employee:”No, I am very satisfied”

“Is it because you are not satisfied with the working environment?”

“No, I am really satisfied.”

“Is it because you are not satisfied with the child care and health care?”

“No, that has been perfect”

“So why do you want to leave then?”

“Because, in America, I am allowed to be dissatisfied. ”


The Chinese Alcohol Culture

It was the hundredth birthday for my college, which was very rare for a Chinese university to be that old. Of course it was big celebration and all that. We had a big reunion of my college classmates. It was the first time I was bringing my husband to meet my college friends, since most of them did not leave China after graduation. So before we went, I explained the Chinese alcohol culture to him, basically he would need to drink with everybody, bottoms up,(yes, not really try to savory the alcohol, the point is to get somebody drunk, most likely the new comer) then he would be friends with them.

Thirty of us showed up, and we girls plus my husband (the reason is funny, the Chinese girls are better at speaking English than guys…also most of the girls have been to some English countries for at least a year.) were on one table, and boys on the other two. Then we dove in the food. (the point of Chinese reunion is to order twice as much as people can stuff themselves with, no, of course not dish by dish, that would be boring, the Chinese style is to serve everything in an order of whichever one get cooked first on the table, ideally filled it up, and using big wheels to swing the food around for people to grab).

Then the culture event started. First there were some rock, scissors and cloth competition and the loser of the table came to drink with my husband.. (the girls had the right not to drink, but I drank anyway, since I was spoiled by the American way.. would be ridiculous not to drink dining out, would it not?) First, our former head of the class came and toasted a long speech in Chinese full of four-word idiom (and asked me to translate… a lot of headache there).

Then they began to select victim again. When the second walked over, I already showed a very unhappy face because I knew how his English were, it was like at the level of four year old kid in America or maybe younger. Translating on spot was not my favorite. Then he poured beer into two glasses, and said,


“Hello”, my husband happily replied.

“Drink!” Then he raised up the glass and chugged it. My husband followed.

“Thank you.” He walked away.

I was stunned, astonished. I just realized this guy who knew so little English but stated the Chinese alcohol culture so precisely, using only four words!

So travelers to China, be prepared when you go out with a group of Chinese dinner.

“Dont be afraid”, my husband added on the side, “The beer was only 2% alcohol there”

Well, just a heads up, sometimes they used 50% sake as well.



The Wandering Girl and the Policemen. (Again?)

A different county, two different policemen, same girl, still wandering! What is going on?

My first adviser escaped from me to his home country for his family and his own good. It sucked, of course.

On the other hand, I was really not into the two-loop calculations thing we were doing (sorry, that was some jargon, just imagining me writing a long program and have to match a five significant digit number to his, and was humiliated by the fact his program ran five times faster).

Bonus: I got to go to Germany twice to visit him to continue our calculation, whatever, the point was I got to go to Germany, for free!

It was a very beautiful country, of course, but that would be a different story. Before I got the chance to see its beauty, I needed to work hard and cash out my check to feed myself first. So I was holding a map, (mm… that sounds familiar), and trying to find this bank. (I was also warned that the cashier would not know English…).

I needed to walk across a road outside campus which was easy to find, since it was on my way home,  and then walk along it after crossing it until first turn on the right, then blah, blah, except, I did not find a right turn.

I was walking, walking, and walking, gradually, I felt the houses become fewer, and there were no more people around me any more(well… it was not in China, so there were not that many people before, so I did not catch on it), and the cars began to rush pass me, I felt the place I was walking on began to look strange even to as an inexperienced walker as me…

Dang dang dang… ( It is a sound effect in Chinese meaning important character will show up)

A police car stopped by me(What a surprise!) They soon realized I did not know any German,

and asked in English,”Why are you walking on the freeway?”

Ah, now all these confusion I had before all made sense, I immediately pulled out of my victim costume “Uh, I am looking for this bank, I was supposed to turn right at some point, but I still can not find a right turn, and I kept walking, and now I am here… ”

I have to say that German policemen are much nicer, instead of just pointing out my stupidity, they actually drove me to the bank I was looking for. First time in a police car, feeling really cool.

Afterwards I told my adviser about this, and he shared with his friends, and when the time for me to go back to the States came,

my adviser asked, “Are you sure you are able to find the airport?”

before I could answer, he answered himself, “No worries, just drag your luggage to the freeway, I am sure the policeman will take you there. It is cheaper also. “

The Wandering Girl and Policemen

As the stereotype pointed out, the Asian women are among the worst drivers, it was not rare for me to be stopped by policemen and get nice reminders, including turning on light in the night, or renew my annual inspection, or scoop more snow off my car, and the list can go on and on.

But even as a pedestrian, my encountered with policemen has been more than normal

Right after moved to America, there was new student welcoming event organized by the graduate school, first time in my life, I went to a bar(there were not many bars in china, and going there was considered not good for a girl) and stayed past midnight, (other people were still thinking about hopping to another bar, but for somebody like me who felt the conversation, signal was completely overwhelmed by the noise, was not really enjoying it. Most of my communication was conducted through pen and paper, (yes, we were a bunch of nerdy scientists that had pen and paper on us in a bar..), or just hands waving and feet kicking. So I left, alone. The gentlemen asked if I could find my home, but  after seeing I pulled out a folded map, they went back drinking. I guess I was in a really small, safe town, that nobody would be worried I would get hurt or something. (In China, first my parents will scold at me if I went out that late, second they will scold at guys if they did not escort me back.) This is one time that I wished women and men were not equal, knights always bring the true highborn lady home, right? Ok, that is enough for background, the policemen were waiting anxiously for their turn to make an appearance.

So I was walking up the hill, staring at the map in my hand, peacefully, nobody in the street, they were either at home or still in the bar, then a police car passed by me and the police officer stopped me

“Are you lost?”

“No, I have a map,” and then I waved the map at him.

“You should walk in a better pose, now you look like a victim that invites criminals.”, then he turned up his window and drove away!

Me, continue wearing my victim costume, and reading my map, walked home.

I am still wondering, why did he think I look like a victim?

There is another story about the wandering girl and policemen in a different country, but I guess I will save it for the next time.

My Favorite American “Food”

When I first visited my husband, by then my boyfriend’s family, his parents were very kind and tried to find topics to talk with me all the time.

A common question, like a small talk, comes up, “What is your favorite American food?”

Then there was this awkward silence. By then I just moved from China, and never had cheese before, I did not think burger and sandwich can be called meals, and we Chinese do not eat raw meat or raw vegetables. I missed Chinese food, the real one, not chicken brocoli or fortune cookie something like that, all the time. I frowned at all American food.

I could not voice out all these thoughts, since we were having American food, but the silence became unbearable. Suddenly, a brilliant thought striked my head, “Mixed Drink”, I announced with full excitement, “Chinese do not have mixed drink, I really love the mixed drinks here”. His family bursts into laughter and I realized I guess that was not really food.

Several months later, when we visited his uncle and aunt in another state, during a neighbor-gathering time, some people I knew for the first time asked his uncle to make me a gin-and-tonic, since that was my favorite American “food”. I guess story travels fast.

Turkey Feather Costume

After I came to America, there are a lot of stories about culture shock, (although one of my friends insist that the other people will have culture shock when they meet me). Among which the most famous one is the story about turkey feather costume.

It was in the year 2007, by then I had only dated my husband for less than a year. So I was thrilled when he asked me to join his family for Thanksgiving dinner. I am a Chinese, and we dont really have many evening gowns. Somehow I was scared to ask my boyfriend then for opinions.

I was teaching college students about physics and I felt it would be a great idea to ask them for help. So at the end of the class before Thanksgiving, after talking about currents, wires , and magnets, I asked, “So I am invited to my boyfriend’s family dinner at Thanksgiving, what do you think I should wear?”

The class was quiet for a moment, not comprehending the relationship between my question and what they learned in the class. Then one of my students answered with  a very serious face (aftermath known as poker face), “It will be very inappropriate unless you show up in a turkey feather costume.” The whole class seem to be agreeing.

After I thought about it, I felt it cant be true (but I was not sure). Then I told my boyfriend’s family, and they just laughed and laughed.

Then I came back from the Thanksgiving break, my students became all very excited and asked me, “How is your Turkey Day?”

I said, “Oh, I ended up wearing a red dress instead.”

I guess my English then was really bad, they apparently mistook it for something else, “You are arrested? Oh, no, what happened?”

“Well, maybe because I was wearing a turkey feather costume walking around on the street”. I winked and answered.

Math/Physics Joke


Before divorced, Larry David enjoys a cup of Earl Grey in his bathtub, but after the divorce, he cannot do it any more. Why?

Answer: Because nature forbids a naked single larry tea.

Math Joke

So I was teaching general relativity and needed to give students tutorials to work on. One of them is called a tale of two tensors, namely the Ricci tensor and Wely tensor that make the Riemann tensor.

The tutorial was very calculation intensive, and in order to keep them interested.

I came up with the following trivia question:

How much paper will we use for this tutorial?

The answer is

A ream and ten, sir.

A Complete Guide to A Perfect Canoe Trip –Chapter Two

 Food! Yeppy! Actually the post canoe trip all you can eat sushi is one of the reasons that I survived some of the previously mosquito darking the sky trips.


What to eat on the canoe trip? First thing first, it is a trip involving carrying all the things on the back and carry between 60 to 2000 meters multiple times. Let us be realistic and define the heaviness of the food by the weight per 100 calories and we want to carry as little as possible (if you like to challenge yourself, go ahead, there are 5k portage out there, but i prefer to take the absolutely minimum weight with me.) So the lightest objects we could carry would be the beautiful NUTELLA, (for mere 20g you can get 100 calories, a lot of milleage, isn’t it?)  followed by peanut butter and nuts and cheese. So dense bread (not the ones full of air that you can easily squeeze down to one fist, get some nice artisan ones, we usually buy the dinner bread and i will something sweet for breakfast like banana bread) plus bread spread is probably going to make up most of the meals.


But that would be crazy! (Unless you are an even bigger fan of NUTELLA, i simply have to have some fun with the camp fire, FIRE!) And dinner, if we get to the camp site before dark without thunder storm following our butt (yes, that happened on our first trip..) is definitley the highlight of the trip after all those paddling and portaging.


Let us start with first day: if you wanna get something fancy like burgers and chicken wings (yes, we have done that as well, they were good, but then you find the bones are not worth carrying…now I am seriously thinking about steak.. feels like we can do anything on the camp fire and it will be good), or anything involving raw meat, if it is frozen, they are great for the first night, but i would not risk for other days. Here is a hint for burgers, especially those cheese infused ones, (nomnomnom), wait until it is almost cooked and become stuck together before you flip them, or else you might find it falling apart and falling through the grill and become fuels..


For the rest of the days, our favorite is definitely sausages (cooked), they taste absolutely amazing. We have also tried pasta, gnocci and coucous before. Pasta is nice and also it yields a lot, but it usually takes a long time to cook pasta, and also we have to carry the veggies which are not very energy efficient. So basically we stick with sausages. Then we can have all sorts of sides: corns and sweet potatoes are awesome, we wrap sweet potates in foil, but you might be able just bury them in ashes and dig them out later, have not tried potatoes yet, but i heard they are good. Instant noodle soup can be any meal. At first when I make these suggests, my hubby look very suspicious, and then he is persuaded everything taste good on camp fire.. so he went ahead with pickles, well… they still tasted like pickles, somehow camp fire did not improve the taste..


And of course we have s’mores… we just found out the jumbo mashmallow worked even better, you could use the outside layer to make s’more and eat the inside.


Besides above, we still carry some bananas (if not consumed first couple days, would automatically turn into smoothie) and apples to get some freshness, horrible in terms of calorie weight ratio, but we all need some fruit.


So that is about it, next chapter would be on the wrath of the algoquin god.

A Complete Guide to A Perfect Canoe Trip –Chapter One

We have been doing the annual canoe trip on Algonquin for five times.

 And finally I can truly enjoy my hubby’s famous quote, “Suffer is Enjoy. The more suffer, the more enjoy.”


Chapter one is completely devoted to the people who are like me that are loved by mosquitoes so much and react so furiously that the swelling bites could change the floatability…. So you could totally skip ahead to the next section if you want. But if you are not afraid of mosquitoes, your trip is already perfect, so just relax (or suffer, depending on who are your teammates), and enjoy the beautiful view. (On a completely different note, my mom claimed the biggest difference between Canada and U.S. is that Canada has no trees, — well, she came in end of April, which is still our third winter here–well, I feel for each other season, there is a winter–so trees are all bald and invisible to her. Then we are very offended and take her to algoquin, and pointed out that the only reason Canada has no trees is because all the trees are blocked by forests.)


First: get a mosquito net (mine covers from face all the way to waist), which i call a jungle gear (I think I get this term from somebody else, but never figure out from whom.) Although this time I am at the best protection against these aweful creatures, (what, you said blackflies, I hope in my entire life I will never have the honor to meet them, ever), my face is completely covered in bites and make a really good photo for my access card to my workplace.. That is the result of hoping some portages have few mosquitoes. I should have never had that kind of unrealistic day dreaming…


Second: Take an generic allergy pill every day. I have a theory that the ichiness is proportional to the area of infection, and if each of ther decide to swell into bowl size, I feel I could have been bitten by a bear and felt better, (hubby: really? Me: yes! at least i would not be simulatenously suffering from multiple bites from multiple bears.  hubby: that is a very rare event in a person’s life time, and shortens the life time to seconds as well…)


Third: coverage, multiple layers, and light, hard to pierce techware clothes. light, did I say light? I know we all love black yoga pants that are perfectly comfy, but they are actually designed by mosquitoes!: the pants attract the mosquitoes and provide nothing but false hope that the coverage will prevent the bites, but they are so thin and they dont.


And now we can move onward to something more interesting in the next chapter, food, perhaps?

The Thing I do for Love and Maybe More

When people asked me why I played Magic: The Gathering, a game where female players are more scarce than in physics department, maybe only mechanical engineering scares away more women.. I shrugged, and said, ‘ it is the thing I do for love’. referencing Jamie when he threw Bran out of the window.

It all started with a birthday gift. It was mentioned to me by my hubby, and after panic reading 11 pages of Wikipedia, a random combination of things were selected and put into cart and checked out. It was definitely the most successful birthday gift I ever came up with, since it stuck around for over 5 years now, and the follow-up investment is horrifying by the standard of a girl who preferred to scoop up non-designer clothes at clearance. It is surprising that the random collection I found actually was usable that very night. He was obviously excited and we began to play. It ended up with me almost crying after being beaten 8-2 as a fresh player by my hubby who was a returned player from almost 10 years ago. I had a solid belief for a long time that he just chose the weaker deck to give to me so he could beat me. But of course this was easily tested, we switched the decks and the same thing happened again. I still held my belief dearly and chose very cautiously when he asked me to help him to test decks.

It was obviously not a game for girls, since female players are more scarce than in physics department or in soccer. So I liked it… Somehow historically I preferred to play guys’ thing rather than learning about makeup(some of my attempts to wax leads to screams and mummifying and memo-like scars for ever. it is funny though I was invited to apply for a job to give a cosmetology lecture on hair and skin care because I was once a cosmologist.. ) and clothes (that is not the same as saying I don’t have a wardrobe of clothes). I was not great at it. I was not incompetent, but not great. But I stuck around, mostly because I’d rather go playing a game that I thought I did not like that much with my hubby than staying at home doing other things by myself. Hence, the thing I do for love. In Chinese idioms, it is called if I liked a room, I would also somehow liked the crow who made a residence underneath the roof.

Things got changed after I graduated from graduate school. I became a professional tutor, a job that was surprisingly intense, especially around the exam time. I began to look forward to Friday Magic Night, because that was one time that I could be sure that it was reserved and I did not have to teach. (Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching, but everything could be sometimes just too much.) I might also get better, somehow.. and started to win something occasionally, and found although the earnings are still more magic products, it nevertheless made me happy.

Being in a new environment probably helped my increasing devotion to magic, since I drifted apart from my friends because of the vast distance, and I was never the type to reaching out to meet new people. And meeting more students does not really help, albeit the fact I might be the most friend-like teacher they ever had, I was still closer to a mother-like figure by a long shot… So, most of the new people I meet are in this game, and it is a pretty good game to collect all the nerds together, of which type my friends are anyway.

So thanks to my new friends, who brought me more into this game, and be ware, you might wake the dragon and faced a more ferocious opponent than ever.

Chores and Jewels

I guess I have been working too hard recently, so that my neck began to hurt and I spent most of the time lying in bed with my magic bag and Chinese romance novels. Since most of my work involves the usage of computer, which is not a great thing when you have a neck problem, I decided to tiny up the house a bit and wait for praises and kisses from my hubby.

My hubby came back around dinner time, I was lying in bed, pretending I was a corpse. Then it was dinner time. Hours passed, and then it was bed time. And my hopes were down and I became sad and enraged.

‘Honey, you are so non-observant, did not you see some changes in the house today?’ I began to complain.


‘Hey, dont you remember how the living room and kitchen looked like when you left? wawawa (I make pretending to cry sound)’

‘Oh…. I see. You are so non-observant as well!’

‘What? Did you secretly buy me huahua? (flower)’

‘No…’ He lifted the curtain, I saw nothing but darkness and trash waiting to be picked up.

‘what is it?’

‘I spent a whole hour picking leaves up, look, a whole bag of them. Of course you did not see them.. wawawa.’

‘I am neckless, what do you expect?’

‘Well, I am bracelet then. ‘



The Impossible Language to Learn

After my husband and I got together for almost one year, he took me back to his parents’ house. As they were really nice people, they started the following small talks, ‘So, honey, you have been dating this Chinese girl for almost a year, have you learned any Chinese?’ My husband was like,’uh… not really, I know how to say octopus in Chinese.’  Nodding very thoughtfully, his parents said, ‘ that was very useful.’

My husband’s Chinese did not really improve from there after many years. It was all because of the experience of leaning buy and sell, they sound basically the same to him. Well, to Chinese, they are different, since they are in different tones. But my husband refused to believe so, and keep asking me if yes and no are the same in Chinese as well.. He tried a few times,  but I could not help but laughing because he pronounced both words with random tones, just hoping it would match mine.

And apparently I should have known I would pay for the laugh I squeezed out of him.

Just recently, I started a Chinese blog (which explained why I was being inactive on this English blog, after all, I still felt more comfortable writing in Chinese. ). According to my friend, baking photos and recipes are really popular in China now, which is easy to understand, oven is not really a common apparatus in China, at least not when I was young. Anything homemade coming out of oven would look amazing in our eyes. So I started to bake and took photos and posted on my blog. To my disappointment, I thought I was good at baking, the traffic was still low. Until one day, I got 10 notifications from the administration, that I tagged them wrongly. Instead of bakery, which is hong bei, I apparently tagged them all as pottery.. which is hong pei. The characters were very similar, except one part of one character was a fire for bakery, but a mud for pottery. And I did not notice all my muffins, and breads, and pies were potteries for two weeks!

Of course my husband laughed his tears out when he heard about it, and proudly told me, ‘so when one person who knew how to use chopsticks correctly (that was himself, not me… that is another story for another day) said beef and broccoli is the nationally dish in China (god, we never ever cooked them together in China) and the other person who could not even distinguish bakery from pottery said not, who should you believe?’




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