Category Archives: Books

Recent musings

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昨晚刚刚看完这本书:

 

作者是一个三明治狂热者,他把自己吃的各式各样三明治放到扫描仪上,经过加工制作后,很清楚的把一个三明治呈现在读者面前。因为扫描仪是平面的,很多时候连一滴芥末都看得清清楚楚。这比用最好的数码相机去拍三明治更实在,亏他想得出!(更重要的是比例是1:1的~)

出书以前他在自己的网站 http://scanwiches.com/ 上就post过很多照片;有在外面买的sandwich,但更多是自制的。书里较为详细地介绍了作者选出来的人为具代表性的三明治的来历,名称,和成分,材料等的变化。虽称不上妙语连珠,读起来还是很风趣的。而且见识长了不少哦!比如英国除了下午茶时间的tea sandwich,原来还有一款俏皮的三明治叫Butty:

*Scanwiches Book Sneak Peak! Chip Butty: Hot Chips, Ketchup, on White Bread. 

Chip Butty: Hot Chips, Ketchup, on White Bread. (photo taken from http://scanwiches.com/)

两片面包中间夹薯条!哈哈,可惜上次去伦敦时根本不知道这玩意儿,没尝到。

如果不是这本书,我又怎么会知道西安有个有名的“东方汉堡”叫肉夹馍呢!真的好想吃吃看哦~

最让我心动的是Sandwich Loaf。Google翻译为夹心面包,看它的样子我认为叫“蛋糕面包”更确切吧:

据说这款用面包代替蛋糕,Cream Cheese代替奶油,中间随你加什么咸的沙拉(青豆啊,午餐肉啊,蘑菇啊,蛋,鱼等)都可以的party food很难在外面买到,只能自己在家做了。可要很有技巧才能把它“化妆”成跟个蛋糕一样吧:

大饱眼福,大流口水呀!

 

昨天还发现一篇有趣的博文:

http://www.fromaway.com/cooking/bacon-and-egg-candies

"Bacon and Egg" Candies

看起来很像荷包蛋对不对?呵呵,博文的题目是”Bacon and Egg” Candies,是模仿西方经典早餐“培根鸡蛋”的糖果。蛋白部分是化掉的白巧克力,蛋黄则是黄色的M&M糖衣巧克力。培根部分博主用了两根Pretzel Sticks(椒盐脆饼条),个人认为其实可以用真的培根,撕成小碎片就好了。当下不是很流行把培根混到甜食里吃吗?听到到处都在卖培根圣代,培根纸杯蛋糕,培根味甜甜圈等等,虽然我一样都还没试过…

 

The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills and Leave a Positive Impress by Debra Fine

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It’s Valentine’s Day today! I wish all the happy couples will stay happy!

Since it started snowing in the morning, it did not feel romantic at all. I was not in the mood for taking pictures so I left my camera at home, without realizing I could be using it for really good reasons.

I got a ticket from work to attend this annual Department of Interior book forum today. It’s given by Debra Fine, and the theme was “The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills and Leave a Positive Impress”. She’s the author of the following book which I got for free by attending the forum!

… and later had it signed:

Her forum was so educational that I actually wanted to start reading the book soon! Four tips she gave I thought were very useful in starting a conversation.

  1. You gotta know people’s name, if you forget, ask again until you get it right – it’s silly to avoid a conversation just because you can’t rememer a name.
  2. Always assume the burden of other people’s comfort. (I need to read up on that because I didn’t quite get what she meant)
  3. If the other person wants to talk to you, no matter how lame the ice-breaker line is, he/she’s going to talk to you; similarly, if they are not in talking mode, they could ignore you just because of the color of your shirt. So don’t be afraid to be the first one to speak, it’s not riskier than driving on the highway!
  4. Nowadays, “How’s your day?” and “Did you have a good weekend?” equal to “Hi”! If you really want to have a conversation with someone, show that you’re really interested, by asking more, such as “so, what did you do over the weekend?” or “tell me a little about your family…”

After about an hour of talking, Debra had us do a little activity. She divided all the attendees into three large groups, and each two people were to form a pair and talk to each other for five minutes, the goal was to find at least three things the two people have in common. I never thought my partner and I would have anything in common, because we are in two different generations (he could be my dad!), gender is different, and we grew up in different cultures. Still, we tried very hard to come up with something and at the end, we listed that we both liked drinking tea, using chopsticks, we both live on Yale Avenue, and went to college at CU Denver! When I spoke, I kept mentioning that I’m from a different country so to be able to find something in common was a triumph! And it worked! We were one of the three pairs to win a prize! I picked the Starbucks gift card, and sure enough, that got turned into two delicious frappuccinos later when I shopped with my mom!:

More books by Marjane Satrapi

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Both of these books by Marjane Satrapi (author of Persepolis) were irresistable!

Embroideries tells a tale of a bunch of women in the Satrapi family and female friends having a conversation about men, attitudes, and sex. It was ironic and sarcastic at places which I thought was very humorous, especially having come from several Iranian women! Again, Marjane succeeded in telling this great story because of her keen observations.

Chicken with Plums, I had the hardest time figuring the title out until one day, somebody asked a really simple question, “Does it ‘taste’ good?” Of course! When I got to about 1/3 of the book, it mentioned the main character’s favorite dish Chicken With Plums. Silly me, all this time I thought there was some deep meaning to the title. I guess I just never associated the sad story with a delicious dish. The story was about Marjane’s late uncle, who decided to die after his beloved music instrument got broken and what happened during the 7 days he was fasting himself. I’m thinking the meaning of the story was about how one would sacrifice one’s life for something one loves?!? Of course I didn’t get it, to me, nothing’s more precious than life! But I enjoyed the book anyway because of Marjane’s unique drawings.

Recent pleasures

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Recently I’ve had so much pleasures with all the music discoveries, especially on DouBan, because it tracks what books I’ve read, music I’ve listened to, and movies I’ve watched; then based on the records, it suggests new things for me to enjoy. I get ambitious when I see the statistics go up. Yesterday there’s only 20 albums and 50 movie’s I’ve heard and seen, today, after adding another 10, it’s 30 albums and 60 movies!!! I just want to see that number go up! To do that, I need to listen to more music and watch more movies, and collect all that I’ve done and report it! I get so crazy that these past few days, whenever I lie down trying to fall asleep, I can’t because I envision myself sitting in front of the computer and doing stuff on DouBan…

But that’s not the only thing I see when I close my eyes these days. I’m also obsessed with Persepolis, the interesting autobiography by Iranian author/illustrator Marjane Satrapi.

How cute are the covers! The books are actually cuter! She tells her story as a graphic novel, her drawings are unique and her encounters are special. I cannot wait to see the movie (an animated feature) and listen to the soundtrack! Here are samples of her drawings from the books:


They are so much different from Japanese Girl Comics, but I love them because they are simple and to the point. I had wanted to buy the Chinese edition of the books, but I liked how the English translation sounds sarcastic. I’m obssessed to a point that I picture myself being the main character of the story, only my surroundings were all Chinese instead of Iranian~~

Heh heh, I’m having so much fun with her works. And Marjane herself is quite beautiful too:

I just adore her!

This is not the best yet… The best is that I just discovered this Indie girl group based in NY, called “The Pierces”, their album Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge is smashingly good!


I just can’t believe how lucky I have been to find out so many cute things all at once lately! More importantly, their music (the sisters wrote or co-wrote all songs) is real different and outstanding. For some reason, I found pairing the music of this album with reading Persepolis a perfect match! Maybe because both works have the dark and rebellious feeling. I just can’t get enough of double girl singers!

最近看的“少女”漫画

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水棲之花 by 筱原千绘

很欣赏筱原千绘一贯的惊僳罗曼史,比较与众不同。不过可以看得出她是那种沉浸在自己喜欢的动西/自己的世界里的漫画家。因为她所描述的故事都是她的想像和创造,当然,并不缺乏历史和research的back up。但就和像河内由加利那样的漫画家有很大的出入。

河内由加利是比较现实性的。一路下来,她和她的漫画都在成长,都息息相关。还记得学生时代
看她的漫画有那种“花季和雨季”的感觉。跟故事里面比我们大不了多少的主人翁同起同落,有时欢笑,有时伤感。好像很罗曼蒂克似的。而最近她的漫画里的主角也和她,和我们一样成长了许多。故事不再是单恋,暗恋什么的了,而是抉择,结婚,家庭生活,和养小孩之类的题材。最近看她的新作“妈咪的挑战”,从她的涂鸦中得知她也因经历了这些人生阶段而有了创作灵感。

两种漫画我都爱看。唉,看来我会一辈子都是漫画迷。真不想“长大”!呵呵!

The Five Temptations of a CEO

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In library school, one of the last classes I took was “Management of Information Organizations”, where each of us was assigned to read a management related book, write a report, and present it in class. The most impressive presentation was given by a student who read a Patrick Lencioni book. Accoring to her, Patrick Lencioni’s books are not the usual boring non-fictions. His style is more like story telling, with characters, and actual things that could happen inside an organization, to discuss a management issue.

Now I’m out of school and finally have time to sit down and read some books, I remembered Patrick Lencioni. The first book by him I chose was The Five Tempations of a CEL: A Leadership Fable, because it was his very first book, and it was the thinnest! lol~

I couldn’t say I learned a whole lot from the book, because I’m in no position of a CEO. But I agree his books can keep readers interested. And the messages delivered were based on years of experience, research, and consulting. Here’s a summary of the five temptations:

Temptation 1: CEOs tend to be “more interested in protecting their career status than making sure the company achieves results.”

I think it’s just human nature, which is a weakness. Patrick suggests thinking about the big picture, the greater good.

Temptation 2: CEOs often times want to be “popular with their direct reports instead of holding them accountable” when necessary. His example was how executives just fire people and be done with them, as to avoid having to deal with whatever issues that are keeping them from being productive.

Again, this is about the CEO’s ego and desire to be popular. Patrick’s recommendation is to focus more on accountability and responsibility.

Tempation 3: CEOs are so afraid of being wrong that they sometimes wait around for more information so they can be more certain about making whatever decision, doesn’t necessarily mean things are clearer. This tempation “makes it impossible to hold people accountable.”

Wow, I’m starting to think the word “temptation” is equal to “weakness” in this book. Anyway, Patrick’s advice for this one is for CEOs to not be afraid of admitting their mistakes. They can always improve from that. So do not refrain from making decisions just because they’re not 100% certain, as long as there’s clarity, things won’t turn out 100% wrong!

Temptation 4: Some CEOs list organizational harmony as one of the top priorities and thus frown upon conflicts. By conflicts, Patrick means “productive ideological conflict”, which refers to people bouncing ideas off each other to produce more ideas.

This makes me remember those stories about the old time Chinese emperors. The more their direct reports are in conflict, the safer it is for the emperor. Because if the direct reports – more or less like two parties with different values and opinions – unionize, they might challenge the emperor together.

Patrick’s simple advice is to “tolerate discord”.

Tempation 5: Patrick explains the last tempation is the root of all problems. That is, CEOs worry too much about their own vulnerability that they do not trust the people who work the most closely with them. “They mistakenly believe that they lose credibility if their people feel too comfortable challenging their ideas.”

I guess the point here is to know where to draw the line. How to get the most out of your people without them feeling disrespectful towards you.

Whew! Managing people is no easy task! I’m not sure I can absorb or digest a lot of what’s given in the book. But at least I learned a new set of vocabulary!

Keywords from The Five Temptations of a CEO:

  • Adamant – utterly unyielding in attitude or opinion in spite of all appeals, urgings, etc (Example: “He is adamant in his refusal to change his mind.”) 不动摇的
  • Camaraderie – Goodwill and lighthearted rapport between or among friends 情谊
  • Commiserate – to sympathize with (Example: “They commiserated with him over the loss of his job.”) 同情
  • Complacent – pleased, esp. with oneself or one’s merits, advantages, situation, etc., often without awareness of some potential danger or defect; self-satisfied (Example: “He had become complacent after years of success.”) 自满的

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

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Today I finally finished this series of children’s books. This title, besides being in the kid’s category and that it’s a series, is nothing similar to the Harry Potter stories, but it is because of Harry Potter, that I had interest in this title.

I first saw the film in 2004. Back then I was really into the Harry Potter films (the setting of the film even more than the story lines. The costumes, the makeup, the props… so medieval and magical!) I thought the film by Jim Carrey – “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” would be just as satisfying until the release of the next Harry Potter movie. So it was, even though I didn’t like it that much when I saw it in the theater for the first time, it kind of grew on me gradually. I bought the DVD as soon as it came out and watched it a few more times afterwards. (Some of the music on the soundtrack is kind of cool that I turned a few tunes into my cell phone ringtones!)

Out of curiosity, I wanted to read the books, plus, the covers, the illustrations, and the packaging of the books were attractive. But at the time, the series was not yet completed. So I waited.

I clearly remember when the movie “Harry Potter and the Order of Pheonix” was showing this summer and I had to finish reading the book before seeing the movie so I’d understand better. It was the fattest Harry Potter book. But when I was done with it I was a little down and wanted so badly to read on the sixth one. I knew I had to control myself and save it for next year before the movie comes out. In the mean time, I needed something similar to read to distract my mind and I thought of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I was glad to find out that the series had already been completed and so I checked all 13 books out from the library.

The books were easy to read especially the first three books upon which the film was based. I liked how Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire’s adventures were different every time but I also hoped the pattern of the stories had continued throughout the series. The first half dozen had stories where the three Baudelaires had to use their invtenting, researching, and biting skills to reveal the villain (Count Olaf) in disguise and ruin his evil schemes to steal their fortune. As the stories went on, I had a feelings that the author ran out of ideas to use (not ideas for plots, but ideas of how Violet’s inventions, Klaus’ readings, and Sunny’s biting would solve problems). So he had to expand the stories to involve lots of other people and mysteries. I bet any one reader of this series was dying to finish the end to find answers to all the mysteries but of course they were not given. I personally don’t think the author left all the questions un-answered because he did it on purpose, I felt he got carried away and got a little out of control in terms of planning the plots. I don’t think he himself even knows the answers. (As opposed to him, Harry Potter’s author J.K Rowling was said to know the whole plot of the story from book 1 to 7 before she started writing and I guess that’s what made her so different and outstanding!) So that was a big unsatisfying part of this good series. It’s like reading Hollywood gossip. Somebody had to report the gossip because they’re hired by the tabloids to do so, but they can never truly get the real “scoop”, or the truth to any one story where the readers will, after reading the report, say “aahhhh! that’s what it was!” And I hate that. It’s easy to forgive those reporters because unless a celebrity chooses to be interviewed, there’s usually little way of getting the truth. But with fictions, I just think if you are writing a fiction, you should think about the beginning and the end so your readers wouldn’t feel they spent all this time reading for nothing!

The good news is, I didn’t read just for nothing. I liked how the author chooses to literately explain difficult words and phrases, although sometimes he’s too wordy, I can’t deny the fact that he is well-read.

Here’s some figure of speech from the books that I can remember:

  • Eating crow – enduring humiliation
  • Feet of Clay – refer to people who are revealed to have a weakness or flaw that most people were unaware of
  • For naught – fancy word for “for nothing”
  • Hobson’s Choice – a free choice in which only one option is offered. The choice is therefore between taking the option or not taking it.
  • Mob Psychology – shows that individuals tend to behave in a different manner as part of a group in contrast to acting independently
  • Shiver me timbers – an expression of extreme amazement
  • Stockholm Syndrome – a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed
  • Tide Them Over – Help deal with a difficult situation

The author Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket was a pen name he used) let some of his personal traits shadow in between the stories on A Series of Unfortunate Events, or at least I think so. First of all, he really likes Asian Food. For one thing, he keeps referring to Chinese dishes and Japanese spices. His favorite thing to do and favorite place should be reading books and libraries, respectively. Because he keeps mentioning these two things throughout the books. In book the 12th, The Penultimate Peril, he even made the Hotel Denouement itself a huge library where all the guests are arranged into rooms according to the Dewey Decimal Classification!! I loved this bright idea! Another thing I really enjoyed was his “for Beatrice” letters. I just wish he would shed more lights on some of the mysteries surrounding the Baudelaires, if he knows!

Most favorite book: The Ersatz Elevator. I really liked the word “ersatz” which I learned from the book, meaning “fake”, “substitute”, etc. I thought the story was well thought-out. I remember reading it during my family’s trip to South Dakota on the Labor Day weekend this year. On this busy sight-seeing trip, I still managed time to read the book, that tells me how much I enjoyed it!