Wednesday Dec 10, 2008

My sister interviewing Barack Obama

She's a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

She covers national politics in Washington.

I'm trying to sound cool but actually I'm SO INCREDIBLY PROUD OF MY BIG SIS!!!! JUST LOOK AT HER!!!

tech days

Okay I know you were actually looking at Obama but go back now and look at my amazing sister.

Her name is Christi Parsons. Remember that name. She's going places.

Okay, she already \*is\* places. Just look at her sitting right there with the President Elect. My Big Sis....

Here's the story she wrote after the interview. It's about Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested today on political corruption charges.

Monday Dec 01, 2008

Makes you want to floss right now, doesn't it?

There's a dentist office in my neighborhood that has two giant molars in the shop window. They're about 2 feet high each, what's that, about 80 centimeters? One molar sits on top of the other.

Every time I walk by I wonder what material these enormous molars are made of. Maybe marble? Maybe quartz? Plastic? Amber? Some kind of resin?

teeth

Well the other day I took a closer look. And I've felt kinda queasy ever since.

teeth

Need a closer view?

teeth

Awful, isn't it? I know!

I don't even want to check the comments section on this one. I know what you guys are going to say. "Why was that necessary?"

Tuesday Nov 11, 2008

How many triangles in this diagram?

Can you count them?

triangle diagram

Yeah, me neither.

The funny thing is, this was Grant's homework. Yes, that would be KINDERGARTEN homework.

How is a 5-year-old supposed to figure out how many triangles are in that figure?

Sunday Nov 09, 2008

There's a typo on this sizing label

This is why it's hard for me to shop in Asia. Here's a page from a Korean fashion magazine.

"For small size"
small size model

"For big size"
plus size model

Let's get a closer look at the plus-size model - plus size model

Do you see the same thing I see? She's not plus-sized! She's normal. She's healthy. She looks like she could stand up to a strong wind and possibly play soccer with guys. And in Asia she's a plus-size model. And we won't even talk about those God-awful clothes they're making the "big" girl wear.

It's depressing.

I try to avoid shopping in Beijing but sometimes I just have to. And occasionally I walk into a store and ask about a particular item and the sales clerk says something seemingly-innocent like, "Wait a sec, I think I have a XXXL in the back. Let me see if I can find it."

No way, sister. I am from the land of vanity sizing and I know my rights.

"Uh-uh, don't even bring something out here that says XXXL because I am not wearing it, even if it fits."

I'm out the door before they can even offer an XXL that might fit me, we could try. Whatever.

Tuesday Nov 04, 2008

I voted!

I voted by fax yesterday!

Actually my awesome admin Grace sent the fax for me - thank you Grace!

absentee ballot

I'm not normally one to say I'm proud to be an American, but I do feel that way today. And I'm proud of the fact that we're going to make history this year no matter who wins the election. I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow!

Thursday Oct 30, 2008

Grandmas are so smart

Rainy day + 5-year-old boy + tiny apartment + me = Disaster!

Rainy day + 5-year-old boy + tiny apartment + clever grandma = Carpet Ping Pong!

ping pong

ping pong

ping pong

My mother-in-law is so smart. Just like my mom.

Thursday Oct 09, 2008

Happy Birthday Audrey!

Eight years ago today my husband and I were looking at this precious little bundle that came bouncing into our lives. (And before you say anything let me just say it was a long labor with lots of anesthesia. Let's just hope the ex-boyfriends don't check in while this post is on the front page.)

new family

baby audrey

She arrived 16 days past her due date and was clearly already very mature - just look at that smile! And this picture was taken when she was 2 hours old. Most people say it's a gas smile but as a mom - totally objective - I say look at the eye contact, that was a real smile, not gas.

I remember looking at her and thinking, "Who are you? What spirit is hiding inside of you? You're going to be one of the most important people in my life and I don't know anything about you."

Now eight years later I feel blessed to have watched her spirit emerge and I'm in awe of the gift God has given us in this little girl. She is so generous and sweet and giving, in fact she puts me to shame.

For example the other day Grant and Audrey and I were getting ready to leave the house and I gave them each a jacket, warning them that it was going to be chilly outside. Audrey wore hers and as usual, Grant forgot his. Stunningly predictable, that kid. Mere seconds after we got outside the building Grant complained that he was cold and, being the tough-lovin' kinda mom that I am, I told him that was too bad and next time he should remember to bring his jacket. (I know, in China this is just about unthinkable!)

I walked a couple of steps ahead of the kids because we were running late. I looked back a few seconds later and saw that Audrey had given her little brother her jacket and she was rubbing her bare arms, claiming that she wasn't that cold.

I gave Audrey my sweater. Grant gave me his if-I-knew-the-number-for-child-services-I-would-call-it look. Another tough love lesson, flat on its face.

Aside from sabotaging my tough love lessons, Audrey is full of life, has never played a sport she doesn't love, talks a lot and sings when she isn't talking, knows what she wants, and loves 'jian mei cao' (kind of like calisthenics set to music) more than anything in the world. And what does she want for her birthday?

"I need a new tiara," she told me the other day.

A new tiara. I don't even have an old tiara.

Happy birthday Audrey!

Wednesday Oct 08, 2008

What a Difference an "A" makes!

pick up a chinese

Saturday Sep 27, 2008

Chinese + English = Chinglish

Caught this perfect specimen on camera yesterday at the swimming pool - "Please do not run and play in order to avoid accidents and wounds."

dont run and play sign

While laughing at the Chinglish I do have to say it's cool that the gym posts signs in three languages - Chinese, English and Korean. How many gyms in the US post their signs in anything other than English?

Friday Sep 19, 2008

United States of Anxiety

My big sister, Chicago Tribune reporter Christianne Parsons, has co-authored a series for the paper called "United States of Anxiety."

Here's how it starts.

These are troubled times in America.

The nation, divided sharply this decade by politics, is now united in worry. Our economy is faltering. Our health care and energy costs are soaring. We're fighting wars of security abroad and a battle over identity at home.

Our problems run deep and wide, and the presidential candidates aren't stumping for anything close to the transformation we need to solve them.

Read more here.

Wednesday Sep 17, 2008

Never thought I'd see my name on a tombstone

This is my husband's grandmother's tombstone. She passed away 12 years ago and every time we visit her, her children and grandchildren cry as if she had passed away that morning. Sometimes her great-grandchildren even cry and given they never met her, that's a powerful testament to the love and the joy that she left in the hearts of her family. It is spilling over into future generations.

grave

Just after her death in 1996 my then-fiance took me to visit her gravesite, which rests high atop a mountain and under the shade of a pine tree. Buddy taught me about the Chinese tradition of carving into the tombstone the names of the person's relatives, honoring the traces they left behind on the sands of life. I ran my finger over the cold indententations of the stone, recognizing the names of Buddy, his mom, his dad. I came to a name I didn't recognize and I asked Buddy "Who is that?"

grave closeup

"That's your name," he said.

I nearly passed out, which looking back, would have been an ironic thing to do on a grave bearing my name.

I was surprised because for one, I never expected to see my own name on a gravestone. Shouldn't that be a sight reserved for your adoring children and grandchildren?

I do remember seeing graves in Alabama where for example a husband had died and was buried in a "twin lot" so his wife's name was carved into the tombstone, along with her birthdate and a dash. At the time I thought it must be eerie to be the wife and wondering every day if today might be the other side of your dash but now that I'm married I know that once your partner goes you probably want every day to be your last so you're okay with the grave template.

On a sidenote, I once met a woman who worked in the office of a cemetery and her husband was a mortician. I asked her if their occupations gave them any special insights into death and life and you know what she said?

"Not really, no."

How can that be?

Back to the cemetery, seeing my name on my husband's grandmother's tombstone also surprised me because, hey, we weren't even married yet. The wedding was still two weeks away and yet here were our names literally carved together in stone. Not that I was getting cold feet or anything but is it not customary to inform the carved before commissioning the family tombstone? I took it as a good sign that his family had faith in our promise to each other - then and now they've never expected anything other than complete mutual support and devotion from us. I find this especially difficult when I do occasionally want to thump him on the head and they're around. (On another side note, Buddy and I discovered on our last trip to the cemetery and after an unfortunate family divorce that it is possible to have a name erased from a stone. I'm pretty sure the un-carved didn't get notified in this case.)

All this talk of death and marriage reminds me of one day when I went to the cemetery at Sulphur Springs Baptist Church in Mud Creek, Alabama where my dad's people are buried. I was walking around the cemetery with my Uncle John and we came across a twin lot with a husband and wife who had died on the same day, same year.

"Oh, I wonder if maybe they died together in an accident? Maybe a tornado hit their house? Or wait, maybe they were both sick and in separate rooms of a hospital and she passed away and then he, sensing that she was gone, let go too?"

Uncle John knows everybody in Mud Creek, dead or alive, so of course he had the answer.

"Naw, Melney, he shot her and then he killed himself."

And only in Mud Creek, Alabama would they be buried together in a twin lot.

Saturday Aug 23, 2008

Me and My Hometown Hero

I had to wait outside the stadium for two hours to get this one but here it is - me and my hometown hero Deontay Wilder. I finally got to meet him in person after his match Friday afternoon and he is a sweetheart. He did not win this last match (which I got to attend thanks to Deontay's awesome trainer Jay Deas, who snagged me a ticket at the last minute - thanks again Jay!) but he will go back to Tuscaloosa, Alabama with a bronze medal! Congratulations Deontay!!!

melanie and deontay

For those who don't know the history here I've been writing about my hometown hero Deontay for a while now but have never met him. A few readers left comments asking me when I was going to get my picture made with him and now I have finally come through for you guys! :)

Thursday Aug 21, 2008

Snack bars 加油!

If you think it's easy to be a spectator at the Olympics, think again. You can work up a real appetite screaming "jia you!" ("Go! Hooray! Or some other kind of encouragement!") at the top of your lungs. Fortunately the Olympic snack bars are serving up a pretty healthy menu and the prices are cheap - about the same as in the grocery store.

Just check out these signs from the snack bars at the Marathon event this weekend. To get the price in US dollars you can just divide the RMB price by seven. Yes, you read that right, divide by seven. That means that one ice cream could cost as little as 30 cents. And at what sporting event would you expect to find boiled eggs at the snack bar?

snacks

snacks

If you want to learn how to pronounce "jia you" you've got to watch the Two Chinese Characters describe it, they're hilarious:

Wednesday Aug 20, 2008

It was just a trip to Starbucks

Life in Beijing is so cool these days. Today I was going for a
decaf latte at Starbucks when I ran into the very polite and unassuming Nick Willis. He was there with his wife and they were looking for the Peninsula Hotel but didn't have the name in Chinese or the address. I pulled out my nifty iPhone and did a quick internet search for them. Okay not all that quick, as any iPhone user knows, but I did get them the info they needed and they went on their way to pick up tickets so Nick's wife could attend his medal ceremony.

Just last night Nick won the bronze medal in the men's 1500-meter final. It was the first time since 1984 that New Zealand had an athlete in the men's 1500m final and the first time since 1976 that they medaled. Congratulations Nick!!!

I mentioned that he's unassuming. When I asked them what event they were in town for Nick just said "Athletics". He didn't mention that he was actually competing in Athletics. Or that he had just competed the night before in the Men's Finals. Or that he was on his way to get tickets for his own Medal Ceremony! His wife had to volunteer all that for me. If that was me I'd walk into Starbucks shouting, "I'm Olympic bronze medalist Melanie Gao and I need directions to a hotel." But not Nick, what a humble guy.

Here's Nick and me at Starbucks.

melanie and nick willis

Monday Aug 18, 2008

Deontay is an Olympic Medalist!

Remember I told you about Deontay Wilder, the guy from my hometown who started boxing just 3 years ago and is at the Olympics this year? Last night he secured himself at least a bronze medal in the Heavyweight Division! He defeated Morocco's Mohammed Arjaoui in a very close match. In fact they were tied 10-10 at the end of the fourth round and the judges had to call it. My mom was there and she said it was so exciting. The judges consulted with each other for a few seconds, then the referee (umpire?) walked out to the ring, held each boxer by the hand and then raised the hand of the winner - Deontay!!!

He has two more fights and if he wins he could get the silver or gold medal. But at the very least he will go home with a bronze medal. I'm so impressed and so excited for him.

I met his mom last week and she told me about the day she took him to first grade. She dropped him off at school and drove back home and as soon as she walked in the door the phone rang. It was the principal asking her to come back and pick him up because Deontay had been fighting with another kid. I guess he was destined to be a fighter. :)

BTW speaking of his mom, here she is at his first Olympic match.
deborah wilder

You gotta love those proud Southern moms. If I was in the Olympics my mom would be there with 20 flags on her head, though the world is never going to see that since there is no Olympic boxer hiding inside me anywhere.

If you have a second please leave Deontay some encouragement for his upcoming matches on his blog, "Determined not Destined". BTW his upcoming matches are August 20 and 23. (That's mostly for Christin's husband, who has been watching the Olympics real time and has earned himself the nickname "Beijing Time".)

Tuesday Aug 12, 2008

My Hometown Hero

In 2005 Deontay Wilder was not too different from most of the guys in my hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama - graduated from Central High School, had a girlfriend, had a steady job delivering beer for Greene Beverage. But in 2005 things started changing for him. That's when his daughter Naieya was born with spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal cord doesn't form properly while the baby is in utero. Before Naieya was born her doctors told Deontay that her condition was severe and that this baby was going to require a lot of surgeries and treatments if she was ever going to learn to walk. And naturally that meant Deontay was going to have to come up with a lot of money to pay for all the surgeries and treatments, and he knew that was going to be tough in his current job so he started searching for ways to earn a lot of money fast. One day when he was making a delivery to a local restaurant he saw Jay Deas' Skyy Boxing gym across the parking lot. He walked over to check it out, heard the sound of gloves hitting punching bags and said something inside him stirred. It was the first time he'd ever set foot in a boxing gym.

Okay, flash forward three years and Deontay is AT THE OLYMPICS!!! Can you believe that? In 2005 he strapped on a pair of boxing gloves for the very first time and now in 2008 he might very well win a gold medal in men's heavyweight boxing. I can't imagine the dedication and passion that has fueled his rapid ascent. I don't even know him but he's my latest hometown hero.

Deontay Wilder and Evander Holyfield

Deontay and Evander Holyfield

Deontay has his first fight tomorrow, August 13, so if you're watching TV or if you're lucky enough to be there, please cheer extra loud for him. I want him to win for his own sake and for the sake of his daughter.

If you want to give him personal props you can leave a comment on his blog, "Determined not Destined".

Go Deontay!!!

Wednesday Jul 30, 2008

The Value of Integration Testing

This bunk bed - so cute!
bunkbed

This ceiling fan - so practical!
ceiling fan

The room - 8'x10' - not very big!
ceiling fan

My husband is a QE engineer and I'm a program manager. And yet it was only when the workers were there installing our ceiling fan that it suddenly clicked for us - this is not a good combination...

Friday Jul 25, 2008

What will the weather be like in Beijing during the Olympics?

In a word - hot.

For more details check out this site.

If you're coming for the Olympics - like my mom and baby sister Amanda who will arrive on August 6 - have a safe trip. We can't wait to see you here!

Thursday Jul 17, 2008

"We are ready!"

We hear this a lot lately in Beijing - we are ready! We're talking about the Olympics of course, and it's evident all over town.

These are some signs I saw at the airport the other day:
olympic sign
olympic sign
olympic sign

And a friendly team of volunteers is ready to assist visitors when they arrive at the airport:
helpers

Most importantly, the air appears to be ready for the Olympics. Just look at how blue the sky was yesterday. The city government recently stopped all manufacturing in the city and some traffic controls are already in place, more strict ones will start on Monday. It's paying off.
sky

Friday Jul 11, 2008

We passed!

Bernard, Sutum and I are now DDI certified trainers!

class
(L-R) Me, Bernard, Mike, Sutum, Lucia

One day soon we'll be facilitating management classes for our fellow Sun managers. Although I'm certified I'm still a little nervous about teaching a class but they say I'll become more and more comfortable as I get real classroom experience.

I'm very grateful to our coach, Master Trainer Mike Andrew, who not only took us through the certification process but also gave us wisdom like:
- Treat issues coldly and people warmly.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood. (Okay, not his original content but it means a lot coming from him.)
- The most important skill for a trainer, and for a manager, is listening.

I'm also grateful to Lucia Yip, who works in Sun's training organization. She recognized something in Bernard, Sutum and me that made her think we'd be good trainers. It was something I hadn't even recognized myself but I think she's right, or at least I can say for sure that so far I love training.

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