Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 284 - Amtrak Train

Thought of the day: The train was late for about five and a half hours at departure.  We didn't check the Amtrak web site before leaving the house so we ended up having the entire morning to spend in Denver's lower downtown (Denver LoDo). One great find was the famed Tattered Cover bookstore.  The bookstore had a dim, aged but comfortable ambiance which was perfect for a bookstore.  With a friendly cafe, intriguing patterns of light and shadow throughout the store and many small places to disappear into, this is a place that you can easily spend a couple of hours in as we did this morning.

Photo of the day:

Everybody was happy when we could finally board the train.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 283 - Window to the Soul

Thought of the day: We are getting ready for a train ride from Denver to Emeryville tomorrow.  It's going to be a 33 hour trip in a family room. We haven't ridden an Amtrak train before so we are all excited and looking forward to the upcoming adventure.

Photo of the day:

One of my favorite paintings in the house - Window to the Soul - glows with warmth at night.  I took a photo of it tonight so I could bring a part of the "home" along with me on the trip.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 282 - Juggler

Thought of the day: Each day seems to bring along with it such moments - a moment of drowsiness when I feel lost in the ocean of movements or non-movements, a moment of angst when I feel irritable, and (thankfully) a moment of happiness when I feel quite at ease. At the moment of happiness, life is all good and everything is just the way it should be. And that's how I felt when I left Alfalfa's this morning and that's how I usually feel when I leave Alfalfa's every time.  Perhaps it's the power of caffeine but most of the time I only got herbal tea in their cafe.  Perhaps it's the friendly staff but I don't feel the same way when I leave Wholefoods and they are friendly there too.  Perhaps it's the yummy and healthy food.  Perhaps it's the cozy atmosphere. Perhaps it's the absence of ripped-off feeling because the food is reasonably priced here.  Perhaps it's the bike rides to and from the store which put me in a more relaxed mood.  In any case, it usually feels good when I leave that place.  There's always somebody asking for help next to the store and when you are in a good mood, it's hard to resist offering them something - a loaf of bread, a snack, or even some cash if there's nothing more appropriate.  If I were to ask for help from strangers, I would pick a corner just like this where people are in a good mood instead of the intersections of major streets. This guy standing at the corner today had certainly picked his place wisely.

Photo of the day:
A juggler juggling some letter blocks to form different words.  He performed in Jasmine's end-of-the-camp party today. Thorne Ecological Institute surely knows how to put together a fun camp and to top it off with a happy finale for all.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 281 - "Soup"

Thought of the day: I observed a father and a girl in a local cafe this morning.  The cafe was pretty quiet and calm because the interior and ambiance catered to college students and they were still out of town for the summer.  The father was working intentively on his Mac, while the girl was reading a Harry Potter book and chewing on her necklace.  Both of them seemed to be very focused and lost in their own world.  There was a serenity and harmony in this picture.  I had the strange feeling of wanting to tiptoe around this pair lest their peacefulness be disturbed.  I also left the camera in my bag - moments like this were to be savored and not to be intruded.

Photo of the day:
Girls collected "treasures" in the backyard and made up this pretty "soup" which was subsequently stirred and "cooked".  They apparently spent much happy time doing that.  I was not there but at least I got to capture the final product on camera.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 280 - Lila

Thought of the day: I felt grateful when I held Lila in my arms for a peaceful moment before putting her to bed tonight. The day scrolled by in front of my eyes like a movie: slow morning, Lila playing on a lawn, our happy ride along the creek to Meadows Plaza with Jasmine and her friend, Lila doing gymnastics, busy but cheerful waitress in the bakery, meeting friends, Lila napping on the bike in a cafe while Jasmine and I played games, our scary ride in the thunderstorm, taking refuge in a neighbor's garage (again),  everybody getting home wet and happy…  This day flew by like so many others.  It was good to stop and think about it for a moment. I never imagined that life could be so colorful and fulfilling.  It's in my thoughts every day that this could very well be the best period of my life and, many years in the future, I may read this blog with a smile on my face and feel envious of this person that I once was.  In the back of my mind, there's always a gloomy voice reminding me that life is brief and fleeting and this too shall not last.  But does that matter?  No, what matters right now is that I have had a great day and I'm happy and grateful for it.

Photo of the day:
Lila playing on the lawn while waiting for Jasmine and her friend to come back from their camp by school bus.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 279 - Tajik Kabob

Thought of the day: I am watching a segment on PBS about prison inmates getting education behind the bars. As education can help people redirect impulsive energy and maximize rationality, it has the potential of changing even a lifelong criminal's habits and behaviors.  Of course, getting education in prison is nothing new, but most of the programs geer towards training the inmates for specific jobs.  This program is different - it selects a small subset of applicants and gives them a college level education which may entitle them to a bachelor's degree in a couple of years. Instead of teaching specific skills, it encourages creativity and critical thinking and gives them the opportunity to improve and apply themselves. The selected students are among the most curious and motivated - often more so than the ones outside of the bars. After graduating and getting out of prison, many of them turn out to be motivated workers and are making valuable contributions to the society and supporting their families.  Given the chance, hope can blossom in a place that seems so hopeless - it is indeed an interesting and thought provoking story for me.

Photo of the day:
Tasty Tajik Kabob in Dushanbee Teahouse where I took Haeji for lunch before her departure flight.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 278 - Denver Downtown

Thought of the day: The name of the musician we are hosting is Haeji Chang, a Korean soprano getting her artist diploma at the Boston Conservatory.  We attended her performance in the Chautauqua Auditorium last night.  She performed Fauvre's Requiem with a choir and a male soloist.  She sang beautifully and her voice had an emotional quality that was mesmerizing. At the end of the performance, the audience was wildly enthusiastic and gave them three standing ovations. Since I had the opportunity to spend some time with her, I got to know her a little and I found an interesting contrast between her off stage and on stage personas.  She was shy, reserved and soft spoken in person, but on stage, she radiated confidence, composure and charm that made it hard for people to take their eyes off her. In a way, it looked as if she had conserved her energy and guarded her emotions so that they would bottle up inside and come out forcefully during a performance and magically transform her into somebody else, somebody bigger.  That really made me wonder about who she really was - the one in real life, the one on stage, or someone in between?  Perhaps all of us have multiple personalities that can be brought out in different settings.  It's certainly something to ponder about.

Photo of the day:
A woman walking dog in downtown Denver.  I spent some time with Haeji there.  Unfortunately our destination, Denver Art Museum, was closed.  We had a nice lunch in Cherry Creek instead.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 277 - Performance Night

Thought of the day: It's summer tea time!  The Dushanbe Teahouse is hosting the annual Rocky Mountain Tea Festival for kids in an outdoor seating area. We spent this morning there with some friends.  Lila and other little kids had tea and cookies, did art projects, played dress-up games and, most importantly, got their pictures taken with teddy bears! In the meantime, the adults sat at a table not too far away from the kids and had their own tea.  Of course, there were a lot of comings and goings at the table to help the kids with their activities, but I enjoyed the brief moments when I could sit at the table, have a little conversation, and watch the light dancing in the cascading grapevine that's shading us from the sun.  Amidst the frenzy summer activities, these are the moments in life to be savored and remembered.

Photo of the day:
Performance night for the soprano we are hosting.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 276 - Korean BBQ

Thought of the day: It was a warm day and a perfect day to spend in the Eldorado Springs swimming pool.  The pool was located at the base of Eldorado Canyon State Park and fed by a natural spring.  The artesian water in the pool was very cool and refreshing.  The pool was surrounded by an ancient pool house, a dingy snack bar, some wood benches, a first-aid station and completed with a dive board and a metal slide.  Everything - other than the refreshing water itself - looked historic and a bit outdated but that did bestow some old world charm on the pool.  After our nice pool experiences in Switzerland last month,  I certainly wish there were more shades, especially over the toddler's area. I was also missing espresso machines and better food choices there.  However, if you are prepared to bring your own food and drinks, it can be a good place for you to cool down and whisk away a couple of carefree hours in a hot summer day.

Photo of the day:
The Eldorado Springs pool cooled us down sufficiently for a Korean BBQ in the evening.  We are hosting a Korean Soprano  (second to the right) for a couple of days and we, together with a couple of our friends, took her out for some yummy food tonight.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 275 - Young Riders

Thought of the day: It was the last day of Jasmine's horseback riding camp.  The kids finished with a little horse show to exhibit what they had learned during the week - bareback riding, trotting, jumping over obstacle, etc.  I was happy to see that Jasmine was becoming a more confident rider.  My favorite part of the show was when each kid got to ride up to the audience and say something about their horses.  Most riders said that their horses were nice but a little naughty at times. I guessed it always took some time for a rider to bond with a horse.  Jasmine said something to that effect too and then she patted her horse gently and said with a smile on her face: "My horse took good care of me." I was glad that she was treating her horse as her riding partner and not merely as a wild creature that needed to be conquered and controlled.  A healthy and nurturing relationship inevitably builds on mutual care and respect.  That's true for the relationship between two humans, and that's also true for the relationship between man and other living beings. If Jasmine gets this message, which seems to be the case, this week of riding lessons and long commutes would already be made worthwhile.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine patiently waiting for her turn in the horse show at the far left corner.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 274 - Girls and Hay

Thought of the day: In the past few days, I visited a couple of farms and ranches in the countryside. I felt quite at home there watching chickens, pigs, goats, cows, horses and other animals roaming freely about. And the best part of it all was the light.  Inside the stables, on the people, on the buildings, in the sky, there's interesting light to be found pretty much anywhere and I really enjoyed taking pictures with it.

Photo of the day:
Two girls helping out in the ranch.  The light on their hair and the hay made this an irresistible picture for me to take.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 273 - Violinist

Thought of the day: It has been a crazy day with a lot of driving for me.  Between the summer camps and errands, I spent a good four hours on the road today.  I am spending way too much time driving this week.  That reminded me of the mundane, mind numbing and exhausting activity that driving really is. When I lived in the bay area, I was more used to driving - of course, I still didn't like it a bit.  Now, after spending a car-less, blissful month in Europe and many bike-only days after returning home, I have found driving particularly distasteful. I look forward to the days when I can finally hop back on the bike and feel the wind when I speed down the hill with Lila squealing with delight behind me.

Photo of the day:

A violinist playing for children in front of the Chautauqua Dining Hall.  Boulder summer can be delightful with festivals, visiting musicians and free play time for the kids.  Despite of all the driving I had to do today, luckily, I managed to experience some delightful moments in Chautauqua Park in the middle of the day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 272 - Thunderstorm Cloud

Thought of the day: I got a point and shoot camera for Jasmine this morning - a Nikon Coolpix S8100.  It's very compact, easy to use and takes good quality photos and videos.  It doesn't take raw photos, give you a lot of exposure control or come with bells and whistles like in-camera HDR, panorama mode etc, but that's just perfect as the first camera for Jasmine. She has an outdoor photography camp next week and I can't wait to see what kind of images she is going to make with this camera.

Photo of the day:
Thunderstorm cloud reflecting on water.  The photo was taken in Erie where Jasmine had her horseback riding camp this week.  Luckily, her photo camp next week is going to be much closer to home.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 271 - Connection

Thought of the day: This afternoon, I watched a young woman conversing with an elderly woman in a cafe.  Judging from their appearances, they must be at least two generations apart. The young woman was describing her summer experiences and her plans in a lively and animated manner, while the older woman was listening intentively and occasionally injecting her comments in a soft voice. They were both fully absorbed in the conversation.  It was fascinating to watch as you don't see this taking place very often.  The Americans, for the most part, tend to socialize with people of similar ages.  Kids play with same age kids, young mothers socialize with young mothers, and the retirees tend to keep to each other.  It's not surprising that people at the similar stage of life would find the companionship of each other both convenient and comforting, as they do similar things and face similar challenges.  However, regardless of the age difference, we often have more in common than not.  In fact, precisely because we are at different stages of life, we have a lot to share with and learn from each other.  It's a pity that people don't socialize more across the age boundaries. We can easily become the prisoners of our age, profession, race, social status and an assortment of other things that made up our identity. Watching the exchanges between these two women in the cafe reminded me of what we have to lose when we willingly imprison ourselves in our daily lives instead of reaching out to people who are "not like us".

Photo of the day:
Zhou Mama carrying a patron's baby girl in her arms, while the three women in "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman" watched on.  There is a harmony and connection displayed in this photo that is easier to sense than to describe.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 270 - Toy Truck

Thought of the day: In the summer, there're always some events going on in downtown.  This weekend we had the Boulder Arts Festival.  We spent a few happy hours there in the middle of the day.  Jasmine found a pair of cowgirl boots which were both blinky and very pink for her horseback riding camp next week and she was very happy about them. Both girls got an oversized rainbow shape from the balloon man and proudly carried it with them everywhere. I am glad that they can be entertained so easily by such little things like getting their hands wet in a water fountain or carrying strange shapes made of balloons. I hope this will be so for a while longer.

Photo of the day:
Lila playing with her toy truck before leaving for the Arts Festival.  This is one of her favorite toys -  it is only friction powered and can still go pretty far in a single run.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 269 - Farm Junk

Thought of the day: We finally made a leap of faith and decided to get cow shares for raw milk. I made the prerequisite visit to the farm today. It was a pretty long and boring drive but it was good to see the farm.  The cows graze on organically grown grass and they are fed nothing else.  As a result, the amount of milk they would produce is a paltry fraction of what a "normal" dairy cow would produce.  But what milk it would be - full of nutrients and super tasty.  In addition, the milk won't go through a high temperature pasteurization process that can destroy probiotics and enzymes which naturally occur in the milk and aid in the digestion of it.  The farm relies on its high sanitary standards and lots of testing to ensure the safety of its production.  They do more than what most farms are willing to go through - every batch of milk is tested for pathogens before it goes out of the door.  In any case, we put a lot of trust in this farm mainly because a couple of our friends, including long term customers, put a lot of trust in it too.  Hopefully, our trust will pay off and give us a long lasting health benefit in return.

Photo of the day:

One person's junk is another person's treasure.  How true it is!  I was glad to run into what looked like a junk yard in the farm. This colorful mess of farm castaways was a delight to photograph, especially against the cloudy and dramatic sky.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 268 - Grass

Thought of the day: It's mid-July and it's getting pretty hot outside in the middle of the day. We try not to use air conditioning in our house as long as we can and, luckily, I can often find a cool place to hang out during the hottest part of the day.  Today I found a refuge in the German Bakery which was just across the street from the Little Gym where Lila was having her gymnastics camp.  With tea, coffee, delicious desserts and friendly owners, it was a perfect place to hang out when it was hot outside. And the best part?  There was no internet connection there so I wouldn't be distracted by the bombardment of information online. I could instead focus on my own thoughts and actually get some things done. It was good to be unplugged once in a while as you can hear your internal voice only after shutting off all the outside voices.

Photo of the day:
Lila after her Little Gym camp.  Sitting or stepping on grass is another good way to cool down in the summer.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day 267 - Chloe

Thought of the day: I went to a dentist appointment today before realizing that I had just seen my previous dentist less than two months ago.  So, as it turned out, there was not much to be done during the appointment.  The dentist spent a few minutes doing a quick check to make sure that everything was OK and we spent the rest of the time making small talks. On the way out, I was fully expecting to pay for at least some of the time they spent on me but they refused to charge me anything.  What a stark contrast between this dentist and my previous one, who always managed to find problems to fix and then charged me $10 per minute for every minute of his time. These are two small businesses running on very different principles - one focusing on the clients they serve, the other focusing on the profit they make.  In other words, one business was run with compassion, the other with cold-hearted greediness.  Unfortunate for the consumers, a compassionate business tends to be a small and family-run affair while a large corporation tends to be merciless and relentless, as demonstrated in the ongoing Rupert Murdoch scandal. At the end, it's up to the consumers to decide which type of business to support.  I'm glad to have found my new dentist and added one more good business to my list.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine had a horseback riding lesson today.  She groomed and rode a horse called Chloe as gently guided by an instructor who seemed to love the horses and care about her students.  I think her riding school will end up in my good business list, too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 266 - Lila

Thought of the day: Since we've been away so much lately, we are glad to be back home and see some dear and familiar faces again.  This morning I had a long chat with Monica.  I have known her for several years now, but every time I talk to her, I seem to learn something new of her. My fascination in Monica is, in many ways, similar to Henry Miller's fascination in the curious Greek figure named Karamenaios. Henry Miller described his encounter and lengthy conversations with Karamenaios in a dramatic yet poetic language in a book titled "The Colossus of Maroussi", my serendipitous find in the Atlantis Bookstore in Santorini, Greece.  Karamenaios was a Greek story teller who had the gift of captivating and enchanting his audience within minutes of a monologue.  It was the same way with Monica.  Just like Karamenaios, her monologue was infused with her wisdom, warmth and passion, a unique mix that was brew out of an intelligent and inquisitive mind over years of solitude in the mountains.  We talked about horses today. It's a fascinating topic on its own right, but regardless of the topic, it was always enchanting and mesmerizing talking to Monica.  It was a gift to be able to spend some time with her, and I hope I will continue receiving the gift in the years to come.

Photo of the day:
Lila playing with her balloon butterfly during dinner at the Dushanbe Teahouse.  To her left, it's a bag of  produce we bought from the Wednesday Farmer's Market outside of the Teahouse. Both my girls love spending time with Monica and I sure hope that, over time, they will receive as many pearls of wisdom from her as I did.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 265 - Jasmine and Apollo

Thought of the day: Jasmine and I rode horses at a ranch today. I had some pretty interesting chats with the owner.  He came to the US from Poland after WWII when he was barely 14.  Like so many other immigrants, he was penniless and knew not a single soul when he landed. He carried out hard, manual labor in various places and ended up in Colorado where he started to buy forest land, bit by bit, at a price that was dirt cheap as few people at that time saw the value in the tree covered, mountainous land.  Over years, he accumulated a good chunk of land and got pretty well-off after its value skyrocketed.  Now his family owns three ranches, two in Colorado and one in Arizona.  His children and grandchildren grew up in the ranch and many of them still work there as the ranch apparently has a mysterious draw for them. He offers horseback riding tours as the ranch is ideally located in the Pike National Forest.  He is already in his late seventies but is still full of energy and vitality and works in the ranch every day. It's another one of those immigrant stories, but the familiarity of it makes it no less exciting or impressive.  Despite the craziness that's going on in the American political arena, people like him truly embody the American spirit. Meeting and talking to people like him never fails to inspire me and give me hope.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine riding her horse Apollo with me riding Roman behind her. Apollo is a super-gentle horse but she has a tendency to walk slowly and Roman kept trying to overtake her.  Other than that, we had a beautiful and unforgettable ride through the forest together.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 264 - Pikes Peak

Thought of the day: We spent a lazy morning at the hotel pools.  Lila was still too young for the water slides, but she had fun hanging onto the edge of the infinity pool and looking out onto the neighboring lake.  The sight of swans, ducks, and large fish in the lake was very amusing for her.  At a blissful moment when I was sitting on the lounge chair, drinking a cold Pina Colada and watching the kids playing merrily in the water, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of joy as intense as the bright Colorado sun that's surrounding us.  On a day like this, in a setting like this, there's no room for any dark or murky feelings.  No matter where we are and who we are with, spending time at the pools never fails to bring about a sense of happiness and well-being for me.  Yes, pools and summer are inseparable - one wouldn't have made sense without the other.

Photo of the day:
We took a cog train up to the summit of Pikes Peak this afternoon. At the elevation of over 14,000 feet, the view  on top was pretty amazing.  Katharine Bates wrote the song "America the Beautiful" after taking in the views here. It was a cloudy afternoon so the view was not as spectacular as it could have been on a sunny day, but the rain clouds made some pretty interesting images nevertheless. On the way down, we ran into some rain and soon afterward everybody on the train was elated to see double rainbows rising above the railway. The weather in the morning and in the afternoon couldn't have been any more different, as a typical Coloradan summer day should be.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 263 - Broadmoor

Thought of the day: We are visiting Colorado Springs and staying at the Broadmoor Hotel.  In addition to the attractions that Colorado Springs has to offer, which include some interesting places with names as poetic as Garden of the Gods, Cave of the Winds and Manitou Springs, the historic hotel itself is worth a visit in its own right. Broadmoor is located on 3,000 acres at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain with a golf course (currently hosting US Women's Open), tennis courts, restaurants, pools, a spa, a lake and even a cinema. We have only stayed at this hotel in the winter and used it as a base for our activities in Colorado Springs.  This time we're visiting at the peak of the summer and will likely be spending more time inside the resort itself.  Anyway, it's good to be back and put all the worldly worries behind us for a while.

Photo of the day:

A path in the middle of the lake connects the main building and the west building, where we are staying in.  On the far left , three of my favorite people are walking toward the main building.  On the right, a few trainees are walking toward the west building.  Many young people came here for hospitality training from different parts of the world.  Some speak English with a strong accent but they are all very friendly and trying to be helpful, at least all of those I have interacted with.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 262 - Water Play

Thought of the day: It was a summer day spent near water under the sun.  Too much sun, perhaps, as Jasmine ended the day a shade darker than when she started it.  She had her first swim meet in the afternoon.  It was more fun than competitive and she didn't care a bit what kind of ribbon she got as long as she got one. Whether it was a first place ribbon or a 5th place ribbon, she would accept them with equal giddiness and delight. I wonder when the spirit of competitiveness will eventually kick in.  I hope it won't be for a long, long time so she can enjoy the sport for the beauty and joy of the sport itself and won't be tormented by a singular desire to win.

Photo of the day:
Lila played with water in Lafayette's YMCA when Jasmine had her first swim meet this afternoon.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 261 - Overnight Camp

Thought of the day: Jasmine just completed a week-long camp with a friend at Colorado Mountain Ranch. They did crafts, gymnastics, archery, hiking, horseback riding and even a Thursday overnight. It was clearly a lot of fun as Jasmine came home tired and happy every afternoon. Other than spending time with parents, visiting cousins and grandparents and vacationing at the beach, it's outdoor camps like this that make the summer a magical time for the kids.  They are lucky to have so many camps to choose from. Many of these camps have enthusiastic and dedicated instructors who used to be campers themselves. The spirit of the camps were thus passed down from a generation of campers to the next. Perhaps one day in the not-too-distant future, Jasmine would qualify to become a counselor in one of those camps herself and help keep the magic of summer alive.

Photo of the day:
Can one night of camp do this much "damage" to the clean faces and clothes?  Yes, it apparently can!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 260 - Cafe Sole

Thought of the day: When I was biking home with Lila today, a summer thunderstorm hit.  A sunny, happy experience was instantly transformed into a wet and somewhat scary one as I was scampering for shelter from the thunderous lightnings that sounded too close for comfort.  We did find shelter in a neighbor's garage before the downpour turned into hail.  We had some friendly conversations and headed home after the storm relented a bit. It was an unexpected but interesting experience.

Photo of the day:

Inside Cafe Sole, not long before the storm hit.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 259 - Candles

Thought of the day: Today Lila had a gymnastics class in Louisville.  It's her first gymnastics class that she did on her own, without me around to help, and she was clearly ready for it.  It's another one of those firsts.  It's exciting to see her become more independent every day.  In the meantime, it's also sad to see her become more independent every day.

Photo of the day:
We celebrated David's birthday today.  Our birthdays seem to be coming faster every year as the kids are growing older!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day 258 - Photo Sharing

Thought of the day: I have been playing with Google Plus for a couple of days now and I am really loving it. OK, first I have to admit that I'm a hopeless addict to Google products.  I am already relying on a bunch of them on a daily basis.  That's all for good reasons, though, as they are free, they are useful, and more importantly, they make sense to me.  I have two main issues with Facebook - the lack of control for privacy and the cluttering of messages on my wall.  I have long concluded that I have very little to gain on Facebook when it comes to getting valuable information and have a lot to lose when it comes to privacy. As a result, I have been using Facebook only sporadically. I hadn't deactivated my account yet because there were no other alternatives out there and I didn't want to lose all the contacts I had established over time. Not any more - with the launch of Google Plus, there is now a viable, and in fact far superior, alternative.  In addition to addressing the privacy and cluttering issues, Google Plus has many other edges over Facebook, at least from my perspective.  That includes, for example, my higher level of trust in Google for safekeeping my data and handling the growth of the social network, the seamless integration of Google Plus with other Google tools that I use daily.  My biggest concern for Google Plus is that many of the Facebook users may not feel the same discomfort with Facebook as I have and won't find a compelling need to switch over to a new service.  There's a chance that my online social network will be split into two - some of the more technically savvy and privacy minded folks will make the switch at the first chance they got while the rest will linger on Facebook. As a result, I may lose half of my online social network but it's still better than losing all if Google Plus had not come into being. My biggest hope is that the concept of Google Circles, which is a fundamental concept in Google Plus, will succeed and will permeate into other online services as well.  That might very well transform and dramatically expand our online universe and make it a better reflection of the real world.  After all, we don't live our lives as a singular personality. We are more complicated than that. We do different things, talk about different things, and may even behave quite differently in different circles.  It would be wrong to ignore or deny the subtlety of the real life.  In any case, even if Google Plus would not be able to unseat Facebook in the same way that Facebook had unseated MySpace, it would have already made big contributions to social networking by introducing the concept of Circles, in addition to demonstrating that our privacy and our sophisticated nature need to be, and can be, respected as much in our virtual life as in our real life.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine and her friend climbed up high on a tree - time to snap a photo and share it with grandma!  With instant upload and  tight integration with Mobile, Google Plus is going to make cell phone photo sharing even easier than before.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 257 - Watermelon Game

Thought of the day: Our neighborhood has a tradition of July 4th bike parade and pool party.  Jasmine and her friend decorated their bikes with red/white/blue ribbons and flowers, dressed in matching outfits and were excited to take part in the parade.  Lila rode Jasmine's old bike with the training wheels on.  It was her first day on a "big girl's bike" and daddy served as her reliable manual brake along the way.  The best part for the kids was, of course, the pool party that followed.  They played games in the pool - coin dive, watermelon game, among others. It was a big reunion for all the neighborhood kids who had grown to know each other over the years. Water, friends, games, what else do they need?  For adults, it was a good opportunity to see each other again and catch up over some food and drink in a festive air. I wish there were something like this every month! It could just be some informal gatherings over simple potlucks. We would feel more grounded in this borderless and ever-shifting global village if we are more connected to each other at a personal level and feel a sense of belonging in the small village that we call home.

Photo of the day: 
Watermelon game: try as you may, but I am determined to hold on to this thing!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 256 - Grill

Thought of the day: This is the July 4th weekend and we had a perfect weather to grill.  We hosted a small party in our backyard and spent some fun time outside.  Summer outdoor BBQ should be a simple and easy affair but it's actually amazing how many little things could go wrong.  Lucky for us, we had good temperature, little wind and no nasty mosquitoes, pesky flies or June bugs to deal with. Everything was as perfect as it could be and I sure hope it would stay this way for the rest of the summer!

Photo of the day:
Grill time!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 255 - Puppy

Thought of the day: Today I covered the familiar grounds of Boulder Farmer's Market, Pearl St,  Zhou Mama's and Trident Cafe with Lila.  It was another hot day and a thoughtful friend equipped Lila with a spray bottle before we started out on the bike.  Lila sprayed watery mists generously on flowers, trees, dogs along the way. On Pearl St, people asked her to please spray on them to cool them down. She was quite a hit by just being herself and carrying on her favorite activity of proudly dispensing water. I was thankful to the cheerful and indulgent pedestrians on Pearl St. They helped us make this into another blissful and laid-back summer day in a tiny paradise we called Boulder.

Photo of the day:
On the way home, we took a break outside of Cafe Sole as Lila felt fast asleep on the bike. I saw this cute little puppy sitting at a table with his new owner. He was just adopted this morning. Lucky puppy - I think he is in very good hands.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 254 - Auditorium

Thought of the day: Jasmine and I biked to Chautauqua this afternoon to attend a family woodwinds concert. The narrator told of a story called "The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship" as accompanied by a bassoon, a clarinet, a flute, an oboe and a cornet.  Each instrument played a piece of music that represented a character in the story. It was a fun, albeit short, program.  In fact, it was way too short according to Jasmine, but that did leave us plenty of time to linger in the dining hall afterward over some desserts and a nice view of meadows and mountains. Jasmine earned every bite of her dessert as biking up the hill in the middle of a hot July day had been challenging. I am glad that we spent this beautiful summer afternoon the way we did.

Photo of the day:

Inside Chautauqua Auditorium where the concert was held this afternoon.