Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Birthday Gift

After spending a wonderful evening with friends, I bundled up, grabbed my fluffy puppy, and stepped out onto my balcony to watch the lunar eclipse.  What an experience!  The clouds were low and lit gentle pink from the city lights.  The gaps in the clouds formed beautiful moving windows framing the pitch black of space dotted with brightly lit stars like Christmas lights.  Just by Orion almost straight up in the sky hung the reddish sphere of the eclipsed moon, the centerpiece of this evening's celestial stage.  Just as I was thinking how impossibly perfect -- almost Disney-like the sky was this evening, a bright shooting star blazed across the sky.  That was the grand finale of my day, standing there looking up in awe, thinking of loved ones, and hugging a very fluffy and warm puppy to my chest.  What a priceless birthday gift.  The Universe is such a wonderful place!

Friday, September 17, 2010

First Harvest

I am a food idiot.  I honestly don't think about food much.  I could attribute this to my fortune in always having enough to eat, but that wouldn't be the whole story.  Really, I'm just clueless when it comes to food.  Therefore, in my years since graduating college I've only had one food epiphany: I can go buy whatever I want whenever I want and eat it... for example, bacon.

Now, thanks to my new gardening hobby, I've had my second food epiphany ever.  Ready?  It's Earth-shattering I tell you.  I can grow whatever I want so I don't even have to buy it to eat it.   And it's basically free and doesn't require any driving.  It's like magic!

So for my first magical experience, one of my favorite vegetables (even though it's a fruit), red bell peppers!  Diana bought me a cute little pepper plant from a farmers' market and it sprouted two very cute peppers.  Did you know that red bell peppers are just green ones that you procrastinate harvesting for a really long time?  It's perfect for me!

They were so heavy they bent the plant over and grew on the ground.  The plant must have been relieved when I snipped them off (it did spring back upright just a bit).

Then I chopped them up using the fantastic new knife Will got me.

I threw them in with some Costco frozen vegetables (okay so I'm lazy).

And voila, dinner of champions complete with Costco Mickey Mouse chicken nuggets and Gew├╝rztraminer!  Very very classy.

As an interesting aside, I just noticed that this meal was brought to me by a lot of the most wonderful people in my life.  The bell pepper plant was given to me by my dearest Diana who also introduced me to the Costco Mickey Mouse nuggets and Costco frozen veggies (and "Costco cooking" in general), the knife was from Will, the stir frying know-how from my dad, and the Gew├╝rztraminer from either Matt and Maricia or Will and Lauren.  Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ireland 2010 - Day 3

The first part of Day 3 was really really crazy.  First some background.  I'm used to riding dainty thoroughbreds who are built for speed, like a Porsche for example.  They have dainty little bones and dainty little hooves, and ginormous muscles.  They also make high-strung cats seem relaxed by comparison.

Imagine how far my eyes bulged out when we show up at the first hill going up towards The Burren and start doing some serious bog stomping, boulder scrambling, and trailblazing on our horses and none of them even bats an eye (or snaps a leg for that matter).  We were knee deep in swamp one moment and knocking rocks off the side of the hill the next.  And finally, we get to the top and there's an alter-like slab of raw limestone jutting out the hillside marking our accomplishment.  I'd never felt quite so adventurous in my life -- it was everything I could do not to start humming the Lord of the Rings theme.  Okay, maybe I did do that ... later.

You may have noticed that the surface of The Burren is crisscrossed by rather deep fissures.  I didn't really think much of it until our host, Nicola, stopped us at lunch just before I was about to go find a bush to stand by (if you know what I mean) and casually mentioned that "Oh, if you wander off be careful, it's dangerous out there."  I looked around and only saw soft grass.  "The grass grows up from the deep sharp fissures in between the rocks so you can't tell where the cracks are."  Yeah, and the grass also grows on top of the rocks and around the rocks and everything looks the same.  It didn't help that there were few bushes and that I had to really do some hiking to find privacy.  It was nerve-wracking never knowing if after my next step would leave me stuck in the ground, legs bleeding, with my pants down and worse yet, having to explain that to someone (assuming anyone ever found me).  Luckily, things turned out okay.

The afternoon proved much less adventurous as we traveled along ordinary roads.  In fact, I got a bit bored here as our goal was to cross two hills so that we could cross two more hills the day after and come to the ocean.  We started talking about how the tour itinerary promised us dolmens and we hadn't seen any, so Kiki showed us this one.

It wasn't until after we had all whipped out our cameras and started snapping away that Kiki laughed and told us that it was only 20 years old and some farmer built it for fun.  Sigh.

After a while we finally parked our horsies in yet another ridiculously picturesque spot (sure beats the horse-poo-filled patches of dirt where I'm used to parking my horse here).

In the evening, we headed out by bus to the Cliffs of Moher, which I had wanted to see my last visit to Ireland but never made it.  I made it this time -- in driving wind and rain.  No matter!  It was worth it.  It's eerily beautiful how the gentle grassy slope dotted with cattle slowly rises along the horizon until it crashes abruptly into the ocean in these majestic cliffs.

Of course, not wanting to be outdone by the weather, we took shelter inside the museum nearby and pretended it was a bright and sunny outside to take our minds off our cold dripping clothes.  The museum happily accommodated our delusion.

And of course, we finished the evening off with a pint of Guinness as always.

Additional pretty photos are available here: http://albertkuo.smugmug.com/Travel/Ireland-2010

Here's a video I put together for our third day.  Unfortunately there isn't any footage of the crazy morning adventure because, well, I was busy adventuring.

(link at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUXEmXA-iDI)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

OmG pUpPy!!!!1

I picked Duncan up from A Dog's Life (kennel) and they handed me this.  KAWAII DESU NE?????

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ireland 2010 - Day 2

I woke up the second day really sore but excited to head out again on the trail.  The first item of business was to catch our horses who had wandered all the way up the hill over night.  It was quite a hike up there but the view was amazing.

We spent the morning riding over the ridge.  At the top, we could see the entire lake and valley we'd traversed the previous day.  It looked like such an impossibly long way to travel without a car.  I imagined I was a traveler in a past age on my trusty steed trekking across the country -- that is until I had to move aside for a car to drive past.

We spent most of the day in the forest.  I got a chance to step into it and enjoy its green moss and tranquil sounds during lunch.

The rest of the day was simply making distance in the forest which seems boring in concept until one realizes that making distances means going FAST and I love going FAST.  We rearranged our horses with the fastest in front and Kiki our guide made sure we couldn't keep up.  It was exhilarating tearing through the winding forest trails whizzing by trees, scattering rocks, and splashing through puddles at almost a full gallop.  The wind howled in my ears and the clapping of Cuchulain's hooves reverberated among the trees.

After we reached our destination we let the horses out onto the field...

and then we gawked as something completely nuts happened.  A large lorrie pulled up and our hosts led the horses into the back one by one and packed them in like Tetris pieces.  We didn't know you could do that with horses -- it's enough trouble getting them into large and empty trailer all by themselves.

We arrived at our bed and breakfast, took showers and were greeted with some rain, horses, and a famous Irish rainbow.

Dinner was both delicious and absolutely hilarious.  The young French girl performed card tricks for us.  Later, Mandy told some jokes and got us all singing songs from all our different countries at the dinner table.  Andrea, one of the Germans, realized that she knew almost as many French songs as the French and Belgians at the table!

And of course, after dinner there was the requisite pub + Guinness + traditional Irish music.  Ahh what a satisfying end to a satisfying day.

Here's a video I put together of my second day.

(link at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbTCyrwpglg)

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Nissan Cube - Unexpectedly AWESOME

I took my car in to get serviced today and they gave me a loaner.  I was delighted when the Hertz guy turned from the pickup truck I usually get and opened the door of a Nissan Cube: http://www.nissanusa.com/cube/.  I've always loved the funky exterior styling but was skeptical otherwise figuring it was probably a simple econobox.  Boy what a surprise!  It's feels super roomy inside with its high roof, enough trunk space with a large swing-door hatch in the back so you can load all manner of odd-sized objects.  The interior is young-looking but still classy and the materials are quality (for this price range).  All the controls have a nice solid but soft click to them.  And it's jam packed with features: traction control, speed-sensitive stereo volume, adjustable steering wheel, steering wheel controls, song names on the radio, etc.

Most importantly, it's actually fun to drive!  It won't win any drag races, but it's impressively zippy in the low range and can scoot through the turns solidly.  I'm digging its focus and simplicity -- it accomplishes its mission of being young, fresh, and practical, yet stays safely away from any over-the-top 12-year-old-boy styling and is actually quite civilized.  Two thumbs up!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ireland 2010 - Day 1

What do you do when you find out that you have a week off in between jobs?  Obviously, you book a trip to Ireland and clearly, you go there and ride horses.

It's probably one of the most spontaneous things I've done considering I booked everything just two weeks in advance.

On Monday night, I took a red-eye over to Ireland from New York and discovered Aer Lingus does not understand that you're supposed to sleep on a red-eye.  I guess it's their only flight so they spent all of it with the lights on selling me duty-free items and stuffing me silly with food -- which was nice, but really some sleep would've been nice too.

I landed at 6am in Ireland and hit the ground running (or cantering as it were).  The tour recommended I sit Tuesday out but the itinerary looked too good to pass up so I signed myself up.  They looked at me like I was crazy when I arrived, got dressed, and asked, "Hi!  I'm Albert.  Where's my horse?"

They handed me Cuchulain, an Irish draft/hunter/Connemara mix named after a legendary Irish hero.

In the morning we rode on some roads and trails through the country side where every inch was covered with luscious and irresistible green.

After several hours of riding, we stopped for lunch.

The horsies had their lunch too.

We grabbed ourselves some dessert from the local berry bushes (which grew everywhere like weeds!).

The afternoon was where the ride went completely off the hook (and why I pulled an all-nighter to ride this day).  We rode from the hill down into the valley and when the forest opened up, we found ourselves at a beautiful placid lake, Lough Graney.  We wound our horses around the shore until our guide Kiki pointed her horse straight into the lake and we all walked into the knee-deep water.  After a bit, we trotted, bounding up and down in gentle arcs as the horses changed their movement to get through the water.  Then Kiki asked, "Are we ready for a canter?"  "YES!!!"  And off we went cantering through the lake.  I have never experienced anything quite so exhilarating in my life.  We were flying through the lake with nothing but an expansive mirrored surface before us, wind blowing in our faces, and the splashing of hooves slicing a trail through the water behind us.  It was incredible.

After we were through, we looked back at the lake with amazement grinning from ear to ear and giggling nonsensically.  Such joy!

Then we wound our way through a forest, up a hill, and parked the horses in a pasture for the night.

We stayed at "the farm" (the An Sibin Riding Centre, their home base) that night and rested our tired bums (six hours of riding!!!).  I found out I was among a distinguished crowd: a British priest who said things that made even me blush, a well-off Scott who hated dirt and germs but rode horses and had a child, and a middle-aged Texan woman who'd watched Battlestar Galactica and said, "frack."  You can imagine just how entertaining the dinner-time conversation that night was!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Happy 1st Birthday Duncan!

Today is Duncan's first birthday!  Well, official birthday anyway.  He was probably born sometime between the 26th and the 28th, but the breeder didn't know (tell me about it), so I put 31st on his papers just to be safe.

I wanted to make it special for him so we went on three long walks instead of 1 short one and we even got to play in my friend's back yard for a while!  Then I went to Petsmart and came home with a truly irresistable treat.  He LOVES bully sticks and my friends and I HATE them because they really stink.  But today is Duncan's special day, not mine, so I got him the biggest bully stick I could find.

The second he saw that he went absolutely NUTS.  He finally managed to regain enough self-control to sit down, though he was shaking like crazy.

Finally, the handoff.  Happy Birthday Duncan!!!


Duncan liked it so much that when I told him to go to bed, he specifically ran back to grab it and take it to bed with him.  I've never seen him take anything to bed with him before.

I'm glad I could make my little boy so happy.  Tomorrow I scheduled a special play date with his favorite friend, Bear because playing with Bear is his favorite thing to do.  He's going to love it!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Great Day

I had a GREAT day today.  I slept in, woke up, walked my dog, went over to Matt and Maricia's, walked their dog (Luna) who is a total sweetie, had lunch at Eric's Deli (my fav), picked up Luna on the way home, plopped her in my apartment with Duncan so they could play, pre-orderd Starcraft II, found a Mac driver for my webcam, sorted through my several-month-backlog of mail, talked to my dad about starting companies, talked to my mom, took out the trash, took the dogs out for a walk to Castro Street, got a wonderful new flavor of Pearl Milk Tea (roasted oolong), came back and pruned my garden, found as I was chopping down a dead plant to throw away that it was still alive at the core and sprouting new leaves, harvested my first tomatoes ever, cleaned up the patio, played with the dogs, had a great conversation with Diana filled with fun hospital stories, got a wonderful thank you note from her sister-in-law, RSVP'd for a wedding, watered all my plants, wrestled with the two dogs, talked to Matt and Maricia as they picked up Luna, watched Luna and Duncan bump into everything and everyone as they wrestled all over the apartment, ate La Fiesta left-overs, watched an awesome car show on Hulu, watched a Stargate Atlantis episode, talked to my old friend Howard, brushed Duncan, put him to bed, mowed my little window-box lawn with scissors, took a nice warm shower, typed up this blog post, and now I'm going to sleep.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Billion More Photos

I just posted a billion more photos
here: http://albertkuo.smugmug.com/Other/Plants
here: http://albertkuo.smugmug.com/Me/My-Apartment
here: http://albertkuo.smugmug.com/Friends/Tanya-and-Chris-Wedding
and here: http://albertkuo.smugmug.com/Duncan/6-to-12-months


I gotta say, Adobe Lightroom is a really nice piece of software!  Managing and touching up my photos has never been easier.  It's rare and delightful when software is super simple and super awesome.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Aphid Holocaust -- Chemical Warfare

It turns out ladybugs are like Roombas.  They scoot around in a haphazard fashion around the plant, only munching on aphids that their tiny little heads run into.  A little off to the side and the ladybug simply steps on and over aphid.  Also like Roombas, aphids get full easily.  In desperation, I resorted to picking up stray and hungry-looking ladybugs and placing them on aphids to get more aphid-eating to happen.

After a week had gone by, there were no more ladybugs and tons of aphids, mostly on the undersides of leaves.  Frustrated, I decided to escalate to chemical warfare.   I got a spray bottle some horticultural oil (organic) and blanketed my garden.  Some burned leaves and a few sore muscles later, I now have an aphid-free garden thanks to my new weapon of choice!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Puppy Mornings

I get up, walk over to Duncan's crate, let him out.  He does lots of morning stretches, front legs first, then back, then front and back a couple more times.  He throws in a few wide-mouthed yawns for good measure.  After that, I help him clean his face and he licks licks and licks my hand.

Then he gets impatient and runs out to the living room, grabs a ball, comes running back and pushes it against my leg to say, "Let's play!"  I say, "Duncan, busy!"  He looks a little miffed and takes the ball with him back to the living room and begins chewing on it.

As I'm getting ready he will try his darnedest to interrupt my routine with ball in mouth and his cute puppy-dog eyes trained on me.  Sometimes it works (and then I'm late for work), most of the time it doesn't.  I go to put my pants on and I say, "Pants inspection" and he runs over and thoroughly sniffs the legs of my pants (he started this -- I have no idea why he loves this so much).  He will then wander around my room, wedge himself under my bed, then sit by it waiting for me to get dressed.

Now dressed, I go to the living room, log onto personal and work email, take care of both all the while saying, "Duncan, busy."  After that's over, I go onto my balcony and tend to my garden.  Duncan knocks something over and I scold him.  He looks sorry for a few seconds, then knocks something else over.

At last, his cuteness overpowers me and I grab a hold of that ball he's been shoving into me for the past half hour and start a raucous game of tug-a-fetch (I throw, he fetches, then I try to take and he growls).

Finally, it's time for work and I pack up my laptop.  Duncan sees this and knowing what might be coming and gets very excited and sits very still.  He knows that sometimes when he sits, good things happen for no discernible reason.  It's his good-luck position.  As I reach for my jacket, he knows it's on and he runs with a huge smile to the door and begins pacing around frantically, "Don't forget me!  You do that sometimes!  Please don't forget me!"

I forget something and it's not Duncan.  It's my keys, my wallet, some papers, my laptop, or something.  He sits down and looks at me impatiently.  I get my act together and grab his leash.

Now he is vibrating with excitement.  I grab my right shoe.  Before I can protest, he sits on my left shoe.  He looks intently at the door and thinks maybe he isn't sitting properly to get the door to open so he wiggles his butt around.  I try to pry the shoe out from under him and he shoots me an impatient and violated look.  Finally the shoe comes out (no thanks to him) and I put it on.  I open the door and he shoots out as if fired from a gun.  He waits at the top step, his excitement turning him into a white fuzzy blur until I say with must anticipation, "Okay!"

And we begin our day.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Aphid Holocaust: Day 1 - Biological warfare

Previously on Albert's Garden -- I planted lots of plants: sage, lavender, achillea, lithodora, parsley, chives, rose cuttings.  All was harmonious, beautiful, and fragrant.  Then one day, I found my sage bush wasn't green with leaves; it was green with aphids.  I tried to contain it.  I pruned off the infected branches.  I sprayed with neem soap/oil.  They just kept spreading and spreading.

Just when I thought all hope was lost, I remembered an experiment I wanted to try in elementary school but didn't had the money, attention span, or parental approval to try.  I wanted to get a bunch of ladybugs and feed them.  Feed them aphids.

This week on Albert's Garden --

Awww yeah.  That's 1500 ladybugs right there.  1500 very hungry and disgruntled ladybugs (they did just spend three days in the US Postal system after all).  I sprinkled about half of them all over my garden.  They made satisfactory little *tink tink tink* sounds as they fell into place on my plants.  I look forward to tomorrow when the aphids realize that though my last name may not be Bauer, they've pissed off the wrong gardener.  Say hello to my little friends you leaf suckers!

Friday, March 5, 2010

My newest pet peeve

New pet-peeve: I've decided anyone who snaps, chirps, and or whistles at my dog and expects that I will keep him from running to him/her will get a face-full of Duncan from now on.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I am the Prince of All Cosmos!!!

My wonderful Princess of All Cosmos made my dream come true. I am the Prince of All Cosmos!!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Duncan in the Sun

I got up this morning and felt absolutely wonderful despite being a few hours short of my usual sleep time.  I couldn't figure out why until I realized my room was flooded with warm sunlight the likes of which I've only seen a couple other times in the last many rainy weeks.

I walked over to Duncan's crate, let him out, and we said our usual good mornings.  We walked out of the bedroom into the living room and found it flooded with morning sunlight.  I remembered why I picked an east-facing apartment.  I had forgotten how light and sunny it can be in there!

Eager to enjoy the light Duncan and I stepped out onto the balcony to find the sun, blue sky, and a nice cool breeze.  We sat for a while together enjoying the sun on our faces.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Duncan's New Friend

My coworker hosted a movie night and a couple of my friends had their little ones along.  One of them, Lexi, fell in love with Duncan and spent the evening squealing with delight as she chased after him with outreached arms around the house.

I had spent the whole evening stressing about making sure Duncan was behaving himself and not knocking over any toddlers (he is only a baby himself) but it only took a few of these wide-mouthed smiles from Lexi to put me more at ease.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Water Puppy

It was raining quite a bit this week and the central courtyard where Duncan usually plays at NVIDIA had accumulated 4-6" of water.  I was on my afternoon walk with Duncan (mandatory rain or shine) and as he lunged to play in the courtyard, I figured heck, we were both soaked anyway, let's see what Duncan does with the pool of water.

At first he tip-toed in and sniffed it suspiciously.  Then he took a few steps and the water splashed up onto him.  He stared intently at it, challenging it.  After a pause, he swatted at it and it splashed him in the nose.  Then I saw his face light up and he started splashing with his front paw.  He ran a few steps in each direction kicking up water all around.  This escalated quickly into jumping and finally a full gallop back and forth and back and forth at top speed tearing around with paws lifted high splashing and biting the water leaving a rooster tail of water behind him.

Part of me that was screaming for me to stop this wet, muddy, dirty, inappropriate-for-work madness but instead I just let him be.  His look of sheer bubbling joy as he playfully splashed around was more than worth the strange looks I was getting from coworkers and the crazy cleanup that followed.  I've honestly never seen Duncan have so much fun in his whole life and it warmed my heart to know that he was happy.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Duncan's Bath

I gave Duncan a bath today. What does he do right afterward? Pees on my bathroom floor, sits in it, lays on the toilet plunger, poos outside, gets poo on his face eating it. This just further confirms that cuteness is an evolved survival trait.