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Whoa it’s almost April

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I’ve been putting off writing a blog for a while since I’ve mainly just been lazy, but partially also because I’ve been busy.  Working full time and going to school three times a week has left less time for publishing complaints and stupid pictures onto the internet.  But since I realize it’s been quite a while since my past post, and I don’t want to go several months with no updates to this crappy website, I’m just sitting down for 10 minutes to crank out a quickie.  Ew.

Topic 1: JAPAN
Hey you might not know this, but Japan got super mega knocked with a disaster trifecta earlier this month!  Of course you know this, I was just being sarcastic.  So yeah in case you were unaware of my current whereabouts, I am back in the United States and have been since the end of summer.  If you’re one of the four creepers who read this site, you already knew that.  But there apparently are still several people who didn’t know where I was, and so they assumed I was still in Japan.  Imagine that!  Someone not keeping their eye on my every move around the planet!  So once the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear stuff came about I had more than one person contact me all like “hey Anthony where are you I hope you’re not dead” etc.  Thank you for your concern, but yeah St. Louis county didn’t get too much damage from the earthquake that hit Japan.  No seriously, it’s nice that you did ask where I was.  I don’t really know what to say about the Japanese disasters other than it’s a horrible thing and I’m glad that no one I know (that I have heard about, either directly or indirectly) has been injured or anything.  While the area that I lived in (Chiba/Toyko) wasn’t in the tsunami area, they still got (are getting?) a ton of earthquakes and the nuclear problem is pretty widespread although possibly a bit blown out of proportion.  I hope.  Times are still tough in Japan but I hope that things will all get back to normal sometime soon.

Topic 2: WEATHER
It’s finally feeling like spring here, even though a week ago it was actually snowing where I live.  Strange midwest weather.  I’m definitely happy that things are getting nicer outside, with the only drawback being that I must have developed some pretty wicked allergies having been away from the area for so long.  Getting some random allergy attacks is pretty weird although not really a problem as much as they’re just annoying.  Still not sure if it’s actually pollen, mold or something, or if I am being secretly poisoned with nuts in all of my food by a squad of ninjas.  I hope it’s seasonal allergies.

Oh no I’m getting distracted by the interwebs.  Weather must have been too boring a topic!  Onward we march.

Topic 3: SUMMER TRAVEL
This summer I’ll hopefully be able to get some traveling in, with the family and also on my own.  Where should I go?  I’m thinking primarily within the US for now but international isn’t out of the picture just yet.  My youngest brother turns 21 in a few weeks so maybe we’ll go take a Vegas trip after the spring semester is over.  I also wouldn’t mind hitting up LA or New York or something, and a drive out to Indiana at some point is probably called for too.

Topic 4: OTHER
OK so I’m not really going to have many other topics during this brief mindbarf onto the WordPress page.  Last week I was actually all raring to write a detailed complaint post about the idiot lady in front of me in the checkout line at Target, who pretty much held up my evening by a whole 10 minutes, but then I got distracted and found something better to do.  Like eat dinner.  It would have been a very classic NR7000-esque post, but unfortunately the fire is gone and I probably won’t be writing about that subject ever.  It did make me think about how much I’ve grown to dislike shopping in real stores and how important Amazon Prime has become.  Speaking of, I got a pretty sweet remote control helicopter a while back and I don’t even care if you’re snickering to yourself right now about me getting another toy.  It is pretty awesome and on an even deeper level I think I’m just amazed at how far toy technology has come since I was a kid.  I mean for $25 I have a freaking helicopter!  It can hover and fly around the room and land on the top of my cheese ball barrel.  You pretty much have to see one for yourself to beleive it.

That’s enough for now.  A whole 15 minutes of me rambling.

Landlocked

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I am still in the final stages of recovery after last night’s partial food coma, brought on by going to a casino buffet here in town for birthday celebration/gambling thing.  The food there isn’t especially great in terms of flavor, but they do have a lot of variety I guess.  One of the items they had on the buffet was sushi.  As you can imagine, it was standard American buffet grade sushi.  Soggy seaweed, bland crumbly rice, cucumber, a fish-like substance, and some kind of “exotic” Asian ingredient like black sesame seeds.  I’ve noticed this is gaining in popularity here (in the US), even having sushi as a selection at various buffets, etc.  Here in St. Louis, which is pretty much about as far as you can get from the ocean, there are about a dozen more sushi/”Japanese” restaurants than I remember there being 10 years ago.  That’s just off the top of my head – there are probably many more.  But does that mean they’re any good?

Well I don’t really know.  I haven’t actually been to any of these newfangled sushi shops stuck in the middle of the United States, primarily out of fear of food poisoning or just plain being afraid of eating gross food.  Sure I’m biased since I just moved back from Japan, but in my experience up to now, a lot of the sushi in the US is pretty terrible.  I don’t really like the emphasis on rolls with all kinds of crazy stuff in them, although sure that’s the kind of cosmopolitan sushi re-working that is popular on the east coast.  And since that’s what’s popular over there, it has filtered across the country and that seems to be mainly what they have in the Midwest.  While there are of course some of those fancy US-style sushi rolls that are decent, I’d almost always rather eat plain old traditional workin’ class salaryman sushi.  Less focus on making something crazy and just focusing on fresh ingredients that speak for themselves.  I think when the Choshimaru (kaiten sushi place) in Chiba near my old apartment had the “aurora salmon” on special for 150 yen a plate a few summers back I ate like 10 plates worth in one sitting.  You can’t really beat fresh fish like that.  Melts in your mouth.  And now I am drooling all over my laptop.  Even the cheap places like Kappa Sushi are about 20x better tasting than most sushi I can remember eating stateside.  I haven’t tried much in California though, and I’m sure they have some pretty good places out there.

Prices are also going to be a main problem, because even if I’m able to find a place here in town that has great quality sushi, I’m positive the price for standard grade (good) sushi will be several times more expensive than even a high-end place was in Japan.  I understand that transportation costs, etc will factor into that but there will inevitably be a markup just because there isn’t much variety and this is a specialty food here.

So yeah sushi in Japan = fresh and delicious.  Sushi in St. Louis = scary and intimidating.  I’ll try to get out and actually give some of these places a chance – maybe a place that seems more like a somewhat authentic Japanese restaurant rather than a trendy place catering to Americanized varieties.  How did this entry turn into me rambling about sushi?  Eh.  I think in the long run, sushi is going to be the equivalent of pizza and Mexican food when I was living in Japan.  Amazing and abundant in one country, more rare and not nearly as good when you’re living in the other.  There were a few decent places I knew in Chiba/Tokyo that had pizza or Mexican food, and even a few really great ones.  But for the most part they were few and far between.  Sushi places in St. Louis will likely be even harder to come by.  I have noticed though, that my #1 favorite food genre, Chinese, is pretty much universally good (as long as you choose a decent restaurant, but they’re not as hard to find I don’t think).  Maybe because whether you’re in America, Japan, or probably anywhere else, you can find places actually run by Chinese people.  We are all over the place, after all.

On the passive To Do list: find a decent sushi place in St. Louis.  Also while I’m at it, if I can find a good Korean BBQ that would be awesome too.  I am open to recommendations.

Obligatory end-of-year ramble

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Just a few hours away now from New Year’s. This time last year, I thought it was kind of cool that we were approaching on the year 2010, since to me that sounded/still sounds like a pretty futuristic date. Growing up, sci-fi movies and stuff would use “the year 2000” or “in the year 20xx” to talk about stuff that was supposed to be so far into the future that you couldn’t even imagine it. Kind of like having a robot dog that can turn into a jet-powered hoverboard, a submarine, or a … big spring so you can jump really high. But here we are, now just one good nap’s time away from the year 2011, which to me sounds even more ridiculously far into the future, although the sane half of me realizes that it’s just the year that comes next in sequence. I haven’t really paid much attention to the dates that sci-fi movies use these days, but what is it, like the year 3000 or 4000? Because if they’re just using like 2100 it’s kind of pointless considering that some kids will be reaching that point in time within their lifespans.

Where was I going with that? I have no idea. Anyway the past few weeks have been pretty good. Christmas to me has become, with age, less a holiday to get a whole bunch of new toys and video games from my parents and relatives. Okay, just typing that last sentence actually made me age about 2 more years. But yeah now Christmas isn’t just worrying about what toys to ask for. I’ve grown up from that. Now I wait for gift money, and go out and buy those toys and games myself.  You see, it’s much easier this way because I don’t have to worry about people making mistakes and me having to go through the hassle of waiting in a return line at Target.  I kid, I kid!  No, actually Christmas really has become more about just relaxing, seeing people who have been away, and hoping it doesn’t snow because I don’t want to scrape the ice off my car.

So speaking of Christmas/my birthday/what the locals have begun to call The Holy Leongmas, it was pretty awesome.  Had the (extended) family over at my parent’s house for the big meal, which started around 3PM this year.  Lots of eating, not much sitting room, and an assortment of probably-banned-by-the-FDA malt beverage energy drinks that the kids call Four Loko.  Seriously, don’t ever try those things.  My cousin put it best when she described them as such: “It tastes like taffy…then butt!”  But after the family tasting of the traditional Four Loko assortment, stereotypically playing some mahjong, and telling enough offensive stories to make my new relatives probably pretty  uncomfortable, we decided to get out of the house and go to where most families spend Christmas evening after dinner – the casino!   Yes, it might sound kind of strange but it was a lot of fun.  We pretty much took over an entire blackjack table and annoyed every single other person in the place by group-cheering every time we won.  Which, luckily for me and my BIRTHDAY MIRACLE powers that night, was actually quite often.

I don’t really have much else to write about right now, but mainly I felt like I should reflect a bit on the past few months.  There really isn’t much else to reflect upon, although I don’t know if I really got the maximum relaxation out of my 1 week off of work.  I mean, it was good, but I feel like there still could have been more video games played, more movies watched, and more sleep slept.  I guess I still have two days left.

Happy New Year to everyone, especially the four readers of TheLeong.com.  Oh yeah, if you’re reading this on Facebook you really should check out my actual blog where this post if coming from.  If you want to see a pretty janky website, that is.  See you all in 2011 – I’ll be on the Rush Jet flying over some lava.

Me-hee-co

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On the beach in Mexico

Just a few weeks after traveling to California, I went down to Mexico last month for my brother Al’s wedding.  Yep it must have been wedding season again, because aside from the two family weddings I also had a few friends get married too.  Anyway this was a destination wedding down in the Riviera Maya area of Mexico near Cancun, where from what I could tell 75% of the area is devoted entirely to all-inclusive resorts for Americans.  The other 25% of Riviera Maya is devoted to trashy looking stores alongside the crazy highway that probably cater to the locals (who almost all work in the resorts).  I had never been to Mexico before, so this was a pretty interesting trip, although going to a resort means that you’re pretty much still in America and don’t exactly get to experience a Mexico for what it is.  Instead it’s kind of like a very spoiled version of the US, where food and drinks are all free, you don’t have to wear pants or shoes, and you live next to the beach.  So while I didn’t get to experience what Mexico as a country is really like, I did get to experience what it is like as a vacation spot.

It was a small group going down for the wedding – pretty much just family and a few friends of the couple.  We were at a resort called Dreams Puerto Aventuras, which I heard is supposed to be one of the smaller places but it was still pretty awesome.  There were at least 5 different restaurants on the property, several bars around the beach, a few swimming pools, a creeper danceclub/bar inside the main building for older people to dance to disco, and other random activities inside the main building and around the beach.  It was all inclusive, which is a pretty amazing concept that I hadn’t experienced before.  Basically (and I have no idea if this is standard for these kinds of resorts, but it probably is) you pay 1 price per person, which includes round trip airfare and your room at the resort for x number of nights.  While you’re staying at the resort, you don’t have to pay any extra for food, drinks, etc.  It came out to be really reasonably especially considering how much food and drink we gorged ourselves on.  The food was pretty good quality too, and room service was included pretty much 24/7 (more on that later).

It’s a little hard to remember what order we did stuff in since we were all pretty much just relaxing the whole trip (I’m not including Al and Amanda in that, who actually had to do some planning for their wedding).  For the first two days we pretty much just ate and hanged out around the beach.  The resort’s signature drink is the “Miami Vice” which is basically just half pina colada and half strawberry daiquiri.  And I am not embarrassed at all to admit that I drank these (not exclusively of course).  WE WERE ON VACATION AT THE BEACH.  OK maybe a little embarrassed.

One night my parents and my other brother Joe took a cab off the resort to the local town called Playa del Carmen.  It was actually my mom’s birthday and we got info from the concierge about a local casino.  Apparently it’s not advertised too much that gambling is legal, but the place we went to called “Win Pot” was real modern if not a little small.  They had only machines, including a digital roulette setup which was pretty cool.  Also minimum bets were super low (it being Mexico).  When we came back to the resort that night, we headed to the beach/restaurant area.  There was some kind of event going on, and over the loudspeaker I hear my other brother Al on the microphone introducing himself.  “Al from Missouri.”  Huh?  So yeah we got closer and apparently they were doing some kind of dance contest and my brother was unwillingly one of four contestants.  They had one of the staff members dance to the song “Kuliki-taka,” and the contestants then had to imitate the dance/do their own thing one by one.  It was pretty hilarious.  Even better that Al ended up winning.  No prize, but the best story of the trip.  It was really dark so we couldn’t get any really good pictures, and when he was actually dancing we were too shocked and horrified to get any photos or video.  Probably one of the biggest mistakes we made, but the story will undoubtedly live on forever at family gatherings.

Al getting ready to win the contest

Night before the wedding, Al had to stay in me and Joe’s room since the hotel didn’t have any open rooms for him and he wasn’t allowed to see the bride after midnight.  And instead of going out to drink or something, we ended up staying in the room and ordering room service.  No, let me be more specific.  We ordered a TON of room service.  I think between the three of us we got like 9 dishes, and this was after we had already eaten a normal dinner.  Why did we do this?  Because we could.  The guy showed up with the food as was like “Hola seniors!  Somebody’s huuuunggrryyy!”  There’s not really much else to say about how ridiculous this unnecessary second dinner was, so just go ahead and take a look for yourselves:

Somebody's hungry!

So yeah that was pretty disgusting.  We didn’t even end up eating it all, and had to hide the remains so they didn’t think we were total jerks.  Todo valle!

The day of the wedding, it was pretty relaxed until around lunchtime, then we had to start getting ready for the big event, which was scheduled to happen in the late afternoon so they could have pictures at sunset.  Luckily Al did not throw up on himself like I might have suggested, although he was feeling pretty nervous about the big day.  He also ate about 3 bottles of Tums.  But the wedding went off pretty much perfect, although I still can’t believe that my brother threw in a “That’s what she said” during the ceremony.  Afterwards about twenty thousand photos were taken, and me and dad creeped around and took a bunch of pictures ourselves, even though Al and Amanda ended up buying all the professional ones anyway.  There was a small cocktail hour and then a private dinner on the beach, with a violinist who I think only my dad clapped for between every song.

Congrats to Al and Amanda!

My brother is not actually that tall.

And what better way to wrap up a nice wholesome family adventure, than to go on a fishing trip?  Um.  So yeah the morning after the wedding, everyone’s still tired but for some reason we had scheduled to go deep sea fishing.  We all piled onto a fairly small boat, just us and three crew members, and went flying out into the ocean.  Horrible, horrible idea.  At first I guess it all sounded pretty fun, and even during the mini orientation we had at the dock it sounded like it could be a cool trip.  You have a chance to catch a lot of different fish, including huge ridiculous ones like marlins and swordfish.  For some reason I did not really take into account the whole seasickness factor, and we forgot to even bring the Dramamine we had bought for this purpose.  I can’t actually say I’ve ever gotten seasick before, yet of course I’ve never really been on a boat this (relatively) small in the freaking ocean.  I don’t get carsick usually and never get planesick, but I don’t like roller-coasters.  And that’s pretty much what going into the ocean on a little diesel-powered boat feels like.  A constant up and down, up and down, giving me (and my brothers) a pretty bad feeling in the stomach.  Please note that during this whole time my parents are both smiling and looking like they’re having a great time, apparently immune to this horrible up and down feeling as the boat was propelling towards what felt like Liberia.  Note: things are about to get a little gross in the next paragraph.

I think I sprayed this guy with puke.

Near the beginning we caught a few small bonitas or tunas, just a foot long or so.  At one point when it was my “turn” we had a huge sailfish on the line, that actually jumped out of the water and looked like a dimetrodon, but it got away.  I find it amazing how fish can even manage to grab onto the tow lines coming off the boat, considering we are moving at mach 5.   By that point the up and down feeling had gotten pretty bad, and I just stood up and announced “Yep, I’m going to puke.”  I think everyone thought I was kidding since I said it pretty normal, but then they saw me hanging over the side of the boat spraying chunks all over.  It was even worse because we were cutting through the turbulent water so fast that salt water would spray all over me with every wave.  I pretty much felt like a torture victim, hanging on for life while puking and being sprayed with water and wind.  I thought Al was being really nice when he asked if I wanted to turn the boat around and go back, but I said to keep going on as planned. He actually wasn’t being nice or anything, it’s just that he also felt like crap and wanted to go back.  So yeah after a few minutes of puking I went back and used all of my energy to make myself fall asleep immediately.  Thank goodness that worked, and I was able to pass out for most of the remainder of the ride.  If it hadn’t been for that special power it would have been a pretty miserable few hours.  My brothers were in pretty bad shape too.

I don’t care that I’m not a sea-man.  I’d rather stay here on land and order room service.

And that is the end to this drawn out account of my trip to Riviera Maya.  It was overall a pretty awesome trip (I could have done without the boat ride) and I’d totally go down there again sometime (But seriously, no more boat rides.)

California 2010

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Palo Alto, CA

I went out to California in mid-October for my cousin Mei’s wedding.  We flew into San Jose and traveled up to San Fransisco twice during the trip, but the majority of my time was spent in Palo Alto, on or around Stanford’s campus where my now cousin-in-law goes to school.

Pretty much the entire trip was spent eating, which I guess is pretty much one of the only things a guest at a wedding needs to worry about.  That, and wearing something decent for family photos, of which we took approximately five thousand.  I can’t imagine how many total photos the bride and groom were forced to take, but it was probably closer to a million.

I’m already slipping out of chronological order, which is not good for continuity or coherence.  So first up was a fairly early Thursday morning flight to LA, where we changed planes to go to San Jose.  I don’t think there was much to note about the two flights other than me falling asleep almost immediately on both of them.  In LA since we had like a two hour layover we got California Pizza Kitchen for lunch, which kind of a mistake at LAX considering each 10-inch pizza costs about the same as a semester of community college.  From San Jose my uncle picked us up and drove us up to Palo Alto, where our hotel was.  After checking in and saying hey to some relatives, I jumped on the CalTrain, which happened to be right next to the hotel, and rode it up to San Fransisco since it was going to be my only free night to hang out with friends there.  Got to catch up with the VidSF crew, Kieran, Steve, and Ray, and checked out the shared office they use which was pretty awesome.  We got dinner and drinks in Japantown at a place called Mums which had shabu-shabu tabehodai and nomihodai for a pretty good price.  It was like being back in Japan already. We were pretty stuffed by the end of it.  Mueller is out in SF too and he showed up about halfway through at Mums, so it was great to see him too.  Stayed out until last train (haha just like Japan!) and managed to get back to the hotel in one piece around like 2AMish.

Dad's favorite restaurant, Bow Hon

Next morning, woke up and loaded into a car with my parents, brothers, cousin, and uncle and drove up to… San Fransisco!  Yeah, if I would have planned it better I should have just spent the whole night there but oh well.  Anyway the main goal of this little excursion was to check out Chinatown, where my family used to come quite a bit for family trips.  Things are pretty much exactly the same as I remembered, which isn’t saying a whole lot since they are just very general memories.  These include:

  • Lots of old dudes gambling in the one main pigeon park.
  • Lots of restaurants with awesome food.
  • Lots of stores selling junky crap, like coolie hats, snap ‘n pops, chopsticks, and those postcards with naked ladies on them.
  • More old Chinese people.
  • Some funky smells on the street with origin unknown (for the better).

.

So yeah, good old SF Chinatown!  I actually really love this place and wish we would have had more time to stay there.  We ended up doing some browsing at random stores, buying food at at least two bakeries, and then later eating lunch with another cousin and her family.

After eating way too much food in Chinatown, it was time to pile back into the car around our boxes of mooncakes and get back to Palo Alto for the rehearsal dinner.  This was at a very authentic Italian restaurant.  Having an all-Hispanic staff is pretty authentic Italiano, right?  I am pretty sure there were at least 4 main dishes at this dinner.  Two of my uncles had joined us by this time, so pretty much we had my dad’s entire side of the family in one room for the first time I can actually remember.  Too bad my Uncle Ron missed out on that $50 bottle of wine.  Shoot. Oh yeah –  I can’t really remember now, but the men’s bathroom at this restaurant was pretty sketch.  There were either breasts everywhere (paintings, pictures, sculptures, etc) or penises.  I only remember being uncomfortable.

That night, the night before the wedding, there was a traveling party of sorts with the groom’s friends on Stanford campus.  I don’t want to go too much into this whole exciting evening, but somehow Stanford being a private campus means it is a bizzaro land where the police don’t act like you would expect and you can wheel an active keg around all you want.  Me and my brother were all ready to devise some kind of exit strategy at the library but we didn’t even need to.  Pretty crazy.  After the non-incident with the police, my brothers and cousins decided it was time to head back anyway, so we walked from campus.  Little did we know that this would be like a 45-minute hike.  It’s a straight shot, but Stanford’s “driveway” has got to be several miles long.  We couldn’t even see the light from where we started when we were like midway through.  To make up for all that walking we ended up driving to In N Out that night at like 2AM.

Congrats to Mei and Josh!

Day of the wedding, we were all up fairly early to get dressed, etc.  Headed back to Stanford, this time on a bus (thank god) and the wedding ceremony was held at the school’s chapel.  It was a shortened version of a full Catholic ceremony, which made it much shorter.  There was a lot of stuff that was different from my image of a Catholic wedding (as seen on TV), like the circle of power, the chairs up on stage, etc.  And also, not being Catholic I was a little thrown off when the audience had lines and everyone seemed to know what they were supposed to reply back to the priest when he called out.  I have no idea.  Also at the end there was like a “give me your energy” hand motion salute thing that struck me as a little awkward, but all in all it was a really nice ceremony.  After the nice ceremony we all went outside where around 5000 photos were taken.

At the cocktail hour after the wedding, my Uncle Jeff ate approximately half the ocean’s worth of shrimp by scoping out where the waiters come out of the kitchen.  Sneaky.  Later in the evening we had the full reception dinner which was really good.  Then more photos, my cousin dancing, and I think that was about it.  Oh yeah, you know “Bros Icing bros?”  They did that at the reception to the groom and the groom’s father.  Normally I’d be against this kind of thing but it ended up being pretty funny.

We had brunch the next morning and from there headed back to St. Louis.  It was a pretty awesome weekend, and kind of counts as a mini family reunion as well I guess.
Congrats again to Mei and Josh!

Neglected

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I have a blog.

I didn’t really forget about that, I just passively opted to ignore it for the past few weeks. I feel kind of bad about it, like when you ignore your Tamagotchi for a few days and come back to find your little digital creature surrounded by his own digital poop, complete with stink lines. Or were those chocolate chips?  I usually assume stuff is poop if I don’t know what it is for sure.

Anyway many things have happened since I last wrote here. Long story short, everyone and their brother got married. Actually, make that everyone and my brother.  But I’ll go more into that later, since as you three loyal readers out there on the interwebs know, I’m not very good at the whole “long story short” thing.  So instead, over the next few entries, which I predict I will write over the next few days but will really probably be written sometime between now and the end of the year, I’ll try and do an abridged-as-possible summary of the past few weeks, highlighted by my trip to California and my first trip down to Mexico.  It was the nice, sunny, resort part of Mexico, as opposed to the dark, drug-dealer and murder-laden part.  Or is that part actually called Texas?

See you soon?

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