My Next Adventure

25 02 2009

I just wanted to drop a note to let you know that I will not be posting the next couple of weeks because we will be traveling again.  Where to you ask?  Perhaps this cute little creature will give you a clue.

I will try to send some postcards, but it will depend on our access to the internet.  Stay tuned for exciting new posts to come!


Happy Chinese New Year!

26 01 2009

新年快樂 Xin nian kuai le!  I wanted to drop a quick note to wish everyone a Happy Chinese New Year!  According to the predominant Chinese lunar calendar, it is the year 4707 and the year of the ox.  Unfortunately for many of us, the year of the ox does not herald a bull market.

I also want to include in here a technical note about my blog. You may have noticed that some of my older photos that were hosted by Photobucket are not currently viewable. Apparently I exceeded the bandwidth of my Photobucket account this month. Don’t worry, they should be back by January 28th when the month resets. If we encounter further problems, I will look into moving those older photos into Picasa, my current photo host.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I should have some exciting new posts to come this year. In addition to finishing up my London posts, I am also planning on finally posting about my Paris trip. We will also be heading to the beautiful country of New Zealand in February/March.

In the meantime, have a happy and prosperous new year! 恭喜發財 Gong xi fa cai!

Where am I?

27 10 2008

I have been quiet on the blogging front because I am currently traveling.  So for this post, I pose a challenge to my readers.  Where am I?

Here is clue #1, which may help you know what part of the world I am in:

Here is clue #2, for my business friends:

Here is clue #3, which gives it all away:

P, you are not allowed to guess since you were there with me!

I will be traveling for a little longer, but look for future posts about my time in this city!

Observations of Daily Life in Germany

9 10 2008

One of the best parts of traveling is being able to see how others around the world live normal life. As a visitor, I love discovering mundane things that are completely normal and unremarkable to residents but novel and interesting to me.

Let’s start with breakfast. In Europe, many brands of milk and orange juice are not refrigerated until opened because they have been ultra pasteurized. This is mostly because refrigerators in Europe are tiny compared to their gigantic American cousins. As a result, a lot of liquids such as milk come in cute little stackable cartons.

It seems that in Europe, everything is at a smaller scale than the United States. Cars are smaller, fresh food is often local, and housing is more compact. You won’t see a 1,000,000 square foot building like the Merchandise Mart here. Cities have definite boundaries and there is no suburban sprawl. It’s a given that space is always at a premium, which comes as no surprise since the individual countries in Europe are much smaller than the US. It’s no wonder that at times Europeans feel that in America everything is bigger, fatter, and more wasteful.

Even trashcans in Europe are smaller (and cuter) than their American counterparts.

Everyone has an incentive to recycle plastic bottles in Germany. You get 0.25 Euros back for each empty plastic bottle you return to the supermarket. Of course this is already priced into the water bottles.

The German supermarket was another source of interest to me. L and M often shop at LIDL, the German discount supermarket chain that is similar to Aldi. For some reason, almost all the interesting and funny things seem to happen at this particular chain.

This must be the funniest mustard I have ever seen.  First of all, the fact that this supermarket had an American section was pretty cool.  Secondly, look at the name of this brand.  Apparently, it combines the two most American things this company could think of – McDonald’s and the Kennedys!  To top off the cheesy American-ness of this mustard, it of course has a picture of the Statue of Liberty on the label and the boxes in which they are stored are decorated with the American flag.  This mustard is more patriotic than a Fourth of July picnic!!!

This next LIDL exclusive is the rotisserie chicken truck. It’s like an ice cream truck, but for whole roast chickens. The fact that a functioning rotisserie chicken truck driving around in Germany exists is just too funny. Maybe they have this in the US too, I don’t know, but I love this concept! L tells me that it doesn’t actually move, however, after you set up the ovens.

After the supermarket, it follows that we should move on to the hardware store. Do you notice something familiar about this store?

Maybe it’s because it looks exactly like a Home Depot!

That’s actually not the funny part. In Europe, bread is much more important to people than in the US. Sure, we have bakeries everywhere in the US. But do we have full bakeries inside the hardware store???

This is a far cry from the usual hot dog stand and vending machine combo we see in the Home Depot out here!

Chicago: Public Enemies Movie Set

29 05 2008

This May, Hollywood once again descended on the city of Chicago with the filming of Public Enemies. Directed by Michael Mann, this feature film is about the FBI’s take down of notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and and Pretty Boy Floyd during the 1930s. Johnny Depp is playing John Dillinger while Christian Bale is playing Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent on his case as Public Enemy #1.

Above: Photo of John Dillinger
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

It’s always exciting when Chicago is featured in Hollywood movies, but this movie takes the cake in terms of using the Windy City as a backdrop. As you may know, John Dillinger was shot to death by the FBI in the alley by the Biograph Theater in Chicago. The FBI’s website has a fantastic summary of what happened with John Dillinger, which you can access here. The movie is being filmed at this actual location. Talk about an authentic reenactment!

Above: Biograph Theater circa 1930s
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Biograph Theater is located in the heart of Lincoln Park on Lincoln Avenue just north of Fullerton. What the director has done is transform the entire block into 1930s Chicago. The movie crew has laid cobblestones in the middle of the street and recreated storefronts from that era.

Well, enough talk – below are the movie set pictures!

The moviemakers have recreated every detail, including what movie was playing the very night Dillinger was shot on July 22, 1934. Ironically, Manhattan Melodrama was a movie about a gangster.

Through the magic of Google Maps Street View, we can see what the Biograph Theater and the surrounding street usually look like. The theater was recently restored, so there actually weren’t any major changes. Click on the little man when the map pops up for the Street View.

Click Here to View Map

Here are closeups of some of the storefronts. I love all the details.

The picture below is a view from the other side of the Biograph Theater.

This is the liquor store right next to the theater.

In today’s time, this supermarket is a Qdoba Mexican Grill.

And here is the infamous alley where John Dillinger was shot by the FBI. Notice the modern condo building behind it.

On the other side of the alley is a Chinese takeout place and a jeweler.

Across the street is the Red Lion, which funny enough they didn’t need to change very much for the movie set.

Below is a picture of The Red Lion in modern times.

Photo by Chris A from Yelp

Here are some more stores across the street from the Biograph.

A. Zito Bakery

What a fantastic transformation of this street – it was like going back in time. I just love that the director decided to film that scene at the actual location of the historical event, and I love seeing this recreation of 1930s Chicago. The great thing is that many of these buildings only required small changes. I suppose there are little bits of history everywhere if you only know where to look!

Google Translate – It’s Magic!

7 05 2008

I was looking at my blog stats the other day when I noticed something very strange. One of my referrers was a Chinese translation of my blog! Apparently, one of my readers had found my page through Google Taiwan and then used the Google Translate function to transform the entire website automatically into Traditional Chinese. You can read more about the background in this Wikipedia entry on Google Translate.

To see my blog in Traditional Chinese, type in “Travels with Sandy” at and when the first hit comes up, press the linke titled [翻譯此頁] next to it. You can view any page in Simplified Chinese by going to and doing the same thing.

The Chinese to English translation is still in the BETA stage, but seems to have promise. My skills at reading Chinese are not very good so I am not a very good judge, but from what I can read, the translator actually reverses word order when appropriate and translates simple sentences fairly well. However, like any automatic translator, more complex sentences and words with more than one meaning are easily garbled.

I’ve been tagged!

8 12 2007

Ack! Todd from The Daily Bubble Tea has tagged me, which means that I am supposed to list 7 weird facts about myself. I am not sure what to write, but I suppose I should give it a try.

  1. My favorite song and music video is “November Rain” by Guns N Roses.
  2. This will probably be a surprise to many, since I am such a lazy bum now, but I once won an archery tournament in college, and played lacrosse and basketball in high school. I also did Tae Kwon Do.
  3. I’ve had three concussions in my life.
  4. I was an Economics major in college, and my favorite class was taught by Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame.
  5. I have a love/hate relationship with the TV show “Heroes.”
  6. I always have cold hands. It is almost a superpower.
  7. I am a crazy cat lady.

Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
Post these rules on your blog.
List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
Tag seven random [?] people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting on comment on their blog.

My seven tags go to:

A Grain of Sand

Holly from The Taiwan Chronicles

My friend in high fashion, Sonia Roselli

Hmmm… I guess I am only tagging 3 people. A bunch of blogs I was thinking about have already been tagged!

Excuses, excuses…

4 12 2007

I have been such a bad blogger lately – I haven’t updated my blog in weeks!  I promise I have a couple of posts in the pipeline but I do have a job, and it’s been busy lately.  Stupid sub-prime crisis and its repercussions!  Anyway, I just wanted to let my readers know that I am still alive. 

 Besides, it’s the holidays!

 I will leave this random picture from the internet for you to ponder…

Totoro Car

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