Miss Gioia

Saturday, August 2, 2008

San Fran in Four Hours

On my way from Taipei to Orlando last Sunday, I had a six hour layover in San Francisco. I have never been to San Fran, so I decided to hop on the BART and see what I could see. It took only 30 minutes to get to the Embarcadero stop from the airport. I walked from there down to Pier 39, which apparently is a must do.

Seeing Alcatraz off in the distance was cool, and the sea lions were excellent (a big surprise too because I read somewhere that it was off-season). The Golden Gate bridge was fogged over, so I only saw one itty bitty cable. Other than those big things, Pier 29 was your typical tourist trap - Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurant, Hard Rock Cafe, boat trips around the bay, magnets and T-shirts for sale.

Everyone says San Francisco is amazing. Fabulous. Totally the best city ever. I think that my little walk around the pier area didn't really throw off the BEST CITY EVER vibe, but perhaps I need to come back and tour the more neighborhoody areas of the city. Perhaps.

I forgot to bring a camera on this trip, so I bought a little disposable one and snapped some shots on my adventure. Chris always says that the tools do not matter, that your work (art) should not depend on the quality of your equipment. Well, probably that is true. But man, did I miss my SLR. Perhaps I am not very good at photography, because I really need my camera crutch.

The whole experience cost me about 50 bucks: US$10.70 for round-trip BART fare, US$10 for the taxi ride back to Embarcadero from Pier 39 when my feet gave out, US$9.99 for a Kodak disposable camera, US$4.99 for a book on the Great Fire (which really was a Great Earthquake, with a side order of military stupidity and bad luck). Best of all, I was able to avoid falling asleep in the aiport while waiting for the next flight.

More pictures are here.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008


It is finally over!


Monday, April 14, 2008

Just Feed 'em More Yoo-Hoo

I have been eyeing the recent press on rising US food prices with a whole lot of interest. I am not actually in the United States at the moment, and thus cannot see the inflation first hand. But goodness, by all accounts it is a doozy.

Here is the thing, though. If you are going to write about inflation and public policy, you should at least consult an economist first. Otherwise it sounds like our local governments are being run by a bunch of morons. Well, perhaps they are, at least at the school district level.

If you don't have the patience to read the WashPost article on the rising costs of school lunches (referenced above), here is a summary. Food costs are going up, so schools are serving less nutritious food as a result. Because, of course. That is the most logical answer to a higher milk bill.* Serve more Yoo-Hoo.

Why not raise the price of lunches, you ask? Well, apparently that would be disastrous. In Alexandrea, the school district's Director of food and nutrition says that there is a "tipping point" and that even a 10 cent increase in the price of lunch could... well.. tip us. Tip us where? Into an abyss where kids do not eat? Is that the decision that an extra 10 cents** will tip us into? Eating or not eating? Never mind the fact that some school districts in DC have not raised the price of school lunches for TEN YEARS (according to the same article).

OK people, let's revisit basic microeconomics. Of course, quantity demanded falls as (real) prices rise - but the key is: by how much? Knowing almost nothing about the data, I would bet good money that demand for kids' lunches is inelastic, at least amongst people who do not qualify for the reduced lunch price program. So how is it that we are talking about - nay making public policy statements about - gut feelings around "tipping points."

Instead, how about hiring someone to do some empirical work? For a small sum of money (at least in comparison to the $3 million in increased milk fees paid by NY schools this year), someone could do some estimations of demand elasticities and calculate just how much of an increase in cost parents are willing to bear. The data already exist! You just need to crunch some numbers, Ms. Alexandria nutrition director. How about doing that before you start running to Congress for more subsidies? Or replacing seafood with chicken nuggets?

Of course some kids will consume fewer lunches (all other things constant). OF COURSE. But by how many? And what will the substitution effect be - will they start packing lunches? Who will be affected most (i.e., what segment of the population)? Find those kids and target them with better subsidies. Don't instead provide the whole population with poor quality food choices - less fruit and veggies, more refined sugars and other crap.

The article also casually mentions that the US federal government subsidizes every single school lunch. A child paying full price for lunch gets a 23 cent subsidy; kids who qualify for reduced price lunches get more. Gracious. Why? Do we need to encourage every public school parent to buy lunch at school, regardless of income? Even if the school lunch in question is becoming less and less nutritious?

This is a straightforward empirical question: what portion of rising food costs can be pushed back on to parents directly without a significant drop in number of lunches bought. Once we know the answer, then we can devise sound public policy to address the issue and re-balance the school budget. However, the solution to rising milk costs should not be, should never be, to lower the quality of food.

You - Mr./Ms. Public School District Director - should educate our kids, shape their preferences for a lifetime of eating. If the data show that increased lunch prices will result in some people not eating, then find those people, fix that specific problem. Don't instead make poor food choices for all of our kids without analysis.

Here is a crazy idea. If we are really worried about rising prices, then how about we teach the kids to grow their own food for lunch. Oh wait. That would mean sunshine, work and exercise. Yeah, that was a dumb thought.

*Let's not even talk about why milk prices are high in the first place.

**An extra 10 cents per lunch, what would that mean for the parent of a child who eats cafeteria food regularly? Assuming 5 days of lunches a week, 36 weeks a year (the average # of weeks a school in the United States is open annually), the extra burden on a parent would be US$18. Per year.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Ohio and Texas, you are DEAD TO ME.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Going Home

We are booked on a 7:15 am flight to Taipei tomorrow, all because of some recent good news.

1) We got Miss G's Certificate of Citizenship yesterday morning and marched it straight over to the passport office.

2) Today, we picked up her passport, which not only affirms her US citizenship but also makes her a lady going places.

3) We were told by the Taiwan Consulate (my bad, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office because we cannot call it a REAL consulate) that they would not issue her a tourist visa without an authenticated birth certificate. So we have to bring her in on a landing visa instead. This means we have to take her back out of the country again in 30 days. The tourist visa would have given us 60-90 days, with possibilities of extension for up to 6 months. But this also means that we don't have to wait around in Honolulu for a tourist visa. Hopefully in 30 days we will have all of her papers authenticated (please, oh please) so that this next trip out to HK can be a residence visa trip and not just another landing visa trip.*

So home we go, on an 11 hour direct flight, to our own little apartment with non-restaurant food and cloth diapers and my own bed and immeasurable other joys. We have been traveling now for 3.5 weeks doing Gioia's paperwork, and we are DONE.

Now off to get some sleep before our wake-up call at oh-God-thirty tomorrow morning. See y'all in Taiwan.

*The residence visa requires a lots of paperwork to be authenticated by the Taiwan Straits foundation, and it takes a looooong time. So no hopes of applying for a residence visa until all that jazz gets sorted.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sea Park Outing

We made it to the sea animals park today.

More pictures here. For the record, Chris took all of these because I was carrying (playing with) the baby.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Lazy Sunday

We were going to go to the sea animals park today, but we overslept and missed it (seems to be a theme around here). Instead, we walked on the beach and had drinky drinks at the Westin across the street.

Why is it that everyone here thinks Gioia is a boy? We had our first hint of confusion on Friday when we dressed her in a white shirt and overalls. We went to buy a swimsuit, and the salesman kept pulling out swim trunks. OK, our bad. Apparently we need to conform to well established gender norms regarding apparel colors. So today, she was all decked out in a pink shirt and a pink sun hat. Then some lady comes up and says, "Why his hat matches my skirt, and I am a woman!" Chris looked at her funny and said, "Umm, SHE is wearing pink because she is a girl." What is up with people? Essentially that woman was trying to tell us off for dressing our (boy) as a girl. Pretty ballsy assumption there, lady.

I think SHE looks beautiful.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Journey to the Harbor

We rode out to the Pearl Harbor Memorial and back today. We were not excited about trying to find a place to check the car seat at the park, and so decided to try the bus. We woke too late and took too long to get there.* As a result, we missed the boat trip out to the Arizona. But we saw the museum. And we saw the memorial to the people who died on the ships that day in the harbor.

One of those people was my grandfather's brother, Seaman First Class George Coke. He died on the USS Oklahoma three years before my father was born. We traveled today to honor my Great Uncle and his sacrifice for our country. Seeing his name amongst all the others was sobering and sad. It reminded me of all of the great tragedies in history which seem so senseless and evil. In a way, this is my family's personal tragedy, as a whole branch of our tree was wiped out with one attack.

Peace. We should all be fighting for Peace.

*For the record, it takes one hour and five minutes each way on the bus from Waikiki to the memorial. But it only cost US$8 for all of us, round trip. Chris hates the bus. Tomorrow it is taxis again. Or perhaps we should break down and rent a car? Blargh. No, too much responsibility.


Saturday, February 16, 2008


The trip to Hawaii kicked all of our butts. We have taken nearly two days to recover. A mere five hours after we landed, we got Gioia's citizenship application into the Immigration office. I swear to goodness, it almost killed me. Chris did the prep work while I napped with the baby, then he took napping duties while I dragged my sorry tush across town. Of course I got the fee wrong, the money order amount wrong, and did not bring all sorts of necessary info (Crap! What is the hotel address!?). But in the end, the paper was filed.

Five hours after that process, we got a call saying her appointment was Tuesday morning at 8 am, right after President's Day. We did not think it was possible to be delayed by every holiday on both sides of the Pacific, but we were wrong. Oh, and be sure to bring evidence with you that you both have lived in the United States for five years. Like high school records, or something. WHAT!? Oh $#*!.

What to do? Oh, I know. Let's go stand in line at the Social Security Administration so they can give us a copy of our statements. That should only take 20 minutes, right? Nope. Three hours. That's why I pay the 7.65% of my salary every year. So they can under-staff the field offices.

Now the day is done, though, and Mexican food cheered everyone up this evening. As evidence, witness a much happier Miss G.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Halfway There

We wore our fancy dress today to celebrate the fact that Miss G now has a US Visa. Woo hoo! In just over 24 hours, she will be sitting pretty in Hawaii as a citizen. For those of you playing along at home, this means that we are halfway to our goal of getting back to Taipei. All we need now is a US passport and a Taiwan visa.

It has been a rough couple of days. We all have been pretty sick with colds, and Gioia has been a whiny cranky pants as a result. As soon as she feels better, she is back to her smiling, giggling self. But when she feels bad, she looks more like this.

In other news, we got upgrades for the Tokyo-Hawaii leg* of our journey tomorrow. And that means we get to sit in the United lounge in the Narita airport during the layover,** which is GREAT because that is the most boring airport in Asia. Seriously. The shopping sucks.

Here are a billion more pictures of Miss G in her pretty dress, which are really only for the grandparents. Everyone else will probably be bored to tears.

See y'all on the other side.

* Why not upgrades for the whole trip, you ask? Well, even though this website says that Star Alliance miles can be used for upgrades between ANA and United, it is a BIG FAT LIE. Grumble grumble.

** Why is it when you stop in one airport and catch a plane for another destination it is called a 'layover,' but when you disembark for the night and continue the next day it is called a 'stopover'? Seems to me in the first instance you are just stopping for a while and in the second you are 'lying' down. So why aren't the names reversed? When I rule the world, that will change. Heh.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Long Road Home

Chris and I, seasoned travelers that we are, made a huge mistake last week. We decided to arrive at LAX at 5:30 a.m. for a 6:30 a.m. flight on the busiest travel day of the Christmas season. Hah. Of course we missed our flight last Friday (what were we thinking?) and our subsequent connection. We then spent 28 hours in Denver, trying desperately to get to Nashville. In a word - it sucked.

We managed to grab two of the last seats on a Frontier airlines flight on Saturday afternoon and arrived just in time to change clothes in the airport bathroom and race to see a performance of Handel's Messiah. After all of that, the two hour performance was really, really nice. We then made our way to Chris' parents' house, where we saw Mr. Frankie again.

Little Miss Gioia was very much with us this Christmas, even though she is still far away. Soon, very soon little one.

I hope all of your holidays are merry and bright.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy July Fourth, Peeps!

So I am sitting in a Chinese business hotel in Shanghai, musing over the fact that it is a big holiday in the USofA and I am definitely not holidaying. Chris and I will have been in China for two years soon, which is a very long time to be away from your home country. It is a long time to be away from familiar things like barbeques and baseball games and fireworks. Oh wait. Scratch the fireworks.

I am not homesick at all, probably because Chris is with me to share all of crazy China. Every now and then I think things like - Why can't I buy pantyhose here? Or shoes? If I were in the States, it would be no problem.....

In all seriousness, my dad always used to say that there is nothing like living abroad to make you appreciate your home country. For all of its war-mongering, for all of its crazy embarassing people who don't know how to travel, for all of its many other issues - I am still proud to be an American.

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