my aunt and uncle and my 2nd aunt came over tonight for some family hot pot action. the special occasions were the belated celebration of my father's and aunt's birthday (february 8th, which was when this dinner was originally scheduled for), my own natal anniversary, which also happened to be the same day as the chinese new year as well. tonight we tried something new, spicy mah-lah ("numbingly hot") hot pot. we even got a special pot for the occasion, one that was sectioned into halves so one side could be hot and spicy while the other side just normal. (btw, that's a conduction heating platform we're using). some foods still tasted the same, like the strips of lamb or quail eggs, but other foods soaked up the spicy flavoring much better, like cabbage leaves (the more wrinkly the more it soaks up the flavor) and tofu blocks. a very good dinner. afterwards, we exchanged birthday presents. it's nice to have family birthdays all around the same time, just to get it over with and have the rest of the year left not to worry about forgotten birthdays.

here's something off-topic, but my father bought this packet of sweet basil seed from chinatown and the packaging is pretty funny. the words "asian boy" appears on the top, with a drawing of a farmerboy playing the flute while riding an ox. down below are the vietnamese words "hot e." i'll say!

30 minutes to kill in harvard square this morning before laurie came to pick me up for dim sum, i walked around and around the empty streets of cambridge counting down the minutes, making a note of which stores were closed (virtually all stores are closed this early sunday morning except for brunch places), admiring the architecture, trying to fill in the missing details of my mental image of harvard square. at 10am i came back to the rendezvous point and right on the dot laurie arrived.

when we got to chinatown it was very crowded. though i can't be sure, i think the fact that next week (february 12th) is chinese new year had something to do with it. a lot of places were selling plants, which i can't seem to remember, but i'm assuming it has something to do with the new year tradition. china pearl was very empty when we went in, and my theory was because everyone was out grocery shopping and too busy for dim sum. laurie and i got a table upstairs almost without any sort of waiting. neither of us ate very much despite the fact that laurie deemed today's offering of dim sum "very good."

leaving china pearl though, the place was very crowded, so maybe it was just a freak of dim sum nature that not a lot of people were here when we arrived. laurie and i went back to harvard square, where she went to work while i went to city sports to get a birthday present for my aunt. later i took the subway to the office to copy some project files off of my computer in the supposed hope that i'll be able to do some work on it later tonight. we shall see!

coming home, the sky really started to darken and it began to drizzle slightly. perfect for running! which was exactly what i did when i got home, changing into nothing but a t-shirt and shorts to run in 40° weather. cold the first few minutes but soon i warmed up, i ran my extended way (formerly my usual way, before i started taking the short cut) through belmont with my gps clutched tightly in my hand. at 2.3 miles i started cramping up and had to walk for a few minutes before i picked up my running again. this extended route, when i got home and checked the gps, is actually 3 miles exactly (i had thought it was 3.4 miles when i drove the route via car, hmmm). despite walking off the cramp, i still made pretty good time, ran an 8.5 minute/mile.