i made my way to jamaica plain this morning to visit eliza. it's probably as far as i can go in this weather without my hands freezing solid. they were so cold that later i discovered i'd chafed my knuckles. by the time i arrived, my nose was running and tears were streaming from my nearly-frozen eyeballs. eliza was in the kitchen with her boyfriend romell and her roommate julia having breakfast. i was offered a large cup of hot tea to warm myself back up.

one of the reasons for my visit was to see the arboretum. eliza and i headed down there and walked around. it didn't take me long to lose my bearing and if eliza wasn't there to guide me i would've been seriously lost.


something i've never seen before was a large leafless shrub covered in small purple berries. they're actually quite beautiful in a festive holiday sort of way, but neither of us were brave enough to see if they were edible.

back at eliza's place, i had another hot cup of tea before heading back to cambridge. i stopped by harvard square to pick up some car review magazines for my parents (they're thinking about selling/trading the junky ford explorer). when i got back to the house, a package was waiting for me on the doorstep. inside, zhu lei was working on his laptop in the living room. zhu lei had been cooking earlier and the house smelled like burnt sugar. while i went to go take a shower, zhu lei went out and didn't come back until later in the evening.

the package was actually my new canon 580EX II external flash. i ordered it on wednesday so i was surprised to receive it so early. i debated long and hard about whether i really needed a flash, versus investing that money into something else, like a wide-angle lens. but with thanksgiving next week and canon's recent $50 instant rebate offer, i figured it'd be a good time to finally buy one instead of just renting. i had to run out to rite aid to get some batteries first (i don't even have any rechargeable AA batteries). since i'm relatively familiar with the 580EX, i didn't play with it that much, snapped a few photos and put it back inside its protective pouch.

what i did have that was infinitely more exciting was an iphone. it actually belongs to suhan, who unlocked the phone so it'd work without a service carrier. he installed some sudoku application and lent it to my mother. she in turn gave it to me requesting that i put some movies on the 4GB storage. i'd actually played with it for the very first time last week, but that was without wifi access. once i fed it the password to my wireless network, i was surfing the web with the iphone in no time.

i think the iphone is a fun gadget but not something i'd get for myself. why surf the web on a tiny 3.5" iphone screen when i can see much better on a 15" macbook pro? and although it has many functions of a computer, it's still very limited in its capabilities, and i kept on wanting it to do more. but why would anyone want a computer with such a small screen? it's definitely cool but i question it's practicality. i can watch movies, but they first have to be converted to a special format. to add music or videos it uses itunes as a conduit, and everything's pretty self-explanatory and easy to figure out. my favorite feature is the photo app; i put some of my travel snapshots on there, it's like having a portable slideshow.

when it came time for me to make dinner, that's when i noticed my pan. it's happy non-stick surface looked like somebody had scratched at it with an angry fork or knife. it hurt me just looking at the damage. i was pretty livid and waited for zhu lei to come back home and explain what happened. when he finally got back, he sheepishly confessed that he was cooking sausages for lunch and decided to clean off some of the scorch marks using the blunt handle of a metal fork. he told me he worked on it for a long time, but then noticed that he'd scratched up the pan in the process. he called up a friend who told him that wasn't how you're supposed to clean non-stick pans (in case looking at the scratch marks wasn't evidence enough). i listened to his explanation and told him, "well, you'll know next time, just be careful." i think he briefly said, "maybe i can buy a new one," after asking me if the pan was still okay and i didn't really respond. and once again, maybe it's a cultural thing, but he didn't once apologize. not much good saying sorry will do anyway, but it's still nice to hear. truth be told, i was thinking about replacing that pan anyway. after so many years, it's lost some of its former luster. nevertheless, i'm still sentimentally attached to it (so many good memories!), and to see it abused in such an obscene manner, and to not have received any apology, and no reassurance of, "i'll pay for a new pan," it leaves a pretty bitter taste in my mouth. first the bike lock, and now the cooking pan. is there anything else he wants to destroy in the month he still has left here?

okay, enough ranting and raving. later in the evening zhu lei asked me for some advice regarding his christmas holiday plans. he and his girlfriend will be visiting relatives in texas for christmas, but on his way back, they want to spend a few days in new york city and celebrate new year's eve in time square. personally, i'm impressed by his forethought. there's probably no place else more exciting on new year's eve than new york city, and it'd be the first time in the big apple for the both of them. however, logistically - that's just crazy! maybe it's because i'm too old and the idea of standing in the cold sardined with millions of other celebrators just doesn't appeal to me so much anymore (but coming from china, the crush of crowds must be pretty routine i suppose). then there's the problem of finding a place to stay. he was trying youth hostels (i didn't even realize they had those in NYC) but he said they were all booked for new year's eve (not a surprise). i told him to look for hotels off of manhattan, like brooklyn or queens, just as nice, not as expensive, but he'd still be looking at a starting rate of at least $100/night. he just had to pick probably the most expensive time to visit new york city.