i heard the metallic insect-like buzzing of my roommate skyping his wife early this morning while i was still savoring my final few moments of sleep. it's become a routine now, he brings home his laptop over the weekend and does some internet telephony during breakfast. as for me, it was weird not having a dog around to pounce on me when i woke up, it almost seemed too quiet, too safe. after i had a bagel for breakfast we left the house at 11am. it was cold outside, and factoring in the winds, the temperature dipped into the teens. i strongly suggested to my roommate to change from his light windbreaker into his heavier winter coat. i asked him later what he was talking to his wife about. apparently she's going to fly down to beijing and visit the american embassy for her tourist visa interview.

riding the subway into boston, we sat by a woman wearing a full-length fur coat. my roommate was impressed but i told him she was inviting trouble by advertising her support for animal cruelty.

at the boston common theatre i treated my roommate to quantum of solace, the new james bond movie. i bought two tickets for the 12:05 digital projection showing but later we found out they were for the 12:45 analog instead. by then we had already passed through the security checkpoint so we just took a detour to our intended screening room. there was only one other person there but by the time the movie started there were about 40 people. when i came back from the bathroom, i saw my roommate had his video camera out. "what're you doing?" i asked him, trying to figure out how to explain to him that making a bootleg of the movie would probably get us kicked out of the theatre. fortunately he forgot to charge his battery so i was able to avoid giving him the talk.

quantum of solace is an okay james bond movie but doesn't really break any new ground. despite a few amazing action sequences (james bond and bad guy falling through glass and scaffolding as they fight their way down or jumping motorcycle over boats), much of it was shot using shaky camera techniques that muddled the choreography. the plot is also a weak point: though james bond is on a personal quest to avenge the death of his girlfriend, the central spy theme is to thwart the plan of an evil international conglomerate in the guise of some weirdo who's supposedly stealing bolivian oil but actually bolivian water. the main villain doesn't inspire dread as much as irritation. as for the bond babes, i guess the bad economy got to them too since they had to cut back with only 2 (bond only sleeps with one of them). ukrainian-born olga kurylenko is easy on the eyes, but wouldn't a genuine latina be better for the bolivian role? back to the subject of bond: why is the man always covered in a thin film of sweat? it's not easy being 007, and although he's not tortured in this film, he does get pretty battered. it's a more serious film too, without many of the quips audience come to expect from our debonair secret agent. so what makes the movie good then? just the fact that it's a 007 film; the franchise carries a lot of clout, and despite these shortcomings, it's still an enjoyable piece of escapist fun. hopefully the next installment will be better.

after the movie we cut through chinatown. i wasn't getting any hungry vibes from my roommate so i was surprised when he said he wanted to try some vietnamese food. we went to my usual pho hoa and both ordered pho. my roommate treated and paid our $12 check with a $100 bill (the waitress laughed when she saw the amount). he was curious when i added another dollar to our measly $2 tip. i told him it didn't look good leaving so little when paying with so much. we went to the asian supermarket underneath the parking garage across by lincoln street. what i didn't plan on was the crowd of people shopping, the last weekend before thanksgiving. all the registers were 8 customers deep, i've never seen the place like that before. i almost wanted to just leave but decided to stick it out, waiting 15 minutes in line for 4 items i really didn't need.

we walked down the rose fitzgerald kennedy greenway to faneuil hall. we saw some christmas carol singers and some dancing girls in santa outfits. we walked through quincy market to check out all the food vendors.

the final stop on our boston tour was haymarket. my roommate was impressed, said it reminded him of the outdoor markets back home in china. we squeezed our way from one end to the other before returning back to buy some produce. my roommate was amazed how cheap everything was (but probably still more expensive than the produce back home) and really stocked on supplies: celery, potatoes, bok choi, carrots. my roommate really wanted to get some mutton after i showed him the few halal butcher shops lining haymarket. we went to one promising basement store that had a full sheep carcass hanging by the entrance (or was that goat? can't tell the difference). an african man was ahead of us in line buying up bags of goat meat neatly sliced into cubes by the attending butcher ($5/lb. in case you wanted to know). i watched as a frozen goat head was reduced to unrecognizable squares (save the pieces with the eyes). the whole shop had an aura of danger: surrounded by foreigners, raw meat everywhere, with a noisy jigsaw running without any protective guard on top of slippery floors. it looked like a recipe for a sliced finger or even a severed arm. "who's next?" one of the other butchers cried out. "do you sell any mutton?" i asked. "yes, come," he said, beckoning us both into the meat locker in the back of the store. i hesitated but went anyway, both out of curiosity but also didn't want to offend him by saying no. inside, various meats with missing body parts hung from hooks. the butcher showed up a sheep carcass. "this one?" he asked. "how much?" i said. "$3.50 per pound." i translated for my roommate, and asked him how much he wanted. we left the locker with the butcher carrying the slab of meat, which was basically a sheep torso missing the legs and head. my roommate wanted the thigh section and he ended up buying $16 worth of mutton sliced into cubes, which he said he could eat for months. while we were leaving, my roommate pointed to our butcher and asked, "arab?" "yes!" cried the butcher. "you, uzbek?" he said, squinting his eyes to get a better read on my roommate's ethnicity. "no, he's k, from china," i told our butcher. he gave us a big laugh and shook my roommate's hand like they were good friends. "come back next time!" the butcher told us as we ascended the stairs.

we left haymarket and took the subway from government center to park street. while waiting for the outbound red line train to arrive, i bumped into jess and adam. "gary!" jess cried out. i didn't notice she forgot my name, and didn't correct her when i finally figured it out. they were out in downtown boston trying to do some pre-christmas shopping but left empty-handed. we chatted all the way to central square, where they got off. walking home from porter square, i was the one who pointed out to my roommate the juxtaposition of jupiter next to venus in the twilight sky.

back at home, excited to have so much fresh ingredients, my roommate made some mutton fried rice which he shared with me. the rice was kind of soggy but the mutton was pretty good, very strong flavor. i'm going to tell my parents to get their mutton from the halal butcher shop as well.