somewhere in china people are celebrating chinese new year's eve this morning. or as they call it, "the spring festival." having not really grown up with any chinese new year tradition, this particular holiday doesn't really register with my family.

we are however still having a dinner, but more in celebration of the arrival of our shenyang relatives (they got here friday afternoon in the middle of the storm) than anything to do with the spring festival. as the name implies, the new year marks the beginning of chinese spring (in accordance with the lunar calendar), despite the fact that february is still considered winter in these here parts. it was just last february when boston experienced the majority of its epic snow dumps, pushing us into the record books, the envy of far away acquaintances who wish they could be here to experience all that snow, but in fact, once you're experiencing it, all you can think about is not experiencing it anymore.

family dinners can be stressful (which is why my sister has decided to forgo as many as possible, which is her coping mechanism, by running away), but i think made more so by the fact that my father has decided to invite some additional guests who are not family members. all i want to do is put my head down and eat and have enough time to go home and watch the superbowl, which coincidentally enough, is also happening on chinese new year's eve this year.

the superbowl is different when the hometown team isn't playing for another chance to win a ring. watch it or don't, it really doesn't matter all too much to me, but i like to see it anyway, just for the spectacle. i am not buying into the NFL hype machine though, and will not watch any of the pregame shows. between the broncos and the panthers, who do i root for? a bronco victory would be a great story, especially if peyton manning does decide this is his last season. but maybe a victory might stir those competitive juices, and maybe he wants to come back again for a a repeat (limited only by the expiration date on his aging body). a denver win also means new england was beaten by the eventual champions, and there's no shame in that. on the other hand, i'd like to see carolina win as well, because cam newton is also a great story. this seems like their year. if it wasn't for that one lose to the redskins, maybe they go perfect. although a loss might put some humility in their steps, as there dominance had bred a feeling of arrogance, warranted or not. but the perfect scenario? both teams end up losing, it's a terrible game, and decided in overtime on some stupid technicality. everyone goes home unhappy, as new england licks its chops anticipating the beginning of next season.

i caught a little bit of the annual chinese government-sponsored spring festival variety show. a bunch of ethnic chinese minorities wearing their traditional garbs were singing and dancing. it seems like the job of ethnic minorities is to sing and dance for their chinese overlords. after a few minutes i turned it off.

i took a wrench to the toilet inlet valve, to try and stop the leaking. it's nothing i can't fix, but a nuisance. if i'm lucky, a slight turn of the wrench will fix the leak. if i'm unlucky, i'll need to replace the valve altogether, which i've done in the past. it made it better, but there was still a bit of leak, so i turned the valve nut a little bit more with the wrench.

by 4:40pm mary still wasn't home yet. my shenyang relatives were already at the cafe since 3:30pm. i couldn't wait anymore since i planned on arriving at the cafe by 5pm, and it takes 30 minutes to walk down there. so i sent mary a text message saying i was about to leave and gave her the address so she could get there on her own. but just when i was about to leave she came home.

while walking down to the cafe, mary asked me about US taxes. she was surprised that different states have different sales tax, and sometimes cities themselves can impose additional taxes. there are also property taxes which doesn't seem to exist in china. she asked if california was a richer state because when she lived there as a graduate student, she noticed many people had pools in their backyards.

the reason why we were having hot pot at the cafe was to accomodate my grand uncle, to have it at a venue closer to his house. we split into 2 tables, one all spicy, one half spicy half normal. i set up the SJ4000 to capture a time lapse of dinner. my sister was here in the early goings but predictably left once we began eating. my 2nd uncle opted out as well, didn't even make an appearance. my grand uncle came by for half an hour before my father took him back to the house.

i used a package of chongqing hot pot base, about 3/5th the bag. it's a liquid (oil) base, with some solids which are probably the peppercorns. i never used it before but it has a really good flavor, would definitely buy it again. to make it more authentic, i would probably add even more sichuan peppercorns, and a layer of dried hot peppers for presentation. i ate standing up for most of the time, as the way the tables were set up it was hard for me to reach the hot pot.

around 6pm i began to slip intermittently into the backroom to watch the superbowl on the old analog tv hooked up to a digital receiver box attached to a massive homemade HD antenna. everyone finally started leaving by halftime. mary and i walked back to our place. she did a small load of laundry, but went to sleep with the dryer running. i hope she can sleep through all that noise!

i missed the halftime show and downloaded it while watching the 2nd half of the superbowl. it turned out as well as could be, according to my criteria: an ugly game that appeared both teams were losing, resulting in a lackluster victory that will easily be forgotten. broncos won, but primarily due to its defense. the panthers seemed like paper tigers. it makes me feel that the AFC is the stronger conference. cam newton imploded, and hopefully peyton manning retires afterwards.