The Baseball Blunder

bya Gabrielle at 3:18 PM

I love spring. I love it because the weather gets warmer, all the flowers start to bloom, I get to throw my coat in the closet, and I am actually motivated to go outside to get my fifteen minutes of vitamin D. But those aren’t the only reasons why I love spring. I love it because all of those reasons I just mentioned mark the start of the most awesome season of all – the baseball season.

To put how awesome it is to me into perspective, maybe I should say it this way: Opening Day is my Christmas.

Well, not all Christmases are created equal. Sometimes you get the win you’ve been dreaming of, maybe, if your lucky, even a few spectacular plays, a homer that blasts out of that park, and a nail-biting, thriller of a finish. And then there is the Christmas that makes you ask, “Is Santa on strike?”

The first four games of the 2012 baseball season were very much the latter. The Atlanta Braves, I guess, thought that their complete craptacular collapse last season wasn’t so complete after all because they posted four more rather disappointing loses before finally notching a win. Now, I wasn’t too let down because I am well aware there are 162 games and that anything can happen between April and October, but as we learned last season, one win can make all the difference and each loss can potentially be the nail in the season’s coffin. Thankfully, the Braves have made some what of a comeback and are now a .500 team and only 2.5 games back.

During their win drought, I aired my displeasure to the retired group of students I teach over in Xujiahui. I wrote up the following on the board at the beginning of my class, so they could read and think about it, and prepare themselves to discuss it.

“The Atlanta Braves are off to a miserable start. They are 1-4. Zi Wei(that’s my Chinese name) is very sad because of this.”

Last semester, I talked to them about baseball and the Atlanta Braves, so I expected them to understand, but I suppose my expectations were a few rungs too high.

As the students came in, they sat down and read the message on the board. They read it again. They spoke to each other in Chinese and all of their faces were distorted in confusion. I couldn’t understand what the problem was.

When the clock struck 9:15, I read the sentence out loud. I asked them if they knew who the Atlanta Braves were. They all shook their heads and said no. I told them they did know because we had talked about it before. I asked if they could remember my favorite sport. They shook their heads again and said no. I wrote baseball up on the board one letter at a time until they knew what I was writing. I think I got to the E before someone recognized it.

“Oh, baseball,” one of the students said.

Several of the students on the front row started laughing. I asked what was so funny.

One of the students spoke for them all. “We thought that you were sad because of something we did. We love you. We don’t want to make you sad.”

This of course made me laugh right along with them.

“No, no, I said. I’m not sad because something you did. I am sad because the Atlanta Braves have only won one of five games.”

“We understand now.”

And then we all laughed together.

This moment sorta made me forget how sad I was that the Braves were stinking up the place.

Here’s to hoping that I won’t need this type of special moment to help me forget any more parts of the season. Go Braves!!

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My Baseball Bucket List(In No Particular Order)

bya Gabrielle at 7:40 PM

Today, I taught my business English students about baseball, which is no easy feat when you only have an hour and a half to cover everything from 1846 in Hoboken, New Jersey to the Atlanta Braves stumbling out of the gates like fools in 2012. I covered as much as I could, but I clearly could see they were a little confused when I asked if they had any questions when I was finished.

To me, baseball makes perfect sense, but I’m a second generation (Atlanta Braves) baseball fan, and the knowledge and know-how comes rather natural to me. Teaching a sport to a nation versed mainly in basketball(thank you, Yao Ming) and soccer(football – thank you FIFA) is kinda like teaching a young child how to tie his shoe. You understand the motions and the outcome and why it happened the way it did, but the description of how it all happens turns the pretty bow into a jumbled disaster of ugly knots . . . if you are even that lucky.

Hopefully, I taught them more than I confused them, but god only knows. Their brains are probably knotted spaghetti strings.

Next week, I am going to teach them “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, which is always fun. Maybe I will record them and post it for you guys to enjoy! Also, I downloaded the “Who’s on First” skit by Abbott and Costello. I hope that they will understand the humor. I’ve printed out the script to help them understand what is being said because let’s be honest, it can be confusing, especially to ESL learners. And finally, I have nine clips of “Field of Dreams” for them to watch. I love that movie!!

If they can describe in a nutshell what baseball is and tell me sorta how it is played by the end of next Wednesday, I’ll be a happy teacher.

I start off each class with what I call “Gabe’s Random Thoughts of the Day”. These thoughts are truly random and can be spurred by the weather, a song, an expression, a sport, a random news article or even by one of the random thoughts I just wrote on the white board. I usually have no idea what my random thought of the day will be until I start writing it. Some of my thoughts are pretty awesome, and I really should have taken a picture of some of them, but oh well. I think my random thoughts engage the students and make them think and ask questions because usually my random thoughts are about stuff they have never heard of before.

Today’s random thought was titled, “My Baseball Bucket List” and this is how it went.

1. Attend a World Series game, more specifically an Atlanta Braves vs ??? World Series game, preferably with my father.
2. Own the Atlanta Braves(Highly unlikely, but hey, I can dream, right?)
3. Get remarried to Phil on home plate at Turner Field(Again with the dreaming)
4. Sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at a MLB game(Not as part of the crowd, but the person leading it)
5. Have a son who grows up to be the best baseball player EVER(first I need to have children)
6. Convince Phil to allow me to name a daughter Atlanta(Probably no amount of begging will make this happen)
7. Watch all 162 games(plus post season games) in person(I’ll need to win or inherit a lot of money first)
8. Own season tickets to the Atlanta Braves(probably the most likely of all to actually happen)
9. Catch a foul ball or home run(the batting practice homer that hit me in the head does not count)

I am sure there are more, but that is all I can think of right now.

Do you have a baseball bucket list?

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In Memory of Quantum and Countess

bya Gabrielle at 6:13 PM

Once upon time, Phil woke up early.  If you don’t know Phil quite like I do, know this: ‘early’ and ‘Phil’ do not usually find themselves in the same sentence.  Phil’s a vampire, at least, that is what I have concluded in the 8 years that I have known him.  He sleeps all day and starts to stir as the sun goes down.  How he has ever held a 9 to 5 job is a miracle in and of itself.  I am forever grateful that he doesn’t glitter in day light.  I can only imagine how embarrassing that would be.

So, you can imagine how startled I was to be woken up and then told not that he was bringing me breakfast in bed, but that I was to get up and get dressed because we were taking a road trip to Atlanta.  This confused me even more because it was a cold February morning, and the only thing I ever really go to Atlanta for is to watch a Braves game.  Turner Field is a ghost town in February.  All the baseball players are either taking it easy or playing winter ball somewhere warm.  If he had told me to guess what we were going to buy, I would have never guessed it in a million years.  Phil woke up with a wild craving for Chinese lamb.  Thankfully, Atlanta has its own little China town and a massive Asian grocery store, H-Mart, where you can get your random Chinese cravings.

After a quick stop at Burger King for some delicious Cini Minnies – I would kill for one right about now – we were on our way. Instead of taking the route I’ve almost always taken, Phil decided to drive up through Clemson.  It’s take a little bit longer but it’s a prettier drive. Not long after we crossed the border into Georgia, we started seeing signs for the Pendergrass Flea Market. There were just a few at first and then a few more and then then entire side of the interstate was littered with signs urging us to stop by and browse. Since we were in no big hurry, we decided to oblige the signs. I guess their advertising scheme worked.

Once there, we weren’t overly impressed. I mean, it was just a flea market after all, albeit a large one. We walked around for a little, but didn’t see anything that caught our fancy.  We were just about to leave and carry on with our Chinese lamb mission when I asked Phil if we could try and find the pet section – you know, just to look. I expected to see kittens, puppies, and birds – the flea market norm, and I did, but the first thing my eyes saw was a cute little baby Sugar Glider.

I have always liked Sugar Gliders, and ever since I was in high school I have wanted one as a pet, but I just want to state for the record that I was not the one who suggested we buy the adorable little fuzzy. No, it was not I, the lover of all things small, cute, and furry who decided it was a good idea to add a four legged creature to our family. It was Phil who looked at me and said, “Gabe, do you want it?”

Believe me, I wanted to say yes right then and there, but I was trying to be responsible. I’ve had pets before, and even though they’re cute and fun to have around, pets are a huge responsibility. I didn’t want the two of us buying on impulse. Impulse buying is bad. Impulse buying leads to regret and regret turns into neglect.

We debated it for a while. We weighed the pros and cons. We even took a walk around the flea market one more time before we made our decision. And, well, you surely know what happened or else you wouldn’t be reading this now.

Luckily, the flea market had an ATM. Impulse buyers need ATMs . . . and well, people who don’t normally carry big bills around on them for buying exotic animals.

On the way home, we tossed names back and forth trying to figure out which one fit our new little guy the best and finally decided upon the name Quantum. It was Phil’s idea. Phil liked it because it sounded cool and science-like. I liked it because it reminded me of the show Quantum Leap.  Plus, I thought it would be really cool to train him to jump on command by saying, “Quantum, leap!”  Yeah, I’m cheesy.

Oh, and we never made it to H-Mart.  Instead of Chinese lamb, we got a Sugar Glider.

At first we were afraid we had made a mistake in buying him.   Our six inch bundle of joy weighing in at 1 ounce was a bit terrifying.  His crabbing scared the crap out of me, but later it just made me laugh.  He was a quick little devil, too.  I was constantly afraid he was going to slip under something and get lost or run out the front door.  Phil and I eventually Sugar Glider proofed the house so that he was less likely to disappear.  And like most baby animals snatched away from their mom and dad, he wanted nothing to do with us for the longest time.  For awhile, I thought he was never going to bond with us.   As time passed, he learned to trust us, and eventually, he came to love us.  In the end, we were a part of his colony.  He never wanted to leave our side . . . unless of course he spied a piece of corn somewhere.  Quantum loved his corn and he loved us even more because we fed it to him.

Baby Quantum

Cute baby Quantum.

Baby Quantum Eating a Grape

Quantum thinking about eating a grape.

Sleepy Quantum

“Get that camera out of my face, woman!”

Quantum Tent Bonding

I cannot express in words how much Quantum hated our tent bonding sessions.

After a lot of research, we learned that Quantum needed a pal.  A lonely Sugar Glider is a sad Sugar Glider.  We looked and looked, but could not find a female that was the appropriate age, price, and within a reasonable distance.   Yeah, you guessed it.  I wanted Sugar Glider babies.  :)

By chance one day, I came across a Craig’s List ad that met all of our requirements.  That afternoon we had Quantum a girlfriend.  Quantum, it turned out, was a complete saint and we never ever should have complained about his odd behavior.  Countess, as she came to be called, was completely insane and hated the fact that we even breathed.  If she could have held a gun, she would have held us at gun point and demanded that we release her back into the Australian forest that she came from because that is exactly what she was – a wild animal.   Two days after we got her, Phil was threatening to sell her.  I begged for him to give her a chance.  After months of being ravaged by her tiny teeth of death and running around for hours trying to catch her to put her back in her cage, she finally came around and decided that she would tolerate us.  After the birth of her two beautiful baby boys, she calmed down a lot.  She even thought I was decent enough to babysit while her and Quantum ran around causing havoc in the living room.  When she got comfortable enough to jump on me and began allowing me to pick her up without making me look like I had been in a fight with a thorny rose bush, I knew that she finally trusted me and that maybe, just maybe she even loved me.

Countess and Beer

One night, like many nights, Countess vanished.  It was only when I heard a slight scratching sound that I was able to find her.  She loved hiding. I think she must have been a pro at Hide N’ Go Seek in a past life.

Countess and Baby

Here is Countess with one of her baby boys.

Countess in a Bag

Here she is hiding in a bag full of plastic Cowboys and Indians.  It took Leigh and I an hour to find her.  Silly girl.

Like I said, Quantum and Countess had two beautiful baby boys.  After watching them grow up, I am a firm believer that genes play a large roll in who you become.  One of the boys acted and looked a lot like Quantum and the other had the same temperament as Countess.  We were reluctant to give them names at first, as we didn’t want to get to attached to them before my good friend, Jody, adopted them, but it was a bit annoying calling them Baby 1 and Baby two all the time.  So, we gave them temporary names.  The one that was lazy and sweet like Quantum was called Corn Husk, since he too loved corn like you wouldn’t believe.  And the one that complained a lot and didn’t like being handled, we called him Nick.  His right ear had a tiny piece missing.  I am not sure if he was born that way or if parents or his brother slapped him around for being a jerk.   It was probably the latter. Jody ended up renaming them Codo and Podo after the ferrets in The Beastmaster.

Podo and Codo

Codo and Podo loving on each other.

Quantum and Baby

Quantum never enjoyed spending too much time with his boys.  I guess he thought that was Countess’ job.  He had no idea what to do with them when they crawled on his back.

Codo and Podo Together

“Piggy back, bro?”  “Nah, man, get off!”

Cute Baby

I think baby Sugar Gliders look like baby opossums, just cuter.

One day, Phil and I decided it would be a good idea to go back to China.  Okay, it was my idea more than anything, but Phil agreed.  The worst thing about deciding to go was that we couldn’t take our babies with us.  Thankfully, we had a good friend, Leigh, who said she would watch them for us until we decided to come to our senses and come home.

Unfortunately, fate had other plans.  On April 1, 2010, Countess passed away.  She developed a uterus infection and the vets were unable to save her.  On July 25th, 2010, Quantum followed her to Sugar Glider heaven.  His death was an accident, but tragic nonetheless.

I can only imagine  Quantum’s glee when he was shown the never ending pile of corn kernels  reaching  like a spire into the sky.  He’s probably so fat now that he can’t even move.  But I’m sure he is happy that way.  Fat and happy.

And Countess . . . well, I’m sure the Sugar Glider God is having a hell of a time finding her in His great big house.  I hope he knows to look in the Cowboy and Indian bag made in China.

A few more pictures . . .

Quantum and his Peanut

Quantum and his peanut.

Quantum the Bat

Quantum the bat – eating upside down.

Quantum's Hideout

Quantum’s hideout.

Quantum and Countess

Quantum and Countess taking a rest in a t-shirt.

Quantum and his hammock.

Quantum and his hammock.

Quantum in my hoody.

Quantum eating a piece of fruit in my hoody.

Quantum and Countess

The last picture I ever took of the two of them.  It was the last night I saw them before I left for China.

We miss them so much.  We’ll never forget them and the ways they made us laugh.

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Phil and I Have Gone and Done Something Crazy

bya Gabrielle at 12:54 PM

This is going to be a teaser post because I don’t want to reveal what exactly we have done until I have pictures.

On Sunday, Phil woke me up bright and early at about 8:30 AM.  This is highly unusual because Phil loves to sleep all day.  Usually, it’s me asking him to get out of bed so that we can enjoy the day doing something outdoors.  And he hates me for it.  So, I guess he was just trying to give me a taste of my own medicine.  Well, anyway, half asleep, Phil informs me that I need to get up and get dressed because we are driving to Atlanta to get some lamb.  Why do we need to go all the way to Atlanta to get lamb, you ask?  There is a grocery store there called Super H Mart, and it sells all sorts of yummy, Asian goodness – food – not people.  Particularly, they sell thinly sliced lamb that we love.  We fell in love with it in China and it was by far our favorite dish.  When we last went to Atlanta in July, we bought several pounds of it.  Seven months later, our supply is nearly gone.  Since having no lamb in the house would make us unhappy, it seemed like a great idea.  An hour later, we were in the car and on our way to Atl.

30 minutes away from our destination, we came across the Pendergrass Flea Market.  The place is huge and I mean HUGE.  Phil had been there before, but since I hadn’t, he wanted to let me see it.  The place was a complete mad house.  There were people everywhere.  It took something like ten minutes to find a parking place!  Once inside we strolled around seeing if there was anything worth buying.  I really didn’t see anything, I never really do at flea markets, but Phil found a Playstation 1 controller that he needed.  Phil thought they had animals, so we walked around looking for any they might have. We didn’t see any at first.  As we were just about to leave I saw a sign with pets written in red, pointing down a hall way. I think it was the one area we hadn’t looked before giving up.  Why does that always seem to happen?

I’ll give you this much:

It’s cute.

It’s furry.

It’s about 9 weeks old and weighs about 1 oz.

It isn’t native to South Carolina or any state for that matter.

I’ve wanted once since I first saw them at an exotic pet show at Jamil Temple years and years ago.

He makes the strangest, but cutest sounds ever.

He’s nocturnal by nature.

And his name is Quantum.

And for the record, this was totally Phil’s idea.  I just gave him permission.

Can you guess what it is?  I’ll take some pictures of him soon.  He’s a little scared right now, and I don’t want my camera to cause him any more stress. I imagine that when he gets acquainted with his surroundings – he is going to become a regular on this little blog.  I hope you all like him as much as Phil and I do.

PS My boss said that I just need to get married and have a baby.  Whereas I am sure that would help with the need to have something to love at all times,  human babies aren’t furry and they don’t purr.

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Biggest Chicken Chick-fil-a Sandwich Ever

bya Gabrielle at 7:00 AM

When Phil and I were in Atlanta some years back, we stopped by a Chick-fil-a to have lunch before going to an Atlanta Braves Game. The sandwich Phil got has to be the largest Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich I have ever seen.

Do you agree?

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Trip to Atlanta Part 3

bya Gabrielle at 7:00 AM

Pictures.  Not a lot of words.

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain.

Bubble at Stone Mountain

A bubble.

View of Atlanta


Sky in Atlanta

Blue Sky.

Gum Tree 1

What is that?

Gum Tree 2

A gum tree, of course.

Lights at Stone Mountain

Firework setting.  Glow sticks.  Cool.

Lights at Stone Mountain 2

More coolness.

Phil at Stone Mountain

One handsome man.

Fireworks Stone Mountain

I snapped this at the right moment.

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Trip to Atlanta Part 2

bya Gabrielle at 8:21 PM

I wish there were more things to take pictures of at a baseball game. The Braves have tried to make the stadium interactive, but it’s more so for the kids than anything. And don’t you dare say, “That’s what the beer is for, Gabe!” For some reason, my German blood disagrees with it.

The one thing I noticed as we sat in bumper to bumper traffic for what must have been an hour or so after the game, was how run down the area is around the stadium. I was pretty shocked. I can’t count the number of buildings I saw marked by spray paint. Several buildings were boarded up and looked like they hadn’t been occupied in many years. I know Atlanta isn’t the best city in the world, but I guess I just expected it to look more sophisticated than it did. Those few blocks looked down right slummy. This is not to say that the people living in those areas are bad people. I just wish they cared more about the appearance of their neighborhood. I’m sure it’s been like that for many years and that I’ve seen it before, but I only truly noticed it this time around because we were going so slow.

I wonder if other MLB stadiums are in similar areas? If so, I wonder why.

And now for a few pictures.

Chipper Jones 2

You wouldn’t know it from this picture, but I was sitting very close to the left field foul poll when I snapped this.

Fireworks 1

I was very disappointed in the firework show at Turner Field. It may partially be because of my firework experience in China, but I really felt it lacked the “WOW” factor.

Fireworks 2

As the fireworks were going off, some guy next to me told his buddy that now would be a good time to shoot someone.

Fireworks 3

I had a friend who once taped a roach to some sort of firework. He wanted to to see if it would survive the blast. I was very surprised to find the roach alive and well after the pretty show.

Fireworks 4

Looks sorta like the sky is reigning down some serious lighting.

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And here is a video of the less than spectacular firework display put on at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Trip to Atlanta

bya Gabrielle at 10:32 PM

My trip to Atlanta was a good one. Everything went pretty much as planned.  We had good weather despite the threat of showers pretty much all weekend.  It rained once for about 20 minutes right before we went to Stone Mountain, but then the skies cleared up.  An hour later, you never would have known that it had rained. The temperatures were even reasonable for July.  Well, at least for me.  Sometimes I think 100 degrees is cold.  Yeah, I’m crazy, I know.

The only slight downside of our entire trip was the Econo Lodge we stayed at for two nights.  It wasn’t anything fancy, but I didn’t expect it to be, so I wasn’t disappointed that our room felt like a shoe box and looked 30 years old.  Yeah, I know, I’m livin’ large.  Next time though, Phil and I are going to upgrade our hotel and stay at one that is right by the stadium so we don’t have to deal with the rotten traffic after the game.  I think the extra 50 or so bucks a night that we’ll spend will be worth it.

The best thing all weekend besides watching the Braves beat the Astros was finding thinly sliced lamb at the Super H Mart.  It’s an Asian grocery store that Phil and I go to everytime we go to Atlanta.  We never thought we would ever find lamb like that in America after we left China, so you can imagine our surprise.  I think we may have done a dance of joy.  :)  It was fairly priced, too – $5.99 a pound.  We were so excited about our find that we bought about 6 meals worth and put it in a cooler to take home with us.

Okay, and now some pictures.


Odd picture, I know, but I really like it.  I think it would look really good in black and white for some reason. Welcome to Atlanta

Driving 75 mph made it a bit difficult to snap this picture.  The first one I took was even worse, though.  That one had a big, stupid speed limit sign smack dab in the center of the shot.

You are Here

There was nothing else to take a picture of at the rest stop, so I figured I would make use of my macro setting.

Mr. Baseball

I think they call this character Homer or something like that.  I’ve never walked on stilts.  I imagine that I would fall flat on my face if I tried.  I mean, I can barely walk down the hall in my bare feet without banging into the wall or door frame.  I’m such a klutz.


Hey, check it out, Bloo is an Atlanta Braves fan! Sweet!

American Flag

I must say, this is the biggest American flag I have ever seen.  I wonder how many shirts you could make out of it?

Houston Astros

I thought this was pretty funny.  The Astros were portrayed as British soldiers.  I guess they were doing this because it was 4th of July.

Chipper Jones

And here is Chipper Jones defending his country with his bat.

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Here we have the Chic-fil-a cow doing the chop.  How cute.

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Going to Atlanta

bya Gabrielle at 4:47 PM

Finally, a little vacation. I haven’t been anywhere really since I got back from China.

As long as the weather gods are nice to us, Phil and I should enjoy a lovely weekend.  First we are going to take in a long over due Atlanta Braves game.  I haven’t been to one since Mother’s Day 2005.  At least, I think that was the last time I was able to go.  Since the game is on July 4th, we will get treated to fireworks after the game.  I know it won’t even hold a flame to the fireworks I saw in Hangzhou, but I’m sure they will be pretty nonetheless.  You can click here if you want to see what I am talking about.  Even that video doesn’t do the display justice.  I wish those buildings hadn’t been in the way, though.

I really hope the Braves can pull off a win for me. They haven’t had the best season so far, so I am not going to hold my breath or anything.  There is still a chance that they could go on an impressive winning streak and take back their division.  That would be nice. Perhaps my presence will spark a season turn around or something.  :)

On Saturday, we are going to head over to Stone Mountain.  We are going to get the Adventure Pass for $25 bucks.  It will allow us to do just about everything that the park offers. I’ve been to Stone Mountain several times, but the only thing I can remember doing is taking the tram, climbing the mountain, and watching the laser light show. There is a lot more to do now, inculding this thing called Sky Hike.  It looks like a lot of fun.

On Sunday, we are going to China Town.  There are a lot of China shops in Columbia, but not like there is in Atlanta.  We’ll stock up on all the goodies we haven’t had in a long time, and then come back home.  I’m really excited.  This weekend should be fun.

I was looking through some of the videos of my past visits to Turner Field, and I found this one.  90 feet is a lot longer than it looks like on TV.  And yes, I was the only one over 10 participating.  :)

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