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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Laughing Myself Awake

So, I have been very busy working on an iPhone project for a client which should be submitted in the near future. And I am also doing some consulting on the side for another client. Work has been pretty busy for me. I have a few blog posts that I’ve been meaning to write but just don’t have time to get to them yet, but anyway, here’s a quick one.

Have you laughed yourself awake before? I have. Sometimes, I have dreams that are so funny that I wake up laughing. This has only happened to me three times before (as far as I can remember) but it’s really fun when it happened.

The first dream that cracked me up so much that I woke up laughing was set in China’s Ching dynasty. To give a little bit of a background, in ancient China, emperors kept eunuchs (castrated men) in their palace as servants. The idea was that they would not touch the emperor’s women. So, young emperors and princes that are still kids also had eunuchs that are also kids as playmates.

China was at war with a neighboring country/tribe (probably not historically accurate, by the way) and the really young emperor (still a kid) decided to lead the troop himself. As he gave the command, the two armies charged at each other and engaged in an epic battle, while he and his playmate watched from the sideline. Then the emperor turned to his playmate (also a kid) and said “Xiao ____ Ze (very common nickname for eunuchs), you go too.”

And the kid hopped on a little donkey, let out a battle cry, and charged toward the battlefield in slow motion. That imagery was somehow so hilarious to me that I laughed myself awake.

That was a fantastic experience.

The second time I laughed myself awake also involved the Ching Dynasty. Why the Ching Dynasty is so funny to me is another blog post. I am just going to describe the dream. So I was on a busy street with shops, street vendors, and people going up and down the street. Then a horse and carriage pulled up to the curb. Yes, there was a parking meter too. The person driving it then handed his keys to a valet guy. (Why were there keys? Beats me.) And then the valet guy took the horse and carriage to the back lot and proceeded to try to parallel park. He failed at it, epically. And then he tried to make three-point turns and back into the spaces too. But he just couldn’t do it. I woke up laughing because that was so hilarious to watch.

The third time happened more recently. It took place in modern times (finally). I was either getting interviewed or surveyed by a person. She had a clipboard with a long list of questions. I don’t recollect what we were talking about, but she asked “How would Confucius’ teaching influence your decision?” Somehow the idea of dragging Confucius into this discussion really tickled me. I totally cracked up when the question was asked and then I woke up laughing. I laughed so hard that tears came into my eyes. That made me want to cry… for half a second, then the thoughts of the Confucius question took over and made me crack up again, and I repeated that a few times.

So, conclusion:
1) Laughing myself awake is awesome.
2) I am weird and have weird dreams.
3) Somehow ancient China is very funny to me. I don’t know why. (Actually, I kinda know why Ching dynasty is so funny to me. I’ll write about that later.)

Have you laughed yourself awake before? What was your favorite dream?

Channeling MacGyver

The other day, I smelled something weird after I drove. I opened up the hood, but it wasn’t from there. I walked and sniffed around the car (my Chinese zodiac sign is the dog, btw). The smell was stronger towards the back of the car, and I couldn’t tell whether it was on the left side or right side, so I got a flashlight and looked under the car. Yep, just as I suspected, something plastic-y was stuck to my exhaust pipe.

Since it was too far from the sides for me to reach in, I needed a tool. Since I didn’t really have a tool for this purpose, it was time to MacGyver it. For you people that didn’t watch American TV, MacGyver was this fictional (or was he?) secret agent that didn’t like using guns. Instead, he used his knowledge in physics to set up traps and distractions for enemies, and used his knowledge in chemistry to create or disarm bombs. He always improvised using whatever that was near him.

So, here was the tool that I put together!

Ok, fine. It was just a tripod. But hey, I felt kinda clever.

It was long and adjustable. The end of the legs had these rings that worked as grips. I was able to grab onto this white piece of packaging material and tear most of it down. So here’s the culprit:

And the final result:

Some of it was already melted onto the pipe but I was able to remove most of it (and most of the smell). The rest would probably melt away on its own.

Oh, and here’s an anecdote about MacGyver. Once my sister was taking a test and she noticed that some classmates were peeking at her answers. So she changed her answer to one of the questions to MacGyver. And obviously her classmates were too young (or too “cool”) to know who MacGyver was, so they just copied it down. Of course, she changed it back to the correct answer before turning in the test, but this still left the teacher wondering why so many people randomly put down “MacGyver” on a quiz.

Oh, also, I cracked up when I saw this, but when my sister watched the movie in class (you know, after AP tests), she was the only one laughing. Nobody else got the joke. Tsk tsk. Kids nowadays… They don’t know the classics.

A Happy Birthday

It was my birthday four weeks ago. And I am writing about it just now because I am a procrastinator. But that is actually quite fitting because I was also quite a procrastinator regarding my birthday.

When I was a kid, my dad would get go get a cake for my birthday and my family would eat it together. My birthday was during summer vacation so I’ve always associated celebrating it with family, rather than friends. As an adult, I never really felt like celebrating it all that much. After all, what’s there to celebrate? I didn’t actually do much to make it happen. It was all my parents efforts, aside from that I was born one day after my dad’s birthday and my parents’ theory was that I smelled my dad’s birthday cake and decided to come out.

So, I don’t really have the habit of celebrating it. Sure, sometimes I would take the day off but usually that was about it. It was just another day. However, every few years, I would decide to celebrate it on a whim. In 2006, I sent out an invitation asking people to “come by and have cake” just 22 hours beforehand. This year, I upgraded the event to “Play with puppets! Eat cake!” Look, a doubling of the planned activities! Wow! And I sent out the invitation three days in advance. That was triple the notice! Wow!

It was really more as an excuse to have a gathering because I wanted to see some friends, which I stated in the invitation and was true. I also said that I didn’t want presents but just friends’ presence, which was also true. Since my birthday was on a Tuesday this year, I also said I wouldn’t be drinking. I was never into drinking anyway. (But the side effect of that was that since I said no presents and not drinking, several of them decided to bring me non-alcoholic drinks so my fridge had a ridiculous amount of drinks afterwards.)

So in the beginning, we were just sitting there chatting. After a while, I decided that it was time to break out the puppets. So I brought them out and had a little bit of a show-and-tell. People asked questions about puppeteering and puppet-making and I showed them some of the fun stuff I learned. And then I said I wanted to see everyone to put on a puppet and start talking to one another, which everyone did and goofy conversations ensued. That kind of silliness was what I liked. I would rather have that than drunken debauchery any day. Then everybody decided to sing happy birthday to me with the puppets, which was pretty awesome. Then we had (coffee ice cream) cake.

It was a great night for me. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday. (Actually I probably could have asked for a better one, and not actually get it.) I would like to thank everyone (Rex, Rick, Crisman, Anisha, Beckie, Tru, Jarrett, Jerry, Raymond) for coming, and many others for wishing me a happy birthday on Facebook and on the phone.

In retrospect, everything actually turned out just right, number-wise. I had twelve puppets, twelve slices of cake and a not-so-big apartment. If there were too many people, the place would probably be too packed and I probably wouldn’t have the chance to really talk to everyone. If there were very few people, it would probably be a little sad. And the people that showed up were not casual acquaintances (not that I invited any) but some of my favorite people in the whole wide world. So yeah, it turned out pretty good. I am glad I did this. Who knows, maybe we’ll do it again in a few years. 😀

PS. No, don’t go wishing me happy birthday now cuz it was over long ago. I just wanted to write it down. That’s all.

I Eat Like a Left-hander…

If you give me a fork and a knife (and also food), I will eat like a left-hander, even though I am right-handed.

According to the fork etiquette, when you are using a knife and a fork to eat, you are to hold the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left. This is also how the utensils are set in formal settings. However, many left-handers opt to have the knife in their left hand and fork in their right because they find it easier to do the cutting with their dominant hand. This also happens to be the way I eat. It has a little bit to do with my upbringing, and the rest is just me being me.

See, I grew up in Taiwan so I was used to eating with chopsticks instead of forks. The only situation in which we would using two utensils at the same time was when we ate noodle soup. In that case, the right hand would hold the chopsticks, since I am only capable of operating the chopsticks using my dominant hand. And the remaining utensil, the spoon, would be delegated to the left hand. So here’s what we have:

Left = spoon; Right = chopsticks

So what did I do when I ate noodle soup in restaurants in the United States without chopsticks? I just replaced the chopsticks with a fork in my right hand. So we have:

Left = spoon; Right = fork

So, in the noodle soup situation, the fork goes in the right hand. Also, if I was just eating with just one utensil, I would simply use it with my dominant (right) hand. Moreover, the fork was sort of established as the replacement for chopsticks. It was then given the status as the main eating utensil, and it was the one that was more complicated and delicate to operate than the spoon. Therefore, fork was always in the right hand. So what would I do if a knife was added to the mix?

Since I was never formally taught the etiquette, I just did what was logical to me: since the fork was already in the right hand, the knife would go to the other side. So we got:

Left = knife; Right = fork

And that happened to be what was only done by left-handers. I got so used to it that when I tried to do it the “correct” way, it would feel really awkward to me. I got pretty used to cutting with my left hand that sometimes I would use my left hand when I am chopping vegetables on a cutting board, if there’s something in the way that makes cutting with the right hand inconvenient.

So am I ambidextrous? Not really. I can’t write with my left hand. It feels awkward and my aim is everywhere when I throw a ball using my left hand. However, I can sometimes bat left-handed in softball games, but that comes and goes. I can bat really well with my left hand one week and have a hard time hitting the ball the next week. It’s really inconsistent. The only other thing that my left hand does better than my right hand is cutting the fingernails on the right hand, but then again, duh.

But I guess a part of it is just me being me, coming up with weird ways to get things done.

Are you right- or left-handed?

Barked at a Dog Today

Today, I barked at a dog.

No, it’s not some kind of metaphor. I literally barked at a dog tonight.

I was driving back from work at night. When I was opening the gate to the parking garage of our apartment complex, I saw an animal. It was most likely a dog, but I wasn’t sure because it was dark.

“Is that a stray dog?” I thought. While stray dogs are quite commonly seen when I was growing up in Taiwan, I don’t really see those in Southern California. I parked the car and went to the entrance to see whether it was actually a dog.

Yep, it was. You know how I knew? Because it was barking and running towards me. I was walking away but then thought that would just make it chase me more. I decided to stop. It stopped too, hesitating.

I thought about my options. I could get into a staring contest with it until it got bored and walked away (maybe). Or I could try to open the door into the apartment complex that’s a few feet away, so if it decided to chase me, I could just lock it behind the door. I would have to move towards the door and use my key to unlock it first though, so it wasn’t the fastest option. This was when the dog barked again, pressing me to make up my mind, I guess.

So like any normal person, I decided to bark at the dog.

Now, I have a low-pitch voice, so when I bark, I sound more like a big dog than a small dog. Also, I’ve done college theater without microphones. I could go really loud if I really want to.

So I barked once. The dog got that “Oh shit, what’s going on?” look on its face.

It seemed a little intimidated, so I barked some more… this time, way louder.

And then it got really scared and hurriedly ran back out. 😀

What a useless dog! Oh, and it wasn’t a stray dog. It was wearing a collar but wasn’t on a leash. When it ran out, a woman with another dog on a leash walked by.

I asked her if that was her dog. She apologized. Before I walked away, I shouted to her, “I won!”

So that’s my story of beating a dog in a barking contest.

How to make Caesar salad

Every night, when it’s quiet, I think about how to provide more value to my readers. Sure, I talk about puppets, Power Rangers, and so on, but truth to be told, those things are not all that useful to most of you.

So, what should I do? And then it hit me. I’ve seen recipes on so many blogs, many of which not even food-related. These blogs can be about making money online, personal development, parenthood, or whatever, but they all have recipes from time to time. That’s why I decided that I got to put some recipes here too!

So here’s the first installation: how to make Caesar salad. And of course, I am going to take it up a notch and provide some information that you won’t see in other people’s recipes because I am such an awesome blogger.

Ingredients: romaine lettuce, croutons, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, egg, anchovy, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, eggplant, corn starch, uranium


1. Carefully clean each leaf of the romaine lettuce. Chop it up.

2. Peel the parmesan cheese, and then finely dice it. Then, use a buttering knife to crush it into a paste. Put this paste on the croutons.

3. Next, we make the dressing. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, egg (beaten, not stirred), Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper into two tea spoons of water. Stir until it has an even consistency.

4. Fillet the anchovy. Add it to the romaine lettuce and croutons. Put the dressing on it. Set it aside.

5. Next, put the eggplant, corn starch, and uranium into a baking pan. (You can buy uranium at your supermarket’s baking supply aisle. I buy the organic stuff from the farmer’s market.) Put this into the oven and bake it at 500 degrees for about an hour.

6. Open the oven. The chemicals released by the eggplant, corn starch and uranium should create significant energy vibration. This is called a tri-sprintec reaction and it will generate a black hole. This enables you to time travel. Take the salad you set aside and step into the black hole. (Caution: You want to be careful, as the oven might be hot.)

7. Make sure you step into the black hole at 23 miles per hour in the north-east-west direction. This brings you to Rome of year 50 BC.

8. Find Julius Caesar and give the salad to him.

And that’s all the steps it takes. You now know how to make Caesar salad (and bring it to him too). 😀

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