Mar 3 2024

Sand Key Park

1060 Gulf Boulevard
Clearwater, Florida 33767

… more pix and videos on Google Maps, Yelp n TA.

This 95 acre park is at the northern most part of the Sand Key barrier island, a short hop through Sand Key Bridge up to Clearwater Beach, and 21 miles west of Tampa airport TPA.

The parking at the park is $5 for the day. The amenity (list) includes outdoor showers @ Boardwalk #3, and #4 which is behind the bathroom and changing room.

I’m here for the 1.2 mile open water swim: it was fantastic!!! Our event has 167 swimmers. I car pooled with my friend. At 7am on this Saturday, the parking lot looks vacant. But by the time we leave, at 11am, there are still many parking spots. Not sure it has anything to do with the water temp hovering around 69°F.

Some swimmers say they saw dolphins. I see plenty pelicans, and a few other water birds: willets, Laughing Gull in breeding plumage, and American Oyster Catchers.



Mar 2 2024

Kamikaze & pelicans

This was taken at Sand Key Park at 8:07am. Reportedly, they do that dive before 9am when they’re hungry.

Watching pelicans thrusting their heads into water to catch their preys, always remind me of Japanese kamikaze – suicide bombers – in the WW II. The difference is, pelicans generally catch their prey, and the Japanese pilots – as human bombers, generally died.

Did middle eastern terrorists learn using humans as bombers from Japan?

  • NIH: terrorism-related attacks in E Asia from 1970
  • State Dept: country reports on terrorism in 2019
  • Justice Dept: psychology of terrorism
  • UNodc: Japan gather countries from Asia, …
  • Navy: terrorism in southeast Asia

Either, I didn’t ask a valid or clear question, or the Middle East didn’t learn from Japan.


Mar 2 2024

Clearwater, FL

The third leg of the Tampa Bay metro area: north of St. Petersburg, west of Tampa, on the Gulf of Mexico. The population is 117,292 (2020 census). It’s a part of Pinellas County.

The two major barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico are Sand Key (Sand Key Park)  and Clearwater Beach.

A few other islands

  • Caladesi Island
  • Egmont Key
  • Fort De Soto
  • Honeymoon Island
  • Shell Key
  • Anclote Keys
  • One Tree Island

… a restaurant

Mar 2 2024

Clearwater Beach

One of two major barrier islands of Clearwater, part of Tampa Bay metro area.

The narrow strip is highly developed like Disney. Saturated with hotels, many of them are 10+ story high; restaurants; shops; pirate boat rides, etc.

When we drove to Sand Key Park at 7am, the strip is quiet. But after done our 1.2 miles open water swim and award ceremony, at 11, it came alive, maneuvering out was a chord. We missed our turn to Sandbar on the beach, we decided to leave Clearwater Beach, and have our lunch at Hibachi, in Clearwater.

Feb 28 2024

Plaza Mexico Sun City

724 Cypress Village Blvd
Sun City Center, FL 33573

Probably will return.

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp.

Colorful light shades. Although it saturated the small space, with the high back chairs, but the foods are decent.

The freshly made guacamole by the table side, is bit salty but yummy. The chips are fresh. The rest is a blur -:) I only got a few photos.

They’re re-roofing or something, wires are everywhere.

Feb 23 2024

Beethoven @ Straz

TFO @ Straz

… more pix & videos on Yelp

The second piece is Beethoven’s 5th and last piano concerto: the Emperor. I’ve listened to this piece many times, and tonight it sounds beautiful as I know -:).

We’ve been to a few concerts that were conducted by Michael Francis (1975?-): a likable young man, with humors, a graduate of Cardiff University School of Music.

The pianist is Spanish Javier Perianes (1978-) who’s pretty short, who doesn’t have a list of impressive schools. I enjoyed his playing. When it was done, he returned quickly to give a Chopin encore, without much claps. While he was playing the Chopin, Francis stood at the side of the stage – I thought that’s a nice gesture.

At the beginning of the concert, of course someone would go to the stage and give a speech. Tonight it’s a chubby woman… who probably spent years climbing or paid handsomely to be in that position. She opened up by bragging that TFO Florida Orchestra is world class. But her presence really cheapens the evening. Mostly, she thanks the sponsors. I even saw Rick Steves (1955-), the travel guru’s name on the screen.

After conductor takes stage, people are still allowed to come in. The ushers are volunteers. I joked to one, “you should go to New York.” One of my tennis buddies Susan who’s a retired teacher, does the usher circuit, from MSG to baseballs … and gets paid in 3 digits even event.

The dinner at Oak & Ola is wonderful.

Feb 23 2024

Oak and Ola

1910 N Ola Ave
Tampa, FL 33602

… more pix n videos on Google Maps, Yelp & TA

Definitely will return.

We stopped here before the concert. It’s very similar with Ulele @ Armature Works: high ceiling, industrial, exposed brick walls, open kitchen; good service and pretty good food.

Location: by the water
Seatings: indoor and out
Food: very good
Service: very good, well trained

We went at 5 when they just opened. When we left at 7, it was packed. We stayed a bit longer bec it was raining, and our concert didn’t start till 8. We could have another toffee cake – it’s that good. But didn’t bec people are waiting.


– charred sour dough bread – good
– crab salad: wonderful
– meat charcuterie – fine
– special – fish amandine – good
– special mezzaluna pasta – great
– Spanish autopsy – yummy
– warm toffee cake – to die for
– chocolate tart – average

Our server said his name is MJ. A handsome kid, better looking than Michael Jordan … still love you Mike

We shared a bottle of Meleto BTL Chianti. Nice stems. They left the cork on the table – Should they put it on a small plate?
Big spoon for desserts
Ok I’m a dinosaur

They’re on RESY, may charge $25 for no show. No place for handbags.

Jan 6 2024

Beach Drive NE of St. Pete

Saint Petersburg, FL

… more pix on Google Maps

A nice little vibrant street/area along the Tampa Bay in St. Pete, north of Dali museum, Mahaffey theater and Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. We always have dinner here before Mahaffey Theater concerts. The street is saturated with eateries, bars, ice cream parlors, little shops, etc., plus their fine art museum. We haven’t ventured up beyond 4th Avenue, only because we were short of time – no matter how much time I thought we had, but ended up never have enough.

Dec 5 2023

Hales Blackbrick

Hello Irene What an abusive review.

4812 N Dale Mabry Hwy,
Tampa, FL 33614

… more pix on Google Maps, and Yelp; on going dispute.

I usually use the same review on my site and elsewhere. But this one will vary because Google Maps, for example, has 5,000 (?) work limitation. So this review here on my site will have more details, especially this is an ongoing matter, as of January 14, 2024.
Identifies as women-owned
Identifies as Latino-owned
Identifies as Asian-owned

We officially opened November 15th, 2022. During this time we will be opening for Dinner first Tuesday through Sunday; closed on Mondays. Once the staff is up to speed we will add lunch hours.
a year ago


I’ve been writing reviews on various sites for a few years, mostly on restaurants. This year is the first time (if I remember correctly) that I got restaurant owner/manager strong or angry rebuttals. Not one, but two. Hales is the second. Reading more reviews now, I found Hales is very vindictive and combative. To anyone who gave them a lower rating, such as 3 star out of five, they’ll say (usually by business manager Anthony J.) don’t come back: you however are not; you were not kind; we’re not the restaurants for you, etc. My initial rating was 3 but after their senseless and unreasonable rebuttal, I lower it to ONE…

By the way, Anthony J had changed his rebuttal a few times, from abusive to parasite … powerless wannabe to petty … Is this character assignation?

Below is my review.


My original 3 stars review:

Probably will return: one of better fusion restaurants in Florida, but the meat quality is subpar.

Location: off a busy road
Outdoor seatings: yes
Decor: funky, thoughtful, nostalgic, glasses dominant.
Tableware: simple and tasteful.
Stems: looking good
Fresh flowers: yes
Service: mostly to the point but some could use more training
Food: well presented, although bit too sweet
The bar dishes out cocktails rather non stop.

Chef Richard’s impressive mobile home parked in the lot, “our away home,” said his wife Jenny.

I made reservation on OpenTable. Upon entering, a male manager (?) and a couple of maître d’ – hostesses by the door to the left greeted us. The man also mentioned that Jenny, the wife of the chef will come to talk to us, before they led us to our table.

Wine. The diner has low ceiling, which made the glasses more prominent. With good stems I’d think the staff know what to do. Not our server. She came with a nearly empty Riesling. The manager chased her over to our table with an unopened bottle, and handed to her. I don’t know the circumstances of this act. When it was my turn, I ordered Joel Gott cab. Again she came with a bottle that’s nearly empty. She pours slowly, as if unsure what to do. She stops. Then pours more. Stops. Then empty the bottle… an amusing experience.

On the menu, the only Chinese charachers read 不是那么中国, which Google translates to ‘not so Chinese’. Motto, warning or an excuse? The food is mostly Chinese, a few with bewildering explanations. For example Tiger Shrimp, they listed:

    1. Chengdu Kung Pao
    2. Ginger
    3. Peanuts
    4. Lantern Chili

I’ve beef with ‘Chengdu Kung Pao’: just exactly what does it mean here?
Gongbao or Kung Pao chicken is a popular dish, named after one Sichuan imperial official whose job title was Gongbao, palace guardian. When I order a Gongbao chicken, although it varies from region to region and restaurant to restaurant, but it’s safe to bet that ingredients such as chili 🌶️ bell pepper 🫑, ginger onion 🧅 etc. are usually included. Here at Hales, ‘Chengdu Kung Pao’ that followed with specific ingredients, is redundant and sounds silly. … oh I forgot this is fusion.

For food, we have

  1. Spare ribs – so so
  2. Hawaiian Prime ribs – the worst: way too much fat. Pls serve decent meat
  3. Eggplant – wonderful
  4. Tiger Shrimp – tasty and succulent
  5. Mushrooms – wonderful
  6. Lamb chops – the decent parts of the dish is tender & yummy. For the money they charge, they need to put better meat on the table.
  7. Yangzhou fried rice – I won’t order it and didn’t try. My friends commented “it’s greasy”. Many dishes come with delicious white rice, more of Korean (stickier) than Cantonese (dry n hard)
  8. Chocolate cake for two – average, served with soup spoons
  9. Coffees: are lukewarm – a Cardinal sin!!

The better Cantonese restaurants serve their spare ribs tender and moist. Theirs is neither: looking unappetizing, dry and could use more cooking time. I like bones, so have no bone about the boneyness of it.

Lamb chop is well presented. After the meat is gone, I put a few grains of white rice to the bowl and mixed up with the remaining colorful vegetables. No need to frown, my beloved Nainai was fond of doing this, who was a great and creative chef, faithfully cooked for one – my grandfather Yeye. This is one way to keep my happy childhood time with her alive. He loved her, his last concubine, till the end. My memoir of her is nearly completed – in search of a book agent -:) or coming out on Amazon in 2024, tentatively titled Beijing Bathhouse Blues.

Jenny, the lady of the house came to chat with us briefly. Her husband Richard has the night off. On the big dessert spoon (the server said it’s a big cake – love her quick wit!) the wife said, she made a mental note of it. I think it’ll taste better with a smaller spoon.

I also asked her about the Peking duck which we didn’t order. She said … Long Island ducks (?); steamed thin wrapper; smoked, … and some cooked sides. The first two sound promising. But cooked sides?!? Cucumber and scallion are served raw to balance the duck. Oh well, maybe this is where the fusion comes in. I’m a dinosaur 🦖 🦕

Just so you know I’m on the hunt for a decent Peking duck. Do let me know if you know one, tia.

When the bill came, it was one – at least ask us if we’d like separate bills? Oh well.

Happy holidays to you all, be well and be merry.

Nov 29 2023

On Swann

Tampa, FL 33606
Hyde Park Village

Will return.

… more pix on Google Maps

Chic location. High ceiling, rustic decor. Good service with decent food.