Friday, October 22, 2010

Happy Feast of Rékaré!

Rékaré is the strongest, most skilled, most loyal, and most loving god in the universe. May He always protect us!


Thursday, October 21, 2010


It's official. Mamurd has taken over the blogging duties for the family...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Never Forget Columbo Day!

RIMMER: You can scoff, Lister. That's nothing new. They laughed at
Galileo. They laughed at Edison. They laughed at Columbo.
LISTER: Who's Columbo?
RIMMER: The man with the dirty mac who discovered America.

- "Waiting for God," Red Dwarf

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Demise of the WAC

WAC, huh
Good God y'all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

WAC, whoa, Lord
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me
Did you know that the Western Athletic Conference will be down to six schools in a couple years? There's a distinct possibility that it may dissolve and disappear. Kinda sad, really, for a conference that's been around since 1958 and had 24 members (but not all at the same time).

The charter members were, of course, BYU, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The Arizona schools left in 1978 and the rest in 1999.

From six schools to eight to seven to eight to nine, where it held for twelve years, then to ten and to sixteen for three years, then to eight to nine to to ten to nine, and soon to eight and then six: Hawaii (since 1979), San Jose (since 1996), Lousiana Tech (2001), Idaho (2005), New Mexico State (2005), and Utah State (2005).

Maybe they should disband an all join the Big Sky Conference...

Friday, October 08, 2010

Beijing, part 20: Goodbye, China

Time to finish packing. Time to leave China. Time to go back to work.

We needed three more suitcases... Chunyu found a couple old suitcases for us to use. We got everything packed away.

On the way to the airport, we stopped briefly for Chunlin to get a haircut touch-up, for Chunyu to buy us some donkey sandwiches, and back home to get the couple things for Jason that we forgot. Onto the expressway and airport-bound.

Jason was waiting at the airport. Chunlin and I took the luggage in and got our boarding passes, then went back out to sit and drink tea with her brothers.

An hour before the departure time, we headed to the newstand then finally through customs and security to the gate with twenty minutes to spare. Too tight for me.

At the gate was a bus. An empty bus arrived and ours left full. We boarded the plane up the stairs in the sun. The airport was far enough outside Beijing that the air is not too smoggy.

x1 - Boarding the Plane

x2 - Chunlin at Capital Airport

x3 - Chunlin on the Plane

A couple more buses after ours. A few seats empty. The door closes ten or fifteen minutes late.

Wait wait wait in line to take off.

Finally in the air. Zai jian, Beijing. I spotted Pangu Plaza in the haze. Chunlin had the window seat. She spotted the Great Wall. Our seats were over th wing, so it was hard to see down.

The map function on the seatbacks wasn't functioning.

Still over China so it's six p.m. Still sunny on the northwest side of the plane. We closed the blinds because it was too hot, not because of the grumpy sleepers in the middle seats. It was still daytime! Wear an eye mask if you want darkness. I'd suggest earplugs, too...

The sunset turned into a sunrise, Venus disappeared into the haze, the clock changed to Tuesday and back to Monday, and then the San Juans were in sight. Back in the U.S. of A.

Coming in for a *yawn* landing.

x4 - Voyager at Sea-Tac

Home sweet home. It's kinda cold here...

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Beijing, part 19: Shopping, etc.

One morning, Chunyu, Yüfang, Chunlin, and I went to a pharmacy. Down Chaoyang Bei Lu all the way into town -- almost to the Third Ring Road.

Shelves and shelves of Chinese medicine.

The labels on the cupboards were helpfully in English, too.
u1 - Diserse

u2 - Birty Control
Almost English, that is.

The pharmacy had a scale. With shoes, etc., I weighed 207 lbs. My backpack that I'd been carrying every day weighed 13 lbs.

We next went to a clinic for Chunlin's shoulder and back problems. I hoped they could help, but I guessed they'd have the same efficacy as the chiropracter.

Red buckets hanging on the wall near the indoor fountain -- fire extinguishers?

Banners on the medical clinic's walls are the equivilant of certificates in frames in clinics back home. All I could read were the dates. The "0" zero has almost completely replaced the complex "ling" character (which means zero), even on these fancy banners -- completely replaced it on posters, etc. "Arabic" numerals have almost replaced Chinese numerals, in general. Chinese practacality -- use the simpler character that means the exact same thing.

w46 - Apple and Shannon

w47 - Jason Driving

w49 - Apple in the Car

A couple days later, Jason took us along with Shannon and Apple to the mega souvenir store for last-day purchases. First, though, we stopped at the shopping mall for mango smoothies and other desserts. This was in the embassy district. Tons of foreigners from all over the world.

w51 - Fountain at Sanlitun Mall

w52 - Run from the Fountain

w53 - Fountain Photographer

We bought an abacus for Dad, a dragon mask for me, stuffed animals on a string for Mom (and Chunlin's boss), a silk shirt for Christina.

w54 - Apple Dragon

Out of curiosity, I asked a tshirt vendor her price for an "I Climbed the Great Wall." 80 yuan, she said. I told her the asking price on the wall the previous day had been 40 yuan, but we had talked that vendor down to 20. This tshirt vendor quickly dropped her price to 15 yuan, but I wasn't really interested. I already had one! "Why you ask me price if you don't want?" "Sorry! Sorry!" Ah. Silly American.

w48 - Windows of Chaoyang

w50 - Sanlitun Framework

The next morning, our last day in China, Chunyu took us into Tongzhou (the satellite town near their home) to a big supermarket. We bought lots of candy.

Across the store, a fight broke out between a store clerk and a customer. The two women were grabbing at each other and throwing punches, screaming all the while. What was that about???

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Beijing, part 18: One Last Temple

From the middle of Beijing, we walked and took the subway north and west to the Lama Temple. The bus was too crowded. The temple was originally an imperial residence, but was converted to a Tibetan Buddhist lamasery in 1744.

w44 - Lions of Lama Temple

w34 - Incense at Yōnghé Gate
Lots of worshippers. 'Twas a Sunday, so the Buddhists were taking advantage of their day off work. I felt a bit self-conscious being a tourist while all these people were worshipping.

w39 - Lama Temple Incense

w37 - Lama Temple

The Lama Temple was actually a series of halls, each one bigger and more ornate than the previous.

w38 - Wànfú Pavilion through the Pines

The statues inside got bigger and more ornate, too. But you're not allowed to take pictures inside the halls (or burn incense inside, for that matter). The final statue is an 18-meter-high colossus of Buddha in the penultimate hall. Huge. Golden. Peaceful. Carved from a single tree? Perhaps.

w40 - Wànfú Pavilion Bridge

w42 - Lama Temple Roofs

An epilogue hall, then back through the incense-filled courtyards to the main gate.

I've posted more photos of Lama Temple on flickr.

And that was that for sightseeing in China. We stood by the 2nd Ring Road and got picked up by Chunyu. Time to go home.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Beijing, part 17: Let There Be Drums

At the heart of old Beijing rises the Drum Tower, from which drummers would beat out the times of the day (and occasional warnings).

w27 - Drum Tower

Chunyu dropped us off -- Yüfang, Steven, Chunlin, and I -- and up we climbed.

w7 - Up the Drum Tower Stairs

Red columns and beams similar to the Southeast Watchtower. Later Ming Dynasty.

w11 - Inside the Drum Tower

We had a half hour to wait till the 1:30 drum performance.

w10 - Chunlin and Mark at the Drum Tower

w19 - Laughing Steven

Views out over the hazy city. Visitors are only allowed on the south balcony -- into the sun, blech.

w15 - Steven on the Balcony

The tourists were gathering. No time for lunch.

w21 - The Show Begins

Boom boom bada boom! Impressive five-man drum show on the big drums.

w22 - Drummer Blur

w23 - Drum Tower Performance

Then we descended and headed next door to the east to the same restaurant as Monday evening. At 2 p.m. it was slightly easier to get a table. Hao chi baozi, pi jiu goes down smooth from a bowl.

w29 - Lunch Lunch Lunch

We said goodby to Yüfang and Steven. She took food to Chunyu, who was still at the car.

w30 - Bell Tower through the Trees
I took a brief look at the nearby Bell Tower, but didn't go inside.

More photos from our visit are on flickr, if you'd like to see them.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Beijing, part 16: Driving, etc.

t26 - Zhongguancun South Avenue
A typical Chinese city arterial street. Note the secondary lanes to the sides, primarily for bicycles, separated from the car lanes. Wide enough for cars, but you need to drive slowly. The street doesn't seem much wider than a typical American street, does it? If Seattle were serious about bicycles, we'd have avenues like this, instead of the stupid "sharrows" all over.

t28 - Five Seconds of Green Remaining!
Another feature on Chinese streets: the countdown clock. They tell you how many seconds are remaining for the signal, whether it's red, green, or an arrow. In Seattle, we have countdown clocks on the pedestrian crossing signals, which I sometimes look at while driving to know how much is left in my green light. Wouldn't it be simpler to have it overhead? It's helpful to drivers so they know when they're not going to make a green or to minimize their impatience while waiting at a red.

t30 - Third Ring Road at Night
Expressways are always fun, if they're flowing...

t31 - Zooming down the Expressway
The blue streaks overhead are actually green arrows. The expressways (toll required, so not freeways) in Beijing are all very controlled. Variable speed limits, arrows for merging around blocking -- similar to what WSDOT installed in south Seattle on I-5 this year. But Beijing also has large signs that are maps of the near section of the expressway system, with red, yellow, and green lights showing where backups are. The closest we have in Seattle are a few "this way is 11 minutes, this way is 15 minutes" signs that don't really help you if you're not going to downtown Seattle or downtown Bellevue.

The Jingcheng Expressway north out of town, like many Chinese expressways, had different speed limits (maxima and minima) for different lanes.
v2 - Jingcheng Expressway in Běijīng
Didn't we try that in the US and decide it didn't work?

Along with large signs saying "no overheight loads" (cartoon giraffe in a truck), "no overweight loads" (cartoon elephant in a truck), "no drunk driving" (various alcohol bottles and glasses), Beijing also had entertaining "no littering" signs.
v13 - No Littering!

Also this "Don't Use Neutral on the Downhill" sign...
v94 - No Neutral on the Downhill!

v18 - E.T.C., Not Etc.
I saw these signs along the expressway, when approaching tollbooths. At first, I assumed they meant "etc." for "all other vehicles," but that didn't really make sense. The ETC lanes didn't have to stop, and why would the Chinese abbreviate in Latin? And then we figured out that it stood for "Electronic Transmitter C-doohickey," or whatever. Electronic tolling like WSDOT's Good-to-Go program where you put a transmitter in your car, linked to a prepaid account.

Chunyu's car had a built-in GPS.
t32 - Go Straight

It worked swell most of the time, but when we drove out to the Great Wall on the new Jingcheng Expressway, it failed.
v14 - On an Invisible Bridge
The GPS told Chunyu to exit the expressway and get on the old highway, but I convinced him not to exit. Soon we were wandering across the countryside, flying over rivers and through mountains, nary a road in sight (on the map, at least), while the GPS tried to recalculate...

Oh well. At least it played DVDs.
v1 - DVDs While Driving
A DVD player in the front seat of the car is a delightfully dangerous distraction. Kung fu!

I wasn't entirely comfortable with Chunyu watching the movie while driving. Drift in the lane, drift slower and slower, speed up again. Eyes on the road, please.

On Sunday morning, 'twas an empty city. Our whole family piled into the car, going down the relatively empty road.

A donkey pulling a cart down the boulevard...

Chunyu wasn't quite sure how to get to the Drum Tower, so he turned left down an alley shortcut to the expressway and we wound up three miles off-course -- in the middle of a traffic jam. Nice. How come Chaoyang Road was so clear? How come he didn't know it went straight into town? When we finally got near the Drum Tower, traffic was so slow that pedestrians passed us. The heart of Beijing is made for bicycles and pedestrians, not automobiles.

On Chaoyang Road, dozens and dozens of apartment skyscrapers were under construction, vacant. Three-story worker shelters cowered nearby. Who will live in this new city? A half million new residents -- from older parts of Beijing? From the provinces? And they'll be served by two or three new subway stops on the 6 line (under construction -- Coming 2011!).
s61 - Going Up!

No city's subway is as complex as New York's, I'd say. Big? Yes. Busy? Yes. Complex? No. Beijing and Shanghai both need a lot more crisscrossing lines to get to New York's level. Beijing is trying to have New York's subway system overlayed with Los Angeles's expressway system, but they're not there yet. Right now, they have Houston's expressway system with ten times the traffic. A car town desperately trying to catch up.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Beijing, part 15: Family Meals and Foot Massages

We met Jason's daughter of many names. Apple is her chosen English name, so that's how I know her.

q57 - Apple and Chunlin
She's a singer, dancer, model, voice actress -- eight or nine years old.

q59 - Apple
Apple is a precocious one. Kindergarden English level. He has trouble with the Fs in "five" and "fifteen," but has no problem with "four."

Chunlin described Jason's apartment as an old house, since it was built before she moved away in 1988. This is the view out his window.
q56 - View from Jason's Apartment

One morning, we went into town with Chunyu and jia ren (family). We dropped off Steven at school. They had extra security measures because of a rash and scare of child killings in Beijing recently.
s1 - Taking Steve to School

s2 - Steve Going to School

Chunyu then dropped us and Fuyang at Sihui Dong Station (the end of line 1) to join the crazy crush of rush-hour subway traffic. We waited for the next train to get a seat, but what's the point? We only stayed on the train for two stops anyway.

A couple days later, Chunyu and his wife Yufang gave us a prepaid card for foot massages at a nearby shop operated by blind men. Felt good. Our sore feet were not so sore anymore.
s62 - Mark Getting a Foot Bath - Ch

s64 - Chunlin's Foot Bath

Sitting with my feet
In a bucket of tea
In a room painted pink
With my wife next to me

Afterwards, we returned home for dinner with the family. I played with Steve and his toys (legos, matchbox cars, toy guns, etc.). He called me "Gu Fu" which means "uncle on father's side, but not one of his brothers," or something like that. In any case, he didn't really pronounce the last vowel, so it sounded more like "Goof"! I am the big goof. Wa shi da gufu.
t33 - Smiling Steven

Chunyu's cats aren't much fun to play with. Careful or they'll scratch you, he said.
r1 - Li Cats

I fell asleep watching the Adventures of Monkey and Pig (or whatever it's called) while the others chatted.

The next morning, no rush. I was fairly medieval-architectured out. Not much besides that to see in Beijing. Chunlin and I went out to the street to buy breakfast -- soup in a bag, ubiquitous fried dough, and cooked-on-the-spot pancake-egg-chive-hot-sauce wrap of some sort -- very tasty. The soup was too smoky for me. It tasted like burnt campfire pancakes.

Chunlin watched Chinese Dateline CCTV, or something like that. 9 a.m. What to do today? How about a massage?
Lying on a bed
With a hole for my head
Me and the one I wed
Blind men rub us red

After touring, we met with Jason and his girlfriend Shannon for a fancy dinner in the Haidian District. Chunlin and I were a half hour late, but Shannon was over an hour later than us. We started without her. She didn't eat much of what we saved for her, anyway. Chunyu and Steve picked us up and took us back home to Tongzhou.

The next evening, Chunlin had another foot massage while I played Grand Theft Auto with maniac Steve. Knowing English is very helpful for remembering the cheat codes. Dinner again at home with Chunyu's family.

The following evening, however, we all went out for a big meal. Finally, we had everyone together (well, except Shannon). It was supposedly a fancy restaurant (Jin Bai Wan, the same chain as our first lunch in Beijing) but this particular restaurant had the atmosphere of a noisy Denny's or McDonald's. The Peking Duck was very good and the presentation on the plates was quite nice, but it seemed a bit of a waste.

v98 - With a Cherry on Top

v99 - Dessert Potatoes?
No matter how good the food was, it's not a fancy restaurant when there's a plastic number placard on the table. Table 62 will never be as fancy as room 35 -- like the restaurants in Shanghai and Nanjing we had big meals at. Best for first.

We then returned home all together, except for Chunlin and Yufang, who stopped off for foot massages. Cousins Apple and Steven played together nicely. Thanks to China's one-child policy, apparently now the words for "brother" and "sister" are used for first cousins.

The next morning, we get another relaxingly slow start. Chunlin had another massage and got a haircut, to boot. Meanwhile I watched Chicken Little in Chinese. Chunlin can't get enough of the cheap massages.

And that's how our days in Beijing went, around all the sight-seeing.
La la la, la lune est là
Lune est là, yuè liàng
La la la, la lune est là
Moi shì loony!