Thursday/ got my flu shot

I got my flu shot today.   The flu shots here in the USA this year protects against 3 strains of flu virus :

  • A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus (the same strain as was used for 2009 H1N1 monovalent vaccines);
  • A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus;
  • B/Brisbane 60/2008-like antigens.

I will also try to stay away from people that try to cough and sneeze on me! : )  – remember that the latest cough and sneeze ‘etiquette’ says to crook your arm and sneeze into your arm and shoulder, NOT into your hands !

Wednesday/ KLM to South Africa

I bought my ticket to go to South Africa in November today.   I will go from Seattle to Amsterdam and then to Cape Town.   The picture is of a KLM luggage label circa 1938.  There is a store in Hong Kong that sell these old labels from all over the world – for airlines, hotels, cruise lines.   I wanted to buy them all and ended up getting none! : (.

Tuesday/ melatonin

Here’s my current weapon to fight the jet lag : melatonin*.  On a previous trip I tried 3 mg which seemed to help very little, but the 5mg capsule seems to help a lot.  It’s a ‘natural’ drug – supposedly much the same as the hormone by the same name, secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, into the blood.   Some of my colleagues at work say the prescription drug Ambien is their knock-out drug of choice; it belongs to a class of medications called sedative-hypnotics and works by slowing activity in the brain to allow sleep.  Hmm.   Think I’ll stick to my melatonin for two more days and then I’ll be good to go.

*also known as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine.  Got that? : )

Monday/ the big-screen TV has landed

I bought a new TV at Best Buy on Saturday and it was delivered at 7.30am.  Part of the deal was a free pick-up for recycling of the 36″ 185lb Sony monster circa 2002, replaced by the Samsung 55″ 1080p / 120Hz / LED-LCD HDTV that is 1″ thick and weighs 55lbs.  I love the Touch of Color glass bezel and it’s amazing, all the connections that have been built in.    What did it cost?  Do I have to tell?  OK – I thought it was a steal at $1,800 .. a price that would have been three times as much just 5 years ago, and down from $2,200 just a few months ago.   Best Buy’s geek squad will come by on Wednesday to connect the cable company’s HD TV box .. all part of my strategy to get myself to spend more time in front of the TV to relax.   I think I watch all of 5 hrs of TV a week right now.

P.S. I see the new TV needs to move slightly to the left so that it is lined up with the window above it.

Sunday/ finger-print check in at fitness club

My gym took a minute today to take three scans of each of my thumbs so that I can check in with a fingerprint instead of my gym card in future.  They store the print as some mathematical formula and not the print itself, they assured me.  (Hmm).   In the same vein in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, there is an article about India launching a massive project to record fingerprints and retina scans of all its citizens.   The project aims to assign a unique 12-digit number to each of its 1.2 billion people and store them in a massive central database.   The identities will help the government to reduce corruption and waste in the distribution of food stamps and other payments.

The Indian government solicited help from Indian employees from Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Intel Corp. – either asking the companies to give the employees a sabbatical, or paid leave to contribute to the project.

Saturday/ raking leaves

It’s fall, and so they are falling – those leaves from the maple tree next door.  Rake them up!  I found the beautiful crimson rose* a few blocks from my house.    *Strange that the rose picture now makes me recall a phrase from some book (of a force or emotion so powerful that) ‘it makes horses rear, roses wilt, and the very stars cool in the dark’.  Whoah. : )

Friday/ National Day of the People’s Republic of China

The PRC’s National Day People’s Republic of China (simplified Chinese: 国庆节; traditional Chinese: 國慶節; pronounced guóqìng jié) was declared at three o’clock on October 1, 1949, in front of 300,000 people during a ceremony in Tian’anmen Square.  Chairman Mao declared the founding of the People’s Republic and waved the first five-star PRC flag.

In past times, the day was marked by large political gatherings and speeches, military parades, state banquets and the like.  But since 2000, as China’s economy developed, the national holiday lasts seven days and most workers are given time off to visit relatives and take time for traveling.    Indeed, all the China team members on our project have taken the 7 days off. And in the big cities there are 4th-of-July type fireworks displays as well !

Thursday/ in Seattle

I’m home!   The flights to San Francisco and to Seattle went fine.  It’s a perfect fall day with blue skies and golden sunlight in Seattle.  (72 °F is 22 °C; 52 °F is 11 °C).

The other picture is of Hong Kong International airport’s Terminal 1 entrance this morning.

Thursday/ at the Sky City

The driver arrived early yesterday, so I had to keep him waiting while I said good-bye to everyone.  ‘You cannot leave us now!’ said some, but I need the break from travel badly – as glamorous as the pictures make it look.    The first one is my traditional mainland China – Hong Kong border crossing picture.  The next one is a shopping mall close to the hotel.  I wanted some coffee after a scrumptious dinner of ginger carrot soup and eel with soy sauce on rice in the hotel restaurant.   The Find The Willem picture is from the same mall, below one of the escalators looking up.

My flight out to San Francisco is in a few hours.

Wednesday/ packing up

Today is my last day on site here in China for a while.   I’m taking a long-planned travel break from the project for two whole months.   So last night was spent packing up two big suitcases, and clearing out of the bedroom and bath room.  Someone else will stay in the place while I’m out.      I had to write up English instructions for him for using the washing machine, and I thought juxtaposing it with a future concept plane I found on the Airbus website would be fun.   The picture of the airplane shows what I feel like right now : take me home, big bird !

Tuesday/ Bangkok the world’s ‘best’ tourist city?

I was a little stunned to learn that Travel+Leisure magazine’s readers – 16,000 of them voted –  awarded the No. 1 ranking to Bangkok as the world’s best city (to travel to).    I do think their hospitality is top-notch.   And the temples are gorgeous, the airport is great and modern.   But for the rest – a somewhat run-down metropolis with high-rise buildings dotting it.    What about Paris in the spring?  Or Cape Town in April?    

The readers cast votes from December to March and the polling stopped a few days before civil disorder erupted in Bangkok that lasted 10 weeks and ended May 19 with nearly 90 dead and 1,400 hurt.   Picture – Bangkok Gov. Sukhumbhand Paribatra poses with World’s Best city award during a press conference in Bangkok earlier this year.

Monday .. again/ those ATMs

(This is a late post).   Boy.  Working Saturday and Sunday makes the real Monday feel like it’s the third one in a row.  I posted a similar ATM screen shot a few months ago, and this one is too cute to pass up.  PLEASE DO NOT USE THE ATM IF SOMEONE PEEP OR DISTURB, SUCH AS INQUIRY, PAT ON YOUR SHOULDER, COLLIDE, ETC.    In the vein of ATM bank cards : one of us here had his card swallowed by an ATM.   So the bank sent a replacement card to the address here which goes something like this :  Building 01 North of Nuclear Avenue, Room 201, Daya Bay, Guangdong Province, China.    As one can do these days my co-worker could track the card’s journey across the continents on Fedex’s website.  Finally it arrives in Shenzhen, and Fedex was scheduled to show up.  Turns out the delivery guy did, was in the building, could not find room 210 (the wrong room number was recorded), and left.   The next day the recipient went out with a car and MET him to make sure he got his hands on the card.  You will not believe what happened next.   When he tried to activate the card, he found that the bank issued one with a number identical to the cancelled number of the one swallowed by the ATM.  There was nothing they could do from across the water to remedy the situation.   They are now sending a second card.    Incompetence which maak jou slange vang (Afrikaans for ‘makes you so angry you feel like catching snakes’).


Sunday/ at work

It is Sunday and we are working.   Before they adopted the Western-style week, the Chinese originally used a ten-day cycle known as a 旬 xún in ordering their daily lives and activities.  Although the Christian week with the Sunday was not unknown (for instance, it was known from contact with the Jesuits in the 16th-18th centuries), the seven-day week as we know it first became widely familiar in the 19th century with the coming of traders and missionaries from Western powers.   It was finally officially adopted by the Chinese government in 1912, after the fall of the last Imperial dynasty.

Even with a 7-day week, there are still differences of interpretation : is Sunday the first day or the last day of the week? International operator that I am, I’ll go with the international standard ISO 8601 that stipulates Sunday to be the seventh and last day of the week.

The picture is a depiction of Máni, the personified moon, and his sister Sól, the personified sun, from Norse mythology (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.  [Source : Wikipedia]

Saturday/ back to work

Saturday night here, and yes – we worked all day,  and will tomorrow.   Cannot have two Chinese holidays as well as a weekend in a row.      Check out the new logo for P r i c e W a t e r h o u s e C o o p e r s – which takes tooo long to say and to write.   It’s now a revamped logo and brand simply called PwC (an abbreviation which has been in use for some time already by the clients we work with, and we ourselves).    The design is by Wolff Olins (see who also designed the logo for the successful 2012 London Olympics bid.    But is there anything new under the sun?   Does the new PwC logo not look like a 70s throwback, with those touchy-feely orangy and pink colors?

Friday/ returning from Bangkok

The hotel’s swimming pool is where we spent most of Friday.    I will spare my readers the sight of my lily white body getting a little sun!  .. and then it was time to check out and make for the airport.    The blue placard is from the Democrat Party.   Remember the red shirt protests in May?  Things have settled down but there was another peaceful march in the streets on Thursday and the country’s political state is very much unsettled, still.

The rest of the pictures are of billboards on the way to the airport.  The Shingha beer bottle lion is my favorite.   We flew on an Air-Asia plane like the one sitting on the tarmac across from ours.   The flight went smoothly without delays – a welcome difference from the flight in on Tuesday night.   On that flight one passenger held the plane’s departure up for almost two hours.    There was a mix-up with his baggage, he claimed.    The end result was that he stepped off of a plane full of very irate passengers.   Sir!  We do not know your problem.  But SIT down! yelled some passengers. Others came forward and complained to the captain and the flight attendants.   All while the flight attendant call button dinged repeatedly – another way passengers showed their discontent.

Thursday/ in Bangkok

Since we saw lots of temples and buddhas on Wednesday, we spent some time at the hotel’s swimming pool.    The first picture shows some of the Marriott hotel property on the left with the water taxi on the Chao Phraya river (Thai: แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา).   The Chao Praya is a major river in Thailand and it ends in the Gulf of Siam.

On the other side of the river we tuk (took) a tuk-tuk to downtown.  The picture is taken from the one we are on, and our tuk-tuk is similar to the green one with the poor mascot dangling from the rear bumper – see it?  (A roughish ride it is with limited side vision out from under the canopy!)

The evening show with traditional folk dancing and costume was put up right at the hotel later that night.   Another trip out on the water showed what the river and some city skylines look like at night.  Bangkok does not have a city center with clustered skyscrapers.  The tall buildings stand apart.

Wednesday/ in Bangkok

I am in Bangkok !  (Long Thai names and lots of pictures of buddhas and temples ahead.   I will post pictures of street scenes and more mundane items tomorrow).

The greater Bangkok has some 12 million of the 64 million people living in Thailand.   95% of Thais are Buddhists of the Theravada  tradition.   Buddhist temples in Thailand are characterized by tall golden stupas, and the Buddhist architecture of Thailand is similar to that in other Southeast Asian countries, particularly Cambodia  and Laos.

My co-worker Will and I hired a private tour guide to take us around to the temples.   The first series of pictures are from the former Wat Pho Buddhist temple – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  The full name is Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Ratchaworamahawihan  (Thai: วัดพระเชตุพนวิมลมังคลารามราชวรมหาวิหาร) and it is located in Phra Nakhon district directly adjacent to the Grand Palace.     The mother-of-pearl elephant is one of dozens of inlays in the Reclining Buddha’s feet.   All the other pictures up to the water bottle with the red and white lion on was taken in and around this temple.   It is hot and humid – we are only 14 degrees north of the equator, after all.

Next up was The Grand Palace (Thai: พระบรมมหาราชวัง, Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang).  It is a complex of buildings and has served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand from the 18th century onwards.  Construction of the Palace began in 1782, during the reign of King Rama I, when he moved the capital across the river from Thonburi  to Bangkok.  The Palace has been constantly expanded and many additional structures were added over time.

The pictures painted on the walls in this hallway have intricate detail of battle scenes with mythical creatures and gods.

Our final stop for the day was at Wat Trai Mit –  one of the most popular tourist destinations for Bangkok visitors because of the Golden Buddha statue.  It is 3 meters (9 ft) high and made out of 5500 kg pure, solid gold – it’s the biggest Buddha statue made out of gold in the whole world, and it is estimated that is more than 700 years old, created during the Sukothai period.

Tuesday/ the Mid-Autumn Festival starts

There was an inch or two of rain last night from the typhoon, but nothing the roads and streets couldn’t handle.

Today marks the start of this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival* – also known as the Moon Festival or in Chinese Zhongqiujie (traditional Chinese: 中秋節) or in Vietnamese  “Tết Trung Thu” ,  is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese people.  It dates back over 3,000 years to moon worship in China’s Shang Dynasty.  The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the four most important Chinese festivals.

*an odd name given that it’s the start of autumn

Mooncakes (not the same as moon pies) are Chinese bakery products traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival.  The festival is for lunar worship and moon watching and moon cakes are regarded as an indispensable delicacy on this occasion.   Mooncakes are offered between friends or on family gatherings while celebrating the festival.

Typical mooncakes are round or rectangular pastries, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 4-5 cm thick. A thick filling usually made from lotus seed paste is surrounded by a relatively thin (2-3 mm) crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs.   Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by Chinese tea.   [Information from Wikipedia].

I am off to Bangkok tonight on a red-eye flight .. one night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster! says the 1984 song sung by Murray Head.    So I will report back if that’s the case!

Monday/ what color is your bridge?

It looks like the typhoon will pass to the north of the coastline here, so we should be OK.  (If it can blow away some of the damp humid air and replace it will cool air that will be a welcome relief).

What color is your bridge*?   This bridge is close by and has the same colored lighting strips than the ones fitted to my apartment building.  All the pictures were taken in a total time of a minute or two.

*a word play on the famous manual for job-hunters and career-changers ‘What color is your parachute?’

Sunday/ tracking typhoon Fanapi

We are working today and next weekend to make up for the Chinese holiday Wed-Fri.   Here is another one .. typhoon Fanapi actually has made landfall in Taiwan.   ‘TV stations aired footage of branches being ripped from trees in Hualien and a lorry overturned while driving along an exposed stretch of road’ reports the BBC on its website. (I smile at the word lorry – perfect British English – but we call all of those trucks in the USA).

I posted a Google map that shows Daya Bay’s location (the red balloon)  .. for all intent and purposes* we are right next to Hong Kong.  *Such as – is the typhoon headed OUR WAY?

p.s.  The name of the new building in yesterday’s post is  Ocean Crown.

Severe Typhoon FANAPI
at 11:00 HKT 19 September 2010

( 23.3 N, 121.2 E,
about 730 km east of Hong Kong )