Tuesday/ King Ottokar’s Scepter

Here is my collection of ‘King Ottokar’s Sceptre’ Tintin books  with the addition of the Chinese language version (came out only in 2007).

Recognize the languages?  Clockwise : German, Slovak, Chinese and Afrikaans.  So where is the English one?  I made a mistake up on my last trip to South Africa and bought a second Afrikaans one (Tintin books are generally not sold in book stores in the USA, so I will order one from Amazon).

So .. is this just for the novelty, or am I serious to learn some written Chinese?  Let me get back to you on that.   It’s just so hard to figure out a written phrase because I cannot reproduce the characters easily.   I have to tease out the meaning of the Chinese characters from the English side.  What I have so far on the title panel of the book (never mind the 62 pages of cartoon strips with text inside! oof), is  :

王  wáng king or monarch / best or strongest of its type / grand / great (interestingly this is also used for the ubiquitous surname Wang in Chinese)

The last two characters 權  +  杖 = quán authority / power / right / temporary +  zhang crutches / crutch / walking stick,  together makes for ‘scepter’

Monday/ breakfast in America

Yes, I had to do a ‘breakfast in America’ post after the ‘breakfast in China’.   This is a bowl of All Bran Corn Flakes with granola, raisins and strawberry, with vanilla soy milk.  (Soy milk so that I can eat a little yogurt and get a latte from Starbucks later in the morning without getting a complete diary overdose).   Usually I put banana in my cereal but the grocery store ran out of the regular ones.  So I grabbed some red bananas from Ecuador, without knowing what they taste like.   These ones are evidently not ripe yet.  I only read on-line afterwards that the skin becomes bright red and the flesh soft and sweet.   Sounds good! so I will see if they ripen up in the next few days.

Saturday/ US Census 2010

Just sorting through my mail (mostly junk mail, of course).   I had to fill out my census form and send it in.  Time to stand up and be counted!  Ten simple questions and they do require name, age and birthday.  One would think one’s age can be determined by one’s birthday, but anyway.  And Question 10 made me pause : ‘Does Person 1 sometimes live or stay somewhere else?‘.   Hmm.   I said ‘no’ because I am in fact never away for more than 3 or 4 weeks at a time.

The census, mandated by the Constitution, helps determine how more than $400 billion in federal funds for things like public housing, highways and schools are distributed to state and local governments.  States have a big incentive to get the count right: Each uncounted person means a loss of about $1,400.   The recession and joblessness will make the counting harder.  One out of eight housing units is vacant nationwide.  The rate in Washington state is about one in 20.

Friday

Here is my house’s spring look : new seeding and top soil for the front lawn, Camellia shrub on the right corner gone, as are the poor shrubs in front of the house that withered from neglect from its globe-trotting owner.   I’m going to give it another try with new shrubs (that I still have to go pick out).

Thursday/ home

I’m home! Oos wes tuis bes. East, west, home best.  It was sunny today but not warm :  3 °C/ 38 °F !   The picture below is from the long hallway in San Francisco airport on the way to clearing customs.  I just liked the way all the lines converged into the middle of my view.

Thursday/ at SFO airport

Hey, it’s the same time I left Hong Kong, but here I am in San Francisco.     I got an upgrade to first class, so I sat in the lap of luxury.  I watched two movies and had two really nice meals.    I didn’t sleep much but I will catch up at home.    The security alert level here at the SFO airport is Red (High), and we all got patted down at Hong Kong airport.   I haven’t run into the new controversial body-scanners yet, though.   Or maybe I have and I didn’t know it !

Thursday/ on the way

I am at the Marriott Sky City hotel at the Hong Kong airport; heading out in an hour or so.

Pictures from the top down  – Did I say Mission Impossible?  ‘Impossible is Nothing’,  says Adidas on a billboard for the big soccer event coming up; train arriving at Tsing Yi train station (see it?) – I went out for a bit on the train (there is a stop close to the hotel); in China they name panda bears Ling Ling and pianists Lang Lang (just kidding – but Lang Lang is very popular and known for the flamboyance of both his playing and his personal manner); relaxing in the hotel room.   The hotel is very nice!

Wednesday/ almost Thursday

The little Coolmate packet of pep-up-your-energy is to prevent and relieve – no, not heaviness – heatiness ! And there is going to be a lot of heatiness around here in summer, so I guess I’m prepared !   But first I’m getting out of what sometimes feels like Mission Impossible here, to go home tomorrow.  The other picture is from my walk-about last night, a neon ship in front of a new-ish hotel (built in 2000) on the waterfront close by : the Air Land hotel.   I live in the Ocean Spirit Land apartments.

Tuesday/ the Marie biscuit

I decided to remove my remarks on Monday’s post re: the Eugene Terreblance murder.   I sometimes write things and then look at it the next day and think :  it didn’t come out the way I intended it to.

The Marie biscuit was created by an English bakery Peek Freans in London in 1874 to commemorate the marriage of the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia to the Duke of Edinburgh. It became popular throughout Europe, particularly in Spain where, following the Spanish Civil War, the biscuit became a symbol of Spain’s economic recovery after bakeries produced mass quantities to consume a surplus of wheat.

A Marie biscuit is a sweet round biscuit made with wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil and, unlike the Rich Tea biscuit, vanilla flavoring.  The has its name engraved into its top surface. The edges of the top surface are also engraved with an intricate design.  While the Rich Tea biscuit is the most popular version of this biscuit in the United Kingdom, it is the Marie version that is most popular in most other countries, particularly Australia, India, South Africa, and Spain.  [And at least somewhat popular in China, since I found this version of it. It’s quite good.] Like the Rich Tea biscuit, many consider the Marie’s plain flavor to make it particularly suitable for dunking in tea.  [This is how I ate Marie biscuits.  Two at a time is better, then the wet biscuits don’t break so easily! ]. Other popular methods of consuming the biscuit includes using two to make a sandwich with butter and Marmite or condensed milk spread in between, covering it with golden syrup, and crumbling it up in custard and jelly.   [I haven’t tried all of these decadent variations!  Sounds like American ‘smores made with Graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate]. Marie biscuits are frequently served to children.   Babies may be served the biscuits softened in milk as their first solid food.   Marie biscuits are also a common ingredient in home baking recipes.

Main source for Marie biscuit research – Wikipedia;  other source – my memories of Marie biscuits : )

Monday/ Tomb Sweeping Day

We made it back to Dameisha this morning.  I have come to regret leaving Hong Kong at the end of each visit there – but that’s good, right?  It means I will look forward to go back.     I cleaned the apartment and prepared for work tomorrow.  It is Tomb Sweeping Day in China, more information from Wikipedia below.  I looked in the stores here but did not see any joss paper for sale,  so the picture from Wikipedia will have to do.  (It’s also known as ghost money, sheets of paper that are burned on days like today as a gift to those in the afterlife, or at traditional Chinese funerals.

[Source : Wikipedia] The Qingming Festival (清明節), Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day is a traditional Chinese festival usually occurring around April 5.   The name Qingming denotes a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime (踏青 Tàqīng, “treading on the greenery”) and tend to the graves of departed ones.   Qingming has been regularly observed as a statutory public holiday in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau – but its observance was only reinstated as a public holiday in mainland China in 2008, after having been previously suppressed by the ruling Communist Party in 1949.

Sunday in Hong Kong

Saturday night we had dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse.  The restaurant is on the 4th floor of the Sheraton in the Tsim Tsa Tsui district in Kowloon.   The dinner was very very expensive, but oh so good.   I had beef fillet and asparagus and we shared a crème brûlée for dessert.    We could also check out the nightly 8pm laser show from the Hong Kong Island buildings (picture).    I have no idea how they synchronize the laser beams from three different buildings.  Sogo in the foreground is a very nice Japan-based department store.

Next pictures : tiger lily (I think) from Flower Market Street; green parrot or parakeet working its charms with the on-lookers at the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden; entrance to the Hong Kong Museum of Art; painted gray pottery horse from the Han dynasty 206 BC; reflection picture inside the museum; larger-than-life dolls in a store in the Woodlands designer boutique mall in Tsim Tsa Tsui district; scene inside the Mass Transit Railway system – lots of people, internet users can use Google unfiltered in Hong Kong, and a family tending their toddler; electronic bill-board for new Sony-Ericsson phone with 8 Mp camera.

Tomorrow is a holiday, so we will just head back to Dameisha in the morning and prepare for Tuesday’s work sessions. Then there’s Wednesday, and Thursday I get to go home.   It feels like a very long time since I’ve been home !

Saturday/ Happy Easter

I hope everyone is having a great Easter weekend.   We’re in Hong Kong and I’m running out to join my two mates from work to go out.  I suspect ‘Please pay the fair accounting to the meter’ should have been ‘Please pay the fare according to the meter’.   The other two pictures :  Easter eggs decorated by kids from the hotel restaurant, some goodies from a Hong Kong 7-11.

Friday

So I was the April fool last night, discovering at my apartment door I lost the key somehow.   The duplicate key is in Texas USA, David that has the apartment manager’s phone number was on an airplane to Shanghai, and I cannot speak Chinese .. those all dawned on me as I explored my options.   Then I recalled something fell out of my pocket on the bus in the morning; I was half asleep and didn’t pay attention to it.    And luckily our bus-driver could still be reached since the late bus was on his way back to the office.  I take the early bus in and the early bus back.  We are not allowed to take the late bus in and the early bus back!  (Well we are, but we shouldn’t do it as a rule).

In the meantime I walked down to the world’s most famous/infamous fast food franchise for a grilled chicken sandwich.  The sandwich, ten chicken nuggets, a cup of corn and an orange juice went for ¥41 (about US$7).  That is expensive by Chinese standards : our dinner the previous night with shared vegetables, two meat dishes and rice with a beer each was about the same.   The first picture is of the side panel of the sandwich box.   I would love to know what the chicken says (eat me?) but it’s too hard to put the characters into my translator.

Monday is a national Chinese holiday, and we don’t have to come to work, so I’m going to my favorite Asian city (Hong Kong, of course) to show my former roommates around Kowloon a little.

Thursday/ April Fool’s Day

The little bite-size sweet bread desserts – only unglazed ones were left on the plate by the time I realized I wanted a picture! – are from last night’s dinner, and were delicious.   Nick, our American colleague that speaks fluent Chinese (!, how did you learn the language? we ask him), ordered them for us.   I will get the Chinese name for them.    The next picture is from inside the elevator in the apartment building  – a bank advertisement  : dreaming of a house, an education, a car?  I am very lucky since I have all three.   I can now dream of different things.   The final picture I snapped this morning while waiting for the bus.    A very typical foggy morning .. maybe it will go away as we move toward summer.

P.S.  Our Chinese colleagues were wise to the notion of April Fool’s Day when we warned them about it .. there is even a Chinese word for it : yúrénjié 愚人节  foolish man holiday

Wednesday/ connect the dots

I always feel that if I can just survive Wednesday, the work week dragon is slain.   The current phase in our project – high-level blueprinting – is drawing to a close.    So we have the rooms in the SAP house, and the basement and the roof.    Up next is the detail blueprinting :  filling in the positions of the furniture, the fixtures and the floor layouts.     For example : we know what kinds of work will be done with a work order, but we have to design the layout of the printed work order, its codes, its possible statuses (and there are many!  more than 20) and if the standard SAP screen fields need to be tweaked.

The friendly dragon is from Max and Mei’s Activity Book.  Don’t laugh – if it can teach Chinese kids to count, it can teach me too!     Hint : Double click on the picture to enlarge it and look for the characters for 1, 2 and 3.   Those are easy to spot.  Then follow the dragon’s outline from there to get all the others to 20 as well !   And is there a symbol for zero in Chinese? Yes, but it is a 13-stroke character 零.

Tuesday/ breakfast in China

Many, many Chinese eat rice at every meal, and for breakfast it could be a slurry of ground- up rice.     But I – growing up on Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, South African Pronutro and my all-time favorite :  when mom made Maizena with cinnamon sugar for a special treat-  I still want my cereal for breakfast.   The box of  Cheerios in the picture, made by the giant food corporation General Mills in the USA, is interestingly marketed by arch-rival Nestlé in China.   The explanation is that General Mills operates internationally mainly through joint ventures.

And those three Chinese characters on the Nestlé box?  Let ‘s see :

脆 is crisp, 谷 is grain or corn and 乐 is .. wait for it! .. happy! yes!  Cheerios are crispy and makes me happy in the morning.   I will try the muesli from Switzerland tomorrow, and the local product Goldroast ‘instant nutritious cereal’ when I have run out of the other stuff.

Finally, it’s a little obscure, the connection, but the ‘Breakfast in China’ title of today’s post reminds me of the song from Supertramp’s ‘Breakfast in America’ (1979).  I can hear the song in my head now!  Take a look at my girlfriend/ she’s the only one I got/ not much of a girlfriend/ never seem to get a lot/ take a Jumbo, across the water/ like to see America/ see the girls in California/ I’m hoping it’s going to come true/ but there’s not a lot I can do/ could we have kippers for breakfast/ mummy dear, mummy dear/ they got to have ’em in Texas/’cos everyone’s a millionaire ..

Monday/ apartment pictures

The first picture is of the apartment’s Chinese Whirlpool washing machine.  (I used the picture to get a translation from my Chinese colleagues at work).   The toggle button on the left with the three little elliptical indicators is for the size of the load, small medium or large.   The button on the right translates into classic washing terms as follows,  clockwise : water only = rinse only , wash/ purge/ clean = wash cycleremove soap = rinse cycle and to shrink the water = spin cycle!   Then there’s the >|| Start/ Resume button which needs no translation.

The next picture shows the middle of the three levels (see the way my shirt and shorts match the sofa’s colors? a coincidence, I assure you); the bedroom and bathroom is behind me, and the small kitchen and dining room is a level below by the front door.

The final picture is of the courtyard.  Lot of green with twittering birds in the morning when I cross it to get out the gate where the bus picks us up.   The swimming pool (blue in the picture) is still dry.  Maybe they will fill it up for summer.    The ugly tower from the Dameisha beach is just visible over the rooftops on the left.

Sunday night

So .. did everyone turn off a few lights for Earth Hour 2010 (picture taken in the HK subway)?  I did, in my hotel room in Hong Kong : ).

I see Samoa and New Zealand is playing in the final of the Hong Kong Sevens tournament.  Below is a picture from the Sunday Morning Post in HK – it was evident already England wouldn’t make it, but the group of fans seemed to have enjoyed themselves nonetheless.   These guys all dressed up as Stu from the movie The Hangover – yes, those are not real babies strapped onto them ! .. Stu wakes up with a baby in the room, and I think there is a tiger in the living room.  I still have to see the movie.   This morning at breakfast in the hotel there was another group of guys dressed as Captain Kirk from Star Trek (or so I thought!  and I couldn’t quite place where the British accent they had was from).

Saturday/ trip to Lamma Island

Lamma Island (traditional Chinese: 南丫島) is the third largest island in Hong Kong and part of the Islands District, Hong Kong.   It is southwest of Hong Kong Island, only 13.5 sq km (5 sq miles) with an estimated population of 6,000.   Lamma is, in contrast to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon!, peaceful and tranquil, with relatively natural scenery. Buildings higher than three storeys are prohibited and there are no automobiles, but diminutive fire trucks and ambulances, as well as distinctive open-back vehicles to transport construction materials. The community’s only transport means is by foot or bicycle. Lamma provides an alternative to the hectic life in the city. Property and rents are cheap compared with those of central Hong Kong.

We arrived at the north-end with a chartered boat, and walked down the orange trail on the second picture (an hour and thirty minutes) to the Rainbow Seafood Restaurant.    The seafood part of our lunch was fished out of the tanks; we also had noodles and beer and all in all it made a nice meal.   I did not try the sea snails with garlice and crab.

The pictures :  Lamma Island is marked with A; the orange trail is nicely paved and can even accommodate families with strollers, and it goes through the villages and through natural vegetation ;  Hung Shing Yeh beach; South African perlemoen (abalone) on offer at a restaurant; view from the trail as we approach Sok Kwu Wan village with its seafood restaurants where we had lunch at the Rainbow Seafood restaurant;  stylish Chinese gazebo at the lookout point; the Jumbo floating seafood restaurant in the Aberdeen side of Hong Kong harbor, delivering its guests by boat.

Friday

Since it’s Friday I have to post a happy picture, right?   This Häagen-Dazs® ice cream store in Macau offered Fruity Happy3 and Chocolate Happy3 flavors (I’m not sure what the 3 is for).     I’m just happy that it is Friday.   We get to go home early so that we can avoid the crush of weekend traffic back to Shenzhen.   And we put enough hours in from Monday through Thursday.    I still have to completely settle into my apartment and try my hand at using the washing machine for the first time.   My internet connection is now working but it’s very annoying not to be able to access  sites such as Facebook and even my own blog!   I get around it by turning on the VPN (Virtual Private Network) software on my company computer.   That way the internet servers here thinks I am logging in from the USA.