Tuesday/ new watch

Like my new watch?  It’s a belated Christmas present to myself.  It’s a Seiko 4R15 Stainless Steel 200m Self Automatic Diver watch.  (No, I’m not going to dive to 200m with it).  It is very heavy, and it may be too big for my wrist (is it?) – well, doesn’t matter.  I love the 3 6 9 12 numbers on it that shines in the dark, and the black and silver.

Monday/ shopping

The stout-hearted* little fellow in Pacific Place Mall is advertising the Nutcracker ballet that is in town.   I bought a shirt at Nordstrom and was shocked to pay $9 for parking in the garage downstairs (that should teach me not to spend 2 hrs at the mall !).    The parking garage is in trouble financially, since its use fell by 18% over the last 5 years.   So : will hiking parking prices help?  A tough call.

*Google’s translation of the Afrikaans word kordaat which I struggled to translate to English

The other picture is from Broadway’s new Panera Bread next to the Seattle Community College (I recommend their turkey and artichoke panini sandwich).   I bought some Sumi ink, brushes and paper at the Blick art store next to it – to try my hand at brush-writing in traditional Chinese.   Of course I will have to report how that goes.

Sunday/ 这是从ATM假注

I finally got all my ‘paperwork’ processed – the pile of mail, receipts from my trips and collectible little items such as stamps and currency notes.  The little ‘charm’ stamps were handed out in Hong Kong at the 7-11s when big purchases were made (big being relative : more than US$10).   The other two pictures are close-up inspections of my R200 (US$30) South African notes.  In May of this year all pre-2005 notes were recalled by the South African Reserve Bank due to concerns with counterfeit notes in circulation.  It’s actually a problem in China as well – and as we tell each other at work there : what to do if the ATM spits out fake notes?  1.  You have to recognize them as fake, 2. The bank is probably CLOSED and 3.  Better learn to say  这是从ATM假注 Eng. This is fake note from ATM : (

Saturday/ Capitol Hill walk

It’s Christmas Day, but that doesn’t mean we all have to stay inside, right?  The streets were very quiet, but I still got some worthwhile pictures on my Capitol Hill walk.

1.  As far as I can tell the car is a Pontiac Silver Streak from 1948 or so;  2. The T-Rex is terrifying the humans, but it’s a tall tale at the Twice Sold Tales bookshop : there is no fossil evidence that dinosaurs and humans co-existed on earth; 3. Bottle-cap artwork at the construction site of the Capitol Hill Light Rail station (Jim Morrison of The Doors?);  4.  The digging for the station looks like it’s now 5 or 6 stories deep (see the faint yellow backhoes or scrapers far down?;  5.  Mr Squirrel was stealing bird seed.

Thursday/ a new bank for Seattle

Here’s a nice bit of artwork on a card that arrived in the mail to introduce Seattle residents to Umpqua bank.   Click it to enlarge it.  They got most of Seattle’s icons in : salmon, kayaking, sailing, a few Boeings, Pike Place Market, a woman holding an umbrella, the Pink Elephant carwash sign (see it?), the Space Needle (OF COURSE) – but how about a coffee bean or the Starbucks lady? Speaking of the Pink Elephant carwash sign – I need to go and buy myself a proper tripod for night photography for once and for all and go shoot the pink neon of the elephant next week when I have a little time.

I dialed into the China conference call again today and they all yelled ‘Merry Christmas! for the Americans on the call’ and giggled.

Tuesday/ life begins at 46



The blow-up Santa above is from a house here on 17th Ave.   We are generally NOT going overboard with Christmas decorations here in Seattle !    There is an interesting international study mentioned in the Economist’s year-end issue : happiness in life follows a U curve with the low-point at 46.  Mid-life crisis and all that.  After 46 a person’s happiness generally increase into old age.   So I guess that is why Santa is VERY HAPPY.   (A somewhat dainty jump he makes, is it not? – throwing away the Christmas cane! I’m just not sure why he is jumping over someone’s NOSE!)


Monday night/ Winter Solstice

It’s actually Tuesday morning, and I heard on the radio while driving today there was a full moon tonight (I couldn’t see it) which went through a total lunar eclipse, and all this during the winter solstice : the first time in 375 years that all three events coincide.

[From www.timeanddate.com] The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun.  On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south receive 24 hours of daylight.

The sun is directly overhead on the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere during the December solstice. It also marks the longest day of the year in terms of daylight hours for those living south of the Tropic of Capricorn (hello everyone in South Africa, lucky devils! 🙂 . Those living or travelling south from the Antarctic Circle towards the South Pole will see the midnight sun during this time of the year.

On the contrary, for an observer in the northern hemisphere (that would be ME!), the December solstice marks the day of the year with the least hours of daylight for those living north of the Tropic of Cancer. Those living or traveling north of the Arctic Circle towards the North Pole will not be able to see the sun during this time of the year.

Sunday/ packing out

The first item is a pencil holder, a gift each of us got at last Thursday’s dinner.  It was nicely packed and sturdy and survived the journey here.   Not so the bone china tea cup made in Japan : ( .. I should have padded it much more since it’s very thin, as the broken pieces show.    Bone china is a type of porcelain that is composed of bone ash, feldspathic material and kaolin.   The English potter Josiah Spode is actually credited with the final successful formula, around 1789 to 1793.

Saturday II/ Seattle

I’m home ! !   Yes, it’s still Saturday, since we crossed the International Dateline from east to west.  As I sat here on my couch woozy from the flying it was hard to believe it was ‘this morning’ that the tall apartment buildings in Hong Kong flashed by driving out to the airport where I snapped the cute Canon printer billboard.   We left a little late (the flight path picture shows our arrival) and I had to run to make my connection at Incheon airport.   I think the held the flight for us, though.   South Korea continues to be in the news over the latest spat with their aggressive neighbor to the north.   Seoul is uncomfortably close to the border, as the map shows.

Saturday/ HongKong> Seoul> Seattle

We made good time through the Shenzhen traffic and the two border posts just at sunset yesterday (first two pictures) .. a bunch of us is here at the Courtyard Marriott, some (me!) leaving today and some tomorrow.    The blurry picture is our arrival into Hong Kong last night and the bad boy International Commerce Center building teased me with a glimpse of it that I caught just before we entered into the Western Harbor tunnel to Hong Kong Island.

I could not check in on line but Asiana Airlines wishes me a Happy Happy Christmas.    Seems a requirement that even a cartoon Santa character needs to have a thick white moustache, right?

Friday/ heading out tonight !

We had a great Christmas dinner hosted by our client company at the Expatriate Village here next to the power plant.    There were several French countrymen attending as well – some of which had been here a long time already with the first of the units put in operation back in 1994 !   The French guy sitting next to me worked at Koeberg (South Africa’s only nuclear power plant) and (of course) liked the South African wines : ).    Most of the US team members are heading out today.     We are squishing in as much work as we can, handing over some responsibilities to our PwC China colleagues to hold the fort while we are away over the Christmas break (there is no Christmas in China, really – and the Chinese New Year is only in February ). 

Pictures : 1.  Dameisha bus stop this morning at 6.30am.  Some road-side trees on the right were blown over by the storm wind of Wed night.   2.  The stuffed Santa Claus himself got blown over, but was back at his post by the Expatriate Village this morning.   3.  Interesting diamond-shaped casing on a new administrative building close to where we work.

Thursday/ inner and outer Mongolia

The wind howled around the corners of the apartment building all last night, setting off car alarms (but there were no barking dogs, the way there is sometimes!).    Looking at Hong Kong observatory’s map, it’s a north wind which makes sense because it’s cold and the temperature here dropped to 7 º C (44 º F).   It has already snowed in Shanghai – early for this year, and since Beijing is further up north I’m sure they have had lots of snow already (not to mention many places in the USA!).    Our newest PwC colleague that joined the project is from Mongolia and at Tue’s team dinner he explained to us the difference between inner Mongolia and outer Mongolia.   Ready?  Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region inside China, and outer Mongolia is today its own country Mongolia, just to the north of inner Mongolia. 

Wednesday/ honey and fish

Over the hump!  Two work days to go.  The honey is tasty! It’s viscosity* is quite lower compared to what I’m used to at home.  (I always think of the word viscosity when I see honey).   The tins of canned fish I bought in Hong Kong last weekend.   (Confession : I buy the ones with the pretty pictures on the outside, like the Indian guy presenting his curried mackerel).

*Viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a fluid which is being deformed by either shear stress or tensile stress.  In everyday terms (and for fluids only), viscosity is “thickness” or “internal friction”.   Thus, water is “thin”, having a lower viscosity, while honey is “thick”, having a higher viscosity.



Tuesday/ Futian district of Shenzhen 深圳市

These pictures are all from around the restaurant where we had our team dinner Tue night, in the Futian district of Shenzhen. 

Pictures :  Those are little Santa Clauses on my head, and reindeer horns worn as a ‘scarf’ by my colleague;  yes –  that’s Harry Potter on the display screen for the movie theater inside Coco Park shopping mall;  plenty of bars such as the Lili Marleen bar and 1877 bar; some skyscrapers at night time are lit up with cool lighting like the diamond pattern on the building in the distance.

P.S.  The blue and red figure from Sunday’s post is Pres. Obama, of course .. did you get that? (I didn’t at first).  In American politics blue means Democratic Party and red means Republican Party. 

Monday/ office party time

Here the outside of the official invitation from our client for the holiday party at the Expat Village close by.  (We don’t live there, we live in Dameisha 40 minutes away).   This one is Thursday night.   Our own PwC team dinner is tomorrow night in Shenzhen.     We are all happy to have survived today with the start of system testing – even tough we’re furiously adding final code and tying up loose bits and pieces.    So : one down, four to go.   Days until I get to go home, that is.  Yippee !

Sunday/ Times Square Exhibition

I had a hunch I need to make it out to Times Square out by Causeway Bay since that shopping mall hosts great exhibits year-round, and I was glad I did.     There is a collection of giant spray cans and figures outside to invite passers-by in, and inside the atrium of the mall there is a giant rotating wooden head, surrounded by an exhibition of giant wooden figures as well as little doll figures.     The one with the bandaged head and crutch is called ‘No War’ and makes a political statement, I’m sure.

I believe the International Commerce Center building in Kowloon has now opened its skydeck but alas – the smog in the city this weekend was terrible.   Check out the picture second from last that I took from the taxi on the way back to Shenzhen.   The apartment buildings are about 50 stories high.   The ICC building visible between them, goes up for another 60 stories : the skydeck is at the 110th floor.  But of course the view can only be appreciated on a clear day.

The last picture is the view if one looks back immediately after setting foot in mainland China after customs.   This building is newly renovated; on previous trips I found it covered up with scaffolding.

Saturday/ Christmas decorations

It should be no surprise that Christmas is embraced by the retail industry even though it’s a holiday with no religious significance in this part of the world.   So here are some pictures from Saturday.

Love Christmas, Love Hong Kong (and spend money in the process, of course!).   Don’t want to pay your supertaxes? Off to jail with you. (Looks like the rich are off the hook with paying super taxes in the USA anyway!).   These Monopoly floor decorations in Central Station is for a promotion by McDonalds.   Yes, they still sell the board game in the stores.    Tai Koo station is far out east on the Island Line and there I found a nice store called Muji (behind me in the reflection) with Japanese products.     I bought a white bone china dinner plate – to actually use in my apartment.   US$20 for the plate instead of US$1 for a cheap porcelain plate in China BUT the China plates are not flat – it’s really a shallow bowl. AND it’s not bone China, see?  The little toys clamoring for their escape is a scene straight from a Toy Story movie, also at this mall.

Click on the Visa billboard picture to get the original big size one and check it out.   Surprisingly, no USA icons : no Statue of Liberty, no Golden Gate Bridge.  What’s up with that, Visa?   The staid and uppity Peninsula Hotel did a good job of its Christmas decorations – the snowflakes seem to float in 3D since they are suspended by thin black cables.   Picture of a ‘Betty Boop’/ modern worldly girl that needs no handsome prince (is that him in the moonlight? no, looks like a monkey on the horse!) from the Peninsula Arcade next door.   Finally two pictures from the mall in International Finance Centre 2.    (Did Pinocchio play a trumpet in the original story?  I don’t recall that he did).

Friday/ in Hong Kong

It’s Friday and I didn’t think I’d make it to Hong Kong : we all really thought we would be grounded and ordered to work this weekend.     We start the first round of system testing on Monday and we were struggling to get everything in place, 12 hour workdays notwithstanding.     But there we were, in the van : Willem, Will and William.   I hitched a ride to Hong Kong airport with the other two Wills.   The first picture shows a road sign in Shenzhen with live traffic densities, the second just another Shenzhen building.    Mickey Mouse in his Santa outfit is from a giant wall mural in Hong Kong train station, and the final picture is inside the train just before the last stop.   For the last few blocks to the Marriott Courtyard I took the tram even though I had some luggage to handle, since the taxis were in short supply.