Sunday/ Seattle LGBT Pride Parade

This post is late! It’s Monday already, and I am at Seattle airport.   PriceWaterhouseCoopers sponsored a group to march in the Seattle Gay Pride Parade, and I felt compelled to take part.     And there I am, see? (second picture .. thanks for the pictures, Bryan).  Our green shirts said *be yourself which is a great message.   (Unless you’re an axe-murderer, right?).

Saturday/ in Seattle

Like the African soccer motif on my t-shirt I wore today?  I bought it in South Africa last December.  Turned out Africa was it with Ghana over the USA in the World Cup match this morning and going to the last 8.   As the coach said afterward : ‘We know we have to be better’.  Still, it was disappointing.

The Hammerhead Ale is very tasty – an American pale ale beer by McMenamins Pubs and Breweries, a brewery in Portland, Oregon .. had it at sunset with my friends close by.   Life is too short to drink Budweiser Light – right?

Friday/ Starbucks price comparison

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As I am sifting through my receipts from the last trip out to Asia, I found three different ones for Starbucks.  Since I always get the same beverage : a 12-oz soy vanilla latte, I thought it would be interesting to compare the prices :

China .. 30 Yuan, which equals US $ 4.41

Hong Kong .. 31 Hong Kong Dollar, which equals US $ 3.99

Korea.. 5,100 (!) Korean Won, which equals US $ 4.32

and then there is the USA, of course!  .. US $4.53

When I travel the coffee is a treat, but I have to say that nowadays I find the 4 bucks excessive (a psychological effect of the recession?), and have resorted to buying the little packets of ground Starbucks Via instant coffee instead for my caffeine fix.  That comes out to about $1 .. or $2 if one figures there are two shots of espresso in the latte. Much easier to swallow!

Thurday/ thimbleberries

It’s late but here is today’s post.  At lunch time my friends Bryan, Steve, Paul and I went walking along Lake Washington’s western shoreline (Lake Washington is in the metro area of Seattle, separating the cities of Seattle and Bellevue, and Redmond where the Microsoft campus is).   The picture shows a platform that is used for hanging out and jumping into the water in summer.

The thimbleberry picture comes from right there next to the lake; I never knew there was such a thing, and I ate one today.  The shrub is 2.5m tall and has no prickles – very nice for animals and humans foraging for berries – and it produces a tart edible composite fruit around a centimeter in diameter, which ripen to a bright red in mid to late summer. Like other raspberries it is not a true berry, but instead an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets around a central core. The drupelets may be carefully removed separately from the core when picked, leaving a hollow fruit which bears a resemblance to a thimble, perhaps giving the plant its name.

Wednesday/ go U.S.A. !

What a game! – this morning’s World Cup Algeria-USA soccer match, of course.  (I have no shame : I stole the first picture of Landon Donovan from the Yahoo home page.  It so captures the joy of scoring that goal a in the 90th minute).  Never say it’s over – until it really is over.

ESPN briefly cut to the Atlantic Crossing Pub here in Seattle after the broadcast to show the fans.  The pub opened well before 7 am in the morning.  Yeah!  Seattle is arguably the USA’s most enthusiastic soccer city.  Our own soccer team is called the Seattle Sounders. (Sounders from Puget Sound*, not for making noise! Or maybe it’s a word play on both?).

*An estuarine system of interconnected marine waterways and basins separating the city of Seattle from the Pacific Ocean.

Tuesday

The layer of fogginess shown on the 6.17am TV newscast picture has actually fallen away and it is really nice and sunny, although not very warm.

The first soccer matches starts at 7 am here, and I saw South Africa doing very well with their win against France – but that was the end of both teams’ runs in this World Cup.

My Blackberry is sporting a background picture from Tsim Tsa Tsui subway station in Hong Kong.  That pesky red light shows that ANOTHER e-mail – or bunch of e-mails – had arrived while I was not looking.

Monday/ soccer and cereal from South Africa

My early morning ProNutro cereal as well as my soccer* come from South Africa.  The honey and banana are my favorite add-ins. Yum.

*The poor North Koreans are not in the same league as Portugal – and I see a steady sifting rain is coming down in Green Point stadium in Cape Town, much the same as it does in Seattle in winter time.

Between the soccer, the remaining jet lag and conference calls to China, I am not having much luck getting into a regular sleeping pattern here!  And on top of all that Wimbledon coverage on ESPN2 at 7.00 am in the morning starts today as well – and I see Federer is two sets down in his opening match against Alejandro Falla (Columbia). Uh-oh.

Sunday/ happy Father’s Day

1.  Happy Father’s Day to all the dads! (And especially to mine).   This guy from the Hong Kong subway certainly looks happy, that’s why I picked him for the post. (He is advertising a Canon printer).

2.  Cloudy and rainy again outside again today, but I don’t mind too much.  The air is crisp and not soggy with humidity the way it is in Daya Bay.  Check out the year’s weather chart for Seattle.  The dark blue shows we have now had an unusually long stretch of days without reaching 75 °F (24 °C) !  Rainfall is slightly above average so far.

Saturday/ flip-flapping

Here’s a cute little toy I brought back .. it’s a Flip-Flap, a mechanical potted plant with a solar-cell battery.  So when the light falls on the battery, the two leaves wave up and down.  I’m still trying to figure out how to make a compact video file, then I will upload that to show the motion.

Friday

I just ran downstairs to go see the national anthems played for the Slovenia- USA match.  Very touching, the camera panning over the faces of the players while the music plays.   I loved the US fans holding up the pics of Lincoln and Washington, and the two dressed up as Elvis.  Can’t get more American than that, right? LOL!

The weather is still cool in Seattle even though summer solstice is at hand.   This morning I have to run out to a sale at Nordstrom’s and see if I can pickup one or two more short sleeve shirts.

Two pictures from The Korea Times I picked up on the flight yesterday.  South Korean defender Cha Du-ri is a national darling, and parodied as part human, part robot.  Here is the link

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/06/117_67760.html

And here is a cartoon of the oil spill – reaching the outer rings of Saturn.  Ouch.  It makes me flinch every time I read or hear about it.

Thursday/ home

Yes, it’s still Thursday in Seattle.   I’m posting two belated pictures from the Dragon Boat Festival taken from newspapers at Hong Jong airport, since I could not be there in person.  (Click on them to make them bigger). The first one is from a small bay on Lantau Island (site of Hong Kong airport).  The next one is from Longtan Park in Beijing. The ritual claims to pacify wandering ghosts and bring prosperity to residents.

The Asiana Airlines bird sitting on the tarmac brought us to Seoul; the next picture is again from a newspaper, showing the Incheon (Seoul) airport building’s current crescent shape; expansion plans are already in the works.  My flights went without incident or delays, and the food was top notch.  Next to me sat a 19 yo Korean student coming to Seattle.  She must have well-to-do parents, flying business class!

Thursday/ on the way home

Sometimes the nice thing about getting on a long international flight is that one is out of reach :  no Blackberry.  So no e-mail, no phone calls, no text messages.    Yes !  I’m flying back the way I came : Hong Kong to Seoul, Seoul to Seattle.

This article in yesterday’s newspaper says there was an ‘insignificant’ increase in radiation at the Daya Bay nuclear plant probably caused by an improperly sealed fuel rod in one of the reactors.  There are more than 41,000 fuel rods in the two pressurized water reactors.   The incident happened on May 23 (so I was not there at the time).   The reactor is only 50 km from Hong Kong and critics are saying that the incident should have been reported immediately.

Picture is from the Marriott Skycity Hotel, in the elevator lobby on the 8th floor.

Wednesday/ work one more day ..

.. and then right back to Hong Kong for my trip home on Thursday.    Did I have to come to work for one day?  Yes, a lot is happening and I have to hand over to some team members that arrived back on site.   It is summer, and the humidity is everywhere.  Someone left the men’s washroom door open here in the building and the mirror is full of condensate.   The marble floor is damp in places.

Just a few more pictures from yesterday –

Riding the tram is fun, but offers no getting out of the steamy heat.  My camera lens fogs up immediately when I take it out, but then it warms up and it is OK.  That’s Two IFC (International Finance Center) in the background with the tapered top.

This truck with the Liverpool soccer team on was in front of the Adidas store in Kowloon.  ‘You’ll never walk alone’ it says in green .. meaning – you’d always have some buds in the pub and something to talk about?    Inside the store they had only a few of the World Cup t-shirts in my size, so I didn’t buy any.   But check out this very political t-shirt they also sell :  Robben Island (with Cape Town in the background) where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.  46664 was his prisoner number.

Tuesday/ in Hong Kong

The dragon-boat races are only tomorrow, and I have to go to work tomorrow so I will miss it.  Aargh.  But here are some pictures from yesterday.  It’s very warm and very humid, so the shopping malls and the subway is a welcome respite from that!

The pictures from top to bottom :

Nike bill-board that says you will be an immortal if you score a World Cup goal.  Can you make the numbers on the defenders’ backs go to zero?  Scroll down for the answer.

Clock tower built in 1991 for Hong Kong Park near the base of the Bank of China building.   Check out the vanishing edge that ‘cuts’ the air.    I guess that’s what makes the feng shui critics hate the building.    I love it, so I guess I’m a feng shui barbarian.

The next pictures show the man-made pond in the park, and a koi.  I want to be a lazy koi in my next life.

Next picture shows me in the small lobby on the 43rd floor of the Bank of China building.  The 70th floor deck at the top is accessible only by appointment.   The next picture is the view,  looking down on the area by the Star ferry terminal that runs north to Kowloon; lots of construction going on there.

Is this building – it’s called the Lippo Center – ugly or beautiful?  You decide.

Samsung has demonstration stations in the subway for their new 3D LED TV.   I didn’t get to take a look, though.

This neon-lined building is close to Central Station; I don’t know the name.   And the ubiquitous red Hong Kong taxi is in the bar and restaurant area a little more up the hillside also close in the Central district.  This is where all the expats come and party.  The World Soccer Cup is an extra incentive – as if they needed one !  See all the flags? – but no South African flag, so boo for you Carlsberg!  Watch it, I will stop drinking your beer.

Answer : 11 18 9 7 3 goes to 7 9 2 4 which goes to 2 7 2 which goes to 5 5 .. which goes to ZERO !

Monday/ in Hong Kong

I took the coach bus from the Sheraton Dameisha to Hong Kong last night.   The 7-11 poster picture is for little 2010 World Cup key chain guys.  Very cute.   No 11 is South Africa, but that’s about all I know.  I couldn’t get an overview of the teams’ shirt colors on the FIFA website.  And do they change into different colors if they play another team with a similar shirt color?  I think they do!

Below is this morning’s view of Hong Kong harbor from the Marriott Courtyard on the 19th floor where I stay.  I am on Hong Kong Island looking north to Kowloon.  And if I may, can I make you jealous of my breakfast?  That’s a samoosa (a potato-stuffed pastry, I am using the South African spelling where they are also popular), a fried tomato, corn, yellow zucchini, scrambled egg, two pork dim sum and the Hong Kong version of a zongzi.

Sunday/ the Dragon Boat Festival

The Duanwu Festival (Chinese: 端午節), also known as Dragon Boat Festival,  is a traditional and statutory holiday associated with Chinese and other east/southeast Asian societies.    It is a public holiday in Taiwan, where it is known by the Mandarin name Duānwǔ Jié,  as well as in Hong Kong and Macau,  where it is known by the Cantonese name Tuen Ng Jit.   In 2008, the festival was restored in China as an official national holiday.

Three of the most widespread activities for Duanwu Festival are eating (and preparing) zongzi, drinking realgar wine, and racing dragon boats.   A zongzi is a glutinous rice dumpling in bamboo leaf with a meaty filling.   Below is the one I got at work here.   The wrapping can also be triangular.

I am headed to Hong Kong tonight for the Chinese holidays which are Mon and Tue (our weekend got shifted to synch up with the local schedule).   So I will go look for more zongzi , and see if there is any Dragon Boat racing to check out as well !

Saturday

It rained on and off the last few days and last night we ran into a minor mudslide across the road just outside Dameisha which delayed us by 20 mins or so.  I did not go to Shenzhen with the soccer revelers, but I did follow the South Africa- Mexico match cast for awhile on fifa.com (minute-by-minute text updates of the match, a poor substitute for TV, but better than nothing at all).  The result was a 1-1 draw.

And here is my 2010 World Cup draw sheet entry for our friendly competition at work.   Brazil and Spain in the final, I say.    In retrospect the scores I predicted are too high : not likely that 6 goals will be scored in the final ! Oh well.  (Click on the draw sheet to display it clearly).

Friday/ 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off

1.  There are some nice pictures of the stadiums and information about the cities in South Africa at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_FIFA_World_Cup

And then of course, there is the official FIFA website at http://www.fifa.com/

2.  Do you see a Google in the picture on Google’s China home page?  Very subtle.

3.  And where am I?  Well, the next phase of our project kicked off this week,  so I am at work and WORKING on it : this weekend as well.  Aww :(.   That’s black Ceylon tea in the cup (still my favorite type of tea),  chocolate soy milk and  a local China banana.

Thursday night

Picture from Wed night : mantou or Chinese steamed buns which we had for dessert.   These have a glaze on – they can also come in just plain white.  I posted a picture of them before, remember? .. I was not quick enough to take a picture before one had been nabbed already! and the sweet dipping sauce was not enough so they brought us more.

Picture from Thu morning waiting for the bus :  nice flowers on a shrub that looks a little like a South African katjiepiering; I should have leaned in and smelled it to tell if it was – and I didn’t.

Picture from Thu morning at work : Yes! that’s a California navel orange.  I know I shouldn’t buy California oranges in China but I need my Vitamin C, see?  And the black bean-flavored soy milk next to it is NOT as delicious as it looks!  I will stick to chocolate-flavored soy milk next time.

Wednesday/ get out your vuvuzela!

[Acknowledgment – picture as well as some text from Wikipedia].

No, not your uvula, your vuvuzela! Sometimes called a lepatata (its Setswana name) or a stadium horn,  it is a blowing horn appr. one metre (3 ft) in length, commonly blown by fans at soccer matches in South Africa.  It requires some lip and lung strength to blow and emits a very LOUD monotone like a foghorn or an elephant.     Vuvuzelas have been controversial and can be distracting to players and coaches,  and may also damage hearing.  Ouch.  Better bring ear plugs to that soccer match you are attending, as well!

The vuvuzela blower below trumpeted the announcement of the final draw of the 2010 World Cup.   A posse from work here is arranging for a driver to go to Shenzhen on Friday night, to attend the opening match of South Africa and Mexico at an Irish sports bar.   It’s going to be a late night, and we have to WORK on Saturday.   Will I be a bad South African American if I don’t go?  :  (

P.S.  I am back at work.  I put my emergency packet of  Sudafed I brought from the States to work.