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 )

Saturday in Dameisha

I cleaned the apartment this morning and this afternoon went for a swim in the King Key hotel’s’ swimming pool.  Some of our team members stay there and could get us in.  Then I went for a walk around Dameisha.  The elephant is from the lobby of the Pattaya Hotel, a Thai-themed hotel.  (A harbinger of my plans to visit Bangkok next week during the upcoming Chinese holidays!).  The next picture shows my apartment building in the center.  Then I walked up to the OCT theme park close by to check in at the Starbucks (Pike Place roast with some Chinese, see?).  The industrial artwork of a flying horse (Pegasus?) is also from OCT, and charming enough to be worth a picture, I thought.

Finally, a cryptic name on yet another new apartment building under construction here.   The lettering running top to bottom on the right is English, believe it or not.  What does it say?  Need a clue? – Neptune.  I’ll give the answer tomorrow : ).

Friday/ team dinner

Friday night and we went out to a team dinner since most of the team sticks around for the weekend to work on Sunday.   We have been at this restaurant before – its signature dish is young pigeon – of which we had some to start with.  (Makes you feel like a mean carnivore, eating the pigeon! Aww).   The food in the front on the picture is a lotus root-carrot-broccolini-black mushroom stir fry, pork with the same mushroom and a whole eggplant in foil.   Afterward we went to Dameisha beach to stick our feet in the lukewarm water.  The picture is of one of the stalls on the beach selling trinkets and food and sodas.  There is still a lot of people that come out to the beach over the weekend even though the days are getting shorter.

Thursday/ baseline configuration

The foundation of the SAP ‘house’ – the system – we are building, is in.   We call it the baseline configuration.  It was a really big milestone and went with pulling of the hair and gnashing of the teeth this week, since some teams were very, very far behind compared to where they needed to be.    (Behind for so many reasons, some of their own making, some not!).

Meanwhile the days are getting shorter and I discovered my apartment building has a gaudy neon strip running along the top floors.   It has not been turned on before.  The picture shows the multi-color mode and the colors actually scroll from left to right in an animated fashion.   I think all of this would be too much to handle for the occupants of an American condo or apartment building ! 

Wednesday/ the spicy restaurant

Over the hump of the week, sort of.   We have Saturday off but we are working on Sunday to accommodate some Chinese holidays next week.    We are also working to meet a deadline that has actually come and gone.    I guess the deadline is dead .. or the goal of meeting it is dead ! 

Tonight we ate at one of our regular restaurants, ‘The Spicy One’.  The food may not look spicy but all of the dishes are hott! : the green beans, the shrimp on a stick and the potato slices with a basil-green veggie and meat garnish.    It made me break out in a sweat. 

Tuesday/ Ulaanbataar, Mongolia

There is a PricewaterhouseCoopers communication in my inbox this morning that the PwC office in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia is now officially open.    The opening coincides with the start of the Discover Mongolia 2010 Mining Conference.

Let me borrow the start of Wikipedia’s entry for Ulaanbataar – look up the rest, it is very interesting!

Ulan Bator (pronounced /ˈuːlɑːn ˈbɑːtər/) or Ulaanbaatar  (/ˈuːlɑːn ˈbɑːtɑr/; Mongolian: Улаанбаатар, English: The Red Hero), is the capital and largest city of Mongolia. The city is an independent municipality, not part of any province, and its population as of 2008 was just over one million.

Located in the north central part of the country, the city lies at an elevation of about 1,310 metres (4,300 ft) in a valley on the Tuul River. It is the cultural, industrial, and financial heart of the country. It is also the center of Mongolia’s road network, and connected by rail to the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Chinese railway network.

Monday/ team dinner

It has been a long weary day packed with someone stopping by my cubicle every 5 minutes with a question or issue.  And we have a LOT of those.   So I was very tempted to beg out of the monthly team dinner, but then went nonetheless.    We’ve been to this restaurant here in Dameisha before; we simply call it ‘The Restaurant Under The Tree’.  I’ll have to find out the Chinese name.  They bring one dish after the other to the table and the eggplant in garlic butter was one of my favorites tonight.  The second picture was taken on the walk back to my apartment; that’s the King Key Palace Hotel’s light reflected on the water.  The shot came out nice enough on my compact camera after I darkened the picture a little bit to make the water an inky black.

Sunday/ arrived at Dameisha

‘My boss is getting married on 10-10-10 at 10 am’, said the guy in front of me to someone as we were boarding for the Hong Kong flight.   The ‘Relax’ sign is posted at Hong Kong airport at the top of two giant escalators that run down to the shuttle train that takes one to the main terminal.   In other words :  don’t rush down the escalator two steps at a time to the train waiting below and then fall down and break a leg!

I did get some sleep on the plane, but I am ready for more – so off to bed with me.

Saturday/ at the airport

I’m at Seattle airport.    The security process was pretty normal, and with the summer travel season over, the airport is not too crowded.  Of course it could be due to it being Sept 11 as well.

I thought I would post a picture of an intrepid traveler other than ME this morning .. found his picture at one of the pubs here in the airport.  Frank Dorbandi, Teller Alaska.   So Teller is a location in Alaska? Yes, see the spot marked A on the Google map!     Intrepid* indeed!  with the year being 1929 and with a flying machine that could hardly be called an aircraft.

*Intrepid -characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude and endurance : )

Friday/ checking in for trip #8

I am checked in already for my flights to San Francisco and Hong Kong.  I leaving tomorrow morning.   Yes – Sept 11, not the best day to fly I would imagine! – but I have to be at Daya Bay on Monday morning.

A neighborhood right by the San Francisco International airport is in the news this morning.  A natural gas explosion started a fire that destroyed about 50 homes. At least one person was killed and more than 20 others injured.

The two pictures below the one of the fire were taken with my new camera in Seattle’s SoDo (South of Downtown) neighborhood this morning.  The Komodo dragon is at Starbucks headquarters, and the mural from a grocery store on 4th Ave close by.    Click on them to blow them up .. the truth comes out then, which is that the compact camera has a much smaller sensor than an single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, and therefore it cannot possibly match the detail of an SLR’s pictures.

Thursday/ new compact camera

One would think a Canon EOS-7D monster camera with a full frame sensor is enough, but for me it isn’t!  Or rather – it is too much camera sometimes, at 1.6 lbs to lug.  And my Blackberry cell phone takes terrible pictures, especially in low light situations.  Hence the new acquisition, a Nikon Coolpix S8000 and a steal at $250.   The 10x optical zoom wide-angle lens, the 14 Mp pictures and the snappy shutter made me buy it instead of a Canon model.

Wednesday/ pick-up day

Apologies for the tardiness of this ‘Wednesday’ post.  (It is already late on Thursday).

The garbage truck shows up on Wednesdays in my neighborhood, and on alternate Wednesdays the recycle truck and the yard waste truck comes by.  This is the yard waste truck. I was shocked that I was able to fill my big yard waste bin with leaves, weeds (from the front yard!) and pine needles – given that the leaves are only just starting to fall. So when DOES fall start here in western Washington, I wondered?  The chart I found shows the peak periods .. and ours is later than in northern states by the Great Lakes, and the Rocky Mountain area.

Tuesday/ the Ballard locks

I went to dinner tonight with my friends Bill and Dave in Ballard northwest of the city.  Afterwards we went to the ‘Locks’, marked A on the map.  The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (also called the Ballard locks) are a complex of locks that sit at the west end of Salmon Bay, part of Seattle’s Lake Washington Ship Canal.

The locks and associated facilities serve three purposes –
* To maintain the water level of the fresh water Lake Washington and Lake Union at 20–22 feet above sea level (Puget Sound’s mean low tide).
* To prevent the mixing of sea water from Puget Sound with the fresh water of the lakes (saltwater intrusion).
* To move boats from the water level of the lakes to the water level of Puget Sound, and vice versa.

The first picture shows the canal with a sailboat lifted almost to the fresh water level (there is one set of locks for small vessels, and another for large ones), the second picture is the view out to the lakes.  The third picture from Wikipedia shows a ship going out from the freshwater lakes to Puget Sound.  The final picture shows some artwork right there.  I will have to go back on a sunny day and take better pictures but it’s a little late.  (Aw).  The salmon has made their run through the ladders at the Locks, the boat traffic is now winding down, and winter is slowly approaching.

Monday/ Labor Day

Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September.  It is celebrated as the unofficial end of summer, and the start of the NFL football season.   Some fashion-conscious people say it is gauche* to wear white after Labor Day!

*lacking social grace, sensitivity, or acuteness : )

Here’s more history behind it from Wikipedia :   The first Labor Day in the United States was observed on September 5, 1882 in New York City, by the Central Labor Union of New York, the nation’s first integrated major trade union.    It became a federal holiday in 1894, when, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with the labor movement as a top political priority.   Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike.    The September date originally chosen by the CLU of NY – and at that time observed by many of the nation’s trade unions for several years – was selected rather than the more widespread May 1 International Workers’ Day because Cleveland was concerned that observance of the latter would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair, for which it had been observed to commemorate.

The picture is also from Wikipedia and shows the first Labor Day Parade in Union Square, New York, 1882.

Sunday/ no wash-day Monday

My washing machine is on the fritz – it fills up, washes but then the drum doesn’t empty for the rinse cycle.   Time to get the Maytag man! (That would be to go to the local Sears store and schedule a repair appointment).   In 2007 Maytag held a national search for the advertising icon who fronts the brand.   The picture is of Clay Jackson, of Richmond, Virginia, who was selected out of 1,500 applicants.   While portrayed on television for the past 40 years as having nothing to do (since the appliances are so reliable!), the new Maytag Repairman role is a full-time position that includes multiple national television, radio, print and public appearances.    I have to confess I haven’t seen the new Maytag repairman on TV or in print, though.   I must be watching too little television, or the wrong channels.

Saturday in Seattle

I was on a sunset walk-about last night and this is at the top of Capitol Hill looking west from 14th Ave.   I was trying to take a peek-a-boo picture of the Space Needle (see it in the distance?), but I had a wide-angle instead of a zoom lens on my camera.    Then this vintage car pulled up next to me, and it just sat there.   What is going on? I wondered, then noticed that the driver had his little digital camera perched on the steering wheel, also taking a picture.   And so the 1957 Chevrolet Belair Nomad (I think that’s the model of the car) upstaged the Space Needle and became the topic of the picture instead : ).

The TV snap shot from this morning shows a much nicer view of the Needle .. and a temperature of 56° F (13° C).  So it looks like summer is on its way out.  (I promise not to make a habit of taking pictures of the TV.  I sometimes take pictures of billboards in Hong Kong and my colleagues with me would say ‘You’re taking a picture of a picture’.  And I would say ‘So?’).

Friday/ sorting through the mail (ugh)

I picked up my mail at the post office yesterday as usual.  Sorting through it is mostly an exercise in frustration.  For example, the 100 or so pieces include 8 credit card offers.  Stop it!  Offer loans to small businesses instead – not personal credit cards.  And since I’m not Michael Eisner I won’t have Mickey Mouse on my credit card.   But one has to open the letters up and shred the credit card application form which has one’s name and address filled out already – to thwart potential dumpster-diving identity thieves.    The rest of the junk mail are offers for car insurance, for unlimited nation-wide calling from my home phone (yes, I am home all the time and I blab on the phone all day with my aunt in Peoria, Illinois), and charities that want m-o-n-e-y.   I actually do give the World Wildlife Fund some.  Their latest effort is a drive to increase awareness of illegal trade in tiger products – a big problem in China as well.

P.S.  And the typhoon? It made landfall quite a bit north and east of where the Daya Bay power station is (in Zhangpu county), passed north of Hong Kong and is now dissipating.  It brought widespread rain but no casualties were reported.

Thursday in the USA/ home

I am home!  The first picture was taken shortly after take-off from San Francisco (see the red Golden Gate bridge? No? Click on the picture to enlarge it !).   The second picture is again from my airplane seat, just as we stopped at the gate at Seattle airport.  I thought : better take pictures of these United Airlines planes since the merger with Continental Airlines has been approved, and their logo will disappear from airplanes.