Friday the 13th

I’m going to Hong Kong for the weekend.    So is Friday the 13th unlucky in China as well?   I don’t really care since I’m not a triskaidekaphobe, but according to Chinese and Cantonese  superstition I would do well to steer clear of the numbers FOUR and FOURTEEN.  Bad news.

Some of the information here is from Wikipedia :

Number 4 (四 sì) is considered an unlucky number in Chinese,  Korean, and Japanese cultures because it is nearly homophonous to the word death (死 sǐ).    Due to that,  many numbered product lines skip the 4  such as Nokia’s cell phones (there is no series beginning with a 4),  and the Canon PowerShot camera G series (after G3 comes G5).  The Marriott Hotel where I stay in Hong Kong does not have a 4th floor.   Some high-rise residential buildings there literally miss all floor numbers with 4,   such as 4, 14, 24, 34 and all 40–49 floors !   As a result,  a building whose highest floor is number 50 may actually have only 36 physical floors.

Then there is number 14 – considered to be one of the unluckiest numbers.   Although 14 is usually said in Mandarin as 十四 shí sì,  which sounds like 十死 ten die, it can also be said as 一四 yī sì or 么四 yāo sì,  literally one four which sounds like want to die (要死).      In Cantonese, 14 sounds like certainly die (實死).    Not all Chinese people consider it to be an unlucky number as the pronunciation differs among the various dialects.

Thursday/ keep good company

Walking home after a bite at the ‘corner’ restaurant as we call it,  I noticed a new office front – for the Shenzhen Century Gamay Design Decoration Engineering Ltd company.

Quite a title and I couldn’t quite make out what the company really does.   But it reminded me of the song Good Company from A Night at the Opera (1975) by Queen.   What a great song!  It starts with Take good care of what you’ve got .. and ends with  I ponder on the lesson of my life’s insanity/ take care of those you call your own and keep good company.

Wednesday/ an ‘Indian’ buffet

A few of us went to the King Key* Palace Hotel’s restaurant for dinner tonight, and here is the billboard in the lobby that advertises the Indian cuisine buffet dinner on Fridays.   It’s not cheap at RMB 228 ($US33.65).   And without the benefit of the billboard, one could be forgiven for expecting to find tandoori chicken at the buffet instead of hamburgers and T-bone steak!

*say it slowly :  King. Key. : )

Tuesday/ what to wear

I woke up really early – so early that I even had time to take a snap of my outfit for the day.  The blue Burberry shirt is new and has just enough punch without being too flashy.  The knight in armor logo stitched in on the right is ready to kill an imaginary dragon.   Let’s go!

Monday night/ in Dameisha

We arrived early at Hong Kong airport and the driver did a great job getting me through customs and Shenzhen evening traffic to get me to Dameisha in under two hours.    The first picture is of the Hong Kong-mainland China border crossing just at sunset.

At the apartment I had to run out to get some milk, ended up buying some jasmine tea and iron buddha tea.  (I will need it to perk me up tomorrow).    The brand of the tea is Lipton.    I thought Lipton was an American brand, but I see  Lipton  was created at the end of the 19th century by Sir Thomas Lipton in Glasgow, Scotland.   His enterprise soon flourished and he established a chain of grocers, first across Glasgow, then the rest of Scotland, until finally he had stores throughout Britain.  Today the brand belongs to Unilever.

Sunday morning/ at Seatac airport

Yes, here he is, all smiles, the globe trotter waiting for his flight to San Francisco.  My flight to San Francisco is delayed slightly, but I should still be able to make my connection to Hong Kong.

Tip to summer travelers : allow one more hour to get through security.    The clock ticks and those screaming babies in their strollers and those first-time travelers with liquids hidden inside their maximum-size carry-on bags WILL trip you up and make you miss your flight.    What is going on up there? Why are they so slow? the people behind me kept asking.  Well – you are asking the wrong question, I thought.  Why did you get here so late?

Saturday/ packing for trip #7

Yes, I’m counting them !   I’m flying a familiar route on United, down to San Francisco and then out due west to the Far East, across the International Dateline.    The picture is from and I just punched in the flight number –  the same one I will be on tomorrow.

So it’s a hive of one-man activity here, up and down the stairs to get the laundry, then out the door to run an errand, and start packing my bag.   I have a checklist for the small roller bag, a check list for the computer bag and an out-the-door checklist for tomorrow morning.    Yes sir! it helps to calm me down.

Here’s the out-the-door check list :

  • Adjust thermostat
  • Windows, doors closed, LOCKED
  • Lava lamp OFF
  • Clothes iron OFF
  • TV, Computer UNPLUGGED
  • Garage LOCKED
  • Fridge perishables OUT
  • Garbage OUT
  • Inside Lights ON
  • House alarm SET

Friday/ the Elysian Brewing Co

Friday evenings finds me at the Elysian Brewing Co more often than not, with Bryan and Gary, drinking some Zephyrus Pilsner if it is available, or any other of the 16 beers they have on tap.  It is brewed on the property.   Constructed in a 1919-era Packard storage building, the pub embdies the classic American brewpub feel with large exposed timbers, high ceilings, concrete floor and a full wall of brewery tanks.

And where does the name come from?  In Greek mythology, Elysium was a section of the Underworld.  (Hence the Ionic column in the picture, a greek architectural classic).  The Elysian Fields, or the Elysian Plains, were the final resting places of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous.

Thursday/ you can still get your Starbucks

.. on Olive Way, that is.    The Starbucks coffee shop is being remodeled (it looked perfectly fine inside to me – it’s the wooden structure to the left of the van in the background), and now they are serving coffee from a Starbucks van.    It was getting dark and the van was closing down by the time I got there to take the picture so the van was closing up shop.   First time I have seen a Starbucks van, though.   And check out the makeshift deck in the foreground where you can sit and have your coffee while you watch the world go by!   : )

Wednesday/ put your thinking cap on

Actually, your thinking hat – and pick a color.

The training course I attended at work today, meant to sharpen up our thinking, mentioned Edward de Bono’s six hats.  Six different ways to think about a problem, that is.   Which one is your favorite way of thinking?

White hat – Facts & Information
Red hat – Feelings & Emotions
Black hat – Negatives
Yellow hat – Positives
Green hat – New Ideas
Blue hat – The Big Picture .. P.S. and click the picture below to make it bigger !

Tuesday night/ more of Capitol Hill

Pictures from tonight’s walkabout .. a black kitty kat that must have stepped in white paint : ),  an update on the artwork on John and 11th, want to join the Revolutionary Communist Party of the USA? Sign up! and the neon sign on the Broadway Rite Aid pharmacy.

I have to get up early to go to the office for a long day of training.

Monday/ new Capitol Hill light rail station

Here are some pictures from the Capitol Hill light rail station that is under construction.  I took it on my Sunday afternoon stroll in my neighborhood. The artwork was commissionedby Sound Transit and the artist is Baso Fibonacci (is he also a mathematician?*).  There’s the Ethiopian Restaurant that I have never been to (time to go?), a picture of the red fence around the construction and a peek inside.   A loong way to go still.

*The famous Fibonacci numbers are 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233 .. see how it works? Start with 0 and 1, and add the two previous numbers to get the next one.   The higher up in the sequence, the closer two consecutive Fibonacci numbers of the sequence divided by each other will approach the golden ratio (approximately 1 : 1.618 or 0.618 : 1).

Sunday/ change in plans

My travel back to China has been pushed out by a week, so that I can attend corporate training here in Seattle.   I see United Airlines and Continental Airlines will merge towards the end of 2010.  It’s a ‘merger of equals’.   But what will the new planes look like?  Well, below is an artist’s rendition. (It wasn’t me spending two hours Photoshopping!)    The Continental gold and blue graphics will be kept and be replaced with the word United – so the new airline will be called United Airlines.

Saturday/ vote by mail

My ballot arrived in the mail today.  Yes, we love to have elections!  And so in the states the primaries for the 2010 Mid-term Elections (middle of the president’s term) have already started – essentially narrowing down the candidates for November.

In Washington State we can now vote for both Democrats and Republicans regardless of our registered party.  I see in the voters’ pamphlet the candidates now coyly say prefers Democratic Party or prefers Republican Party instead of stating their affiliation outright.  (I’d love to play with words and say I prefer to not to vote for Republicans, but that is not true.  I absolutely will not.)

The Seattle Weekly reports that two Propositions will make the ballot as well : related to whether the State should give up its control over selling liquor.  (Currently hard liquor can only be bought at state-owned stores.  Beer and wine one can buy at the grocery store).   Oh boy.  Leave well enough alone.  It’s the big grocery store Costco that’s trying to wrest the booze business away from the state.

Friday/ ladybug

We are lucky not to have to deal with many bugs in Seattle.  Here’s one I caught in my so-called garden yesterday, though.   I don’t have a close-up lens for my camera so it was hard to take a sharp picture of the tiny bug.   Ladybugs belong to Coccinellidae, a family of beetles.   In other parts of the world they are called ladybirds and in Afrikaans they go by liewenheersbesie which more or less translates back into English as ‘the dear lord’s little bug’.   There you have it.

Wednesday/ wow, the milk man

I looked out my window on the front of the house to see what was making a noise (it was a generator used across the street for painting or cleaning a house outside). Then I spotted this truck in the street.  Grabbed my camera just in time to snap the milk man jumping back into his white-and-black cow truck (and of course it would be a cow truck! we expect it to be a cow truck! – right? : ).    But I really did not know milk is still available for delivery this way.

Their web site is

(Yes, the sidewalk lawn in front of my house is dried out, the way it usually is in summer.   I don’t have a sprinkler system like my neighbor on the right!  And I am not home every week to water it!)

Tuesday/ downtown Seattle

I made the second of my three trips to the passport office and took a few pictures of the buildings downtown.  The picture shows the region’s tallest building, the Columbia Center, in the middle ‘below’ the street lamp.  It has 76 stories and is almost 1,000 ft tall .. and is reportedly 40% empty.  Which is actually a lot better than some condo buildings downtown.

From The Stranger, a Seattle alternative weekly newspaper :

In March, the present owners of the Columbia Center tower, a Boston-based group called the Beacon Capital Partners, decided not to fork over its $1.6 million mortgage payment. This rattled not only downtown Seattle but the whole commercial real-estate market…  For the Columbia Center all the trouble began in 2007, the year the future refused to reveal anything to developers and financiers but a golden escalator to a brilliant cloud of profits. Beacon Capital bought the building for an astounding 621 million bucks—more than triple what it cost developer Martin Selig to build the tower two decades before. The purchase was a part of the group’s money-mad, frenzied, intoxicated spending spree of glamorous office properties in Seattle and Bellevue. The region had never seen anything like it. Millions upon millions were poured into amazed pockets.

Looking back, we now wonder how in the world anyone (and particularly those in the business of making loads of money) had such blind faith in an economy that was to crash only the following year. How could these professionals miss the signs? These same men and women bought the Columbia Center with the complete belief that today, in 2010, there would be even more money to be made than in 2007, the year the stock market passed the dizzying 14,000 mark. A year after the economy collapsed, the mighty Columbia Center has instead lost roughly 40 percent of its value, and the income from the building is now “less than needed to service its debt” (Puget Sound Business Journal, March 24).

Monday/ more passport pages (please)

I work on a project that I call Mission Impossible, and therefore I run into mission impossible situations in the week I am at home as well.

For example : get more blank visa pages added to your passport in ONE WEEK.  It’s harder than one would think.  The city agencies dealing with passport applications offer a THREE WEEK expedited service.  When you finally find out you’re lucky enough to have a federal agency right here in your home city, it may take three visits there as it will for me.   The first one was to fill out a form (after committing the mortal sin of showing up there this morning without an appointment). Also needed is proof of one’s travel plans in the next two weeks on paper.  Yes : got to print out that electronic airline reservation.  But no printer for US citizens’ use in the passport office.  I had to try my luck at the Seattle library (picture below from the inside – pretty! but one printer for 200 people, didn’t work) and then at Fedex-Kinko’s (you pay $6 but it’s so quick).

So there I was, sweaty from running/ walking a dozen blocks back and forth across Seattle downtown, through the security check point, back at the appointment window in the federal building.   No luck, too late to help me at 2.45pm.  Got to dial that 877 number, it’s the only way to get an appointment.  (Did that. Got an appointment for tomorrow at 8 am).

Saturday/ the State Route 520 bridge

Here is a picture from late Saturday afternoon, driving due west across Lake Washington on the State Route 520 Floating Bridge  into the sun.   It was a beautiful day, with blue sky and 83 F (28 C) temperatures.    (Yes, yes – I shouldn’t take pictures while driving with my cell phone, and I really do NOT touch my phone as a rule while driving).

I’m on the far left in this panoramic picture from Wikipedia (search for Evergreen Point Floating Bridge).  In 1989, an electrical fault caused the draw span to open during rush hour, causing one death and five injuries. In 2000, a gravel barge struck the bridge, closing it for eleven days and causing $500,000 worth of damage.  The bridge is actually nearing the end of its useful life and is scheduled for replacement by 2014 after a lot of political wrangling over how to go about it, and Microsoft weighing in as well.   (The Microsoft campus is on the east side of the bridge in a town called Redmond).