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.

Thursday/ San Francisco bound

I am sure there are many songs referring to San Francisco, but Scott Mckenzie’s about wearing flowers in your hair is my favorite.   (Even though my hair is too short and I have no flowers to put in them.   And I’m only touching down there en route to Seattle!).

So yes – I am at the airport.  Inquiring about the flight status and the weather at check in, I was told ‘No sir, there is NO problem with the weather.  The typhoon might not even come here.’     Well,  I think it’s good that I am not sticking around to find out.

If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there
For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

Wednesday/ at the airport hotel

The typhoon is still some 400km (250 mi) away and is moving very slowly, so I hope I will be able to fly out in the morning.    There is no breeze at all (the calm before the storm?), so the air quality and visibility is poor.   The picture is from the border crossing at Shenzhen.    I had dinner here at the Hong Kong Skycity Marriott hotel and then ventured out on the metro to Tsing Yi station.   I used the fast airport line which goes at a good clip but which also costs a little more.   (You are assumed to be Mr Businessman.  Time is money!).

The moon cakes are sold at Starbucks at Tsing Yi station.  My driver today told me to get some .. these are Chinese pastries with fillings, traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival which is coming up later in September.

Tuesday/ watch out

It’s the 31st! The month of August* is on its way out .. and it looks like I might have trouble finding my way out of Hong Kong on Thursday.   The typhoon is twisting towards Hong Kong !

*and do you know the meaning of the word august?  it’s  ‘marked by majestic dignity or grandeur’

Severe Tropical Storm LIONROCK
at 17:00 HKT 31 August 2010

( 20.6 N, 118.4 E,
about 480 km east-southeast of Hong Kong )

Monday/ typhoon Lionrock

Why does it seem to me every time my travel back to the USA comes due, a typhoon is approaching?  (I am scheduled to leave on Thu morning).   This one is called Lionrock, named after a famous hill in Hong Kong.    It is located in Kowloon and is 495 metres high.    We drive though the Lion Rock tunnel on our way to Hong Kong on Fridays.

From Wikipedia : Lion Rock is famous for its shape and is visible from various places in Kowloon; its resemblance to a crouching lion is most striking from the Choi Hung and San Po Kong areas in East Kowloon.   A trail wends its way up the forested hillside to the top, culminating atop the lion’s head.   The trail can be followed across the profile of the lion, eventually linking up with the MacLehose Trail.   The rock provides a beautiful view of the city and Hong Kong Island in the distance.   The entire hill is located within Lion Rock Country Park in Hung Mui Kuk,  Tai Wai and is made passable by vehicles by Lion Rock Tunnel, which connects Kowloon Tong and Tai Wai.

Sunday night/ Dameisha

The attractive young people with their bubble tea say ‘Come to Taiwan!’ , on a Hong Kong subway billboard on the way back today.   I just might !

Then tonight I finally walked around Dameisha with my camera to capture some of the apartment buildings that had recently been fitted with lighting strips (my apartment has none).   The Yanba Expressway runs by Dameisha.  And close by is a real estate office called the Australian Villa Demonstration Centre,  kangaroo and all.   Hmm.   Australian-style villas in China?   Or villas in Australia?  I am not sure.   And just as a side note – a villa was originally an ancient Roman upper-class country house.

Saturday

Saturday morning we took the Star Ferry from Hong Kong island to Kowloon.   It’s a quick 10 minute crossing, mostly for tourists.   The metro or the traffic tunnels under the harbor is a much more efficient way to get across!   The sky was hazy .. not as clear as Friday.

We found this painter in Kowloon Park, and the Chinese banyan is from Nathan Road right by the park.   We stopped at a coffee shop for lunch.

Saturday night three of us from work went to the Pacific Place mall to go to Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill for some American comfort food.   The menu says Warning! We serve American-sized portions. A young Asian couple that sat across from us ordered one item from the menu and shared it.    The neon sign is from Tsim Tsa Tsui district, my favorite night-time haunt in the city where I went after dinner.

Friday in Hong Kong

In the first picture I pose with those same cumulus clouds I saw from my hotel room earlier – this time  from The Peak’s observation deck.   (The clouds seem to look down and laugh at the so-called skyscrapers far below).   After dinner I went for a walk-about in Central district on Hong Kong Island.    Those are the tops of the Bank of China building, the Citibank building and the HSBC building.   The stone lion is from the front of another bank building nearby and that’s a lion cub under the lion’s paw.   ‘The Stool Pigeon‘ is a new locally -made movie that started showing, about the police and informants.  (See the reflection of the name of a famous South African diamond company in the picture?).     Then I went over to Kowloon and stalked this Lamborghini in the late-night traffic on foot until I could take a picture of it.   Moments later the light turned green and it was gone with a roar.

Friday morning

It’s a gorgeous day in Hong Kong with puffy cumulus clouds out over the harbor.   I’m working from the hotel room .. but my colleague Vic and I want to take advantage of the weekday this afternoon to take the Peak tram up the hillside overlooking the city.   The brand-new 110 story International Commerce Center building has not yet opened its observation deck – they will do so by the end of the year, says the website.   Now back to work !

Thursday/ Shenzhen about to turn 30

The city of Shenzhen is turning 30 tomorrow, and has declared Friday a holiday.   So there will be no one here and we are not coming in to work – we will work from our apartments.      In my case I will work from the hotel in Hong Kong since I am going there tonight already.     It will be good to be able to work uninterrupted for a whole day.

These pictures from this link http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/shenzhen30years/sz.html .   The city has certainly come a long way from being a fishing village in 1980.    The central government has also announced that two new districts are added to the Special Economic Zone for Shenzhen.  In an article from the Wall Street Journal, it is reported that China’s broader economy seems to have bounced back just fine from the great recession of 2008 and 2009 .. but that in its two most vibrant southern cities, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, one casualty is still struggling to recover: entrepreneurialism.

Wednesday/ white tea

Our client company handed out tin boxes with white tea to us here.    The loose tea buds are packaged into one foil bag.   The second picture is what it looks like in my cup.   (I need a strainer !)   I drink it without sugar (for once) and it actually tastes very good  .. but of course not nearly as strong black tea,  my favorite ‘color’ tea.   I know of green tea and red tea, and there may even be other colors.

It rained overnight and the weather has cooled down nicely.   I am sure both the humidity and the temperature will go back to their normal values, though !

Tuesday/ 9 day traffic jam

Yahoo USA ran this report today on its home page :

Thousands of vehicles were bogged down Monday in a more than 100-kilometre (62-mile) traffic jam leading to Beijing that has lasted nine days and highlights China’s growing road congestion woes.

The Beijing-Tibet expressway slowed to a crawl on August 14 due to a spike in traffic by cargo-bearing heavy trucks heading to the capital, and compounded by road maintenance work that began five days later, the Global Times said.

The photo below shows early morning traffic crosses the Huanhuayuan bridge across the Jialing in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality on July 28, 2010.   China’s car production and sales will both exceed 15 million units this year, state media quoted an industry association as saying on August 4.   In the USA, 2009 sales of light vehicles (cars and light trucks) in the United States came in at only 10.4m units, the lowest level in 27 years.