The coolest color in laser pointers is blue right now – just out for commercial use reportedly after 8 years of research. It uses a gallium nitride crystal to produce a 473 nanometer blue laser light which is sure to make all other laser pointer owners green with envy – those with green ones as well as the red ones which are so cheap now that I picked one up for ¥20 /US$3 in Shenzhen some time ago.
Our project manager has found a shop that sells blue laser pointers in Shanghai for ¥500 /US$80. Should I get one? (Should I get you one? Let me know by Friday). I see the website thinkgeek sells them for US$500.
Just a few more pictures from the weekend before I dive into the work week. A colorful mushroom from an art gallery on Hollywood Ave in the antique district; I only discovered the area this weekend. The Peninsula has been voted the world’s best hotel on several occasions, and is widely regarded as one of the region’s legendary properties. New glamorous wall poster of a chic Asian gal clutching her HP notebook computer designed by Vivienne Tam nearby the Peninsula.
I will let the pictures tell what I was up to this weekend. I finally found the best way to get to Hong Kong : there is a luxury coach bus that leaves from the Sheraton Hotel and lets all of us go through the border, and picks us up again on the other side : very convenient. Yes, it costs a whopping ¥75 (US$10) compared with ¥12 (US$2) for the municipal bus, but it’s worth it.
Pictures from the top : second visit to the Peak station, this time provided a very nice view of the city below. Artsy display with T-Rex and Vitamin water at Peak station store; not sure what the connection is though. Got me some Marmite at an international grocery store in Kowloon. It was positioned between the American equivalent, Spam spread (didn’t know there was spam spread) , and the Australian : Vegemite ! How about some black-skinned chicken? What makes the skin black? I don’t know. Yes, the iPad is for sale here even though Apple says it is not : ). It runs HK$5,000 (US$625) – too pricey to take a gamble on and buy here. And the packaging looks a little suspect. Poster from the department store SOGO. It’s their 25th anniversary. The two symbols for the Chinese ‘Thank You’ (third from the left) is pronounced ‘shee-shee’. Blurry over-the-heads steal picture I took in the night club Volume on Saturday night. The dance floor was actually too crowded for any dancing. You just drink your beer or cocktail and ogle all the people. And listen to Lady Gaga singing Pokerface.
How about a black sesame green tea latte? (The sign is from Starbucks at Hong Kong airport). So! I wondered : is there even such a thing as black sesame? Well, there is. Black sesame soup is a popular Chinese dessert that can be widely found throughout China and Hong Kong. In traditional Chinese medicine black sesame is thought to be beneficial for the liver and kidneys.
Since there is a rumor that we will start working Saturdays from next weekend, I’m heading out to Hong Kong tonight. My friend Doug from Seattle will be there to say hello to, as well a group of people from work. My Chinese colleagues chided me for going to Hong Kong when I could have gone to Ghangzou (4 hrs by train from Shenzhen) .. well, it takes preparation and some extra time to tackle that for a weekend travel project. It’s been a rough 4 days at work with more to come next week, so it will be nice to go to the Marriott Courtyard and its neighborhood that I know well by now. I love the little 7-11 store downstairs with its great selection of snacks and drinks, and some English newspapers and magazines to boot as well.
Happiness at home is a clean kitchen, right? .. and sharp-eyed readers will notice that I cheated and smuggled in some ‘Post’ Great Grains cereal from the USA (gasp!). It’s on the fridge in front of the microwave oven.
I took the photo below my stroll outside on the street last night. The bright white sign is a new LED sign at the supermarket. I was sad to see the neon sign that it replaced go, since neon signs of Chinese characters are interesting to see up close. It takes the art of bending the glass tubes to a new level ! I’ll dig up some pictures from Hong Kong and post them.
Beijing declared today a day of mourning for the more than 2,000 victims of the Apr 14 earthquake in Jiegu in the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Region.
These photos from CNN’s website by Bruce Foreman.
That’s Coca-Cola. Recognize the last character? It’s the happy character. And kǒu means mouth so I guess Coke makes one’s mouth happy. That’s my little tiger piggy bank keeping it company. (The tiger does not look too happy!).
可口可乐 kě kǒu kě lè Coca-Cola
My team has been kicked upstairs into cubicles here in the building where we work, an upgrade from the shoulder-to-shoulder desks in the big room where we worked until now. We have several important meetings this week, some of which will address the work method we follow and take a hard look at where we are with the detail blueprint design.
Here I am, back in China. ‘All’ it took this time was : 25 min taxi from home to Seatac airport, 2hrs wait, 40 min- prop plane ride (picture taken at Vancouver airport after arrival), 30 mins in Canada passport line, 1 hr detained at Canada customs, 1 hr wait for boarding, 13 hours in Cathay Pacific 747 business class, 20 mins in Hong Kong passport line, 30 mins drive in van to China border, 20 mins in China mainland passport line, 2 hrs in Shenzhen Monday evening traffic.
Yes, Canada customs had an icy reception for me – shunting me into a waiting room with 30 other passport offenders. The reason (I was told only after a 1 hr wait) : I was refused entry into Canada in 1995 on my South African passport. I recalled the incident only after I was finally allowed to go through : a group of us working for Spearhead Consultants in Rochester NY at the time, drove down to Niagara Falls, then thought we’d try to look at it from the Canadian side. When I presented my South African passport was told I need a visa, and I just turned around. That’s a reason to stop me from setting foot in Vancouver 15 years later on my US passport? Keep in mind I had come in and out of Canada multiple times on my South African passport after 1995 ! And was that customs agent RUDE. I think it’s time we made Canada a Special Administrative Region of the United States, the way Hong Kong is of China.
The laser picture is taken from my back balcony. I think a laser show is part of the close-of-day show at Outside China Town park which is close by.
The horse with jockey picture is from the Emerald Downs racetrack here in the Seattle area where my friends and I went to check out the horse races yesterday. I bet a total of $21 and won $5.25 on the races . ( I suppose I should keep my day job, right?).
The street sign I saw on my walk in the neighborhood by my house had a nice cobweb with dew drops (which might be hard to see on the smaller picture). As I turned to cross the street a guy on a bicycle almost crashed into me. The street was eerily quiet, and so I didn’t even look up to check it was safe to cross. I’m sure that would have put a dent in my travel plans out today! Check and double check before crossing !
So here I am at Sea-Tac airport, ‘roughing’ it before I step onto Cathay Pacific in Vancouver. I have no ‘status’ (as frequent flyers call it) on Alaska Airlines or Cathay Pacific, so when I walked up to the security line I had to join a line with oh, a 100 people. Then I thought I’d check the other security point because I know all security points gets you to all the departure terminals and sure enough, there were THREE people in line at the other one. Once inside though, I have no business class lounge access, so I’m in the main dining/ shopping hall with the huge window overlooking the tarmac.
I’m getting ready for shipping out tomorrow .. looks like the havoc that the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull is wreaking on European air travel will not affect my flight tomorrow. More great pictures of the volcano on the link below. It’s a new route that I’m trying – flying to Vancouver first and then to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. (Delta files direct to Hong Kong from Seattle but the flight is very expensive). The Seattle-Vancouver-Hong Kong route a little shorter than the one through San Francisco.
I’m making an appearance at the office today .. got to pick up some spare adapters for my teammates and take care of an expense report or two. The first picture is close to my house, the little green leaves sprouting from the trees and the air crisp and cool in contrast to the warm and muggy air I’m going to on Sunday again. The second one is on the way to downtown on Pine Street. The Bauhaus coffee shop is a good non-Starbucks place to tune out over a book with a cup of coffee and looks a lot older than its 1993 start date. Of course once I arrived at work I had to get my double tall soy vanilla latte here at one of THREE Starbuckses in the building : ), surveying the 8.00 am crowd waiting for their caffeine fixes along with me to get made – and appreciating that I could understand all the chatter and buzz going on around me, cultural references included. Come Monday I’ll be as dumb as a doorknob again among the Chinese people in the restaurant and in public ! I need to learn to speak Chinese, but where to find the time? Maybe on the bus-ride to work and back with my iPod.
The travel back and forth to China and Hong Kong has turned on my collector’s impulses : for pictures, for souvenirs, for currency bills and for little items such as these below which are part of the toy culture there. Red Magic is the company and the C.i. boys sports series has figurines dressed in 12 different sports costumes, with all kinds of facial expressions. The little guys are only two inches tall – sold in little boxes, wrapped in foil, so only when one opens it, so you see if you actually got a new one for your collection. I buy them at Hong Kong airport.
So from left to right :
Migu ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ (his stick horse is sucking on a beer bottle ! ), Uni the athlete, Poka the weight lifter, with a drop of drool or foam in the corner of his mouth : ) and Deri the tennis player.
It is barely Wednesday here at 12.48 am but I’m taking a break from work. Yes .. my days here in Seattle from China have morphed into 2 hr or 4 hr sessions of work, sleep or something else around the clock. I do try to make it to bed by 2 am and then I sleep in a little. Like my pose on my back deck? I just swept it. (And is my hair really so grey? Must be the project. I’m starting to look like Anderson Cooper from CNN. He has a full head of white hair). The laurel hedge behind me has been trimmed back well clear of the phone line coming into the house by my contractor-friend Paul, so I don’t have to worry about it interfering with the lines for at least a few years.
There is word today from China’s Qinghai province of a 6.9 earthquake, loss of several hundred lives reported so far. : ( It’s far from where we work in Guangdong province in the far south east of the country.
Here is my collection of ‘King Ottokar’s Sceptre’ Tintin books with the addition of the Chinese language version (came out only in 2007).
Recognize the languages? Clockwise : German, Slovak, Chinese and Afrikaans. So where is the English one? I made a mistake up on my last trip to South Africa and bought a second Afrikaans one (Tintin books are generally not sold in book stores in the USA, so I will order one from Amazon).
So .. is this just for the novelty, or am I serious to learn some written Chinese? Let me get back to you on that. It’s just so hard to figure out a written phrase because I cannot reproduce the characters easily. I have to tease out the meaning of the Chinese characters from the English side. What I have so far on the title panel of the book (never mind the 62 pages of cartoon strips with text inside! oof), is :
王 wáng king or monarch / best or strongest of its type / grand / great (interestingly this is also used for the ubiquitous surname Wang in Chinese)
The last two characters 權 + 杖 = quán authority / power / right / temporary + zhang crutches / crutch / walking stick, together makes for ‘scepter’
Yes, I had to do a ‘breakfast in America’ post after the ‘breakfast in China’. This is a bowl of All Bran Corn Flakes with granola, raisins and strawberry, with vanilla soy milk. (Soy milk so that I can eat a little yogurt and get a latte from Starbucks later in the morning without getting a complete diary overdose). Usually I put banana in my cereal but the grocery store ran out of the regular ones. So I grabbed some red bananas from Ecuador, without knowing what they taste like. These ones are evidently not ripe yet. I only read on-line afterwards that the skin becomes bright red and the flesh soft and sweet. Sounds good! so I will see if they ripen up in the next few days.
Just sorting through my mail (mostly junk mail, of course). I had to fill out my census form and send it in. Time to stand up and be counted! Ten simple questions and they do require name, age and birthday. One would think one’s age can be determined by one’s birthday, but anyway. And Question 10 made me pause : ‘Does Person 1 sometimes live or stay somewhere else?‘. Hmm. I said ‘no’ because I am in fact never away for more than 3 or 4 weeks at a time.
The census, mandated by the Constitution, helps determine how more than $400 billion in federal funds for things like public housing, highways and schools are distributed to state and local governments. States have a big incentive to get the count right: Each uncounted person means a loss of about $1,400. The recession and joblessness will make the counting harder. One out of eight housing units is vacant nationwide. The rate in Washington state is about one in 20.
Here is my house’s spring look : new seeding and top soil for the front lawn, Camellia shrub on the right corner gone, as are the poor shrubs in front of the house that withered from neglect from its globe-trotting owner. I’m going to give it another try with new shrubs (that I still have to go pick out).
I’m home! Oos wes tuis bes. East, west, home best. It was sunny today but not warm : 3 °C/ 38 °F ! The picture below is from the long hallway in San Francisco airport on the way to clearing customs. I just liked the way all the lines converged into the middle of my view.
Hey, it’s the same time I left Hong Kong, but here I am in San Francisco. I got an upgrade to first class, so I sat in the lap of luxury. I watched two movies and had two really nice meals. I didn’t sleep much but I will catch up at home. The security alert level here at the SFO airport is Red (High), and we all got patted down at Hong Kong airport. I haven’t run into the new controversial body-scanners yet, though. Or maybe I have and I didn’t know it !