August 31, 2010
Dyeing dogs has become pretty popular in Beijing. CNN just ran a story that talks about this phenomenon; they even highlighted this dog from our neighborhood! We see this dog pretty frequently. The owners' ayi (maid) is too embarrassed to walk the dog except in the early morning (when she also apparently doesn't feel the need to scoop up after him).
I think the shop they mention in the story is in the shopping center across the street from us. I've seen a dog painted like a tiger or more simple ones with just rainbow colored highlights.
August 29, 2010
I went with my friends Imran and Misha today to a Canon expo at the 798 Art District. This was a free event put on by Canon to showcase some of their new products like the EOS 60D and 300mm f2/8L IS II lens.
The event was in an old water or oil tank. The space was actually pretty cool.
Inside, they had a almost their whole line-up of gear to lust over.
One of the nice freebies they offered was sensor and lens cleaning. Through this process, I learned my beloved (but battered) 70-200 2.8L lens has some moisture residue inside and the barrel is loose. Time for a repair.
Around the edges they had set up mini-studios with their gear to shoot plus models in different environments to shoot in. In the middle they were printing peoples' photos on the various Canon printers. They also had a stage for presentations and a little theater to show movies shot with the Canon DSLRs.
Unfortunately, I think the models were a bit bored and let it show.
Still, the event was fun and worth every penny. :) I really appreciate Canon putting these kinds of events on to let the community try stuff out.
August 26, 2010
Last week, the senior leaders on my team at work and I went offsite for two days to discuss our future plans. After staying for an evening at the lovely Commune by the Great Wall (super cool resort -- worth checking out their site), we went to Longqing Xia for some "hiking" (really a ton of stair-climbing). This lovely gorge is about fifty miles north of Beijing, past the Great Wall at Badaling. The mountains rise up almost straight up from a beautiful (and clean!) lake formed by a big dam.
For some reason I still don't understand, instead of taking the gondolas halfway up the mountain before starting our climb to the top, we elected to hike up from the bottom. You can see how far the gondolas go up here.
We just kept climbing up and up the stairs. I was dying most of the time. Not only was I really out of shape, but I was also carrying a big camera bag full of gear including my big 70-200 2.8L lens. Still the view at the top was worth it.
Here's are me and my colleagues at the top.
As you may be able to tell from the photos, we had a beautiful day for our outing. It was a little warm but not bad for Beijing, and the air quality was good since we were outside of the city. My only regret was not getting a chance to take a boat ride down the lake. I hope to go back soon to do that with my family.
August 14, 2010
I'm not embarrassed to admit I'm a huge fan of the TV show Glee. (OK, maybe a little embarrassed, but not too much.) Part of why I enjoy the show so much is that I sang in a show choir (we called it "swing choir") while I was in high school in Minnesota. Watching the show has definitely brought back memories.
We sang and danced to songs like Sweet Sweet Smile and Bill Bailey. Obviously, we weren't nearly as good as New Directions or Vocal Adrenaline from the show. (Heck, we didn't even have a name beyond "Woodbury High School Swing Choir"). Our singing was decent, but our dancing was pretty basic (I can do a jazz square, but that's about it). We had a great pianist, but we didn't have a backing band, full church choir, or jazz horns like they do in the show. Our sets were pretty basic too -- a bunch of black wooden boxes (as seen in the photos below). Our outfits, however, were almost identical to the ones the guys in Vocal Adrenaline wear (their shoes are better, I guess.)
I hope the popularity of Glee spurs growth (or at least survival) of show choirs across America. I had a great time with it and hope kids today can too.
Here's us in 1985:
Here's the choir in 1986:
Here's Vocal Adrenaline, from the show, so you can compare outfits:
August 7, 2010
I thought this shot from our Whidbey trip was a great one photo summary of my ideal afternoon.
Last week we rented a house in Holmes Harbor on Whidbey Island with our friends Barbi and Kellie for a few days of crabbing, sunshine, and general laziness. Our friends Nori, Stacy, and Jarrett (and Stacy's dad) from Beijing came out too for a bit since the were in Seattle as well.
The house was part of an eighteen acre holly farm (yes, Christmas holly needs farms too), appropriately named Holly Hills Farm. It was really a lovely place on a quiet harbor. They have three houses for rent there - a larger, modern place (which we had), a mid-sized farm house, and a smaller farm house. Our place was well outfitted with everything you could want -- great kitchen with every manner of tool/pot/pan, grill, propane boiler (for all those crabs!), washer/dryer, fluffy towels, etc.
Here's the house from the water side:
Here's the view down from the house toward their dock:
Barbi brought her 19' speedboat and crab traps along. We soon found a good spot and were hauling in tons of crabs. We probably pulled up 200 over the course of four days, keeping about fifty (there are size/gender restrictions plus daily limits -- fortunately, we had several licenses so we could get a lot of crabs. The beach was also full of lovely, easily-dug clams as well as mussels, although we bought mussels since the store-bought ones are cleaner and not stuck together.
Michael (10) driving out to check out traps:
A pot full of yummy crabs -- turkey legs are awesome bait! They are cheap, last all day, and crabs can't resist.
A blazing pot full of crabby goodness:
The day's bounty (actually, just part of it...) We wound up eating crab a million ways -- boiled crab, crab fried rice, black bean crab, crab roll, crab omelets, crab cocktail, cold cracked crab, and more. We also had oysters (with whisky and one of this year's Oyster Wine Content winners), hyper fresh and ripe berries of all descriptions, black cod kasuzuke, fresh corn, and mussels and clams. It was absolutely incredible. By the second or third day, though, Michael declared a crab moratorium for himself.
In addition to crabbing and being lazy, the kids fished a bit. Stacy's dad is an avid fisherman and taught the kids how to bottom fish for dogfish -- little sharks:
Andrew (13) hooked into two of the dogfish, but since we weren't using steel leaders, both cut the line as they approached the dock. I can't say that I'm disappointed that we didn't land it. I wasn't sure I wanted to mess with unhooking the things.
We also just played in the water a bunch (OK, the kids did -- it was pretty cold...)
Like many boys, Andrew (13) and Michael (10) are fascinated by all things military and have expressed interest in becoming snipers or some such. So, as part of helping them explore this interest, on our recent camping trip, I brought an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat -- a military ration) along for them to try.
Here are the contents of the MRE laid out. Our menu for the evening was a "pork rib, boneless, imitation" (really a chopped pork burger formed into the shape of ribs and covered in a barbecue sauce of sorts), refried beans, crackers, cheese spread, peanut butter (which we couldn't eat since the kids are allergic), and an oatmeal cookie.
In the interest of giving us the best chance of enjoying the meal, I heated up the meat and beans in some boiling water (the pack didn't contain chemical heaters unfortunately).
Here's what the meat and beans looked like. The beans tasted fine, just like you'd expect canned refried beans to taste like. The "pork rib, boneless, imitation" wasn't as bad as I had feared. Overall the meal tasted like a mid-quality school cafeteria lunch.
That said, once they had a taste of the various parts of the MRE, the boys went back to their hotdogs pretty quickly.
Even after this experience, the boys have not renounced their interest in going military, although I think they'll have to broaden their dietary tolerance before they can really make it.
(For the record, the MRE was made by Sopackco and was a civilian version of the MREs they make for the military.)
We set up camp two spaces down from our last site in space 186. It was a nice, level spot, close to the bathrooms and water. (You can see our lovely rental Jeep Commander.)
Andrew (13) decided to bring a little American Gothic vibe to the site, but he couldn't get Michael (10) to join in the photo.
Of course, the big draw (besides cooking stuff on a fire and playing with driftwood) is the beautiful scenery at Deception Pass.
The next morning was a bit foggy (although fortunately it didn't rain on us like last time.)
The boys decided to hang out in the tent in the morning for a while playing card games. As you can guess from their clothes, it was bit chilly. Fortunately, we learned from our last trip and brought a lot more firewood so we could have more and bigger fires. This was a big improvement and important for our general comfort.
Eventually, the fog started burning off, and it became a lovely day with more playing the beach, hiking, and climbing the rocks. I also showed Andrew how to make snares and deadfalls as part of his camping education. It was kind of lucky that they worked since I hadn't ever made them either, having just read about them in books... (Of course, we didn't leave the traps out nor did we try to catch any animals in them.)
It was a fun trip. I really enjoyed getting the spend time with the family outside in such a beautiful place. They boys didn't have their electronics nor did they seem to miss them. The camping system is pretty well set up in Washington so it's easy to find and reserve a spot online (especially if you do it well in advance like I did). I really don't have many excuses to not take them camping more often, especially once we move back to Seattle from China.