Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

That may be an overly generous reading of the dimensions, I don't know. Ahem.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm thinking that if my husband went so far as to cut off his own penis to prove he was faithful, I'd be pretty sure he was lying. You know, protesting too much and all that. But maybe that's an unfairly cynical point of view.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

No Moss Gathered Here

Fluff Post to Relieve You From Being Assaulted by Nose Hairs Until I Come Up With Something Better

Good grief, I apologize for leaving that dreadful nose hair post up top for the entire long weekend. I'm in that fevered netherworld of "must get project done" where few other thoughts are allowed to intrude upon my overtaxed brain. As soon as this work is finished and I'm back to navel gazing, I shall regale you with stories of that most petty cruelty, the intractably rainy Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Trailhead Keeps Her Day Job

The scene:

Borders. Our regular babysitter had come over to take charge of TK, and we are spending the evening kicking around, kid-free. Bladerunner (God, he really needs a new name. I think I'll start calling him Mr. T.) had just picked up Salt: A World History.

Me: Who thought to write a book about salt? Why couldn't I think of that?

Him: You could think of something. What about coffee?

Me: Been done. Several times. Maybe nose hairs.

Him: See? There you go. Nose hairs they've shaped history.

Me: The nose hairs of the presidents. Presidential nose hairs.

Him: That's it.

Friday Cat Blogging

Trailhead Brother was in Key West last week and has kindly provided fodder for Friday Cat Blogging -- a rare event since I don't have a cat.

This guy was busy:

Must be nice to hang around the Hemingway House all day chasing lizards up trees.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

In the Lost Afterglow

The Lost finale, predictably, kicked ass.

Can I get an amen, Fullmoon?

Lots of questions answered (or at least addressed). More questions raised.

Just when you think the show can't throw any more random weirdness at you, Sayid, Jin, and Sun spot the remains of a giant statue off coast of the island: a four-toed foot.

Random asides:

  • Zeke/Mr. Friendly is really named "Tom."
  • Not-Henry Gale says they "got more than they bargained for" with Walt.
  • Are Locke and Eko dead?
  • So, do you really think Desmond "caused" Flight 815 to crash by pushing the button too slowly?
  • How funny was it when Sawyer learned that "caught in a net" was not a euphemism for steamy jungle sex?

    Oh, the agony of the off-season!!!!!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

And There It Is

I prowl around a lot in the political blogosphere, but I'm rarely an active participant, as I usually don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said by five hundred other commenters. But as you well know, while I will offer up political tidbits on this blog from time to time, I generally prefer to blog about slugs and vultures and other frivolous stuff.

But, my three readers, if you don't read anything else from a political blog today, read this. Especially if you're white and inclined to think that you're put upon by all those whiny minorities. (I don't know anyone like that who reads this site, but whatever.)

(Isn't it funny, me linking to the Daily Kos? Kinda like squirting water from an eye dropper into the ocean. Heh.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Diva Suffers a Crisis in Dogly Confidence, or Why I'm Tired Today

I've written before about the ball of canine assholitude that is Diva Dog. Consistent with her other annoying habits, Diva will occasionally awake from a dead sleep at, say, 2:30 a.m., and run at an imaginary something, barking the entire time. I know this because Diva sleeps under my bed. So I can hear her.

Ordinarily, this sort of thing can be cured by flinging a pillow at her and asking her to kindly shut the hell up. Then she wakes up and realizes she is charging not the cat or squirrel of her dreams, but rather our other dog, who is so used to this drill that she now sleeps through it entirely. Whereupon Diva slinks back under the bed, plops down and immediately falls back to sleep.

Except last night. Shortly after midnight, there abruptly arose such a din of houndly screeching that we both sat upright in bed (just like they do on TV when someone wakes up from a bad dream, sweating and breathing hard, even though most people never really do that).

The pillow was duly hurled, and the order to cease and desist issued, but to no avail. From the fog of sleep, we vaguely discerned that she was attacking the sliding glass door that goes out onto our deck from our second-story bedroom. And she was attacking it good. She was beating the crap out of that door.

Once we got up and flipped on the outside light, the source of her angst was revealed -- two fat raccoons peering inquisitively into our bedroom. (Perverts.) Our guests sat there the entire time, completely unfazed by Diva's howling, other than sporting the most grievously offended expressions on their faces, as if to say, "Jeez, who pissed in her bathwater?"

It took both of us to physically pry Diva off the door. I held her while my sleep-addled husband cracked the door and asked the raccoons to please get the fuck off our deck. His voice through the cracked door succeeded where Diva's hissy fit failed, and the visitors scampered hastily down the stairs.

Still, Diva barked and writhed and, when she realized I wasn't going to release her, emitted a kind of grieved, high-pitched whine. She wanted those raccoons so badly. She'd encountered an opponent she was unable to intimidate, and this was intolerable. That the raccoons had maintained an almost Zen-like calm in the face of her assault seems to have unsettled her deeply.

I think she's still a little depressed about it today:

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Call for Armchair Miss Manners-ing: Overstaying Your Welcome

TH has assured me that I'm not overstaying my welcome here at Trailheadcase. She has the green light to kick me out anytime, though, and she knows it.

Nevertheless, I do have a serious question about overstaying one's welcome or, more generally, about when to draw the line on taking advantage of the goodwill of friends or family.

Say you have to travel to a city where you have friends or family. For whatever reason, you can't expense your lodging on this trip (i.e., you don't have an expense account at your job, it's not a job-related trip, or the expense account won't cover this particular trip).

How long of a visit is too long to ask your friends/family if you can stay with them? Or, is it bad form to ask to stay at all (even for one night)? Does the rule vary depending on friend vs. family? Does the size of the dwelling of the friends/family make a difference? Is weekend vs. weekday relevant?

Let's limit "family" for the purpose of this discussion to siblings and aunts/uncles/cousins with whom you keep in touch on a regular basis. (I'm assuming it's a breach of etiquette to call up long-lost Great Aunt Beulah in San Diego to ask if you can bunk at her seaside condo for a week-long vacation.)

Summon your best Judith Martin impersonation and let me know your thoughts. If you can fashion a good rule of thumb, all the better. After some time for discussion in the comments, I'll update the post with my thoughts on the question.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Idiocy of the Day

Here's a fun quote from North Carolina State Rep. Drew Saunders (D-ugh), spat forth in the process of making the argument that a $200 reporting requirement for gifts from non-family members was too low:

"Even Baby Jesus accepted gifts, and I don't believe it corrupted him."
True. And heck, if gifts didn't corrupt a depraved reprobate like the Christ child, then surely politicians can stay above the fray. Yeah.

Via Think Progress.

Blogger Ate the Lost Post

I wrote a post about Lost yesterday picking up on Fullmoon's prompt. When I went to post it . . . *poof* . . . it disappeared. Blogger consumed it.

It would be too much effort to recreate it. So, here's the highlights:

  1. Fullmoon was wrong. The season finale isn't until next week. I'm not rubbing her nose in her error, but rather celebrating with her that we get two more hours of Lost-tastic TV.
  2. If you're not watching Lost, you should be. You too, TH.
  3. Join Netflix and watch the first season this summer. The second season comes out October 3, so you'll probably have to tape or Tivo (oh, if only I had Tivo!) the first few episodes of season 3. It's worth the investment.
  4. If you are watching Lost, I'm interested in your theories. Who are the Others? Is Henry Gale their leader? Why does Walt say, "They're not who they pretend to be"? What's in the boat? What happens when the Losties don't enter the numbers? Why did Flight 815 crash in the first place? And what's the monster/black cloud of smoke?
  5. If you really want to waste a lot of time, the Lost producers have launched an interactive computer-based game called "The Lost Experience." The game also has a tie-in with "The Bad Twin," Hyperion Books's Lost-inspired novel, which was "written by" one of the folks on Flight 815. The game is a black hole of time, so I don't recommend it. But, if you must, visit the Hanso Foundation's website, call the Hanso Foundation's toll-free number (1-877-426-7674 or 1-877-HANSORG). It's been going on for a few weeks, so this site will allow you to catch up.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Why Didn't God Warn Us About Pat Robertson?

So Pat Robertson can read. Specifically, he was able to read all those articles that came out in the wake of the Asian tsunami observing that the coastal northwest is also particularly vulnerable to tsunamis.

Oh, I'm sorry. God told him, you say? So it's not a matter of common scientific knowledge coupled with, say, a November election?

"If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms," Robertson said May 8. On Wednesday, he added, "There well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest."
If he heard the Lord right. Which I don't think he did, because I'm pretty sure the Lord really told him to stop being such a fucking tool. Maybe it's just me, but I think the Lord can do a little bit better than telling us our coast is going to be lashed by the beginning of hurricane season. Thank you, Captain Obvious.

And of course, let's not forget that there "may well be something as bad as a tsunami." Or not, but considering that tsunamis occur here about every 300-500 years, and the last one was in 1700, maybe God thought it would be a safe bet to warn us.

What pisses me off more than anything is that there are people being manipulated by that old asshole.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ode to Huckleberries

I cracked open the last bag of frozen huckleberries this weekend, when my mom was here.

Every year when we go to Montana we get them. Sometimes my father-in-law goes up to the Ross Creek area and spends hours and hours picking the tiny, sweet purple spheres. Sometimes we buy them from another enterprising soul who has done the picking for us. But we always get scads of them, and we always are careful to freeze several ziplocs full of them. That way, when we go to the house over New Year's, there are plenty for pancakes, waffles and muffins.

During the summer of 2003, the whole state was so arid it was pretty much all up in flames when we got there in July. Huckleberries were AWOL. We searched and searched and could only find a few pathetic, withered specimens on the vines. Back at the house I scoured the deep freeze for anything remaining from the winter, but found only a couple of frozen trout, and no berries.

And yet, that weekend my father-in-law managed to bake a huckleberry pie, and scare up a full pound for me on top of that, and I still don't know where he got them. He's cagey that way.

This weekend was sufficiently close to huckleberry season that I felt it was safe to stop hoarding my stash and indulge. Since my mom was here, I decided to make the huckleberry lemonade I have spent many summers perfecting.

It goes something like this:

Take a quart-sized ziploc of hucks and let them defrost. Meanwhile, slice up 6-8 big lemons about a quarter inch thick. Get a big bowl. Line the bottom with lemon slices. Sprinkle enough sugar on them to coat. Add another layer of lemons and sugar, and so on until you've used up all your lemons. Get about 4-6 cups of boiling water -- or really however much covers the lemons by a couple inches -- and pour over the slices. Wait a few minutes, and then get a potato masher and start smushing. When you get tired of doing that, let the whole mess sit for awhile and go do something else. Actually, this is a good time to make some simple syrup. Put about 2 cups of water in the microwave and nuke it till it's just boiling. Then dump about a cup of sugar in there. Stir till it dissolves, and stick it in the frig.

Now go back to your lemon mixture. Drain it all, preferably through a colander or some cheesecloth or something, into a pitcher. Go back to your defrosted bag of hucks. There should be a lot of huckleberry juice. Pour off all the huck juice into the lemonade, and stick it into the frig with the simple syrup. Save a couple of the thicker lemon slices to put on the glasses. When everything's chilled a bit, fill glasses with ice and throw about a tablespoon of whole hucks in each glass. Then fill the glass half full with the now purple-ish lemonade. Add simple syrup to taste.

Labor intensive, yes. But fun and tasteeeeee. Tonight I made iced tea. Same process, except I used loose tea instead of lemons. Yum. Tomorrow will be muffins.

Fortunately, Oregon is almost as huck-crazy as Montana. But Montana's obsessed with those little purple balls. If Bubba from Forrest Gump had been from Montana instead of Louisiana, he wouldn't have been babbling about shrimp, it would have been huckleberries. "Huckleberry coffee, huckleberry waffles, huckleberry shakes, huckleberry jam, huckleberry butter..."

All hail the huckleberry.

A Storm By Any Other Name

Typhoon Chanchu slammed into south coastal China Wednesday. It appears the worst of it was slightly north of where we were, but the woman in the photograph on the CNN page getting soaked by a wave is in Zhuhai, where we ate lunch early in the week. It appeared for awhile that the typhoon would hit Hong Kong, but ultimately veered eastward. Later we'll e-mail O (who lives in Shanghai, thank goodness) to see how our south China friends are faring.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Quirky States

After babysitting the blog in her absence, Trailhead offered to allow me to continue posting here from time to time. I thought that was generous and will take advantage of the invitation . . . at least until the regular commenters here form a posse and run me off with pitchforks and torches.

At one time, Trailhead and I toyed with the idea of starting a joint blog, but we both got busy with other stuff and it never materialized. (Mostly it was me dropping the now defunct Postcards from the Vast Wasteland, which Trailhead so kindly kept in the Trailheadcase blogroll to the right of your screen even after I stopped posting.) We had a lot of fun trying to come up with names for the joint venture. My favorite, which was sensibly vetoed for reasons of taste (as it would have been much too likely to attract the dregs of the Google-searching side show freaks) was "Hoosier Beaver?" (A hat tip to Bladerunner on that one, by the way.) I'm a native and current Hoosier. Trailhead is an Oregonian Beaver. Thus, a lovely double entedre is born from our state nicknames. Nevertheless, Trailhead and I reigned in the inner seventh graders that so often emerge when we get together and decided to seek a different name for the joint blog.

We actually did settle on a name, but I won't tell what it is in case we ever decide to revisit the idea. It was a sweet, sweet name. (Okay, I'm overselling, but you'll never really know how much I'm overselling unless we actually decide to revive the joint blog idea in a different venue from here and, by then, you'll have forgotten all about my puffery. Ha!)

At any rate, the whole "Hoosier Beaver?" -- admit it, there's a certain ring to that, isn't there? -- story ties into the real subject of this post. Trailhead and I live in a couple of quirky states. This year, the state of Indiana threw in the metaphorical towel and joined most of the rest of the country on Daylight Savings time. (As a scatological aside, I'd steer clear of that metaphorical towel if you run across it, because one gets the sense that more than a few Hoosier legislators -- wait for it; here it comes -- blew their political wads in that thing. Oooh, that's so dirty!!) Now, there was no end to the upheaval this switch caused. The state is now split among Eastern and Central time zones and at least one county has officially unofficially refused to make the change.

We Hoosiers have a bit of an ownership issue with time. If you've ever been around a Hoosier when he or she is out of state, you've probably heard the whole "our time or their time?" conversation, as in "Does the store close at 8 p.m. our time or their time?" or "Let's meet for lunch at noon our time." My parents, who own a modest cabin in Ludington Michigan at the confluence of the Big Sauble River/Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan, used to refuse to recognize "Michigan time" when they visited their little summer hideout. I honestly think they feel the sting of loss now that they no longer can play the "our time/their time" game.

As a result, the spring has been rough for Hoosiers with this whole "spring forward" thing. I can only imagine the havoc "fall back" will wreak. Give us a break; it's actually lovable little quirk, don't you think?

Now, as for Oregon, I spent a few days there last month and I learned about a Beaver state quirk the hard way. The first couple of days I spent in Portland at the very nice and hip Hotel Lucia attending a professional meeting. After the meeting ended, I rented a car so that I could tour the Columbia River Gorge one day and drive the opposite direction to the coast the next. After my romp to the coast, I made a quick detour to Trailheadquarters to say hello to TH, Bladerunner, TK, and (because TH and Bladerunner had just returned from their trip to China) TK's paternal grandmother. We had a delightful dinner and great conversation -- a real feat for people who'd just flown around the world for a day and a half. Following that, I headed to the airport to return my rental car and catch my red-eye flight back to Indiana. At the very last exit before the airport, I pulled off to fill up the rental's tank. At the Shell station I got out of the car, swiped my credit card in the pay-at-the-pump reader, and proceeded to pump the gas into the car. No sooner had I topped off the tank, than I was accosted by a burly woman with an ill-advised, bottle-blonde perm yelling at me for violating Oregon state law.

"Did you know that it's illegal to pump your own gas in the state of Oregon?" grumbled the bushy-haired linebacker wannabe.

"No," I responded meekly while thinking, Please don't put me in a head lock!

With a menacing step forward, the would-be pumper of my gas -- and, presumably, hundreds of pounds of iron -- narrowed her eyes and furrowed her brow. "Well, it is," she snarled.

"Oh," I whimpered, looking around for something that could have forewarned me against my transgression. "I guess I didn't see the sign."

"No signs. It's illegal everywhere in the state," she growled. "How're you gonna pay for it now?"

"Um, I think I already did," I said and raised a visibly shaking finger to point at the pay-at-the-pump device.

She snatched the receipt from the device and thrust it at me. "Don't let it happen again!"

At that point, something in me clicked. WTF, I thought. You mean it's literally against the law for me to pump my own effing gas in this state?!?! So that knuckle-draggers like this have make-work employment?!?!

So, I did what any self-respecting two hundred and [cough-cough] pound man would do in that situation: I quickly crawled into my car and muttered under my breath, "Don't worry. I won't be coming back to your gas station any time soon." Then I glanced over my shoulder to make sure that the tell-tale flashing lights of the Oregon State Police weren't approaching to haul me off to self-pumper's prison. (Wow, another dirty little double entendre!! Or perhaps there is such a Vatican-sponsored establishment.)

It turns out that in Oregon you may not pump your own gas. This has been the law since 1951 and is justified on a number of grounds, including safety and environmental concerns (it seems that "inexperienced pumpers" tend to pollute the ground and water and expose the highly-flammable gas to fire hazards more frequently than the trained, professional pumpers, like my muscle-bound nemesis at the Portland Shell station); job creation (keeping Xena, warrior pumper, off the streets is probably a net positive); and ADA compliance (more seriously, it seems that Oregon does a much better job than most of the rest of the states of accommodating the disabled by providing full service at gas stations for no additional costs). And, Oregon is not alone. New Jersey also has a no-self-service law as well.


I'm just glad I got out of that Shell-station-stand-off with all my body parts intact. And, for those Trailheadcase readers who are not from Oregon, but who may one day visit, as they say on NBC, "the more you know . . . ."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

And a Chip Falls Off the Old Block

Trailhead Kid has discovered my camera gear.

I was photographing some fairy slipper orchids a few weeks ago in the Gorge when it seemed to hit him that Mommy was playing with some very interesting equipment. He insisted on looking through the viewfinder, but mostly I was able to distract him by giving him free rein with the digital point and shoot. Of course, now this means he wants to take pictures all the time. All. The. Time.

But here's the thing. He's actually not too bad for a three-year old. So I thought I'd give him a little blogxhibit.

He calls this one "Mom taking picture of the sunset on Cannon Beach."

"Emerging shoe fetish."

Critics everywhere are amazed at Trailhead Kid's ability to offer a fresh perspective to the standard bird-in-flight image, by eliminating any point of reference whatsoever.

Okay, so his composition skills need work. Wanna make somethin of it?

A Smooth Segue With the Squid

This is the squid kite we purchased mere steps from the Shanghai Museum. In my last post, I omitted to mention that the last negotiation had been a little trickier than usual. Once the sale price was agreed upon, the vendor made a great show of acting as though he had been negotiating for the kite alone, and that the actual string would be extra.

Cue second heart attack.

Which of course produced the desired string, though I'm not sure we were any better off for it. The Oregon coast winds broke the reel, and very nearly the string. So we're going to buy a new reel and string here. But we love the squid. The eyes on that thing just crack me up.

The Last Bits of Shanghai

It was Saturday afternoon, and I was ready to go.

It's funny. Nothing had felt right since the Tuesday puke-fest. Purple Mountain in Nanjing was a peaceful, cool interlude, but it's also the only post-Tuesday memory I have of the whole journey that has retained much clarity.

We strolled around the Shanghai Museum for a couple of hours, and saw this:

This is, believe it or not, made by northern ethnic Chinese entirely of salmon skin.

Before we went to the museum, we had taken lunch at an Indian restaurant called Tandoor. Earlier in the trip, O had expressed his disgust at Indian food, particularly the curry involved. But once he realized we liked it, he insisted that we go there for lunch. He was in Shanghai every day, he said, and could eat his favorite foods anytime.

I have to admit, the aroma when I walked into Tandoor aroused my appetite more than anything had in the past four days. There was plenty of naan, and we shared shrimp masala and shrimp biryani, and I ate. I ate! Yippee! Gone, for awhile, was the constant feeling of faintness I'd been carrying around with me -- chased away by the heartiness of naan and a good biryani. I even had a taste of saffron ice cream after lunch:

We also spent some time at the market, where I discovered that bargaining animates my otherwise extremely mellow husband. It's odd, really, like watching someone morph from Droopy to the Road Runner. The routine is fixed: He asks the price, then no matter what it is, he has a sort of fake heart attack, complete with a little screech and a press of the hand to the heart. Of course, then the vendor asks what price he thinks would be fair, and the newly-minted Road Runner responds with a number no more than a third of whatever price was originally named by the vendor. The vendor then loudly rejects this, and Road Runner/Bargainer waves his hand in disgust and begins to walk firmly away. The vendor waits a few seconds, then calls out after him. He does not respond. Vendor runs after him, grabs his arm and agrees to the price he named. RR/B grumbles as he removes his wallet. "I pay too much! I pay too much!"

O, having accompanied him to the market at least five or six times before, shook his head and smiled this time after maybe the third negotiation. He turned to me. "Bladerunner, he always get the price he want. I don't know how he do that."

At the end of the day, after we'd finished at the museum and were ready to head to dinner, we spotted an older man selling kites on People's Square. Unable to resist one last negotiation, Bladerunner decided Trailhead Kid needed a kite. Thus ensued yet another fake cardiac episode accompanied by the obligatory shriek. But a little over twenty-four hours, two flights and another brutal round of jet lag later, we arrived home with a kite.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Link Herd

I've been entertaining a visiting mother (mine) here at Trailheadquarters, so blogging has been light. There have been a number of items I've wanted to share, and very little time to share them, so I thought I'd herd them into a big link blob.

So the existence of a half-grizzly, half-polar bear has been confirmed. Unfortunately, this was confirmed by DNA tests only after the bear was killed by some trophy-hunting tool who paid $50,000 to shoot it.

A column from Jon Katz that's more than two months old, but that I just found the other day, called "Nice Ass!" about his donkeys. I love this guy's stories about his farm animals. Don't miss it.

In yet another sign that our country is totally ill-prepared to compete in this century's global marketplace, check out this article about how geographically illiterate our young adults are. Fully half could not find New York on a map of the U.S. Moreover:

Told they could escape an approaching hurricane by evacuating to the northwest, only two-thirds could indicate which way northwest is on a map. [Come on. Are they serious?]

Perhaps even more worrisome is the finding that few U.S. young adults seem to care.

Fewer than three in ten think it's absolutely necessary to know where countries in the news are located. Only 14 percent believe speaking another language fluently is a necessary skill.
This geographic ineptitude was further emphasized when young Americans were asked questions on how the United States fits into the wider world.

Three in ten respondents put the U.S. population between one and two billion (it's just under 300 million, according the U.S. Census Bureau). Seventy-four percent said English is the most commonly spoken native language in the world (it's Mandarin Chinese).

As you all know, I've just returned from China, and I've seen our competition. We're screwed if we don't get serious about our education, people.

Have a nice evening.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Is There a Dearth of Wholesome Google Searches, Or Is This Site Just a Noisome Cesspool?

If you judge the quality of a site solely by its google searches, this is one revolting weblog. Diarrhea, vomit, slugs, sea worms and the nasty bits of vultures (great -- now I'm going to get the people googling "nasty bits") -- could it get any worse? Really, it's a wonder I have any returning readers at all, but the statcounter tells me there are at least a few of you who are just as twisted as I am. And I'm delighted to see that you're not all related to me; it's not familial loyalty that brings you here, just an appreciation for the disgusting. (Or at least a hearty tolerance for it.)

As I should have known, my gastrointestinal misadventure in south China has fired up the assembly line of ick, producing one vile Google search after another. One person, who I fear was in need of immediate medical assistance, landed here after wondering why his (or her) stomach gets cold during a bout of diarrhea. Good heavens, I don't know, but perhaps you ought to be consulting someone other than a dilletante lawyer obsessed with slugs.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Jade Buddhas, Bill Clinton and Lots of Incense

The first place we went on Saturday in Shanghai was the Jade Buddha Temple. You walk in the outermost door and you find yourself in this courtyard:

Once you've stood back and observed all there is to observe in the courtyard -- and there's plenty, what with the incense and the chanting and the throngs of people -- you have to decide whether to pay a nominal fee for entrance to the actual building. We did so, of course, and immediately inside we saw this:

Then we entered a small stairwell that was densely packed with people. We could hear the ceiling above us creaking ominously. The only possible escape was a tiny window to my right.

"Somehow I don't think this place has been inspected recently," Bladerunner said as he turned his face to study the ceiling. Creeeak.

We finally made it, though, to the Jade Buddha Chamber on the second floor. There was another statue of the Buddha and the required ethereal music playing. There was also a sign prohibiting photography. (I tend to respect these, and O did not violate this admonition, as he did in Sun-Yat-Sen's mausoleum.) As we exited the Jade Buddha Chamber, I noticed several pictures of Bill Clinton on the wall, apparently from one of his visits to the temple, as well as one of Nancy Reagan. Who knew?

And as a nice bonus, seeing as how jade Buddhas have to eat too, there was a gift shop at the temple. I purchased a purply kind of bracelet for Full Moon and a tiny jade Buddha for my brother, but wasn't able to find a T-shirt that said, "I Went to the Jade Buddha Temple and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt." (God, I know. That was horrible. I apologize. I really do.)

The consummation of the deal is done rather bassackwards at the temple -- you had one of the people behind the counter inventory your purchases on a pink receipt, which you then took to the main counter, where you handed over the amount indicated on the receipt, which they kept.
As we walked into the street with our bag, one of the women working at the shop ran after us with a very angry expression on her face and letting loose a hostile stream of Chinese. Naturally, we stared blankly at her with a sort of "duh" expression, but O issued forth an equally vehement stream in response.

Apparently she thought we'd lifted the goods. O told her to go check her receipts, and almost immediately after, one of the other women ran up to her with the pink receipt listing our purchases. Once we had been cleared of the suspicion of being the kind of human refuse that would rip off a bunch of Buddhist monks, she was equanimity itself, nodding her head and smiling ruefully.

Good thing we had O. Don't know how that would have shaken out without him.

More from the temple:

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Noted, without comment

Because this story requires no extra commentary.

Hawkers, Walkers and Blinking Rubber Fish

Hawkers on the Bund, Shanghai's waterfront walkway along the Huangpu River, are a bit like blackflies: you have to be moving constantly to keep them off you. Slow down even a little, and they swarm you. Tennis shoes with rollers on the bottom? Flashing rubber fish necklaces? Pictures against the skyline?

"Bu yong! Bu yong!" (No need.)

Random picture of hawkers and walkers on the Bund.

Still, if you do keep moving, you can enjoy the stunning scenery of one of the largest cities in the world. O, our friend, colleague, and guide extraordinaire, advised us that this view, when he was a teenager, was farmland:

Times, they are a'changin'. Wikipedia says:

As in many other areas in China, Shanghai is undergoing a building boom. In Shanghai the modern architecture is notable for its unique style, especially in the highest floors, with several top floor restaurants which resemble flying saucers.
As a matter of fact, we ate in one of those flying saucers -- the Italian restaurant on the 56th floor of the Grand Hyatt Shanghai, the highest hotel in the world. It is consistent with my general luck that I spent the last two days eating at some of the Shanghai's best restaurants, and yet could only manage a few bites.

Random shots:

Lame-ass picture of Shanghai out the window of the restaurant in the aforementioned flying saucer.

Across the Huangpu river from the Pu Dong area seen above. The architecture on this side recalls the strong European influence on old Shanghai.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Shanghai or Bust

After Mt. Zijin, we ate lunch at one of Nanjing's best hotels. My hosts and my husband eagerly slurped down prodigious quantities of raw fish with wasabi and fried eel. ("Raw fish with wasabi. Very delicious," O would say.) I coddled my still recalcitrant stomach with soup and innocuous-looking bread. (This was Friday; I got sick on Tuesday. My appetite didn't return fully until about five days ago, and I've been rapaciously hungry ever since.)

We parted company with C after lunch, who had to catch a flight to Guangzhou. We got into a van and our driver, Mr. Wang, drove us the three-and-a-half hours to Shanghai. It was raining.

Wrap-up Pics from Mt. Zijin

The sign at the entrance of the Xiaoling Tomb.

Sun Yat-Sen's mausoleum. He seems very small in stature, consistent with the times in which he lived, I suppose. There was a sign prohibiting photography (as well as one instructing everyone to salute) but our friend O took pictures anyway. "No flash. No one know."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

More From Purple Mountain

Sun Yat-Sen was a physician and Chinese revolutionary who, depending upon which of my hosts you were listening to at the time, is considered the National Father of China, or the Father of Taiwan. Turns out both, really. Sun was involved in the processes that resulted in the end of two millenia of Chinese imperialism. After the overthrow of the Qing emperor, Sun was elected provisional president of the Republic of China.

Sun spent time in Hawaii in his early years, and before his post-imperialist return to China, spent time in exile in Europe, the U.S., Canada and Japan.

His mausoleum is on Mt. Zijin (Purple Mountain), along with the Ming Xiaoling Tomb.

We visited the good doctor's mausoleum after we finished at the tomb.

The mausoleum is set at the top of hundreds of steps, and the view is striking. "Very good feng shui," observed C. Indeed.

This photo was taken about halfway up to the mausoleum, looking down. I keep thinking how gorgeous this must be in the fall.

This was taken looking up. (Duh.) That building at the top is the mausoleum.

These schoolkids were hilarious. I was also using my pro gear on this composition with the tripod, and they were having fun mugging and waving at me while I took the shot.

I was spending most of my time with the pro gear with C as a diligent assistant. (Incidentally, C is driving --driving! -- to Tibet to shoot this summer. That sound you just heard? My grunt of pain from the gut punch of envy.) Because I didn't have the point-and-shoot in hand, I'm expecting O to e-mail me with more images of the mausoleum. I'll update this post after he sends them.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Break in China Blogging for a Question

Someone googled their way onto this site with the phrase "Hoosier National Forest Pipeline."

You have to be kidding me. Anyone know anything about this?