Wednesday, December 24, 2008

White Christmas

While here in the Bay Area we don't have snow (we do have rain - lots and lots of rain, not that I'm complaining), one can still find winter white if one looks closely enough:

The latte I was served at Awakening Cafe in downtown Oakland (and kudos to them for being open on Saturday morning, when Starbucks and Tully's were both closed - downtown Oakland not a very happening place on Saturdays, apparently).

The Calla Lilies keep coming (we had seven blooms all together).

Cowboy the cat (who lives in Austin Texas with my sister Mary Cam and her kids).

Obama in the White House! (OK, he's actually ON it, not IN it - picky, picky!).

The cafe mocha I was served at Cafe Cacao, the restaurant run by Scharffenberger's Chocolate at their plant six blocks from our house).

That's right - there's a chocolate factory SIX BLOCKS from our house!

SIX BLOCKS!!!!!!!!! And, yes, they make a darned fine mocha with their own chocolate.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

We Query the Community Hermeneutic (TM)*

We were looking through the photos from our glorious trip to Asia (taken by our minion, Stephanie, though she hates it when we call her that) when we came across this image, and have fallen into musing about the curious phrase in the bottom right quadrant of the frame.

We surmise that the word "Dunkin' " refers to Dunkin' Donuts, where the photo was taken, "White" refers to our own wonderously white, creamy complexion; clearly there is some sort of proposal being made to us - but what? What?

We implore our Legions of Fans to help us discern the exact meaning of this phrase. We are open to other interpretations than those along the lines of our own reasoning, we suppose.

Kisses to All!


* - TM 2008, Brian C. Young

Monday, December 8, 2008

Little Monstrosities

Lest anyone think I'm getting soft in my middle age, I've come across a fair number of odd, hideous, or just plain scary things as well. Like...

The world's worst snack. Got these in the Star Alliance Lounge in the Shanghai Airport. They're dried plums, only they've been preserved using some sort of horrible salty process that makes them absolutely disgusting.

Purple broccoli. PURPLE BROCCOLI! It's just wrong, WRONG I TELL YOU! (Correction: Brian has reminded me that these vile veggies are actually cauliflower, not broccoli - which makes them far more evil, in his opinion.)

Come to think of it, the entire produce section in the San Ramon Safeway was pretty scary. Produce really shouldn't be so perfect and orderly.

Speaking of scary, Morty found it quite alarming when the guy from PG&E came to our house to light the pilot light in our heater and had to crawl under the house to do it. He was talking to us from underneath the grate, and the Mortster just about came unhinged.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Little Miracles

Maybe it's a hangover from the Thanksgiving spirit, but I keep seeing amazing things (and sometimes even managing to get pictures of them).

There are actual Calla Lillies growing in our backyard!

Violet and Morty peacefully co-exist! (Sunbeams have that effect on them sometimes.)

Origami baboon and elephant! Only two of the amazing creations at the wonderful welcome party that the folks at Berkeley Friends Church had for us on Sunday.

Cats that can read - upside down, even! This is Baby, one of my sister Mary Cam's cats in Austin, Texas.

Great shots at Thanksgiving - good work, Bri! My dad is on the left, my sister on the right, Cam's dog Sophie in my lap, and her boys Burke and Ash behind the couch.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Finally finished listing all my expenses for reimbursement by Columbia College Chicago - spent considerably less than last year (a big chunk of that was using Skype exclusively for telecommunications). Have been sleeping a lot, but haven't had any of that waking up after a few hours and not being able to go back to sleep that plagued me last year upon return. Am working on my pictures and hope to get them all up on Flickr much mroe quickly than last year. Before that, though, I have to prepare my presentation for Columbia College, so that's my next priority.

I'd like to put up some pictures that I really like but that didn't fit in previously. Here are a few from week 1...

Street scene ini Bangkok.

Vendors outside the temple near our hotel. The stacks of yellow and purple things are garlands of flowers.

Singapore by day.

Singapore by night.

The fried rice from the restaurant of the Kuala Lumpur Hilton hotel (the pink things are salmon chips, and they were better than I thought they'd be).

The chocolate ferris wheel in the KL airport. Each car has the brand name of a different chocolate on it. Mmmmm..... chocolate.

More to come!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

California Here I Come!

Had a lovely final morning in Tokyo before I had to be on the 11:45 bus to the airport.

Started with breakfast at the Palace Hotel...

...then went for a stroll at the Imperial Palace Gardens...

...with my friend Rosemary from Calvin College...

...after which we went to the lounge on the top floor of the hotel...

...where I had an $8 ginger ale.

Arrived in San Francisco approximately three hours before I left Tokyo, thanks to the International Dateline. Very glad to be back at home with Brian and Violet and Mort. Will post some more favorite pics that haven't made it onto the blog yet in the next few days. My thanks to everyone for their comments and support!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Well, we've had our last IIE fair (four hours of soul-crushing boredom), our last school visit (my table was mobbed after one kid who wants to play drums in a jazz band talked to me for a while, then brought all his friends over), and our farewell dinner (we almost got away without any karaoke but failed in the end to restrain ourselves and most assuredly shamed our entire nation). I've been to the Meiji Temple (see below) and have made a date with Rosemary for breakfast tomorrow and a stroll through the Imperial Gardens across the street from our hotel. If all goes according to plan, I have only to board one more bus and two more planes to get home. I've had a great time this year, but am really looking forward to being home.

Some highlights from the past few days:

Sunset at the Beijing Airport.

Mt. Fuji from the plane window.

Favorite building in Harajuku.

Favorite business name in Harajuku.

There was a huge antique market outside the venue of our last IIE fair, causing many of us to stampede the only cash station within several blocks (the vendors did not take credit cards).

My apologies for the fuzzy picture, but the item on the left was called "Barbarian Pumpkin Scone." At least one other person in our group got a better picture than me, I'll try to get it. I did purchase and eat the Barbarian Pumpkin Scone. It was somewhat pumpkiny but not at all barbarous.

Visited the Meiji temple with Emily, Jennifer, Monica, Joan, and Jason on a beautiful fall morning. Am ashamed to report that we stopped at Starbucks both before and after we were there.

Emily, Joe, Jason, and Erick having way too much fun at our farewell dinner at Fujimama's (great food and open bar, it's a wonder we ever left).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Winding Down in Tokyo

Seoul came and went pretty quickly this time, which is a shame since I really like the city. Managed to get to Dunkin' Donuts the morning we left. We had a gathering in the hotel lounge one of the nights in Seoul to help Aaron celebrate his birthday (he travels a lot for his school, and spends his birthday every year now on the Linden fall tour in Asia).

Beijing was very interesting and, according to those in the know, we continued to reap the benefits of the 2008 Olympic games in the improved air quality. There has to be some upside to see those little gymnast girls being replayed on every screen in town.

Took a taxi to Tian 'anmen on our last day in Beijing with my tour buddy, Jeff. Or, at least, we thought we were going there. Taxi driver dropped us off in front of the Palace Museum, where you have to pay the equivalent of about $6 to go into the Forbidden City. No, it's not a lot of money, but just on general principal we decided we would walk to the Square. After much comical consulting of Chinese maps and a seemingly endless trek down a rather dodgy side street, we reached out destination. Peteena insisted on posing with the Mao portrait (knew I shouldn't have brought her!).

Pictures below, first of Seoul and then Beijing.

The plane from Beijing to Seoul featured video from a camera mounted under the plane. The white curved line at the left of the monitor is runway lights. Seeing the plane land in real time and images is not as reassuring as it might seem.

Even the school toilets in the girls washrooms in Seoul come complete with bidet.

Homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, shot in the walkway between wings of the Lotte Hotel Seoul.

No, it's not the Swine store, it's the S. Wine store in Seoul.

My favorite buildings in Beijing.

Jeff and I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment after finally reaching Tian 'anmen Square.

Erick relaxes with a beer while Aaron listens to us entreating him to cut the cake...

...which we made short work of.

Me with my amazing interpreter, Tony, at the IIE fair in Beijing.

Arrived in Tokyo last night. The schedule is starting to lighten up - we have an IIE fair today (a much more polite affair here than those in China!) and a school fair tomorrow. Scheduled to leave Tokyo on Tuesday around 5pm. Should arrive in San Francisco around 1pm on Tuesday, some four hours before I even left Tokyo. Amazing! Will try to get up one more post before we leave, we get free broadband internet here at the Palace Hotel.

We Meet A Local Deity

We have seen many amazing things on this trip, and met some interesting people. None seems to be as revered as the gentleman pictured with us here. Throngs of people came to pay homage to him, and many gazed upon our person with reverence as well. While we respect the local deities, we find the attire very common and uninspired.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I've reached the point where I've begun counting down everything - how many days, how many cities, how many planes, how many schools (6, 2, 4 and 4 (plus two more big fairs)).

We were in and out of Shanghai pretty quickly. In fact, it felt like we spent more time at the airport than in the city. We got there early for our flight out to Beijing yesterday and had some time to kill (FYI: the airports in socialist/communist countries are not the ones you want to have significant down time in). Then, our plane had a mechanical problem and they changed planes and gates on us, necessitating a LONG walk through the airport (they list well over 200 gates at the Shanghai Pudong Airport), followed by a one-hour delay and jam-packed bus rides to the plane.

Made it to our hotel fairly late, but it is a nice one; much nicer than either of the hotels I've stayed at in Shanghai. But then, if you name your hotel "Shangri La" I guess it had better deliver the goods. My room is huge, but unfortunately a smoking room.

Have not been to Beijing before, and so was quite interested to get a look at it on the bus to International School Beijing this morning. At one point we passed the Olympic Bird's Nest and Swimming cube - much snapping of photos, mine are below.

I'll start with a few (or is that several?) photos from Shanghai and move on to Beijing:

It's not every hotel room where you find your very own, easily accessible, cabinet full of electrical wiring (this in the Hua Ting Hotel and Towers in Shanghai).

Took a nice walk our first day in Shanghai, starting at the hotel and heading toward Shanghai Stadium. Don't even ask me what this guy's about.

The infamous Shangai Institute of International Education Fair.

My favorite shop in the Shanghai Pudong Airport.

Inside the fabulous Shangri-La Hotel Beijing.

Outside the fabulous Shangri-La Hotel Beijing.

We had a nice lunch in a Chinese restaurant near our first school visit today.

The Swimming Cube from the Beijing Olympics (can anyone tell me how to rotate a picture after I've uuploaded it to the blog? I'm too lazy to re-do it.)

A fleeting glimpse of the Bird's Nest.

I must say, they're really milking the Olympics in China. I've seen endless replays in the airports, on outdoor advertising marquees, even in hotel elevators.

Tomorrow, on to Seoul!