Saturday, September 26, 2009

Introducing: Happy Sparkle Kitty Magic

Ace found a 4-month-old kitty at school. It was weak, emaciated, skinny, sick, and left for dead by its mom. Being a good ace, she took her to the vet to be taken care of, cleaned, and treated for her multitude of ailments. Ten days later, we took her home.

Within moments she found a small crack in the bottom of the kitchen cabinets which led to the plumbing and into the walls of our house.

We would not see her again for two days, although each night, at the stroke of midnight, she emerged for a short time to wreak havoc on our plants and eat/regurgitate vitamins onto our floor.

On day three, we lured her out into the kitchen with promises of tasty tasty chicken flesh. Embodying the very essence of "bait and switch", she did not attain chicken flesh, but was instead promptly sequestered to the bathroom.

The next day, she exchanged heart racing for purring, crying for mewing, and cowering in a corner for cuddling on a lap. She gained access to the living room and we quickly kitty proofed all the holes she could escape into. We also named her. Since she's a Chinese kitty, we had to give her a Chinese name; Her official name is Happy Sparkle Kitty Magic, and her nickname is Muse. Or Mews.

We also bought and installed little yellow cat claw caps so she can't scratch things. She hates them!

So, without further ado... behold photos and a video of our newest addition, Muse.

Cat and Kev napping.

Ace took this video while she was playing with her new toy.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New China's 60th Anniversary

Rivaling last years extraordinary preparations for the Olympics, Beijing has once again set itself to guarantee a celebration of massive proportions for National Day, this October 1st. It also marks the beginning of the Fall Holiday, and this year is special because it commemorates the 60th Anniversary of New China, in 1949. They've been practicing the parade and fireworks for a few weeks now, sometimes at strange hours.

This whole Anniversary madness has had some unpleasant side-effects.
  • The subway, which i use everyday, has been closed a few times.
  • Traffic is routed away from the center of the city, especially around Tian'anmen Square and surrounding streets.
  • Tanks have been rolling down the streets. The first time was about 2am on a Friday night. It woke Therese up.
  • Security has been heightened everywhere.
  • Undercover police are checking passports of foreigners at random. Hasn't happened to me yet, but it's only a matter of time.
  • Additional roadblocks and checkpoints entering the city, which makes my vendor visits just that much longer.
The parade itself should be pretty cool, although it's completely closed to the general public. Its purpose is to display the awesome power of China's army to the world, and the parade will be televised live on 10/1. However, there are a fortunate few who live in the Tian'anmen area AND have connections with someone in the parade. They have been able to catch a glimpse of the dress rehearsals. I happen to know two of those fortunate people.

The images i'm posting here are from them and would, in all likelihood, get my blog banned within China, if it wasn't already. I don't really care.

That last one is a picture i took out the window of our company van while driving to Tianjin. Closer inspection shows us these fighter planes are locked and loaded.



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hanggai and Hou Hai

I have a photo album on my computer entitled "Hanggai and Hou Hai". That aptly describes last weekend for us, at it was truly memorable. Ace and i kicked off Friday night kinda relaxed, but with a nice ribbon tied around it. We met up with some friends at the Tiny Salt Coffee Club for some live music, Hanggai, one of the local bands that have swept up the foreigners and Chinese alike. Hanggai is traditional Mongolian music, powered by up-beat rhythms, and rounded off with haunting melodies, often led by the resounding bass of throat-signing. Words fall short of capturing their live show, but fortunately there are some better options to a lengthy, poetic description:
  • Tao's blog has 7 (yes, seven!) videos of the performance that evening.
  • Their myspace page has 4, (yes, four!) songs from their latest album.
  • They are doing a weeklong US tour with 6 (yes, six!) shows starting this week. One of their stops is Sept 23rd in Chicago. Check out their myspace page for details.

This guy is their leader...

... but this throat singing dude in purple is my favorite.

Saturday was interesting... while most of the Ultimate Frisbee community went to Tianjin for the day, Ace and i stayed in Beijing. It turned out to be a great decision. It was another beautiful day, one of many recently. We mounted our bikes and headed to Hou Hai, an area Therese had not yet explored. We started with a long loop around the two main lakes, a solid 20 minute ride. We stopped to chat up the locals and take a few pictures, before enjoying lunch at the famous Hutong Pizza.

After salad, pizza, beer and wine, we were ready for adventure, which in Hou Hai, means either window-shopping or expensive drinks at a lakeside bar. We opted for window-shopping. Also, tea-tasting. Most tea shops have a quaint little room in back where you can sample any tea for free in a comfortable environment. We did just that, and learned a little about teas in the process. Our Chinese has improved enough now to where we don't feel totally awkward communicating with a native, and that opens up new opportunities everywhere. We bought some Ginseng Oolong Tea. It's delightful.

After all that, we took our own personal tour of the hutongs by bike. We almost caved and accepted a discounted tour from one of those cool bike taxi guys, but instead, we decided to just follow them on our bikes.

The real gem was this awesome little hutong house with a tree growing out of it. Literally, the house is built right around the tree.

If you look closely or click on this picture, you can even see a clock hanging from it.



Friday, September 11, 2009

Autobots, Deploy!

From the death of Lan Daotian springs new life, a new project with Jeff Orcutt on guitar and Jon Kelly on bass. These guys are great musicians and we're experimenting with some new sounds and ideas. I've been jamming with them weekly at Tuesday Open Mic for many months now, though the three of us have only just begun practicing together. The result has been awesome.

Our crowning achievement thus far has been mastering Iambic 9 Poetry, by Squarepusher. Here's the original for your reference, so you can fully appreciate how awesome we are.

Our band name for now is Autobots, Deploy!. That's a Transformers reference, i've been told. I once had an Optimus Prime action figure as a child, and i'm pretty sure it was great, until i broke it's arm off. I moved on from Transformers and never looked back, so the reference is a little lost on me. However, the Chinese have gone nuts for the new Transformers movie, so maybe the name was a smart marketing move.

We have our first gig coming up at What Bar next week. Milan Alex, one of my friends in Shanghai, heard about it and asked me . Here is our conversation in its entirety, with only minor changes and spelling corrections.

milankalex: which bar?

me: why?

milankalex: i'm asking what's the name of the bar

me: yeah, it is.

milankalex: no tell me the name of the bar

me: what bar

milankalex: the bar you're going to saturday

me: correct

milankalex: (this is actually pretty good)

me: what is the name of the bar.

milankalex: what is the street name

me: no, what is the bars name.

milankalex: i'm asking you!

tell me what's the name of the bar, so I can go

me: ok, we'll be at what bar!

milankalex: i hate you!

me: (clap clap clap!)

milankalex: and end!

me: rah rah rah!

milankalex: nice work

me: bravo indeed, that was delightful

milankalex: people are looking at me funny in the office

for laughing at my screen

me: hehehe

I actually started crying from laughter about halfway through.


Update: ... and the gig got cancelled. Then rescheduled. Then we cancelled because i'll be in Dalian for a tournament!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lan Daotian's Last Show

Lan Daotian played it's last show recently, although none of us knew it at the time. It was my third show with them, and our second straight show at Mao Livehouse. I've had a great time getting on stage and playing shows again. I really miss it from my time in Boulder. And my friends came out in big numbers for this one, even though it was late and on a Wednesday. It was also Lincoln's last night in town so once i convinced him to come after his goodbye dinner, he brought 15 others in tow.

The show itself was pretty enjoyable for me. I played well and was rewarded with a few impromptu drum solos. Once we were done and the lights came on, my friends refused to accept the show was over. They made noise and demanded another drum solo. A bit reluctantly, i sat back down and worked up another performance for them. They, in turn, worked up a performance for me too.

Presenting, My Rediculous Friends.
-featuring Jim, Joe, Jeff, Lincoln, Tao, Ace and Alica.

WARNING: There is partial nudity in this video. Jeff's breasts are not for the faint of heart.

That. Was. Awesome.

Oh, and the band broke up the next day because the bassist/leader was no longer feeling it so he wrote us all an e-mail saying the band was through and thanks for playing but our services were no longer needed.

Oh well, i guess i have my Saturday's free again!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Happy Campers

Our first experience with guiding a camping expedition was an overwhelmingly positive one. It was actually pretty easy, as Ken prepared the food, the schedule, collected the money, and prepped all the gear we would need. Joe and I just sherpa'd (?) that stuff up the mountain and put all that gear to use once at camp. The guides are responsible for carrying up all the cooking supplies, food, tents, water for cooking, etc. Therese was a huge help as she offered to share some of the load. Both our packs were quite full, while some of the campers had nothing but a simple book bag with a few bottles of water in it, probably no more than 7 pounds. Joe and i each had around 45 pounds, certainly more than i had ever carried.

The trek up was not as bad as i expected. I was in front and joe was trailing the group, so i had to set a pace for everyone to follow. Oddly enough, it was a pretty easy hike for me. Being in front, i had the luxury of stopping whenever i wanted. My most comfortable pace is usually rather quick, regardless of the load i'm carrying, and i balance that with frequent, short stops. I'm more of a sprinter than a long distance runner, and slow and steady takes more energy than quick bursts. I always climb stairs two or three at a time, and find it very difficult to walk them.

We were blessed with beautiful weather and easy-going campers. Our group of 11 included four frisbee friends (ace, joe, and margaret), a group of five from Germany plus one chinese girlfriend, and one guy from England. We were lucky everyone was so cool. The seven of them didn't even sleep in the tents we brought up, they just spent the night outside. For many of them, it was their first experience with s'mores as well.

For me and ace, this trip was much needed. We had to get out of Beijing, if only for a night. Reentering nature makes us realize how much we miss Boulder at times, but for me, it also reminds me how beautiful Beijing is inside and beyond the big city.