Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Scalarious Catfights

At the risk of turning this blog into a weekly update of my pets, i'd like to invite you all to meet the latest addition, Maze. Xiao Mei Mei (most appropriately translated as Little Sister) is the newest arrival to the home. As Barbie prepared to return to the USA, she made a startling discovery: she could only take one of her cats home. Because Xiao Mei Mei didn't have any documentation, they couldn't verify her shots were current and she was forced to choose Pi. This left XMM behind and now we have a second cat. The plan is still to mail (!!!) XMM to the states. Barbie is working on that avenue, but while she's taking residence in our pad, she's been christened Maze (two mei's = one maze).

Maze and Muse are the best of friends. Here they are hanging out near their favorite chair. With Flat Peter.

Here we see Muse giving Maze a little kiss. On the jugular. With her teeth.

Here they are hugging each other. About the face. With their claws.

Here we see Muse in a moment of pre-strike contemplation, with Maze prepared in her Jiu Jitsu bottom guard.

Don't do it Muse... it will end badly for you.

HAHAHA. It's both hilarious and scary. It's scalarious.


...but in all seriousness... they are just playing.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Beijing Christmas

Things have been quiet in Beijing the last few weeks. Christmas came and went without much of a fuss. This is the first holiday season in my 31 years on this earth that i have not been in Chicago with my family. It's been really difficult to justify not being home. Several times this week, i was close to dropping $1,500 on a flight. That's $1,500 for the privilege of 30 hours worth of flying, another 8 or so in airports or commuting to/from them, resulting in less than 72 hours with my family. That's not even enough time to figure out the jet lag.

So i stayed in Beijing with the remaining few that are also family-less for the holidays. Most of my friends had left, leaving Ellen, Alicia, Jehan, Gareth, and Sandy. Even Therese was gone, spending her holiday on a tropical island in Malaysia. It was pretty lonely, but there were a few highlights:
  • I was sick. This meant two days of working from home, sleeping, and generally feeling like crap. Wait, that wasn't a highlight.
  • I played a pretty lucrative show at A Thousand and One Nights, an Arabian restaurant in Solana. It was just myself on percussion and an amazing guitarist, Jordan. We were told to just play something really upbeat and fun, oh and also it had to be Christmas music. To me, these two things are mutually exclusive: Christmas music is not upbeat. But, being the fantastic musicians that we are, and having never actually practiced together before, we played for 2 hours and loved it. Hopefully, more of that to come.
  • Christmas Day was pretty relaxing. Eight of us (the five previously mentioned plus Warren and Nora) met up at Ellen's played Foosball and Catan, drank Gareth's homemade eggnog and mulled wine, and enjoyed a very fancy Christmas dinner at Salt, one of the more upscale restaurants in town.
  • We did a White Elephant gift exchange... gift given was Guacamole (assembly required) and gift received was some awesome dark chocolate.
  • We also visited the newborn Emma Lillian Shyu, who has a Christmas Eve birthday.
  • The 26th was again spent at Ellen's... one hot tub, two games of Catan, three games of ping pong, four different rums to sip, and dozens of games of Foosball.

I guess i'm a little disappointed in this Christmas, but those are the sacrifices we're forced to make sometimes. However, i don't believe i will ever miss Christmas again. Family is too important to make that sacrifice.


Thursday, December 17, 2009


This is Kwen.

Ken Dry and Stephanie Kwan (Ken + Kwan = Kwen) brought us their little pet turtle while they are away for the holidays. Kwen is also a Red-Ear Slider, but is about one third the size of ours.

Near as i can tell, Kwen only has two hobbies: basking with his little flippers tucked away, and fleeing in terror whenever you come near. We were a little worried that our turtles would just eat him, but they appear to be pals now. Kwen is also learning to swim in a big tank, and the early prognosis is, he likes it.

Along with Kwen came an assortment of fishes, most of which would probably be eaten within hours. However, there was one fish in particular that intrigued us, for she was pregnant.

The turtles were chasing her pretty aggressively. She was doing a good job of evading, but we knew she couldn't keep it up forever. I scooped her up in a pitcher, tossed in some rocks to recreate her natural environment, and let her relax.

Not more than 10 minutes later, she gave birth to 12 babies. Therese and i got there in time to watch the last one pop out.

Cute! Then she started eating them. Not cute. She went back into the tank so the babies could grow into big, beautiful, adult fish, which will be fed to our turtles eventually.

And no pet update would be complete without checking in on Muse. Let's see what she's been up to!

Here, she's knocked all the plants off the ledge to make a new lounge area for herself.

And she's discovered she can appear larger to predators by using a reflection to double her size.

And she's learned to enjoy the simple things in life. Her two favorite toys right now are this little piece of plastic trash that we keep trying to throw away and these paper bags we use for recycling. Although she also loves the laser pointer Ken left with us.

And sometimes, when she's in the perfect mood... she might just show you a little affection.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Barbie's Goodbye Pink Party

Lauren Reed, or Barbie, to those in the Beijing Ultimate Community, is leaving Beijing. Next Monday, she returns to DC for grad school, ending a four year stay in the north capital. To send her off right, we gathered for an event, steeped in Beijing tradition, famous throughout Asia: The Pink Party. The concept of Pink Party is simple: wear pink. For Therese and I, we decided to take it to another level. We went to Yashow to have a suit and dress tailored for the occasion. The results were tremendous.

For Him:
  • Tailored Two-Piece Suit - 500 RMB
  • Tailored Shirt - 100 RMB
  • Pink Converse All Stars - 70 RMB
  • Fedora - 20 RMB
  • Sunglasses - 20 RMB
  • Bow Tie - 15 RMB
  • Belt - 20 RMB
Total Cost: 745 RMB ~ $110

For Her:
  • Dress - 550 RMB
  • Two feather boas - 30 RMB
  • Sunglasses - 25 RMB
  • Shoes - 210 RMB
  • Pink and Black stockings - 20 RMB
  • Pink Silk Handbag - 25 RMB
Total cost: 860 RMB ~ $125

The night started with dinner at Raj's Indian Buffet including bottomless beer. We basically owned the entire restaurant for the evening, with about 50 in attendance. People came out in style.

Some notable efforts:

Below we have Sandy, Michael and Jehan on the left, and Joe, Sandy, and Jim on the right.

--Jehan is sporting a very fashionable Playboy Fedora and matching tie combo. The simple shirt choice allows the tie to pop off the flat black background.
--Michael is showing his sensitive side in his pink "CANDY" tank-top and floral scarf. He finishes the ensemble with comfortable pajama bottoms.
--Sandy's trendy outfit (designed by Andrew "Baby Girl" Moffat) is basically just a few Piglet stuffed animals, gutted, and skewered by her legs. Also, there's a huge, upside-down pig on her body, and her head is coming out of its butt.
--Jim and Joe came wearing very different outfits but, eventually, they ended up as the same person, as usual.
--Baby Girl (below) wore a cute little number (designed by Sandy) featuring a lovely, form-fitting négligée, pink tights, and a pink swimming cap. It takes a confident man and a lot of beer to wear this in public.

Therese and I (and Flat Peter) in our aforementioned awesomeness.

After the unlimited free beer turned into limited unfree beer, we moved the party to Wiggly Jiggly's (worst bar name ever?) in NLGX. We drank all the tequila they had (both bottles), most of which was done as body shots off of Barbie. The rest were done off of Liz, who was enjoying her last night after a semester in Beijing.

Barbie, Liz, and Ellen

Stay in school, my nieces and nephews! Uncle Kevin is proud of you!

Jeff and Gareth

My girl

Jeff and Happy Rat

Barbie and Joe, demonstrating that two people can wear one pair of Five Ultimate shorts.

Good times. Barbie- We'll miss you!


Sunday, December 6, 2009

"See Through", by Jokelate

Tao recently posted about a relatively new blog called "China Hush", presented very well by a Chinese American, fluent in both languages and well versed in both cultures. Most of the posts on this blog are by guest authors or are taken from various "Chinese" sources and translated into English. Over this past week, i have been completely blown away by the content, both tortured and beautiful, terrifying and hopeful, thought-provoking and moving. And sometimes it's just plain funny. Best of all, it's not blocked in China (yet).

Here are a few stories that stood out for me...
  • An essay about the conditions at a factory which employs almost exclusively 16-22 year old women. They are apparently well taken care of, if they can stay single. Since there are so many women in one place, the boys that show up can have their pick, but are generally up to no good.
  • A migrant worker writes first hand about his experience. College educated and talented, he chose this profession and is happy with his life. His co-workers are treated well, fed, and given comfortable lodging. Although, he pointed out that if he worked for 5 years and spent no money, he'd be able to purchase one square meter in the building he's making.
  • A 5 month old baby dies during the night shift at a hospital because the on-duty doctors would not take action, even when the parents begged. Later, when the parents attempted to seek legal action, they were beaten mercilessly by the hospital security guards.
  • A nineteen year old street vendor becomes famous overnight throughout China, simply for being a beautiful girl and attracting the right people.
The site is incredible. I'm purposely not linking to all those other stories because i want you to see THIS ONE. It's a short, animated film entitled See Through, by a Chinese man who calls himself Jokelate. It's amazing. There are no words to understand and the visuals are stunning. At it's core, it is an anti-war film. There is animated violence, but i believe it's OK for most audiences. Enjoy, and check out the rest of China Hush. It's pretty incredible.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ötzi the Iceman

Therese was pretty ill for a few days after returning from Manila. Though she has recovered well, she has been nursing some recurring illnesses lately and has just taken to Traditional Chinese Medicine. She had cupping on Sunday and is currently on a 15 session acupuncture treatment. After just a few sessions, she is raving about it and seeing some miracle results. Coming from a western society, we're taught that when you get sick, you go to the doctor and they give you drugs. However, I think the Chinese are on the right track here with helping the body heal itself.

Anyway, out of curiosity I started doing a little research on acupuncture. Initially, i was curious where it officially came from and when. The earliest written record is a Chinese text from 300BC, though it's believed to date back all the way to 1600BC in China. The reality is, it could be 2000 years older. While looking for this info, i stumbled on some related into on the fascinating Wikipedia article for Ötzi the Iceman. You must read this article.

Spoiler: Ötzi the Iceman is awesome.

The most amazing thing about this guy is, since he was frozen for 5300 years, he never decomposed. His skin, his clothes, even his last meal were preserved. Also, because of the tattoos on his preserved skin, we know Ötzi may have been into acupuncture. Here are a few excepts from the article.
Ötzi the Iceman [is] a well-preserved natural mummy of a man from about 3300 BC
(53 centuries ago). The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Schnalstal glacier in the Ötztal Alps, near Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy. The nickname comes from Ötztal (Ötz valley), the region in which he was discovered. He is Europe's oldest natural human mummy[...]

Analysis of Ötzi's intestinal contents showed two meals (...), one of chamois meat, the other of red deer meat. Both were eaten with some grain as well as some roots and fruits. The grain from both meals was a highly processed einkorn wheat bran, quite possibly eaten in the form of bread.

High levels of both copper particles and arsenic were found in Ötzi's hair. This, along with Ötzi's copper axe which is 99.7% pure copper, has led scientists to speculate that Ötzi was involved in copper smelting. [smelting is also cool.]

Ötzi had approximately 57 carbon tattoos consisting of simple dots and lines on his lower spine, behind his left knee, and on his right ankle. Using X-rays, it was determined that the Iceman may have had arthritis in these joints. It has been speculated that they may be related to acupuncture.

Ötzi's clothes were sophisticated. He wore a cloak made of woven grass and a coat, a belt, a pair of leggings, a loincloth and shoes, all made of leather of different skins. He also wore a bearskin cap with a leather chin strap. The shoes were waterproof and wide, seemingly designed for walking across the snow; they were constructed using bearskin for the soles, deer hide for the top panels, and a netting made of tree bark. Soft grass went around the foot and in the shoe and functioned like modern socks. The coat, belt, leggings, and loincloth were constructed of vertical strips of leather sewn together with sinew. His belt had a pouch sewn to it that contained a cache of useful items: a scraper, drill, flint flake, bone awl, and a dried fungus to be used as tinder.
You should read the whole thing... the "Cause of death" paragraph is particularly interesting. It's amazing to me that 1. People were advanced enough to smelt things 5300 years ago, and b) We are smart enough now to perform such a detailed autopsy on this guy.

So ummm, i guess the central theme of this post is that science is cool! And so is acupuncture! Remember kids, stay in school!