China day 10

•December 2, 2007 • 2 Comments

Been a while… hope interest hasn’t wained. Here’s some more China travel pics&log

Day 10 – Chengdu


[The great, beautiful bathtub that is Chengdu]

We wake up at The Mix. It has nice showers and toilets, but I don’t like the atmosphere… I want to go back to Li-Jiang. Oh well. It is so humid that my clothes are sticking to me. We bust around, first to a temple (boring),

[0k, so it actually wasn’t so boring]

to a grave of some old dead guy (even more boring),


to “Dico’s” for lunch (actually… fairly interesting) then a statue of Mao and a park. All these kids have nets, and are trying to catch fish in a really disgusting, turgid stream of water. Hmmm kind of reminds me of me. A guy catches a fish and puts it in his water bottle. We keep going. Another group of children are in the park, sketching for class.


[A girl drawing in the park]

We find a boat lake. Mari and I want to rent a boat – Myron doesn’t wants to, and consequently it is up to me to get us a ticket. The “line” for tickets is nothing more than a bunch of people cramming into the ticket booth and yelling what type of boat they want. The procedure was a little more complicated than I initially thought, but I emerged victorious, with a ticket. Myron still doesn’t want to get in the boat, but Mari and I drag him on and force him into the back. He just kind of sits there and grumps the whole time. I secretly think he was having fun.

Mari and I are paddling. We have no idea what we are doing and are making very loud fools of ourselves, but it seems that everyone else is enjoying it to. Passing under a bridge, we hit just about every boat possible. The little kids all scramble to the edge of their boats, wave and yell “HELLOOOO!” A couple Chinese guys come up along side us, and tell us something. I have no idea what they are saying, until they motion that they want to race. This I understand. We settle on a course – around the island in the middle of the lake. Turns out all of us are so bad that we can’t really tell who won, but it certainly seems like they think they won.

            However, it must not have stroked their ego’s enough, because two more guys hop into their boat, and the 4-man 4-paddle version comes along side of us, and they challenge us again. Great, guys – really fair: 4 athletic looking Chinese guys, against one guy, one girl (hope Mari doesn’t read this, hahahaha, actually she’s pretty good), and a dead weight in the back (Myron). But Mari (God bless her) has confidence: “wait! We can take ‘em!” I protest, but she signals that we’re on, and before I can do anything about it, we’re off.

            Turns out, Mari was right. By this time, we had gathered spectators along the sides, and the attention of all the pretty girls in the lake, and in the sight of them all we totally kicked their butts. Bad. I guess we figured out that if we were going to beat them, we’d have to get our technique down, so we worked on rowing straight and synchronized, instead of hard, and I guess it really worked. Unfortunately, I also soaked a lot of Chinese families, along the way, and only some of them seemed to take it in good humor. So much for representing the homeland… Meanwhile, Myron in back is posing for all the people taking pictures of the amazingly unusual Lao Wai’s in the lake. Wouldn’t be surprised if our faces were in the magazine the next day, but we’ll never know.

            We walk off and try to find an Internet café, so that Myron can do his stuff. We walk up to a girl selling magazines. Myron “Um… excuse me, wong ba zai nar?” She blinks and stares at us blankly. “Hmm guess she didn’t understand me. I’ll try it again. WONG BA ZAI NAR?” Another blank stare. He didn’t know the tones, so it probably sounded more like “Fish hat up carburetor!” We shrug and walk off to find another person. “Ohhh: wang1 ba1??!?” she finally figures out what he’s asking. She tries to help us, but before she can say much an annoying guy who can speak some English says he’ll help us and sweeps us away. He says he’s taking us to an internet café, but eventually we realize he’s trying to get us to go to his restaurant first, at which point we ditch him and go hunting for one by ourselves. We later find one in an alley. Inside, there are hundreds of people zoning out infront of computers playing online role-playing games. The things I was shielded from as a youth… Myron does his stuff, and I wait outside on the steps, deleting bad photos. I’m running out of space on my card. After Myron is done, we head off to find his friend Dan, near a Pizza Hut downtown. We want to go to a hot pot restaurant.

*** Cultural anecdote ***

Sichuan is famous for its incredibly spicy food, and Hot Pot is its specialized dish. Chengdu supposedly is 2nd only to ChongQing, when it comes to this style of meal.


After meeting him we decide to go for some hot pot. He claims there’s a hot pot restaurant practically every block downtown. He has to leave because he will be playing guitar at a restaurant in a short while, so we are on our own trying to fine a place. We must have incredibly bad luck, because we spend the next 45 minutes trying to find one. We finally talk to a lady who motions with her hands how to get to a place. We finally figure out how to get their. Just then a mother with her 4-5 year old daughter riding on back bikes past us. The girl turns around, grins the biggest grin I’ve probably ever seen in my life, and yells “HELLOOOOO!!!” while waving madly at us. I’m surprised they don’t fall over. She keeps waving until she can’t see us anymore.

            We get to the Hot pot restaurant. None of us know how to order at a hot pot place, and the menu is completely in Chinese. Myron knows that it has something to do with picking various ingredients and sticking it in the boiling pot. So we point at things at random. But, they don’t seem to like that, so they bring out this kid who can “speak English.” Unfortunately he knows about 5 words, and can’t help us any. Myron calls up Liu Kai, to get him to order over for us over the phone. Apparently the Chengdu accent is so thick that even Liu Kai doesn’t understand them, and can’t help us out any. Eventually, they move us to a different table in the corner, and start setting things up for us. They pull a fish out of a tank, hack it up, and put it in the bowl, along with water, various vegetables and a boatload of spices. The pot bubbles and boils for a while, and a very thick red film forms on the top. Basically fire in liquid form. Meanwhile, they pour dry spices into a bowl in front of us. They show us how to grab vegetables from a shelf near us, boil them in the hot pot, dip them into the spices, and eat them. Unfortunately, somehow I didn’t get the message because I thought we were supposed to pour the broth onto the spices, and make a soup out of it. So that’s what I did. Take the red hot film from the hot pot, pour it all over the dry spice, making sort of a paste, and eat that.

[pure spice.]

Pure spice. Pure internal hemorrhaging. A gallon of sweat later, we are done. Well… it was an experience. We then head over to the restaurant that Dan would be playing at. It is an “American restaurant.” The waiters are all dressed really nice and are extremely professional. They can also speak English. Having been living out of a backpack for a week, I feel really shabby next to them actually. Dan’s pretty good on the guitar. That, plus the novelty makes him pretty popular at this place. The shake was alright. It was the first time I’ve ever been served drinkable water, here. It’s really good. After I finish my shake, I drink cup after cup and they just keep bringing it out. I’m not complaining… drinkable water! The real American experience! At this point, my feet are splitting and bleeding, and I just want to go to bed. You can apparently get a foot massage for the equivalent of a couple US bucks right near the hostel, so Myron and Mari head over there, but I’m toast, so I just go to bed.

[Dan playing at the American restaurant]


*** Photos from other parts of the day ***

[Some guy]



 [Pile of children’s books in a park]



[Incense in a temple]


[He liked my camera]


[Mao rising benevolently above the city]


[Just some guy walking around. Those shoulder rods are cool, I should try walking to Chinese class carrying my books in one of those]


[Chengdu street at night]


[Man machining MaJong pieces]



Don’t need no doctor

•October 25, 2007 • 4 Comments

All you need is a #60 bit. My finger is much smaller and happier now. Drilling through the fingernail was actually my lab buddy Matt’s idea though… he’s a real DIY type

•October 24, 2007 • 2 Comments

Hey, sorry no posts – on Sunday I slammed my finger in a door, and it is all huge and doesn’t bend, which makes typing hard. So, typing is painfully slow. My speed is up around 100 – 110 wpm (when I’m feeling the groove) but now it’s down to about 20 and uncomfortable. So please wait, haven’t forgotten about the Chengdu and Xian posts.


•October 17, 2007 • 2 Comments

Hi, recently I’ve been going home and working on my apartment and doing stuff like learning more Japanese and painting recently, thus the lack of blogs. I’ve been thinking that I never finished my China journal so I might start uploading a few more of those since I found my journal again. But in the mean time, I got my stuff moved out of storage and into my apartment. Here’s some before/after photos of the progress


 So this was my room Sat. morning… no table, bed is a futon on the floor, and not much else in there.

This is after I got everything out and jammed into the living room. I got help from Dan, for the bed.

Finally later that evening…

You can see that my bed is in the same room w/the other stuff. The living room is quite huge, and I got used to sleeping in the main room in Japan, so I’m doing that here. That way if I can find a roommate, I’ll cut my rent down really low.

Oh yeah, my supreme energy source for the day:

I was very genki after eating this.

In other news, for the first time since I was like… twelve… I played this:

Unfortunately, I was playing with a bunch of international students. When you are playing with international students you know that you will suck. There’s just no other way. They had all this fancy equipment like… shoes and stuff

And we had to sneak into another field and pilfer some goalposts before we could start

But it was good times.

 Lastly, what’s up with the warm weather? The leaves are still mostly green. Very unusual. Still here’s some red leaves and a berry

Big long race.

•September 26, 2007 • 9 Comments

Once again, even though terribly out of shape, I got sucked into the Mt. Tussey 50 mile relay. My combined total of preparatory training runs? 2! And, it didn’t help that they gave me the 2 hardest legs in the course, (well… according to their website. I think John’s leg#5 was as hard as my other two, but whatever. It sounds good).

However, I got used to biking about an hour a day or more in Japan, and I haven’t been slacking here. I try to keep my heart rate up when I bike, and I wanted to see how I would handle doing both an uphill 6 and uphill 5 mile leg for them.

Turns out it went pretty well. I actually sprained my ankle 3 minutes before the race, and it was already swollen by the time Scott handed off to me. But, somehow I managed to do both legs alright. I opened up a big lead on the PSU cycling team (we’re “best enemies”) on my first leg, and after they passed us again, I opened up another big lead on them in my 2nd leg. My angle was like a softball and dark red the next day, but… worth it 😉

Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and I took some shots. Here they are. Enjoy. Oh yeah, and I – took a photo of the shell from the Striker, I’ll put that at the end.

 Morning. From my balcony.

 Walking to the Weis Market to meet the team and pick up some food items.

Scott – on the team, and a Christian brother

Weis – closed until 7

 2 power bars, 2 bagels, 6 flavored waters and a Gatorade. And an applefritter. I think people are waaaay to worried about what they eat beforehand. I spent the previous day loading up on donuts, and between legs ate the apple fritter. mmmmm. But I did run out of water, after my 2nd leg. That sucked.

 Ryan, munching on something healthy

Jason, team organizer

Dave – loong distance guy. He picked up the tab for the race. Nice guy.

 Chris – on the team last year, and also a Christian brother

 Mmmm. Bagel. Actually, I don’t really like bagels. I like donuts. Oh well.

 Driving to the course start.

Messing around before the race

 The cycling team – Ryan’s friends

Play our intro music here

 Ryan cruising up the first leg

 Ryan hands off to Jason

 Jason hands off to Scott

 Scott fiddles around with the baton

 The cycling team

 I hand off to Chris.

 Random runners

 Dave hands off to Ryan, for his second leg

 Jason neck and neck with the cycling team… around mile 30. It’s amazing we are still so even after 30 miles.

 Jason hands off to Scott again. The red haired guy is cycling team, again

 Dave finishing up the last leg. We are about 3-4 minutes ahead!

 I tragically miss the finish. But here we are, all lined up and happy like. Good race!

And also, you don’t want one of bullets housed in these things to be fired at you.


•September 18, 2007 • 4 Comments


Don’t know if anybody is still reading this. Last 3 weeks, last week especially, has been crazy. Hoping things will slow down, now that the testing at the proving grounds is over. We measured the pressure waveforms and rise times of blasts from different sizes of C4 plastic explosive, as well as rounds from a Striker (like a Tank, but on wheels) and an M1 Abrams. They let me keep a Striker shell. It’s taller than my knee. The cannon rounds were the loudest. At 100m, they felt like someone thumping you on the chest.

The only problem is, the C4 explosions leave enough stuff in the area that you can’t ever wear those clothes through an airport security again without getting detained. The army guys all laughed about it, (they can just show them their army card, or whatever), but sucks for the rest of us.

The 1MHz microphone I built actually worked, well… for the most part. Actually, it wasn’t the hardware that limited the performance, it was the electronics. This is weird because normally in microphone design, the diaphragm construction, not electronics, limit the bandwidth. But whatever. I didn’t have time to build a new amplifier for the signal, so I slapped one of these small signal amplifiers I had assembled for electrets earlier behind the mic. The stats for the chip said that at a gain of 10 the bandwidth was 1MHz. Problem is, I was exceeding the slew rate limit, which is how fast (in Volts per second) the output of one of these chips can change. So, all my rise time measurements were limited by the slew rate. Using it with the Oscilloscope, however, it still gave us a lower bound that was about 10X higher than we could get from the $50,000 data acquisition system/0.125” mic combination we were using for alternate measurements.

Brett, chum from Sendai, just sent me a bunch of photos from Kinkasan. These are all of them that he sent except… the snake photo. It seriously looked about a quarter as long as it really was. I just couldn’t bring myself to post it… hoping he’ll send me another that shows off it’s truly magnificent size 😉


Transients beginning to wear off

•August 31, 2007 • 1 Comment

* Update – tried fixing the links to the pics, hope it helped *

So, yeah, the last week was a *little* rocky. And something is still wrong with my system, because I’m waking up at like… 6… and anyone who knows me knows that this sort of thing, similar to life spontaneously generating, doesn’t just happen. But things are starting to level out. I’ll have a car soon, and my friend Matt, at work, took his truck to my storage unit and helped me haul home my futon, and a lamp and some things, so I’m not sleeping on the carpet anymore.

Something nearly as shocking as culture re-entry is discovering who missed you and who didn’t. This is seriously weird. Sometimes people who you thought hardly noticed your existence really miss you when your gone. Other times, people who you hung out with constantly are sort of… indifferent. Still scratching my head. But spirits are up. No more alarmed, S.O.S. type Japanese paragraphs should be posted in a while, I think. But there are still good stories to tell.

Oh, here’s one funny thing – I had no intention of taking a Chinese class this semester, but I went to visit my teacher from last year. She really missed me, gave me a big hug, and insisted I take Chinese 3 (3????). Even though the class was full, she manually installed me, and now I am taking the class every day. This is actually one thing that has made life significantly better. I need something like that. Anyway, it’s gonna be a little tough since I almost forgot all the previous lessons. I am now refreshing like crazy (well, sort of, I guess, I’m busy doing other things too) all the old material. Good news is, my pronunciation seems to still be pretty good.

Ok… so… real quick then, I want to post some pics from my trip to Hokkaido. This was only 3 weeks ago, but it sort of seems like a separate universe ago now. But here you go!

Takuma met Eria, Shinju (Pearl) and I at Izumi Chuo that Monday evening.

Before going to far, we stopped to get some drinks and stuff. (Eria-L, Shinju – M, Takuma – R) . Everyone (well, except me) had slept normally the night before, and we weren’t cranky yet.

We got on a tollway, and in Japan they are really expensive (around $50). The drive to Aomori is a long drive, so here we are at one of the rest-stop locations on the Toll-way. Pearl had some bad tasting ramen, Takuma and I had some sort of beef on rice thing that I am getting hungry thinking off, and I can’t remember what Eria ate.

We got to Aomori at about 2AM. Our ferry to Hokkaido was going to leave at 2:50, so we ran to a konbini, grabbed some moderately tasty and reasonably cheap konbini crap food, and headed back. The ferry was amazing. Didn’t look like a Puget Sound ferry, looked more like a regular ship. It was huge. There were a million cars inside, on lots of floors. To board the boat, the front folded up.

Unfortunately, I was a moron, and didn’t take any photos of the interior. It was really interesting – there is a large lobby inside with chairs, couches etc. A second floor with a large room full of computer games, smaller rooms for the rich people, and a large observation deck.

(looking down on a ship next door)

If you want to sleep and are a normal class person, you go into a very large tatami room, (no shoes) and just lay on the carpet. There’s tons of people trying to sleep, so you just try to find a place where you can sleep w/your buddies. An old lady saw me trying to sleep and gave me this squishy block thing to put under my head. It was nice. Anyway, the boat was about 4 hours long, I think I got about 2 hours sleep.

Here is Eria. Eria is Japanese for “Elijah.” Stout Christian, he is a dentist student. He wants to be a dental missionary. He was working very hard at learning English, and so we had an arrangement – he would speak to me in English, and I would speak to him in Japanese. Had many long interesting conversations with him while boiling in the Sento’s (spa).

Some mountain visible from the boat before docking.

Anyway, when we got to Hokkaido and popped back in the car.

Here’s Shinjuchan in the back. We were all really tired, and a little hungry so we stopped at a rest stop and Takuma got some sort of smoked ika stuff. There was a park, and a really cool mountain in the background:

We had another 6 or so hours of driving ahead, so we hit the road again. Hokkaido, if you don’t know, is the frozen northern island of Japan. Only, this summer, it was roastingly, unbelievably, boilingly hot and humid (as was all of Japan).

Impressions of Hokkaido: very few people (Japan has some expansion room, I see), gorgeous, green, the coast is dotted with a million small fishing villages (Japanese floats!), tons of onsens, and tons of wildlife (avoid the foxes, they carry some sort of disease). I’ve asked a lot of Japanese people if they’ve gone to Hokkaido, and most of them say “no.” When I ask them why, they normally say “well, it’s a different Island.” This just seems so weird to me. I mean, nothing in Japan is really all that far away from anything else. Another funny thing is, it seems that people in Hokkaido don’t seem to get out of Hokkaido all that much.

So, we stopped at some shopping mall because we were supposedly going to play basketball on a nice court, and I needed some cheap but clean basketball shoes. Whatever. After searching 2 stores to find shoes big enough for me, I found a pair that were almost large enough and shelled out 3000 yen (~$25) for them. We finally got to the camp, brought our stuff in, and had some hang out time so we played basketball. Turns out they were too small and gave my toes blisters. Eventually, I just took them off and played barefoot, heh. Oh well.

The camp had already started 2 days before, so we brought our bags to our rooms, and found some empty seats then went to the sento, washed off, and headed to dinner where everyone else was. After that, there was a worship time and message. Came back to the room, and saw bugs crawling all over the windows outside the room. One in particular looked gigantic, so to everyone else’s amusement I jumped out the window and caught whatever it was. Brought it back in, and everyone was like “wow! That’s huge!”

It’s called a “kuagata.” The males (with the giant pincers) wrestle each other when they encounter, and little boys find this incredibly entertaining. So, they find or capture Kuagata and have bug wrestling tournaments. There’s even computer games here based around kuagata matches, or kuagata vs. caputomushi (another wrestling beetle) matches. Speaking of, in my dream last night, there was a cuagata vs. caputomushi match. Anyway… Takuma, Eria and I, bonding in our mutual exhaustion, took photoes

We hit the hay and woke up then next day at 6:00 AM. We were supposed to meet out front for… “exercises.” ok… these were absolutely hilarious. You tune into the radio and do these really funny stretches. You have to be there, to understand why it’s so funny. Japanese radio broadcasts are just really… weird.

(Little boys wrestling Kuagata, before the exercises)

Had some free time at this point, so like normal I went exploring. I went on a small hike up a path. Here’s a cool dragonfly. I did not crop this shot, I had to make several attempts and approach very slowly!

Afterwards, we had another worship time. Here they are practicing.

The worship/talk was the last event of the camp, so here we are posing with some of Takuma’s friends. This was a church camp for Takuma’s home church (he’s from Hokkaido) so he knew just about every one else, it seems. It’s like his yearly catching up time with his friends.

This girl is Kumiko. I think she has some type of palsy, but she was a lot of fun and she sang the songs with more enthusiasm, and louder than anyone else. When her church was taking a group photo, she ran up and pulled me into the pic. heh heh

Since we caught only the tail end of the camp, we weren’t there very long. Our boat left Hokkaido at 2:50 AM again, so we had some time to spare. Takuma followed his pastor’s car, and drove us to Sapporo, where we visited his old church.

(Sapporo Rainbow Chapel)

Rainbows don’t have the connotation that they do here, it’s an Assembly of God church. We hung out at the church for a long time, and I met the pianist for the band at the camp, her name was Saki. She was really cool. Really really cool. Infact, er… well… yeah. Think about these things logically, Marston. Anyways, that was my favorite part of the expedition.

Finally, we left the church and went downtown Sapporo

Sapporo is a really amazing city. It is ultra modern, and arrayed Chess board like. They think it’s like an American city. Well… maybe… there’s plenty of un-chess board like cities in the states. Seattle, for example. But it was a really cool city.

(this was a rad shot, I think)

Sapporo is famous for its Miso Ramen, so we went in search of some. Takuma knew a great place near the top of a building. It’s a whole floor of ramen shops. We ate and were satisfied.

We then began our long and tedious drive back.

The drive back was fairly uneventful. Once more, we got to the ferry station. My hours of sleeping for the previous nights was something like 4, 2, and 6, so I wasn’t doing so hot and neither were the others. Takuma had been drinking these straight caffeine pills (the box illustration was a giant bloodshot but very stimulated looking eye). I didn’t really sleep that night at all, actually. The next morning totally sucked, but we went to a spa the next morning and felt a lot better afterwards. The trip home was sort of a hazy memory for me. All I remember is that they put up w/my crankiness really well, and Takuma was an unbelievable stud for driving and not falling asleep.


Good times. If you can go to Hokkaido, Sapporo specifically, I highly recommend it.