...Means Merry Christmas! In Pinyin it’s written Shengdan kuaile, pronouncing the es as short “uh” sounds. It’s fine weather for it: about 20C (70° F?) and hazy. And by “hazy” I mean “about as polluted as L.A. on the worst 




Evidence that I am gradually becoming a different person: I have started to carry a murse. Or a man-purse, if you prefer.I’ve taken to hauling around a bunch of small crap with me: cell phone, camera, notebook, pen, sunglasses, sometimes 




Lately it seems foreigners are everywhere in Xiamen. We’ve only been here four (five?) months; how is it possible we missed all these foreigners already?Maybe we’re victims of what I call the “Audi Effect.” Anyone who’s ever owned an unusual 


Weather Report


Cool and clear, mid-50s F, windy. Pollution levels are near zero, especially after the heavy rains last week. Altogether it feels very much like a mid-autumn day in the high lattitudes, except that after the intense heat of summer and 



One of our British friends generated an algorithm for determining the time to complete any given task in China:“Imagine the longest possible time you think it would take to do [the given task] in [your home country] and triple it.”Here 


“You’re the First Foreigner I Ever Met”


This past weekend, while walking Bismarck through Huweishan Park, I met my first Chinese who was meeting her first foreigner. Other expatriates had similar stories, but usually told in relation to some faraway place. This was almost literally in our 


What’s to Like


Learning the language Discovering that the Chinese name for most James Bond movies uses the phrase “Brave Escape” The food, duh Take-no-prisoners kitchen appliances, like the five pound blender (that also grinds coffee) and the solid steel toaster with a 


Like Oregon, But Not


Hey Transplants to the Pacific Northwest! Remember your first winter in [Oregon | Washington | British Columbia | SE Alaska]? Remember how, after about 60 days or so of ceaseless drizzly gray, you woke up one morning and heard the 




Was it only three weeks ago that Jenny twisted her ankle? Because today she went for her second run since the accident. My wife could kick your wife’s ass.Meanwhile: Ellen took off for Shanghai on Saturday. She spent ten days 


Black as Midnight on a Moonless Night


Jenny’s mom is visiting from Oregon for about 10 days...and while the highlight of her visit is the, y’sknow, visiting, part, we’re sorely glad for the haul of loot she brought with. A lot of this stuff is from our 



Minutes out of the shower yesterday our house phone rang. Jenny and Bismarck were out for an early morning jog, and I was a little out of sorts, having showered in the wet room, not the main bathroom. And when 


Welcome Back


I’m given to understand culture shock comes in stages. I don’t know what those stages are and I’m kind of loathe to find out. But I think we’re in a stage now where we compare everything here to life in 


Unexpectedly Homesick


Jenny was out of town this weekend for a swim meet in Beijing. (She coaches the XIS HS swim team, such as it is. And no, they didn’t do so well.) I spent my Saturday running errands (grocery shopping, which 


Dust and Construction


Life is slow and frustrating in Xiamen lately. Warm and dusty. I’ve about had it with nothing working right, shoddy design, and everyone basically being OK with those things. I’m also really missing autumn, my favorite season. There is no 




We’ve been back in Xiamen for a week now. This set me to thinking about my own peculiar notions of what constitutes “home.”First (and this is kind of obvious), we went away on a vacation, and while we were on 


Don in Tha House


Jenny’s dad was in town for the weekend. He arrived about two hours after we got in from Singapore, so we just waited at the airport for him. His visit gave us a good excuse to visit Gulangyu island, for 


Back in Xiamen


Jenny and I returned to Xiamen yesterday on remarkably uneventful flights. The meal they served (at 9am) was actually (gee I hate to say it) good. Fish, rice, a kind of sushi salad, and really fresh tropical fruit. You can 


Singapore Insomnia


So I was lying awake in Singapore, thinking about a post-to-be-created that ran something along the lines of “why the summer of 1988 was so important in my life,” which mentally evolved into “three-month periods of my life that I’d 


Malaysia Dispatch


We're back in Singapore after a couple of days in Malaysia, specifically Tioman Island. I have only the vaguest sense of where Tioman Island is (the east coast of Malaysia), and only two days' worth of observations about Malaysia, the 


Sentosa Island, Original Sin, Night Safari


A lazy day yesterday but also, perhaps, the most touristy. I slept late and in the afternoon Vicky took me (and Nima) to Sentosa Island, the Official Fun Zone™ just off the southern tip of Singapore. As Singapore is connected 


Black and White


We are staying in Singapore with Jenny’s friend Vicky (and her dog Nima), who grew up here, in a family typical for this environment: her father is a white American and her mother is Chinese Singaporean.Vicky lives in a fabulous 


Singapore Dispatch


Singapore is the anti-Xiamen. Leaving China necessitated two forms, two passport reviews (and stamps) four lines, and more than an hour of waiting and paperwork. To leave. We cleared Singapore customs in about one minute.Singapore feels a bit like a 


Damn that last post was long


Wasn’t it?Today was just like that, except last night we were up all night crazy itching because of mosquitos. I foolishly left the windows open all day yesterday. We have screens but Chinese mosquitos are devious little twerps.  




I think I’m entering the phase of culture shock where daily life has become mundane. It is no longer surprising or fun to ride with daredevil taxi drivers, or drink hot soy milk, or get stared at, or eat tentacles. 


East-West (东西)

The Chinese name for House (the TV show with Hugh Laurie) is “Hooligan Doctor” (流氓医生, Liumang Yisheng). Alias is “Double-Faced Spy Woman” (双面女间谍, Shuangmian Nujiandie).A popular Chinese word for “um” (or “like” or “y’know”) is nege (呢个). This sounds so 


Good and Bad


Good Bad Slightly sweet popcorn Slightly sweet beer Owners of small dogs Small dogs Old guys doing inexplicable Chinese exercises like walking backwards uphill while slapping their necks Young guys doing 7 sets of 20 reps each on the Smith 


Weather Report


The heat finally broke this weekend, but the humidity didn’t. Taiwan helpfully dispersed a typhoon, but Xiamen has been receiving a steady dose of light rain for two days now. We’re now down to the upper 20s (Centigrade) or maybe 


Doggy Play Date


Yesterday we met with Megan, the former ESL teacher at XIS, and two of her friends at a beach south of the university. (We had to take a taxi — with Bismarck — to the beach, which was surprisingly not 


I Can’t Believe it’s Been a Month Since I’ve...


driven a car eaten a burrito bought a book listened to a radio ridden a bicycle drank a draft beer seen my family read a magazine used a credit card toasted bread visited a dog park comprehended a billboard worn 


Clothes Shopping


I’ve been clothes shopping lately, trying to fill my wardrobe with school-appropriate clothes. Before we left Portland I thought myself to be “about the size of the average Chinese man.” After shopping for clothes I can say this is about 


Rain; School; Intestines


I'm delivering this post from a cybercafe, so apologies for the brevity. We've had two days of rain and the weather has cooled pretty substantially. We're down to mid-80s which is actually a pretty nice temperature. It cleared some of 


I’m Surprised by Many Aspects of Xiamen


The smell of XiamenI was completely unprepared for the novelty of odors in Xiamen. I knew it might smell "bad" or "strange" but couldn't have known how completely new it would smell. It's not so much that it smells "bad," 


Arrival: Xiamen


After about 25 hours of transit we are finally in Xiamen. Flights were all smooth, after a delayed departure from Portland. The delay actually worked to our advantage...gave us more time with family in PDX, and we had about 6 


T-Minus 48h


48 hours until the plane departs...and we're having to cancel last-minute goodbye breakfasts with old friends because every hour is now accounted for. Problems have arisen with the dog's "health certification," which may necessitate a (literal) eleventh-hour trip to Salem 


Ditch Digging

In late 1998, I had a vision about energy. This was at my last archaeology job, in Southern California. I was "monitoring" a large construction project in the Mojave desert, which mostly entailed standing around with a clipboard, taking the 


(Financial) Success, As Portrayed in Movies

The audience knows the female lead is a Successful Person because she works in a busy, brightly-lit office in the cool part of town. The business of the office is probably related to advertising or media. When she enters the 




We are literally hip deep in the process of deleting all our stuff in preparation for the move to Xiamen. The office is hardest hit: boxes everywhere. We spent the past week sorting out old clothes, old files, old books. 


The Meditative Properties of Commuting


I rode the bus in today early. I get a lot of thinking done on the bus, but it's languid, unfocused thinking. Conscious dreaming, but not exactly daydreaming. Public transit is great for dharma practice. Because I have no control 


Anchor Babies

So the Washington State Republican Party declared its hostility to the 14th Amendment. They have gripes with the part that reads "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the 


Story Problems

“Basically I took the client's email with all the requirements and turned it into a workflow diagram. It was like doing a story problem. That's what I do all day long: story problems.”I said this yesterday in a meeting and 




About twenty years ago, my family took a vacation to the Pacific Northwest. This was the first time I had ever seen the ocean (age 14), which happened, to the best of my recollection at Neskowin, Oregon. Certain images from 




...or rather, free ice cream. Today was "free ice cream" day at Ben and Jerry's, apparently a phenom of some sort. [sidebar: the local Ben and Jerry's is located on the first floor of the Pacific Building, where I work] 


Born in the Twilight


Today's Salon features an interview with William Easterly, who criticizes U.S. foreign aid as stuck in a top-down model that hasn't worked since the 1960s. This jibes with a recent trend of ideas recycled from the era before my birth: 


Wires and Code

I love when a site unexpectedly shows me a little bit of code. I found this one on wired.com, of all places, in an article about Tim O'Reilly, of all people. Stumbling onto unrendered code is like watching a utility 



In 1934, a swim coach at the University of Iowa speculated that breaststroke swimmers could gain a significant time advantage by bringing their arms and shoulders out of the water during recovery (i.e. when the arms are moving forward). This 


Barbers ≠ Surgeons

Once upon a time, barbers were surgeons. This offends modern sensibilities but there’s a logic at work here: after all, they use approximately the same tools. And at one time, physicians didn’t care for cutting people open, removing tumors, extracting 


The Better Airline Ticketing System™

Why can’t we book airline flights the same way we route TCP/IP packets? An airplane ticket is kind of like a guarantee. You tell the system: “I want to go from Portland to Boston on March 4th. I want to