Web-log entries from 2007



hip • ster noun informal One who takes offense at being called a “hipster.”  more


Western Journey

When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was a genre show called Western Journey. Set in 1870, the show followed the... more


Warning Signs

If the documentation/HOWTO/helpfile/hint uses the word “simply” (as in: “mod_proxy should simply send the raw directory list up the filter stack to mod_autoindex, which in... more


Ya Don’t Know What Ya Got...

In the span of a week we went from Summer to Autumn, both astronomically and climatically. Weather crisp and wettish but not rainy. Leaves in... more


Simple Solutions to Stupid Problems

The Mercy Corps office is terrifically overcrowded. I share a 100 square foot room with two other people, for example. This office opens directly into... more


What It’s Like To Be Back

Pretty much the first thing anyone says when we see them for the first time is “are you glad to be back?” This is surprisingly... more


Oregon Again

We’ve been back in Oregon for 24 hours now, most of them occupied by sleeping or running errands like crazy people. I’m too wiped to... more



In the last 24 hours the feeling finally hit us: OK, we're actually leaving. We finished our bank work yesterday, after a brief scare where... more


A Cowboy Never Says Goodbye

I hate saying “goodbye.” I don’t mean that I never want to leave places I know I should leave, or part from friends I don’t... more


Seven Days

We’re entering the pre-move period, familiar from a year ago, when we are no longer excited about leaving but rather just want the whole damn... more



In the last year I generated a hypothesis about global attitudes toward shit:“A person’s aversion to fecal matter is inversely proportional to their cultural distance... more


Beijing, Briefly

My brother and mother have been visiting this past week. I took them to the usual Xiamen tourist sites: Gulangyu Island, Nanputuo Temple, Zhongshan Road.... more


Blogger; Protests; Skies and Cars

In probable anticipation of the anniversary of the 1989 student protests, the gummint has clamped down tight on Blogger. For most of the year we’ve... more


Choose Two

Someone recently asked me for some businessy advice about working in China. Specifically, about team dynamics and the decision-making process. All four regular readers of... more



For most of my tenure in high school, I didn’t “get” high school. I didn’t get the cliques, the sports, the clothes, how to manage... more


The Guy I Used to Be

When I was in college, I used to have long hair. Not quite shoulder-length, but maybe 6 inches. It hung over my eyes in a... more



Today at lunch I spotted a minivan with GNEFGNOD written on the side. You see some funny car names in China (“Freeca,” “Houda,” “BWM”) but... more


Xiamen Love

The weather has turned warm and damp and it’s hard not be a little in love with Xiamen. The plants are greener, the sky is... more


The China Fantasy

I’ve been struggling for a while to formulate a series of vague thoughts I’ve had about China. This is usually in response to a question... more


I Learned a Lot from my Parents

The Australian crawl The backstroke The Four-in-Hand The half-Windsor The non-necessity of training wheels If you’re bored, read a book Shake hands firmly and make... more


Boredom and Solitude

On today’s Dilbert Blog, Scott Adams hypothesizes that: “A person’s need for social interaction is inversely related to the quality of his or her imagination.... more



Working with a Chinese team (OK, my particular Chinese team) makes me long for a collaborative work environment like you wouldn’t believe. All my attempts... more


And now...LINKS!

AKA The Lazy Man’s Blog Post17 Hates 10 Commandments for Westerners in China American IPR hawks, remember the little people Welcome to Boomtown, PRC Beijing... more


Brain Hack

Reading over some posts from before our move to China I was reminded of how frequently I used to dream of being underwater. I’ve had... more


Back from Taiwan

We got back from Taiwan yesterday after utterly uneventful flights. Although the 777 (Cathay Pacific) we took from Taipei to Hong Kong had the coolest... more


Afternoon with the Spidermans

Today we saw Spiderman 3, the first movie we've seen in an actual theater since last August. Hell, it was the first non-pirated visual entertainment... more


Taroko Gorge

Jenny and I took the train (not, unfortunately, the High Speed Rail, although it was plenty fast) out to Taroko Gorge, Taiwan's world-famous National Park.... more



We arrived in Taipei two nights ago after a 50 minute delay out of Xiamen, and a switched flight through Hong Kong. Even that switched... more


Māma mà má mǎ ma?

My mother asked me the other day, how exactly do you say “Did Mother scold the hemp horse?” Well, you say it like this:Māma mà... more



Much of what passes for “Western” in Xiamen would more accurately be called “Sinicized.” A good example is the local version of “coffee shops.” These... more


Seven Irritations

OK, so: here’s what made this past Sunday so damned irritating.First, taxes. This was actually not any more irritating than usual, and actually turned out... more


Kurt Vonnegut Dead at 84

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies,... more


3 Scenes, As Metaphors

Exhibit A: A New Privacy Wall Commentary:(Pre-existing rebar-reinforced concrete railing) = (nearly forgotten yet deeply sublimated Confucian/Taoist/Buddhist patriarchical tradition) + (3000 year history)(Hastily piled, poorly... more


“Dark and Dirty”

The weather today has cleared, the first break of warm weather since the Marathon, almost two weeks ago. This after a couple days of heavy... more


The Four to Five Stages of Culture Shock

I’m having a lot of trouble lately coping with the depth of my homesickness. I’m amazed it can be so thoroughly consuming. Nothing I read... more


The Shire

During a conversation I had a week ago with a coworker contemplating a move to the US, and wondering what city would suit him best... more


Back Posts and Our Purebred Portland Labrador Retriever

Lately I’ve been adding some older bloggy-type stuff to 大黑狗. I started doing “something new every day” on axoplasm.com five years ago (when I didn’t... more


Working Here

...is occasionally a challenge. The Chinese have not made cults of efficiency, quality, or service as in other countries (like Germany, Japan, and America, respectively).... more


Xiamen International Marathon

Jenny and I ran in the Xiamen International Marathon yesterday. I ran 10K and Jenny ran the half marathon. Altogether it was a good day.... more


Big Ideas

I resist talking too much on the blog about Big Ideas in regards to China vs. America (or anywhere else), in part because my thoughts... more


The Homesick-o-Meter

Think you might be homesick? Unfortunately, expatriate life in China means living with constant homesickness, so gauging the severity of this emotion is essential to... more


Things I’d Bring Back from China

Post-lunch naps Palm-sized rice bowls held inches from your mouth Industrial-grade hot water dispensers (for copious quantities of loose green tea), in lieu of office... more


American Dreams

Long, languid, atmospheric dreams of American landscapes occupied my sleep last night. Shopping malls, brick houses on tree-lined streets, farmland under an autumn prairie sky,... more


Internal Monologue: At the Expat Club

I can’t believe this Kilkenny costs 50 kuai. I am gonna nurse the hell out of this beer. Why is every bar band in Xiamen... more


Did Mother Scold the Hemp Horse?

The crazy difficult thing about learning Mandarin are those devil tones. In Mandarin, the way you pronounce a vowel is often more important than the... more


Hanzi Are Fun

One of the small joys of living in China is learning Chinese. In a harsh blow to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, the Chinese language is simple,... more


New Job

Today is my fourth day at my new job as [Senior Web Architect | Senior E-Business Manager | Director of Web Services] at Ports, an... more


Chinese Color Symbolism for Foreign Designers

Dear Honored Foreign Designer, The following is a guide to the use of color in Chinese graphic design. Unlike foreign color symbolism, in which colors... more


This is a surprisingly hard habit to break

When we were in Bali, we kept having to remind ourselves that most of the people around us could understand the catty stuff we were... more


Some islands I have known

Vancouver 32,134 km2 Hawai’i 10,458 km2 Bali 5632 km2 Nunivak 4400 km2 Kauai 1430 km2 Singapore 683 km2 Orcas 148 km2 San Juan 143 km2... more


“Make your vacation your vocation”

I realized on this trip that I don’t particularly care for travel. For me this is a big admission, although in retrospect it’s kind of... more



On the American West Coast we say “Gung Hay Fat Choy” but that’s apparently Cantonese. In Mandarin you say “Gong Xi Fa Cai.” You write... more


Bali Bound

Hey just a quick note: Jenny and I are leaving today for Bali. We’ll be back in a week (literally arriving on the day of... more


I’m no longer above...

Starbucks KFC clothing made in China Tabasco instant coffee TV cop shows cheering for the high school basketball team lite beer soda with calories Crest... more


Madre de los Desaparecidos

Seen in a distant land: a middle-aged woman holding a signboard with photos of her (presumably) two adult children, a daughter and a son. Only... more


Shoulda Been Me

I, for example, am good at washing dishes. I used to do it professionally and it’s still satisfying. You clear away the wreckage and run... more


Pigs and Birds

We’re about two weeks away from Chinese New Year, which is the largest (by American standards, only) holiday in China. The upcoming year is Year... more


Proofread Study Interval Nation Door Mansion

XIS buses have the name of the school, in Chinese, printed in large letters on the sides. On the driver side it’s printed in the... more


Where Life is Cheap

Last night, Jenny and I were in the kitchen washing dishes when we both smelled something burning. So we started looking around the kitchen: along... more


The Tulsa of China

Xiamen is wonderful and all but our visits to Hong Kong and Singapore make me wish we were in a larger city. We’re kind on... more


Things I Miss About 1991

Only building contractors and heart surgeons carry cell phones. My guidebook to the Pacific Northwest, in describing the burgeoning Seattle coffee culture, mentions in passing... more


Better Than You Might Expect

Piping hot corn smoothies Green tea toothpaste The emergency room Hocking loogies in public in front of God and everyone Sausage-filled donuts Public buses with... more


My Three Favorite Purchases from Hong Kong

were:A Parker ballpoint pen A new Seiko dive watch A plain black merino sweater These are the kinds of things that are impossible to find... more



So there are two circumstances that must obtain before I get up the energy to post to the blog:Boredom An elevated sense of well-being Funnily... more



Last night (Michelle’s final night in China) we went to Riyuegu hot springs, a shwanky resort in Xiamen’s outer suburbs. They have a bazillion little... more



For Michelle’s pen-penultimate day in Xiamen, we had a big ol’ Chinese-o-rama. Jenny was “sick” and stayed home with Michelle, they visited the big local... more


Hong Kong

We spent a few days last week in Hong Kong. HK is, without a doubt, the most vibrant , happening city I’ve ever visited. It’s... more


...Aaaaand We’re Back

OK, so it's been, what, two weeks now? I have excuses.The day after Christmas Axoplasm.com stopped working. In China. Everyone else on Earth can see... more