Saturday, April 30, 2011

Public Service Announcements


Also spotted on our field trip: This rather faded message board on the edge of the town square near the police station, with some fairly faded posters exhorting citizens to behave safely and properly. My Chinese is still a bit sketchy, but I think I've progressed enough to give you a rough translation of some of the lessons to be learned.


"If you are planning to jump off of a tall building, make sure that you spin sideways or keep your tongue sticking out."


"Don't leave your television set unplugged, or else a cartoon dog will force you to do jumping jacks with your eyes closed."


"Always make sure you apply conditioner BEFORE leaving a burning building."


"If you and your friend work together diligently enough, you can make a school bus pop a wheelie."

Have a good weekend, everybody, and hey hey hey...

Let's be careful out there.

Glimpses from the China Cave

Swallow Cave, near Jianshui, Yunnan

One of the cool bits about China sometimes is that I can choose to live under the proverbial rock if I want to, as far as overhyped Western media events are concerned. For example, wasn't there some sort of wedding going on in England recently? I've posted about the tempest in a teacup effect before - how living in another country makes all of these so-called "major news stories" seem like so much nightclub smoke, and so many disco lasers bouncing off so many mirrors.

Another advantage is that, even if you haven't been swept away by the hype in the first place, you do get to sometimes read some pretty enlightening comments as the thing is winding down. An example from Scott Adams, writing about a recent bruhaha over a ... birth certificate? (Have I got that right? And is Donald Trump seriously a political contender?) Anyway, his point, albeit sarcastic, is that such media nonevents are actually good for our democracy. Read the article as well, but here are some good quotes to get you started...
It's healthy that we average citizens have some sort of topic in the political realm that will keep us engaged while also siphoning off some of our activist energy. It reminds us that we have a role in government. It reminds us that we have a constitution. It reminds us that we're in charge, sort of. And it gives the news media something to talk about on slow news days, which is important for keeping that vital institution in business.
And furthermore...
The birther issue is sort of like letting your toddler have a toy steering wheel in his car seat. He feels as if he's doing something useful and you don't have to rely on him to keep you out of the ravine.

Friday, April 29, 2011

There's a first time for everything...

I had a field trip out with my students about three weeks ago. Not a particularly glamorous one - we just went to the local market, then outside the university gate for a bit. We talked about observation, not taking things for granted, sensory vocabulary, and so on.

Quite appropriate, then, that on that day, I saw:

A) The first Porsche that I've ever seen in our neighborhood (though not the first in China by a long shot: more on that in another post); and...


B) A guy with a trained monkey, that he kept on the end of a leash and forced to do tricks for passersby, asking for a little change in return.


Now, mind you, I'm not condoning either practice. Indeed, quite the opposite. (Which is worse? I'll leave that for the comments...) However, it is quite interesting, and more than a bit strange, to be in a country where one can take these two pictures within 200 meters of each other on the same day...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gettin' by with a little help from my...


Oh, and while we're on the subject of Ysa, I couldn't pass up posting this group of photos that Jane took of Ysa taking to the streets with Yan KaiYue, one of her best friends...

IMG_5265 IMG_5267

IMG_5268 IMG_5269

Fun, right? As always, click to enlarge...

Art in da house


Ysa has been drawing like crazy in the past couple of months! Not only drawing, but cutting and pasting as well. Her favorite subject matter so far is girls, boys*, suns and houses. Medium: colored pencil on recycled homework from our students; marker, cut coloring books, glue. As much as I'm temped to take credit, this burst is all from her - no parental prodding on our part required. (We just need to watch what books we leave lying around, as they're liable to become part of her portfolio if we're not careful)


IMG_5431 IMG_5433


(*Ysa's boys, btw, are usually distinguishable from girls by a small line drawn downward from between the legs)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011



See, here's proof that, um....
  • We were in Zigong last weekend. (for those of you not in the know, the city of Zigong is famous for its recently discovered dinosaurs)
  • We actually do hand the camera off to a stranger to take our picture from time to time, and once in a while, the photo actually turns out.
  • There were dinosaurs in China, too. (an interesting aside: Chinese dinosaurs have been given Chinese names, even in English. Whod've thought? This one is Sichuanasaurus. I was looking around for specimens of MaoTseTungadon or perhaps a DengXiaoPingus Prosperus, but no such luck.)
  • Evolution has occurred.. (yay, evolution!)
  • Or that somebody created the world in an insanely short period of time, changed the laws of physics, and then hid lots of skeletons far far underground as a huge practical joke to test the faith of unbelievers...
  • Asteroids crashing into the planet, are, as far as we know, dangerous. And have far-reaching consequences.
  • Dinosaur murals make great photo backdrops, even if they sometimes frighten three year olds.
  • Weekend road trips are fun!

Monday, April 25, 2011

MIA for a bit

Shadow self portrit with DQ, near the Pearl Market, Beijing

No, I haven't been to Dairy Queen lately, but we were gone for Easter weekend to the sunny hill town of Zigong to meet with our colleagues from our organization. That, plus a few ongoing projects on the side (including painting!), plus me running out of the obvious "wow, things are sure different in China" type topics means that the posts have thinned out for a bit here.

Not to worry, though. Still have lots of pictures to show everyone, some links coming up, and a few deeper observations (and a rant or two) that just need a bit more sitting down at the computer time that I'm using right now. So, as always, thanks for listening, and stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Speaking of observation....

Think the text says it all. From

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Best Quality Goods Always Make You Happy

Yep, again with the notebooks...

Hotrock Notebook Progress Notebook


- Learn extensively, inquire thoroughly, ponder prudently, discriminate cleanly and practice devotedly.

- The more high more dangerous.
The more wonderful.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easy to do...

EASY TO Lose the Happiness WithOUT

Another student notebook. I'm particularly fond of the international signage couples gracing the bottom...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

1st grade group parents meeting

Things the teacher talked about to all the parents of Xander's 1st grade, April 16, 2011:

Field trip to an aquarium this Friday costs 130 rmb.  Kind-of a lot, the parents grumbled afterwards.  Wear red clothes for easy identification.  Not too much, though, because it will be nice weather [typical of Chinese concern over wearing the proper amount of layers].

The final examination will be June 20, or thereabouts.

Xander was singularly praised for coming to school early every day, even in the cold weather, to let the children in.  [He holds the class key and is very eager to fulfill his duties.]

Teacher your child how to punctuate using ? . and , properly.

Start a new paragraph 2 character spaces in.  Not 3, not 1.  2.

Xander was singularly praised for his use of good standard Mandarin, rather than the local dialect.  Parents should try to teach their children some standard Mandarin [she said this using some local dialect, said my translator-student, who is from the Beijing].

Put homework papers in these nifty plastic folders commonly used here.

User an erase to erase mistakes instead of fingers.

Don't bring toys to class.

Math teacher up next:

Parents need to help students for good habits; for example, getting work done right away.

Students need to learn how to listen.

The higher the grades, the better the student.  [At this point, my student-translator said he hated whenever his parents had to go to these meetings for him.  He would get scolded afterwards because he was a bad student.]

The top 3 worst students in the class are:  _____, _____ and ______.  [She actually named them!]

Hiring extra private teachers is bad because students need to learn how to think for themselves and "parents are the best teachers." [quiet snickering from one parent at this]

Use a gray ruler, not a multi-colored one.  Too distracting.

No comic books at school.  Their contents can be too violent.

Children help each other.  Be friends.

End of meeting: 4:00 = the meeting was a full 1 1/2 hours long

Building elsewhere

A link that I meant to post a while ago when I was on a construction in China kick: photos from Bas Princen of new construction in the Middle East. If you've been in China, it all looks quite familiar... (only the climate has been changed to protect the innocent)

Life is FUNNY How much I love you

Life is Funny How Much I Love You

I require my students to keep class notes and journals, which I review at the end of the semester. Some of the covers, like this one, are quite poetic (intentionally or not...).

(see also my post on Chinglish / bilingual found poetry here.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Books of Note


A while back, I posted pictures of a few of my Chinese notebooks here, along with the inspirational quotes that grace their covers. A week later, the entry start getting tons and tons of hits from, a web site devoted entirely to, you guessed it, notebooks, and people who collect, save, and fill them. Who knew? (Though, given the nature of the internet, not entirely surprising.)

Being as I'm into sketchbooks, notebooks, journaling, cool graphic design, and found poetry, (intentional and otherwise), I've got a few photos of notebooks lying around the archives myself. Sooo - here's wishing everyone a happy Asian notebook week! Or month. Or couple of days. Whatever. Hey, they're notebooks, okay..?

First up: some cool books that I picked up in Thailand, featuring vintage ads on the front and excerpts from old textbooks on the back:

IMG_4855 IMG_4856

IMG_4851 IMG_4852

IMG_4853 IMG_4854

As always, click on the image to enlarge. Enjoy!

"Do you hibernate?" "Only with friends."

End of the line


Another surreal moment in Chengdu, brought to you by the ongoing construction in China...

Monday, April 11, 2011

All's Fair

Every March 16th, our local "village" of 红光(Hongguang, pop. ca. 280,000) celebrates the anniversary of a visit by Chairman Mao, who stopped by this area (then called Hexing) in 1958 to visit a few collective farms and to talk with the locals. He suggested a few changes, told the provincial government to set up a university in the area, and the rest is history. After the visit, the residents of our town changed the name to mean "Red light" - Honguang in Chinese.

The celebration took the form of an immensely long county fair / shopping bazaar, which stretched along ten blocks of a side street not far from the University. Of course, we were there, and Jane and I found ourselves continually asking each other for the camera, because there were all sorts of picture-worthy sights (and sites). Here are a few of the better ones... (as always, click on the photo to enlarge)



IMG_4813 Anniversary festival, Hongguang


Anniversary festival, Hongguang

IMG_4776 IMG_4778