Monthly Archives: September 2017

Returning from China

I am sitting in a hotel room in Beijing, waiting to catch a shuttle to the airport to return to Seattle. This was a very interesting trip. I guess it is to be expected that my impressions of China are fundamentally different from my expectations before I arrived. There are lots and lots of very good things about China. I have made good friends and look forward to my next trip in a few months. There are some things about China that are unsettling. I need to think about them a little and it is all so foreign to me that I do not have an opinion. I think, like Mexico, there are some parts of the culture I will never understand because I am an American. The other thing is that China is so big and diverse, understanding things in one place is meaningless when you go to another part of China, maybe not even so far away. It has been a wonderful trip although it would have been nice to bring Lorena along. Lorena has been invited, so maybe we can make that happen.

A couple of days in Shenzhen

View from DoubleTree in ShenzhenWe drove from Suzhou to Shanghai and then flew down to Shenzhen last night. We then caught the equivalent of an Uber ride to a town about forty minutes north that is right by our company’s Shenzhen office. It is very beautiful here. We are meeting a customer later this morning, then just going to work in the local office without any meeting agenda. We have been running so hard that it will be nice to have a day that is a little bit slower to catch up.

The team in Suzhou is pretty amazing in that everyone is quite young, very bright and very new to the company. There is an energy there that I remember from my time at startups in the early eighties. That feel does not seem to exist so much anymore in the US even though I have done quite a few small startups over the last twenty years or so. They promised me when I come back to China next time they will all take me to the Mexican restaurant that is walking distance from the office. I am very much looking forward to it.

Suzhou, China

View from our office in SuzhouWe have been running since I hit the ground in Shanghai Pudong airport day before yesterday. There have been lots of surprises on this trip, mostly to do with the very modern and extensive infrastructure that is ubiquitous both in Shanghai and Suzhou. I know I am traveling and working in the very centers of commerce and industry for which China is known in this day and age. Nevertheless, it is very impressive.

My other, maybe bigger surprised is the decorum with which the drivers that got me from Shanghai to Suzhou have exhibited. I have to say it has been somewhat more aggressive driving that in the U.S., but no where close to the craziness that is Monterrey, Mexico. That being said, I just got her and do not know much yet, but I have certainly enjoyed the experience so far.

From the picture of the view from my company’s office in Suzhou, you can probably tell there has not been much time to take many pictures. The timing of our meetings and the weather (torrential, North Carolina/Florida quality thunderstorms) have not cooperated in that regard and I am not sure much will change base on my schedule.

The other marvelous thing I have experienced here is the food. Last night we spent several hours at a Korean barbecue place that makes me think it would be great to own one of those Korean barbecue tables with the charcoal pits in the middle and the automatic shish-ka-bob rotators. Who knows what they are really called, but whatever it is, they are really cool. I am going to investigate.

Shanghai-Shenzhen-Beijing

Chinese VisaI cannot remember when was the last time I went to Asia. I have been to quite a few places over there–Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, but I have never been to mainland China. After jumping through lots of hoops, I got my hands on the needed Visa a half an hour before the FedEx office in Olympia closed. So now I get to fly to Shanghai to celebrate my birthday tomorrow.

I got good seats with lots of legroom, so that is a fine thing. My hope is to be able to get some work done on the sickle cell detection project as well as some work for my day job. Just in case I get all that done, I bought the latest Longmire novel and a second mystery novel. Who knows whether I will be able to get any sleep.

I will be in Shanghai (our office is in Suzhou) then on to Shenzhen, before catching a flight through Beijing on the way home. Of course this is one of those work trips where I will not get to see anything other than big factories and R&D offices which are pretty much the same the world over. Nevertheless, I am confident I will get some great Chinese food. I am especially looking forward to meeting two members of my team with whom I have spoken fairly extensively over Skype, but have never met face to face.

The treadmill

Bob provides a treadmillSadly, I no longer have any excuses for avoiding exercise. Bob and Gena invited us over for dinner (of course) last Sunday and during the course of the conversation Bob tells me has a treadmill he is not using. Bob gets plenty of exercise at their property and he works out at the pool so he has no plans to use the treadmill for awhile. Honestly, these people are too good for us.

At any rate, not only does he offer to let me use it, the next Monday, he throws the thing in his van and brings it over. I have NO idea how he idea he did that. The thing is a true industrial strength treadmill and a marvel of engineering. He told me Gena helped him, but that makes it even more amazing. I helped him unload the thing into the garage and it took about all we had to do that. Those Northern California logger, Montana/Wyoming people are just made of sterner stuff than the rest of us.

So, as I was saying, I am now out of excuses. Today is the day I plug it in, turn it on and get started. Honestly, I am very grateful for the machine and it is going to be a big help. I will keep you posted on how it goes.

Lorena finishes her $8 desk

Lorena's refinished $8 desk (plus paint)Lorena put the final coat on her $8 desk project last night, then reattached the draw pulls this morning. The desk is for the guest bedroom, so she can not move it there yet because she is in the middle of repainting it. After that, she is going to try her hand at putting in Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT). We watched a video and it appears possible to install without even using a saw, but a utility knife with an LVT blade. She has had several passes at the window frames in the bedroom with primer, putty, and lots of sanding. She is now busily pulling the closet and entry door off. She is going to paint them, too.

September 11–Sunrise in Centralia

Rainier sunrise -- just before the sun peaks outThe new header I put up (you can still see it here when I change it again). It seems appropriate that this was the view of the mountain out our window this 16th anniversary of the cowardly murder that took place at the Twin Trade Towers in New York in 2001. The header picture was taken at 6:00 AM and the picture to the left was taken an hour later. It all reminded me of that power of God. I read a factoid yesterday about the power of hurricanes, that an average hurricane expends way more power than the sum of all the man made power in the entire world for an entire year. Looking out the window and reflecting on the understanding that Mt. Ranier thousands of years overdue for an eruption it makes me realize how small and inconsequential is the raging of men. I understand the Mount St. Helens explosion was 1600 times as big as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World Wart II. This coming eruptions of Mt. Ranier is prognosticated to be much bigger than that. It is never too early to get one’s house in order.

All that being said, I think some seemingly inconsequential events are much bigger deals in light of eternity and judgment. I was thinking of what a great thing it was for Kelly to receive the benefit of an amazing and spiritually edifying trip to visit family in Mexico. But, on some levels, even more than that was an after church dinner to which we got invited at Bob and Gena’s house yesterday. We were very grateful to be included in that. I went from there straight home to the computer to work on contract work–good, helpful work that will save lives. I missed the afternoon Gospel meeting because of that and could not get past the thought that seemingly small spiritual things are so much more important and powerful than whatever else is going on in our lives have a greater eternal impact than world events and work. Even these world shaking events like terrorism, hurricanes, volcanoes or the solving of sickle cell disease pale in comparison.

Kelly, Coca Cola, and tacos

Kelly eats tacos and drinks Coca Cola at a hole in the wall in MonterreyKelly is having a great time in Monterrey. One of my favorite things to do when I am in Mexico is just what Kelly is doing in the picture. Enjoying Coca Cola with her tacos. It has been said that it is objectively and viscerally wrong to eat tacos in Mexico without Coke. I have to admit, though, that I enjoy my tacos with Tab. It brings be back to my time in Guadalajara in the mid- 1980’s. I went there about this time of year, too. It does not get much better than sitting in an outdoor cafe late in the evening and having a cup of Instant Nescafe after finishing off a big plate of those fabulous street tacos with cabbage, cilantro, onions and lots of hot salsa. It was a pretty tough decision for most of us students on Friday night whether to go for the tacos or to split a rotisserie chicken.

I wish we could be there with Kelly, but I think it is good we are not. She is just having too much fun with her cousins and her traveling partner, Eliza who Kelly says always has a good time, is a good sport, and fits in everywhere. We do not hear much from her because she is so busy, so we have to be satisfied with what we seen on social media. We can hardly wait until she gets back so we can hear it from the horses mouth.

Angels in Santiago, Nuevo Leon

Kelly is having a great time in her visit to Grandma Conchita’s house in Monterrey with her Friend Eliza. Her amazing uncles took them to the small, picturesque town of Santiago 15 or 20 miles out of Monterrey. The only thing that was kind of disappointing is that she tried to capture some of the glory of an iconic photograph taken in June of 2014, but I really do not think she has the fashion sense or sheer magnificent presence of the original model. See for yourself (original is inset).

Angels in Santiago, Nuevo Leon

Christian’s 22nd Birthday

Christian's 22nd BirthdayThe painting (print) beside Christian has a story behind it and it is not just that he got to see the original as done by Renoir. You can read about that here. I wanted to get him the painting, but did not realize how big it was. I guess it is not as big as the original, but it is still really too big for his small apartment. He is working on getting something a little more manageable.

It is painful to not be able to be with Christian on his birthday. Lorena and I have reminisced and talked about it maybe a little more than in years past. Christian has lead a somewhat unusual life until now. I suppose most kids his age feel very much misunderstood, but he has more reason than most. I call him a kid, but he has been way past the kid stage for several years now–running his own household and paying his own bills since he left for college more than three years ago.

The things Lorena and I identify as qualities we appreciate the most are his work ethic, his kindness, and his focus on doing what is right. That first quality is the one that causes him the most outward pain. Some have assumed he got where he is through some ability given to him that others do not possess when, in reality, he got there through sustained hard work over a very large percentage of the short time he has been on this earth.

We are grateful for him and hope he continues to invest some time in playing his guitar and traveling to visit us and others in the coming year.

Refinishing projects: Finished dining room table

First chairs in the living roomRefinished dining room tableLorena finished her first refinish project–the dining room table, then went out and bought some rugs for the under the table and for the first two chairs in the living room. We have a long, long way to go, but now we at least have a little bit of a plan in place. The big epiphany we had this weekend is that Lorena really thinks she wants to put in the LVT flooring in the first bedroom all by herself. We watched some videos and she really thinks she can do it. I am excited to see what happens next.

Kelly’s triumphant return to Monterrey

Just about the entire family on the Mexican side, made the journey across Monterrey to the airport to pick up Kelly this afternoon. We are SO glad for such a great family. What would a Mexican welcome be without a pink sombrero!!! Kelly was SO excited to be there that she gave us a quick “got here” text and we have heard nothing sense. The picture came from Tio Rigo.

One sad note, Kelly’s Instagram locked up when she was adding picture so it in Mexico so it is not available to her and she can not receive the text message she needs to receive to enable it again until she returns home, so I think most of the pictures will be on Facebook if she has time to even do that. We are dying to hear how it goes, but doubt we will get much until she gets back. If we do, though, we will keep you posted.

Another great pic!

Kitchen remodel: Officially complete*

Mark left for home just a few minutes ago. He is officially complete. We are grateful for all his  hard, hard work, the many edifying conversations we had while he was here. He is truly a stand-up guy and made the process fun, interesting and with a better result than if we would have been left to our own devices. If anyone ever wants to get a kitchen done and can talk Mark into doing it, their lives, not to mention their kitchen will be the better for it.

The big thing that was completed in this pass was the addition of the ceiling light fixture rings marked in red in the picture. There were several other items that are not really visible like the fixing of the dishwasher to the counter and stuff like that. The reality is there are several minor things left to complete, only one of them on Mark’s agenda (a small step for the back porch he can do better in his shop). Lorena and I need to change a few light fixtures and add some furniture, then we will take a few pictures for posterity to bring this second kitchen remodel series to an end.

*There will be one more post with pictures after this one.

Deep thoughts

Christian thinkingI talked to a couple of new “old friend” yesterday. We have had some great talks in the past. We have lots of things in common, but nothing in common. We are all from very different walks of life. We all consider God to be the focus of our lives. I honestly think one of them is way more liberal than me–I couldn’t care less about that politically, but couldn’t care more about it when it comes to spiritual stuff. We have talked about the difficulties with which our kids struggle as millennials–as children of the1960’s and college students of the 1970’s we know what it means to have parents who do not have a clue about what we face on a day to day basis in a dying and decadent culture. We know we do not understand and are desperate to get it across that there are reasons for joy, peace with one’s self is possible, and life is good. Also, that life is short. Really short. It is time to be a force for good now and not mourn what happened in the past because, in the case of all our kids, all our problems are first world problems. Still, it does not matter what world you are from when it comes to knowing God. We are all desperate for our kids to do that above all else. And it is too late, for all of us, to raise them differently because the raising is now done. All we can do now is be a loving, praying influence.

I am very thankful for these friends.