Category Archives: culture

All-in-all, an excellent trip to China

Kiwi and the endless battle to sit on the counterI got back to Seattle almost two hours ahead of the scheduled arrival. The departure time got pushed up from 11:30 AM to 11:00 AM. Who ever heard of such a thing. The other thing that seems completely out of sync with my experience is that from my first ride from the airport to the hotel in Shanghai to my last ride from the hotel to the airport in Beijing, all the driving was quite sane and careful on very good roads. I am sure it must be that I was not in the right place to experience the wild driving about which I have heard, but they would have to up their insanity by several orders of magnitude to arrive at what I have experienced on numerous occasions in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.

We went from SeaTac airport to drop Kelly off, home for a quick change and then on to church followed by a five hour nap. Then I went to bed at my normal time and got up at my normal time. The jet lag had way less effect on me than what I remember from trips to Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. Maybe it is because I am getting old and do not need much sleep. The whole trip, the nuts and bolts mechanics of it anyway, was about as benign as any Asian trip I have ever taken. I do not know if I relish the idea of going on a super regular basis, but I do not dread the idea anymore. It will be good to go back and see the very kind people with whom I worked when I was there, too.

Kiwi was fit to be tied when we got home. She had stayed by herself for two days while Lorena stayed with Kelly. It was good to see her, but she let us know she was displeased; in no uncertain terms.

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.

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.

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.

A truncated train ride

The mystery ride to CentraliaSeveral months ago an Amtrak train derailed that Kelly was scheduled to catch for a ride to visit us in Centralia. She was stuck at the train station, but a mysterious and very handsome Englishman who smoked Gauloises cigarettes gallantly talked to a couple who had an SUV to take them along with an old married couple to Centralia, Portland and beyond. There was an old married couple and a hatchet in the door pocket of the back seat. If that is not a murder mystery, I do not know what is. Kelly had a great time and got this picture in an email today. She will probably never see them again, but she has a great story.

How to not be assimilated by the Borg–resistence is not futile

Brave browser (click here to go to their website)Google, in the minds of many, is pretty much the devil. I have started to come around to that opinion myself. There are lots of people who believe this. The problem is there has never really been any other option. After the most recent spate of ignorance and draconian overreach when Google fired a guy for expressing an idea that is objectively true, I decided to see if I could bail out of use of the Google search engine because, in my opinion, they censors what is good and true to promulgate evil. I found out that is kind of a hard thing to do. There are some searches for my work at which Google is better than anything else available. That led me to the idea that I need to minimize my Google searches to those for which there is no other alternative.

The good news is that I found a solution. I wrote earlier (here) about what I believe to be malfeasance on the part of Mozilla in their treatment of a very good man. That man, Brendan Eich, got fired from Mozilla for unconscionable pretexts. Because he believes in and supports “traditional marriage” (just marriage for non-double-speak people), he got fired from Mozilla. He immediately started a competing browser company named Brave. I tried that browser when it first came out, but it really was not ready for prime time. I tried it again today because I was so feed up with Google and Mozilla and I have to say that if it is not yet ready for prime time, it is very, very close. In addition, they have a way to set my browser (I use DuckDuckGo to avoid Google for the vast bulk of my searches) and Google only for those where it works best–stuff where they cannot impose their extreme hard left-wing bias. Brave facilitates all of this and I am grateful. Check it out. Don’t get swallowed by the Borg.

Wolfe, Chomsky and Everett

The Kingdom of Speech by Tom WolfeI wrote in a previous post. about the kerfuffle surrounding two scholars of linguistics and Tom Wolfe’s fascinating commentary on it in his book The Kingdom of Speech. I just read an article about the affair that had a great quote in it that I wanted to preserve on this blog so I can return to it and point to it now and again. It is an interesting article that is worth a read. The quote:

Chomsky’s theory of language, as will be evident to the reader of Everett’s piece, is on a par with Darwinism. A theory about nothing but itself about how things happen. We could leave it out and nothing would change except the air would be cleaner. Not that Everett says this, of course.

July 4, 2017 in Centralia (I had the concept wrong)

We heard when we moved here that the fireworks were just phenomenal. You might excuse us for thinking we had a view of the professional fireworks from our deck. We were completely wrong. We had a spectacular fireworks display that lasted for three hours. This little video does not really do it justice because there was much bigger stuff going off a lot of the time all over the whole valley below us. We were awestruck. It was not so much that the fireworks were amazing, even though they were. It was more that this thing went on at a frenetic pass for three hours. There must have been an explosion of some kind two or three times per second with periods of much more than that. The thing that was most mind-boggling is the level of participation amongst the whole community had to be huge because these things were going off everywhere, up and down the hills and valleys, in town close, far, on our side of the river there was even a very healthy level of participation. It was a joy to be here. Next year we have to share this with more people.

Fireworks in Centralia with Kelly 2017

Kelly comes home for the Fourth of JulyKelly came home for the weekend to find out whether it is true we have the best seat in Centralia for the annual Fourth of July fireworks display. She and Lorena have been cooking and shopping up a storm. I actually have worked most of the time with a short hiatus for a visit from our friends Brent and Suzy along with their son Kevin.

In the meantime, Christian took a much needed break and is heading out this afternoon and evening to see what there is to see on Independence Day in one of those places where it all got started. Today, he had a hamburger at a restaurant owned by a semi-famous guy named Danny Wahlberg. He has not yet reported on that hamburger–probably still dazzled by the lobster roll he ate at the Park Street McDonald’s.

So, I will try to report here how it goes with that fireworks thing. It appears they shoot them off at the fairgrounds which does not seem like it would give us that much of a vantage point. We will see what we will see and if it is anywhere within viewing distance, we will put up an image.

Update (9:30 PM): The fireworks will start at the fairgrounds between Centralia and Chehalis after the Demolition Derby at 10:30 PM. Is that Americana or what? We are above the little valley where Chehalis is situated. It is truly amazing the number of fireworks being expended hear. It is like a war is going on that started up about an hour ago and has not let up even a little bit. Some of the explosions are quite a bit bigger than I ever remember anyplace else I have been and I bet we are hearing one go off two to three times per second during that time with spurts of quite a lot more. I am wondering how much activity they have down at the emergency room this time of year. I hope they are well staffed.

Boston cultural experience

Park Street McDonald's (Boston's worst restaurant)We are glad for every reminder that Christian is having the best of all possible cultural experience during his summer in Boston. For instance, he ate at the Park Street McDonald’s today after meeting. Christian eats a lobster roll at the Park Street McDonald's in BostonHe said that it had been suggested to him that particular McDonald’s was quite possibly the very worst restaurant in all of Boston. When you are in a new place, you need to be sure to try to find the best example of the specialties associated with that place. What did he have? He is in Boston! He had a lobster roll which seems to pretty much disqualifying factor for being the worst of anything.

McDonald’s price: $9
Famous lobster roll: $20

McDonald’s taste: like McDonald’s (decent, worth it)
Famous lobster roll: really good

China

I have never really been to China yet. I have been in a lot of different parts of East Asia, but never in China proper. That includes Taiwan, Japan, Korea (South of course), Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. I was scheduled to fly to Shanghai and Shenzhen on July 3–imagine that, the Fourth of July in China, but could not manage to get the visa in the short amount of time available. I currently work on a team with distributed workers–two in China, one in Quebec, the boss in Vancouver, BC, and me. It works amazingly well. I am the only one on the team whose first language is English, but that is what we speak. I love this new job so far. There is lots of pressure, but also lots of interesting work. What more could you ask out of a job at my stage in life–interesting work is worth gold. I will be over there in the next few months, God willing. Looking forward to it.

Kelly update

Kelly's new glassesFirst, the important stuff: Kelly’s new glasses arrived and I think she looks just stunning with her new librarian hipster look.

On other fronts, there are lots of good things going on. She loves her work, her company, and her fellow employees. She made a great decision to stop for now at a Masters degree and get some experience. I am not sure how she could have found a better first job than the one she is in. Amazingly, she makes use intense of the things she learned during in her Bachelors degree and internship in Statistics to inform her work doing precisely what she learned studying Marketing Strategy during her Masters degree. Write now she is deep into planning and running focus groups. Before that she developed a huge (for her corner of the industry) marketing survey and then evaluated the results with statistical tools the company had never previously used. One recent new innovation she brought to the company was a better way to set pricing more informed by data and analytics than by expert opinion alone.

So, three quarters of a year in, she has started to think a little about what to do next. She will finish her first round trip of the Marketing process in the fall and really needs to get her second round trip in where she does it completely on her own, and then a third round trip to own the process. After that, she needs to decide what to do next. There is a great growth path for her right where she is, but there are other academic and work options.

Kelly’s values are not at all in alignment with the Seattle zeitgeist. There are some particular evils held in high regard that are difficult to abide and they permeate even parts of the society, particularly in places like Portland and Seattle, that historically have been less coarse and held good morals. I think that reality will play heavily in whatever direction she wants to head next.

Still, when you have new stylish glasses like these, life looks pretty good.

Christian eats a lobster roll

Christian's first big Boston experience--the lobster rollChristian keeps very busy in Boston. Mostly it is work at the labs, but in his limited spare time so far, he went out and paid an exorbitant amount of money for a lobster roll. I told him it was a find investment and I would have been ashamed of him had he not done it. He lives within walking distance of a ton of museums, Fenway Park, Boston Pops, and a gazillion restaurants and coffee shops. I have to say though, I think a lobster roll is a great place to start, especially if you can wash it down with some Maine Blueberry Lemonade made with Wildflower Honey!

El Sabor de Mexico Restaurant, Chehalis, WA

Tacos El Sabor de MexicoLorena and I were a little discouraged with the taco scene in the Twin Cities of Centralia and Chehalis even though we have only been here now for a couple of weeks. That has all been remedied now that we have been to El Sabor de Mexico in Chehalis to have some lunchtime tacos. Without reservation we believe the quality of the tacos was every bit as good as the ones at the one true best taco shop, Tacos Regio Monterrey, in Lewisville, Texas. That being said, we would have to give the edge to Tacos Regio because they have more of that street tacos feel that we really like. Nevertheless, that is a matter of personal taste and we truly love the home style tacos of El Sabor which are almost certainly the healthiest of the two. The tortillas are hand made, soft, corn tortillas.

We got a tip from the guys who installed the granite in our kitchen, two from Mexico, one from Puerto Rico, that this was the go-to, authentic taco house in the Twin Cities. The Mexican guys rolled their eyes when the Puerto Rican gave his advice on which Mexican food was the best even though all three agreed on El Sabor. As for those other places we tried, they, too, were irritated with the pushy, much more famous place that sells mediocre (in our opinion) tacos and makes a big deal out of the fact they do not serve chips before the meal like there is something authentically Mexican about that–there is not. Some restaurants in Mexico serve chips, some do not, and none make a big deal out of it. It surely seems they have been away from Mexico long enough to forget both what is good and what is authentic. The other place we tried in Centralia would have been a very mediocre Tex-Mex style place if it were in Dallas and we are not big Tex-Mex fans even when it is good Tex-Mex, not that there is anything wrong with that.

El Sabor de Mexico is an older building, but it was very, very clean during our first visit. We talked with the owner who is from a beautiful colonial city, not to far from Monterrey name Zacatecas. We also met her son and daughter who work at the restaurant and a couple of loyal patrons of the place from Guadalajara. It is a very friendly place and is now, just like with our granite installation buddies, our go-to taco house. It is good enough we doubt it will be displaced from that perch anytime soon.

Lorena and cultural enrichment

Lorena at Anytime Fitness in Lewisville, TXWe had dear friends over for dinner last night. Whenever that happens Lorena instigates a conversation in person or on the phone that takes almost exactly the same form every time. It happened again yesterday. I love this.

I was sitting at my desk in my office in Lewisville programming and the phone rings.

I pick up and Lorena asks me “Should I do A or should I do B?” about some cooking thing.

So I ask, “What do you think would be best?”

She says, “A.”

I say, “Ok, do A.”

She says “Ok! Thanks!” and hangs up.

Some time in the following day or two she will say something to the effect that it is really good that I tell her what to cook because she can never think of the right thing.

The dinner, as always, was brilliant. Lorena talked the people down at the one true taco shop in Lewisville, Texas into giving her a couple dozen of their very thin corn tortillas when, in reality, they don’t sell tortillas. They sell tacos. But she has that Mexican Mafia thing going and is comadre with the owner of the shop. She grilled sirloin steak in strips, onions and chile morron, made her hand made salsa, sliced up avocado and mango, chopped some raw onions and cilantro, etc.

Today, she is down at the gym working off all those extra calories while I sit and type (writing this blog post and programming on the sickle cell disease project). Don’t ever try to tell me I didn’t hit the lottery when I married her.

A great video on one of the great sadnesses of our times

I saw the video below that a friend posted this video on Facebook last night about challenges for millennials in the workplace. I think it says some important things that has caused me to think I need to work on some of my own behaviors.  He talks about addiction to social media–on cell phones in particular and the dopamine high that is triggered. He talks about what a great disservice it was to tell children they were great when they were not great. He talks about the idea of delayed gratification that seems to be completely missing in an entire generation of young people. He talks about the increase in suicide and accidental drug overdose in that generation that is most probably a result of this. I think he is exactly right on all that. The video is truly a worth 15 minutes of your time.

It was kind of depressing though that in about the last third of the video he espouses the idea that the corporations need to take responsibility for fixing this. That is a completely different subject, but he is objectively wrong on that. The corporations might need to address the issues associated with this large problem because it prevents them from finding good, long term employees that facilitate them meeting achieving their purpose–to make money. Corporations should not be tasked with social engineering. They should, like government, achieve their purposes without meddling in peoples’ in areas where they are so patently unqualified. They really, really have competing interests with respect to what is good for individuals and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The individuals themselves, their families and, most importantly, God and their spiritual communities are the only ones who have the truly worthwhile answers to these kinds of challenges. Disinterested third parties whether they are government school teachers, coaches, bureaucrats, academics and even bad parents are the ones who trained them in this wrong thinking in the first place.

Link to video on Millenials in the workplace

They said there was interesting stuff on Google Earth

Crime Fighting in CentraliaI have seen some of the strange things you can see on Street View of Google Maps, but this is the first time I found one on my own. I was cruising around a small town in Western Washington looking for possible places to live and checking out neighorhoods when I found this image. Maybe we will not look on that side of town. Or, maybe, this is the side of town where we should look because the cops run a tight ship there! The bad part of this whole deal is that we will almost certainly never know what was going on here.

Thanksgiving with family (but apart)

Christian at the Rizos (Kelly, too)Christian hitched a ride with his friend Nathan to spend Thanksgiving weekend with the Rizos in San Diego. Kelly flew down last night from Seattle to join the crowd. We tried to figure out a way to be all together this year, but it just did not make sense. We could not be happier about the alternative as the Rizos selflessly made it all work out (again).

Kelly sent out this photo of Christian working on term papers, test preparation and homework. This is probably the last Thanksgiving he will ever have to do this. He has one more semester with a full load of classes followed by a semester with only one class, then he will be all dissertation all the time until he graduates. That is something for which he can certainly be thankful this Thanksgiving.

Lorena and I will spend some time with friends, but sometime during the weekend, we will cook a turkey–the thought of not having turkey sandwiches and other leftovers is more than we can bear.