Saturday, December 16, 2006

Holiday Season

For the holiday season, there's a nice break given my wife by her school and that means heading home for the holidays:

A flurry of shoppers, wrapped packages in arms, jostling, bumping and careening off each other in crowded aisles.

The kiosks that pop up in the malls offering those last minute stocking stuffers and unique products.

Other "Christmas" special kiosks with tons of decorations, much of which you wonder how the ideas for something new just keep coming and coming.

Christmas season music in the background, especially over and over and over hearing "Rudolph" and "I Dream Of A White Christmas".

Street trees turned into light shows all aglisten with every shape of lightbulb imaginable.

Store clerks wearing their best Santa hat and festooning themselves with garland, and glitter in their hair.

Kids getting their picture taken with Santa Claus lined up and waiting to whisper that special gift only the jolly old elf can deliver.

Oh you thought all of that is in Oregon? NOPE...this is what I saw last night in downtown Shanghai and I'm still shaking my head in wonderment. What an unexpected early Christmas present I got.

Now if it would only snow in Shanghai before I head home.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Photos by Ellen Levenhangen and Andy Marks cuz Dumb Joe left his camera home.

On the "FRASTTBITV" ride (oh..that's the "Friday After School To The Bar In The Village") we came across a guy in front of a mini fire on the sidewalk. Lou, one of the leaders says "Stop. You gotta see this." We said "What?" Sitting on the sidewalk was a guy rotating a huge blackened object that looked like an urn. Attached to the bottom of the urn is a wheel that he turns with a gloved hand while the other hand pours coals into a small furnace area and alternately stokes a mini bellows.

The crowd looked to be as interested in us as we were in this street vendor. There were quite a number pointing and smiling at us good naturedly as we tried to talk to them about what was going on.
Lou says "Okay..get ready for a big bang". He takes the blackened urn off the fire, drapes a long heavy fabric sleeve over it, turns a couple of levers and BLAM!!. Smoke surrounds him as he reaps his wares: Puffed Rice!!!

That blam and seeing him gather his rice reminded me as a kid of an advertising slogan I remembered for Quaker Oats Puffed Rice and Wheat: "Shot from Guns".

I asked a couple of the teachers on our ride if they had heard the slogan and well let's just say there is such a thing as a generation gap...chasm?
A bit of a google and here's the history of "Shot From Guns" according to the Minnesota Historical Society. The following is an ad from about 1930 where Quaker Oats urged people to buy Anderson's puffed cereals.
Food Shot From Guns Of Peace

Over 125 million explosions in each grain of wheat and rice make Puffed Grains virtually as nourishing as hot cooked cereals.

Grains of wheat and rice, as completely digestible, as nourishing as though they had been cooked for hours... yet crisp...... flaky... alluringly crunchy!
This is what the discovery of "food shot from guns" brings to your breakfast table.
Professor A.P. Anderson, their inventor, knew that wheat and rice grains contain millions of tiny food cells. He knew that even prolonged Lengthy. overcooking sometimes fails to open all these cells. Hence these finest of cereal grains are often not completely digestible.

Discovers way to explode food cells.

So he seals the grains in huge guns. Revolves them for hours in fiery ovens. When the guns are fired, 125 million explosions occur in each grain. Every food cell is broken open. The grains become more perfectly cooked than hot cooked cereals. And virtually as nourishing. These 125 million explosions not only make wheat and rice more assimilated, but also easier to digest. They are made flaky, crunchy, flavory...utterly delicious. All their natural nut-sweet flavor is developed. When the guns pour forth their shower of Puffed Grains it smells like an old-time kitchen on baking day. It smells so good you can hardly wait to lift a handful of these grains to your mouth. No wonder Quaker Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice have been found to be the children's favorite cereal!

Puffed Rice is a creamy rich dainty treat. It digests readily. Turns to energy in a hurry. Puffed Wheat is made of whole wheat. It offers rich minerals. Plus 25% bran.
The Quaker Oats Company.

Friday, November 17, 2006


No, it's not a wrong spelling of the Wall, although The Wall is absolutely stunning and great. Before leaving China I'll definitely get to Bejing and the Great Wall.

And it's not the wail of one of many stringed instruments you hear on the streets of Shanghai.

The wail doesn't come from a Erhu, which looks to be what I see many itinerary muscians strumming on the steps of subway stations.

And it's not the wail of the "One Family One Child" rule in China. Well, that wail could be coming from the parents or the child, many of which are starting to get McDonalded Sized.

No...The Great Wail of China comes from the horns of cars, trucks, cabs, scooters, motorcycles, and even the proverbial Chinese tractor. There is no rhyme, reason, or semblance of a logical reason why a car horn gets tooted here. They just are.

And I'm beginning to feel like I'm going to wail on the next driver that bleeps his horn!!!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Ride to Shanghai from Zhudi Town

I've come to realize I'm not gonna find a whole lot of scenics on bike rides in and around Shanghai.

A school teacher here in Zhudi Town (about 25 clicks from the center of Shanghai) commented: "You RODE into the city??? I'm so afraid of cycling here. These aren't my country roads."'s not " roads..take me home...." Thank you John.

What is interesting is the variety of what you see. The following photos were taken yesterday on a 30 mile round trip from where I live in Zhudi Town to downtown Shanghai and back.

Itinerant street vendors hawking wares.
Entered a park and found what looks to be a terra cotta warrior guarding tombstones.
Example of tombstone in the cemetary.
Two friends. Often see couples holding hands while cycling.
Seen this a few times. They burn trash all over the city.
A typical downtown street. It does get crowded. Kills the average speed.
Example of a "Bike Park". In certain areas you have to park your bike at specified locations.
Found a small park by acccident. Many parks have exercise machines or equipment and I've always seen someone using them. Often the older crowd.
A gentleman wrapped in his enjoyable isolation doing his TiChee (I'll get correct spelling)
My new MTN Bike for Friday beer rides. If I tell you how little it cost, Guido will fit you with a pair of cement shoes.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Chinese "FROGGER"

"Frogger" was an ATARI game I think during the 80's where you tried to get the frog across a busy highway without the frog getting squished. Seems the Chinese adopted this game in the city of Urumqi as you can see by the pic. Pedestrians will walk or run or hurry or sprint for dear life to one of the lane lines, wait for an opening, and continue ( least try) to the other side.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Silk Road

Urumqi, Turpan and Dunhuang: Three cities on the "Silk Road" which I got to see because one of the teachers leading a tenth grade "cultural immersion" trip go injured. They needed a last minute replacement. Who was I to say no? I did forget that taking care of teenagers is sometimes like herding cats.

I suggest you research each of the three cities to learn more of the vast culture of China. I figured all of China had that chinese look. Not to be. The area of Umumqi is the home of the Uyghur (weeger) people, who have a mongolian heritage and have a Turkish look: Dark, swarthy complexsion, sharp angular features and little did I know: a Muslim area.

A very busy five days with a lot of time traveling, including an overnight in a hard sleeper car: 30 bunks arranged in cubes of six with 3 bunks (lower, middle, upper) on the sides of each cube. You're right: I now know what sleeping in a submarine must have been like. Wish I could have taken pics of people getting in and out of the top bunk!!!

What the kids and I got to do during the five days:
Uigur Singing and Dancing Workshop
Erdaoqiao Market Shopping
Buffet Dinner with Uiger Singing and Dancing
Xinjian History Museum (With a host of mummies)
KFC: Yah..I didn't figure how this was a cultural experience. On 2nd thought it was and not a pleasant one. don't want to know what the chicken looked like. Then wasn't mutton.
Turpan Chinese Dinner
Sugong Pagoda
Karez Irrigation System (Look it up. Fascinating)
Jiaohe Ancient City
Overnight Train Trip
Sand Dunes: The fun part. Believe it or not many of these internationally traveled kids had never seen a camel up close and personal.
Magoa Caves (Incredible 90 feet Bhuddas carved out of stone. Only took 29 years)

A great trip in spite of about a seven hour delay on China Southern airlines. Gee, I felt just like I was flying in or out of Chicago!!!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Silk Road: Urumqi, Turpur & Dunhuang

Due to an unfortunate accident to a school trip leader, I was a last minute substitute on a Shanghai American School cultural immersion trip for tenth graders. And yes, chaperoning tenth graders is akin to herding cats.

But what an experience. Three cities in a little over four days or Planes, Trains and Buses. The itinerary in four beat time:

Oct. 23 Fly a.m. to Hongqiao airport
Oct. 23 Transfer to bus and drive to Urumqi
Oct. 23 Afternoon Uiger (pronounce weeger) Dance Workshop
Oct. 23 Shop the market until you drop
Oct. 23 Buffet dinner with Uiger Dance Show

Oct. 24 Uiger Hat Workshop
Oct. 24 Lunch with local it was a KFC.
Oct. 24 Bus to Turpan
Oct. 24 Dinner in Turpan

Oct. 25 Sugong Pagoda
Oct. 25 Karez Irrigation System
Oct. 25 Visit Jiaohe Ancient City
Oct. 25 Visit Local Market
Oct. 25 Visit local Uiger family for refreshments and another dance lesson.
Oct. 25 Board overnight sleeper (as in cramped) train to Dunhuang

Oct. 26 Visit sand dunes. Camel ride. Sand dune sledding.
Oct. 26 Lunch at local silk road side road off the road and beaten path cafe.
Oct. 26 Visit Magao Caves
Oct. 26 Visit local market

Oct. 27 Wake up call at 2 a.m. morning flight cancelled.
Oct. 27 Scurry around to make flight arrangements.
Oct. 27 Spent a really long time getting new flights.
Oct. 27 Get home after midnight

A bit of commentary and some pics in me next blog entry. In the meantime, kids who grow up in an international environment grow up fast. At midnight dropping them at a hotel to be picked up by parents or their "driver", two of them had permission slips to "hail a taxi". Picture a 14 year old walking down to a city street, hand up in the air, whistles, hops in cab.

Fade to black.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


On the "Silk Road" Shanghai American School trip last week I was a chaperone and constantly warned kids about pick pockets in the local markets. A few times I'd stop one of the guys with the 'baggy pants' look and tell them that the wallet in open view in their baggy pocket was easy pickens. Did the same with a few of the girls who had open back pack pockets.

So did you ever lose something and keep looking in your pocket thinking: "That $50 bill HAS to be here somewhere"? You keep thinking on one hand it's still there while your logical side says "GONZO".

I'm sure two parts of my brain had something like the following conversation when I got jostled hard in the market place and instantly knew something wasn't right but couldn't put my finger on it. Well deft fingers opened the front of my fanny pack and helped themselves to my cell phone.

"What are you doing?"
"Looking in the fanny pack compartment for the cell phone."
"You know he got his pocket picked don't ya?"
"I'm not ready to admit that. Look here are some rubber bands and an empty Tic Tac box."
"So you think if you keep looking in there it's going to reappear?"
"After all he's been preaching I've got to help the guy. Let's ease him into reality."
"The cell phone is gone!!!"
"Let me look again for him. Yup...still rubber bands and a Tic Tac box."
"It's not there!!!"
"I'm going to take him back through the market. Maybe he dropped it."
"Oh....and why do you think that compartment is open right after he got jostled?"
"He left it open?"
"You're not ready to admit it yet are ya? HE GOT HIS POCKET PICKED!!!"
"He's reaching into each of his front pockets now."
"It's not there!!!"
"You're right. Time to fess up to the reality monster. But.....if I look for one last time maybe...........

Friday, October 20, 2006

Road Trip: Near Mongolia

An adventure comes out of nowhere.

The leader of Susan's Shanghai American School, "Silk Road" school trip tore his ACL. Doc says: " trekking near Mongolia for you.". So Susan asked if her hub, that be me, could take his place. Voila. Road Trip!!

The school outing for tenth graders will take them on a cultural "immersion" trip to Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The city les west of Bogda Mountain, part of the Tianshan Range. The area has lush pastures populated with many minorities who herded sheep and cattle. In Mongolian, Urumchi actually means "beautiful pastures". The trip will take us to the far northwest of China, a mere six hour flight from Shanghai.

The road trip will also take us to Turpan, the lowest point in China (505 feet BELOW sea level).

The last town to visit is Dunhuant where a cluster of 492 caves, containing 45,000 square metres (45,000 square metres????) of frescoes is located. There are an additional 2,415 stucco statues. The caves were created during the 4th century.

Of course I immediately picture National Geographic images in my head of wide open plains, peasants wearing coolie hats toiling away under a deep blue sky, mountains in the background, pastures rolling into the horizon. Wake up Joe!! It's 2006. Urumqi is now a city!! You've got to drive to the pastures. If where we're going is anything like the image from, no complaints here.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Weekly Photos: Week1

Amazing how work can get in the way of whatcha wanna do. I flew to Miami to work with my client and 10 to 12 hour work days really mess with the funner parts of life:




A post urged me to get something done with my weekly photos, so here are my first two choices for my two photos a week goal. My plans (and hopefully not aft gang aglee, or words to that effect) are to post a months photos and a bit of why and what made me choose them. In the meantime, I'll add them to a link at the left for those who don't want to word wallow.

Photos from Week 1. Double left click on image to enlarge. Use back button on browser to return to Blog.

There are some leading lines I like such as the angle of the book in the background and the object in the front, leading to the image of Mao. I tried to make the depth of field shallow to have Mao fading into the background, because I feel that's what's happening in China. The lens I'm using is a multi purpose zoom (18mm to 200mm) which is great as a "carry around all in one" lens, but you lose bokeh because the widest aperature is only about 4.5 or so. Nope, haven't looked at the exif data as I type this. I'm also not very good at still life so I was hoping this might be a good one.

Don't think this one needs any explanation. If it does, I've failed miserably.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Weekly Photo: At Least

Other than family and special friends, my two great passions are cycling and photography, where I haven't spent enough time learning, developing (no that's NOT a pun) skills, and just working at it.

What happens is I get discouraged with my "eye" and technical ability to capture what I see in my mind's eye but that doesn't get caught in the image. So I procrastinate and put it off and put it off and put it off beating myself up with "I'm not worthy!!! I'm not worthy!!"

So to steal that ad slogan: "Just Do It."

To that end, I'm setting a goal for my self of one or two very good photographs each week. There will be a link to Weekly Photos where I'll post 'em.

Focus: The categories:

Faces Of Man (Yes, I know there's a coffeetable photo book by that name ) The charcter of and character in faces has always attracted and fascinated me. Having now traveled to so many different countries (Sri Lanka, India, Egypt, Malaysia, Thailand, England, Turkey, and China) my basic belief is that we really are all the same, has been solidified in the same emotion that a face radiates: Joy, Sadness, Pain, Delight, Sorrow, Elation, Smugness, Stoicism...and so many more. No matter the nationality, the "LOOK" is the same.

Scenery: Can't get any more wide open than that!! Landscapes, Mama Nature, Abstracts or Patterns, and more.

Sports: One of my passions and it's fun trying to capture a "sports" moment, so I'll attend the Shanghai American School sporting events.

Cycling: Enough said. Just doing an essay on the various types of bicycles in China could take up all my spare time.

Images Within: Sometimes the larger image is the smaller part of something.

Spent the last day of September, Saturday the 30th, as the "Okay Just Do It" day. It didn't help that it was raining. Yes I know there can be wonderful rain images, but I'm now down to one camera and I'm going to be overly careful with it.

I'll update this with the "one or two" images for the last week in September.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Ride Around Zhudi Town

I'm finding that there are only so many roads to cycle around here that aren't busier than the proverbial one armed paper hanger. There are some short side streets that are absolutely deserted. Go figure.

Ah but at least I can cycle and explore. However, I don't think there are going to be "Oh My Gosh" landscape shots, so I'll have to look for the pearl images amongst the oysters.

One of the photos below gives a whole new definition to "TV Guy". Note the rice paddy with a development behind it. About eight years ago this whole area was nothing but farms and rice paddies. Now I'll cycle past a warehouse or factory, make a turn, and there is a small rice paddy or patch of land being worked for what it's worth. And I'm sure that's a lot for these folks.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Would You Like To Be My Neighbor ??

Even Mr. Rogers would have a tough time making neighbors here: The Chinese appear to be very stoic, reserved, and emotion checked.

I ride a very unusual bike called a folding recumbent and I've dubbed it "...the smile and make you wave bike..". It seems to have that effect wherever I ride it. Well now it's almost wherever. Doesn't happen that much here in the outskirts of Shanghai in Zhudi Town, where the Shanghai Racquet Club is located. Wait..that's also my home for the most of the next two years.

I'm thinking because there are soooooooo many types of bikes here, that mine is just another bike. That would be the case if they didn't know that I can see them stop, turn around, sometimes point, smile, giggle in my rear view mirror. As I pass often there is no sign of recognition, until I'm by them. Then the looking glass reveals all.

At least I got to ride around the neighborhood today. Right now I'm a bit hesitant to take pics of people in their environment until I learn how to ask permission in Mandarin. After eight lessons I've learned: "Wah tshong hua ediar toom shee pea jo", which translates to something like "I would like to drink some beer."

SOME PICS (To view large image, double left click on image. Then use back button on browser to return to COGITATION)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Good Morrrrrrrrrrrnnning Shanghai

Long story short: I'm in Shanghai because Sue, the better half, is a high school counselor for the Shanghai American School in Zhudi Town, an outer suburb of Shanghai. I'm what's called "..a trailing spouse.." meaning I'm not a teaching spouse, but here on her sponsorship. In other words, she can kick me out of the country.

The view to the left is the view from our balcony at Shanghai Racquet Club, which has all the amenities associated with "Racquet Club". It's definitely the Ying or the Yang, but the opposite of where most "Shanghainese" live, which will be shown later after one of the Friday after school bike trips to places unknown. Unknown because I did one this past Friday, led by Lou, the Middle School PE Instructor. Lou has been here for eight years and probably now knows every backroad, including open sewage pits, to out of the way villages.

What's going to be difficult about this BLOG is to keep the posts about Shanghai life short because there is soooooooooo much to see here. In one short week, I've seen the best and worst of living conditions. A pic as they say is worth a 1,000 words, so this BLOG will have more than its share of links to photo albums.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Welcome to me blog.

You'll find postings about travels, cycling, photography and musings, that is if I ever find the right muse. Or maybe I have.

Feel free to leave a comment or two.