July 2005 Archives

Let There be Internet!

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Hey everyone, to go along with my brand new room, I also got a new laptop computer! It works great and my internet is now fully functional in my *single* =D

Short update, but a very important one! Anyways... I'm off to go download Instant Messenger =P

I've still got it

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Saint here again, for an update.

Today after the old dame got home from work we played out back for a while and then she put the training collar on me and we did a little work on the cul-de-sac. In spite of what she said yesterday I didn't really think she'd go for it today--it's 100 degrees outside and with the humidity the heat index is 110. I guess she was "highly motivated".

Heh, I was perfect. I wasn't just perfect, I was better than ever. I like to mess with her mind like that now and again. I didn't pull once, didn't sniff the ground, stayed right by her left knee and did all the turns. I sat and layed down and I even stayed down and quiet while Macy, the bit of fluff that lives across the street, came up the cul-de-sac and lunged at me. Like you could tell--nobody cares if you pull on the leash when you're a toy poodle. Thanh, her owner, was talking on his cell phone, smiling, waving--he didn't even break his stride.

The old dame thought I'd forgotten everything, hah. Nah--I just didn't think she cared about that stuff anymore. I haven't forgotten, in fact it was fun. And I got cookies. Life is good.

Trip to the Vet

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Hi folks, Saint here--

I had a bit of an outing this afternoon--I went with the old dame to the vet's office to get caught up on my immunizations; I'm all set for the year now. I weighed in at 83 pounds. Well, maybe just a little over. One of the immunizations was a rabies booster good for three years, and I got a piece of jewelry for it--a blue tag. I don't normally go in for that kind of thing, but I do think my fur sets it off nicely.

I like to think of myself as "a handful", but the vet told the old dame I behaved better than most of the young labs they see. The old dame thought she was just being polite; it seems she can't imagine a lab being more of a handful than I was today. Here's a pic of me rolling on the floor laughing:

The vet assured her it was true. It seems some young labs can't even be examined because they won't settle down. In fact there had been a golden retriever in the office earlier today who wouldn't hold still. Now I just can't understand that. I mean, the vet's got cookies. It's hard to believe a dog wouldn't settle down for cookies; maybe she really was just being polite. She also told the old dame I'm going through a "phase"--the "terrible twos" she called it, or "adolescence". Hunh.

At any rate, we went from the vet's office directly to Olde Towne School for Dogs, where the old dame picked up a few links to add to my training collar, which I outgrew long ago. She swore I was never going to the vet again without that collar, heh. I don't mind it--it reminds me of Taryn and Gabe, the trainers there at Olde Towne. I especially liked Gabe; he and I understood each other right off the bat. He said a field lab like me needs a job--I'm a working dog. Yup, that's me. I worked for Gabe; we walked together just as pretty as can be. The old dame says she and I are going to start the fancy walking up again, maybe tomorrow if the weather permits.

Well that's all for now, folks--it's time to catch the news on TV. Don't take treats from strangers, don't bite the hand that feeds you, and remember, the vet has cookies.


Trip to the Forbidden City

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The Forbidden City is where the emperor used to live up until 1911 when the Qin dynasty fell (if I remember correctly). The palace is huge, as it was meant to be able to fit most of the city inside its walls. My roomate and I went together yesterday, and despite the rain, the place was still packed. Outside of the Forbidden City is the Tiananmen gate, which is located across from Tiananmen square. A huge picture of Mao Ze Dong looms over the gate along with the ever present red flags. Unfortunately, most of the palace is under construction (most likely for the 2008 Olympic Games). But, what we did see was pretty amazing. The only problem is that most of the antiques were taken to Taiwan when the nationalist party fled, claiming that they were removing the antiques to protect them. So, most of the palace is huge empty rooms with maybe one or two chairs, or a large water pot. Anyways, as usual, while leaving the palace I had a group of asian men want to take a picture with me. Seriously... ooo red hair... what a joke =P I was thinking that when I got back to America I should run up to random asian people and ask them in my poor chinese if they'd take a picture with me.

I took a ton of pictures of the place but don't have a way to upload them to a computer here soooo... sorry to make you wait mom but it'll be another month hah.

Here ya go...

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Michael asked for a pic of Saint, so I whipped out the camera...

Shopping and Bargaining

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Yesterday I went on a really fun adventure with my language partner to an outlet mall on the East side of China. The place was PACKED with people and fake clothing. In my Chinese 101 class at UVA the first thing we had learned how to say was: "give me a discount" which is probably the most useful Chinese phrase. The merchant will quote you a price, say... 160 kuai (still only 20 bucks) for a fake polo shirt. In response, the buyer might offer 35 (around 4 bucks). On average I paid 50 kuai each for the 3 polo shirts I ended up buying. I would stand there dumbfounded as my language partner explained to the seller how awful the stitching was, and then we would coordinate fake "walk aways" as we tried to give the seller the impression that we didn't want to buy the shirt anymore. Once or twice I amazed the vendors with my brilliant Chinese (yeah right) and said "gei wo pianyi yidianr" or literally "give me a little cheap". All in all it was a really fun day.

China's Air Quality

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... is really really bad. I've had two friends now have severe asthma (spelling) attacks due to running outside. A few weeks ago when I went to visit the Summer Palace on a really humid day I started to feel like I had asthma too. Apparently it's gotten better in recent years (hard to believe) but people have told me that while the polution in bigger cities is getting better is because they're moving factories to the countryside. Makes me wonder what the Olympics is gonna do to worsen/better the environment...

Cheap Movies Abound!

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One thing I really love about China is how fully they have embraced to concept of the "bootlegged DVD". For about 1 dollar American I can get any DVD I want, solong as I don't mind watching it in Cantonese with Russian subtitles. Brand new movies that are still in US Theatres come neatly packaged, with poorly spelled commentaries and irrelevent quotations. The box I received "The Last Samurai" in claimed that the movie was starring Billy Crystal, and according to the review, was poorly cast. Way to make the hard sale, China! I am of course slightly exaggerating, I have bought quite a few very functional DVDs, but the really poorly bootlegged ones are by far the funniest. I knew I was in trouble when a Cartoon DVD claimed to have 15 different language subtitle options on the box. When I popped in the DVD the Mandarin sound track was fine, but the English subtitles were from an old John Wayne movie... good thing I can understand some of the Chinese ^^

Anyways... if I get a new room I'm thinking about trying to buy a cheap laptop computer. All of the rooms have internet service (well, not my current one... but it doesn't have a chair either) and I have sorta always wanted a laptop to carry around with me at college. Might aswell get it here since I WAY overbudgeted for this trip. I've been here for 3 and a half weeks and have barely spent 300 American, while I budgeted 2k O_O SO, share your thoughts on me buying a laptop computer to mess around with in China and bring back for college.

Later from China :)

Filling the interest gap

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Well Mike doesn't think there's anything interesting about his summer in Beijing, apparently. "When something interesting happens I'll write," he says. So just being there doesn't qualify.

I apologize to readers for this. I had thought this summer might provide for some fun reading, but I was wrong.

So, I'll try just this one time to fill in the interest gap by saying I was in London when the bombings happened on Thursday; I just got home at about 9pm last night. I was visiting the Ministry of Defence (yes, that's spelled correctly--that's how they spell it, no matter what Microsoft Word thinks) and an announcement came over the intercom at about 10 am saying there had been 3 explosions in London, and asking everybody to stay in the building until they knew more about the situation.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is the British equivalent of the Pentagon. It's in central London, on Whitehall in Westminster, and thus quite close to the bombing sites. It's a huge, recently renovated and supposedly "bomb proof" building, although I suppose it's always just a matter of how large a bomb one uses. I've never been to the Pentagon, but those who have been to both places say the MoD makes the Pentagon look like a dump. After the bombings the north door of the MoD was locked although, oddly, the south door was left unlocked. Go figure. The phone lines were jammed, and another announcement came asking us not to make any unnecessary phone calls.

Information trickled in to us. There was an open area outside the room we were meeting in, in which a large flat screen TV was mounted high on a wall. It is constantly tuned to a news program, so during our frequent breaks we stared at it. For quite a while we thought there had been only 2 deaths; more and more were reported as the day went on. The Brits tried repeatedly to call out on their cell phones, but the cell phone lines were also jammed.

As of about 3pm they were still asking everybody to stay in the building, but no more announcements came after that, so at about 5 we left, exiting by the south entrance since the door we had come in on the north side was still locked. (This may not seem worth mentioning, but because of the layout of the building and the surrounding area, it meant quite a long walk.) The trains and buses were shut down in London, so a couple of the guys we were meeting with couldn't go home. Hence, we went to a pub and the Brits drank us all under the table. Great for international relations.

We were supposed to have more meetings on Friday morning, but they were cancelled, and we headed to the airport early, not knowing how long it would take to get there nor how long it would take to get through security. Neither turned out to be a problem, and I spent about five hours wandering around the "duty free" shops and reading. I had brought Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (author of The DaVinci Code) on the trip, and it's hard to put down, so the time went by pretty painlessly. (Made even more painless by the fact that "travel time" is "work time" for me, including time spent in airports, so it all goes on my timecard. I don't get paid overtime since I'm on salary, but I'll be able to take next Friday off.)

This afternoon I found out I am in some trouble with my boss for not having called to let him know I was okay. I relied on DTRA (Defense Threat Reduction Agency) to do it, since I was accompanying a DTRA Program Manager on the trip, but apparently they didn't bother. Nice. (The only person I called was my mother in Arizona. I wasn't able to call until about 5:30 London time-- 9:30 am Arizona time. Fortunately she hadn't yet turned on the TV.)

Oh, one other thing about the trip-- on the plane going over, across the aisle from me was a yellow labrador retriever, and I have never in my life been so impressed by a dog. He had been trained to be a service dog and had passed all his tests, but had then been given to his owner by a volunteer organization. She paid $150 for him. He was at least a $1000 dog--probably the most beautiful yellow lab I've ever seen, and he'd had thousands of dollars worth of training. I'll never know what the deal was--the lady was fairly young and she wasn't blind or handicapped. He laid at her feet throughout a six-hour flight. He never made a sound. Halfway through the flight she gave him something to eat and he ate while lying at her feet, tail wagging. In Heathrow airport I saw her at the luggage claim area and I spoke with her. She said that the dog is about 3 years old. He was wearing a harness, and she said that when he has his harness on "he knows he's working", which is why he was so well behaved. Still, his behavior on the flight had impressed even her. I was too polite to ask why she had been given the dog--maybe she has some condition that is not evident, and needs a well-trained companion dog.

There are probably fifty people from that flight who are looking into buying yellow labs today. Lol--I should let them spend some time with Saint and see how they feel about it then!

Michael, coupla things...

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I hope you're feeling better! I just got back from dropping Saint off at Joe's. Boy, was he happy to see Joe and Jackson. He and Jackson both went nuts. Saint was even happy to see Joe's mom.

Joe said your first month's rent is due by Aug 1. He said he won't be paying the whole bill himself this year like he did last year--you're each going to be paying on your own contract. So.... I'm going to get the info from him on where to send a check and how much to send, since you didn't tell me any of this and you probably don't have the info with you. :\

I was going to drive your car last week to give it some exercise but it wouldn't start. The lights come on but the engine won't turn over. I thought maybe I should jump it and get it serviced or something, but...nah. We can get it done when you come home.

I logged onto the Columbia site and paid the bill, so I certainly hope you are enjoying yourself and learning to speak Chinese, when you're not throwing up.

love, mom

For about four days now I have had a seriously awful case of stomach flu. I believe I got it at a "hot pot" restaurant, but everything I eat seems to cause the feeling to come back. It took most of my strength to walk down the stairs to the internet lab to post this. Unfortunately, my horrible fits of vomiting have caused me to miss the trip to the Great Wall, which included 2 2 hour bus trips and a long walk along the Wall. Supposedly everyone gets really sick once or twice in China, but this is the worst since it has lasted so long. During class on Friday I had to rush out of the room three times to use the bathroom >_< and I left the Friday night trip to the Beijing Opera early with a miserable stomach ache after not being able to hold down lunch.

Anyways, hopefully I will be able to make up some of the sightseeing I've missed because of illness in our week off. I know mom is intent on seeing pictures of me in all kinds of random Chinese places. So far the only place I've taken pictures is a gorgeous palace called "Summer Palace" where the emperor used to come to spend his summers. I suppose a lot has changed since then, the polution is now so bad on some days that walking around the Summer Palace made me think I had chronic asthma.

Anyways, "chi huai" is how you say "to get food poisoning" in Chinese, I think it literally means "eat bad/spoiled".

Back to the room for a nap...

Blue hydrangea

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Nature is too good to me. Despite total neglect, I am treated to beautiful azaleas and rhododendrons every year in the spring, and in June, this hydrangea plant blooms without fail. I used to tend an herb garden, but it's gone now that I've had Saint for a year--the path he takes down the hill to chase a ball went right through it, and although I enjoyed the smell of rosemary or oregano that filled the air when he bruised the leaves, I gave up on the garden. I don't water anything outside, either, nor do I fertilize. I prune, but never when it's most advantageous to do so. Mostly all I do is try to keep the place from looking abandoned.

I can never remember whether hydrangeas are blue in acid soil and pink in alkaline soil, or vice versa. Whichever kind of soil makes hydrangeas blue, the soil by the northwest corner of my house is evidently that kind of soil. Voici my hydrangea, blooming in a scruffy, untended spot:

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