Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'll Be Back...

...In 2009

Taking some time off to be Merry...!!!




Ever 'Green' Christmas...

This is the design of He Linkan, a fourth-year student from the Academy of Arts and Design at Tsinghua University and the winner of this year’s green Christmas tree design competition.

“The idea is to combine a green idea with creative design and encourage young people to think about how they feel about this festival. It’s not just a Christmas tree”.

Made up of a network of wires with tiny LEDs, over 6,000 corks and masses of empty wine bottles, it is definitely an unusual Christmas tree, especially as someone has to peddle the adjoining bicycle to create enough energy to power the lights


You want to see the lights, you'd better work for it!

Friday, December 12, 2008

J-200

...or D-200

No matter what you say: "Jour" or "Day": the countdown has started....


So many things to do... So little time

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Going To The Antipodes...

...Well Not Quite

As we are closing our luggage for our Christmas vacation to the other side of the (big) pond (aka the Pacific Ocean) it reminded me of something I read a few months ago about antipodes.

There is an informal and anecdotal belief among Americans that if you dig a hole deep enough, eventually you would come out in China. This is theoretically possible if the hole is angled in the right way, but if you dig straight down and through the exact center of the earth from anywhere in the 48 contiguous United States, you'd come out in the Indian Ocean. Only in parts of Argentina or Chile would a straight hole emerge in China.



We have actually lived at the antipodes of the world since China and Argentina are at the opposite side of the globe and we've visited two antipodes cities: Santiago in Chile and Xian in China.

To check out antipodes cities:
http://www.antipodemap.com/,
http://www.antipodr.com/,
http://www.zefrank.com/sandwich/tool.html



FYI!!!
Gibraltar is antipodal to a land location on Great Barrier Island about 130 km from Auckland, New Zealand. This illustrates the old bromide that the sun never set on the British Empire; the sun still does not set on the British Commonwealth.

The northern part of New Caledonia, still an overseas territory of France, is antipodal to some thinly-populated desert in Mauritania, a part of the former French West Africa. As with the British Empire, the sun never set on the French Empire at its peak, either.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Were You Really Good..

...This Year?

Santa is coming in less than 2 weeks… did you send him your letter?

This is the letter my well-organized nephew/godson (I think he’s really my son but born to my sister… there is no way he is related to her, really!) sent to (the French) Santa.

Dear Santa, For Christmas I would like this...also this... and this...

Finally this.. for a total of €115.43



Pictures and prices included so there is no mistake possible and Santa knows where he stands budget wise!


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Camera, Smile...

...Action

December means one thing if you have kids: Christmas show school performances.

When you may think it must not be easy for the kids to perform in front of an audience (no matter how won over they are from the beginning –they are the parents/grandparents/relatives after all) the toughest part of the night is played by those same parents because let me tell you something: It’s war. The best paparazzi in Hollywood must be parents and have learned their craft on those school performances. There are some pushing and pulling from everybody to take the best pictures of their prodigies (or someone else for that matter –you never know there might be the next Oscar’s winner in those budding actors). So no matter what the directions from the headmaster have been (no flashes, nobody on the aisles, etc…), it’s kill or be killed and it can feel like Oscar’s night on the red carpet in schools around the world when you see parent’s behavior as soon as you give them a camera/video. I’ve witnessed more bad behaviors from the parents than from the kids (the smaller the kids the worst behave the parents ).

Good thing that the kids don’t give an acceptance speech or it would go somewhere like this:

“I would like to thanks my parents without whom I wouldn’t be here in (insert the country) today, my ayi for raising me while my parents are out taking full advantage of their time in the city, my driver for countless waiting hours, my school friends who welcomed me unconditionally when I arrived in the middle of the school year and let’s not forget my teachers and teacher assistants for their undivided patience while I’m developing my craft. Thank you, Thank you”


Tough crowd!

It doesn't matter because I am the mother of the futur(s) Oscar's winner(s) of course!

Coincidence...

...Maybe Not

The French Embassy’s web site is blocked in China. Wonder if it has anything to do with the French President latest meeting in Poland this weekend… you know who I’m talking about!

I guess I shouldn’t venture to the Louis Vuitton’s store in the next few days (read: Carrefour!)

not so un-common screen

It’s definitely not a maintenance problem


Monday, December 8, 2008

How To Please...

...The In-Laws

Being in a multi-cultural relationship myself it is always interesting to see/read how other people deal with it…. This is one of the funniest things I read about cross cultural relationship in China.
I’ve copied the entire post just in case the link doesn’t work. It’s a MUST read.

The following event happened last week. I retell it only because it’s one of the funniest stories ever. Last week was Chinese national holiday. Everyone in China, besides people that get paid under the table, people that want to make overtime pay and people in the service industry have the entire week off. I could write an entire article just about my opinions on everyone in China having a forced holiday at the same time but for the sake of this funny story, I will let it go. You know where I stand on that.

I work for Tapulous and like everyone else in the world, we don’t do that (take Chinese national holiday vacations). So although my friends were off and JJ was off, I was still a working man. On Wednesday, JJ decided to invite her parents over to the apartment for lunch. They arrived early in the morning and stayed for the rest of the day. The ayi (our housekeeper) came for lunch and cooked for everyone. The tension in the house always rises when Mama and the ayi are in the same room. They have a sense of competition that they both will not admin and they are constantly watching over each other, asking me who’s food is better, who does a better job at one thing or another. It’s quite funny.
Anyway, as I said, it was a working day, so I spent most of the time in my office, secluded from the others. As evening approached, we debated over whether or not they should cook, I should cook or if we should go to a restaurant. I finally suggested to go to this new local place I found with my friend George a few weeks ago that has some killer fried eggplant.
We ate dinner and had a nice meal. The restaurant is about a ten minute walk from my apartment, near the big Cloud Nine mall beside the closest subway station. The food was good and considering the location, the prices are really reasonable. I made sure to pay for the meal, since Baba always tries to pay for meals whenever we all go out. When we finally finished it was relatively late, like 8pm. They wanted to just walk around in the mall, so I obliged and we did that for like an hour until that got old. We debated some more about what to do, since it was starting to get late. I suggested to go get a massage and after more begging, they agreed and we went to the massage parlor near my apartment and got an hour back massage, which ended up being so so. I was not too impressed with this place this time.
By the time the night was finishing up and the massage was over, it was quite late, around 10:30pm. The parents live in a slightly remote part of Shanghai, only accessible by bus or taxi, and they always refuse to take a taxi because its too expensive (even if I offer to pay). I told JJ to tell them to just stay the night at our house, that made the most sense and it was totally fine by me (and of course by JJ). We do have an extra room and I did buy this couch bed for this very reason. So it only made sense for them to stay, especially since it was holiday and JJ was not working.

Here comes the kicker. They were at first totally against it. Why, you might ask? Well it was not for the normal reasons you might imagine, such as ‘we don’t want to intrude’, ‘we have plans tomorrow morning’, we simply want to get home’, ‘we don’t like the couch bed’. None of these things mattered to them. Instead, the issue at hand was literally:
We don’t know if we want to stay because the toilet paper I buy is too soft for them and they really don’t like using it.
Now lets get the facts straight. I am not a freak or anything. I buy what I consider to be normal toilet paper, you know the middle-of-the-road priced roll you buy in packs at the store. I don’t even go top of the line (because I’m too cheap). So what in the world could be wrong with my toilet paper?
Well, it turns out they really cannot use the ‘Western’ style toilet paper. They only use the toilet paper sheets that are a darker shade of brown, more rough and stacked on top of each other. A good comparison would be the toilet paper you’d find at a public restroom in a gas station, you know, the ones that require a key and have the toiler paper dispenser that spits out paper that resembles paper towels more than toiler paper.
So not only do they prefer to use this kind of toilet paper, but they went to the extreme of this opinion and considered traveling an hour on a bus all the way back home at 10:30pm to avoid using my ’soft’, more expensive toilet paper, if, heaven forbid, they needed to take a trip to the WC. Fortunately, they are not just totally insane (I say that with the best intentions). They decided that if they could find a local convenient store that sold their ‘favorite’ style toilet paper, they would agree to spend the night. And what do you know, they found such a store, purchased a little travel pack and was ready to go.
Now I respect cultural values, tradition, holidays, beliefs, all that jazz. But this to me was an altogether new level. How could one actually prefer the toilet paper that I (and I assume most people in the US) despise? Can you imagine actually buying that crap at the store? Can you imagine actually buying that crap at the store in a toilet paper section that sold shelves and shelves of ‘comfortable’, ’soft’, ‘rolled’ toilet paper? Now can you imagine actually not staying at your child’s apartment at 10:30pm because they only buy the soft toilet paper? LOL. Oh my god, that cracks me up just thinking about it.
I guess that proves that no matter how ridiculous and strange something is to me, tradition is always all-powering.


Wonder if I have the same problem with my in-laws. Cindy/Phil, Don/Patty do you like the toilet paper when you come visit? Any other things you might want to tell me after 10 years (well technically 17!) and since we are going to stay with the family in the States over the Christmas Holiday, I want to state right now that I don’t have anything to say about THEIR toilet paper!

And you, do you hang it the right way or the wrong way?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Not Only Good For Gambling...

...The Food Is Also Top Rated Now

Michelin launch its first guide to Hong Kong and Macau.

The edition is Michelin's first foray into China, the second Asian country it has featured since Japan.

World-renowned good food guide Michelin has given its coveted three-star rating (its top recognition meaning "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey") to a Chinese chef for the first time. Chef Chan Yan-tak from Cantonese cuisine restaurant Lun King Heen (“View of the dragon”) in the Four Seasons Hotel was honored in Michelin's first-ever guide to Hong Kong and Macau.

Renowned French chef Joel Robuchon's restaurant Robuchon a Galera, in Macau's Grand Lisboa casino resort, was awarded the only other three stars in the guide.

The review also recommends restaurants in the "Bib Gourmand" section, which highlights establishments offering value for money. But it has also stirred controversy. Michelin executives revealed that only two of the 12 inspectors who had visited more than 1,000 restaurants anonymously since last November were Chinese. Jean-Luc Naret, director, Michelin guide, said: "You do not have to be French to understand French cuisine and you do not have to be Chinese to understand Chinese cuisine."

The Michelin guide originated in France more than 100 years ago and has become the "bible" for food connoisseurs.


Good to know:

  • "Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau 2009" is the first bilingual Michelin guide. It includes 251 establishments (202 restaurants) with a total of 22 starred-restaurants in Hong Kong and 6 in Macau. (2 three-starred, 8 two-starred; and 18 one-starred)
  • Michelin publishes 26 guides covering 23 countries in Europe, the USA and Asia.
  • Tokyo retained its crown as the world’s most Michelin-starred city (227 stars to the 173 restaurants), with more starred establishments than Paris (96), London (52) and New York (56) combined.
  • There are currently only 75 restaurants in the world with a 3 star attached.
  • French chef Joel Robuchon holds 24 Michelin stars, more than any other chef in the world. His nearest rivals are fellow Frenchman Alain Ducasse who has 16, Britain's Gordon Ramsay with 12 and the US's Thomas Keller with seven.
  • 6 out of 28 rated restaurants were French cuisine (1 three-star; 3 two-star and 2 one-star) the others were mostly Cantonese with some Shanghainese and Beijingnese (just saying....!!)

Another Little Red Book!!!


(source: Channel News Asia, Caterer Search, RFI)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Chinese Torture...

...No, Only A Tongue Twister!

“Tongue Twisters are phrases or sentences which are hard to speak fast, usually because of alliteration or a sequence of nearly similar sounds”.

Well almost every word has a nearly similar sound in Chinese! (There are approximately 1,700 possible syllables in Mandarin, which compares with over 8,000 in English. As a result, there are many homophones - syllables which sound the same but mean different things)

四是四。十是十。十四是十四。四十是四十。
sì shì sì. shí shì shí. shísì shì shísì. sìshí shì sìshí.
(Four is four. Ten is ten. Fourteen is fourteen. Forty is forty)

妈妈骑马, 马慢, 妈妈骂马。
māma qí mǎ, mǎ màn, māma mà mǎ.
(Mom ride a horse, the horse is slow, mom insult the horse)

四十四隻死獅子
sìshísì zhī sǐ shīzi
(44 solitary dead lions)


Like any tongue twister it doesn’t translate well!

Now repeat after me:

The sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep's sick.


"She sells sea shells":
Sister Sue sells sea shells.
She sells sea shells on shore.
The shells she sells.
Are sea shells she sees.
Sure she sees shells she sells.


And did you know that the sign language equivalent of a tongue twister is called a finger fumbler. The phrase “Good blood, bad blood” is a tongue-twister in English as well as a finger-fumbler in ASL.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Giant Octopus...

...Attacked Jeffrey

Jeffrey is fond of the massages here (actually having one as I’m typing this!) but a couple of days ago he decided to go onto the next step of the TCM* or Traditional Chinese Medicine (中医 - Zhong1Yi1).

Looking like he was coming down with a cold, the secretaries at his office told him he should go and have a massage (like he needed to be pushed!)…as he entered the massage parlor coughing the “masseuse” took upon herself to fix him!

This is the result of cupping (NOT an octopus attack!).

Cupping (拔罐) is a method of treating disease that is caused by local congestion but placing several glass "cups" (open spheres) on the body. A match is lit and placed inside the cup and then removed before placing the cup against the skin. The resulting effect is the burning of oxygen within the cup, creating a relative vacuum that allows the cup to stick to the skin via suction.

The underlying tissue is drawn up into the jar forming an area of blood stasis. This appears to bruise the area, or at least turn it a bright red. The amount of dark red or even purple blood drawn to the surface indicates the degree of stagnation. Dark blood is a sign of stagnation, which in many cases in modern terms is the amount of toxins in the blood. These bruises are not dangerous and disappear in a few days.

Cupping is generally indicated in the treatment of Arthritic pain, abdominal pain, stomach ache, indigestion, headache, hypertension, common cold, cough, low back pain, painful menstruation, insect and poisonous snake bite.



* FYI: Traditional Chinese Medicine is largely based on the philosophical concept that the human body is a small universe with a set of complete and sophisticated interconnected systems, and that those systems usually work in balance to maintain the healthy function of the human body. The balance of yin and yang is considered with respect to qi ("breath", "life force", or "spiritual energy"), blood, jing ("kidney essence", including "semen"), other bodily fluids, the five elements, emotions and the soul or spirit (shen). TCM has a unique model of the body, notably concerned with the meridian system. Unlike the Western anatomical model which divides the physical body into parts, the Chinese model is more concerned with function. Thus, the TCM spleen is not a specific piece of flesh, but an aspect of function related to transformation and transportation within the body, and of the mental functions of thinking and studying. (source: Wikipedia)


Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's Getting Cold...

...In Here!

The Beijing Bureau of Meteorology released an alert at 5pm yesterday - the first of its kind since 2004 - warning of a "cold wave" that will result in temperatures in the capital plummeting to -9°C overnight. According to the forecast, force 5 to 6 north winds will begin buffeting the city tonight and during the day tomorrow the temperature is unlikely to rise above 0 ℃. According to authorities, the cold front will only affect Beijing for the next couple of days and temperatures are likely to rebound over the weekend. That said, they're unlikely to reach the relatively mild temperatures we've been experiencing lately.

Brrrr...

According to the Chinese agricultural calendar, this Sunday (December 7th) is the seasonal marker of “Da4 Xue3 -大雪” (major snow) . It will be the major snow season of snowstorms in full swing. The “daxue” will be followed but this jie qui (seasonal segments):

  • December 22: Dong1 Zhi4 - 冬至 or Winter Solstice (winter extreme)
  • January 6: Xiao3 Han2 - 小寒 or Minor Cold (cold start to become unbearable)
  • January 20: Da4 Han2 - 大寒 or Major Cold (coldest time of the year).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Sky Is Happy

...It's Smiling

Jeffrey took this picture a couple of nights ago and I found out afterwards that the phenomenon of three celestial bodies so close together only occurs once a year. A smiley face with the eyes of Venus and Jupiter and a friendly little smile from the crescent moon graced the sky of Beijing. Good thing that Beijing reached its target of blue sky of the year (already 256 by the end of November compare to 100 in 1998!) or we wouldn’t have been able to see it!!

The moon is meeting Venus and Jupiter

However, despite the introduction of traffic restrictions, December is probably not going to be a great month for blue skies. December is normally the worst time for Beijing's air quality. The index hit 500 back in 2006 and in 2007 the index hit 421 in late December and then peaked at 500 a few days after Christmas.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Since Celine* Didn't Come...

...I'll Go See Kylie!

Last night, me and 6,000 of my closest friends (a good mix of Westerners and Chinese) went to see 凯丽米洛- Kai2 Li4 Mi2Luo4 at Beijing Workers’ Gymnasium.

The world’s finest derriere, dressed in Jean-Paul Gaultier, started her concert at 8:02 (first time I went to a concert which started on time!) and opened for herself (like that I was sure to be in my bed by midnight!). The show was incredible. The audience ranged from young children with parents to older ones (I place myself halfway in between these two populations).

“In the first half of concert the crowd seems coolly detached with the entire auditorium seated and the dancing was limited to almost imperceptible head bobs and the odd hand clap but by the end of the show the entire auditorium was on its feet, waving its hands in unison and dancing like it’s been transported to the 80’s”

She even said the obligatory few words in the language where the concert is performed. She was apparently happy to be here: Jintian, wo hen gaoxing

the photo that prove I was there


* that’s Celine Dion, not me!

Monday, December 1, 2008

World AIDS Day

Today is the 21st annual World AIDS Day.

Guangzhou Daily reported that 40 sex workers in Guangzhou took an oath yesterday, swearing to use condoms during their professional like:

Health is wealth, the basic guarantee of happiness. For the health and happiness of ourselves and others, from now on we will use condoms. We will insist on them every time!

The Ministry of Health stated that 264,302 people in China have contracted HIV, and that 77,753 are AIDS patients. The Ministry, in coordination with the WHO, estimates that there are about 700,000 HIV carriers in China, and that 440,000 of them are not aware that they are infected.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Insiders Look At...

...The Internet In China

This is a special post for my Geek friends living outside China. Firefox has a plug-in (China Channel) so that you can experience using the internet behind the Great (Fire)Wall of China without leaving the comfort of your own home….It’s a great way to save you a lot of money on plane tickets!

It will slow down your browsing and even makes some web sites inaccessible for no discernible reason. After installation, getting to experience Web surfing the way the Chinese do isn't hard at all. Users have three ways to activate China Channel: via the China Channel toolbar, a navigation bar button that you must drag and drop onto the bar to get access to, and a status bar button. The buttons function by opening a menu, from which you choose to switch from None to the China Channel. Much like the IE Tab extension, the page will then render as if your IP address is inside China.
The toolbar is interesting for a slightly different workflow that results in a Web page that informs you of your IP address and its country of origin. Choose the China Channel from the drop down, and then hit the big red Go button. With China Channel activated, the page will declare that the plug-in has been activated. Switch back to None and refresh the page, and it changes to reflect your proxy server-free surfing experience.

The tool makes a point of just how severe Internet censorship is in China, going beyond government hot-topic issue like T1bet and T1ann@men Squ@are to that of Wikipedia or even my Blog*, which as you know has highly sensitive material (where to shop, where to eat, who is the town best hairdresser…). Sensitive material seems to be permanently blocked; the 30,000 employees of the Great Firewall appear to apply their censorship in a more arbitrary manner for less topical web sites.


* Wikipedia and my Blog are not censored as I’m writing this but might be in a few hours minutes!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tried And Tested For You...

...The Chinese Hairdresser

A couple of months ago I tried the local hairdresser. No, I didn’t go for a haircut, they wouldn’t know what to do with my kind of hair. I started slow with a wash, dry and brush: at 30-50 RMB (€3-5 or $5-7) for all that one would be foolish to restrain oneself!!!

First I needed to choose my hairdresser; so I pointed to the guy, as instructed by Violaine the expert in hair, who is the best at unruly hair. But she didn’t warn me about the special way of washing your hair they have here. So I had to go back to have an opportunity to take a picture.

Not one of my best picture!

And just like in the magazine makeover session, the before and after shot:

worthy of Vogue?

The length I go to write those posts is unbelievable.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Day To...

...Give Thanks

This year Thanksgiving would be a lot like 2006, Jeff is having (hopefully) turkey on his flight back from France. No Grandma’s turkey for us like last year!


No this is not a picture of me in a bikini!

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have never a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!



On a side note:
And we thought shopping in China was dangerous…

Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death
The throng of Wal-Mart shoppers had been building all night, filling sidewalks and stretching across a vast parking lot at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, N.Y. At 3:30 a.m., the Nassau County police had to be called in for crowd control, and an officer with a bullhorn pleaded for order. […] By 4:55, with no police officers in sight, the crowd of more than 2,000 had become a rabble, and could be held back no longer. Fists banged and shoulders pressed on the sliding-glass double doors, which bowed in with the weight of the assault. Six to 10 workers inside tried to push back, but it was hopeless. Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him. Others who had stood alongside Mr. Damour trying to hold the doors were also hurled back and run over, witnesses said. […] he had been fatally injured, the police said,[…] and he was pronounced dead an hour later […] Four other people, including a 28-year-old woman who was described as eight months pregnant, were treated at the hospital for minor injuries.[…] Some shoppers who had seen the stampede said they were shocked. One of them said the crowd had acted like “savages.” Shoppers behaved badly even as the store was being cleared. “When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning”. “They kept shopping.” […] Ugly shopping scenes, a few involving injuries, have become commonplace during the bargain-hunting ritual known as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. […] Witnesses said the crowd outside Wal-Mart began gathering at 9 p.m. on Thursday. The night was not bitterly cold, and the early mood was relaxed. By the early morning hours, the throngs had grown, and officers of the Fifth Precinct of the Nassau County Police Department, who patrol Valley Stream, were out in force, checking on crowds at the mall.


This gives a new meaning to Black Friday. The Friday after America’s Thanksgiving marks what is traditionally the busiest retail day of the year, kicking off the Christmas shopping season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Confucius Temple...

...Checked Of The List!

I’m starting a “to-do-before-we-leave” list and a couple of days ago I decided to tackle the task of visiting one of the few main temple I haven’t seen yet

First of all some background check:
Who is 孔夫子 Kong3Fu1Zi3 which literally mean Master Kong? His actual name was 孔丘, Kong3 Qiu1. He was born on September 28, 551 BC and died in 479 BC. He was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher whose teachings and philosophy have deeply influenced Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese thought and life. His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. Confucius' thoughts have been developed into a system of philosophy known as Confucianism (儒家). It was introduced to Europe by the Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who was the first to Latinize the name as "Confucius."

Read last year in the China Daily:
Family Tree Of Confucius Has One And A Half Million Members
Women will be listed on the family tree of ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius for the first time in a radically updated version set to mushroom to 1.5 million members. [..] "We have to adapt to the times. Men and women are equal now," said Kong Dehong, a Confucius descendant in charge of updating the family tree, as saying.[…] The new family tree, the fifth such version (The last revision was completed in the 1930s, when the tree had 600,000 members.) will be edited and printed in 2009, on the 2,560th anniversary of the birth of Confucius.
The philosophy has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years often attributed to a moral void in Chinese society created by the nation's rush into capitalism.
The family tree is regarded as the world's biggest as it records more than 80 generations of the Confucius family.

Now the temple:
The Temple of Confucius in Beijing (Kong Miao) was initially built in 1302 and additions were made during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It covers a total area of 22,000 square meters (5.4 acres). It is the second largest temple constructed for Confucius, ranking second only to the Temple of Confucius in QuFu, ShanDong Province, the hometown of Confucius.


Today, the temple is a haven of tranquility with ancient cypress and juniper trees (one of the cypress trees is over 700 years old), halls, pavilions and stone steles.

Confucius was deeply concerned with how to cultivate good character, and then on the interaction of people in society. He felt it was important to lead by example and this influenced his interest in education, for which ethical development was the main goal.
Referring to his own way of learning, Confucius said "To hear much, select what is good and follow it" and "Study without thought is labor lost; thought without study is dangerous".

Inside the temple one can see 198 stone tablets positioned on each side of the first courtyard, containing 51,624 names of scholars who had reached the rank of JinShi during the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. A JinShi is a successful candidate in the highest imperial examinations. Candidates for the exam had to undergo the rigorous procedure of being locked up in a small cubicle for 3 days while taking the examination, many of whom reportedly went mad or committed suicide during the experience.

There are also 14 stone stele pavilions of the Ming and Qing dynasties that detail precious historical information from ancient China.

In the adjoining Imperial College are 189 steles on which are chiseled the '13 classics'. This great work was achieved by just one main, Jiang Heng, a senior scholar at the time of emperor KangXi. It took him 12 years to complete cutting the 630,000 characters.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Because You Can Never Be Too Cautious...

...Melamine Update

Read in Time magazine:

The melamine-tainted milk products that sickened thousands of babies in China have turned up in an unlikely consumer product: Chinese-made chocolate and strawberry-flavored body spreads sold in British sex shop. Tainted “I love you” sets contained between 126 and 259 mg per kg of the chemical (more than 50 times the safe amount), according to Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA). This is a first,” the FSA noted on its website



You've been warned!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Smart Way To...

...Sell A Smart?

China totally outdid Japan on this vending machine!!

Red is not my favorite color...but will do with it!

After popping a 1-RMB coin we were expecting a smart car (that would have been the best deal ever we would have gotten in China!) but we only received a branded cube containing information of the new models.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

And On the 7th Day...

...She Rested

Nothing to say today but wanted to make a first on this Blog: 7 posts in 7 days. It hasn’t been seen on this Blog since… ever.

I’m exhausted, I’m taking a couple of days off … will be back soon


NB: Violaine, this will give you time to catch up on old posts


By the way…
Today is the third Thursday of November (I’m sure you are so happy to know that) so it’s the release of Beaujolais Nouveau.

A votre Santé, Tchin-Thcin, Cheers, Gambei!

Every year, over a million cases of Beaujolais Nouveau are shipped worldwide in preparation for the 12:01 AM release on the third Thursday of each November. Some say by the time that day is over, nearly half of the region's total annual production will be distributed and drunk around the world.
Over a million cases of Beaujolais Nouveau begin their journey through a sleeping France to Paris for immediate shipment to all parts of the world. Banners proclaim the good news: Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé! "The New Beaujolais has arrived!" One of the most frivolous and animated rituals in the wine world has begun.
By the time it is over, over 65 million bottles, nearly half of the region's total annual production, will be distributed and drunk around the world. It has become a worldwide race to be the first to serve to this new wine of the harvest. In doing so, it has been carried by motorcycle, balloon, truck, helicopter, Concorde jet, elephant, runners and rickshaws to get it to its final destination. It is amazing to realize that just weeks before this wine was a cluster of grapes in a growers vineyard. But by an expeditious harvest, a rapid fermentation, and a speedy bottling, all is ready at the midnight hour. By French law, Beaujolais Nouveau is to be released no earlier than the third Thursday of November.
Beaujolais Nouveau began as a local phenomenon in the local bars, cafes, and bistros of Beaujolais and Lyons. Each fall the new Beaujolais would arrive with much fanfare. In pitchers filled from the growers barrels, wine was drunk by an eager population. It was wine made fast to drink while the better Beaujolais was taking a more leisurely course. Eventually, the government stepped into regulate the sale of all this quickly transported, free-flowing wine.
On a more technical note, the wine is strictly speaking, more properly termed Beaujolais Primeur. By French and European rules, a wine released during the period between its harvest and a date in the following spring, is termed primeur. A wine released during the period between its own and the following years harvest, is termed nouveau. Well, enough of that!
It is a triumph of marketing and promotion, mostly due to the efforts of Georges Duboeuf. The largest negociant in the region, he is a tireless promoter of Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau. More than a fifth of his annual production, about 4 million bottles, is Beaujolais Nouveau. All in all, in the last 45 years, sales have risen from around a million bottles to more than 70 million bottles.
Apart from the fanfare, what makes Beaujolais Nouveau so popular? And especially in the U.S. where consumption of red wine is less than 30%? Simply put, Beaujolais Nouveau is as about as close to white wine as a red wine can get. Due to the way it is made -the must is pressed early after only three days- the phenolic compounds, in particular the astringent tannins, normally found in red wines, isn't there, leaving an easy to drink, fruity wine. This, coupled with the fact that it tastes best when chilled, makes for a festive wine to be gulped rather than sipped, enjoyed in high spirits rather than critiqued. As a side note, it makes a great transitional wine for anyone wanting to move from white to red wines.
Finally, the race from grape to glass may be silly, but half the fun is knowing that on the same night, in homes, cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and bistros around the world, the same celebration is taking place. It hasn't the pedigree to be a classic wine, but it is always good. Any other opinion you may regard as boorish and uninformed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

911

...You Mean 999

How do you know your kids are in a British school?


When they come back home singing:

One One One is wrong
So is Two Two Two
Three Three Three and Four Four Four and Five Five Five won’t do!
The number that you need to get the proper line,
For Fire, Police and Ambulance is Nine Nine Nine

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

(H2O)3

...Water Cube

Since Jeffrey and Chloe* had never been to the Water Cube (unlike me!) we decided Saturday that the waterscape concert titled “Dream of the Water Cube” was the perfect opportunity for them to finally be able to go to the Olympic swimming pool. The concert is part of a four-month-long musical performance comprising classical music and fountain performance using sound effects and lighting techniques.

The Water Cube and the Bird's Nest

Water show at the Water cube!



* Jeremy had to stay at home due to a height restriction policy on the show(!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

No More Faking...

...In Singing

China outlaws lip-synching after Olympics row

China is to ban singers from miming to songs following the row over a nine-year-old girl lip-synching during the Olympic opening ceremony.
The Ministry of Culture wants to outlaw the widespread practice during live performances, as well as clamping down on musicians who pretend to play their instruments during shows.
The ban comes three months after many Chinese were outraged to discover that one of the stars of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics had been miming rather than singing during the spectacular show.
There was an outpouring of anger following the revelation that child star Lin Miaoke had been miming when she sang 'Ode To The Motherland' during the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.
The cute nine-year-old's performance captured the hearts of the Chinese, until organisers of the ceremony admitted she had been lip-synching.
Another girl had sung the popular song, but had been judged not pretty enough to represent China in front of the world. Officials justified the decision as being in the "national interest". […]
Those who are caught miming twice will have their performing licenses revoked, according to proposed new legislation.


Lin Miaoke (left) who lip-synched at the opening ceremony over the voice of Yang Peiyi (right) who was considered unsuited to the lead role because of her buck teeth. Photo: GETTY/AFP4



The Olympic lip synching incident was a major loss of face for Beijing. Cracking down is a way to regain some of their respect.

This reminds me of the “wardrobe malfunction” from Janet Jackson during the Super Bowl in 2004. Since then live shows in the States are broadcast with a standard seven-second delay to safeguard viewers from any obscenities.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Epitome Of...

...Laziness

I was generally unmotivated today and since Jeremy didn’t get to go to the Water Cube Show last night because of a height restriction (post to come) I treated him to a McDonalds lunch today (bad mother I know but once every 3-6 months I wouldn’t call child protection services!). Anyhow thanks to my bad parenting I can write this post because I found that McDonalds in Beijing just started a delivery service (apparently it already existed in Shanghai). So if you are tired of going to McDonalds or even going to the drive-thru, if you leave in Beijing you can call and your Big Mac will be safely delivered to you by a nice gentleman wearing a nice (and heavy?) “Mac” Backpack and riding his “Mac” Electric bike.

If only I knew how to say “Please, bring me a big Mac, with fries and a coke*” in Chinese!

McDonalds Delivery

After a quick search it seems pretty common in Asia (Philippes, India, Singapore, Indonesia, China) all have the service. London and Canada also tried it about 15 years ago but it was short lived.

* 请给我一个巨无霸,一个数条也一个可口可乐 (Qing Gei Wo Yi Ge JuWuBa, Yi Ge ShuTiao Ye Yi Ge KeKouKeLe)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's Getting Cold...

...In Here

Sure some people know that winter in Beijing has begun because the municipality utility authority starts providing heat (check previous post here & here) but I, personally, have another way to know the start of the seasons (spring & summer) and winter for me starts when I see this:

1 yuan for 3 jins (€0.10 for 1.5 kg – for €1 you’ll get 15 kilos!)

Chinese family usually buy their 葱 (Cong – leeks) and 白菜 (BaiCai – Chinese cabbage) for the winter and stack them on their balcony where they will dry out a little bit but the inside will keep fresh.


Going home and letting them dry

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gems...

...J'aime*

Last year around this time a friend and I were at a jewelry store and we noticed this woman with a lot of loose stones (precious and semi-precious) that she was having mounted in various settings. She mentioned that there had been a Gems Exhibition the previous week in Beijing and that’s where she had bought hers. We took note and promised ourselves we would go the following year. Well the time has come and that’s where we ended up yesterday:



The expert at work


*that’s “I love” in French which rhymes with ‘gems’ (just making sure everyone gets the pun!)
.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Back For More 'Lympics...

...Say OUI To The WII'lympics

After the Olympics in August, the Paralympics in September and even the Mind Sports -some kind of Olympics for the Brain! (no I didn’t know either, BTW France came 4th and the USA placed 13th and last!) in October, I felt that some ’lympics (as Jeremy calls them) were missing in November so yesterday on the auspicious date of 11/11 at the auspicious hour of 10:10am the WII’lympics took place in my living room (which is coincidentally in Beijing, China too!)

My beautiful invitation!

The pictures of the event are not as flattering as the ones from the other ’lympics. But we sure had fun!

The girls trying out Sky Slalom and Sky Jumping

Monday, November 10, 2008

License Plates...

...Update

It’s been a month since the latest government implementation of no-car days (a revised restriction of the ban during the Olympics). For the restriction that was first introduced on October 11th if the last number of your license plate was 1 or 6 you couldn’t drive on Mondays, with a license plate ending with a 2 or 7 you couldn’t use your car on Tuesdays and so on through Friday. Weekends are exempt. Starting today and until December 7th, the banned license plate are been shifted by one day: i.e 1 and 6 cannot drive on Tuesdays (instead of Monday), 2 and 7 on Wednesday (instead of Tuesday), etc…

But one interesting thing I read a couple weeks ago is that Beijing car sales (which account for about a tenth of the national tally) have increased by 30% this month. One of the reasons is that there is a rumor that Beijing’s city government could limit new vehicle registrations to 100,000 units a year; about a third of the city’s average annual vehicle sales.

So far, the only city in China which rations vehicle ownership is Shanghai, a.k.a. Gridlock-City. In Shanghai, each month 5,000 to 6,000 license plates are auctioned off. Shanghai plates are fetching higher prices than small cars. According to the official news agency Xinhua, the average price of a Shanghai plate is 47,711 yuan ($6253) while Chery’s QQ subcompact, one of China’s Top Ten sellers, goes for 39,800 yuan.

Chinese are the best at driving

Related news:
Since early last month (10/06), Beijing readopted a program allowing car owners to have personalized license plates.

A Beijing resident became the city's luckiest car owner when he secured the plate reading "NV8888" at 8:30 a.m. Monday after queuing for three days with his family at a car registration center of the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau. He was followed by another Beijinger, Du Fei, who got "NA9999." Many Chinese have demonstrated their fervor over lucky numbers as usual, picking as many eights, sixes or nines as possible in their license plates.

Beijing introduced the "pick-your-own" license plates for the first time in 2002. The system lasted for only 10 days. About 23,000 plates were issued before it was suspended amid complaints over picks that were rude and crude, including "USA 911", "UFO," "SEX 001", "FBI 007" and "TMD" - representing the first letters in a common Chinese swear word.

The Beijing Traffic Management Bureau says such picks won't be possible under the new system, which limits car owner’s freedom to only four digits and one English letter.

The first two slots in the seven-digit plates are set with the Chinese character for Beijing, followed by "N" for automobiles in the eight urban districts, or "Y" for those registered in the outer districts and counties.


UPDATE:
Rumors that Beijing was going to introduce a cap on car registration or sales have been quashed with an announcement on Wednesday (Nov. 19) that the city government would do no such thing. Despite the director of Beijing's Transport Department, Liu Xiaoming revealing that the government was seriously considering putting a limit on the number of vehicle registrations at a recent high-level transport conference, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform (BMCDR) unequivocally announced at a press conference on Wednesday that no such measures would be introduced. The deputy head and spokesman of the commission justified the decision not to impose a limit on the grounds of a need to maintain the long-term development of the country's auto industry and sustain general economic growth

In related news, despite the recent fall in global oil prices, gas prices in Beijing are not going down. China will take advantage of the slump in prices to introduce a new tax on petrol and do away with subsidies.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

We Are King Of The World...

...I Mean On Top Of Beijing!

Today we decided to see how the rich (and famous?) live and have a little taste of it.

We started small and went on to visit the bar at the newly opened Park Hyatt hotel… we’ll have to wait to spend a night in a room (let’s dream) or set our eyes in one of the apartment (penthouse, maybe?) for rent.

Arriving in style (I wish!) and taking a rest from singing

Park Hyatt Beijing (a 5-star luxury hotel) is part of the prestigious Beijing Yintai Center in the heart of Beijing’s Central Business District (that’s opposite of the China World Trade Centre and the new CCTV tower –the one that look like a big doughnut or Z-shaped) and is the tallest skyscraper in Beijing (250 meter or 820 foot tall). The square-fronted tower, designed by John Portman & Associates is topped with a glowing scarlet beacon after nightfall. The hotel comprises 237 rooms (between the 37th and 49th floors) –one day maybe!, 216 luxury apartments (7th to 33rd floors) –daydreaming! and there are also 21 penthouses (35th-36th and 50th to 58th floors) –if I win the lottery, I’ll come back!. The 66th floor is home to the highest restaurant in Beijing, the China Grill and on the 65th floor is where we had our cocktail at the Bar Lounge with a 360-degree view over the city.

View from the top

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Just Like "Time" Predicted...

...The USA Has A New President

With all the last two days excitement (Melbourne cup and James Bond) I almost forgot to tell you who won the big prize in the USA election! So in case I’m your only source of information and just like “Time” magazine said a couple months ago …. Obama is the winner. Youhoo!!!

And the winner is...

I had planned to go and take a picture of the newspaper “board” down the street just like for the French election 18 months ago but after wandering around my neighborhood on my bike I realized that they had vanished, probably in the big town clean up for the Olympics. Maybe if I had gone far and beyond my (chic) neighborhood I would have found one!



And just to let you know one of president-elected Obama’s half brother*,Mark Ndesandjo lives in Shenzen, China, teaches piano at an orphanage and runs an Internet company, World Nexus, that helps Chinese companies export to the US.

* Barack Obama Sr fathered 7 sons and 1 daughter by 4 different women!


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day Has Finally...

...Come

零零七, LingLingQi, 007, James Bond …. whatever you want to call it, the latest extravaganza “Quantun of Solace” is being released in Cinemas throughout China today November 5, that’s a full 9 days before the USA (and 5 days after France –which with the UK and Sweden was where the film has been released first… yoohoo!!!). I’m guessing that by doing an early release they will try to beat the pirated versions of the movie invading the market before it’s in the theaters like for Casino Royale.

With Jeff we’ve decided NOT to wait until the weekend and the release of the DVD in Beijing (!) but splurge on a 70 rmb (that’s 7€ or $10) movie theater ticket (almost forgot what a movie theater looked like). Do you know how many movies we could have watched with that kind of money…. 140rbm get you almost 15 DVDs down here but that was money well spent.

We were expecting Chinese people talking all the way through the movie (which everyone knows is OK here because they have the subtitles in Chinese so they don’t need to listen!) like some of our friends tried to warn us but with only less than 10 of us in a huge movie theater we didn’t get this problem.

The one thing we weren’t expecting is the subtitles in Chinese when James was speaking in French or Spanish (good thing we can understand!) and we were a little lost as in which country James was since the name were in Chinese too… (we’ll have to way and watch the DVD to find out!)

We’ll still try to find a copy (probably just around the corner of the movie theater) so we can watch it again at home!!

My 2day's 2Js, James and Jeffrey

The ticket to prove we DID go to the movie!


Update: We found a copy not the following week end but a few days later on the 14th of November for a whopping 8RMB (yes that’s €0.80 or about $1!)
.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Let's Go To Melbourne

...Well At Least The Melbourne Cup!

The Australians surely know how to party. The last time we partied with them was for the Great Wall Ball back in May, this time is the Melbourne Cup. All I knew about it was that I needed a hat and that there were some drinks involved, or and some horse racing too.

The Girls and the Horse!

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

The Melbourne Cup is Australia's major annual thoroughbred horse race. Billed as The race that stops a nation, it is for three-year-olds and over, and covers a distance of 3,200 metres. It is generally regarded as the most prestigious "two-mile" handicap in the world. The event is held on the first Tuesday in November by the Victoria Racing Club, on the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne.

The event is one of the most popular spectator events in Australia, with sometimes over 110,000 people, some dressed in traditional formal raceday wear and others in all manner of exotic and amusing costumes, attending the race.
“Fashions On The Field” is a major focus of the day, with substantial prizes awarded for the best-dressed male and female racegoers. The requirement for elegant hats, and more recently the alternative of a fascinator, almost single-handedly keeps Melbourne's milliners in business.

In 2000 it was estimated that 80 percent of the adult Australian population placed a bet on the race that year. In New Zealand the Melbourne Cup is the country's single biggest betting event, with carnival race-days held at several of the country's top tracks showing the cup live on big screens
.

Where is Waldo?


Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Little Bit Of...

...Art

My photograph teacher had a solo exhibition opening today in one of the art district of Beijing.

We like to wander around the now internationally acclaimed 798 art district, but thanks to Lukas’ exhibit we’ve being introduced to a new lesser known art area.

I’ve already talked about 798 Art District in another post. Located in Dashanzi area, 798 was once home to the electronic industries, housing building constructed with help from the old Soviet Unions and designed but the former East Germany experts. What began with a cluster of young artists who set up camp in the abandoned workshop of a military electronics complex (Factory 798) on the fringes of the city has become the biggest arts area in China and earned great international acclaim in a spam of just two years.

Another new contemporary art district in northeast Beijing is the Caochangdi area, close to 798. It is a district that hosts national and international artists, arts organizations, galleries and design studios.

Jiuchang Art Complex, or Brewery Factory International Art Community is a newly rising art area in Beijing. It has developed since 2005 from the Chaoyang Brewery Factory, built in 1975. Though it's all one factory, Jiuchang comprises a number of small brick buildings. On the inside, it's pipe-free and freshly painted. Large outdoor sculptures line the main road, alongside an artificial lake

Songzhuang Art Community, a serene artists' village to the east of Beijing, Tongzhou District, is starting to being noticed. The community houses up-and-coming artists who live and work in rustic studios. The Songzhuang Art Community was established in 2003 in Songzhuang painter village of Beijing.

Lukas’ Junsui じゅんすい Secrets on Display II (玄色的秘密) is at Shi Tang Alternative Space at JiuChang (Liquor Factory).