Hope you enjoyed that moment of Zen. I thought I’d take this post to sort of collect some of the more interesting facets of Buddhism I’ve learned over the past year of two for your enjoyment. Apologies again for falling off the weekly updates. Still doing some Fulbright and book work, nothing really to report.

Most of you reading this know the origins of Buddhism, how Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian prince from around 500 BCE achieved enlightenment by giving up all earthly attachments, claiming that one could bypass the Hindu cycle of death and rebirth in a single lifetime, proceeding straight rom Nirvana and obtaining release from the suffering of the world. Since then, there have been other buddhas, some of which have ascended to Nirvana, and others who have decided to remain on Earth and help others obtain enlightenment.  These are known as Boddhisatvas.

Buddhism is now well known all over the world, and specifically in China it was brought around the year 71 CE by two Indian masters. The temple constructed in their honor, Fawang Temple, is right near the Shaolin monastery, and was apparently the first Buddhist temple in China.  It wasn’t for another 600 years that a Chinese monk Tang Xuanzong journeyed to India to retrieve the original sutras, seeking to better understand the essence of Buddhism. (This was later immortalized in the “Journey to the West” where Tang Xuanzong is joined by the Monkey King Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie the pig, and a third companion whose name escapes me. It’s one of China’s four great classic novels, and is still a huge influence on Chinese popular culture.

Here’s some things you might not know though.

  1. Zen Buddhism, most often associated with Japan, was actually from China (called 禅 chan in Chinese), and is actually what the Shaolin monks practice. (This was a trivia question a couple months ago).
  2. Buddhism is mainly split into two sects, Mahayana and Theravada. You might have read something about this from when I went to Myanmar and had my first interaction with Theravada Buddhism, but for my new readers, get ready for a knowledge drop. There are debates about why the split happened, most accounts are either biased to one side or the other, but for my system I tend to think of Theravada (which is practiced in South and most of Southeast asia) as “orthodox Buddhism” as it is more conservative and is practiced in the birthplace of the religion. It uses Pali in its worship as opposed to Sanskrit for Mahayana, has some more exclusionary rules for women and has a bunch of other funny rules.  To hear a Theravada practicioner tell it, Mahayana Buddhists take the easy way out, as they have a lot more ritual designed to get you good karma, and put more emphasis on helping others on the path to enlightenment rather than your own personal journey oddly enough.
  3. Buddhism is incredibly malleable, and incredibly fashionable. For example, when Buddhism reached Tibet, it was fused with traditional Tibetan mysticism, which gives us the ghost daggers, mask rituals, and other trappings that many people associate with Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan prayer flags, the house decoration ubiquitous to Berkeley liberals are actually somewhat born of sloth.  Tibetan Buddhism mandates its followers must recite the sutras every day. So apparently if you print the sutras on these colorful flags, simply looking at them counts as reading.  Same with the prayer wheels. Spinning the wheels speeds up the pace at which the text passes your eyes, and allows you to “read” them much faster. Go figure.
  4. When Tibetan Buddhism got to Mongolia, it was adopted by the Mongolian princes, flags and all. To make it more palatable to the masses though, they incorporated a lot of imagery from traditional Mongolian shamanism, so Mongolian Buddhist temples will feature a lot of horses, archery imagery and what not.
  5. The same thing happened in Myanmar actually. A Burmese (Bamar) king Anawratha converted to Buddhism, and mandated all his subjects do the same.  To do that though, he again had to incorporate all of Myanmar’s various legends, spirits, and deities.  They also imported certain Indian myths like the Naga and other Buddhist deities.
  6. Lay Buddhists and practicing Buddhist monks have different rules. Lay Buddhists must observe five commands. 1. Do not kill. 2. Do not steal. 3. Do not lie. 4. Do not engage in sexual misconduct. 5. Do not partake in alcohol and drugs (as if you do you’ll be more likely to break tenets one through four). Buddhist monks, in addition to that, have to give up mirrors, beds, singing, dancing, anything that could be viewed as a luxury. They’re not supposed to have possessions period actually, they just use things. But if only you use something, isn’t that kind of like ownership? There’s your philosophical question for the day.
  7. In modern China, Buddhism is one of the state sponsored religions, and people flock to temples to offer incense, pray etc. There’s even a word 香客 (xiangke, xiang kuh)which refers to people who only pray at temples and just do it for the experience really.  The word comes from 游客 (you ke, tourist, literally travel guest) and 背包客 (bei bao ke, backpacker, literally backpack guest), so xiangke are “incense guests”. Fun, huh?
  8. The “fat” Buddha often found in China, is not actually a Buddha, but rather a historical monk who became a folk god of prosperity and then sort of got meme’d into immortality.

I could go on and on, Buddhism is incredibly interesting, but I’ll keep this post to just this information and these observations.  And of course, as with any religion, people don’t observe all its tenets.  Does drinking make you a bad Buddhist? No. And there are plenty of people who claim to be Buddhist and still engage in violence.  I agree with the Dalai Lama, those people just straight aren’t Buddhists, and overall I think it’s a wonderful religion that preaches peace while encouraging people to strive to better themselves.  As one of my Buddhist friends puts it though, to be a true Buddhist is to deny your human nature, which is an incredible feat, and ultimately unattainable for some people, myself included I suspect.  To remove all your emotion, all desire, all attachment to the world, is to truly disengage with modern society.  While I certainly find that admirable, I wonder at the responsibility of it in this day and age, and I counter that anything humans are capable of still falls in the realm of humanity, just a different kind of humanity.  So with that in mind, take a moment to just sit and listen today, another moment of Zen if you will.


I recently took an eight hour train ride, standing.  This, in itself, is not an incredibly challenging feat.  I did as much during my time as a chef at camp, albeit with some brief sitting breaks for food there. The lack of distracting work, ability to walk, dope music, and camaraderie on the train are also notable.  However, I made it through without too much duress.  Read a book, started some other books, listened to some chill music, and even zoned out for a moment. I unfortunately forgot the technique that made Camp easy on my knees until I only had two hours left, and that’s the power squat.  We learned at camp that if you’re working at a prep table, you can take a wide stance and bend your knees to about 120 degrees, which takes the weight off your knees and works your core if you’re doing it properly. Try it out some time.

The book in question was “Hidden Figures”, you may have heard of or seen the movie that came out recently.  It’s a very educational book and written with a great deal of love and care.  Bit dense or lacking in drive at some points, but overall a beautiful tribute to these women.  I’m doing a book club session for the consulate next month, and that seemed to fit the theme of “space” and “America”. If any of you would like to read along, you’re more than welcome to.  I’ll be sure to share the discussion questions and the discussion that’s had after the event.

Why was I standing though you might ask? This seems to be the high season for travel, so tickets are practically impossible to come by.  As a result, sold out trains offer “standing tickets” which are exactly what they sound like.  Inexplicably though, they’re the same price as normal economy tickets, which I feel is a bit ridiculous and evil, but when you gotta get to Beijing, you gotta get to Beijing.

Blog content will be minimal the next couple weeks, but if I have something worth sharing be sure it will be shared.  Updates, I’ve started reading the Koran. I intend to finally read the Bible one of these days too, but I was able to find a free ebook Koran and not a free ebook Bible, so here we are.

I’ve sent my Fulbright article off to get a rough once-over by a Chinese friend (and hopefully not inflicted too much pain on her in the process), and the novel has kind of stalled as the city library is closed for the time being.  So just reading random novels that were preloaded on my kindle and waiting for inspiration to strike.

Lastly, back to the subject of Camp, I found this great article from the NYT about dishwashing.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2017/08/07/chefs-say-a-

If I’ve never bored you with accounts of my time dishwashing at Camp, I very much feel what’s conveyed in this article. Dishwashing is such a physically, mentally exhilarating experience that takes great skill to do well.  Mentally planning how to keep the dishwasher running at max efficiency while keeping in mind the needs of the kitchen, all while performing a frenetic dance solo that sees you whirling to and fro putting away clean dishes, flitting in between waitstaff and chefs as you go to retrieve dirty ones, and your hands never standing still as you shuffle pots, pans, plates, and whatever else appears into a scalding steambath.  I miss those days a lot actually.

Lastly, as always, cat  pictures. The kittens are getting bigger, and super lovey!

I Dunno What to Put Here

Congratulations to my amazing sister Clara for snagging a fellowship with the CDC!!! I’m ever so proud and happy for her.  I feel like I need to keep up with her despite her self-deprication.  Sad she won’t be home when I will be, but I think it’ll make the house less cramped, and that’s one more loved one on the east coast for me to visit. 😀

Not much to report still, met up with a Chinese Fulbright alum who researched the presence of Taiwanese Americans in Capital Hill, which I think is really interesting. He invited us (the other American Fulbrighter and I) to his parents’ place for dinner although only I was able to attend. It was a wonderful meal of chun bing, Chinese fajitas, and I had a great time talking politics with them.  In the guys words, his parents becoming more conservative in their old age and he wanted some exposure to Western perspectives for them.

Have a new draft of my article that I’m waiting to get a Chinese eye on.  Gotta pick the right person and bribe them properly to get them to agree to help revise 15 pages of my likely terrible writing.  Also went to the Chinese Industry Museum on a recommendation which gives me a nice transition to the educational portion of this week’s post: recent Shenyang history.

You’ll  my first extended stay here in February when I talked a bit about Shenyang’s history as the Manchu capital and the subsequent Japanese occupation.  Link here. The Soviet’s kicked the Japanese out at the wend of WWII, and once the Chinese communists took over Shenyang quickly became the jewel of the Northeast.  Those of you who have been to Beijing might remember that the blue subway line 2 runs in a circle around the Forbidden City, and that a lot of the stops end in “men”.  Why is that?  Well men (pronounced mun, written 门) means gate (even looks like one) and that’s because line 2 runs on the remains of the old city wall. The designers preserved the names of the gates that once stood there in the names of the stops.

Cities like Xi’an, Pingyao etc. have turned their city walls into tourist attractions, and they’re pretty amazing, so what happened to Beijing’s? Well, apparently briefly after Mao Zedong took control of Beijing and gave his speech on Tiananmen (天安门 literally “heavenly peace gate”) which marked the founding of the People’s Republic of China, he apparently said he wanted industry to drive China into the future, and that he wanted to see factories stretching into the horizon from his perch at Tiananmen. Fortunately that didn’t quite come to pass, as the area around the Forbidden city is still filled with parks, museums, and alleyways (although those are fast disappearing thanks to good old capitalism), but it did mean the destruction of the inner and outer city walls in the 50’s.

He didn’t give up on that industry dream either, and heavy industry was responsible for the Northeast region (Dongbei) being the darling of young communist China.  Metal production, forestry, petroleum, machinery manufacturing; you name it, Dongbei had it. Shenyang was the center of that, producing much of the machinery used in other factories across the country, and so they’ve erected a museum in an old factory in the industrial district to commemorate its place in history.  Fun place to visit actually.

Mao went a little overboard though.  To fuel these factories smelting metal and producing building materials and other products, Mao started the “Great Leap Forward” which lasted from 1958 to 1962. In order to transition from an agrarian to industrial civilization, Mao made collective farming mandatory to reduce the number of people needed. Collectives were also given a quota of steel, which could often only be met by melting down farming equipment and other essentials in backyard furnaces, which produced low-grade, useless pig iron in addition to making it impossible to farm effectively.  Intellectuals who tried to point out the ineffectiveness of this were labeled counter-revolutionaries and subsequently imprisoned or executed.

While crops were good in 1958, locusts and labor diverted to steel production meant many crops went unharvested or wasted. Under pressure from the central government to demonstrate the success of communism though, local party bosses overreported production, so when their quotas were taken in, very little remained for people to eat.  No one at the top would really acknowledge it was happening either, lest they be purged.

As a result, historians estimate anywhere from 18 to 55 million people died of starvation, although it’s a tad bit more complicated than that.  If this and the Cultural Revolution hadn’t happened, who knows what China would be today.  Makes me sad to think about.

It didn’t stop Dongbei from fueling China’s rise though.  As I’ve mentioned, Dongbei is the rust belt of China, and bears startling resemblance to America’s.  The terrain, cuisine, personality of its residents, and economic history all share parallels.  At the risk of repeating an earlier post, I’ll spare you the details, but if you’re ever in China and wanna visit the American Midwest, Dongbei is the place to come.

Lastly, I’m sure you’ve all heard about the (not yet in place) ban on trans people serving in the military.  Some new things that I learned because of it: the military also doesn’t accept color blind people, people with flat feet, people with missing fingers, and people with bad anxiety, among others who don’t meet certain physical and mental requirements.  Due to a recent acquaintence, my facebook feed has gotten a lot more conservative. This is actually good for my diversity of views, and I find myself agreeing with a surprising amount of stuff the person in question posts (pro marijuana, pro gay marriage, anti-pharmaceuticals, anti-GOP establishment). That goes with a lot of stuff I don’t agree with, but you can’t have everything now, can you?

So some of the arguments in favor of the ban are that being transgender is another thing that could compromise a given person’s effectiveness as a soldier.  That’s all and well, but that operates on the pretty big assumption that being trans impacts a person’s effectiveness as a soldier in the first place. One veteran voicing such an opinion started his video by saying, “I’ve noticed a lot of liberal civilians suddenly became experts on the military, y’all need to shut the (expletive) up.”  His argument built on the above one that even cis people get torn apart by stress in a combat situation and made the assertion that trans people would be worse at dealing with it, thereby becoming a liability to their unit. What I find deliciously ironic is that he then talks at length about being trans while not being trans himself.  People against the ban keep asserting that being trans is some sort of detriment on the basis of fear and emotion alone.  It’s a load of bullshit IMO.

Given there’s an estimated 15,000 trans people in the military currently serving to great effectiveness.  Ask them how they’re doing, check their records. I think the ban is a stupid decision that will hamper our ability to fight wars instead.  The moral validity of those wars is beside the point.

Similarly, the ability to serve or not is kinda beside the point here as well, in my opinion as a cis person. Again, it’s not about bathrooms, it wasn’t just about bus seats in the 60’s, and it’s not just about the army this time. It’s about a group of American’s still getting labeled as “other” and being treated as lesser citizens as a result.

So again, to my trans and non-conforming friends and loved ones: you are not a burden. You are important, you are beautiful, you are loved.

Other conservatives seem upset with the fact that the military would pay for transition for these soldiers, as they also believe it shouldn’t pay for viagra or any number of other medical procedures it currently does.  So at least they’re consistent in their beliefs.

If you have 13 minutes, this documentary about a couple who are both trans members of the military is a great watch.

If you wanna rage donate like I did, the National Center for Transgender Equality is a great one.

Thanks for sticking through the entire post. Be well, and have a cute.


So I’m kind of earning my stay by using up my host’s supply of baking materials, a duty I’m quite enjoying.

I made my second attempt at bread pudding this week and damn. I’m amazed.  It kicks ass.  That might be by virtue of the fact it’s pretty hard to make sugar and butter taste bad, but I’m quite proud nonetheless.  This time around I actually managed to use enough bread to fill up the pan too so it cooked properly, which probably helped the taste.  Anything special about it?  I used a lot of filling, dried jujubes, dried goji berries, and chocolate chips, which I think go real well together, and had to sub brown sugar as it’s all that was available, but I think the molasses pairs well with the jujubes actually.  Anyway, I’m really proud of it.

WeChat Image_20170724090112

On less successful news, the cornbread came out well, but the brownies didn’t hold together.  I think I didn’t let them cool enough, but I did need the pan for the cornbread.

Less well, I made two attempts at custard to use up the mini pie crusts, but neither was willing to solidify enough to be edible.  still tasted good, but I’m not really sure what I did or didn’t do.

In other news, still working on my Fulbright article which is at about 11,000 characters now. I have some grammar points to clear up and then I’ll be ready to ask a Chinese person’s opinion on the piece as a whole.  Also connected with a Fulbright alumna from 2009 who happens to be in town which was fun, and did wonders for my self esteem as she said she pretty much sat on her butt for 6 months during her grant, so I’m actually doing a fair amount of stuff here.

Another Fulbright friend from the Harbin program and I were talking about that last month actually. I said something along the lines, “wow, I’m reading your blog and I feel like you’re doing all these amazing Fulbright things, that’s awesome!” And she said, “really? Cus I’ve been feeling like I’m doing jack shit, I thought you were the one doing so many things when I was reading *your* blog!” We’ve decided to dub this Fulbright impostor syndrome, where you feel like you’re wasting your time while everyone’s being productive, when in reality pretty much every Fulbrighter feels this way.  We suggested they add it to the orientation next year.  Realistically just a reminder to the new Fulbrighters that they will certainly feel this way, that it’s normal, and that checking in often with your colleagues will do a lot to mitigate it.

Other than that, not much to report, been reading, playing too many video games, have cat pictures. Sorry for a bit of a meh post. I’ll close with a passage from one of the books I’m reading for research, Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler.  It follows a mute woman through the American northwest in the 1870’s and is told from the perspectives of the people who encounter her.  It’s quite compelling so far, and wonderfully written.  I want to share with you an excerpt from a lumber town in Washington, when Sarah is being exhibited as the “Alaskan Wild Woman” and her “manager”‘s introductory monologue is woven in with the speech of a suffragette simultaneously speaking on the other side of town.

“Women are enigmas to you. She…
“…was raised by a she-wolf in a damp, flea-infested…
“…bed where one partner is taking pleasure at the expense of the other, shameless as…
“…a child who has suckled at the teat of the beast…
“…and yet, of course I need to explain the effect of uncosumated intercourse to no woman who is…
“…old enough to eat the raw meat for which she still retains…
“…an unnatural appetite, you men would have her believe, knowing nothing about her, and denying her a common humanity with…
“…the hunters who came upon her hunched over the body of her ‘mother,’ absolutely and innocently unclothed…
“…but she feels what you feel and needs what you need…
“…and now you may come forward and examine her for yourselves.”

I think it’s a brilliant piece of writing, and the fact that it’s Fowler’s first novel is astounding, setting the bar pretty high for my own endeavors, but maybe reading all this good literature will rub off on my somehow.  Enough talk, cats!

Raining Cats and Dogs

So my visa ventures have hit a snag (I needed to make an appointment which has delayed me a bit), meaning I’ll be extending my stay here in beautiful Shenyang.  And I gotta say, the city is so nice, even the trees bend over backwards to make you feel welcome!

WeChat Image_20170715094847

Bad joke is bad, but we got positively dumped on yesterday, check it out.  I was on my way to a send off party for Chinese students studying in the US at the consulate, and was tasked with bringing over some umbrellas.  Couldn’t find a cab, but was having a nice time walking over, hopping puddles, finding shallow routes, and generally getting some nostalgia for parkour, until I got to literally the last street I had to cross.  That main thoroughway was absolutely flooded.  Not seeing any other options, I hoped that it was less deep than it appeared and waded in.  Unfortunately, it was deeper than it appeared and the water immediately got inside my hiking boots :(. So that was uncomfortable, standing and chatting for four hours.

The event was super cool tho.  There was some good food, and I met a Chinese student going to UNC Chapel Hill to study biology and drama.  Normally no so amazing, but it came up in conversation that his favorite play is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.  I love that so much, as it also happens to be one of my favorite plays.  And I’m amazed his English is good enough to read it (he also apparently put on an English production of it at his high school).  You go dude!  He said he was worried about being a weird  drama kid (his parents aren’t super supportive), but I was like, “you’re awesome, you do you man.”

On the subject of artistic things that make me insanely happy, I finished “Essays on the City of Harbin” or just “Harbiners” for the Chinese title by local author A Cheng. It’s exactly what it sounds like, essays on the character of Harbiners and aspects of the city itself.  Admittedly I skimmed a fair amount of it, some of it was just inconsequential filler material, and not all of it stuck with me, but I got what I needed for my book project.  It had details about Harbin’s early Chinese community, descriptions of the city, info about what different economic strata of people ate, what their relationship with the Russians were and much more .  Some of it did seem a bit inconsequential, or inane, but even if it did have a single sentence that was useful to me,  I would still be so happy a book like this exists.  It’s obvious how much A Cheng loves his city and its people. This book is one of those that, in my opinion, make the world better just by existing. Art for art’s sake, y’know?

As far as the book progress, counting my notes, exercises, and sketches, I have a grand total of about 14,500 words written!  Feels good. Also have a character background for one of my characters

On less bright writing update. While my energy research article draft is at over 8,000 characters, I had that terrible moment when you realize you’ve been operating on a massive assumption, one so massive you couldn’t see it because it was all you could see. So I’ve had to reexamine my angle a bit and fortunately I think I’ve come up with one that won’t require me to completely scrap everything I’ve written. Really scared me for a minute there though. I thought I was going to see most of my hard work collapse and only leave behind a pale shadow as salvageable.

In other fun news, 122 countries adopted an agreement banning all nuclear weapons. It’s mostly symbolic, but it’s exciting that something’s happening.  Of course, no nuclear weapons states partook in the negotiations, but little actions like this are so important for the nonproliferation movement.  THIS article explains it really well if you’re interested in learning more.  I was sent the article by my old boss at the Wisconsin Project, who made my week by telling me the plant I bought them when I left two years ago (named Sergio) is still alive and prominently displayed in the conference room!

I also gave a talk on American college culture and Greek life at the consulate this week.  It was part of the same series of talks I talked about Wang Qingfu for two months ago.  This one was a bit more simple, but I think the audience enjoyed it.  Got some good questions, and some eyebrow raisers, but overall I had a great time, and the consulate was gracious and amazing to me as always.

Lastly, I attended the Northeast LGBT Forum.  Real fun.  I was only there for one of the four events, but heard some interesting speakers and even met a Fulbright alumna from 2009 who happened to be there.

WeChat Image_20170717074141

My most interesting takeaways were from a speaker who is a trans woman of some local renown (she was out full time in college around 2007 when basically no one was).  Anywho, she talked about her perceptions of the western LGBTQ community, saying it was really rigid, like there was only one way to be a gay man, a gay woman, a trans man etc. and if you didn’t fit that definition you were ridiculed by people both inside and outside of the community. Some others there who had spend more time in the states disagreed with her, but it was an interesting take.

She also seemed to have taken back 妖 (yao) which is best translated as “tranny.”  Much like “queer” in the West went from innocuous adjective to slur to reclaimed label of pride, it seems the Chinese community has done the same with 妖. A bit jarring to hear at first, and I don’t see it happening any time soon in the states, but power to them.  She’s also of the mind that if anyone discriminates against her for being trans you should chew them out, which I give her mad props for.

Oddly enough though, she’s also a proponent of sham marriages, meaning two gay people of opposite genders get married, have sex once to make a baby, satisfy the parents, and then go on living their individual lives.  It’s a fairly common occurence in China, and I’m not a fan.  I’m still of the opinion, as I mentioned in my Pride post HERE, that the situation in China will only get better if more people come out and raise acceptance by that means.  But these sham marriages, made to keep the truth from the participants’ parents, simply pass that fight on to the next generation.  So while I can’t judge, as I don’t know these peoples’ lives, I still don’t support it.  I found it interesting though that this woman was an advocate both of standing up for yourself, but also compromising to save your parents face.  Contradictory, in my eyes, but apparently not to those of a Chinese person.  She’s also in favor of the “coming home” method I described in that post wherein people drop hints to their parents as to their identities and hope for tacit acceptance (which she has apparently).

Some other speakers touched on the fact that the LGBTQ community doesn’t really have any concrete goals besides broader general acceptance since they’ve really only been active for 20 years at the most liberal estimates.

And lastly, here’s my pictures. Just because I’m not home doesn’t mean I don’t have cat pictures! Some highlights include a boardgame night featuring Cataan and a new game called Splendor which is all about being a Renaissance gem merchant. Public karaoke booths (which I have yet to try out, but seem brilliant), and a door that my hosts two year old managed to do this too when she opened the chain.  Says a lot about the quality of construction here. Also I made bread pudding! And scones!  Feels amazing to bake again, and baking is always better with a beer.


Nothing much new to report, but here’s the trivia with answers.  Separated to make the weekend post less massive.
1. Name the fifth Marx brother who never appeared on screen.  A: Gummo Marx
2.What was Harpo Marx’s birth name that he changed to Arthur in 1911? A: Adolph.
3. The band Rush’s song YYZ takes name and opening rhythm from the code for which Canadian airport? A: Toronto!
4.What city was the Eastern terminus of the Orient Express in 1914?A: Istanbul
5. On the same album as YYZ, Rush recorded another song about which American literary character? A: Tom Sawyer
6. Which current member of Rush was not a founding member? A: Drummer Neil Peart
7. Which Chinese dynasty moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing? A: The Ming Dynasty
8. What is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s relationship to Hamlet? A: They’re his college buddies.
9. How many stories does Moriarty appear in in original Sherlock Holmes? A: 2
10. How long was Holmes dead for? I.E. How many years in between him dying in the story and Conan Doyle resurrecting him in print? A: Ten years
11. What country is the alcohol pisco from? A: Peru
12. Make a dirty anagram out of Richard Nixon’s vice president SPIRO AGNEW’s name.
A: SPIRO AGNEW -> GROW A PENIS Apparently A GROIN SPEW is also acceptable.
13. Black tea in English corresponds to what color tea in Chinese? A: Red tea
14. What does the acronym FILTH stand for? A: “Failed In London, Try in Hongkong”
15. Exstacy is MDMA cut with another substance, traditionally an amphetamine. What is MDMA more commonly known as? Bonus, what was its original, legal usage?
A: Commonly known as Molly, MDMA was used in the 80’s in marriage counseling due to its ability to make users feel extremely affectionate and empathetic.
16. In the comic series Watchmen, what place becomes the 51st state? A: Vietnam. We win the war in that universe cus we have a super-powered being on our side.
17. Name the four great inventions of China.
A: The compass, gunpowder, block printing, and paper money.
18. Yuan dynasty playwright Guan Hanqing is often compared to which western playwright?
A: Shakespeare!
19. Name the three types of fencing swords. Need all three for the point.
A: Foil, Saber, and Epee.
20. What is the name of Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel? A: The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
21. How many crocus flowers to make a pound of saffron?
A: 75,000, ain’t that something?
22. What does the S in Harry S. Truman stand for?
A: Nothing, he just wanted a middle initial so he added it. Stands for S as well I guess
23. What is the only nonalcoholic ingredient in a corpse reviver no. 2 cocktail?
A: Lemon juice. Other ingredients are gin, absinthe, lilet, and Cointreau/curacao.
24. How many individual pieces per side in Chinese chess?
A: 16
25. What two provinces were the majority of the first Chinese in Harbin from? 1/2 point each.
A: Hebei and Shandong
26. Harbin originally consisted of which three districts?
A: Wharf (Daoli), Old City (Xiangfang), and New City (Nangang)
27. Name the Egyptian cat goddess.
A: Bastet
28. Where does the name Burma come from?
A: The majority Bamar ethnic group who historically ruled Myanmar.
29. What two colors were removed from original gay pride flag?
A: Pink and Turquoise.
30. What was the ratio of sheep to people in New Zealand as of 2015?
A: 6 to 1
31. Name the two styles of capoeira.
A: Angola and Regional
32. Name one of the five holy peaks Daoism (Also known as the五岳).
A: Any or all of Mt. Tai, Mt. Hua, Mt. Song, Mt. Heng, and Mt. Heng (there’s two)
33. Who is Bolivia named after?
A: Simon Bolivar
34. How many strikes for a perfect game in bowling? Bonus point, how many points is that?
A: 12 strikes for 300 points.
35. Where was the first campus of the University of California?
A: Berkeley
36. What country is Tom Hanks’ character from in the movie The Terminal?
A: Krakhozia
37. Dom Perignon, who invented champange was a member of which monastic order?
A: The Benedictine Monks.
38. What is the diameter of the earth?
A: 8k miles or about 13,000km
39. What is the painting La Gioconda more commonly known as?
A: The Mona Lisa
40. The only recorded death during an Olympic fencing bout occurred in what year? Bonus point for nationalities of the killer and victim.
A: Russian fencer Vladimir Smirnov was killed by Matthias Behr of West Germany in 1982 when Behr’s blade broke and stabbed Smirnov in the eye. Occurred at the 1982 world championships in Rome.

The highest score was 27 with other teams scoring significantly lower. Bye!


Nothing of immense importance going on this week, just a brief update and some collected thoughts.  I came down to Shenyang on Thursday at the gracious invitation of the consulate to their 4th of July party (held on July 6th, but who’s keeping score?) Huge event. Like huge, over 700 people. Nice food, the theme was American cinema so they had bits from West Side Story, Star Wars, Frozen, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca etc. playing, while a small orchestra played soundtracks. There was also a demonstration by a hula band and the Shenyang Hunters, who are apparently part of an American football league here, completely full of Chinese players.  They’re coached by one of the FSO’s who I had met before, and they demonstrated some plays for the audience.  Really cool, they knew what they were doing.

Schmoozed, chatted, and then had a nice relaxing Friday full of nothing but reading and writing.  I read a whole book!  Also read Dickens’ “Sketches by Boz” which are some great descriptive writing and kind of what I want to do with the book project (although at the suggestion of my brilliant sister among others I’ll be trying to do a character-driven story after all).  For those interested, the sketches can be found HERE for free.

Also made a trip to daowai earlier in the week, mostly for bao, altho I did get a bit of book material as well. (Partially the same thing actually, I will submit myself to your judgement and potential ridicule here by including a description of said bao that I whipped up and might use in the book). For reference, Fujiadian is the old name for Daowai.

“Zhang of Zhang’s Bao hailed from Tianjin.  True to their origins, his bao were thin-skinned and stuffed to bursting with filling; moist, without the soup that filled the squishy bodies of their southern cousins.  Most customers ordered those filled with cucumber and egg ones, but monied folk like Shi Chang, Mr. Li, or even your average Fujiadian resident on a special day, would spring for the rib ones.  The rib ones, Zhang’s pride and joy, couldn’t help but carry succulent broth inside, such was the tenderness of their filling. Meat, onions for crunch, the odd bone to remind gluttons to slowly savor each taste lest they lose the opportunity and a tooth.  The deep flavor of the ribs was topped with sweet-spicy notes of ginger, best muted with a vinegar bath for those unaccustomed.  The bao were fat, spiraling into a peak with streaks down the side, much like the domes of St. Sophia.”

Speaking of St. Sophia, I shared this article in Chinese on Facebook the other day, and now there’s an English version. Link here.  For those without the time to read, it’s an overview of the dissappearance of Harbin’s Russian architecture. I was remarking a week prior to reading it as well how sad it was to see Jihong bridge being torn down, although I didn’t know the reasons until reading the articles. I actually crossed that same bridge my second day ever in Harbin on the way to Central Street, and it made an incredibly deep impression on my mind.  It’s obelisks, one of which you can see in that second picture behind some netting, are absolutely striking, regal even, and the view of the train tracks and railyard as you cross over is really cool for someone from effectively train-less America.

I learned that, as with everything in life, money rules.  Daowai is disappearing because they want to build commercial stores.  Similarly Jihong bridge is being torn down to make way for a high speed rail as part of “One Belt One Road”. My initial reaction to learning this was outrage.  Harbin West has high speed rail, and Harbin is essentially selling its cultural heritage for a few bucks, depriving people of their beautiful city, their homes in the case of residents of Daowai, and tarnishing Harbin’s image, washing it away in the tide of modernity.

Then I stopped to think though.  Is this a necessary step? Is my sadness a privilege only afforded to those from developed countries? China desperately wants to better the lives of its citizens, and the Northeast in particular is in an economic slump.  Putting in a high speed rail and stimulating local consumption might be the only way to get the people up here the life they want.  Who am I as an American to say, “no, you can’t have that because I want to look at the pretty bridge.”  Were that how the facts actually were, my secondary train of thought would be completely right. However, as the article explains, conservationists in Harbin have been hard on the government’s case, and blame it for not doing a single thing to help preserve Daowai in its original form, rather letting it decay to nothing, then tear it down and replace it with either soulless block shops, or pale imitative recreations of its original glory.  Nor does it stop it the fading away from being heartbreaking.  As a result, I stand by my sadness, and was heartened to read about hundreds and thousands of locals protesting against the destruction.  Inspired to contact the people in the article when I’m back in town actually.

I also hosted trivia this week.  Instead of like last time, I’m going to post the questions now, and then the answers later this week.  Watch for them.

1. Name the fifth Marx brother who never appeared on screen.
2.What was Harpo Marx’s birth name that he changed to Arthur in 1911?
3. The band Rush’s song YYZ takes name and opening rhythm from the code for which Canadian airport?
4.What city was the Eastern terminus of the Orient Express in 1914?
5. On the same album as YYZ, Rush recorded another song about which American literary character?
6. Which current member of Rush was not a founding member? Guitarist Alex Lifeson, Bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee, or Drummer/lyricist Neil Peart?
7. Which Chinese dynasty most recently moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing?
8. What is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s relationship to Hamlet?
9. How many stories does Moriarty appear in in original Sherlock Holmes?
10. How long was Holmes dead for? I.E. How many years in between him dying in the story and Conan Doyle resurrecting him in print?
11. What country is the alcohol pisco from?
12. Make a dirty anagram out of Richard Nixon’s vice president SPIRO AGNEW’s name.
(There are two answers to this, I found out)
13. “Black tea” in English corresponds to what color tea in Chinese?
14. What does the acronym FILTH stand for? (Hint: It comes from British business)
15. Exstacy is MDMA cut with another substance, traditionally an amphetamine. What is pure MDMA more commonly known as? Bonus, what was its original, legal usage?
16. In the comic series Watchmen, what place becomes the 51st state?
17. Name the four great inventions of China. 1/2 point each
18. Yuan dynasty playwright Guan Hanqing is often compared to which western playwright?
19. Name the three types of fencing swords. You need all three for the point.
20. What is the name of Charles Dickens’ last novel. Unfinished because he died.
21. How many crocus flowers to make a pound of saffron?
22. What does the S in Harry S. Truman stand for?
23. What is the only nonalcoholic ingredient in a corpse reviver no. 2 cocktail? Bonus point if you can name all the ingredients.
24. How many individual pieces per side in Chinese chess?
25. What two provinces were the majority of the first Chinese in Harbin from after Russia started developing it? 1/2 point each.
26. Harbin originally consisted of which three districts? (Not even people at trivia got this, just give yourselves a free point here)
27. Name the Egyptian cat goddess.
28. Where does the name Burma come from?
29. What two colors were removed from original gay pride flag?
30. What was the ratio of sheep to people in New Zealand as of 2015?
31. Name the two main styles of capoeira.
32. Name one of the five holy peaks Daoism (Also known as the Five Yue).
33. Who is Bolivia named after?
34. How many strikes for a perfect game in bowling? Bonus point, how many points is that?
35. Where was the first campus of the University of California?
36. What country is Tom Hanks’ character from in The Terminal?
37. Dom Perignon, who invented champange, was a member of which monastic order?
38. What is the diameter of the earth?
39. What is the painting La Gioconda more commonly known as?
40. The only recorded death during an international fencing bout occurred in what year? Bonus point for nationalities of the killer and victim.