Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Humble Administrator's Garden

After Tiger Hill we visited the Humble Administrator’s Garden. The literature states it is one of the four most famous gardens in China. That same literature does not tell me what the other three famous gardens are.

The garden was impressive. The structures were amazing, and the grounds were beautiful. It was a nice place to spend some time.

This is just inside the garden.

There were amazing ponds with huge Lotus flowers. Mili told us that most these gardens either have a pagoda in them, or someplace in the garden where a pagoda is visible. The pagoda in the photo below is actually in another garden.

Of course, this is what I kept seeing in the ponds.

These windows were wondrous. If you looked through the blue glass it appeared as if snow was covering the garden.

This vase sits in the Bonsai garden. The vase is taller than I am.

And proof that I was really there.

Tiger Hill

Today was a rare day. I had a day off. Usually I am working long days and through the weekends on these trips. But today I had a chance to go see some sights. We decided to go to Tiger Hill. The impressive sight at Tiger Hill is the Yunyan Pagoda. It is a seven story tall Pagoda that leans. It is taller and older than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The tower stands above the tomb of He Lu, King of State Wu. It is over 2500 years old, and is the number one tourist site in Suzhou.

Here are some photos from the day.

These guys were waiting at the entrance. They offered to take us, but the way those handles bend I’m not confident they would hold up.

This is the Sword Testing Rock.

This is Cici, Me, Mili, and Phil inside the garden.

Don't worry, I did not stride. I may have paced...

A picture of the leaning pagoda.

Here is a close-up of the leaning pagoda at its' base.

This photo shows how much lean the pagoda has. The structure in the foreground is vertical for comparison.

Be careful if it is raining.

Here are some carvings on Bamboo. I think it says Ryan + Kristin.

And I thought Bamboo was invasive scenery.

This is a tea garden.

And never forget, no whiffing in the pond.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Old and the New

I have been in China for a few days now. Having finished up in one factory, today I moved to a hotel closer to the second factory. I have been in this hotel before, and it has rather interesting architecture.

Suzhou is constantly under construction. There are factories and other buildings constantly going up. And there is always roadwork to keep up with the construction. The hotel I am at now sits right in a busy area of town. And it is a fairly new hotel. But they have tried to maintain some history in the design. From the outside it is supposed to resemble the Great Wall. In fact, when you turn into the hotel from the narrow, busy street you drive up a very steep and narrow ramp to the third floor where the lobby awaits.

This is the view from my hotel room. You can see the greenery and architecture of the hotel, with the modern city of Suzhou in the background. It is quite the contrast between old and new.

Here are some photos from the previous hotel showing the new and growing Suzhou.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gold Aspirations

Anyone who has been awake during the last couple weeks knows that the Olympics are taking place. And in China, no less! It is amazing to watch these athletes compete, the best in the world all together in Beijing.

Well, my time has come! I will be traveling to China to compete in the Factory Endurance Challenge. I feel that the three previous trips this year have prepared me well, and I will not stop short of the Gold.

The preliminaries have already taken place. I successfully booked a trip that includes a hotel switch in the middle. Arrangements have been made to get from the airport to the hotel. And to gain extra difficulty points for my performance a schedule change was thrown in a few days prior to departure. In an impressive show of skill I managed to move all my flights, hotels, and transportation arrangements out by a week. And I still have good seats on the flights.

Once in China I will spend time at two different factories, spending 10 to 17 hours a day standing on the factory floors. I think I can further impress the judges by going for Odd Food points.

Wish me luck in my endeavor. I will document my progress towards the Gold on Perspicacious Words.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cumberland Falls Moonbow

What exactly is a moonbow? It is basically a rainbow created from the light of the moon instead of the sun. There are only two places in the world where this phenomenon occurs on a predictable schedule. One is Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Africa. The second is Cumberland Falls in Corbin, Kentucky. There are a few other places moonbows can be seen during the right time of year, if conditions are good. But at these two locations the monbow can be viewed at each full moon throughout the year.

Being the spontaneous, unpredictable guy I am (just ask Kristin), I decided Friday after work we would drive the 80 miles to Cumberland Falls to see the moonbow that night. Okay, Kristin came up with the idea and I did not object. The moon was 99% full, and the skies seemed fairly clear.

As we drove south the clouds were closing in. The moonbow opportunity was not looking good. We arrived at the falls and decided to walk down the trail to get some waterfall photos. It was dark, and the trail was not lit. As most people did not think to bring flashlights (we are not most people), the viewing areas down the trail were empty. We set up the tripods and took some photos. We watched people in the distance trying to get photos with their point and shoot cameras, the flashes going off at random intervals. We chuckled a little as the flash does no good in these circumstances. Our exposures on the tripods ranged from 5 to 15 minutes each.

Here is a photo of the waterfall from one of the viewing areas.

Around 11:00pm we headed back towards the main viewing area. The full moon was now visible, but it was rather hazy and the moonbow was not present. However, there were plenty of people determined to find it. They would methodically scan the falls with their flashlights searching in earnest for the moonbow. I suspect these were the same folks that ask if the falls are turned off at night.

I setup and took a photo from the viewing area. As I was finishing up the clouds cleared out, and the full moon shined brightly overhead. As I worked my way back to Kristin and Rachael, Kristin had found the moonbow and was taking a photo. I setup next to her and took a few photos. Note that I only took a few, as each exposure was 5 to 8 minutes.

When you witness a moonbow your eyes see a light arc over the water. Individual colors are not really visible. When photographed, the colors can be faintly seen. It is incredible to experience, as very few people have observed the marvel. And I was able to come away with a moonbow photo.

Smallmouth Fishing

Last Saturday I went to the stream for a few hours of Smallmouth Bass fishing. The stream did not disappoint!

Usually we fish near the parking area. Saturday we walked up about 1/2 mile to a nearby swimming hole. Other than a few hikers, no one was in the area. I set up the fly rod with a Grasshopper on top with a weighted Woolly Bugger tied about 18 inches below. I purposely chose larger flies that the panfish would not be able to bite, after all I was after Smallmouth, not Bluegill.

As we worked our way back upstream we found several holes. The fish could be seen rolling underneath the water. A pattern developed - make a few casts, hook a Smallmouth and bring it in, then let the hole rest for 5 to 10 minute. After that go back to the bottom of the hole and repeat.

Here are a few of the fish from the day.

A nice size Smallmouth:

Check out the girth on this Rock Bass:

One of the last fish of the day:

And of course, what is a fishing tale without talking of the one that got away? As I was swinging the fly through a hole the rod bent over. The bend was to the handle - there was a big fish on the end. I fought for several minutes, without seeing what was on the end of the line. All of a sudden the fish came up and rolled. It was a nice sized fish. He looked at me and spit the fly out. And I think I heard him laughing as he swam away. I guess I'll have to go back and try for him again.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tying Flies

As I am sit here tying flies tonight I realize I have more boxes than I can imagine, each bursting with flies. I have dry flies, terrestrials, streamers, nymphs, and countless unnamed, experimental flies. Yet I always seem to be missing that one fly that I want for the next day's fishing.

I am reminded of a visit with Kristin's grandmother a few years ago. Grandma related a story about Kristin's grandfather and flies. It seems one evening he pulled out his fishing gear. He liberated the flies from their boxes and spread them out on the dining room table. Upon looking at the large table, completely obscured with flies, the only words from his mouth were:

I need some more flies - I just don't have enough.

I understand that sentiment.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fishing Surprise

Last night we went to the nearby lake to do some fishing with the family. Our target was Bluegill as the readily bite and are fun to catch. They are the perfect fish for a 3 year old to cut her teeth on. We worked up and down the same section of bank we usually fish. Other than one guy stepping in the middle and chucking large worms out (and not catching a thing), it was a fun evening.

We worked our way over to a new area we had not fished before. A large school of Bluegill was visible below the water surface. We fished that area for a while, all three of us catching fish. As I cast a little further out I noticed that some of the fish we were bringing in were actually Crappie, not Bluegill. They were small enough to easily mistake for a Bluegill. I remained in this area targeting Crappie, with the occasional move to another area of the lake when I saw Carp feeding. I have this obsession with catching a carp on a fly.

Due to the diminutive size of the fish, we were using small (size 18-22) flies. This made it much easier to hook the fish. I was casting out to a bed of weeds, working the fly over the Crappie. During one retrieve there was a very light take on the fly. The line slowly became taut and I lifted up on the rod. The lightweight rod I was using suddenly bent over and the line started to move side to side.

I kept pressure on the fish and moved myself over to a section of shoreline with less weeds. As the fish approached he did a turn and ran back out, taking the line with him. This happened two more times before I finally brought him into the shallows and landed him. While not the largest Bass I have caught, it was a nice surprise to bring him in from the bank. Especially on such a light rod, and on a tiny dry fly.