Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Here is Rachael and I returning from a night of Trick or Treating. Not seen are the light-up glass slippers. After a few houses, it was determined that we could go to many more houses (hence, more candy) in other shoes.

Cinderella did pretty well, and came back loaded with candy for mom and dad to sort through and enjoy.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Home (Again)

The trip to China went well. I accomplished what I needed to and returned home safely, with no car wrecks or food poisoning.

As I walked to the baggage claim, there stood Kristin and Rachael.

I am finally home, again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

You Never Know...

Driving back to the hotel some incidents captured my attention.

A young lady was walking down the street. On her shirt, in rather large print, was printed Boys Need Yoga Too. I did not know that.

Further down the road a car was sitting on the side of the road. The driver was standing next to the car looking back. One end of a large rope was tied to the back of the car. The other end of the rope was lying on the asphalt, obviously broken apart. I hope he finds whatever he was towing. Maybe this would not have happened if he had Yoga.

You never know what you are going to see here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Today's Topic for Discussion...

When eating Lays Italian Meat flavored potato chips, exactly what type of meat are they supposed to taste like?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Panmen Scenery Area

Wandering around over the weekend, I found myself at the entrance to Panmen Scenery Area. I purchased a ticket and went in. After all, it was that or go back to the hotel room.

There were several areas inside the gates, including a large pagoda and an ancient structure with a Land Gate and a Water Gate. Since Suzhou has canals throughout the city, it was important to be able to block off both land and water routes from enemies.

Just inside the gates was this statue of an Ox. The sign in front stated quite plainly not to climb on the statue. I had to take the picture on my way out, as too many people were climbing onto its’ back for photos when I first walked by.

A little further down the path was this turtle. I found out later that it was Listening to Scriptres (yes that is the correct spelling).

The Ox and Turtle statues were in front of the Pagoda.

Behind the Pagoda was the Hall of Four Auspicious Merits. Although I never did learn what the four merits were, and what made them so auspicious. Maybe I should learn Chinese?

As I walked further through the area I passed the Captive Animals Freeing Pool. Why a pool to free animals into? This brought images of throwing cats into the water to my head.

A directional sign further down the way referred to it as a Captive Fish Freeing Pool. This made a little more sense.

I later saw this gentleman. His actions were acceptable – he was far away from the Fish Freeing Pool.

There were gardens and bridges around the various structures. The maintenance on these gardens must be incredible.

And pillars / tablets of various sorts were scattered throughout the gardens. Here are the Millennium Twin Stone Posts.

Followed by the Tablet of Filial Piety and Justice.

As I walked along I passed Moon Island.

This, of course, caused me to ponder. Where is Sun Island? Oh wait, there it is.

As I worked my way through the area, they had a display of ancient military tools. I do not think I would want to find myself facing these, especially the one with the spikes.

Atop the gates were cannons for additional protection.

With my limited grasp of the Chinese Language, I believe this is who the gates and cannons were protecting.

It was a nice day, and it was good to get out for a while.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Driving in China

I usually have a blog entry or two about the driving in China. Yesterday was actually a very tame driving day. I did not have to go out during rush, and there were not too many cars on the streets. I managed to get a few videos during my driving into work, and on my way home from dinner.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Déjà vu

Déjà vu – Noun - Disagreeable familiarity or sameness

Is it the 25 hours of travel? Maybe it is the smell as I disembark the airplane? Perhaps the joy of the Pu Dong airport baggage claim? Or the life risking 2 hour ride to Suzhou?

Maybe it is the familiarity of the streets as we approach the hotel? Or the lobby staff that recognizes you from previous visits? How about the awareness of precisely where your things belong in the room? Or knowing exactly which 4 television channels are in English?

Perhaps it is the same morning routine that has been repeated time and time again this year? Or the knowledge of exactly how long it will take to catch a Taxi outside the hotel? Maybe it is the feeling that you are just one of the guys at the factory? It may be picking up conversations where they were left off just a few weeks earlier?

Welcome (back) to China.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fall Color

I had planned on taking the third week of October off. We were going to do some day trips to view the autumn leaves. Typically around the 3rd week in October is the peak time. However, the last minute trip to China changed those plans. So Saturday we packed up the cameras and drove to Pine Mountain State Park to see what color we could find.

Rachael gets into the spirit too. Since Kristin and I both enjoy taking pictures we got a little (pink) camera for Rachael last Christmas. She enjoys it, and does a pretty good job of mimicking her mother and father when they are taking photos.

Although her favorite part of the day was stopping at the playground for a while.

There was still a lot of green. Pictures of the mountainsides show some color, but not yet at the peak when entire hills are nothing but red, orange, and yellow.

I did a few pictures of trees showing some color. When a single tree could be isolated from the green background the pictures turned out better.

This was a shot that I did not have high expectations for, but I am quite pleased with the results.

The best photos came from closeups of the leaves themselves. There were patches of vibrant color and textures. And the blue sky made for an excellent background.

And finally, during one stop we were looking out over a ridge. There were several Turkey Vultures flying around. That is not uncommon in this area, we see these birds often. I liked this shot showing the bird flying in front of the colored mountainside.

It was a nice way to spend the day. April and October are my favorite months in Kentucky. Unfortunately I will be gone most of October this year. At least we had one day before I leave to get out and take in the beauty of the area.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Work Where?

We were heading out this evening when Kristin asked Rachael about my job.

Where does daddy work? she asked.

In China Rachael quickly replied.

It is hard to argue with three year old logic.

Here We Go Again...

For the last few days I have been celebrating the fact that I was not going to have to go to China again this year. I have already spent 64 days there this year. Yes, that is over two months away from home.

Alas, my celebration was premature. This morning I was informed the company wants me to go to China again. The best part? They want me to leave in 3 days.

Here we go again...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Today's Topic for Discussion...

Do you remember when only paying $3.19/gallon of gas was not enough to get you excited?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

As Long As You Live Under This Roof...

The other night Rachael was playing with Nana. As bedtime approached she made it clear that she did not want to go to bed. Having exhausted her options with me, she went to Kristin. Once again her petition was rejected. With no alternative left, she took her plea to the only one left to listen:

Nana - I do not want to go to bed. Can I please stay and play with you?

Smoky Mountain National Park, Part IV - Wildlife

During our visit to the Park we saw quite a bit of wildlife. Mostly Deer and Bears. We also saw some turkeys walking through the meadow one evening. If you are interested in other interesting wildlife we saw refer to Kristin's post ...10 Things.

One day we were driving through Cades Cove. During one stop we saw these turkeys walking through the meadow.

Cades Cove was a great place to see wildlife. There were deer throughout the area. Some of these deer photos were also captured during a drive closer to the Gatlinburg area. Sometimes the deer were right up next to the road, although my favorite photos are those where they were back up in the trees.

This buck was licking its' own nose (Click to see the larger photo). I have some nephews that would love to have this skill.

An finally, for years I have wanted to see a bear in the wild. We were able to see several bears on this trip. And after getting a couple photos, I just want to say that a photographer that can get a good image has talent! These were tough to photograph, and I will definitely need to go back to get some better pictures.

The first was the neighborhood bear. Each evening he would wander through the cabins, methodically checking the garbage cans to see if any were unlocked. If they were locked, he moved on. If not, he would go through the garbage before moving to the next cabin.

This bear was down in a valley when we spotted him. We watched as he moved up through the brush, eventually crossing the hiking path above us. Unfortunately it was fairly dark, preventing me from getting fast enough shutter speeds for a good capture. This is one of the few that does not have too much motion blur in the image.

All in all it was a good trip. Hiking in the mountains during the day. Sitting in the hot tub at the cabin under the stars. And finally some cooler weather. Smoky Mountain National Park is a must see place if you are in the area.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Smoky Mountain National Park, Part III - Flowers

Wildflowers are always fun to see. As we traveled through Smoky Mountain National Park there were plenty in bloom. Unfortunately, I cannot identify the flowers for you.

Here are some photos:

There were quite a few butterflies congregating around the flowers. I attempted to get a few pictures.

And although not a flower, we did find a couple patches of leaves that had already turned bright red. Apparently the grasshopper enjoyed the leaves too.