Friday, October 31, 2008

Heat Fail (or is it cold fail?)

Fine, I'm a wimp. I didn't do it. I wimped out and turned on my heat. I wanted to make it to November 15th like all the people in China, and like I did the past two winters, but I gave up. I failed.
Here's how I'll alleviate my guilt:

A.) It's not like the chinese people don't WANT heat before Nov 15th. If they had a choice I'm sure they'd turn it on well before that. They'd probably think I'm dumb for not turning mine on if I'm allowed.

B.) The day I turned on my heat (yesterday, 10/29) it snowed in my area. I didn't actually see the snow, but people said it did and the news said it did.

C.) I saw my breath, in my house.

I guess snow + seeing your breath = it's ok to turn on the heat. No need to go any further than that in 2008 USA. Now Harbin.... I wanted to live in Harbin, which is way north in China. They have an ice hotel and ice sculptures and ice festivals.... but I hate the cold.

Well, I made it to the first snow and seeing my breath in my living room. I guess I can be proud after all. Good enough!

Forward THIS for good luck! AAARGHHHH!

Ok, I've been sick of all the "forward this to 10 people" emails for about 10 years now. When will they ever stop?!? We've heard them all!

The last one I got, though I appreciate the sender's good intentions, had some amusing discrepancies in it..... "This is a Chinese proverb. It originated in the Netherlands." Ok, so they meant the guy who started sending it out sent it from the Netherlands, I guess. But it came across as rather silly at first. "It's been around the world 8 times". Really? How do you know that, and how do you count "around the world"? Do you have to send it along like this: Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, NY, NJ, PA, OH, ....... NV, CA, across the Pacific to Japan, China, etc...? Or if I send it directly to China and that person sends it right back to my area again does that count? Yeah, whatever.

It said a guy sent it out right away and won $99 million dollars in his country. In his country? What is that supposed to mean? You know 99 million tughriks is only $86,766? Still, I'd take it.

If you can tell me what country tughriks are from without looking it up, I'll give you one. It's worth $0.000876424.

And another guy DIDN'T send his and his son fell gravely ill. But then he sent it and the son got better. Another guy didn't send it and he lost his job.... so..... you're giving me BAD luck? Gee thanks. You're basically forcing me to take action. How dare you MAKE something BAD or GOOD happen to me when I didn't ask for anything. And why do I have to send it to 20 people to deserve the good luck? What if I don't have 20 people I can email to?

Finally, it said the good luck will come in 4 days.
Then it said within one day.
Then it said a few days.

Well, now if I have a run of bad luck I know who to blame. Some guy in the Netherlands who probably forgot about it by now. I hereby state that all the bad luck people like me are supposed to get... goes to him.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Open mic night and 11hrs of warm water

Ok so to complete the experiment, I checked on the water in the thermos after open mic night. There was less than a cup left, and after 11 hours total it was lukewarm. Warmer than the air, but cooler than my mouth. And it tasted a little like plastic. It was my first use of the thermos, though I did wash it. So if you buy this item, don't use it for guests more than 6-7 hours when it's new.

Open mic night was great tonight, for the first time I started feeling more sure of myself and there was one song at the end where we all just gave it all our might. It was a fast, loud, hard song, but it wasn't just noise, it was pretty good. They tape everything there; maybe I can get a copy.


I ended up with some little bruises on my hand, which tells me two things:
1 - I had fun and played well (so far the amount of hand pain actually equals how well I played)
2 - I'm playing wrong; I am now investigating proper hand positions.
A bruise means you broke a blood vessel, right? So I don't think that's smart, to go breaking blood vessels on purpose, and when I do, to continue beating on them, hitting the broken blood vessels hundreds more times.

Never underestimate the usefulness of a good Thermos(tm) and a hat

In my last entry I lamented the loss of my thermos mug from China. It kept liquid hot for over an hour, in February, with no lid. That's scientific genius, dontcha think?

In the spirit of saving money, and of wanting to be tough like I was in China (waiting until November 15, when the whole city's heat was turned on all at once - those communists ARE powerful - magical even!) I want to prolong turning on my heat as long as possible. (maybe they wanted to wait until EVERY LAST PERSON was so cold that they'd be so thankful and appreciative to even have heat when it finally came on)

So I'm going to try, and now that I announced it publicly (to all the millions of readers here) I'm going to have to really try to do it.


Can you make it?

Try it!

Our NJ/NY weather is similar to Beijing. If millions of Chinese people can do it, surely you can too. You can get a feel for what it's like to live in a big city in China. Don't turn your heat on until November 15th.

Some ways to beat the cold, inside:

- wear layers (no duh); this includes not only a sweater, but long johns under pants during the day as well as under jammies at night. I was amazed that EVERYONE had long johns on in China. Everyone does it, every day in the winter. It's a normal part of life in colder climates, just do it.

- wear a thin glove on your "mouse hand" while on the computer; when even one part of your body feels cold, you may perceive your whole body to be cold, turning up the heat, when really it was just your feet, or just your mouse hand, and you can fix that easily.

- wear double socks, and slippers

- get out an extra blanket and toss it on your bed (or under the top one if you care what it looks like)

- wear a hat to bed; after all, you're bundled up under blankets but all that heat is escaping from your head, which is the only part sticking out. I did this last winter and it was actually quite cozy and nice. It makes a HUGE difference. Trust me, before you start turning on your heat, just do the simple thing of wearing a knitted-type hat to bed. And keep it on in the morning until you get going. A hat and two blankets, and you can keep your thermostat down several degrees for 8 hours a day while you sleep, I promise you.

- take a water bottle to bed. I got that one from my cousin Patty; she had one for each kid. Then I learned that people in China do it too. Put it on your pillow before you lay your head down, then put it down by your feet or cuddle with it.

- have a hot drink at all times; you'd be surprised at how much warmer you'll stay simply sipping something hot every now & then, and holding it to warm your hands

... and to help you always have a hot drink on hand... without even having to get up off the couch... is an amazing discovery called THE VACUUM. No, not the thing you clean your floor with. A REAL thermos bottle, a GOOD one, has a vacuum (the air is sucked out) between the inner and outer walls. Most "thermos" (which is a name brand, but whatever brand) bottles & mugs, cheap ones especially, have two walls, but not a vacuum, just air between them. That helps a little, but it's NOTHIN' compared to having a vacuum in that space. SERIOUSLY. Here's what I just bought:

I got it from a Chinese food store, where they know the value of a good keep-water-hot-contraption. I'm broke lately, and please note I never buy anything except food, and electricity and phone... so to any very dear family members who may be reading this and I owe money to, please know I am not wasting my money on anything at all, and this $19.99 will actually keep my heat down, I'm not kidding. I actually drink straight hot water, and as I said, sipping it every now & then can make my whole body feel warm even when the temperature is as low as it was before drinking it.


Maybe 6, or 7, I don't know, but it's been FIVE HOURS ALREADY and the small amount of water (2-4 cups) in this 2.5liter thing is still too hot for me to put my finger in. I have to sip it carefully. I could make tea with it. After FIVE HOURS. You boil one pot of water, pour it in and you have hot water on your coffee table or at your desk all evening until bed, or all day at work.

Shoot, I gotta go, it's Open Mic Night.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

This fall's first soup (besides instant ramen)

The cashier lady at the farmer's market store only spoke Polish. She said the total in Polish and said a little something extra when I was done in Polish. I said "Thank you". I hope it was the right thing. Maybe it'd be a good place for me to stick my ESL class flyers.

I bought a few things, among them a healthy bread with sunflower seeds on top. Not too big, a nice small loaf. And remember the peas? Well I just bought the same size container of sunflower seeds. Out of the shell. Shelled is a little bit fun, but takes forever and it's more like a pastime activity than actual eating.

No really, it really is a pastime activity in China. People buy a nice big 1-lb bag and a new 5kuai DVD off the street and head home for a cozy relaxing Friday night. Shoot, now I want shelled ones.

And I bought "soup greens".
Pictured is half. The other half is in a pot with water, where else would it be?
The house smells really good right now. Soon I'll add half of the tofu and noodles.

I think today is the real beginning of fall. There was quite a chill in the air and I got the urge to make soup, so it must really be fall now. Today also felt like China. I made lots of soup there, and drank lots of hot water.

Yeah, you heard me. HOT WATER. PLAIN. JUST DRANK IT. STILL DO. You got a problem with that? I never did that before China, but I tried it and it caught on. Feels nice.

I miss my thermos mug. I can't believe I didn't bring it here, surely I could've stuck it in a box somewhere. It was GOOOOD. Not just a cheap sort-of-keep-it-warm thing.... oh no. This must've actually had a vacuum inside (like a real thermos should) because it kept my tea hot longer than anything I've ever seen! I did a test, and after 45min, with no lid on it mind you, I could not keep my finger in it for more than a few seconds without being burned. An hour and it was still hot. No kidding. In February.

Look at the steam coming off that soup! It's got the soup mix above, plus:
boullion cubes
a pinch of hot pepper
garlic powder
"midget bowtie" noodles (2/3's dumped in instead of half; there are way too many noodles)

And my spoon from China. Those spoons are way more practical for liquids. They have some depth to them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pea Addiction

I don't know about the rest of you, but I sometimes go on food binges. Not (always) in a bad way (though the recent sales on ice cream at Shoprite haven't helped much).... now it's dried peas. I'm on a slight health kick again, trying to eat more like I did in China, when I was 10lbs lighter. I gained weight almost instantly upon setting foot on American soil; we have cheese everywhere, that's one problem.

I am shocked at myself, really. I always thought of peas as vegetables. My son had them every day as baby food, it was his staple for about a year. As real peas (not baby mush or soup) I rarely bought them on purpose, and I'd figure the few I'd consume here or there eating out couldn't possibly add up to much, healthwise. Well apparently I made up for it all in the past 3 days.

108 grams of protein
54 grams of fibre
63 g of fat
27 g saturated fat (they've got some veg oil and salt on them)
216 calories this container, when full, of a pound of dried peas.
It'll be gone soon, there are less as I'm writing than when I took the picture 20min ago.

I just keep eating them.
They're freakin' good.
Too bad they have artificial color, I just noticed that when I took the picture.

And they were only $3/lb at a local Asian vegetable market, contrary to what some online health sites who are selling peas would have me believe ($5-10/lb). Considering I'm broke, and after all the unknown stuff I ate in China, I think the artificial color will be just fine for now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

my presidential debate comments

It's still going on and there are already articles on what's been said in the debates. In the good ol' days we wouldn't hear about it until tomorrow's paper or on the news shows afterwards.

So I'm going to do it too. My unpolitical opinion is that McCain is scared of losing now. For a moment I even saw it on his face. He thought he'd have an advantage in this town-hall style debate but not so. Obama's pretty darn comfortable speaking in any situation it seems.

On another note, I must say it's been pretty attack-free so far; the whole thing, all the campaigning. There've been a few things, like Obama being somehow related to a terrorist guy, and blahblahblah... but the little attacks get squashed pretty quickly, and there are far less than I expected and than I remember in past elections. One thing I remember thinking when I was younger about election time was that there were constantly ads trashing "the other guy", usually from both sides. Dirty play. And it was always one of the things I hated about politics. It's almost bearable nowadays.

Uh-oh. How is this related to China? Well, one good thing about their lack of competition in government is that the people don't have to be subjected to campaign ads and debates.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Open Mic Night

I had a blast at Open Mic Night a couple weeks ago. Well, "blast" is a strong word, but it was pretty darn cool. Felt good. Fun. Nice. Jammed out & stuff. It was the best I ever played my drum in front of (or with) anyone, ever. Well, there was that time I played til the sun came up at a Grateful Dead show but we won't say any more about that. We can't really say any more about it; it was 20+yrs ago and I barely remember it except that my hands really freakin' hurt afterwards, but it was the first time I drummed so there's a blur of it still in my mind.

Here's me at an open mic night in Beijing (summer 2007) at the Stone Boat, which is a tiny bar/teahouse with a small stage outside. Bad outdoor nighttime pics.
Hey, I just wore those pants and sneakers today. And where's that shirt?? I could be wearing it to work! (need to wear black) I like that shirt. I'm gonna go look for it. (can "gonna" apply to my last blog?)

"nukular" is more comfterble

She did it, like Bush, Palin said "nukular" instead of nuclear. heehee. No, I'm actually not a freak about such things, though I would correct my students if they said it that way, so... you'd think the president and vp would say it right... but WHATEVER....


Ok, so how does this relate to China? Uh... pronunciation, yeah that's it. All the little words we native speakers say wrong but those wrongs become natural and often even preferable to the correct pronunciations. When I was in China teaching English I had to correct my own pronunciation so that when my students imitated me they'd do it the right way, not the slang way or the drawling way or some regional-accent (NJ/NY) way.

Let's think of some examples together, shall we?

comfortable = comfterble ... Almost all of us do that; don't you? It's difficult to correct, and not much reason to in the US. If we all do it it's ok, right? (eek)
February = Febuary ... Once every few years I hear someone pronounce it like it's spelled, but again, I see no reason to not just keep saying "Febuary". In fact, let's go nuts and just stop spelling it with an R.
Wednesday = Wensday ... I've never in my life heard it pronounced like it's spelled and I'd sound like a dork if I said it that way.
clothes = close ... my students in China often said "clothe-es", 2 syllables. They don't have a TH sound in Chinese, so that's hard enough, let alone THS, so, to make life easier and let them just sound like us American-English speakers, I told them to just say "close". Maybe not right of me, but that's what it ends up sounding like and it's WAY better than "clothe-es".

Can any of my zero readers think of any more?

I know. It's sad. My idea of amusement is sometimes a bit... uh.... never mind. Goodbye.