Friday, December 31, 2010


2011 is here.  Well... almost anyway. 

Next year I resolve to do the following, in no particular order...

I will finish blogging about China.

I will participate in another triathlon or three.

I will spend more time in the shop making knives and glass and other things.

I will spend more time playing with my kiddos than I do in the shop.

I will try to do more for the Wife who has supported me in this crazy adventure.

I will try to laugh more often, love more freely, forgive and let go.

I will do the best I can and not fear falling short.

I will look at the world through the eyes of my children to regain the wonder that is always there.

I will try to be more proactive than reactive.

I will wake earlier, to chase my goals and dreams with intensity.

I will live each day on purpose.

2010 is gone now, these days never to be regained.  Today I will spend considering the what ifs of the year.  Tomorrow I will let it go and move on.

Happy New Year to you all!  May it be filled with more joy than sorrow.  More dreams than tedium.  More love than ever before.

More Later

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Of Dinosaur Things and Dragonfly Wings

Today the Boyo has an extra couple of hours to prepare for the school day, thanks to the snows of last night.  Also thanks to the snow, I missed the lunar eclipse.  Unfortunate, because I love space sort of stuff (I'm starting to plan for the big Venusian transit in 2012) and because had it been clear, I would have taken the Wife and Boyo out to see it.  She likes space stuff too, and he is interested in everything!

For example.  As we entered a big box store last week looking for printer ink, he was telling me all of the wonderful things about dinosaurs he had learned that day in school.

"There is a big one called a T Rex that eats other ones!  And there is one with three horns called a trip... tram... uh..."
"Triceratops?" I asked.
"Yeah!  That one is cool!  And you know what Daddy?  I think we should raise a couple as pets for the yard!  We could get little baby ones and they would be our friends!"
"Umm... buddy?  Did they tell you that dinosaurs are extinct?" I asked.
"Yeah!" says he excitedly.
"Do you know what extinct means?"
"No!" just as excited.

So I explained it to him gently.  But still he was weeping as we walked through the front door, genuinely grieving for animals that have not walked on the planed for millenia.  Sad that we could not even go to a zoo to see them.  So we talked a bit about critters that have been around since dinosaur times.  Sharks are pretty much unchanged for example.
"Oooh!  Let's get some of those!" He said, brightening instantly.
"Umm... No."
Crocodiles, too, are pretty much the same.  Again I shot down the adoption idea for that critter also.
Dragonflies used to be the size of crows, and they have not changed in 300 million years!  He warmed greatly to that, and so we started learning about dragonflies.  More specifically, we started learning about the eighteen species that for sure live in our neck of the woods.  There may well be others, but since dragonflies are shockingly under studied nobody knows for sure.

But for now, the Boyo and I have learned to identify the 18 in our area, both the male and female of the species, too.  It is very fun to hold up the flashcards I made - like this one...

 and hear him say "Oooh!  That's the male Twelve Spotted Skimmer!"  or...

 "That's the female River Jewelwing, and she's a Damselfly, not a dragonfly!"
He can rattle off the names of the Widow Skimmer, Common Green Darner, Halloween Pennant, Ruby Meadowhawk, Common Whitetail, Ebony Jewelwing, Common Pondhawk, Canada Darner, Proghorn Clubtail, Saffron Winged Meadowhawk, Four Spotted Skimmer, Eastern Amberwing, White Faced Meadowhawk, Cherry Faced Meadowhawk, and his personal favorite, the Dot Tailed Whiteface, seen here showing why it is called what it is called!

I've even changed the pictures on the cards to make sure we are learning to identify the dragonfly and not the picture.  We look at wing patterns, body, face and tail markings, and even how they hold their wings to identify them.  It is really fun!

He's incredibly gifted with his recall ability.  I made 24 cards initially, with male and female of some species.  Within a couple of days he knew all 24.  Come this spring and summer, we'll be ready to go hunt our dinosaur dragonflies and maybe, just maybe, find one not on the list that is common to the area as well.  Who knows?  If we are really lucky and diligent, maybe we'll even discover a new species!

Want to know more about dragonflies in your area?  Check out  If you live in the US, you can go to the checklist part and find which species have been recorded in your county! 

Eastern Amberwing - male

It is a fun bonding project for him and me.  I think we will have some serious fun when the weather warms up!

More Later

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 9 - Shanghai

As shocking as it may seem, we once again awoke to a gray and cloudy day.  Today's agenda was pretty simple.  A trip to visit the Pearl Tower to get a view of the city, then some shopping, then a night at the theater to watch the acrobats of Shanghai.

Jimmy told us that it was the start of the Moon Festival.  This is an annual pilgrimage home for people all over the country.  As such, it also meant that the locals would be out and about seeing the sights too.  So when he told us that we would have to wait for hours at the Pearl Tower to go up, and that there were a couple other tall buildings we could go up sooner instead, we jumped at the chance.

We ended up going to the observation deck of the Jin Mao Tower.  It was a nice view, though a bit overcast.  We did get to see the Pearl Tower.

 And there was a view down the middle of the building as well.
 We also got to pose with Haibo, the World Expo mascot.  Some thought he looked like Gumby. 
 I thought he looked more like a sworl of toothpaste.
 The building next to the Jin Mao Tower is locally known as the bottle opener because of the shape.  But it is really called the Shanghai World Financial Center.  It is currently the tallest building in Shanghai, but will be surpassed soon by the under construction Shanghai Tower being built a couple of blocks away.
 Of course, there were a few things that seemed out of place in Shanghai China...
 But overall it is a very lovely city.
 We visited the Bund area next.  With views of modern and ever changing Shanghai...
 Right across the river from the European inspired architecture of the old world.
 Dad, naturally, was a source off picture taking frenzy by the locals...
 We then went to a huge shopping area, where we all scored some nice swag at excellent prices.  I have no pictures of this because I had planned on doing most of my souvenier shopping here, and we were given a grand total of about 45 minutes to do it.  No time for photos.

That night we saw the Shanghai Acrobats, a thouroughly enjoyable troupe.  My favorite were the "Hat Guys"  Seen here stacked on each other doing their thing.
 They each had three hats.  One hat was on a head and the other two were in the air somewhere.  It was good fun.  There was also this 8 year old kid who did the old stack-the-chairs-really-high-and-wave-from-the-top thing.
 It was a good show, and a great way to spend our last night in China.

This shot is for my sister.  She told me before we left that she had heard that Chinese toddlers didn't use diapers, they just had slits in thier pants and their parents cleaned up after them.
Sure enough, most of the toddlers we saw had the open backed pants!  This little guy was squatting to pick up and put down that water bottle, so we didn't see him "in action".  Which really was OK.

More Later

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 8 - Off the Boat and On to Shanghai

During the night the ship passed through the locks at the Three Gorges Dam.  Dad, Jason and I sat in the rain to witness the first lock.  But as midnight turned into almost two, we opted to sleep for the remainder of the locks.  

 Dad and I had lots of locking experiences from the Mississippi River expedition of 2002, but it was Jason's first. 

In the morning, it was time to take a bus over and tour the dam itself.  Along the way, we saw many a street worker in this creative headgear.
 When we reached the dam, the visibility was great, though the sky remained grey.
Our local guide mentioned that the skies were this clear only about 80 days of the year.  It was a great view of the dam and surrounding area.

 The dam was interesting, and the Chinese were rightfully proud of it.  But I preferred the natural and ancient wonders to the modern big cement plug we now saw.
 Back on the river, it seemed like a very short time until the ship was docking in Yichang where we would depart.  We got a photo with our friends in the dining room.  They were very cool and taught us a lot of useful Mandarin, most of which I wrote in my little book so I would not forget.
Jason, Theresa, Me, Peter and Ben.

We said our goodbyes and debarked the ship.  The drive to the airport held exotic vistas and was very beautiful.
In Shanghai, we checked into our hotel and were once again greeted by luxurious Western style accommodations.
Complete with excellent views.
Jason found out about some of the extra amenities of the hotel, including "skeet shooting" in the virtual shooting range in the hotel.  All three of us partook of that, and great fun was had by all.

Tomorrow in Shanghai we would be visiting a tall building, driving past the Worlds Fair, and seeing the Bund area.  To be honest, I was least looking forward to this part.  But since we were having so much fun, there was no pressure to "see" things.  which was nice!

More Later