January 31, 2009

Flash Mob Austin: The Freeze

I hit 200 posts with my last one! Nuts.

Today was eventful. I participated in a flash mob here in town, specifically, a coordinated attempt to spook the shoppers at Whole Foods by freezing in one place for five minutes. Since there were about 200 of us doing this, the effect proved quite eerie and generated a whole lot of confusion among the customers:

I'm not in the video, but I stood in place with my recently-purchased gelato and the wooden spoon in my mouth, as if finishing off a bite. Me and three friends were a bit outside the main "freeze" area, which worked to our advantage when shoppers walking past us mumbled things like "Oh, see, it is something they're doing" after navigating the main strip.

Best story from the event: As I was standing there, a woman came walking up the aisle towards me. She looked at me quizzically (although I didn't have the best view of her, since I was facing forward and she was off to my left) and started saying things like "Are you real? Is this real? What's going on?" Stoic as ever, I didn't say a word.

She turned to a store employee who was behind me and to the left and asked him what was up. "I have no idea," he answered. "This isn't my department. I don't know anything." It was great. On the inside, I was giggling at her confusion, but on the outside of course I had to remain motionless. She continued to hover around me and my friends until I blinked, at which point she clucked her tongue and said "Ah! You are real" and walked off.

I guess she thought we were all pieces of cardboard or something?

It was really fun listening to the other customers talking to each other about us as they walked by. It was even more fun watching the store employees give us these odd looks and smile at us. After the freeze ended, after five minutes, there was an announcement on the intercom about a special on hot tea, directed at "all of you who were previously frozen; it will warm your soul!"

I took a bunch of pictures at the park where we planned the event and met up afterwards. They're here. Highlights:

The Crowd Receives Instructions


Kelly, Ruben, and Tasha

Demonstrating How to Freeze

The last one is one of my favorites -- it's of two girls demonstrating how to freeze (as if we needed the help! Hmph) before we all disbanded and walked to Whole Foods. They chose the always-fashionable "high-five" pose. Unfortunately, since I was frozen, I wasn't able to take any pictures of anybody's poses. But there are a couple on flickr you can see from other people, to get an idea of what people were doing.

I had a lot of fun, and I'm definitely going to keep doing these things :-) I realized afterwards that this is the second flash mob I'd attended. The first one was, of course. WWPFD. That one wasn't in a highly-trafficked public area; therefore I think it's less "flash mob" and more "crazy thing to do on a Saturday afternoon." But they were both fun :-)

After it was over, some friends and I walked around downtown, where I got some more gorgeous photos. Samples:

Water Fountains

La Casa Del Fuego

The UT Tower

Look at that gorgeous sky! I'm so happy I invested in a nice polarizing filter.

January 28, 2009

You Learn Something New Every Day

Today it's that the word immiserate exists. Who knew?

Thanks NYT.

The Wrestler

There's a bunch of movies that came out in 2008 that I need to catch up on. I did see many of them, but some I missed, especially ones that came out later in the year. So last night I saw The Wrestler with some friends at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. I liked it, but I wasn't blown away by it. It was a little predictable, but the performances were solid. And, to be honest, I don't have much more to say about it than that :-)

I have heard a lot about Slumdog Millionaire, so I'd like to see that soon. I also want to see the new Frank Miller film The Spirit.

Also, the move-in date is set for February 9th! That's when my lease starts and I can occupy the house I'll be renting. (My cousin and his wife are currently living in it.) At that point I can finally start unpacking. Living out of a suitcase (or in my case, four or five of them) is getting really old.

Oh, and I sold my DSC-H50 today -- and no, it wasn't to a Nigerian scammer (who, by the way, threatened to "report" me to some unknown entity for reneging on our "deal") ;-) I hope to put the money towards a nice lens for my Canon! A nice macro lens that can double as a low-light lens might do the trick.

January 21, 2009

I'll Just Add to the Noise About Obama

Throughout the past eight years, I've always maintained that I'm not anti-Bush; I'm anti-stupid, and the Bush administration has provided plenty of stupid for me to be anti- to. I mean, Clinton did plenty of stupid things, and I'm sure Obama will too, and I'm sure the guy after him will do stupid things also, and so on until the sun explodes.

The Bush years were and will always be different for me, though. For one thing, it was during this time that I experienced my "political awakening" (to coin a phrase). I was 19 when Bush was elected in 2000 and am 27 now. In that time I graduated college, moved halfway across the country, held down a job for 4+ years, lived in China, and generally started my own version of my life, became a fully functioning member of society and whatnot. And I did it while Bush was doing the things he did as president.

Second, Bush racked up an impressive list of stupid things: Katrina. Guantanamo Bay. The warrantless wiretapping program. The Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The rancor and partisianship in Congress. The clusterfuck in Iraq. The executive orders and signing statements. Social Security plans tied to the stock market (how's that idea look now, bucko??) The perjury. The no-bid contracts to Halliburton. The lawsuits and the closing of any and all windows into what the President (and Veep) were doing. The PATRIOT Act and its successors. The cultivation and concentration of executive power into a hammer that was to be wielded. The demonization of enemies. The complete bungling of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which is something that even us "liberals" would rally behind, if we ever started it up again. The reliance on memories of 9/11 to back up his actions. The assertions that the President and his administration were above the law and beyond scrutiny. The pure unflinching belief that he was always right, which translated into we must never change direction, which also translated into if you don't agree with me, you're wrong.

It's stupid, is what it is. Just plain pigheadedly arrogant and blindingly stupid. Like I said at the beginning.

Not that the opposition to him has been much smarter. In response to all this, "liberals" (lord I hate that word) have started to fight fire with fire by establishing bastions of thought like Air America and getting people like Al Franken to be senator (did he win? I know it was contested). When will they realize that if you fight fire with fire, you burn the goddamn house down? When Jon Stewart went on Crossfire and lambasted the hosts for playing their roles like trained monkeys, carving up America into pieces, that really spoke to me. Watch that video. Listen to Jon Stewart and listen to Paul and Tucker try to talk over him. They know it's true, but their jobs and images depend on it not being true. They don't even answer his accusations, they just say things like "Wow, I wouldn't want to have dinner at your house." Hah. But it's become trendy to bash Bush, so much so that I don't pay attention to liberal rags (MoveOn, DailyKos, HuffingtonPost, etc.) that have sprouted up in opposition to Fox News and the "right-wing" media. It's two sides of the same coin; it's all BS mixing with more BS, and it makes me tired and sad to listen to it.

Kerry, well, let me just say this: Bush didn't win the 2004 election; Kerry lost it. I never fully supported him, and I felt guilty for voting for him because of it. But that was definitely a "lesser of two evils" case. It was a "check this box in case of emergency" vote. I feel bad about voting for Kerry, and I hope I never have to do that again.

You could say I'm jaded.

So when Obama won, my throat caught for a second (well, more than a second). Why? Because I felt great about voting for him, albeit a tad uninformed since I was out of the US for the majority of the campaign. Although I know he is a human being and a politician at that, I believe he can lead us forwards rather than backwards. I believe that he knows that leading means setting an example but changing directions, and acknowledging your mistakes, when you find out you're wrong. I believe he has a concept of basic human morality that is closer to my own than Bush's is. I believe that he will make sound decisions based on what information he has, espeically after the debacle that is the Iraq invasion. I believe I can believe him. And I believe that, though he has his faults and will make mistakes, he will be a good leader.

Because we really need one right now.

I think it's interesting that some people are getting upset about Obama choosing many Clintonites for his staff and advisory positions, or that he's not setting fire to the White House and building the whole thing from the ground up, or that he never placed a "Kick Me" sign on Bush's back. I think many people have this idea of Obama as the Christ child come to Earth, some sort of savior sent from above to deliver us from darkness. People: he's a human being. He will make mistakes and piss people off, just like Bush did. He and his administration will provide plenty of fodder for The Daily Show. But the difference is that I believe Obama can recover from those mistakes and do what's right and what needs to be done. Hell in his first 6 days as president he's already shut Gitmo, outlawed torture/rendition/CIA jails, and frozen the pay of his higher-level staff. Let's hope he upgrades their PCs, though.

See now, Bush: that wasn't so hard, was it?

January 20, 2009

High Dynamic Range

It's amazing what computers can do these days.


Red Bud Isle Park

Becomes this:

Red Bud Isle in HDR

Is that jaw-dropping or what?

January 19, 2009

My Nigerian Scammer

I love craigslist, but some people on it are just plain wacky. Now that I upgraded my camera, I need to sell my old one. So I posted an ad. Here's what happened:


hope all is well. I am interested in your
sales, Kindly get back to me if is still for sale.


Hi Rose,

Yes, the item is still for sale. I'm free to deliver anytime tonight or this weekend.


Thanks for the mail...i was introduced to this site by a friend at
work and i will like immediate purchase of this item for my Brother
who is away out of the state to study in western region and
been requesting for this item...i will offer you $400.00 including the
shipping charges to him.. there because he is in need of it as a
matter of urgency and due to my work i don't have time to handle the
shipping..i will want you to help me handle the shipping very well to
him..Get back to me with your confirmed PayPal email address so that i
can send the payment..... Get back to me asap...



I prefer to sell in Austin and for cash only. Can you do that?


am assuring you this will be a legit,............


Okay. Paypal the money to <email address>. It'll take 3 - 5 days to clear -- once it does, I'll mail out the items. Just send me the address.


ok i will make the payment now and get back to you with the shipping
address thanks i trust in you..................

IN MY INBOX I get an email, seemingly from PayPal, that says money has been placed in an escrow (verification.intl@consultant.com -- a real confidence-inspiring email address if I ever saw one) until I have verified shipment of the item. I wasn't aware that PayPal did this sort of thing (I have had an account there since 2001 and have used them countless times), but what really tripped my alarm was when I saw the shipping address in fucking NIGERIA. Yeah, that just about did it. But I had to be sure. So I went to PayPal (being careful not to click any link in the email I was sent) and couldn't find any evidence, in my inbox there or my account history, that anyone had tried to send me money. We now return to your regularly scheduled email thread ...


By now you suppose to have received the paypal payment confirmation
because i have made the payment

for the item through paypal.You have to go ahead and ship the items to
the designated address below


Bashiru Ismaheel

And kindly send the tracking number and the scanned receipt to me so
that i can Notify the Paypal

that you have shipped the item to the designated address.It's my
Pleasure doing Business wtih

you.Thanks and God Bless.I trust in you.


Hi Rose,

I will not ship to Nigeria. Please retract the payment.


Hi Rose,

I just want to be clear. I'm cancelling this sale and I'm going to offer the camera set to somebody else. I'll try and work with Paypal to send the money back to you; if that doesn't happen, you should retract the payment from your end.

NOTE that I'm pretty sure "Rose" never actually sent any money. Although the "pending payment" notification seemingly came from PayPal, the scammer probably spoofed the email's origins. So at this point, I'm not too worried about retracting a "payment". Also, from PayPal's point of view -- there's nothing to retract! No one's tried to send me money.


Well.. this is why PayPal holds money,...its all for our
security....OK? PayPal hold the money so that they can confirm that
you are a legitimate seller of your item......OK? but i will like you
to understand that the money is out of my account and i have already
sent you an additional payment for the shipping so i will be happy if
you can proceed with the transaction because ths is secure and
Legitimate.. so Kindly proceed and i can assure you that you are
secure and safe when dealing with PayPal Ok?Kindly Understand my view
and ship the item so that it can reach the destination on time... and
i shall appreciate all your great gestures by doing this....make sure
you go ahead and ship it then provide the shipping details to paypal
while your account will be credited accordinly.....
I really count on this transaction


Hi Rose,

I'm still cancelling the sale. Please contact Paypal to have your money returned.


Is like you are trying tO fraud me,i had made the payment to you but
you refused to ship the items

to the designated address after you have received the payment
confirmation from paypal which is

against the paypal rules and terms of conditions and in most the Laws
of United State.If you dont

want me to take a legal action against you as an UN diplomatic
officer,You have to ship the item to

the designated address within the next 12 hours.Again the item is to
be shipped to the beneficiary

in Nigeria and the address is as shown below:

Bashiru Ismaheel

BE WARNED..................



I have not taken any money from you. No money from you has been deposited in my Paypal account or bank account.

Please cancel your payment to me. This is the last email I will send.

* * *

Fun, huh? A Google search for "Bashiru Ismaheel" returns this page, which shows me I'm not the only one, lol. Even the name "Rose" is the same!

Ummm ...anyone wanna buy a camera?

January 18, 2009

Quick O's Update

Smart moves by the O's this weekend. I was at a house party Saturday night and happened to catch a scrolling ticker on ESPN that said we signed Markakis to a 6-year deal. (Upon looking more today, the deal isn't official yet.) And I saw today we got Felix Pie (I'm pretty sure his name is pronounced Pee-Yay), a player who was overshadowed in Chicago but will have a chance to shine in a great outfield that also includes Markakis and Adam Jones. And we only had to give up one of our crappy interchangeable pitchers. (The O's have a surplus of them.) Young outfielders are more of a sure thing than young pitchers are. This also means that our entire outfield is 25 years old or younger, which makes me feel a bit old ;-)

Andy MacPhail is doing a great job so far. I'm so happy we traded Bedard and Tejada and didn't sign Teixeira. Now we just need Peter Angelos to sell the team to Cal Ripken Jr. and we'll be all set!

You Just Don't Get Skies Like This in China

Okay, that's a lie, you do -- but it seems more rare than in Austin.

I also changed the blog template again -- this time, it's so that the posts column can display landscape pictures without cutting them off.

Speaking of which, this blog needs a new name ... any suggestions?

Lake Austin @ Mozart's

Red Bud Isle Park

Red Bud Isle Park

January 17, 2009

More w/the New Cam

Texas State Capitol

Capitol Visitors' Center

That is, of course, the Texas State Capitol. In the true Texas spirit, it's taller than the nation's capitol building in DC, by a good 14 feet, and it is the largest in the US. However it's still shorter than the Louisiana state capitol. Of course now whenever anybody uses that phrase "Everything's bigger in Texas" I will retort "You've obvously never been to China!" Haha. Although I'm sure that comes off sounding really elitist ;-) In fact, when I first got to China, one of the first things I learned how to say was "Have you ever been to the US?" Ni qu guo mei guo ma? So I asked everybody that -- but I realized that asking cabdrivers and ayis that comes off sounding really, well, I dunno, like of course they've never been to America -- just like a lot of people in the US have never been to China.

I feel so lucky :-)

The pictures above use a polarizing filter that I bought alongside the camera. It's not really bright enough out today to use one, but I did anyway because I was just curious how the photos would turn out. They look pretty nice. I can't wait until a clearer day so I can really bring out the contrast in these vast Texas skies. I took lots more pictures today, but those are the ones I feel are worthy of sharing with ya'll, haha.

Randomness: I was taking pictures of the strip-mall sign outside Epoch Coffee today when this gangly guy asked "Are you a professional photographer?" I said no, not really, but I knew how to handle the camera I've got. He was like "Great, I'm looking for someone to take a picture of me, I'll pay you money, just follow me into that alley over there."

Are you fucking kidding me?? I mean this guy was skinny and whatever, I probably could have taken him (not that I'm a fighter) but he could have had a gun or a knife or something. Hahaha. I dunno. It was just a strange situation. So I left.

In other news, congratulations are in order for Joe Straus, who was elected Speaker of the Texas House the other day, becoming the first MOT to hold the position. Yeah, we're taking over the world, one state legislature at a time!!

January 15, 2009

If It's Good Enough for Obama ...

... it's good enough for me. 2 hours after buying a Canon DSLR, I discover the official presidential portrait was taken with one (albeit a much nicer one).  Nice.

New slogan: "Canon: The Liberal ChoiceTM"

I'm just waiting for my dang battery to charge so I can use the thing!

The Dawn of an Era


Yup, I done did it! Went out and bought myself an EOS Rebel 450D XSi with kit lens. I also got a really nice polarizing filter so I can take those sunny-day shots Austin is known for. And of course I bought locally.

I can't wait to get out there this weekend and start experimenting! I'm sure my flickr stream will be full of test shots soon.

I also bought a car (that I talked about before) and a TV. It is really strange spending money again, haha. I also found myself a place to live. Unfortunately I can't move in there for another 4 weeks. It's okay -- it's worth the wait!!

There's not much else going on -- well, that's a lie. My social calendar is filling up rapidly. It feels really good and comfortable to be back home among friends and be able to do stuff again. Not that I couldn't do stuff in Shanghai -- far from it -- it's just that, well, um ... I like it here :-)

Good to be back.

January 8, 2009

Chinese in America

Some friends wanted to take me out for Chinese food, and who am I to turn them down? I was pretty interested in seeing what that was like, now that I can sort of read the menus and talk to the waiters in Chinese. So we went to Din Ho Chinese BBQ, one of the more "authentic" Chinese places in Austin. The food was still very different, and differently prepared, but it was good. Plus I was able to get beef & tomatoes over white rice with no problem. That's a pretty popular staple dish in China, plus I knew how to order it in Chinese (fanqie niurou mifan) :-) I spoke a little bit with the waitress, who was pleased that I could speak Chinese. (Judging from her accent, I think she's from Taiwan.) I even used fuwuyuan, maidan, and women dian cai ba just like in China. It felt so strange because I knew I was in America! But at the same time it was great. Just another reminder of my wonderful 2008. Plus, well, I like showing off, and that was a great opportunity to do so :-) Mission accomplished, I'd say, haha. Can't wait to do it again!

January 4, 2009


You might think that pictures of mops are not interesting enough to warrant an entire group on flickr.

You would be wrong.

I got a new car yesterday. Well, it's "new to me". It's a 2008 Nissan Altima. It's perfect for me. It doesn't have a key! It has a little pod thingie that you keep in your pocket. To start the car, the pod must be in proximity to a sensor on the dash, and you just push a button. FUTURISTIC. When does the hovering start?

I made sure the car I bought had an aux line-in input. I've sworn off CDs -- seems like a waste of materials, not to mention time and money, to burn CDs of my entire music collection. Having the iPod around is way too convenient.

After I get more settled in, I am going to get custom license plates that say "GAORUIAN" -- my Chinese name -- unless somebody already has it, which I highly doubt ;-) Too bad they can't put Chinese characters on license plates, haha. Pics soon :-)

I've also been looking for a place to live. I looked at a small house (to rent) in Hyde Park today -- but it's not me. Too ... well, too run-down I guess. (In Austin, the code word for that is "funky", especially if the place is in a trendy neighborhood like HP.) I need a bit nicer abode. I've been looking online, and I'll probably get a locator to help me soon. According to my barber today, rent's gone up around town, as the recession hasn't affected prices in Austin too much. People keep moving here!!

I also got a TV. Actually I bid on it on eBay before I left Shanghai. I emailed the seller and was like "You don't have to ship it to China; I'm returning to the US soon." He responded with "Wow you're in China!! That's awesome!! I hope you win!!" and I did :-) So I'm going to pick it up today. Speaking of talking about China with random people, I have already begun. I've talked with, let's see, the woman who gave me the rental car, the woman to whom I returned it, the woman at the desk of my hotel, the woman whose house I looked at today, and the woman who cut my hair today. I talked to all of them about China, and I taught the rental car woman how to say 谢谢, but I'm sure she'll forget soon :-) Of course I also talked about it with Kevin and Shawna and Toby, whom I saw yesterday, endlessly. That'll be par for the course for the next, oh, six months to a year. I remember when I first moved here I kept vocally comparing Austin to Richmond. Now that the comparisons are even more extreme, I'm sure I will talk more about them!

Speaking of China, again, it doesn't feel like the whole year happened. I think that's just because I just got back here yesterday. The change will hit me in a couple of weeks, I think. I am so happy I took all those pictures, though. Downtown today, I mumbled a bit of Chinese to myself in order to remind myself that I did in fact live there. And I took some pictures during my last few days there that I have yet to upload, but I'll probably do that soon (if I can find my camera's USB cable among my possessions at the moment).

I keep wanting to talk to staff/employees (waiters, people at the cash register, etc.) in Chinese. Haha. And when Kevin and I went to dinner last night, the waiter checked up on us like three times. It was so weird! They don't do that in China. You have to flag them down to even order food. And they never come back to see how your meal tastes.

Austin feels peaceful, just like I left it. No tall buildings. Lots of character. Nice people. Good food. Great weather (although it's in the 40s now). It's missing the humming buzz of activity in Shanghai and China. Right now though, that's a good thing.

So when I'm awake now, my friends and family also are awake. That's weird because I'm used to checking my email first thing in the morning and receiving a batch of updates on, you know, what happened while I was asleep. It'll be strange to let events in the US unfold throughout the day, rather than reading about them all at once.

I watched Law & Order on TV yesterday morning and it was comforting. And I drove around Mopac and West Austin today, just soaking things in. Ate lunch at Austin Java. Tonight I'm planning on meeting up with the Austin Hokies to watch VT basketball. It should be a good way to socialize and ease through the jet lag.

January 3, 2009


After abour 24 hours of travelling, I'm home. As we were descending into Austin, I had to keep reminding myself that we were NOT descending into Shanghai.

I had no idea there were so many white people in this world. And they all speak English??! How strange!!

In LA, I helped an old lady across the street.

I still remember Austin's street layout pretty well. Enough to get me to my hotel without needing a map. On the 30-minute drive from the airport to the hotel, I was inspired to take several pictures -- unfortunately, being as I was driving at the time, it didn't go any further than inspiration.

Oh well. That can wait. I have all the time in the world, now :-)

January 1, 2009

So Long, and Thanks for All the Baozi

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who's made this all possible: Mavis, Tiny Joe, Smitty, Rufus, Adelaide, Mr. Tibbets, Miss Wanda, Shaniqua, and of course, Bob. We had a great year, didn't we? Laughed a little, cried a little, got freaked out when crotchety old Mr. Dinkis shut down production and locked up all of our set pieces. But by golly, we held bake sale after bake sale to raise the $50,000 needed to keep us on the air. And when that wasn't enough, at the last second, we discovered that old Seamus, quiet old scruffy loveable Seamus who hadn't spoken to anyone in years, was Mr. Dinkis's son and heir to the entire CompuCo fortune.

* * *

Okay, sorry, had to get that out of my system :-) Ah geez man, I don't think there's anything I could say that would do justice to the incredible time I've had in 2008. I could list all the experiences I've had, or all the people I've met, or all the things I will miss -- but none of that would come close to reality. I really could talk for hours, days even, and not get close to the point. But I can try.

I'll miss chopsticks, eating family style, inexpensive food, my Chinese co-workers and friends, my maid, not having a car, not hearing about Iraq every damn day, learning to speak (and even read a bit of) Chinese, surprising people by speaking Chinese with them, eating real Chinese food, night markets, insane amounts of neon-lit modern architecture everywhere, eating things that I have no clue what the hell they are and finding out they're delicious, the terrible terrible 10:30 nightly movies on ICS, catching people stealing glances at me in public places, smiling at small Chinese children when they stare at me, being asked to have my picture taken on the street, feeling different and special when I look around me, the unique aspects of traveling in a foreign country, the seemingly-exotic locations this country offers, doing things just to say I've done them, teaching people English and American culture, seeing myself from the outside-in, and so much more.

I've learned a lot about myself and how I handle adversity, how I adapt to different situations, how people see me, and I see other people, what I like, what I don't like, how I like my life to be, what happens when that apple cart gets upset, and so on. I've had the chance to critically think about things I took for granted for so long, like the English language (why does "I'm working out of Boston" mean the exact opposite of "I'm working outside of Boston"?) and so many facets of American culture. I've experienced an election from outside the country, and the Olympics from within a foreign country. I've seen what these things mean to people not only of the home country, but in foreign countries as well.

With all that said: I am really looking forward to going home for a lot of reasons. Austin is an amazing city -- at least it was when I left, I hope it's still amazing ;-) But the primary reason I'm looking forward to going home is that, while I did not come to Shanghai feeling like this was going to be a "temporary life", it has come to feel like one during the past several months. Ever since going home in January was set in stone, I felt I've put my "real" life on hold because, well, I guess it's just tough for me to invest time in something that I know is ending on a specific date. The same thing .happened when I left Austin for Shanghai, Richmond for Austin, and even Blacksburg for Richmond. I guess I am just practical. But in the last ten years, I have moved addresses in eight of them: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009, with the big moves coming in 1999 (Columbia to Blacksburg), 2003 (Blacksburg to Richmond), 2004 (Richmond to Austin), 2008 (Austin to Shanghai), and 2009 (Shanghai to Austin). The rest were in-city moves, but still, I am tired of packing up my life every eight to ten months. So while I feel incredibly lucky to have had this experience, I'm very much looking forward to, well, not moving from place to place for a little while ;-)

I mean, of course, who knows whether I will stay in Austin? Who knows how long anyone will stay anywhere? But I am not looking to leave the ATX (as it is known to us cool kids) anytime soon. I have no plans to do so. I remember having fond feelings for the city and, as some Shanghai friends and co-workers can attest, I've been babbling on about it for some time now ;-) We'll of course see how I feel after I've been back for a bit. I'm not expecting life to be the same as it was in Shanghai or even how it was right before I left. But I'm really looking forward to just ... settling in and not having to think about moving anywhere unless I really, really want to.

I'm not complaining about having to move to and from China, of course. The experiences here have been far far far far more than worth it, even above and beyond what I had expected. When I signed up for this endeavor, I knew it would mean at least one more year (well, I thought it was 6 months at the time) of semipermanent residency, and I knew how I would feel (or come to feel) about that. I was initially unprepared to deal with it, thinking that a two-year minimum would be more palatable (so I could settle more into living here). But as I thought more about it, the opportunity I was being offered far outweighed the transient status I would yet again have to live with. So I came, and I don't regret it one bit.


Thank you all for coming along on this ride and reading this blog. Thanks for commenting and all the compliments. Thanks for showing interest, even if you never made a comment. Thanks for looking at my pictures on flickr. Thanks for talking to me, via phone and Skype and email and instant message and the occasional visit, either for yourself or as a proxy for someone who doesn't even know me. Thanks for being there waiting for me when I get back. Thanks for helping me process my thoughts about 2008.

I really really enjoyed writing this blog. My mind works best when in a conversation, and often when there's nobody around, writing this blog feels like having a conversation with myself, but because I can reasonably assume that people will read what I have to say, I don't feel like I'm talking to myself. It's great. I come up with ideas and free up space in the ol' noggin to boot.

The main purpose of this blog was to share my thoughts about a foreign country and culture with multiple people all at once, so when I returned and people were like "How was China?" I wouldn't get all tongue tied thinking of an answer. I could just say "Go read the blog!" Ha. (I mean, how can you really answer a question like that? I think it's impossible unless you take 5 hours to explain the answer. After working as a technical writer for 4+ years, I have lost the ability to answer generic questions in a meaningful way.)

I also started this blog so I wouldn't get to the end of this trip and feel like I hadn't done anything. There's no way everyone can remember everything that happens in a year, even when it stands out in vivid color because you're living in a foreign country. So 180+ blog posts, almost 3,000 pictures, and several videos later, I think it's safe to say I don't feel that way, so mission accomplished on that part!

In a way the blog (and photostream on flickr) morphed into its own thing. I grew to actively want to share China's experiences and places with you all (instead of just, say, capturing them for my own records). I would go places, have one experience or another, and immediately think about the wording I was going to use to capture it on my blog. Or I'd take a picture of something because it showcased some part of China, or just some interesting thing, I thought you all would want to see.

Several people have asked me what will become of this blog after I return to the US. It's very flattering to hear people so interested :-) I do imagine it will continue. After all, I have to re-integrate into American life again. I'm sure I will have some adventures along that road that are worth documenting here. Not to mention there's a lot of stuff I couldn't post here for one reason or another, like my thoughts on issue X or the time I had an in-depth discussion with my co-worker about issue Y. (These letter-based issues are all the rage over here.) So maybe I will talk a little about that after I return.

The bottom line is, if I feel something is worth writing about, I'll write it here (or somewhere else accessible - I've been thinking about combining all my blogs/web sites into one). Who knows what that'll be or when that'll be, but keep an eye out here if you're interested in what might come, and we'll see what happens.

One thing's for sure though: I'll keep posting photos of, well, whatever, at my flickr page. So keep that bookmarked.

In summation: so long Shanghai and so long 2008. It's been a blast. I'll see you again soon. For the time being though, I look forward to returning to Austin!