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January, 2015:


Coffee made in a French press on a Saturday morning = happiness in a cup.

Coffee in a Mr. Brown coffee cup. Luxury!

Coffee in a Mr. Brown coffee cup. Luxury!

Shoveling Mao’s Plaza

A group of middle-aged guys were shoveling the snow off plaza around the Mao statue today. Just another day in the Dongbei.


Bike Mittens

If you have to ride a bike in order to get around, but you live in a cold climate, how do you keep your hands warm?

The ingenious Chinese have figured this out: get bike mittens! They mount on the handlebars of your bike or motorcycle, and keep the wind off your hands as you cruise down the frozen street.

Sure, they make you look like a dork, but that’s the price that you have to pay if you want to avoid frostbite.

Bike Mittens: they're cool because they're warm.

Bike Mittens: they’re cool because they’re warm.

Bike Mittens: because being warm is better than being cool.

Bike Mittens: because being warm is better than being cool.

Sea Cucumbers

There is a funny-looking creature that lives at the bottom of the ocean. It’s an animal, but the name of it is “Sea Cucumber.” The name is misleading, however. It tastes nothing like a cucumber, which is too bad, because I like cucumbers. I do not like the taste of 3-year-old rubber bands, which is too bad, because this is what sea cucumbers actually taste like.

There is a belief among the Chinese people that eating this poor disgusting animal is healthy for you. I of course find that very hard to believe, but nevertheless it’s unfortunate for the little bugs, because that makes them very popular among certain segments of the Chinese population.

The hotel where I live is having some sort of sea cucumber festival this month. Here’s the promotion picture that is in the elevator. I will have to look at this for the next month.

Does this look appealing to you? Me neither.

Does this look appealing to you? Me neither.

He isn’t just going out of business

Today I saw an apparel store that is going out of business. The store was selling their stock off to clear out the inventory.

Going out of business

Going out of business

What was funny to me was one of the signs in the window. It means “going out of business,” but the literal translation is “I quit!”

"I quit!"

“I quit!”

An “ingenious” solution to a “common” problem

You know how when you want to shape your hedge plants into animal shapes, but you accidentally cut off all the leaves, thus killing the plant? We’ve all been there, right? Don’t you just hate that?

What a lush green color!

What a lush green color!

No problem: just cover the dead plant with plastic leaves. No one will ever know that it’s fake.

Sure, we all are completely fooled by this very authentic shade of green.

Sure, we all are completely fooled by this very authentic shade of green.

Adventures in airplane food

I’m not a so-called foodie, but I do like to eat, and bad food makes me sad. With that information, it isn’t hard to imagine how I feel about airplane food. The word “sad” doesn’t cover the breadth of my sadness or the range of my feelings.

My son Ian said that he recently tried requesting a special meal on a flight, so I thought that I’d try that on my recent trip from China to the U.S. I requested a Halal meal.

One thing that you should remember when requesting a special meal: You will get your meal first, before the crew starts throwing their slop to the rest of the hogs. Ha ha, funny juxtaposition of “Halal” with “hogs.” Religion humor.

On the flight from China, the Halal meal was standard Chinese food. The only difference that I could notice was that there was never a dessert with the meal. I got some fruit instead. Other than that, the food was unremarkable. Not bad, but not great, either. But that wasn’t the real test. Airplane food within Asia and originating from Asia tends to be much better than food on flights that originate from the U.S. If a special meal is going to be better than regular plane food, it would be most noticeable on a flight from a U.S. airport.

So, with great anticipation, I awaited the first meal on my flight from Detroit to Beijing.

I thought that it was funny that although the airline’s website listed the meal request as “Halal,” the flight crew and the label on the food used the term “Moslem.” Not to be nit-picky, but my understanding is that “Moslem” refers to a person who believes in the religion of Islam. If that’s true, then food shouldn’t be called “Moslem” food. I don’t think that my meals believe in any religion.

First meal. The name looks like it is Indian food.

First meal. The name looks like it is Indian food.

The "Skillet bread" looks sort of like Naan. Doesn't taste like Naan.

The “Skillet bread” looks sort of like Naan. Doesn’t taste like Naan.

The taste was pretty good. The entree was spicy, and although it was strange, the naan was still edible. All in all, much better than the usual food that I eat on planes.

The second meal service was a small snack. Usually we get a ham sandwich. Ham is definitely not Halal, so I was expecting something different.

Here’s what I got: grapes and carrots.

The most boring an unimaginative snack in the history of snacks.

The most boring and unimaginative snack in the history of snacks.

Grapes and carrots wouldn’t ordinarily be too bad. I like fresh fruit and vegetables, and you don’t get very much of those on an airplane. However, these were probably the worst grapes that I’ve ever had in my life. They were very astringent: eating them made my tongue feel dry, and my teeth felt like they were wearing wool socks. They were literally hard to swallow. I thought maybe they were coated with something, so I washed them off, but that didn’t make them any better. The carrots were also very dry. Disappointing snack!

The final meal service was a light lunch.

Falafel? Try "fal-awful!"

Falafel? Try “fal-awful!”

This one was a disaster. I think that it was trying to be a falafel, but it tasted just bad. The cooked carrots weren’t any better. The salad and fruit were OK, but I couldn’t eat the entree. I ate some of my own food that I brought with me to make up for this disappointing meal.

So, the Halal meal experience was one for three. It got off to a great start, but then it went down, waaaay down, from there.

Next time I will still request a special meal, because although this experience wasn’t great, I still had one edible meal on the plane. If I had eaten the regular food, I would have had three bad experiences. Next time I’ll try something different, maybe a Hindu meal.