Sunday, January 24, 2010

China 2008 Olympic Exhibit, Kowloon, Hong Kong

As I mentioned last week, we were in Vancouver over Christmas and looking around town, while there were banners and some new outdoor artwork that had been placed in time for the Olympics (more next week), I did not see a public tribute to the sports that was as charming as what I saw in Hong Kong in April 2008. Had we visited Whistler Mountain, site of the 2010 Olympic alpine events, maybe I would have something more to talk about. But there wasn’t much to see in downtown Vancouver.

Hong Kong, April 16, 2008:
On my first business trip to China, I stayed an extra day to see Hong Kong with our friend, Julie.

Central Hong Kong from the top of Victoria Peak on an unusually clear day, and then from the opposite direction at night. On the right, which is a view from a restaurant window, I can’t tell if the lights at the top are from Victoria Peak or my wine glass reflected in the window.

The things that made me feel most comfortable about being in Hong Kong was the widespread use of English, the common heritage of the Commonwealth, and the familiar names, Victoria and Stanley. You can see Victoria Harbour in both photos. Victoria is also the name of British Columbia’s capitol. The Stanley region of Hong Kong was named after the same Lord Stanley for whom Stanley Park in Vancouver and the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup was named after.

My mother was born in England and she and her family emigrated to Vancouver in the 1950s. As children, we often went to my grandparent’s house for family dinners where my brother and I would drink milk from glass beer mugs etched with “Harp Lager.” When I went to London for the first time, many years ago, seeing billboards advertising Harp and other brand names, like, “Yardley’s” made London remind me of visiting my grandparents. With all of its reminders of England, Hong Kong had a similar effect on me.

Many of you live in different countries or regions from where you grew up. What do you find in your present home that reminds of you of your childhood?

Another thing about Hong Kong, if you love Cantonese food, you’ve come to the right place. If you want a break from that and feel like having Italian food for dinner instead, the Italian restaurants offer the same or better than what you’d find on at Calzone’s on Columbus Avenue In San Francisco or Arriva! on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.

Back to our story. After having dinner in Kowloon with, Julie, in a restaurant overlooking central Hong Kong, from where I took the night-time photo above, we walked around Kowloon and found this display. These are the Fuwa, the mascots of the 2008 Olympic Games. Most of the events were being held in Beijing, but the equestrian events were happening in Hong Kong.

Here’s what I found in Wikipedia about the Fuwa:

“The Fuwa (Chinese: 福娃; pinyin: Fúwá; literally "good-luck dolls", also known as "Friendlies"), are the mascots of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The designs were created by Han Meilin, a famous Chinese artist... There are five fuwa: Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, and Nini. Together, the names form the sentence "北京欢迎你", or "Beijing huanying ni," which means "Beijing welcomes you".”

The characters were really cute and the display was outstanding with the different Fuwa characters illustrating each of the summer events.

Some were quite animated... and all were inspirational.

Who says, I’m not in fighting “shape?”

Thank you, Julie, for taking these photos of me with the Fuwa, and for showing me an excellent afternoon and evening in Hong Kong.

Postscript: as for Shanghai, had it not been for a Nike ad near Nanking Boulevard, I wouldn’t have seen any mention of the Olympics in Shanghai that year either. And, I had a really good look around the Bund and the Pearl Tower on my second visit in November. But, there was plenty about the upcoming 2010 World’s Fair. Now, is it my place to suggest that there’s more than a little rivalry going on between Beijing and Shanghai?

Copyright © 2010 David G. Kelly

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Christmas in Vancouver

It is never too late to say, Happy New Year. Well, maybe if you wait till December, people won’t be sure if you’re too late for this year, or too early for the next, but that’s another matter. For the first message of the year, I got everything done on my new Mac and it wasn’t too painful at all. Here we go...

Vancouver, BC: December 24 and 25, 2009: we went back to the “old country” for Christmas. The weather was cold, but sunny and clear. 

December 25: View of downtown, with Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour in the background, looking north north east from my uncle’s neighborhood. The setting sun reflected warmly off of the glass and steel towers. You can go skiing on those mountains, and if you have a wet suit, you can go sailing in the calm waters of English Bay on the same day. You can drive from English Bay to the ski hill in about 30 minutes (outside of rush hour.)

December 24: One day earlier, the late afternoon sun also provided a warm lighting for close-ups of people on the street. On the left, ever notice how people waiting for a crossing light are often lined up as if they were posing for a group photo? It is a good way to observe how people dress in public when you visit different places.

On the right, the Hotel Georgia, which is being renovated into condos, is draped in a Canadian flag. Not a common site in Vancouver, you see normal sized flags, but unusual for Canadians to “show off” like that.

The left photo shows the Hudson’s Bay Company department store (the Bay) with its enormous mural sized posters featuring Canada’s Winter Olympics athletes. The slogan is, “We were made for this.” The Bay has devoted half of its first floor to Olympic merchandise.

There was some excitement about the Olympics, but not overwhelming. No Olympic McOnion Rings at McDonalds, for example.  It was nothing like the Summer Olympics display in Kowloon, Hong Kong back in April 2008. (I think I just thought up next week’s essay.)

We wish our athletes well and will watch what we can of the games on-line from home.

Out front of the Bay, on Granville Street, Vancouver’s main North-South street. For the past few years, several downtown blocks had been under construction to make way for a new rapid transit line from the waterfront to the airport, called the Canada Line. All that work has been finished, in time for the Olympics, and several blocks have been blocked off, if you will, for pedestrians only.

This band was out playing in the street (didn’t listen to their mothers, apparently) and as you can see, the drummer was doing double duty as the harmonica player. Was this the result of a recent layoff? “Dude, bad news, gotta let you go, man. You play a mean harp [slang for harmonica]. I hear the guitar player outside of the liquor store is looking for a partner. Good luck, man”

In BC, no liquor in the grocery stores. Weird going to Safeway and seeing no wine or beer offered after getting used to that in California.

The band sounded pretty good and got lots of attention: maybe too much attention as you can see on the right.

Folks, this is my favorite, non-family, photo of the trip.

Copyright © 2010 David G. Kelly

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cedar Waxwings

Milpitas CA, November 18, 2009
Early last Wednesday, my friend and colleague, Conrad, took a few photos of a flock of birds resting outside of our office window. Throughout the spring and summer, I’ve seen the odd house finch and a small murder of crows who hang around campus like college kids at the 7-11. However, I’d never seen quite a flock in the same tree at once.

These are Cedar Waxwings. You can tell by the crested head, the yellow feathers on their lower breasts and the yellow wing tips that look like bright drops of wax. My brother-in-law, Mark, who is an avid birder, identified the species for me. Perhaps they were gathering before migrating to a warmer place for the winter.

Often when these birds approach our windows, they act as if they are chasing away intruders as their reflections appear as intruders in their minds. We’ve heard some pretty solid thumps as some birds have flown into the glass, but no signs of injuries or deceased song birds on the decks outside of our windows.

The photo on the right is from this source

Copyright © 2009 David G. Kelly

Back to the Fuchsias

Burnaby, BC, July 30, 2008:
Every day, on the way into work, I drive by these Crepe Myrtles. I took this photo a few weeks ago when their flowers were peaking. Beautiful.

Reminds me of the summer of 2008 when Mireya and I visited friends in Vancouver who grow award-winning fuchsias.

Do you know someone who is really good at something that everyone can appreciate? We’re all good at our jobs, but I never expect to hear my mom say, “Nicely written requirements, David.” I’ll pause while you say to yourself, “Maybe for good reason.”

Ray & Elsie are a retired couple living in Burnaby, BC, just to the east of Vancouver, who are champion breeders of flowers and budgies. Last year, they entered a number of fuchsia plants into a province wide competition and won blue ribbons for all but one plant that came in second. Keep in mind as you scan these photos that all of this is maintained by Ray & Elsie with no hired help.

The house is on a standard city lot with a vegetable garden on the left… With the garage converted into a bee hive and aviary.

During our visit, Elsie served us lunch. Everything had either come from the garden or her oven. Tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, zucchini…

See the red snake in the foreground? You can spot the snake in all 3 photos to see how I had looked up, down, then moved to the right.

I like the plywood cutouts on the right: they look like 2 folks bent over, working on the flower bed.

Close up of the garage. They don’t enter their budgies in contests any more, but they keep many in their aviary.

These are some of the fuchsia plants that won the blue ribbons that year. All were in perfect health.

Don’t these look like flamenco dresses?

Not a weed in the flower beds.            Fun use of a grinding wheel and a toy car as flower stands.

If you’re not sure about why I called this, Back to the Fuchsias, it’s a play on the name of a movie from the 1980s, Back to the Future.

Copyright © 2009 David G. Kelly

Ginko Biloba

San Jose, December 6, 2009: Looking outside through our windows last weekend, I noticed how the Ginkgo Biloba tree out front had dropped its leaves in an undisturbed distribution under its branches. If you use your imagination, the dropped leaves resemble what a reflection of the tree from a pond of water would look like.

A one minute research exercise tells me that Biloba refers to the leaves’ double lobes, the Latin, bis for two combined with loba for lobes. Ginkgo is an misinterpreted Chinese word by Engelbert Kaempfer who was the first westerner on record to have seen the tree in China. The actual Chinese word, according to Wikipedia is Ginkyo. And, you know, since it is written in Wikipedia, you know it’s true. ;-)

Here’s the Ginkgo Biloba in front of our home.

On the right: I’ve always loved how trees form cathedral arches over pathways.

Here’s another view. A lot of greenery still. Some of these are evergreens, others drop their leaves all year long, which keeps the gardeners employed.

These trees on the right look pretty windswept and the pile of leaves on the street makes it look like the left tree had an embarrassing accident. ;-)

A carpet of leaves on the lawn. Also looks like a bedspread.

On the right: The north side of this tree is lighter, the lighter leaves on that side suggest that sunlight, or lack thereof has affected the coloring.

Copyright © 2009 David G. Kelly