Books, Books, Books

July 5, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

four books - Samurai Rising, Bamboo Sword, Beastly Bones, A Monster Calls

I attended the annual conference of the American Library Association this year. I have difficulty remembering when I last attended, but I think it was 1997 in New Orleans, so it has been a looooong time. It’s still a fabulous experience, but a few things have changed. Improvements, I would say.

The most obvious being that book publishers give away pre-pub copies of books like mad and there are more author signing opportunities. Back in the “old days” we bought copies of books and then got them signed by the authors. I attribute this change (giving away copies of books for signings) to the impact of ebooks and social media. Publishers seem to have recognized that librarians not only read books, but they also promote them to other people. With the advent of social media and book blogging, the reach of one librarian is much farther than just their library community.

My conference experience began Friday evening at the opening of the exhibits hall where all the publishers and book equipment/supply vendors show their wares. It was a bit overwhelming, so I just roamed around taking it in and picking up free books, buttons, posters, etc.

The second day began early with viewing the movie Wadjda by Haifaa al Mansour. It is really excellent and I highly recommend seeing it, if you can. Following the viewing, Haifaa al Mansour spoke about her experience making the film. Next, I attended a session with Sarah Vowell about her new book Lafayette in the Somewhat United States. She was joined by Nick Offerman and they sat on stage and discussed the book and other random topics. It was informative and funny. Nick Offerman was scheduled for a session in the afternoon (which I also attended) and they did the same thing in which Sarah joined him on stage and they discussed his book, Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers. It was great.

Nick Offerman and Sarah Vowell sitting on stage

Sunday was my day to get books signed. I was very pleased to get to speak with some of my favorite authors – William Ritter, Patrick Ness, and Dav Pilkey. Mr. Ritter is new to the writing scene. I just recently finished reading his first novel, Jackaby, and picked up the pre-pub copy of the second in the Jackaby series – Beastly Bones. I picked up a total of 33 books and Beastly Bones will be the first I will read.

I was happy to speak with Patrick Ness because A Monster Calls is definitely one of the best books I have ever read and I urge you to read it, if you haven’t already. I told Mr. Ness that this was my second copy of the book since I had given the first away because I think everyone should read it. He signed it accordingly.

signed title page

For the Castles – Keep this one! It’s yours!

I also enjoyed talking with Dav Pilkey. I saw that he was doing a signing at the Scholastic booth and attempted to get into the line, but it was VERY long due to the popularity of his Captain Underpants series which is published by Scholastic. I just didn’t have an hour to stand in line, so gave up, regretfully.

Dav Pilkey at the Scholastic Books booth signing books

Thankfully, the ALA has a great conference website that lets you search the schedule and I was able to search for Dav Pilkey and find that he would also be signing at the Little Brown Books for Young Readers booth later. Happily when I arrived at this booth, there was no line at all and I could step right up and take my time. I told Mr. Pilkey how much my stepdaughter loved his books, but I forgot to tell him that I wooed my husband with a boxed set of Captain Underpants. He signed two copies of One Day for me.

Monday was “visit facilities and equipment vendors day” for me. In the next two years, I will be designing a new library for my school. Therefore, I needed to gather information about furniture, shelves, self-checkout systems, etc. This was actually a bit fun. Having the words “Shanghai China” on your name tag always serves as a conversation starter.

All in all, it was a great time. Not only did I get to do all of the above, but I was able to spend time with a dear friend and former co-worker I haven’t seen in a long while.


Tailor Made, Part Two

June 7, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

man in black linen Chinese tunic

We went back to the South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market to pick up DaddyBird’s new shirts. He looks very dapper in the black linen traditional Chinese tunic.

entrance to the mall

Across the street from the South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market is the Shanghai Zhongfu Soft-Spinning Material Mall. I was curious to see how they compare. So, in we went.

hallway lined with clothing shops but no customers

Compared to the hustle and bustle of the South Bund market, this was the opposite end of the spectrum. Very few customers. Much more pleasant to walk down the aisles without having your personal space violated constantly. The clothes of the first floor were quite formal – tuxes, gowns, suits, traditional Chinese dresses (qipao).

Chinese restaurant

Next, it was time to eat, so we just dropped in here.

menu showing "slobber beef"

The menu English translations were quite entertaining. So, we ordered some “slobber beef.” The Chinese characters are “mouth water beef meat.” We suspect that it was tongue or maybe it is just mouth wateringly good beef. (Also pictured – jellyfish in vinegar, fried jellyfish, a chicken goose, local guild roast duck, wine ??? little yellow croaker)

"cuts the mutton in vain"

“Cuts the mutton in vain”

"the palace explodes the shrimp ball"

“The palace explodes the shrimp ball”

"grandmother red-roasted pork"

“Grandmother red-roasted pork”

"the salty egg yolk stir fries before stewing the taro"

“The salty egg yolk stir fries before stewing the taro”

set of dishes wrapped in plastic

When we approached the restaurant I noticed that there were plastic crates of dirty dishes on the sidewalk. The dish sets come like this on the table. I assume this means that instead of washing the dishes in house, they use a service that picks up the dirty dishes and delivers clean sets all wrapped up in plastic and ready to go. We have seen this at other restaurants as well.

landscape painting of autumn forest and river

Over our table was a painting with “happy trees.”

dishes, two beer large bottles

A couple of tall beers and we are ready for the slobber beef.

plate of buns and mixed meat and vegetables

First to arrive was the “pork burgers.”

bun turned over showing the hollow underside

We are not certain how to eat this, but we decided the most likely plan of action was to fill the hollow underside of the bun with the meat and veggies. The buns are different colors due to slightly different ingredients, but the taste was not significantly different.

two dishes, one of salted egg taro and the other of beef

Then came the slobber beef and the salted egg taro. The slobber beef turned out to be wickedly spicy, so I used the rather bland taro to put out the fire on my tongue.


Tailor Made

May 31, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Yesterday’s adventure was to go to the South Bund Soft Spinning Material Market to get new shirts made for Daddybird. ( A suit was contemplated also. I checked, he isn’t running a fever.)

So we hopped on the metro and headed across town.

large red sign for the South Bund Soft Spinning Material Martket with a map

The metro exit was clearly marked and then at the top of the exit was this big red sign complete with map of how to get to the market.

pole sign topped with a sewing machine

This sign was a good clue (and cool looking), but this is actually a competing market. The one we were heading for was across the street.

Street Food

At the corner there were at least 10 food carts extending out into the intersection. Why were they not on the sidewalk?

jewelry laid out on the sidewalk

Because the sidewalk is for the jewelry vendors, it seems. Plenty of jade and other interesting things, but not exactly how I prefer to shop for jewelry.

tailor made goods on display including Christmas tree skirts

You can get just about anything custom made here, including Christmas tree skirts.

I was wearing a scarf on my head, so everywhere I went I heard “Scarf Lady!” I did eventually buy two scarves. That was an adventure in haggling. They were two single color cashmere scarves. Nothing particularly complicated or special (no embroidery, etc.). She wanted 500 yuan ($81.00) as her starting price. I said “no” to that. She came down a little, but not much. I said “no” and started to walk away. She came after me, grabbing for my arm and finally said “okay, 300.” It was still too much ($48.00), but I did want them, so I agreed. We hate negotiating SO MUCH. It is so anathema to the American psyche.

Booths selling tailor made clothes

Daddybird’s shopping mission was interesting, too. He was very specific about what he wanted – black shirt material with a design in it (black on black). He had brought his favorite shirt as an example which had a herringbone pattern to it. The shop clerks would see that and say “I have that exact thing” then pull out their fabric sample books which never had the exact thing in them. Also, Daddybird would explain that he wanted a different pattern like flowers or paisley. In three floors of shops (hundreds of shops) there was only one that actually had a fabric that matched what he was looking for.

black fabric with a pattern

Finally, something that satisfied him. So, we ordered two shirts to be made exactly like his favorite shirt, which he had to leave with them. In one week, we will see what we get for our trouble.

There were several shops with classic Chinese style shirts on display, so we asked at the shop on the main floor under the escalator for a price on having one made for him out of black linen. (I didn’t take a picture, but it is a simple shirt with a band collar, frogs* instead of buttons, and two pockets near the waistline. Not very complicated.) Her starting price was 500 yuan. (This may be a popular starting price for simple things when dealing with foreigners.) So, $81.00 USD for a simple linen shirt, not even silk or brocade. We left that stall and decided to shop around for a better price instead of having to do the negotiation thing. As a seamstress, I find it amusing when their arguments for the high price are that the frogs* or pockets require more fabric. Not 80 bucks worth.

There were three floors and we had been to all three before starting to look for the classic shirt. I had noticed that there were fewer customers on the third floor, so thought we might get a better price up there due to the lack of customers. So, up we went and sure enough we found a shop with linen classic items and their starting price for the same black linen shirt with frogs and two pockets was 350 yuan. Daddybird talked him down to 300 ($48.00), still a bit high, but it is custom made to fit.

In one week, we will see just how well our choices worked out.

food cart serving egg and cheese wrap

Back out on the street, we stopped for some of that street food. At this cart, we got a flat bread, with fried egg, a slice of cheese and a leaf of lettuce. The price was outrageous – 15 yuan ($2.42). We did not buy a second. It was delicious, but not 15 yuan worth of delicious.

flat bread wrap with egg, cheese, and lettuce

So, we went elsewhere to get dinner. The food cart prices outside a popular market/tourist attraction are too high.

*In case you do not know what a “frog” is, it is a fastener made out of corded fabric with a loop and a knot.


Something’s Afoot

April 23, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

It’s possible that reading a paranormal Sherlockian mystery novel* is having an effect on how I look at the world around me.

a key ring tied to a lamp post

Last month, DaddyBird noticed these keys tied to a lamp post. They are still there, piquing my curiosity.

a photograph of a man sitting at a desk laying on a street curb

This photo appeared one day, just below the keys on the lamppost. I start to wonder about the story of this street corner.

a park path covered in leaves

Another mystery appeared in our park. The leaves had been swept into piles, but abandoned, as was the broom and garbage bag. I wondered what happened to the sweeper. The piles have since dissipated with traffic. The broom has disappeared, but the bag remains.

*Jackaby by William Ritter ISBN 9781616203535


Historical Walking Tours, Shanghai

April 12, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Statue of Christ above the door of the church

The last two Saturdays we have gone on walking tours with Historic Shanghai. The first included the Jesuit buildings of the Xujiahui area.

Background information: Father Matteo Ricci came to China in 1582. He learned Mandarin Chinese and formed a strong friendship with Xu Guangqi, a scholar and political figure. The Xu family donated land to the Jesuits who built a cathedral and many related buildings.

We began in the Virgin Mary Convent which is now a restaurant. It is very close to the original condition because it was a convent until the 1990’s, so remodeling has been minimal.

five story white building

We began with a lunch composed of traditional Shanghai dishes. All yummy, well, except for the spicy peanuts.

The tour included the convent, the College of St. Ignatius, the biblioteca (library), the cathedral, the observatory, and the orphanage. There were many more Jesuit buildings in this area, but these are all that remain.

To see all the pictures, click here. (113 photos)

The second walking tour was of the Bund. This is on the bank of the Huangpu River. This was the center of the Western business trade. There are several generations of buildings, beginning with late 1800’s to the present day.

We began at the former British Consulate and walked south to Bund #1 the Asiatic Petroleum Company building which is currently vacant. I have included pictures taken before and after the tour while walking from and back to the metro station.

To see all the pictures, click here.  (275 photos)

arial view of the Bund from the 7th floor of a building


The Great Wall

April 5, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

train platform

Taking a day trip from Beijing to the Great Wall at Badaling is one of the cheapest and easiest things a tourist can do.

1. Take the city metro train to the North Beijing Railway Station (3 or 4 yuan)
2. Take the S2 train to Badaling (6 yuan, really 6 yuan [$1.08] for over an hour on the train)
3. Take the free bus from the Badaling train station to the Great Wall.
4. Entrance to the Great Wall is 40 yuan per person.
5. When you are ready to leave, it’s back to the train station and another 6 yuan for the trip back to Beijing.
6. Metro back to your starting point 3 or 4 yuan.
Total 3 + 6 + 40 + 6 + 3 = 58 yuan = $9.67 per person

(Also note that the Great Wall is in the mountains, so unless you go in the heat of the summer, take a good coat, gloves, and scarf. I was SO cold.)

The Great Wall of China, mountains, blooming trees

To see all the pictures, click here for The Great Wall (163 photos)
Click here for our last day in Beijing (31 photos)

author on the Great Wall

So, now I have been to 2 of the 7 new wonders of the world — Petra and the Great Wall — only 5 more to go.


Bullet Train to Beijing

April 1, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

My intention was to do a blog post for each day of the trip, but that has not worked out. Uploading pictures via the hotel wifi is a time consuming project and I do like to sleep occasionally, especially when exhausted. So, now that it is day five in our seven day trip to Beijing, I am staying off my feet, hanging around the hotel room, and can get a blog post up.

train and train platform

It is spring break and we haven’t traveled outside of Shanghai since we arrived, so decided it was time to hop the bullet train to Beijing. This is actually a pretty easy thing to do, except for buying the tickets. DaddyBird went to the train station to purchase them, because he wasn’t able to do it online. Apparently, to purchase online you have to be a Chinese national. If you go in person to buy the tickets you can only buy “three days in advance” which when pointed out on the calendar includes the day of travel, so it is really only 24 hours in advance for all practical purposes. So, we left Shanghai with departure tickets only, no return tickets. Leap of faith. Since then, DaddyBird has been able to get a booking service to obtain our return tickets for us. This was important, because the tickets were selling out.

green field

The bullet train is a very smooth ride. There was a lot of farmland to see out the window. It was quite flat most of the way. It became a bit hilly around Nanjing, but flattened out again before Beijing.

green field with randomly placed conical mounds

In the picture above, notice the mound in the field. This was very common and appears to be burial mounds. Some had grave stones and some had miniature buildings (as shrines I suppose). The information I have read online about Chinese burial rites says that they prefer to bury on hills, but there just aren’t any hills for miles and miles.

a group of trees with several grave mounds

There were also sites like the above where a large number of grave mounds appeared.

lot full of CAT heavy equipment vehicles

It appears that we also passed the Caterpillar (CAT) factory.

There really wasn’t any area that I would call “wild.” It was all being cultivated. There were frequent villages and every once in a while a city. I saw lots of roads, but very, very few vehicles, even parked around houses. There were a few vans, trucks and tricycle carts, but very few cars.

We are staying in a nice hotel in a historic area of Beijing. The neighborhood consists of long lanes called “hutong” that branch off of one main lane that goes through the center. The lane is lined with vibrant businesses, restaurants, and bars. We spent the first two days roaming around the hutongs.

Pictures from the Train Ride – click here 118 pictures
Pictures from Day 1 (Saturday afternoon and evening) – click here 74 pictures
Pictures from Day 2 (Sunday – hutong and Qianhai Lake) – click here 239 pictures
Pictures from Day 3 (Monday – hutong) – click here 76 pictures

Day 4 we went to the Forbidden City. It was quite amazing and beautiful. It took a huge toll on my feet, though, which is why Day 5 is a day of rest. We still have the Great Wall to squeeze in before we leave. Hopefully, my sore feet and injured knee will play along for one more day of walking and climbing.

Pictures from Day 4 (Tuesday – Forbidden City) – click here 380 pictures


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