So the REI garage sale was today! I hit Redmond first and was pretty disappointed. There were some crappy chairs, some sleeping pads that weren't especially discounted, and other junk I didn't want. I looked at it all, decided no, and was about to leave when I passed by the bikes. I've been wanting a bike for a while. Probably not an REI quality bike (more a beater that I could ride to and from work, or around town if I felt so inclined), but eh, I was here...

As it was, there just happened to be a returned bike for $300 (what I was looking to spend), marked down from $700. I did a test ride and it handled like a dream, I guess why not? I  mean, I wanted a $300 bike...why not get a *really awesome* $300 bike?

Met up with J later in the day to hit the Seattle garage sale. My hopes were none too high. There wasn't much in Redmond...then again, Seattle was the flagship.

J showed up just before I was let in. The place was picked pretty clean, but there were still Nordic skis (my preferred type to buy, since honestly, I kind of prefer Nordic to alpine) as well as boots. I got a set for $100...which is pretty good since rental is like $50/trip. (And buying the whole set new would be more like $400, I think.) J found nothing other than a pair of gloves, which kind of sucked for him.

And yes, I am slowly becoming the little old lady who endlessly searches for sales, but eh. Almost 40. Gotta go with what I've got.

Ginea Pig Part 2

I am worried that I'm allergic to my new pet. Yesterday my eyes were red and itchy. I didn't worry much about it, since eh...whatever. But now it's up to two days and I'm hoping that my adorable new friend isn't the culprit, but it seems plausible he is.

As far as updates, he's now willing to leave his corner and run around the cage, so that's good. I've also observed him eating his hay (not his food, which is on the higher level) and drinking water, so I guess the hunger strike has ended. He still races away when I open the door and cowers from me, but I guess some progress is progress. (And he is adorable when he looks up at me expectantly. Yes, yes, I know he's probably expecting me to eat him, but it's still pretty cute.)

I still haven't named the guy. I'm considering "Boo" (from Minsk and Boo), because it would be pretty hilarious to call him a miniature giant space hamster (even if he's a guinea pig...) and scream, "Go for the eyes, Boo!" from time to time. But we'll see if something better comes to mind. We'll also see if I'm allergic to him. If I am, I may have to give him away, which would suck, but will suck less if I give him away in the next few weeks than it would if I get rid of him after bonding to the guy.


A few weeks ago, I decided I needed a pet. It would be nice to have company in the evenings and something to love and play with. With that said, ideally I'd like an *easy* pet. I'm only at home a few hours in the evening (if even for that long) and am gone many weekends. A dog isn't ideal, and since I've had mild allergies to cats in the past, I'd prefer not to have a cat, either. (The allergy thing is weird in that I've lived with cats and been okay, but did have problems once when I owned one. Unsure why, but it doesn't seem worth risking since I'd prefer not to feel like I have a mild cold at all times.)

Rabbits seemed like an okay idea, but they're a bit large. I eventually came to the conclusion that rats might be nice - they're smart, supposedly friendly, and very easy. Then I went to several pet stores, none of which had rats.


Anyway, the last one I went to had one of the employees going on and on about a guinea pig. According to her, they were almost perfect - affectionate, sweet, very easy to manage. One in particular she thought was the sweetest thing ever. Okay, that sounded good - a vetted pet.

I bought the guinea pig, extra bedding, a kit for him (that included a cage, food, water bottle, hay, etc.), a ball to run around in, a few extra toys, and some treats. Then I carefully drove him home in a tiny carrier, assembled his cage, and put him in it.

He promptly ran to the back and hid in the corner. Okay, fine, he's scared. Today's been a long day for the poor guy. I'll have a pet *later* when he's had time to adjust.

I came back hourly to check on him. He remained huddled in a ball in the back of the cage. Had he died? Nope. When I stuck a hand back there, he shivered slightly, but otherwise didn't react.

I gave him another few hours. He was still in his corner. I returned again. The same. Eventually I went to sleep, woke up...and he's still in his corner.

I'm now kind of worried that I got my wish - a furry plant indeed! (I'm also rather worried that my new pet is on a hunger strike since I haven't seen him move towards either his hay or his food bowl. He's also ignored his treat.) Oh well...I suppose worse comes to worse, if he does insist on starving himself to death, I'll have learned my lesson and will get a pair of rats next.

Being a Tourist, Hong Kong Style

While, yeah, sure, I lived in Hong Kong for a year (so have seen most of the stuff), it's still fun to do a bit of tourist-y stuff. Yeah, I didn't hit some of the supposed great things that either take a long time or are expensive (*cough, cough, the Peak and the gondola - I feel like the Peak is super over rated, although the gondola is pretty entertaining if you've got a day to do it and haven't done it before), I did revisit some of my old favorites. And yeah, Hong Kong is still a lot of fun to visit for a few days, and is a VERY accessible trip into Asia for those who want something sort of exotic, but not terrifyingly exotic. (That's Hong Kong for you. Asia-lite.)

My adventures in roughly chronological order...

(The Hong Kong skyline. Even with my crappy photography skills, it is stunning. I <3 Hong Kong. (Well, other than in the summer, when it is hotter than a diesel filled sauna.))
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Phat Diem

I am eternally fascinated by what happens when cultures collide. (This may be my sci-fi self coming out - I figure that if we ever run into aliens, the closest experience we'll have is running into other human civilizations.) There are the usual things - people find stuff they like and try to trade (usually as unethically as possible - my favorite story involves the Spanish and a Native American group. The Spanish pretended green glass was jade, the Native Americans that copper was gold and they made a trade, glass for copper. At least they both got a fair deal in that exchange). Sometimes there are wars (sometimes due to the unfair trade). Often someone gets a horrifying disease. People fall in love. People migrate, hoping to strike it rich in a foreign land. And, of course, people convert.

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This May Be The Most Amazing Place I am Ever Fortunate Enough To Visit

China has always seen itself as the center of the world. (In fact, China's name for itself is "Zhong Guo", literally middle country.) It is the heart of civilization, surrounded by barbarian nations. (FWIW, I think this view has changed slightly. America is the home of wonderful inventions like Elsa, the Disney princess that all girls on the entire planet are now trying to be. But old habits die hard.)

So perhaps it should be a surprise to no one that Guang Xi province (literally "wide west" - funny how similar that is to the English terminology) is seen as one of the last frontiers (traditionally) between civilized Han China and the barbarian west and south. It should come as no surprise then that Guang Xi is also home to a number of the minority groups within China.

(For all that the Uygurs and Tibetians are the best known minority groups - mostly as they make news - there are 55 minority groups in China which comprise about 8% of the total population. Different laws often govern them, for good or ill.)

Around Ping'An are the Yao and Zhuang minority groups (both of which also exist in Vietnam, which Guang Xi is directly north of.) Historically these groups were chased from more fertile lands into the mountains. Deprived of ariable terrain, they did what humans do - they adapted and built the spectacular rice terraces of Longji.

(These people had a lot of time, just saying.)
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Travels in Asia - Food!

As anyone who knows me knows, I am NOT a foodie. I eat to live, and have seriously considered going on the soylent diet, as it would free up time for more important things, like making fancy dresses. Ahem. With that said, the food in Asia was pretty freaking awesome - too awesome to not describe, anyway.  I suspect that this was in large part because it was some of the freshest food I've eaten in my life. No matter where I went, chickens were racing about the street, pigs were rooting in trash cans, herbs were growing in gardens, fruit was dangling from trees, etc. I suspect this made a big difference. Or maybe Chinese and Vietnamese food is just freaking delicious. Either way.

(Chickens in Ping'An, about to be turned into delicious meals.)

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Rural Vietnam - Tam Coc

I always hate it when people say "If you want to see the real..." because it implies that the rest of the country isn't real, while I'm quite sure that no parts of a country are figments of my imagination. (Hanoi is quite real, as are Shanghai, Seattle, and New York. In fact, considering how rapidly most countries are urbanizing, the cities are the real part of the country, not the rural areas.) With that said, the Vietnam that exists in my imagintion (one populated by ox drawing ploughs, boys herding goats, and women in conical hats tending gardens) can be found in the Tam Coc/Trang An area (Tam Coc is the town, Trang An is the scenic region that's a UNESCO site. Confused yet?), all set against a magnificent karst and otherworldly river backdrop.

(This is what Tam Coc/Trang An looks like. Seriously, it doesn't feel real.)

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Hiking in Hong Kong - Lantau

Hong Kong is a land of contrasts. There are the cities and the wilderness, east and west, ocean and forest, old and new, all mixed up in a beautifully vibrant city. On Lantau island alone, there are Taoist temples (Man Mo), as well as a Buddhist (Po Lin) Catholic (Trappist) monastaries. While the Po Lin monastary is well known, due to is convenient location by the largest statue of a seated Buddha (it feels like they're stretching for that record) and the 360 gondola, in many ways I find the Trappist monastary equally - if not more - representative of the history of Hong Kong.

The Trappist monastary can be reached quite easily on a lovely, 2-3 hour hike, from Mui Wo to Discovery (Disco) Bay, which showcases the contrasts of Hong Kong. (It also has the convenience of being a mere half hour from Central at both ends. Much as I love the remote beauty of Tap Mun, I suspect most people prefer being able to hike without having to bus and kaido out into the boonies.)

(Note that I did the hike from Mui Wo to the silver mines to Mui Wo to Disco Bay. You could do the reverse equally well and leave out the silver mines...or just do the silver mines...or hike from one end to the other seeing the silver mines and by passing the Trappist Monastary. You could even walk all the way out to Po Lin, although that's a pretty long trek. SO MANY OPTIONS!)

Anyway, I started by taking one of the fast ferries from central to the Cantonese fishing village of Mui Wo.

(Silver Strand beach at Mui Wo - quite lovely and not bad for swimming, even in November.)

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