Friday, July 29, 2016

Considering the Options

Signs for shop selling pig's feet and pig's brain in Taiyuan, Shanxi
Signs for shop selling pig's feet and pig's brain in Taiyuan, Shanxi

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Changing Slogans

man on ladder and men in boat covering the slogan "加快科学发展 率先转型跨越" with another sign
Slogan promoting scientific development about to be covered underneath the Yingze Bridge in Taiyuan, Shanxi

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Six Bowls of Noodles in Taiyuan

The knife-shaved noodles (刀削面) I saw cut off of dough on top of somebody's head while they balanced on a unicycle at Shanxi Huiguan are a famous style of noodles in Shanxi province. The knife, cutting style, and dough are critical components. Placing the dough on your head or having a unicycle handy is not.

Many other styles of noodles can be found in Shanxi, and trying all of them is a bit of a challenge. The Taiyuan Noodle Shop, another well-known restaurant, makes things a little easier with its set meal of six noodle styles accompanied by various sauces and meats.

set menu dish including six styles of noodles (六中面套餐) at Taiyuan Noodle Shop (太原面食店)

You can mix and match as you would like. Admittedly, the combo made by a server to help get me started was better than any of my own creations. In terms of the noodles, the cat's ear noodles (猫耳朵), named for their distinctive shape, were my favorite.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Unicycle Head Noodles in Taiyuan

Does cutting Shanxi-style noodles off of dough on top your head sound impressive? How about cutting noodles while on a unicycle?

Cutting noodles off of dough on top your head while on a unicycle? Now that's really something.

young woman slicing noodles from dough on the top of her head while she balances on a unicycle

The noodles I had just finished before watching this performance last night at a well-known restaurant in Taiyuan were another type. On one hand, I doubt they were cut by somebody on a unicycle. On the other hand, I can't completely rule out they were cut by somebody on a tricycle.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

Barbecue and Baijiu in Taiyuan

It was late, and I hadn't yet had dinner. So I went out and headed to a late-night barbecue place in Taiyuan. Due to the recent rains they didn't have any vegetable options. I am unclear about the connection, but "tomorrow" they said.

As I waited for my meat kebabs, the cook took a drink of a clear liquid from a thin plastic cup. When I see people drinking water I sometimes joke that I think they are drinking baijiu, a rather strong Chinese alcohol. But as I made the usual joke, I realized that the cook was probably really drinking baijiu.

He smiled and spoke to his assistant. A jug of baijiu appeared, and soon I held a plastic cup with a healthy amount of baijiu.

And so, we drank.

barbecue cook drinking baijiu in Taiyuan

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Trump in Taiyuan, Trump on Tiananmen

This afternoon in Taiyuan I came across a newsstand.

newsstand in Taiyuan displaying covers of various magazines including one featuring Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

One of the featured magazine covers included a mockup of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton having what appears to be a vociferous discussion. So I wondered if when I returned to my laptop I would be able to find a new quote regarding China from either of them to accompany the photo I took.

As it turns out, today The New York Times published the transcript of its recent interview with Donald Trump. In reference to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey, surviving a recent coup attempt, Trump had this to say:
I do give great credit to him for turning it around. You know, the first hour, it seemed like it was over. Then all of a sudden, and the amazing thing is the one that won that was the people. They came out on the streets, and the army types didn’t want to drive over them like they did in Tiananmen Square when they sort of drived them over, and that was the end of that. Right?
I will refrain from commenting on Trump's perspective. I will just say that it should be interesting when he and Clinton face off for real in a debate.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Few Modern Tweets and an Old Newsreel on Flooding in Beijing and Tianjin

Today flooding is affecting Chinese cities such as Beijing and neighboring Tianjin. A tweet by Bill Bishop reminded me of some points raised in yesterday's post about flooding in Taiyuan.

Sam Crane remarked on a sliver of positive news:

Rain doesn't always mean much better air, but I similarly noticed the air during yesterday's flooding in Taiyuan was unusually good. That didn't last very long though.

Matthew Stinson remarked on some misleading posts regarding the flooding in Tianjin.

I doubt Stinson was referring to 77-year-old newsreels. But I will share below a brief account of the 1939 Tianjin flood which left thousands dead. The video includes some striking scenes from another time. It also includes a striking concluding statement: "So once more the swelling flood adds another burden to the tragedy of modern China".

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

More Flooding in China: Twenty Scenes from Taiyuan, Shanxi

In a piece about widespread flooding in China this year, Te-Ping Chen explored the possible causes, such as:
“China’s urban construction was carried out at too fast a pace,” says Jia Haifeng, associate professor with Tsinghua University’s environmental science and engineering department. Officials have tended to focus on visible projects such as roads, bridges and housing, he said. “They emphasized infrastructure above ground, but not so much infrastructure below ground.”

Many roads are built without being properly leveled, said Andrew Buck, an urban planner at Beijing landscape-architecture firm Turenscape, meaning that water easily accumulates. Older drainage systems often can’t accommodate current demands.
During my recent time in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi in northern China, I noticed it too apparently lacked appropriate infrastructure to deal with wet weather. Almost any time it rained, some streets became challenging to cross by foot or walk on (sometimes there isn't a useable sidewalk) due to water quickly accumulating in places.

Today the rain was especially heavy. When I went out for lunch I was soon faced with an unusual decision: try looking for food in another direction or step into water nearly knee-deep with a slight smell of sewage. I had deliberately put on sandals, was wearing shorts, and didn't have any open sores, so I figured I would take the submerged route to get a better sense of the extent of the flooding.

Below is a series of photos presented in the order they were taken during a brief outing this afternoon in a popular central shopping district. They include scenes of people crossing roads, vehicles trying to make it through high water, not-so-lucky vehicles, people dumping out water from an underground garage, a person clearing debris from a grating where water drained, and water flowing out of a sewer hole. Based on the pattern of garbage on the sidewalks, the flooding had already subsided from its high point by the time I made it outside. None of what I saw was as dramatic as what I experienced in Hengyang, Hunan, two years ago — in other words, no chengguan offered me a ride on a raft. It also wasn't as dramatic as many other recent examples of flooding in China. But the photos capture a side of life in a city, and in a country, in need of a water drainage infrastructure upgrade.

Car driving on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

car driving on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

Scooter and people on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

stalled car, person riding a bicycle, and people walking on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

young man and woman with umbrella on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

woman and girl with an umbrella walking on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

two young woman pulling up their skirts to avoid getting them wet on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

people crossing a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

men dumping out water from a flooded garage

men dumping out water from a flooded underground garage

SUV driving on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

woman pushing scooter on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

people crossing a flooded street next to a Starbucks in Taiyuan, China

man riding a motorbike on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

car driving on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

man standing in a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

open sewer hole cover in a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

young man clearing debris from a grating for drainage on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

motor-rickshaw on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

water coming out of a sewer hole on a sidewalk next to a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Monday "Hello" in Taiyuan

While I waited for a crossing signal to change at a street intersection in Taiyuan, Shanxi, today, a little girl noticed my presence and immediately shouted, "Hello!"

Her adult appeared surprised by the excited outburst. I have had many similar experiences in the past, though this girl was especially enthusiastic. I replied with an upbeat "hello", admittedly toned down compared to the girl's. The girl then had a suggestion: I should take of photo of her and her friend. After I expressed willingness, the two adults with them, who still appeared a bit surprised by everything, helped position the girls while making sure they weren't in the photo themselves.

Then this happened:

two little girls posing for a photo in Taiyuan, Shanxi
"Hello" from Taiyuan

Once the photoshoot was complete, in Chinese I asked the more outgoing girl (the one holding the flowers) whether she wanted to go to America. She said "yes", so I said "OK, let's go" and started walking away. Without hesitation she happily joined me. Not wanting to spark an international incident, I quickly turned toward the two adults to make it absolutely clear I was only joking.

As we parted, it was evident the interaction had launched the two girls into an extra-high level of activity. And it left me in higher spirits as well.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

An Unexpected Fix for a Possessed Laptop in Shanxi

Large Turned-Off Screen at a riverside park in Gujiao, Shanxi
This large screen wasn't displaying anything when I recently visited a riverside park in Gujiao, Shanxi.

Things have been quiet on this blog the past several days. This was not intended.

The long story . . . ah, I won't bother with the long story.

The relatively short story . . . not long after the previous post, my laptop became possessed by a demon — or something like that — which wasn't so intelligent but was determined to cause chaos and heartburn. Sometimes all I could do was watch as my screen flipped through multiple modes as I was unable to stop it. One especially worrisome moment was when the cursor moved to a a file and then deleted it. Strange stuff.

The troubleshooting was a slow, frustrating process. At one point, I assumed I would need to make a long journey with significant expenses at the end to address the problem. Yesterday, the problematic symptom subsided enough for a period of time that I could try some other fixes. One involved changing a setting. So I did that, although it only required reverting something I had changed since I had initially discovered the problem. And then I considered another piece of advice I had just discovered which seemed potentially relevant.

But slapping the trackpad hard with the palm of your hand? It didn't seem entirely wise.

Of course, I did it.

I'm not 100% sure what did the trick, but my computer is no longer possessed. Since achieving that state, I have taken the time to address other potential issues just to be safe. Fortunately, I didn't blow things up in the process. In fact, I might have fixed an unrelated nagging issue. The verdict is still out on that though.

So, hopefully things are back on.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cleaning Crayfish in Taiyuan

Tonight at a famous food street in Taiyuan, Shanxi, I saw a man cleaning live crayfish one at a time with soap, water, and a toothbrush.

Man cleaning a live crayfish with soap, water, and a toothbrush.

Because who wants to eat a dirty barbecued crayfish?

I share this because there are so many perspectives from which to view it. Choose one. Choose them all. I lean towards the latter.