I spent last weekend in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam. While an all-around awesome trip, it proved to be the last dying breath of my trusty Nikon Monarch binoculars. With the threads on both eyepieces jammed solid and the focus differential knob out of sync, they were done. Saturday morning I dropped them off at the Nikon Shenyang Authorized Service office (“We don’t really do binoculars, we’ll have to ask Shanghai next week…”) and this morning took Spider down to the Hun River to do some scoping.
It was only 15C when Spider and I set out. Shenyang embraces Autumn without hesitation! Migratory species are already beginning to pass through Liaoning province in fits and starts, within another two weeks they will become a torrent.
My daily commute takes place almost entirely upon the Third Ring Road of Shenyang. If you overlay the ring road on a clock face, our home is at 3 o’clock, my son’s preschool at 12 o’clock, and my workplace at 9 o’clock.
So it happened that on Monday morning after dropping off my son, I was somewhere between 12 and 11 on the clock face speeding SW on the ring road when I noticed a towering black column of smoke arching up into the otherwise blue Shenyang sky.
Your first instinct is always to wonder what it could be? What’s around that area that would be capable of producing so much smoke?
Unfortunately, what immediately came to mind was the military airfield located in that part of town. The PLA airforce runs training flights into and out of that airfield every day. Given the quantity and acridity of the smoke I figured either a jet had gone down with lots of fuel on-board or an entire apartment building was going up.
My work-wanderings took me to Sao Paolo, Brazil this week. This is my second visit to Sao Paolo, the first being back in 2013 just before the anti-corruption riots broke out. Sao Paolo is a lively, vibrant city with warm people and outstanding cuisine. I was excited to spend another week here just basking in the ambiance… but my local partner had other, better plans!
My work takes me all over the world. In the past 2 years I’ve set foot in more than two dozen countries. The nature of the work never changes – sales, service, negotiations – just typical international trade.
But the people! Have I ever met some fantastic people. If I ever leave this company or this position what I’ll miss most, by far, are the people around the world that I’ve gotten to know and become friends with be they partners, customers, or just other dudes and dudettes struggling to make it in the same industry.
Alexey is one such awesome dude.
Alexey is our new business partner in the Moscow area. His father was a submariner. His grandfather was a submariner. How hard was it to be a submariner in the Soviet Navy? They retired and went on pension at age 32 to 35 depending on how many days at sea you had accrued. That’s some brutal living.
No matter how strained the relationship between the US and Russian governments, the Russian consulate in Shenyang continues to issue me visas, so I continue to do business there.
I feel a profound sense of happiness and hope whenever I visit Russia and see friends like Alexey, because I know our relationship would be unthinkable only 40 years ago. Despite hiccups and setbacks here and there, I do believe society is progressing in a net positive direction.
Here are Alexey and me at the Russian Museum of Astronautics in Moscow. In the photo behind us are the crews from NASA and the Soviet space program that docked in orbit during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, a major moment in Cold War détente and essentially the end of the Space Race.
Contrary to popular perception, China has modern and strict environmental laws. What is lacking, and I mean seriously lacking, is enforcement. A most vivid example was on display during my most recent visit to Huanzidong.
Surrounded by rolling cornfields, Huanzidong (“Badger Hole”) Reservoir is located nearly two hours NNW of Shenyang and would be just another unremarkable impoundment if not for one very remarkable fact: it is the premier migratory corridor rest stop in NE China for the critically endangered Siberian Crane.
One morning this past October I returned to Grebe Lake for some much needed serenity. With my binoculars on my chest, new scope and tripod over my right shoulder, folding stool hanging on my left shoulder, and thermos full of fresh black coffee tucked under my left arm I happily strolled down the path to the best scoping spot. The weather was perfect – a crisp, clear, sunny Autumn morning.
Arriving at the scope spot, I quickly scanned the lake with my binoculars (as expected, lots of grebes!) and then busied myself with getting the scope and stool situated at a comfortable height and mutual distance.
Throughout these short few minutes I was dimly aware of noise in the background but it wasn’t until I had finished setting up and poured myself a cup of coffee that I stopped to properly consider the source.
A few moments’ focus revealed the tell-tale bangs, clangs, and whirrrrrs of a dump truck… a DUMP TRUCK!
The other day I had an hour to pass in a spartan waiting room while my phone was being repaired. As a last resort, I grabbed the local paper and started flipping through it. My disinterest was soon overcome by sheer delight as my eyes lit upon a ridiculous, deadpan, and utterly charming article entitled “Meteorite atop Star Village’s mountain comes from Earth!” Herein I’ve translated it for your enjoyment:
After a few false starts over the years, I committed to learning Go | Weiqi | Baduk starting in 2013-09. Since that time I’ve made steady but laughably slow progress. Regardless, I am enjoying myself and that’s the point.
Awhile back I discovered a newish Go mobile app called GoQuest. (link) It’s a dead simple cross-platform … Go platform that facilitates ad hoc 9×9 and 13×13 real-time play between random faceless opponents. There’s also a passcode-based function to allow you to search out friends. In short, it’s a nifty little free app for getting your Go fix … on the go, and I was eager to try it out.
It’s become a tradition of sorts that each time we visit my parents in Florida over Christmas I set out to add one particular species to my birding life list. Last year Dad took me to check off the Florida Scrub Jay. This year I wanted to see my first Northern Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway).