My son Huilin loves Space, Rockets, and everything having to do with Space and Rockets. He’s logged many hours on my lap playing Kerbal Space Program. He’s been to Cape Canaveral and toured the Kennedy Space Center. He’s been to Washington, D.C. and toured the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. In short, he’s addicted.
So it was only natural that this past Christmas waiting under the tree, having been carefully acquired from the finest Chinese suppliers by an ever-thoughtful Santa Claus, was a model rocket kit.
Late January found me wandering the San Francisco airport waiting for a flight to Toronto. We had just finished a tour of Silicon Valley and I was feeling overwhelmed by the vast amount of new projects I’d received. Casting about for something to do during the five hour flight, I absentmindedly wandered through the bookstore near my gate.
Such were the depths of my ennui, that for the first time in my life I stopped to consider the “Business” shelf.
Immediately, one cover in particular caught my eye: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
The analytical part of my mind feebly coughed and sputtered into life:
I have a lot of things that need to get done…
I am not as good at getting things done as I’d like to be…
I too would like to be more productive with less stress…
In my overwhelmed mental state, casting about as I was for anything that might help me shoulder the burden of expectations that had been placed upon me, the cover’s promise was enough: stress-free productivity. I was in.
Twenty minutes later, copy in hand, I boarded my flight to Toronto, nestled down in my seat, and began reading.
It was, without hyperbole, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
The same applies to birdwatching, of course. You miss 100% of the birds you don’t get out to see. New Years Day 2016 was calm, clear, and bitingly cold. The weather report said -9C | 15F but you can always knock a few more degrees off for my side of town which doesn’t suffer from the Urban Heat Island effect.
Rather than do the sane thing and sleep-in on such a frigid morning, I made a thermos of coffee and staggered out of the house and into the SUV with loyal Spider to pop down to the riverbank for some scoping.
There’s very little open water remaining this late in winter, and once the river ices up completely the ducks will move on. This was one of my last chances to look for lost or (very) late migrants. My efforts were not to be in vain! Continue reading On Luck and Sea Eagles→
Fishing is part of being a Heath. I had a rod in my hands as soon as I could ask for one. But where we live in China the natural environmental condition is very poor. There are artificial fishing ponds, but sitting for hours in the sun hoping for a bite is no way to introduce a child to fishing. There will be plenty of opportunity to disappoint yourself when you’re older!
So these few years I had not made any great effort to take Huilin fishing. Eventually, however, he began to express an interest and so I asked my cousin-in-law Dandan to take us out when he had time. Dandan is a few years younger than me and an accomplished fisherman in the northeast Chinese style. The fish one typically catches here would be better classified as “bait” in America – they are truly that small.
In late June, when Spider was only three weeks old, I took advantage of a beautiful morning to drag the entire group – wife, M-I-L, son, and puppy – to the nearby Xiangyang Temple for some fresh air.
Xiangyang Temple （向阳寺）, literally “Sun-facing Temple”, overlooks the southwestern reaches of Qipanshan lake. You can see the temple and surrounding area for yourself via Google Earth if you input the following coordinates in GE’s search bar:
41°55’52.75″ N, 123°38’41.75″ E
According to the temple’s own history, it was built around 500 years ago. I declare that unlikely on the grounds that this part of China was very sparsely populated during the time claimed. Things didn’t start really happening around here until the Manchus declared Shenyang their capital in the 1600s. Furthermore, whatever structures may have existed by the 20th century were almost certainly destroyed during the Cultural Revolution as part of the “Four Olds” campaign by the Red Guards and other associated geniuses. That all the buildings on the grounds look brand-spanking new (and probably are) does not in any way detract from the experience, however! The architecture is still lovely.
Everyone in China is very proud of their long history and enduring civilization. Fortunately for the rest of us younger civilizations, despite 5,000 years of civilizing themselves they still have a tremendous amount of bad habits… like dumping trash wherever the fuck they feel like it.
I went birding at Huanzidong Reservoir a couple of weeks ago and found the water level way, way down. Hundreds of meters of mudflats were exposed. This attracts all sorts of birdlife, but leaves the hopeful birder no place to hide. Even with a spotting scope, trying to identify sandpipers at 300m totally sucks.
Rubbing salt in the wound, over the summer some local government genius spent who knows how much money building this fucking awesome bird-watching tower:
But they forget to put it anywhere remotely near the reservoir so now it’s a fucking awesome corn-watching tower.
Looking ahead to the upcoming arrival of the Siberian Cranes, I decided to take drastic action: I would build a duck blind.
I’ve been known to state that during any given week at work I’ll enjoy my job 4 days and on the fifth day want to either throw myself or somebody else off a building.
What I’m saying is from time to time things can be a bit stressful.
Additionally, one of the lesser known aspects of my job is being feted at dinners – and occasionally banquets – all over the world. In America that means you can look forward to a fantastic steak and high-priced cocktails. In Asia that means seafood and whores.
I love eating sunflower seeds. I don’t go in for any of those fancy-shmancy flavors they have now like BBQ, Ranch, or Dill; but I will never, ever turn down a handful of traditional roasted and salted sunflower seeds.
Look at that bag. That is ICONIC. I would put DAVID sunflower seeds right up there with Levis jeans, Marlboro cigarettes, Jeep Wranglers, and Hershey bars on a list of things I can buy that are more American than the American flag.