Archive for December, 2011

Precising the English language

December 18, 2011

Calvin thinks that verbing words is a good way to weird the language, and he’s of course right. But sometimes an unexpected weirdness turns out to be serendipitous.

I’m thinking of our French colleagues, who have been talking about precising the requirements. Some of the native English speakers have picked up the term. To precise, v(t).

For continuing the  thousand year tradition of enriching the English language, merci, mes amis!

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Chaoyang park and the happy gorillas

December 17, 2011

There was nowhere in particular I wanted to go today, but of course I had to get out. Chaoyang park is far enough, and big enough, to serve as a destination. Ok, let’s go there.

Well, it’s better in the spring or fall (summer in Beijing is not to be recommended). But I did find one thing to like, the Happy gorilla treetop adventures.

This little guy is not at all sure he wants to take that next step, across the void, onto the next platform. Never mind that it’s only 20 cm, never mind that he has a harness. It’s scary!

Little sis doesn’t see what the delay is all about. She is perfectly relaxed, waved down to her parents below. Meanwhile, there’s starting to be a traffic jam.

Eventually one of the adults worked his way out and helped encourage that first fateful step. After that, it was okay.

Walking platforms is the easy part. On this one, you walk on only a wire.

Fun to watch.

My other observation is that, once a hundred million Chinese start speaking English on the world stage, English will change. There is no choice about it: it will change.

Not just the words. This picture is from yesterday; when we left the restaurant, we bought a couple of rice balls. They were frozen, and went into a jacket pocket to thaw and be eaten later. When later came around, I enjoyed the little instruction disk that came with the pastry, almost as much as I enjoyed the pastry itself.

Beijing: the Summer palace in Winter

December 17, 2011

17 December 2011

I left the hotel at 9 and walked to Dongzhimen subway, where I had arranged to meet Xu at 10. We had never met in person before, but she had seen my web page and had some idea who to look for. I was a bit concerned that we could wander around — the subway station itself is large and full of people — and miss each other. But I was in the right place for the rendezvous and she recognized me straightaway.

At the subway station is a shopping mall, where we went in to see if I could buy an ear band. When I arrived yesterday, the wind was pretty cold on my exposed ears. But there’s less wind today, and all we could find were cute earbands. I didn’t think I needed cute.

Back onto the subway, which we took to the Summer palace. People around, but not crowds. Very pleasant. We walked up the hill to some of the temples and overlook areas, then wandered around the lake, strolling and talking. Just a bit on the chilly side, but quite pleasant when we were in the sun or walking with the light wind behind us.

Much of the lake is water or very thin ice, but people were out ice fishing toward the south end.

It is a fair distance around the lake, and we were in no hurry, so the afternoon was getting along by the time we got back toward the north end of the park. We saw someone surrounded by people; he had a large brush, which he had dipped in water, and was writing on the pavement.

Xu couldn’t read it from the side, went around to look at it from directly below, still couldn’t read it. She deduced that it was Korean, that the crowd was a group of Korean tourists.

Speaking of foreigners: I scooped up a handful of coins before I left home, left over from my last visit to China — I thought. When I was looking for subway fare today, I scooped them out of my pocket. Xu laughed. Most of them were Japanese! That explains why I thought they looked funny. I visit China far more often than Japan.

We took the subway back to Dongzhimen. Went to a restaurant in the shopping mall, top floor. At street level was a big stage where some moderately famous singer was appearing to promote her new album. As it happened, she was just there to sign autographs for a long line of fans; the music was from her CDs.

It was a new restaurant for Xu, as well (of course) as for me. The drinking water was warm, very welcome on a cold day. Of the dishes we ordered, the most interesting was a bed of rice topped with alternating slices of roast pork and peaches. Pretty good.

Xu walked home while I took the subway back to the stop nearest my hotel. Not a good choice; the subway runs in rings, and I had to change trains twice to get from one ring to the other and back near the hotel. I subsequently just walked (or ran) both directions on this route.

Getting dark and probably colder, and jet lag was rearing its ugly head, so I was happy enough to pack it in. A good day. Thanks, Xu.

Geneva: a hike in the haute-Jura

December 11, 2011

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Mont Blanc, I believe, wearing a curved cap of cloud. View from the Jura.

My first order of business was to change hotels. Expecting that I might not be able to get a room early in the morning, I loaded my small pack with day trip things for a hike, and stuffed everything else in the large pack. And so it happened.

Took the 14 streetcar to the end of the line, which turned out not to be CERN. I guess there may be two routes for the 14 line, or something. Anyway… after half an hour of walking, I got to CERN, where there were #14 streetcars ready to take me back into Geneva, not where I want to go right now.

CERN is right at the border with France. Through malice and forethought, I had brought along my passport, just in case, but the border crossing was unattended. Pretty much open country here, with nice views of the haute-Jura, where I hope to go hiking today. I have no real information about trails up there, but if I can’t get into the mountains… well, die Reise ist das Ziel. Nice day for a walk, and all that.

If you’re the type who believes the glass is half empty, you could point out that, no matter whether you read this in a mirror or directly, it’s half bass-ackward.

First town is Saint-Genis-Pouilly, followed by Sergy and Haut-Sergy. By this point, we are getting into the hills, and the roads sometimes dead-end. I just keep making my way uphill, toward the mountains. I have it in mind to go up to the snow line, if I can find a trail.

I did find a route that appears to go along the base of the mountain, Vie de L’Etraz, from Thoiry to Crozet and very likely beyond. Branching off from it, I found a trail going steeply uphill. That’s how I like it: hard work, get the heart going.

On a day of views both grand and grander, it’s good to notice the small things as well.

The trail just went up and up and up. Eventually crossed a paved road, believe it or not, which was more or less level. If it is the one I see on the map, it also runs along the contours for a long way before dropping back into the valley. Probably not the right choice to go downhill, when the time comes.

The trail got even steeper, if that were possible, and I started running out of steam. Even more, the trail was invisible in the open forest, and it was a matter of looking for blazes. There were very few blazes below, fairly frequent up here. No sign of snow; there is so much forest that I can hardly see the trees, much less the mountain. I eventually decided to declare victory and abandon the field.

No option to take a gentler downgrade; very tricky on a trail of fallen leaves and rocks the size of baseballs. And my impression turned out to be correct: the trail below the road was, with a few exceptions, not nearly as steep as the trail above the road. My guess, based on subsequent examination of Google maps, is that I climbed around 500 meters. Nice workout.

Mont Blanc is now hidden in the clouds, but the surrounding Alps make a nice backdrop to Geneva (the jet d’eau is the spike just left of center).

Just before I popped out into the lowlands trails, I met a woman going up, first person I had met on the entire hike. Friendly exchange of bonjours, and I went on. At the junction was a pair of markers; I wanted to go to Sergy and the arrow seemed to be in the wrong direction. While I stood there puzzling, the woman came back down, having apparently reached the limit of her intended excursion.

She offered me advice about Sergy, but it was clear that my French wasn’t keeping up with the advice. I understood enough French to answer her question about me speaking Anglais. I suggested Deutsch, which she said she didn’t speak very well. Hers was considerably better than mine, however, and we were able to converse as we hiked together Richtung Sergy.

She lives in Geneva, but has a country retreat here in the Jura. We walked along the Sergy-Crozet trail until she reached the turnoff to her country home. She said she had two friends showing up for picnicking and invited me to join them. Very nice of her, but I begged off and continued the walk back to Switzerland.

That’s where we were, somewhere up there. Yet another great day!

Geneva at its best

December 8, 2011

8 December 2011

This time, I’m here in Geneva for two weeks. It has been cold and cloudy and rainy most of the time. The mobs are getting ready to cause destruction at next week’s WTO conference, and the authorities are busy turning the area around the UN into a high security area.

But today was sunny and very pleasasnt. I skipped lunch for the second time this week, did a little running because there is not much other exercise to be had (walking the stairs to my hotel room is the other form).

Down through the botanical gardens past the little wildlife area, where the mandarin and other ducks are always a great attraction.

 Being a clear day, we also get a terrific view of the Alps to the south.

I just hope it’s this nice on the upcoming weekend.