Current Works in Progress

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dongyang Photowalk Part Trois (that's three)

Welcome back for the third installment of my Dongyang photowalk. If you are just joining us, the first and second parts can be found here.

If you haven't been following along I'll fill you in quick. I went out with my camera into the wild, concrete jungle that is Dongyang, Zhejiang, China. I took pictures of things that interested me. I had to be extra-super-ninja-sneaky when taking candid shots of people because I'm pretty much the only white guy for 50km in any direction. Also... no wait, that's about it, I guess.

I include here another set of pictures that I like with even more of the snarky commentary you've come to expect. All of that after the break, just click through to see.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More photowalk highlights from Dongyang (东阳)

This post continues from where I left off in this post the other day. As I mentioned there, I went on a photowalk (photoride/photosit/photodrinking coffee) in this tiny little flyspeck village of a million people where I live, and I took some pictures of things that interested me. I share some of them in the hopes that they will also interest you.

To save bandwidth for those on mobile devices or who use readers and don't want to wait for pictures to load (or who don't want to see them at all) I'll include a break in this post. Click through to see some Dongyang pictures with some sarcastic commentary from yours truly. I'll try not to be too snarky this time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two blog award thingies

Two unexpected things happened over the past week or so. First someone tagged me in the "Lucky 7 meme", and then someone else nominated me for the "Kreativ Blogger Award". Both of them involve me writing things about myself (which I love to do anyway) and both involve me tagging other people to do the same.

For reasons which will become clear momentarily, I decided to write both of them up in one post.

First of all, because it happened first, the Lucky 7 meme.

Part 1 - the Lucky 7 Meme

The Brewed Bohemian tagged me and a few other people who were participating in the Once Upon a Time contest (Contest here, my entry here) with this "Lucky 7 meme". Apparently this means I am required to :

  1. Cut and paste into my blog the seven lines starting on the seventh line of either page 7 or page 77 of my current work in progress.
  2. Tag 7 other people.
This raises an interesting dilemma. My current work in progress is a 4 page short story. It doesn't have a page 7.

What I will do instead is copy in my opening 'scene' from said work in progress. The working title is "Dragon".

A thousand times and more have we hunted together, reveling in the chase, the snap, the feel of flesh on teeth.  A thousand times and more have we frolicked and flew, glorying in the feel of wind on scales and wings. A thousand times and more have we tended our crystal gardens on the rooftops of the world, watching patiently as they grew, layer by painstaking layer.
Always together we rose up, to the highest reaches where the air thins, to throw ourselves ecstatically at the ground; both seed and sower. It was always together that we grew, drinking of the sun and the soil and the water, our roots intertwined and our leaves whispering secrets to each other in the breeze. It was always together that we went still, transmuting cellulose and capillary to crystal, freeing our minds to wander the gardens we'd so carefully tended in the age before. A thousand thousand years we've spent together, and now I am alone and it feels as though half of me is missing.
Imagine you wake up one day and half of your legs are gone, or maybe a wing. But you don't notice at first because there is no pain, no wound, just the absence of something that has always before been there. You have the feeling that something is odd, but you don't dwell overmuch on it because it is a new day and there are exciting things on the breeze. And then you try to walk, and you fall. Or you leap from the side of the mountain into the bright clean air. And you fall.
So it was for me when I awoke. The jeweled shards of my shattered trunk had not yet reached the ground when I realized that something was different. I had yet to open the eyes of my new body, yet to unfurl my wings, when I knew that something was horribly, horribly wrong. When I realized what had happened, I believe it broke my mind.
So there you go. The first four paragraphs of my current WIP. As Chuck Wendig says, "Please to enjoy."

Part 2 - The Kreativ Blogger Thingamajigger

So the other thing that happened was that Eva Rieder nailed me with a Kreativ Blogger award. She is a math teacher by day and a keyboard ninja by night. She writes fantasy and mainstream fiction, and has wavy hair.

This one is a bit more involved. I have to tell you seven (why is it always seven?) surprising things about myself, thank the person who's making me do this (thanks a lot, Eva) (:)), link back to their blog, and nominate 7 other people. I'm detecting a trend here.

So first of all, thank you to Eva. Not so much for tagging me with this, although I actually do feel a bit flattered, but for reading my blog in the first place. I'm always surprised when people come back more  than once, and find it suspicious when they claim to like what I'm writing. I should probably get over that if I want to be a professional author, no?

I don't know if there are 7 surprising things about me. I'm pretty open and like to talk about myself, so anyone who's known me more than an hour (or a pint, whichever comes first) probably knows most of what there is to know. I'll write seven things people who don't know me might be surprised to know, though. That is doable.

Thing number 1: Mandarin Chinese was my fifth language

I speak English natively. I learned French in high school and lived in Quebec for three months on an exchange program, becoming more or less fluent. I studied both German and Japanese in university becoming functional but by no means fluent, and then I moved to China 8 years ago and gradually learned to speak with the locals. 

Thing number 2: By the time I finished high school I had read an estimated 3000 novels.

I averaged about 4-5 novels a week, every week, through most of my schooling. I mostly read fantasy and science fiction, but I also read all the classic young adult series - Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew, The Black Stallion, Judy Blume, et. al. - by the age of 7 or 8. I had epic battles with the school librarian who didn't believe that I could read actual books and wouldn't let me borrow anything with a polysyllabic word in it.

Thing number 3: I am terrified of spiders, needles and, by extension, dentists.

I once left a cavity so long that the nerve died on its own. When the pain suddenly stopped I got so worried I made an appointment.

Thing number 4: When watching a movie or reading a book I cry at the drop of a hat.

More often for the old "underdog comes from behind to win" maneuver than for the obviously sappy or sad, but I'm not kidding about this. I even teared up at the end of "The Incredibles" and any scene with Iñigo Montoya gets me every time.

Thing number 5: I dream lucidly, and have since I was four or five years old.

Lucid dreaming is basically where you are aware you are dreaming. For some people (including me) this usually involves being in more or less total control of my dreams, but not always. This resulted in my sometimes having a fair bit of difficulty differentiating between reality and dreams for much of my childhood.

Thing number 6 (but related to number 5): I am still a smoker when I sleep

I quit smoking a year and a half ago, but I often have dreams where I still smoke. They aren't dreams about smoking, just dreams in which I am a smoker. This means that quite often I spend an entire morning going through withdrawal from an addiction I beat more than a year ago.

Thing number 7: I am the poster boy for INTJ personalities

This probably isn't a surprise to anybody but myself. I was mostly surprised that there was a known personality type that fit me. I was even more surprised that there are a whole bunch of us. I found an INTJ circle on google+ and I have to say, I love those people. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, the dry version and the funny (and more useful) version.

As a side note, when I asked my wife what was surprising about me she mentioned that she was surprised by how filthy my mind is and at how loud I can pass gas, so umm... be happy I didn't listen to her and include those.

Now, for the harassment of seven people whose blogs I read. Rather than choosing 14 people in total or forcing 7 people to do both of these I will name seven personal blogs I read and let them decide if they want to do one, the other, both or none. I can't in good conscience name the two ladies who singled me out (although it occurred to me to give the one to the other and the other to the one, if you follow), so 7 new people (in no particular order other than this is the order I put them in):

  1. Nicole Feldringer at
  2. Voss Foster at
  3. Kia at
  4. Gnetch at
  5. Stephen Hayes at (I know you just got one of these recently so I'll understand if you skip it. No really)
  6. Meg McNulty at
  7. Susan Lewis at
None of these people write about the same thing, but they all write with personality, and honesty, and from their hearts, and with fewer clauses than I do. I don't actually follow very many blogs, I'm extremely picky, and these seven are the blogs I get the most excited about when they pop up in my reader - well, these 7 and "Text From Dog", that guy is hilarious. 

To all 7 of you, pick your poison. Would you like to do the lucky 7 meme or the Kreativ Blogger Award, or both? I leave the decision in your hands as I think you're all worthy of both.

For my readers, please take a look at all 7 of them and vote for your favorite in the comments below. The most favoritest blog will get a special prize just as soon as I think of one.

Monday, May 14, 2012

On the road again. I can't wait to get...

It is Monday evening as this goes out on the interwebs. In the morning we will pack up the car, strap the munchkin into his seat, and head off for Hangzhou. Thursday morning we will hop on the shuttle bus that takes us from downtown Hangzhou to Shanghai's Pudong airport where, around 3pm our flight will leave for Canada.

It's an interesting function of the international dateline that we leave Shanghai at 3pm on Thursday May 17th and arrive in Vancouver just before 12 noon on Thursday May 17th; three hours before we leave. If that doesn't seem fair, don't worry. We lose a whole day on the way back.

Oh, by the way, we're going to Canada on Thursday. We will be spending three weekends, and the two intervening weeks, visiting my home and native land. It's my wife's and son's first trip to Canada and only my second trip back in the last eight years. This is my wife's first time meeting most of my family (my parents have been here to visit us) and my son's first time to see the country of which he is a citizen. I'm so excited that I haven't gotten anything useful done in weeks.

I'm looking forward to seeing people I haven't seen in years (Facebook doesn't count). I'm looking forward to eating a number of things that I haven't eaten for years. People will be hugged and meals demolished. Dee. Mall. Isht.

I am also looking forward to something that few people ever have a chance to do. I'm looking forward to seeing the place where I grew up and the culture I grew up in through the eyes of a stranger. I'm partly referring to my wife's reactions to things, of course, but mostly I mean my own.

I've been living in China for eight years. That's a very long time. In those eight years I'm fairly certain I've become more acculturated than I think to the Chinese way of living, and less accustomed to good old Can-eh-dia, eh? I've also spent a lot of my time hanging out with Aussies, Brits, the French and other disreputable types (I'm looking at you, Germans). I think culturally I'm still more Canadian than Chinese, but I'm not sure by how much, and I'm interested to find out.

I will make an effort to keep this place updated. I have a couple of posts already written and scheduled, and I have the blogger app installed on my tablet, so I should be able to do some basic blogging "from the field" as it were, but if I don't post much for the rest of May it's probably because my mother taught me not to blog with my mouth full. Dee. Mall. Isht.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dongyang (东阳) Photowalk Highlights

In my first week or two using Google+ I happened to add a large circle of photographers. Two things happened as a result; I got to look at photographs much better than anything I can take (yet), and I found out about something called a photowalk.

A photowalk is when you go for a walk mostly so you can take pictures along the way. Many people do this in groups and it is a social event. I don't know many people here who are interested in photography. I do know a number of people who own very expensive cameras, but they are more interested in making sure everyone knows how expensive it is than in learning how to use it.

At any rate, I went on a solo photowalk the other day (except I rode my bike) and took some pictures of some people and some places and some things. I thought I'd share some of the better ones ones I like the most.

I'll put any photography related comments in italics in between the picture and my "social commentary" in case anyone is interested. In a related note, all pictures were taken with a Canon Powershot S5 IS. They are presented here straight from the camera with no post processing. My philosophy is to try and improve my skills with the camera rather than with the computer. 

This picture shows the limitations of my camera quite effectively. It is a very, very good point and shoot camera and I love it, but no matter how small I make the aperture I can't make it give me a narrow depth of field.Had I been able to make the camera do what I wanted the boy would be in sharp focus and the girl would be blurry enough that you couldn't recognize her. This is the best I could do with the equipment I have.

While out riding I stopped (for 4 hours) to have a cup of coffee with the other foreigner who lives here. I decided this was no reason to stop taking pictures.

This little guy was fascinated by the two white guys having coffee. He started out by walking up and standing about three feet from our table and staring at us for a few minutes. He was surprised when I asked him what he wanted in Mandarin Chinese (Chinese people always assume that Caucasians are genetically incapable of learning their language - usually with good reason). When he didn't answer me I switched to the local language and he just about fainted. After that there was no getting rid of him.

I was working mostly on my framing and composition on this one. I wanted to catch the feeling of the location while maintaining attention on the two people. I used a fairly small aperture (and correspondingly high ISO) to try and zone focus on the girls.

Dongyang is a small town of almost a million people and is part of a larger metropolitan area called Jinhua that holds more than 4 million people. It has a population density of 420 people per square km (just for reference, I grew up in a place with a population density of 1.75 people per square km). Thirty years ago, however, it was all farms and while you can take the farms away from the farmers, you can't make the farmers stay indoors, pay for electricity, or stop spitting.

The people here tend to spend a lot of their time outdoors doing activities that most westerners would consider indoor activities. Here a woman is teaching her granddaughter how to knit. At the risk of being too cynical, it says something about the housing here that sitting in the back alley is more comfortable than sitting inside.

Great big old aperture on this one. I wanted both the foreground and the background in focus. I really with I had a wider lens on this camera. I'd love to do some landscape photography around here, but I can't get a wide enough angle of view. Someday I'll get a DLSR and the first lens I buy (aside from the kit lens) will be a nice wide 16-35mm.

This is one of my favorites.

There are a number of places like this where there's a cement wall and someone has knocked a hole in it, and on the other side you can see a green space. Every time I see one I get Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall (pt. 2)" stuck in my head (except instead of "brick" my brain sings "hole"). Also, this image ties in with a novel I'm working on in interesting ways (more on that later).

These holes are made for a very specific reason, any guesses what the reason is?

Monday, May 7, 2012

An update

I thought it might be high time to update the old blog with recent events, but before I do that...

Hello to all my new subscribers!

It seems a bit odd to me that the number of people who subscribe to my blog should quadruple in the three weeks I don't post anything, but it is what it is. I hope you enjoy what you find here and that you make your presence felt in the comments.

Now, on to the news which consists mostly of;

  • I finally finished the short story I've been working on. Again.
  • I'm modifying my vision for the blog slightly. Again.
  • We (the Baby, the Wife, and I) are off to Canada in 10 days for a visit. For the first time. 

The Short Story

First, the short story. I wrote a short story almost a month ago. I was very pleased with it, especially with the second half of it which I wrote in an hours-long cathartic burst of creative YARGH! Two or three days later I copied the document from my tablet to my desktop so I could start editing. I write on both machines, so when it popped up saying there was already a file by that name I thought nothing of it. "Copy over that one," I said.

So I lost the last half of my short story. The part where the language flowed like burgundy and dripped like liquid gold. The part where the characters came right off the page and burrowed into your brain and built a nest there. The part where the awesome happened. I'd forgotten that I'd written the last part of the story on the desktop, not on the tablet. I actually wept.

This is in large part why I haven't been very active with the blog for a few weeks. I haven't actually been writing anything - nothing creative anyway. I've been active on twitter (active for me, anyway). I've been very active on Google+ (you should sign up, if you haven't). I've even been active on Facebook. What I haven't been doing, however, is writing. I couldn't.

The loss of those few pages of writing crippled me a little. I was intimidated by myself, I guess. The section of writing I lost was good. Really good. The thought of trying to recreate it made me feel nauseous. So I didn't try.

Finally, yesterday, I looked myself right in the brain and said, "So are you a f**king writer, or aren't you?" It turns out the answer is yes. I didn't recreate the section I'd lost, but I did write it again. It isn't as good now as I remember the first version being, but at least now it exists in some form. More importantly, I feel as though I've passed a hurdle. The burden I felt slide from me as I hit save is indescribable (and I'm reasonably proficient at describing stuff).

So I'm back to writing again. Onward and Upward.

The Blog

This one is pretty simple, really. I realized that while I'm interested in technology, I'm not interested enough to write about it regularly. So I won't.

Likewise, I don't listen to enough new music to write about music regularly. So I won't.

I watch the same two or three TV shows and usually not until several days after they air. If I were to write about TV it would be quite repetitive and not at all timely. So I won't.

I will continue to write about China. I enjoy that, and I've gotten the impression that my readers do as well.

I will also write about writing, at least writing from my point of view. As I travel along this road of becoming a professional storyteller, I'll share the bumps and snags and pitfalls I encounter and the ways I find to cope with them. For example, yesterday I learned that swearing at your own brain helps you stop refreshing social networking sites and makes you finish a story.

I will also post some things about music and technology from time to time, but only when I feel like it. I am also getting back into photography again these days, so I may share some of what I'm learning in that arena as well. It tends to tie in with my China posts because, after all, I'm mostly taking pictures of things in China.

As I continue to change and evolve, so too will my blog. This plan is only in effect until the next plan takes over. :)

The Trip

So. We leave in 10 days. It's a 24 hour journey - 16 hours on a plane, 3 hours in an airport, another couple of hours on a smaller plane and voila! We're there. Doing this with an 18 month wiggleworm is going to be... interesting. I have plans for that (they involve Teletubbies and Shaun the Sheep on my tablet, mostly) so we'll see how that works.

This trip is the other reason I haven't been present around here much of late. We will be gone for two and a half weeks, and we don't have enough time between when we get back and the end of the term to make up all the classes we'll have missed while we're gone, so we've been working overtime to make up the classes before we go.

I've only been back to Canada once in the past 8 years, and this will be the first time my wife or son have been there at all, so to say we're excited doesn't really cover it. Current plans include a weekend in the Canadian Rockies, a number of BBQs, a fishing trip to northern Saskatchewan, a weekend in Calgary with a couple of the best people in the world (and probably a trip to the zoo), and a bunch of relaxing with my family. Heck, I checked out of here mentally two weeks ago.

Umm, yeah.

So, that's what's been up with me. What about you?

For my new subscribers in particular, but also for anyone who happens to be reading this, tell us a bit about yourself in the comments. Who are you and what do you like to do? Do you have a blog? A website? A google+ profile? Can we add you on twitter? Do you raise purebred dalmatians for fire houses? Inquiring minds want to know, and blogger only tells me how many of you there are, not who you are. Unless you say something down below I have no way of getting to know you.