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A poppy of color

California Poppies seem to emit light, especially on dreary days, but they don’t last long.

Cee’s Flower of the Day

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China A to Z

China A to Z

Tomorrow is the start of the Blogging A to Z challenge. I thought I would give a little bit more information about the topic I chose, why I chose it, and my point of view/philosophy.

I have been traveling to China once or twice a year since my son got a job there in 2013. A total of 7 trips completed, with another to start during this challenge.

The name for this blog was taken from my first trip, that story is in this post: Happy Mama .

I haven’t traveled extensively throughout the whole nation, since I am going to visit my son I spend most of my time where he lives, Weifang prefecture in Shandong Province. I have traveled to many of the the usual sights for a western package tour of China, just not as a tour, but I have visited more places that are not on the usual western package tour itinerary. Places that are popular with Chinese people. When I travel my goal, aside from visiting my son, is to get a sense of China and Chinese culture. That sense of place is what I aim to share in this series of posts.

Mostly Pictures

My hobby in the last few years, is photography and I have been working on composition. When I say “composition” I am not talking about things like the famous “rule of thirds” (although I do study, and use, those kinds of rules). My goal is making pictures not photos: using “a picture is worth a thousand words” as my definition. Probably most of my photos aren’t up to a thousand words, but I strive to have them convey a sense of place: What makes the place unique? What makes it like other places in China? In the world? Is there a story behind the image?

I am not as good at wrapping words around ideas as I would like, so most of my posts are dominated by pictures, with a few explanatory words.

Mostly Shandong

As I mentioned I have spent most of the time I have been in China in Shandong. My son teaches in Weifang, for a few years in the city of Weifang and now in Shouguang city within Weifang prefecture. These are “regular”, not tourist places. I’ve also visited several places within the province where many Chinese tourists go.

Shandong Province is, in some ways the heart of China. Shandong is the fruit and vegetable basket of the country and there are vast amounts of farmland growing many types of fruits, vegetables and corn, lots and lots of corn. There is a good deal of other industry. It is also a cultural heart: the home of Confucius and many ancient empirical temples and shrines. It isn’t on the regular “western” tourist plan, but there are many sites, several of them World Heritage Sites, important to Chinese people located in Shandong.

Focusing on the Ordinary

While traveling in China beyond Shandong, I realized that many of the things I have seen and done there are representative of China, especially in how regular people live. Because I am visiting someone who lives and works in China (leaving me lots of time to explore on my own), I have had experiences (like being served crunchy, spicy, really big cockroaches in someone’s home) that don’t come as part of a package tour.

Welcome to China!
…at least the China I have experienced.
I hope you enjoy it.

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Plans for April

A week late and still a couple of letters short…Since I’ve been on-again-off-again blogging this year (which is racing past like a shinkansen), I decided to try the Blogging A to Z Challenge to jump start better habits.

My theme is: China A to Z.

Last fall was my seventh trip to China, a place I never thought I’d ever go as recently as a decade ago. I will be going there again next month so I can add fresh pictures into the mix (and my brain storming still has nothing for a couple of letters).

Hard to believe that next Sunday it is April (and Easter!). I’d better get cracking.

Hard to swallow

I took a break from the media news last week.

Busy week

It wasn’t a real break for me, I just had a bunch of closer to home events going on. I don’t rise to these occasions like I used to.

Grandma was sick, noro-virus, her nursing home was quarantined. It is good that they are so careful, but a pain in the hindquarters for me: Friday was her 95th birthday and I had plans that involved a party in one of their rooms.

Dad came home from Arizona and when he called his cell phone was dead and his cable TV was being weird. This matter for me only in that he won’t make phone calls so I have to go over and do the calls. It turned out that these problems resolved themselves over night (his phone charged and the cable company finished whatever work they were doing nearby, but we were there before we realized that. The island isn’t far, I live less than 10 miles away as the crow flies, but with ferries a quick trip is both difficult and a bit spendy, besides we hadn’t seen him since the beginning of January, so we hung out for a while.

It gave me a chance to make phone calls. I received the call from the social worker that same morning (Thursday, remember Friday was the birthday). I was on the phone trying to rent a wheel chair van and find a restaurant that I thought I could get her into (“accessible” means dramatically different things to different people). It took a quite a while and a slew of phone calls but I did get it arranged.

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We did it! Everything went off well. I can’t say there were no hitches, but in the end that doesn’t really matter.

Back to the real world

Under the big top in the “other Washington”

My first taste of the news was reading A Lot from Lydia’s post: This Week of Trump’s. It made me glad I wasn’t paying attention to national news during the week. My stress level would have been even higher, and watching the crap unfold is a lot like watching a train wreck with a bunch of cars stuck on the track at uneven distances. Bang, bang bang. Pause. Bang. Pause. Bang, bang, bang, bang. Or hearing the firecrackers go off in China on auspicious days for weddings. You never know when you are going to get hit with the “hot noise”, or how far away it’s going to be. It draws attention from other issues.

One such issue: Deregulating airlines

This morning’s paper has a bunch of stuff (much already covered by Lydia). Since my husband reads the front section first, slowly, I grabbed the business section. The big headline on this section “Airlines strive to reverse rules protecting passengers”. My blood boiled. I find this hard to swallow.

The paper also had an article, “Why is it so hard to get the airline seat you want?” You should read it. But, spoiler alert, it doesn’t point to an industry that deserves to be trusted to police itself, or have the extremely minimal consumer protections in existence revoked.

The thing that bugs me most is that, while the article mentions that the US Department of Transportation has to hold hearings about changes, there is no mention of how one can  make a comment for one’s self. Since many people fly that seems like a pretty big gap in information. It is also interesting that the story isn’t listed on the front page briefs of their web site under business. Although Florida’s foray into Atlantic Salmon farming made the cut.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation temporarily froze all pending airline-industry regulations as part of an administration push to cut the burden of red tape on American businesses. And it asked the public and airlines for comments on existing regulations that could be halted, revised or repealed.

There is a DC Industry trade group (lobby) called “Airlines for America”, as well as individual airlines, who, apparently, know how to get their requests in.

Airlines for America, a Washington, D.C.-based industry trade group, called the Transportation Department’s initiative “a much-welcomed shift from a decade’s-long Washington practice of regulatory interference in the market.”

On the “A4A” website:

A4A advocates on behalf of our members to shape crucial policies and measures that promote safety, security and a healthy airline industry.We work collaboratively with airlines, labor, Congress and the Administration to improve air travel for everyone.

Notice that they don’t engage passengers (aka, sardines) in their collaboration? The logic is that passengers should be represented by the government. Does anyone else feel uneasy?

Help! I’d rather be packing than shopping

Last night heading out to take pictures of the sunset at Vernal Equinox from a nearby park (Solstice Park in West Seattle), I noticed a tiny spot on my lens. I couldn’t brush it off or clean it off.  It appears to be a very tiny chip. Since I use a bridge camera I can’t replace the lens.

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Since I see so many gorgeous pictures in blog posts I am wondering if you might share your experiences and wisdom with me. Here are some of the questions I have:

  • What kind of camera do you use? Why?
  • What features would you look for?
  • Have you tried a mirror-less camera? What are the benefits/drawbacks?
  • How heavy and difficult to use is a DSLR?
  • What kind of lens do you prefer? Why?

While most people would say that after 3 years I am due for a new camera and be excited about the possibilities with the new technologies, I am filled with trepidation. I’ve finally gotten used to the one I have and how to use it to best advantage, along with how to post process the images taken with it. Since I’ve taken over 30,000 photos with it, I’ve tried out pretty much every feature and have set things the way I like them. The spot doesn’t seem to show, the photo above and the two below were taken after I noticed it.

However, I might want to get a new camera before I take a couple of trips this spring/summer. There are so many choices that I get a headache just starting to look at them. Mirror-less, DSLR, and various “bridge” options, including getting the current version of the camera I have now (I have a Nikon P610 and they now have a P900, which has a longer zoom but sounds otherwise quite similar, for example the sensor, which is the one thing I’d most like to upgrade, is the same).

I shy away from the more expensive options. I travel and don’t want to have something so valuable that it attracts attention or that I have to stress about, or hassle with changing lenses on the fly.

Also, I felt like I didn’t have the knowledge and skill to warrant the cost. But now, after using bridge cameras for several years in a wide variety of circumstances, along with having taken some classes at the community college, and gaining a lot of knowledge from the blogging community in lessons and challenges, maybe I’m ready to move up. I also noticed that some of the DSLR packages aren’t a whole lot more expensive than the current replacement for the camera I use now. I know that what I want probably doesn’t exist and I will need to compromise somewhere. I’m just not sure where.

I’d Rather Be…