Pick Your Poison

The Mushroom Madness event last week at the San Francisco Arboretum showcased not only the infinite variety of fungi, lichen, and spores that surround us, but it also surfaced many mycological fanatics. Not mythological, but close. In case you ever wondered whether the ones growing in your backyard were edible, this was the place to rub noses with those in the know.

The society reminded me of a similar group of astronomical buffs. When we stayed overnight at Fremont Peak years ago to stargaze, the featured delicacy of the evening, aside from Saturn and Jupiter,  was blue jello hidden below a frothy cloud of white meringue.

We couldn’t resist the Mushroom Soup this time either. Nothing too exotic, but we slurped and savored the mushy mess despite a few lingering trails of what looked like earthy seaweed in the broth.

December is wrap-up time for the academic fall semester. The student art show at City College of San Francisco’s Fort Mason campus brought together many new and old faces. Paper versions were displayed, while friends and family proudly gathered to admire the visual works. Below is a quick scan of a part of the Figure Drawing class exhibition’s earnest efforts.

And last night’s presentation of the SF Opera’s new and upcoming young singers from the Adler Program:


Birthday wishes this month go to Eric, Melissa, Ruth, Jeff and Sherry!
Continue reading Pick Your Poison

Day 60: the Great Railway Bizarre

image image image image

I’ve been traveling with Gee Kin by train for over a week throughout China and haven’t made much mention of the trains themselves except for the nice photos of the attendants on the night train from Turpan to Shulehe. Needless to say, it has been an experience. Since I was able to collect my thoughts on this next to final leg from Chengdu to Guangzhou, a 28-hour ride on my own, here are a few of them to share with you:

1. The Chinese trains have a few sweet touches, like flowers in the compartment, a thermos for hot water (for the instant noodles that everyone brings), table cloths, and drapes that the assistants come in and close for you at night. They also have a waste basket and a stainless steel tray for all the peanut shells and melon seeds that everyone eats on the trains to pass the time.

2. The toilets, well, are there. Modern ones with a commode. Use at your own risk. There’s a shared counter with three sinks. They close the facilities when the trains are inside stations, so you have to plan your strategy. These haven’t changed much since we did our Beijing-HK train ride for 36 hours back in 2000 with the girls.

3. You can buy tickets off the Internet through
They all worked, and communication was clear. A few blips, but overall very efficient. I am attaching some photos of the K and T trains we took.
The last one was a four compartment soft berth overnighter (K), and the one Gee Kin and I took to Shulehe was a 6 compartment hard berth version (T).

4. The food service is still decent. Chinese will always manage to feed you, with recognizable elements. The dining room and the takeout food brought to your compartment were reasonable. My breakfast consisted of a hard boiled egg, chopped green beans with spices, pickled turnip, green veggie with minced meat, and congee with scrambled egg.

5. The itinerary I took from Chengdu to Guangzhou consisted of massive cities with high rises everywhere. If you were wondering where the cranes were, they are all in China. Each city is in a massive building boom. There must be more cranes in all of China than everywhere else in the world combined, or at least it feels that way. The point is that no city was recognizable by name, with the exception of Chongqing. And they were all sizeable. Where have I been??? I feel like Rip Van Winkle, who overslept…maybe 5 years?

6. Despite Chongqing whisking right past me, I did see the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River) and portions of Guizhou that were Guilinesque near Guangdong in the morning. There were still pristine rice paddies, but with high rises off in the horizon. A nuclear power plant slipped by, and many many high rises that boggle the mind. Cities the size of Hong Kong seemed to float past, one after another.

Photos, from top, left to right:

1. Breakfast in the dining car
2. aisle to sleeping compartments
3. Dining car
4. view of Guizhou Mountains
5. High rises in distance to paddies
6. List of stops–most are major cities (recognize any?)
7. Screen shots of train soft berth compartment for 4
8. Screen shot of train hard berth compartment for 6 (shown earlier)
9. Screen shot of train exterior

Day 59(b): Olde World Charm on Jinli Pedestrian Street

This is Chinatown reinvented by Chinese for the Chinese. Despite being Disneylandish and very crowded, this recreation of an old street in Chengdu maintained some of its old buildings, walls and facades. It looked like a winner to the Chinese tourists, who were curious about all the vendors displaying their crafts and willing to try different food. There were plenty of demonstrations of brush painting, shadow puppets, Chinese instruments, and food preparation. I found quite a few new presentations of snacks that I had never seen before, so for me it was a worthwhile visit. And of course I was momentarily distracted by reproductions of original Chinese architectural features in the fretted windows of the shops and dining establishments.

1. Oysters and pearls
2. Jellied pudding with spicy dressing
3. Rolled rice noodles with spicy dressing
4. Bamboo with sweet rice stuffed in stalk
5. windows along restaurant
6. Hand painting
7. entrance to Jinli Street
8. vendor selling meat on skewers, dim sum and sweet rice dessert
9. Traditional windows

Day 45 (a): Bokhara II

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Bokhara has an extensive collection of Islamic Architcture.

Photos above, from top, left to right:

1. Map of the Great Silk Road: this week I am traveling along it from Tashkent to Khiva (Uzbekistan) and next week from Turpan in Northwestern China to Dunhuang.
2. the Ark (it wasn’t just Noah’s): the ceremonial grounds to the Fortress required visiting dig arises to back out after having an audience with the Amir. When the guest reached the wall in front of the exit, he knew he could turn around and leave.
3 and 4: the Ark from the exterior: big voluptuous corner and side wall fortifications
5 and 6: Samonid Mausoleum, one of the earliest remaining buildings in Bokhara, built between 9th and 10th C. Purported to be a masterpiece of world architecture and a perfect geometric form built of brick. Beautiful texture, but looked a little bit like an Irish fisherman sweater.
7. Interior Corner of Samonid Mausoleum: corner elements cleverly reconcile weight of circular dome over walls by being slightly smaller in diameter than width of square.
8. Samonid Mausoleum Tomb: both father, son, and grandson are buried in the tomb. he father’s tomb was originally in the middle, and the grandson was the third tomb, but they were they were all moved into one tomb and thus the offset position.
9. Kalyan Mosque is the largest mosque in Bokhara and second largest in Uzbekistan. The old wood columns are typical of the period and were periodically replaced.
10. Kalyan Mosque: Praying is conducted outside due to the mosque’s popularity. On Fridays, the mosque can hold up to 12,000 people. A electronic board indicates the times of prayer.
11,12, and 13: Courtyard and surrounding galleries of the Kalyan Mosque. (Header also shows overview of Courtyard, where worshippers pray)
14. Medressee Miri-Arab Madrasah: Opposite the Kalyan Mosque, this highly regarded spiritual Islamic University was built in the 16th C.