Aug
23
2006

Ready or Not, Fuyang, China Here We Come

bya Gabrielle at 10:30 PM

Our plane leaves tomorrow morning at 9:14. All that means is that we have to be at the airport at least two hours before that. And all that means is that I have to get up at the crack of dawn to get there in time for the TSA agents to rip open my suitcase in order to determine that I am not a threat to the world . . . at that precise moment in time. Is my bitterness about flying and airport security reaching you through all the 1’s and 0’s? It is? Good. Heh. : )

I don’t know about Phil, but I doubt I will sleep well tonight. It feels almost like the first day of school – except that the first day of school is clear on the other side of the world. And I am not exaggerating. Oh, and my tummy. It is already full of angry butterflies. It will be hard keeping them under control. It is normal to feel this way, right?

The next time that you hear from me, I will indeed be in China. This trip was a year and a half in the making, and I am so thrilled that it has finally come to fruition. There were plenty of times when I thought it would never happen.

Before I leave though, I would like to post a picture that my Dad took. My dad is constantly taking better pictures than me. (Grrr.) I may have to have a little talk with him. But it seems that he has won the hummingbird picture award with flying colors, and no, that was not meant as a joke.

Such a pretty picture. I’m jealous.

But anyway. Time to go. Got to sleep. Have a plane to catch. It’s time to travel to the other side of the world.

Fuyang, China, here we come.

Categories: China,Fuyang,Plane,Travel
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Aug
23
2006

People I Will Miss: Farewell Dinner #2

bya Gabrielle at 1:05 AM

This picture was actually taken long before my farewell dinner with my family, but I just got my hands on it. Thank you, Sarah! I have had my share of jobs in my short 24 years of life (almost 25), but until I got my job at Bermex Inc., I had never really had co-workers. Bermex is the place I keep referring to as the place you should only work if you enjoy pain – aka Hell. And that is still true. But there were some redeeming qualities of that job. Mainly the people. The people you see in the picture above are just a few who made working at Bermex fun and bearable even on the days when I thought I was going to die, kill myself or go insane . And I am not exaggerating that in the least. I will surely miss that bunch of people. They were all unique and made me smile. Here are a few pictures from when we all went to Inakaya’s to eat. They asked me why I had chosen a Japanese restaurant when I was going to China. I said it was simply because they had really good food and a table that we all could sit at. Inakaya’s is probably one of the cooler, reasonable priced places in town. You should check it out.

Sarah enjoying some sake. Maybe a bit too much. Heh.

Kurt. A name dogs will fear forever more.

Robbie. There are no words to describe you. : )

Watch as Van fades away. I don’t know how the camera made it happen, but I like it.

The one and only Peter. Hope Anderson treats you right!

And now the FOOD! It was so pretty, we almost couldn’t eat it. But, we did. And boy, was it good. I would also like to note that Peter is the contributor of many of the pictures in this post. And Van contributed some too. Thanks, you guys. I know that this does not look that appetizing, but I was surprised how sweet it was. I actually enjoyed it. It is sea weed salad by the way.

I love miso soup. If I was a little crazier, I would put it in a thermos during the winter and drink it.

The Boat of Yummy Goodness. It was huge!

Much too raw for me – but that is fish and some fish eggs. Not what I ordered.

Last but not least – Sushi. I just love this stuff. I don’t why it took me so many years to try it. Thank God for Publix, though. They offer pretty cheap and good sushi all the time!

Categories: America,China,Food
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Aug
22
2006

Last Attempt. Damn Lightning.

bya Gabrielle at 11:17 PM

Remember how I talked about how things sometimes run in threes? Well, it seems that blogging does not lay outside the bounds of that curse. Last night I tried to write the very post you are reading. I’ll admit that I was stupid. There was a big storm outside.  It was lightening and thundering like mad, but I was determined to get something posted even if it meant ruining the chance of having my pretty, purple computer electrocuted.(Yes, my computer really is purple. Thanks, Phil.)

Like I said, I was being stupid. My first attempt was cut short when, surprise, the power went out. My house was swallowed by darkness. When the power came back on 3 seconds later, it didn’t matter. My computer had shut off and all my work had been lost. That should have been when I decided to postpone my entry, but I tried again. Stupid me. On my second attempt, things appeared to me going smoothly. But just as I got to the bulk of my post, surprise, the power went out again. Another dose of darkness invaded my house. It was enough to make me scream. Once again my progress had been obliterated – tossed out the window. I can’t figure out why I hadn’t saved my progress. Stupidity it seems is never ending and does not run in threes. Shucks for me, I guess.

Round Three. I thought if I could just wait until the worst of the storm had passed, I could get my entry up and running. I waited 10 minutes. No power outage. Not even a flicker. Everything seemed to be alright, so I attempted to try posting my blog just one last time. And things went really well, for about ten minutes. And then it happened.

Flash, boom, boom, power out.

Everything. Gone. Again. No lights. Nothing. Just pure, utter, creepy darkness. “DAMNIT!” I screamed. I could almost picture the storm rolling with laughter in the sky above my bedroom. It didn’t matter that the power came back on almost as soon as it had gone off. I was done. I was throwing in the towel. The storm had won. It was time to go to bed. And that is what I did. Right after I reset the blinking 12:00 on my alarm clock for the third flippin time.

Since my alarm clock went off at 6:30 the next morning like it was supposed to, it appears the power stayed on the rest of the night. Go figure.

But what I wanted to say before the ever beautiful summer storm had claimed its victory over my attempt to post a very simple blog was this . . . And I swear, if my power goes out again, I am going to beat the living crap out of the next thunder head I see and wrestle some lightening to the ground.

I just wanted to share some cool lyrics that expressed how I feel in a lot of ways. They come from Jewel’s new album – Goodbye Alice in Wonderland. You should check it you. It is a little different from her earlier stuff, but still good nonetheless.

And growing up is not the absence of dreaming
It’s being able to understand the difference between
The ones you can hold and the ones that you’ve been sold
Dreaming is a good thing
Cause it brings new things to life
Pretending is an ending
That perpetuates a lie
Forgetting what you are
Seeing for what you’ve been told

Truth is stranger than fiction
This is my chance to get it right
and life is much better
Without all of those pretty lies

Categories: America
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Aug
21
2006

A Farewell Dinner

bya Gabrielle at 4:46 AM

It sank in a little more today that I am really going to China. In just 3 days 8 hours 11 minutes and 14 seconds(as of the

time this was typed) Phil and I will be leaving . . . sing a long with . . . “on a jet plane” . . . and there will be no turning back. There will be no passing go. No collecting $200. Only a 10 month contract of teaching English staring us in the face. And if we are really lucky, probably some of the most awesome adventures of our lives will shortly follow suit. I am really, really, hoping for the latter.

Thursday, August 24th, 2006 will probably be the longest day of my natural life. I am banking on the excitement factor to make the day seem shorter than it will. But 14.5 hours on a plane is 14.5 hours on a plane regardless of how excited you are. Someone seriously needs to invent the teleportation step or something. It would sure make traveling around the world a billion times easier. I would name my company “Particles in Motion” if I was the awesome person to invent it and my slogan would go something like – “Particles in Motion – Where you’re more than just a speck of flesh floating through the air – Happy Particling!” A billion dollar idea people, I promise.

But anyway, back to the whole – “Oh My God, I’m Going to China” bit.

Today a good time was had by all. Because when you feed people yummy goodness, people automatically become happy little gofers. The consumption of food makes your endorphins dance! And when you are happy – you smile. Here are some pictures full of lots of happy proof.

Those are my cousins, Aja and Cody. Smiles from ear to ear. And no, these are not alcoholic grins. Our farewell party was drier than a desert well. Phil and I will make up for it later, I’m sure. There will be lots of “bottoms up” in China. The word for that goes something like Gan Bei. I am such a light weight – the Chinese drinking habits are gonna kick my American booty.

The joy of food is dancing in their eyes. Can’t you see it? It is a lot more evident in Sharon’s eyes than in Christopher’s. At least now the mystery of Red Eye has been revealed to us. Red eyes must equal happy full stomachs. And we all know that cameras never, ever lie!

Mother, you will just have forgive me later for posting this picture. Don’t fret, you look fine. In fact, you look more than fine. Your immense happiness is radiating on the photograph behind you. You couldn’t hide it if you tried.

I know what you are thinking and it simply not true. My Granny was the happiest person at the dinner, she just couldn’t decide on a way to express it when I snapped this picture. My Aunt Bevy, though, her smile says it all.

These two fine folks are the sweetest people in the whole wide world. If you were to look up happiness in the dictionary, you would find their faces posted beside it. I am so very glad I got to see them before I left. Nancy and Jim are truly wonderful

Terence was so flippin happy, he received the Yellow Napkin of Happiness Achievement Award. Overwhelmed by this occurrence, he was unavailable for comment at the time this photo was taken. He said he would get back to me on his acceptance speech very, very soon.

And then there is us. We couldn’t be any happier about our decision to go to China to teach English. We are busting at the seams, even more so than everyone else. There are so many different emotions running through us right now, but that is only natural. And I am sure that soon we will feel right at home. I never thought I would call China home.

But on a more serious note: I will miss you all very much, even though we will be gone for just 10 months. It will be the first time that I have ever been this far from my family and friends for this long of a time. I wish that you all could come over for a visit, but since you can’t – I will be your eyes and ears.

Categories: America,China,Food
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Aug
19
2006

A View From the Top

bya Gabrielle at 5:07 PM


My first attempt at getting this photo was a complete and utter failure. But because I cannot stand defeat(it eats me up inside), I more or less trained like a mad woman for 7 months. Of course, it did help that the working out coincided with my job. Next to boot camp, meter reading is probably the most grueling job a man or woman can have. I cannot express the pain that I endured during those long, often cold, hot, wet days. I had to walk 30 miles on many occasions, jump fences(big fences), and run from dogs that really wanted to eat me (and some times did) in all the weather that mother nature could conjure. In short, I would not suggest doing said job unless pain is one of your finest pleasures.

But anyway, back to the picture at hand. After seven months of dog bites, poison ivy, nails in the foot, and wasp stings that come to find out I am allergic to – I went back to the fearful mountains known to so many as Table Rock. I figured that if I couldn’t climb this beast now, I never would be able to. For those of you not familiar with the Table Rock trail – let me give you the low down. It’s about 4 miles up hill. It’s steep. It’s strenuous. And if you aren’t in reasonable good health, you probably won’t make it all the way up without having a heart attack or something like that. But if you do make it all the way to the tippy top, it’s a very beautiful sight to behold. The worst part of the climb is the steps. There are countless sections that forest rangers have turned into staircases. They consist of rocks, roots, and leveled off sections of ground. You actually have to put some effort into going from one step to the other because there is a large gap between each of the steps. (I imagine that is what the Great Wall is going to be like.) If you can make it through those, there are a few sections with slight inclines that allow you to prepare for the next set of what I like to call “high-steps”. Also, there are a few places that allow you to stop and rest and take in the scenery of the mountain side.

Some key advice on making it through: if on your way up Table Rock you start to have a hard time breathing or you begin to lose faith in your ability to reach the top – just take a 5 minute break, catch your breath, and try to picture the view that you will see when you finally reach the top. There are no roads that take you to the top for cheaters who want the reward but not the hard work. So either take it like a man(or a woman) or just dream about what could have been your accomplishment by looking at my photograph. It is worth every agonizing moment though, I promise.

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Aug
19
2006

The Video of My Sad Kitty Cat

bya Gabrielle at 6:02 AM

Here is the video of Morgan that I promised. If you have ever had to travel somewhere for any period of time- even a week – and you have animals – I am sure that you can relate. No animal likes their Mommy or Daddy to leave them. If you listen closely, you can hear her growling at me. I was lucky to get away unscathed for she was a bit unhappy. I was tempted to close up the suitcase and see how far I could get her through airport security, but figured that that wouldn’t be such a great idea. I can just see her tearing the living crap out of a TSA agent. Enjoy the video.

YouTube Preview Image
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Aug
17
2006

The Omega Machine (Xbox to Jamma)

bya Phil at 6:55 AM

Hi, I’m the other member of this blog. But so far no posts. I’m the one that does the dirty work behind the scenes. I’m the tech guy and am currently hooking up an Xbox to a Jamma arcade cabinet for my bro. It’s easy, but figuring it out alone can be a huge pain. Here’s how I did it. It’ll probably work for you, too, if you want to do it. But keep in mind, touching anything in a TV or something with big capacitors or transformers (even while off) will probably not send ya to the hospital if ya touch it in the wrong place, it’ll send ya to the morgue! So if you don’t know what a capacitor is, don’t attempt this. But don’t worry, I avoid all high voltages. And these steps only risk voltage as high as 12V. Just keep in mind if ya touch somethin bad ya could kill yourself inside that arcade cab there.

Step One in Xbox to Jamma – Build a SCART cable…

Sorry if I don’t have too many pics in this beginning here, I’ll describe it well, though.

My first step was to get video and audio output from the Xbox to the Jamma cab. Jamma picture tubes use red, green, blue, and composite sync. Well an Xbox doesn’t exactly output the same signals, but it will do most of the work for us.

Foreign Xbox users use a SCART cable which uses RGB with Composite Signal. We can use this but first we need to convert a US Xbox cable to a SCART cable.

Step 1 – Go out and buy a Composite Xbox cable with digital audio – $2.99 used.
I got mine for 2.99 but I think it was priced wrong, they normally cost a bit more.

Step 2 – Cut the end open so you can do soldering. You’ll have to pull the inside out to solder to the pins.

The inside will look like this…
When ya have it open you’ll see wires and crap soldered to it. Well if you get a composite cable with digital audio there will be 3 extra wires hooked up for the digital audio, probably a thin white, thin green, and thin red. Two of these will be used for our composite signal, the third we’ll just desolder.

The reason we bought a composite cable is so we don’t have to hook up the red green or blue.
WiringModify the cable so the soldering is like this. Be sure to add the extra jumper wire in there. As a composite cable, only two will be soldered on when you buy the cable. The Xbox uses these jumper cables to determine the type of output. We need the Xbox in SCART mode not Composite. Just add the third jumper wire to turn it into a SCART cable.The diagram shows the grounds for the red, green, blue, and composite joined together. You can join em at the other end of the cable. Just leave those wires alone for now.

Basically to sum it all up, leave it all as it is but find the thinner wires. There should be three: a red, white, and green. Desolder the green, solder the red to where it says Comp, and solder the white to the pin right beside of the Comp for the Comp Gnd. Now our thin red wire is our Composite Signal and the white is the Composite Ground. Finally solder the jumper pin as it shows. You’ll know how to do it cause it’ll look like the other two already hooked up. You’ll need a small piece of wire for this.

Your all done here so put everything back together and melt the rubber of the video cable back together where you cut it. Just about as good as new.

Finally splice the other end of the cable. You’ll have thick red, thick white, thick yellow, thick green, thick blue, thin red, thin white, and thin green. Splice the thicker wires. They’ll have two wires in one, inside of each wire is a white wire. The outside wire (not the white one) will be the grounds. Take the grounds from the video wires and put em together and add the thin white wire to it (comp gnd). There we go, now we have a partially finished RGB cable.

Here’s a diagram of the wires…

Yellow,white – Red Signal
Yellow outside – Gnd
Green,white – Green Signal
Green outside – Gnd
Blue, white – Blue Signal
Blue outside – Gnd

Thin Red – Video Composite Signal
Thin Whie – Gnd

Thick Red,white – Right Audio
This Red outside – Right Audio Gnd
Thick White,white – Left Audio
Thick White outside – Left Audio Gnd

Well we got RGB, Comp Signal, Right and Left Audio.
The jamma needs RGB, Composite Sync, and Mono Audio.

Our next step will be to get Composite Sync outta that Composite Video. For this we will need a LM1881N chip. I found one on Ebay for 6 bucks with shipping.

I’ll show you how to do this in my next post. Next step, separate composite sync from composite video.

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Aug
17
2006

My Very Sad Little Black Kitty

bya Gabrielle at 6:29 AM

I think my kitty(Morgan Rose Ireland Yvette DeWitter) knows that I am leaving for China in 7 days. She’s been laying in my lap a lot more and following me around the house. I can’t even go to the bathroom without her trying to bust in on me. She has even seemed a little sad lately – not really being herself. So, when I walked into my bedroom today, I was only half shocked to find her sitting in my suitcase. I think she was trying to figure out a way to hide herself in one of the side pockets. I wish that I could bring her with me, but I can’t. For one, I am not allowed because the school won’t let me and secondly, Phil won’t let me either. He is allergic. Or at least he says that he is.

I actually have video of me trying to get her out of my suitcase and I will post that as soon as I can. I think it is pretty funny, but I am a little biased. You’ll have to be the judge, I guess.

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Aug
17
2006

Blurry, but I Got Him

bya Gabrielle at 3:29 AM

I stood next to my brother’s window and held the lens of my camera in between the slats of the blinds and waited. It wasn’t long until a female hummingbird flew down. My camouflage didn’t seem to work all that well, though, because she noticed me almost immediately and buzzed off in disgust. But I waited some more. It wasn’t long until either A) she came back or B) another female decided she was thirsty. Either way her action was the same as the first. She buzzed off. I was determined to get a picture of one eating, so I waited a little longer.

A good while later a male decided to come down and visit the feeder. He saw that I was there and was curious as to my reason for standing there but he didn’t seem to care all that much. He ate while hovering for a second or two and then decided to land. I am glad that he did, or I would have never been able to get the quality picture that I did. If you look, you can see that there are no little perches on the feeder. The hummingbird is clasping his tiny feet over the edge. And before I knew it, he too buzzed off. I must have taken 10 pictures of him sitting there, but only two turned out good enough for blog material. I guess I might have to buy a better camera for close ups like this one.

I have actually had the opportunity to feed hummingbirds by hand. Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture of them when I had the chance. But, anyways, when I volunteered at Carolina Wildlife Care last summer, people would sometimes bring in hurt or young hummingbirds along with all kinds of wildlife. . . ie squirrels, opossums, all kinds of birds, snakes, turtles and all sorts of other types of wild animals you can find in South Carolina. You don’t realize how small hummingbirds are until you hold one. They are probably my favorite bird. Although, Gnatcatchers are pretty cool too, but they don’t know how to fly backwards. Heh.

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Aug
15
2006

Darth Maul, the Duck

bya Gabrielle at 8:32 PM

If I ever had any doubts at all about reincarnation, the picture of the Muscovy duck to your right has pushed them all aside. With a single glance, you may just have to agree with me. For those of you unaware of the resemblance, the Muscovy duck looks eerily like the villain from the movie Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Yes, I am sure you can see it now. Before you stands Darth Maul, the Duck.

I’ve heard it a thousand times, and I am sure some of you are thinking the same thing right now. Muscovy ducks must be the ugliest of the duck species. It is arguably the truest statement that I have ever heard. So how did these creatures come about? That’s a very good question because I can’t think why God would make these birds so scary looking. And if you think they look weird, you should hear them quack/hiss. That sound is enough to make the hairs on your back stand up. If I were to come up with a theory though, it would sound something like this . . .One night a drunk Turkey and a Goose under the influence of an illegal drug got their groove on. And the rest is history.

For those of you still scratching your heads about the resemblance between this poor creature and the villain Darth Maul – let me show you a picture.

It is a toss up. I am not sure which one scares me more.

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