Dave's Sketch Journal

Drawing is taking a line for a walk. - Paul Klee

Nightscape at Shangrila

Tibetan construction and TempleNightscaps are the most interesting photography to me. Sometimes I never know how they'll turn out, or even what colors will turn out.

Last night just before bed I shot a frame of the Tibet Temple in the distance. Funny how the eye is not as sensitive as the camera. In this case I didn't see the colors in the clouds and the dark blue sky in the distance. Nor did I see the green color light reflected from our lodge.

Tibetan construction nightAnyway, after the exposure I took a quick look and couldn't believe my eyes. The colors were as an artist's oil pallet. Blue sky, green building,  orange clouds, and the golden temple on the hill. I took several more but these were the best of the bunch.

In the old days I would have had to wait a week or more for the film to come back. Instead I immediately saw the results, made some corrections, and took some more frames.

(This was a 8 second exposure at f2.8 using a 11-16mm Tokina lens set at 11mm. A Nikon D300s in-camera processor rendered the photo. No after photo corrections were made.)

Tibetan ConstructionEarlier durning the day we drove out to look at the Tibetan homes that I mentioned yesterday. I was able to walk inside one under construction and take a shot. It all seemed very strange. The pillars on the second floor were only braced with wooden blocks. Huge square pillars were braced under them. The floor was a honeycomb of concrete with tamped mud between. I guess they stay up for years but I couldn't help wondering what would happen in an earthquake? I would not like to be inside. This was an HDR of three images blended together.  This provided the even exposure inside the building as well as outside of the hills beyond.

Enough about me. Let's talk about you. What do you think about me? - unknown

Shangrila - The Timberline Lodge

Shangrila Timberline LodgeTimberline Lodge is a great place to stay while in Shangrila.

It's quiet, clean, and rustic. Huge pine timbers run vertically through the rooms. Mud walls, rough hewn doors, the floors, and furniture add to the Alpine cabin feel. There is even a porch out back where we can entertain friends over a glass of wine. Maybe we should move here?

Today we took a ride of about 15 kilometers. We saw horses, goats, sheep, and pigs. (No lions, tigers or bears, oh my.)

Shangrila Timberline Lodge roomThe structures are more Tibetan than what we have seen so far. They are built wide at the bottom but then lean slightly inward toward the three story roof above. They are made of mud, the most rustic of construction materials. They tamp it down between two stacked planks on either side of the wall. Then they move the planks up another layer and begin again. After the mud dries they paint it usually a white or off-white. The three story entrance is usually built with carved panels and doors.

Ashly & StickyfaceAfter the drive we sat out back on the porch, entertained friends, and finished off our $3 bottle of wine. We talked and watched the stars swirl above us. Ashley & Ben's dog, "Stickyface" were great company.

It was 10:30 when we turned on the heater, climbed under the covers, and switched the lights off.

I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee. - Carly Simon


Shangrila valleyShangrila is north of Dali, about a six to seven hour drive.

We ran into lot's of slow moving busses, tractors, and four axle trucks. Trucks with rocks, bricks, logs, pigs, cattle, you name it. The air conditioner in the car didn't work too well so we had to leave the windows open. We ate a lot of dirt and soot from the trucks ahead.

ShangrilaShangrila shopsShangrilaThere is a new four lane road that is being constructed and that added to the traffic. In several places we had to stop for loaders dumping rocks and dirt into the truck in front of us. There is no such thing as traffic control here. If you think you can make it around the loader, go for it. And we did several times.

We made it into town and toured through the shops some. But mostly we watched the local line dancing in the square as the sun went down. We had a great time shooting mixed light photos in the streets and back alleys.

Eventually we made it to bed and heard nothing. We found a place outside of the town square where it was very quiet except for the distant occasional dog bark. Climbing to 8,000 feet near the Tibetan border means thin air, cool nights, and tired souls.

We were out within minutes snuggled in comfy beds and covered in layers of blankets.

If you don't go to other people's funerals, they won't go to yours. - Unknown

Dali Stop

Eric in DaliWe are staying at the Jade Emu in Dali. It's a clean and comfortable hostel for only 120 a night. That's 120 RMB a night, or about $20 U.S. a night. It includes two bedrooms, a bath, a kitchen area, TV, and free WIFI. I think hostels are underrated.  Most we've stayed in offer better services that some of the five stars.  In addition to the ping pong table, dartboard, and free Internet computers, they offer a reasonable breakfast too.

Dali GraniteOur room is on the second floor of the inn.  It's a perfect temperature outside.  A gentle wind fills the curtains that eventually spills into the room sweeping over our beds in the evenings.  The sun neons the clouds above the Dali mountain peaks providing a soft evening light down the lush green valley below it.

We rented a car and drove here rather than fly. It's a longer trip but certainly a more beautiful view of the countryside.  Eric is in town so we decided to take a trip to Lijiang and Dali is on the way.

Dali walkThis morning we went into town for a breakfast of eggs, fresh bread, local cheese, and fresh coffee. Dali town has underground waterways, cobble stone streets and shops of tourists. But that's not why we stopped here.

The real reason we stopped is The Bad Monkey Bistro, a micro brewery and restaurant. They brew a wonderful orange and coriander ale, copper in color and creamy on the finish.

lanternsNext we went across the street for a meal. What's great about these small towns is that they don't care if  you carry your beer over to another restaurant. So after ordering our ale we took our mugs across the way to eat yak steaks. We sat under umbrellas, away from the light rain and talked for an hour or two.

As the sun set we walked through the town and made videos of the small waterfalls cascading through the streets.

Finally, near the inn we found a granite yard and snapped a picture under the moonlight.

At a mountain spring up the hill we filled our water bottles for tomorrow's walk around town.

Happiness isn't something you experience; it's something you remember. - Oscar Levant 

Under Construction

man waitingWe decided to take a shortcut back home and wandered through a wasteland of destroyed buildings. Huge crane-operated jackhammers blasted concrete boulders, boulders that were once pillars and walls of a four story tenement apartment building. Backhoes scraped at the jackhammered rubble, revealing iron rebar for the scavengers. One woman in a billowing dress and plastic slippers stirred a caldron of soft metals.  It was propped upon cinder blocks above a wood burning fire, her make-shift stove. Orange tongues licked the container's edge.

alley road
Nothing is wasted here. Even after a building is taken down (and there are lots of them coming down) ants of people scurry through the dust and unstable debris to hunt for recyclable materials: iron, plastic, paper, cardboard, and glass. All of it is collected, bundled, and hauled off. Families set up camp next to the destruction site with their own portable stoves, makeshift beds, and wheeled carts. Together with their children they scavenge night and day for weeks in exchange for a few jiao (pennies) of discovered material.

"What happens to the people that were living in the buildings?" I've asked a hundred times. I get different answers. Some say the government gives them some money to move further out of the city. Others say they find a place among relatives in an already confined room. Still others say there is nothing they can do. China's rebuilding program has accelerated like a time-lapse movie, people get in the way.

jackhammerIn ten years all the buildings in the city will be replaced with high rise apartments that only the wealthy can afford. In just six months rent has increased 20 percent.

When the wealthy move in, so do the companies that cater to them.  There are now five Starbucks Coffee Shops in our area. I decided to check one out. It looked like an American Starbucks:  important people sitting at impossibly small tables, typing madly into their WIFI computers, texting/talking to business contacts, gulping hot black liquid, etc.

But . . .  I waited 10 minutes to get a cup of the day in a paper cup AND it cost me four dollars. In America a cup of the day costs a buck ninety and it's served in a pre-heated mug within 60 seconds. I will not be going back anytime soon.

I think I'll boil my own coffee on a make-shift cinder block stove over a wood burning fire and charge admission to watch the buildings come down.

The road to success is always under construction. - Lily Tomlin

Sewage odor

one man and a moped movingTraveling down the bike lane I caught a strong whiff of sewage. This fragrance is prevalent here. The sewage pipes (mostly broken) run under the grooved sidewalks. You can not only smell it but . . . well, never mind.

Yeah, it's really crazy. I don't get it either.

Anyways, this was a stronger than normal sewage odor I was smelling.

"Where is that coming from?" I said to no one in particular. (Who could understand?)

"Did I step in something?"

duck duck gooseA block in font of me a city worker was watering the plants. As I got closer I concluded that maybe, just maybe, it was him.  Maybe some new a-la-toilet aftershave?

But then I reasoned: How could one guy smell so bad?

nearby six storyBut the closer I got, the more pungent the odor. I ran over his hose with my moped and  held my breath as I passed.

It was then that I discovered the source. It was the water itself. He had dropped his hose down a manhole and was pumping sewage water onto the plants along the roadside. This gave the roadside that toilet aroma.

A culture 5,000 years old and still no understanding of diseases transferred via human waste?

Don't get me started.

Behave so the aroma of your actions may enhance the general sweetness of the atmosphere. - Henry David Thoreau

Reading on the Kindle 3

KindleScreensavers25Love the Kindle 3. What a fantastic invention.

I've been following Amazon's Kindle 1 and 2 for sometime but the 3 is where it's at.

I now have about 120 books in it and still have lots of space to spare. I've loaded 36 free classics from gutenberg.org like The Complete Works of Sherlock Homes by Arthur Conan Doyle, Roughing It by Mark Twain, etc. And I've loaded other books I found either free or cheep at Amazon.

KindleScreensavers00Also, using Calibre (for the Mac) I load CNN, Mac World, Life Hacker, and other newspapers and magazines weekly from the net.

Of course, the best use of the Kindle for me is loading my own books. I've crafted 13 reference works from encyclopedias and websites. Now I can carry them with me. (I'm always waiting for someone, somewhere, sometime.) I usually wait at a bus stop, on my moped, or at a park. Sure, I'd rather sit in a comfy chair with a window behind me but, well, what can I say, that's all behind me now.

KindleScreensavers14My reading appetite is insatiable, no, worse, it's ravenous. I read everywhere and anywhere I can. Having my books with me and sharing what I've learned with other people is now so convenient.

I've also loaded several Chinese reference works into the Kindle. (There is a special sequence you'll need to follow if you want the Kindle to display Chinese correctly for you. See below for details.)

KindleScreensavers19When the Kindle goes to sleep, it displays one of about 22 images that Amazon loaded in the memory. I got tired of them and decided to load my own. There's a hack you can run on your Kindle (breaking the warrantee however) that'll let you load whatever 600x800 images you want, your kids, your pictures, your sketches, drawings, whatever.

So the big choice for me was: What do I want for my own Kindle screen savers? Photographs or sketches? I couldn't decide. So I loaded 12 of each. I alternated them so that when the Kindle goes to sleep it cycles through the photo and then the sketch.

KindleScreensavers06What could be better? Photos, sketches, & books.  How about a strong cup of coffee and a biscotti?

"Ruth!  Where's the chocolate biscottis?"  (She actually makes them herself! They are awesome.)

When I fly I always go first class. Not the whole way, just until they kick me out. -Pauly Shore

Further information:

Other eBook sites:
Cheep books at Amazon

Get Dave's Custom Kindle Screen Savers for your Kindle.

If you want to see Chinese characters on your device, do the following:
  1. Home > Menu > Search
  2. Then type the following into the search box:
  3. ;debugOn (the little arrow key above the Home button)
  4. ~changeLocale zh-CN 
  5. ;debugOff 
  6. Restart your Kindle


Wine & Cheese to Beer and Seeds

photo 5It's come down to this. I simply can't find any good wine and cheese here without handing over my firstborn. So I've decided to go the simpler route. Beer and seeds.

Now these seeds are not the David & Sons sort of sunflower seeds you get in the States, no way, they are far superior. They are so habit forming.  I think they might be injecting something into them.   You know, sort of like the cocaine that Coca-Cola used before the FDA existed.  Because, let me tell you, the only way I can stop eating these seeds is to buy only by one bag at a time.  When it's empty, it's over.

I'll keep looking though for a good China wine. So far I have been unsuccessful. I can get bottles from the U.S. here but I can't bear to pay the price. One $7 bottle from the States cost $15, and it's not even good stuff. This is simply intolerable.  It's so annoying.  There has got to be someone here that is making good wine. After all, China is a big place.

I'll keep you posted.

Do not drink water any longer, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent cases of sickness. - 1 Timothy, 5:23

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