Back to normal?

Well, life might be about to return to normal. I think. I hope.

What is normal for me? I dunno, but I think I’ll know it when I see it.

Website rebuild is almost complete here: and here:

What I did was this: ran the first link as a test site, liked it well enough to want to keep it, deleted the original site, then copied the new one into the home folder. All the links are messed up, but that will need to be fixed, and it will take time. Meantime, they mirror each other, and there’s a backup, sort of.

Iced in

Here in NC, it’s been ice with piddling of snow. Add to that steep winding roads, and you get to go pretty much nowhere until the sun comes up and helps to melt roads that have been salt-graveled. Sure, there are always a few adventurous souls driving pickups or SUV’s or some other such. I’m not one of them.


Prayers ascending for the Abrahamic brethren in Israel who are defending their and their country’s right to exist against the terrorism (the word Hamas means violence in Hebrew) from a brutal and unrelenting enemy. From whence comes Israel’s help? Israel’s help comes from the Lord, her God.

Prayers for the brethren in Christ who have fled Mosul after being given the traditional Islamic choice to non-Muslims: convert, pay jizya (the poll tax that is a mark of dhimma status), or die. Brethren, persecution is the Christian way; it makes us stronger. If they kill us, well, for us, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Hold fast, Israel. Hold fast, Iraqi Christians, God is with you. The battle is the Lord’s, and He will bring the victory home.

Throttling Back

This week I was supposed to begin teaching classes at another university. In the end, I thought it better to not begin than to start and quit in the middle.

Why? Exhaustion. Long days. The stress of travel. The daily grind of rising at 5:15 AM to get to the primary job at 7:15 AM, before the stress of traffic begins, was too much, especially when with the additional classes the working day would’ve ended somewhere around 9:00 PM. Last semester I did that, it was too much.

So, I decided to throttle back and smell the roses. Money is nice but health is better.


Last year, before returning to China, I vowed to my friend Ingrid that I would learn to weave something besides tapestry. Keep that promise, since I’d not traveled with a loom, resulted in the purchase of an Ashford 32″ RH, followed by a second heddle kit.

Diligently, I wove scarves for friends here, and a long sampler which I cut in two to make to wall hangings. It was a good learning experience, not yet completed. Nevertheless, through it all, the heart yearned and the fingers desired to pluck at the warp on a tapestry loom. My friend didn’t want Wa Thongo, so it remained unfinished on the small tapestry frame with no inclination to undo it.

After the last scarf was completed, I warped the Ashford for tapestry. Oh my, the Ashford didn’t like that one bit. Weave, undo all the way down to the hem, start again, weave, undo everything, weave, undo…. The Ashford wanted what it wanted, and I wanted what I wanted. So, I got a 9″ Mirrix.

The project that was intended to be done, woven large, on the Ashford, is now on the Mirrix. The Mirrix is happy.

Though my heart is firmly fixed on tapestry, I want to have a well-rounded weaving studio to pass on the art of weaving to others. So, I decided to go back to school. Two schools, no less. TAFE in Australia, and Haywood in the USA. Then there is an upcoming workshop with Marilyn Rea-Menzies in New Zealand later this year.

Afterwards, I’ll go ahead and fulfill two life missions: to the Church, primarily, and to weaving, secondarily. There is boundless joy at the prospect of the first, and tremendous satisfaction at the thought of the second.

Spring is icumen in!

It’s Spring here in south east China. The days are not as gray as they used to be, and last week one of my students said she saw the sun sometime around noon. So, that depressed feeling is lifting.

It makes a person wonder how the people of Alaska, the Antarctic, and other such regions cope with the months-long absence of sunlight. If the lack of sunshine from December to March is enough to create some mild to severe depression, how on earth do those people bear that lack? Perhaps custom makes it easier? Perhaps they use ultraviolet lights to simulate the sun?


The cold, damp, and grim grayness of winter is giving way to Spring, and that is enough.

Spring is icumen in! Rejoice!

Vietnamese Coffee

Have you ever been buzzed on coffee? We’re not talking about Starbucks’s expensive drinks with fancy names. We’re talking COFFEE. REAL COFFEE!

Recently, a young Vietnamese friend invited us to have a meal at a local Vietnamese restaurant. So, we went along and found a very nice place, which he said was typical of restaurants back in his country. A lot of decent restaurants are popping up now in China. Previously, a lot of them looked like hole in the wall joints with wet floors and such, sometimes with decent food. That is changing.

Anyway, Thong Ba ordered a glass of coffee for us, and when it came, it was a revelation. Rich, thick, flavorful, and with the exquisite, head spinning taste of a Guinness stout mixed with whole and condensed milk (to make it acceptable for children to drink). We were ecstatic and immediately fell in lust with the taste Vietnamese coffee. What made us fall in love with the coffee was our discovery that coffee of that strength would actually dispense with asthmatic wheezing.

So, we asked our friend if he could obtain 5 Kg of this wonderful coffee for us, along with the very simple drip coffee makers. This past weekend, Thong Ba went home and brought a huge amount of Trung Nguyen coffee, a couple tins of condensed milk, and the drip coffee makers. He did, indeed, and we took delivery of it today.
Upon returning home, we set about making our first mug of Vietnamese-style coffee. Here’s a imple recipe which will make a tall glass mug of strong, fragrant coffee:

  1. Put 1-2 tablespoons of condensed milk (according to your taste actually, and none is an option) into the coffee mug.
  2. Place the coffee maker over a mug or glass.
  3. Put 2 tablespoonsful of fantastic Trung Nguyen coffee (little less than half of the drip maker) into the drip coffee maker.
  4. Put the filter on top of the coffee.
  5. Pour hot water, and cover.
  6. Once the coffee brews, stir in the milk.
  7. Replace the drip coffee maker and add hot water.

Kick back and enjoy the feeling of the rods of your eyes standing on end. This coffee is as close to an orgasmic experience as you can get.

Bad Air

Some folks here in south-east China have asked, “what is the air like in the town where you live?” So, we show them a map of the Great State of Virginia where you can look at the land mass below unhindered by clouds of polluted air.

Americans love to talk about environmental issues. Even when there are no serious issues, there are those who create them so that some landowners can’t build a house on their land out of fear of disturbing some frog or other. Well, folks back home, you have not seen environmental issues until you travel to China. It is knowledge of the magnitude of the pollution problem in China that makes us grateful for the beneficial measures that have been enacted to ensure clean air and water in the USA. We devoutly object to the measures that are vastly expensive and yet yield little benefit to the environment even as they deprive landowners of their constitutional property rights.

As for China’s environment, this: Bad air much? Bad water much? The first year we sojourned here, we were warned not to drink the water. Now, someone should warn travelers not to breathe the air.

You know that song, on a clear day you can see forever. That is true of the countryside in China. The cities? Hardly. On a given day, you can see the air, gray and quietly noxious, hovering over the city. Worse yet, you know that that air is what you’re breathing in … if you didn’t have the wit to obtain some N95 face masks … because it is not in the near distance as it looks. Indeed, it is all around you.

Well, after struggling to breathe through the ubiquitous and not really healthful or helpful cloth face masks that are sold here, we went to and purchased some N95’s and some surgical ones that can stop bacteria from penetrating. Then we had it mailed to us from the USA. Since we are asthmatic, that anti-bacterial last is essential because everyone is coughing, sneezing, spitting, blowing, farting, or doing something, rarely covered up and mostly unchecked. There ought to be a law that states spitting on the floor of moving vehicles; turning the head to sneeze, without covering the mouth and nose; or farting in a moving vehicle are all hanging offenses. Really.

We’ve discovered that both the 3M N95 and the green surgical masks acquired from Amazon are marvelous at filtering out the microscopic substances, and they work wonders for odors, too. There’s nothing like being subjected to a variety of farts on the bus. Where to turn the head? Ay! There’s the nearest window/ Pop back in and someone else is breaking wind again. On the new air-conditioned buses, those wanting to avoid toxic farts are screwed, unless they’re sitting way in the back, where there is a small window on each side that can be opened because, other than those, the new buses don’t have windows, just panes of glass. We shudder to think what will happen in an accident. Anyway, the masks prevent the inhalation of those unhappy odors.

People here are intrigued by the 3M N95 with the air vent so exhaled air can escape. They’ve never seen it before, and they want to know. Though some folks look on questioningly, the only people who ask are the vendors with whom we interact; friends already know. If folks were to ask, we would say, quite politely, and in our best Oxford voice, a la D. H. Lawrence, we keep the mask on on the bus to avoid the germs and the farts.

Playing on iTunes

Mendelssohn’s Elijah, with Willard White singing Elijah.

Last night, Praetorius’s Mass for a Christmas Morning.

Next up, Mendelssohn’s Paulus.

We love oratorios, opera not so much. There was a brief flirtation with opera for a while until some opera on PBS, with subtitles no less, revealed how terribly prosaic is its content.

Watching soap operas is one thing; watching them set to music and sounding like something of major import is happening is another.

So, no operas here.

The Road to Luo Ma

Yesterday, we went to Luo Ma to hunt down some fabric.

Luo Ma is a small dusty village three hours or so away from the city where we live, and getting there means two long bus rides interspersed with another long waiting period.

The journey commenced at 10 AM when four of us boarded the 701 bus to Ba Miao. Our company consisted of three men and one woman, one of the men being the guide to the village, the other a friend, and the last a young student of the friend.

Being a foreigner traveling through China is not for the faint of heart. One must have the equanimity to deal smilingly with the stares of strangers who may have never encountered a foreigner or sat next to a person of African descent before. Additionally, one must be aware that the curiosity of locals is boundless so that people listen unashamedly to one’s conversations in some hope, sometimes vain, that they may gain insight into the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the foreigner. Some people wilt under such intensely curious examination; we don’t because that curiosity is well met and returned on our part.

Anyway, on the bus, our friend enquired of a young male traveler concerning good food to be had in Ba Miao. That focus on food is one of the interesting facets of life in China, along with being regaled with stories of “famous” place. In fact, it may even be considered a standing joke by expats that every place in China is “famous” for its noodles or some other thing. So, it was with no surprise that we heard the young traveler declare that Ba Miao is famous for its noodles, a staple of Chinese life, and recommend that we lunch on it.

Upon our arrival in Ba Miao some twenty minutes to noon, our friends expressed their intention to fill their hungry bellies. That is another unsurprising part of life here since the Chinese prefer to eat at set times, without much deviation. As we are not given much to eating when on various expeditions, such as shopping or knocking around town, we did grumble at having to stop for the “famous” Ba Miao noodles but yielded to the in-built local clocks.

The noodle joint was packed with diners, and we placed our order and settled in for a long wait. When the food came, we wondered why Ba Miao noodles were “famous”.

After lunch, we meandered to the bus station, bought tickets, and waited for a while, only to discover that the Luo Ma bus was not going to come into the station. We had to go out to the street and meet it. The driver, for some reason unknown to us, insisted on rolling the bus as we were about to board, which caused our hesitation. The guide then said the driver would move up to a small gap in the side walk and let us board there, apparently because he could remain in queue only so long before moving to allow others to take his place.

The road to Luo Ma is long and dusty. White dust. Clayey red dust. Along it are unpaved and rutted lanes leading to other communities. Their dusty-clay and pocked surfaces convey the legend of their appearance after a rainfall. On either side of the road are fields of corn and other vegetables or mulberry plants. At some points along the way, the plants and other vegetation have resigned themselves to the dusty domination of the roads and yielded their verdancy.

So, rolling along, sometimes bumpily, we came to the sparse, signboarded junction that is Luo Ma and disembarked.