Sunday, August 27, 2017

Street of Eternal Happiness

This book was reviewed on two separate occasions in World magazine.  With two reviews, and the China connections of our son, it looked like a book of interest.  And it was.

"Street of Eternal Happiness" is the actual name of a street in Shanghai.  (I found during my short trip there, three years ago, that over-the-top names are common.  I remember construction on new apartment complexes with names like "Heaven on Earth" and "Wonderful Bliss.")  The author, Rob Schmitz, subtitles the book "Big City Dreams Along a Shanghaii Road."  He then chronicles the lives of several people, moving from one story to another one, throughout the 311 pages.  He is well equipped to do so:  the street has been home to him and his family for several years, during his journalistic stint in China.

I read the book this summer - nonfiction books like this are my favorite genre - and Schmitz does this format very well.  For example, he tells the story of Auntie Fu and Uncle Feng - an older couple who run a pancake shop.  They argue endlessly.  She is caught up with "prosperity gospel" advocates and he is angered by that.  

Page 79: "Auntie Fu had grown up hungry.  She was born in 1949, the year Mao took control of China.  Home was a small farming village in the mountains of western Sichuan province, near the border of Tibet.  When she was in the third grade, Mao's Great Leap Forward swept through the country, and the village was split into ten farming collectives.  Families were required to eat at communal kitchens.  Land was snatched from local families and redistributed to teams of more than five hundred people each.  For those accustomed to tilling individual plots of the challenging mountainside terrain, working collectively didn't come naturally.

"Worse still, the village was required to hand over nearly all its output to government officials.  Within a year, the town ran out of food.

"Auntie Fu scrambled for anything to put in her stomach.  There was no school, and she'd spend days foraging for wild vegetables in the mountains.  When the trees bloomed in the spring, she ate their flowers.  In the river valley below, boats docked next to the granaries.  She learned to lie in wait for careless tractors that would sometimes cut through bags of wheat while transporting them to the warehouses.  Fu and her brothers and sisters would follow the trail with brooms, sweeping up stray kernels of wheat for dinner."

That helps to explain why the "prosperity gospel" was attractive to Auntie Fu.  It also shows insight into Chinese thinking that we in the West have no understanding of.

Schmitz talks about Mayor Chen - whose home was ripped away for redevelopment.  And Zhao, who thought nothing of leaving her family in a western province to come run a flower shop on the Street of Eternal Happiness in Shanghai.  She wanted a better life.  And CK, who sells accordions from his second-floor sandwich shop, whose fortunes vary from day to day.

The book is good.  I recommend it to anyone interested in nonfiction accounts, told in story style, with insight into Chinese thinking and culture.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday's Fave Five, 8/25/17

LINK to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. Monday's total solar eclipse was the event of a lifetime.  More here on that.  I've never seen anything so beautiful in the heavens! 

2. Great day at school the day of the eclipse.  We had an all-school assembly in which yours truly got to explain eclipses and give some information.  The lunchroom ladies served rocket dogs (see pic below), sun chips, moon pies, grapes, and Sunny Delight.  Classes went out all afternoon to view the various partial eclipse interesting things, such as crescent-shaped shadows.  Everyone was out by 2:36, the moment of totality.  The whole school loved it.

3. Husband is slowly improving from shoulder surgery (three weeks ago yesterday).  We knew rotator cuff surgery was a big deal, but we didn't realize just how big.  The pain issues, mobility issues, and lack of motion have really slowed him down.  Therapy yesterday was a good start at regaining use of the arm.

4. My dad and our son have both been a big help at helping get husband where he needs to go, when I am at work.  Very thankful for son's mowing the lawn and hauling our trash when needed.

5. I am very thankful for Friday after a very busy week!!  I can crash!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse

I taught astronomy/earth science 37 times over the course of 30 years.  That's 37 times of explaining eclipses - lunar, annular solar, partial solar, and  total solar.  37 times of using photographs and diagrams to explain the celestial events.

Pictures don't do justice to any of those.

I've seen half a dozen lunar eclipses and three or four partial solar eclipses over the years.  I saw an annular solar eclipse in 1984.  They were all beautiful occurences.

None of them remotely compares to the glory of a total solar eclipse.  One passed through our area - right over our school - on Monday.

I took this picture with my phone, but it does not do justice to the sight.  No picture out there does justice to the actual event.  People have called it a religious experience.  Especially for a Christian, that is correct.  It was an incredibly gorgeous testament to an Almighty Creator.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Fast Food Frenzy

Earlier in the summer, I saw this sign, and thought - McDonalds has lost its way.  The sign is probably a little small in the picture, so it says:  Try one - Maple Bacon Dijon Sweet BBQ Bacon Pico Guacamole.  Wow.  What a list of items to be serving at a hamburger place.

I think this list is because have introduced a new sandwich on which the customer can get any toppings they want.  So we can add this to their salads, chicken, coffee bar,  Happy Meals, breakfast options (some all day), ice cream, occasional McRibs - and the list goes on and on.  McDonalds has lost its original purpose.

I remember as a child when Dad would take us all to the lone McDonalds in our area.  We children were allowed to get a hamburger, fries, and (I think) a milkshake.  Or maybe we shared the milkshakes.  Mom was entitled to a fish filet because she was Mom.  No such thing as special orders on the hamburgers existed.  We either ate the burger with ketchup, mustard, and onions, or we didn't. We ate it.  We enjoyed it.  We didn't think about what we liked or didn't like.  And we loved it.

I realize that McDonalds has just gone the way of every other fast-food establishment in standing on their heads to get business.

This summer, a colleague and friend of mine returned to her home in southern California.  She asked if I had heard of In-N-Out Burger, and she sent me a picture of their menu board.  People there love In-N-Out.  I think I can see why.

Now there is a burger fast-food joint that knows what it is about.  I wish we had one here!