Thursday, August 30, 2007

Grant's Best Bud

This week's FFFF challenge from Lissa at Loving Lydia is Best Friends. And who is Grant's bestest buddy; that's easy: his Daddy. Grant's official first and only word is Daddy... or da da (he's been saying it for several weeks). Grant's world lights up when he sees his Daddy. Nothing makes me happier.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tough Crowd

As I lay on my deathbed this weekend, waiting for either the slow relief of death or the lifting of my fever, Erin informed me of a couple of things. The first was that the yard was in need of mowing, and the second was that my blogging recently has been "uninspired."

I sputtered a cough with the lungs of a dying man, asked her to dab the sweat from my brow, and in a weak, raspy voice, politely told her where to go.

It has, indeed, been a taxing few weeks. I'm still not completely healthy; although, I did manage to cut the grass yesterday. My job has gone crazy. And as far as the blogging goes, I'll make every effort to get us back to our normal quality standards in the coming weeks.

In the mean time, it dawned on me as I considered how "uninspired" I've been recently that I am simply not funny around certain people. It has nothing to do with the listener or his response. It rests firmly on my shoulders as the unfunny individual. Now I make absolutely no claim to be a comedian of any sort, but I think I can generally hold my own in conversation, especially around my fellow engineers. (These are generally people who think EVERY Monty Python skit is HI-LARIOUS.) But there are certain people around whom my attempts at humor fall completely flat. Every. Single. Time.

For example, I was with a VP of the company last week having a brief discussion in his office. We were discussing where I would park for a football game that evening in downtown Indianapolis, and he commented that I should get a garage space so I wouldn't have to be "wandering around downtown alone in the dark."

My response? "It would be no more dangerous than in here."

What does THAT mean?

I chuckled nervously after I said it. I half-smiled with a look of "You get it, right?" All the while trying to convince myself that I'd just delivered a punch line. He obviously didn't get it (what's to get?) and finally relieved the tension with a laugh and a slap on the back. I'm sure he was thinking "Kids say the darndest things" as I left his office. Unfortunately this isn't the first time he's given me the "keep trying" slap on the back. We were initially introduced after I had stuffed approximately 50 M&M's in my mouth while returning from the vending machines. As he stuck his hand out to shake mine, I stammered with a mouth full of chocolate goo -- "Sawwy...Yew cawt me aftuh I swawowed a vending machine."

Again. What was that.

I don't know if it's nerves, self-confidence, or what, but every attempt I've ever made to be funny around this individual has been a train wreck. It pains me every time, because it just serves to remind me that I am an engineer. I can try to escape it for brief moments, but at the end of the day, I guess I'm as weird as all the others.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Single Parenthood

Well, let's do the math. Bret was in China for almost two weeks, came back to UTTER CRAZINESS at work which has meant long and hard hours, and for the last four days, Bret's been out of commission with the flu. So, for about a month now, it has felt like I've been pulling single mom duty, and let me tell you, single mom duty is not easy.

Now, Bret does help as much as he can. He does the dishes and laundry, gets the mail and pays the bills, but especially with the flu, he can't really help with Grant. And Grant knows it. He's milking this situation for all it's worth because Mommy is the softy. That's right. Bret thought I would be "The Hammer" as he likes to call me, but truth be told, Mommy goes to mush when those big brown eyes and dimples start flashin'.

Just take a look at this video, and you'll see the kind of help I need. We prayed extra hard tonight for Daddy to get better because Mommy's tired and the house is about ready to cave in on itself.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Naked Baby Pics

Last week I noticed that there was a picture of a giggly naked kid floating in a tub on our refrigerator. I didn't think much of it, as we have pictures of many children on our fridge, many of them family and many of them that have just randomly arrived in the mail. Actually I guess they're all family or friend's kids, but there have been occasions when I've said things like "This one kid over here on the left is going to get the stew beat out of him on the playground...what with that crazy eye and all." This is usually followed by my girly screams as Erin injures and informs me that that was her 3rd cousin's son on her mom's aunt's side, twice removed, or some such.

In any case, as I was trolling around the freezer looking for something without the words "low" or "fat" anywhere on the packaging, I finally said, "Hey Hon, who's this giggly nekkid chick who's 'buns up' in the tub on our refrigerator." She got a somewhat perturbed look and said, "That's me, Bret." (Except you should replace my name with a commonly used term for a donkey.) I took another look, and I'll be danged, but it was her. Apparently this picture is one of her aunt's favorites, and she brought it back with her from her recent trip to the west coast.

Later in the evening, I weakened my position yet a little bit further when I suggested that it wasn't easy to tell it was her. This did not yield pleasant results. I was thinking, "It was hard to tell it was you because I haven't seen you with diaper rash or a rubber ducky recently," but apparently the female mind goes in a different direction with such comments. The response I received was more like "Oh, so I'm not cute now that I'm over four feet tall" or "Oh, so I USED to be cute but now I'm just old." Someday I'll learn (but don't bank on it.)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

kisses and more kisses

This week's FFFF challenge sponspored by Lissa at Loving Lydia is something we here in the Hawkins household are very good at: kisses.

How many kisses has Grant received in his lifetime? Thousands upon thousands. How many has he given? A couple. Ah, the life of a mother. At least in baby state he can't do anything about my kisses. It'll be a few years before he is asking for us to drop him off at the corner so his friends don't see us... much less give me a kiss in public.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Best Baby Ever

My students this year already don't like me. Seriously. I tell them every day how I have the cutest baby ever and then make them oohhh and awww at his picture which happens to be my tablet's desktop image. I think they are in a special situation, having the teacher of the best and cutest baby ever. You'd think they would take better advantage of this most fortunate situation.

Our church launched our west side plant this last Sunday, and it was amazing to go from a large group to a much smaller and intimate one. There were maybe 150 people at the new westside location, and I am so excited at the chance to get to meet more people and actually interact with them on a weekly basis. Grant, of course, headed off the the nursery, where the nursery staffed informed me upon picking him up that he received the "best baby award." Now, while this award currently exists in the imaginary realm, I see no need to keep it there for long (hence this public post). The nursery staff did say, though, and quite taken aback I might add, "he sure likes to chew on things." That's the understatement of the century.

Here is Grant sporting some new duds. If you're going to be a professional basketball player, might as well as start dressing like one now.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

2007 Indiana State Fair

This weekend we took Grant on his first trip to the Indiana State Fair. Now you may be thinking that a state fair in the midwest consists of little more than a chance to collect 100 different species of animal fecies in the soles of your shoes. And frankly, if you add the ability to eat virtually anything you could ever dream of out of a deep fryer, you'd have a pretty complete picture. Actually, that's not really true. The fair has evolved into more of a marketplace for "As Seen on TV" goods than anything else, which means that I have to keep Erin on a very short leash around the guys with Ginzu knives and microwave steamers.

This year we chose to try and hit the fair on a not-too-busy Saturday morning, in part to avoid the crowds and in part to avoid the 90+ degree temperatures that have scorched the state in the past few weeks. We succeeded on both counts. The temperature was in the 70's, and that portion of the population which is interested in seeing how many Budweiser's it takes to make you pass out on the Tilt-a-Whirl had not yet awakened from the previous evening's "Hey y' this..." style adventures.

One of the new additions to this year's fair was the "Hot Beef Sundae" offered by the Cattlemen's Club. As you may be able to see in the picture, it's a steaming hot plate of beef with a lump of white, ice cream-esque potatoes on top. One of the many things that boggles me about this picture, aside from the words Beef and Sundae appearing in close proximity, is that the Cattlemen chose to trademark the term "Hot Beef Sundae" as indicated by the little "TM" at the side of the phrase. I have a hard time believing there are people beating the door down to use this phrase. I checked, and somewhat shockingly there is someone apparently devloping a website for "" at the moment, although the .net variant was available. I can only imagine the horrors contained within

The traditional fair ritual in our family is to see how many different types of goods I can eat and still sustain a pulse. For whatever reason, this year I held myself to a gyro and a milkshake. My father-in-law, on the other hand, tore the leg off something in the cattle barn and spent approximately 20 minutes feasting on his catch.

Among the new deep fried offerings this year were deep fried, chocolate dipped strawberries and deep fried Pepsi. I tried neither of these things, as I figure the food I eat in China may be lowering my life expectancy to the point where I can't afford to take my chances on carnival faire.

Grant enjoyed listening to some old time music played on dulcimers and banjos, and he also got the chance to enjoy a rather pleasant aquarium exhibit and some Amish furniture, as shown above. Erin and I took note of the number of what appeared to be adopted children wandering about the fair. I saw at least nine or ten Chinese girls with American parents, and I actually saw a number of African American kids with Caucasian parents. Our little Grant and Grace will not be alone in elementary school when they say, "So what's up with these white folks who are raising me?"

All in all, it was an enjoyable morning at the fair. I figure it's only going to be a short time before I hear Grant saying, "Dad...just another ten bucks for the midway. Come on...please!??" Therefore I have to enjoy the experience now while he's too young to realize that he's missing out on the rides. His time will come.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Catching a breath

Well, that was about the craziest week ever! Bret's job (that's a whole other post if not a whole other blog) is crazy right now, and I just finished my first week of school (which is always more tiring than expected). Needless to say, we're glad it's the weekend.

Grant is great. He is sleeping easily through the night and taking great naps throughout the day. He has transitioned nicely to having Grandma and Mamaw (that's Indiana for Grandma for my CA family) taking care of him. He loves the attention, and they love to shower him with it, so it's a simpatico relationship.

Speaking of people Grant loves, his cousin Kate is off to IU soon, and we were able to meet Kate and family for dinner recently to wish her well as she heads off to the number 6 party school in the nation. We don't worry about her though; she's a smart cookie.

Grant, too, is one smart little guy. His current list of cute behaviors includes cracking up at himself in the mirror, opening and closing (with gusto) the wooden lid to a basket, moving like a snake (while on his back) to get somewhere. Last night, he cracked me up too. I would place a blanket over him, and he'd squirm like crazy to get out from under it, but as soon as I said, "Where's Grant? Where's Mommy's baby? Where is that little boy?," he'd lie perfectly still, playing along with me. Of course, he squealed with delight when I removed the blanket and said "there he is."

Speaking of the happy child, here's a cute clip of Bret tickling Grant. Grant has a love/hate relationship with being tickled, but we couldn't pass up the chance to get the giggles on film.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back to Work

Connect the AV OUT to another TV set,

or connect the head

Increase the volume,

Then standby the TV,

a “boob” can be heard

It's like an ancient Chinese haiku of some sort. Yes, this is the week where I return to work following 10 days of working in Asia. This "haiku" was one of the problem reports I received upon returning. It made me long for my days in China.

We spent hours trying to decipher it. What were they telling us? It began to make sense. "Connect the head," and "a boob can be heard."

"Hey Honey, did you hear that? Was that the TV?"
"No, dear. It was just a boob."

I mean, have you ever heard a boob?

In any case, the big question we've all had at work these past few days is, "If we don't release our product on time, are they expecting us to hang ourselves?"

Here are some more pictures from my travels.

These are some of the members of our Shenzhen team. The young lady seated in the back is the notorious Apple.
Wal-Mart sold all sorts of flavors of chips, but they weren't flavors you'd expect...
Mmm... "Hey hon, don't forget to get some o 'dem spicy chicken feets on your way home!"
"Let's see...Will I have the lamb, yoghurt, and mint burger or the man-burger tonight..."
And one last shot of the Big Buddha...very impressive...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Back in the Swing of Things

Well, Grant's out of recovery mode and back to his happy self. He is, once again, sleeping through the night, taking great naps during the day, and being his jolly self with anyone and everyone (no separation anxiety yet). Vacationing was harder than expected on the little guy (especially the long trek out to California), and so I'm glad that he'll be staying in for the next 6 months or so. Bret and I have a short (and practically free) long weekend jaunt to Boston (my favorite city in the U.S.) planned in October, but Grant will be staying behind with grandparents. It will be, no doubt, hard to leave him for that stretch of time, but I keep reminded myself that one of the best gifts I can give him is a happy and healthy marriage, one that doesn't center completely around him. That's what I tell myself at least. I'll be okay for a day or two, but by day three, I'll be a mess. Anyway, for his sake, I'm glad for a quiet fall in Indiana complete with festivals, hiking in state parks, and holiday fun.

Here are some recent pics of the little guy.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

...and home again

Sorry for the brief delay. I've returned from China, and it takes a few days to decompress. Here's the quick rundown of the return trip.

We headed for the Hong Kong airport at 6:00pm Indy time, Wednesday night (6:00am HK time). There were no less than two typhoons approaching at the time, so there were stiff winds and thunderstorms. I was mortified at the thought of getting stuck down there, but as it turns out, we left on time. The flight to Tokyo was actually very smooth, although a bit longer than usual. We flew over central China to avoid the storms and arrived in Tokyo at around 2:00am Thursday morning.

After a brief, hour layover in Tokyo, we headed for Detroit. I watched a terrible movie, "Disturbia," twice, listened to a mob of stuff on my iPod (which I had forgotten to recharge, so I would have listened to even more had I had a full battery) and actually managed to sleep three or four hours.

We arrived in Detroit around 2:00pm on Thursday afternoon, boarded a flight for Indy at around 4:00pm, and I was back at home by around 6:00pm Thursday. That's what you shoot for -- 24 hours door to door.

I'll try and post more interesting stuff about the trip in the next couple of days, including a few more pictures. In the mean time, I need sleep.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Daddy, Please Come Home!


We need you home, and I mean now! Mommy has gone a little loopy. She's stressed with school starting and summer ending, and she's lonely without you... which all adds up to one unhappy chica.

Exhibit A: Today. Look at these pictures from today. She got confused and thought I was one of the toys that belongs in my toy basket. She left me in there for a long time, but lucky for me, I could play (read: chew on) my toys, but for a while there, I was concerned.

Exhibit B: Later today. She dressed me up in Chinese outfit. It didn't even fit, but she dressed me up in it anyway. Does she think we're in China? More concerning, does she think I'm Chinese? She's been thinking about you so much that her thoughts of you in China are starting to turn into an awkward (and dare I say scary) turn of events here.

Please come home soon. I can't handle her by myself.

Lots of love, Daddy,


Monday, August 06, 2007

Big Buddha

Dear Erin & Grantster,

Glad to hear you arrived at home safely. It sounds like you had a DELIGHTFUL flight home. I'm sure the airline will appreciate it when the next passenger to have your seats gets a rash from the formula you left behind.

Here are some more pics from my Hong Kong vacation. On Saturday we visited the Po Lin Monastery to see the Tian Tan Buddha. It's the largest buddha in the world, and I must say that it was an impressive thing to behold. Almost more impressive was the hour long drive through the mountains on a tour bus on one lane roads. You left formula on your plane seat, and I left something else on the tour bus seat.

Anyway, here's the back of the big buddha...

Part of your visit to the monastery involves buying a ticket for a vegetarian dinner. This grants you access to the inside of the big buddha. Here's a picture of the monastery hall...

Here I am dining in monastery splendor... I tried to order a cheeseburger unsuccessfully...

We've also had a delightful time working on this trip. We have friends from the Netherlands and India here with us. One of the European fellows is named Tjerk. We had a grand time calling him "Tee Jerk" until he finally informed us on a conference call with his co-workers that "there's no 'jerk' in Tjerk." Apparently the jerk is silent.

My co-worker was having a lovely trip seeing the sights with me until he had a misfortunate accident this afternoon. He tried to use the one non-squatty-potty in our building. It's tiny. I don't really fit. You can't close the door and sit on the toilet at the same time. In any case, he was forced to visit, and as he bent over to retrieve his drawers, he bashed the front of his head on the toilet paper dispenser. Having left a small portion of his skull in the bathroom, I told him that I was sure his wound was clean, having been incurred in a a dirty office building. He was not amused.

Can't wait to get home on Thursday!!!! Love you tons,


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Safe but not so sound


Well, we're back home in Indiana, and I must say that I am happy to be home. There's nothing like sleeping in your own bed. It has already been a bit painful for me as Mommy tries to get me back on Indy time, but I think we'll have it figured out in a few days.

Mommy is a bit, how shall I put it, testy. She's really tired, and she says the plane trip home was one of the worst ever. I slept the whole way (well, with a few minor glitches), but I do remember a few things. One, she kept complaining about it being the hottest flight in history. She even took my venty-air thing and pointed it at her. Can we say "hotflash"? She was really excited because we had an empty seat between us, and she thought that I could spread out, but I thought I would keep her on her toes, and readjust every 20 mintues or so, so she had to stay awake the whole time. In retrospect, I don't think that was very nice. In fact, Mommy keeps using the word "retrospect" a lot. "In retrospect, I would have paid a small fortune for Grant to have his own seat with his own carseat." "In retrospect, I wouldn't have had two Mexican meals back to back." And so on.

The worst part was... about half way through the flight, I kind of woke up, and Mommy decided to feed me. She started to pour the formula into the bottle, but the formula spilled everywhere except its intended target (I still contend that it was turbulance, but Mommy thinks it was me who kicked it out of her hand). The formula went all over Mommy. It went all over Mommy's seat. It was in her shoes, in her hair, all over her clothes, and even in her underwear (I didn't bother asking about that one). She said it felt like sitting in sand for the whole trip. Needless to say, after 24 hours of no sleep, she was glad to make it home.

But she keeps saying she'll be most glad when you get home. She misses you tons. I miss you too, but I think that flight home did Mommy in, and between us guys, I think you should come bearing a small gift or something for Mommy.

I am counting down the days...



P.S. I thought you should know that Grandma is "gunning" for you after you made the reservations for us at that hotel in Reno. She said there were "working girls" out front. You'll have to explain that one to me later, but just know that she's got her boxing gloves on and ready.

Here are some pics of me and various relatives who found me charming and cute. Mommy started to put pictures of all family members up, but she said it was too hard and took too long. Like I said, she's testy, so I didn't push, but if you're not here, no worries. We love you, and I'll make sure my people send you a picture of us in the mail.

Tuckered out

My cousin Nathan

My cousin Samantha

My Great Grandma

My Aunt Bonnie

My Uncle Richard

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Pics from China

Dear Erin & Grant,

I'm jealous that you're headed back to Indiana. I've considered running around the office waving my arms like a crazy man in an effort to get them to send me home, but I don't think anyone would even notice here.

Here are a few pictures from my travels. I miss you tons!


Here was the cafe where we ate lunch on Thursday. The food is good. Nobody speaks English. And they're way more expensive than the Chinese are usually willing to pay for lunch. I drank two Coke Lite's and had some kind of spicy pork dish for lunch.

Here are some pics from the WalMart in the Nanshan district.

"Look ma! I'm practicing to someday be mamed by a taxi!"


You've got to appreciate it when the deli workers don't want to breathe their own product. Note the pig snouts in the front of the case.

Here were some kids taking roller blading lessons out in front of the WalMart. I think it's delightful that they're training their kids to rollerblade in night traffic. Incidently, the kids were mesmerized by me and my camera. It was cute.

Dude! Where's my pants!?

Here's one block of the popular Lan Kwai Fong bar district in Hong Kong. We knocked back a few cold ones in here on Saturday night.

I'll try to post more pictures in the coming days!!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Almost Home

Dear Daddy,

I am glad to hear that despite being chased down by an angry, bamboo carrying man and despite the heat, that you are okay. Mommy laughed pretty hard at your airplane story; seeing how I have virtually no problem with leg room or such, I didn't quite get the irony.

Things here in California are coming to a close. Today, Mommy drove from Reno to San Jose, and I was good the whole way. It was long and hot, but it was fun to see my cousins and aunt and uncle in Reno. They bought me more toys.

Tonight is our last night in a hotel, and I think Mommy is happy to come home. I don't sleep well in hotels, and I let her know about it every two hours or so (sometimes, I even tell her every hour or so). I have been kind of sick (allergies), so she said that I had to go to the doctor when we get home. That should be fun.

We leave tomorrow on the red eye home. Mommy keeps telling me that it's benadryl for me, but I don't know what that means yet. She chuckles as she says it... which has me nervous.

We are going to see my Aunt Karin tomorrow, and then we might go to a movie or do some shopping in San Fran. My grandma asked if we wanted to see the movie called Shampoo; I even knew it was called Hairspray. She's crazy, but she loves me tons and makes me laugh constantly, so I'll keep her around for a bit.

I am changing a bit, Daddy. I just discovered my tongue, and I can roll it into a burrito; Mommy can't do it, but she swears it's genetics. I am still talking a lot, coughing even more, and laughing lots. Oh, I also tried some french onion soup today... yummy!

Daddy, I miss you tons, and I cry just thinking about it. Usually, a good bottle does the trick, and I can forget about how much I miss you for a bit, but then I remember again. I'm counting down the days, and soon as we get back to Indy, I'll have Mommy post some pics of me. I am pretty darn cute, if I do say.

Love you lots,


1.3 billion and we picked a fighter

Dear Erin & Grant,

I thought I'd provide an update tonight on the events of last evening. I'm already quite homesick. Tonight I ate steak at a steak house offering pig knuckles on multiple pages of the menu. This distresses me in many ways. They also offered various American cocktails, although in slightly altered form. The ever popular "Pink Lady" was offered as a "Pink Lary." Pink Lary is someone I never need to meet. They also featured a "Glasshopper" and "Whispey Sour." I bet a "Glasshopper" goes down pretty hard.

Last night after work, my co-worker and I decided to head to the local WalMart for a look around. (I'll have to post pictures of all of this upon my return. For whatever reason, I cannot access the Internet from my room, so I can only post from the hotel lounge.)

WalMart looked approximately like it does in America, with some notable exceptions. First off, they had a whole section featuring dried pig parts hanging from string. It was foul. I gagged every time I got near that aisle. It literally looked like disassembled pigs dried, hanging from clothesline. With so many good things to eat in this world, why do these people torture themselves this way!?

After leaving WalMart we watched a young guy with no arms sing in a street marketplace for change. It was really touching, in a weird way. Individuals with issues like this are seen throughout the streets of Shenzhen, usually begging. This guy had a whole routine with a harmonica. It was something.

On our way back to the hotel, we got behind a guy carrying a large quantity of some sort of shouldn't-be-eaten food on his back using a large bamboo pole and two baskets. As we followed, my co-worker took his picture. The flash caused him to turn around, at which point he began glaring. A few feet further, and he stopped and accosted us about taking his picture. A young guy who overheard him shouting stopped and explained to us that the guy thought we were making fun of him. The kid said that he explained to the angry man that we were only taking note of this part of Chinese culture, which was actually true. This didn't really help matters. The guy continued yelling at us, and he then proceeded to chase us down the street...bamboo pole and all. I was astonished at the speed with which the man was able to make chase without losing his cargo. We finally managed to lose him, but I slept with one eye open all night. How we managed to take a picture of the one easily offended worker in Shenzhen is beyond me. I made my co-worker keep his camera in his pocket all day today though. The last thing I need is a beating by a wiry man with a large stick.

The last thing I'll mention is that it's really hot here. I mean REALLY hot. It's ridiculously hot. When you land yourself in direct sunlight, it's almost intolerable. Really. My co-worker declared himself "hotter than a monkey's" er, nether regions. He's a southern Indiana boy, so he says things like this frequently. I might not put it so eloquently, but I think he's right. By the end of the work day, I smell like a goat and my clothes are soaked. But luckily, everyone here is equally saturated, so we're all miserable together.

I can't really believe that I still have the majority of the trip remaining before I return home. When I get back, I'm relatively sure you'll need to burn my suitcase rather than open it. The combined stink of my body and terrible environmental conditions here in the city will make for a quite unpleasant laundry situation upon my return.

I love you both... I hope the Holiday Inn in Reno treated you well.


Thursday, August 02, 2007


Dear Erin and Grant,

So glad to hear that California is treating you well. I'm certain that Grant is drooling on all of our favorite sites and relatives in the greater Sacramento area. As I strolled around China today, I took note of all the little Chinese kids I saw and wondered what Grant's little sister would look like. She'll no doubt have crazy hair, drool like mad, and be the first girl adopted from China to be over 6' tall in the fourth grade, making her a true match for her brother.

My trip is going fine. It's 3am Friday morning, and I can't sleep, so I thought I'd write about the trip over. Be careful on those crazy California highways, and make sure grandma doesn't try to use that girly pink pacifier on Grant. I hate that thing.

Give Grant a kiss for me.


After taking one last shower in good clean water (I'm fairly certain the water here in China was bathing an eel six minutes prior to hitting my skin), I headed to the airport on Tuesday at 5:15am. The one perk of being on my third trip to China this year is that I've got enough frequent flyer miles for "elite" status, so I get bumped to first class automatically on flights within the U.S. if space is available. Lucky for me that the flight to L.A. had space, so my coworker and I had nice seats with plenty of legroom.

We arrived uneventfully in L.A. at around 11:15am Indy time. Our flight to Japan wasn't scheduled to depart until 4:30pm Indy time, so we killed time recharging our various iPods and laptops in preparation for the long flight. I also watched about half of "Zodiac" which proved to be a pretty decent flick. We had a couple of beers for the road while sitting in the airport. I couldn't figure out why we were getting some looks as we downed our second one, until I realized that it was only 9am in California. I figure Lindsey Lohan is probably having a drink somewhere in LA, so I should too. We grabbed one last "normal" cheeseburger (meaning there was no seafood on it) and boarded for Tokyo.

When I arrived at my seat, neatly tucked into coach on the aisle, I immediately noticed that the little magazine pocket on the seatback in front of me was broken in such a way that the springs which normally push the flap against the seatback were now pushing outward. This meant that now only was the spring sticking out into my leg room, but it was doing it with two sharp metal pieces which were going to apparently be embedded in my knees for the next 12 hours. Lovely.

A few minutes after boarding, and while I tried desparately to push the springs from my knees into the seat back in front of me, a young lady with an eastern European accent took the window seat next to me. The flight wasn't full, so we were blessed with a seat between us. I figured this meant that at least I wouldn't be wrestling for the arm rest for the whole flight.

I continued to mess with the magazine rack spring. I would tuck it behind two bolts inside the seat back, and after a few minutes it would spring back out of the seat at high speed. To make matters worse, the seat was now occupied by a young lady who was, no doubt, convinced prior to take off that the individual in the seat behind her was trying to get into her shorts through the seatback. Not wishing to disturb the young lady, I gave up and angled myself as to avoid the springs.

We departed on time, and I settled into my usual routine of watching TV and listening to my iPod. For anyone who cares, I cruised through "Stanley Road" by Paul Weller, The Best of the Allman Brothers, "Hearts of Oak" by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, and the Best of Roxy Music. It was an eclectic trip.

A couple of hours into the flight, the individual in front of me decided to recline her seat. Now my wife and I have debated in the past as to whether this impedes on the space for the person behind, and I can now assure you that it most definitely does, at least on a 747. She cranked the seat back as far as it would go, which meant that the magazine rack was now performing a minor surgery on my legs and all extra space was completely eliminated. To make matters worse, she preceded to sit on the front edge of the seat half the time, not even USING the seat back. I was incensed.

Around this same time, the young lady in the window seat decided to lay down across her seat and the vacant middle seat. "I'm terrible. I cannot sit still on deez flights" she informed me. She then used my right armrest to as a sort of foot rest while lying down, which caused it to push approximately two more inches over into my gut. Every once in a while the pressure would be relieved, but only because she had dozed off and was now using my thigh as a foot rest. It wouldn't have been so bad except that she was wearing no socks and appeared to have hiked the Gobi desert barefoot at some point.

So there I sat. Twelve hours across the Pacific with -2" worth of legroom and hiproom on either side. I endured, mostly with the iPod. I watched the remainder of "Zodiac" and tried to watch the movie on the plane. I can tell you with great certainty that "Are We Done Yet?" featuring the talents of former rap star Ice Cube is the worst movie released in the last 10 years. I really expected to see a cue card man at some point. Ice Cube has the worst line delivery of any actor in history, only crowned by his occasional use of the word "axe," as in "Lemme axe you a question" or "I axed you not to pay for this movie." It was terrible.

Finally about six hours into the flight, the lady in front of me made her way to the restroom. In a move of desparation, I waited for her to actually go into the lavatory, then I reached up and pushed the button on her seat which adjusts the seatback. I gave myself another couple of inches, but didn't move it up so much that I thought she would notice. This genious plan saved me for the rest of the trip. In her groggy state, she didn't realize for the rest of the flight that she'd been duped out of a fully reclined seat back. And the extra space made being used as a footrest for a model for Dr. Scholl's corn removal products almost bearable.

We arrived in Tokyo in the middle of the night. I guess that was early Wednesday morning Indy time. I had now been traveling for 24 hours. I saw none of Japan. Our layover was short, and the airport terminal windows provided only a view of the runways. I guess I can't say that I've actually been to Japan, as I was only on the ground for about an hour.

As my coworker and I were getting off of the previous flight, our names had been called to come to the service desk. I was quite sure this meant that my clothes were now either strewn around the tarmac at LAX or our flight to Hong Kong was cancelled. Surprisingly, it was to tell us that coach was oversold on the flight to HK, so we were being moved to first class. Weeeee! Not only that, but our new seats were in the little first class cabin upstairs on the plane. If you've never been up there, all the seats are fully reclinable and provide various massage features. It was heaven. The memories of the previous flight soon faded, and I actually fell completely asleep for several hours on the way to Hong Kong.

We arrived in Hong Kong at around 10am, Indy time. Having previously traversed the border in the middle of the night, I was hopeful that we could catch a bus which would take us all the way onto the mainland without hassle. These services stop at 11pm (11 am Indy time) so I was doubtful that we would be so lucky. We quickly discovered that another perk of being "elite" status is that your bags come off the plane first. Our bags showed up within about 5 minutes, and we caught the last shuttle to the mainland.

In the end, we hit the hotel at somewhere between noon and 1pm, Indy time, which is 1am China time, around 32 hours from when I left. The travel is easily the worst part of the trip over here, but being in first class on the two of the three legs definitely helped.

I've already worked a full day here, taken a tour of Wal Mart, and been attacked by a guy carrying fruit on his back using a giant bamboo pole. I'll tell about that adventure in the next entry...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Whole New World


I am so glad to hear that you made the very long flight to China and all is well. I rode on an airplane too. Mommy thought I would sleep the whole way (as takeoff coincided with my bedtime), but I had a different plan. You see, Daddy, there were all these people to look at, and these ladies kept coming by with apple juice and cookies. I slept about 15 minutes and finally went to bed at 2 in the morning Indiana time. But, it worked out because now I'm on California time, whatever the heck that means.

Speaking of California, it's hot, but it's not humid, so my Mommy is happy. So far, I've met my Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Richard and my Great Grandma and Great Grandpa. They have given me tons of gifts that Mommy has to carry back, so I think they are pretty cool. Plus, they keep telling me how cute I am, so I know they are quality people.

I did meet a real crazy person today (you warned me Daddy about people in California, and I've been taking your advice to heart). My grandma told the lady we were on vacation from Indiana; she asked if we needed a passport to travel "from there." Hmmm.

Okay, off to bed... or so Mommy thinks.


Dear Erin & Grant,

I just wanted to let you know that I have arrived here in Shenzhen safely. I would post more at this moment, but I stink of airplanes and have to go to work in approximately 6 hours. I will post details of my journey tomorrow (hopefully).

I hope California is treating you well. I miss you both!!