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25 Oct 2006
Change of plans...

I'll use a courier instead of a road trip to Houston for my visa on account I don't want to make a second trip to Houston and I don't want to count on the 2-3 weeks for mail service to get my visa stuff back before I leave on the 16th. So, for the cost of less than the gas, I'll use a courier and feel just fine about it.

by Dean Webb

21 Oct 2006
Problems with twitchiness...

I try not to make a secret of my twitchiness. My eyelids, arms, legs, face muscles, feet, internal organs: they all have their spasmodic moments. I have no idea what's causing it, along with other symptoms like fatigue and light sensitivity, but I have my guesses. All the same, I can't pigeonhole myself because it might cause me to reject a diagnosis of some disorder I hadn't considered, should I ever get a diagnosis. That's a problem with these twitchy disorders. They're all very, very hard to diagnose. They often evade diagnosis for a number of years. They sometimes go away of their own accord or, after remaining prevalent for years, receive a probable diagnosis and hesitant treatment.

I'm not complaining. Well, I am a little. Getting a diagnosis is expensive when running through all these tests, and inconclusive tests can be very frustrating to deal with. Dealing with second-guessers can also be difficult. The first time I hear a helpful suggestion about what I might have, I'm cool with it and listen carefully. But the second, third, fourth, and beyond times I do all I can to maintain my patience. The doctors I've seen know what they're doing, and they've ruled out a lot of stuff and don't have anything to build a real diagnosis on. So, please, no emails asking me if they've looked into it being this thing or that. Either it's been ruled out or I haven't dropped the time and money on getting a test for it.

I also don't know how much I'm going to complain in China. I'll have to walk a lot, and that might aggravate my condition. As in screaming neural pains sending thunderbolts to every nerve in my legs, back, and earlobes. By the way, if you've never felt your earlobes hurt, well, you haven't really lived. Back to the thunderbolts, though... this is the kind of pain that leaves me unable to see for a few seconds and makes me seriously question the old wives' tale that men can't experience any pain like childbirth. I don't like that kind of pain, but I also know it won't kill me, either. Sometimes, even when I feel the pain mounting, I take a quick break and then push on through to see life on the other side of a few more footsteps.

Most of the time, I'm not any kind of hero. I'm just a guy taking it easy in a comfy chair so as not to have to deal with extreme discomfort. In China, though, I'm going to need to find a way to push through a lot. If I plan on taking in The Great Wall and The Forbidden City, just those two alone are going to be major efforts. But I'll be there, and these are things worth seeing when one is there. There's nothing quite like them anywhere else in the world. I'm not going to China to sit in a hotel room and flip through channels while reading the phone book. I'm going there to see, first-hand, what I've only viewed in pictures and documentaries. And to get there, I'm going to have to walk through a lot of territory.

I may have a rough sleep interrupted with frequent leg and foot cramps, but what will that pain mean when I have the beautiful memories later on?

I won't be any sort of hero for enduring the pain. I'll just be another tourist, gazing at the sights. All I have to do is not desire a pain-free existence, and I'll be fine.


But I am planning on taking a day to recover when I get back. Not a lotta jumping around planned for that day, I assure you.

by Dean Webb

16 Oct 2006
More fun with the books, but still...

These are very fun. I've already downloaded the Mandarin ones to go with the book I ordered and a Mandarin speaker I trust said they were very good. I also downloaded the Arabic ones because I plan to learn Arabic and the Hindi/Urdu ones because I like to show off. Now, I can say, "Shenme? Wo bu dong: ni hui shuo yingyu ma?" with confidence and expertise.

Translated, that means, "Say what? I have no clue: PLEASE tell me you speak English." Or something like that.

by Dean Webb

15 Oct 2006
Train, train...

While planning my itinerary for China, I didn't want to spend my days schlepping from one burg to the next. Hopefully, I'll be able to have a sleeper car from Beijing to Nanjing and from Nanjing to Shanghai. I'm sure the countryside's beautiful, but I can see lots of dirt and trees here at home. I'd like my waking hours over there to be as wonder-filled as possible.

To that end, I also definitely plan a day trip to the Great Wall. I'll have to take a more physically accessible section of the wall - not the one with 80-degree slopes! That also involves a train ride. It'd be nice if the train ride back also stopped at the Summer Palace or the Fragrant Hills Botanical Garden, two other places I think would be lovely to see.

Of course, a day with Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City has to be worked in. I mean, come on, this is China. I have to go to these places because when you're there, you can say, "Dude! I'm in, like, Tiananmen Square!" Or the Forbidden City or the Great Wall. These are wonders, after all. If I have a return trip, I could give them a miss for, say, the Ming tombs or something like that, but I just gotta see them this time around.

In Nanjing, I need to see the Sun Zhongsan (Sun Yat-Sen) Memorial and the museums nearby. I have to. Plus, I hope there are some cool palaces there from the early Ming days and earlier dynasties than that. For Shanghai, I do still plan to buy some US-made goods at a Wal-Mart, but there's also the Shanghai Museum and maybe a river cruise, as well. Maybe even a trip over to the picturesque Qibao... I'm still planning things out, but I have a feeling the Beijing leg of the tour might be a case of there being SO MUCH to do, there'll be no way I can do it all. I don't want everything there to be tourist-y, as I also love to find the quirkier places to go.

We shall see...

by Dean Webb

14 Oct 2006
Gettin' my shots...

Lucky me! It's only a shot I need, not the plural. I'm current on my diphtheria-tetanus-measles booster, so I only needed to get a Hepatitis A vaccine. Since I'm not going to handle blood products or commit adultery with the local populace, Hepatitis B wasn't necessary. I did get a prescription for the proper anti-malarial drug for the region and will need to check with my county health department about whether I need a typhoid vaccine or not.

Still learning Mandarin, and I'm really good at saying I'm very sorry. That ought to keep me out of any possible bar fights I might be at risk of getting into. I also plan to avoid bars, which should also help.

Also looking up where I'll need to go for my church's worship services: The Beijing English-speaking branch is at...

4/f Beijing Jin Tai Bldg

1 Xibahe South Road


And the Shanghai branch is at:

1720 Hong Qiao Road, House 7

Shang Mira Garden


I have two choices in Shanghai. The Pudong Branch meets at 8:30 AM and the Shanghai Branch meets at 11:30. No word on the meeting times in Beijing, but I bet I can figure out when they've got something going on. I could always go through sources at the American Embassy there once I develop contacts with them.

Why post that information here? It's so I can refer to it myself in case I need to when I get there. Duh. Sundays, I hope to attend church and then look over local sites of religious importance in Beijing and Shanghai. I won't want to go for the physical beauty of places, but more for their spiritual beauty.

by Dean Webb

09 Oct 2006
Time to get that visa...

OK, my passport's here. Now I have to get a visa from the Chinese consulate in order to travel there. I know there's a consulate in Houston, so I go to check out its website:

Uhhh... I can't read Chinese, not just yet. I can pick out the characters for "middle" and... OK, so I know one character. Time to see if there's an English version of the page. There's the link... in the top middle, on a graphic, I see the word "English", beaming at me like a savior from Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. I click on it with great enthusiasm.

There's a very cordial greeting and a nice "Visa and Passport" link at the top. I click, again with great enthusiasm. I click a few more links, with as much great enthusiasm as before. Really. I'm excited about going.

Then I get to the page for travel visas and see the following instructions:

How to apply

1. You must come to the visa office of the Embassy or Consulate -General in the consular jurisdiction where you reside to submit the application; or

2. If you cannot come personally, you may send someone else or a travel/visa agent to come to the visa office of the Embassy or Coulate -General in the consular jurisdiction where you reside for application processes.

* Mail applications are not acceptable and will be refused.

* No appointment is required.

Can't mail it in. I gotta show up personally.

You know what this means...


I'll have to do it soon, too, before November... They're only open M-F, so no weekends... this is gonna be tricky to schedule... I could do it all in one day, but which day? Hmmm... I was kinda hoping for a road trip over a weekend when I first thought of going to Houston. As I ponder things further, it'll probably have to be a Thursday. Not this Thursday or the next, but I have a feeling I'll be coughing a lot on Thursday, October 26th...

by Dean Webb

05 Oct 2006
An AcDec Coach's Nightmare

Great visit to the art museum, had a nice supper afterward, and I'm driving my half of the team home.

I'm asking the kids where they live so I can set what order I'll take them home. I ask, "So where do you live, BettyLou?" (That's not her real name. I'm protecting her innocence.)

"I don't know."


"I think it's on Tarpon Way. Do you know where that is?"

"No. What major streets are you near?"

"I don't know. I think I'm near Walnut."


Well, we get her home OK, but I don't think I'll be able to find it again. Our team's other coach gets to drive her back for the next field trip.
by Dean Webb

01 Oct 2006
Not Everything Is About China These Days

Had this wild dream last night... I dreamt I was supervising a team of forensic mathematicians who were on the scene at this movie theater to develop real-world word problems for all levels of mathematics.

I had about 40 guys working for me, going all over the theater, measuring all kinds of lengths, angles, dimensions, quantities: you name it. Very efficient bunch, and I had to make sure they stayed that way.

Apparently, people had been complaining about how "made up" existing word problems were in math books. They just didn't sound realistic and the kids weren't getting into math. My team worked for a textbook publisher to make sure we got all our numbers from real-world situations. From basic math to Algebra, Geometry, Trig, and Calculus, we were all there, getting the goods on real numbers from real situations.

The geometry and trig guys had the neatest equipment. Lots of cutting-edge measuring tapes and laser protractors. Totally awesome. The calculus guys kept asking questions about rates and hitting technical manuals for specifications, but I told them to go back and get the real numbers, then they could do comparisons between the two.

When I woke up, I first thought that was a dream that was both weird and dumb at the same time. Now that I've had a chance to reflect upon it, I'm thinking this is the way to do math. I felt lots better knowing my problems weren't just cooked up in somebody's head. These were real-world math problems, and we could point to the exact time and place they came from. I had confidence in the problems my team discovered and I knew the kids in schools everywhere would appreciate them.

by Dean Webb

Posted at:10 Jan 2009 06:21:51 PM

No Words portraits and romantic illustrations.

What's there to say?

I got words and pictures.

I got a message board.

Like I said, what's there to say?