Update

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You may have noticed that I haven’t posted my Germany posts yet. Sorry about that. I had more pressing things to do (more research, job applications) and not much time leftover for the blog. I actually do have the rough drafts written, but not the final and I haven’t edited or added pictures yet. They will be forthcoming, but not for an undetermined long period of time. I’m in the middle of reworking the matrix in a group collaboration and recoding my part of the tree. It’s imperative that I get this done ASAP because all of my analyses rely on having a phylogenetic hypothesis as the framework. I can’t run them until I’ve updated it and I can’t write up the results, discussions, and much of the methods in my dissertation until I’ve run them (multiple-times-over rough drafts for the introductions are largely taken care of, thankfully). I just started using a modified Pomodoro technique (no planning or goal-setting beyond just doing as much as possible in each pomodori). I really wish I’d known about this before ’cause holy crap it works well.
First deposit is in March, so I’m working under a very big time crunch. Wish me luck! This sleep deprivation ain’t gonna be pretty…

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Adventures in China

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My hostel in Beijing was awesome. I loved waking up in the wee hours of the morning (jet lag) and working on my computer in the common room in the dark. I was surrounded by red lanterns and goldfish tanks. They even had a koi pond complete with tiny bridge and bamboo in there.

My hostel in Beijing was awesome. I loved waking up in the wee hours of the morning (jet lag) and working on my computer in the common room in the dark. I was surrounded by red lanterns and goldfish tanks. They even had a koi pond complete with tiny bridge and bamboo in there.

  • Things that freaked me out in Beijing:
    Someone apologized for bumping into me on a bus.
    People were queueing in most subway stations.
    Only a few cars went through each red light.
    Someone slowed their car and waved me across a road.
    Traffic in Guangzhou and Hohhot, however, was properly misbehaving itself.
The train I took to/from Guangzhou is the fastest train in the world (8.5 hours to travel the equivalent of Nashville to Cuba, including stops). The air was smoggy for almost the entire ride. This was one of the worst sections. Only a couple places in the mountains and far away from urban centers had clean-looking air. :(

The train I took to/from Guangzhou is the fastest train in the world (8.5 hours to travel the equivalent of Nashville to Cuba, including stops). The air was smoggy for almost the entire ride. This was one of the worst sections (middle of the day, sunny, no fog). Only a couple places in the mountains and far away from urban centers had clean-looking air. 😦

  • Don’t use Google Maps in Guangzhou. It lies and tries to make you hop fences and cross major highways and abandoned-looking construction zones with your luggage. Couldn’t get Bing Maps or Mapquest to pull up my hostel at all. And I couldn’t get Baidu Maps (China’s version of Google) to work in English. Basically, just cross your fingers and wish real hard so you don’t spend a couple hours trying and failing to find breaks in barriers in the dark before finding a licensed taxi driver who speaks English reasonably well. FYI, there’s a subway station in Guangzhou South train station which Google failed to mention and for which no English signs exist on the level you exit the train at.
  • While walking down the street market near my hostel in Guangzhou, I noticed merchants frantically packing up their wares. I assumed the police were coming to break up people selling without licenses or something. I’d seen it happen in Beijing before, where the work migrant workers can do is restricted. But then I heard an ice cream truck playing the happy birthday song. Huh? I walked closer and the song was actually coming from a truck that was watering the plants in the planters along the walkway. Why did they pick that song to let people know to move their things? On the train back from Guangzhou, the kid in the seat behind me started singing it—in English. Huh?
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One of the fun things about traveling to different countries is trying new food. I have no idea what kind of fruit this is, but it smelled good when the woman next to me was eating it on the train to Guangzhou, so I bought some from a street vendor when I got there. Its flavor was a bit like a mild apple/pear mix.

  • It seems Mongols living on the steppes (in the Xilamuren area, at least) don’t name their animals. I wonder if it gets confusing when you try to tell people to bring “the brown horse”. (I took a trip to Inner Mongolia for fun after finishing my dissertation work.)
  • Three of the four places I slept in (not counting trains and planes) had orange and white cats. One of them liked to hang out beneath my bed and play by sticking his paw up to grab at me. Another followed me into my yurt and cuddled all night. Also licked my face a couple times. The Korean girls in there with me called her a kenyagi, which is a Korean term for a cat that behaves like a dog.
Cat #2, in Guangzhou. His name was a very onomatopoeic Aowa.

Cat #2, in Guangzhou. His name was a very onomatopoeic Aowa.

The kenyagi

Cat #3, the kenyagi

  • As of my first night back in the States, I spent each night in the last week sleeping in a different place (Guangzhou hostel, train, Xilamuren yurt, Hohhot hostel, train, plane, home). That was tiring…

Last China post! I’ll be back in about a month for Germany travels.

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Heading to China

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I’m at the airport about to leave for China. I’ll be there for two weeks. I’d originally hoped to visit three collections (in Beijing, Linqu, and Guangdong), but the Linqu collections seemed pretty hard to get to or around in. The only contact information I had was that my Beijing contact has a student who knows someone there who doesn’t speak English. My Mandarin was only ever rudimentary and I’ve lost a lot of it since I was last there. But fortunately that student is also redescribing one of the species I’m going to look at, so we’ll probably end up collaborating on that and he can handle the Linqu specimen.

There aren’t many specimens for me to look at in China. One in Guangdong, would have been one in Linqu, and something like four in Beijing (though two are probably not alligators). But these specimens are very important to my studies because they’re little studied and among the few samples of extinct Asian alligatorines.

Blogging Intermission (Sort Of)

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I’m headed off to spend two nights in Ribchester, where there’s a Roman Museum and an auxiliary unit of my steppe nomads was stationed. But since this trip is for fun and not work, I’m going to use that as an excuse to not blog about it here. I’m not going to stop blogging, though, because I still have posts to catch up on. The first’ll come sometime in the next 24 hours.

First (okay, Second) Impressions of London

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I’ve been to London once before when I was studying Lystrosaurus for my Master’s, but it was right after a big conference. I was quite tired and pressed for time, so I didn’t get to do any sightseeing while I was here. I just went to and from work. So this’ll be the first time I actually get to experience the city.

  • Wow the Chunnel was underwhelming. Too bad getting a ferry would of been way more expensive and a huge hassle.
  • People who put small, lightweight luggage on the bottom racks of trains–I and everyone else carrying big, heavy luggage hate you.
  • St. Pancras station seems to be full of non-Brits. Less patiently waiting in queues and more standing in my way as I try to navigate the place. I don’t understand people who think it’s okay to stop in choke points to check their things while taking up as much room as possible.
  • The recycling bins here are also enormous.
  • Oh hey, the crosswalks have painted “look lefts” and “look rights” on them. That’s helpful!
  • One of the roads I walked down to get to my hostel changed names three times in half a mile. What.
  • It seems the day starts even later here. Breakfast isn’t ’til 8.
  • This hostel has great, very friendly service and plenty of amenities (a full kitchen and plenty of travel items you can borrow for free!).
  • It also has 6 very tall stories with no lift and I’m on the 6th floor. Luggage=pain.
  • I walked down Tottingham Court Road yesterday. It wasn’t as grimy as I expected. (Kudos if you get the reference.)

Mes premières impressions de Paris

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    • I came all the way to France to see a homeless American guy playing a dobro on the subway and singing only slightly better than Bob Dylan?
    • Paris….you need more escalators in your subway system. Hauling 50+ pounds of awkward luggage up and down a myriad stairs is not fun. Thank god for helpful Parisians.
    • Giant recycling bins!
Recycling should be this big a thing in every city.

Recycling should be this big a thing in every city.

  • Is there a major city anywhere in the world one can *not* see Rock Doves in?
  • Balcony gardens are a thing here. It’s nice.
  • What is with your bird naming conventions, Europe? It is not the Blackbird; it is a Common Blackbird. Likewise for Kestrels, Magpies, Swifts, etc… You do not have the only ones in the world! No claiming the whole name for yourself!
  • I am not prepared to translate spoken French in real time. Also my vowels keep switching places in transit from my brain to my mouth. And I keep almost speaking Mandarin.
  • You lied to me, internet. Parisians don’t all dress nicely to go outside. And why does the garbage man have a mullet?!
  • The architecture is nice here.
  • So many ambulances…and they sound like clown cars…
  • I forgot to bring my alarm clock and I can’t turn my phone on while I’m here…crap. I’ll have to go find one tomorrow. For now, I’m going to sleep and trust that I’ll wake up on time.
  • I like how Paris doesn’t seem cramped in spite of the fact that it’s a very old city with European-size streets.

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Bother

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I’ve run into an unexpected hitch in my plans: hotels, inns, B&Bs, and hostels who haven’t kept their booking links up and won’t respond to e-mails. Or who only have phone numbers as a means to contact them, find out their rates, and book rooms. Which is bothersome when you don’t have an international phone plan. This appears to be woefully common in smaller towns in England. I bet I’m missing out on some charming little B&Bs. Guess I’ll be buying some Skype credit tomorrow.