Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Changping District of Beijing

The Ming tombs in the Changping region all look alike. They have a similar layout and are characterized by the same general motifs and colour schemes.

Drain pipe on the Changling tomb grounds

Soul tower at Changling

If there's a tomb, there must be treasure. And there was, rather a lot of it, piled up and buried in a mound, now covered with trees.

Gold ingots

Gold cufflinks. The swastika has been an important symbol in 
eastern religions for thousands of years.

Endpieces for pillows

A short ways up the road (to me, this is out of town, but the city buses still run out this far), there is another tomb. I'm too lazy to look up its name now. It was closed to the public, but there were some workmen on the site, so maybe it is being prepared for public exposure.

The town closest to the hospital has a tomb of its own--the Qingling tomb. It is not open to the public, but many of its features are quite close to the main road.

Approach to the Qingling tomb

Qingling tomb and its soul tower

Just past the Qingling tomb on the way to the hospital is a small walled town. Didn't look too busy or touristy.

Mealtimes in the hospital are on a rigid schedule, and I could see I was going to miss lunch. It wasn't a bad thing really--it seemed that the only spice the cooks in the kitchen knew was salt. So I ate lunch in the village--but the food wasn't any better.

I may have mentioned there were a lot of foreigners in the hospital. When I returned, they were in the midst of a mini-exercise session, similar to the mass tai chi sessions that take place in workplaces all over China. As I went to the elevator, I met a foreigner. I said hello, he responded, "Salaam Alaikum". I know this, I thought, but I had to think really hard to remember something that was at least close to the expected reply. He asked if I were a Muslim. I told him I was not. And then he didn't want to talk any more.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Changping District kidney specialist hospital

Late last month I checked in to a specialist hospital in the Changping District of Beijing, to see if I would be able to undergo treatment later this year.

To say it was a challenge finding the hospital would be an understatement. I had been given Chinese-language instructions on how to reach the hospital so that I could direct a taxi once I reached the Changping District, which is more than 50 kim from the city centre. Fortunately, the area is easily reached by subway (although it is a long trip with a number of transfers), and the trip took no more than about an hour.

Unfortunately, the taxi driver could not understand the directions. I think it is because the directions take you a long way out of town. I had underestimated how much farther I had to travel once I reached Changping, not realizing that it was a good twenty minute drive if there was no traffic, heading up the highway through the Ming tombs (which go on for 20 km or so). We had not even reached the first of the tombs when the driver was ready to give up, apparently alarmed at driving out of the city (or at least into an area where there might not be any return fares). It took some cajoling on the part of the hospital to convince him to drive on--a location share on wechat helped as well. And so I arrived.

It is a large facility in a very nice setting. Or in the middle of nowhere. Which wasn't too much of a problem for me, because at least I have ways of getting around. But this hospital has a large contingent of foreign patients, most of whom had that wild-eyed look that comes of too long a period in captivity. I found them hard to talk to. As far as I could tell, none of them ever left the compound, and most of them had been there for some weeks.

The evening I arrived, I wandered about the grounds a little bit. There was a small fountain and a few trees, where most of the patients sat when outside, and a few trails around the grounds that went up into the hills, but none of the inmates went very far. I didn't go far either, but that was mainly because my red blood cell count is so low I find climbing even modest hills and short staircases troublesome.

So when I first arrived, I had this brief, wild idea I would climb these hills. But just walking on the path around the hospital was already too much for me.

This is a private hospital, and it supplies very little. It's up to you to provide your own towels, toilet paper (luckily I had brought these), and of course meals are extra as well. And the cost of the various testing was by far the most I've spent on medical tests on China, although they were far more thorough than testing elsewhere. I did doubt whether it was all necessary.

While waiting for results, the staff advised me to stay on the hospital grounds. I asked them if I had to, to which they replied I was free to wander around outside, but it was dangerous because of the highway traffic. I decided to take my chances. I crossed the street, and was surprised when a city bus drove past on the way toward the city. I used the Chinese mapping app on my phone to find the bus route to the Ming tombs, and found that it would be rather easy to get there, although the buses didn't run all that frequently. I located the nearest bus stop on the app and walked toward it, but when I got there, there was no obvious bus stop. It was no more than 100 m from the front gate of the hospital, and I had the sneaking suspicion that the lack of markings was deliberate.

My suspicions were shortly confirmed somewhat when a local villager approached and asked me if the bus had been by. At least I think that's what he asked. I told him I didn't know, and he stood beside an unmarked utility pole waiting. I went back to the hospital shop to get water, and see how my results were going. I hadn't completely decided to go to the Ming tombs, but after about half an hour I decided I would at least go to the Ming tombs scenic area, which was about halfway to the city. I walked back out to the bus stop, and the villager was still waiting--and just then the bus came, showing me that the unmarked utility pole was the bus stop. I managed to catch the bus and luckily had a lot of change, because the fare was 4 yuan (about $0.80), by far the most I've paid for a bus fare in China.

The bus passed through a number of villages on its way into the city, and I noticed a number of other features that would be worth seeing in addition to the scenic area. We passed three or four tomb sites along the highway until we reached the scenic area, which happened to be the Changling tomb, which is actually the best-preserved tomb and one of only three open to the public.

To be continued . . .

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Forbidden City gold and silver, part 1

All those years in China, and I only went to Beijing for part of two days. One day was spent on the Great Wall, at Jinshanling. The other was spent fighting my way through the crowds at the Forbidden City.

It was a fight. Within minutes of entering, I was separated from my travelling companions, by the surging crowd, and only found one of them about an hour later by chance as I was deciding where to look next. We played WeChat tag, and managed to get together at the exit.

The Forbidden City was a palace that expanded greatly during the Qing Dynasty. The wealth of the place was truly amazing, even after the KMT sacked the place before retreating to Taiwan with the spoils. What they left behind is still impressive.

One of the thrones

The entire complex has been converted into a series of museums organized by topic. Like most Chinese tourist spots, there are ample opportunities to get dressed up in period costume and pose at different spots in the palace complex. 

The two best museums to see are the treasures museum and the clock museum. Bandwidth here in Ghana is a little limited, so I'll only show pictures of some chintzy stuff today, and save the good stuff for later.

Silver candlesticks

Chamberpot with silver and gold inlay

Various articles with gold or silver inlay

Silver axle endpiece for chariot

Wine vessel with gold and silver inlay

Most of these artifacts are older pieces, dating from the Han Dynasty and the Warring States period. None of these are in the main treasure museum, but are scattered in some of the others, along with a lot of bronze pieces and weapons (so many weapons).