Saturday, January 24, 2015

War Eagle Mill

On the day after Christmas (Boxing Day in Great Britain and most of her former colonies except the U.S.) we drove out to War Eagle Mill. I'm not sure why. I went along to just kill some time by taking a few pictures. I think there was some shopping for stone ground corn involved.

The mill on this site dates back to 1832 when it was built by Sylvanus and Catherine Blackburn. It was washed away once, rebuilt and then later burned down when it became a casualty of the Civil War in the chaos after the Battle of Pea Ridge. After the war, the Blackburn family rebuilt the mill and some years later sold it. The mill burned down again in 1924. The mill site set unused until rebuilt again by Medlin family in 1973. Since 2004 it has been owned by Marty & Elise Roenigk.

The mill is powered by an undershoot water wheel.

Click to enlarge.

The cypress wheel has to be rebuilt periodically. Water and beavers take their toll.

Through a system of pulleys and belts, the power of the water is transferred to the granite grinding wheels. The wheels turn 64 times faster than the water wheel outside.

The corn is fed into the red cone in the picture and drops into the stones in the red box below.

Click to enlarge.

The mill sits next to a bridge on highway 98. The bridge was built in 1907 by the Illinois Steel Bridge Company.

The mill is just outside Hobbs State Park.

This old building is on the site, also.

You can learn more here ---> War Eagle Mill

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Christmas 2014 in Arkansas

Here for the record are from left, Nancy Savage, Susan Inich and Greg Brue at our house on Christmas Eve.

Melanie Wall never takes a bad picture. Sometime she screws them up with Instagram but that's another story.

Tom and Misheil Savage.

From left, Tom Savage, Misheil Savage, Theresa Brue, Greg Brue, Margot Savage, David Brue, Nancy Savage, Melanie Wall and Susan Inich. Dinner was after the 5:00 PM church service.

Here we are late Christmas morning at Greg and Theresa's house. Misheil is all choked up about the birdhouse in the form of their actual home that Greg made for her.

Greg, David and Theresa Brue.

Bob and Sue Inich.

Greg and Theresa with granddaughter Abigail Brue.

A few days after Christmas our grandchildren came to visit. Their parents tagged along, too.

Our granddaughter Emily Bloss with her Flutterbye Flying Fairy. Actually a pretty cool toy.

Fortunately, we didn't have an incident like this one. Flutterbye bye-bye

Lauren Bloss and Emily contemplating how to keep track of all the Lego pieces.

Mike Bloss and Ben figuring out how to put the train together.

The next day the 2nd cousins all went to  Little Giggles.

I'm thinking Gogo isn't offering enough supervision.

Ben is enjoying it.

They had a lot of fun together.

Brandon Dye and Alyssa Wall came to visit, also, but I messed up and didn't get a picture. Same with Stacy and Jason Brue. Sorry, next time.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Big Fat Chinese Wedding

Back in November Margot and I were invited to the wedding of one of my colleagues at SSTPC (Sinopec-SABIC Tianjin Petrochemical). Venessa Wu Junmei and I have been practicing English and Chinese at lunch for the last year or so and I was honored to be invited. Our offices are in a Sinopec owned hotel in Dagang and over the last 2 years there have been a number of weddings there during the week so I was generally familiar with the concepts. I wouldn't call this a traditional-traditional Chinese wedding but a new-traditional wedding.

During the Cultural Revolution (1966 - 1976) all forms of religion were stamped out or forced deep underground. Religion is making a comeback but for Chinese of Junmei's generation it is a very secular societal environment. The wedding ceremony follows some of the western traditions but without the blessing of God. Blended in are certain Chinese tradition. The first of which is that every important event in China starts with fireworks.

The wedding ceremony and reception were held at a restaurant that specializes in weddings. The fireworks are prepared in the street in front of the restaurant. Click the video to get a flavor of it.

After the fireworks the bride and groom arrive in a car escorted by the best man and maid-of-honor.

The bride is carried up the steps to the wedding venue.

Click to enlarge.

The wedding ceremony, decorations, bridal gowns, etc. are all arranged by companies that specialize in this service.

I didn't ask but I imagine the English elements are due to Junmei's interest in the language. On the other hand, English touches are pretty common in magazines, advertisements, etc. and seem to be perceived as adding a touch of class.

I suppose the bride and groom - well the bride anyway - chooses from a range of options for the decorations. Notice the goldfish in the flower holder.

Each place at the table had a small box of 喜糖 (xǐtáng) or wedding sweets.

Xitang are also given out on the birth of baby or other joyous occasions.

There was some entertainment. This young girl is a relative of the bride and gave a brief dance performance.

During this time the guests are chatting, watching the dance, etc. all while the bride changes her dress, hair and make-up.

Finally we are ready to get down to business. The flower girl and her wrangler are ready to go.

The bride appears and is seated in a swing surrounded by her family.

The groom appears and asks her to marry him. She agrees and they walk up the aisle to the stage.

At this point the master-of-ceremonies takes over and leads the bride and groom through the rituals.

There is an exchange of  rings.

Notice the bubbles adding a celebratory effect.

They light some candles as the MOC says some nice words.

Same with the champagne.

They drink a toast.

I thought this part was interesting. The gentleman on the left, Mr. Cui, is Junmei's boss. The guy on the right represents the groom's company. They said a few words - I didn't understand a thing - but everyone applauded politely.

I think this is a throwback to the 50s, 60s,70s, and perhaps 80s when the Communist Party kept a pretty tight control on everyone's life. You had to get the permission of your work unit to marry. Both the bride and groom work for state-owned companies. I don't know if this is included in the ceremony if they work for private companies.

I don't know if you noticed but many of the women wear this decoration in their hair. It is 囍囍. You'll notice that the 囍 character is made up of two 喜s from xǐtáng. 囍 means double happiness. By Tianjin tradition the women wear it on the right if they are friends of the groom and the left for the bride.

The wedding party all participate in cutting the cake.

The bride has changed dresses again. (She will wear 5 dresses over the course of the wedding.) Here they great each guest. This is the grooms family.

Wedding gifts are really simple in China. The only suitable gift is cash - some of which you see exchanging hands here. No gift registration, no doubles, no returns, never the wrong color, etc. I guess the only thing you have to worry about is if it is the wrong size. :)

Usually the gifts are offered in a red envelope or 紅包 (hóngbāo). You can write your name on the envelope so the bride and groom can keep track and offer a thank you. Actually there are some rules about the amount. The most important is to avoid 4's. So 40, 400, 444, etc. are out. The reason is that the word for 4, 四 (sì) sounds similar to  (sǐ) which means to die. 

The amount of food was incredible. The dishes were stacked 2 and 3 high.

This is the 4th dress and hair style. I didn't get a picture of the 5th but it was a traditional Chinese qipao.

Things are winding down at this point. Once the last dress appears the party is over and everyone departs.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Saudi Arabia Trip

Himalaya Mountains from airplane window

I went on an 8 day business trip to Saudi Arabia in the middle of December. As I read the previous sentence I'm thinking of course it was a business trip. Tourism isn't real big in Saudi Arabia other than the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca and I'm not sure that really counts as tourism.

Anyway, the plane's route went over a part of the world I had not seen before. Here we are over the Himalayas.

Click to enlarge.

The pilot indicated that K2, the 2nd highest mountain, was out the left windows. I'm not sure if the picture above is K2 or perhaps the mountain sticking out of the clouds on the horizon in this picture. You will have to enlarge the picture to see it.

That's not camera distortion you see on the horizon. That is the curvature of the earth.

Beach at the Intercontinental Hotel in Al-Jubail, KSA

SABIC is building an ABS plastics plant in Al-Jubail on the east coast of Saudi Arabia.

The hotel in Jubail has a nice beach. Not very busy - the weather was a bit cool - about 75 this day. At this private beach women can wear whatever they want.

Eurasian Hoopoe

This bird was hanging around the beach area. It is a Eurasian Hoopoe.

Here is a link to Google Maps if you want to get your bearings. Zoom out to see the industrial area south of the hotel. You can't miss it. It's huge, about 12 miles by 12 miles or 144 square miles.

Intercontinental Hotel - Al-Jubail

Here is a look at part of the plant. The ABS plant is in the foreground. The cranes in the background are on other projects.

Here is my colleague and friend Rick Legg. Notice the full body harness he is wearing. The contractor takes safety very seriously. If you are working above or below ground level you must wear a harness. Once construction is completed and all the handrails are finished this requirement will go away.

The blue items are demisters on a High Efficiency Air Filtration system.

Part of the ABS plant is in the foreground. Across the road is another Petrokemya plant.

The plant is a little behind schedule. You can see a see some of the pipe left to install.

I'll be returning sometime this spring or early summer.