Thursday, August 21, 2008

OMGHOLYCRAP Part IV: Time to pre-order!

A number of people have asked me lately when "my" romance novel - AKA Carla Kelly's novel featuring a protagonist named after yours truly - is coming out (for the complete backstory on this forthcoming novel, see OMGHOLYCRAP, OMGHOLYCRAP Part II, and OMGHOLYCRAP Part III).

The good news is that courtesy of a post by Carla Kelly on, we now have a release date: January 1 2009! The bad news is that the book has a new title: from Worthy, which I liked immensely, to Marrying the Captain, which I do not. Not to judge - I am, after all, somebody who bought and enjoyed a book called Secrets of a Pregnant Princess - but I feel like Marrying the Captain is a harder sell to the average reader.

But you, dear blog followers, are not by any means average! You will not miss out on this fabulous book by a fantastic author! You will pre-order this book from! Right now, before you forget. No, really, click on that link. It's a direct link to the page for this book. Couldn't be easier. And it's only $5.99! You can't even see a movie for that anymore!

I now leave you with this teaser from Ms. Kelly on Likesbooks:

A captain in the Channel Fleet comes to stay at the Mulberry Inn, a shabby little place down on its luck, while his frigate is in drydocks. Captain Oliver Worthy quickly discovers that Eleanor Massie (a.k.a. Nana), the innkeep's granddaughter, just might be the one. He never thought to marry, because his job is so tough and so dangerous. But there is Nana, and only an idiot would resist.

There you have it: Only an idiot would resist Nana. And Nana is telling you: buy this book!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beijing: The Great Wall

(This is part of a series of posts on our trip to China last June. We'll be posting for the first several weeks of the school year.)

I think it's safe to say that, when most Americans think of China, they think of the Great Wall (or pandas, maybe--that seems to be the other Chinese-takeout cliche). And rightfully so--the Wall is both a monument to China's long history and an amazing feat of engineering, well deserving of its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list. What most people don't know is that there have been several "Great Walls" throughout Chinese history, the most famous of which was constructed by the Qin emperor Shi Huang (yes, the terracotta warrior guy--more on them later) in the late 2nd century B.C. Most of what survives as the "Great Wall" today dates from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), including the section of the wall that we visited, at Jingshanling, just outside of Beijing.

There is an ongoing debate among tour guide writers as to which is the best spot for viewing the Great Wall. Badaling is probably the most popular spot, thanks in part to its strategic spot at one of the major northern routes out of Beijing and in part to Richard Nixon's visit during his trip to China in 1972. In fact, Badaling will serve as the finish line for an Olympic cycling event during this summer's Games, and today the enormous Badaling Expressway still runs through the narrow valley the fortifications there were built to protect.

Southwest of Badaling lies Jingshanling, another narrow pass leading north. Jingshanling has an advantage over Badaling in that it really showcases the tenacity of its Chinese builders in their effort to leave no slope unguarded, no matter how steep. On the other hand, Jingshanling is a brutal little hike, with its highest guard tower perched at over 3,000 feet above sea level.

And Nana and I did it, 1.5 hours straight up and half an hour straight down, in the August haze and heat. No wonder people tell me I'm the dumbest smart guy they know.

Anyway. The Jingshanling hike starts at an elaborate gatehouse that stands alongside a mountain stream.

And from there, the wall goes up. And up and up. The photo below is about 1/6-1/5 of the way to the top.

And the photo below records the first time, about 1/4 of the way up, that we considered turning back. But let it be known that I married one tough woman--after a short breather, we pressed on.
As you can tell from the photo below, this section of the Wall has been heavily restored. Some prefer the more ruined-looking spots, but the two of us enjoyed seeing the Wall as it would have looked when it was an active fortification. To each his own, I suppose.

And as you can tell from this photo, the Great Wall (or at least the sections near Beijing) run through some very rugged mountains, specifically the mountains on the northern edge of China's coastal plain. For some reason I had imagined the Wall standing monolithic in the wasteland . . . though I'm told there are spots like that, too, only much further to the west. Not that I'm complaining, seeing as I got some superb photos out of the deal.
The wall itself wasn't the only attraction, however. This lizard had made a home of one of the guard towers--and we would have missed him if it wasn't for Nana's sharp eye.
The odd sense of camaraderie among visitors to Jingshanling was also a highlight of the trip. We kept leapfrogging a handful of the same groups as we climbed--Chinese, American students, French pensioners, Saudi Arabians (I think)--all of us offering encouragements in whatever languages we knew. Nana's Chinese was an especially big hit here--she even had the chance to help one of the Saudi Arabian tourists try to haggle for a souvenir. The photo below was taken by a couple of French retirees we met on the climb.
Last but not least: the views from the top. From this point, the wall turns back towards the valley, and thus downhill, to the gatehouse about 1,000 feet below.


Whew! First Day of School

Well--after a solid week of mad preparations, the students finally arrived for the new school year today. It's amazing to me how much easier it was this year than last year. I think I speak for Nana, too, when I say that knowing a bit of what to expect--and having known ahead of time exactly what I needed to prepare--really allowed me to enjoy all the back-to-school excitement in a way I couldn't last year, what with all the rookie nerves.

Anyway: now that our classrooms are set up and the school year is off to a running start, maybe we can't finally get to some of that enormous China trip backlog . . .