In a different iteration of my life, I would have expected to see a woodpecker when I opened my blinds, but the rat-a-tat-tat of a large knife was the cause of this mornings very perceptible sound. I knew already what the cause was: The sound of women chopping the stuffing for dumplings is the music of early mornings in Northeast China. What surprised me, though, was that this sound was coming from far away. I look out from my fourth floor apartment across the roof of a three-story building at the balconies of several apartments. I have named the woman in one of these apartments: the Woman Who Is Always Cooking. She is not there at this moment, which is aberrant; however, on most mornings and afternoons when I look across she is cooking something or throwing her trash out the window--a medieval habit that I detest.