Friday, July 29, 2005

Shanghai 6 - Adventures in food,

From the Be-Careful-Where-You-Eat Department:

By far, the most popular restaurant in China is the ubiquitous KFC.
Although if you refer to the place as Kentucky Fried, as I have always done, they will look at your funny. It is "Kay Eff Cee"- that's it.
Technically, if your are discussing it in conversation among educated people (Chinese) and not gwailo (Foreign Devils) it will be referred to as " The House of the Venerable and Inscrutable Colonel". Venerable, because he developed a method of preparing chicken in a unique and tasty manner, and inscrutable because he maintained the secrecy of his recipe of herbs and spices, taking it to the grave with him (or so they say).

You will see Harlan Saunders' smiling visage beaming down upon you virtually anywhere you travel in any major city in China. As a matter of fact, it is damned hard to find a place where KFC is not (literally) a stone's throw away. Because of it's popularity here, the local population think it is quite a treat to take any Western visitors to their favorite restaurant.
Now, I don't eat at KFC when I'm at home... Why the hell would I do it when I'm here?
(I've covered this before, back when I was here last year with the NBA... But I have some new information... Bear with me here...)

Now- The self-styled Colonel- (Remind me here... Exactly what army bestowed the rank of Colonel on him?) does put out a tasty meal, but why would I want American fast food when I'm in China?

But those wily Chinese have made a copy of the House of the Venerable and Inscrutable Colonel...
To Wit:

As opposed to:

As you can see, the Logo is almost the same- the imposter being a little more Asian in appearance. The venerable and inscrutable colonel, however, looks the same as he does back in the 'States.
Now, the first time I saw the Sino-Colonel, I just thought the franchisee at that location had lost his copy of the official logo and had re-created it, using that good ol' Chinese "Screw it, I'll make it myself" mindset... But after seeing the Invenerable and Scrutable (heh) Colonel, I resolved that it probably wouldn't be a Good Thing, since they are just trying to copy the V & I Colonel, the food is probably substandard.

You have to say this, when you are trying to ride on someone's already-established reputation, you better do a good job of it. And in this case, they did.
Here's what happened:
I was walking around near my hotel in Shanghai the other night, and I was tired-tired-tired of the food in the cafe in the Hotel. The only other option that I knew of was a McDonalds a block or so away, and a KFC about a half block the other way.
Since neither of those appealed to me, I decided to walk a bit.
I headed beyond the KFC and was passing a building that had been cocooned; a sheaf of scaffolding had been erected around the place in order to give it a facelift.
As I was passing under the scaffolding I saw a small dumpling restaurant...
The pictures of shu mai, pork buns, and soup dumplings are not something I can willingly resist when the Quest For Food is underway.
I went in and found the one copy of the menu in Engrish that they had and proceded to order shrimp and crab soup dumplings, some pork and shrimp dumplings and an order of spring rolls.
It was ambrosia. Just awesome.
I was a happy camper...
The next day, as I was heading out with Mighty Zhou, I remembered to look back as we passed the dumpling place. I saw through the scaffolding the now-familiar face of the Unvenerable and Scrutable Colonel. Oh. My. God. I can't believe I ate at the Imposters!
And it was good!

The Moral of the Story:
Keep an open mind. You never know when you might run into a good dumpling.

TBG Out-

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Shanghai 5

Shanghai Part 5

From the Unclear-On-The-Concept Department:

So... The Driver Mighty Zhou has been busy running the ATP folks around the town, so I've been on my own to get from place to place. Since I needed to visit the Computer Market, and the Night Market (XaingYang) and maybe try to find a place to eat, I wanted to make sure I had a way to get back to the Hotel.
Since I didn't have one of those handy-dandy cards from the hotel that has the name and the address of the place on it, I wanted to get one of the secretaries from the TDs office to make one for me.
The Tournament Director told the girl at the front desk-
"Make him a note that he can give to the taxi driver so they will take him back to the hotel. He's staying at the Mayfair Hotel."
Cool. No worries.

She writes this page in my notebook:

Ok... So I got to the computer place, then to Xiangyang, then get in a taxi to go back to the Hotel.
I show him my note, feeling very smug.
The driver gives me a look like I've lost my mind-
He gestures at my note, then makes some more gestures that I understood to be "I have no idea what you are talking about."

I take out my dog-eared map from last October out of my bag and show him where the hotel is on the map. He looks at it, the light of knowledge going on in his head, and we're off. I settle back in the taxi puzzling over what went wrong.

So, upon arrival at the Mayfair, I head to the concierge desk and show them my note.
"What does this say?" I ask.
There is a quick huddle behind the desk... they throw a round of rock-paper-scissors... oops, wrong event. Sorry.
One of the guys explains to me the meaning...
"These mean "Prease take me home." he tells me gesturing to the Chinese characters on the page.
They all have big grins on their faces...

"Uh..." I ask, "Do y'all have one of those cards with the name and address of the hotel on it?"

Here endeth the lesson.

TBG Out-

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Shanghai Rules

Shanghai Traffic Rules

After several sojourns along the highways, byways, sidewalks and back alleys
with Zhou, I have compiled the following definitions for driving in Shanghai.

The more astute readers of this little scrap of foolishness might infer that
I have been contemplating driving in this 'burg.

You can put those thoughts to rest... I've finally found a worse place than
Boston to be a driver.

Shanghai Traffic Definitions and Tips:

Right of Way: Whoever gets there first is right in your way.

Green Light: Keep going, liberal use of horn (if you are a car) or bell (if a bicycle) may help prevent right of way.

Red Light:
Phase of light most patriotic to China, often evoking strong emotional responses in the hearts of those encountering this color.

Stop Light: What, in Shanghai?
No such thing; not to be confused with "hong lu deng" (red green light), i.e. and aesthetically pleasing, multicolored light which pedestrians may ignore.

Traffic Jam:
Neither you, nor those around you are exercising enough vim, vigor and/or can-do spirit to find a non-linear path to continue your journey.

Flashing Green Light: The light is about to change, speed up before it is too late.

Flashing Red Light: Same as flashing green light. Interestingly, according to industrial engineers, making lights flash may be the best method to save money on electricity, short of turning the lights off altogether.

Flashing Blue Light: Time to change sunglasses, or you may be on an airport runway, or perhaps a K-Mart. (Note that right of way does not hold on airport runways)

Head Lights: What you flash to prevent right of way; most vehicles have three settings, off, brights, or broken.

Sound of Policemans Whistle: Immediately act innocent and clueless about what you are doing. (Being a foreigner helps here with the clueless factor). Do not under any circumstances admit that you can speak Chinese.

Policeman Motions you to go:
This is your big chance, so grab it fast; sometimes strong enough to overcome right of way (But don't count on it.)

Cutting somebody else off:
Smile if you did it by accident, and accuse the other party first if you did it purposefully; or was it the other way around?

Road: Where pedestrians walk and bicyclists ride without looking; after all, feet were created well before bicycles and cars. Liberal application of horn is useful here.

Sidewalk / Pavement:
Where drivers and cyclists go when the main road becomes congested with pedestrians; also good place to park cars, bicycles, relatives with lawn chairs.

Gridlock: Multiple drivers exhibiting nearly identical right of way skills having a chance encounter.

The best advice:
Stay off the roads. The hotel bar is an excellent alternative.

TBG Out-

Shanghai 4 - Fun on the menu

As I travel around the city, I've taken to reading the menus that are posted
outside restaurants. They are an exercise in creative translation...
Some winning descriptions so far:
Smoking Err
Hairy Crab
Gross Crab
Pies with Lemmin Cram
Meat & Dork
(I am definitely NOT eating here....)
A Fried with Filling in it (I'm almost afraid to ask)
Irritate (Must be New York cuisine)

I'll post more as I find them.
TBG out-

Shanghai - Part 3

Just a short note...

My driver, Zhou, (pronounced "Joe") has got the brake pedal and the horn
confused... Leans on the horn and makes wild gestures at the pedestrians,
bicycles, cars and basically anything else that moves...
Riding in the back of his van is a treat. I get to see the looks on the
faces of the people he sideswipes and drivers that he cuts off.


TBG Out-

Monday, July 25, 2005

Shanghai 2 (Tuesday)

Well... I'm not sure what's going on...
There has been a problem with sending e-mail to my blog, and I can't log
directly in to post my messages, so it is a bit of a puzzlement.
I'm wondering if it is a symptom of the "censorship" we read about, since I
can't get to any address with "blogspot" in the URL. But, in all fairness,
the internet acess is really slow.
I'll keep trying, though...

Let's see... Yesterday.
A good day. I met up with our clients... Nice guys.
We worked through some details, made some plans for Tuesday, etc...
I got a new sim card for my cell phone, bought some minutes to go along with
it, and also got an international phone card.
Check this out, though... Talk about ripping people off...
The international dialing card... they are labeled 100 yuan, $12.33usd. I
had Leo, the Ops Manager for the tournament go with me to get it... They
sell it to him for 40 yuan, about 2.50... Is that a crock of shit or what?!
Putting the screws to the foreigners. Nice.

And the sim card- I put it in my phone and it asked for my password... I
tried everything I could think of... No go, so I'm going to try to have Leo
call China Mobile today and see if he can figure out what's going on.

So... I'm off to the computer market today, then I have an appointment at
the equipment vendor's location at 2:00pm to test some equipment, then, if I
have time, I'll go to the Night Market... We'll see.

I've acclimated to the time change pretty well... I slept from 10 last night
'til 6 this morning... Only woke up once. I think it was taking the Ambien
on the plane... I didn't really sleep, but I think my body thought I did.

Went to the buffet in the Hotel for dinner last night... About half way
through I remembered my experience in Beijing and how sick I was. I was
pretty careful after that... No adverse effects last night, so I might have
dodged a bullet.
I'm thinking about a Churrascaria tonight, found one not too far away...
Either that or a Dumpling house near the hotel... Di Naing Dumpling House. A
chain here in Shanghai... I ate at one last October while I was here. It was
tasty, and really inexpensive. I got about 20 dumplings and a drink for 3.00
usd. Cheap at twice the price.

Ok- Onward and forward.

TBG Out-

Shanghai 1

Hi Kids- Yours Truly, back in da' Blog...

It has been an especially grueling couple weeks for YT... Cancelled flights,
NYC in the Summertime, one long-assed flight to Asia... Let's just say that
this July will go down in the books as a rough one...

A recap:

Ben & I were going to NYC to test some stuff for the Open... Our first
flight- Just a sec, I'm getting ahead of myself...

Let's talk Kingfish first-

The week before the Jax Kingfish tournament there is a tourney up in
Brunswick Ga...
We had a big blow on Thursday night- completely mangled some of our
equipment. We (Jingalls, Wayne, Redneck, the Rook & YT) spend all of Friday
recovering- We borrowed a board from another event, dragged it to Brunswick,
spend hours parking and rigging, then spent a buncha time securing the
damaged equipment... And let me tell you, spending 8 hours in the Georgia
swampland (where else would you put a marina?) toting, lifting, pushing and
pulling will wring every drop of moisture out of you.

So... That was Friday. A killer.

I spent the weekend recovering. I got a straight rum and Coke IV drip...
Need to get my blood/alcohol back to normal. ;)

Monday- We had an early flight- Departed at 6:30. So... Up at 4:00. Out the
door at 4:30, Airport at 5:30...
The departure board says "Cancelled". Nice. Did I tell you I hate Delta? I
never fly Delta. Thanks Ben.
We get on standby for the 8:30a- gets us into LGA by 10:45, still enough
time to do our stuff...
No luck- we were 6 & 7 on the standby list- they took the first 5.
We reschedule for Tuesday- get reticketed and head back out of the airport-
Ben went to the kingfish tournament grounds on Hecksher Drive, I headed for
the office where I kept flogging the TMS Cup stuff (my Shanghai event).

The problem with the reschedule was the new flight was at 5:30AM, an hour
earlier, and was a transfer through ATL. (I HATE Delta. Just in case anyone
Hell... I didn't know that 5:30 came twice a day! Ok- Airport math... Be
there at 4:30, Leave the beach at 3:45? Geez!
OK- To sleep early.

We got to LGA at 10:15- Pick up bags, get the rental car... At that point we
had almost 6 hours on the clock.
We decide to pick up lunch then go to the site so we wouldn't have to leave
at lunchtime- We went to Mama's down in Corona. Oh. My. God.
A quintessential NY deli, with Mama herself holding court in one corner of
the store... A wonderful old-style deli. I'll get the details and put them
in the restaurant list soon.

A long story short- We tested 30 positions, found 2 bad connections,
corrected the wiring and finished up.
But let me tell you- I don't know which was worse- the Georgia swamp or
Flushing Meadows... The heat was insane!
And spending the entire day in the sun, running back and forth across a hot
tennis court... Well... I think it baked my brains. What little I have,

So... Wednesday- We have a 7:50pm flight- I spend the day in the City-
Meeting with Dan-O, the boys from the NBA, and one of my sources from NBC...
A very enlightening trip. But Hot HOT HOT! The locations were all around
midtown, so it was easiest to walk... I really should have had everyone come
to the same place- just set up camp at Maxies at 48 & 7th and let them all
come to me... Next time I will know better.

Back to jax late that night- no adventures, except trying to get checked in-
I get the infamous 20 questions on the equipment in my bags... What is that,
why do you have it, what do you do for a living... I had no problems with
They were all on alert because of the London Bombing...
No worries... Got back ok... BUt geez- did I tell you I hate Delta? Cause I
really, really do...

OK- Thurs & Fri- take care of last minute details for Shanghai- and get
ready for Saturday morning's departure (At 6:30am)

On the plane again.

Seat not bad on Jax-Newark
Tiny plane, emergency row, so legroom was ok.

Breakfast at the Newark Airport was interesting.
Gallaghers Steakhouse on the new part of the C concourse serves breakfast...
I needed some meat in my stomach to get me going, to stoke the fire, so to
speak. Figures a steakhouse would have meat on the breakfast menu.

Their Roast Beef Hash is incredible. Pricey, but incerdible.
3 eggs over a huge pile of pan-fried cubed potatoes, ringed by a monster
serving of 1" chunks of roasted beef... So flavorful you didn't even need
any sauce for the dish, and only a dash of salt to make it perfect.
If you have a full hour to kill in the AM at Liberty Airport in Newark- try
Gallaghers for breakfast. The rest of them menu looked awsome as well.

EWR to PEK is a long flight... 13+ hours.
I'm into the 9th hour... The Ambien has worn off and I've done 12 of my
crossword puzzles, and I'm just killing time between walks back to the
galley for water. I have terrible cottonmouth... A side effect of the

What else...?

I need to write up the story about the 1999 trip to Tokyo... The one where I
gave to old Japanese man the heart attack. I'll work on that in my copious
free time.

Schedule... What's going on this week...

First- Get to ShangHai. (Somewhat easier said then done.)
2nd - Get to the Hotel (Which is hell-and-gone from the Airport.)
3rd - Staying at the Shanghia Mayfair hotel. From their Website seems like
it's a nice place. I'll reserve comment until I get my room.
4th - Inventory

5th? I don't know. It will be evening - Probably around 7 orr so before I
get there, so I don't know how I will feel. Can't take another Ambien, so
we'll have to see what happens.

Tomorrow will be Site Survey at the tennis center in Quizong, and a
pre-meeting with the equipment vendors. Tomorrow night I want to hit the
Bund and Nanjing Road. Again, everything is subject to change - Michael
might have other plans. Some folks from the ATP will be on-hand so there
might be some schmoozing.
(Hope they don't mind me schmoozing in shorts, sandals and a Hawiian print
shirt. According to the weather forecast, it is HOT HOT HOT!)

Oh well... Back to the crosswords, or whatever else takes my interest for
the next 3 hours.

I finally made it to Shanghai- Got to the Hotel at 7:30 PM- More than 24
hours of traveling... I feel like I've been beat with a hammer... We'll see
what tomorrow brings...

TBG Out-

Monday, July 11, 2005

Good news / Bad news

Gather around, kids...
Here's the news from LeMonde Gojira.

Got an e-mail from Niki Ryan... The Dry Tortugas weathered the storm fairly well. They lost some trees, and got a solid 24 hours of rain...
There was 7000 gallons of rainwater collected in the cisterns, so there will be some toilet flushin' going on down there for the next week of so...
(No more "flush every third use" restrictions... Yay!)

The big news, the landbridge between Bush Key and Garden Key is gone!!!

Before Hurricane Dennis

The park is closed until Wednesday... (7-13) After that, back to business as usual!

Yes... Back in business until....

Don't put away the rain gear or the take down the shutters yet...

Hmmm... Let's see, what else...
NYC next week, Beijing and Shanghai after that.
That takes us through the end of July.
Then we start to get to the busy part of my schedule... heh.

Take care, kids...

TBG out-

Welcome to my world...

Have you ever had one of those days...?

Well... I'm having one of those months...

Friday, July 08, 2005

Here is wisdom: Have patience in Houston.

If you are going fly Continental Airlines in the southeast US in the summertime, you better have a flexible schedule and a sense of humor.

Anyone who has lived on the Gulf coast of the US knows what I'm talking about. It is the obligatory afternoon thunderstorms that come in off the Gulf... I don't care if you are in Tampa, Panama City, Pensacola, Mobile or Houston, or any other place along the coast, in the afternoon, you are going to get rained on.
And if you happen to be connecting with a flight in Houston, be prepared for a delay.
You have 2 choices- fly another airline that doesn't connect in Houston, or travel earlier in the day.

BUT, (the point of this message) if you do fly through Houston on a summer afternoon, and your flight is delayed, smile, grit your teeth, and DEAL WITH IT!!!
Don't take it out on the gate attendant... It's not their fault. And although they DO represent the airline, yelling and screaming at them or berating them is not going to make matters any better.

Case in point, Thursday PM in Houston- The stormfront was moving in, and I was on a flight from LA, connecting to Jacksonville. The pilot got us into IAH just under the wire. As we were landing, there was lightning all around us, and as we taxied to the terminal, the bottom fell out of the sky and the rain came down!! Serious rain, too... Last time it rained like that in Texas, Noah built hisself a boat.
It was no suprise to me that my 7:05 plane to Jax was listed as delayed- New time was 7:51. No big deal. I went to the bar.
I kept checking the time, and it kept betting pushed back... 8:20, 8:50, 9:30...
I finally paid out my tab and went back to the gate...
The gate attendant were the picture of calm and serenity. Yes, the plane was finally on it's way from Dallas, yes, we would definitetly be leaving tonight. No worries.
I sat in the gate area and watched people... Always one of my favorite pastimes in the airport.
The next gate over, a flight to Charlotte which was also pushed back several times, was finally cancelled. They announced that the cancellation was due to weather, and they couldn't get a flight crew in that could work the flight. The crowd rushed the desk even before the gate attendant could finish here announcement.
By and large the crowd was OK, but it was interesting to watch how things progressed... The folks in the back of the line got more and more irritated as it became obvious that any open slots on the morning flights were being filled, and that they'd probably not get back to Charlotte as early as they'd like.
And they started to get vocal about it.
I wandered over to the Jax flight to ask about it's status... Wondering if we might be delayed because of a missing flight crew.
No... they re-assured me, the flight crew was sitting right there, and as soon as they had a plane at the gate, they would turn it and we would board and depart for Jax.
During this 3 minute discussion, I was able to witness two different altercations at the Charlotte flight where customers verbally abused the gate attendants because of the situation... It was not a pretty sight. And these poor ladies took the berating with silence and stoicism... it was amazing.
(I know if someone came at me like that in a situation where I had no control over events, that individual would have the pleasure of carrying his teeth in a paper bag on the way to the emergency room.)
These ladies took the abuse, continued to be helpful in the face of a very irate customer, and then shrugged it off and offered the next person in line a nice (if exhausted) smile and an offer to be of assistance.
Now, ya'll know me, I'm never one to let injustice go unpunished, but it was all I could do to keep from going over to the idiots at the desk as they were hassling the airline employees and making a forceful suggesting that they get a grip and quit their BS. In retrospect I'm glad I didn't... The ladies had the situation in hand, and were very capable of doing their job.
So... The word from Uncle Jay... Be nice to the gate attendants and ticket agents... Weather delays are not their fault. And since they control the ticketing computers, it is in your best interest to be nice to them... Unless you really want to go from Houston to Charlotte via Omaha.

Here endeth the lesson.

TBG out-

Thursday, July 07, 2005

On the road again...

Just a few things-

I got a note from Ranger Trep yesterday-
Hurrican Dennis is fixing to make life miserable down in the Dry Tortugas,
I just caught the 11:00 AM EDT advisory, and the path of the storm is
shifting more northerly now... It will pass just west of the islands...
I heard from Annie on the Yankee Freedom too... everyone is battening down
the hatches down there.
To all my friends down in the Keys... Y'all be safe...

Me... I'm in LA still. My flight is at 12:30 local... its 8:40 here now...
and I'm watching the news about the London bombing...
The security at the airport is going to be a bad, so I'm heading to the
airport now.
I'm going to wear clean underwear, because I know a TSA officer will be
shining a flashlight up my butt as I go through security.

Oh well... Hurricanes in Florida, Bombs in Europe, Wildfires here in

Belize is looking better and better...

Take care everyone- be safe and keep an eye peeled for suspicious activity.

TBG out...

Monday, July 04, 2005

Fourth Jewel Lie

Been a busy weekend here...
I finally got an OK for some testing in LA, very last minute...
I got the approval for the testing on Friday afternoon, but didn't get the actual schedule until late Friday night EDT. I was hoping for later in the week- Thursday or Friday, in order to have time to prep the systems and to make sure I had all the resources I needed. Unfortunately, we will be doing our test on Wednesday, which means I leave Tuesday PM, Test on Wednesday AM/PM and fly back home on Thursday.
Oh well...

Let's see- What else...
I got the urge to cook this weekend. I wanted to grill or smoke something, but instead I wound up getting a pork shoulder and marinating it in Mojo Criollio... after (oven) cooking it for almost 6 hours it was fall-off-the-bone goodness... I made some Liquid Love(tm) out of the pan drippings. The resulting sauce was a touch on the salty side, but still really really good.

While that was in the oven, Hunter and I went up to the u-wash-it and washed Physalia... I now have a clean little car... She's so happy.
(The car, not Hunter. Hunter's ticked because she got hosed down during the rinse phase. Heh)

Being the Fourth of Jewel Lie there is an abundance of fireworks in the neighborhood.
Even though there is a new strict zero-tolerance policy in Jax Beach, it seems like everyone has something that flies or explodes (or both) on hand with which to fill the air.
Not me, though. My luck is such that if I had only one bottle rocket and I launched it, it would malfunction- heading straight for the local city council members house, fire chief's wife's car, police chief's youngest daughter, etc and destroy, kill or maim said entity. I have such bad run-ins with fate that I never risk such shenanigans... I've spent enought time in the Hoosegow that I won't willing take foolish chances.
Live and learn, or you won't live long.

Oh well... there's a nap out there that's not going to take itself...

Hasta la vista- baby.

TBG out-