Monday, October 31, 2005

Friends in the North / Family down South

Kid Pics today on Listen To Uncle Jay...

For all you Goodwill Games refugees, and you know who you are...

I don't know if you have been keeping up with your co-conspiritors, but I recently was granted access to a treasure trove of pictures from our Man from Boston, Jay Wessel and his wife Marla, and the new addition to his family, Sara Danielle...

Only a couple issues about this picture...

First, Snow in October?
Geez, Jay, move someplace civilized.

Second, What are you doing to that child's ears?
Get them UNDER the hat, not folded over by it...

Seriously, Jay... She's a cutie... Good work.


Here is a little girl named Jolie- LJ's Daughter.
She's going Trick-or-Treating as Tinkerbell this year...

Does she have some blue eyes? Wow.

This one is going to be trouble.

Now, on the local front...

This is a scary picture...

The Perfect Child.

She's 12. Is that scary or what?

This year's Halloween costume- She's going as Johnny Depp... Well... As Captain Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean." This should be interesting.
Film at 11.

TBG out-

Friday, October 28, 2005

Fear and Loathing on the way to Las Vegas

Hypocrisy at the airport -or-
A visit to the Department of Pointless & Degrading Activities


Y'all know I just looove airports, especially at 5 in the morning. At that time, my sense of hypocrisy is especially attuned.

To wit: Special Processing Procedures for Homeland Security.

Now, I'm all for air safety. I'm 100% for anything that keeps terrorism at bay. But the crap that the DHS and the TSA are subjecting us to is beyond belief.

Everyone knows that I just abhor Mag & Bag...but in the interest of air safety I'll endure it, plan my attire around it, and put up with power trips that some of the TSA guards are on.
(Not all of them are assholes, just the majority. Some are genuinely nice people trying to do a good job, but a vast majority are jerks that have succumbed to the "prison guard" us versus them mentality. They enjoy the power they wield over people who are just trying to make it to the gate on time.)
The TSA boneheads enjoy subjecting you to indignities such as making you take off your Flip Flops to walk barefoot through security checkpoint JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN! FOR NO REAL REASON AT ALL... I mean, Yeah, Skeeter- I'm sure I can conceal 6 or 7 pounds of C-4 explosive in my half-inch thick sandals. But- Mr. TSA says that if I don't take off my sandals, I have to undergo secondary screening...
(Which, I might add, is completely against the guidelines that you'll find here.)
Speaking of secondary screening...
You DO know that if you buy a ticket less than 24 hours out from a flight, you automatically get tagged for "extra security processing". They do this because it is supposed that the terrorists will buy their tickets at the last second. Everyone knows this, right? Including the terrorists. So obviously, they will buy their tickets with 2-week advance too. (They are TERRORISTS, not IDIOTS.)
So, the only people who get the special screening are people like me who have to fly somewhere on short notice.
Like today.
I have a game to do in Las Vegas... A little pre-season shindig for the NBA- Kings/Lakers at the Thomas & Mack Center.
And since it is a last-minute thing, I get the special SSS tag on my boarding pass...
Oh goody. Having gone through this many times, I know the drill...
Take off the shoes, cheerfully submit to the wanding, the pat down and the hand-inspection of armpits & crotch, and removal of the belt for special inspection of the buckle. Please place your hands on the yellow spots, bend over, turn your head and cough.

Thank you...
Ok... please take all the items out of your carry-on bag... Why do you have this computer? Do you need to carry this on? Why is this power supply in the bag? Do you need it on the plane? What about this bottle of water? Is it really water? Please open it up so we can test it for gunpowder, thermite, gasoline and antioxidants...
HOLD THE PHONE, MAX! I think we got one here... look down there in the bottom of his bag! Jumped up Jeezus on a Pogo stick! A match! There is a loose match in his bag- hidden waaay down at the bottom under his laptop... Oh boy... I'll bet the soles of his sandals are a new high-grade explosive developed by the Al Qida Laboratories in the mountains of Trashcanistan...
OK MR Young... OR shall I call you Abdul?
It is all I can do to keep from telling him that my Islamic name is "M'Balz Es Hari"...
So... an extra 20 minutes of Q&A as to why a match might have been lurking in my bag. Phone calls are made, computer queries are done. Gas Chromatograph scans of all the items in my carry-on are performed.
The end result... The match is confiscated. Forms are filled out. Database entries are made. The skies over America are once again safe for the traveling public, thanks to the vigilance of the Department of Homeland Security...

Ok... Now.. Here's my question...
If this is the kind of inspection that is needed to be absolutely sure that no weapons, explosives, etc are brought on the airplane, than why are we only doing certain people? Why not everyone? Is the regular inspection not good enough to catch weapons, etc? And if the regular inspection is good enough, why do we need the special inspection?

I mean, it should be either one or the other, but not both.

Now... About weapons...
Anyone with a modicum of training doesn't need a gun, knife or box cutter to take over a plane. And you don't need a block of C-4 to knock one out of the sky. If you want to disarm me you better take away everything that I'm carrying... Pens and pencils are prime weapons. And don't think I couldn't wreak havoc on board a plane with my shoelaces or a power cord from my computer...
And you give me a real honest-to-Ghod metal knife with my meal on the flight? WTF is up with that? If I had that exact same knife that they GIVE you on the plane when I go through the checkpoint, I would wind up face-down on an examining table with a humorless TSA guy shining a flashlight up my ass...
And I have news for you- that little bottle of vodka or rum is a tiny Molotov cocktail... And they give me a glass for my beverage? Know how many seconds it take to make a makeshift knife out of broken glass? Please. There are TENS of THOUSANDS of us out there that made a career of improvised weaponry...

Be serious... The TSA and the DHS are all about safety... And if you believe that I have some land in south Florida I want to sell you... I have a news flash for you: the US Army, and the USMC are much better at making people dangerous than the DHS is at making the skies safe.

But today, all flights are safer than they were before 9/11... 9/11 changed the rules. It is no longer a case of taking hostages... so it is no longer a case of obeying the terrorists and everything will be ok when the demands are met. Now, if a plane DOES get taken over, we all know it will be used as a giant guided missile, so the obvious reaction will be a human wave to overpower the terrorist(s), and if a flight attendant or another passenger gets hurt or killed to save 100 or 1000 lives, that is something we can all live with...

Look- TSA- your precautions are a joke...
Don't hand me a turd and tell me it's a candy bar... Don't subject me to this crap at the airport, then expect me to believe that everything is hunky dory because the TSA is on the job, inspecting sandals and making sure mom doesn't have nailclippers, when I can walk through with 12" metal knitting needles...
Please. I was born at night, but not LAST night.

TBG Out-

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Homeward Bound

Early to bed, early to rise.

I don't remember the rest of Old Richard's adage, but it is accurate.
Sleeping by 9:30, and I was up at 3:30am. Nice...
I'm out of Ambien, which bodes ill for the flight home...
I think I have one Valium left. We'll have to see what the flight is like.

Well... My flight is ok... No problem with the changed tickets, thank Ghod.
Flight MU583 was delayed by one hour, which was good since it took me an hour to clear ATA Customs paperwork... We were herded on the plane and we were off!
Next Stop- Sunny California.

Much more later:

An hour late for take off put us in to LA an hour and a half late.. Thank Ghod I didn't have a short layover...
It took a good 45 minutes to get my Carnet staped and acknowedged. Then I was off to Terminal 5 and to re-check in with Delta for my flight to Cincy (4.5 hrs) and then to Jax (2 hours).

My schedule-
Home by 1:30 AM. 2:00 am tops.
To Centurion Ct by 10:30am minimum.
Email, Debrief, Turin meeting...
Back home to sleep some more...


I've been taking Airborne...
We'll see if I come down with Asian Bird Flu or some other creeping crud.
I'll keep you posted.

TBG Out-

Sunday morning in QiZhong

Sunday I was supposed to be on a airplane home, but instead....

More testing! Yay!!!

I got picked up by another driver- Not Mighty Zhou, but another more sedate pilot, and we headed out to the stadium.
I had a 1:00 appointment to do the test- Well... We had a 1:00 appointment to show up. I knew it would take a little time to setup and get things runnning.
The guys from SMG showed up around 2:00 and we were ready to test about 3:20. A very quick setup, actually.

I put some graphics up, and we got the cubes configured to show the logos correctly. Worked flawlessly. (Did you expect any thing else?)

The only other question we had was how the logos would look from across the arena and up in the seats.

I think it looked pretty good...

The only other issue was the event floor- they were building up the floor from the concrete to a chipboard playing surface... It will be about 4 inches thick, so we needed to see how far back we needed to put the video cubes...
Looks like about a meter and a half should be good...
So the court surface will be 24M wide, and then another meter and a half to the videocubes.

They were also working on placement for our work location, so we will be in the NW vomitory... Another thing off our checklist...

Dinner? Glad you asked.
We (Charles, Donald & I) hit Tony Roma's. Cheeseburgers all around.
Since I hadn't seen red meat in a week, it was a nice departure from soup dumplings and that ilk.
Nothing like a big slice o' Mad Cow and french fries. Mmmmm....

I was back to the hotel and dead asleep by 9:30.

TBG Out-

Studio 188 - The Thirsty Monk

Studio 188

The Exec Director of the Tennis Masters Cup, Michael Luevano has a band, Studio 188.
They are a group of ex-pats that live in Shanghai and they play some great old rock and roll...
As luck would have it, they were playing on Saturday night in a bar outside Shanghai called The Thirsty Monk...

They had chartered a bus to bring people out to the bar- a sure way to make sure of a full house for the band to play to.
And they had an awsome playlist- CCR, Eagles, ZZ Top, the Doors...
The joint was jumping!

A good time was had by all... If you have the opportunity to see Studio 188- make the time. Tell 'em Uncle Jay sent you...
After the concert I was hanging out with Big Dan Brady- a ten-year ex-pat in Shanghai. We hit a couple clubs, including an old church that until recently was a nightclub but is currently the location of a rather transient and very clandestine poker game. I met a few other characters, then we split out and got a taste of the local nightlife on Maoming Rd. For the western crowd (not Country and Western, butthead...) try Plan B, at the foot of Maoming Lu. Again, tell 'em Uncle Jay sent you.

TBG Out (and about)-

Friday, October 21, 2005


Once again, I'm in China.
(It wouldn't be so bad, but I'll be back here in 2 weeks. Again.
Good thing I like baozi. The big problem is getting Western booze.
More on that later.

I have to say, Shanghai is not Beijing.
People are nicer, city is cleaner, traffic is (for the most part) better...
This event is going to be great.
(Provided , of course, we are able to get all the equipment and services we need... Heh.)

Of course, getting here was a major hassle...

(Long painful narrative concerning small seats, lack of legroom, insane airport services, bureaucratic hassles with my equipment, and overall whining omitted for brevity.)

Just two items that should say it all...

1. Center seat.

2. 26 hours traveling.

And just for laughs- this is Delta's idea of legroom.

One cool thing...
And I've seen this on a JAL flight too...
The plane cam.

A live video feed, in this case from a tiny camera at the top of the tail of the plane.
They keep it on all through loading and taxiing the plane. Right up until the time the plane actually starts to go down the runway, then they shut it off. I guess they don't want you to see if there is a chance of hitting another plane or going off the end of the runway...
The one I saw last year on JAL was mounted in the nose of the plane. I liked this one better...
It was cool to see how wide the pilot had to turn the plane for the wingtips to clear the sides of the taxiway.


Once again, I'm at the Mayfair...
I'm starting to enjoy this hotel... Nice people- especially the guys working the front entrance. They are a nice bunch of kids. They keep calling me "Harley"... I was in my sunglasses and denim jacket when I arrived. The biker persona.
Apparently they spread the word after I arrived because they all call me that now.

The driver for Xinxin Sports is the same one (Zhou - Joe to you and me) I had back in July- the embodiment of the "Drive Offensively" school of highway hooliganism. He has a foot on the gas, a hand on the horn and usually employs them both liberally. Riding anywhere with Joe is an adventure. And since the arena is about 15 miles out of town, the ride to the arena is long and exciting.

The arena at QiZhon is beautiful... I had only seen it in pictures, but it is something else to see it in person.
When we arrived here on Thursday, they opened the roof about 5 minutes after we got in the building.

It was very impressive... fast and quiet... About 30 minutes later they closed it back up again.
No muss, no fuss...

We tested the interfaces to the video walls today- SDI outputs worked flawlessly.
We ran a direct input to the Barco controller. I'm not sure how it will be done
during the event... The floor manager may be using a switcher/keyer in Analog, but we can feed him directly if need be.
And now the good news...
SMG can't have the video cubes here for testing until Sunday at 1:00 pm.
Another 3 hours for assembly and power... I'll get to test stuff around 4:00pm.
(Of corse this means I have to reschedule my flight. Hopefully there will be no issues with flying on Monday rather than Sunday. I need to call Delta too.. Geez.

Heading back to the hotel to do some more e-mail, post this to the blog, and then try to actualy stay up past 8:00pm tonight.

I'll let you know what happens...

Film at 11...

TBG Out-

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A letter to Elvis from his hound dog.

Dear Elvis,

You dick.

You've put me in a no-win situation and I'm more than a little bit upset about it. You treat me like crap, you insult me, but yet I am, unavoidably, a hound dog and thus have no choice but to love you with blind and eternal devotion. And while that is my physiological imperative, it's not my choice. I give you loyalty and affection, I prostrate myself before you, but, as I understand the whole man-dog dynamic, you're supposed to love me too. I'm supposed to be your best friend. But instead, you publicly announce that I'm no friend of yours. You sing it at the top of your lungs. While shaking your ass. This relationship is broken, Elvis, and it's up to you to fix it.

I admit it: I do cry all the time. I think a doctor would call it severe clinical depression, if you ever took me to a doctor, like a responsible owner would. I wake up in the morning and there's this massive cloud of despair hanging over me. I eat some dog food, lap up water, lick myself a bit, and it's still there. It never leaves me, Elvis. Wouldn't you cry all the time? But why am I even telling you this? You've probably already crumpled this note into a ball to play crumpled-up-paper basketball with Sonny and Red. They're letting you win, by the way.

If you could get me on some sort of prescription, I bet I would feel a lot better. Heck, even an exercise program. Hey, you know what? Maybe if you were just nice to me once in a while. How about that? Told me I was a good dog, scratched behind my ears, something. Anything. Show me just the smallest fraction of warmth that you give to your fans and Lisa Marie and Angie Dickinson.

If any of that were to happen then maybe I could fulfill what appears to be the pivotal prerequisite for your friendship, Elvis, namely, the catching of a rabbit. Tell me, is that a Tupelo thing? Judging others by their ability to successfully hunt and obtain wild rodents? Are you transferring some sort of unresolved parental-approval issue to me, your dog? It seems pretty screwed up to me, but whatever. But please know this: there's nothing I would love more than to chase down a rabbit, taste the fur in my mouth, see the little feet kick, and then snap its neck with one swift shake. But I can't. I can't catch a rabbit while dark thoughts echo to my very core. I can't catch a rabbit when I'm crying all the time. It's a cycle.

What I'm saying is that you have the power (some would even say the responsibility) to help me. Get me the attention I need, either from a doctor or yourself. Help me catch a rabbit, King, and help me give you the companionship you need. Because even though I think you're an irresponsible, petty, judgmental, emotional tyrant, you will always be my friend.

Your Hound Dog

John Moe via McSweeney's

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Tennis Masters Cup - Shanghai 2005

So... Heading to Shanghai on Monday at 6:30AM.

The stadium looks really impressive...

There are some pics here...
Qizhong Stadium
and here...
Player Pics

In other news, Hunter's team won the soccer game today, 2-1.

TBG Out-

Atlanta. I hate Atlanta... Driving & Cops on I-95.

So... Friday.

Wait a sec. Let's go back and see the whys and wherefores...

One of our salesguys has a piece of equipment to be delivered to a National Sports Team. He asks if I'm "Doing Anything" at the end of this week.
Of course not- I have no life, right?

Could you deliver a system to Toronto in Atlanta? he asks.
Huh? Oh. I get it. Toronto is playing in Atlanta.
Sure- No wucking furries.

So... As days go by the task changes...
Deliver a system;
No, hardware/software isn't ready- just go collect data;
Wait- Yes, it's ready- take the machine- go.

So- the system gets the official "Susan Weber Stamp of Approval and Readiness" and I'm off to the races. Have a car rented and everything.
Did I mention they want it on Friday?
Friday is our annual fall All-Employee meeting, where the herd everyone into a meetingroom off-site and give a "state of the union" address...
I haven't made the October meeting in YEARS... Seems like I'm always somewhere else... Atlanta this year, China last year, Japan the year before...
So... I miss out on a free lunch and the company back-patting and general breast-beating. (Breaking my heart...)

So... I'm off to Atlanta. Driving.
(FYI- 2005 Toyota Camry will go 567 miles on a tank of gas.)

Now, the Smart Monkey is going to ask "So, Big Guy, why didn'y you fly..."
Because I hate Hartsfield Airport and the issues of Airport Math more than I hate driving to and in Atlanta. And the seat in the Toyota is 20 times more comfortable than a coach seat on a Delta flight. And I don't have a 350lb chinless, drooling, harelip giggling and farting in the seat next to me in the Camry. Well, at least, not unless I actually want one... But I don't want to bore you with my personal abberations.

I leave at 6:30a - a little behind schedule, but reasonable for the timetable.
I take I-95 to I-16 (Savannah) to I-75 (Macon). Others will argue I-10 to I-75, but I think it's a matter of personal preference.

So, outside Brunswick, I have the machine wound up to 78mph (128.8kph for you metric-heads out there... or 209,664 furlongs per fortnight for those of you who need a really obscure speed reference...)
And I notice a blue car pacing me, about 4 carlengths back.
After careful observation I detect a radarhead in the window and a low-profile light on the dash.
Nice. An unmarked GSP car is following me.
All of a sudden this trip has become more stressful.
Do I have something to hide? No...
Outstanding warrants? None that I know of...
So why worry? I'll give you two words: Rodney King.
I've had several experiences with the Highway Partol, and the worst ones were the sawed-off little shits with a Napoleon Complex. I spent a weekend in the Daytona Beach jail because the cop was a 5'5" pile of crap who actually said "I'm taking you to jail just because I can."
So... Unfortunately, guys (and some girls) with control issues, megalomania, and other mental aberrations often wind up in law enforcement...
This is not the rule- as some cops are fine upstanding people, but on the whole, you have to watch your ass...
Anyway... All of a sudden I am Joe Speed-Limit-Sign-Watcher.
I use my cruise control to stay exactly 8 mph over the limit... No sense in changing what I have been doing. Kind of an admission of guilt...
So... The &^%@#$ GSP follows me from Brunswick to Savannah... almost an hour.
I made up some time on I-16, and I got a nice lunch in Macon... (Hooters, go figure) and made it to the Phillips Arena right at 2:00pm.
I exchanged equipment, tested the new stuff and collected some data from the arena then I was back on the road...
Just in time for early rush hour in Atlanta.

Did I tell you I hate Atlanta?

The drive home was uneventful... No cops, no problems.
Dinner at Hooters (go figure) in Savannah, and back to the Humble Abode by 11:30.

Now, if only my tickets for Shanghai are at the office, the world will be spinning in greased grooves.

TBG out-

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

You have got to be kidding.

The next chapter in the Saga of 2005- Year of the Monkey...

On Sunday night (10/9) I got an email from our client in Shanghai.

"We have a new equipment vendor. Bring your stuff to test new equipment ASAP."

Oh crap.

So... For those of you that haven't been keeping track for the 4th Quarter of 2005...

September 4 to October 1 - Beijing
October 13 to 16 - Atlanta
October 17 to 22 - Shanghai
November 5 to 21 - Shanghai (Again)
December 8 to 22 - Torino Italy.

You miht also remember that every time I get off that %$@&* flight I get SARS or Asian Bird Flu or some Creeping Crud...
I figure I'm prone to virii and other beasties, so I'm starting to get paranoid. I'm figuring to catch something bad on one of these trips... I asked the doctor about it...
"Hey doc. I keep getting sick every time I go to China, and I'm concerned about how I'm getting infected.
Is it possible to get diseases, especially veneral diseases in public restrooms over there?"
"Of course" he says.
"How do I avoid it?" I asked.

"Quit screwing in the public restrooms."

Here endeth the lesson.

TBG Out-

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Great Wall, Getting out, Getting home.

We made the trip to the Great Wall at Badaling.

I spoke to the concierge to ask about which Great wall trip to make. You can go to Mutianyu or to Simatai. Badaling is the closest to Beijing, and that is where most of the tours go.
There are a couple places at Badaling to access the wall, one of which has a cable car to take you to the top.
This is the place I was looking for, since Mom wouldn't appreciate it if I made her hike a mile or so, and climb several hundred steps to be able to enjoy the spectacle that is the Great Wall.

So. I ask Mr. Concierge- "Hey- I want to go to Badaling, the part where the cable car is. My mom- she can't walk far."
"Ah. Badaling. Yes. Cable car. Yes."
I should have remembered about the "Yes, yes, yes" thing.
So- We meet the tourguide in the lobby at 7:15 in the morning to begin the trip to The Great Wall and the Ming Tombs.
It was the same trip I took last time I was here.
This time I was prepared... In this case, I actually wanted to go to the Jade Joint and the Cloisonne Center. The Chinese medicine place I could have done without, but since our guide makes a commission, we told her we would play along.

Anyway- We hit Jade City first, seeing their display and carving demo, then hitting the gift shop.
After 20 or so minutes I dragged Mom kicking and screaming from the showroom. Beautiful stuff- but we can buy the same stuff at Panjiayuan for 1/10 of the price.
We galloped off to the Ming Tombs and got to look at the dead guy's stuff. I guess the "no pictures" guy wasn't around today because I snapped away at the different relics, got a few really nice shots of the funeral godies.

Then we were off the have our phlegm checked- the Doc at the Chinese Medicine Show checked our pulses, looked at the yellow in my eyes, measured my phlogistin levels. Recommended some Asian crap to improve my health which I promptly turned down.

Then we were off to The Great Wall. I asked to be sure we were going to the place with the cable car. The tour guide said OK, no problem.
(Phrase to watch for: "Yes, no problem." If you hear this, watch your ass.)

Now, I don't know about you, but when someone says "cable car" to me, I'm thinking funicular- something along the lines of the tram in Hong Kong, or the cable cars in San Francisco. Maybe even a gondola.
No, Not here.

The cable car is like something you'd find in a third-world circus as a pseudo-rollercoaster. They were small plastic rollercoaster cars on a chain roller. They looked like they were a cross between a 1970's vintage Big Wheel from Mattel and a really big skateboard. The idea was that you have to sit down on this little plastic car, the padded bar comes down over your shoulders and you are off up the side of the hill.
The thing is perfect for a 12 y/o Chinese kid, but let me tell you, this thing was a nightmare for a 77 year-old lady and a 6'5" dinosaur.

So- think of this: I'm trying to make this trip easy on Mom when it comes to dealing with the terrain, on getting around. Now they want us to jump on this little plastic car while it is still moving... Now, it was tough for me to jump on this thing and get settled, but Mom- damn, they nearly ran her over.
Not a good thing. But, we did get on and settled in and we made it to the top.

All the way up I was worried, since it was (to me) misrepresented- I was a bit worried that this was just a rollercoaster and when we hit the top, we'd plunge over the top and zip through the loops and spins and I'd have to scrape Mom off the pavement at the bottom... But- it turned out ok... but just barely.
We got up to the top- It was a bit misty, but it was still impressive.
The ride down was even more interesting...
They hook 6 or 7 of the cars together and a guy gets in the first car and installs a hand brake on that car... A number of unsuspecting fools get in the following cars and they relaese the brake and gravity takes over.
An overpowering smell of burned rubber tells me that the friction brake is just recycled tires, and I had visions of the brake handle snapping off and our ride becoming a rocket sled flying down the side of the hill.

All in all, the trip to the Great Wall was interesting, in the same manner that a 5 car pile-up is interesting. You slow down to look, then you say to yourself "Man, I'm glad that wasn't me..."

We hit all the touristy stuff- The Forbidden City, The Great Wall, The Ming Tombs...
We went shopping and loaded up with stuff for the folks back home, picking up all manner of goodies from Silk Street...
We had some wonderful meals from some local places- Soup dumplings, springrolls, fried rice, and all cheap cheap cheap. Lunch was usually around $10- total...

I won't bore you with the tales from the Forbidden City- just tell you that it decided to rain that day... Just my luck. So it made for a soggy time there... I would rather have that than the sweltering heat...
There are pics out in the Gallery- go look at them... It's a pretty cool place.

Anyway- getting back to the 'States was another story all together...

We had a Saturday departure scheduled... Unbeknownst to me, October 1 is the biggest national holiday in the PRC... Basically is the anniversary of the founding of the PRC... Everything is closed for the entire week, and everyone takes the opportunity to go on vacation. Travel. Getting the hell out of Dodge.
As I began to hear rumblings about this, I started to ask questions, mainly "What will it be like at the airport with all these people traveling?"

The general concensus was that it was going to be a nightmare.


So, we decided to go to the airport a little early.

But first- we had to do some last minute shopping at Panjiayuan... Mom picked up a few more strands of beads, some more jade pieces... That kind of stuff.
We took our stuff back to the hotel and packed up.
We were on our way to the Airport at 11:30am for a 3:45pm flight.

As Vicki Kaplan once told me, "If you don't miss a few flights every year, you're spending too much time in airports."

For those of you that think that was too early to be there... It was fortunate we got there when we did.
Everyone with 2RMB to rub together was there, all trying to get out of town. The check-in lines were a mile long...

Once in and through the first tier of security, we got in line to check in...An hour later we had boarding passes, then we got to wait in the outbound passport check line- another half hour goes by.
Then came the real fun... Mag and Bag.

Now... Y'all know how much I enjoy Mag & Bag, especially after Athens... And I likke to think I have learned my lesson, unlike the Old Dog and the New Trick. I take all my Sharp Pointy Stuff and make sure it is in my checked bags. I make sure all tools and items that could possibly be used as nominal weapons are in the checked bags...

Except this time.

As I went through the metal detector, my bag was picked up by the man at the flouroscope...
He started emptying it out... Laptop, power supplies, cell phones, cords and cables, usb stuff, cable ties, pens & pencils, digital camera and hardware...
And a Gerber Multi Tool.

Oh Shit.

They found that jewel, and we were off to the races. Mom, who had passed through with flying colors, including her cane with the concealed sword, went and sat down in the waiting area as I was shuffled off for questioning.

I will spare you the details of the Inquisition, but I will tell you, they have a copy of Tomas Torquemada's Little Black Book... and they have all the chapters memorized!
After they were assured that it was an accident and I had no other weapons, I was released- sadder but wiser for the experience.

I rejoined Mom, and we went to the gate to sit (carefully!) and wait for our flight.

So.. (I know that you love to hear me bitch about flights...)
No bulkhead. No emergency row.
This is gonna suck.

When I sit in a regular coach-class seat, my knees hit the back of the seat in front of me. My legs are so long that I can't put my feet under the seat... My bones and joints just don't bend that way.

So... When Zhou Chinaman in front of me goes to lean his seat back, which he did about 30 seconds after he first sat down, it crushes the seatback down on my knees... and there is no where for them to go, so it becomes a battle of how hard ZC can push, vs how much pressure my knees can take before they fracture.
ZC doesn't understand why his seat doesn't fully recline, so he slams his back into the seat- pushing harder. I counter by holding it up with one arm...
He never looks around to see what is hindering the seat movement, he just keeps bouncing until he is frustrated and gives up. I'm nursing several edema on my legs...
To make a 13 hours story short, I hate that &^%#@* flight...especially in a coach seat.

So... One last fling... Mom's connecting flight to Orlando is 45 minutes from our arrival time in Newark.
We need to wait for all our bags, clear customs, recheck bags and get her to the gate. Fast.
By the Grace of God, a heavy duty baggage cart, a sleepy customs guard and a fast wheelchair, we got her to her gate as they were finishing loading the plane... A quick smooch on the cheek and she was off, and I had another 2 hours to wait for my plane.
I got back in (mostly) one piece...

And promptly came down with another cold.

This is getting to be a habit. I HAVE to start taking Airborne...

TBG Out-