Thursday, July 31, 2008

Water ballet

The fountains at the NST.
Too cool.

Bus bus.

Bu bus? Dui bus!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

This Just In...

From an informal poll on the shuttle bus this morning:

What do you think about necrophiliacs?

2% Could care less.

5% Creepifying.

93% Wouldn't want to be caught dead with one.

(75% of responders need definition of the word. Curiously, the 75% were also under the age of 23. Go figure.)

TBG - Random sampling

Monday, July 28, 2008

Nice Digs

Hey Bob, Susan and SpongeMark-
Here's your new home for the next 3 weeks.
Gymnastics is on the ground floor, swimming and diving share the upper floor.
(It'll be cozy upstairs. Heh.)

Oh happy day!

They have *finally* opened some of the internal gates. The 30 minute walk and 2 Mag & Bag stops is now 6 minutes door to door.

TBG - On the Green.

Fun on the Menu

From SpongeMark SquareHands at some obscure event...

Jeepers, SpongeMark... Who is the cook over there, Jeffery Dahmer?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Olympic Entry Gates

Oh...I see they have opened the main entrance to the Olympic Green...

What the Hell is That?!

As we stroll through the pictures on Stass' site, the one picture that always makes everyone recoil in horror is this one:

Every time I look at it I throw up in my mouth a little bit...

Reminds me of the scene from the doctor's office...
Patient: Doc, can you look at my hemorrhoids for me?
Doctor: Yeah, but not for too long.

TBG, terrified by the meat.

Items to Leave Home

Coming to a Olympic Venue?
Here's BOCOG official list of Shit You Should Leave Home:

Restricted articles include:
  • hard-packed drink and food;
  • fragile articles;
  • musical instruments;
  • carry-on bags, suitcases and handbags which are too big to carry to the seats;
  • flags of countries and regions not participating either in the Beijing Olympic Games or Paralympic Games and all other flags over two meters in length or over one meter in width;
  • flag poles of over one meter in length;
  • banners, leaflets, or posters;
  • unauthorized professional videotaping equipments;
  • knives, bats, long-handle umbrellas, long poles, sharp-ended stands for cameras and video cameras, and other objects that may cause harm and injury to people;
  • animals (with the exception of guide dogs);
  • vehicles (except for strollers and wheelchairs);
  • unauthorized walky-talkies, loudspeakers, radios, laser devices or wireless devices that interfere with the electronic signals of the Olympic Games.

BOCOG has deemed the following behavior as inappropriate:
  • smoking at a non-smoking area;
  • crossing over the guardrail;
  • using umbrellas or standing up for a long period of time in the seating area, thus obstructing the field of vision of other spectators;
  • and flash photography.

They have also banned weapons and equipment including guns, ammunition, crossbows, and daggers;
fireworks, firecrackers and other flammable materials;
corrosive chemicals and radioactive materials.

Wow. So... My ballista with the acid-tipped missiles is prohibited.

TBG- Behaving himself.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Don't Ask, don't tell...

There is a poster on display around Beijing with set of prescriptions for Chinese citizens' interaction with Westerners during the Games.
There are "Eight Don't-Asks" when chatting with foreign guests, the poster advises:

Don’t ask about income or expenses,
don’t ask about age,
don’t ask about love life or marriage,
don’t ask about health,
don’t ask about someone’s home or address,
don’t ask about personal experience,
don’t ask about religious beliefs or political views,
don’t ask what someone does.

Damn. What the hell is there to left talk about?

Friday, July 25, 2008

More Pics

In response to the requests for more pictures of the Media Village, our illustrious leader Stass, (A/K/A The Code Monkey, the Programming Primate, #4 on your speed dial but #1 in your heart...) has put up quite a few pics on his site, including some interior room pictures...
His main site... I Stass
...And his Beijing pics can be found here.

My favorite? Oh...there are so many good ones...

Must be this one...

I just blend right in with the locals, eh?

TBG, just a face in the crowd.

Code monkey

Waiting for the mythical shuttle bus...

Beijing Olympic Green

Some photos from around the Olympic Green.

Ling Long Pagoda
This tall structure is where several broadcasters will have their main studio desk for their broadcasts. It has a commanding view of the entire Olympic Green.
It has a dazzling array of lights that are constantly changing as the Opening Ceremony approaches.

Ling Long in Red

Near the LingLong Pagoda a line of security guards keep a vigilant watch on the main Olympic Green.

You can't get there from here. You have to start someplace else.
This concept is a current nightmare for us. Here's the problem:

IBC by night.
Nice building. Secure, in that there are processes in place to make sure no one has weapons, flammables or explosives when they get there. It is located INSIDE the perimeter of the Olympic gates. You have to go through Mag and Bag to get there.
In theory, if you are allowed to be in the IBC, you should also have access to the rest of the Olympic grounds.
(You might not be able to, say, walk into the NST and stand in the middle of the athletic grounds, but you should at least be able to get from one location to another with relative ease.)
Alas, it is not the case.
See... There are several THOUSAND miles of fencing sectioning off the different buildings inside the Olympic Park.
Take a peek here...

See the fence? there is only ONE way to get inside that perimeter, no matter what your credential says. Even though there are several gates, you still can only enter or exit by the one gate on Beichen Xilu. Which, of course, the most inconvenient location for going anywhere else in the Olympic Park.

And there's just miles and miles of fencing, and a unsmiling security guard every 50 feet.

It goes all the way to the vanishing point...which, granted, is not that far away with the thickness in the air.
I hope there will be some changes to this setup, because if not we are going to have some major problems getting to and from the different venues around the Olympic Green.

Elsewhere in the Park:

Bat, bat! Fly into my hat!

At night, the air in the Olympic Green is just alive with bats... Thousands of them, feeding on the bugs attracted by the huge spotlights and streetlamps. In Chinese culture bats are a symbol of happiness, good fortune and harmony. The bat frequently appears in many Chinese tradition design, such as "Five Bats Holding the Longevity".

Apparently good fortune and harmony from the bats doesn't carry over to the dudes running the mag & bag and access gates.

Home Sweet (Temporary) Home
Pics from around the NorthStar Media Village

The foyer of my building at NorthStar.

I'm in C2... I was hoping I'd be in C4. I always wanted live in a building named after an explosive compound.

C4 and C3. 32 floors of fun...

The Washer/Dryers.
Free to use, and free soap. Now, if we can only figure out how to actually use them to wash and dry our clothes.
I did my laundry this morning... It made my clothes exceptionally hot, but not really any cleaner, and after the dryer cycle, they weren't exactly dry.

I'm really hoping like hell that this is The Bar. It's in the courtyard behind C4.

More of the C4 Courtyard.

One more thing to make you go "hmmm".

There are several hospitality suites out in the Olympic Green, usually some contemporary eye-catching design in order to get some notice. And it is where executives from the Olympic Sponsor companies entertain their guests...

Here's one for CNC...

A nice place. Not too flashy, but still some nice aerodynamics and lines....

And then there is the austere Bank of China...

We want to draw no attention to ourselves...

And right next door, a building covered in grass.

Now, I'm not sure of what they sell, but is covering your place of business in grass the message you want to send?

TBG out, wondering...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stuff We're Missing

Yes, we have 54 channels of China Central TV (CCTV), but no Cartoon Network.
No Food Network. No BBC America. No Sci Fi or Dr. Who,
and worst of all,
No Discovery Channel...

No Deadliest Catch.

No Cash Cab.

No Dirty Jobs.

No Mythbusters.

No Man vs. Wild.

Have you seen their summer promo...
"I Love the Whole World"?

Very catchy. I walk through the IBC whistling the tune...
And someone gives me a " boom de yada" on the refrain.

Even mo' bettah- the live version-

Too funny.

TBG, Boom de yadda, boom de yadda...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chinese Fortune Cookies

Fortune cookies.
1. Not Chinese.
2. Soporific generic pap, not specific enough to change anyone's life.

Fortune cookies, along with any Psychic who claims to be in touch with The Eternal, would be much more effective if they were more direct.
If I ever got a cookie that said "Don't drive on I95 on Thursday the 12th" and then there was a massive 15 car pile up, then I might give them a little consideration.
In a like manner, if Miss Cleo was to ring me up and say "Hey Big Guy, don't get on flight 512 tomorrow" and the next day the plane goes down... well, she'd get my business a little more often. (I mean, you'd think she'd be able to do that, yeah?)

Long ago and far away, I think I was a junior in High School my father taught me the secret to enjoying fortune cookies...
Basically, he said, append the actual fortune with the words "in bed".


"Plan for many pleasures ahead."
"Plan for many pleasures ahead, in bed."


"Something you lost will soon turn up."
"Something you lost will soon turn up in bed."
(Gee, I hope it's not those hedge trimmers I lost last summer.)

Alas, in my old age I have become a cynic...
Now days I find fortune cookies more enjoyable if the appended phrase used is
"...except in bed."

Apply in these cases:

There is a true and sincere friendship between you and your friends.
Plan for many pleasures ahead.
Your heart is pure, and your mind clear, and your soul devout.
Excitement and intrigue follow you closely wherever you go!
Your flair for the creative takes an important place in your life.
Your artistic talents win the approval and applause of others.
Your many hidden talents will become obvious to those around you.
Your greatest fortune is the large number of friends you have.
A firm friendship will prove the foundation on your success in life.
Look for new outlets for your own creative abilities.

TBG- when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Beijing 2008 - The countdown continues...

Things are winding down now, we're getting closer to the wire, and there are lots of signs of the last-minute crush of preparation. Everywhere (and at any given hour) you can see people getting things ready for the Olympics.

It's 10:30 on a Saturday Night...
These poor bastards are installing manhole covers on Beichen Xilu near the Watercube...

Say what you will... but Communism Gets Shit Done.
(a/k/a Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself.)

Everywhere in Beijing, but especially near the Olympic Green, there are scads of Chinese people out there Getting It Done.

I was out walking last night and shot a few pics around the IBC...

IBC Exterior

Inside the IBC, near BOB and NBC.

And I know you've heard me talk about it...

The NBC Commissary. Tasty chow, and free too! (My favorite kind!)

One last one...

Ned of Flanders

Ora pro nobis.

TBG- heading back to the Hotel

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Culture, Shock

36 hours after departing Loggerhead Key I was on my way back to Beijing.

I will not bore you with details of the plane ride other than to say the even with an empty seat next to me, coach class on United Airlines sucks out loud.

One cool thing about the flight, I did get a peek outside the window as we neared the Arctic coast of Russia and the weather was clearer than I had ever seen it...
I even had the presence of mind to shoot a picture of the icefields below the plane.

Brrr. Even in "summer" it still looks like Cocytus...

With the Olympics so close, they have opened the special lanes at the Customs and Immigration checkpoint for folks traveling to and working at the Olympics, so that usual hour of waiting in line didn't happen this time. Hoo ha!

I did get a good bit of scrutiny at the baggage check.
Apparently there is some kind of initiative to really check for contraband...they did check out my toolkit quite closely, and they wanted to know why I had 3 laptops...
After about 10 minutes of discussion, during which it looked like I would have to post a bond to keep my laptops, one of the inspectors noticed my NBC/Olympics credential, whereupon I was sent on my merry way.
Whew. Typically, it takes an act of God to get your money back when you post a bond for equipment. As a rule of thumb, it's best to just forget about it than to try to negotiate the quagmire of bond refunds.

The final push before the Event

Good Morning Beijing

I'm in a different hotel this time...
The China National Convention Center Hotel, which is part of the Main Press Center, and is about 100 feet from the IBC.
It takes me 5 minutes from the time I leave my room until I get to the IDS office in the IBC. Sweet.
In contrast, the Code Monkey is at the Intercontinental, near the hotel where we stayed in June...
He has a 30 minute shuttle bus ride to get here in the morning.

Speaking of the IDS office... We actually *have* an office this year!

We are definitely moving up in the world.
In Athens in 2004, we were in a hallway near the operations center. In Torino we were actually *in* the dotcom office...
This year we have our own room.

Speaking of the Code Monkey...

Stass hard at work. Soon the shelves will be populated with laptops that ingest raw stat information and repackage it for other uses.
More on that later...

Even with the thick air outsite, there is quite a lightshow going on out there as they get prepared for the Opening Ceremonies.

Good Night Beijing...

TBG, working on my jet lag...

Friday, July 18, 2008

What is your English name?

You've got to check out Sufei-
She does a web-based TV show in Beijing modeled after Sex in the City...
and it is really great- SexyBeijing. Her site also has links to her 'blog, Chinese lessons and podcasts. Tasty stuff!

I found out about her when someone sent me a link to the episode "Lost in Translation"...

Engrish names in Beijing

The first lady she interviews is classic!

TBG out-

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Coconuts 101

Is your knowledge of coconut limited to that bag of Angel Flake coconut on the shelf of the grocery store?

Step over here and let me give you a little info on the coconut.

Everyone knows that on a deserted island you can inevitably find a coconut tree, and thus you will be able to easily slake your thirst...Not! If you saw the movie "Castaway" with Tom Hanks you saw a relatively accurate portrayal of opening a coconut. 'T'aint easy, Bucko.

There are a couple ways of dealing with the nut...
Fortunately, I'm in an excellent environment for a little coconut show and tell...

First- You need a nut to deal with...

Here are some fresh-off-the-tree nuts...

If you see a nice tall tree full of nuts, just look at the ground beneath... You'll probably see a nut or two on the ground, unless some other poor marooned fool has scavenged the fallen fruit...
Although this is promising, alas, it is not really a good thing. Especially if you don't have any tools. The nuts that fall off the tree are usually very mature, they have a good amount of liquid and meat, but it's hard to get to it.

These are 45 feet up... Kinda hard to get at.

Let's assume, first, that you find a nut on the ground.
First, give it a shake and listen carefully.
Hear a sloshing noise? Good.
If not, pitch it away and look for another...more on this later.

When you've found your nut, now you have to get into it.
If you have no tools, well... if can be done, but it's no fun.
You take your 'nut and bang it (repeatedly...) on the pointy end of nut against a hard surface.

After a looong time, there will be cracks up the side. Keep banging away and eventually you will be able to strip the husk off in 3 pieces.
(I didn't do this for the purposes of the program here...But I have done it before. It works. I promise. Try it yourself.)

Strip the husk from the nut... and then you have some more work to do.

But...there is a better way to remove the nut from the husk.
If... you have access to a toolshed... which I do... and the choice of basic hand tools including grinders, circular saws, hacksaws, drills, blow torches and weed whackers, your best choice of weapons is...

2 shovels.

My victim and the tools.


Put your nut on the ground...

Grounded nut.

Then take one shovel and dig the point into the nut.

It doesn't hurt the nut, I promise...

Now- Orient the second shovel so they are back to back, then dig the other shovel in to the husk as close as possible to the first shovel.

...Like so.

Now just pull the handles toward each other, using the tips to pry the husk apart.

Pry the husk apart...

Opened nut. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Depending on the age of the husk and how securely the nut is attached to the inside of the husk, you might have to perform the same maneuver again to completely separate the nut... But it should only take you about 2 minutes to completely remove the nut from the husk.

Now... Before we get to using the nut itself, let's talk about Bad Nuts.

If you have one that doesn't slosh when you shake it, it means somehow the nut inside is damaged.

This one is damaged, you can see where the liquid has leaked out of the shell.

Ooo. The dark spot. Not good.

Inside the meat of the nut has started to dissolve.

Not pretty. Don't eat.

The crabs love it though...

Just set the bad nut on the ground...

...and just after dark it's crab nirvana.

They clean it right out...

Crabs just love the coconut.

Don't come between the crab and his coconut.

Actually, they are pretty smart about coconuts. Pay attention and they could learn you a thing or two.
We'll see about that in a minute.

At this point you have to open the actual nut itself.

First, there are 3 "eyes" at one end of the shell.
They are the thinnest point in the shell. Anything sharp and pointy will penetrate it... Drill out 2 of the eyes.
Invert the nut over a container and the liquid will drain out.

The liquid is NOT coconut "milk" like you find canned in the store.
The stuff in the can is actually a mix of the coconut liquid and fat extracted from the coconut meat.
This liquid is more like water than anything else...but be aware- this liquid is a diuretic...if all you drink is this liquid, it will give you a severe case of diarrea. You've been warned.
To make your own coconut milk, drain the liquid outlined above, then crack the nut against a hard surface. Remove the white meat inside the shell. You can usually pry it out in chunks.
There is usually a brown "skin" or rind on the back of the meat. Just cut that skin off with a paring knife then shred the meat on a box grater.
Put the shredded meat and the coconut water in a bowl and let it soak for a few minutes, the put the whole mass in a double layer of cheesecloth and wring it out... A good bit of the coconut oil will be drawn out of the meat along with the water.
Use the resulting liquid as you would any commercially prepared coconut milk... Using it to cook rice is great, as is mixing it with rum in a pina colada is also acceptable.
To use the shredded meat, you can used it as it is, or you can toast it in the oven (350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until it turns a light brown).
There is a hand-written recipe in the house on Loggerhead for macaroons...

Fresh Coconut Macaroons
16oz fresh grated coconut
1 can eagle brand condensed milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix ingredients, drop by teaspoonful on greased sheet.
bake at 350 for 8 minutes, remove at once.

Now, this is all well and good, if you have a well-stocked tool shed and a couple of shovels. But what if you don't?

Well... Remember when I said the crabs could learn you a thing or two?

Let's look on the ground near one of the coconut trees on Loggerhead.

Look- some immature coconuts are on the ground.

If you look closely you can see one end has been opened...

When the nuts are very young, they still have a reasonable amount of liquid inside them, and the hard nut has not been formed yet, and the resevoir of liquid is near the top of the young nut. At this point of their development it is quite easy to get at the liquid.
The real key is getting at the nut when it is the right size.
What you need is a small tree that is producing coconuts.

Like this one.
It has nuts in all stages of development.

You want a nut no larger than a softball.

No, not the D-Cup...

Not the C-cup either...

Ah. Perfect.

Remove the stem and the stemcaps...

Make a small hole and pour the liquid into a container.

It's not alot, the liquid is not sweet, and it has a little substance to it, but if you have nothing else, it beats drinking saltwater.

Here endeth the lesson-

Until next time...

TBG Out-