Thursday Aug 21, 2008

Snack bars 加油!

If you think it's easy to be a spectator at the Olympics, think again. You can work up a real appetite screaming "jia you!" ("Go! Hooray! Or some other kind of encouragement!") at the top of your lungs. Fortunately the Olympic snack bars are serving up a pretty healthy menu and the prices are cheap - about the same as in the grocery store.

Just check out these signs from the snack bars at the Marathon event this weekend. To get the price in US dollars you can just divide the RMB price by seven. Yes, you read that right, divide by seven. That means that one ice cream could cost as little as 30 cents. And at what sporting event would you expect to find boiled eggs at the snack bar?

snacks

snacks

If you want to learn how to pronounce "jia you" you've got to watch the Two Chinese Characters describe it, they're hilarious:

Wednesday Aug 20, 2008

It was just a trip to Starbucks

Life in Beijing is so cool these days. Today I was going for a
decaf latte at Starbucks when I ran into the very polite and unassuming Nick Willis. He was there with his wife and they were looking for the Peninsula Hotel but didn't have the name in Chinese or the address. I pulled out my nifty iPhone and did a quick internet search for them. Okay not all that quick, as any iPhone user knows, but I did get them the info they needed and they went on their way to pick up tickets so Nick's wife could attend his medal ceremony.

Just last night Nick won the bronze medal in the men's 1500-meter final. It was the first time since 1984 that New Zealand had an athlete in the men's 1500m final and the first time since 1976 that they medaled. Congratulations Nick!!!

I mentioned that he's unassuming. When I asked them what event they were in town for Nick just said "Athletics". He didn't mention that he was actually competing in Athletics. Or that he had just competed the night before in the Men's Finals. Or that he was on his way to get tickets for his own Medal Ceremony! His wife had to volunteer all that for me. If that was me I'd walk into Starbucks shouting, "I'm Olympic bronze medalist Melanie Gao and I need directions to a hotel." But not Nick, what a humble guy.

Here's Nick and me at Starbucks.

melanie and nick willis

Monday Aug 18, 2008

Deontay is an Olympic Medalist!

Remember I told you about Deontay Wilder, the guy from my hometown who started boxing just 3 years ago and is at the Olympics this year? Last night he secured himself at least a bronze medal in the Heavyweight Division! He defeated Morocco's Mohammed Arjaoui in a very close match. In fact they were tied 10-10 at the end of the fourth round and the judges had to call it. My mom was there and she said it was so exciting. The judges consulted with each other for a few seconds, then the referee (umpire?) walked out to the ring, held each boxer by the hand and then raised the hand of the winner - Deontay!!!

He has two more fights and if he wins he could get the silver or gold medal. But at the very least he will go home with a bronze medal. I'm so impressed and so excited for him.

I met his mom last week and she told me about the day she took him to first grade. She dropped him off at school and drove back home and as soon as she walked in the door the phone rang. It was the principal asking her to come back and pick him up because Deontay had been fighting with another kid. I guess he was destined to be a fighter. :)

BTW speaking of his mom, here she is at his first Olympic match.
deborah wilder

You gotta love those proud Southern moms. If I was in the Olympics my mom would be there with 20 flags on her head, though the world is never going to see that since there is no Olympic boxer hiding inside me anywhere.

If you have a second please leave Deontay some encouragement for his upcoming matches on his blog, "Determined not Destined". BTW his upcoming matches are August 20 and 23. (That's mostly for Christin's husband, who has been watching the Olympics real time and has earned himself the nickname "Beijing Time".)

Tuesday Aug 12, 2008

My Hometown Hero

In 2005 Deontay Wilder was not too different from most of the guys in my hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama - graduated from Central High School, had a girlfriend, had a steady job delivering beer for Greene Beverage. But in 2005 things started changing for him. That's when his daughter Naieya was born with spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal cord doesn't form properly while the baby is in utero. Before Naieya was born her doctors told Deontay that her condition was severe and that this baby was going to require a lot of surgeries and treatments if she was ever going to learn to walk. And naturally that meant Deontay was going to have to come up with a lot of money to pay for all the surgeries and treatments, and he knew that was going to be tough in his current job so he started searching for ways to earn a lot of money fast. One day when he was making a delivery to a local restaurant he saw Jay Deas' Skyy Boxing gym across the parking lot. He walked over to check it out, heard the sound of gloves hitting punching bags and said something inside him stirred. It was the first time he'd ever set foot in a boxing gym.

Okay, flash forward three years and Deontay is AT THE OLYMPICS!!! Can you believe that? In 2005 he strapped on a pair of boxing gloves for the very first time and now in 2008 he might very well win a gold medal in men's heavyweight boxing. I can't imagine the dedication and passion that has fueled his rapid ascent. I don't even know him but he's my latest hometown hero.

Deontay Wilder and Evander Holyfield

Deontay and Evander Holyfield

Deontay has his first fight tomorrow, August 13, so if you're watching TV or if you're lucky enough to be there, please cheer extra loud for him. I want him to win for his own sake and for the sake of his daughter.

If you want to give him personal props you can leave a comment on his blog, "Determined not Destined".

Go Deontay!!!

Tuesday Aug 05, 2008

Another localized release - Communications Suite 6

The English and localized versions of the Sun Java Communications Suite 6 have just been released! The single most important feature is Sun Convergence, which is the next generation unified communications client. If you want to see some screenshots of Convergence check out Jim Parkinson's blog.

For Comms 6 we did a 'sim ship', which means the localized versions shipped simultaneously with the English version. It's really difficult for both the development team and the localization team so hats off to everyone who pulled this off! There are seven localized versions of Comms 6: Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Spanish, German and French.

Why don't you take it for a spin?

Here's a cool graphic that Srinu generated using wordle.net, which lists all the members of the G11n team for this release. Congratulations everyone!!!
comms g11n team

Monday Aug 04, 2008

Another localized Release - Identity Mgr. 8.0

Sun Java System Identity Manager 8.0 is now available in eight languages: French, Spanish, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Korean. It can be downloaded here.

This localized release was brought to you by the incredibly dedicated and passionate IDM L10n team, including Anita Daley, Basha Chand, Vasek Novak, Shinichi Hanaki, Pavel Heimlich, Pierrot Berreur, Paty Rodriguez, Pedro Zeman, Sandy Cheng, May Zhang, Charles Liu, Jaro Sulc, Nicky Stastna, Misato Kabasawa and Ivy Zhang.

Congratulations everyone on a job well done!

Wednesday Jul 30, 2008

The Value of Integration Testing

This bunk bed - so cute!
bunkbed

This ceiling fan - so practical!
ceiling fan

The room - 8'x10' - not very big!
ceiling fan

My husband is a QE engineer and I'm a program manager. And yet it was only when the workers were there installing our ceiling fan that it suddenly clicked for us - this is not a good combination...

Friday Jul 25, 2008

What will the weather be like in Beijing during the Olympics?

In a word - hot.

For more details check out this site.

If you're coming for the Olympics - like my mom and baby sister Amanda who will arrive on August 6 - have a safe trip. We can't wait to see you here!

Tuesday Jul 22, 2008

On the road again

Sun and Cosoft are co-sponsoring an Software Parks OpenSource Tech Day in fifteen cities around China throughout July and August. I spoke at the events last week in Changsha and Wuhan (where the average temperature in July is around 95 Fahrenheit or 35 Celsius - don't ask me why we plan these roadshows for the summer...) about Sun's open source technologies. I introduced OpenSolaris, Glassfish, Netbeans, OpenJDK, Java DocWeb, OpenOffice and Sun's open source localizations. It was my first time to speak at this kind of event so it was a great learning experience for me. I even spoke a little bit in Chinese. I think speeches are most meaningful when the speaker adds some of their unique perspective, so I talked about the time my mom had a secret recipe for a cake and she never shared it with us until she started a blog and decided to publish the recipe. She didn't know it at the time but she was part of a revolution that's all about sharing, and I'm so proud that my mom and my company are leading the charge.

Other speakers at the event were Vincent Liu from Sun, Chen Xu from Intel and He Wei Jia from RedFlag Linux.

We had about 100 participants in each city, here are some pictures:
changsha 4
changsha 3
changsha 1
changsha 6
changsha 5

Thursday Jul 17, 2008

"We are ready!"

We hear this a lot lately in Beijing - we are ready! We're talking about the Olympics of course, and it's evident all over town.

These are some signs I saw at the airport the other day:
olympic sign
olympic sign
olympic sign

And a friendly team of volunteers is ready to assist visitors when they arrive at the airport:
helpers

Most importantly, the air appears to be ready for the Olympics. Just look at how blue the sky was yesterday. The city government recently stopped all manufacturing in the city and some traffic controls are already in place, more strict ones will start on Monday. It's paying off.
sky

Friday Jul 11, 2008

We passed!

Bernard, Sutum and I are now DDI certified trainers!

class
(L-R) Me, Bernard, Mike, Sutum, Lucia

One day soon we'll be facilitating management classes for our fellow Sun managers. Although I'm certified I'm still a little nervous about teaching a class but they say I'll become more and more comfortable as I get real classroom experience.

I'm very grateful to our coach, Master Trainer Mike Andrew, who not only took us through the certification process but also gave us wisdom like:
- Treat issues coldly and people warmly.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood. (Okay, not his original content but it means a lot coming from him.)
- The most important skill for a trainer, and for a manager, is listening.

I'm also grateful to Lucia Yip, who works in Sun's training organization. She recognized something in Bernard, Sutum and me that made her think we'd be good trainers. It was something I hadn't even recognized myself but I think she's right, or at least I can say for sure that so far I love training.

Tuesday Jul 08, 2008

Train the Trainer Training

This week I'm in Hong Kong for Train the Trainer training (try to say that three times fast). Sun recently launched a new set of management classes and one of the tenets is that Sun managers should teach them rather than a consultant. So I'm here with three other managers and we're learning from one of the greatest - Master Trainer Mike Andrew, the author of "How to Think Like a CEO and Act Like a Leader."

Tomorrow I have to do a demo of a session called "Leading High Performance Teams". I have to do a decent job otherwise I won't get certified and if I don't get certified I won't be able to teach the course so wish me luck!

Meanwhile I'll leave you with some pictures taken from Sun's Hong Kong office, which is on the 66th floor of Central Plaza. The views are stunning even on a rainy day. It's a good thing I don't work here because I wouldn't get any work done, I'd be looking at the view all day long.

hong kong
hong kong
hong kong

Tuesday Jul 01, 2008

Three Things Your Nanny Wishes You Knew

I went to France in May of 1990 with nothing more than a backpack, $200 in cash and a dream of becoming an au pair and improving my French. I didn't know a soul in Paris but it was Spring and I was in the City of Light and que sera sera, right?

Melanie in Paris 1990

So I arrived in Paris and after 200 cold calls made from public phones on the Champs-Élysées I found my dream job. I was a nanny for Jean-Guillaume, an adorable 2-year-old in a suburb just outside of Paris. Jean-Guillaume and his family lived in a posh mansion which was built in the 1900s but had been recently restored. It was four stories of marble, polished hardwood, antiques, and the kind of art that you go to museums to see. They had bought the lot next door and installed a swimming pool, which meant you had to walk a few steps to get to the hot tub but on the way you passed exotic flora and fauna, ducks and geese, statues and stones. The dad drove a red Porsche and the mom drove a black convertible Saab, and just when I thought my jaw couldn't drop any further they casually mentioned that they kept the Ferrari and the Lamborghini in a garage across town. That's what you do when you own expensive sports cars - who knew?!

It was my first experience as a domestic servant and looking back, there are a lot of things I wish I had told my employers.

1. Be good to the help.
My family was good to me but they were not good to the maid, Marie France. She lived on their property but they didn't want her kids to play in certain sections of their garden and her kids inevitably wandered into the verboten territories, which always led to arguments and a lot of stress for everyone. Marie France was so angry at the family that she started trying to kill them. No joke. She put shards of broken glass in their food. I don't think she was mad at me because she cooked an early dinner for Jean-Guillaume and me and our food was glass-free but the rest of the family had dinner around 10pm and it was not uncommon for them to chomp down on a shard or two. The first few times she claimed a glass had broken in the kitchen and a piece must have somehow found its way into the food but after five or ten times no one was buying that story anymore. So why didn't the family fire her? I think it's because she was really cheap and they didn't have time or energy to look for a new maid. So instead they chose to chew carefully and hope for the best. Until Marie France stole away in the middle of the night with some of the above-mentioned famous artwork, and then they had no choice but to look for a new maid. And new art.

2. Be clear about what you expect from the help.
When I first started my nanny job Marie France was preparing some kick-butt meals for us - can you imagine getting great French cuisine every day for lunch? Awesome, and it was glass-free since I went out of my way to stay on good terms with her. However as the days went by the meals became less and less fresh. Pretty soon we were eating noodles with canned tuna on them.

When I finally asked about the diminishing quality of our lunches Marie-France said, "Didn't they tell you you're supposed to go to the market every day? You're supposed to be buying the fresh vegetables and fruits!" Well duh, that was no problem but I could have died from scurvy while waiting for someone to tell me about this part of my job.

3. Don't take your nanny shopping with you if you're planning to spend big bucks.
I earned the equivalent of $175/month plus room and board when I was a nanny. I was fine with that because for me it was better than paying $500/month in tuition for French classes and if the wages weren't acceptable to me I wouldn't have been there, right? But once Jean-Guillaume's mom took us shopping and I watched her spend my monthly salary on salt and pepper shakers. That just hurt. A month of me was worth less than condiment dispensers. If you're going to make big purchases just leave the nanny at home.

Epilogue (is it okay for a blog to have those?)
I know that in many parts of the world people don't have "help" but it's very common here in China and I am so grateful to have the help of our "ayi" Xiao Zou, who cooks, cleans and does the laundry for me so that when I come home in the evening I can focus on my kids and my husband and nothing else. It's bliss.

Friday Jun 27, 2008

Peking Duck Pedigree

Last week I went to lunch with UFIDA, a vendor who supplies us with some great Korean-speaking contractors. We went to Quanjude, which is a famous Peking Duck Restaurant in Beijing. I don't eat meat, including duck, however the waitress gave me our duck's personal certificate of authenticity.

duck certificate

It says, "Quanjude was established in 1864 (third year of Tongzhi, Qing Dynasty), enjoying a history of over 140 years. The above number is the roast duck we have served from 1864 on." My duck's number, 75020, is just for this one branch of Quanjude that opened about two years ago. That's a lot of ducks.

BTW when I did eat meat I thought Quanjude's was the best Peking Duck in Beijing. If you ever come here you should try it out, and make sure your duck comes with papers.

Monday Jun 23, 2008

为中国加油

Grant wrote the following letter to the Chinese army encouraging them to do their best in rescuing the earthquake victims in Sichuan. Technically he didn't write it, he dictated it to his sister. He is a master delegator, this one.

letter

Even though the quake was over a month ago it's still very much in the forefront of the news and in people's minds. Including kids.

Sunday Jun 22, 2008

I'll take "Medical Terms in Chinese" for $1,000

The other day my kids came running up to me, breathless and looking very concerned. "Do we have fei yan?" they asked. They've been mixing Chinese and English like this more and more lately and my Chinese just isn't keeping pace with theirs.

"I dunno, what does fei yan mean?" I asked.

"Grant's teacher told him that if he jumped around too much after lunch then he could get fei yan," Audrey said. "We just ate and then we accidentally jumped on the bed. So do we have it?"

I had no clue what fei yan was but I assumed it was one of those vague (to me at least) conditions that are often diagnosed in Chinese Medicine. For example if you eat too many salted cashews then you can get shang huo, which literally means your fire is high. So anyway, I told the kids they might have a touch of fei yan but if they rested for a few minutes they'd be fine. At least it would get them to quit jumping on the bed.

That night as we were going to bed my husband asked me, "Did you tell Grant today he had pneumonia?"

"What? Of course not! Why would I do something like that?"

"He said you said he got it from jumping on the bed after lunch."

"Ohhhhh! Is that what fei yan is? Well, in that case then yes, I guess I did tell him that. But in my defense, I said he had a very mild case of it."

"A very mild case. Of pneumonia?" My husband was looking at me like I was crazy. Which I'll admit isn't too far fetched.

I really need to double-up on my Chinese lessons before I diagnose the kids with something terminal next time.

Thursday Jun 19, 2008

Where Fashion Meets Function

Is this a balmy tree-lined avenue? Or are those just lamp posts? Actually it's both, the trees are lamp posts. Fashion meets function, at last.

palm tree street lamps

I took this picture in a suburb of Beijing called Pinggu. And for you Safe Driving Zealots out there, I was a passenger in the car when I snapped this one. (I went through a phase where I used to snap pictures like this, this, and this while I was driving and then posting them on my blog - not from the car - and I had a few concerned readers who left comments. I think I also scared a few of my fellow drivers. I don't do that anymore.)

Wednesday Jun 18, 2008

World's Most Confusing Restroom Signs

The other day I strayed away from The Known and went to a new, hip restaurant in Beijing called Block 8. It's a totally trendy place where young, beautiful people go to see and be seen.

Clearly I have no business at a place like this. For example, the signs for the bathroom left me dumbfounded, especially after a couple of glasses of wine. But seriously, would you have found these confusing too?

men's restroom
women's restroom

I need to go back to T.G.I. Friday's where I belong.

Tuesday Jun 17, 2008

The Local Face of Sun in China

LISA (Localization Industry Standards Association) is one of the professional organizations in the Globalization industry and they recently did an article called "The Local Face of Sun in China" about Sun's engineering work in Beijing. They interviewed our site director Sin-Yaw Wang and me. You can read the article here.

Sin-Yaw Mel

This was my first time being interviewed for an article like this and I learned a lot. The main thing I learned is what it's like to hear your own words after they've gone through someone else's filter. I'm not saying the interviewer misquoted me - she didn't.

But it changed the way I think about communication. It made me wonder, let's say I do an all-hands with my team and afterwards I asked them to write down the top three things they remember, would they be the three things I thought were most important? Would the messages sound different coming back from my audience? (Sad note to self,those were all closed questions ...)

Monday Jun 16, 2008

Time to renew Grant's passport

Such a shame too because he had the cutest baby picture I ever saw.

grant passport

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