Thursday Jan 08, 2009

Personal Blog

Well, I've done gone and started a personal blog. It is at: http://bobbygreg.blogspot.com/ I'll probably be cross-posting entries from it to this blog from time to time, and will also try to be more diligent about updating robsblog in the future. I plan on putting a post to it after our BJOSUG meeting next Thursday, which will be an open planning meeting for this year's activities.

Saturday Dec 13, 2008

A Wonderful Winter Day

In Spaceballs, there's this wonderful scene involving Mega Maid, a giant Statue of Liberty themed robot, who wields a vacuum cleaner in an attempt to suck-off Planet Druidia's atmosphere.

Well, it seems like she visited Beijing last night.

The fog is gone, leaving a wonderfully brilliant blue sky. What a drastic and welcomed change from the cotton-ball days of the past week.

I do so hope this weather continues.

Wednesday Dec 10, 2008

The Fog of Winter

When I was down on The Peninsula last week, there were mornings with a thick fog. It would burn-off by noon or so, revealing a resplendently blue sky.

Beijing has been blanketed by fog these last few mornings as well. However, unlike that which encompassed me last week, this fog doesn't leave. It is a constant presence which diffuses light and hampers vision.

I think it must also affects the mental state as well. At least, I seem to feel it. It is weighty and burdensome.

Sunday Nov 16, 2008

These Shoes Aren't Made for Walking

A couple weeks back, I received a justified reprimand from a friend of mine. We were on the way to an event, and she was dress very nicely, including a fancy pair of shoes. I was dressed not nearly as nicely, and in my usual comfortable pair of loafers. We were a little late, so my pace was a bit brisk.

The conversation went something like this:

  "You know, these shoes aren't made for walking," said she.
  "What are they made for then," asked I.
  "The looking," said she, somewhat bewildered that I hadn't figured that out.

I must admit that it's been twenty years or so that I've gotten such reminders. There's just part of me that isn't willing to accept that someone would put something on their feet so willingly that would so limit their movement in such a drastic way.

In any event, I will try to be more observant and more understanding in the future.

Tuesday Nov 04, 2008

Eight Hours

After three sessions; eight hours; more Akon and rap music than I would've preferred... which, for the record, would have been \*none\*; more exposure to second-hand smoke since I was in college in California... before they had the good sense to ban smoking in bars and restaurants and the various nightclubs which I frequented, coming home reeking of cigarette smoke, my clothes, my hair, awful; unable to reach my tattoo artist since she'd gone on vacation; fearing that I'd be left with part of the Monkey King on my chest; Sun Wukong is done.

Since I intend to keep this a G-rated blog, I'll just provide links to the picture and video I took during the final session.

Oh, okay, here's one I call tools of the trade:

11042008606.jpg

Wednesday Oct 29, 2008

Operation Repatriation

Well, it was almost 100 years in the making, but I can now report that, as this photo shows, Operation Repatriation was an unbridled success.

Operation Repatriation

Photo courtesy of Andreas Schmidt

The story actually starts thousands of years ago, when the Shih Tzu was bred into existence in China. As explained in this article, this noble breed was a companion to royalty, and was found jaunting around the grounds of the Summer Palace.

That all changed with the death of Empress Dowager Tzutsi in 1908, which saw the Shih Tzu vanquished from its royal home, and almost made extinct. Although the breed did ultimately survive, it was never able to return to its rightful place at the Summer Palace... until now.

Towards the beginning of the month, some friends (who will remain nameless for at least the next few paragraphs) and I decided that this grave wrong should be corrected. So, we bundled Leo up, and headed for the palace. The first obstacle was getting through the admittance gate, which actually wasn't that hard... I had Leo tucked into my arms, and the guard didn't seem to notice.

I put him down soon afterward, and that's when he got some attention. A very polite guard tried to explain to me that dogs weren't allowed in the palace ground. I picked Leo up, mumbled and grumbled, and walked around in wide arch, like I didn't understand what he was saying. I made my way past the temple whilst he was laughing at me not getting it.

I kept Leo on my arm for most of the next few hours we spent in the palace grounds. We passed by guards, police officers, and even military personnel, and all were fine with Leo... the main thing seemed to be that I was holding him.

We left the palace with night already upon it. I had Leo on his long leash prancing in front of us. As we crossed through the gate, a guard asked another how a dog could get into the grounds. Mel and I laughed.

So, dear reader, there you have it... the noble Shih Tzu has once again roamed the grounds of the Summer Palace.

Sunday Oct 26, 2008

A Tale of Four Lands

I flew back home last night into a resplendent and fairly empty Terminal Three. I'd only been gone for a week, and had a wonderful time traveling, but it was good to be back onto familiar ground.

Real relaxation came when I climbed into front passenger seat the taxicab. On the right hand side, just where it should be. The musty smell of cigarettes, the cold November wind coming in through the half-open windows, the twang of a Beijing accent as the cabby and I quickly went through most of the conversational Mandarin I knew.

Hong Kong, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Hong Kong, and then back to Mainland China. Each entry or debarkation (including the ferries between Hong Kong and Macau) requiring a customs sheet... a total of 12 stamps in my passport; three pages used.

I'm going to work more on this blog entry later, and do some back-filling as well. In the meantime, here are some of the photos I took over the last week:

http://flickr.com/photos/robesoh/sets/72157608200746094/

Saturday Oct 18, 2008

Zuoying

First, I've been told that someone unearthed an old enigma box and was able to decipher Paul's name, so I'll drop the code. Sorry, my dear friend.

With that out of the way... the story left off in the Zuoying district of Kaohsiung city, which is the second biggest city in Taiwan. The second picture in the previous post is taken outside of the in-law's house, a wonderful dwelling that was featured in an architectural magazine. Most folks in this area live in houses, versus the flats/apartments which are common in Beijing. Another difference was the kitchen, which opened-up into the dining room. The kitchens I've seen in Beijing have mostly been small and enclosed, the better to capture the grease from cooking.

Another difference between Beijing and Zuoying was that there were very few bikes, and far less automobiles. Most people traveled around on motor scooters. The use of bikes was similar to that in the States... exercise and riding for pleasure. I didn't see any three-wheel carts, horse-drawn carts, or other types of transportation that I've been used to seeing in Beijing.

Here are two nighttime shots of a market, which is a must-see for anyone visiting the district:

10172008484.jpg

10172008481.jpg

An Accidental Traveler

I have a tendency to be an accidental traveler... booking rooms and flights way too late, packing at the last possible moment, forgetting stuff at home and the various places I stayed along the way. In short, the total opposite of William Hurt's character in The Accidental Tourist.

In an effort to change this behavior (or, more accurately, not change it), I've taken to just copying the flight information and hotel accommodations of colleagues going to the same destinations.

So, when I heard that Laup (his name brilliantly obfuscated to protect his identity) was going to be making side-trips to Macao and Hong Kong on his way back from the Intel Developer Forum in Taipei, I figured I'd just copy his information and be set.

Well, what I didn't notice was that Alup was going to Taiwan two days earlier to spend time with family. And, not staying in hotels. And, traveling far outside of Taipei.

When Plua told me this after I had my tickets booked, and faced with the very real possibility of having to be actively involved in arranging my own travel, I did what any truly accidental traveler would do... I asked to come along.So, anyway, being the kind, decent, and (hopefully) forgiving person that he is, Pual said sure. He called his in-laws who setup a hotel room for me in Zouying, his sister who setup a guest house for me at her research institute at Tainan, and we were ready to travel.

After arriving in Taipei, we took the Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR) to Zouying:

DSC_3911.jpg DSC_3912.jpg DSC_3914.jpg

Where we had a wonderful time with the family. (Notice that I said "the" versus "his"... our, more accurately his wife's... since I've now adopted myself into the family unit.)

Here are a couple shots of us:

DSC_3895.jpg DSC_3901.jpg

See, betcha cannot tell me from the rest of the crew.

Okay, time for bed... more tomorrow...

Wednesday Oct 15, 2008

A Cripple's View of the Paralympics

I am a cripple from an extended family of cripples. Be it a visible apparatus such as crutch or wheelchair to the less obvious ones of medication or therapy, many of us are dependent upon something or someone to make it through the day.

Some, such as my Uncle David, who contracted polio at an early age, have been successful. Others, such as my Great Uncle Robert, who committed suicide well before I was born, have not been.

I think my often exposure to the handicaps of family members, along with some sort of understanding of my own, has helped me to "see" people more for what is inside of them instead of what might be disabling them. I don't shy away from people with mental or physical disabilities, nor do I go into the mantra of "there by the grace of God go I," which, actually, I find to be truly repugnant.

When I watched the athletes at the Paralympic Games come onto the field, the first thing that struck me was how much older they seemed that those competing in the Olympics. That is, at least for those without totally debilitating afflictions, these were men and women who were mothers and fathers, who had families to support and jobs they were taking time away from. These weren't young adults whose primary focus in life was to win gold medals.

In places such as Menlo Park, people with disabilities mix more or less equally with those without. Somebody walking around the campus in a wheelchair or on crutches isn't an uncommon sight. Nor, for that matter, is it uncommon to see someone navigating around the city with the aide of a cane or dog.

People with even severe mental disabilities have gone in most part from being at institutions (such as Agnews, where Sun's Santa Clara Campus is built) to being mainstreamed... that is, being part of the mainstream society as much as possible. An example of this would be to work at a regular job, but then return to a group home at night.

From what I've seen so far in Beijing, things are not the same. Up until the Paralympic games, the only physically disabled people I've seen (other than the elderly in wheelchairs) have been beggars. I've also been told that the view of the mentally disabled is no where near that we have in the West... not that the bar is being set too high there, either.

With that overly long and rambling prologue in mind, take a look at this picture:

DSC_3662.jpg

Here is an absolutely beaming athlete that just won his event, and got a Paralympic record at the same time, who just happens not to have any hands. And, of course, what you cannot see or hear from the picture is how loudly the crowd was reacting... it was the same as I heard from Chinese athletes when I attended Taekwondo at the Olympics.

Another point to make is that when there were empty seats, the government ensured that they were filled with students. They would come in by the busloads dressed in their matching gym outfits. And, amidst their jostling, playing, and banging the back of my damn seat, they were cheering just as hard as everyone else.

Click here for more pictures of cycling.

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