Thursday, November 29, 2007

Something to think about: Jefferson on religion

Thomas Jefferson: “I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. ”

Monday, November 26, 2007

1st Thanksgiving actually in Virginia, not Massachusetts?

It's true - the first Thanksgiving occurred at the Berkeley Plantation (VA) in 1619. I guess the Pilgrims just had a better PR person. (Oh, and it's a nicer story - no one was subsequently killed by Indians.)

Still, who knew that the first Thanksgiving in America predates the Pilgrims' arrival by two years?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bonus pic#4

Someone please tell me why someone built a 500m tall building in
backward-ass Kuala Lumpur.....

Bonus pic#3

Here's my host in Shanghai, my friend and former colleague, Robert
Huang. He's a great guy, which was my opinion even before our
adventures in Shanghai last week. (more on this to follow in my entry
titled "let's go get massages.")

Bonus pic#2: china deathtrap

I rode this little contraption between the bus from the airport to my hotel. I've never been so scared in my life. I rode in the back while my driver drove into oncoming traffic at full speed. Luckily, suicidal behavior on the roads (and sidewalks and medians) in Beijing is the norm, and I made it to my hotel safely,

Korean BBQ

This picture should have accompanied my earlier post on Korean food.

Bonus pics#1: Seoul at night that didn't warrant a post earlier.

Dining on the water in Singapore

Singapore is a fantastic city. If it were located off the coast of the
US, it would undoubtedly be one of the most popular cities in the US.

Some of the reasons are the mix of tropical weather, modern city
living, and lots of attractions. One of these attractions is Clarke
Quay, pictured below. It's a dining and entertainment area on the
Singapore River, where I just finished dinner at the Crazy Elephant
overlooking the river.

I'm headed to the airport in about 3 hours, to take the red eye to
Tokyo, and late tomorrow, a flight back to the US. (but first
hopefully a stop at the Paulaner brew pub for tasty German beer and
soft pretzels. (I hope it is still where I remember it.) yes I'm 8,000
miles from Germany, and the local beer, Tiger, is good, but Paulaner
is SSOOOO good I can't skip it.)

While I had a great trip, I can't wait to get back home and see family.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Kuala Lumpur, no more

Making a quick side trip thru the capital of Malaysia, and there's so little to see that I'm moving up my flight out by 2hrs.

As a former British colony and former less-successful big-brother to Singapore, Malaysia pitches KL as an Islamic version of Singapore, but the result is a series of depreciating "national prestige" projects like the Petronas Towers (below) and "Cyberjaya," a new town carved out of the jungle and farmland to be Malaysia's magnet for IT companies. (and it ain't working - Cyberjaya is half-built and barely occupied.)

(another example of an Ill-concieved prestige project: Malaysia has paid big to host a tennis match between retired Pete Sampras and world#1 and unbeatable machine, Roger Federer, also 10 years junior to Sampras. Malaysia aims to attract world-class sporting events, but 1 hrs of Federer acing Sampras will only prove Malaysia is "dumb money.")

While once impressive, each of the national prestige buildings has been surpassed by efforts elsewhere, like China. So, if you're looking to see the 4th tallest radio tower, come to KL. Otherwise, spend an
extra day in China or elsewhere.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Moving fast....

Sitting here in the Shanghai airport, realizing following my last post, that I'll be averaging more than 225 miles per hour over the next 60 hours (until I arrive at my parents' home for thanksgiving). This doesn't count the ~260mph I experienced today on the ride to the airport on Shanghai's maglev train (magnetic levitation), seen below.

Next stop: Kuala Lumpur.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quintessential Shanghai

It's the Oriental Pearl Tower in Pudong - a forest of skyscrapers in Shanghai that basically didn't exist 20 years ago.

This town is booming. I heard this morning that the current 5-line
subway system is due to expand to 13 lines by 2012. Think about that for a second-the entire Washington DC metro is what, 5 lines that took 30 years to build?

Subway fares here btw are 3 yuan, or about 40 cents - 50% more than in Beijing.

Even with the subways here, traffic is a mess - both in terms of volume and pattern. You really do have to have your head on a swivel when walking the streets, or else you'll get thumped by a bicyclist, scooter, car, or bus. I guess the traffic here is a good metaphor for modern China - you'd better pay attention to China, no matter if you're a CEO, or just somebody walking the streets, or else you'll get thumped.

On the road again.....

Enjoying Shanghai while contemplating the next five days:
-Redeye flight from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) Saturday night
-Fly Kuala Lumpur to Singapore Sunday night.
-Redeye flight from Singapore to Tokyo Tuesday night.
-see a little bit of Japan Weednesday between my 7AM arrival and 4pm departure.
13 hour flight from Tokyo to Washington that takes off before it lands. (4pm Tokyo time, 2:30pm D.C.)

Total is something like 13,500 airline miles in 5 days! I think I need a new travel agent, or lesser ambitions.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Here's the official NON-endorsement of CogentPassion from China

Here's what shows when you try to access CogentPassion in China, courtesy of the BabelFish online translation service:

□the law □shows net □you to search □□front cannot use. The website possibly meets supports □□, or you need □to put in order you □□□to set.

today's menu.....

Here in Shanghai, I had lunch with good friend and former colleague Robert Huang. We ate traditional Shanghainese food, including Shanghai duck (very tasty, and not at all greasy) and roast cow's knee.

The cow's knee was tender and flavorful - like really good beef stew meat - which again - like the donkey meat - made me wonder how much of this I had eaten in the past under the label of "beef stew." After all, loads of cows are turned into steaks and hamburgers in the US, but what happens to the knee meat? You can't convince me now that it's just thrown away......

I'm banned by China!

Well, my blog is, at least.

Finally found my way to an internet cafe. (1st stop this trip), and tried to ake a look at this blog. Turns out, China doesn't like bloggers, as they (we) have a nasty habit of not follwing the Chinese Communist Party line. As a result, I got a nasty "you're not permitted to see this" message when I typed in the blog's address.

Also, before I could even get online here in Shanghai, I had to submit my passport, which was dutifully copied and noted by a 17 or 18 year old clerk who couldn't have cared less. Between the passport and the login ID, I'm sure that an investigator could determine exactly what web pages I accessed.So, anyone have any other banned or illicit websites that I can try to access? I'd like to make as much work as possible for the Chinese internal security goons.

Sad thing is, I had just come to the conclusion after 4 days on the ground in China that all of the security stuff wasn't present, and that in booming China, communism and the government was just a speed-bump on the way to riches. But, apparently old habits die hard. (But they surely do eventually die. Right USSR?)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Better view of today's Wall weather....

Great Wall, stinky weather......

Still worth the trip!
Weather was so bad that it was lightly snowing atop the Wall, but
still a great day. (and believe me-with the steepness of the Wall, it
was better to have snow than rain.)
I hired a car & guide for the day ($40 total) and saw the Wall, as
well as the Olympic Stadium (the "Bird's Nest"), and attended a tea
service. The Stadium viewing was scary - to see it, our driver stopped
in the breakdown lane of the highway, and invited me to get out to see
Next stop: Shanghai (I'm writing from the overnight train right now.)
can't wait for warmer climes.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tonight's dinner: Hunan tofu and donkey!

I met up with friend, former colleague, and Beijing resident Le Sun
tonight to see his biotech company and have dinner.
He took me out to eat at a fine Hunan restaurant. (hunan is a
particularly spicy regional Chinese cuisine.) He gave me every chance
to steer the food order, but I basically said "surprise me." I was
happy when he didn't order the seaturtle, but that lasted only as long
as it took Le to say that he'd ordered donkey, along with a dish of
spiced Hunan tofu. Yes, donkey and tofu.
Both dishes were fantastic, and I'd order them again. Donkey tastes
like beef, so much so that I left wondering how much donkey I'd been
served without my knowing. (though I couldn't blame McDonalds if they
did, as the Big Mac jingle loses something "2 all-donkey parties......"
Can't wait to see what tomorrow holds......

On my way to heaven, apparently

Still in Beijing, I'm here before the Temple of Heaven, a huge complex
formerly used by the Emperor twice a year to pray for bumper crops,
and celebrate the winter solstice. While the Temple buildings are
neat, the real feature is the 360 degree view of the Beijing skyline.
Enough sightseeing for now - time to get a $10 Rolex at the Hong Qiao
market, where everybody knows enough English to say "Mister, you want

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ironic gift in Tian'an Men Square

Saw this in the gift shop @ Tian 'an Men square, home of Mao's mausoleum, and where pro-democracy protests occurred 20 years ago, before being crushed by the army..
It's a Philadelphia 76'ers hat. In case you didn't know, the 76ers basketball team is named in honor of the events of 1776.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Greetings from Beijing!

Hard to believe given present post-comunism realities, but Mao still
looms large over Beijing. (Not as large as LeBron James or Colonel
Sanders, who are EVERYWHERE, but that's another story.)
The Police loom large too - you can't turn a corner without seeing
one. Ironically, though repressive, the security services are still
customer-oriented, as my customs officer asked me to rate their
customer service on a scale of 1-4. US customs, take notice, or we'll
outsource your job to China!

Korean food

In one word: NUCLEAR!

Other words: tasty, plentiful, and underrated.
The Koreans have a unique approach to food. It's a very social activity- Koreans rarely eat alone and most dishes cater to this.

Most dishes, including breakfast, feature kim-chi, or pickled cabbage. It is the national dish, and incendiary, but tasty.

Kim-chi is usually served in an ashtray-sized dish, along with 4 or 5 other similar sized accompaniments, as in this photo.

The picture is the midway point of last night's BBQ dinner. In Korea, the BBQ takes place at your table(note the wire mesh over hot embers in the picture. The metal tube is an air fan that extends down from the ceiling to keep the air clean.)

The meat course is cooked by your server  in front of you while you work on the sides. You can see 7 sides in this picture. 5 more arrived soon after. I could identify 4 or 5 of these including kim-chi,, and sampled them all. Some were good, others too intense (the pickled garlic) or downright evil ( the green hockey pucks).

All told the t

Phone: 434-227-0718

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hello from North Korea!

Back in Seoul now, but today I went to the DMZ and the village of Pan
Mun Jom. The highlight was the visit to the DMZ, which was surreal. No
shooting today, thankfully, so i got to step into North Korea,
temporarily. (that's North Korea in the background, btw.)
In other Korea news, I'm a millionaire! With $1=900 Korean won, my
account balance was listed on my ATM receipt in the millions! (for the
math challenged, slightly more than $1100 makes you a millionaire in
Korean won.)
I've got about 48 hrs left in Korea, and I can't wait to see Seoul and
enjoy my millionaire status!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Taking off!

I'm happily at the gate here @ Dulles. Besides the facts that I just
missed the chance to upgrade to Business class, and the feature movie
is "hairspray," I'm excited to begin my trip to Asia. First stop, in
about 18 hours: Seoul, Korea!
(via Tokyo. Ugh-pass the Ambien!)

Beginning of 2 weeks of once-in-a-lifetime fun

Last night's Police concert in C'ville, from my 12th row seat. My
friend Chris said it best: one of the best concerts ever. The Police
have still got it!

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
Click to go to my online photography

World sun clock

Uncommon Man's Creed

"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous