Ended up doing a bunch of nothing on Sunday. Wandered around a shopping area, napped, took a couple of pix and read a bunch. Started working yesterday and once again was reminded how different China is and how much I don’t understand it.
We’re here this trip to collect information so that we can write up documentation about the security (physical & IT) at a couple of vendor locations and at the large corporate enterprise where work that has several buildings here. Then I come back in a month with an evaluator and we do an audit where they check to see that the documentation is accurate & that the sites are indeed secure.
Yesterday we went to one of the vendor locations and they explained that their company is a joint venture between the Shanghai government and the large corporate enterprise that I work for. And they hope to go public in a few years. First of all, how smart is it to hire yourself as a vendor? Actually, my large corporate enterprise only owns 20something percent, but still… And secondarily, the government owns the majority of the company, but it is going public? Makes my head explode.
Work went well – they’re in great shape. They took us to this very large restaurant for lunch where we were seated in a private dining room. And then the feast started. And enormous amount of food arrived (placed on a lazy susan or the Chinese equivalent) and we all started talking. They were quite open about the “one child” law in China. It seems that if a couple’s parents were both single children, then you are allowed to have two children. Otherwise, you can only have one. They said that it was very expensive to raise children in Beijing so that only having one made it easier. But they seemed comfortable talking about it, which was different from my last experience here, when the girl I talked to about it seemed defensive.
We talked about housing prices (very expensive in Beijing – $400,000US won’t get you an apartment) and how you can only live somewhere for 50 years and then the government takes the place back. I hope I was misunderstanding that because it seems like if you are a young couple and get a place it gets yanked from you when you’re elderly.
Food was mostly “interesting” at lunch, but in general I’m doing better foodwise. Yesterday I had chicken noodle soup with shrimp wontons (not fried) and that was very yummy. Last night, I had dinner at a Szechuan restaurant with the Australian guys I’m working with and that was tasty too.
We walked around the night market last night and that’s always an adventure. It’s packed with food vendors selling lots of odd stuff on sticks (including live scorpions, starfish, pipefish and insects) and lots of people selling lots of crap you have to bargain with. People kept grabbing me and pulling me to them which is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds.
It is however, very authentic and very interesting. I shot a few pix and I’ll post them shortly.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|South Park Death Threats|
I arrived in Beijing on Friday afternoon. Flight from Vancouver was a little less than 11 hours (which for some reason, didn’t sound so bad – all those 13 hour trips from LA to London really changed my perspective). I slept a lot on the flight – not in one long nap, but in three.
I was last here in 2007, when they were still preparing for the 2008 Olympics. The airport is finished now & it’s new & shiny. One new thing was these cameras that measured your temperature when you walked by them. I guess it’s cause of swine flu or flu in general. They have one at the entrance to my hotel as well.
One different thing from my last visit – I saw blue sky! Last time the smog was so bad, the sky was grey the whole time I was there. Seriously – not grey from clouds – grey from smog.
Got to the hotel around 4pm, settled in, wandered the mall downstairs (I drank a chai tea while looking at a Diesel store in communist China – that just seems wrong), bought some carrots, apples & water, took some pix & went back to my room & ordered room service. I thought I’d try Chinese food since, you know, Beijing. Since I eat chicken now, I ordered chicken with cashews (which I never eat at home, but figured that would be safe). Not. First of all, if that’s the kind of chicken I’m getting in the nice western style hotel, I’m totally afraid of chicken I’m going to get anywhere else (not lovely white meat, shall we say). I didn’t even like the rice. This does not bode well.
Let my eyes wander over work email (didn’t reply cause I was too tired), read blogs and my book & went to sleep around 8:30. Slept horribly – dreamt about someone trying to get into my room & other weird dreams. Got up around 6am, futzed around reading the interwebs, got caught up on work emails, showered, had breakfast (decent scrambled eggs – not actually good, but palatable), read my book some more and went back to sleep around 10am.
Traveling is glamorous!
Woke up around 1, got it together & walked a lot. Almost 4 hours worth of walking actually, which is a lot lot for me. Walked past Tienanmen Square – didn’t bother to go over there since I didn’t want to shoot more pix of it. I wandered down some tiny alleys & took some pix that I think are going to be good of people, itsy bitsy shops, weird food, etc.
Vendors are kinda aggressive but mostly I just smile and keep walking. Except for one woman who said “ you’re so sweet” & I almost stopped cause obviously she knew me. Oh, also, I wanted to take a picture of an I heart BJ tshirt but the vendor kept holding a silk dress up in front of my camera. Heh.
I ended up walking home on a side street because I didn’t want to go on the main street again cause it’s boring. There were hardly any cars or people and two guys started walking in front of me & I got a little nervous. Then I saw we were walking by the Police Museum. Then we walked by some official building that was lousy with cops. I have no idea where I was but it was obviously the safest street in Beijing.
Decided to give up on Chinese food and go to the Italian restaurant in the hotel for dinner, but they said it was too booked with reservations (I think they were lying and I wasn’t dressed nice enough. We’ll see about that…). I went to the café & ordered rigatone with spinach & mozzarella & got undercooked pasta with white sauce & tiny green bits of something. This does not bode well for my future eating encounters this trip. Oh well.
Fell asleep at 8:30 last night & slept until 7am this morning. It’s supposed to be rainy today, which means lazing around the hotel reading a book and then going to a museum. Hopefully I’ll have all my brain cells back when I start working tomorrow. 15 hour time difference is kinda brutal.
Here are a few pix I shot with my little handheld camera. I have to do the Photoshop thing with the pix I shot with my grownup camera (shot in RAW, which means nothing unless you’re a photo person and is not nearly as naughty as it sounds), so I won’t be posting them until I get home.
I’m pretty sure these are Russian mountains (shot from the plane).
I’m guessing that this is the Bering Sea (shot from the plane).
Ladies making dumplings.
Apparently, they’re not so much familiar with coffee here.
You also have to block the applications Microsoft Docs.com, Pandora and Yelp. Since I am not using any of them, no action required here.Thanks Volker!
-- Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), in an interview on Meet the Press.
I know I should be posting more AmyGeek stuff here but thing have not been all that interesting. Here’s a recap of what’s happening and what I’ve been thinking about lately:
1) I finally wrapped up my old job and start focusing on my new job on Monday. I’ve been doing both for the last three weeks, plus helping ramp up the woman who’s taking over my old gig, which has been kinda exhausting. My new job does not involve managing people, which I think will be a nice break. I really enjoyed it and plan on doing it again in the future, but it’s been so long since I got to use my technical chops. Also, I haven’t been challenged in my current job in a while and that just doesn’t work for me.
Suffice it to say I am very challenged in my new gig. I am responsible for making sure that high profile customers who are moving onto Exchange Online are happy – that everything is in place & coordinated properly for their onboarding/migration experience, that issues they’re experienced are being properly addressed & communicated & that new features are being built into the product to address/prevent issues we’re discovering as more and more people move to having Microsoft host their company/school’s email for them.
There is so much for me to learn – I’ve gotten better at organizing data that I need to learn, but it’s all over the place and everything is a tad disheveled because this is all so new. It’s definitely exciting and frustrating and there’s lots of opportunity because this is all new.
2) I continue to own Common Criteria for Exchange, which is a security evaluation/certification that is required/preferred by more than 60 governments worldwide in order to purchase or deploy it. Part of the CC evaluation requires some travel and we pushed up the schedule in a way that means that I have two upcoming trips to Beijing (for almost 3.5 weeks) between now and early June. I leave for the first one on Thursday. Should be okay – staying at the same hotel I stayed at last time and the work stuff is pretty much lined up. Going to try to see some new sightseeing areas I missed last time since I have two weekends there this trip.
3) Always Tardy Girl (ATG) has been staying with me for the last few weeks. She is still super sick as a result of surgery she had last fall and is still following up with doctors. She’s going to need some additional surgery to fix things and it’s a hassle + she’s just miserably sick. It’s been really nice having her around but it’s hard cause she’s feeling so bad. I did clear out some drawers for her & gave her a toothbrush so that she wouldn’t have to use her travel toothbrush when she’s here. That’s some sort of official relationship marker, right?
4) I have finally piled up my car with a TON of stuff for Goodwill that I’ve been collecting for more than a year. I did this last night so that I would be forced to take care of it today. While I was doing that I got all sorts of motivated to clean up & organize the garage. Whenever I do something like that, it makes me feel good (the organizing – donating to Goodwill is good of course but mostly I’m happy because it removes clutter). Yes, I’m neurotic. I try to make it work for me.
ATG is going to stay at the house and take care of Gusthedog while I’m in China. That means that he’s going to be eating lots of people food. He’s totally in love with her – the people food diet definitely is the way to his heart.
That’s it folks – lots happening, but it’s not particularly interesting. I will be taking pix & will do my best to blog from China. They block google & blogger, but I am pretty confident that I will be able to circumvent the blocks & post, but no promises. (but I’m very confident.)
Despite how antiquated some of our tax laws seem to be, the IRS itself has truly embraced the internet and provided a great tool for you to check the status of your refund. You can use this tool to track your return 72 hours after you've e-filed (which is a good reason to e-file!) or three to four weeks if you filed a paper return. Unfortunately, if you amended your return, you will not be able to use this system.
It's very easy to check the status of your tax refund online, collect these three pieces of information:
- Your social security number (if filed jointly, either social security number will work)
- Your filing status
- Your refund amount, to the whole dollar amount
Even if you don't care when your refund will arrive, check anyway because this is one of the few times you will be able to get an answer from a government agency in under 5 hours of waiting.
Didn't know he could, extremely pleased he did:
President Obama mandated Thursday that hospitals extend visitation rights to the partners of gay men and lesbians and allow same-sex couples to share medical power of attorney, perhaps the most significant step so far in his efforts to expand the rights of gay Americans. The president directed the Department of Health and Human Services to prohibit discrimination in hospital visitation in a memo that was e-mailed to reporters Thursday night while he was at a fundraiser in Miami.
Administration officials and gay activists, who have been quietly working together on the issue, said the new rule will affect any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding, a move that covers the vast majority of the nation's health-care institutions. It is currently common policy in many hospitals that only those related by blood or marriage be allowed to visit patients.... Obama said hospitals should not be able to deny visitation privileges on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
"Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay," Obama wrote in the memo. Affected, he said, are "gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives—unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated."
Something like this will probably happen again—bigots are hateful, obstinate, and stupid—but hopefully this move by the president means there will be consequences if and when it does. And I don't know if the White House did it on purpose, but the president is in Miami tonight and it was a hospital in Miami that barred Lisa Pond's partner of 18 years, Janice Langbehn, from her bedside as Pond lay dying from a brain aneurysm in 2007. Langbehn's lawsuit was tossed out and the hospital—which has since revised its visitation policies without admitting any wrongdoing—was never punished. Now it would be.
This is a very, very positive development.
UPDATE: These details weren't in the Washington Post story when it first went up, and when I first linked to it:
Officials said Obama had been moved by the story of a lesbian couple in Florida, Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond, who were kept apart when Pond collapsed of a cerebral aneurysm in February 2007, dying hours later at a hospital without her partner and children by her side.
Obama called Langbehn on Thursday evening from Air Force One as he flew to Miami, White House officials said. In an interview, Langbehn praised the president for his actions.
'I kept saying it's not a gay right to hold someone's hand when they die, its a human right,' she said, noting that she and Pond had been partners for almost 18 years. 'Now to have the president call up and say he agrees with me, it's pretty amazing, and very humbling.'
Harry Potter billionaire J.K. Rowling on why she chooses to continue living in Britain even though she could reduce her tax bill considerably by residing elsewhere:
I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s.
....A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism.
Snagged this from Mashable.com:
During last night’s episode of Glee, Fox aired a special music video of Sue Sylvester singing “Vogue.” The show, which returned to television after being on hiatus.
For comparison sake, here’s the original video from 1990, directed by none other than David Fincher:
The Glee producers should be proud. They really did a lot of work to ensure that the staging, makeup and art production accurately matched the original video. Next week’s episode of Glee will be dedicated to the Material Girl herself, so if you’re a Madonna fan — and really, who isn’t? — be sure to tune in.
For our international readers, we’ll try to locate some non-Hulu links. If you find any online, let us know in the comments so others can see.
International readers might want to try these links
The gap between the top 1% and everyone else hasn't been this bad since the Roaring Twenties
This chart shows average income of the top 1% as a multiple of average income of the bottom 90%.
Bigger chart @ The Nation
Half of America has 2.5% of the wealth
Source: Institute for Policy Studies
Half of America has 0.5% of the stocks and bonds
Source: Institute for Policy Studies
Look at the gap grow!
Source: Professor G. William Domhoff
The last two decades were great... except for American workers
Real average earnings have not increased in 50 years
But savings rates are sinking
Poor Americans have a SLIM CHANCE of rising to the upper middle class
Republican tax cuts have significantly increased the gap
Income tax is getting lower and lower for the rich
America spreads the wealth FAR LESS than other developed countries
America's income spread is nearly twice the OECD average
The gap is NOT growing in other countries, like France
Inequality is worst around Wall Street and Oil Land
If you aren't in the top 1%, then you're getting a bum deal
Normalized to 1979, the top 1% have seen their share of America's income more than double. The bottom 90% have seen their portion shrink.
Warning: girls kissing. If your workplace can’t handle it, wait till you get home to watch it. But you should totally watch it and then go make out with someone you love. Or someone nearby.
Even if you don’t like kissing girls, this is seriously hot right?
Thank you to Volker who knew I would like this. (yeah, that was a stretch). What a great way to create a viral video.
I would like to officially state that this is way hotter than porn. I’m feeling a little oogly now. Must go wake up the tardy girl who is sleeping in my bed.
The idea of Palin/Bachmann 2012 is ridiculous. Right?
The thing is, are there really enough people who would buy into their craziness? If there are, the US is in horrible shape.
Also, would the racist/sexist crowd vote for 2 chicks? You know, cause their cycles will sync up and the next thing you know, we’ll be bombing Mexico (or maybe they like the idea of that).
While Photoshop is an endlessly useful photo-editing program, when left in the hands of an unskilled designer, careless flaws and mistakes sneak into printed copy. Here are fifty-two of the worst Photoshop mistakes found in magazines.
Case in point:
See all the curious images at Hongkiat.
More on Photoshop.
1. Inserted new memory in old desktop at home. Smoke ensues.
2. Decided to completely rebuild old desktop at home since it is all nutty as a result of incident #1. Ordered new motherboard, memory, etc etc etc. Friend installed & configured, I installed & configured OS & software. On day 3 while surfing the interwebs, machine freezes. I shut down, restart and see sparks flying from motherboard. We replaced the motherboard and so far so good.
3. My laptop at work keeps blue screening for the last few weeks. (seriously?) After lots of time troubleshooting various beta software I’m running, I replace the hard drive, install Win7 & am in the process of installing Office 2010 and sure enough – blue screen. I replaced the hard drive & installed new memory. Now I’m waiting to see if it blue screens again, in which case I’m demanding new hardware.
What is happening to me? Am I allergic to the 21st century or something?
Watch the Admiral try not to smile when this Congressman suggests that the island of Guam might tip over the military puts too many people on the island.
Apparently Hank Johnson has never heard of the island of Manhattan, which has a lot of people on it. And buildings and other things too.
These are the people running our country.
He’s from Georgia. I’m guessing they don’t have schools there. That’s the only reasonable explanation.
Sarah Palin has long sold herself as a fiscal conservative, arguing against the Democrats' health overhaul on the grounds that the nation simply can't afford it.
But when the former vice presidential candidate resigned as governor of Alaska in the summer of 2009, she left the state with a 70 percent debt-to-GDP ratio -- the highest state debt burden in the United States. That's according to data compiled by the Washington Independent's Megan Carpentier, who notes that Alaska has a debt burden similar to "that of Jordan and Palin's favorite health care resource, Canada, and a higher ratio than Ghana, Cote dâ'Ivoire, India, the Philippines or Uruguay."
By comparison, crisis-stricken California has a debt ratio of less than 40 percent. All the more confounding about Alaska's debt is the fact that it is an oil-producing region with a small population to share in that wealth. Oil-rich Alberta, Canada, for example, collects no sales tax and still managed to retire its debt entirely in 2004.