Saturday, December 31, 2005


DRTO, better known to all and sundry as the Dry Tortugas.

Well... Yes, I have been remiss.
I’ve been here several days and no posts.

Hopefully this will give you an idea what’s been going on.

Arrived here on the 27th of December. Heard there was a boatload of Cuban migrants on Christmas Day, so I guess the variable winter weather really hasn’t stemmed the influx.

The place was hit hard this season...

Compared to this shot from June...

All the trees have pretty much been stripped of every bit of leaf and twig, and most of the palms are dead or dying.

The morning of the 30th was pretty cool.
I’ve never seen ground fog in the parade ground before.

I also shot a couple photos of sunrise over Long Key.

A pair of our campers came over and asked if Bush Key and Long Key were closed to visitors; I told them that the islands were closed and they said that was odd, because there was a number of people walking around on the far side of Long Key.
Either I have a bunch of intrepid explorers from the campground or a sailboat, or we have a chug on Long Key.
I rousted the Rangers and we spend the morning dealing with the 15 Cubans who had arrived. Eventually we took them to Loggerhead Key to await pickup by the Coast Guard later last night.
We spent the rest of the day dealing with the chug- getting if off Long Key and taken back to the Chugpile.

This morning, at about 3:00 am, we had 13 more arrive on Loggerhead Key. Too bad the Coast Guard couldn’t have waited a little longer, they could picked them all up at once.

Other than that, things have been pretty sedate here… The campground has been full almost every night, and tonight is no exception... More than full tonight… We have all 8 sites full, plus 2 tents in the group site, and 2 in the overflow site.

Things will calm down in the next day or so, once the holiday is over...

More later

TBG out-

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Who is Ned?

What? You don't know Ned?

I have received several e-mails inquiring as to the identity of the person referred to as Ned in various locations in the 'blog...

Daryl Carson- our fearless leader and project manager for the Olympics project is commonly referred to as Ned... As in Flanders... From the Simpsons.
(Getting this yet?)

Why? you ask...
Excellent question.

There is a rumor going around that Daryl and Ned are twins that were separated at birth in a freak accident at the hospital where they were born...

Need further proof?
No problem.

As Ned would say... "Well, if that don't put the 'dink' in 'coinkidink!'"

DNA tests are pending.

TBG Out-

Saturday, December 24, 2005

In review...

Greeetings, Constant Readers.

I have just been reviewing the last couple months of bloggage and I have come to the following realization...

There is an EXTREMELY fine line between eccentricity and complete madness.

And sometimes is is really easy to see which side of the line one resides on...

TBG out-

Merry Christmas...

...Not "Happy Holidays" or some other watered-down PC horse shit.
I hope y'all have a wonderful Christmas with friends and family...

Just in case you haven't seen it, this is my favorite
version of "Carol of the Bells".

Getting down to the wire here...
I head to the Tortugas on Monday.
(Well... Key Weird on Monday, DRTO on Tuesday AM.)

TBG Out-

Friday, December 23, 2005

Blondes in Italy

It has been said,
"In Italy, if a girl is blonde, she can have a face like a truck."

Based on in-depth evaluation, personal interviews, and tireless research in varied venues, TBG Regional Research, LLC, is proud to present the following scientific results:

This is the ugliest girl in Italy.

Travel packages and tickets to the 2006 Winter Olympics are still available...

TBG Out-

Inside Humor

I'm not going to mention any names here, but I have kept silent
(on this subject anyway) long enough.

What happens when you mix more than one entire bottle of wine (La Lepre - The Fuzzy Leper), white truffles with cheese and beef, and a former resident of the former Soviet Union?

We could make a movie or a TV show of it...
"The Night of the Truffles"... or maybe "The Troubles with Truffles", or more accurately perhaps "The Return of the Truffles".

Whatever you want to call it, it is still bad form to blow chunks all over someone's car (inside and out) and not (at the absolute least) clean it up. No one riding in that car wanted to see the wine and truffles a second time that evening... Especially when someone else has to drive that car around for several more days.

What is that old saying?

What goes around, comes around.

TBG Out-
(And plotting retribution.)

Biggest Improvement: Athens 2004 to Torino 2006


The biggest improvement in the Games from Athens to Torino...

It's not the scoring technology, its not the food...
Nor the fact that we don't need air conditioners blasting away 24/7...

It is the fact that you can flush toilet paper.

(For a recap of Athens, click here.)

TBG out-

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Fun on the Menu / Signs of the Apocalypse

Rejoyce, I have yet again returned to the land of the living, bearing stories and pictures from foreign restaurant menus...

I took off for a couple days and the Traveling Companion and I hit the streets of Venice to have a little look around.

First impression: Hey- they have to do something about handling the storm runoff- the streets were full of water!
We were able to deal with it, but Hertz is gonna be pissed because parking the rental car on the curb at the hotel was a bit of a problem...

Let's step back a bit and talk about some goofy stuff.

Traveling Companion and Yours Truly went up to the Lake Como region (to Como and Torno) and nosed about on Saturday... Very nice place- a tad windy while we were wandering the streets, but overall very cool little towns. I'll bet summertime there is wonderful.

Como, facing back on the road from Torno.

As we wandered the streets TC & YT found a little street market where the TC picked up a hat, which would prove necessary for survival later in the week...
There was the requisite shopping for, and the eventual bargaing for said hat... a story in itself. Interesting in comparison to Shanghai...Nobody pawing at you every ten seconds trying to sell you DVDs and Rolexes...
As that purchase progressed, I was drawn to a capsule station in the market...
You are familiar with the gumball vending machine, but in Europe and Asia, you would be amazed at the stuff you find in these things.

This thing was amazing for two reasons...
First, it was selling thong panties for 2 Euros a pop, second, the actual name on the machine (Big Balls) was, well, overdescriptive for the machine, but perhaps more indicative of the user...

Oh well... Onward.

TC and YT were off after a short jaunt around the lake- we headed toward Verona...

I like traveling in Italy on the Autostrada...
I'm doing 160kph and people are still passing me like I'm not pedaling fast enough.

Some distance (I'm not exactly sure- I don't have a real grasp using Kilometers for distance... We were either 90 miles or 90 feet away) from Verona we ran into a smog bank. We were in a farming area and the smell was horrible- Since "smog" is by definition a mixture of smoke and fog, I was tempted to refer to this colloidal suspension as "smit", due to the mix of smoke and airborne animal feces...
We decided to continue until we were able to breathe outside air without the aid of self-contained breathing apparatus.
We eventually arrived in Vicenza- a cool little town an hour or so from Venice.
After wandering around the town for an hour or so we had a nice dinner and found a hotel... We made plans to visit some of the tourist attractions then next day and hit the sack.

We visited the Olympic Theater the next day- a place designed by Andrea Palladio- pretty much everything in Vicenza was designed and built by Palladio- from all the buildings and street layouts to the recipes for cappucino and tiramisu, if you want to believe the locals.
Read a little about the Teatro Olimpico here...

We finally departed Vicenza- a bit reluctantly, but we wanted to get to Venice before high tide... and in short order we were stashing the car at Tronchetto and hopped a water taxi to St Marks Square.
Our hotel was about a block west from San Marco- the perfect distance and direction from San Marco- Quiet and out of the way, but still close enough to be able to get around quickly.
Quickly was important because it was cold! I mean, make-sure-you-bring-the-Brass-Monkey-in-from-the-back-porch cold...
TC was fortunate in acquiring the hat in Como...Frostbite on the top of your head is nothing to sneer at.
(YT's cranium is protected by a veneer of thin blonde hair and sunglasses, both worn 24/7...)

While YT was in Turin and while in Venice, I had the occasion to see new and interesting items for the Fun on the Menu series...

Here are some of them:

A LARD pizza? I guess that's why it's white...

3.5 Euros for Baby... Has to be some kinda law against that...

Tarts...Hmmm... Pimping out his daughters?

Boned steak... I really don't want to know what is going on back in the kitchen...

Why do you need a Rocket to go along with this steak?

And even though I got to see this dish, I still don't know why it is "Telephone style".

I asked if this was like the Smock in Turin, but the waiter didn't understand.

I thought this was just truth-in-advertising; they spit in everything here...

And if you have to ask what kind of cream it is...'s Man Cream.

Hey- In Torino-
I found a store where you can get your own Hooters waitress...
Bimbo World!

One last one... A sign from San Marco...

Pretty much says it all...

"Yo! Ugly American! Keep your clothes on!"

I hear this all the time.

More later...

TBG out-

Wednesday, December 14, 2005



Frequently Given Answers - Torino edition.

1. Trust me.
2. The developers haven't finished writing that part of the software yet.
3. No.
4. NO!
5. 193 Centimeters. 195 when I get angry.
6. No, I don't have a perscription.
7. I'm so poor I should be asking you for money.
8. I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.
9. I have a low tolerance for stupidity in others. Don't get on my bad side.
10. Forty-Two, maybe fifty.
11. I was out of the country when that happened. Couldn't have been me.
12. But if I tie it looser, that'll defeat the purpose.
13. I'm not authorized to release that information.
14. If the Clorox doesn't get it, try a mixture of lemon juice and muriatic acid.
15. Define "work".
16. You'll break your mother's heart.
17. I got it done when I was in at Parris Island.
18. When hell freezes over.
19. Because the world would be a lot better off it things were done my way all the time.
20. I mailed it yesterday. It should be there by the end of the week.
21. I ran out of money/time/patience/handcuffs.
22. No, honestly. I can't taste the freezer burn.
23. Why don't you give me YOUR wallet instead.
24. It will be ok, I promise. I saw this in a cartoon.

TBG Out-

Fun with names.

This is only funny is you work with player or competitor names and rosters, and have had the pleasure of dealing with Asian names.

You probably already know this, but in Asian names the family name is first, then the given name.

Example: One of the venue tech guys for Snowboarding has a family name of Wan, and his given name is Wei.
So his full name is "Wan Wei" (Pronounced, I'm not kidding, "One Way"...) and we call him "Wei". Got it?

So... As happens quite often, when programmers write software to parse and display names, they overlook the possibility of Asian names being mixed in with Western names. For a long time the displays for the Houston Rockets showed Ming Yao rather than Yao Ming...

A tech support call comes in from one of the venues.
"Hey Ned, all the Asian names are coming out backwards."
Meaning, instead of being the correct order, our man Wei's name would be appearing as "Wei, Wan".
Having seen this many many times, it is an easy fix.
Unless Ned is taking your call... In which case he wants to have a little fun at someone else's discomfort.
(As I have said many times, Finding humor in someone else's trouble or embarrasment is the basis of all comedy.)
"What?! The names are backwards?" Ned asks.
"Yeah, backwards." says the caller.
"Hmmm... I want to be sure I understand what you mean. You are not being very precise."
"What do you mean, I'm not precise. The names are backwards."
"Do you mean the name 'Wang' is displaying as 'Gnaw'? Becuase that is backwards. Or do you mean the names are displayed in the wrong order? Because that is a completely different problem."
Ned excels at making the callers unsure of themselves.
"Uh... Yeah." comes the reply. "Is there someone else there I can talk to?"

Ned can be a real Funny Guy sometimes...

GTB Out-

From our "Lessons Learned" department:

After the Postage Stamp Incident, you would think that we would have our collective act together and be aware of what kind of vending machines we are patronizing.

To wit: The Parking Validation Machine.

To use this device, one parks in an appropriate location, goes to the machine and purchases a ticket for whatever length of time he wants to park his car. The ticket is then placed on the dashboard of the car and then the parking fascists know to bypass said auto voiture and move along to the next victim of poor timing.

However, in this case, Ned, our fearless leader parked his machine at the curb, ambled over to the nearest machine and stuffed in a few Euros.

Moments later 3 condoms and a bottle of Astroglide popped out the slot of the machine.

Ned didn't think twice about it; he threw the condoms on the dash of the car and headed into the hotel.
"Hey, the label said they offered full protection."
The parking carabineri must have agreed. No ticket on the car in the morning. I guess they figured it was good that he was practicing safe parking.
I took the bottle of Astroglide. It's a super-powerful lubricant.
I applied a liberal coating all over my rental car... I can now easily park my Renault in a space even a motorcycle couldn't squeeze into.

TBG Out-

Overheard conversations.

If you were an innocent bystander wandering into the bar in the lobby of the Turin Palace this evening about 11:00pm this is the conversation you might have heard:

(Female voice):"...and they also said I should see the smock they have here on display in Turin."
(Long silence)
(Male voice 1): "The Smock?"
(FV): "Yeah, some old religous relic of some sort."
(Male voice 2): "The Smock of Turin? Hmmm... I did see The Apron... And there was the Glove of Turin over at the train station."
(MV 1): "Oh yeah, the Smock of Turin. I hear it is ever so much nicer than the Red Socks of Boston or the Vail of Colorado."

At this point, you should leave the area immediately... Whatever they are suffering from might be contagious.

TBG out-

Italy, Continued...

So, a big shout out to all my peeps who chimed in with ways
to use my 35000 Italian postage stamps...

Especially the witty suggestion about mailing myself back home.

My reply, with all due respect: Bite me.

On to current events...

For those of you who think this is such a wonderful gig...
This is the scenic venue where we have been doing our testing.

Beauty, eh?

TBG out-

Monday, December 12, 2005

Italian holiday

On the road again: Yadda yadda yadda, pain-in-the-ass plane ride.
(Good news- Exit row. Bad news- right next to the bathroom. Enough said.)

Malpensa airport: Blah blah blah, Italian airports, Italian baggage claim, Italian highways, Italian Italians.

In Turin: yack yack yack, old hotel, crappy cable system, no parking.

Hmmm... Anything else? Oh yeah....

I need some Euros, and I try to find an ATM here close to the hotel.
I find one right down the street from the entrance to the hotel.
I stuck my card in ands waited for the prompts- I missed hitting
the "English" button, no big deal, I thought, I can puzzle through
the menus in Italian... (Not like the ATMs in China...)
So I cruise through the menus, 350 Euros...
No Problems...whirr-buzz-click.
Did you know that there are lots of things you do with an ATM over here?
Listen to Uncle Jay... Make sure you hit the "English"
button before starting your transaction...

So... Does anyone need 350 Euros worth of stamps?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A guy walks into a bar...

...A man walked into a bar and sat down next to a man with a dog at his feet.
"Does your dog bite?" he asked.
"No." he replied.
A few minutes later the dog took a huge chunk out of the man's leg.
"I thought you said your dog doesn't bite!" he said indignantly.
The other guy replied, "That's not my dog."

...This mushroom walks into a bar and starts hitting on this woman... She, of course, turns him down. Not willing, to give up, he pleads with her...
"C'mon lady, I'm a fun guy..."

...This horse walks into a bar.
The bartender says "Hey, buddy, why the long face...

...These two strings walk upto a bar.
The first string walks in and orders and the bartender throws him out and yells "I don't serve strings in this bar...
The other string ruffs himself up on the street and curls up and orders...
The bartender shouts, Hey, didn't you hear what I told your buddy?"
String says "Yeah."
Bartender says, "aren't you a string?"
String says, "No, I'm a frayed knot..."

...This grasshopper walks into a bar.
The bartender says "Hey! We have a drink named after you!"
The grasshopper replies "Really? You have a drink named Steve?!"

...This baby seal walks into a bar.
The bartender asks, "What'll ya have...?"
The seal says, "Anything but a Canadian Club...

...This skeleton walks into a bar and says, "I'd like a beer and a mop..."

...A neutron walks into a bar.
"I'd like a beer" he says.
The bartender promptly serves up a beer.
"How much will that be?" asks the neutron.
"For you?" replies the bartender, "no charge"

...A three legged dog walks into a bar and says,
"I'm looking for the man who shot my paw..."

...A hamburger walks into a bar.
The bartenders says, "I'm sorry, but we don't serve food here..."

...A termite walks into a bar and says, "Is the bar tender here?"

...A snake slithers into a bar and the bartender says,
"I'm sorry but I can't serve you."
"Why not?" asks the snake.
The bartender says, "Because you can't hold your liquor..."

...A guy walks into a bar with a set of jumper cables.
The bartender says "Hey man, don't you start anything in here..."

...A guy walks into a bar. "OUCH!" he said...

...Two peanuts walked into a bar, and one was a-salted...

...Two vampires walked into a bar and called for the bartender.
"I'll have a glass of blood," said one.
"I'll have a glass of plasma", said the other.
"Okay," replied the bartender, "that'll be one blood and one blood lite..."

...Two hydrogen atoms walk into a bar.
One says, "I think I've lost an electron."
The other says "Are you sure?"
The first says, "Yes, I'm positive..."

...Two cartons of yogurt walk into a bar.
The bartender, a tub of cottage chesse, says to them, "We don't serve your kind in here."
One of the yogurt cartons says back to him, "Why not? We're cultured individuals."

...a man walked into a bar, sat down, and ordered a beer.
As he sipped the beer, he heard a soothing voice say "nice tie!"
Looking around he noticed that the bar was empty except for himself and the bartender at the end of the bar. A few sips later the voice said "beautiful shirt."
At this, the man called the bartender over,"Hey...i must be losing my mind," he told the bartender. "I keep hearing these voices saying nice things, and there's not a soul in here other than us."
"It's the peanuts" answered the bartender.
"Say what?"
"You heard me" said the barkeep."it's the peanuts... they're complimentary."

...A group of chess enthusiasts and were standing around in the entrance of a bar discussing their recent tournament victories.
About an hour later the bartender comes out from behind the bar and asked them to disperse.
"But why?", they asked as they moved along.
"Because," said the barkeep, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."

...It was a doctor's regular habit to stop off at a bar for a hazelnut daiquiri on his way home and, aware of his habit, the bartender would always have the drink waiting for him at precisely 5:18 PM.
One afternoon as the end of the work-day neared the bartender was dismayed to find he was out of hazelnut extract but, thinking quickly, he threw together a daiquiri made with hickory nuts and set it on the bar.
The doctor came in at his regular time, took one sip of the drink, then exclaimed: "This isn't a hazelnut daiquiri", to which the bartender replied, "No, I'm sorry, it's a hickory daiquiri, doc."

And my personal favorite:

...Rene Descartes walks into a bar.
The bartender asks "Would you like a beer?"
Descartes replies "I think not" and POOF! he vanishes...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dry Tortugas Pics...

Ah, welcome Constant Readers.
You are in luck today!

The fair Leanne Maher from Key West has contributed a fine new pic from Garden Key.
Only a few days ago this photo was alive and singing on the edge of the moat at Fort Jefferson, and now it has been captured, skinned and mounted for your viewing pleasure here at Listen 2 Uncle Jay...

Bush Key/Garden Key Landbridge - June 2005

Same spot, Thanksgiving Weekend.

(For you plebians who don't know the fair Leanne, she is a woman of style and generosity, whose good nature and kind heart has kept me from starving [or worse] on many a long day in the Tortugas. She was one of the kind folks on the Yankee Freedom II out of Key West, one of the ferries to Ft. Jefferson. [Her SO, Buddy is still on-staff with the YFII.] Often she had turned a blind eye to my pilfering from her table of goodies and coolers of cold beverages when she would supervise luncheon for the unwashed masses down at DRTO... Good times, good times.)

Thanks Annie, you're the best!

TBG out.

Republicans & Democrats

(Stolen from Neal Boortz)


That ought to pretty much cover politics...

TBG out-

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Hurricane season 2005

One last thing...
(I promise, no more posts today...)

Many people have asked me how things went this year down in the Tortugas with all the hurricanes. It seems like every time I turned around DRTO was about to get whalloped...

I went out to Intellicast to have a look at the season summary to see what the combined tracks looked like...

Holy Crap!

Look closly...

DRTO was Ground Zero for 5 storms this year....

I just got the OK to head south after TR2* and the holiday, so on Dec 26th I'll be heading for Key West and I'll be on the M/V Ft. Jefferson on the morning of the 27th.
Word around the campfire is that the landbridge between Garden Key and Bush Key is completely gone, there is a new cut through Bush Key and the seaplane beach was eroded back to the original concrete ramp from back in the 40s, I believe...

The Landbridge.

Watch this space for updates and photos.

TBG Out-

*- TR2: NBC's Technical Rehearsal 2 for the 2006 Winter Olympics, in Torino Italy. I'm in Torino & Bardonecchia from 12/10 to 12/21.

Flight Path

If you uh...enjoy...air travel as much as I do, you might get a kick out of this visualization of air traffic...

(You'll need Quicktime to view the graphics...)

See Aaron Koblin's Flight Pattern Visualizations website:

Way too cool.

TBG Out-

From our "Unclear on the Concept" Department....

The Chip.

So... I'm looking at getting into a new Amex card...
My old one is fine, thanks... Just exploring possibilities.
I'm not allowed to go into the office except for extreme emergencies, (Don't ask. It will only confuse) so I'm just killing time.

In any case, I'm looking over the huge pile of offers for new credit cards that regularly fill my mailbox. I need another/new credit card like I need another hole in the head, but I figure it never hurts to look at the propaganda they send out. Must have some redeeming value otherwise thay wouldn't have spent good money sending it to me, eh?
(By the way- do YOU know the difference between and charge card and a credit card? You have 10 seconds: Begin.)

The only thing in the pile with any interest: American Express Blue.
Why? Because the card is translucent...and has a nifty smart chip embedded in it.

Now, the non-geek among you might ask "What is so cool about that? Why is it better than the any other credit card from AmEx?"
Because it has a chip, of course.

"But...What is it for?" you ask, cleverly getting to the crux of the matter...

I asked that question too... At 1-800-528-4800... The AmEx accounts customer service line.

AmEx: AmericanExpresscustomerservicethisisJuliehowcanIhelpyou?
Yours Truly: Hi..Uh. I wanted to ask about the AmEx Blue card.
(Long conversation concerning which of the 5 different Blue cards I wanted to explore the possibilities of using.)

Finally- The Chip.

AmEx: It's a smart chip.

YT: Really... (Fighting the urge to ask "How Smart?")

AmEx: Yes, it's used to protect your on-line transactions.

YT: Really. How's it do that?

AmEx: Uh... Just a sec.

YT: Sure. Take your time.

AmEx: Yes... It's to...uh...provide better security for your on-line transactions.
(Obviously reading from the computer-proffered script on her CSR software.)

YT: How?

AmEx: Excuse me?

YT: How does the smart chip do that?... When I make an on-line purchase, I still type in my account number; I don't have a smart chip reader on my computer. How does it provide more secure on-line transactions?

AmEx:(Long pause.)

YT: Hello?

AmEx: Hmmm. I'm just reading here...The chip is an ID Keeper, a free web tool that stores your favorite URLs, logins, and personal data directly on your Smart Chip so you'll never have to input them again.

YT: Tell me more... (Trying to figure out how I can store info on my card's smart chip.)

AmEx: Oh. (Sounding disappointed)

YT: What's wrong?

AmEx: As of 12/31/2005 the ID Keeper Program will be permanently disabled. If you currently use ID Keeper you can back up your stored data. That's all.

Apparently they haven't figured out how to get data on and off the cards either.

YT: Hello, Citibank? Do you have cards with smart chips on them?

TBG Out.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Frequeuently Asked Questions


Q: How are you?

A: I'm fine thanks

Q: Why's there nothing good on television?

A: Yes, it's odd that isn't it?--

Q: Do you love me?

A: What sort of question is that?

Q: Ice and lemon?

A: Yes please

Q: Can I help you?

A: You really have to help yourself

Q: Is there intelligent life on other planets?

A: No. As a point of fact, there is a question as to the existence of intelliegent life on THIS planet. Read the daily paper from any city over 500,000 population and you'll see what I mean.

Q: Do you want to save changes to this document?

A: File Deleted

Q: What are you looking at?

A: I was hoping to start a fight actually

Q: What'll you have?

A: Unsweet tea.
(An anomaly, actually. Tea, in its pristine form, is NOT sweet, hence it should be identified as just "Tea". HOWEVER, if you live in the Southern US you have to specifically identify what kind of tea you want, sweet or unsweet. Otherwise the waiteress will just HAVE to ask you "Sweet or Unsweeet?" with the implication that you have just wasted both her time and yours by being inexact.)

Q: You want fries with that?

A: Ghod no.

Q: Abort, Retry, Ignore?

A: Showing your age, aren't you? Nobody gets theose old DOS jokes any more.

Q: Aisle or window.

A: Does it really matter? as I will be in a constant state of torture the entire flight anyway.

Q: Will you keep an eye on this for me?

A: Only until the police, drug dogs, and/or bomb squad arrives.

Q: Paper or plastic?

A: Neither actually. I want bags made from an extract of unicorn earwax.

Q: Debit or Credit?

A: Don't you people take cash anymore?

Q: Can I get you anything else?

A: Just the check. Thanks.

TBG Out-

Friday, November 25, 2005

Wrap Up

The last 72 hours has been a blur...

The last day of the event- Sunday.
During the evening Catherine the Transportation Girl had made arrangements for Polly to be picked up for the airport at 6:15. If it had been me, I would have said a dirty word or two about that news. We were ready for a long day- I had come in early (about 9:30) because we had the rehearsal for the closing ceremony. We worked out the plan for some of the technical details needed for the end of the match... Knowing how apprehensive I have been about everything, you know I freaked out I when they told me they wanted to break apart the video wall for part of the presentation... You can rest assured that I didn't kill anyone, and only threw a small tantrum about how dangerous this plan was, etc...

Federed lost in 5 set tie break match- an epic battle with David Nalbandian...
If you want details you need to look here. Far better people than I have written excellent descriptions of the match.

Moments afterward the match point, Liu and the boys from SMG yanked 4 cubes from the wall in one minute and twenty seconds to let the 1st prize convertible Mercedes on to the court, then put the cubes back up and on-line even faster. They did an awesome job.... Me, I'd have been a wreck, trying to micromanage it.

Liu and the Boys- Liu is in the middle next to me.

We broke everything down and a little over an hour we took two heavily-loaded taxis back to the Hotel... Liu and the boys helped us drag our stuff out to the street and negotiate for the trip back to the hotel. They were tbe best.
Polly had to pack to leave in the AM, which left me with the task of carrying the IDS flag into the dark innards of Shanghai to mark our territory as having been challenged and conquered.
Instead of sallying forth and taking the battle down into Tong Ren or Maoming and mixing up among the locals and leaving a stain shaped like an IDS logo on the landscape, I instead decided to start small and hit the bar in the hotel and observe the local wild life...

The token hooker had taken up her customary position at the bar and was wheedling a shady-looking German businessman... From across the bar it looked like it was going pretty good...
I sat and nursed a Bacardi and Coke and watched the TPL & ESPN crowd from across the bar. A lady showed up and sat near me and we bagan talking.
He name was Susan. She was very outgoing and friendly. She had appearently struck up a friendship with the girls in the band that played at the bar, as they came over to see her as she sipped her chardonnay.
After they had left, we started talking. She runs the unofficial Rafael Nadal Website- and she was in town to cover the match for the 'site. Unfortunately, Nadal had to bail on the competition, but understandably so...
(See prevoius post)
In any case- She was with another girl, Neva, who was leaving at 5 in the morning, and as we all sat chatting, Cynthia Lum arrived-
Cynthia is an old acquaintence from many tennis tournaments in the past. She's a world-class photographer, and has a long association with IDS, supplying us with pictures for our records and for our graphics department. I've met her several times during my tenure with the company, and she is always a delight.
Cynthia was moving out of the Mayfair and over to a guesthouse off Ruijin Lu, named, oddly enough Ruijin Hotel. Go figure.
Susan and Neva decided to help Cynthia move to new place, and somehow I got roped into helping.
(How? you ask. And excellent question. That would be because my man Kevin Dominique, the bartender at the Mayfair, mixes a mean Cuba Libre.) Somehow it didn't seem right to send 3 ladies off into the dark streets of Shanghai at 3:30 in the morning with a cab driver of unknown pedigree.
We all (4 of us) jammed into the cab, including all Cynthia's equipment and luggage and trundled off toward Ruijin.
At least we thought we were... Instead we wound up on the expressway toward Hongqiao Airport, then on the A20 South.
I gave the driver the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately, this guy didn't deserve it.
He was running up the fare on the meter... Since I didn't know the actual location of Ruijin Lu, I couldn't do much, but after the third U-turn and being in an area of the city I didn't recognize, the meter hit 50 RMB and the girls revolted and made him stop the car. We all got out and unloaded the luggage, and hailed a new cab. The driver protested, for all the good it did. We didn't understand him and he didn't understand us, but we all knew he'd been screwing us, and we weren't taking it. Cynthia tried to give him 20 RMB, but he didn't take it. Instead he took off...
The new cab took us to Ruijin... Where the first cabbie was waiting for us...
He was trying to get the security guards to get us to pay the full fare, telling them we had cheated him out of his money.
He finally got the idea when we started to ask the front desk clerk to call the police to get things sorted out... He made an obscene gesture at me and then departed. (I hate to tell him, I've gotten the bird from much better people; He didn't impress.)
We got Cynthia settled into her new digs then decided to go make more trouble.

Petty Theft.

(Keep in mind it was now about 4 in the morning...)

Neva had a car coming to take her to the airport at five AM... We all headed up Ruijin to Huaihai Lu and found her a taxi pretty quickly. We decided to try to get a street poster for Susan. The street posters that lined some of the major roads were mounted so that the bottoms were about 7' up, and the tops were at about 12 feet. The were only secured to the mounting poles with bent wire, so getting one off would be easy. So I thought...

The real trick lay in finding the right poster... There were tons of Federer, Safin, Agassi, and Roddick... Even several Corias and Davydenkos... But the Nadals were few and far between. We got the first one very close to the Xiangyang market on Huaihai Lu, and we walked nearly 2 kilometers down Huaihui and up Chengde Lu before we found another that I could reach... Susan and Cynthia stood lookout for the fuzz while I got the bottom loose. I couldn't quite reach the top hanger, so I wound up climbing a sycamore tree to reach the top of the mounting brackets. I finally got the poster loose and returned to Earth... Nothing like climbing trees at 4:30 in the morning, attempting to pilfer signage while trying to avoid going to jail. Reminded me of the Goodwill Games in Brisbane...
What was the old saying?..."There is a fine line between 'Teamwork' and 'Accessory'."
We had two posters and were about to give up and retire on our laurels when I saw one more Rafael hanging nearby... I stood atop the pedestrian fence and in 45 seconds we had a third trophy... Definitely time to retire while still unfettered by handcuffs or cell bars.
We flagged down a taxi and ran Cynthia back home then we headed for the Mayfair... It was about 5:30 in the morning.
I toyed briefly with going down to see Polly off, but the matress was whispering to me...
I slept until 11.


I had some shopping to do.
I had a list of stuff I needed to pick up in the gift market... Interestingly, I got there about 12:30 or so and was not assailed by the hard-sell pitchmen... It was all very low-key this afternoon...
A man would walk up and whisper "rolex? DVD?" while furtivley glancing around. I soon found out why... There were roving police patrols moving through the market looking for counterfeit goods and the DVD pirates.
I finally found the guys I was looking for and they had some of when I needed... We bargained long and hard. We both were mostly happy with the deals, so in the end it was a wash. He didn't get his full price, but I had to settle for what he had in stock.
I also had to "go to the warehouse" offsite from Xiangyang twice to get things... Once was a success, after a 10 minute walk to a tenament-looking building and up a set of doubious-looking stairs we were in a apartment-turned-warehouse... It was full of... uh...Products. Suffice to say, there was a reasonable selection of items and I was able to fill my shopping list.
(Getting it home would be a more interesting task... I only have so much room in my bags... And I'm already 2 bags over the max, and 35 kg over the weight limit. Woe is me.)
Anyway... The second warehouse trip was a little more scary... The man took me out the back of the market and down an alley, then into the ground floor of an apartment building... The ground floor is a communal kitchen for the entire building. and let me tell you, it was a frightening experience.
We then went back outside, then in another door and up a flight of wooden stairs that was so rickety and narrow, it made the previous ones look like the Spanish Steps in Rome. Two floors up we were in this guys apartment... One room, a bed and a closet. That was it. It made the worst guest house I was in back in Crete look like a palace. Hell- the place in the Tortugas is bigger than this 8x8 coffin.
Well... He looked for his stash of goodies and lo & behold it was gone. He freaked out- Jumped on his cell phone and started screaming...
Seems like his brother came over and took the stash of items and was back in the back of the market.
I was never happier in my life than when we emerged from that building...
We headed back to Xiangyang...
If you've ever visited the market that I'm talking about, I'll bet you didn't know it is also a farmers market and a buchery, too... There is a complete fresh produce market in the back, along with a meat market where you can get anything that walks on 4 legs, and maybe some things that walk on two...
But in the very far back of all this hullabaloo, there are some 5x5 storage rooms that I was dragged to, and as we walked through this warren, I saw some of the roll-up steel doors open a foot or so, and many people standing inside them...
Appearently it was still business as usual, but only it's done behind closed doors...
Well... I got the rest of what I was looking for... and I was fairly happy with what I got. We'll see when I get home what the quality is...

Hunan Cuisine...or "Ribbed... for your Pleasure"

I wanted to get one last good meal in Shanghai, so I persuaded Jocelyn and Amy and her husband Mike to pick a place for dinner- they settled on a Hunan restaurant... Some very spicy fare.
We had a sizzling pot of frog with tofu noodles, A spicy beef with thai chilis, garlic pork belly, spring onions with sliced pork, a tofu dish that was smooth and firm almost the consistency of flan, broiled fish head with red peppers, a firey-hot fried rice dish, and the best dish- ribs...
I have to say this about going to dinner with Jocelyn, I wind up eating some interesting things that I never would have considered ordering... Tonite was just example.

The frog was interesting... a subtle flavor, and spicy, but not bad.

The fish head was OK, lots of bones, and the thing was slathered with red peppers, but again- pretty tasty.

The pork and beef were good, and the rice was good, but painfully hot. If you mixed in a little of the tofu it was quite good and brought the heat down considerably.

But the ribs- Oh. My. God. They were great... Spicy with a coating of garlic and cumin and other spices.

Heaven on a curved bone. For me, I could have ordered 4 or 5 plates of the ribs and died a happy man...
Oh well... Dessert was great too... Fried Bananas... Tempura-like batter fried, then coated with a sugar glaze that is hardened at the table with a quick dunk in cold water. The resulting crunchy coating and very sweet banana filling was awesome.
Oh yeah- Dinner for 4- including 3 or 4 big bottles of beer- about $40.

On the road again...

My travel home was a painful affair- 1:00PM flight form Hongqiao to Beijing, a 5:00pm Flight to Newark, and 7:30 flight to Jacksonville... The worst part was been the baggage- I have 5 cases of crap- tools, equipment, laptops, addition to the body bag I use for my luggage...
It was only fitting that Zhou was my driver the last morning in Shanghai... Once again, we were off on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, arriving at Hongqiao in record time. I counted the horn honks- 73 in 9km. That has to be some kind of record.
We said our goodbyes and Zhou hit the road... I could hear him honking as he drove out of sight.

I grabbed a cart and went inside Terminal B with my Mountain o' Bags- Looking for the ATA/Customs desk to get my Carnet stamped, I asked the information desk where they were. She picked up a phone a made a quick call.
"Go other terminal- Desk 121."
So... I push the cart across the airport to Terminal A.
Inside I hunted up Desk 121. "Hongqiao - Pudong Transportation."
Hmmmm. Doesn't look like a customs office, but I've been fooled before.
The girl at the desk motioned me over.
"You want ATA?"
"Uh... Yeah." I told her, getting my carnet out.
"Ok, ok. We take you to Pudong."
What?! To Pudong?... A good hour away. One way. Screw that...
"Uh... No customs office here?"
"No- only in Pudong."
Holy crap. I pushed my crap back to Terminal B and went to the China Eastern desk.
"Um... I need to check in...But only for the Shanghai to Beijing portion of the ticket."
I got a good 2 second DMS as she looked at my ticket.
"Uh...Ok...yes. To Beijing. You claim bags there?"
"Yes, then I will recheck. I need to go to customs."

When I said that she figured it all out.
She got me checked in, another 500RMB fee for my extra/overweight bags... and I was off to Beijing.
I got my bags and hit customs where the remembered me from the China Open back in September. It was old home week, and the stamped me through in record time...
I rechecked at Continental, 2100RMB more for my bags, got my bulkhead/aisle seat and walked to the gate.
The only moment of apprehension was going through security in Beijing- As he checked my passport and ticket, the guard looked at my passport and then at the computer screen and made a phone call, watching me carefully...
I remembered the problems I had leaving Beijing last time, where they found my Gerber multitool in my bag...
I prepared for the worst...
He eventually waved me through, but said something to the X-ray operator.... I held my breath as they scanned my bag, but they didn't stop me as I picked up my stuff to go...
I got to the gate as they started boarding the flight...
If I had had any problems or issues at customs, I would probably would have missed the flight... I got settled in, had an empty seat next to me- avoided the meals on the plane and took my Ambien at about the 4th hour. I didn't really sleep, but I wasn't on-edge the whole flight, so it was a moral victory.
I got my bags in Newark, breezed through customs and got the carnet stamped and re-checked again, and hit my flight to Jax, stopping only once to have a double Bacardi and Coke at one of the airport lounges.
The flight back to Jax was the worst part- that damned little Embraer ERJ-145...a piece of crap jet made in South America. I almost have to crawl on my hands and knees to get to my seat... I hate that plane.

I got home and slept for two days...

To quote Jerry Garcia and the 'Dead, "What a long, strange trip it's been."

TBG out-

Monday, November 21, 2005

Coming Attractions

Watch this space, boys and girls, for the following items...

Wonder at the behind-the-scenes peek at the epic ending of the Tennis Masters Cup Tournament... The five-set slugfest between Roger "FedEx" Federer and David "Don't cry for me Argentina" Nalbandian.

Read the sordid details from the impromptu wrap party at the Junction Bar in the Mayfair Hotel, where we answer the age-old question: Who did the Mayfair's resident hooker sink her talons into on the final night?

Revel in the amazing tale of the Red Taxi and the Angry Driver, the 4AM trip to Ruijin Guesthouse to help Cynthia Lum move to her new digs.

Be moved by the unfortunate saga "The Quest For Rafa", a danger-filled sojourn along Huaihua Road into the heart of Changde Lu to find a Rafael Nadal street poster.

Read with amazement of the Yours Truly's last trip to Xiangyang Market to do battle with the vendors within. Read the blow-by-blow account of haggling over every single RMB of a souvenier t-shirt.

And of course, no event wrap-up post is complete without some amount of complaining of the actual travel back to Florida. 26 hours of hell in a 12 ounce can.

Saty tuned, genties and ladlemen - these stories and more, coming up soon...

TBG out-

Saturday, November 19, 2005

No, it hasn't come down yet...

...and I'm hoping it won't.

Let's see, what else is going on...

Well. We're all pretty exhausted...
It's all we can do to stay awake.
(And for some of us, well, let's just say it's not worth the effort to stay up.)

Polly and the guys from SMG had a hard night, apparently. Enough said.

What else?

I've been looking at the court so long I'm beginning to see subliminal messages...

For instance...

If you look closly at this image, you will see a subliminal association I'm starting to get when I see a Heineken beer..

Boy. Talk about ruining a good thing...

TBG out-

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Great (Video) Wall of China

It's not supposed to look like this...

The seams between the cubes should flush and uniform.

The way the crowd is leaning on this thing, it is going to go bad...

This is SO not right.

I think I've made my point with this...
I'll let you know when the wall comes a' tumblin' down.

In other news....

I said I'd tell you about the Hop Pot joint...

Polly said she wanted to experience the Hot Pot method of dining, so I contacted Jocelyn, a local here in Shanghai who knows, well... Everything.
She set us up for dinner at the Hot Pot King down on Huaihai Zhonglu...
Now, I've had Hot Pot before, but it was really a disaster. It was last year with a bunch of guys from the NBA.
We had gone to this place for lunch and made a shambles of the experience. We threw everything in at one time, including the live shrimp (mistake) and basically made big stew of the whole thing. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't what it was supposed to be.

This time we let Jocelyn lead...
She ordered almost everything on the menu... Lamb, beef, fish, squid, 4 kinds of mushrooms, baby bok choy, some kind of potato, scallops, bamboo shoots, all manner of Good Eats...
The pot had two sections: one side was a regular seafood stock with scallops and tiny shrimp; the other side was a spicy stock with scallops and shrimp and a decent amount of chili oil and peppers...
A bunch of stuff she threw right in... The potato things, some of the bok choy, and lots of mushrooms. When the stock was at a rolling boil she showed us how to lower pieces of the meat into the pot with ladles and wait until it was cooked, then we would fish it out along with the vegetables...
It was very good...
That's an understatement...
It was really, really good... Amazingly good, as a matter of fact.

They shamed me into eating the Century Egg...

A nasty-looking little nugget that wasn't too bad, actually.

I expected something much more noisome.
(I wouldn't order it on my own, you understand, but to save face I did eat one.)

Just as a point of reference, Polly ate one too...

Before I had mine.

(She has more guts than I do...)

TBG Out-

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Risk Management

This is something scaring me to death.
You know I hate crowds to begin with. And it not like I have to interact with them here but the crowds that are gathering for autographs after the games are going to get hurt, or they are going to hurt someone. Like a player, probably.

What is happening:
The crowd gathers at courtside as the players are arriving or leaving...
They (the crowd) are pushing to get their item to be signed in front of the player, and there is a huge press from the rear of the pack.
Unfortunately they are pushing against the video cubes...
Which are not anchored to the ground.
If these things go down there are several different events that will occur:
1. All of them are going down, a la the domino effect. So 140 ex-flipping-spensive cubes will crash face-down to the floor.
2. They will fall on the player signing autographs. A severe amount of trauma will occur. I'm thinking broken legs or feet.
3. People will be crushed as the crowd falls forward. Didn't we learn anything from the riots at soccer stadia?
4. There is a good chance of somebody (or perhaps lots of somebodies) getting electrocuted, due to the nature of the power connections on the video cubes.

This should give you a good idea of the situation here...

You can see the videowall here getting knocked out of alignment...

Oh, the potential for tragedy abounds here in QiZhong!

TBG (hiding) Out-

When it rains, it pours...

Raining & pouring.

So... The Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai just keeps getting hammered.
First, it was difficult to get a full card of participants to play here.
Hewitt, Roddick and Safin all begged off with injuries or other reasons.
Now, Nadal has withdrawn before playing even one match, and Agassi has bailed after losing his first.

At least Nadal did it with some class, talked to the Tournament Director and the ATP before making an announcement. In addition, he is sticking around and doing some schmoozing with sponsors and doing stints signing autographs for the fans. He's making a few points in my book, even if he does wear capris. Agassi made his announcement in his post game press conference- catching the ATP and the Tournament flat-footed... Not a good thing. In addition, he was on the first flight out of Shanghai this morning. No bedtime story, no kiss goodbye. Tacky tacky.

The TD and the rest of the organizers are ready to slit their wrists. The have a bunch of big-money sponsors who have underwritten this event and are pissed that the are watching Puerta Vs. Gaudio not Roddick vs. Safin. Not to mention the Government of the PRC, who are pissed- it is a respect thing...
The are questioning if there is something wrong with the tournament. Are the organizers doing something wrong? And you don't want the Chinese Govrnment asking hard questions like that...

A great quote from the OC -

"We feel like we bought a Mercedes-Benz only to find 60 percent of the auto parts are no longer the original ones we paid for," Wang Liqun, deputy director of the organising committee, said.

Oh well...

For us, things are going well...
Have a look at the gallery- there are a couple good pics of the ribbon boards out there...


Let's see - what else...

Since we head to the site at about 9 AM or so, and don't get back until 11:00pm, I've been eating at the Sino-Colonel's Dumpling house... The soup dumplings are awesome... And Cheap.
After several days of eating, or should I say overeating, at the hotel buffet for breakfast and dinner, an order or two of dumplings are perfect.
These are soup dumplings, and at buck for 6 of them, it is a deal! The buffet was between 16 and 20 dollars, depending on what time you go to the restaurant.


By the way- the pics on the Gallery from the restaurant were taken at a Hot Pot restaurant... Our local contact Jocelyn Huang arranged a sumptuous repast... Lots more on that later...

Film at 11...

TBG Out-

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tennis Masters Cup - Shanghai 2005

I have been remiss...

It’s been a while since my last update. Not because of a lack of worthwhile things going on, but because I had to make choices, like either blogging, or sleeping, working or sitting on buses.
Alas, I chose the activities that actually are necessary to my existence, rather than electives like trying to squeeze humor and meaning out of my sojourn in China.

Let’s see...

Well… I got here pretty much intact... I left the house for the airport at 6:45 am EST - Jax to Newark to Beijing to Shanghai. No upgrades, window bulkhead seat on the Newark-Beijing segment.
The only hangup was my connection in Beijing. I had to claim my bags and clear customs in Beijing and then go to the domestic part of the main terminal.
When they finally stamped my carnet I wheeled my 5 (huge) bags to China Eastern’s ticket desk and got checked in it took nearly an hour and a half.
I arrived in Shanghai at 9:00pm on Sunday night... Another hour to get to the Mayfair Hotel…
So… 27 hours of airports, airplanes or automobiles...

From the “Things that make you go Hmmmm...” Department:

I got a note from Polly that they overfueled her flight and she and several other passengers were bumped from the flight.
Nice. Interesting fact though… her checked bags and equipment made the plane and the connection and were in Shanghai awaiting her arrival.

I hit the arena in Qi Zhong the first thing on Monday morning. It was pretty cool. The floor was finished and looked great, but there was no one inside the place. I think there were five people in the entire building... They were still working on the outside- the VIP & hospitality tents, catering stuff, etc. I was expecting to see the video cubes being installed when I arrived, but it was not to be...
I know I asked 4 or 5 times in July and in October during our testing when they would start installing the cubes and was assured they would be on-site on Monday the 7th.
Oh well… I did some housekeeping- checking out where our equipment would be going, marking the floor for the cube locations, other little make-work details, then headed back to the Mayfair.

The only drama for the first few days was the effort at getting to and from the arena every day.
Qi Zhong is hell-and-gone from everywhere... It is an hour each way to and from the arena.
To make it even more of a challenge, taxis never voluntarily go out there to randomly cruise for fares, so you have to call a cab company and hope they will have a car in the area to come pick you up, or take a chance you might see one that has just finished dropping off someone in the near vicinity...
I got lucky a couple times, and not so lucky a couple times too...
I had a nice long wait in a drizzling rain one evening.

Eventually everything came together... Video Cubes are all installed, tested, software running,
Graphics...uh... graphing.
Things are looking pretty good here...

At the Mayfair Hotel, the hookers are doing a bang-up business. Heh...
In addition to the TV Tech Staff, the Operations Staff, there is also most of the Media staying there, so there has been no shortage of clients for the girls...
I think it’s pretty funny to see the bar girls walking with one of the press guys or one of the TV crew... Everyone who has been there more than a week, (especially the hotel staff) knows who the hookers are and get a laugh to see them walking through the lobby with their victims.

Oh well.

There is a video wall out there that needs some graphics...

More Fun on the Menu coming up...
Stay tuned.

TBG Out-

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Back in Shanghai

Just a quick (but hugely relevant) post before I run out the door...


Alice tried another question.
"What sort of people live about here?"

"In THAT direction," the Cat said, waving its right paw round,
"lives a Hatter. And in THAT direction," waving the other paw,
"lives a March Hare. Visit either you like, they're both mad."

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat,
"we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

"You must be," said the Cat,
"or you wouldn't have come here."

TBG Out-

Monday, October 31, 2005

Friends in the North / Family down South

Kid Pics today on Listen To Uncle Jay...

For all you Goodwill Games refugees, and you know who you are...

I don't know if you have been keeping up with your co-conspiritors, but I recently was granted access to a treasure trove of pictures from our Man from Boston, Jay Wessel and his wife Marla, and the new addition to his family, Sara Danielle...

Only a couple issues about this picture...

First, Snow in October?
Geez, Jay, move someplace civilized.

Second, What are you doing to that child's ears?
Get them UNDER the hat, not folded over by it...

Seriously, Jay... She's a cutie... Good work.


Here is a little girl named Jolie- LJ's Daughter.
She's going Trick-or-Treating as Tinkerbell this year...

Does she have some blue eyes? Wow.

This one is going to be trouble.

Now, on the local front...

This is a scary picture...

The Perfect Child.

She's 12. Is that scary or what?

This year's Halloween costume- She's going as Johnny Depp... Well... As Captain Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean." This should be interesting.
Film at 11.

TBG out-