Sunday, June 11, 2006
My trip to China was wonderful. The Emergency Room was interesting, the Fragrant Hills Beautiful, the Botanical Gardens striking. I'll remember special places -- like a delicious barbecue restaurant or the bustling downtown of Beijing, as well as the special people I met. But all things must end, and soon we found ourselves flying east from the Northern Capital of the old Middle Country to the Middle-West of the Northern New World...
Now the wheel had shifted. It was my turn to show Lady of tdaxp the Beautiful Country as she had shown me fair Cathay. Not only the beautiful sunsets of Lincoln, Nebraska...
Sunday, June 04, 2006
From the Forbidden City to the ER, the beautiful Fragrant Hills to the mucous Pacific Ocean, I photoblogged the Chinese People's Republic in series whose most popular posts was on breakfast cereals (*sigh*).
The most time-consuming and tedious part of the posts was actually creating the web page. By then I had already selected, cropped, and resized the images to display on tdaxp, and the prospect of creating all the img and href tags was tiring. So I worked smarter, not harder, and wrote a perl script to do the work for me.
The process reminded me of similar work at Animation Factory, whose online UI I wrote.
The code for the script, which uses the Image::Size module, is below. (Code for my other recent series, Redefining the Gap, is also available).
Friday, June 02, 2006
With my vacation to Beijing completed, I want to get something off my chest.:
The Transportation Security Agency does their job very, very well.
Since the 9/11 attacks, every time I've flown the security has become more and more professional. In this latest trip, the TSA reached new heights. The TSA was better not only than previous incarnations of itself, but also bested Japanese and even Chinese security.
As someone who enjoys criticizing the federal government, this can be hard to say, but it's true: "TSA, Job Well Done!"
(The same cannot be said for American stewardesses, but that is a post for another time...)
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Naerly a month after boarding a plane in Omaha, I'm about to leave Zhongguo Beijing. After a pretty good day, the country seems to want me gone, too. I haven't been arrested or reeducated in remotest Tibet, yet, but the PRC's inane blocking of gmail (corresponding with an incredibly slow-down of my secure proxy) has made it extremely frustrating and difficult to attend to some last minute chores. Add to that the iTunes decision not to let me download track 4 of That Hideous Strength (probably just another tech snafu, but still aggravating), and I'm less than a happy camper. Oh, and wae-up is probably at four tomorrow. Great.
I received word from one reader that Blogspirit was not letting him post comments. If you are having technical difficulties with this site, please email me, and I'll respond once I'm back in the United States, and free from Communist censorship and unreliable (yet greatly appreciated) web proxies.
Update: Mere seconds after posting this the multi-hour embargo of gmail was lifted. Hurrah! Score another one for the power of blogs! ;-)
Update 2: Mere seconds after posting this, the multi-hour embargo of gmail is back on. Boo! Score another one for the power of one-party rule. :-(
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The final segment of my Tianjin Sentiments (perhaps a fitting companion to another blogger's "Balkan Memories"?) is of the pollution in Tianjin. Tianjin is composed of two characters -- Tian meaning Heavenly or Sky, Jin meaning Ford. In a previous post I explained that I would translate Tian as "Heavenly" for beautiful things, and as "Sky" for more prosaic uses. Thus, this post on the pollution in Tianjin discusses contamination in Sky Ford.
The pollution in Skyford is everywhere. Our local guides explained that it was the result of the building boom that builds new offices, malls, and apartments everywhere. Certainly there was a lot of construction in Tianjin, as there was in Beijing.
Monday, May 29, 2006
While Tianjan, like Beijing, is primarily a new history, hints of its history are everywhere.
Beijing's history is of a Chinese past, from the Ming City and Great Walls to Tea Town, but Tianjin looks to the world. Tianjin was a city that several concessionary areas to the European powers, and evidence of that is still clear. Some houses just scream "Europe"
but other structures and clues, such as Sino-European artwork, are more subtle...
Tianjin, like most Chinese cities, is composed of two characters. Jin is "ford," and Tian is "Heaven" or "Sky" (as in The Heavenly Temple / Tiantan, The Heavenly Peace Gate / Tiananmen, etc). I previously wrote about the un-modern characteristic of using the same word for "Heaven" and "Sky", but here the problem is more prosaic: does Tianjin mean "Heavenly Ford" or "Sky Ford"?
Because (to my ears) "heavenly" seems more sublime than "sky," for this post on the beauty of Tianjin I'll describe the art in the Heavenly Ford.
Of course, much wasn't photographed, or the pictures just didn't come out. There are two super-towers in the city (at least -- the haze makes it difficult to see too far), and Tianjin University (formerly Beiyang, or "Northern Peace" University) at night is intoxicating. Likewise, the grandeur of the Sino-Romantic painting on the ceiling of Tianjin Railroad Station (which connects directly to Beijing Railroad Station) must be seen in person to be truly loved.
Yet these images are the best I could do for my blog. While much more polluted than Beijing, Tianjin could easily be more beautiful. It is a city of parks, and rivers, and eye-pleasing artwork. I would give my props to the City Fathers of Tianjin, but like Beijing Tianjin is controlled directly by the central government. So my props to whatever bureaucrats are running the place, whoever they may be.
The last two days in Beijing have been clear. Actually clear. Yesterday I didn't even wear my mask in traffic. The breathability of the air has been amazing.
The above picture should be astonishing for any Beijinger because clouds are visible, even far away ones. The sky is often absent, and the smog often robs Zhonggua Beijing of her beauty.
The gorgeousness of these last few days has not just been beautiful, it's been healthy too. The physical weakness I succumbed to in Tianjin is largely gone (I'm back to operating as I did in the first few days of my trip now -- which isn't great, but is at least only good).
We went with a hitherto-unmet portion of Lady of tdaxp's family to the "countryside" (which reminded me of the SD 11 and 41st Street intersection in Sioux Falls), and saw some really beautiful sites. The courtyard of the restaurant, shown below, is one of the most beautiful things I've seen in the Central State. I didn't get a chance to take pictures of the golf course or the McMansions, which loomed nearby, and my shots of the vineyard just didn't come out. Nor was there a chance to photograph the shepherds on bicycle with their flock.
A quick note on the name of this post. My learning of Mao's "reformed" "screw you" Chinese characters is mostly helped but sometimes frustrated by an earlier study of Japanese Chinese Characters. When the Japanese decided which symbol to use for American, they chose Rice-Country-Person. Happily, China long ago chose a more pleasing form: Beautiful-Country-Person. Thanks China!
All in all, these last days have been fantastic. And now, without further ado, the rest of the photos:
Sunday, May 28, 2006
For this post on Tianjin, a journey to the most mysterious and oriental of all Chinese customs: McDonalds.
To my delight and horror, the best received of my journeys to China wasn't the Forbidden City, or the Great Wall, or even the Heavenly Temple. Nope, it was Chinese breakfast cereals. The post got a lot of comments for a series of pictures, and even made it to Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog. Well, vox populi, vox dei, I guess. Following is the logical companion to that piece, Chinese McDonalds.