Archive for the 'China' Category

Mar 20 2014

Remembering Pat McGovern

“Boston, MA – March 20, 2014 – International Data Group IDG announced today with great sadness that its Founder and Chairman, Patrick J. McGovern, died March 19, 2014, at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California.”

via Remembering Pat McGovern | IDG.com.

I worked for Pat McGovern for eight months in 2005 when I was running online at CXO — the branch of IDG publishing that published CIO, CSO, CMO Magazines. I competed against his publications in the early 80s when I worked for PC Week, the arch-rival of IDG’s InfoWorld.

There are going to be a ton of Pat McGovern stories told over the next few days. Here’s mine.

While Pat was a lion in technology publishing he was also one of the first and most influential western businessmen to operate in the People’s Republic of China.  His presence in China, his reputation there to this very day, is legendary and made him the most well known and respected Westerner sin the Chinese tech sector. His VC investments in the likes of Baidu were early and massive successes. The man even spoke Mandarin.

During the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics I was surprised to find myself riding in the back of a bus with Pat on our way to a private dinner with Lenovo’s senior executives and some heavy hitting senior execs from Qualcomm, Google, Microsoft, Intel, AMD, etc.. I saw him sitting alone in the back of the bus, so I sat down beside him and started chatting him up, thanking him for the opportunity to briefly work for him before quitting to join Lenovo. He was legendary for his photographic memory and immediately made the connection and started peppering me with questions.

As the bus crawled through traffic it was apparent that most everybody sitting within six rows of us was eaves-dropping on the conversation, most of them unaware of who Pat was. He was a big man but a soft spoken one; not at all brash or loud.  So I introduced him around  to the people in the adjacent seats as the first Westerner to do business in Communist China, well before Deng’s market reforms that led to “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” and unlocked the Chinese growth we marvel at today. I urged Pat to tell the bus the story of how he infiltrated China in the 1970s. The story went roughly like this: Pat was on a flight from Japan to Russia and figured out he could make a “connection” in Beijing. This is back in the era of Nixon-Mao and PingPong diplomacy. Let’s just say there were no princelings drag racing Ferrari’s around the third ring road back then. Anyway, the plane lands, Pat looks out the window, amazed he’s this close to the mysterious closed country. So he gets off the plane. The plane leaves without him. The Red Guard are confronted with this American standing in their airport essentially saying “Take me to your leader.”

Pat humbly regaled the bus for 30 minutes with the story of how he invaded China, set up the first Chinese tech publications, and earned the trust and respect of the Chinese government. When we arrived at the restaurant it was my Chinese colleagues who really lit up at the sight of him, hustling him away to a place of honor next to the chairman and CEO of Lenovo as befitted the father of Chinese computer journalism.

He was a genuinely great man. Here’s his story of how he entered China as captured in the official IDG oral history:

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Oct 30 2013

If I were the CIO of the US ….

Published by under China

Over the past twenty years I’ve been around enough web site launches, redesigns, platform swaps, RFPs, RFQs, consultants, vendors, third-party developers, project managers, stakeholder/steering committee meetings and total crashes and site failures to feel eminently qualified to say the smoking crater in the ground known as the Obamacare website was guaranteed to happen the day it was conceived.

IceDunk

And the fix is simple. Seriously. Pick up the phone. Call Werner Vogel at Amazon or Larry Page at Google — arguably the two best web infrastructure guys on the planet — and ask them to fix it. Privatize it.  Make it a marketing triumph for IBM or Oracle. Screw the GSA bidding process, screw the consultants, the parasitic systems integrators looking for $10 million engagements, and the whole federal procurement process that is designed to deliver broken, grey blobs that never work. There’s only one solution and that’s to go to the private sector and have a single company accustomed to zero-defects and a lot of uptime “nine’s” build it.

Some people are saying the government should have gone open source and used WordPress or Drupal to build this pig. Wrong.  Those are wonderful content management systems, but the problem isn’t the content and it’s not whether or not this thing was built with MySQL or Oracle or a left-handed monkey wrench — the problem lies deep beneath the timed-out sessions, 404 pages and error messages — it’s the underlying transaction processing engine that lies under the surface like the giant fungus on the Olympic Peninsula that is the world largest living organism. This isn’t about code, this isn’t about servers or bandwidth, Hadoop, PHP or whatever the technical problem is. It’s about a bureaucracy building the ultimate bureaucratic system.

Here’s how it works: healthcare.gov is just the visible manifestation of the visible portion of the whole platform, one that is supposed to steer consumers to an informed selection of a health plan offered by a distributed network of commercial health insurance companies.  The platform needs to talk to each insurer’s own web infrastructure and accommodate their rules and standards. That’s complex enough, but let’s assume some middle-ware solution to define a common data-interchange was put in place so the government site could handle all the private insurers systems. Check. But before the consumer can get to the insurers they need to register in order to browse.

And we have failure point number one. Any ecommerce operator knows registration is a total buzz killer to a shopper. Get the crap in the cart, and then, when the trigger is ready to be pulled, you roll out registration. Registration itself is database intensive. It means creating a record via a form of fields — last name, DOB, SSN, etc. — and then some form of confirmation via an email that is generated by the system and sent to the user to click on a validation link, etc..  We all know the drill. This is like asking all the fans of tonight’s World Series game at Fenway to stand outside on Landsdowne Street and Yawkey Way until 7:55 pm with first pitch at 8 pm. The gates open, but before each fan can pass through the turnstile they need to fill out a form, submit it, wait for a confirmation to appear on their phone, click that, and then the turnstile can turn. People start to panic. They hit submit a few times. They hear the Star Spangled Banner and they start to push, next thing you know people are being trampled like door busters at a Long Island Walmart at 12:01 am on Black Friday.

Some government dimwit(s) decided to make registration mandatory before browsing. Dumb. Register at the point of the transaction, not the window shopping. Most of the traffic wanted to see what the big deal was. Sure, some entered expecting to leave with a transaction successfully completed, but some just wanted to browse. So let them browse.

The reason it was decided to make users register first was determine their eligibility and show them the plans that fit their circumstances. This is where the website is more than a bunch of pretty screens and a Drupal CMS — this is the Octopus underneath it all that has to take the registration information, (probably the social security number) and run it through a ton of government databases. I have no idea which ones are being pinged, but let’s assume they range from the Social Security Administration to the IRS to Health and Human Services, maybe state social services, Immigration, Veterans ….the list goes on. Who cares? It had to happen and it wasn’t going to be easy. When the requirements were put together for the exchange, the main challenge was determining eligibility and segmenting the set of plans any consumer could see based on certain factors — e.g., oh, you live in Massachusetts, you’re already in an exchange set up by Mitt Romney, so you can go away. Goodbye.   One can assume — the government loving complexity because complexity fuels bureaucracies and bureaucracies exists to project the bureaucracy  — that the Obamacare website is being asked to route and receive a ton of distributed requests because one after another, as the requirements were gathered, a lot of hands went up and said, “Well, we need to include this of course.” And so the system started to sprout a lot of hair.

This country put a man on the moon. Now it can’t build an online exchange?

Anyway, so Failure Point number two: too much bureaucracy and trying to hit too many external systems to qualify the consumer. Got it. That one was unavoidable but manageable and is by no means a trivial thing to solve.

Gauging from the squirming testimony before Congress and the finger pointing among the contractors that is going on, the biggest failure here was not Cool Hand Luke’s “failure to communicate” but a lack of leadership and a strong project management office.  One can imagine what the set of different stakeholders looked like on this project. You’ve got elected officials who can’t find their ass with both hands when it comes to voting on ordinary legislation, let alone technology development; professional government bureaucrats who guard their silos; a bunch of external contractors trying to salvage a 15% profit from their work, all screaming that the requirements are changing too much and the deadline is too aggressive while they offshore the coding to a “low cost operating center”….. This is why communists are shitty capitalists. You can’t get stuff done in a Soviet tractor factory.

Failure point number three: lack of governance. There was no “one throat to choke” on this. Otherwise we’d be seeing a single hapless victim being pilloried as the Obama administration throws a sacrifice to the angry gods. This project needed to be owned at the top, managed like an army on a campaign with a strong project management office, and that project management office should have been throwing warning flags all last summer. Rather than launch it when it was ready, it was launched under a political maelstrom of tin-foil hat Congressmen trying to defund the entire program, a President determined to hit deadlines instead of usability levels and the result was a classic case of too many cooks, not enough accountability, and political forces trumping logical best practices in project management.

Final point of failure:  complexity. Too many contractors, too many stakeholders, too many systems …. The President likes to dine with the CEOs of Silicon Valley. He rubs elbows with Gates and Schmidt and the rest of the gang. Hell, Bezos just bought the Post and is officially a heavy hitter in D.C. — pick up the phone, call one of them, say, “Name your price, just make it work.” And tah dah. Let Congress piss and moan that the RFP didn’t follow procurement guidelines. At least America would have a website that works instead of a national embarrassment alongside its Congress, it’s infrastructure, its banks, it’s college loans …. This thing was built by committee and nothing good ever was built by committee.

The fact that Congress is holding hearings to find the smoking gun in the smoking crater is risible. They need some serious infrastructure geeks to get up there and pull a Richard Feynman drolly demonstrating why space shuttles blow up when rubber O-rings are dipped in a glass of ice water. Not the good Congressman from North Dakota who can’t operate anything more complicated than his Blackberry.

 

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Jul 10 2013

There are days when I miss Beijing

Published by under China,General

Maybe it’s because of my memories of the summer Olympics in 2008, but for some reason I miss Beijing, even with its atrocious air quality. Such a wildly dynamic city, the most energy I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen Dubai and I’ve seen Las Vegas. Thanks to Bob Page for sharing this:

YouTube Preview Image

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Nov 25 2010

Huang Hua: 1913-2010

Published by under China

Huang Hua, the former Foreign Secretary and Vice-Premier of China passed away on Friday at 97. I said my farewells to him last winter during a visit to Beijing, and wish I’d had more opportunities to get to know him, having had one wonderful evening with him during my first trip to Beijing in 2006 when his wife He Liliang and he welcomed me to their hutong for a roast duck dinner. Any conversation that ranges from the negotiations of the end of the Korean War to life in New York City in the early 1970s as the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations (where he served as president of the Security Council) is a dinner conversation that comes along but once in life. He was a true witness to history, having been with Mao from the very beginning, acting as China’s window to the west in his role as friend and translator to the journalist Edgar Snow who’s Red Star Over China is regarded as the book that brought the Communist Revolution to the attention of the western world. From his role in negotiating the  Nixon-Mao talks to his influence over the massive reforms that led to the modern Chinese miracle, he will be remembered as a founding father of the Chinese state.

My condolences to his widow, my brother in law Huang Bin and my sister Deidre Nickerson and the rest of his family. A state funeral will be conducted next month and his obituary in the New York Times can be found here.

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Jun 12 2010

Fascinating obituary – Joan Hinton from bombs to cows

Published by under China

During my first visit to China in the spring of 2006 my step-sister took me along to a cocktail party for a Spanish filmmaker in an astonishing old home in the western part of Beijing. The host, an American, was a great raconteur and told me the story of growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution, the son of a remarkable woman who left the U.S. after World War II to join the Communist cause under Mao. I took some shots of his house, lost in the shadows of the skyscrapers popping out of the ground around it. And was all agog when he took me on a tour through the tunnels and catacombs below.

This morning, while flipping through the New York Times, his mother’s obituary jumped out at me.

“Joan Hinton, a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the atom bomb, but spent most of her life as a committed Maoist working on dairy farms in China, died on Tuesday in Beijing. She was 88….

“In 1948, alarmed at the emerging cold war, she gave up physics and left the United States for China, then in the throes of a Communist revolution she wholeheartedly admired. “I did not want to spend my life figuring out how to kill people,” she told National Public Radio in 2002. “I wanted to figure out how to let people have a better life, not a worse life.”

“In China she met her future husband, Erwin Engst, a Cornell-trained dairy-cattle expert, who went on to work on dairy farms as a breeder while she designed and built machinery. During the Cultural Revolution, they were editors and translators in Beijing.

“Ms. Hinton applied her scientific talents to perfecting a continuous-flow automatic milk pasteurizer and other machines. For the past 40 years, she worked on a dairy farm and an agricultural station outside Beijing, tending a herd of about 200 cows.”

There’s a movie or book in her life. Grandfather invented the jungle gym. Mother founded the Putney School in Vermont. She qualified for the Olympic Team in skiing. Amazing. My condolences to her son Fred and her family.

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Feb 04 2010

It’s a hoot

Published by under China

While in Beijing I stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel on the Olympic plaza, scene of the 2008 Summer Olympics which remain one of the more fun things I’ve ever experienced. Being a tad plump from the holidays I have entered the New Year a devoted walker — taking inspiration in the poet William Wordsworth who logged an obsessive 15 miles a day in his beloved Lake District of England.

While at the Intercontinental I have taken the habit of a morning and evening constitutional down the broad promenade of the Olympic plaza. With the blue Water Cube and the magnificent Bird’s Nest stadium, the astonishing Blade Runner Media Center tower, it is a very cool place to take the air and stretch the legs.

In the mornings, while it is still dark, at the northern end of the plaza, there is a subway station and beyond it a man-made hill and park. There I stop, kick the wooden fence to mark my arrival, and turn for the walk back to the hotel.

The first morning I was very concerned by the distant sound of a man in distress. A terrifically loud “Ho-Ho-Ho!!!” noise that I can only describe as a human rooster. The single loud voice in the darkness was off-putting. Was the man deranged? Was he being beaten? Would he find and beat me?

I walked faster, bound for my destination but not wanting to cross paths with the Hooting Man.

Then a man behind me hooted. This was bad.  I was surrounded. The asylum had been breached and the psychotics were loose. Then a lady cruised by in the darkness walking backwards and vigorously clapping her hands. Another man along windmilling his arms. He tilted back his head and let fly a lusty “HEY-HA-HEY-HA-HEY!”

I turned on my camera to record the sounds. Listen to the first few seconds. There is no picture as it was dark.  This is a morning ritual on the Olympic Plaza — lung exercises. The ladies-who-walk in Cotuit should do this.  It would endear them to the late sleepers on Main Street.

Flickr Video

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Feb 04 2010

Greetings from PEK

Published by under China,Travel

Arrived in Beijing on Monday afternoon and have been in meetings non-stop Tuesday through today (Thursday). Last  night I connected with my brother Tom who is in country for the first time in his life and his Chinese colleagues suggested a restaurant near the Olympic complex that specialized in “Muslim Cuisine” from the western region of the country. Off we went, ending up in a basement disco where an Elvis impersonator and some ethnic dancers did a floor show while we ate meat on a stick and lots of lamb.

We passed on a whole lamb. This was on the menu and my brother nicknamed it “Snow Puff.”

We drank too much baiju and I am not well today and belching faint reminders of mutton under my  breath.

Home tomorrow. No time for any church/temple visits while in China.

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Dec 01 2009

Leon Xie is creating new baseball mythology in China: If he builds it, they will come. | The Mercury Brief

Published by under China

Leon Xie is creating new baseball mythology in China: If he builds it, they will come.

From The Mercury Brief: Olympic colleague Bob Page profiles Olympic colleague Leon Xie on his first year as head of Major League Baseball in China. Having watched the medal round between the USA and Japan and the final between Cuba and South Korea, I count the 2008 Olympic baseball experience at Wukesong Park as one of my personal highlights.

Leon was the man on the spot in managing our massive technology rollout during the games. He’s a great person and has an amazing job and challenge ahead of him.

Now to find out if he can help me find an official Chinese Olympic baseball jersey from 2008.

Great interview.

Leon Xie

via Leon Xie is creating new baseball mythology in China: If he builds it, they will come. | The Mercury Brief.

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Aug 19 2009

A year ago …

Published by under China

The Olympic Green from my hotel room.

Very sentimental trip to Beijing this week, a return to the scene of last summer’s Olympic Games. Amazing how the city continues to sparkle.

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Dec 07 2008

“Be Nice to the Countries That Lend You Money” – The Atlantic

Published by under China

Gao Xiqing is the president of the China Investment Corporation, a Duke educated attorney, who established the Chinese securities and exchange system and now, in his current role, controls a huge amount of Chinese capital, capital invested in a lot of American debt.

We spent some time together in August during the Olympics but we didn’t talk economics — mostly sports. In the current Atlantic Monthly the best American journalist writing about China, James Fallows, interviews Gao. I highly recommend it.

“People, especially Americans, started believing that they can live on other people’s money. And more and more so. First other people’s money in your own country. And then the savings rate comes down, and you start living on other people’s money from outside. At first it was the Japanese. Now the Chinese and the Middle Easterners.

“We—the Chinese, the Middle Easterners, the Japanese—we can see this too. Okay, we’d love to support you guys—if it’s sustainable. But if it’s not, why should we be doing this? After we are gone, you cannot just go to the moon to get more money. So, forget it. Let’s change the way of living. [By which he meant: less debt, lower rewards for financial wizardry, more attention to the “real economy,” etc.]“

“Be Nice to the Countries That Lend You Money” – The Atlantic (December 2008).

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Aug 29 2008

In the jingle-jangle morning I’ll go blogging

Published by under China

Hit the rack at 9 last night, too delirious to hold my eyes open, but drugged myself with a Restoril for extra insurance. Then Junior burst in with news of an unwanted phone call: “Loser!” he said. “It’s not even 9 and you’re in bed!” I pleaded that my circadian rhythms, whatever they are, were confused, and fell back into an uneasy slumber, the dog using my face as its pillow. At 4 a.m. I was back awake, this time with the usual terror dreams of naked public speaking, elevator plunges (naked elevator plunges) and missed appointments. “A fine day to slay the dragon!” I exhorted myself and my irritable bladder. “Up and at ‘em!”

So now it’s five a.m.. I have eaten my daily bowl of oatmeal, am on cup number two of double-strength Peet’s French Roast (espresso ground for that full amphetamine experience), and now have the entire day ahead of me. I need to edit some college essays for a friend’s daughter – and I need to sort out travel for the next month – Bangalore, RTP, Chicago, NYC – I need to pay bills, deal with this quarter’s taxes, sort through my Olympic souvenirs, dig though 4000+ photographs from Beijing, write thank-you notes, file collected business cards, answer moldering emails, set up conference calls, ward off the bureaucrats, and fit in my daily Crossfit torture. From hanging around gold medalists to paying the garbage man …. I feel mentally whip-sawn between the alien exoticism of Beijing and the early fall despondency of a Cape Cod summer town gone quiet and to seed now that the tourists and renters are back in Bronxville and Westchester getting ready for the start of school.

The harbor is vacant. Yesterday I launched my shell at 9 and set off into a stiff northeasterly breeze, the first pure air I’ve had in a month, pumped right down across the Gulf of Maine from Greenland. It was a good row, nearly a fantastic one, with a strong pace that nearly convinced me to start filing more Fall Head regatta applications before it is too late. I lost weight in China and worked out every day using the Crossfit regime, so now is the time to really start focusing on that late February weekend when I intend to do some damage at the World Indoor Rowing Championships. I did make a request to be let onto the rowing course at Shunyi near the Beijing Airport for a personal victory lap. The CMO of one of Lenovo’s key suppliers got on the course a week before the Games and I wanted to do the same, but no, the course was locked down for the Paralympics which starts this week on the tail of the Olympics. Some other time perhaps.

I have a few posts to get out the door. They are:

  1. A recap of the Voice of the Summer Olympics program. The metrics indicate the program in terms of traffic, blew away the targets set late in the spring. The media campaigns that surrounded it were also strong and over delivered their targets. In terms of press and reputation, I think the program went beyond what I expected. So, victory will be declared, I need to lock down the final report on the interactive component of Olympic sponsorship today for a review with the CEO next Tuesday.
  2. A theoretical post on the future of athletic blogging and its place in the long tail. I sense that PC and consumer electronics marketing is going from what we call “spec pods” (speeds, capacities, dimensions) to a more task/application model. In the mid-80s, customers of the first PCs didn’t ask for an “8088 with 256K RAM” – they wanted a “Lotus 1-2-3 machine” for financial modeling. Today, Best Buy and other retails are starting to show more products marketed with an end-state, or goal in mind. “Get your video on YouTube.” I think the same is coming to consumer PC marketing as the so-called Web 2.0/Social Media revolution climbs down from the mountain of hype and into a sustainable state where everybody from chatty teens to Michael Phelps to your mom begins to seek hardware and software on the basis of how it activates the new consumer of model of “click, consume, contribute” rather than the old one of “configure and confusion.”
  3. Search as the proxy for brand awareness and media impact on brands. Avinash Kaushik, guru of web metrics gurus at Google throws the question at my feet about why Google Analytics is showing a decline in ThinkPad searches and an increase in Lenovo searches. As we ran a butt-load of television through NBC during the Games, TV that was designed to build awareness of the word “Lenovo” in the minds of the American public, we saw some interesting side effects, not direct effects that one would expect. So …. Share of voice. Pre- and Post-awareness. Readers of this blog know I detest the notion that one can build a brand online through mindless repetition and pure SOV – that I believe brand is earned through a reputation for customer service and word of mouth about one’s excellence. All well and good. But when the brand actually spends three weeks advertising like its top competition does all of the time what is the net effect and what can be learned the morning after?
  4. Digital rights vs. broadcast rights: I believe we’ll see some interesting divisions in the old broadcast model of large events, with Fox, NBC, Eurosport spending a lot of money for exclusive broadcast rights. I bet that the IOC and NFL and others are going to get wise and sell off the digital rights in a separate stream very soon. When that happens, whoo-ee, if Beijing wasn’t a web experience, just wait a few years. It’s a coming.
  5. China SMM: lots of smart thoughts and insights shared at a final lunch with Will Moss, Sam Flemming and Kaiser Kuo. I need to digest, but let’s say the forthcoming US blogger tour of China is going to open some eyes in a big way – not necessarily positive. First off – China is not a blogger’s paradise. As Sam F. has pointed out – the world is built on forums over there. As Kaiser puts it, blogs are what he calls “Sick Kitty Blogs” (This is my kitty. My kitty is sick. Please send me money so I can take my kitty to the doctor.)

So, lots on my mind, lots to do, a desk to clean off, mementos to catalogue and now a holiday weekend on my doorstep. The crickets are frantic in the darkness, the paperboy just tossed the Times onto the end of the clamshell driveway, in two hours the bonito should be crashing out in the Sound, and I’ve got a lot to answer for.

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Aug 25 2008

Trio of China Bloggers

Published by under China

I was scheduled to meet Sam Flemming from CIC Data, the top China social media consulting and monitoring company at 2 pm today, but spaced out and was on my way to Tien’amen Square to snap some shots and buy a new 50 mm 1.8 portrait lens. I got an email from a colleague telling me I was in serious hot water for blogging about how I was conning Beijing cabbies into taking the special Olympic lanes on the ring roads on the basis of my ordinary yellow IOC/BOCOG security pass placed on the dashboard. Since there was a URL of a site that apparently was linking to me – www.accreditationabuse.com (no such site exists of course, but I am gullible as well as a flaming doofus) – I flew back to my hotel room to do damage control. I got into the room, fired up the PC, and there was a direct Tweet from Sam confirming our 2 pm which we had scheduled a month ago.

Whoops. Right. That meeting. As I sent a direct tweet back to Sam and checked my email it dawned on me that I was the victim of a classic jape at the hands of my colleagues who watched me wrestle all last week with a certain entity which shall not be mentioned. They knew I was paranoid and a perfect sitting duck for a practical joke. Got me. Nice.

I call Sam and Sam is in the hotel already getting ready to have lunch in the mall with Kaiser Kuo – he of my top ten resolutions for Beijing list, founding member of China’s first heavy metal band, the Tang Dynasty, and premier Sino-Social blogger and interactive expert from Ogilvy. So I invited myself to finally meet Kaiser.

We did dim sum, told stories, I learned a pantload about SMM and interactive trends – like more in the course of a lunch than in three years of China watching from the States. Then we got onto one topic of another and that led to my saying I wished I could meet the Imagethief, (blog won’t load for me due to a neverbeforeseen “compression” error) Will Moss, with whom I’ve swapped mutual admiration links in the past. Aha, Will works in the same plaza as the hotel, so Kaiser dialed him up and within the hour we were all sitting in the coffee shop yakking it up some more.

Will Moss, Sam Flemming, and Kaiser Kuo

Will brought along Ben Ross, who has been blogging about his experiences as a shampoo/massage boy in a Chinese barber shop. (The kind with scissors, Will and Kaiser were keen to point out). Pretty wild stuff.

This was a great way to spend my second to last afternoon, and after we broke up I made my way to the Nikon dealership, bought the lens, then walked back through Tien’amen and the back streets to the hotel. Off to the farewell staff party, then I pack. Tomorrow will have to be souvenir day. No rowing at Shunyi – the course is locked down in preparation for the Paralympics which begin this week. Thanks to Sam, Kaiser and Will for the nice reception, makes me want to move to China all the more.

 

 

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Aug 24 2008

Closing ceremony? I drank beer & went to dinner instead …

Published by under China,General,Olympics

No fireworks and fan dancers for me. No way. I ate large with my buddies and caught the end of the show on TV. I’ll buy the DVD and watch it this winter when it’s nasty outside. Tomorrow is a day off! Going to go find some serious Chinese olympic garb (rowing shirts, baseball jerseys), load up on souveniers for the gang, maybe check out some sights with the camera, then hit the big staff party blow out (invitation says it goes until 2).

I can’t believe this is done. Longest three weeks of my life hands down. Need to find something to fill the gap the Olympics filled for the past 20 months of my life.  The next chapter is going to be an interesting one I think.

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Aug 17 2008

Persimmons to Empachers

Published by under China

My day (which ends in 27 minutes) started near the Ming Tombs, at 5 am at a very nice house. I didn’t want to wake anybody so I walked the grounds — an old persimmon orchard — and snapped some shots. I ate a persimmon the night before – my friend told me Americans never really get to experience them because they are hard to cultivate and serve. The trees must be grafted onto rootstock to thrive, and then, when the fruit is ripe (it resembles an apple) and the leaves have fallen, the fruit should be ripened in powdered lime (the mineral, not the citrus) or in a warm place for two days. It was served nearly frozen and spooned out of the center. I liked it but wouldn’t go crazy for the next one.

As I walked the path clicking away I could hear the fruit randomly proving Newton’s point with a dull thud – a measure of how quiet it was where the farm was located… the steep hills to the north are where the Great Wall passed, and to the east is the ancestral burial grounds of the Ming dynasty (which was replaced by the Qing Dynasty, the final one before the Nationalists (The “Last Emperor” was a Qing) took power.

More China orchard shots here.

I drove back into the city and met some of the Lenovo Athlete bloggers at a round of Olympic table tennis at Beijing University. I sat next to Seth Kelsey, the American fencer, saw Joshia Ng the Malaysian track cyclist (Keiren) and David Oliver the American track star. There were others, but I was rude, didn’t introduce myself as that would have been rude in the middle of a game and could only stay a half-hour (but saw some ferocious volleys involving a determined Hong Kong player) before I went to the Olympic Green to dodge the SBD’s (“Silent But Deadlies”, what I call the electric vehicles that creep up behind you),  and admire some dedicated national pride at work. I will never contemplate painting my face after seeing this work of art.

Then I checked out of our Showcase on the Green, took off the Lenovo uniform shirt affectionately nicknamed “The Oven Mitt” by those who admire it’s bulletproof, flame retardent qualities, and made my way to Shunyi to watch the rowing. This was the high point of the day. Dave’s very own “Chariots of Fire” moment.  I saw true greatness before my very eyes.

Dinner? An astonishingly awesome Chinese meal of cucumbers and chili, black bean spareribs, roasted eggplant, smoked rice, and beef and peppers and onions, two Tsingtaos, and home with actually enough time to upload 457 photos and write two blog posts. So, half-a-day-off, saw two sports, did a little work, and had a most profound walk amongst the persimmons.

(*Empachers are the yellow boats favored by most Olympians, I own one, and saw a lot of them today.)

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Aug 12 2008

Row2k Coverage: Olympic Games Blog

Published by under China,Olympics

Row2k Coverage: Olympic Games Blog.

I just discovered Row2K’s blog. Ed Hewitt delivers the best rowing coverage anywhere, anytime (and I send him a PayPal payment from time to time to keep Row2K rolling).

Anyway, he has Brad Lewis (gold, LA 1984, Assault on Lake Casitas) Xeno Mueller (Gold, Atlanta 96, Silver ’00, Iron Oarsman) guest blogging from Beijing and Shunyi.  Man I wish I could join them. I am starting to get frantic to get out of the basement of the Hyatt and out to the venue to see some serious rowing!

Oh well, here to work, not to spectate.

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Aug 10 2008

Josiah Ng on walking into the Opening Ceremonies

Published by under China,Olympics

Josiah Ng is a Lenovo Athlete blogger and a track cyclist (I sent him a picture of my fixie — the Snotrocket — and he thought that was  cool though his fcycle costs about a gazillion dollars and wins Olympic medals and mine is a salvaged garage survivor).

He’s blogging and wrote this post about what it felt like to march in with the Malaysian contingent on Friday night. While the rest of us marveled from the stands and the television, he did it from the track and the floor:

“The most exciting part would be when we first walked out into the stadium in front of a hundred thousand screaming people.  I can’t explain the feeling but I had goosebumps all over me. We were the 10th country out of 204 to walk out. The first country was Greece and the last was China. The roar from the crowd was deafening  as the Chinese contingent was announced. Towering over everyone was Yao Ming, their flag bearer.

By the end of the night, we had stood for over 5 hours so our feet were screaming pain. On top of that everyone was sweating through their clothes because of the heat and humidity. I’m just glad we didn’t have to wear suits like some of the countries. They were literally drenched in sweat. But at the end it was all worth it.

The experience of attending an opening ceremony as an Olympic athlete is absolutely priceless!  I’ll never forget last night. One funny thing that I saw as we were exiting the stadium was an American woman crying.  She was weeping of emotion and said this “we’ll never see anything like that ever again.”  I guess that should paint a picture of how beautiful the ceremony was!”

How cool is that? What a lucky guy to have that to remember.

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Aug 09 2008

Beijing Olympics – Day 2 – Party at the Great Wall

Published by under China,Olympics

Met James McGregor, former Beijing bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal and author of One Billion Customers: LessonsFrom the Front Lines of Doing Business in China. Awesome guy (I rather hang out with a reporter than a supermodel) who worked with with my step-sister in the late 80s and who is now a major expert on China markets and economic issues. He uses Lenovo as a key example of a China brand going global. He made one observation that hit me after watching the magnificent opening ceremonies — the history of China from the ancient discovery of paper, the press, the compass, on to the exploration of space …. skipped right over the revolution, the Great Leap Forward, The Cultural Revolution. As he put it, “There were no men in Mao jackets to be seen in the Bird’s Nest.”

I did get an amazing opportunity to see the future of China’s leadership — art and business — at a wild party at the Commune at the Great Wall. An architectural showplace in a valley behind the Wall where leading Asian architects each designed a showcase example of residential architecture. No pictures as it was dark, but i have been there before in the day time and the work is stunning. The party was crazy. i won’t drop names (cough Quincy Jones, cough Rupert Murdoch), but the young people I met, all of whom were in the internet media business from advertising to search, social media to application development, were incredibly smart and engaged.

I have my first event to catch at 9 am with a customer — beach volleyball — and heeding the sage observation of the great Charlie Clapp (silver medal, US Men’s 8+, 1984) that “nothing important happens after midnight”, hired a car to drive me the hour long trip back to my hotel for five hours of sleep.

food of the day: I ate cold lungs in hot pepper sauce. And they were good.

news of the day: the terrible attack on an American visitor was widely reported throughout Beijing and definitely cast a shadow on an otherwise exuberant day following the opening ceremonies. “Deranged” say it best.

Olympic Blogroll : glad to see my baby, Voices of the Olympic Games represented.

uniform update: eased into it yesterday with the shirt (tucked into khakis). No visor (there will never be a visor). Today, no uniform. Going to the beach volleyball so I have on the Nantucket red preppy shorts and a polo shirt. Dave+uniform=fail.

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Aug 08 2008

The Opening Ceremony

Published by under China,Olympics

Ok, I wasn’t there. Tickets were scarce and I don’t do well in heat and humidity. Still, as spectacles go, in the full Pink Floyd, Superbowl Half-time wardrobe malfunction sense of the term, this was over the top and impressive from a couple points of view.

I wonder if anyone watched it live in the States given its a work day and this all went down from 8 to noon. Beijing pretty much shut down for the event and I watched it on CCTV in Chinese. Which was a hoot, especially given the loving closeups of the Chinese officials sweating it out in their dark suits. Lots of paper fans were fluttering and there was one shot of Nidal looking like he had just stepped out of the Sweat Hut. At least George W. put his jacket back on when he stood to hail the American athletes. Looking good Mr. President and I heard his speech and his father’s speech at the dedication of the new US Embassy this morning was very good and heartfelt.

I’ll boil down the ceremony to the fireworks. The Chinese invented fireworks. They are the Picassos of pyrotechnics. right now the streets to and from the Olympic Green are exploding in chrysthanemums of color. As fireworks displays goes — this is the mother of them all.

The entertainment was good. Some great freakiness in the Bird Nest, with a condensed cultural history of China emphasizing the point that they;ve been inventing stuff like paper and calligraphy and fireworks while my Celtic/Teutonic ancestors were picking headlice off each other. Obligatory cute little kids in knapsacks getting smart. I’m not a big fan of children’s choral music — and the divas that were belting out the anthems were unrecognizable to my pop culture retardation.

Step-sister Dede went, so she will give me the full report tomorrow. But from the vantage of my bed, watching the #080808 tweets and our Lenovo2008 twittering delivering the blow by blow, I had a dang good time and about to hit the rack rather than sweat it out looking for a bus somewhere out there to get me back to be before 2 am.

Tomorrow. I move into the city with my sis. Deal with some athlete blogger issues, help plan a big blogger meetup in Sanlitun, and then go to a big party out at the wal with my sis and brother in law. Too hectic to think, so I try to keep my mouth shut.

And hey, WW team that made this all happen. Couple pieces of news

1. When CCTV films athletes in the iLounges the athletes are invarialbly looking at the Voices of the Summere Games page.

2. The USA Today article nails it — this blogger program was exactly the play we needed to support. And it’s only going to get better. Now to start meeting these fine people and helping them really kick it. 30 new posts today alone. People are talkiing. Be proud. This is working better than expected.

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Aug 07 2008

It’s not a team without a uniform

Published by under China

Onanistic photography isn’t the easiest thing in the world to pull off, especially when you’re goofy from two Tsingtaos, jetlag, no dinner, and the most perspiration filled day in your life.

Beijing is crazy. Our hospitalty center is hopping, the Olympic Green was just stupendous. Tomorrow …. opening ceremonies. I’m not attending. Tickets are very, very hard to get. I intend to lay low and work with the bloggers and get some photos uploaded. Lunched with the good crew from Ogilvy, sat in a lot of cabs, tried to figure out the subway system, and did an utterly insane Crossfit workout-of-the-day which nearly did me in. Way too tired to be intelligent right now.

So, nice uniform, hey? I so called the jaunty visor a mile away. I especially like the cuffs on the sleeves — green on my right left arm for starboard. Red on the left right for port (If I walked backwards, thx for pointing P.Kim).

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Aug 06 2008

All sites seem up

Published by under China,Olympics

So, quickly, this is what seems to be working here in Beijing. (Your mileage may vary, but this is off the hotel broadband). So much for the fears that have been keeping me awake the last 12 months. Knock on wood.

1. Churbuck.com

2. Our athletes’ blogs

3. Our Olympic Podium

4. Flickr

5. Auto-detect (someone needs to tell Google that just because I am China does not mean I have suddenly learned Chinese. Check out the about page on David Oliver, the American hurdler who’s blogging on an IdeaPad.

6. YouTube

YouTube Preview Image

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