Saturday, December 31, 2005
2005 Best Moments
There's a lot of disparaging of new year's resolutions and such. But for me, the Christmas-New Year's Holiday is a time of both reflection and expectation. Looking back on the year past and looking forward to the year ahead and what is possible.
I'm fortunate (blessed, lucky) to have been able to travel for both work and pleasure this year and that's led to a bunch of memories I'll look back foundly on. In general though, what I've found is that most people -around the country and around the world, are pretty reasonable, nice folks. What I fail to see are the zealots, left and right, that TV paints us as...after a year of ugly politics and scandal, this is what gives me hope...people are smarter than those of us in DC would believe and they'll get tired of this current crop of so-called leaders soon. Yet I digress..
Thinking back as I sit here at the breakfast table, I'm thinking of my favorite moments from the past year. There are many, but I'll try to pare it down to a handful.
Here we go, in no particular order:
Zip line jungle tour in Granada, Nicaragua. (Photo of me repelling down a giant cieba tree!)
Stumbling upon a small wedding in Pirates Alley, NOLA
Building a shed with Donkey...(Who'd have thought it would turn out so nice!)...
Walking on the Great Wall of China (Despite the fact is was 30 degrees with 30 mph winds)
Hanging with Midgie: Hey Midge...we didn't see each other nearly enough in 2005...
Reflecting on 2005
One thing I like about my job, is that I get to travel around the country. I'm not a road warrior as I don't work on projects in different cities and I don't fly twice a week. But I do get out on the road about once a month to give speeches here and there. Looking over my day planner, here's the cities I visited this year.
Managua-Granada-Leon, Nicaragua (Vacation)
Des Moines, IA
San Antonio, TX
Boca Raton, FL
Beijing-Xi'an-Shanghai, China (Vacation)
New Orleans was certainly the most fortuitous trip as who could have imagined that by September, the city would be no more. Shanghai is the city I'd most like to return to and Leon, Nicaragua is the city I'd least like to return to (although I'd go back to Nicaragua)....
Friday, December 30, 2005
I should have been naughty this year...
'cause you can heat your house with coal.
What I can't heat my house with apparently is gas provided by Washington Gas. My service cut out on the 26th and has only been on a handful of hours since then. Seems that water keeps getting into the line, shutting off service. Sometimes the crew shows up to fix it when called, other times they don't. But of course, if one's service goes out, it is best that it happens during regular business hours as Washington Gas only mans the phones Mon-Fri 9-5....
At least my gas bill for December will be a little less!
Good Bye 2005!
Just got back from the Midwest yesterday for the semi-annual visit with the family. So funny now that my brothers and I are all grown and have families of our own that these get togethers seem to get tougher to arrange every year. As always, too short a visit...but good to see, the parents, siblings, the nephews and neice-beagle none-the-less.
Alas, no white Christmas up north this year as some rain melted nearly all of the snow they'd gotten to date. Statistically, there's a 96% of a white Christmas where my family lives...just not in the cards this year.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Christmas Eve Feast
Gearing up for having people over for a Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow.
Here's the menu
Potato Pancakes with Sour Cream, Caviar, Red Onion
Butternut Squash Soup
Roast Duckling with Cranberry Orange Sauce
Rib Roast with Porcini Mushroom Sauce
Sweet Potato Gnocchi in Butter Sage Sauce
Potatoes au Gratin
Buche de Noel
Of course I could never cooridnate such a dinner, so a shout out to Donkey who is serving as head chef!
Thursday, December 22, 2005
One of the best little surprises on my adventure day in Shanghai was after returning from a day out and about, the folks at the Grand Hyatt had a nice little reception, children's choir and refreshments to kick off their Christmas tree lighting. Big fun...
Santa even made a visit...although when I spoke with him he said he flew in from Malaysia...
Oh Detroit! A once great metropolis and center of American manufacturing. In the past 50 years you've lost more than 1/2 your population, have seen thousands of abandoned houses go up in flames, blew up the Hudson's building, and sold the Ren-Cen for a song to GM. The urban resurgence of the 90's and 00's past you by and gambling was supposed to revive the city, but the casinos are islands in an otherwise abandoned inner-city.
So, put on some make up and a pretty dress for the Super Bowl. But like Carrie getting ready for prom... please don't set everything on fire when no one asks you to dance.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
A Stocking Full of Coal?
As the Senate attempts to finish up business and get the heck out of dodge, the end of the first session of the 109th Congress is ending in a way that is somewhat evocative of the Empire Strikes Back. No, I don't mean that the GOP majority is parading around in dark capes on some space destroyer, what I'm thinking is more like they are headed home like a whimpering, one-armed Luke Skywalker.
For the leadership, things don't look too good in 06. Tom Delay is still pending trail on his money laundering indictment. The House, so kindly has voted to return in February to give Mr. Delay time to clear up these 'clearly false' charges...so that he can return and be voted back as majority leader. Don't count on it.
On the Senate side you've got good old Dr. Frist, embroiled in a Martha-like stock scandal and now perhaps an AIDS Charity scandal too...The moderates (God Luv 'Em) are in full rebellion on the Patriot Act as well. Alito's nomination is not yet secure.
And Bush...ughh...so much to talk about here. Spying, FISA, the 4th Amendment, Plame, etc. The political Capital he crowed about in January of this year is more than spent...he's in debt up to his eyeballs. The fates are truly fickle.
But fear not, 2006 is an election year, and perhaps the GOP can distract from their pathetic record by rolling out those evergreen issues. Remember the Federal Marriage Amendment? It'll be back in '06 after the attack on marriage seemed to have taken a honey moon in '05. God knows what else they have in store...but it will likely be laughable as the continue to move away from being the libertarian friendly, pro-business, strong on defense party...if they ever were to begin with.
At least we'll have something to talk about.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Strange But True..
So, I'm walking home from the metro tonight after hitting the gym. I'm noticing that there are many more Christmas lights in my neighborhood, and I think to myself, gee...I really like it here. I pause and remember that just a week ago I passed the daschund in a trench coat nearby and keep going.
I'm within a block from my house and a local looking kid is hanging out with his buddy. (I'm grooving out to "Careless Wisper" on the Ipod..how shameful...)
So one of the guys runs up to me and is like "Dude, give me your shit."
I pull my earphone out (even though I heard him) and I'm like "What? Shit? Huh? I don't have no shit?"
"No, I mean give me your stuff, you're money"
I keep walking, same pace.
"What?! Huh? ....I have no money I reply..Are you trying to mug me? and don't I know you? Don't you live in this neighborhood?"
He smiles, backs off and leaves...
War on Christmas
I toyed briefly with sending this pic into Bill O'Reilly as it would probably make his head explode.
What does a department store in Xi'an China put up to celebrate the season?
No happy holidays in the heart of this communist nation and Muslim city...but Merry Christmas...
Of course they know Christmas is coming because in the months leading up to December they all have to put in 20 hour days attaching plastic Barbie heads for their imperial Mattel overlords while silently weeping...
Since this whole Bush/NSA spying thing will be around through and after the holidays, I'm reserving my judgment (it's not as if I called for impeachment as soon as the story broke..oh wait).
My underlying concern is that President Bush is claiming these sweeping powers, instituting broad authority to spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant, and they've been doing this for some four odd years...Let's just hope they can 'interpret' the data from this spying with greater effect than the pre-war intelligence.
It's all about Chad
Saw this headline this morning and remembered a conversation Midgie and I had about Chad. CNN Reports that "Chad says 300 rebels killed in attack." That's sad and totally unexpected. I've always thought the news from Chad would be more like "Chad says new Weezer Album Rocks!" or "Chad covets the x-Box 360". Chad as a name, seems to be too hip/kitsch to be involved in any rebellion and or suppression and of course I always pictured him to look something like this.
Monday, December 19, 2005
China Flashback: The Terracotta Warriors
One word: Cool!
Yesterday I tried to paint you a picture of the ancient Chinese capitol of Xi'an. Of course the primary reason tourists like me head to Xi'an is to see the the Terracotta Warriors.
The Terracotta army are what Chinese archeologist believe is just a small part of a massive tomb complex for China's first emperor Qui Shi Huang. Roughly 2,000 years old, this army of some 8,000 clay warriors stands guard over the emperor's tomb (which is located some 10 miles away). Each figure is unique and are slightly larger than life. (My guide told me the figures are about 6 ft tall, which would be unlikely some 2,000 years ago...but what great propaganda!). Anyway, the warriors lay buried in special chambers, lost to history until they were found by farmers digging a well in 1974.
More details here.
The museum complex is about a 40 minute ride outside of Xi'an. On the ride to the museum, my guide "Phoenix" told me that more than 7 million folks live in the city of Xi'an. Stunning, a city with the population of LA that most American's probably have never heard of. (By the way there are more than 40 cities with > 1 million residents in China)...Anyway, when you arrive at the museum you have to navigate an array of junky tourist stalls before you make your way to the museum. When you arrive there are three large buildings to peruse. They house pit 1 (picture above), Pit 2 (which is largely unexcavated) and Pit 3 (Generals).
Pit one is by far the most impressive and generally what we most often see pictures of in discussions of the warriors. Pit 2 is largely unexcavated but you can get a good idea of how the warriors were burred so long ago under heavy beams. It is here they found the only intact warrior - a kneeling archer. Pit 3 is significantly smaller and is mostly generals.
Pretty impressive stuff considering it was constructed more than 2,000 years ago. It's reported that the emperor's tomb (currently burred under a massive hill) contains a scale model of the entire country. With model buildings made of gold and seas filled with mercury. No plans to excavate that until scientists can work out a way to preserve any relics inside which would disintegrate on contact with the air.
The warriors are truly wondrous. But part of me kept thinking this.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
China Flash Back: Xi'an City Wall
Hey! It's Sunday, and I just finished baking a bunch of Christmas cookies. (Macaroons, Oatmeal Scotchies, Brownies, etc.) Now that I'm done, I find myself stewing over Congresses actions last week (and how they'll create a lot of work for me in the weeks ahead). So, what better way to forget my troubles than to dive into the recent memories of my China vacation. Today's stop, the ancient capitol of Xi'an. Xi'an, China's first capitol, is home to the famous Terra Cotta Army and has one of the largest and best preserved old city walls in the world.
Unless you're a history/archeology buff, you probably haven't heard of Xi'an. Xi'an was China's first capitol (have I said that enough already?!) and is located in the north-ish central part of the country in Shaanxi Province..kind of like St. Louis is in the U.S. Folks have been living in and around Xi'an since about 1100 BC, when it served as the Capitol of the Zhou Dynasty. Sometime around 582 AD, the Sui Dynasty decided to move the city to the present location and to enclose it in a large city wall. Now, I've seen walled cities in Europe, but they don't come even close the the scale of the walled city of Xi'an. The wall, which is 40-ish feet high and about as wide. It encloses as total area roughly 1/2 the size of Washington, DC. You can rent bikes and ride around the entire perimeter of the wall. (The people at the desk in the lower left of the picture are the bike rental folks). Note that you can't see the end of the wall, this picture was taken from the main gate located smack in the middle of the long, North side of the wall. Also note the pollution.
To get up onto the wall, you enter through a stairwell located in the main gate (picture). Oddly, the Main gate is not in the center of a large traffic circle and to get to it, you have to literally wade into the bustling traffic. Buses, trucks and cars are all hurtling around the circle and as it is a circle, it's really tough to see when it is safe to go. Many aborted attempts to cross, which greatly amused the locals. When I was in Vietnam, you pretty much had to do the same thing, but in both Saigon and Hanoi, most of the traffic is mopeds, here it was cars, buses and trucks. We'd venture out, then I'd shout "Abort, Abort!" and we'd run back to the curb. Finally we shadowed some locals across, found the ticket both and scaled the wall.
After checking out the City Wall, we made our way to a nearby shopping street. One could imagine in the summer this street being chock-a-block with western tourists haggling over trinkets. But it was pretty much just us and the locals. Got a good deal on some terra cotta warriors (Note: Midgie, I'll bring yours to LA in January). Lots of street vendors selling all sorts of yummy looking treats, from candied crabapples, crepes, and roasted chestnuts. Sadly, if there is any possibility of getting sick off this stuff, it ALWAYS happens to me. So, despite the fact most of the food stalls looked pretty clean (better than the hot dog carts here in DC), I passed for my own protection.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
If it's True... Impeach
Just listened to President Bush's Saturday speech and boy was he angry. He should be. He had a relatively good week in which he actually admitted mistakes in the war in Iraq. He even took responsibility. While this wouldn't rehabilitate him in the eyes of many of his critics, politically it was an important move. But on the eve of Senate action on the Patriot Act, a damaging story on his repeated authorization of secret orders to spy on Americans was revealed. This is problematic.
Bush claims that he 1) had good intentions and 2) such actions were lawful. I have no doubt that he's telling the truth on the first one, but as a lawyer I have deep concerns about the second. You see there's this pesky thing called the constitution, which protects U.S. citizens from unlawful searches and seizures. It reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Now, through precedent, the Supreme Court has outlined some, limited exceptions to this, but there is no exception that says the President, if he thinks it is necessary, can waive the warrant requirement. If Bill Clinton did this we'd have militia's in the streets (and rightfully so). Bush is not different, regardless of his motives, his primary duty as president, which he swore to do is to uphold and defend the U.S. Constiution..which for now, includes the fourth amendment.
Five years into the war on terror, and the federal government-under Bush's leadership-has exercised the power to hold american citizens without charges indefinitely and now apparently the government can spy on us to without a warrant. Even if Bush is being benevolent about all this, it is still wrong...and rises to a degree that requires at minimal censure and at most impeachment. In the meantime his efforts have resulted in the death of the Patriot Act in the Senate. This is far from over and Bush's slowly climbing approval rating should now plunge to new lows.
Well, Congress is wrapping things up and heading home and as I mentioned yesterday, they tried to cram more than a year's worth of legislation into this final week. They couldn't have got it more wrong. My office found itself fighting two battles at once, 1) to keep all businesses in the bill for Katrina relief (we lost) and 2) working with the Business lobby (Chamber, NFIB, etc.) to defeat the House version of an immigration bill which would seal the borders and generally mess things up more than they already are. Oh and the killer is they passed a resolution saying that Congress is opposed to cuts to medicare, medicare, WIC and other programs for the poor....just one week after they cut all these programs by $50 billion dollars.
Congress is soo double plus good.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Sorry about no blogging this week, Congress decided to try to cram a year's worth of legislation into one week. As usual, they pretty much are doing more harm than good. With my staff of two, we managed to generate 1,000 of calls (from my clients) and personally send up more than 1,000 letters to Congress in the last few days...on a variety of issues. Right now we're 0-1...and there's so much to talk about on that one...(My industry - a sports related field - was targeted by the religious right to be excluded from hurricane relief tax breaks...as an immoral industry?! Wha?!) And they won....Sigh...(Note: How is golf immoral?)
Then there's the Patriot Act, the immigration (e.g-seal the border bill) and other silliness....Needless to say I'm tired, and more annoyed than usual at Congress.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Sigh! I'm sitting here watching my hit count plunge in December. Nothing makes me happier than to see that my odd thoughts, jotted down quickly (and with the appropriate amount of typos) has resonance with folks out in cyberspace. But I find myself avoiding media lately. Why?
First off, Christmas season is my favorite time of year. In the Christian tradition, it's probably the happiest holiday. It's all about the good that is about to come, a bright and positive future. Yes, Easter is the be all end all of Christianity, but it is so heavy with death, man's imperfection and such. Even in a secular sense I find the holidays uplifting. The year is ending, a new one is about to begin and all sorts of possibilities are...well possible. Oh yes and LOTS OF SPARKLEY LIGHTS! I love it, it makes me focus on goals, bettering myself and reaching out to those I care about and the gifts ain't bad either.
But if I turn on the TV, I get a dash of either 1) Insane commercialism (nothing wrong with that per se - I just don't see the need for yet another George Foreman Grill) or 2) All this hype about the so-called war on Christmas...Yes, five years of Republican rule and we have become such wimps we need to micro manage how everyone, Christian, Jew, or Muslim wishes each other "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" or what not. Give me a break! It turns out most of it is made up anyway...See Wonkette today (I'm too lazy to link)
So, I'm tuning out as much as I can, focusing on the things that matter - introspection, goal setting, the people I love, and I'm having a great time. Oh, there's a ton of stuff happening in Congress, the Administration, the war and such, but I have enough faith that our current crop of so-called leaders will continue their ham-handed ways for some time. We'll have lots to complain about in 2006. For now. or at the very least for today, I'm just tuning it out and focusing on what matters.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Strange but True!
Ok, so I was walking home from the metro today and I was in a grouchy mood. Metro was slow, full of people yapping on their cell phones and the guy next to me was gnawing on his finger nails (which were bloody stumps).
Anyway, as I was walking home in the crisp winter air, I came across an interesting sight. My head was down and I was walking along and all of the sudden into my field of vision marches this little dachshund. Now, while I love most dogs, dachshunds tend to be the exception, they're yappy and small. But this little guy was wearing a little Burberry jacket (note: I don't live in a neighborhood where dogs usually wear clothing-realators call it a "transitional" neighborhood..) and just trotting along by himself, as if he was headed to meet some friends for cocktails.
I think he new he was sporting some stylish duds. I stopped in my tracks and he looked up, wagging his tail. I patted him on the head, tried to make small talk. He was apparently in a hurry, and trotted off.
Just when you think you can be all cynical and grouchy...some little oddity steps up and puts a huge smile on your face.
Good night Mr. Wiggles, where ever you are!
Shanghai Urban Planning Museum
Nestled into the lush People's Park is an admirable collection of museums. A museum of modern art, the Shanghai Museum, and the Museum of Urban Planning (Pictured at right).
The museum of urban planning focuses on the past and future of the city of Shanghai with a massive exhibit of Shanghai 2020 (or some such date). The exhibit features a model of the entire city of Shanghai circa 2015 or so, with every single current and planned building represented on a huge scale model of the city. (Pics below). It was pretty cool.
The most intriguing part of the exhibits was the various displays on the many plans the government has for the region. Expanding the impressive new airport, building a new container port, redeveloping the length of Shu Zou Creek, etc. It didn't impress me that many of these plans were government sponsored (the kind of hideous urban renewal schemes that wrecked many U.S. cities in the 1960s) boondoggles, but rather a bunch of exhibits detailing the collective public and private projects that will reshape the city in the years ahead. It was kind of a 'hurray for the future' Epcot like exhibit, which I'm a total sucker for.
Talk about inconsistent. Postings last week were hit or miss, mostly because December is turning out to be surprisingly busy on Capitol Hill. Last week the House voted on Katrina tax relief, and they voted to exclude my industry from any of the tax breaks. So as the bill goes to conference, I'm stuck lobbying to exclude the exclusions...Sigh! Oh, and then there's the promotion...which tripled the number of people who report to me, but strangely left my salary intact....so, that's taking a lot more time as well.
Anyway, moving to a new balance here, so please bare with me.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Well, not really. After a nice long walk up Nanjing Lu, we spilled out into People's Square/Park. It's a large, handsome urban park that's divided into to major areas by a row of museums and Shanghai City Hall. Walking around the "park" portion was relaxing and hidden along the trails that wound through the trees, streams and ponds were little cafes and a starbucks.
The park afforded some nice views of the city and it's cool buildings.
But by far, the best part of the park was a rather large sign near the entrance. The sign spelled out the rules for using the park. Among my favorite parks of the sign was the notice that it was forbidden to "shit or urinate" in the park, however, one could in fact "shit or urinate" in appropriate facilities that would be indicated by a "conspicuous sigh!".
Also forbidden within the boudaries of the park was any activity that was "fuedalistic or superstitious" in nature. I was reminded, for just a moment, that among all these modern wonders, that many important freedoms are still years away in China...the ever important rights to engage in feudalistic or superstitious behavior in public.
The Radisson Inter-Galactic
As you work your way up Nanjing Lu, your headed towards People's Park and People's Square. A handsome urban park that's a mix of NYC's Bryant Park and Central Park. As you approach the end of Nanjin Lu shopping area, you're confronted with this view...Another kitschy/wonderful tower.
Ironically this is a Radisson Hotel, or as I so semi-cleverly decided, The Radisson Inter-Galactic. The locals are kind of embarrassed by this silly looking thing, but I'm guessing when no-one is looking, the rotating restaurant/UFO thing on the top separates from the building and zooms around the city.
Shopping, Shopping, Shopping
Intersecting the riverwalk area and the Bund is Nanjing Lu, Shanghai's famous shopping street. Sort of Michigan Avenue meets Blade Runner. Lots of department stores, jewerly (especially pearls) and other stores...but since I'm not a big shopper, it was more of a people wathcing adventure.
At night this place is lit up so bright it makes Time's Square look modest.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Here's two shots of the Bund. Notice the dreamy modern building in the background. Uncreatively, we dubbed it the pineapple building. At night search lights emerged from the fronds and scanned the sky (no doubt to serve as landing lights for hover cars and/or jet packs). The jumbled mix of strikingly historic and stunningly futuristic architecture gave the whole place a great energy.
My Day in Shanghai Cont'd
Still breathless from the "Modern" sightseeing tunnel, we spilled out onto the river promenade the sprawls out in front of the historic buildings on the Bund. The river walk provides an excellent view of the futuristic looking Pudong side of the river. The space-aged towers looming like some vision of Tomorrowland. You can see the Pearl Orient TV Tower, and that tall building in the back is the Jin Mao tower, home of my hotel room. The river was busy with barge, junk, and freighter traffic.
After the tunnel and looking at this awesome sight, I was seriously expecting to see a hover car, or at least a jet pack, but no such luck. Of course if we stopped strolling the river walk for even a second, we were surrounded by street vendors selling the ubiquitous "Rollex" watches. Oddly though, a polite "No Thanks" seemed to be sufficient to scatter the vendors and they'd politely wish us a nice trip in China.
Crossing the Haungpu River
From Pudong to Puxi
With our hotel anchoring the futuristic skyscrapers and parks of the Pudong New Area, across the river from Shanghai proper, we faced the dilemma many tourists must deal with in Shanghai. Which form of transit to take into the city center? A taxi through the underwater highway tunnel ($2) seemed so New York, the subway -which was clean and efficient (and only $0.30!) seemed ok, but I for one had been pushing for us to take the Bund Sight Seeing Tunnel. Described in tour books as:
Bund Sightseeing Tunnel connects underwater the junction of the Bund and the Nanjing Dong Lu Road on the west bank of Huangpu River and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower on the east bank of Huangpu River. Completed at the end of 2000, it is the first under-river pedestrian tunnel with a total length of 646.7 meters. Escalators are installed at its entrances and exits, and hydraulic pressure lifts are especially designed for the handicapped. The highly advanced automatic non-driver traction compartments will be used to carry passengers and it takes about 2.5 to 5 minutes for this modern clean and light vehicle to run from Puxi to Pudong. Its maximum capacity is 5280 persons per hour. Modern high technologies will be applied in the decoration of the tunnel, providing the passengers with background music as well as pictures, patterns and views about people, history, culture, science and technology and natural scenery. Tourists will be deeply impressed by the visual and audio enjoyment, fun and excitement while passing through the tunnel.Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is one of Shanghai's new urban tourism transportation projects. Shanghai Lujiazui Development Co., Ltd. jointly invested in and constructed it.
Now, I don't know much, but I do know that if a tourist attraction uses the word "Modern" more than once in describing itself, it is probably 1) not that modern and 2) definitely something I want to see! I was even more curious as to what exactly "providing the passengers with background music as well as pictures, patterns and views about people, history, culture, science and technology and natural scenery.." would be exactly. Even now, after having transversed the tunnel I'm not too sure. But here is what transpired.
First, you enter the tunnel facilities after negotiating a small public square full of shady salesmen standing round the entrance hocking fake Rollexes. Of course these salesmen are bright, anyone foolish enough to be attracted to a "sight seeing tunnel" might be interested in fake luxury products. I wasn't.
After purchasing a ticket, you make your way down an escalator to the boarding area. The ceiling above the escalator is plastered with a bunch of fake vines and recording bird sounds.. I suppose this is the "natural scenery" part.
At the bottom of the escalator is the boarding area. Cool looking plastic like pods emerge from the tunnel onto a turntable which queues them up for the return journey under the river. Fortunately, me and my posse got a pod mostly to ourselves. The doors close with a "Whoosh" and off we went.
As promised the "sight seeing tunnel" (an oxymoron if ever there was one) does deliver with "providing the passengers with background music as well as pictures, patterns and views about people, history, culture, science and technology and natural scenery." As you leave the boarding area you are treated to some techno-ish music, strobe lights, and the first of several pronouncements from a disembodied voice (all in english). The first pronouncement is: "METEOR SHOWER!".
As you progress through the tunnel, you move from the "Meteor Shower" phase to some sort of fish scenery. The disembodied voice announces "FOSSIL VARIANCE!" (I giggle and somewhere in my subconscious I hear South Park's Cartman say "Sweet!").
After the fish/fossil motif, the pod moves into an area with bright, lava like projections on the tunnel wall. The voice announces "NASCENT MAGMA!" I nod in agreement.
At what seems the very bottom of the tunnel, the view is dark, black light-ish. around the cars are those air blown, inflatable people with wavy arms (like at car dealerships) they are all 'dancing' about. The voice announces, "WALTZ!" and some electronic Waltz music plays. As I am unsure if this is a comment or command, I simply stare slack jawed at this impressive sight. I'm guessing this is the views about people section?
Of course you can't have dancing without judgment, or at least that's what I learned from Footloose. So after the "Waltz" section the car enters a bright colorful area and the voice proclaims "PARADISE & HELL!" The bright lights of paradise (as see in the link picture) give way to more menacing music and what looks like a reprise of the lava portion of the trip.
By this time, I'm so worked up in all the feature of the 'tunnel' and its kitschy glory that I almost pass out...the rest is a blur. While I doubt the "Bund Sightseeing Tunnel" will takes its place along the great artifacts of Chinese Civilization, like the Great Wall, The Forbidden City, and the Terra Cotta Army, it proved to be a highly amusing way to cross the river from one side of the city to the other...it certainly is better than DC's Metro system.
Into the World:
After enjoying an in room cup of coffee, my entourage made its way down to the lobby of the hotel, some 21 stories below, for breakfast and then to depart into the city. This is view of the atrium of the Grand Hyatt Shanghai. Stunningly beautiful, but every time I approached the railing, I got terrible vertigo.
Shanghai Surprises (Yes, an obvious caption, sigh)
Although my visit to Shanghai came at the end of my vacation, the city's sites, museums, and people put it first on my list of favorite places from my recent trip. In fact, what really put the whole vacation over the top was my last day in Shanghai.
First the day started with pulling back the curtains on my 75 floor room at the futuristic Grand Hyatt Shanghai at the Jin Mao Tower (The third tallest building on Earth). My window afforded a view not only of the kitschy Pearl Orient Tower (as tall as theEiffell Tower, and pictured above), but also of the historic Bund and the busy Huangpu River below. At any given time there were about twenty barges or container ships plying the river. The view was stunning, despite the fairly smoggy skies.
China Travelogue: A Day in Shanghai
Ok, yesterday's snow has really bouyed my spirits. So, I'll be dishing on part of my vacation today. I'll spill it out in bits over the course of the day as time allows. Enjoy!
Monday, December 05, 2005
It's not the bird flu
Okay, I'm still working on a travelogue of my trip to China. Don't for a moment think that the trip was dull, China is way cool. How could one not enjoy a county with 5,000 years of recorded history, the great wall, a 266 mile an hour hover train, 50 story tall televisions on the sides of skyscrapers, and an 88 story tall hotel?
The truth is I came down with a nasty cold, which I blame on the arid conditions inside the airplane I was on for some 20 hours last week. I'm drinking gatorade by the gallon, and I'm slowly recovering. Top that all off with taking on some new duties at work (in light of a sweet promotion) and I find my attention being drawn elsewhere. It's only temporary, I hope, but in the mean time, things will be a little light here for a while.
Besides, it's the Holidays and I'd much rather be focused on snow, christmas lights and the general feelings of unbridled expectation and hope that accompany Christmas. Too much griping and silliness like the "War on Christmas" and the like. I'm just trying to enjoy!
Ok, it's not snowing yet, but the forecast is calling for 2 to 4 inches of the stuff by 5pm! After missing Thanksgiving, this will certainly help put me in the holiday mood.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Here's an example of the 'scale' issue I mentioned below. Beijing's closest equivalent city in America would have to be Las Vegas. It's not the Beijing is full of gaudy, neon-clad buildings, it's just that the scale of the buildings (not super tall, but very large) was more in line with walking the Vegas Strip that it was with strolling in DC or New York. Here's a shot of Fuxing Lu, a grand boulevard that runs through the city and between Tianamen Sq. and the Forbidden City (about two blocks behind me in this photo.) The stairway in front in the subway, and in the building on the left is a huge mall, with all sorts of exotic shops like Starbucks, Outback Steak House, KFC, and McDonalds.
An interesting note, the large complex on the left is offices and hotels. It was also the site of the first McDonald's in China. The McDonald's only occupied this spot for four years of so before it was torn down and replaced with a huge office development.
The Great Wall
As impressive as you'd think. The only down side is that our planned hike on the great wall was drastically shortened by the fact that it was 30 degrees with 40 mile and hour winds.
As Viewed from "M" on the Bund
My last night in Shanghai, we ate at the famous-ish restaurant "M" on the Bund. The views of the old city and of Pudong (New City) were amazing, very blade runner. Of course the fact that we were seated right next to California Senator Diane Feinstein made it all the more interesting.
(Photo Taken from the balcony at M on the Bund: All rights reserved: Elephant)
I'm back! And of course China was a blast. It's fairly easy to sum up my impressions of the place in a single word, Scale! Everything over there is huge...the great wall, the cities, the history.
The folks there were very gracious and kind, and the service culture was killer. The hover train rocked, and Shanghai was a glimpse into the future. Many stories and pictures to share, some today and more detailed information next week as I shake off the jet lag and organize my thoughts.