Small but only in size

This post will probably fall into the category of things I think are really cool, but most people will just go “Huh?”

For some unknown reason, last Saturday I developed the urge to buy an AstroBoy T-shirt. I remembered a store in the 西单 (Xidan) area where they sold Astro stuff, so I got on the subway and went there.

I was pleased to find that the store was still there, and they had a big rack of merchandise at 50% off. No T-shirts, but I found this nifty hooded sweatshirt.
I had the hardest time deciding – they had so many cool designs to choose from. With the discount, it came to about US$20.

Not only that, but as I was leaving, the attendant slipped a free gift into my bag.
There were only a couple days left of the Spring Festival at that point, so I guess they were trying to get rid of the nearly expired seasonal items. It’s a folding gift holder, and tucked inside the package was a packet of red envelopes for giving traditional gifts (money). It was too late for me to use them this year, but maybe I’ll get a chance next year.
It also came with a really cool little 福 (Fu good fortune, luck) poster, which is like the ones all over China, except it’s got a robot boy on it. I promptly put it on my door, though the holiday was nearly done. They’re as slow taking down Spring Festival decorations here as many Americans are with their Christmas decorations, so I’m not the only one with a poster still on display.

Well, I think it’s cool anyway.


Happy Niu Year, part 4

When I wrote part 3, I had no idea there would be a part 4. But one of my coworkers sent me a text message and invited me to accompany her to the Temple Fair at Longtanhu Park (龙潭湖 Deep Dragon Lake) in southeast Beijing. It’s not far from the Temple of Heaven, and it’s a park, not a temple, but they still call it a Temple Fair.
This is just outside the main gate. If you look closely you can probably find a bunch of people selling entrance tickets for less than they do at the official window. Legit or not, I don’t know, but the ones we bought got us in.
There was the usual assortment of food stalls. In this picture, the one on the left is preparing squid, and on the right is 灌肠 (guanchang), a dish consisting of thin sliced potatoes fried in oil and garlic. My Chinese teacher tells me that in past times, when meat was hard to come by, they fried the potatoes in pork fat to give the flavor or meat without actually having any meat.

My friend braved the crowd while I waited in a relatively calm area. She intended to buy yang rou chuanr (mutton on a stick), but came back with chicken instead. She said all the mutton looked like nothing but fat. She also got some guanchang and squid. The guanchang was pretty good, though very oily, and the squid was good too. Both were eaten with toothpicks.
The sign in the center with the big red characters caught my eye. I knew the first one is 狗 (gou dog), so I asked my companion if they were selling dog meat. She said no, 狗不理 (gou bu li) means “dog doesn’t pay attention” and is a kind of steamed bun from Tianjin; it does not contain dog meat. She did not know the origin of the strange name. I’ve now done some research and found that, like many things here, there is more than one story to explain it. One goes that they were first made by a cook whose given name was 狗子 (Gouzi, or “Doggie” which is not as strange a name as it may seem, since animal names are often given in order to bestow the animal’s positive characteristics on a child). Gouzi’s buns were very delicious and popular, but he was always so intent on making them that he ignored his customers. Who knows? Could be.

Here’s another one I haven’t got around to trying yet:
Yep, scorpions on a stick. Well, somebody seems to like them.

And for fans of moving pictures, here is a circular view of the scene:

And moving along from the topic of food...
I’m not sure of the function of these buildings out on the water. They were not open during the fair. As you can see, the lake is partly frozen – the temperature was just a little above freezing this day. In the foreground are some of the many vendors selling jewelry and bric-a-brac, mostly Tibetan in style if not actually in origin.

There are a number of statues in the park, and when my coworker saw me looking at this one, she told me something of the story about it.
It is Shi Chuanxiang (时传祥), who was one of the official heroes of the Communist government in the old days. He was a poor worker whose job it was to shovel the waste out of public toilets in the days before they had plumbing. After working for 40 years, he was chosen as one of the models of virtue by the 1959 regime. He was to be an inspiration for all the other Chinese who labored at unpleasant jobs: If Mr. Shi can do his job, I can do mine.

Another feature of Longtanhu is this:
This is a small part of the 100 Dragons. The characters carved into the rock are all variations of 龙 long (dragon), written a hundred different ways, mostly based on the old traditional character rather than the modern simplified one I know. They are even numbered for those who want to collect them all.

As we were leaving the park, a peeping sound caught my ears.
It was coming from this woman’s box of baby chicks.

I promise that’s the last of Happy Niu Year. May the Year of the Ox bring you and your family prosperity and good health! 过年好!

Work it on out

Since I came to China, I have worked in four different office spaces, and by a really odd coincidence, every time the company has moved, I have been out of town. When we moved from the Huabei Hotel into the G-Box I was in Japan, and they moved from there into a temporary space in The Place’s north tower while I was back in the US at the beginning of November last year. The latest time was while I was in Hawaii for Christmas. We relocated to our permanent office in the south tower at The Place.

When I first saw the new space last November, it was bare concrete with some walls.
That’s the future reception area.
And I think that’s the Call Center – kind of hard to tell. They’re using the area to build some of the custom fixtures. The one in the middle will be the reception desk.
This area would become my work space.

And here’s one more illustration of Chinese construction techniques:
Conduits for writing run across the building’s base floor, and channels are being built for more wires – network, phone, and so on. Notice how one set of conduits goes underneath the other, with the cement chipped out to make room.

When they’re done with the wiring, this pile of cement…
…will be mixed with water to fill in a new floor up to the level of the channel edges, then flooring will be placed on top.

Anyway, when I returned to Beijing it looked like this:
And this is about the same view as in the third shot above:
My work area is a little cramped.
My cube is the back left. If I’m not careful when I roll my chair back, I bump into RR, and the guys in the front cubes have to scoot in to let us pass.

Compare my G-Box desk:
Can I cry now?

For reference, this was the Huabei office in the fall of 2006, with my desk on the left:
And here is a picture of our temporary space I took with my BlackBerry from my seat. The Call Center is at the back of the room.

Back to the present, one last shot... we’re on the sixth floor, even with the Skyscreen.
That’s looking west, showing the back of the big TV screen facing Dongdaqiao Street and the edge of the Skyscreen running along the length of the building.