Time’s Flying Now…

Recommended Listening:  “Song and Emotion” – Tesla


It’s hard to believe that 20 days have already gone by.  Other than being a token white face during the meetings in Korea, I honestly do not see the full value of me being here.  I surely haven’t made any friends with the other design institutes that we are working with on this project.  When I have to use a phrase like “You knew about these schedule dates when you signed the contract.  Don’t play dumb with me now,” you know there are going to be issues.  A very large, very important engineering deliverable is due on 5/21.  For those of you good with a calendar, you’ll see that that is 6 days after I leave Beijing.  As I write this, there are 6.5 working days left for me to help them accomplish what they need to deliver on the 21st.  The worst part is that the work isn’t being done here in Beijing.  This is one of those documents that we’ve outsourced to the other design institute to complete.  Each morning, I’ve asked for a status update on this document.  Each morning I’m told that it’s not done yet.  Meanwhile, I look for other things to help with.  Thankfully, this deliverable, regardless of how important it is, is not the biggest issue with the project.  There are many, many commercial issues that will likely cause delays in shipments, payments, and start-ups.  I’m extremely glad that this isn’t part of my immediate concern.  Maybe down the road (hopefully not), but for now, my job here is “simple” as I had laid out above.


Aside from the nearly impossible task ahead of me on the work side, I’ve been keeping busy outside of the office.  Now that spring time is in full force, the Saturday tradition of golf in the morning has been part of each of our plans.  I’m extremely glad for this because the moment I get home, I’m leaving on an annual golf trip with some coworkers named the “Snickeys Cup.”  I’ll explain about the Snickeys Cup a little later.  On top of this, I’ve spent a lot of time wandering aimlessly around the city, armed with my camera and a map.  Unlike my trip in November and December, it’s warm enough for me to enjoy being outside.  In fact, the average daily temperature has jumped over 20 degrees since I arrived.  Today is supposed to reach almost 90.  During the work week, I’ve been meeting up with folks, both Chinese and American for dinner.  These dinners typically last a couple hours, and by the time we’re done, it’s time to walk home and relax a little before bed.  It really makes the days (and weeks) go fast.  As a matter of fact, I haven’t done nearly as much as I thought I would.  As an example, yesterday was spent hanging out on the patio with the guys, a couple of beers, and a big bag of chips with a couple jars of salsa and cheese dip.  It was almost the perfect relaxing Sunday.


Some of you may be looking at the dates I mentioned earlier and see the 6 day discrepancy between when I leave and when the document is due.  You may even ask yourself why I’m not staying until the release date.  Some of you may even be asking yourself if I scheduled my departure date such that I don’t miss the golf trip.  Well, if you are one of those people asking that question, then my answer is “You’re damn right I did.”  Leading up to this trip, I was subjected to a constant battle between upper management regarding whether I will be going to China, or staying in Ohio.  One week I’m going, the next, I’m not.  After being screwed around like that for 2 months, and finally being told that I was going for 30 days, I made the decisions that fit both the immediate contract requirements as well as my own personal commitments.  It’s bad enough that I had to cancel a trip to one of my favorite race tracks in the nation, as well as autocrossing in one helluva badass little car.  I wasn’t going to let someone else’s issue ruin any more of my plans.  Take that as you will.  Had everything with the trip gone according to plan, I would have no problem staying a little longer to ensure that everything went correctly.


Now, back to the Snickeys Cup.  This annual golf trip started 4 years ago with my coworkers.  It started as us looking for a place to get away, play golf for a weekend, and have some fun.  For good measure, we added a couple games and kept track how each person did against the rest of the players.  There was an overall prize, a prize for the best “worst shot,” a prize for longest putt, closest to the pin, and other types of skills like that.  We even had a game where if you didn’t hit the ball past the ladies tees, you had to wear the Sahlen’s Hot Dog Hat for an entire hole, and the person with the most “hot dogs” was ridiculed and heckled… even to this day.  Since then, it’s expanded and grown a bit.  First of all, it now has an official name.  The name came from one of the guys (all names withheld to protect the guilty) was debating between buying a Snickers bar and a Hersheys bar, and got tongue-tied after seeing the extremely attractive lady working the snack counter.  “Snickeys” is the word that came out of his mouth, and he’s never lived it down.  Last year, I lost the grand prize by only a couple of strokes.  This year… that cup is mine.  I’ve improved my game, improved my equipment, and improved my method of getting into their heads.  If I don’t win this year… well, I really won’t care much, but I would still rather win.


And on that bombshell, it’s just about time to leave the office and grab dinner.  Until next time.


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Seoul… the little I get to see of it…

Recommended Listening: “A Tout Le Monde” by Megadeth


There are perks to working on this assignment in Beijing.  There are also a lot of downsides.  One of the fun parts is getting to occasionally travel to other countries that are involved in the project.  It’s always neat to see other parts of the world, experience the culture, see the sights, eat the food.  The downside of this… I normally go from the airport, to the hotel, to the office, and back to Beijing.  There is rarely much of an opportunity to really go sightseeing.  Fortunately for us, it is a nice walk from the hotel to the office, but there is so much more of the city that I won’t get to see.  Such is life when I’m getting paid to travel.


Sunday we headed to the airport rather early in the day.  We caught a cab and hit the road.  It’s amazing how cheap cabs are in Beijing.  For the lump sum of around $23 USD, the cab took us on the 45+ minute drive to the airport.  In the US… guarantee it’d be a hundred bucks.  The flight to Seoul from Beijing is a rather quick one.  Thankfully for us, it was a very smooth one too.  The more foreign flights that I take, the more I realize that airlines in the US are way overpriced.  This flight to Seoul cost maybe $200 and gave us a pretty nice sized meal.  Not bad for a 2 hour flight.  We landed in Seoul on time and got a nice tour of the entire airport.  We parked at one of the gates at the far end of the airport.  The only customs areas that were open were at the opposite side of the airport.  Once we got through customs, we began to head to the baggage claim.  Luckily for us, it was the farthest one away, once again.  Mildly annoying.  Once we finally got out of the airport, we walked to the opposite side once again to catch a cab.  Four people, four pieces of luggage, and all of the cabs are Hyundai Sonatas… this may not work out well for us.  As we are standing there waiting in line, a guy in charge of the cabs pulled us aside because we had 4 people.  “Come this way… I have a van,” he said.  Yep… sure was a van.  It was a laid out limo van with free WiFi inside, and TV’s all over, playing old Tom and Jerry cartoons.  This seriously made my day.  How can you go wrong with some Tom and Jerry?  The four of us watched and laughed the whole way to the hotel.


The hotel we’re staying at is called Best Western New Seoul.  Overal… not bad.  They say it’s 4 star, but I’d put it at a high 2, but it has a bed, a bathroom, a shower that doesn’t share the same area as the toilet… overall, not too bad.  If only I could figure out the HVAC, I’d be set.  Average temperature in my room was 77 degrees at all times.  Thermostat controls did nothing, A/C controls on the nightstand did nothing.  I ended up sleeping with the window open most of the time.  The hotel is located a couple blocks away from city hall, and as such has many of the embassies located near it.  During our first walk to Daelim’s offices, we just happened to find the US Embassy.  This was good to know as it’s one of the first things I locate when I travel to a new capital city, just in case I have to make a quick dash toward home.  The meetings which took place at Daelim’s offices were long, drawn out, and quite boring.  I made the decision during these meetings to take a step back and observe how the Chinese handled themselves.  I wouldn’t step in unless I felt absolutely necessary.  This was one of my strategies for determining how I can help ween them off of my assistance.  With things as busy as they are in Barberton, we can’t guarantee that there will always be someone (me) available to fly out at the drop of a hat and help out.  Overall, I was impressed.  What I’ve been teaching and helping out with over the last 2 years has really sunk in and taken form.  Hell, I’m afraid that these guys may be better than I am!  Unfortunately, thanks to the busy schedule at the office, I didn’t get to wander around much and explore.  With any luck, I’ll get to come back in the future and see more sights.  What I gathered during my short time here was seeing that not all of Asia is organized chaos.  In China, everyone seems to be in a hurry, all the time, and half of the time for reasons unknown.  This mentality transfers to just about everything except for scheduled work.  When I confront some of them and say that there is a deliverable that is due on a date, I get 15 minutes of complaining as to why they can’t do it… regardless of the fact that they already have it done and don’t realize it.  If there was another space race to the moon, I would be willing to bet that China will have a rocket ready to launch first, and launch it before they ever realized that they forgot to install an oxygen system in the capsule.  Korea has proven to be quite a bit different.  Korea almost seems as though they look at the Chinese and say “Dude… what the hell is your problem?  Chill for a minute!”  People seem to be more relaxed, and think things through more before making a decision.  Not saying one method is better than the other, but I knew which one I was more comfortable with.  Downside:  Korea is effing expensive!  At any given restaurant, a local beer cost around $7 a bottle.  For those of us who enjoy a good craft beer, this doesn’t seem too horrible.  But for the general public, imagine going to a greasy spoon restaurant and ordering a PBR.  You just paid $7 for swill.  Yeah… it’s that bad.


The trip home was one that I’d rather not experience again.  It’s a 2 hour flight back from Seoul to Beijing.  Simple trip compared to my flight to China.  From the moment that the flight attendants refused to give me an entry card for China, I knew that this flight was going to be full of misery.  For those not familiar with international travel, each country that you fly to has a specific customs form that you must fill out before arriving.  I’ve travelled into China enough times to know that as a foreigner, I must fill one of these out.  When the girl came around with the cards, she told me that they were for international transfer travelers only.  Uhh… what?  No… I need one.  I knew that these cards were available at the airport near the customs stand so I didn’t put up much of a fight.  You would think that an international flight crew would know things like this, but I guess not.  Fifteen minutes into the flight, we begin to experience turbulence.  Little did I know that the few small bumps would be the softest part of the whole trip.  I’ve flown thru thunderstorms, blizzards, tropical winds… I’ve seen a lot of conditions.  None of them compare to the turbulence on this flight.  I never knew that airplane wings could flex 15 feet in either direction before.  We were up and down, side to side, for over ¾ of this flight.  I tried to read my book… that definitely didn’t happen.  All I could do was sit there and try to close my eyes, hoping it would be over soon.  Thankfully, it didn’t get any worse than it was… at least until we began to descend.  Wow.  I’ve seen Formula D cars with less sideways action than this plane.  All the way down to the ground, I was convinced that this pilot was trying to do an e-brake slide into the airport.  Feeling the wheels touch down was the happiest feeling of my life that day.  Once on the ground, the only thing left to do was navigate the maze that is Beijing’s Terminal 3.  At this point, it’s easy for me.  Good thing too as we had landed in an area I have never been to in this airport.  Once all was said and done, all that remained was the cab ride back to the apartment… at 530pm, during the height of rush hour.  2 hours later… home at last and able to kick up my feet and watch some TV.  Being back in the office now, I have the fun task of planning all of the work that needs to be completed before I leave.  All I can say is that it’s going to be a busy 20 days…

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Time for a Proper Trip Update

Recommended Listening:  Dream Theater – “Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle and The Sleeper”


Well, I’ve been here in Beijing for a few days now, so I feel that I’ve settled in enough and learned about my duties well enough that I can actually judge just how much I’m going to enjoy being here for the next 26 days.  Being my third trip to Beijing and the BWBC offices, I’ve learned to judge upcoming experiences based on how things start out within the first few days.  For those of you who have been following this blog since its inception, you may remember how I was shipped out on a tour of difference offices within days of arriving.  During that trip, I had broken out in hives all over my body, more than likely stress related.  Mentally, I was a mess.  Physically, I felt ill for much of the first two weeks.  Well, so far, this trip is proving to be quite a bit different…


After coasting through customs and baggage return MUCH easier than in November, I walked out into the lobby of the Beijing Terminal 3 to find my old friend Mr. Lu, who picked me up and dropped me off last year.  He saw me before I even acknowledged the sign he was holding and began to lead me to the car.  The walk from the lobby to the parking garage isn’t a short one and is conveniently laden with escalators and moving floors that have blockades to prevent baggage carts from using them… which are just narrow enough that my rolling bag never fits between them.  At this point, I’m used to it and have gotten pretty good at turning the bags at just the right time to squeeze through.  I’m starting to make this trip like a pro.  We make it to the parking deck to find that I get to ride in class.  A brand new Audi A6L is sitting there, waiting for me.  Nice.  So, I throw the bags in the trunk, plop into the back seat, and get ready for the hour plus drive from the airport to the office.  This drive always involves a lot of traffic, lots of creative passing and light running, and nearly clipping pedestrians on all sides.  After being here as long as I have, it’s all common behavior now.  The 5th Ring road leading to Shijingshan is rather scenic, with the mountains on the right side of the car, and the city skyline on the left side.  About 30 minutes into the drive, I decide to try to take pictures of the extremely clear mountain side:  a definite rarity most days.  As soon as I snap the picture, a bright white Lamborghini Gallardo LP550, driven by a young Chinese woman no more than 30 blasts past us on the right, blocking the mountain view in the photo.  I can’t say I’m complaining.  Who doesn’t enjoy a nice exotic view?  The remainder of the drive is quite uneventful, and seemed to go by much quicker than usual.  I must really be getting used to that trip.  We arrive at the offices where the driver kindly drops me off a good distance away from the apartments and drives away.  No key.  No instructions.  Nothing.  THANKFULLY, I know where the project manager and other people whom I deal with regularly sit so that I can get things situated.  A mild inconvenience, and one that is handled very easily.  After several phone calls and discussions, it turns out that there isn’t an apartment available for me.  Ok, now this is getting pretty shitty.  A few more phone calls, and it’s decided that I will be sharing an apartment with a new expat who arrived the day before, Paul Wu.  I’ve never met Paul before, but I’m told that he is only going to be in town for 2 weeks before he is shipped off to the Vung Ang jobsite in Vietnam.  No problems.  He’s a friendly, quiet guy who keeps to himself and stays in his little area that he’s setup in the apartment.  Almost sounds like a previous roommate that I had back home.  No complaints at all.


Much like the last trip here, I find out on my first day in the office that I’m going to be shipped off to another office for a meeting.  Once again, it’s in a location in Asia that I’ve never visited.  On Sunday, I’ll be shipping off to Seoul, South Korea.  Instantly, I grow concerned thanks to all of the fun that’s been happening in North Korea lately.  I began talking to several of the engineers and expats here regarding going to Korea, and they all claim there’s nothing to worry about.  The South Koreans are just as sick of the North Korean’s BS that they just go about their daily routines.  This instantly makes me feel better about the upcoming trip.  Wednesday through Friday here at the office has been spent preparing for this surprise meeting and coming up with plans for what seems like the most difficult undertaking I’ve ever had to do in my 7 years as an engineer.  I’m trying to be optimistic about it, but it’s definitely going to take up all of my work and free time in order to complete it.  Let’s hope it all goes ok, because I really really don’t feel like coming back again in the near future.  I only say this because of all the drama leading up to my trip.  I was absolutely not looking forward to coming.  The only thing I was looking forward to was getting this done and over with, and moving on with things more important than work.


Tonight, Fred is having a pulled pork dinner party for the expats and a few other guests.  I’m looking forward to finally being able to kick up my feet with a beverage and friendly faces and relaxing.  It’s very much needed and anticipated.  Tomorrow’s plans consist of a tee time at 9am and a group trip to the Sanlitun district for some shopping, foot massage, and other relaxing before dinner.  I think a beverage or two may find its way in my system while I’m out there.  It’s one of few places in this city where I can get a good Bombay Sapphire and tonic.  I’m hoping to not jinx myself, but even though the work is going to be extremely challenging, and schedules are going to be difficult to follow, it already seems like this trip is off to a better start than the last one.


Until next time…

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I’ve Arrived

Well, this is more of a test post than anything else. I’ve made it to the apartment and have unpacked. The setup that I’m used to has changed.  Going to be a fun one getting used to everything again. Hopefully tomorrow I will have a better idea of what is happening in the near future. Fingers crossed.


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The 15 Albums That “Ruined” My Life… Part 1 – The Classics

Ok so, we’ve been over this several times.  I’m a huge music nut.  Some of my friends *cough* Bayda *cough* have much larger collections than I have, but they’ve always been willing to steer me in directions to discover new stuff.  I remember growing up, riding with my parents in the Chrysler Newport, listening to a variety of cassette tapes that got me started down the road of music appreciation.  Tapes of Bob Seger’s Live Bullet, and Boston’s Third Stage , as well as various Neil Diamond and Jethro Tull tapes.  Unfortunately, that car’s tape deck ruined the sound quality of some of these tapes, leading me to believe that what I was hearing was how they were recorded.  Boy was that far from the truth!  A few years later, we started listening to country.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, there was a lot of music that I would end up liking, even to this day in that genre.  There are some really skilled musicians playing country music out there… the problem is that they are behind a single name, and no one ever hears about them.  For example, Brad Paisley’s rhythm guitarist…  He’s pretty damn good, but who knows what his name is?  It was around 4th or 5thgrade when a band name would be mentioned in my General Music class, and that would be the beginning of the end.  That band’s name?  Black Sabbath.  My misinformed music teacher was talking about the history of modern music, and mentioned that the quartet of Tony, Ozzy, Bill, and Geezer were Satanic.  Even though that statement isn’t true, it still caught my attention as something that should be checked out.  At about that time, I had remembered that my dad had an old vinyl LP of a Black Sabbath Greatest Hits album.  This, my friends, was the beginning of the end.  I’m going to list and break down the 15 albums that have changed my life the most.  If I’m listing them, I highly recommend you check them out.

It has taken me a long time to narrow this down, and it’s taken me even longer to figure out what to write.  I decided to break this into multiple sections… for my own sanity.


1)      Black Sabbath – We Sold Our Soul For Rock & Roll

Simply put, this definitely needs to be at the top of the list.  I’ve never been a big fan of The  Beatles or The Rolling Stones.  Sabbath was my British Invasion band of choice.  They are the Godfathers of hard rock and heavy metal.  They started it all.  Anyone who picks up a guitar and plays a powerchord can thank Tony Iommi for popularizing this.  Some may not know, but Tony is actually missing two finger tips on his right hand.  Being a left handed guitarist, this required him to add fake fingertips to these fingers in order to play.  This album is a greatest hits compilation, and while every album they’ve ever put together is great, this is one of the best compilations to get a feel for everything they’ve done.

Recommended song:  “Fairies Wear Boots”


2)      Led Zeppelin – IV (Zoso)

It’s extremely hard to pick one Zeppelin album that influenced me, so I’ve chosen the first one I ever listened to from beginning to end.  What caused me to pick up this album?  Hearing all of the hype about “Stairway to Heaven” but not being familiar with it.  Hearing Jimmy Page’s guitar playing caused me to fall in love with the Les Paul guitar.  Not one member of the band has a simple part in the band.  Each musician is great in their own right.  The album is celebrating its 42nd year in existence this year, and still sounds as “new” to me as it did the day I first put Uncle Joe’s LP on the turntable.

Recommended song:  “When the Levee Breaks”


3)      Frank Zappa – Apostrophe’

It was around 6th grade when I had heard a song by Frank Zappa called “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow.”  Found on the greatest hits compilation Strictly Commercial, this was a shortened version of a multiple part song, which I wasn’t initially aware of.  The title of the song instantly caught my attention, so I instantly skipped to that track, and prepared myself for whatever was to come.   Within the first 30 seconds, I was interested, confused, and amazed.  Up until that point, I had never heard anyone writing and performing music like that.  The song writing was very creative, and each of the musicians in the group was amazing on their instruments.  After hearing this song, I needed to hear more.  Several years later, I saw the Apostrophe’ album at a local record store and instantly snatched it up.  I listened to this CD over and over and over again until I could recite almost every word from memory.  This album opened my eyes to the Progressive rock genre that I now love.   Frank had written and recorded around 50 albums before he died in the early 90’s.  He was truly a genius when it came to music as well as one helluva guitarist, and words can’t describe how glad I am to have discovered his work.

Recommended song:  “Cosmik Debris”


4)       Eric Clapton – Slowhand

Once I had reached the age where I could appreciate good music, my dad began listening to more and more good music with me around.  I’m sure he was trying to push me in the right direction, which he no doubt did.  I remember the day that dad put this LP on the turntable for me to hear.  Mom and the girls were definitely not home that day, otherwise my loving sisters probably would have thrown a fit about the music being played.  This album contains some of Eric’s biggest hits that are well known to this day, such as “Cocaine,” “Lay Down Sally,” and “Wonderful Tonight.”  The album instantly became a favorite of mine and started putting the guitar bug in my head.  Even today, any time I hear one of the songs from that album, I remember back to when I was a kid, hoping that one day, I could play guitar as well as Eric.  Well, I’m not as good as Eric is now, but the feelings I had long ago still resonate when I hear this album.


Recommended song:  “The Core”


5)       Boston – Don’t Look Back

I mentioned earlier that Boston’s Third Stage album was listened to a lot while growing up.  I don’t know if that was my first exposure to Boston or not, but it was a good one none the less.  I still love that album today, but I do believe that it was their second album, Don’t Look Back that really caught my attention.  Everything about this album hit me:  From Brad Delp’s lead vocals and harmonies to Tom Scholtz’s guitar tone from the Rockman to how catchy the songs are.  Any time I hear a song from this album, I freeze and have to listen to all of it.   It has quite the variety of songs on the album as well, including party rock anthems like “Party” and ballads such as “A Man I’ll Never Be.”  There’s a little something for everyone on this album.  I’d like to quote a line from the song “Party” to wrap up this review.  “If you’ve got something for me, I’ve got something for you…”  I really think that says it all.

Recommended song:  “Don’t Look Back”

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Time to dust this thing off…

Well… some of you already know that I’m heading back to Beijing in only a few short days.  I’ve been running around like a nut making sure everything is set and ready for me to depart for a month.  I’m not going to lie… I enjoy visiting China, but the events that lead up to this trip on Monday has really put a bad taste in my mouth.  Everything was a cluster and nothing but 2 months of pure confusion.  So… I’m going to make the best of it, do my job, have fun when I can, and just take it all in.

But before I do that… look for a post coming soon.  I’ve been trying to write this post for probably 2 months now, but it’s been extremely difficult.  A quick heads up about it is that it’s about the music albums that have shaped my musical taste over the years.  I originally had the idea to do 15 albums that really influenced me.  When you’re a music nut, do you know just how hard it is to narrow down 15 albums?  So instead, I think I’m going to take a page from my friends at Totallythatstupid.com and do multiple segments on them.  I’ll discuss 5 or so each time, and provide a few recommended songs to check out.  Hope you all enjoy it.


Take care!

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Good thing I mentioned Procrasitnation…

Well… I should have posted this several weeks ago, but I’m home.  I’ve been spending a lot of time catching up with people, doing things with friends, and in many ways getting back into my normal, crazy swing of things.  To be completely honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  


Well, to wrap up the last couple weeks that I’ve been home… I had a great holiday season with the family and my friends.  I’ve been playing guitar a lot more, and coming up with plans for the up coming months.  Each of these plans will be covered at a later time, because a couple of them have potential to be pretty big.


This weekend so far, I’ve been the ultimate fanboi, following progress of the testing at the Roar Before The 24 at Daytona.  Following Facebook posts, Tweets, live timing and scoring, emails and texts from people at the track right now… Like I said… it’s bad.  Can’t wait for the 24 hours of Daytona!   Keep an eye out because I’m going to start using this blog to advertise the Mazda Car Corrals at the upcoming Grand Am races.  Granted, most of you reading this already know about the corrals, but any advertisement helps, right?


Until next time friends!

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