Sunday, June 29, 2008

Beijing - day 14

I came home today, what a wonderful day. I could scarcely wait. I was really bummed this morning though because I finished my book last night so what am I going to read in the airport and on the plane? In the shower as I was washing my hair I found a spot on my head that was really sore. It took me a while to figure out why I had a sore head but then I remembered that when I was swimming on Friday I was on my back and didn't notice when the ropes went yellow and I ran into the wall of the swimming pool. That did hurt and I still have a scab on my head. Now the shower was a very different experience. As I said, it is this glass cube in the middle of the room. They did have a curtain on the outside of the shower for privacy but since it was only me I thought I would go for the whole experience. You might imagine that I was concerned about people outside seeing in but I was on the ninth floor and pretty much above everyone else. Even so, it is very difficult to see from the bright side of a windoe into the dark side. Since one wall of my room is also all windows this really felt like I was showering outside. To add to the effect, the stone was all very natural looking stone and the floor was a stone with a rough texture (non skid surface) so I could easily imagine I was outside in the wild standing on a natural stone floor. Very weird. Not only was my room really cheap but it included a free breakfast too. It may have been free but that was all it was worth too. They really get their temperatures mixed up over here. I didn't get a choice for breakfast, you just took what they gave you. I got fried eggs but they were cooked until they were like leather. They were also served cold, gross. I also got a glass of milk but it was served hot, gross. After breakfast it was off to the airport. A couple of weeks ago I received a power point file talking about how the Beijing airport is the largest building in the world and how quickly it was built with all that cheap Chinese labor. The file was implying that it might even be slave labor. Well, I think calling it slave labor might be stretching it but when you live in poverty you can't be too picky in what jobs you take. We really have little idea of how lucky we are in America. They pay people here about $0.25 an hour and they have to put up borders around their economic zones to keep their own people out of the economic zones unless they have a job offer. Otherwise they would be overwhelmed with people trying to get jobs. So much for the communist government taking care of you. China is more free market driven than we are. Luckily my flight was in terminal three which was definitely the terminal described and it was huge but I find it hard to imagine it was the largest building in the world. I don't know if I've been in a bigger building but I'm sure somewhere there is a bigger building maybe not. In any case, it was certainly very large and very majestic. Everyone told me to get there three hours early because things can go wrong during check in and I can assure that is true but today I move right through everything and there I was in this terminal with two hours to kill and no book to read. I wandered around all the stores looking for potential gifts (since my shopping trip last night got cancelled) but finally I had just seen it all and was bored out of my mind. There was only one tiny bookstore in the whole place and only two shelves in the book store was in English and only a couple of those books looked interesting and they cost a fortune but finally I broke down and paid fifteen dollars for a book. To make it even more funny, it was a hard cover LARGE PRINT book. Oh well, it makes it easier for me to read it. I've never read Dale Brown before but the book is good. Apparantly this "Dreamland" is a series and I'm obviously in the middle of the series but you don't need to know the past to follow the story. The only problem is that now I'm going to have to go back and read the other books. It was a good thing I got the book though because as it turned out my flight was delayed by an hour. The flight home was pretty much uneventful and not much of excitement happened in San Francisco. Crossing the date line however jumped me back twenty four hours so even though I left Beijing at noon I landed in San Francisco at nine in the morning. I landed before I left Beijing. I did find it interesting that they had drug dogs walking around the San Francisco airport just like they did in Osaka. These dogs though were little beagles sand I loved it. There were three or four little Bridgets running around. They were a whole lot more spry than Bridget though. Because I was so late coming in I had to rebook my flight to San Diego. As I was was flying into San Diego I took a picture of my neighborhood. I've marked my house with an "X" and put another "X" on top of black mountain. OK, so the "X"'s are very tiny but if you double click on the picture it will open up an enlarged picture in your browser. Penasquitos canyon is all the green area below my house. I also figured I would take a picture of the two aircraft carriers docked at Coronado Island. I got home while the family was all in church but the family had left me a nice "Welcome Home" sign on the front door. Alycia had arrived home from Europe the day before me so she also had a sign on the garage door. I signed her sign and the went in the house but before I could hop in the shower Ben came home to visit and then before Ben left Alycia came home to visit. The whole family came home and we had a wonderful roast beef fathers-day dinner with potatoes and gravy. It was wonderful to have to normal food again. We then had one of my favorite deserts, angle food cake. Well, it was a lemon flavored version of an angel food cake and I loved it. It is so good to be home.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Beijing - day 13

OK, this has been a fun day and I’m afraid this will be a record long blog. Plenty of pictures though. I had to get up early this morning in order to catch the tour bus. I decided to skip breakfast and sleep a few minutes longer. That was just fine since my stomach hasn’t been quite the same since Wednesday. The bus was a bit late and as I was standing there waiting one of the concierge guys comes out with what looked like a cross between a badminton racket and a tennis racket. What it actually was was a bug zapper. The strings in the racket were electrodes and if they swung the racket at a bug flying around the wires fried the little critter. I really want one, it looked so fun. I also figured something out while I was waiting. I’ve always wondered why all of the factories I’ve visited here have such dirty windows. I was looking at the hotels windows wondering why they didn’t wash them when it dawned on me. It’s the pollution in the air. What clued me in was how clear and blue the sky was. It has rained so much this week that the rain has washed the pollution out of the sky. I was quite excited; it was a clear and sunny day for our tour. How lucky, WRONG. By the time we got to Beijing it was raining again. The bus ride to Beijing is two and a half hours so I had time to catch up on my sleep. It was strange though, we passed a big truck that had ran into the ditch. It was a perfectly straight road and it looked like he just turned into the ditch. Then, just a few miles further, there was another truck just like the first one. Our driver was a maniac. He made the trip in record time but part of the time he was driving on the wrong side of the road. I was sitting by a window on the right side of the bus and I’m half conscious sort of gazing out of the window when I see the truck beside us moving toward us. Of course I expected him to stop but he didn’t and I literally jumped out of the seat so I wouldn’t get hit by flying glass or worse. At the last second the bus driver swerved and started honking but I’m serious when I tell you the truck was no more than three inches from my window. The only reason the mirrors didn’t hit was because the truck was ahead of us and our mirror was up high above the truck. As we were passing through Beijing we passed the baseball park where the Olympics will be played and the athletes village, which is a series of major huge apartment buildings. In the distance was the birdsnest. Too far for a decent picture but I’ve included a picture of it from my hotel window the last time I was in Beijing. Our first stop in Beijing was the Jade place. I was planning on buying some souvenirs here but it was a state run place and VERY expensive. I’m sure I could get the same thing in the states for those prices. A jade bracelet was $2 medals, I thought you would find them interesting. The metals are all inlaid with jade. Cool eh? They had some very intricate statues here and some of them were actually pretty cool. In the picture of me with the Jade horses you can see how big some of them are. They had statues of tigers (looked like the BYU cougar statue to me), boats, pagoda’s etc. In case you want to pick up the horses I’m standing by they can be yours for a mere $100,000US. A little out of my budget. Out in front of the Jade place they had the lions guarding the door. I’ve explained before that they female is always on the right and has a baby lion under her paw and the male is on the left and has a ball under his paw. The ball is supposed to represent the world. After the Jade place it was lunch and then on the Ming Tombs. So the Ming dynasty rule during the 1400’s and 1500’s and included sixteen emperors. The last thirteen of them are buried in this valley north of Beijing.00US. That’s crazy, this is supposed to be China. They did have some pretty amazing carvings though. I watched a guy carve one of those balls inside a bigger ball inside a bigger ball etc. The guy in the picture who’s carving jade is making one of those balls. I could actually make one of those now. I guess Jade is considered very valuable in this country. They actually believe it has healing powers. The guide was telling us that Chinese scientists have been studying how this is possible and they have now figured it out. You see, Jade is underground for thousands of years and so during that time it absorbs these minerals and that is how it can heal you. I guess than might make some sense if you actually eat it but I’m not sure how those minerals can help you if all you do is wear a jade necklace or ring or sleep with a jade pillow. Can you believe that? Some people actually sleep on a jade pillow. I’ve included a picture of the Olympic They picked this spot because it has good Feng Shuey (I have no idea how to spell that). On the east of the valley are the dragon mountains so called because they look like a dragon (if you have a really good imagination). On the west are the tiger mountains, can you guess why? Again, you need a really good imagination. The mountains on the north are supposed to look like something else; I didn’t quite hear what she said. Apparently, when the emperor died they built these tombs and built a village next door that was supposed to be the guardian for the tomb. These guardians have done such a good job that none of these tombs have been raided or vandalized in any way. Pretty cool eh? In the 1950’s the government decided to excavate one of the tombs and the last dude to die was the one chosen. When they opened it up it had plenty of treasures including silk and it was all perfectly preserved except the silk quickly disintegrated. This bothered them so bad that they have decided to not excavate the other tombs. That seems a bit dumb to me because I’m sure they can now figure out how they could preserve the silk just fine. Probably better than it is doing underground. Oh well, it is pretty cool to see this one and I doubt the others are much different. So they start with a huge rectangular wall enclosing an area probably a couple dozen acres. You enter though a gate on one end and then walk through a sort of chapel where you can come and worship your ancestors. The gate and chapel have both been destroyed leaving only the floor and the stubs of the columns. Apparently the Ming emperor number seventeen was a bit of a jerk and peasants rebelled. The chapel and gate were destroyed in the uprising. So much for the guardian village. After the chapel you pass the museum and gift shops (which I don’t think were there originally and then you come to the tomb. The way they do this is build a palace, which doesn’t look much like a palace to me. At the foot of the main chamber is a rear chamber about the size of the smaller ones but it is at right angles to the big chamber. The big chamber was for the emperor and the two smaller ones are for his two wives. I guess he only had one wife (plus hundreds of concubines) but she never bore him any children. When one of his concubines gave him a son she got a promotion to wife number two. Once they’ve built these chambers they built a circular wall around the whole thing about one hundred feet high and then fill the whole thing up with dirt. The wall is circular because a circle represents heaven and of course the emperor was a god who came to earth and when he died he was returning to heaven from where he came. On top of the dirt theyIt has a central chamber, which is about twenty feet wide by about a hundred feet long and then on either side of this chamber are two smaller chambers which are mirror images of each other. then build a temple that has a tombstone in the middle of it. I kid you not, it looks just like a tombstone but it is about twenty feet tall. The one picture is us walking on top of the tall circular wall. While standing on this wall we looked out over the countryside and you can see another tomb in the distance. That tomb is this guy’s dad. Ming number fifteen. The museum had many of the original artifacts. The throne and the vase and candlesticks you see in the one picture are the actual ones that were there. An actual, pristine Ming vase. Pretty cool. You can also see the gold and silver ingots that were there. This was actual currency they used but very large denominations that the average Joe would never get to see. One of those gold bars would have bought a house. It would buy a lot more than a house now days. The coffins were in these large red boxes. That is exactly what it looked like, a large red box. They didn’t look old to me so I asked if they were the originals. The tour guide looked all embarrassed but I guess in the sixties (the decade after the tombs were excavated) China’s economy went through some pretty hard times. So bad in fact that the locals scrounged what ever they could and they got a hold of the coffins and used them for firewood. Ooops. When they excavated the tomb they found the walls in several places but they couldn’t find any place to enter the tomb. They were really worried about traps that may have been set too. Finally they found a door and they cleared out the dirt and opened it up. Take a look at how they built the hinge for the door. The whole thing is one huge piece of stone. That is quite a door. The diamond shaped entrance is where they entered the tomb and is just outside the big gate. There were no booby traps. You’ll have to forgive the pictures. I wasn’t about to bring my cool camera on this trip so I have our little cheapo thing. There were plenty of lights in the tombs but not enough for the camera and it’s little flash couldn’t quite do the job. So after the tombs it was only a few minutes to the wall. The wall was started over 2,700 years ago. At first it was various segments where they needed them most and then over the next few centuries they were extended until they all connected and they ended up as one continuous wall that is over 6,000 km long. Parts of the wall were actually falling into disarray before another emperor came along to rebuild the old walls and then add to them. They are still not all rebuilt but they have many places like this one where tourist can come and see them. It is kind of funny when you think about it. The original wall was built by hand and even now with all our modern equipment, renovating the wall still has to be done by hand because the machine doesn’t exist that can go up this mountain. This piece of wall was a very steep one. Last time I was here the wall I saw was much more level but this sucker climbed straight up the crazy mountain. To go from where we were to the top of the ridge was 1,800 steps. These aren’t normal steps either. Do you see that picture of me standing on the stairs? Do you see how the step comes up almost to my knees? That’s a big step. There were about thirty people on our bus and only four of us made it to the top. It wasn’t real hot but it was very humid. Reminded me of Florida. The hike to the top was no worse than one of my three-mile runs but I sweat like a pig on those runs and I don’t wear street clothes when I run. Boy was I sweating. It was embarrassing. In the picture of me standing by the wall I was at the top. I’m standing on the roof of the guard house that is on the peak of the mountain. If you look you can see my chest is all wet. Well, that was only the beginning. I didn’t want to include the picture of me sitting in the window sill because I have a stunned look on my face but I wanted you to see how much wetter my shirt is and this on the way down when things were easy. By the time I hit the bottom my shirt was completely wet. The rain had quit but you can see that visibility was the pits. It was still absolutely gorgeous though and a real cool experience. I’m sure you all know this but since I was there I have to say it. The great wall of China is the only man made object that you can see from space. Pretty cool eh? I actually think that may not be true any more. I think you can see the three gorges dam from space too. Funny how that is in China too. After we got down off the wall we went for dinner. I thought I would show you the entrance to the better restaurants around here. They have all these fish tanks in them where you can pick out your dinner before you go sit down. I was really bummed, after dinner we were supposed to go to a street market. I still don’t have everything for the family and I was going to pick up a few more things tonight. They had very little to choose from in Tianjin and so I figured I would finish it up tonight. Well, they cancelled the trip. Now what am I going to do? The tour people picked out our hotel tonight so I was quite concerned about what I my room was going to be like. Especially since it only cost about $60US a night. I’m pleasantly surprised but it is really odd. The picture is from the front door. Do you see the glass shower right in the middle of the room? I’ve got the door open and you can see right through the shower to my bed on the other side of the shower. The front of the shower is a mirror so that makes the picture confusing but this room is tiny with a glass shower right in the middle of the room. Luckily the glass wall of the shower has a curtain you can pull shut but the door doesn’t. Oh, the other weird thing, the bathroom and the shower share the same door. You open the shower door and it becomes the bathroom door. I guess two people can’t shower and poop at the same time. The room is clean and it has a nice big queen bed so that is all I need. The room has WiFi but I don’t have a strong enough signal in this room to access the Internet. I wrote this blog offline but now I have to figure out how to upload it. I’m so excited; tomorrow I get to go home. Hallelujah.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tianjin - day 12

I am 100% superman. I tried Brandon's dumb little superhero test and according to that test I scored 100% superman. I like that, maybe the test isn't so dumb after all. As far as super villains go I'm Mr Freeze at 81%. Who the heck is Mr Freeze? In the middle of the talks today I got a phone call so thinking it was my darling wife calling I quickly ran out into the foyer and it was Lishen. They wanted to take us out for lunch today. That was good because the meals here are getting quite boring. Yesterday they had the exact same food for lunch and for dinner. While it was all good three or four days ago it hasn't changed much over the week and I'm really craving a good In-n-Out hamburger. The spices they use in China are OK the first week but by the second week I get tired of them. Of course having a major case of the runs yesterday may have influence my appetite a bit too. So today we had my favorite Chinese food, Peking Duck. Since the president of Lishen joined us for lunch I decided against pulling out my camera and taking a picture of it but I found a good picture on the internet. The only other unusual food was the Shark Fin soup. The soup is good but I think substituting mushrooms for the shark fins would be just as good. Let me tell you about the first time I had Peking duck. They wheel this beautiful duck out to your table and start cutting the skin off the duck. They neatly pile that skin on a plate and I'm wondering why they are skinning my duck for me. They never worry about bones or heads or eyeballs any other time it seemed weird that they are worrying about the skin, especially when it is such pretty skin. Well the next thing I know they put the skin on the table and wheel away the duck. I was quite surprised to learn that with Peking duck you eat the skin and not the duck. They then bring out these little mini tacos. They're about 4 or 5 inches in diameter and very thin. You dip a piece of skin in a plum sauce, throw on some thinly sliced onions (actually I think they're scallions what ever that is) and a piece of cucumber and other little grass like things and then roll it up and eat it. It is very good. So there are a million companies in town today and they all want to visit Lishen plus he is busy with this conference plus the show we went to on Wednesday and he took the time to join us for lunch today. This man is the President of the billion dollar company. That is quite an honor. Two of the Lishen girls that are assigned to work with us are Grace and Christina. Most Chinese people when they learn English take on an English name. I always figured that would be kind of cool to pick you own name. So I told the two girls that I really liked their names. Two of my daughters have the same middle names. Alycia Grayce and Sarah Christine. Pretty cool eh? While we were waiting for Lishen to pick us up I decided to get a picture of myself giving a speech from the little pulpit. It's been a long time since I presented a paper. I kind of miss doing research work. Tomorrow should be an exciting day. The conference people have tours planned for us. I'm scheduled to see the great wall, the Ming Tombs and a jade factory.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tianjin - day 11

I'll apologize up front that there aren't any China pictures today. Sorry, but there was nothing exciting to see. This morning I went to the conference and then I skipped this afternoon to pick up some more gifts for the kids. Nothing too exciting there either. It's all the same junk. After that I ran another three miles, swam a few laps and then went to dinner. Dinner was exciting, at least for me. On this trip we really wanted to have technical discussions with five companies, Sanyo, BAK, Lishen, BYD and A123. Sanyo bailed on us in Japan (and gave us a free day in Osaka) but they met with us here at the conference. BYD and Lishen went as planned and we met with BAK here at the conference as planned. The failure was A123, they were non-responsive and the sales guy I know said he would be here but he didn't show up. The founder of the company was supposed to present a paper but his wife had a baby so some grad student from MIT presented it and so we had given up on them. Tonight Tim and I went to have dinner and when we pick where to sit we always try and sit by people we don't know so we can get to know them better. Well the table we picked today was with some researchers from A123. How fortunate for us. Even better was that I sat by a guy who was willing to talk. So it wasn't as thorough a discussion as it could have been but it was a very good conversation. I guess I did have some excitement this morning. I felt a bit sick last night when I went to bed and worse this morning. I ate a small breakfast and then during the conference I got a major case of the runs. I told Tim that I had the runs and he goes "what??". It is funny because there are still a few English expressions that confuse him. I still have the runs and the worst part is that I've got to be VERY careful if I think I need to pass gas.

Since I don't have any China pictures I thought I would include some Sarah pictures. Lisa entered her in this big race in town and I missed it while I was here. Poor Sarah gets so nervous at these races that she makes herself sick. I think that is why Lisa entered her in some more races, so that she can get used to them. I guess Sarah was doing well and was coming into the finish line at the front of the pack and then just a few dozen yards from the end she holds her belly, stops, pukes and then runs on, stops, pukes again and runs some more. She finally crossed the finish line and came in third in her category. How cool is that? Now if we can keep from puking maybe she can win. Tomorrow is the last day of the conference and then they are actually providing us with a free tour as part of the conference. We could choose from three of them so I'm taking tour #2. It includes the great wall and some tombs. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tianjin - day 10

This morning was no different than any other day this week but at noon the attendee's at the conference were all scheduled to go and tour Lishen's factory. Since we had just been there last week and we've seen many different factories we chose to take a ten minute taxi ride and go see what was happening at a battery exhibition that is in town. It was worth the trip and it was very interesting but I really don't need to go to another one. Much of the exhibit were companies selling equipment that is used to manufacture batteries. I thought I would take a picture of a mixer that is used to prepare electrode slurries. I figure Lisa could have used this to make bread when all the kids were home. The tank is about the size of a forty five gallon drum. While we were in this huge conference center it all of the sudden got very noisy with this huge roaring sound coming from the roof. It sounded like very hard hail. We made our way to the front door and it was pitch black outside. I kid you not, it looked like it was midnight but it was only about three in the afternoon. It was indeed hail that we had heard but this was probably the worst storm I have ever seen and believe me I have seen a few. The rain was coming down in sheets and the wind was blowing so hard that the trees looked to be horizontal. I've seen it rain that hard and I've seen it blow that hard but I don't ever remember seeing it raining and blowing that hard at the same time. Someone opened the door and the wind blew into the hall so hard it about knocked me over. There were taxi's out side but no one dared walk to one. We waited about ten or fifteen minutes and it calmed down enough that we grabbed a cab and headed back to the hotel. The entrance to the convention hall where we were is raised above the surrounding area so as the taxi drove off the hill down to the main road it was covered with water. He didn't even hesitate but I swear the water was up to the floor boards. I completely expected it to come in through the door. Do you see how that fence around the construction sight has blown down? It rained off and on with plenty of thunder and lightning all day long. I still see flashes of lighting out my window as I write this and it is around midnight. Tonight the conference organizers had arranged a "banquet" for us. I tried to imagine what a banquet was because the dinners we've had every night seemed pretty much like a banquet to me. As it turned out, a banquet was pretty much the same food but in an authentic old hall with entertainment. We entered the hall and there was a guy pounding on a drum. That is when you knew the hall was only pretend "authentic" because after the drummer we went up an escalator. Because everyone else was still at the factory tour we got front row seats. The entertainment was all OK but the highlight of the evening was the Chinese Opera singers. That was weird. Even Tim couldn't understand the words they were singing because it was all this nasally high pitched squealing sound with massive vibrato. It was fascinating but not too pleasant on the ears. I was glad to have the experience with the authentic entertainment and all but Tim was ecstatic. What I liked more than the singing (if you can call it that) were the costumes. Those aren't masks they're wearing, it is make up put on quite thick. I went up and got a picture with the cute chick and even up close I would have sworn she was wearing a mask but her lips and eyes were moving. We got back to the hotel pretty late. They had nearly twenty greyhound sized buses to haul us all. They've done a pretty good job handling this many people. That is except for registration on the first day. Did I tell you that story? Sunday was registration so we get to the conference hall and we see all these huge lines. We find the line for foreigners and wait for nearly an hour. We get there and they fill out this form for us and tell us to go get in line for the cashier. Well the cashier line was even longer than the foreigner line because everyone had to pay at one single credit card machine. So another hour later we finally pay and then they send us to still another line to pick up our books and this cool little hand bag. I'm starting to get quite excited. Tomorrow is Thursday and then Friday and then I can come home. I can't wait. I miss my family. A LOT.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tianjin - day 9

Well, I sure slept a whole lot better last night. I was so tired I fell asleep during the movie I started to watch. Today was another wonderful day of talks that were even more interesting than yesterday. This afternoon however we started to burn out so Tim and I decided to knock off after the afternoon coffee break and we walked across the street to the driving range that was there. When I was a teenager in Cardston I did play golf every once in a while but I was never good. Lester and I would grab Dads clubs and go play a round on the nine hole course with sand greens. We even played a round or two on the Waterton course which is absolutely beautiful. Any joy I've ever received from golf however was usually just my love of outdoors and walking around in nature. For that reason I've never been ever to really justify paying all that money when I can go for a walk in my beautiful canyon for free and receive the same satisfaction. Since high school I never swung a club again until one of my first trips to China. On one of those trips I was with a guy who loved golf so we went golfing on this absolutely beautiful course. I had my personal caddy and my own cart. The cart was loaded with all the booze I could want and my caddy was a very cute little Chinese girl. Unfortunately most of my balls sliced to the right and my poor caddy spent most of her time in the rough looking for my ball. I felt sorry for her. She also wanted to drive my cart for me but I insisted on driving it myself. She also cheated for me. If I had to drop a ball she wouldn't count it. So that's my golf history. Today was a very interesting experience. I really had fun. I never expected it. The fun part is that if I slice the ball it's no big deal. They gave me thirty balls and most of the first ten went wild. Finally I hit a ball straight down the fairway. I went past the 200 meter sign. By the end of the thirty balls most of them were going straight down the fairway and past the 200 meter sign. It was a blast. I have to tell you about my most exciting hit. I swung at the ball and it went straight up. When it came down I actually caught the ball in my hand. It was totally embarrassing but very funny. I'm thinking that with a bit of practice I might be able to actually get good at hitting that dumb little white ball. Since the driving range was on the way to our hotel we just walked home from there and I promptly dressed in my shorts and headed for the fitness room and ran my three miles. I thought I was going to die. I still felt full from lunch and I was still not used to running yet so I about died. I had cramps in my left leg and I was barely able to get through but I made it. We had a good dinner tonight and now I'm back in the hotel.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tianjin - day 8

OK, I think I over did the relaxing thing yesterday. I woke up at four o'clock this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. I can't blame it on jet lag either since I've been here a week sleeping just fine. I think I just got too much rest yesterday and I've been going to bed at ten or so every night and that is way earlier than I normally go to bed. I just wasn't tired, I wasn't exactly awake but I wasn't asleep either. You know when you're just fading in and out? I finally grabbed my book at about 5:30 and read until seven when I had to get up and shower. I had my breakfast and caught a cab for the meetings. Talk about information overload. Wow. They had a new speaker every half hour all day long. In addition to that they have over 500 poster sessions. How can someone possibly get all of that? I wish I had Brandon here. You'd think that with batteries I would be safe from organic chemistry but noooooo. Some guy from France is working on "renewable" organic anodes. I know enough to get the jist of what he's saying but I'm sure Brandon could have helped me. There are people here from all over the world. I've talked to people from China (duh), Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, US, Kazakhstan, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and a whole bunch more. There was a guy who presented today who was from Scott land. His name is Peter Bruce. I want to look him up and ask him if he's related to that "Braveheart" guy.

It's times like this that I feel real handicapped by my unbalanced personality. You know how Heavenly Father has blessed us all with talents but rather than giving people all of the talents he gives some to one and different ones to another thereby forcing us to rely on each other? Well I like to think that I have a pretty good memory and I do know a lot of stuff but I do have a major weakness that almost never bothers me but constantly frustrates my wife. I can't remember peoples names. I can usually tell if I've met them before but I don't always know where and almost never will I remember their names. Lisa accuses me of not trying but I really do try, I just can't remember them. There are nearly a thousand people here and I REALLY want to remember some of them but I can't even remember them for an hour let alone until next year when I'll see them again. People come up to me and talk like we're old buddies and I haven't a clue who they are. When I was young and stupid I would pretend like I did know them and carry on a conversation, the whole time I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out who they are. Now that I'm old and stupid I don't even pretend. I just out right ask them, "I'm sorry, please remind me again who you are?" It might be embarrassing but it's less embarrassing that getting caught in that make-believe conversation. The dumb thing is that I remember the companies flawlessly. As soon as the guy today told me he was with ProTech I knew exactly who he was and where we had met and what we had talked about. Dumb eh? Oh well, we can't all have all the talents. I'm just lucky to be married to Lisa who meets someone once and she remembers them for life along with their birthdays, and the names of all their kids. I'll study all of the business cards I got today before I go to bed. I've already forgotten the name of that guy from ProTech. To make it harder how am I supposed to remember some of these Chinese names? Zhang Zhong lin! For heavens sakes, I can't remember "John" let along Zhang Zhong lin. So today we had seventeen presentations about everything from "Nano Ionic Cathode materials for Lithium Batteries" to "Anthraquinone Based Polymer-Novel Cathode material for Rechargeable Lithium Batteries". It was a wonderful day. Don't ask me what Anthraquinone is but it does have a lot of benzene rings in it. This conference includes lunch and dinner every day this week. It is quite a deal. Tonight we came out of dinner and went to catch a cab and it was pouring rain and lighting every minute or so. There was a huge line up for the taxi's and they weren't coming but we could see them driving by on the street. Tim and I figured we'd be smart and walk out to the street and catch a cab there. We weren't nearly as smart as we figured we were. They weren't stopping because they were all full. By this time we were pretty much drenched (it was raining quite hard) so we decided to just walk to our hotel. It was only a ten or fifteen minute walk but there isn't a dry spot on my entire body. Luckily it was warm. Well, I'm pretty wiped right now so I think I'll sleep better tonight. Oh, to answer Lynn's question from day 4, those squatter toilets do actually flush. They're like a little toilet bowl that sits flush with the floor. They're always really gross though because too many people are lousy shots and don't aim very well.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tianjin - day 7

Today was a very calm and relaxed day. As I said earlier, there is not much to see around here and so we've seen just about all there is to see. Registration today wasn't until later this evening so I slept in and read my book and watched movies all day. I'm really excited about the conference. I met a lot of people tonight. There was a little Chinese girl who looked to be about twenty and she was very friendly and outgoing. It turns out she is a professor at the University of Florida. I told her all about Kira and Justin but I guess they are in different worlds. In the picture Tim is on the left and the two guys on the right are from Sanyo and the girl on my right is from Kazakhstan and she is a student at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Well, tomorrow is back to work and that means no more sleeping in for me.