Tin Tuirtle Design

Getting back in the groove

clock January 5, 2012 13:54 by author Bald Turtle

It has been one week since I arrived back in Beijing. I got rid of my jet lag and put my kitchen back in order. The reverse osmosis unit has been a great addition to the apartment and really cut down on our expenses plus I have safe water. I really did not do much in the way of cooking over the holiday but starting Wednesday we began putting some things together. I will build up momentum over the coming weeks and we will host a few parties.

The sites need a serious revamp and some formatting work. The style sheets holding the Tin Turtle site together are some butchered copies I did from the original BlogEngine install and I need to build new ones from scratch. I didn't notice it as much here when I built the site last year, but when I got back to the U.S. and saw it on my 26" monitor it was painful. And I need to do browser checking, this site was developed in designed for I.E. with no regard for anything else, and with I.E. having less than 50% of the browser market that won't cut it. Mindspear has to be redone too, it hasn't been touched since 2002 and none of the cool projects I worked on in Chicago are even on the site.

The package I put together to practice guitar in China has worked out really, really well. I still have the laptop from 2009 which was a really good unit when new, and honestly still has pretty good performance. I had really thought out how to have a completely portable work station with enough ooomph to do full on development with VS and SQL Server. So when I added on Reason 6 with the Focusrite Saffire 6 pre it worked well. The tone in the Line 6 amp models built into Reason are very good - and I am a hard core tube guy. But they are more than adequate for what I am doing. And it all still fits in one backpack. There are some latency issues with the Focusrite and that seems to be in how the unit attaches to the internal USB hub. Once I have it ironed out I will post how I have this set up and what I am getting in terms of performance.

Great Leap Brewery shut down

clock January 2, 2012 14:37 by author Bald Turtle

Well I got back to Beijing last week and found things have changed, just not for the better. All three of my favorite places to go, My Life Bar, Alanting Bar and Great Leap Brewery are either shut down or no longer offering up the same quality services. Probably the most disappointing is the loss of Great Leap Brewery. It was not a frequent hang out of mine, but I had really latched onto the idea of brewing beer for profit in China. It seems the local authorities figured it out as well and wanted their slice of the pie and/or wanted to protect the sub-par Chinese beer brewers. Probably both.

My Life Bar is now closed, and that is also very disappointing. Not only because the drinks and food were of good quality and safe, but also because I was able to learn a lot about running a F&B business in Beijing. Alanting has made a change in management and is steering away from providing quality live music. The nice thing about that venue was being able to walk there from the apartment, but I will try and and expand my horizons some on this trip to China.

Started the Packing Process

clock December 12, 2011 04:55 by author Bald Turtle

Its always kind of a pain to begin packing to return to China. Usually I put it off as long as I can, because once I bring the luggage up from the basement there is no more avoiding the truth. This trip will be one that is going to include the maximum amount of things I can cram into those bags. Its been over 2 years now since our initial move and things are getting old and need replaced. And the big difference is we have come to learn that even if things are available in China, they may not be safe. And we do favors for friends by bringing things if we have room, so that all translates to a "maximum load configuration".

China "Hard Landing" Presentation

clock September 28, 2011 04:42 by author Bald Turtle

Here are the presentation slides from David Cui on 9/28. Cui is with Bank of America's global research division and heads (?) their China equities strategy area. Since I don't have the audio from the conference call you kind of have to pick through the 42 pages of slides, but there is some good info that makes it worth the effort.

China the Systematic Risks 11090934[1]

Food Safety in China

clock September 6, 2011 10:54 by author Bald Turtle

I was reading a new blog, Seeing Red in China and found a posting that shows someone else's viewpoint on the food safety problems I have been describing to people since my return to the U.S.

Morning thoughts

clock August 10, 2011 03:44 by author Bald Turtle

I've been watching the market this morning as it swings -400 (doubt it will stay that low) and in particular the info coming out about French bank exposure to Italian debt interests me. Plenty of opportunities are going to come up for the Chinese to pick up under-valued assets.

One of the things I thought was funny is the NY Times had an article describing basically the same mindset I descibed in a couple of previous posts.

And watching Santelli get his undies in a bunch over Meredith's description of Tea Baggers was a classic example of why she's right. It is amusing how the TP's always want to invoke the founding fathers. The founding fathers would be fairly quick to realize the corruption of our political system with unlimited money from corporations, and the lobbyists... and the transfer of wealth to the banking sector -- is all blatant douche baggery. I don't think Santelliwould find much sympathy with Jefferson.

My parting gift from Beijing

clock August 6, 2011 23:18 by author Bald Turtle

Beijing left me with a special gift to remember it by, a nice case of giardia. Hard to say if this is new or something I am still fighting from a previous infection. In brief, I started getting the basic symptoms (which I won't gross you out with) late Friday afternoon. I was in bed until about 4pm yesterday and now its back to the typical recovery. At least I am familiar with it so it's not that scary. The main thing is to make myself eat and drink over the next couple of days.

Walking around here there is so much to do it is almost overwhelming. I have a few months to take care of as much as I can and it is going to be a busy time. I need to finish up with the front window and tear out as much of the upstairs bathroom as I can short of removing the drywall on the exterior side. And the garden shed has to be re-sided before it rots away to a point it is no longer repairable. So you add that to my goal of completing a piece of furniture for my portfolio.. and a guitar... and my JTM45 amp.... and it is one heck of a busy few months. And I really want to lose some weight. Annie scoffs everytime I say it but this time I really mean it. It is bothersome in so many ways, and now that we have to find our own health insurance anything related to my fitness is a potential issue and costs real money.

It is good to be home. I got ants. I got spiders. I got a house that needs some work. But it is so good to be back.

Chinese Reality

clock July 30, 2011 10:33 by author Bald Turtle

The fire alarm went off a few days ago in our Central Park apartment building. It has went off twice before but always is shutoff within a couple of minutes. This time was different and it continued to ring. Its a loud, old-fashioned school bell type of alarm and iit really gets your attention, there is no way you would sleep through this thing. I was finishing up the morning shower when it started and as it continued I hurried up to put on my clothes, grab the passport and wallet, get on the shoes.... etc. etc.

I step out into the hallway and am checking things out for a smell of smoke... nothing. There is a woman who is also in the hallway by the elevators. And as I turn to step into the fire escape she casually pushes the button for her elevator and looks at me as if... so what? I left her there waiting for her elevator ride, next to the sign saying don't take the elevator in case of fire, and pushed through the fire escape door into the stairwell. I say pushed, because the door was partially blocked by a huge stack of cardboard boxes inside the stairwell. And this isn't uncommon as the trash bin is in the fire escape. Yes....... pure genius..... The best part is people like to smoke in there and put there cigs out on top of the trash bin.

So I live on the 25th floor, its not like its a short walk to ground level. Around the 15th floor the alarm goes off, but as I step out of the stairwell it starts again but there is still no sign of smoke. So I wait about a minute and it goes off again, this time permanently. The entire time I was on the stairs I never saw a single person, but I heard the elevator ding many times. And many of the floors trash areas were stacked with garbage and boxes. If anyone of these was even smoldering it would render that stairwell impassable, and it is the onlly fire escape for the tower.

I took the elevator down to the lobby and of course the woman I had seen on the 25th floor was long gone. Prbbably either completely unaware of why its important to not take an elevator in a fire, or quite certain only foreigners are stupid enough to even think about it. The best part is when you walk out of Central Park you can easily pass right in front of the old Mandarin Hotel, which became a 40+ story barbecue in February of 2009.

The really scary part was thinking about what would have happened if my wife had been home at the time. Trying to convince her to come with me to even leave the apartment, let alone take a stairwell instead of the elevator would have been an arduous task. Far worse though would be when it turned out to be a false alarm, because the next time it happened she would probably ignore it, especially if she was home alone.

The key to understanding Chinese reality is to understand that woman in the hallway. If you are an expat here - and you want to hold onto your morals, your common sense and all of those things you know to be right - then you are going to have to get used to those moments. And you have to have thick skin. Because many, many times people are going to treat you as if you were stupid for trying to do the right thing, even people you have close relationships with. You just have to have faith in yourself and move on. I have not sold my soul yet and I hope I never do.

Louisiana Roast Beef, Potato Salad w/ Hard Boiled Egg Hot Pepper Dressing

clock July 12, 2011 15:14 by author Bald Turtle

I am still trying to find a way to prepare a decent pot roast here in China. I think the only way to get it the way I want is to find a slow cooker (one of the few things I failed to bring to Beijing). This meal consisted of a roast I purchased at Schilling and prepared from Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen. The color was a perfect, very light pink when finished but not very tender. Almost all of the roasts I have attempted here have turned out this way. The sides were a potato salad I made using Hard Boiled Egg and Hot Pepper Dressing - from the same cookbook. This was placed along with steamed broccoli and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Not a bad meal - just not a great meal.

Installed a reverse osmosis water filter

clock July 10, 2011 14:06 by author Bald Turtle

I had shipped a Spectrapure CSP-60 inside the pallets of our initial move to Beijing,from the United States but it had not been installed. The only place suitable in the apartment had a fixture that was really old and was mercenary engineered to connect to the washing machine. Once I discovered the B&Q and started buying parts from there to work on the apartment I felt confident enough to do some plumbing work. It is important to purchase all the parts yourself because if you rely on the apartment maintenance guys to buy it for you it will cost 5 times more than the real price.

We had been using Watson's water since arriving in Beijing. For a while after we first arrived the wife tried switching us to some off-Chinese brand to save 5 yuan a bottle, but after my intestines started rotting out I convinced her it wasn't worth it. While last year I knew we had problems with our bottled water I had no solid way to prove it. Recently the Global Times did an investigation and reported that 60% of Beijing's bottled water is fake. This was followed up by articles in local websites as well as in Chinese.

As an American expat living in Beijing I was already aware of the many problems with the food industry and fake products in general. But I had innocently believed that the outrageous price of 50 rmb per bottle ($7.73) must be because it was real. However this news along with the week long bouts of diarrhea and stomach pain made me determined to figure out a way to install the RO unit. Finally I was able to aquire the components to match the U.S. made water filter to the Chinese plumbing and this was completed. After installing the unit I put a glass of our filtered water side by side with a glass of our Watson's bottled water and had my wife do a blind taste test. There was no doubt - none - in our ability to tell which water was truly purified.

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Front window assembled
Spraying Bay Window Parts
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