Monday, September 27, 2010

Introducing: NiuBBall, and a note about trivia tomorrow

NiuBBall is a new site create by Jonathan Pastuszek dedicated to basketball in China. Check it out.

Tomorrow, Jim and I are hosting a 20th week special of trivia at Souk Lounge. The bar is offering a pretty amazing all-you-can-drink deal: 60 rmb gets you all the Tsingtao beer and well drinks you can have.

Come check it out if you're in the area: Souk Lounge, Chaoyang Park West Gate.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Beijing needs more cars, yes it does

I violated my own rule today, but much more stupidly. At rush hour I got on a bus between Dawanglu and Yonganli heading west. I wanted to ride it for one station in order to get on the subway, though I'm not sure why I didn't just walk five minutes east to the Dawanglu station.

The bus stalled two minutes in and didn't arrive at its destination until 30 minutes later, if you can call it a destination. At some point during the journey that would never end, the doors opened and people went streaming out. I personally was saved by Pearl Buck's The Good Earth and was rather absorbed in reading, but that didn't stop me from exiting. The driver said to us as we passed, "Walking doesn't necessarily mean you'll get there faster."

Uh-huh. Enjoy the sunset, buddy.

As I walked 10 minutes to the Yonganli station, the cars in traffic moved NOT ONE INCH. I don't usually use all-caps just for times like this, when all-caps are called for: NOT ONE INCH. Drivers got out of their cars to stand in the comfortable autumn air and put their cars in park, fitting because the street was one giant parking lot. Not one inch.

A foreigner on the road got out and snapped pictures, prompting someone walking beside me to say, "What's there to take pictures of?" Traffic jams are a way of life here, I suppose, but I wondered at the blase expressions on the faces of drivers who weren't moving nary an inch. And passengers sat comfortably in cabs like they were brain-dead. They seemed... at peace. Meibanfa. At one point I actually grinned, intending schadenfreude, but people on the road just didn't seem miserable enough and somehow I was disappointed.

I think it's obvious that Beijing needs to lower the prices of cars and encourage people to buy them for themselves, their significant others, their family members and their children. People must be allowed to implode under the weight of their stupidity, otherwise this silliness will continue forever and standstill traffic will continue being just a "way of life" in Beijing.

The Beijinger said the situation was at its "bursting point" and quoted a Global Times article that said about the same, but I'm not so sure. More cars, please. More cars and more consumption and more naked commerce so that the system buckles and the rest of us who aren't retarded can pull up lawn chairs on the side of the road and snap pictures of these drivers in their idling cars, a picture of modern absurdity par excellence. Yes, more cars is definitely the answer.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Greetings from Changi Airport in Singapore

Where the Internet is free and relatively fast. There are also Internet stations all over this place where people can log on for free. What an amazing airport -- and concept.

Heading to Hong Kong to get a Z work visa, finally. And what was I doing in Singapore?

Monday, September 20, 2010


Backdated from Oct. 5, 2010.

In Singapore now, where over the weekend there was an Ultimate Frisbee tournament in which my team had a very good time.

One can't help noticing the cleanliness and scrubbed-over modernity of Singapore, especially as it contrasts against so many cities in Asia. There are other, less positive ways to describe the city, of course -- over-commercialized, etherized, boring, expensive -- but one cannot deny that it is a worthy heavyweight among Asian destinations and one worth further exploration.

A few more pictures:

The incredible Sands Hotel:

Best swimming pool in the world?

Monday, September 6, 2010

A poem which will be explained later

One cup of coffee contains four calories
Lest you add milk, in which case it's sixteen,
And while dietitians say to be lean
Means cutting back on confectioneries
I fail to see the connection as a sun
Of my choosing ascends to its high rim
While the birches and banyans become limned
In the layers of conscience -- until the dun
Of evening comes and only coffee remains,
Brewed blackness as my sun tromps home not too late.
What is it with our obsession with weight,
Image? and that stress! our self-imposed bane?
I prefer simpler things, at sunrise and set;
One cup of coffee contains happiness.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

China advances in improbable fashion at FIBA World Championships

As Chinese players and coaches prepared for the nightcap of Thursday night's games in Ankara, Turkey, they first turned their attention to another, more pivotal contest: Ivory Coast vs. Puerto Rico.

The situation was simple, in a twisted, roundabout way: if Ivory Coast, 0-4, beat Puerto Rico, 1-3, the two teams would be in a three-way tie with China, at which point point differential in games between these three teams would decide who advances to the round of 16 and which two are eliminated.

So No. 1: Ivory Coast has to win.

But for China to advance, it gets a bit trickier. Which brings us to No. 2: Ivory Coast has to win by at least 11 but not more than 5. If they beat Puerto Rico too badly, then Ivory Coast and not China goes through. If, however, they don't win by enough, Puerto Rico is through.

But wait, there's more.

Because FIBA's third-tier tiebreaker is points allowed, China can afford to TIE the Ivory Coast in point-differential IF Ivory Coast allows Puerto Rico to score at least 71 points. I hope you're still following.

So No. 3, if Puerto Rico scores at least 71, Ivory Coast has to win by at least 12 BUT NOT MORE THAN 6.

We're going to confuse you just a little more now. According to this FIBA article, Ivory Coast needed to win by at least 12 -- and not MORE THAN 12:

On Thursday, the last day of pool play, it was a three by Puerto Rico that put China through.

With Puerto Rico being upset and knocked out of the tournament by Ivory Coast, David Huertas buried a shot from the arc at the buzzer to leave the Africans with an 88-79 victory.

Since China, Puerto Rico and Ivory Coast each had one win, goal differential was used a tie-breaker to determine fourth place.

Had Huertas missed, Ivory Coast would have had the best goal differential in the games between Puerto Rico, China and the African team.

I think that's incorrect, though, because no other media outlet -- including Chinese broadcasters -- made note of this "miracle three." You'd think they would, right? I mean, a story like this has an obvious lead, which no savvy news or sports editor would dare bury.

But that's tangential. Watch the fourth quarter of the Ivory Coast and Puerto Rico game and listen to the CCTV-5 commentators as they try to explain the situation to viewers.

With 2:41 left in the game, an and-one puts Ivory Coast up by 9. A little later, after a Puerto Rico turnover, the commentator points out that Puerto Rico may be rushing things a bit.

At the 1:56 mark, commentators wonder out loud what it'll take for Team China to advance on its own merits next time. They are openly questioning, in a roundabout way, whether China deserves to go to the round of 16. (They don't yet know China is about to lose to 47 to Turkey.)

At the 1:25 mark, after Ivory Coast extends its lead to 10, the commentator chuckles, "Don't win by too much."

The commentators are having a good time with this scenario -- watching it reminds me of the thrills of betting against the spread. But not too much is at stake here: before the game, everyone had more or less counted China out, not least of which is because Puerto Rico, at No. 10, is ranked 31 spots above Ivory Coast in the FIBA standings (China is No. 9, by the way).

With less than 20 seconds remaining in the game, Ivory Coast dunks it to go ahead by 12. Shock! Puerto Rico comes back and makes a three-pointer (was it important??? Depends if you believe that FIBA article) with one second left to make it 88-79.

The breakdown between the three teams:

China beat Ivory Coast 83-73
Puerto Rico beat China 84-76
Ivory Coast beat Puerto Rico 88-79

point diff ... points scored ... points allowed
China, +2 … 159 … 157
Ivory Coast, -1 … 161 … 162
Puerto Rico, -1 … 163 … 164

If that three hadn't gone in, Ivory Coast's point differential would have been +2 as well, with a points allowed of 159 (still more than China, which is why I think the the last-second three didn't matter).

Or is points SCORED the tiebreaker after point differential? If that were the case, Puerto Rico's late three would have been the difference.

Who knows. What's for sure is that China is into the elimination rounds and play at 11 pm against Lithuania, the Group D winner. We think we know who's going to win this one, but crazier things have happened in basketball.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Watching Russia vs. China currently at the FIBA World Basketball championships on CCTV-5. The announcers, as they have all tournament, are in full cheerleading mode. I don't blame them, necessarily, as I want Team China to win as well, but here are some of the things they've said already that would make non-China fans balk:

Russian throws soft pass: "Intercept the ball!"

Commentator 1: "That's a foul.
Commentator 2: "No worries, just stop them (on defense)."

As ball is in air from Russia: "Get the rebound!" The shot goes in.

I've lost count how many times they've said aiya as Russia makes a good play or China misses a shot.

Considering how much China's now falling behind by, the commentating just makes the situation tenser.

Picture of the Day: Group exercising

Beijing Today calls them "radio exercises" because the moves are done to music that is broadcast over public radio. If you've biked around Guijie near Dongzhimen, you've probably seen it: entire kitchen staffs of fancy restaurants outside doing collective exercises. Or if you've worked in a Chinese office, perhaps you've partaken in these exercises as well (they're awful). Here's what it looks like:

China Daily's Metro Beijing section editorialized on this last month in such ridiculous terms that I almost left a comment. (Essentially: forced collective exercising relieves boredom; I think that was the crux of the column.) I can't find the editorial now, despite spending way too much time just now navigating its search function. Here's a news article instead.

POSTSCRIPT: China Daily's editorials were never good by any definition of the word, but now that they have METRO Beijing columnists "working" as well, the entire op-ed section is now just a complete and utter embarrassment. Here's someone writing about rain -- about average for an editorial. There are better and there are worse, but I can't stand linking to anything else.