Category Archives: Beijing 2006

…. and onto Mitchell, South Dakota!

My trip to China was wonderful. The Emergency Room was interesting, the Fragrant Hills Beautiful, the Botanical Gardens striking. I’ll remember special places — like a delicious barbecue restaurant or the bustling downtown of Beijing, as well as the special people I met. But all things must end, and soon we found ourselves flying east from the Northern Capital of the old Middle Country to the Middle-West of the Northern New World…

Now the wheel had shifted. It was my turn to show the Beautiful Country as she had shown me fair Cathay. Not only the beautiful sunsets of Lincoln, Nebraska…

But also Cows. Cows are remarkably shy animals around people, and in clumps made a calculated retreat from a distance gaze.

Even simpler animals, turkeys merely gobbled excitedly at the nothing that confuses their lives.

The Cows were seen on Old Highway 16, but the Turkeys are part of the industrial farming operation of the Old Elm Springs Colony of the Hutterite Church. The hutterites are Germans from Russia. These German-speaking Tyrolian and Bohemian pacifists were invited into Germany by their countrywoman, Sophi von Anhalt-Zerbst, and left under late Czarist, Leninist, and Stalinist oppression. Those that stayed behind would perish in Siberia. Generally they found a happy home in the United States…

… if one ignores the occasional pogroms. The actual old Elm Springs colony was abandoned at the outbreak of the Great War, a time of anti-German lynchings and burnings-in-effigy in South Dakota. The Maxwell Colony had its cemetery plowed over, and one wonders how these brick buildings so decayed in a mere two decades of unoccupancy…

The Jim River, from an abandoned structure:

Another of an abandoned colony building at the Jim. The Jim River Valley is the most strikingly beautiful region of South Dakota east of the Missouri.

Ghosts of the Dead Past

The new colony, the old colony, and the river. Click on the image for a sense of scale impossible in this cropped portion

Red Star over Ethan. Noted the Communist (actually, probably “industrialist”) style of a star at our lunch stop

We ate at this country dinner, The Cooks Inn. By chance I met a man who knew my ancestral town in South Dakota, and we discussed my great uncle.

The banks of Lake Mitchell on the dammed Jim. This is at the ancient Indian village, a fortified farming settlement of the Mandan from a millennium back. That was before they were ethnically cleansed by the Ojibwe, who in turn felt the Sioux’s tender mercy.

Unlike the Ojibwe and themselves before them, the Sioux had their lives and fortunes protected by their conquerors. The United States and the State of South Dakota recognizes a number of quasi-sovereign Indian reservations, and race-based discrimination never reached the genocidal levels the Sioux would have found familiar.

No trip to Mitchell is complete without seeing the facade of the utterly disappointing World’s Only Corn Palace. “Do we have to go in?” tdaxp: “No.”

Perl Code for Posting Images of China

From the Forbidden City to the ER, the beautiful Fragrant Hills to the mucous Pacific Ocean, I photoblogged the Chinese People’s Republic in series whose most popular posts was on breakfast cereals (*sigh*).

The most time-consuming and tedious part of the posts was actually creating the web page. By then I had already selected, cropped, and resized the images to display on tdaxp, and the prospect of creating all the img and href tags was tiring. So I worked smarter, not harder, and wrote a perl script to do the work for me.

The process reminded me of similar work at Animation Factory, whose online UI I wrote.

The code for the script, which uses the Image::Size module, is below. (Code for my other recent series, Redefining the Gap, is also available).

use Image::Size 'html_imgsize';

$link = ""; # online folder goes here
$folder = "C:/foo/bar/images"; # local folder goes here
$r_n = {};
$r_h = {};
$m_n = {};
$m_h = {};


foreach $key (sort keys %m_n) {
$rn = $r_n{$key};
$mn = $m_n{$key};
$mh = $m_h{$key};

#print $key . " name " . $r_n{$key} . " reg height " . $r_h{$key} . " med height " .$m_h{$key} . "n";

print "<a href="$link/$rn"&rt;<img src="$link/$mn" $mh border="0" / &rt;</a&rt;nn";

sub getimgs {
my $folder = shift(@_);

opendir(IMGS,$folder) || die "Couldn't open $folder: $!";
@files = readdir(IMGS);

foreach $file (@files) {
if ($file =~ m/.jpg/i) {
if ($file =~ m/_md.jpg/i) {
$base = $file;
$base =~ s/_md.jpg//i;

$m_n{$base} = $file;
$m_h{$base} = html_imgsize("$folder/$file");

#print "MD file is $file base $basen";

} else {
$base = $file;
$base =~ s/.jpg//i;

$r_n{$base} = $file;
#$r_h{$base} = html_imgsize("$folder/$file");

#print "Reg file is $file base $basen";





TSA: Top-Notch Security Agency

With my vacation to Beijing completed, I want to get something off my chest.:

The Transportation Security Agency does their job very, very well.

The tdaxp Seal of Approval

Since the 9/11 attacks, every time I’ve flown the security has become more and more professional. In this latest trip, the reached new heights. The TSA was better not only than previous incarnations of itself, but also bested Japanese and even Chinese security.

As someone who enjoys criticizing the federal government, this can be hard to say, but it’s true: “TSA, Job Well Done!”

(The same cannot be said for American stewardesses, but that is a post for another time…)

Leaving On a Jet Plane (Again)

Naerly a month after boarding a plane in Omaha, I’m about to leave Zhongguo Beijing. After a pretty good day, the country seems to want me gone, too. I haven’t been arrested or reeducated in remotest Tibet, yet, but the PRC’s inane blocking of gmail (corresponding with an incredibly slow-down of my secure proxy) has made it extremely frustrating and difficult to attend to some last minute chores. Add to that the iTunes decision not to let me download track 4 of That Hideous Strength (probably just another tech snafu, but still aggravating), and I’m less than a happy camper. Oh, and wae-up is probably at four tomorrow. Great.

I received word from one reader that Blogspirit was not letting him post comments. If you are having technical difficulties with this site, please email me, and I’ll respond once I’m back in the United States, and free from Communist censorship and unreliable (yet greatly appreciated) web proxies.

Update: Mere seconds after posting this the multi-hour embargo of gmail was lifted. Hurrah! Score another one for the power of blogs! 😉

Update 2: Mere seconds after posting this, the multi-hour embargo of gmail is back on. Boo! Score another one for the power of one-party rule. 🙁

SkyFord: City of Pollution

The final segment of my Tianjin Sentiments (perhaps a fitting companion to another blogger’s “Balkan Memories“?) is of the pollution in Tianjin. Tianjin is composed of two characters — Tian meaning Heavenly or Sky, Jin meaning Ford. In a previous post I explained that I would translate Tian as “Heavenly” for beautiful things, and as “Sky” for more prosaic uses. Thus, this post on the pollution in Tianjin discusses contamination in Sky Ford.


The pollution in Skyford is everywhere. Our local guides explained that it was the result of the building boom that builds new offices, malls, and apartments everywhere. Certainly there was a lot of construction in Tianjin, as there was in Beijing.

Some of the power plants in Tianjin clearly gave off a blackish smoke

Moore cooling plants, these as scene from the train (metro)

At the Port of Tianjin I saw more trucks than I have ever seen, in my life.

Riding in a taxi in this is oddly relaxing: as you’ve already forfeited your life, there is nothing to do but wait.

A Chinese wears a mask (as I did) while gazing out at what was once the Pacific Ocean

To the smog-chocked horizon and beyond, industrial salt ponds grew on the reclaimed land. Plants did not.

Industrial machinery helps process the salt

Salt Town

The ocean was brown. The cause of that was, among other things…

… and oil refinery. The refinery is much, much closer than it looks. The deadly smog makes everything look hazy and far away, and this part of Tianjin had the worst smog of anywhere in China I’ve seen.

While the Ocean is dead, the port lives. The amount of shipping containers was Cyclopean, if not Lovecraftian

View of death from the former deathship, the Soviet ACC Kiev.

This was on the LSD-like riverfront of Skyford, near the strawberry house and waterfall. Ugly beyond description.

Tianjin, a tdaxp series.

A Beautiful Country Person in Beautiful Beijing

The last two days in Beijing have been clear. Actually clear. Yesterday I didn’t even wear my mask in traffic. The breathability of the air has been amazing.

The above picture should be astonishing for any Beijinger because clouds are visible, even far away ones. The sky is often absent, and the smog often robs Zhonggua Beijing of her beauty.

The gorgeousness of these last few days has not just been beautiful, it’s been healthy too. The physical weakness I succumbed to in Tianjin is largely gone (I’m back to operating as I did in the first few days of my trip now — which isn’t great, but is at least only good).

We went with a hitherto-unmet portion to the “countryside” (which reminded me of the SD 11 and 41st Street intersection in Sioux Falls), and saw some really beautiful sites. The courtyard of the restaurant, shown below, is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in the Central State. I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of the golf course or the McMansions, which loomed nearby, and my shots of the vineyard just didn’t come out. Nor was there a chance to photograph the shepherds on bicycle with their flock.

A quick note on the name of this post. My learning of Mao’s “reformed” “screw you” Chinese characters is mostly helped but sometimes frustrated by an earlier study of Japanese Chinese Characters. When the Japanese decided which symbol to use for American, they chose Rice-Country-Person. Happily, China long ago chose a more pleasing form: Beautiful-Country-Person. Thanks China!

All in all, these last days have been fantastic. And now, without further ado, the rest of the photos:


Sky! Clouds! In real life, I could easily see through the windows of the top tower on the hill, which is part of Hundred Looks Hill (Baiwangshan).

Why so little pollution? Part of the reason was a constant day of rain before, which flushed the sky of its carbon. Also to thank were strong winds, sending someone else the poison of this town and granting me a view of Chinese kites!


An advertisement for Pyongyang Haedanghwa.

A Ford dealership under a blue sky. Only the construction cranes tell you that you’re in Peking.

Sky! Color! Lack of Haze!

120 degrees to the right of the previous shot. A building has just been bulldozed to put more of those apartments.

Later in the day, the courtyard of our restaurant.

Looking down from the balcony.

Another balcony shot. This place is gorgeous.

Friendly staff let us into this unused portion of the restaurant. It was bliss.

Looking down from the secret balcony.

Chinese roofs till the horizon. Each one appeared to have a courtyard similar to ours.

The neighboring courtyard. Unlike our play one, it’s being used to grow a vegetable garden.

More houses. This is taken through a fan in the clubhouse. The golf course is beyond the farthest trees.


The same shot, with a slight change in camera orientation.

Walking back down from the secret clubhouse. Even the more function parts of the restaurant were magical.

Leaving after a delicious meal of country-style chicken broth, the dying coals of the barbecue grill.

Cruisin’ with the People’s Liberation Army Navy

The Soviet Aircraft Carrier Kiev, first of the Kiev Class and former mistress of the Black Sea Fleet, is now an amusement park in Tianjin.


Let the cruise begin!

The Kiev in the not-so-far distance. The choking, lethal haze of Tianjin gives the illusion of distance to everything.

Part of the amusement-park/museum was a “war is bad” exhibit, which nevertheless contained examples of heroism, including…

… American exploits in the Second World War.

The Map room showed the continent of Africa and her lesser-known twin continent, Africa 2.

A portion of a world map, with Greenland mysteriously unlabeled.

The Kiev in more fearsome days

English translations were mostly good, some with errors…

… that were occasionally fixed.

The deck of the helicarrier.

“Happy Everyday” wishes the sign, as one gazes up the hellish ruins of what was once a coast.

Can you see Tianjin? Of course not. Even though you are in Tianjin.

The broken beech, closer-up.

“Happy Everyday” and a murdered ocean.

A fearsome ship threatens to spread…

… Nestle chocolate ice-cream and Coca-Cola throughout the world. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

A once formidable ship…

… gazes blindly into the absent sky.

I was too hard on Al Gore. Because of Global Warming, the Pacific Ocean now extents to Tiananmen Square. Sorry, Al.

Tianjin, a tdaxp series.

Heavenly Ford: City of Beauty

Tianjin, like most Chinese cities, is composed of two characters. Jin is “ford,” and Tian is “Heaven” or “Sky” (as in The Heavenly Temple / Tiantan, The Heavenly Peace Gate / Tiananmen, etc). I previously wrote about the un-modern characteristic of using the same word for “Heaven” and “Sky”, but here the problem is more prosaic: does Tianjin mean “Heavenly Ford” or “Sky Ford”?

Because (to my ears) “heavenly” seems more sublime than “sky,” for this post on the beauty of Tianjin I’ll describe the art in the Heavenly Ford.


Of course, much wasn’t photographed, or the pictures just didn’t come out. There are two super-towers in the city (at least — the haze makes it difficult to see too far), and Tianjin University (formerly Beiyang, or “Northern Peace” University) at night is intoxicating. Likewise, the grandeur of the Sino-Romantic painting on the ceiling of Tianjin Railroad Station (which connects directly to Beijing Railroad Station) must be seen in person to be truly loved.

Yet these images are the best I could do for my blog. While much more polluted than Beijing, Tianjin could easily be more beautiful. It is a city of parks, and rivers, and eye-pleasing artwork. I would give my props to the City Fathers of Tianjin, but like Beijing Tianjin is controlled directly by the central government. So my props to whatever bureaucrats are running the place, whoever they may be.

Outside the Railway Station, the first clue that art is big in the City of the Heavenly Ford

Statues that initially looked Greek greeted commuters on a major roadway

Across one of the many lakes of Tianjin University. Tianjin’s campus compares favorably to Peking U‘s

The Ocean is indescribably polluted, as was hinted at the Soviet ACC Kiev, but the donkey was neat!

Gigantic drummers greet conventioners and soccer fans. The Convention Center visible in the background certainly is newer than Beijing‘s.

More of the holy woman

Naked children may be a fetish for Chinese artists, but certainly not for parents. I’ve never seen a Chinese child that was not fully clothed.

In a place that reminded me of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, sculptures are child-size too. (Tianjin’s art is far better than Chicago’s, but the influence is obvious.)

Beyond the strawberry, the waterfall.

Tianjin, a tdaxp series.

Historic Tianjin

While Tianjan, like Beijing, is primarily a new history, hints of its history are everywhere.


Beijing’s history is of a Chinese past, from the Ming City and Great Walls to Tea Town, but Tianjin looks to the world. Tianjin was a city that several concessionary areas to the European powers, and evidence of that is still clear. Some houses just scream “Europe”

but other structures and clues, such as Sino-European artwork, are more subtle…

A scene from the Bronx?

There is a very similar building, in a very similar state, just a few blocks from my residence in Lincoln, Nebraska.

On the train (really, Tianjin’s metro) to the port and the Soviet ACC Kiev, the lives of farmers. Seeing men and women work the field with no automation was a shock, no matter how much I have seen on television of otherwise read.

Not everything historical is well kept. This building to the fight with the Eight Power Alliance during the Boxer Rebellion was clearly last cared for in the 1980s. Seriously, elsewhere there’s a series of pictures which stop in the mid 1980s.

Defense technology from different eras.

This fort once overlooked the ocean, but the deadly haze plus land reclamation means it’s far from the ocean and even the Ocean River is barely visible.

Tianjin, a tdaxp series.

Chinese Fast Food

For this post on Tianjin, a journey to the most mysterious and oriental of all Chinese customs: McDonalds.


To my delight and horror, the best received of my journeys to China wasn’t the Forbidden City, or the Great Wall, or even the Heavenly Temple. Nope, it was Chinese breakfast cereals. The post got a lot of comments for a series of pictures, and even made it to Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog. Well, vox populi, vox dei, I guess. Following is the logical companion to that piece, Chinese McDonalds.

The breakfast for the day I would go to see the blasted ocean (stay tuned!), an eggburger



Egg, catchup, cheese. YICK

Breakfast successfully eaten. I didn’t like the burger, but the coffee and the hashbrown were to die for.

The outer packaging of a double cheeseburger. This lunch was immediately after entering Tianjin.

The top view looks familiar

Yum.. Ketchup, Pickles, Beef, and Cheese.

Premium Grilled (in America, “Oriental”) Chicken

Opening the Box…

Pulling out the sloppy sandwich

Taking it apart: salad, meet, dressing

From our table at the McDonald’s in Tianjin

Also from our table

The first American food in weeks was bliss, so here’s the third sandwich: a simple cheeseburger

Looking down at its bottom



Tianjin, a tdaxp series.