Never call a hard-hitting journalist in Beijing 'soft'

Never call a hard-hitting journalist in Beijing 'soft'

The emergence of Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) as it applies to the evolving cell-based switching paradigm, whether adherents choose to recognise it or not, has failed to keep pace with advances in domain-centric spooling topologies.

Ha ha! Fooled you! I just made that up to scare you! You didn't think I would go all the way up to Beijing and come back without slides, did you? Heck no!

So crack open a bag of fortune cookies, put your feet up and immerse yourself in my latest slide show, which I call, "Don's trip to Beijing: can we squeeze a little more blood out of this slideshow turnip?". You, with the rope around your neck, would you mind getting the lights first? Cool.

Okey dokey. Hold on - I'm not sure why this one's in here. This was actually taken in my office the day before I left for Beijing. See that quizzical, befuddled expression on my face? Ignore that, because that's what I always look like. But as it happens I'm especially befuddled here. This is a shot of me editing a story by Jackie Mailloux on one of Compuware's software development partners in China - an outfit that is actually called Shenzhen DICSoft. I presume that they develop patient-tracking software for impotence clinics, but I can't say for sure. Not that I know anything about impotence clinics, mind you. Because I don't. In fact, I've never even seen one in real life. Ever. I mean it.

There we go. Here I am in the cattle-class confines of Dragonair flight 900 headed for our soon-to-be-sovereign's capital city. As you can see, I have lots of papers out preparing for my interview with Scott McNealy, the rock-em, sock-em chairman and CEO of Sun Microsystems. I was going all the way up to Beijing just for that interview, so I had to get my act together. It was either that or read the article on homoeopathic impotence remedies from Borneo in the inflight magazine, so I figured I might as well do some homework. Besides, why would I want to read that article? I wouldn't have any reason to, that's exactly my point. So drop it.

I was pretty wiped when I got to Beijing, so I went straight to my hotel, the Gloria Plaza. This is a candid shot of me relaxing in my hotel room that evening, watching Larry King on CNN. His guest was, of all people, the Dalai Lama. After the Dalai Lama left, they brought on Richard Gere (the American actor who happens to be Buddhist) and some obscure US congressman to do a little China bashing. Gere was fairly restrained, but the congressman started ranting and raving about the oppressive, tyrannical communist government in Beijing. There I was in Beijing, watching this. I realise that the laobaixing (the common people) don't have access to satellite TV, and that this wasn't exactly being piped into everybody's living room, but still I found it pretty impressive that nobody upstairs pulled the plug. [Note to my wife: calm down - there wasn't really anyone in my hotel room with me taking pictures. This is all pretend. There aren't really any slides. Yes dear, I read the article in the inflight magazine. No dear, I wasn't able to stop over in Borneo on the way back from Beijing.]How about this, huh? Here I am the next morning, arriving at the famous Diaoyutai State Guest House, where the Chinese Government puts up its most highly prized guests. It's a bit of a misnomer - Diaoyutai is actually a whole bunch of really fancy guest houses spread out in a beautiful park-like setting. In the old days the place was only for people like foreign heads of state and other dignitaries, but now it's more common to see heads of companies that happen to be pouring obscene amounts of money into China. I imagine heads of high-tech companies are the most highly prized of all, since it's no secret that China is, shall we say, keen to evaluate such technology for domestic applications. Guess it's no shock that this is where they housed Scott McNealy.

Recognise this guy? That's right - Scott McNealy himself, all dressed up in a white shirt and tie and everything. The normally super-casual CEO was obviously told by his handlers to be on his best behaviour in China. Here I am greeting McNeal in his Diaoyutai suite, where the interview was conducted. I looked around and said, "Hey, this looks like the same place Bill Gates stayed when he was here!"

Just wanted to see what kind of reaction I'd get from McNealy at the thought of sleeping in the same bed as Gates - I'm such a stinker. McNealy just laughed. "I'm sure they gave him a much bigger room," he said.

Get a load of this. This is me after the interview being driven back to the hotel, where McNealy was to hold a press conference. He and his handlers went in a separate car, so it was just me and the driver. As you can see by the placard in the window, this is a State Council car, complete with flashing red light on the roof. Traffic along Chang An Da Jie between Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City was snarled as usual. The driver asked me what time I had to be back at the hotel - I told him the press conference started at 10:30. It was about 10:25, so the driver turned on the flashing red light and started yelling into the car's built-in loudspeaker for people to get out of the way - which, as you might expect, they tended to do. It was very surreal.

As you can see, we made it. Here we are at the press conference, and McNealy was in top form. One of the Beijing-based journalists asked him why he was all dressed up, complete with a tie, when he was known for being so casual. McNealy blamed it all on Daniel Yu, managing director of Sun's PRC/Hong Kong operations.

"Daniel said I couldn't come to China if I didn't wear a suit. This is the stupidest invention on the planet," McNealy said, waving his tie up and down. "If I ran China the first thing I would do is ban the business suit."

After the press conference I had some time to kill before I had to go to the airport to catch my flight back to Hong Kong, so I rented a bicycle (a bargain at 25 renminbi, or $US3, an hour) and rode back to Tiananmen Square to do some sightseeing. And you know what this is - the big countdown clock that ticks off the days and seconds until Hong Kong returns to China. As you can see, we're down below six million shopping seconds until the handover, so don't wait till the last second to buy a special gift for that special someone.

Well, that's it. Can somebody get the lights? Where's the guy with the rope? Oops - never mind. I'll get them.

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