Stephanie’s Shrimp Étouffée

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Making XFS volumes in CentOS 5.4/5.5 kickstart

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Saints tailgate jambalaya

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Shanghai part two

Another quick little round up:

 * Sunday – took a train to Souzhou with (Patrick, Sean, Bob, Margaret, Eric, and some other Shanda people) to go eat some BBQ. Now this wasn’t just any BBQ, it was one being cooked by Patrick’s brother (also from Texas) at his restaurant, Zapata’s Mexican Restaurant. So yeah, a chance to have some good Texas BBQ in the middle of China? Why not? Now yes, it’s not the superior pulled pork BBQ that I came to love after living in North Carolina for 4 years, but it’s still pretty good. BTW, the coleslaw and potato salad were great, too. It looked like the secret was out in Souzhou as it seemed whiteys from all around were descending upon Zapata’s. However, if you were the only person who didn’t know about it, you should check it out on Sundays near the "Rainbo Walk" — named after the pretty nice park and shoreline of the man-made lake there. (The entire area is a Singporean development.) Aside from the BBQ, a few other things. The train we took there was five bucks, went 160 mph (indicated 258 km/h), was clean, and was on time. Dear Americans, we’re doing it wrong. Yes, I know the train was probably Canadian, but still.

* Monday – we decided to observe Labor Day here in the US and take the day off from work. In pursuit of custom made clothing, Margo, Eric, and I descended upon the Fabric Market. It’s basically 3 floors of stalls crowded with hawkers selling all kinds of fabrics in almost any cut you want. At $15 per shirt (delivered), it’s hard to pass up. I wouldn’t get any suits made there as the quality was a little suspect. I saw a few people getting suits made, but they were German tourists who didn’t know any better. Everything I’ve read says that Hong Kong is still the best and only place to get suits made in China. The nice ones in Shanghai will cost more than they do in the US. Still, I ordered a six shirts apiece from two places. Let’s see a) who actually delivers on time and b) how they turn out. My expectations are kinda low, so hopefully things will work out. After that we strolled through the Shanghai "old town" which was actually kinda disappointing (it’s a craphole) and toward something called You Plaza (or something along those lines). For my NOLA readers, it kind of felt like the Riverwalk, minus the A/C. Lots of stores selling loads of tourist crapola. You had to search hard to find worthwhile gems. I did manage to find Shelley a cool birthday present, but nothing for Caitlin. It was too expensive (in any country) and the woman wouldn’t haggle.  Next we grabbed a late lunch, headed home for a power nap, then did some work.

More later, but I have to run to work. Oh yeah, the Internet is painfully slow everywhere in China. Like, worse than 56k dial-up modem bad. For that reason, I’ll wait before uploading any pictures.

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Singapore Redux and Shanghai part one

Yep, I’m back in Asia. This time it’s mostly work related instead of all fun. I’m out here working with the Mochi China team on deploying our platform in mainland China, explaining how things work in operations, listening to how things work in China — basically bridging communication gaps in person. But before all that, I made a pit-stop in Singapore to hang out with my stepbrother Ross.

This trip to Singapore was very short, and under different circumstances than last time. I think this one was more authentic since there isn’t a Forumula One race going on right now; so the city is more at ease. Still, it was great to get back to Singapore and see some people from last time, meet new friends, and hang out with Roscoe. As usual, it was hot. Fooking hot. It rained. Things were expensive. Welcome to Singapore. Well before I got to Singapore, I was lucky enough to fly Singapore Airlines business class SQ1 from SF to Hong Kong to Singapore. Talk about a great experience. I know that it isn’t the super blinging first class suites on the Singapore Air A380’s, but it was still a great experience. Comfy lie flat beds, good food, superb customer service (they pronounced Hesse properly German style), and overall great facilities. Even the business class bathrooms were excellent — I think that they cleaned them after each use. They had a orchid or lotus flower in there or something that just smelled awesome. I used the first class lavs once, and they were nice but nothing overly more impressive than the business class ones. So yeah, big thumbs up in my book for Singapore Airlines business class. Back to Singapore proper, I had a great time. Checked out a cable wakeboarding park, ate a ton of chili crab, ate some pepper crab, drank a metric ton of Tiger beer, went to a Singapore house party thrown by some Americans, introduced NWA’s Straight Outta Compton to Singapore, yelled at Uncle a lot not to drive in the middle of the street, ran into a bunch of Sings who for some reason can’t walk at all without crashing into you, got motion sick while drunk due to Uncle’s constant strumming of the accelerator, drank a bunch at BQ Bar, drank a bunch at Clark Quay, played around with Boudreaux, sweat my ass off, ducked the rain when possible, then bailed out to Shanghai. All in a all, a great little trip. I felt bad for Roscoe since he was going through some lady problems at the time, but he’ll pull through. Oh, Singapore Airlines Silver Kris lounge in SIN is fucking epic win.

Shanghai has been pretty eye opening to say the least. Jumped off the plane and jumped in the huge line to get through customs. Took about 30 minutes to work my way to the front, where they checked my documents, then let me through. The reason I mention this is that there was a little blinking light machine with a "rate my performance" scale of happy faces to sad faces. I pushed the happy face button, but I just got a kick out of it for some reason. I’m probably making something out of nothing, but I just liked it. Met the driver outside of customs, then rode over to Bob and Margaret’s place. The first thing I noticed quickly is that Chinese people can’t drive. No really, they can’t. Singaporeans drive in the middle of the road and strum the accelerator, but Chinese people flat-out can’t drive. When they get lost they just stop immediately — in the middle of the road with traffic frantically swerving around them. They change lanes at the last second and just careen towards other cars. About the only saving grace here is that traffic moves so slowly that any possible damage would be rather minimal. Oh, and pedestrians DON’T have the right of way in streets. That means you gotta dodge the bicycles, scooters, and run from cars while crossing the street. Takes a while to get used to, but it’s still kinda chaotic.

Anyway, got to Bob and Margo’s place, grabbed some food, then grabbed some z’s. Mochi’s cofounder Bob Ippolito and his wife Margaret are living in Shanghai for the next 6 months or so. They were gracious enough to let me stay in their spare bedroom rather than having me fend for myself at the Westin or something. I will say it was definitely nice to land in the laps of people who know what’s going on here as this really is a super foreign culture and so few people speak English. Oh, Eric Chen (another Mochi) moved from Taiwan to Shanghai and has been helping out us whiteys in this foreign land. He’s been a great "fixer" and smooths the way. We’ve been doing OK on our own, but things definitely are better when Eric is with us. A quick rundown of this week’s events:

 * Went to work at the Shanda Games offices on Monday and Tuesday. Bob has a driver to take us to/from work everyday so that we don’t have to cram into the metro. Very nice setup indeed. More on the office later. Monday night we went to drink Belgian beers and gnosh at Kaiba. Tuesday night we went to Mesa Manifesto for tapas and tasty drinks. For the record, a Pimms Cup is extra fookin tasty when it’s 95+ degrees out and crazy humid. Thumbs up for both places, but the food at Kaiba was rather meh.
 * Worked from home on Wednesday, went on a field trip for the world’s most awesome dumplings (at Yang’s Fried Dumplings), then went to the police station to wait around for 30 minutes before finally registering as a foreigner in temporary residence. If you’re a foreigner not staying at the hotel, you must register with the local police. Welcome to China. Ordered in some Nepalese food Wednesday night and avoided the crazy monsoon/typhoon.
 * Rode the subway to work on Thursday. Pretty clean, very frequent, and overall pretty good. Interesting that you have to x-ray scan your bags before entering. They have a distance based payment system here using electronic cards — kinda like Tokyo and BART in SF. The cool thing here is that you can use the cards for all sorts of things — including taxis. Huge win in my book. Not messing around with cash and figuring out foreign language numbering systems is nice. Just tag it and go. Thursday night we went to chinese hotpot (like Japanese shabu shabu) at Hai-Di-Lao Hotpot. Sooo good and such great service. For real, the service was super fantastic number one quality. It also helped that our waiter was enamored with the fact that we were authentic Americans. BTW, you can get a haircut or a shoe-shine there while you wait for your table.
 * Worked from home Friday, ate a wicked good hamburger at Gourmet Cafe, then went out drinking with some of the Shanda Games people including Sean and Patrick. Sean is a native Chinese person who speaks great English and is an all around good guy. Patrick is an american born chinese (ABC) from outside Dallas who does some bizdev work for Shanda Games. Our Friday night was supposed to start off with a Tiger Beer pubcrawl, but we kinda ixnayed that. Instead we had some drinks at D10 Departure Lounge. It was a pretty cool setup where the bar looks like the inside of an airliner. It wasn’t an actual airliner, but it looked like one. Pretty cool concept and they pulled it off very well. Only one bad thing is that the bathrooms were the same size as ones in a plane. After that we headed to a KTV bar named Muse next to Restaurant 97. Everyone had a great time and it was definitely an interesting experience. KTV is kind of like a cross between a hostess club and a karaoke bar in a private room. You pick some girls to hang out with, get drunk, then (badly) sing some songs.  Sounds odd to Americans, but it’s definitely a big thing in SE Asia. Overall a fun time; my only complaint was that some of the songs has lyrics which were terribly off.
 * Saturday (today) woke up on the last side (see KTV above), then went to dimsum with Patrick, his girlfriend Yoko, and Patrick’s sister in law. Needless to say, this was easily some of the best dimsum I’ve had in my life. I’m pretty sure that the place was called Royal China. The highlight was the radish (or was it turnip) cube things which looked like cubed fried potatoe’s but were not made from potatoe. SOoOooO good. The conge (conje?) was pretty tasty and was a new experience. Everything else was great, but I’d had it before in the US (yay San Francisco). After dimsum, came back for a powernap, then rolled to the Bund. We went around 5 which ended up being perfect both in terms of heat and number of people. Overall it was a fun stroll to see some great architecture and good views. We capped off the walk with some drinks and light bites at a rather nice gastropub named New Heights which overlooked the Bund. Overall I’d give it a thumbs up. Afterward we decided to walk down to People’s Square from the Bund for more exploring. Highlights included a cat on a leash, some people welding metal on the side of the street, and people just hanging out on the sidewalk in lawn chairs and pool lounge-bed-things. A bunch of the apartments in Shanghai don’t have AC, so people just hang out on the street rather than cook in their apartments. You’ll see guys playing cards, people dragging their furniture to the street, and people just hanging out. To be honest, I kinda like it. One thing I also like is the guys who roll up their t-shirts and rub their sweaty chests and bellies. It’s quite a sight. Hilarious and I love it.

That’s all for now. More later. BTW, the food here is fantastic.

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Checking out for a few days

Going to Kauai for a few days to recharge the batteries. Too much work and not enough personal time lately. Hopefully this will take care of that.
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Erin’s shrimp creole recipe

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