Pause; refresh

Sits a tree-girt courtyard

From bustle-rush removed

Where cometh the creative

To plumb their artsy grooves


I come here in the Autumn

To savor Shanghai breeze

And fight the black stress monster

Whose claws my heart doth squeeze


While others talk of beaches

To fight fatigue’s harsh clutch

I tell them “save your money.

It doesn’t take that much.


“Turn off your cloying mobile

In the coutyard build a nest

Then buy a fresh-squeezed OJ

And let Autumn do the rest.”


Peace and Quiet 

We were the only two customers in the Newbury Park Starbucks in the early afternoon. She read To Kill a Mockingbird while I made notes in my journal.

It was one of those moments when the unspoken was best left that way, even though she could barely contain it. Always give them one less thing.

The Starbucks was quiet. But I was the one at peace.


Spice is nice

Baker & Spice: where you go in a major Chinese city for better iced tea. And nicer tables at which to write in your Moleskines.


Theft in progress

When you bring your entire team into a Starbucks in the morning, take up all the seats, don’t buy anything, and drive the other patrons away, you are committing theft from the proprietor as sure as you are if you are shoplifting.


Working From…

Working from Peter’s Tex-Mex, Beijing.

The biggest upside to my job is that I have reached a point in my career where technology and my position enable me to work from anywhere.

The biggest downside to my job is that I have reached a point in my career where technology and my position require me to work from just about everywhere.

So when I read an email from a colleague with a more conventional work geography that on Friday he would “WFH,” i.e., “work from home,” naturally, that made me think of all of the places from which I find myself working. As a result, I have begun to use a much richer range of acronyms to describe where I work.

My current glossary is as follows, based on frequency:

WFHWorking from Home – I’m at home, but I’m working. Really.

WFHOWorking from Home Office – At home, at my desk, doors closed, head down, ass up; not just sitting in the kitchen reading email on my phone or sitting on the back porch thinking about a client while watching the seagulls argue.

WFCWorking from Car – Stuck in traffic, or somewhere between major cities, probably on a conference call. Or two. Or three. I spend so much time working from my car that my wife has taken to calling me The Traveling Salesman. I know: sounds like the set up for a dirty joke.

WFAWorking from Airport – Trying to get everything done before my flight because a) the space between rows on the plane is too small for me and my laptop to occupy simultaneously, and b) I like to look out of the window.

WFPWorking from Plane – Will happen just as soon as a) I can afford to fly first class and b) I get tired of looking out of the window.

WFL – Working from Lodging – Some kind of Marriott. Brewing coffee. Probably not fully clothed. “Do Not Disturb” sign on door.

WFLOWorking from Local Office – They’ve found me a cubby. I’m trying to fit.

WFSWorking from Starbucks – Strictly for the baked goods and the Wi-Fi. Probably in China

WFTX – Working from Taxi – Holding on with one hand because there are no seatbelts. Definitely in China.

WFTWorking from Train – Roomy seats. Easy pace. No hassles. Arriving on time. But no Wi-Fi (oh, darn!)

WFMWorking from Meeting – Probably should be paying attention, but shooting off some emails anyway.

WFCOWorking from Campout – In a folding chair just outside my tent. I probably should be whittling or something. Hold on while I remind this scout to ask his Senior Patrol Leader.

WFRVWorking from RV – Somewhere beautiful, friendly, and comfortable. I love the hum of generators in the morning. Folding chair, lap table, under the awning.

WFOBWorking from Onboard – I’m on a boat. I’m working. Yes, I’m insane.

WFSSWorking from Son’s School – Getting condescendingly indulgent looks from High School kids, appreciative glances from overworked librarian. Wearing a tweed coat. Pretending to be the new history teacher.

WFULWorking from University Library – I can’t decide whether this is making me feel young again, or REALLY old.

WFPLWorking from Public Library – Watching a homeless guy read Kierkegaard’s Either/Or while talking to the ghost of Regine Olsen.

WFBWorking from the Bar – Email and Margaritas. Pathetic imitation of Hunter S. Thompson or Somerset Maugham, depending on part of the world I am in.


Nanjing South

Nanjing South is one of the points in China where North-South meets East-West, more of a junction than a destination. Which is a pity: this storied city deserves a train station that not only does a good job shunting bodies, but is also a tribute to the art and aspirations of a great metropolis.

Nanjing deserves more than huge and efficient: it deserves its own King’s Cross, Grand Central, or LA Union Station, an iconic transportation cathedral that ties the city’s past with its future. I suspect that one day it will get it, but only long after the nation has forgotten Beijing West Station, a failed attempt at creating an iconic station that is instead a monument to corruption, ugliness, gigantism, and ghastly architecture.