Friday, October 22, 2010

Oct 22 2010 | Shanghai: everything is difficult, but nothing is impossible

As the saying goes: in China everything is difficult, but nothing is impossible. I have seen this time and time again. Day in and day out. Every trip. Every time I try to remotely manage a project. It seems to be the universal constant in China. Case in point, we continue to run through practice meetings -- and the next step is to try a larger venue. I stopped by the practice venue on the way to lunch and did a quick check of video (using a test dvd) and audio (using an ipod) - everything appeared ok. Then after lunch I returned with my laptop. Just over an hour earlier, I had already demonstrated the projector and speakers work, so I had 40 minutes to hook the laptop into the projector and sound system to prove the inputs work ok prior to a 3:00 meeting back at my office. Couldn't be easier, but this is China. Plug laptop in, wait while the slowest projector and projection screen lower from the ceiling. Nothing. Black. Nothing. I try FN-F7 to toggle display output. No signs of life. I crank up the audio output. Nothing. The venue calls in the banquet manager, who tinkers with settings. Nothing. It's less than two hours since I had a highly functional projection demonstration. Bizarre. They call in an engineer, who repeatedly power cycles the projector, projection screen, level that lowers the projector, Crestron control system, and entire room, in varying sequence. It seems they intend to continue indefinitely with this pattern of "rebooting" devices. About 30 minutes into watching this trainwreck, 10 minutes before I absolutely have to go back to the office, I decide to interrupt their power cycling (next would be the entire floor and then the entire building), climb on the chair, then up on the table, then flip the switch on the projector. No effect. Then seconds later I jiggle the power cord on the projector and it falls out in my hand. ummm. So I push it back in hard and voila, we have video. 8 minutes left and the engineer switches his attention to the lack of audio. He flips switches and turns dials in a seemingly random fashion until I am first momentarily deafened by static and then by the sound from my laptop. Great! But what is that loud buzz? I step into control booth and notice that the sound is perfect in there - but it's still buzzing in the in-room speakers. The engineer continues to fiddle with things, then comes over to my laptop. He cranks up the volume all the way using the laptop hardware volume buttons, Windows sound volume, and media player software volume. Now the laptop is pumping out audio as loud as it possibly can - this would be considered oversaturation by any definition. Now he turns down the in-room speakers to about 2 out of 10 and the buzz becomes barely noticeable. "Fixed!" he exclaims. ummm. I have about 3 minutes to get back to the office, so fixed it is. On a scale from useless to functional to perfect, i would be this just below accidentally functional. In China everything is difficult, but nothing is impossible.

Tonight a few of the big wigs invited me to join them on a tour of an event venue and dinner afterwards. It turned out to be a VERY brief tour of a venue we'll be using next week, along with a "tour" of three bars and one restaurant on premises. Ended up at a secret bar under the venue where there are 4 themed rooms (India, Upside-down, American film, and Submarine) and a local band playing a mix of English, Mandarin, and Cantonese songs. They solicited requests, and we submitted about 15, of which they played the most excellent mood-shattering Tears in Heaven. After failed attempts to get them to play anything of quality or even semi-quality (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Queen, Linkin Park, The Beatles, The Eagles, and even Foreigner), we interrogated the band and learned their favorite bands are Kool & the Gang and Earth Wind & Fire. That was the sign we needed. Back at the hotel now. This was a very good night.



The other Olga said...

So what did the band's preference for the Gang and Earth Wind & Fire signify specifically?
On the plus side, you're getting really at troubleshooting the hotel audio-visual equipments so you can fix it for them :))

Phil said...

"Everything is difficult, but nothing is impossible"

I've seen you work, Dave, and I'm sure that even if it were impossible, you could still get it done!