Video: A Trip to Asia, Part 5 – Peking Duck

The following is the last in the series of videos from my trip to Asia. I thought you might enjoy seeing a professional Peking duck carver in action. It took him 2 1/2 minutes to completely dismantle a blazing hot duck, including its crispy skin. The video below is sped up 2.5x to get it under a minute.

Sonja Sohn at Bouchon

While dining at upscale Bouchon restaurant in the Venetian, TB noticed a woman she thought she recognized seated behind me enjoying dinner with a white guy with dreadlocks. She leaned toward me and asked if the woman over my right shoulder looked familiar. I turned my head casually and saw a face I had grown accustomed to seeing on a weekly basis around this time of year during the last four-odd years. It was indeed Sonja Sohn. I would later learn, through my incomparable Wikipedia referencing skills, the gentleman with her was her husband, Australian musician Adam Plack.

Fans of the hit HBO series, The Wire, know her as the inimitable Shakima “Kima” Greggs. In fact, that is who TB and I remembered her as until we consulted with Sister Char via a quick telephone call—TB actually knew her first name but couldn’t recall her surname. Char replied with her government name instantly: She has been a Sonja Sohn fan since her role as Lauren Bell in Slam. Regrettably, I had forgotten all about Slam but I remember vividly TB and I having our first introduction to Ms. Sohn and The Wire during a marathon DVD-watching session while on our honeymoon in 2004. We literally sat in the bed for hours, under mosquito netting on Benguerra Island, Mozambique, captivated by the characters and storyline unfolding in front of our eyes on the laptop screen.

Sidebar:
Benguerra Island is in the Indian ocean off the coast of Mozambique and Marlin Lodge, where we stayed, was powered by generator. As a result, the little bit of electricity available was used for cooking, AC and basic lighting. There wasn’t much to do (“no TVs, no telephones, no snacks, no stores, very little ice and minimal refrigeration”) once the sun went down except relax and hang out together. It was perfect.

Ms. Sohn and her husband were just finishing their meal as we prepared to leave. TB and I ambled up to their table, determined not to miss an opportunity to express our appreciation of her work which has provided us hours of entertainment since Mozambique. Both were very warm and down-to-earth and she seemed genuinely appreciative to receive TB’s kind words. I remained in the background nodding and smiling. Ms. Sohn caught both TB and me by surprise when she asked our names and reached out to shake our hands. She asked if we enjoyed our dinner and told us to be sure we watch tomorrow night. We bid them a good evening and were off.

The timing of our meeting could not have been more appropriate. The Wire comes to an end with the final episode airing tomorrow night. If you aren’t already a fan, go grab the DVDs from Netflix or Blockbuster. It really is a quality show composed of quality people like Ms. Sohn.

(Bouchon is excellent. I’ve dined there twice now. The food is exquisite, the service impeccable, the vibe divine. Try the monkfish and French green lentils entree if it is on the dinner specials menu. Have their signature pomme frites as an appetizer. Make a reservation.)

Playing to Wynn

I have a few minutes to check in before my next activity. I was up at 5 AM yesterday and didn’t turn in until 2 AM today. This is going to be a long week. The UX Summit went from 8 AM to 6:30 PM and we dined as a group in the private dining room of the upscale Daniel Boulud restaurant inside the Wynn hotel. There were 50 of us and, as co-host, I made the rounds throughout the evening and was in the last group to leave. The four-course dinner didn’t wrap up until 11 PM(!) but the evening still didn’t end.

A smaller group of us walked back to the Venetian and watched a colleague play roulette for about 30 minutes. We then went to the V Bar (also in the Venetian) and talked over drinks. I finally called it a night and headed to my room just after 1 AM to prepare for Day 2.

Day 1 of the Summit was great based on attendee participation and feedback. My presentation went smoothly and I successfully rolled out the marketing strategy for the duration of the fiscal year and ahead into FY2009. We started on time, ended on time and kept everyone engaged, which is an accomplishment for such a long day holed up in a hotel conference room.

Today I was up at 6 AM and we just wrapped up again at 6:30 PM. I am double-booked for dinner tonight with the Summit attendees dinner and an invitation-only event with key partners & press from Japan. (You may recall they love me over in Tokyo after Remix last fall…Keith-san Ichiban is back!)

Day 2 of the Summit was another long haul but it’s done and the event was a resounding success. Tomorrow is the big event, MIX, and I have a day/evening full of press briefings and press events following the 3-hour keynote. I’d better get some sleep. Perhaps after watching the presidential primary coverage while the results from Ohio and Texas are analyzed.

1-800-CALL-411

live-search-411 On the go with your mobile phone in hand, Microsoft’s free 1-800-CALL-411 (Live Search 411) service helps you find the information you need and get to the places you want to go. You can access the service from any land line as well.

I had a chance to use the service several times while in Chicago and found it extremely easy to navigate and very easy to use. I was highly impressed by the time-saving convenience features that have made me a an immediate fan. For example, there is the “Text me this Info” feature that sends the listing information (address, phone number and link to a map) to your phone via SMS—if you call from your mobile, of course.

Yellow Pages? Check.
White Pages? Check.
Traffic, Movies, Weather? Check. Check. Check.

This service is under Microsoft’s Live Services—which includes Live Search, Live Mail (Hotmail), Live Local (Maps), etc. A lot of the technology came over as part of the Tellme Networks acquisition in March 2007 and is being integrated with ideas coming out of Microsoft Research. Many of you are already familiar with the Tellme technology if you have ever dialed 1-800-555-1212 or 1-800-555-TELL.

Repeat after me: “Only chumps dial 411. The cool kids dial 1-800-CALL-411.”

Back from the Land of the Rising Sun

I am just returning to Seattle from Tokyo where I was the keynote speaker for Remix Japan. About 1500 people attended the event held at the Tokyo International Forum on Wednesday, September 19. In addition to the 80-minute keynote, I also presented a 50-minute general session for all attendees.

The keynote and general session covered various aspects of Microsoft’s Software+Services initiative and our broad Web platform, tools and services portfolio. Following the 3 hours for the back-to-back keynote and general session I spent another 3 hours in the afternoon doing interviews & briefings with members of the Japanese press.

It was my first time visiting Japan and the trip was too short for me to really take Tokyo and its 12+ million residents in. I spent the morning of Sep 18 meeting with my colleagues in the Microsoft Japan building near Shinjuku station (the busiest train station in the world). We then spent the rest of the day in rehearsals with the various partners and Microsoft staffers who were preparing demos for the keynote and general sessions. I left my hotel room at the Park Hyatt—the hotel featured in the movie Lost in Translation…it’s amazing!—at 9 AM and returned just before midnight. I was in the bed by 1 AM and up again at 6 AM to make it to the venue by 8 AM for final keynote preparations. The keynote started at 10 AM.

Tokyo Panorama from Park Hyatt room 4216
Picture of Tokyo from Park Hyatt
Nikon D200, Nikon 18-200 f/3.5 @ 18mm f/16, ISO 400, 1/80
Panorama captured from room 4216 at the Park Hyatt hotel. It consists of 5 individual, landscape photos taken by hand (no tripod) then stitched together as described in my panorama tutorial.

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