Sunday, August 15, 2010

great office decoration

Was happy to see this adorning the hallways in the office complex; even in work we are touched by His noodly appendage. Ramen.
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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sleep Dealer

I read about this movie, but it took me a while to actually see it.

Must totally recommend!

Very interesting sci-fi look (from a non-US perspective) at what what outsourcing could be like in 50 years.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Busy & thinking

Work has been busy; some long days last week but a good challenge - something new and different.

Anyway, things seem slightly slower this week and I have time to make a few comments on life.

  1. I have crossed over to the dark side and got cable. I did not really set out to do this, but there was a Comcast guy making the rounds going door to door pushing some upgrades, and I thought it would be easier to get a question answered about my cable modem just by talking to him rather than calling up their 800 number. He answered my question, then pointed out that I could have cable TV + internet for the same price that I was paying for my internet right now (at least for the first 6 months). We’re not going too crazy with it right now, but it’s convenient so far. Annoyed that much of the “on demand” content is not in HD...In a way, I have better selection (and better pictures) with Netflix streaming than with Comcast’s stuff. So I’m not particularly inclined to keep this beyond the promotional period...(we’ll see how that goes).
    • Drawback in that HGTV seems to be the thing we agree on (sorta) and I’m being programmed to know property
  2. Music! Got to jam a bit at a party last weekend, which was nice (and something that I was long overdue for). Was shy at first, but could not resist opportunity to try playing an electric ukulele.
  3. Music to listen to - lots of good releases; some really new, a lot just new to me:
    • Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip (new to me)
    • Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
    • The Roots - How I Got Over
    • Mr. Bungle - California (this came out in 1999)
    • The Streets - Everything is Borrowed (this came out in 2008, but was news to me two weeks ago)
    • The Orb - The Orb’s Adventures beyond the underworld (this is from 1991 or 1994...but I didn’t listen to it at all at the time)
    • Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (I had one of their other records but not this one)
    • M.I.A. - Maya

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day weekend recap

It’s been a weird Memorial day weekend in that the weather was decidedly not summer-like for most of the time. It was grey and rainy and 53 degrees (F, that’s 11.6 degrees C for the rest of the world).

Only as the weekend was drawing to a close, mid-monday afternoon, unexpectedly, the clouds parted and suddenly it was very pleasant to be outside; though my mole-like eyes were initially shocked and fearful of the glowing-bright object burning in the sky.

Saturday - We wanted to get away from the afore-mentioned rain & (relative) cold; but short of a 16 hour drive to southern California, there weren’t many options and we were not prepared to be overnighting it at random places on short notice. We ended up driving to the Olympic peninsula, since we had never been there before. I’ve seen the impressive mountains there on clear days from Seattle. While I believe we were in proximity to those mountains during the drive, we never saw them.

Stopped in the town of Bremerton, which seemed okay (pleasant small-town feel + Navy shipyard; if one worked in downtown Seattle a ferry commute would be possible), then continued to Port Angeles where we saw a bit of blue sky and caught a lot of strong ocean wind. Went to a restaurant that gave us a really solid appetizer (grilled shrimp stuffed with cheese and jalapeños then wrapped in bacon), but really disappointing main course. Drove past some stores that had clearly come into existence to cash-in on the whole Twilight fad. I think I liked Bremerton better than Port Angeles based on my food experiences alone.

The drive home was much faster than the drive there; I guess that’s how it usually goes.

Sunday - Some nice time to try and do things at home that I always have meant to do but was distracted from. Tried making music as a project with the wife; it really came down to assembling loops in garage band. It was fun re-acquainting myself with what one could do given enough focus on music-making software; I’m suddenly interested in completing the Ableton demos that are available and seeing what kind of dope-ass beats that I can make.

Monday - Went to the mega-korean grocery store, H-Mart, in Federal Way. More diverse clientele (25% Korean, the rest = “other”) than I had seen before. Checked out some special (rare) import cell phones, but at $200 + 2-year contract for a potentially crippled dumbphone we were not moved to get anything.

Was freaked out by the rough/sorry condition of I-5 south; our car was shaking pretty violently and I was convinced that we had blown a tire - turns out that the car is fine, the road was just that bad.

I do appreciate that there is no state income tax here in Washington, but I expect that there will be more nickel & diming in the future here in terms of more tolls or other “creative” methods to cover the costs of the aging transportation infrastructure.

Came home in the sun. Had a beer, let the cats out, did some writing. Maybe I’ll publish something someday. Or, perhaps I’ll just produce a body of work and horde it until my death, Emily Dickinson style.

Mapo Tofu for dinner.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Good month in music

Lots of good albums out recently, and I’ve been listening fairly thoroughly.

(Though apparently I’m in the minority when it comes to actually getting full albums) - I like trying to see the larger themes/ideas that the artists are pushing through, and I often disagree with whatever songs are being pushed as singles are truly the strongest tracks that the artist has to offer.

Upon reflection, I guess I’m getting old in that these are mostly follow-up efforts from artists I already know. But I can work on that if I get out to see some new bands once in a while.

Here’s the mini-reviews in reverse chronological order:

Mike Patton - Mondo Cane

While I have respected Mike Patton’s vocal talents for a while, I haven’t actually picked up a full album from him.

He has done great work as a singer with Faith No More, as well as doing some voice work in the gaming industry (including Portal). His work with the band Mr. Bungle is also fairly well-recieved, but I really struggle to listen through any of the songs on that record.

I do respect that Mike and Faith No More do random covers fairly frequently.

This album is a collection of covers of Italian-pop crooner music from the 1960s and 1970s, backed with a full band and orchestra as needed. No real references to Mike’s days in the hard-rock / metal / avant-garde scene (unless you count that an American putting a lot of effort into covering Italian pop from the 60s and 70s is a bit unusual for the musical landscape in the US in 2010).

I really like it; it’s refreshing compared to a lot of the other music I have in my collection. The production is good as well, there are distorted guitars added in occasionally, along with some effects, but it’s not overly gimmicky - the songs themselves with Mike’s singing are really what carry the album.

In short - I’m liking this one a lot, and I can find something that I like in most of the songs regardless of my mood.

The New Pornographers - Together

This band has grown on me; I really liked some the work on their earlier efforts but never quite fully enjoyed their full albums; some songs ended up just annoying me (I think it was something with the singers).

This album is not annoying me; I think that their mix of guitars, strings, vocals is working really well.

Maybe not a stand-out masterpiece single like “Sing Me Spanish Techno”, but there’s 4 - 5 really good songs and 4-5 decent ones.

There’s something timeless about their music, so I think that this will have some staying power in my attention-span.

Hole - Nobody’s Daughter

Wasn’t sure if I really wanted this one, but after listening through all the previews, I went for it.

Pretty good, though if you were never really into Hole to begin with, this probably will not change your mind.

Courtney’s voice sounds as if her hard living is catching up with her, but for the most part it’s used to good effect.

There’s a couple acoustic and whiny songs that I probably won’t listen to by choice again, but the rocking songs (where the distortion and drums are noticeable) are pretty good.

David Byrne & Fatboy Slim - Here Lies Love

Kind of like a disco Evita. I haven’t given this one as much attention as the rest. It’s not terrible or anything, but I prefer it as something to vary up my playlists on shuffle rather than just listening all the way through.

(For some reason, I usually don’t get into listening to showtunes recordings unless I’ve actually seen the show...I have that feeling with this one).

Gogol Bordello - Trans-Continental Hustle

Rick Rubin is producing this one. Not sure that I’d have noticed if it wasn’t in the description of the album. However, after having seen that bit of info, I keep drawing parallels between this record and System of a Down’s Toxicity....there’s the first song that sets the tone, there’s a slower song that builds in intensity, there’s a screamer, there’s a soft ballad, there’s a few other songs that fit with the general sound, and that’s the album.

Not that much else to say - the album sounds like Gogol Bordello. If you liked their earlier work, you’ll probably like this. If you didn’t, this is probably not going to change your mind.

I would love to see them in concert again sooner than later - I saw them back in October 2008 and it was a very fun show.

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

I liked some of Gorillaz’ previous efforts, but they were mostly single-driven - I quickly got tired of much of the other material on that album.

I was pleasantly surprised with this one, in that the first 8-9 songs are fairly varied and decent.

After that point, I usually have to stop listening and/or end up changing to a different album.

Not sure if I’d really want to see these guys live though; even if they have Mick Jones and other luminaries playing along, I can’t imagine that this would be a super fun show (based on the clip of their performance on the Colbert Report).

But hey, if someone has free tickets and would like to share in order to prove me wrong, please do.

The Apples in Stereo - Travellers in Space and Time

Fun pop music, Apples-style, with a bit more of a dance/disco feel than their previous efforts. Pretty easy to take, pretty upbeat - they’re really good at what they do.

Lyrics are not mind-blowing, but I was not expecting them to be.

I’m not really a fan of the 20 - 40 second random sample or song throwaway tracks that seem to occur as filler, but that is pretty easily resolved with a few smacks of the delete key (deleting from playlist, not my master copies). Aside from those, this holds up well as an album that can be enjoyed all the way through.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - I Learned the Hard Way

As I said in an a Tweet / Facebook status update, this record reminds me that I will never have the sultry voice of a middle-aged woman singing (mostly) about lovers who have done her wrong.

Regardless of not being able to sing along (well), it’s a satisfying listen. The Dap-Kings do a fantastic job of sounding like a superstar session band from the 60s, and that really adds to the character of this album.

While I do like this, I do not often listen through all the way; I like the songs to provide contrast to what I have on shuffle.

Again, would love to see this band live; I think that they would put on one hell of a show.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Road, and other news

Weekend went thusly:

Friday - lengthy happy hour, then food @ home; watched some TV.

Saturday - Beautiful, sunny day; went hiking with some friends to Big Si. Had some ambition for going out further, but we were pretty wiped out. Have been working through DVDs brought back from China. The Hangover and All About Steve were what we watched. I had seen the former in the theater; the latter was not as bad as I had heard, though I cannot say it was really a good movie. (I did appreciate the numerous jabs at how fake the media is, however).

Sunday - Lazy morning, hit the gym for a run. Ran errands; picking up the week’s food & wine @ Costco. Came home, planted something (hopefully hearty and hard to kill) in the pots long sitting empty on our porch. Then made Ukrainian-Style cabbage rolls...though likely none of my ancestors used lean turkey and half a bottle of Habanero Tabasco sauce when doing so.

Watched “The Road” - which was intense, but pretty good. I guess a lot of metaphors there for life, the fragility of existence; then need to keep keeping on no matter what adversity is in your way, the need to keep one’s humanity even when surrounded by

Then “The Rebound”; I’m not sure how old Catherine Zeta-Jones is, but she looks fantastic. Not really fitting the mould of a typical rom-com; slightly deeper characters. Not the best DVD experience; the DVD stopped working 50 minutes into the filme. Extra comedy in the subtitles; since this was not a perfect rip of an existing DVD, the English subtitles were translated from Chinese (rather than from the movie itself). It was funny suddenly seeing “I buxing le” (我不行了) and “refuel, refuel” (from the Chinese “Jia you - 加油).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

One's undoing

After having a greater quantity of KFC for dinner than can be
considered healthy, washed down with a few too many beers as part of a
balanced dinner, I gotta note that it's way easier to screw something
up rather than build/create something amazing.

1. Diets - can be crushed with a night or two of indulgence.
2. Relationships - can be broken with a few stray or thoughtless words.
3. Careers - a few moments of carelessness can set you back years.
4. Cars - a few inches the wrong way is thousands of dollars to fix.

Anyway, I suppose that the positive thing to note is that setbacks
caused by a few stray moments of stupidity are rarely as lasting as
they seem at first; if one does not give up then what was once
catastrophic can seem tame given enough time.

(Then again, if you hurt your car through your own carelessness or
stupidity, usually money is the only fix...)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

articles of interest on a lazy sunday

The future of video games & society, a futurist perspective - some good ideas here that should be considered in future sci-fi and in imagining what the world will be like in 10, 20+ years.

Ask Alessandro - Apparently some of the english language editors at the Global Times are “taking the piss” and putting this stuff up as a quasi-advice column. Not sure if this is a “planned” controversy or not. I don’t know how much longer such “advice” columns will exist as a feature, but the prankster in me sees this as something very awesome. The content could be offensive to some, but to me it’s satire and much, much more noteworthy in that it was even published.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Movies that would not benefit from the Blu-ray experience

Off the top of my head:

  1. The Insider
  2. Jerry McGuire
  3. American Pie
  4. She’s All That
  5. Muppets Take Manhattan
I think that if there was a movie about my life, I should be played by Clive Owen. Not that he looks like me in the slightest, and I’m not at all British, but it might help the movie be successful.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Music Binge

Downloaded some new stuff:

  1. Jimi Hendrix - Valleys of Neptune - it’s amazing how many post-humous releases Jimi has. Not that much brand new material here, 75% of it has existed in other versions on other releases. But the quality of the recordings is top notch, and I appreciate alternative versions of his hits.
  2. Air - Pocket Symphony - I seem to have misplaced my copies of “Moon Safari” and “The Virgin Suicides”. This is a newer album that seems to deliver on Air’s unique atmospheric sound. I approve...haven’t listened to it that much.
  3. Roxy Music - Country Life - I was never into this band, but the album was on sale for $3.60 on Amazon. Worth a try (and the wonderfully skanky scandalous cover caught my attention). Had heard good things about the band, most of their cds were available in the music shop back when I was in Beijing as a student but I never picked them up then. Anyway, I like the music here - it reminds me of David Bowie from the same era; it is pretty solidly rocking 70s-style Brit rock. No complaints.
  4. The Love Me Nots - Upsidedown Insideout - It was a toss-up among this album and their others...their sound seems pretty consistent. It’s a good sound - garage-surf-rock. Less of an album experience but rather much needed flavor to mix into the ipod when it’s on shuffle. While it does rock the lyrics are a little too girly.
  5. Afghan Whigs - Creep - Their excellent cover of the song by TLC.
  6. Beyond - I wasn’t really into their work that much during my time living in China, but I’ve grown to love some of their songs...somehow definitely a cut above the usual cheesy ballad crap that passes for pop music. At least these guys wrote their own stuff. Some of their better-known hits are: 光辉岁月, 海闊天空, 真的爱你
It was a slow week last week; hopefully things will be better this week.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

must recommend this cookbook

The Essential Wok Cookbook

Picked this up from a guy selling left-over (factory surplus?) books on a cart in Shenzhen back in 2006.

The book seems to be out of print in the US now, but it's worth a look. Highly recommended if you're willing to attempt making authentic Southeast Asian style curries and Chinese food.

Still enjoying it now - really good introduction to making a wide variety of Asian dishes; the recipes have been very solid so far.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Interesting WSJ journalist in Korea

Just finished reading about this guy in Korea who posed an uncomfortable question to the Korean Finance Minister.

I guess I don’t know the project/story he was working on that prompted him to ask this question in a public setting, but his point seems very fair to me; certainly if there is any day of the year to ask such questions and provoke discussion on the topic of women’s role in Korean society, this day (international women’s day) would be it.

It’s interesting that this (the practice of going to hostess bars for business) is defensible publicly; yet the way they’re going about this by playing the “national outrage” card.

On the other hand (thinking from my most basic male instincts) since the “old school” system in Korea is so beneficial to men, why rush to change it?

Also, if hostess bars & business are so offensive to some, how much better/worse are business meetings at strip clubs in the US? (On one hand, there’s the morality of the issue, and then there’s also there’s the issue of how widespread of a required business practice there is)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Testing MacJournal out

Had been using ScribeFire on Firefox, but that fell out of favor to me; Firefox 3.5 was crazy slow on my vintage 2005 iBook.

Happy to report that Firefox 3.6 is much improved and is working better than Safari at present.

In unrelated news, picked up the MacHeist bundle. Not a bad deal; I guess maybe half as much software compared with years past, but also half the price.

Perhaps the software will inspire me to write more. Perhaps not. We’ll see.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

haikus inspired by today's meeting

Just did some quick calculations; I think that the ballpark cost in total salaries for the upper management team is ~575k. Not sure why our ~30 person company needs 3 people at this cost. I am acutely aware that I'm on the wrong end of things here. Whatever.

So, here are some (purposely?) terrible/melodramatic haikus created in an attempt to keep brain active.

Haiku #1:

Meeting boring me
Office crushes my spirit
Heavy drinking later

Haiku #2:

Lots of discussion
Nothing said of interest
Bash head on hard desk

Here's a diet-related Haiku, inspired by the ingredients of the Girl Scout Cookies served:

Glucose trans-fats corn syrup
lifetime big stomach

Monday, February 22, 2010

a quick 2 notes

1. My new favorite band - "Los Campesinos!" 

They have a wonderful, playful, melodic but rocking sound and there seems to be something decent going on lyrically as well. Picked up all 3 of their albums but have only listened through each one once.

My favorite quote:

"My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

reflections on being back in USA; + book & movie reviews

So, I'm sort of in the process of getting over jet lag; what that really means is that I'm going to bed around 11 or 12 at night and then sleeping to 9 or 10 in the morning and then proceeding to be tired and irritable the rest of the day.

Notes about being back in Bellevue (I guess I'm almost "local" now in that the 10 minute journey into Seattle proper seems like an arduous ordeal only to be undertaken for events of the utmost importance):

1. So, so so quiet.
2. No people anywhere; the handful of pedestrians at intersections are an annoyance.
3. There's ~2 or 3 buildings in some stage of construction here, which apparently is remarkable as it leads to a growing skyline over time. Compared to the hyper-growth in Shanghai, though, I keep thinking "Aww, look at the Americans pretending to build a's cute of them (of us?) to try."
4. Having my daily routine up-ended by jet lag and travel is nice in a way - it's good in that I can attempt to change/improve my daily life & try some new things.
5. Did a fair amount of cooking yesterday and that will probably continue today.
6. I ended up doing a lot more reading than I have in a long time during the past trip; and I hope to continue that trend.

Media reviews - again, I finished a few books and saw some films. So here are my thoughts:


1. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson - I'm a fan of Neal's work, and this book is interesting and different from his previous efforts (that I have read). It's more accessible, in that the entire story is told from the perspective of a single character, most of Neal's other works change perspectives every chapter, and as a result it's harder to get immersed. The book is less accessible in that it's (apparently) "speculative fiction" and Neal describes a planet much like earth but yet isn't earth and thus some almost familiar things require different names. It's annoying at first but as I read more it did not bother me later. Helpfully, there is a glossary at the back. Later on, sci-fi really comes into play as issues of time travel, quantum physics, and parallel universes come up quickly. Not a perfect book, but I enjoyed it quite a bit and do recommend it. 

2. Revolting Youth by CD Payne - I had read "Youth in Revolt" 5 or 6 years ago, and really liked it. Was very happy to see that the film adaptation finally came to pass...have not seen it yet but do intend to. I was aware that the series had continued, but this book was always out at the library; I ultimately paid for a copy at Barnes & Noble (note to self...if I ever cross the bridge I really, really should support independent bookstores). Anyway, the book is light, fun, and engrossing. 

3. Nudge by Thaler & Sunstein - Interesting ideas about how default choices/offerings in various systems can influence groups. Not exactly sure where I could apply these ideas in my life & work at present...but still found the book to be really interesting. 

4. The World is Flat - Just starting this; here are my impressions of the first chapter: "Some guy (the author) has read about globalization, then sees it firsthand. Is gobsmacked, decides to write a book about it." I'm not sure if there are additional revelations in store; as it is right now it is telling me that there is a lot of outsourcing happening in India and that this trend should continue. Additionally, outsourcing of manufacturing and call centers in China is also expected to continue. No shit? 

Thoughts on owning a Kindle or iPad for book reading purposes? Tempting, in that one can carry a library around in a single device. Also nice in that if one (as an American) was living in China or somewhere where a wide selection of English books was in short supply, this could potentially help. Lame in that one of the best things about books is that they are not subject to the "electronic devices" restrictions on take-off and landing in airplanes...but an e-reader would have those issues. Also lame in that you could invest in an "e-library" and you'd be subject to a lot of sharing restrictions - you can't give away ebooks that you've finished to your friends & family, like you can with a real book. Of concern with Amazon is if one decided to switch platforms (Kindle to iPad or whatever), your Amazon purchases would be useless on the new device.


1. Avatar - Did not have terribly high expectations for this movie (box office records aside), but decided to give it a shot to see what the fuss was about. Pleasantly surprised. Yes, perhaps the story is aimed at a 12-year old - but it's not a bad story at all (certainly little that would be objectionable to show a 12-year old, IMHO).

2. Year One - Michael Cera & Jack Black are both very funny actors, and the thought of them as a comedy team seems like a great idea. The trailer for this movie was also quite encouraging. However, the end result was pretty weak. I did not find myself laughing much at all. It was fun picking out the famous comedians in this (and there's someone famous in nearly every scene); however it's disappointing when you realize that despite their fame, no one ever has any really funny lines to deliver and most of the jokes are predictable and tired. I did watch the extra "deleted ending", which seemed superior to the film cut in nearly every way. Seems like this movie had potential, but someone messed it up bad (starting with the script...then the editing...)...I wanted to see the movie that the trailer led me to believe this was, not what it actually turned out to be.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


So, turns out that the snow in Seoul did affect my flight...the plane
was late in getting to shanghai, and by the time I made it to Seoul
the flight to Seattle was already long gone.

Luckily, there was an option to go to Hawaii and then transfer to
Seattle there.

So I did.

Not enough time to run to the beach; just got to see the airport. Was
not dressed for the weather; air conditioning was not turned on in the
terminals in the morning.

Had burger king. Then starbucks. Ended up chatting for a long time
with some of the people who were also on the way to Seattle from

Random stories, different china perspectives.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

waiting & waiting at airport

Arrived reasonably (but not insanely) early at airport, check-in, customs & security were pretty efficient.

As it turns out, my flight is out of the "old" (~10-12 year?) Terminal at the Shanghai Pudong airport. 

Was hungry, got some lunch...this airport is more "traditional" in terms of Chinese style as just about every business within is locally owned and drastically marked up for the captive audience.

88 RMB ($12.88 USD) for a mediocre rice box lunch set? Lame. Oh well...I could have ordered a burger for a little less, but was really doubtful - in my experience with generic airport restaurants in China like this, food quality is usually low & prices are high. 

Was hoping that they had a Burger King, but no luck (if it happened that my flight was out of Terminal 2, however, that would be a different story).

Had also been hoping to pick up some English translations of some Chinese classic books, but no luck there either...a lot of business texts. Guess I'll have to hit up Barnes & Noble or Amazon when I am back in the US.

Oh well...I'm not intending to whine. Here are the positives:

1. There is very decent & fast & free wi-fi coverage. One cannot assume that will exist in some US airports.
2. The baggage cart was free, not an absurd $3.00 or whatever it is in the USA. And someone was solely dedicated to making sure people exiting their cars or taxis had access to carts. 
3. No tips necessary! (This stands in stark contrast to a Delta experience I had in Minneapolis where the lady handling curbside check-in spent 10 minutes extensively helping some other dude with 10 bags, then finally gets to me, has an attitude with me, still takes forever with my two bags, and then when I don't tip her, she yells "Hey, this is a service!" to me...lame lame lame).
4. Airline didn't even turn the scale on when weighing my checked luggage.
5. This part of the airport is spacious, quiet, and has relatively few of the most tranquil places I've been this entire trip. A little odd considering that travel is ramping up for Chinese New Year (the bulk of the population will be taking trains, however

Monday, February 08, 2010

wrapping up the trip

So, for some reason there's a warm spell in Shanghai and it's ~55-60 degrees F during the day (12-15 degrees C, for those that bother).

That's not expected to last  - it will get back to normal (38 - 48 degrees F; 3 - 9 degrees C) at the end of the week.

But I'm headed back stateside on Thursday.

It's been a pretty good trip. Here's a list of the things I'll miss, things I won't miss, and stuff that I'm really looking forward to when I'm back in the US.

Will miss:
1. The food - I love Chinese food, and I also love that (even in Shanghai) it's possible to go out to eat every day on a modest budget. Being in such a big city, there's lots of new things to try, and a diverse range of Chinese food (from all regions of the country) are available...I'm not really into a lot of Shanghai-specific cuisine yet, but everything else that I like (Hunan food, Sichuan food, Dongbei food, Xinjiang food, Guangdong food, Japanese food, and Korean food) is all readily available. You can get Chinese food in the US (or Canada), but it just takes more effort, and it's rarely priced as well as it is here.

1.5 - food portions - While there's a ton of good food here, it's also portioned reasonably..while I get full, I'm rarely urged to stuff myself. So in this way, it's probably healthier.

2. Pace of life - things change fast here; it's exciting and people are on the whole fairly optimistic (despite some grumblings about the government and not making enough money).

3. Work - I get to be a training expert/manager while I'm here. When I go back home I'm back to being Joe Schmo at the bottom of the totem pole. I knew that this position/role was temporary from the get-go, but it will still be a come down of sorts.

4. Conversations with new people in China - I guess during this trip I've spent more time hanging out with Chinese people than I often did when I was living in Shenzhen (that was probably due to the pace of life in Shenzhen and that I worked in a foreign company where my foreign peers and I would frequently get together after work too). Anyway, it's been fascinating getting the Chinese perspective on things we talk about's also easier to communicate as it seems like I have a lot in common with Chinese people working here too. The foreigners I've met this trip have been pretty interesting for the most part as well...have been meeting a lot of the "career-expat over achiever" types, a few "FOBs", and then some of the dregs of humanity (see my last post). Chatting with friends in the US is okay too, but it's often different - without the unifying pull of being in China & trying to figure things out, then one has to come up with other topics of conversation (mundane topics like sports & what was on TV seem so trivial).

Will not miss:

1. The shredding of my immune system - back in Seattle/Bellevue my social circles are fairly restricted and probably the worst things (health-wise) that I'm regularly subject to are cat hair and dust. Here, I'm dealing with: jet-lag/sleep, touching things that are on public transit (touched by thousands of people daily), being around thousands of strangers daily on public transit, constantly sharing food at lunch dinners, maybe a modest uptick in the amount of drinking I do, the smog/pollution, and the damp/cold weather + often unheated workspace - it feels like I've been sick a lot this trip; way more than ever when I was living in China before and way more than when

2. Scooters & bicyclists - Due to the high price of obtaining & maintaining a car here, scooters are more prevalent than in other large Chinese cities. Shanghai is by no means a "scooter city" like I hear that Taipei is or like you might see in Thailand  However, there are enough of them to be an annoyance - most scooter drivers couldn't give a rat's ass about following traffic rules/guidelines, and so they often drive in the middle of the sidewalk and are loose & fast with any inhibitions related to traffic lights. I'm usually listening to my ipod so I don't hear them coming behind me, and at night most don't ever bother to turn their lights on (this apparently could be related to the fact that the headlights are reportedly one of the first parts on the scooter to break, usually within a few months of purchase).

3. Lack of privacy / quiet - While my friend's living space is pretty nice, the walls must be made out of paper or something, as every sound from outside and upstairs carries in. Likewise, I assume that if one was super noisy inside, the sound would carry out.

4. Big city can be tiring - The flip side of living in such a dynamic environment is that it can be exhausting. Commute to work (in my case) is fairly long. I cannot say I've ever felt really full rested this trip. It feels that my life in the US is comparatively much more relaxed.

5. blocked internet - not that internet access is the only thing that matters in life, it's still jarring & irritating to have a wide swath of the internet simply not function. While broadband access is pretty well distributed here, a high-speed quality connection is really hit or miss.

Definitely looking forward to:

1. Seeing the wife
2. Seeing the cats
3. Seeing USA friends
4. Being back in an apartment that is relatively quiet
5. Having space in my apartment (even while my friend's place is fairly spacious, by Chinese standards, the layout still feels cramped.
6. Driving
7. Having relatively quiet apartment (even considering we're on the ground floor in a high traffic area, it's way more quiet than it is where I'm staying now)
8. Clean-ish air & clear skies, at least when it's not raining (do not want to hear Seattle people whine about the pollution there...ever. Things could be so much worse. That being said, as far as pollution goes, there are worse places to be in China than Shanghai).

Saturday, February 06, 2010

decent day but weird, weird night

I was originally intending on a different, more curse-filled title for this post, to reflect the shock in my state of mind. However, after sleeping on it I ultimately decided otherwise.

Nonetheless, if you venture through the entirety of this post you may agree.

Day - This was saturday morning, and it was a decent but lazy one. My friend, who had been hosting me for this trip, had finally come back from a 2 week stint of business travel. There was much to catch up about.

I went to gym, he went to boxing training.

Afterward, he wanted to go to the gym for an additional cardio/regular workout; I wanted to go explore the city some more. Unfortunately, it was thus it seemed like it would be a good day to go to the art galleries (mostly indoors & all).

I had heard things about the area on the Sinosplice ( blog.

Got disoriented on leaving the subway station, followed my inner sense of direction and ended up going on a big loop; passing through the throngs of people already in line or attempting travel for Chinese New Year. For whatever reason, I ended up taking a street that hadn't been finished under regular construction and was as such basically a muddy puddle.

I endded up going back to where I started - studied the map further and had a further go of it...finally made it to the art area (moganshan lu).

Enjoyed it immensely - there were lots of post-modern exhibits, featuring mostly mainland China artists. I also visited a special display that prominently showed some art from Korean & Japanese artists, among others.

As I ventured further in, I found both larger display areas with sculptures in addition to paintings.

What was especially cool was that in many of the galleries, the artists themselves were there - I have not often had the opportunity to converse directly with artists (especially painters & sculptors) about the work that they have done while I am in the middle of viewing it. It is very interesting to hear their stories & interpretations toward what they have painted & how the artwork even came to exist.

Anyway, the art generally featured interpretations of modern Chinese society today, juxtaposing new and old, the traditional and imported in a variety of styles and settings.

One that really struck me was a ginormous but very crude (in quality) sculpture of Mao...everything was rough, and the proportions made him look more as a bloated, overweight giant rather than the super-heroic larger than life traditional statues so often out there.

Ended up picking up a few framed photographs and some postcards; maybe made some new friends too.

Was a little embarrassed overhearing some other visitors trying to haggle way too hard over the price of some artwork.

My opinion on this considers that:

1. The gallery itself must charge a sizable rent (considering Artists' budgets)
2.  The artist needs to eat
3.  The artist needs to sleep
4. The artists are mostly not rich to start with
5. These are originals, not mass-produced crap that should be aggressively haggled over.

Anyway...after that, my plan had been to have some dinner and then make my way to any bar that had live music.

Ultimately, that never happened.

(I was on my own this evening as my friend had to take a client out and said he likely was going to have to go to the "dark side"...I did not want to join - I had been there and done that enough during my previous China work engagements...)

So I found a pretty modest-looking Sichuan-style restaurant. Went in. It was so busy that I shared a table with another person who had arrived there already. She left pretty quickly.

Soon after, a pair of younger Chinese guys came in, and the only space was a the table where I briefly had been the sole occupant.

So they joined me. We didn't really acknowledge each other, as is often the custom when sharing space in tight quarters.

But then they ordered a bottle of Baijiu, and I could not help but grinning - it was clear that a night of drinking was in store.

I guess my grin broke the ice and we started chatting. I stuck to my beer and they stuck to their baijiu, but we were soon cheering every 2 minutes or so (you can't just drink/sip on your own, you need to clink glasses & include the others).

Turns out that they both worked in the same advertising company, making logos (among other things) for a host of local businesses. They had been at work due to the ramp-up to the chinese holiday (everyone works through the weekend before and some how the "extra" days saved apply towards the future holiday...) We ended up talking about work, government (Yet another time this trip that I heard "I love China but not the government"), business, education, culture, tradition, holidays...a fine cultural exchange, all in all, backed up with the fool-proof drunken logic that since we happened to sit at the same table that we were fated to have this discussion and as such are all brothers (Cheers!).

So how did things fall off the tracks?

Well, another person approached and asked to have a drink with us - I didn't want to be a jerk, so I said "sure". But then this dude just kind of kept staying at our table...and staying...and then randomly bursting into screaming at the top of his lungs "FUCK you CHEATING SHIT BITCH!", while looking back at the table he came from.

So things got a little weird after that. This guy was from Japan, and didn't speak much Chinese. So the conversation got split up. Then one of the other people at our table didn't really want to talk to the Japanese guy at all (taking some bullshit nationalistic stance that he'd never talk to anyone from "little Japan")..

('Little Japan' is a derogatory term towards Japan, though I still don't get exactly what it is supposed to mean)

Then Japanese guy tells me about the time he spent in the states. Then he gets all worked up that his grandfather who fought in WWII is still alive. And that the USA bombed Nagasaki & Hiroshima.

And then we all drink.

And then the bai jiu's effects start to hit second Chinese guy at the table, and he almost falls over. But he's still gamely trying to engage the Japanese guy in conversation, but due to limited English skills and severe intoxication, is having difficulty being understood by anyone.

Then the "I'm not talking to Japanese" guy strikes up conversation with the group of notherners at the next table (3 girls, one dude, good odds, right?) and so they are now best friends and sharing food and clinking glasses. Then some how the circle expands to include everyone.

All the other restaurant patrons are not there, except for one single guy who's just kind of watching it all.

And then the Japanese guy screams and curses to his girlfriend to join us. I ask nicely as this could (maybe) shut the Japanese guy up. So the girl comes over. She's Russian.

We have a toast to the new "mini-UN" drinking party that has formed.

Eventually the Chinese people in the group start leaving one by one; I trade contact info with the Chinese advertising guys but it is unlikely we'll ever see each other again.

I know that I should leave but listening to the Russian lady's story is the aural equivalent of watching a train wreck...I'm hypnotized.

Apparently she's been in China for 15 years, recently was living with a Nigerian guy, who suddenly disappeared around Christmas time. No one knows where or why. (Possibly deported...and no one has any idea what this dude had been doing for a job). Before he left, he had introduced this Japanese guy, his friend from some way. So after Nigerian guy is gone, sometime during January, the Japanese guy and the Russian girl started hooking up. And now they're kind of a thing. Aside for the dysfunctional-ness of it all. Oh yeah, did I mention that Russian girl had been carrying Nigerian dude's baby but then lost it at some point after he left?

Japanese guy had been in town studying for a while, but then just stayed & stayed - his visa is well expired. Apparently there's some Korean girl that he's affiliated with; not sure if they got married and she used him for his visa, or what.

Anyway, continued to hear their stories, then talked about China & Shanghai for a bit, and then it was super-clearly time for me to go.

So I did.

Just way too much information to take in on one night. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that people will open up such intimate details of their lives to a stranger like has happened before and probably will happen again. I guess I should know better and get out before it gets too weird.

Monday, February 01, 2010


I wish it was the kind cured by more cowbell. Or even Disco Fever. But
it's the straight-up shivers...

Another 'fuck you' from me to Delta airlines

Wife had to go to Korea - we found two options:

1. Delta - $798 for the ticket, which was a code share with Korean Airlines, so effectively the food, service, everything would be Korean Airlines
2. Korean Airlines - $998 for the same ticket.

We went with the $798 option.

When wife got to the airport, she visited Delta first and waited in line, only for them to tell her that she needed to check in at the Korean Airlines counter.

We planned an open-ish itinerary as we didn't know how long she'd need to stay. As it turns out, she can go home sooner than later. So she tries to change her ticket. First she calls Korean air. They redirect her to Delta. Delta tells her that she can switch for a $250 fee.

Compare this with my Korean Airlines experience.

I book the equivalent Korean Airlines ticket directly with Korean Airlines. My itinerary changes. I need to push out my departure date. Korean Airlines does this for free (though they mention if I need to change it again, it will be $100).

In comparing my wife's experience with my own, I note that:

1. Delta airlines has created no value
2. They simply collect a fee to do something that Korean Airlines did for free.

I see no point in giving Delta another penny.

In the grand scheme of things, the difference is only ~$52. But the experience with Delta was painful every step of the way and has left a horrible taste in my mouth. There's a lot of better options out there, so why the hell should I continue to suffer out of some previously mis-guided sense of allegiance to this greedy-ass crusty corporate rapist behemoth?

(BTW, again, I am not sure how they sold the NWA Delta merger to government regulators as a beneficial entity; they certainly have done nothing to benefit me, my friends or family)

Additionally, I'm sure that this code-sharing thing is a scam. On my last flight, which was with Korean airlines, that is apparently a member of the "Skyteam Alliance", it turns out that Delta chose not to recognize my miles, although they were with a partner flight, since apparently they were "discounted".

Never mind that what I paid was over $900 - which, if you were paying attention, is more an the equivalent code-sharing flight through Delta (code-sharing/piggybacking on Korean Airlines).

Fucking douchebags.

weekend notes

Friday - 

Met up with a long-time friend of mine, Aubin Wang. She's currently living in Shanghai with her husband and recently (50-some days ago) they just had their second child. 

She cooked dumplings, which were fantastic, and we talked a lot. In short, life is going well for her & family. We traded pros & cons of staying in China vs moving back to USA...lots to consider in either case, especially with children. We agreed that if one was not in a position to pay for foreign-standard elementary school (and up), then we would not want to subject our children to the public education system here if at all possible. On the other hand, growing up with native Chinese language ability seems like an excellent idea.

I am convinced that living in a country where you can hire a live in (24/7) maid/nanny for $400 / month is totally the way to go if one has very small children.

Saturday - 

Slept in, then had breakfast at the cafe across the street (nothing fancy, just bacon, eggs, toast, and coffee). Went to gym; on the way I ran into a Russian + French couple I knew from 10 years ago who studied at the same international program I did...they're married now & had two girls who were in tow and evidently were living in Shanghai. 

Not one minute later, I ran into another couple (Americans) that I knew from my time in Shenzhen. They had recently moved in pretty much across the street from where I'm staying now. Arrangements were made to hang out.

Afternoon was simple. Gym, then exploring.

Gym - 
Overheard in the locker room: "Here's how I almost died this driver fell asleep and I wasn't paying attention, we almost hit a stopped car in front of us"
"Oh yeah? Well, they've almost finished rennovating my building and the workers were throwing chunks of scaffolding down while I was walking out and a few chunks just grazed my head"

I get the feeling that one could have updated "near death experience" stories on a weekly basis, though at some point you must grow numb to it and stop keeping track.

Exploring - 

Found that it took only ~45 minutes or so to get to central downtown (I followed a very meandering route to get there; I was in now rush).

Succeeded in my mission of finding coffee filters (though in hindsight, there were places much closer that also had them) - found a high-end import supermarket where one could get just about anything that you wanted from back stateside (for a healthy markup, of course).

Continued walking everywhere, had a few snacks, realized that many of the places I've been on this trip are all within 10 minutes' walk from one another.

Went home, watched a fresh yet grainy copy of "Inglorious Basterds", ate lamb on a stick, then met up with people at the "Glamor Bar" for drinks.

The bar (well, probably more of a lounge) was full of foreigners and occasionally their Chinese girlfriends or friends. One lady had shown up in a leather leotard. Yes, she stuck out. No, I was not complaining.

Conversation was good, though you had to yell above the DJ. Interesting people & stories.

Went back to friend's place; more scotch was had.


Slept in, then made it out to the gym.

Explored more - on studying google maps I found that I'm living really close by to the Shanghai Music conservatory (上海音乐学院). I stayed at a hostel there back in 2000 when I first visited I really wanted to see it again and see what had changed. Turns out - a lot...did not recognize neighborhood and I walked right past where I needed to go. School got majorly rennovated...not sure if they still rent out bargain-priced rooms to backpackers or not.

It was still pleasant to walk around the neighborhood - the thing with the French Concession part of Shanghai is that the streets are small-ish and it feels like a neighborhood; much of the architecture from the early to mid 20th century is intact, which also makes it unique for China. Even newer parts of Shanghai subscribe to the modern China city planning aesthetic of mega blocks separated by 4 to 8 lane roads. Will post some pictures shortly.

Picked up a bottle of Mountain Dew which was on clearance at a convenience store. I haven't had that soda in a long time; this was more disgusting than I remember. My nose started running immediately after finishing it. Coincidence? (My snot was bright orange. It caused some concern).

Hopped on subway, went back to electronics market in town...picked up a few more iphone cases. Newsflash to people in the US - you are getting incredibly hosed on the cost of iphone accessories...a simple case here cost me ~$2.50, and I bet I could have had it for less if I bothered bargaining more. The same case retails for $20 and up on the US (either in stores or via online retail).

Went to BreadTalk, which is a Singaporean bakery chain that is fantastic, picked up a stash of breakfast food for the rest of the week.

Checked out a Best Buy - weird...kind of like the a US store, especially the annoying pitches for warranties that no one needs/wants plastered ALL OVER THE PLACE.

Differences? Not much media on sale (aside from official copies of Windows, maybe some NDS and PSP games), the store was spread over 4 floors, there was a guitar section, mobile phone section was huge, much more room for water heaters and range tops...and that's about it. Not sure how successful they will ultimately be in China (the prices ranged from fair to exorbitant, certainly not amazing), though the look & feel of the store is a step up from what I remember of some of the local competition (Gome 国美 and Suning, among others). 

Finished up day with a beer & watched "Fantastic Mr. Fox"...which I thought was pretty good, and that the forced time limitations of stop-motion probably helped Wes Anderson keep the script and pacing pretty tight.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thoughts on music

Just occuring to me as I walk around:

Interpol - good music, mostly, that is great when I'm in the mood for
it. Not sure how much I would really want to see them live. Of course,
if money was no object, I'd be there. I do not think it would be.
"fun" show, however. Can't imagine them doing anything to engage the

Vampire Weekend - Why is this band supposed to be a big deal? Their
music is pussified shit.

fun music download here

Interesting mash-up with various rap/hip-hop artists over music from Final Fantasy 7. Pretty decent so far.

Saturday, January 30, 2010 is weird in careful what you're searching for...

Dealing with the Great Firewall of China, It's always hard to tell (at first) if this is a temporary glitch or if something is permanently blocked.

Even 20 minutes ago, it was working fine for me.

I did a web search on the (old) PC game "Freedom Force" (there was a $2 special on the game via Steam and I wanted to see some reviews).

That immediately resulted in an error page and my access to (not resulted in errors as well.

(Someone has probably made a list of search terms that trigger this reaction...I guess that "freedom" is among them, as well as "Tibet" and "Tiananmen", among others)

After ~5 minutes though, access returned.

Although in day to day life as a foreigner in China, one may feel more free than one does in the US, experiences such as this are jarring reminders that one has very little recourse against the government here.

I'm trying to think of aspects of people's lives where government does not have some influence. But for that matter, the same could be said of life in the US as well - it is just that I am more accustomed to how the US government does things and so nothing strikes me as odd about it. (Taxes, health insurance, registration of anything, working, regulation of the food that is bought, regulation of the stores that sell it to me, rules and support of the roads that I drive to purchase anything, the cops that are on those roads enforcing traffic law, a sense the government is equally pervasive in the US as here)

Rambling now...enough on that for the time being.

Time for trip to gym, then more walking around Shanghai.

Happy to discover that I'm actually only a few blocks away from the first hostel where I stayed when I first visited Shanghai 9.5 years ago. Will check that out on my way to explore some other places.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

follow-up thought on the iPad

So, was just thinking if the iPad would really replace my living-room / couch laptop...and I'm having more doubts than before.

The lack of Flash support is actually more problematic than it seemed at first glance.

I mean, I don't always use Flash while I'm online - I usually get really annoyed by flash-enabled websites that are relics of 2001.

However, I do appreciate the various video clips, cartoons, games, and extra interactive function that Flash allows. The iPad won't support that. It will have a Youtube workaround...but youtube is not the sole source of decent online video content.

Although perhaps not as trendy looking, ANY laptop would have more functionality.

So we'll wait and see on this one. Certainly no rush from me at this point.

But Apple did get my attention.

landed & keepin' it real - quickie reviews from plane - Why didn't this get posted earlier in the month????

Touched down in Shanghai ~ 4 hours ago.

My friend Jeff sent his driver over; I was picked up and we met for drinks. Also met Jeff's girlfriend, a very nice lady who happens to be from Australia.

Had some wine & beer. Now is going to come way too soon tomorrow.

Anyway, during the plane ride over to this hemisphere, I partook in some movies and other media.


1. District 9 - very solid sci-fi, and the South African setting is a refreshing change of pace.

2. Public Enemies -  pretty good cop/gangster movie. Seemed different than the trailers - thought that there would be more romance and more that establishes Dillinger as a badass. Instead, most of the movie is just about the endgame for how Dillinger is caught; and you're rooting for him all the way. But although the movie was flawed, it was one of those movies that still leaves an impression on you; the setting was very well done and the world was presented very well (although it seems like the exterior scenes were very, very controlled...probably in order to maintain the premise of the time period).

3. Extract - Mike Judge office commentary on suburban America? Count me in. While none of the characters are particularily likeable to start with, somehow the movie keeps you interested and laughing. Probably will get better with another viewing or two.

Mega-update post - thought this went up earlier but it was sitting in my drafts folder

Had been intending to do this in smaller chunks, but I've been out & about more frequently and jet lag is wearing off so I am no longer at home exhausted at 10 pm hoping to still fill a little time with chronicles of my thoughts.

So now, here I am, 1:31 AM my time on a Thursday - nearly a week has gone by since my last post, so there's a lot to say:

Thursday - registered at gym close by to where I'm staying. Just a one-month membership - but pretty nice for what I am used to; I guess not so much for the gym & equipment itself, but rather for the other stuff offered; there's a lot of spa-like amenities. Anyway, not the sort of thing I'd normally join, but given proximity and other factors this made the best sense for right now.

Friday - After work, met up with an old friend that I've known since I was an exchange student as well as someone who I knew through mutual friends back in my Shenzhen days. Had dinner, then ended up running around town to a few different bars. Shanghai, as long as I've known it, was always more expensive than other places in China; during this trip it's clear that at some establishments prices are on par with that of the US or Europe, if not more expensive. 

Did not go to a neighborhood or area with a super-clear bar street, it's more like you have to find parts of town that have bars and then shuttle between them or walk for 10+ minutes between locations. Certainly manageable.

Timing was a bit off, however - most of the places we found were closing up just as we entered.

Notable, the bar "People's No. 6" (may have been People's No. 7...apparently the owner just adds locations in a sequential order) - the entrance has two sealed doors, one needs to find and press a hidden button in a faux entry area in order to gain access to the main club. However, we made it there just as the bar was shutting down.

Perhaps things are more regulated here than I remember; it seemed that a lot of bars were closing at 1 am or earlier.

Found another place, it seemed dead but we encountered someone on the way out. She wore a very revealing/low-cut top, and introduced herself as "Juggalicious". 


She informed us that the party upstairs was private, and a combination birthday/farewell/debauchery event for a few people together.

Although she had to leave, she & friends was happy to pass their wristbands onto us. 

We went upstairs, and were suprised for:

1. The 95% amount of foreigners there
2. The "discounted" beer price offered with wrist band - 35 RMB per bottle. I guess that's ~5.41 USD - not crazy, but not exactly a screaming deal either.

After the bar, went back to my place;, with friends in tow.

Told stories, shared beer, ate yangrouchuanr and fired rice/noodles from local vendor where we had stopped along the way

Had been hitting a jet-lag wall that evening, but somehow broke through and was raring to go at 6 am the next day.

Had intended to post more but am passing out 

tug of war

Usual-kind of day today...up, then to work, then busy at work.

Was happy to hear that we had to change training plans around because of a team office activity.

I had not received that memo.

Apparently all the different groups in the company that are responsible for different vendor partners got to team up against each other for a tug of war. It turned out to be pretty fun, and my colleagues were kind enough to get permission for me to join in as well.

Unfortunately, our team didn't do very well - we got slammed after the first round. :(

Still, it was a cool experience. I put lots of pictures of the event up on facebook; I really should get around to updating this post with helpful and illustrative pictures once I am free of the Great Firewall's blocking effects.

Had Japanese-style curry and sushi for dinner, then subway home, then picked up some laundry detergent, soap, and cheap-ass wine. 

Then visited gym.

Now back home, updating posts. 

It should be this case, $3.75 did not get me a very good bottle of wine (should I be surprised)? It's watery and has some weird funk to it. It is probably not a good sign that there is no visible label denoting the year it was produced. 

If I was cynical, I'd guess this is water + formaldehyde + red coloring + sulfur + "wine flavour crystals". 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


So, saw the news concerning the new Apple tablet.

After reading through the keynotes, it seems interesting - a nice toy.

I'm not sure who is really going to buy one at first; probably just the mac faithful initially.

Considering old laptop (overhwhelmingly used for couch-based web surfing) is doing just fine...but if I needed a replacement, maybe this would be good enough; it is certainly cheaper than a new Macbook.

Then again, they are asking $499 for the base model that is basically a glorified/bigger iPhone...decent laptops (if not Macs) are available for that much if you shop around. Doesn't matter for me anyway; I'll figure that out when my laptop eventually (but hopefully not too soon) dies.

Regardless, I think it's too early to tell how successful it will be. Certainly could get some support, but I'm not sure if it will gain mass-market acceptance as quickly as the iPhone did...probably not; could be more of a slow/steady growth.

Could do some neat things, but nothing's striking me quite as much as the iphone did.

on the train today

Was a pretty average day, all in all.


Took subway + bus to office, as usual; during transfer to bus I picked up some kind of fresh dough + egg + sausage thing on the street for 7 RMB (just over 1 USD, for those keeping score at home).

Not a bad breakfast, though it sat in a small plastic bag dangling from my hand for 15 minutes as I stood on the crowded bus winding its way to the software park where I'm working for the time being.

Work was fine; boss is returning to US after a brief stay here, and I extended the time on my return flight - looks like I'll be coming home later. 

(Missing the cats already thinking about that)...Marsha may or may not make it back home before I do.

The train was fairly empty on the way back, after transferring to Line 1 to cover the last 3 stops before I got out to walk home, there were plenty of seats available.

Guy across from me took out a book, and a pen, and started sneaking furtive glances at me while scribbling.

I was a little unsure what to make of it until I caught a glimpse of the pages in the book...he was making a sketch.

This does not often happen.

So I tried to stay still, all the while knowing that I had only 2 train stops left.

I got up to leave, and the guy showed me the sketch he had made; maybe 1/2 done. Certainly recognizably me, but with a wider face, more jowls, and less hair than I would have liked to see. 

I suppose that in this sketch, and as in life, the truth is not necessarily as flattering as I would like it to be.

I hit the gym after heating up left-overs from the weekend.

Monday, January 25, 2010

some news from today

This post would be better with pics, but I'll be sideloading them onto facebook for the time being; with the Great Firewall of China in full effect it's hard to do any blog updates beyond pure text.

Rather than try & fill in everything that happened in the past few weeks+ the unexpected sojourn to Korea, I'll just say a few things about my experiences today.

Morning was warm - pleasant even. I guess it was around 10 C (or 50 degrees F).

Not sure why, but the trains seemed busier than usual; there was no room in the transfer concourse for the nice old ladies that collected people's used newspapers (I assume to resell as scrap).

Work was busy, and ended up staying way late; so co-worker and I ended up going out to eat. 

The place was called "The Spicy Joint" (辛香汇...if I pick & choose from dictionary it's more like "hot fragrant convergence"). 

My colleague, who is originally from Sichuan, says that most Sichuan restaurants in Shanghai need to tone down the heat in order to gain mass market acceptance. Even so, he said that this place was still pretty good.

Decor was super modernish; lots of curvy fishtanks with orange-reddish fish, shiny lights and post-modern furniture. 

Apparently it's very popular; if one shows up without having made a reservation a month in advance at peak hours (6pm on), it's safe to expect a wait.

By the time we arrived it was already 20:45, and we picked a number and were group number 149...but the restaurant was calling number 108.

The restaurant was located in the 5th floor of a mall/high-rise, there were lots of western brands (real products, not fakes) on sale, even at some discounts. 

Had some time to walk around, then made it back when they happened to be calling for group number 144.

I cannot speak for what happened when I wasn't present, but groups 145-148 were all real people; no one seemed to be taking a ticket number and running.

So anyway, it's probably around 21:15 and finally time to eat.

At that point, rational ordering of what could feasibly be consumed was forgotten.

We had 口水鸡 - literally, "mouth-watering chicken" (or "drooling chicken" if you'd prefer an ugly translation) - in either case, not meaning that the chicken itself is drooling, but rather that you are so excited upon seeing the food...was kind of like cold white cooked chicken drowned in a savory oily spicy sauce, and a few peanuts. Excellent.

Some sort of Sichuan noodles - pretty common at most Sichuan restaurants and available stateside as well. Not much of a kick to them here.

Suanrong you mai cai - garlic & oil stir-fried veggies...token something green on table not covered in peppers.

Some type of Lamb dish - was almost like a lot of foods from Hunan, but with lamb. Decent.

Some kind of Bullfrog - Similar to 水煮牛 or 水煮鱼, but with the meat of choice being frog instead of something less bony. Was pretty good as well...though having misheard my colleague I was convinced that I had been eating some obscure portion of a cow for half the meal, until he clarified the name of the dish again. (the same word for beef or cow - 牛- is also used in "bullfrog" - 牛蛙...makes sense, right?).

Anyway, being stuffed, ended up taking the subway home and very much enjoying the walk back, perhaps burning some fraction of the calories consumed.

Temperature at night was just about freezing. Not that cold in the grand scheme of things, but a shock compared to this morning...may need a sweater tomorrow.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

proposal for anti-rascism bill in south korea - I sincerely hope that this goes through

Great story here; I sincerely hope for the sake of Korea's continued cosmopolitan development that this bill is embraced.

Although it is certainly debatable if racism can simply be fixed via legislation (how's that working out for South Africa? It's complicated...), I think that bringing the issue into the open within Korean society might start discussion and cause people to start reconsidering their attitudes.

I personally cannot recount many instances of racial discrimination towards myself while I have been in Korea. This is probably due to me being a white male from the US.

In some cases, I have experienced the "foreigner seat of death", where no one will sit next to me on the train until there are no other existing options. 

I have seen this happen as well with people of Southeast Asian decent.

However, such stories are trivial compared to what the person who wrote the article above had to deal with. His is not the first such story I have heard along those lines; the author of this blog - - has had his share as well.

I am not holding my breath that these attitudes in Korea will change overnight; I have hope that the younger generation handles it better; they mostly seem more tolerant and worldly to me.

In a larger context, such stories like this have been and will probably continue be repeated across the world in nations that were traditionally of limited ethnicity soon have to deal with an influx of immigrants.

The US, Canada, and perhaps Australia and the UK could offer some examples for how to better integrate immigrants, though countries newly in this situation will have to be willing to learn.

back in Shanghai, back to blogging

It's been a long week, and I was actually quite behind on providing any blog updates.

I'll try and address some of the happenings from my first weekend in town, since those were fun:

Friday - 

Met up with Lisa, a friend originally from New York but who has been living in China for the better part of the last decade. Doing pretty well at the moment, also a mutual friend of my good friend Taichi, who I've known since I was an exchange student in Beijing in 2000.

Had Hunan food for dinner. Excellent dishes; spicy and the flavors were awesome. Pictures were uploaded a while ago. Odd in that the restaurant clientele was entirely foreigners...I guess that was more due to the location of the place than anything else. 

Tried to go to a bar in the Renmin (People's) Park. It was undergoing rennovations, so no luck...ran by the nearby movie theater where we saw lots of people milling around and waiting for tickets to Avatar in Imax 3D. The shows were sold out through Sunday evening, when we looked in.

Met up with Taichi at some central hotel (can't remember the name). Went to bar on 64th floor or so. Great view, drinks were priced at ~$10 USD each. Had a couple, moved on.

At this point I'm hitting the sleep deprevation / jet lag wall...but I break on through!

Unfortunately, it's only 12 am or so, but many bars are shutting down for the evening already. Not sure if it was some freakish weekend thing or we were going to the wrong places or people in Shanghai go to bed early (UNLIKELY). 

We found one place, and the bar looked like it was closed, but a party was raging upstairs, we turned around but a western girl came down the stairs, stopped us, and said,

"Hey, I'm leaving this party but you can have my wristband...just go on in!"

We thanked her, and asked what the party was about.

"It's a joint birthday/farewell/debauchery party. My name is Juggalicious."

Her name certainly did justice to the cleavage spilling out of her top. Still recovering from jet lag, I was not in the presence of mind to take pictures.

"You can get a discount on beers with the wristband!"

So we went up and checked out.

Full bar; but weird in that it was 95% foreigners there. We got beers, the "discounted" price was 35 RMB, or about $5.50 USD. 

(the pricing, layout, and clientele - nothing remotely 3rd-world about the place)

We stuck around a bit, had beers, pretended to dance a bit, and then left.

Now ~3 am, not much was went back to my place, got beers at the convenience store across the street, then some BBQ lamb on a stick and fried rice from our local street food vendors and then hung out at my place to chat. 

In bed at 4:30...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

update on updates

Well...if I'm blogging strictly in a chronological order, then I'm already running a week behind or so.
Lots was going on during the past week.
I find myself in Korea at the moment, for personal reasons. Should be back to Shanghai Wednesday night.
I hope to resume normal posting then.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So with the google news in china

Just wondering how long I'll still have email access... :)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

quick recap of weekend events

late night(s).


Din tai feng food.

Wine bar.

Will recap in more detail later.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Shanghai, another day another post

Woke up with a sore-ish throat - was concerned that it would plague me through the rest of the day.

After finishing a pot of coffee in the morning though, that went away.

Commute to work is staying consistently a pretty solid 1 hour and 15 minutes from door to door. However, my jet lag is wearing off - I'm staying up later and getting up later, so will probably have to start making an effort to get up & leave on time as things progress.

Work was fine - more training co-run with our colleagues in India. 

Met up with a friend who has been living here for 4-5 years. Was nice to see; we caught up a bit - he's had some interesting developments both personally and professionally, but after our conversation it became clear to me that we are both getting older and as such some of the things that held your interest when younger do not have the same appeal now. Some still do. Coincidentally, we both recently had people in our extended families affected by cancer, so certainly something to give one pause for reflection.

Also discussed a bit about the British national recently executed here; comparing local biases. The Western media is playing up the unreasonable nature of the government and the executee's history of mental issues. The media here questions why the mental issues were only drummed up at the last minute. Seems that the truth of the matter is almost irrelevant between opportunities to push propaganda on both sides. 
Dinner was fried spicy frog. It was pretty good. Similar to crab and crayfish in that while you pay by the pound, the amount of edible content in the food is disproportionate to the weight that you pay for. Unlike crab, frog is still pretty cheap.

Was good, though probably not healthy (deep fried and all). Restauarnt was across from a recently re-gentrified area on Nanjing Xi Lu (Nanjing West Road). The old area has so much character (and reasonably priced food, by western & chinese standards)...probably will go the way of the wrecking ball soon. 

The new mall across the street probably shows a taste of what is to come - do we really need another combination of Stone Cold Creamery, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut?

Took the train home, was going to try a new route, but unfortunately the new trains are only open from 8:25 - 16:25 every day - weird hours, not sure why.

Was happy to find someone selling lamb on the stick very near where I'm staying. The seller struck up a conversation in English with me, and so then I was moved to buy a few...(I love lamb on a stick, the slightest excuse to get some is good enough). His boss then came by, who talked with me more - interesting to hear sort of Arabic-English with an American accent from someone who is technically Chinese.

(Most lamb-sellers in Chinese cities are people from Xinjiang, the ethnically turkish/musilm part of the country)

Anyway, I guess the guy has been here for 5 years and has set up a business selling snacks to people after they leave the bars. Having a lot of American clients, he's picked up some English, and now speaks pretty decently. I do not doubt that I will buy again.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

more on Shanghai

First thing:

I notice that some people are commenting and/or sending responses to me. 

Unfortunately, facebook is one of the sites currently blocked by the Great Firewall of China. 

I have a method of posting & updating my notes here, and I can see if there are comments, unfortunately it is difficult for me to reply directly. Forgiveness please.

Anyway - this trip is going okay thusfar.

I'm struck by how modern most of Shanghai is; once you get past the difference in language and urban density compared with the US, it doesn't feel particularly foreign. 

Did the first commute from where I'm staying to the office; after a 10-minute walk to the train station (and then I stopped for breakfast at Starbucks), it took around an hour to get to the office via the subway.

Rode two stops, switched lines, rode for ~10 more stops, then exited, caught a bus, rode for ~10 minutes, then was there.

8:30 am is prime rush hour; you're truly swept up in a sea of humanity that half pushes you along at a fixed rate as one shuffles out of the train into the escalator that takes you to the level where one walks to the next train.

Kept things in my front pockets and my bag well in front of me.

The office is in a large, but non-descript office park on the newer side of town. Not a lot of small shops around in walking distance...just more office complexes.

One of my co-workers has a car, we drive ~5 minutes or so to an area that has a few little restaurants. The food is decent and priced for working people....individual meals are usually between 10 - 12 RMB (so under $2). 

Work is busy, though slow...not a lot of new projects coming in, so I get to focus on training...but at some point I know I can't just talk at people, they need to be doing things too. So adjusting to that; have to put my manager hat back on and start thinking of projects & tasks in the sense of delegating rather than simply just getting them done myself.

Didn't do anything too crazy last night as I was pretty exhausted. Had some beer. And wings. 

Sorry to say it, but my first dinner in China this trip was at Hooters Shanghai...(friend was taking client out, invited me to come along, client insisted on western fare) They did serve wings that were very spicy in the Sichuan style - my stomach took its revenge on me this morning. Comparing Hooters in Shanghai to the US locations (not that I go all the time) -'s safe to say that in Shanghai there's clearly a lot more Chinese women working than at the US locations. Service was with a smile. 

I will do my best to stick with Chinese food for the rest of the trip - this excludes breakfast though, as a lot of restaurants aren't open until 9 or 10 in the morning. Breakfast options tend to be focused around convenience store food, some street vendors if you can find them, and some bakeries. I could cook at home if I bothered to get ingredients.

The ever-declining US dollar vs the RMB is causing some minor havoc on my internal understanding of pricing here...I was used to the ~1 USD : 8.2 RMB fixed rate of my student years, but now the rate is more like 1 USD to 6.8 RMB. Not a devestating change, but it feels like prices are creeping up.

Shanghai is one of the most expensive cities in China; rents here do seem pretty high compared with what I remember in other locations. One could probably live fairly economically if one made the effort to do so, but it seems clear that in other cities you could get a lot more for your yuan than you could here. I guess large-scale urbanization in a tight space tends to push prices upward.

Anyway, that's about it for now. Will try for some more adventures.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Quick plane movie reviews

District 9 - pretty awesome.

Public Enemies - pretty good, though it was a little different than
what I thought it should be based on the commercials.

Extract - really solid comedy from Mike Judge