Friday, September 26, 2008

Fall in Beijing and Beach Ultimate

The last two days here have been glorious. Three days ago it was miserable, rainy and cold. But the last two days, wow. Beautiful. Fall is here, and everyone says it's the most beautiful time of the year in Beijing. The additional rainfall cleans the air, leaving blue skies and crisp, 60-75 degree days. It's times like this the city endears me to no end.

Here's a picture from yesterday...

... and today.
Also, three pictures from the beach tournament last weekend. Tao with an amazing layout and me setting up for a bid on an errant disc.

Not much to recap though; it was fun, there was no lake, so it was more like "sand pit ultimate", but it was fun. We got a keg, and that was nice too. For more on it, check out this video of the last point and Tao's recap of the action. I especially like this black and white picture he took of me holding a beer. I need to learn that trick.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Do you bellever?

My co-worker Jordan arrived yesterday with a new shirt. I asked him what it meant. He said he wasn't sure, he just liked the cute bears. In case you can't read the words below...

Do you bellever in destiny
Soul mate

The backside was even more disturbing. I bellever it's the company name, or slogan, or something.

I think it's magnificent how shirt makers here generate new designs. Here's the formula:

  • take a vaguely powerful theme
  • add some words
  • misspell the crap out of it
  • add picture (optional, remember Be Fine Sexy?)

Bam! You've made a shirt! You're rich! For example, here's one i just whipped up:

See? It's easy! I just sold hundreds of them to pay for my trip to Thailand.
And You Can Too! Here's how:
  1. Send me your ideas
  2. I'll pick the ones that aren't total crap
  3. I'll make shirts and sell hundreds of them
  4. We'll go to Thailand together
Ready? Go!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Good Article

I usually don't post this kind of thing, and I'm purposely refraining from making this a politically charged blog, but i found it interesting on many levels. This article came to me from an unlikely source, Glenno from Trimble. Glenno is an interesting kiwi, and most of his e-mails tend towards fart jokes and bikini's, but this one (while still being mostly funny) contained the link to an article from the New York Times. Tao follows the political and socioeconomic articles in the world pretty closely, and, upon further investigation, I realize he already linked to this article here, but whatever.

Here is the first paragraph of this article by Thomas Friedman, NY Times:

After attending the spectacular closing ceremony at the Beijing Olympics and feeling the vibrations from hundreds of Chinese drummers pulsating in my own chest, I was tempted to conclude two things: “Holy mackerel, the energy coming out of this country is unrivaled.” And, two: “We are so cooked. Start teaching your kids Mandarin.”
This isn't an article about how China is kicking the crap out of us, as the opening paragraph insinuates, it's more a open comparison between the two countries, focusing on the last 7 years. The paths that China and the US have chosen are vastly different, and we can learn something here.

I will say one thing about his conclusions: The positive energy coming out of China is unrivaled. They are so proud (and understandably so) to be Chinese right now. They've taken an opportunity to showcase on the big, world stage, and they've exceeded expectations. Compare that with what we did after the 9/11 attacks. The entire world was sympathizing with us after the single most devastating terrorist attack in history, and we alienated ourselves by pushing away our new friends and going it alone against Iraq, without UN backing.

Some very pivotal turning points in history for both nations.


P.S. I just got my ticket for my mini-vacation coming up! I'm heading out for 6 days on a chill island in southern Thailand (Ko Phan-Gan), from Sept 28th until the 5th. Hooray!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pi Update

It's been a while since i've provided an update on the beloved Pi. Tao's been taking good care but has had his share of Pi-related problems. Last week I stopped by to visit her (yes! she's a her!) and buy her a present. We went to a local pet store, which from the outside, looks like every other brick walled store. The door was solid wood, the blinds were pulled, and there were no obvious markings to indicate a pet haven within.

Inside was a sweet lady with a host of cats and dogs and kittens and puppies. Her largest cat was bigger than her largest dog. Have i mentioned the restriction against large dogs in Beijing? A terrier or beagle is about the biggest dog allowed within the 5th ring of Beijing, which is to say, the majority of Beijing. I'm pretty far out there, and i live at 3rd ring. But it makes sense, there's just no room for a big dog when no one has a backyard.

I shall digress less... so we got some helpful hints from her on how to raise Pi. We also asked how to tell the sex; yeah, i know, but we convinced ourselves you couldn't tell until it was older. But what it really meant is that because we didn't find "anything", and Pi is a she. The lady actually picked up a random kitten and showed us how to tell the sex. By coincidence she chose a female, but I understood when she explained in Chinese what we would find on a male... something about "zher li you liang ge...." (here it would have two...). The rest of the words i would not understand, but were unnecessary.

We spent a good deal of time watching the 1 month old kittens playing. As did their Mother. She was mewing longingly because she wanted to feed them, but was unable to. She sells the kittens for $350-$450 (an unfathomable sum here). Pi was free from an old man on the street, who only wanted her to have a good home.

I bought Pi a cool scratching post and we returned home. Pi spent the first 15 minutes methodically smelling every corner of it. She did not scratch, she did not climb. Possibly just reveling in the bouquet of pet shop smells. I imagine her taking deep, ecstasy inducing lung-fulls of scent, her senses bombarded.

Lastly, Can you find the difference between these two photos?

Good kitty.

P.S. More on the pet store visit from Tao's blog here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stop me if you've heard this one

Question: How many Chinese does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: Three.

That's it. Three. One carries the ladder, another carries the bulb, the third changes it. And China keeps it's people employed.

Oh, and before i forget, I do actually want to ask a question about Ikeas state-side. For those who have never been there, one of the floors is a huge showroom with a couple hundred smaller rooms representing in many different motifs. Anyway, when we got to the living room and bedroom areas, there were people literally passed out in just about every bed and comfy couch. Is this normal? I'm all for naps, my dad is a professional nap taker, but seriously? Who crawls into bed and pulls the sheets up?

I'm pretty sure most of those people didn't buy anything and simply went there because the bed is more comfortable than the one at home. Do people go to Ikea in the states just to rest?


Monday, September 15, 2008

Post for Rachel

So, I was video skyping with Rachel the other day. Here's Rachel. I took a picture of the video on my computer with my camera, which is hindsight, was a terrible idea. Skype allows you to take high quality snapshots of your video. Stupid! Stupid!

Anyway, Rachel's an odd one. She hates when people use internet shorthand (lol), when people go crazy over short-lived fads, and blogs. I still think she's great, but she has a point. Blogs are very self-indulgent. She kinda refuses to read it, unless i am posting videos of me playing the drums (here's a new one). She posed a very simple question to me, "Why are you blogging?". And i had to think about it, because back in the states my life wasn't nearly interesting enough to warrant a blog.

This started as a simple way to share my experiences living and working in China with family and friends. I remember returning from Spain, having just spent a profoundly moving 6 months and being completely unable to convey just how amazing it was. It was always, "I guess you had to be there." So now i'm in this situation again. Huge adventure, different culture, pretty interesting life. This time, I'm able to take people along with me, as best i can.

But here's what bothers me: this particular post was began chronicling last Saturday... a day of exciting ultimate, followed by a birthday party and a night of beer and bars. I deleted all of it, because that exact day could have easily happened in Boulder or Chicago. For shame Kevin, that's not what the Dim Summary is all about. It's supposed to be about China! And the Chinese! And all the things that you can't find back home! Like this:

This is great! A loveseat, a recliner and a computer strapped on the back of a bicycle cart! I love all the crap the Chinese can fit on their bicycle! I've seen families of 4 riding down the street on a moped; dad driving, mom on the back with daughter in lap, son standing between dad and handle bars. Only in China!

So that's my pledge. I'm going to post when i have things to post about and i'm going to filter out all the routine things, unless they are particularly interesting. For example, the day i spent at Ikea, even though i've never been to an Ikea in my life before now, will not be recapped (except that i bought new pillows and a french press and real coffee... geee! yay!). Next Saturday however, we're renting out a beach to hold a mini beach-ultimate tournament. That will be chronicled. Whether you like it our not.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A few random laughs...

  • I was just walking into my apartment when two kids in roller blades were coming out. The couldn't have been more than 6 and 8. When they saw me, they used their fingers to pull their eyelids wide open. It's the opposite of how white people demonstrate the squinty eyes of an asian. I heard their mother say "Don't do that!"... to which the kid replied, "But he's a foreigner!".

  • Was teaching one of my coworkers some english the other day. He was confused by the word restaurant, because it seems we use it for everything. In Chinese, they have a dozen different words for all the different kinds. He kept asking what if it's a big one (it's a big restaurant), small one (small restaurant), what if it's in a hotel (hotel restaurant), what if it's REALLY fancy (fancy restaurant)... he was unimpressed.

  • When I finally told him about cafe's and diner's, he couldn't get them straight. Even worse, he kept saying dafe's and kiner's. Not that my Chinese is any better, i'm sure i'm hilarious too. But they don't have blogs to write about it.

  • Was stuck in a stalemate one time at a restaurant. I ordered from the menu, they understood. I find all goes well as long as I'm doing the talking. But then, sometimes, comes the dreaded questions. They asked me something, and i couldn't understand. I just didn't have the vocabulary, and they couldn't process my order until i answered. I say "they" because there is now a flock of waiters trying to help. They finally bring someone from next door who speaks english (it's been 10 minutes, i'm so embarrassed)... The question: "For here or to go?". C'mon woman! I sat at the table, ordered from the menu, even brought a book to read!


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Can You See the Sea?

Do you know what this is?

It goes under your sink. When it breaks, water gushes out. And when the shutoff valve is locked in a cabinet in the hallway, it gushes for 15 long, excruciating minutes until the plumber dude shows up. You've been disturbed cooking dinner, and instead you'll spend your time baling water.

When the plumber dude can't fix it, you'll be without water for the evening. That means after a few hours of mopping with a festering mop, you'll be unable to shower. And it will be very, very unpleasant.
And that was supposed to be your night relaxing. You really need a key to that cabinet in the hallway.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Food and a Sunset

The food in Beijing is spectacular. Have i mentioned that yet? Yeah. I have. And I will again. It's really good. Every day i go to lunch with 4 or 5 guys from work. From a menu of 100's of options, we select 4 dishes from a rotation of about 8. And it's fantastic.

So yeah, Food. Check this out. This is Hot Pot. It's a pot, both big and hot with fire and steam and spicy peppers, and fish and vegetables, and delicious broth, and you get to select your fish from the fish tank, and then they kill it with their bare hands.

And it's really, really good.

And this is a Fei Bi, or flying pancake. This is a desert with apples, bananas, and Cinnamon. It's also fantastic.

I've also been cooking a lot, and that makes me happy. I like cooking. I also like Chinese food. And we've already established the food here is great. So it follows that i would like cooking Chinese food. I've even tackled the little problem of not having a clue how to cook Chinese food. I make shit up. We named this one Kai Wen Shi Hong Shou Zhu Rou. Which of course is Kevin's Red Stir-Fried Pork. It was really spicy and really good. I also make a mean Pork Fried Rice.

Um, also, the weather has been amazing. Didn't someone say there was pollution in Beijing? I've seen so many blue skies here. And some killer sunsets.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tuesday Pick-up

I can't remember the last time Tuesday was the best night of the week. I've been talking about Tuesday night pick-up at Deshengmen for a while now. Lately, i've been making a point to come out early and explore the area. Every Tuesday at 8 o'clock a pair of traditional drum and bell bands come out and play in front of Deshengmen. This is Deshengmen:

It's one of the remnants of the old wall around the city. This would be part of the north wall, like a watch tower. Anyway, this is typical of the historic buildings in Beijing. There's so much beauty everywhere you go. Regarding this drum and bell band, a few hundred people come out and listen, dance, commune, even join the band. Free entertainment is everywhere in this city, and everyone seems takes advantage of it in one way or another.

So yeah, we get to play overlooking this every week. Well, i guess it's technically underlooking, since the field is geographically lower. Is it looming in the distance? Is that actually a word? Wikipedia verifies it, but I don't think i've ever written that before. Anyway, here's what it looks like from the field.

Comparing scenic locations for disc, Violet Park in Boulder is a close second. But this is certainly the most enjoyable location i've ever played disc. Even if it is turf, I enthusiastically look forward to my Tuesdays.


UPDATE: Tao has videos of everything. Here's one of Deshengmen. It's pretty good and you can even hear the band in the background.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I got a kitten!

And then I gave it to Tao.

A friend at work called me in the morning before work. She said she had a present for me. I got to work and she gave me a box, containing the aforementioned kitten. She found the little guy on the way to work. It's probably a month old. Mewing the most adorable tiny mew a kitten can mew, I felt pangs of sadness for my lost cat, Spanky. I really want a cat of my own out here. Tragically, I can under no circumstances have one. This is not due to apartment regulations or anything. It's solely because the lady whose house i'm living in does not like animals. Even though she doesn't live here, and she probably will never live here again, i can't have one. It's really upsetting, but there's little i can do.

Anyway, this lady was insisting that we take it out side and throw it out behind the building. There's no doubt it would die. It was far to small too survive, so she was basically sentencing it to death. There was no way i could let this happen, so i called up fellow cat-lover, Tao. He agreed to look after kitty for a few months until he returns to the states.

Tao and I decided we would be it's uncles. We let it lose in his apartment. After a lengthy debate, kitty decided to leave the confines of it's box and investigate his new home. He immediately went for the dust-riddled area under the bed. Mewing away, we left it to relax. We headed out and, with little trouble, found soft kitten food, whole milk, and kitty litter. Returning, we poured the dude a bowl of milk and he went to town on it.

We also named him, but not until after frisbee. We both decided on Pi. Somehow, in two separate conversations, we both ended up bringing up "Life of Pi", an absolutely incredible book we both adore. There was no debate and it was clear we had just named our cat.

Tao has taken some videos, and I'll link to those ASAP. We must have posted around the same time, because just as I finished writing mine, he posted his. His post brought tears to my eyes, and that's how much i did not want to give up this sweet kitten, Pi. are the pictures i have to share...


Where am I?

No turning back...


We've done our good deed for the day.