Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thoughts on the Environment

“Think about this: we are the only species on this planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time than to renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation."
Excerpt from Paul Hawken's commencement address to the graduates of University of Portland on May 3rd 2009.

I read this last week on Larkin's blog (read the rest here) and it floored me. Brilliantly worded, captivating, insightful, inspiring, terrifying... please take the time to read it. Twice.

It's hard for me to balance the desire to cut back on resources and take care of the earth when i'm living in one of the most overpopulated cities on the planet. I see waste and decay everywhere. Mountains of garbage lying in unused parts of the barren country-side; trash discarded mere meters from an available garbage can; rotting garbage festering in an alleyway.

I remember when hiking in Cuandixia, i found a plastic shopping bag. I tied it to my belt and as we walked along the path i stopped to pick up discarded trash and bottles along the way. My dad taught me that trick. Anytime we were on a nature walk (not so much "hiking" in Chicago) he came prepared with a few bags and usually filled them both. Side note: my dad is awesome. Counterpoint: he's also a wonderful environmentalist. Anyway, i filled this bag within 10 minutes and soon it was overflowing.

It saddened me to know that even if i picked up everything, it wouldn't stop the next hikers from discarding their trash whenever it was no longer useful to them. It didn't just sadden me, but it genuinely made me angry. I want to grab these Chinese day-trippers and shake them, screaming: "Why don't you respect your beautiful nature? Don't you love your country? How can you be so selfish?". And yes, they are the Chinese ones.

It's bad in China, but it's not perfect in the US either. Living in the Boulder bubble, it's easy to feel good about yourself. It's clean and people pick up after themselves. It's a wonderful place to live. But there are vast stretches of cities, STATES even where this is not the norm. Nobody is perfect, and everyone has to do their part. Let's start with the easy things.

Step one: start putting your trash in proper receptacles. That's it. Please?


Monday, May 25, 2009


I am now speaking Chinese with a 4 year-old's proficiency. I realized this yesterday when Ace and i were at Sanlitun for dinner. We were enjoying a burrito and nachos with a pitcher of mojitos (happy hour price!) on the outdoor patio of Luga's. This place has long served some of my favorite food in Beijing. Their chicken burrito is unparallelled and since i figured out they will add rice and black beans at no extra charge, i'm once again hooked. Plus, their patio and music selection are pretty great.

Anyway, so we're sitting outside and a little Chinese girl wanders into our booth. She's 4-ish. She's only a little shy but that doesn't last long. She's wearing a cute dress, two pigtails pointing out like horns, and her besandaled feet are covered in Beijing's filth. She doesn't mind. Normally when a child approaches you, money is their agenda, but not this girl. I say hello and she replies in kind. I take control of this fledgling conversation and burgeoning friendship by quizzing her on the only Chinese rhyme i know:
Hong deng ting, lu deng xing, huang deng liang le, deng yi deng
Red light stop, green light go, yellow light turned on, wait a bit.
Anyway, she gets most of them right, but she's convinced yellow is also Go. I keep telling her you have to wait on yellow lights, but she seems unimpressed. However, in reality, she's correct. In China, a yellow light means accelerate and lay on your horn. Actually, a red light sometimes means that too.

So yeah, i ask her where her parents are and she says their at home. We then spend about 10 minutes guessing her age. Although no matter what we guessed, the answer was always Bu gao su ni!... Not telling you! We never did figure it out, but we're pretty sure she was 4. She gave the same answer to What are you doing here?, What's your name?, and Would you like some of our Mojito?

So yeah, i'm officially able to communicate with 4 year-olds. I can't communicate with people my own age for any length of time, and children 7 or older still make me nervous, but 4 year-olds i can handle. Progress!


Friday, May 22, 2009

Chinese Superhero

I'm not the biggest fan of superhero mythology. I never read comic books as a kid, i was always more into comics... The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield... i swear that last one used to be funny. Or maybe my brain was just small at the time and lasagna was comedy gold to me.

Anyway, i know a fair amount about superhero's, but mostly from the movies. Like that awesome scene at the end of Kill Bill, Vol 2 when Bill is talking about Superman. He's the only superhero who was born as his superhero identity and has to dress up to be Clark Kent. Clark Kent is Superman's alter ego, and he, with his glasses, buttoned up shirt, and pocket protector, is how Superman sees us.

My point is, i know what a superhero should be, and i may be wrong, but i think ALL the famous ones came from the US-based Marvel Comics. Still, you can't blame other countries for trying to develop their own. However, i think China should just give up after this attempt:



P.S. Blogspot still blocked in China... but Tao introduced me to this! Works beautifully! I can even see youtube again!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Great Firewall

Ok China. You blocked youtube about 2 months ago and still haven't released it. I understand you don't like videos showing violent rebellions against the government. Especially when they involve Tibet.

(...that's where i would normally insert a slick hyperlink, instead of this mess...

I understand this issue is very sensitive and reaches far deeper than my Western mind, with it's limited exposure to your cultural issues, can comprehend. I'm working on it, but it's still pretty confusing. Anyway, my point is, i get it. I'm with you. I got your back.

But Blogspot? Really?!? Why can't i see that anymore? I really hate having to tunnel in through a proxy to post on my blog. I can't do anything cool, like bold or italics, and i certainly can't post pictures. Which is lame, because i have this funny picture to post from my trip to Tianjin. But no. Apparantly Tao has done something to upset you on one of his 5 blogs and he's ruined it for the rest of us.

I can only hope whoever has offended you is punished swiftly and justly, so i can go back to posting hilarious pictures of mistranslations and street signs.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Random Update

This has been an exciting but stressful time for the kev. Work is at a pivotal point, when critical mistakes can mean disaster but due diligence will be rewarded with certain success. Last year was all about laying the groundwork for new projects and developing better relationships with our vendors. But now we are launching all those new projects, some 0f which are 9 months in the making. It's exciting indeed, but requires longer hours and a lot of foresight. In the end, i know we're going to get there and this journey has been a great learning experience.

In other news, Ace and i just finished our second week of Chinese classes. I can already feel a stronger connection with the language. I have all this vocabulary floating around in my head from a year of living here, but no sense of how to put it all together. This is pushing me to focus and build something concrete from my experience so far. It's an amazing feeling, i can feel light bulbs flick on with every class. Sometimes i'll have three or four "a-ha!" moments in one class. The teaching method is interesting too. They teach by telling stories, so the sentences and grammar i'm learning always have context. Then i learn to tell the story back to the teacher. There's minimal homework, just a list of words that came up that class, which i can easily review on my subway ride to work. It's forcing me to speak and feel comfortable with it. My pronunciation and listening comprehension are both improving greatly, and it's a good feeling.

Ace also got a new (read: better!) job at Joe's school. She starts next Monday and is really excited about it for many reasons, which i'm sure she'll talk about in her new blog. Oh, she's starting a blog of her own, so look for that in the near future.

Frisbee is in full swing now, as China Nationals approaches. Last year was spectacular and this time around is going to be far more exciting and organized. Who will be this years national champions in the Chinese division? Will it be...
  • Air Kazak, the defending champs led by Happy Rat?
  • 2008 second place finisher Tianjin Speed, now with Sandy (arguably the most dominant woman in China) and Beijing's very own Shen, who's been remarkable lately?
  • Newcomers Shenzhen or Hong Kong, both with some fantastic talent?
It's always incredible to see the sport grow year after year in a country that's relatively new to the sport. I'll be playing with Big Brother's Sexy squad and am pumped for some competitive Ultimate this weekend. There' s sure to be many stories to share next week, and i'll do my best to convey the thrills of the weekend.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Street Signs

I've been traveling to Tianjin rather frequently lately, mostly for work. It's time for another installment of Stuff I Saw While Traveling at 140 Km/Hr. This time, we'll be focusing on street signs.

Overlooking the amusing phrasing of this warning, i'm more intrigued by the illustration. I continue to read the comics EVERYDAY, and have been doing so for the last 4 years. I was not aware that empty thought balloons were a universal sign for feeling tiredly. Also, the mostly featureless face and lack of hands kinda freaks me out.

Still, i'm not convinced this is the most accurate caption. I offer the following alternatives:
  • "Feed me, Seymour."
  • "Ms. Pac Man, I love you too. Let us now kiss."
  • "Pizza! My favorite! OM NOM NOM NOM OM NOM"
Step 1. Decide to Change Lane
Step 1a. Do so Without Turn Signal
Step 2. Notice Behind
Step 2a. Contemplate that Behind


I believe these last two signs are related. You know, if you didn't spend so much effort telling all the drivers to check out all the nearby behinds, maybe you would have so many accidents. Eyes on the road people.


P.S. Happy Mothers Day Mothers!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jeju Revisted

As previously promised here, i have more choice photos to add from Jeju.

Aces Day Off
Therese has some cool shots from Sunday, when she abandoned the Frisbee festivities in favor of a glorious island adventure. There's a small national park near the hotel and her pictures tell a story by themselves.

I especially like the last one, featuring the salad that accompanied her lunch that day. It's a fish head salad sparsely decorated with seaweed, served upon a featureless white void of infinity.

Big Brother and the Fields
From Mike Shyu's camera, here's the fierce-looking team and a great shot of the fields, me storming off the field after battle, and more me being anti-social while i worked at the airport.

The Rubik's Party
These first three pics are from Sandy and the last one is from Therese.

When i traded my orange outfit for the yellow smock-based thing, it didn't come with any pants. It's a good thing all these photos are from the waist up, for i was just in my underwear. Good times!


P.s. Happy Cinco De Mayo everyone!

Friday, May 1, 2009


The arrival of May heralds my one year anniversary of moving to Beijing... May 13th to be exact.

For the past year, time has zipped by, and it has stood still. New challenges arrive literally every day, so in general my brain is pretty active. This makes the time pass very quickly. But the first two months living in hotel seemed like they would never end. It drained my energy, not having a space to call my own, eating every meal out, having all the hotel staff watching my patterns. It tried my patience and i questioned my decision to take this life-changing leap.

The first big milestone was moving into the company apartment. That changed my whole perspective on the city. I started studying the language more, venturing out into the surrounding markets and restaurants, cooking at home. I felt settled, and every part of my life benefited. I was more focused at work and felt more connected to the city. It was the first time i was able to relax.

The following 8 months established a routine... work, frisbee, the band, parties. In general, i welcome change and adventure, but a certain amount of stability is soothing. It helps you notice little things right in front of you. Once you're comfortable with your surroundings, you're also able to branch out and test the boundaries. That's when you discover the hidden gems, which was important for really appreciating this huge, foreign city.

While a one year anniversary is only a symbolic milestone, this second year of my life in Beijing will be quite different. It's beginning with Ace's arrival, a new apartment, and Chinese classes. These three things are going to drastically change the rest of my time here for the better. I really enjoy living here and know this opportunity has been a blessing.

Thank you all so much, everyone who has supported me along the way... my family back home, my friends around the world, especially those in Beijing, my co workers at US/G, and Ace for helping me out of my comfort zone.


Update: Possibly unrelated, possibly a milestone for Ultimate Frisbee... you decide. Either way, it's a FANTASTIC article.