Monday, March 29, 2010

On Drunken Driving

When you're trying to explain an idea to a broad, diverse audience, be them young or old, literate or not, foreign or local, nothing does it better than a clearly illustrated picture. If there's one thing i've learned from working in a culture with a different language, it's the power of visuals. If i need to be sure a vendor understands a complicated issue, i don't let words describe it. I use pictures, diagrams, arrows, highlights, smiley faces, green checkmarks and red X's. It's a powerful tool, and it's one Larry stresses here at US/Grant.

China uses this idea in its street signs everywhere. Here's an example, the ubiquitous "No Drinking and Driving" warning. Below are two signs with the same message... notice the Chinese is actually identical. One is near the Great Wall at Jiankou and there other is on a major highway between Beijing and Tianjin.

A few things i love about this:
  • The Chinese is identical but the English is vastly different. One sign is even cheering us on. Rah Rah! On Drunken Drivers!
  • The lovingly rendered swirly beer-bottle, wine-glass, star-thing seems to be the universally accepted chinese depiction of the bedrunkened person. However, the designs are not identical. I question why they would use the same basic design if they weren't going to just steal the exact design. Which leads me to...

Seriously. What. Is. The Deal. Withthisguy! His head looks like a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Chinese don't look like that. Humans don't look like that. Why go out of your way to alter his race, nay, his species, when the stick man has a got the lookin'-drunk-thing covered? He's got a believable, doped up, sleepy look, one which everyone can identify with.

Wow. Words cannot express how badly I want that whole sign on a T-Shirt. I must make this happen.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Widespread Dust - *Updated*

I woke up this morning and checked the weather for today. I was not pleased with what i saw.
Winter is over and spring has arrived. Beijing will soon turn off the centralized heat in every home because China declares it will now be warm. In many places, spring is a time of joy, of new growth and fresh starts, of starting cycles over again. In Beijing, it is a time for sandstorms.

The first day of spring has barely arrived and we have already endured two days of Widespread Dust. Saturday was awful. The whole city smelled like a construction site. You cry brown tears of watery pain. Therese and i did not leave the house until dinner. Outside, you couldn't see buildings two blocks away. Everything was coated in a thin layer of brown. It was not excellent.

Today is Monday, and we've been hit with round two. Beijing's air quality is reported as "Dangerous". I wish i could stay indoors, but we had to visit a new potential supplier in northern Beijing. Here are a few pictures from the journey.

That sky looked even more apocalyptic in person. I'm ready for summer now.


UPDATE: For an impressive video of the recent sandstorms from CNN, go here and click weather.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Even Newer Pad

Our lease on the current pad is up next month, and we are choosing to move. I was a bit reluctant, as i dislike moving. Moving to me is like a chore covered in penalty wrapped in procrastination. I dread the process of looking, negotiating, settling, dismantling, packing, moving, unpacking, arranging, and rearranging. It's even more draining looking in Beijing because, since my Chinese is now competent, it's my job to talk with all these agents on the phone. Then they call me up all the time, pester me, send me text messages, and waste our time by showing us wrong places or ones that are out of our price range. Ok, that was just one guy, but i did not like him.

Anyway, we've been monitoring new listings for about three weeks now and looked ten places before we found what we wanted. Here are the stats, using our current place as a baseline.
  • 100% more bedrooms!
  • 50% more kitchen!
  • 100% awesomer living room!
  • 2.4X better furniture!
  • 200% more natural light!
  • Infinity more bathtub!
  • 40% larger!
  • 6/5th higher price!
So yeah, we're pretty excited. And possibly the best part is the actual logistics of moving. It's in our current building, 12 floors down on the 5th, and there's a perfect 10 day overlap in our rental agreements. We win at apartment renting.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Returnified and Sleep Deprived

Here's a rant for you. Really, it's only been about one week since returning to Beijing, but it feels like a month. Jet lag is usually easier for me when returning to China. Maybe it's because the body never fully adjusts in only 2 weeks, so it's like returning to its natural time zone. But i think it's because of the United flight times.

Going to America, we arrived in SFO at 9am, dead tired, no sleep on the plane, AND we needed to stay awake the whole day to have a chance at beating jet lag. Taking a nap, while completely satisfying, would mean being awake all night and messing up your sleep schedule for days/weeks. You must wait until nightfall. It's the ultimate test of willpower.

Returning to Beijing however, we arrived at about 4:30pm. You can just go home, eat dinner, unpack a little, and sleep. And it's the most delicious sleep you've ever tasted. Mmmmmm.... slumbery.

So, after only three nights in my own bed, i went to Kunming last weekend for the Second Annual Kunming Hat Tournament. It was amazing again, great city, great ultimate, great people. But i couldn't sleep for crap.

On the first night, one mosquito kept me up the whole night. I would hear it land on my face, a buzzing sound that gets closer and suddenly stops. I'd swat it away, get comfortable again, it lands on the face, i swat at it, get comfy, lands, swats, roll over, sleep, sting, swat, scratch, comfy, land, swat. Such was my first night. I was surprisingly refreshed the next day.

I also discovered that Kunming has found the secret to airport awesomeness: a massage place just before security. True, it would be even better right after security, but whatever. Think about it: you get to the airport two hours early, you're at the gate 90 minutes early and you have to sit on those rigid, uncomfortable chairs with the mandatory armrest waiting to board. For $10, i had a 60 minute foot massage, got to lie down, sip tea, close my eyes, and just relax.

All airports need to have this.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Colorado and Chicago

The Colorado portion of our trip was amazing. We both have strong attachments to that area and had high expectations. We were not disappointed. We kicked it off in Denver with dinner at Cuba Cuba, certainly my favorite restaurant in, well, maybe the world. Their mojitos are dangerous and the food is incredible. We met up with Mike, Joan, and Peter Ashmore, my Colorado-based family, and then retired to their home in Evergreen. Therese and Peter cuddled and napped while i played pool with my sister and brother-in-law.

The next morning i woke up early and watched from the living room as a red fox dug in the snow outside. Later during breakfast, and before the hot tub, we were blessed with another visit. Prepared with camera and energized with coffee, i followed him from room to room as he made his way around the house.

Who's a good doggie? The one in the first picture, that's who.

The next two nights were in Boulder, our home. We stayed with my college friends, Will and Andrea, and their beautiful little girl Ellie. They are such relaxing people to be around, and great hosts. Dinner at the Southern Sun and breakfast at Lucile's was the perfect combination to welcome us back. We even caught some live music at Saxoy's, a new cafe on Pearl. Kat and Pete are good friends of therese, and now myself. He's a truly great musician. Check him out when you have a chance.

First picture courtesy of Emery Cowan.

Monday morning we headed for Breckenridge in our Prius. I'll take this moment to say, the Prius is a great car. We couldn't have been happier. My only complaint was the awkward visibility through the back window, but overall we were very impressed.

We went snowboarding at Copper for two days, and a fresh snowfall in an otherwise poor winter made it amazing. Even better, another close friend from college drove up to spent a night and day with us. Seeing Jordan again for the first time in maybe 6 years was indeed another highlight. That, and mango salsa slathered tacos at Rita's. ohmygodtheyaregood.

Back to boulder for a few more days, we ran errands, went on a shopping spree, ate more good food, enjoyed happy hours, and hosted a big party at The Med. Eight people quickly doubled in size. My sister's family drove up through a snowstorm for one last goodbye, and many friends turned up unexpectedly. We enjoyed Larkin and Chris, Laura and Erin, and my good friend Ted. So much love crammed into one table is a very, very good thing.

Our goodbye sunrise, on the way to the airport after Laura's birthday party.

Chicago was a whirlwind, but it was good to see the family. We spent some time with Ray's and Carolyn's families and saw a few old friends from high school. We had less than two days, which is not enough, but therese and i finally managed to conquer jet lag on those final days. Over two weeks, we rarely managed to sleep past 6am. Now, back in Beijing, we're once again trying to reset our internal clocks. No matter, such is our life. And life is good.