Friday, August 31, 2007

Chengdu Traffic and Pork!

Road traffic is chaotic in China since most people view traffic signs and signals as optional. Typically, if traffic ahead is slow, cars will cross over the center line into oncoming traffic and then cut in at the last minute. Otherwise drivers will drive on the shoulder and pass on the right. So during rush hour, a three lane road really has six lanes of cars, buses, trucks, electric scooters, and bicycles.

One afternoon, driving back from the office to our hotel, I witnessed the most retarded traffic jam ever. We were on one of the main roads heading back into the city and ran into a solid wall of stopped cars. I think we were held up for about 20 minutes. We found out (one of the passengers got out to see what happened) that the initial cause of the mess was a truck trying to pull a U-turn in the middle of the road. Instead of waiting the 15 seconds to let the truck complete the turn, drivers on both sides of traffic cut across the center line to try and pass. Well, since traffic was stopped on both sides of the truck, there's no room to cut back into the correct lanes before coming face-to-face with oncoming (stopped) traffic. Bam, instant gridlock in the middle of the road, nowhere near an intersection.

In addition, while we were stopped in traffic, we were hit by the car behind us. It was a brand new Honda Civic and the driver's foot probably slipped off the brake pedal. The guilty driver was a girl, not too bad looking, and before our driver even open his door, she had already jumped out of her car, yelling and screaming at us! I don't get it. We were stopped in traffic... for minutes! I guess there was no damage so everyone got back in their respective cars, then she tries to pass us on the right even though we were already in the rightmost lane. Our driver then swerved to cut her off and she almost drove into a roadside ditch. She managed to squeeze through after several tries but needed to fold in her driver-side mirror to avoid another collision. Since we were stuck in traffic anyway, we ended up passing her several times afterwards. Each time we passed her car, I tried to wave at the crazy girl but she ignored me. :) Sorry, no pictures though I wish I had a camcorder. I did get a photo of an old guy carrying half a pig — split from head to tail — on the back of his bicycle on my RAZR; I'll post it if I can figure out how to get it off the phone (update below).

This is what happens when you get millions of impatient Chinese drivers in one place. Leon and I thought the whole episode was ridiculous but it looked like everyone else (all local people) thought it was normal. I've been in taxis where we've missed hitting pedestrians and bicycles by mere inches and missed being hit by buses by the same margin. Sometimes it's easier just to sit back and close your eyes until you get there.


Cool, I sent the pictures from my RAZR to my Mac via Bluetooth; never tried that before. I thought I would need to pay MMS charges to send them to myself. Should have taken more pictures with my phone.

Thermometer in PMI's factory: 32˚C (90˚F) and 70%+ humidity at 10:15am. It gets hotter in the afternoon.

Guy with a pig on his bicycle in front of a sign for Chengdu's hi-tech industrial park (BTW, 金牛 = golden ox)

... which reminded me of the meat truck I saw in Taiwan. Eeeew!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fantasy Football Draft #3

The third and final fantasy football draft was this afternoon. I had to rely on the computer since we can't access Yahoo!'s draft room from work and I had a meeting anyway. This league is the largest with 14 people so I didn't expect much even though I had 3rd pick. Here's my team:

QB: Matt Hasselbeck, Byron Leftwich
WR: Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Bobby Wade
RB: Larry Johnson, Jamal Lewis, Reuben Droughns
TE: Jeremy Shockey, Owen Daniels
K: Nate Kaeding, David Akers
Def: Philadelphia

I had 1st pick last year in this league and I picked LJ too. I checked the draft results and the computer picked in order: (1) Larry Johnson, (2) Marvin Harrison, (3) Terrell Owens, (4) Jamal Lewis, (5) Calvin Johnson, (6) Jeremy Shockey, (7) Matt Hasselbeck, etc. Hmm, the computer drafted a second WR before a second RB, and waited until the 7th round to get me a QB while picking a TE in the sixth round. That would not have been my strategy but I'm pretty satisfied with my team. I have two good WR's (although TO is an ass) and hopefully Calvin Johnson will live up to his #2 NFL draft pick. With 14 teams, there's not much to pick up so hopefully Hasselbeck does well.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Last Luggage Post

They just delivered my luggage to my apartment. Everything looks fine but they did go through the contents; this is probably because TSA neglected to X-ray my bag before loading it onboard. Now I can charge my RAZR and my MP3 player again.

Fantasy Football Draft #2

This league is mainly Broadcom finance people. We reserved a conference room for two hours and it took us the entire time to draft 16 rounds. I was 7th out of 10.

QB: Tom Brady, Tony Romo
RB: Ronnie Brown, Frank Gore, Marion Barber, DeShaun Foster
WR: Plaxico Burress, Roy Williams, Jerricho Cotchery, Darrell Jackson, Eddie Kennison
TE: Tony Gonzalez, Heath Miller
K: Robbie Gould
Def: Dolphins, Raiders

Frank Gore again! I'm drafting 3rd for my last league tomorrow so I should pick up a different RB. Too bad I have a meeting during draft time so I'm counting on the computer to pick for me.

Used Phone

The used NEC N620 I bought in China doesn't seem to work with my other SIM cards. In addition to the China Mobile SIM I bought there, I have a Cingular/AT&T and a T-Mobile SIM. I remember both of them working in China when I inserted them into my China phone but all I get is "No net" here. The NEC is supposed to be a dual-band GSM (900/1900) phone while the Treo 680 from work and my RAZR V3 are quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900). I thought both AT&T and T-Mobile used GSM1900 in California but I guess they're using one of the two frequencies not found on my NEC phone. I can still use it as a Chinese-English dictionary and it has a cool majong game on it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

More Luggage News

I'm sure all three of you are eagerly awaiting new of my lost luggage.
We find your baggage in Hong Kong and we will forward it on Cathay Pacific flight CX882 of 28Aug to Los Angeles...

So it looks like I'll have my bag back tomorrow. Since they try to deliver someone else's bag to me while I was in Chengdu, I'll believe it when I see it.

I guess my LAX security mix-up theory was wrong since my bag did manage to get to Hong Kong. Maybe they pulled it off the plane there since it didn't have a TSA security sticker. Oh well, now I have an extra US$70 of clothes from China. Everything will probably shrink after I wash it anyhow.

Fantasy Football Draft #1

I'm in three fantasy football leagues again this year. The first draft was at 8:00pm tonight and I forgot about it (this one has no money on the line). I finally signed in at 8:40pm and they were on round 14 out of 20 already. Yup, 20 rounds. Instead of team defense, we had to draft at least 5 defensive players. That seems like more work than my other leagues. Anyway, here's my team:

QB: Vince Young, Philip Rivers
WR: Marvin Harrison, Anquan Boldin, Javon Walker, Vincent Jackson
RB: Frank Gore, Willie Parker, Thomas Jones, DeAngelo Williams, DeShaun Foster, LenDale White
TE: Tony Gonzalez
K: Shayne Graham
D: Justin Miller, Donnie Nickey, Brian Kelly, Jason Short, Josh Mallard, Jerron Wishom

I haven't heard of half of the players and they all seem to have week 7 off. I'll need to pay more attention to the other two leagues where cash is involved.


Despite appearance to the contrary, I did more than just lose my luggage and sit around sweating in Chengdu last week.

Baggage Claim

Update: Wow, I got an email reply from Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong with my luggage tag number and a file number. Maybe there's a chance they'll find it after all. The only thing I want back is the USB cable to my mobiBLU cube MP3 player. It looks like a custom cable that will be hard to find. Everything else should be easy to replace.


I've been trying to track down my lost luggage since I got back. So far I've made phone calls to Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and even China. I was a bit distracted when I was filling out the lost baggage paperwork and didn't notice that they took my luggage claim tag. Now each office I call, they want this number and I don't have it. The copy of the paperwork I got back doesn't have the tag number either. I just got off the phone with the Dragonair office in Chengdu; they can't find my file and told me to call back tomorrow. They also asked for my U.S. phone number but I pretty confident that they won't call me back. I guess I'll try Cathay Pacific here again tomorrow to see if they can dig up this number in their computers.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Conflict of Interest

Recently, they made us watch a bunch of training videos at work from HR and Legal. One of the topic was on conflict of interest and moonlighting. Just so there's no misunderstanding, I contacted our corporate compliance officer and let him know about helping Leon and PMI with some finance stuff. I thought it was no big deal since I'm only helping out on weekends and the supply chain/products are completely different. So after filling out forms, emails to the CEO and CFO, and several discussions with legal, they put a bunch of restrictions on what I can and can't do. Broadcom was pretty adamant about me not being an employee of PMI and having a title, even though I'm not being paid. I know that our new CFO is on the Board of Directors for several other companies and he gets paid! We even had to reschedule our meetings so he can attend BoD meetings in other countries.

Oh well, it looks PMI won't be able to afford a U.S. staff for awhile anyhow.

Price of 350Z

I always wondered why I don't see my car outside of the U.S., especially in Asia. I took a car magazine from the first class lounge in Hong Kong and at the back, there were some car prices. In Hong Kong, a new 350Z costs HK$441,800 or about US$57k. That's about US$25k more than what is costs here. The Z is made in Japan so it should cost less to ship it to Hong Kong than to California so the difference must be taxes.


I just woke up after sleeping for about 12 hours straight. I guess I'm still on China time since it's about 7am in Chengdu. Time to find some food...

The flight back from Hong Kong was about 12 1/2 hours and it sucked. Even the movie selection sucked; I ended up watching Spiderman 3 twice and not much else. Leon got a free upgrade to business class and offered to trade with me. I've been in Cathay Pacific's business class and it's pretty nice. I don't really care about the food but the seat is much more comfortable since it's wider and folds down almost-flat. However, I usually can't sleep on airplanes, even in business class, so Leon may as well enjoy it. The guy next to me in economy was kind of strange. He slept most of the way with a blanket over his head and when he was awake, he kept asking for food and drinks. He was also coughing all the time. Not a quiet polite cough, but full-on TB-like hacking. Sigh... I hope it wasn't infectious.

As usual, getting through Customs took forever. We landed at the farthest gate at Bradley (at least we didn't deplane in the middle of nowhere and take a bus) and the lines were huge at immigration/border control/whatever. It look me about 40 minutes to get to the counter and then less than 10 seconds to get through; I don't know what takes everyone else so long if they're US citizens coming back to the U.S.

Friday, August 24, 2007

First Class Lounge

I'm back in Hong Kong waiting for my flight back to LAX. Since Leon has so many miles with Cathay Pacific, he was able to get us into the first class lounge at HKIA. It's pretty nice... there are attendants walking around the couches to get you drinks and we had a buffet dinner. Too bad the experience doesn't carry to the flight; both of us will be slumming it in economy and I'm in the last row again.

I think I'm going to order another drink... :)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Luggage not found...

Hmm, every post from China seems to be about my lost luggage.

Well, the driver from Dragonair showed up last night at 6pm with someone else's bag. I should have expected this but I was upset nevertheless. I called Dragonair again and the response was pretty much, "Well, if that's not your bag, we don't know where it is." I'm checking out in a few hours to fly back to HKG/LAX and I'm certain once I leave, they'll deliver my bag to the hotel here. I left them a bunch of phone numbers to call but all my phones are dead since the chargers are in the lost bag!

Since I got a Chinese SIM card, I also bought a used NEC N620 designed for the China market. It has a lot of cool features like a Chinese-English dictionary, handwriting recognition, and even text-to-speech. I wonder if it will speak Chinese. I'm running the phone with English menus so there are some weird options. The best one so far is "Vibrator On/Off?"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Luggage maybe found...

Sigh... nothing showed up last night so I still don't have my luggage. I called the airlines again (5th day in a row) and they're looking into it. If they don't find it today, I'm heading back to LA tomorrow so they will have to ship it back to the U.S.

I just spent two hours preparing and calling into a meeting at work. The network connection is a bit slow but it's pretty amazing that I can communicate with co-workers, look at files, and dial-in over the Internet from China. I think it would have been smoother if I had brought my work computer instead of my personal notebook.

Luggage Found!

Someone from Dragon Air called me this afternoon that my luggage was found and should arrive in Chengdu on the 9:30pm flight. When it arrives, they will get a courier to deliver the bag to my hotel. It's 11:40pm now and I still haven't heard anything yet. The hotel is in the middle of a university campus and there are very few lights so I'm not holding my breath.

I opened a bank account today; I feel more and more Chinese every day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chengdu Sauna

Wow, I think today was worse weather-wise than yesterday. The temperature was about the same, but it seemed more humid, if that's possible. I skipped breakfast today since it is pretty lame at this hotel. There were some buns, a couple of spicy sides, porridge, and warm soy milk. It just made me sweat more.

I got to see the factory construction site this morning. Leon said that last Thursday, he took some pictures of the site and there was no crane. Incredibly, the workers have hoisted a crane today even though the site didn't have electricity for the past two days. I'm so used to seeing heavy machinery at construction sites, usually yellow. In China, it's more like a lot of workers with wheelbarrows. I guess labor is more available than capital.

The rest of the day was sitting at the PMI office, sweating. Even though the A/C was on the entire time, Leon and I were sweating profusely... ok, more me than Leon. I'm so glad I didn't end up working in Singapore. We had a couple of meetings and I spoke with the accountant about product cost, inventory management, and manufacturing scheduling. Exciting stuff to talk about on my vacation. Lunch was bento-like boxes with rice and three dishes for $1-$2 RMB and it was pretty good.

I spoke with Dragonair again this morning and they still cannot determine whether it got on the plane in LAX or lost somewhere in HKIA. They don't even show the bag in their entire system, usually a bad sigh. I also went to Wal*Mart to buy more shirts, socks, and underwear. Pretty soon, my entire wardrobe will be the 2007 collection from Wal*Mart.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Still No Luggage

I called Dragonair to check on my luggage. They were pretty nice on the phone but have no idea where my bag is. I guess I'm stuck with my Wal*Mart clothes until they find my bag or I go buy more. The problem is that I already bought a 2XL shirt and it's kinda tight; that's the biggest shirt size they have. :(

Today was pretty a day of meetings... and sweating. I don't think I ever sweat so much with so little cooling effect. In addition, everywhere we go they serve hot tea. Can I get a glass of ice water?! A supplier brought us to lunch, at the same restaurant they took us to this past May, and we ended up toasting a lot which meant drinking a lot of Budweiser. The last time I drank so much alcohol was back in college, ~20 years ago. I guess this is how business is done in Asia: eating, drinking, and KTV.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mirror Lake Hotel - 镜湖宾馆

The hotel we're staying at is inside the Southwest Jiaotung University campus. The Chinese characters translates to mirror lake and there is a small pond outside the main entrance. Of course, where you have standing water, you have mosquitoes... and of course, my bug repellent is in my lost luggage. In the hotel room, there is a plug-in incense burning thing to get rid of mosquitoes. This is actually the 2nd room I got; the first one didn't have a refrigerator.

View outside my 4th floor hotel room window


Leon just told me that Dragonair called at 11pm last night and had no news about my luggage, i.e., they have no idea where it is. I hope I don't have to buy more clothes here in China. The shirt I bought was 2XL and it was still a bit tight. Hopefully the problem was in HKG and not LAX though my fear that my bag is sitting in a corner somewhere back in LA.

My meal on Dragonair: chicken noodles (at least they gave us something to eat on a <3 hour flight). The prepacked orange juice had an expiration date of "04 08 07" though; not sure how to read that other than August 4, 2007, which is 2 weeks expired. Of course I saw this after I drank it.


Well, I found a way around the firewall that's blocking the URL. If I connect back to the US through the company VPN, it lets me access everything since I'm connected to the Internet back in Irvine. Interesting...

Lost Luggage

Sigh... I knew that security lapse at LAX is a bad sign. After getting off the plane at Chengdu, I waited and waited and waited for my one bag and it didn't show up. I had checked it in from LAX and the tag said it was checked all the way to CTU. That means I'm now stuck in China without any of my clothes and also all my power adapters for both phones, extra batteries for the camera, and MP3 charge cable. My guess is that my bag didn't get a TSA X-ray sticker and somebody held it up. Cathay Pacific has 3 flights per day from LAX to HKG and even more flights from HKG to CTU so hopefully my bag is coming soon.

Since we have a business meeting tomorrow, Leon thought I should get some clothes since I only have what I was wearing on the plane (white t-shirt and khaki shorts). We ended up going to a Wal*Mart down the street and I bought a shirt, a pair of beige colored dress pants, a belt, and some underwear for ~RMB300. The shirt was okay but the pants has a small metal thingy with Chinese characters on it. I felt like a FOB just holding it... :(

Chengdu is hot and humid, just like last time. This time, we're staying in a hotel inside the Southwest Jiaotung University. It's not as nice as the one downtown but for only RMB220 per night, it has a working A/C unit and Internet access so no complaints. The cigarette smoke smell is not even that strong! :)

Leon also got me a SIM chip for my Motorola RAZR so now I have a phone number in China. However, my phone only has support for a few languages and Chinese is not on the list so there are a lot of black boxes where Chinese characters should be. We also recharged the phone with more minutes but I couldn't figure out how to check the number of minutes available. It'll probably run out during an emergency call or something. Since I've been up for the past 30 hours, I'm going to sleep and dream that they found my luggage.

Great Firewall of China

Strange... I can get to my dashboard and create new posts but anything with in the address gets blocked. That means I can post messages but I can't see them while I'm in China. Oh well, it's not like I have any readers in China anyway.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hong Kong

I just landed at Hong Kong International Airport. The flight here was about 13.5 hours but it seemed like it took forever.

At LAX, I witnessed a huge security hole. The check-in procedure, for Cathay Pacific anyway, is to go to the counter, check-in, get your luggage tagged, then bring it to one of the X-ray machines at the end of each counter. I took my bag to the one next to Eva Air and handed it to a TSA person. As I was walking away, I noticed that the X-ray machine was not working. There were several repair access hatches open and tools were everywhere. Curious, I walked back to where I dropped off my bag and saw APS (people who move your luggage) employees pick up my bag and loading it on to a cart. I thought they were going to bring the bags to another X-ray machine but rather, they brought it back to the Cathay counter and stuck them on the conveyor belt. I was there for about 5 minutes and saw at least 10+ bags bypass the X-ray screening. Great security... the X-ray machine is down so we won't screen any bags. Sigh...

BTW, LAX is a friggin' disgrace. Bradley international terminal is a dump, even compared to the airport in Chengdu. Right now I'm using the free WiFi at HKIA. LAX of course, only has paid acesss (T-mobile) to the Internet. Even Portland airport has free WiFi.

On the flight over, I also noticed that the flight path was slightly different from my LAX-HKG flight in May. Instead of flying over Taiwan, we took a more southern route and bypassed the area between Taiwan and mainland China. I think this was due to typhoon Sepat which should be off the west coast of Taiwan right now. I sat in seat 68K which is the window seat in the last row on the right. I kept looking out the window during the last two hours, partially expecting to see the eye of the storm but ended up just seeing a lot of clouds.

My connecting flight to Chengdu is in ~3 hours. There are so many flights at HKIA that my flight is not listed yet so I don't know what gate I should be at. I should go find out before my flight departs.


... and more clouds, but nothing that looks like a typhoon

Flight path around southern end of Taiwan instead of over Taipei last time

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Supertyphoon Sepat

Great... it looks like Sepat has been upgraded to a supertyphoon with current wind speed ~140 knots and 43 foot waves. It also appears that it will cross over Taiwan on the 18th and make landfall in China on the 19th. Hopefully my flight can fly over the storm and I can get in/out of HKG. I have a window seat this time; it would be cool to see a supertyphoon from above. It should look like a category 4 or 5 hurricane.

[image removed]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Typhoon Sepat

I'm flying out of LAX this Saturday morning and landing in Hong Kong on Sunday. I just found out that a typhoon is going to hit that area this weekend.

[image removed]

Hong Kong is in the shaded area... that's not good, right?!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Yellow Warning Light

I ran out of gas on the freeway yesterday. The low fuel light has been on for about 2 days but since I didn't drive anywhere far, I thought I had enough gas to get to Brea for a NewSong CAM BBQ. Everything went well until I got on the 57 freeway. Suddenly, the car started losing power and the tachometer needle dropped towards zero. The engine was still running so I quickly crossed 5 lanes of traffic and took the Katella exit. There was a Tim McGraw/Faith Hill concert at the Honda Center but since it was still early (5pm), there was not too much traffic. Not being familiar to the area, I gambled and took a right turn off the exit and headed east on Katella Avenue. After about 4-5 blocks without seeing a gas station, my 4Runner stalls out. Since the car was designed with power steering and power brakes, it was really hard to drive. I managed to pull into a parking lot but since I effectively had no brakes, I "drove" over a concrete barrier and almost hit a tree. At this point, I was resigned into calling AAA for help, and being really late to the BBQ. I though I would give it one try before giving up and to my surprise, the car started. I got on to Katella again and luckily found a Shell station on the next block. I now know that the 4Runner gas tank holds 17.054 gallons of fuel.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007