Sunday, August 30, 2009

China Family Trip - Beijing Day 3

It's ~8:30pm and I'm sitting in my hotel room while everyone else went out for a late dinner. I think I walked too much today and did something to my right ankle. I'm trying to rest up for our trip to the Great Wall tomorrow.

Today was a lot of walking... I think that's the theme for every trip to Asia. We made sure that Tiananmen Square was open today and took a cab to Qianmen like we planned yesterday. As soon as we stepped out of the cab, we were assaulted by vendors trying to sell us hats and "tour guides" asking us where we were headed. Security was heavy and they shut down access to all the "gate" buildings. They also blocked access to some areas of Tiananmen Square. There was a huge line to get into Mao's memorial hall but none of us were really interested.

Qianmen... we tried so hard to get here yesterday via the subway. It was closed to tourists until after October 1st.

There was a lot of security at Tiananmen Square. In addition to the regular army guards, there was the police, the armed police, public safety, and of course, the chengguan. This is typically translated as city manager but in reality, they're mostly there to clear away street vendors. They have a nasty reputation in many cities of just beating up people who resist being "cleared" away and there have been a lot of conflicts.

A lot of real estate was blocked off in the square. I was able to get much closer even during the Paralymics last year.

Food truck. They weren't getting harassed by the chengguan so maybe they're legit. Can I get a burrito please?

At this point, my dad wasn't feeling well we gave him some RMB bills and he went back to the hotel. It was a wise decision since we ended up walking a lot. Next was crossing the street and into the Forbidden City. This is the third time I've been here.

Another obligatory shot. It still looks the same as last year.

I took a lot of "standard" photos but also some of other people taking pictures. Here is a random girl posing. Her boyfriend also took some "wannabe cool" photos afterward.

After exiting the back of the Forbidden City, we walked to Beihai Park. Along the was, we stopped in a local restaurant for lunch.

Dumplings with leeks(?) and eggs. We also had some noodle dishes. Interestingly, their version of some dishes was more Korean than Chinese.

We rented a six passenger electric boat and cruised the lake for a bit. Here is Google Maps on my Blackberry showing us to be in the middle of Beihai lake.

The white-thingy building as seen from the middle of the lake.

It was hard to find an available taxi after Beihai Park so my friend and I ended up on the bus. It's much cheaper but it ended up dropping us off on Wangfujing so it took us another 20 minutes to walk back to our hotel.

An orthodox church. A couple was taking wedding photos in front of the church building.

Ferrari and Maserati dealer next to our hotel. I heard that there is a Ferrari dealer in Chengdu and they only sold one car in 2008. Hope there was a lot of margin dollars in the final price.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

China Family Trip - Beijing Day 2 (photos)

Hmm, it looks like I can upload photos but only one at a time. Here are some pics from day 2.

Our hotel. It's hidden behind a taller building so you can't really see it from the main street.

Egg pancakes. The stack of white stuff on the right are pork rinds. Definitely not the healthy choice for breakfast.

The Temple of Heaven park was crowded because a lot of people were here practicing ballroom dancing, line dancing, singing Chinese opera, kicking some feather thing (like hacky sack), but not really sightseeing.

Temple of Heaven. I have some pics from my first trip to Beijing but it was with a film camera.

Up close

There was actually more than one "temple" at the site. All the buildings line up in a straight row, kinda like the Forbidden City.

4th Ring Road right next to the Olympic Park

Bird's Nest

Entry turnstile from last year. They put a metal fence around the entire stadium in order to make it a "tourist attraction" and to sell you tickets to get close. They were also ripping up all the turnstiles. I guess that means they've given up on using this place for a regular sports venue.

Lights/PA speakers in the middle of the Olympic Park area

Water Cube

Line 14 was built specifically for the Olympics. The station and trains were empty (nice!) compared to the insanity of the rest of the subway system.

Insects on a stick. The scorpions were still moving; maybe to show that they're fresh?

Candied fruits (or other stuff) on a stick.

Bigger insects on a stick plus starfish! I think they deep fry it when you order. Gross.

This is a free country!?

Sometimes when my parents nag each other, one of them likes to say, "I can do whatever... this is a free country." During breakfast this morning, my mom was about to say that to my dad, and she got as far as "This is a free..." before stopping. Then she said, "Oh, we're not in a free country" in Chinese.

I told her to stop saying stuff like that but I thought it was pretty funny.

China Family Trip - Beijing Day 2

Since no uploading of photos is allowed in China now, even through a VPN, I'll just keep going with text posts and upload pictures when I get to Hong Kong or back home.


The plan today was to visit Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. Since we don’t get breakfast along with our room, we went to a small street behind our hotel and had some local food. We got bowls of soybean milk, mung bean porridge, some fried dough, and some steamed buns for ~¥20. We also got some weird egg pancake thing that has fried pork rinds in it. Yum… not. Anyway, we got on the subway near our hotel and soon found out that most of the stations near Tiananmen Square were closed due to rehearsal for the 60th PRC anniversary. Since it appeared that the entire square was closed off, we decided to go with tomorrow’s itinerary and go to the Temple of Heaven first. However, we were already in the subway traffic mess and got stuck on a very busy line 1. It was really like those pictures you see of Tokyo subways; we had to push our way into the train and it was so packed that you didn't need to hold on to the handrails. Lines 1 and 2 are the old Beijing subway lines so I don’t think the train had air conditioning. When the door opened, we could feel a blast of hot stinky air blowing out of the car. Anyway, the train stopped several times along the way and we were stuck on the train of horror for about 15 minutes.

The Temple of Heaven park was very crowded. I was here 11 years ago and there weren’t a lot of people. We walked around for about 2 hours and took lots of pictures (which I can't post right now).

Next on the itinerary was the Olympic Park. By now we were tired of the subway even though it was cheap so we took two cabs. Since the city center was closed, the cab driver was asking me how to get to the Olympic Park. I ended up telling him to follow the other cab. He pulled alongside the other cab and had an argument about how to get there. It didn’t matter that much in the end since the lead cab (dad, sister, and Rebecca) drove fast and ditched us (me, my mom, and Shundi). Luckily my dad saw our cab drive by where they got off and we were able to meet up.

Last September, I was in Beijing with Newsong NOC and we went to a Paralympic event. Since then, not much has happened here in the Olympic Park but a lot of tourists still come here. My sister and Rebecca got ticket (¥50) to go inside the stadium while the rest of us waited outside. After walking around some more, we decided to call it a day and skip the Summer Palace. We split up to go back to the hotel with me, my sister, and Rebecca taking the subway, while the rest of them took a taxi back to the hotel.

After taking a short nap, we went to dinner at Bellagio, a Taiwanese cafe that I went to last year. The food was pretty good and we got the huge shaved ice dessert after dinner. The entire bill was about ¥400. Last night while walking around Wangfujing, we saw the entrance to the night market but it was closed due to "cleaning" or something. Since all the foreign journalists did a story here for the Olympics last year, we had to check it out. After dinner, we took a cab directly to the night market (or close since the area was closed to pedestrians) and walked around for awhile. Like all night markets in China, it was loud and noisy and dirty; I can't imagine what the placed looked like before they "cleaned" it. Unlike other night markets though, there were the freaky insect on a stick vendors. This was the fried scorpion stories we all saw on TV last year though I didn't see anyone eating that stuff. Somewhere in the market I caught a whiff of raw squid/cuttlefish and almost threw up. Maybe that triggered something and I started feeling sick (stomach). I think my parents weren't feeling well either so we ditched my sister and Rebecca and walked quickly back to the hotel.

During one of the taxi rides, I asked the driver about the anniversary rehearsals. Supposedly they're done this morning at 2am so Tiananmen Square should be open tomorrow. The downside is that it will probably receive twice the number of visitors today. Oh well... nothing ever happens according to plan in China anyway.

GFW 2.0?

Interesting. I've been able to get through to Blogger and Facebook when I connect through my VPN (as expected) but as soon as I try to upload a picture to my blog, my connection is interrupted. This happened twice already. It also blocks access to all other sites, even those normally available without a VPN. The only way (so far) to recover is to disconnect from the VPN and login again.

Hmm, maybe the blocking algorithm is getting smarter or the CCP is more paranoid due to the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Communist takeover of China.


Update: I tried to upload pictures again before going back to sleep (it's 5am here) and it worked, though just for one picture. Maybe there's a filter on the size of the upload or something. It's a drag posting one picture at a time so I'll probably just do a few and wait until I'm on the other side of the GFW.

Friday, August 28, 2009

China Family Trip - Beijing Day 1

Aah, back behind the Great Firewall of China. Good thing I installed our company's VPN on my netbook.

Even though my Hong Kong to Beijing flight was delayed 30 minutes, we still arrived on time in Beijing. We were asked to fill out a quarantine control form but no one came on the plane to measure our temperature. It took me about 30 minutes to get through Immigration and Customs and I found my parents waiting for me. We took a taxi into town (¥84) and checked in.

China Airlines 747 parked at Beijing Capital Airport. This was my parents' flight from TPE to PEK. Direct flights from Taiwan to PRC was not possible until very recently.

I found the hotel online and booked 3 rooms for 4 nights. The rate they quoted me was about $900 excluding a 15% tax. However, they charged me ~¥13,000. It turned out they charge ¥500 for miscellaneous stuff per night per room which almost doubles the rate. I'll get it back if we don't use the minibar or use room service but it seems pretty steep. Since my sister's in coming in on a later flight, I went back to the airport to pick them up. It was cheaper to take the subway (¥2) and Airport Express train (¥25) than taking a taxi since I was by myself. Since there was traffic, I think was faster to take the train.

Airport Express train. I was to switch trains twice to get to this station. The train was pretty good, not as nice as Hong Kong's Airport Express but much cheaper.

The sign says the train was disinfected today. This is probably in response to the Swine Flu.

The Airport Express station in Terminal 3. They build everything big at the airport.

Since my other friend was arriving from Shanghai on China Eastern, it was at a different terminal. After I got my sister and Rebecca, we took a free shuttle to the other terminals. On the bus, we met a guy from Kansas going to Xi'an to teach English for a year. He's never been outside of the US... pretty cool.

A better picture than the one I posted earlier on Facebook. I took this from the Airport Expressway.

A night, we walked west towards Wangfujing and had dinner at a random restaurant. It was kind of like Third Street in Santa Monica; they blocked off the street from car traffic and there was a lot of pedestrians. I'll post pictures later... time to go.

Is it a hotel? A supermarket? Both?

A restaurant chain famous for Peking Duck. We decided against eating here since duck meat was very greasy, probably extra special greasy here in China.

Our hotel is next to the Beijing Lambo dealer. The price tag said (¥388万) which comes out to ~US$550k... much more expensive than what it costs in the US. There's also a Rolls Royce dealer around the corner with a Phantom in the display window. Cab driver told me it was about ¥6M-¥7M in China.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

China Family Trip - Flight/Hong Kong

Yawn. Only six and a half hours to go until Hong Kong. I think I slept for at least three hours on this flight so far which is pretty good though now my back is a bit sore. This flight is not that full. I’m sitting on the left side of the plane and there is an empty seat next to me. The plane appears to be only about half full. Only two movies so far: Monster vs. Aliens and Star Trek XI. I think I’m going to watch Wolverine next.

My parents’ China Airlines flight boarded on time. It was pretty weird to look out the window and see their 747 parked at the gate.


Three hours and 2500 km left to go. We’re somewhere just south of Japan. I think our flight path takes us over Taiwan again. If my parents’ flight left on time, then they’re about 500 km ahead of me. I have about a two hour layover which is not too bad. Depending on which gate we arrive at, I’m going to try an take a shower at the lounge and upload these posts and some pics.

I haven’t watched any more movies but instead I watched 4 episodes of FLCL, a strange Japanese cartoon series.


There's always a Cathay 747 parked at gate 4061.

I arrived in Hong Kong about an hour ago. The first thing I received when I turned on my phone was a text message from my sister that their PDX to YVR flight was delayed and they will miss their YVR to PEK flight. Fortunately, they were able to get on an Air China flight that arrives about 2 hours late so no biggie. Good thing for airline alliances (Star Alliance in this case). Meanwhile, my flight docked at Gate 65 so I'm at the lounge near gate 63 (The Wing?). I took a quick shower, which was nice, and have about 30 minutes before my HKG to PEK flight leaves. Maybe I'll steal some more cans of beer or something before I go. :)

China Family Trip - LAX

I’m sitting at Gate 103 at LAX, ready for another trip to China. This time, my entire family decided to come along so I’m heading to Beijing first before going to Chengdu. I decided to sit with my parents at the gate instead of going to the lounge. As usual, there are lots of flights going to Asia at this time. I’m on the later Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong which departs at 1:50am. My parents are on the China Airlines flight departing at 1:15am to Taipei. There must be still a lot people going to Asia. I saw a Korean Airlines 747 departing for Seoul at 11:30pm and another one departing at 12:10am, also going to Seoul. Maybe they should buy an Airbus A380 and combine the two flights.

Since I’m sitting at the gate, I don’t have an Internet connection. I’ll probably upload this when I get to Hong Kong. This time, I brought my netbook instead of the Sony Vaio. I also brought the other netbook (Dell Mini 12) along with me. My mom is watching Bolt on it right now. Battery life is not that long; we’re about 1:10 into the movie and there’s only ~40 minutes of juice left. Probably doesn’t like having to spin the hard drive the entire time.

One of the two Korean Airlines 747's going to Seoul. I think this is KE012.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Crappy Sony Camera

I bought a Sony U-20 a long time ago; it is a very small 2MP digital camera. A few years back, the CCD inside broke. After searching the web, I found out that Sony had a recall for the U-20 so I sent it in and they repaired it. Well, I just tried to use it and the CCD is out again. I took some pictures with it a few months ago and it was still fine. Crap. Since it's so old, I doubt that Sony will repair it again. I like the camera because it's really small though the picture quality is not much better than the Blackberry. Oh well, no hidden camera pics in China then...

Fantasy Football 2009

Another year, another fantasy football season. Once again, I'm signed up for the same two leagues I've been in for the past several years. They're both hosted on Yahoo: one is free, organized by one of Kev's friends from UCR, and the other cost $65, organized by a co-worker. Since (some) money is involved, the money league participants are a bit more serious than the free league. There is going to be a live draft in a few days but it's at the same time as my Hong Kong to Beijing flight. Looks like I'm auto-drafting again. I did get an email today telling me that I "won" the draft lottery and have first pick. Looking at a few sports websites, I think the overwhelming first pick choice is Adrian Peterson of the Vikings. With 14 people in the league, after pick #1, my next picks are #28 and #29. By then, you are into the 2nd tier of players so the computer's pick is probably as good as mine. I think this is the 2nd time I got first pick in this league; last time (a few years ago), I chose Larry Johnson and he was just mediocre.

Microsoft Publisher

Getting a cell phone number in China is very easy. All you need is a tri/quad-band phone and a ¥50 SIM card. Within minutes, you can be making calls and receiving spam text messages. However, it's just as easy to lose the number. If you lose your SIM card or have your phone stolen (with the SIM card inside... it happens a lot), you're out of luck. In my case, Leon got me a SIM card 2+ years ago and had it printed on my PMI business card. It worked fine until this March when my number stopped working. Evidently, China Mobile just cancels your account after 4-5 months of inactivity. Unfortunately, since my (one and only) analyst quit earlier this year, there was a six month gap between trips. My China cell phone number was gone and no amount of pleading helped to get it back. Anyway, I had to get a new SIM card which means a new number. Since nobody calls me in China, this was not too bad except now I have a stack of business cards with the wrong phone number. Awesome.

During college, I worked at an advertising agency as their computer artist and I did a lot of freelance graphic design work, mainly resumes and business cards. After work today, I went to Office Depot and bought a pack of Avery 5871 White Two-Side Printable Clean Edge Business Cards. Leon has sent me the new PMI logo so I thought I would just design and print some cards with my new cell phone number. After I got home, I found that I do not have any desktop publishing software on any of my computers. I was a heavy PageMaker user but have not used it for many years. I can also use QuarkXpress or even Illustrator but ever since I started my finance career, I've rarely used any DTP software.

Why did I start this post... oh yeah, Microsoft Publisher. I was going to use Word or PowerPoint to layout the new business cards but I found Publisher 2007. I've never used Publisher before since it was more of a consumer application and no one in the industry used it. Long story short, after about 2 hours of work (mostly trying to type Chinese text), I have some new business cards. I had to print them on my HP LaserJet 1022n so the alignment is not that precise... but good enough to hand out. They're mainly for the solar trade show next week in Chengdu. I doubt I'll hand out many cards so I've only made 30 for this trip. Now if something happens to my China cell phone number I can just print new updated business cards.


I was tempted to use traditional characters for my Chinese name but decided to stay away from politics. I hate the ugly simplified Chinese characters.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Etude - Lyrics

Hmm, once again I checked two different performances and the lyrics are different. I really don't get it. Maybe you can toss in random Hangul characters and it still means the same thing? They also break the lines in different places; not sure if that make any difference either.

Listen to my words
Girl please let him know

Girl 잘 들어봐 내가 하는 말
너무 기다려 왔던 이 순간을 위해
I know why 너의 sexy한 모습
아이 같은 순수함 모두 보여 줄래
Oh no 말할 땐 좀 다 크게
Yes right 때로는 소네 같게
하나하나 조심스럽게 행동하기

왜 그러니 너 실수투성이
너무 어색한 행동과 말들
매력이라고는 뭐 전혀 보이지를 않잖아
러를 보여 줘 사랑스러운
너의 애교와 눈웃음 가득
우리 연습한 그대로 푹 빠져들어 가게
By your side
그가 젖어들면
촉촉한 눈빛을 보내고
너의 부드러운 손끝을 그에게
살짝 닿게 해

바로 그거야 (Girl you know)
녹일 수 있는 너무 완벽한 행동과 말들
사랑스러운 너의 매력 빠져 버릴 거야
Girl please let him know
너의 모든 걸 조금씩 천천히 보여 줘
우리 연습한 그대로 푹 빠져들어 가게
By your side
바로 그거야

Ugh, water! Sure it's cute to have them sing barefoot and all but it's a sound engineer's nightmare. By the lack of stage monitors or even IEM's (in-ear monitors), I'm pretty certain that they're lip-syncing. If so, then why the expensive microphone props? They should have went with the lavalier microphone prop. Good thing no one dropped a $900 wireless microphone in the water.

Hey, no splashing!


I finally got a haircut today after about six months. It was getting pretty long... now my head feels ~5 lbs lighter. Since Beijing is probably still hot next week, I figure I'd better get my hair cut before I go.

I've been going to the same Chinese guy (Ben from Hong Kong) at Hair Art in Irvine for the past 9 years. The haircut plus shampoo costs $22 which is not too bad considering I only go three times per year on average. Each time I go though, a different Mexican lady washes my hair.

I want to find out which salon this girl works at, though I don't want to go blind in the end. :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Phishing Emails

I got three phishing emails from the same place within minutes from "BMO" today.
Security & Privacy

We are committed to protecting you when you bank with us. Our banking services are designed with your security in mind.
As a part of our efforts to meet the requirements of the Financial Services Authority we now ask all Bank Of Montreal users to update their account information. It's a smart and simple way to add an additional layer of protection to your account.

Click On "NEXT" to update your account.

Clicking "NEXT" brings you to a login page that is actually hosted at Makuto Guesthouse, some hotel in Granada (Spain?). What awesome advertising for your business. If I ever go to Granada, there is no way I'm staying there... they'll most likely steal all your stuff while you're sleeping.

Sigh... I get some many of these phishing emails that I just delete them without even looking. When you stop and think about it though, these scumbags are trying to steal your money. It's no different than someone coming up to you and robbing you at knife/gunpoint.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fun Jobs (in Korea)

If I ever get fired from my current job, I think it would be fun to go to Korea and work on the sound/stage crew for one of the music performance shows. Just by browsing YouTube videos, it seems Music Core on MBC has the most elaborate sets (and Tiffany and Yuri of SNSD are the current MC's). As an added bonus, you get to find out who is singing live and who is lip-syncing.

I will be like going to a K-pop concert every week. I'll need to learn some new Korean vocabulary though. Hello, goodbye, and thank you only gets you so far.

KARA! "Uh, do you need any help with your wireless IEM pack?"

Sunday, August 16, 2009


K-pop in North Korea? Not quite...

I found this video while clicking around in YouTube. It's a concert by BabyVOX and Shinhwa in Pyongyang, North Korea (not sure when). The most interesting thing about the whole thing is the audience. They're all dressed as if they're at an opera or classical music concert and no one is clapping or even moving very much. I wonder what they're thinking.

On second thought, it doesn't look like the audience is starving so they're probably all part of the ruling elite class so maybe they're used to all this. Still, very different audience reaction than... Hollywood Bowl?

Hey, maybe SNSD and the current group of K-pop idols should do a concert in Pyongyang instead of Los Angeles. North Korea is only a few miles from Seoul but I'll bet most of them have never been across the DMZ.

"Pretty girl, why are you cursing me?"
A man suspected of beating to death a 27-year-old female village official in Chengdu has been arrested thanks to some investigative work by netizens, reported on Friday.

Police officers in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan province, arrested Li Bin, the suspect, Thursday afternoon. Li confessed to the crime after the first questioning.

The Chengdu municipal government will hold a press conference Friday on the latest developments.

At about 1:40 p.m. on August 10, 2009, Li Bin quarreled with the victim, Che Yating, on the third section of the West First Ring Road in Chengdu. He then assaulted Che, who died the next day after being sent to hospital.

A graduate of Sichuan University, Che Yating worked as a village official in Youfang Village, Xinxing Township. A recent national policy encourages many college graduates to work as village officials in rural areas.

Here is more information plus photos from EastSouthWestNorth.

I really don't understand the mentality of this Li Bin guy. One of the news articles says he hit her with his electric tricycle, she said something vulgar to him, he came back, they argued, he beat her and she died the next day in the hospital.
At around 1:40pm on August 10, 27-year-old female village official Che Yating was walking near number 111, on the West Third Section of the First Ring road in the city of Chengdu. She was nicked by the electric tricycle driven by an unknown male. Che Yating screamed in pain and uttered a vulgar phrase in the local dialect. When the driver heard that, he quickly stopped and parked his tricycle near the bus stop next to the Green Field Furniture Store. Then he grabbed Che Yating and said, "Pretty girl, why are you cursing me?" The two quarreled and the man assaulted the woman, who would die as a result later at the hospital. The man fled.

A few things trouble me about this. First, I've been on 1st Ring Road in Chengdu, though not sure what section; all the intersections look similar. It's weird to read about some crazy news item from half-way around the world and know exactly where it happened.

Two, I've experienced many near misses crossing the street in China, most involved bicycles and scooters. People don't seem to stop for red lights at all, to the point of running over pedestrians at crosswalks (as it appears to be the case above). Why is there such low respect for civil laws? I'm repeating myself but Chinese people smoke in front of no smoking signs, spit everywhere even though it's illegal, and there's just a general lack of courtesy towards strangers. Chinese people in America are not like that (in general).

Third, why does this guy think it's okay to beat a girl so hard that she dies from her injuries? Not that it matters, but he was the one that hit her with his tricycle first. Didn't they learn that "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Maybe he has the Asian alpha-male syndrome (大男人 - for a lack of a better term) where they think they're superior to women and need to slap them around to keep them in line.

Finally, this bothers me the most. He beat her up in broad daylight (1:40pm) on a busy street in a major city and nobody intervened or helped out? I can see not getting involved in a domestic argument but when a 33-year old guy starts beating up a young girl, I think most of us in the West would try to do something, instead of watching him beat her to death. Though much less risky/controversial than the above incident, I've grabbed/blocked toddlers running away from their parents a few times. I'm not sure the average Chinese person in China will do even that.

Sigh... plenty of bystanders that could have saved her life.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Travel Planning

Travel planning is hard work. I think we're finished with organizing our family trip to China later this month. I've sent out a lot of emails and browsed a lot websites and we're still relying on travel agencies for some of the trip. Some of the extra work is because I'm cheap so we were dealing with travel agencies in China. I think we discovered that with agencies that mainly deal with locals, even their first class tours are pretty cheap, both quality and price. I guess that's fair... if you want First World accommodations, prices don't vary that much across the world.

Anyway, I think I still need to buy plane tickets for my parents from Beijing to Chengdu, then book another night of hotel for them as well. My friend was going to meet me in Beijing from Chengdu but she booked a later flight than all of us due to discounts so now I have to figure out arrival details for Beijing again.

The TV show Amazing Race had graphics showing different team's travel plans with moving arrows on an animated globe/map. I wonder what software they used to create it. It would be cool to do that for our trip; there are currently 24 trip segments to worry about for all six of us.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More Chinese Visas

I was sending a travel agent in China our passport/visa information and noticed that the Chinese visas were numbered sequentially. Since my dad got his a few days later than us, I have numbers from applications submitted on Monday and a number from a one-day visa issued the same week on Thursday. To be conservative, I assumed that the Monday visas were processed right away and that all visa numbers in between were issued out of the Los Angeles office. Anyway, it works out that they issue about 1500 visas (conservative estimate) per week. Once again, assuming that most to all the visas are for US citizens, that's ~$150k per week on visa fees just for the Los Angeles office; there are Chinese consulates in several US cities.

For that much money, you figure they could afford air conditioning in the middle of summer and hire more customer service (!) reps.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vista Can't Print... Again!

Argh, my Sony Vaio stopped printing today. Once again, the Print Spooler subsystem crashed and left garbage in the spool folder. I searched the web but couldn't find the fix... then I remembered that I blogged about this last time. Good thing I documented it in the blog post. I just deleted the contents in the spool folder and rebooted. Hopefully this will fix it like last time.

I hate Vista and Microsoft's totally useless error message dialog boxes..


Nope. It didn't work which means I have to spend hours researching and fixing the problem. It was printing fine yesterday too. Did I mention that I hate Vista?

Chinese Corruption

In the aftermath of the huge earthquake in Sichuan last year, I donated a couple thousand dollars to the Red Cross and World Vision, specifically for earthquake relief. Of course I knew about the rampant corruption in China but I was hoping that things would be different this time. Well... I was wrong. (translation of Chinese news article)
80% of eartquake donations ended up in govt. coffers

Research conducted by a team led by professor Deng Guoshen of Tsinghua University indicates that of the 76.7 billion yuan worth of charity donations collected last year for the Sichuan earthquake victims, about 80% ended up in the government's coffers and was spent no differently than the government's regular tax income.

According to Deng, the local governments of the quake-stricken regions were the direct recipients of about 58% of the donations while about 31% were received by NGOs such as the Chinese Red Cross. Deng stated except for a small fraction of the donations which donors had specified must be used by NGOs, most of the money streamed into the government's bank accounts.

Awesome. I guess I should be happy that a few hundred dollars did make it to earthquake victims. Hopefully the other 80% went into the local Chengdu economy in the form of travel, entertainment, or whoring spending instead of some ernai's pocket in Shanghai.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tesla Drive

I spent the afternoon hanging out at an ex-coworker's house in Laguna Beach. She invited me over for a play-date but mostly we just ended up eating lunch. After lunch, her husband (also an ex-coworker but in engineering instead of finance) took me out for a ride in their new Tesla Roadster. In case anyone has not heard of Tesla Motors, they build an all electric car. The first model is a 2-seater that does 0-60 in about 4 seconds and cost just a bit over $100k.

Since they live in Laguna Beach, we went for a drive up the coast to Newport Beach. It feels like a sports car but eerily quiet since it's all electric. Other than all that environmental stuff, the best thing about an electric motor is instant torque at all RPM's. He floored the "gas" pedal several times and the acceleration is awesome. Along the ride, I saw a few Ferrari's and an Aston-Martin but nobody wanted to race. I think the only thing that can beat the Tesla is probably a motorcycle.

I'm not sure what the top speed is but there is only one gear in the transmission (they had problems with a two-speed) and the engines revs to about 13k RPM. Obviously it's not a very practical car but if you're in the market for a sports car, the prices are comparable to a gasoline powered car with similar performance. The big downside currently is the ~250 mile range but once electric cars are more popular, you should see more recharge stations. Still, trips to Vegas are probably out of the question until battery technology improves... not sure if you want to stop every 250 miles for a 3-hour recharge.

Oh, you also probably need a house before buying an electric car. Not only would you want to park a $100k car inside the garage, an apartment complex wouldn't let you install a 70 amp 240VAC charging system on its property. :(

The car is very low and a bit difficult to get in and out. However, I've sat in a Mazda Miata and a Honda S2000 and the Tesla is not much smaller.

PCH South near El Morro Beach. I stuck my hand over the windshield to take the picture and it still looks (and is) very close to the ground.

Recharging after our ride. They had to install a 240V charging system; a 120V system will take 30 hours to recharge the car.

Front view... no license plate! :) It had very low profile Yokohama Advan tires so the ride is pretty stiff but not unexpected for a sports car.

It was a pretty fun ride. BTW, our CEO has the same car in red but he hasn't offered me a ride yet.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Obama is a Commie

Sigh... it looks like the USA is becoming more like China, in a bad way. (!)
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to

Wow! That's fricking unbelievable. You would think that this came from The Onion or something and not The White House. This is wrong on so many levels. The government wants to "keep track" of "chain emails" and "casual conversation"?! Not only that, they want us to snitch on our friends and family? I thought the left was all for freedom of speech and dissension. Why isn't the ACLU all up-in-arms about this? Liars and hypocrites.

Incidentally, a friend sent me an email this week regarding issues with ObamaCare. Is that something the government considers fishy? Should I report him to the White House? Maybe Obama will give me 50 cents for my effort and I won't have to go to China later this month to experience state surveillance.

Not only will I pay more in taxes for the foreseeable future, my health insurance is going to suck more. That's on top of bailing out other people's mortgages and paying for their new cars (my 4Runner is now 10 years old). How much more money are the Democrats going to take from me to buy votes to stay in power?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beggars Can't Be Choosers

Not sure if I should be complaining... but I've been searching for movies on 4Megaupload and for some reason, almost all the available videos are dubbed in French. Good thing I can preview (sometimes) the file before downloading 700MB.

Maybe the US studios are removing only the English audio versions and ignoring all dubbed versions... or there could be just a lot of French computer geeks uploading, trying to preserve their culture or something.

I tried searching for xXx, the 2002 movie with Vin Diesel. That returned a lot of hits, most don't have anything to do with the movie I was looking for.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Abracadabra - Lyrics

Brown Eyed Girls songs seem to have a lot of lyrics, especially when Miryo has a long rap.

이러다 미쳐 내가 (GaIn)
여리여리 착하던 그런 내가
너 때문여 돌아 내가
독한 나로 변해 내가
너를 닮은 인형에다 (Narsha)
주문을 또 걸어 내가
그녀와 찢어져달라고
Every night I’ll be with you (Jea)
Do you love her, do you love her (Miryo)
매일 너의 꿈속에 (Jea)
Do you love me, do you love me (GaIn)

Bring bring (Jea)
너를 내게 가져다 줘
뭐라도 난 하겠어 (Narsha)
더한 것도 하겠어
빙빙 도는 나의 환타지에 (Jea)
모든 걸 걸겠어
널 내가 내가 갖겠어

못 참아 더는 내가 (GaIn)
이러다가 정신을 놓쳐 내가
도대체 왜 너란 애가
내 마음에 박혀 네가
찢겨진 사진에다 (Narsha)
주문을 또 걸어 내가
그녀가 떨어져달라고
Every night I’ll be with you (Jea)
Do you love her, do you love her (Miryo)
매일 너의 꿈속에 (Jea)
Do you love me, do you love me (GaIn)

Bring bring (Jea)
너를 내게 가져다 줘
뭐라도 난 하겠어 (Narsha)
더한 것도 하겠어
빙빙 도는 나의 환타지에 (Jea)
모든 걸 걸겠어
널 내가 내가 갖겠어

I’m in the Voodoo Island (Miryo)
널 되찾기 위한 plan
매일같이 이렇게 날 울린
널 향할 마지막 step
그녀의 손을 잡고
그녀와 입을 맞추고
그란 너를 상상조차 하기 싫어
이 주문에 염워을 실어

아브라카가브라 다 이뤄져라 Let’s go

내게 주문을 걸어봐 (Miryo)
I’m like a supervisor
널 통제하는 카이저
내게서 벗어 날 수 없어 내게

Bring bring (Jea)
너를 내게 가져다 줘
뭐라도 난 하겠어 (Narsha)
더한 것도 하겠어
빙빙 도는 나의 환타지에 (Jea)
모든 걸 걸겠어
널 내가 내가 갖겠어

이러다 미쳐 내가 (GaIn)
여리여리 착하던 그런 내가
너 때문여 돌아 내가
독한 나로 변해 내가
쿨한 척 하는 내가 (Narsha)
놀라워라 이런 내가
아닌 척 덜 만나러 가 또 또

Lyrics from this Inkigayo (Popular Song) performance on July 26, 2009 (182MB HD download here)

The LED glasses at 1:48 are pretty cool. The only thing I didn't like are Miryo's pants (big holes in the front of her legs). They also don't seem to have many unison parts, other than some background fills... that's too bad since they were originally popular for their awesome vocals and not their dancing/show.