Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More Threats

Right after issuing a whole bunch of threats against Japan, China now does the same to the Nobel prize committee and Norway.

BBC News

China has warned the Nobel Peace Prize committee not to award the prize to well-known dissident Liu Xiaobo.

The Chinese foreign ministry said giving him the prize would be against Nobel principles.

Mr Liu is serving a long prison sentence for calling for democracy and human rights in China.


The head of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, said on Monday that a senior Chinese official had warned him that awarding the peace prize to Liu Xiaobo would affect relations between Oslo and Beijing.

Is the Nobel committee part of the Norwegian government or a private enterprise? Maybe China doesn't know or care that the government doesn't control everything in democracies. Sigh... I'm predicting that the Norwegians will cave just as the Japanese does. Since the CCP seems intent on using economic damage for self-preservation, other countries have no choice but to play along.
It would run contrary to the aims of its founder to promote peace between peoples, and to promote international friendship and disarmament, she added.

Mr Liu is serving an 11-year prison sentence for drafting Charter 08, which called for multiparty democracy and respect for human rights in China.

The ruling Communist Party perceived this to be a threat against it.

Obviously, the CCP defines "peace" differently than everyone else. Peace means suppressing anything that remotely challenges their hold on power in China.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Late Summer Weather

It was hot today. I just got home and it feels like an oven upstairs. I checked the Weatherbug app on my Android phone and it said the high temperature today near our house was 42°C, which is over 100°F ~102°F. Turning on the A/C is not helping much...

Reluctant Tour Guide

I just got a text message from my friend in Beijing. She's leaving for the US tomorrow morning yet she still has to play tour guide for clients today. This time it's someone from the US (her SMS said foreigner) and they're at Tiananmen/Forbidden City right now.

Is it just China or does this happen all over? I think I need to find a job where I make buying decisions... finance people rarely get any perks. :(

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Class Passengers

Leon and I were wondering who pays for first class tickets; round trip flight from LAX-HKG on Cathay Pacific runs about $24,000. We thought it would be mostly people using their miles to upgrade from business class, or they get bumped when business class is full (this happened to Leon once).

Anyway, he told me he used some expiring miles to upgrade to business class and he is in the front left seat, right behind the main entry doors to the Boeing 777. He just called me again and said he saw Lionel Richie board the plane and walk into the first class section. I looked on his website and he has a concert on 9/28 at Hong Kong Convention center. I guess millionaire entertainers fly first class when they don't have their own private jet. Leon said it was just him though... his entourage is sitting in the back.

Too bad Leon didn't get upgrade to first class on this flight. Maybe he could have pitched PMI to Lionel Richie and get him as an investor. :)


On Richie's website, there are pictures of him on a private jet. Maybe it was chartered or it's too small to make a Transpacific flight. He needs to get a Gulfstream IV (or V) like Henry.

Acoustic Guitar

I bought a Taylor 414CE-L4 back in back in 2003, after I stopped playing guitar for church. Now that I'm attending CCCSB again (maybe) and they need a guitar player, I volunteered to help out. I'm meeting the new English pastor and his wife after service this Sunday to discuss it. Last week they got a bass player to substitute and it felt like he was playing only one chord the entire time. I'm a bit rusty on guitar but hopefully something is better than nothing. It will be weird standing on the same stage after 10+ years of absence.

Chuseok Special Shows

After my two week Asia trip, where I had to program the cable box and DVD recorder, I'm now more lax about recording Korean TV shows. I used to swap out a DVD after each episode; now I let it record an entire week of shows before ripping and uploading to YouTube. This week, I forgot to check the online schedule so I recorded the same time slots. When I went to review the DVD, I found that instead of recording Happy Together and Invincible Youth, I ended up recording a Korean wrestling competition and some weird show without subtitles. Oh well, at least I didn't miss recording anything.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I think I'm repeating myself but I hate Socal Edison. The latest bill is ~$150, probably because we used the air conditioner a few times during the hot months of August/September. I hate them for the same reason I hate "progressive" taxes; the more you use/make, the more %/rate you pay.

I understand the reason behind the tiered pricing but the way it was implemented by Edison appears to be another attempt at wealth distribution. We used 773 kWh during this billing cycle but they artificially set our usage baseline at 306 kWh. The end result is that we were charged ~$50 more versus having all usage charged at Tier 1 pricing of $0.13/kWh instead of up to $0.27/kWh at Tier 4. Again, when I lived in my small one-bedroom apartment, my usage baseline was 600+ kWh. How does that make any sense? We now have three people in a house that's 3x the size of my apartment and we're supposed to use 1/2 the electricity? I called Edison before and they said the baseline does not depend on the number of occupants nor the size of the building. All that matters is whether you have natural gas heating.

The net result is that people living in larger homes of have larger families are being charged more per kWh than others, while it does not cost Edison incrementally more money to produce an additional kWh... ripoff.

Super Jetlag?

Arg! It's been 10 days since I got back from Asia and I'm still having problems sleeping at night. That wouldn't be a problem if I wasn't so tired during the day. I've been falling asleep driving home from work, then crashing as soon as I get home. I slept from ~8pm to midnight today; it's now ~1:15am and I need to find something to eat.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hazardous Work

Background story in New York Times
SHENYANG, China — Forget the calls by many Chinese patients for more honest, better-qualified doctors. What this city’s 27 public hospitals really needed, officials decided last month, was police officers.

And not just at the entrance, but as deputy administrators. The goal: to keep disgruntled patients and their relatives from attacking the doctors.

The decision was quickly reversed after Chinese health experts assailed it, arguing that the police were public servants, not doctors’ personal bodyguards.

But officials in this northeastern industrial hub of nearly eight million people had a point. Chinese hospitals are dangerous places to work. In 2006, the last year the Health Ministry published statistics on hospital violence, attacks by patients or their relatives injured more than 5,500 medical workers.

I talked to my friend in Beijing yesterday and she said she didn't leave the hospital until 5am after an emergency surgery. She works for a company that distributes aortic grafts in China so each time a product is used, she has to be in the operating room to provide technical support. She said the operation started at ~11pm and the elderly patient died on the operating table after 5 hours due to massive internal bleeding. After the unsuccessful procedure, about 30 of the patient's relatives surrounded the OR and would not let the doctors and staff leave saying they wanted questions answered. The hospital had to call the police to clear the protesters. It turns out they didn't want to pay the RMB300k medical bill even though they consented to the surgery. My friend said she was a bit worried but too tired to care, and ended up taking a nap on an empty operating table.

Harmonious society indeed...


Dealing with angry relatives is just one crappy part about my friend's job. Since she is in sales, her customers (doctors and hospital administrators) treat her like their personal assistant. During the huge traffic jam last Friday (post below), she was stuck on the road on the way to the airport to pick up a client doctor; the 40 minute drive to the airport took ~2.5 hours. He was returning from a business trip that was unrelated to my friend's company or product yet he called her to pick him up from the airport. My friend also caught a cold on Thursday yet still felt obligated to go. He could have easily taken a taxi or called a car service. She said this kind of stuff (clients making her run their personal errands) happens all the time. Her boss knows this too so he hires young single females to work in sales.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Massive Beijing Traffic Jam

140 traffic jams... I'm not even sure what that means. 140 Sig Alert equivalent incidents? 140 gridlocked intersections?

Beijing traffic congestion picture from chinaSMACK

I was just on this stretch of road two Fridays ago though headed north instead of south as in the photo (Dongsishitiao Bridge is north of Chaoyangmen Bridge). My friend's office is near Dongsishitiao Bridge and 2nd Ring Road. There was a lot of traffic but not nearly what is seen in the picture. Probably the rain made traffic worse.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chinese Work Schedule

One fault with the CCP is their need to control everything. I'm sure there are some smart people in the leadership but when the system is built on ass-kissing, back-stabbing, and political favors, I doubt you have the best and the brightest in control of the country.

I spoke with my Beijing friend today and their work schedule is all jacked up for the next few weeks. This year, the mid-autumn festival (1 day holiday) and the PRC national day (3 days holiday) falls very close together on the calendar. Moon cake day is on Wed 9/22 and I think national day is Fri 10/1. Leaving things alone, people would get Wednesday off next week, and a 5-day weekend if you also give them Mon 10/4 and Tues 10/5 off. Instead, in an effort to string together longer holiday breaks for some unknown reason, the CCP decides to shift official work days around. This happened during some other holiday earlier this year.

To give everyone three days off for moon cake day, Thr 9/23 and Fri 9/24 are days off but you have to work Sun 9/19 and Sat 9/25. For national day, the also decided to give Wed 10/6 and Thu 10/7 as additional days off but you then have to work Sun 9/26 and Sat 10/9 to make up for it. So the work on/off schedule starting Sat 9/18 becomes: 1 day off, 3 days on, 3 days off, 6 days on, 7 days off, 2 days on, 1 day off. WTF? How is this any better than just leaving things alone and let people decide what to do with their own lives? Oh yeah, I forgot... this is the CCP.

There are many problems with this. First you screw up people's weekends. I'm not sure how long ago this was decided and announced but people schedule events (e.g., weddings, birthdays, and other family gatherings) on weekends, which are suddenly (maybe) work days. Also, for churches, services are usually held on Sundays, the traditional day of rest. Now every church has to reschedule their activities... somehow I doubt the CCP cares. Finally, China is not alone in the world but part of a global community and economy. Manufacturers, shippers, and import/exporters need to coordinate around the world to keep businesses running smoothly and now have to scramble to figure out and reschedule due to the whims of the CCP control freaks.

On the plus side, my friend is going to try to come to the US during the 7 day holiday. Since her job requires her to be on-call for surgeries, it's hard to take vacation even though there's a week-long national holiday. If she can get her boss's okay and find tickets less than RMB10,000, she wants to visit before her tourist visa expires in November.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Los Angeles Times

If you think airline passengers are already feeling cramped, check out the SkyRider, a seat that resembles a padded saddle and lets airlines squeeze in up to 40% more travelers per flight.

I don't think this is feasible. Imagine flying non-stop from Los Angeles to Singapore (18+ hours) in a seat like that?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel

After traveling for 2 weeks in Asia, I'm at another hotel in Palm Springs two days after getting back home. Our company is holding a Global Finance Leadership Forum for senior managers and above. Since I'm still very jetlagged, I chose to take the bus here instead of driving myself.

The hotel is in Palm Springs and has very nice rooms. I'm on the 5th floor (top floor) but facing the parking lot instead of the hotel pool. I was assigned to a suite with a living room/office plus a bedroom. There are two large LG LCD TVs in the room as well. After spending time in tiny, bug infested (Chengdu) hotel rooms, this is like heaven.

Living Room/Office. There is a desk in the corner with AV connections to the first LCD TV.

Bedroom. The bed is really comfortable. I fell asleep right away after dinner but now I'm up again. :(

Also unlike Asia, the Internet connection is not free but costs $15/night. There is wireless but it's ridiculously slow at ~500kbps. I just installed Samsung Kies on my work computer so I can tether my phone; the connection is much faster.

Monday, September 13, 2010

School Discipline, Chinese Style

I was hit by teachers in elementary school in Taiwan but this seems a bit extreme.


Wow, at ~2:00 the teacher/mom throws the 2 year old child against the table then smacks her down. Every teacher in that room during the incident needs to be fired and/or jailed.

Taiwan HSR

I tried to take a video while riding the Taiwan high speed rail train from Taipei to Taoyuan. I started the video recording right after leaving Banciao station but for some reason it cut off in the middle. Here is the last 1/3 of the ride.

It's weird how objects close to the train are slanted in each frame but okay the further you go out. I know the real landscape is not like that! It's probably how the video camera app processes each frame since the effect diminishes as the train slows.

On the shuttle bus from the HSR station to the airport, I saw a few betel nut stands with girls in skimpy clothing. This was at around 1pm in the afternoon. I wasn't fast enough with the camera though.

Home Again

After two weeks of traveling, I'm finally home. My parents picked me up ~3pm from LAX and even though I wanted to stay awake until nighttime, I fell asleep for 5 hours when I got home. I've been up for the past 2 hours uploading some posts I typed out on the plane and organizing photos. Sindy's parents gave me some moon cakes to bring home and luckily I made it through US customs without any issues; my parents had their moon cakes confiscated last year when they came back from Taiwan.

Time to plan the next trip... :)

A Nissan GT-R blew by us on the Airport Expressway, weaving in and out like a maniac. I didn't check to see if it had white military plates. Actually, most people drive crazy in China compared to the US.

Dragonair Airbus 330 that brought me from Beijing to Hong Kong

It started raining heavily at around 2pm in Hong Kong. I thought it was another typhoon or something. My mom said the same storm caused some flooding inside CKS airport in Taiwan.

Secondary inspection for flights to the US. I wasn't sure what they were looking for but it was a lot more thorough than what I experienced last year.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 Asia Trip, 1400 miles from home

Yawn… another 2:40 and I’m back in Los Angeles. I think I slept for a total of 2 hours this flight.

So anyway, after KTV, we went to see Sindy’s grandparents at their apartment. At first, they were embarrassed to have me over since the place is old and kind of run-down. It was built in the 80’s according to communist ideals so there are only three bedrooms and a bathroom; there is no living room or dining room… I guess you’re supposed to eat communally and not have private gatherings. Ugh, it still amazes me how a handful of people can mess up the lives of so many. They were having noodles for dinner and they asked me to join them. We ate in one of the bedrooms after washing my hand in a metal basin in the hallway. The meal was simple but good, yet they kept apologizing for how inadequate things are compared to the US.

Homemade noodles. The sauce was just tomatoes and eggs.

It was interesting to interact with her family. Even though most of them have a college education and live in Beijing, they seem to know very little about life in the US and have many misconceptions. I think the government controlled media is partially to blame since it always focus on the negatives of America and hypes how great China is under communist rule. Surly all governments do this to some extent but differing opinions are censored in China. If you’re determined, you can get alternative news sources but I think most people don’t bother, and end up accepting the government sanctioned worldview through repeated propaganda.

As most of the older generations of Sindy’s family are members of the communist party, though her uncle admits joining for economic rather than ideological reasons, strange jargon sometimes creep into our conversations. Her father kept referring to danwei (单位) or work unit each time he asks about my job. I think in the past, everyone in China was assigned to a danwei and it decides everything about your life, including where you live, your occupation, whether you can travel, and even who you married. It was a very effective way to exert centralized control over everyone. Things have changed with the rise of private businesses and multi-national corporations but the vocabulary remains.

Another thing about living in Beijing are the supposedly high property values. Sindy's grandparent's apartment is cozy but looks worse than the slums of South Central LA. Her father said that it was assigned to them by the government when it was built and supposedly is worth >RMB30k/square meter or ~2 million RMB for the 60m2 apartment. That seems crazy high and unsustainable... maybe there's a looming property bubble crisis in China too.

2010 Asia Trip, off the coast of Japan

I’m on my way home after two weeks in Asia. It’s been a hectic trip with 8 flights, mainly because I’m flying Cathay Pacific and have to transit in Hong Kong each time. The onboard Moving Map says I’m still about 9 ½ hours away from Los Angeles and I’ve already watched one movie (Prince of Persia) and ate one meal. The flight (CX882) home is fairly full; I’ve only taken the afternoon flight once before and that was to avoid a typhoon. Once again, I’m sitting next to a family with 2 kids. It’s a Chinese couple and they have no control over their kids. Right before takeoff, the older boy (4 years old?) was messing with the tray table and the dad smacked his arm. I’m not sure what he expected but the kid started crying and screaming. The younger boy has been throwing tantrums all flight so far. I guess it doesn’t affect me too much since I can’t sleep anyway.

Back to Beijing, I think I need to continue from Friday morning. I met an ex-coworker for lunch at Oriental Plaza located at the Wangfujing subway station. She is currently working for Deloitte in Beijing and their office is in the same location. She took me to a pretty nice sit-down Shanghai restaurant (上海小南国). Last month when she was in Irvine, I paid for her lunch so she wanted to treat me in Beijing. We mainly talked about work and China. Similar to John in Taiwan, she feels like there are a lot of opportunities in Asia but the work conditions and business ethics are a lot worse compared to the US.

Oriental Plaza from across the street

Raffles Beijing is near the same intersection. Lots of cars on Chang'an Road/Street/Avenue.

After lunch, I had nothing to do so I decided to walk west on Chang’an Road towards Tiananmen Square. It took me about an hour to walk from Wangfujing station on line 1 to Qianmen station on line 2, sweating all the way. Along Chang’an Road are expensive hotels, offices for multi-national corporations, and lots of government ministries. However, I also saw quite a few migrant workers with their luggage, and beggars in each underground pedestrian crossing. There is an index that measures the wealth disparity between a country’s rich and poor. China is at the top of the list, along with a few African and Latin American countries.

Bus stop nesr Tiananmen East station. There were a lot of people in line. Buses run quite regularly in Beijing and if you have a metro card, it's only RMB0.40 per ride. One thing that's odd is that multiple buses for the same route would appear at the same time, then nothing for 5 minutes and 2-3 more would show up? Why not space them out more evenly?

Tiananmen gate from across the street. To get into the open square, you have to go through an airport style security check with x-ray scanners and metal detectors.

Changing of the guards near the flagpole. My friend said that they raise the flag each morning at around 5am. She's never been to one in 33 years.

There were a lot of tourists taking pictures, even on a hot Friday afternoon.

BTV (Beijing TV) installed these huge electronic billboards in the square during the 60th anniversary parade last year (October 1) and they're still here.

Right side screen up close. It was roped off and guarded by one guy in a Beijing TV t-shirt.

Square West Side Road (per Google Maps). It's one of the few roads where you can make a left turn while traveling west on Chang'an Road. Normally it's empty yet security guards won't let you cross until the pedestrian crossing light turns green. Sigh... why not enforce this at all the other regular intersections where everyone jaywalks?!

Qianmen gate. I was going to visit Mao's mausoleum but I was tired of walking and sweating too much already. To get to Qianmen station, I had to walk down/up three underground crossings at the same intersection.

My Beijing friend, Sindy, arranged dinner and KTV with her cousin and his wife for Friday night since I said I could sing a few Chinese songs. Just as we were getting to her car, she got a call about an emergency surgery. Sindy works for a company that reps medical supplies (artificial blood vessels) and she has to support hospitals and doctors that use their products. Usually the surgeries are pre-scheduled but occasionally there are emergencies. So on a Friday night, we had to rush to her office to pick up the needed products (expensive) and deliver them to the ER. It took us about an hour to fight through rush hour traffic to get to her office and just as we were about to drive to the ER, she got a call that the patient (traffic accident) died. That’s way too much stress for me.

By now it was too late to meet up so I took her to Bellagio, a Taiwanese restaurant near Worker’s Stadium that I’ve been to a few times. The restaurant is near Sanlitun which means lots of clubs and expats. We saw some pretty slutty looking girls at many tables; not sure if they’re just rich 2nd generation kids or ernais. Next to Bellagio were some famous nightclubs and we some some pretty nice cars parked outside.

The next morning (Saturday), I got a call from John who lives in Tianjin though he has been in the US for the past 2 months. I wanted to visit him in Tianjin but since I was leaving Sunday morning, it was a bit rushed. I ended up talking to him over the phone… trip to Tianjin will have to wait until the next time I’m in China. Instead, I was invited to Sindy’s maternal grandfather’s 85th birthday lunch. It was at a restaurant and I ended up meeting her entire extended family on her mom’s side. Everyone was really nice though I could only understand about 75% of what was said.

I saw a BMW 535i Grand Turismo on the way to the family lunch. I haven't seen one of these before in the US. Since it's new, it was probably built in Germany and costs >US$100k in China.

We got there a bit early so we walked to a nearby park. In front of the park were people selling watermelons from the back of a donkey cart... in the middle of Beijing. Don't see that in LA everyday.

Next to the park were these super luxury (supposedly) apartments that cost RMB50k/square meter. That's very expensive since it works out to ~$700/square foot. Our house in Orange was <$300/square foot and our front yard doesn't smell like raw sewage. What kind of fertilizer are you using?!

Lunch banquet. There was a lot of food, including Beijing duck. I tried only about 1/2 the dishes.

Birthday cake. It was yogurt flavored... strange but tasted pretty good.

After lunch, her uncle and her cousins went to a nearby KTV place and we sang for ~3 hours. The English song selection was rather poor so I had to sing a couple of Chinese songs. I think they had very low expectations of my Chinese skills so they were impressed that I was able to read the song lyrics, which were mostly in traditional Chinese characters.

Dang, ~9 hours left to go on the flight and my butt is sore from sitting already. I’m going to try and take a nap and continue this later.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

2010 Asia Trip, Beijing Day #3 Morning

As I was sitting in my hotel room Wednesday night, I got a call from a strange number on my China cell phone. Since it's a "new" number for me, I couldn't figure out who it was. It turned out my cousin, who is living in Shanghai, is coming to Beijing for a few days on business and saw my message on Facebook. Since he was still at the Shanghai airport, we agreed to meet later on.

My Beijing friend and I had dinner Wednesday night at a Muslim restaurant. The first floor was for ordering snacks while the sit-down restaurant was on the 2nd floor. I'm not very adventurous with food so we didn't order anything strange. As usual, we ordered too much food.

Some kind of juice drink. I think it's the same fruit they use to make haw flakes... haven't had that in awhile.

My friend went downstairs and ordered some of the snack foods and brought them upstairs. The stuff on the left are some sort of pastry stuffed with beef; the three things on the right are sweet dessert snacks.

After dinner we walked to the entrance to Houhai (后海) and met my cousin at a bar. Houhai is a small man-made lake and it's surrounded by bars and restaurants that cater to expats and foreign visitors, i.e., food/drinks are very expensive.

The bar we went to featured a band from Taiwan. Not sure if they already lived here or are actually from Taiwan to perform a some random bar in Beijing. The band was pretty good but the singers should definitely stay away from Engrish songs. While they were performing (and taking requests), I noticed two girls sitting at the bar next to us. One was in a traditional Chinese costume while the other was dressed in a bikini top and hot pants. When the band took a break, they went up to the stage and danced (not at the same time). First was a semi-traditional Chinese dance, then followed by some fancy pole dancing by the girl dressed like a stripper (sorry, no pics). My cousin went out to take a phone call and said there was someone playing an erhu on the 2nd floor... really strange mix of entertainment.

The next day, my friend came to pick me up to go to the Summer Palace. I've been to all the major Beijing attractions during my last two trips except here... the only time I visited was during my first Beijing trip in 1998. Since she didn't know the way, we had to follow road signs that said 颐和园. Once again, we stopped a few times in the middle of the 3rd Ring Road and cut across multiple lanes to take exits. In her defense, the road signs are really unclear, even for locals.

The entrance fee was RMB60 per person if you want to see everything. It was definitely more crowded than my last visit. As Chinese people have more disposable income now, they're probably traveling more; most of the tourists I saw were out-of-town Chinese people. As soon as we purchased our tickets, we were accosted by people asking if we needed tour guides. None of them looked like they spoke English, though I did see quite a few private tours with English guides of varying language proficiency.

One of the first cars imported into China as a gift for the Empress Dowager

There was a "theater" complex inside the Summer Palace where performers entertained the Emperor and Empress. When we walked in, there was a performance with traditional Chinese musical instruments.

Building with performance stage

"Traditional" dance... the choreography seems a bit odd. There were a lot of modern dance looking moves. Maybe the girls were making it up as they danced.

Two guys pretending to fight in the dark. Kind of reminded me of those irritating French mime performances.

Huh? I checked with my Chinese friend and the translation appears correct. I guess we're not supposed to sit on the railings.

Long covered path along the north side of the man-made lake. The scenery was ruined by the thousands of people sitting on the side eating corn-on-the-cob.

17 arch bridge. We rented a boat (electric, not pedal power) for RMB60/hour and went under the bridge. It was a huge but shallow lake and there was a lot of boat traffic. In some places, there were lots of weeds in the water and a few times our boat got stuck in the middle of the lake.

Water lilies... there weren't that many compared to Beihai park.

The focal point of the park was a huge hill with a Buddhist temple on top. The hill was made from the earth dug up to create the man-made lake. Chinese manual labor power!

Covered staircase going up the big hill. I remember this from last time I was here.

Carved figurines on the eaves of one of the buildings

Details of the painted decorations. Each beam had a different picture.

View from halfway up the hill. You can see the scale of the artificial lake and hill, and the amount of labor that went into constructing the palace site.

View of the temple complex from the top (almost) of the hill

Marble boat... I remember this as well from last time here as well.

We walked around the huge palace grounds until ~3:30pm and decided to head back to town. We were supposed to meet my friend's parents for dinner. By the time we got back on the road, it was close to rush hour and the traffic was ridiculous. I think it took us close to 90 minutes to drive back to my hotel. There are a lot of cars obviously, but I think the tendency for Chinese drivers not to follow traffic rules made things worse. Each intersection was a scene of utter chaos with gridlocked cars and pedestrians/scooters ignoring traffic signals. It was really frustrating to watch and experience.

We sat in traffic here for about 20 minutes, moving about 3 car lengths per light change (way up ahead). Chinese drivers don't know how to merge when a lane ends either.

For dinner, my friend and her parents took me to a Korean BBQ place near their apartment. The food was pretty good but they ordered too much and ended up taking home some cooked and raw meat leftovers.

Real wood charcoal, like at Japanese BBQ places. They came and replaced the grill-top about 10x during the meal. I was careful to separate the raw and cooked meat on the grill but each time they would mix it all together again. I hope I don't get sick... :(

Lots of food


Since the Summer Palace was built during the Qing dynasty, all the carvings and paintings used traditional Chinese characters. My friend has a college degree from China and she had difficulty reading some of the writings. In a few cases, I was able to recognize a character that she could not decipher, even though my Chinese is really lame. I think they should at least teach students how to read traditional characters in China, otherwise they will continue to lose their link to past history and culture.


I just got a phone call from an ex-coworker who is now working in Beijing, and we're meeting for lunch near Wangfujing. She owes me lunch from a few weeks ago when she visited Irvine.