Friday, April 29, 2011

Singapore to Beijing

I am currently on my flight from Hong Kong to Beijing, slumming it in the back in economy. The flight is probably 80% full and I have an empty seat next to me. The entire day so far has been a travel day. We had breakfast at the hotel, checked out, and got a cab to Singapore Changi Airport. I was a bit disappointed that Cathay Pacific flies out of the older Terminal 1; the business class lounge was pretty average. The flight from Singapore to Hong Kong was delayed on both ends so it ended up taking almost an extra hour. Our fearless leader was a bit worried about missing the connecting flight to Los Angeles so I helped bring the rest of my co-workers from gate 24, through the transfer area, and to gate 2. Originally my flight to Beijing was scheduled to depart from gate 522 (I’m not even sure where that is) but ended up at gate 29. The airport was pretty busy today.

Anyway, what I wanted to get down on “paper” was my experience last night in Singapore. One of our co-workers (Caucasian male) told us he walked around our hotel and stopped into a bar Wednesday night. He said he was approached by many fine Asian women. In light of Singapore’s reputation as a strict/moral society (the Marina Bay Sands Casino charges Singaporeans an entry fee to discourage locals from gambling), he was shocked that they were all “working” girls. Me and another co-worker (Asian male) both thought he was exaggerating so we headed out after we got back from dinner Thursday night. There is an underground (i.e., basement) bar/club called Brix right outside the Grand Hyatt; we showed our room keycard to get in. There was live music and it was pretty packed. Not 60 seconds after walking in, our Caucasian co-worker was approached by a woman/girl in a tight dress. The conversation (and all subsequent conversations) went something like this:
Asian girl: Hi.
White guy: Hi.
Asian girl: Are you here on business?
White guy: Yes.
Asian girl: Where are you from?
White guy: Los Angeles.
Asian girl: I can make you happy…
White guy: Excuse me?
Asian girl: I can make you happy for 400 dollars.
White guy (married): No.
Asian girl: OK, 300.
White guy: No.
Asian girl: 250… (etc.)

Over the course of an hour, this scene was repeated many times since most of the girls in the bar were prostitutes (there, I said it). Sometimes the girl skips the small talk and go directly to pricing. However, none of the girls even looked at me and my Asian guy co-worker. I don’t think I’m good looking or anything but I don’t think I’m ugly either. If we were standing next to our White co-worker, nothing would happen. However, as soon as we step away, he would be approached by one of the girls, sometimes within seconds. He sometimes tried to steer the conversation towards his two Asian co-workers but most of the girls didn’t even acknowledge our existence.

The experience was kind of surreal. Sure we look different than the White guy but my Asian co-worker was born in the US and I’m pretty Westernized, even though both of us are ethnic Chinese. I even make eye contact with some of the girls and smiled (but not initiating conversation) and got zero response. I’m sure there is some logical basis for this. Obviously the girls didn’t think we were “foreigners” so maybe locals weren’t as likely to utilize their services. However, we saw lots of Asian guys talking to many of the girls and most were rejected. Another interesting observation (sounds like I’m narrating a documentary) was that most of the girls were not Chinese. Even with heavy makeup, I could tell from their looks and from overhearing their conversations, most were either Malay, Indonesian, and even Thai. Since Singapore’s population is ~70% Han Chinese, this was rather strange.

Anyway, back to the narrative. After a beer (S$17 for a pint of Tiger) we left the club and walked down Orchard Road. Two of us walked around that area during the day on Tuesday but it was totally different at night. Not that many people were out at 11pm and a large percentage were prostitutes. We only walked down a couple of blocks but saw several packs of girls and a few hook-ups. These girls were definitely not as pretty as those in the club and were dressed even skankier. Even though it was night, it was still very hot and humid and I was sweating profusely by the time we returned to our hotel at midnight.

Many many questions. Is prostitution legal in Singapore? It was pretty evident what was going on and yet there were no law enforcement in sight. Are these girls Singapore PR? Other local co-workers said that there were very few illegal aliens since Singapore was an island (hard to get to) and getting PR status was pretty easy for skilled people. Why did they ignore us all night? Is it because we look like locals? Was the club downstairs owned/operated by Hyatt? There’s no possible way that the management not know what was going on. Finally, why is it so dang hot, even at midnight?!

It’s now 8:30pm and I have no idea how long until we land at Beijing. They served us dinner and it was not too good. Actually, business class food was only slightly better.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Singapore Trip, Day 4

Thursday was our last day of work in the Singapore office. I had woken up at midnight to attend a meeting so I was pretty tired when we arrived in the office at 8:00am. I did managed to stay awake during the long day of meetings though.

For dinner, we were invited out by our VP of Operations in Singapore. We went to a pretty nice (expensive) Indian restaurant called Vintage India on Dempsey Road, right next to The Prime Society. Once again, the food was good but really expensive. Since he was paying, we let our local VP order for us family style. I think it's the first time I've ate ~$100 for dinner on 4 consecutive nights. I used to be surprised by how much some people spend on meals during business trips but I can see how this happens.

Dinner started with a huge prawn and tandoori lobster

Since it was a late dinner, we didn't get back to our hotel until after 10:00pm.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Singapore Trip, Day 3

There was no pineapple at breakfast this morning but the buffet was still pretty good. I usually don't eat breakfast in the morning but now I look forward to it each morning, even though it costs S$35 + tax.

Fresh fruit and juice

Round 1

Round 2

Today was the second full work day and it was filled with meetings again. One thing I did notice was that the A/C is on full blast in each building. I know it's hot and humid but they probably can save some money on electricity by raising the temperature setting. Almost everyone in the meeting was wearing a jacket since it was so cold.

Our group took two taxis to work. Three of us took the first available taxi which was a Chrysler 300. It was nicer than the regular taxis but also ended up costing us about S$10 more. This is the road outside our work building; it's across the street from a junkyard.

For dinner, the partner from the consulting firm helping us invited our team to dinner along with his consultants. Since he wanted to try local Singapore fare, we went to a seafood restaurant that served chili crab and pepper crab.

There are lots of choices but local co-workers pointed us to Jumbo Seafood.

The restaurant is a chain with several locations. We went to the one in the East Coast Seafood Center, next to the ocean. I saw lots of ships in the water during our incoming flight and at dinner Monday night but here we saw them up close.

Deep fried mini squid

Drunken shrimp... the waiter was covering the bowl so the shrimp wouldn't jump out after he poured in the liquor.

Black pepper crab

Chili crab. I had a big piece of this crab and it was pretty spicy. They gave us fried bread/mantou to eat with the sauce.

As usual, I crashed as soon as I got back to the hotel after dinner. It's about 12:50am now Singapore time. I'm still tired but up because I have to call into a work meeting at 1:00am. :(

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Singapore Trip, Day 2

The breakfast buffet at the Grand Hyatt was really good, especially the fresh fruit/juice selection. It does cost S$35/person but I think it is included in our room charge (S$310) already.

Since there were five people in our group, we had to take two taxis to work. During my last trip, the company chartered a van to take us everywhere but we had about 8 people in the group. It took about 30 minutes to get to work from the hotel and there was not much traffic since we were heading away from downtown. The other side of the road was really crowded however.

Yesterday was the first work day of our trip and we had meetings scheduled for about six hours straight. The main person driving the meetings is back in Chicago so it was past midnight their time when we finished. We also got a quick "tour" of the office. In the six years since I visited last, we've outgrown the original office site and now occupy space across three sections of the Northtech building in Woodlands.

At ~5:30pm, 13 of us headed out to dinner at The Prime Society, a steakhouse in the Tanglin area of Singapore.

Several co-workers ordered a sampler appetizer plate

I ordered a sirloin steak and a side of onion rings. It was better than what I had the night before at Ku De Ta but still unimpressive when taking price (S$57) into consideration. The onion rings were an extra S$8.50 and I only got 5 rings. I could have bought many many bowls of laksa for that much money.

A co-worker from the local office drove us to dinner. On the way, we asked him about the cost of living in Singapore. He said costs for private housing (i.e., no public assistance) averages S$600/square feet! That's about 2x what I paid for my house in Orange and even much higher than nice areas of Irvine. If you want to own a car, you also had to purchase a certificate through an auction. He said his cost S$50,000 and is good for 10 years. Wow... that costs more than some of the cars on the road.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Singapore Trip, Day 1

After landing in Singapore, it took us about 45 minutes to clear immigration and get our luggage. We ended up going directly to our hotel instead of stopping in at work. 4 of us piled into one taxi (Mercedes Benz C200)... good thing the A/C was on full-blast since it was really hot and humid, the typical weather for Singapore.

Since dinner was at 6pm, a co-worker and I decided to check out the surrounding area. It was his first time in Singapore, and since we were near Orchard Road (shopping area), he wanted to find his wife a souvenir. We walked for about and hour and each ended up buying "I SG" t-shirts (mine was for Sindy).

We did see this shop but didn't go in

A Singapore co-worker told us about the new Marina Bay Sands Casino/Hotel on her trip to Irvine. We wanted to check it out and our hotel concierge made us dinner reservations at Ku De Ta restaurant on the 57th floor deck. The food was just ok (but totally not worth the price) but the view was awesome.

Singapore skyline from the 57th floor when we arrived at 6:30pm

Most of the tables were outdoor and it was pretty windy. Not sure what they do during the frequent rainstorms.

View towards the south. There were lots of cargo ships "parked" in the water.

The restaurant style was Asian fusion and the dishes were supposed to be shared. Judging from the prices, I thought they would be decent sized dishes but I was wrong. Dishes ranged from S$30-S$60 and were tiny... a bowl of rice was S$5. We ordered a bunch of stuff, some good and some not very good. I didn't see the total amount on the check but the receipt was pretty long.

We stayed away from this "special" section of the menu. That's right... S$138 for 100g of tenderloin. That comes out to ~US$500/lb!

As the sun went down, the temperature cooled a bit and you could see the night skyline.

Another shot of the Singapore skyline at night when we left the restaurant.

The hotel has three towers with interconnected lobbies. There was also an attached casino. Two co-workers wanted to go to the casino after dinner while the rest of us caught a taxi home. I think this is the first casino in Singapore. At the entrance, there were two lines: one for Singaporeans and the other for foreigners. If you show your passport, you can get in for free. Singaporeans need to pay S$100 for 24 hours or S$2000 for an annual pass.

It's now ~4am Singapore time. I crashed immediately when I came back from dinner but now I'm not tired. We do have about 6+ hours of non-stop meetings tomorrow (not stopping for lunch to accommodate US schedule) so I'll be struggling to stay up.

Singapore Trip, Inbound

Sigh... even though I was traveling in business class, I still only slept a few hours during the long LAX to HKG flight. I think the flight was longer than usual to avoid flying over Japan. I've been on this route many times and typically the flight path takes us across northern Japan, across the water near southern Korea (Busan), and over Taipei. However, this time, we flew across Siberia and down through central China.

The last time the Cathay Pacific LAX-HKG flight took this route, they were trying to avoid a Pacific typhoon.

The "northern" route

Of course, the business class seat was much more comfortable than the economy seats. The seats fold down flat and Cathay provides a decent blanket/duvet. Still, I only slept about 3 hours out of the 14+ hour flight. I ended up watching Space Battleship Yamato (this actress was pretty cute), If You Are The One (and the sequel), Part of Tangled (Disney), and a couple episodes of Top Gear. It was much more enjoyable watching on the larger LCD screen than the tiny headrest screen in the cheap seats. The food was a bit better, though the fruit they served with every meal was awesome, especially the pineapple.

Dinner. I got the beef instead of the fish. A couple of coworkers got the fish and they said it was terrible. After watching Airplane!, you learn never to order the fish dish on-board an airplane.

Since this was a business trip, I had to travel with several co-workers. During our conversation in the lounge at LAX, one of them said that our flight to HKG was on a Boeing 747, even specifying that it was a 747-400ER. Again, having flown this route many times in the past and spending too much time selecting seats on this trip, I knew we were on a Boeing 777-300ER. I argued a few times but decided to offer up the possibility that Cathay switched back to 747's. When we got to the gate, she dropped her bags, ran to the window to check, and admitted that it was not a 747 (no second floor). I should have bet her some money.


Not a 747

At Hong Kong, we had a three hour layover before our flight to Singapore. Since I wasn't sure if we were heading into the office on the first day, I brought some work clothes in a carry-on. I took a shower in the lounge but since it's so humid in Hong Kong, I ended up sweating right after the shower so not sure how much good it did. The flight from HKG to SIN was about 3 1/2 hours and we were in old school business class seats, similar to "first class" domestic flight seats on 737's.

The Long Bar in The Pier CX lounge

During taxiing to take-off at Hong Kong, we saw a FedEx plane. Surprisingly, it was an old DC-10, with it's distinctive third engine mounted on the tailfin.

Somewhere over southern Malaysia about 30 minutes before landing at Singapore

Singapore Changi Airport

Grand Hyatt Singapore

After over 24 hours of travel time, we finally arrived at our hotel in Singapore.

This time, most of us are staying at the Grand Hyatt near the corner of Orchard Road and Scott Road. The room is pretty good but not as nice as the room at the Shangri-La. Internet is not free (S$25) but I'm able to connect through some random wifi access point.

Friday, April 22, 2011


I'm moving offices at work so I spent this afternoon packing up all my junk into boxes (ended up with 7). Like my usual moves, I ended up tossing everything into the boxes thinking that I will organize/discard stuff when I unpack. Of course, that never happens and I just end up with more crap.

I'm also heading to Singapore for work tomorrow night so I have to pack my luggage. I need to remember to bring my work computer as well. I'm so used to taking my netbook on trips that I'm afraid I'll bring the wrong computer.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Banned KTV Songs

Recently netizens of Wenzhou noticed a yellow sign appeared in the local KTV (karaoke clubs). The sign listed 37 songs that are now banned from playing at these places by the provincial authority. The 37 prohibited songs included popular titles like Su Rui’s “qian shou” 牵手 (Hold hands), Richie Ren’s Xiaoxue (snow) and Bobby Chen’s One night in Beijing.

The sign says “Prohibited songs announcement, according to regulation of the Provincial Department of Culture, the following 37 songs are banned from playing, sorry for the inconvenience…” Reporter interviewed Wenzhou culture law enforcement unit, they admitted the news were true but refused to explain the reason of the ban.

The original Chinese article has a list of the songs. A lot of the 37 songs have 台湾 in the title or is about Taiwan. I don't know most of the songs so not sure if others have explicit lyrics. At all the KTV places I've been to, there are thousands of songs; banning them probably just draws more attention to the "objectionable" lyrics.

The first (and best so far) comment at ChinaHush:
This is news to me. People go to Ktvs to sing? I was under the impression that people went there to pick up hookers and beat up women. Chinese society is finally moving forward.


The first song on the list is 梅花 by 劉家昌. It's a really old and I actually know it.

梅花梅花滿天下 越冷它越開花
看啊 遍地開了梅花有土地就有它
冰雪風雨它都不怕 它是我的國花

I guess the trigger is the last line where it says "it (cherry blossom) is our national flower" combined with 中華 (Republic of China). To the CCP, this must be a Taiwanese Independence conspiracy song created by the West or something. Stupid.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Chinese leaders believe domestic foes, their foreign backers and Western governments are scheming to undermine and ultimately topple the Communist Party. Recent speeches and articles from security officials echo with warnings of subversive plots backed by Western "anti-China" forces.

Shortly before China's clampdown ramped up in February, a senior domestic security official, Chen Jiping, warned that "hostile Western forces" -- alarmed by the country's rise -- were marshalling human rights issues to attack Party control.


But what outsiders may see as a loose, disparate group of dissidents, bloggers, lawyers, and grassroots agitators, China's security police treat as a subversive, Western-backed coalition with the potential to erupt into outright opposition.

"(In China) there's a tendency to look for the 'black hand' and to look for an organization," said Joshua Rosenzweig, a Hong Kong-based researcher for the Dui Hua Foundation, a U.S. group that works for better treatment and the release of Chinese political prisoners.

"Their mentality is still based on the conspiracy of the revolutionary cell," Rosenzweig said in a telephone interview. "The idea of a counter-revolutionary clique has never really gone away in China."

Sigh... there's no conspiracy. Why can't the CCP understand that people just need to vent about how life sucks. Sure some will blame the government (I do it here all the time), but if you believe you are working for the good of the people, there's should be no fear in taking some criticism.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

CyberPower PC

I've been using the new computer for a few days and I'm in the process of copying over all my files from the Sony. I tried copying over the wireless network but it kept crapping out so I'm using my external HD. Evidently I have ~9000 photos...

When I first got the computer, there was thick blue wire coming out the back and into a USB port. I couldn't figure out what it was for so I cracked open the case.

The blue USB cable connects to a few USB ports in the front (2 regular USB and 1 USB 3.0). The computer has a total of 14 USB ports on the motherboard: 6 regular USB ports in the back, 2 USB 3.0, and 6 internal. I guess there are no internal USB 3.0 ports available so they had to go with the ghetto version. Evidently I have liquid cooling on the CPU but one of the tubes is blocking a memory card slot... lame.

Close up of the USB cable "fix". The "CYBERPOWER" label/sticker was originally on the front but it was bent and crooked so I moved it to the back. The case is made by In-Win.

By far the largest component in the computer is the graphics card. I didn't know which brand they were going to put it (probably doesn't matter) but it's powered by an AMD/ATI Radeon HD 6870. It's probably more powerful than all my other PCs... combined.

All wires connected.

I think I may be regretting the small 30GB SSD. Even though I'm not putting any programs/games/files on it, the empty space is slowly shrinking. I think it came with ~8GB free and I'm down to <6GB now. I guess Windows is not that great about cleaning up temp files. The system is only using a 4GB swap file and it's configured to use up to 6GB, which means I can "lose" 2GB more. I didn't know Windows was such a space hog.

Friday, April 8, 2011

New Computer Update

The new desktop is up and running and it's really fast. However, since it runs so hot (the Intel i5 CPU draws 95W), the fans are running constantly and creates a constant draft. My fingers are getting cold as I type.

One emerging problem is the size of the boot drive. To increase speed, I have a 30GB SSD as the C: drive and a 2TB drive for everything else (4 partitions currently). Right now I'm down to ~7GB free so hopefully that won't become an issue later on.


Sigh... new computer is so fast. I'm ripping a DVD-R/W for KBS shows I record and AOA DVD Ripper is running at >85fps. My Vaio would only rip at ~40fps so it's more than 2x the speed. Out of the huge list of CPUs on PassMark's benchmark page, the i5-2500K is ranked 27th overall.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Friday - Rebecca Black

Wow, 85,205,739 views on YouTube. The lyrics are terrible and is the entire song auto-tuned?! It must be an April Fool's joke gone viral.

Better Business Bureau

I just got a call from the BBB asking me if I want to join. Sensing my confusion, they asked if I owned a consulting business at my home address. I finally guessed that they must have seen my business license application that I had to file with the City of Orange for the stuff I do for Leon. I had to explain to the nice lady that it's not a real business, and I'm not looking for more clients like PMI.

Arg... now I'm expecting an avalanche of business related junk mail at my house. :(

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Computer (again)

OK, it hasn't arrived yet. Actually, I have to go an pick it up in Baldwin Hills (near City of Industry), hopefully next week. A co-worker convinced me to get a desktop so we can play online games. All of my current computers (all notebooks) are too slow, mainly due to the video card (or lack of one).

CPU - Intel i5-2500K 3.3GHz
Video - AMD/ATI Radeon HD 6870
HDD2 - 2TB
Optical - Samsung Blu-ray DVD player

That's about it. I'm going with the onboard sound chip and I haven't bought a new monitor yet. The price after tax and discounts was ~$1111. I'm thinking of buying the 27" ViewSonic monitor which will cost ~$320. All this just to play games... now I need to find somewhere to put my Sony Vaio, which is still pretty fast for a notebook.

Would You Buy This?

It's probably an April Fool's joke but there are people out there that would buy this. I was an early Apple fanboy (Apple II+, Mac Plus, Mac IIsi, Mac mini, 2 iPods) but I don't have an iPhone or an iPad... yet. Maybe I'd buy this for my 4 year old niece; she already has an iPhone 3G (no wireless plan obviously).

Xiaxue aka Wendy Cheng

Hmm... you find the weirdest stuff on the Internet. I just spent the last hour reading about some Singapore girl and her online run in with a psycho American and his fake (i.e., imaginary) girlfriend. It's pretty funny and I like her writing style. Her blog reminds me of Cheeserland but with more swearing. Are there a lot of girls in Asia who don't work and just talk about clothes, makeup, and travel all day?!

I guess she also hosted a TV show in Singapore...

As someone commented on the YouTube video, her voice is not what you imagined it would be after reading her blog. I will say that we have a lot of co-workers visiting from Singapore this week and they sound totally like her. Actually, some of my cousins are from Malaysia and they have that distinctive "Singlish" accent as well.