Thursday, July 28, 2011

Super Duper Secret Passwords

What's the deal with websites requiring super complex passwords? Whenever I update a password or sign up somewhere, they seem to require upper case, lower case, and numerals... some even require special symbols &^%$#@!

I can understand banks or the government but USC Marshall alumni directory?! Really? Everyone can see the data I put in anyway. It's as if these people don't realize that most users have lots of sites with userid/passwords... I can't come up with unique/complex passwords for all of them.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Finally Home

International travel is tough. I'm sure many others have more difficult trips but for me, it has been a long 24 hours.

MTA Green Line Station - Avation/I-105
The "G" stands for ghetto

Funny... I traveled ~15,000 miles over five short days and the scariest part of the trip is the last bit on the MTA Green Line, both the bus ride from LAX and the actual two stop trip through Hawthorne. I may just call a cab next time.

Sindy's apartment -> Beijing Airport: 45 minutes
Checking in -> 30 minutes
Sitting/waiting in departure area -> 45 minutes
Beijing immigration and security check -> 15 min
Waiting at gate: 30 min
Flight from Beijing -> Haneda: 3+ hours
Transit time at Haneda -> ~4 hours
Flight from Haneda -> LAC: 10+ hours
US immigrations and customs: 45 minutes
Green line bus and trip: 45 minutes
Drive home from work parking lot: 45 minutes

I only got ~an hour of sleep on the plane... did see a bunch of movies though.

Goodbye Broadcom (almost)

I was online with my netbook in Tokyo Airport at 6:30am (Pacific Time) to dump my Broadcom employee stock options. Today was the first day of open period; even though I quit, I was still on the blackout list. I managed to exercise/sell all but 5,000 options. The stock went up a lot yesterday and I didn't want to risk the government screwing up the debt ceiling thing and tanking every stock market on August 2nd. The remaining 5,000 options are only a few dollars in the money so I'll risk them in case the stock goes up. I also have a lot of underwater options at ~$41 in case the stock really takes off in the next 45 days.

Beijing Trip - Haneda Airport Again

Yay, back on the other side of the GFW with free and open Internet. Dang it I hate the Chinese Communist Party. I was checking my usual sources for China news/commentary in my hotel this morning and most of the sites are blocked: China Digital Times (CDT), Global Voices Online, ChinaGeeks, ChinaHush... this is in addition to the usual blocks on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, etc. Interestingly, ChinaSmack was not blocked nor are blogs on Wordpress.

Anyway, Haneda Airport is pretty deserted at this point. I have about three hours before my flight and there is no one waiting at the gate. I thought about going out to Tokyo again to check out the night lights but I wimped out... it's close to 30C outside and our plane was delayed a bit so I'm worried about making it back for my flight. While we were waiting on the runway at Beijing airport, the pilot said the delay was to to runway congestion. However, looking out the window I saw 3 Air China flights plus one Air Macau flight cut in front of us and took off on the same runway. WTF? It would be so lame if the tower made the "evil" Japanese airline wait after domestic airlines. Maybe there were VIPs aboard those flights. I can hear the fengqing yelling 加油!

Here are some posts made I made while in Chinese Internet hell...


One hour from Beijing

That was my third time in Tokyo but the first time that I stepped out of the airport. The trip feels long already but that’s probably because I took the side trip to Tokyo Tower. Usually I sit on my ass in the airport; still debating whether to venture out of the airport again on my way home.

Right now I’m about an hour east of Beijing. From the flight map, our flight didn’t take the most direct route, probably trying to avoid flying over North Korea. Don’t want to take any chances on being shot down. This flight is on a Boeing 767-300 and it’s about 75% full. The flight attendants keep trying to speak Japanese to me. When I give them a blank stare, they would try Mandarin (since we’re flying to Beijing). Finally they would speak English but it’s hard to understand with their accent. I just watched Monster House on the little TV screen in the airplane seat back. Sigh… the legroom is not sufficient; I’m jammed against the seat in front of me and he’s not even reclined. I didn’t know about the premier economy class on ANA; maybe I’ll try that next time I fly to Beijing.


Quick Beijing Trip, Day 1

Two things welcomed me to Beijing this time: the oppressive heat+humidity, and the China smell. I think the smell is air pollution from burning coal and it’s actually worse in Chengdu. Oh yeah, one more thing that greeted me was the wonderful Chinese customer service attitude. It was even more obvious after the treatment I got at Haneda. Leaving Beijing Terminal 3, there's one guy flagging people at random to put their bags through an x-ray scanner. I've never been picked before but I made eye contact and the guy (it's always a guy) yelled at me in Chinese to put my bag through. Look dumbass, Beijing gets a lot of foreign visitors and not everyone speaks Chinese. A bit of courtesy would be nice. As usual, Sindy was there to pick me up and I was sweating profusely just from the walk to the parking lot. It was the hottest and muggiest day so far this summer.

At the hotel, I had to pay to upgrade to the next room level to get something on the non-smoking floor. The said they could "freshen up" one of the rooms on a smoking floor but I wasn't falling for that trick (it doesn't work). After checking out the hotel floorplan, it was good I didn't go for the cheaper room... it's 1/2 the size of the room I got. The rest of the day was uneventful. We walked over to Sindy's parents' apartment, had dinner there, and walked back to the hotel in the rain. Usually I smell lots of good stuff while walking around her neighborhood... I hate to think what was in the puddles I had to step through. I also set up the Apple AirPort Express (old 11g version) I brought so Sindy can have wifi in her apartment, and be able to use the iPad 2 I got her for her b-day. FaceTime works really good.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Beijing Trip - Haneda Airport

It's about an hour before my flight to Beijing from Tokyo/Haneda. As I mentioned before, this trip was very last minute and I think I was lucky to find tickets for <$1500. ANA flight 1005 from LAX-HND was on an older Boeing 777-200ER. The seats in the back were pretty old school; I originally thought it that the entertainment system was not on-demand but I found a controller hidden under the armrest that allowed me to choose movies/TV shows/music. It wasn't as cool as Cathay's StudioCX but I did watch two movies on the 12 11 hour flight: The Adjustment Bureau and Red Riding Hood. FWIW, I thought it was the grandma until the very end.

Some kind of ANA flight attendant pow-wow at gate 104 at LAX. When I got here, they were still boarding the previous China Southern flight to Guangzhou.

After arriving early at ~4:30am, I cleared Japanese immigration/customs and took the monorail to Hamamatsucho station. All the workers in the airport were very polite, especially the customs guy. He asked me about the "none" listed for Japan address and I told him I had a layover and want to go out to take pictures. He laughed at my "joke" and bowed as he waved me out into the terminal. Not like China at all.

Good thing most of the signs have English (plus Chinese and Korean)

Tokyo Monorail

View from Hamamatsucho station

Since it was ~5am, I caught the first monorail from Haneda into town. It was an express train so it did not stop at every station. The walk to Tokyo Tower was ~15 minutes and I took a few pictures. Even though it was early Sunday morning, there were lots of older people out walking around. On the way, there was a large shrine and there was some event going on but I couldn't understand any of the signs. On the way back to Haneda, the monorail was super crowded. Luckily, I got on to another express train and the first stop back was the International terminal at Haneda.

New vs. Old

Tokyo Tower viewed from its base

Drink Corner at the base of the Tower...

... where I got this $2 can of Fanta grape soda. We need more grape soda in the US.

Chinese restaurant on the way to Tokyo Tower from the train station

This was the last thing I expected to see in Tokyo. I guess it is a real chain from Japan. They just don't call it "beef bowl" as well...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Check-in Times

ANA has sent me three emails about my check in time later tonight. Some people are confused about an early morning flight and end up arriving at the airport that evening, after the flight has departed. For my return flight, I guess it's even more confusing since you have to check in Wednesday night, the flight departs Thursday morning, but due to the Date Line, you arrive on Wednesday at your destination.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vacation Accrual

Since I've only been at the new job for ~4 weeks, I had to "borrow" vacation days to go to Beijing next week. We get 10 days (I thought) of regular vacation that accrue with no cap plus 5 PTO days that caps at 5 days for a total of 15 days per year... not bad. After talking to the payroll person today, I found out that since I have a director title, I get 15 days of vacation plus the 5 PTO days... woohoo! That puts me back at around the same level as my previous job (20 days) before they cancelled all vacation accrual.

ANA 777-200 Seats

Arg, I'm starting to dread my flight tomorrow already. Each Transpacific flight seems to scare me more and more. I just read about ANA's cheap seats and they seem to be even smaller than the small Cathay Pacific economy seats.

Cathay Pacific 777-300ER
Seat pitch (legroom): 32"
Seat width: 17.5"

ANA 777-200ER
Seat pitch (legroom): 31"
Seat width: 16.5"

Dang it... the seats are an inch smaller in each dimension. I thought the 777 planes were about the same size; where did the extra width go? Both airlines run 3x3x3... wider aisles? I also didn't check SeatGuru close enough for the flight back and got a seat in row D which has the entertainment box under the seat for even less legroom. Well, it was that or pay a lot more for a different airline. Sindy better appreciate the effort. :(

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Haneda Again

Hmm, I think I've been to Haneda Airport before. My mom said when we left Taiwan in 1977, we took China Airlines to Tokyo, then Japan Airlines to Vancouver, and finally Canadian Pacific Airways (no more) to Toronto. I read that Narita did not handle international flights until 1978, and China AIrlines continued to use Haneda until 2002. The only other time I transited through Tokyo was in 1998 when I went to Beijing (for the first time) with PESI but that was through Narita (United Airlines).

I remember the layover in 1977 was ~7 hours and I was fascinated with the moving walkways.

Anyway, now that I've been checking out Tokyo on Google Street View, looking at the route from the train station to Tokyo Tower (and any visible soaplands), I feel like I've been there already and don't need to physically go. :)


百度百科 or Baidu Baike is a Chinese copy of Wikipedia. Well, not quite... it's not blocked in China like Wikipedia. Like everything else on the Chinese Internet, Baidu Baike is heavily censored. The English version of Wikipedia is pretty much useless on controversial issues due to endless edit wars but Baidu Baike is even worse than useless. Check out the intro to the entry on Taiwan (translated into English by Google):
Taiwan is China's sacred territory an integral part. Historically, Taiwan has been Spain, the Netherlands, Japan has occupied. After the victory of Taiwan's return to Chinese territory. After 1949, due to reasons known to all, Taiwan and the mainland in a separate state. 50 years, Taiwan's political, economic, cultural, social undergone tremendous changes. The island of Taiwan is China's largest island, located in the southeast coast of the motherland and the continental shelf on. Taiwan, the center channel briefly the Western Pacific, China and the Pacific countries linked to important maritime hub.

The translation is not perfect but the propaganda is unmistakable. Sheesh, are the articles written by CCP members? The best line is "due to reasons known to all"... they can't even mention the 4 year Chinese Civil War?

Further down, there is a section call "A brief history" and it ends suddenly after the Ching/Qing Dynasty. The "full" history section goes a bit further and mentions the Japanese occupation and WWII but stops there as well... No mention of the KMT, no mention of elections, no mention of the DPP. The first part of the history section also states that "Taiwan's early inhabitants, the majority are from mainland China directly or indirectly, from the settlers." What utter BS... then where did A-mei and the rest of the aboriginal Taiwanese come from?

I wonder how the local Chinese view Baidu Baike? The lies and omissions are so transparent, I don't know why people bother. How do you "trust" any of the articles if crap like this is allowed to stay? Or do the Chinese people developed a blind spot to all the censorship? I think I would go crazy if I had to live there long-term.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Hmm, what do you do when someone unfriends you in Facebook? Do you go and ask them why? I don't know about other people but I have lots of "friends" that I never contact, like old high school friends or NewSong people. This is actually someone that I texted and emailed not too long ago about hotels in HKG. Maybe I typed something offensive by accident...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tokyo (Haneda) Layover

Now that Leon let me borrow some Japanese Yen, I'm thinking I may take a short trip to Tokyo during my layover to Beijing. I have ~4.5 hours total... since Haneda Airport is in Tokyo Bay, there's a monorail which can get me to Hamamatsucho Station at ~6am. From there, it's a 15 minute walk to Tokyo Tower. However, the observatory doesn't open until 9am so I won't be able to go up.

The exchange rate is only ¥79 for $1 so the ¥470 train ticket is ~$6 each way. Let's hope the rain from typhoon Ma-On is gone as well. I actually want to visit areas near Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Akihabara stations... oh well, maybe I'll fly through Tokyo again on my future China trips.

Typhoon Ma-On

Since I don't travel to Asia that often in the summer (too hot/humid), I usually don't check up news about typhoons/hurricanes. I was clicking on random tweets and saw that typhoon Ma-On is approaching Japan.

From the forecast map, the storm should have weakened significantly by the time I'm supposed to transit in Tokyo (24+ hours after the last map data point).

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Much like Y2K, I think Carmageddon (the closing of 405 freeway) this weekend was overhyped. Here is the latest traffic map from Google:

Yawn... not much slow traffic on any of the freeways near the closure.

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Religion is the opium of the people"

So says Karl Marx. Well, that would make the CCP a drug dealer, no?

The Telegraph
China has ordained another bishop without the Pope's approval and allegedly kidnapped four bishops to witness the ceremony, in its fiercest act of defiance against the Vatican yet.

In a three hour-long morning ceremony, China's government-run Catholic church ordained the Reverend Joseph Huang Bingzhang as the new bishop of the southern city of Shantou.

It is the third time in eight months that the Communist party - which insists that it, rather than the Pope, controls China's church - has appointed a bishop without a Papal mandate.

Thursday's ceremony was particularly controversial after four bishops loyal to the Vatican were taken away by Chinese police and allegedly forced to participate.

Hmm, it appears that the Chinese Constitution is not worth the paper it's printed on.
Article 36. Religious freedom

Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.

No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.

The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state.

Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday Traffic

It's 6pm and I'm thinking of going home early... I normally leave after 7pm. However, looking at Google Maps with traffic, there's no good way home. I guess the best option is 105-E to 605-S to 91-E to 5-S to 22-E to 57-N. Sigh... six freeways.

I miss the days of living in Costa Mesa and being only 5 minutes from work.

Another iPad2

Wow, Apple is fast with their shipping. I ordered an iPad2 on Saturday, it shipped Monday from China, and it was delivered this morning.

I went to UPS to see the shipment trace:

I'm not sure where "EPZ" (Export Processing Zone) is located but it's probably on the east coast (Shenzhen?). It's interesting that Apple ships the iPad2 to Chengdu, where there was an explosion at the Foxconn polishing plant, then back to Hong Kong. From there, it goes to Anchorage, Louisville, Los Angeles, Anaheim, then to my doorstep. Since I'm bringing this to China next week, it's going back to LAX, Tokyo, then Beijing. Dang, it probably has more "miles" then I'll get all year:

EPZ (Shenzhen) to Chengdu: 830 miles
Chengdu to Hong Kong: 833 miles
Hong Kong to Anchorage: 5,092 miles
Anchorage to Louisville: 3,120 miles
Louisville to Los Angeles: 1,827 miles
Los Angeles to Tokyo: 5,507 miles
Tokyo to Beijing: 1,310 miles
Total: ~18,500 miles

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Metro Green Line

Since there is a Green Line station within walking distance from work, I looked into taking the Green Line for part of my trip to work. However, that means I still have to drive to Norwalk Station (27 miles) and park. The trip from Norwalk to Crenshaw (track runs in the middle of 105 freeway) is 13 miles one way, costs $1.50, and takes 20 minutes.

I guess it's not really worth it. Without traffic, the drive takes ~12 minutes. You do save some money on gas: at $4/gallon and 26 mpg, it costs about $2.00 to drive each way. However, unlike hanging out at Crenshaw Station waiting for the train, there's not much risk of getting mugged in my car while driving on the 105 freeway.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Surprise Beijing Trip... not!

Even though I b*tch about the CCP a lot, I decided that I would try to surprise Sindy on her birthday by showing up unannounced in Beijing. I asked to take three days off work, which means going negative on vacation accrual, and found semi-cheap tickets on ANA, transiting in Tokyo (Haneda). I even made a reservation at my usual Beijing hotel.

However, Sindy called me a few hours ago and asked me if I was going to Beijing on July 24th. How did she know?! Then I remembered that I left her cell phone number on the hotel reservation and they had texted her the confirmation. Dang it. Now we'll see if the gift I ordered will arrive before my flight leaves. At least I'll be able to sneak in another China trip before my tourist visa expires on Aug 10th.

So anyway, I'm take a very short trip to Beijing, leaving on July 23rd and returning on July 27th. I figure I could only take three days off and really that's all the time I want to spend in Beijing anyway. It's going to be hot and humid and the air quality will be terrible.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Watch This Movie... or else!

Ministry of Tofu
It is an open secret that massive public funds and state-owned companies’ public money have been expended to organize cohorts of party members to watch the film. Key in the Chinese words for ‘Revival’ and ‘Party members’ in the search engine, and you will get thousands of links to local “news stories” gushing about how party members were moved and edified by the film after mass viewings were called. The city of Changchun in northeastern Jilin province has, for example, generously footed the bill for 100,000 party members. Nevertheless, the film did not fare as well as previously thought. Experts say grossing 800 million yuan is very unlikely, as now its ticket sale has been overtaken by other domestic films.

Is there anything that is not politicized in China?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hello... 911?

Something happened to AT&T's system hardware close to work and our phone lines, in addition to everyone within a few blocks, was out of commission. Since we have an IP-based Cisco phone system, we were able to route outgoing calls to our Texas office. However, any 911 emergency calls are also routed. This was the email from our Director of Security:
Due to routing our external calling through our Texas site, 911 calls from desk phones are connecting to McGregor Police. This can cause a delay in emergency response.

Jiang Zemin... dead?

I saw a news article that said Jiang Zemin (former Chinese president) did not attend the 90th anniversary celebration on July 1st, which coincidentally is also Canada day. Sindy later told me that there was a stent surgery scheduled at PLA 301 hospital for a VVIP on July 4th, and security was super tight. She delivered the required stents to the hospital a few days earlier but was not allowed anywhere near the OR. I joked that it was probably Jiang Zemin.

Now rumors are flying like crazy that he is either dead or really sick. As usual, the CCP made no comment and censored the Internet for a few days and now appears to deny the rumors.

Chinese authorities are officially denying that Jiang Zemin is dead after days of speculation about the health of the former president.

Reports that Jiang,84, had died began spreading across the Internet following his failure to appear at ceremonies Friday marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

After a day of trying to censor the story on the Internet, officials formally denied the reports Thursday. Citing "authoritative sources," the official Xinhua news agency said reports of Jiang's death "are pure rumor."


China's foreign ministry refused to comment on the rumors Wednesday. However, Reuters news agency on Thursday quoted three sources with ties to China's leadership saying that Jiang suffered a heart attack and is in intensive care at a military hospital in Beijing.

China has long guarded information on the health of the nation's top leaders as a state secret.

Why does it even matter if he's dead or not? I guess it's a kneejerk reaction to block and censor anytime something different happens in China.

BTW, Sindy said she had to deliver the stent a few days early because the hospital/doctor wanted to re-sterilize the stent. WTF?

My Tracks 2011-07-07

Total Distance 40.40 miles
Total Time 53:13
Max Speed 89.48 mph
Average Speed 45.54 mph

I started tracking about a mile after leaving the house so it took ~55 minutes total.


Total Distance: 41.34 miles
Total Time: 49:00
Max Speed: 87.24 mph
Average Speed: 50.61 mph