Moved to new blog address!

As some of you know wordpress is officially blocked in China…thus I’ve been using a proxy to get to it. Alas, as I have been building up more and more Chinese readers, I thought it was best that I just get my own domain, thus avoiding this problem altogether. If you read this blog via feeds, it should automatically redirect…otherwise the new address is http://meiguanxiblog.com

Smart is the new ‘cool’?

raise your hand if you’ve laid claim to anything similar to the following:

“All the girls in our class had the biggest crush on boy xyz because he always got the best grades”

or equally classic

“I duped my wife to go out with me because I told her that I was in this prestigious physics competition. Actually, it was my little brother that was in the competition, not me.”

Hey…I don’t see any hands?!? But yes, true accounts told to me by some of my friends here!

It got me thinking, what if overnight, smarts really became the new cool? And the ‘popular’ kids in school were the smartest ones in school? Far-fetched I know, but it makes me wonder what kind of people we’d be churning out instead.

———————————————-
说实话,来了中国之后我听到几句话让我大吃一惊。。。

“在我们班里,很多女孩都喜欢上莫莫男孩因为他读书都很棒!” 或者
“当时我老婆愿意跟我交往是因为我跟她说我参加了莫莫全国物理大赛,其实不是我,而是我弟弟! ”

第二句可能有一点夸张不过我的意思是在美国少数人会这样说(至少如果他这样说人家都会取笑他)。 小时候,受不受别人关注(无论同学或家长),运动好远远超过成绩好。 反而,有时候成绩好的学生会被别的学生排斥。哇,观点确实不一样。。。

我们的网站上线了!过来看看!

过去半年的努力终于有一点成果了! 今天网站正式上线了 http://www.ken1ken.com

简单的介绍一下:
垦一垦是一个个人化的网页分享站点,它可以然你:
-发现有趣味的网页,视频,音乐,等等。
-看跟你爱好一样的人都在看什么内容。
-消磨时间。
-分享你喜欢的网页。
-收藏你喜欢的网页。

我的主页 http://www.ken1ken.com/user/neb72/

Chinese New Year in Beijing – highlights and impressions versus Shanghai (lots of pictures)

Happy Chinese New Year from Beijing!

It’s amazing to think that it’s already my second Chinese New Year in China, though instead of spending it in Shanghai, this year I spent it in Beijing.

The last (and only) time I was in Beijing, I didn’t have much of a chance to get my bearings since it was such a whirlwind tour with business school shuttling around between company visits and major tourist spots. This time, I had the chance to navigate the city on my own and I must say that I came away liking Beijing a lot more than going in.

First of all, the tourist stuff, here are a few recommendations if you plan to be in Beijing for a few days:

Sights:

  • Great Wall – there are a few major places to see the Great Wall like ba-da-ling八达岭 but I’ve heard that if you want to avoid the crowds you can go to the ‘wild’ spots which just means that it’s unkept (read: free) but more ‘dangerous’ since it literally isn’t maintained
  • Forbidden City – the emperor’s palace
  • Summer Palace – where the emperor would hang out
  • Lama Temple – used to be where once of the emperors lived but is now converted into a temple
  • Tiananmen Square / Front Gate
  • Temple of Heaven – I’d say the temple is just ok, but the more interesting part is the park because you get to see people dancing, playing chinese chess, writing calligraphy, etc.

There are others that I’ve been to, but I’d say these are the ones I’d recommend if you were to spend 3 days in Beijing.

Beijing delicacies

  • Peking Duck
  • Hotpot
  • Egg pancakes

There are more traditional Beijing foods like fermented tofu soup, fermented green bean paste, and assorted internal organs soup, but there is a very high probability that you won’t like it. I tried them all and can’t say I was a fan of any of it. Even most Beijing people don’t eat that stuff anymore (unless they grew up eating it). But if you’re feeling adventurous or just want to say you’ve tried it, go for it.

Impressions:
I think the best way to sum it up is that Beijing is very much like Washington DC while Shanghai is more like New York. Here is why I say that:

Geographically more spread out – even though cab rates are cheaper in Beijing (10 rmb for 3 km and 2 rmb/additional 1 km) vs Shanghai (11 rmb for 3 km and 1 rmb/additional 0.3 km), people end up paying more in Beijing because places are much more spread out. In Shanghai it’s rare that I pay anything over 30 rmb but I would say that 30-40 is more of a norm in Beijing.

Government vs Commercial – there is a pretty stark contrast in that Beijing has much more of a government feel to it, whether in the sense of buildings (I passed by the mint, epa, etc) or the denizens’ mindsets

Suburban vs Urban – like DC, there are many regulations against high rises in certain places in Beijing so it ‘feels’ much more open than Shanghai. And like DC, you can forget about trying to navigate the city by foot. Even though 2 places may only be separated by a few blocks, it may take 5-10 minutes to walk an entire block.

Culture – On average, I’d say that Beijing’ers are much more politically and culturally aware. I’d guess it’s a function of the environment, but probably has something to do with self-selection. Most people who like Beijing tend to not like Shanghai and vice versa.

Weather – It can get really cold in Beijing. Lows were in the single digits while I was there, plus it’s windy! But it’s a dry kind of cold. I know, I know, single digits is cold no matter how you slice it, but in Shanghai even though it’s 40 degrees, it can feel super cold because of the humidity. Though people say weather sucks in the spring in Beijing because of the dust storms – which come from the desert up north. Luckily for me, it was really sunny the whole time I was there and I didn’t feel like pollution was much of an issue. My Beijing friends told me it’s only because it’s windy. Otherwise, it can get pretty bad.

Traffic – Since I was there for Chinese New Year there wasn’t much traffic to speak of, but I hear typically it’s horrendous. I think it has to do with the fact that you really do need a car to get to a lot of places. Luckily, I didn’t have to suffer through any of that gridlock. Oh, and there are a LOT less motorcycles – like almost none.

Misc
I hate getting 1 rmb bills because I feel like the denomination is just too small to be dispensed as a bill, but for some reason in Beijing everyone uses the 1 rmb bill whereas in Shanghai people predominately use the 1 rmb coin. It didn’t really occur to me until I realized that in the ENTIRE time I was in Beijing I didn’t get a single 1 rmb coin whereas I’d say in shanghai I’d get a 1 rmb bill once every couple weeks, tops. I wonder how these things happen?

There are lots of changes going on in Bejing due to the Olympics – most of them I find interesting because they are public announcements about how to be more ‘civilized’ and ‘refined.’ These things range from ‘don’t litter’ to ‘keep to the right on the escalator’ to ‘don’t buy pirated stuff.’ Overall, I must say I commend them for it, I just hope that people keep it up after the Olympics!

Receipts – as opposed to the standardized receipts that you get in Shanghai that just say you spent x rmb’s, beijing’s receipts are now all electronic and like the ones we get in the US. I find the system in Beijing better because it’s probably less prone to tax evasion for both the consumer and the business.

Temples auction the right to be the first one to light incense in the new year – I heard from the cab driver that a certain temple auctioned off the 1st spot for 170k rmb (~$24k USD!).

Here are some highlights from my trip!

Check out all the people at the temple on the 1st day of the new year waiting to light incense!

Lots of old style buildings getting torn down…which I think is unfortunate

A Chinese New Year fair… saying that there are a lot of people here would be an understatement

Crickets in a gourd – I am not really sure how they get them in there

Paper art – these are all paper cutouts!

You’re supposed to eat dumplings for the new year – so here is one filled with sesame seeds.

Seated ice-skating for lazy people

More incense burning

The local polar bear club

A local Beijing eatery – Mmmm….internal organs

Chairman Mao looking as fine as ever at Tiananmen Square

The front gate to the city

Beijing map – the city is basically square with the forbidden city in the center. It’s a pretty logical setup with higher numbered ‘ring’ roads as you move out from the center. Ie. the 3rd ring road is farther away from the city center than the 2nd ring road

A restaurant offering 爆肚 (bao-du) which means exploding stomach. Yet another Beijing delicacy…but I didn’t eat it

Another restaurant offering donkey meat

For 10 rmb, you too can ring this bell 3 times. Supposedly if you ring it 108 times your worries go away.

Cool looking lion

I am not sure why people were tossing coins at this thing

…I guess this sign wasn’t very clear, it says “please do not toss incense or coins”

Grass that look like worms

Expensive ginseng

Bird’s nest – for eating of course

Egg pancakes

Clockwise starting from the left – cold tofu in sesame oil, fermented green bean paste, fried dough, fermented tofu soup

My buddy giddy in anticipation of eating the duck’s blood (currently in a jello-like state)

Noodle twirling – who needs a noodle making machine when you have this guy

I’ll cheat a little and include pictures from my last trip (which was from a few years ago)
Forbidden City

Great Wall

Tell me if you’ve already heard this…”Don’t be afraid of failing”

Yeah, easy for you to say.

Today, I opened up our application to my friends and started soliciting their feedback. A part of me is relieved that we made it this to milestone, but to be honest, my mind is much more preoccupied with “what if this app sucks and no one likes it?”

Of course, this is the prefect time to heed the advice of “don’t be afraid of failing,” but put it this way. After spending months of time, money, and effort and telling all your friends about it, failure seems that much more devastating. Though, the irony is that the risks are actually lower now than they were when I first started, because at least now I have the beta version out. But the truth is that once you put yourself and your product out there for all to judge, the stakes feel much higher.

Anyway, this got me thinking, are some people better at it coping with this fear than others? What about people who’s taken the big risks in life and failed? Are they more risk averse because they know how crappy it can be to fail? Or are they more immune to it because they’ve already experienced it. What about the reverse – people who’ve never taken big risks? Are they better at coping because they are ignorant of the consequences of failure? Or do they make the failure out to be worse than it really is?

想创业之前我听过好多次,“不要怕失败。”

当然这个理论我很清楚,不过现在已经投入了那么多心血,时间,金钱,加上到处跟朋友宣布了我要创业,失败的后果就不像那么一点小事了。

我正在深思熟虑这个问题因为今天我们的网站推出了测试版。 虽然我比较安心终于有一点成果出来了,但绝大部分还是担心如果没人喜欢我们的产品怎么办?

因为这个问题,引起另外个问题。 哪种人才能够克服这个担忧?失败者或未失败者?不是“一朝被蛇咬十年怕井绳”吗?还是有了失败的经历就会更坚强?

Pedicab ride does wonders

The topic of “do you like living in Shanghai?” inevitably surfaces in conversations with expat visitors and friends alike. I tell everyone I really like it here. It’s true. I wouldn’t rather be in any other city. Those who know me know I have a perpetual grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side syndrome, so this is no small feat for me. But to be honest, even I have bad days where I wish it was a little more ‘refined’ or ‘developed’ for a lack of better words.

The day I put my servers in the data center was one of those days. I’ll spare you the details , but basically it was a string of unpleasant events after another, all of which I think wouldn’t have occurred if people were a little more mindful of their attitudes and more professional overall.

Anyway, despite being super pissed off the whole entire day and having to walk our way back to ‘civilization’ (the data center is a bit out of the way) we stumbled upon a pedicab.

Check it out:

For some reason, riding the pedicab with my co-worker back to civilization (or at least some place where we can actually get a cab) was a blast. Plus, this lady seems really happy in this picture…so that’s all it took to cheer me up. It got me thinking – it’s moments like this that make my life fun and interesting here.

Les I give you the impression that everything is ‘ghetto’ here – here is a good counter-example. What’s the most popular phys-ed class in the top Chinese universities? Golf. (it’s in Chinese – sorry)

Laziness actually pays – $1.38 to be exact

Since getting an ayi (maid) I’ve been getting lazier and lazier with chores around the house. It’s gotten to the point where I am even too lazy to put my plastic bottles in the recycling bin in my building.

Then I found out from my ayi that there are people willing to come to you and pick it up. Moreover, the guy not only picks it up, but also gives you a cut of the money he makes from selling the bottles back to the recyclers.

After 3-4 months, I amassed this many crushed bottles. Kinda makes me feel bad about buying plastic bottles. But at least I am recycling…

So for the fruits of my labor…er…laziness, I got this. Who says laziness doesn’t pay