September 14, 2008
I'm in the Northwest Airlines lounge in the Tokyo airport (Narita) right now on one the Macs they have arrayed around the room for travellers to use, waiting for my flight to Beijing. (I'm going for meetings with my new team). I just spent the last few hours exploring the airport. For as many times as I've been here, I really haven't walked around much. Since I was just on my butt for the past nine or so hours, I figured a walk would be good.
I turned out to be a productive walk. I found a neat origami museum and, more important, a duty free shop with a tasting bar! (The Fa So La Liquor and Tobacco shop in the south wing.) I tried a few nice Japanese whiskies (the Suntory Hibiki 21 year was especially good) poured by a Chinese lady who was happy to find a Chinese person who knew anything about whisky. It seems there are a lot of Chinese passengers transiting through here and tons of Chinese-speaking store attendants -- definitely a change from a few years ago.
I also had a good katsu curry (fried pork chops in this sort of sweet, gloppy Japanese curry with rice -- yum!) in a food court. I've been dreaming about katsu curry for sometime and was a little upset that I didn't get any this summer when we were on vacation here, so it was a nice find.
I had forgotten, however, that the Japanese like the room temperature about 3 degrees warmer and 50% more humid. I'm steaming to death. The cold Asahi Dry beer from my favorite beer pouring machine (it pours a beer with a perfect head) is not keeping back the heat, but I'll keep trying.
Anyway, two more hours until my flight...
September 13, 2008
We wrapped up our sail racing season this week with a perfect evening: sunny, warm, and breezy. To top it off, we sailed really well, taking a 5th and a 7th out of 28 or so boats (and beating some of the top boats in the fleet).
Not sure what I'm going to do to scratch my sailing itch now that we're moving to Beijing. Hopefully, I'll be able to squeeze some in somehow.
The fleet on a downwind leg
Rico, the skipper/owner, smiling since most of the fleet is behind us.
Warren taking it easy after a race.
September 9, 2008
Dear readers, I wanted to let everyone know I've accepted a new position as the Group Program Manager for Live Search in Beijing, China.
There are a lot of reasons for this change. Since we were first married, Michelle and I have wanted to live overseas. We both enjoy the broader perspective that working and traveling internationally brings and wanted to really experience that more fully. (Frankly, I think all Americans could benefit from a more worldly view.) I've also been eager to explore my heritage and speak/read Chinese more fluently, as I resolved in my new year's post. I'm also excited to have Andrew (11) and Michael (8) learn more about the world, their heritage, and another language well. I think it will be extra valuable for all of us to have more insight and skills with respect to China for the future.
Professionally, I think Search is a fascinating and important product to unlock the Internet. As good as Live and even Google are today, it's still too hard for most users to get what they're looking for in many cases. It's a critical business for Microsoft to get right; we're obviously way behind here.
I also think that Microsoft needs to master distributed development; there are simply not enough smart engineers who want to live near Redmond to do all of the cool things we want to do. I also think we'd benefit from more local development and more geographic diversity. In particular, I think Microsoft needs to really do a good job in China as that country now has the highest number of internet users and is set to surpass the US in PC users next year.
The combination of our desire, the kids' age, and the great opportunity with Search lead us to consider the move seriously. After our Japan trip this summer, we tacked on a few days to visit China to see houses and schools. I had been to Beijing many times before but had never seen how expats live; Michelle and the boys had never been to Beijing at all. What we saw was acceptable, so we decided to proceed. (In case you're wondering, I couldn't really talk about this stuff earlier and didn't have enough touristy photos of China since we were house hunting, so I didn't post about what we did in China.)
All that said, it's difficult to leave IE. I love the product and the team. I'm incredibly proud of how far we've come since restarting the team five years ago -- from a security nightmare to XPSP2 to IE7 and now the great reviews of IE8 beta 2. The team is more capable and more fun than ever. I definitely feel I'm leaving on a high note and am confident the team will do great things without me.
So, I'll be transitioning to the Live Search team in a few weeks. Then, once our paperwork and visas clear, we'll move to Beijing -- probably around November. This is a three year assignment -- longer if we like it and shorter if we don't, but we do plan to move back. We'll be keeping our house since Michelle and the boys will likely spend summers here, and I'll be back frequently. The kids aren't crazy about the idea yet (what kid wants to move?) but I'm sure they'll have a great time.
I'll blog more about what we're learning about China and how things proceed as we go along. It should be an exciting new experience!
September 1, 2008
I'm illiterate. In Chinese, that is. I can speak well enough, but I read like a five year old (at best). Here in Bellevue, Washington, this limitation is not super debilitating except at Chinese restaurants. As many of you have probably surmised, you get better service at most Chinese restaurants if you're Chinese. Deal with it. So, whenever we're at a Chinese restaurant, I try to order in Chinese, but since I can't really read too much, I'm limited in what I can order to the few things I know or can read. (As Michelle discovered when we were on our honeymoon, the "something something" in "beef something something noodles" can be a lot of different parts of a cow, not all of them things most Westerners would be comfortable eating.)
So, you can imagine my delight (and her relief) when Michelle pointed me to How to Order Chinese Food Dot Com. This gem a site has photos, English names, and Chinese names for popular dishes, broken out by region and type. The author even has PDF versions you can print and carry with you.
I'm looking forward to expanding my repertoire and maybe even advancing to second grade food Chinese.
I can't believe I missed it. Saturday was International Bacon Day. This important holiday is the Saturday before Labor Day (August 30 this year). I'll have to make up for my omission with a double-serving of bacon. (Which of course, is impossible since the serving size of bacon is whatever is in front of you.)
(Flag courtesy of YesButNoButYes.)
During my research for my Szechuan Noodle Bowl post, I ran across MSG150 -a site describing a year long quest by my new heroes to eat at every restaurant in Seattle's International District. After a brief glance, I find that I agree with most of their findings, so they must be smart. :)
Anyway, if you're looking for a great restaurant in the ID (or trying to avoid a bad one) check them out!
Michelle, the boys, and I were in downtown Seattle Friday evening for some reason or another and started getting peckish (it being dinner time and all). We hadn't been to the International District for a while, so we thought we'd cruise some of our old haunts looking for a nosh.
We settled on the Szechuan Noodle Bowl, an ID classic. Michelle and I used to go there a lot when we were dating and first married, but for some reason or another, we hadn't been back for years. Big mistake.
The place certainly hasn't been updated since we were there last; it's a small place with fluorescent lighting, laminated tables, and a mishmash of photos and posters on the walls. But, like many great Chinese restaurants, you don't go to Szechuan Noodle Bowl for the decor.
You go for the crispy green onion pancakes. OMG, I had forgotten how good these are. These are easily the best green onion pancakes (cong you bing) I've ever had. The secret to their flaky, crispy deliciousness is lard. Everyone else seems to use the (presumably) healthier but way less yummy veggie oil between the layers of onion and dough. Not SNB. Nothing but the best here. Wow. It took all my restraint to not push my family out of the way getting to the crumbs.
Fortunately, just as Michael (8) elbowed me out of the way for the last wedge of pancake, the waitress arrived with plates of jiaozi (steamed dumplings - gyoza in Japanese). Unlike most Chinese restaurants, SNB makes these fresh every day with (most importantly) handmade wrappers. The result is a delicious, toothsome wrapper around great fillings. (In Chinese we say that wrappers like this have jiar or energy.) As regular readers know, I love meat, but surprisingly, my favorites were the veggie jiaozi -- spinach and tofu filled dumplings of love.
The beef noodle soup was almost as good as the first dishes. They actually have several different kinds of beef noodle soup; I chose the hong shao niu rou mein since it wasn't spicy so the kids would eat some. (This literally means "red cooked beef noodles" where "red cooked" means cooked in soy sauce. I forget now what they called it in English on the menu -- sorry). Anyway, the bowl was filled with thick noodles with good jiar, lots of falling apart tender beef (that Michael loved) and a tasty broth. Yum.
It was so damn good; I'm already dreaming of my next trip.
Szechuan Noodle Bowl
420 8th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98104