October 27, 2008
Last week, we went back to Beijing to finalize stuff for our move there. We also spent two days at the very lovely Commune by the Great Wall resort (more on that later). This resort is just downhill from an unrestored section of the Great Wall (the section is called Shuiguan). Andrew (10) and I made the quarter mile hike up to the wall and then walked along the quarter mile section that was open (a fence at the end prevented hikers from getting to the really dangerous collapsed sections.
The unrestored sections of the Wall are very different from the restored parts. These "wild" parts have trees and grass growing on top, the walls and towers are partially crumbled, and the walking surface is broken up. There are only a few places where they've installed safety measures like a hand rail on very steep sections. I actually quite like these parts of the Wall better.
Although the sky was hazy, it was still very picturesque given the mountainous terrain and the fall foliage. Andrew and I really enjoyed it.
Here are a few photos for your enjoyment.
Beautiful fall foliage and the Great Wall.
Trees, grass, and shrubs growing on top of the Great Wall.
Andrew on top of a guard tower with a collapsed roof.
Andrew about to climb a very steep section of the Great Wall.
October 19, 2008
I'm in Beijing again, with the family this time. We're going to finalize our move stuff plus take a few days at the Great Wall (more on that later). We flew coach over here, which is different from our usual MO of flying business class on long flights. It certainly wasn't as nice but aside from some inconveniences like not being first off the plane (and hence getting stuck in long passport lines), it didn't bug me too much.
Surprisingly the thing that bugged me the most, other than Michael (8) giving me dirty looks the whole flight, was dealing with the travel amateurs. In business class, most people seem to know what they're doing. They are pretty efficient about finding their seats, getting their luggage stowed, ordering meals, etc. That wasn't the case in coach. Between the people arguing loudly about which seat was C and which was G, the family who couldn't get their bags into the overhead bin, and the flight attendants having to explain all of the drink and meal options to each person ahead of us, I wanted to scream.
I think rather than board by row number, they should board by experience. Get all of the novices squared away first while I enjoy my drink in the terminal. Once they're buckled and ready, I'll zip aboard.
October 14, 2008
Michael (8) may have found the way to save Wall Street. He lost another tooth today and will get a visit from the Tooth Fairy (traps notwithstanding). In the morning, he'll find $5 under his pillow (more than I've made on my 401K the past few weeks.) If all of the guys on Wall Street knock out their teeth and put them under their pillows, they may be able to recoup some of their losses. They could probably make even more money if they let the investors whom they failed knock out their teeth.
October 12, 2008
Michael (8) lost another tooth last week and was excited about the loot he was expecting to receive from the Tooth Fairy. When I went to tuck him in, I noticed he had tied blankets around the ladder to his bunk bed. He explained that these were traps to see if the Tooth Fairy is real. He figured that the Tooth Fairy could fly and wouldn't be stopped by the blankets, but if it was me, I couldn't get up there to swap the tooth for money. I scoffed and removed the blankets.
Later in the evening, when I went to, um, check on him, I saw he had put rows of books on the floor to trip any faux-Tooth Fairies. Sneaky devil. Good thing the Tooth Fairy is tricky too. I think the Tooth Fairy may need night-vision goggles and powder to detect IR beams next time; it's getting dangerous for the TF these days.
The boys and I went to the South 47 Farm in Woodinville last night to go through their corn maze. Every year, the South 47 makes some cool five acre, mile-long corn maze; this year it was in the shape of a tractor.
On Fridays and Saturdays, they open the maze up at night so you can go through with a flashlight -- way more fun! The boys and I have done this on and off for the past few years. When you're in the maze, there are clues to help you find your way out; if you answer these farming related questions properly (e.g. "what % of land is spent raising feed and bedding for horses in a horse-powered farm?" or "which is faster, a bee or a chicken?") you'll be directed the right way. To make finding the dead ends more fun, they have eight stations hidden in the maze; if you find all eight and punch the card they give you, you can get a small gift at the end. The maze is open until October 31.
This year, some of the corn was blown down by the big windstorm we had a few weeks ago, but it's still very fun. I highly recommend it. If you go during the day, stop by the Root Connection (for great veggies) and Minea Farm (for the best cider in the world), both just north of the South 47.
South 47 Farm
15410 NE 124th St. (corner of NE 124th St. & the Woodinville-Redmond Rd.), Redmond, WA
October 7, 2008
Guns and Legos are two of my favorite things in the world, so naturally, the coolest thing in the world are Lego guns (OK, not exactly a tour de force of logic, but humor me.) While the guns that Lego makes have gotten a ton better since I was a kid, they're still pretty lame.
Fortunately, BrickArms makes very sweet looking Lego guns, grenades, and knives (and a baseball bat!) as well as some custom mini-figures for your Lego combat action. I especially love the Halo themed weapons. Anyway, check it out.
October 4, 2008
Yesterday was my last day on the IE team (see this post for more details on what's next). It was a little emotional for me as people stopped by to chat or dropped me nice and sometimes touching emails. I definitely view my work as more than just a job; I've made a lot of good friends. I've known a lot of them for years, some since they were still in college. It's been very rewarding to see them grow and improve, to share their happiest moments like engagements or child births, and to grieve with them as they lost parents and other family members. I will miss seeing them every day very much.
There were a bunch of nice parting gestures from the team. The day before, my direct reports staged a faux meeting that was really an excuse to drink wine and eat cheese (not hard to get the team to drink). Then, yesterday, some folks on the team changed out one of the road signs we have up to help us navigate our maze of hallways, putting up a "Chor Street" sign. By our elevators, they also put up a life sized photo of me for everyone to sign. It was actually kind of creepy seeing such a huge photo of me. I haven't read the comments yet, but I'm looking forward to it.
Later that afternoon, we had a special edition of our normal "Triage Bar" (Friday afternoon drinks) and a quick bite and some beers at Daman's (a kind of divey tavern near work with surprisingly good food). We then headed out to a bar called Vessel in Seattle. Vessel has some of the best cocktails in Seattle including the Vessel 75 -- a bourbon, Peychaud bitters, and simple syrup number topped off with maple syrup foam -- yum. The Ginger Grapefruit Rickey (rum, fresh grapefruit juice, ginger syrup, and soda) was also tasty. We had a pretty big area upstairs to ourselves, and there was a nice (maybe 20+ people) turn out including some IE alumni.
We finished off the evening at the W Bar in the W Hotel where I gave Harel (one of the rising stars on the IE PM team) a quick hands-on lesson about whisky. (Even though he's new to whisky, he's a natural, preferring the more complex and peaty Ardbeg to the Macallan and Johnny Walker Black I had him try for comparison.) All in all, a very fun evening with great friends.
So, next week, I move offices to sit with the Search team in Redmond. I'll be there until mid-November or so when we move to Beijing finally.