Huge screen for video games

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The Place shopping mall is just across the street from our apartment in Beijing. It has a huge, block-long video roof that normally plays random animations. However, I guess for the right price, you can do whatever you want with the screen. One guy decided to play video games on the display. I have to make sure the kids don't see this, or they'll want to play Halo Reach on it...

 

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Via Engadget

Faded Olympic Glory

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Rusted Olympic rings sign overgrown with weeds by a broken down blue truck.

It's been a little over two years since the epic 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Of course, after the Games, there's the question of what to do with everything that they built for the Olympics. Some things have been repurposed; for instance the Water Cube (where Michael Phelps broke all those swimming records) reopened this year as a water park. They're still figuring out what to do with the stunning Birds Nest Stadium since there aren't any professional sports teams in Beijing that could fill the place.

And, then some things, people have just discarded. This Olympic sign was hanging on an overpass near our apartment complex. The management just tossed it to the side by an old truck now that it's not useful anymore. Kind of sad.

Beijing Traffic Just Gets Worse

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Apparently last Friday, Beijing set a dubious new record for the greatest number of congested streets -- 140, even more than the 90 congested streets during a heavy snow last year.

I don't know about the number, but my commute was 1.5 hours; usually I get home in 45-60 minutes. My driver was super aggressive, dashing into holes, driving on the shoulder, taking back streets, etc. so it could have been worse. But at one point, even he got out of the car to look around and see what was going on since we were stopped.

Worse, that aside from a little rain and maybe because we're coming up on a holiday, there was no obvious reason for such a colossal slowdown.

However, the scariest part is that I imagine this will only get worse as more people buy cars.

Severe traffic congestion in Beijing on September 17, 2010 setting a new record.

More on ChinaSmack (I lifted this photo from them too...)

Our Neighborhood Panda Dog

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Dyeing dogs has become pretty popular in Beijing. CNN just ran a story that talks about this phenomenon; they even highlighted this dog from our neighborhood! We see this dog pretty frequently. The owners' ayi (maid) is too embarrassed to walk the dog except in the early morning (when she also apparently doesn't feel the need to scoop up after him).

I think the shop they mention in the story is in the shopping center across the street from us. I've seen a dog painted like a tiger or more simple ones with just rainbow colored highlights.

Canon Expo at the 798 Art District

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I went with my friends Imran and Misha today to a Canon expo at the 798 Art District. This was a free event put on by Canon to showcase some of their new products like the EOS 60D and 300mm f2/8L IS II lens.

The event was in an old water or oil tank. The space was actually pretty cool.
Old oil tank with black EOS entryway.

The rusted walls of the tank from the inside with light streaming in through the glass on top.

Inside, they had a almost their whole line-up of gear to lust over.
Showcase of all of the Canon lenses and bodies.

One of the nice freebies they offered was sensor and lens cleaning. Through this process, I learned my beloved (but battered) 70-200 2.8L lens has some moisture residue inside and the barrel is loose. Time for a repair.
Technician cleaning sensors and lenses.

Around the edges they had set up mini-studios with their gear to shoot plus models in different environments to shoot in. In the middle they were printing peoples' photos on the various Canon printers. They also had a stage for presentations and a little theater to show movies shot with the Canon DSLRs.
The show floor with mini studios on the left and printing station on the right.

Silouette of a photographer shooting a seated model in a black dress.

My bust shot of the same model in the black dress.

Unfortunately, I think the models were a bit bored and let it show.
Headshot of a bored looking model with dramatic eye makeup with dangly ear rings.

Still, the event was fun and worth every penny. :) I really appreciate Canon putting these kinds of events on to let the community try stuff out.

Beautiful LongQing Xia

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Last week, the senior leaders on my team at work and I went offsite for two days to discuss our future plans. After staying for an evening at the lovely Commune by the Great Wall (super cool resort -- worth checking out their site), we went to Longqing Xia for some "hiking" (really a ton of stair-climbing). This lovely gorge is about fifty miles north of Beijing, past the Great Wall at Badaling. The mountains rise up almost straight up from a beautiful (and clean!) lake formed by a big dam.

Green water lake with brown cliffs rising almost straight up out of the water.

For some reason I still don't understand, instead of taking the gondolas halfway up the mountain before starting our climb to the top, we elected to hike up from the bottom. You can see how far the gondolas go up here.
Gondolas go over the water and up a between two cliffs. The water and boats are below.

We just kept climbing up and up the stairs. I was dying most of the time. Not only was I really out of shape, but I was also carrying a big camera bag full of gear including my big 70-200 2.8L lens. Still the view at the top was worth it.
Beautiful mountains covered in trees

Here's are me and my colleagues at the top.
Team photo with seventeen people, mountains in the back.

As you may be able to tell from the photos, we had a beautiful day for our outing. It was a little warm but not bad for Beijing, and the air quality was good since we were outside of the city. My only regret was not getting a chance to take a boat ride down the lake. I hope to go back soon to do that with my family.

Longqing is also the home to a winter ice festival (like a mini-version of the one in Harbin). We went to this festival last winter (although I was too lazy to blog about it then...)

Getting a iPad 3G to work in China

Even though iPads aren't officially available in China yet, there's no problem using them here, even the 3G versions, since (unlike US iPhones), the iPads are not SIM-locked to AT&T.

You first need to get a China Unicom 3G SIM with a data-only plan. You cannot use the 3G from China Telecom or China Mobile because they use different (read: incompatible) 3G standards. There's more information here on what to get.

Next, since the iPad only takes the new microsim size cards, you need to cut the China Unicom SIM card to the right size. This is pretty simple. I used the template on this site and had no real issues. Just remember to measure twice and cut once.

Once you insert the SIM into the iPad, go to Settings and turn on Cellular Data. Your iPad should find China Unicom right away. You need to set the APN settings; "3GNET" is the APN, username, and password.

Tada! You should now be surfing at a pretty fast speed, anywhere there's coverage!

I Look Like an American

I played golf yesterday with a bunch of my teammates. Since we didn't have two full foursomes, two of us were paired with some other Chinese golfers. They were nice enough and soon we got into the typical "where are you from, what do you do" banter. As soon as I said I was American, one guy looked at me and immediately replied, "You look like an American." My buddy Tim asked, "What does that mean?" The other guy replied, "You have skinny legs and a big belly."

Damn.

My big belly and I went on to kick his skinny butt in golf.