Thanks, Rick, for the image!
Thanks, Rick, for the image!
I saw this sign at the Terracotta Warrior museum. I guess with all of the tourists there, stampeding is a real risk...
There are some funny people at Microsoft. (Funny-haha in this case, although there are lots of funny-weird people too…) Michelle sent me this photo. I love it.
We’re back in Seattle for a while this summer (well I’ll be going back and forth between Seattle and Beijing). It’s nice to be here with the family; as I mentioned before, it was a little weird last time to be in our big house all by myself (although not altogether bad…)
In addition to my observations from the last trip, here are few other things I’ve realized now that I’m back:
In some ways, it’s a little surreal being back. In some ways, Beijing feels like a dream or a long vacation; it feels very natural being back. On the other hand, I miss things and people in Beijing already and am looking forward to heading back in some ways (cheap two hour massages within walking distance of home anyone?) I guess that’s the price I pay for having two homes in two amazing places.
Chinese bathrooms are generally kind of gross, even in nice places. That said, there's definitely been a huge improvement even in the few years since I've been visiting Beijing. Here's a funny sign on top of a urinal that shows the effort to make things better.
The message is basically something to the effect of:
One small step forward
A big step forward for civilization
(mai chu yi xiao bu, wen min yi da bu)
OK, it was funny to me. More places could use this sign, even in the US.
I just returned from my first trip back to Seattle after moving to Beijing last November.
I was super excited after my short stop in Tokyo (with the great ramen and sake experiences) to get home. Our approach to Seattle came in over downtown Seattle, so I could see all of the boats lined up for Opening Day, Lake Washington, and the Cascades. It was really lovely; I started feeling really home sick.
Then things took a little turn for the worse. After we landed at SeaTac, the crack border guards promptly confiscated the $40 worth of boxed ramen that I bought in Narita. (The soup base apparently had once been a chicken before it was boiled and reduced into a 3ml packet). I'm sure we all feel much safer now.
Then, once I got to our house, opened the blinds, and discovered that some bad people had stolen all of our patio furniture and my beloved Weber grill. As I was feeling confused, angry, violated, and a bit stupid, I tried to call Michelle back in Beijing and some friends in Seattle to see if I had missed something only to find my Seattle cellphone number no longer worked thanks to T-Mobile's not-so-great customer service.
Fortunately, I think I managed to get most of the bad parts behind me quickly, and the rest of my trip was great. Rather than bore everyone with a play-by-play account, let me just make a few observations:
Also, since I'm sure you're wondering, here are the foods and drinks I missed and sought out:
So, thanks to all my friends for making this trip great. I really enjoyed it, but I'm glad to be back in Beijing with my family. I'm looking forward to coming back out to Seattle this summer (and buying a new grill.)
For my birthday this year, Michelle and the boys took me to a lovely dinner at the Grange, a restaurant at the very nice Westin Hotel here in Beijing. At the end of our nice dinner, the waiter presented me with a waiver to sign before I could take my leftovers home. (Contrary to my brother's remarks, it was not a waiver saying that we knew the doggy bag did not contain any actual dog.)
The doggy bag itself also had bilingual instructions warning of the dangers and telling people how to reheat the food for maximum safety.
OK, I get it, there are dumb people who will leave the leftovers out, get sick, and then sue, but I still think this was a bit ridiculous. Apparently, this silliness is not restricted to China or the Westin. In Australia, restaurants are choosing between the waiver and ending doggy bags altogether due to the risk of lawsuits.
Time for a little personal responsibility, folks...
When we decided to move to China, a lot of people asked about my level of Chinese language ability and then commented something along the lines of "boy, Chinese sure seems hard." After spending some time here now working with smart people who speak English as a second language, I think I can assert that English is hard too.
Sure, there are lots of funny and sometimes incomprehensible "Chinglish" signs where I can't figure out how the person writing it could possibly have constructed such sentences, for example:
But, there are a bunch of common mistakes I see my colleagues and others make that demonstrate how whimsical and arbitrary English can be. One big class of mistake is correctly deciding when to add an "s" to the end of a word. I see sentences like "We need to hire more talents" or "We collected a lot of feedbacks." It's very difficult to explain to someone why a person can have a lot of talents, but a team looking for people hires talent. It's similarly difficult to explain why you can't have two feedbacks. Of course, there's no good rule for determining a priori whether a word is an enumerable unit with singular and plural or a category/group word with no plural. It's even more confusing when the same word like talent can be used in both ways.
Even the China Daily got this wrong in today's paper.
So, my hats off to the billions of people around the world learning English and even more kudos to my colleagues and everyone else who actually do business or go to school using English as a second language. It's a hard language.
All of you on Facebook must have already seen dozens of these "random things" lists go by; after being tagged a few times, I figured I should finally write mine. This is a lot like the "Five Weird Habits" thing that went around a few years ago. I'll try to not to repeat anything from that post or write other stuff that's already on the blog.
Some obligatory instructions for the Facebook crowd:
Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.
To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page (look under the plus sign), paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.
OK, so there you go.
Happy Chinese New Year! 2009 is the year of the Ox (BTW, "ox" is "niu" in Chinese and pronounced like "new", hence the multi-lingual pun in the title. I admit it's less funny after all of the explanation.) The Chinese horoscope website I've quoted in years past seems to be stale now, so I found OnlineChineseAstrology.com instead. Maybe it will be more accurate... Here's what they forecast for the year:
The Ox is the second sign of the Chinese zodiac. Like its predecessor and complement, the Rat, it signifies new beginnings. The main difference is the Ox is associated with building to last and slow but sure action. Even more so than last year we all have to make good choices, as that which is begun now is likely to have long term consequences.
As with last year, this is an Earth year. The difference is this one is yin rather than yang. It is thus likely to be less tumultuous. On a personal level, better results are more likely to be achieved by reacting to circumstances and going with the flow rather than aggressively charging forward and initiating a lot of action.
Unfortunately Earth has a destructive relationship with the Ox's fixed element, Water. In fact this is the fourth in a run of six years governed by an unlucky conflict of elements. This fact should come as no surprise to those who have followed US and world financial markets or the unspeakable horror that has persisted in Iraq.
The combination of Earth and Ox, however, is not at all a negative combination. Its primary characteristic is durability. It suggests an environment dominated by cautious pragmatism rather than quixotic dreaming. Things will get done.
Furthermore, they will generally be successful if done in harmony with the spirit of the Earth Ox. This applies both to the type and amount of new projects as well as the approach to accomplishing them. That means focusing on just a few, long term projects. It also suggests proceeding in a cautious yet determined manner. Finally, it counsels avoiding taking unnecessary risks and yielding to the temptation to seek short term gains.
Since this is an Earth year, those people born in a Metal year will generally fare better than others of their animal sign, while those born in a Water one are likely to do worse than those born in Wood, Fire, and Earth years.
The year 2009 will be a period of lasting accomplishments. This is true for individuals, societies and the human race in general. There may be times when motivation appears to be lacking. In fact the big challenge everyone faces is to generate the enthusiasm and desire to act. Those individuals and organizations that do will create enduring benefits for themselves and the world.
It seems a little crafted for current events, but whatever, I'll take it. For me as a monkey the guidance is pretty clear and seems good most of the time:
How the Monkey fares:
This year offers the Monkey some opportunities to go far with talent. Your generous nature may leave you stretched in several different directions, so it is important to stay focused in order to achieve the goals you have set for yourself this year. You will be given the opportunity to impress the right people in business as well as in your personal life. Don't hold back this year, for this could be one that will leave an impression over the course of the next few years.
So, time to let loose in 2009 and be impressive in a focused way!
Ironically, we're in Japan during the first Chinese New Year since we moved to China, so we missed all of the fireworks. We hope to catch some of the temple fairs and such when we get back later this week.
Happy New Year!