Steve's China Blog

Monday, July 31, 2006

A long week

Here's a quick rundown of the last week or so...

Last Monday -

Me: I'm having network connection problems.
IT Support: We can wipe your hard drive and reinstall the OS.
Me: There must be a better way to fix this problem.
IT Support: Reinstall is the fastest way to fix.

Tuesday -

Me: I've tried a couple of things to fix this problem, but it still isn't working.
IT Support: We can wipe your hard drive and reinstall the OS.
Me: Can you recommend something else less drastic?
IT Support: Reinstall is the fastest way to fix.

Tuesday night I was invited to a friend's house for dinner. Her parents are visiting for a few weeks from Chengdu, and her father wanted to cook us some Sichuan food. We had clams with hot chilis, chicken with hot chilis, fish with hot chilis, tofu soup with hot chilis, string beans with a hot chili dipping sauce, and roasted hot chilis. At one point Jackie's father asked me if the food was too hot and I told him I liked it hot, so he added more chilis. It was wonderful! :)

Wednesday -

Me: I've tried a couple more things to fix this problem, but it still isn't working.
IT Support: We can wipe your hard drive and reinstall the OS.
Me: Surely, you can fix this without reinstalling everything.
IT Support: Reinstall is the fastest way to fix.

Wednesday after work I got together with ChoonMae for a walk through Xinghai Park. I have been to Xinghai Square, but I have never been to Xinghai Park, and it was very nice. We found two places there where people were dancing. One was like a group aerobic dancing and the other was ballroom dancing. It seems the Chinese love dancing too. After our walk we went to a hotpot place and had dinner. I wish we could have stayed out longer, but we both had to get up early the next day.

Thursday -

Me: I can not think of anything else to try to fix this.
IT Support: We can fix it.
Me: Great! I'll be right back!

... 5 minutes later...

Me: Uh, what are you doing?
IT Support: Wiping your hard drive and reinstalling the OS.

So, it's Thursday night... the first night of the International Beer Festival in Dalian and my birthday, and guess how I spent the night... Reinstalling and upgrading software on my laptop computer. At least the network problem is gone (for now). I'm not sure what time I called it quits and went to bed, but they are doing a lot of construction on some new apartment complexes next door and they wake me up just about every morning at around 6:00am.

On Friday some friends and co-workers want to go to the beer festival after work, but I have a lot of work to do and do not get out of the office until late. I make it out to the beer festival later that night, and eventually find my friends. I was hoping to run into ChoonMae there, since she is there with her co-workers but I never found her.

Saturday I wake up early (not by choice), and decide not to go to an IBM team building event at some karaoke place and stay home during the day. Maybe I'll get a nap in after lunch! Nah, they are also doing some renovation work in the apartment next door, and it's loud! I doubt if they are using a jack-hammer, but it sure sounds like it. Saturday night I go to an IBM Singles Party. This year's was different than last year's party... Last year we just danced and this year they just played games to try and get people to know each other. It was fun, but since my Chinese is not that good I am not sure what the rules were.

Sunday I went shopping for DVDs and much needed groceries. I have not been cooking at home much since I am waiting for them to get the part to fix my AC (still). Luckily, the weather is still pleasant. So I cooked some pasta and watched some DVDs (Superman Returns and Dead Man's Chest). It is going to be a long day at work on Monday so I went to bed early. The beer festival is being held next door in Xinghai Square, and I had not noticed earlier how loud it is. Good thing it does not run past midnight.

I need a vacation.

Happy Chinese Valentine’s Day!

Qi Xi (七夕; Pinyin: qī xī; "The Night of Sevens"), sometimes called Chinese Valentine's Day, falls on the seventh day of lunar month seven of the Chinese calendar and thus its name. It is traditional for young girls to demonstrate their domestic arts on this day (especially melon carving) and to make wishes for a good husband.

The Story of Cowherd and Weaver Girl -

On the night sky of the late summer days the stars Altair and Vega are high in the night sky and the Chinese tell the following love story, of which there are many variations:

A young cowherd named Niulang (牛郎, "the cowherd", the star Altair) happens across seven fairy sisters bathing in a lake. Encouraged by his mischievous companion the ox, he steals their clothes and waits to see what will happen next. The fairy sisters elect the youngest and most beautiful sister Zhinü (織女, "the weaver girl", the star Vega) to retrieve their clothing. She does so, but since Niulang sees her naked she must agree to his request for marriage. She proves to be a wonderful wife, and Niulang a good husband, and they are very happy together.

But the Goddess of Heaven (in some versions Zhinü's mother) finds out that a mere mortal has married one of the fairy girls and is furious (In another version, the Goddess forced the weaver fairy back to her former duty of weaving colorful clouds in the sky because she could not do her job while married to the mortal). Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratches a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever (thus forming the Milky Way separating Altair and Vega).

Zhinü must sit forever on one side of the river, sadly weaving on her loom, while Niulang watches her from afar and takes care of their two children (his flanking stars β and γ Aquilae).

But once a year all the magpies in the world take pity on them and fly up into heaven to form a bridge (鵲橋, "the bridge of magpies", Que Qiao) over the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation so the lovers may be together for a single night, the seventh night of the seventh moon.

(from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lunch, shopping, dinner

On Saturday I had lunch with a lady named Choon Mae, who works at Dell here in Dalian. She was introduced to me by a co-worker. We had lunch and ended up chatting for about 2 or 3 hours. She was very nice, and I will probably see her again.

After lunch with Choon Mae, I met up with a friend of mine from my office named Phyllis and we went shopping and had dinner together. You can find more details about our shopping trip and dinner here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


It seems there was a bull running around Dalian a few weeks ago.

The story can be found here. I still have trouble imagining a two hour standoff with police.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Waiting on parts

Early last week I noticed there was a problem with my air-conditioner in my apartment. It started dripping water... not too much at first, but it got steadily worse as time went by. I had someone from building maintenance come and look at it, and they said they needed to get a part to fix it. They said it would take two to seven days to get the part, which here means two or more weeks. It has not gotten too hot here in Dalian yet, in fact some days seem rather chilly, so I don't mind waiting on the parts too much.

Since the AC is out for awhile I have not been able to run my computers at home too much, since they tend to heat the place up some. This is probably a good thing. Saturday I went shopping for books, DVDs, and computer hardware. On Sunday I did some reading and went for a long walk before dinner in Xinghai Square. For dinner I went to a western restaurant called Le Gauche de Milan. They moved to a new location and I like the new place better... more sunny. I had a ceasar salad, a t-bone steak, and since they were having a special on Australian wine I had a glass of red wine. Oh, and some cheesecake.

Speaking of food, a few weeks ago some ladies from the office were learning how to cook Indian food, and invited me over to try it. They prepared tandoori chicken and it was wonderful. I decided to invite them over some weekend and I would cook something American for them. Now I just have to figure out what to fix. The gas is still not turned on in my kitchen yet, so all I have to cook stuff with is a hotplate and a microwave. That kind of limits me a little. I am thinking of some different recipes that are spicy and do not have beef (two of the ladies are from Sichuan province and two are from India). Maybe some TexMex and some Cajun food would be good. I have found most of the ingredients I need, but some have been hard to find, such as corn chips, cilantro, limes, sour cream, avocado, etc...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Qian li zou dan qi

Last night I watched a movie on TV called "Riding Alone for a Thousand Miles". I started watching it because it had both Chinese and English sub-titles. I kept on watching it because I wanted to figure out if it was a Japanese movie or a Chinese movie. I ended up watching the whole thing and now want to find it on DVD since I sort of felt a connection to the main character as he travelled around China without being able to speak Chinese and having to deal with Chinese people, laws, and customs...

Qian li zou dan qi (Riding Alone for a Thousand Miles - 2005)

A young Japanese film maker is in hospital in Tokyo. His estranged father tries to visit, but the son refuses to see him. So, as a gesture of reconciliation, the father decides to go to China to complete the filming of a Chinese opera, called "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles," which the son was working on but unable to finish. But the master singer whom the son was most interested in filming is now in jail, so official permission must be granted. And then the singer has a breakdown because he wants to see his own young son who is way off in the country somewhere. So the Japanese father now has to travel distances to find the son of the singer. A strong and beautiful film as one would expect from master director Yinou Zhang, it is a tale of one man's journey both into the world and into himself. In a way, it's a road movie, but there's more than one kind of road involved. Unlike his more dramatic fantasies, this is a quiet and haunting story, filled with stunning images from the hidden heart of China.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The nut next door

Besides killing fish with expensive missiles, North Korea has been engaged in more bizarre behavior lately. Food and fuel supplies sent to North Korea from China have been halted, not to force North Korea to stop missile tests or participate in peace talks, but to return the Chinese trains the aid was carried in on. In the last few weeks, the North Koreans have just kept the trains, sending the Chinese crews back across the border. North Korea just ignores Chinese demands that the trains be returned, and insists that the trains are part of the aid program. It's no secret that North Korean railroad stock is falling apart after decades of poor maintenance and not much new equipment. Stealing Chinese trains is a typical looney-tune North Korean solution to the problem.

Chinese/North Korean relations are kind of strange. I know that a lot of people think that China can easily force North Korea to do things, but it is not that easy for China. For one thing, the knucklehead in charge of North Korea is a major nutcase. Another problem is that the Chinese and North Korean goverments don't actually like each other much. In China's own twisted logic it is kind of a good thing to have North Korea as it is... They don't have to worry about the Koreas unifying which would mean having the U.S., a unified Korea, Japan and Tawain all allied on their eastern border; and if anyone is watching how bad human rights conditions are in North Korea they are less likely to look at these same problems in China.

Of course, with all the attention being focused on North Korean missiles lately, there has been no shortage of incompetent ex-politicos trying to make a statement. Asked by a TV interviewer about North Korea's launch of seven missiles, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had a ready answer: It's Bush's fault... "Frankly, Larry, I think the problem here is that we are watching the failure of five years' worth of American diplomacy", Albright said. Hmmm... let's take a little trip down memory lane...

1993: North Korea threatens to leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. After conducting U.N. inspections there for a year and a half, former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Hans Blix warns he can't provide "any meaningful assurances" North Korea isn't making nuclear weapons.

1994: Under the "Agreed Framework" negotiated by the Clinton administration with help of ex-President Carter, North Korea agrees to stop building nuclear weapons. In exchange, it gets billions in aid, including food, oil and modern nuclear reactors. North Korea immediately starts cheating on the deal, acquiring nuclear know-how and material from Pakistan and China.

1998: A U.S. government report finds at least 1 million North Koreans have died of starvation as aid was used to kick-start the nuclear weapons program. Clinton's military chief of staff tells Congress North Korea has no active ballistic missile program. A week later, North Korea shoots a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan and toward Alaska.

1999: Clinton eases sanctions against North Korea. U.S. signs a $5 billion deal to build two nuclear reactors. North Korea diverts aid to speed up WMD program. Mass starvation reportedly continues.

2000: Despite continued breaches of the "agreed framework," Albright travels to Pyongyang, where she cheerfully clinks glasses with Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il. Media hail the meeting as a diplomatic masterstroke by Clinton.

2002: New York Times headline: "North Korea Says It Has A Program On Nuclear Arms."

That, essentially, brings us to where we are today. Albright actually had it right... North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons and ever-more sophisticated ballistic missiles (including the Taepodong-2C launched this week) were indeed the result of five years of failed diplomacy... It's just that the five failed years lasted from 1994 to 1999. Thanks, Bubba and crew.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Golden Pebble Beach again

Last weekend I went back to Golden Pebble Beach with some co-workers, but this year's trip was only for the day. It was much better this year since it rained during last year's trip, and we had a sunny day this time. The only bad part was that a few of us had gone out the night before to a friend's farewell party, and did not get home until well after 1:00am, so we were tired before the trip even began.

We visited some of the same places as last year, such as the wax museum and rock museum, etc... We also got to visit some new places such as this one place that had wood carvings. They had all kinds of things carved out of wood, such as this... uh, whatever this is...

Here I am with a pretty cool carving of Buddha...

This was a little inlet with a bunch of little fishing boats near where we had lunch...

After lunch we went to a place called Golden Rock Park. These are natural rock formations...

...with some places smoothed out and paved so people can walk through the rocky areas...

There were a lot of pretty rock formations... well as pretty ladies. This is my friend Hong Yan. She was nice enough to hang out with me all day during the trip...

At this point the battery in my camera died, so no more picture for the rest of the trip.

After the rock garden we ended up going to a golf course and we hit a few golf balls at the driving range there. I had not swung a golf club in ages, so I did not do so well. Luckily, no one else in our group did either! I did much better afterwards when we went to a rifle range and did a little target shooting there.

We then went to the beach for awhile. The trip organizers put together some beach games, and most of our group played those. Some of us just hung out, relaxed, and watched the others play. After the beach we headed back to Dalian and ate at a really nice seafood restaurant. I had a great day. Sunday I woke up with a slight sun-burn. Thank goodness for aloe vera!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th!!

"The flames kindled on the 4th of July 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them." -- Thomas Jefferson

It was true then, and even more so today. Have a happy Independence Day!

There's a neat test that asks several questions that are asked of people who wish to become American citizens here which is part of a series on MSNBC's website called "What does it mean to be an American".