Steve's China Blog

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Got game?

Someone from China Telecom came over to my place this morning and installed a new ADSL line into my apartment. They would not allow us to upgrade the existing line, so this was the only way to get a faster connection. The new line is suppose to be a 1.5mb line, but when I test the internet speed it comes up as only 60kbs. Pretty damn pitiful. It's about half the speed of my internet connection in Dalian, which I thought was too slow.

I am still having trouble connecting to my work networks from home, but I do not think it is a problem with the connection speed. I'm still trying to figure out what that problem is.

Actually, the really bad thing about the slow connection is how difficult is makes it to play Everquest 2. Now, if you're thinking that it might be a good thing if I gave up my games then you would be wrong, and even IBM agrees with me...

IBM gets game

From an email sent out by IBM Corporate Communications this morning:

"According to new IBM research which looked at technology, business and societal trends and issues, online videogames help people become better corporate leaders by fostering skills related to collaboration, self-organisation, risk-taking, openness, influence, and communications."

And there's more...

"Nearly half of gamers polled believe that game-playing has improved their real-world leadership capabilities. Three-quarters believe that the tools used in games to collaborate and connect can be applied to enhance leadership effectiveness for the globally integrated enterprise. That's because massively multiplayer online games enable thousands of players to interact, compete and collaborate with one another in real time. Players must make rapid-fire decisions based on multiple and constantly shifting inputs. Invariably, certain individuals emerge to set direction and shape the success of others. What's more, leadership is often temporal, quickly shifting from one person to another as the course of action dictates."

And IBM is not the only one...

IBM's Management Games

While IBM's research may be aimed at helping to build its own consulting business, it comes at a time when there's a flurry of corporate experimentation in games. McKinsey & Co. is using video games to test recruits for leadership potential and assess their team-building style. Royal Philips Electronics (PHG) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), meanwhile, are using multiplayer games to improve collaboration between far-flung divisions, as well as between managers and their overseas underlings.

Now, if only IBM would pay me to level up my swashbuckler.

Update: I got my connection to work fixed.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What comes after China?

I was reading another blog where the author posed the question, "What comes after China?". I've been thinking about this recently. My friends, both in the US and in China, always ask me how long I will stay in China, and my usual answer is "as long as I'm having fun and making money I'll stay". I'm still having fun and making money, but eventually I will probably have to think about leaving. Luckily, I still have a year and a half on my work contract here to think about it so there's no rush, and there's no indication that they would not renew it again if I wanted to stay longer.

There are a lot of things I like about China... the people are very nice once you get to know each other, the ladies are beautiful, the food tastes great, and the beer is good. Even so, there are way too many things I don't like about China too. I really don't see staying here forever like some people do. I have no plans to get married and settle down here.

So, if I am not going to stay in China for the rest of my life... where to next? This is dependent on a few questions... Where will I have fun? Where will I make money? That doesn't look like it would rule out many places, but actually it narrows the field quite a bit, especially if I want to continue to work for IBM.

There's also a third question... is there someplace where I can have fun, make money, and most people speak English. I've never been good at learning foreign languages and my very poor Chinese skills after all these years is becoming a major source of frustration for me. The language barrier is one of those things that is very un-fun for me here.

For the making money question it could be just about anywhere, but some places would be easier to find work in then others for someone with my expertise (mainframe software development and support) and some places have such a high cost of living that saving money is very difficult. So we are looking at places that have a high demand for experienced IT workers and a low cost of living. I am not sure of all of the places that fit that, but the places I can think of (besides China) are India, Vietnam, the Middle East, and maybe Brazil. I'm not too sure how much fun those places would be for a decadent western capitalist such as myself, especially if I would have to learn another language.

Places that I think would be fun to work... US, Australia, Japan,... I am not sure about Europe. No offense to Europe, but I've never even been there. Most of Europe seems too liberal for me, and even though that appears to be changing somewhat, I really have no real desire to go there. Come to think of it... the US seems too liberal to me sometimes. Japan would be nice, but all of the positions I have seen there (for IBM anyways) require some Japanese language skills.

Anyways, I have plenty of time to think about it and there's a great big world out there full of opportunities. Also, who knows what the world will look like after a year or so?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Crazy Telecom

Been negotiating with China Telecom to get my internet speed increased. It is very strange... My landlady signed a contract with them a little while ago to get an internet connection at the slowest (aka cheapest) speed possible for 6 months. We called China Telecom and told them we would like to get a faster connection, and of course we would be willing to pay more for that. They said no. For some reason they want to wait for the 6 month contract to expire, even though we offered to pay more money! Then they came up with some weird nonsense about buying a phone or something that only works in ChengDu, and then we could change the contract or something. We're still trying to figure out what they are talking about. It's s*%# like this that drives me crazy here.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Last year some friends recommended a TV show that is on DVD here called Firefly. It originally aired on FOX back in 2002, but only lasted one season. I never really got around to buying the DVDs until November and have not gotten around to watching them until now.

The show is pretty good... a sort of space western with some Asian flare. Set 500 years in the future the government has become a joint venture between the the United States and China, resulting in a fusion of the two cultures as well. In some scenes the cast start speaking Chinese. Even the music is cowboy guitar blended with an Asian influence.

There was a movie based on the series called Serenity which came out in 2005, but I have not seen it yet. There is even talk of a massively multiplayer online game based on the series, which is currently scheduled for release in 2008.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Still settling in

Still getting settled in, and there's lots to do. I'm getting my internet connection at home upgraded since it is too slow for me to be able to connect to my systems at work. HR is helping with getting my new work permit and new residence permit for ChengDu. I need to find a housekeeper to come in and clean every once in awhile too. I've had a few recommendations, and have to decide who and when. I have to go buy some groceries when I get a chance, and I also need a haircut.

Another thing I have to do is get my bank account and pay straightened out. Currently I have my pay deposited into an account at the Bank of China, but that account was opened in Dalian and since it is in a different province they charge a lot for any transactions that happen outside of that province. Then there is the added problem that my account has both Chinese Yuan and US Dollars. Nothing's ever easy here.

One of the problems I've encountered here is a lack of taxi's, but my friends at work tell me I can hire a driver who'll drive me to work every day and the cost is not much more than a taxi. I even found one person who wants to my driver. He speaks a few words of English and his car is clean. Now I just need to get my schedule a bit more normal, so I can make arrangements with a driver if I do hire one. I am still resisting the urge to buy a car.

With the traffic not so hectic here in ChengDu I am having an easier time figuring out the rules of the road here... Basically, you only care what is in front of you, and you have to react to whatever happens in front of you. If someone is behind you then it is their responsibility to react to whatever happens in front of them. It's sort of strange, but seems to work ok.

Today we have someone from Vogue Magazine in the office giving lessons on makeup and such to the ladies who work here. I am not sure how our office got that arranged. I wish I had my camera.

I wonder what they have planned for us guys?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Apartment in ChengDu

My apartment is in a new apartment complex called The Waterfront, which is located on the southeast part of town halfway between downtown and my office which is located outside of town to the south and called Tian Fu Software Park. The Waterfront is located along the Fu Nan River which is one of the rivers that run through ChengDu.

The complex is really nice too, with small streams and ponds winding their way through it. The grounds are really nice and well maintained.

The apartment is located on the 3rd floor and overlooks some of the streams and the indoor swimming pool.

There is also an outdoor pool (with beach area and swim up bar), a BBQ area, a small gym, a little convenience store, a putting practice green (almost completed), play areas for the kids, and very nice shady spots to sit and relax. In the mornings I can hear birds singing and in the evening I can hear frogs from the ponds.

The apartment itself is a little bigger than my apartment in Dalian, but pretty much the same setup... Living room, dining room, kitchen, 2 bedrooms with one of the bedrooms changed into an office.

It's still a bit messy since I am still unpacking stuff.

A few improvements include three gas stove tops that actually have gas (they never did turn the gas on at my apartment in Dalian), a rather large balcony, and a clothes washer that is also a clothes dryer! (Yeah!) There is also a second guest bathroom off of the living room.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Moving in

It took a few days, but I found a nice apartment here. I moved in on Friday and all of my stuff was delivered there that day also. I spent all weekend unpacking and doing laundry. I have not had much time to explore the city yet, but I'm hoping to soon. I haven't had any time to take any pictures yet either, but will do that later.

While unpacking my things I found that not too much was broken... a wine glass, a tall glass, and a tea cup. The tea cup was strange since it was basically smashed into tiny little bits, but was surrounded by other fragile things that didn't even get a scratch. I was very careful about wrapping the tea set too since the cups are so beautiful. They have a blue glaze inside of them that makes them look like they have water in them even when they are empty.

There was only one box that was labeled as fragile, and that was my computer. The damage to my computer was even stranger than the tea cup. The computer was double wrapped in bubble wrap, then surrounded by a bunch of those little styrofoam packing peanuts. The damage to the computer appears to only have been to the computer case. It was as if someone had unpacked the computer, removed everything inside, drop-kicked the case a bunch of times, put it all back together, and then repacked it. When I saw the case I was really worried that all of the components inside had been damaged also, but everything seems fine. I tried to bend the case back into shape, but there are still some small openings, so it doesn't cool as well as it should. I hope I can find a good replacement here later.

One thing I discovered about ChengDu that is different from Dalian is the heat and humidity. I knew it would be warmer, but it is taking me awhile to get use to the heat. Usually by the end of the day I feel very drained. I think it is going to take me another week or two to get use to it. Another thing about ChengDu that is different than Dalian is that there are a lot less taxis in ChengDu. Sometimes it can take a long time to find a taxi. This morning it took me an hour to get a taxi to get to work. I got so hot and sweaty while standing outside waiting for a cab that by the time I did get into work I was ready to go home and take a shower!

When I get time I'll post more about the area I live in and the area I work in. I am hoping to have my internet hooked up later this week, so that will make things easier.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

In ChengDu... finally!

Yesterday was a very busy day... I had to finish doing some cleaning and turn over the keys to my apartment before heading to the airport to catch my flight to ChengDu. The flight wasn't too bad, although the pilot was a bit crazy with the brakes when we touched down in ChengDu.

Someone from a real estate company here picked me up at the airport and gave me a ride to my hotel. After arriving at the hotel I called some friends and we arranged to meet and go out to Peter's Tex-Mex Grill for dinner.

Me and my friends (from left to right) Tony, Cynthia, Kwai Ling, and Justin.

Dinner was really good. We had a mix of several Mexican dishes, and after only eating airplane food all day it was wonderful. We spent a long time talking and catching up on what has been going on, and after dinner we took a walk around the area and also took a little side trip through a part of Sichuan University.

Today I am just going to iron some clothes, relax, and get ready for tomorrow which will be my first day at the ChengDu office. I am also going to look for an apartment tomorrow afternoon, so I think it will be a busy day.