Saturday, December 31, 2005

Tech 2005

What better way for me to wrap up 2005 on my blog than with a tech industry post? I am business geek, fear me. :)

So guess who is the Forbes Company of the Year for 2005? I must say, I was really surprised to find out that it was Seagate. After all, it's not as intuitive a choice as some of the other more flashy companies this year, like Google or Apple. Apple still takes the cake in the marketing factor, while Google is still king in the innovation arena, with both delivering fantastic financial results. Both companies seemed to make headlines every single week. So Seagate was a huge dark horse to win it. After all, what's so interesting about a storage company, working in an industry that is known to have low profit margins? Well, I guess they did manage to make the blockbuster deal to buy up Maxtor, a very interesting development, considering that when Maxtor bought up Quantum in 2000, Maxtor instantly became the harddrive market leader. But what else?
It is underappreciated no more. Retooled and relisted on the New York Stock Exchange in 2002 (the investor group reportedly made six times its money on the deal), Seagate is the biggest and most efficient stand-alone hard-drive maker in the world. Its $925 million net for the past 12 months was three times what its two nearest competitors earned, combined. Its revenue in 2005 climbed 21% to $7.5 billion, even as the disk industry saw its price per byte of capacity fall by 40%. For 2006 analysts expect sales to approach $9 billion. By redefining storage as a sexy, high-growth, high-return business, Seagate earns its title as the Forbes Company of the Year.
In retrospect, it makes perfect sense. Apple made all the big splashes with their iPod, but who was making the harddrives for the iPod? After all, it wasn't the miners that made all the big money during the gold rush; rather, the people who made the big money were the ones making the shovels, pickaxes, and other tools required to work as a miner. And the need for storage is booming with new growth markets developed for music, video, games (remember when we all laughed at the idea of a harddrive being in a game console?), etc. Flash memory is a worthy competitor for sure, but Seagate is not backing down. I still remember buying their fluid-based ball-bearing harddrives when they first came out, just to have a quieter computer. I was impressed by Seagate's innovation, and judging from their recent R&D efforts, they'll be more than capable of meeting the challenge presented by flash memory. What is most interesting is that Christensen's disruptive technology theory is still at work in the storage industry, but the next winner may or may not be flash memory, as speculated by Christensen in his original groundbreaking book, The Innovator's Dilemma. Time will of course tell.

Speaking of innovation, who can seriously beat Google? They've had an amazing year,
and seem to be the fastest growing company in terms of value in recent history, if not all history. A stock price of $414.86 (at market close today) so quickly after IPO is just sick. And they are the only company to make my jaw drop with every single product release. They've done things that nobody even dreamed of doing, and half the time, nobody could figure out what they were up to.


Joe Kraus, a founder of the Excite.com portal that merged with Internet service provider @Home before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001, agreed that Google executives are likely thinking big, although he acknowledged he "doesn't have the slightest clue" what they are doing.

"They've been buying dark fiber for a good five years. It allows them to have such cheap communications between all their data centers," said Kraus, chief executive of online start-up JotSpot.

"A lot of people have talked about Google's core ability to host thousands of applications and being your desktop in the sky," he said. "They certainly never fail to take advantage of it when launching new products."
Things like purchasing dark fibre, Keynote, making gmail's storage capacity increase by the second (and it's still going), and doing other crazy things. Google is the company that has the potential to finally make the world realize the potential of the Internet. It's funny because everyone predicted this future years ago. They all just thought that it arrived a little earlier than it really did, creating the dotcom bomb. But now with web services, we can truly use the Internet as the next great development platform that can finally replace Windows.


The notion of a network computer isn't new. Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy has for years been saying "the network is the computer." Oracle CEO Larry Ellison formed a company around the idea. It was called the "New Internet Computer Company," and it sold Web surfing devices before shuttering two years ago.

But unlike Sun and Oracle, Google's timing could be impeccable, Arnold argues. "Sun defined it. Ellison tried to build it. But Google owns it," he said.
By the way, if you want an interesting book on Google, you can download this one for US$180. I obviously haven't bought it, but the Table of Contents do look very interesting. Anyway, Ray Ozzie's memo is a great outline of where the world is headed in this regard, and I love some of the directions where he plans to take Microsoft's technology. Besides, what tech industry post would be complete without some stuff on Microsoft? Some great quotes from his memo:


Platform Products & Services Division
a. BASE vs. ADDITIVE EXPERIENCES – In MSN, and in Windows Update and software deployed by it, we have quite a bit of experience with methods and practices for getting innovations to market on a rapid cycle. In the form of a newly combined division, we should consider many options as to how we might bring user experience innovations and enhancements to users worldwide. Specifically, we should consider the achievability, desirability, and methods of increasing the tempo for both 'base' OS experiences as well as 'additive' experiences that might be delivered on a more rapid tempo. In doing so, we would better serve a broad range of highly-influential early adopters.
This is awesome. No longer having to wait for a huge rollout of the next version of Windows, just to be able to experience some cool new features will be great. As rapid application development is a huge part of my job, I see firsthand the benefits for end-users of incrementally delivering new features speedily and on demand. As well, quality control is obviously much easier, because the application experiences an evolution, rather than a revolution. From a developer's perspective, he notes the following:


d. LIGHTWEIGHT DEVELOPMENT – The rapid growth of application assembly using things such as REST, JavaScript and PHP suggests that many developers gravitate toward very rapid, lightweight ways to create and compose solutions. We have always appreciated the need for lightweight development by power users in the form of products such as Access and SharePoint. We should revisit whether we're adequately serving the lightweight model of development and solution composition for all classes of development.
Serve it! Serve it! As the vast majority of IT projects in this world either completely fail, or run drastically over-budget, more support for rapid application development would be fantastic. We're already using the .NET platform for our rapid stuff at work, and I have to say that it just works. As well, working iteratively involves users in the development process, rather than having them provide input at just the beginning and end of a system's development. Want to know why rapid and lightweight are good? Ozzie answers that too. Ozzie is the man!


Complexity kills. It sucks the life out of developers, it makes products difficult to plan, build and test, it introduces security challenges, and it causes end-user and administrator frustration. Moving forward, within all parts of the organization, each of us should ask "What's different?", and explore and embrace techniques to reduce complexity.
Do it! :) It's funny when I look at the way the industry is going. I remember first reading Breaking Windows: How Bill Gates Fumbled the Future of Microsoft and thinking that it was the perfect subject for my paper on organizational theory back at SFU. The disruptive effects of the Internet matched every single symptom enumerated by Christensen for The Innovator's Dilemma. However, no technology existed to actually make those disruptive dreams a reality, because the Internet was so unmanageable. Well, I suppose it was all part of the S-Curve process anyway. But when XML came into the picture, Microsoft was doomed if it didn't jump on board. XML was the final development to allow the Internet's capabilities to jump into the exponential slope of the S-Curve. And I find it funny that some of the comments I made in that paper years ago are finally becoming reality today. If you haven't read Breaking Windows yet, read it. It is an amazing book, and presents a picture of conflicts and strategies inside Microsoft like no other book I've ever seen.

I have lingered far too much on Microsoft. But one last thing, were Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono really deserving to be the Time People of the Year? As one person noted:


Wow! Truly Amazing! Hey, I have a really cute puppy ... I'm sure he will a great companion and may even bring me my slippers throughout the year ... maybe you can put him on the cover on TIME next year. Come on ... although it's really nice these 3 people donated their time and money, but millions of people (even ordinary Americans!) do it every day. Next year please try and chose someone pithy ... pretty please!
John
Olympia, WA
I'm not sure I would have picked them myself... but perhaps this decision had more to do with the fact that there weren't many worthy candidates this year. But I'll admit that I do like Bono. And they all actually do a lot, but the Gates do it much more behind the scenes. If Gates were more public and likable, he probably wouldn't have near the "evil" reputation he has.

In other news, a company that used to be cool can now be officially labeled evil after the big Sony rootkit snafu. They've settled the class action lawsuit against them with some token gestures. This incident will probably provide the biggest product-based business ethics case in business strategy classroom discussions out of all recent ethics cases (Enron and Worldcomm obviously still take the cake for financial business ethics cases). I do not think we have seen a product ethics case on this scale since Johnson & Johnson's Tylonel scare, and everyone knows how long ago that one was. Except that Sony handled the situation miserably, unlike Johnson & Johnson. The big question will be whether Sony suffers long-term brand damage; will the PS3 be enough to make the same demographic that bought Sony Music CDs forgive and forget about the whole rootkit fiasco? Of course, the PS3 will probably have its own problems, as is the case with most major console releases. XBOX360s are still overheating and crashing, while the PS2 had its own launch problems trying to read discs properly.

Speaking of brands, Intel will drop Intel Inside. This is unexpected news, but it also makes a lot of sense. AMD has no caught up to Intel to the point where having Intel inside does not really provide any advantage to an end-user. As well, CPUs are becoming increasingly commoditized, rendering brand value minimal. The time is ripe for Intel to change its branding and present a value proposition that customers actually care about. What that will be is unknown, but Intel definitely can't stay in CPUs forever, if the industry becomes truly commoditized. They've been making moves for years now to develop new markets and products, and base their strategy around entire platforms and infrastructure, rather than simply CPUs. Will we see them go head to head with the likes of Cisco and Nortel? Or will they go head to head with the likes of Dell and IBM? Or something totally unexpected? Will the Internet and convergence have such a huge impact that Intel is forced to go head to head with even Google? Or maybe Intel will just continue focusing on low-level hardware and carve out their niche there. But I think Intel has bigger dreams than that.

And who said that wacky Internet ideas were dead? This guy made almost a million bucks. I call that crazy. I remember when I first saw the website and laughed at the interesting novelty, but everyone was predicting and agreed that he would do awesome. And I remember thinking that if he did do awesome, I still wasn't sure if I'd ever want to try to make money that way. But no matter I thought, his creativity still astounds me.

What can peer-reviewed academic journals do to maintain their integrity? They already have a pretty airtight process... can they do more at all? To have a prestigious journal like Science be made into a mockery by this man is a crazy thought; I never would have thought it possible. I know there have been academic journal hoaxes in the past, but this surpasses anything I've ever heard of before (mostly because it was Science...). But it is interesting to see that despite all of our scientific advances, we're still having trouble making clones. Me, I'm not sure I'd want clones... I have several non-religious arguments against the idea; obviously, I have a couple of religious ones as well, but those arguments have no merit in discussions with non-religious people. :)

On the other hand, we've made some pretty interesting advancements in space. What I wish is that people would give science more merit and that more would want to study science. Myself as a business geek and techie, I get to reap the benefits of science. But at some point, the innovation of people like myself is limited by the advancements of the hard sciences. Applied sciences can't do much more if it's already applied everything that science has discovered. We need more scientists who are able to raise that ceiling on innovation. Like, if we finally ever do hit that theoretical barrier that silicon has on clock speeds, will nanotechnology be ready enough to take the reins? We still have quite a bit of room to play with for now, but decades down the road, what will happen? We'll see, I guess. :)

I am looking forward to 2006. I may get a new cell phone that finally has all the features I want.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Sentences to live by

What are the sentences I live by? I thought about it a bit.... I'm not sure if this is a particularly complete list though.

1. Rice is a staple.
2. The sky's still blue.
3. I will wait until my integrity is perfected.
4. My name is not Esau.

Reading Zana always makes me think.

Merry Christmas. :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What is it about my own ethnicity?

I really don't understand Korean people. From the 80-hour work weeks to the rampant materialism to the vicarious behaviour of parents to this....

Mind you, I'm sure everybody has something in their culture that really irks them; there certainly are plenty in my own.

Check this out! Quote:
I could travel more or less where I pleased for my work, and even though we always had translators and minders, I was rarely prevented from taking photographs.
I am under no illusions about the nature of the state. What I saw was how North Koreans live and work.
Very cool. :) I know of all the reports of what happens in North Korea. But this is still something that we don't get to see every day, you know. :)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

This post will get me in trouble. :)

So I said here that five fictional characters I would date are:

1. Honda Tohru
2. Miyazawa Yukino
3. Lacus Clyne
4. Kamiya Kaoru
5. Nanasawa Kimiko

Currently, I am reading Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. And I have fallen for Elizabeth Bennet. Sharp and able to sustain an interesting conversation, I wonder why most of the members of the female population I have met are more like one of her sisters, her mother, or perish the thought, Miss Bingley or Mrs. Hurst. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst are the only ones I would have difficulty staying my annoyance. As for the Bennet family, I would be perfectly fine interacting with them, but it would not be extremely exciting.

This does not mean that those members of the Bennet family would bore me to death; I'm sure things would be just peachy. But they would not be fulfilling, for lack of a better word? After all, there is only so much I can take of women talking about husband window-shopping, how accomplished they all are, false masks of sincerity that are taken off only when it is safe to have rampant gossip discussed, and trivial matters of society for the sake of impressing others and upholding an "image" of some sort.

But Elizabeth! No attempt of trying to hide her true thoughts, always willing to speak her mind, and every single dialogue is filled with biting satire, keen observation, shrewd questions, and stirring insight! It seems like a gem of a quote comes out of her mouth in almost every conversation. Some examples I've really liked:

-----

'And so ended his affection,' said Elizabeth impatiently. 'There has been many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!'

'I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love,' said Darcy.

'Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Every thing nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.'

-----

'That is a failing indeed!'-- cried Elizabeth. 'Implacable resentment is a shade of character. But you have chosen your fault well.-- I cannot laugh at it. You are safe from me.'

-----

'Both,' replied Elizabeth archly; 'for I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds.-- We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb.'

I wonder what it would be like to have a conversation with Elizabeth Bennet. Or even better, with Jane Austen! :)

Friday, November 25, 2005

In media res

Venture ideas currently in conception: 3

People I'd really like to be talking with, but am not: 1

Hours of sleep per night: 6

Price of PVI: 9.5 cents

Listening to: Harbor, by Vienna Teng

Quality conversations tonight: 1

Epiphanies: Uncountable....

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Because I have nothing to post...

Got this one from Lea.

"ten years ago i was..."
In Grade 8 an all-honours student. Trying out for the basketball team and getting cut in the final round. Sharing a locker with a guy named Sammy.

"5 years ago I was..."
Studying for final exams in my first semester at SFU. Throwing goose into a pool. Waking up for 7 am prayer meetings. Learning Japanese.

"yesterday I was..."
At the Vancouver stop of the Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Launch Tour. Visual Studio 2005 has some fantastic features, and I drooled. And I got a free copy of Visual Studio 2005 Standard Edition. Watching the Canucks.

"five snacks I like..."
1. Pizza
2. Celery sticks
3. Carrot sticks
4. Peppers
5. Water

"five things i would do with $100 million..."
1. Donate to charity
2. Invest
3. Start a couple of ventures
4. Travel
5. Take piano lessons

"five places i would run away to..."
1. Japan
2. China
3. Korea
4. Europe
5. Australia

"five things i would never wear..."
Never say never, but...
1. Women's underwear
2. This
3. list
4. has
5. ended.

"five favorite tv shows..."
1. Hockey Night in Canada
2. Who's Line Is It Anyway?
3. Full House
4. Transformers
5. Duck Tales

"five bad habits I hate..."
1. Talking without walking
2. Empty promises
3. Acting without thinking long-term
4. Looking down on others
5. Addictions

"five biggest joys..."
1. Quiet time with God
2. Quality time with friends
3. Sleep
4. Thinking
5. Breathing
"five favorite toys..."
1. Tennis raquet
2. Visual Studio
3. Digital camera
4. Rice cooker
5. Ear buds

"five fictional characters i would date..."
1. Honda Tohru
2. Miyazawa Yukino
3. Lacus Clyne
4. Kamiya Kaoru
5. Nanasawa Kimiko (why are they all anime characters... maybe Kimiko doesn't count, hehe)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wow, I'm writing poems again too....

Hmm.... I guess I'm on a roll.

On Friendship

I haven't posted for a while. Want to know what's been running in my head? I haven't written for a while, so I'm going to use as many elephantine and verbose words as I can in the effort to maintain my vocabulary. I realize that this would make this post an arduous read, but I do not feel I can write about this topic in a transparent manner anyway; as such, I deem obfuscation necessary. However, speaking about it with a friend is perhaps easier.

It is a peculiar thing when one considers why different people will have friends. Ultimately, there is that aspect of companionship that everyone desires. However, one's reason for defining what makes a friend a friend will vary from one person to the next. I defer to my own concept that friends are simply friends. There does not need to be a reason. This is perhaps the most overt I can make the command to love thy neighbour as thyself. But even so, I have come to find that there are different categories of friends.

Odder still is juxtaposing this paradigm of friendship with other views. There are those who will only be friends with those who have the same likes and preferences, while others will not make any friendships unless there is something to gain. And of course, my own view is at the opposite end of the spectrum by positing that friendships are about what you can give.

But I digress. With friends, there is some type of bond that cannot be broken by 3rd parties (if it were possible to break the bond, I would question the veracity of the friendship in the first place). As such, friendships are mainly a closed loop mechanism, though it may occasionally receive input from outside sources. However, the loop itself has the ability to receive the input and handling the input is never beyond the loop's control.

Therefore, there are friendships that I am confident would last forever. In particular, I think of one guy who is now in Santa Cruz. We were in the same high school for perhaps all of one year? The same church for perhaps only a few years? How many times has he switched countries? How much has he changed? How well do I really know this guy, especially since we never talk? And yet, I get the feeling that if I ever were to meet up with him again, we'd be able to chat like he'd never left. An absolutely irrational conclusion to be sure, but one that exists nevertheless.

On the other hand, there exist what Les and Leslie Parrott have come to call friends of the road. Friends of the road are inevitable. As we grow and our lives change, so do our goals, our interests, and values. And we come to find that certain friends who were close in the past for some reason are not as close in the present, with a trend of becoming almost acquaintances in the future. But this is to be expected because your goals and interests take you down one path, while the goals and interests of your friends take them down another. I've had several friends of the road, and am sure to have more in the future. These people will always be special to me, but I have to acknowledge that we will not be able to maintain the friendship at past levels. Having lunch with a friend today, I could not help but feel that another friend was hitting the road (though these are often easy to spot from the beginning).

Oh, by the way, if you haven't read books by Les and Leslie Parrott, please do. You learn important stuff that you can apply in any relationship, whether with friends, family, or God. And spouses and partners too, but I do not speak from experience on that topic. ;)

OK, so what are friends? Any multitude of characteristics could qualify someone as a friend, but the following list is probably a good guideline:
  • People for whom you care
  • People for whom you are willing to sacrifice yourself
  • People who are willing to help you out if you're in a rut
  • People who make you a priority, especially if you need someone to make you a priority
  • People you love for who they are
  • People who love you for who you are
  • People in whom you can confide for your darkest times
Now then, what of all those friends who do not fall into one of these categories? Who are they? Certainly, they are still friends. Then there is obviously different levels of friendships. Some friends of mine annoy me to no end (as I do them) if we ever discuss certain topics. Our views are simply too disparate to be reconciled. I am not saying that I am annoyed by the disparity; on the contrary, let there be more disparity, for disparity necessitates diversity, and diversity brings about innovation, and innovation brings about new beginnings! Rather, disparate perspectives that have to do with lifestyle choices (whether it be an addiction, interest, or life goals) have potential to lead to combative arguments, because the discourse is no longer about simply perspectives; it is about life impact and even societal impact.

Most will choose to go their own path when given the choice, as that is human nature. We want to make our own choices and do not wish to have other people telling us what to do; neither should we have anyone telling us what to do, if we are indeed mature enough to make our own choices and face the consequences if there ever are any. So with these friends, I avoid many topics and simply hang out: do the common things that brought us together in the first place. Why? Because friends are friends. And I do value that kind of friendship, where people can be friends with each other and even depend on each other as last resorts, if need be. Because friends are friends. And friends are about giving, especially when there is nobody else willing to give (if you concede my postulation).

Despite that effort to remain friends, however, friends of the road are still inevitable. Why? And let's admit it, it is painful. I never did like going through the process. But why try to force a friendship? It only makes it all the more clear and painful how different the roads will become. I don't believe I have yet found an answer to this 3-letter question. The SC posse will always be together, though there have been members who have dropped out. Will we? What of friends from CCC?

And now over the past month, I see people changing. I see friends getting married. I see friends in relationships that tie up all their time. I see friends moving to different cities (or even different countries). I see friends who are simply going on different roads, despite remaining in the same city and having the same amount of time available. And it is painful to see. But I am happy for all of them (especially the ones getting married). They are going down the paths where they feel they want to go, and I want to encourage them down those paths.

Of course, that leaves me here, at a stage in my life where I wonder what my own path would be. The longer I stay here, the more it seems that I should move on. Though Verm has noted that this is a natural stage that everyone we know seems to have gone through. Now it's my turn.... I've narrowed it down quite a bit over the past month.
  1. Status quo. Perhaps something strange and unexpected will happen.
  2. A venture. Perhaps one of us will finally hit on a winning idea, and I'll get to experience the fascination of unfettered innovation and creativity that can only be seen in entrepreneurship.
  3. Like Yellowjacket, go work for this company.
  4. MSI (same organization I was with this summer), starting out in IT, but also being involved in community development.
  5. Do IT for Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Originally, I had thought that I would make a decision on this as early as next year. But I think I've realized (once the emotion died down) that it's a difficult decision, and I should not make it hastily. In addition, I can do any of them in any order, or even in combination with each other. The only thing I've realized this whole time is that I am glad I have my anchor. Truly, nothing in this world can be counted as an eternal treasure. Perhaps that realization is the main thing that makes this life seem worth living, because I know someone who has something that is eternal. Can you connect the dots in that logic? I won't bother spelling it out.
Jesus, Lover of My Soul
Australia Hillsongs

Jesus, lover of my soul
Jesus, I will never let you go
You've taken me from the miry clay
Set my feet upon a rock and now I know

I need you
I love you
Though my world may fall, I'll never let you go
My saviour, My closest friend
I will worship you
Until the very end.
And FYI, Vienna Teng was amazing. She is so amazing live. And her explanation of how she came to write the song Homecoming gives it so much more power. It gives people hope to live their dreams.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Vienna Teng comes to Vancouver

Dammon and I will go to see her. She's great. :) I'm sorry I haven't been posting. Why not? What happened to the well? Is it running dry?

When I have fears that I may cease to be
John Keats

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
Man, if only I could write poetry like that....

Saturday, September 17, 2005

My new favourite artist

Dammon told me to listen to this one. She's amazing. And a former software engineer. I'm in love. :D

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

About time!

Canada has a love-hate relationship with the US. One of the more recent reasons to dislike the US: softwood lumber. We might finally take some action.

The pictures from Zhaojue arrived in the mail today. Thanks Dan! I don't have time these days to blog (still working the 72 hour weeks), but here's something to keep you guys entertained. :)









Thursday, August 11, 2005

Oh... your notebook?

Hey guys, where's my notebook?

Your notebook?

Yeah, it's missing.

Uh, dunno.

/later to others

Hey guys, where's my notebook?

Your notebook?

Yeah, I can't find it.

Uh, not sure.

/at lunch, after finding the notebook

Oh, you were talking about your laptop!!!

What did you think I was talking about?

Your notebook!

...


So went my first day back at work. It's crazy these days. We're working 72 hour weeks, I feel too tired to do anything. I have a ton of e-mails I'm supposed to answer, but they will honestly have to wait. I can't do anything right now. Good night.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Late plane

So I'm in Shanghai right now, but our plane is delayed for several hours. So for the meantime, the airline is putting us up at a hotel. But it sucks because we have to stay in our rooms, they could call us to get on a bus for the airport any moment. I mean, how many times do I get to visit Shanghai? :p

While in Chengdu, I met a friend of a friend of mine that works for a really cool semiconductor company. Chee, wow. I might consider it later in life.

I chickened out on the rabbit head. They looked too much like rat heads and nobody else wanted to try. Next time. :)

Things that I'll miss:
  • Not needing to calculate tax and tip for whatever I buy.
  • The cheapness
  • The scenery
  • The people
Things that I won't miss:
  • Public squat toilets that don't have any sort of paper dispenser
I can't remember what else to write. Chengdu seems like any other city in NA. Zhaojue has this strip in the city that is based on a similar larger strip in Xichang. And Xichang's strip is based on a similar bigger strip in Chengdu. And Chengdu's is based on... ? Beijing? Shanghai? Hong Kong? Who knows. Will Zhaojue ever grow to a stage where people aren't just using the traffic lines and signs, but they have to install traffic lights as well? Will it ever be more than nice little mountain town? Time will tell. But I like the way it is right now too.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Hey, hey, good-bye

So I just finished writing up all my curriculum for my class, had been doing it the last few days. The YC wanted an outline of curriculum for future camps and wanted to use ours as a template. 19 pages, half of them appendices. I think I had the longest curriculum out of all the teachers. @@ Mind you, I also had the oldest class. :p

So tomorrow morning we are going to Xichang and then on a plane off to Chengdu. We'll be staying in Chengdu three days with our TAs. The soccer team will stay here, of course, to finish their camp. I will miss the BBQ stands here in Zhaojue, they are so fantastic.

A fly got scorched a couple of weeks ago. I was reminded of it yesterday when at a restaurant, as our host was explaining why they put candles on the table. It's to ward off the flies, they don't like they smell or the heat (I forget which). So a fly ventured near and got singed. Well, a couple of weeks ago, there was another fly and it dived straight through the candle's flame. Then it fell to the table and just lay there twitching. Ouch....

If you'll excuse me, I have a Monopoly game to try to dominate. ;)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Torches, torches, torches

Uh, this would be banned in Canada. Maybe. Maybe not?

The Torch Festival is like a big vacation time here. Last night, we checked out some of the festivities by seeing a Yi fashion show and then went to light some torches. For the fashion show, we got to sit right behind the judges! Oh yeah! :D Well, except, that the county leaders showed up and took our spots. So we sat behind them. Which wouldn't have been so bad except for all the cigs they smoked. But it was still very cool.

So the Torch Festival. You get these big bundles of sticks that are taller than I am and then light them up. Then you carry and wave them around. Everyone does this, even the 3-year-olds. It's like Pyro City. @@ We had to dodge so many torches. But it was cool. Then they made these huge bonfires and everyone danced around them. The town's target was to have 1,000 people out.

You can tell that things are changing in the town. For example, we now have lines and crosswalks on the streets, as well as street signs; they were painted while we were in Xichang. Mind you, nobody uses the crosswalks here. And very few drivers stay in their lanes. You can't really do that when there are people who fill the street everywhere. You know that old joke that Chinese are the worst drivers ever? After staying here and seeing our drivers in action (especially on the mountain roads), I'd have to disagree. Chinese may be the worst drivers ever if your standard is whether people drive according to the law. But in terms of pure skill the average driver here would outclass any North American driver. Well, except for maybe New York cabbies.

I finally figured out why my towels always smell so bad. It's because the water smells bad. Why'd it take me so long to figure out? And why is it that I'm the only one that seems to have this problem?

Things that we're asking daddy to help with.

The sponsored students here have graduated their programs and are now awaiting acceptance into university for med school. Hoping they all get accepted. But then after they get accepted, the org has to figure out which students to sponsor for med school. Those students who don't receive sponsorship must somehow raise their own funds. Tuition costs 20,000 kuai per year, if I heard right. That's a ton of money here. Daddy needs to pull through.

The YC was created to help the youth problem in the city. There's surprisingly little violent crime, but there is a d-trade. As well, kids here can start to smoke cigs from when they're as young as five. The smoking rate obviously goes up as the age goes up. The soccer guys experienced an example of youth issues in the city on the last day before the Torch Festival started. An 11-year-old was upset that his team lost a soccer game and so him and his friends started beating up a kid from the other team. When the soccer TA walked up to them, they all dispersed and ran away and the coaches thought they were just playing a game. But the next day (last before the Torch Festival), the same kids were making trouble, so they were sent home early. Then the troublemaker says to the same victim, "Hey, remember, we promised to fight you!" Then they go and sit down at the gate and wait for the day to be over. The coaches look at each other and wonder what's going on. So the other kids explain, say that the troublemaker is always like that at school whenever he loses at anything, and the coaches go get Camp Lady. As they all approach the group at the gate, the kids bolt. Coaches run after them and search all around the city. Finally, they find the kids swimming in their birthday suits in the local river. Chee, not a good situation if you're trying to avoid someone. ;) So they see the coaches and start putting their clothes back on and are about to bolt again. Fortunately, the soccer TA had circled around and caught them in a pincer, Splinter Cell style. Hehe. They brought the kids back to the YC and had a long talk.

Many of the kids here come from broken families, the fathers are in jail, or the parents are never home, leaving the kids to go do whatever, etc, etc. The result is we have many kids in the town who have no good role models to shape their behaviour. It's tough to see how we can build character and such in such a short amount of time. But amazing things happen. :) The soccer camp hasn't ended yet and will continue on Thursday, after the Torch Festival finishes. Ask for help for these kids. Also, the coaches are organizing a tournament. We are hoping it will go well.

We saw some horses race and some bulls fight each other today. A lot of things seem to happen here during the festival.

Chinese buns stuffed with meat: 0.5 kuai. :D

We can't read the shop signs here, so we've given all our favourite restaurants nicknames. There's the fried rice place, which we go to the most often, because it's closest, and the owners are friendly. There's the dumpling place, which is right next door. There's the noodle place, which serves a great noodle with bacon bowl. And there's the meatball place, which makes these great meatballs covered in egg.

Heard about the pigs here. But we're safe, don't worry. You're only in danger if you're working with pigs, cutting them up, and you have open wounds. We eat them cooked well done, so we're pretty safe. Except for the girls. People are for some reason always gutting and chopping up pigs right in the alley where their front door is. There's always pig blood on the ground there. Mind you, yesterday, they graduated. ;) I saw cow horns on the ground.

A local is really happy because her friend finally got some fruit. Asking daddy to help this new person. Yeah, it's really difficult for short-term tent people to get involved in that kind of stuff here. I think if you want to do more than quick sowing and watering, you need to be here more long-term for sure.

There's a Chinese lady here from the UK who was brought in to advise ZJ how the town can create tourism products and services. The area doesn't really have any natural resources in large quantities, so they're really trying to push their culture and stuff. So for example, the Yi fashion show was a big contest to get people to create Yi products that can be marketed in other parts of the world; she was a judge at that fashion show. Apparently, Germany is very into Yi for some reason. So is another Asian country, which we won't mention because relations are not optimal. She is looking for local input as to what the locals would want. Ask daddy to help her.

Good news. The LT who fractured her leg doesn't need surgery. So say the doctors in the other country we won't mention. But however, her estimated recovery time has been changed from two months to four months. She's a trooper, especially at her age. Keep her in your thoughts.

You use my credit cards, you pay the bills, pancake. You might as well use your own cash.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Blackout

A few days ago, I had just about finished typing up a HUGE post, and then the electricity for the whole neighbourhood went out. That was frustrating. Mind you, of course the net cafe's main computer was still on because of a BackUPS (gotta still record how long the customers used the computers and collect the revenue, you know!). So I can't remember what I wrote, really. I'll try to write as much as I can remember.

The electricity can be intermittent sometimes. Many days and nights I do not have any electricity at all. The most recent stretch lasted about three or four days. Then a lightning storm hit and half the town lost electricity. The town had it all up and running by midnight, and my room was running with it. :) It's really interesting going to the bathroom when you can't see your own hand in front of your face. The running water rarely cuts out anymore.

So the students graduated. We had our presentations, my class did their play, sang their song (This Land is My Land, with the lyrics changed to have Chinese and global locations), and got their attendance certificates. One of my students cried. Two of them gave speeches about their experience at the YC. Awww... English wasn't fun until they had me as a teacher? They'll remember my ten points about what it takes to be a successful person? Ahahaha, it was cute. We did have one small scare. Right before the presentations were to start, one of our kids still hadn't shown up. Then we received word that he had been bitten during lunch by a dog suspected of having rabies and was being rushed to Xichang (3 hour bus ride away) for treatment, because there were inadequate facilities in ZJ. So I gave my kids a pep talk about having to overcome difficult circumstances, think quickly on your feet, adapting to unexpected situations in life, and how we'd do this performance well for the bitten kid. Then half an hour after the ceremonies are underway, the kid shows up. Turns out he was swimming, and the bitten kid was in another class. So much relief. :) And the bitten kid is ok now.

The next day, we had debrief with the head of training, and some of the assistant directors. We talked about our own experiences, suggested how to improve the program so that future teams could be more effective, and received comments from the staff. That also was very touching. The head of training talked about the impressions of love we gave her, especially because her kid was in the Grade 1 & 2 class. Also, the little brother of one of the assistant directors was in my class. She talked about how he was so much more helpful around the house now, and how her relationship with him was so much better. He had told her about the things he had learned in class, and how much of his ways of thinking were changed. It has been my deep impression that as short-term volunteers, we can do little more than sow or water, and leave the rest up to the long-termers and daddy. Camp Lady thinks that much progress has been made with the leadership group here. I suppose there's always much debate about which is better in a closed area: making tents or incog? There are advantages and disadvantages to each. But you can access leadership circles much easier by making tents, while still having an impact on common folk.

Oh yeah, after graduation, a student invited my TA and I to have dinner with her family. But the parents had already had dinner, so they killed two chickens just for us. @@ Wow. We also got to try on some traditional Yi clothing. :D

We got to go to Xichang for the beginning of the Torch Festival the day before yesterday. We arrived back in ZJ yesterday. We got to ride this chairlift up a mountain and then slide down this long slide on a luge type of thing. It was crazy. :D Also, the next day, I ended up entering a Yi wrestling match. Soccer Gorilla would have entered, but he had diarrhea. I lost, but they gave me the traditional Yi vest. :D Also, they interviewed me for the evening news! Hehe. It was pretty funny when the announcer said I was from Canada, and there was this big roar from the crowd. It's 20 kuai to enter, but you get 1,000 kuai if you win the tournament. You challenge people on the podium for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. When there are no more challengers, the three duke it out to see who is #1. 2nd and 3rd place also win money. So I guess they guy really didn't want to lose his spot (I chose to challenge the #1 guy). I couldn't get the technique right, they say I was standing too high and not using my size advantage properly. Seemed like he could tell which way my momentum was going all the time and used it against me. You put on these belts, and then grab the opponent's belt. Then you have to try to throw your opponent to the ground. I lasted longer than I thought I would, but in the end, he tossed me around like a rag doll.

Shirts are easier to buy for my size in Xichang, but not that much easier.

We're back in ZJ, now we're just helping around at the YC during the Torch Festival. The staff have vacation right now, so we'll be helping with the cooking (learning Sichuan food). And other stuff that needs helping until we leave. Meanwhile, the TAs have gone back to Chengdu. We'll be seeing them again before we head back home.

Stuff I've eaten so far, that I wouldn't eat in Canada:
Pig ear
Live shrimp
Black bone chicken
Black bone chicken feet
Luofei fish (has to rank among the best fish I've ever had! and I live on the ocean!)
Luofei fish eyeballs

Coming up:
Rabbit head...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Still alive

Another bout of diarrhea, but minor this time. Let's list what everyone's been going through. bidetofevil had severe stomach troubles. Art Girl sprained both of her ankles on the stairs (fortunately, minor sprains, she's walking again now). A permanent fell on a stair and fractured her foot/ankle. She needs to go back to her home for surgery. She's also advanced in age. Ask daddy to receive and take care of her.

Classes end next week?? :( It's crazy. Last art class, one of my kids made me a long string of paper cranes. :D It's really nice. Today, we talked about character. We'll discuss more about it tomorrow. My class shrank from 17 to 13 kids! :( Three of the kids had to go back to their real school, while one of the kids went back to his hometown. We're making a presentation for the parents, it'll be a play. I'm having the kids write it all. I taught them the basic structure of plotlines and they're creating all of the story and dialogue. They've decided to do a treasure hunt that occurs after their high school graduation. The grandfather of one of the kids has told them about a treasure that he buried in Brazil. So they decide to build a boat, cross the ocean, and look for the treasure, which includes gold, silver, and Luofei fish. Luofei fish is a special kind of fish that only grows in Zhaojue hotsprings. It's a pretty wacky plot, but trust me, I didn't have any part in it!

Growing relationships with the kids has been very interesting. We're trying to focus on character development and how these kids can have hope for the future, but we have to be careful in how we talk with them. I felt kind of bad today. We had a spelling test and for every word they got wrong, I made them write it 10 times for homework. This one girl was eager and did it before class finished. Except, she mispelled one of her 10 (she spelled ecstatic to be "ecstatis"). So I made her write it another 10. And she did it again. So another 10. Again. Another 10. Finally ok. It felt kind of mean, but you want them to learn how to spell, don't you?

So during PE, the PE teachers decided to do the Human Knot. It was a good friendship and team-building exercise. This one kid was telling us about how he hadn't made any friends during the whole English camp. I'm trying to figure out how we can get these kids to bond even more.

Oh, we had a grammar test. I wrote 20 sentences incorrectly, and they had to correct the mistakes. Only one kid passed. :) (Did I mention how the highest score for the spelling test was 4/20?). I used the grammar test to gauge their progress, and we accordingly rearranged the teams. Our teams are now Blue Sky, Peace Team, Love Team, and Coke Team. Very interesting. We've done away with the point system because they all decided that being friends with each other was more important than competition. It makes me glad that their motivation in class is coming from something internal, rather than rewards now. We'll see if we can take it to the next level.

There's one girl who's totally out of everyone else's league. She's incredible. I want to give her an English book to help her advance, but they don't exactly sell English books here. I wonder how much it costs to mail her one from Canada.

You know, clothing is really cheap here. Unless you're my size. My teammates can find shirts for 15 kuai. Me? I have to go to a high-end store to even have a chance of finding something in my size. 120 kuai? Uh, no thank you. Found something for 40 kuai. Chee.

Asking for daddy for advice on how to help the kids advance. Difficult. Also, help on team health. That's always a priority. I think I may have finally learned what it means to trust and depend on him to provide for me. Hehe, but not quite. Still learning. But being here, and ironically for me, especially being in the "presidential suite," has been very eye-opening. I don't think I would have learned nearly enough if I were in the suite that the girls are using for reasons of pride. Isn't it ironic? I'll explain when I get back.

Ask daddy to send help for the girls. Their suite has a hole in the roof of the central room location, so when it rains, the rain floods the central area. Fortunately, it doesn't flood their individual bedrooms. However, their rooms are always moist because of the humidity. So their beds always feel wet, that kind of thing. Their shower area is tiny, it's pretty much the footspace around their toilet. They're keeping strong though. Depending on daddy to provide for their needs. Ask for help for them.

Boy, it's hard to get time to use Internet here. Till next time.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Things are different here...

What has been different? Well, in Canada, the trucks that play music are selling ice cream. Here, the trucks that play music are collecting garbage.

We went out for lunch yesterday, and took taxis to town. Except the driver didn't know where the restaurant was. We needed to go to a specific recommended restaurant because of our dietary needs (many of the team was experiencing diarrhea, though mine was probably the worst case). So we're driving along when the driver waves over another taxi and asks where this restaurant is. You know nobody knows when the driver of the other taxi and her passenger immediately and simultaneously point in opposite directions. When we finally found the place, the team decided that it wanted to eat somewhere else, so we went to one of the bigger restaurants. We gave them specific orders (hold the MSG, spice, oil, etc, we have diarrhea). They're answer was basically, "We don't know how to cook without this stuff." When the meat arrived at our table, it looked raw. We sent it back to get cooked. :)

Everything is SO cheap here! I can't bargain because what's the point? Rule of thumb I have is 6 kuai (yuan, RMB) is equal to 1 Canadian dollar. So I bought a bag today, it was 15 kuai. At the high-end restaurant we went to yesterday, it was 73 kuai for seven people, and we had leftovers. Tonight, we had dumplings, five are 1 kuai. Went with one of the soccer guys to another restaurant while we were waiting for the dumplings to cook, it was 3 kuai for an order. And this place PACKED the fried rice, it looked like a meal by itself. I'll have to try it, he can't stop raving about the fried rice. When the owners found out that he was here to teach soccer to kids, they got super friendly and dumped whatever he wanted into the fried rice and gave free soup too. I tasted the gailan, it tasted so fresh, almost as if it hadn't even been boiled. And their noodles smell great too. Yeah, I'll eat here soon. I can't eat as much anymore though because my stomach seems to have shrunk during the diarrhea recovery. Tomorrow, the YC home-ec class is cooking us spaghetti for lunch.

So we got ice cream bars tonight. We were told to just make sure that the wrappers were sealed properly, and it would be ok. Three ice cream bars with different pictures on the wrapping, but they all looked the same on the inside. Interesting. And they were 0.5 kuai. You buy a Chinese bun here, it's 1 kuai. A pen is 2 kuai. A brush broom for cleaning our bathrooms, 3 kuai. Wanna hear the luxury item? A package of 10 sanitary napkins, 9 kuai! Everything is so cheap here.... Running a restaurant here looks so nice. Imagine, just open up shop, cook food all day, talk with your regulars, relax. They're all basically street shops with garage-style doors, except for the high-end ones.

Oh, apparently, our room didn't have lice. We had dust mites. I'm told that if we had had lice, we would have undergone a de-licing process, so it couldn't have been lice. I swore I heard lice though.... Either way, my roommate and I have been moved to new rooms because of the mite problem. So now we each get our own suite. I feel really guilty... I get a living room and a double bed all for myself. My living room has couches and a glass table with chairs. The team calls it the "presidential suite." My roommate got the same deal. However, it is on the fourth floor. While there's a nice view, I'm amazed over how many times I have to make trips up and down. It gets tiring in the mountain air, but I guess it's good training. Forgot something? Go back upstairs. Need to go to the bathroom? Go back upstairs. Get my bowl? Go back upstairs. And much of the day, there isn't enough water pressure for the water to make it all the way to the fourth floor (I think the water pipes have all been fixed, I do get water sometimes). So if I wake up too late, I can't shower. But it's ok, everyone else in the same situation just goes to the outside water source and shampoos there. When in Rome. The first time I saw a long line of girls carrying tubs of water upstairs from the outside tap, it was easy enough to join them. The tubs of water are useful for if I need to flush and there isn't enough water pressure to do it.

OK, the important stuff. You peopl who teach for a living, how on earth do you do it? You people are made of tough stuff. Having to prepare lessons every single day, it's so time-consuming. I guess textbooks help a little, but still. And I'm not even seriously marking yet.

The kids are so cool. Artsy Girl (that's what I'll call the team member who doubles as English and art teacher) came into my class yesterday to teach art. They made postcards. And one of the kids made a postcard for me! :D It's so cute and inspiring too. "Hi Bobby! Don't worry about speaking us ok?" Hehehe. The class is divided into four groups: Superstars, Sun Team, Underwater Fish, and Moon Team. They work together to compete for points. Today we had a lesson on Chinese inventions and how they changed how things are done in the world. Then the teams had to make conversations about the inventions, and if they could recite their conversations by memory, they got 20 points. They worked so hard! It was great, we had a lot of fun. :D

Helping the kids to build confidence for themselves is really interesting. We're hoping to really build into these kids for the future, but there are so many more who can't participate because we're over-capacity. Well, I'm not. I only have 17 kids, but no more 13 to 15 year-olds are registering.... The day I got back from the hospital (I had to stay one more night as they were trying to get rid of the mites in my old room, before they finally decided to move me to another room), there were these two kids, not more than 8, wandering around. They played a bit with Music Girl (the team member who doubles as English and music teacher) in the music room because the class that was supposed to be there wasn't coming down. They were so cute (hey, they're all cute :D). After lunch, one of them came back and asked if it was possible to be in a class, because her parents really wanted her to attend the camp. Camp Lady (that's what I'll call our main contact here) had to say no because of the over-capacity issues. Camp Lady said she saw the girl starting to cry, and it's heart-breaking to think about this little girl that was so happy in the music room crying. The YC is the only place to provide things like this for the kids in this town, otherwise what do the kids do? Often the parents are gone during the day, or the family is broken, and there is no daycare infrastructure (neither public or private). She's a trooper though. She comes every day to help at the soccer camp, collecting pylons, fetching balls, that kind of thing. 8:30 am to 5 pm! The soccer guys teach her some English in return and play with her a bit. Much thanks daddy, that she could have a place here.

Things that I'd ask for you to notify daddy about. The team has been hitting its limits day after day, with many people breaking down. There is so much work. But we have this one team member who is 88 years old. She first started coming to Zhaojue many, many years ago. She is a huge inspiration to us all and constantly reminds us of why we can trust daddy to pull through. Wow, does she ever have stories! Ask for help on team unity and sanity. Also, ask for good health. Our team has been hitting physical limits too. Today was only the next hit: the soccer guys all got what looks like pretty severe sunburn. Ask for patience. Some of the teachers are getting thin patience with their kids. My class is the most behaved. The other classes, I'm not sure what I would do if I were teaching them. Ask for guidance. It's so hard to walk the path of someone making tents in a place like this. I guess I can see now why those who make tents are the only ones given real open access in places like this. It seems so complicated.

Looking forward to that spaghetti tomorrow! :D Until next time then!

Monday, July 11, 2005

From one to the next

Another teammate was brought to the hospital today. He's developed rashes all over his body and his knuckles especially hurt. They've determined that he's had lice biting him at the YC, and they're probably in his bed. This is actually good news, as the English team was worried that it was chicken pox (which didn't make any sense, since the guy had been vaccinated as a child). But lice would explain all the bites on my body, as this particular guy is my roommate. It's just that his reaction to the bites has been far worse than mine so far. We're going to do stuff to the room today to rid it of lice, or they'll move us to another room. But even if they move us to another room, it's apparently pretty hard to escape the lice. The nurses gave us a rundown of lice avoidance strategies. I remember my uncle telling us about when he was a kid back in Korea, he'd wake up every morning with bleeding lice bites all over his body. He didn't think anything of it back then, it was pretty normal. Today he looks back and thinks it's kind of gross. Hehe, I experienced that, and it's kind of interesting.

And I thought my diarrhea was bad. A nurse was telling us about the time when she had dysentery. There was this little girl who peeled a walnut and offered it to the nurse in the street. The girl obviously needed a good bath, but she was so cute, the nurse didn't want to hurt her feelings at all. So the nurse ended up with dysentery and an IV tube stuck in her for a while. This was when the nurse first arrived in the area a couple of years ago and didn't know any better.

While I was in the hospital, H.O.T. Fangirl (my TA) had to take care of the class all by herself. Some of the team came to visit Bidetofevil and I in the hospital (Bidetofevil is the other guy with a major case of diarrhea, I call him this name because he looks like Hanson Ho). H.O.T. Fangirl brought the notebooks of all the students. She had them all write an intro of themselves for me. Hehe, it was so cute. They all went something like this:
Hi, my name is ______. I just got an English name today, it is
______. I like _____ and _____ but I don't like _____. I have father
and mother and two sisters. My parents are _____, my sisters are
_____. I hope you get better. I like you!

Hehe, or something like that. Lots of variation. One common theme, so many of the students don't like soccer (or football, as the rest of the world calls it). Why is that? But judging from what was written, the kids did not follow any sort of template, they just wrote whatever was on their mind any way they could. So I think I have a good gauge on their English skills. Extremely broken grammar and vocabulary, but I should be able to work with it easily enough. And my Mandarin is slowly coming back. Far from perfect, mind you, but enough for me to catch the important phrases.

I should be able to go back tonight, and then I'll get to personally meet the students tomorrow. So things got switched around and my class is actually 7th to 9th graders (which is closer to their actual ages). Bidetofevil needs to stay at least one more night, and Roomie (I'll call my roommate Roomie, ok?) probably will as well. I'm told that two more team members are developing cases of diarrhea, so we might have to move them to the hospital.

And water is out again at the YC. Some pipes got damaged, so they're trying to fix them right now.

I had two dreams last night. The first was about my brother and I. The second was more normal for the dreams I usually have. I forget what was happening, but me and this guy end up going to this truck. Except it wasn't me in the dream, it was more like I was playing a role in a movie, and I was that character, not me. Get it? So anyway, we talk with the driver and say we need to get on the truck. And he's like, "Why, who are you guys anyway?" So I say, "Don't you know?? He's knows famous people!" And I point to my partner. And the truck driver asks, "Yeah? Who?" So I'm thinking quickly, and say, "Korean movie stars!" The truck driver looks at my partner curiously and asks, "Really?" So thinking fast again, I blurt out, "Yeah! James Kwan!" James Kwan is the name of a Chinese guy who was a co-worker of mine at a coop practicum with the PWGSC. I'm thinking, "This guy will never buy it." But the truck driver gets all excited and says, "Really?? How can I meet him??"

So it turns out that the truck has a go-kart in the back. We roll the go-kart down to the ground and get the guy to put on a yellow t-shirt that says on the front in black letters, "James Kwan!" and on the back, "Please come meet me!" Then we tell the guy to drive the go-kart down the street, and he'll meet James Kwan. So the guy drives away. Then my partner and I (I don't know what his name was) get into the truck and drive it away. For some reason we were all at the airport and the truck was in the area where you drop off people for departure. We end up driving the truck through a bus, through a maze of cars, and zoom to the end of the departure area, where we have this old 80s Honda Civic waiting. We hear sirens coming up, as the police are giving chase, so we hop out quickly. The Honda Civic is leaning up against (vertically leaning) a Christmas tree. My partner starts talking to a passer-by about the weather while I get the Civic to the ground and drive away down the ramp. For some reason, the deal was for my partner to take care of everyone following us.

The weird thing about the Civic is that I had to drive it while lying on my stomach, like in Batman Begins, when Batman turns the Batmobile into weapon mode. As I drove away through the city, I flipped on the radio and changed the frequencies until I came to CKWX News 1130. That's when someone at the news station was saying, "... probability of 1 in 30 million! He wants to buy one bus ticket and hope that it will bring him to his parents!" I looked up at that moment and saw a flying pirate ship. At the bow of the ship stood a pirate with a little boy beside him. The boy was holding a bus ticket and asked the pirate, "Do you really think we'll find my parents?" The pirate says, "Don't worry, we will!"

And then I woke up because Bidetofevil had to go to the bathroom.

How to Recover from Diarrhea

There seem to be two main schools of thought for treating diarrhea. One is to use medication to speed the process and attack the trouble points. The other is to flush the dietary tract out naturally. The nurses here prefer the latter method. Bidetofevil was asking for acupuncture, but they apparently only have that in Xichang.

1. Fast and have nothing but hot or warm water. Stay in bed and rest; sleep as much as possible. Going to the bathroom is a good thing. Since you will be going a long time without food, it is important to mix electrolytes into your water to get nutrients into your body. If you do not have access to electrolytes, salt and sugar will suffice. Avoid cold water.
2. After the fasting period has finished, commence eating hot or warm congee, and some steamed white bread (both western white bread and Asian steamed mantou will do). Anything with more substance or fibre are definite no-no's, as your gastral tract is not yet able to handle such dense foods. Food heavy in fibre can be especially abrasive and cause your gastral tract to have a relapse. The key is to flush out the system as smoothly and cleanly as possible. Congee and steamed white bread will do this quite nicely. Avoid cold food.
3. After your diarrhea has stopped, you can graduate to extremely light fibre foodstuffs. Examples include boiled liquid or soft tofu (liquid is obviously less fibre). High fibre foodstuffs like oats are still prohibited at this stage. The goal for this stage is to regain strength, as the condition and recovery process will sap your strength.
4. Check-up. Go home. Transition slowly back to normal life.

Throughout the process, moan and groan as necessary. Recovery time should be about 48 hours, but results may vary, depending on severity of diarrhea.

Class will be interesting tomorrow. Much thanks to daddy for his help.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Week 1 Update

Hello everyone,

I'm very sorry for not e-mailing. It has been difficult to find time to use a computer. I shall update here everything I can, hopefully twice a week from now on. I'll be a bit selective in what I post, as my computer functionality is limited. ;)

Tuesday:
Arrived in Shanghai. Hot, humid air! I gagged when I stepped out of the flight gate because I wasn't used to the humidity. But got on another plane only three hours later anyway. Arrived next in Chengdu, and met the team who is coaching soccer. We slept overnight in the airport hotel. Certainly not the first-class hotel though. :) No time at all to find a net cafe, so sorry.

Wednesday:
Woke up, went to the Bank of China to get some Chinese currency, and then went to the airport to get on our flight to Xichang, capital of the Liangshan prefecture (still inside the Sichuan province). Met up with the rest of the English teaching team on the Xichang flight (well, technically, after we all got off). Also got to meet some of the local volunteers. We had lunch in Xichang. Later, we went shopping for important stuff. I bought a flashlight (which doubles as a battery charger!) and a collared shirt to wear while teaching; other people bought a watch, some CDs (Jay Chow and Andy Lau I understand, but Avril Lavigne and Linkin Park out here? Interesting ^^), and food for our trip to Zhaojue. A big tub of KFC-style chicken did the trick, with lots of french fries. Oh, and I got to ride a bicycle-pulled rickshaw.

Zhaojue is in a mountainous region, and the only way to get there is by bus. Lucky for us. This other person was telling us that it took her 3.5 days to travel on horseback to the town (well, back then, it was only a fort). I've developed a theory about the power hierarchy on the mountain roads of Liangshan. It goes something like this (from most powerful to least):
  1. Cows
  2. Sheep/goats
  3. Dogs
  4. Ducks
  5. People
  6. Cars
  7. Trucks
Why ducks seem to have more power than people, I don't know. It just seems that way. The ducks will act like they own the road, though not more than the dogs. And the people here are fearless. You honk like crazy and they just stand there. Like who are you to honk, you're just a driver! So the drivers have no fear as well. They'll zig and zag through the tightest crowds of people, rather than avoid delays. Also, they'll overtake slower cars in the worst places (i.e. sharp mountain corners) and play chicken like it's nothing; they should be stunt drivers in action movies. One teammate commented on how different this area was from where she grew up (an adjacent Asian country). Here, the drivers seem to give people a really wide berth, whereas in her area, the drivers couldn't care less if they ran you over.

Arrived in Zhaojue, elevation of 2000 feet. Had a team meeting, messages off to daddy, went to bed.

Thursday:
Orientation. We got to meet the head administrator of the YC, who is from the Zhaojue County Government, as well as the head of training, and various other important people. 97% of the population around here is Yi. The Yi are a cool people, with their own language, own style of dress (even in this day and age), and own way of life. Most of the students at the YC are Yi. But when the students enter the school system, they have to learn Mandarin, since Mandarin is the standard language in China. It's like getting people in Canada to learn English (or French, if you're in Quebec). The YC does all kinds of training, besides our English and soccer stuff. For example, you can learn how to sew here in a two-month program; after you graduate, the YC will help you find a job. We got to see some of the clothes the students were capable of making by the time they graduate, it was very impressive. You can also learn about agriculture here, as much of the industry in the area is agricultural. Also, you can learn about business, and even get a loan from the YC to go start your own business after going through the program.

We spent the rest of the day preparing our lessons. We each have to do four to six lessons a day (usually six), five days a week, plus two on Saturday morning. My class will be 13 to 15 year-olds. The government is always looking for new ways to get kids in this area to stay in the school system. By the time kids enter middle school, the dropout rate is 50%. In junior high, the dropout rate is about 20%. Many of the children here will have trouble reading anything but the most basic of Chinse characters. This might explain why my sixth graders are teenagers. Thankfully, we all get local volunteers as partners for teaching the classes. This makes it a ton easier. My partner is currently an English major at her university. I'll call her H.O.T. Fangirl because she really likes kpop; H.O.T. was one of the first things out of her mouth.
My goodness, I can't believe how difficult it is to prepare this many lessons. No wonder the textbook publishing industry is so lucrative. To make all of your own curriculum, lessons, and exercises from scratch is way too time-consuming. Classes start on Monday.

In the evening, we got to eat with the YC administrators at a local hotpot restaurant. It was great. There's this one spice seed where if you bite it and then drink a bit of tea, flavour positively explodes all over your mouth. The hotpot was so hot that one of the soccer guys burned a hole into his tongue. Well, that might have been more the temperature, than the spice.
Went back to the YC, had team time, more messages off to daddy, to sleep.

Friday:
Whoops. I clogged the toilet that my roomate and I use. Well, we can get a plunger for it. Erm, the entire town's water system shut down? Hmm. With the conditions here, sanitation is a huge issue if the town has no running water. Mind you, the immune systems of the local people are much stronger than my own, but still, it's a concern. And besides, what about our toilet?

Spent the day preparing more lessons. It rained for the first time in months, so much to be thankful for. Though there is concern for the soccer team's ability to actually do anything on wet grass (especially since probably none of the local kids will have soccer cleats).

Well, the water's out, so how do I wash my bowl for lunch? Use the rain! Idiot. Then I found out that the YC has an underground water resevoir for these situations. There was a hose stretched all the way from outside to the canteen's kitchen. Stupid idiot.

The soccer team figured out a good way to get their toilets flushing. They just sat these tubs out in the rain and then poured the collected water into the toilet bowl; they concluded that pouring directly into the toilet bowl was better than pouring into the toilet tank, as the prior method provided a stronger force for the swirl.

Got to play soccer a bit with the soccer team after the field had dried a bit. That was fun. More team time in the evening, more updates to daddy, then the experience of a lifetime.

Saturday:

/BEGIN GRAPHIC PARAGRAPH

I have never had such bad diarrhea in my life. Is it so hard to forget that the rain can be polluted sometimes? I went to the bathroom seven or eight times during the night. This wouldn't have been so bad, except our toilet was out. So I went to the communal one. That wouldn't have been so bad, except the town's water was out. And many of the students living at the YC used it. And it was squat. Now once or twice, ok. Seven or eight? This was... uncomfortable. But more uncomfortable was the headache and fever. I've never felt so sapped for strength in my life. Spent the entire day bedridden and couldn't move. I've never imagined that I could ever feel this weak. One of the team members let me sleep the day in his bed, since their toilet was still working (provided that you continued to collect rainwater).

/END GRAPHIC PARAGRAPH

No idea what the other team members did, except that there was a presentation from a Yi on how to interact with Yi students and adapt to their culture. I'll have to catch up. The team decided to move me to the hospital for the night, in order to get me healthy ASAP for teaching English. Congee tasted so good....

Sunday:
Went to service. It was nice. Then the team member who let me sleep in his bed ended up joining me in the hospital. He got it pretty bad. Maybe I shouldn't have slept in his bed. I'm not outputting the bad stuff anymore, but my strength is still pretty gone. If I walk even a short distance, I become exhausted. The nurse said I could go back to the YC tomorrow, if everything turns out ok. A substitute teacher will take my place for one day, and then I'll take over on Tuesday. Thankfully, we do have some spare personnel available for a couple of days. There is a team that will be training some high school English teachers, but they are not starting their stuff until Wednesday. I'll update again soon, I hope. Take care. I think of Job and Matt Redman's song.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Going on a secret mission

I have to go save the world again from the nefarious Evil Gingerbreadman. I'll be gone until about August 9. Until then, keep tight. Sorry for not being able to post a quality blog post before I go.

Let's do it! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

To blog or not to blog, that is the question

I don't think people know how long it takes to write a quality blog post. It's like writing an essay for a final exam, except you don't get a time limit. When was the last time you wrote a quality final exam essay in only 15 minutes? I usually take at least an hour to write a really good blog posting, and that's the bare minimum. This will explain why I haven't posted anything worthwhile for a long time. But come to my BBQ on Saturday. As if I haven't said it enough.

I'll try to blog something by the end of the week. Like one of the potential topics below. Or something else. We'll see.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Sometimes you lose

So I made an executive decision and postponed the BBQ to Saturday, June 18 because the weather forecasts said 40 to 60% POP (possibility of precipitation? probability of precipitation? posture of pranks? grr....). And now they say 30%. This is extremely upsetting. There's no time to get together the meat and stuff to move it back to tomorrow. Even if it were, it'd be difficult to get everyone to know. Bleh... although... www.canada.com IS saying that the morning's POP is 60%. So we'll see what happens. It'd suck to go and the grass is all wet when we get there, huh? Listen to me rationalize, baby. Well, I made a decision and possibly lost out. That's the way the cookie crumbles. Or the way the rib gets burnt.

So same story as last time, except it'll be on Saturday, June 18. If there's good weather, we'll go to Barnet Marine Park. If there's bad weather, we'll cram into my place. Do or die this time. :)

Things I'd like to blog about.

Apple will use Intel CPUs.
Private health care finally recognized in Canada?
Robots that look like humans...
Feel good story of the week.
I saw Crash.
The paradox of giving up all for the cross (no URL)

On the other hand, Vicky noted that the robot woman would make the perfect wife. Erm... maybe. :p

Monday, May 30, 2005

The world spins some more and you're still in the same place

So I'm convocating. Yay. It's been five years. A while back, I had put this description of myself in my Friendster profile:
If you understand why Himura Kenshin acts the way he does when he's not in battle and when he is in battle, you will understand my psyche. Analyze Kenshin.
Is that still true? I have no idea anymore. I get the distinct impression that PakG1 in battle-mode and PakG1 in life-mode aren't too different anymore. Or maybe not. I'll let others decide. Like amcal when he's drunk. ;) /inside joke

OK, so let's get down to it. Robert Gregory Ji-Won Park was born to Christopher and Betty Park in Richmond General Hospital on October 11, 1982. He had extensive curiosity with Ivory soap bars, and remembers using them for building blocks when he was a toddler. Perhaps Lego was too dangerous at that age, due to the potential for choking. By age five, Robert had his career path lined out: by adulthood, he would have undergone the training necessary to first become a cowboy and then change careers to be a ninja after a few years of gunslinging in the Californian desert. Then he would learn the ancient arts of ninjitsu, stealthy swordplay, and running up walls. He would also model his fight style after Leonardo (the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle), until Naruto changed his goals at the ripe age of 22 (but we shall discuss that later).

Robert entered James Whiteside Elementary school, but everyone (including his parents) called him Bobby for as long as he could remember. So we shall refer to him as Bobby. Bobby's most complicated task in elementary school was in grade 3, when he and his friends tried to save the school's playground from a monsoon's rain by digging water tunnels throughout the sand. This was to divert the water to specially dug wells that could be used to store all the downpouring rain and stop the rest of the sand from getting absolutely mushy. This was a stupid effort as a couple of years later, the playground was demolished to build a bigger and better playground anyway. Bobby shall always remember his beloved teachers, especially Mr. Russell. Mr. Russel chose Bobby to be one of the fab five fifth graders that would not move on to the next teacher, but instead remain in Mr. Russell's class for special instruction for one more year. Bobby will remember with embarrassment how he couldn't finish the 100 multiplication table questions in under 2 minutes, while his counterpart, Michael Ng, did it in 2 minutes and 5 seconds. Bobby does relish with pride his performance at the Southarm Community Centre's floor hockey championships, where he became a key goal scorer with a quick release wrist shot. Bobby is no longer able to release such a nice shot. But Bobby was the only student to 100% on a grammar test in his grade 6/7 class; the entire class didn't like him that day.

The summer of 1994, after the Vancouver Canucks reached the Stanley Cup Finals and lost to the New York Rangers in Game 7, Bobby moved to Burnaby. This was after living in four different houses in Richmond (but never switching from James Whiteside Elementary). But since a commute to James Whiteside Elementary was very difficult from Burnaby, Bobby ended up enrolling at Montecito Elementary. There, Bobby joined the volleyball team and basketball team. Those were fun. Bobby also met Gabriel Lo there, who is now working in Europe for Microsoft. Bobby is sort of jealous. :) Bobby still has his certificate from graduating as the top seventh grader in all of Montecito Elementary. Then Bobby started to hit mediocrity.

In Burnaby North Secondary School, Bobby experienced many cool things. For example, he worked security for Night of Nations, an annual dinner and show put on by the students. Using the walkie talkies was very cool, and an experience that Bobby never had again until his volunteer experience backstage this year at the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society's annual gala event. Bobby also got to meet many cool people, including his current posse of AIE hopefuls and ABA castaways. He had lots of fun as one of the members of the Technology Leadership team and helping to organize the Miss Infinity Conference for female students interested in science. Winning the top award for the Social Studies Fair with Joel Atwater in grade 9 was also a plus. Bobby learned more about the Avro Arrow for the project than he needed to learn. Some of his other highlights included delivering a speech to a teacher conference on issues in the education system, being editor for the school newspaper, accidentally knocking Atwater into the ocean in the sailing club, being in Ms. Thompson's stats AP class, Ms. Graham's compsci AP class, and Ms. Frederickson's English AP class, the debating club, and incurring the wrath of a certain pretty girl by writing her a poem. And then there was the LAN party that became an ultimate failure. Time would fail me to tell of the band camp, the projects that always seemed to involve a camcorder, the math contests, the martial arts club, a sudden inspiration to join choir, Life Unlimited (our high school Christian club), sleeping in Jane Oh's backyard, losing a rented snowboard on the slopes of Blackcomb, sleeping on the floor of a restaurant in Beijing, China, walking rice fields in Suwon, South Korea, and seeing huge mountains around Karuizawa, Japan.

After Burnaby North Secondary, Bobby entered Simon Fraser University, where he promptly joined Campus Crusade for Christ, Korean Campus Mission, what was to become Asia Business Association, Altered Reality, and many other clubs. Originally intending to go for computing science, Bobby ended up finding his niche in Business Administration, with concentrations in Management Information Systems, Management Science, and Management and Organization Studies. Bobby had some very excellent profs and still speaks with some of them. Some other profs, Bobby never ever saw again. Bobby highly recommends Simon Fraser University. Being in Campus Crusade for Christ, Asia Business Association, Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship, Korean Campus Mission, and Business Administration Student Society provided Bobby with some of the best times of his life. He also made some great friends, including another girl to which he wrote a poem. This time, he did not incur the girl's wrath, but the girl ended up rejecting him anyway. But at least Bobby still speaks with this girl. During his days at SFU, Bobby became very interested in tennis, entrepreneurship, and even thought of going for law school. That is a plan that never fully materialized. However, Bobby did end up doing some pretty cool things, such as competing at the Manitoba International Marketing Competition, several Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship National Expositions, and SFU's own MIS-based case competition, CaseIT. Bobby also went on a national urban ministry and leadership development project with Campus Crusade for Christ in Toronto during the summer of 2001. That is still one of the best memories of Bobby's life. Christmas Conferences were also very cool.
Having graduated from Simon Fraser University, Bobby is will be convocating this week. That's right, folks. If you want to attend his convocation ceremony, please be at SFU's Convocation Mall at 9:45 AM. He will wish to take pictures with you.
On May 13, 2005, Bobby started working at a Canadian telco. He is now a business analyst and web application developer, though currently, he is working on a PC client application. That is all he will note about his new job because people have gotten fired for blogging small and irrelevant posts about their jobs (see Joyce Park and Friendster). But Bobby is enjoying his new job immensely, though it has taken a while to get familiar with the development platform. His co-workers are very cool and surprisingly young.
Bobby is also going on a trip to China in July with MSI, a non-profit professional services firm that seeks to help develop communities, health care, and the economy in various areas of China. Bobby is having a fundraising event for his trip on June 11, 2005 at Barnett Beach. You are invited to come and admission will be by donation, with donations being tax-deductable. This event will double as a graduation party for all those who graduated. It will be from 11:30 AM to 4:00 PM and will have Korean BBQ ribs, some hamburgers and hot dogs, soccer, Ultimate, and volleyball. If you cannot attend the BBQ, but would like to assist Bobby in preparing for this project in any way or would like updates on the project, please tell him.
So let's sing out that song from our high school grad days one more time, folks! :) And I hear Daniel scream, "I hate that song!!!" :D

Graduation (Friends Forever)
Vitamin C

And so we talked all night about the rest of our lives
Where we're gonna be when we turn 25
I keep thinking times will never change
Keep on thinking things will always be the same
But when we leave this year we won't be coming back
No more hanging out cause we're on a different track
And if you got something that you need to say
You better say it right now cause you don't have another day
Cause we're moving on and we can't slow down
These memories are playing like a film without sound
And I keep thinking of that night in June
I didn't know much of love
But it came too soon
And there was me and you
And then we got real blue
Stay at home talking on the telephone
We'd get so excited, we'd get so scared
Laughing at ourselves thinking life's not fair
And this is how it feels

[Chorus]
As we go on
We remember
All the times we
Had together
And as our lives change
Come Whatever
We will still be
Friends Forever

So if we get the big jobs
And we make the big money
When we look back now
Will our jokes still be funny?
Will we still remember everything we learned in school?
Still be trying to break every single rule
Will little brainy Bobby be the stockbroker man?
Will Heather find a job that won't interfere with her tan?
I keep, I keep thinking that it's not goodbye
Keep on thinking it's a time to fly
And this is how it feels

[Chorus]

La, la, la, la
Yeah, yeah, yeah
La, la, la, la
We will still be friends forever

Will we think about tomorrow like we think about now?
Can we survive it out there?
Can we make it somehow?
I guess I thought that this would never end
And suddenly it's like we're women and men
Will the past be a shadow that will follow us 'round?
Will these memories fade when I leave this town
I keep, I keep thinking that it's not goodbye
Keep on thinking it's a time to fly

[Chorus 3x]
So long, and thanks for all the fish.