Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Yes... it's true... I am alive....

OK, very sorry for the lack of updates.  I know some of you have been dying to see what's going on.  And to be clear, Jon, this is not in response to your threat to withhold my Ironman suit.  It's simply that I now have been granted a VPN account for work.

Fact:  blogger.com is blocked here.  That kinda sucks.  And my custom domain www.pakg1.net is blocked too, so I can't even view my own blog here, let alone update it!  I was going to get one of those pay-VPN services, until I discovered that I could use my work VPN.  So I just patiently waited for my work VPN, that's all.

I was thinking of switching services just to be able to blog without having to go through VPN, but all the services I liked were blocked.  I would have switched to either posterous or tumblr, but both of those services were blocked.  Wordpress wasn't blocked, but to be honest, I like Blogger's current feature set enough to not switch to Wordpress.  Maybe a few years ago, I would have switched to Wordpress.  Not anymore, it's not worth it.  But tumblr or posterous?  Yeah, that'd be cool.  Except what's the point if they're blocked too?

There's lots I've wanted to write about, so where to start?  I've forgotten a lot of it.  :)

First off, it's darn hot and humid here.  But you already knew that.  But seriously.  It's darn hot and humid here.  Chris Chelios officially retired and is now joining the front office of the Red Wings.  But Chelios' conditioning was legendary, it was how he was able to continue playing to age 48.  He would bring an exercise bike into the sauna with him and bike for 20 minutes.  In the sauna!  And this was in his 40s!  One of his 20-something year-old teammates (I forget who) tried it together with him once, the guy lasted 5 minutes.  Insane.

So what's my point?  Walking outside is like walking in a sauna.  You just sweat so much.  You wanna lose weight, I bet all you need to do is stay outside all day.  OK, and something more, I guess.  But it's crazy.

Speaking of which, this guy I know from the Olympics just told me how he just did an Ironman competition.  The guy's like in his 50s.  Dang you Bill.  :)  So I joined a local gym here.  The equipment's not bad, but there are no paper towels if you want to wipe off other people's sweat before you use the equipment.  They have classes all day too, spinning, Yoga, aerobics, etc.  I tried the stairmaster, and man, I was dying 5 minutes in.  It's gotten so bad, but getting better.  Play soccer once a week with co-workers.  Last night, the humidity almost made me faint at the end, after all that running.  I bent down for a bottle of water, and all of a sudden, I was light-headed and dizzy.  Chee.

So speaking of co-workers.  My team seems pretty cool.  But the work culture in Asia is really different from North America in some respects.  Like here, power naps are the norm.  The other day, I went to IT to ask a question, and almost everyone in an entire department was sleeping!  A lot of the girls had pillows shaped like cute animals/cartoons.  They were either laying their heads on their desks or leaning back in their chairs while hugging the pillows.  I have this theory that the cuter your pillow, the more relaxing your sleep, because you dream about cute things.  Then you're super productive when you're awake.  See that guy over there?  He's not very productive.  He should go buy a cute pillow.  ;)

But an entire department?  Crazy.  :)  My friend says that her company in Hangzhou is the same.  My friend in Taiwan tells me that it's normal for Taiwanese people to have a nap after lunch over there.  She even has a blanket (but not a pillow).  And she said in Vietnam, people take naps during lunch on the floor.  Crazy.  Usually, I only see a few people here and there sleeping at various points in the day.  Like when we came back from lunch yesterday, there was this girl sitting behind me taking a nap.  I was really jealous.  I'd love to take naps during the day to power up, but nobody on my team seems to do it.  Don't want to be the new guy doing it if nobody else is, you know?

Everyone's in a total rush here.  Like in the elevator.  People are ALWAYS pressing the close door button, even if not everyone has boarded the elevator yet.  It's like they can't wait the 2 seconds for the elevator doors to close themselves.  And forget the people who are behind you, if they don't make it on, well, tough luck.  We're in a rush, keep up, ok?  :)

Another funny thing.  Shenzhen's a Guangdong city, right?  Guangdong is all Cantonese (Guangdonghua), right?  ALL my Cantonese friends were all like, "Wow, you're going to Shenzhen?  You're not going to learn Mandarin there, man, you're going to learn Cantonese.  And for that matter, it's pronounced Shamjam (sp?), not Shenzhen!"  Well, I got news for all you guys.  NOBODY speaks Cantonese here.  I've been here over 2 weeks now, and I've heard Cantonese a grand total of maybe 3 or 4 times.  All the streets I walk, all the buses I ride, all the subway trains I take, all the elevators in which I stand, it's always Mandarin, Mandarin, Mandarin.  The clearest sign is maybe the kids of this family I know through friends of my family.  Those kids speak Mandarin, not Cantonese, despite having immigrated from Korea.  Being fresh immigrants, you'd think they'd learn whatever their friends and the general population speak, right?  Well, they're speaking Mandarin.

My co-worker tells me it's because Shenzhen's an immigrant city.  What I'd read about Shenzhen was true, everyone from all over China comes to Shenzhen to find work.  Hardly anyone is actually born here, it seems.  And when you have all these people from all over China coming to live in one city, they're going to communicate with each other in the language they already know:  Mandarin.  I've certainly met only a couple of people who are actually Cantonese folk so far (and they were both through Tuesday night soccer).  And even they speak to each other in Mandarin.  They might curse in Cantonese a bit if they miss the ball though.  ;)

So work is coming along, I'm learning how things are done, going to start real work soon.  Funny thing, all the correspondence is done in English, but all the face-to-face meetings are in Mandarin.  Gah.  I'm hanging in there.  Suffice it to say that I'm getting maybe 10% of what's being said.  But this experience is driving home an important point I've always felt was true.  Important points in a meeting (the stuff you really needed to get out of the meeting, the reasons why your attendance was necessary) can always be summed up in a few sentences.  Get those key points in 2 minutes, it doesn't matter what was said in the other 28 (or the other 58, or perish the thought, the other 118).  It can matter, fair enough, but if it really did, that's when you bring in the heavy duty guns.  Transcribers.  Minute takers.  Translators.  Etc.  For the average meeting, you can sum up what you really need to know in 2 minutes.

What if you need to say something?  If you need to contribute something, you just make sure you're ready to contribute before you even enter the meeting.  Meetings are like that.  If there's something you really need to say, you'll catch wind of the need to say it before the meeting, and if you're good, you'll be prepared going in, no matter what gets thrown at you.  And if somehow you screw up and miss the boat (oh crap, the issue's bandwidth limits?  I thought it was server capacity!  What, why the heck is she talking about UI concerns?), well, that's when your longtime experience and natural talent will either show up or shut up.  Yeah, don't worry, I'll get back to you on that by the end of this week.  Let's focus on this task at hand for now, OK?

Last note.  Shenzhen is a dang expensive city.  I mean, it's cheaper than Vancouver, of course.  But I was expecting Chengdu emotionally, even though my brain was logically prepared for what I'm seeing.  I believe it's called sticker shock because the feeling can only be described as shock.  Even if you expect it, you feel like you've been struck by something bad, and it makes you feel... disquieted.

More to come.  I've had a ton of things to blog about, right?  One: Is Twitter a fad?  Two: Transaction costs in China.  Those will probably be my next two pieces.  Nite then!  :)  PakG1 is still alive!

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