Thursday, August 12, 2010

First notes on China

OK, let's get this out of the way first.  On the airplane, I read in the Vancouver Sun that one of the Vancouver Public Libraries is experimenting with loaning out e-books through various digital formats and also on Kindles.  Apparently for the non-Kindle versions, the e-books self-destruct on the due date, which means no more late fees.  As well, the Kindles come pre-loaded with selected books.  Apparently, demand is exploding for the pilot project, inducing the library to go buy more Kindles.  Guess that kind of answers that question.  But only kinda.  After all, the biggest long-term consequences of any technology are often the most unexpected.  I wonder if the self-destruct mechanisms are foolproof.  Probably not?  Who knows.  It's only the pilot, folks.

On to China.

Note 1:  Shenzhen's a hot and humid city.  I thought Shanghai was a hot and humid city.  Shanghai has got nothing on Shenzhen.  Walking around today was like walking in a sauna.  I'm so glad that the warm winter's coming up, so that I can get out of the hot summer and get acclimatized more easily.  You heard me.  Warm winter.

Note 2:  I had my health examination today.  They checked my mouth, ears, eyes, heart, skeletal structure, internal organs, blood type, and urine.  And probably a few things I forgot about already.  Wow.  Does Canada check foreigners this thoroughly when they arrive to work in the country?  Initial Google check says Canada requires it if you come from a listed country.  China's on that list.  Guess it goes both ways.  :)

Note 3:  I saw a guy selling live chickens on the street from a cart.  It was amazing.  You'd never see that in Vancouver.  :)

Note 4:  After talking with a guy for an hour, I finally figured out how cell phone plans here work, and henceforth purchased a SIM card.  Not that I understand yet how to pay my monthly fees or how to add minutes when I run out (well, I do, but I have no clue how to give them my credit card info yet), but at least I got a usable mobile phone number.  Great plan, I'm satisfied with how it balances.  It's as if there's only one cell phone service here?  But oh my goodness, my Mandarin needs to get better.  I'm so glad that everyone I met here speaks Mandarin.  I haven't heard a hint of Cantonese so far.  Weird for a southern city.

Note 5:  I walked through a computer store complex (it also happens to be where I purchased my SIM card), and wow.  I mean, I've been to one in Hong Kong, another in Shanghai, and another in Chengdu.  But these places always amaze me.  How can all these people who own their own little shops all selling the exact same thing make any money?  It boggles my mind.  But they do.  I should buy a computer there.  After I find a residence.  First things first.

Note 6:  I'm moving hotels tomorrow.  This one is just too expensive.  There's one right next door where if I buy a membership, I get half price.  That also turns out to be half price of what I'm paying now as well.  The membership's 28 RMB.  You can see why it makes sense.  I found an even cheaper hotel somewhere else, but it's out in the middle of nowhere.  The current (and also the new) hotel has a ton of shops and restaurants nearby.  The taxi fees alone warrant staying in this area.

Note 7:  I ate dinner at this restaurant.  You check boxes on a menu, like at a dim sum or AYCE sushi restaurant, and they bring you the dishes.  I had to ask what the various dishes were because I can't read any Chinese characters.  I only managed to understand the main categories.  I wasn't going to go through the whole hour of trying to understand things again, so I just ordered random boxes.  It turned out I got spicy pickles and a spicy noodle soup with some radish, carrot, and beef.  It wasn't exactly horrible (thank goodness I can eat spicy stuff), but what the guys next to me were eating looked much nicer.  Too bad I ordered before their food arrived.  I think I'll start playing a random meal game.  Maybe sooner or later I'll hit a box that's simply amazing and blows my mind.

Note 8:  The air conditioning is at max and set to 5 on a scale of 5 to 30.  Does that actually mean 5 degrees celsius then?  Whatever.  But it starting to work.  And I am grateful.  Wow, it's hot and humid here.  I'm never wearing my suit here.  I'll need  buy new suits.  @@  Thankfully, the work environment is business casual.

Note 9:  Wow, I can watch Youtube here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Death of the Book

Really?

Well, maybe.  I met up with a friend recently to say goodbye, as I'm moving to China for the next few years.  He suggested that I buy a Kindle.  He's looking to move fairly frequently himself pretty soon due to the nature of his work, and so he's going to be investing in a Kindle.  He had a point: it's easier to carry a Kindle somewhere far away than it is to ship a box (or boxes) of books.

As I was packing last night, that point hit home like a rock.  A heavy rock.  You see, my shipped luggage is only allowed to weigh 23kg each max, if I don't want to pay penalty fees.  My luggage was WAY over.  The culprit?  Well, certainly, I had a ton of clothes (they don't sell my size in China, you see, I know from experience), but the books needed to take the real blame.  Especially the hardcover ones.  I didn't realize how many books I owned that I still haven't read (despite trying to give away a ton).  Paring down that mountain of books to a set that I could bring to China was a major chore.  Fitting them into my luggage was an excruciating game of Tetris.  But trying to figure out which books to bring and which to not bring after realizing that I was over the weight limit?  Torture.

How does one choose between Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy?  What about Elisabeth Elliot vs C.S. Lewis?  Bill Bryson or David Berlinski?  David Bank, David Kirkpatrick, fight!  Argh!  Choices, choices, choices!  Darn physical constraints.  Certainly, the Kindle would relieve a lot of that type of pain.  Even if I lose my Kindle, all my purchase records are available so that my books can be easily replenished.  Of course, it might not be the same as curling up on a couch by a (gas) fireplace and devouring words through the night.  But from what I've read, Amazon has done a fair job of trying to replicate the reading experience.  I'm comforted by this quote from Bezos:  "You are not going to improve Hemingway by adding video snippets."

But it does seem natural that if a product can become digitized, it will.  Especially due to the web, digital products have an ability to be freely (as in freedom) and easily sold, purchased, shared, distributed, and stored.  Therefore, products and objects will tend to become digital if it is physically possible.  History has certainly demonstrated that.  The music industry has been undergoing the most massive transformation for a long time now due to the advent of MP3s and the like.  iTunes is quite possibly now the standard.  Kodak's film business has pretty much died as photography became more and more popular and people preferred to publish photos online to share with others.  Are books next?  And yes, Catherine, here's my question: what would this mean for libraries?  Already, Amazon's e-books are outselling hardcovers.

The fun thing about the Kindle is that it's allowing authors to bypass publishers and sell their books independently, much like iTunes enables musicians to bypass labels and sell their own music.  That's interesting.  Although it might work better for iTunes because it's easier to consume and validate the quality of music than it is to consume and validate the quality of books (something about the time needed to read a book, and not judging it by its cover, you know).  But still, interesting.  Can the industry be turned upside down?  Certainly, I'd be able to bring a lot more clothes and other stuff to China if all my books were on my Kindle, not in physical form.  Not that I'd go and rebuy all my books for the sake of having a Kindle.  That'd be just stupid.

One thing's for sure.  I think I'd definitely prefer the Kindle over the iPad.  The screen would be easier on the eyes, can be read in sunlight, and the battery can last for much longer.

But I do think I would miss browsing books at those United Way book sales.  :)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Finally done tagging all posts!

Oh my goodness.  Seriously, it has taken forever to go and retroactively tag every single post I have on this blog.  And maybe I still missed one.  And heck, there are some more tags I'd like to create and use to further retroactively tag my posts, but at this point, I don't care anymore.

It's done.  Now I can get back to writing real posts again.  But maybe not for a bit, since I'm busy preparing to leave Vancouver.  :)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Blogger has really changed

I know that I'm going to make myself look really stupid by saying this.  :)  But I love how much Blogger has changed.  Better layouts, better control over layouts, integration of widgets, monetization options (not that I'll make much cash with my traffic ^^), static pages, and now even custom domain use.  I love it all.  :D  So much nicer and easier than hosting my own Wordpress blog.

Man, I don't see why I'd ever want to switch now.  Was this close to going to tumblr, but now I don't think I want to, no matter how nice tumblr is supposed to be.  :)

Yes, it's been a long while since I looked at all my blog's settings and capabilities.  Many thanks to Erica for helping me to get back into the saddle!  :D