Alright i am wore out from a day of watching "I'd do anything", work and posting my penultimate escapades (you love that i used both those words in a sentence). Tomorrow i will post Sunday (temple fair and karoake) and Monday (clubbing).

music recommendation for today, cat power - what would the community think - matador. The music leaves enough room for her amazing stories and voice. Again a great storyteller, one who borders on unlistenable because of the honesty of the songs. A beautiful voice that is unique but strikes you when you first hear it.


Chinese new year might possibly be the best holiday every. If you could find some way to include costumes it would be perfect. Presents, family, food, and blowing up fireworks. i went wandering around the hotel for an hour in -6 weather and saw many different people setting off fireworks. It was cool to see all the different groups, families and college age kids all having a good time.

what makes this more fun than fourth of July is the scope and the closeness of the celebration. You can see left that the fireworks were blowing up directly overhead. People were standing within ten feet of the fireworks going off and these are small town sized fireworks. They are not as large as you would see at a display like seattle's but perhaps mason / carnation or some small town like that. What makes it crazy is that you buy them from a stand on the street like the pic below.

fireworks satisfy some primal joy in my soul. One of my fondest memories of being a yout is that of setting off tons of fireworks. i would make invites and plan it all out ahead of time. It was fun to wander around in a celebration were people enjoyed this as much as i did. When i came back to my room i stopped and looked out the 17th floor window. It was awesome in the dictionary sense of the word. All over the city people were lighting off these huge fireworks and standing there just taking in this primal joy made me incredibly contented. Fireworks touch that nerve in me because they serve no purpose except celebration and joy. They are loud and colorful and beautiful. On the streets here the sound of the fireworks mixes with car alarms and police sirens and makes a gorgeous cacophony. The only smell you can taste in the air is that of gunpowder. Alright enough mushy prose.

what makes this a little surreal is the abandon with how people celebrate. They light off fireworks in the street, on the sidewalks, in intersections, on buildings. And what makes it even more bizarre are the cars driving past, through and over the fireworks while security guards for all the buildings watch on.

Some interesting history about fireworks. This is the first year in some time (accounts vary but between 8 - 12 years) fireworks have been allowed within the fifth ring of the city. Quick city info, Beijing has concentric roads around the city. The forbidden city is the center with the wall around it the first ring (which also is the only one that is not a road). The fifth was considered the most recent border of the city (the second was the earliest) but they are currently building a sixth ring.

Music recommendation for Saturday, none. The only thing I listened to was things blowing up.

Here are some pics of a big firework, firecrackers lit hanging off a fence, the stand, and someone lighting them into the street right after a cop drove past (without saying anything).

Saturday posting,

The hotel added this nice sash to my bed. Not really sure what use it was besides looking pimp. They have been alternating putting this on my bed and leaving it off with no discernible pattern that i can discern.

so after dinner Michael, janni and i went out to the bar for a little bit. i took some pics but they are dark so hard to see. The one to the left is the inside of the bar. We ended up going to an ex-pat bar that Michael know about. i don't think i can explain why this was so surreal to me but it was probably the weirdest experience of being in Beijing so far. There were very few Chinese people there because it was the night before new years and most people had gone to visit family. Imagine going out the night before thanksgiving or Christmas eve. The music was awful. It was new disco. i was under the mistaken impression that disco had pretty much died but apparently not. Seems like it is still being made and it really is not very good.

this was a dice game that Michael and i played until we got kicked off the reserved table that we had surreptiously taken. i can play the game now, it is pretty much yatzhee (ones are wild and you see how many of a kind you can get). What i cannot figure out is what the fun part is. If you have less then everyone else you drink which is pretty much par for drinking games but usually there is some element of strategy. Other wise you might as well just roll the dice and assign everyone a number. To be fair there seems to be some bluffing strategy but that was getting lost in translation and Michael not really knowing how to play.

since this is the end of friday here is the music recommendation, sade - lovers rock - sony. you know you love this, the production is a little slicker than i normally go for but the voice and lyrics are outstanding. she touches a lot of different subjects on this album and makes you feel each one.

here are some pictures of the dinner, names: Helen (a baker / MBA student William met), Michael (co-worker), Charlene (lawyer who helped William get his visa), William (host and co-worker), me with eyes closed (classic Justin), min (another lawyer).

the dinner was fun. There were also two kids running around but they would not stay still for a pic.

the meal was Indian, Chinese, and pizza. Seafood and pepperoni which was not really a pepperoni taste i was used to but still good. The food was good and way too plentiful. It was good to meet and interact with some people outside of Microsoft. Also i kept hearing the word i was asking Michael about earlier in conversation. Everytime i asked someone to repeat the word though they would repeat the word following it. It turned out that it is a word that has no real meaning like like in conversation, a transitional if you will. So it was hard to get people to figure out what i wanted them to say.
the guy in this picture is robin who works with Charlene and min. min got William the apartment for a month. It was a great place. 3 bedrooms and nicely furnished. i ended up looking at a one bedroom there that i might take but it is pretty far from work. We'll see what happens. A Cypriot (janni) ended up coming later and bringing a bottle of Chinese red wine. Not the best wine i have ever had. i will probably try some again but don't expect a lot from them yet. It was cool talking to him about baghdatis. He was excited, wanted to buy a ticket to Melbourne and a ticket to the final match excited.
this is us taking a secret path through the parking lot to janni's apartment. At min's insistence we took this because it was so cold out. We ended up getting lost and walking around the parking lot for 20 minutes until we stumbled on the elevator back up to the other building. Quite the short cut.

more Friday posting.

at night i went to another old co-workers place for a new years dinner. Michael and i took the subway from work to the east side of Beijing. Had we taken a cab it would have taken an hour longer. Traffic here is awful. Riding the subway was pretty straightforward, lots of English and pretty good signs. The hardest part was getting tickets because it required some Chinese however i was prepared, someone had given me a cheat sheet earlier. There are only three lines now so it is pretty easy to remember where they all go and to navigate the transfer stations. Going forward it is probably what i will use to get downtown and back.

looks like a subway station anywhere else. Funnily enough there are no really low signs that i have to duck (cough cough *the tube* cough cough).

we left the subway station through an exit that seemed closed and were the only people who decided to brave it. This pic is Michael walking through it.

if you look closely you can see a finger with blood dripping off sticker on the door. If you get your finger chopped off by the door you had your warning so no complaining.

so it has been a while since I have posted. i am going to try to catch everyone up with what i have been up to. i wrote some posts up at the hotel and am copying and pasting them into the ones i am posting tonight so they might not be the smoothest reading posts.

this is the start of the Friday posts

last time i posted i was talking about the overpass of death, here it is at night. This picture does not capture the true terror of walking through there but hopefully it gives you an idea.

i met up with an old co-worker (objectspaces represent) for lunch and we ate at a restaurant right around the corner from my hotel. Most of the menu is in English so i can go back and get some of the great food. We also had corn juice. This was actually a lot better than it might sound. It was warm and tasty. The only food i have had a hard time eating so far though involved corn. It was a corn, watermelon, mushroom and egg salad. The mix was not very good and there was something unknown in there that might have been ground beef. Anyways it was cool talking with someone who was able to answer a lot of the random questions i had stored up. i also almost doubled my grasp of Chinese phrases. Now i know how to ask for the bill and a box for my food. i tried to figure out what one word i had heard repeatedly in conversation was but as Michael put it "the way you are pronouncing it? it means nothing". i did finally find out what it meant though, see the dinner post for that.

below are some additional pics. The blue sign is for the new subway line they are building. They are trying to complete four additional lines before the Olympics and they are still digging the tunnels for this one at least. Good luck on that. i liked that it is human oriented.

the bikes are right outside my hotel. Gives you an idea of what i meant by ancient.


The picture of the stairway and building is the train station that I walk underneath going to work. I posted it cause it is arty. That and it looks like I will be taking that twice a day if every thing works out with the apartment I might get. Some of my co-workers called a couple of people about apartments for me today and it looks like the ones with one bedrooms available are the ones I will take this train for. The other place only had two bedrooms which are still only $600 which I might take if the one bedroom place ends up being more expensive. It is in a cooler neighborhood I guess though. Near a language institute so lots of foreign students there. Mostly Korean and Japanese so still not much English but at least a different sounding language that I don't understand. I won't find out about the apartment though for another week at least cause everyone is already in vacation mode with the upcoming spring festival / new year celebration.

This innocent looking place is the bane of my walk home. Not cause I am terribly worried about being jumped or something but because of bikes. This overpass gets dark as Hades at night and the traffic is coming at me when I am walking through so I cannot see any bikes that might be careening down the sidewalk. This statement probably brings many questions to your mind, why don't the bikes have lights? Why don't the bikes use the street? And the one that goes through my head the most, why don't the bikes try to avoid pedestrians? All valid and I only have an answer for one. The bikes are mad old, like pre-revolution old. Seriously I have not seen a bike that is younger than me since I have been here and apparently they did not have night back in the day so the bikes do not have lights to equip them for this new phenomenon. I will try to take a picture of this place at night but will have to get over my fear of being run over as soon as I focus my eyes on my camera.

This last picture was just something that made me do a double take when I left the hotel this morning.

Made more strides in my getting acquainted with Chinese culture today. I got a SIM card that enables my cell phone, err, mobile to work with a Chinese number and much cheaper rates (like so small that I cannot do the math even with a calculator). Of course the phone now just calls random numbers completely ignoring whatever number I put in and with no apparent pattern but what the hell, if I just keep trying I am sure to reach the person I want. Not that many people have cell phones in china anyways.

In the work space, it looks like I am going to get my stay length changed for my visa so I will be able to save some cash. I still plan on visiting Korea and Japan but now I can do it on my own terms. Also I can spend more time seeing china itself which should be cool. I plan on going to Shanghai, Xi'an, Hong Kong and Taipei. Air China appears to be cheap for domestic flights so hopefully I can do some of these as weekend trips.

also i had lunch with the one of the guys who helped setup the ATC (the place i am working). It was interesting talking to him about his long term strategy for the center and how he plans to execute on it. Hopefully i will be able to have lunch with him on a semi-regular basis, he is a smart guy who has some ambitious plans.

back to the Chinese culture front i also learned some Chinese and English with Chinese patterns speech today. Jay taught me how to get tickets for the subway system and i learned how to say the name of my mobile phone card so i can recharge it and make more random phone calls. i also learned that "maybe you can ..." means "do ..." in a polite way. Example, maybe you can stand there means stand there.

at the hotel this morning i had some TV trouble. The BBC cut out when broadcasting a story about a recent Google decision. Suprising that they had interference then as the rest of the stories seemed to come through fine. And the damnedest thing was the interference kept coming back only when that story aired.

recommendation for the day, The Smiths - The Best... I - Sire. Supposed to be one of their worst greatest hits albums and it still kicks ass. Great pop songwriting (in a beach boys sense) and Morrissey's voice combined with great melodies make for singing and humming along with all the songs for the rest of the day.

also a ps of sorts, i am no longer using the shift key so whatever capitalization mistakes don't get caught by the spell check are no staying in the blog. Ms. Cameron is probably spinning in her grave or her ears are turning red or something.

i almost forget, "go high fuck try" supposedly this means "with you be wealthy" in Cantonese and is a new years greeting. i think people might be taking advantage of me but we'll find out when i way this to everyone on Saturday.

This is a place I walk past every night on my way home. Someday I am going in there and seeing what the pig is so happy about.

In all seriousness this place is popping off every night, be it Wednesday or Friday. There also is nothing to indicate what all the people are enjoying inside EXCEPT FOR A PARTY WORLD!!!

I am not quite sure what a party world is but, damn do I want to be a part of it.

I don't think I captured it in my amazing photography skills but the pigs mouth opens and closes. How. Freakin. Awesome.

Here it is the next morning. So sad when the pig is not lit up.


Alright I know I say that these posts are going to be short but this one really might be, it is the third 12+ hour at work day for me and I am tired. Besides nothing really interesting happened today to me.

Mostly I struggled with travel and communication. I setup SkypeOut which is pretty cool as it allows me to call the US for .02$ a minute. I was able to call all sorts of people except for the one phone number I was trying to reach. If anyone has any suggestions for how to get Skype to call a Motorola v220 it would be much appreciated.

I also started looking at air travel prices because my visa has this 30 day time of stay restriction. After the initial sticker shock of 1000$ for a trip to Korea (Thanks Expedia) I decided not to use companies that people I know work for. It led to a mixed experience. Korean Air was easy and setup so nicely that I had no trouble finding flights. Of course they were still 425$. Air China however reminded me of a Kafka novel, they show you all their international flights and their schedules, they just don't provide a way to buy or price said flights.

After quickly calculating this 30 day things cost at at least 2500$ for my stay here I decided to pursue a different plan and am going to try to get my visa modified to give me a longer stay. Initially it looks like this should work. I just need to get a proof of residence letter from the hotel. I will let you know how this works out.

Yachi pointed me to a blog about a guy who is staying in China. He lives in Shanghai, before that he lived in Beijing and before that he lived in Snoqualmie. Turns out he is married to Holly Barbacovi who works at Microsoft and used to be the recruiter for our group. Now she is the recruiter for MS China. Small world.

The only truly exciting thing that happened today was that I managed to order two meals by myself with no English. Not that I was speaking Chinese but pointing and pantomime seemed to get me by. The exciting thing was that with dinner I was able to get a Coke and pay for my order with no register screen to tell me the amount. Actually I just started offering the cashier dollar bills until he stopped accepting them and gave some back to me but it worked and i think I paid the right amount :). Ohh that reminds me, I also went to my first all Chinese meeting. Awesome I understood about 2% but that 2% paid off. When someone stopped and asked me a question I was able to answer it semi-coherently and the discussion of the topic had been in Chinese (with tons of English technical words, which is what allowed me to cheat).

Alright I need to get back to the hotel and sleep for seven hours. Check out Jaylib - Champion Sound - Stones Throw. Two of the best producers in music, Jaydee (Representing the D) and Madlib, the genius behind Quasimoto (See a couple of days ago). The rhymes are always at least interesting and you will be hard pressed to here better music.


Alright so I am being slightly lazy tonight and included my post with these pictures of dinner.

The first is of Xu before we ate. I am working with him on developing a UI automation framework.

The next picture is of me,Bobi and Gary. Bobi is on the team I am working with and Gary is the lead of the team I am working with.

The last picture is of (From left): Bobi, Gary, Jian, Ivan, Can't remember, Cong, and was never introduced.

Today was fun. Busy but good. As you can tell we had dinner out at East Ocean which was very good. Lots of different things to try, I think my favorite was this really spicy chicken. It was also nice to spend some time hanging out with the people I am working with getting to know them better.

It was funny though to see the age gap that I touched on briefly yesterday. Our table was like the adult table at Thanksgiving. The other table was younger and ended up watching TV all night and not talking much. I am glad I ended up at my table. This topic was brought up by Gary who was the oldest among us so I don't think I am completely crazy in thinking this.

I also found out why they are playing English videos on MTV in the morning, it is to teach Chinese people English. That thought screwed with me for a while. I imagined everyone talking like Vanilla Ice and could not stop laughing to myself.

It is turning colder. I am guessing it is negative something Celsius, maybe -8 or something. I could probably find out but am too lazy. It has not rained once though so I am happy. Also it is sunny when I walk to work which is cool.

Jet lag kicked in a little bit today, I woke up at 6:30 and could not fall back asleep. I am hoping that after today being so busy though I will not have any trouble staying in bed tomorrow.

One interesting cultural difference is that drinking with meals is not done. It does not seem to be verboten, it just is not something that people seem to do. By drinking I don't mean the alkyhol, just water or coke. Although at dinner tonight the tea was always full. Also everyone had a beer except the females.

Work is cool, I talked to a bunch of people about this automation project today and got all jazzed about it by their enthusiasm, There was a point where everyone was giving each other high fives and hollering, it was like those Starbuck's commercials. Overall fun.

CD recommendation for the day is Amon Tobin - Out from out where - Ninja tune. Less paranoia inducing then some of his other stuff. Takes jazz to a whole different level.

Last note, I am not ignoring any mails sent to my gmail account I just have not had much spare time. I will try to catch up on those tomorrow.

This was a building outside where we went to dinner tonight in the silicon valley of Beijing. Yeah yeah the picture is fuzzy , see below.

Here is a picture of the Walmart I have yet to wander into. Although I heard tonight at dinner that they have Eagles cds for a $1.

The photo is kind of jittery cause my sausage fingers cannot hold the camera steady long enough for it to take a non-fuzzy picture in the dark.


So the post for today is probably going to be pretty short, it took a little longer than I thought to post all those pictures and I have been at work for about 12 hours now.

So first you might have noticed that my display name has changed to the fantabulous justified justin. Check the comment for the previous post to see why. Also Lauren according to babelfish your name is own benefit sister. Doesn't make a ton of sense but then twice machine translated text usually doesn't.

Today has been interesting. I woke up to a Vanilla Ice video on MTV Asia. Perhaps the most surreal way I have ever started a day. Being here is kind of like having absolutely no points of reference. This feeling is both terrifying and exhilarating. I don't even know temperature or distance cause I came from one of the few countries in the world to not use a standard system. All I knew before I walked out of the hotel is that it was 6 out. Turns out that is kind of chilly. Lucky I am so damn rugged, didn't even faze me.

Work has been cool. People are really amped to be here. Also it is really young, like lots of 22 year olds young making me old as hell. It feels kind of like Microsoft might have been when it started. Makes me excited about work which is nice. I will expound more on this later I think when I figure out if it was just my unfamiliarity with the situation or a true exuberance here.

Food has been good and cheap, dinner was $5 for three of us. Mine was $2. I ate at the expensive place for lunch and that was $5. We are going to have a team dinner tomorrow night, the food should be good.

Anyways I am exhausted and need to walk home and pass out. I also decided to give a random record recommendation for each post. Check out Quasimoto - Further adventures of lord quas - Stones throw. Great beats, samples and stories.

This is my office building. It is kind of crazy being in a real office building. If I go to the wrong floor the security guard gently guides me back to the elevator.

This is the street I walk down to get to work. It is pretty hard to find, walk out the door and go right until I see my building.

This is the entry to my hotel. You have to walk through this gate to get to the doorway.

Here is the hotel. It is pretty nice and soon I will take some pics of the inside to give you a better idea of what it is like.

Here are some pictures I took while wandering around the park.

You can see that it is pretty cold out by the frozen stream but there is no snow on the ground.

Also I posted the pic of the awesome sculpture garden.

Familiar signs of home. There was also a tupperware store right next to the Avon store. Also a place I should have taken a picture of but didn't was the knock off KFC. they had the same color scheme and sign almost. The colonel just had a much more Asian appearance. I will take a picture of it next time I see one.

i thought this was pretty cool. The stairways have a ramp on each side for bicycles to go up and down much easier than picking up the bikes or carrying them down.

Here are some random pictures I took of the city in general.

This was the street with the shiny red objects that I decided to wander down.

Here is the big building that grabbed my attention initially. The picture on the bottom is how I saw it first (Cut me a break about the ordering I am still trying to figure out how this site posts my pics). After seeing it I started wandering towards it.

You can see how large it is on the right.

Here is the room I am staying in. Not terribly exciting but I took the picture so damn it I am going to use it.

So here is the limousine I was talking about at the Narita airport. Nothing but high class for me, baby.