Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Beijing Hot Pot Photos Added

Ulrich sent me his photos from our hot pot dinner. What they call hot pot we would call Fondue. This was probably our best meal from the whole trip, and it was very fun. More food and beer than we could possibly consume, and it was about $4 each. Unreal.

You might be able to see in the photos that our hot pot had 2 sides. One side is dark red and was so spicy that even some of the people from India said "No Thanks". I thought it was great (you can probably see my eyes watering in some of the pictures). Basically you order different kinds of raw meat and just throw them into the boiling oil until they are cooked. We had beef, lamb, and the best... sheep meatballs. I added the photos to the Beijing Photo Set.

Beijing has been getting a lot of press lately because they are hosting the upcoming 2008 summer olympics. There was a WSJ article today talking about how they are trying to "clean things up". This includes moving the worst polluting factories hundreds of miles away, and relocating poor people so they can build stadiums and upscale apartment buildings. This year, Beijing is struggling to meet its target of 238 "blue sky days", which is fairly obvious given that I didn't see blue sky a single day that I was in the city. Or the sun. If they can't do it in summer, it's hard to imagine they will do it in Winter. The article also said that if the wind blows the wrong way during the olympics, they will shut down factories hundreds of miles away.

No mention of actually trying to fix the problem or reducing emissions. They just want to hide the problem while their city is on display.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Chinese learn game theory?

Haggling over prices is one of the quintessential rituals of visiting China. Anybody who has ever been there knows what I mean. Cat calls of "I remember you, I remember you", "2 for $1!!! OK 3 for $1!!! 4 for $1, final offer!!!", and "I make good deal, you first customer" (at 4pm) can get anyone fired up for some serious sport-haggling. You'd be amazed how hard you will fight over 25 cents.

Imagine my disappointment to find very little haggling over the price of custom tailored dress shirts at the Yashow market in Beijing. All tailors quoted an initial price of 100 RMB and were unwilling to negotiate. They didn't even chase me down when I walked away after expressing an interest through a counter-offer.

So I started thinking... maybe these guys have just decided to not compete with each other? Of course in the US this would be illegal, but a country where factories dump benzene into the water would hardly bat an eye at price fixing.

In game theory terms this is referred to as a Nash Equilibrium. That means that all players are maximizing their success and have no reason to change their tactics unless someone else changes their tactics first. If you don't like the math on the wikipedia page, you can read the layman's explanation of Tom, Dick, and Harry's dating strategy.

Also, if they're smart enough to do this, why can't they design a mattress whole sole benefit over sleeping on the ground is a fitted sheet?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Older Pictures Posted

I have updated the Lawn Lake Backpacking photo set with pictures from Erik's camera.

Headed home soon

Today was my last day in Beijing. I spent the last two days doing tourist stuff, like the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Summer Palace. Something I ate yesterday disagreed with me, so I decided to cut it off early today and chill out in my hotel room with some room service and HBO.

The pollution in Beijing is unreal. I doubt anybody that has never been to China can even imagine how bad it gets. You can start to get a sense of it in some of my newer pictures... literally, the buildings across the street are hazy.

Forbidden City was the home of emperors and was off limits to regular people for 500 years. This place is a MASSIVE fortress. When I was walking around I would walk to the end of a long corridor, and come to a giant courtyard. On the other side of the courtyard would be another really long corridor leading to another giant courtyard. Very impressive. Now it is a museum with different kinds of exhibits in each room. There are ancient vases, art, bronze works, and military weapons.

At the south end of the forbidden city is tiananmen square. I'm sure there are times when the square is more active, but it is basically empty during the week. They are doing lots of construction everywhere making the city nice for the olympics and the square is no exception. Hard to imagine the atrocities of 1989, but if you look at my pictures you can see one of the streets where the famous Tank Man stood in front of a tank in protest. Good story, worth reading if you don't know about it. No, he did not get run over by the tank.

I spent this morning at the Summer Palace. Apparently there is so much brick at the Forbidden City that it would get ridiculously hot in the summer, the emperors built some lakes and threw up some walls and called it a summer palace. At 2.7 square kilometers (1 square mile) it is a nice little getaway pad.

I've updated the Beijing Photos with the photos from these last 2 days.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lawn Lake Trip

I just posted photos of our backpacking trip to Lawn Lake. Lawn Lake is an alpine lake at Rocky Mountain National Park, at roughly 11,000 feet (basically right at the treeline). We got there Friday night right around sunset, set up camp, and crashed because that hike up was hell. The next day we had plans to summit Hague's Peak, but we left late and I wasn't in good enough shape to summit before the turnaround time. I ended up taking a detour over to the Crystal Lakes while Mike and Erik went up Hague's.

I'm still waiting for the photos from Erik's camera, which have views of Hagues. I'll post those here when I get them.

Beautiful Beijing

Actually, Beijing isn't really that beautiful, at least the parts I've seen. But we went to the mountains today to see the great wall, and those really were beautiful.

First things first. I made it into Beijing last night, getting to the hotel just as a group was gathering to go for dinner. So I checked in, dropped my backpack (no bags, since those didn't make the plane (my flight from Denver to SFO got canceled, they moved everybody onto a later flight, and we all had to run to catch the connection to Beijing), and headed out for grub. The restaurant was a very spicy Sichuan style restaurant, with lots of hot food. Great spare ribs, actually.

I woke up at 3:30 this morning, and was sort of zombie-I-haven't-adjusted-to-the-timezone awake and had to watch early morning HBO since HBO is the only english channel we get. Even International CNN would be better than early morning HBO. I saw part of a Tupac Shakur documentary, and then superman 3. Arguably some of the worst TV ever produced.

Down in the lobby at breakfast some people were planning an expedition out to the Great Wall, which is about 2 or 3 hours outside of the city. We ended up hiring 3 taxis for the day. Once you get to the base of the mountain there is a cable car that goes up to get you on the wall. Once there you are free to walk as far as you can get before heading back. Some parts of it are very steep. In this photo you can see a long section of the wall. We walked the entire thing. The end of it is a very steep climb up to an observation deck. After that the wall sort of breaks down and you can't walk any further. When you look at the photos there are breathtaking views of the wall and of the mountains. Check out the Beijing Photos.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Itinerary for Beijing, China

I'm headed out in the morning for a visit to Beijing. Of course it is a work trip, but I will probably take some side jaunts out to the Great Wall and Forbidden City. Here is my itinerary. Note that I am changing hotels part way through the trip because the first one is fully booked.

  • (Flight) 9 - 10 September 2006: Denver (DEN) to Beijing (PEK)

    • Leg 1: Denver (DEN) to San Francisco (SFO)

      • United Airlines Flight 893

      • Departs Denver 10:25am

      • Arrives San Francisco 11:56m

    • Leg 2: San Francisco (SFO) to Beijing (PEK)

      • United Airlines Flight 889

      • Departs San Francisco 1:38 pm

      • Arrives Beijing 10 September 2006 4:55pm

  • 10 - 15 September 2006: Tsinghua Unisplendour Hotel

    • Phone Number: 86-10-62791888 (To dial from the US dial 011-86-10-62791888)

  • 15 - 17 September 2006: Jade Palace Hotel

    • Phone Number: 86-10-62628888 (To dial from the US dial 011-86-10-62628888)

  • (Flight) 17 September 2006: Beijing (PEK) to Denver (DEN)

    • Leg 1: Beijing (PEK) to San Francisco (SFO)

      • United Airlines Flight 888

      • Departs Beijing 12:05pm

      • Arrives San Francisco 8:47am

    • Leg 2: San Francisco (SFO) to Denver (DEN)

      • United Airlines Flight 892

      • Departs San Francisco 11:13am

      • Arrives Denver 2:41pm

If you want to see what time it is in Beijing, check out World Clock.