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Notes from China, Part 2

More TIL in China…

  • There is nothing made here with High-Fructose Corn Syrup. Everything’s made with natural sugar, because China doesn’t subsidize corn like we do, insanely, in the US.
  • Food is, by and large, fresher here. Meat was likely butchered within a day or so of being served or sold. Yogurt and diary products are not pasteurized. Eggs are not washed when collected, and can safely sit at room temperature for a few days.
  • Xi’an cuisine is all about the noodle. ALL. ABOUT. THE. NOODLE. Shanghainese is apparently all about sweet, and dumplings. Tasty, tasty steamed dumplings. Now I’m hungry again.
  • Food in China is ridiculously cheap.
  • The Great Firewall of China really puts a serious damper on the Internet, especially anything that uses an encrypted protocol. E-mail doesn’t seem too dramatically affected, as my trusty Apple Mail app can still fetch and send to all of my accounts, but there seems to be a selection of services that do work, and everything else is just blocked. The things that do work are subject to deep packet inspection. This slows everything to a crawl. Unfortunately, this also means things like Evernote, DropBox, etc. are hit-or-miss, but mostly miss.
  • Did I mention traffic here is a bit loony?
  • Shanghai is definitely more upscale than Xi’an.
  • I’ve seen more upscale cars in Xi’an and Shanghai than I do in La Jolla / San Diego. Jaguar, Land Rover, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche. I guess if food and housing is cheap, there’s only so many other places to throw your money, so a lot of people throw it at cars.
  • With as crazy as traffic is here, I’m amazed that I’ve only seen two accidents on the roads, and one near-miss. I happened to be in the taxi for the near-miss. EXCITEMENT!
  • Two weeks for a trip to China, especially if you’re going to central China (like, say, Xi’an), actually costs you about 5 days of travel, if you’re smart and plan on a one-night layover after/before you cross the Pacific.

I guess that’s about it. Looking forward to going home. Not looking forward to the extra 20 hours of travel being inserted into my day, but I’ll be in my own bed tonight after a 40-hour Friday.

Notes from China, Part 2

Notes from China, Part 1

TIL, so far in China…

  • KFC is the largest chain restaurant in China.
  • “Parking” means stuffing your car wherever you can find enough space for it to fit. Whether that’s on the sidewalk, the side of the street, or blocking in three other (illegally) parked cars, it’s all good.
  • Right of way is ruled by mass, and there’s no obligation to stop for a right turn on red. Left turns do not need to yield to oncoming traffic. Pedestrians cross at their own risk. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be the frog. Now I have an idea.
  • It’s apparently better to be here when it’s warm than when it’s cold. Nobody burns their coal heaters when it’s warm, so the air is actually breathable. The constant rain for the last four days has helped, too.
  • Sometimes the air conditioning works.
  • The hotels try very hard to feel very European, but they’re very definitely Made In China. It’s a source of cognitive dissonance.
  • If it has wheels, you’ll see it on the roads. And next to the roads. And sometimes on the sidewalks.
  • Electric scooters are very popular here. And absolutely freaking silent. Keep your head on a swivel.
  • There is a very complicated pattern drivers observe of when to use high-beams, hazard flashers, turn signals, horns, or even any lights at all, regardless of day or night. I have not yet figured it out, content to let driving be done by local professionals.
  • Taxi drivers here are insane. And belligerent. If they don’t like where you want to go, they’ll drive off without you. Be prepared to argue. On the bright side, the taxis at the airport don’t have a choice if they want to get in the taxi line.
  • Speaking of taxis, every single car service representative will chase you down to offer you a ride as you walk out of Customs. These people are dressed very nicely and professionally, speak passable English, and are quite insistent. Politely decline them all, and follow the signs for TAXI, which will lead you outside to the standard taxis queued up in a designated area, with what I can only assume are “taxi marshals”. You’ll pay about 1/6th to 1/5th the price of those driver services that feed outside Customs, and the cabbies cannot turn you down.
Notes from China, Part 1

The Little Things

A true mark of good design is the little details that the user discovers over time that reminds them why they picked your product in the first place.

What made me think of this today was the stop-and-go traffic in the rain. The rain was light enough that I had my wipers on long-delay intermittent. I noticed, at first, that every once in a while the wipers would go an extra time, out of cycle with the pauses. A few more times, and I realized what was happening: if I let off the brake at a full stop, the car would trigger the wipers, regardless of where they were in the intermittent cycle.

The car was purposely ensuring that the windshield was clear when you started moving the car from a dead stop.

This may seem like a small thing, but damn, it’s a nice touch. I have to hand it to the Acura people. It’s been six months now that we’ve had the 2009 TSX, and I’m still telling people how much I love the car.

The Little Things

Bittersweet

Overall, I have to say, the election results are nearly as good as I could have hoped, with one major blemish: California’s Proposition 8 to constitutionally define marriage as being between a man and a woman appears to be passing as the final votes are tallied. As one person on Twitter said:

The state of California has decided that our food has inalienable rights, but our fellow human beings do not. That is sad and shameful.

Apparently, however, nearly 41% of the ballots in California are absentee, which could make for some interesting results as those are tallied. See this Sacramento Bee article for details and more election-related information.

Bittersweet