I thought it was time to post the first set of photos that I’ve taken in Shanghai. Take a look:
Hazy Shanghai. This was taken from my Dad’s hotel room. It’s one of the poorer areas of the city.
The famous tower in PuDong.
A raging club that was way too much fun. We danced the night away and tried our best to avoid the women employed by the club to steal your money.
Taken from a revolving restaurant (hence the blurriness); showing how crowded the streets are with people at night.
Some random buildings.
My office from which I am writing.
Bamboo scaffolding. Pretty rad, huh?
The tallest building in Shanghai. We call it the Great Bottle Opener.
Home for four months.
I tried to capture the mayhem of the streets with this photo. Bikes, pedestrians, scooters, and cars battle for space. People run red lights. Green crosswalk symbols don’t mean anything. Taxi drivers drive on the opposite side of the road. It’s wild and totally exciting :).
A huge mass of bikers waiting for the light. Strange that they’re actually waiting.
More photos coming soon!
I talked about the deliciousness of dumplings a few days ago. I have discovered something new and even better … HOT POT.
Ordering hot pot is pretty simple: you choose a broth and a bunch of food that you want cooked in the broth. You can choose between seafood, meat, poultry, vegetables, noodles, tofu, etc. Once you’ve ordered, you bring your sauce cup to the sauce buffet line and create a mixture of sauces. I choose a random assortment of sesame oil, sesame paste, special sauce, peanut sauce, chives, and some other random stuff. The sauce was unbelievable.
Once your food is brought to you, you simply wait for your broth to boil and start throwing food in. I cooked things in batches: I started with a meat batch, then went to a tofu + vegetable batch, then just a vegetable batch, then back to meat, etc. After being cooked, each of these batches were thrown into my wonder sauce for some extra added flavor. It was wonderful. Take a look:
All of the food you see, plus a huge pitcher of watermelon juice, plus Tsing-Tao (beer) was about $11 per person. Oh my god I love hot pot.
I have discovered the best dumplings I’ve ever had. The English name for them is “soup dumpling.” Being filled with meat and soup, this is an appropriate name. Though eating these dumplings may seem obvious, careful technique must be used to avoid burning the shit out of your tongue, mouth, and face. I’ve outlined the steps one should take when voyaging into the soup-dumpling world:
Step 1: Look at the dumpling.
Look at it. Notice how wonderful it looks, with its sesame-seed sprinkle and fried outer skin. Your mouth may be watering, but wait. Oh just wait for the inside.
Step 2: Bite a hole in the top of the dumpling.
Absolutely do not try to eat the entire dumpling, for if you do, you will suffer serious burns in your oral region. Simply bite a small hole in the top.
Step 3: Drink the soup out of the dumpling.
Step 4: Eat the dumpling.
This concludes my tutorial on eating soup dumplings. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself while reading this, but more importantly I hope you get to enjoy a traditional soup dumpling for yourself :).
FYI: 10 dumplings and two bottles of Pepsi cost 14 Yuan, which today is a little over $2.
Special thanks to my Dad for modeling.
I had to share this story right away. Every new Google employee at the Shanghai office has to do a performance. I originally wanted to do something funny and embarrassing, but all of my ideas seemed infeasible given the circumstances: I don’t have access to a Value Village, whig shop, or any 80s retro haven for that matter. I decided to just play a song on the community guitar. I choose Phish – Punch You in the Eye.
I introduced myself to the entire office and sat down to play. I turned on the amp and clicked on the overdrive. Immediately the amp made that classic overdrive sound, and just as I gave the strings a single stroke, the crowd, all at once, said, “Woooooooow” as they marveled at that classic rock ‘n roll introduction. It was awesome. The performance went well after that :).
My claim to fame has been rock ‘n roll, and I never would have expected it. Though I’m not too surprised I suppose; I am interested by many of the things the Chinese do day to day that probably seem like a walk in the park to them. It’s fun noticing our differences and then enjoying them all together :).
I’m usually hesitant to give political endorsements, because I’m of the opinion that politicians are too often liars, frauds, and generally immoral people. However, there comes a time when a certain calling motivates me to endorse. Here is Barack Obama’s email to his supporter’s list, with a subject, “You made it happen:”
This night could not have happened 40 years ago — or even 4 years ago.
And it could not have happened without you.
You believed, against the odds, that change was possible. I felt your passion here tonight, and I know it was shared by millions of Americans who are building this movement all across the country.
Tonight is your night. But tonight is just the beginning.
The general election is going to be faster and tougher than anything we’ve faced so far. And our opponents will do everything they can to tear us down.
I need your support more than ever.
Make another donation of $25 or more right now:
Our party is united. Our purpose is clear. And our goal is in sight.
Thank you for everything you’ve done,
It’s pretty sappy, but it did what it was supposed to do. I decided to donate $25 to Barack’s campaign. I think it’s for a good cause, though maybe $25 would go further with a charity?
I’ve talked a little about being in China, but I haven’t said much about why. Up until only recently my duties at Google were unclear, but now I understand my purpose: Christophe dragged me over here to contribute to Hadoop, an open-source MapReduce implementation.
Hadoop is essentially a tool used by software engineers to write programs that use large amounts of computers to process vast amounts of data. Cloud computing is the new buzz word, but Google revolutionized large-scale computing, or distributed-computing, many years ago. Historically, lots of data (like that of the internet) was analyzed by large, expensive computers. In fact, historically, lots of data just flat out wasn’t analyzed. Now, in the wake of MapReduce, Hadoop puts hundreds or even thousands of commodity computers to work to analyze data. Cloud computing is one of the reasons why Google is the best search engine, and industries all over are benefiting from the cloud. Cancer researchers are able to more efficiently understand their data. Astronomers can crunch their images much faster. Hadoop allows any company to effectively understand large amounts of data.
It’s not yet clear exactly how I’ll be contributing to Hadoop; those details should surface soon. I admit that Hadoop is my first open-source project, and I’m very, very excited to be contributing to a field that is growing so rapidly. More updates to come!
Bonus story: after slaving away for four days, I finally have Hadoop’s trunk build running on a multi-node cluster. Boom shakalaka!
The first attempt at Amsterdam left us with somewhat of a bad taste in our mouth. Short story: we bummed around Amsterdam for a night at the beginning of our trip. The second time around was a lot of fun, though. Three nights was plenty of time to really experience the city and see what it’s all about.
An insanely liberal core and a beautiful, laid back shell best explain the geography of Amsterdam. Pot smokers, general drug users, and prostitute purchasers flock to the middle of the city to pick their poison, but there is more to the city than meets the eye. The canal network is less exotic than Venice but still impressive and beautiful. The buildings and houses are all stacked next to each other like bricks in a wall, making for a wonderful city block. Each building has a hook at the top of its facade, which is used to pulley furniture up; most houses’ staircases are too narrow for furniture.
Sites we saw include the Van Gogh museum, Rijksmuseum, and Anne Frank’s house. Dutch pancakes and French fries (frites) are MONEY, and we managed to find some unbelievable North African food, which was mostly meat, rice, and a few vegetables.
One of my favorite pieces of Amsterdam is its bike community. Bikes outnumber cars at least ten-to-one; it truly seems like everyone has a bike. It’s awesome! We rented three bikes for a day and managed to ride around with six people. It was totally fun and totally sketchy :).
At the end of the day, Amsterdam wasn’t really my scene. I don’t smoke or do drugs and I don’t buy prostitutes, but I definitely enjoyed everything else the city had to offer. We managed to meet some really fun people as well.
Learn more about my Europe trip here.
Berlin was without a doubt my favorite city. So much has happened to the city in the 20th century, which makes playing tourist totally relateable and lots of fun. What’s even more amazing is how cheap everything is. My favorite museum ever, the Jewish Museum, had a 2.50 euro entrance fee. Beers cost 2.00 euro at the club. HUGE Doner Kebabs (I drool just thinking about them) cost 2.70 euro and could cure any hangover imaginable.
The list of sights goes on forever, but I’ll just list them anyway:
- Holocaust Memorial: cannot explain, must see to understand
- Rechstag: place where Hitler took over, then where communists took over
- Brandenburger Gate: place of many famous political speaches
- Unter den Linden: downtown of East Berlin pre-wall-falling
- Berlin Wall: self explanatory
- Peace Churches: awesome pair of churches
- Book-burning Memorial: really neat
- Dali exhibit: he’s crazy
- Clubs: Berlin is the clubbing capital of Europe
- Tacheles: the only remaining Eastern pre-wall-falling building, covered in graffiti, and awesome
- Hackesher Market: foooood
- Pergamon Museum: Babylonian museum with Pergamon Altar and Ishtar Gate
- Checkpoint Charlie: American checkpoint when the wall was up
- Jewish Museum: best museum EVER. Worth an entire blog post (see below)
- East Side Gallery: long section of the wall that’s still standing
- Karl Marx Alley: Berlin’s landmark
- C-Base: computer nerd convention center / hang-out zone. I felt right at home :)
We spent six nights in Berlin, and I wish we spent an entire month. Seriously. This place was AWESOME. There is a huge selection of unbelievable food, ranging from Turkish to Italian to German to French, etc etc. The public transportation is also the best I’ve ever seen, so you can go anywhere at almost any time. I also really enjoyed the Berlin locals; most were very friendly and outgoing. We met a hole bunch of really fun people.
War story: during the week, the metro (subway) stops running at 12:30am and starts again at 4:00am. This means that if you go clubbing, you pretty much have to come back after 4:00am. We went to a local club and danced the night away to the totally radical DJ absolutely shredding all night long. The drinks were cheap, and the company was awesome. We stayed out until about 4:30am and heard later that some of our friends were out until 9:00am. RIDICULOUS! One dude clubbed until 8:00am, stayed awake and went to a beer festival, drank all day at the beer festival, clubbed again that night, and finally slept at 6:00am after being awake for 43 hours. People club hard in Berlin.
Berlin is a must-stop city on a Europe trip. I absolutely loved it. GO!
Learn more about my Europe trip here.
Prague was a blast, and the beer was CHEAP. Most beers were around $1.50 for a 1/2 liter at the bar, and store bought beer was even cheaper. I bring up beer because it was the highlight for us, though Prague has tons more to offer than just beer.
Prague is host to the largest castle in all of Europe, along with plenty of very old churches, buildings, and streets. It’s an utterly beautiful city, and it was one of my favorite stops, though I think I make that claim for most cities :).
My favorite sight in Prague was the Letna Park beer garden. Located on top of a large hill right on the edge of the city, the garden has an unbelievable view of the entire city, and the beer is flowing. It was so wonderful that we went at least twice, once to picnic and the other times just to drink. Karlovy Lazne, the 5-story night club, was also tons of fun. We dominated the 80s floor, shredding on top of the ever changing blocks of light — yellow, red, green, white, yellow. We also ate some good food in the Jewish quarter. Mmmmmm.
War story: There’s a bar in Prague that has a tap on each table. The amount of beer each table drinks is recorded on a leader board, and Dustin and I went to play. The two of us managed to get our table in first place, despite us only being two and others being four. It was awesome, but our reign of terror only lasted for a short moment, at which point the four-person tables began to dominate.
Learn more about my Europe trip here.
Today is my fifth day in Shanghai. Though five days may seem short to most, I’ve had quite the journey thus far. I was worn out from an epic seven-week adventure, and now I’m faced with the challenge of starting a new job at a new company in a new city in a new country. The transition has not been easy for me, as the tone of this post may reveal, but the point I’m trying to make is that it would be impossible without the support from others.
I’m fortunate enough to have my Dad here with me for the first week of this new journey, who is a constant reminder that it’s all good. Just today he presented me with a simple, small laughing Buddha made of Jade, whose happy, smiling face made me forget about my worries.
There are many paths to happiness, but the most obvious for me is to surround myself with people I love and love them back as best I can. Buddha himself said, “Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.“ I think my world is the people around me. What’s your world?