Tag Archives: travel

All-in-all, an excellent trip to China

Kiwi and the endless battle to sit on the counterI got back to Seattle almost two hours ahead of the scheduled arrival. The departure time got pushed up from 11:30 AM to 11:00 AM. Who ever heard of such a thing. The other thing that seems completely out of sync with my experience is that from my first ride from the airport to the hotel in Shanghai to my last ride from the hotel to the airport in Beijing, all the driving was quite sane and careful on very good roads. I am sure it must be that I was not in the right place to experience the wild driving about which I have heard, but they would have to up their insanity by several orders of magnitude to arrive at what I have experienced on numerous occasions in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.

We went from SeaTac airport to drop Kelly off, home for a quick change and then on to church followed by a five hour nap. Then I went to bed at my normal time and got up at my normal time. The jet lag had way less effect on me than what I remember from trips to Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. Maybe it is because I am getting old and do not need much sleep. The whole trip, the nuts and bolts mechanics of it anyway, was about as benign as any Asian trip I have ever taken. I do not know if I relish the idea of going on a super regular basis, but I do not dread the idea anymore. It will be good to go back and see the very kind people with whom I worked when I was there, too.

Kiwi was fit to be tied when we got home. She had stayed by herself for two days while Lorena stayed with Kelly. It was good to see her, but she let us know she was displeased; in no uncertain terms.

Returning from China

I am sitting in a hotel room in Beijing, waiting to catch a shuttle to the airport to return to Seattle. This was a very interesting trip. I guess it is to be expected that my impressions of China are fundamentally different from my expectations before I arrived. There are lots and lots of very good things about China. I have made good friends and look forward to my next trip in a few months. There are some things about China that are unsettling. I need to think about them a little and it is all so foreign to me that I do not have an opinion. I think, like Mexico, there are some parts of the culture I will never understand because I am an American. The other thing is that China is so big and diverse, understanding things in one place is meaningless when you go to another part of China, maybe not even so far away. It has been a wonderful trip although it would have been nice to bring Lorena along. Lorena has been invited, so maybe we can make that happen.

A couple of days in Shenzhen

View from DoubleTree in ShenzhenWe drove from Suzhou to Shanghai and then flew down to Shenzhen last night. We then caught the equivalent of an Uber ride to a town about forty minutes north that is right by our company’s Shenzhen office. It is very beautiful here. We are meeting a customer later this morning, then just going to work in the local office without any meeting agenda. We have been running so hard that it will be nice to have a day that is a little bit slower to catch up.

The team in Suzhou is pretty amazing in that everyone is quite young, very bright and very new to the company. There is an energy there that I remember from my time at startups in the early eighties. That feel does not seem to exist so much anymore in the US even though I have done quite a few small startups over the last twenty years or so. They promised me when I come back to China next time they will all take me to the Mexican restaurant that is walking distance from the office. I am very much looking forward to it.

Suzhou, China

View from our office in SuzhouWe have been running since I hit the ground in Shanghai Pudong airport day before yesterday. There have been lots of surprises on this trip, mostly to do with the very modern and extensive infrastructure that is ubiquitous both in Shanghai and Suzhou. I know I am traveling and working in the very centers of commerce and industry for which China is known in this day and age. Nevertheless, it is very impressive.

My other, maybe bigger surprised is the decorum with which the drivers that got me from Shanghai to Suzhou have exhibited. I have to say it has been somewhat more aggressive driving that in the U.S., but no where close to the craziness that is Monterrey, Mexico. That being said, I just got her and do not know much yet, but I have certainly enjoyed the experience so far.

From the picture of the view from my company’s office in Suzhou, you can probably tell there has not been much time to take many pictures. The timing of our meetings and the weather (torrential, North Carolina/Florida quality thunderstorms) have not cooperated in that regard and I am not sure much will change base on my schedule.

The other marvelous thing I have experienced here is the food. Last night we spent several hours at a Korean barbecue place that makes me think it would be great to own one of those Korean barbecue tables with the charcoal pits in the middle and the automatic shish-ka-bob rotators. Who knows what they are really called, but whatever it is, they are really cool. I am going to investigate.


Chinese VisaI cannot remember when was the last time I went to Asia. I have been to quite a few places over there–Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, but I have never been to mainland China. After jumping through lots of hoops, I got my hands on the needed Visa a half an hour before the FedEx office in Olympia closed. So now I get to fly to Shanghai to celebrate my birthday tomorrow.

I got good seats with lots of legroom, so that is a fine thing. My hope is to be able to get some work done on the sickle cell detection project as well as some work for my day job. Just in case I get all that done, I bought the latest Longmire novel and a second mystery novel. Who knows whether I will be able to get any sleep.

I will be in Shanghai (our office is in Suzhou) then on to Shenzhen, before catching a flight through Beijing on the way home. Of course this is one of those work trips where I will not get to see anything other than big factories and R&D offices which are pretty much the same the world over. Nevertheless, I am confident I will get some great Chinese food. I am especially looking forward to meeting two members of my team with whom I have spoken fairly extensively over Skype, but have never met face to face.

The presentation at Asilomar went well

Eating lunch at Boston Market in Cupertino after meetingChristian gave his paper at the Asilomar Conference on Signals, Systems and Computers in Pacific Grove California yesterday. It was a scary deal being the first time he has done it, but it went well. Now all he has to do is enjoy the rest of his conference, visit a buddy at UCLA on the way home and get ready to go on to the next thing.

The picture at the left is one I took after church when we ate lunch at Boston Market in Cupertino before Christian dropped me off at the airport to fly home to Oregon. We had a great time. It was especially good to be “stuck” in a car for twelve hours or so just to talk stuff over. This is a trip we will remember.

Betty Blonde #420 – 02/24/2010
Betty Blonde #420
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On the way to San Jose

Christian and I drove up from Tempe to Gilroy, California yesterday. It was a nice drive. The purpose of the drive is to get Christian to Asilomoar to a conference so he can give a paper on Monday. He worked on some of the graphs in his presentation on the way up and we talked about everything under the sun. It dawned on me (again for the gazillionth time) that there is a whole lot of nothing between Bakersfield and Sacramento, California traveling up I-5.

Another thing I did not know is that the Rosebowl, NASA-JPL and The Art Center College of Design are a stones throw away from each other in Pasadena. The reason I know that now is I drank two of those really big bottles of Mountain Dew and had an immediate need to visit a restroom right about when we got to that part of Pasadena. Then we drove around not finding a bathroom for long enough to be able to make those observations.

Betty Blonde #419 – 02/23/2010
Betty Blonde #419
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Flying to Tempe for a drive to Asilomar

Christian is scheduled to deliver a conference paper on his research at the Asilomar Conference on Signals, Systems and Computers on Monday. I do not know what is the title of his paper, but it is heavy on Information Theory (see here, here and here) and has to do with radio communication, but applies to everything under the sun, probably especially the whole Internet of Things meme. I took a half day off today so I can fly down to Arizona and drive with Christian up to Pacific Grove, California, the home of the Asilomar Conference grounds. We could have flown, but he is not yet old enough to rent a car to get around and he also wants to stop in LA to visit a buddy from North Carolina State who is there to get a PhD at UCLA in Math.

We are looking forward to the trip, but it is going to be a marathon practice session with me driving and him delivering his paper a gazillion times until he has it down cold. I want to at least an inkling of understanding about his work, but I do not hold out much hope because it is pretty dense. His paper will go into the conference proceedings, but he wants to add some new insights into it and turn it into his first refereed, first-author journal article. I need to remember to take some pictures on the way there.

Betty Blonde #418 – 02/22/2010
Betty Blonde #418
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What to do next, living-wise

Lorena and I struggle a little right now with a decision about where to live. We have thought about heading up to Seattle to be closer to Kelly. We went up there last week to see her. Washington is a beautiful and amazing state. Seattle is a beautiful and amazing city. We love all the water of the Puget Sound. There are lots of good restaurants and stores. There are lots of reasons to move to Seattle, but there is the down-side, too. The politics of Seattle are not quite as crazy and deeply immoral as the politics of Portland, but they are pretty crazy and immoral and they have that nasty little anarchist thing going for them, too. Kind of like Eugene, but bigger. We definitely could live there, but we could live a lot of other places.

We actually took the train from Vancouver to Seattle and then an Uber from the train station to Kelly’s apartment. The whole trip was an absolute joy. We actually think we could live happily anywhere from Vancouver up past Seattle and anywhere on the Sound. The tax situation is profoundly better in Washington than Oregon and so is the economy. Still, we have mixed feelings. We really are Oregonians heart and soul. Well, that and Mexican. Everyone we asked said the Mexican food was horrible throughout Seattle, but I cannot believe that is entirely true although I have to admit it would have been very gracious to call the Mexican food we ate Friday night even mediocre.

We are truly up in the air on all this. We have thought it would be good to have at least a half acre and maybe even an acre or two. But we also think, “Why would we do that?” I ran into this article that talks about saving money in economically hard times. It struck a chord with me. We, personally, are not even close to being on hard times, but the article was compelling–it surely feels like economic hard times could arrive to the whole country very quickly. Add to that the fact that Kelly and Christian will probably not stay where they are much longer than it takes them to finish their degrees–maybe 3-4 years, and we are even more trepidatious about this decision of what to do. We want to be as close as is reasonable to our kids.

We are thinking about it. We have decided to keep looking and expand our thinking to include smaller houses on smaller lots in places where we can walk to grocery stores, schools, restaurants and the like. Lorena has always said she could be happy just about anywhere as long is she is less than fifteen minutes from a Costco and twenty minutes from a Trader Joe’s.

Betty Blonde #417 – 02/19/2010
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Famous hockey people on the plane

Yesterday was a travel day and a very interesting one. While I was sitting at the airport waiting to get on the plane to Charlotte, a fellow about my age came and set beside me. We struck up a conversation and it turned out that he had had a career as a hockey player in the NHL. He had been in town doing scouting of some kind. As in most of those kinds of conversations, I never got his name. He was a very nice guy and I enjoyed the talk.

When I got on the plane, I sat by another guy about my age who greeted and had a brief conversation with the first guy. When they were done I asked my seat mate if the first guy was a known hockey player.

He gave me a funny look and said “That is Mark Howe” like I should know who he was.

I didn’t, so the guy said, “Gordie Howe’s son. He is an NHL hall of famer, too.”

I know that guy, so I thought that was very cool. Both Mark and Gordie have Wikipedia pages and very impressive careers. It is a short flight to Charlotte, but this other guy and I had a great conversation. It turns out he is a famous Hockey personality, too. His name is Dave Strader and he is currently NBC’s play by play hockey announcer. We spent almost no time talking about hockey. The thing that was totally fascinating about him was that he had three very impressive grown children. Two of his kids were, what we call in the Chapman household, math kids. A math major and a physicist with a strong chemical background, both from very strong universities.

When I heard that, I was very surprised and probably a little ungraciously said, “How did that happen?”

What are the odds a hockey announcer is going to have two kids that did hard math.

He laughed and said, “It had to be their mother” who turns out was a stay at home mom.

All this was very impressive for a guy like me, but then he told me about the third son who got a degree in voice at a school where it is extremely difficult to even get accepted. He is currently in New York working on kick starting his singing career. He told me about a youtube video of his son singing Ave Maria. Judge for yourself:

Betty Blonde #186 – 04/02/2009
Betty Blonde #186
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Life away from home

Day 844 of 1000
Betty Blonde #23 – 08/18/2008
Betty Blonde #23
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I checked my frequent “stayer” status for Marriott Residence Inn today.  After this trip, I will have been there for 184 days this year.  If I add the other hotel stays for the year in San Francisco, Denver, and other hotels here in Prescott, the number is well over 200 days.  That is not so good.  My goal for next year is less than half that amount.