Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Work loaned us a wireless router and a laser printer so now we can use both computers at once :)

An interesting aspect of streets here is that there is often a seperate lane for bikes, electric bikes, scooters, and occasionally motorists trying to get ahead. Frequently bikes and scooters have a second passenger on the back bag mount, often sitting side-saddle with both legs hanging off one side and not using any hands to hold onto the rider in front!

The Xi'an office has rather low cubicles that would be intolerably noisy in North America. In China the staff are very focused and rarely get to even talking loudly let alone throwing things or assaulting one another with office weaponry. This is Rod's workplace until mid-December:

November 9th Rod got to have what were advertised as being the same as the "mustard noodles" from Saturday (http://rptripnotes.blogspot.com/2009/11/saturday-in-xian.html). The noodles were available in Nan Yao Tou at a little store on the third left street from the usual entrance. They were indeed the same noodles but they were presented quite differently. They were served in broth with cilantro, a variety of vegatables cut very small, and beef. The "mustard noodles" are thin strands made from buck wheat called "He Lao Mian" according to co-workers. During lunch there was a series of explosions and then a prolonged blast, followed by periodic additional blasts, just outside teh back window of the restaurant. Some blasts were loud enough we needed to cover our ears. Apparently when a new restaurant opens it's traditional to set of a fairly substantial selection of fireworks. Fireworks are also used on other occasions such as a childs birth and a few others that co-workers mentioned. On occasion when looking out the window of the apartment you will see a small series of fireworks going up from some random area of town!

In the evening we decided to walk over to a Thai restaurant Lonely Planet China recommended. It is located in the bottom of the Shang Ri La hotel. It was rather fancier than we expected. The pricing was similar to that of Thai food in Vancouver, which meant that it cost 30x more than noodles for two at Nan Yao Tou! The maitre'd tried quite hard to sell us their ¥320 one hour Thai cooking lesson. It is clearly a ripoff but we are still considering it; could be fun. The Shang Ri La also has the nicest washrooms in the area; hopefully we can get away with strolling into and using them in future.

Another interesting little difference here is that the street lights commonly have a digital display of the time remaining for the current activity in the intersection. It generally seems to work quite well.

When we got home Pavan remembered that a terrifying creature had taken over one of the bathrooms and needed to be encouraged to find another home. The moth was quite large and really quite nice looking.

The entire night of November 9th it was quite windy. The wind howling through the high-rises creates some really interesting wailing and howling sounds at times.

November 10th was still windy. As a result the air was better and we could see much further than usual. Still not tremendously far compared to Vancouver but much further than normal Xi'an. Unfortunately it rained during the day so Nan Yao Tou for lunch was ruled out.

Rod had posted a technical challange to the China team earlier in the week, with a ¥50+tech t-shirt bounty, plus a chance to prove mad skillz. None of the people who were expected to be contenders posted a solution but a new guy (with some experience from other employers) dug right into it and successfully posted a solution. The contest was kind of fun; hoping to post other challanges. Here is the challange:

From: Rod Sheeter
Sent: Monday, November 09, 2009 1:56 PM
To: .FND.Multisite.Team Dev China
Subject: Infrastructure Challange

Looking for a chance to prove you have infrastructure skills and the ability to figure out how stuff works? Here is your chance!
Fix the defect described in FNDTCHINF-463 (attached in case some people can't see this ticket). Create a buildtools patch file for your solution and email it to me.
50RMB dinner re-imbursement and a t-shirt.
  • Create your fix outside of regular work-time
  • Email me your solution as a patch file
    • if you don't know how just ask; creating patches is not part of the challenge
  • The winning submission will be picked by me, subjectively, looking for a clean, simple, change that fixes the problem
    • In the event that multiple good fixes are submitted the person whose solution I receive first wins
Email me any problems, questions, or your solution.
Rod S.

To solve the problem a contestent had to dig into some sections of the codebase owned by the Enterprise Architecture Team and written using somewhat different technologies than most people are used to so to receive a solution so soon from someone new was quite impressive. Maybe we can poach the guy for Rod's team...

During the day Cash from Active dropped by to help a repairman fix (more or less) the washing machines propensity to pump several liters of water onto the floor when run. He also helped decipher the video entry system. Hopefully next time it goes off we'll actually be able to buzz the person up! The first time it went off it was the cleaner we hired and she didn't speak English!

While Rod was busy handing out bounties in the afternoon Pavan was hanging out at home doing bank reconcilliations. After the novelty of this wore off she went down to the little shop at the base of the building and decided to try to get some ingredients and cook some of the style of food we had been eating locally. ¥20 procured pre-made dumplings, a lotus root, and materials for egg and tomato cooked with oil (rather literal translation). The shopkeeper also gave her ten or so basic chopsticks and helped pick out a spicy stuff mix to use. The resulting dinner was quite good. The dumplings, served with a very dark vineger, were delicious. The egg/tomato/oil concoction was also very good. The lotus root had potential but was a bit bland and perhaps slightly underdone. It is tricky because it is supposed to be served with a fair bit of crunch left to it. Overall it was a delicious and highly enjoyable meal.

On the way home from work Rod spotted a gentleman in fatigues standing near a truck holding a stick. Construction workers commonly wear fatigues so thinking nothing of it he strolled past. On closer inspection the man with a stick was actually holding a combat shotgun! Further gentlemen with shotguns came pouring out of the bank in the bottom of the outer high-rise, followed by what looked like five or so teller girls carrying nightsticks, two guys carrying presumably valuable bags, and a number of guys in suits. They bustled the bags and all the shotgunners into a rather unimpressive truck and took off. Evidently this is the local equivalent of a Brinks armored truck picking up cash.

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