Beijing Impressions

Overall I kind of expected China to be like one big EU/US Chinatown. Having spent three days in Beijing I have to say it's wrong. Something like expecting all of Russia to be akin to Brighton Beach.

1. Chinese in China are more polite than I had expected

Having come across a fair amount of mainland Chinese in the West I was pleasantly surprised to find them a lot calmer and quieter in China. Maybe it's a North-South division, with Southeners being louder and more obnoxious (we'll see in Shanghai). I use road etiquette as an indicator - in Beijing people are extremely polite to each other on the road (even the Rolls Royce that drove sans license plates followed normal rules of traffic)

2. Like the rest of East Asia, it feels very safe. I walked around past midnight without worry. So far here I did not observe any kind of hostile behavior or aggression towards foreigners or each other.

3. Aside from Tinamen square we did not see any cops. Like - I have no idea what they look like here.

4. Likewise - there is not a single communist sign or logo. Mao's mausoleum on Tinamen square just looks like a building - I only realized what it is by checking the guidebook.

Communist insignia has been replaced with these types of posters (Beijing Airport)

5. Expensive Western food in Beijing is awesome. In our three days in Beijing we visited three top-end restaurants (Dadong Roast Duck, Temple  & Udama Sushi). First was the best Chinese food I've ever had, the second was in the top 3 or 5 French restaurants while the last was just great sushi (it did earn the title for most expensive sushi I've had - 9 piece sushi dinner cost about $100).

It remains to be seen what South China food will be like.


Amazing salad @ Dadong Roast Duck

6. Service so far has been great - everybody is very polite and welcoming.

7. All of Beijing's scooters and tuk-tuks are electric. Apparently the government banned gasoline motorcycles - and the electric ones are fairly cheap (around $1,000). Velo rickshas also run with electric motors.

8. As a result (partially I imagine) the air quality was fine. I did not find it to be polluted - unlike Moscow. But there is plenty of traffic.

9. We found a lot of pleasant green spaces in Beijing. One of them was a park with a very pretty lake where parents strolled with children.


Beijing City Park

10. There I actually saw the one-child policy in person - every family had one kid they dote on. It doesn't strike you right away, but after a while you notice it - nobody is trying to manage multiple kids at the same time.






Beijing Parents Doting Over Their Only Children

11. Communism is dead. There is absolutely nothing we saw that would let one think that China is a communist country. It seems that the ruling elites are keeping the system in place for two reasons:

1. To stay in power. Kind of like kings in the past used to say that they rule because G-d made them kings, current Chinese elite uses its connection to the people who made the revolution (they are all their children or grand-children) as the reason why they are in power. Since that circle of people is fixed (they are not making Mao's children any more), it's as good way as any to stay in power and prevent others from getting in on the action.

2. Social stability - no contest for power means no potential for disorder.

While I am against this in principle, they seem to be much better than Russians - what with regular change of President & cabinet, visible actions against corruption and real economic results delivered.

Will follow up with thoughts on South China later.

I feel like physicists in 1905



Вышла новая версия моего Андроид телефона - Samsung S4. Но вроде ничего интересного, ради чего стоило бы менять мой телефон в нем нет. Учитывая геморой по реустановке все програм, rooting it, и покупке чехлов - у меня их два (один резинка, второй со встроенной батареей).
Даже не знаю как реагировать - радоваться что не буду выбрасывать очередные $200 (bid-offer покупка нового - продажа своего) или что прогресс застопорился...

P.S. Наверное производителям стоит подумать о способе перехода с одного телефона на другой без особых потуг (apple backup/restore comes to mind - if it only worked)

Первый демотиватор

Мы тут беседовали о статье в Time про ценообразование здравоохранения в сша (http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/20/bitter-pill-why-medical-bills-are-killing-us/11/)

Я так обрадовался что с Яшей оказался согласен, что для иллюстрации статья даже нарисовал Демотиватор. Kinda like it.

Dune



Прочитал Dune В принципе не очень понравилось:
  • Foundation Азимова было интересней - но мне было 14 лет. Читалось долго, через не могу. Фантастика для меня обычно идет быстрее.
  • Слог не очень - очень часто повторяются одни и те же фрази "Her Ben Seg Training" и тд. Хотелось бы чтобы хороший современный редактор ее переписал
  • Не знаю если это так, но кажется очень много в Star Wars заимствовано из этой книги
  • Слишком долго и нудно описывается 'хождение по пустыне', смахивает Паустовщиной - страница за страницей описаний лугов и полян. Но если Паустовский описывал среднюю полосу России - те landscape нам знакомый, пытаться понять как выглядит Arrakis (хоть я и был в Сахаре) трудно
  • Много "не верю" - все что касается военного дела выглядит нелепо. Бой на ножах с body shields, управление червями (все равно, что муравей будет скакать на лошади), вся концовка и тд.
  • Самое интересное - описание планеты, червей, spice и тд - очень слабое, идет отдельным приложением к книге. В результате, все равно ничего не понял. Например - каким образом человек может управлять червем длиной в километр.
  • Интересно что у Harkonnen (bad guys) - русские имена - Владимир, Дмитрий, и тд.

Skiing - Chamonix

Spent two weeks skiing in Chamonix - writing down things I wish I knew when I got there. FYI - I will likely mis-spell every french word I use. If you need to know exactly what it is - Google it, it will figure it out. All photos taken with mobile phones.

Lodging

  1. I much preferred to stay in the village of Argentiere about 10km north of Chamonix. It is very rustic, quiet and French. Meanwhile Chamonix is very crowded and touristy, full of gaudy Russians (there were none in A.). In Chamonix  I didn't see a single street / location I would prefer to live on.
  2. The best value to be had is certainly by renting a whole chalet / flat for the family. We rented a 3-br 120m apartment for 180EUR a day. It was right in the middle of the village, huge (3 bedroom, 3 bathroom), had a great view of the mountains, balcony (huge asset if you have an infant), free WiFi,  awesome kitchen with full kit (so I'm told), etc
View from the Balcony





2 Photos Above By Yulya

Skiing

  • The valley is unfortunately broken up into 5 different non-connected areas. So you pretty much have to pick one area to ski per day - as it would take a fairly long time to get from one to the other. http://mappery.com/maps/Chamonix-Valley-Town-Map.jpg
  • Le Tour is located just outside of Argentiere and is the best one for beginners. Long wide gentle runs, very few people. Julia was skiing it on her 3rd day on the skis
  • La Housche is located about 10 minutes south of Chamonix (30m from Argentiere). It's not part of the valley ticket (but included in Mt Blanc unlimited) - so you should just buy a separate day pass there. It's also good for beginners - mostly blues & reds.

Photo By Yulya
  • Brevant - ki lift is right in the middle of Chamonix. It was my least-liked run (but still very good) - a lot more people, not as long
  • Grand Montets - right next to Argentiere. The most advanced run in the valley - good for intermediate skiers. Can start skiing from 2,700m

To See

  • Top attraction is definitely Aguil de Midi. It's a mountain right next to Mt Blanc that you can take a lift to. Ski gondola goes all the way to the top (3,842) where there is a viewing terrace / restaurant with an awesome panorama of 3 countries around - France, Switzerland and Italy. Most people in the gondola are skiers who are going up for the Ville de Blanche - a ski run all the way down to town.
  • If you go up, get the Mt. Blanc unlimitedly day pass - it will provide access to the entire valley ski lifts and only costs a few euro more than a round-trip ticket. Then you can use it if you ski in the 2nd half of the day.

Белый холм по центру - Мон Блан
  • Most important thing about this excursion - weather must be glorious. If it's cloudy - there is no point going up as you won't see anything 4km up. The good thing is that they run a live webcam on the web - so you can check it before leaving.
  • Whole trip would probably take 3 hours - 20 minutes each way, can wait up to 30m each way and plan at least 1-1.5h on top.


  • The pass will also be good for the train up to the Sea of Ice glacier. It's a pretty run - at the end you get to walk 280 steps down to a huge cave dug inside a huge glacier


  • A decent day-trip is the town of Annecy - about 1.5 hours of driving away.


Food

The food is France is amazing. We mostly cooked ourselves since it's hard to go out with a 4-month old.


Cost & Tips


  1. Flat - 2,500E for 2 weeks - used www.abritel.fr/ to find it

  2. Car rental - 500E - found via kayak

  3. Ski Lifts - 40E per day - daily lift ticket is roughly 40EUR for all lifts in the valley. 6 Day ticket was 220 - hardly any savings. So I'd recommend getting a new one every day or buying a set of X nonconsecutive days - this way you could skip a day and not feel bad for losing money

  4. Lessons - 330E per day - I found Anne - she is very, very good (http://www.annebosvieux.com/ ). Definitely better than a random dude from the ski school that gets paid a small % of what you spend.

  5. Ski rental - 120E for 2 weeks. It's crucial to do it online at http://www.intersport-rent-france.co.uk/ - and pick up in store. Same skis in store would cost 2x



Skiing - Chamonix

Spent two weeks skiing in Chamonix - writing down things I wish I knew when I got there. FYI - I will likely mis-spell every french word I use. If you need to know exactly what it is - Google it, it will figure it out. All photos taken with mobile phones.

Lodging

  1. I much preferred to stay in the village of Argentiere about 10km north of Chamonix. It is very rustic, quiet and French. Meanwhile Chamonix is very crowded and touristy, full of gaudy Russians (there were none in A.). In Chamonix  I didn't see a single street / location I would prefer to live on.
  2. The best value to be had is certainly by renting a whole chalet / flat for the family. We rented a 3-br 120m apartment for 180EUR a day. It was right in the middle of the village, huge (3 bedroom, 3 bathroom), had a great view of the mountains, balcony (huge asset if you have an infant), free WiFi,  awesome kitchen with full kit (so I'm told), etc
View from the Balcony





2 Photos Above By Yulya

Skiing

  • The valley is unfortunately broken up into 5 different non-connected areas. So you pretty much have to pick one area to ski per day - as it would take a fairly long time to get from one to the other. http://mappery.com/maps/Chamonix-Valley-Town-Map.jpg
  • Le Tour is located just outside of Argentiere and is the best one for beginners. Long wide gentle runs, very few people. Julia was skiing it on her 3rd day on the skis
  • La Housche is located about 10 minutes south of Chamonix (30m from Argentiere). It's not part of the valley ticket (but included in Mt Blanc unlimited) - so you should just buy a separate day pass there. It's also good for beginners - mostly blues & reds.

Photo By Yulya
  • Brevant - ki lift is right in the middle of Chamonix. It was my least-liked run (but still very good) - a lot more people, not as long
  • Grand Montets - right next to Argentiere. The most advanced run in the valley - good for intermediate skiers. Can start skiing from 2,700m

To See

  • Top attraction is definitely Aguil de Midi. It's a mountain right next to Mt Blanc that you can take a lift to. Ski gondola goes all the way to the top (3,842) where there is a viewing terrace / restaurant with an awesome panorama of 3 countries around - France, Switzerland and Italy. Most people in the gondola are skiers who are going up for the Ville de Blanche - a ski run all the way down to town.
  • If you go up, get the Mt. Blanc unlimitedly day pass - it will provide access to the entire valley ski lifts and only costs a few euro more than a round-trip ticket. Then you can use it if you ski in the 2nd half of the day.
  • Most important thing about this excursion - weather must be glorious. If it's cloudy - there is no point going up as you won't see anything 4km up. The good thing is that they run a live webcam on the web - so you can check it before leaving.
  • Whole trip would probably take 3 hours - 20 minutes each way, can wait up to 30m each way and plan at least 1-1.5h on top.


  • The pass will also be good for the train up to the Sea of Ice glacier. It's a pretty run - at the end you get to walk 280 steps down to a huge cave dug inside a huge glacier


  • A decent day-trip is the town of Annecy - about 1.5 hours of driving away.


Food

The food is France is amazing. We mostly cooked ourselves since it's hard to go out with a 4-month old.


Cost & Tips


  1. Flat - 2,500E for 2 weeks - used www.abritel.fr/ to find it

  2. Car rental - 500E - found via kayak

  3. Ski Lifts - 40E per day - daily lift ticket is roughly 40EUR for all lifts in the valley. 6 Day ticket was 220 - hardly any savings. So I'd recommend getting a new one every day or buying a set of X nonconsecutive days - this way you could skip a day and not feel bad for losing money

  4. Lessons - 330E per day - I found Anne - she is very, very good (http://www.annebosvieux.com/ ). Definitely better than a random dude from the ski school that gets paid a small % of what you spend.

  5. Ski rental - 120E for 2 weeks. It's crucial to do it online at http://www.intersport-rent-france.co.uk/ - and pick up in store. Same skis in store would cost 2x