Saturday, June 28, 2014

Second Floor Views in Hengyang and Ho Chi Minh City

My view from a cafe in Hengyang this afternoon:

view outside from a 2nd floor Bont Cafe in Hengyang

As I looked outside and pondered a variety of topics, a view I had from another 2nd floor cafe one morning last year in Ho Chi Minh City came to mind:

view outside from a 2nd floor cafe in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Like experiences I had in Alabama, Mississippi, and Seoul, the unexpected connection provided me more to ponder.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Assorted Links: Internet Cafes, Johnny Cash, Needing Google, and Discouraging Protests for Democracy

Now seems like a good time for some assorted links. Here we go:

1. One man dreams of a salaried job. Another man never wants one again. They both live in a Japanese Internet cafe as featured in a video by MediaStorm.

2. On a musical note, one man:
had never been a huge music lover. His musical taste was broad, covering Dutch-language songs, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, with a preference for the last named. While music did not occupy an important position in his live, his taste in music had always been very fixed and his preferences stayed the same throughout decades.
But as described in a Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience paper, with a bit of technology he "developed a sudden and distinct musical preference for Johnny Cash following deep brain stimulation".

3. Several years ago I spoke to a student in Guiyang, Guizhou, who was concerned if Google "left China" that her academic research would suffer. With most of Google's services now blocked in China, Offbeat China shares that others in China are expressing similar pragmatic concerns.

4. Finally, but definitely not least . . .

Many Hong Kongers seek a level of democracy that Beijing has indicated it won't allow, regardless of any past promises. In response to plans for large-scale protests in support of more democracy, the international Big Four accounting firms decided to pay a leading role and placed public ads in Hong Kong.

They basically say, "please don't protest for democracy, it could hurt business".

Good to know where Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte Kwan Wong Tan & Fong (Deloitte's Hong Kong unit), and PricewaterhouseCoopers stand.

A Nearby Place in the Middle of Hengyang

It did not have the solitude of the pavilion where where I saw two men playing xiangqi (Chinese chess) in Yangjiang and felt more connected to the surrounding city, but one location where men were playing xiangqi in Hengyang still had its own charms.

two men playing xiangqi next to an electric box with a drawing of a woman

two men playing xiangqi next to an electric box with a drawing of a woman

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Numerical Bart Simpson Snack Store in Hengyang

A local chain store with a notable sign in Hengyang, Hunan, sells a variety of snack foods, many imported.

527 零食汇 store sign with image of Bart Simpson's head

The use of Bart Simpson's image on the sign raises the common issue of trademark and copyright infringement in China. And the store's name, 527 零食汇, highlights how technology has influenced the use of numbers in Chinese language. In Chinese, the numbers 5-2-7 are a near-homophone for the phrase "I love to eat". Combined with the first two Chinese characters, the sign reads "I love to eat snacks". For more about how technology has influenced the adoption of numbers for expressing Chinese language, see the piece "The Secret Messages Inside Chinese URLs".

I took a quick look inside the store. I didn't see any snacks I wanted at the time, but due to the hot weather I was especially happy to pick up a brand of bottled water I would not expect to find in Hengyang.

Bottle of Vita pure distilled water

Vita bottled water is from Hong Kong and, like other products from the Special Administrative Region, would typically be considered an import. I doubt I could distinguish it in a taste test, but, like the image of Bart Simpson, the branding connected me to a far away place.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Scholarly Hengyang Ice Cream

A girl found her own place to enjoy some ice cream underneath statues of Chinese scholars near the Shigu Academy in Hengyang.

small girl eating ice cream while sitting below statues of Chinese scholars in traditional clothing

Presumably she had already finished her day's studies.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A People's Dinner in Hengyang

Where I ate tonight along a narrow street in Hengyang, Hunan:

"百姓排档" restaurant in Hengyang, Hunan

Some of the ingredients for the various dishes they could prepare:

a variety of meats and vegetables in bowls and plastic containers

The view looking outside from where I ate:

view inside a small eatery in Hengyang, Hunan

A dish of pumpkin and snails:

sliced pumpkin and snails

A spicy fish head:

spicy fish head dish

I would not have thought of mixing snails with pumpkin (I remain unsure of the exact type of pumpkin). The dish was surprisingly tasty, though, and the fish head was excellent as well. The name of the restaurant "百姓排档" (Bǎixìng Páidǎng) could be translated as "The People's Food Stall". If you happen to be near Changqing Road (长青路), I recommend it as an inexpensive option for trying some of the local fare in Hengyang. You can't go wrong with the pumpkin and snails.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Hengyang Blue Sky

Based on my time in Hengyang, Hunan, I would not say it's the best place to visit if you are seeking clean air. One day in particular last week offered clearer skies and better than average air, though. The air wasn't perfect and the effects of smog could be seen in the distance, but the sky above was striking nonetheless. So I was able to enjoy a blue sky accompanied by an artificial rainbow . . .

two buildings with a painted rainbow, blue sky, and birds with a real blue sky in the background

building with a painted rainbow, blue sky, birds, and a countryside house with a real blue sky in the background

. . . and the Huiyan Pavilion (回雁阁) on Huiyan Peak.

Huiyan Pavilion (回雁阁) on Huiyan Peak (回雁峰)

On a related note, I don't remember having ever seen a real rainbow in China, which strikes me as odd. I wonder whether tall buildings obstructing the view or smog likely plays a larger role. Maybe someone can tell me what it means.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Best Design on a Car in Hengyang

A design with a message I saw tonight in Hengyang, Hunan:

car with design of a stick figure monster and the words "Best design derive from the character and innovations"

More on the designs people add to the exterior of their cars later. Not everyone wants their car to look like Chinese porcelain.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

More of New Orleans in Hengyang

Outside a KFC isn't the only place you can find New Orleans Roasted Chicken street food in Hengyang. For example, not far from the Hengyang Railway Station is a similar food stall.

新奥尔良烤鸡 (New Orleans Roasted Chicken) food stall on a sidewalk in Hengyang

Still haven't found any muffulettas though.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Variety of Mobile Devices for Sale in Hengyang

Laptops, smartphones, and electronic Chinese-English dictionaries aren't the only mobile devices I have seen in Hengyang, China. At a large indoor shopping center near the Hengyang Railway Station, I saw several stores selling a variety of mobile audio and video devices.

mobile audio and video players for sale at a market in Hengyang, China

There were radio, TV, and DVD players. The ones I checked all had USB sockets. With a USB flash drive, also for sale at the stores, the radios could play recorded music and the TVs could play recorded movies. And with the addition of a small card, watching CCTV on the TVs was no problem as well.

mobile audio and video players and USB flash drives for sale at a market in Hengyang, China

Elsewhere in the shopping center, I saw some of the technology in use. For example, one person was relaxing next to their shop while watching a movie on a portable DVD player.

These devices are an example of the diversity of electronics for sale in China, much of which rarely receive attention in comparison to smartphones. Yet knowing who buys these devices and why they buy them can be valuable to better designing devices with a broader range of functionality.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hengyang Spinning

Towards the end of a rather long walk yesterday in Hengyang, I saw a young boy in front of me spinning while he looked straight up into the sky. I wondered if anything in particular had inspired him. I looked up and saw a billboard structure with an intriguing geometry.

bars radiating from a central pole and helping to support billboard structures

I think he found a great location for spinning.