Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day 3: Relax?

A very light half day today as it was mostly reserved as a travel day. Had lunch at Uncle's house consisting of noodles and some delicious homemade sweet and sour ribs. Soo tasty.

Aunt came over later on and there was much inquiring about Princess Pineapple, complete with pictures and stories of origin. Afterwards, we had a light dinner of more crabs. Shanghai is known for these amazing crabs that come in multiple sizes and come into season just around National Day.

I think that one was named DreadPirate..

The gruesome aftermath...

Actually, a rather common occurence during our Karazhan Raids

After dinner, my cousin and I delivered some stuff to Pineapple's friend. The entire ordeal seemed more like a drug deal. We got there, I exchanged goods with one hand, received cash with the other. Got some goods to take back to Pineapple, and left. The entire transaction took less than a minute.

Watched Iron Man...again, with Chinese subtitles this time and went to bed. I must not be over the jetlag yet (or maybe it was all the ice green tea I had...) as I woke up at 4:30 am.

Day 2: Duck Hunt

Didn't really do too much today, the event of most significance was giant Peking Duck Feast. We went to this restaurant that specializes in Peking Duck of course and my aunt ordered 2 whole ducks. The ducks were brought in and sliced up right in front of us. We only had 4 people, but somehow we managed to eat almost all the food. The duck was so awesome, with just the right degree of oilyness (Artery thickening, but just below Heart Clogging) and the meat was super tender.

Yes, they are real!

Because it is the National Day celebration week in China, we were not able to get the usual train tickets to Shanghai. Instead, we had to go by plane. Of course, going by plane is much faster, but you tend to waste half a day traveling whereas by train, you travel during the night, and upon waking up in the morning, you arrive at the destination. My flight was at 9 am in the morning so I called a taxi for 6:30 am. While the military vehicle mostly obeyed traffic laws, the taxi driver most definitely played too much GTA. He drove super fast and weaved in and out of traffic like Niko (Well, maybe not Niko controlled by me since I tend to just crash into everything). We got to the airport almost 20 minutes earlier than expected as a result.

The airline I was traveling with was China Eastern Airlines. My previous trip with them was not particularly good as smoking was allowed on the plane and the trip ended up with the left engine being on fire and blowing out while we had to make an emergency landing in Tokyo. As a result, my expectations were rather gloom for this trip. However, I was pleasantly surprised as the jet seemed new this time, with friendly flight attendants, no smoking, and best of all, no explosions. They even served drinks and food during the two hour flight.

I arrived in Shanghai on-time and met my uncle in the airport. Shanghai's weather is warmer than Beijing's and the air seemed much cleaner! What gastric adventures lie ahead? Only time will tell!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Day 1: Rock and Roll in my HEAD!!

Watched China's first spacewalk yesterday. It was a pretty amazing experience and you could totally sense the Nationalism in the air as the astronaut hoisted the Chinese Flag.

The major plan for today was to visit my great uncle?? (brother of my grandfather). He happens to be a retired general in the Chinese PLA so we usually get some forms of preferential treatment when we visit him. As usual, he sent a military vehicle to pick us up in the morning. The good thing about a military vehicle is that they are typically above the law. If the driver wanted to, he could have driven however way he wanted! Luckily, he has never played GTA before so we generally followed traffic laws.

After some moments of conversation which involved many questions about a particular Princess, and the showing of the General's latest book (Basically poetric description of famous battles in 5000 years of Chinese history), we headed off to lunch. Typically, trips to China devolve into a series of massive feasts with people encouraging me to keep eating until I inevitably explode. This meal was no different.

We went to this really upscale restaurant that specializes in serving military personnel. Initially, they put us in this massive dining hall complete with TVs, elaborately decorated sofas, and enough space to sit about 30+ people. Unfortunately, our lunch party only consisted of 6 people. They switched us to a smaller and slightly less elaborate room shortly afterwards. The food was pretty amazing, they had some kinda strange sea cucumber appetizer dish, peking duck, various types of chicken, shrimp, fish, and even steak (was actually pretty good). To top the meal off, they ordered 2 batches of egg tarts. These egg tarts were super awesome, way better than most of the tarts offered in US. The most unique thing that I tasted though, was the drink. I had never had Apple Vinegar drink before. This thing tasted kinda sour going down, but left a really really awesome aftertaste that was amazing. My grand uncle quickly caught on to how much I liked this apple vinegar and proceeded to order 5 bottles of the stuff for me to take home!

On the way back from lunch, we stopped by Tiananmen Square to check out the floral preparations for National Day. It was pretty spectacular and the news even reported that it was a world record for most amount of fresh flowers ever in one display. One small damper on things was the traffic. It was absolutely terrible. Beijing has a series of 6 "ring" roads (basically loops) that go around the city. None of these loops have any form of traffic signals so you would think that traffic would be relatively fast moving on these roadways. However, the sheer volume of cars caused bumper to bumper traffic and it took us a good 1.5 hours to travel about 20 miles.

I am living with my grandparents who live in these housing projects off the main campus of Chinese Agricultural University. As such, we basically drive right through campus any time we leave to go somewhere. This time coming back, I noticed this awesome dude wearing a felt black jacket that was designed to look like leather with huge letters written in glitter that was designed to look like rhinestones. The letters read "Red Panda, Rock and Roll in my Head!!" Soo awesome, even better than the "Bimbo" brand ice cream I saw earlier.

Dinner was "relatively" light to compensate for El Feasto Gigante and consisted of...2 giant grabs. I love eating crabs, my particular technique involves separating all the meat from the carcass before consumption.Mmmm. My lost baggage finally arrived in the evening and everything was intact. Operation: Nanjing is still on schedule!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Day 0: Travel Day

Had to wake up at 4 am to drive to the airport for my 6:30 am flight so after much thought, I decided to just stay awake the entire night grinding in Vesperia. It worked out pretty well and I was pretty exhausted and ready to just sleep the entire flight away. Unfortunately, my plans did not come to fruition.

The first part of the flight was from Houston to Newark, then after a plane change in Newark, directly to Beijing. I slept about 4 hours on the plane to Newark but was stil pretty tired for the next leg. The plane to China was a 777 and as such, every seat had individual entertainment modules complete with a lot of the latest movies, music, and sitcoms. While boarding, I noticed a hoard of kids sitting pretty close to where I was and was a bit concerned about the noise level. After talking with a little boy who sat next to me and noticing he had pretty good manners, I thought maybe I would be granted a reprieve.

Right before the plane took off, the trip leader for those kids decided it would be better to switch out the boy for the most annoying girl possible. I began to doubt the future of the US as this girl didn't listen at all, was walking around even as the pilot was telling everyone to be buckled down and constantly made really ignorant remarks about the plane. I think the best one was "Does this plane have gravity?" She also constantly tried to work the entertainment modules even after being told repeatedly that the module was turned off for takeoff. She even tried swiping a credit card (repeatedly) thinking that if she paid, they would turn the module on specifically for her.....After finding out the module wasn't working for her, she demanded to call her mom using the onboard phone, even after being told that it was going to be really really expensive. Her response to this was "It's okay, I have a credit card."

Needless to say, this girl was a chatterbox the entire trip and so I didn't really get that much sleep. Instead, I watched Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Kung Fu Panda, and Iron Man again. Mixed in a bit of DS as well. The flight for the most part was smooth and we got into Beijing airport about 20 minutes after the arrival time. At the baggage claim, I waited about 40 minutes for my bag to show up, but finally learned after all the bags were out that my bag did not make it onto the plane in Newark....After some fun filling out forms in Chinese....Continental said they would deliver the bag as soon as it arrived.

My mom was at the airport to pick me up and after a 45 min or so taxi ride, I arrived at my grandparent's house. I must say, the air quality was a lot better than I remembered it to be as I could actually see portions of the blue sky. The evening was spent with lots of different family members coming by and my being interrogated with many questions about Princess Pineapple. All in all, a pretty eventful day 0.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why stop at milk?

For some strange reason, PETA thinks that this is a good idea. But I question their dedication to the cause. Why only go so far as milk? Why not reduce the suffering of these oh so poor farm animals even more while also helping society eliminate some of its more seedy elements. I propose we substitute beef/pork/chicken with human meat! I mean it's brilliant! After all, you are what you eat right? So this is just making us more Human! Maybe even Too Human!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

China Trip

Going back to China this Friday. Moonfleck suggested I keep a running daily blog on what occurred in China. While on paper, this sounds like a wonderful idea, I am not so sure I can keep the motivation to do such a thing as I have enough trouble posting once every week.....but nonetheless, never know what I am capable of if I don't try!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

L2NightElf n00b!

It is often rare to meet with fellow MMORPG gamers IRL. Without meeting face to face, I often tend to associate the voices and persona with whatever video game character they currently play. Recently during my whirlwind California trip, I had the fortune to meet two WoWers that I used to play a lot with, Truflight and some vain druid beginning with Faa and ending with Lena.

I was exceedingly disappointed to discover that they were not Night Elves IRL. What travesty is this??!! I expected Truflight to come with his Epic Frostsaber and a giant monstrous, vicious, bloodthirsty crab following quickly behind. Vain Druid was to swoop in in epic flight form to pick some random flowers or something next to the hotel. What actually arrived to pick me up were two humans in a Prius.

Despite the initial shock, I soon realized that these people were actually really cool. They had set up a raid of a local seafood chain and just like IRG (In Real Game), we were on time and well prepared with the necessary gear (I quickly replaced Truflight's missing DreadPirate and gave vain druid the only thing that she lacked, a mirror with which to admire herself), enchantments (Nothing like Old Spice deodorant to cover up that none-showered, fresh off the power plant smell), and appetite for blood (or food in this instance).

The seafood was divine, never before had I tasted such great food. It probably boosted all my attributes for 15 minutes. We chatted about various things like what's the best way to farm for epic flying mounts, and what types of patterns to make while making aerial passes for mining nodes/herbs. The dinner passed quickly and soon we were off to the final challenge...the LVL???RB.

As soon as we got to the house, I realized this was indeed the home of Night Elves. The house contained a plethora of exotic animals, in this case, a house cat. I imagine the other animals were all in hiding in some tall tree to protect them from the sounds of battle against LVL???RB. After briefing entertaining the geeky side by scoping out their WoW UIs, I started the encounter. Unfortunately, we wiped several times during the first few attempts, but after recalibrating our gear, we soon rocked out.

Overall, it was a very nice evening and I look forward to future visits to other OOM members.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Houston: 3 Days since last Hurricane

You hear it on the news, but in person, it's even worse. On the drive back to Houston from College Station, as soon as I got into town, I started noticing things. Things like almost all the billboards are destroyed. Any high shop signs are either completely blown off or severely damage. Even highways signs show wind damage. There are still downed trees everywhere and piles of debris on the highways. None of the traffic lights I have run into function and you see makeshift power lines everywhere.

In my neighborhood, there are numerous fences that have been blown down or completely blown away all together. I don't really see any broken windows, but there is still significant debris on the roads. My house had its main fence get blown away, and my mom lost all of her potted plants. We had some minor water leakage as well. All in all though, I would say we came out well. We are also lucky in that we have power.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We aren't in Kansas anymore

Hopefully Hurricane won't blow my house away. Need to get prepared!!! California trip was fun, will try to update later....

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Riverwalk and Hot pot

Spent a day in San Antonio over the weekend to show Princess Pineapple the Waterwalk and Alamo. At first we decided we would park at the motel and just walk over to the Riverwalk. However after walking about 100ft and noticing that we were definitely in a very very run-down part of town, we decided it was more practical and safer to drive.

Got to the Riverwalk rather late and at dinner ate this Italian placed called Paesanos. She had the Shrimp Paesano with Spaghetti, Lemon Butter, and Garlic and I had the Penne with Grilled Chicken, Mushrooms, Spicy Peppers and Tomato Cream. Pineapple didn't really like her choice as the shrimp in the Shrimp Paesano were too buttery and the accompanying pasta too bland. The Penne however was excellent. The chicken was marinated just right and the sauce was creamy with just a hint of spiciness. Pineapple ended up mixing her spaghetti with the sauce in the Penne and I ended up eating all the shrimp. The Tiramisu dessert was excellent and ended the meal on a high note. We walked around afterwords for about 3 hours looking at the various little shops and businesses that ringed the waterways, picking up many little gifts for my trip back to China.

The next day, we only had about 3 hours before having to head back to College Station for a birthday party so we made a very brief stop (~15 min? maybe) at the Alamo just to remember it...har har..and spent the other 2.75 hours walking around the Riverwalk again.

The birthday party in College Station was a blast though. The theme of the party was a hot pot style dinner followed with birthday cake and a heaping helping of Mafia. Everything went pretty well....except the birthday girl was busy attending another party and didn't arrive at this party until about 10 pm. By that time, we had already finished eating the hot pot (hunger >>> willingness to wait for guest of honor) so we went right to the birthday cake. The cake was an Oreo ice cream cake from Dairy Queen and tasted so awesome. It's been quite a while since I had had any type of ice cream so perhaps that's why this one tasted particularly good. Mafia was good as always with much killing, either premeditated or otherwise random lynching by the mob.