Jul 29, 2005

Moving my blog

I've moved my blog to: http://kecweric.myblogsite.com/

Please use that site to view updates.

Question: Why?
Answer: blogspot.com is blocked by the Great Firewall of China, while myblogsite.com is not yet blocked. Once it also gets blocked I think I'll just get my own domain name and be done with it.

Jul 20, 2005

Война миров

I bought a copy of War of the Worlds from my local DVD vendor for 7 RMB (US$ 0.85). It seems to be near-DVD quality, and the sound is good. I was a bit worried at first since the title screen came on with the words "Война миров". I was certain it would have Russian dubbing. In the end, it was the English version. Perhaps it would have been better had the entire thing been dubbed in Russian so I couldn't understand what a ridiculous story it is. I agree with the Roger Ebert review of this movie, it doesn't seem like a Spielberg movie. It's like he had his interns do the whole thing and he slapped his name on it afterwards.

The special effects are good, so having a DVD is nice since you can skip through the poor storyline to the exciting parts. I wouldn't waste time and money seeing this one in the theater.

Jul 17, 2005

Swimming in China

Beijing has many universities, which means there are lots of athletic facilities you can exercise at. Many of the universities have open swimming in their 50 meter pools, which is a nice treat. The college pools are Olympic-sized, typically 50 m x 25 m, so they'll allocate half of the 50 m lanes as a shallow swim area and then fence off the other half as the "deep swimming area". To swim in the deep area you need to prove your worthiness by performing two feats of strength, consisting of a 200 meter swim and then treading water for 2 minutes. You then give them a passport sized photo and they'll create a nice little ID card you can give them in the future, and possibly even use at other universities' pools so you can forego the test again. I like the idea of not letting everyone into the lap swimming area since it means there is more room to swim. Here's a summary of what I think of lap-swimming in Beijing.

  • Chinese don't know how to push off the wall in a streamline position and glide for more than two feet. This means if you do a turn right after a Chinese swimmer has pushed off the wall, you will most likely unintentionally streamline underneath him and surface in front of him, startling both of you.
  • 99.99% of Chinese only know how to do breaststroke, which they call "frog stroke", interestingly enough. This means you can easily pass them in the middle of the lane.
  • Chinese doing breaststroke don't streamline after the arm stroke. This means you can easily pass them in the middle of the lane, while swimming breaststroke yourself.
  • Chinese don't do flip turns. Maybe because the only stroke they do is breaststroke. This means you can pass them even more easily on a turn.
  • Most Chinese must stop after every 50 meters to rest. They usually stop right in the center of the wall where someone is liable to do a flip-turn on their sternum.
  • Since Chinese swim slowly, and never for more then 50 meters at a time, when they see you coming into the wall they will wait until you're one body-length from the wall and then push off (sans-streamlined position) in front of you. It never occurs to them that you're going to do a flip turn and collide with them.
  • Due to the negatives above, you can feel like you're an excellent swimmer since you'll be passing so many people.
  • Lifeguards enforce that all swimmers wear caps, unless you are completely bald
  • Everyone wears flip-flops in the shower areas, which probably reduces the passing of fungus and other diseases
  • Segregation of lap swimming and non-lap swimmers
  • Lots of 50 meter pools to swim in
  • When I'm swimming at cool-down speed, I don't need to worry about getting in anyone's way since they don't swim that fast to begin with
I've not found many comments on people's experiences on swimming in China other than this one.

Jul 10, 2005

Great Wall at Huang Hua

The Huang Hua section of the Great Wall is about two and a half hours away from the center of Beijing via public bus to Huairou, then a middle-sized bus or taxi to Huang Hua. It's an unrestored section, not renovated like Badaling and Mutianyu, the major tourist sections of the wall. There are two directions you can go hiking on the wall, west towards Zhuangdaokou or east towards the direction of Simatai. The eastern direction was off-limits since workers are in the process of restoring it. The western direction was just starting to be renovated. On the western side, they had done about 200 feet of renovation, and after that it was still natural with no restoration. I takes about 2 hours to walk at a leisurely pace about a mile to a path where you can walk down to a village and get back to the small town there for transportation. I didn't encounter any other tourists on the wall during the entire time I hiked that distance, which is a difficult thing to do in Beijing.

This page describes someone's trip in the eastern direction when it was still open. From what I saw, the western direction is more interesting anyway. This other page is from someone that went in the winter. Perhaps the hiking would be easier in the winter since there would be less overgrown weeds and bushes in the way.

Given the great speed with which they do construction work in China, they'll probably have renovated much of this section of the Great Wall within the next year, after which I predict it will be crawling with busloads of tourists and lose its appeal. I'd recommend checking it out before then.

The path atop the wall is overgrown with sharp, scratchy waist- and chest-high weeds and bushes, and there's a fair amount of uphill hiking. I would recommend not doing this hike alone, since you could slip and fall off the side and no one will be around to cart you off to the doctor's.

Looking east over a crumbling watchtower towards a reservoir

Inside one of the watchtowers. Some adventerous folks are keen on camping out there overnight. Before attempting, please watch this movie first.

Looking down on the top of a watchtower