Tuesday, August 14, 2007
If you spend roughly 10 seconds searching you can find plenty of negative information on Paypal. I know I'm not thrilled with my experience. But, there are few to no alternatives (except google checkout, which I may be adding/switching to soon). For now, though, it's the industry standard.
I'm writing this because I can't add a simple shipping calculator based on location. I try to not charge shipping costs, but international orders are pretty expensive to ship. So FYI - I'm going to build a new page for international orders soon. Until then, if you don't live in the US, you can buy things at the prices currently listed with no extra charges. Good times.
A while back I found a great blog written by a former Rockstar Games employee. He was there during their 'heyday' (which may or may not be over - GTA4 is coming out in a few months). It's fascinating, and I highly recommend it.
But yesterday I checked out the rest of the blog, and apparently he's been to Japan several times, with a new trip scheduled. He has several detailed writeups and they're really interesting and informative. I think I spent a good hour reading through everything, since Japan/Tokyo is next on my Asian trip list (of course Eastern Europe, Mexico, NYC and South America all have a higher priority at the moment).
Anyhow, his posts made me want to write a little bit about China.
This picture pretty much sums up China. First of all, it's polluted. 26 of the world's 30 most-polluted cities are in China, and Beijing is one of them. This picture was taken at about 9 AM and the haze stuck around all day.
Second, there are cranes everywhere. All three of our tour guides joked that the crane was China's national bird. It's not really a joke; something like 80% of the world's heavy industrial cranes are in China right now.
Third, despite all the wealth driving the construction, much of China is still poor and underdeveloped like the wasteland in the middle of the photo. There isn't much of a middle class, and the divide between the rich and the poor is much more severe than in the US.
By the way, this photo was taken from our hotel room window.
This is a photo of the Great Wall. We went to a very touristy section called Badaling, which I had read about before the trip. I heard that often you climbed up with thousands of other tourists in a long queue, but somehow there were only a handful of other people there with us. Maybe we lucked out. You can see all the brand new shops and motel rooms next to the parked buses in the left center of the photo. Also note the omnipresent haze. Apparently the government is guaranteeing clean air for the Olympics next year - I don't see how they're going to accomplish that without building a giant 1,500 foot fan.
The section of the wall on the right was really steep, virtually like climbing a stone ladder in some parts. One of my sisters and I sprinted up to the first gatehouse, barely visible where the two sections meet a third of the way up the hill. There are handrails to hang on to, but when going up and coming down I couldn't help but think that people must fall down now and then, and the gradient, at times, must have been 60 degrees.
Amazingly, this was the view from our hotel room in Shanghai. The city was essentially owned and run by the British, French and Americans in the 1800s and early 1900s, and today is enjoying a resurgance as the commercial capital of China. Therefore the architecture is an eclectic mix of European, Communist and modern design. But the entire skyline in the photo - all of it - was built within the last 15 years. The bulding on the left isn't finished yet - it will eventually be 101 stories and just shorter than the Taipei 101 bulding in Taiwan (if you count Taipei's spire). As you can see it's already taller than the building to the right, the current 4th-tallest building in the world (not counting its unfinished neighbor). So two of the top 5 tallest buildings are on the same block in Shanghai, and something tells me they're not finished building yet.
And here is the same shot during the day. Just ridiculous. By the way, the morning before our flight out of China we walked all the way up to the buildings via that street on the left. It was literally a hundred degrees out and the humidity was around 80-90%, so despite the scenery it was a totally unenjoyable experience.