Thursday, November 13, 2008

Still making my way through those Taiwan pictures.  Here are a few of my favorites of Taipei 101, currently the tallest building in the world!  And if you missed it, you can click here to find my entry about visiting Taipei 101. 

This picture was taken in front of the entrance to the Sun Yat-sen (SYS) Memorial Hall. I tried to use the building's roofing and columns to frame Taipei 101.  It was taken shortly before sunset, so there was still a good amount of light out:

After visiting the SYS memorial, I made my way over to Taipei 101. It's well within walking distance and it's easy to find. I mean how the hell do you miss a 101 floor building? Anyway, as you can see, nighttime was beginning to set in. I must have camped out at this spot for a good 20 minutes or so waiting for this shot:

And this is a late night picture of the main entrance to the shopping mall in Taipei 101.  It was actually taken on a separate trip to Taipei 101. I had plans to go to the outdoor observatory on the 91st floor, but my camera was running out of batteries. (So stupid of me!)

You can find the rest of my Taipei 101 pictures here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

So I'm sitting at my desk when my coworker walks in the room carrying an eight-pack of toilet paper. She rips open the packaging and begins handing out one roll of toilet paper to each one of us. I ask her what's going on. She informs me: "It's part of the 'cost-down' plan."

They're seriously reducing costs at my factory by rationing the amount of toilet toilet paper. I wish I was kidding about this. Apparently everyone gets one roll of TP a month. (At least it's two-ply though; that's really like two rolls right?)

The situation is so absurd that I couldn't help but laugh. I mean really now, who came up with this brilliant idea? But on a more serious note, it illustrates how China is effected by the global economic downturn. Demand is going down, manufacturing is slowing down, and the company is losing money. At first, I hardly noticed it, but the changes are becoming more and more evident. It's getting worse and worse though:

There are weekly "cost down" meetings.
They've laid off about 30% of their workforce.
Production has completely stopped on Fridays and Saturdays.
Paid overtime has been suspended indefinately.

Honestly, I'm thankful to be still employed. Oh and I'm also just thankful for getting toilet paper! (Before I left the factory today, I made sure to lock up my roll in my drawer. In these dire times, there's no telling who might steal a roll of toilet paper. Classic...)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Alan, do you know what today is?"

"Uh, ... Tuesday?"

"It's Singles' Day! It's 11/11."

That was the exchange I had with my coworker this morning. Little did I know that today is Singles' Day in China, an unofficial holiday celebrating the single life. (I guess they need another holiday to balance out
Chinese Valentine's Day. It's that whole yin and yang thing.)

Obviously, it got the name Singles' Day because the date is made up of four "1s." It looks like four single people standing together, hence its Chinese name "光棍节," meaning "bare stick holiday." From my research, it seems like this holiday developed out of the university culture of the 1990s in Nanjing. As these college students graduated and entered the "real world," they carried on the tradition.

There's also a legend about the holiday's origin. The story goes that there were four single men who used to sit around all day playing mahjong. They were all single guys (no wife or girlfriend) and they all lived rather boring lives. Well on this particular day of 11/11, they ended up play mahjong from 11 AM to 11 PM. And even wierder, no matter who won, the winning tile of each game was always the 'four columns' card. (A card depicting four independent, parallel columns in two lines). To commemorate the day, they nicknamed it Singles Day.

To me though, Singles Day seemed like a pretty regular day. I didn't notice anything particularly special or out of the ordinary going on. Some single people have dinner together and go out to a bar or club. Some people go on blind dates or make vows to not be single next Singles Day.

Plus, you're supposed to eat four sticks of youtiao and one baozi for breakfast. The deep fried sticks of batter are supposed to represent the "1s" and the steamed stuffed bun is supposed to represent the "." in the date 11.11  It kind of makes you wonder how crazy Singles' Day will be on 11.11.11 (I don't think I could eat that many sticks of youtiao!)

(Oh and happy Veterans Day you lucky people in the US who got a three-day weekend. I still miss my two-day weekends.)  

Monday, November 10, 2008

And so today's blog finishes up my series of entries on the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Square. By now, you're probably wondering how one person could have amassed so many pictures from the same place. Honestly, I wasn't satisfied with my pictures from the first time, so I back...twice. (It was at that point that I realized, "Maybe I'm getting too deep into this whole picture takin' thing...")

Anyway, I got really lucky with these pictures. I mean talk about being in the right place at the right time. Needing a break, I just happened to take a half-day off of work and head to CKS on that particular day. Boy was I excited to find groups of soldiers out there practicing in the square.

I mean look at this! Definately not the type of thing you'd find there everyday. I really lucked out:

They look just like toy soldiers, standing in rows. I had to go low and get up really close to them for this picture. Talk about awkward: 

They were even practicing spinning their rifles. How cool!:

And we're talking about real friggin' rifles with bayonets. Some crazy woman wasn't paying attention and she walked right through the lines of rifles. It scared the crap out of all the soldiers. Classic:

It actually took me awhile to get comfortable around them. They looked so stoic with those rifles; it was intimidating. By this picture, I was comfortable with inching out closer and closer. At some point some guard told me to get back though:

And they weren't just standing in place, but they went a marchin' as well. It was kind of fun following them around, running after them, duking it out with other photographers. Reminds me my days at the Daily Cal....sigh.

Anyway, that's all folks. As always, you can find the rest of my CKS pictures here.

Tomorrow I'll have another entry about life in Shenzhen.