Day 160 in Beijing: Smart Air Filters.

R2D2 is here to clean up the Beijing pollution problem!

R2D2 is here to clean up the Beijing pollution problem!

As most of you have heard, the air quality in China, and Beijing, specifically, leaves something to be desired.

There are days that are amazing and wonderful.  And then we realize that these are still below the average days anywhere else we’ve been and the bad days are horrific.

There is a reason people wear masks here and it isn’t just when they have a cold.

Therefore, air filters are essential.

Many companies have them built into their heating and ventilation systems so one does not have to worry about them.

However, since we don’t have central heating or cooling in our apartment, we decided to invest in one.

Sadly, they cost upwards of 300-500 USD for one that will cover about 500 square feet.  That means we’d need two and that is out of our price range.

The side view.  Only about 6 inches deep and 12 inches tall.

The side view. Only about 6 inches deep and 12 inches tall.

Luckily, our buddy Shagi, knows of a company, right here in Beijing, started by some ingenious ex-pats, that makes them for about 50 bucks and will send them to you free of charge.  They also have seminars so you can make your own but we couldn’t fit them into our schedule so we decided to buy one on-line.  We’ve been emailing back and forth with Gus Tate, one of the owners, who is also a juggler and seems like a fun guy.  Interestingly enough, he put me in contact with Natooke, how I wrote about in this previous blog post.

Rear view.  This is the droid we've been looking for!

Rear view. This is the droid we’ve been looking for!

We just received ours and we love it already.

We are calling it R2D2 because it is tiny, funny looking, and the cutest thing ever.

It works great, the air feels cleaner and we can’t wait to fall asleep with it and see what kind of results we get as we are often congested and feel quite tired after a night’s sleep because of the air.  It will be a very welcome change.

I already highly recommend people in China to buy these air filters and let anyone else you know about them as they work great and are so inexpensive.

Make sure to click on this link and tell them Aram sent you over:  Smart Air Filters.

Day 144 in Beijing: Gym Mascot.

He doesn't seem interested in working out much for a mascot.

He doesn’t seem interested in working out much being that he is the gym mascot.

So, I go to a gym near my apartment complex.

It is a nice gym and quite convenient.

I get my workout done, go home, and do what I need to do.

I noticed, after the first few days of working out, that my gym has a mascot of sorts.

This tiny rabbit sits outside the gym and is given lots of food from people that work there.

For all I know, gym members may even bring him food.

Heck, I might even bring him food someday.

Looks like he is a vegetarian so it wouldn’t be that hard to buy him some dinner one night.


Day 128 in Beijing: The Famous Beijing Foot Massage.

As Jill and I were returning from Shanghai, we met two Italians that had been traveling the world for the last 6 years.  We had a wonderful 5 hour conversation with Fabrizio and Deborah and wanted to make sure to hang out in Beijing together.

We decided we’d get foot massages as Beijing is famous for having very painful, and yet healthy, massages.

Jill, who is quite ticklish, offered to skip it and be the photographer for the event.

We decided we’d be the guinea pigs for the pain that was about to come our way.

Well, either our massage therapists knew that we were wimpy expatriates or we are way more macho than we thought as the massages were very comfortable and relaxing.

I didn’t even have one minute of discomfort and was happy I went as were Deborah and Fabrizio.

I would encourage anyone in Beijing to try it out and just let the time fly by.  It ended up costing about 5 bucks American for a 30 minute massage.  Perfection!


Day 127 in Beijing: Where Can I Download The “iHaveCancer” App?

I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of Apple and the way they do their business around the world.

I think they are excellent at marketing and creating buzz about their products but the actual products are now lagging behind their competitors.

If you want an example of this, check out google maps compared to Apple maps.  Google has bike and bus/subway routes while Apple doesn’t.  Google also allows you to drive on the NEW East Bay Bridge section while Apple doesn’t even show it exists.  This is something that Steve Jobs would have never accepted.

Not that I would have wanted to be buddies with Steve Jobs anyway as it sounded like he was a very hardcore and driven person that used others to his advantage.

In other words, Apple is everything that they weren’t supposed to be and are as bad as the “Evil Empire”, Microsoft, that they were so good at making all of us hate.

Well, Apple has taken it to a higher level here in China.

The iPhone 5c was recently released and most people in America thinks the “C” stands for “Cheap.”  I’ve read, in a few places, that it stands for “China” because Apple wants to sell these “cheaper” phones and try to take over the market here in China.

Good business for them but, again, Apple markets itself as something more personal and caring and not just about big business.

apple1 apple

And they do, once again, an amazing job at that sales pitch.

Business and marketing is one thing.

Supporting cancer to sell your products is a totally different subject.

And, yes, Apple may not have anything to do with this cigarette lighter and the advertising, but I doubt it.  Apple is very good at marketing and protecting its brand both at home and abroad.

I just expect more from Apple and I’m not sure why.  They are just another business, out to make a profit, and the consequences really don’t matter.

They are just much better at marketing than anyone else at this point.  Suffice to say that I haven’t seen any other computer companies selling their wares on lighters in my 4 months in China.




Day 125 in Beijing: Badminton Fun Time!

There are some sporting events that my company schedules for us every week.

They are not required to show up but it is a fun way to meet people from other divisions and learn about them and their families.

Jill and I decided to try to go to the badminton event and see if we could make some new friends and hopefully not make fools out of ourselves.

Goal #1 was definitely accomplished, and goal #2 seems to have been partially accomplished depending on who you ask and which team Jill and I played with or against.

Honestly, I was surprised at how much playing tennis (thanks to my dad for the lessons!) and hand-eye coordination from years of juggling, helped out with badminton.

My co-workers, who might have just been sympathetic to my lack of real skills, seemed somewhat impressed and one of my close friends at work said he was actually quite happy with how I played considered that most of the others had been playing for many years and we were able to keep up with them most the time.

That may have been true, but I think it was more that David was so talented and saved me from my many mistakes.

This became more evident as I watched him play with the others that knew what they were doing and how fast the game moved, how quickly the positioned themselves on defense or offense, and how they could guess the strategy of the other team.

It was a great lesson in humility and learning.  I value those as it allows me to remember to go slow when I teach people new things and when I work as a therapist as the concept and action may be easy for me to master, since I’ve been doing it for so long, but things that seem simple to me, could be incredibly difficult to beginners.

Anyway, Jill and I have both bought our own badminton racquets and a set of shuttlecocks to practice with at home.  We will be more ready next time and I’m planning on reading up to learn more about the strategy and thought process while playing the game so it becomes more natural and I can react more quickly in the future.


Day 124 in Beijing: How To Fix An Air Conditioner…At 40 Feet!

Jill and I were walking back from lunch a few days ago and noticed a few people looking up towards the sky.

We did the same and became transfixed.

Yep, he was fixing, or installing, an air conditioning unit.

Outside the apartment.

Day 120 in Beijing: Shanghai vs Beijing.

Beijing is in the north of inland China.

Shanghai is more south and on the coast.

The difference, in weather and pollution, is staggering.

Day 119 in Beijing: The Wonderful Taste Of Coal On My Tongue.

Not just unhealthy.  Flat out polluted.

You don’t want to go outside on days like today.

Well, it seems to be happening.

The pollution is getting worse.

This seems to be an annual occurrence in Beijing.

Jill and I were walking around last night and I felt a very strange sensation.

I tasted coal in the air.

I didn’t smell coal.

I didn’t smell smoke.

I physically tasted coal.

There is a specific reason why I didn’t smell smoke or smell the coal in the air:

I lost my sense of smell when I was four years old.

My father had a position at Hewlett-Packard that allowed him to move to our family to Scotland for one year and switch homes with a Scottish family that wanted to be in the United States.

Earlier in the day.  Notice the difference between Beijing and Shanghai.

Earlier in the day. Notice the difference between Beijing and Shanghai.

A very cool idea and, in a way, both my brothers and I have all lived overseas at some point in our lives so far.  David and I have done it numerous times while Robert has now lived in China for 6 years.  Stacy doesn’t seem as interested in living overseas, but who knows what the future will bring?

Anyway, we were coming back home from an event and we were involved in a horrific car crash.

The head injury I received caused me to have two different brain surgeries and, as far as they can tell, the only real lasting effect is the loss of my sense of smell.

My eyesight is 20/10, which allows me to see the smallest letters on the eye test chart with ease, my hearing is fantastic, and my sense of touch is normal.  I believe my sense of taste is about 60-70% of normal but I’ll never know because I can’t really compare what it was to what it is now.

A Hazy Shade of Winter...but it isn't winter.

A Hazy Shade of Winter…but it isn’t winter.

All in all, not a bad trade off compared to what I could have lost or if I had died.

Anyway, I don’t remember the last time I “tasted” smoke or something in the air.  It was a very strange sensation and I had to ask Jill if she also tasted smoke.  She said she did and it became a fleeting, yet sobering, thought that we will probably be enduring this for the next few months since the winter is supposedly much worse than the Autumn weather we are experiencing currently.

We aren’t wearing masks yet but will probably buy some.  There are tiny nose plugs, almost like the nose plugs people wear when they swim, and we might try those as a friend has given us a couple and he swears by them.

This, so far, is the only real negative I’ve found to living in Beijing.  We’ve read that each day living here is equal to smoking 1/6 of a cigarette a day.  I definitely worry about when the Air Quality index goes above 450 as it did last winter.

To quote my favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes.”

Day 117 in Beijing: Numb and Spicy.

Numb and Spicy Hot Pot Flavor.

Numb and Spicy Hot Pot Flavor.

I’m not quite sure how those two tastes go together.

Somehow, chip makers in China have figured it out.

I’d love to see the focus group that decided Numb and Spicy actually can be combined in some type of food substance.

And that is all I can call these chips: Some Type of Food Substance.

It is actually quite delicious and it is spicy.  However, I was unable to detect the oh so subtle taste of numbness on my tongue.

Then again, if the taste was truly numb, then I shouldn’t have been able to taste it and it all makes sense.

This is actually a genius bit of marketing by the Chinese division of Lays’ Potato Chips.

Nothing satisfies like "Numb."

Nothing satisfies like the taste of “NUMB.”

Think about this:  If you can’t taste it because it makes your taste buds numb, then it does EXACTLY what it is advertised to do!

You will eat constantly, and never be satiated, because you only have some food type substance digesting in your stomach that doesn’t actually taste like anything.

Honestly, I can see this this new taste of numb really going places.

The only problem is that if this continues as a marketing trend I won’t be able to enjoy it. My taste buds will become so accustomed to numbness that any flavor will ruin the magical experience of nothing.

Day 116 in Beijing: I AM A GIANT! Or maybe i’m just a gint.

I'm not a Giant.  I'm a Gint.

I’m not a Giant. I’m a Gint.

So there is a bike company called Giant.

My friend, Christopher Rubin, used to work at Giant in Los Angeles.  He used to have the coolest bikes around and I always could call him for advice when I had questions relating to cycling and bicycles.

He once told me that many of the Giant bicycles are owned and made in Taiwan, China and a few other countries.

Anyway, I’ve seen a number of Giant bicycle stores here and people riding some very high-end Giant racing bikes and triathlon bikes.

I used to have a few wonderful racing bikes made by Giant and it brings back great memories when I see them being ridden around Beijing.

There are also Chinese made, and owned, replicas of many other nations, and companies, products.   I’m sure you know what I mean regarding replicas.  Wink wink, nudge nudge.

Anyway, I think I just might have found one.  Look closely and check out the name of the bike on its side.  You may have to click on the picture if you are unable to read the letters on it.

Or, maybe, this bike is just in its adolescence so it isn’t quite a Giant yet.  It is only a Gint.