Saturday, August 25, 2007

excuse the language, but ...

... i am having a motherfucking heart attack.

Over the course of the last five days my magazine cohorts and I have logged in about 100 hours working on this stupid issue. We work through the night, leaving or just falling asleep in the office in the early afternoon. Then we start again a few hours later, around 4 or 5 p.m. It has been hell, and tonight we need to finish. We have about an hour left and there's still a shitload to be done. To make matters worse, the toilet's clogged, and we just realized we haven't even thought about the cover. Fuck.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Good Idea for Downtown L.A.

This is fantastic. Although I do have to take exception to the implication that all pedicabs in Asia are straight out of the 18th century. I have never seen a runner rickshaw in Chengdu; though they might not be the high-tech creations Mr. Green is driving, they are all tricycle-style. I've taken some photos recently which I will attempt to post soon (waiting for the film to be processed--a challenge in and of itself when dealing with black and white, it would seem).

Pedal Power

Eric Green and His 'Green Machine' Are Giving Downtown a Lift

by Kathryn Maese

Eric Green pulls out of the valet driveway of Downtown's Sheraton Hotel, making his way onto Hope Street as more than a few curious glances are flashed his way.

Eric Green and his Green Machine are ferrying pedestrians across Downtown. The entrepreneur has launched a pedicab business that serves the residential and business community, as well as bar hoppers. Photo by Gary Leonard.
The hotel doorman/entrepreneur nods politely to passersby, graciously allows cars the right of way and keeps up pleasant conversation as he passes the new Ralphs supermarket and turns onto Ninth Street.

But it's not a yellow cab he drives. Green uses manpower to fuel his pedicab, a smart-looking contraption that is part bike and part carriage, through the streets of Downtown Los Angeles. Dubbed the "Green Machine," the moniker is a play on his last name, the vehicle's color and the fact that it's environmentally friendly.

Green's service is the first of its kind in Downtown. In just two weeks on the road, he's already getting plenty of attention from hotel concierges and bar managers eager to use the pedicab for their customers, as well as some bloggers."

For the complete text, click here.

In other news, I purchased a bicycle yesterday. It's a miniature bicycle with wheels about a foot in diameter, and it can completely fold up. It's orange. I like it. No, I love it. Unfortunately I couldn't ride it home yesterday from work because the bicycle guard locked it up at 9 when he went home and took the key with him. Oops.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

a well-worded rant, i thought

I received this a few days ago in my mailbox, via the carfree cities Yahoo! group.


Lance Armstrong pedalling a bike-driven generator can
produce about 350 watts and he can probably keep this
up for about 3 hours. That is, roughly, 1 kilowatt-hour.

If Lance drives to the gym in a Prius and he travels
10 miles round trip, he uses an average of about 10 HP
for a period of 10 minutes (assuming an unlikely average
speed of 60 MPH). At 746 watts/HP, this is 74,600 watt-min:

10 min * 10 HP * 746 watts

74,600 watt-min is 1243 watt-hours or 1.243 kWh

So, in ten minutes of driving, Lance uses more energy than
he can produce in 3 hours of pedalling.

Now, if it's YOU on the treadmill, how many watts continuous
can you produced for three hours?

If you power your car by pedalling a generator to charge
its batteries, you're going to have to pedal for, say,
one working shift in order to drive 10 miles back and
forth to work. Or, you could ride your bike for, say,
40 minutes each way.

We MUST get our heads around the notion of just how much
energy we are consuming. It's truly incredible. Think in
terms of reducing your energy consumption 10-fold in
your lifetime. Even THAT is probably not sustainable.

The fix we're in is so much worse than people think it is,
simply because they think it's quite normal to put 10 gallons
of gasoline in the car once or twice a week. The energy
content of that gasoline is just incredible; only since
the start of the industrial era have people been able to
consume energy at this rate. This has only been possible
because we have been burning fossil fuels created over a
span of millions of years during the course of a century.

Rainwater falling off the roof is not going to power your
next flight to Disneyworld. It's not going to get you to
the airport. In fact, it's barely going to get you out
of the driveway.

Life is going to change. Get used to it. Then figure out
how to enjoy it. That's not hard. Just imagine carfree cities."
-Joel, of

In other news, I'm going to Hong Kong for a few days at the end of the month as my visa will be expiring. I'm planning to take the train via Guangzhou, mainly because that's the only direct train from Chengdu. From Guangzhou I'll bus or train to Shenzhen and then take the subway over the Kowloon. It's going to be long and exhausting--but fortunately, hot, so I don't have to take too many clothes with me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chinese Tea Snobs

Last Sunday was one of those very rare sunny days in Chengdu, so I decided to honor my eighth-grade language-arts teacher, who signed my yearbook "carpe diem--that's what comes to mind when I think of you" (or something to that effect) by seizing the day and taking photos.

When the sun's out, Chengdu is actually not a bad place to find interesting images. I've run through two-and-a-half rolls of 36-exposure film in the last few days, which is about as much as I've shot in my previous three years in China combined. Plus I've gotten over a lot of my initial self-consciousness holding up a camera to my face (in hopes of avoiding perpetuating the rich foreign tourist stereotype). The only question now is where I can develop and make prints of black-and-white film properly.

My goal was to get some shots of Tianfu Plaza, the downtown square which was just re-opened this past February after several years' closure. (These aren't my photos; just a representative sample from a random search.) When I moved to Chengdu two years ago, it was a giant dirt pit. That hole has now been replaced by a spectacular above-ground plaza that will be the site of the main subway station, the first line of which will open in a year or two.

Upon finishing, after detouring through the fish and flower market (of which I'd long heard but had never been) as well as a street where most of the houses are still brick and you can look between the rows into alleys where residents have strung their laundry on bamboo poles--to be disappearing shortly, I'm sure, I turned down the main road heading to my apartment. On the corner there's a tea shop where I once purchased some Chinese black tea, which, incidentally, is called red tea in Chinese.

When I bought the tea of course I was invited to have a seat and sample it, and I spent some time chatting with the two employees there. The woman is 24 and from a central/eastern province; the man is older. As they sit in the tea shop all day other than when they run errands, I'm guessing they don't have much to do other than to drink tea. So when I pass by I try to make sure to look in, and if they happen to be gazing out the window I'll wave. This time the girl didn't see me until I was almost already past, and when she realized I was waving at her, she jumped up and beckoned me to come inside a sit for a moment.

As it was a meandering Sunday, I agreed, and she immediately started preparing the tea. It's a fairly elaborate process: First she sets down a tiny tray in front of me; then, from a pot of boiling water fishes out a cup about the size of a single shot glass and sets it on the tray. Next, she pours hot water through a filter into a tiny teapot that's filled with tea leaves. This water is then poured into another tea pot, and finally poured all over the main tea tray, which has a drain in the bottom. She refills the original teapot, repeats the process, and finally my cup is filled, and I can drink this second steeping of the tea. While she goes through this I stare at the paper-wrapped bricks or cakes of tea leaves behind her head, most of which come from Yunnan province (just south of here and also China's largest coffee producer), some of which are discs about 10" in diameter and go for a few hundred RMB.

That day the other employee came back with a new supply of Oolong tea leaves, which were promptly dug into for sampling. This demanded my little tray hold two tiny cups, as we tried three different batches, each one progressively better, from what I could deduce. To me, they all tasted, to varying intensities, like artichoke. My limited knowledge of tea terminology in Chinese precluded me from catching all the details of the discussion, but there was much debate over not only the taste, but also the smell of the tea (which seems crucial), as well as the change in leaves from dry to wet and the change in the color of water over a series of steepings. The boss of the tea shop also stopped by and gave his expert opinion--I guess. At any rate, I drank so much tea I started feeling sick so eventually I excused myself because if I didn't I was going to have to keep on drinking ... .

In other news, I've got exactly 17 days until my visa expires, and no definite plan about what to do about that. Tomorrow afternoon I'll find out if I can avoid having to go to Hong Kong, which would be nice.

And I've recorded a Chinese-learning radio show with a CHENGDOO citylife editorial assistant, Annie. If you care to listen, it's on her blog here. I made one stupid and embarrassing mistake, but the rest is OK I guess.