Start of China Blog

So, for the last two weeks, I've been in China, taking pictures, and documenting what can mildly be said to be an experience of a lifetime. Unfortunately, due to the Communist government there, a lot of US websites got blocked, Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, so there was almost no way (short of using supar slow VPN to bypass the internet censor) of updating or posting things. So, over the next several days (read: weeks to months), I'll be posting my [mis]adventures in China. Edited heavily from original journaltasticness (which ended up being 23-ish pages in Word, Calibri font, size 11, single space), with pictures (hopefully). If you wish for the unedited verison, just let me know. I may send it over your way. A word of warning, though. Contains lots of ranting, opinions, and... well.. me.

Sad to say, though, the trip isn't done, as I hoped it would have been. This two week trip has kicked my ass, and I'm literally crawling home. It's the trip that just won't end. Today, the flight from PEK (Beijing) to YYZ (Toronto) got delayed by an hour, which resulted in my family missing the connection to CLE (Cleveland). Staying in Toronto at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (by the airport) overnight and catching a 9:05AM flight tomorrow morning. Hopefully, I'll be back by noon tomorrow.

I figure I should throw some things up as notes for now (and I'll edit the post as needed when more notes are needed).

Note 1: Chinese currency is known as the yuan (元) (as in 25元). Also prefixed by the ¥ (as in ¥25). Also displayed with "RMB" suffix (as in 25 RMB). 1 USD ($1) is equal to about 6.6 to 6.7 yuan

Note 2: China's time zones on the easter coast (which is a pretty big swath of land) is 12 hours early to Eastern Standard Time (New York time). All times (if any posted) will be based on EST, so tack on an extra 12 hours for actual time the post was written.


Chicagoland Inline Marathon (7/25/10)

[Edited from http://skatelogforum.com/forums/showthread.php?p=410854&posted=1#post410854]

It may take the better part of the week for me to recover from all the fun. (Sore ankles (to be explained later), sore lower back (can't bend forward, have to crouch to pick up stuff off the floor), sore quads(though not so much)) I'm glad I flew, or I probably wouldn't have made the trip back home in my car without some serious rest area time. This is the second time this year I have skated 20+ miles. Previous time was in March on a personal skate.

Should have conditioned more over the summer... and broken in the new Bont Jets more (came in 2 weeks ago), but it was still a blast. Time: 2:09:54 in a 4x90 setup in 110 frames.. yeah, go ahead and laugh. Not bad, though I was probably unrealistically hoping for a sub 2hr time, as I was able to hit a sub-1hr time in my 4x90 fitness skates in a halfie (on a much flatter and smoother course last month). Considering how fatigued and slow I was a some points, especially with the "all hills all the time" mantra, I'm amazed how fast I still went. I usually averaged 10-11mph on my 15 mile workouts before using the Jets (12.1mph here). My form took some serious willpower to maintain on the 3rd loop, though. It was a real test of will to finish.

Did I mention about the hills? Whoever mentioned on the Skatelog forums about hills at Chicago wasn't kidding x.x I was pretty much dead on the third lap, but willpower and focus on technique to avoid excessive left foot eversion kept me going (my left skate frame still needs to be brought in (and better heatmolding)... or I need more ankle strength in the foot). Trails were a bit rough, and there was a good amount of roadkill along the course

Personally had a pre-race collision with another skater. We both somehow managed to not eat tar. I also ended up neck-and-neck with another skater (who was in rec skates >.<) over the finish line and managed to beat her by a few inches with my extended left foot... "The foot wins."

One paramedic call for a downed skater at the bottom of the hill about 1.5-2 miles from the finish line.

And to top off the marathon, I went for an additional 7 mile skate along gorgeous Lake Michigan later that afternoon. The weather was just amazing (minus that crazy wind) the whole day.

Overall tally:
Miles skated Sunday: 26.2 mi (marathon) (+ 7-ish miles with lake skate)
Water downed: 2.7 L during the marathon (+ 1L for the lake skate)
FiberOne bars eaten during the marathon: 2 (those things were life-savers for refueling)
Collisions: 1 (pre-race)
Downed skaters: 1
Bont speed skates: a lot; noticed a lot of fitness folks preferred the SemiRace
Roadkill: too numerous to count
Blisters/hot spots: 0 (booties for the win)
Crushed foot arches: 1 (right)

Lessons learned: need to replenish electrolytes better (pack bananas next time?) as my quads were starting to seize toward the end of the second lap.

Synopsis: Would condition a little better for next time and would do again if I can find a weekend to do it. And in the Jets (next time properly broken in and heatmolded). Unfortunately, I have no more summers of fun in sight for a very long time, so I'll have to play it by ear.


After 27 years, 9 months, I finally know the meaning to my name [.... kind of]

Well, it's been over two years since I've last updated this blog, so I might as well start with something worthwhile and small: the "meaning" to my Chinese name: 汪寧(宁)智, where 宁 is the simplified form of 寧 (traditional script).

So, to break it down character by character:
汪 (surname); expanse of water; ooze
寧 peaceful; rather; Ningxia (abbrev.) (Ningxia is probably a city in China)
智 wisdom; knowledge

As we would pronounce it in pinyin: wāng níng zhì.

An odd name of sorts to put together, and I couldn't find any of these characters in electronic form until now.

Unfortunately, none of these characters seem to fit who I really am (or better put, I do not express the ideal forms of these characters), especially since I've been put under the pressure cooker/stress test of medical school.

Anyway, for now, hooray for updates! Maybe I'll put up a post to give an update as to what the hell has been going on with my life for the last two years, plus, maybe some time in the future. Right.


East Coast Marathon

No, I didn't decide to be all super-healthy and start running 26 miles every day. But it sure felt it when I was driving my folks over to Providence, RI, to help my sister move into her university, Brown. A 10 hour drive it was, and it certainly wasn't nice to my car. It racked up a neat 1.5k+ miles (including two trips to Cape Cod and back to Providence), and a ton of scratches from packing and moving stuff, not to mention a 4.2 cu ft fridge that we had to return for another smaller 1.5 cu ft fridge, which didn't cool down enough and was returned for another 1.5 cu ft fridge. Plus a new couch, "desk" chair, a 25-pound mirror, and a 9'x5' rug, just to some some fun things that begged for a pickup truck or a minivan, but had to be crammed into my Toyota Camry. Now I know why Americans love pickup trucks so much.

Other than that, Cape Cod was nice. Granted, I only spent maybe 15 minutes on a 2-hour drive each way. They had good seafood, too. And chowdah.

I'll most likely be visiting that area pretty often, since my mom wants to check up on my sister personally, and I'm the only person who can make that drive without anything bad happening. Not sure if I'm up for it, though. It's a real killer. Takes up the whole weekend and it left me completely exhausted. 20+ hours driving..... yeah. Maybe I should just move to Boston or NYC and really cut down on the driving distance and time. But that'd require me to get into medical school... somehow....



Well... almost. My defense happened yesterday at 4:00 pm--about 24 hours ago. Despite completely going nuts and reading five papers within two hours as last-minute preparation for the defense, the Q&A wasn't as bad as I thought it would have been, and I passed without any real objections, at least that was what it seemed, since I got called back after less than five minutes of deliberation.

The almost part is finishing up the Thesis and getting in a rough draft of a publication manuscript. My advisor stated that it was a condition to get signed off to graduate in May. Honestly, maybe I should delay and enjoy the perks of one more semester as a student without paying any tuition. But it wouldn't look good for professional school applications.

Anyway, after three and a half years, I'm getting my Masters. After about ten years of various attempts at research, it looks like I'll finally get some sort of publication as a primary author by my own sweat, blood, and tears.

To be honest, I feel sorta sad that the day I am leaving is in sight. I enjoyed working in the lab with all the grad students and faculty around here. Maybe I'll return for a PhD, but I need to move on and other important things in life done while I'm still relatively young.


Pep Talk in Cleveland by Barack Obama

Yesterday, Barack Obama dropped by the Cuyahoga Community College as part of his last stop in his initial leg of his trip for the Democratic Party nomination for presidency. An interesting trip, to say the least. For one, the Tri-C (which the Cuyahoga Community College) is actually a pretty nice place. A lot more ritzy compared to, say, John Carrol University, which is relatively run down. The traffic there was terrible, though. Traffic was downright terrible. It took me about 25 minutes to drive about 1 mile from the highway to get to the campus. But not only that, all of the parking spots were taken. I'm not sure if it was a poor choice in the location (a 6-lane and a 4-lane intersection at the campus by a shopping mall), or if it was the fault of the police who didn't even bother to direct traffic, but yeah, the logistics in traffic just didn't work.

The way the rally worked here was that Obama would speak in the gymnasium (which I expected to be really small), and the extras were stuck in "overflow auditoriums." Those who couldn't make it to the auditoriums were stuck in the hallways with various television kiosks. Anyway, I'll cut to the chase. I was fortunate to get an overflow seat at the front of the auditorium, because he actually visited the room about 15 minutes before the actual speech at 8:00pm. And I got to shake his hand.

That aside, it's odd. Obama doesn't seem to be bigger than life the media makes him out to be. He just seems to be an ordinary guy. A bit flaccid on the handshake, but I suppose you don't want to kill your hand shaking all the hands on the campaign trail. The one thing that really struck me, though, was his willingness to walk out and meet the people not in gymnasium, where his actual address would take place. If I'm allowed to label it as anything, it shows a guy willing to go out of his way and do something extra. And if he did take the time to visit us, he probably visited the other auditoriums as well. It honestly surprised me and a lot of other people around me when he did pop up.

Another thing I noticed was that his speach seemed to be truely genuine. Perhaps it's a product from the repeatition of Bush's platitudes of how the country is just peachy and the world is out to get us. His demeanor is also a sharp contrast compared to 2004's Kerry. His rhetoric is also refreshing. Unlike the boring speak of seasoned politicians like Kerry and (lately) Bush, he has the ability to capture his audience with fairly keen language. Unfortunately, his oratory has much to go, since, while his speech to the auditorium I was in was pretty solid and smooth in getting a grass roots movement out, his speech in the auditorium was an unfortunate roll of bumbling phrases for the beginning half. Perhaps he was really excited, but he needs to be careful, since words can easily get minced and end up like Kerry's soldiers in Iraq "joke." However, he does have a tendency of having good catch phrases. In this speech, he used the line "The No-Child Left Behind [Act passed by Congress] left the money behind." Another memorable line from November was "The Republicans have a monopoly on tough and dumb" on the war in Iraq. Hopefully, he can keep his oratories fresh and not fall into the typical stump speeches that all politicians fall under on the road.

Onto Obama's issues, that I got to notice.

Overall, his policy is very populist-centric. However, he has made some very bold promises that have a very small chance of happening when he is in office. One is universal healthcare. In my opinion, this is an essential issue that needs to be addressed by the next President. Obama needs to come up with an ideas on how to do this properly, but I'll let the details slide, since it's so early in the race. However, to start balls rolling, anti-illegal immigrant policies and legislation will not help to make sound universal healthcare policy, since it will drive more illegal immigrants to the emergency room with health crises, as opposed to having proper preventative care and checkups in the clinic, which would significantly drive up costs of medical costs.

But I digress. He noted global warming openly, which at least hints at an open mind to some sort of scientific openness. However, he seemed to be a bit too eager eager to pick up the renewable energy bit, nor did he bother to talk about increasing the gas mileage standards on vehicles. I also disagree on his point on a sudden withdrawl from Iraq. While it may be convenient to dump Iraq to do more productive things in Afghanistan, Iraq is in our hands whether we like it or not. If are to be pulled out of Iraq within 13 months, negotiations need to occur with neighboring countries, including Syria and Iran. But since we know this current administration's habits so well, that will not happen, and the withdrawl will most likely make things in the Middle East even worse. I am also somewhat alarmed by his rhetoric on domestic policy to help American workers. While outsourcing does help lower production costs at the sacrifice of a number of jobs domestically, I just hope he doesn't become protectionist.

All in all, Obama looks like a full-blooded Democrat. I would go further and say that he is 2008's Howard Dean in the sense that he has an early jumpstart that got the demographics that supported Dean in 2004. His rhetoric is also very similar to Dean's. To be honest, I wouldn't mind a guy like him in office, but Obama runs a very real and dangerous risk of alienating his non-Black base and flaming out like Dean did. A lot of stories and images he presents are very African American-oriented. Frequent mentionings of the Civil Rights movement, slavery, Jim Crow. Now, I'm not a segregationist by any means, but to continuously hear this kind of speaking from him alarms me on who he is looking out for, and it can be a sticking point to a lot of racial demographics in that Obama may unfairly favor his Black constitutent over other minorities. It can also alienate the White base, who can resent such a campaigning pattern. He needs to tread evenly and carefully if he wants to have a solid support for the Democratic Party nomination. He will have to do it even more so if he is to win the Presidency. To be honest, Obama will have to fight a hard battle uphill. There's a lot of underlying racial tensions in this country and it will be part of that friction towards 2008. In my honest opinion, this country is not ready for a Black president because of how this country has been historically and even today on race. However, a Black president may just be what we needed to help fix those very same racial problems.


About a week late... heh

Yes, a week late... I need to get into the habit of updating this blog more frequently.

Anyway, as many of us in the Plains/Great Lakes/New England states got to experience last week, we got absolutely snowed in by a storm for about 24 hours. CWRU shut down for the whole day, which was a first in the six years I've been here. Unfortunately, I was also at CWRU when they decided to do so. Living about 15-20 miles away is sorta bad when this happens, especially when there was snow piling up to about 8 inches on the roads. I tried to drive my car to my lab from teh library, but got stuck making a simple right hand turn onto a main street. That told me that I would probably get stuck in snow on my way back to the apartment, which was not something I wanted to entertain. So I stayed at CWRU overnight.

One good thing did come out of the overnight stay, though. I FINALLY TURNED IN MY THESIS. Seriously. Hell froze over last week. Both ways. Not only that, but House was incredibly uncanny in its prediction for snow to get dumped on SPAD. Ah, yes. Mine was great, thank you very much.