From April 2009

Ice Eating Competition

P1020350

Today I bring you something a little frivolous… A few weeks ago I was having dinner in a massive Japanese restaurant (Japan Fusion – 中森名菜) where we ordered a desert which was basically a big volcano shaped mound of crushed ice covered in a thin layer of mango. It came in a massive bowl which was more than enough for four or more people and I speculated as to whether one person could eat it whole.

LED Tree

This turned out to be a mistake when the 11 year old nephew of a friend challenged me to an ice eating competition the following Saturday where we would see who could eat the same desert in the fastest time! I wasn’t sure if eating so much ice in such a short period of time would be such a good idea so consulted with a doctor to make sure it wouldn’t kill anyone. He wasn’t prepared to guarantee that it wouldn’t but said it was “probably harmless” 😀

Side note: the centrepiece of the restaurant was a massive tree covered in thousands of LEDs which simultaneously glowed different colours. Somehow they managed to pull it off without it looking too tacky. The artwork on the walls was also another matter…

Sumo Photographer

On Saturday morning we reconvened in the same restaurant and much to the bemusement of the staff promptly ordered two of the mango-ice volcanoes. The following video documents what happened (embarrassingly).

At 25 minutes long I think we’ve proved that eating crushed ice is not something which can be done quickly by amateurs. After about 10 minutes I lost most of the feeling in my mouth which went numb but this still didn’t increase the rate at which I could shovel it in. My competitor complained of brain freeze but found a novel way of speeding things up by first melting the ice into more of a slush composition which seems to have given him the edge leading to victory.

Unless you fancy experiencing the feeling of eating a glacier I wouldn’t encourage anyone to try this at home!

Flying Doraemon

Kite Hawker

Whilst studying Japanese at university in 2004 I wrote a post about a hugely popular cartoon character called Doraemon. For some reason it caused such a stir that it’s still the no.1 most read page on randomwire.com to this day. This has always slightly irked me since it wasn’t exactly a scintillating post but I have since come to terms with the fact that a cute robot cat is infinitely more popular than I’ll ever be! With 133 comments (and counting) I can’t really complain.

Flying Doraemon

While wandering in Shenzhen’s mangrove forest on the southern coastline of Futian last weekend I was reminded of this feline from the future when half a dozen Doraemon shaped kites appeared in the sky as if they’d just flown in from Hong Kong (which lies across the bay). Chinese kite flying is an age old tradition with many styles dating back to the Tang Dynasty when some believed that it could be used to avoid bad luck and bring prosperity by flying high.

Smuggling Will Be Dealt With Severely

Whilst the kites were innocently fluttering in the breeze someone reminded me that less than 20 years ago people attempting to escape the mainland of China to Hong Kong by swimming across the bay were likely to be shot and indeed banners still warn people of the severe consequences that will face them if they attempt it. Even when living in a modern Chinese city you can’t help but feel that there are still darker elements lurking just below surface. For the most part foreigners here are blissfully unaware since the language divide prevents most from understand everything that goes on (myself included).

In other news… the lack of posting recently has been down to my crazy schedule and other shenanigans which will become clearer soon. My parents are arriving in Hong Kong tomorrow from the UK to pay me a visit and we plan to spend a little over a week travelling around, including a trip to Beijing which should be exciting. Drop me a line if you’ll be in the vicinity April 29th – May 3rd.

Secret Pig’s Hoof Restaurant

Ba Shu Feng Ju

Someone commented the other day that my life in China sometimes appears to be one big culinary extravaganza and unsurprisingly I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with them! Chinese food is undoubtedly amongst the best in the world but what makes it even more special is that you don’t have to go to a posh restaurant to enjoy it (although this post is going to be somewhat of a contradiction!).

Pork in Pumpkin

After a very long week at work I ventured to the district of Futian to a Sichuanese restaurant called Ba Shu Feng Ju (巴蜀风居 – near Coco Park). It was getting a bit late so wasn’t very busy and if the interior was anything to go by the food was certainly going to be special. I’d describe the style as being “Chinese traditional-modern” if that makes any sense. The walls were made from moulded concrete with a smooth finish and architectural lighting

Miscellaneous Sauce Noodles

Aside from the swanky decor the other thing which set it apart was its amazing menu. Never before have I seen such a wonderful collection of chinglish in one place. From “Miscellaneous sauce noodles” to “Acid and hot potato vermicelli” and “Pork bits sauce noodles” this place had it all. The crown jewels had to be the “Secret Pig’s Hoofs” which despite their mysterious allure I left to the imagination and instead picked out some delicious pork cooked in pumpkin (above) and stone crushed beef (below).

Stone Crushed Beef

Despite the late hour the food was cooked to near perfection and was just what I needed after a long week! As well as the meat we ordered some sweet glutinous rice fried covered in a type of brown sugar (unhealthy but delicious) as well as some greens. Interestingly in China there is no concept of desert so sweet food is mixed with savoury during the meal.

Sweet Glutinous Rice

Once the feasting was over there was still quite a bit left over but in China it’s perfectly normal to ask for the left-overs to be packaged up so you can take them home to enjoy later – in fact it’s a supposed to be a good sign of respect to the chef if you do since you clearly appreciated the mastery!

Whilst China has many problems, food certainly isn’t one of them.

Web Trend Map 2009

Web Trends Map 4

For the third year in a row Information Architects Japan have produced a new version of their Web Trend Map (see 2007 / 2008). This year they have surpassed themselves again with a striking new design style based on the Tokyo Metro map. Each trend line on the map is colour coded by industry with each company depicted according to its success and stability. The top 50 influential companies are connected via the “main line” with 111 individual people considered as trend setters also shown clustered around their respective interests (with Steve Jobs, Barack Obama & Eric Schmidt right in the centre at the Emperor’s Palace).

Web Trend Map 4

It’s nice to see WordPress (ranked 21) featured as an intersection of the Publishing, Creative & Filter lines with Drupal (ranked 43) situated as its neighbour. Interestingly most of the China web properties (Baidu, Sina, QQ etc.) lie on a branch of the Filter line without any interconnections suggesting that they’re still relatively issolated to that part of the world. Whilst this still the beta version taking a look at it full size is an absolute must – the final version should be released very soon apparently.

I’m thinking I should start some sort of collection to catalogue these types of maps which seem to becoming an increasingly popular form of information visualisation outside their tradition domain of the subway system.

WordCamp Hong Kong 2009

WordCamp Hong Kong 2009

For the second time this weekend I got up at an ungodly hour and took the Metro/MTR over the border to Hong Kong Science Technology Park for WordCamp Hong Kong 2009. Two buses and three trains later I arrived at the appropriately futuristic egg shaped conference hall and registered for the super-cheap price of only $10 HKD.

Invasion of the flying eggs

The first presentation was by Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of WordPress and founder of Automattic. He gave a talk about how WordPress got started, the underlying philosophy, and the where things are heading in the future. There wasn’t really any new content for anyone that’s familiar with the space but it was interesting to see Matt in the flesh and impressive to see how much he has already achieved considering he’s only 25. He’s also extremely laid back about it all!

the freedom to change

Other talks included a look at the most popular blogs on WordPress.com (blocked in mainland China), a ‘coolest blog contest‘, a look at multi-author management of WordPress sites, and a Q&A session with Matt compared by Thomas Crampton. One talk was in Cantonese but the rest of the day was in English so no matter. Leon Hu probably gave the most interesting talk of the day about his “life hacks” site which is evidently doing quite well for itself also.

Q&A

The presentations were a little weak on the depth-of-content side but nevertheless it was interesting to meet some fellow bloggers from this part of the world. My impression was that there seems to be a lot more creativity this side of the border which somewhat makes me wish I was here more often but on the other side of the coin the mainland still holds more interest in the way of culture and travel opportunities.

Finalists

There were plenty of people with cameras so Flickr is awash with photos for anyone who’d like to see more of the presentations etc. Hopefully it’ll be back next year, and with some more compelling speakers I’m sure it’ll go from strength to strength.

Were you there? What did you think?