Arriving in Singapore and Little India, Chinatown, etc

After a grueling day of traveling due to China Eastern Airlines inability to depart on time I made it to Singapore last night around 9pm. After meeting up with my friends, we headed out to Chinatown to find some food at one of the various hakwer stalls. It was a familiar site, very close to what Kuala Lumpur was like with hawker stalls and people everywhere, but about a thousand times clear and hundreds of signs saying how much you’ll get fined for just about anything (including eating durian). We had some pretty good street food, then went to get some foot massages, then ended up walking around for a bit in the area. After we got bored of walking around, we decided to jump in a taxi and head over to the spectacular Raffles Hotel to grab a Sinagpore Sling at place it was created, Long Bar. The hotel was fantastic, full of old world British charm. The Long Bar was picturesque too, if not a bit touristy and the sling was, well a sling. We went back home to get an early start to today.

In the morning, we made our way over to Takashimaya to get a highly recomended breakfast of coffee, soft boiled eggs and strong sweet coffee at Ya Kun Kaya, located in the basement. It was delicious. We cruised around the basemen tof Takashimaya for a little longer, and I got some more food (it was pretty much the theme for the day), a Noyan rice ball wrapped in banana leaf. Again, delicious. I’d always wanted to try one, and that was the first time I’d seen a vegetarian version of the snack. 

After finishing up breakfast, we went over to Little India by MRT. The subway system is very simular in rolling stock, ticket systems, and floor plans to the one in Shanghai. It’s very comprehensive, clean and runs often. Little India was fun, again centered around food. There were still a lot of signs up for Diwali as well as plenty of South Indian looking/styled temples. We ate at a veg South Indian restaurant, where I had a good masala dosa and a few other folks got some great looking thalis, too. We made our way back to the major market area in Little India to get some teh tarik, a Malay-style pulled sweet black tea.

From there it was back the colonial/city/downtown area and walked through the cricket grounds, the Supreme Court, and some of the other old British buildings. A lot of times it was hard to tell if you were in London or in Singapore just how the roads were layed out and the buildings were styled. On the docket for tonight is the night safari at the zoo, a supposed top thing to do in Singapore. We’re about to head out to dinner, who knows where, but I’m in South East Asia, which means I’m always ready to eat. Tomorrow I think I might hop over to Indonesia to spend the morning-ish hours at the beach at Bintan or another island over there.

To Be Back in Shanghai

I forgot how much I liked this place. There’s a lot to love about Shanghai. Yesterday I spent the day crusing around the city and work meeting up with friends all over. I loved being able to walk down to the street and pick up a taxi, pop on my head phones and spin around town. Today was more of the same, spent time eating, chatting and eating some more. We ate at Yuxin tonight, which is an amazing Sichuan place that is so crazy spicy that my sweating required napkining off. Delicious. I’m sure I’ll regret it tomorrow, but boy do I love it.

I’m off to Singapore in the morning, 9am flight via Hong Kong, and meeting up w/ some office folks. 85F right now, this should be fun.

Back in Shanghai

After a nine month hiatus I’m back in Shanghai. I didn’t quite remember the flight out here being so long (11:45 + 3.5 hours of flying, plus one hour of layover in Tokyo). As I picked up my luggage and walked through customs, out in to the open, the familar faces of Shanghai came back like a ton of bricks, as if I’d never left.

I went to the same ICBC ATM to withdraw money from my account in China (the money which thankfully did not mysteriously disappear), then passed through the various people harrasing me for “taxi” rides, and got in the offical taxi queue. The chalky smell of the air, the bumping and pushing, and public belching, it was all there in its full and wonderful authentic glory.

I was a little worried about having to use my rather poor Chinese when I got in the cab, but as I hunkered down it all started to flow and we were on our way to Xujiahui. As we crossed the Lupu Bridge, I could see the new World Financial Center (aka Shanghai 102), which looks like its topped out and makes the Jin Mao Tower seem small in comparison. Also different is how amazingly quiet the streets are now that there’s a 200 RMB fine for honking!

Didn’t do a whole lot today once I got in; I was pretty nuked after the flight. I did go however to the foot massage place we used to frequent and used it as an opportunity to catch up about life, work, and Shanghai with some old friends. It was great to hang out and talk the same nonsense as usual. I’m wishing I had more than just two and a half days here.

Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore: Here I Come

I’m off! I’m leaving today for a vacation over Thanksgiving. I’m heading to Shanghai first to meet up with a bunch of my friends from there, then off to Singapore with a couple of folks from the office to tour around, then we’re all off to Hong Kong for my good friends wedding. It’s gonna be a great trip and I’m looking forward to getting some time off. As usual, I’ll be blogging from the road.

Coffee Shops in Hayes Valley

There are probably more coffee shops in Hayes Valley than there are people. Okay, that’s obviously not true, but it sure feels like it. I hunkered down at a new cafe, La Boulange, this morning located at 500 Hayes and Octavia. Across the street is Stacks. Less then 200 feet is Cafe La Vie. A block up is Modern Tea. Two blocks away is Blue Bottle. Then there’s the other little French place down on Gough. Oh, then the crepes place that makes a good latte up on Gough going north past Hayes. Then there’s of course Citizen Cake half a block past that. That doesn’t even include the places that are on the other side of Gough if you keep going down Hayes (I can visually remember at least one). I count 9 within four blocks of each other. It’s not hard to stay jittery in Hayes Valley.

Windows Live Calendar

Windows Live Calendar is live! This has been many, many, many months in the making, starting with an idea a long time ago (it first surfaced when we started talking about rebuilding Hotmail three years ago!), to coding in two continents, to finally hitting the Go button today and RTWing (Release to Web) our product. This is the second v1 product I’ve been able to participate in from start to ship and it’s as unique and as exciting watching the service go online as the first time.

To give you an idea of what happens when we go live, we have a lot of folks in a conference room with a Polycom conference system where people are dialed in to. There are projectors with logs of the production machines displayed, people marking things on the white boards to make sure that changes and fixes don’t get forgotten and the actual folks pushing the software to the servers. We try to have the day itself scheduled down to the half hour or fifteen minute mark, but we do make changes to on the fly.

We had our whole data center ready and prepped to go today, so our “go live” moment was a final decision that was made with all the key stakeholders which then resulted in us marking the service as In Service, and within seconds new users were pounding on it, creating accounts! Thus, Windows Live Calendar was born. It’s amazingly cool to watch a log file fly by with reports of new users being created.

It’s not easy to make that final “yes” call. From late last week we’d been working long hours in the home stretch (including a 3+ hour conference call on Sunday night!). Lots of time checking, double checking and triple checking that everything when we finally said yes would work — and by and large it did. Of course, when you’re bringing a new service online, stuff doesn’t work (and it didn’t all work), so having everybody in that conference room I mentioned earlier was key to making decisions on the fly.

Ship or go home – it’s everybody’s accomplishment getting us to where we are today, and I’m proud to have been a part of this team. Lots more to write about, but I’m exhausted from the last few days; expect to hear more soon.