Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Counter Strike Players of the World Unite

Every country I've visited in Asia has one thing in common: Counter Strike.

Whether located in Thailand, Indonesia, China or Korea, Asian internet cafes are always full of people playing Counter Strike. I've walked past closed office storefronts and have seen teams of employees yelling through headsets while playing Counter Strike. And those are the considerate employees! I've even heard that, during office hours, when supervisors are away, the cubicle drones do play.

In China, the government is aware of this and has licensed many state-owned media agencies to create their own games to compete. Word on the street is, China, like Korea before it, is entering the world of competitive gaming, with a facility being built in Chengdu that will host, occasionally televised matches between e-gaming professionals. Will they be playing Counter Strike or something else? That remains to be seen.

Though it is currently limited to the US, gaming platforms like GetGosu are poised to take these communities of gamers by storm. If you haven't heard me rave about this project I've been working on before, GetGosu is an online video game tournament platform that enables gamers to enter automatically seeded tournaments that track stats, and includes anti-cheat controls and an online community for connecting with other gamers. It will eventually allow gamers to earn actual income based on their video game tournamentsThe name is actually Asian inspired. Gosu (고수) is a Korean term meaning, high hand. It refers to being badass at a game like Counter Strike, Starcraft or Diablo. The Korean word Gosu sounds very similar to the Chinese word GaoShou (高手) from which it was derived and still shares a meaning. This would be great if GetGosu ever expanded to China. We'd barely have to modify the name to work with Chinese characters. [Edit] Joan, a friend who is working on the project as well just read this post and recommended this transliteration, that also retains some of our intended meaning GouGaoShou (够高手). 够高手 roughly means "Enough of an Expert". Since the name GetGosu is meant to convey "Become a Badass", this translation actually works pretty well! [double-edit] Another friend, Jared, recommended GaoGaoShou (高高手). Based on how Chinese works, we assumed 高高手 would mean "very badass". However, I just looked it up and the translation at was: "Please do not be too severe on me!" I think that could work too!

If you are based in the US (sorry players in Asia) and would like to try out GetGosu while its in public beta, head over to GetGosu and create an account now. Accounts are completely free and gameplay is hosted on our own blazing servers. If you are based in Asia, sign up for an account but stay patients - closer regional servers will be added soon.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cute Humidifier - A Beijing Necessity

I've mentioned before that Beijing is dry. And, unlike in Puritan and Conservative states in the US, dry doesn't refer to booze. Don't worry - there is plenty of that stuff here (though, per doctor's orders, I can't drink it). I'm referring to humidity. Beijing doesn't have much of it and it can take its toll on someone like me.

I'm the guy that needs to drink a liter of water a day to survive in a normal climate. Beijing has upped the ante and I need about two liters on average. Despite my water consumption, I wake up every morning super dry. In fact, I often dry out so much that I wake up a few times during the night just to chug water.

Some people say that a humidifier and an air purifier are necessary for life in Beijing. I've been able to make it this far without the better air pair, but I am easing in.

I didn't spring for an air purifier yet, but I picked up a cute, animal-shaped humidifier, and since then everything's been coming up Milhouse! I paid a little more than 10 USD for an awesome sheep-shaped super-sonic humidifier. I've only been using it for a week or so, but its really made a difference for me AND for Veronica.
beijing humidifierIf you ask her, the humidifier is the worst of many recent additions to our apartment. Its been wrecking havoc on her hair. But, its been a testament to our relationship that she's allowed me to keep it in spite of all the bad hair days she may suffer as a result. It's a big step.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

December Beijing Snow

When we arrived in Beijing last year, there were the remnants of an earlier snow on the ground. This excited me and terrified Veronica for the prospect of a snowy winter. Unfortunately for me, the winter of early 2009 didn't grant me my wish and I quickly learned that Beijing isn't known for its precipitation. The subsequent spring, summer and fall were speckled with random showers and the occasional thunderstorm - but on the whole, not much fell from the sky.

Back around the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I remember seeing a Daily Show sketch in which Jon Stewart conceded that China was officially a "Super-Power" as it has the ability to control the weather. He was alluding to reports that a division of the Chinese government seeded clouds to create rain, thus ensuring that the skies were clear for the Olympic Games.

We didn't witness this tremendous might until November of 2009, when the Government announced a planned snowfall for the coming weekend. Lo and behold, flakes fell. We were in awe. It was just a few inches, but this didn't happen back in Philadelphia. Mayor Street was barely able to keep public transit running, let alone make the heavens open.

The next weekend it snowed again, though not as much and I was surprised that the government didn't take credit for that as well. The next month progressed nicely and snow free until right after my birthday when we were visited by a multi-day and many inch snow storm. Veronica was home, so she didn't have to deal with it - leaving me in my own snowy heaven. I love snow.

Beijing is a city much like Washington DC in that it has managed to convince itself that snow is a rare occurrence within its borders. As such, neither city has done much to plan for snow removal if (WHEN) such snow does occur. When the snow kept falling and falling, Beijing was paralyzed.2009 beijing snowfallThe morning after much of the initial snowfall, I had some house guests (HEY RAMONA AND KEELEY), so the three of us decided to take a photo-taking-walk around the neighborhood. The Imperial Academy (国子监 - guozijian) and the Confucius Temple (夫子廟 - fuzimiao) look particularly awesome in the snow.beijing temples snowThe snow stopped being pretty and started becoming annoying when it began interfering with everyday life. My motorbike ate up its entire battery four times as fast as normal when it was skidding around in the snow.

Roads were horribly messy and one night some friends and I were blasted by a Beijing Snow Removal Vehicle (a street cleaner that was filled with some salt-water compound). This, and a blast text message that told residents to avoid driving, take the subway and help in neighborhood cleanup efforts were about as official as the cleanup process got. Which is probably why it took almost a week to really dig out.beijing streets snowA few weeks after the snow, the government has finally gotten around to sending around cleanup crews. These crews are usually a group of guys with a trash-collecting bike and some shovels. But they get the job done.

I think the snow is done for the year - but who knows. Weather is usually unpredictable - except for in China that is.