Typhoon is Over

This year’s Typoon is over in Shanghai. Actually some nice changes happens this time.

Typhoon hits Shanghai almost every year. Although not seriously, it does impact the lives.

This year, the biggest difference is not the typhoon itself. Yes. It is stronger this year, but the biggest difference is the government.

The Beijing’s heavy rain claimed lives of nearly 100, and Shanghai government acted very proactively. They started to use the post-SARS type of effort to inform residents about what is coming. They also shutdown parks and some public events. At least, this time, due to the recent pressure of the press, and Internet, they are doing reasonably well.

For sure there are many concerns about what they did – they claimed that being late should not be regarded as being late for businesses, and many other measures. I think they may over used their power, and no one granted that type of power to government. (Well, if we have a congress or local city council, I may vote to grant that power, but so far, there is no documents saying so). Having said that, I still applaud for what the Shanghai did, because it is the first step to “doing something” instead of wait passively about what is happening. By “doing something”, it may cross the line, but a very good starting point.

Yesterday was obviously the heaviest rain in recent years, but it was not that bad based on my personal experience. STRONG DISCLAIMER: I didn’t see flooding does not mean there is no flood, but equally important is, I cannot claim flood if I don’t see it personally. That is just the difference of perspective, and we need to put the information together. I am bringing my piece here.

There are several leaks in my house, and I have to swipe the floor from time to time. But compared to what happened in Zhejiang, it is just nothing.

 

Learning Git

I am learning GIT.

A new frontier for me to learn. GIT.

Technology is actually driven by tool makers. Think of the few generation of advancement: Weaving machines in Florence, Herring cutter and commercial boats in Holland, stream engine in English, electronic and information technology in US – all of them are tools. The advancement of tools help human develop and advance.

GIT is such a tool. I started to use version control with SD (SourceDepot). That was a very good tool developed back in 198x, before git appears in the horizon.

If you want to predict which technical company will win, check what tool they use! If a company start to lose in the tool front, it is losing in many front.

 

Nanjing, the Capital of a Republic

A danger of travel is that we see things at wrong time, before you have the opportunity to build up the necessary receptivity so that new information is as useless and fugitive as necklace beads without a connecting chains. – Alan de Botton

This time, I visited Nanjing during the weekend, and I had some preparation to get the receptivity, and tried to use a connecting chain to guide what to see. The topic will be the government of Republic of China, a historical term in mainland China, and a current term in Taiwan.

I went to the following places:

  • The presidential palace
  • The Executive Yuan
  • The Legislative Yuan
  • The Judicial Yuan
  • The Control Yuan
  • The Exam Yuan

They are scattered into different places across the city, but to follow a path to visit every single one of them makes a great day.

Nanjing is a city with great histories. Many of the memories were painful, just like the feeling of Berlin. It is also moving very fast. I didn’t expect to see a building 450 meters high (due to my ignorance, I didn’t know that). Many years ago, I would say Hangzhou is a much better travel destination than Nanjing, and now I rediscovered the city and claim it to be better to spend a weekend than Hangzhou. Here is why.

  • Nanjing is only 1:40 hour away from Shanghai. Hangzhou is less than 1 hour but the difference is not big.
  • There are 70 G-trains between the two cities everyday, making it more convineint to get there. The fastest train is only 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Nanjing was capital of 6 dynasties, and the recent Republic of China. There are a lot architect and stories there. Hangzhou is a little bit less “historical”
  • Nanjing’s transportation is amazingly good. The two metro lines (one connects at the Railway station!) completely beats Hangzhou. It was nightmare to wait for taxi at Hangzhou railway station.
  • In the recent years, Nanjing suddenly became more modern than Hangzhou, with some very nice shopping malls like Deji Plaza at Xinjiekou.
  • The mountains of Nanjing is more approachable.
  • For many people in Shanghai, Nanjing is obviously a less visited city than Hangzhou, so worth the time.

I will visit Nanjing soon during weekend. A weekend escape in Nanjing is just a very good experience for me – high-speed train, Hanting Hotel, plus Metro tickets are good package for me.

Drawings of Interiors

Let me continue to post my drawings in Italy. This time, the topic will be interiors of buildings. I drew something of what is inside of a building.

Below: The terrance of the hotel (MMV Resort) in Cannes.

Below: Tino steak house in Firenze. Drunk some wine, and was not really conscious at that time. You can tell from the messy strokes.

This one was even worse. I was almost completely drunk, and I am impressed that I could still draw something in that mood.

The Terminal 3 of Dubai Airport.

Like it?

Confessions of a Failed Programmer

I love to write code. That is not a good news for a CEO who has a business to run, but I just cannot stop loving writing code!

Why?

The story started in 1986, when I was in grade three in primary school. There was a small computer calendar booklet in my home, among tones of others on electronic engineering.

I read it and was amazed by the idea that computers were so smart that they can calculate 1000 times faster than human brain, but at the same time, they were so stupid that they could only do very limited plus calculation at the bottom. That was the early years of my exposure to computer. The lesson learnt is, if you want your kid to grow into some type of people, just buy some books on the topic and put it within the reach of the kids. See what happens!

I first seriously learnt BASIC when I was 12 years old, taught by my older brother Jianzhao in winter of 1989. BASIC was not that hard to learn for a kid, although the concept

i = i + 1

was actually a valid expression puzzled me and almost failed my math test. I went to my parent’s office to use the IBM terminal to run BASIC programs during the summer holiday. The green characters on black screens were just amazing. When I understood that the terminals were all hooked into a central computer 10 floors down the building, and the CPU time was allocated to each terminal in very fast circles, I just feel like, in Matrix!

Although my chance to use computers ended from that winter, I just kept writing code on papers days and nights for the coming summer. I still have a big box of paper with all the BASIC codes on it – pages after pages. Those codes were never run on real computer, but I read it and run them on my brain again and again, just like people reading novels today. Among them, the most complicated one was a computer game “Policeman vs Thief”. The game was re-written in C 10 years later on a rented PC in my dorm, which Wendy praised: “Cute!”.

The passion for programming was pressed in middle school when getting into university was the only goal. I lost 6 years of golden time that may be valuable to become a great hacker. Lesson learnt: Why there is no Linus, or Jobs, or Gates in China? The most creative and passionate time one can have for one thing, say, piano, drawing, writing, or in my case, programming, was wasted to compete with each other to get the keys to secure a job!

The renaissance of programming came when I got to university. I spent hours in computer labs, skipping a lot of classes, programming in C and IPX/SPX protocol. In my graduation essay, I choose to write a workable SQL database starting from SQL parsing, to storage, and a little bit indexing and serving. The professors never got really interested in what the hack the 300 pages of paper were. I am equally not interested about they said. I did just for fun.

But, I have to say, university was just too late for anyone to grow to be really good hacker. I went to work for Microsoft for few years, where I think the best programmers in the world gather at that time (1998), but that was not the case. Till now, I would say, I am still an OK programmer at most, despite of the passion. The lesson is, programming is also like piano. It must start early, and to spend enough time before university. Now, I am still very attracted by python, and similar code, but it is more like my own way of enjoy life. Drawing and coding are my equivalent of movie, massage, watching TV or reading novel.

That is my brief story of coding – a failed case of someone who loves code but switched path along the way, and failed to be a great hacker. Here is the lesson I learnt and I hope it can be helpful to build a great hacker.

  • Give kids the opportunity to expose to as many things as possible
  • Do it in small ways, like throwing a book on the floor. A rat will bite the cake, and a cat will be attracted to fish. You don’t know what your kid is.
  • Release the pressure for near future, so the kids have time to work on life long goals.
  • If you have something you love to do, stick to it, and be confident that you are right. Others are just not you.

 

Drawing of Nature Series

After drawings of churches, interiors, streets, this series is about nature – the trees, sea, and mountains.

This is at Milano, the big part near the fort.

A sketch of the Mediterranean at 5 Terra, Italy.

This is the view from top of the mountain, where our B&B hotel is.

 

Subtle Impact of a Scheduled Meeting

I am trying to do a full day black out on Wednesdays. It turned out, because of previous appointment, there is one meeting slip to the calendar, so I have take the meeting at 2:00 PM.

Having been super effective this morning, and facing an approaching meeting, I am aware of the psychology change. I started to loose productivity about 10 minutes before …

(Bing! Here they come and interrupted my posting and now the meeting is over)

See? When I switch back to the writing mode, it is completely different. The flow of thought was gone, and I don’t have ways to get them back. It takes at least half an hour for me to get back to the interruption point. So, just be very aware of the cost, and in the future, don’t schedule 2:00 PM meetings, and don’t schedule any meetings on Wed.

Reading Note on Richard Hamming’s

Below is a reading note on Richard Hamming’s lecture: You and Your Research.

Age: Why most productive things were done young? One of Richard’s explanation was: “If you do some good work, you will find yourself in all kinds of committees and unable to do any more work”. That is the first problem. The second problem is, when you are famous for doing some good work, you can only work on great problems, not small. I was so shocked to know how small the idea Pierre Omidyar, eBay’s founder, had for his next startup. Very few people would understand the once-famous-founders’ second startups at the very beginning.

He mentioned about working condition – the best working conditions are not the way everyone want, just like the shacks in Cambridge is the birthplace for a lot of great physics.

Besides age, and working condition, there is drive. The really ambitious people drive themselves very hard. This relates to my standard of people around me. They can be inexperienced, but they have to be ambitious. There is a saying: Why bother? This is just a blah.blah.blah position. It does matter.

Ambiguity is an interesting one. The right balance between believe, and not believe. You believe it enough to go ahead and practices it, but not believe it enough to be able to adjust and change.

Subconscious. You need work enough, think enough, and starve the subconscious enough, and avoid any dilution of any noise of other kind to really get great result from the work of the subconscious. It is called creativity, or inspiration, or whatever. It is an extension of your hard and intensive work of conscious.

“What are the important problem in my field?” That is the starting point of everything. Again, as Paul Graham mentioned in early articles, beautiful thing is simple. I think this question is simple, shorter, and sweeter, and it is much more inspiring than the complicated 7 habits, or other bestseller books. I agree that the best minds are not always found in best sellers.

Really important problems are daring. Look at the three problems Hamming mentioned in his field: physics – 1) Time travel 2) Teleportation 3) Antigravity. My God!

The two problems a classifieds site have are: 1) fraud listing 2) way to attract enough personal listers. It is such a hard problem that we need to solve. The rest are relatively easy.

For the most important ideas, when there is a chance to fix it, the greatest scientist drop everything else, and pursue it.

That leads to the discussion about whether closed door working style, or open door working style is better. Obviously I know most modern companies, especially Internet companies, favor toward open door, or even open office with no cubicles. I was nervous when I started to read Hamming, and I thought he was arguing in favor of closed door – get more things done in today and tomorrow, and that is against what I long believed, and I felt relief when Hamming finally concluded that open door is a better option. Productivity in short term does not compensate on the error of direction.

Great thinkers get desperate when they see their life as a long sequence of problem one after another after another after another… all small problems If one can solve so many problems, it must be very small problems.

We should really do our work in a way that others can stand on top of ours. The science and technology world is cumulative. The beauty of the whole computer, or Internet world is, it can be split to layers, and our work can benefit others. One on top of another. For mathematics, the effort to generalization means the solution is simpler. It is exactly the same for almost every field. For Internet, and computer system, it is so. We should work on generalization.

On “Great Thoughts Only”. Spend about 10% of the time, in Hamming’s case, a Friday afternoon in every week, to allow only Great Thoughts. Great thoughts means “How computer changes science?” For our business, an example of great thoughts should be something close to: “Why people sell on Baixing?” or “How we can be 10 times more efficient as a company?” These great thoughts help to keep people on track in long term, and push them to the limit, or at least open the eyes of the person who tapped into it. Great thoughts by definition is not a solution. It is a problem. It is why part, not the how or what. We need to correct our path about whether we are attacking the right setup of problems. Another is permission. If you want a No, just go to the boss and you will get a No. Maybe that is deep in many people’s mind – No means you don’t need to work on it. The real doers just go ahead and then present the accomplished fact. Most people would say YES when something is already done. (A note: I just found out the first big gap between entrepreneur and a scientist who has a boss)

On ego assertion. I talked about the conflict in a world with different rules. I claimed that the one who follow the rule of the other side gets the best interest. This is pretty pragmatic approach, just as Hamming changed its cloth to be more formal to get the right service, instead of being who he is. If the dressing has get into the way to something you care, you should change the dress! That’s it. Does it really means you don’t have principle? Well, I would say, when there is a universal principle, stick to it, but there are some local principles, and we should should respect. Sticking to our own ways actually pays small price here and small price there. It is pretty steady cost along the way of one’s life, and the total value is enormous. So try to work with the system instead of fight against.

Hamming does brought out a controversial question: Whether we should fight to change the system. His judgement is, you cannot do the two things together: change the system or be a first-class scientist. Then you should choose. The worst thing is to do it just because of amusement – if that is the case, it is type-B procrastination – Doing less important work.

There are many mind-provoking statement Hamming made in his 50 minutes speech, and it took me about 3 hours to finish reading it while keeping this note. It worth the time, and it is also the first result of my dedicated long chunk of time to some really important work, without interruption.

Why? Visa from Guangzhou

I renewed my visa to the USA. When I got my visa, it prints:

Issuing Post Name: Guangzhou

That comes with a small incident during the submission. When I filled my DS-160 form, I naturally put Shanghai as the application city, but the form was rejected after we sent the passport along with the application. I was instructed to change the port from Shanghai to Guangzhou. No reason was given.

Well. Fine. As along as I can get my visa done, I don’t really care about it, although I feel that US Embassy may owe me an explanation of why. In a sense of justice, actually they don’t owe me anything, but as a customer, or “whomever concerned”, I am curious enough to feel certain that they owe it.

A Company’s Service

I am trying to understand the rules and service Baixing provides to our customers. There are so many things like this strange port stuff here. There are many rules that the end users don’t understand at all, but we don’t offer an explanation. Users may be very frustrated because of that. Yes. They have what they want done, but they are not satisfied, maybe just because curiosity, not to mention many who cannot have their things done.

We should not only do our business, but to face the “why”s in people’s mind and help to answer it. We owe it.

Peace State of Mind

Paul Graham is so sensitive to capture the small but important stuff in life – I call it Fengshui, but just my way. Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.

Productivity

In the article, I started to understand why I am sometimes much more productive than other. By “some times”, I mean at least a quarter, some times a year. In blogging, for example, pre-2009 years are much more productive than 2010, and 2011. Why is that?

Paul’s maker’s schedule answered the question. For programmers, writers, strategist, and basically everything that needs some hard work, people need a block of uninterrupted time. It is especially so for programmers, and writers that requires a lot of inspiration, and rely on the flow of mind more than other type of work.

To allocate enough uninterrupted time is the key to serious thinking, writing and programming. Knowing that there are at least few hours, or ideally 4 hours uninterrupted ahead, or for some bigger project, few days uninterrupted greatly help to improve the productivity.

Peace of Mind

I tried in the last few days, and found it great. There is a status I call “Peace State of Mind”. It is just like the status of meditation, but mediating in a world of problem solving, not (well, this is just for me) a fore-play of sleeping.

When I get into the peace of mind status, my world is quiet, and I can start to capture the most sensitive difference in either coding or writing, or thinking. When I go to use the bath room, I say hi to people, but not actively seeking for recognizing their faces (a little bit impolite but it is my state of mind). A SMS arrives, and I just peaceful ignore it, and checking email is not attractive, not to mention Weibo. That is a beautiful state, and that is very productive state.

How to Get There

To get there, you need few things:

  1. Allocate enough uninterrupted time. Set aside meetings, and set expectation of the people around you. Ideally, morning or late night. (I prefer morning).
  2. Find a peaceful place.  Refer to some Fengshui book to see where is best – facing entrance with nothing at the back. Ideally a wall or pole.
  3. Headset to keep noise away.
  4. A clearly defined task to start with.
  5. Relax and focus.

Hope this is helpful to you too.

Drawing of Street Views in Italy

I posted some drawings of churches before. Here is another series of street views.

This is a street view of Cannes, France. The only drawing in France.

Below: The mall near the Milano Duomo. There are many luxury stores there.

The square of Venezia – the building of a hotel.

This is the San Macro Plaza in Venezia. The tower is the symbolic sign of the city.

The San Macro Plaza – the most magnificent square in Europe.

Obviously, the drawing is in very simple form, and I didn’t spend enough time to really draw the scene. We were always on the go, and time was so limited.

THese are the river view of Firenze and Venezia.

Shanghai’s Clear Sky

Shanghai these days is amazing! Look at the photos I took during the weekend. It is just amazing. I just cannot understand why Shanghai’s sky can be so blue and clean. I have never experienced Shanghai like this since I came here. Anyone has any idea?

Some joked that it is because of the wave of bankrupt of factories and fewer factories work. I seems to be a joke, but I started to suspect whether it is partly true.

Relief for Procrastinators

There are two persons in this world that helped me to gain peace in mind. Both them are alive, and not older too much than me, and ironically, both appear on the same day at the Cannes Lion to give lecture, which I both missed. They are Paul Graham, and Alain de Botton. I believe we share a lot of things in common – maybe all of us are ENFP in personality type; we all like writing; and we all love to think.

Read this article: Good and Bad Procrastination. Just Alain’s Consolation of Philosophy, the article gave me enough confidence to care less about shaving and laundry, which Wendy keep complaining 100 times a day.

Paul mentioned three form of procrastination: you could work on 1) nothing 2) less important thing, or 3) something more important.

That was a really good insight. As Paul explained himself before, beautiful theories are all short, simple, and lasting. This three-type classification is pretty simple, isn’t it? The common people do things but don’t know why and few have insight.

That’s the “absent-minded professor,” who forgets to shave, or eat, or even perhaps look where he’s going while he’s thinking about some interesting question. His mind is absent from the everyday world because it’s hard at work in another.

That gave me the relief to be a little bit at “absent-minded professor” mode – the type-C procrastinators.

I’ve wondered a lot about why startups are most productive at the very beginning, when they’re just a couple guys in an apartment. The main reason may be that there’s no one to interrupt them yet. In theory it’s good when the founders finally get enough money to hire people to do some of the work for them. But it may be better to be overworked than interrupted. Once you dilute a startup with ordinary office workers—with type-B procrastinators—the whole company starts to resonate at their frequency. They’re interrupt-driven, and soon you are too.

“It is better to overwork than interrupted”. It is very well said for startups.

We all need to get into a peace of mind where many people can concentrate to do the most important thing, instead of the overly used word – communication.

I Love New Hotmail Design

Saw the Weibo of Teach Liu Run and learnt the Outlook.com, a new interface for the old Hotmail.com. It was great. I love it much better than Hotmail.com or the even worth name Windows Live Mail.

What I love is, it cut all the things the end users don’t care. They cut, cut, cut, cut, cut to an extreme that only leaving a subject line, and a big area for people to write on. That is so cute. An application should behave this way.

There are many tradeoff, and I know it is so hard in big company like Microsoft, but at least I saw one product from Microsoft that is exciting – the first time in the last 10 years.

BTW, the Tab and send option consistent with Gmail is so nice.

Traveler’s Schedule

Paul Graham had another article back in 2009 about the Maker’s Schedule vs Manager’s Schedule.

That is a very good observation. “What you do changes very hour” is exactly why people complain the company is getting inefficient. People complaining about the meetings, but actually, they are not complaining the total time spent on meetings, they are complaining that the meetings cut their time into smaller chunk that does not work. Paul even went so far to claim that founders should resist, or at least postpone to become managers.

I wrote about What We can Learn from Travelers, and I listed some difference between a traveller and a resident. I should act one thing: Traveler always have a traveler’s schedule, which is very different from the daily routine of most of our lives. It is more like a manager’s schedule but more intense. They have limited time (few days for most people), and by definition, travel means to put as many, and as diversified things as possible into their schedule. They have to run by hours, and sometimes by 10 minutes.

For a business traveler, it is the same. It turned out that as traveler, it is so easy to have “speculative” meetings – the meetings with not expected output, and just drop by and say “hi”. That is so nicely fit into a business traveler’s schedule, just like a tourism drop by at the Milano Duomo and say hi to the church. However, it is so disastrous for some of the local people, especially the makers. We need to be aware of that.

That schedule works perfectly for a traveler, and that makes us exciting. We can accomplish much more (well, in terms of numbers, not total impact) than people running maker’s schedule. We need that, from time to time.

 

 

Sun Rise Observation in Shanghai

From WolframAlpha, I know today, the sun rises at 5:08 AM. So I waked up earlier, and put myself to the top of my 18-story building, and wait for the sun rise. We are used to observe sun rise or sun set at sea, or on top of mountain, and now, observe it from on of the top floors of a skyscraper in Shanghai provides a nice alternative.

I am actually amazed by how accurate the prediction is (well, it is not weather, and for sure people can predict it). When I am going to the take the photo below, my alarm clock set at 5:08 started to ring.

You see the sun coming out a little bit to about 1/3 above the ground.

 

The whole sun comes out of the horizon.

Immediately after the sun rise, the big Pudong area shows up.

Finally, 1 hours later, it is the starting of another beautiful day.

 

Drawing of Churches in Italy

Inspired by Allen de Botton in Art of Travel, I started to draw some pictures along the way. The key is not the result of the drawing (who cares if I burn it afterward), it is about the process to spend time to appreciate what is before you. You spend half an hour really focus on the object before you and observe!

Here are some of them, with my note.

San Geremia, Venezia

This is a very unique church near our hotel in Venezia, Italy. The light comes from the west (right side). This is, maybe, my first drawing of observing the sun direction. The drawing is not quite finished yet.

Basilica of San Lorenzo, Firenze

This is another church. Is there anything outside churches in Europe? It is San Lorenzo Basilica in Firenze. The view, as you can see from this photo, is from the top of Firenze Duomo.

San Simeone Piccolo, Venezia

This is the third church, the one you see in your first sight after get out of the train station. A typical church – clean lines, and low key.

The Logical Sequence

The reason I grouped all the church drawing together, despite of its location, is to try to restore the logical sequence of travel. The problem (and opportunity) of travel is, it brings everything to you with no particular sequence, and as traveler, we can only comprehend a very small portion of it. It is just like a non-tech guy air dropped into computer history museum, or an non-art guy appear in the middle of Uffizi Gallery. The geographic sequence is the main sequence we travel. However, if there is anyway to link the pearls as a necklace does, it is more beautiful, and more meaningful. So I try to put churches together, no matter it is from Roma, Firenze, or Venezia.

To have that logic sequence in mind, we can also explore much wiser and more fulfilling.

Italian Humorous Traffic Signs

Italian are born to be humorous. In many cities I visited, the traffic signs were changed a little bit. You can see the creativity of the people there. Unlike graffiti, I feel this modification of public property is humorous, decent, and not offensive. It even can be designed as standard signs to demonstrate the characters of the country. Enjoy some of them.

Below: Smiling Pedestrian This Way.

Below: Leonardo da Vinci not Allowed

Below: Heart Broken Road on the Left. 

Below: STOP! I am Working Hard!

Angels Turn Right; Devils Go Ahead!

Signs like this are spread out all cross the country, from Milano to Roma.

Surrounded by the Crazy to be Normal

I don’t say we cannot fight against the crowd, but it is really hard and cost a lot of energy. In the Silicon Valley, when you meet those technical guys, the investors, and entrepreneurs, you are surprised to see how crazy they are:

  1. They use the new technology that you never heard of.
  2. You rush to production and change the server architect, and rewrite the code like crazy.
  3. They gather and talk about something that people in other places never heard of
  4. They have some ideas that is so advanced that people in the valley does not use.
  5. They said “This is broken”, “That is broken”, so they want to fix the education system, they want to fix the car industry, and they want to fix a lot of things.
  6. They spend the money to invest in something that has no revenue at all, and think it can change world.

The list goes on and on and on.

Every community/city/country has its norms, and you don’t want to be too outlined. In the valley, there are so many crazy people gathering, and you just feel it is the norm.

I wrote an article on Weibo “They Said…” (Chinese) by Lu Chunqing. A very nice article. She mentioned the pressure from “They said…” in mainland China. People tell you to be stable, to get a good job, and to marry quickly… The general opinion from the public just gradually change people, until they become different.

Paul Graham also observed that every fifteen century Italian painters come from Florence. I would argue currently, most of the world famous Internet and software gaint come from the valley. Why?

If we cannot change the world (well, we can but we need to hurry before they change us), we can decide which world we live in.

P.S. Just check what other bloggers are writing about, especially those you greatly admire (like Paul Graham‘s for me), and count who they talk with and who their friends are, and you get some idea. Paul’s blog often opens as “I was talking recently to a friend who teaches at MIT.” as in this article: Taste for Makers. Surround by people you really care, and enjoyed meeting with.

 

My Rome

Roma (or Rome) is definitely considered as one of the most beautiful cities. I was excited to spent a quick 24 hours in the city, with about half in Via Dei Condotti shopping street with the girls.

Sitting back in my reading room, and recall what I saw in Roma, and how I feel about it, I started to get stuck. I stayed in a hotel (Mercure) in the northeast side of the city near Plaza Bologna. I visited some famous places like Vatican, Trevi Foundation, Plaza Venezia, Colosseo, or Spagna steps. It was totally an eye pleasure trip, but I still feel there is a wall between me and the city. On the other side, the great meal with local Brother Xiaoyou near Santa Crocs Gerusalemme, and the ice cream fighting in the 100-year old ice cream shop seems more vivid to me, when we barely had consciousness after some nice wine. Why sight seeing is the critical part of the trip but memories with people are another big (if not bigger part)? What is the difference?

In planning the next trip, I would add more element of people interaction. Sometimes to put it with the local attraction as a good background or stage, but interaction, especially with the local, can greatly lift the experience.

In all the Italian cities, I automatically fell in love with Rome. Comparing the limited cities I briefly visited, the city I enjoy least was Venezia, a tourist city, followed by Milano, and Firenze. I felt Roma is more like Beijing, and Milano is more like Shanghai (no wonder Shanghai and Milano recognise each other as sister city in 1979.) There is a long history of both, but just like people joke of Milano when comparing it to Firenze, that Leonardo started in Milano and finally got his peak at Firenze, as many other artist during the Renascence.

A side note here: it is always easy to comment from outsider. Roma and Milano are equally close to me as a tourist, so I can comment a lot, but when the topic is Beijing vs Shanghai, I cannot make an easy decision to move to Beijing or Silicon Valley easily considering all the cost. That is ironic.

Rome is the last stop of my trip to Italy. Wendy and the rest of the team will continue their journey to Paris, and Naples. There is  a quick sense of sadness when I said goodbye to Wendy and wrapped my luggage in hotel in the morning of July 1, 2012, and then headed to Roma Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci Airport, alone. (Note: That is what travel brings us. Just as drama SHOWS us what the life can be, travel put us into the shoes of the actors, and CREATES some scene like this for us to experience: The excitement of arrival, and the sadness of separation).