Crocodile in the Yangtze

“We are fortunate to live in this time, we are fortunate to live in the Internet era. We are fortunate to live in China.” Said Jack Ma as he addressed his 16.000 employees in a stadium, as he is received with a rumbling applause.

I just finished watching ‘Crocodile in the Yangtze’. A story about how an English teacher starts alibaba.com in 1999 in Hangzhou and later taobao.com to compete and defeat ebay in his home country.

Having walked the streets of Hangzhou in 1999, I’m a bit sad I didn’t bump into this visionary leader. I’m really thankful to Porter Erisman that he has consciously recorded all these scene’s and putting it together into this retrospect on the growth of alibaba. It’s a story of an David beating Goliath.

Full movie: crocodileintheyangtze.com

Ran from Amsterdam tot Zaandam with Startpagina.nl

running

I’ve been avoiding large (marathon) events; why disturb the peace of running by yourself on a random dike in the Netherlands? However, I got invited for a run with the team of startpagina.nl and I couldn’t resist. It was also a great motivation for me to run throughout the summer.

This run from Amsterdam until Zaandam is one of the largest in the Netherlands with almost 90.000 participants.

I used to be very serious about my time; No talking, no sightseeing and straight to the finish. This day I decided to enjoy the experience. High fiving the little kids beside the road. Due to the warm weather, I drank some water at every stop (not something I usually do) and finished within my goal of 1h 30m.

at the start

This was my third event I ran on my five fingers and I realize it’s not so popular in the Netherlands. (people keep asking about them).

Arriving in Zaandam, I took the train back home. Leaving the town, I was pleasantly surprised with it’s center architecture. It looked typical Dutch but with a modern twist.

zaandam

Travelling Korea; The food, the people and the nature


What is it like to visit Korea? Well, look at the video above from “yongguk namja” and get an idea. It’s really an awesome place to travel to. Additional to the above, some highlights to my trip last week;

Arrived at the beach (Boryeong).

Arrived at the beach (Boryeong).

One of our new year resolutions was to visit the sea this summer. However, it didn’t seem to work out and as the weather turned cold already in the Netherlands I didn’t think it would happen. So I was delighted to visit the sea in Korea! Since the end of the summer season was also approaching here, family was worried that I wanted to swim, but to my surprise the sea was warmer then I’m used to. This Boryeong beach is famous for an annual mud festival. The place is buzzling with small dining ventures and mud therapy centers. And actually, I wasn’t the only one in the water; The people in the water came to swim or hang out on their inflatable boats. However NOT to get a tan on the beach as you see in Europe.

Hwe (회) with fresh sidedishes

Hwe (회) with fresh sidedishes

After swimming we ate ‘Whe”, thinly sliced raw fish and other raw seafood (similar to Japanese sashimi); This restaurant was based right outside the port, full with small fisher vessels. Based on the first floor of the building, we had a great view over the harbor. Whilst getting used to eating while sitting on the floor, the Soju was welcomed with these raw foods. (Korean rice liquor) The food wasn’t cheap but it was quite an experience.

Having a Chuseok dinner with the family. Felt part the group regardless of limited Korean.

Having a Chuseok dinner with the family. Felt part the group regardless of limited Korean.

Another marker of the end of the summer were the Chuseok preparations, which is a celebration of the good harvest, Koreans visit their ancestral hometowns and share a feast of Korean traditional food such as songpyeon and rice wines such as sindoju and dongdongju. It’s a typical time to meetup with the family. Unfortunately I had to travel back to the Netherlands for the real ceremony but I was happy to join the mother’s side of the family for a great dinner. A bit intimate photo but I really enjoyed this authentic experience. You can see me sharing a drink with my uncle’s.

Ran 11km until the 대전천. (new Daejeon bridge)

Ran 11km until the 대전천. (new Daejeon bridge)

To keep in shape and defeat jet-lag, I ran an 11km run upon arrival. I really wanted to run but Korean traffic seems really dangerous and I don’t like waiting for traffic lights while working out. An alternative plan was to do 40 rounds on the university’s running track. Fortunately, I found a river running all the way from our appartment to the city center. This was a great to run, as you can see in the photo there was a dedicated cycle track with soft asphalt. Mountains in the distance and a river. I saw crane birds, storks wonderful. Closer to the city, Koreans were sitting beside the water, I found that a friendly nod leads to smiles like 99% of the time :-)


In Korea, if you ask a barista for a ‘Dutch Coffee’ you get cold coffee with ice cubes.

The chemical lab looking device (photo) works like this: You add a liter of ice water in the top level water container, followed by about 100 grams of grounded coffee in the compartment below, then simply let’s it run and wait for about 6 hours. The ceramic or paper filter starts dripping and you store the dutch coffee in the fridge. Really refreshing! Whilst I saw this device for the first time in 2012, I was able to order Dutch coffee in most Korean coffee places, and even in Shanghai. Read more in my blogpost from 2012 regarding this coffee.

At Kakao office and meeting with Sun Hyun-woo of talktomeinkorean.com

At Kakao office and meeting with Sun Hyun-woo of talktomeinkorean.com

Korea is such a dynamic place which gives me a lot of energy. Yesterday I meetup with Kakao. Their Kakaotalk messenger is the ‘Whatsapp/wechat’ of Korea, and outside. They have 140 million visitors, it’s great technology of which a lot can be learned. Very exciting to see their office from the inside and have a peek into this technology company; It shows that Korea harbors modern and cutting edge technology companies these days. See more pictures from their office here.

Besides Kakao, I also had the pleasure to meet Sun Hyun Woo. Hyunwoo Sun is a YouTube star and the best Korean language teacher in the world. Period. Together with the team he built he has a community of over 110.000 Korean learners (200k facebook likes) around the world. If you are interested in Korea and the Korean language there is no way not to find Hyunwoo Sun’s free lessons on http://talktomeinkorean.com. Since talktomeinkorean and eatyourkimchi.com started a cafe (named you are here cafe) in Hongdae, we couldn’t resist to have a look and meet the people behind this concepts.

Compulsary Korean barbeque on the last night

Compulsary Korean barbeque on the last night

It was a short trip. Almost forgot to eat some Korean barbeque. Actually, Korean food is about way much more then barbeque. But who can say no to such a dinner before leaving back home?

Long weekend in Shanghai

20140826-180812.jpg
It seems to be a good tradition to visit Shanghai now and then. We met up with friends and ate the fruits and dishes that we craved.

Arriving during Friday’s traffic rush, we had some trouble hailing a taxi from the metro station. A friendly passerby explained that you can bid for taxi’s with an app these days, but instead I called a friend to pick us up.

On Saturday we enjoyed a south Chinese lunch (小南国), haggled for presents at pearl city (didn’t do that for a long time!), and ate a modern Shanghainese meal (Lynn) with different friends.

However good and rich the Chinese kitchen is, the next day we enjoyed Japanese foods like okonomiyaki, shabu shabu, and soba; as those are all also hard to get in my home country. Afterwards we left for a stay at the sofitel Sheshan, a bit outside the city; again amazed by the size of Shanghai, and the ghostly quiet rows of skyscrapers, block after block with each probably capable to host all the people of my small town of Culemborg.

Shanghai is such an energetic city and there is so much to do; we both think it was worth coming here, if even for a short time! Leaving at 5 am to the airport, the G20 was already busy with cars (day and night) and we realized the smog also continues day and night. It has been getting worse and breathing it is the price to pay to live here, I guess one can’t have it all.
20140826-174313.jpg

20140826-172738.jpg

20140826-172938.jpg 20140826-173120.jpg

20140826-174420.jpg

20140826-180820.jpg20140826-173053.jpg 20140828-081241.jpg

At work; upgraded kieskeurig.nl

I met a colleague in the hallway last week and he asked me about the planned upcoming release of Kieskeurig.nl; He called it a “major league” event. Weirdly, as technical manager of the site, I wasn’t worried about the launch event at all.

“major league”? well, ok, with 2,7 million visits a month a lot was at stake, but we had gone through the entire launch procedure dozens of times. Nothing could go wrong. Personally, I couldn’t wait to launch the user-friendly and responsive site, with improved search and support for new product groups like garden, pharmacy and cosmetics. It was actually long due.

The deadline was today. So we launched yesterday – in the middle of the night, the whole team (which grew a lot recently) joined in to help. Even if only to help with testing, and to be part of it. It was a short night, and when I made my way to the office this morning, we started a hour-to-hour-post-it-based-standups to prioritise potential problems for the site. Needless to say, we ended the day with bubbles and cake.

BtNflHZIQAAvKOD.jpg_large

I took away a lof of valuable learnings about the process:

  • We work scrum, but just before the launch, had to let go of some of the procedures. Be flexible.
  • Work closely together with experts, the industry and visitors to gain insight. (Reason for us to do AB testing of the site before launch)
  • A sharp deadline (though sometimes painful) works wonders when trying to achieve a lot in little time.
  • I’m really proud of what we build and I want to thank the whole team for their efforts. Tomorrow the real fun starts, in the next chapter.

    visit the site here: http://www.kieskeurig.nl

    2004

    2004

    2005

    2005

    2006

    2006

    2007

    2007

    2008

    2008

    2012

    2012

    2013

    2013

    2014

    2014

    A long weekend in Limburg


    My father in law came over from Korea. A rare occasion so Suna and me wanted to do something special.

    Whilst planning his trip, we realised that during his last visit, we had already shown him most of the popular spots we knew. But not the southern provence of Limburg!

    After booking a holiday house, we decided to give him a full tour in that area, we visited Maastricht, Aachten (DE), Monschou (DE) and Spa Francorchamps. It was a nice week. Had a chance to run in the area, made barbeque in the yard, played games (go-stop is a Korean card game) and I got some reading done there. Since we were planning to visit Andre Rieu (small video here) we booked tickets on our last night there. People around me think Andre Rieu is a bit corny with his popular waltz music. Actually, I haven’t seen Andre play his instrument that much, but he is such an outstanding character, it really makes the show!
    At andre rieu

    Sailing in Holland

    A 14 meter yacht
    I was looking forward to this day. It would be all about summer. But instead, I got up in the morning (very early) and it was grey outside, and the rain was falling. I told myself it wouldn’t be bad and drove the 1,5 hr all the way up north to Enkhuizen. By the time I got there, the sun came through and I met the crew of this epic sailing event specialisterren.nl, Although we met in the office before, it was nice to get acquainted with a coffee.

    Steady as she goes
    We then headed out. The destination: Stavoren (on the opposite of the lake) and I quickly realised sailing isn’t about relaxing and sitting back. It’s hard work to halyard, make hitches and be cautious about what’s happening around you, all this with a lot of wind and rain in your face.

    It was good experience to sail with an experienced team. The owner of the boat has a lot of experience, and a third guest was a sailing teacher. As the only firsttimer, I thought we were don’t well and enjoyed our time out there. Until… we hit the seabed with our keel. Yes. We were going a good 7 knots, and suddenly we all felt a small tremble and a flinch in our velocity and looked at each-other, grabbed what we could and a few seconds later, the boat hit the seabed and with a huge slam, and with a bouncing motion, we almost came to a full stop. Turns out we steered right into undeep waters (< 3 meters). We began raising the keel immediately and calmly waited the shallow waters out. In the end the crew inspected the ship, laughed that everything was ok, and we all continued our journey. Turns out the map did warn us of this, we just came in to quickly. An potentially dangerous mistake.

    Soon after this, we arrived at the Stavoren harbour and enjoyed a nice meal and shared the story with the second specialisterren boat, who managed to get there quicker than us.

    Joop Dorresteijn sailing
    This is me posing for the picture. I tried to help as much as I could!

    Nice contrast, dutch weather

    Suddenly I realised I was worried about the weather for nothing. The typical Dutch skies with a few raindrops here and there actually contributed to the experience. I got to appreciate the landscape and the country a little bit more. Back in the harbour, we reviewed the day and the team was planning to stay the night and head out the next day again. For me it was enough, happy to be back on land I drove back to our home.

    100 years from now

    FC15

    You learn something new every day; what did you learn today? How reddit imagine the world 100 years from now? . Some of my favorites:

    1. TIL Google started out as a search engine.
    2. TIL the term “rewind” comes from having to wind magnetic ribbons around a spool to go backwards in a song or video.
    3. TIL People once actually drove cars completely manually, and this was before human augmentations. They were crashing and killing people all the time and they just accepted that as normal. What the fuck dude…
    4. TIL every home electronic device had to be plugged into walls to get power. They also had to use wires to connect each other to share video, sound, and data.

    Some more:

    1. TIL between 2000 and 2025 there were 179 movies made about the same 14 superheroes (individually or as different pairs/groups), including dozens that were sequels, prequels, or even remakes of the same movie.
    2. TIL people actually paid for the internet.
    3. TIL cloning of Humans used to be illegal
    4. TIL people used to take poison to kill cancer, only some of the time it killed them first.
    5. TIL the U.S. minted “pennies” for over a century
    6. TIL Netflix started by mailing movies to your house.

    Calligraphy Workshop

    caligraphy
    These weekly Korean lessons in Amsterdam are taking a large part of my weekends, so when non curriculum events occur I usually get on my way. However, last week, they organised a calligraphy workshop.

    Since my father-in-law considers calligraphy more then a hobby, I felt obliged to partake. Whilst I didn’t expect it, calligraphy is quite fun. There is also something tranquil about putting hangeul or a hanja character on paper. Together with an official stamp, our first attempts looked like the real deal.