Two podcast recommendations: China History & Dan Carlin

Two US made history podcasts in this recommendation. I wish that I had teachers like Dan Carlin and Laszlo Montgomery in my history classes as a teenager but listening to them while commuting makes up a lot.

China History Podcast

From time to time I stumble upon a podcast that I get really excited about. This is one of them, when Kaiser Kuo mentioned Laszlo in the Sinica podcast. Kaiser explained that Laszlo learned Chinese at a young age and lived and worked in various places around Asia over the years. The China history podcast moves forward over 4000 years of history in the middle kingdom. From the invention of gunpowder to the opium wars and Li ka shing. So start at episode 1! Wish I listened to this before reading the three kingdoms.

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Dan Carlin’s Hardcore history & common sense

Dan Carlin is a historian and produces two podcasts, one about history called ‘hardcore history’ and one about current affairs called ‘common sense’. It was recommended by a friend and I didn’t like the podcast at first. The first episode I listened to was about catholicism in Germany and was a much longer listen I was used to. However, The topics are so diverse and Dan’s tinfoil-hat way of looking at our world surely took me to new insights in our present world. Give them a try!

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Sanoma Performance Based Academy

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Joined a two month programme here at Sanoma, the so called ‘Performance Based Academy’. An inspirational event marked the kick-off last Friday, in the FOX theatre.

There were speakers from outside the company as well; Tom Coronel – a race car driver and entrepreneur talked a bit how he made his e-commerce business into a success. He sells Plasma televisions and washing-machine’s online. Two takeaways from his presentation:

* Make use of all social media –  produce product reviews and publish those on Youtube. This generates a lot of extra traffic to your site. When a product goes out of stock, be sure to go back add links to your latest  video’s.
* Be different, Social media deal – Do not just show a plain share button. A better idea is to offer a discount to your customers when they share their purchase to their friends. You can make that part of the checkout process. A fun and unique feature!

The day closed with a nice dinner and a party. I’m looking forward to the rest of the programme!

Paleo nostalgia: minimalist running

vibram five fingers, running in Culemborg
I bought minimalist running shoes. Throughout human history, running barefoot was the natural way to run. Athletes ran barefoot until the 1970s. But then something interesting happened. The conventional running shoe was invented, heel cushioning, stiff sole and arch support would increase performance and reduce pressure on your feet. A claim that is unsupported depending on which source you ask.

In 2009, Barefoot running was on the rise. Largely due to the Vibram Five Finger shoes, which offer protection but no real support, and you are supposed to run almost exactly like you would when you run barefoot. My friend Marc bought some Vibram five fingers and enjoyed them. I had just bought new expensive conventional running shoes. I decided to wait. I ran several half marathons on those conventional shoes, without injury. Until last month, they were up for replacement so I could decide again. This time I bought Vibram Five finger shoes.

I was told to start slow on my five fingers, so I did. The first week after purchase I didn’t run. I just walked around the house with them one hour a day. The week after, I made a small run (3km). But at home I discovered I had a lot of blisters. I left them alone until the next weekend and ran 6 km with them. No problems. Today I ran 8km and enjoyed the run.

Image from buildlean

Image from buildlean

Besides running I have been wearing them during table-tennis as well. With both, the shoes felt very light and I felt flexible. When running, with conventional shoes and a vehicle is approaching towards me, it would be troublesome to jump on the sidewalk and continue running but with my minimalist shoes, I feel I have better balance.

Putting the minimalist shoe beside the conventional shoe, the size and weight difference is staggering. I’m still getting used to my new minimalist shoes and running without socks but the vibram five finger shoes seem like a really good purchase.

Read further at Wikipedia Barefoot running, Marc van der Chijs’s (2009) blogpost Barefoot Running or Tweney, Dylan (2009). To Run Better, Start by Ditching Your Nikes.

Regarding mobile messaging, Sillicon Valley is starting to play catch-up

Silicon Valley pay attention: these following products are challenging the status quo. Whatsapp and Instagram or even social network sites can probably learn a lot just by looking at some of their functions. They are so good that I wonder if they might actually one day be able to become international platforms.

Find new friends close by, a feature instagram doesn't have.

Wechat has a facebook like wall where you can create a profile. But also allows you to find strangers around your house.

Kakaotalk also offers free calling (skype), scheduling meetings with your chat group and voting.

Kakaotalk also offers free calling, scheduling meetings with your chat group and voting.

Kakaotalk

Kakaotalk has 106 million users worldwide. It is the main distributor/publisher in Korea with a number of games in the top 10, with a collective $311 million in revenue during the first half of 2013 alone. They innovate with virtual goods but the platform also allows m-commerce, for example, you can buy a coffee at a starbucks for a friend.

wechat

Wechat is the fifth most used app worldwide with 400 million users, with 100 million international users, it evolved from a Chinese whatsapp to Whatsapp, Instagram and a dating site combined. The dating aspect (picture) became clear to me once I clicked ‘discover friends near by’ throwing back a list of wechat users within 100 meters from me, a feature which I haven’t seen on any other platform. Interestingly enough, you can link your bank account to Mobile payments and recently they added paid access to diary entries of celebrities. Talking about a paywall…

Innovation

Kakaotalk and Wechat started with a messaging app just a year ago, but have transformed into platforms they can monetize. This is something instagram, Vine or even Twitter haven’t achieved. This is where silicon valley is starting to play catch-up regarding social applications.

Weixin | iOS & Android

Kakaotalk | iOS & Android

Try them out for yourself!

You can find me at:

Wechat Kakao
photo kakao

 

Shanghai: Guyi garden and tea city

747 - arrival with KLM

Did Shanghai Change over the last year?

To celebrate my exact one year return to Holland I decided to go to Shanghai and see what had changed over there. Upon arrival (Again, our KLM flight didn’t dock at Pudong) I decided to take the bus to the city. A lot of people ask me if I think the city changed during the last year. I met quite a few expats that were let go over the last year or had trouble keeping their jobs. I also noticed more south Europeans trying their luck in this euphoric city. Construction is still going on, with expanding highways, railways and many new malls opening. On a side note, travelling outside the city, including Sheshan, I still noticed those huge apartment blocks are still largely vacant. The restaurant prices had risen over the year, some over 30%. Contrary of what I read online, I noticed most (rich) Chinese still carry iPhones. Xiaomi is gaining popularity. Anyway, I was here as a tourist so I wanted to share a two destinations with you:

Guyi garden

Entrance of Guyi garden 古猗园

Entrance of Guyi garden 古猗园


A Shanghai friend offered to take me to one of his favourite gardens. Together we drove to Nanxiang, just out of town. There lies the Guyi garden, which is over 500 years old. I did visit Chinese gardens in the past but this one seemed a lot less busy and was quite big.

Guyi King lotus

Guyi King lotus

Enjoy the serenity of the garden and have a seat. You will notice all the little details of the garden. Very neat. We left and ate some xiaolongbao just outside the garden.

The garden is located in Nanxiang town, about 20km outside Shanghai. Here is a wiki page with information: Guyi garden.

On the way back to Shanghai, at 20km distance, the new Shanghai Tower was already visible

On the way back to Shanghai, at 20km distance, the new Shanghai Tower was already visible

Tianshan Tea city

Another great destination is the tea city at Zhongshan lu in Shanghai. While we were living in Shanghai, we got used to drinking loose leaf tea. My wife used to buy all our tea at a particular shop inside this tea city. We were almost running out. Visiting our regular shop resulted in a hour long tea sampling session. I brought home yellow, white and jasmin tea.

Tianshan tea city entrance

Tianshan tea city entrance

Chinese tea culture

Chinese tea culture

Swimming in Shanghai: Maya Playa water park

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For a bit of holiday feeling, I’ve visited the new Maya Playa water park in Sheshan town, Shanghai (上海玛雅海滩水公园). Proclaiming to have over 30 rides for visitors to enjoy. It was a lot. They feature a lazy river, steep slides and bigger slides that you take by boat. The water park is huge and there are also slides for kids.

maya_playa_sliderI really, really had a fun time there. There are some great slides and just looking at people picking up surfing was a lot of fun as people cheered for the ones staying on the board for over one minute.

Since I was visiting in the last weekend of their summer season it was very quiet in the park. As in, one hour in I’ve met all the other visitors that day. The park is build for thousands so you can imagine, there was no line at all at any of the rides for me.

bodysurfing at maya playa shanghaiEven though the park is just a few months old, it did look old. I’m not doubting the water quality but more how everything from the paint to the buildings already looks a bit worn out. It was a bit dirty.

At a certain time there was an entertainment show. A few dancers on the main square dancing to some songs and a very loud announcer.

Entrance was 150 RMB, 50 RMB for the locker, which includes 30 RMB deposit. Then they also charge 20 RMB for a boat. Lunch was about 30 RMB, KFC style burger with french fries. I couldn’t find any coffee or icecream sales point.

How to get there: Take subway line 9 to Sheshan station (佘山站) and then I got a taxi there, on the way back I found that there seems to be a free shuttle service as well. Check out their website: playamaya.cn