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7/27/2015 Interesting weekend

Well, Friday and Saturday were kind of interesting. Sunday not so much (I spent most of the day working on things).

July 24th - 25th (Friday - Saturday): Events in Honolulu
This weekend marked the debut of Comic Con Honolulu (aka. Hokukon). It's actually one of several new cons that are starting this year to compliment Kawaii Kon (which I wrote about a while back). Regular comic cons generally don't interest me as much as anime conventions, but I figured I'd check it out. All in all, they did fairly good for a first year con but it was pretty small, with only two panel rooms, a small vendor area, a couple of game spaces, and an autograph room. I was originally thinking I might spend most of the weekend there but the panels that interested me the most were all at times I couldn't go and, over all, there just wasn't enough to hold my attention so I ended up just going for Friday. I could have always spent more time playing around in the video or table top game areas, but I had enough other stuff I wanted and needed to do that I decided not to. As for whether or not I'll go next year, it'll depend on who the guests are and how the other new cons stack up.
My other weekend activity, besides some beach time, was checking out the dragon boat races Saturday morning. While you see a lot of long kayaks on Honolulu's main canal, dragon boats are different. They're Chinese in origin and they have dragon head and tail designs. More practically though, they have two rows of rowers and a drummer to help them keep time (like the old ships used to have). There's also a person laying on the front whose job it is to grab a flag at the end of the race. Now this is what I thought the Dragon Boat Festival in China would have a lot of (I was wrong). Kinda interesting to watch, at least for a bit.


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7/24/2015 Caught up!

Huh... Looks likes, while Wednesday's news post went up properly the comic did not. At least not on the main page, it did show up in the archives. Sigh... Well, click the Previous Comic link if you missed it.

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Well, the China travelogue is finished and here's that Hawaii travelogue entry I mentioned earlier in the week, getting me all caught up in that regard. I'm also more or less caught up on a variety of other things since getting back from China. Not that I don't still have more to do. But it's mostly just Aurora's Nightmare at this point up until classes start up in a few weeks. Mostly, got a couple of days of other kinds of work here and there. And some fun stuff too, like this weekend for example. But that's something to talk about next time...

July 19th (Sunday): The Honolulu Ukulele Festival
I assume most of you know what a ukulele is, right? If not, it's a Hawaiian instrument shaped like a guitar but much smaller and with only four strings. If you're ever heard Hawaiian music, you've no doubt heard a ukulele. Anyway, there's an annual ukulele festival at Kapiolani Park right past Waikiki. I had some stuff to do in the morning, but I met up with my parents there that afternoon for the last two or three hours. There were some booths selling food (and ukuleles), of course. But the main focus of the festival was the stage, where there was a constant stream of ukulele performances throughout the day. Some were single players, some were groups, some used other instruments as well, and some of the musicians were even from other countries. From the ones I saw, there were two standouts. The first was Willie K, who I wasn't previously familiar with (though he seemed kinda famous), and the second was Jake Shimabukuro, who I saw once before in Colorado years back. Jake is especially famous and known for doing a lot of music with the ukulele that you really wouldn't think it could possibly handle (classic rock, for example). They're both really impressive musicians, whether or not you're a ukulele fan. On that note, while I'm not sure I would have wanted to spend an entire day at the Ukulele Festival, it made for an enjoyable couple of hours.


7/22/2015 How to improve

Here's one last Random China Comment.

Random China Comments: Improvements I'd Like to See
While China is a fun place to visit, there are some things about it that can be very problematic for tourists. On that note, I'd like to quickly go over some of the things I'd most like to see change in China over the coming years. Note that, for the purposes of this list, I'm only going to cover things that strongly impact the average tourist (though most of them would be really beneficial for Chinese citizens as well) and I'm going to mostly avoid political and cultural issues. If these things are dealt with, visits to China will be much safe and more pleasant.
So, in no particular order...

1. Less Smoking
Or at least less smoking allowed in public places. Though, if you are a smoker, you'll probably find the much small number of restrictions a nice change... While more businesses and/or the government could easily limit smoking in more locations, a lot of people seem to ignore the no signs there are and actually reducing the number of smokers will take a lot of time. So yeah, I assume this will improve, but very slowly.

2. Less Pollution
Over all, China is easily the most polluted place I've ever seen by far You really have to get far into the countryside if you want to find clean air and water and even then there's usually still some smog around. Another difficult and time consuming problem to fix, but certainly doable if the government really gets behind the effort.

3. Easier Train Travel
More high speed train lines would be nice but, from what I can tell, those are already an ongoing project. I won't even complain about all the security checks (though I'm not sure if they're really needed). However, it would make things so much easier if the Chinese government would just allow tourists to buy train tickets using the automated kiosks (you need a Chinese ID card). They already have an English menu option, so it would be a simple enough. Right now though, not being able to use the kiosks means talking to an actual ticket agent. Problem is, there are usually very long lines and most ticket agents can't speak English, making the ticket buying process a difficult and time consuming hassle.

4. Improved Sanitation
Being able to actually drink the tap water and not having to carry around anti-bacterial wipes or gel to use before meals would be a huge improvement, and go a long way towards making China feel like a fully modern country. Not having to worry about getting food poisoning from smaller restaurants and street food would be awesome as well.

5. Faster and Less Restricted Internet
While I think the hotels I've stayed at are partly to blame for the horrendous internet access I usually have in China, that's not the whole problem. Though I did recently read that the government is going to be investing a lot of money in improving internet speeds throughout the country, so that's one issue hopefully taken care of.
One thing I'd really like to see though, is for the Chinese government to stop blocking access to so many web sites; including gmail (and everything else Google), Facebook, and many other widely used sites and services. I do appreciate that I can access them on my phone (at least so long as I'm not on wi-fi), but data costs when roaming are pretty expensive and not being able to access them on my computer is, at best, extremely inconvenient. At worst, it could make conducting business while in China near impossible if you rely heavily on some of the blocked sites.

6. Better Cleanliness and Repair in Hotels
While I've yet to get a hotel room in China that's so bad I won't stay there, I've only had a couple where I'd say the room cleanliness and quality was completely up to US or Japanese standards. I'm not sure if the issue is hotel policy or the maids' skills or work ethic, but something could use a bit of improvement.

7. Less Scams
China is getting a bit infamous for scammers that target foreigners (trying to sell knock-off items, overcharging in restaurants and taxis, pretending to need money for train tickets, etc., etc.). Sure you can avoid at least most of the scams if you're careful, but it would be nice if they weren't so prevalent.

8. Better Traffic Safety
Not knowing China's traffic laws, I'm not sure if the main problem is due to lack of suitable laws, or a glut of drivers who ignore them. Either way, appropriate laws should be made (if needed) and very strictly enforced. Especially in regards to stopping before turning on red lights and giving pedestrians the right of way when they're crossing at the proper time. Charging ahead full speed to make a right turn on a red, while honking and hoping everyone runs out the way, is not how it should be done. There are lots of other traffic safety issues that should be addressed, but I'd say that's the most critical one I've noticed so far.


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