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edeify.com » Blog Archive » Where in the World is Jia Ji?

Where in the World is Jia Ji?

March 23, 2009 – 12:29 pm

I used to love this show as a kid, remember Rockapella?

Since some of the people who still read this semi-abandoned blog (or at least still subscribe to its RSS feed) have sent me emails inquiring “Where the hell are you?” (direct quote from, master of subtlety, Woycheck). FYI, for those of you who are still curious, I’m currently in Chengdu, China, but I’ll be back in Pittsburgh in about a week so I can give a talk at CMU on April 4th. So if anyone wants to meet to catch up around then, send me an email.

For everyone else, here’s some brief paragraphs about various places I’ve been over the last couple of months:

Vancouver, BC, Canada = My uncle and his daughter immigrated to Canada last summer, so I took a trip up north to visit them. My prior knowledge of the area consisted almost entirely of information based from Douglas Coupland novels, so I was expecting a Canadian version of Seattle. My expectations were largely met with the only surprise at how large the local Chinese population was (multiple “China Towns” spread throughout the city).

Whistler, BC, Canada = Also vacationed a few days at the nearby resort town of Whistler, future host of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Of course, since I visited during the summer, I wasn’t able to experience any of the typical alpine related activities Whistler is known for, but I did get a chance to go horseback riding and ziplining. Trip was relatively uneventful except for the fact that a rockslide blocked the “Sea to Sky” highway (main route to Whistler from Vancouver) midway during the vacation. While the detour back to catch my flight tripled the driving time, it was a pretty scenic route.

Venice, Italy = Spent Thanksgiving in Venice, the famous city of canals. Enjoyed the sights and food immensely, but the weather was terrible. Bitterly cold, wet, and generally miserable at night. The day I left the city, the flood of 2008 was starting, the worst in twenty years. Yet again, I narrowly avoid natural disaster by taking the waterbus out (most public transportation in Venice is aquatic naturally) to the train station just as the waters were starting to rise.

Rome, Italy = The weather in the capital was much better, so I was able to spend a good amount of time touring the ancient ruins of the Colosseum, Pantheon, and other historical sites. Since I’m a bit frugal, I decided to visit the Vatican on the last Sunday of the month, when museum tickets are free. However, the lines were ridiculously long, so I wouldn’t recommend this if you want to see the famous sites like the Sistine Chapel. On the plus side, I did get to see the Pope (during his speech from his little apartment window) and attend Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica (first Catholic Mass I’ve ever attend, so if you ever invite me to one, know that I have high expectations).

Pisa, Italy = The Leaning Tower of Pisa was quite a disappointment since it was much smaller than I expected. Instead of boring you with the details, I’ll instead talk about the pizza in Italy, which was amazing. Since I’ve eaten pizza most of my life, I was kinda expecting something similar to the American version, only with fresher ingredients. Instead, I was impressed by the variety of regional specialties. I’d really like a pizza chain in the US to adapt the “deli-style” service of the thick rectangular pizza they serve in some regions, where they seem to have an infinite variety of toppings.

Florence, Italy = Honestly, my memory of Florence is a bit hazy since after a while all those statues and other works of art sort of blend together. I do remember I was visiting around the time of the 2008 US Presidential Election and listening to Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” on my iPhone while walking the city. I highly recommend the book, especially the audiobook version read by Obama himself (perhaps his amazing oratory skills distracted me from the art?).

Northrend, Azeroth = Okay, so this might not be a real world location, but I spent enough time playing the new World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, I probably remember more about the flying city of Dalaran than Florence. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person, but I heard my friend Norm has finally been lured into Azeroth, so I’m not alone in this (and over 11 million other subscribers agree with us). Like I’ve said before, WoW is the modern-day equivalent of golf for the tech crowd, so let me know if you ever want to network while running an instance in Northrend.

Shanghai, China = We might be in an ongoing global economic recession, but China’s economy is still chugging along, albeit at a slower pace. Most of what I know about Shanghai’s economy comes from my friends at Ubisoft’s local game development studio branch, which seems to be doing pretty well. They’ve basically taken over the Tom Clancy franchises (Splinter Cell and Endwar) and just gotten a new survival horror project. On a much sadder note, my condolences to the friends and family of Erick Wujcik, the former creative head of Ubisoft Shanghai that helped me out on previous visits to the city. Likewise for Randy Pausch, an amazing professor who founded the ETC, who’s now known world-wide for his famous last lecture at CMU (which you should watch immediately if you haven’t before).

Chengdu, China = Finally, the city where I was born, which I like to call the “Pittsburgh of China” (both cities are landlocked, evolving from historically industrial industries to IT, and tend to promote themselves as “most liveable” cities). Despite the devasting earthquake last year, Chengdu is still a great city, so I highly recommend visiting if you’re ever in China. It’s not as touristy as other cities (cheaper too!) despite having tons of landmarks and being where pandas originate from. Plus the food is great (the regional cuisine is called Szechwan in the US since Americans still haven’t updated to the modern spelling of Sichuan). Some people find it a bit too spicy, but there’s enough variety for even people who can’t stomach any spice (and according to Cindy, it looks like we invented Ketchup/Catsup too? I want reparations ASAP, Heinz!)

Okay, this post ended up being much longer than I originally planned, but I guess I’ve done a good deal of traveling in the last few months. So, contrary to what Kownacki says, I can’t teleport, but I do get around a lot. If anyone wants more detail about any of the cities I mentioned, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email.

  1. 6 Responses to “Where in the World is Jia Ji?”

  2. In my attempt to visit Northrend my computer informed me that it will not be assisting me on the journey. My attempts to instal were met with basically a hard drive crash. I can’t say that I’m too upset about this because, I love golf, but I don’t have a lot of extra time for a game that will end my social life.

    Glad to hear you are getting around and keeping ahead of mother nature. How long will you be in PGH?

    By Norman Huelsman on Mar 23, 2009

  3. Thanks for the update, Jia! I’m glad you’ve been able to travel and do some cool stuff.

    Don’t forget your annual Twitter update is coming up soon… The world is eagerly anticipating it.

    I fell in love with Vancouver last year, such a great city.

    Hope to see you while you’re in town!!

    By Jennie on Mar 23, 2009

  4. Good to hear you’re alright. I wish you had kept in touch.

    By John R. Carman on Mar 23, 2009

  5. @Norm Yeah, WoW is getting a bit intensive nowadays with the hardware requirements. If it ran better on laptops, I wouldn’t unsubscribe while traveling. I should be around the burgh for at least a few weeks.

    @Jennie Yep, April 30th, I promise it’ll be more interesting this year. Or maybe it’ll be another huge disappointment, I have no idea why you guys follow me. And of course, you’d love Vancouver, you’re totally Canada-biased.

    @Carman So says the man who never bothered to send an email over the last few months, not even when you started up your new company with Scott.

    By Jia on Mar 23, 2009

  6. This answers one of the world’s great riddles, the other being, “WHY is Jia Ji?” (Only you and Steve McQueen can answer that, and Steve’s busy.)

    Actually, I thought I’d seen you in a Shadyside parking lot sometime last August, but you (or whomever it was) drove away before I was near enough to shout at you without looking like a poorly motivated carjacker. Glad to hear you’re (presumably) in one piece, and hope you enjoy your ‘burgh buzz-by. (Oddly, *I’ll* be out of town when you’re here — thus sparking all those “Have you ever seen Justin and Jia in the same place?” rumors…)

    Dare I ask what your talk at CMU is about?

    By Justin Kownacki on Mar 24, 2009

  7. I might post a summary of the talk afterwards, but that depends on a few other factors. The portion of the conference I’m speaking at is open to the public though (more info and registration at http://www.younginventors.org/conference). However, it costs $25 unless you’re a CMU student.

    By Jia on Mar 25, 2009

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