Learning China

I’m just about to end a one and a half year long-term assignment in Shanghai (for Ericsson, setting up a Wireless Innovation Lab and Demo Center - yes, the WILD Center!). I had never set foot in China before signing up, but I’ve absolutely loved the people and the culture, and it’s been an amazing learning experience. This is just one small example that I want to share.

At some eateries you’re expected to write down your order yourself on a piece of paper. Like most foreigners in China I’ve focused on learning spoken Mandarin. Thanks to the Pinyin input method, you can write characters electronically as soon as you know how to pronunce and read them (no need to learn the strokes and the fine motor skills required for handwriting). So handwriting quickly became a “someday, maybe”.

Which of course means writing down the order on paper is a challenge. I can (barely) explain what I want verbally though (“eggplant, tofu”) so I asked this guy to help me out.

Boy helping to write down the order

Moments later, I learned that things don’t have to be so hard.

Close-up of handwriting

(If it’s not clear from the photo, he just drew pictures of an eggplant and tofu(!) and so on, since apparently he too was unsure how to write the characters)


0: why join the numbers?

I almost fell for the cleverly disguised drug that is 2048 after giving in to peer pressure and trying it (“just once”). But then I suddenly realized how to beat the game completely, and created my own fork instead, to show you how.

So if you’re curious, please try it: 0!

Year Walk – the perfect way to spend a New Year's day?

After losing way too many hours to Cut the Rope a few years ago, I decided that modern games for mobile devices are all time sinks that only reward grinding and/or paying. But a few months ago I found myself in a not-so-exciting business hotel in Beijing with absolutely nothing to do for the evening. I figured that I have to keep up with whatever it is the kids are doing these days, right? So I entered “best iPad game of the year” into Google, not expecting much.

To my surprise the very first game I stumbled upon, Year Walk by Simogo, turned out to be one of the most compelling gaming experiences I’ve had since I was a kid.

It’s a very different adventure, centered around an ancient Nordic/pagan practice called the year walk (årsgång in Swedish). From the Year Walk Companion app:

Year walking was at its core a vision quest with the purpose to foresee the future. […] it seems to have been a widespread practice in Sweden until the beginning of the 19th century and in some rural areas as late as the beginning of the 20th century. A year walker could not partake of any food or drinks […], had to avoid other people […], and where not allowed to see a fire for the entire day. […] If the year walker followed these steps he would leave his dark room at the stroke of midnight—this would be his last chance to cancel the year walk. Once he ventured out there was no turning back.

Even though I’m a Swede I had never heard about this before, and I think few people have (though most Swedes will probably recognize at least some of the many mythological characters and phenomena that occur in the game).

I’d recommend it to anyone who thinks that mobile gaming is only about angry candy birds, or driving cars and shooting at stuff.

Some notes and tips if you decide to play it:

Happy year walking!

I'm in the top one percent of non-producers!

Pocket sent me an email last week, urging me to share(?) the fact that I’m in the top 1% of readers using their app, having read the equivalent of The Great Gatsby 77 times during the past year. Which surprised me, but I guess that’s one thing that might happen when you double your commute…

My #pocketstats for 2013 - I'm in the top 1%

But then I thought of everything I’ve not done (for example, I have not read The Great Gatsby – not even once!). And even though I have (hopefully) learned a thing or two, I haven’t shared anything in public (except at work). And sharing is good! So I’ll try to do more of that from now on. Less reading, more sharing!