Friday, August 11, 2017

BRB, going 2 China

Team Wilkie is blasting off again! We’re moving to Beijing, China, around the end of this year, and will be living and working there for the next 3 years (give or take a bit). Yes, for reals. This is not a test.

Even though we have a wide and diverse array of friends, we suspect your general reactions will fall into one of two camps:

  • “What the hell?!? Where did this come from? China? Are you guys INSANE?!?”
  • “So what? The Wilkies are always doing something crazy like this. See you in a few years!”

For those in the latter camp, we appreciate your confidence in our ability to succeed in what are often at first glance, poorly-planned and ill-advised adventures/disasters. Even though we’re freaking out internally, we can state with a high degree of sincerity that your lack of surprise at our craziness gives us added confidence that we can pull this off. We’ll see you in a few years, or later, or sooner! For those in the former camp, we’ve provided a few details below that might make you feel a little less confused/shocked/questioning our sanity.


Natalie was approached by Universal Studios to help with the design and construction of their new Beijing park. They made us an offer that was hard to refuse: they’d fly us there and back, move a good chunk of our stuff, set us up with someplace to live, provide a translator, etc. We’ve been seriously contemplating moving overseas, temporarily or permanently, since sometime around sunrise on November 9th, 2016. The thing that was stopping us was the enormity of it all: the expense, finding new jobs, the paperwork, etc., etc. This offer takes care of a lot of that, and gives us a chance to test whether we can adapt and be happy in a foreign country for longer than a normal two week vacation.


When we were making our list of countries we might want to try living in, it’s true that China was not near the top. The language barrier is enormous, the social policies aren’t really in harmony with our politics, and in general, the difficulty level of acclimating is up in the highest extremes of anywhere on earth we could possibly imagine living. But…

Beijing is a massive city, and we’re both city people, through and through. It’s also very near a whole region of the world we want to explore. We’ve been to Thailand, but want to see a lot more of it. We’ve only visited an airport in Japan, but want to spend some time seeing that country too. That’s not even mentioning Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, South Korea, Mongolia, the Philippines, Vietnam… The food and culture and sights will be utterly new, and we love exploring a new city and making it home.

But it’s true that moving to China is still the equivalent of diving into the rapids as your first swimming lesson. It’s just a really, really bad idea to use China as our test of whether we can live abroad. But we actually have a pretty decent track record with bad ideas. You’ve probably heard the story of how our relationship was a “bad idea” from the start, but somehow, impossibly, worked out great. You might have heard the story of how our big motorcycle trip a few years ago was way too long with way too little experience, about how we were terrified every day and almost crashed (or much worse) at least once or twice during the trip. But somehow that worked out great too. For a long time, our secret motto has been that if something sounds like a bad idea, or scary, or ill-advised, maybe we should give it a second look, because sometimes those are signs that it might also be an incredible, challenging, life-altering experience. Or maybe it’s just a very, very, profoundly bad idea.

Maybe China will be amazing, and we’ll return in 3ish years speaking fluent Mandarin, with tons of great stories and plans to move somewhere else overseas someday. Maybe China will be horrible, and we’ll return in 3ish months, miserable and disappointed, vowing to never leave Seattle again. But either way, it will be an adventure, and if we don’t give it a shot, we’ll wonder “what if we had?” for a long time to come.


Over the next few months, we’ll be madly packing our lives up, figuring out logistics, etc. Natalie will be disappearing for a week or two at a time to fly to various places, and I might be doing the same to a lesser extent. For bargain hunters, keep an eye out! We’re not selling off all our worldly possessions, but there might be stuff we need to get rid of. For everyone else, stay tuned! Once Geek Fortress is fully set up in Beijing, we’ll make sure everyone has our new contact info.

We’re not sure we really know what we’re doing, and we’re not sure whether this adventure is profoundly stupid or just moderately stupid. Whichever school of thought you might be in right now though, know that we have locked in our course and are heading East, so wish us luck. We’re gonna need it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Grand Tour 2014: Some Post-Mortem Navel-Gazing

It's a nice callback to the beginning of this trip that once again, it's on a plane where I'm doing some of my writing. Unlike the common perception of an airplane (a fast, straight line), I'm sure this blog entry is going to meander all over the place. My hope is that I might somehow manage to keep it roughly inside the lines, and the final result might look a little like our plane's course on the map, a long, curved arc that still ends up where it intends to go. Fair warning though: this is all stream-of-consciousness, and there is no auto-pilot, so be prepared for a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On the road!

Bikes are going great. We got a late start from Manchester but are getting settled in to the unfamiliar bikes + backwards lanes + unfamiliar traffic markings + unfamiliar surroundings! Might even pick up speed and go the car speed limit rather than the trucks'! Mike, it's good you don't have your CBR250r any more, I might steal it from you, it's a sweet little bike! Nearly knocked it over getting on, it's so light compared to my Bonnie. ;)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Grand Tour 2014: Day 11 (London): the Science Museum

Today's location was the Science Museum, which I assumed was basically like PacSci or OMSI with a couple relics thrown in. While there is a wing that's like that, the other 2/3 is a museum of science and technology.

They have an overwhelming collection of artifacts on display, and they're all old and significant and the actual thing not just a model or recreation the actual holy fuck real thing:

We saw Babbage's Difference Engine, lancets used to create the first smallpox vaccine from cowpox boils, the first physical model of DNA, the AC motor built by Tesla and submitted with his patent request, a huge, functional steam engine, the actual mold culture from which penicillin was first developed, a piece of the Moon, James Watt's entire workshop, pieces of the transatlantic telegraph cables.

I was way past drooling to completely locked up. There's SO MUCH. Just whole cases of a thousand artifacts, and some of it's just slice of life, here's what sheep shears looked like, and right next to it is oh yeah here's the patent office's model that Tesla submitted with his patent application. And by the way we have two guys in white lab coats and oil cans operating a steam engine in the middle of the room, with a take-off wheel 20' in diameter just flying along. As you do.

I'm really glad that Rory knew we'd love it and insisted on taking us. It was SO DAMNED COOL.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Grand Tour 2014: "Seeing enough stuff"

The blessing and the curse of traveling someplace really interesting is that there is going to be more than you can reasonably see in the time you have, no matter how much time you have. We've experienced that in spades during this trip, and creates a strange sort of tension that can ruin a good vacation.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Grand Tour 2014, Day 3 (NYC): March!

Got bagels and coffee. Headed down to the south docklands area to the "secret" half-price ticket office, which has a shorter (only 2 hours) line, a bathroom, and a playground, bought still-OMG-expensive tickets to a Broadway show. Then climbed uphill to the City Hall plaza, where we ate a kebab and watched street performers till the cops shut them down, turning it back into a lame boring empty plaza.

Next we walked all the way across the Brooklyn Bridge. All the way across! The pedestrian path is a wood platform above the vehicle lanes, between the suspension cables. Which are gorgeous (the cables, not the vehicle lanes. Those are crap.). It didn't seem all that far, though our feet disagreed.

As soon as we got across, we headed to the nearest subway station and rode back to Little Italy for a late lunch. (We're incapable of eating lunch before 3 on vacations, even when we get up early. We just don't get around to it or something.) Wandered through Chinatown (which is commingled with little Italy). New York's Chinatown is somehow more Chinese than most of Shanghai that I saw.

We hurried back to the hotel to change, then headed to Broadway! We saw "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Romance", which is set in/based on a novel from 1907 England. It's about a newly-orphaned young man who discovers he's 9th in line to an Earldom, and the ungentlemanly tactics he uses to eliminate those eight people ahead of him in line. One actor plays all eight of his relatives, and he's HILARIOUS. Strongly recommended. They were doing a fundraiser for charity, so we got a photo with the two lead actors, and a signed poster.

When we stepped out into the street after, there were crowds lining both sides and cops keeping people behind barriers. Seems Chris O'Dowd and James Franco are doing the stage production of Mice and Men in the theater across the street, and everyone was waiting for them to leave from the stage door. Somewhere there's a photo of the top of my head and the back of James Franco's ;)

The evening topped off with "dinner" of dessert at Junior's Restaurant, where the dessert sizes may rival Claim Jumper (never been, but I've heard tales...). But despite being huge portions and in a major tourist area, the desserts were actually really good. I finished off an entire plate of strawberry shortcake because it was too good to leave behind.

When we got back to the hotel we learned there's a hot nightclub in the ballroom, and fought our way past a flock of 20somethings to give the high sign to the bouncer and be let in past the indignant kids (that's right, get off my lawn!). Somehow I'd managed to protect our signed poster through Broadway, Times Square, the subway, and the final "boss fight" of throngs of drunk girls in high heels on cobblestones holding cigarettes. Win!

Grand Tour 2014, Day 2 (NYC)

17 April: Uptown, Shopping, Pastrami

Today sort of accidentally became a shopping day. We were going to try to hit the Empire State Building, but since a) apparently New Jersey takes spring break later than everyone else and b) Ford celebrated the Mustang's birthday by chopping one up and reassembling it on the ESB observation deck, the lines were round the block. Instead we had a bagel then went to Rockefeller Plaza for the Lego and NBC stores, the giant flower bunny juxtaposed vs the ice rink, and some actually-kinda-nice artsy easter eggs (the night sky geode was my favorite). After regaining feeling in our fingers (chilly day), we ventured into the Uniqlo showroom for some clothes shopping. Then in what's becoming tradition, we went downtown to the only restaurant we've ever repeated in NYC: Katz's. Had to have pastrami sandwiches, egg cremes, and a laugh at the people who hadn't learned The System.

And then we napped.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Travel: Why We Leave

Here we go, off on another trip! This time we're headed to New York, New York for five days, and then flying to England for two weeks of exploring London and venturing up to Scotland for a day or two. This isn't the first trip we've taken since getting back from our big "Border-to-Border" motorcycle marathon a couple years ago, and I'm sure we'll continue to travel where we can, when we can, for as long as we can.

Why though? We love where we live, so why do we insist on spending considerable time and (at least for us) considerable money to leave the place we love?

Grand Tour 2014: Day 1 (NYC)

Vacation Day 1: Planes, trains, automobiles, ferries, subways, taxis, and shanks' mare. Wandered around Manhattan and took the ferry to Staten Island. Panini shop, comic shop, greasy spoon, chocolate shop, bodega. Lots of parks. New Yorkers; bonus Australian. Sunshine. Maybe sunburn?

Saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from the ferry, it's cool to think we're kinda reverse-tracing some of our ancestors' steps from England and Scotland to the US.

The hotel we stay at in Manhattan was built in 1901 to house sailors between gigs. The rooms are TINY: 50SF, with bunk single beds; it's much like a train or steamship . But it's $100\night in the Village! It housed the Titanic survivors. This week is the 102nd anniversary. Hopefully the ghosts won't mind the company.

Totally spent, may go to bed soon, despite it being only 10:30. Feel like a wimp, and want to wring every moment out of the trip, but got very little sleep on the red eye flight thanks to the kid behind me. Oh well, just means the bagels will be nice and fresh in the morning!

Monday, September 30, 2013

La Mujer Maravilla: The Wonder Woman Movie DC Comics Will Never Make

This entry was prompted by something my friend Sean Young posted about the need for a Wonder Woman movie and how difficult it's been to get it right. In the spirit of Patton Oswald's insane Parks & Recreation filibuster, here's my radical suggestion:

Change EVERYTHING. Instead of Greek mythology and "magical white lady in a swimsuit saving the world", change the origin radically while still preserving the core identity of the character. Less of the cheesy spandex style, and more of the Christopher Nolan-style "realistic" super hero films.