A Weekend in Xi’an

Who are you looking at?

I’ve been in Xi’an, northern China, for the past few days, visiting Huawei‘s site here. Since my trip ran across the weekend, I found myself with a couple of days to explore the area.

Following Geoff’s lead, on Saturday morning, I headed out to bīngmǎ yǒng, better known in English as the Terracotta Warriors. I had the hotel, Days Xi’an, arrange a ride for me – the most expensive component of the trip at ¥380 (approx $60), but both car and driver were at my disposal for nearly six hours. After a two hour drive through the Xi’an traffic then a few miles of countryside, I arrived at the site to be greeted by an English-speaking guide named Jay, whose excellent service was an absolute bargain for ¥100 ($15). Admission was a very reasonable ¥90 ($13 or so).

Jay walked me round the initial display of a giant marionette warrior (pictured above), made for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a pair of bronze chariots and other artifacts, then showed me to the 360 degree cinema for a 20 minute film introducing some of the historical background to the commissioning of the Terracotta Army by Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China, and its accidental discovery in 1974 by a local farmer digging a well. Amazingly, although the location of the imperial tomb was well known, there had been no historical record of the army itself, so the find came as a complete surprise.

Pit number 1

After the film, it was time for the main event – ‘Pit Number 1’ – and what an incredible sight it was – rank upon rank of larger than life warriors, vintage 210 BC. Pit 1 alone contains an estimated 8000 infantrymen, each an individual, with different faces, hair and physique. I spent some time walking around the perimeter, just taking it all in. At this point, what was most impressive was the sheer scale of the army – it was only when I saw a couple of the warriors up close in the adjoining display area that I realized the craftsmanship that went into each one.

'Lucky Warrior' shoe detail

I took a series of pictures of the ‘Lucky Warrior’ – a kneeling archer – the sole statue found intact, all the others having suffered from the collapse of the wooden roof of the tomb. You can see all of the photos in my Flickr set from the day, but here is possibly the most interesting picture – the sole of the Lucky Warrior’s shoe – complete with three different tread patterns, for the heel, mid-section and front of the sole. When you see the craftsmanship that went into a single warrior, then realize that there are over 8,000 of them, it’s easy to believe that it took 700,000 workers some 40 years to complete!

The tour was rounded off by a visit to the official museum store, where I had an order from Jim for an ‘Old General’. I succumbed to temptation and came away with Jim’s general, an infantryman for myself, and a jade bracelet for my wife, Karen. Ah well; it’s only money, I suppose.

Saturday evening, I went out with Tom, one of the Xi’an engineers, and we discovered the Little Sheep Mongolian hot pot restaurant, where we had an excellent meal of thinly sliced lamb, cooked at the table in a spicy broth, washed down by a couple of bottles of Tsingtao.

Lantern festival decorations at the South Gate

Sunday started wet, so I left my ‘real’ camera at the hotel and set off with only my iPhone to take pictures. A mistake as it turned out, as the day dried up soon after lunch – oh well – the iPhone did pretty well, in the event. First order of the morning was to find a source of China Mobile topup cards for my prepay phone, then I relaxed for a couple of hours at the Starbucks next to the hotel with a Chai tea and free wifi – bliss! After lunch I met up with Asen, another Huawei engineer based in Xi’an, and we headed out for a walk around central Xi’an.

Xi’an has the most complete city wall in China, with eight and a half miles of fortifications forming a rectangle around the city center. Right now, the wall is decorated for Yuánxiāojié, or the Lantern Festival, and we walked about a mile and a half along the southern section, photographing the decorations. Coming down off the walls, we happened on a market stall selling chops (name stamps) and I had a ‘monkey’ (my birth year) chop carved with my ‘Chinese name’ – 潘德生. Heading north, we came to the Bell Tower, pretty much the center point of the city. ¥40 ($6) bought a ticket that also included admission to the nearby Drum Tower.

The interior of the Bell Tower houses an exhibition of ancient Chinese pottery showing an amazing level of artistry, while the exterior gives an excellent view of the city including the four gates in the city walls. The Drum Tower contains exhibitions of antique furniture and, not surprisingly, drums. Again, you can walk around the outside of the tower, this time gaining a view of the Muslim Hui quarter of Xi’an.

Street market stall

Leaving the Drum Tower, Asen and I entered the heart of the Muslim quarter, a bustling, colorful street market that seemed mainly focused on grilled beef and chicken kebabs, or chuànr. After a wander around, we chose a restaurant to sample some chuànr and pào mó, a tasty soup of cubed flatbread and beef, washed down with a little more Tsingtao.

I must admit, I didn’t expect Xi’an to have so much to offer. I knew of the Terracotta Warriors, of course, but I was still surprised at the modest grandeur of central Xi’an. If I’m lucky enough to return, I plan to spend a couple of hours circumnavigating the city walls, this time with my ‘proper’ camera 🙂

A Dedication to Don Bowen at LIVESTRONG Action

Reformatted from the ‘tell-a-friend’ email provided by the LIVESTRONG website:

I just joined Don Bowen’s dedication page at LIVESTRONG Action. Don Bowen inspired someone close to me to commit to end cancer, and now I’ve joined with them.

This page is a part of the world’s largest dedication book that LIVESTRONG Action will use to pressure world leaders to do more to fight cancer. If we can collect enough names in the book, it will have a real impact when Lance Armstrong delivers it – but we need more signatures.

Can you take a moment to add your name to the dedication page?


Lance Armstrong recently dedicated his ride in the Tour de France to the fight against cancer. Now that the race is over, he’ll send this dedication book – with your signature – to world leaders and pressure them to make cancer a priority in their own countries. It’s our best chance to push for better treatment, more funding for cancer research and access to care for everyone around the world.

But if people like us don’t stand up, these leaders won’t pay attention.

Will you check out the dedication page? Don Bowen inspired me to take action – hopefully they’ll inspire you to do the same:


Great idea, Melanie!!!

Back after JavaOne 2009

Wow – is it really over a month since my last blog entry? I guess that’s what happens when you get your head down into a project – in this case, building a demo for CommunityOne West and JavaOne 2009 to show off the latest OpenSSO features.

The demo brought together a number of existing Java technologies – the Java Persistence API (JPA), the Jersey implementation of JAX-RS (aka JSR 311) on both the client and server, and JavaFX – with some new aspects of OpenSSO – fine-grained authorization (aka entitlements), OAuth protocol support, and a JDBC data store. Briefly, the demo centered on a cellphone account management system delivered as a JavaFX rich Internet application (RIA) client and a (more or less) RESTful web service back-end, communication between them secured by OAuth.

I’ll be uploading source code for the demo client and server apps to the OpenSSO project in the next few days, as well as documenting how to bring up the demo environment. Watch this space for updates!

OWASP Hartford: February 2009

Just blogged by my good friend James McG:

The next meeting of the Hartford CT chapter of OWASP will occur on February 10th and will feature Mary Ruddy of Project Higgins along with Ramesh Nagappan of Sun.
OWASP events are 100% free to attend. Help spread the word…

Funnily enough, I’ve definitely met Mary, but I’m not sure I’ve ever met Ramesh. I won’t get to see him next week, either, since Hartford is about 3,000 miles away from me, but you definitely should, if you’re in the area…

What’s Your Blog’s Personality?

Doc points to his Linux Journal entry in which he discusses Typealyzer, a site that, given your blog URL, divines its ‘personality’ as a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Of course, the first thing I did was to point it at myself, with somewhat surprising results. According to Typealyzer, Superpatterns is ISTJ – a ‘Duty Fulfiller‘. From Typealyzer:

The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever.

The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work in their own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.

Now, I consistently test as ENTP – the ‘Visionary‘ – hands waving in the air in front of the whiteboard, the opposite of Superpatterns on every axis except ‘thinking’, in fact. I suppose Superpatterns must be where I reveal my quiet, methodical side 🙂

GlassFish v3 Prelude – Out Now!

So, GlassFish V3 Prelude was announced last week, just as I was wrapping up my week in Tokyo (Liberty Alliance plenary meeting and Liberty Alliance Day 2008 – more on the latter in another blog entry), so I missed the blog fest. Oh well. Here’s my contribution anyway…

You’ll know by now that GlassFish v3 features a modular architecture based on OSGi, Rails/Grails support, RESTful web services and much, much more. Well, here in OpenSSO-land we particularly like v3’s embeddability and the fact that, as far as we’ve observed, OpenSSO ‘just works’ with no changes for v3. GlassFish v3 isn’t yet on the supported platform list for OpenSSO Enterprise 8.0, but we’ll be adding it in the near future.

Selling Trust

Brad Cox, a regular in the OpenSSO IRC channel just came out with a line that, I think, perfectly encapsulates the spirit of open source at Sun:

“Sun used to sell bits. Now you’re selling trust. Interesting times!”

Interesting times indeed!

Susan McLucas – Tech Writer Looking for Work

Since I encouraged Susan to create a blog, and she actually went ahead and did it, I’m happy to be able to link to her… Susan McLucas is a tech writer looking for work. She has worked for companies ranging from startups to giants like Intel and Cisco – in fact, Cisco acquired the last startup she worked for, so she has experience of the acquisition process too.

As I mentioned in my recommendation on her LinkedIn profile:

I know Susan socially, rather than through her work, but I can attest that she is articulate and professional with a keen eye for detail. If we had any openings in my group here at Sun, I’d definitely hire her.

So, there you go, if you’re looking for a tech writer, contact Susan through her LinkedIn profile or leave a comment on her blog. And tell her I sent you