First night in Causeway Bay

We moved into our new place in Causeway Bay yesterday. Crazy day running to Ikea and the supermarket to buy everything we needed.We forwent our usual $12 Ikea cutlery set and went up market to the $50 set just to brake the cycle. And no more of those cheap Ikea mugs either!

We still have no furniture so we slept on the floor last night and the sheets are straight out of the packets – so you can really get that ‘straight from the factory’ smell. That took me a while to get over, but once I’m out, I’m out.

About 2am Hua woke me up as some prick’s air conditioner from upstairs was dripping on ours quite loudly. They’ve got those bit chunky hang out the window kind over here. I was fast asleep of course. First I got up, hung myself out the window and put a layer of tissues over the spots where it was dripping. Brilliant idea Age. That worked for 10 minutes, then the tissues were saturated, so it was just as bad. After another 10 minutes of restless wife, I got up again, grabbed all the new sponges we’d bought from the kitchen, put them in a cloth bag and put that outside. Slept like a baby. After getting used to the sheet smell again.

We also had no gas, so no hot water. We had a wash by hand with hot water from the kettle. Amazingly, gas is the only thing that actually seems to get disconnected when a property changes hands. We had all the power and cold water we could want. After tipping pots of water over us, we realised the bathroom floor wasn’t draining, despite the large drain at one end. Clever us then get into the shower to do the same. It also doesn’t drain. Hua is making some phone calls today.

After all that, I was wishing I’d paid the extra HKD$500 (AUD$71) for another night in the cramped hotel.

On the bright side, 100mb internet get connected today. Unlimited fast internet is only AUD$15 ūüėÄ

Flashcards are the go

I’ve tried a whole bunch of iPhone flash card applications to help me with my Chinese studies and the vast majority suck. Badly. I’ve even shelled out real cash for some of these. I just wish there was a refund button in the App Store. So believing I’m not the only one who doesn’t like to suffer un-usable software, I’m getting some good software developed.

Version one is going to have an absolute basic set of features, but day 1 it will be:

  • Easy to use
  • Look good
  • Support flash card revision and testing for the New Practical Chinese Reader series of books (Beijing University Press).

Now some observant people may that I speak to in the real world may notice that I’ve been talking about this software for a while. Well, we’re getting there. I’m re-realising that trying to do things on the cheap is the tortoise path to success and its going to take longer than I’d hope. To hopefully pick up the pace, I just ordered these from Amazon:

But the unseen forces are conspiring against me again, and I won’t receive delivery until mid August. Oh well, I guess its back to googling tutorials.

Aussie start-ups to get $83m boost

Now I’m really confused. IT News is reporting start-ups are to get an $83M funding boost, but if you go back and read the media release from Senator Karr’s office, it looks like there is a bit of a hurdle to ¬†qualifyas a start-up:

The companies that could benefit from this fund employ at least 1000 people

Besides the mixed message hitting the media, I wonder if it truly is aimed at start-ups? 1000 people seems to be a pretty high bar for any start-up.

But at least, its something.

Event: Young Entrepreneurs in China and Australia

Hey, if anyone has time, this looks like a good networking event.

Be inspired by stories of success, as we spend an evening in conversation with these young entrepreneurs. Learn strategies for navigating the current economic environment. Join these speakers as they share their valuable experience.

Ignoring some of the fluffy words, I’d love to get some insight into others’ experiences establishing in China.¬† The event is jointly sponsored by AsiaLink, Melbourne University Confucius Institute, Australia China Business Council and the City of Melbourne. Timing’s a bugger as I’d have to skip my Tai Chi class. Aiyou!

China worries too few foreigners learning Chinese

According to this Reuters article, the Chinese government would like to see more students studying Chinese.  Reading between the lines, it looks like the government believes if more westerners study Chinese, this will in-turn lead to a softening of perceptions towards China. Not a bad idea really as a first step to a better cultural understanding on both sides.

Understanding “Chinese thinking” ¬†is in part easier to do once you start to study the language as many phrases and metaphors are derived from history or poems – which in-tern have shaped Chinese culture.

To encourage the adoption of Chinese, Beijing has established “Confucius Institutes” globally. Putting 2 and 2 together, It seems to me that the Confucius Institute at Melbourne University is one of these language centers.

The funnest EVER way to learn languages

One of the reasons I setup this blog was to diarise the journey for this new business I’m starting – to create absolutely the intuitive, most effective and down right funnest language learning application ever devised – for iPhone.

After taking Chinese lessons twice per week at 2 hours per pop at RMIT University for the last 12 months, I realised a few things about how I learn:

  • I only apply myself to learning the language while at class. Forget studying at home.
  • I have a Chinese wife so you think I would ask her for a lot of help. I don’t. ¬†For some crazy reason, I want to learn on my own. Some people might call it stubbornness (others stupidity).
  • I like using Chinese flash cards, but there are no commercially available flash card sets for the text book I’m learning from (New Practical Chinese Reader). I’m not assessed on the other superfluous characters I know – I’m tested on what is in the chapters covered in class.
  • I have only once dedicated myself to creating a series of my own crappy Chinese flash cards. My learning did greatly improve. I am too lazy to do it again.
  • I get frustrated trying to use crappy software.
  • I get frustrated trying to use crappy software that’s trying to teach me characters not in the chapters of the book I’m studying.

This first-hand experience and my own inner turmoil between laziness and motivated learning provide the drive to get this app happening. And classes have started again and I already know I’m going to fall behind!

I know I can’t (hopefully) be the only person struggling through Chinese studies, so to help my fellow laowai/guilou brethren in our struggle to learn, I’ve started the first steps to create this remarkable software.¬†So what have you done so far Age, I hear you ask. Well, I’ve:

  • Written a functional specification in google docs outlining how I want this to work
  • Hired Sam Sui, a Chinese student / gun programmer studying here in Melbourne at Swinburne university to do the development work.
  • Arranged payment through barter of brand spanking new 2.4 Ghz macbook. Apple are so clever you can’t write apps for the iPhone unless you do it on a macbook. Very cunning.

I’m meeting Sam tonight to start working out time-frames, prioritising requirements and setting some goals.

The next steps are to:

  • Finalise the business plan (Anyone want to help with market research ?)
  • Look into state, federal and city level grants available here in Aus to fund future development work
  • And I’m thinking of enrolling the RMIT Business Plan competition (again). My win last time funded a trip to China and was the catalyst for new business. Who know what this time might bring? At a minimum I’ll get some good feedback.¬†

Now I know many of you, struggling through Chinese classes across this fine world will want to contribute. If you want to add your 2c to the requirements, feel free to contact me on or ab[at]bole[dot]com[dot]au.

Damn. It’s already March.

I haven’t even made a dent in my Christmas weight and February has already decided to pass us by. Given I’ll blink and it will be Christmas again I don’t want another year to go by and I don’t achieve something. Or at least try to achieve something.

I’ve decided that I will will establish at least 1 new ‘real’ business this year and in parallel, setup a few websites to see if there really is still an opportunity to make money online. ¬†I’ve got a great friend who lives off website income (or was before the financial crisis) and I figure it can’t be too hard to write a few blog posts.

My first target with my newly re-acquired motivation was to get this blog ( up and running. Iif you’re reading this, I guess it looks like I was successful. ¬†If you can’t read this, it looks like I skipped a step in the install or the site belongs to hackers.

The real business will focus on learning / education. A couple of options up my sleeve here. 

The other website businesses will cover a range of topics, primarily around things I’m interested in. I hope that my shameless selfishness in my choice of topics will provide an endless stream of content. This is pretty much already proven false as my other blog,, hasn’t had an update in weeks – and I work in that field every day.

So my working list of website topics will be kung fu, mandarin Chinese, innovation and entrepreneurship. Lets see what I actually produce. I aim to chronicle the struggle between my motivated side and my, shall we say, relaxed side in this blog  Рand hopefully a productive journey towards business success.

Stay tuned.