Tuesday, September 30, 2003

It's that Canadian smile.

Dashan has a contact address in Toronto. That's only five hours away...

4936 Yonge Street, # 118
Toronto, Ontario, M2N 6S3

History was a bust. I gave a bad answer that I thought was a good answer, and the prof passed the question on to somebody else. Then later I came out of nowhere and gave a good answer to a different question and prof Chang acted all surprised that I came up with it. Harrumph.

Then I spent the next three hours studying in the library. I got through two CCS 501 articles. We have ten this week. That means five tomorrow.

I read Julie's LiveJournal because phrases like this make me do a double-take:

it is to laugh!

Tomorrow's Brown Bag Lecture at the Center for Chinese Studies will be on Journey to the West by prof Ning Qiang. Seeing that I just read all 2000 pages of that book this summer, you can bet I'll be there.

Heh, I don't think anybody in my department knows I keep a weblog.

The funny thing is, most people know that Hu Jintao is not sincere when he exhorts citizens to study the three represents. Ahh, politics.

It's Monday morning. I neglected to bring one of the pre-packed lunches. I just bought a couple of hot dogs. Argh.

I realized that I have an aversion to technical jargon. I feel like I'm being arrogant and impolite if I speak in fancy words. It was something that plagued me at Caltech, and has followed me to Michigan. I think it comes from my proletariat class background.

I took a Chinese oral quiz this morning. I did badly. But that's OK. I never thought my conversational Chinese would be better than my in-class Chinese, but I've reached that point. So in a way that makes me happy. Watching episodes of Meteor Garden is paying off.

Monday, September 29, 2003

A little review of my weekend: Saturday morning I got a lot of stuff done around the house, including cleaning my room and the bathroom. I made a trip to Krogers, and then fixed a bunch of pre-packed lunches to take to school this week. Saturday afternoon I spent reading articles for CCS 501. Watched a couple episodes of Meteor Garden, and went to bed early. This morning I went to a new-members meeting for Harvest Mission church led by Pastor Seth himself, where he got real excited communicating his vision for the ministry here on campus, in the Ann Arbor business community, and around the world. In the afternoon, I made myself a ham-tomato-lettuce-avocado sanwich for lunch, rode to campus and spent 4 hours reading a book on reserve, and now I'm back to review Chinese and PoliSci before hitting the hay. And possibly watch another drama episode.

I've noticed a trend to my reading. I tend to pick up a looooong book, start reading, get through about 20 pages or so, then get real tired. I take a little cat-nap, ten minutes or so, and then I'm able to read with good concentration for three or four hours. Is that strange?

A beautiful review of Jhumpa Lahiri's new book, The Namesake.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Is anybody else saddened because all discussion about Democratic presidential candidates revolves around who would is the most electable? When did that become the prime quality people look for when deciding for whom to cast their vote?

At first when I heard about Mozilla doing a forward search upon typing any letter or number key, I thought that would be burdensome and annoying. Now, I can't live without it. Just another way to say goodbye to the rodent.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Access lasted longer than I expected, until 10 PM. Access is like another Sunday service, but geared more towards established Christians. Today's lesson was on relationships with "pre-Christians", Harvest-speak for unbelievers. The cool thing was that Pastor Seth did something I've always wished pastors would do: take questions at the end of the sermon. He fielded some good ones, like how we should relate to Catholic friends (discuss religion vs relationship), people who pepper you with deep theological questions (usually a smoke-screen for personal issues), and whether to go to wild parties with pre-Christian friends (use wisdom).

Afterwards, the grad students caravanned over to Yung's house for movie--Shaolin Soccer--and pizza night, and to design our banner for the upcoming H-Games (like the Olympics, but for Harvest Mission church). Ben and Andrew gave me a ride back -- both are engineers, Andrew is half-Korean so he has travelled around Asia a bit, and Ben speak Cantonese so he got all of the jokes in Shaolin Soccer, even the ones slaughtered in translation. Got back home at 2 AM. Time to watch another episode of Meteor Garden and then sleep.

Chinese this morning "transcurred" (that should be a word, cf Spanish) without incident. Popped in to discuss a topic for my PS 339 paper with the GSI (education reform in modern China). Brown bag lunch with Lieberthal saw discussion of the Cultural Revolution, and North Korea talk. Biked to the organic grocers to pick up some avocados, and then we couldn't find our language exchange friends to eat the avocados with. I'm in the computer lab printing out articles, which I will spend the next couple hours reading before Access church group at seven.

Virtualave, a web page hosting service, just migrated servers and the new service doesn't allow index-less web directories. So here is a redesign. It's supposed to be retro. I know of only two other places on the net with photos from the Princeton in Beijing 2000 program, and one of them I've lost track of. For Google's sake, two links: Princeton in Beijing 2000 by Yuh Wen Ling and Princeton in Beijing 2000 by Micah Sittig.

Hi, how is your research going?

When I bike to school, I keep a count of the roadkill on W Liberty Street. So far, it's up to three, two squirrels and a racoon. The second squirrel has been in the same spot, two houses down from 1606, for the past three days. Is there somebody who takes care of this stuff?

Friday, September 26, 2003

To read – Q+a: a magazine of art and culture.

Some days when I walk through the Diag, the big grassy area and plaza at the center of Central Campus, there is a guy out on the grass doing qigong excercises. He has a sign sitting on the grass and turned toward the walkway where students walk by. The sign talks about the persecution of Falun Gong members in mainland China. There are also some flyers for interested people to take. I've never seen him talking to anybody, usually sitting or standing with his eyes closed and breathing peacefully.

A set of articles that appear to have been abandoned on the Matador Records web site, and had a profound impact on me in the formative years of my adulthood: A Rational Argument for Lying on Surveys.

Tianjin weather has hit Ann Arbor. However, I'm in a position to cope because I've gotten two good pieces of advice. Corey from the Virginia house mentioned that he takes an extra pair of socks in his backpack on rainy days. Yung from Harvest Mission highly recommends layering clothes, because temperatures can vary from classroom to classroom, and it's nice to be able to strip down -- or up -- to the appropriate thickness of cover.

Nice full day today, but not a busy day.

Chinese class in the morning, where a rebellion is brewing. John and I have talked before about how our book is not the greatest. Today in class, one of the higher-level students came in a grumpy mood and let loose about how he's not learning much, a position I expressed my agreement with. I consider this class a sort of "stasis" until I go back to China. We're at a level where the language is not a mystery anymore, and learning is just a matter of memorizing more and more usage and vocabulary. It's very frustrating when the class feels like a Long March through an awful book, merely for the sake of finishing the book. We really can't blame the teacher -- she's never taught Chinese before, and she's really just subbing until the real teacher gets back. I'm not sure what the solution is -- my way of dealing with this has been to supplement the class with outside material: downloading Chinese mp3s and watching Taiwanese dramas. While ruining my accent, they nonetheless motivate me to persevere.

After Chinese, I brown-bagged lunch in the Social Work building, where the International Institute is. When it got noisy, I moved to my favorite desk in the grad library stacks and did the day's China Under Communism reading, interrupted only by a short nap and the creak of people walking on suspended marble floors overhead.

I had scribbled on my calendar that there would be a talk by a Dr Zha on Sino-Japanese relations at 4:30 PM, so I wandered down to the Education Building and found that a classmate of mine from CCS 501, Zhoufang, was actually hosting the talk. Since me and another waiguoren who spoke Chinese were the only non-native speakers there, the talk was conducted in Chinese. Of which I understood about half. So it was as much an excercise in language as a chance to hear about how China and Japan are getting along -- Just Fine, says Dr Zha. The main issues are stuff like Japanese omission of wartime atrocities in high school history textbooks, treatment of Chinese laborers in Japan, a mustard gas incident that I wasn't familiar with, etc. Dr Zha wondered if he was an "arrogant Chinese" for saying that Middle Easterners are hard to deal with and dishonest (he has done research in the oil business). We thought that was funny.

After that, I grabbed a couple of hot dogs from the stand outside the Social Work Building and walked to Dr Liberthal's China class which, as always, managed to keep me awake till the conclusion at 10 PM. Today we went over modern Chinese political history, from the end of the Great Leap Forward up to the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution and Hua Guofeng's arrest of the Gang of Four.

Xiao Chen and I chatted on the way to get my bike, which was nice because he's an older student and a Chinese teacher, and intimidated me a little.

Now I have to come up with a topic for my research paper in that class, so I can wake up early and swing by Krogers for some avocados. Long story! (but since when has that ever stopped me?)

Ugh, my first Verisign SiteFinder referral.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

My dream of opening a bookstore in Beijing is still alive. A New York Times story tells about the "abridgement" of Hillary Clinton's Living History in its Chinese translation. My dream is to bring uncensored books to China, even if they're only in English. And lots of copies of Lonely Planet - China.

Owning a bike with the gear-switcher mounted into the handlebar is great.

Busy day today, capped off by the Harvest Mission chuch grad Bible study. Harvest is a great group of people, very open and friendly. Bible study was a very positive experience.

I dumped a few of the mp3's that I've been enjoying lately in a folder on freeshell. Unless they push me over my quota too often, they should be up for a few weeks.

E.B.T.G vs Soul Vision - Lazy Dog Bootleg Vocal.mp3
F4 - Meteor Garden.mp3
Heartsdale - CANDY POP feat SOULd OUT.mp3
Utada Hikaru - Distance (MFlo Remix).mp3

Actually, tonight I'm rocking to the Sugarcubes. Bjork rules.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Since I used to lurk in alt.music.smash-pumkins, the story in which a rock star visits his own forum, but neglects to bring a valid I.D. is amusing.

People who browse the web with Lynx can do their own URL filtering. In the lynx.cfg file, look for the RULES section. For example, to go directly to New York Times print-ready articles, I wrote these rules:

RULE:Redirect http://www.nytimes.com/*.html http://nytimes.com/*.html?pagewanted=print
RULE:Redirect http://www.nytimes.com/*?hp http://nytimes.com/*?hp&pagewanted=print

RULE:Redirect http://nytimes.com/* http://www.nytimes.com/ RULE:Redirect http://www.nytimes.com/*.html http://nytimes.com/*.html?pagewanted=print&adxnnl=1 RULE:Redirect http://www.nytimes.com/*?hp http://nytimes.com/*?hp&pagewanted=print&adxnnl=1 RULE:Redirect http://www.nytimes.com/*?8hpib http://nytimes.com/*?8hpib&pagewanted=print&adxnnl=1

Amended April 2004 to bypass interstitial advertisements.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

At the moment, I'm in the Fishbowl, the main computer lab on campus. Half of the room is filled with Apples, half is PCs, and in the corner are three lonely Sun boxes -- mainly for use by students needing certain statistical packages. At certain times of the day, all of the Macs and PCs are occupied and you can see people wandering the aisles looking for an open computer. That never happens with the Sun boxes. Usually their big grey/lavender cases and 21 inch monitors scare most people away. That, and the big Do Not Turn These machines off! sign sign, to protect people that are logged in remotely. This means that 90% of the time I can walk up to a machine and immediately login. Plus these things login like a flash, whereas Macs take almost a minute and the PCs take even longer.

There are a few downsides, though. The Suns can't print to the lab printers, and the key in the upper-most right-hand side of the keyboard is not the backspace key, but the backtick, which is hecka annoying. Too often do I try to correct a mistake and end up with a string of backticks in my document.

Another downside is that these computer do weird things, both due to Solaris' user-unfriendliness and due to my unfamiliarity with the OS. For example, sometimes Netscape will stop displaying the pages it loads. Today that happened, so I quit Netscape and tried relaunching. No luck. I pulled up a terminal and killed all processes with 'nets' in their name: ps -u msittig | grep nets | awk '{ print $1 }' | xargs kill. Unfortunately, this didn't work and Netscape still wouldn't launch. At that point, I knew that if I logged out and logged back in, the problem would be solved. But was there another way to do it? In the same menu as "Log Out" was the "Restart Window Manager" option. Satisfying my curiosity, I chose to restart the window manager. That sent me into a blank screen, with nothing happening. At that point I started to worry: I had always had doubts about using the Suns for web surfing and e-mail, so I would rather not talk to the support staff. Luckily, the solution was not so hard. The notice to not turn off the machines said that the admin would be able to solve the problem remotely, so I set off to do that myself. I logged into another Sun (strudel), and ssh'ed back into the first one (pita). I then killed all of my processes in pita, at which point the blank screen disappeared and the login window popped up. Big relief, and a sense of victory -- enough to make me post to blogger about it.

Lieberthal is giving a talk today at the CCS, so I gotta run.

Blue sky this morning. Phew!

Today Ann Arbor got hit by the first big rainstorm since I've been here. Being a freshman, I naively pulled on my rainjacket and took off on my bike this morning. My bookbag kept the water out nicely, and the only problem with the raincoat is that it obscured my peripheral vision, a big handicap when crossing streets. The big bummer is that my jeans and shoes got soaked. Therefore, I resolve to buy an umbrella, and the next rainy day I will walk to school.

Other than that, I spent the entire day at school. I had a big paper to turn in at my 5:30 class, which I had only sketched an outline for yesterday -- the prof put a single copy of the book on reserve, which could only be checked out for 4 hours at a time. Ugh, very mafan. It was a seven page paper; I've never been so thankful for double spacing and big default margins.

For completeness, I'll finish off the day. After class ended at 7 PM, I set down in my favorite desk in the grad library stacks. In between two floors there is an old stairway right in the middle of two rows of bookcases. It start out of the middle of the floor and ascends diagonally to the next floor. For some unknown reason, a desk was placed below the sloped ceiling created by the stairway, with a comfy chair. I sat down and tried to read James Lee's One Quarter of Humanity: Malthusian Mythology and Chinese Realities but I kept nodding off, so I completed my somewhat more exciting Chinese homework and rode back home. Leftover Chinese take-out for dinner, pretzels and Grey Poupon -- my new favorite snack -- for dessert.

I think I'll watch another episode of Liuxing Huayuan (Meteor Garden) before I hit the hay.

Monday, September 22, 2003

I keep waffling on whether or not to get a cellphone. Everybody seems to have one, and when people exchange numbers it's always "Oh yeah, Micah doesn't have one." On the one hand, it would be convenient for people to call me so we could get together and do stuff at a moment's notice. On the other hand, I'm afraid I'd lose it, it's expensive, and I don't have that many friends anyway. Would somebody please make up my mind for me?

The compound commonly known as cinnabar has the chemical formula HgS, a combination of mercury and sulphide in one-to-one molar ratio. The chemical is formally known as mercuric sulphide. Compounds of mercury tend to be white powders, but mercuric sulfide is a deep red solid that turns black when exposed to sunlight (for long periods of time?). For its impressive red color, the Chinese--and I assume other civilizations--used cinnabar as a dye for cloth. Mercury can be extracted by heating mercuric sulfide past its melting point of 540 C, temperature at which the mercury will vaporize and can be collected.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Jin tha MC cameo in a New York Times editorial cartoon. (via Just A Gwailo)

In all sincerity, what a shame. Best of luck, TS Chang.

Web miscellany:

I'm Utsudon, dammit!

Ann Arbor has its share of stencil graffiti too, mostly Charlie Chaplin.

Via Upcoming:

October 31, 2003
Shonen Knife
Magic Stick
4120 Woodward
Detroit, Michigan 48202

A Google search for "anything is possible" returns zombo.com as the first result. I'm Feeling Lucky will take you right there.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

You know you're a China nerd when you go out for ice cream on a Friday night and pull out a blank map of the provinces to quiz your friends, and they consider it a personal challenge to name all of them, plus the major municipalities, plus the special administrative regions, plus the special autonomous regions. This could not make me more happy.

So I went out tonight with some of the kids from CCS. Last week's bar-hop didn't sit well with some of us, so we decided on ice cream and making it home at a decent hour tonight. Three got Ben and Jerry's, and three dug on gelato from American Spoon. Elisa enjoyed the free granola samples so much that she ended up buying a bag. Good late night snack. We moved on down to Main St, were some people suggested we could find a bar. I just happened to not bring my ID (I swear, it was an accident!) so we ended up at Cafe Oz, a hookah restaurant. Topics of conversation ranged from hip-hop dance, life changing experiences, Gong Li vs Zhang Ziyi vs Maggie Cheung (Ms Cheung any day), to gay clubs--I claimed I wouldn't be squeamish about going to one, which is partly true: I'd be more squeamish about the "club" part than the "gay" part. Thank goodness at the CCS nobody reads my weblog, so they don't realize how socially backwards I can be.

I need a haircut. I hope that doesn't mean I'm shallow.

Friday, September 19, 2003

It's so pleasant to be an MS in Chinese Studies. First off, by virtue of having commited to an MS my classmates are decidedly more studious than undergrads. Add to this the fact that conversations tend to migrate towards China topics sooner or later, which I'm both interested and confident in, and you get a very fertile and stimulating life.

This morning I heard the US ambassador to China speak at Hutchins Hall, in the UMich Law School. Here is a quick summary of what I caught, so I can write my Chinese homework on it later:

After 9/11, China stood by the US and helped by: closing the border to Afghanistan, sending a rep to Pakistan to urge them to distance themselves from the terrorists, and cooperating in securing ports and searching US-bound cargo containers. China did this to help the US, but also out of self-interest. China has problems with terrorists too, but the US says they should not use it as an excuse to harass ethnic minorities. China has advanced a lot since -namehere- went to China first in the 1970's: they now have 2 public stock exchanges, they entered the WTO, laws concerning village elections, entrepreneurs (*coughcapitalistscough*) joining the CCP. US interests in China have also advanced, from a 3 person commercial attache in the ambassador's garage when he got there to a 60 person office (biggest US commercial attache office in the world) these days. Told a story about to Wuhan railway and Alabama lawyers suing for $80 million, in order to illustrate points about odious debts and the Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976.

OK, will finish this later. Gotta run.

For people having problems with emacs and the backspace key, emacs thinking that the backspace key is Ctrl-h (or C-h, or ^H), I found the following in a Linux Keyboard HOWTO:

(keyboard-translate ?\C-h ?\C-?)
(keyboard-translate ?\C-? ?\C-h)

Ken Lieberthal and James Lee hosted a brown bag lunch today to share information about China among between profs, staff and students that are specifically researching China-related topics. It was really a lot of people, probably about two dozen. It was supposed to be informal, but with such a large group it's hard to have everyone participate. The topic that I was going to bring up, had I been called on, was put forth by my PS 339 GSI (who was also there): the Chinese government recently lifted the requirement of seeking permission from work units when people get married, divorced, or apply for a passport. Prof Lieberthal said that this reflected the growth of the private sector. I'll post some more notes from the meeting later. Now I'm off to dinner, and then Lieberthal's class at 7 PM.

I have to find out when Asians in American Film and Television meets.

Thursday, September 18, 2003


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Gosh, I'm so Windows. Like I mentioned, I set up screen all fancy-like by investing some time customizing .screenrc. I made several screen windows launch when I type screen, and I also bound the function keys (F1 through F10) to different windows. Well I got tired of forgetting which key is which window each time I switched tasks, so I cut out a piece of paper to fit around the function keys and wrote labels below each key: UMich, SDF, Web, Music, JEM, Torrent #1, Torrent #2, shell. It's like one of those Windows multimedia keyboards.

Ugh. Dirty.

Long and uneventful day today. In the morning I went to Chinese class. Spent some time on the computer, then biked back home. Set off to Krogers on my bike, which is the opposite way from campus. The scenery along the road is just beautiful; for some strange reason the land around here is developed in patches, meaning that bits and pieces of forest spring up, even along Liberty Street. Before Krogers, I stopped at an "organic market," which turned out to be a lot like Trader Joes.

A little tangent about organic/synthetic, and the economics of the difference. Cancer rates are much higher than they've ever been. People wonder why. Some blame pollution, others blame chemicals in paint or asbestos. The real reason, I believe, is what we purposefully ingest every morning, afternoon and evening: food. Which is not really food anymore. Most of it is hand-... no, test-tube crafted in factories around the world. It isn't even grown, really. Assembled, you might say. I read a chapter from Eric Schlosser's (SP?) Fast Food Nation which pretty much confirmed my suspicion. Guys in lab coats in New Jersey develop the tastes we eat. But not only these chemicals. You might assume, then, that it would be safe to eat fruits and vegetables, or unprocessed meats. But no. Plants these days are so fertilized and pesticided that they too are full of weird and wonderful man-made chemicals. Meat? Hormones and drugs are what you're looking at there.

Truly organic food is very scarce, and hence very valuable -- at least in the United States. You would have to search in organic markets to find this stuff, and it costs twice as much as a manufactured copy at, say, Krogers or Luckys. Why the difference? We're not only paying for scarcity -- this wouldn't explain why organic markets still exist. The difference in price exists because people accept lower quality foods in order to feel better about paying less, and to have extra money to go to Lake Tahoe on vacation. People are willing to sacrifice their long-term health for usually short-term financial utility.

If I were to truly believe this, and act upon it, I would be shopping at farmers' markets and buying exclusively organic products. I don't at the moment. My long term plan is to get some marketable skills and then move to a place like China, India or Pakistan where people are more sensible about what they put in their mouths.

Yah, either that, or just forget about the whole thing and live with the consequences of our collective irresponsibility.

I've digressed far too long, so I'll keep it short. Came back from the grocery store loaded down with $60 worth of groceries (about two weeks, it'll last me). I decided in the past week that I was going to eschew window managers on my computer, so I've set the initrc to boot me into runlevel 3, which means no more pretty pictures on my screen, only text. Also, for those familiar with computer terms, the screen program is my new best friend. I've got the Function keys (F1, F2, &c) mapped to different screen windows, all very convenient. I've got these programs running: ssh'ed into school for pine, lynx in a couple windows, bittorrent downloads running in a couple more, and of course a music window for mpg123'ing songs. All good stuff. A good day. Now I just gotta type up a couple page paper on Ken Pomeranz's The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy.

In his latest post, Zeldman proves that accesibility is, in the end, in the hands of the designer. XHTML and stylesheets are only tools, and if you don't put alt tags (or title tags) in links to images, seeing-impaired and lynx-using web browsers won't get the joke, or insight, or whatever Zeldman was trying to illustrate.

This comment is, of course, just the humble offering of a web design newb to the master. Zeldman's weblog rocks.

On a scholastic note, I've spent a lot less on books this year. Liberal arts books are cheaper, though more books are assigned. The New York Times notes that less students are buying all the required books for class. In my case, books for several of my classes sold out and I ended up ordering them used on Amazon. Probably saved some cash, too.

Sometimes scanning through my logs I see a repeat visitor whose identity I'd really like to know. For example, that person in Malaysia who used to visit every couple of weeks. Nowadays, it's the person at foresight.wag.caltech.edu. Who are you? Should I implement/enable comments so I can find out who these people are?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The Chinese adjective jiao1, translated as "sqeamish," consists of the 'woman' radical on the left-hand side, and the right-hand side of 'bridge' on the right-hand side. Coincidence?

Yah, North Korea does some pretty strange stuff. (from the Free North Korea weblog.)

Photos of Chinese kids are da bomb.

Oh my gosh, I updated my GeoURL today and found out that I've moved to two miles from 0xDECAFBAD, who has a spot on Simon Willison's blogroll.

It rained heavily last night, but today is turning out to be a beautiful day. Whoever told me about Michigan weather must have been kidding... right?

Also, I dropped a couple of photos from the CCS & CJS picnic onto my webspace at UMich.

Monday, September 15, 2003

For study purposes, today I post a link to a blank map of China's provinces.

Went to the Campus Chapel Reformed Church service this morning. It's a small church and tends more towards a more liturgical (is this the right usage?) service. I've decided that it's too hard to judge a church by the service, that I really need to connect with people more, and that what is likely to make or break a church experience is the small group.

The rest of the day I'll spend in the library working on Ancient China in Transition.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

General commentary on contemporary Internet issues:

  1. RSS is too close to regular ol' XHTML with Netscape-style subscriptions. For this reason, it will never catch on unless it changes radically.
  2. If the New York Times adopted micropayments (a la 25 cents per older article; heck, maybe even a dollar) they would take off in popularity.
  3. The new Blogger features rock. i'm still looking forward to entry templates, as yet unimplemented.
  4. Whoever comes up with an authentification method for e-mail that eliminates spam will become a worldwide celebrity and possibly a millionaire. Regular e-mail would then become like what Usenet newsgroups are today.

F4 episode synopses.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Elissa's birthday gave a bunch of us CSS students an excuse to go out tonight. We bar-hopped through Ann Arbor, and ended up leaving her house at 4:20 in the morning. Consumed over the course of the night: half a glass of pear cider, a bottle of creme soda, a bottle of root beer, chips, carrots and water. Fun group. Everybody is very old. I'm not the youngest, though.

My brother would probably laugh at me because of his mad Photoshop skillz, but I just learned the basic of GIMP mask layers. My beautiful work is on display as the banner of China, California, Books (I suppose China, Michigan, Books would be more appropriate).

Then consequence of EasyJet and Ryanair-level airplane ticket prices: rowdy Brits invade Europe.

In the last few years, a new kind of British tourist, lured by cut-rate airlines whose flights can cost as little as $25 or less, has descended on Prague in unprecedented numbers, apparently with one goal in mind: to drink as much as possible. Wasted and aggressive, in drag or wearing only underpants, they spend weekends staggering in packs from bar to bar near Wenceslas Square. So troublesome have they become that some places refuse to serve Britons who arrive in large groups.

Just came back from lunch with prof Lieberthal. Fascinating speaker, even in this informal setting. He touched briefly on his time in Washington, but spent most of lunch talking about the North Korea situtation, possible Taiwan showdown scenarios, and his trips to China (about 10 a year!). He really has a soft spot for North Korea, especially in light of what awful shape the country is in. It's fascinating and admirable what a passion he feels about certain subjects and people, something I've been trying to emulate in myself. I figure it's better than apathy, as long as you put careful thought into what you get passionate about.

An encouraging thing he mentioned is that he only got interested in China during grad school in potical science, as he had been a Russia major in his undergrad years. There is hope!

Friday, September 12, 2003

Had a great talk with Deng laoshi this morning on the difference between gui xun zi and hun dan.

It was foggy but turned into a beautiful day. Chinese class in the morning. For lunch I picked up a Polish sausage dog, coke and bag of chips. There are three different hot dog stands on campus, serving beef hot dogs (US$ 1), polish/italian/jumbo sausages (US$ 2+), cokes and chips. The condiment bar has ketchup, several mustards, pickles, pickle relish, onions, jalapeño peppers... I sat on the sunny grass and read Wild Swans. Ran around on my bike picking up health-care papers, buying a 3-hole punch and white envelopes at Ulrich's, and finally descending into the Grad library stacks for some quiet reading. PS 339/691 section -- I'm impressed by how analytical liberal arts students can be, it makes me aware of the advantages of an American-style education. The fun thing is that next week in section there will be a map quiz where we have to label every one of the twenty something provinces in China on a blank map. That's right up my alley, and a skill that will come in handy. Evening class with Lieberthal was very cool, as it was last week. I try to be intimidated of him because he knows so much about China -- and Russia too -- but he is disarmingly friendly and enthusiastic. Several times each class I try to imagine him and Bill Clinton, standing in a White House hall, discussing a pressing Asia issue.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Blogger Pro now free to all. The genius in this is the free Blogger sweatshirt for Blogger Pro subscribers. Google rocks.

I biked to school to meet with a classmate at 8am. It was foggy.

Went out to dinner with a buncha CCS students tonight after CCS 501. Spicy Korean squid, good stuff. I love to sit around and chat with people about China. And random other stuff, like languages and kickboxing.

Two intelligent people talking about syndication format wars portends something interesting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

My mom said she's interested in the bad news too. Hmm. Too much reading, too little time. Depressed that I'm behind other people in the quality of my writing and critical thinking. Textbook hassles with stores being sold out (thank goodness Amazon sells used books). I think I pulled a few muscles in the bike accident, doing sit-ups too quickly, playing table tennis. The kitchen is still a mess so I haven't done any experimental cooking, not to mention that there is one single serrated knife that is adequately sharp. Still dealing with newbie stuff: can't find this place, don't know who to talk to about that matter, don't know the shortcuts through campus -- big ups to Shirley for teaching me to swallow my pride and ask for help, it comes in handy. The Chinese teacher is great, but she's teaching from a really awful textbook that she can't do much about because she's a sub. I feel her pain.

Maybe I look at the world through silver-lining-ed glasses -- that's also my mom's fault -- but it's easier for me to focus on the good stuff. It's a great relief to finally have a bike, and shave a couple of hours worth of commute time off each day. The table tennis club meets four (4!) times a week, for two hours each night. Reading for class is a pleasure, because it's all material I enjoy. Had a great time chewing through Sen's ideas about "capabilities and functionings" with John on Sunday night deep in the Grad Library stacks; it's something I really missed at Caltech that we always had at home around the dinner table, deep discussions on heavy topics. My Timbuk2 bookbag came sooner than I expected, so no more toting around plastic bags or over-sized backpacks. Lots of good stuff, I'm glad to report.

It's getting chilly at night. One blanket added to the bed.

Oh, and I decided no more Japanese drama (only the occasional HeyHeyHey). If I'm going to aim towards Chinese fluency by taking the class, I should watch Taiwanese dramas if anything.

Re-discovering Usenet newsgroups


Zwan members are "moving on" and that James Iha has joined the band A Perfect Circle.


Pinkerton is the best Weezer album, though some consider it to be in a dead heat with the Blue album.

>Does anyone know the Spanish etymology for this word?  I've associated the
>two since learning that language in high school.  Does embarrassment have a
>semantic link with becoming pregnant, or is it a mere play on words?

The root meaning of the words "embarrass" / "embarazar" is to
obstruct, to encumber. The Spanish word's use was extended to refer to
a woman's period of "encumbrance". The English word's use was extended
to refer to a feeling that one is being encumbered by
self-consciousness, by humiliation.

Harlan Messinger

Also this choice quote: Chinese is a kazoo, but its literature is a violin. And I alway wondered about this:

As for the original of <ling2> as zero: <ling2> is the sound of falling
rain, hence to fall (as in leaves fall), hence the remainder (what's
left behind after the leaves fall), or odd change.  E.g., <ling2 qian2>
[~ "money"] is small change.  301 would be <san3 bai3 ling2 yi1> --
literally, three hundred [plus] "odd change" [of] one.  In practice,
it becomes a place holder for a missing digit, very much like the way
the circular glyph is used in the original Indian numeric system.  The
meaning of "zero" (meaning nothing) is entirely modern.  Perhaps
the Japanese started that usage first.


Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Class Details
Class Number Begin Date -
End Date
Subject Description Section Grading Basis Credits Taken ULWR Status Wait
12579 09/02/03 - 12/10/03 Asian Languages - 301 3rd Yr Chinese I Recitation
NotforCrdt 5.000 N Waiting 8 Lin
32720 09/02/03 - 12/10/03 Chinese Studies - 501 China Social Science Seminar
Graded 3.000 N Enrolled   Park
13659 09/02/03 - 12/10/03 History - 668 Early Chin Hst Recitation
Graded 3.000 N Enrolled   Chang
36380 09/02/03 - 12/10/03 Political Science - 691 Directed Reading Ind Study
Graded 4.000 N Enrolled   Lieberthal

Term Credits Total: 10.000

... where Political Science 691 is the graduate credit version of "Evolution of China Under Communism."

Monday, September 08, 2003

Went to New Life church this morning with John. More ethnically diverse, very interesting speaker who combined anecdotes, quips and the message well. Afterwards we swung by the MUG for lunch at Subway. I met John's friend Paul from international school in Korea. John invited me to soccer at the fields near the medical center but I'm going to be a little late because I've been obsessed with doing the reading. Isn't that what a grad student is supposed to do?

Sunday, September 07, 2003

BitTorrent is a program that helps you to download files, which are usually big files like movies, operating systems, or other large programs. The reason BitTorrent is so good for downloading is that you don't just download stuff from the person who had it first, you download from the source person and from everybody else who was downloading it when you started. So you effectively have as many sources as there were people participating in the download when you began. This multi-source method not only lets you download more quickly, it also reduces the chance that the source person will be overwhelmed with download requests by distributing the task around the group of people that are all downloading simultaneously.

Now that we know what BitTorrent is, I can explains that I've been using it to download episodes of Japanese drama. Over the past few days, I've nabbed two episodes of Shotgun Marriage (Dekichatta Kekkon), and I'm working on the second and third episodes of Home & Away.

I also searched out a Usenet server (let's not get into that) that carries alt.binaries.japanese.multimedia, where people post avis of Japanese dramas and TV shows. It makes me very happy that somebody is posting the latest episodes of Hey Hey Hey, Music Champ. The most recent one available is September 1st.

Oh, and it just hit me today how much reading I have to do: A Lot. I'm working on it.

Oh my gosh, there's a whole Brea Olinda high school community on Xanga. And even a webring for some of it.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Went shopping tonight with roomies Clapperton, Anderson and Marta. Inspired by Annie I bought burrito stuff: tortillas, black beans, tomatoes, cheese, salsa. Also, kiwis, peaches, pears, tortilla chips, ramen & udon noodles, peach Jumex, Kroger-brand raisin bran. Combined with what I have, this should last two or three weeks. Eating in really does save money.

Darnit. I had a huge post written up and Blogger ate it. Here is the gist of it:

Chinese class this morning. The teacher should give us quizzes on the tones, like at Princeton in Beijing. I will suggest it.

Picked up my bike today. There's nothing so liberating as a set of wheels. Had a spectacular accident, scraping my elbow and pulling a calf muscle. NO DAMAGE!!

Picnic for CCS and CJS MA's at Gallup Park today, organized by the saintly Maryellen. Wonderful people, gorgeous weather, and plenty of food. Big ups to John for the ride.

I'm downloading Japanese drama with Bittorrent. Net monitor showed 133K per second at one point (grain of salt: half of that is upload). Yeehaw.

I ordered the Timbuk2 bag. Brown on the sides, dark blue in the middle, with a handle and shoulder strap.

Friday, September 05, 2003

I bought a bike today. I finally gave up on comparison shopping; it's kinda hard to reach other stores when you don't have a means of transportation. Anyhow, I will be riding a Raleigh M30 mountain bike. Nice grippy tires for when it snows, suspension fork on the front, fancy motorcycle-style gear switcher. I'm getting a rack attached on the back so I can mount a crate or box to toss stuff in. Look for me zooming around Ann Arbor.

New vocab word for the day: chillaxed.

Attended Ken Lieberthal's class tonight. I had heard from Mark that he is a good speaker and that students learn a lot in his class. He lived up to this reputation, I think. The impression that I got was that he knows so much about China, and that he regrets the class is only a semester long because we will only scratch the surface of his knowledge of the subject at hand, the evolution of China in the communist era. Today he covered a general survey of China, and why we should study it: it's important, it's exciting, and it provides a framework for studying topics of general importance to the world. Then he talked about the culture, philosophy, and polity of government in imperial China. While answering a question about whether Confucianism helped to unify China under the Qin dynasty after the Warring States period (answer: not really), he mentioned that a factor that did help to unify the country was the character-based, non-alphabetic writing system With so many dialects in China, it was a writing system that travelled well across linguistic borders. That's an interesting argument for continuing to use characters. I'm going to try and float it on the China Weblog.

Lieberthal also has weekly optional China brown-bag lunches where students can come and talk about China with him, be it stuff we're covering in class or even tangential topics. Nice.

Good news, too. When I checked the web page to register for the class, it was already full. All six sections. There must be a hundred students enrolled in this class. Prof Lieberthal is a good teacher, so the class is very popular. Luckily, the six CCS students in the class all approached him together and he said it would be no problem to get us registered.

Stopped by the New York Pizza kitchen dinner for a slice of feta cheese, onion, and sun-dried tomato pizza. Yum.

Donations support fansubbing.

Via blawdiggity -- Hetban Cooked Rice: pre-steamed and easy to eat, Cheiljedang brings you healthy white rice in two minutes with its own microwavable container. Simply heat in your microwave and serve. All the goodness of whole white rice without the mess!

Also at iKoreaPlaza, canned pupas (as in larvae): a favorite healty snack for Koreans for a long time.

OK, how weird is this. There's a girl sitting across the way in the computer hall that has a Timbuk2 bag. I just ordered one yesterday.

I arrived an hour early and scrambled around campus this morning to find a Chinese textbook because the bookstore is sold out. No luck. So for twenty minutes I went in to the graduate student library. On the second floor is a reference and reading room, which is absolutely beautiful, just like I imagined a university library should be: dark wood panelling, lamps on the tables, a high vaulted ceiling painted with figures from classical mythology. And quieter than any place on campus I've visited. We'll see if this beats studying in the Michigan Union study hall.

This morning was Chinese class - listening comprehension. The teacher would read a question using one of the lesson grammar patterns and students would translate to English, then try try to answer. Our teacher will not call on people, she begs us to volunteer. Somehow it's working -- I expect that in the long run this strategy will pay off. I can see how it could possibly backfire: students never respond, and the teacher gets frustrated. But I think that if they teacher responds positively to student answers and lightens the pressure ("This is not for a grade," "now is your best chance to practice speaking."), then students will gain confidence and not need so much prompting.

This afternoon the Diag saw the holding of the annual Festi-Fall, basically a club rush. Only a few political clubs, lots of ethnic clubs (geez, how many Asian American clubs do you need!), fraternities and sororities, and sports groups including the table tennis club. Of course, I flubbed my first impression by called the paddle a "racket." Argh. Weird clubs: the board game club, the knitting club, the gamers' club, the squirrel -- if you come to Ann Arbor, you will understand -- club. Of particular interest is a magazine of Asian American culture produced by students here on campus: Shei magazine. I mainly visited the church and Bible study groups -- Harvest Mission is great, but I want to give other groups a chance.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Wednesday. Today was a day of much running around, carrying heavy books all day, and attending several classes.

First off, Chinese language. I still don't have the book -- Shaman bookstore ran out, and they're re-ordering. Today a few people volunteered to read over the lesson. Not being conceited, but I don't volunteer for this stuff because I think my accent is pretty good. I'm proud of my Beijing/Tianjin accent. Aftterwards, we volunteered answers to the discussion questions. I came up with some answers, but I didn't speak out. I probably should, there is a Korean guy in the class whose level is around mine who spoke. That's it, tomorrow I'll speak out in class. Besides, it'll make Deng laoshi happy -- she's having a hard time getting people to speak right now, but she's a good teacher: she lectures us about how it's best to be thick-skinned to learn a language, and you can tell she means it. And she's from Beijing, which scores bonus points.

Modernism and Modernity in East Asian Fiction is a small class. Six people came today, and I'll likely be dropping it. That's too bad, because it sounds like a great class: it tries to answer what modernism/modernity are through works of fiction from China, Japan, Korea, and as an experiment, two Asian-American writers. Coincidentally, I recently read a short summary of the principles of modernism. While we were dropping my sister off at Wheaton, I leafed through a friend's copy of A Primer on Postmodernism by Stanley J. Grenz, which argues that Christians should judge postmodernism by its cover and discard it, but examine it for its valid criticisms of the modernist view and examine what one Amazon review calls the good parts of postmodernism, the parts that speak truth about God and the world we live in. I could probably write a big review on this, but I'll probably do that after a more careful reading (I've ordered it).

Class ended early, so I dropped my stuff off in the CCS office with Peggy. Greeted Dr Lee, back from doing research in China and now heading the CCS at Michigan. Talked to Mary Ellen about FLAS details. Walked across the street from the School for Social Work, to the busy corner in front of Ulrich's bookstore where there is a hot dog stand. A college student with a large Insane Clown Posse tattoo on his arm served me up two beef hot dogs and a Sprite for three bucks. Nice! A little ketchup, spicy mustard, relish, no onions, and lunch was set.

At 4pm, CCS 501 started. CCS 501 is an interdisciplinary China seminar intended for CCS Masters students. The first semester will be co-taught by Albert Park, of the econ department, and James Lee of sociology. The course will cover topics from both of their fields, which is supposed to be an interesting idea: almost all schools frown on cross-disciplinary co-teaching like this. The syllabus is 19 pages long -- 19 pages of references to articles and books that we'll be reading over the semester. That's insane. Nonetheless, it should be enjoyable. This class is nice in that it has no big papers besides a weekly 1-2 page reaction to the reading, and in that all of the CCS MA's are gathered together in one place, including the second year students.

Back home for dinner and bed. Gonna try this early to bed and early to rise thing.

I've got a mix of soft Japanese ballads on right now: Naotaro Moriyama, Kimura Yoshino, Mr Children, Oda Kazumasa, Southern All Stars, and Tamaki Koji. Bad news on the drama front: Wizzywig, which rents a ton of anime videos and DVD's, does not do dramas. Something about distribution rights. I'm very disappointed. I'm still following up a lead on a Japanese supermarket north of the River. Times like this, I miss having a car.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Games & Diversions sponsored by HMCC was fun. The upper level of the Chemistry Building atrium had snack stands and tables, serving smoothies, popcorn, nachos, corn dogs... The lower level had benches, rugs, board games and video games, including Halo projected onto a large screen. I spent some time playing Halo, and Taboo the party game. In the process, also met some new people and renewed acquaintances; names I remember: John, Jimmy, Eugene, Pete, Rebi, Nickey, Rose, Pastor Andrew, Henry, Mark, Dan, (the other) Micah... gosh, so many names. Nickey was a Spanish major as an undergrad, spent some time in Madrid and Santander, and speaks great Spanish. In the end, I lost track of time and stayed until about 10pm.

First class today, Chinese 3. I'm one of two (possibly three) grad students in a class of almost twenty. Still, it means I'm at the upper end of the curve. When I started taking Chinese at Occidental, it was discouraging how good the other kids were. I felt like, no matter how much I studied, the other students would always be using words in their essays that I didn't know, and cracking jokes with the teacher that I didn't understand. I know that's part of learning a new language, but it's still very discouraging. I hope I can be more encouraging to my fellow students as we all struggle together.

New vocab:

吓得跟什么似的 (xia4 de shen2 me si4 de)
something like: scared of/like anything. Variations (courtesy of sina.com): " 我吓得什么都不记得啦 ", " 吓得跟猴似的 " (scared like a monkey) and " 骂人好大声,常常被他一骂吓得什么都忘记了 "

My Chinese class ran for an hour starting at 10am. Afterwards, I talked with John for a bit, printed out this month's calendar, stopped by the ATM, picked up a course packet for CCS 501 from Duplication ($34 and about two inches thick), and walked home. Ham sandwich, apple and grapes for lunch. Washed down with Black Cherry Kool-aid. Slashdot, New York Times, and now I'm off to study. Nothing doing until 7pm tonight, Games & Diversions in the Chemistry Atrium sponsored by HMCC.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Did I mention that I like calendars.net?

Thank goodness I moved to Ann Arbor, where I can run down to Wizzywig Collectibles for a Mini Moni beach towel.