Sunday, November 28, 2004

I'd like to get out of Shanghai sometime in the next few months. The question is, where should I go? What I should really do is make a trip back to the States, pick up some stuff from Michigan and reconnect with the family in California. What I'd really like to do at the moment is to go back to Beijing, hang out with Tianjin folks, see who is passing through The City, catch a show or two at the Nameless Highlands, a Beijing opera performance at the Chang'an Theater... This sudden onset of nostalgia was precipitated by my stumbling onto Helena's new weblog. Helena was one of the people whose excitement about Beijing really seemed to be on the same plane as mine. Sounds like she's having fun.

Then again, there's always Thailand...

I have a case of pink-eye in my left eye. It has been there for about five days now. I finally went to the pharmacy at the prodding of Chen Yaling and bought some medicine. The lady at the counter gave me a choice: 西药 or 中药, western medicine or Chinese medicine. The box of western medicine had an English name and description below the Chinese. It had some chemical name, and was meant to treat a certain specific set of conditions of the eye. The Chinese medicine was completely in Chinese. Its main ingredient is some sort of plant extract, as far as I understand. The counter lady said that the Chinese medicine would take a little longer to heal my eye. It was also a little cheaper, about RMB 16 compared to RMB 27 or so.

I went with the Chinese medicine. Chen Yaling approved. I don't really trust medicine anyways.

Last night I went out to dinner with a bunch of folk: Asa, Vespertilia, Mike, a couple of German guys, and a handful of Chinese metal-heads and a punk rocker. As usual, I didn't talk much around people I don't know well. So let me give my responses here to some of the things that were said last night:

First, Chinese people hating Japanese is a mark of weakness and low self-confidence. Also, Japanese people not accepting their own history of wartime atrocities is a mark of weakness and low self-confidence. In the end, it's like Mike said: we may come from different cultures and grown up socialized in different ways, but in the end most people are united by the common traits of laziness, boring-ness, and selfishness. We're not so different after all.

Second, the idea that too many foreigners at "underground" rock concerts in Beijing is killing the scene is one of the most incredibly stupid things I've heard. Anybody who is focused on "creating a scene" purely for its own sake is chasing after the wind; enjoy music, make friends, and a scene will develop on its own. If you have to micro-manage who attends what concerts, it wasn't worth bothering in the first place.

We had dinner at a little Chinese place, drank down an endless supply of Suntory, picked up another case at a convenience store, moved on to a skewered lamb place, and chatted till two in the morning. And if John reads this, here's the retort that I didn't think of until 15 minutes later: I don't ask folks for their passports when I make them my friends.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

34' 03" N Los Angeles USA
31' 10" N Shanghai China

Is it freezing in Brea like it is here?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Life in Shanghai can be pretty boring, especially if you don't know anybody, tend to work late, don't speak the language, etc. Luckily, these don't really apply to me. Here's my calendar for this current week:

  1. Monday 11/22: I don't remember what I did on Monday. Probably go to bed early.
  2. Tuesday 11/23: Went over to John's house for dinner, conversation, and to use the computer. Stayed late.
  3. Wednesday 11/24: Went out to a hot-pot dinner with Jodi, then dancing at Rojam with Jodi and Lisa, co-workers. Found the hip-hop room in the back of the club to be the most fun.
  4. Thursday 11/25: All-you-can-eat Thanksgiving buffet at the fancy Sofitel in the Pudong section of Shanghai with John and Brad. I ate too much!
  5. Friday 11/26: I have a "meet me after work" on the calendar with Chen Yaling, the girl I was introduced to through work. We'll see where that goes.
  6. Saturday 11/27: Beijing punk band Joyside is playing at a mysterious location somewhere in Shanghai. A few people from the Shanghai Expat message boards should be there.

I also managed to upload a bunch of photos from the digital camera onto the server. They're worth checking out.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Last night I went to the November Shanghai Weblogger Meet-up. It was a group of about a dozen webloggers meeting in a nice apartment, eating Papa John's pizza, and talking about stuff (somewhat) related to weblogs. Fons Tuinstra was there, as well as featured guest Andrew Lih, journalism prof at Hong Kong University. Most of the time was spent talking about journalism and current events, Clash of Civilizations. The evening's topics had a highly journalistic bent to them, because of the guest speaker and because most of the people attending (or at least, most of the talkative ones) were journalists by profession. Other topics included RSS feeds, an enthusiastic recommendation to check out Bloglines, accessing Gmail smoothly from China (use https), and podcasting.

Personally, I think there's waaaay too much hype surrounding pod-casting, most people don't realize that implementing it just involves uploading audio files to the web server and adding a couple new tags to your RSS feed text file. No new file formats or amazing software involved. Even implementing a podcasting client would be extremely simple.

That said, the discussion of pod-casting did remind me of something. After work yesterday, John asked me if I had any plans for this month's pay; I told him that I planned to save it and build up a little nest egg before I make any large purchases. But the podcasting discussion reminded me that for a long time, probably going on a dozen years now, I've wanted a minidisk player. For one, it plays music in digital CD quality. Second, you can swap disks with other friends who own minidisk players. Third and key, you can buy a good microphone and record ambient sound with it, eg concerts, and street noises. The alternative would be to buy a good MP3 player. 考虑考虑.

Anyways, back to the Weblogger Meetup.

I'll probably try to make the next one. Fons says that we could probably get Isaac Mao, China blogger evangelist, to attend. That would be cool, as I can see the conversation steering more towards blogging technology and local China webloggers. It was fun mentioning Wang Jianshuo to somebody other than John and getting a chuckle.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

It's that time again, time for a picture caption post!:

There's this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant just outside the building our offices are in where I pick up lunch every day. Pretty much every other day I pick up the 五香茄子, the Five Fragrance Eggplant (more like, eggplant in brown pork sauce). Because it's so darned good.

About a week ago, I went out with Asa to this vegetarian restaurant on West Nanjing Road. But vegetarian in China is different than in the US, because here vegetarian is all about imitating meat with veggies; looking at the menu, at first we figured that they had some vegetarian dishes. But it turns out that if you order the 糖酥排骨, the sweet-and-sour pork, you will get a completely vegetarian dish. I can't remember exactly what we got, it was something like a lamb dish, a pork dish, a chicken dish and a couple of veggies. Cheap too.

I wrote up a small review recently of a concert in Xujianhui I went to with Asa. I took a picture with my cellphone. The review has details.

Every light rail station has a signal light at the end of the platform. They're sorta old-school, I've gotten some neat pictures of them with my camera.

Just so you can see how close my apartment is to the light rail station, I took this picture. The apartment building on the right? I live on the far side of it. Straight ahead, you will run into a fence, then right behind that fence is the station. In fact, the black smudge in the photo above the cars is the big sign on the wall of the station that says 金沙江路站, Golden Sands River Road Station.

This weekend I was very domestic. I had bought this vynil, water-proofing paper at Carrefour a while ago. I used it to line the cupboards on Sunday. They look very nice in checkered blue and white, and give the impression of being much cleaner. The more I fix up the kitchen, the more comfortable I feel fixing food in there.

"Please hitch the dog." A sign near my regular pre-school.

I went out to lunch today with a few people from work. We went to this great place hidden away in the Changshu Road area. They have a great lunch special. Their design is very industrial.

Monday, November 08, 2004

So my birthday was last Wednesday. I figured I would call up Asa, maybe ask John out for a quiet dinner sometime the weekend after. But my co-workers had other plans.

The Sunday previous I got a text message from John; it was something along the lines of him knowing of a concert on Tuesday at a bar near work through a former student of his from Hangzhou, and that I should bring my camera because his was acting up. Little did I know that this was pretty much entirely fabricated, although considering I've written before about the "ability to have complete faith in another human being", it shouldn't come as a surprise that I swallowed the story hook, line and sinker.

So on Tuesday after work, all of our co-workers file out of the office. John and I shut the windows, lock the door and punch out. The he takes me on this long walk, pretending to lose his way and then find it again. As we "get close to the place", he mentions that I should check out a certain restaurant around here. In fact, since we are "a little early", why don't we just go up and take a look? Well, the restaurant is called 东北人, Northeasterner, and since I spent a year in Tianjin I thought it would be worth checking it out. We climb the stairs to the second floor (the first floor is a Xinjiang/Western China restaurant), and as we come up to the eating area I follow John to the right and see a table full of Melody teachers. Being both naive and thick-skulled, I still think that this is just a coincidence. That is, until they shout out "Happy Birthday" and I somewhat realize that I've been had. Somehow, I'm not bitter about this at all.

The party was great. We ordered bunches upon bunches of different dishes: noodles, meats, eggplant (of course), multi-colored dumplings, different green veggies, peanuts, some things I didn't recognize... Surprisingly, nobody drank; maybe that's the advantage of working in an office full twenty-something women. But still, they managed to get pretty silly without alcohol, sending everybody around to toast me with tea in the local dialect of their place of origin (about half the girls are from outside Shanghai). Of course, there was some flirting with the waiters ("tell the one 帅哥 come sing to us again!") and plenty of teasing the unattached teachers. At the end, we feasted on birthday cake with cherry tomatoes as one garnish, and I received presents from a few people.

Just as we were about to get up and leave, the waiting staff brought out a bowl of 长寿面, a traditional birthday bowl of noodles—actually, a long single noodle in broth meant to be sucked up in a single piece. I swear I didn't break it; there were two pieces in there!

I'll post some pictures when I get onto the computer tomorrow afternoon. Check back at this post. For now, all I've got is a group shot.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

I like making things. I made a few new things tonight. If you're reading this on the collective weblog, you are seeing the new things I made on the right hand side of the page.

On the upper right is a comment form. I decided it would be too laborious to add comments to every post in a way that would make it obvious who had commented on what post. So I created a general comment column. Feel like I'm not writing enough? Let me know. Feel like I wrote a particularly moving column? I'd be glad to hear about it. Overhear something funny on your way to work? Attribute it to the "random guy on the street" and let me know by adding it to list of "quotes". Thanks.

The other thing I made is just below it, under the picture of the phone. The picture of my phone. This is a weblog that I can post short messages to from my phone. I've been pretty happy being able to send in pictures, but I've also wanted to publish random ideas that I have while walking down the street, or sitting on the metro, or, heaven forbid, taking care of "business". Now I can. Look for updates in the near future. And if the Chinese notes are too small, click on the date above them for a bigger view.

Making things is fun!

Friday, November 05, 2004

I read this phrase in Kafka on the Seashore (which, it turns out, is the name of a song) that I really liked:


I have something in my lungs, which makes me particularly happy that the weekend is here. I was basically croaking at the end of my last class today.

On the way home today, a girl approached me on the platform of the 中山公园 light rail stop and asked how long it would take to get to the train station stop because her train was leaving in half an hour. I didn't know, but we ended up trading phone numbers. Was that a lame excuse to talk to me, or do you really think she was worried about making it on time? She's on an internship for Daimler-Chrysler and working in the area for 5 more months.

(She's not Chinese. Were you wondering?)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

26 is soooo much better than 25.