Sunday, February 27, 2005

New on the Wubi Wiki: Shanghai Favorites.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Favorite Chinese Songs: The first, I heard today on the bus back from Haimen, and the second I have heard several times, the last while eating a bowl of freshly-pulled curry ramen at midnight at the booth across the street from my apartment.

After a few weeks' hiatus, the Oriental Pearl Tower webcam of the German School of Shanghai is updating live again. Tonight there is the usual dazzling light show on the Bund:

Friday, February 25, 2005

The co-habitation rate around must be sky-high. A girl in my office got married recently and peple are finding out slowly. The general reaction is a surprised look and a shrug. The attitude seems to be summed up in this quote by one girl today:


Aw come on, these days it doesn't really matter if people are married or not!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

John always smirks when I mention that I'm going to some expat function or another. But I think that's OK, I can appreciate both sides of the coin: on the one hand, it's nice to hang out with people from the Western world because it's easier to communicate with them effectively, both in terms of language and a common cultural literacy, and also because they share a more balanced view of China due to their outsider status; on the other hand, it's also a bit lazy and ignores the wealth of new experiences that a person can be introduced to in Shanghai by a local, or Chinese national; and I get tired pretty quick when the conversation descends into complaining about "China" and the frustrations of living here. Anyway, that's the way I've always liked to be, understanding both perspectives. Like I told my sister over vacation, my ideal is not to below to any particular group, but to be able to move back and forth fluidly between them.

Not that I do this well.

In cany case, I had fun tonight at the February Shanghai Webloggers Meetup. Group organizer Fons was not able to make it tonight, but I got to hear the eloquent Wang Jianshuo and his lovely wife talk about their cats, and dined on pizza and Russian salad courtesy of the Trombly family. Afterwards, some of the guys went out together to Madame Zung's for Drum & Bass/Jungle night. (There were, 4 people on the dance floor? And maybe another 4 at the bar. Perhaps we were early. Great music.) Afterwards, we moved on to a a pretty cozy dive bar called something like "C's Bar" somewhere on Dingxi Lu (定西路865号? 685号, and they're listed on SmartShanghai), from which I said goodbye, traded contact info and headed home.

Things I should have brought up at the weblogger meeting:

  1. I don't blog for a bigger readership. I weblog for myself to read 20 years from now, and for my family and friends to keep up with me from the USA. As long as I keep seeing those's and's in the server logs, I'll keep writing.
  2. I'd like to do some recording of sounds around Shanghai to post to my weblog (not podcasting—waaaay overhyped), and I'm looking for a quality, portable, digital recorder that has high capacity (sorry cheap mp3 players!), high quality recording capability (sorry iPod with iTalk!), and no restrictive DRM compromising the music quality (sorry Minidisc recorder!). (A Slashdot reader suggests some options.)
  3. I'd like to talk a little about the technical side of weblogging. I think that Wang Jianshuo wrote his own blogging software, Michael does freelance web design, and Ms Trombly used to be a database programmer, so we should be able to discuss some of the issues from a techie perspective. Or maybe I'm just looking for a chance to show off my set-up.

Good night.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I'm tired of looking.

The second most important reason I was looking forward to having a computer at home was to be able to upload pictures easily. In that spirit, I took some pictures of my apartment today, and I've put them online. Here's a little metadata for each one:

Computer Desk
It's a beaut! Fuji Finepex A340 and RCA CDS1005 digital cameras sit astride the mini Shuttle XPC, lit up by the Viewsonic 15" LCD monitor. In front of the monitor is a page of photo booth stickers, the net card that I'm using to get online, the trusty rusty Sony MDR-V600 headphones that Aaron got me for Christmas a couple years ago, and my Linux command reference notebook.
Balcony Plants
The Boston fern is probably getting too much sun on my balcony, and I'm still waiting for the apple seeds I planted in a teacup to emerge. The giant clothespins are because people in Shanghai don't hang wet laundry on clotheslines, but on bamboo poles.
Bedroom Panorama
Note that I'm being generous here (or maybe just lazy): these are unedited pictures of a messy house! The unmade bed, the clothes and backpack thrown on the couch, the piles of books, papers, plates and yogurt cartons on the low hutch... Micah's natural habitat! The book on the bed is the McSweeney's I'm reading currently.
Bathroom Panorama
I did my best to color coordinate a blue bathroom. The flowered blue plastic sheet on the right covers the washer. The bucket and mop are leaning against the toilet because there is no better place in the house for them, and because you may notice that there is no shower curtain; so on days when I'm not in a hurry (and it's not freezing cold) I can dally and mop up the floor so that it will be dry by the time I get home from work.
Entry Way & Kitchen Panorama
From right to left: my home-made montly calendar, a note taped to the door to remind me to take out the trash; spices, canned breakfast congee, keys, a Cal cup and a recipe notebook on top of the fridge; rice cooker resting on the oven; the plastic bag bag hanging from a cupboard handle, and the cuttings off an Asian pear that I had last night with dinner (PB&J, yogurt, frosted rice crackers). Below the screen on the right are a couple pairs of shoes; John told me it helps keep the house clean to take them off, and it really has made a difference in the frequency of the need to sweep.
View of the Balcony
Just so you get an idea of where the balcony is in relation to the bedroom, and a sense of where I took the bedroom panorama from.
Yours Truly
Sitting on the couch.

As I'm typing this entry, I'm listening to Queen's Greatest Hits CD.

I picked up these DVDs today:

  • Clean, 2004, Maggie Cheung, Nick Nolte.
  • Blind Shaft, Chinese miners, labor conditions.
  • The Poor Little Rich Girl, Shirley Temple
  • Comandante, "una película de Oliver Stone", a documentary on Castro: "un retrato íntimo y humano del líder Cubano."

Monday, February 21, 2005

Agba Mangalabou, who arrived from Togo in 2002, recalls his surprise when he moved here from Europe. "In Germany, everyone knew I was African," he said. "Here, nobody knows if I'm African or American."

From the New York Times, More Africans Enter U.S. Than in Days of Slavery (a better article than the title intimates). Is is really that hard to appreciate this phenomenon before one moves to the USA? This is one of my favorite things about the States.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

My home is so much more homey now. The computer is set up with plenty of music, and the capability to play DVDs. There are three blankets on the bed, and a set of sweatsuit-pajamas under the pillow. The kitchen is fully stocked with square, round, and cupcake pans, and vanilla flavoring, and measuring cups and spoons. The set of books on the on the low hutch has grown by two or three times. When I find a rug and coffee table, it will finally be livable.

Book list:

  1. Perl in a Nutshell, O'Reilly
  2. How to Program C, Deitel & Deitel
  3. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Murakami
  4. The Elephant Vanishes, Murakami short stories
  5. 海边的卡夫卡 (Kafka on the Shore), Murakami
  6. 毒蘑菇 (INSTALL), Wataya
  7. 武侠 (Kung-fu Knight), one issue of the magazine
  8. 自助旅游手册:上海 (Self-guided Tourism Handbook: Shanghai)
  9. The Seeing Eye, CS Lewis
  10. 云南十八怪 (Yunnan's 18 Oddities), postcard set
  11. The River at the Center of the World, Winchester
  12. The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Chow
  13. Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt
  14. A Scanner Darkly, Dick
  15. A People's History of the United States, Zinn
  16. You Shall Know Our Velocity, Eggers
  17. The Truth, Pratchett
  18. The Puffin Joke Book, Cunningham
  19. 熊猫 (Panda Sex), Mian
  20. 张爱玲典藏全集4:散文卷二, Zhang Ailing short stories
  21. 水浒传 (Water Margin), comic collection 3, 4, 5
  22. The Chinese Emperor, Levi
  23. Taiping Rebellion 1859-1864, Cheng
  24. Korean Phrasebook, Lonely Planet
  25. 史努比全集I (Snoopy collection), Schulz
  26. 中国农民调查 (Investigation into Chinese Farmers), Chen & Chun
  27. 高层权贵秘闻披露 (Secrets of High-level Government Officials Revealed)
  28. 真心英雄胡锦涛 (Hu Jintao, the Earnest Hero)
  29. American's Tourist Manual for China, 1980
  30. Let's Go China 2002
  31. 中国自助游 (China Self-guided Travel)
  32. 古文今译与英译 (Classical Chinese stories translated to Modern Chinese and to English)
  33. The Elements of Style, Strunk & White
  34. 席殊3SFM用硬笔字6小时训练 (Xi Shu's 3SFM 6-hour Ballpoint Pen Calligraphy)
  35. Idiot's Guide to Playing the Harmonica
  36. 2003市场资料 (Shanghai Stock Exchange 2003 Fact Book)
  37. The Three Gorges Project

I'm having second thoughts about keeping so many books, but I'm also comforted by the fact that many of them are reference books. Should I give the rest away? Or keep them, and start a Bookworm in Shanghai?

Today was a nice day. I slept in because I was jetlagged, spent a while on the computer listening to music, took a nice long shower, caught the tail end of the church service on Hengshan Road, had dinner at a noodle shop on Shimen No 1 Road, attended a theater performance at the Majestic, and got online for the first time in my home with a 96550 internet calling card. Lesson learned for the day: don't expect to stay awake when jet-lagged, and sitting in a dark, relatively quiet, plush-seated theater.

Friday, February 18, 2005

I picked up a copy of McSweeney's (or McSwy's, as it is is abbreviated therein) and spent most of my reading time on the plane with my nose buried in it. Great writing from contemporary authors: a morbid, chronically ill child navigates the hospital; a young Roman lives on Hadrian's wall; 1984/A Brave New World is re-appropriated by The Man... I just wish the author biographies were more extensive.

Home. Shanghai.

Quietly, Blogger recodes the Dashboard to be friendly to Lynx users. Now the "Edit" button is not a Javascript link, but an actual selectable link to a URL. Hooray.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The family...

...went out to 小肥羊 in Hacienda Heights on Saturday for a hotpot lunch:

The extraneous guy is my sister's boyfriend.

That night I came back from an outing with Andy to find them playing board games:

At Sunday lunch I took a series of photos, each one sharing exactly one subject with the last:

Mom with Laurel,

Laurel with Aaron,

Aaron with Brian,

Brian with Annie,

Annie with Micah,

Micah with Dad,

and Dad with Mom.

We ate this yummy dessert:

strawberry tart.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Behold the magical power of GSM cellphone networks! Today I walked into the Cingular office at Imperial and Randolph, plopped down USD 25, popped a brand new SIM card into my phone, and now have a US number. Call me at 714-277-6800 714-277-8600. Or I'll call you.

And when I fly back home, I can just replace it with my old China Mobile SIM card and be right back where I started.

I also picked up a power cord at Fry's. It's good to be back on a Linux box.

Here I go spreading disinformation. The correct phone number has been edited above.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I'm back in California. To the folks who I didn't meet up with, sorry! It was a combination of running out of time packing, and certain responsibilities that came up and had to be dealt with.

I can't find the power cord to my computer; otherwise, it's all set up and ready to fire. In the meantime, I've gotten out my CDs and am listening to some older stuff, mostly hip hop: Lampeye (Japanese) and The Movementality (Asian American).

I've had this running joke with my family about how spending time inside Walmart magically expands people's waistlines. Today my mother informed me that you can now order McDonalds at the register as you check out, and pick it up at the in-store McD's as you walk out the door. Who needs magic?

It's so hard to know what's best for the other person when the "best" may mean making them cry, and the second-best (or worse) may mean seeing them smile.

But oh, what a smile.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Economist is running an unsigned review of David Herlihy's Bicycle: The History in their Feb 5th-11th issue. Regarding the late 19th century, which saw an explosion in bicycle technology and popularity, they say:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.

Fantastic sentence.

Monday, February 07, 2005

I made it to snowy Ann Arbor. It's a good thing I'm wearing three pairs of pants.

I'm still able to log into my UMich account, although my home directory has been erased (hooray for backups). This means I can use the computer lab in Angell Hall.

From the UMich ITD Linux Survey:

I view Linux as:

  1. an environment crucial to any modern university's public labs.
  2. a reasonable alternative to the other systems provided by Campus Computing Sites.
  3. a fad. Where's my Solaris machine?
  4. a waste of time.
  5. Linux?

I would love to be able to choose option 3, but I'm a little too honest (I put 2).

I made it home to rainy Southern California.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Hello from the Narita Airport! I'm in a little Yahoo net access point where they have a bunch of Dell PCs and laptops set up in a room with large glass windows directly overlooking the tarmac, where airplanes are taxiing in and parking in front of the terminals. Just below me is the yellow monorail tram that shuttles passengers back and forth between the two terminal buildings. Before I discovered the net place, I was weighing the pros and cons of trading USD 20 for JPY and picking up some snacks to bring home to people... what do you say? Better weight in with an e-mail in the next half-hour or so!

Like all trips involving me, the eternal optimist and scatter-brain, this one didn't go without incident—albeit a small one. I got to the airport in plenty of time, but I had forgotten that I was trying to make it to the US without checked-in baggage. So my Swiss Army knife didn't have any luggage to be checked-in inside. Nevertheless, like Asa said last night, there's always a way. I told the security people that I didn't have a checked-in bag and gave them a sad-puppy face, so they pulled out a yellow envelope and had the knife checked in by itself, travelling along with the crew. Here in Tokyo, I even managed to accidentally intercept the lead stewardess for the LA leg of the flight (same plane, I think) and she got the knife routed onto the right plane. I've even got a baggage-check number for it!

Interesting things about the Narita airport:

  • The signs to the smoking area call it the "Smoking Corner". How cute.

  • Most signs are in four languages:

    1. Japanese
    2. English
    3. Korean
    4. Chinese

I haven't noticed a lot of Chinese tourists, but that's probably because the Chinese New Year is more of a time to visit family and less of a time to travel.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

I know I stayed up way too late last night/morning on the computer, but it was satisfying to sleep 12 out of the 19 hours that we spent on the train yesterday.

Things that were different about Shiyan:

  • They call rice porridge "xi fan" (稀饭) instead of "zhou" (粥).
  • They use one RMB bills over coins.
  • They speak Mandarin instead of local dialect, and add the Beijing R.

Vivien: Vivien took this picture, and cut off Luna's head.


I'll be jumping onto the plane tomorrow morning at 8:55 AM.

Friday, February 04, 2005

I saw a commercial on TV the other day that speaks to me right now, as I sit in a net cafe way too late at night. I only caught the tail end; this is what I remember:

The scene: hard to say, the screen zoomed in on the bust of a high school aged girl. Curtains behind her, it's hard to say if she's at home or in a net cafe. Her head is lit on one side by what we assume is a computer screen. She is wearing headphones, likely for chatting.

A male voice: "You know, it's about time you got to bed."

The girl turns to face the camera: "Yeah, just a few more minutes."

The same male voice: "Don't you have to go to school tomorrow morning?"

The girl protests again. The screen fades to black. These words appear:


The Internet: It's Not Your Whole Life

I was in the Hailida Preschool office a few weeks ago and some of the office staff were trying out tongue twisters in Chinese that they had found on the internet. Then the PE coach started to read them in the Shanghai dialect. Then piano teacher read them in Cantonese. They were still tongue twistery, but not as much.

Right now I'm on a business trip to Shiyan (十堰), a major minor city in Hubei province in central China.

Here are some interesting language notes. Interesting to me, at least:

This was the name of a female newscaster I saw on TV a couple days ago (notice how I always write about TV when I'm out on business and staying at a hotel? This is why I don't own a TV at home.) Her last name is gao ("high") and her given name is yue nan ("surpassing men"), meaning that her name means something like "highly surpasses the standard man". I just like the way her last name coordinates with her first name.
This is just the name of the TV series based on the 涩女郎 comic books by 朱德庸. I gotta look this one up, see if I can get it on VCD. One of the actresses is the lady from the movie 天下无贼. By the way, 贼 is the only character in modern Chinese with the pinyin zei.
Preschool kids love the Japanese action character Ultraman. It always frustrates me when kids start going off about Ultraman, because it's usually right in the middle of class. A couple days ago, one of my co-workers deftly handled this situation by pretending (or maybe she made an honest mistake) that the student had said "watermelon". I gotta use that sometime.
The name of a disco here in Shiyan. Literally, the Rolling Stone Disco. I probably wouldn't think this was so notable if I was a native speaker. Neither would I think that the...
...Mayflower Bar was notable.
That's the brand name of a banana company that serves the local fruit markets in Shiyan. I think that would make a great name for a weblog, Happily Bananas. Especially if I had a nifty picture of a stack of those banana boxes.

I want to read Hannah Arendt's book. She's the one who wrote about the trials of the Nazi war criminals, coming to the conclusion that we are all a step away from becoming monsters. I'm probably vastly over-simplifying. I think it will help foster more discussion with Chris, where we talk about what motivates people to do evil things (it's fear of death; not being afraid of death has radical implications).

I'm still looking for souveniers to take back to the US as gifts for people. I've been thinking of New Year decorations. What I've got so far are DVDs to watch and then hand off, and some snacks from Hubei.

I'm staying up very late tonight because I will be taking a twenty-six hour train ride back to Shanghai tomorrow. The bad news is that I finished Panda Sex over french fries at McDonald's last night. The good thing is that this time we will have DVDs to watch on the laptop. Here in Shiyan, I found: Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Fog of War, Blind Shaft, Elephant (directed by Gus Van Sant), and a DVD of the Ibiza sunset set to club remixes of trance hits.