Thursday, August 31, 2006

Yesterday Jodi and I went out to celebrate the second Chinese Valentine's Day this year (lunar calendar added an extra "leap month", so all associated holidays repeat). I got off work exactly at 4:30 and rushed down to Xujiahui. We met in front of the Metro City KFC—great place for people watching, by the way—and walked back into Metro City and bought a small digital camera for Jodi to use at work:

Then we walked through the metro station (between Xujiahui and Zhongshan Park, we spent more time walking around underground than above ground!) to the 小肥羊 hotpot place. Our usual fare being 傣妹, this was quite a treat! The soup, the lamb, the vegetables... the quality of the ingredients is outstanding. While we were eating I gave Jodi the second part of her gift, a custom-made public transportation card with our wedding picture on the back and Poopy's picture on the front; I know it's a little nerdy, but it's practical and a good memento.

Then Jodi surprised me with a gift that made me extremely happy. It's something I've been wanting for a while, but have never been willing to part with the USD 120 to buy: a 好记星 Chi-Eng-Chi dictionary! With stylus input! And it can play music! You can point to a Chinese character in another character's definition and easily get the pinyin! And best of all is that the box has a big picture of Dashan on it!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

To beat the summer heat, we've been eating a lot of popsicles lately. Shanghai has a wealth of popsicle flavors: vanilla, chocolate, saltwater, red bean, green bean, coffee, mint, watermelon, strawberry... Last month I stumbled on a popsicle that has been my newest favorite flavor:

It's a 粽子-flavored popsicle. 粽子 (zòngzǐ) are traditional Chinese rice dumplings that are wrapped in bamboo leaf pyramids and steamed. My favorite kind of zongzi are the ones with fatty pork and chestnut inside. Luckily, though, this popsicle is based on sweet zongzi: the ingredients include a couple different kinds of rice, sugar, and jujubees (you have to watch out for and spit out the seeds).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A while ago I wrote a Shanghaiist post in which I mentioned Shanghai white-collar singles wearing wristbands to find morning subway commute conversation partners. Today I wandered across the website where they organized. Basically you put your personal info on the site, they make a list, and then pass out the wristbands at an announced station at an announced time. Here's a pic:

Browsing the forums, I come across a rumor (from back in July):


Basically it says that the public transportation administration is planning a discount scheme for people who need to ride multiple air-conditioned buses consecutively using their public transport stored-value card: if you ride one A/C'ed bus, and then change to another A/C'ed bus within a half-an hour of boarding the first one, you get 25% off of the second ride. Since these rides usually cost RMB 2, the second ride will cost RMB 1.5 under the new program. Hope it's true.

I've been following in the paper a story about the use of the stored-value cards in connection to the ferries that cross the Huangpu River. The government is wondering about phasing out the ferries because there are so many more ways to cross the river in the current day than there were in the ferries's heyday: the metro for pedestrians, the tunnels and bridges for cars, and the Bund Tourist Tunnel for... suckers! But there is one thing that needs to cross the river that is missing, and that is bicycles, hence the need for continued ferry service. Also, in order to integrate all public transportation into one system, and because less and less people are using them, the government decided to phase out the monthly passes that people have been able to use on the ferry for the past 48 years, in favor of using the standard public transport stored-value card. Stored-value card users have a frequent-user discount to match the disappearing monthly passes: the first 20 crossing are full-price (5 mao for a single pedestrian), while further crossings are discounted by 20% (4 mao). Pedestrians with bikes pay a bit over 1 yuan.

Oh, and those public transport stored-value card swipe thingies you always see next to the register at McDonalds? There was some sort of deal between McDonalds and web site 智买道 ( where you could swipe your card at McD's to pay for your meal and accrue SmartPoints. Then you could trade SmartPoints for prizes like books, socks, CDs, picture frames, watches, pillows... SmartClub also had/has deals with lots of other retailers, but had a falling out of some sort with McDonalds so don't try and swipe. I wonder why they still haven't removed them.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

From an e-mail I sent to a friend about things to do this weekend:

Also, the Lion King is in town at the Shanghai Grand Theater, the Shanghai Circus is in its summer season, and the St Petersburg ballet is in town doing a "Sleeping Beauty on Ice" performance :)

I really want to be at the Qiu Xiaolong talk, but I've got Latin dance class that day. He wrote a series of English-language detective novels set in 1990's Shanghai that I read before I knew I'd be living in this city, and which I wish I had access to now.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I used to read the paper religiously in high school, so I have fond memories of comic strips:

  • Mutts

  • Calvin and Hobbes

  • Frank and Ernest

  • Far Side

  • Red Meat

  • Pockey the Penguin

  • Doonesbury

  • Mother Goose & Grimm

  • Foxtrot

When I worked at the library desk at Caltech I wrote a perl script that let me call up all the Doonesbury strips from their official site, one year at a time. I spent three or four hours getting an education in American political and cultural history of my parents' generation (my high school US history teacher skipped that part).

I tried to get into Bloom County, but I never "got it". I was out of the country during its prime.

I don't know anything about web comics (except that I was never bitter enough to understand Sinfest). You'll have to ask John about those.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Headline today of that one sports paper that is sold (illegally, heh) on the subway:


Yao Ming OK? China KO!

Jodi and I signed up for Latin dance classes at the Worker's Cultural Palace just south of Raffles City. Prices went up, it's RMB 420 for 16 hour-and-a-half classes over two months. Our first class is on Thursday!

(The Cultural Palace, by the way, has training and vocational classes of all sorts: for car mechanics, A/C repairmen, and cartoon voice-actors, and for language learners, computer users, and dancers, among others.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Best Buy (百思买) now hiring for their flagship location in Xujiahui.

(Courtesy of the half-page ad in today's Metro Express.)

Friday, August 18, 2006

On the metro today coming back from work, a middle-aged Chinese dude sat down next to me and started chatting. Normally I hate serendipitous conversations because I'm still not great at holding up my end; but this guy was a real pleasure to talk to: he had good stuff to say, and in good quantity. He works for some company related to the Shanghai World Fair, and specializes in putting together exhibitions. As an organizer, he has travelled to about thirteen countries including Finland and Canada. Despite never having been to the United States, he was real down-to-earth and stereotype-free when the topic turned to the US-China politics, the pervasiveness and influence of American pop culture and the frustrations of getting a visa to visit the US. When I mentioned that I majored in physics, he noted that just yesterday he had downloaded and listened to a four-part audio series on the life of Einstein made last year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the physicists death. And when he noticed that I had been reading Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities ("Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism") he was polite enough to be earnestly interested in my summary of the book's main points and informed enough to make some intelligent historical observations about nationalism in China and abroad.

This kind of subway conversation partner I wouldn't mind having more often.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

This is just a test of a new Writely account. I'd been using Zohowriter until now, so this will be a comparison. Writely claims to be able to post to my Blogger account; let's try this out...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Welcome back to SMIC!

(I'm tentatively chair of the Calendaring Committee? And not on the Website Committee?! Hmmm...)

Two interesting businesses that I'd like to highlight:

  • The kebab place in the outdoor back walkway area of Grand Gateway in Xujiahui. I used to go there all the time back when I was single and working at Melody. They were closed for a while, and then Jodi and I found them opened when we went to see a movie yesterday so we went there for dinner tonight. RMB 18 or so for a plain single kebab, 28 for the combo with fries and a salad, and 8 more for a can of soda. Jodi didn't like it, but it's definitely a place I'd take a friend.
  • The Scholastic English program at the Super Brand Mall in Lujiazui. There are a few English training places lodged together near the back of the Grand Gateway on the 7th floor, and one of them is a newly opened club for kids that has a relationship with Scholastic Books. That has allowed them to outfit several classrooms in American elementary school style, and keep a big library of classic American kids' books. If only they sold books... perhaps they could be convinced to do so.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Three things.

One: the links in that last post about the MP3s should be working now. Sorry.

Two: GAIM got eight Summer of Code internships from Google, and one of the accepted projects is a QQ plugin. Hopefully this will make it into my GAIM-branch-off instant messenger of choice, Meebo.

Three: Blogspot is unblocked.

Today we worked around the house in the morning, went out for lunch, bused to south Pudong for a job interview in the afternoon, went ice skating at the 正大广场 mall in Lujiazui on the way back, and now we're watching 超级女生 on Jodi's computer and waiting for our Hello Pizza (ham pizza, fruit pizza, and smoked chicken salad) to arrive. We've locked Poopy into the den with us, and he's busy playing with his catnip mouse and gnawing on Jodi's toenails.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Songs that I'm digging right now that I've put online for a limited time:

Also, some Cold Fairyland ditties, revolutionary songs, and the live feed (open that link in Windows Media Player) of the aforementioned Wild 94.9.

This is exactly the kind of typical Chinese wedding Jodi and I went to some lengths to avoid:

Er, to give you a flavour of the entertainment, myself and five other gents were called out onto the stage, and we held a beer drinking competition - through mini baby milk bottles. Always a first for everything... although I didn't quite get my technique right.


No intention of seeing my colleague in compromising situations, I tried to make a sharp exit, but was called back. Of the 200 odd guests, perhaps 30 made it to the room to watch and have fun! The couple were challenged to play silly games, such as popping a balloon between their bodies, and eventually stripping in bed under the covers!

Today Jodi is out with a friend, so I'm gonna stuff some books in a backpack, grab the camera and head out for a day on the town.

Monday, August 07, 2006

After a morning of prepping for work and random web surfing, Jodi and I decided to take an outing. First we rode the light rail up to Chifeng Rd and ate dinner at our favorite Tumen BBQ (图门烧烤), a place where you cook your own skewers over open coals: lamb, beef, pork, quail eggs, chicken wings, green peppers, hot dogs, mini-mantou buns, potato and taro root slices...

Then we walked down to Hongkou Football Stadium and bought seventh-row tickets from a scalper for the Shanghai Shenhua vs Atlético de Madrid game. It was the last in a weekend friendly tournament, and Atlético played a strong game to finish 3-0 with a tournament standing of first place.

You know when you've been in the South too long... when you notice yourself distinguishing between 'four' and 'ten' by the tone rather than by the initial phoneme.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Big news on the pizza front: Hello Pizza's online order form is now online, and the RMB 10 pizza is back, as ham! Also, the "Fruit Family" pizza (jam, cheese, and fruit cocktail topping) is labelled as RMB 10, down from RMB 20. I haven't tried to order online yet, but I think I know what we're having for dinner tonight.