Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I keep getting a lot of referrers from Google Reader in logs. For a long time I've been a Bloglines user. I used Google Reader for a couple days right when it came out but it was a little buggy back then. I decided to give it another spin a couple days ago and am going back to Bloglines now, for two reasons:

  1. I can list my Bloglines feeds in any order I want, including crazy hand-picked orders using their drag-and-drop editing screen.
  2. Google Reader formats all posts so that they look almost the same, and then strings them together in a "river of posts". I prefer Bloglines posts being separated by weblog with a clear header (including the feed's title image, if specified), in the order I arranged the weblogs into.

I'm still going to miss the stats that Google Reader gives me about the weblogs that I read, but Bloglines still more closely matches the way my brain organizes its thought process when reading feeds.

Monday, July 30, 2007

I like the creative symbol here:

In India, a photo by Marc van der Chijs shows a train car door sporting a sign reading "Reserved for handicapped and cancer patients".  Next to the words are two icons for clarification: a person in a wheel chair, and a crab.

(Via Marc van der Chijs' weblog.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Two of the wisest investments we've made recently: a bouncy chair (RMB 340 at Di Yi Babaiban), and a balloon attached to a slapper wristband (RMB 27 at the Westgate Mall Isetan).

She just sits there and has conversations with the balloon.

  1. Turn on Google Pinyin input.
  2. Type your name in English (ex: "micah").
  3. Choose the first two or three Chinese-character phrase (ex: "米擦汗").

This is your Google Pinyin Chinese name. I am Mǐ Cāhán, nice to meet you.

(Jodi = 加哦滴, Jiā Édī; Aaron = 啊啊人, Ā Ārén; Ani = 阿尼, Āní; Laurel/Lurel = 路热烈, Lù Rèliè)

Friday, July 27, 2007

The date and location for barCamp Shanghai 2007 are set: September 8th at the Tudou offices, just off the Suzhou Creek. More information and registration instructions on the website.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

When I was in high school and college, some of my friends would look back on the 1980s with a feverish and, in my opinion, undeserved nostalgia. It always amused me to eavesdrop on their sessions because I wasn't in the US during that part of my childhood, so I could observe with a detached, self-satisfied cynicism. Things they reminisced about were toys, cartoons and bad music. That was pretty much it.

So today it made me think about the nature of nostalgia when one of Jodi's good friends forwarded her a link on MSN today, a link to a nostalgic photo essay by/for Chinese kids born in the 80s. Since it's rather long, I've put the translation on a wiki page called 80sChineseNostalgia. Click through if you think you might enjoy it.

Once again we had trouble with the visa. The barcode on the PDF generated by the State Department website was messed up, so we had to run to a nearby hotel and use the business center's computer to generate a new form. Jodi said that her interviewer, an ABC, was more strict than the consular official who interviewed her last time; he demanded to see original documents like my passport and our marriage licenses, for which I had only given Jodi photocopies. Still, she showed him the photos of our wedding and honeymoon and he was convinced enough to grant her the visa.

Charlotte's pretty happy about it:


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Charlotte and I are accompanying Jodi to the US consulate tomorrow to apply for a B2 tourist visa. We'd like to make a short trip to the States during the October 国庆节 holiday to introduce Charlotte to the extended family. We're a bit better prepared and more relaxed than last time. Wish us the best.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sometime last year Jodi and I took a walk around the Xinzhuang area and we ran into a very strange building. It looked like a mix of the Capitol building in Washintgon DC and some French palace. We took a picture but I'm not sure I ever put it online, so I forgot about it until today when brave_heart posted a couple pictures to the Ditiezu BBS:

I think you can see the domes when you're riding Line 1 between the Outer Ring Road metro stop and the Xinzhuang terminal station. Once you get up close the construction is a little shoddier than your average French palace, but the effect is still pretty weird.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A long time ago John posted photos of the inside of a really cool British-built slaughterhouse here in Shanghai.

I thought it was very neat, so I tried to replicate the experience but was turned away at the gate.

In June I wrote a post for Shanghaiist about plans to turn the slaughterhouse into an arts center.

A few weeks ago as we rode past it on a bus into Puxi I pointed the place out to Jodi.

Today Sinocities has a post with pictures of the place under renovation. Looks just as fascinating as I thought it would be.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

This is a pretty cool use for a lazy Susan:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Two notes of interest from daily life:

A couple days ago I made a quick trip to the baby supply store down the street to buy diapers, formula and wipes. The total was relatively high, so when I told the attendants that I hadn't brought our membership card they started hacking at the cash register trying to get me a discount anyways. After trying a particular key combination the cash register froze up, so one lady said "let's stop it." A couple keystrokes later and the cash register's display is showing a Windows desktop with a single window open to... QQ Poker. The next thing I hear is "Majiang is so boring, poker is better." So this is what they do when no customers are in the store.

Today my wife was chatting on MSN with a former business partner who mentioned that she had been busy moving one of her old businesses to a new location a block away. The reason is that the old location is being reclaimed by the city government for the new Maglev line going out to Hongqiao Airport. She also mentioned that many of the neighbors have put up posters of large letters in their windows spelling out protests against the Maglev line due to worries about radiation. This may be an interesting project for my physics students to explore next year.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sunday was Jodi and my first wedding anniversary. We took the bullet train to Hangzhou, had a buffet lunch at the Shangri-la Hotel, walked around the West Lake, and window-shopped before taking the bus home. Jodi wrote a post about it (in Chinese) and I put some pictures up on Flickr.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Funny how things are connected.

I think I followed a link off of MetaFilter a couple weeks ago and watched this video on Youtube called "Going out for an English", which was pretty funny and lead to me watching a few episodes of the BBC Indian sketch comedy show "Good Gracious Me". The "English" skit was sorta funny, but I didn't really get it; the "Indian Names" skit was less culturally specific, a little easier to understand, and so made it into my favorites list.

A couple days ago I was looking up how to 白灼 a bunch of Cantonese kale I bought at the wet market like they do at Bifengtang, and I came across this thread in the "China and Chinese Cuisine" forum of the eGullet BBSs about cooking shrimp and bookmarked it for later. Today I went back to it and started browsing other threads in the forum. One thread began with a question by a reporter for the Guardian who was researching for an article on what "foreign" foods are eaten in the home countries of the foreigners that liven up the food scene in England with their own native cuisines.

Well the intriguing article was published a couple weeks ago and, lo and behold, the first paragraph happens to reference the "Going out for an English" sketch, explaining that it was meant to parody drunken antics of the post-pub curry crowd. Suddenly the sketch is several times funnier than when I first watched it.

Funny how things are connected.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

We bought the purple Snugli on the Chinese equivalent of eBay. This is bad because in the process I figured out how to make online payments. Lessee, TI-83s yes, theremins no, baking powder yes...

Friday, July 06, 2007

This year's Beijing Chinese Blogger Conference is in the planning stage. Currently the top contender to host the conference is Tsinghua University's Student Internet Research Association. Pictures of the possible venue were posted as a Flickr set, but moved to Yupoo when some planners couldn't see the photos due to the GFW block.

The proposed dates for the conference are Nov 3-4, or my birthday and the day after. Last year I had to pull out of the Hangzhou conference for personal reasons; that was bittersweet, bitter because the conference drew a lot of publicity the year after its birth in Shanghai, but not so hard to swallow after hearing the the conference suffered due to over-commercialization. This year should be good, though. Beijing has the commerce, but it also has culture. And if the conference is held in Tsinghua, that will be very close to the China headquarters of Google, Microsoft, Sun, Sohu, etc. I'm gonna try my best to make it this year.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

It's so hard to "just" be middle class in Shanghai because:

  1. Commercially, nobody targets the middle class (the push argument). Where can I go for middle-of-the-road clothes? Only Uniqlo, and even they're getting pricey and fashionable.
  2. Such a large part of the expat community is rich. I'm looking for a good baby carrier, and my expat network is suggesting ones imported from Japan, or having multiple carriers for the different age stages.
  3. Shanghai is a city focused on money (the pull argument). The culture is not one that encourages responsible spending, or quality of life over making money.

That's my grumpy-old-man post for the day.

Mao Zedong played table tennis.

Jiang Zemin played table tennis.

Hu plays table tennis.