Friday, May 30, 2008

Most of the time, posts on the Shanghai Mamas e-mail list don't really apply to me: looking for imported baby products, questions about pregnancy, doctor advice at the expensive foreign clinics, play groups for Spanish-speaking kids... But I stay subscribed because every once in a while there is a very interesting conversation, like the one started by the following e-mail:

I always wanted to ask this but kept forgeting. Anne's post now reminded me of it and I would really love to know your experience when you are living in your home country, raising kids without ayi(s)' help.

I was born in Shanghai and never lived overseas for longer than one month continously. I met my Australian husband in Shanghai. We had an Ayi coming once a week to clean our apartment. Then we had our first kid, we hired an Ayi who came three times a week, 4 hours each time, to do the house cleaning and I took care of the kid, did shopping and sometimes cooking (my parents also came and help me twice a week). Now we had our second baby who is one week old and I hired a full time Ayi who comes everyday, 8am to 6pm, who does cleaning, cooking, shopping and takes my 2-year-old son downstairs to play when I am occupied with the little one. My parents come 3 times a week to play with the kids so I can have some rest and the Ayi can do some real cleaning. I am not like sitting around doing nothing all day. I am still so busy and when my parents are not here, I cannot even have an afternoon sleep.

My husband kept telling me that when we move back to Australia, sooner or later, there is not going to be any Ayi to help. I have to wonder how western mamas are handling it. My mother-in-law raised three kids without any help and she did all the house work and shopping. Hard to imagine. Do I have to tie my son to his high chair or just let him run around and leave my little daughter crying in bed if she is not sleeping so I can do some housework and cook for the family? How did you do it? I would really appreciate it if you can share your life experience with me.

Meeting some of the moms that Jodi has made friends with in the last year, I've heard of mothers similar to the above who not only have parents helping out but still hire an ayi to come and do housework. I think there's a huge disconnect, not only between what these women think they can do and what they are actually capable of doing, but between segments of Chinese society where raising your own child is normal (they've gotta exist) and the ones composed of these hyper-dependent mothers. I mean, come on, you can forgive an expat mother whose husband is making good money, has difficulty navigating a foreign culture, and disconnected from her (American) home culture, but to be in your own country and not being able to formulate the concept in your mind of taking care of your own child? Geez.

Not that we'd go back to the US anytime soon, but we will soon have more than one kid and both Jodi and I have strong feelings about raising our own children. A lot of the time Jodi's mom acts more like an ayi than a mother-in-law, so this is an issue for us.

Monday, May 26, 2008

After a brief summary of the Phoenix mission and landing, I started my class on our classical vs quantum physics lecture and they immediately countered with "can't you talk some more about the Phoenix mission?". Definitely exciting stuff, though this may reflect more on the intimidation due to quantum than on their interest in the Mars mission itself :)

(Meant to be a comment here, but I'm getting an error on submit.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Micah ♥ Jodi

Lady playing cards in Shanghai, bundled up.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I'm blown away by the effort it take the make this video:

In particular, I like the way the art literally crawls off its medium and onto the sidewalk, and how it interacts with real objects like the log or pieces of paper.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Being a statistics teacher is great because I'm a data scavenger by nature. For example, I've set up a script on my server to scrape the State Department website for the number of days that visa applicants have to wait for their interview at the US consulate in Shanghai and return that number as a single-entry RSS feed. That script has been collecting data approximately once a day for almost a year now, and senior statistics projects are going to start next week so I thought I'd analyze the data as an example. I haven't typed up a full report yet, but here's the raw graphs off of which I'll be basing the analysis:

Downward trend over the past year, with a regression line of the form y = -0.0357 x + 36.098

The same graph done in R, with 95% confidence bands.

As you can see the consulate is showing a downward trend in the average wait time for visa interviews, significant at the 95% level as shown by the confidence bands in the second graph! Congrats to the consulate staff.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dunkin Donuts, come soon.

Chocolate frosting on raised with nuts.

(It's already May.)

歌手:爱国小将 专辑:认贼作母光荣
作词:谎言 作曲:暴力 编曲:中共



I'm entranced by the latest post on Paper Republic about the Li Ji-Hong (李继宏) translation of "Kite Runner," both the analysis and interview. To his credit, Bruce Hume, the author of the post, is much more gracious than I would have been. I interpret it as a classic "hardware/software" situation.

"the typical reader certainly does not need to understand these subtle differences; the general meaning will do."

Such a shame for Chinese readers.

To the fam, you probably heard that there was a big earthquake in China. It was a magnitude 7.9 according to the USGS, with its epicenter in near the city of Chengdu in central China, a little over 1000 miles away from Shanghai.

To put that in perspective, it was like an earthquake in Seattle and you live in Los Angeles. Some tall buildings built in former marshy areas of Shanghai swayed a little but neither Jodi (10th floor at home) nor I (2nd floor at work) noticed it until we saw it on the news. The China Red Cross is taking donations.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The RSO is the regional security office of the US Embassy in Beijing. Via the Oriental-List:

RSO has confirmed that in early April local police conducted a raid in the bar district of Sanlitun. More than 20 people were detained by police, including at least eight foreigners and, although the target of the raid appears to have been illicit drug dealers and users, some patrons in the area were temporarily detained. The Beijing public security authorities have reported that they closed two bars in the area and seized a variety of illegal drugs. RSO issuing a separate report on nightclubs and bars in Beijing.

I hear the RSO parties like crazy. Now that's one Beijing guide I'd like to get my hands on!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


From 0% in 2001 to 25% in 2008, just passed ASCII and ISO-8859-1 to become the most-used text-encoding.


(Click for full size.)

Funny map of China according to stereotypes that Beijing people hold.

Funny map of China according to stereotypes that Shanghai people hold.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Shanghai Wild Animal Park

Monday, May 05, 2008

Occasionally I like to be reminded that what concession-era Shanghailanders knew as "Chinese" was not Mandarin Chinese but Shanghainese. For example, here's an old picture of an orphanage near Xujiahui:


The sign bears the name "T'OU-SE-WE ORPHANAGE" which came from the Chinese name 土山湾, literally "Dirt Mountain Bay", a location near the present-day Shanghai Indoor Stadium. But the pinyin for 土山湾 is "Tu Shan Wan". In fact, guessing at its pronunciation T'ou-Se-We is closer to the way those characters would be pronounced in Shanghainese. Cool!

Probably the most commonly seen example of old Shanghainese is "Zikawei", which you may have seen before. This is the Shanghainese for Xujiahui.

Shanghai Indoor Stadium

Sunday, May 04, 2008

What does this say about the current state of the Chinese (and Japanese) language?

Four years ago, 9-year-old Yang Yang received $150,000 for his novel “The Magic Violin,” about a young boy who is befriended by enchanted objects after his father disappears. It sold 100,000 copies. He has since published three more books and last year signed a contract for a 10-book series. Last month, Yang Daqing’s “Story of the Ming Expedition,” a novel about the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592, supposedly written when the author was 13, hit bookstores. And 14-year-old Tang Chao’s second novel, “Give My Dream Back,” about unrequited love and suicide, was recently published with a first run of 50,000 copies.

I lost my copy of 王小波's 《黄金时代》 so I've started 陈丹燕's 《慢船去中国》 while waiting for a replacement. I'm enjoying her noire painting of Shanghai more than his swarthy northern bawdery.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

First birthday prints