Sunday, August 31, 2008

I went out watch-shopping again today, and made these notes.

  • My favorite shop for old clocks and watches is southwest of the Yu Gardens/Chenghuangmiao area, at 425 Fangbang Middle Road (方浜中路425号). The owner can also fix broken timepieces.
  • The bus station for getting to Yu Gardens from Nanjing East Road subway stop moved farther south than it was before. But coming back, it drops you off just after the Henan Middle Road, Nanjing East Road intersection.
  • You can order McDonalds and eat it at Burger King, and they don't care. (Super Brand Mall)
  • First-floor of Babaiban/NextAge shopping center: luxury watch shop 亨达利. Sixth-floor of Babaiban/NextAge shopping center: luxury watch shop 亨得利. One awesome point for you if you recognize which one is the original and which the copy.
  • The price of the eeePC 701 is dropping like mad.

We ended up buying the watch at Babaiban. I'm not real happy with it, but it was time to let go and just decide on one. I mean, it's a big wad of cash for a chunk of metal that just tells you the time. "Tradition" is a... gyp.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Today we went out on the town shopping for a nice watch. Notes:

  • The Zhongshan Park Best Buy is open.
  • Shops in the Zhongshan Park metro station are scheduled to re-open on Friday, September 5.
  • There is a shop called Mango Mango in the basement of Hongyi Plaza on Nanjing East Road (connects to the eponymous subway stop) that makes a cold mango dish with chocolate-filled rice dough balls, 云山汤圆 something or other, that is delicious.

We had no luck on the watch, as we underestimated the price by a lot. I really wanted to find one at the 亨得利 shop on Nanjing East Road, but the average price there was in the thousands of US dollars (五六万元). Yikes. Tomorrow I'm going back to Puxi to check at Xujiahui, but also going to pass through an antique clock/watch shop by the Yu Gardens. There's a factory in Shanghai that still churns out really retro looking alarm-clocks, and this shop sources from them. I may pick up something for myself there too.

EDIT: Just saw an ad on TV for the Int'l Pet Expo at the New Int'l Expo Center in Pudong, near Longyang Road, happening this coming Friday and Saturday. Jodi and I went to the pet expo last year when we lived nearby and it was quite fun.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Ferret notices a similarity between the architecture of Super Brand Mall and the work of a certain artist. He also has some great conversations:

Maybe the police will arrest you now.

Man, I hope not.

Finally, he seems to have snuck into the WFT before the official opening on Saturday?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Milk 3

We're teaching Charlotte to put herself to bed. Now after bath, pajamas and milk, she can walk out to the front room to say goodnight to mom and grandma, and then walk back to her room and get in bed all by herself. Then it's a goodnight kiss, and lights out.

Monday, August 25, 2008

There's been quite a bit of hand-wringing about what London can do to top the Beijing Olympics, but with a little brainstorming it's not that hard to come up with a few things they could rub in Beijing's face do better than Beijing:

  1. Instead of having protest-zones, have protest-free zones. Make almost the entire of London a welcome zone for protests of all kinds. In fact, the city should fund protests signs and banners, provide transportation for protesters, and organize protest forums. The more voices the better.
  2. Party like there's no tomorrow. The BOCOG has been so uptight about the whole Olympics, and from my experience here it's pretty clear that the GPCR wiped out all notion of how to throw a decent party in the PRC. The national houses? Make them an afterthought to the parties thrown by LOCOG.
  3. Stick it to McDonalds. We all know the British Isle's reputation when it comes to food, and this is a chance to turn that around. Invite culinary masters from the Continent and beyond to dazzle visitors with a night market of exotic snacks and fine dining on the Olympic Green.

There's three suggestions. Any more?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lately I've been browsing a few Chinese BBSs that are definitely stuck in the Web 1.0 era, so naturally I have to do a little patching here and there to fit them into my closer-to-web-2.0 web surfing habits. One thing that these BBSs are missing is RSS feeds for individual threads. Since I'd rather have notices of new posts come to me than have to browse through the forums to check for new content, I whipped up a little Perl script specifically for the 篱笆网 BBS that takes a forum thread and turns it into an RSS feed. For example, the following URL takes thread number 2566005 in forum 96 and outputs it as RSS:

Then I can subscribe to that URL in Google Reader, which will alert me of any new posts in that specific thread. Neat, eh?


Friday, August 22, 2008

According to a couple recent articles, non-bank currency exchange has been given the green light to start expanding in Beijing and Shanghai. Some company called Aixiyi (艾西益) is currently running two exchange points, one at Pudong Airport and one at Zhangjiang subway station (pictured). The maximum allowed exchange per day is USD 5000, and per year is USD 50,000. The company plans to open more locations as the World Expo approaches, next in Xintiandi and the Yu Gardens area.

It's about time. Hong Kong has these all over the place. I wonder if they'll change RMB into dollars, not that you'd want to that right now.

This evening I did a redesign of my homepage, away from the Facebook design which was outdated anyways. Every since I went the "lifestream" route I felt like I was just creating content for the sake of creating, and not for any meaningful reason. This redesign is intended to focus me back on weblogging for communicating with my family and friends, and for writing about the city I live in and what goes on here. This also means I'm effectively shutting down the Public Transportation weblog which was fun while it lasted, but which I'm too busy to justify updating anymore.

I started working on Monday and have been very busy with lots of new meetings in my role as department head. My department is full of interesting personalities and I think we'll have a great year, but the administration of the school is a real mixed bag of visionaries that I want to model myself on and people that frustrate me to no end.

I've got a big decision coming up. The school is coordinating with Oklahoma University to arrange a ME program at our school over the next two years. Participating in the program is very attractive to me because it would equip me with a lot of skills that I miss every day as a teacher, and because the company is dangling a small but helpful financial aid package in front of our noses as an incentive. Still, the program would be a significant investment in terms of money and time, would mean postponing our tentative plan to buy a car next summer, would require me to make a longer commitment to the school, and doesn't fit exactly into my future career plan. With the second kid coming and Jodi starting a weekend program at ECNU, the ME is starting to seem less and less practical. It's a fork in the road that leads to two very different outcomes. A decision isn't due until December, so I've got a while to think about it.

Speaking of money, last month I finally drew up a budget and this month we've been trying to live by it as closely as possible. Well, it's the 22nd of the month and we're over the budget by RMB 2000, which is not disastrous because it's still only the first month on the budget, half of the overrun came out of the rainy day account, and we still spent less than in the last few months. What's really painful is that there's a list of half a dozen things in my mind that I'd like to buy (starting with an eeePC) that I've pushed onto the "someday" pile because I really want to hit the spending targets we set for ourselves. It's hard when your friends are playing with new iPhones and I can only cringe and bear it when the taxi to Jodi's check-ups costs RMB 70 one-way. I suppose it's because John already has an apartment and the other John is off to be a FSO any day now, so it makes sense that we have different spending allowances. Still, not fun. Hopefully after months of saving our planned vacations and car purchase next year will make it all seem worth it. Even then, I don't see a house in our future for many, many years.

I got an emergency translation job yesterday that I turned around in less than 24 hours, which I'm pretty happy about.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

By June Shih, You think NBC is bad? You haven't seen CCTV:

Now that the games have actually started, a viewer can find live broadcasts of everything from archery to volleyball all day long. Television anchors are endlessly cuing up musical montages of Chinese gold medal performances in weightlifting, shooting, gymnastics, and diving. When not broadcasting events, Chinese programmers are filling the airwaves with features such as "Mothers Who Are Also Olympic Competitors" and "Kids Who Have Shaved the Olympics Logo Into Their Heads." Enthusiastic coverage is of course not unique to the Chinese—I remember watching my share of slo-mo U.S. medalist montages set to Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time." But what's on television in China right now shows what happens when you combine tight state control with typically overwrought, patriotic sports coverage. CCTV is like NBC on steroids … and growth hormone, and EPO, and albuterol.

It's nice to have 6-7 channels covering the Olympics, but sorta explains why China is winning the gold in downloading BitTorrent coverage of the big O.

(What's with Slate and journalists' wives?)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I went to the Shanghai Book Fair in Gubei today.

Ticket to ride

The first talk I went to was by Shanghai writer Chen Danyan. I first made aware of her writing when she did a conversation with American-based author and translator Qiu Xiaolong at the Shanghai Int'l Literary Festival in 2007. Eventually I got around to reading her 《慢船去中国》, and I am enjoying it. Today she was promoting her new book, 永不扩宽的街道, a collection of vignettes from protected neighborhoods around Shanghai. After the talk and taking a few questions, she stayed to sign books. Mine is made out to "Micah and Jodi". (I took a video of one minute of her talk and put it on Youtube.)

Ms Chen

The second talk I went to on a whim. It was a panel promoting a series of books called 《海派文化丛书》 (Shanghainese Culture Collection), hosted by the chairman of the 上海市对外文化交流协会 (Shanghai Municipal Cultural Exchange Association). The panel was composed of the authors on Shanghaise cooking, literature, history, movies, men(!), and dynastic families. Sitting next to a chatty intern from the Wenhui Post, and some of the panelists being quite the characters (沈寂, 程乃珊) made the talk somewhat bearable.

Panel of Shanghai experts

The Book Fair is being held at the Shanghai Mart in Gubei, a short taxi ride away from the Loushanguan Rd metro station. Don't miss the specialized publishers on the higher floors. A schedule of the fair's talks is available from volunteers inside the front door. Tickets are RMB 10 at the door. Tuesday is the last day.

Friday, August 15, 2008

We've decided that "up" is Charlotte's official first word.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Went to pick up Jodi's mom at the Shanghai South Railway Station this morning. Three observations:

1. During the Olympics, you can't enter the station itself if you don't have a ticket. Before the Olympic Games, without a ticket you could enter the building but not the departure waiting area. Now the only space available to visitors (as opposed to passengers) is the arrival hallway on the bottom floor. Thanks a lot, China Rail + Olympics.

2. The arrival hallway, where people wait for passengers arriving on trains, is made of up several wide passageways of impressive expanse — but there is not a single bench in the whole area. You notice this type of thing if you're wife is pregnant, but I'm guessing not if you're head is stuck in your ass like the designers of the South Railway Station. In fact, there are no benches in the entire train station outside of the departure area. This is exactly the same as any other backwards little train station in the Chinese countryside. To get a feel for this, here's a picture of the Express Train Station at the new Beijing Terminal 3, which from pictures I've seen suffers from the same problem:

Huge space, no benches.

This means that there's piles of luggage and passengers scattered about the floor inside and ground outside train stations all over China, which makes one wonder about a country whose leaders worry so much about its 形象 (image) so much and promised a 人文 (untranslatable?) Olympics. Thanks a lot, China Rail. (And while you're at it, could you install drinking fountains too? Thanks.)

3. The fabric and trinket market next to the Caoxi Rd light rail station (across from Ikea) has been razed and turned into a parking lot. This is a market that sold cheap, custom-made curtains and beddings sets, as well as providing drinks, snacks and DVDs to commuters making the trek between Line 3 and Lines 1/4 or the bus hub at Shanghai Stadium. Now it's a parking lot. On the other hand, the tacky and always-empty clothing, jewelry, make-up and accessory "mall" on the other side of the light rail station still stands. Thanks a lot, Shanghai municipal government + Olympics.

I often wonder if people do this stuff on purpose, but usually I fall back on Hanlon's Razor.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Jupiter is still loitering in the sky above our balcony these days.

Jupiter on stage

A view of Lujiazui from our laundry room in Zhangjiang High-Tech Park.

Beautiful ruby orange and red sunset, with a view of the Pearl Tower, Jinmao Tower and World Financial Center.

Friday, August 01, 2008

rt @shizhao

Retweeting @imnewer: RT @vvrabbit Retweeting @icorey: 当前北京四种人: 1、避运的:外出旅游避开奥运; 2、受运的:留在北京忍受奥运; 3、宫外运的:恭迎外国人参加奥运; 4、怀运的:只敢怀怨在心,但不敢发帖去骂

Got some errands to run now, maybe I'll translate this later. It uses plays on words to describe people's attitudes towards the Olympics using terms related to pregnancy/contraception.

I'm posting this for the language part, not for the Olympics. Ugh.