Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Danger danger

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Made a trip into Puxi today to settle a hospital bill (having babies can be expensive). Here are some notes from the trip:

  • Instead of taking the subway to Xujiahui (Line 2 → Line 1) today I walked 10 minutes to the Xiangnan wet market and took the No 6 Bridge Line from its terminal station here in Pudong to the next-to-last station in Puxi. It was a nice, hour-long ride; I started reading the Xinmin Evening Post, but eventually put it down to catch the scenery: Huamu by Century Park, where we used to live; the school where the Pudong Bureau of Education put on its foreign English teacher Christmas party last week; over the Nanpu Bridge and past the old shipyards; along the river through some older neighborhoods; alongside Shanghai Stadium and Shanghai Indoor Stadium; and finally at Grand Gateway on Hongqiao Rd, where there is massive construction going on for Lines 9 and 11.
  • Had a late lunch at Prima Taste, the Singaporean place on 美罗城 3F (Metro City?), which I heard has opened another location in Raffles City. I was introduced to it by Michael Chan of SSIS, and I'm very thankful he did because their laksa is the best I've had in Shanghai (am I right?). Also had the chicken curry puff pastries, one of which dropped into my soup because after 5 years in China I'm still a klutz with the chopsticks.
  • A long time ago I ordered this thing called Velo that you can swipe at machines in subway stations around Shanghai and get coupons for discounts at KFC and other shops. At the time it was a new thing, and very few shops had signed on yet, and I had to pay RMB 15 to have it delivered to our house in Zhongshan Park, for which Jodi laughed at me. Now, two years later, Velo has found its second wind and is all the rage; they're practically being given away by the hundreds at little booths in subway stations and you can swipe for coupons at dozens of shops. Mine? Lost. Doh.
  • Popping out of the ground at People's Square, I was taking a picture of Venus next to the JC Marriot (one of my favorite Shanghai skyscrapers: the other two would be the Jinmao and that wavy one), when suddenly a blimp swung over the New World shopping center and into view. It had a giant LCD screen on the side and that was playing commercial ads. It was a bit further away by the time it got into the frame of my camera, but I snapped a photo anyway. I'll add the photo to this post when I upload it to the computer tonight. (EDIT: Done.)
  • A long time ago I wrote that it would be fun to take photos of the logos of American companies here in China that had retained their original style but had switched to Chinese characters, and make a quiz out of to see how many people could recognize. Today looking at the huge neon Hershey's marquee on Raffles City, I had the thought that somebody should take photos of stores of common American brands that had turned themselves into luxury brands when they moved to China and put them on the web and submit it to, say, Boingboing. I bet you could get more than a few hits. The list would include Pizza Hut, Haagen Dazs, Hersheys, Dunkin Donuts, Howard Johnson... who else?
  • Walking along Nanjing East Road on my way to Dunkin Donuts, a young girl (young? I'm getting old!) came down to RMB 300 for a massage and sex at a nearby hotel. Then she offered to come to our home in Zhangjiang! After switching into Chinese, we moved off the topic and she said she was a 服务员 (attendant?) at a local hotel working for RMB 1800 (USD 265) a month and that she was doing a little work on the side to earn some extra spending money. I have mixed feelings about that.
  • Dunkin Donuts is doing a buy-5-get-1-free deal right now, so my club card didn't get me a discount. Yes, I'm a DD club member.
  • Since I have journeyed out to Puxi a couple of times later in the day these past couple weeks, I've come back after bus service to my house stopped more than once. Because I've been alone, I could walk around and explore my options so I finally got worked out where the unlicensed minibuses that go to Xiangnan pick up their passengers: on the corner of Zu Chongzhi Road and Songtao Road, at the east end of the Zhangjiang subway station. Sometimes they wait on the south side of the intersection, sometimes on the north, but there will always be vans going to Yulan Xiangyuan on the south side so just ask one of the drivers advertising their services if they are going to Xiangnan and they will tell you where to go. In the evening the fare is RMB 3 instead of the usual RMB 2 like in the afternoons when buses are still running.
  • Tonight, I actually got home early enough to take the Zhangjiang Loop Line home. One exciting thing that I saw is that the trolley tracks, which are under construction behind my apartment and will eventually end up at Zhangjiang Station, come northward along Bibo Road and enter the Zhangjiang subway station area on the south side of the station, in between the station itself and the Shanghai Legend shopping center! So that is why there is construction going on in front of Shanghai Legend: it's not putting in more shops, it's for building the terminal station of the trolley line. Pretty cool, huh?

That's it for tonight. I'm typing this from school, where I just finished a cleaning session up in the observatory. I'm about to mop up and head back home, where dishes and laundry await me. Ciao.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Appple Pie

I'm going to a Christmas party at Sandy and Ken's house tonight, so I made an apple pie yesterday. I should have taken pictures of the process for our Liba baking thread, but I forgot until after the pie was done. I used Jonathan apples from Liaoning, which are not as tart as Granny Smith but still hold up well to baking. I haven't tried it yet but I had some extra crust and apples so I made a couple little tarts, which I devoured while they were hot out of the oven. The crust had me worried because I don't have a mixer; I used knives, a fork, and my fingers to cut the butter into the flour. But it turned out to be the best part, very flaky and 酥. The apples were not as sweet as I had hoped, which means that next time I will add more sugar the way that Mom does. Luckily I put raisins in the pie, which should add some of the sweetness that was missing from the tarts.

Apple Tart

Monday, December 22, 2008

I solicited advice on the ethical side of teachers accepting Christmas gifts from students/parents on Flickr, Facebook and in real life. This is the e-mail I ended up composing.

Hi folks,

As Christmas draws near, some students and parents will take this opportunity to gives gifts to teachers as a sign of appreciation for your hard work and dedication this year. Accepting these gifts can become an ethical problem in certain cases. The school does not have an explicit policy on gifts, so I’d like to suggest a few lines of thought for you to consider this season:

- Gifts of high emotional value are less troublesome and can be just as meaningful as gifts with high monetary value. If you have a chance to influence a student’s choice of gift, this is a useful reminder to offer them.

- Gifts from outstanding students are less troublesome than gifts from students who are not doing as well grade-wise. If you are offered an extravagant gift by a low-performing students, be very careful; consider quoting some sort of policy that would allow you to not accept the gift.

- Most important of all, it’s good to be open and transparent with your colleagues and administrators about the gifts you receive. If you receive a gift whose monetary value makes you uncomfortable, check with your department head, the AA office or (the student’s) other teachers to make sure that keeping it won’t cause complications down the road. This is especially true for gifts of cash/hongbao, which are sometimes seen at this school because of our students’ cultural backgrounds.

Even for experienced teachers, it’s hard to know exactly where to draw the line so don’t hesitate to ask about any doubts you have regarding a gift.

Happy Holidays!

Micah Sittig
Science Department | Physics 11
SMIC Private School | Shanghai, China
Micah_Sittig@smXcschXol.cXm | 5X55-4588x5X6 | Office C202

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lately I've been chatting on MSN video with Jodi and Charlotte.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sounds like a nice guy, too bad the article is so short:

"Growing up here I was always conscious that I was a liability to my (Chinese) friends," he recalls. "Just to be seen with me could be a problem for them and I was always very grateful to the ones who didn't mind."

Today, he says, one of the changes about China that pleases him most is the way he "can talk to people without their feeling any great apprehension about associating with foreigners. There's no fear about that now."

(Christian Science Monitor: A Westerner grows up in China)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

中国人美国人法国人, a joke:

一个美国人,一个法国人还有一个中国人走在大沙漠中,走着走着看到一个瓶子,打开瓶塞后飘出来一个人来,那个人说:"我是神仙,我能满足你们每个人三个愿望!” 美国人第一个抢着说:“我第一个愿望是要很多的钱.” 神仙说:“这个简单,满足你!说说第二个愿望吧.” 美国人说:“我还要很多的钱!” 神仙满足他的愿望后,美国人又说了他的第三个愿望:“把我弄回家.” 神仙说:“没问题.” 于是美国人带着很多的钱回了美国. 神仙又问法国人. 法国人说:“我要美女!” 神仙给了他美女. 法国人又说:“我还要美女!” 神仙也满足了他,给了他美女.. 法国人最后说到:“把我送回法国.” 神仙把法国人送回国后问中国人要什么. 中国人说:“先来瓶二锅头吧.” 神仙给了他.问他第二个愿望是什么. 中国人说:“再来一瓶二锅头!” 神仙问他第三个愿望是什么. 中国人说:“我挺想法国人和美国人的,你把他们都弄回来吧”

(Via Zhangjiang BBS.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Back when I coded ZHtool, there weren't a lot of online sites to help you read Chinese. Over time, more advanced sites like,, and have come to vie for the clicks of Chinese learners. But the one site that stays at the tips of my fingers (and resides in my Firefox keyword bookmarks) is Adsotrans, now the Popup Chinese dictionary. The reason I use it is because it's the only truly open-source Chinese dictionary: Dave put a bunch of work into giving it a wide vocabulary as possible, and its users can easily contribute definitions for words that Adsotrans doesn't know.

One quirky side effect of this model — and it's a quirk I like — is that some words have "colorful" definitions. Today I was reading a Zhangjiang BBS thread about a fight at the local Pizza Hut and came across this sentence, which was crucial to understanding the passage:


Well, it wasn't 清楚 to me. The word I didn't get was the underlined one, 姘头. My first instinct was to look it up on Adsotrans, and this is the result:

The definition given for 姘头 is "shack job"

A smile spread across my face. I didn't know what "shack job" is, but a lookup was a short hop away. Heh, thanks Adsotrans. ( has a more formal, though a little less colorful, definition of 姘头.)

Monday, December 15, 2008


Tonight I had a great dinner that I'd like to recommend to anybody who reads my weblog from the Zhangjiang area of Pudong. The place is called Jepson Life, located at 201 Ziwei Rd, in between the Nonggongshang grocery store and the southern end of the Zhangjiang pedestrian street. I chose Jepson for two reasons: first, I really like the bread shop on the first floor, and second, it's awkward to eat alone at Chinese restaurants. The Jepson restaurant is on the third floor — it's got a bit of the 80后 flavor to it: bookshelves with books to browse, a big painting on the wall, an outdoor balcony with a single table, and young waiters in snappy matching outfits and glasses. The food ranges from coffee and desserts, to simple spaghetti and pizza dishes, to salads and full steak dinners.

Being in the mood for a well-rounded meal, I started with a "Greek" salad (RMB 15): fresh lettuce, cherry tomato slices, onion, black olives, pine nuts, celery, and a generous dousing of vinaigrette dressing. About halfway through my salad the main course arrived, a beautiful, crispy thin-crust "roast vegetable pizza" (RMB 28) layered thick with cheese and grilled eggplant, tomato, carrot, and red and yellow peppers. Service was snappy even when the place filled up, my cup never lacking for refills of lime-hinted water and left on the table after the dishes had been cleared and I waited for my change; nice touch! Also, for the price I felt like I was really getting my money's worth, a rarity for me here in Shanghai. After dinner I stepped downstairs to pick up a baguette (RMB 8) for late night sandwiches.

Of course, every restaurant has its negative points. In the case of Jepson, the sound system was set to a radio station that played a very grating mix of styles: hip-hop one moment, soft-rock the next. They should invest in a few quality CDs, say, jazz, and keep it consistent. Also, the third floor is small — maybe 8 or 9 tables — which means that when two tables around me lit up, despite the air system's best efforts I still ended up eating through smoke. I recommend asking for a table on the second floor if possible, where there are less tables and less likely to be smokers in the vicinity. Overall though, a great meal in a great atmosphere at a great value. I can't wait to take Jodi out when we come back from our Chinese New Year vacation.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mock trial 2

Monday, December 08, 2008


Sunday, December 07, 2008


I took Jodi, Charlotte and Maryann to Hongqiao Airport this morning where they boarded a flight to Changsha to start their extended Chinese New Year vacation with the grandparents in Jodi's hometown. Getting home just now, I called her dad to confirm that they arrived safely. Their bus leaves the airport at 4:30pm. Some notes about my day in Puxi.

  • The taxi from our house to Hongqiao on a virtually traffic-less Sunday morning cost RMB 101. The ride back on the Airport Bus, subway Line 2 and Zhangjiang Loop Line bus: RMB 10. It's what I call the "迟到大王税", a tax on the chronically late (though today to our credit we left punctually at 10am).
  • It's strawberry season, or at least the very start of strawberry season. The itinerant fruit vendors are out en force at various metro stations. I have no idea what the right price is, I'll be checking that out soon.
  • The four lions on a column outside of Plaza 66 at Jing'an Temple have always tickled the back of my mind, so I went to look them up today. A bit of internet research shows that the Buddhist column had been there since the days of the Republic, is modeled after the Indian landmark Lion Capital of Asoka, was torn down during the Cultural Revolution in 1966, and then was rebuilt (photo) and unveiled in May of last year (2007).
  • On the way back from buying chinchilla food at the Yinjiang Pet Market, I passed through People's Park. The singles market was in full swing, still too unreal to be boring. Passed by a group of ads hung from bushes around a sign announcing the 新上海人相亲角, the "New Shanghainese" Corner, and began to suspect that it was more than just parents there when I saw many pre-printed ads filled out with profiles of prospective partners being "guarded" by a couple older men: maybe introduction companies are using the park to field new customers? Also passed through the Park's English Corner, busy.
  • As reported (can't remember where), the Hershey's store in Raffles City sells Reese's plush dolls but no Reese's products: no peanut-butter cups, no Pieces. Also, dark chocolate Mounds bars, but only bite-size bars in RMB 75 bags.
  • Dunkin' Donuts has apple fritters, but a only a wussy mass-manufactured version; almost exactly like a filled donut but with apple inside. Disappointed, I passed. The middle-aged Shanghainese man behind me wanted plain; no plain donuts, only plain Devil's Food. "I want one that's not sweet; give me the not-sweet one," he said. Hmm, these are donuts. I went with Devil's Food and the ones with the most glaze I could find.
  • The Xinmin Evening Post is my talisman of +1 Ward Off Nanjing East Road "Watch, Bag, DVD" Vendors. From the paper: Shanghai Media Group is putting a bunch of its TV channels online, simply download their custom software; taxis of major companies to be fitted with GPS/phones and provide pick-up service in remote suburbs of Shanghai; sections of Beijing East Road will be shut down as part of major Bund-area road construction; names of metro Line 7 and Line 11 stations finalized; new "International Library" opens on 8th floor of Changning District Public Library; and in a small panel at the top of the front page, OJ sentenced to 33 years.

The house is quiet tonight.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Just back from the Indie Top show at Zhijiang Dream Factory. Big ups to Andy Best for the ticket, and for coming out to check for us when we arrived 30 minutes late or so. Great show, we caught: Momo, Sonnet, Little Nature, and an all-girl band whose name I didn't catch and didn't remember from the list of bands playing. Ran into my secret journo crush Lisa Movius at a bad moment (sorry!) which was too bad; would have loved to chat about 新海派 for a bit. The music was good; Momo was probably my favorite because they were a bit darker and edgier, while the other three bands were a bit too pop-y for me but were great for Charlotte who had fun dancing in the back of the hall where the music was at a bearable volume for her and a couple of ABC swing dancers regaled us with a spontaneous performance. I had heard good things about Wang Xiaokun but when it came time for his set Charlotte was getting ready to crash so we jumped back on the 76 to Jing'an Temple. She went to bed without a bath and was out within 5 minutes of hitting the sack.

EDIT: Just read Andy's post and realized that the bands Charlotte and I saw were Zhongchi, Sonnet, Little Nature, and Momo, in that order. And Zhongchi was my favorite. For the record.

Jodi's in bed too, and I'm getting ready to go out for a quick look at the sky through my new binoculars. The wind today blew all the clouds away and the cold, crisp air should mean great seeing. Orion is calling.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Today after school, at the prompting of a colleague I hosted a Planetary Alignment Party to take a look at the grouping of Jupiter, Venus and the Moon in the night sky. At 4:30 I carried two sets of binoculars and a smallish telescope out to the elementary school courtyard and began setting up. At 5:00 we opened up the snacks, and spent the evening with students from preschool to high school, with teachers and administrators, observing the heavens above. It was quite a successful evening; pictures follow:

Call your friends!

Oh yeah, astronomy!

Smiley face

More on Flickr.