Thursday, November 26, 2009

Since the Leonid meteor shower just passed and the Geminids are coming up mid-December, and since I've never observed a meteor shower, today I took the light pollution map of East Asia from the Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologia dell'Inquinamento Luminoso's (Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute) "The night sky in the World" website and super-imposed it on a Google Map of the 长三角 Yangtze River Delta area. Click on the map below for a full-size view:

Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing are all lit up.

So it's true what they say, a dark sky isn't that far away. I think a weekend trip is in order later this winter.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Yesterday I got all excited about and making my own passport photos, and all angry about how Walgreens and Rite-Aid charging passport-photo prices for printing self-generated passport photos.

Today I take my new passport photos to the Zhangjiang Carrefour Fujifilm shop, and guess what: the lady wants to charge me RMB 15 (2 bucks) per page for printing them out because they are ID photos! And she had the gall to tell me she was giving me half price because I took them myself.

I just walked out. I'll print them online.

Monday, November 16, 2009

About 7 kilometers away in spacetime:

President Obama's Townhall Meeting at the Science and Technology Museum, in Shanghai, PRC

Photo-0016 (by Micah Sittig)

Charlotte and I went to Shanghai Stadium this afternoon to see the NFL's flag football league play on the practice fields outside of the Stadium itself. We didn't talk to anybody in depth, on account of the rain and Charlotte being anxious to leave. Some notes:

  • About the time we arrived, a little after one, it began to rain lightly and the games continued unaffected.
  • Play was smooth and all the players were good sports. The referees seemed to be unfamiliar with some rules, but were not afraid to ask for help so things stayed on track. There was one Chinese guy in black running around with a clipboard that seemed to be the go-to man for questions. There was an injury, but a first aid kit was on hand and play stopped while the player was being attended to.
  • About 1 in 10 of the players were white; another 30% had Asian faces but spoke fluent American English. The refs were all locals, and included several women.

Photo-0008 (by Micah Sittig)

Photo-0010 (by Micah Sittig)

Photo-0013 (by Micah Sittig)

Overall, it was a very low-key event.

Photo-0011 (by Micah Sittig)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tonight on a whim I went back and listened to the Pizzicato Five (P5) Happy End of the You remix album. The most notable thing about the re-listen was how my position relative to the album has changed since I first listened to it back in college.

The first time I heard the album was during my studies at Caltech. In college I pursued music, among other things, as an escape-valve for the incredible pressure I was feeling academically. In high school I had latched onto Pizzicato Five to supplement my Japanese studying; Shibuya-kei was more accessible than other J-pop genres in a pre-Youtube, pre-Napster time, because Matador Records distributed their albums and brought them to the US for tours. Eventually I joined the p5ml, a mailing list for English-speaking fans of Pizzicato Five. When Happy End of You came out I interpreted it as being a big deal to the list because here was a bunch of western DJs acknowledging and possibly having been inspired by Pizzicato Five. Still reviews of the album from the list were mixed; p5ml members had eclectic tastes that tended towards pop, rock and oldies (there was an overlap between prominent members of p5ml and the Exotica list, a list "for fans and collectors of weird and unusual music from the early LP era forward").

By the time Happy End of the World was released I was a P5 collector, so I picked up a couple of the vinyl releases of the individual mixes at Moby Disc in downtown Pasdena, and eventually the entire CD. My own reaction was similar to the list's: I preferred the more upbeat tracks and was disappointed by the slower, more unstructured mixes. I didn't have a good perspective on those compositional styles; my background so far had been pop and techno in Spain, hip-hop and rock in high school, and then some exotica and world music during college. The sounds I was hearing on these remixes were foreign and almost unconnected to anything I had ever heard.

How is my listening different now? In the years since then, influenced by my brother's progressive musical tastes, by DJ friends and classmates at Caltech, by the documentary on techno called Modulations, by Kraftwerk (through P5) and their influences, through Cornelious, the Plastics, the Boredoms, through "graduation" night from Princeton in Beijing 2000, through marveling at the curious club scene of Shanghai, and through the influence of Mr Zambrano, Mr Hogue and NoiShanghai, I've picked up a few things here and there about the more fringe, exploratory, theoretical facets of music and exposed myself to more ideas about what music can be. Listening to Happy End of Youd this second time around I find myself navigating the styles with a greater familiarity and being able to appreciate all of the musical extremes, from 808 State's bouncy synthesizer-packed remix of Trailer Music, to Gusgus's moody, building whomp-whomp remix of Porno 3003, to the dissonant plunderphonic remix of It's a Beautiful Day by John Oswald; they all have elements that I recognize or can categorize with other music I've heard and learned to enjoy.

I can't help but connect this to my thoughts about teaching. If my goal as a teacher is to make my kids more fully appreciate physics, my work has to include exposing them to memorable experiences that they can analyze using the scientific principles I teach them. But that's a topic to be developed on another day. It's time for bed now.

(One of my colleagues told me that today, Saturday, is Childrens' Day in India, and that her daughters are performing for thousands of Indian expatriates in Shanghai today. I am jealous.)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

31 (by Micah Sittig)

We had a delayed birthday dinner of sorts for myself tonight. Charlotte, Maryan and I met Jodi at People's Square after Jodi's Sunday afternoon classes and we walked to the 干锅居 at the entrance of Huanghe Rd. I had forgotten how good the Guizhounese restaurant is: we had the tea-mushroom chicken pot (茶树菇干锅), the spicy-sour greenbeans (酸豆角炒肉末), a honey-rice cake (风味小米喳), and a stir-fry of mixed vegetables (小炒皇). Even with the girls making messes and causing a ruckus I still enjoyed every bite. In fact, I felt like I liked it even more than before, having grown more accustomed to eating chicken off the bone and spicy foods. Although we didn't wait for a window seat tonight, in the past we've sat next to the glass and had a decent view of People's Square lit up at night, looking straight down Nanjing East Road. For the money, it's one of the better views of the Square. With our VIP card, the meal came out to RMB 90 for the four of us.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

“It’s All Sermon Prep to Me”, comment by rpage:

I read a story recently about a desert father who was visited by a hermit who had heard of the abba. The hermit began to talk about scripture and theological things. The abba turned away from him. When the hermit asked the mutual friend who introduced them, the friend asked the abba why he ignored someone who had traveled hundreds of miles to talk with him. The abba said that he knows little about scripture or theology. If the hermit wanted to talk about the internal life that loves and needs healing, he would be happy to talk with the hermit. The abba and the hermit had a long and mutually satisfying conversation after that. I have looked upon the sermon as a way to reflect on how God is present and healing in lives and what the scriptures collected by the church tell us of these things in the past to help us understand the present in faith terms.

This is pretty close to how I see it.