Friday, January 08, 2010

Just a quick note. Tonight I'm holding an Open Observatory night, 8pm-10pm. It's (near) FREEZING, but it's the first Open Observatory advertised to faculty through e-mail, and students by poster, so I'm expecting a turnout nonetheless. Actually it's open to anybody, so if you see this post on time you are welcome to drop by: Zhangjiang High-Tech Park, 19 Qingtong Rd (near Guanglan Rd). That's Pudong of course. If you need more specific directions, text me (number is on my Facebook); my phone is wonky and calling doesn't work. Dress warmly please.

The menu for tonight is the following:

  • M42/M43 (Orion's Sword)
  • M45 (Pleiades)
  • Mars
  • M44 (open cluster)
  • Sirius
  • M41 (open cluster)
  • M79 (globular cluster)
  • M37 (open cluster)
  • M35 (open cluster)

Orion's Sword is a must; saw it at Uncle Steve's observatory a couple weeks ago and it is as impressive as advertised. I doubt we will get as good an image but I'll try. The Pleiades is a favorite of mine; it's visible in city-lights with the naked-eye, and it's not something you notice because it's not huge or bright, but once it's pointed out to you it's easily recognizable. Next is Mars, which is very close to Earth these days and showing a lot of detail. It will be my first time observing it through this telescope. M44 is a brightish open cluster close to Mars in the sky. Sirius is the brightest star in the sky these days, it also has a pair of blue and orange stars right next to it that might be fun to compare and contrast. M431 is an open cluster close to Sirius. M79 is a bright and concentrated globular cluster. And M37 and M35 are rather ordinary open clusters that we can target if we have leftover time and are not frozen stiff.

To design the list of targets I mined three sources: my own memory (it is getting better!), a post on the Riverdale Astronomy weblog, and Tom Flanders' guide to the Messier objects in Early Winter and Late Winter.

See you at 8pm.

Monday, January 04, 2010

SILF 2010 Short-list

My short-list for the Shanghai International Literary Festival, March 5-21, 2010:

1. Tash Aw "The Harmony Silk Factory" (Whitbread First Novel award, Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel)
*2. Terry Bennett "The History of Photography in China"
**7. Leslie Chang "Factory Girls"
*12. Andrew Field "Shanghai’s Dancing World: Cabaret Culture and Urban Politics, 1919- 1954" (2010)
**17. Peter Hessler "River Town"; "Oracle Bones"; "Driving Lessons" (2010)
**21. Tess Johnston "Permanently Temporary: From Berlin to Shanghai in Half a Century" (2010)
*26. David Leffman "Rough Guides" China author
31. Mo Zhi Hong "The Year of the Shanghai Shark" (Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book)
*33. Chen Murong "Leave Me Alone Chengdu"
36. James Palmer "The Bloody White Baron"
**41. Su Tong "Rice Wives and Concubines" (adapted to Raise the Red Lantern); "My Life as Emperor". 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize for "The Boat to Redemption" (not yet published)
42. Alice Pung "Unpolished Gem"
*45. Donata & Christoph Valentien "Shanghai’s New Botanic Garden"

My interests tend toward history, Shanghai, South-East Asia, and the Asian diaspora. A asterisk means an author is on my short² list; two asterisks means short³(!) list.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Micah and Jodi: Out and About on the New Year

Now that Charlotte is back in the states with the grandparents and crazy aunt Lolo, and since Jodi's mom is still available to take care of Maryann for an afternoon, Jodi and I have been freer to get out of the house together lately. We took advantage to enjoy life a little on New Year's Day with a trip to a packed Babaiban and shiny Lujiazui.

First off, thanks to Aaron and Jessica for the new camera. Great Christmas gift, I'm sure we'll get a lot of use out of it.

Testing... 3 (by Micah Sittig)

In the afternoon we realized that it was the opening day of the Zhangjiang Tram, so we took it to the subway station. Naturally on the first day of operation it was packed. It's futuristic looking and novel, but the ride is far from smooth and it takes a long path looping through southern Zhangjiang. I'm not sure we'll be taking it very often in the future.

Zhangjiang Tram, Day 1 (by Micah Sittig)

Zhangjiang Tram, Day 1 (by Micah Sittig)

One cool thing about the tram is that it maximizes the use of glass, including ceiling-to-floor glass doors to the outside and to the driver's cabin. This means you can see the ground whizzing by outside and a clear view the road ahead.

Zhangjiang Tram, Day 1 (by Micah Sittig)

Zhangjiang Tram, Day 1 (by Micah Sittig)

At Babaiban we took my phone to the Samsung Service Center to get it checked out and passed by Bifengtang to pick up pineapple buns for a snack. The whole area was a mass of people out shopping on the first day of the Western new year. I hear that the mall had a big sale until 2am the previous night as well!

I thought about trying out the new Line 9 from Shangcheng Road to its temporary terminal station and connection to Line 2 at Century Avenue, but the Dongchang Line tempted us with its route directly to the back door of our home. So we took the bus home to check in with Grandma and Maryann, and to inquire at the service desk about moving into the new apartment. We're upgrading: same set of apartments, but a 3-bedroom layout.

A couple hours later and we were on the road again to a Korean dinner I'd promised Jodi at a favorite of hers, 明洞, in the Super Brand Mall. Since we were anticipating a big dinner we let our stomachs settle and tried something we'd been intending to take, the Lujiazui tourist bus. It's the double-decker bus that you see sometimes stopped south of the Oriental Peal Tower when you take Exit 1 out of the Lujiazui subway station.

On the tour bus (by Micah Sittig)

We had been anticipating this ride for a while now, but after completing the experience we come down firmly on the side of: "don't bother, it's not worth it". Contrary to our expectations, the "tourist" part of the ride is minimized and the "bus" part is emphasized. Narration is limited to pointing out the Huangpu River ferry, the Thompson Riviera apartments (ah, Shanghai and real estate), and a few famous landmarks like the Oriental Pearl Tower, Jinmao Tower, and the Int'l Financial Center. The route is limited in scope, the complimentary milk tea is watery and tasteless, and a lot of time is spent at multiple stops waiting for passengers to board and disembark. Cheap at RMB 15 a person, but not worth the price or time.

View: "Twin towers" (by Micah Sittig)

View: Pearl Tower (by Micah Sittig)

View: Random Lujiazui building (by Micah Sittig)

Our consolation prize was a sizable and filling spread at 明洞 on Super Brand 6F. We barely managed to get through everything, and we let the waiter cook the meat for us or it would have taken forever. At RMB 298 for the 2-person combo it wasn't cheap but for a special occasion it hit just the right spot.

Korean spread (by Micah Sittig)

Full and contented, we headed home.