personal


12

Aug 2005

Officially a Student

I think I’m officially a student of ECNU/华师大 now. On Wednesday I did two important things: I paid one year’s tuition out of my hard-earned Shanghai savings (21,777 rmbouch!) and I put through my student visa paperwork.

Unfortunately, they say they still can’t tell me how many classes/credits I’ll have my first semester, or which ones. I have to wait until registration on September 5th to learn that. I can’t even talk to my new adviser about it because he’s still on vacation. Classes start Sepember 12th.

My passport with new student visa will be delivered to my doorstep on August 17th. That’s gonna cost me 850 rmb, I believe (400 rmb for each semester, plus a ripoff 50 rmb for delivery). I’ll need that two days later to fly to Changchun, where I’ll be attending John B‘s wedding on the 20th. (Congrats to him!) I’ll be doing the overnight train thing back, leaving on the 21st and arriving in Shanghai on the 22nd.


11

Aug 2005

Buddhist MP3s

I’ve visited quite a few Chinese Buddhist temples in my day, and those temples invariably have Buddhist music playing in the gift shop. I’m frequently somewhat attracted to that music, even though I can’t understand it. There’s just something about the chanting… the feel of it. I never liked it enough to actually buy a CD, though.

Recently I had the idea of looking for this kind of music online. Baidu’s MP3 search was the natural place to start. (See my tutorial on it if you don’t know how to use it.)

First I did a search for 佛教 歌 (buddhims, songs) in Baidu web search. I clicked on the top result (on fowang.org). Sure enough, it was a listing of Buddhist songs. They were supposed to be downloadable MP3s, but none of the links worked. No problem.

I opened a new tab and went to Baidu’s MP3 search. I copied and pasted what I deemed to be key words from the names of the songs in the fowang.org listing. I got some decent results with the following terms (click on the Chinese to see the search results):

(Fó, Buddha)
阿弥陀佛 (Ēmítuófó, “Buddha preserve us.” A common refrain in Buddhist prayer, also known as Amithabha.)
观音 (Guānyīn, Goddess of Mercy)
菩萨 (Púsà, Bodhisattva)
(jīng, used in scripture/prayer names)
: 大悲咒, 大明咒, 普庵咒 (zhòu, something like “incantation,” used in the names of ceremonies)
梵唱 (fànchàng, Buddhist chanting)

I’m no expert on Buddhism, so if I’m off on any of these brief explanations, feel free to let me know.

Obviously, you don’t have to stick to these searches; you can find your own terms and copy and paste them into the MP3 search box, even if you can’t type Chinese. Your computer will need to support GB2312 (Simplified Chinese) encoding, however. Baidu doesn’t use Unicode.

If you can view Chinese in your browser but can’t read it, you can still download the songs that Baidu MP3 search turns up. Look for songs with a relatively large filesize (over 1 M). Rightclick, then “Save as.” You may want to rename the file when you save it.

That should give you a taste of some Chinese Buddhist music. If you like it, consider making a visit to a Chinese temple and actually buying a CD.


10

Aug 2005

While Searching for Tabs…

I have gotten several requests for the guitar tablature for the song 月亮代表我的心, so I did a search for them and found them in about 20 minutes. They’re hosted by a Chinese music site: www.yf66.com.

In the process, I necessarily learned the word for “guitar tabs” in Chinese. It’s 吉他谱. This is unsurprising, as the character has the meaning of “musical notation” itself, so you can just tack the word for “guitar” (吉他) onto it. Normal musical notation with the staff and all that is called 五线谱 (“five line musical notation” Heh…). There’s also a simplified musical notation which uses numbers in place of notes, and you can see amateur pianists all around China using it. It’s called 简谱 (“simplified musical notation”). If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this 简谱 for 月亮代表我的心.

Anyway, as with any search, my search for guitar tabs for “The Moon Represents My Heart” resulted in quite a few deadends before I found what I was looking for. Most of what I found was annoying crap, but I did discover a video that sort of cast a spell on me.

The video is just a short clip of a Chinese girl playing 月亮代表我的心 on her guitar and singing the song. It’s not that the girl is a babe or an amazing singer. She’s rather ordinary-looking. In fact, she could easily have been one of the many students I taught in Hangzhou. So what makes the video special?

I was struck by how incredibly Chinese it was, down to the last detail. The girl looks like a typical Chinese college girl, and even when she’s filming herself, she never even looks the camera straight on. She’s wearing the same kind of white puffy coat that I’ve seen so many girls here wear in the winter, complete with faux fur trim on the hood. The bare white walls behind her, the simple shelf holding just a few knicknacks guarded by a stuffed bear, the folded up Asian-style comforter behind her that’s just barely peeking out… so Chinese.

I don’t mean to imply that all Chinese girls are just like this girl or anything ridiculous like that. I’m not trying to reinforce stereotypes here. I was just really amazed how the sweet song of a girl on video could just scream “China.”

Take a look for yourself.


09

Aug 2005

The Thai Biker

So yesterday I was out riding around on my bike, doing errands. It was a beautiful day, and not even too hot. A typhoon will do great things for the weather (although it ripped the top of my favorite umbrella right off when Carl tricked me into going out in it on Saturday).

I was stopped at a light, and an older, deeply tanned biker next to me started saying “hello, hello” to me. Great, I thought. So much for my dissolving the “bubble of foreignness” when I’m riding my bike.

Pearl Tower

Shanghai’s Pearl Tower

The guy made another attempt, so I looked over at him. I noticed he was wearing a big pack, which seemed kind of strange. When he had my attention, he held up a picture. I took a look. It was a postcard of Shanghai’s Pearl Tower. Then he said, “Hello, hello. How I go here? How I go here?”

I was a little confused at first. Why was some Chinese guy on a bike asking me (in English, no less) how to get to the Pearl Tower? (We were nowhere near the Pearl Tower.) Then I noticed two flags on his bike. They had Thai writing on them. So this guy was Thai

He repeated his question again, and I pointed in the general direction. He nodded. Then the light changed, and he was off.

Too bad I was a bit cold toward him (not to mention daft); he was probably a pretty interesting guy, biking through China… and all the way from Thailand(?). Oh well. It was morning. I’m not a morning person.

But sometimes interesting things happen when you ride a bike.


08

Aug 2005

Using Baidu MP3 Search

I think any modern student of Chinese should be using Baidu’s MP3 search. With it, it’s possible to find a huge variety of MP3s on the internet, and it’s totally free! (Yes, the world’s loss regarding intellectual property rights in China can be your gain!) I can imagine, though, that for a beginning student of Chinese, an all-Chinese interface can be daunting. It is my aim to make it more accessible to the beginner.

Note: to use Baidu, your computer must support Chinese fonts. Baidu uses GB2312 encoding, which should be automatically detected by your browser, but the Chinese characters will only be readable if your computer supports them.

OK, let’s suppose you’re a total beginner. You’ve heard of this hot boy band called F4, and you figure it’s as good a place as any (plus you don’t have to actually use any Chinese to search for it!).

  1. Go to Baidu.com.

    Baidu Search

  2. Click on MP3 (or you could have gone to mp3.baidu.com directly).

    Baidu Search

  3. Enter your search term in the box (in this case it’s “F4” without the quotes).

    Baidu Search

  4. Choose your format. I only want MP3s, so I select the “MP3” radio button. (The choices, left to right, are: 歌词 (lyrics), 全部音乐 (all music files), mp3, rm (RealPlayer format), wma (Windows Media Player format), flash, 其它 (others), 铃声 (cell phone ringtones).)

    Baidu Search

  5. Click on the button next to the search box, “百度搜索” (Baidu search). (For the future, when you do searches from the search results page, make sure you click on the left button. The right button will be “歌词搜索” (lyrics search).)

    Baidu Search

  6. You will see a table of your search results. Below you will find a guide to interpreting this table:

    Baidu Search

    1. 歌曲名: Song Title (this name is linked to the MP3s you download)
    2. 试听: Listen First (uses Windows Media Player in a popup window)
    3. 歌词: Lyrics (very useful, especially for pop music, although not 100% reliable)
    4. 铃声: Cell Phone Ringtone
    5. 大小: Filesize (in megabytes)
    6. 格式: Format (MP3, WMA, etc.)
    7. 下载速度: Download Speed (especially if you’re outside of China, this may be important)
  7. Right click on a title (choose from the 歌曲名/Song Title column) and “Save as“. There’s a good chance that you’ll want to change the filename, as they are often completely random or unhelpful.

    Update: You now have to first left-click on the song title. A pop-up window will appear containing the URL to the MP3. Right-click on that to save.

    Baidu Search

That’s it! Also try out the lyrics search. You can click on 歌词 (lyrics) for any search result that has them. You can also search for lyrics directly, from the search results page. Click on the right button, “歌词搜索” (lyrics search).)

Baidu Search

Note that the lyrics are not always 100% accurate. Most are submitted by users.

For other Sinosplice tutorials, click on the tutorial tag.


05

Aug 2005

Kingsoft on Chips

I don’t think I’ve ever written about it before, but it’s such a valuable resource that I really should. Every student of Chinese (intermediate or higher) should be aware of the Kingsoft Online Dictionary.

The dictionary itself is not that special… If you put in an English word, it returns some possible Chinese translations. If you put in a Chinese word (in characters), it returns possible English translations, which are linked to those words’ Chinese definitions. Naturally, it is completely Chinese user-oriented, so there is no pinyin or notes explaining the differences between the Chinese words. I pretty much never use that dictionary.

What I do use often is the 短句 (“Short Sentences”) function. You can either enter a word in the dictionary first and then click on 短句, or you can click on 短句 and then enter a word.

For example, recently I encountered the word 芯片 at the video game store. I could tell by context that it meant “chip” (as in “computer chip”). The shop’s PS2’s came installed with a mod chip (直读芯片 or 米赛亚芯片) as well as an “anti-frying” chip (防烧芯片).

Later I wanted to explore the word 芯片 a bit more, so I looked it up with Kingsoft’s 短句 function. It returned 10 sentences using the word 芯片. The simplest sentence was first:

> 芯片是计算机中最贵重的部分。

> The chip is the most valuable part in the computer.

The most complex sentence was last:

> 硅元素与计算机的关系如此密切以至于大多数人可能更容易将它与加利福尼亚的硅谷而不是元素周期表联系起来。但是随着高速运算超越芯片和机器的局限将试管、承物玻璃片、溶液甚至脱氧核糖核酸(DNA)等生物化学和遗传学工具包括在内,这种想法可能很快就要做出根本性的修正了。

> The element silicon is so closely identified with computers that most people would be likely to associate it more readily with California’s high – tech valley than with the periodic table.But such thinking may soon have to be radically revised,as high – speed computation moves beyond chips and machines to include the tools of biochemistry and genetics:test tubes,slides,solutions,even DNA. [punctuation/spacing errors theirs]

Definitely a useful tool, but I should note that Kingsoft is very much a fallible source of information. I’ve been using its products for almost five years, and sometimes it comes up with some bizarre meanings/translations. Example: when I put “chip” into the 短句 function, these two were at the end of the list:

> What carpenter,such chip.

> 什么木匠,出什么活。

> Such carpenter,such chip.

> 什么木匠出什么活。

What’s going on here? Possibilities:

– Kingsoft is more down with the latest slang than me.
– Kingsoft has some seriously outdated expressions in its database.
– Kingsoft has taken upon itself to be a creative force in the evolution of the English language.

I’m not sure which it is.


04

Aug 2005

Locking Up My Bike

When I bought my new bike, at the forefront of my mind was “this is so going to get stolen.” Bike theft is so common here that my roommate Lenny tells me he thinks of bikes as a disposable product. I think of it more like gambling. But in this game, “winning” means having your bike stolen, and the more you gamble, the higher chances you have of winning. For this reason I always go with as cheap a bike as I can find. It just has to be fully functional and big enough for me to ride. (If I weren’t so tall, I could find bikes for much cheaper.)

When I got my new bike, I also bought bike locks. I wasn’t sure which kind to buy… I know that some of them are incredibly easy to break. The U-locks for instance, can be opened with a ballpoint pen, I understand. Not cool. No U-lock for me. So which lock is good?

The clerk was amazingly useless. She just kept recommending the expensive ones, and she couldn’t even tell me why they were better. The one that was supposedly “best” was a thick chain lock. In Hanghzou I used to rely totally on the kind of lock that is attached to the back wheel and I never once had my bike stolen. So I bought one of each of those locks. Two locks.

When it came time to park, I realized one reason why bike theft is so common in China. When I used to bike all around the campus of the University of Florida, there were bike racks everywhere. Really sturdy metal frames, set in the ground with concrete. You felt pretty secure when you locked the frame of your bike to one of those. But bike racks are relatively rare here in Shanghai. So I’m finding the chain lock I bought to be of very limited value.

One thing a lot of people do is take their bike into their building and up the elevator. Then they either keep it in the hall by their apartment door, or they actually keep it in their apartment. I don’t like that method at all. Bikes should be kept outside, thieves or no.

bike locks

My apartment complex has this underground parking garage/mosquito farm. I’m not sure how safe it keeps my bike, but it seems safe. In addition, there are locks set in the ground that can lock your bike wheel securely to the ground (above). You have to pay if you want a key to one of those “ground locks,” though.

Left Note

I noticed that a lot of them are unused. I also saw that one other biker used a chain lock to lock his bike securely to one of the empty ground locks. I decided that was a good idea, so I did that too. When I returned to my bike a day or two later, I found this hand-written note on my bike (left).

Without even reading the note, I knew why I had gotten it. But, dilligent student of Chinese that I am, I wanted to know exactly what the note said. Did it threaten me with something, or what? The handwriting was really hard for me to make out, however. I found that I could only decipher about half of it on my own. I enlisted my girlfriend’s help, and it actually took some effort for her to decipher every character.

Can you read it? Take the challenge!

When you’re ready for the answer, drag your cursor from one bracket to the other: [ 如需要 / 地桩锁 / 请到物 / 业申请! / 不要占用 / 别人的地 / 桩锁!!! ]

In English it basically means, “If you need a ground lock, please apply at the office! Do not occupy other people’s ground locks!!!”

I found a thick metal pipe I can lock my bike to instead. Let’s see how long I can keep this bike.


03

Aug 2005

X-Net is here!

That’s right: X-Net! If it sounds futuristic and vaguely badass, it’s because it is!

Behold X-Net:

X-Net

The vigilant observer might spot me astride this sweet piece of one-speed fury on the streets of Shanghai. I may be utilizing its convenient front basket, or ringing the bike bell to warn the unwary pedestrians in my path. I won’t be taking too many sharp turns, though, because that would involve smacking my knee with the handle bars, but that’s neither here nor there. The bike is big enough for me to ride.

<serious>Walking around Shanghai, I often feel like I’m in a bubble of foreignness, always a bit apart from my environs. When I ride my bike, however, the bubble seems to disappear. I don’t know what it is… Maybe part of it is that when I ride a bike no one can tell that I’m 194cm tall. But in Shanghai I don’t get stared at too much anyway, so that’s probably not it. Regardless, really being part of the traffic flow makes me feel like I’m a part of the city in a way that nothing else does.</serious>

Thanks, X-Net!

P.S. Dear bike thieves in China: Don’t steal this bike, regardless of how awesome I just said it is!


01

Aug 2005

Shanghainese Rap CD Release Party

I may have posted about Shanghainese rap once before, but I normally only listen to rap or hip hop occasionally. Still, the one time I went to a hip hop show at Caesar’s Pub (since closed) with my girlfriend, Brad, and a few other friends, we had a really good time. So when Brad mentioned to me that ShanghaiNing was throwing a CD release party, I was happy to go.

ShanghaiHiphop2

I don’t have a lot to say about the actual event… Obviously, the fact that you can get a record deal (with Sony BMG) doesn’t really mean your music is better. I heard a few songs I liked, and also got an earful of awful “hip hop English.” Some of the songs on the CD are not bad, however.

Here’s what the CD cover and track listing look like (click for full size):

Shanghai Rap CD: Cover Shanghai Rap CD: Tracks

Check out Brad’s photos of the event:

Shanghai Rap Cd Release Party Shanghai Rap Cd Release Party Shanghai Rap Cd Release Party

Check out Dan’s blog entry and photos of the event:

Shanghai Rap Cd Release Party Shanghai Rap Cd Release Party Shanghai Rap Cd Release Party

Shanghaiist also has a report on the event.

This is just the beginning of China’s rap/hip hop scene….


30

Jul 2005

Why can't Asia just get along?

I don’t read a lot of blogs these days, and the topics I write on tend to come from my own experiences rather than the internet. Here’s one blog entry on Harvard’s Global Voices Online that I have to point out, though (via Peking Duck):

Inside the Japanese Blogosphere – The Anti-Korea Wave

Also interesting:

News from Chinese Blogosphere

P.S. Scheduled posting, it would seem, refers to the minimum quantity of posts you’ll see. So there might be extras, from time to time, like this one.


29

Jul 2005

Buying a PS2 in Shanghai

I went to my local video game shop last weekend. I took a look at the PlayStation 2 prices. I’m pretty sure this is what they were:

– Imported PS2 with mod chip installed + 1 locally manufactured controller + 10 free games: 1399 RMB
– Imported PS2 with mod chip installed + 1 imported controller + 10 free games: 1499 RMB
– Locally manufactured PS2 with mod chip installed + 1 locally manufactured controller + 10 free games: 1599 RMB
– Locally manufactured PS2 with mod chip installed + 1 imported controller + 10 free games: 1699 RMB
– imported 8 MB memory cards: 149 RMB
– imported controllers: 149 rmb

That’s right, the PS2’s manufactured in China cost more, and according to the owner the quality isn’t as good. I asked the owner why. The conversation went something like this:

> Me: Why are the ones made in China more expensive? Shouldn’t they be cheaper?

> Owner: Sony is Japanese! The Japanese always do this! They make good stuff and sell it to the USA, then they sell all the crappy electronics in China, for higher prices than the good stuff sells for in the USA! Why do you think we hate the Japanese?

> Me: Ummm, I thought that had something to do with historical events…

> Owner: No, this is why!

A very “Shanghai moment,” that.

The imported controllers are more expensive than locally manufactured ones, though. The owner highly recommends them, as the locally manufactured ones break/wear out too easily.

In that shop, pirated PS2 games go for 5 RMB each! I remember when I was a teenager I had to mow quite a few lawns to earn the money I needed to buy the NES cartridges I was dying to have. Nowadays, kids in Shanghai can get the newest video games for pocket change. The cost of the system itself is a bit prohibitive, though.

While I was in the shop, there was a high school boy in there seeking out the owner with all the anxiety of a parent going to visit a sick child in the hospital. It seems his mom got so fed up with his excessive game playing that she picked up his PS2 and smashed it against the ground. The owner said he could actually fix it! Meanwhile, the kid, in desperate need of his video game fix, was returning to the shop every few hours to inquire about the status of his precious PS2.

One of the games the owner was recommending was God of War. Now, I pretty much outgrew video games in college (except for the occasional game of StarCraft or original Alien Hominid), but this game had the magic to draw me completely back in. At least for a little while. There’s just one word for this game: stunning. (Also shockingly violent — not for the kiddies!) Greek mythology has never been so fun (even if it is a bit off).

If you know me, you surely know about my staunch anti-piracy stance. All this rampant piracy in China should not be supported.

But yeah, I’ve been playing quite a bit of PS2 lately.


28

Jul 2005

Cricket Man

I’ve been told they exist here too, but I haven’t yet seen an ice cream truck here in China. What I have seen, as of last Saturday, is a cricket bicycle. No circus music tunes coming from this bicycle. Instead, incessant cricket chirping is what alerts you of its presence. It drew me right over.

Below, Cricket Man is showing me his goods. 3 rmb for the little crickets, 5 rmb for the big ones. You have to cut the little baskets open if you want to get them out.

crickets 01

Look at that bike… Loaded up, with crickety goodness! (Each of the spherical baskets on the back of the bike has a cricket inside it.)

crickets 02

At my request, Cricket Man is transferring a cricket to one of the nicer cages (which sell for 5 rmb each). He says they do bite, but it doesn’t hurt much. I noticed he didn’t want to touch the cricket, though.

crickets 03

Imprisoned again… more attractively, this time.

crickets 04

“Freeee meeee…”

crickets 05

I didn’t buy a cricket. I gave Cricket Man a tip for going to the trouble of tranferring a cricket so I could get some pictures. He said the crickets he sold will fight each other. I guess these are the crickets I heard about, so long ago…

P.S. It strikes me that maybe these are locusts, not crickets. But so what? This is Sinosplice, not Entomosplice!


27

Jul 2005

Et tu, Flickr?

I’ve been having a lot of trouble accessing Flickr from Shanghai this past week, and it was going on even before I made my trip to the U.S. on July 3rd. This is especially annoying because I had started to use Flickr to host the images I use in my blog, and I was planning to move all my photo albums onto Flickr too. I already upgraded to a pro acount on Flickr and everything. ::sigh::

I wish the major web powers would be more vigilant about monitoring their sites’ accessibility in China. Yahoo owns Flickr, and Yahoo is supposedly buddy-buddy with the Chinese government. You’d think they would have the weight to keep their sites from being slowed to a crawl in China.

I’d love to hear how Flickr is loading in other parts of China.


26

Jul 2005

Courage and Fear

Over the weekend I watched the movie Donnie Darko for the first time. I loved it. It reminded me a lot of a Murakami Haruki book, and a little bit of Slaughterhouse Five. It’s one of those pleasantly confusing stories, at once entertaining you and enriching your for the mental struggle it puts you through.

Completely by coincidence, I ended up reading The Courage to Live Consciously later the same night. I found the advice there vaguely reminiscent of Jim Cunningham‘s philosophy, only much more useful.

I found the two sources’ takes on courage and fear to be equally valid.

The Courage to Live Consciously–and this quote in particular–got me thinking about the decision to come live and work in China:

>Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.

–Erica Jong

When I was visiting the States I got to thinking about how easy and comfortable it would be to just stay in Tampa, where my friends and family are close, and just find some job to do. But that would be totally betraying my passions and my potential.

Some say moving to China to work takes a lot of courage. Numerous times, Americans from back home have told me that they admire my courage for doing what I do. But does what I do take any courage, really? I don’t see it that way.

To me, learning foreign languages and coming to China is simply a matter of doing what I like to do. I really enjoy studying Chinese, and helping other foreigners learn Chinese is something I genuinely like doing. I don’t think I deserve any special credit for doing what I like doing. If I’m hungry and I have a hamburger in front of me, am I courageous for eating it? No. That’s the way I see it.

That said, I do know that some people are living out what they feel are boring lives in the USA, Canada, or elsewhere, and they’d love to be able to move overseas and try out a new life. They see the hamburger, but they have a million reasons why they can’t eat it. Or maybe they’re afraid of what the hamburger has in it. I can’t be sure, because I’m not one of those people. I just eat the damn hamburger. I don’t think it’s courage.

Related? Those Who Dare.


25

Jul 2005

Scheduled Sinosplice

I’ve been writing this blog for over three years. It has become my hobby of choice. A lot of bloggers burn out or get bored, but I find it easier than ever. Most days, there are about ten potential entries I could write if I felt like it. Granted, a lot of those entries would be “filler” entries. The other type of entry, which I like to think of as the “quality” entry, requires inspiration and more time to write. I haven’t written a good “quality” entry for a while, but there will be more. (This is another “filler” entry.)

The point of this post is to announce that, starting today, I’m following a blogging schedule. There will be a new entry every weekday morning. This is pretty easy to do, because I’ll have the entries written ahead of time and scheduled in WordPress to be posted at a certain time. I haven’t decided what exact time is best to post, but I’m starting with 7am (China time).

There was a time when I would have thought that a “blogging schedule” was ridiculous. However, I no longer feel there will be any problems thinking of topics, I still like writing, and writing entries to be posted at a later date helps me manage my time better. While I was visiting home, I loved being able to neglect my blog for a whole week while new posts continued to appear every day. It’s a better way to blog.

So that’s the news. Sinosplice Weblog: Monday through Friday, one new entry a day.


23

Jul 2005

On American Food

From July 4th to July 16th, my girlfriend stayed with my family in a suburb of Tampa, Florida called Brandon. We had a great time, and they all loved her (of course). I’ll probably be writing about that visit a few times, but first I just want to talk about her reaction to American food.

She has to travel to other countries for her job, so my girlfriend is no stranger to Western food. She likes cheese and pizza — she’s not one of those Chinese people that can’t get used to a lot of Western foods. (She’s a Shanghainese girl!) She was excited to be able to discover what kind of food my family ate, as the American homes she had eaten in before had all been families of Chinese immigrants in L.A., and they ate mostly Chinese food. In the end, there were a few things she couldn’t get used to in two weeks’ time.

The first day, my mom gave us beef and barley soup with cold cuts sandwiches for lunch. She loved that stuff. She didn’t know Americans could make such a good soup (good job, mom!).

One night we had a make-up Thanksgiving Dinner, with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry orange relish (a family specialty)… the whole thing. I don’t think my girlfriend is too crazy about turkey, and she didn’t get into the gravy much (mmm, gravy…), but she enjoyed that meal. She just felt like it was so much food. She told me my appetite seemed to increase when I got home. Damn right it did!

She liked the chilli my mom made. And she definitely liked my sister Amy’s Asian fusion stir fry. Those two nights, though, when the dinner consisted of mainly one big dish, gave her a mistaken impression about American food. She thought that was the norm because we really didn’t have that many dinners at home. I had to explain to her that (in my family, at least) there are usually at least three or four dishes, but occasionally one dish will dominate the meal.

She enjoyed the meals less on the nights we ate out. The food she got at the Akershus “Princess Palace” at Norway in Disney’s EPCOT Center wasn’t that great. My food was good, though. What made that place amusing was the five Disney princesses that came out and chatted with you and took pictures while you ate. The five princesses of the day were Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, and Belle. Sitting there, I realized that the dining epxerience was meant for five-year-old girls. Whatever, though — Jasmine was hot!

We learned from our experience at Busch Gardens that meal portions at the fast food-type restaurants are way too big, and we were better off sharing one entree and getting a few side dishes. That worked well for lunch at SeaWorld. The pasta dish she ordered at Sharks Underwater Grill was a little rich, and the immensity of the appetizer shocked her. The jumbo shrimp I had there were the best shrimp I’ve had in a looong time, though. Chinese restaurants take great pride in having only the freshest seafood, but why is it so rare for me to eat such tasty and succulent shrimp in China for a reasonable price? OK, rambling.

The night we made dumplings (饺子) dinner was good, of course. We made so many we had to freeze half of them. (You guys better remember to eat those!) Unfortunately I earned extreme contempt from my girlfriend for my creative ing efforts. I tried all kinds of cool new 包 techniques. No one was impressed. Oh well, they still taste the same when they look ugly.

Oh, and fresh, crisp American corn on the cob was well appreciated. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get her to smother it with butter (the way it should be eaten).

12 nights of dinners, and I’m having trouble recalling many of them. Anyway, my girlfriend wasn’t crazy about stuff with rich creamy or buttery sauces, but she liked most stuff. The one meal she really couldn’t stomach, though, was one of my favorite meals of the entire visit. It was the bagel brunch.

The morning of the 16th my mom went and bought fresh-basked New York-style bagels at Brandon Bagel. According to my neighbor, it is the only source for delicious authentic bagels in Brandon. So, with my neighbor, my mom got the everything bagels, the pumpernickel bagels, the salt bagels, the honey wheat bagels, etc. They got cream cheese with chives, veggie cream cheese, cream cheese with lox, and some kind of cinnamon cream cheese. We also had fresh sliced tomatoes and onions for additional toppings. I was in heaven. Normally I have little appetitite in the morning so I eat only one bagel for breakfast, but I had three bagels (six different halves) that morning.

But my poor girlfriend didn’t like them. She felt the bagel bread was too dense and the cream cheese was just too much for a breakfast item. I pity her. Thinking back, though, I used to be unable to stomach a lot of fried Chinese breakfast items, like 煎饺.

So that’s the end of that report. I imagine my family will be a little surprised to realize that the bagel brunch was my girlfriend’s least favorite meal, as she was very polite and ate an entire half bagel before begging off. Oh well. That just left more for the bagel lovers. (And I did eat her second bagel: everything bagel with chives cream cheese, tomato, and onion! Yummm…)


21

Jul 2005

Grades, finally

I finally found out today what my scores were on my entrance exams to grad school at 华师大. They were what I predicted: two B’s. I got an 81 on the 汉语基础 exam and an 85 on the writing exam. (In China the scale is typically A: 90-100, B: 80-89, C: 70-79, D: 60-69, F: below 60.)

I’ll be paying my tuition soon, and the process for obtaining my student visa is already in motion. What was holding everything up was that 刘大为, the professor who was to be my advisor, has decided to leave Hua Shi Da for Fudan University. So they weren’t sure if I still wanted to do my Masters with them because he was leaving, and they weren’t able to get in touch with me because I was in the States. Kinda strange… is it normal to have one’s degree with a university in China dependent on having one particular professor as an advisor? 刘大为 is pretty famous, I hear, but still…

Anyway, everything is on track.


21

Jul 2005

Thwarted!

I was in a blogging mood today, and then out of nowhere the internet here in Shanghai decided not to let me access my site all day. Well, something like 9am to 11pm, anyway. I hate it when that happens. I can never be sure if it’ll be permanent condition or not.

I was going to put up a bunch of posts, as my recent trip home taught me that I rather like blogging in advance. Forgetful soul that I am, I ended up checking my website every day, never knowing what new entry will appear there (even though I just wrote it a few days prior).


19

Jul 2005

Nuking America

On the flight back to Shanghai I was looking at an English language Korean newspaper. The article that caught my eye was the one about General Zhu Chenghu of the PLA stating that China was prepared to nuke America over the Taiwan issue if it came to that. Later it was emphasized that the general’s remarks were his personal opinions, and not indicative of official policy.

Richard at Peking Duck wrote about this already, but the story he quoted left out the best line (which I have bolded):

> “If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China’s territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons,” he told an official briefing for foreign journalists.

> Zhu said the reason was the inability of China to wage a conventional war against Washington.

> “If the Americans are determined to interfere … we will be determined to respond,” he said.

> “We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xi’an. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds … of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese,” he added. [source]

Ummm… did he say “the destruction of all of the cities east of Xi’an?!” Yes, I believe he did. That’s basically all of China’s major cities. That’s what Taiwan is worth to him. Absolutely ridiculous. After public comments like that, I certainly hope that the head honchos in Beijing were saying, “OK, he doesn’t get to talk to the press anymore.”

So after reading that on the plane, my girlfriend and I were met at the airport by her parents. On the ride home, my girlfriend mentioned to her mom what I had read in the newspaper on the airplane.

Her reaction? “What? No, that never happened. That never happened.”

I’ve got to say, I’m a bit disappointed. She’s a smart lady. But then, it was a really outlandish statement.

Update: Also on Peking Duck, Bingfeng offers some scary examples of a similar focus on war on America’s side: Planning War.


18

Jul 2005

Seoul to Shanghai and stuff

I am finally back in Shanghai today. It has been a very full past two weeks.

I like the Seoul airport. It has good food, and a nice internet cafe (or “Internet Plaza,” as they call it) for US$3 per hour. I used that one on the way to the USA, but this time on the way back my girlfriend and I found the transit lounge (it’s up one floor), which offers free internet access. Nice computers, too.

I also experienced Korea’s most beloved of televised competitions: the Starcraft competition. Pretty crazy. I remember when I first arrived in China in 2000 Starcraft was still pretty popular, but I don’t see it on many screens in the wangba these days (although, admittedly, I don’t find myself in Chinese wangba much anymore). China has moved onto other games, like WoW (speaking of which, check this ad out). Korea is not nearly as fickle as China; it has remained steadfast in its obsession despite the fact that Starcraft is already 7 years old.

I have always liked Starcraft, and I still play a round from time to time. I think it’s my favorite computer game ever. But I still don’t think I would cry on national television if I lost a Starcraft competition. I guess I just don’t understand Korea.



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