Tag: Carl


Feb 2006

Irate Football Fan

Two weeks ago was “Super Bowl Monday.” At 6am John B and I caught a taxi to Windows Scoreboard, the place the Carl said would be “the place” to catch the big game. Well, “the place” insofar as it’s a pretty decent sports bar, beer is cheap (in the Windows tradition), and you can even get a decent American breakfast for a reasonable price. Plus they were showing the Super Bowl through satellite TV, so we didn’t have to put up with that outrageous 15-second delay.

I’m not a big sports fan at all, but I enjoy a good football game from time to time. I’d never started drinking so early before, and it was a good reason to hang out with John B and Carl, my former roommate I hadn’t seen in a while.

Excited by the breakfast food which Carl assured us would be very tasty, I ordered a 30 rmb omelette with cheddar, bacon, onions, and tomatoes. I was really looking forward to that.

When we arrived at 6:30am, the place was fairly crowded, and breakfast orders were flying. I waited a good while for that omelette, and I was getting hungry. (Plus, like a wuss, I wanted to eat before I started on my beer.) At one point I decided to go up to the bar and check on my order.

There was a foreigner in front of me trying to put in a food order. He got the extremely busy waitress’s attention and started giving her his order (in English). She gave him an embarrassed laugh and told him she didn’t understand (in Chinese). The guy tried again (in English). She apologized again (in Chinese) and started to leave. I sympathized with the guy, because the bartender could take his English order, but the bartender was really busy too, and so the foreigner might have to wait another while just to put his order in, let alone actually eat. So I stepped in and told the guy I’d translate for him. I started telling the waitress in Chinese what the guy wanted.

The foreigner did not like that. He gave me a nasty, “I’d like to order my own damn food, if that’s OK with you.” So I immediately backed off and left the guy alone. I eventually got my omelette and it was goooood. (More memorable than the Super Bowl, in fact.)

So what was the guy’s deal? My interpretation is that the guy was just in a bad mood (maybe he was a Seahawks fan?), but maybe not… I wonder how many other foreigners would be pissed off by what I did. It’s been my experience that any newcomers with no language skills are typically grateful in a situation like that. But maybe the guy has been in Shanghai a while and he’s pissed off that he still can’t order food, and thought I was trying to show off? If the guy was trying to order food in broken Chinese but the waitress couldn’t understand him, I could understand how he would get pissed at me for butting in. I wouldn’t have said anything in a case like that. But he wasn’t speaking any Chinese at all.

I find these multilingual/cross-cultural exchanges and all the emotion-laden sociolinguistic baggage they come with to be very interesting.


Jan 2006

Shaddap and drink yer oatmeal


Oatmeal beverage

I still get a kick out of seeing what form Western products take in China. Sometimes it’s just a matter of checking out how the company chose to represent its product name in Chinese, but other times the trip across the Pacific also results in other unexpected changes. This is a perfect example. In China instant oatmeal is suddenly a drink? Bizarre.

Carl bought this stuff about a year ago, and it’s still sitting on top of the refrigerator, even though Carl has long since moved out. He said it was good, but he didn’t finish it or take it with him. (Hey Carl, stop by for a visit and some oatmeal beverage any time…)

The Chinese word for “oatmeal” used on the box is 燕麦 (lit. “swallow (bird) wheat”). I know that 麦片 is another name for oatmeal, so I’m kind of curious why marketers might have chosen 燕麦 over 麦片 for their translation. Anyone care to enlighten me?

One thing that hasn’t changed is that in China, too, oatmeal is marketed as a healthy product.

Related: Sinosplice Chinese Products photo set on Flickr


Dec 2005

Farewell to Ayi

Shortly after I moved to Shanghai in early 2004 I decided to hire an ayi (housekeeper/maid) to do some cooking and cleaning. (Her last name was Zhou, so I’ll call her “Zhou Ayi.”) I really enjoyed having a cook, and I wasn’t shy about expressing my great satisfaction with Zhou Ayi. Things were great for a while.

Over time, our relationship worsened. I find it difficult to explain exactly how or why, but I’ll try.



Nov 2005

Things I learned last Friday

Last Friday night my friend DJ Carl was spinning so I went to check his set out at La Fabrique with my girlfriend. While there a kind soul gave us tickets to see Scott Bond at DKD so we did that too. I learned a few things:

1. A girl can look pretty hot with her hair up and chopsticks in her hair.

2. The chopsticks in her hair are not actually to be called “chopsticks.” That would be silly. They are actually “hair accessories.”

3. Girls with chopsticks in their hair do not belong on the dance floor. Someone could lose an eye.

4. I’m getting old. Even despite Carl’s numinous performance the club thing holds little appeal for me anymore. (I’m not sure it ever did, but I used to be able to fake it, at least.)

Snobs in China


Oct 2005

Snobs in China

When I lived in Hangzhou, the “snobs” were the foreigners that lived in Shanghai and thought it was so great.

After I moved to Shanghai, the “snobs” became the foreigners in Shanghai that didn’t learn any Chinese and spent all their time and money in Western over-priced restuarants and bars.

Carl helped me realize how “snobby” I can be, towards foreigners that spend a lot of time in the bar scene (some actually are cool). They’re not all assholes.

There are so many kinds of snobs, really. (Maybe it cheapens the term to apply it so liberally, but who cares?) When I still lived in the US the ones that annoyed me the most were the music snobs. Here in China (and especially in Shanghai), there are so many other kinds of snobs to be found in the expat community…

  • There are the “Real China snobs”. Their experience in China is the real one, in some part of China that the snob deems respectably “rough.” This type of snob holds nothing but contempt for the expats in Shanghai. The funny thing, is, you can find this type of snob in Hangzhou. (Life in Hangzhou is anything but “roughing it.”)
  • There are the “Chinese study snobs”. They’re usually bookish and don’t openly show contempt. But they might mention that they don’t hang out with foreigners.
  • There are the “I speak Chinese snobs”. They speak at least basic Chinese, and unlike the “Chinese study” snobs they do hang out with foreigners, mostly because they’re always trying to impress them with their Chinese skills. Their snobbery is only half-hearted, because they love to be needed by those without the Chinese skills. They limit their contempt for the Chinese-unequipped to occasional snide remarks.
  • There are the “I am so 老百姓 snobs”. These are the opposite of the traditional snobs. They arrive in China and move right into the slums to live with their Chinese “brethren.” They get 5 rmb haircuts and eat 5-10 rmb meals, exclusively Chinese. They usually don’t show a lot of contempt for those who want normal conveniences, but neither do they recognize the absurdity of their own actions. This kind of snob is specific to big cities, but is otherwise basically the same as the “Real China” snob.

I am guessing that some of my readers find me writing about this ironic, as on more than one occasion I have been accused of being one of these types. So here’s where I’ll get honest.

I was certainly never hardcore about it, but I did feel the “Real China snob” in me resisting the move to Shanghai. I lived out my “Real China” snob fantasies in my first year in Hangzhou and when I traveled in my first 2-3 years in China.

I was sort of a “Chinese study snob” my first year in China, but that was mostly because I was poor and didn’t really know any other foreigners. I’ll admit that I am still somewhat bewildered (frustrated? shamed? saddened?) by foreigners who live in Shanghai long-term and don’t make a real effort to learn the language. I’m not sure if that makes me a snob.

Despite the occasional accusation, I don’t think I am a “I speak Chinese snob,” although certain friends of mine might say I have definitely exhibited symptoms. (It was tough love, I swear!) But yes, I speak Chinese, and not badly. If you want to label me a snob for that, have fun.

I am not a “I am so 老百姓 snob,” but I think I know a few people who exhibit symptoms.

So… how many kinds of snobs did I miss? What kind of snob are you?

Marilyn Monroe Five Drops No 5″ 1955


Sep 2005

The ZUCC Chronicle

Jamie’s recent post outlined his history with China. It was a history which crossed mine. The most significant common experience was had in a college in Hangzhou we call ZUCC. (If you’re American, you say Z-U-C-C, kind of like F-B-I. If you’re Aussie or kiwi, you say “Zook,” rhyming with it “book.” I have always wondered about that little cultural linguistic difference.)

In chronicling my three years at ZUCC, I aim to do three things:

  1. Create an easy reference for myself, since I’m very forgetful.
  2. Provide a reference for friends and family with regards to ZUCC friends.
  3. Provide an idea of what kind of salary you might expect. (Yes, I’m going to disclose how much I was paid for each semester I worked at ZUCC.)



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.


Jul 2005

It's About to Get Hotter…

…in my apartment. No more free power. They came and fixed the power meter on Wednesday.

China giveth, and China taketh away…

But having almost seven months of free power is pretty cool.

Also, Carl moves out this weekend, so I’ll be down to just one roommate. We’ll miss him, but we’re glad to see him find a good job and move forward. We’re not looking to find a new roommate… we’ll see if we can afford to have a guest room.


Apr 2005

Suzhou: any good?

I spent Friday and Saturday in Suzhou with Carl and his parents. Carl took his parents for sightseeing, and since I’d never been, decided to tag along.

Suzhou has always been paired with Hangzhou in my mind, due to the famous Chinese saying:

> 上有天堂,下有苏杭。
> Above there is Heaven,
> Below, Suzhou and Hangzhou.

Living in Hangzhou, I had this verse cited to me countless times. Hangzhou was not quite Heaven, but it was a pretty nice city as Chinese cities go. I was always just a little curious to see how Suzhou compared. I finally had my chance.

My first impressions were not good. The touts at the train station in Suzhou are particularly aggressive and annoying. These touts learn a few phrases of English just so they can rip off unwary foreigners. After finally convincing them we REALLY had no interest in their services, we got in the taxi line. It was extremely long.

Then we had trouble finding the hotel we wanted to stay at. That may very well be the Lonely Planet’s fault; who knows. We ended up getting off somewhere and walking for quite a while. We walked through Suzhou University’s campus, which was quite nice. Very green campus, with interesting circle-inspired architecture. Eventually we decided on a hotel right off Suzhou’s shopping/bar street (十全街).

The first touristy place we went to was the maze-like “Garden of the Master of the Nets” (网师园), which was supposed to be the most famous of Suzhou’s legendary gardens. The admission was 30 rmb. Wow, what a let-down. Not interesting, not beautiful. Not even very green. I guess maybe I’m bringing in my own Western ideals of what a “garden” should be, which does not necessarily jive with China’s version throughout its history, but so what? We didn’t like it. Carl, always looking for the good in things, made the comment, “this place would be good for playing paintball.”

That afternoon we sipped freshly harvested Suzhou green tea and played 五子棋 (traditional Chinese “Connect 5” boardgame) while having a nice chat in a teahouse.

That evening Carl and I checked out the bar scene on 十全街. The bars all seemed to be hostess bars or dead. All the bars we came to would be either (a) absolutely lifeless and uninviting, or (b) filled with provocatively dressed girls that tried to pull us in as we passed. I guess that’s just how 十全街 is. We saw a lot of foreigners on that street. A staggeringly large amount.

Carl and I settled on Venice Bar, killed some time there, and then later went to meet up with Matt (of Chabuduo). We chatted at his place for a while with him and his charming young bride Wang Ying, and then we headed out to a nice pub Matt knew (which, thankfully, was not on 十全街!). We had a good bilingual conversation there (Matt, as expected, speaks some good Chinese), put away a few beers, and then headed back into town for a late-night snack of 麻辣烫 (a kind of DIY spicy soup, or “the poor man’s hotpot,” as I think of it). I passed on the 麻辣烫, which for some reason disappointed the others. I’m just not a big fan of it. Then we said bye to Matt and Wang Ying and promised to meet again, probably in Shanghai next time.

The next day the only thing we did of mention before coming back was visit “The Humble Administrator’s Garden” (拙政园), which charged a steep 70 rmb admission. Wow, what a difference from the “Garden of the Master of the Nets”! It was sprawling, very green, had interesting landscaping, and flowers were in bloom everywhere. Carl and I spent a pleasant hour and a half there before the tourist crowds got to be too much and we headed back to Shanghai.

If I had to compare Hangzhou and Suzhou, I’d have to say that Hangzhou would win, hands down. Suzhou may be greener than your average Chinese city, but it certainly isn’t doing much about its pollution problem. The canal that ran by our hotel (which is in a major commercial area, mind you) absolutely reeked, and at one point we saw the green murky water bubbling. Furthermore, Suzhou’s attractions are its gardens, but those are walled off and isolated from the rest of the city, plus admission can be pretty steep. Hangzhou, on the other hand, makes West Lake its public tourism focus, and, indeed, the center of its city planning. The bulk of Hangzhou’s touristy spots radiate outward from West Lake, and the parks are free. Hangzhou has its problems, but it’s on the right track. In any case, it’s closer to “Heaven” than Suzhou. If not for the promise shown in “The Humble Administrator’s Garden,” I probably wouldn’t even recommend Suzhou as a sightseeing destination. And if I did recommend it, it would have to be a spring trip. Even so, I feel no compulsion to see the rest of Suzhou’s gardens.

Conclusion: best two things about Suzhou (that Hangzhou hasn’t got): Matt and “The Humble Administrator’s Garden.”


Apr 2005

The Rat Game

Rats don’t really freak me out at all. I recognize them as carriers of disease, so I certainly wouldn’t want any in my building, but I don’t get “disgusted” when I see one like some people.

I live pretty near the Zhongshan Park subway stop. When I walk to the subway, I pass by a large planter with some rather sad-looking bushes and grass (?) in it. The city’s attempt to cultivate this little green oasis inside a long expanse of concrete is mostly a failure, as there’s more dirt than anything in the planter. It is also in this location that I frequently see rats.

They’re your typical brown city rats, I guess. About the size of a good Idaho potato. They like to scurry around in that dirt. There are storm drains nearby, and the Suzhou River with its bustling garbage trafficking is not far to the north. The rats come out the most after it rains.

One day Carl and I started talking about how we always see rats in that one place. Since then I can’t help looking for rats every time I go by. It’s a sort of competition.

Today on the way home I saw three rats at once, all chilling within a few feet of each other. It hadn’t even rained very recently. Beat that, Carl!


Jan 2005

Holiday Thievery

You hear it every year from your Chinese friends at about this time: “Be careful with your wallet and your bag. It’s almost Chinese New Year, and the thieves are out in force so they can take home something extra for the holiday.”

I’ve only ever had one crappy cell phone stolen from me in China, but I’m extremely paranoid. The possibility of getting pickpocketed is on my mind constantly when I use public transportation or walk in crowds. I guess that’s a good thing, because it keeps me from getting victimized. On the other hand, it makes trekking through town a lot more taxing.

I thought my wallet was lifted on a bus recently as I was distracted by the snow. I even reported my credit card stolen. Carl found my wallet for me under my bed (d’oh!).

When the credit card company sent my replacement card, I got a notice in my mailbox to go pick it up at the post office (for security reasons). It looked exactly like a regular package notice, though, and Carl is expecting a package, so he went to claim it, with his passport as proof of identity. Despite not being me and showing them the wrong passport (i.e. not mine), they still gave it to him! Unbelievable.

Then when I called in to activate my replacement Visa card, I also had to unfreeze my Mastercard card with that bank because it was frozen when my Visa was reported stolen. Hoping it would be quicker, I used the English language service. As proof of identity, they required such difficult information as my home address, home phone number, and cell phone number. I had to make them wait a few seconds while I looked up my new home phone number because I haven’t memorized it yet. (Not fishy at all, right?) They asked my current credit limit, and I got it wrong. They still re-activated my card! Unbelievable.

If this country really gets into credit cards, credit card scamming is going to be huge. Back to the thieving, though.

Micah’s bag just got stolen. It’s really stupid, because all it had in it was kindergarten English teaching materials. The bag itself was probably worth the most from that take. Bastards!

What can you do when surrounded by all this holiday thievery? Well, just be careful. And if you still fall victim? Curse the waidiren! (外地人 are Chinese people that come from out of town. The stereotype is that they all come from poor rural areas and have little or no morals. The Shanghainese are pretty bad about blaming waidiren for all the city’s evils. I enjoy the irony of pretending to join in on the scapegoatery.)

Inspiration for this post: ShenzhenRen’s post on the same topic. (Well, that and my real life experiences.)


Dec 2004

Christmas Mutated

Last week at work I had this conversation:

> A: John, you have an activity on Saturday.

> J: This Saturday? The 25th?

> A: Right.

> J: I can’t. It’s Christmas.

> A: Why can’t you?

> J: It’s Christmas. I have Christmas things to do.

> A: It’s just for an hour.

> J: No. It’s Christmas.

> A: OK, I’ll tell them.

Later I was approached by my supervisor:

> V: John, I realize it’s Christmas, but can you please work on Saturday?

> J: No.

> V: Come on, it’s just for an hour…

> J: Don’t you see something wrong with me giving up my own time on Christmas to teach little Chinese kids about why Christmas is important to Westerners?

> V: Ummm…

> J: So I won’t do it.

> V: But the company has already agreed to do it, and the kindergarten has already notified all the parents. Neither side can cancel it now without a big loss of face!

> J: Well, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still Christmas. My answer is no.

They ended up finding someone else to do it.

Christmas Eve

I had nothing specific planned, really. My girlfriend and I went out to eat with Carl and one of Carl’s Chinese friends. We all dressed up a little, and the restuarant was nice. We ate stuff Chinese people like to eat such as crab. It was good.

After dinner Carl’s friend, like many young Chinese people, it seems, wanted to celebrate Christmas Eve partying at a bar. Since no one had a better idea, we headed to Hengshan Lu, Shanghai’s nice bar street. What a mistake. It seemed like all the young people in the city had the same idea. Bars that usually charged no cover were charging cover. Bars that usually charged cover were doubling or tripling it. And yet, the bars were packed. My girlfriend and I decided to go home. We left Carl and his friend to their own pursuits.

Being in China for the holidays creates a lot of weird feelings in me that are hard to put into words. That night, though, my feelings were clear. To me, Christmas Eve is not a time to be living it up at bars. It’s a quiet night meant to be spent with loved ones.

Back at my quiet apartment, sitting in the glow of a cute little fake Christmas tree assembled with care, I started to feel better. But I could still feel a kind of pressure on me. It had something to do with my company wanting me to work on Christmas teaching about Christmas, with the throngs of young Chinese people in bars on Christmas Eve, and with the ubiquitous Christmas decorations that just seemed to try too hard — and for what?

I went to bed fairly early.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day I got up and went to mass at Xujiahui Cathedral. The mass was pretty unmoving, and the Christmas songs came out kinda stuffy. Throughout the mass, tourists were wandering into the service to have a look at what the Christians were up to. They were probably all pretty disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed, though. I felt better.

I’m not trying to write something as cheesey as “I went to church and found the true meaning of Christmas.” That’s not it. It’s more like, “the ‘Christmas’ around me, being constantly shoved in my face, bore only a superficial resemblance to the Christmas I knew, and what lay underneath it all was scary. Getting to church confirmed that what I knew was real, and I wasn’t the one who was losing it.

After that, Christmas was more fun. We were having some friends over to the new apartment. I just happened to find Knight Rider – Season One from a vendor in the subway on my way to the grocery store that afternoon, so I picked that up. I invented the very simple “Knight Rider drinking game” (anytime anyone says “Michael,” you drink) and we played it to the amazingly long 2-hour pilot “episode.” We had Papa John’s pizza delivered. We played the pyramid drinking game. Then, when we were all nicely happy, we played Eat Poop You Cat. Yes, it sounds lame, and there were definitely skeptics at the party before it got going, but the game won everyone over pretty quickly and we were laughing so much it hurt.

It was a weird Christmas. But it was happy.


Nov 2004

Eat Poop You Cat

Eat Poop You Cat” is a party game I recently discovered via Metafilter. The premise:

> Each person writes a sentence, such as, say, “The hot soup burned my tongue.” The next person illustrates the sentence. Then the first portion is folded over, and the next person must try to reproduce the original sentence from the drawing. Then the drawing is folded over, and another illustration is produced.

> The mutations can be hilarious. You don’t have to “know how to” draw. You don’t have to “know how to” write. Just keep the papers moving, until the space is used up. They must end with a sentence, not an illustration. Then you can compare.

Just looking through the online game results was plenty entertaining (especially the PG-13 ones), but it certainly wasn’t enough. I wanted to play it. When they visited last weekend Carl and Alf were similarly fired up by the possibilities. We played a lame 3-person game and the results were promising, but it was clear that in order to harness the full hilarity power of the game you need more people.

I also mused about how it might be playing with Chinese people. Carl, Alf, and I have all taught Chinese kids, and we all feel they often lack imagination. Would it be any fun playing with them? What about playing in Chinese? Would I be able to write and read enough to fully participate in an all-Chinese version of the game? Would it be possible to play a bilingual version? These were all just thoughts floating around in my head. I had no idea when I’d have a chance to test them out.

Then last Friday my girlfriend told me she was going to hang out with some classmates on Saturday and wanted me to hang out with them. Oh great, I thought. A day of hanging out with a bunch of people I don’t know, who are all speaking in Shanghainese which I only partially understand, and probably playing Chinese card games which I hate. But my girlfriend is always a good sport about hanging out with my friends despite her limited English ability. I like to think that’s because my friends are especially cool. Still, the right thing seemed to be to go along and not whine.

So I showed up and met them all. I got the usual round of foreigner comments, and then we ate dinner. After dinner someone had the great idea of playing cards. Everyone was speaking Shanghainese. My imagined unwanted scenario had become reality. I hate that stupid card game, so I just sat behind my girlfriend and watched her play, trying to participate what little I could in the conversation.

After they played a good five or six rounds of cards, though, I had had enough. Some of the people there were pretty fun; I decided Eat Poop You Cat stood a chance. I suggested we play a game I knew of. Paper and pens were passed out. I explained the rules. Everyone was enthusiastic about it, and the game began.

I knew it was going to be a hit when people were already laughing hard after the second and third passes of the first round. Looking at the results of the first round, my girlfriend was laughing so hard it must have hurt. Everyone was laughing.

Although we had started playing when the evening was already winding down, we played for a good two hours, switching seats and everything. The game succeeded far beyond my modest expectations. I had no problems with other people’s Chinese, except when someone wrote 在法院审理案件. I knew it was something happening in a court of law, but I was unclear exactly what. I fudged it by drawing people talking in a courthouse. Worked fine. Turns out 审理案件 means “to try/hear a case.” Close enough.

Some sample sentences translated to English from memory (sorry, no drawings), in no particular order:

  • The monk prayed over the dead body.
  • Long live Maoist Thought!
  • The two chickens clucked and blew up balloons with their butts at the same time.
  • Ugly people can find each other without using the phone if they just take off their clothes.
  • The mother got angry because her son brought home a slut and castrated him.

Conclusions? At least this group of Chinese people had more than enough imagination to have a blast at this game. The fear that Chinese didn’t have enough imagination to have a good time with the game was unwarranted. And Eat Poop You Cat is awesome.


May 2004

Sitemeter, Hair

Is it my imagination, or is Sitemeter now blocked in China? That is just downright annoying. If it is now permanently blocked, I need to get it off all my templates, because it’s slowing my page load way down.

In other news, I recently shaved my head again (I do that from time to time) and I’m growing my beard again. So I look something like a convict. I look a lot like I do in this picture from a few years back. I’m too lazy to take a new one.

Brad, Carl, Jamie, and I recently made a trip to the barber shop supply section of town. Apparently that’s the only place to get clippers for shaving one’s head. We also picked up some of that temporary spray-on hair dye. I tried white hair out Thursday. I’m really not sure how the so-called “temporary hair dye” differed from spray paint. It had the little marble in it and everything. That’s what we get for 8rmb ($1) a can.

So I had a spray-painted head for most of Thursday. My hair was stiff like a wire brush. Brad tried it out too, but then aborted because his hair is too short and he realized he was just spray painting his head. As far as I know, Carl and Jamie completely wussed out. They skipped town rather than following through on their promise to be badass crusty spray-painted hair brothers on Friday.

From the Sitemeter site:

SM5 Server Status

Friday, May 7th

Dear Valued Customer:

Today the hard drive of the SM5 Site Meter server, where your account
is located, failed. When we attempted to restart the server, the hard
drive in it would not boot.

We have setup a new server and are currently working to recover the
files from the old server and will have it back up as soon as possible.

Thank you for your patience during this process.

We appreciate your business.

Well, crap. I guess that explains it, though. (I should really stop being so quick to suspect a blocking every time a site goes down temporarily…)


May 2004

May Holiday

I’m in the middle of my “Labor Day” week of vacation, and enjoying it immensely. I am no longer sick, and have managed not to pick up any more pets. I’m working on my site and working on my book (that will be published some day!).

And now Carl and Jamie are visiting from ZUCC.

The only damper is that I have to work this weekend, and then all next week. Why? It’s the Chinese way. They still don’t get the whole “vacation” idea. (Refer to my explanation from last year.)


Jan 2004

Exorcising, Exploding, Welcoming

OK, I guess that’s not a nice way to refer to the departure of two good friends. But it’s what came to mind when I took this picture, which I have entitled exorcising the demon (sorry Carl):

exorcising the demon

Amy is still here visiting, and we’re doing lots of sightseeing still (as well as plenty of lounging). Carl and Greg’s most recent Shanghai visit, however, is already over just two days after it began. They seem to have had a good time (due largely to the neighborhood Taco Popo). My new sleeper sofa, mattress pad, and sheet set equip my guest room pretty well to accommodate guests.

Quick plug: Da Yu (Chinese name) Japanese restaurant in the Isetan building on West Nanjing Road is awesome. At 150 rmb per person it’s not cheap, but it’s all you can eat and all you can drink. Plus you order off the menu — there’s no crappy buffet bar. We left there at closing, very full and more than a little happy. (Thanks to Wilson for that recommendation!)

While they were here we also experienced the storm after the calm after the storm. I refer to the ridiculous firecracker/firework extravaganza that went on last night. The noise was deafening, and we had quite a show out my apartment window for about an hour. All kinds of fireworks explosions came from all directions, right in the middle of the city, between tall buildings. At one point a nearby building caught on fire, sending up big clouds of smoke. It was put out fairly quickly. (The next morning we went to check it out, but there was no evidence. I did notice a sign on the building which had caught fire: DANGER: GAS.)

[Related link: don’t miss this footage of the unbelievable pyrotechnic show around ZUCC on Chinese New Year’s Eve.]

Turns out that the display here last night was due to some kind of tradition of welcoming the god of wealth into one’s home for a prosperous new year. Hmmm. I suppose I should study up on this whole “Chinese culture” thing a little more.

Anyway, I’m glad Carl and Greg came up to the big city for the visit. To my other friends: come on over for a visit!



Dec 2003

Hard Drive Dead

Oh man, I am pissed. I know I should have been backing up my hard drive all along, but I’ve got remarkably good luck with computers. But John B and Carl convinced me to reinstall Windows using XP Corporate edition in English, since the language support is all there anyway. I also wanted Office XP. I also wanted to reformat my hard drive and get off of the FAT32 file system. So I had to back everything up.

Well, wouldn’t you know it… right when I’m starting to back everything up, the hard drive dies. I’m not a hardware expert, but hard drives have these little thingies inside them that spin around at very high speeds. They must spin. It seems some of mine have fused together. So instead of doing its job, my hard drive makes a sad clicking noise, and my CPU fails to recognize any hard drive at all.

Besides losing my entire addressbook AGAIN, I’ve lost a bunch of pictures, which really bums me. I can try to recover data from the crashed HD, but I’ve been advised not to get my hopes up too high.

I had to take Carl back to the computer market today to swap out his motherboard for a working one. My original plan was to buy a new hard drive immediately, but I had a fateful telephone conversation with my girlfriend last night.

Why is it that girls pretend to be strangers to logic most of their lives, blithely prancing about their affairs of shopping and gossip, but then can cruelly whip it out at the opportune moment and spear a vulnerable man with it?

“Why don’t you wait until after you move to Shanghai to buy a new hard drive? That way if anything goes wrong, it’s a lot easier to return it?”

I can’t argue with that. So I’ll be without a computer for a while. The final move is scheduled for January 4th.


Sep 2003

White Boy Antics

I have thus far neglected to mention that while I was in Japan, two more twenty-something teachers arrived at ZUCC. They are John and Greg. John has his own site as well, which is morphing into something of a China blog itself. (Side note: there are now 3 Johns among the 16 foreign teachers here, one of whom also has a son named John.) Anyway, they’re great additions to the team of teachers here; the new crew is shaping up to be really good.

John     Greg

The new ZUCC Foreign English Teacher page in now online.

Speaking of new China blogs (yes, an update to the list is coming!), Carl would have a conniption if I didn’t finally mention his new site, which he daily spurns as being “the stupidest blog ever.” It’s about China, though, and it’s not nearly as bad as he claims.

In other news, three of us had a mooncake-eating contest in honor of Mid-Autumn Moon Festival the other day. I’ll leave the details for later. I plan to devote a whole page to it (kinda like the Junk Food Review) if I can ever get the photos from Carl. In the meantime, you can get a taste from the Chinese blog if you read Chinese.

I’ll end this haphazard entry with an amusing incident that happened the other night.

> [Scene: a small Chinese bar]

> Me: You should talk to her. Practice your Chinese.

> Greg: But I don’t have anything to say.

> Me: Well just say something — you need to practice!

> Greg: Actually, I learned a great Chinese sentence today.

> Me: What is it?

> Greg: [I like cake.]

> Me: OK, great, tell her that!

> Greg: What? Why should I tell her that?

> Me: Just do it! It’ll be cool.

> Greg: I’m not going to tell her that!

> Me: Why not?

> Greg: It’s stupid.

> Me: But just do it anyway. Something good will come of it.

> Greg: I’m not gonna do it.

> Me: I’m telling you, something good will come of it.

> Greg: Forget it.

> Me (to her): [He says that he likes cake.]

> Her (to Greg): [Really? My family makes cakes! I can give you some cake, no charge!]

> Greg: [I like cake.]

No, I didn’t know the girl or that her family makes cakes. But that kind of thing seems to happen in China all the time.