Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Road to NY

We walked around quite a bit of New York yesterday. Our first stop was the New York Public Library--Jia was impressed with the architecture, I was more impressed by the Jack Kerouac exhibit. They now have "Beatific Soul" featuring the original scroll of On the Road unrolled in the center of the hall. It's amazing to see Kerouac's original words and corrections. There are also some photographs of Kerouac and other Beat writers along with some of his other work, including sketches and paintings. If we had more time, I would've spent significantly more wandering through his work.

After the long day of wandering around Grand Central Station, Times Square, Toys R Us, and some souvenir shops, we headed back to Jersey. Dinner was excellent at Skinner's Loft in Jersey City, just a short walk from the Grove Street Path station. The chicken, salmon, risotto, calamari, and spring rolls were all terrific--and that's not just because I haven't eaten Western food in quite a while. My brother told me that they also have a rooftop dining area for when the weather warms up--inside has a rather pleasant atmosphere for the winter.

We'll be back in the city for more adventures later in the week before the Super Bowl.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Many Happy Returns

Jia and I arrived in New Jersey yesterday. It was a pleasant trip. I'm still feeling a bit of shock being home, but I'll survive.

I have to place a plug for Continental Airlines because they gave us some great service. I've never had a bad flight with them, and this one was no exception. We arrived an hour early at Newark, which is great on a flight that's supposed to be 16 hours. And it was the smoothest landing I can remember. Now, all they need to do is get a deal with the airport ferry from Hong Kong airport so I can return to Shenzhen more easily.

The other shock was at customs. The first of the series of pleasant surprises was that Jia was allowed to stand in line with me (foreign spouses have privileges). And everyone at customs was really friendly--they all greeted us and were polite... did I really land in Jersey?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Checking Out

Jia and I are leaving Shenzhen this afternoon on our trip to the states. This will be her first trip to the US and only her second outside China. She's excited to see my hometown and New York City and DC. She showed her excitement by overpacking. My mom had to talk her out of bringing three coats and quite a few warm shirts. I had to try to talk her out of more. Of course, I think I packed four days of clothes--that's all the space that was left in the suitcases. Fortunately, the suitcases are also packed with gifts for friends and relatives, which will leave us space to bring stuff back to Shenzhen in February.

Assuming all goes well at the border today, we'll be spending the night in Hong Kong to ensure we get to the airport early enough for our flight tomorrow. We may also get to see my uncle who's there on business for the next couple weeks.

So long, readers. I'll try to make a few posts on my vacation.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Didn't think it possible

I was browsing China Daily this morning and found some interesting articles. As part of the "One China" policy*, the mainland government will increase direct trade with Taiwan. This is the smartest idea for reunification--if politics doesn't work, economics certainly will. Due to the pressure put on foreign countries about the One China policy, the mainland refuses to trade with any nation that recognizes that little island off the east coast. This has made China the largest importer of Taiwanese products. Taiwan has also spent billions of dollars on investments in the mainland--although, new restrictions (mostly in Guangdong province) on factory ownership are worrying some investors.

The surprising facts from the article include the trade deficit. China's deficit with Taiwan was more than US$70 billion. Meanwhile, most of the exports to the island were from Hong Kong (possibly indirect trade from the mainland, but the article doesn't specify). How is this small island the only place in the world with a trade surplus to China? Maybe the US needs to learn something from them.

*I back the "One China" policy. I firmly believe that there should be no more than one China in the world.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Going Postal

On my first day off I went to the post office to send some Chinese New Year cards to friends I won't get to see on my trip back to the states. A while back, Jia took me over to show me the sets of really nice cards that China Post is selling (with domestic postage included). They have a variety of Olympic cards--most of the Olympic cards have the Friendlies on them (I've been told that the Friendlies have been renamed "Fuwa" for some stupid reason).

I was impressed by the friendly service at this post office. I've had mixed experiences in the past. This time around, no one tried to speak English to me, but they were patient and understood my Chinese without me having to repeat myself. However, there was one snag that had nothing to do with communication. I walked outside to place my letter in the mailbox only to find that it was inaccessible due to the construction. Unfortunately, I don't know how to ask, "Where can I send this letter?" or "Where is another mailbox?" So, I walked home instead. Jia told me that there is another mailbox inside the post office, but it's hidden under the tables somewhere.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cue Alice Cooper

"School's out for Spring Festival..." Ok, it doesn't sound as good with those lyrics. I never uploaded any Alice Cooper before I left the states two and half years ago. But I'll get a chance to add new music to my hard drive in another week when Jia and I leave Shenzhen for the icy weather of New Jersey. Why do I want to listen to Alice Cooper, you ask? Because, I handed in the final grades for my PhD class today. I'm done for the term, and don't have to return to campus til Feb. 25. I'm proud to say, I didn't have to fail any students (a few came close though).
For the next week, I will have the opportunity to sleep late, sit around the apartment, and pack for our trip. I suppose I should also wander around a bit more in search of some gifts to give to friends--I really need to think of what I can get for some people. I'll also be spending some time making our itinerary for the time in the states. Specifically, I need to think of all the sights in New York City that I haven't seen in 20 years. Anyone have suggestions? We're already planning on going to the Statue of Liberty (maybe I can buy another "made in China" souvenir of it), the Empire State Building, MoMA, and the Museum of Natural History. We're skipping Central Park since it'll be way too cold to walk that much.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Get Thee to an Art Gallery

A while back, Jia and I went to Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) to see a new exhibit at The Loft. They had a special event with urban artwork called "Redo." I think they were redeveloping the area as many of the buildings were being renovated at the time. I'm not sure what the area looked like previously as this was my first trip through The Loft.

I was wholly unimpressed by most of the exhibition. I don't think crushed paper cups as candle molds is really fine art, and neither are blinds made from paper cups with Chinese writing on them. Most of the work had to do with urban development and over-development--I suppose they were trying to grab the publics attention to the excessive construction going on in China.
The graffiti art exhibit did grab our attention. There were some temporary walls set up for the artists outside and a gallery for graffiti-influenced work inside. This was a much more international selection of art than the other urban exhibitions.

This was my favorite painting by a French artist who goes by S2ONE. There was no title.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New Driver's License

I've been reading the news about the REAL ID driver's license that all Americans will need soon. The last article I was reading mentioned that I'd need one starting in the spring if I want to fly around the U.S. However, it makes no mention of substituting this new ID with a valid passport (which I need to renew within two years).

Here are the problems I have with this new license legislation. First, I have Colorado license from the years I was in grad school prior to moving to the other side of the world. This license is supposedly valid until 2013. The problem with obtaining a new license is that I don't have a residence anymore. That is, of course, unless I claim my parents' house as my residence. The problem with this is that New Jersey doesn't have reciprocal licenses, which means I have to retake the driving test.

I really don't see what's wrong with most states' driver's licenses. I can understand the government wanting more security added so that they can't be counterfeited as easily, but the new law is a bit of a pain in the ass. Realistically, the government needs better legislation pertaining to citizens obtaining a license rather than the licenses themselves. It's very simple to hand over an old license to obtain a new one. Why is it so difficult to find people who have multiple driver's licenses? This is not really a state problem, it's a federal government infrastructure problem that they're trying to pass off on the states. Way to go Congress, just keep on piling up the bureaucracy.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


In the last four weeks of the term I explained the exam to my students (an essay for the MSc classes and a comprehensive essay and short answer exam for the PhD class). I'm now busy marking the PhD exams as I need to hand in their final grades at the end of next week. The MSc classes will continue next term and I'm allowed to sit on the exams a while (although, I'd like to get through at least one class next week).

As I'm looking through the exams, I'm seeing the levels of my students. I've certainly recognized a few students who really didn't pay attention to class. I've also noticed a few whose English skills are lacking, thereby making it difficult for them to answer the questions. In some cases, the students simply did not read the questions carefully--I know I reviewed components of a speech three times in class, and I lost count of how many times I mentioned primary and secondary research. It looks like quite a few underestimated the difficulty of this exam.

I've been impressed by some students' answers thus far and disappointed by others. Overall, I don't expect my students to do too poorly in the end. At this point, it looks like I may have two failures (they didn't participate in class, skipped presentations, and left much of the exam blank). I hope that as I re-evaluate (and slightly curve) the final scores of exams and assignments, I won't have to fail any students.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Truth about Shenzhen

My mother-in-law had a great story to share with us today. A while back, she made friends with a woman in our building. She's now decided that this woman is rude and there is no reason to even talk to her anymore.

Apparently, this woman has lived in Shenzhen 20 years and feels she's better than anyone who isn't a "real" resident of the city (keep in mind that I'm older than this city). She kept making comments about how uncivilized and poor people from Xinjiang are. She doesn't believe that there is any "modern" thinking that province. My mother-in-law's response was, "Yes, all the people in my hometown run around naked." This woman continued with how successful Shenzheners have to have multiple affairs--changing partners at least every three months. Supposedly, this is considered modern thinking. And yet, she confesses to having difficulty sleeping at night because her relatives have more money and better cars than she does.

So, there's your proof folks. Shenzheners are wealthy, disease-infested whores with an inferiority complex.


Something is wrong with Blogger and/or the hamster running my Chinese Internet connection. I've been trying to post some photos today for a little post, but it doesn't seem to work. Every time I try to upload a photo I get a blank box. So, until Blogger gets fixed or the hamster gets replaced there will be no more photos. I hope this situation will be rectified in the near future.