Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'm not an introvert, but I play one on TV...


An interesting post about me, as well as 25% of the population. And it mentions brain chemistry, so you've gotta love it.

10 myths about introverts

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dance Dance Fever

June first is children's day in China, so the day before, schools across the country are preparing their choreographed dance routines. The kindergarten and primary school on our campus were no exceptions, so Jane and I spent a fun-filled (and sometimes surreal, and okay, I admit it, a little boring at times) morning and afternoon watching our kids join in the festivities. And of course, there were bucketloads of cute.



And a lot of stage makeup, even for the boys.


A wonderfully synchronized time was had by all.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jane Z, teaching ninja

Yet another way that Jane rocks the house, now with new added teaching mojo...

When she finally gets her interview in the New York Times Magazine, this oughta be the cover picture, don't you think?

This photo will accompany the article, of course...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Can I interest you in an eye care massager?

Sittin' at the computer, dreaming of my eye care massager...

What I love about China: I can be sitting in my office in the English department, grading papers, and someone can walk in out of the blue and try to sell me a pair of opaque sunglasses with bumps on the back. Thankfully, my Chinese is good enough that I could A: understand the main gist of what she was asking me, and B: politely tell her that I was not interested.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The first and final voyage of the SS Styrofoam

The first and final voyage of the SS Styrofoam

One Saturday, about a month ago, Xander and Zekey decided that they wanted to go sailing. More specifically, they wanted to launch a boat that they (well, mostly Xander) had made. One of their ongoing projects this spring has been the making and testing of various kinds of Lego and styrofoam watercraft in the big red plastic washbasin in our bathroom, but it seemed like they were ready to move on to bigger and better.

So the four of us (Ysa included) trooped across campus to the "fake mountain place", as it's known in our household. One typical feature of Chinese universities that I've neglected to describe up to this point is the artificial landscaped garden, usually featuring pavilions and a pond of some sort with some craggy rocks (natural or otherwise) in the middle, surrounded by groves of bamboo.

As you can imagine, three blonde children walking across campus taking turns carrying a chunk of cardboard and styrofoam almost as big as they are isn't exactly a common sight in most Chinese universities, so by the time we got to the pond, we had a small crowd of onlookers ready to witness the launch. Xander proved to be a fine MC.

The first and final voyage of the SS Styrofoam

After the launch, there was the small matter of getting the boat back to shore, which was soon solved with the help of some of the aforementioned bamboo. The boys, and a young onlooker or two, started poling and prodding the boat around the vast wide ocean (or small stagnant pond, depending on your point of view). I left with Ysa to go to a nearby ATM, and when I got back, the number of boats in the lake had magically doubled!

The first and final voyage of the SS Styrofoam

The first and final voyage of the SS Styrofoam

The adventure continued through the morning, until a combination of distraction and soggy cardboard brought our small fleet into drydock. A fine seaside morning in our landlocked little campus.

The Old and the New, part Umpteen Million Six Hundred and Seven


Road construction, as seen in downtown Chengdu. Because you know, it's been, like, what, a whole month? since I've posted any construction pictures...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Again, proof that we still exist...

Yes, it's that time of year again - when we have finished grading our finals, vegged out a bit by watching too many (bootlegged - shhh) episodes of "So You Think You Can Dance", sent the kids out to run wild in the mild evening sauna (37°C / 98°F at 7:00 last night), and realized that it's time to get down to business and please the grandparents with cute pix of the grandkids.

Y explains things, with flowers
Ysa starts this one out by adding to the shopping list on the dining room whiteboard. Apparently, we're low on blue flowers and "Mupus Asam".

Continuing the theme of family scribe, Xander shows us his Chinese homework, and incidentally demonstrates that, yes, I, your trusted narrator, am less literate than your average Chinese first grader.

Meanwhile, Zekey, having singlehandedly saved the earth from an invasion of malicious tropical plants, pauses to take a PR shot with his trusty sidekick.

Peace, everyone! Remember to practice your writing each day, and finish all your vegetables so that you grow up to be big and strong.
(Thanks to our friend Kate for guest starring in this shot.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

yeah, really, we're starting up the blog again...


A photo allegory of how it feels to be starting up a routine (exercise, painting, learning Chinese, um...blogging) after a long break. Oh, and it's the only Basset Hound I've seen in China to date.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stoking up the blog fires again...

...and what better way to get back to blogging after a three week break than a picture or two of scary dancers in bunny suits looming over tourists in Tienanmen Square in Beijing?



Yeah, you heard me right.


Ahh, China. What more can I say?


It's good to be back on the blog - more to follow...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

the iPad and us (part 5, A Field Guide to Change in China)

Continuing on with our outsider's tour of the area around the Foxconn Factory, it's very obvious that the region is turning from this...

IMG_6402 this.


Along the way, there's a whole lot of this:


This photo bears closer examination. Take a look at that apartment building in the middle. It's got about 30 floors, which, times 4 - 6 apartments per floor, times four people per apartment, times about ten buildings in the complex, yields a very conservative estimate of living space for at least 6000 people. Go down the road a bit, and there's another new apartment complex the same size or larger. Then another, and another. Just along the 15 minute route that I biked from my house to the Foxconn factory, I'd guess that I saw around ten of these complexes under construction, which translates to living space for about 60,000 people, about the same population of the "big city" of Moline, Illinois, near where I grew up.

IMG_6414 IMG_6405

So who's moving in to these instant cities? Right now, not very many people - lots of these buildings remain half vacant after they're built. Some apartments are bought by investors wanting to cash in on the skrocketing housing market (sound familiar, American readers?) and some remain unsold. So far, this housing bubble as kept these apartments out of reach to the people who work in, say, the Foxconn factory down the road. Down the road a few years? (or even six months?) Far be it from me to predict - I'm just a humble observer in these parts. The big challenge for China is whether the people who use the farm shed in picture #1 will eventually be able to afford the brand new apartments in picture #2.

IMG_6419 IMG_6407


the iPad and us (part 4 - the outside scoop)

As the recent explosion at the local Foxconn factory slowly marches its way into the territory that is Yesterday's News, I thought I'd show some pictures I took while biking around the plant on the Sunday after the accident. There's been a lot of coverage of the conditions inside the factory, which I can't really add to, but not so much on what's outside. Herewith, then, some local context...

The Foxconn plant from afar. Note the piles of rubble from construction (or more accurately, destruction of a previous building) in the foreground - a prominent feature in the local landscape.

IMG_6391 IMG_6396
Another distant view of the plant with the new high speed train in the foreground, and the employee entrance close up. From the outside, I couldn't see any obvious damage to the plant.

IMG_6397 IMG_6398
That Sunday, there were maybe 100-150 workers gathered around the factory entrance. I was getting some stares from security guards, so I just snapped a few pictures on the sly as I biked by, feeling a bit like a spy...

A construction site that's presumably a new section of the Foxconn factory being built.

Landscaping surrounding the plant, with the new high speed train in the background. Note the ubiquitous double colored hedges, which are all trimmed by workers with orange safety vests and hand shears.

A rice field that's been recently burned off, with what I think are some of Foxconn's worker dorms in the background.

The dorms again with - you guessed it - another pile of rubble, this one also serving as a local garbage dump from the look of it.

If all this strikes you as fairly mundane and boring, it's because - well, it is. The whole area from here to Chengdu, which used to be mostly villages and rice fields as recently as five years ago, looks more or less like this now. I'm guessing that the only thing makes the Foxconn plant significantly different from the hundreds of factories and warehouses that now surround it is that it makes parts for a high-profile American company, and thus gets in the news when something bad happens.