Sunday, June 22, 2008

Shanghai - Day 3 - Sunday 22 June

Today was largely a recovery day, mostly spent reading in my hotel room, and doing some work (and writing the previous blog posts). It happened to be a rainy day, so I didn't feel like I was missing out on too much by staying holed up.

By about 4.30pm I was feeling well enough to venture out, so got the metro to near the Shanghai Centre Theatre, with the intention of getting a ticket for tonight. It was closed, but the concierge at the posh hotel at the Shanghai Centre sold me a ticket. Then I went back to a little British style pub I'd spotted on the way - not feeling brave enough for Chinese food again yet. I had a very nice meal (vegetarian quesadilla and beer, followed by an espresso) sitting on a little verandah watching the rain pouring down.

Then I wandered back to the theatre. My seat was in the third row, so I had an excellent view. There was an announcement at the beginning that no photos were allowed. So I was a bit annoyed that the guy next to me kept on taking photos - it was distracting, and also annoying that he would have photos of the show and I wouldn't. The show was everything you would hope to see at a Chinese acrobatics show, and worth every yuan. There was jumping through hoops, the double-jointed girl balancing glasses on feet, hands and forehead, jugglers, plate-spinners, tight-rope walker, magician and much more. It was all beautifully choreographed and just stunning.

Then I got a taxi back to the hotel. Tomorrow is work, as is the rest of the week, so I don't expect to have anything blogworthy until next weekend. Before I leave Shanghai (next Sunday) I hope to visit Old Town, the markets and Pudong. I will keep you (literally) posted.

Shanghai - Day 2 - Saturday 21 June 2008

My plan for the day was to explore the French Concession. I started at the Museum of Arts and Crafts, where I bought myself a dinky little lace parasol. Then I went to Lulu Massage, with blind masseuses. Excellent, and very cheap. Soon after however, and for the rest of day (possibly aided by the massage, but more likely something I ate) I had cause to become very familiar with the public squat toilets of Shanghai. Let’s just say that the most common digestive side effect of the iron tablets I’m taking is no longer an issue. I was also getting quite sore and tired from all the walking. So the rest of the day was not nearly as enjoyable as it should have been.

I checked out Taikang Rd Arts Centre – a little courtyard of boutiques and coffee shops – and had lunch at Kommune (the above-mentioned ailment hadn’t quite hit yet) and did a little souvenir shopping. Then I walked to Fuxing Park – originally French only allowed – and had a welcome rest while watching old men practicing tai chi, a couple of people playing badminton, and plenty of families – one child a piece – enjoying the park. All under the watchful gaze of Marx and Engels.

Fuxing Park
Then I had a quick look around Xintiandi (a touristy shikumen alley), and sat for quite a while with an iced tea, gaining the energy and strength for the trip back to the hotel on the metro. I had an early night with plans for taking it easy the next day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Shanghai - Day 1 - Friday 20 June 2008

I started the day with a Chinese breakfast at the hotel – dimsums, fried vegetables, noodles. Then I walked to the conference venue to check out how far it is from the hotel – only about 20 minutes. Then I found the closest metro station and was pleasantly surprised at how clean, efficient and cheap it is – and easy to use. I went to People's Square to go to the Shanghai Museum.

Shanghai museum, People's Square

As I left the metro two local girls starting chatting with me to practice their English. They were nice enough but I heeded the warning on the card in my hotel room – “Follow no strangers to the fun places” – and declined their invitation to go somewhere with them. I got increasingly fed up during the day with people wanting to talk to me and I told one particularly insistent guy that I’m from South America and only speak Spanish.

The museum was excellent and I spent almost 3 hours there. I was surprised to see everyone taking photos of everything. So I joined in.

Bronzework at Shanghai museum

Dog and duck bronzeworks

Then I walked down E Nanjing Rd – a pedestrian mall – to the Bund. Along the way, every second person wanted to know whether I required a watch, a bag, a t-shirt or maybe a dvd. I was getting a bit peckish, so I bought what looked like a Danish pastry, but it was savoury – I’m not sure what was in it.

E Nanjing Rd, looking towards the Bund

The Bund (embankment) is where all the international crowd hung out in the 1920s. A very nice promenade along the river (where I became a tourist attraction – I was just sitting down enjoying my fresh coconut and reading my guidebook when some Asian tourists sat either side of me and got photos taken), and lots of imposing European style buildings. The telescopes (for looking across the river) play “We wish you a merry Christmas” when in use. (The first music I was greeted with in China was a musak version of “Last Christmas” at customs.)

HSBC building on the Bund

I went to a little coffee shop inside the HSBC building that I wouldn’t have known existed except my guidebook told me about it. Then as I was further exploring the Bund, it started raining, so I decided a river tour was in order. I particularly enjoyed the warning sign on the side of the boat.

No striding (running ok)

Pudong on the other side of the river is very different to the Bund – it is a very new development. I had intended to go across and go up one of the towers for the view of the city, but it was too smoggy to be worth it. Maybe another day.

Pudong skyline

And then I made my way back to the hotel, which is quite a way from the centre of town (but close to where the conference is next week), so that took a while. I had dinner in the hotel – I forewent the goose foot in favour of tofu and wild mushrooms. A tiring but excellent day.

Shanghai - Prologue - Thursday 19 June 2008

The cat took me hostage, obviously. Every time I try to use the computer, he attacks my hands.*

I am in Shanghai for a week and a half, and so away from the evil Loki, and can type without fear. Actually, this just seems like a good place for my travel diary and photos, so I thought I'd revive it temporarily.

So, I’m in Shanghai for a conference. I flew in from Australia on Thursday. I only just made the flight (due to a short a connection and a delayed flight from Albury to Sydney) but just made it onto the plane in time with lots of running – and then we sat at the gate for another half an hour waiting for the final passengers to arrive from domestic connections…

The flight was uneventful – I had been expecting it to be very eventful, what with the Heath Ledger retrospective on the movie-on-demand system – but the system was broken. So I had to do without Heath, and also without Lars and the Real Girl and The Kite Runner. I managed in the end only to see The Other Boleyn Girl, but the screen was really dark.

I arrived in Shanghai about 6.45pm local time, and two local university students met me and accompanied me to the hotel on the airport shuttle followed by a short taxi ride. They didn’t know where the hotel was, but luckily I had printed out the Chinese characters directing the taxi driver.

First impressions of Shanghai – humid, modern, crowded (20 million people – the population of Australia).

* Also, nothing much happens in Albury. And I was done with blogging.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


WARNING:To Stella and her ilk (i.e. if you're the kind of person who in response to: "Do you like cats?" replies: "Yes but I couldn't eat a whole one."

Here be cute fluffy kitten photos.

Continue reading at your own peril...

Yesterday I adopted an 8-week-old kitten. He's very useful at getting the cobwebs out from behind the fridge. He's also a VERY good climber, a very loud purrer, and as a preference sleeps on throats and heads. Which would be cuter if not for the incredibly loud purr in one's ear at the same time. He did give me a nice scalp massage last night though.

I'm still undecided on a name, so I can't get him a name tag yet, so I can't let him outside yet in case he wanders - although he is microchipped and also has a bell on his collar to give the birds plenty of warning.

I think he's probably Loki (Scandanavian trickster god), and I can also call him Loquito (little crazy one in Spanish). That could just be asking for trouble though.

So then I thought of Morpheus - to encourage him to be a sedate, sleepy cat - but I' m not sure it suits him.

A canine friend of mine is called Porter, because he's the same colour as the beer, so along the same lines I thought of Stout - which coincidentally means naughty in Dutch.

I've always liked the name Taliesin for a pet, but it seems a little unwieldy for such a small thing.

And then there's always Ron - purr in Spanish is ronronear.

Anyway, I think I've written enough now so that those who are averse to cute fluffy kitten photos won't have burned their eyes unless they scrolled down, and I did give you fair warning. So here are some photos.

What do you think his name should be? [note: Roadkill has already been suggested]

R (& kitten)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

GPS transcript

We (the Editter and I) drove down to Melbourne last weekend and a friend offered us the loan of his GPS navigator. Although I knew where we were going, it was actually very useful in telling me when to turn and all that. A built-in GPS is now one of three things I want in my next car that I don't currently have (the other two being cruise control and cup holders).

There is a new section of freeway going through my town, which the GPS doesn't know about yet. Its screen tells you that you're flying over rivers and paddocks. It panics. Every time you come close to where a road used to be, or still is but unaccessible because you're on the freeway, it tries to get you to turn onto it. Because you're going fast, it often doesn't have time to finish the sentence. The monologue goes something like this:

Turn around when possible.
Turn left in fort-
Turn le-
Turn right in twenty me-
Silence - because as far as it knows, I'm on the river
Turn around when
Turn left in forty metres
Turn next left
Sigh of relief as I'm back on a known road

The thing is, I felt guilty confusing it like that! I almost avoided the freeway so as not to confuse it! I found myself apologising to it.

What inanimate objects have you been known to apologise to?


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

artwork Wednesday

I recently did a mosaics night class (according to my sister, I'm a night class junkie).

The first project was a stepping stone. One of my friends thinks it looks like one of those colour-blindness tests. I should also mention that if you think you can figure out where I live from the house number, you'd be mistaken - for some reason in this town even the shortest streets have numbers over 500 - something to do with distance from the post office, nothing to do with the length of the street.

The next project was a plant pot. I think it's obvious what it's supposed to be, despite various classmates guessing things like kitten and rabbit. To be fair, this was before I'd added wings and feelers. The feelers are made from pipe cleaners by the way.

There are three lots of flowers around the pot (cos I wasn't going to attempt another bee, lest it be mistaken for a wombat or something), this is my favourite. If you look closely you can just see the feelers poking over the opposite edge of the pot.

Next projects - mosaicking my hearth and my fishpond.


Monday, April 16, 2007


During a recent archeological dig in my garden, I found the perfectly preserved fossilised remains of an ancient creature - subsequently identified as canis miniaturis lassiei. It was unearthed in a location previously covered with concrete, dating it to really quite a long time ago. Nearby a number of red bricks were also discovered, leading to conjecture of an ancient civilisation of miniature dogs living underground in red brick houses.

This does of course bring to mind the supposed communication between the Smithsonian Institute and a backyard archeologist, and I'm obviously just attempting a very poor imitation of it, so instead of rambling on, I'll reproduce here the alleged letter.
     Paleoanthropology Division
Smithsonian Institute
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078

Dear Sir:

Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled
"211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post. Hominid skull."
We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and
regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it
represents "conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in
Charleston County two million years ago." Rather, it appears that
what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety
one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be the
"Malibu Barbie". It is evident that you have given a great deal of
thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite
certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in
the field were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings.
However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes
of the specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern

1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are
typically fossilized bone.

2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9
cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest
identified proto-hominids.

3. The dentition pattern evident on the "skull" is more
consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the
"ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams" you speculate roamed the
wetlands during that time. This latter finding is certainly one of
the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history
with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather
heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say

A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a
dog has chewed on.

B. Clams don't have teeth.

It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your
request to have the specimen carbon dated. This is partially due to
the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and
partly due to carbon dating's notorious inaccuracy in fossils of
recent geologic record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie
dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon dating is likely
to produce wildly inaccurate results. Sadly, we must also deny your
request that we approach the National Science Foundation's
Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen
the scientific name "Australopithecus spiff-arino." Speaking
personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of
your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the
species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn't really sound
like it might be Latin.

However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this
fascinating specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a
hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of
the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly.
You should know that our Director has reserved a special shelf in
his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously
submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily
on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have
discovered in your back yard. We eagerly anticipate your trip to
our nation's capital that you proposed in your last letter, and
several of us are pressing the Director to pay for it. We are
particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories
surrounding the "trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in
a structural matrix" that makes the excellent juvenile
Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered take on the
deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive
crescent wrench.

Yours in Science,
Harvey Rowe
Curator, Antiquities

Have you ever found anything unexpected in your garden?


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Away with the pixies

On the weekend I went to Sydney to see the Pixies (not to be confused with the pictsies, aka Nac Mac Feegles or Wee Free Men) at the V-Festival. They were ace and well worth the 6 hour drive each way. And I got to catch up with (and unintentionally sponge off ever so slightly) a friend from the US (ex-housemate from Berkeley) who is now doing ever so well for himself. And incidentally is now gay, although he didn't appear to be when I left Berkeley.

On the way to the V-Festival at Centennial Park, we stopped at the Paddington Markets. I was carrying no bag, so really the only things I could even consider buying would be jewellery or food. I did indeed buy a round or two of beer at the Paddington Arms, and as a small token from the markets bought a big, heavy, gorgeous, blue porcelein bathroom basin. Luckily it is being shipped to me. I would post a photo but I still haven't figured out how to get photos off my phone...

Have you ever bought anything totally impractical on a whim?