Monday, October 31, 2005

Like Meals on Wheels...

Scene: NYC, 2 am on Sat night/ Sun morning. 54th St, between 6th & 7th ave. A man exits a bar that's still got a crowd, and takes a few steps towards 7th Ave. A giant GMC yukon pulls up next to him and stops. In it are two younger (20's or 30's) blonde women, one driving, one in the passenger seat. The driver has the window down, and leans out of it.

Driver: Hey, cutie, where ya goin?

Man: Um, around the corner to grab some pizza.

Driver (suggestively): You wanna hang out?

Passenger: Yeah, get in and come hang out with us?

Man: Well a bunch of us are in that bar right here, you're welcome to join us...

Passenger: How about if you get in so we can both suck your cock?

Man (stunned): Um, I don't think that would be very good for me.

I kid you not, this is what happened to me in NYC. These are the exact phrases, as best I can recall.

I bought my pizza, returned to the bar, caught up with my classmates, told the story. A classmate backed me up: It had happened to him, twice, only it was a mini van. Seems it's ho's on wheels. Prostitutes have figured out that the space in the back makes for faster turnaround time. Improves throughput.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Inappropriate Brain Appetizer

So this evening I shall go to the Met in NYC with Megan.

I am currently surfing the most amazing thing I've found online in ages, the web site for the Museum of Bad Art in Boston. It's amazing how ultra-seriousness and colorblindness can lead to works that, with better spin, could be in legit museums.

I fear it'll give my an acute case of the church giggles at the Met.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Fortuitous Spectacular Failure

The failure of my marriage, and most particularly, my own failures within my marriage that hastened its inevitable demise are perhaps, in the long term, the best things that ever happened to me.

When you've led a life of trying to achieve at the highest levels in everything you touch, that kind of perfectionism becomes core to your identity. You begin to think you are what you do, and only insofar as what you do is great, are you great. So then you begin to invest more and more energy in making yourself "successful" because that's the only way you think the world will find you worthwhile.

It's total crap. And I was stuck in that mindset for most of my life. And then I screwed up, and my marriage finally imploded. Can't sweep that under the rug:

me: Merry Christmas, Grandma!

Grandma: Where's your wife?

me: We're divorced

An undeniable "failure". A now blemished record. My frailty and humanity laid open and observable.

Me: I suck, I failed, no one will ever love me since I'm clearly shit because I fucked up and my marriage failed.

Rest of Universe: Did you hear a noise?

Me: That was me. I was talking about the failure of my marriage, and how it makes me not at all worthwhile.

Rest of Universe: What's your name again?

Me: Kenneth. I'm the guy with the divorce.

Rest of Universe: Yeah. Right. That guy. The guy with the thing. Sure. Thanks.

I failed, and the world didn't stop. Which means I can fail again, and the world will not stop. Which means I can embrace my past shortcomings, too, and nothing will change. I don't have to keep pretending to have my shit together. I can just be.

Failure is good, especially when it's one you can't hide from.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Best of Times

Ever wonder what a coxswain is really saying to his/ her crew during a race?

My friend and teammate posted and MP3 of his recording of him coxing our 1999 race at the Head of the Connecticut. That crew was my all time favorite bunch of guys. Matt is/ was a top caliber coxswain (spent time at US national team training camp).

The audio clip is about 20 min. You can hear the rhythm of the blades going into the water togther and coming out together. You can hear him slowly escalate the urgency in his voice through the piece. You can hear the "colorful language" used, not as much to get other crews to yield as to get us to back up with muscle what our "mouth" has just thrown down.

For those not in the rowing world, Head races are races against the clock in which crews cross the starting line in sequence with perhaps 10 seconds between them, best time between start and finish wins. So if you catch and or pass a crew, you're beating them. You can hear the starter calling bow numbers at the start of the race. You can hear how Matt gets us to catch, pull even with and pass the collegiate crews in our race. We're always chasing a crew. The back story: Peck's boat club was actually about 4 lenghts up on us at the start, not 2. Matt missed the first call, and had to continue to tell us we were moving, but lie about the distances. We did finish about a length down. But we moved 3.

1999 was one of the best years of my life. I love every single guy who was in that boat with me.

Step back in time and re-live 20 minutes of my life?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

In New York

Well, it's really autumn here.

This morning: "Ah, this is what 40 feels like".

I enjoy it. I packed light. Fleece vest and stocking hat. I'm not going to be outside for more than 15 minutes at a time, unless I'm running in Central Park. In all cases, I don't need mega layers.

I've taken a turn on the blog towards a bit more openness about the rest of my life. It's part of a larger personal growth process for me, I think. Until now, I've gone through life carefully managing my public persona. I've carefully repressed, denied, obscured and buried all the parts of myself that I'd come to think of as "less than presentable". I learned growing up what got rewarded, what got punished. I learned what attributes and aspects of myself were lovable and which were not. So I kept my "such a good boy" public self in the open and my "darker self" hidden.

And all this just made me really odd an unapproachable. Because I wasn't human. Or at least what I let the world see wasn't human. Humans have selfish desires, vulnerabilities, and get dirty jokes. All the parts of myself that wanted to have fun got buried into my shadow self. All of my empathy got buried there, too.

But the shadow self was me, just as much as the public self was me. And my "dark side" actually has a lot of very useful properties. I've begun to bring those parts of myself I used to keep hidden out into the light.

It's been a great process. I've gained so much power from having access to my shadow self's abilities in my public life. I've gained so much energy from not trying to keep myself compartmentalized.

So along those lines, I'll mention that on Friday I'm seeing someone I knew from highschool for dinner. She was two years behind me, went to my highschool's all-girls sister school. We were in theater together. We were star-crossed lovers in high school: Interested in each other, never ready and available a the right time. She remained good friends with my next younger brother.

She's since been married & divorced. I've been married and am now divorcing.

Is it a date? Who knows. I've decided to try to avoid using labels for relationship things. The labels aren't for the people in the relationship, they're for people outside the relationship to understand, in three words, what's going on. I find relationships tend to defy summation in three words or less, so I'll not go along with pretending they do.

Ambiguity is kind of nice. I've finally accepted that I don't have to have everything figured out before I enter into a situation. I don't know what I want in my "romantic" life right now. I know I like women, I'm lonely, and I'd appreciate some validation as worthwhile and attractive. I need people in my life who get me and love me for me. And I think I do the world a disservice by staying cloistered away. So if we have dinner and never see each other again for another 13 years, great. If she becomes the next great love of my life, I guess I'm open to that, though the prospect is rather scary. I was never afraid of commitment, which is why I got married at age 25. Now I'm terrified because I understand what happens when you commit to one thing and get another. There's no contract arbitration in a marriage.

There's a woman in the class behind me I met last time we were in NYC. She's cute and sweet and fun and full of life and we had a great time together. We went to a vegetarian restaurant, and it was great (group dinner). We hung out that night with a bunch of others, talked a lot, drank a bit, danced a bit. Had a charming evening walking around Times Sqaure around 4 am. There was a moment when I think I was being invited up to her room. I didn't go, for a lot of reasons. We flew back together, then I never heard from her till a few days before class. We're all busy, so I'll cut her some slack. Anyway, I think it's clear we'd like to spend time with each other out here. That may happen.

And part of my progress shows through: I'm genuinely not obsessed with making any of these things work out. I'm unphased by having no plan or agenda. I'm more free to just be myself. In the past, I used to change myself to make things work. I'm not against giving relationships their due effort. But at the outset, I'm not going to force anything.

It's a nice place to be. Somewhere along the way I picked up a pretty twisted sense that I had to make my relationships work at all costs. I think I've got a healthier balance now.

And maybe I don't. And it doesn't matter. I don't have to be perfect. I'm going to take life as it comes to me, respond honestly and with integrity, and whatever happens happens.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Terrible Horrible Awful Very Bad No Good Day

I exaggerate a bit, perhaps.

But today was like one of those bad work dreams, only it was real.

When I got up this morning, I assumed that I had to arrive at the client's offices at 10 am for a 10 am meeting. I arrived just on time. The folks from my firm, with whom I was supposed to meet, weren't there. Maybe I was early? I signed in with the client's reception.

It became clear that I wasn't early, and that none of the people -- client side or our side-- with whom I was supposed to meet were around. I tried calling the one guy on my team for whom I had a cell phone number. Busy. I left a message.

I wondered what I should do. I stuck around. No one came. I decided to seek out an internet connection to check my email. I find a T-mobile store. I buy the all day pass.

There's a message in my in box sent Saturday afternoon advising that we'd be meeting at some coffee shop in Palo Alto. Great. See, I have this whole work-life balance thing, where I don't check my work e-mail on weekends...

Bad news: I check my calendar, seems the original meeting invite did specify that the location was "TBD". Crap. So it's arguable I should have been looking for the e-mail on Saturday.

In the e-mail is the cell number for the person who's set up the meeting (our team). I call. Can't hear most of the conversation. I'm advised to try to meet up with some of our other folks. I call them. No point, meeting is done. I sit in my car trying to figure out what to do. I get a call. It's my "manager". He was at the meeting I missed, with the project lead who clearly just chewed him out.

Back at work, I'm asked why I didn't call

"Didn't have anyone's number. Called the one I had"

Why didn't I call the corp HQ to get their cell numbers.

"Didn't have the corp number on me"

Why didn't I use the directory stored in some obscure outlook file on my laptop that lists cell numbers?

"Didn't know it existed"

Why isn't my cell number in the obscure outlook file?

"See prior answer"

Then I get this long thing about how I'm being expected to really shine on this project, blah blah. Then I get this thing about how my work on the last project wasn't up to standards.

This is news to me. Everyone at every one of my check in meetings during the project was pleased and refreshed with my novel approach. I ask for details.

Later on today, the project manager from the last project comes up to me, shocked and stunned:

"What's this about your performance on the last project not being good?"

Seems this was news to him, too.

This all terribly ironic, since last week the firm was a twitter trying to stem my dissatisfaction and keep me from leaving, after they lost their only other MBA. Last week I needed to be retained at all costs. This week, my work sucks.

Whatever. My plan stands to get through 2005, and find new work in 2006. I took this job to tide me over in tough times. Graduate, finish getting divorced. Next year, find a new job. I can only handle so much life change in one year.

I think I'll head back to marketing strategy.

Anyway, today sucked.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Chemical Brothers Rock

Got the CB album "Surrender" from my local library (My little library is so cool!). The album rocks. I was afraid it might get scratched or damaged, so I had to make a back up copy of the CD. Fortunately, no harm has come to the original. It seems the copy has gotten stuck in my car's CD player. I guess I'll have to listen to it for a long time.

The album so rocks. It's my new favorite. Music:Response comes on in my car, and I'm happy.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Accidental Wisdom

At the boat house this morning was having a conversation with a woman there who's old enough to be my mom (body of a 20 year old, she's super fit). We were chatting about relationships. She mentioned her nephews have all married high maintenence women. She wondered what was going on with women in my generation.

I told her
Some women in my generation confuse selfishness with self esteem.

She seemed to think it profund. Thought I'd share.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Why Populist Economics Makes Liberals Look Dumb

There's this ranting populist, Jim Hightower, who, for some reason unclear to me, gets a little 5 minute rant on NPR every morning. I've not been commuting in the car much lately, and hadn't heard him for a while. His stuff is knee-jerk anti-corporate, anti-Republican. Sometimes it's fair criticism. Often it's more rhetoric than substance. A few days ago, it was just foolish. Go ahead and read it. It's short. I'll wait.

Where to begin? How about point by point?

1) Don't blame just business people, blame consumers. The prices for goods, the number of firms that can survive in a market, whether new companies are started all depend on two fundamental forces in economics: Supply and Demand. Jim seems to want to blame everything on the supply side of the equation, as if suppliers have all the power. This perspective is understandable, if you view the word as one lonely consumer against a giant, seemingly indifferent corporation. But the fact is that, en masse, customers define markets. If people weren't buying gas guzzling SUVs, auto makers wouldn't allocate resources to develop and produce new ones. If people forsook reality TV for PBS, networks would cease developing TV shows in which contestants eat bugs and backstab each other for money and instead make more documentaries on the Civil War. But Americans like backstabbing, bug eating, and boobs. So that's what's on TV. Supply reacts to demand. If you don't like the outputs of free market capitalism, at least blame both sides of the capitalist equation.

2) Growth is bad only if you want everything to be expensive. Yes, Jim, it'd be quaint if we all lived in who-ville-esque small towns with a candy store and a hardware store and a fruit store and a butcher shop and a bakery and a dry cleaner and a pharmacist and a furniture store and a men's clothing store and women's clothing store and a kids clothing store and a pet store. And it would take us 8 hours to do our shopping, and we'd pay boutique prices for everything. But it's more efficient for us consumers, time-wise, to walk into one place, get everything we need, and get the heck home to have a few seconds with people we care about. It's also more cost effective to pool the fixed operating costs of all those individual businesses under one inventory system, one set of books, one larger set of floor space and one smaller set of management. 12 stores and 12 managers add more overhead than one big store with 3 managers. And that one big store can negotiate better deals on the products it buys and pass those savings, along with its lower overhead costs, along to customers as lower prices. So we can "say no to growth", as long as we want to offer our customers less for more: lower selection, higher prices. Lately, I haven't seen customers asking for less for more. They seem to be spending their money with firms that offer more for less. And so firms have been responding to meet that.

3) Jim, meet my little friend "Retained Earnings". Where do corporate profits go? "Why into the pockets of evil executives and super-wealthy stock owners in the form of dividends, of course!" say the populists. And they'd be wrong. Firms plow most of the wealth their operations generate back into their business. Why? If they don't continually try to improve what they can do for customers, they'll lose customers to firms that do continue to invest in improvement. I think we all understand this: when companies compete to win customers, the companies beat each other to death, and customers win. The reason all the anti-collusion laws are on the books is because firms would prefer NOT to compete. They'd rather work together to carve up markets, keep competitors out and prices high. "You take the east side of town, I'll take the west, and we'll both charge $5.00/ gallon for gas. If any new guy shows up to cash in on our game, we drop our prices to a buck a gallon till he folds, then jack our prices again." That's what happens without dog-eat-dog competition. You get wolf-eat-customer collusion. As a consumer, I like more for less, so I'm in favor of competition. Jim, you can live in the two gas station, competition-free town and pay $5 a gallon.

4) What happens when everyone takes your advice? What if my entire town decided to buy at the local bakery instead of the supermarket? The bakery has two choices to meet the demand: 1) Grow large enough to meet the demand (oops, a big company!) 2) Raise prices to deflect the demand back to the grocery store, keeping its customer base small (oops, not so cute, cuddly, and anti-profit!). The fact is that it's not possible for "everyone" or even "more people" to use "small community based" business without the "desirable properties" of the "small community based" businesses disappearing.

The bottom line: You can't have sweet, co-operative companies and low prices. You can have small, inefficient firms with possible collusion, and high prices, or you can have competitive firms of varying sizes and low prices. Can't have it both ways. Just because someone is making money doesn't mean they're doing something wrong. Just because it's capitalist doesn't mean it's evil. Big companies and dog-eat-dog competition make our lives better.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Why I have issues

I have a brain that likes patterns. Sometimes it's hard to stop doing something that leads to a reward. Maybe the MIT folk will help fix my brain.

Work is nutty. My new project has thus far been poorly managed. I'm going to take it over, I think. I may not post as much for a while. Or I may have lots to post. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A friend will get this one

You know our discussions of Angels & Light Sabers? This is what I mean by Angel.

Monday, October 17, 2005

More art from China

Why are you afraid of Mao, Western Capitalist swine, Why?

Who I am 2005

Original instructions:
Welcome to the Fall 2005 edition of getting to know your friends. What you are supposed to do is copy (not forward) this entire e-mail and paste it onto a new e-mail that you'll send.Change all the answers so they apply to you, and then send this to a whole bunch of people including the person who sent it to you. The theory is that you will learn a lot of little things about your friends, if you did not know them already.

I decided just to post it on my blog. Give me a link and a trackback if you chose to play along?

1. What time did you get up this morning? 7:50 AM. . . Luxuriously late for me
2. Diamonds or pearls? Um, can I just have the cash?
3. What was the first movie you ever saw in the cinema, and what was the last film you saw at the cinema? Pete's Dragon; Batman Begins
4. What is your favorite TV show? I liked Star Trek Enterprise while it was on.
5. What did you have for breakfast this morning? Generic sugar smacks. Then I ate leftover banana pancakes at my desk around 11:30.
6. What is your middle name? Benjamin
7. What is your favorite cuisine/drink? Peasant fare/ pub food. The brew pub's closest thing to a sweet brown ale. Prefer my own stout best.
8. What foods do you dislike? Very few. Not a huge sushi fan. Don't care for carpaccio. But I've eaten them all.
9. What is your favorite crisp flavor? Um, is this the British sense of "crisp"? I like sour cream & onion, though it gives me bad breath.
10. What is your favorite CD at the moment? I'd like to get the new Green Day album. I have mix CDs I've burned in my car that are my fav's, but I know that's not what the question was going for.
11. What kind of vehicle do you drive? 2005 Moonstone Blue Toyota Matrix. I like my little car.
12. Favorite sandwich? Hands down it's Specialty's number 14, "the Cobb" without onions on Herb bread.
13. What characteristics do you despise? Insecurity mingled with arrogance, ignorance masquerading as sophistication, selfishness.
14. Favorite item of clothing? One of the shirts I had made in China.
15. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Antarctica, Alaska, Costa Rica, Nepal.
16. What color is your bathroom? Very Pepto-Bismol pink. I rent, this is not my choice.
17. Favorite brand of clothing? Anything carried by REI. Ha!
18. Where would you retire to? I like where I live now.
19. Favorite day of the week? Saturday
20. What was your most memorable birthday? None are memorable.
21. Where were you born? St. Louis, MO
22. Favorite sport to watch: Soccer, Triathalon
23. Who do you least expect to send this back to you? Pope Benedictator
24. Person you expect to send it back first? Julie B
25. What fabric detergent do you use? Currently on deck: Arm & hammer. I'm not brand loyal.
26. Coke or Pepsi? I don't really drink soda, let alone caffeinated soda.
27. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Rowing has made me a morning person, but my genes are nocturnal.
28. What is your shoe size? 12 EE. See my earlier post.
29. Do you have any pets? Nope.
30. Have you got a boy/girlfriend? I have many friends.
31. How long have you been together? Some friends I've had for decades, some for weeks.
32. What do you want to be when you grow up? I don't want to grow up. Grownups don't have fun.
33. Where in the world are you? San Anselmo, CA

This will kill a few minutes

I was amused.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

This is really cute

I am amazed at the work people post on the internet. Folks who create for the sake of creation inspire me.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Marriage Myth & Reality

We've got this icon for enduring love in our culture of an elderly couple holding hands and shuffling through the park. Ah, to still be in love after a lifetime together.

I don't know about you, but I don't know a single couple like that. Most of the old couples I know have reached some kind of detente after a long trench war. "I won't bug your little world if you don't bother mine. Please pass the potatoes." They may go for walks, but they don't hold hands. They are platonic roommates.

I think relationship myths like this create unattainable standards for relationships, which make people dissatisfied with their very normal situations. I think these myths about the bliss of marriage are perpetuated by the same religious conservative forces that preach damnation of modern values, and then boink the church secretary on the side.

Let's all tell the truth about human nature and the true level of happiness attainable within an institution.

In most species in which males are larger than females, males compete to have access to many females. None of our primate cousins are monogamous. They are far from it. Early bible folk had many wives and concubines. Many cultures on the planet are non monogamous. The number of Americans with just one or fewer lifetime sexual partners is scant. So let's stop pretending that the natural order is to live happily in monogamy forever. We're biologically designed to spread our genes around.

The entire strategy of having male and female sexes is that the two gender manifestations of the same genetic material alternatively maximize the two competing genetic interests. Genes want to be passed on, and must both spread themselves around and make good choices about the genes with which they mix, since the mixing will influence their future odds of being spread. Males spread the genes as broadly as possible. Females screen for only the best genes. Quantity and quality. So one good male is going to get access to many females. It's what's best for the species, and requires non-monogamous behavior. It's wired into us. "Marriage" needs to change. And it has: We've institutionalized serial monogamy by accepting marriage, divorce and re-marriage. We're now doing what our genes want us to.

And with that, I will never win political office in the South.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Look, ma, I've been categorized

I think this is a fair assessment.

Except I'm pro gun control. If the Libertarians hadn't been taken over by second amendment nutjobs, I'd vote for them.

If you take the test, check out the election 2004 chart. Great chart. Really cool.

You are a

Social Liberal
(76% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(71% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Chinese Internet

Got a little glimpse of the censorship in China. From my hotel, I could post to blogs, but couldn't read any. The entire domain is blocked. Them bloggers, never know when they'll write something subversive. Best not to let anyone read them.

A classmate googled "Tiananmen Square, 1989" and got many links, none of which he could click through and see.

Once I linked up through my company's VPN, I could get access to everything, since I was effectively accessing the web from San Francisco, and not Shanghai. It would be cool to build a free VPN for the people of China, or anywhere else on the planet information is controlled.

Ouch Part II

If I can make a camera phone post straight to te blog, I may just have to get one. If I had one, I'd be showing you
a) a picture of the new shoes and
b) a picture of the new blister on the back of my left heel, about the size of a Nickel.

I'm not wearing the new shoes again for a while.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


As I learned on "What Not to Wear", one's shoes say a lot about one. And my black shoes were saying "Cheap bastard who doesn't know when to get some new shoes". Actually, I became aware of the shoes state of decrepitude this last week, when I noticed the outsides of the heels had become so worn I was really not standing correctly. I could get new heels put on, but they'd still look beat up.

So yesterday I set off to find new shoes. This is always a massive challenge for me, since I take a 12 EE. There are folks out there with larger feet, but not many. Most shoes in the store are sizes 9-10. And no shoes are in widths wider than "M" or "D". So I end up looking more for things in my size than what I want. Of the 12's, I try to find some that I can break in, width wise.

I'm wearing the new shoes today. I elected to take the Muni from the Ferry to the office, to save myself the walk. It's noon and my feet hurt. This will suck.

But the new shoes are cool.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Go Angels, Go White Sox

Since my Red Sox are out, I'll cheer against the Yankees, and for the team that hasn't won a World Series in almost 100 years.

9th inning, 5-3 Angels, so far, so good. Just 3 outs.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


A regular reader, if I interpret correctly, asked me to consider not what I do not have (and need) but what I do have.

I'm rather happy with my life. I have great physical gifts. In 4th grade, when a very caring teacher was confronting me at a parent-student-teacher conference about the disconnect between my standardized test scores (99th percentile) and my grades (C's and D's), she (Catholic school) invoked the parable of the talents: Of those who have been given much, much will be expected. While I'm not sure what I think of "God" these days, I like to think that, if there is a kind, all-seeing creator, that entity does enjoy seeing me on the water, on a trail, on a slope using the gifts I've been given. In Boston, rowers on the Charles in the morning are part of the aesthetic fabric of the city. I know that the people on their early morning commutes who saw us delighted in our presence. So I expect any "God" must enjoy us being beautiful, too.

I have a good brain, which lets me enjoy the richness of the complex and beautiful world in which I live. I get to laugh more.

I live in a beautiful place with beautiful weather. I'm never going to starve. People, for some strange reason, seem to like and care about me. They even call me from time to time and really want to know what's up in my life.

And I have a cute new car which I like.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What a boy needs

Got this idea of googling "Kenneth needs" from a friend. The results:

"Kenneth needs a family that can provide him with love, guidance, patience and a permanent committment."

"...Kenneth needs to be banned, or at least punished and his user page forcibly blanked"

"Kenneth needs a Satellite Dish"

"Kenneth needs help dealing with his anger over his life situation."

"Kenneth needs to initiate the monthly invoicing process."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Couldn't say it any better myself. The world is gonna laugh at us for this. Stop the superstitious yokels. Next they'll make us build rockets powered by angels and solve the energy crisis by praying for lower gas prices. Evolution is a fact. Move on.

Barefoot in Shanghai

(Written on Saturday, Oct 1, 2005)

On my trip back to the hotel after lunch today a classmate accidentally stepped on my flip flop while I was walking. This led to a complete flip flop blow out. My right flip flop was obliterated 4 blocks from the hotel. I had a few options:
  1. Hop back on 1 flip flop.
  2. Shuffle back on 1 flip flop and a flip flop sole.
  3. Walk with one flip flop and one bare foot.
  4. Walk barefoot.

Now the streets of Shanghai aren't quite what you'd want to put your bare anything on. But it seemed most expedient, and this is why God made showers. So I walked through the lobby of the hotel barefoot. I got some looks.

My flip flops, which I bought in AZ on my grand canyon trip, in the company of friends, perished in dramatic fashion in Shanghai, in the company of friends. Let it be remembered that they served me well, and went down fighting. Long live the flip flop.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Art in China

The building boom in Shnghai has brought many opportunities for fascinating architecture. 3 on the Bund is a set of amazing restaurants and high-end retail space. We ate there, went there late at night for the bar. The designer is famous for putting these atria in his designs. I thought thelines and colors were cool, so I took a picture from the top floor and from a much lower floor. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Wear Black

In fourteen hundred and ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Whenever a state tries to do away with Columbus day, White folk in general and Italian-Americans in particular get peeved.

White dudes: This is the celebration of the beginning of white folk coming to America, and yeah, so the Indians got decimated. European-Americans have done a lot of great stuff! Why you gotta take our day away?

If the white dudes were right about the first part, I'd buy the second. But I don't think of Columbus day as "White History Day". I think of it as "first contact" day. And while European discovery of the Americas was perhaps an inevitability, as was the gross cultural misunderstanding that lead to the decimation of the dominant American languages and cultures of the time, it's nothing to celebrate.

I'm not in favor of removing the holiday from the calendar, just in favor of changing what we think about on the day. That first contact between cultures was the beginning of a long string of evil deeds. We should be mindful of who's writing the history books, and that humans can be counted on to exploit and murder other humans when it suits their economic interests. Because people could "get away with it", they did it.

Shanghai VI

Oct 1 is China's national holiday, like the 4th of July in the US. Commemoration of the "liberation" of China.

We went to the Shanghai museum on Friday, which was interesting. It's not possible for me to appreciate the calligraphy, which is not just about the aesthetics of the rendering but the meaning, and without the meaning, I can only say "wow, that looks cool".

One of our tour guides ("Barbara") took us through the museum. I caught a few subtle sayings that were quite interesting to hear. One was reference to what we in the West call the 1949 "revolution" as "liberation". I think "Opium War"was "European War". More important to note who we were fighting than why. Reinforces Chinese experience of suffering at the hands of invading barbarians. "Tibetians" are a "Chinese minority group".

On the night of Friday Sept 31 we set out to see some of the local celebration. Caught a taxi to the Bund (old European center). My classmate (1st Generation Chinese-American) joked that I was about to see more Chinese people in one place than I had ever seen in my entire life. He was right.

Much like the 4th of July on the Esplanade in Boston, the streets had been blocked off and there were thousands of people everywhere. My two classmates and I briskly made our way through the crowd of people with sparklers, flashing light buttons and giant inflatable pummeling weapons. Yes, giant inflatable pummeling weapons. Like giant mallets, and clubs and maces and the like. People whack each other with them, I guess to re-enact the violence of the day in history. Yay, mob violence! Go team proletariat!

I noticed that, unlike my experience in other crowds of feeling closed in and cramped, here I could see everything. I realized that this is because at 6’1”, I’m in the 99th percentile for height.

Among the inflatable objects being sold were Red-White-and-Blue, Stars-and-Stripes styled cowboy hats. "George Bush" hats.

My classmates and I hatched a scheme over dinner to put me in the hat and charge people to take pictures with me. Yes, the people in Shanghai have seen a white guy before. But on the holiday, the villagers travel in, and many of them haven't seen a white dude.

It was a good idea.

We met my classmate's friends who had grown up with him in San Jose but were now living and working here. I and my Israeli classmate ate Asian food. The three Chinese-American guys, on the Chinese national holiday all ate Hamburgers.

Emphasis on the American in Chinese-American. My classmate told the class the story of his family, how his branch escaped to Taiwan and then the US while his uncle remained behind and was forced to work at a labor camp for ten years and forgo university. His uncle taught himself by reading science magazines, so that when the universities re-opened, he was admitted. He lost ten years of his life and all his worldly goods along with the opportunity to visit family far away because the communists took over.

So not everyone is celebrating "liberation". Some are eating Hamburgers.

Next Oct 1, I'll raise a burger and think of J's family. We don't do everything right in the US, and you can sure get in trouble for voicing unpopular beliefs, such as that church and state should be separate, religious fundamentalists cause war or that evolution is a scientific fact. But it’s not communist China. America, fuck yeah!

I didn't do nearly the shopping that my classmates did. But I did take advantage of the gross currency undervaluation, and I went to the textile market with classmates to have some shirts custom made.

I'll take some pictures when I get home, but needless to say, these are very very nice.

If I had more time, I'd have had the guy who made my new favorite shirt make me several more. But since I can't do that, I'll do this:

If you want to have some FANTASTIC custom tailoring done for you in Shanghai, go see

Chen Tao, Designer

At the Shanghai DongJiaDu Textile Cloth Market (118 DongJiaDu Road) in stall number 124.

He also does suits. My shirt is beautiful, and I chose striped material, and he made the lines look AMAZING. The stitching looks very very good, though I'll let my sister-in-law be the judge of that.

Another thing about China that puzzles the crap out of me: Bare-assed babies. Seems babies are toted around bare-assed. Baby clothes are ass-less. If you're not potty trained, you get no ass in your pants. Perhaps there's a level of pragmatism to this that I don't recognize, but it seems to me that having no barrier between an infant's nether regions and the outside world leads to "unsanitary conditions". There's gotta be some rational reason for the practice, but I can't seem to identify it.