The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Culture Dash (Shanghai residency day 2)

Due to an unexpected attrition of Flip cameras[1], several teams (including mine) set off on the Shanghai Culture Dash without them. This turned out to be liberating: between the six of us, we had four video-capable cameras, so we got more than 80 minutes of video. I'm especially pleased that we got two 10-minute interviews with multiple cameras. That will make the final product a lot more watchable—and audible, I think.

We actually dashed over much of the same ground I explored Thursday and Friday, including the Bund, the Old Town, and Nanjiang Road. This time, in Old Town, we went through Yuyuan Gardens:

This, I think, sums up Shanghai:

(When I get home, I'll try to find a similar vista in Old Town, Chicago; I'm sure one exists.)

[1] Of 20, somehow only 12 got turned in to the program. Three people admitted forgetting them at home. That leaves 5 unaccounted for. Oops.

Team-building cooking class (Shanghai residency day 1)

Really, it's the food. We're all going to double our waist sizes here. This afternoon they took us on a teambuilding exercise in which we made lemon chicken and pork fried rice. Much fun, many calories. Our team won best preparation but, owing to a lack of salt (we think), only came in second overall. Our presentation:

One of my teammates copied down on his iPhone the entire procedure as the chef demonstrated it. Once he's able to send me the note, I'll repost it. It involved only one ingredient whose name the chef's translator couldn't translate, that seemed to be a lemony-orangy powder. Without the powder, you can make fried chicken with lemon slices, which is not lemon chicken. I'd bet there's a Chinese grocery somewhere in Chicago that can hook me up with the secret lemon powder. Otherwise, with a commercial stove and a wok the size of an airplane engine, it's a pretty easy recipe.

Old Town Shanghai (Residency day 0)

I'm still digesting Shànghăi, possibly because it's all about the food. Take, for example, the family dinner my classmate Kyle invited me to. Including me, there were five of us. This is what Kyle's mother and wife prepared:

That doesn't show the rice, by the way. All of it was delicious. I admit, I didn't try the green jellied duck eggs, but Kyle smoothed that out with his folks.

Earlier yesterday he took me to Qībăo, a tiny oasis of old Shànghăi about 15 km southwest of the city center. More food, also a little outside my cultural expectations:

Those are roasted quails on sticks, which people eat like popsicles. Also popular in Qībăo were chicken feet, pig snouts, and something I couldn't identify, about which Kyle said, "You're not going to like that." On the other hand, I also discovered a pastry of swirled peanut flour (also available in ginger, sesame, and almond), which I want to find again. Then Kyle and I went down a dark alley and popped into a tea shop, where I learned how to make and drink green tea properly.

Armed with this knowledge, plus a few Yuan, today I investigated the Old City, and found Xie Hong You and his wife:

After forcing me to sample five different teas through unbelievable hospitality and graciousness, I finally surrendered ¥300 (about $42) in exchange for 250 g of tie guan yin Oolong tea, a smallish four-cup tea set with box, and assorted tea-making and tea-drinking utensils. We accomplished this with lots of pointing, gestures, a Mandarin-English pocket dictionary, and a calculator. Mr Xie seemed disappointed when I chose only the one bag of tea. His wife, I think, told him to back off the hard sell.

I'm sure someone will tell me I got ripped off. I don't think so. True, I didn't bargain too hard (they first offered the tea at ¥230, and I only had them down to ¥180 when I decided to ask about the tea set), and I probably paid somewhat more than Kyle would have. And it's kind of a plain tea set, clearly made for using rather than display. But in the end, this was a positive economic exchange for everyone: they got what they consider a fair amount of money from me, and I got something for which I would have paid a lot more than I did. Economic surplus all around. And now I have the proper tools for enjoying green tea.

Old Town wasn't all about the tea, of course. Mr Xie's shop is actually a bit outside the more touristy area, which looks like this:

I have a few more photos worth sharing, but those will have to wait for later in the week when I'm trapped in the hotel. Classes start tomorrow; the Culture Dash is Sunday (more photos likely); and from Monday until next Saturday I'll be spending about 6 hours a day in class and another 6 doing schoolwork. This is not, after all, a vacation.

In Shanghai (Duke Residency day -1)

It's 5:20 in the morning here, and I don't know what day it is. This, believe it or not, I expected, which explains why I got here a day early.

Just one major complaint: The Great Firewall apparently blocks Facebook[1]. Those of you waiting for me to play Scrabble, I'm sorry. (The Great Firewall sometimes changes its mind, so I'll keep trying.)

I won't bore you with details about my messed-up circadian rhythm when I could do it with something else, so here, à propos of nothing, is a photo of Tokyo Narita Airport:

When I (a) figure out what I'm doing today and tomorrow and (b) actually do it, I'll post more.

[1] It also apparently blocks the Wikipedia entry about itself. That's funny.

On the way to get my 3rd term grades

I discovered this joke from the head of Duke's CCMBA IT department:

An accountant is having a hard time sleeping and goes to see his doctor. "Doctor, I just can't get to sleep at night."

"Have you tried counting sheep?"

"That's the problem - I make a mistake and then spend three hours trying to find it."

And 24 hours from now, I'll be somewhere over Minnesota on my way to Shanghai...

Shocking—to a Cubs fan

I think I can get used to having an association with a national champion team of some kind, which in my life hasn't happened since 1998:

The Duke Blue Devils officially were the last team standing Monday night, the only team on the podium with the championship trophy in hand.

Duke claimed its fourth NCAA championship but the first for any of its current players with a 61-59 victory over hometown favorite Butler in front of 70,000-plus fans at Lucas Oil Stadium.

More:

The Blue Devils won with defense. Holding the Bulldogs to 34 percent shooting and contesting every possession as tenaciously as Butler, which allowed 60 points for the first time since February. Zoubek, the 7-foot-1 center, finished with two blocks, 10 rebounds and too many altered shots to count, but also came out to trap the Butler guards and disrupt an offense that was already struggling.

Now if only the Cubs can win a game. At the moment, they're 161 games out of first place, which isn't the worst they've ever been.

Update: I suppose I have to mention this as another reason to be thankful I'm a Dukie:

ATLANTA — The Cubs are marketing the 2010 season as "Year One," referring to the first year of the Ricketts family ownership. But on the first day of Year One, the Cubs suffered their worst Opening Day defeat in 126 years, losing 16-5 to Atlanta before 53,081 at Turner Field.

I mean, day-um.

No rest for the weary

Yesterday I expressed more relief than dread after finishing my Term 3 finals. Dread just won:

Subject: FedEx Shipment Notification

[Redacted] of Duke Fuqua School of Business sent David Braverman 1 FedEx Express Saver package(s).

This shipment is scheduled to be sent on 03/29/2010.

Oh. Joy. The Term 4 books are coming.

Sigh.