小北的不老歌

Monthly Archive: August 2008

Two Articles from Kristof

First is this: Malcontents need not apply

Money quote:

The official frowned and summoned two senior colleagues who, after a series of frantic phone calls, led me into the heart of the police building. I was accompanied by a New York Times videographer, and he and a police videographer busily videoed each other. Then the police explained that under the rules they could video us but we couldn’t video them.

For some reason I busted out laughing when I read the above. Fun article to read.

Another article: Slipping Over the Great Firewall of China.

Interesting observations.

Weekend Adventure

Went to Steamtown NHS in Scranton, PA on Saturday.

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Anna rode in a real steam-powered train and was very impressed.

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I’ve wanted to visit Scranton for a long time. I love the TV series “The Office,” which supposedly took place in Scranton, PA. Judging from the TV show I’ve always thought that Scranton was this little town that ran out of steam in the second half of last century—like many other Pennsylvanian towns we’ve visited—after coal/steel/railway related jobs died out or moved away. I had imagined that Scranton was kind of a heavily-laundered version of Detroit—shrunk to a town’s size, bleached to lily white. I’ve even wanted to buy a shirt that read “Scranton” or “Dunder Mifflin” just so that I can show it off to my friends who also love “The Office.”

But I was wrong. The town turned out to be very likable. It has a Jesuit college with a beautiful campus on a hill on one side of town; it has an upscale downtown area with classic-looking, well-maintained, marble buildings and public greens.

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On our way home we saw a road-side sign for a bed-n-breakfast, and thought we could spend a night there and go home on Sunday instead. So we ended up staying there, in Milford, PA, a quaint little town on the PA/NJ border. There is a pond in front of the hotel, and sitting on the deck watching the reflections in the water is just as fun as watching Anna running around the house.

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The owner of the bed-and-breakfast also has a farm next to it, so Anna saw, for the first time in her life, live chickens.

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The house was built in 1940 but very well maintained. It sits in the middle of acres of woods and grassland, and miles away from nearest town and traffic.

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Had dinner at a local diner. Anna’s first time in a diner, and she didn’t mind all those wall decorations. Forget about McD. Diners are the quintessential American restaurants.

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Early Sunday morning. Breakfast at the, well, bed-and-breakfast. Anna is pointing at a group of free-roaming geese in the yard.

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Then some boat-paddling in the pond to work off those calories from breakfast.

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And Anna got to ride a horse. No, not a pony. A real, full-size horse. And unlike her previous pony-rides, there was no one else waiting to ride the horse this time. So she rode, and rode, and rode, until finally she said, “I want to come down now.”

When she was riding I chatted with a few people on the farm. It turned out that one of them was a lawyer-turned-horse-trainer. One more career option for me, I guess, if law doesn’t work out.

So that was the weekend. This weekend, to the beach!

I want a pair of these

OspopPineSide

As reported by NYT: Consumed, The Sole of a Worker. These are “improved” versions of the good old “Jie Fang Xie,” made by a particular factory in Henan Province. They go for $75 a pair in the States and are reportedly selling like hotcakes now. According to the NYT article, some people are apparently complaining about the price disparity between the $2 original JieFangXie and the $75 “knock-offs.” But I disagree. If Gucci made these shoes they’d sell for at least $750, and people will still buy them.

Oh I so wanted Gucci to make these shoes. They would go so well with my future Louis Vuitton bag of choice, to make me one very fashionable Chinese migrant laborer.

Louis Vuitton plastic bags Spring 07 cropped

And that’s when it struck me, for the 100th time in the past 10 years: I am indeed a Chinese migrant laborer.

The day so far

I dropped off Anna at the school precisely five minutes after class began. The well-dressed, curly-haired, Montessori-certified teacher was visibly displeased by yet another late attendance as she took over Anna’s lunch bag and led her inside. I wanted to apologize to her profusely for my failure to limit Anna’s bathroom time in the morning but decided to save the excuse for later when we are at least 15 minutes late. Maybe the teacher will just let a five-minute delay slide, or maybe not. We will see if Anna gets a citation later for failure to show up on time too often.

I actually like the school a lot. It seems much stricter than the last two preschools we’ve tried. And that can only be a good thing, not because Anna needs the extra discipline, but we the parents do. The staff seemed dedicated–sometimes a tad overreaching–to the wellbeing of the kids. Earlier I was approached by one of the teachers, who commented on Anna’s intelligence and said “some of our students went to to attend Harvard, Brown, and Princeton, and I am sure Anna will be just like them.” I expressed my gratitude for such a kind comment but was secretly thinking how much of this has to do with that Asian parents stereotype again–you are Asian so you must want your kid to go to Harvard. But at least she meant well.

Speaking of Asians, I somehow recalled a little miscommunication between me and another Asian a while back. When China was about to launch that rocket to take the first Chinese into outer space (was it in 2004?), I was serving with the Chinese student association at Maryland. A journalist called me and said he wanted to interview me regarding my take on the Chinese government’s choice of not allowing live broadcast of the event. I forgot what my responses were, but remember me asking:

“Which publication are you with?”

“I’m with the publication.”

“Yes, which publication.”

“The Publication.”

My head started to spin. A publication called “The Publication?” That doesn’t make sense at all. It’s like naming a hotel “The Hotel” and a train “The Train.” Who the hell does that? This went back and forth for a few rounds before I finally realized that the publication was called “Public Asian.” Then we had a good laugh. I am wondering whether the journalist has gotten this reaction before. But I really do like the name, and it stuck in my head.

When I am not reminiscing I watch a lot of TV. I am amazed that there’s a whole different world in day-time television programming, presumably catering to the stay-at-home moms–or dads. In the past few days I’ve been tempted with semi-precious stone jewelry on sale at a supposedly once-in-a-lifetime price, reruns of shows and movies from the 90s 80s and probably 70s, and learned at least a dozen different ways to make cupcakes from Martha Stewart. Who knew there were so many ways to make cupcakes! And there’s probably even more ways to make the frosting on those cupcakes, but I’ve had enough of the cupcake shows, even though cupcakes are lovely and sweet and have a lot of calories. Besides, every minute I see Martha Stewart I have “insider trading” ringing in my ears, because that’s how I first look her up on google (before that I only had a vague idea of who she was). I have to admit: she looks remarkably benign for an insider trader.

But what do I know about insider trading. Some people say it’s a sin. Others argue it’s not. A year ago I had an idea that could be developed into an article on insider trading, which I can try submitting to some fourth tier law reviews for public asian, I mean, publication. But now I have no desire whatsoever to write any more academic papers. I don’t care whether insider trading is right or wrong any more. If the SEC says it’s wrong, so be it, and that helps create more jobs for lawyers defending these suits. It’s like how very few plastic surgeons complain about the bigger-is-better perception when it comes to breast implant procedures. Besides, there are things that are much more wrongful than insider-trading. Like how I am munching on instant noodles when watching all those cooking shows. That’s the ultimate sin.

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Urban Jungle aka Manhattan
Panasonic LX2

家长会

周末幼儿园召集家长开会,传达小孩和父母必须遵循的规章制度和注意事项,听了以后发现多数没有做到,以后要认真执行。 各种条款写了满满五页纸,摘录一些比较严厉的如下:

家长送小孩不许送过幼儿园大门。
接小孩迟到每五分钟罚三十块钱。
接送孩子时不得和老师交谈,有什么时离开后打电话解决。
迟到超过一定次数不给发毕业证书(!)
家长如果要参观课堂只能在指定区域内就坐而且不许和小孩或老师说话
学费按年算,不满一年离开按一年算。分两次交,如学费迟交超过一周,小孩将被除名。
不许带牛奶和果汁到学校
不许带糖果饼干到学校
不许带玩具到学校
过生日不许带蛋糕和蜡烛到学校
女生穿裙子时里面必须穿平脚短裤
每个小孩准备两双鞋,分别在室内和室外活动时穿,鞋上不得有图案花纹或者卡通人物。
校车费另算,每个月三百块。

这些规矩,按我们在芝加哥时候的做法,好像都违反遍了,但是我们还是使劲地点头表示认可。旁边别的新生家长们也都一个个认真地听着,满脸严肃的样子,没有人有任何异议。一方面,这些规矩也都是有助于小孩养成良好的习惯,另一方面,还有那么多人在候补名单上等着呢,侥幸挤进来的人没有好讨价还价的。

所以,借用一句小南近来的口头禅:就这样吧。是好是坏都只有一年,就算体验一下所谓的蒙氏教育到底是怎么一回事,也算看个新鲜。

family
The Family in My Eyes

Anna’s Weekend Adventure

Took Anna to a farm somewhere in central Jersey.

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Top of the world… er… haystack.

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A bumpy wagon ride into the raspberry field.

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I picked a big raspberry, and I want to eat it, now.

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I am very good when it comes to raspberry-picking.

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Helped pick some peaches (and discovered that they made pretty effective hand grenades when thrown at mommy)

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Hopped on a pony.

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And ended the day of fun by chasing some farm animals.

故地重游

人大概都是这样的,忙的时候盼着闲下来,真正闲下来了又想找点别的事做。没考试之前想着考完了可以好好休息一个月,考完了以后却发现其实闷在家里一个星期都不爽。想着出去旅游,可过去一年里玩得实在太疯狂了,北到阿拉斯加南到圣地亚哥,外加冰川黄石落基山大峡谷等等一串国家公园,有点舟车劳顿和审美疲劳。原先说好找个周末开车去缅因的,查一下居然要单程要开近十个小时,就没那心情了。和萍儿感慨七年前刚买新车那会儿怎么就能一气从马州开到缅因十四个小时还不带停的。

七年过去了,搬了若干次家,但车还是那辆,从十几迈开到十几万迈,也没有换车的打算。周末还开它回马里兰,看母校,找朋友叙旧,去看看原来住过的地方,还一定要去海湾大桥东端路边的那个螃蟹摊子大吃一顿,希望还在。

小南也越来越调皮了。

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Two Medicine Area, Glacier National Park, Montana
Panasonic LX2

_ICT0696
我就要坐这里面……啊呀呀我怎么坐不下呢?

缝隙中的生活

既然又开始写了,就再写一点吧,闲着也是闲着。

考律照之前搬到新家,直到现在才有闲心坐在窗口,看帝国大厦,哈德逊河,以及河上来来往往的船只。偶尔被人问起是做什么工作的,不知怎么说才好。已经离开了学校,不再是学生,却还没有进律所,还不算律师。可是要是支支吾吾地说,I am… sort of… in between…,听起来好像失业在家。

失业在家也没什么不好的。早上起来可以从容地煮上咖啡,送小南去幼儿园,回来以后端上咖啡放上音乐坐在二十几楼的窗口看永远变化着的曼哈顿,直到傍晚夕阳照在Tribeca那栋花旗大楼的玻璃壳上反射回来,金灿灿的满屋生辉。

失业在家也没什么好的。纽约的咖啡豆好像不比芝加哥的咖啡豆香浓多少,却总贵上几块钱;小南上的幼儿园比芝加哥的也贵了近一倍,号称蒙氏学校但还没看出什么特别之处;二十几楼能看见哈德逊河的窗户比原先七楼能看见密歇根湖的窗户要贵出两倍多,还要另交电费停车位和健身房的。花旗也和照耀着它的夕阳一样努力地挣扎着,于是默默地对它说请你短期内不要下山请至少撑到我们胜利大逃亡。

于是,我正在这个法学院和律所之间的缝隙中生活着。念书的时候好像从来不用烦心的柴米油盐,一旦离开了学校,就好像上个月去黄石公园看见的地热池,一个不注意就噗噜噜往外冒泡,还带臭鸡蛋味的那种,避之不及。

缝隙中的生活偶尔也有惊喜。昨晚给小南洗澡,突然毫无征兆地,她两只手勾住我的脖子,看着我笑眯眯地说,

Daddy, I love you.

于是我又开始冒泡了,美得冒泡,带香草味的那种。

Room with a view

The Empire State Building
Maxxum 5D, 135mm/F2.8