Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Update from China

I had great intentions to post regular updates from China. Alas, that seems not to have happened. I don't quite have the energy for a post containing actual paragraphs. So instead some random bullets will have to do:
  • The Complex Systems Summer School has been going quite well so far as I can tell. Student presentations are Thursday and Friday, and I'm eager to see how they turn out.
  • I've been having a great time in Beijing. Perhaps too good a time. It will be hard to leave. I've become very good friends with some of the staff and faculty here.
  • I will be speaking at the ICS PIF Summer School 2007 in Paris, France the week of 11 August. I will give an expanded version of the lectures I gave this year in China. It will be fun working on the lectures, and I'm very much looking forward to going to Paris.
  • I'm hoping to turn my Paris lectures into a review article. I'm not exactly sure when I'll have time to do this, but it's definitely something that I want to do.
  • I feel extremely lucky to be able to spend time in Beijing and Paris this summer. It is a nice counterbalance to living in a small town. I love living in rural/coastal Maine, but I definitely miss city things.
  • I'm not sure, but I believe that my colleagues back at COA have finalized the soul-crushing document. I suspect that it has crushed other souls in addition to mine. Overall, I think that we made the process of writing the document much more painful than it had to be. I'm a little frightened to read the final version. I fear it will make me simultaneously mad and sad. I'll read it eventually, but I'm in no rush.
  • It is very hot in Beijing and the smog is incredible. Usually the light is so diffuse there are no shadows. I was up at dawn the other day and the sun had just risen and it was light, but I couldn't tell which way was east, because I couldn't see the sun through the smog and haze and humidity.
  • I am currently infatuated with The Friendlies. They are also known as Fuwa. I like them.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Map of the Neighborhood

Yesterday and today I spent a while making a map with Google of the neighborhood in Beijing around the Chinese Academy of Sciences. I'm not certain if the link will work, but here it is. Google doesn't do streets for China, so this is just a satellite view. (If when you initially click on the link you don't see anything on the map, click on satellite and then you'll see a very impressive satellite of the city. The resolution for Beijing is quite good, so you can zoom in a lot.

The large cluster of blue markers is the CAS neighborhood. I added links to the forbidden city and Tiananmen Square for reference. Also, on the upper left I've indicated the location of the Fragrant Villa, which is where we held the first week of the school.

I've found this satellite map to be very useful for orienting myself in Beijing. And it's also just cool. I'm amazed at the resolution. I'm not sure if this will be of much interest if you're not currently at the CSSS. The overhead view doesn't really give a sense of what it's like to be on the ground. But nevertheless, this map does a pretty good job of conveying the overall scale of Beijing, which is almost unthinkably immense.

Although Beijing is busy and bustling, the campus of the CAS is relatively quiet. There are many dragonflies buzzing around the large open area in the middle. Sometimes sparrows chase the dragonflies. And at night there are bats.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Beijing Update

It is Sunday here in China and the first week of the of the CSSS is done. The school has moved from the Fragrant Villa, on the edge of Beijing, to the campus of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the Haidian district. In this area are several major universities in addition to the Chinese Academy.

I think that the first week went well. I was pleased with how my lectures went, especially the ones on Thursday and Friday, which contained some new material. The students seem to be doing a good job of forming groups for their projects. On balance it was a pretty fun week. And now that my lectures are over I should have more time to enjoy Beijing and the other lecturers and to hang out with the students and other faculty. Beijing is a great city. The food is fantastic, and there's tons to see and explore and do.

The weather has been hot and smoggy, but it's actually slightly better than I remember last year. I don't know if it's just luck or if there has actually been some progress made on improving the air quality. I suspect the former.

Doreen arrived Friday evening after an epic two-day journey from the Amazon. She'll be here until approximately Wednesday, at which point she embarks on a tour of large Asian cities: Hong Kong, Manilla, Dehli, and then back to Beijing on or around August 2. We'll then have a few days together in Beijing. We both leave for the U.S. on the 7th.

Friday, July 06, 2007

In Beijing

I've made it to Beijing. I'm currently sitting in the new Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics which is on the campus of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). It's a very nice new building. It just opened up in March, I believe. We will have our CSSS classes here during weeks two-four of the school. I'm staying at CAS for a few days, and then we head out to Fragrant Villa, a "resort" of sorts on the edge of the city where we'll be for the first week.

My flight to Beijing was long and largely uneventful. There was a pigeon wandering around inside the terminal at JFK airport, which I thought was kinda cool. The pigeon seemed quite at home.
I slept most of the way on the long flight from New York to China.

Beijing is hot and smoggy, just like I remember it. It's good to be back. The CAS and its surrounding neighborhood feel much more familiar than I had expected. There's an element of returning home that I didn't quite expect. Walking around the neighborhood today was nice, albeit very hot and sticky.

Right now it appears that I'll be able to post to my blog, but that I can't read any blogs on blogspot.com. This is annoying, but I'm not sure that there's anything I can do. Wikipedia is no longer blocked, at least for now. Last summer wiki was blocked and I couldn't post to my blog at all.

Time for me to get to work. I have a bunch of prep still to do for my lectures next week as well as some logistical stuff I need to work on.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Heading to Beijing

In around eight hours I leave for a five week trip to Beijing. As I did last year, I'll be co-directing the Complex Systems Summer School (CSSS) organized by the Santa Fe Institute, and hosted at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Although I don't feel even remotely ready, I'm glad to be going. The CSSS will be very interesting and great fun.

This year has been very draining on a lot of different fronts. When I step out of the terminal into the hot, smoggy Beijing air I'll know that the year is behind me. (Tomorrow the high in Beijing is supposed to be 92 degrees and the low 87.) I've worked hard the last three days to finish up lots of 06-07COA stuff. The academic year will really be over when I venture out into Beijing about 30hours from now.

Assuming that blogger.com is no longer blocked from China, I should be able to post pretty regularly while I'm away.