Friday, June 27, 2008

In China

My flights were long, but mostly uneventful and I made it to Beijing without incident. I slept a little bit on the plane, and I slept for a long time last night. I'm not over jetlag yet, but I'm making progress.

I'm currently at the WuKe Bingyuan, the hotel at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Tomorrow, I head out to the Fragrant Villa, the "resort" on the northwest edge of Beijing where we hold the school for the first week. It was fun today spending time in the neighborhood by the CAS. I've spent quite a bit of time here the last several years, so it's sort of like home.

Beijing is, as usual, a little overwhelming. The pollution has been bad the last few days, but I've seen it worse. And it's been surprisingly cool, which is nice. I'm sure the infernos will arrive soon enough.

There's a little sign in the bathroom at the hotel which, presumably, is intended to warn me that the floor might be slippery. But somehow this got rendered into English as "Be Careful of Landslides." Awesome.

I'm too tired to write more. More later when I find the time and energy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Heading to China

In a little over four hours I'll be on a plane to Newark. Then a few hours layover and then a fourteen hour flight to Beijing. I will try to post semi-regularly in China, but it will depend on whether or not blogger is blocked.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

w r i t i n g

  • I leave for China in less than one week. Yikes.
  • In addition to grading and writing evaluations, I'm working on writing two proposals. They're going well, but slowly. Very slowly.
  • I'm making some good progress tonight, but it's late and I should go to sleep soon.
  • But I'm listening to Armin van Buuren, which usually makes me pleasantly hyper and energized. Good for writing. Bad for sleep.
  • Speaking of sleep, a kitten is sound asleep next to me.
  • Our little kittens are growing fast, but they're still small and very cute. The orange one has a name now, but I'll blog about that later.
  • Back to writing for me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Links of Awesomeness

Some amusing things I've stumbled across lately:
  1. We do stuff at Huhcorp. "When one of our new-age marketing gurus or design experts or consultants has an idea, the rest of us look at him or her with serious expressions and write stuff down on paper. We also have one of those dry-erase boards on the wall, and we take turns making flow-charts and brain-storming and talking about "injecting creativity into market positioning," and cool stuff like that." Awesome.
  2. Huhcorp has a tech division, duhcorp. Also awesome.
  3. Then there's the Nietzsche Family Circus, which pairs a random Nietzsche quote with a random Family Circus cartoon. More awesome.
  4. And finally there's something which I think actually isn't a joke... Worried that the rapture will come and you'll be raptured away and friends and family will be left behind? Perhaps there are some final emails you'd like to send them, but you won't be able to, because you'll be up in heaven, or wherever it is that raptured pepole go--presumably someplace without internet access. Well, worry no more. will automatically send emails to your friends and family who have been left behind. The emails are sent six days post-rapture. For just $40 a year you can send messages to up to 62 different email addresses. Yet more awesome.
(Items 3 and 4 via Casting Out Nines.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Week 11

We just finished week eleven of our ten-week term. Graduation was a week ago. The ceremony was quite nice, as usual. It didn't last too long, there were some interesting and touching talks, and there was excellent food at the reception afterwards. I got to talk to a lot of graduates, their families, and also some alums who had returned for the event.

Week elevens are usually fairly unproductive and involve mostly recovering and regaining physical and mental strength. The day after graduation, Doreen and I headed to Boston to spend a few days visiting my Dad and his wife. He lives in New Jersey, but we sometimes get together in Boston, as it's easier to meet halfway than to have one of us do a very long drive. Boston was fun. We had an excellent meal at The Red House on Sunday, and on Monday we had an absolutely extraoradinary meal at Oleanna. On Monday we went to the Museum of Science, which was good, but not quite amazing. I think it's more set up for kids than adults. Nevertheless, there were some interesting exhibits and I'm glad we went. Doreen and I also did some bookshopping at some of the excellent bookstores in Cambridge.

The weather in Boston was miserable: humid and very hot. On Tuesday it hit 103 degrees. Monday was in the high 90's. I suppose the weather was good practice for Beijing, where it will be equally hot, and much, much, much smoggier. Fortunately, the weather did not follow us home. By the time we were 15 miles across the Maine border the temperature was down to 72 degrees.

The nice weather continued throughout the week. Wednesday and Thursday were long days of work, trying to get caught up on email and lots of little things that have been slipping through the cracks lately. I made good progress, but I've still got a long way to go. I also have a very large pile of grading and I have a few larger projects that I really should finish up before I leave for China.

Yesterday, though, Doreen and I took off from work and did some gardening and took a nice hike in the afternoon. The weather was almost perfect. Warm but not hot, and sunny and clear. From the top of Beech Hill, the view was fantastic. We had a nice dinner which included a salad made from lettuce grown in our backyard.

It is now Saturday, and week eleven is ending and week twelve begins. The recovery week is over. This needs to be a week of much productivity.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Term Ends

It's hard to believe, but the 2007-08 academic year is over. Tomorrow is graduation. It's been a long year, and one that felt more difficult than usual. Fall term seems impossibly distant -- it seems a very long ways away. I did a lot of teaching this year, and I had some very strong classes. There's a really good cohort of math students on campus right now, which is a lot of fun. But it keeps me busy.

The end of the year is always a mixture of joy and melancholy. Graduation and related events are truly wonderful. It's great to congratulate seniors and marvel at their accomplishments. It's especially fun to meet students' families and share congratulations. Without a doubt, graduation is a highlight of the year. It's sad, though, to be saying goodbye to some students. And it's also difficult to say goodbye to a few faculty colleagues who are leaving COA.

I've got a bunch of things I've been meaning to blog about. Perhaps now that the term is over I'll have some more time and will get caught up. However, despite the fact that the term is over, I've still got a lot of work to do. In addition to grading and writing evaluations, there are a number of writing tasks that I absolutely have to finish before I head to China. My plane leaves on June 25, so I've got around 2.5 weeks. A lot of time, but I'm sure it'll go quickly. Tonight, though, I'm going to try and not think about deadlines and just relax.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Mumbling Messages

Doreen has been away traveling for a few weeks. During this time a number of people have called and left messages for her on our answering machine. I am tasked with relaying these messages to her. Four of the messages over the last two weeks have been incomprehensible for one reason or another. One message was from a plumber calling on a bad cell phone connection, so every other word was chopped off. One message was static-ey and I couldn't tell if it was in Spanish or English or some combination, and the person didn't leave a number. There was somebody else who was mostly understandable and did leave a number to call. She helpfully repeated her number. This was great, except the two numbers didn't match. Most recently, there was a call from someone who kinda sounded Czech, but when she said her name and the organization she worked for it blurred together as one very long word of 20 syllables or so that I can't parse, even after multiple listenings.