So after more than two months, 16 flights, more miles than I can count and having slept in 6 different cities. I am finally home, more or less for good. The flight back from Memphis was thankfully uneventful and I was just so pleased to be back at home for what should be a good long time. I suppose I don't mind the travel so much...though airplanes and security lines can be rather tedious, its more the feeling of always being in transit or just slightly out of place. Never really established in that particular locale and knowing that it could be better elsewhere. Of course all the places I visited (save a few) would be great places to live its just that I wasn't living there I was only visiting and of course that comes with some problems of its own. But now, solid ground beneath me for some time, I feel even more appreciative of the place I am and where I came from. I'm not going to get all AMERICA is GREAT on you all because lots of the places I visited were in the US and I wouldn't want to live there either. I guess it just speaks to the fact that we are all very much a product of the place we grew up and that may be hard to change. It may be different if you live elsewhere (i.e you make your home someplace else) but I'm not really at that point yet and so i can't really say. It may also just be me or a product of the sheer amount of moving around I've done over the past 9 weeks...but of course I have no other frame of reference than my own. For now, this is the only place I want to be and if I never step foot in logan airport again...I wouldn't shed a tear. Patrick OUT!!!


So I saw this article today and I was kind of disappointed because this joker took my idea for a blog post. You can read it for yourself and I will try and not do too much recap

So, I'm writing a book..."Obama Goes to Europe!" Think fievels american tail in reverse and with throngs of germans in the streets. It is really a bit silly...200,000 germans came out to see our presidential candidate. Or let me put it this way...200,000 germans came out to see the junior senator from the state of illinois. Do either of those make sense??? Furthermore, besides the photo-op...why did he go? THESE PEOPLE CAN"T VOTE. Furthermore, while Obama may already envision himself as President...he will never be president of the world (thats what Bill Clinton wants...remember his "run" for secretary general). His speech was pretty much devoid of any real content and sort of sounded like a self-parody. It was so over the top with optimism and unity, I almost threw up in my mouth watching it last night on C-Span. Really, there was nothing controversial about it...that is fundamentally the problem...the only things worth discussing are those in which opinions differ. So, are we to vote for obama because Europeans like him? Are we to suppose that Europeans really do know whats best for us and want that? That they will be able to act entirely devoid of self-interest? When a country elects a president they should do so entirely in their own self-interest (not necessarily on an individual level but on a national level), and yet our candidates campaign outside our borders. Again...WHY? It seems to me that the risk he runs is the media catching up to the fact that this was his FIRST visit to europe as an elected official. So, we have John McCain who has been multiple times to Europe and spends time in the good ol' US of A thinking about our issues and apparently eating german sausage with lindsay graham (seriously, thats where he was yesterday).The final nail in the coffin was watching McNeil Lehrer News Hour on PBS. They wanted a European perspective on Obamania. The commentators in both France and Germany both essentially said that Obama was a symbol that it was ok to believe in the american dream again. Ummm...why did they need Obama for that. Nothing says american dream like being abandoned by your father, raised in foreign countries and becoming a corporate lawyer. I think not. The american dream is in the family that struggles for years to own their own home and eventually succeeds because the country allows it. The american dream is in China town where imigrants form a pocket of another country while at the same time being american in every sense of the word. The american dream is the huddled masses, and the suburban family not the lawyers and CEOS and certainly not the government...those things are all working very hard against the american dream...republicans and democrats both do it. The only difference is that one knows their doing it and the other has convinced itself its not. But who am I to tell the French anything of that. Do the french have a it the disenfranchisement and exploitation of foreigners pushing them to the point of riots and violence in the capitals streets. I'm glad they have something to believe in here in the US, because they aren't going to find it within their own borders. Patrick OUT!!!

So I made fried chicken last night which was pretty good. Only my second attempt and I think it came out OK. Chicken was moist and done all the way though and the crust was crispy and not too heavy despite frying in Crisco (I think my ateries are screaming today). I also butchered my own chicken (I butchered it here...not to be confused with slaughtering it...not quite southern enough for that) which made the meal cheap as all hell. Unfortunately, when I was thinking about making it I mentioned it to Pam who said, "Oh, I've got a lot of spices at the house you could use if you want them." So I didn't buy anything extra at the store which is good because they are expensive. I'm not sure what Pam makes all the time but her spices were litterally, Salt (a good start), cloves (both ground and whole), cardamon, ginger, all spice, and chili powder. THATS IT. If you were going to keep 6 spices in a cabinet...would cardamon make your list, and seriously, how often could you possibly use cloves? Wouldn't PEPPER be a good start? Maybe even paprika? Garlic Powder? Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary???? Of course, none of those things showed up in the cabinet. Ugh, it came out ok despite the complete lack of spices. Pam also tried to give me instructions on cooking and her little hints and tips that I quickly discounted because she doesn't know what she's talking about. After all was said and done she tried a piece (which I truthfully didn't want to spare) and said it was quite good..."of course", I thought. She then suggested that I could work for the colonel...I'm not sure if thats a good thing or not to hear from your it a harbinger of an upcoming termination??? Probably not...but still. She did make some corn and an avocado and cucumber salad which were both OK...actually the corn was really good locally grown and very sweet. The salad on the other hand could have been so fresh and light except that she drowned an already greasy avocado in about 20x too much oil and vinegar dressing. The best part, is that the house still (as of this morning) smelled like fried chicken. I was tempted to eat some for breakfast but decided against it and had a much more health responsible granola bar and yogurt instead. I'm hoping the oats and nuts will expunge some of the grease that is surely coating my entire interior right now. Delicious though, I wouldn't have my heart attack any other way. Patrick OUT!!!

Cross-cultural exchange

So I guess there has been a lot on my mind over the last few months in regards to cross-cultural exchange. These are things that I have always been hesitant to write about here for no real reason at all besides embarrassment. I have come to a certain understanding with myself that embarrassment is not a reasonable response here and that I should be more open in my particular inner battles. I guess I kind of only have myself to blame for the particular predicaments that I find myself in now. In retrospect, I was pretty content to blind myself to the problems I knew where bound to occur and it wasn't until recently that such things were really forcibly pushed to the forefront. Without getting to personal or too nasty (as I can be with these sorts of things), there is some pressure on myself and my significant other to move to hong kong (her home city...sort of) in the not too distant future. Having been there, I can, with some authority, say that it seems like a fine place to live...for someone else. Really its a busy metropolis full of both the super rich and the dismally poor and it embodies everything about the modern china both the good and the bad with just a sprinkling of european influence to make things interesting. The people of hong kong are markedly different than the people of the mainland but, just the same, they are grappling with becoming a first world economy and all of the changes that accompany such things. They are a city of gucci handbags and fine wines surrounded by villages and customs so old that no one remembers why they have them. A city of western religions (christianity predominates) that is still entrenched in ancestor worship, shrines, and fortune tellers. All those things certainly have their place in this world, I'm just not sure I would have a place in that world. Certainly hong kong could be called a city that had everything...and yet the things I treasure the most are likely not to be found there. I would be a helpless outsider in much of my life...clinging to what bits of westernization I could find. With that in my mind, I have enormous respect for those that come to US from foreign lands (particularly Asia and Africa). However, at the same time the US is somewhat unique in its ability to integrate enormous numbers of disparate groups into its society. This is certainly not done perfectly in all circumstance but the prevalence of thriving ethnic neighborhoods and communities is testament to this. China at large has yet to even come close to approaching this (fueled in part by years of maoist cultural hegemony spurned on by immense distrust of the western world, that effectively closed china off). Certainly Hong Kong as a city is better but they still maintain vivid separation of races both culturally and economically and are no where near immune to the sentiments of china as a whole. It would not be interesting or productive for me to make a list of the things that would be different (though if I started I would never have to think of another blog topic). I suppose my future lies in really fairly simple determination, to what lengths am I willing to sacrifice (and in some respects sacrifice on behalf of others I love) for another person. I suppose the fact that I even consider such things is testament to how serious this is for me but unfortunately such commitment does not solve the problem. The other truly unfortunate aspect of this particular problem is what it requires me to do emotionally. It is really no accident that I decided to become a wasn't a choice between pastel drawing, architecture, and science. They way I think, the analysis, the critical nature of my being is like an inborn destiny to be in science. This is not to say that I am gods gift to science but rather to say something more about my personality. I can't turn it off...whether in the lab or out of it I think the same way in almost everything I do. I make every attempt to break things down into their easily understandable parts and analyze them for what they are. It informs almost everything I do in life, reasoned analysis and logic guide me...choices are made by looking at all the conceivable outcomes and moving from there. I don't believe in chance or luck or leaving anything up to fate. These are things that I can not reasonably understate. Unfortunately, the emotions at play in this particular instance require much more of me and seem to transcend the usual logic. This of course leaves me at a bit of a loss, totally disarmed and turned upside down with no real way to learn any other way of being. For every effort to think logically about the problem, I am thwarted by emotion based in culture and heart rather than head. For certain, this is not to say that those are any less valid means of decision making...they are just rarely MY means of decision making. Of course, I can't really separate that two because while the vast majority of my life is directed through logic...the choice of who one's associates with and more so, who one falls in love with is rarely guided by such clear cut analysis. I can rant for hours on why moving to china is, with every amount of reasoned arguing...a poor choice for my future but that does not stop the fact that logic is no longer a part of the equation. So I suppose it becomes a problem of how much i am willing to surrender to the desires of the heart (someone elses in this case) at the expense of that which has guided me this far. While its "cliche" they say that "the night is darkest just before the dawn" and I certainly hope thats true because its starting to feel like midnight. Lighter posts to come. Patrick OUT

The Dark Knight

Soooo, I saw The Dark Knight (i.e Batman). In short, I give it my approval...wait, is that two good movie reviews in one week...i must be feverish...nope, just good films. Either way lets begin.
To start, the movie is directed by christopher nolan and stars christian bale, heath ledger, morgan freeman, maggie gyllenhall, and that guy from thank you for smoking (which also gets a healthy seal of approval). Obviously the movie focuses around batman and his associated dering-do in battling the JOKER. Heath ledger as the joker is really quite spectacular. It is further than I ever imagined he could go with a character and makes the old TV series Joker and even Jack nicholson's Joker, look downright silly. Seriously, this joker is flippin creepy. The plot has him pretty much appearing out of nowhere with no backstory whatsoever which was a little strange but I'm glad they didn't waste time with something really campy. Of course, the movie is two and a half hours long so whats another 30 minutes...but I digress. Anyways, the Joker appears and begins a not so sophisticated scheme of stealing money from mob bosses and pretty much scares them into believing that the real problem is batman. Of course, we the audience know this is only half way true but the mob bosses are fairly easily convinced and essentially hire the joker to kill now we have a movie. There is a somewhat convoluted plot with a chinese business man and shady business dealings that really felt like a relic of an earlier script but it did allow for some cool action sequences in the high rises of hong kong. Without giving too much away, lots of plot twists ensue and new enemies are made and other defeated. Among those defeated is one of the heads of the mob who is played by Eric Roberts (Julia's brother) who still sucks...this guy really can't act at all and should be barred from the studios at the first opportunity. Apprarently acting ability is not genetic...who knew??? Anyways, back to the movie itself. The acting was well done on the part of ledger, gyllenhall, and freeman. Christian bale needs some work in places but part of the problem was some really cliche dialogue for his character. In addition, he has a certain voice as bruce wayne and then another voice as batman. Unfortunately the batman voice just sounds like bruce went on an alcoholic bender the night before and has not fully recovered. That got really old really quick. Batman also has a lot of new toys to play with in this one...including a bat cycle (motoycycle with guns and really big tires), a new costume (still has pointy ears but not with projectile razor blades on the wrist), and a weird kind of sonar thing. Morgan freeman plays lucius fox who is essentially batman's R&D and makes all of the neat stuff for batman to use. At one point in the movie he threatens to quit over this sonar system thing saying, "this is too much power for one man and I won't be a part of it." OK...let me get this have no problem building, rocket cars, machine gunning motorcycles, bat grenades, razorblade projectiles, and other objects of mayhem but when bat sonar comes on the table, "oh no batman...thats going TOOOO far!" Please...that is rediculous...ok, so you need a reason to not have it in the second movie (and there will be another movie) but please don't let that reason be some half-assed moralizing. Along those same lines, the movie tries real hard to be really profound in its address of civic virtue, heroics, self-sacrifice, and public service. A little of that would be fine but they wanted more...and I wanted more too...more of batman pounding heads together that is and less talk about who is a bigger hero and guy in rubber bat suit, the DA, or commissioner gordon. Lets be simple here...the hero is the guy willing to go out in public and pick fights in a bat costume....ummm, thats bravery my friends. Overall, aside from those minor miscues, the movie is definately worth seeing...if you can get tickets...apparently it already setting records for attendance. Fandango is selling 12 tickets per second, ALL DAY. A blockbuster if I ever seen one...Patrick OUT!!!

New Favorite Blog

Just a quick new favorite blog on the subject of food science

Its really great...written by a husband and wife team who have cooked all over new england and new york. They have lots of neat posts on the science and experimental side of cooking and really do some innovative things with food. Also, their photography is excellent. I'm thinking about including a link-out to some other blogs here on this site and they would certainly be close to the top. Check them out

Patrick OUT!!!


So last night, I saw "There Will be Blood" directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and staring Daniel Day Lewis. My verdict you ask...awesome. For those of you looking for my usual scathing reviews...turn back now. For those of you looking for a good movie to watch...go out and rent it...either way its probably not worth reading much further.
The movie focuses around the slow descent into megalomania of a California oil man at the turn of the century and into the 20s and 30s. Day-Lewis is absolutely phenomenal...though I admit I set myself up to like this movie because I am such a fan of his...that not withstanding the movie did not disappoint. He was so consistent in his portrayal yet laying down that ever so subtle change from beginning to end that his very complex character demanded. Furthermore, the movie has strong undertones (is a strong undertone an overtone...i'm not sure) of revenge which culminate in perhaps the finest movie bludgeoning I have ever seen (not that I can name very many outside of fight club...but this is better than any of those...besides the first rule is you don't talk about fight club...or is that the second rule???). Anyways, there are also a lot of neat religious elements that really get me going because I am becoming more of an atheist every day and a movie that shows the corruptive power of religion has a not so subtle appeal to me. Of course, we can always extrapolate the movie a little further to say that its a battle really between two men who represent the worst of business and the worst of religion. Each of them is trying to capitalize on and take advantage of a generally ignorant population. Anderson is content to have them fight amongst themselves but is this an allegory for our modern situation...I tend to think the model still fits. Though I might vote republican anyways. The soundtrack while mostly scored is also great...really adding to the tension of the film at just the right moments and to exactly the right effect. My only gripe about the movie is the clear distinction between those who know and those who don't. In short, a few characters seem to be absolutely brilliant...most others are nameless faces in the crowd...and i'm not just talking about extras here. Characters with dialoge often come across as robotic without real need while other characters show such depth it makes their idiot counterparts all that much harder to tolerate. Either way, the acting of Day-Lewis carries the film...and its a good thing it did because he is in almost every scene of the film. Before I close out this review let me share a particularly good quote in relation to oil drainage.

Drainage! Drainage, Eli, you boy. Drained dry. I'm so sorry. Here, if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. And my straw reaches across the room, and then I start to drink your milkshake... I... drink... your... milkshake! I DRINK IT UP!!!

I understand that all that might seem like a silly quote...but once you see the film you'll understand...until then, count the days until that happens. PATRICK OUT!!!

100th POST!!! and more about the Obamas

So the New Yorker has been getting some flack recently for a particular cover they did satirizing the false accusations against Barack Obama.

The image plays upon a lot of the things that have plagued obama over the past few months including accusations of him being a muslim, the fist bump with his wife (apparently a terrorist greeting...I always thought it was just something college kids did), and of course the ever present idea that he is somehow anti-american. In response both the Obama and McCain campaigns issued public condemnation on the New Yorker for I guess encouraging these negative images. So I suppose the thinking is as follows: most people are stupid, these people will see this cover, stupid people will not get the satire inherent, most people will therefor believe that this is a commentary on actual events on the part of the new yorker editorial staff. Now I don't claim to be the smartest guy in the world (OK, I have made that claim on a few occassions but not right now), but this cover seemed pretty clear to me. I can see why the campaign might be a little bit disappointed in it but at the same time to issue public condemnation is pretty lame. I think the real problem presented by this flare-up is not that the new yorker is going after barack or michelle obama, not that there are undertones of bigotry or racism, not even that the cartoon is in bad taste...its more that the cartoon is edging on that line of being too hard to interpret for the average person (in the opinion of the Obama and McCain campaigns). This of course suggests that these campaigns are counting on the votes of people who are less intelligent than me and, for that matter, anyone I know because I have yet to meet someone who interpreted this as anything different than I did, mainly SATIRE. Of course, the other problem is that many of the cartoons in the new yorker that are so lauded over, really are over the head of the average person (assuming you take my head as that of an average person). For instance the following cartoon appeared recently.

What does that even mean? Is this humor? Should I have laughed when I saw this? Is it social commentary on something I've never heard of. I would seriously encourage anyone to leave me their explanations of why this clearly elitist dribbel deserved to be published and what I as consumer should have gotten out of it. The New Yorker's humor pages, which they take great pride in, are absolutely useless. They far too often forget that if people don't get the joke...its not funny. That the fundamental requirement for writing, humor, and communication in general is that people understand. Language bogged down in obscure terminology or arcane references is not communication at all, rather it is boastful in its superiority to the desired reader. I believe that too many readers of the New Yorker are ashamed to admit that these things just don't make sense. Of course, after looking at the latest cover...I think I know why it all works out this way. For once, the magazine publishes a comic that is an effective satire of topical and familiar nation wide events...the response, public damnation. Go on New Yorker comic writers...keep on being obscure...its safer. Patrick OUT!!!

A Family Affair

So while I'm in Arkansas I'm staying with Pam, of course, we didn't really think these things out as clearly as we should have because she ended up having family over for the weekend. I'm going to blame it on the immense effort put into our NIH grant submission, the end result is that while her house is sizeable it is not quite big enough for her family (4 additional people) and another student besides myself already staying there. So while, could have taken the floor in a sleeping bag, I am opting to stay with friends in the area and be a bit of a bum. This is actually kind of nice because I always feel a bit weird about my schedule around Pam and the idea that I know she's lonely so I feel bad about going out a bunch plus the fear of judgement (which is likely totally imagined on my part). Anyways, with her family here...all those things are gone and things have been pretty good. Work in the lab has been a bit slow just on account of some supply issue that should be taken care of next week early when i can begin my more important projects in earnest. Tomorrow, at some point, we're going floating again which is something we did last year. Essentially, for those that don't remember, its drifting down a very slow moving river over the course of 3 hours or so on an inflatable raft. Not a bad time really and definately relaxing. I think it is being followed in short order by a BBQ of some sort which should be even better. After being back down in AR, I remember all the thing I found attractive about this place and its people and yet all the things that still are enough to drive a good yankee mad. For one, can you believe that the news doesn't cover the red sox. I don't know how they sleep at night...don't they understand that red sox nation is everywhere. I hear, however, that there is a nationally televised game coming up soon. It will probably be on ESPN or FOX which, of course, Pam doesn't get with her limited cable. Might have to find someplace else to watch that. Other than that, things are pretty much as usual in jonesboro. Patrick OUT!!!

Oh Jesse...

So, the media has been bombarded once again by people close to presidential candidates saying stupid things. This time, Barak Obama's campaign was actually just caught in the cross-fire as the Rev. Jesse Jackson declared he wanted to cut his "n--ts" off. At first I saw that headline and literally, could not figure out what the n--ts was supposed to represent. I was having trouble brining myself down to that level of political discourse and to believe that someone of such prominence and who speaks so often could only come up with that. Of course that was followed by the quick apology and return to full support from the reverend. This of course makes perfect sense because often times when I feel a need to support someone in something I will say, "Man, I would really like to limit your ability to have children!" or "Gee whiz, if only I could horribly mutilate your genitallia?" These of course, give the sense that I support that person and of course could never be misconstrued as anything other than that. Beyond the pure ridiculousness that this story embodies is the more profound point that the reverend jackson was making. For those not following to close...the question became...WHY does the Rev. Jackson want to tear away barak obamas testicles. Did Obama have a marital indiscretion? Did he refer to new york as hymietown? Did race-bait an entire community by supporting a stripper in her false accusations of rape? No...of course, none of those things...that would be just crazy. Actually, he wants to hurt poor barack because barack had the (pardon the pun here) balls to call out the black men of the community to stop acting like "boys" and start acting like "men." He wants them to stand by their familial commitments, raise their children and not lead them in a direction that says the only path to personal success is through thug life or the NBA. Now it all makes sense, the Rev. Jackson thought those remarks were aimed at him. "Be a man" says barack...what a horrible message for the black community or any other community for that matter to hear. Shame on you, obama for preaching of personal responsibility and community salvation...listen to the pastor who certainly knows whats best.

Leavin' on a Jet Plant

All my bags are packed...i'm ready to go...ok, so neither of those two things is true. But I am leaving on a jet plane tomorrow, bound for a second southern odyssey to Jonesboring. This trip should prove to be a productive one, though I only have two weeks this time. I just hope that my results come through and that I have something good to show for the past months of work. I suppose, besides all of that, I am looking forward to seeing the people down there again for what might be the last time (hopefully not, but who knows). Of course, I also had a pretty subtantial dose of some long unseen faces this past weekend at Brian's July 4th party at the family compound (the shire?). A lot of old faces from my college days made an appearance which was good, and a lot of beer made an appearance in my cup which was also good. Food was eaten, including some pretty damn hot indian curry burgers made by Yukeshan. It got me wondering, maybe someone like yuke made burgers like that in some ancient time for some tribal elder and from that point forward it was decreed that no one should eat meat in india for fear of such a frightful concoction be put together once again. I'm not entirely sure what was in them but I know it included some form of curry powder and made them a trifle bit loose and also orange. We had regular burgers too that Dan made which were just fine. Dan even brought his own grill tools with him for the occasion. They came in a burshed aluminum case that looked like it should house a shiny .357 magnum revolver but instead contained tongs and a spatula. Besides the food, much converstion was had including an argument with a particular reader of this blog. It was perhaps the one and only time that I would consider half-drunkenly arguing about the propriety of purchasing stocks and bonds for an inexperienced investor and the investment in index funds for people under 45 rather than a higher risk portfolio. I don't remember our parties ever being like that but I guess it just comes with the territory of getting a bit older...or maybe I just don't remember much of our other parties (both scenarios are equally likely here). Drove back somewhat early on saturday to get some time in the lab for some last minute experiments before I leave. Along the same lines, my undergrad assistant came in today and I had her doing a bunch of clean-up type stuff to make sure that lab looked in order before I left. After all of it she said (in slightly broken english), "when you get back...could I do something else?" Which for her I think meant, " sucked...can I not do your bitch work anymore?" I told her I would try and figure something out in that department...but really i'm just glad that she stuck up for herself a little bit and a little disappointed that she doesn't want to do my bitch work anymore. Perhaps, I can disguise the mundane as something more exciting, "please wash these dishes...the fate of the world depends upon their cleanliness...if there are any soap spots, puppies will be tortured in pressure." Patrick OUT!!!

Opening Ceremonies

So it was announced today that President Bush will be attending the opening ceremonies of the olympics in beijing as part of a trip which also includes thailand and south korea. In general, I suppose I am supportive of his going to the olympics as a show of support for the ideals of the olympics and for US athletes but I am still opposed to the beijing olympics in general. Actually, I think its a travesty that beijing was allowed to host the games for a whole variety of reasons. For those who don't remember, Beijing beat out Toronto and Paris to be the host city with an absolute majority of voters ( would have picked toronto...based mostly on proximity but also a distrust of the french to play fair...jk). Upon the announcement, a vice premier announced, "The winning of the 2008 Olympic bid is an example of the international recognition of China's social stability, economic progress and the healthy life of the Chinese people." I'm not even sure I know where to start with this one. Having just been to beijing I think I have a particular perspective on this that many others may not (except of course for the 12 million chinese living in greater beijing). If the beijing olympics are really a recognition of all these things then the olympics committee must define their terms differently than I do. With that in mind, I present an IOC glossary as interpreted by the PRC

Social Stability: The ability of a government to suppress free speech and action as a means of limiting descent and the inate rights and liberties of its people.
Economic Progress: The forced relocation of millions of impoverished citizenry for the purpose of providing labor conducted under inhumane conditions with little economic benefit for those performing said labor.
alt definition: halting humanitarian intervention in foreign countries committing genocide for percieved economic benefit
Healthy Life: Living in a city where the average person loses 7-10 days/year of productivity due to air pollution close to 5 times above WHO safety standards.
International Recognition: Inability of IOC members to see past heabily censored media coverage of a country with more skeletons in its closet than an anatomy lab.

On a more positive note, I was able to visit some of the olympic venues while I was there and they really do look spectacular (through the smog). The birds nest stadium is huge and really a sight to behold as an engineering marvel of the highest kind. The aquatics building sits just across the way and is equally a sight to behold. These both sit fairly close to the center of the city which I think will provide an interesting cultural backdrop to the games. A nice mix of an event determined to bring all countries together for competition and fair play and a government determined to eliminate competition to ensure its own survival and ignore international standards whenever possible for whatever reason. All that being said, China was a very interesting country and I wish I could have seen more because its seems impossible that a country with more than one city like Beijing could survive in a modern world. For certain, China has a long way to go before they will be up to my standards. Hopefully these games will have them on their way sooner rather than later and that the international attention will do some good to expose not only China to the world but also the world to China and its people. Patrick OUT!!!

Ex-POUNDING on China #1

So I think its now time to write a little about my China experiences before they become too far out of mind and I make up fanciful romanticized memories to replace the gritty gory details of my two weeks in China though I admit the inverse change might be more likely. To start I think its appropriate to cover the most basic of human needs regardless of and shelter.

Brian and I checked into our hotel/hostel on the first day and I would say I think we were both surprised by it. To begin with, it wasn't really a hotel...actually it was a church with some guest rooms in it. You wouldn't have necessarilly known it was a church but you definately knew it wasn't a hotel. Luckilly it was only about 3 blocks from Elsa's family's apartment complex. The room was pretty tiny...though I imagine not so much by hong kong standards. To put that in perspective, the whole thing would have probably fit into my youngest sisters bedroom...which is fine for one young girl but not as good for two guys with lots of luggage and such. All in all, we ended up fitting in OK there without too much adjusting save for two things in particular. Firstly, the beds were quite firm. Of course by firm I really mean...hard as a rock. OK, that might be overstating it, but not by much. It was firm enough that when I lied straight on my back, there was a space beneath the small of my back where the spine curved because the bed had no deflection at my shoulders and hips. I guess I kind of got used to it but it still felt good to be back in a western bed. The second issue was with our hot water. First two days we had fine hot water and actually exceptional hot water pressure (one of the few improvements hong kong utilities have over their US counterparts). Then suddenly, we no long had hot water. Brian and I showered in the cold one day (not togther but it was cold enough that it seemed like less of an absolutely absurd idea by the end) but didn't have a chance to talk to the hotel management on account of a busy schedule, so we showered in the cold for a second day. It wasn't until day 3 that we finally figured out that every room has their own hot water heater that can be turned on and off. That big box we thought was an exhaust fan was actually behind our water supply. Upon flipping the proper switches...proper water was restored...our pride was not.

Food...this could easily fill 3-4 posts but I will try to give highlights here. First is abundant, and cheap, and you eat a lot, all the time, everywhere, with everyone...but I lost weight (that is the great conundrum...its like the french paradox but with chinese food). Also, as I'm sure you might have imagined the chinese food is quite a bit different there than here. In general, many more things are steamed and almost nothing is deep fried. Also, the chinese have a knack for backed goods of all sorts that is strangely ignored here. Food also tastes like the ingredients...which might sound like a truism of sorts but really the most notable absense is in the heavy sauces usually surrounding chinese food in the states. Outside flavors are much lighter and so food there tastes like its primary ingredients and not like the spice applied to them. Restaurants are different too...first off, they are a bit chaotic with lots of staff moving around serving lots of tables. Individual tables usually dont have a particular waiter or waitress but instead you can ask for anything from virtually anyone. Usually this is convenient, but sometimes you just don't ever get what you wanted. I guess that system is a toss up for me in terms of improvement over our methods. Menus were almost always in chinese which made it difficult/impossible for us gwailo to order but its ok because even when the menu had english i usually had no idea what things were. We typically ate whatever was placed in front of us. Thankfully (or perhaps not) things tend to not only taste like their ingredients but also look like their ingredients. One particular instance involved the ordering of pigeon (dove). The bird was roasted and quartered and put on a plate. It was cut and prepared to little that with a little stiching you could have reassembled the animal at the table and maybe even shocked it back to life. Along those same lines, after finished the bird, one piece remained that brian though he might try. After reaching across the table and fumbling with his chopsticks he managed to get the last piece that he was shocked to find out was actually the roasted head of the recently deceased. He didn't eat it (most people don't, but unsurprisingly some do). Also, everything is shared by the table which is not uncommon in the states but usually all the food is eaten, which is a bit more uncommon. Often times towards the end of the meal, it was a trial to see who would finish the last dishes. Sometimes even resorting to rock paper scissors to see who would take in the last bits of tofu soup or char siu bao (though that was a dish rarely left untouched, and unlike is best served warm). More on food to come in my post of chinese commerce...also pictures. Patrick OUT!!!

Most depressing post ever

I knew I should have quit after highschool.

How many years until I'm not a grad student???
Patrick OUT!!!