michiexile: (ModelHouse)
I spent these past two weeks in Beijing, and among other things did a lot of art museum and gallery browsing. I can strongly recommend the 798 Art Zone to anyone who passes through here, I had a fantastic day browsing there.

One thing that browsing a lot of art does to me is trigger my art-and-philosophy brain that has been waking up more and more lately. I am absolutely convinced that someone has already thought many of the things I am about to discuss here, and I would love to get literature pointers if you have them.

Art and Science are kinda the same thing )

I can like or dislike artistic expressions to my heart's content. But we, as a society, should encourage expression without insisting on beauty or wide likeability as fundamental criteria: because that is what makes us civilized. And that way we get wider spectra of expression, that eventually spit out things we do like.
michiexile: (ModelHouse)
So today I had a 10h layover in Shanghai on my way from Vancouver to Fukuoka. Perfect for using the 72h transit visa option to get out of the airport and do some touristing.

Since I don't have internet on my phone, and even if I did would've needed a VPN setup to penetrate The Great Firewall, no tweets were written while on foot - so instead I had to record them some other way. The other way turned out to be pen and paper, and so here: my day trip to Shanghai.

Took me 4h to shower and exit airport.
See, first I arrive at before 5am. So it turns out that we have to wait about 1h before the personnel that can security check any transit passengers even show up. I belong in this group since I wanted to hit the showers in the frequent flyer lounges.
Once inside, it takes until 8am before they bother open the lounge that has the showers.
8.30am or so, I'm showered and ready to take on the world. Only: this is a departure terminal. There is no way out of here that people will actually let me take. (I tried; security personnel directed me back inside kindly but firmly)
The solution turned out to be to wait until about 9am when the Information Desk got manned and someone could (eventually) walk me through a locked door back out to the arrival sluice so I could hit customs and border control.

Maglev in 430km/h smooth and fun
The Shanghai Airport Shuttle train is a maglev demonstration track. It was a really nice ride. More tweets about this one as I go back to the airport.

Keypads on ATMs inverted; almost locked my card.
So much of entering PIN codes is muscle memory by now, so that when the 123- and 789-rows suddenly change places, I get thrown off and confused. I finally figured out why my card kept getting rejected, and got some CNY out.

Security scans EVERYWHERE!
Everywhere you go, there's a scanner for your bags. Subways, trains, even some parks. Far more often than I'd've expected.

TV in metro shows surveillance footage of car crashes.
TV in frequent flyer lounge shows a TV-crew provoking cobras with sticks, frogs, and cameras.

I'm sure both of these have a good reason… to me these were both inscrutable shows.

The only caucasians in this packed metro car are me, a cartoon figure for some information display, and the Wrangler ad models.
Mind you, this car was PLASTERED with these Wrangler ads, and Every Single One of the many many many dangling hand holds sported the cartoon blonde/blue-eyed girl.

Renminbi? Yuan? What's up with that?
I can not quite figure out what the chinese currency is actually named, and what that other name is supposed to be all about.

Walked out in the rain in People's Park. Immeditely got marked for the Tea Ceremony scam I had read about on WikiTravel before going.
A very nice young man with his also nice cousin approached me and first asked me to take their photo. In the subsequent chat, they talked at length about how tricky it'd be to navigate the streets where noone could speak any english, and had several suggestions for special exhibitions, shows and events to go to. The plans I had already made were dismissed as too much walking, too strange areas, and nobody'd speak with me there. Much better to aim for the tourist traps with them...
According to WikiTravel, going with them would have landed me an interesting experience, but I'd then be on the hook for the full payment - which could range up to CNY 1k according to the descriptions I read.
I thanked them, and set off in my own direction.

People's Park was filled with umbrellas that had laminated signs on them. I couldn't read, but they contained numbers that led me to believe they described vanished or lost relatives: 175cm, 1982, 76kg, stuff like that...
They were mostly my age too. Between maybe 1978 and 1985 almost all I saw.

Walked out of People's Park onto Jiangyin Road. Every other door sold turtles. The rest of them sold rocks, aquaria, fishes, corals, and other related stuff. I had a Taiwanese pancake in a tiny hole-in-the-wall.
It really is odd how intensely these little shops and vendors cluster here; one street with only turtles. Another with only cicadas in tiny wicker baskets. Yet another with only crayfish vendors. Market microclimates taken to the extreme.

Found a dumpling shack. Order xiao long bao. Hilarity ensued.
This was one of these tiled hole-in-the-walls that mainly cater to the local workers. Three old ladies in kitchen costumes burst out laughing when I asked for these soup dumplings that are supposed to be extra good in Shanghai. Then I broke a chair while sitting there.

Things in this country REALLY are not made to my size.
From the 12h airplane ride from Vancouver (neck support even at full extension barely graces the bottom of my head) to the metro where my head kept banging into the pole that the handholds were hanging from, to me crushing a chair by just sitting, to my always being at least a head taller than everyone… I'm a bloody giant here.

MC drivers are utterly insane: no interest in traffic signals.
More than once, I've had to jump back onto the curb because an MC driver figured that merely me having a green light and him having a red light wouldn't keep him from getting where he needed to go…

Unable all day to find sheng jian bao. Oh well.
These are the pan-fried version of the soup dumplings from above. Still filled with broth and meat, these are panfried with a rising dumpling dough. Supposed to be amazing, and as opposed to xiao long bao, can't usually be found abroad. But I couldn't find any in Shanghai either, so they'll have to wait.

Found a gorgeous cute Taoist temple. Peaceful.
This was the <> Taoist temple, housed in remnants of the old city walls from Shanghai's venerable Old Town. Very sweet.

Found the Old Town tourist trap temple complex.
In the Shanghai Old Town, a huge old and famous temple has grown into a bustling cluster of city blocks all built in the same, ornate temple shape and crammed full with a large and loud market selling trinkets, pirate copied fashion, food, souvenirs and art all together. The temple has admissions in one corner, and an old well-kept garden in another. I skipped both.

Bought art. Felt validated. Caught in downpour.
Diving out from the suddenly much much stronger rain into a random shop, I found the entire shop was dedicated to art by a local artist whose preferred medium was “Fountain Pen Painting” — basically following in the same aesthetic footsteps of the classic chinese brush and ink art, but with fountain pen instead of brush. The results are textured, compelling cityscapes built from layers and layers of apparently haphazard lines that coalesce into the scenes they paint.
This is not THAT far from where my own current sketching/drawing hobby draws me. I tend towards a similar style of almost tremor-driven scrawls and lines building the shapes I draw.

Decided against the Science and Technology museum at last moment. My schedule was just too tight.
As it was, I would have had about 30m — if I was speedy — to look through the museum. Didn't seem fair to anyone, so I went for dinner instead.

Dumplings for dinner at the Maglev station.
For dinner, I did my last brave attempt at finding sheng jain bao. It failed. I almost went for Kuala Lumpur cuisine; but nothing on that menu was sufficiently inspiring. So I had dumplings. They claimed these included xiao long bao, but I couldn't quite see it…

Too much rain to ever stop and draw. Hauled around too much art supplies all day for nothing.
I also got quite wet in turns, but I don't mind me getting wet nearly as much as I'd've minded my artwork getting smudged and blotched by (unwanted) rain interference.

Surprise! McDonalds actually makes decent macarons.
Sure, the box had a steep gradient from very stale to very fresh, but the fresh macarons from McCafe really hit the mark when it comes to quality macarons.

Maglev might be setting a new record for how fast I have travelled. Key issue: does maglev count as ground transport (new record!) or as flying (not a new record)???
If maglev counts as ground transport, these trips in 430km/h certainly tops my previous personal speed records.
If it counts as extremely low altitude flying, however, I'm in much less luck: airtrips routinely jump up to at least 550km/h

Curves in 300 km/h: wheeeeeeeeeee!!
Don't need no amusement park! Just need to go on the airport shuttle train!
michiexile: (ModelHouse)
I promised a number of friends a review after I tested this one. Similar to shavettes and such razors, this is a single blade, cutthroat style razor, with the edge from a normal razor blade snapped in half and locked in a holding arm.

It gives you the shaving style of a cutthroat razor, and some of the same benefits, while still being dead easy to keep sharp (just change blades) and sterile (just change blades).

I have now shaved exactly once using this razor. It's trickier to use than my safety razor, and requires a whole lot more time investment. But the shave ends up being very close and clean. It's more meditative to use, and an interesting experience in its own right.

I cut myself exactly twice. This may well be a decently low count for a first time with a cutthroat razor. One cut was from trying to figure out how to load the blade in the razor to begin with. The other cut was from trying to shave left-handed. Once I swapped back to the right hand for the left side too, I avoided more cuts.

I'm looking forward to increasing my skill using this razor.
michiexile: (ModelHouse)
För att jag vill kunna läsa texten, och inte hittar den nedskriven.


Elle Dolores i ditt fönster glimmar det som stjärneljus
Sista stjärnan glimmar hånfullt klar och sval
Nattens armar drar sig undan in i skuggan vid ditt hus
Och det ekar när den sista hanen gal

Elle Dolores öppna fönstret, jag hör gryningsklockan slå.
Jag har sprungit hela natten. Jag är trött.
Låt mig gömma mig där inne, dit kan natten aldrig nå.
Låt mig vila där, där allt som dött är dött.

Elle Dolores låt mig vila. Jag är mätt på livet, mätt
På mitt livs berusning. Låt mig vila still.
Låt mig skölja minnet rent från allting som jag hört och sett
Låt mig vila drömlös, det är allt jag vill.

Elle Dolores, Elle Dolores, i mitt tysta morgonrum
Knäpp händerna om min nacke, ge mig frid
Låt mig vila i din grynings slut en tyst och andfådd stund
Låt mig tro att det för en gångs skull finns tid.
michiexile: (ModelHouse)
Well, 2012 apparently is the year I drifted off of LJ. The ENTIRE year has 7 posts. First paragraph of each month that even has contents was:

My year in review )

How was your year?
michiexile: (ModelHouse)

The rhyming of gifts is a difficult matter,
Trickiest of all the holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you a gift must have THREE different rhymes.

First of all there's the rhyme for the family
A stanza or two, short, full of wit
Finish it off with something silly
Giving a nod to the contents of it.

Next, there is the rhyme for the giver
Something pithy, technically sublime
Keeping a rhyme, a rhythm, and a meter
To really show off your poetry line by line

Finally, there is the rhyme for the porridge
To be spoken should you find the almond this year
Tradition-laden, and meant to be horrid
With rhymes that are stretched and stanzas quite frayed.

When you notice your kin in profound meditation
The reason, I tell you, is always the same
Eir mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of eir rhyme
Eir ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular rhyme.

michiexile: (Default)
One of the very most frustrating aspects of the Assange debacle is the regular waves of disinformation aimed at the Swedish state, judicial system and jurisprudence. As one point to refer to, I'll put up links to sources and quotes from same sources here to debunk some of the myths being perpetrated about what is and is not part of Swedish law or legal procedure.

Cut for massive text blocks )
michiexile: (Default)
I might be too proud of this exchange:

The three species are chimp, gorilla, and mathematician. - sullivant ‪#siaman12‬

@michiexile Heh, three species of what genus?

@puellavulnerata Let's see… Gastrointestinal canal, 2x nostril-to-mouth, I'd say genus 3 unless the mathematician has piercings.

@michiexile I should have seen that coming... :)
michiexile: (Default)
Oh hai North Carolina; you are a lot warmer than last time I was here.

Admittedly, last time I was here, I was here on an interview, and the roads were slick with freezing rain…
michiexile: (Default)
So Zion Train came to town for the Wee Dub Festival. So I went. And we stood there, packed as matches in a matchbox, on the pogo floor when they lay down the thick and heavy beat, driving, bouncing, making us all temporarily believers in Jah.

And we pogo'd. At least a few must have come away with bruised kidneys the way we pogo'd.

It is in this context. This marvelous, delirious, exhilirating, fantastic context, I ask...

What the H*** is wrong with you people? You people who see this pandemonium of a dance floor, and then bring your drink to the heaviest pogo-part of it? You people who bring glass bottles of beer out, dance with it waving around like a club, and then PUT THEM DOWN ON THE STONE FLOOR? You people who bring wide-brimmed, flimsy, and brimming mugs of beer, and expect noone to do anything unexpected. Yeah, not even when Zion Train decides it's time to drop the Beat Of Jah, and the entire house starts jumping from the beat together with the dancers. But you expect not to spill your drink.

michiexile: (Default)
This week I'm in Ft. Collins, CO, visiting collaborators and doing research.

At first, I was fighting a feeling of Ft. Collins being a quintessential Small Town; but with the days I've spent here the town has grown on me.

The beer As much as San Francisco obsesses over its micro-breweries, some of the breweries I drank the most of are actually situated right here. And it shows! EVERY place in this town serves New Belgium and O'Dell.

The hot sauce There are local hot sauce producers as well. I ended up buying 4 bottles to take home with me — the chipotle smokey hot sauces are amazingly good.

The delightfully weird The lunch place we went to today offers free chair massages every day 1pm-4pm. I didn't take them up on it, but probably should have. On my way to dinner, I stopped at a window to a “Scientific Toy Store” that looked interesting. Before I was able to take off again, I had had 8 toys demonstrated to me, and the proprietor had invited me to come have dinner with him and his wife sometime.

The pizza So, apparently, Colorado style Pizza is a thing. It's a thin-crust pizza with rolled up edges and about 3x the usual amount of fillings. Once you're done with the middle, you pour honey on the edge for dessert.

The views Right on the edge of the Rockies. When I got picked up from the airport, we drove north along the mountain range edge as the sun set, the moon rose and glorious colours sparkled across the sky as the huge full moon edged up from the horizon. It is beautiful out here.
michiexile: (Default)
It's that time of year again; where [livejournal.com profile] silmaril has already done one of these, and I feel inspired.

Here is the year that was. First sentence of a posting in a month for each paragraph. Commentary afterwards.

The months! )

This year my presence on LiveJournal has been low. I averaged maybe 2 posts a month, and many of them were memes. That said, I tended to post about important personal things, and some rants. At least one post in this list was directly related to my photo hobby, one post to my health, and one post to current politics and People Being Annoying On The Internet.

During the year, I have had a much more prolific presence on Twitter, on Facebook, and even — in spite of the #nymwars — on Google+. I still read LiveJournal a lot, and follow everyone else; it's just not my own main outlet any more.
michiexile: (Default)
Since the Assange case is making the rounds again, once again I cringe at seeing my twitter feed, and many people I have great respect for saying things that betray fundamental misperceptions about what's going on in Sweden about the whole mess...

On suggestion from [livejournal.com profile] pozorvlak, I'd like to offer an overview of some of the quirks of Swedish judicial process — the things that make Sweden behave in ways that seem erratic. I am not an insider here, and I do not claim that the following is an accurate picture of what has been going on in the prosecutorial office and police offices; but I spent some time reading up on the Swedish judicial process when the mess first started, and have experience with the Swedish climate, and what can be expected from Swedish civil servants.

Fundamentally, every single claim I have seen about an underlying conspiracy refers to behaviours that are at least as likely explained by common types of incompetence. There has been significant pushes — especially early on — from the Defense to frame this as really being a case not of Sweden following its processes, but of puppeteers in the US shaping world events. I do not buy this view; specifically because I see no essentially surprising actions from Swedish authorities.

I do however see how non-Swedes might be surprised by the sequence of events.

The first surprising part is the Swedish definition of våldtäkt (rape). It includes sexual acts when one party is in an insufficiently conscious state to reasonably give consent. Sleep is explicitly given as one such state. While many crimes require the same definition to hold in all involved countries for an EAW and extradition, rape is on a shortlist of crimes where a unilateral definition is enough.

The second surprising part is the lack of influence of the two women on proceedings once they had given their initial statements to a police officer. In Sweden, when a police officer has reason to suspect he has been given a report of a rape, he is bound to file a report — similarly to several other categories of abuse. Once the report is filed, a prosecutor is bound to open an investigation, and initiate a collection of evidence and also to press charges if evidence seems to support it.

The third surprising part is the role of the prosecutor. While in the US (for instance) prosecutors fill the role of an attorney for the state part of the trial, in Sweden they have a different role — they lead the investigative work and coordinate the police in initial discovery and evidence-gathering. They also issue arrest warrants, and deal with the various degrees of freedom infringement for suspects. They do, however, have to defend their various calls to a judge superior prosecutor periodically. (Thank you [livejournal.com profile] kjn for corrections — there are stages that need to go past a judge, and in the Assange case they have.)

It is important in this to notice that Sweden mainly follows the civil law judicial tradition, not the common law common in the US and the Commonwealth. In addition, Swedish prosecutors differ significantly from US district attorneys — the trial is not adversarial, and the prosecution is under a requirement for objectivity.

A fourth part is the lack of information flow from Swedish prosecutors. In Sweden, pre-trial investigations are supposed to be utterly secret, and leaking information is considered a serious issue, that may well in bad cases invalidate any actual trial at the end. For the Assange case, the mere initial confirmation to the press that the prosecutorial office was in any way interested in Assange was a breach against this confidentiality — and much of the behaviour afterwards can be explained as bureaucrats desperately covering their asses by acting meticulously by the book to make up for the initial gaffe. Connected to this is the inexperience of the late night on-call prosecutors to deal with a media storm, which precipitated the initial quick changes in prosecutor dealing with the case.

It is surprising that Sweden is actually pulling through this much on the case — and I would wish that this much attention was given to all rape cases. However, apart from the surprising amount of due diligence given by the prosecutorial office and the occasional (but far fewer than the Defense alleges) procedural errors made by Swedish law enforcement, from a Swedish perspective, the actions of Sweden in this issue are those of a judicial authority forced by its own rules to follow up on rape allegations regardless of whether the alleged victim still backs the allegation — a rule instituted to deal with “Stockholm syndrome” or abuser-threat induced withdrawals of abuse allegations; and of a judicial authority utterly surprised by the exact magnitude of the mess they suddenly were dealing with.

ETA the distinction of common/civil law, and the non-adversarial role of a Swedish prosecutor.
michiexile: (Default)
Today in my household…
Me: “Oh hey, my accrued vacation time actually covers the time I'll be in Sweden!”
Susanne: “Well, that's nice and all… are you… are you actually going to take time off then?”
Me: “Don't be ridiculous — I have deadlines coming up!”
michiexile: (Default)
It struck me recently, while crossing the atlantic in an Air France plane and thus trying to keep my conversations with the flight staff to french in order to stretch out my language muscles, how differently we perceive politeness in different cultures and languages.

In particular, in Swedish, we do not have a word filling the same function as «please» or «bitte» or even as «s'il vous plait»; while the french comes closest to the Swedish situation, we simply do not have a single always usable set phrase — politeness is marked in Swedish by circumlocution, by using a more convoluted phrase that includes some of several markers for politeness.

Thus, in Swedish, I might say things like
«Skulle du kunna vara så vänlig och » (would you be so kind and )
«Kan jag be att få » (could I ask to receive )
«Jag skulle vilja ha » (I would like to have )
and so on...

This came up, in particular, when I called for the hostesses to ask for more to drink: I am comfortable saying things like «Une coke, s'il vous plait.» when they ask me for my order, but when I myself have summoned them, it feels somehow insufficiently polite, almost like barking out an order, to my Swedish ears. In German, my language skills are sufficient that I can _both_ circumlocute in the subjunctive tense _and_ use «bitte», but my French simply isn't quite as solid.

Dear readers, how do you perceive politeness markers? Do you notice them at all?
michiexile: (Default)
So I have lived in a few places by now: Stockholm, Nürnberg, Jena, San Francisco, Edinburgh (though barely this as of yet). And today, in-flight, I was struck by how different it has been leaving the various places I have passed through.

In particular, I lived in Jena about as long (give or take a few months) as I did in San Francisco. When I left Jena, it was melancholy to leave my old friends behind, as it always is — but it was the beginning of a new adventure, an emerging from a chrysalis, in some sense. And I was not particularly homesick for Jena afterwards.

Returning to Jena has been similarly undramatic. It is pleasant, and I love reconnecting with all my old friends and hang-outs, but it didn't haunt me when I had to leave again.

San Francisco is … different.

San Francisco got under my skin.

I write this at the Charles de Gaulle airport, having left after my second visit back to Fog City after I moved away. And I am endlessly fascinated with just how many layers of complex and conflicting emotion I build up.

I am hours away from coming back home to my wife, after almost a full month apart. I am elated, and filled with anticipation and joy at coming home to her, seeing her again, holding her, enveloping myself with her scent, …

I am filled with energy and enthusiasm for all the work I have to do the coming month — the paper I am writing, the research projects that have surged during the trip and now can be consolidated in a fall and early winter filled with glorious research.

And at the same time, my thoughts go as often to the friends I left behind, again. To the wonderful reception I get whenever I come to San Francisco, of memories of all my old haunts, favourite hang-outs, dear friends.

San Francisco felt like home when I lived there, and it still does.
Leaving brings out the same melancholy and separation, over and over again.

Which is not to say that Stockholm doesn't feel like home — they both do, and it is more than a little frustrating to be stretched out emotionally like this.

And it saddens me, right now, that I do not know when I will be returning to the Bay. Last two times I left, I had return dates in place. This time, there is nothing actually planned.

Au revoir, San Francisco, au revoir. Je t'aimerais toujours.
michiexile: (Default)
Inspired by my good friend @DRMacIver, I have now created a tumblr dedicated to my exploration of booze and other libations.

Follow, if you feel like it, http://sapores.tumblr.com
michiexile: (Default)
Went for North Carolina BBQ yesterday with [livejournal.com profile] culfinriel and the conference crowd. Serious amounts of Nom followed.

Also, it seems I am about to scoop one of the Stanford grad students. This is seriously unfortunate, and I'll be meeting with him today to figure out what we can do about it.
michiexile: (Default)
My darling [livejournal.com profile] amerikabrev gave me a professional studio photo session for my birthday. The result, after I b/w-ed it, is my new default icon.

After 4 years of marriage, the wedding photo DOES start to seem a bit aged.


michiexile: (Default)

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