today’s google doodle: jane jacobs!

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Did you see today’s Google doodle!? It’s of Jane Jacobs! In full disclosure, as much as I would like to truly, fully geek out over this, I’ve only read bits and pieces of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), which is primarily what she’s known for. Regardless, today is Jane Jacobs’s 100th birthday! Woot!

Basically anyone who’s ever even had a passing interest in urban studies or urban planning has heard of Jane Jacobs and her book. It really is that important. I’m not saying it’s great or that it’s the way to go, but it is something that should be read, or at least known about. Kudos to Google for acknowledging her influence and impact! However, in my estimation, it doesn’t quite rival the Google doodle of Viollet-le-Duc … because Eugène Viollet-le-Duc is hands down awesome in my mind, and his doodle was just classier.

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the perils of online shopping in china

I think I overdid it. Online shopping is just way too easy in China! Click click click. Click. Woot! Junk food! Order placed at 9:30 AM. Order arrived at my door at 4:30 PM. Amazing! Only once I was unpacking the boxes did I think … holy crap that’s a lot of food.

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Online shopping in China is amazing. Quick, efficient, and often cheaper than the stores. Food and household stuff from YHD, clothes and things from TaoBao/TMall, electronics from JD, and I’m pretty much covered. It’s gonna be hard once I go back to the States. Amazon Prime was pretty amazing when I lived in New York, but … it just doesn’t compare.

my new dream: making it as a google doodle

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Google has its faults (it’s desire to become an all-encompassing know-it-all for instance) but its search engine is unrivaled and good gracious it’s useful. Normally I don’t click on the Google doodles, but this one intrigued me … something about it stirred my architect little heart and I clicked it. And voila! Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, noted French architect and theorist. Heck, I wrote a paper on him last year. And without his Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle [Dictionary of French Architecture from 11th to 16th Century], my thesis would never have become what it is. So even though he was kind of a crazy ol’ fellow (seriously, you call that a restoration?), I owe him a lot.

Happy 200th birthday, Viollet-le-Duc! Congratulations on your Google doodle! It’s the true sign of making it in today’s world.

singles’ day: to the spender goes the spoils

Monday was November 11, which is a pretty notable holiday in China. It’s Veterans Day back in the States, but here, November 11 (11/11) is Singles’ Day … also referred to as “Bare Sticks Holiday” (光棍节, guānggùn jié) or “Double Eleven” (双十一, shuāng shíyī). And it’s a big deal. It’s a newer holiday that started out as an anti-Valentine’s Day thing for single people to hang out so it doesn’t really have any traditions … except shopping. You know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Well Singles’ Day in China is kinda like that … but Cyber Monday pales in comparison to Singles’ Day.

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TMall (the more regulated sister site of the ever-popular online shopping extravaganza that is TaoBao) as well as a bunch of other sites do crazy sales for Singles’ Day. I’m talking 50% or more off … for that day only, sometimes for only the first few hours of the day. So everyone’s online waiting to pay at 12:01 AM on November 11. I didn’t go crazy like some people, but I did do some shopping and when I went to pay, I kept getting the above image … and a message saying to be patient. And for the rest of the day it was hard to access my bank account online, probably because the poor website was getting flooded with people paying for things via online bank transfer (people rarely use credit here).

Life off the web was normal, no crazy celebrations or people camping out (since very few brick-and-mortar stores had any special deals), but online was a financial frenzy. Things were selling out left and right. Within the first hour, 6.7 billion RMB was spent. IN AN HOUR. And by day’s end, 35 billion RMB was spent. That’s 5.7 billion USD. IN ONE DAY. CRAZY.

morning, shanghai!

Ah … Great Firewall of China – I once again succumb to your pressures! I’m in China (yay!) but I stupidly forgot to set up my VPN before leaving New York and now I’m having oodles of fun trying to set it up in-country. It’ll only be for a bit longer, and even though Gmail lags like no other, at least I still have e-mail. Facebook and WordPress? Not so much. I’m sending this post via e-mail, which is simply cumbersome. This is just a short trip to China so I’ll be back in New York before Independence Day.

But hey, it’s 6 in the morning and I’m awake – when’s the last time that happened? Unfortunately the sky is so hazy it’s hard to make out the sun ….

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the end … ish?

I am no longer in Shanghai. I am no longer in China. After my last post I did some traveling around China, and it was amazing. Shanghai isn’t really a tourist place, but it’s a nice place to live. Beijing, however, has so much of Chinese history stuffed into it, from the Great Wall to the Forbidden City to the Summer Palace. And the Olympic buildings? Amazing. Xi’an, similarly, has the Terracotta Warriors. And then Zhangjiajie has the nature that I had been sorely deprived of in Shanghai.

It’s kind of weird to be back in the good ol’ United States. But it’s the beginning of a new adventure. So – what’s going to happen to this blog? Eh, not quite sure. I think I’ll keep it active and just switch it to focus on New York instead of Shanghai. I’m going to reactivate my old blog squareby’s corner and just keep the topics separate with this one being more of travel and life and the other more of crafting.

[NOTE: Well … that didn’t last to long. Squareby’s Corner merged with From Here to (There), because frankly … there ain’t much crafting that gets done these days.]

Sigh. So much left to do. I like the quiet and space here, but I miss the availability of everything in China. The convenience stores open 24/7 that are on every block, the fruit stands with amazing variety that are on every block, the little food stalls with dumplings and noodles that are on every block, et cetera. In Xi’an one of their specialties is a type of noodle called “biang biang mian.” I don’t know if it can really be considered a noodle, because it’s almost like a flattened and elongated dumpling (the American kind that’s basically just flour) so it’s kind of chewy. It was good, but I think I was a little turned off because there were some tomatoes with the noodles and I really dislike cooked tomatoes.

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where’s google?

For the last few hours, I can access neither Yahoo nor Google. It’s very, very weird. I managed to access them via proxy, but it’s really inconvenient and still not working very well. GFW, what now? Why have you gotten rid of my beloved Google? I know Yahoo had some problems a bit back and Google has that fairly long-standing dispute with China, but … now? Why? My main work/school e-mail is Gmail, which I cannot access. Everything forwards to this one, my main one (the one I’m typing this from) … but my past e-mails are inaccessible. Very annoying.

Hopefully it’s just some glitch and they’ll come back up. I can’t imagine this is a permanent thing since websites get blocked/unblocked all the time over here, and I really don’t think they could get away with blocking such big sites like Yahoo AND Google. Sure a lot of people use Baidu, but I’m thinking more people use Google.

say can you see

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I totally just sang that out loud … to myself. Happy Independence Day! Unfortunately no one here cares, so no cookout or any such indulgence. Instead I must content myself with going to my aunt’s for dinner. Sad. Oh well. Now if I could just find tortillas I think my spirits will be raised. I can manage eggs, bacon, and potatoes. All I need are the tortillas and I can have breakfast tacos. Goodness gracious I miss Tex-Mex.

Work still sucks but I think now that I’m thinking it’ll probably be for just one more week, I’m thinking it’s going to be a bit more bearable. I think what I hate most about it is that I sit at a computer the entire time. I miss working with kids. At least all their kicking and screaming kept things interesting. Also, I might make some friends. Yay for meeting people from online forums! And hopefully not getting killed!

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake.]

starting here

Alrighty, so after a really, really long time of searching the internet, I finally found this site which would allow me to make a blog that I could actually see over here in China. I probably should’ve done more research before I made my way over here to the other side of the planet, but oh well. I was in shock when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to make a Facebook status update for a year.

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake. This blog and the following few posts were originally hosted on Publr because I had issues accessing my Blogspot account in Shanghai. Now I’m on WordPress, which I much prefer, so I consolidated everything.]

Hopefully, this blog will work well enough for my purposes. So everyone, I am alive and well. This will be quite the adventure. Over here in Shanghai I’m 13 hours ahead of US central time, meaning that at this moment, about 5:30 PM, it’s 4:30 AM over in Austin. Don’t forget about me. E-mail, Skype, et cetera. I’ll reward you with pictures and riveting tales.

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