Sunday, December 27, 2009


We're moving in two weeks, and we've begun the purge of books and CDs that we no longer use (to be donated to the Friends of the Library sale) and clothes that we no longer wear (Goodwill all the way). This can result in the occasional "what the hell?" moment when we realize that not only can we not remember when we got a book or CD, but we can't remember *why* we got it in the first place. Sometimes the answer is "for curiosity's sake," as when I found myself calling down the stairs to my husband, saying "Honey, do we need to keep 'Cavies for Fun and Profit'?"

[N.B. "cavy" is a specialist term for "guinea pig."]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Names for the Twins that have been Suggested by our Friends

(given that the level 2 ultrasound appears to show a pair of boys)

  • Cain and Abel (obvious no)
  • "John and Jon, or vice versa" (thanks, John)
  • Ephraim and Manasseh (sons of Joseph, referenced in the Shabbat night blessing of sons ("May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh") - too obvious, and to my New Englander's ear sounding too much like characters in a Hawthorne novel, or early Great Awakening tent revivalists. Though himself admits to liking the idea of having a kid who goes by "Manny")
  • Eep and Oop (what?)
  • Jacob and Esau (I mean really, with all that stuff about the birthright and the pot of lentils, it's just asking for trouble. Plus what if neither of them has a full head of hair?)
  • Bubba and Bruno (maybe if they become surf bums)
  • Luke and Leia (did you miss the part about two boys?)
  • Anakin and Amidala (same problem, plus overt incest reference)
  • Uz and Buz (extremely obscure Biblical reference, Book of Habbakuk)
  • David One and David Two (David, have you met John?)

Nobody, surprisingly, has yet gone with "Heckle and Jeckle," but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. Still, a lot of them are better than Twin A and Twin B, which are their technical names at the moment. My mother calls them the Alphababies for this reason.

ETA: From comments to Rex's Facebook posting (these are all anthro references):
  • Franz and Alfred
  • Rivers and Haddon
And from a Byzantinist friend:
  • Castor and Pollux
  • Hypnos and Thanatos (I ask you)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Real estate

Last Friday we signed all nine million forms required to close out our purchase of the new apartment. It will be official as of Thursday - nice Christmas present for a couple of Jews. There is a lot to do after that - asbestos abatement work begins next Monday, followed by cleaning, then moving (oh, and at some point we have to figure out a temporary replacement for the kitchen tiles that were removed - stick-on linoleum squares for now, probably, ultimately to be replaced with ceramic tile... and also a new ceiling surface treatment, ecch). We don't have much furniture, but what we have includes a few pieces that are probably too big for the new space, but which we're going to try to make work anyway.

The fact that it's all been slightly anxiety-making for me was brought home by the dream I had last night, in which we moved to Hong Kong and into university housing. Our new apartment, brand new in an all-white space-age mode, contained lots of amenities including a washer-dryer, fancy kitchen and bathroom, private lockable door leading straight into the library (!), vending machines, personal transport cubicle (like a little box that could be programmed to travel along the subway routes), and wall-to-wall carpet. Very odd.

Back in the saddle again

Hong Kong was great - at least the conference was great; it was so involving that I never actually got to see any of Hong Kong itself. Impressions: fantastic public transportation and infrastructure, organized, over all quite wealthy (a shopping center on every block, and I'm not speaking metaphorically). My favorite part was that I could speak Mandarin to anyone and they wouldn't blink an eye. In the Mainland, you have to go through this song and dance ("Oh, you speak Chinese!") while people get over their surprise. Of course it is flattering, but also rather repetitive after a while. Interestingly, before 1997 I would probably not have been able to get around on Mandarin, since Cantonese is the majority language in Hong Kong and the Cantonese rightly saw Mandarin-only policies as a kind of language colonialism. But Beijing speaks Mandarin, and over the last twelve years it has been to Hong Kong's advantage to talk to Beijing, to negotiate its carefully balanced "one country, two systems" policy. And it is carefully balanced - different currency, different lifestyle; even the visa system is different. I thought I'd use my multiple-entry PRC visa, left over from the summer, to enter, but instead I got in on a 90-day stamp, no visa required, for US passport holders. (This will also probably be the last trip I take on this passport, which expires in March 2011. Rather nostalgic, actually.)

I worried at first about remembering to look right instead of left when crossing the street, but as it happened the subway stations and shopping malls and office buildings (and even the university where the conference was held) are connected with pedestrian walkways and tunnels. It was pouring rain the first two days I was there, but I didn't have to get an umbrella because I never had to go outside, despite the university being two subway stops away from the hotel.

The one thing I wouldn't do again is take a trans-Pacific flight while pregnant. I don't have much of a belly yet, but still, fitting into those teeny seats was a colossal drag, to say nothing of getting up all the time to pee. On top of it all I'd assumed the flight time from Honolulu to Taipei was comparable to Honolulu-Tokyo (six hours or less). Nope. It takes ELEVEN hours, during which (because it was technically a night flight from the point of view of Taipei time) we were fed at hour two and again at hour eight. And me without a snack. I could go six hours without eating before I was pregnant, but not now. Soooo hungry. And then in Taipei there was barely enough time to make the connection - certainly not enough time to find some Taiwanese currency and buy munchies. Sigh. Fortunately Taipei to Hong Kong is only about an hour and a half. Bizarrely, on the way back, I flew from Taipei to Honolulu via Tokyo, which you'd think would take longer; but in fact we spent less than eight hours in the air. I don't know how to understand this difference in flying time. Three extra hours? Where'd they go?

So I came home exhausted and jet-lagged, but it was a good trip intellectually and professionally. And now I don't have to go anywhere for a good long time, thank goodness.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hong Kong

For some reason all Sinologists are tremendous foodies. I think it has to do with the place of food in Chinese sociality. On Sunday I am going to Hong Kong for the first time ever, to give a paper at a conference at City University. I mentioned this to the Chinese Studies crowd at a meeting yesterday and immediately got a list of places to eat. Looking forward to it.