Monday, April 27, 2009

Pants off dance off

This weekend in NYC was beautiful. All sun, almost too hot on Sunday, and now I'm back in Chicago and it's pouring.

Between seeing friends and rereading all my fave Asterixes and Tintins, I spent Friday being Korean with my parents. We stopped by the Met for its Korean Renaissance exhibit which was all of one room. Since we had scheduled 2 hours for the exhibit we ended up wandering around aimlessly the rest of the time. We bumped into this poster in the modern section that advertises a country club in my old Hyde Park neighborhood - oh how times have changed!

As we were leaving we walked through the ancient Greek section and I saw something I've never seen before - these tiny little gold-plated sculptures, maybe 1.5 inches in height, with caricatured faces (think Daumier sketches) to make them look like comedians, and fancy dress - from the waist up. From the waist down they just had chubby legs and dingles. Eek!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Start spreading the news...

I am going home and I am EXCITED! I'm not the kind of person who gets homesick or misses things too much when I'm away from them, but it has just been too long this time. I am literally hopping around my cousin's apartment trying to focus and get some homework done but I'm beginning to think it's a lost cause. I may just have to watch tv and try to calm down.

I've scheduled everybody in, I've scheduled all my favorite foods in, and I cannot WAIT. Argh!! I will definitely not be able to sleep tonight, I'll have to drink myself into some kind of blackout in order to get any rest. (Omg - when I was typing "any" in the last sentence I accidentally hit 'caps lock,' 'N,' 'Y' NY!!! Even my subconscious/my computer is getting excited!!)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Simian Mobile Disco

Went to a SMD show on Friday at Metro - which is a bizarrely small theater-looking venue with a basement club. We only stayed for the live dj set, we couldn't make it to the spinning they were doing at the club downstairs - that's how old David, Teresa and I are. (We would have looked ridiculous dancing all night with the youngsters!)

I had never seen the set-up SMD had (which is only partially invisible in this terrible bberry photo). They had one guy who spent almost the whole time on a turntable while the other guy constantly climbed around turning knobs and flipping switches. Meanwhile they had an insane light show going that they had put up signs warning drug users in the club about. The lights were not insane in a high-tech way, but in a speed of blinking and contrast of bright-to-dark way. I wasn't even on drugs and I thought I was going to have an attack of sorts.

They were pretty amazing, though, even an old foagie like me could tell.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Party of one

During lunch today I went to the Becker Brown Bag talk, given by Gary Becker. He spoke about the economics of the worldwide decrease in fertility. (By fertility he means the number of children being born, not the number of children able to be born - he's not dealing with medical infertility.)

Anyway, like most Brown Bag talks it was a little too short and so a little too narrow in its scope, but he made me very happy by saying that the decrease in number of children born is due to parents choosing quality over quantity. Of course he qualified the word "quality" a coupole of different ways but I'm really just happy to take-away the knowledge that as an only child I represent quality over quantity. (And of course exemplary modesty.)

Really he meant that parents throw all their money ("investment") at fewer children instead of spreading it among many, so my parents have literally and figuratively put all their eggs in my basket. Which is fine by me.

The interesting result of this decline in fertility is that economy-of-scale activities will start to have lower rates of return and people could suffer because of it. The example Becker gave was R&D, as in R&D in drugs or technology could become less worthwhile and thus become less desirable, at least for commercial firms.

He also mentioned that some countries were trying to combat their declining fertility by subsidizing births (France was one of the countries that had done this, with limited success after expending LOTS of money). I wonder how much my parents would have demanded to agree to a second child after dealing with me?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nothing comes for free

I am getting tired of places that tout free wi-fi and then don't deliver. I am at Noble Tree on Clark because the front door and the website advertised free internet. And yes, it is free, but only by logging in through some partner called WEBbeams and only for an hour and a half using the code on the card given to you when you purchase food.

And to make me even madder they don't ask if you want this code when you come in, so you trek all the way up to the third floor to find a quiet spot, realize you need a code and have to come trekking all the way back down again - then climb back up. (Thankfully for the relatively innocent woman working downstairs, David magnanimously volunteered to go get the codes.)

When the hell are we going to get free internet everywhere? What's the point of wi-fi when I'm tied down by a code and location-specific access? I might as well have to carry a cable around with me. In Hong Kong at least all university students got free wi-fi in most locations through PCCW (you just logged in with your student ID, it was incredible). I feel like it's obvious we're moving towards a time when wi-fi is given and free everywhere, so why can't we just move it along??

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"The bass make you wind your waist"

Friday evening Teresa and I made recession-special plans: drinks and free appetizers (exactly 2 apps each - as in 2 tiny pieces of food each) at Province and a free movie at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The movie was Dub Echoes, a documentary about Dub music, it's history and it's influence, by Bruno Natal. It was pretty interesting and it asked an interesting question: what is it about that tiny island (Jamaica) that created all this incredible music? Unfortunately the film didn't really answer the question, unless the weed smoking in every frame was an implicit answer, but it was otherwise informative and entertaining.

The documentary was a little jumbled and didn't have the clearest storyline, but I feel like organization was well-sacrificed for some of the gems that were included. I'm totally unknowledgeable about this - of course I'll spout my opinion anyway - but I feel like more experienced documentarians will cut out a lot of color in order to keep the story/thesis flowing. This movie was definitely jumbled, but it allowed us to hear a lot of the anecdotes and jokes the people interviewed told, and it was these snippets that in the end made us enjoy ourselves.

I have to interject that Teresa is so good at hearing about these things and keeping on top of a huge range of events and places in the city. Seriously impressive and we've vowed to actually take advantage of these things more in the next 8 weeks.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I swear, it's a back massager

So Walgreen's in Lincoln Park on Clark has started selling vibrators. Now there's a section in the store devoted to heated blankets, back massagers (battery-operated and rolling) and vibrators. They are obviously not called so by name - they are also labeled "massagers" - but they are clearly made for a certain size and shape of body part. So unless you are massaging the inside of your cupped hand or the back of your knee (ok, maybe parts of your foot could be legitimately de-stressed) these are for more private areas.

I don't know what this change in product assortment signals. Higher financial stress lead to increased need for self-stimulation/decompression through such? Unemployment means more time at home to try new vibrators? Recessions make you horny?

Careful the children snatchers

I just had one of those moments when strangers become friends because of a shared concern. On the bus home to Linda's the driver made this announcement as the bus was crossing from Michigan to N Lake Shore: "Keep your belongings close to you! That means your bags, your wallets, your purses, your children and your valuables. You are responsible for your belongings. Thank you!"

Apparently a passenger had just gone up to the driver because someone had taken her wallet from her purse on the bus! Suddenly everyone who had previously had the I'm-in-public-in-the-city attitude, looking pointedly away from each other and staring blankly out the window broke their crust and started chatting away. One woman couldn't believe that the victim hadn't felt anything as the man went through her purse. Another woman had apparently noticed this man finagle it so he sat next to the victim. Another woman had a daughter that this had just happened to - $400 dollars in cash!

It's funny how once the ice was broken people were SO chatty, like they had been dying to let loose for a while. Someone yelled up to the bus driver to ask why she had included children in her list of belongings and she answered: "If they're going to take a wallet, there's nothing that'll stop them from taking a child." Hmm....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dr. Val is open for business!

Amid fear that my post-b-school employer might follow my friends' future employers and push back my start date, I have found a new potential career!

My friend had stomach pains all weekend so Sunday I went on WebMD and diagnosed my friend with a peptic ulcer. Lo and behold, on Monday, a real doctor told my friend that this was probably the culprit!

I'm imagining a practice that incorporates both psychological and physical consulting since I'm that qualified.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The visible pollution award goes to...

Kuala Lumpur was the most oppressively polluted place I have ever been in. We only had around 5 hours in the city itself, which was a shame, because we only saw the Sentral area, which is the most modern and most commercial and most boring. We tried to see the Indian district and visit those markets/food stands but went the wrong way and got lost instead.

So instead we walked around the Petronas towers (which are really beautiful) since we couldn't get tickets to the "swinging" bridge - apparently you have to be there by 9am if you want to get tickets. Like true b-school nerds David and I spent our time there looking at the list of companies that were in the two buildings - pretty much the usual MNC suspects.

In order to get a view of the city we went to the Menara Tower instead, which is the space needle-looking thing near the Petronas towers. From there we could see the entire valley that KL is apparently in. And we could see the layer of pollution that sits on top of the buildings, within the surrounding mountains - it even showed up on my picture! This did not really make us want to stick around much longer.

But we still had time to eat something so we went to an Indian restaurant (huge Indian population in Malaysia) and I had a stuffed roti, which sounded a lot better than it was. It was basically an omelet wrapped in roti.

Not enough to make me a vegetarian

My last few days in HK I spent just walking around, to show David the city and also to hit areas I hadn't yet visited. I realized the city was a lot more Chinese than I had thought (how surprising that all that time spent in LKF didn't give me that impression), and there are these wet markets all over. There's a well-known one on Graham St smack in the middle of Soho, so when we walked through that area David and I went from seeing curly cow gizzards hanging outside shops to having an afternoon glass of wine with a French cheese plate.

The best market was actually just a few blocks from my house, just south of Times Square. It had fresh noodle shops, where they stretch dough into noodles and sell fried patties of them, nut stands, herb stands, fruit stands, meat shops - everything.

The craziest thing, though, were the fish. They cut the heads off and fillet them but somehow keep them alive by not cutting the heart in half. So the fish fillets are lying on the table, bathed in running blood because their hearts are still beating. You can SEE THEM BEATING. I wish I had taken video footage, but we felt like the salespeople were eyeing us suspiciously and even taking quick photos felt slightly inappropriate.

Eating on Lamma Island

On of my last days in HK I went to Lamma Island with a bunch of the exchangers (I went again with David after he arrived). Apparently HK is made up of over 200 islands, mostly incredibly small. Lamma Island takes just over an hour to walk across the long way (there is a paved mountain trail that some Chinese treat as the hardest core hike ever, I definitely saw Camelpacks, or whatever those backpacks with water feeding tubes are called).

On each end of the path there is a beach as well as a row of restaurants that serve seafood caught off the island. There are fishermen and little fishfarms all around the island (except where the beaches and the power station are - the power station provides the majority of HK's power!).

So really both times the reason I went there was to eat lunch, since it wasn't warm enough to go to the beach. The fried calamari was the biggest calamari I had ever seen, and DELICIOUS. There's also this tiny store on one end of the path where they sold Obama earrings, which obvi I had to buy. They also had Beckham and Posh Spice and Paris earrings, and the saleslady laughed at me the second time I came because I was in Lamma island twice in one week.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Following the leader

Yesterday I went to a Chinese culture presentation put on by a third-party our school's International Programs office hires. It didn't offer too much new information but was interesting never-the-less to review all the things I saw over the past two months (it was exciting to realize how much I had learned last night!).
Anyway, I had a semi-interesting realization during the presentation while we were talking about education and how the Chinese were historically (and still predominantly) taught through repetition and memorization, which can affect how employees act and how you should support them as a manager. A few slides later the presenter asked us (a predominantly western group of students) to define a term that was defined explicitly in the following slide on our handout. Everyone saw the definition on their handout and yet no one would speak. We've been so well trained to be innovative and creative and not repeat things, that the idea of reading off this slide, even though it's exactly the answer she was looking for, paralyzed us. She finally had to point to someone and explicitly tell them to read off the page.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Living in the USA

I am finally somewhat settled in to Chicago. I have survived two days at school of hug-filled reunions and the question: "So how was France?!" For some reason everyone just assumes that I went there. Which is fine, Paris would have been fun too.

I never really felt like I was missing any food in particular in HK (except for the "Cantonese" fried noodles I thought I was going to eat everyday there but which are apparently an Ollie's Restaurant creation), but it turns out the littlest things have excited me. Both days at school I was abnormally excited to eat first oatmeal, then cereal for breakfast. I can't believe I didn't eat either of those things for 2 months.

Going to the supermarket is also exciting - I just spent this morning at Aldi's with Jian, being housewives. He had his gf's pictorial shopping list on his bberry and we pushed our carts down the aisles, gossiping and trading recipes (not really - Jian gave me recipes). Aldi's was as successful as always - we spent about $100 each and filled up the trunk and backseat of David's car. It was also exhausting - Jian and I are going to schedule a mani-pedi spa trip to reward ourselves.