Dan Dot Blog

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Hi everyone! Those of you who just read the blog from Facebook or click the links that go directly to the full posts should be unaffected by this, but I’m experimenting with excerpting for blog posts on the front page. If you’re reading any of my longer articles on the front page, they should now get shortened and you’ll see a link like the one below. Just click it and you’ll get to the full article. Hopefully this makes the front page a little less cluttered when I occasionally write super duper long posts.

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April 13, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , | 1 Comment

Good Morning Shanghai

Just woke up, and it seems are train is going really slowly now. This leads me to infer that we must be pretty close to Shanghai by now. I slept pretty well, about as well as I could hope to sleep on the top bunk of a short bed on a train. I think I’m going to need some additional napping when I arrive at Connie’s in order to feel rested, but that sounds like it’s going to happen anyway.

Honestly, this train ride felt much shorter than my flight. To be fair, the flight to Beijing was like 2 hours longer, but the train ride felt like half the trip. Maybe the advantage is in leaving when you’re about to naturally sleep anyway.

Right now I have a queue of like 5 new blog posts sitting on my iPhone that I want to get launched, so hopefully Connie’s place will have wifi.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farewell Beijing

I’m on the train now headed south to Nanjing and then on to Shanghai (and Connie, woo!). This will be an exciting trip in travel abroad.

I bought a deluxo-seat on an ultra-modern train. These trains would be the envy of Eurorail and put Amtrak to utter shame. I guess I actually got a bed rather than a seat. The D class trains that run between Beijing and Shanghai are the pride of the fleet and boast truly flat bed experiences for those willing to shell out upwards of 600 RMB (~ $90). For those on a budget there seem to be decent regular seats more in the 300 RMB range.

It was a pretty exciting and hurried trip to the train station. Zhi hui, my new buddy from the coffee shop at Jingshan park, recommeded that I take a bus or taxi to the nearest subway station. Once I got my bearings, I opted to walk to Tiananmen West instead, failing to take into account how far North-South the Forbidden City runs.

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April 12, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tea Ceremony

Just finished having a tea ceremony in Jingshan park. I was “hooked” off the street by promises of coffee and tea and was quickly talked into a tea ceremony. It seemed reasonably priced and I was bored so I figured it was worth a shot. As we went through the ceremony there were definitely many points where the hostess was trying to upsell various products and teas. I was playing along with her script until she showed me a cup with Chinese writing on it and asked if I knew what it meant. I could read the beginning that said China but didn’t know the second two. She pronounced them for me and I recognized xiang mao as panda bear (or bear cat) since Jie had taught me yesterday after I showed her my awesome panda hat.

At that point we started to go a little off script, and things got a lot more interesting.

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April 12, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jingshan Park

I’m writing now from the Pavillion at the top of Jingshan Park. I found my way to Tiananmen Square, or at least the South gate of the Forbidden City, then entered the outer walls before opting not to buy a ticket and skirting around the water to the East.

I was wandering around by myself on some side street when a guy outside a store started talking to me. He was real friendly and was giving travel recommendations, then came the catch as I was walked into his store to look at his art.

I got a neat lesson in Chinese art and caligraphy and learned some alternative Chinese forms of “Daniel.” Ultimately I did buy this big painting of a tiger at I’m sure not a good price, but I really liked it and was pretty happpy with it. Plus, it was on his advice that I came up here, to the top of Jingshan park. It’s this park just north of the Forbidden City. I guess it’s more of a hillside garden. It’s pretty breathtaking, and the panoramic views of Beijing and the Forbidden City are about as cool as advertised, so I guess all in all it wasn’t such a raw deal.

Independence so far is going ok, but it’s a little lonely, especially when I can’t even eavesdrop on other conversations. I need more confidence before I try eating alone; I never know what to order and when I try, everything that looked good tastes awful and vice versa. I think I’ll be meeting friends soon, so maybe I’ll just hold out in the hopes that my lost dinner in Beijing will be a good one with friends.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beijing Subway

Last day in Beijing. I’m on the subway now headed from my hotel at PKU down towards Tiennamen Square. I’ve been spelling it like five different ways so I doubt that’s correct. Just witnessed some nice civility. An elderly couple got on the train and there was only room to stand. They were ready to stand and weren’t looking aroud expectantly. Two people got up, one near me an the other a beautiful girl across the car, and actually tapped the old folks so that they’d see a seat had been opened for them. I also got up with them and some dude stole my seat, but whatever.

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April 12, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , | Leave a comment

Sad Pandas and Happy Dan

I spent the evening tonight visiting Hou Hai, a kind of touristy lake-ish thing surrounded by bars, kitschy shops, and fun people. It had some great and interesting food. I had some tasty strawberry mousse, ate some kind of tasty pancake-ish thing that took forever to cook, and a bunch of crab-apples on a stick. Crab-apples are kind of yucky, but these ones were glazed in sugar, so that was cool. I could only eat about 4 of the approximately 500 crab apples on my 3 RMB skewer before I was ready to throw up a sugary mess, but it was a fun ride while it lasted. It also here that I got what will surely be one of my greatest travel mementos of all time.


People who know me well know that I have no special love for pandas. Their Chinese name, though admittedly cute, is stupid, too. Bear cat? Come on. They’re lazy, dirty, kind of mean, and yet they’re totally idolized. In all honesty I don’t have any thing against pandas, but I feel like I need to do my part to balance out all of their undeserved love. So imagine the great opportunity for irony when I saw people walking around wearing these adorable Panda heads! Ultimately I think the hat looked better on my friend Xiaobei, but I won’t post the picture of her wearing the hat so that I can continue looking cute in mine.

I’m just wrapping up work in Beijing now. Tomorrow will be my last chance to do tourist stuff in Beijing so I’m planning on visiting the Temple of Heaven, Tienanmen Square, and maybe the Forbidden City. I think its name in Chinese is much less exciting because whenever I say it in English nobody knows what I’m talking about until I point at a map, and they dismissively say something in Chinese.

Tomorrow night I’ll catch a sleeper train bound for Shanghai where I’ll hang out with Connie (and do laundry, woo!) for a couple days, then catch a train out to Suzhou. There I’ll meet Izzie, a friend of my friend Jing who will show me around Suzhou. I’ll stay there for a couple days then visit Hangzhou for a weekend. Hopefully this time around in Hangzhou I won’t be sick and my friends there won’t have to take care of me. After that it’s back to Shanghai for a day or two before I fly to Hong Kong where I’ll bum around my friend Frankie’s apartment, visit Kowloon and HK, and maybe poke around the Chinese University of Hong Kong and even sit in on a lab meeting or two. After that it’s back to Chicago for a mini-vacation with my awesome fantastic buddies Adam and Mary Kate, and then just a short ride on the Megabus back to Ann Arbor. I think I counted it up, and I’ll sleep in a total of 6 different beds on this trip before I make it back to my own. So far I’ve only been in one hotel, so it’s time for my vacation to heat up.

Because I’ll be away from the lab for 2 whole weeks (woah!) I’m going to try to assuage my work-guilt by continuing to, uhm, work remotely. Honestly I think travel is a good chance to get some good projects done on days when I don’t feel like going out. That way I can work where there’s nobody to bother me, and also not feel like a total bum when I feel lazy and don’t want to take advantage of all the awesome adventures that are waiting just beyond my hotel doorstep.

In my rambling narration to a crummy video I took on my way home tonight, I mentioned that being in China, at least where I am, kind of feels like staying at camp. The bathrooms are kind of crummy and gross, the food ranges from awesome to bizarre, not everybody is nice to you, and the paths leading around are often uneven and littered with random stuff, but despite all of the wacky environment, everybody bonds, you collect all sorts of cool and cheap tchotchkes wherever you go, take tons of pictures, and promise everyone you’ll write, but usually don’t.

I had this clever plan to start a “days without sickness in China” calendar/counter on the side of my blog, but unfortunately it would be reset at 0 at the moment. Although I’m 99% sure this is not the kind of trip-ending serious illness I had last time and is instead just a lame-o cold, I was pretty freaked out at first when I felt myself getting a sore throat a couple days ago. I spent virtually all of yesterday in my hotel room, reading Malcolm Gladwell (on Blink right now), watching the Cleveland Show on Hulu, or eating KFC that Jie graciously brought me. I only went out for about an hour for lunch, and when I got back what was supposed to be a nap quickly turned into bedtime. I’m glad that was the case though, because I quickly finished the sore throat phase of my head cold and have moved on to waning congestion. My appetite has also resurged which usually means I’m getting healthier.

Well, I should probably sign off and get some sleep to try to finish my recovery. I’m starting to sneeze rapidly, so that’s probably my cue to take some nyquil, which I happily brought in great quantities with me this time.

April 11, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beijing 2

Right now I’m sitting in a basement at Beida in a nicely wood paneled coffee shop that is reminiscent of starbucks, though at far far more competitive prices. I’m helping a friend revise a paper, but she’s on the phone so I thought I could take a couple seconds to update the blog that I’ve been neglecting so far.

I was thinking this post would be a cohesive retelling of my trip to the Great Wall, and I may get to that yet, but so far things are coming out in the order that I think of them rather than in any more meaningful chronological sequence.

After settling in to my hotel at Peking University, I started hanging out with Twila, my advisor, and her daughter. We spent Saturday walking around the Beida (PKU) campus and a lot of time around Weiminghu, which means "Not Yet Named Lake." It’s a very pretty, although now a bit dirty, lake that takes up a big footprint on the north side of the Beida campus.

Most things in Beijing seem to be organized fairly rectangularly, whether it’s the city itself, the series of "ring" road expressways that encircle and circumnavigate it, or the individual structures, and Beida is no exception. You’d think this would make navigation easy, but walking around Beida feels a bit like being at Cedar Point, only without the rides and very limited signage in English. On my first day of work I had to walk from West Gate to East Gate, a trip that should have taken about 10 minutes. It instead took me almost an hour. I had set out without any particular plan, thinking only that I could walk in a mostly Eastward way, but had to quickly abandon that plan when the road veered and I lost my orientation. When I reached one corner of the interior wall without knowing which corner I was in, I was ready to give up until I realized that I had stupidly ignored the sun, brightly settling into the western sky. Reoriented but too proud to do an about face and march back around the dried pond where I was and past the people sitting on parkbenches who would doubtlessly have made note of me, I marched onward and westward, making a thorough tour-de-dried pond before making it back onto a road that had some sort of east-ish feeling to it.

I’m having a really fantastic time here. It’s reassuring to know that when I’m healthy, I actually enjoy traveling. Although I had a good time in China last year, I never really felt like myself the entire time, and it’s reassuring now that I feel at least somewhat normal.

April 9, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , | Leave a comment


Well I finally made it to Beijing! I guess I actually arrived last Saturday, but things have been so crazy busy I haven’t had time to write, but I want to try to start keeping a more consistent journal here. Otherwise, the task of writing a comprehensive update starts to get daunting so I put it off and it just gets to be an ever heftier writing assignment 😛

I arrived very well rested and full of energy thanks to my awesome flight arrangements (thanks Adam!) and got a lift from the airport to my hotel from Lu Li, the husband of a colleague who lives in Beijing.

I’m in China primarily to work to get a new study set up that will be run at both Bei Da (Peking University) and the Psych Institute at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Xiaobei is a student at Bei Da who has been really helpful to me. We became buddies in Shanghai when we both attended ICDL last summer and she has been a great companion for this trip, as well.

So far I’ve been eating lots of yummy food (pictured: giant fish head), I hiked a big section of the great wall which was crazy intense (very vertical and falling apart), and have gotten a lot of good work done academically. I’d love to write more but my battery is dying so I’ll sign off for now, but more is coming soon 🙂

I hope everyone back home is doing well!



April 8, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , | 2 Comments


Right now I’m only about an hour from Beijing. The flight so far has been enormously pleasant. Thanks to my former roommate Adam’s general awesomeness I spent most of the flight very nearly fully reclined in business class. I managed to sleep probably 8 or 9 hours of the flight thanks to a little ambien and my general sleep deprivation schedule lately, so I’m confident I’ll be landing energize and ready to explore.

I didn’t get any work done on the plane, which is fine as sleeping was really objective number one. While I did manage to get a ton of data loaded with me before I left my office at 4 AM the night before I departed, I have a backlog of analytic and preparatory tasks that need to get accomplished before I begin working in Beijing. I’ve heard that there may be an extended holiday this week in light of the expo in Shanghai, but I don’t know if that will impact things in Beijing.

April 3, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , | Leave a comment