Friday, December 26, 2008

Today is my last working day of the calendar year.

Hope everyone had a good Christmas. Mine was awesome – I woke up at 8 am, arrived at work at 9 am, had lunch at 12.30 pm, left at 5.40 pm, went to a supermarket to get some food on the way back, made fried rice at 7.00 pm, listened to part of a lecture in field theory (this business of the Langrangian is actually quite fascinating), swept and mopped the apartment’s floors, took a warm shower, raced a few laps on GTR-2, called home to check on their Christmas eve party [most of the relatives who attended are not Christians- we celebrate Christmas as another opportunity to get together, have fun, eat and make noise], chatted a bit, read a few blogs and went to bed.

I'll be on leave till the 5th of January. Back next year.

Lunch break is over.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Amazing Shanghai

I got my pants fixed at a tailor in the market (yes, one of the shops in the market belongs to a tailor). It was about 4 cm too long, and the wear over the years had frayed the last 2 cm quite badly.

The tailor tut-tutted disapprovingly at the terrible state of my pants, and told me one of the holes would have to be patched before she can shorten and hem the legs. “You should have got them repaired earlier before they became like this,” she chided.

Expecting the worst, I asked her how much to get it fixed.

7 RMB, she tells me.

I collected it the next day, and the workmanship was good.

But golly, 7 RMB! 

(7 RMB is equivalent 3.60 MYR or 1.02 USD.)


On days when I do not feel like taking the 30 minute walk home from the office, I take a bus that costs 2 RMB and takes about 30 minutes for me to get home (after considering the waiting and the bad traffic).

The front door of the bus is for entry, and the rear to disembark. However, when the bus is full, commuters will squeeze in from the rear door anyway. On bad days, the interior of a bus can be more miserable than a can of sardines (part of the reason I chose to walk).

Remarkably, some of the people who enter from the rear (this sounds… sexy wrong) will tap the shoulder of someone in front, and pass them their metro card. Slowly, the card gets passed to the front where it is beeped against the card reader-writer to deduct the fare, and then it makes its way back again.

Perhaps this is a very normal occurrence in cities around the world. Maybe it’s just my kiasu, exploitive mindset that makes it appear so amazing.

Please enlighten me – is voluntarily paying the bus ticket normal?


Updates on the previous post:

I have found an unsecured wireless connection in range, so I borrow their bandwidth in the meantime. It’s a tad bit slow and unstable, but it’ll do for surfing and chatting. Still need to use my own connection for more intensive activities like Skye and YouTube though.

And I download my physics lectures at the office as FLV files and watch them at home. At 1.30 hours a lecture, these files are not to be trifled with.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fuck lah. MCH

My life in the near term seems to have gone pear shaped. Turned balls up. Headed south. Gone belly-up. Went selling salted duck eggs.

Item 1a- internet connection renewal
The apartment’s annual internet bill is due (the previous one was paid by the landlord as we had not moved in yet). The annual fee is to the order of 1,500 RMB. However, the apartment lease, which expires in May, will not be renewed. If I cough up the money it will be a waste.

Item 1b- internet connection package
When I arrived at Shanghai, I asked if the apartment’s connection was a time-limited package. I was told no, so I acquired a router and set it up to be permanently connected, as any sane person would do.
Last week, a massive bill of 1,300 RMB arrived at the office. After some investigation by various people, it turns out that the connection package is actually a 30 hours per month package. Access after the 30th hour will incur a by-the-minute charge.
The company takes care of most of the apartment’s utility bills, so I’m not directly hit by the shocking bill, but the implication is that I can only get online for an average of 1 hour a day.
Time to stay back at the office more :(

Item 1c- unavailability of internet connection
With my impending departure (refer to item 2 below), I will not be in Shanghai long enough to justify signing up for any internet package, so pretty soon the apartment will have no fucking connection.

Item 2 – impending departure from Shanghai
A reliable source has indicated that the company will dissolve the Shanghai branch, leaving me with two possible outcomes, both of which are distasteful:
a – retrenched
b – booted back to Tianjin
The dissolution will occur soon, although the directors may try to stretch it past Chinese New Year, according to the source.

Fuck lah. MCH.

Still, all is not gloomy and ranty; there are a few glimmers of joy to look forward to:

Item A – Jean’s visit
Jean will be dropping by Shanghai next weekend, and will hang around for 10 days. I’ve got leave for the duration too, so that should be an interesting week. Apart from participating in Shanghai’s glitzy retail market, we’re planning to take short trips to the adjacent provinces to observe the natives and take in the scenery.

*disclosure: in previous posts, the turning-on of the particle accelerator was an analogue for Jean’s arrival.

Item B – Chinese New Year break
I’ll be home!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Today, the entire office disbanded an hour early so that we may converge at a karaoke joint in time for our 5 pm reservation. Buffet-style dinner was provided, though the food quality was quite dismaying for such a well-appointed venue.

As I was picking at my food (try picking up soft, gravy drenched tofu from a flat plate using a pair of chopsticks), a particle physicist who sitting across me asked, “Your particle accelerator is scheduled come online tomorrow right?”
“No ah.”
“I thought you said it was on the 17th of December?”
“No no, it’s the 27th of December.”
“And anyway you look very happy today.”
“Really? I’m normal today.”
“No you definitely look happier.”

Strange. Must be in love or something something in the water…

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Unimportant content

Now that I do not have to worry about exams I have been having a lot more time on my hands. It really feels strange.

I actually have time to take random rides on the subway to look at various things, chat freely without the nagging guilt of ‘I should be studying’, running lap after lap on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in various angry cars, analysing a portfolio of options. I have even taken to watching physics lectures from various universities on YouTube.

This last activity usually raises questioning eyebrows, so I tend to not mention it unless absolute necessary. Such as now.

I was chatting with my cousin Lai some days ago when the following transpired:
Lai: You can pay for my trip to…"that-god-knows-where-place" in China…
Me: I’m no longer in that dump called Tianjin
I’m in Shanghai!
Ooh, you’ve upgraded. I can't remember ;)
Yeah, been in Shanghai since 29 October
Didn't you notice, I'm less cynical and morbid these days. So much more cheerful
Bu bu but...the Yee Wei I know has always been cynical & morbid.
Hence, can't tell if he is any less cynical and morbid :S
Haha aww, that’s such a compliment!

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Monday, December 08, 2008

The Cold Stone experience in Shanghai

So on Saturday I fulfilled my quest to sample the much anticipated Cold Stone ice cream.

It was fantastic: I picked the Founder’s Favourite- sweet cream flavoured ice cream with pecans, brownies, fudge and caramel mashed in on the spot, and served in a thick wafer bowl.

The ice cream was smooth and rich, and the best part was that the ingredients were added in there and then, thus ensuring the nuts remained crunchy and the cake not soggy.

Unfortunately, the matter of price is enough to cause a severe cringe (or two). The medium sized serving of 170g cost me a painful 39 RMB.

Below is a cost comparison between Cold Stone in the US and China:
Medium size serving: 8 oz (US); 6 oz (China)
Price: ~ 4.50 USD; 39 RMB (5.70 USD)
Price per ounce: ~0.56 USD/oz; 6.5 RMB/oz (0.96 USD/oz)

Unlike in the US where Cold Stone stores are common, ice cream parlours are not a very common sight in China. In addition, the live action of mixing ingredients into the ice cream adds a novelty to the entire process, allowing the chain to position itself as a premium brand.

With a booming upper-middle class in Chinese cities, Cold Stone can afford to charge astronomical prices and (probably) turn a profit from those willing to splurge on something out of the ordinary.

WTF. An ice cream commentary just turned into a company analysis…

Anyway, the ice cream was pretty good. It’s quite a different experience from a purist like Mövenpick, concentrating more on giving a mix of flavours and textures in each bite. However, the astronomical price greatly detracts from the overall enjoyment.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

From a practice question:
Alice Costain operates a convenience store in the financial district of London. If Costain increases the price of a Magnim ice cream bar from £1.00 to £1.15, weekly sales decrease from 200 units to 180 units. Which of the following statements is most accurate?

A. The price elasticity of demand is -0.66.
B. The slope of the demand curve equals the elasticity of demand.
C. The price increase will lead to an increase in total value of Magnim ice cream bars
D. Since the price elasticity of demand is less than one, the demand for Magnim is elastic.

Now I feel like a nice chocolatey Magnum...or this

Entries these days seem to be getting more and more whimsical; pardon me - brain's evaporating.

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Monday, December 01, 2008


With the Large Hadron Collider’s scheduled turn-on being delayed by several months, my year-end plans have been thrown into disarray. Tell me, how can one celebrate the winter solstice without the company of Higgs bosons?

As if the uncertainty was not causing enough misery, my personal accounts suffered a valuation allowance equal to the full value of my outstation claims.


On a more cheerful note, May had been raving about this Cold Stone ice cream franchise in the US. You pick your ice cream flavour, some toppings (including brownie bits, oreos, Kit Kat, Reese, various fruits) and they mix it up on a chilled stone slab. Yes it’s not very different from a McFlurry but if it’s good ice cream...

Yesterday, I saw a Cold Stone signboard while in a taxi. After some research, I found that they have several outlets in Shanghai, one of them is just 4 metro stops away. Yay!

Looks like I have plans this weekend. Apart from studying and sitting for the exam.

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