Thursday, December 29, 2005

So, as we quickly begin the final descent into the New Year, I crawl my way simultaneously towards the two month mark and it feels like a good to time assess, or reassess, my life here at the moment, and indeed this blog. The pace of life is no slower than it was when I arrived and began writing about my experiences here but the frequency of new things to try and to write about is inevitably decreasing. That's not to say that they don't happen with some regularity or that I've stopped looking but my life here is now pretty full from wake to sleep with 'stuff' of all forms. I hope to continue exploring at the weekends and return with an abundance of photos but I think that the weeks will be less vociferously or frequently communicated than they have been till now. I do, however hope that people will continue to leave comments which are a huge pleasure to see when I arrive in the morning.

News for the moment: we sacked our Ayi. Why? Well because though she was jolly round and jolly jolly, her cooking tasted identical whatever we requested, her cleaning was worse than mine (this is quite a feat), she broke my toilet and tried to blame me and though we were paying her far more than we had been advised, she seemed to do everything with an edge of reluctance that made the evening meal less than enjoyable. So, three weeks in, we let her go. It's also no cheaper than eating out in the end and I may get someone to come and clean the flat once a week sometime in the future.

In another strange turn of events I drafted a letter this week to one of the best known scientists in the world from another of the best known scientists in the world. Don't ask, suffice it to say this has earned me a position on a committee which I may comment on more when I discover what horrors this entails.

As I've been so shattered recently in the evenings with various meetings, lessons and trips to the gym in an attempt to work off a few of the vast numbers of calories I consume, I've been watching a lot of movies. Some superb ones indeed. Unless specifically requested, I shan't give in depth reviews, but recently, the films I've seen and can recommend are:
1) The last life in the universe - Very sad, beautifully shot Thai film in Japanese, Thai and broken English.
2) The house of sand and fog - Surprisingly moving story about a woman and a family and a some fog...with some sand.
3) Happy together - Not the best Wong Kar Wai film I've seen but not bad. Gay Hong Kong couple in Argentina not being very happy together.
4) Old Boy - Korean film directed by Park Chan-Wook with hints of camera work and music of Jeunet but one or two more deaths. Another genuinely moving piece of Asia extreme.
5) Billabong Odyssey - Documentary about big wave surfing. Worth a watch not only for the first scene of a 70ft wave being surfed.

TH - I haven't managed to get hold of 2046 yet but will give a full review when I do (if I understand it myself).

So since writing the above, a minor triumph has occurred. I managed to go to a hair dressers on my own and leave with something resembling the haircut I was after - this was done with the use of Chinese, hand-waving and minimal flashes of panic in my eyes. I can't say I've cracked it but this was a goal I'd set myself. In fact, with the two hours a week I have (which is really all I can manage) I'm not going to become anywhere near fluent with Chinese. Most people take six months, two hours a day to get to a level where they can hold a reasonable conversation in this most frustrating of languages. However, I'm not giving up hope, will continue with the characters, the intonations, the lack of tense and existence of many words which have no direct translation and hope that in a couple of years time I will at least have taken steps in the right direction.

Tonight is the group bonding exercise where I attempt to prove that I can pretend to be a normal human being. Badminton and tabletennis is planned followed by a meal at a restaurant. I want to be able to go and have a normal chat with the students though I have to admit topics are limited and this is a real quandary for me. I may talk about this some other time.

Anyway, for now I'm attempting to read papers before I attempt a calculation myself which may or may not be possible and I may or may not waste a couple of months of my life on. This is the precarious route to discovery in theoretical physics. I've spent many months on a single calculation before only to keep hitting the same (computational in this case) brick walls and in the end have to give up. In the process I learnt a reasonable amount but could have done many other things in those six months. This sort of thing is completely inevitable in this field however so I don't worry too much about idling my way down these theoretical blind alleys if, every now and then, I see the beam of an answer shining around a corner. To work per chance to dream.


Michelle said...

If you're feeling like a giggly movie where there is no need to read subtitles or, er, pay close attention (knitting flicks), I'd highly recommend:
(1) Elf
(2) Stuck on You
(3) Zoolander

Whatcha calculating?

Jonathan Shock said...

Hi Michelle,

I was reading good reviews of Elf recently and still haven't seen Zoolander or Stuck on You but will do ASAP. At the moment I'm watching a lot of films by the Asian directors I like because I usually can't afford them back home and they're a tenth the price here...but yes, I think I need a giggly movie soon.

I've spent most of the last two and a bit years working on 10d SUGRA models with D7 branes to add flavour to the dual field theories. Though there are some really nice results about chiral symmetry breaking and chiral lagrangians parameters that we can get from this, I'm not sure how much milleage is left in this game (with the current formalism).

I'm now looking at the 5d holographic toy models which give amazingly accurate results for N=3 YM. There are a few extensions to these models I'd like to look at but first need to understand the formalism from the papers that have come out on the subject over the last year. Could be fun, could be a dead-end, looking forward to learning more.

TH said...

No Jon, no no no... I don't want you to do away with the physics chat at all, I find it utterly unintelligible, and therefore very amusing to think anyone actually understands any of it; [does anyone understand it?] - I enjoy scanning through it... but I couldn't honestly say it's genuinely good chat. Do you see what I mean? Whatever you do, DO NOT do away with the 'Physics in italics'!

I think where you are in China, there must be more than 24 hours in the day. By my reckoning, if you're working 11 hour days, sleeping (I guess) 6/7 and going out on the lash - whilst at the same time going to the gym and keeping this site going (as well as "exploring China on the weekend") - and presumably eating etc - .... I just don't get it. But maybe this explains China's new-found global economic dominance; there are 35 hours in the day. Bloody cheats.

Luca said...

Last spring I went through a phase of japanese and korean movies. I don't know how easy it would be to find japanese movies in China, but if you got the chance, I would suggest Shunji Iwail. In particular Riri Shushu no Subete (All about Lili Chouchou), a weird and tough movie about nowadays japanese subculture. And even weirder but definitely lighter and funnier Hana to Alice.
If you hadn't watched any movie by the korean director Kim-Ki Duk, you should watch the unpronounceable Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom (Spring Summer Fall Winter and Spring), and I heard all good about 3-Iron, but haven't got time to watch.

Jonathan Shock said...

TH, many thanks. Your calculations are indeed correct. Unfortunately though there may be more than 24 hours in the day here, each one seems to go by twice as fast as a regular day. I can pack a lot in but it all seems to fly by without me paying as much attention to it as I'd like.

Luca, I haven't seen those Japanese movies but certainly Takeshi Kitano is very easy to get out here. I'm also looking for Miike who directed Audition which I think is a great, though disturbing film. I'll look out for the titles you suggested. I have seen Three Iron by Kim Ki-Duk which I loved. Perfectly paced, very subtle, great sense of humour, some surprises...generally a wonderful film and I look forward to seeing S.S.A.W and S.