Cats aren't pack animals, but they seem to be at USTC.
I took a few photos of posters publicizing lectures to be held at USTC. As you'll see below, it's not much easier to understand the English any more than understanding the Chinese characters. Now, I don't know if this is a matter of Chinglish, bad translation or just my woeful ignorance about science and all things quantum. Judge for yourself.
The west campus of USTC has an unusually large number of cats, perhaps because this is where much of the faculty housing stands. Most of the cats are semi-feral; teachers put out leftovers for them, but I've yet to meet a feline that's willing to be petted. None have been spayed or neutered, so spraying and strutting abound. Here, then, is the first of an occasional series of the cats of USTC. More cats after the jump!
Last night I had the privilege of dining with five brilliant and lovely scientists during a kickoff dinner for a two-week training seminar at USTC sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In the U.S., science is dominated by males, so it's heartening to see young ladies in China taking to the field. And I had five of 'em to myself, at least for one meal! Pictures of the scientesses below.
USTC has finally posted several stories about my lectures at the school. Better late than never. Then again, given the quality of writing, perhaps better never. Click on these links to see the stories:
Foreign Expert Olson Invited to Make Academic Report on U.S. Transportation
Professor Olson Lectured in the Training for the Potential Services and Employment in International Organizations
Professor Wyatt Olson Presented Lecture on Protecting Creativity
(Note: The article at this link has an incorrect headline.)
For the latter part of my stay at USTC, my student assistant and "minder" has been Liu Yao Xi. He's been an interesting and somewhat unusual companion. First, he has not given himself an English name, somewhat of a rarity. Thus, it is proper for me address him by his full name, Liu Yao Xi, or, as I've taken to calling him, Mr. Liu. (I sometimes call him "son," which he says reminds him of his father.)
Mr. Liu is a hothead, with the quickest temper I've seen in China. We once sat down in a restaurant, which a barker had coaxed us into. We were led upstairs, where a middle-aged waitress was taking our order. She talked a lot (I don't know what she was saying), but within a few minutes, Mr. Liu stood bold upright and said to me, "We're leaving here." He stormed out, and outside I kept asking him what she said. "She wasn't being nice to us," was all I could get out of him. He refused to talk more about it.
He also got quite pissed off at me once because he thought I'd overpaid a vendor for a trinket (I paid a few bucks for something). He was beside himself. His face was red, and he almost couldn't speak. "From now on, don't buy ANYTHING without me!" Then he punched me in the arm, half playfully, half seething. A day later, taking his advice, I was trying to buy something the equivalent of 40 cents and asked for his help. The vendor refused to drop the price. Mr. Liu spun on his heels and said, "Let's go." As we raced away, he said in a most un-Chinese way, "Fuck that!" (Perhaps he's a Quentin Tarantino fan.)
I also got his dander up a few times by discussing the Chinese and Japanese military. Normally if a Chinese person doesn't like what I'm saying, they will demur in some way and the subject is dropped. Not Mr. Liu.
He's also awesomely loyal, thoughtful and, at times, funny. Yesterday I told him I wanted to get him a gift for all his help, and I asked him if he'd seen anything in the shopping street near our hotel in Suzhou. So we went to Starbucks and I bought him a man-sized sipping cup! Yes, Starbucks holds a lot of cachet for him, even though he doesn't drink much coffee because it bothers his stomach. But there's no Starbucks in Anhui Province, home of USTC, so he'll be big man on campus carrying that cup around.
Well, you've heard about the man, now you can have a look:
On Sunday I was driven about 17 kilometers from the university to a place called Science Island. It is indeed an island, right in the middle of a vast reservoir, which supplies the city with its (undrinkable) tap water. The island is the bucolic campus of institutes run by the Chinese Academy of Scientists. USTC offers joint classes with the institutes. Not that any of this really explains why I was there.
I was asked to give a talk about the transportation and logistics system in the United States. I am, of course, a logical choice for this because 1) I'm an American and 2) I drive.
After the talk we drove around the island for a while. I noticed a very old building that was abandoned and somewhat grown over. I asked about it and learned that it had been built in the 1950s when it was learned that Mao Zedong would attend a conference in Hefei. Mao never showed up, but just the POSSIBILITY that he was coming has remained legendary to this day. In historical accounts I've read of Mao, many, many places constructed edifices upon learning the Chairman planned to visit, but in many cases, he never showed.
Click on Read More for more photos.
Call me Dr. Frankenstein. For I have created a monster. Not that that’s a bad thing…
Last night was the going-away “party” for the 30 scientists who have been attending a conference here at USTC for the past 12 days. I gave a talk on the last day about adapting to differences between Chinese and Western culture and how to make and develop friendships. For some of them, this was woefully too basic. One guy had once lived in Denmark for seven years. Another had spent two years in Wyoming. Nevertheless, some hadn’t been to the West at all.
I spent a little time going over the art of handshaking, which is a hit-and-miss affair in China, based on my experience. There’s the over-eager grab that leaves someone shaking the tips of your fingers. The arm extended halfway across the room in anticipation. And, of course, the endless shake that makes you think this guy expects to pump water out of your nose if he stays at it long enough.
I also entered the minefield of hugging, particularly hugging friends goodbye after an evening out. I solicited a volunteer (okay, the group finally forced one guy to go up front) and during a series of bad-hugs/good-hugs, worked our way through this oh-so-unChinese act. They were intrigued, if not a bit aghast. One young lady asked in all seriousness how she could refuse a man who wanted to bow down and kiss her hand. I told her that wasn’t too likely to happen unless she was visiting a count on the Mediterranean coast of France. Another woman asked if it was all right if she wiped her hand off after a man had kissed it. I advised her that should this rare, rare occasion arise, suck it up and let the spittle dry.
Apparently the hugging lecture found some fertile soil, I discovered at the going-away party. For the many of you who have never been to a Chinese “party,” it’s not a group of people mingling on their own, holding cocktails or beer, listening to a good mix tape. Chinese parties are organized (everything is organized!) and there are two emcees, male and female. The entire party (this one lasted almost four hours) is choreographed. Games, testimonials, karaoke songs. Anything but free time. And not a drop of alcohol present. Well, the first “game” they had planned involved handshaking and hugging. (I’m not sure what the actual rules or purpose of the game were, but the intensity of physical contact increased as it went on, until one man finally got down on a knee and kissed a woman’s hand. Nirvana!!!) The Polish grad student Agata and I were asked to begin the series of hugs in order to inspire the group.
The rest, as they say, is history. Click hereto read more...
The picture below is from yet another opening ceremony I attended. I draw your attention to the translated title of the course being offered. It truly is a pity that USTC doesn't have an American editor on staff who could smooth the wrinkles out of these things.
Tomorrow is an opening ceremony for a two-week symposium organized by the USTC School of Public Affairs. That's the school I'm working for. I'm much more prepared for this opening ceremony than the last one. Clothes-wise, that is.
A week ago I was in my school office and a young woman on the staff entered, obviously stricken. There would be an opening ceremony the next morning, and the dean had asked that I come, she said. Okay, I thought, no need to be so worked up about that. Then she got to the hard part. It was about my shirts. I favor pattern shirts. I wear them all the time. She tried to describe what I would need to wear instead but became too flustered to completely describe it. She departed. Minutes later, Mr. Li, who is what I'd describe as my direct supervisor, entered to talk to me about my shirt. "Do you have any shirts that are not so...?" He pointed to my shirt and could not contain his laughter. The correct shirt, he told me, would be plain and of a light color. I told him I had no such shirt with me and I'd have to go buy one that night. "Short-sleeved or long-sleeved?" I asked. He looked at me rather amused, like, why would anyone care what sleeve length you wore?
And so, I came to acquire a cream-colored shirt not at all to my liking, which I wore to the opening ceremony of the "Graduate Summer School on Theory and Practice in the Frontiers of Intellectual Property Rights," which was about as long and confusing as its title.
After the jump: The shirts in question!