Enjoyed George Carlin’s Last Words

My wife gave me George Carlin’s Last Words as a Christmas present. I fully enjoyed it.

It seems the book was based on Carlin’s own writing of his life that he did before the millennium, and conversations he had with Tony Hendra. Hendra is listed as contributor on Amazon’s web page. My impression was that Hendra worked more as an editor, because the voice from the book is distinctly Carlin.

Carlin may appear as a cranky old man, but I like the guy. I watched a few Youtube videos where he interacted with Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, and hosts from The View. He looked authentic, kind and encouraging to those guys. He narrated a few Thomas the Tank Engine video stories, a popular children story. I watched them all when my son was little. By far, he did the best job, way better than Alec Baldwin and Ringo Starr. I remember seeing signs outside Rosemont Theatre advertising his show. I regret now that I didn’t go.

Highly recommended, if you like his humor. I read his Brain Droppings 6 or 7 years back and enjoyed that too. Got to go check out Napalm & Silly Putty and When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? from the library.

Currently I am reading John King Fairbank’s The Great Chinese Revolution 1800-1985, about half way through. Thoroughly enjoyed it so far.

Good night.

OmniFocus sync to iPhone through WebDav on MyDisk

I have been going back and forth in search of better ways to manage my life. Time seems to be in short supply, especially for mid-aged adults with child(ren) at home in a modern society. It is sad, in a way, that we are so goal-oriented, and there are certainly way too much noise and temptation surrounding us all. Oh heck, it is 10:30pm again, and I want to lie in bed and read for a while before I fall asleep, so let’s cut to the chase and show you what I want to share. My friends, here is the 猛料 you’ve been waiting for:

1. OmniFocus looks like a very promising productivity and life management software;
2. It’s companion iPhone application is also nice;
3. Syncing between the two seems a bit troublesome, if you don’t have MobileMe($$$) or Bonjour($$$). I’ve read people’s complaints against MobileMe. And my hosting provider does not support WebDAV on my domain. So I started searching for a free WebDAV service.

Three services caught my attention:

sharemation
swissdisk
http://mydisk.se.

I read through various comments about all of them. Here is my recommendation: go with mydisk.se. The reasons are:
1. Sharemation is only good for 5 MB, a bit small;
2. Swissdisk had a disk failure sometimes in October;

If you decide to check out mydisk.se, you won’t find the 2 GB free info on its site. Only after you sign up, it will show you that there is 2 GB free WebDAV storage for you.

Cirque Shanghai At Navy Pier

Cirque Shanghai At Navy Pier

We saw Cirque Shanghai at Navy Pier a few days ago. It was a Chinese circus show with a lot of great acrobatic performances.

I enjoyed it. For my son, since he was a little tired, the performance was long to him. If I recall correctly, the show lasted for about 1 hour and half.

Growing up in rural Ji Village, once in a while, there would be travelling troupes performing kung fu and acrobatic stunts in the village. They would first beat gongs and drums to get villager’s attention. When a sizable crowd gathered, they would start performing, usually at the square in the middle of the village, with somebody collecting money from the audience during and after the show. I don’t think they earn much. Some kind villagers would offer the troupe a meal. I only remember one performance, where a small monkey was involved with some stunts. Not sure how old I was then, but I had a secret crush with a young girl about my age in the troupe for quite a while.

I also remember I saw a couple of puppet shows growing up. When the artists or troupes are here, all the children are excited. I think most adults are excited too. For adults, once in a while there are travelling story tellers in the village. Performance usually starts after dinner. The story tellers, sometimes a couple, do some singing with Er Hu (二胡) and/or Yang Qin (杨琴) first, then proceed with that night’s chapter of the story. The story is delivered in different ways: singing, speaking, accompanied by traditional music playing. You can get a very good glimpse of those travelling artists’ livies from one of my all-time favorite movies, To Live. It takes days, sometime weeks, to finish a story. I remember a blind couple story tellers who stayed in my village for at least a few weeks. The stories are mostly traditional Chinese classics, such as 水浒传 or 三国演义.

Anyway, I recommend the show highly if you are interested. Here is the URL to Navy Pier, where you can find the link to Cirque Shanghai performance. The run will be over by the 3rd of September.

Here are a few more pictures. More pictures can be seen here.

Cirque Shanghai At Navy Pier

Cirque Shanghai At Navy Pier

Cirque Shanghai At Navy Pier

黑豹的老专辑

我最近开始在芝加哥西郊上班,没有火车可坐,所以只能开汽车。从英语借个句式来用:好消息是可以听NPR(美国国家公共电台)的节目。在我看来,NPR是美国少有的比较客观、不哗众取宠的媒体之一。坏消息是工作地点离芝加哥公共图书馆较远,所以想借中文书读就不如以前方便了。

开车来回一个小时左右。有时收音机也会听腻了。好在我的1997 Dodge Neon可以放磁带。遗憾的是,车里没有光盘机。看来我离腰缠万贯的资本家还有一段距离。所以我便从我的大约20盘的磁带里拿几个听。黑豹乐队1992年的《黑豹》专辑就是之一。

想来那是十二、三年前的事了。90年代初的厦门,要买风花雪月、歌舞升平的港台音乐很容易。但那对于当时的像我一样愤世嫉俗、忧国忧民、以治国兴帮为己任的傻B来说,那种音乐都觉得浮浅。像什么四大天王、《你看,你看,月亮的脸》、《咖啡屋》,这等垃圾,何其可笑,岂能配得上我等志士仁人!我需要的是深度,震撼,另类。换句话说,我需要的是摇滚!

但我在当时的厦门很难买到摇滚,真是气煞人也。

应当是93年的暑假,我坐火车回山东,途经上海。当时的黑豹乐队正红得一塌糊涂。我在南京路上终于看到了他们的新专辑。囊中羞涩的我咬咬牙买了这盘磁带,很是兴奋。在上海火车站与南来北往的人流为伍的十几个小时里,在北上山东的火车上,我用着我的三洋牌的不到100元的只进不退没有倒带功能的主要用来学英语的单放机,就着歌词,压着嗓音跟着磁带怒吼了几十个小时。歌词当然是背得滚瓜烂熟,到了随着旋律悠然而起,就能下意识地唱起来的地步。

95年来美时,我把这盘磁带打包带了过来。算来这十几年间听得次数两只手肯定数得过来。唐朝乐队的《梦回唐朝》也在我的包裹之内,但我几年前把它给扔了。那里的大部分的尖叫硬摇滚听着实在是受不了。其中只有一首旋律还不错。歌名忘了,但开始的一俩句好像是“多年以来,一直感觉匆匆忙忙;想法太多,希望多少,岁月反复无常。。。”

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本来如果没有窦唯最近的事件和他对唐朝乐队的丁武的指责,这盘磁带极有可能还会尘封下去。但这些新闻引起了我的一些兴趣,所以这俩天在车里把它听了几遍。

平心而论,窦唯的嗓音很不错。这部专辑里的几首歌曲也很上口。但十几年前的我自以为的另类和愤世嫉俗,在今天看来只不过是年轻人的“为赋新词强说愁”的娇情。

反过来说,大学时代是一个人成长的重要时期。豪情万丈和远大理想,都是年轻人的特点。喜爱何种音乐也无可厚非。现在听以前爱听的音乐,还会忆起大学时的天真和温情。

也挺为窦唯觉得可惜。他是有一些才气和音乐天分的,但却显然适应不了音乐及社会的转型和成名之后的压力。他是成年人,应对自己的言行负责。但很多的事通过媒体来谩骂,调停,和渲染,最后受苦的还是自己。至于去报社里闹事儿及烧汽车,这显然是过头了。

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简评《远征北极纪实-极地心路》

几个星期前读完了《远征北极纪实-极地心路》。作者沈爱民是中国科协的工作人员。他在1993至1995年间策划并参与了我国北极科学考察工作。这本书描述了这一科学考察的筹备、培训、及实施过程。该书经中国文联出版公司1997年出版,很值得一读。

很多人都知道我国在上世纪八十年代就已在南极设立了永久科学考察站,而对北极却缺少系统的研究。但也有不少人认为到北极插上国旗最重要。这确是本末倒置。按说插国旗是应该的,但科学考察应是主要目的。更何况不少个人、团体多年以来到过北极,所以单到那里并不是什么新鲜事儿。可由于最终目标的摇摆性、不少人的虚荣心和个人主义,最后的成果不如预期。该书对此都有很详尽的描述。作者也用不少的篇幅讲述了这一过程运作中的组织、管理、及资金筹备的问题,其中谈到了他与位梦华的矛盾。位梦华是该活动的另一位组织参与者。我没有读过位梦华的书,所以不能妄下结论。但从字面上来看,沈爱民的分析是客观、理性的。

读完这本书我也感到我们不少人对国际惯例和商业运作的不熟悉及幼稚。像是和美国旅行社签合同时不能对一些看似微不足道、但实际上很重要的合同细节的落实;科考队员在没有签证的情况下凭运气直闯加拿大海关入境。而这些都是到过西方、住在大都市的白领阶层所为,读来真是好笑。好在这都是发生在10多年前的事情,想必现在一定改进了不少吧。

沈爱民的文笔非常好。他在书中娴熟地穿插了自己的经历和很有品味的诗作。再加上幽默的文笔,这都给该书增色不少。

书中多处流露着对大自然之美的赞颂和热爱。我很欣赏这种态度。我们以前的教育充满了“人定胜天”、“征服大自然”的态度。这个态度不是我们的专利,它从19世纪工业革命后盛极一时,对我们的环境破坏巨大。自然界是我们所有人赖以生存的基础;节约、有效的利用资源,保护并改善我们的环境应是我们着力解决的重大问题之一。

我对作者对李乐诗的介绍也很感兴趣,虽然篇幅并不多。李乐诗是来自香港的女探险家和摄影家。我在厦大时(1990-1994),她曾到我校演讲及办摄影展。我对她很敬佩。演讲时她幽默地说她的长相在中国人中吃不开,但外国人却经常赞美她的容貌,给我的印象很深。

这本书闲适时读起来不错,我想把它作为MBA的个案分析教程也很好,因为这个科考过程涉及到组织、管理、筹资、沟通、合同、对外合作、团队精神、和集体主义的方方面面。这一切对在校的MBA和工作中的管理者都会很有启发的。