Sunday, October 29, 2006

I'm a proud parent

of FACES (Forum for American/Chinese Exchange at Stanford), which has continued to grow tremendously since I handed over the reins in 2003. Here's the Stanford Daily article about FACES that ran on Thursday:

Campus to host FACES conference
October 26, 2006
By Emma Vaughn

As U.S.-Sino relations grow in importance in the global community, the Forum for American/Chinese Exchange at Stanford (FACES) is actively working to promote diplomacy and friendship between the nations’ younger generations.

With three chapters in China and host more than 50 delegates from around the world, FACES is a student-run program dedicated to fostering grass-roots diplomacy and improving ties between Chinese and American students.

“It is basically like having an NGO based at Stanford,” said 2003 graduate Jessica Weiss, who founded FACES in 2001. “Yes, it’s run by students, but it has a strong air of professional organization.”

The capstone efforts of FACES are two projects that brings together American and Chinese student-delegates to discuss U.S.-Sino relations with some of the field’s leading experts.

Shanghai will host the first of these weeklong conferences Nov. 8, and Stanford will hold a second conference in April.

“The annual conferences are really what make FACES different,” said Xiaodong Chen, a graduate student in Management Science and Engineering and Chinese delegate to FACES. “They are of the highest quality in terms of the speaker’s credentials and international influence. They also include a highly selective application process, which guarantees the brightest minds from both countries. The staff are extremely dedicated, hardworking and helpful.”

Richard B. Levin, president of Yale University and a featured speaker at the Shanghai conference, said that organizations like FACES will have a large impact on the global community.

“The security of the planet will require that the future leaders of China and the United States have a bond of mutual understanding,” Levin told The Daily. “By bringing together college students from leading universities with a serious interest in U.S.-China relations, FACES is contributing in an important way to the education of future leaders and, thereby, to international security.”

Delegates to the conference are chosen from a pool of nearly 600 students and come from both American universities such as Harvard, Brown, Duke, Yale and also from Chinese universities like Peking, Tsinghua and the University of Hong Kong.

The goal of these conferences is to bring students in contact with business executives, policymakers and educational figures who can talk about China’s increasing economic and political influence. Previous conference speakers have included William Perry, President Bill Clinton’s defense secretary who also works at Stanford, Zbigniew Brzesinksi, President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, and Robert Kapp, former president of the U.S.-China Business Council.

“What differentiates FACES is its tight-knit and very active alumni network,” said FACES Co-president Kabir Chadha, a senior. “There are reunions in different continents literally happening every week, and email forums are awash with different threads of discussion, ranging from discussing the repercussions of North Korea’s nuclear tests to seeking advice when moving into a new city. The FACES experience gives you access to lifelong friends.”

In addition to the conferences, FACES holds several smaller projects throughout the year, including a student-initiated course, educational panels and an annual China Fair.

“FACES is not just organizing amazing conferences across the Pacific Ocean — it is bringing those talented people together and providing them with a fantastic platform to show their ideas,” said Christine Fung, President of the Fudan chapter of FACES. “It also welcomes students from countries other than the U. S. or China.”

The program first began in the fall of 2001 during a period of tension following the collision of a U.S. plane with a Chinese fighter jet. Weiss, a junior at the time, hoped to use this crisis as a backdrop to create greater Sino-American understanding on campus.

“I wanted to use this idea to promote open communication between both sides,” Weiss said. “I hoped to establish a sort of grass-roots for friendship that would be resilient to the politics of the time.”

In the last year, FACES, which used to be under the jurisdiction of the Office of Student Affairs (OSA), has moved into the Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS).

“The reason that they are affiliating with us now is that they need a greater programmatic structure for their fundraising,” said Lydia Chen, associate director of CEAS. “They want more than what the student organizations are allowed to do. We love them and are very proud of them.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Squash victory!

I joined the UCSD recreational squash ladder a few weeks ago. Today, I won a match, moving me up two spots to #14. We'll see how long that lasts...

Ladder Rankings:

Juan-Jose Rebaza 1 info
Alberto Malinow 2 info
Andrew Bell 3 info
Will Cooper 4 info c
Kobe Bogaert 5 info c
Evan Fuller 6 info c
Paul Norton 7 info c
Jeffrey Rangan 8 info c
Arnaud` Van Der Haegen 9 info c
Nazeeh Shaheen 10info
Narayana Santhanam 11 info
Ajit Nott 12 info c
Karthik Bhasyam 13 info c
Jessica Weiss 14 info
Paul Taylor 15 info
Sanmay Das 16 info c
Alison Rush 17 info c
Yuvraj Agarwal 18 info

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

NYT: One Eye on the Road and One on the Litter Box

I enjoyed this a lot, and am posting it at the risk of making this blog completely cat-centric...

Published: October 6, 2006

IT is a good idea, when traveling, to choose one’s fellow passengers carefully. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. When I set out for six weeks in south-central Kentucky recently, hauling a trailer full of furniture, my wife, Nancy, as always, sat in the front seat, wrestling with several maps. But in the back seat were two new faces — furry, wide-eyed, and expressing, very vocally, even more anxiety than the couple up front. Soda and Sweetzie, our two cats (who had no place else to go for the six weeks), were warming up for a performance that would last 1,500 miles, round trip, and set new standards for misery in travel.

John S. Dykes

John S. Dykes

Day 1

11:30 A.M. Soda and Sweetzie are installed in back seat of Honda Civic, stuffed into separate carriers because they cannot abide each other. Both mew piteously. I position a clean oversize litter box in back window of car, which has never seemed so small. We roll forth from Astoria toward the Queensboro Bridge

11:45 A.M. Mewing has just started to abate when a sudden stop causes litter box to lurch forward and dump an avalanche of grit on both cats. Soda, a sweet-natured and dainty creature, lets out a howl of cosmic protest. Sweetzie, a huge tortoiseshell cat of smoldering intensity, volatile moods and tangled neuroses, produces a demonic sound new to us. Careful preparation for trip, involving administration of Rescue Remedy (New Age tranquilizing drops) and Benadryl smushed into bits of raw steak, has not produced the desired behavior modification.

12:30 P.M. A rising aroma makes it clear that Sweetzie, like many soldiers experiencing incoming artillery fire for the first time, has had an extreme fear reaction to the sounds of the tunnel or, perhaps, the litter shower.

1 P.M. I pull into the first available McDonald’s parking lot, grab a stack of napkins and try to clean out Sweetzie’s carrier. It is a big job. The deeper I reach into the carrier, the more Sweetzie feels cornered. She mounts a slashing attack, leaving bloody stripes up and down my arm, then does an imitation of Linda Blair’s voice in “The Exorcist.” Lingering fragrance suggests more work needs to be done.

2:15 P.M. Incessant cries of the damned cause me to open the cat carriers. Soda moves into new, improvised litter box on floor (baking pan acquired at dollar store along the road), and takes a jubilant dust bath. Sweetzie finds her way to a fleece cat bed on floor behind front passenger seat and hunkers down, eyes glowing with an insane luminescence. Peace descends.

6:23 P.M. We pull into a pet-friendly motel in Hagerstown, Md. Research on several Internet sites yielded a number of these oases dotted across the country. A surcharge of $10 over the standard room rate gets us all in. Soda, an enthusiastic eater, reacts ecstatically to bento box that I arrange on a tray, with frilled paper caps from the motel’s water glasses as decorative dishes. (Hair on back stands up.) Sweetzie dives under a bed and remains motionless for the next 12 hours. Any food offered causes her to recoil and unsheathe claws. I sleep restlessly, unable to envision a blood-free scenario for putting her back in the carrier, although I have now refreshed it with a bottle of Evian and innumerable paper towels.

Day 2

8 A.M. Nancy pushes food tray at Sweetzie, causing her to flee from under bed and into my arms. Seemingly broken in spirit, she allows her limp form to be poured into the carrier. Soda, stupefied by high-calorie cat treats, also submits passively.

9:15 A.M. Both cats, released from carriers, return to their places on the floor and settle quietly, convincing me that I have discovered the secret to problem-free feline travel. This is a rash conclusion.

3:10 P.M. Arrive at destination. Civic cannot pull trailer up steep driveway. Cats remain calm, even as smell of burning tires and sound of cursing driver fills car interior. I carry both cats up driveway, arrive gasping for breath. Realize that both cats badly need to lose weight.

Return Trip, Day 1

11:30 A.M. Confident that all concerned are now old hands, I put cats in back seat, place litter box on floor and prepare for a serene, scenic drive back to New York. Soda settles into litter box. Sweetzie takes up position on fleece bed. A few peeps, then silence.

7:15 P.M. Check into different pet-friendly motel in Hagerstown. This one has a working television and a receptionist who does not hide in the back room talking on his cellphone to friends as guests crowd the front desk. Things look good.

7:30 P.M. Sweetzie dismayed by platform beds, which afford no hiding place. Soda thrilled at king-size format, ideal for lounging.

7:35 P.M. Sweetzie missing.

7:45 P.M. Sweetzie found, wedged into a two-inch crack between bed headboard and wall.

Return Trip, Day 2

3:15 A.M. Sweetzie, perhaps disturbed by employee slipping bill under door, begins yowling and pacing the room restlessly. She rejects food, water and neck massages. I roll up towels and put them against the bottom of the door to block sound and light. Sweetzie tears furiously at towels, pushes nose under door and lets loose at louder volume. No telling how tattooed guest with pit bull in next room might take this.

4:30 A.M. We leave motel in haste.

5 A.M. Sweetzie, nerves shattered, prowls the car, looking for an exit. Briefly takes up residence on brake pedal, then tries to press herself forward against the windshield, cutting off my view of highway. Ungodly wailing and lamentation. Cats also upset.

6:43 A.M. Sweetzie realizes that Soda has stolen her spot on the cat bed. More prowling and yowling. Soda is unmoved. Their mutual loathing adds to tense atmosphere in car.

7 A.M. After brief, eerie silence, we slip in a book on tape: Alan Furst’s “Foreign Correspondent.” Something about Alfred Molina’s voice sets Sweetzie off. We turn up the volume. Sweetzie responds in kind. As she claws her way past my left shoulder, I briefly consider lowering the window and giving her a nudge onto the highway.

8:30 A.M. Soda, responding to Sweetzie’s mood, begins prowling the car. She is easily bought off with five or six Deli Slices, a new-fangled calorie-bomb cat treat that appears to be as addictive as crack cocaine.

10:15 A.M. Arrive home. Return cats to their accustomed environment. Reward Soda with a Deli Slice. Cut off diplomatic relations with Sweetzie. Make inquiries. Does U-Haul rent a pet trailer? If not, all future vacations off.

Monday, October 09, 2006

More kitchen adventures

Mulligatawny soup from Cook's Illustrated "Quick" Recipe Cookbook

My high school cafeteria served this southern Indian soup, and I've never been able to find it since. Its curry flavor is balanced by the addition of a banana, two onions, and a yogurt-cilantro garnish.


Meimei has joined You can check on how she's doing vis-a-vis thousands of other extremely cute kittens at or at Somehow the site managers approved her twice. I had assumed that my first submission was disqualified because you can't really see her face, so I submitted the second one. Oops!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ode to Basil

A little over a month ago I bought one of those "pony packs" of basil: six spindly plants, each a few inches tall. A month later, I'm wishing that I had spaced the plants several more inches apart. Each plant is now a few feet tall. Twice a week I snap off leaves just to prevent flowering. The result is something like the pile you see above - and this is AFTER I made two jars of pesto.

The jar on the left is a basil/parmesan/garlic/olive oil pesto. The one on the right is a sun-dried tomato basil pesto.


Meimei (photo courtesy of Jeremy in Beijing)