Sunday, 20 June 2010

Journey to the West, Part 1: Boulder, Colorado

The first stop in my world tour was a side trip to see my friend Antranig in his new home in Boulder.

The city is lovely and so warm after Amsterdam. We did a fair amount of walking around, which is always welcome after a long flight or three. The Boulder Creek was swollen with snow melt after a recent hot spell, it was both relaxing and exciting to experience the rushing water among the trees. Along the way, I was fortunate enough to stock up on books at the excellent Boulder Book Store on Pearl Street.
Afterwards, we went to the Taiko Summit and heard some exciting drum work.

We had our last meal together at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, shown here:

We talked a lot about Qin Shi Huang Di, the first emperor of China. I'd been taught that he unified the Chinese writing system. Fans of the film "Hero" will remember the scene in which a rival school of calligraphy is beseiged by the emperor's army. Thanks to Antranig's Droid and data plan, we discovered that Wikipedia does not share that view of history (although I've since figured out that the Qin Dynasty entry includes something about the topic). It still made for a good conversation, particularly given the backdrop at the Dushan Tea House, the interior of which was crafted in Tajikistan, disassembled, and shipped to the US.

Antranig and I have both studied Mandarin, during my visit he showed me the remarkable Chinese learning site Skritter on his new Lenovo tablet. It's a paid site, but you can see the amount of polish they've put in to justify the $10 monthly fee. You write a word and pick the right pronunciation, and you get feedback immediately. Words are repeated periodically based on how often you remember them correctly. The stroke recognition is amazing. The whole experience of using Skritter is almost enough by itself to make me go out looking for a tablet PC, iPad or the Android equivalent.

It was a great visit, and a good start to the trip.

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