Friday, July 25, 2014
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Some Telling Stats
In 2005, there were 9 million American millionaires, a 62% increase since 2002.
Since 2000, the number of Americans living below the poverty line at any one time has steadily risen. Now 13% of all Americans—37 million—are officially poor.
Only 3% of students at the top 146 colleges come from families in the bottom income quartile; only 10% come from the bottom half.
Since 1983, college tuition has risen 115%. The maximum Pell Grant for low- and moderate-income college students has risen only 19%.
Bush's tax cuts give a 2-child family earning $1 million an extra $86,722—or Harvard tuition, room, board, and an iMac G5 for both kids.
Bush’s tax cuts (extended until 2010) save those earning between $20,000 and $30,000 an average of $10 a year, while those earning $1 million are saved $42,700.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Chinese Freshwater Dolphin now "Functionally Extinct"
A sad day indeed. The baiji, a white, freshwater dolphin living in the Yangtze's sandy shallows for 20 million years is "functionally extinct". The last count conducted in 1997 found 13, now, according to a recent search conducted, the number is zero. It happens to be the first species of the Order of Cetaceans (including the sperm whale and bottlenose dolphin) to be erased in its natural environment. Read the article here.
What A Week
On a sidenote, looks like I won't be posting regularly for a while (not that I ever did anyway!) since I am finding myself inordinately busy since taking on some fun and challenging volunteer work on the nights and weekends, part of which entails writing and editing grant proposals. Maybe too much but life is too short. I would love to write more but can't. It's funny though how paranoia works! I can't even imagine how Stalin must have felt.
More on Metadata
Woodland Hills, CA-based law firm Stone, Rosenblatt & Cha has signed up with UK-based 3BView in order to implement a new program called 3BClean. The program removes document metadata, ensuring secure exchange of critical business information and preventing confidential information leaks. Metadata is information about a document that has been stored by a computer after the user has deleted it. According to 3BView, 3BClean integrates directly into email systems "to provide rule-based transparent removal of sensitive information from email attachments" and can also integrate with intranet, content management, and document management systems. Although Stone, Rosenblatt & Cha is the first U.S. client for 3BView, a number of American law firms are expected to follow suit. --www.lawcrossing.com
Sunday, December 10, 2006
"Torrents are files that you can download and open with a certain torrent program. The .torrent file is basically an announcement, which helps computers connect directly to each other to share files. You download this very small announcement file (which helps the server save time and bandwidth), and the announcement file helps you connect directly to other computers. It's probably the fastest way to download things off the internet at the moment.
"I use a really small program to run .torrents, called uTorrent: http://www.utorrent.com/
"There are a few places where you can get .torrent files to download:
"General common computer sense applies: make sure to virus scan *everything* you download, and be aware of the whole copyright issue. It's a less transparent program than Kazaa or Limewire or whatever (I think), but I'm sure if the music industry really wanted your ass, they could figure it out.
"So, if you want to try it out, download uTorrent, then download a .torrent file from one of the two sites I mentioned. Then just open the .torrent file with uTorrent, and away it goes."
That makes it clear enough! Thanks buddy!
Behind The Times
Torrents basically allow large files to be distributed and apparently are mostly used to file-share. For example, I can download (parts?) of Wenlin--a chinese language program--or even documentaries, shows, music, etc. for free using torrents.
FTP is a service that as far as I can tell allows one to transfer files (or to backup files) to an external server and share them with others if so desired. Apparently it is also used in designing or building webpages. I think some charge a fee, others don't depending on if your internet provider offers the service???
As you can see, I am still not too clear about all of their functions or uses. Anybody got some good info or tips they want to share about them?
Another service I am not familiar with is RSS feeds. I guess I am just too lazy to really go and check! Again, any tips would be great. And as I find out myself I will post more...Cheers!
Friday, December 08, 2006
Larger Than Life
After our reacquaintence with Jack, we proceeded to rather aimlessly amble the streets of Beijing, in search of nothing in particular, but as always finding the rioting comfort of each other's company. So about 11 p.m. and he gets a message on his cell phone, which read something like: "Igor, I admire your bravery and courage so much. You are great man!" And I said, who in the HELL is that? You get messages like that often lover boy? Of course, he demurred saying he hasn't told me, or anybody really, the story. What story?
Igor saved a young Chinese man's life last week. The guy jumped off a bridge intending to commit suicide and Igor happened to be taking a stroll along the river bank when he saw a body floating, and then sink into the water. There were other Chinese there watching this and Igor, without hesitation, threw off his bag and shoes and jumped in after him, blindly and desperately grasping under the brown, cold water, until finally he got hold of him. Luckily the man was close to the shore. By that time however the man was dead and Igor dragged him ashore immediately trying to resuscitate him using only what he has learned watching TV! Well it worked! and Igor said the most exhilarating moment, the most profound moment, was seeing life flow back like a jolt of electricity into the man's eyes.
Funny thing is, he didn't tell his parents, his friends, or anybody. His boss from Ukraine happened to be there that week, and with the press hounding Igor, he inevitably found out and sent flowers to Igor's parents. Anyhow, he was rewarded by the government, was on the news and headlines! And to top it off, after asking him questions like Why did you do it?! Why did you risk your life to save him?! he told the press (in Chinese): "I saw about five people next to the river, just watching, doing nothing. I thought it strange. Why didn't they jump in and save him? When it's life we're talking about, the choice is very simple. Even though I am a foreigner, I live in this city, I love this city, and I love the life and people here. It is my duty/responsibility." The next day the young man's parents brought Igor flowers and expressed their gratitude.
I found a great commentary on what Igor did on a Chinese blog. This is some of the best Chinese writing I've seen (which doesn't say much given my lack of experience). It is introspective, retrospective, well-expressed, and it is interesting because it offers a constructive criticism, which is rare: 国人缺少的恰恰就是这种朴素的生命伦理观，而今一位乌克兰小伙子用自己的勇敢行动和质朴的话语给国人上了一堂生命伦理课。(Chinese lack exactly this kind of plain moral outlook, and yet today a young Ukranian man courageously acted and offered simple and unadorned words, both to give the Chinese people a lesson in morality.)
Of course, that was never Igor's intention, he acted as he always does, with an uninhibited heart and mind.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Designed and invented in Canada, "Psiphon is a human rights software project developed by the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies [in Toronto] that allows citizens in uncensored countries to provide unfettered access to the Net through their home computers to friends and family members who live behind firewalls of states that censor."
Here's how it works:
"Psiphon works by first allowing a person in a country like Canada that does not censor Internet content to set up a user name and a password for a person in a country that does -- China, for example.
"The Canadian user would then pass on the information to the Chinese user, who would log on to the Canadian's computer and effectively use it as a server to browse the Internet without being censored by the Chinese government." --CNN article
A response to Peiking Duck's mention of Psiphon asked a good question:
Guess we'll have to see....
Saturday, December 02, 2006
To be fat or not to be fat, and where
More interestingly, it points out that the upper classes in America are significantly less overweight, are thinner than the lower classes, live longer, and are in better health. That brings up the chicken-egg question they point out: what stifled mobility, weight or class?
Anyhow, in China I would argue it is the opposite to some extent. At least amongst men, the richer, the more overweight, and the poorer the thinner. In fact, to be overweight is perhaps even a status symbol. The more money you have, the easier to get married and find a spouse. I don't know about career potential though. That's quite fascinating to think about actually. Why the hell is it that poorer Americans are so much more obese? It's usually thought that as one becomes wealthier, they can enjoy more luxurious food, eat more lavishly, and thus gain weight, which seems to be the case in China. Why is it the opposite in America?
Friday, December 01, 2006
An Unappetizing Article
Cancer is a big killer worldwide and China is no exception. I swear, each Chinese I've befriended has told me at least one story about a nuclear relative getting cancer. Not a surprise to me since I've long suspected (and I may be wrong) that exposure to carcinogens in this country is especially high. Not only from the air and water but from the food and clothing. YES! Clothing! Dies run like the godam Nile out of cheap clothes and the chemicals in the dyes are absorbed by the skin. Also, how the hell can a bellpepper stay glossy-fresh in my fridge for two weeks? It looks like they have a thin, shiny wax-like lining on them (which actually might be a kind of wax to prevent insects from digging in--this is done to apples in fact). And god only knows what the hell are in cigarettes here, especially fake ones ("the World Health Organization estimates that 10 million people will be dying annually from cigarettes by the year 2020 — a third of these in China"). I heard that wood shavings were found in some cigarettes and I've also heard that processed meats (those that are enclosed in individual airtight packages, for immediate consumption, that look like individually packaged hotdogs, but much pinker) have been found to contain plastic in them! Could just be hearsay, I know, but I have my suspicions, especially after a huge milk company, about a year and a half ago, was shut down because there were exorbitant amounts of some hormone or something in the milk.
As I argued earlier, environmental standards are a bit lax here and I wonder with how much impunity processed-goods makers, and others, take advantage of this.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
On a different note...
I had a dream the other night....
We went to Wudaokou to eat at a Korean restaurant and so the drinking began VERY early, perhaps 7pm. Then we went to meet five others (two Yankies, two Chinese, and a Korean) at a Korean bar/pub. In fact, Liu Chengfu was there! We invited him to come and it was good to see him again. Problem is, neither Igor or I remember much of seeing him! We were drinking heavily at the Korean restaurant, then went to the pub and even drank more, a lot more. Don't ask me how but I knew it was november 11 (11/11), singles day in China! And everyone except Liu Chengfu was single, so we drowned our sorrows in alcohol. I had no idea how much i drank until suddenly I realized it was WAY too much and immediately told Igor "I'm going". I had to get home. It was only 10:30. Well, long dream short, the taxi driver's retched perfume induced incessant puking the entire way home and the poor female taxi driver had to stop for me to take a dump on the street! I crawled back into the taxi with my pants down to my ankles!!!! Poor woman! Thank god it was JUST a dream. Anyhow, barely made it home. Gave the taxi 100 kuai. Got in my house and passed out on the floor immediately. Igor wasn't too familiar with where I lived, so when he left wudaokou later, he simply told the taxi: Go to the hutongs!!!! funny! Anyhow, he miraculously made it back to my house but couldn't get in because you have to have a security card (which is strange--who woulda thought a security card for a siheyuan!?). So he threw small stones at my window. Of course, I was passed out, didn't hear a thing and while he was picking up rocks, he found my wallet on the ground!!!! Well, next thing he did was break my fucking window! I still didn't hear it! And so he went to a hotel and we met the next morning, both laughing. Then I woke up. Never thought a dream could be so vivid and...well, inane.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Speaking real quickly (I just finished and actually, this may not be so quickly) of outsourcing. Bad thing or good? To be honest, I don't know enough about the issue. What i do know is that outsourcing isn't always such a bad thing. Of course, if it were my father's job that was outsourced I'd probably say otherwise, but it's not. And what I see here in China is that there are not only more qualified Chinese to take the more technologically advanced jobs but the are willing to work harder and more for less. At the same time they get paid better, derive more benefits, and have a reliable and steady income. In fact, they are happy to have this job because it's not boring, there are opportunities for advancement, and the experience is great. Plus, it keeps prices low worldwide to some extent. For example, I know a semiconductor engineer that who makes about 7,500 RMB ($1000) per month (25,000 RMB/yr. is the threshold for being a serious consumer in China), which is not bad at all for a country whose average income is $300 per month. She works at least 50 hours per week and is happy with her job (she's been given a raise once and is up for review annually to receive others). And why not mention that western companies generally bring better standards abroad (very generally, that is). More and more Chinese, at least in second and third-tier cities, prefer to do business with foreign investment companies because they know they will abide by the contractual terms; they don't have to be suspicious about that truly rampant Chinese phenomenon of going behind the other party's back to make a bigger gain but hurting the overall deal.
Of course, there are the negative aspects too. China's greatest problem in my opinion is pollution. If anything will bring China down in the next twenty years or so it will be a series of severe environmental catastrophes. Unless China cleans up its act, literally, there's no way nature can bear the environmental burden. Foreign investment also takes advantage of the lax environmental standards in China and this is a true shame. In my opinion, China is the toxic dump of many international companies taking advantage of rarely enforced environmental laws and highly corrupt provincial officials. Of course, one also cannot exclude Chinese-owned and operated companies either. In fact, chances are they are worse. But billions of dollars have been invested by foreign companies to produce chemicals and materials whose waste is dumped raw and untreated, whose viscous fumes are bellowed brazenly without contrition, and one day the Chinese are going to wake up to this. In fact, I am sure many of you have heard that there were 74,000 protests in 2004 (this year it is down to like 50,000 I believe--their clamping down). Well, most of those are land confiscation and environmental protests. Most, if not all of the people are innocent farmers who are powerless against a system that pays no heed, that doesn't give a shit because development and a "harmonious society" are more important, guanxi is more important than people's lives.
But hey, the same thing was happening in the US between at least 1890 and 1950. But China, as someone recently said, has forced what took the west 200 years into 20. The law has not had any mentionable developments. So we'll see what happens...Anyhow, here are some stats, all from reliable sources:
· The Xinhua report (gov't funded newspaper=low estimate) cited Pan as saying that
is paying a huge price for its economic growth...The cost of environmental pollution and ecological damage is thought reach as much as 8 to 12 per cent of China 's annual output - or about as high as the country's annual growth. China
- Around half the population, or 600m people, have water supplies that are contaminated by animal and human waste.
- According to the World Bank,
has 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities. Estimates suggest that 300,000 people a year die prematurely from respiratory diseases. China
- The main reason is that around 70% of
China's mushrooming energy needs are supplied by coal-fired power stations, compared with 50% in . Combined with the still widespread use of coal burners to heat homes, America has the world's highest emissions of sulphur dioxide and a quarter of the country endures acid rain. In 2002, SEPA found that the air quality in almost two-thirds of 300 cities it tested failed World Health Organisation standards China
- It is no rarity, therefore, to find a bureau imposing a fine on a dirty local enterprise (thus fulfilling its duty), but then passing the money on to the local administration, which refunds it to the company via a tax break.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Guilt v Shame
In the West, the feeling of guilt is very personal, very individualistic and happens psychologically immediately after the deed or even just after the thought of the deed. For some the feeling is psychologically stultifying, for others it's just a small voice that says "you are bad" or "that is wrong" and acts as preemptive force to dissuade one from committing the act (again). This happens in the mind of the individual, whether or not somebody else knows about it. So, if I cheat or steal or lie, perhaps I will feel guilty, or even the thought beforehand may prevent me from doing it (barring other factors like I am starving and need to steal a loaf of bread). And shame, for the most part, only comes after guilt, though it can certainly intensify it too.
On the other hand, we tentatively reasoned, in China guilt is something that comes after shame. That is, if somebody, namely a Chinese, does something that is a social foux pas, they don't feel guilty until after somebody or the community finds out. This is interesting because one wonders then what prevents the Chinese, in this case, from committing an unethical act they feel they can do it unnoticed?
And even more interesting, the feelings of shame and then guilt in China only surface based on the communities prescriptive and proscriptive values. For example, if flogging a small helpless and chained-up dog is not considered a bad thing by the community or society, not something to lose face over, then no feelings of guilt or regret will surface in the flogger. So it is interesting how it is society's values, or put in a different way, your face in society, that keeps the individual in check, that draws the ethical parameters (and explains why chit-chat is so goddam prevalent here). Interesting too how with a change in societal values comes a change in when one can be shamed. For example, not too long ago in China it was accepted that a man have a concubine or another lover. In fact, it was expected. "Hey Chen, how's the paramour doing today? Well, tell her I say hello! And bring her and your wife over to eat sometime..." However, this changed substantially after the cultural revolution, though not entirely, and today is considered much more shameful (the Taiwanese, interestingly, who were not influenced by the cultural revolution, are infamous for having paramours).
In the West, admittedly, not all people feel guilt and of course many heinous acts are committed even by seemingly normal people. So guilt doesn't always work, but those things that do create guilt in the Judeo-Christian sense have been put into laws that have more or less been enforced, and it is the law (and infrastructure put in place to enforce the law, as demented as it sometimes can be) that also keeps us in check. So, you beat your kid and the neighbor calls child services, you never see your kid again and are locked up for ten years with a $100,000 fine. Meanwhile the kid is convinced he/she is scarred for life, feels guilty or shamed that he/she is different, goes on meds, and later tries to commit suicide (or something like that). In China, on the other hand, one, the law is the last thing people resort to (though this is slowly changing) and two, it is okay to hit one's kid (to a certain extent) and the kid even expects it!! In fact, there is even an expression that goes something like "to hit is to love, to scold is to care" in Chinese. Maybe the law in the West is the society in the East, and vice versa???
Well, this entry turned out to be way longer and more complicated with more tangents than I intended but I hope the crux is intelligible. Any opinions??? I am especially interested to hear about where Mongolians might fall on this guilt/shame spectrum, or if they even do...!
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Law School Apps About Over!!!
Life in a siheyuan (四合院)
I didn't know this when I moved in but in the middle of the maze of hutongs and siheyuans I live in is the solemn and serene Pudusi temple. Perfect place to go for a walk, read a book, etc. Here it is:
Pops and Paige in Beijing
The traffic and endless crowds sometimes got to them but they were troopers and I was happy they enjoyed their stay. My father even wants to try to come again and I hope he does. If so, then we go to the countryside since on this trip they only saw the big cities (we went to Shanghai for a long weekend too). And I don't know why but they had some sort of fetish for paintings of Qing dynasty maidens and managed to bring home something around the order of twelve! I told my dad he's subconsciously fulfilling his fantasy of having a harem! "No, they are gifts (smile)." Sure pop, ah huh.
While in Shanghai we got to meet a very good friend of mine, William, who I met at UCLA. We hadn't seen each other in at least four years and it was great seeing him again. He took us out to lunch with his girlfriend and we had a blast. He and my father really connected and I think by all of our laughing and demands from the servers, we drove out some of the customers and drove some servers insane! Very memorable time. But Shanghai is not a place for traveling unless you like shopping. Nothing else really to see there except people and skyscrapers (if the air is somehow clear that is), and madness. Made me realize how happy I am to be in Beijing.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
An Auspicious Day
I brought a baomu, or housemaid, down there with me (usually eight kuai ($1) an hour but I paid her ten and for her traveling time) since the landlord hadn't rented the place out for at the very least a year and the whole place was covered with a thick winter coat of dust. China has this backward policy that whoever rents cleans. So I can be as dirty and putrid as I want and as long as I don't break anything I can leave the place in a fetid disorder and coated with dirt while the next renter is responible for cleaning it. Terrible. Anyhow, AT LEAST it was just dust this time. So the housemaid spent six hours doing heavy-duty dusting while I went back home to bring all my stuff. I am officially moved down but of course, nothing ever goes perfectly on the mainland. China wouldn't be China if it did. So, currently I have no phone, no internet, no TV, no heating, and no hot water. The good news is, this isn't really that bad. Really!
What makes the day auspicious is that I got my LSAT score back and did better than I expected! So when I read the e-mail I screamed for joy, kicked my slipper off, and instead of going out, it went up and hit my light causing one of the glass frames around the bulb to fall and shatter! Speaking to a friend later, her mom (a Philipina) swears that broken glass is good luck. Well, let's hope she's right! Anyhow, my score at least makes me eligible to apply and have a good chance of being admitted to a school of law like UCLA, and doesn't cut out the possibility of Boalt, though unlikely. So it was a good day.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Time to Move On
The commute to work everyday is hell. I live about a ten minute bike ride to the rail, which then connects indirectly with the subway, then I have to transfer to a different line before I finally arrive at work an hour later after being squashed like the last unwelcome pea in one messed up pod. Add to this that everybody is tired and grumpy, probably didn't brush their teeth after eating loads of raw garlic the night before, and believe me, it is not the thing I most look forward to each day. At least the garlic gases act as a pungent ammonia-like substance and thus wake me up a bit. God, that is a sad rationalization! Anyhow, I figure I lose three hours each day living so far away (I live in Wudaokou and my work is at Wangfujing--for those of you familiar with Beijing), one hour being lost going to bed an hour early. Yes, I know, poor me!
Anyhow, I happened to stumble upon a wonderful place (thanks Julia!) to live near my work, a place called Nanchizi （南池子), which is located right near Tiananmen square and is a five minute walk away from work. So it is super centralized, close to work, and as peaceful and serene as one could ask for in almost the direct center of Beijing. Basically, it is in one of the few remaining enclaves of traditional Chinese homes near Tiananmen Square. By traditional I mean the rustic and rapidly disappearing siheyuan (四合院）, or Chinese courtyard, along with its unique beat and vibe stemming from the extreme community from living in such close quarters; in fact, the siheyuan was and still to some extent remains an integral part of the infamous hutongs (胡同）and its architectural layout is demonstrative of Chinese morality, ethics, and tradition. It's basically a sqaured enclosure with one entrance, inside of which usually in the middle is a nice garden (this one does indeed have a nice one) and in the past typically lived one big family of as many as four generations. Now, usually each room or one of the four sides inside is rented out. I got a nice place, two floors, one bedroom, overlooking the garden, and will be sharing the rest of the courtyard with a few Chinese families and a couple of foreigners. And I got super lucky finding this place for the price I did. They are in such high demand that finding a single room in a siheyuan is almost impossible, especially in this extremely well-located and coveted area. So, if everything works out this coming Saturday, I should be moved in by Sunday evening, right in time for my father and stepmother's arrival on Wednesday. May the gods be wonderful!
Congratulations Christina and Tristen!
This weekend my good friends Christina and Tristen had their wedding ceremony. It was totally unique in that almost everyone involved rode bicycles to the ceremony--a peaceful place near a temple about 20 kilometers (12 miles) away from our starting point, in the deep suburbs of northwest beijing. Tristen in fact rode Christina (who is now about four months pregnant) all the way there! It was hilarious riding through the city, all the Chinese staring at us and smiling at our 20-strong bike parade, all of the bikes having ribbons and balloons attached to them. Tristen had a huge red bow strapped to his body while Christina was wearing a beautiful violet dress. Once there, we had a barbeque frenzy and played games like frisbee, badminton, and something similar to hackysack. And we happened to be near some beekeepers who sold me a whole hell of a lot of honey for cheap! And it is sooo good!
For Tristen, the ride was no problem, as he is a bicyclist par extreme, having ridden to Tibet and beyond with his best buds, as well as to many other rugged and extreme areas of China. Anyhow, he is a true gentlemen in every sense of the word and they are some of the kindest, most down to earth and purest people I have ever met. Christina and I met while I was teaching at Qinghua and we pretty much hit it off after we realized that we both served in Peace Corps; she served in Ghana. And I will be here to see their child when it's born! Can't wait!
I also learned about a couple of Chinese traditions during weddings, one being the groom, when he goes to pick up the bride, must first find her hidden shoes in her home before they leave together. And before that he is locked out and must slip some cash under the door in a red envelope as a sort of bribe to unlock the door! What a spot to be in! I wonder if the bride can bargain?
Saturday, October 07, 2006
May You Be Forewarned....
And I Thought I Was Hardcore!
Now ain't that a treat! And I thought I was hardcore in Mongolia fending off the seven-month subzero temperatures. Think again...:) I'd choose weather versus bugs any day! Keep at it Laura!!
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Back in Beijing For Better or Worse :)
<--Looks fake doesn't it? Hong Kong
Is it good to be back? Not really. It's funny how you don't really know what you are missing until you've walked right into the middle of it! Though I was only in Shenzhen and Hong Kong each for two days, it was like "one taste of the lavish life always leaves you longing for more." The differences between Beijing and Shenzhen, not to mention Hong Kong, are dramatic. And I was constanly asking myself, what the hell am I doing living in Beijing?! I realized just how rude Beijingers are and how bad the pollution weighs on one's sanity. Shenzhen and Hong Kong are much cleaner, especially Hong Kong, which has a high population density but somehow manages to keep extremely tidy and clean. I was shocked at the contrast with Beijing. And the people in Hong Kong, especially Shenzhen, are just plain nice! That was a very welcome surprise. I met more people in five days than I meet in Beijing in three weeks! There was no friction in conversations and people actually smiled! Holy crap! Couldn't believe it. And imagine this: when I had to exchange renminbi for HK dollars in Shenzhen the woman at the bank told me the formalities are formidable for foreigners; and then she said, "forget it, just use my id number and information"! My god! That would NEVER happen in Beijing! And by far the most eerie thing was absolutely no bicycles in either cities! Seems like they're as taboo or faux pas as rabid dogs or something. Another thing about Hong Kong is that it has a vibrance and ambiance that is unique and addictive, a pace of life that calls for more and faster, more and faster.... Not sure if I could live with this for an extended period. But case in point, sometimes I couldn't even slow down on the street or stop to look at some stores! I had to move to the side! The opposite in Beijing. Usually I am passing people wondering how they can walk and move so slowly. Futher, the whole time I never saw anyone spit, litter, yell, or argue. I heard just one car honk and, believe me, I was in a bustling little place of Hong Kong, called Yau Ma Tei (油麻地）。 A great place to stay that was introduced to me by Wang Wei--my Chinese friend who hooked me up a place to stay in Shenzhen. Amazing array of little shops, myriad small quaint restaurants, and a lot of small labrynth-like alleyways to explore. Thank you Wang Wei! She is soo cool! And very courageous following her heart's desire down to Shenzhen. Former teacher, now friend, I am happy we met again. She almost convinced me to move down there too! If it weren't for that internship, I probably would have given it some serious consideration. All in all, everything worked out without a hitch. And it's good to be back, for now...
Saturday, September 23, 2006
A moot point?
Pops and Paige Coming to Carouse in Peiking
Shenzhen, Hong Kong, LSAT, Beijing
What a pain-in-the-ass date they chose though! It is during one of the biggest national holidays in China, and with the country becoming more affluent, that means more people able to travel, which means more demand for a limited supply of tickets. Maybe I should have just waited for the December test, which I can take right here in Beijing. Well, at least if I am not happy with my score I can retake the test in December, right? Anyhow, in order to try to minimize traveling expenses and time, I am taking a train straight from Beijing to Shenzhen, a 24-hour ride with a hard-sleeper ticket, which costs approximately $55, one way. The frustrating thing is that you can only buy train tickets four days in advance (I think this policy is changing soon, if not already, though the rules are unclear) and only in the city from which you are leaving! This considerably limits my options and chances of even getting the ticket. Plus, you can imagine waiting in the half-mile-long lines for buying such a ticket with the possibility of not even getting it.
Shenzhen is seemingly a very interesting city. In order to understand why, you have to understand that Hong Kong is a special economic zone (we all know that, I know) and that for a Chinese mainlander (that is, all Chinese living in China excluding those in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macao), a special visa, or some permit, is required to go there, which severely limits the number. For us foreigners, you have to have a single entry visa either as part of your current visa or separately. Shenzhen is interesting because it is the border town, the buffer as it were between Hong Kong and the mainland and therefore, I would imagine, is a kind of an amalgam of both: cheap but with that unique Hong Kong energy and express. From Shenzhen it is apparently quite easy to go to Hong Kong for foreigners. The trouble is coming back. It would be comparable to a US citizen going to Tijuana: you just drive across the border without stopping but upon return you need a valid ID and are subject to inspection. For those from Hong Kong entering the mainland, I am not exactly sure but I would be highly surprised if they can't come and go as they please.
So what I decided to do was buy an earlier ticket to go down thus enabling me enough time to buy a ticket from Shenzhen to Beijing. But I soon realized this is impractical since there is no guarantee of a ticket no matter how early I arrive to buy tickets and the day I would like to return is the busiest traveling day during the vacation! Well, then, what to do? I settled on buying a one-way plane ticket from Shenzhen to Beijing, leaving on the day of my test. It is a 2hr 50min flight and cost $150 (and will be delivered for free any minute now). That is a hefty price to pay being inflated for the holiday and I could have gotten a ticket two days later for $105, but I figure I can skip the lines, the chances of not getting a train ticket back, and the 24-hour ride back thereby eliminating all of the ambiguities, expenses involved, and time issues. Plus, I have a good Chinese friend in Shenzhen that I will be staying with (Thank You WangWei!!!) so I don't mind arriving a bit early. And, this will give me about day to explore Hong Kong a bit before I head back to Beijing to prepare applications and get ready for a 9-6 workweek.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Some Spontaneous Words
- Life is complex, the human soul an imbroglio! The grass grows, the rain comes, the river runs, and dries, and dies. Mountains rise, mountains wash away—indeed—the earth constantly changes, metamorphosing a billion years becomes one month in the life of caterpillars. As the world changes, we live and die, let live, let die. But who sees the silhouette of the butterfly at dusk, at dawn? Life goes on….
- Did you see it? There it goes! A seed was traveling, carried with the wind. Where will it land? This my good and humbled friend, is life.
- I can only offer you that which god has offered me: a mind, a heart, a soul; and a voice to express them all.
- One taste of the lavish life, like a potent drug, leads you always longing for more.
- That place where you find yourself and lose yourself. The only place where security and insecurity fall away, and you are left with only your self. This is the place I strive to live in, to base my relations and reality—‘tis the alpha and omega, the genesis of my being. Boundaries collapse and where am I to go but nowhere. That is beauty, that is pure feeling, pure self.
- What would wisdom be without sharing it?
- Like the innocence of a star, you’ve touched me.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Quote of the Week #6
Monday, September 18, 2006
Applying for a visa to America? Well,....
"Most programs that create documents, including Microsoft Word and other Microsoft Office products, save metadata with the document files. These metadata can contain the name of the person who created the file (obtained from the operating system), the name of the person who last edited the file, how many times the file has been printed, and even how many revisions have been made on the file. Other saved material, such as deleted text (!!) (saved in case of an undelete command), document comments and the like, is also commonly referred to as "metadata", and the inadvertent inclusion of this material in distributed files has sometimes led to undesirable disclosures."--Wikipedia
The implications that metadata can have on a legal case are enormous. In fact, apparently some cases, after metadata had been discovered and then applied to documents in closed cases, have been completely overturned(the DNA of documents?). That is amazing. Who would've thought? So next time you exchange those anger-charged words for nicer euphemisms, or sneak in a change in a document, be on the alert. Could come around to bite ya in the arse.
It is also interesting to note that since the whole metadata discovery has come about, lawyers apparently are using Adobe Acrobat (a program which can either be manipulated not to store it, or does not allow it, or just shows the changes outright--I'm not quite sure yet which or if all) when exchanging documents such as contracts with the opposing lawyers, say during negotiation. Whether it is stored in e-mails, I cannot say but I would like to find out.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Go Eliot Spitzer!
The first time I heard about this man, I was watching a CSPAN2 broadcast of him speaking at some event. I was amused by one of the stories he told: Having a family dinner one night, he asked his daughter, who I believe is in her early teens or something, what her favorite word is. She said "I don't have one dad but I know what yours is." Oh yeah, he said, what is it? "Fiduciary duty"! Very telling.
Some fun and insightful international proverbs!
A courtyard common to all will be swept by none.
A thief believes everybody steals.
--Proverb of Unknown Origin
He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount.
If the patient dies, the doctor has killed him, but if he gets well, god has saved him.
Never marry for money. Ye'll borrow it cheaper.
Think with the wise but walk with the vulgar.
Trust in Allah, but tie your camel.
--Old Muslim Proverb
Want a thing long enough and you don't.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
In the news...
- Accepted by other deans and counselors with astonishment and delight, Harvard university, breaking with a major trend in college admissions, says it will eliminate its early admissions program next year, with university officials arguing that such programs put low-income and minority applicants at a distinct disadvantage in the competition to get into selective universities. --NYT
- Over the last decade or so, the FDA has quietly become an agent of organized scientific fraud designed to promote the profits of drug companies at the expense of public health. One of the ways this is accomplished is by rigging drug review panels with industry "experts" who maintain financial ties to pharmaceutical companies. All FDA drug review panels have members with such ties, and the FDA insists it has no obligation to disclose the ties.--NewsTarget
- Did you know that school shootings almost always involve children who are taking
- Halliburton, the notorious U.S. energy company, sold key nuclear-reactor components to a private Iranian oil company called Oriental Oil Kish as recently as 2005, using offshore subsidiaries to circumvent U.S. sanctions. The story is particularly juicy because Vice President Dick Cheney, who now claims to want to stop Iran from getting nukes, was president of Halliburton in the mid-1990s, at which time he may have advocated business dealings with Iran, in violation of U.S. law.--Truthout/Globalresearch.ca
- As hunger and homelessness rise in the United States, the Bush administration plans to get rid of a data source that supports this embarrassing reality, a survey that's been used to improve state and federal programs for retired and low-income Americans. In 2003, the Bush Administration tried to whack the Bureau of Labor Statistics report on mass layoffs and in 2004 and 2005 attempted to drop the bureau's questions on the hiring and firing of women from its employment data.--New Standard/Oneworld.net
- Though record numbers of federal workers have been sounding the alarm on waste, fraud, and other financial abuse since George W. Bush became president, the agency charged with defending government whistleblowers has reportedly been throwing out hundreds of cases - and advancing almost none. Statistics released at the end of 2005 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility led to claims that special counsel Scott Bloch, who was appointed by Bush in 2004, is overseeing the systematic elimination of whistleblower rights.--PEER website
- Governments deny global warming is happening as they rush to map the ocean floor in the hopes of claiming rights to oil, gas, gold, diamonds, copper, zinc and the planet's last pristine fishing grounds. Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2005 found "the first clear evidence that the world ocean is growing warmer," including the discovery "that the top half-mile of the ocean has warmed dramatically in the past 40 years as the result of human-induced greenhouse gases."--Mother Jones
- The total number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in America is about 1 million with 40,000 people becoming infected each year. In China, the total number of people infected is about 650,000 with about 70,000 becoming infected--Avert.org
- San Francisco may get universal healthcare. --USA Today
Apologies to those who have commented!
Sunday, September 10, 2006
在人类生活中只有两个循环的规律：凝聚和分开。 例如: 出生（分开母亲）， 恋爱，毕业， 丢珍惜的东西， 亲戚出世， 结婚，离婚, 自己的死亡, 什么的。现在就是。 还得说有情有可原的情况 (extenuating circumstances, 掩饰情形)。也可能我还是害怕把我自己变成一个责任的人。
反正，我只希望她会找到一个开心的生活， 希望她找到一个人好心好对她的行为尊重的男孩。 我不能给他这种的生活,这种的情况. 所以不要吝啬,不要只想我自己, 而要为她着想. 放弃吧.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Chinese Inventions, Discoveries, etc.
- mechanical clock (Tang dynasty, lost and then reintroduced from Europe)
- first to make cast iron and soon after invented the iron plow
- Chinese metallurgists first to make steel
- first to notice all snowflakes have six sides
- phosphorescent paint
- spinning wheel
- sliding calipers
- stink bomb
- chain pump (1st centure A.D., still in use)
- kite (2000 years before one was flown in Europe)
- movable type
- devised first printed book ("Diamond Sutra", 868)
- possibly the printing press (Gutenberg got it from Portuguese, who got it from Chinese)
- suspension bridge and first bridge with segmented arch
- playing cards
- fishing reels
- first sailors to use rudders
- paper money
- first people to use wallpaper
- paper (including toilet)
- first design of steam engine
- poison gas
- mechanical pump
The Top 10 Things Food Companies Don't Want You to Know
Friday, September 01, 2006
Walmart Unionized in China?
"But less is here than meets the eye. The federation [Federation of Trade Unions] is not a union alliance in the Western sense. It's controlled by the ruling Communist Party, allows no competing labor unions, rejects free elections of its leaders and often goes to bat on the side of management over workers under the guise of harmonious economic development.
It's also a federation in a fix. It struggles to gain dues-paying members in the thriving private sector and craves international legitimacy. Almost no union confederation abroad recognizes it officially."
Well, great PR deal for Walmart, who now looks somewhat more benevolent on the surface. But it seams to be little more than a small step on a very long road. I suppose at least something is better than nothing. In any case, for those of you who shop at Walmart (and I must admit I have before), this is part of what keeps the prices down. And, Walmart is, after all, creating tons of jobs and gives all of its workers medical and retirement benefits, maternity and paternity leave, as well as other benefits, which certainly is not bad for China.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
The bad news is that the pay is not as great as one would like it to be. Given what normal interns, that is, Chinese interns (and even lawyers), are paid, it is not bad. Enough to live on (as an expat in China barely). Given my salary at Qinghua though, well, let's just say I am going to have to cut down on play time, sushi, and snacks. But is it worth it? I think so. And I negotiated during tonight's phone call that in the contract on Monday we amend a stipulation or clause that after a preliminary period (perhaps two months), it could be, but not guaranteed to be, renegotiated. Well, then, wish me luck!
A good respite
I think the highlight of his coming to Beijing was seeing him happy with his fiancee, and showing her around a city that dwarfs her capital at least 10 times. She experienced for the first time with him flying on a plane, witnessing a pellmell skyline with perhaps most of the buildings being far taller than any in UB (in fact, I live on the fifteenth floor and their first stop was my place where he remarked that it was her first time being so high in a building), giving her scorpions, crickets, seafood (the Mongolians in general shun seafood for obvious reasons), and other goodies like Beijing roast duck. She is a wonderful woman, who loves Alec dearly and has that wonderful and unique ability to make people feel very comfortable around her.
Another highlight was finally hanging out with the legendary Oyuntamen, a contemporary national boxing hero in Mongolia. He happened to be in Beijing and is perhaps Alec's best Mongolian friend. Well, being Mongolian, he has an innate ability to drink heavily and being a boxer (an internationally known as well) is not really scared of anyone or anything. I should mention also that he is not the most modest man I've ever met and proved to be a funny and inspiring guy to hang out with because of his energy and lack of super-ego mannerisms! We had a great time. I also got a kick out of seeing him interact with other Mongolians, who, because of course they know who he is by name and face, did their absolute best not to offend him by a wayward smile, wrong word, etc!
(no need to point out who is who I suppose)
I was also entirely touched by what Alec did for his research as an MIIS grad student this summer: collected data and put together a report about human traficking in Mongolia. A saddenning and perhaps bleak analysis of the situation in Mongolia. Well, thanks to his research and perhaps the work of some NGOs and PCVs the situation might improve. Let's hope.
Huamachuco Textiles and the Coya/Sarita Belt
Perhaps the most startling and exciting aspect of their research is that the Coya belt is the only extant weaving tradition directly descended from the Incas. Read that again. This find is so incredible it's unbelievable. The Incas, at the height of their civilization, weaved what are regarded as some of (if not the) the finest textiles in the world (called qumpi), primarily to be worn only by the coyas or Inca queens and princesses, the belt only being worn during corn festivals (Sara in quechua means corn) . Unfortunately, the Spanish conquistadores came and wiped out or inexorably influenced the native traditions of the Incas in practically all facets, including weaving. How this unbroken tradition continued is part of the ongoing research. Why this area, which is relatively far from the Inca capital of Cuzco? How was it not influenced as substantially and extensively as the other areas? And why this belt when there were myriad other types of textiles?
Add to this the super complexity of weaving this belt (multiple heddles, warp-faced and double-sided with geometric motifs in four colors), and one has quite a tale to tell. The historical documents and chance-like provenance that enabled them to make the identification were such auspicious and coincidental finds (a Divinci Code-like tale) that one has only fate to thank for pointing (and of course, good research!) in the right direction.
The textiles, or blankets, originating in the same area, one must conclude then, are part and parcel of this weaving tradition. Their history and development of motifs, patterns, symbols, borders, warp v. weft faced, etc. is different than that of the belts and has all been miraculously documented. Of course, this all never could have happened if it weren't for the Huamachucans themselves (some of which have been my uncle's best friends for thirty years), and so my uncle has dedicated his book, in part, to them in his ongoing effort to make sure that out of all, they benefit the most.
It's been a bumpy road full of pot holes, ditches, ambiguities, hazards, driving sometimes in pitch black darkness--things that would make most people give up or lose hope and turn back around.
Congratulations Uncle Joe on all your hard work. Upward and onward.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Aug. 18, 2006
China’s UN Ambassador Asks the US to Shut Up
China’s Ambassador to the UN Sha Zukang admonished Washington yesterday of interfering in Beijing’s domestic affairs, particularly in its military program. Asked by a BBC reporter about China’s growing military budget, Sha Zukang did not contain himself and shouted out: “The population of China is six times as much as that of the United States. So, it’s time for Americans to shut up and keep quiet. They will be better off like this.”
“The United States have the right to settle domestic problems on its own, so let them not pry into China’s internal affairs,” the Chinese diplomat said. Sha Zukang also warned that if Taiwan declares independency and any country recognizes it, China will apply military force. “It is not a question of how big Taiwan is. Each centimeter of Chinese land is more important to us than lives of our soldiers,” the Chinese ambassador to UN stated openly.
China has not spoken so harsh on the Taiwan issue for a couple of years. These blunt words may cost Sha Zukang his post and career but the speech of China’s ambassador to the UN shows the hardening of the Chinese leadership’s stance on the Taiwan issue and possible conflict with the United States.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
The generation gap and cultural revolution in China
So true. I never cease to be amazed at how those people who lived or were brought up during the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution (often with siblings) differ so much between their children (all "Little Emperors", or single children). The former conserve and save everything, don't waste a shilling, a drop of water, a piece of plastic, or a grain of rice. The latter inherently believe that everything should be done for them, that they have little responsibility, and that they are entitled to this right, among other things.
Though the gap is HUGE, and arguably the older generation does have some comendable qualities, there are some other aspects of the cultural revolution that just ruined China as a civilized country. Take for example this news from an article in a Chinese newspaper regarding "The official Spiritual Civilization Steering Committee's 'Campaign to Promote Civilized Chinese Travelers'" :
"The committee cited some Chinese tourists' lack of concern for appearance, hygiene, courtesy, the law, the environment and public infrastructure, as damaging "the image of China as a civilized country" and generating "widespread attention and criticism domestically and overseas.
Many tourists clear their throats loudly and spit, take off shoes aboard planes and trains, squat and smoke in public places, and often appear uncouth," the China Daily said.
I am convinced that it was the cultural revolution that literally turned China upside down for just one decade that precipitated one of the largest reversals in at least some aspects of the culture in China's recent history. For a wonderful, even psychological, account of the intricacies how this happened, read the enchanting, engaging, and touching book, "Wild Swans", written by the first Chinese woman to get a PhD in Britain.
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Perhaps it wasn't tampering after all. But I still have my doubts! Funny, I read a book here taking an objectivist approach to American 'culture' and one of the quintessential traits of a trained American is to always be suspect about conspiracy theories!!!
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
I FINALLY moved into a new place! Yep, and it's really nice. Had to ditch my roommate for good and have some peace of mind (that is, no treading dirt, no cockroaches, no clogged toilet, no nasty smells, no dirty basin, no tatooed and pierced gangster-garbed kids coming to my home late at night and staying there the whole next day, no constant break downs of anything, no bad breath, no inconsiderateness, a reliable air conditioner, an elevator, trash system, modern amenities, good clean smells, a nice view, a living room, not as much dust, a reliable lock on my door....). Okay, so I think you get the point. The downside: costs about $100 more per month. But is it worth it? You bet your ass it is.
Today I met a Korean girl who is one of five volunteers for the UN in Beijing. A little extraordinary she is I must say, having volunteered for two years in Sri Lanka (she was there when the tsunami hit), a couple of months on the island of Hainan, China, and is now here for two years in Beijing with the goal of eventually getting permanent UN employment later on in either Calcutta, NY, Geneva, etc. Well, an anomaly indeed. She is from Korea's biggest island, Je-ju, which happens to have deeper historical links to Mongolia than mainland Korea, and also explains how we fortuitously met. She was looking for some Mongolians online, I told her I knew some, yadda yadda yadda...Anyhow, George, if you are reading this, we might go to Mongolia together for your wedding!