Friday, December 29, 2006

Losers and Winners of the Great Internet Outtage of 2006/07:


Taiwanese people
For the Taiwanese, this is much more than their MSN being disrupted. Do what you can to help out.
Businesses dependent on the internet/MSN
Both Chinese, Taiwanese and American businesses that depend on instant messenging (IM) for up-to-date information are losing time and information.
Microsoft, US websites
I already switched to Baidu for some searches because it filters out more American sites that don't work; MSN is also getting mud on its face because it didn't have back-up servers ready, and all people are being told is that the back-up doesn't exist "for historical reasons."


Chinese internet users (proxies!)
Already, average Chinese internet users are learning to use proxies to access foreign sites and log onto MSN. Experts warn that using proxies means handing off your passwords to strangers, but that is unlikely to stop people from using them.
Tencent's QQ, Lava-Lava, Taobao's WangWang, and 163's Popo
Domestic IM services are reporting large increases in registered users, and spectacularly large increases in the number of users online.
People who read my Public Transportation Weblog
With no English-language web to surf, I find myself trolling BBSs with forums on Shanghai metro and bus systems for interesting links and stories to post, hehe.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Chinese internet is cut off from the American internet because of the earthquake in Taiwan. Expect less frequent posts and e-mails for now but rest assured that I'm looking for ways around this inconvenience.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I spliced the phone cord where Poopy chewed on it, and now we're back online.

I had dinner with Jodi last night on the backstreets of Nanjing East Rd and saw paperback books for sale with all the dirt on Cheng Liangyu. Sorta freaky given that I was recently digging through old copies of the Xinming Evening News, which featured the former mayor's public proclamations on their front page pretty much every day. Wonder how big a book you could write on Hang Zheng, and how long it'll be before it comes out...

Friday, December 22, 2006

From Muninn, Planes, Airports, and the Military:

As I started thinking about this I realized I had really mixed feelings about all this. Last Christmas when I arrived in Tulsa I saw a couple sit down next to a soldier returning from Iraq near the baggage claim and ask him sympathetically about the challenges of his military duty there. I remembered how difficult it seemed to be for him to put his experiences into simple sentences to share with these inquisitive strangers.

I have similarly conflicted feelings about the military, but they are starting to become more clear. I fear, though, that my writing will never be as vivid and moving as Muninn's.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

There's a Citibank going in at the rear of 龙之梦 Mall at Zhongshan Park, next to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Citibank was one of the ten foreign banks to apply for full operational status after WTO commitments came due this December. Foreign banks now operate under the same rules as domestic banks, the most obvious result being that those banks can now offer accounts in the local currency to individuals.

We may be buying a house in the next year or two. It's something to keep in mind.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Back when Asa and Chris lived by the Shanghai train station (ah, those were the days), they introduced me to a neighborhood that has sat in a back corner of my mind for months. It's the winding maze of alleys and ad-hoc housing built up around 地梨港路 Diligang Road, sometimes called the 地梨港路住宅小区 (I'm sure it has a historical name, but I haven't found it... yet. Maybe a left-over bit of 蕃瓜弄?).

Inspired by my current read of Hanchao Lu's Beyond the Neon Lights: Everyday Shanghai in the Early Twentieth Shanghai, I decided to take a trip through one of Shanghai's few remaining shantytowns, and certainly the most central one. And you thought that 里弄 alley housing was Shanghai's only characteristic housing!







Doing some research online, I found out that the neighborhood is seen as dirty and a nuisance by the Zhabei district government:



In fact, according to the police report it's a hideout for thieves!


The Diligang Road area is densely populated with small residential housing, and veined with small twisty lanes. The first time you go there, if you don't have somebody to guide you then you will get the impression that you've walked into a labyrinth. In the past few years, no small number of domestic migrants [the so-called "floating population", an easy target for finger-pointers in Shanghai --MS] have moved into this area. To capture the thief Huang Junhua in this tricky area was no easy task.

So... if you want to see/photograph one of Shanghai's most accessible and quaint shantytowns (and I don't feel gentrification-guilt saying that, because alley housing and Western villas get all the attention from Shanghai's expat photographers), or if you're looking for cheap housing, or 民工 construction clothes, head over to the Shanghai Railway Station's north square, hang a left past the long-distance bus station, and look for the slums on your right. Demolition has already begun.


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This morning while walking to the metro I almost slipped on a patch of ice in front of the New World Mayfair. Will it be a white Christmas?


Friday, December 15, 2006

BitTorrent downloads at 256.8 kilobites per second with 9 seeds and running on a Dreamhost account.

Check out those download speeds. Christmas cheer coming in at 256 KB/s.

John Denver and the Muppets' "A Christmas Together"

(And now I'm rocking out to the Sesame Street Christmas Sing-a-long. Woo!)

(OK, go wild: John Denver & the Muppets, and Sesame Street. Up for a limited time.)

Today Danwei's Joel Martinsen translated an essay titled "Prison Break as a view into American prison administration" by "Top Gudong". Here's an excerpt:

Watching Korean TV, I find that their "ideas about love" are stuck in the middle ages; parents boldly interfere in their children's right to choose a mate. In Japanese and Hong Kong television, there is no lack of similar content. Qiong Yao is even more of a tireless champion of this stuff. And Asian audiences always eat this stuff up, it seems. Willfully or unconsciously, writers indulge these plot points. If the same shows were aired in the US, the first reaction of American audiences would probably be: why don't those children sue? Why don't they care about their own rights?

I sometimes discuss Korean dramas with Jodi, making a similar argument.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Yesterday Tim asked me which is better, table-tennis' shake-hand grip or pen-hold grip. I said, I'd look at the facts. Here's the Men's World Table-tennis Top 10, with preferred paddle grip:

World Ranking updated on: 12/1/2006 (M)
Rank Prev Points Name Assoc. Grip
1 2568 WANG Liqin CHN Shake-hand

2 2531 MA Lin CHN Pen-hold

3 2525 BOLL Timo GER Shake-hand

4 2434 WANG Hao CHN Pen-hold

5 2325 SAMSONOV Vladimir BLR Shake-hand

6 2287 CHEN Qi CHN Shake-hand

7 2205 OH Sang Eun KOR Shake-hand

8 2120 RYU Seung Min KOR Pen-hold

9 (11) 2116 SCHLAGER Werner AUT Shake-hand

10 (9) 2111 CHEN Weixing AUT Shake-hand

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It's election day! I'm late, you say? No, I mean, it's time to vote for your representative to the National People's Congress (Wikipedia). There's banners up in our neighborhood, and I got this e-mail today at work:

 发件人: All_User_Email
 发送时间: 2006年12月12日 10:41
 收件人: Inbound
 主题: 积极投入人大选举12/12/06(今天)
 积极投入选举 12/12/06(今天)
 投票日期:2006 年 12 月 12 日(今天)
 投票时间:上午 10:00 至下午 15:00。
 投票地点:OS 4 楼 餐厅
  ADB 2 楼 餐厅
  LQ 服务中心

 若有任何疑问请联络。。。(。。。, 分机。。。)。谢谢!

Most company-wide e-mails are bilingual Chinese-English, but this one was for Chinese employees only. I translate it here:

To: All_User_Email
 Sent:  December 12, 2006, 10:41
 From:  Inbound
 Subject:  Enthusiastically participate in the People's Congress 
   vote on 12/12/06 (today)
 Enthusiastically participate in the People's Congress vote on 
   12/12/06 (today)

 Dear colleagues, 
 The right to elect and to be elected is a basic political right of 
 a country's citizens, a requisite and effective way for citizens 
 to participate in the governance of their society and country.  
 We'd like to ask you to please excercise this sacred right by 
 enthusiastically participating in the election.  Employees who 
 are registered Shanghai residents or have residency permits 
 can take part at the company itself (see the list of names posted 
 in the dining hall).  Concrete voting procedure:

 - Write an "O" in the little box next to the names of the 
   candidates you support.
 - Write an "X" in the little box next to the names of the 
   candidates you oppose.
 - If you wish to abstain, do not write anything in the box 
   next to the candidate's name.
 - If you wish to write-in a candidate, write the candidate's 
   name in the space and write an "O" in the box next to it.
 - All marks must be written clearly and correctly. 

 Over half of qualified voters in a district must participate for 
 the vote to be valid.  If the vote fails to be valid, a re-vote 
 will be carried out.  So please, please excercise your sacred 
 right by enthusiastically participating in the election.
 Voting date:  December 12, 2006 (today)
 Voting time:  10am-3pm 
 Voting location:  OS 4 dining hall
   ADB 2 dining hall
   LQ service center

 If you have any questions, please contact ... (..., extension ...).  
 Thank you!

So now you're wondering how the campaign has been shaping up. Plenty of mud-slinging? Harmonious as president Hu would like it? Maybe I've been looking in all the wrong places, but I have seen no evidence of campaigning at all. I didn't even realize that the election was coming until I saw the banner go up on the fence below our apartment yesterday. Anybody else?

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Doctor appointment today: visible heart beating at 145bpm, head 3.6 cm wide, visible spine and brain lobes, too big to get a single complete picture on the sonogram (that's why the feet aren't visible).

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

How about a personal post for a change? Themes that have been dominating my life lately are pregnancy, school, Jodi's work and being disciplined with my time.

 Jodi's in her 3-4th month, still pretty inconspicuous but showing enough tummy for us to have picked up and worn a pair of stretchy pants and an honest-to-goodness expecting-mother's dress. For the most part she's over the morning sickness and aversion to 90% of foods that takes over for the first three months. Salty foods are still out, though, so her mom (who is living with us right now to help out) has cut back on the salty fish and preserved meats, much to my chagrin. Tonight we had a hot pot cooked in my rice cooker, which was pretty darn good. Jodi still wears her anti-radiation apron when using the computer; it still bugs me that there's such a big divide between the advice on pregnancy and radiation/EM fields in the English and Chinese literatures, but after sticking my toe a little further into the Chinese part I've come to realize that there are some cool heads over there too. In any case, I'm willing to go along with it: remind her to use the apron, call the home phone and not her cellphone, walk further away when I'm making a call... We had an emergency trip to the hospital a week ago but it turned out to be nothing but a little blood, which was great news and a nice excuse to make an extra visit to the doctor. Now, to get the reimbursement from the insurance company...

 School is still pretty busy. Sixth and seventh grades are humming along; I'm still getting a feel for how to teach AP Statistics; the math club isn't really structured in any way that I can be proud of, but has some bright kids in it; and the astronomy club is a little directionless and frustrated by consistently cloudy Saturday nights. It's possible that I'll be teaching AP Statistics next year, so I'm going to start researching books and syllabi for that class in order to be able to submit a syllabus that will pass the College Board audit next June. Actually, this week we forgot to get the observatory keys for observation night from the Chinese track teacher who holds them, so the kids who came were very disappointed and Mr Chris and I were very apologetic; we hope they enjoyed the game of Rummykub we played instead. This next week we hope to do a full inventory of the observatory so that the GA office will allow us to make duplicates and we won't have to scramble to find the keys every week. The middle school ping pong tournament just ended, while the high-school/faculty tournament is still in the second round; I'm involved as a referee and also as a player in the high school tourney. To be honest, I like teaching high school more than middle school but I like the middle schoolers more than the high schoolers. Does that make sense? Am I allowed to say that? It doesn't mean much anyways. And it's true that no middle schooler has invited me to the opening of a club that he's DJing at, like one of my Stats kids did this weekend.

 Jodi's English classes are a lesson in entrepreneuerial challenge. Our "partner" is driving us up a wall and since Jodi is infinitely more polite than I am, she'll probably never know it. Nonetheless we have three students signed up who will be finishing off the letter S with us in the coming two weeks. In the meantime, Jodi is investigating a possible exit strategy. Look for new developments in the coming months that may possibly push our house-buying efforts back by a couple of years.

 I'm still awful at being disciplined with my time, and setting priorities and following them. That extends to grading homework, fixing things around the house, and doing productive stuff on weekends. I really don't know how to fix that, but I'm trying anyways. There's a lot of stuff I want to do but don't do because of the pressure I feel from other stuff I haven't done yet.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Google cache is unblocked for me (Shanghai, residential ADSL).

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This evening Jodi, her mom and I went to the Toys"Я"Us at the Super Brand Mall to avoid the crowds at the Grand Opening this weekend. Reaction? It has Uno and Mr Potato-head, but not Candyland or Frisbees. Overall, it's got a lot of toys but it's still a little too small.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

You can search for videos with the normal Youtube search box. But if you try to sort by date, the Great Firewall (GFW) will reset your connection and block you from Youtube for a minute or two. You can slip past the GFW by editing the URL: copy the URL for sorting by "Date Added", remove the part that says search_type=search_videos (and the ampersand after it), and you can access the sorted search results. Removing that bit doesn't seem to affect the search results.

Oh, and one ignored "Contact Us" message later I'm still searching for a way to get the list of my Youtube favorites returned to me in the order I added them.