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Showing posts from 2008

They p0wnd my internets!

I saw the craziest thing the other day. I was checking email from home, when all of a sudden I got stuck on the "Loading..." message, and then "Can not connect to gmail.com", etc. I thought that was kind of strange, so I tried a nytimes article as well as google.com, and both hung a really long time before landing on the same page. It was a photograph of the earthquake in Sichuan, with a whole bunch of Chinese text!

Think about this for a second. The Great Firewall hijacked everyone's internet connection in China at the DNS level and redirected all websites to an earthquake commemoration page or something (I couldn't understand it). I wanted to capture a screenshot, but forgot how to do it on Mac, and couldn't search for it since the whole internet was redirected.

Crazy.

Don't drink the water

Sometimes (like every day) I feel naive, having grown up in an overly sterile environment compared to the, shall we say, "laissez-faire hygiene" of China. Case in point: Over the weekend, cutting some vegetables, a friend opened a nice gash on her finger. She asked for a bandaid, and I said, "Have you washed the cut? You need to wash the cut first." She said no, just a bandaid. I told her it could get infected if she didn't wash it. She said if you wash it with this water, you could get sick and die. Oh. Point taken.

On the other hand, people living in Shanghai believe the water has enough chemicals that it's okay to drink. Nice to know that you won't get bacterial dysentery, but your kids might have 14 fingers and a tail.

Of Torches and the Police State

Before I even arrived in China, I knew that the official rule was for foreigners to carry their papers at all times. But I chose instead to keep them safely at home, in fear that a crafty pickpocket would walk away with my passport instead of my wallet - a much worse outcome. Even so, not once was I asked for my passport, which makes it easy to forget that I'm living in the largest police state in history. That changed today.

I got up early to walk my girlfriend to the subway station, and as soon as we got outside, I knew something was up. There were four or five police, and as soon as they saw me, they started walking towards me. They asked to see my passport, and I said it was in my room. I was told, "According to Rule XX, foreigners are required to carry their passports at all times." I said fine and turned around to head back upstairs. I was annoyed, but I had the foresight to grab my residence permit as well.

When I got back outside, I started to head out of my comple…

Earthquakes and Nationalism Disasters

The earthquake in Sichuan region was truly tragic. Tens of thousands died, tens of thousands are will probably never be recovered, and what the news doesn't report is that the worst-hit areas were already extremely impoverished. The cities stood up comparatively well, but the cheap, poorly built structures (especially the schools) in the surrounding areas completely flattened. 
But perhaps the more sinister side of this 天灾 is its exploitation in the name of nationalism. Nearly every TV channel has been running 24-hour coverage of the earthquake, but you can't watch for more than a minute without seeing footage of the Prime Minister shouting nationalistic slogans or people holding hands singing Communist-era nationalistic songs. You never hear about the international aid. 
In fact, there are text messages and emails circulating around the Chinese community listing all the foreign companies that purportedly haven't donated any money to help the earthquake. They're the typi…

Eating in China

Figured I'd write another quick post while my tests are building/running.

I've been trying to eat like the Chinese diet while I've been in China, and it's really remarkably different than what I'm used to. For one thing, I'm trying my best to avoid processed food. Lots of vegetables, lots of Chinese food. The main thing I've been trying though is to be vigilant of internal cues to stop eating instead of external cues. Internal being "I'm full", external being "the TV show just ended" or "my plate is empty". Combining internal cues with the Okinawan ”八分目” rule (eat till 80% full) means consciously stopping to eat before you're full, even if there's lots of food left. As a result, I've been hungrier, but at the same time don't need to eat as much to feel full. The other night I had half a sandwich for dinner (I know, not Chinese) and was fine. Anyway, I'm an engineer and I like to experiment, so it'll b…

Food economics in China

I bought food at a supermarket in China for the first time yesterday. Granted, I probably went to one of the most expensive supermarkets, at a Japanese department store near Jing An Temple, but it's really interesting to see food economics working essentially as they "should" for health. The lower down the food chain, the cheaper the food. For example, a whole bag of this reddish/green spinach-like vegetable cost 5 yuan (less than $1). But 6oz of beef cost about 50. "Organic" (the meaning of this word is questionable here) tomatoes cost about 12-15 yuan for three large tomatoes, which I'd consider pretty cheap, and "bottom-feeder" fish are cheaper than top-feeders like salmon, tuna, etc. Even outside the supermarket, you can see some of the effects. KFC is considered an upper-middle class luxury food, and one chicken sandwich there costs the same as a good meal for two or three people at a mid-range local Chinese restaurant.

Maybe this is why there…

Chinese Vista, a.k.a. Getting ripped off ain't so bad

I recently tried to add a wireless connection on a friend's Chinese laptop running Vista. I couldn't switch the interface language, so I decided to Google how to do it and attempt to follow the pictures. But for some reason, I just couldn't find the "Network and Sharing Center" that it was talking about. I found something that looked like XP's Control Panel, but couldn't understand enough of the Chinese to setup the connection. I had only used Vista for about 30 seconds total prior to then, and I found it awfully odd that it looked so much like XP, but with better icons. So like a good engineer, I rebooted. The first screen that came up was the Windows XP loading splash screen. Hmm, odd. Right after that, the Vista splash screen came up. It logged in, and the background and icons are Vista-fied.

Chinese "Vista" is XP with a Vista skin. Sometimes getting ripped off ain't so bad. =)

My super cheap Chinese cellphone's best feature

I'm living in Shanghai, and I own the cheapest Nokia on the Chinese market.

The first time I came to China, I didn't have a cellphone, and it was tough having to always arrange times and places to meet. The next time I came, I tried to rent a phone at the airport, but was told it's impossible and I'd have to spend a ridiculous amount of money to buy a used phone instead. That was code for "if you had walked 100 yards down the airport, you would have seen a place to rent a phone, but I'm going to try to rip you off." I ended up spending 100 yuan on a phone card that I couldn't even use, so the next day I had one of my coworkers take me to buy a phone + SIM card. I got the cheapest Nokia with an English interface, intending to replace it with an iPhone once I got back to the States, but was foiled by Apple not wanting my money if it didn't also go to AT&T. Sigh.

In any case, I got one of those old candy-bar Nokias. The interface is absolutely terr…