30 March 2007


Is blogspot blocked again?

And trouble with Spaces? I can get to one, but not another. And yahoo IM signed me out and won't let me back in. Is this just China Unicom fucking around yet again? Or is something more sinister and even stupider at work?

Sir Bono

Well, Bono's been awarded a KBE, but being an Irish citizen he's not allowed the title 'sir', you'll be glad to know.

29 March 2007


So it seems that I'm facing the same situation with my main Chinese study blog as I had with this one until yesterday afternoon. I can log in to canalblog, I can post, I can do everything from the backend that you normally do with a blog, but I can't see it. It's weird, because canalblog doesn't have any kind of blogger/blogspot-style split between the backend and the front page of the blog, so this time I really don't know what's going on.

28 March 2007

could this be true

Is blogspot really unblocked? Seems to be.

a first

(x-posted at wangbo.blogtown.co.nz and chrislzh.over-blog.com)

From a comment on this post on Peking Duck, I found this article, and it looks like maybe it'll be the first real newspaper article I decipher on my own.

Rough translation done off the cuff piece by piece as I read the article follows:


Yangzhou City forbids citizens to sponatneously plant green in the city area.

(Yes, I know, it's really bad English. I'm not doing this to give you a good translation, I'm doing this to see how well I understand the article.)

本报南京3月25日电(记者郑晋鸣 通讯员刘春龙)以往人们认为只要种树搞绿化总是好事情,但江苏省扬州市的新规定打破了这一传统观点。该市规定在绿化规划范围内的城区公共场所,今年不再允许个人或者单位自发植绿。

Nanjing, March 25 (Reporter Zheng Jinming, Correspondent Liu Chunlong) Formerly people believed thought as long as one planted trees to "green" [the city, I presume] it was always a good thing, but Jiangsu Province's Yangzhou City's new regulation has broken this traditional idea. This city rules that in city area public places within the scope of the greening programme, this year will not allow individuals or work units to spontaneously plant green.


40%,未被植被覆盖的空地已成“稀缺”资源。现在扬州市内哪里需要种树,种什么树,种多少棵,都要经过相关部门的科学论证,市园林局已出台详细的绿化规 划。据悉,为了方便后期养护管理,扬州市绿化部门对种下的每棵树都要登记于册。如今扬州市内重点绿化工程一般都由专业绿化人员完成,只有很少部分小型绿化 工程是在绿化部门的指导下由单位或社会团体参加。
Yangzhou City Forestry Bureau Greening Office provided data that shows, Yangzhou City city area has already reached 40% green coverage. [what the hell is this: 率?!] Land that hasnt't yet been planted has become a "scarce" resource. Now in Yangzhou City which places need trees planted, plant what kinds of trees, plant how many trees, will all have to undergo scientific demonstration by the relevant authorities, the city Forestry Bureau has already published a detailed greening programme. It is reported that, for convenient maintenance later on, Yangzhou City Greening Department will register each tree planted. Now key greening projects in Yangzhou City will in general be completed by professional greening workers, work units and social organisations will take part in only a very few small-scale greening projects under the guidance of the Greening Department.
“市民动手参与绿化的热情值得赞扬和鼓励,但城市绿化也是一门科学,如果没有规划、不讲方法,胡栽乱种,不仅树不容易存活,还会造成绿化资源的浪费。”相 关绿化专家向记者表示。
"The enthusiasm of the citizens to actively participate in greening merits praise and encouragement, but greening the city is also a science, if there's no plan, let alone method, messily planting, isn't just hard for the trees to survive, it could also create a waste of greening resources." and involved greening professional told the reporter.
从国内很多城市以往经验看,因为种植方法不当以及不重视养护等原因,市民自发植树的效果并不好,一般新栽树木到来年的成活率不到 20%,所以,这些年来,扬州市倡导、引导市民用“以资代劳”、“认养绿地”等其他形式代替亲手种树。
Looking at the past experience of many cities in China, because the method of planting was unsuitable as well as reasons of not attaching importance to maintenance, etc, the result of citizens sponatneously planting trees has really not been good, in general the rate of survival to the next year of newly planted trees hasn't reached 20%, therefore, in the last few years, Yangzhou City has initiated, and guided citizens to use "Capital representing labour", "Undertake to care for green land" and other was to substitute for planting with one's own hands.
这种倡导与南京航空航天大学崔益华副教授提出的“虚 拟种树”主张不谋而合,崔副教授表示:通过改变我们的生活方式,节约木材,达到等同于种树的目的,比如:节约一张废纸,捐出一本旧书,使用“液体木材” 等。

This kind of proposal and the "Fictitious planting" view raised by Nanjing Astronautics and Aeronautics University Assistant Professor Cui Yihua happen to agree, Assistant Professor Cui explains: Having undergone a change in our lifestyle, saving timber has reached equality with the goal of planting trees, for example, saving a piece of waste paper, donate an old book, use "liquid timber", etc.

Alright, finally done. Shit, took about two and a half hours. Still, I was doing other things at the same time, like getting lunch, chatting with lzh, and other excuses. Not too hard, really. Got me a fair bit of new vocab, but not too much.

Now remember: I'm not asking for comments on my translation skills. I'm just trying to see how well I can understand a real live news report. Newspaper reading is something I've been thinking about doing for a while, but never got around to it until I followed that link and thought, hey, that article doesn't look too hard.

One character I couldn't find in the dictionary:

One cool word I came across as I was looking for something else: 虚无主义/nihilism.

Anyway, if you spot something that I misunderstood, leave a comment. Remember, it's my comprehension I'm testing, not my translation.

26 March 2007


Here's one way to access blogspot blogs. So far it seems to work better than other proxies.

24 March 2007

Go away

Well, no, but you're all welcome to go here and read what I wrote about an article explaining how Peking became Beijing, especially if you're linguistically minded, and especially if you're more knowledgable than me about the evolution of the Chinese language. Comments, corrections and constructive criticisms are most welcome.

gender imbalance

So this article is the usual article about the gender imbalance in Asia, all the usual stuff, written in the usual paint-by-numbers style of modern Western journalism on Asia.

But I have a problem, and it's the usual invocation of the One Child Policy:

"In rural China, where there is no pension system for 800 million people, terror of old age with no carer or pension is rampant, accentuated by the one-child system."

What's the problem? Well, quite simply, the One Child Policy in its strictest manifestation applies only to urban Han people. 800 million people in rural China subject to the One Child Policy? Bollocks. The restrictions vary according to location (urban vs. rural and province by province), ethnicity (Han face the tightest restrictions; other ethnic groups have more leeway) and family history.

For example, my wife has a perfectly legal younger brother, even though she was born several years after the One Child Policy was implemented. In fact, many people in her village of her generation have siblings. Why? At the time she was born, in the early '80s, rural people were allowed two children. Even today, many rural people, even Han, are allowed a second child. One of the more distasteful exceptions to the One Child Policy is that which allows rural families a second child if the first is a girl or disabled. Well, given the historical preference for sons, that exception is an unfortunate necessity.

Alright, yes, many female foetuses are aborted and many baby girls are killed. Not denying that. I'd be a fool to try and pretend that doesn't happen. The reasons, however, have less to do with any government policy and more to do with the traditional ideas the article mentions. Unfortunately, in China and I guess India, education in rural areas, especially the more remote areas, is rather lacking and tradition remains very strong. There are still parts of China where girls are not educated (what's the point? she's only going to get married, make babies, cook and clean). Infanticide happens (but often for far more complex reasons than any Western journalist is interested in), sex-selective abortion happens. The One Child Policy may contribute to some of these problems in certain circumstances, but it is not to blame, and the phrase "accentuated by the one-child system" in the quotation above attributes far more blam to the policy than is warranted.

And then at the end of the article, we have this:

"Most Chinese regimes in history, as the communists know, have been toppled from below.

Western commentators like to project China and India as economic giants effortlessly on the move. But societies that are so dysfunctional rarely sustain rapid growth or stable government for long.

There will be change. The questions are how and when?"

First of all, the journalist is right to question the coverage of China by his colleagues who focus on the economy. But is China really as dysfunctional as he claims? China has many problems, true, but I would not describe it as a dysfuntional society.

Secondly: There will be change, indeed, but has Mr Hutton not noticed the changes that are happening? It's not all negative, some good things are happening.

Alright, I don't mean to be an apologist, and I sure as shit don't want to become a "useful idiot", I'm not denying all that is wrong in this country. But sloppy, lazy journalism that misrepresents the case pisses me off. That's all. Am I asking to much to expect journalists who write about China actually have some understanding of the place?

And on the subject of idiocy in the news: check out Taro Aso's latest 狗屁.

(x-posted to wangbo.blogtown.co.nz)

23 March 2007

collosal squid

That collosal squid caught a few weeks back might now be microwaved. Ammonia-flavoured, tractor tire-sized calamari, anyone?

22 March 2007

Yet another blog

I can now also be found proxy-free at wangbo.blogtown.co.nz. I'll still keep this blog going, though, you never know when blogspot may be unblocked again.

21 March 2007


Hey Kevin S, please tell me how you commented here, it just isn't working for me.

Update: Thanks Kevin, your explanation seems clear. I tried replying to your comment but the proxy I'm using wouldn't cooperate and the comment URL I got still seemed to be blogspot. I'll see if I can get things to work for me.


So if you're in the mainland and reading this, I guess you're on a proxy. I don't know what's going on, I can log in and blog just fine, but it seems anything.blogspot.com is blocked. Buggered if I know how that works. Anyway, I'm still here, and hopefully my backup blog and Chinese study blog are still open and unblocked. Because I hate proxies and I'd rather my blog be openly available on the mainland (it's not like I'm a trouble-maker, after all, I only blog about the nothing that is my life, nothing to give the censors a heart attack) I might switch my main blogging over to what was my backup, but because I can still easily log in proxy-free here, I sure as shit won't be disappearing the way I did from my now semi-active live journal.

In the process of checking right now. Over-blog is working fine, so you can easily find me there. Canalblog isn't responding. Shit, I hope that isn't blocked now, too. Huh, suspiciously opens easily with a proxy. Fuck. Canalblog offered the better service of all my blog accounts, and now it seems to be blocked as well. This leaves me with four blog accounts, two definitely behind the firewall, this one which I can use but can't see, and only over-blog which is totally open. This is really fucking insane.

And now I'm told Green Bamboo has become Xin Phoenix. Here's what I don't understand, both are on spaces.live.com, but Green Bamboo is blocked, while Xin Phoenix is open.

Well, I'm going to keep everything going, by proxy or not, for the time being and see how things work out. I'm also going to explore other options for hosting blogs. Spent a bit of time on that last night. Came across one site apparently offering free website hosting. Came across a BSP for Kiwis only- clicked register and it said, you're in China, you're not allowed. Oh, but if you're a Kiwi in China, you can email us and we might help you set up a blog here. So there's two options.

So I don't really know what's going on right now or how long all this stupid blocking bullshit is going to last. I'm just going to see how it goes.

20 March 2007


Not only has China Unicom being playing silly buggers with my bandwidth again, but suddenly today a the Green Bamboo Spaces version, the main one, disappears and now all of a sudden I need a proxy to see other blogspot blogs. The weird thing is I seem to have no trouble from the backend here, but reading other blogs is another matter. Maybe it's the lack of a .blogspot.com in the address? Clicking 'view blog it seems I can't see the front end of my own blog either. And blogspot blogs that were accessible this morning have suddenly disappeared. All viewable by proxy, of course.

So I don't know, is this some technical problem? Is it China Unicom fucking around yet again? Or has blogspot suddenly found itself back on the other side of the firewall? This is starting to really piss me off.

The truth is out

Linguists are entirely to blame for the September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre and the colossal fuck-up known as the occupation of Iraq.

19 March 2007


One thing I forgot to mention that I learned at Jeremiah's party: I have suddenly and catastrophically lost my ability to drink.

Well, I probably would have been fine if I'd helped myself to some of the food on offer, but still.....

....still, this one beer a night, consumed after dinner, thing is going well.

too many blogs

Over the years I've had, I believe, five different blog accounts, four of which are still either active or at least valid, if somewhat dormant. Until Live Journal got blocked that was always my main blog. For a while I had a backup at blog-city, but blog-city got blocked, so I abandoned that (I really hate using proxies) and opened a backup at over-blog, which is now my permanent backup (and getting a hell of a lot more traffic than it used to). I started using blogspot a few months ago, at first just playing around, seeing what I could do with it, and when Live Journal got blocked, I decided to make this my main blog. I also experimented with canalblog for a while but deleted that blog when I shifted my main blog here because I use the same username for both and I wanted to avoid any possible conclusion. After deleting that canalblog blog, I discovered I still had a live account there, and I couldn't find a way to close that.

So here I am with more blog accounts than any sane person should have. I intend to keep my Live Journal account semi-active, I have obvious and good reasons to keep this blog and its backup at over-blog going. What the hell do I do with this canalblog account, though? Well, I suppose I could let it expire.

Then last night I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling, mind refusing to shut up and let me sleep yet again, and I thought, well, I fell out of the habit of studying Chinese regularly months ago, and I really need to start that again. How can I motivate myself? Wait, I have this fourth, unused blog account at canalblog. Maybe I could use that as a motivator. Yeah, I could post my own attempts at writing Chinese, like I used to do at Live Journal, and I could also post stuff on what I find in my textbook or in 余华/Yu Hua's 活着/To Live (the first novel I'm attempting to read entirely in Chinese- and I'm making very slow progress indeed). Yeah, if I can keep that going regularly, maybe that'll help keep the motivation going. Well, it's worth a shot, anyway.

And just so you know, the new Chinese study blog will be Bezdomny etudie chinois. I can't guarantee it'll actually continue to be updated. It may well fall into disuse like it's predecessor at canalblog.

So I guess I better get on to setting it up properly and updating the blogrolls here and at over-blog.


Open this article then click "photo gallery" just below the headline for awesome photos of the lahar at Mt Ruapehu.

18 March 2007


So I just managed to upload a photo to my flickr account, for the first time in months. Well, it was a photo I took yesterday using my cellphone, not our camera. The phonecam photos seem to be much smaller and squeeze through the China Unicom pipes with the greatest of ease. It has been possible to upload photos from the camera in the past, but lately everytime I've tried it's gotten nowhere.

A great party

It must have been a great party. I didn't get up till midday today. Haven't done that in ages.

So yesterday afternoon just after one we went out to try and catch a bus. 'Try' is the operative word. The first two buses were so packed we couldn't get on- remember, we're both well used to Chinese public transport. If we couldn't get on the bus, you can rest assured it made a sardine can look comfortable and spacious by comparison. The third bus we managed to squeeze on, but we didn't get all the way to Xidan as planned. Eventually we just said, fuck this for a joke, and got off at Jishuitan. Well, it's also a subway station, just less direct than getting the subway at Xidan, because it required us to change from Line 2 to Line 1 at either Jianguomen or Fuxingmen. But big deal, the travel time would work out about the same.

We got to Oriental Plaza bang on three, just in time to find this exhibition (I hope that link gets you to the right page. If not, go to the main page and look for Te Papa Exhibition) and see the performance. We found the exhibition, but there was no sign of any performance, so we looked around and played with the exhibits (it had been organised by Te Papa, and followed Te Papa's interactive philosophy). Eventually the members of 'Strike', a percussion group, showed up to perform. Their performance was good, but far too short. And the group from Whitireia was nowhere to be seen. The information I had seen suggested both groups would perform, but as it turned out, the Whitireia performance was at 11am and only Strike was performing in the afternoon. And a very, very short performance it was. Add to this the exhibits themselves: They were good, but didn't come anywhere near close to living up to the hype. And, well, the whole thing seemed rather disorganised.

Anyway, the exhibition was cool, and I recommend checking it out, but still, I was expecting a lot more.

And, well, this left us with rather a lot of time on our hands. The plan was to check out the exhibition and see the 3 o'clock performance, and then head round to Jeremiah's housewarming/St Patrick's Day/engagement party. The timing should have been perfect, but suddenly we had a couple of hours to kill. So we wandered around Oriental Plaza, then ducked outside to get some breathable air instead of the highly processed shite inside the shopping mall (it's a scary thing when you step outside for fresh air in Beijing- and feel much better for it), then lzh declared she was hungry and wanted Yoshinoya. So we ate, and then we stopped by the supermarket for a bottle of wine, then we got on the subway.

It should've been easy to find Jeremiah's place, the directions were very detailed. In fact, the compound was very easy to find, and, even though I'd left the directions at home, we walked straight there. But finding the apartment proved to be more difficult. Never mind, we got there, eventually.

And it was a great party. Jeremiah and YJ are awesome hosts.

There was about a 50:50 mix of Chinese and laowai. I noticed at least half the laowai present, perhaps most of them, could speak Chinese, which was a nice breath of fresh air. I don't like being surrounded by monolinguals. One guy decided to tell me- twice- that I look ridiculously Irish. Well, that accounts for half my ancestry, sure, but 'ridiculously' Irish? Is that a compliment, perhaps? Jeremiah and YJ have the coolest bathroom in Beijing. Honestly, they should sell tickets to view their bathroom, it's so cool. I was a little disappointed that the studio is not, in fact, made of granite, but Jeremiah informed me the name for his blog has some connection with his home state. Apparently his home state is made entirely out of granite, or something like that.

Anyway, great party. Thanks Jeremiah and YJ, you guys are awesome hosts.

16 March 2007

China fucking Uni fucking com


Most of the time this China Unicom CDMA card works fine. It's not all its cracked up to be, I mean, there claim of it being "not as fast as broadband, faster than dial-up" means in reality "About the same as dial-up, sometimes a little faster, occasionally much slower, sometimes you'll have full signal but no bandwidth at all, sometimes you'll have absolutely no signal." Anyway, most of the time it works.

But sometimes.....

You can't leave the card in the computer when you turn it off. You have to pull it out when you get off line and put it back in when you want to get online. Why? If you leave the card in, it's liable to do really stupid shit like delete all your cookies (no big deal) or delete all your bookmarks (amazingly infuriating) when you shut the computer down.

Occasionally, not very often, but occasionally, it'll freeze the computer. The solution is to pull the card out. This magically unfreezes the computer, but, of course, you have to go through the rigmarole of getting back online, which, depending on what you're doing online, can be quite frustrating.

Occasionally, again, not very often, but occasionally, when you push the card in to get online, it'll crash the computer. This happened to me yesterday and again today. It's rare that this'll happen two days in a row. In fact, it'll happen only once a month on average, and it freezes the computer even less often, but it's bloody infuriating when it does happen.

I hope this is not doing any lasting damage to my computer. That would really, really piss me off. So far it seems to be alright. Whatever causes the computer to freeze or crash seems to be a very temporary error, and restarting seems to get everything back to normal. But still.......

And not only did the card crash my computer this morning, but when I first tried to get online there was no signal. I had a nine o'clock appointment with the boss, so I just plugged in the phoneline and dialled up, hoping that the signal would be back when I got back from talking to the boss. See, sometimes the signal craps out for a few seconds. Sometimes for a couple of minutes. That happens fairly regularly. You just keep reloading stuff until the signal comes back, doesn't take too long. Then occasionally the signal will crap out for half an hour or an hour. Every now and then it'll be gone for an entire day. So I keep this dial-up connection (95963 for username, password, and number to dial- but don't use it for anything more than an emergency back-up, it's not cheap) for those times the signal craps out for the day. It doesn't happen often, but often enough.


Still, back online now, so no big deal.

15 March 2007


Stupid fucking idiots.

"It's a complete waste of money, it's no good against suicide bombers and we can't afford it."

Good on ya, Mr Benn, but you've missed the more important point. But who is this guy and why are we listening to him? I'm sure the article said he was a former PM, but apparently he wasn't.

Backing Blair, Margaret Beckett, the British foreign secretary, said no one could be sure a new nuclear threat would not emerge over the next 50 years."

But we can be sure that a current nuclear threat, the British one, will be maintained for no good reason over that period, and probably beyond.

She said Britain would reduce its stockpile of operationally available nuclear warheads by 20 per cent in 2007 to fewer than 160."

Wow, that's going such a long way to fulfilling your obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (sarcasm, that one, just in case you didn't notice).

Look, it's simple: Nuclear weapons are a threat to the entire world. It doesn't fucking matter who owns them, they're still a threat. Why does North Korea want nukes? 'Cos America has them. Why would Iran and Saudi Arabia want them (and it has not yet been proven that Iran does want them)? Because Israel has them. The solution? Not MAD, that's just stupid (anybody seen Dr Strangelove? Don't try and pretend that couldn't happen in real life). The only solution is disarmament, and that must begin with the five 'legal' nuclear powers unilaterally dismantling their arsenals. This may sound like the rantings of some nutcase extremist, or of a Kiwi, but let's put it this way: I kinda like this world we live on and I would be really pissed off if it were reduced to a cold, radioactive dustball inhabited only by cockroaches (which would die out pretty quickly as they ate up our remains).

New Zealand New Thinking

So it turns out the diplomats weren't quite so useless after all. They were just taking an unusually long time to figure out the schedule for the performances for this exhibition. I sent off an email asking if the embassy was planning on informing us expat Kiwis about this "New Zealand New Thinking" exhibition, and the reply was, yes, but we were going to wait until we knew the schedule of the performances. Ok. Whatever. Anyway, I got the official email announcing the exhibition and its schedule, which I'm going to past below:
No forget it, the email isn't cooperating with blogger. Go check it out here. You might be able to find more information here. Anyway, it looks like it should be interesting, I think the performances will probably be pretty cool, check the schedule and if you're in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan or Guangzhou at the right time, you should definitely go check it out.

14 March 2007

Peng Zu

Via this thread, I found this story about Peng Zu, who the original poster in that thread described as the Father of Chinese Cuisine. From what I've read so far, I'd say he's the perfect Daoist.

bloody useless diplomats

So via china.org.cn (which does, I believe, have a name, but I never bothered remembering it), I learn about an exhibition on New Zealand touring China, beginning in Beijing. The article says nothing about exactly where or when we can see the exhibition, of course. I mean, I long since gave up expecting journalists to do a halfway decent job of reporting things. But what pisses me off is that even though I'm on the New Zealand Embassy's mailing list, I've so far recieved absolutely no information from the embassy about this. So I check the embassy website and find two articles, what looks like a press release, and an attempt at a schedule. Brilliant. But were these useless bloody diplomats thinking of ever informing the many Kiwis who live in China? I mean, we can help out a lot here by spreading the word and encouraging our Chinese family, friends and acquaintances to check out the exhibition.

13 March 2007

Taiwanese Nazis?

Doubting to Shuo has posted about a group of Taiwanese college students founding a Nazi association. It seems these people think Taiwan would be better off being ruled by Nazis. I'm struggling to think of anything more bizarre or more ignorant than a bunch of Taiwanese kids running around pretending to be Nazis.


First up is another story that makes you wonder just what the hell is going on in New Zealand's medical system. A couple of days ago it was a gynaecologist who couldn't find the cervix or uterus; today it's a man who died of throat cancer after six consecutive doctors diagnosed nothing worse than a sore throat or tonsilitis. I think I'm just going to stay right here in Beijing.

[UPDATE: More on the Yongzhou incident at ESWN here (note [032]) and here.]
[UPDATE 2: The official English language response. I could look for a Chinese language version, but I can't be arsed, do it yourself.]
Second: A friend emailed me a BBC report about riots in Yongzhou, Hunan. Seems like the usual story. But the report quoted Boxun and some local official surnamed Tan, which sets alarm bells ringing. I was under the impression Boxun published pretty much anything without bothering with such niceties as fact-checking, and what kind of local official, regardless of surname, cooperates with the international, or even local, or any media on this kind of thing? Anyway, I googled it and came up with three different stories, on in the Times of India, one in Qatar's The Peninsula, and one in Infoshop, all pretty much identical to the BBC story except the Infoshop version. Infoshop claims 20,000 rioters (BBC says "up to 20,000")- farmers and laid off workers- and goes into more detail about 'mass incidents' and their causes. Here's what Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang apparently told Ta Kung Pao, published on June 5, 2005:

[note: I say apparently, because the context suggests the following was lifted from the Ta Kung Pao article alluded to]

"In speaking about mass incidents arising from conflict among the people, Zhou Yongkang said that mass incidents are an outstanding problem affecting social stability, with five features that require attention.

1. The number has obviously increased and the scope has expanded. From the 10,000+ mass incidents in 1994 to the 74,000+ mass incidents in 2004, the increase has been more than sixfold. The number of participants has increased from the 730,000 persons in 1994 to the 3,760,000 persons in 2004, for more than a fourfold increase;

2. The scope has expanded. Mass incidents occur in cities, rural villages, enterprises, governments, schools and various domains and sectors and they occur in all the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities;

3. The main participants in mass incidents are more diversified, and include dismissed workers, farmers, urban dwellers, enterprise owners, teachers and people from various social strata;

4. The methods are extreme, including laying siege and attacking party and government offices, blockading public roads, stopping trains and other situations;

5. The tendency is towards greater organizing. There are sometimes even spontaneously rising organizations with certain leaders."

First: Remember this information is probably a year and half old. Things change. Now, this all seems rather scary. We should also remember that most of us living in China never see a mass incident worse than a bunch of petitioners standing around outside a government building watched by a few security guards and a couple of cops. Don't take the above as meaning China's on the verge of open revolution, because it quite simply isn't. Even so, it does suggest rising discontent, a greater willingness to protest, and perhaps a greater awareness of rights and government responsibilities. Point 5, however, is very, very interesting indeed.

However, I should also note that Infoshop News bills itself as "Your source for alternative news, analysis and opinion", and Infoshop's home page offers, among other things, an "anarchist FAQ", and under the title "Infoshop.org" is the slogan "Kill capitalism before it kills you". I'll let you be the judge of how reliable such an organisation may be.

And the third piece: Oil seeps to the surface after an earthquake. It seems New Zealand might have a whole lot more oil and gas than we knew about. This time way, way down in the deep south, not quite sub-antarctic, but not far off. I suppose in this age of global warming we shouldn't be developing more hydrocarbon resources, but damn, if this is true it could bring in a shitload of money.

12 March 2007


Would you believe I haven't touched even a drop of alcohol since Thursday? No? Well, it's true.

After Thursday's rather scary encounter with what I suspect is fake baijiu, and Friday's continued discomfort, well....

I rather rashly agreed to go out to dinner with a mate on Friday night, but as it turns out, even though I felt perfectly fine on Friday afternoon, I was still in too much of a hurry. I'd already agreed with lzh that I wouldn't drink any alcohol or eat any meat or spicy food for the weekend. I stuck to that (well, fudged a little on the meat, but there was no way around that). So we went to the restaurant, I ate some bland, mostly veg stuff, but I only managed a little then I felt decidedly unwell again. I think, though, that part of it was the atmosphere. Anyway, we came home early, I grabbed a pen and a couple of newspapers and lay in bed doing crosswords. Then I grabbed a book and lay in bed reading. And about half an hour after we got back from the restaurant I was feeling fine again.

Friday night, though, despite feeling really tired, I got hardly any sleep. Too tired to sleep, I guess.

Anyway, woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, having slept fitfully at best. Felt pretty shitty, as you do when you've slept badly. I got through breakfast slowly, but without any drama from my stomach. Then by lunchtime I was starving. Then after lunch I had massive cravings for sugar. Then at dinner time I was starving again. Then Sunday morning I was starving and ate a huge breakfast. Then more sugar cravings, then a huge lunch, more sugar cravings, then a huge dinner.

I don't know what happened. I don't know if it's some weird side effect of whatever was ailing me last week or whether it's the lack of alcohol or what, but my apetite came back with a vengeance. A big, huge, mean-looking vengeance swinging nunchakus. And this continues today. lzh had to stock up on chocolate when she went to the supermarket yesterday because I was about to start chewing on the furniture.

And the other weird thing about this experience: You would've thought, judging by how much I can (and often do) drink that I'd be a raging alcoholic and more than 10 minutes without beer would have me writhing on the ground in full-blown withdrawal. But no. No alcohol cravings at all. Sugar cravings, yes, alcohol, none at all. There's a bottle of beer that's been sitting there left over from Thursday night, and I did think of perhaps opening it, but there was no craving for it. Just 'oh, there's a beer, well maybe.... no, no alcohol this weekend'. It's still there, and I might perhaps open it tonight, but maybe not. This is weird. Really weird.

A Bao, my usual beer supplier, probably thinks I'm seriously ill, or something.

Anyway, it's good to know that even though I have a whole bunch of bad habits I can't get rid of and good habits I can't get into, this one bad habit I can drop any time I like.

11 March 2007

not the wisest move

So it seems Wang Shuo may face prosecution for using drugs and prostitutes. Why? Because he admitted to it on a TV show. Obviously his drug use is impeding his judgement....

A survey that shouldn't have been needed

Apparently 58.9% of Chinese people think that what China lacks most in 2007 is a sense of social fairness and justice.

Well, first I should note that it's an online survey, so should be taken with a hefty grain of salt, but even so, it still seems like one of those 'No shit Sherlock!' surveys.

The rest of the results, as reported in this article:

"A further 22.5 percent voted for "improvement of laws," 9.3 percent for "good education," 5.3 percent for "a strong army," 2.3 percent for "others," and only 1.8 percent selected "a safe and stable domestic and world environment.""

It's interesting to note that, despite the notoriety enjoyed by the fenqing, only 5.3% voted for a strong army. Where are all those hordes of angry young men just itching to nuke Japan? It's also interesting to note that while 5.3% voted for a strong army, only 1.8% chose a safe and stable domestic and world environment. I don't know whether to feel relieved or alarmed.

The second question of the survey was "What do Chinese need the most today?"

The results:

"A hefty 50.8 percent of respondents voted for "moral sense, uprightness and courage," 34.5 percent for "humanity and culture," 6.9 percent for "interpersonal attention and interaction," 6 percent for “nationalist passion," and 1.9 percent picked "others.""

Again, where are the fenqing? Only 6% voted for nationalist passion?

Well, sure, it's an online survey and about as reliable as any other online survey, but it would seem to suggest that the overwhelming majority of Chinese are looking for a fair go, a just and stable society, and courteous, trustworthy people. Who'd a thunk it? Sounds like everybody else in the world.


gmail is still playing silly buggers. I can read emails, but I can't send any, nor can I sign out from gmail. I can sign in to and out of Google easily enough through blogger, but gmail is just refusing to work.


"Gynaecologist failed to find entrance to uterus"

"Himmel's surgery was to look for ovarian cysts following a cancer scare. But she syas Hasil was unable to locate the cervix or the entrance to Himmel's uterus and thus unable to find cancer."

I don't think I need to add any more to this....

10 March 2007


I just heard that the old guy we called 'Daye' he used to mind the main door of our building and collect the mail and stuff is seriously ill. Well, I assume it's serious, because so far as I can work out he's got an embolism on his brain. I say as far as I can work out, because I couldn't find 脑血栓 in the dictionary.

It's sad because he's a good bloke and he treated us really well. And we treated him every now and then- a bottle of Jinliufu for Christmas and another for Spring Festival. We also occasionally gave him some home made jiaozi or paigu or other stuff like that. We got on alright. Last time we had a barbeque with the students out in the yard, after the students had been shipped upstairs to watch a movie I sat with him in the yard and we sipped cheap baijiu and chatted. He's a nice guy.

And he was on duty pretty much permanently. Honestly, he seemed to live in his little room by the door. He'd be there late at night, on the weekends, all the time. And he was only paid 300 kuai per month. But he never seemed to complain, he always looked contented with his lot.

And now apparently he won't be coming back here.


Typepad blogs seem to be loading unusually slowly today. After a recent incident involving Live Journal, this has me wondering.... Trouble is, China Unicom's CDMA service has this frustrating problem called "Magically Disappearing Bandwidth" which recurs frequently, meaning I never really know if there is any real problem accessing any site or if it's China Unicom playing silly buggers again.

It's not just Typepad, either. Gmail isn't working properly today. Trying to send emails has been rather hit and miss. Blogger works fine, though. Weird.

recommended read

Let kids be kids. Well, the actual title is Whatever Happened to Childhood?


While I can understand Tu Yaqing's sentiments, I mean, I wouldn't want to be wandering around New Zealand confronted by Chinese-only signs, I really have to wonder if he's living in the same China as I am. And last I heard, there was only one. The government seems fairly insistent on that point. I mean, I really can't think of the last time I saw an English-only sign in China. Really. Most signs I see are Chinese-only, or characters and pinyin, or Chinese and English. Can't think of any English-only signs.

"The lawmaker suggested the use of multiple languages on public signs to satisfy both locals and foreigners."

Well, fine, but.... I'm going to stand firm in my insistence that foreigners are just going to have to wake up and realise the international settlements and all the privileges they brought disappeared way back in 1949. And some Chinese people are going to have to do the same. Some people here, Chinese and foreign are living way behind the times. But in areas with large numbers of tourists and perhaps expats, sure, go with the multilingual signs. I believe that's a pretty common practice around the world.

If this makes no sense, that's because I got basically no sleep last night. 我真的特别麻烦。Felt perfectly fine yesterday afternoon. Went out for dinner with a couple of friends. Ate only simple stuff, no meat, nothing even remotely spicy, but I only managed to eat a little and then I felt like shit again. Came home and rested. Bedtime came, and I was awake most of the night. Pain in the bloody arse.

9 March 2007


If ever I needed proof that Tianjin buggered up my digestive system, the last couple of days should've made things abundantly clear. Bloody hell. One tiny little chilli pepper, the slightest drop of chilli oil, and my gut starts screaming in protest. This is most irritating. I've always loved spicy food and I've always had a very high chilli tolerance, but these days the results are too painful to justify the pleasure.

And if I needed more evidence that the local liquor suppliers are maybe selling fake baijiu..... Well, last night and this morning would seem to suggest that I can't trust the wee supermarket inside the local market either. A Bao, my trusty local beer seller, has sold me some odd-tasting Jinliufu. And then last nights Mengguwang, bought in the wee supermarket, decided to hit me a hell of a lot harder than ever before. I didn't have too much either, I know how much baijiu I can handle, and I was well within the limit. And I still felt pretty shitty this morning. Feeling better now. Sometimes going back to bed and sleeping another hour or so works wonders. Ate a cucumber because lzh insists cucumber is good at 'jiedu' (not sure which jie, and I'm feeling too lazy to look it up right now, but she often prescribes cucumber for stomach upsets). And what really pisses me off is the complete waste of last night's hotpot. Honestly, half of what came out hadn't even started being digested yet.

Anyway, feeling a bit better now. Still, I've got a three-hour lesson to look forward to this afternoon. Hopefully the students are a little more willing to talk than they were last time. Still, this is the better half, so I'm sure it won't be too painful.

Update: And an email home in which I described my symptoms prompted a worried phone call from my mother. I know, mothers are legally obliged to worry insanely about any little thing affecting their offspring, but sometimes...... And as usual, Dad was totally calm and relaxed. Parents.

8 March 2007


Thanks to ESWN:
Nadezhda Mandelstam
Anna Akhmatova
I love Russian literature.

It's a pity, though, that Clive James doesn't seem to get the obvious word play in the titles of Mandelstam's two books, Hope Against Hope and Hope Abandoned. 'Nadezhda' means 'hope'. I would've thought it would be necessary to point that out. I think one can assume quite safely that the majority of Slate's readers have never studied Russian. And it's strange, because he does seem to have studied Russian himself.

7 March 2007


I post that nuttiness about nut being fully awake and then the first thing I read is this article, which claims that more than 50% of China's primary and middle school teachers are psychologically ill.

bloody hell

I lie down for a quick nap and two and a half hours later...... I don't think I've managed to wake up yet, even though it seems I'm sitting in front of the computer with a beer next to me. I don't know how that beer got here, or why the bottle is only half full. That 'half full' is not meant in an optimistic sense. Anyway, here I am, mostly asleep but apparently conscious.


This is an interesting idea to help relieve drought. Pipe seawater to Inner Mongolia, then desalinate it. Well, if, as it seems, the seawater is coming from the Bohai, they'll need to do a lot more than desalinate.

6 March 2007


Sorry to keep harping on about the weather, but here's a roundup of the weekend's storm and the damage it did. Sounds like some places had quite a wild ride.

5 March 2007

weather again

Winter really has returned with a vengeance. I haven't seen the crusty old bitch for a while now, but she's back and she is digging her sharp, icy talons into any nook or cranny she can find. Alright, so that last sentence is just a little bit overwrought, let's just say that when I went out to pick up lzh from the gate it was fucking freezing. And we had to pop round to the Chaoshifa supermarket to pick up some things we can't get more locally, which just added to the pain. But I have a decent breakfast for tomorrow, and that's important in this kind of weather, and I have reasonably good beer (Blue Ribbon "Stout"- not really deserving of the title Stout, but good enough for now) and I'm safely home. Apparently it'll drop to -9 tonight, up to 3 tomorrow, but it'll get better over the next few days. But of course, the wind is still blowing, so who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Still, it seems like we got off lightly when you look at the beating Dalian and Yantai took.

I like this guy

I like Wen Jiabao.

Update: Another reason I like him.

here we go again....

I'm sure some twit of a foreign journalist will manage to twist this pronouncement into a call for stricter censorship or an impending crackdown on all those who are not following the correct line quite closely enough, instead of calling it what it is: the usual blather by some old fogey who probably has fond memories of the day when village PA systems were staffed by shrill announcers praising Mao and broadcasting good revolutionary songs instead of the decadent pop music the broadcast today when the village head remembers to turn the PA system on.

Yes, there's the usual Orwellian sounding bollocks:

"Chinese media should play an important role in spreading advanced culture and promoting social harmony in the country, a senior leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC) said in Beijing on Sunday."

And there's also, though I doubt it'll make it into any Western news reports, more positive, happy, friendly, almost democratic, even, sounding stuff:

"Supervision on the government and the Party through public opinion should be strengthened while a healthy Internet culture should be promoted, Luo told a group of members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) from media circles.

He said more efforts should be made to push forward the reform of the distribution system in the publishing sector, set up more libraries in the countryside to enrich farmers' cultural life, and crack down on pornographic and illegal publications."

Sure, 'healthy internet culture' and 'illegal publications' are left deliberately vague and are there as a warning to not go too far, but the rest of that quotation, especially the bit about setting up more libraries in the countryside, and especially the bit about public supervision, sounds like the right noises to be making. Translating these good bits into real action, as always, is the key, and I'll wait till I see evidence of this action before I believe any of this, but still.....

more on the weather

After the weekend's weather comes this reminder that, in fact, the real problem is drought. In addition to Shandong, one of China's major grain producers, the article also mentions Sichuan, Chongqing and Guizhou. Sichuan and Chongqing had a serious drought over the summer, so it's not surprising they're still facing severe water shortages, but I don't think anybody would've picked Guizhou for a province lacking water. Given Guizhou's reputation, you would've thought the local definition of 'drought' was 'four straight days without rain'.

I don't mean for this to suddenly turn into a 'China weather blog'. Really. I mean, I have no expertise whatsoever to offer in that area. But the weather's been so strange lately it's starting to remind me of a New Zealand spring.

weather, jiaozi, and other random nonsense

So yesterday's snow melted pretty quickly, but then last night the wind picked up and it's still blowing. According to last nights weather forecast on CCTV 1 (not the world's most accurate, I know, but still the best I've come across in China) we're in for a bit of a cold snap. It seems the temperature will hit -7 tonight and it's not expected to crawl up much past 1 or 2 degrees for the next few days. So it seems we're straight back into the depths of winter.

lzh just told me that one of her high school classmates told her that the snow in Yanqing is 20 centimetres deep.

Still, it could be worse. And here's more on the crazy weather.

Still need a proxy to get to LJ. The longer this continues the more it looks like an actual block instead of some technical hiccup. I won't tell you what proxy I use for fear of Nanny overhearing and blocking it. I've seen her block a lot of proxies over the years. Nanny is the control freak dominatrix from hell. Or Germany, whichever is worse. (Apologies to any Germans or residents of Germany: That's a bad joke based on weird stereotypes that somehow float their way down to the southernmost end of the South Pacific).

Well, I suppose I should offer some deep and meaningful cultural insights on yesterday's Lantern Festival, but I don't have any. It's one festival that always seemed to just pass me by. All I ever figured out about it was: Lanterns, riddles, yuanxiao (one of those annoying festival foods I never really liked) and another excuse to blow shit up. Yesterday afternoon lzh went down to A Bao's (our local 小卖部/corner store). A Bao said, "Yuanxiao? Who the hell eats that shit? Don't have any." So we wound up eating jiaozi instead. Can't say I was disappointed.

Trouble is, it was store-bought jiaozi we ate. Better than yuanxiao, sure, but still.... With jiaozi, homemade is definitely best. lzh buys the jiaozipi/wrappers ready-made from the market, but makes her own stuffing. Those are some pretty damn tasty jiaozi, I tell you. But her mum makes everything from scratch, and her jiaozi are the best I've ever eaten. Some of her aunts can also cook up some pretty good jiaozi. Oh well, store-bought jiaozi are still an easy lunch for me.

Oh, and I have to say: Whenever I see 手工水饺 or anything similar, whether on a package of jiaozi in a store or on a restaurant sign or menu, I think 'bullshit'. You already know what I think of store-bought jiaozi. Restaurant jiaozi are, well, potluck. Some are pretty good, some taste like they were scraped off the floor of the jiaozi factory three weeks after they were made. The best restaurant jiaozi I've ever had were at 百饺园 on 平山道 in 天津 (yes, Tianjin does have some good food. It's just not the food Tianjin is most famous for), but even those jiaozi, and they were pretty good, don't even come close to lzh's homemade jiaozi, let alone her mother's.

I believe 百饺园 has several branches, including one or two in Beijing, worth looking out for, if anybody's interested. But if you want the best jiaozi ever in the whole universe, you'll have to come up to my mother in law's place with me.

And in other news, my students are back. I can see I'm going to have my work cut out getting them to open their mouths and speak, again. But the start of the second semester always involves a lot of that basic groundwork you do at the very beginning of a course.

and now some common sense

Bush seeks ethanol alliance with Brazil. From yesterday's sheer stupidity to common sense today, it's bizarre the wild swings the Bush administration takes. If they're not careful, sombody will mistake them for a roller coaster.

Anyway, this is long overdue, but better late than never. The world should've followed Brazil's lead and started developing alternative fuels years ago. In fact, it's interesting to note that Brazil owes it's leadership in the ethanol industry to a decision made by the military dictatorship in the 1970s (at least, that's the impression I got from this article). And now it seems even George W. Bush is finally waking up to reality. It's not often you'll find me saying good things about the American government, but I'll give them credit where it's due, and this is definitely a step in the right direction.

4 March 2007


It's good to see everything is back to normal (apart from my move from live journal to blogspot). China Unicom's CDMA wireless service is patchy and unreliable, going from full signal to no signal to full signal but no bandwidth; pretty decent speed to slower than any dial-up I've ever used to no speed at all. lzh is telling me all kinds of superstitious bullshit about how the shape of my teeth and the lines on her left hand prove that one day we'll be rich. And she's watching tv, snacking, and telling me how fat she's gotten since I came back from Tianjin (forgive my typical male insensitivity, but I can't see how at 1.6 metres and 50 kilogrammes anybody would consider her anything but healthy).


Sheer stupidity. Not to mention complete hypocrisy.

And besides, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, isn't America (and the other four "legal" nuclear powers) obliged to work towards nuclear disarmament? How does building new nuclear warheads contribute to disarmament? How does building new nuclear warheads build trust around the world? How does this contribute to peace or America's national security?

Like I said, this is sheer stupidity.


Well, as if Beijing's weather wasn't strange enough..... lzh is channel surfing, as usual, and came across a programme called 话说天下 which was broadcasting live from Shenyang. The reporter was on the street, and the snow was falling thicker and faster around her than I've ever seen. She managed to lift a foot out of the snow and then slowly reinserted it to show us just how deep the snow was. And with the snow falling so fast, I'm hoping the producer told her to get inside real quick because she looked like she was about to be buried.


Thanks to Imagethief, we can now experience the joys of the New Light of Myanmar.


So it seems us Kiwis are really happy with our lot. Or at least, those who stay in New Zealand are.


So as it seems Livejournal is being blocked I'm going to make this my new main blog. I'll still keep my lj going through proxies, but I don't like using proxies and I'd rather my blog were openly available to everyone. I'll keep the same old back-up over at over-blog, 'cos I don't believe any of these services are safe from Nanny's twisted mind.

So I deleted all the bullshit that I'd posted here over the last couple of months of experimentation. Please don't go looking for it. Now I'll restart this thing.

The title? Bezdomny. Pretty cool, huh? Well, no, it's taken straight from the novel The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Bezdomny was a poet. But it's been so long since I read that novel that I can't remember what he actually does, other than sit around being a poet. Anyway, I always liked that name and I always felt kind of bezdomny in some odd way, so I decided to use it. Oh, it means 'homeless', just in case you were wondering.

So, on to the blogging.

The weather this year is bizarre. A warm, dry winter, and now.... A day of rain yesterday and it's a good job we didn't go to the village for lantern festival as originally planned, because the rain turned to snow sometime last night and it settled thickly and heavily (by Beijing standards) and it's still falling. This is good, we need all the moisture we can get. And I hope this wet weather continues. If nothing else it might help cut the risk of sandstorms. If we're lucky it might even help relieve Beijing's almost permanent drought.