Archive for December, 2007

I Should Be Happy

30 December 07

But I’m not. I’m on vacation. I’m in a beautiful country. I’m surrounded by family. I’m not happy. I love traveling, I just hate the actual traveling part. I’ve passed through 7 airports in the last few days. I’ve spent hours on airplanes and hours in airports, and I’m not happy. I’m angry. I’m pissed off that those of us who choose to support airline companies and airport economies by flying the so-called friendly skies must endure ridiculous security measures made to make the human race “feel” more secure, when they do nothing but cause grief, anger and delays. And oh yea, by the way, they don’t actually do anything to make us more secure.

I’ve been going over and over in my head exactly how to write these feelings and thoughts. Imagine my surprise when I open the New York Times website today and find an editorial that exactly expresses my frustration. Patrick Smith writes an aviation column for Salon.com and it is always right on. His NYT editorial should be required reading. We’ve got to do something about this airport situation, it is beyond reasonable! If I hear one more person say something along the lines of, “We have to endure it, because it is for our security!” I’m gonna scream! Wrong!!

An excerpt:

Six years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, airport security remains a theater of the absurd. The changes put in place following the September 11th catastrophe have been drastic, and largely of two kinds: those practical and effective, and those irrational, wasteful and pointless.

Indeed, the security measures I have endured over the last few days, (remove your coat! remove your belt! remove your shoes! remove your laptop! keep moving! bla bla bla), were definitely of the irrational, wasteful and pointless variety. I would, as one airport security agent suggested, avoid flying, but it is kind of impossible in my situation. Is there any sanity left in the world?

Going Home

25 December 07

This is just a quick post to let everyone know that I am SUPER busy trying to get ready for our trip to Spain and onward move…somewhere!

Merry Christmas and Happy Eid and Best Wishes for a Wonderful Holiday!

We will be in transit for the next few days, hopefully arriving in Spain for the weekend. Posts will resume upon our arrival, I can’t guarantee any updates in the meantime. Take care, I’ll be thinking of you all!

Beware Europe!

22 December 07
China is not the only country engaging in Internet filtering and censorship. Be very wary, it could happen in your own backyard!
From a Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) listserv I belong to:

Music Industry Pressures EU Politicians for Filtered Internet

The music and film industry continues to pursue its idea of a politically “corrected” Internet – one that they imagine could protect their old business models without requiring any extra costs on their part. This time, the fix is Internet-wide filtering. In a memo to European policy-makers, the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) has called upon ISPs in Europe to filter the content sent across their networks, block protocols used by their customers, and cut off access to persistently infringing sites from the Net.

Disturbingly, European politicians seem open to the idea of ISPs policing and interfering with their customers’ communications on behalf of rightsholders. Last month, the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) tabled an amendment to a Parliamentary report that changed a request to “rethink the critical issue of intellectual property”, into a call for “internet service providers to apply filtering measures to prevent copyright infringements”.

EFF sent a letter pointing out that some of the groups hardest hit by blanket Internet filtering measures would be artists and teachers. But building filtering and censorship tools is not just bad for creators and education; it’s bad for all of society. Any country that has a centralized system in place to pry into its citizen’s private communications creates a very disturbing precedent and a dangerously powerful tool, vulnerable to misuse. Perhaps the music industry’s European lobbyists have lost sight of the serious collateral damage their proposals would cause, but European citizens and their elected policymakers should not.

For the full IFPI memo requesting filtering from ISPs:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/effeurope/ifpi_filtering_memo.pdf

For EFF Europe’s letter addressing calls for ISPs to filter for copyright
infringement:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/effeurope/CULT-filtering-letter.pdf

For this post:
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2007/12/music-industry-europe-filter-pressure

Reproduction of this publication in electronic media is encouraged.

Call an Ambulance!

22 December 07

Who doesn’t love a cult classic? I’ve seen these hilarious Japanese English teachers around the Internet for a while. Have a laugh on me. Because, really, who wouldn’t call an ambulance?

Find out more about those crazy Zuiikin girls on Wikipedia. And don’t miss the delightful “Take anything you want!” and “How dare you say such a thing to me!

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

21 December 07

I’ve just come from a really fun night that almost makes me regret what I am about to announce here.

Dinner with friends is a way of life here in China. You get together with your buddies, (Chinese or foreign or, hopefully, both), and you eat as much as you can, drink as much as you want and laugh and enjoy yourself.

That is what we did tonight. We met up with our good friend PB and a small group of his friends. Caution here, PB speaks a little English, but not a lot, so in the past, our conversations have consisted mainly of “what’s up, man?” and “how are you?” Tonight, PB brought along a friend who speaks very good English, so we could translate with each other. No matter anyway, because over the last year, PB has learned an amazing amount of English and even if we can’t always understand each other, we always have a fun time.

We started out the evening over a never-ending dinner at a Western-style barbecue restaurant. These kinds of places are all the rave in China and are vaguely reminiscent of Fuego de Chao, the Brazilian barbecue restaurant. The Chinese versions offer a buffet of salads and Chinese dishes, while the main entrée is barbecued meat, circulated around the restaurant on long metal skewers. Our little group polished off quite a few pitchers of beer, brewed on-site (dark, light, green and ginger varieties) and countless plates of food. My mother always told me to think of the starving children in China when I wouldn’t eat my brussel sprouts, but now I can confidently say there are NO starving anything in China!! Every table in the place was over flowing with food!

The evening ended at a disco, located, conveniently, next door to the restaurant. Chinese discos are always wacky. This one featured a bouncing dance floor, but I was a little disconcerted to find the floor bounced up and down a good foot or two, making for a very uncomfortable dance.

I realize that this might offend a reader or two, but I beg you to consider the hilarity of the situation. As the number of dancers increased and the beat of the music intensified, I suddenly realized everyone was dancing furiously to a song which basically consisted of one lyric repeated over and over: “Everyone wants the pu**y!!” Loudly. Girls and boys laughing, pumping their fists in the air. No one had a clue what the singer was actually saying. Aww. Gotta love China!!!

Gotta love China. What a complicated country. Which makes me both a little bit sad and a little bit happy to announce that after a great deal of contemplation, the DH and I have decided it is time for us to leave China and move on to a new adventure somewhere else on the globe.

I know it seems sudden, but we have reached the end of our contract and this is something we have been considering for a long time. As some of you know, I am a serial expat. After two and a half years in the Far East, it is time for something new.

It’s been awesome, China, thanks for the memories!!!

Tai Shan Sunrise

19 December 07

Tai Shan

Tai Shan Sunrise
Mt. Tai, China Dec 2007

For more Wordless Wednesday see here.

SmugMug!!

19 December 07

I love SmugMug! I am almost Flickr free!

As mentioned before, I am leaving Flickr due to my distaste for Yahoo, Flickr’s parent company. I’ve been searching for the right image host for my photos. For a while I thought I was going to have to host all the photos myself. Finally, I found SmugMug.

SmugMug is an image host, similar to Flickr in many ways, but better, in my opinion. For one thing, the background pages are all black, which works better with the photos. Secondly, and most important, SmugMug is a small family-run company. And they have amazing customer service. Last week I signed up for a free 14 day trial. (It is not a free image host.) Yesterday, customer service sent me an email to inquire how the trial was going. One of the reasons that I considered SmugMug is that they offer a handy import tool called SmuggLr, to move Flickr photos (with tags, descriptions, etc.) over to their service. I was having some problems getting it to work, however, so I replied to their email saying I would like some help. Within 10 minutes I received a reply, telling me that the import tool developer would be happy to help me. Within 20 minutes, all of my photos and details were transferred over. No stress. I immediately paid for a year of service.

Now comes the hard work of changing all the photo URLs for the last two years worth of posts! I hope that within the next month I can terminate my Flickr account! You can now view my photo albums at Global Gal’s SmugMug.

Commune by the Great Wall

17 December 07

Looking for some swank at the Great Wall? Try Commune by the Great Wall by Kempinski Hotels. Definitely that is a new definition for the word commune. Looks pretty luxe to me. The hotel features villas designed by 12 Asian architects. There are suites as well as standard and deluxe rooms. While I don’t usually stay at ritzy, expensive hotels, this one is worth it for the design alone.

They have Christmas and New Year’s packages starting at 1588 RMB per night. ($215 or 150 Euro)

And no, this is not an advertisement! I just like the way this place looks!

China Keeps on Truckin’

17 December 07

Ever been on the roads of China at night? Just go down to your local Wal-Mart, walk around and look at all the products on display. Then just imagine all of the parts they are made up of loaded on heavy trucks, thundering across the highways of China. That is what it is like.

Overloaded Truck

Fairly typical truck
from Automobile blog

On my recent trip to Mt. Tai, my friend Wendy drove her car the two and a half hours to Tai An, where we would begin the climb. The highway was like a solid mass of trucks. Big, overloaded trucks. In Wendy’s zippy little Chevy, we weaved around and between them. (My eyes were definitely wide open!)

When I used to live at the Shijiazhuang airport, anytime we wanted to travel to the city, we drove 45 minutes on the highway, also covered in trucks. I’ve never seen anything like it.

From the New York Times’ Choking on Growth series:

Trucks here burn diesel fuel contaminated with more than 130 times the pollution-causing sulfur that the United States allows in most diesel. While car sales in China are now growing even faster than truck sales, trucks are by far the largest source of street-level pollution.

Doesn’t that sound lovely? Read more about trucks in China, oil consumption, diesel fuels, and how they are contributing to pollution here (NY Times).

First Solo!

14 December 07

Luke's First Solo

Luke – First Solo at JTFA (the force was with him)

Yesterday was an exciting day at JTFA – we had our first ever solo flight by a student! The first solo is a momentous occasion – the student is alone in the cockpit for the first time. Other than communication with the air traffic controllers, they are on their own! Luke’s first solo consisted of flying a circuit around the airport – the traffic pattern – and making several landings. He made two touch and go’s – touching down on the runway and then taking off again – and three circuits of the airport.

Luke celebrating

Once he had taxied and parked the aircraft, he practically floated over to the group waiting for him. There is still a lot of training to complete before he will start working for the airlines in China, but he is one step closer!

JTFA first class