Archive for January, 2008

I’m Moving..

25 January 08

blog addresses, that is.

The new blog URL is http://global-gal.com or http://www.global-gal.com if you’re fond of w’s.

The blog is the same – go have a gander! Switching to my own domain means I no longer need to use TOR to access my blog or update posts. It also means fellow friends in China can access the blog without using proxies.

I will no longer update this site, or the mindsay blog, but I will keep them as they are, at least as long as they remain free blog hosts! (Unless anyone has any issues accessing my new URL – let me know!)

I’m currently in the process of changing image links to reflect my new photo home – SmugMug. You can see all of my photo galleries at http://globalgal.smugmug.com. I’ve noticed that occasionally, there are issues with photos not showing up in my posts.** Usually, this is a temporary matter. As far as I know, SmugMug is not blocked within China, as Flickr photos sometimes are.  (**Update: actually, it’s my fault! I disabled the external link function for that gallery – oops! The SmugMug team is so fantastic, they alerted me to the problem without me even having to ask!)

My new home is powered by the fabulous web host Laughing Squid. Like SmugMug, Laughing Squid is run by real people, not a corporation. Sure, I could have signed up for a zillion GB of web space for $2 on some big web host company, but I prefer to patronize small businesses with heart. Laughing Squid provides excellent technical support and their servers are high quality. And they’re artists!

Come over to the new blog! I am in desperate need of little red dots on the Clustrmap!

New Family Members!

24 January 08

This week the DH & I became aunt & uncle for the 10th time! My sister had a healthy baby boy on the 20th. Congrats!

Baby nephew Seth is not the only new addition, however, a very special dinosaur also joined the family on New Year’s Eve:

Our new Pleo!

Shrek – a Pleo dinosaur

Shrek (so named by a nephew) is a Pleo – an advanced dinosaur robot. He can walk, make noise and react to life forms around him. (He also knocks over empty soda cans in his path.) He has advanced sensors all over his body and he knows when you are petting him. Evidently, Pleos can adapt and learn over time. He really is incredible to see. Shrek was a gift from the DH & I to our Spanish nieces & nephew. I want one now, too!

David & Shrek

Our nephew David & Shrek. He loves to be scratched behind the ears.

Shrek dancing

Shrek singing & dancing Christmas songs (an added feature)

Chinese Lessons

24 January 08

Today I have a book recommendation. “Chinese Lessons” by John Pomfret. Pomfret first came to China as a foreign student in the early 80s. Later, he returned as a journalist. “Chinese Lessons” presents the stories of his fellow classmates, among the first students to return to university post-Cultural Revolution. Through Pomfret’s writing, these classmates share their experiences living through the Cultural Revolution, their time in university and life in the new China.

If you are involved in the China expat blogosphere, undoubtedly you have heard of this book before. There is an excellent review here. I brought this book back to China with me last April. I read it. The DH read it. Our coworker read it. His Chinese wife read it. Now it is in the hands of a fellow expat friend. I hope it gets passed around to more friends. It really should be required reading of all expats in China. If you want to know what your neighbors & Chinese coworkers lived through, you’ve got to read it.

I decided to blog about this book after reading this article on NY Times about the first class of students allowed to take the university entrance exams in 1977. For those of you who don’t know, studies of all kinds were suspended during the brutal Cultural Revolution years. When universities opened in 1978, students of all ages flocked to their campuses. (Only if they scored well on the entrance exam – an exam still used to this day.) What happened to the so-called Class of ’77? Some of them are now the country’s leaders.

For Ms. An and a whole generation consigned to the countryside, it was the first chance to escape what seemed like a life sentence of tedium and hardship. A pent-up reservoir of talent and ambition was released as 5.7 million people took the two-day exam in November and December 1977, in what may have been the most competitive scholastic test in modern Chinese history.

The 4.7 percent of test-takers who won admission to universities — 273,000 people — became known as the class of ’77, widely regarded in China as the best and brightest of their time. By comparison, 58 percent of the nine million exam-takers in 2007 won admission to universities, as educational opportunities have greatly expanded.

Now, three decades later, the powerful combination of intellect and determination has taken many in this elite group to the top in politics, education, art and business. Last October, one successful applicant who had gone on to study law and economics at Peking University, Li Keqiang, was brought into the Chinese Communist Party’s decision-making Politburo Standing Committee, where he is being watched as a possible successor to President Hu Jintao or Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

Among those who have assumed positions of power, aside from Mr. Li of the Politburo, are Zhou Qiang, the governor of Hunan Province; Wang Yi, party secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and a former ambassador to Japan; and Jin Liqun, vice president of the Asian Development Bank.

Artistic talent to emerge from the class of ’77 includes the filmmakers Zhang Yimou (“Raise the Red Lantern”) and Chen Kaige (“Farewell My Concubine”), and the writer Chen Cun.

May they never forget the lessons of those lost years!

Blog Blues

23 January 08

Although I didn’t blog much while in Spain, it would have been infinitely easier there. Blogging in China is a real headache. Over the last 2.5 years in China, I have witnessed a noticeable decline in Internet usability. Maybe it is just me, maybe it is not. It just seems that more websites than ever are blocked. Proxy servers that were usable in the past are now blocked. (TOR still works most of the time!) I hear that YouTube will be blocked permanently soon.

WordPress, of course, continues to be blocked. Using TOR to access my blog and update posts is my only option, but it has gotten really slow lately. All that waiting around for pages to load stifles my creativity!

I’ve got a solution in the works. I’ve purchased my own domain name and web space. Soon my blog will be transferred from wordpress.com to its own home. Of course my long term plan is to leave China. Knowing how my life works, however, I may leave China and end up in a country where Internet censorship exists, as well.

Islam Light

16 January 08

Interesting article on The Economist website about Islam in Indonesia. Good reading for those out there who still believe a certain US presidential candidate is out to bring radical Islamic terrorism to the White House.

Europe’s Worst Airport?

16 January 08

Having recently run the travel gauntlet and sworn like a sailor over security, I’m pleased to discover I had the good fortune to transit through some of the best airports in Europe – Madrid’s Barajas airport and Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

I’ve always known that Schiphol is an amazing place. I’ve been flying through there for 15 years! Barajas, on the other hand, seemed poorly designed to me. Anyway, Barajas is nothing like London’s Heathrow, which wins top prize as Europe’s worst airport. Heathrow should be avoided at any cost. Read the NY Times article and the comments to get the full picture.

Happy Traveling!

Normality

16 January 08

I’m back in China and all I can say is that it is very cold. I’m back to work and also back to library school classes. So I guess I must be very busy.
I’ve been suffering from intense blog laziness over the last few weeks. I haven’t had even the slightest inspiration for updating the blog. Everything I write comes out stiff and awful. I don’t know how long this will last, but when I’m feeling more creative, more posts will come.

It Seems

2 January 08

I spoke too soon!

The DH and I have decided to return to China for an additional 3 months. I’ve come to realize that China has woven a magic chain around our ankles, sort of like the one in Stardust, and no matter what, we somehow find our way back there.  We are still planning on moving somewhere new, we’ve just delayed it a bit… We should be back in Qingdao on the 15th, after a stopover in Hong Kong.

For the last few days my in-law’s house has been full of people – the DH’s brother and sisters and their kids, cousins, and an uncle. We had a full table for New Year’s Eve dinner and it was a lot of fun. More stories to come now that the house is quiet again and I have time to sit down and think! (And I’m finally over the jet lag – it was awful!!)

Happy New Year!