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.

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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

Yumberry!

13 December 07

This past summer, the DH and I made ourselves sick eating tons of these yummy, tart little berries.

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We had no idea what they were, what they were called or where they came from. They weren’t available in our market for long, either. Today I finally found out what they are called – Yang Mei.

According to the New York Times, Yang Mei is (or will be shortly) the new antioxidant rage in US grocery stores. They’re calling it the new pomegranate. Get ready for it!

The Chinese name means poplar-plum; in English it is called red bayberry or Chinese bayberry. The name yumberry was coined about 2003 by Charles Stenftenagel, a garden products importer from Indiana, when he was visiting a friend in Shanghai who owned a company that bottled the juice.

If you’re in China, look for them May to July. If you’re in the US, sorry, you can only enjoy the juice, the fruit itself is banned to keep out unwanted insects. I assure you, they are delicious!

Read more here (NYT).

Conquering Tai Shan

12 December 07

In the steps of the emperors…

We start our climb at 9 PM from the base of Mt. Tai in the city of Tai An. It is dark and cold. I’m worried about freezing, so I wear a lot of layers. Five layers, in fact. Thirty minutes into the climb, I’ve stripped down to three. The imperial route up Mt. Tai is lined with steps and whew! I work up quite a sweat!

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I’m tired!

We can’t see a thing, so we just clomp along in the dark. Eventually, our eyes adjust to the darkness and we can make out the outline of stairs ahead (never ending stairs!). Of course, we are instantly blinded anytime we approach a shop or temple that has a light on. We stop at one temple to light some incense and my friends pray for prosperity.

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A tame staircase

We are among only a handful of climbers. They say during national holidays the mountain is full of people. The solitude and quiet are great for reflection. The stars overhead are brilliant.

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Wendy & Ivy

At midnight, we reach the half-way point. We are cold, hungry and tired. Sunrise will be at 7 AM. We decide a nap would be a good idea. We check into a small hostel for a few hours sleep. The beds are hard, the room is cold.

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DH makes a friend

At 5 AM we are up again, groggy and grumpy. The hardest part of the climb is straight ahead.

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Stairway to heaven?

My friends, who are all 5 to 7 years younger than I, bound up the steps. The DH and I plod along slow and steady. The trail is not particularly strenuous, but it is good to pace yourself.

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My Chinese pose

There is ice and snow on the ground all around us. We can hear it crunching under our feet.

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The stairs seem never ending as we get closer and closer to the top. Slowly, the sky brightens.

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Azure Cloud Temple on the summit

At 6:30 AM we reach the top of the hellish staircase (Actually, it is the staircase to heaven!) We’re almost to the summit.

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1400 meters, 100 more to go

Another 10 minutes and we are settled in on some big boulders to wait for the sunrise. Crowds begin to gather around us. Everyone is wearing army style coats – thick and green – to keep warm. It is windy and brutally cold. I notice quite a few ladies are wearing high heeled boots. I assume they’ve just woken up and left their hotel rooms to view the sunrise. (Although I observe some intrepid climbers in high heels later.)

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Just after 7 AM the sun pokes through the clouds. We all ooh and aah. Airplanes pass by, leaving contrails across the sky. We can just make out the trail we have climbed, through the clouds below us.

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We begin our descent (too cold to linger at the top) and almost instantly we feel the effects of our climb – soreness! Our knees are screaming!

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Jo-Jo, DH, me, Wendy & Ivy

Looking down the mountain at all the steps we’ve climbed, we all agree it was a brilliant idea to walk up in the dark. If we’d seen what was ahead of us, I’m not sure we could have continued!

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It’s a long way down!

The walk down is fun, but long. We stop every few meters to pose for photos and to admire the views we missed on the way up. We pass lots of stone carvings and small temples.

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Jo-Jo

The mountain is covered in cypress trees and boulders. It all looks straight out of a traditional Chinese painting.

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By the half-way point, we are starting to wonder if taking the cable car/bus down would have been a better idea.

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Ivy touches heaven

When we’ve reached the base, our knees are destroyed, our legs are sore, and we are starving. But we’ve had a blast! After lunch, we’re on our way back to Linyi (and bed!).

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Piece of cake!