earendil31: (Default)
I just found this article at the excellent Danwei.org.  It is a description of the daily routine in a Beijing municipal jail (kind of like a state penitentiary here) by a foreigner that had either the bad luck or the bad judgment to do something bad enough to end up there for seven months.  He was pretty lucky to end up with white-collar criminals, as opposed to the rest of the population which were there on life or death sentences for Much Worse Offenses.  Its the first time I've read anything on the jails in the capital, as pre-Olympic Beijing preferred to deal with foreigners either much more leniently (fines or deportation) than regular Chinese criminals. 

All in all, it sounds incredibly benign compared to what I know (from study, not experience) the rural jails are like.  Perhaps because the foreigner in question was going to be released and cuol dbe expected to report his experience quickly thereafter.  In any event, I would not have a problem if U.S. jails (for non-violent offenders such as these) operated in the same manner.  It certainly wouldn't work for the hyper-aggressive emotionally uncontrolled train wrecks you see on shows like MSNBC: Lockup.  But for people that are physically harmless but in for extended sentences, e.g. Bernie Madoff, I think something like this would work just fine.
earendil31: (Default)
Last weekend I went to Florida with [livejournal.com profile] jet_der_hund to watch the launch of STS-130, a mission of the space shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station.  The launch, though it was delayed one day by weather, was amazing, and I'm glad I went, and very glad I could see it with fellow aviation nuts Jet and [livejournal.com profile] fraudulentfox , who was able to join us only because of the scrub and some.... creative ticket buying.  NASA, I love you, but the airport you are not.* 

Between the launch and the Saints beating up the Terminator, it was a great way to end the lunar year.  This weekend, the US will go crazy over little candy hearts and overpriced flowers.  Everywhere else, though, it's Chinese New Year.  This will be the year of Yang Metal Tiger.  What's that you say? You thought there was only an animal? What's this "yang metal" thing about? Don't worry, I'm going to tell you. 

The Chinese calendar has more than just animals.  Yin and yang, as well as the five Chinese classical elements (water, earth, fire, wood, metal) are all critical to a real Chinese astrological reading.  I, for example, was born in October of 1981, so I am not just a rooster, but a yin metal rooster.  It gets more complicated than that, you can go down to the minute of your birth for an extended sign.  Mine is yin metal rooster, double water ox, wood rat.  Since I'm not using an LJ cut for this, I'll let you all discover what this means for yourselves here and here

The point of it all, is that since I'm a yin metal rooster, and this year is yang metal tiger, I've got one opposed, one in favor, and one neutral force impacting me this year (no, the tiger does not eat the rooster, and it also doesn't care two bits for fictional characters).   So a pretty balanced year, in all.  I'm traveling a lot this year, so I'll be glad for the stability.  



*Ask me in person or over DM what this means.
earendil31: (Default)
Oh, it's February already?  OK, time for an update. 

China did exactly what I thought they would, they tried to blame it all on the US, then got all angry about other stuff, like Taiwan and the Dalai Lama.  Nice to see the Party is still the Party.  The wheels grind slowly.

In happier news, I'm off to Florida this Friday to watch a space shuttle launch!  This means I won't be throwing my usual Super Bowl party, but never fear all you rabid football fans out there, other arrangements have been made.....  I, meanwhile, will be watching the big game from the awesomest sports bar [livejournal.com profile] jet_der_hund and I can find in Orlando (assuming the launch goes up on Sunday...otherwise we'll be in the awesomest sports bar in Kennedy Space Center since we have to be on site at 1030 the night before the launch).  About the launch.... this is something I've wanted to see since I was old enough to know what the space shuttle is.  I'm fully expecting I won't be able to sleep on Thursday night before my flight.  If there is anything left in this world that will make me into a little kid again, this is it.  Well, a little kid with a really big camera and several lenses... I have no idea how to photograph this thing, it's going to be a night launch essentially, and I don't know anything near enough about night photography for my liking.   Jet is, I think, bringing a Nikon with a Long Lens, so I'm hoping that he'll be so busy with that that I'll be able to use his Canon white lens? Pretty please? With a cherry on top? =^_^=
earendil31: (Default)
Google has caught Chinese hackers in the act of attacking their servers, and those of at least 20 other companies and groups.  This attack was aimed at acquiring intellectual property, and the email accounts of several prominent human rights activists.  Google, in response, has stopped censoring its Chinese search results in any way.  They have also committed themselves to withdraw from China entirely if the gov't does not allow them to operate uncensored.  This withdrawal would include the firing of thousands of highly paid Chinese nationals.  Google has handed over the entirety of their investigation - results, methods of attack, extent of success or failure, probable attackers, etc. - to US authorities. 

This is not a small incident.  This will have large repercussions, economically and diplomatically for the US, and possibly socially for the Chinese.  Right now, the Chinese gov't cannot block Google.cn.... the unfiltered servers are behind the great firewall, and uncensored results regarding the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, the riots last year, the various human rights abuses in Tibet, everything, are now viewable to the Chinese people. 

The Chinese gov't will be running around in a frenzy right now, figuring out who to blame, who to sacrifice to us, and who to throw in jail.  This is a huge loss of face for the Chinese government.  Not only were they caught red-handed (that Google is willing to pull out of the country entirely is indication that they know exactly who did this, where they were, and how they did it, and that this was gov't connected), everything that was done has been laid bare and turned over the the US government.  As I said, a huge loss of face; but more importantly an even larger loss of strategic position.

Chinese spokespeople will be working long hours this week.  They will say nothing publicly until the central government can figure out how exactly to spin this into them throwing Google out for breaking Chinese laws.  Anything before that is a sign of true panic behind the scenes in Beijing.  The fact that they have not yet blocked Wikipedia, however, is a sign of their initial confusion. 

This is a big deal.  A lot is riding on how China responds to this, and more for the Chinese than for Google.  Watch this carefully.

***EDITS***

01/13/2010 0948AM CDT - Google.cn has been at least partially re-censored.  Searching for "Tiananmen 1989" brings up fewer images of the massacre, more modern tourist photos.   Main search results still bring up results not usually accessible i.e. the Wikipedia entry on the massacre.  Searches for "Falun Gong" bring up equal amounts of Chinese propaganda and factual information (normal results from Google.cn are 100% propaganda).

01/15/2010 - Sources indicate the US gov't is going to send a diplomatic note to China asking for a formal explanation of the cyberattacks on Google and several other companies.  China will probably respond by denying all involvement, claiming itself as a victim of attacks as well, and trying to discredit Google (but not by name) for "propogating pornography."

earendil31: (Default)
Since you guys were oh so helpful in helping me narrow down my choices for July trips, I just decided, ya know, screw it, I can't just sit on these air miles like Ebenezer Scrooge, this is what I've been saving them for.  So I'm going to do everything ^^.  Got my flights sorted out yesterday.  This is how it works out:

Leave for Shanghai on July 19th via SFO, see the eclipse on the 22nd, come back on the 23rd, fly directly to Orlando from SFO, stay *edit* somewhere *end edit*  until the 27th, then fly to Chicago to get my car and drive to Oshkosh where I'll see cool things that fly (or flew) until the 2nd, then drive home and go (Sigh) back to work.

Except for gasoline, transportation is all free (miles) or super cheap (China).  China hotel will be less than $30 total for three nights.  I'm staying at [profile] jet_der_hund 's place in WI so that will be low cost as well.  *edit begin* Then there's florida.... I've got a lot of time before the 19th of July when all this starts, so I'm sure I will be able to work something out before then.  Usually I would go into emergency logistics mode and jump all over this problem.  But this week I found out that for the rest of the summer, I'm going to be doing [livejournal.com profile] jdpuppy at-work-in-real-life impersonations at my office, and by the time I get home all my logic circuits are burned out.

So I leave it again, to you, Dear Reader!  Especially the ones that have had to do this before.... what are the secrets of finding a room in which you do not feel obligated to attach high-cost security devices to your bags, or leave them wrapped in liquid-proof plastic, or both? 

On the other hand, you can also tell funny stories about your worst random hotel roommate experience! So really you don't have a choice, you have to repond to one of these....

*edit end*

*new edit* just so no one thinks I'm gonna be sleeping in the lobby or something, a "backup backup if-all-else-fails and the world is going to end" plan does exist

earendil31: (Default)
So I'm getting on a train in about 6 hours to go to the Southlands of China. I'll be roaming around down there until the 27th, when I ab-so-lute-ly must come back to Beijing so that I can go home on the first of August. Now, some of you know me well enough to know that at some point, all this was planned out down to the day, with hotels and trains and buses and snacks and everything. So then let me surprise you by saying that all my plans (all of them, every single one) were completely destroyed by the arbitrary and capricious beast known as China Railways; I'll be more or less making it up as I go along. I have a ticket to Guilin and a hostel reservation in Yangshuo, and a somewhat good impression of how to get from one to the other. This is gonna get messy....

For those of you wondering where the frak my pictures are, most of them are on Facebook, cause that's what the rest of the world seems to be using these days, and its a Hell of a lot easier to put pics on there than on here. And Myspace can suck it.

It's 9 in the morning. I'm in a restaurant. There are these Russian/Kazahk/Mongolian/Uzbeks behind me, drinking a bottle of Absolut. I just finished my hash browns and eggs. When do you ever see a restaurant that sells bottles this cheap in the morning? Gotta remember this place.

BBQ at my place upon my return, details to follow.

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