Saturday, July 26, 2008

"The advertisements are the most truthful part of a newspaper"

According to my number one source of accurate information, wikipedia, the Business Standard is a financial newspaper from India. And from the one article that I have read, this newspaper seems to be a diamond amongst Indian newspaper ruff. They deserve an Emmy for their first rate journalism. Right now, many people are wondering, "why is he talking about some newspaper in Indian, WTF." Well, I say WTF indeed. After not looking at our Big Brother information site in a while, yesterday, I decided to check it out and see if people still actually read our blog and I was shocked to find out that the Business Standard has people that might, but doesn't seem like, who read it. They have featured us in their online newspaper for an audial world. Here is an excerpt from what the newspaper said about us, "Clark." I know what you are all thinking, "Clark, WTF, does this newspaper even have fact checkers, I am wearing a $5000 dollar suit, come on!" Truly, if they used the word Clark and our blog, they have not actually been reading it. This is why I only read news sources by Rupert Murdoch, they have the highest standards in journalism. The only other thing I had a problem with when they described our blog, is that they said it was "A far more typical expat blog," me personally, I would have added another far, because really we are writing about nothing like all the other expats who feign self importance. I can't comment on what he said about the content of our blog, because in all actuality, we don't actually we read the blog post that we write, we just actually write them, then actually post them, on an actual basis (the last one didn't make sense). I w

Highlight of the Day: Being reminded that I live in Communist China. The first actual (I like that word) reminder came yesterday, when I went to what I thought was the last surviving DVD shop in my area, the Tuan, and found out that all the bootleg foreign DVDs they once had, all became bootlegged Chinese DVDs. Needless to say the DVD shop was complete void of foreigners. The second reminder came, this morning when I woke up at 7am on a Saturday, something I never do, to go to wukesong, which is in the middle of the wild west part of Beijing, to buy tickets for Olympic Basketball. I was excited because today they were going to be selling a USA basketball day. However, upon my arrival there was not that many people standing in line. One of the first signs that something was up. Once I got to the front of the gate, to see what the hell was going on, there was a sign that said that they sold all the tickets yesterday. And twenty minutes later a volunteer for the Olympics comes and says all the tickets sold yesterday. This doesn't sound unusual, but, this weekend they were only supposed to sell certain days each day and all the days at once. But because of a change in some policy that was made on the spot that day while they were selling tickets, they decided to sell everything at once. This is some bush league Olympic organizing, come on! The third thing just happened 30 minutes ago when I tried to write this blog. Normally, we have complete access to writing our blogs on blogspot, we just can't read them after we write them, unless we use a proxy. However, today, I couldn't even get access to write the blog. A sign that the gov't is cracking down on the information flow. Maybe, I should not even be writing this post. So I will end with, hey the Chinese government is great though, keep up the good work.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

out of my way! i'm a motorist!

look out beijing. this morning i passed the written driver's test and will be getting my license on friday. a cool souvenir? yes, but not at all worth the hassle. the traffic management bureau is located way out in the boondocks, outside the southeast fourth ring road. i had to haul myself out of bed at 6:30 this morning, take a shower in the dark (roommate forgot to pay the electricity), bike to work to grab my test registration then catch a cab out to the bureau. when i got there everybody was standing/squatting in the shade outside, since they hadn't opened yet and it was hot as hell already. i was not the only one cramming from the official study guide.

eventually they let us into the air conditioned foreign affairs waiting room and finally at 9:00 upstairs to the testing room, a big hall with a bunch of computers set up at separate desks. everybody chose their specific language and off we went. there were a good amount of people there, all different nationalities. just like the dmv in the us, the traffic management bureau has the effect of bringing all elements of society together, though expatriate society in this case. i generally live in spend time in the part of town where western europeans, north americans and british commonwealth citizens hang out. the russians have their own corner near ritan park and the koreans all live up in lidu. but when it comes down to it, everybody has to slog out together to deal with the psb.

but it seemed like most people passed, which was surprising because the test was pretty difficult. i don't think there's any way i could have passed without studying. think you have what it takes? check out some actual questions straight from the study guide below. answers are in the comments.

1. In summer, when a driver drives a vehicle he can _____.
A. wear a pair of slippers
B. not wear slippers since it's unsafe and impolite to wear them
C. wear any shoes, including slippers

2. For an open abdominal wound, such as protrusion of the small intestine tube, we should:
A. put it back
B. no treatment
C. not put it back, but cover it with a bowl or jar, and bind the bowl or jar with a cloth belt

3. Except for tractors, battery cars and utility vehicles, when drivers encounter foggy, rainy, snowy, sandstorm or hailstone weather, and the visibility is less than 50m:
A. they should stop and not drive
B. the must drive no faster than a maximum speed of 30km/hour.
C. they should drive quickly and watch closely.

4. When pass through a section of road that does not have a sign forbidding blowing the horn and a situation calls for using the horn, a driver should:
A. blow the horn.
B. englarge the sound volume of the horn.
C. Blow the horn as less as possible.

5. When there is some disagreement with others, a driver:
A. should call the other names.
B. should discuss the situation with patience, and not allow a bad mood to affect driving.
C. can drive with rage

6. Drivers should:
A. deliberately underestimate each other.
B. compete for road supremacy.
C. learn and help each other, adopt one's strong point while over coming one's weak point and keep safely driving.

UPDATE: i forgot to mention this above, but in the testing hall there was this big red LED screen that scrolled instructions alternating in chinese and english. at the end of the english section (and i assume the chinese too, though i didn't read it) was a series of exhortations about the importance of following the law. while i don't remember exactly, they followed the line of "the law of road traffic safety is your guardian angel on the road," and "everybody shall harmoniously follow the law of road traffic safety." a true communist moment in a city increasingly devoid of them.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Apparently Some Chinese People Melt in the Rain

Today, was the first day in a long time that I took the subway to work, normally I walk or ride my bike which happens to be significantly faster. But, because it was raining this morning (which I think has only happened once since I have been in Beijing, makes me think the gov't has something to do with it), I decided I would take the way that would make me least wet and because all the cabs were taken (and when I say that, I mean probably all the cabs in the city), I chose to take my second best option, the subway. I must say the subway is much nicer than when I first arrived in Beijing. The cars are new, they installed a new system for taking tickets and everything seems polished and shiny for the Olympics, even the exits signs have changed, which is kind of a bad thing because they used to have landmarks on them and now they don't, but I am sure that will come back. After noticing that, the next thing I noticed is that I missed my train, actually I noticed all that after I missed my train, but 3 minutes later another one came. I don't know if this is true, but I think they are running more trains, either for the Olympics or because they plan to take a number of cars out of the traffic system or because of both.

Anyway, the reason I think Chinese people might melt in the rain is because after getting to my stop. I go to exit and there is a long mass of people at the end of the stairway, blocking everyone who is trying to exit and get to work. They are all just standing there under the awning, trying not to get rained on, as if the rain touches them they will melt. This has lead me to the conclusion that there is just to many damn people in this city and I am glad that they got rid of half the expat population here. Now they just need to get rid of these Chinese people who melt in the rain and block traffic flow. My suggestion is that they throw them in one of the rivers around Beijing. If they don't melt by the water, they will be eaten alive by the mosquitoes or the toxins that make the rivers bright green. But then again maybe these people are smart not going out in the rain, who knows whats coming down in that stuff.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

life in the second tier

i just got back to beijing from xi’an, where i was doing research for our second tier city reports. some may remember i have actually been there before, and it was interesting going back not as a tourist. i think the disparity is especially striking in xi'an, because the nearby terracotta warriors make it one of the stops on almost every standard china tour. as a tourist, you basically only get a glimpse of your hotel, the city wall and the area around the drum and bell towers in the center of town, though depending on your budget you may also see the train station and the numerous prostitutes around the cheap hotels.

i also lucked out in that my colleague who accompanied me is from xi'an originally, which meant that two of the three nights i was there i got to meet various members of her family, and got the classic china treat of being almost forcibly stuffed full of homemade dumplings by a kindly old chinese lady. the trip was quite a workout for my chinese as well, which i appreciated, though i managed to duck out of many over-my-head conversations by eating and/or playing with my coworker's four year-old cousin. him i could mostly understand.

like in my trip to hangzhou a few months ago, the increased number of cars was quite obvious. our hotel was on the major shopping street in the middle of town, which i vaguely remember from before, but what i don't remember was the cars parked all over the sidewalk. the air quality was significantly better than beijing, as all three days i actually cast a shadow. one guy i met told me that the air has gotten much better recently since the government forced the chemical industry out of town (to somewhere like lanzhou, no doubt), but i don't particularly remember the air being bad last time around. maybe tyler or clark knows.

most time was spent outside of the city walls, but there isn't too much interesting to say about that unless you were terribly interested in xi'an real estate, in which case you can shell out for our reports. needless to say, xi'an looks just like some regular city outside the tourist areas, with a lot of construction and some good stuff going on and some poorly thought out stuff going on. they're building a subway line right now, which i think is not totally necessary but like everywhere in china the critical mass of people exists to make it work.

one more interesting tidbit: xi'an must be hurting from the visa ridiculousness. our quite nice four-star hotel rooms only cost RMB 400 per night (about 58 bucks), and that was after the manager gave us a discount. mind you this is during july, prime international tourist season, and in a centrally located hotel in perhaps the biggest tourist spot in china after beijing and shanghai. the hotel didn't seem particularly crowded either. poor, poor xi'an.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

the super flavor enhancer

so yesterday in the supermarket i found what i had previously searched for, then forgot i was looking for, then remembered to look for but never when i was in the store, the magical asian spice that adds that mysterious sixth flavor, what you eat in every chinese restaurant even if they tell you you're not: weijing AKA monosodium glutamate AKA MSG. i just added it into the sausage-tomato-eggplant-chive egg scramble that is my go to meal when i cook for myself. it was delicious. i'm never going back.