Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Emphasis on the "mate" in travel mate

I recently came across this posting on Gumtree, the Australian version of Craigslist:

And for when they take this posting down, I've put it below. I just want to add that this is a pretty damn good deal, considering how much flights to China cost from here. Plus you get to meet Chinese ladies, which is why anybody goes to China in the fist place. Right?

Are you still seeking for the dearest “she”?

Among the human crowds, are you still seeking for the dearest “she”? In the vast planet, are you attempting to share the joys and sorrows of life with your most intimate lover? As the first professional marriage introduction agency, Asian Western Matchmaker now warmly invites the single gentlemen with Australia citizenship to join our “Ten Days Love Trip to China” which is held twice a year. At the beginning of New Year, we will bring you to travel around two beautiful cities in China, Guangzhou and Shanghai. When you celebrate the New Year in a foreign country, enjoying the exotic customs and conventions, you will be also thrilled by what we have prepared for you, three well-designed wonderful singles parties and the chance to have a romantic dinner with local Chinese single ladies. In addition, you and your new mates will enjoy another seven free days to travel on your own. There is no doubt the “Ten Days Love Trip to China” will impress you most deeply.
Time for activity: 01/01/2012---10/01/2012
For booking: $ 500 deposit
Fees: $1680 (including food and events) Flight tickets and accommodations are excluded.
For details: 9898 1085 or 9803 8988

Monday, March 14, 2011

A post I forgot to make

Another entry in the intentionally ironic or not column: a street sign in Te Anau, New Zealand.

The right way to the dumpsters behind the Chinese restaurant

This street sign points to an alley that runs behind the only Chinese restaurant in town, incidentally where all the Chinese tour groups went to eat.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Nap Time at Work

At work, my colleagues have an amazing ability to sleep at their desk during our lunch hour. I have tried to join them before, but I cannot get the right spot. It may be that they bring pillows, which adds extra support. Anyway, I am jealous of their abilities. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Forget it. It's New Zealand Town.

There were several times in New Zealand where I felt like I was literally in an episode of "Flight of the Conchords." The first was shortly after arrival, when, after sleeping a few hours in the Christchurch airport I went into town and got on a bus that took me across the south island to Te Anau (tee-AHnoo). Throughout the trip, the bus driver took it upon himself to give us a running commentary on the places we passed, but these places weren't interesting at all. As we were leaving Christchurch: "and this intersection used to be a bit tricky, but Councilman Gary," as if we all knew Gary, "got it turned into a roundabout last year." Or, as we drove through Timaru: "The Timaru candle factory closed down a while back, but primary school students still come through here quite often to see the old works, and learn how candles are made..." And this was not a tour bus, mind you, but New Zealand's equivalent of Greyhound.

The bus driving scene starts at 2:38, but this is all pretty funny

In many ways, New Zealand is the opposite of China. If China at the forefront of what is happening in the world, New Zealand feels like edge of the world. Australians like to think of New Zealand as a backwater, and to a certain extent they're right; I mean, this is a place that didn't get color television until 1973. The local newspapers are all a bit simple, and many places marked on the map are little more than a smattering of houses between the road and the "bush."

New Zealand's chief attraction

But none of that really matters, because New Zealand is the most ridiculously scenic place in the world, and it's all packed into two easily navigable islands. In this sense, it reminded me of a much, much larger version of Taiwan, just more expensive and everybody speaks English. If you like the outdoors, it's like a playground. There are well maintained trails and backcountry huts everywhere. You could, and many people do, spend months rather than the three weeks I spent there. It's all so easy and fun that it lead to pretty much the only problem I had with the place: it's crawling with tourists, and besides the reception at your hostel or the people working the Department of Conservation visitor centers, I actually met very few Kiwis until later in the trip, when I figured out how to get away from the crowds.

Another of New Zealand's damn flightless birds

Part of the problem on this account was that I spent most of my time doing, and getting to and from, three different "Great Walks," which are a set of very well maintained trekking trails. As the premier hiking trails, they get all the tourist traffic, and need to be booked in advance. I did the Kepler, Routeburn and Abel Tasman Tracks, and all were pretty damn amazing.

Atop the Kepler Track

Camping on the Routeburn Track

From my campsite on the Abel Tasman Track

Once you get off these main tracks, however, the trails become a bit rougher, but equally scenic. On one of these trails, I had to wade through a bog then climb a small stream bed straight up the side of a mountain, guided only by little orange arrows nailed to trees. Once I just stopped trying to keep my feet dry, it went fine.

I can see the trail, can you?

On my last day in New Zealand, I took a train down the east coast of the south island, from Picton, where the ferry leaves to the North Island, back to Christchurch. And I finally met all the people who travel around New Zealand without doing any of the hiking, climbing or surfing; in other words, all of the Americans and even more Germans. I guess it would be a pretty nice place to visit like that, but you'd still be missing out. The cities have little to offer compared to the backcountry.

Being happy in New Zealand

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

HSCCWRT Podcast Episode 3: Goodbye, Cruel World!

Eight months in production and one month in editing, the wait is finally over! We are pleased to bring you the newest episode of the How to Succeed in Communist China podcast!

Wherein: Durrell and Ben hit the Beijing gay nightclub scene; Durrell describes his favorite merkins; we deface the American flag; Ben leaves China; and Durrell gets deported for putting melamine in cheap popsicles. Or does he? Listen to the show to find out!

Episode 3:
Podcast feed:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beijing Air, Less Filling or Taste Great?

So using data from the US Embassy's twitter feed and this New England Journal of Medicine article on air pollution, which I completely did not understand, I have tried to do an analysis of whether the Beijing air is killing me or is just packed full of flavor. According to the journal article prolonged exposure to air pollution is not good for you and they tried to quantify how much it takes off your life. Like I said, I didn't completely understand the conclusion they made so I am going to complete distort everything they wrote to make my point. So based on this section (which was towards the end of the article so assumed it was something like a conclusion):

Improvements in life expectancy during the 1980s and 1990s were associated with reductions in fine-particulate pollution across the study areas, even after adjustment for various socioeconomic, demographic, and proxy variables for prevalence of smoking that are associated with health through a range of mechanisms. Indirect calculations point to an approximate loss of 0.7 to 1.6 years of life expectancy that can be attributed to long-term exposure to fine-particulate matter at a concentration of 10 μg per cubic meter, with the use of life tables from the Netherlands and the United States and risk estimates from the prospective cohort studies. In the present analysis, a decrease of 10 μg per cubic meter in the fine-particulate concentration was associated with an estimated increase in life expectancy of approximately 0.61±0.20 year — an estimate that is nearly as large as these indirect estimates."


I have decide that one year will be considered a prolonged period of air pollution exposure (you are thinking but where does it say that, nowhere, I decided myself) and I will use the numbers 0.7 and l.6 to average the amount of life that I lose per 10 μg per cubic meter increase of air pollution, and I will use 0.61 to calculate the life I gain by a 10 μg per cubic meter decrease of air pollution. Here is a link to the google document where I did the calculations.


After several days of trying to figure out how to gather the data and then put it in a format that I could use in excel, I have concluded, based on the tab named "Daily Avg. Midnight", that I have lost 18.18 hours of life, while living in Beijing from 8/1/2010 to 2/6/2011. I have assumed of course that there is a linear relationship in terms of the amount of life I gain and lose per every cubic meter of air pollution over 10 μg, which is probably not true, but it is also probably close enough (reasoning based on nothing at all). Why did I choose to use the "Daily Avg. Midnight data," one it seemed the easiest to use at the time and two it is the most dramatic, the other tabs don't say I am dying enough, so I don't believe them, and I am pretty sure that all that flavor country in the Beijing air has some harmful effects.


I wish I had a longer time series of data, so if you work at the US embassy or know how to extract more data from the twitter feed, please send me the data. I would like to know if I have taken more years off my life than that. I assume probably.


On a rosier note I was right about Egypt being censored.



Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Title IX

So far our blog has only been from a male perspective. In the past, the sole requirements to post on this blog was that you had to go to Middlebury, speak Chinese, plan to be in China or be in China and be born with an outie instead of an innie (and I am not talking belly buttons). Later with new Clark, we expanded who could post by tossing out the Middlebury and speak Chinese requirements and allowing bloggers to post based on shared blood lines, because having a sibling who went to Middlebury and can speak Chinese is almost the same as having gone and being able to speak Chinese yourself. The second to last requirement has mostly been ignored; however, the last requirement we have held scared (for obvious reasons, such as girls have cooties). But since, I am the last one standing in China, because Golze is off on a walk about with a koala , Clark Classic only blogs from the US, and no one knows what happened to New Clark, I have decided to allow another person blog with us, but only if the two founders of this blog agree and the blog readers agree. So I am going to allow everyone to vote on whether Joy should be allowed to post with us. I know what you are thinking, but wait, she has an innie. I know but title IX says we have to let at least some of the bloggers have innies. So as a result, I leave it to you the readers and the two founders to decided if Joy's perspective is needed.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Censorship in China

I don't know what's going on, but for some reason I am having trouble accessing the NYT website. My access to the website is intermittent. In effort to try the old reach around method, i.e. trying to access the website through a google search, which completely failed, meaning that google just went blank, I tried doing a yahoo search and when I did the yahoo search obviously the NYT website didn't show in the top five web hits (or whatever they are called), it actually didn't show up at all. Instead the top two entries were from the China Daily and the People's Daily bashing the website. I mean, its pretty clear the NYT wants to take down the Chinese regime, thus, it makes sense for China to be hostile against the website, and when I say hostile, I mean speak the absolute truth about the website. I mean if you look at the front page of the NYT website right now (which is why i think the website is having some blockage in China), which is talking about the protest in Egypt, it is pretty clear that the NYT is just using code for China. And when NYT writes Egypt, it really means China, Mubarak means Hu, and Muslims means Hans. Its so obvious. I just hope the NYT comes around and starts reporting on China's greatness so I can have access to the news again; I was hoping to access the NYT website so I could read about Berlusconi and Sarah Palin's new sex tape ( you know real news), but unfortunately, the NYT is actively campaign against China now, so I have to settle for the reliable China Daily.

On another note, yesterday, I saw David Sedaris read some excerpts from his new book and from his Diary and past books. He gave an interesting perspective on Beijing, and that he thought it was full of turds (in that the turd are everywhere), I would explain that more, but I am too lazy. Anyway, watching him made me feel like I was watching a This American Life episode, instead of listening to it on my ipod. It made me want to give to public radio, but then I thought, hey, I can't even download This American Life on itunes anymore, because its blocked (which I am not sure is true, I just know I can't download it for some reason, and when something doesn't work on the internet, I blame it on censorship), so whats the point in giving, screw that. And thinking about watching David Sedaris, made me think, he is probably the exact opposite of Chinese censorship, because he seems not to censor anything he says, which I find highly entertaining. And if I continue on that train of thought, maybe I find China less and less entertaining because everything is censored.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Whose wife?

Where is she?

Are the tabloids too preoccupied with Sandra/Ryan and Kate/William to take a deeper look into this?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My last adventure in the great white north

On my second-to-last weekend in China, thanks Joy's uncharacteristic planning ahead, a group of friends and I took a trip up to the frozen northeast to go skiing. I decided to tack on a trip to Harbin as well to see the oft-described ice festival. In short, it was fun and cold. Full gallery of pictures here.

The ice festival

Riding ice bicycles in Harbin

I spent only about six hours in Harbin. I basically got in, bought my train ticket back to Changchun, then wandered around the city for a while trying to figure out how to get to the ice festival. I eventually took a cab, which is not easy to find when it's freezing cold during rush hour, and arrived at the ice festival on the edge of the city. Tickets were heart-stoppingly expensive; it cost more to see the ice festival than to get into Zhangjiajie. The ice buildings were pretty cool, but honestly I feel like you get a pretty good sense of what it's like from pictures. So even though I'm happy I finally went, I would say it's probably not worth going to see on it's own.

The next part of the trip was quite the adventure. I took a three hour train to Changchun, capital of Jilin Province, where I had to hang out for about four hours in the middle of the night (spent sleeping in the train station and in a KFC) before catching a two hour bus to Jilin City. From there I had to take a cab to meet Joy, Jeff and Will who had got into town a bit earlier that morning so we could all take the resort bus out to the ski hill.

Beidahu, the resort we were at, was surprisingly awesome. It was snowing when we got there on Saturday morning, so the snow was really fresh and actually quite deep in places. Also, it's not just some bunny hill will ancient lifts. The resort hosted the Asian Winter Games in 2007, so they have real high speed chairs and steep long runs. In fact, most of the mountain was fairly difficult. The place was busy-there were lots of Russians on vacation for the Orthodox New Year-but there were barely any lines at the lifts. Most of the Chinese people there were decent technical skiers, but unlike at resorts in the States there were no crazy extreme skiers. But still people were really into it. Often on the lifts I'd hear people talking about places they'd been skiing in North America, comparing Snowbird to Whistler and saying how they really wanted to go to Jackson Hole.

Prepping our first run at Beidahu


Will bombing it down an advanced run on Saturday

All in all it was a fantastic trip and a great way to get a fill of winter before Australia.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

If Ben really understood China...

... he'd know about the pesky, oft-forgot 2 RMB note. You see, I have aspirations, as well: to thwart Ben's attempts to achieve his own life's goals, including visits to all the places portrayed on the back of Chinese currency.

Now, according to Wikipedia (which we know never lies), the Chinese Central Bank stopped issuing 2 RMB notes in 2004. And this note -- dated 1980 (however printed between 1987 and 1997) -- is truly a keeper. So maybe Ben gets off on a technicality here. But I thought I'd give him a fair chance to put to bed any asterisks in the record books. I'm not even sure where that image on the back of the 2 RMB note is located. It appears the old 10 RMB note displays Mt. Everest, and I'd be willing to accept just base camp.

Another interesting "bucket list" item would be pictures alongside the ethnic minorities on current notes (less than 1 RMB), as well as all Fourth Series notes (which is the series preceding the current Fifth Series notes). Ethnic dress would be required, of course.

1-jiao note has Gaoshan and Manchu men ;
2-jiao note has Buyei and Korean girls;
5-jiao note has Miao and Zhuang girls in red.
Old 1-yuan (i.e. "1 RMB") note has Dong and Yao girls in red;
Old 2-yuan note has Uyghur and Yi (Nuosu) girls in green;
Old 5-yuan note has Tibetan girl and a Hui elder;
Old 10-yuan note has Han and Mongol men.

This pecuniary journey would be most appropriate for our study-abroad buddy Tyler, who is now a cultural anthropologist and spent his one-on-one course learning the many wonders of China's 56 officially-recognized ethnic minorities.

This time wasted on Wikipedia also alerted to me that at several moments in recent Chinese history the central bank issued special commemorative notes. Has anyone else come across these? I would pay (more than face value) for any of these. Well, less than face value, too, for that matter.

Commemorative designs

In 1999, a commemorative red ¥50 note was issued in honor of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China. This note features Mao Zedong on the front and various animals on the back.

An orange polymer note, and so far, China's only polymer note, commemorating the new millennium was issued in 2000 with a face value of ¥100. This features a dragon on the obverse and the reverse has a sundial.

For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a green ¥10 note was issued featuring the Bird's Nest on the front with the back showing a classical Olympic discus thrower and various other athletes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Voting in China

Today was one of the first times I have had the opportunity to practice democracy in China and it was almost taken away from me. Every six months or so at work we get to vote for people in exciting categories like "Best Dressed Male and Female Professional" and "Best Support Staff." Normally, I would just abstain, because I don't really believe in democracy, I am more of a fan of dictatorships (its just easier, but China is close enough, which is why I stay here). Anyway, this time I chose to vote because they were offering cash incentives if you were one of the first 50 to have voted. I just picked random names that I could think of and sent the ballot sheet in. A few hours later, our team assistant comes by and says our boss wants us to vote a certain way and we need to choose XX department (I think I just chose the first department from the drop down to be in the first 50 in time). This taught me a valuable lesson about China, which I think is always make sure you ask who to vote for before you vote (like I said, it is close enough to a dictatorship, well, at least in my department anyway).

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Hats off to you, Hangzhou!

You did it. You finally did it. After so many years of hard work and dejection, you finally accomplished what most second-tier Chinese cities can only dream of; make the New York Times list of "The 41 Places to Go in 2011."

33. Hangzhou, China
An hour from Shanghai, a historic jewel goes five-star.

Although Hangzhou is only now coming into the global spotlight, its gorgeous pagodas, historic temples and lush gardens have been inspiring Chinese poets and painters for centuries. Recently, the feverish growth of Shanghai has sparked the rediscovery of Hangzhou as a peaceful retreat and a cultural masterpiece. And with it, a new generation of luxury hotels has arrived: Shangri-la overlooking West Lake; the Banyan Tree set within China’s first wetland reserve; the Aman, close to some of the area’s most spectacular ancient Buddhist temples up in the hills; and most recently, the Four Seasons with a destination spa and two swimming pools set up along the lagoons. Next up is an Angsana, the Banyan Tree’s design-chic sister hotel. And with the debut of a high-speed train from Shanghai, it’s now — unbelievably — less than a one-hour journey from central Shanghai. Once there, rent a bike and step into sights like Lingyin Temple, one of the world’s most important Buddhist temples. — ONDINE COHANE

Enjoy. You earned it.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

How I learned to stop worrying and love Chinese TV

I don't watch a lot of Chinese television, but the past couple weeks I've flipped it on for entertainment when I have a few minutes to kill here and there. One show I keep coming across is this game show that pits teams divided by nationality against each other on colorful obstacle courses that generally lead to hilarious pratfalls. But recently the producers of the show decided to turn it up a notch by throwing an angry bull into the mix! I recorded one round where contenstants have to tangle with the bull while trying to pop balloons in a ball pit. Apologies to those outside of China; this video might load a bit slow.

(If the video doesn't show up you can watch it here)
Only in China! (commentary by me and my roommate Joy)

In other news, I'm gearing up to leave China for a while. As most family and friends know, I'm (fingers crossed) going to architecture school back across the Pacific in the fall. In the meantime the plan is to head down to Australia, where I'll do some traveling, take some classes and work a bit, but mostly just hang out and enjoy the southern hemisphere summer and fall. It's definitely bittersweet leaving Beijing, but I feel like over these three years I've done about as much as I'm going to do this time around, and I'm hugely excited about discovering somewhere completely new. And I'm sure I'll be back in China in no time. It is the new land of opportunity after all.

I still have one more adventure before I leave China: this coming weekend a bunch of us are going to go skiing in Jilin Province in the northeast, and I'm going to head to Harbin the day before to check out the famed ice festival, something I've been wanting to do for years. Basically, it's a quest to get my fill of winter weather before I escape to the southern hemisphere. Keep an eye out for tweets and a post on the trip next week.

And don't worry: I'll keep blogging from Australia.

Monday, January 03, 2011

I've seen fire, and I've seen rain, but I'm not sure what to make of this.

BTW, it's ok to like a little JT.