December 19, 2009

One of my favourite Christmas traditions is listening to the Euradio Christmas Broadcast on CBC the Sunday before Christmas. And sure enough, they're not disappointing this year. Tomorrow's broadcast includes the broadcasts from following countries:
9:00 – 10:00: Finland
10:00 – 11:00: Estonia
11:00 – 12:00: Germany
12:00 – 1:00: Czech Republic
1:00 – 2:00: Germany
2:00 – 3:00: Poland
3:00 – 4:00: Sweden
4:00 – 5:00: Ireland
5:00 – 6:00: Canada

And as if that's not enough Europe for me, I'll be studying for my EU Law exam most of the day too.

October 13, 2009

The Linguists...
I recently watched a movie called "The Linguists", which is about two linguists who travel to learn languages from and about people in rather remote locations. It's a really interested documentary, that goes from Siberia, to India, Arizona, and Bolivia (amongst other locations included in the extra material). The linguists meet people who speak a variety of languages, including speakers of Chulym in Siberia, of whom there are less than 25 fluent speakers in the world.
I'd highly recommend the 64-minute film, which can be found online for free.

July 11, 2009

The Uyghur...
I'm assuming most people reading this blog by now have heard about the Uyghur "uprising" in Xinjiang (China). I've been following the news, and can't say that I'm really surprised by what's happening. For the past couple years I've referred to Xinjiang as the lesser-known version of Tibet (except the Uyghur are Muslim, not Buddhist), perhaps lesser-knwon due in part to the fact that the Uyghur don't have a popular equivalent of the Dalai Lama (though Rebiya Kadeer may play a similar role).
It's been interesting to follow the news, especially after Sweden kicked out a Chinese ambassador a few weeks back following the arrest of a Chinese-Uyghur spy.
In any case, there is an interesting letter posted at The New Dominion by a tourist who happened to be in Kashgar, and thus had a different allowance in what they were able to see compared to foreign journalists. Here's an excerpt from the letter:
The next day martial law came. The Uyghurs gathered in the Id Kah Mosque to protest the arrests, as well as the destruction of their city, etc. I was pretty close to the Id Kah Mosque. I heard the loud sounds, the screams, and honestly, the screams of people in great physical suffering. There was a stampede, and I knocked over a bunch of watermelons but got back to the hotel (the merchant didn’t hold it against me). The army marched in and all the Uyghur shops in the city were told that they would close for three days (the Chinese of the city were either leaving or behind locked doors). All the mosques were closed and the Uyghurs were clearly scared. Trucks with loudspeakers circled around the Old City, proclaiming: “Always listen to the Communist Party. Hate separation.” The Chinese news interviewed Uyghur women who happily said things like “Xinjiang has always been part of China for 2000 years. Uyghurs are Chinese, one of 55 minority groups. We hate independence and love the motherland.”
The police were just kind of amazed I was there, which is probably why they didn’t make me leave. One happily asked me if I had been to Shanghai yet. God. I asked a police officer what he thought of the situation, and he was optimistic, said that everything was going to be fine. He concluded by saying, “You know, in the next ten years, we’ll just send more Han here and that’ll just end the problem once and for all.”
Kashgar was amazing, and I’m glad I went. I wouldn’t tell anyone else to go to Kashgar in the future though, because I know that the Old City is going to be gone before next Christmas. Uyghur culture and Uyghur language are beautiful to hear and study, as all things become as they slowly disappear.

June 20, 2009

5 Months in Jail for Wig Removal...
Warning: don't try to remove a Taiwanese legislators wig, or you could be sentenced to five months in jail.
According to court spokesman Huang Chin-ming, “The judge thought Chiu Yi had the freedom to wear what he wanted, and Chiu felt the wig made him look prettier. The judge thinks that to remove it intentionally was to take away that right.”
See the full story: Man toupee for revealing bald truth

June 04, 2009

June 4...
Today is the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on the Tiananmen protests in the Spring of 1989.
It's an issue not widely discussed in China, and heavily suppressed by the government. Just before the anniversary this year, the government sent dissidents to the countryside, or stopped them from leaving their houses. Foreign journalists were forbidden from filming in Tiananmen square, plainclothes police threatened them in the streets around the square, and any foreign media coverage of the event is blacked out within China. There seems to be a new technique aimed at foreign journalists, which is rather clever. When undercover agents with earpieces see a foreign journalist's camera they walk in front of it and open umbrellas! There's a great video on the BBC (which often gets blocked in China). It's also interesting to read through comments left on stories about the Tiananmen Square massacre (most of the killing didn't actually happen in the Square, but in the streets around the Square). There's one comment that remarks how politely he was treated by the police for doing something that everyone knows is illegal in China (journalism?), and that he would've "being battened and ending up dead" in the UK for the same thing.
Of course some things in China have improved in the past 20 years -general education, the economy, and general access to the outside world. But there is still a lot to be improved, and it's a slow process for a country of 1.3 billion people. And it's slow from a government that has successfully quashed political interest in most of its citizens by promoting economics over other freedoms. Here's an interesting Economist article on the topic of The Party.

April 26, 2009

Second year final exams are rolling around. It's hard to concentrate when the summer is more or less here (it's 17 and cloudy today, but tomorrow is supposed to be 30C with sun). Although I've written one exam, I've got two more left before I start work for the summer.
One thing that keeps going through my mind is "You must convince yourself, study study day day up". There's a famous Mao saying in Chinese that goes 好好学习天天向上 (hao3hao3 xue2xi tian1tian1 xiang4shang4), which means "good good study, day day up", or study more and more every day. It's something that my students in China often quoted. And now I'm trying to tell myself that to keep studying through exams.
(Image courtesy of, which has a lot of old Communist posters)

March 06, 2009

Law 2.0...
I came across an interesting article from The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia this week entitled "Lawyers to serve notices on Facebook". Basically, a Canberra judge ruled that legal court documents could be served to defendants on their Facebook page when it was reasonable to believe that the pages belonged to the defendants. The defendants could not be contacted in a normal manner, and their "Facebook profiles showed the defendants' dates of birth, email addresses and friend lists and the co-defendants were friends with one another." With this information, the judge allowed legal notices to be served upon the defendants as an alternate method through their Facebook pages.
It will be interesting to see if this is appealed, and if it will be used in other jurisdictions as well.
Previously, in Australia, text message and email have also been used to serve legal notices.

January 26, 2009

Happy New Year! 新年快乐!

December 17, 2008

Winter Treats...
There are, from time to time, things that I miss about China. One of them is the winter treats that are found everywhere, called "tang2 hu2lu2" (糖葫芦).
These are little crab apple type things, that are usually stuffed with some sort of bean paste (red, green, or black), then covered with melted sugar. They're crunchy and chewy, sweet and a bit bitter. Plus they cost only a yuan or two ($0.15 to $0.30) for a whole stick of them.

Thanks to "A Modern Lei Feng" for the photo, since I can't seem to find my China photos at the moment.

December 16, 2008

Busy Stress...
It's been a busy and stressful few weeks, with everything going on at school and work. Exams are almost done, and it'll be nice to have a break over the Christmas holidays.

October 28, 2008

Try the Great Chinese FireWall at Home Now!
I found this on the China Law Blog and Sinosplice. There's a new Firefox add-on that allows users to experience what it's like to surf the web in China. I haven't tried it myself, having lived in China a year and experienced the frustration first hand.
Apparently the web situation is better now (apart from spying on Skype users, etc.) and it's possible to access parts of Wikipedia and more blogs from within China than it was a few years ago.
From the add-on description:
The Firefox add-on China Channel offers internet users outside of China the ability to surf the web as if they were inside mainland China. Take an unforgetable virtual trip to China and experience the technical expertise of the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry (supported by western companies). It's open source, free and easy.