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Valar Qringaomis

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Friday, January 14, 2011

France 2010 - Day 7, Part 3 - Provins

"If you live to be one hundred, you've got it made. Very few people die past that age." - George Burns

***

France 2010
Day 7 - 9th October - Provins
(Part 3)

After the medieval show, I checked out the rest of Provins.

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Autumn Creepers

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Tour César (Caesar's Tower)
Naturally it has nothing to do with Caesar

There was a lot of creepy vegetation around the Tour César:

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It looks like it'll attack you at any moment

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La Collégiale Saint-Quiriace (a church) from Tour César (not the top), which they started building in the 12th century but never finished - because they had no money.


The top of Tour César

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Town view from top of Tour César

I was very disappointed by the top of Tour César, as it was quite bare. The view was nothing spectacular either - the countryside mixed with modern buildings. But I was in the bell tower when the 4:30pm bell sounded - it was shocking.

There wasn't much of an exhibition in the tower either - only one room on the way down from the top, and one of the two panels was not lit (since the room was almost pitch dark was very important). Furthermore the room was very easy to miss on your way out.

There was a nice projection of the life of Henry I the Liberal (he went on the Second Crusade) in 7 chapters though, with animated manuscript cartoons. It didn't say why he was Liberal, though. Apparently he was called Liberal, because of his "enlightened, globe-trotting outlook" which probably came from his "multi-cultural parentage":





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Medieval stairs

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La Collégiale Saint-Quiriace and slope

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Maison Romane (Romanesque House) and Tour César

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La Collégiale Saint-Quiriace

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Rue du Collège

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Rue d'Enfer
Indeed, it'd be hell walking up. Luckily I was going down, one-way

I knew I had entered the Lower Town of Provins:

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Telltale signs of a place where real people live: a "Chinese" restaurant, an Allianz, a pharmacie and around the corner, a kebab shop (I also saw my first headscarf around here)

The "Chinese" in ""Chinese" restaurant" was in inverted commas above because "Auberge de Pékin" ("Peking Hostel") served Taiwanese, Thai and Vietnamese food. Go figure. They also featured "baguettes d'or" (Golden Chopsticks). At first I thought it was a food award (like the Michelin Star), but it seems it's just poetic.

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Among the highlights of the Lower Town - "McDonald's Drive"

I then signed up for an underground tour, of the old cellars of the town (only guided visits were possible, and they were in French). Surprisingly, the tours filled up fast, and I got the last or second last of the day's tours.

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You can only pay by cash if you don't speak French. Also note "No CB" ("No Carte Bancaire" [NETS equivalent]), which is an interesting mix of languages.

Photography was forbidden, but it was so dark that nothing good would've come out anyway. And anyway there wasn't much to see - just some graffiti and water marks that would one day become stalactites. It was the narration that was the [more] interesting part.

I was amused that they used LEDs to light the cavern route. Cool, bright, small and using little power - what's there not to like?

The caverns were used for woolworking in the 11th-13th centuries. After that, they had various uses till the 20th: storage, Freemason meetings and bomb shelters during WWII, among others.

Officially there're 3km of caverns, but some have not been excavated. On this tour we only saw 250m (some parts were cordoned off for safety reasons, others because they were used by private owners).

The caverns are 11 degrees and 90% humidity year-round, but I didn't find them cold.

In the past, property law distinguished between above-ground and underground land rights. It was either that or if you dug down and found a cavern it was yours (I didn't catch the guide's full meaning).

There was anonymous 18th and 19th century graffiti, then some from the person wh oowned the cavern and put his bottles inside (inventory was marked on the wall).

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"Taverne des Oubliées" ("Tavern of the Forgotten")
A medieval theme restaurant

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Much East Asian (Chinese-based food) is very cheap, but it's mostly pre-cooked and looks like shit.

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Carmina Burana. Vision médiévale (medieval interpretation)

There was a shop "je console". At first I thought it sold flowers and mourning material, but it turned out to sell console games. Maybe there's some elaborate pun or social commentary in there.

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Half-timbered house

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Stream: the Voulzie

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"Masseur-kinesitherapeute-reeducateur"
No, he's not a masseur. I just found out that this means "Physiotherapist, therapist"

The girl opposite me in the train back to Paris was doing her toilette: eyeliner and mascara. I thought it was a faux pas to do your makeup in public. Ah well, as California Girl says, il faut souffrir pour être belle ("you must suffer to be beautiful").

There was also a guy with a 23" laptop on the train (I asked). I wondered what the point was.

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The bunny on the métro is telling kids not to get their fingers stuck in the doors. In contrast to the other warning signs, this one uses the informal form of address. Incidentally the bunny has a fan page on Facebook.

For some reason Michelle Yeoh was in a RATP ad. I didn't know she was big in France.

I'd enjoyed the flammkuchens from 2 nights back that I returned to the place. The cute Asian waitress recognised us.

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Flammkuchen menu

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La Forge: bacon, mushrooms, Emmental cheese

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La Volaille: bacon, onions, chicken, Emmental cheese

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La Montbéliard: bacon, onions, potatoes, Montbéliard & Emmental cheese

I'm not sure whether it was because I'd had flammkuchen 2 nights ago or because of the prata rule - less is more (potato in particular didn't work). Though Emmentaler worked well.

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If you get mutilated in war, this is one thing to look forward to (notice that blind and disabled civilians get listed after those mutilated in war).


Weird fountain at Montparnasse

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There're reasons to dislike Le Méridien Montparnasse (for example you can't put your own stuff in the minibar for 'hygiene' reasons, and they won't let you put your stuff in their fridge either). The variety on the room service menu is not one of them.


I'd seen asmany white man-black woman pairs as the reverse. Vive La France !

I didn't see many homeless people. There was one in a phone booth, though.

"Only" in Singapore

Trending on Twitter now: #onlyinsingapore

Some examples:

"Mats, Minahs, Ah Bengs & Ah Lians blasting music on their handphone speakers onboard public transport. Disgusting."

"do people jay-walk right below the overhead bridge."

"do you pay $100k for a Honda."

"students who live nearer to school tends to come later than those living further"

"Racial assumptions: Chinese - Businessmen, Indians - Money-Changers/Mama-Shop Owners, Malays - Cooks/Soccer Players"

"smoking is a crime"

"you have monks that drive mercedes and even serving prison sentences."

"do we have priests like Rony Tan who preach NOT about Christianity but the bad about Buddhism and homosexuality." (among other FAILs, he's a Pastor and not a Priest)

"would 'young people', even teachers, lack the strength to pronounce full words and gladly shorten them beyond recognition."


My contribution: #onlyinsingapore: people thinking Singapore is so special that various phenomena are #onlyinsingapore

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On minding your own business and not being a prick

"Civilization is the process of reducing the infinite to the finite." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

***

A: [Religion] it can be psychologically helpful for those who've been through deep trauma. It can provide at minimum, temporary relief.

I only fear that the long-term effects may not be that good. Long-term solutions always require the sober truth, IMO, rather than mind tricks.


Me: While the Truth has value in and of itself, I strongly disagree that the Truth will necessarily provide the best and most permanent relief

Why would the objective truth value of a proposition have an effect on you? What matters is whether you believe it to be true

Here is an analogy:

A has cheated on B, with whom A is in a relationship with, but B does not even suspect that A has cheated.

A has stopped cheating.

If you tell B that A has cheated on him, are you really giving B maximum permanent relief?


B: Well, if you are a friend of B when A was cheating, then perhaps you should tell B, if you know B is someone who wants to know the truth.

If you only know about A's past, and choose to tell B only after A has come 'good', when B did not ask you about it, then you are just a prick, a gossiper and have no right to interfere in their relationship or how they conduct it.

If both A and B are your friends, then perhaps you would have warn A that you would not stand by his/her actions if it disagree with you.

If B asked you, then you should (1) either tell her the truth, (2) ask B to ask A and let them sort it out, (3) tell A to tell B the truth and let them sort it out.

The situation you had given has no permanent relief, unless only A (and whoever A has an affair with) has the truth, and chose not to divulge it.. then both you and B has that relief.

heh heh


Me: What you should do it depends on the weights A and B assign to both truth and happiness, though [informed] guessing is necessarily involved

Meanwhile, I disagree that you are a prick or gossiper if you come clean after someone has gone good.

Revealing a matter pertinent to the relationship may be interference of a sort, but not necessarily negative.


B: Sure you are a prick, if for example, you know someone is ugly.. so do you go and tell that someone he/she is ugly when no one ask you for it?

So what if you know A had cheated. Why would you volunteer to go tell B about it if you were not asked? What has that got to do with you?

Imagine me calling all my customers' wives to tell them what their very 'interesting' husbands are up to. Why? Because I want them to know the truth?

Intercept things when you think they will affect you, big or small picture, for whatever reasons. Sure. Intercept things where it has absolutely nothing to do with you makes you a prick.


Me: This seems to fall into the "mind your own business" school of thought.

So let us consider the following examples:

1) A man is drowning and you save him

Does that make you a prick since it has absolutely nothing to do with you?

Perhaps you disagree, since you are unequivocally helping someone and 'harming' no one.

So let us look at:

2) A robs B, and you help B fight off A and get B's property back.

Does that make you a prick since it has absolutely nothing to do with you?

Perhaps you disagree, since robbery is against the law.

So let us look at:

3) A is about to take advantage of B in a business deal. You help B to see how he is going to be taken advantage of.

Are you a prick for preventing B from being cheated on?

Taking advantage of someone in a business deal is not against the law - it is just dishonest and in bad faith. But just because something is legal does not make it right (or even not-wrong).

Going back to the original example:

0) A has cheated on B, even though both of them are married

Now, a marriage is a form of social contract, and part of the terms of this contract is that both parties are supposed to be faithful to each other.

Of course, if they are into swinging, or this is an open marriage, more power to them - but let us assume that this is not the case.

So A has visited a wrong upon B, but B does not know. By informing B about this, you are helping to redress a wrong which was visited upon him.

Perhaps you argue that the relevant criterion here is not that the issue is none of your business, but that the wrong has already occurred, and that nothing you do can right it. What's past is past.

So let us look at another example:

4) A has taken advantage of B in a business deal. You help B to see how he has been taken advantage of.

Are you a prick for showing B how he has been cheated?

Perhaps you will argue yes, since A can sue B to get his money back. But assume that this is not the case (statutes of limitations, B has moved to a foreign land etc.)

Does B deserve to know what has happened?

These are all different from your example of telling someone he is ugly when your opinion has not been sought - in this case no wrong has been visited upon anyone (arguably you are visiting a wrong on the person).


B: >1) A man is drowning and you save him

Sure it has something to do with you if you care about the person drowning, and that you are right there, or that you know you can save the person. But then again, if you want to help, that is your call too.
This example is a bad one anyway, one is a personal relationship situation, the other is a life and death situation.

>2) A robs B, and you help B fight off A and get B's property back.

Similar case to the drowning one although this time, you might get hurt in the process (of course you also want to tell me that the drowning situation happened in dangerous waters).. This case is happening right there and then while you were present. And if you care about B and that you know you can fight off A, sure go for it. But then again, if you don't, it is your call. Nothing to do with the law, no need to mention it. And again, bad example.
Unless of course the story is that you know A, and that you know A has turn over a new leaf and that he has stop robbing people.. and then, you came to know that B has befriended A. Then you take it upon as if it is your responsibility to mention to B to be careful of her possessions when A is around because A was a robber before. You, then, is a prick. Who asked you to be a judge? Oh oh, is it because you care?

>3) A is about to take advantage of B in a business deal. You help B to see how he >is going to be taken advantage of.

What kind of example is this? Do you know both A and B? If so, sure you can help.
A better example would be... A took advantaged of people in business in the past, but he has changed for the better. And you knew about it. Then, you found out that A is doing a business deal with B, and you told B about A's dishonest past. You, then, is not a prick if you are only friends with B. But a prick, if you are a friend of A's. And a bigger prick, if your 'let the cat out of the bag' moment is not done in front of both of them, who are your friends.

>But just because something is legal does not make it right (or even not-wrong).

Oh like just because you know the secret of someone, it doesn't mean you have to tell someone else about it? Well yes, you don't have to. It is not about truths, and the need to declare it in every situation.

>0) A has cheated on B, even though both of them are married

No, you are not helping anyone but your own idea of an ideal marriage, never mind the contract. And the contract is between them, nothing to do with you. The original story was that A has stopped cheating. The original super short story did not say you tell A that you are going to tell B, which would have been more responsible.. if you want to interfere. The original story did not state that you told the truth in front of both of them, so at least you don't look like a prick while appearing to hold a higher moral grounds instead of telling someone some 'truths' behind someone else's back. The original story did not say B asked you (I know she doesn't know, but it could come up in some casual conversations where the subject is about cheating and that she would like a friend to tell her if something like that happened to her).

If you really want to help redress the wrong in your idea of helping the case. A mature and responsible way would be to firstly tell A (and also how you feel about the whole situation personally and how much burden you are carrying with that 'truth' of yours) that A should tell B about it or rather, he must tell B about it... for you would do it if he doesn't, instead of going to B first, which makes you a prick. This is their marriage, which is about two of them.. not one. By you doing the telling on to B first, you have created more problems in their relationship and communication.

>4) A has taken advantage of B in a business deal. You help B to see how he has >been taken advantage of.

One is a business deal, the other is a relationship. Even this example fail. Because a better example would be - A has taken advantage of B in one business deal in the past, but they are still in business together, doing well perhaps? And that you know about that one dodgy deal and you also know that A has not done it again. You went and tell B about that dodgy deal without informing A of your intention, thus not giving A a chance of explaining himself, come clean or to apologise because of your beckoning. Instead, what you have caused is a lot of distress on B and also pressure on B without knowing how she/he would go on about the information. Would B sue? Would B confront A? If so, how would B do it? Would B base on your information and dissolve her business partnership with A? Would B got on with it? etc etc. And certainly B, even if knowing that A has not cheated on B since, will have apprehensions with any other deals they might have in the future.

Sure, B deserve to know what had happened. But so does A deserve to know your intention of telling on him! The whole demographic of their business partnership, trusts and future dealings might rest heavily on how you want to disclose this information.

Do it like how you do it in your super short story, makes you a prick. Truth is not all that matters when dealing with relationships, especially if the truth is coming from an outsider.


Me: > This example is a bad one anyway, one is a personal relationship
> situation, the other is a life and death situation.

What if A is trying to kill B and you help B? Assume that you do not know either. By helping B are you being a prick and not minding your own business?

Presumably you think that it's alright to not mind your own business in a life and death situation.

> (of course you also want to tell me that the drowning situation happened in
> dangerous waters)..

You do know that rescuing drowning people has its dangers, don't you? They may drag you down and drown you too

>This case is happening right there and then while you were present. And if you
>care about B and that you know you can fight off A, sure go for it.

But by fighting off A, aren't you -not- minding your own business?

If you don't care about B as a person, are you being a prick and not minding your own business?

Should we chastise "good samaritans" who chase down snatch thieves when they do not know the victim?

> But then again, if you don't, it is your call.

Yes, there is arguably no positive duty to help people fight off robbers. But your claim is that you have a negative duty *not* to interfere (i.e. to mind your own business and not be a prick)

> Who asked you to be a judge? Oh oh, is it because you care?

Altruism seems to be a moral evil in your book.

> What kind of example is this? Do you know both A and B? If so, sure you
> can help.

Why are personal relationships so important?

If I give to charity am I a prick for not minding my own business, since I almost certainly don't know any of the people who will benefit?

I assume you agree with this quote:

"A friend is someone who will help you move. A real friend is someone who will help you move a body."

> Oh like just because you know the secret of someone, it doesn't mean you
> have to tell someone else about it? Well yes, you don't have to. It is
> not about truths, and the need to declare it in every situation.

If A is a convicted criminal and has applied for a job, and has ticked "no" in the box "have you ever been convicted of a crime", you presumably think someone who tips off the employer is a prick.

Do you regard whistle-blowers (on corporate misdeeds or otherwise) as pricks? Should they just mind their own business?

How about eyewitnesses to crimes? If they do not know the victims, should they decline to give testimony? If they testify, are they pricks? Should they mind their own business?

> you are not helping anyone but your own idea of an ideal marriage,
> never mind the contract. And the contract is between them, nothing to
> do with you.

If neither of the parties believes that extra-marital is wrong, why would your disclosure of this fact make a difference?

Contrawise, if the party who is cheated believes that it is wrong, if nobody tells him he will never know.

> By you doing the telling on to B first, you have created more problems in their
> relationship and communication.

Besides a very relational view of morality (that morality is dependent not on objective moral criteria, but upon your relationship with the person), your philosophy seems to be "ignorance is bliss"

Monday, January 10, 2011

N. China - Day 5, Part 3 - Beijing: Beihai Park

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx

***

N. China
Day 5 - 3rd November - Beijing: Beihai Park
(Part 3)

4pm was neither here nor there, so I decided to visit Beihai park. Admission was 5¥. The concept of charging admission for a public park was strange to me, but in China everything was chargeable (except for seeing Mummy Mao).

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Beihai Park, with willows and water lilies

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Plaque on "Jade Flowery Inlet" (island where the White Bell Pagoda was)

Admission to the temple with the impressive-looking White Bell Pagoda was 12¥ - but the doors closed just as I came.

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Sunset, the Lake and poetic Weeping Willows

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Stone building and the White Bell Pagoda

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Stone path

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Random building

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The lake at sunset

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Stone stairs

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Tower at the start of the colourfully-named "Long Corridor"

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Long Corridor

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"Customers are advised to dine in restaurants of higher sanitation ratings"
Presumably this restaurant displayed its rating so prominently because it got an A. I didn't notice sanitation ratings before this

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Lake

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Long Corridor and balustrade

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"Fangshan (Imitation imperial) Restaurant"
The Mandarin doesn't enlighten me as tothe meaning either

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Willows and lake
Not quite Westlake but it has its charms

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Bridge and White Bell Pagoda

At this bridge (or another bridge in another garden with a similar view) one white guy was taking photos. An old Chinese man came by and advised him of a better spot which would afford him better composition. They didn't speak each other's language, of course, so I helped to translate. Being asked to translate Mandarin is a novel experience.

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Another plaque on Beihai Park

At 5:06pm, I made enquiries and was told it would take 1 hr to walk a round around the lake. I asked if that was the time a slow walk would take, and was told it'd take twice as long if I were slow. According to the map, it didn't look so far (my estimate was 2km), so I wondered if a slow pace in China meant that one paused to drink tea. I was thinking of trying the route, but sunset was around 5:30pm (it closed at 8pm) and I had a supper appointment, kept in mind the law of diminishing returns and decided not to tempt the fates.

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Last lake shots

I then took a long walk to a subway, since coverage was so horrible. To think that coverage was even worse before Olympic preparations (they had only 2 lines until 2002). Considering that the subway has been around since 1971, this was a big disgrace.

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"China Welfare Lottery"
Welfare if you're not the one buying it

There was a Breadtalk clone there (except that it had cakes also) called "味多美":

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Breadtalk clone

I walked into a store selling miscellaenous female crap (accessories, moisturiser, soft toys, hair accessories etc). While inside I made 2 shocking discoveries:

1) They had a male staff member
2) Hairpins cost 16¥ for 100 and 8¥ for what looked like 50. This is much more expensive than in Singapore (I think you can still get 50 for under $1).

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Haw for sale. When I saw this sign I knew the characters for the candy that the hawkers had been selling near Tiananmen, but I still didn't know the English translation.

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Long queue for a store selling nuts and other dried fruit (?!)

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Place making bing - but I'd had a pseudo-Zinger (similar except not-crispy and not as nice) from a stall near Beihai Park already.

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"好姑娘品牌内衣" ("Good/virtuous maiden brand underwear")
Presumably bad girls shop somewhere else.

I can imagine the T-shirt now:

"Good girls go to Beijing
Bad girls go to Shanghai"

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Songs of the Revolution: "60 eminent song featured"
"Songs of workers"

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"Best Car Music... an alternative interpretation soul music shook the ultimate volce of the angels"
Angels presumably don't have very good taste in music
Apparently this CD was the only recommended CD of the China Car Noise Co-operation Committee ("中国汽车音响协会唯一指定专用 CD"). In America, you listen to CD. In Communist China, CD listens you.

While waiting for my supper appointment, I took a walk with some other people in the hostel. They were quite taken by the Wumart supermarket - I think its being well-heated, modern, having price tags and most importantly partial crossing of the language barrier (some items had labels in English, and even those which didn't had pictures on them - the miracle of modern packaging). If you're not brave enough to walk around and point in food places, that's the best you can do!

Supper (though I hadn't had dinner, so perhaps supper wasn't the right word) was the best food I had in Northern China: Korean BBQ. And it wasn't just because of the company.

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Korean appetisers - they didn't let us only order one item, since they had to cover the cost of the 'free' appetisers. This is the most [free] Korean appetisers I've ever gotten - maybe the place being in Koreatown had something to do with it.

I especially liked the cold pumpkin soup

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My supper date

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"Smokeless" grill

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Grilling pork

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Pork with seaweed and chicken. The former was very good, and the latter not bad also.

My hostel had sold me my bed as being in an 8-bed room at 25¥, but I got one with only one other person in it and a [spoilt] ensuite. It was cheap and good, although not that central (but then, all you need is a subway line). My next hostel would be very hard to go to (you needed to take a bus or taxi to it from a subway), so I tried to recall what was going through my mind when I booked it.


The long road the Chinese had to travel to civilization was evident in the 2 most common responses to me when I said please or thank you: I was either ignored or met with surprised looks.

I had a theory that the phrase "gentle reminder" was a translation of the Chinese phrase "文馨提示". However it appears outside of East Asian sources, so the theory is wrong.

I was amused that subway windows had stickers on them indicating the date they had been sterilised.
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