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Saturday, December 04, 2010

N. China - Day 2, Part 1 - Beijing

"Early to rise and early to bed makes a male healthy and wealthy and dead." - James Thurber


After fiddling around and solving problems with my new laptop, my travelogue resumes.

N. China
Day 2 - 31st October - Beijing
(Part 1)

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Hostel courtyard. This was indeed one of the nicest hostels I'd been to.

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"Peking Breakfast: with sausage, egg, bacon, potato pancake, organic vegetables, 1 slice toast"

The first order of business for the day was to buy the train tickets for the rest of my trip, so I headed to Beijing West Train Station.

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Beichizidajie - 北池子大街. A very straight and long road.

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"提高防范意识:请大家注意:防火,防盗, 防诈骗...冬季来临,请大家一定注意预防煤气中毒"
("Raising awareness of prevention: everybody, please take note of: fire prevention, theft prevention, fraud... Winter has come, everybody should take note to prevent coal gas poisoning")

When I took this I thought it was a poster urging people to denounce counter-revolutionaries (i.e. report those spreading anti-CCP messages)

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"China's time-honoured brand"

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A three-wheeled vehicle in the day

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Dahuamen - 大华门

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Water obstacle at Dahuamen. I believe the wall marks the Forbidden City.

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Fishing. I'm sure this was illegal.

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What was probably a tower of the Forbidden City

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Snacks. I had a round thing (bottom right) which came with an egg inside (another place sold it as "鸡蛋灌饼"). It cost me 3¥; China was more expensive than I remembered, after the Great Food Price Inflation of 2008.

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Garden that was closed, and sign with its name. I can't be bothered fiddling around in the IME pad to figure out what the characters are.

There were soldiers standing guard at the subway exit. Maybe because it was Tiananmen.

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"Do a good job in census in an effort to serve the cause of building up Beijing into a harmonious society"
Census Propaganda

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Their Millennium Monument. Wth.

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"名烟, 名酒, 名茶" - "Famous Smokes, Famous Alcohols, Famous Teas"
This was the perfect combination. Other shops I saw didn't have Famous Teas.

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Be Good Citizens

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Beijing West Railway Station
Its appearance is not the only WTF thing about it (to make it even more WTF they played Big Ben chimes - everything in China is counterfeit); there is still no metro station nearby (2 years after the Olympics, it is "Under Construction"), so one has to walk for 10-15 minutes from the nearest metro.

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Street Snacks. Chicken and the ubiquitous 饼 (bing)

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More Census Propaganda: "Census Benefits All". Except those who have more than 1 child, Falungong members, and other enemies of the State.

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Near the station there was a Yoshinoya. Given the Rampant Nipponphobia in China, I was wondering how the chain survived. The answer? Nothing in the shop indicated that it was Japanese in origin - it was just bland marketing talk.

In the station there was one ticket queue for the Elderly, Sick and Disabled. And another for Reporters and Soldiers. No wonder the PLA actually has to turn away volunteers.

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"No Smoking. Beijing Patriotic Health Campaign"

Very irritatingly, the train station didn't accept credit cards. In fact, none of the places where I tried to pay accepted credit cards. So I blew a lot of cash on buying night trains (indeed, the only trains I took were night trains!)

Unfortunately, some of the night trains I wanted to take were sold out - or at least the proper night train tickets were sold out. I had planned to take the night train to Taishan that evening, but only hard seats were left for this. It was the same for the next evening. I guess I should've asked Charis to help me book the tickets a week in advance - oh well, hindsight.

Having to reconsider my itinerary, I decided I was willing to give up QuFu, but not Taishan - I needed nature to leaven the hordes in the cities. Well, there would be the hordes on the mountains, but that was different. Kind of.

And so I decided to bite the bullet and take a night train from Beijing to Taishan the same evening - on a hard seat. I decided that I would check in to the 3 Star hotel on Taishan to pamper myself after what would be a hellish night.

At this point, let me go on a brief digression about the types of night trains in China. Generally there are 3 types of cabins that one can ride in:

1) Hard Seat
2) Hard Sleeper
3) Soft Sleeper

The first is more or less what it sounds like - you spend the night in a seat with everyone around you. The hard sleeper is similar to the European Couchette. And the soft sleeper is a shared cabin.

On reflecting on my itinerary, I realised that it was not actually fast paced - I had plenty of time to do each place. However, I was going to move from place to place at a hectic place, never spending more than one night in each place, and sleeping 6 nights on trains, and only 5 on a stationary bed.

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("That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind")
A more literal translation: "A small step forward is a big step for Civilization"

I learnt a new bust presentation technique from this girl who was wearing a top which was divided into 2 areas with a colour. There was no clear demarcation between the areas, as the border was a gradient. Unfortunately this made it look as if either she had pulled a tank top halfway down over an existing top, or that her breasts were soaked. I'm not sure which was worse.

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"爱我? 就别害我. 保护女性免受"
("Love me? Then don't hurt me. Protect women from harm")
Sexist anti-smoking ad.

A guy sitting on a bench looked at what I was taking a picture of (i.e. the above). I'd have launched into a discourse on sexism and heteronormativity, but I didn't have the vocabulary for it. Besides which, I doubted that Chinese had a word for "heteronormativity" (Google Translate tells me it's "异性恋", but that is "Heterosexuality").

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Ad at the bus stop. I want to know what sort of work gets you 8,000¥ a DAY. It's hard to earn that even in Singapore. Actually, I can guess: "男女公交" ("Male-Female Public Intercourse"); "私人傍游" ("Private Travel Companion")

Links - 4th December 2010

"It is a great ability to be able to conceal one's ability." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld


Female staff in Norway ordered to wear red bracelets when on period - "The astonishing demand was revealed in report by a workers' union into 'tyrannical' toilet rules in Norwegian companies. The study claimed businesses were becoming obsessed with lost productivity due to employees spending too much time answering the call of nature. It found 66 per cent of managers made staff ask them for an electronic key card to gain access to the toilets so they could monitor breaks"

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Asian men, white women and a taboo that must be broken - "An alarming number of [South] Asian individuals, families and communities do believe that white females have no morals, are free and available, deserving of no respect or protection... there was an 18-year-old white boy from Manchester who said he was lured and raped at the age of 10 by an Asian scoutmaster and his Muslim mates, who would, in public, hysterically denounce homosexuality. The double standards enable the Asian rapists to feel good, and that makes it doubly bad. Convenient myths of uprightness help hide the rape within their families too – which is why barely anyone ever reports it. The final insult is the veil of religious hypocrisy"

Enrich or die? - "When her third child came, Miss L explained, she had resolved to give him a more relaxed childhood. The boy was spared the blitzkrieg of enrichment classes his elder siblings went through. But barely two weeks after the boy entered Primary One, Miss L received a phone call from his Chinese teacher. Of the 30 students in her class, the teacher said, 28 already knew Hanyu Pinyin (the romanisation system for Mandarin), even though she was only supposed to be teaching it in the months ahead. Miss L's son was one of the two that didn't. The teacher said she couldn't hold 28 kids back for the sake of two. Miss L promptly bundled her son off to an intensive Hanyu Pinyin class that cramped 6 months' worth of curriculum into 8 sessions. The best part, my old classmates and I learnt, was that this took place not in an elite school, but in a neighbourhood school, somewhere in Tampines. The moral of the story, at least to me, is as clear as it is sad. It is: If you don't believe in the system, you'd better get out of it. If you choose to remain, you better play along... Get out? But where to?"
This is probably one reason people dont want kids; people say Singapore is a good place to raise kids. It is in the sense that it makes them look good on paper. The silver lining is that all this makes it easier for them to get out of Singapore.

Faulty cameras and alarms at Cairo museum blamed for theft of van Gogh painting in Egypt - "None of the alarms and only seven out of 43 surveillance cameras were working"

Male Sopranos & Altos

The worst holiday coffee drinks photo gallery - "Starbucks peppermint white chocolate mocha with whole milk and whipped cream (venti)... For the same calories, you could eat 17 1/2 spangler candy canes"

PLS REVERT, TKS - "AN ANTHOLOGY OF CIVIL SERVICE LINGO (or, Bad English Masquerading as Bureaucratic-Speak)"

Design Interactions?Hiromi Ozaki?Menstruation Machine - "Fitted with a blood dispensing mechanism and lower-abdomen-stimulating electrodes, the Menstruation Machine simulates the pain and bleeding of an average 5 day menstruation process of a human. Menstruation Machine (Takashi's Take) is a music video about a boy ‘Takashi’, who builds the machine in an attempt to dress up as a female, biologically as well as aesthetically, to fulfill his desire to understand what it might feel like to be a truely kawaii (cute) girl"
This HAS to come from a Japanese

Writers as Plunderers - Why Do They Keep Giving Away Other People's Secrets? - ""Some have argued that all writing is an act of betrayal or aggression. Indeed, writing often involves an invasion, a theft, an exposure of something private, and the issue of a writer's right to use the lives of real people in his work has always been debated... For a fictional portrait to be actionable, it must be so accurate that a reader of the book would have no problem linking the two,'' said Mr. Friedman. Thus, he continued, libel lawyers have what is known as ''the small penis rule.'' One way authors can protect themselves from libel suits is to say that a character has a small penis, Mr. Friedman said. ''Now no male is going to come forward and say, 'That character with a very small penis, 'That's me!'''"

Justin Bieber Swears Off YouTube For Facebook, Unwittingly Steps In Copyright Minefield - "Justin Bieber went to upload the music video of his new song called “Pray” to his personal YouTube site. He was in for a rude surprise: YouTube automatically blocked his video upload on “copyright grounds”... There’s a level of irony to the situation. Bieber got his start on YouTube"

Exclusive: TSA frisks groom children to cooperate with sex predators, abuse expert says

Back to the Days of Blackface - "After more than three years of criticism, Colgate switched the name from Darkie to Darlie and modified the logo to a less crude version of a black man... China is not exactly a paradise of racial harmony. While the crucial dichotomy in China is between Chinese and non-Chinese, many blacks face discrimination in the country... “To most people in China it wouldn’t even occur to them that Black People Toothpaste is offensive”"

Jesus take me as I am - "The problem of course is that however horrified you are by sex you can't abolish it without presenting your religion with a serious demographic challenge. So Augustine and his fellow fathers made passion the evil – irrational, unruly, hedonistic, bestial – and drew a line between that and the unavoidable zoology of procreation. So to be completely free from sin, as God intended, Adam's sex would have to be passionless, controlled, rational and utilitarian. Ours should approach it as nearly as possible, without necessarily being al fresco... Protestantism has escaped from much of the sex phobia of Catholicism, but not from the obsessive policing of private relationships, and putting sexual rules at the centre of right living. If only western Christians could rediscover Augustine, and see that our whole sexual ethics is based on a man who was more scared of his plonker than he was of talking like one, and who wished he could work it like a finger puppet. Maybe we could clear away some of these obsessive regulations and get back to basics. One interesting thing about Christian sexual hang-ups is how little they have to do with the Bible"

Prince Jefri of Brunei wants sex statues of himself barred from NY courtroom - "Her lawsuit claimed she and other young women were lured to be sex slaves after traveling there under false pretenses. After arriving in Brunei, she said, they had their passports confiscated and were checked for sexually transmitted diseases. The suit was dismissed... His purchases over the years have included 600 properties, over 2000 cars, over 100 paintings, five boats, nine aircraft including an Airbus, rugs made of gold, and even a mega-yacht he christened 'Tits'"

The Men Who Stole the World - "Apple's relentless emphasis on simple, attractive user interfaces, backed by Jobs' steely negotiating power in dealing with music studios, produced a streamlined, curated service with which you could download and transfer music with a minimum of fuss. And we did — even though it cost us money and our purchases were bogged down with DRM that constrained what we could do with them. It turns out that there is something that can compete with free: easy. Napster, Gnutella and BitTorrent never attained the user-friendliness that Apple products have, and nobody vets the content on file-sharing networks... For Johansen as for all of the pirate kings, it was always about writing good code, and what good code does is give power to the people who use it. That's the real reason the pirate apocalypse never happened. The pirates never wanted music and movies and all the rest of it to be free — at least, not in the financial sense. They wanted it to be free as in freedom"

US embassy cables: Former Singapore PM on 'psychopathic' North Koreans - "They are psychopathic types, with a "flabby old chap" for a leader who prances around stadiums seeking adulation. MM Lee noted that he had learned from living through three and a half years of Japanese occupation in Singapore that people will obey authorities who can deny them food, clothing and medicine"

A few questions about the WikiLeaks release - "When are you going to focus your relentless and often valuable energies on other governments, especially the ones that are even more noted for secrecy than the United States government, not to mention more repressive. Could you kindly find someone to liberate internal documents from, say, the Chinese government? You're more secretive than the people you target, by far. When will you be more open about your own workings... Some government is going to play you -- and by extension the rest of us -- for suckers, if this hasn't already happened, by arranging a strategic leak of disinformation. How are you preparing for that?"

WikiLeaks: Julian Assange’s anti-political politics | The Economist - "An "authentically liberal democracy" is a post-political paradise unlike any form of communal association ever seen in human history. From its origins in the 17th century, liberal political theory has been motivated in part by the impulse to check the power of the state—for the sake of both individual freedom and the common good. That's what makes liberalism a theory of limited government. But from the beginning this impulse was itself limited in scope. None of the early modern liberals would have considered it either possible or desirable for the state to strive for complete transparency in matters of foreign policy and diplomacy. To do so would be to ask the state to cease abiding by the most elementary rules of human relations... Mr Assange could be considered an anarchist. He's out to tear down all existing liberal democratic institutions—and perhaps all political institutions of any kind—because they fall short of his preciously naïve, anti-political vision of moral purity... the efforts of this unelected fanatic to topple those same institutions... is next of kin to nihilism."

Women shun fathers when ovulating, study reveals - "A NEW study reveals women instinctively shun their fathers when they are most fertile, even as they seek out the companionship of their mothers"

FPI Leader Defines 'Pornography Rules', Will Carefully Study Miyabi Movie - "If there are kissing scenes, [the actors] are wearing barely-there outfits, there are striptease scenes or if [the actors] wear hot pants or above-the-knee skirts then a movie is porn and morally destructive... We haven't seen the movie and we don't know what the movie's like. We only received information that it is a comedy movie... We are delaying the rally to tomorrow. We will throw eggs and chicken carcasses at Miyabi's poster. I will lead the demonstrators tomorrow"
Comments: "As a young person I worked for the United Nations in Damascus and a common sight at this time was either exactly your described kisses between men, and also men walking hand in hand or hands on shoulder through the streets to express their deep friendship to each other"
"Lord Baden Powell (founder of the Boys Scout movement) introduced the idea of using the left hand for handshaking. I wonder how our local boys scouts greet each other"
"So the FPI are gearing up to generate tons of publicity for this film? The producers must be pleased!"
Keywords: Maria Ozawa, feathers, protest, protesters

how I ended up in KL - "Fine, Singapore has a policy whereby ex-PRs who try to come back to work in Singapore, are black-listed. I'm not faulting Singapore on having such a policy. But come out and be transparent about it. Instead, my application was allowed to drag on for more than a month, and then rejected, and then I was informed to appeal in the vain hope that my application would be approved. Let me sweat it out for a few more weeks, then reject me again. That pisses me off"

Is Tycho Ready for His Close-Up? - "It’s “Amadeus” meets “Da Vinci Code” meets “Hamlet,” featuring a deadly struggle for the secret of the universe between Tycho, the swashbuckling Danish nobleman with a gold-and-silver prosthetic nose, and the not-yet-famous Johannes Kepler, his frail, jealous German assistant. The story also includes an international hit man, hired after a Danish prince becomes king and suspects Brahe of sleeping with his mother (and maybe being his father!). For comic relief, there’s a beer-drinking pet elk wandering around Tycho’s castle, as well as a jester named Jepp, a dwarf who sits under Tycho’s table and is believed to be clairvoyant"

Dogmatism on the Left - "As a loyal reader of books, articles and columns by members of the American intellectual left, I marvel often at just how blind these folks can be to their own dogmatism. Folks like these routinely charge those whose politics and economics they dislike with this sin, as if all those who reject Keynesian economics suffered from mindlessness instead of seriously disagreed with them. The likes of Paul Krugman do not deign to argue with their adversaries only to denounce them and label them something distasteful, such as "market fundamentalists". (This clearly suggests that those who are convinced of the merits of free market capitalist economics couldn't possibly have come by their view through study and reasoning but simply signed up to their "dogmas" from blind faith!)... That bit about how the deficit will continue to grow in the near term if taxes are not raised" is, for Lilla & Co., a simple article of faith, in no need of argument. Never mind that there are quite a lot of serious and bright economists who disagree that raising taxes is the answer"

Passengers surprised to see planes patched with tape; experts say it's common

Computer identifies the most boring day in history - "On [April 11, 1954] a general election was held in Belgium, a Turkish academic was born and an Oldham Athletic footballer called Jack Shufflebotham died. Apart from that nothing much happened. Mr Tunstall-Pedoe's computer programme, called True Knowledge, came to its lofty decision after being fed some 300 million facts about "people, places, business and events" that made the news. Using complex algorithms, such as how much one piece of information was linked to others, True Knowledge determined that particular 1950s Sunday to be outstanding in its obscurity"

Friday, December 03, 2010

From the land that brought us Women-only Train Carriages

Women-/couples- only Neoprint booths

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Epic FAIL of the Day

My day started on a good note, thanks to this howler of a quote -

Singapore should have its own definition of being modern
(letter from Mellissa Ang Siew Ling)

"Like China and Japan, Singapore is a self-acclaimed democratic country with an elected government...

All Singaporean permanent residents and citizens have a chance to vote during elections upon turning 21"


"If China is a democracy, then I am the Queen of England."

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Hierarchy of Compensation:

Startup < Freelancer < Small company < Worse parts of government < Medium company < Better parts of government < MNC < Consulting < Investment bank

From Darkie to Darlie

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Links - 28th November 2010

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