Monday, January 18, 2010

Google, Guests, Guangzhou, and Good Ones

Ok, it's been a couple weeks, and I mightn't have updated my blog now, but there is just too much stuff that either has happened recently or that will happen soon for me to ignore.

In case you didn't know, on Tuesday, Google announced that they are finished with censoring their searches on (the google portal for mainland China) and that they would try to work with the Chinese authorities over the coming weeks to see how they could implement an unfiltered search engine, if at all. This "if at all" is not only significant, it's likely, as the Chinese
government is not likely to compromise on this issue. So it looks like Google, and all of its widely used features such as google docs and gmail will soon be unavailable in China. Part of this was precipitated from what Google said was a highly targeted and sophisticated hacking attack originating from China. The implication was that it was the Chinese government behind these attacks, but wasn't expicitly stated.

Later, VeriSign, an internet security company, looked into the matter and declared that the attacks were either done by "agents of the Chinese state or proxies thereof."

After I first read this news I realized that this could have huge, if not in the short term, at least in the long term, economic and political ramifications. But I posited that it may hinge on what the other US-based internet players do after Google's withdrawal. I did read recently that there has been a bit of a revival of a bill on Congress that would ban US tech based companies from doing business in countries that digitally spy on their own citizens. There are a number of reasons why I think a bill like this probably couldn't pass, but it does show the renewed vigor of the argument.

In the end, I think that in the long term, Google's move here is a good thing... for the Chinese
people. was the #2 search player here in China with about 35% of the market. The leaer is with about 58% market share. However, an article I read recently suggests that while the Google-using Chinese population was smaller and younger, they represented, on average, a wealthier and more highly educated portion of the Chinese population... the kind of people more likely to make noise and effect change later on.

Two of the more interesting articles I read were a San Francisco gate piece here and a New York Times piece here and I highly recommend them for a read.

By the way, in all that I've been reading about this issue this past week, I did come across one extra interesting tidbit. Apparently using encryption of your internet connection (such as I do when I use my VPN to connect to my blog or facebook or youtube) in China is not allowed... unless you are a foreign national. So, I'm perfectly allowed to circumvent it using my current methods. :)

The weekend before last, Jean and I invited Ellis to come to Hangzhou (only her 2nd trip to Hangzhou in over a year) and to stay with us for the weekend. On Friday night, we all went out to Eudora, a favorite Hangzhou hangout of ours, to eat some pizza.




Fried Calamari (interesting side note, and I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but the phrase "fried squid" in Chinese, 炒鱿鱼 chao you yu, is a colorful way to say in Chinese that one has been fired from his job)

The pizza at Eudora is the best I've had in China... but it essentially is a little too heavy on
the grease, as you will notice in these pictures.

As listed in the menu, the four-sausage pizza

The 4-cheese pizza. This picture really gives you a clear idea of how much grease was involved. Perhaps it was more like, "Oh waiter, I think I found some pizza swimming in my grease."

After going for a walk to burn off some of those greasy greasy calories, we decided to add a few more and bought a half-dozen doughnuts for the next day's breakfast. Top to bottom, left to right: Coco Ring (That's "Coco" Ellis. There is no "k"), Cherry, Chocobanana, Blueberry, Strawberry, and Coffee

On Saturday, we went to the movie theater to see "Avatar." The movie was played in English with Chinese subtitles. The only annoying parts were when the Navi were speaking their native language. There were no English subtitles in those sections, only Chinese ones. I'm not totally illiterate when it comes to Chinese characters, but it'd be safe to compare my literacy level to that of a 7 year old, both in terms of vocab recognition and reading speed. When those Navi-language-only moments would happen, I could usually catch at least 3 or 4 characters that I knew before it flashed to the next line, and it was often enough for me to understand, but that wasn't always the case. Luckily, those moments were infrequent and minimized by the fact that James Cameron's writing is fairly simple and predictable. The movie was visually stunning and brilliant, and from a design and visuals standpoint, perhaps the most impressive movie I've ever seen. From an acting standpoint, however, I found it average, and as far as the story was concerned, if you've seen Disney's "Pocahontas", you basically know the story already.

After the movie we grabbed some lunch, grabbed a drink in Starbucks, took a stroll by scenic West Lake, and snapped a few pictures while we were there.

This one is my favorite.

After that we caught late dinner at a restaurant called "Babela's" where we had some beer-fried bananas with ice cream, test-tube cocktails, and serviceable pizza for only 19 yuan ($2.79).

We finally ending the evening with a few beers. Wonder if these Harbin brand beers will taste any better fresh from Harbin next month?

Well, this week Jean and I will head to Guangzhou for her visa interview at the U.S. Embassy.
Jean's getting fairly nervous, which is understandable, but I keep telling her that we've got nothing to worry about: Just be honest, and it'll be over before you know it, and we'll soon have a K1 (fiancee) visa in our possession.

Before this week, I had assumed that the visa interview would take place in a room and might need 15 to 20 minutes. However, after some research, Jean found that the interviews are done in an open area, with the interview officers behind a glass window, something akin to the DMV. Further, the interviews are quite short, generally 3 to 5 minutes.

This is a fairly significant event, so be assured that I'll be posting about this trip shortly.

Finally, last week was my last week of classes, and I had given my students a written exam. I don't mean make fun of the students, but I have to admit some of the answers my students wrote, often intentionally on their part, gave me a chuckle.

One of the sections of my exam compares the usage of the word "much" with "many", and the students are to write two sentences, one using "much" and one using "many." The one that made me smile was the student who wrote, "It won't take me much time to finish this test. I have many other things to do this afternoon."

Another funny one was related to the class we had on cooking vocabulary. The question was "When you cut bread into flat pieces you _____ it." with the correct answer being "slice." I gave one student half credit for making me laugh when he wrote, "When you cut bread into flat pieces you will eat it."

Finally, since one of my lectures this past semester covered Christmas, I asked them a few questions about it. One of the questions was, "Where does Santa Claus live?" The vast majority of students got this one right, but I liked these answers:

-America (had 2 students give this answer)

-Finland (really not too far off when you think about it)

-Florida (I guess she thought my father was Santa Claus from his picture?)

and finally...

-In everyone's hearts

You gotta love it.


  1. beer-fried bananas? were they good? interesting. looks like it was chilly as Jin had a hat and gloves on!
    take care. stay warm. enjoy your semester break.

    Love ya,


  2. Nice update TJ, and now that I'm out of China, I can actually read your blog! Hope everything went well yesterday, and I'm still sending positive thoughts about the interview. My fingers are perpetually crossed.

    Also, I think my favorite moment of this update was: Us. Ellis. Nachos.

  3. I had a zit that day:(