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Huang Shan: A Mixed Blessing

I’m not quite sure what to make of Huang Shan. On one hand, it suffers from many of the same ailments as the other national preserve I visited. On the other, it is probably one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I’m sick of complaining so just enjoy the pictures.

2010 World Effno

Okay so there’s this giant TV, right? And it’s hooked up to a camera, right? And when you stand still in front of it, Hello Kitties and hearts appear next to you! Cool, right? No? Well if you don’t find yourself entertained by such attractions, the World Expo is not your gig. The sad thing is, this was perhaps one of the more innovative exhibits at the Expo.

For months I had been hearing about all the awesome architecture and infrastructure that was to be incorporated into the event. Things like rainwater catchers that supplied coolant to outdoor air conditioning systems that doubled as giant street lamps capable of turning night into day. If that doesn’t blow your mind then I am truly sorry for you.

It was hearing about things like this that got me excited about attending the expo; I thought I was going to have a chance to test just how sharp the cutting edge of modern technology has to offer. After all, isn’t the expo supposed to show off the best your country has to offer? Evidently not.

In reality, the Expo is just a collection of larger-than-life travel brochures housed inside pretty buildings. A typical pavilion consists of a four hour wait to get in followed by a few movies that advertise how cool the sponsor is (either a country or a company). That’s it. Some went the extra mile going as far as to include 4D special effects and light shows but really, there was nothing you couldn’t learn just by typing in “Thailand” into Wikipedia. Needless to say, it was overall a massive disappointment.

What made it that much worse was the fact that it was all a giant contradiction. The theme was supposed to be “better city, better life” which means improving infrastructure and promoting sustainability (according to an Expo worker). Not only did this thing occupy impossible amounts of prime real estate that could have been much better allocated, most of the pavilions are scheduled to be destroyed once the Expo ends. So much for sustainability.

By this time, most people who want to go to the Expo have gone so I suppose it’s more or less pointless to advise my readers not to go but I thought I’d share this little tidbit. The last Expo took place in Japan in 1976. As many of you may know, Japan and China don’t have the coziest of histories. According to an expo worker, the Chinese government has set attendance quotas in order to beat Japan’s record for attendance and has thus far failed to meet them. They have resorted to subsidizing travel costs for government workers throughout the country to bring them to Shanghai in order to boost attendance. I’m sorry Beijing, I wanted to like the Expo. I wanted to be able to write a glowing review and say I had a great time and learned so much. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

A Little Update

I should probably explain why I haven’t been posting for the past week so here goes. First of all, my family got in on the 27th so I’ve been spending time with them which means less free time and less blogging. Furthermore, it turns out that the Chinese government has been tracking my blog and is none to pleased with the rhetoric. Don’t worry, I’m not changing anything, I’ll just have to hide my tracks a bit better. Finally, I am no longer in Beijing and have been travelling around with irregular internet access and being the jackass that I am, I’ve misplaced my charger along the way and won’t be able to get a new one until I return to Beijing (Thursday). I am typing this from a netbook, i.e. the worst typing interface in the world. When I get my computer back up and running, you can expect a long slough of posts about Shanghai, the expo, Huangshan, and other places I’ve been this past week. For now all I have to say is that Shanghai is exponentially more pleasant than Beijing (I promise I will elaborate) and that the World Expo is a terrible place to be and you should not go. Basically, it’s a collection of jumbo-sized, travel brochures that you have to pay 160 Yuan and 4 hours of line-waiting time to read. What’s more, all these elaborate structures are going to be demolished come the end of the expo. But I’m getting ahead of myself of course because these are stories for another time. And so on.

A pat on the back if you caught the literary reference in the post and an apology for the lack of a picture.

Tony Hayward: The Second Best CEO BP Could Ever Want

Disclaimer: this has nothing to do with China.

AP via The Huffington Post

There are very few things that we Americans can agree on in such polarizing times. That being said, I implore you to find me one person who doesn’t believe that Tony Hayward is a massive idiot for the way he’s handled the Gulf oil crisis. It’s exceedingly rare for a public figure to be hated as much as Mr. Hayward at this current point in history and under normal circumstances, he should have lost his job a long time ago. So why has BP kept him around?

Continue reading ‘Tony Hayward: The Second Best CEO BP Could Ever Want’

Zhongguancun: Seeing Shouldn’t Be Believing

For those not in the know, Zhongguancun (pronounced jone-gwan-tsun) is where Beijingers go to get their electronics. There is a subway station that leads straight into the biggest of the myriad of gadget malls, each of which houses countless merchants. I have been needing a new laptop battery for a while anyway and I figured it would be much cheaper here than in the US. After all, if eating local food is so much fresher and “greener”, buying electronics from the source must be better too.

Continue reading ‘Zhongguancun: Seeing Shouldn’t Be Believing’

I Get it Neocons, I Get It

I don’t know about you but I was rather surprised at the sheer size and vocality of the conservative right when they started appearing on the news in 2009 after Obama’s election. Where were all these crackpots when Bush was president? Where were they during the election even? McCain ran as a moderate and now he’s pandering to Tea-Partiers! Anyway, I found them to be incredibly annoying and they appeared largely ignorant of politics and taxes and frankly, most of the things they were rousing rabble over. Although they still bug the living daylights out of me and are obviously racist among other unpleasant adjectives, after living in China, I can at the very least empathize with their situation. Continue reading ‘I Get it Neocons, I Get It’

A Pleasant Surprise

Before I start, I want to get one thing straight. I am a firm believer in the marvels of Western medicine and am staunchly opposed to most types of “Alternative Healing” like supplements, homeopathy, and other so-called miracle cures. Although pharmaceutical companies are evil, patent-manipulating, profit-motivated, soulless corporations, it is these very traits that convince me that they leave no stone unturned when it comes to developing new drugs. What better way to generate new profits than by discovering new cures? With this disclaimer in mind, what I’m about to say next may come as a bit of a surprise: I think Eastern Medicine works.

As you know, I was sick for the better part of the last 2 weeks. When I could no longer bear my cough anymore, I asked my uncle to get me some medicine. He came back with what you see in that vial I’m holding up in that picture. My gut reaction was repressed anger. Where is my NyQuil? There’s no way this hocus pocus potion could have any effect on this rhinovirus… Where’s the scientific evidence behind it? Did someone pour millions into developing it? All this aside, I was desperate to rid myself of this cold so I downed it in one gulp and hoped for the best, expecting the worst. To my surprise, the damn thing worked! Now you might be thinking, “How can this be? If it works, why don’t we have it in the US? It must be placebo!” And you may very well be correct but in all honesty, this has been an eye-opener for me.

I think that this potion derives its potency not from the “active ingredient,” but rather the context of the ingredients. It’s like how they say taking vitamins don’t actually help because your body can’t absorb just raw vitamins. This is probably made from boiling herbs which would mean that it includes not only the drug part, but much of the other plant materials that may very well aid in its digestion and absorption. Now I’m not saying that all Eastern Medicines work, but I will say that I won’t write it all off as bunk in the future as I have in the past.

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