22 April 2007
The first podcast of ATG I happened to listen, Saying I Do To A Green Wedding, was interesting but doesn't apply to me. It was educational and interesting nevertheless, with topics about farm raised seafood, conflict-free diamonds, biodiesel transportation, etc. Yet the second podcast that I came across, Rethinking Recycling with Justin Stockdale, was where I learned something both disheartening and fascinating. Mr. Stockdale told the listeners that landfills are made to ensure their contents don't decompose. The trash in the landfill is kept dry so that they don't decompose much. No decomposition means no liquid coming out of the trash, no chance of leakage into the landfill's surrounding. Likewise, less smell comes out of the landfills as a result of no decomposition. Supposedly, there was a case of a newspaper found in a landfill that's still readable. So much for bio-degradable diapers, too. If those Pampers end up in a landfill, the sh!t won't go anywhere!
21 April 2007
From what little I heard, Ubuntu seems to be the easiest-to-use Linux distro out there. Just boot it up and it'll automatically detect everything for you. I've thought of giving Ubuntu a shot and the recent roll-out of a new Ubuntu, nicknamed Feisty Fawn, seemed to be just the ticket. Alas, demand for Feisty was high and all the mirror sites were overwhelmed. However, I was able to download a torrent file and got the new distro via the BitTorrent client Azureus. Recall that the last time I checked out BitTorrent technology, I concluded that there was nothing to it other than for pirating movies. Well, here's a perfectly legit use of BitTorrent. After getting my own copy of Ubuntu Desktop for i386, I became another distribution channel of what I just downloaded, or in torrent lingo, I help seed the resource. Well, it seemed easy to become a seeder, but it took much mucking around to really become a useful seeder. Supposedly my NAT (network address translation) was not setup correctly such that people couldn't get to what I offer. I had to read the Azureus FAQ over and over, trying to fully understand a whole slew of seemingly foreign terms like seed, peer, leech, snub, tracker, etc. In the end, it was a matter of configuring my DSL router to allow incoming traffic to a port Azureus expects to make data available to. I have been doing my part in making the data available to the public since three days ago. I plan to maybe keep up the service for about a month. I'm not too keen on keeping my computer up too long as it wastes electricity that way. The file itself is about 600 MB but according to Azureus I've uploaded more than 5 GB of data. Now, only if I have the time to actually make use of the file...
19 April 2007
Luckily, Hong Kong's new smoking ban just took effect Jan 1st of this year, so my HK visit was extra pleasant. When the smokers in the group had to fill their needs, they had to step outside just like back in NYC.
17 April 2007
Just as some U.S. states have bottle-recycling laws, whereby empty soda cans and bottles are worth a nickel or more each, in China, there's a market for plastic, glass, and paper. Bottles for drinking water had some value, as I saw old ladies here and there collecting them. In Tai Cheng, I noticed many people wandering on bicycles, with a wagon behind them, picking up recyclable items. They usually have a glass bottle mounted on the bike's handle bars, on which they would tap periodically to draw attention to themselves. Perhaps they pay a small price for the materials, or got them for free, what I know for sure is that their wagons usually had things in them.
15 April 2007
It was a rough ride at times. Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, when the plane was shaking from collision with jet streams, I was thinking that I wouldn't make it home to post another blog entry. Or be in the office the next day to whip up some more KiX scripts. By the time we reach JFK, the weather was bad and the plane had to circle the airport a few times before actually landing. Sounds of people throwing up could be heard here and there in the cabin. I normally have no problems with motion sickness, but during the wait to land I was starting to develop a headache. Perhaps the sum of the rough landing, the run in the rain to get the car, and jet lag was too much for me. I had a nasty headache but it went away after a few hours of sleep, sans dinner.
Still, it's good to be home.
13 April 2007
I didn't expect Hong Kong to change much since my visit in 1994. After all, how much more advanced can it be? Well, it can and it is.
I already mentioned about the subway's glass partition, but another obvious change is the use of RFID tickets. Back in 1994, entering or leaving the train platform requires feeding the ticket to the turnstile. For us tourists who buy single-trip tickets, this still holds true, but for the locals the Octopus card is the way to go. Without even taking the Octopus card out of their wallet/purse, most people simply put it atop the card reader and off they go. It is similar to the system in use in some office buildings. How I wish the NYC subway would evolve to the next level and use the same method. It is very frustrating to slide the dang MetroCard too fast or too slow.
Victoria Peak is probably to Hong Kong as the Statue of Liberty is to NYC - you have to go there when you are in HK. For me, another reason was for my Son to enjoy yet another train ride. He loves train very much. I remember the Peak that I visited in 1994 only had a few telescopes to look around. There was a path to walk about, perhaps lined with local artists hawking their wares. The Peak that I visited yesterday was a multi-story mall. There was a post office, a video game parlor, Madame Tussaude Wax Museum, souvenir shops, fast food restaurants, etc. Sadly, another change is the higher level of pollution noticeable from the Peak. I don't know if I have any 1994 photos taken from the Peak, but supposedly if I do, I would be able to see the difference. All the building tops are now covered in smog. One entrepreneur on the Peak viewing platform claimed that he can "clean up" the smog in the photo. I suppose he would take pictures of the tourist and then digitally add them to a clean HK skyline.
During my 1994 visit, I stayed briefly at the apartment of my future wife's Uncle on her mother side. Near the apartment was the "new" Dragon Center mall. What made the indoor mall special was that it had a working rollercoaster. Supposedly, for safety reason, the coaster is no longer used, but the tracks are still there. I tried to photograph the tracks but for whatever reason a security guard didn't let me. I don't see why. Even with 911 and threats of attacks to the NYC subway, no law has yet been passed to ban photographing in the NYC subway. Maybe the guard just liked to pick on us tourists. Other new additions to Dragon Center are the ice skating rink and arcade zone.
12 April 2007
It feels almost like home while in Hong Kong, just that people drive on the "wrong" side of the road. We arrived in Tsim Sha Tsui, a tourist area, at night and neon signs were everywhere. The sky two floors up in almost all directions were just neon signs of stores trying to grab our attention. We decided to eat Vietnamese but it took a few queries with the local to find one. Even then, the small store had to have an employee walk us two blocks to the bigger store to accommodate our group of twelve.
BTW, the China Firewall isn't in use in Hong Kong. I can finally write new entries and see them exactly as how the world sees them.
11 April 2007
I started the day with dim sum with the Wife's old classmates. Well, it was really she and her chums eating and talking at one table while Son and I ate at another table in the same room. I can take that. It's something to do for the Wife, not for some distant relative's fifth cousin. After the Wife left the hotel with the Son, I took a nap, watched TV, read a sci-fi paperback, and listened to a This Week In Tech podcast on my iPod, with a nap or two here and there. Then I had lunch in the Western restaurant in the hotel lobby - porkchop and Coke. Originally, I wanted seafood pizza, but just because it was on the menu didn't mean the chef on hand could make it. After lunch, I plunked down another 15 yuan, or about $2, for another hour of Internet time.
So much with complaining. I did enjoy a few moments here and there. Borrowing a page from my sister's blog, below is a list of differences I noticed between this China visit and that from my first visit back in 1994. It may not be 1994, it may be 1993, but for argument's sake, I'll assume it was 1994.
- Water. Back in 1994, at the home of Uncle P, where I stayed at, water had to be obtained from a hand pump. That was better than going to the public well, but still it was an inconvenience. On this trip, I learned that indoor plumbing has arrived to this part of rural China, even though the pipes are outside the walls, not inside them. Only in newer buildings would one find indoor plumbing with the pipes out of sight. In older houses, it would be too much troubles to knock down the walls to hide the pipes, would it not?
- Paved Roads. One night during my 1994 visit, Uncle P and I had to ferry the Wife's maternal grandma home on bicycles. There were some large pieces of kitchen equipments, maybe a wok or a rice pot, and they were tied to the bicycle I rode on. Uncle P took care of carrying grandma on his bike. The distance wasn't that great, but the trip was difficult because the road consisted of dirt and rocks, with puddles here and there. It was nighttime and we had perhaps only a flashlight, the moon, and the stars. Our two bikes were the only traffic on the road. More than 10 years later, the road is now paved and lit. Traffic consists of many trucks, mopeds, and even some cars.
- Telephone. I recall that prior to the visit, while in Hong Kong I had to go the post office to send a telegram to Uncle P. Then after we arrived, I had to walk the narrow path across some rice paddie to the village post office to send a letter to the U.S. I don't remember if the USPS had started using self-adhesive stamps back in 1994, but at the time in the village the village post office had a jar of rice glue on the front counter for attaching the stamp to the letters. Nowadays, many families in the village have telephone and many people walk around with mobile phone, some even with those Borg-like Bluetooth headsets. I noticed that many houses' outside walls have phone numbers scribbled by hand. Uncle P's daughter said the writings are advertisements for some services.
- Internet Access. Back in 1994, even NYC didn't have wide adoption of broadband Internet access and the village probably had zilch. Now the Net is reachable via DSL, which is understandable since DSL works over phone lines. I don't know about the big cities, but I can see that cable TV is not yet available in the village. The phone had become a necessity so DSL adoption is natural, but watching movies and TV shows on cable TV is still a luxury. I borrowed Uncle P's PC one day and access was so-so. At the Waika Hotel in northern Hainan Island, my Son tried to play some game on PBSKids.org and it took forever to load. In general, anything half the world away took time to load. Not surprisingly, I haven't seen a single Mac computer. It's so much easier to cobble together a motherboard and some adapter cards to make a PeeCee running on Windoze. BTW, at 15 yuans/hour, my Internet time at this hotel, the Sunrise Hot Spring in Taishan, is the cheapest I found on this trip. At Waika it was 20 yuan/half-hour and at Holiday Inn Resort in Sanyan (south Hainan) it was 30 yuan/half-hour.
My one-hour computer time is almost up. I do have photos further supporting some of my findings listed above, but even though I have the necessary hardware to transfer the photos to this computer, I don't want to risk messing up the PC. It's a Windoze PeeCee after all, who knows what kinds of problem I may introduce into it by just connecting it to a digital camera. Speaking of PC problems, a few days after I first used Uncle P's PC, his daughter had to rebuild the machine from scratch because it crashed. Piece of Crap.
10 April 2007
08 April 2007
This trip so far is mostly an oblication, just a word I made up - a combination of obligation and vacation. The trip started out in the inlaw's home village and everything was for meeting all those relatives on the wife's side. No fun there, although I probably have some new faces for the extended family tree I maintain. Also, there's plenty of materials for future blog entries. In no particular orders, I can see future entries on the following topics:
- bullshit, the real type that comes out of the bull, not those found in politics or some corporate offices
- indoor plumbing with exposed pipes
- squat toilets
- Internet access
- rural landscape
- community life
- Hainan tourism