Stories, thoughts, observations, rants and dribble. Just another of my attempts to keep the interested people informed ...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Some numbers...

So I'm back in the office in Shanghai, and the sun is shining in a blue sky, which is a pretty rare event.  I'd love to be outside since it's a reasonable temperature these days, but here I am getting settled back into the job, with a new boss and a new direction.  I'm actually hopeful, though, which is great.  I'm about to move into an actual office (no more open plan working for me!) and apparently the new boss can get me a deal on a goosedown underlay for the winter.  It'll be like sleeping in a cloud.

I had a wonderful holiday back in the southern hemisphere, and caught up with a lot of people, all of whom it was fantastic to see.  Of course I wish I'd had more time, but hey.  Once you see how many people I had to see, you'll see why the schedule was so tight.  I promise more catch ups when I retire.

So, here is a summary of my holiday in numbers:

  • 20 days
  • 10 flights (1 cancelled)
  • 3 countries
  • 6 towns/cities (1 was just a layover)
  • 4 journeys to Hong Kong International Airport; 3 to Melbourne; 3 to Sydney
  • 6 time zones (if you include changing times for daylight savings twice)
  • 11 - 30 degrees Celsius (approx)
  • 19 family members
  • 69 friends and friends-of-friends (and the new people were all lovely!)
  • 2 runnings into on the street
  • 20.2kg in my backpack on the way home (including 2L of 42 Below)
  • 12.5kg of extra belongings in a box put in the post
  • 1 upgrade to business class (first time in nearly 9 years of travelling!), but only for 2 hours
  • Countless hugs and kisses, and not enough time, or flat whites.
Thanks to everyone who made the effort to see me (including the ones who wanted to, but couldn't), especially those who let me stay at their places, helped me organise things, and gave me directions.  Miss you all already.

[Image: Blue sky over Bondi, Bondi Beach, Sydney]

Original post sent via email to Wendebulous

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The truth about spam: "Fw: FUNNY" is not as funny as you think

Getting nonsensical, unentertaining, "inspirational" or otherwise worthless emails forwarded to me, often by virtual (ha) strangers or long-ago workmates, is one of my pet peeves.  The obvious reason is that I don't find them interesting or worthwhile, I have better ways to use my time, and I don't care.  The less obvious reason is that I am fairly protective of my own privacy, and I don't want my email address handed over to complete strangers, especially the kind of strangers who will further propagate the sort of emails that I hate, or worse, not be actual people.  Why don't you just give them my phone number, address, and bank account details while you're at it?  Come to think of it, I received a 'warning' email today which included, not just a whole mess of email addresses, but all sorts of personal contact information contained in footers.  Be careful, people!

Before I launch into full rant mode, I'd like to pass the mic over to my completely wonderful, yet easy irritated, friend Dave, who wrote what he intended to be a passive-aggressive response to receiving an illogical but apparently compulsive forwarded email, and actually produced a well-written, educational missive about one of the dangers of the internet.  Like I said to him, if it were more succinct, I might be tempted to put it on a t-shirt. 

I have removed the names and email addresses, because I am a considerate personIf people really feel the need, the absolute, unavoidable compulsion to send me random crap (and I'm not talking about things you know I'll actually appreciate), for the love of God, learn how to use the bcc: optionPlease

Anyway, please read the following message, and feel free to pass it on to your favourite quasi-spammers.  Perhaps encourage them to read the whole thing by saying that something hilarious will happen when they scroll right to the end.

Hi there [name removed to protect baby seals] et al.,

Just so you're aware, it's physically impossible for anything 'funny' to happen if you forward a message to a certain number of people. All that will happen is that people will forward it hoping that something will happen. Which, as I'm sure you now know from forwarding this message, it never will. It just results in a whole bunch of spam being thrown around the internet.

But what's more, all the email addresses that people are forwarding to will be harvested by spam bots, giving spammers a whole bunch more addresses to send their "make your penis bigger!", "FREE viagra!" and "find hot prostitutes near you" emails. Thus these will start flooding your inbox, along with the emails with malware and worm attachments that can really fuck your stuff up.

It's actually quite a clever spam technique - promising the uninitiated users that something 'hilarious' will happen if they forward it to enough people. If you look below at the forwarded message, you'll see all those blue underlined links, all those email addresses to whom "[name removed even though he was one of the forwarders at fault]" sent it out to... well, as soon as this email is returned to a spammer, they can just copy all those addresses onto their database and know that these addresses have real people on the end of them, and so add them to their list of people to send out all their spam. They can also sell the list of email addresses to other spammers. This is actually how most spam email actually gets their millions of target users.

Emails are just strings of letters and numbers being sent through electronic communication channels... there's no physical way that forwarding, replying, or doing anything to the messages will result in any 'cool' thing happening.

So, as a general rule of thumb - only ever forward emails if you actually want or need to forward them. For example, if it's information that you want somebody else to see - that is to say, the intended use of the forwarding feature.

I am sorry if this sounds passive aggressive or preachy, but... well... it's a bit annoying, see. Because now if any of the other 6 people to whom you also forwarded this message (that is, [names removed because it wasn't their fault]) then forward it on to a bunch of other people, it'll be my email address added to the spam list. And then, if any of those people then forward it on to another bunch of people, my address will be propagated again and again and again, etc., etc., ad nauseam. In effect, by forwarding these kinds of emails to your friends, you are actively increasing the amount of spam they get.

So. If you ever get an email and are encouraged to forward it to a certain amount of people - whether it promises something cool, or promises that it will save the life of an African child with every person you forward it to, or promises that it will increase the chance of finding your one true love... the best thing to do is delete it, or just move it to your spam folder. Because that's what it is. Spam. Nothing else. You could always forward it to a bunch of people who you don't really like, and laugh at the fact that they're going to get a lot more spam, but again, your email address is still going to be propagated on that list just by engaging in any kind of forwarding activity.

Sadly, because the vast majority of people are completely unaware of the underhand tactics that spammers use to build up these lists of verified, active email addresses, spam now accounts for over 90% of all email traffic online. Check out this section of the Wikipedia article on spam, if you like (with cited sources):

All the best, and hope you're well.

Dave [name retained to acknowledge the awesome]

2009/9/7 [name removed to reduce global warming]

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: [name removed to save the whales]
Date: Mon, Sep 7, 2009 at 4:49 PM
Subject: Fw: FUNNY
To: [names removed for the sake of my conscience]

----- Original Message -----
From: [name removed to protect the innocent]
To: [name removed for an ideal future]
Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 10:04 AM
Subject: Fw: FUNNY

----- Original Message -----
From: [name removed for the sake of the children]
To: [names removed for world peace]
Sent: Sunday, September 06, 2009 10:55 AM
Subject: FW: FUNNY

I don’t normally forward these but will give this a try.



Forward this to at least 7 people and see what happens on your screen . you will laugh your head off!!!!!!!!!!!

This is the coolest thing I have ever received. All you have to do is send it to 7 people and watch your screen, it is the funniest clip. I can't tell you what it is but I was laughing so hard I almost fell off my chair!!! So, send it to those 7 people and watch.

If you forward it to 7 people a video comes on your screen..
This works. I don't know how...but it works.

[It does not work.  No matter how much you want something hilarious to happen to these bouncing bikini-ed beach bunnies.]

Original post sent via email to Wendebulous

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Get your wallet out - it's for a good cause

So, I take a while to clean out my inbox sometimes.  If I don't act on something straight away, it tends to get buried until I manage to shuffle through everything in sporadic bursts of what seems like productivity.

I received an email a while ago from my friend Bjorn asking for sponsorship for a 2.8km cross-harbour swim, in support of Surf Lifesaving NZ.  It's for a great cause, especially in a place like NZ (and, similarly, Australia), where the beaches are unpopulated, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous. 

From his sponsorship page:

Ive signed up as a charity swimmer to raise money to support Surf Life Saving New Zealand. By donating through my web page you are helping to save lives with Surf Life Saving. THE EVENT IS ON THE 21st NOVEMBER 2009

I'll do all the hard work (train for and complete the 2.8km Auckland Harbour Swim as part of the Sovereign New Zealand Ocean Swim Series) but I really need your help to make a difference so that everyone can enjoy New Zealands favorite playground safely.

So, please sponsor me?

Select the "Make a donation" button below. It's simple, fast and totally secure and the money goes directly to Surf Life Saving New Zealands bank account.

If you live in New Zealand your donation is tax deductible and a receipt will be issued.

So please help me today! And pass it on to everyone you know!

I spent a few years in my youth patrolling the beach, but my experience being stuck in the bush fires in Melbourne reminded me what a fantastic job all the volunteers in SLS do.

Good luck with the training, Bjorn!  Click here to donate, especially if you were in the bush fires or have ever needed help on the beach.  Do it.

Also, I posted this on my Facebook page the other day, but you still have one more day to donate to Becks's head getting shaved in support of the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation.  She has to deal with the discomfort of a cold, bald, head, so donating is the least you can do. :)

This isn't intended to be a guilt trip or blatant advertising.  If I can encourage one person to donate something to any good cause, then it's worth the few minutes I took to do this.  If you have no ties to these organisations, there are countless others out there.  Donate some money, time, clothing, expertise, or blood to an (appropriate) aid, research, or charity organisation soon.  You won't regret it. 

Original post sent via email to Wendebulous

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Good Books and good deeds

I've always been consistent in not giving money to beggars, but I'll usually donate to buskers (homeless or not) who impress me, I often donate to established charity campaigns, and I try to donate blood when and where I can (which reminds me, I should really visit the blood bank again soon).

Sometimes I question my choices when it comes to giving back, and I know I don't do enough for the world on a daily basis.  Knowing that I have taken more international flights than a great many people gives me carbon guilt.  The fact that I've gotten used to the comfort of air-conditioning in hot countries does the same. 

So when I was reading the Oxfam newsletter that arrived in my inbox today, I was happy to be reminded of the fantastic service that Good Books provides.  They have over 2 million titles (books, audiobooks, and music) at reasonable prices, ship internationally for free, and all profits go directly to Oxfam.  They promise no mark ups, and ship from both the UK and the US.  It may sound too good to be true, but through their volunteer work and generous sponsorship, you can donate to a good cause (or many good causes) by doing something you probably do once in a while anyway.

If you're reading this post, I propose two things:

1) Suggest a book or CD (or more than one!) for me.  I have been starved of new music and haven't been reading enough lately, and I have decided to buy at least a few titles from Good Books.  If your recommendation is persuasive enough, I'll go with it!  If I get them all shipped together, it will slightly make up for the environmental cost of shipping, right?

2) Order something yourself, or as a gift for someone else.  If you were going to buy books or CDs online anyway, consider checking out this service before you use your usual one.  The NZ dollar is still down, so it might work out to be a similar price, and you'll get that warm fuzzy feeling for free (not to mention the delight of no added shipping costs).

Looking forward to getting some suggestions!

Monday, August 10, 2009

I feel all special...

Lovely Cassie wrote a blog post (at least partially) about me on her super-fantastic blog, A Normal Day.  It makes me feel all special.  Plus, she likes my iccint.  Gold stars for Cassie!

Cassie and I lead the kind of lives where it's possible for us to run into each other (and Carla!) on a glacier.  We can't forget that these lives are awesome.


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Things I'd never say out loud, but that I've already told strangers on the Internet

For the first time in ages, I can read the Facebook feeds on my RSS reader - that is, people's status updates, notes, and posted items. 

Status updates I've been keeping up-to-date with somewhat through other means, and posted items seem to be a lot of YouTube videos which I can't watch, sadly.  Some of them actually look interesting.

I thought that the notes thing would be more fruitful.  I regretted not being able to post comments directly (I suppose if something really caught my eye, I could look up the note on my phone and make a comment that way, but, honestly, that's a lot of bother), but then I took a look at the actual contents of the feed.  On first glance, the vast majority of the notes posted seem to have been of the 'random stuff nobody knew or ever ever ever needed to know about me' variety.  On second glance, I realised that a few of those contained 'random crap generated by the internet that is only incidentally related to the author' instead.  My mistake. 

Sure, it's easy to do one or two of these things, and they usually only take a few minutes (I've done a couple myself, but let's pretend that that was for research purposes), but when I have everybody's all corralled together, crowding out poor little blog posts and stray creative thoughts, they become a bit overwhelming.

I know it's not my place to make comment on the state of the Internet, and God knows I should do more productive things with my own time, but I just wanted to say thanks to the people who are actually generating somewhat original content of their own accord. 

But ignore me.  I'm just becoming an Internet grinch because of communism.

In cheerier news, dogs are as smart as toddlers when it comes to taking a hint.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bumper link round-up

For those not in the know, China blocked Facebook last Tuesday, and even though I've got some workarounds (I'm still deciding whether or not to keep the paid VPN service, because my internet connection tends to be so bad anyway that it just slows an already slow process down), keeping up-to-date with people (or, stalking them) is much more difficult these days.

The other thing that's hard is posting interesting links that I find.  Getting access to sites I haven't seen in a couple of months also means that I have more links to share.  It's so bad that I have even briefly considered opening a Twitter account, but hopefully it won't come to that.  I may not be able to live with myself (sorry, Tweeters, or Twits, or Twitterers, or Twatters, or whatever the cool kids are calling themselves).  Yes, Facebook being blocked is a significant event for me, and I can still find it in me to hate on Twitter.  I do share things on Google Reader, but it's not easy to see my witty comments when they are imported to Facebook, so that takes half the fun out of it.

Anyway, here are some fun things I've stumbled across recently.  Some of them have already been shared via Reader, but oh wells.

From Everybody Loves Free Stuff:
Zubbles!  They're coloured bubbles, with a name that's fun to say!
Magic salad plate - never have real vegetables touch precious meat products again.
Some gross but also cool anti-acne medication promotional samples.

Some wacky stuff from the Irish Times, including the fact that a Chinese girl who was named 'Chicken Shit' by her parents is finally old enough to do something about it.

11 Photos Where Black People Were Awkwardly Photoshopped In or Out (thanks for the link, Dave).

Even though the riots in Xinjiang were terrible, and apparently caused by an inadvertent scream, it's nice to know that the Chinese armed forces are still kicking it old school by using crossbows.  That's right.  Crossbows. 

Possibly the biggest bunny in the world, who should probably just join that morbidly obese family who were asking the British government for more money because they are too fat.  Actually, he's too cute for them.

Possibly the worst piece of 'writing' I've seen in a while.

It's official: Asians are the best at racism.  Yay us!

And finally, some cute.  Care of Disgrasian as well, Asian babies vs animals, and links from Eve: poor Chinese kitten who needs a home, and My Milk Toof, which has to be one of the very cutest blogs I've ever seen. 


Friday, June 12, 2009

It may just be temporary...

...but I can read blogs again!  Whee.  I have so many to catch up on, though.

Of course I can't actually visit the sites yet, but it seems that my feeds are working again.  Right now, anyway.

Come on, China, just go that little bit further and let me see some pictures.  That would be super duper.

In less dorky-slash-controversial news, I had a great visit to Chengdu to see some friends and some pandas (who I like to consider friends), my mum and her sister came to visit Shanghai, and I've just been generally stupid busy with work, socialising, and other random commitments.  All the visits have been wonderful, but slightly exhausting in that they have all been in the same few weeks.  My friend Alex is in town this weekend, and as soon as I've said goodbye after having a super fantastic time with him, I'm going to hibernate in my apartment for a couple of days.  I need sleep.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The internet is broken

I just had to type out a blog post on my phone because we still have no internet access in my office. Conspiracy theories abound. Then I got even more paranoid about posting something that had so many no-no words in it. So I put it on my other blog. If you want to read it, hopefully you know where to go.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm so iMbarrassed*.

The links didn't work in my last entry, which is an awful virtual faux pas, especially as I specifically mentioned the links.  So, here they are, even though you don't really need them.

This blog, which you may or may not be reading.
Another blog, which is written with Wordpress. [This link didn't work until Dave corrected me. Thanks, Dave.]
Some information on what happened at Tiananmen Square nearly 20 years ago.

*Have you noticed that everything's called iSomething these days?  i'M not iMagining iT, am i?  My iSP at home is called ihug, but it has been for years.  I hug.  Do you?


This is by no means an explanation for my negligence of blogging duties, but I can't access Blogger right now. In order to even publish this, I had to use a proxy site to enable instant posting of emails to this blog (yes, I just linked to myself). [EDIT: Apparently that failed as well, so I'm using the proxy site to post this.  If there end up being three copies, that's why.]

I've had issues with accessing Wordpress blogs for a while now (thankfully I can usually see the one I actually post to, and yes, I just linked to myself again), and can only read them via an RSS reader. Now the same thing is happening with Blogger sites, and I can't view pictures (which is especially unhelpful for ... most of the blogs I keep up with). I gave up on seeing embedded videos ages ago.

YouTube has been unavailable in China for weeks now, and there's no sign of that changing any time soon.

It's a little less than two weeks until the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre* (or 'Protest', if you prefer). Coincidence?

Meantime, I'm going to see pandas in Sichuan province next week (a little over a year after the earthquake hit there), and the week after, my mum is coming to visit. Yay! The weather is in the high 20s, and looking to get warmer. Thankfully M&S is here to supply clothes that fit me. And Jaffa Cakes.

Random cute craft picture.  Thanks, Dave.  I would like to make this.  
*I picked a BBC link that I can't see, so my apologies if it's not the best.  

Thursday, April 30, 2009 could it work?

It's after 2am on a school night, and apparently there's a horn-honking insomniac convention just up the road.  It's marginally annoying, to use a completely inappropriate modifier. 

I should be trying to sleep, but the attempt will probably be futile.  Meanwhile, looking at this screen is making my eyes sore.  Maybe that will help in the long run. 

I've just been thinking about how generally useless I've been in keeping in touch with even the most important people in my life (minus the arguably lucky one or two who hear from me all the time).  I think the perpetuation of 'social networking', which is now making me think of smalltalking and greasing up to strangers in case it pays off for you in the future, has probably made it worse.  Not only has it brought me back in touch with old friends and acquaintances, it's introduced me to new people, who I will probably never even meet in real life.  These connections can all be wonderful, but they just add to the ever-increasing number of social obligations in one's life, and there can some real repercussions to what are essentially virtual social rules.  In the past couple of years, I've noticed friendship dynamics and social mandates changing as we all become more connected to each other, despite the fact that these connections can be via cables and wireless messages flying through the ether.  I constantly worry that I'm giving too much of myself away to too many people, but then I'm afraid that I will offend them if I deem them unworthy of my 'friendship'.  And as much as I want to indulge the selfish, self-preserving, privacy-treasuring parts of me, I still baulk at the idea of hitting 'delete', 'ignore', or 'block'.

There are so many facets of these new social phenomena that I want to address, but I should probably just start a "Miss e-Manners" column instead.

In the meantime, if you're reading this, there's a good chance that you may consider that I have been a less-than-ideal correspondent.  Even with (and perhaps because of) the hundreds of notifications and reminders I get, I may have missed your birthday, or let an email response fall by the wayside, or totally forgotten to do something that I said I would.  I send my deepest e-pologies.  I don't have any real excuses (just virtual ones, ha. ha. ha.).  Please don't hesitate to send me a nudge or reminder; I respond well to external motivation.

And now...I'm going to try to sleep again.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Remembrance on the radio

I'm not quite sure why I've started writing again when all I have to talk about is New Zealand-related stuff, but oh well.  Being patriotic's not necessarily a bad thing.

Anzac Day is coming up, and I'm registered for both the morning commemoration and the sausage sizzle in the afternoon.  It's probably the most expensive sausage sizzle I've ever been to, but oh well.  Both events are in collaboration with the Australians (wasn't really sure how to lump the Consul General's office with the Australian Chamber of Commerce, so I'll just call them 'them'), but hopefully it will still be fun anyway (I kid, I kid.  I get more schtick from New Zealanders for being an Aucklander than I do from Australians for being a Kiwi).  Not quite sure why I volunteered for another early morning, especially on a Saturday, but it's several hours after the dawn service they're doing in Beijing, so at least there's that.

Conveniently close to Anzac Day, Radio New Zealand National correspondent and fellow third generation Chinese New Zealander Jason Moon has done an interview with two of my relatives who served in the New Zealand military back in the late 1930s.  He spoke to my 94-year-old great-grand uncle Danny Lee, and my first cousin twice removed (my grandmother's first cousin), 76-year-old Ken Chan.  If you're interested in hearing about their experiences both as military conscriptees (is that a word?) and being Chinese in the times of the poll tax, or a little bit about Dan's older brother Willie Chan, who died flying Spitfires for the British Air Force, check out the Windows Media stream, or download the MP3.  Apparently my great-great-grandfather was well-schooled in martial arts, and would hand out regular ass-kickings to the local 'rascals' who gave him lip.  Nice one, GGGF.  It's also interesting to note that the war actually made it easier for Chinese refugees to enter New Zealand, as long as they already had relatives in the country.  Thanks, Japan*. 

Somewhat ironically, the cheap ingredients used in the trenches to make delicious Anzac biscuits are actually pretty expensive here.  Maybe I will have to make some kind of Azian biscuit instead. 

*This is only partially tongue-in-cheek.  My late maternal grandmother probably wouldn't have appreciated the sentiment, but it made it easier for her, and my father's family, to legally enter New Zealand.  It's funny how things work out.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Throwback to 2005

For whatever reason, I have just read a few posts from just after I started this blog, including a 'you're not from around here, are you?' story, and one that included some maths questions that I never posted the answers to (I'll put them in the comments, I guess).

Anyway, I came across the following excerpt from a random, sleep-deprivation-induced posting (I can't believe I worked regular 16 hour days. The things you do to get out of New Zealand. Err...I's a great place!):

"Today was day 1 of a 6 part series of mind-numbingly-boring-no-outlet-for-skiving data entry. Blah. I am so taking my own music in on Monday so I don't have to listen to the Classic Hits No Repeat Work Day. Since when has Coolio's Gangster's Paradise been a classic hit? Although hearing my middle-aged female supervisor singing along was kind of hilarious. There was also a farewell morning tea (I'll jump on the goodbye bandwagon for some free cake), and office antics which involved a Saffa squashing himself into a wheelie bin which then fell over. Eventually he managed to jump out and scare his target so much that she screamed and spilled her coffee all over his farewell card. Comedy."
I think I remember which very temporary assignment this was, but I have absolutely no recollection of the cake, or the wheelie bin incident. Brains are weird.

I would like a title, but only if people continued to say my name right

So I got up ridiculously early this morning to attend this Prime Minister talky breakfast thing. All in all, it was pretty good. My part of the whole affair was to present people with their predominantly correctly-spelled name tags, even though I didn't warrant one myself. Mine was written on a piece of paper in black Sharpie, and put into a name tag sleeve. Extra classy (although I do love black Sharpies).

Before the talky part, I got to chat with a policewoman (is that even a correct term anymore? Female community security person?) who was on the PM's security staff, and she gave me the lowdown on how easy the Thailand situation was for them. It was also kind of nice to chat with a few Kiwis for a change. I kind of hope that there are a few more social (rather than networking) events by KEA (the NZ expat association) in the future.

Mr Key, or "JK"* (as he was introduced, complete with air quotes), came across as personable, knowledgeable, and optimistic. He even played down the incident where he told the Aussies to keep their hands off certain controversially Kiwi exports (but they could have Russell Crowe on a bad day). This is such an old joke that I found reading this article (even though it's written from an Australian point of view) quite embarrassing, so I'm glad he made it seem like it was blown out of proportion.

Generally, he handled the speech and Q&A session really well, so I don't actually have anything more to say about his part, except that he really wants to get everyone in New Zealand fibre-based internet, which can't be a bad thing. He just really wants it. Disappointingly, he neither drove a bus through New Zealand town, nor sang a song** about it.

The most notable part of the morning for me was the mortifying moment where the MC was thanking the delegates who came along with the PM. He announced the Honourable Patsy Wong, whose name is actually Hon. Pansy Wong. He didn't skip a beat, either, so it's possible he's never met the woman, or read her name. He also mispronounced the name of one of the organisers (who's also my friend's dad), but I suppose at least he got the PM's name right. He also did a notable amount of public sucking up ("I'm really proud to be a New Zealander at a time where our country would elect such a great man" [paraphrase!], etc.), so I bet he'd be an amazing personal assistant or PR rep, as long as he managed to memorise the correct pronunciation of his boss's name.

*This should really be reserved for the great John Kirwan, in my opinion, or, at a push, Jay Kay from Jamiroquai.
**YouTube is still blocked in China, so I can't tell quite how awful this video will be. I trust it's still the same song, though. It's a great day for dogs, not just here, but everywhere in the North Island.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Guard Pacific's triple star...

Tomorrow morning I'm getting up ridiculously early to help out at a business breakfast that the 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Honourable John Key (or 'The Key' as certain notable people like to call him), is speaking at.  Why am I doing this?  Well, it was expensive to pay to go, and I get free breakfast this way.  If you are unlucky enough to not be in Shanghai tomorrow, you could always drop him a line on ye olde Facebook.  He's down with the kids these days.

So, on the eve of this auspicious occasion, I would like to present some choice cuts from the New Zealand national anthem, God Defend New Zealand.  It's pretty God-centric, but that should be unsurprising, given the title.  There's also nothing about Peter Jackson or JRR Tolkien.

From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our State,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our Free Land.

From dishonour and from shame
Guard our country's spotless name
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

Ona mano tangata
Kiri whero, kiri ma,
Iwi Maori Pakeha*,
Repeke katoa.
[Let all people,
Red skin, white skin
Mäori, Päkehä
Gather before you.]

Tona pai me toitü
Tika rawa, ponu pü;
Tona noho, tana tü;
Iwi no Ihowa.
Kaua mona whakama;
Kia hau te ingoa;
Kia tü hei tauira;
[Let its good features endure,
Let righteousness and honesty prevail
Among the people of God
Let it never be ashamed,
But rather, let its name be known
Thereby becoming the model to emulate,
Aotearoa .]

Thanks to for the full lyrics, including English, Maori, and translated Maori versions.  I only ever knew a couple of verses of each (I knew there were five, but I don't think I've ever heard anyone sing all of them).  There's also an audio file of the NZSO playing the anthem, which is lovely, but too short.

Also of interest is the fact that the official alternative national anthem is God Save the Queen.  Yes, we are in the Commonwealth, but I didn't know we had an alternative theme tune.  Actually, it's not even really an alternative, because they have the same status.  We have two national anthems.  But only one nation.  Also, GDNZ used to be the national hymn.  I didn't even know that was a thing.

Finally, to help NZ achieve immortal fame, Rhys Darby (you may know him from his stand-up comedy, or from his work with Flight of the Conchords) and his wife have a production company called Awesomeness International.  I'd be upset that he stole my idea, except that he is indeed pretty awesome.

*Pakeha generally means whities.  Although apparently it can now refer to any non-Maori person?  Weird.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Speaking of literacy...

I'm really glad that the vast majority of my friends who choose to maintain some kind of web presence are literate and write quite compelling observations of their everyday lives and the world at large.

I'm relying solidly on Google Reader at the moment to keep up with them, but I've genuinely been enjoying learning more about various friends and their lives around the world this way.

I'm going to list these solely by location, because otherwise compartmentalising them is too much of a burden for me! If you're not listed here...maybe you should be posting more often!

I highly recommend all of these blogs (dammit, I was trying so hard to avoid that word), but for a lot of different reasons, so give one or two a go.

Canada / Victoria : Just a Normal Day [will be linked in the sidebar as soon as it lets me/I remember about it again]

China / Hangzhou : Below Heaven is Hangzhou [Same as above]

China / Wuhan : Packers to Pandas

Hong Kong SAR / Sha Tin: new territories

Hong Kong SAR / Sha Tin: Mandarin Orange You Glad I Have A Blog?

UK / Brighton: davers dot org

USA / Baltimore : Josephine Henneberry

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What in the WORlD?

I've been a fan of lowercase L for a while now, so I'm always happy when I can contribute.  Click the link below to see the full post.  Thanks, WIllIAM.

In a WORlD ...

(Said with an imposing movie voiceover tone) "In a world ... where uppercase letters rule ... one letter stood out. It was ... the lowercase L".

Found overseas by contributor Wendy Wong, whose travels brought us a previous SAlTY find in WAlES, this Shanghai DVD store is officially busted, and it isn't for pirating movies. Movie Star may be "EVEN BETTER THAN MOVIE WORlD" in movie selection, but not in signage. Wendy writes:

I try not to pick on foreign examples, but I'm living in Shanghai, and I think this one's pretty good. Otherwise spelled correctly, and everything! Interesting to note is that there is no lower case in this lovely '90s font, so it actually is an uppercase I.

You may be interested to know that the pirated-DVD store formerly known as 'MOVIE WORID' is just across the road. It's now called 'Big Movie'.

Let's get (kind of) literary

On Saturday afternoon I met up with a few people to go to some events as part of the Literary Festival that's running over the next few weeks.

The first event we saw was a talk by Jen Lin-Liu about her book 'Serve the People'. The topic, covering the range from small private kitchens in Beijing to apprenticing and working in large commercial kitchens in Shanghai, was intriguing, especially since I both enjoy cooking and have had a little bit to do with restaurant and pub kitchens. Unfortunately, she made it seem ordinary, and the way that she spoke about her experiences somehow conveyed no expertise at all, which is not what I want from someone who I want to tell me inside details about an industry I'm already a little familiar with. I think it boils down to her just needing more experience with the public speaking thing. More elaboration about the information in the book, actual answers to the questions (she did field some great questions, but not especially well), and fewer halting readings from the book would be a good start. Oh, and rapport-building skills? I don't know. Anyway, if the book fell into my lap, I might consider reading it, despite the fact that she pronounced the word 'myriad' as 'my-reed'. I am so judgmental.

Thankfully, a glass of wine was included in the ticket price, and we got to go immediately downstairs to get another glass of wine and see James Fallows speak. One of the girls who had come over from Wuhan is a huge fan, and I'm really glad I tagged along to see him. It's an increasing rarity to see a speaker who can form a coherent answer off the cuff, and turn banal questions into opportunities to give insight on something else. Yes, I watched several of the debates leading up to the American election last year. I didn't actually know much about Mr Fallows before I went in, but it turns out he was the youngest ever chief speechwriter for an American president (for Jimmy Carter), although it was recently inaccurately reported that Jon Favreau, White House hottie [personal opinion] and Obama's Director of Speechwriting, was. Fallows made a great crack about how it was much easier for Favreau, because he was writing for someone who could actually speak. James Fallows has authored nine books and for years been a regular correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, as well as many other vaunted publications. His postings in the US, the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere, and his many personal interests and achievements made this talk much more than just about promoting his latest book 'Postcards from Tomorrow Square'. [I live right behind Tomorrow Square!] He was humble in that he knew many of the people attending would have a closer relationship with China, and so mostly spoke to us about things he could give an expert opinion on. All in all, he came across as a fascinating, down-to-earth, adventurous man who dotes on his family and never hesitates to question the world. An amazing hour or so. My friend even got an autograph, a chat, and a business card afterwards. I've subscribed to his blog.

For another opinion on this afternoon, and weekend in general, check out Packers to Pandas.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Coincidence and confection

Friday night started off with a coworker wishing me a 'happy Women's Day' before she left for the weekend.  I had vaguely heard of it, but had no idea it was coming up.  I have a funny feeling that we were supposed to get a half day off work for it, but as it was on Sunday, I felt a little bit ripped off.  In any case, it's quite cool that China actually recognises March 8th as a holiday, unlike any other country I've ever lived in.  Some restaurants and stores even give special deals to women to celebrate.  Pity I didn't actually go out to support any commercial enterprises on Sunday.

Anyway, back to Friday...I had a friend visiting from Wuhan, and I tried and failed to get in touch with her about dinner.  A major downside of the mobile phone networks in China is that you have to pay for incoming calls, and once you're out of credit, it's very difficult to top up if you're not in your own city.  So, I accepted my second offer for dinner and went out with some coworkers and acquaintances.  They'd pretty much finished by the time I got there, but I did managed to eat something and we sat around chatting for a while before we ordered the delicious frozen desserts that the restaurant is renowned for.  In the meantime, a surprise chair pulled up next to me.  It turned out that, in a city of nearly 20 million people, the friend I was trying to get hold of was sitting at the table right next to me.  She hadn't realised until then because I had my back to them, and was sitting behind a really tall guy.  He moved at some point, and she recognised my hoodie.  How fantastic.  We caught up for a bit, ate dessert, and then parted ways.  I spent the rest of the night playing mahjohng and eating peanuts.  Enough of the training rounds, I want to play for money next time.  Watch me become more Chinese every day!

Speaking of Chinese and desserts, I've just started reading 'angry asian man', and that's where I found what he's deemed 'the most racist dessert ever'.  Prejudice is a dish best served cold.  With an umbrella.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A weird kind of symmetry

My little brother's going home today, after spending six or so months in North America and the Caribbean.  I've really enjoyed reading about his impressions of travelling, and somehow he's managed to capture a lot of my thoughts about the whole schtick, and also North America.  Something about this post really resonated with me, and it's nice to know that some of his thoughts are very similar to mine, and that my thoughts are still somewhat hopeful!  That he managed to gather so much from such a comparatively short time is kind of encouraging.

"I guess the one thing I can take away from this entire journey is to always have faith in people. More often than not, they'll come through for you.

Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has something to offer. And oftentimes, they're willing to help even if you don't ask or even if it means they have to go out of their way.

I've seen a lot of cities but I've come to the realisation that a city is just that - a city. It's the people that make and shape your experiences of it. The people are the beating heart, the breathing lungs and the blood that flows through the veins of a city. They give it charm, soul, character."

More actual stuff from me soon, I promise.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Too much excitement (or general stuff) in January

I can't believe we're nearly 3 weeks into 2009 already.  Things are busy slash exciting, so I'm just going to bullet point the notable events, knowing full well I won't come back to elaborate on them later.

Adding to the (sometimes) fun times:
  • 04 January - New flatmate moved in.  Have to work on a Sunday to make up for "three" (really just one) days off for New Year.
  • Early-mid January - Vague, slack preparation within the department for the dreaded end of year party.  Lots of projects with upcoming deadlines.
  • 15 January - Decided to go to Thailand to hang out with a friend of mine (sorry, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, London).  Booked the ticket at 3am.  Finally received some long-awaited items from the UK.
  • 16 January - Don't do much at work as we finally throw something together for the costume competition and 'performance'.  Don't get me started on how I feel about the Yankee Swap.  Party was not as abysmal as I expected.  I drew number 1 for the swap, and stubbornly kept my own present (although who couldn't love a pink sheep pillow?).  Party ended promptly at 10pm, at which time 90% of people went home.  I drank too much wine and was not functioning by 2am.
  • 17 January - My Chinese birthday.  Spent the weekend watching Firefly and Serenity.
  • 19 January - Find out another friend is going to be in Chiang Mai next week.  Very exciting!

And now the future stuff:
  • 20 January - The Obama inauguration.  Partying is planned for later.  Did you know that Obama-related words are at the top of the Top Words List for 2008 (according to The Global Language Monitor)?
  • 24 January - Working on a Saturday to give us time off during the week.
  • 25 January - Chinese New Year's Eve. 
  • 26 January - Day 1 of the Year of the Ox (and Australia Day).  Fly to Chiang Mai.
  • 27 January - I officially get older.
  • 30 January - Leave Chiang Mai, hopefully after good times a-plenty.
  • 31 January - Get back to Shanghai.
  • 01 February - Go to work on a Sunday, to make up for the time off for New Year.  Sense a pattern here?  Auckland gets a 3 day weekend for Anniversary Day.  I ... have to work.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy New Year!

So I'm sitting in my flat waiting for someone to come and have a look at the spare room.  I was planning to go to the post office today (as I had stayed up until about 5am getting packages ready to send) and then spend the rest of the day doing work that I need to have done for work tomorrow.  The beginning of a 6 day week, no less.  So, I woke up a bit later than expected, to a phone call from a guy who was interested in seeing the room for his friend.  As I had expected to be alone in the flat until the 8th, and partially related to getting five packages ready to post, the place was a bit of a mess (okay, very untidy, but not so much dirty).  So I had to spend a couple of hours getting the place and my room ready.  Imagine my disgust when I realised that there was random crap and dirt in the spare room, and the last flatmate had somehow broken the closet.  I made it all look as passable as possible (I do not want to pay half of that room's rent next month as well), but it still looks pretty bleak in there.  I made the bed to make it look a little bit more liveable.  And now they are late.  Argh.

The new year has started out okay.  I went over to a friend's place for New Year, which I was really happy to get an invitation to.  I hadn't seen her nearly as much as I should have last year (hmm, that's the first time I've called it that), and just managed to catch her online on NYE,  so pretty much invited myself over.  It worked out well.  They had plenty of food and drinks, and also UFC.  That is Ultimate Fighting Championship for those not in the know (like me).  The boys are pretty into it, by all accounts.  I...didn't expect the last thing I'd do in 2008 to be watch guys try to beat the crap out of each other, but hey.  Roll with it.  I had a lot of fun and hope that I'll see more of those guys this year.

On New Year's Day I woke up to a text from James, which was nice.  About 30 seconds later, I got a phone call which wasn't so nice.  The CEO was calling to ask me if I had internet access at home.  Just before I left on NYE, I had run into him and he asked me if I was able to check my email "tonight...or tomorrow".  Come on!  It's New Year's Eve.  So imagine my dismay waking up to that on New Year's Day.  He wanted me to proof an email that he was sending out to the whole company.  He wanted it done that day, but we're not back until the 4th (a Sunday, which I'm not pleased about either).  The only good part of that phone call was that I got to hear Dave's ringtone.  Anyway, I did it, so as to start the year off with minimal procrastination (I even cooked myself a frittata for breakfast), and as at the 3rd, I haven't had any reply from him.  To further add to my NY rage, the maid came, ran the washing machine, emptied the bins, but didn't appear to do anything else.  She didn't do any of my ironing or my laundry, and I have no idea what she washed, because it wasn't anything in the flat. 

The rest of my day was spent shopping.  I went for a wander to try to find a 'cute shop' that my sister had found on the other side of People's Square.  Either I didn't remember her instructions properly, or she had told me the wrong way, but it took me ages before I found it.  In the meantime, I bought some street food, spilled some delicious meat juice on one of my mittens, found the biggest bookstore I've seen thus far (seven floors, totally packed with people, and probably a good thing that I couldn't read most of the books), marvelled at how many people could queue up in a cafe, bought some snacks at a supermarket, saw some disturbing carcasses in crates outside a butcher, and saw a kid about to poo on the street (who deals with the results of these sorts of things?!).  I ended up buying all manner of vaguely pointless cute things, and somehow justified it all.  Then a trip to another cute shop to repeat the process.  By that time I was ready to eat again so I went home via a bubble tea stand and the food place where I can just point at the stuff that I want.  Then for some reason I had a Will Smith night and watched I Am Legend and The Pursuit of Happyness.  I mostly enjoyed them both, but the latter made me kind of sad.  Sometimes I think Will Smith is a bit overrated, but sometimes I really quite like him.

Yesterday was spent sleeping in and then going to Tesco, which was very exciting.  I resisted the temptation to buy a massive padded men's dressing gown with Chinese print, but did buy some long underwear and yet another pair of slippers (I will have one for each day of the week soon, I'm sure), plus quite a bit of other stuff.  Tesco in China is not quite the same as it is in the UK (understatement), but they do have Tesco Value branded stuff, and a meat floss counter.  For the uninitiated, pork floss is really popular here, and as far as I know it's concocted from dry-frying very small bits of pork.  I think.  It's quite good, but is found on a disturbingly high number of bakery products.  Anyway, the counter had a whole bunch of different kinds of floss, but I only know this because all the prices were different.  I have no idea what the types were.  I didn't find the two things I wanted to buy, but never mind.  I now have long johns.  Bonus.  Also, on the way home, my taxi driver blatantly lied and told me that I speak Chinese really well.  Still, it made me smile.  And maybe I do pronounce my handful of words really well, who knows?

Oh, an update: the guy who came to see the flat today (with his dad and mentor) will be moving in this week.  I hope.  I don't really want to be paying extra rent for January too.  He is from Atlanta, and seems pretty acceptable upon the first meeting.  Although I have decided not to live in Asia with any more old American men (yes, never again), I think the younger ones tend to be okay.  Fingers crossed, anyway!