April 30, 2010

Japanese Foreign Ministry Warns Citizens Not to Break Chinese Laws Because Doing So Can Result in Death Penalty

Translation: 日本发布赴华旅游提醒 警告毒品犯罪可判死刑

According to the April 28th foreign travel information issued by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, all Japanese citizens currently in or will be soon visiting China are urged to "use caution and refrain from engaging in illegal activities while there," the reason being that drug trafficking in China can lead to capital punishment.

The foreign ministry officials claim that travel notices are usually issued during times of deteriorating security or terrorist attacks. The ones such as above, over concerns about punishment for criminal offenses in a specific country, are very rare. To date, China has executed 4 Japanese for drug smuggling. To prevent further incidences from happening, the Japanese Foreign Ministry intends to thoroughly inform its citizens of how China cracks down on crimes.

This travel notice states that "the Chinese government has always relentlessly investigated and prosecuted drug-related crimes. The punishment is severe, and the highest is death penalty." It asks Japanese who visit China to not participate in drug dealing. Furthermore, they should never help to guard or carry baggage whose contents they cannot vouch for.

Based on information released by the Embassy of Japan in China, as of January this year, the number of Japanese being detained for their involvement in drug-related crimes is 30. Among them, 4 have been executed.

---End of News---

Sidenote: At first I thought this was false news, but no, it came from Kyodo News, which seems legit judging by the information on Wikipedia. While I somewhat understand where the Foreign Ministry is coming from, I still think the wording of its request is quite strange--death penalty should not be the only reason to keep oneself from perpetrating crimes in a foreign country.

April 29, 2010

The Wonderful, All-Purpose Military Shovel

Youku Link http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTY4NDE0MTQw.html

People's Liberation Army of China is selling its military shovels. Contact information listed at the top of the video. As for using it to cut vegetables, I do worry about sanitation a bit.

One comment from the viewers--"Awesome Chinese military shovel. The must-have for both civilian life and looting. Extremely practical~ (牛叉的中国军铲,居家生活,打家劫舍之必备良品。嗯,顶实用~)"

April 28, 2010

15 year old commits suicide after classmates vote to suspend her

Translation: 河南15岁少女被全班同学投票赶走投河自尽

Photo: http://news.xinmin.cn/rollnews/2010/04/28/4640367.html

"Lei Mengjia's (雷梦佳) life ends right now! Dad, Mom, I am sorry! I will repay your kindness in the next life! Huihui, let's be best friends in our next life!" After leaving the 3-line note by the side of the Yellow River Canal near school, Lei Mengjia jumped into the water and ended her young life. Lei Mengjia was a first year student from Xixia Middle School student in Meng Jin county, Luoyang, Henan (河南洛阳孟津西霞院初级中学).

On April 20, Lei Mengjia's father told the reporter that Lei's 15th birthday was April 10. Last year, she invited several friends to celebrate. Sadly this year, Lei has to spend her 15th birthday without blessings from friends and parents. Is she happy in the other world?

According to previous news reports, Lei died around 10 A.M. in the morning of April 7. Just before 10 A.M., a majority of her classmates had voted to suspend her from school.

The previous day, April 6, Lei was involved in a fight with a female student from a different class. Lei's head teacher Zhou first asked Lei to step out of class and then proceeded to administer a "test" concerning Lei's behavior, which seriously violated class policies. The single question on this test was: should Lei be given a second chance, or should Lei's parents take her back home for one week of re-education? 26 students voted for Lei to go home, whereas 12 classmates chose to give her another chance.

Following majority's rule, Teacher Zhou phoned Lei's mom Mrs. Zhu. Mrs Zhu said that she did not fight with the teacher's decision, but by the time she arrived at school, Lei was nowhere to be seen.

Lawyer: This is another form of corporal punishment

As one of the parties involved in the tragedy, Teacher Zhou admitted during one interview that although the class had voted to determine Lei's fate, her subsequent death was quite unexpected. Teacher Zhou also said that disciplinary actions by democracy is allowed in the class constitution.

By April 15, as a result of several prior discussions between the Mengjin government, the school, and relatives of the student, it was determined that the county government, village committee and the middle school would collectively pay 90,000 yuan to Lei's parents as compensation.

Mr. Lei expressed strong disapproval of the teacher's actions. No matter how naughty his child might be, the teacher had no right to organize the students to kick her out. How can an emotionally immature 15 year old girl be subjected to this kind of extreme treatment?

Mr. Lei said his daughter had a cheerful disposition, without signs of mental problems. Her grades were not low either, and she showed an interest in literature. Before this, the class teacher treated her well. If the teacher administered a beating instead, she would not have jumped into the canal. But the democratic voting hurt her self-esteem.

On April 14, when Lei Mengjia's suicide hit the news, Mengjin Board of Education submitted a report to Louyang's Department of Education. The report was titled "Concerning the Baihe Xixia Middle School Student Lei who drowned after leaving school grounds without permission, the investigation results and the final decision." On April 15, the school handed the compensatory money to Lei's family.

Lei Mengjia's Mother Mrs. Zhu did not agree with the choice of words "leaving school grounds without permission." She told the reporter that it was the teacher asking the child to leave. He did not personally hand the child over to the parents either, and this lapse was irresponsible.

Luoyang lawyer Zhang Yaoxian (张耀显) said that the voting is essentially a form of corporal punishment. It directly contradicts the spirit behind "Protection of Minors Act," but there are no specific legal provisions for how much responsibility the school should bear.

Class teacher in shock. Principal suspended

The reporter visited Xixia Middle School on April 20, hoping to understand the cause and effect of this democratic voting.

Principal Li pleaded with the media to let the teachers be. TV, newspapers, and the internet are taking turns to criticize the teachers and the school. Teacher Zhou is currently resting at home due to his miserable state of mind. Zhou's relatives went to the school several times to refuse further interviews, citing that his mental well-being is not very good.

Principal Li said that after Lei passed away, Teacher Zhou was reprimanded by the supervisors on the Board of Education. He himself has been stripped of his position and now only serves as the acting principal. The 48 teachers, fearful and insecure, no long dare to discipline the students. The school system is facing a complete breakdown.

Mr. Lei pointed out that Teacher Zhou had not apologized for Lei Mengjia's death. The school needs to re-educate its teachers so that similar tragedies will not happen in the future.

However, according to Principal Li, it is really not a matter of not apologizing. Rather, Teacher Zhou is still reeling from shock. Beginning April 10, the school has administered 4 training sessions to the entire teaching body. More will follow.

Principal Li agreed with Mr. Lei's assessment of Lei Mengjia's cheerful temperament. He also told the reporter that Mr. Lei has gone to the police regarding the student's death. In fact, the school is very much interested in the cause of death as well. The canal water level typically does not reach above Lei Mengjia's knees. However, on the day she drowned, it rose. What had caused the water level to rise? Right now public opinion is one-sided, accusing the school of forcing the child to die. This is not fair.

The student who fought with Lei Mengjia was also reprimanded. But she did not face suspension by class voting.

What the media and the public don't understand is why did the teacher organize the voting? Principal Li said that the county Board of Education have held seminars in the past, requiring the promotion of self-management among students. Yet, when Teacher Zhou let students manage themselves, tragedy struck.

So was Lei Mengjia's case spelled out in school policies? Principal Li said no. Because self-management is a relatively new concept, the Board of Education and school only encourage teachers to explore the novel method. There are no firmly established guidelines which mandate punishment be determined through voting.

What form of self-management do students need?

In the Western judicial system, the presence of a jury often lets citizens to determine the fate of fellow citizens. Why can't the same thing work in schools?

Lawyer Zhang Yaoxian thinks that juries only apply in the case of suspected criminals. First year middle school students are not adults. Letting a group of minors determine the fate of another minor is ludicrous and irresponsible. Furthermore, it is against the law to deprive the child of her education rights this way.

Older media reports reveal that many schools have already implemented like policies. Three years ago, to encourage self-management among students, a grade school in Luohe enacted the Principal Assistant Program, in which young students act as principals to enforce school regulations. The program was praised by both parents and teachers. In 2008, the Departments of Education in both Jiaozuo and Qinyang abolished homework in grade schools so that students have more control over their out-of-class time. This was also met with parental satisfaction.

Why did the promising method of self-management fail so spectacularly at Lei Mengjia's school? Mr. Tao Xingzhi (陶行知, a prominent educator) once wrote, self-management gives students opportunities to organize so that they can improve their abilities to govern themselves. Vasyl Sukhomlynsky, a well-known educator in the former Soviet Union, wrote in his 100 Suggestions to Teachers: "Self-education necessitates strong motivating factors--self esteem, sense of self-respect, and desires for improvement..." Chen Mingkui, head of Zhenghou Department of Education, believes that Xixia Middle School attempts to instill the idea in a humiliating way and should not be equated with self-management.

Chen Mingkui also said that in China mainland, no education department openly promotes self-management. How it should be implemented and where to draw the bottom line remain an open question.

Principal Li of Xiaxia Middle School admits that village teachers are not as qualified as city teachers. Hopefully Lei's tragedy will serve as a wake-up call to schools that the society should pay more attention to the quality of teachers in less-developed areas.

Some of the most popular comments:
The teacher is responsible!

Anonymous from Foshan, Guangdong:
The teacher who initiated this vote cannot be human!

Anonymous from Sichuan:
Minors are easily incited.

Being a teacher is a tough job! You can't beat, and you can't scold. Even letting the students self-manage doesn't work.....Sigh

Anonymous from Beijing:
Overall the teacher is responsible. My junior high school teacher once did the same thing. This is mainly due to bad teachers who don't take students seriously.

Anonymous from Guangzhou, Guangdong:
She did the wrong thing, so other students had the right to vote for her suspension. You can't blame her death on others when she is psychologically weak.

Anonymous from location unknown (in response to Anonymous from Guangzhou):
Who didn't do wrong at one time or another? Are you bastard a saint?

Anonymous from Qingdao, Shandong:
If the teacher did not drop hints, the students would not made such a decision.

April 24, 2010

A Day in Grey

To commemorate the victims of Qinghai Yushu Earthquake, the Chinese government set April 21, 2010 aside as a day of mourning. Flags were flown at half-mast, and all public entertainment ceased.

Then, to pay their respects to the dead, many websites 'spontaneously' converted pages to greyscale ('spontaneous' in quotation marks since the same one-day-transformation also followed the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake). It was a strange time. Sad because of the lost lives. Bewildering because China has to bury many more so soon after the 2008 catastrophe. And angry, because some people felt the 'coerced mourning' was at once hypocritical and an exercise of tyrannical power.

1. Screenshot of PConline on April 21
2. Screenshot of sina on April 21

3. A Chinese actor's (陈道明) official forum

4. Due to different levels of technical skills, some webpages were still partially colored. For instance, Kaixin001

5. In very little time, Netizens realized that the government site, the one who dared to spit in the face of peer pressure, was still brightly colored. This was one discovery that drew some sarcastic remarks.

For the most part, people grieved.
sina microblogger Realyl wrote:
Grey! My heart is filled with grey.

"萝卜爱青菜" wrote:
Why didn't my Renren account turn grey? I am losing face!

"幸福乌鸦" wrote:
Not sure why, after seeing so much grey on line, I feel a great weight in my heart. Tears well up. Although I couldn't obtain any news directly, I still know that whenever there is disaster, pain and wounds exist. Not able to do much, I can only pray for the deceased....

Not everyone felt the same though.
"扫扫" wrote:
Those who dislike grey pages can copy-paste the following code (javascript:void(document.documentElement.style.filter='none') to the Address Bar and then bookmark the page. Now clicking on the bookmarked page will open up a colored version.

microblogger "若阳" wrote:
Once more, this Yushu thing allowed me to see coercion by the government. No matter which TV channel I switched to last night, I could only watch the same program. Then, at midnight, the whole internet greyed out, but some color remained, like sarcasm.

It is not that I don't have a conscience. But this is just too much, too exaggerated. No use grieving. We should grieve on our own, whereas this is merely a show.

Also, a day after the Official Mourning, hecaitou delineated two opposing views: the minority who questioned the government's right to force them to mourn in a specific way vs. the majority who view this minority group as troublemakers.
Some were plainly confused:
"th3rd" wrote:
Looks like many websites will only appear grey in Internet Explorer. Chrome still shows a colorful world--does this mean today we can only use IE?

April 23, 2010

Jon Stewart and John Oliver on American-Style Debate

A hilarious analysis of the rhetoric of politics....

http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/271704/wed-april-21-2010-fred-pearce. Posted with Vodpod

April 18, 2010

"Too much plotting and scheming is the cause of her undoing"

Zhang Ziyi, darling of the Chinese media but not as beloved by the Chinese people, once again stirred up controversy when news with the following title made the headlines: "Celebrities Contribute 400 million yuan to alleviate drought, Zhang Ziyi Anonymously Donates."
Zhou Xun, Huang Xiaoming, Li Bingbing and others were conspicuous in the list of donors. At the same time, an anonymous donor also attracted many looks. Like most of the stars who donated, this person gave 200,000 yuan to the southeast provinces that have been suffering from drought.

Deputy Treasurer of Red Cross China told the reporter that she noticed the anonymous gift a few days ago. Only now did she find out that the money came from Zhang Ziyi, because Red Cross recently deposited a check with Zhang's name.
If I may point out, juxtaposition of the actress's name with the word "anonymous" produces an veritable oxymoron. In a real anonymous case, nobody should know the donor's name except the donor herself. Besides, I thought organizations did not disclose details of donations without consent from the donor.

The speed with which this eulogy spread on internet was truly remarkable. The article came out immediately after donations for the drought began. Within hours of its first appearance on Xinhua, every single major news site re-posted it.

The media's present eagerness to laud Zhang contrasts sharply with its reticence just a scant weeks ago, when the Chinese public questioned the whereabouts of the 1 million USD Zhang Ziyi reportedly raised abroad in the name of 2008 Sichuan earthquake victims. The fundraising activities, which landed Zhang Ziyi several respectable charity awards in China and greatly improved her image, were later suspected to be hoaxes as the money she gathered never saw the light of the day. However, while numerous theories about what truly happened floated around, the media cooperated with Zhang Ziyi and agent to release statement after statement--each time, Zhang's story changed.

In 2008, Zhang told the media she raised 1 million USD and she was following up with the government to ensure that this money was put to good use. In February 2010, Zhang's agent claimed, in direct contradiction to her employer's previous interviews, that $400,000 was the true amount received at Cannes. In the subsequent months, this figure eventually dropped down to $1300. Just to put things into perspective, $1300 is approximately the monthly unemployment benefits for one person.

Despite of these glaring inconsistencies, the media never exerted its investigative fingers. Red Cross China distanced itself from the mess, even though Zhang Ziyi said at different times (with videos of interviews as proof) that she would be taking the money back to Red Cross. The only time the humanitarian organization talked was to inform the public that Zhang Ziyi fulfilled her donation promise; this made more people mad as the announcement obscured the Cannes deceit and misled readers. Finally, an official spoke up: It is not easy to train an internationally-renowned actress. Why don't Netizens stop focusing on all those negative news about her? Which was the Chinese way of saying, "She is too big to fail."

So, with the current "anonymous donation" debacle, I am reminded afresh about this actress and her PR team's ability to reveal the worst side of Zhang Ziyi. Let's assume Zhang merely exaggerated and did not pocket 1 million USD as some suspected. After all, that would be a monumentally stupid and amoral thing to do. If Zhang had just come straight out to say that she wrote a check for 840,000 yuan, which was still one of the biggest donations by mainland celebrities in 2008, and avoided the show she put up at Cannes, people would have respected her a lot more. If Zhang had just donated 200,000 for the drought like all the other celebrities, without trying to impress people with her "low-key" donation, no one would think the news article a further demonstration of her conniving nature.

As things stand now, Zhang Ziyi lowered herself even further in the public view. And the self-contradictory news report does not help to improve Red Cross China's sometimes shaky credibility or the reputation of Chinese charity.

April 15, 2010

Picturesque Yunnan Lake Destroyed to Make Room for Townhouses

Translation: 云南大理洱海填湖建豪华别墅群 from China Youth Daily

Satellite photo taken from Google. Inside the red circle is the site of the former Lover's Lake. The area is now full of commercial housing, some finished and other still under construction

Picture of the Lover's Lake. It was on the postcards issue during 2006 Chinese New Year by provincial government. Provided by Cun Yaping

Er Lake and Cangshan Mountain are world famous. In particular, Er Lake is the face of Dali and also a prominent tourist spot in China. Unfortunately, a recent trip made by the reporter to Dali, Yunnan revealed that Er Lake is being commercially developed at the expense of its ecosystem. Little by little, rich people are encroaching upon this area, converting it into their personal backyard.

A lake that has disappeared altogether
Yesterday I toured the Tuanshan Hill,
After return, upon my clothes the tears spill,
Everywhere the rich build mansions as they will,
Where is the Lover's Lake?

This poem was composed by Dali citizen Cun Yaping (寸亚平), who during one visit to Er Lake Park discovered with dismay that the Lover's Lake is completely gone. Luxurious villas now take its place by the side of Er Lake, at the foot of Tuanshan Hill. Since then, Cun Yaping has been on a mission to stop the destructive development currently undergoing there. His pleas were ignored.

Er Lake Park sits on the south bank of Er Lake. It is the first stop in the Cangshan/Er Lake tourist route. Inside the park is a round-top hill. Because of its shape, locals named it Tuanshan (团山, "round hill"). During the Tang Dynasty, monarchy of the Kingdom of Nanzhao used this region to raise deers. The current park was constructed toward the end of 1970s. It occupies more than 800 mu in area and offers some amazing views.

The Lover's Lake in the park was a natural extension of the Er Lake. However, a dam built in the 1970s separated it from the main body of water. At the Lover's Lake, weeping willows provide natural shades, and boats move about leisurely. It is where Dali citizens go for recreation and also a lovers' favored spot. Hence its name.

In 2005, Dali City applied to become a provincial garden city. According to the city government's proposal, park expansion would constitute a major leverage to their gaining the garden city status. In July 2005, plans to renovate the Er Lake Park were approved. A report in Dali Daily indicates that the park was to become a green floating island. Together with West Er River Park (西洱河公园), Zhuhai Park (珠海公园), and Manjiang Wetland Ecological Park (满江滨海湿地生态公园), they would form a natural green ecological defense at the south end of Er Lake.

In October 8, 2007, just when park renovations were about to be completed, Duan Jie (段玠), member of the standing committee of Dali Bai Tribe Autonomous Region and Dali city secretary, announced the goal of making this park one of the best in the province or even in the nation. The park will enhance Dali's image and provide a perfect spot where locals can go for recreation. According to news reports, the project budget totaled 68.75 million yuan.

To everyone's acute disappointment, when the park re-opened in 2008, it actually shrank in size. Moreover, its main attraction, Lover's Lake, vanished. In its place stands a villa called "Erhai Paradise" (Erhai Tianyu, 洱海天域).

When conducting an on-site interview in the villa, China Youth Daily reporter saw numerous luxurious townhouses. Located directly on top of the vanished lake is a grand five-star hotel, still under construction. The famous Lover's Lake rests underground ever after.

Nearby villagers told the reporters that starting in 2005, "some company, name unknown, somehow obtained the government's permission; they came in with excavators and bulldozers to fill up the lake. Our villages vehemently opposed the destruction. Some tried to stop them. Some sought the government. Later on, we realized that the government was behind all this. We witnessed the death of the beautiful lake, and it was like watching our loved ones getting murdered."

To commemorate the lake's disappearance, one angry poet wrote an elegy:
My beautiful Lover's Lake,
The killers left you no time to play the farewell song,
Even your mother Er Lake, nestling close,
Lies like a broken string.
Er Lake transformed into villas

And thus, under the villagers' sorrowful, angry eyes, this mysterious company quickly constructed houses. The buildings grew from the grave of Lover's Lake.

Starting in 2007, the real estate company, Tianjian Shuifeng Co. Ltd.(中建穗丰置业有限公司), started to heavily advertise Erhai Paradise. Their main selling point: villas with a view of the sea on top of Lover's Lake. The promotional pamphlets show the house as waterside pavilions surrounded by waters. Yet, the reporter could find any liquid amidst the crowded buildings. There was maybe a little bit of water left next to Binhai Avenue (滨海大道).

According to Dali Bureau of Urban Planning, utility of lake surface by the project was less than 37%. But where is the remaining 63%? It was clear to all city residents that Lover's Lake had, for all purposes, disappeared.

In actuality, the filled-up Lover's Lake constitutes only a small portion of Erhai Paradise's development plan inside the park. The reporter learned from the sale department that Erhai Tianyu villa used up 300 mu of land. The constructions include 300 townhouses, a 2 km long international-style shopping street, a five star international hotel, and China's one and only freshwater lake yacht club.

The salesman said that these townhouses costs 10,000 yuan per square meter. The total price range from 2 million to 5. More than 100 townhouses have already been sold.

In the old days, Dali resident Mr. Zhang loved to take his child to the park on the weekends. The family would sit by the lake, enjoy the landscape, and eat a bowl of cold rice noodle. Now, he does not want to visit to park at all. "The lake is gone, and the area is dotted with townhouses. What do we come here for? To see someone else's backyard?"

To Mr. Zhang, the park expansion project was merely a cover-up for destroying the lake. The money that funded this project came from taxpayers' pocket and paid for the construction and equipment of Erhai Paradise.

On one side, real estate companies cut down trees to make room for commercial housing. On the other side, the government spent large amount of money to renovated some of the outdated park facilities, with the constraint that it did not impede the real estate companies in anyway. In 2008, just as the "park expansion" projects were finished one after another, Erhai Paradise began selling their house units.

Who legalized Er Lake villas?

In the end, how did these rows upon rows of townhouses obtain approvals of the government?

Dali Bureau of Urban Planning gave the following response: Erhai Paradise was one of the city's major investment projects. The main hotel is built according to the requirements of a five star hotel. Upon its completion, this hotel will conclude the city's long history of not having its own five star hotel. Dali, as one of the first 24 Historical and Cultural Cities approved by the State Council, one of the 44 National Scenic Spots, and a National Excellent Tourism City, needs badly to invest in a five star hotel. "This hotel will further consolidate the city's tourism-supporting infrastructure. It will enrich urban functions and enhance the city's image. It fits into the city's plans to develop its tourism industry. Its construction is very timely."

The Bureau of Urban planning claims that, because the geographical location of the constructions is so crucial, the Bureau was very cautious in planning out the project as well as every single one of the later modifications. The building only began after the project passed through stringent examinations by the committee. The Bureau organized 4 meetings--review meetings, hearings, technical consultations--and the site selection and planning were results of ample discussions. Departments include land planning, construction, environmental protection, forestry and others assigned detailed, strict requirements, in order to ensure this project has the "in harmony with landscape, humans being one with nature" effect.

However, many Dali residents have never heard of such hearings being held for Erhai Paradise. They did not know when the land was stripped from the park and sold to the real estate company. They never even knew the land was listed for auction.

The "Scenic Area Ordinance," which went into effect in December 2006, prohibits commercial real estate development of scenic areas. Construction of hotels, hostels, training centers, nursing homes and any other buildings unrelated to protection of scenic resources are strictly forbidden. Any project that violates the law will be halted by the administration. Violators must revert everything back to its original state or implement remedial measures. Profits gained from the project shall be confiscated. A fine of 50,000 yuan to 100,000 yuan (Note: this is really a small amount) applies. For serious situations, a fine of 100,000 to 200,000 yuan applies.

The reporter talked to the park management team. Employees told him that they only manage the park. The details of how the land was sold and developed were not revealed to them.

On June 2, 2006, former Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued an order to Yunnan provincial department to investigate and stop all commercial land exploitation in Cangshan and Er Lake regions. A task force formed to deal with these cases and install preventive measures. Results of the investigations were reported back to the ministry.

Yet, during this time, construction of Erhai Paradise was going full-swing, the pace not at all affected by the order. Judging by the applications submitted to the Bureau of Urban Planning, Erhai Paradise was divided into several sub-projects, scenic street, mobile fishing village, hotel, etc, and the permissions for them were obtained in different stages. The last application was dated June 2007. The housing sales permits were granted in 2006, 2007, and 2008. In other words, despite of orders from the province, Erhai Paradise proceeded with their applications in an orderly manner, and the company successfully obtained sales permits.

What is interesting is that a separate commercial development project, "Dali East Coast International Eco-Garden," was stopped in July 2007. And the reason was the said order issued by the National Ministry. The fate of these two projects, though similar in nature, could not be more different.

Head of Dali Bureau of Urban Planning told the reporter that the villa is indeed built atop the former Lover's Lake, but most of the water surface has been preserved. Currently, the disciplinary committee is investigating this matter.

Reporter Junxiu Wang (王俊秀), April 12, 2010

A Physics Problem on the Shanghai Middle School Exam

Supposedly one of the worst problems ever created.

Translation: 上海初中物理题 如此销魂!额滴个神!!!

A bear stumbled into a trap 19.617 meters deep. His falling time was only 2 seconds. What color was this bear?

A. White (polar bear)
B. Brown
C. Black
D. Black brown, Malay bear
E. Grey bear

Using the classic equation s=gt2/2, it can easily be calculated that g = 9.8085 m/s2. Many people claim this is the acceleration due to gravity at the poles. They are wrong. g at North Pole is 9.832, which is much greater than our value on hand. Even at the equator, g is already 9.780.

I looked up the tabulated values and saw that this particular g corresponds to a latitude of 44o. There are no bears in the southern hemisphere. So, we know the location is 44o N.

The problem statement tells us that the bear fell into a trap and it was a trap large enough to contain him. On land, fewer animals are bigger than the bear. Thus, we can say with confidence that the trap was designed specifically for bears.

In addition, since the trap was on land, we can be sure that this was a terrestrial bear, who has bad vision and does not notice traps easily.

At this point, only B and C make sense.

To be able to create a 19.617 m hole, the soil must be soft enough.

Brown bears are typically located in regions of high elevations. They are ferocious, and the risks of hunting them are great. Furthermore, they are not as valuable, as bear paws and bile are extracted from black bears.

The places where the two types of bears live do not overlap. Thus, the answer should be C.

April 11, 2010

Zookeepers and Animal Charges to Collect Debt from Henan Sports Bureau

Translation: 郑州动物园带老虎去河南体育局讨债

One tiger and lion outside the bicycle sport administration center

On April 11, large iron cages appeared on the west side of Henan Province's Administration Center for Bicycle Sports (河南省自行车现代五项运动管理中心). Two tigers and one lion were housed in these cages, some with eyes half-closed and others pacing back and forth while looking alertly at surrounding people.

A white banner read: "Please return our 50 mu land. Give green nature back to the people." In addition to the three carnivores, there were ten emus, kept separately in the adjacent space enclosed by wire fences.

Zhengzhou City Zoo situates not far from the bicycle sports administration center. According to the animal caretakers, most of the people present at the scene were zoo employees, who helped to build the cages and fences. "The center borrowed 50 mu of land from us 20 years ago. The land was never returned. The zoo currently has many large-sized animals, whose movements are restricted because of limited space. The center did not give back the land in all this time. Yet, they are already going ahead with commercial land development." Many zookeepers feel that actions of the center are outrageous.

By the zookeepers' own admission, they transported in the ferocious helpers because they did not know what else they could do. The three beasts are fed regularly and drink water whenever they want. The only inconvenience is the small area inside the cages.

In 1984, the Zhengzhou City government reassigned land previously owned by the zoo to the sports administration center. The land was used to construct sites for bicycle competitions. In exchange for the reassignment, the government promised to compensate the zoo with other land near the zoo. On April 10, Zhengzhou City Zoo showed the reporter relevant petition document that the Bureau of City Planning and Environmental Protection presented to the Provincial Planning Commission.

"20 years have gone by. The land was never returned. Not only that, the center rented out sites for profit, in direct contradiction to original purpose of the land grant. And now they are talking about additional commercial development." One supervisor said that the zoo mailed an overnight letter to the Henan Sports Bureau as late as April 6 of this year, asking that the land be returned. The zoo never received any reply. Instead, news of business development at the bicycle sports center leaked out, galvanizing the zookeepers to stage the April 11th demonstration.

"They are illegally seizing our land," said Secretary Li from the bicycle sports center. The document mentioned any 50 mu land to the southeast of the zoo; it does not say that the original land be returned. He also confirmed that the fenced land on the north side is intended for commercial purposes.

April 10, 2010

Sina Microblog

Sina microblog, the latest fashionable trend in the Chinese online community. Every single person I have ever heard of owns one. Yet, I can't shake off the feeling that the success of the microblog came because Sina is standing on the shoulder of a giant, just like older internet services QQ (which copied ICQ), Baidu (which copied Google), Renren (which copied Facebook), and others.

Take a look at the two screen shots below. The first one shows the layout of actress Yao Chen's Sina microblog, and I have explained the Chinese texts in red. The second one is Coldplay's Twitter account.

Yao Chen's microblog

Coldplay's Twitter page

I'd say the most Sina did was to move the brief "About" blurb from the top right hand corner to the left, under the owner's name. Perhaps the most obvious telltale sign indicating Sina's blatant "borrowing" is the 140 character limit. Fortunately, since Chinese is more compact than English, one can express a lot more information on Sina than he can on Twitter.

To the media giant's credit, Sina added a few more features to make its microblog friendlier to Chinese usage. Notice the fields under each tweet, which list the number of times a message has been re-posted as well as a the comments readers made in response to the particular message. In essence, each tweet has been converted into a mini-thread. This is no doubt a shrewd move to take advantage of the giant popularity that the BBS forum format enjoys in China. To increase user interactions, Sina also sends notifications each time someone either retweets or replies to one's message.

To make information gathering more convenient (and coincidentally to prevent its users from ever having to leave its website), Sina included many multimedia functions. Pictures can be included with the tweets, and the embedded videos play on the same page.

All in all, I think a non-Chinese Twitter user can readily take up Sina microblog because things are almost identical to Twitter. Of course, he would still have to overcome the small hurdle of not understanding Chinese. And oh, the new microblog has censorship too.

April 06, 2010

Anhui Elder Dies from Starvation. Village Cadre Says: "Well, nobody told him not to have a son"

On the importance of having a son in China. The need is not as critical when one situates higher on the social ladder . Of course if it turns out the son (daughter) is unfilial, then one is still doomed.

儿子死后,安徽一85岁老人饿死 via Sohu

In Chengzhai Village, Lixing Town of Taihe County (太和县李兴镇程寨村), a 85 year old elder starved to death inside his burned down home.

Villagers donated money to pay for the elder's burial.

No money to bury son

The name of this elder who just passed away is Cheng Baoping (程保平). Fellow villager Mr. Cheng told the reporter that on the afternoon of April 1, he and others found the old man dead in his fire-ravaged home because Cheng Baoping hadn't eaten for days. Cheng Baoping had a son, Cheng Haoshan, who would be 60 this year. In the past, father and son made a living with their their 4 mu farm (1 mu = 667 m2). Because of extreme poverty, Cheng Haoshan never married. Two years ago, a large fire destroyed their home, but the house was never rebuilt due to lack of money. Since then, Cheng Haoshan stayed in another villager's home, while Chang Baoping continued to live in the burned ruins. To keep away the rain, a plastic sheet was draped over the roofless building. Cheng Haoshan used to prepare the meals and deliver it to his father.

In January this year, Cheng Haoshan was discovered dead in his room. Mr Cheng said: "Cheng Baoping did not have any money to arrange for a burial, so the body was left unattended. Finally, the village cadres found 900 yuan on the corpse and used most of it on cremation. With nothing left to pay for burial, they put the cinerary casket in a grass shed out of the village. It sat there for more than 20 days."


Mr Cheng said: "Children played with the cinerary casket like it was a toy. It was thrown into the river several times, until finally one kid took the casket home. The youngster's mom had no other choice but to ask people to bury it. Cheng Baoping could not take care of himself. Once his son died, the old man had to begin begging for meals. Village cadres completely ignored his plight." Another villager, surname Cheng, told the reporter that Cheng Baoping relied on aid from neighbors to survive. Without a steady income, he was constantly hungry. After his death, some villagers accused the village leadership of negligence in their duties to help. To this, village cadre Cheng Xiangan replied: "Who told him not to have a son (as in, Cheng Baoping deserved to be in the helpless circumstance)."

The reporter further interviewed Director Xu, head of the village board. When asked why village cadres did not provide assistance to income-less Cheng Baoping, Director Xu answered: "I only know he belonged to the 'five guarantees' (五保户, in China, village minors, childless elders and the sick are guaranteed food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses). I am not acquainted with the details." The reporter asked Dr. Xu if the village ever provided relief to Cheng. Dr. Xu said, "Probably no." Two other villagers said that the village party secretary and the head of village board don't really do much of anything. When they have problems and need resolutions, the villagers can never find the the officials.

April 03, 2010

Famous News Show Host Bai Yansong Censored by Wuxi Media

Photo taken during Bai Yansong's Wuxi talk

Translation: I first saw the news on Yang Haipeng (杨海鹏)'s microblog. He is a senior reporter working for magazine Caijing. The photos and detailed information are taken from 长城论坛

By invitation, famous CCTV news show host Bai Yansong (白岩松) gave a talk on March 20 in Wuxi, Jiangsu. The event, titled "China and the World," is part of the Wuxi seminar series Weekend Forum.

Mr. Bai's lecture revolves around the following theme: analyze the world--treat it as our mirror; protect the environment--there is still much to be done; education--it should bring children safety and warmth; gun culture--the balance between freedom and government power.

A large part of the talk involved lively exchanges between Mr. Bai Yansong and the audience. His sense of humor and words of wisdom won continuous applause from the listeners. When commenting on the gun culture in U.S.A., he said: "The environment and conditions in China do not permit gun ownership. If China allowed freedom of arms, it would eliminate forced demolition (forced demolition--government or businesses forcing citizens off their land so that seized property can be developed into commercial real estate)." He then elaborated, "We should look at the ideals behind U.S. gun culture. They are respect, protection of citizens' rights and properties, checks and balances that limit the government branches."

Mr. Bai's insights and answers were met with enthusiastic applause. The talk was immediately followed by accurate coverage from Wuxi's Jiangnan Evening Newspaper. However, the digital publication on the newspaper's website http://www.wxrb.com was quickly censored. On March 22, Wuxi Daily Newspaper (the same company that owns Jiangnan Evening Newspaper owns Wuxi Daily Newspaper) deleted the part "If China allowed freedom of arms, it would eliminate forced demolition."

April 02, 2010

Ukrainian singer sings "Spirited Away" theme song

//I want to shout: "I am free! I am free!" even if my free time extends to just this Sunday...

Here is a music video to listen to and relax by

The lady's name is Nataliya Gudziy

Veggie Discourse - Blogged