Sunday, October 20, 2013

Maunderings for October 20, 2013

The World is Out to Get You!

Well, apparently breathing China's air isn't as bad as we thought... At least compared to many places in the Middle East. The World Health Organization released their latest research on outdoor air pollution recently and Quartz was nice enough to break it down into a nice chart. The worst Chinese offender doesn't even come close to breaking into the top ten worldwide. Not that it can't get bad in China, but at least they aren't blaming it on the U.S., like a certain four letter country seems to be. I guess that what happens when your entire economy is based on pumping oil out of the ground.

And if you're lucky enough to survive the air pollution, it's your vitamins that are going to kill you. The BBC reports on overuse of dietary supplements this week, and I tend to agree that taking a ton of something that you are not sure what it does can't be good in the long term. Especially given all the new research into the microbiom, aka: our elusive gut bacteria.

Also on the Beeb, and reiterating something I blogged previously, you really don't need to drink more water than you feel like you need. Australian researchers recently proved it. If you live in a temperate climate, you probably need six to eight cups of liquid a day, but that can come in the form of food, coffee, beer, or (gasp!) tap water. If you're thirsty, have a drink, but don't force it on yourself.

Today's moral is pretty basic: Don't believe the marketing hype; your body is amazing and can usually take care of itself as long as you listen to it. As long as you don't live in Iran.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Don't let baijiu happen in America!

...Actually, do let it happen.  The resulting debauchery could be really entertaining.

Baijiu (pronounced 'bye-jyoh') is China's national drink and also the most popular liquor in the world, with sales over double that of the next most popular, vodka.

I've not drank very much baijiu during my year in China, which I see as a personal victory.  But I have (1) drank baijiu from a bottle that had a scorpion in it and (2) drank baijiu on the Great Wall of China, north of Beijing.  And I've never drank it to excess, which, since it can be up to 130 proof and not exactly free of contaminants, means I've only had a couple of shots at a time.

Yes, I said shots, because that's how you drink baijiu in China.  You yell "ganbei" and everyone at the table finishes their glass.  And you do it over, and over, and over...  The actual Chinese men's drinking and toasting culture is a little deeper and more complex than that, but since I don't speak much Chinese and don't go to many banquets, that's my interpretation.  Also, you can't really sip something that is 65% alcohol, even if it is tropical flavored.  Just holding it up to your face starts to burn the hair off the inside of your nose.

All that to get to the point, described in this article from Yahoo! Finance, that a few geniuses have decided that sorghum liquor needs to come to the American side of the world.  While I'm all about choice and the freedom to drink what you wish, I don't think that their reasoning passes muster.
"Sake has become ubiquitous with Japanese dining and tequila with Mexican," Dor said. "Chinese cuisine has never had this natural complement. We see a great opportunity to change this."
Anyone who has eaten Chinese food in China knows that cheap, cheap pijiu (beer) is the correct pairing for Chinese food.  Especially anything from northern or western China that has lots of "ma-la" spice to it.  Mmm... Hot Pot...  I'm making myself hungry here and I just finished breakfast!

Anyways, if you happen to see some baijiu on the shelf at your local liquor shop, you probably want to steer clear.  Especially for $30 or more.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Simple Raised Bed Gardens

It's already pretty late in the growing season here in Colorado, and if you're going to put in a garden you've probably already done it, but I just wanted to share these tips about building a raised bed for flowers or vegetables.

Colorado's Front Range soil is almost universally poor - mostly bentonite clay which, is virtually impossible to dig when it's dry and doesn't allow proper drainage - and makes gardening an act of will.  Raised beds offer a relatively easy solution for small scale backyard gardens because you add in the soil of your choice instead of trying to till amendments into the existing ground to make it usable.

There are a ton of different how-tos on the internet on building a raised bed, but these are the ones that stood out to me.  Below I have elaborated on the instructions that I thought were most helpful.

This Sunset Magazine one is pretty good, but it's a little over the top (How to Build a Raised Garden - Sunset.com).  It's 4ft by 8ft and uses 4x4 posts at the corners that are set into the ground to keep it in place, which is probably not necessary for most small beds.

The Better Homes and Gardens instructions are for a 4ft by 4ft bed that be taken apart (Raised Bed Gardening - How to Build a Raised Bed Garden - BHG.com).  The instructions are a little vague, but it's a cool design and would be great for someone who is renting and would like to take it with them when they move.

This video from Lowes (How To Build A Raised Flower Or Garden Bed - YouTube) is probably the simplest and is explained really well.  This one is 3ft by 5ft, which is also a nice size for a starter garden.

Basically, all of these instructions involve attaching some longer two-by-somethings to some short 4x4 posts, leveling the ground, setting the frame inside, and filling it with dirt.  In the dry Colorado climate you can use plain, untreated lumber instead of treated "green" wood (which you can't grow veggies in because it's poisonous) or expensive, but rot resistant, cedar or redwood.  Most people will loose interest in this little raised bed before it rots out in a few years anyway, so you may as well save a few bucks.  All of these instructions also enable you to start with readily available 8ft pieces of lumber and not have any waste, which is nice.  Depending on your level of handiness or ability to enlist a friend's help and power tools, I would have everything pre-cut at Lowes or Home Depot (or your local lumber yard) to the sizes you want and then follow the instructions in the Lowes video to pre-drill the planks and assemble the box.

Here are the materials you would need to build the 3ft by 5ft raised bed from the video:

  • (6) 8ft 2x4s, each cut into 3ft and 5ft lengths at the store
  • (4) 10-1/2" lengths of 4x4 post, cut from whatever 4x4 lumber is cheapest (2x4s are not actually 2" by 4" anymore, they're about 1-1/2" by 3-1/2", hence the 10-1/2" posts)
  • (1) 1 pound box of 3" deck screws - you'll need at least 48 screws, plus the ones that get messed up in the process 
  • 6ft of weed barrier cloth
  • Aprox. 15 cubic feet (5/8 cubic yard) of garden soil - the bagged stuff is about the actual size it says on the bag, the loose stuff tends to settle down, so you may need a little more; also, you don't need to use all potting soil, just whatever is easy to get

Here are the tools you will probably need:

  • Shovel to cut away the grass / sod (or just lay the weed barrier right on top if you've got a dead spot that's already level
  • Drill driver (corded or cordless) with a 5/32" drill bit (to drill the pilot holes) and at least one #2 Phillips driver bit (to drive the screws)
  • Level
  • Tape measure (to make sure the box is square, measure the diagonals when attaching the sides and make sure they are the same) 
There are no limits on the ways you can modify, expand, or customize your new raised garden, including adding hoops for a makeshift greenhouse or bird netting or attaching it to anchors to keep it from being bumped by the lawnmower.  

I hope you enjoy your new garden, and don't trip over it in the winter snow!  Maybe next time I'll elaborate on the slightly more complicated one that my family built this spring.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Maunderings for June 19, 2013

I've unintentionally taken a little while off of updating (again) while I spend some time at home in Colorado.  It's really nice to be back breathing the thin, dry, clean air and drinking good, fresh beer.  Drinking seems to be a theme today...

Even though China is a huge country and the wealthy seem to be obsessed with high end whiskey, 99.5% of all hard liquor consumed in China is baijiu.  So when the Economist graphed the top ten consumers of real spirits (vodka, rum, Scotch whiskey, gin, tequila), China doesn't even rank.  Unsurprisingly, Russians drink the most of anyone by a large margin.  What did surprise me was that the French drink ten times more Scotch per person than Americans (but non-Scotch whiskey wasn't mentioned, so that could have something to do with it) and that Filipinos drink nearly five times more gin than us.  Since gin and Scotch are my liquors of choice, I'm trying to bring our average more in line with global standards, and I encourage you to do your part.  ;)

This article about the worst charities in the U.S. will make you both want to drink and not feel bad about spending money on booze instead of donating it to these scams than donate less than 1% of their proceeds to their supposed beneficiaries.

This could either make you want to drink more or make you feel a little better about your situation. In China, graduates from Chinese universities are four times more likely to be unemployed than those with only an elementary school education. At least it's not just American college graduates who think that they're entitled to a better job than they are qualified for:
Jason Zhang, the recruiter who has years of experience hiring people, rolls his eyes at this type of candidate. "Chinese college graduates these days think they’re really special," he says with a smile. "The problem is -- they’re the only ones who think that." 
Zhang says Wang and many others in China’s class of 2013 will go all summer thinking they’ve got lots of options, and will probably end up unemployed.

Aaand, I forgot to hit "post" a few days ago, so here's bonus drinking related update, just for good measure. According to Telegraph in the UK, via Gothamist, the world's gin supply is in dire straights because of a fungus that is attacking juniper berries, the pungent herb that gives gin its gin-ness.  I regard this as a real emergency, but I am also surprised that there's no synthetic alternative available for desperate times like these.  But, necessity is the mother of invention, so maybe Britain will start to be innovative again and there will be.  In the meantime, enjoy your gin while you can, people!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Maunderings for June 1, 2013

According to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese hot pot chain Hai Di Lao (pay wall) is planning to expand into the U.S.  Owner Zhang Yong started Hai Di Lao in Sichuan in 1994 and opened his first international branch in Singapore last year.  As someone who has recently spent over a month in Chengdu, Sichuan and ate the hot, mouth-numbing local specialty there more times than I can remember, I hope his particular brand of hot pot will find a niche in the U.S.  I think they'll have to work on their menus and educate Westerners on how hot pot works if they're going to be successful.  It is scheduled to open this September in the ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood of Arcadia.

I just ran a 5k charity race this morning wearing semi-generic cotton blend socks, and they didn't give me any trouble, but in case they did, the WSJ was kind enough to enlighten us on the booming high-end sock industry in the U.S.  Apparently the "Thread Architects" and R&D shops at these companies are turning out socks that fit like a glove, resist "trail grime", and can withstand three weeks of wear without washing, and only run $25 a pair(!).  The socks on my feet cost about $2.50, but I do need to wash them every time, so maybe it's worth it.

Luckily I didn't eat hot pot right before the run, or else my socks may have been the least of my worries.

Speaking of food... regarding Paleo Dieters, you know, the folks who have apparently confused personal health with evolutionary success as an excuse to eat nothing but steak, a semi-recent conference of archaeologists and other assorted smart people made some good clarifications on what humans can eat: "You want to know what the ideal human diet consists of? Everything. Humans can and will eat everything, and we are remarkably successful not in spite of this fact, but because of it. Our adaptability is the hallmark of the human species. We’re not called omnivores for nothing."  Read this guy's post, it's good.  Good like a bagel.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Maunderings for May 22, 2013

As Moore, Oklahoma continues to clean up after last weekend's disastrous tornado, the Atlantic has put together way more than you really need to know about tornadoes in America.  The short version: the May 20th Moore tornado was bad, but not the worst; and no, tornadoes are not increasing in frequency or severity.  The long version is still worth a look and is notable for its level-headed thoroughness.

Scientific American takes the recent Dove soap adverts to task and concludes that you really aren't as beautiful as you think.  They call it the "above average effects", but I prefer the "Lake Wobegon effect".  (You know, "where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.")  But either way, a little bit of thinking you're awesome can probably help in real life situations that benefit from self-confidence.  Just don't let it go to your head.  ;)

And if you're like most residents of mainland China and are tired of Hong Kong's "two-tin" limit on imports of powdered baby formula, maybe you should go to New Zealand and start buying up all of theirs instead.  Or maybe Chinese companies could stop poisoning their own citizens (and everyone else's pets) and put some of their vast resources into producing safe products for domestic consumption.  Right after they start enforcing their own constitution.  :/

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Maunderings for May 21, 2013

This is a little behind the times, but apparently Jon Stewart is has recently become big in China. ...And not just because he's tall. (Couldn't resist, sorry.) The New Yorker wrote up an interesting little piece, and you should probably watch the video clip they link to in the second (and 6th) line. Also, Jon Stewart is called Jiong Situ, a.k.a. 囧司徒 in Chinese. I like the Jiong character - 囧.

Even though you've probably been working out like a MoFo for a while now, it only takes about a week to loose your new-found cardiovascular adaptations.  Luckily, a couple of intense max-interval workouts a week will at least help the maintenance.  


In more recent, but basically worthless news, foreign fashion models who want to work in the U.S. are in the same skilled worker category as actual skilled workers.  Since the overall cap is so low, that's causing some grief for the less beautiful I.T. workers, even though only 250 of the 65,000 H-1B visas went to models.  There was legislation introduced in 2008 to reclassify the models out of the H-1B pool, sponsored by Anthony Weiner (insert lewd joke here), but it never made it to the floor.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

Kaffestugan - Definitely a Cheng-Do!

Since I've been in Chengdu, China, I've been trying to collect a few dos and don'ts that I want to remember and/or share.  I call them Cheng-Dos and Cheng-Don'ts.

Kaffestugan is definitely a Cheng-Do.  


Located on the First Ring Road, a bit east of North Kehua Road, Kaffestugan is a Swedish cafe transplanted into Chengdu.  Owned by a Swedish / Korean couple, they serve excellent pour-over coffee (excellent by American coffee standards, not just Chinese); along with snacks, brunch and lunch items, and a good selection of liquor.  The prices are very reasonable, and even though the cafe is located on the second floor of a strip mall, the interior is inviting enough to spend the afternoon barely noticing that you're in China.

I was unable to find their location on Google Maps, but fortunately they are right next to a dental clinic (called Huashan Oral Cavity in English) that is listed.  Click here for a map.


Address: 2F KaiYueXinCheng, No. 9 First Ring Road, South, First Section (opposite Hong Wa Si)
Chengdu 610021, Sichuan, China

邮编: 610021
中国四川省成都市一环路南一段9号凯悦新城2楼

Telephone: +86 (028) 8544 3365
Email: kaffestuganinchengdu [at] gmail.com
Web: www.kaffestugan.com

Eat Fat! Don't Drink Water!


Obviously the title of this post is a vast oversimplification, but it is also the main thrust of the research by Dr Tim Noakes, a South African runner and medical doctor who's writing I have just spent way more time reading that I reasonably should have.

First the water...


Dr Noakes basically believes that humans have evolved to deal with mild dehydration (since we obviously had to run through the African plain for hours on end to catch prey, and no one had invented the Camelback yet) and people who exercise are at a much higher risk of complications from drinking too much water than not enough.  I did not realize it, but drinking water during running or cycling discouraged up to the late 1960s because it would "slow you down".

The current government recommendations seem to be that people should drink at least 40 ounces / 1.2 liters of water per hour of exercise and try not to loose much if any water weight while exercising; and everyone has heard by now that "if you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated".  Noakes states that people get into trouble this way because their bodies are not loosing water nearly as fast as they are consuming it, and if they continue to do this for several hours (like during a marathon) this can cause people to become over hydrated and possibly develop a condition called Hyponatremia.  Normally, most people will just pee the excess water out, but
"...what happens in hyponatremia is that, for some reason, the brain interprets that the person is dehydrated and secretes the antidiuretic hormone. As a consequence, that prevents all urine production. Although they are sweating, they may be sweating at a rate of 20 ounces per hour, but they are drinking at a rate of 40 ounces per hour. Every hour they are accumulating 20 ounces. You can do that for a couple of hours, but once you’ve accumulated about 60 to 80 ounces of water in your body, all of your tissues become bloated, and the organ that becomes most affected is the brain.
"The brain swells, and because it is in a rigid skull, it cannot swell very much. The more it swells, the more pressure, and that eventually squeezes the arteries supplying blood to the brain. Ultimately, there is less oxygen getting to the brain, and certain parts become damaged. Once it affects your breathing centers, then you’re in real trouble, because it stops breathing, and that is essentially irreversible."(1)  
Obviously this is an extreme case, and most of us (non marathoners) will never have to worry about how much water to drink over a five hour race, but it is interesting to keep in mind.

In Noakes' new book, "Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports", he quotes James Fixx's 1977 book, "The Complete Book of Running":
"Drink lots of water while you're exercising.  It used to be considered unwise to drink while working out.  Recent studies have shown, however, that athletes, including runners, function best when allowed to drink whenever they want to.  A 5% drop in body weight can reduce efficiency by 15%, and 6% is about the maximum you can comfortably tolerate."  
But Dr Noakes clarifies that drinking "whenever they want to" really means drinking when you're thirsty.  I have never weighed myself before and after an intense workout or long run, but I highly doubt I have ever sweat out any significant portion of my body weight.  To loose 5% of my weight, I would have to sweat out about one gallon of water.  I don't want to know how far I would have to run for that to happen!

The basic take away from all of this is that you probably don't have to worry about how much water you're drinking while you're working out.  If you're thirstly, drink something.  But ever drink just because the Gatorade advert told you that you should.

Take a look at these articles if you want to dig a little deeper:
(1)http://www.outsideonline.com/blog/outdoor-adventure/tim-noakes-on-the-serious-problem-of-overhydration-in-endurance-sports.html
(2)http://www.health24.com/Diet-and-nutrition/Beverages/Too-much-water-could-be-dangerous-20120721
(3)http://www.health24.com/Diet-and-nutrition/Beverages/Tim-Noakes-on-overhydration-in-athletes-20120721
(4)http://scienceinafrica.com/old/2003/february/exercise.htm


And now onto the eating fat!  


Or not.  Turns out that Dr Noakes is talking about a special case - his.  Well, his and people with a similar condition, a predisposition to develop adult-onset diabetes because of a metabolic abnormality called "carbohydrate resistance" (CR).  I have no idea how common this inability to process simple carbohydrates is, but apparently it is fixable by -- surprise! -- not eating carbs!  This is basically the Atkins diet, which should probably be called the Harvey/Banting diet for it's original proponents, way back in 1861(!).  As a real doctor should, Noakes wisely doesn't propose this high fat / low carb diet as a cure-all for everyone, only those who's personal biology is served by it.

I don't seem to have any problems using pretty much whatever kind of food enters my body and I don't have any close family with adult onset diabetes, so it looks like I don't have to worry about his, but Dr Noakes writes a compelling and interesting case for those whom it might help.

Read his column and judge for yourself:
http://www.health24.com/Diet-and-nutrition/Nutrition-basics/Tim-Noakes-on-carbohydrates-20120721


Both of these topics go a long way to show how much what is thought of as healthy -- by both the medical and lay community -- change over time and how little perspective we really have from day to day.  So, eat when you're hungry, drink when you're thirsty, and go sweat a little!  

Monday, April 08, 2013

Vintage Drags, in Slow-mo

Since I've been sooo productive since getting to Chengdu (more on that later), I thought I would toss up a quick post about what I actually did do today instead of all the things I intended to do but didn't.

Basically, this involves drinking coffee all day, listening to good tunes from Big Blue Swing, doing some laundry in a very strange combination washer/dryer, and watching vintage drag racing videos.  This one in particular is pretty sweet.


Nostalgia Drags at 240 FPS from Matthew Macomber on Vimeo.

Check out the wrinkle of the sidewalls (they're drag tires - they're supposed to do that) at 0:58, a Mustang pull a serious wheelstand at 1:08, and the Gasser nose dive from an equally serious wheelstand at 1:20.  Pretty wild!

I've also been thinking about the repercussions being in China to witness the N7N9 flu and a crazier-than-usual North Korea... but those are kind of a downer and you can read about those things pretty much anywhere.  (The Sinocism blog is a good place to start if you want an insiders pick of the stories.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shanghai Optical Market - Get Some Cheap Glasses!

I've been wearing prescription eyeglasses for about half of my life now, and while I've always taken good care of them and only broken one pair (when I was 16), I am always super paranoid about losing or damaging them because they are so dang expensive to replace!

A few months ago I gave Warby Parker's online glasses shop a try with great success.  Instead of spending $200 to $400 dollars out of my pocket to get a nice set of frames with good lenses, I spent $95 and even got to try on five pairs at home through the mail.  The glasses are high quality, the experience great, and I would recommend it to anyone needing new or additional pairs of glasses.

Great glasses for under $100 is nothing to shake a stick at, but if you want sunglasses, have a really strong prescription, or want some higher-end frames, you're going to pay a little more, possibly eating into the "deal" aspect of online optical shopping.

But if you happen to be in Asia, you can do much better than $100 by visiting an optical market, like the 3 Yeh optical market (三叶眼镜城) in Shanghai!

"Markets" seem to be a big thing in many Asian cities.  They're basically low-rise warehouses filled with small shops all selling basically the same thing and yelling at you to buy it from them.  There are all kinds - flowers, birds, fish, clothes, electronics, eyeglasses, etc.  And since most of the stuff that we pay way too much for in the U.S. is made in China, you can get some screamin' deals if you can handle the stress.  The fact that intellectual property laws aren't really observed here probably helps, too.

Getting to the 3 Yeh market is easy by metro.  Head for the Shanghai Railway Station metro stop, go out Exit 4 [update: only if you came in on Line 1 - see below], and you're right there.  (The market is on the south side of the railway station.  Don't go out the north side, you'll never find your way from there; I've tried!)  Go through the big doors, head up the escalator, and prepare to be mobbed by hundreds of Chinese ladies trying to tell you that they have the best deals.  It helps if you have a Chinese speaker in your group, but most everyone seems to be willing to work with you by typing their asking price into a calculator for you to see.  Check out CNN Travel's write up here.


The rules of bargaining apply here just as much as elsewhere.  You should easily be able to get at least 1/3 off of their asking price if your prescription isn't too bad (i.e.: if they ask 300RMB, offer 200RMB and don't budge).  But as with everything else you might barter over, don't fall in love with a specific one and have a backup.  Shouldn't be a problem with the hundred or so vendors at the 3 Yeh market.  The vendors can be quite pushy, so if you don't want them to keep shoving glasses at you, I found the silent treatment worked pretty well.

Since I already have my good pair of glasses from Warby Parker and spring is just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to try to find some prescription sunglasses.  I have a tough face to fit glasses to, so I wasn't super optimistic, but lo and behold, I managed to find two pairs that I liked at two different stalls.  With a little bargaining, and because I have an easy prescription, I got one pair for 150RMB and the other for 170RMB.  That's about $24 and $27, respectively.

[picture of my glasses]

Not bad, although I really owe it to my girlfriend and her potent combination of language, bargaining skills, and stubbornness.  They were done in less than an hour, and there's even a decent Ramen place on the ground floor to grab lunch at while you wait for your new specs!

3 Yeh optical market, 4-5/F, 360 Meiyuan Lu, near the Shanghai Railway Station (梅园路360号, 近上海火车站), 9 am - 7 pm

UPDATE! 14 March 2013 -- It appears that the most convenient exit to take out of the metro station changes depending on which line you came in on.  If you took Line 1, then Exit 4 is your friend.  If you came in on Line 3/4, take Exit 2 and then cross the bus-filled street straight in front of you.  Even though you can connect between Lines 3/4 and Line 1, the station is pretty spread out underground and there are separate exits for each line.

Also, some of the prices are so cheap that bargaining isn't even worth your time.  If the opening offer is 150rmb for a stylish, half-way decent pair of specs, just go with it.  Stall 4099 was great to deal with on my most recent trip.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chinese "Unrestricted Warfare"

Interesting, if slightly reactionary, article from Quartz (aka: The Atlantic's hipster wing) about the origins of China's (recently confirmed) cyber binge and their designs on being able to defeat their number one frenemy, the US.

I'm not sure how much to make of the original material or the author's take on this.  I feel that he may not be very familiar with the lofty rhetoric that the Chinese government and military like to toss around and could be reading a little more into the twenty year old reports than is reasonable.  Although I could be wrong, and China could be ready to flood the US with opium, crash our currency, and start setting worldwide fashion trends.  Er... maybe.


Or maybe he's under the odd delusion that China has ever or will ever follow the rules on anything.  Despite what CCTV might tell you, rule of law still doesn't seem that popular here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Redirecting back to my own domain [Updated!]

I moved my domain registration from eNom, where I originally signed up with my Google Apps account, to Hover back in November, and my website has been broken ever since.

Still not quite working
After the initial two straight days of beating my head against the (internet) wall [The walls here are concrete - only have to try that one time to learn not to do it again!], trying to get mnthomp.com to actually point to my Blogger blog, I gave up and went on vacation to Southern China.  I've tried a couple more times since to bend the MX, CNAME, and TXT records to my will and point my domain to my blog instead of some random placeholder page that I didn't even want, but I only have the patience for that about once a month, and there was really no progress, so I was on the brink of giving up hope.

Maybe this is a quick fix?
Today I went to check my Apps email, and realized that I could no longer go to "mail.(domain).com" to get my mail, instead I got the same stupid placeholder, and I was inspired / angered into action again.

After about three hours of mucking about, I think I've got everything back to how it should be.  Kinda.  I ended up doing a forward/redirect instead of actually pointing the domain to Google's hosting service, which should work.

Until I go and check it and get the above pictured nice feature of being in China: "This webpage is not available.  The connection to sh.114so.cn was interrupted."  I didn't even want to connect to "sh.114so.cn"!!!

Theoretically this is caused by whatever crappy DNS servers China Telecom uses refusing to redirect certain pages.  How this happens even when you're connected through a VPN ths is supposed to be shuttling all of your data through California, I don't know, but supposedly manually switching the DNS servers can fix this.

I'll try that later and maybe report back, but not right now.  It's noon, I've been at this for over three hours, and I haven't eaten yet today [maybe that's part of the problem...], so I'm going to go eat, not stare at the computer for a bit, and maybe try again later.


Oh, but the reason I switched from eNom to Hover in the first place is that eNom is a pain in the but to use and Hover is much more user friendly when it comes to renewing, changing records, adding redirects, subdomains, etc.  That being said, my website worked when it was a eNom, and now it doesn't.  But I honestly think that's Google's fault.

UPDATE!!  Feb 24 -- After taking some time to eat some lunch and not look at the computer screen, I realized that everything was setup correctly, I had just mistyped one line in the configuration.  Now that the mistake is corrected, everything seems to be working correctly.  I guess I could rescind my statements about the crappy China Telecom DNS servers... but they're still pretty slow, regardless.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Remembering Aaron Swartz

I know that Internet pioneer Aaron Swartz's death on January 13th is already reaching the old news phase, but I remembered this video and had to post it.  The fact that an event of the magnitude of Aaron Swartz's death is considered "old news" after only twelve days is a completely different topic.

This video is from Aaron Swartz's keynote "How we stopped SOPA" at the Freedom to Connect conference in Washington DC on May 21 2012.  This was one of his last big, public appearances and he really articulates the struggle that those who want a free and open internet face in today's legislative environment.


I don't know what conclusions we can draw from Aaron's speech, and he may have had a history of being a little bit extreme, but it definitely doesn't mean that we can relax and not stay vigilant in the face of powerful people who don't know how the internet works.

Rest in peace, Aaron.