Monday, May 27, 2013

All About China

Inspired by an e-mail my dad recently sent out I've been thinking about what news and information sources I read about China on a regular basis. Basically I'm going to list a few publications that will keep you really up to date on China.

- The Wall Street Journal
The Journal does the most reporting on China of any western news source. The only newspapers to write more about China are the Chinese ones and they're not exactly reliable. The Journal does a pretty wide range of stories, though it still has more of a business focus, and has a very good blog as well. They've broken a few really big stories, they had a lot of the best Bo Xilia information.

-The New York Times
The Times doesn't write nearly as many stories about China as the Journal does, but pretty much every story they do write is really excellent. The quality of their China stories in the past year has been so high that I'm really excited every time I see a new one pop up on their website. They had a big story recently on the family money of former Premier Wen Jiabao.

Sinocism is a newsletter and website, I believe I've mentioned before, that is one guys compilation of the best news and opinion about China from the past day. He gives an amazingly thorough overview of everything written about China. If you read every link in his e-mail you'd know everything happening in China, even just reading his short summaries is great.

 Caixin is the best Chinese newspaper and website I've seen. The publish in both English and Chinese, there is more in Chinese but it's pretty good in English too. It's really surprising how critical and direct they can be about China and even the decisions of the government. You do see propaganda puff pieces from time to time, but overall it's very much worth checking out.

Xinhua is propaganda, literally, it's a creating of the Propaganda and Public Information Departments. That being said it can be good to see what the Chinese governments view on world events is from their perspective. It's also not quite as silly or overblown as People's Daily English version or the incredibly jingoistic Global Times.
Reddit's subsection on China stands in here for pretty much any expat forum on China. The information on all of these tends to be a pretty similar discussion of the best from various small expat websites and other interesting things happening in China.

-The Economist
The Economist does a section specifically on China in every issue and tends to cover a lot of stuff related to China in its other sections as well. There writing isn't the best but it does have a lot about China and it's usually a fun read.

-Foreign Affairs/Foreign Policy
Both of these magazines have less about China than The Economist but what they do have is much better. When they do have stories on China they tend to be really interesting stuff that you won't find anywhere else. It's only a pity that they sometimes go a while without any China stories. A special nod here to Foreign Policies blog, I've seen quite a few short but good stories showing up there in the last few months. It's worth keeping an eye on.

There are so many books worth reading on China I couldn't make a complete list here. Almost everything in the China section of the Kindle store is worth reading. A special note here to River Town, the definitive book on teaching English in China, The Party, the best book on the Chinese government I've ever read, and Prisoner of the State, the amazing first had account of rise and fall of Zhao Ziyang one of China's top leaders in the Deng Xiaoping era. But there are many many more on every conceivable aspect of China. Generally if you are interested the Amazon reviews will set you right.

I wasn't sure if I should include this one here as I've never actually read it. CPOL is an e-mail list created by a UC-Berkeley professor. It has a number of notable academics and government people discussing issues related to China. The problem is that despite having more than a thousand members they don't just let anyone read it. They are incredibly snobby about who they allow on and they don't want the e-mails shared, as if a list with this many people is really secret. If you can get it it would be worth reading it, but I can't really help you there.

Well that about wraps it up. If anyone has anything they really feel I've missed I'd love to hear about it. I'm always looking for new stuff on China.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Home is Where the Heart Is

My time in China is drawing to a close, I'll be leaving in mid-July, and I'm getting pretty excited to go home. I've mentioned before on this blog that I think the that culture shock isn't just a one time thing but a feeling that comes and goes. Well, I'm feeling it right now. I really like China, but at the moment I'm just sick of all things China.

I'm sick of the people on the metro, the food, the weather, the pollution, the noise, the internet, and so much more. I can't wait to be back in the US where there is so much choice in the food, the internet runs so quickly, and people don't try to walk directly though you on the metro. For anyone who thinks they've seen bad public transportation behavior in the US, you have absolutely no idea how bad it gets. My plan right now is to visit people in DC in late July before going out to get situated for grad school. It has been nearly two years since I've been in DC, I didn't go home last summer. I can't wait to be back in the US for a while. I still love traveling, but I'm sort of China'd out at the moment.

I'm excited to see my friends and my family again, besides my immediate family it's been quite a while. I feel like I'm a little kid crossing off days on the calendar before his birthday. I still have a good amount of stuff to complete here with classes and whatnot, but it seems like it is almost done.

As for this blog I think it needs to end when I go back to the US. Even if I'd like to write about grad school I'm not sure it's such a good idea. Writing about things in China very few of the people I wrote about had any idea about this blog so I was free to say what I wanted, but in the US that won't be the case. Anyway the blog has had a good run and there are still a few more things I want to talk about. But for now I'm just excited to be going home.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mystery Pants

In China no one has a dryer to go with their washing machine. I'm not really sure why dryers are so rare if washing machines have become pretty ubiquitous, but everyone here hangs up their cloths. To facilitate this all the apartments where I live have small balconies with places to hang your cloths built in. Yesterday I was out on my balcony doing my laundry, my washing machine is also out there, when I saw two pairs of pants that weren't mine. I figured they must have fallen from one of the cloths lines higher up. It's never happened to me but sometimes I see cloths on the ground around the building that have clearly fallen off someone's line. The way my balcony is positioned at the corner of my building there is no way these pants could have gotten there except to have fallen from one of the apartments above me. As I live on the eight floor of an eleven floor building that only left three apartments directly above me.

When I went up with the pants to talk to my upstairs neighbors none of them said the pants were theirs. The people above me, who I had been sure the pants belonged to since they had an extra cloths line coming off their balcony just above where I found the pants, repeatedly insisted that theses pants didn't belong to them. The people living two floors above me were also sure the pants weren't theirs. And as far as I could tell no one at all lives in the apartment on the top floor, or at least I think that's what the old people who were hanging out on that floor were trying to tell me. So the pants remained a mystery. One of my neighbors offered to take them downstairs and hang them up somewhere where people walking into the building would see them. So that the owner of the pants could find them. So far the pants remain hanging their near the elevator just as much of a mystery as ever.

Friday, May 3, 2013

My Wrist

I haven't really written much about it here, but as some of you know my wrist has been hurt for quite a while now. Nearly nine months ago my wrist started bothering. I'm not 100% sure what caused the pain initially, it could have been the way my mouse and computer were set up. At first I basically just ignored it figuring it would go away in a few days or weeks. But as it got worse I saw a doctor in Beijing. The doctor thought that it was Tendonitis and suggested some stretches and rest. Over the time since then it's gotten better and worse from time to time. I have some pet theories about why, but I don't really know. About a month ago I finally saw a wrist specialist in Hong Kong. He took an MRI to see if there was any serious problem in my wrist. The good news was that the MRI didn't show anything serious that would require surgery. The bad news was that it didn't really show exactly what was wrong. The doctor gave me a shot of cortisone, just like ailing baseball players get, but it hasn't helped much so far. I've done what the doctor recommended but my wrist just doesn't seem to get better.

I don't want to make it sound like I'm in crippling pain or anything. My wrist is just sort of sore all the time, or at least a lot of the time. I take ibuprofen sometimes which helps, though there's only so much of that stuff you can take. My real concern though is that it will get worse when I start grad school and I have to write all the time. Typing isn't that bad actually. It doesn't feel good on my wrist but there are things that bother me a lot more. I'm just worried that when I have to do a lot more of it than I have to do now that I will be in a lot of pain. Instead of just being excited to start grad school I've been pretty anxious because I'm worried about my wrist acting up more and more. It's not that it would be painful enough to stop me now, it hurts but I can deal with it. I'm basically worried that it'll get worst when I have to write all the time. Writing with a pen is actually a lot worse for me right now, but everyone seems to use laptops in school these days anyways.

Well that's what's going on with my wrist. I'm going to try some physical therapy, and I'm still hoping the cortisone shot I got will end up having a bigger effect, but there doesn't seem to be too much more I can do. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Water Water Everywhere but Not A Drop to Drink

I miss getting potable water out of the tap. In some countries the locals drink the tap water but most people advise foreigners to steer clear. In China no one drinks the tap water without at least boiling it first. As long as I've been in China though I've gotten my water from big water cooler jugs that the school has delivered to my apartment. I hadn't gotten any more in a while since when they last delivered them they brought 5 at once. A few days ago when I noticed my last jug of water was getting low I texted the foreign affairs guy here David asking for more water. He told me that he couldn't get any more because it turns out the water might be "dirty" as he put it. I'm still not sure what exactly "dirty" means, but it can't be good. What's more, when I talked to my students about this it turns out they've known for at least a month. No one though bothered to tell me. I don't blame the students, they probably assumed I knew, but no one from the administration or foreign affairs department thought to tell me that my water might not be clean. And I'm sure that if the students have known about it for a month it has been a problem much longer than that.

So now I'm stuck. The water in the cooler has some unnamed problem. On top of that my favorite brand of bottled water recently was involved in a scandal about its cleanliness. And I've ever heard that while boiling water kills the bacteria it doesn't really do much for heavy metals that might slip into the Chinese water supply. When my doctor said I should get more iron I don't think he meant and lead as well. So I've been reduced to going to the store every day and buying another brand of bottled water. If this one has problems also I don't think I even want to know at this point. I asked one of my students what she does about all this, her response was that she just drinks it anyways. I suppose that's always an option. Bottoms up!