How to access NYT articles from Beijing

James Fallows has an update. Appears that you can get to most of the articles if you simply delete the “www” that prefaces the URL. Some links, such as those to NYT blogs, don’t begin with www, and these sites will now open from the homepage, albeit slowly. But for nearly all their articles, clicking the link without manipulating the address will still result in a timed-out server.

This holds true in Beijing as of right now. Fallows says he’s having no trouble accessing the NYT from Shanghai at the moment, making the situation even more baffling. On again, off again.

Facebook has been this way for the past couple of months now – you never know if you’ll get on or not. Why do they bother? [Rhetorical question, no reply necessary.]

Update: The NYT writes about the block.


Pallin’ around with drug dealers

Palin’s new in-law’s mom arrested and charged with six felony counts, and the whisper is that she was running a meth lab. Ah, traditional family values. Remember, it was Palin who presented her white trash classy son-in-law-to-be at the convention as an exemplar of those values, since he was going to marry the 18-year-old Bristol Palin after getting her pregnant. Palin put him in the spotlight and used him for political purposes, and fairly well, at that. So to say that this is fair game is an understatement. Palin pallin’ around with meth dealers. What goes around comes around, no?


New York Times Harmonized?

Since last night, I haven’t been able to access any articles in the NYT. Oddly, the home page opens fine, but click on any link and you end up with the dreaded “Server is not responding” message. Same thing happens if you click on any links to NYT articles from other sites. I thought China had made some big strides in opening up its Internet. If this is more than a passing glitch I’ll be quite disappointed.

Update: Go here to let James Fallows know if you can access the NYT or not. (Poll ends Dec 19 at 9pm, Beijing time.)

And now, suddenly blogspot is blocked again too. And it’s not the same as usual – normally, it takes a minute or two for the server to time out on the blocked site. This time, the instant I click the link the message pops up that “the server has unexpectedly lost the connection.” Totally weird. Of course, the blocking of blogspot has been random and temperamental, like blogspot makes the Nanny go completely bipolar. So this could just be one of those off-nights, where suddenly everything goes back to normal the next day. I hope so. Back to normal, she’s back on her meds.



Must see. Awesome. The first one with the storm over the volcano is unreal.

Via Humanaught – you may also want to read his interview with John Pasden.

Chinese in the day until 3pm, then work at the office. Not a blog-friendly schedule.

Update: And since the best I can do today is offer some links, here’s a link to some more photos – pics of the Cultural Revolution I hadn’t seen before, now on display in a museum in Sichuan. When you stop and think that’s what was going on here a mere 30-some years ago….


Sad news

All long-time readers know I’ve had an affectionate, long-running feud with a certain commenter (and when I say long-running I mean more than half a decade), Sam S., who saw US politics very differently than I do. He was one of my most frequent commenters, and even though we were often at each others’ throats, we were also friends. I made a special trip to Shenzhen a few years ago to spend a day with him.

I just learned Sam has passed away from a heart attack. When I met him I was surprised to see he was a chain smoker (Marlboros, and not Lights). I was surprised because he was so into bicycling (his old blog used to feature photos of the bicycles he admired). Bicycling and cigarettes don’t seem to go well together. I’m guessing he was only in his mid-50s. Anyway, Sam was a cool guy. He was funny and outspoken and he loved China. Like me, his views about the government evolved slowly, from a black and white perspective to one that was a lot more gray. He was always wrong about US politics, of course, but I loved him anyway. He’ll be missed.


Escape from North Korean prison camp

[I realize this story is already ancient history (about 4 days old) but I just came across it and have to mention it.]

According to the video only one man is known to have ever escaped a Nork prison camp and made it out of the country, and this is his story.

More about the escapee:

He is a thin, short, shy man, with quick, wary eyes, a baby face, and sinewy arms bowed from childhood labor. There are burn scars on his back and left arm from where he was tortured by fire at age 14, when he was unable to explain why his soon-to-be-hanged mother had tried to escape. The middle finger of his right hand is cut off at the first knuckle, punishment for accidentally dropping a sewing machine in the garment factory at his camp.

And we think we’ve got problems. And yes, I know who has enabled and nurtured this utopia.


Crackdown on Shanghai’s Pajama Pedestrians?

Shanghai officials argue that pajama-wearing pedestrians are “visual pollution,” while offenders maintain they aren’t hurting anybody. I admit, my level of culture shock hit a new high the first time I came to Shanghai in 2001 and saw the likes of the above photo, but like a lot of things here, you get used to it. I can think of a lot more important things to worry about.


Popup Chinese

I’m really enjoying the lessons over at this site. They take a different approach from Chinese Pod and are geared toward a somewhat different audience. (If you’re preparing for the HSK exams, this is your place to go.) What’s most useful to me is the authentic sound and pace of the dialogues – even the elementary lessons are spoken at the actual speed at which you’ll hear people speak here, and loaded with kouyuhua. That means you have to strain to listen harder, and in doing so you become a better listener. Or at least I do.

I haven’t given up Chinese Pod, though. Their podcasts are unsurpassed for familiarizing yourself with essential phrases you’ll use again and again. Unfortunately, they shy away from grammar, while Popup Chinese embraces it. (Isn’t understanding grammar key to unlocking the mysteries of a new language?) So I find the two sites complement one another.

Too bad Chinese Pod’s lessons aren’t free anymore (not that I blame them for doing that). A few months ago I would have paid to subscribe, but right now I am being soooo careful with my money. I have a bank of about 60 pre-August 2008 CP lessons on my iPod, and soon I’ll have most of them memorized word for word. I even hear the voices of John and Jenny in my dreams.

Update: Forgot to mention this: Thanks to John over at Sinosplice I’ve started spending a couple of hours each day over at Skritter. If you’re working on improving your hanzi reading and/or writing skills, just go there now, sign up and start practicing. Once you sign up it starts customizing the lesson for you, repeating the characters you’ve had trouble with. Totally addictive. It’s a first: an addictive Web site that actually produces benefits. My reading ability shot up after just a few weeks. It helped me learn to spot the clues that differentiate certain characters that look annoyingly similar. It also drove home to me that memorizing characters by reading and looking at them isn’t enough. You have to write them. Priceless. Of course, they’ll probably ask for money soon, too, and I don’t blame them. Like Chinese Pod – and Popup Chinese – it’s worth paying for.


Shattered dreams of China’s youth

When I was in the US for Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help but notice that the news was all economic crisis all the time. There was only a short window of “relief,” when the news out of Mumbai overshadowed America’s – and the world’s – financial implosion.

It isn’t much different over here in Beijing. Talking with the teachers at my school and my Chinese colleagues in the office, nearly all of whom are in their mid-to-late 20s, I was impressed by their awareness of just how serious this crisis is and how it affects their own hopes and dreams. There are no illusions, which I see as a good thing. No false expectations that things will soon return to normal.
I see this pragmatism as a good thing. The government is not showering the public in sugar-coated messages, promising that things will soon be shiny and happy once more (though I’m sure we could find some examples of that). Instead, things seem remarkably sober, at least here in Beijing.

People always refer to Chinese stoicism, and we’re seeing it now. Students graduating from college know that finding the job they may once have assumed would be waiting for them will be an exercise in frustration and repeated disappointment. Several friends of mine say they are looking for new jobs, not because they necessarily want to leave their current ones, but because they fear the axe might fall at any moment. On the other hand, those who are unhappy with their current jobs realize now isn’t the time to resign, at least not until the ink has dried on the contract for their next job.

Which brings me to the link of the day, to a story on Slumping Economy, a message board set up by unemployed Chinese white collar workers in Shanghai, which has been drawing a huge audience. The piece underscores my own observations that the Chinese are taking the crisis in stride, and that they understand its implications for their own lives.

Maria Yin, a 24-year-old recent college graduate, started searching for jobs in Shanghai this past summer, but has had no luck yet. “It seems that lots of people are facing the same problem as I do now. It makes me feel less desperate,” said Ms. Yin, who posts on Slumping Economy. “I’ll keep going.” She said she spends an hour or so surfing the site daily, chatting with her new friends and keeping an eye out for job information.

One popular thread has members thinking of cheap ways to celebrate the coming Christmas, which has been adopted by young people and residents as an opportunity to spend time together or to share romance. Some suggested holding an online Christmas party with virtual food and gifts provided, while others said they would figure out their own ways to spend the holiday in the real world.

“I’ll put on my best cotton-padded jacket and trousers and go downtown together with my boyfriend to the most beautifully decorated square. We’ll take a photo together using my mobile phone, and then spend three yuan each to take bus No. 925 home,” wrote one user, known as Chloe.

It’s a sad, tense, confusing time for everyone. I saw it in America and I’m seeing it here. I’m glad at least that in China people are psychologically prepared for the worst. I had a sense, totally unscientific, that people in America were less well prepared, if only because crisis and deprivation have been so distant from them for so many years, even for generations. American s appear far more shell-shocked than the Chinese.


Paving the path to depression?

I have a really bad feeling about this. For all the many faults of America’s auto industry, now is not the time to let it disintegrate. Especially not when we’re propping up a more insidious and far less worthy entity, namely the financial industry. An astute financial reporter makes a persuasive argument:

They don’t deserve a bailout.

But then again, neither did Wall Street. The presumption, as we were told by the likes of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was that the consequences for the greater economy would be simply too disastrous if we just stood by and watched as the financial titans whose own greed and irresponsibility created this mess crashed and burned. And that was back in September, several months before the economy started losing half a million jobs a month (a number that seems sure to go up judging by today’s awful jobless claims figures). The U.S. economy is in much worse shape than it’s been for at least a quarter-century, and appears to be unraveling at terrific speed. Thus, an even more timely case can be made for saving Detroit as was offered for Wall Street. Does it really seem like right now is the best time to see what happens if G.M. declares bankruptcy? As a worst-case scenario, might not it be better to help Detroit limp along for another year or two, until we see whether we can get out of what our current president not too long ago called “a rough patch”?

There’s no sugarcoating this one — what’s good for Wall Street fat cats is not good for unionized Midwestern workers. It’s hard not to agree with the Detroit Free Press: We’re witnessing payback time for the UAW. Republican senators are on the warpath against organized labor.

Leave it to the Republicans to bailout Wall Street while kicking Detroit in the back. And maybe Detroit should be kicked in the back. But not right now, and not with such blithe difference to the consequences. They are playing with dynamite in a house of cards. The closing words of that article are scary as hell.

[I]t’s not so difficult for me to imagine looking back at this point from the perspective of a future historian detailing the events that led up to the Second Great Depression, and deciding to pinpoint the abandonment of Detroit as yet another grievous error that ensured a patient barely holding it together on life support went terminal.

I am under some pressure to return to America. For a number of personal reasons, I may have to. But once more, I feel that this remains a good time to be in China and paid in RMB. America really is on life support.

It’s been a long time, so some quick predictions: Current “deflation,” which is actually more of a disinflation – a return to where prices should be – will be short lived and oil prices will rise again. It’s a good time to buy oil, though it may remain depressed for another couple of months. The strengthening of the US dollar is also short-lived and will collapse as more money gets printed going forward. The new wave of home foreclosures will hit early in 2009, further devastating the banks. More money will need to be printed. You cannot have a strong dollar under those circumstances. While gold may not make you rich yet, it is still a safe bet. So is shorting long-term US treasuries. That’s my advice, take it or leave it.

Meanwhile, China will feel the pain, but will survive. As I say in my previous post, they are ready for the worst. America isn’t.