The Malaysia trip, part 2

The Malaysia trip, part 2
GEORGE TOWN, PENANG, MALAYSIA — So, I’ve been here three weeks so far. What have I been doing? Walking a lot and riding buses, taking lots of pictures, eating interesting food. Soaking in all these new places and experiences. And trying to relax. No hurries, no worries. So far, I have spent about a week in Kuala Lumpur, about five days in Cameron Highlands, and tomorrow I will finish a week in George Town, Penang. Next, I will spent three days in Singapore for Chinese New Year — which should be fun — and then a week in Kota Kinabalu on the island of Borneo. Then back to KL, and China. The most interesting thing I’ve done by far is witness the Thaipusam festival (see photo at right) at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur on Jan. 24. It’s a religious festival, but a joyful one. So the feeling was very light hearted. I like Kuala Lumpur in general, too. But I grew up near New York City, so if you’re not a city person, KL may leave you feeling exhausted. There are tons of things to see and do (and eat!), but it’s also crowded, noisy and not especially hospitable ...

Ten years! How did that happen?

GEORGE TOWN, PENANG, MALAYSIA — I’ve been blogging here for ten years! I just realized it today, while talking to a fellow blogger who is staying at the same airbnb location as I. My first post was Jan. 18, 2006. And here it is, Feb. 3, 2016! I missed the anniversary. Better late than never. That is all. Have a good one!

USA, UK, Sweden also wonder what happened to 5 Hong Kong booksellers

USA, UK, Sweden also wonder what happened to 5 Hong Kong booksellers
US State Department officials have joined British and Swedish counterparts in questioning mainland Chinese authorities about the sudden disappearances of five Hong Kong booksellers during the last several months. The five men are part of a publishing house and bookshop specializing in gossipy exposés about officials of the Chinese Communist Party, including current president Xi Jinping. According to the “one country, two systems” rule established after the return of Hong Kong to the mainland in 1997, the Beijing government is supposed to honor the autonomy of the former British colony and guarantee Hong Kongers’ rights of free speech and free press. However, Gui Minhai, who holds Swedish citizenship, turned up on China’s national TV last month, saying he had turned himself over to mainland authorities voluntarily for a decade-old fatal drunk driving accident. Gui had been vacationing in Thailand when he mysteriously disappeared last October. Lee Bo, who holds dual Chinese and British citizenship, turned up on the mainland after disappearing from Hong Kong on Dec. 30. His wife met with him at a mainland resort, saying he was part of an investigation. The other three men are also believed to be detained somewhere on the mainland. [UPDATE Feb. 5, ...

The Atlantic Monthly fails Science 101, #FlatEarth ers rejoice

<em>The Atlantic Monthly</em> fails Science 101, #FlatEarth ers rejoice
GEORGE TOWN, PENANG, MALAYSIA — There is just so much wrong about a science writer equating “fringe science” with real science in a major magazine that I feel compelled to write a response. I know, I should be writing about my wonderful vacation trip instead of grousing about an essay praising science cranks for their creativity and inquisitive spirit, but Lizzie Wade’s essay in The Atlantic Monthly, “In Defense of Flat Earthers,” just irritates the crap out of me. It bothers me because Wade, whose background as a science writer seems pretty solid, gets all touchy-feely, New-Agey and says fringe scientists are just so adorable, trying to make sense of the world in their cockeyed ways. Why, they’re just like real scientists! No, they are not. I will explain why momentarily. Even more annoying is Wade’s response to criticism that she’s fundamentally missed the boat on what science is and does. She tweeted this rejoinder to one such complaint: It’s not my job to promote science or encourage people to become scientists. https://t.co/lepZqYmMH2 — Lizzie Wade (@lizzie_wade) January 28, 2016 What in blue blazes do you think your job is, Lizzie Wade? A science writer shuld be writing about science, ...

The Malaysia trip, part 1

The Malaysia trip, part 1
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — With a five-week holiday break coming up, I decided in November not to dilly-dally like I did last year, and make a plan for an extended trip to someplace warm. I settled on Malaysia for the most emotional of reasons — a friend posted photos of Malaysian palm trees and blue seas on WeChat. I haven’t quite made it to the blue seas yet — that comes next week — but there have been plenty of palm trees, and so far, mostly sunshine so far. It’s going well. Last year, I postponed buying air tickets to Indonesia until prices were too high, so this time I booked early. From Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur was only $182 roundtrip on AirAsia, including trip insurance and a $20 checked baggage fee. That was well within my budget, but I had to juggle departure and arrival times to avoid the price hikes around Chinese New Year (Feb. 7 and 8 this year). Air fares fell off dramatically for a long stay of four weeks. I bit the bullet, and booked the tickets. This will be the longest vacation trip I’ve ever taken, and one of the first adjustments I’ve ...

Hong Kong wonders what happened to 5 missing booksellers

Hong Kong wonders what happened to 5 missing booksellers
Despite the promise of “one country, two systems” when the British handed Hong Kong back to China, it seems the mainland has a different interpretation of the agreement than Hong Kong does. Five Hong Kong booksellers have gone missing, and Hong Kong authorities suspect the mainland government has something to do with it. The book dealers sell gossipy and very popular books that are highly critical of Beijing leaders, including President Xi Jinping. From the South China Morning Post: Lee Bo, 65, was last seen on Wednesday in the Chai Wan warehouse of Mighty Current, the publishing house that owns the bookstore. He vanished weeks after his four associates went missing in similar circumstances. Gui Minhai, owner of the publishing house, disappeared while on holiday in Thailand. Missing person reports were made about three others who disappeared after visiting the mainland separately: bookstore manager Lam Wing-kei; general manager of the publishing house Lui Bo; and business manager, Cheung Jiping. Lee’s wife has said her husband called her from Shenzhen the night he disappeared. He told her he was “assisting in an investigation” about the missing associates. She found it strange that Lee talked to her in Putonghua instead of Cantonese. ...

The term is nearly over!

The term is nearly over!
JISHOU, HUNAN — December here is always a busy time, so I’ve been lax in posting here. Or maybe just lazy. One of those could be a typo. That’s my story, anyway. Though Christmas is not an official holiday in China, our college puts on a Christmas show every year, and invariably I am recruited to be on stage in one way or another. Fortunately, the college has given up the practice of asking me to play Father Christmas (Santa Claus), as I guess I was giving out signals that I wasn’t very keen on playing him after the first four years. Plus, I’ve lost 5 kg (11 pounds) since I first arrived here, so I’m less portly than before. This year was easy. One of our Korean exchange students is a very good singer, and he agreed to sing a song. Then, I and some of the Chinese students would come on stage to sing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and throw candy into the audience. I wore a bright red Tang-style Chinese jacket that a group of students gave me three years ago (no Santa suit!), but we all wore Christmas hats. Foreign teachers are entitled to ...

Miss World Canada Anastasia Lin speaks to National Press Club

Skip to 5:34 to miss all the introductions, if you like.

Global warming could cut my old neighborhood off from the rest of Long Island

Global warming could cut my old neighborhood off from the rest of Long Island
The image above comes from ClimateCentral.org. You can put in your zip code or city name, and see how rising sea levels would affect that area. So, I put in 11743 (Huntington, Long Island, NY) and scrolled over to the Causeway. People from Lloyd Harbor and Lloyd Neck know what it is, but for everyone else, it’s a narrow strip of land, barely wide enough for a two-laner, connecting Lloyd Neck at the top to the rest of Long Island at the bottom. Judging from the predicted sea levels, the Causeway would be under water, as would parts of Lloyd Harbor Road, and Lloyd Neck could become an island. Of course, local government and homeowners could afford to raise the road, or build a retaining wall to keep Oyster Bay and Huntington Bay from surrounding the Neck. It would be expensive, but feasible. Now consider what happens in other parts of the world where people don’t have the capital to protect their homes from rising sea levels. They will lose their homes and will need to relocate inland. If you scroll northward, some homes in Fiddlers Green would be underwater, too. Global warming is happening, whether you want to believe ...

Chinese party newspaper calls Miss World Canada ‘pretty’ but ‘misguided’

Chinese party newspaper calls Miss World Canada 'pretty' but 'misguided'
Miss World Canada Anastasia Lin is “misguided in her values” and has only herself to blame for being barred from mainland China, an editorial in Global Times says. The Chinese Communist Party newspaper says “Lin has to pay a cost for being tangled with hostile forces against China.” The hostile force is Falun Gong, which the party considers a dangerous cult and has banned in the mainland. Lin, 25, was prevented late last month from attending the Miss World pageant in Sanya, Hainan. She got as far as Hong Kong, but was denied a visa as she was declared persona non grata by Chinese immigration officials. A practitioner of Falun Gong, the Hunan native has been very critical of China’s human rights record, and has called for the independence of Tibet and Xinjiang from the Beijing government. Both regions have ethnic minorities who resent domination by the Han majority and the distant Beijing national government. After Lin published a statement about her situation in Hong Kong, the party’s English language mouthpiece responded with a condescending editorial, calling her “pretty,” but “misguided in her values” and ignorant of her homeland. It blames Lin for acting in a way offensive to China, ...

Miss World Canada’s statement about her failed attempt to attend pageant

Miss World Canada's statement about her failed attempt to attend pageant
Anastasia Lin, Miss World Canada, published the following statement on her Facebook page today. China is preventing her from attending the Miss World competition in Hainan, apparently for political reasons. **** Dear friends, at 6:00am local time on Nov 26th I arrived in Hong Kong en route to Sanya, China, host city of the 2015 Miss World competition. Unlike all other Miss World contestants, I did not receive an invitation letter from the Chinese organizers of this event, and so was unable to obtain a visa in advance. I was never given an explanation as to why I did not receive the letter. Under Chinese law, however, Canadian citizens are eligible to obtain a landing visa upon arrival in Sanya, so I decided to try attending anyway. Unfortunately, I was prevented from boarding the plane from Hong Kong to Sanya. No reason was given for the denial. I will be holding a press conference in Hong Kong tomorrow morning at 10am local time at the Regal Airport Hotel. The slogan of the Miss World competition is “Beauty with a purpose.” My purpose is to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves—those who suffer in prisons and labor camps, or ...

Chinese officials bar Miss World Canada from flight to Hainan pageant

Chinese officials bar Miss World Canada from flight to Hainan pageant
Anastasia Lin, Miss World Canada, has been prevented from boarding a flight from Hong Kong to Sanya, Hainan, to attend the Miss World pageant, the AP reports. Lin had not received the necessary letter of invitation from Chinese immigration authorities to obtain her visa, but she attempted to fly in China anyway. Hong Kong is administered separately from the mainland and does not require visas for Canadian citizens. The preliminary activities of the pageant began Monday. Lin, a follower of Falun Gong spirituality, is an outspoken critic of China’s poor human rights record. The Beijing government considers Falun Gong a dangerous cult, and has banned the organization within China. The 25-year-old theater student was born in China, but emigrated to Canada with her mother at age 13. Her father still lives near Changsha, Hunan. More details at The Guardian.
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