Panoramic, high-res view of Mars by Curiosity rover

Mars Gigapixel Panorama - Curiosity rover: Martian solar days 136-149 in Out of this World Andrew Bodrov has taken 407 high-res photographs taken by the Curiosity rover to create this 360-degree panorama of the Martian surface. You can use your mouse or the cursor arrows to pan and zoom.

Now, that’s planning ahead! 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Well-to-do Chinese love to dote on their “little emperors and empresses,” but one Chinese mother has raised the bar by purchasing a $6.5 million Manhattan condo for her daughter to live in while she is in college. Her daughter is two years old. Apparently, this doting mother expects her darling to attend Columbia, NYU or Harvard, according to news reports. (Mom needs to brush up on American geography, I suspect.) The property in question hasn’t even been built yet. According to CBS News, it’s the proposed One57 project, a rectangular glass-and-steel monolith overlooking Central Park south.

Springtime in Jishou 1

Springtime in Jishou
JISHOU, HUNAN — Just some pretty pictures I took with my mobile phone while walking around this week.

South African diplomat represents a little too much, recalled from Shanghai 4

JISHOU, HUNAN — Chinese people already have a pretty poor opinion of Africans, and South Africa’s consul-general to China has not helped matters. Lassy Chiwayo (at left, with his partner) was allegedly caught three months ago wandering naked near his home in Shanghai. Chiwayo also allegedly assaulted the South African ambassador to China, Bheki Langa, at a Beijing function. So, according to news sources in China and South Africa, he’s been ordered home (some say deported, but it’s not clear) and relieved of his duties. The official word is that he’s experiencing medical problems that have caused his erratic behavior. Chiwayo denies he’s done anything wrong, and insists he is still consul-general to China, although he is now in Pretoria. And the only reason I am blogging this tidbit is that I get to mention China and South Africa, where I have both lived, in the same post.

Textbook publisher Wiley & Sons loses Supreme Court copyright case

JISHOU, HUNAN — Selling textbooks printed abroad in the USA does not infringe the copyright of the books’ publisher, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a 6-3 decision. The decision means a Thai entrepreneur can legally resell textbooks in the States. The adversaries in this case were John Wiley & Sons, which publishes the text I used for AP Physics for many years, among others, and Supap Kirtsaeng, a Thai student who found a clever way to make money. He bought Wiley’s texts legally in Thailand, where the prices are lower than in the States, and then resold them (legally) in the USA for a tidy profit, while still undercutting Wiley’s American retail prices. (Which is not hard, considering how high those prices are, especially for science, technology, engineering and math — STEM — texts. One book alone might cost $150 or more.) As you can imagine, Wiley was not pleased, and took Kirtsaeng to court, contending that he was violating its copyright by reselling books intended for Thai consumers in the USA. Two lower courts found in Wiley’s favor, but the Supreme Court overturned those decisions, finding no clear provisions in existing copyright law that would make Kirtsaeng’s enterprise ...

So, classes started last week …

JISHOU, HUNAN — This term is shaping up to be a lot more relaxed than the last three have been. First off, I have only 10 class sessions a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. Those are for Oral English with the sophomores and Listening Comprehension with the freshmen. Then, a new feature (since I am expected to have at least 16 class sessions a week) is six periods of “office hours.” Having never really had office hours in the past, this is a new concept to me. My initial impression was office hours similar to those at American universities. The professor sits in his office doing what-not, waiting for anxious students to appear. But no! Those office hours are expected to be tutorials, à la Oxbridge. So, for three of those hours I was asked to make a schedule for the students I will meet (freshman class 1) and devise some kind of exercise for them. The other three “office hours” will be devoted to meeting with a gaggle of non-English majors preparing for the English speaking contest. These have yet to be scheduled. Since I didn’t teach the freshmen last term, I’m using the first session as a get-acquainted ...

Nothing ever really disappears from the Web, even censored Weibos

JISHOU, HUNAN — Chinese authorities routinely delete, censor or block material in the Internet deemed inappropriate. That includes posts by users of Sina Weibo, one of the big Twitter-like services in China. But, nothing ever really disappears from the Web. Some clever netizens have found a way to “rescue” deleted Weibo posts. They repost them at, and some of these end up on Blocked on Weibo at This post, showing a portrait of Mao wearing a facemask (in Beijing, where the air quality has recently been abysmal), got quickly axed. Government officials have no sense of humor, it seems.

Hubble telescope finds Space Invader!

This is an example of gravitational lensing. A massive object between us and a distant galaxy warps space-time, “blurring” the image of the distant galaxy into a bug-eyed monster. (The classic video game Space Invaders had similar-looking critters.) This cluster of galaxies — each containing hundreds of millions of stars — is about 2 billion light-years away. So, we’re seeing these galaxies the way they looked a long time ago. [Photo from Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute.]
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