Friday, October 31, 2008

Our 10th Trip to China

I decided I had to put a number on this trip so I can better keep track. Each time we go, a workshop is involved, but then we travel elsewhere and after awhile, the places that are linked start to blur. Judith has been a couple more trips than I, but this is our 10th together.

Most of time we first fly to Beijing, where one can look out the airplane window during the flight and brush up on their foreign policy by seeing Russia, and spend at least one night there before flying elsewhere. Beijing was our primary destination this time. We were put up in the Longxi Hotspring Resort 35 miles south of the center of town and we are then driven a short distance away to the government’s correctional academy for Judith’s workshop presentation. Here is a picture of the lobby of the resort.

The windows in the back look out upon the various hot springs and swimming pools. This is a place where you only see Chinese people. Apparently this is not on the foreign tourist route.

In the late afternoon and early evening we enjoy the various hot pools of water filled with a wide variety of herbs that promise to keep various parts of your body, mind and soul healthy. And they had a salt bed which consists of sea water salt crystals a little smaller than the size of dice. You sit or lay back in the salt so that impurities can be soaked out. I had fun making salt angels. After showering off, we then tried about 6-7 other pools of varied temperature although always warm to hot. No photos were allowed to be taken though.

We met some Chinese business men in the pools who spoke English. They said the resort was very popular in the winter time as a place to warm up and relax. There are also some pools outside and the place is lighted creatively. The evening temperature in October starts to drop and it starts to feel like a hot tub after a day of skiing.

The highlight for me were the pools with the turkey fish (not piranha) that nibbled your skin, removing dead skin. There were two different pools. One had smaller fish which we try first and then the pool with the somewhat larger fish. My earlier post shows the fish pretty well.

Well, the fish really, really liked me. I started out with just the feet and shins but gradually eased into the pool, keeping my head out of the water, and they were all over me. I found it to be highly stimulating and enjoyable. And when I graduated to the larger fish pool, even more so.

The first day at the academy, we met our host General Lee and posed for official photos as is the custom. The most important person is always in the middle flanked in rank outwardly. I could not help noticing that the General wore his Mao jacket the first day. The woman on the right is Professor Geri Donenberg who came as a guest speaker from UIC. And of course, the always reliable Professor Charles Wood from the University of Nebraska is next to the General. Later at lunch we are joined by our interpreter, David, who was really good. We are almost always given a private room of which there are usually many at any good restaurant Our host arranged for us to visit the Beijing Wildlife Park just a little further south. It was a glorious fall day and we saw many different animals and birds. At the resort there is a beautiful and challenging golf course. I passed up the opportunity reluctantly. Maybe next time.

Here are a few of the highlights of our wildlife park outing.

We got in this caged truck where we fed ruminants some carrots. And they had some meat outside the cage for the big cats, although they never seemed to eager when the food was presented. They knew they would get it so why get excited.

The next day we are off to Guiling.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

China Scene

Every day the English written China Daily is available to read in Beijing. It features a New York Times cross-word puzzle, some sports news, and a Chinese government favorable slant on world and local news. It also also has a section called "China Scene" with little vignette stories from around the country. Some are sad but many are amusing and more than one will surprise because it tells something about the justice system. For example:

Man gets 8 years in jail for sex with minor
An 18 year old man from Funing county, Tianjin, has been sentenced to 8 years in prison for having sex with a 13 year old girl. He was charged with rape as the country's existing law makes it clear that those having sex with girls under the age of 14 would receive heavier punishment even if she consented.

The man has appealed to a higher court on account he did not know the real age of the girl, who was forced to have an abortion after falling pregnant. The case will be heard soon.

Comment--If the girl was 14 would the man still be punished? Will the appeal hold any validity?

Fine for commuter's cell phone porn video revoked
Police officers in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province traveled to Chongqing to apologize to a local resident after a train policeman invaded his privacy a few days ago.

When Tang Shanghai was accosted by the officer between Chongqing and Hangzhou, he was fined 200 yuan ($29) for having a pornographic video stored on his cell phone.

Tang's experience caused a stir online where a large number of netizens opined that the policeman had invaded his individual privacy.

Hangzhou's public security bureau agreed, and leading officers were dispatched to apologize to Tang and reimburse him.

Comment-So there is a right for privacy to view porno? Is there any compensation for having your name printed all over China for watching porno? And netizens had enough power to have an apology and return of fine issued?

One of the headlines stories today is about Microsoft's anti-piracing system Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) caused screens to go black when an upgrade is automatically installed, if Windows installed on the computer is not genuine. Internet experts and industry insiders have expressed grave concern.

Friday, October 10, 2008

An Open Letter to Senator Obama

Senator Obama, the man pictured below talked to the American people on March 13, 1993 via the radio about the banking crisis that helped produce the Great Depression. This was before Senator McCain or I were born. This is of course, President Franklin Roosevelt who was our leader through the Great Depression and WWII. He gave a series of talks to the American people on radio throughout his tenure of President. They were known as fireside chats. He is pictured below giving his first fireside chat. In 1944, he was still giving his chats and I remember my parents listening to him with great interest. I remember vividly, the day FDR died and how the nation mourned.

At the end of his chat, he said this--"There is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. You people must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system; it is up to you to support and make it work.

It is your problem no less than it is mine. Together we cannot fail."

Senator, it is up to you to approach our current financial mess with the same type of message to unite us and to ask us not to panic. You missed an opportunity to do this in your last town hall debate with Senator McCain when asked what sacrifices you would ask of the American people. You could have given one of your inspirational talks about the greatness of our nation and its people and the resiliency we have always shown. Then ask us to simply "not panic, have confidence that we will rebound."

Its really up to you. Our present leader nor anyone in his administration has the confidence of the American people. His ability to inspire almost anyone just isn't in the cards. In fact, were he president in 1941, this is what he might do.

In the next and last debate of this campaign, I am sure you expect Senator McCain to come out slinging as much mud as possible to distract us from our present crisis. Counter-punch when necessary, but sometime look the camera in the eye and inspire us as only you can do.
My fellow Americans are thirsty for hope and inspiration. Remind us of our greatness and reestablish our confidence. Trust me on this. This is an opportunity to secure our faith in your leadership.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Piranha Spa Treatment??

We are off to China again, leaving Saturday with Beijing and Guilin as our primary destinations.

The Beijing locale should be interesting. The Longxi Hotspring 5 star resort, 35 miles south-west of the airport is hosting the conference. They mentioned that the spa has a baby piranha treatment where the fish munch (actually the description didn't use the word munch, but I like to use it because the sound of the word describes the action) on your dead skin.

Now I don't know for sure that the fish are actually piranha, but stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Craven Cynicism and Chaperoned Campaigning

As I watched last night’s Town Hall style debate between Senator Obama and Senator McCain, I was puzzled by the fact this was the format that Senator McCain preferred and wondered why. It was not the format (especially with the Botoxed audience) that would allow Senator McCain to keep hammering his recent personal attacks against Senator Obama in an effort to change the subject away from the economy.

So he instead had to rely on his tired stump speech sound bites that are full of lies and distortions. Time and time again, Senator Obama, coolly and thoughtfully, answered with detailed persuasion and vision, which led to Senator McCain’s slightly visible but undeniable frustration. Obama even, properly I thought, disrupted the format to counter the oft repeated “he will raise your taxes” lie. Why does McCain keep saying that? Only his rich and semi-rich base will respond to that.

Having the last word, Senator McCain closed with one of his biggest falsehoods, “I have always put my country first.” I won’t call it a lie because I think his mind has rationalized his torture experience to justify his right to put himself first.

Eight years ago in the primaries against then Governor Bush, Senator McCain had serious issues with Bush’s policies. In order to win his party’s primary; he catered to the Republican base, developed by Carl Rove, using the same rhetoric and positions of the last eight years. Any claim to be being a Maverick, if ever true, disappeared a couple of years ago.

But, I do know that selecting Governor Palin to be his VP was not a putting country first decision.

From Garrison Keillor's column today--“It was dishonest, cynical men who put forward a clueless young woman for national office, hoping to juice up the ticket, hoping she could skate through two months of chaperoned campaigning . . .”

This statement is so accurate and precise, that it raises my sometimes shaky belief that truth is more powerful than cynicism. Thanks Garrison Keillor. Wishing Molly Ivins was still here to enjoy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Vice President Joe Biden

The question to be asked is, “who is most able to be president should the commander-in-chief die?” Not, how did Palin do? Or, who won the debate? Senator Biden clearly established his experience and knowledge of issues with a near perfect performance. But, any semblance of an actual debate or accurate after analysis, for the most part, was no where to be found.

Truthfully, I did expect Palin to be able to form declarative sentences where the subject and predicate matched. But I wondered if she would fumble badly and she didn’t. So she exceeded expectations which some took it to mean she did well. As soon as I heard her say, "I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also," I knew what her handlers had in store for us.

Afterwards, NBC went to their panel of undecided voters to analyze their responses. Never mind these people, if they were truly undecided, must have brains whose processing circuits have to take the long way around. Or to use a Main Street term, “dim wits”. The first gentleman from Idaho thought that Biden avoided the questions and therefore, thought Palin did better. I rest my case.

I have just switched channels to find out the Cubs were way behind with the possibility of soon being 0-2 in a 5 games series. It was the low point of the evening.

Today, I find most of the commentary agreeing with my point of view, although no accounting for what the Joe Six Packs might think. But what really what helped me feel good was this from