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Good Reads on China and Reality

December 19, 2009 at 7:14 p.m.

James Fallows is right: The 44 percent of Americans who recently told Pew that China "is the world’s leading economic power" are (I'll be kinder than Fallows here) deluded.

But it's not an entirely unreasonable misconception, given the way China gets talked about on this side of the Pacific. China's economy is booming (though it, too, has suffered in the Great Recession). Its military is growing (even if it is far behind the US). It remains stubbornly Communist and undemocratic (though a far cry from totalitarian in many ways, and the central government is far less ...


Geotagging: News here, now (or there, then)

October 31, 2008 at 11:57 p.m.

In a comment on yesterday's post about making news easy to find and easy to share, Alex reminds me that he and I have had this conversation before. Now that I think about it, we've had this conversation a lot, especially about finding relevant news based on location.

And about this time last year you and I worked out a way to do this. Well, the skeleton of one. It can be built, but UI is important, and location’s not going to happen unless Geotagging is made easy, and no one’s going to use it unless ...


A short history of DalianDalian.com, and why you should build your own

September 17, 2008 at 7:13 p.m.

When I arrived in Dalian, most of what I knew about the city came from word of mouth. I'd spent a few months hanging around a local expat forum, reading blogs, emailing people who lived there.

I read up on the city where I could, but coverage of smaller cities in China (even small cities of three to six million) tends take a birds-eye view. I knew about Thomas Friedman's ongoing love affair with the Northeast's biggest outsourcing hub, and I knew about the Sino- and Russo-Japanese wars. There was more out there, but it was scattered ...


The trouble with counting people in China

May 28, 2008 at 9:03 a.m.

A while back, I tried to answer a simple question people often asked me about Dalian: How many people live there?

Simple question, tough answer. Alex found a good dataset, which we put on DalianDalian. Well, the question has come back.

I'm writing a cover story on real estate in China's second-tier cities for an investment newsletter, and as part of the project, I've decided to compile a database of locales, most of which people outside of China have likely never heard (admittedly, there are some I couldn't have put on a map before starting this ...


So long Dalian, and thanks for all the fish

January 29, 2008 at 8:08 a.m.

I'm leaving Dalian. And China.

I know this seems like a good time to be in China, and hence, an awkward time to leave. I had planned to stay until the Olympics.

I wish there were an easy way to explain why I've decided to go back to California, but there isn't. I woke up one day back in November with one clear thought in my head: "Time to go home."

The best reasons I can give are my girlfriend and my grandparents. In about two weeks, my girlfriend and I will hit the four year mark ...


Podcast: At Home in Dalian, China

January 26, 2008 at 3:24 a.m.

Podcasters Marcia and Lisle Veach interviewed me a couple weeks back for their show, At Home in China. We talked about:

How might subtle differences in culture and language become a barrier to mutual understanding between people from the West and China? Marcia interviews Chris, a journalist who is currently teaching English and studying Chinese in northeastern China.

Listen to the whole show here.

I mentioned a few blogs and a few books in the podcast, and I'll recommend them all again here:



Act Three: Into the heart of Seoul

January 2, 2008 at 4:37 p.m.

Feet are firmly planted in 2008. Memories are catching up with reality and moving into the cold year ahead. But Seoul does not hibernate. Continued from before, and from even earlier:

Act Three: A Chinese Connection

Someone in front of me was speaking Chinese. Three someones, on second look, middle-aged or better, and not from Dalian or Shandong judging by accents.

Arriving in South Korea means going back to the beginning. New country, new language, a month of playing charades just to order a meal. Such is travel.

I sat on bus 24. The woman who changed my USD to ...


Slow boat, slower money. Act Two.

December 30, 2007 at 1:04 p.m.

Seoul is lightly salted with snow. An aggressive chill is setting in, just in time for New Years, but first, the recollection continues from yesterday:

Act Two: Please do not tap on the glass

I have my visa. I'm packed. My boat leaves in four hours and all I need to do is take enough money to last me a month out of my bank of China account, change it to South Korean Won US dollars (other currencies aren't available this year) and get on the boat. I mean, I have to buy a ticket to another country ...


Slow boat to Korea: Act One

December 28, 2007 at 2:48 p.m.

Eyes East is once again blogging from Seoul. I'd like to say I'm here for a deeper look at Korean culture or to gaze into the future through the lens of the most wired country on Earth, really, I'm here for the cash. I'm teaching at Yonsei University again, and I'll be here for most of January.

We'll get to the day-to-day details a few posts hence. First, a bit about getting here, in three acts:

Act One: Dalian to Shenyang to Dalian to Shenyang....and finally we have a visa

Getting a visa ...


Back alley Japanese BBQ: Pure joy on a stick

December 23, 2007 at 1:06 p.m.

Japanese BBQ - Click for mapA few days ago, I ate one of the best meals I've had in Dalian.

I've eaten well here, to be sure: dumplings of all variety at DaQingHua, curry at Abashi, pizza at Noah's. Add to that list Japanese barbecue at the pragmatically-named Barbecue Coals.

Consider the selection:

Grilled chicken teriyaki with a hint of lemon, covered in melted cheese.

Shitake mushrooms, cooked soft, subtle, and simple.

Asparagus, something I haven't had in China, roasted and served with a dollop of mayonnaise on the side, which I indulged in but felt guilty about (for masking the ...


Thieves and neighbors

December 14, 2007 at 11:20 a.m.

I was grocery shopping with my flatmate the other day, going through the list of needs and wants, when she came to oranges.

"Oranges?" I had to ask: "Why not just buy them on the street outside our building?"

"Because they rip me off," she said. "They see a foreigner and they double the price." And so she buys most of her fruit and vegetables, nearly all the food in our apartment, actually, at WalMart or one of the big Chinese hypermarkets. Sometimes this means she pays more, sometimes less. But the chains don't mark up on an individual ...


The Tattoo

November 13, 2007 at 3:52 p.m.

Fithi Garza decided to tattoo his late brother's name in Chinese on his arm. He did it in a back room in Dalian's Nepalese Bar. There is, by my estimation, exactly one advantage to getting inked in the back of a Chinese laowai bar: the characters will probably be right.

Production notes: This was all done on my Canon point and shoot, as usual, and I'm pretty satisfied with the sound quality. Note to self: Get all primary interviews done before the subject's friends show up with beer. Editing went faster this time. I think I ...


YouTube is back in China (and Hong Kong and Taiwan)

October 31, 2007 at 11:17 a.m.

YouTube is back online. After a week of timed out connections, the English and both Chinese versions (Hong Kong and Taiwan) of the site are working again, at least in Dalian and Beijing.

No way to know how long this will last. Flickr still appears at least partially blocked (checked using Safari), the same as it has been since June. Wordpress.com blogs are working again, too, at least for the moment. Blogspot doesn't look to be so lucky.

At least now I can watch the next Heroes preview, and other weird crap like this:

So much for getting ...


Everything Dalian. For Everyone.

October 30, 2007 at 2:23 a.m.

Dalian is not the easiest place to stay on top of news. National news, sure, that's everywhere, but local news? Not so much, at least not in English. About six months ago, a few of us here started working to fix that.

The result thus far is here: DalianDalian.com. Last week I applied for a Knight Foundation News Challenge Grant to fund the project, explaining it this way:

DalianDalian.com is a hyperlocal, community-driven site that will provide news, information and ways to connect for people living in Dalian, China. The city is home to six million people ...


Notes on taking the GRE in China

October 28, 2007 at 12:33 p.m.

Thousands of students across Asia hoping to enter American graduate schools took the GRE yesterday, finishing the second half of the split administration given in China, Taiwan and South Korea. And I was sitting right there with all of them.

I took the computer-based analytical writing section in July, just before I flew to Madagascar. I scheduled it a week prior and went in on a Tuesday. I was the only one there. The administrator made me leave my bag, phone and everything in my pockets in a locker. A security camera watched me the entire time, and cubicle walls ...