Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I couldn't resist.

Here is a photo of a sign taken in Beijing airport.
It's an area designated for nursing mothers.

Back in the USA.

After a couple of weeks in China I am back in the US. There are definitely a few things that are better in the US than in China such as blue skies, insects and birds in cities, no Internet censorship. And there are a few things that are better in China than in the US such as friendlier policemen and border guards, better food and booze, higher level of service everywhere. I thought I hated air travel but apparently I only hated travelling on US owned airlines. Flying with Chinese carriers is pleasure.

Tried a variety of strange foods such as fermented eggs, duck brain, pork stomach, shark fin (tried only once to see how it was - tastes like chicken - will never do it again) and lots of other foods. Didn't have a chance to try dog meat although I was told that the Korean restaurants serve it. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Chinese internet censorship.

The Chinese censorship of the Internet is real and is ugly. You cannot access BBC even though it is available on cable. You can't access certain CNN news items about China. You cannot access Blogspot or Livejournal either.

So how was I able to post this message?

VPN. If you are lucky to have a VPN connection to somewhere outside China, you VPN out and use the Internet from that outside address. Since the traffic coming to your location inside China is through an encrypted VPN tunnel, it apparently goes through the censorship filters. Unfortunately the vast majority of people do not have such capabilities. So the government wins.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I wish I knew about this a couple of months ago.

BBC has a photo story about the chattel homes in Barbados. These are portable wooden houses that were used by plantation workers. There are still neighborhoods in Bridgetown where the people live in these houses. Some of them are in top shape with painted walls, new roofs and manicured stamp sized front yards but there are some that are really run down.

I didn't know that some of them were shops. I saw a few bars and beauty salons but didn't think that a grocery store would fit in it. Had this story been run a couple of months ago, I would have visited this particular shop to taste and possibly buy their 50 year old home made rum.

Maybe next time.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Preparing for the presidential elections.

Only a week after the parliamentary elections in Armenia, every Tom, Dick and Harry in the political arena announced that they would be running for president in 2008. Every single opposition party leader sees himself (there are no women running parties in Armenia currently) as the next president. These people cannot learn a lesson - you can't beat the ruling party (HHSh from 1995 till 1998 and HHK since 1998) in an election if you are not united. But apparently their ambitions prevent them from recognizing elementary truths.

My opinion is that the opposition should unite around Raffi Hovhannisian and the Jarangutyun party. The party has proven that it is the favorite opposition party. If it acts in the interests of the general population in the parliament until the election and does not tarnish itself, it will become more popular.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Vanadzor is a small town.

A little more than a year ago (I can't believe I've been blogging that long) I posted a picture of Vanadzor where the local sculptors were commissioned to create artwork for the city by two brothers who now live in LA.

So I'm browsing the Hetq.net site (good job, Edgar) for the Vanadzor music groups, and came across a similar picture from a different angle. This was one of the sculptures I was talking about - the one with a ladder leaning against it. It's supposedly a grandmother with two kids but it looks like a big owl with two smaller owls next to it. I think it's currently placed next to the Pedagogical University (Mankavarjakan Institut) so if you pass by it one day, see if they look like owls or grandma and kids.

Yerevan tourism guide for 2007.

ArmeniaNow.com and TACentral.com have produced a very nice guide to Yerevan for 2007. I would recommend to download the 150 page PDF file for a more streamlined reading. Otherwise, the July 6, 2007 edition of ArmeniaNow has the articles in separate web pages.

They recommend walking around rather than renting a car for sightseeing in Yerevan. That's exactly what I do when I'm there since most of the stuff you want to see is in the center. When the day gets hot, you are never far from a cafe or an ice cream vendor. And if you are too tired to walk just hop in a metro train - it will help you cool down and get some peace; it's much more pleasant than trying to travel in a hot mini bus. If you want to test your endurance, try climbing Kascad to the Victory Park. After the climb, the water from the pulpulaks in the park will be the best tasting water you have ever had. When the water supply became privately managed and the street vendors selling juice and other refreshments popped up everywhere, I was afraid that the pulpulaks would go away but fortunately that did not happen.

If you are lucky enough to be going to Armenia this summer/fall, check out the guide. This is part 1 so I am sure they will have more guides covering the rest of Armenia.

Friday, July 06, 2007

iPhone buzz still going on.

The buzz about the iPhone release has calmed down somewhat as the early adopters (otherwise known as suckers) have bought the much hyped product and the rest of the consumers are either indifferent or are not very impressed with the $500 gadget.

Let me tell you something; I have downgraded my cell phone to the most basic device available on the market. It gives me an alarm, a calendar, an FM radio and a speaker phone. No camera, no bluetooth, no nothing! I don't have a PDA either.

I got sick and tired of typing texts or trying to browse the web on a tiny screen. Add to that the constant problems with the pathetic Windows CE and it's not a pretty picture. When I want to talk on a phone, I do not want to wait a minute or so for the OS to boot up, and I especially don't want to live with the uncertainty of the phone freezing up when I want to answer the phone.

All I need is a basic phone, a laptop, 802.11_ capability and a broadband cell card for utmost mobility. No typing emails on a tiny screen with a tiny keyboard.

NATO should pressure Turkey to open the Armenian border.

NATO should pressure Turkey to open the Armenian border - that is the essence of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsian's interview with Reuters published today. And he is right - Turkey loves to present itself as a victim of EU or Armenian conspiracies but it is the biggest bully in the region after the US.

Mr. Sargsian was critical of the EU as well:

"Europeans are shy over these issues. They love to talk about human rights, about democratic values but it's much easier to talk rather than to implement anything," Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan told Reuters in an interview.

The whole article is here.

Google Analytics.

I just viewed the Google Analytics report and there have been three visits to my blog based on 'getting cats out of trees' key word search. Apparently, the first search result is a link to a blog entry where I jokingly recommend hosing the cats, that are stuck in trees, with a garden hose.

I can imagine when a cat lover discovers that his/her cat is in the tree and is unwilling to come down. S/he runs home, goes to Google and searches for remedies to get the cat down and comes across that somewhat cruel, and I suspect effective, recommendation.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

399 dram TV.

I was browsing the net and came across this listing on eCost.com. Apparently it takes the currency code from your Google personalization cookie to determine what currency to display. My personalized Google page is in Armenian hence it displayed dram as the currency. It's a good idea implemented horribly. I don't know how this has passed the quality control people at eCost.

I believe you have my stapler.

Looks like it's time to watch "Office Space" again.

I believe you have my stapler song.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A couple of banana republic updates

Armenia: The parliament has failed to pass the legislation that would have banned the Radio Liberty broadcasts there. There were 65 votes; 63 voted for and there were 2 abstaining votes. I have not had the chance to check parliament.am for the voting results to see who these 63 were. But looks like the pressure from the Armenian citizens and international organizations resulted in 16 deputies changing their minds.

USA: The disgraced President G.W. Bush has commuted the 2.5 year prison sentence of convicted liar Scooter Libby as being too harsh. I wonder whether the president ever thought of the death sentences of people executed in Texas while he was the governor there as too harsh.

I want to congratulate the Armenian citizens for retaining their access to free press for now, and Mr. Libby for avoiding jail.