Saturday, May 29, 2004

What to Bring to China

Next week I'll be leaving for China. It'll be the first time I've gone there and I have no idea what to expect. It's going to be in the 80s where I'm going, so light summer clothes will be necessary. When I go to Beijing it'll be hotter so I'll bring sunscreen (my friend wasn't sure if they sold it in China). I need to make copies of my passport and visa and write down the contact information of the U.S. Embassy and the closest consulate. An umbrella and other clothes can be bought in China for much cheaper prices than in the U.S. Since I'm going to be shopping a lot I'll bring one small empty suitcase. This trip is only going to be one week so I probably won't buy a ton of things. For a longer trip two empty suitcases would be suitable.

I'm not going to bring my computer, but I'm definitely going to bring a camera. I'm still not sure whether to take the digital camera or just buy a bunch of disposable cameras. My cell phone plan doesn't allow me to make international calls, so I could buy a cell phone in China, which I hear are cheap. Uploading the photos on the internet for display on this website probably won't happen, but I'll keep that possibility in mind.

The tap water in China is not clean enough to drink or brush your teeth with. This was something I dealt with in Mexico, but the water in the hotel was filtered. Water in the best hotels in China is not safe to drink either. Instead boiled water is provided in bottles in the hotel rooms. I'll be buying a lot of bottled water; I wouldn't be surprised if they don't recycle though.

I also learned that there are restrooms without toilet paper! It can be bought in stores, but why not just provide it in the restrooms? A side effect of being a third world country or Leninist/Stalinist/Maoist thought? Does Das Kapital even cover toilet paper?

There's still more planning to do, but as June 4 nears I'll be more prepared. Actually going there will prepare me better for future trips.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Pink Flash

Here's a flash movie of Pink Floyd's song Bike. Nothing fancy, but that's what makes it good. Link via Kevin Marks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Mashed Potato Maker

I hate making mashed potatoes. They take about 45 minutes to make and I always find a way to make a mess. Peeling, chopping, boiling, mashing or ricing(?), and mixing are required to make perfect mashed potatoes. Instead of going through all the hassle, there are many dried versions of mashed potatoes the come in boxes and take about 15 to 20 minutes. But those just aren't as good as home made.

Carmina O'Connor realized this and came up with a simple idea. She decided to invent a mashed potato maker. What a great idea! Executing it was more difficult, but she made a prototype(non-working) and a firm offered to sponsor her idea and make a working prototype. I can't wait till this machine hits the market, but I guess with the Atkins craze mashed potatoes are a no-no.

To Do Before June 4

  • Make shopping lists

  • Go shopping

  • Go to bookstore

  • Return library book

  • Get new camera(s)

  • Get summer school textbook

  • Find Northwest card

  • Figure out how to use Spymac

  • Request school information

Monday, May 24, 2004

Virtual and Actual Updates

I've had a lot of free time since school ended which means that I should be getting a lot of things done. Well, I haven't made much progress, but I've made some. I changed my template, got a Spymac (free) account, and finally borrowed (and read a little of) a book on Dreamweaver MX. Still, that's not much and there's a whole lot of other stuff to do. I can't figure out how to use the Spymac service to host pictures or anything else I want. Even after doing the Dreamweaver tutorials, I don't think I could build a site from scratch yet.

On top of virtual tasks there's several real life things to complete. I've got to get ready for my trip to China and then immediately start summer school. It doesn't feel like I'm going on vacation, but in the next few days I'll probably be really busy preparing. I hope I have time to post...

Untitled Document

Doing a Google search for untitled document brings up some interesting results. The Government of Utah, a British swimming group, an opera site, Jessica Simpson,, and the State department's page for travel to Nigeria all have sites named untitled document. It's quite embarrassing for a professional website to be listed as an untitled document, so maybe it's a strategy to get more visitors. The Southern California Conservatives are probably taking it farther than any other site.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Getting a Chinese Visa

Yesterday I went to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago to get my single entry visa with my friend. I thought I had all the information and materials but that wasn't the case. Getting there also turned into a mini-fiasco also. We got lost because we didn't bring a map to help us in case our Yahoo Maps directions didn't work, or if we got off course. My dad asked for directions a few times, but he kept asking people if they knew where the Chinese Consulate was. There are several consulates in Chicago, how would they know where the Chinese one was? It was funny when he asked a Fedex guy where the Chinese Consulate was and he promptly told us the address (100 West Erie Street), which we knew already. I joked that if we had asked him what 100 W. Erie St. was he would've said, "Oh, that's the Chinese Consulate." I guessed that he had delivered a few packages there. I realized how true that was later on.

When we finally got to the visa office there was 15 minutes before it closed for 1 hour. Posted all over the walls of the small room were the instructions for filing for a visa. The problem was that much of this information was not posted on their website, so we had to wait until the office opened at 1pm. In addition to what we brought with us we needed a prepaid envelope so we could get our visas and passports mailed back to us. That costs another 5 bucks in addition to the $50 for each visa, money orders only. That meant a trip to the post office for my dad (one of the notices had directions to the post office).

We stood in line for an hour for the visa "officials" to come back. We moved to the front because many other people had left. Then, as the hour wound down more people started to show up... with numbers. Numbers!? These people had come early in the morning and weren't able to get visa, so they got numbers to use when they came back in the afternoon. There were about 18 numbers given out, so we were 19th in line. Processing a visa is a quick operation, so we weren't too discouraged. However, a new policy surfaced, one that was not outlined on the website. You could have a travel agent deliver your passport and application to the office for you.

The first guy in line had 2 applications, so we were sure we'd be out of there quickly. But the second guy had at least 50! Some of them weren't filled out right, and the lady processing the applications was new. How long would this go on? 18 people ahead of us, with at least 300 applications. And the office closed in 1 and a half hours. Luckily, my dad got a travel agent to take our applications, he was number 15 and had a whole bag of apps. He was nice enough to take ours first so we got out before it closed. That's one experience I don't want to go through again. Next time I'll use a travel agent.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Cell Phone Issues

Recently I've had some trouble with getting my t68i to work. Now that most of the problems are solved I don't feel like screaming at the cell phone service people anymore. But this guy went nuts at his cell phone company's store.
Can you hear me now? Jason Perala's message got through loud and clear to employees at a Fargo Verizon Wireless store Wednesday.

The Fargo construction worker said he planned only to scream at the employees at the store in West Acres mall.

"Then I just lost it," he said in a phone interview a few hours later, from inside the Cass County Jail.

"I just started grabbing computers and phones and throwing them," he said. "I just destroyed the place."

Unreliable phones and poor service were eating away at Perala for months, he said.

Send Me Money Please

Twenty-nine-year-old Karyn Bosnak was in deep trouble. She moved to New York City from Chicago and spent and spent. Hair salons, manicures, designer handbags, clothes, and of course shoes. She charged all of these items to her credit cards and made the minimum payments on them. It was a recipe for disaster. Soon she was $20,000 in debt and had lost her job. What did she do? She set up a simple website and asked people to make her donations so she could pay off her debt. If 20,000 people gave her $1, she'd be set. It was worth a try and it eventually worked! Now she's written a book about her experiences and probably rich now. How cool is that? Link via the BBC.

I was thinking about becoming an Amazon affiliate to generate a little commission for this site so I could pay for a hosting service. Rebecca Blood and Fuyuko Takegawa have that on their websites; Fuyuko even has paypal donation system also. I don't think it would work if I tried it, but who knows? All kinds of people are on the internet and if they see something they like they'll pay. A lot of professional bloggers talk about how blogging is a service to the community (or something like that), and see nothing wrong with making money to support that service or just for themselves.

It's just something I'm pondering now since I realize I may have to pay money to do more with my site. Who knows, maybe I won't have to work if people are willing to give me the kind of cash they gave Karyn.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Soap Is Soap

Middle and high income nations have invented many different kinds of soap. There's soap for in the shower, in the bath, your face, feet, hair, and hands. There's soap for cleaning the bathroom, the kitchen, the floors, and carpets. Many other specialty soaps have been developed including soaps for electronics, cars, leather couches, wood, and metal. When you run out of one kind of soap you get more. It's like using the right tool for the job, you don't substitute another soap. If you do, who knows what could happen? You could mess up your suede jacket, end up with dirty dishes, or nothing could change at all. How could we get along without our soaps?

When I ran out of body wash a few days ago I asked my dad if he had any in his closet. He asked me what happened to the soap he gave me the other day. I told him that that soap was hand soap. He said that's the kind of soap he used in the shower. What?!?! You can't use hand soap in the shower... It just doesn't work. That night I scraped out what was left of my body wash (Dove) out of it's container and thought some more about soaps. Are big corporate companies just telling us we need to use a certain kind of soap for our whole bodies just so they can make money? The next night I tried using the hand soap in the shower. It didn't lather up real well and it had a somewhat medicinal smell. But I did get clean.

Now I know what soap to use when I'm strapped for cash. But I live with my dad and he grew up in a poor household so any soap will do for him. When my mom came to visit I told her that I ran out of shower gel, so she got me five bottles of the stuff from Bed, Bath, & Beyond. I don't think I'm that picky, but soap is not the same.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Drowning Cat

If your cat has drowned and you want to resuscitate is, just grab it by it's back legs and swing it around yourself to get the water out. Do as this man is demonstrating. Or you could do what the vets recommend.

Rumsfeld Songs

Now you can hear Donald Rumsfeld's quotes set to music and sung by a soprano. Be sure to listen to the song clips, the woman has a really beautiful voice.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

It Works!!!

Finally, I got the T68i to work. After learning that the phone wouldn't work with Cingular, I decided to try something else. We took it to the AT&T and the guy there said that he needed the unlock code to make the phone work. Unlock code, what's that? The phone is already unlocked, what is the unlock code for? After doing some research online I found out why the AT&T guy wanted the code. He wanted to lock the phone so it couldn't be used with any other service. I was disappointed to hear about this and felt that the cell phone companies were trying to control people.

Then we decided to try something else. We bought an AT&T Go Phone, the cheapest plan, a basic phone. The same guy said that if we wanted to use a different phone, we could just take out the SIM card and put it in another phone. Is that not what we were trying to do a few hours ago? Maybe he just didn't understand fully or maybe he did, since we ended up buying a phone from AT&T even though I already had one. Once again, the phone companies are trying to control people.

I'm glad that my new phone works. After going to so much trouble to get it it's good to see that my efforts and others' were not futile. However, now my family got brand new phones...

Monday, May 10, 2004

Afghan Prisoners Killed

Joi posted about the possible killing of thousands of Afghan POWs over a year ago. The documentary (Warning: it's 52MBs and you need the latest version of QuickTime to view it) talks about how 7,000 Taliban prisoners were transported to various prisons throughout Afghanistan. Only 3,000 POWs arrived at their final destinations. Many of them died in containers on trucks (lack of air, holes shot in containers), others were killed in fire fights, and some were murdered in the desert. American troops were aware this was happening, but the media did not report on the deaths because they were focusing on the American Taliban John Walker Lindh. If this story got the same amount of press the Iraqi POW abuse is getting it would be the greatest blow to the Bush administration, even greater than no WMDs yet.

Blogger Overhaul

Yesterday Blogger completely revamped itself with new features and a new interface (GUI). Now it comes comments, user profiles, good-looking templates, and posting via email among other things. I was hoping for categories and trackbacks, but I happy about the changes and hope I can benefit from them. What can you expect with a free service? Although Movable Type is free also...

I'm thinking about using one of the new templates, but that would mess up all the settings I already have (I think) and they all feature "recent posts" sections, which I hate. It's time to start reading up on Dreamweaver MX 2004.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Dream Lash

I want to buy Dream Lash because I saw it on TV and it looked legitimate. However, my eyelashes tend to fall out and into my eyes, often getting stuck for hours and irritating my eyes. Maybe this stuff makes them stronger or it's just a waste of money.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Not Lasting So Long After All

CDs and DVDs, the storage mediums that are supposed to last for at least 100 years, are deteriorating after 20-some years.
Dan Koster was unpacking some of his more than 2,000 CDs after a move when he noticed something strange. Some of the discs, which he always took good care of, wouldn't play properly.
"We were all told that CDs were well-nigh indestructible when they were introduced in the mid '80s," Koster says. "Companies used that in part to justify the higher price of CDs as well."
Part of the problem is that most people believe that it's the clear underside of the CD that is fragile, when in fact it's the side with the label. Scratches on the underside have to be fairly deep to cause skipping, while scratches on the top can easily penetrate to the aluminum layer. Even the pressure of a pen on the label side can dent the aluminum, rendering the CD unreadable.

I have an vinyl record player that I got a few Christmases ago. My mom's old vinyls from 40+ years ago still play on that record player, even though the quality isn't as high as CDs. I was told that if you played a vinyl record too much it would wear out and you'd have to buy another one. I'm pretty confident that my CDs will last a long time because I keep them in their jewel cases and rarely play them. The batteries for the CD player run out so quickly, that I'd rather just convert my songs into mp3s and put them on the iPod.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

How Do I Get In China?

Hopefully, if things go as planned, I'll be going to China within the next two months. There's a likely chance that the trip will be cancelled, but I'm not worried about that right now. My biggest concern is how to get a visa. U.S. citizens must have a passport and a visa to travel to China. They have to get the visa from the Chinese Embassy offices or Consulate offices. I only know of the Consulate office in Chicago, but I don't want to make a trip there just to get a travel visa. The Chinese Embassy websites aren't giving very much information on where are all the places that let you get a visa. China's a relatively safe place to go to right? Why do I need a visa to go to China? I understand that I need a visa to go to Ghana, but I don't get China. Anyways, I still need to figure out how to get the visa, then I need to find a good deal. My friend's going to look at some travel sites in Chinese, so we can probably save a lot of money that way.

Cats and Bunnys Shouldn't Date??

No, it's okay for them to go out.

One-Way Writing in Taiwan

Now in Taiwan official documents must be written from left to right only, not right to left or up to down.
Official Taiwanese documents can no longer be written from right to left or from top to bottom in a new law passed by the country's parliament.

All texts must now go from left to right, like western languages, although arts and literature are not affected.

A spokesman said it was necessary as the old method, in texts using numbers and English, "looked confusing".

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Been Busy

I've been a little busy over the last couple days, but now that the semester's almost over I have more free time. Next week I just have one little exam and then I'm free for the summer. I wanted to take summer school but the course I wanted was way to early in the morning. Now, nearly everyone who shows up here is looking for Citibank Identity Theft Commercials and where they can download them. Go here, I'd host them myself, but I don't have any space. Anyways, now I have time for more blogging ;-).