Tuesday, December 31

China Hand seems blissfully unaware of nationalistic elements amongst the Chinese. Not that the US doesn't have them, too: if it weren't for 9/11, the Bush administration would probably be beating the drum to "contain" China as a threat. And not so much as an economic threat, but as a military threat. He writes of the US squandering China's good will with the bombing of the embassy in Belgrade and the spy plane incident. He can't believe these were intentional. And I can't believe that Americans are as thin-skinned about foreign criticism as the Chinese are. In short, he wants to blame the US and Taiwan, but doesn't like to blame China.
China Hand seems to think the Falun Gong is truly a threat to the Commies. I can see that the government might think so, but it's sheer paranoia. It's just another example of the government afraid of any independent force. (Like the rule of law: see below.)
Jason Dean in the Far Eastern Economic Review writes that:
"Mainland China, which banned the Falun Gong in 1999 and has since smothered the group, said followers on Taiwan hacked into the Chinese state-owned satellite" from Taiwan. "To Beijing, the sabotage suggested a possible union of two of its biggest b�tes noires: the outlawed 'evil cult' and the self-ruled democracy that defies China's claims of sovereignty. But contrary to its reputation elsewhere, Falun Gong isn't known for agitating in Taiwan. Instead, in what is the last part of greater China where it can function completely unhindered, Falun Gong thrives visibly but quietly--raising the unanswerable question of whether it might have done so in China, too, had it been ignored by the authorities from the start. 'As far as I can tell there is no political aspect to them in Taiwan, and I've been looking,' says one Western diplomat."
Rick Weiss on the Raelian claims of having created the world's first human clone. Michael Guillen, who's going to coordinate the testing, "has supported every bit of pseudoscience that's come along." It sounds like the Raelians got the right man.
John Pomfret writes about how in China, the deck is stacked against lawyers. That's not news. But,
authorities have manipulated the new criminal procedure law and the revised criminal code to weaken the ability of defense attorneys to defend their clients.
Arresting attorneys for perjury in cases that the state risks losing, not to mention witnesses and even victims when they don't support the prosecutor's story, rearresting acquitted defendants and packing them off to labor camps, torturing defendants, concealing evidence....have I left something out?
I feel I should say something about these crying men. Boo-hoo, maybe.
Daniel M. Wegner is the source for the stuff about the illusion of free will and of the unified self. He's got an article about the ironic process in mental control:
The possibility that there might be an ironic process in mental control is easy to grasp in the case of thought suppression. A person who is asked to stop thinking about a white bear, for example, will typically think about it repeatedly as a result.
Wasn't there a joke about that? He's got another related article about the Ironic effects of sleep urgency (in pdf form): the harder you try to sleep, the less you can. I like the way he puts his stuff online. Maybe I should do that.
China's supposed to help resolve the North Korean crisis.
China is not only North Korea's largest external source of food and fuel, but also its largest trading partner and its gateway to the rest of the world..."China, by its own admission, is keeping the North Koreans on life support," said a Western diplomat.

Monday, December 30

John Pasden claims that "American food is good." China is wasted on him. (Taco Bell? ugh.) ...Of course, there's plenty of awful food in China, and American food is hardly ever worse than mediocre.
We still don't have cell phones. Looks like sooner or later we're going to regret it.
The only way to learn some things is to memorize them.
Joe McDonald reports that the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and a Shanghai company were ordered to pay restitution for selling copies of a portrait of Mao Zedong without permission. "The verdict would likely have horrified Mao, leader of the 1949 revolution that eliminated most private property."
John Horgan writes on how conscious will is an illusion:
Whenever we explain our acts as the outcome of our conscious choice, we are engaging in intention invention, because our actions actually stem from countless causes of which we are completely unaware....the concept of a unified self, which is a necessary precondition for free will, is itself an illusion.
How cool is that?
I meant to link earlier to this Philip Pan report about how the Chinese Communist Party systematically defuses labor protests:
The authorities undermine support for the leaders by making concessions, often minimal cash payments, to many workers. Then, they directly target the leaders, setting them against each other by arresting some and buying off others.
Workers of the world, unite! (And get oppressed).

Sunday, December 29

I used to love Wodehouse. This reminds me why. I haven't read many novels recently; I'm not sure why. Partly because many of them seem so artificial. Wodehouse was very funny, though. I've actually read a couple of novels recently. Atonement, which was all right, but I don't have much to say about it. And Christopher Brookmyre's Country of the Blind. I like Graham Hamer's review.
It just occurred to me that I could make something like these Turtles. They look easy.
Ascorbic acid

The best baguettes I've made are with King Arthur� Flour. But unfortunately, it's pretty expensive to begin with, and on top of it, they only sell it by mail. But all it is according to the package is unbleached all purpose flour with a little whole wheat and ascorbic acid.

As far as adding ascorbic acid to bread dough is concerned, this guy suggests:
"1/8 tsp per 3 cups of flour of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C in its raw form). You can purchase this at any larger health food store. This ingredient is used by commercial bread bakeries and stabilizes the dough, preventing it from flattening."
But he's talking about sourdough.

The UK's Flour Advisory Bureau says "Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) helps the dough become more manageable and gives a helping hand to give your bread good volume." (They also say, "Flour is no longer bleached in the UK.")

baking911.com's Bread Baking 101 has a page on dough enhancers that says Ascorbic Acid
Creates an acidic environment for the yeast which helps it work better. It also acts as a preservative & deters mold and bacterial growth. With just a touch of ascorbic acid, your Artisan breads, the yeast will work longer and faster. French bakers add it to their French bread, baguette or boule recipe.
If you can't find pure ascorbic acid crystals you can use Fruit Fresh (canning isle) or a crushed/powdered vitamin C tablet, but measure accordingly. 1/8 tsp. per recipe
They've got plenty of info about other enhancers and about baguettes, but I'm skeptical about their baguette recipe, since it doesn't suggest a long fermentation with old dough. King Arthur� Flour has an interesting discussion about what they call preferments, which confused me. (They mean pre-ferments, not preferments.) But while they say p�te ferment�e is the same as "old dough", that's not exactly what the French call "chef"

Meanwhile, I just discovered that what is usually sold as bread flour in the supermarkets is not just high-gluten flour, but high-gluten flour with malted barley flour and...ascorbic acid. Ochef explains bread flour "is especially useful as a component in rye, barley and other mixed-grain breads, where the added lift of the bread flour is necessary to boost the other grains."

Check this post out.
I can't believe I agree with Stanley Fish:
In short, diversity � and I would say the same for its close relatives � openness, balance and inclusiveness � is a political rather than a substantive rallying cry. You call for diversity when your enemies dominate the playing field. You preach balance when the numbers are against you; you tout openness when you and your friends have been shut out.

Once the resonant phrases have had the desired effect and remade the world so it suits you just fine, the universalist vocabulary of diversity, balance and openness is discarded, only to be picked up by those who would deploy it in the service of an agenda you would never sign on to.

Friday, December 27

Warning: Sick Joke

Scientists Grow Human Kidneys in Mice

The joke being, if you eat them, does that make you a cannibal?
Matt Richtel's article New Billboards Sample Radios as Cars Go By, Then Adjust is disappointing. It's not that they target the individual consumer. Maybe just as well. If they got my demographic (more like demon graphic), they'd probably pop up a laser and fry me on the spot.
Music News

I don't much listen to popular music, instead it's mostly Romantic era classic chamber music (I had a colleague turn up nose at this "bourgeois" music), so what do I know. But I'll listen to Britany Aguilera or whatever their names are. Still it's nice to see that in the US, generic pop is going downhill. Wait a minute. Actually I don't think Neil Strauss knows what he's talking about here.

Meanwhile, via Eric Olsen at Blogcritics, the world's top ten favorite songs, according to the BBC. Seesh. It looks like the South Asians really got behind some of their favorites. The only songs I'm familiar with is Cher's "Believe" (which I like even though it's so cheezy), and "Bohemian Rhapsody", which I've loathed ever since it came out. And as for the rest, I can't say I find them very attractive. Still, more choice is good, right?

Thursday, December 26

I can't really figure out the point of Jim Holt's article on atheism; I guess because it's pretty obvious to me. Anyway, I lean towards Bertie Russell's agnosticism about the existence of a divinity: "The agnostic suspends judgment, saying that there are not sufficient grounds either for affirmation or denial."
Get it together, NPR! (II)

I haven't been paying a lot of attention to these shows on America's dependence on foreign oil, but this morning's about raising the CAFE standards was pretty idiotic. They should read this.

By the way, I get a little annoyed with the holier-than-thou SUV haters who drive other vehicles, because since I mostly walk around town & only drive my car on weekends, I'm holier-than-they. And there's no place for my bumper sticker to explain all this.

Wednesday, December 25

Get it together, NPR!

Yesterday NPR had a story putatively on Arab economic and political problems. While the Arab commentators agreed there were problems, I heard nothing about pursuing economic development along East Asian lines, only complaints about the lack of stability in the Mideast. (What about the lack of stability in Taiwan & South Korea?) In an interview during the same program, Fareed Zakaria praised China's development despite its lack of democracy. So why can't the Arabs follow the East Asian model? Elsewhere Zakaria argues that in Middle Eastern countries, "Socialism produced bureaucracy and stagnation. Rather than adjusting to the failures of central planning, the economies never really moved on."
John Pomfret on evangelicals flourishing in China. It's better than Maoism, but I can't say I find all this appealing (faith-healing, laying-on of hands, prayer sessions lasting three days and three nights, speaking in tongues and full-body baptism), even if it's because some of evangelical Protestantism's practices echo those in Chinese folk religions.
A report by Donald McNeil on how eating fish can ward off strokes. It cites a comment by Dr. Martha L. Daviglus, who draws attention to the the health habits of those who ate fish five times a week, saying
Fish eaters are a very different kind of people. Look, they smoke less, they eat more food, they eat many more fruits and vegetables. Fish could just be a marker for how healthy you are.
She must mean "more kinds of food."
A couple of days ago we had supper with an atheist friend of ours. I though he was a yellow-dog Democrat, but I discovered he's an atheist before he's a Democrat. He was complaining about how Bill Moyers treated Christopher Hitchens last Friday, even though he used to like Moyers. And he absolutely hates Joseph Lieberman. So his atheism trumps his politics. Hey, I don't like Lieberman either, but it's because of his politics. OK, and his unctuous delivery, too. Anyway, I know three atheists here, and they turn absolutely incandescent on the subject of religion. Of course they're all converts (not apostates from our point of view) to atheism. And convert is indeed the word. I suspect their feelings of betrayal at the lies they were raised with are what make them so angry. Ironically, I was raised an atheist, and to me religion isn't evil so much as irrelevant.

Oh, and Merry Christmas, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Santa Claus isn't a man after all. Still, I'm not sure this is politically correct; nothing says she's a lesbian. And no one would argue she's black or latina. Hey, maybe she likes German lasagna!

Sunday, December 22

I was so excited about the baguettes, I forgot about the chocolate cheesecake I'd made. It's based on the recipe in on the box, but I used 2 packages of cream cheese, creamed with 1/4 cup of sugar, added 2 beaten eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and one tablespoon flour. Then I melted 1 + 1/2 cups chocolate chips, but I forgot that when the chocolate cooled, it would harden, and I wanted the "marbled" look, so I didn't mix the chocolate in with the cheese mixture very well. Then I poured it into a ready-made Oreo pie shell (I was going to make my own, but this way was cheaper), baked it in a 325� oven for about half an hour, let it cool, refrigerated it, then served it. Not ideal, because the chocolate is partly separate, but not bad, either. I think I'll go have a piece.
An article in PokerMag.com argues China's Economic Miracle Is Just Another Internet Bubble
With the country's reputation for exploiting technology transfer through copycat theft and for pirating intellectual property, it's unlikely that IT will be China's salvation.

Instead, it's just as possible that China will remain a low-end manufacturer exporting to an increasingly depressed world market and never moving to the next level of the food chain. Victimized by decades of extreme revolution that ruined traditional value systems and culture, the Chinese have been plunged into a state of ruthless market competition that has left them socially and spiritually lost.
I guess the article's in PokerMag.com because:

China's nascent financial markets are little better than government-sponsored gambling casinos in which speculators and inside traders grow wealthy.
Today I made the best baguettes ever, using a slightly modified version of the "Mixed-starter Bread" in Baking with Julia. I started Friday night, with a chef, a piece of fully risen dough retained from a previous bread (it was part whole wheat and part white, if that makes any difference); I mixed it with 1/4 cup of 110� water (temperature tested with an instant-read thermometer) and 2/3 cup of unbleached white flour. I left out this "sponge" for about 3 hours in the kitchen, then put it in the refrigerator overnite, peeking at it occasionally and afraid that it wasn't going to work.
Then Saturday morning, I took it out, let it warm up, mixed in 2 tablespoons of 110� water, and about 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour and 2-3 tablespoons unbleached flour, stirred it madly with a wooden spoon for, say, 100 strokes. I left it out for most of the day, then put it in the refrigerator overnite.
This morning, I took it out at about 7 am, and it still didn't look as if it had fermented much--not many of those little holes. But I poured 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cool water (maybe that's just 2/3 of a cup) into a bowl, sprinkled 1/4 teaspoon of non-rapid-rise yeast on it, mixed in the sponge, and about 1 3/4 cups of unbleached flour. As usual, I forgot to let it rest for 10 minutes, but this time was stickier than usual. I kneaded it in the bowl, picking it up and bashing it down a few times, adding flour when it got too sticky. Then I covered it and left it to rise for 1 1/2 hours.
Next I was supposed to fold it down on itself a few times, but it was pretty hard because it was so sticky, so it seemed more like I was just pushing it around. Then I let it rise for another 45 minutes, then I shaped it by dividing it in 2, pressing each piece down till they were flat, folding down about 1/3 of the dough, pressing it into the middle of the dough with my fingertips, then folding everything down to the bottom and pressing everything together.
Then I picked up the sausage shape by one end and gently squeezed it along its length (wow, getting pretty steamy, eh?) until it was about 12" long, and put it in the baguette mold, and covered it with plastic wrap, and let it rise for 1 hour, when I found the plastic wrap had stuck. While I preheated the oven, which had unglazed quarry tiles on the rack, I gingerly peeled off the wrap. When the oven was ready, I tried to slash the baguettes, but the surface was too dry. I sprayed some water on them, and baked them for 20 minutes, checking to see that the internal temp was 200� (with my trusty instant-read thermometer). One looked a little too browned, but when they cooled off, they had the best texture I've ever baked in a baguette. Supposedly, long fermentation time boosts the flavor of the bread and adds texture by bringing out the gluten.

If I could figure out what this guy's talking about, maybe I could try the Squeeze and flip method. And maybe I'll try his Rye Bread.

Check this post out. And this one.
Here's an answer to the question, "Who decided women should shave their legs and underarms?" Sometimes my students ask about the Chinese and their footbinding, so I thought it might be of some interest. But I don't see the connection.

Saturday, December 21

Gina Kolata writes about scientists who can't let go of the hypothesis because they like it so much.
Ted Anthony writes on China's celebration of secular Christmas. For the record, I think it's dumb, but that's not going to stop anybody. Actually, I agree to a certain extent with the billboard message that so infuriates Lileks: "Gluttony. Envy. Insincerity. Greed. Enjoy Your Christmas." Well, mostly the Greed part. I remember a few years ago our campus paper solicited letters to Santa from the tots, and every one was "I want [some kind of toy]." Of course, it would be really creepy if they all said things like, "I want wurld peace." or "I want Nader for president." But still, I found it a little unnerving. Even though I don't believe in the religious stuff, and for me personally, Lileks to the contrary, there has never been any "spiritual dimension" to the day, I never fail to be astonished at how materialistic the supposedly religous Americans are. But hey, if it rocks your boat, great. So OK, I'll give everyone a pass on their Christmas. But I'll pretty much give a pass to those who inveigh against it, too, even when they complain that kids are taught to worship this white, heterosexual man who overeats. (What's this? Prejudice against the "plus-size"?) It looks like Lileks is sticking by his Christian indoctrination, while this couple is sticking by their politically correct indoctrination. Geez, folks, can't we all just get along?
Good news, I guess. The condemned to death can order out. Or have your mom make it (but what the hell is "German lasagna"?). Although it depends where you're incarcerated. These Swedes, who disapprove of the death penalty, maintain:

In certain prisons the prisoner is allowed to choose anything he likes. And the orders vary from exclusive dishes to junk food like hamburgers and French fries. In other states the condemned prisoner can choose between a number of alternatives on a printed menu. In some states there is no choice whatsoever.
Here's a sample of some meals. Note there's no alcohol or cigarettes. Unless you're a Moslem in China. But my wife tells me in Taiwan, they let you drink alcohol.

All of this occasioned by the Foodblog, although I've been wondering about my last meal: I'd like it to be jiaozi, but if they can't get my wife to make them, most restaurant jiaozi just won't come up to snuff. I guess I better not get on death row.

Thursday, December 19

Mark Landler raises the tone of the NYT with this article on cannibalism. It mentions a photo of the cannibal, showing a well-dressed, smiling man, savoring a cigarette and glass of wine at what looks like a dinner table. Which I found here. The google translation includes this snippet:
Berlin - the bizarre double life of the eaten Bernd Juergen B. the homosexuals software engineer did not only stand on abnormal Sexpraktiken and the Stricher of the station zoo - it had also a preference for dark-membranous men.
In other words, the NYT can tell us a man's a cannibal, but not that he's gay. Yes, I realize that not all gay men eat human flesh. (There's a joke to be made there.)

Wednesday, December 18

Melody Petersen writes:

Researchers have conducted numerous studies that suggest that the heavy marketing of the brand name drugs may be leading doctors to underuse diuretics.
Lawrence Altman says,
For patients who "need more than one medication to control blood pressure � and many people do � one should be a diuretic"
and then adds:
The new study involved 42,418 patients aged 55 and older who had high blood pressure and at least one other risk factor for heart disease.
Although I'm all for capitalism, it looks like when the gummint stops funding research, and the companies start calling the tune we all pay the piper. (Sounds cool even if it doesn't make sense.)
Brad DeLong: we today are 450 times richer than our ancestors of 1500.
Legalize drugs!
The pitas that are getting increasingly delicious are based on this recipe. Suspiciously similar to this one from Julia Child. I tried to use some of my old dough, frozen and thawed, but I guess it's dead or something. I also used 100% whole wheat flour. And I didn't clean the bowl out in-between, which is what the recipe recommends. What I think makes the pitas taste so good, in addition to eating them fresh is that the dough is fermenting a little in the fridge: I made the dough on Sunday, and I'm taking out a piece each morning to bake.
My Taiwanese wife used to remark on how much mainland Chinese husbands helped out their wives at home, compared to Taiwanese men. But according to an article in FEER, Chinese men are turning back into male chauvinists. The article cites James Farrer; I guess they mean this book.

There's some other good stuff in this week's FEER, like the report that slams China's legal proposals. Philip Segal writes about
Moves to outlaw sedition and subversion have generated a storm of protest. Even bankers and businessmen are criticizing proposals that may end Hong Kong's freedoms and change the way that business is done.
The Communists just don't understand the concept of self-determination, among other things.

And there's a column by Aidan Foster-Carter, who writes on the foolish anti-Americanism in South Korea.
I really have to get back to work instead of reading Prettygirl
Bill Of Rights Pared Down To A Manageable Six (via Howard Bashman)
I just had tuna salad on a pita that I baked this morning. Yum!
Sasha Volokh argues that speech that's gramatically correct when addressing Ph.D.'s becomes incorrect when addressing inner-city youths, because essentially, they speak different languages. Yes, I've been in the situation where I'm talking to people who use a different variety of English, and sometimes I think I know what the "right" way to say something would be ("right" according to them), but I can't make myself say it. Apart from that, there's the danger of trying to say it their way and having it come out like a geezer using slang. Which in the case of younger people, it would be, in fact.

Tuesday, December 17

Amy Harmon writes about the future: free, online, peer-reviewed journals. It's about time.
Jane Brody on how to avoid deep vein thrombosis.
Irritable reaching after fact and reason seems to be a fact of human life. Anna Fels, M.D. (a real doctor, mind you, not a Ph.D.) writes:

If you activate the area of the brain that generates laughter, for example, the subject may happily "explain" that his hilarity stems from an overly earnest looking doctor or an odd diagram on the wall.

Neurologists also happened upon the mind's tendency to concoct explanations for puzzling events. In rare instances when the left and right sides of the brain become disconnected, the verbal left half seamlessly fabricates stories to explain actions initiated by the right half.

Apparently, the mind abhors an explanatory vacuum and rushes in to fill the void, with no compunction about creating "reasons" out of whole cloth.
Erica Goode writes on research showing:

The risk for many diseases increases with every step down the socioeconomic scale, even when factors like smoking and access to health care are taken into account.
So much for the myth of equality.
Grammatical mistakes help diagnose the senility. Actually, I think it's speaking grammatically that's a sign of old age.
Shanghai photos asks if I'm Chinese. I didn't know I looked Chinese.
Yesterday I had my Black Bean Hummus & Carrot Slaw on a whole wheat pita that I baked in the morning (baking only takes a couple of minutes; but it's a quarter of an hour for the oven to warm up). Not as good as it was last time I ate it. I'll try it with some extra oil.

Mmmm. For lunch, I just had my pita (baked this morning) and chick pea hummus.
Chick pea hummus
2 cups cooked chick peas, mashed with a potato masher. Takes awhile, but I believe the skins are good for you, unlike RecipeSource
Add a little of the liquid (did you use canned chick peas? Well, I guess that's OK).
1 clove garlic, minced, or put through a press.
2 tablespoons Tahini (I've had a jar of this for years; it seems to keep pretty well).
Juice of 1/2 lemon.
Salt to taste.
Hot sauce to taste (I used about a tablespoon of some Chinese stuff).
That's the way I used to do it. This time, I figured sandwich fillings tend to be pretty heavily flavored, so I added 2 tablespoons olive oil. Deelicious.

I've got to disagree with Lileks about pizza. He dismisses pizza without meaty toppings as CheezeyBred. I don't see it. Not that I have anything against meat (some of my best friends are meat!). But it's just gilding the lily: the sauce and the cheese on, yes, the bread, are plenty nice.
Although as far as Taiwan & China are concerned, with China's continuing arms buildup, I'm afraid with or without US backing, reunification is just a matter of time. No matter what the people of Taiwan want.

Sunday, December 15

The China Hand links to this Time Asia article on the success of chortals (Chinese Internet portals).
In a country still dominated by state-run media, chortals deliver what no one else in China does: edgy, cool�sometimes subversive�content. News, much of it reflecting poorly on the Party, tends to break first on the Net. Chat rooms buzz with risque flirtations. Dirty jokes abound. And chortals have taken advantage, successfully selling themselves as the best way to reach the young, affluent, educated consumers that advertisers crave. In the midst of a global advertising depression, the three chortals posted ad-revenue gains of between 9% and 22% during this year's third quarter.
Western Media and China offers some interesting perspectives. (link via ch-ch-ch china) Some of which are disappointingly chauvinistic.

He argues that Taiwan 'independence forces' are the problem, not mainland missiles. (The quotes are his, and a Chinese way of communicating a sneer.)
China always regards Taiwan as part of China. But unfortunately, America often gives Taiwan some wrong hints that it will support Taiwan....For the interest of its own, America doesn't want give up its "hand" on Taiwan.
Why does China insist so vociferously that Taiwan is part of China? Is it just that the leadership is still "standing up" to foreign domination? Why don't they pursue corruption and the poor treatment of people living in the countryside? As for the US, admittedly it supports Taiwan partly because it's suspicious of China's ambitions to become the East Asian leader, but this is not simply neo-imperialism. Americans don't trust China largely because it's not a democratic country. On the other hand, if the Taiwanese people decided they wanted to be united with China, the US wouldn't stop them. Why does the Communist Party not want to hear what the Taiwanese people feel? They won't even let them hold a referendum.

Then he's sensitive about criticisms of China's lack of freedom of religion. Even though I find religious beliefs to be largely foolish, it's clear this guy just doesn't get the idea of freedom of thought. For him, the suppression of religious belief is not a matter of human rights, but is "normal". And anyway, it's alright, because the Communist Party pretends that the "Chinese people have the freedom of believing in religion". As long as they do it the way the government wants.

He angrily says that WaPo's John Pomfret should "shut up" instead of regarding China as a "den of thieves". Since products such as Nike shoes are the fruit of low salaries the Americans pay workers in other countries, he claims Americans are "thieves of human labour". But if Americans paid higher prices, why bother to produce the shoes in a low-wage country? Meanwhile, apparently it's OK for Chinese manufacturers to pay low wages.

He points out the contradiction between those who urged China to join the WTO and those who are now afraid of it, apparently unaware that it's different groups that he's talking about. And he shows some contradictions of his own:
I don't know if Americans still remember that during their golden days, how much they have taken from others to make them the richest people in the world....After all those years, China finally opens its market and has started to make its people a better life. Is there a problem?
Even if one accepts his foolish assumption (that he probably learned in school), that capitalism is exploitation, apparently it's OK when the Chinese do it. Oh, wait, China is still a market economy, not capitalism. He's still swallowing the party line!
Ah, the unscientific poll--how I love it. Especially when one shows that in the race for the greatest person in Chinese history, Deng Xiaoping and Confucius beat out Mao Zedong.

John Pasden also gives us two different "sinoamerican" flags, without comment. I like the idea, showing that I must be a neo-Imperialist.
I started to make some bread with a little old dough set aside from last week's bread before it was baked--("pate fermentee"?)--that I was going to let ferment. The French baking book I've got said that the water should be 70� C for yeast, and said that old dough could also be used. Unfortunately, the hi-temp water seems to have cooked the yeast spores in the dough. Damned cheese-eating surrender monkeys! They did it on purpose!
It looks like I've got to read something like this. Or this. Aggh.

Now I'm hoping I can make some pita with another piece of the old dough. For lunch in the coming week, I'm planning on alternating chick-pea hummus and Black Bean Hummus & Carrot Slaw.
Asia Business Intelligence has an interesting article on the constraints in China's "No" Society.

Tuesday, December 10

According to Willy Wo-Lap Lam, of eight members of the new Central Military Commission, three
have played significant roles in preparations for "liberation warfare." Thus CMC Vice-Chairman General Guo Boxiong, the new Chief of Staff General Liang Guanglie, and the new Logistics Chief General Liao Xilong have been commanding officers of the annual war games along the coast, often just off the islands controlled by Taipei.
And 2 other CMC members are missile experts.

Monday, December 9

Over the weekend, we saw The Road Home. We're big fans of Zhang Yimou, but we didn't think much of this one. Nice cinematography, but not much story. Possibly we were disappointed because a few years ago, we saw the first part of it, and expected something more to happen. I can't help by being struck by the similarities to Not One Less; both have scenes of a woman running along a road, waiting for a male's return. A wild guess: while involved with Not One Less, Zhang was struck by this idea, and decided to build another movie around it, but ended up with a just a bunch of pretty pictures. We also saw Pumpkin, which for us was one of the worst movies we've ever seen. We're fans of Christina Ricci, but she was miscast in this overly long piece of crap. My opinion of her has taken a real dive: why did she not only star in this, but produce it? The tone shifts all over the place: it can't decide whether it's going to be funny or serious, and the funny parts are never really funny. The dialog is ridiculous. The story lacks coherence. And what's with Samuel Ball's makeup? Is he supposed to look like a cheesy gigolo?
Another whiny English teacher (via Iain Murray). Yeah, life is rough.
China's international auto show uses a billboard of a sexy foreign woman. Check out those headlights.

Sunday, December 8

Anne Hull has a great article about South Asian immigrants. They're mystified by the laziness of American minorities. The Asians

work as if each sale brings a handsome commission instead of low wages, zeal that boggles the minds of the American employees, most of whom are the sons and daughters of the native-born working class....[The owner] Rizwan Momin arrived in Atlanta in 1985 from the Indian state of Gujarat. He had $310 in his pocket. His uncle had just purchased a sagging, white-owned Dairy Queen in a black neighborhood in Atlanta. Riz went to work for his uncle, mopping, sweeping, saving, scheming, wearing $3 shirts from K-Mart, sleeping on the floor, working day and night at the DQ except when he went to his second job at a laminations factory on Buford Highway, where he tended the boiler.
Seventeen years later, Riz owns nine Dairy Queens in the Atlanta metro area. He's one of the largest franchisees in the Southeast. Drives the Porsche on some days, the Infiniti SUV on others, Indian music blasting from the Bose speakers in the wood-grain console.
Indians now own 60 of the 208 Dairy Queens in Georgia. Half of Riz's workforce is Indian. "Forget the white kids with the studs in the tongue," Riz says. "Indians are gonna work for you. At the beginning, they work for minimum wage. Then little raise, little raise, slowly, slowly. Everyone live together; they are saving money, six people in household working, they bank 80 percent of their money and use 20 percent for expenses. They don't drink, no clubs, no fancy clothes. Suddenly, they have $60,000 in the bank. Then they will buy the Subway or the Blimpie."
But Riz worries about the second generation. No vision. Where's the next young entrepreneur ready to climb out of the low-wage landscape? "These people just want to be the Riz," says Riz with concern. "You can't copy the Riz. You must build your own entity. The second generation wants the shortcut."
The source of his worry is his cousin, Ali Momin, 22, who is the night supervisor at the Stockbridge store. Ali could be the heir apparent if he wanted.
One Thursday afternoon, Ali is changing the grease in the deep-fryer. With his sleeves rolled up, he drains the old grease, scrubs out the stainless steel vats, rinses everything down with a hose and then pours in fresh oil. Periodically, he looks out toward the parking lot, where his 2001 silver Honda Accord is backed in so he can keep an eye on it. The CD player is loaded with Eminem and Indian techno music.
Ali came to Stockbridge from India when he was 16. He dropped out of Eagle's Landing High School his senior year. He wanted to hurry up and get started in the DQ pipeline.
But unlike Riz when Riz started out, Ali won't wear $3 shirts from K-Mart. His cologne is Dreamer by Versace. His savings account is zero. "Riz tells me a whole buncha times, 'Don't be wasting money,' " Ali says. "I keep that in my head for a couple of days, then it goes away."
The native-born Americans suffer by comparison
...Cisco ("half Latino and half black") sees the owner arriving in his Infiniti. A subdued car like that just makes him shake his head in pity. "He let all that money go to waste," Cisco says...
....One afternoon, Riz the owner makes a surprise visit to the DQ. Riz starts yelling about the mess and everyone begins mopping and wiping furiously. After Riz leaves, Cisco and Xavier relax back into their usual selves. "We don't change for nobody," Xavier says.
Cisco nods. "Yeah, keep it real."
And the descriptions of the customers, of all different races, make for a real laugh riot. Funny compared to the Chinese, the Indians don't start Indian restaurants. I guess there's not much of a market for that.
From Taiwan's China Post:

A woman's right hand was bitten off by an American circus tiger in Kaohsiung City yesterday afternoon when the curious woman extended her arm to pet the caged animal.

Saturday, December 7

Not Poilane bread, but...
Last night I started the dough for today's bread; I used just one-eighth of a teaspoon of yeast mixed into one cup of flour and one cup of skim milk. I let it rise/ferment overnite, then this morning, added a smidgen of yeast, 1+1/2 teaspoon salt, another cup of water, and 2-3 cups of flour, kneaded it with much banging of the dough, let it rise, shaped it, let the shaped baguettes rise, and baked it. The texture was good, but the flavor not quite up to last week's. One difference is that last time instead of the first addition of yeast, I used a piece of dough that I'd frozen from earler. Or maybe this time I just let the ferment go on too long.
Also this week we had cheese nan with a lentil soup. So good I ate too much.
Michael Chan, chairman of Caf� de Coral, says Chinese food will displace the burger and the pizza.
Dinkar Ayilavarapu says, If a crisis such as the one that struck most of East Asia in 1997 hits China, and people yank their money out of the banks, it would leave the newly crowned leader Hu Jintao presiding over the largest banking meltdown the world has ever seen.
Earlier the Chinese government convicted Gao Zhan on trumped-up espionage charges and then expelled her. Apparently her interest in Taiwan social issues is what caused the over-reaction. Even if it served the purpose of chilling inquiry into what life in Taiwan is like, it's a public relations error (although the Chinese government may not be all that worried about that). Now she's slamming the Chinese educational system. She notes that even if Chinese students perform far better on math and science tests than Americans, learning is highly politicized, and teachers discourage anything challenging the received wisdom. Reminds me of Peter Hessler's remark in River Town regarding how the Chinese often parrot the propaganda they're fed. No wonder.
Speaking of food in Taiwan, Michael Turton says, "Thanks to additives in tofu, the brain cancer rate for vegetarians is ten times that of meat-eaters." I wonder if anyone has really established a link there. But he's right when he claims "Animals are pumped up full of antibiotics". As a matter of fact, people are, too, according to this article in Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal:
In Taiwan, the widespread use of antimicrobial agents in primary care clinics and animal husbandry has allowed the rapid emergence of resistant bacteria.
Whereas on the mainland, all your hear about is rat poison. Actually, over-use of antibiotics is a problem in China, too.
Our international grocery has Sarelle 400, a Turkish knock-off of Nutella. It's cheaper but tastes pretty good to me. I spread some on a bagel for breakfast.

Even though I generally despise chocolate with fruit, I've had a dark chocolate bar with orange peel from the Parisian "ED" grocery, and it's pretty good. At the Monoprix store in Paris, I also got Praline Intense, Noir Noisettes, which are great. And a lot cheaper than the chocolate at Chocosphere. But at least it's available. Shouldn't complain; the international grocery also has some imported chocolate, which is nice because it's so hard to get here in the sticks, and Dollar General has a 5 lb. box of chocolate. It may not taste that good, but you can't beat the price.
I meant a 3 lb. box for $5.
The KMT's incumbent Ma Ying-jeou wins the Taipei mayoral race in a landslide, handing a defeat to the ruling DPP, while the DPP's Frank Hsieh, also an incumbent, squeaked by in the mayoral election for Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second-largest city. That's a shame, because Kaohsiung is such a shit-hole. So he's building a subway. Hardly anyone rides the buses there, so I don't see what difference that makes. He should address quality of life problems: the unenforced traffic laws and the undrinkable water.

The VOA views the outcome as a victory for the president Chen Shuibian.

But Bruce Jacobs said earlier that even a close election in Kaohsiung would indicate severe erosion in President Chen Shui-bian's critical southern support base. Note that Hsieh won the 3-way race with 49.5% of the vote.

Anyway, I believe that one of the reasons that the mainland wants to block Taiwan internet sites is because of news like this. Imagine, a free election.
Infant rats are being decapitated and their heads grafted onto the thighs of adults by researchers in Japan. (via A Foodie By Nature).
If kept cool while the blood flow is stopped, a transplanted brain can develop as normal for at least three weeks, and the mouth of the head will move, as if it is trying to drink milk, the team reports....The grafted heads could be "excellent models" for investigating brain function in human babies after periods of no blood flow.
With all this tatooage and piercage, I foresee something along these lines as the next fashion statement. Among humans, I mean.

Friday, December 6

Audra Ang writes that drug companies in China are asking the government to nullify the Chinese patent on Viagra. Meanwhile, Peter S. Goodman writes that the Chinese government is hesitating over setting aside the patents for AIDS drugs to produce inexpensive generic copies, even though it's local government officials that are largely responsible for the spread of AIDS in China.

Thursday, December 5

I'm writing a paper that involves fatalism, which reminded me of Brahms' Schicksalslied, downloadable for free here and here. As far as I know, the title has nothing to do with shiksas, but is rather "Song of Destiny", but when I made a joke about it to my parents, they didn't think it was funny.

I don't know if I should say I believe in fate, exactly, but I sometimes feel a presence grinning sardonically behind my back at all my best efforts. Incidentally, that's the closest I come to believing in any god. While a shitty god like that may exist, he's hardly worth a lot of mooning over. But I don't get too upset. By hedging my bets, I acknowledge that everything may well be doomed. By squarely confronting the possibility of failure, I discount fate's sniggering, and so he stands there disconcerted.
A pessimistic New Republic article on China (via Gene Expression) argues that China's economy is far more fragile than generally believed, and that
China's growing economic weakness could force its latent anger at the United States to the surface. Already, Beijing stokes anti-Americanism in order to deflect criticism of its own actions.
I'll accept the economic analysis--Asia Business Intelligence reported a lot of the same stuff--but the call to "be afraid" of some kind of military threat strikes me as a wee bit hysterical. Does that mean I'm not a hawk? He also mentions the World Competitiveness Yearbook rankings, which are of interest.


I don't know how I missed this Philip P. Pan article on Chinese employee ownership. In a word, it was a bust. Just like United, employee ownership doesn't seem to work. (We professor would like to take over, too. I wonder how we'd manage ourselves.) Anyway, this article is more starry-eyed.

Tuesday, December 3

A call for scientific literacy: despite food additives, high power lines, food irradiation, hazardous waste sites, genetic modification of crops, cancer clusters, nuclear power, pesticides, and more, Americans are generally healthy, and when they're not, illness and premature death are in their own hands.
Elementary, secondary, and post-secondary school science teachers must be provided with the type of subject matter needed to understand the differences among science, pseudo-science, and religion.
OK, OK stop laughing. It'll never happen.
How Responsible Leaders Should Fight Terrorism

Clearly articulate that the terrorists' number one goal is to provoke and to sustain our fear. Therefore, the number one goal of our anti-terrorism efforts needs to be to reduce public fear.
The odds of being killed by terrorists are very small compared to everyday risks such as death from smoking or car accidents, but we are accustomed to these risks, and they are harder to perceive, since, for example, all those who die from smoking do not do so in a single place at a single time before the eyes of the world. In most ways, Americans today are safer than any people in human history, but the media � and sometimes our political leaders � have unprecedented power to focus our attention on exotic new risks.
Public fear is often disproportionate to real risks. Take the cases of staph and, on the other hand, the "killer mold" In a nutshell: the fear of killer mold is overblown, while we're less concerned with omnipresent staph.
Whew! Pasta, like oatmeal and unrefined grains, is digested slowly and therefore is considered heart healthy. Unfortunately, our beloved jiaozi are made with ordinary unbleached flour. I don't care. I'll still eat them.

This is the article cited. It says:
Foods with a low degree of starch gelatinization (more compact granules), such as spaghetti and oatmeal, and a high level of viscose soluble fiber, such as barley, oats, and rye, tend to have a slower rate of digestion.
And slow digestion is good. But I get the feeling people aren't all that sure what they're talking about.
Immigrants Needed For Economic Growth
These professors believe that
demographics are the most important factor in determining long-term market trends...[and] that individual investment behavior largely depends on age-related patterns. Younger adults, those from 20 to 39, are generally consumers. Middle-aged people, 40 to 59, tend to invest in stocks. Retirees are likely to sell more stocks than they buy.
They may be right, but I'm skeptical. Trends can change all too easily. Then again, if it's true, I guess we should privatize social security.
It's possible for China simultaneously to torture people and enrich them. (They attach electrodes to my scrotum & nipples, so I say "hit me", and they crank up the current, then give me $100 bucks, so I say "hit me again", so they crank up the current, then give me $100 bucks, so I say "hit me again", so they....) Anyway, the line is Nicholas Kristof's. Joking aside, China's problem looks to be the banking crisis and unemployment, but the one he doesn't mention is corruption. So for the nonce, I don't think we have to be worried about getting "blindsided". But let's face it, there's no rulebook that says we get to stay #1 forever. But he does include this gem (italics mine):
These inland rural areas lag behind the coastal regions, and so the income gaps are growing. But lives are unmistakably getting better almost everywhere. (The only exception I saw was Henan Province, where AIDS is impoverishing villages.) Partly gains come because peasants in villages like Gaoshan go south to work in those sweatshops denounced by American students but treasured by Chinese workers.
Indians are having the same problem with not enough women as the Chinese. What a world!

Doug Young had an article about the young women powering China's factories, who often stay for about three years in the city before returning to faraway places like Sichuan and Hunan to marry in their home villages. He doesn't mention that they often bring their big-city ideas home with them. He cites an authority about how this is what happened in Taiwan and Hong Kong in the 1960s and 1970s, but then peters out into talking about how tough it is on the women.

Sunday, December 1

The leftover Butterscotch Fudge Squares are just too sweet; I finally tossed the leftovers. Sunday I made chocolate chip cookies with walnuts, and a mix of flour, tapioca starch and soy flour. Fresh out of the oven, it seemed as if there were not enough walnuts or chips, but the next day they just seemed lacking nuts. For breakfast Sunday I made sacristans, based on the Cranberry Wreaths, with chocolate chips and chopped walnuts instead of berries. Not so good; a little dry. I also tried to bake the pain Poil�ne. I modified it by using a piece of risen dough I'd used earlier instead of yeast for the starter (I later added some yeast). Everything went well until I shaped it and left it to rise, but then it stuck to everything and made a big mess. I was ready to toss it, but my wife rescued it. Ultimately I don't think we let it rise enough, but it still tasted pretty good.
Jim Tucker links to an overly optimistic article about the"comeback" of the study of Confucianism. The article admits that enrollment is limited to those who can pay. I'll wager that many who can afford to don't study it, though, and schools may be "allowed" to teach Confucius, but many don't bother. Instead they're teaching Marx, even now. But Jim also has a couple of links to Confucian sources.
I like Likek's post on what we should really celebrate Thanksgiving with: hardtack and crackers, just to remind us what�s available to us every day. Nice idea, but I won't do it. It reminds me a little of the "no shopping" business. Even though I'm a non-believer, I also feel American society is awfully materialistic, and I wonder if people aren't permitting themselves to be overly influenced by what others buy, and are afraid they'll look bad if they don't buy the same stuff. I don't think all those objects will make people any happier, but more importantly, I don't think a lot of people can really afford them. We're not shopping that much, because we don't feel we can afford it. But it's a free country, so everyone else--knock yourselves out!
It looks like Christopher Wanjek's flogging his book, Bad Medicine. Still, all in the good cause of debunking silly beliefs in what the title says. I saw the link at Arts & Letters Daily, but didn't bother to click on it till I read Charles Murtaugh.

Saturday, November 30

Fifty percent of the liquor industry's revenues are derived from alcoholics � people who down at least four drinks every day. OK, you're trying to shock us about how bad the alcohol problem is compared to marijuana, but I'm still struggling with the idea that 4 drinks a day makes you an alcoholic. (Not me, I'm a teetotaler.)
Here's some of what the WaPo should've printed. (via Instapundit)
How the polls go wrong. (link via Occam's toothbrush)
Chi-Dooh Li is thankful for sweet taste of freedom. His parents got him out of China just before the Commies took over and--let's be frank--ruined so many lives. He's haunted by the question of why he was spared the enormous suffering endured by his cousin. Today buying groceries we ran into a friend from Shanghai; unlike my in-laws, his father (also then in the KMT) stayed. He says even now he regrets his decision because of the negative impact on his childrens' lives. "Liberation" indeed. (link via Occam's toothbrush)
New additions to the blogroll; food blogs via Weblog central and most of the China-related blogs via China Weblog.

Friday, November 29

Keith Bradsher blames India's relatively poor economic performance on poor infrastructure, government monopolies, and over-regulation. He also cites wait for it the desire for public service, in other words, Indians supposedly don't reinvest their money, but use it for charitable works.

I note the shoe manufacturer he describes doesn't like Chinese food; maybe that's the reason. My wife wonders if his dislike of the food is because he goes to Guangdong Province, and their food isn't as strongly flavored as one would expect a South Asian to prefer. Too bad the shoe factories aren't in Hunan or Sichuan.

I wonder if Bradsher read Jayanthi Iyengar, who also credits China's infrastructure, but is less bullish on China, noting that China suffers from a lack of transparency, aging population, and growing unemployment, all of which may lead to a crash.
Activists involved in attempts by North Korean refugees to storm into foreign diplomatic missions in China for protection plan to step up pressure on the U.N. refugee agency to "start doing their job" by monitoring the Korean refugees in China, labeling the UNHCR as apathetic and negligent "to the point of complicity." Yeah, but as an earlier report noted, it's tough because of China's behavior. Not that the treatment of the refugees isn't horrible.
Laurence Eyton has an excellent analysis on Chen Shui-bian's plan to clean up Taiwan's farmers' and fishermen's corrupt credit associations, how they've been an important part of the KMT's local power and funding base, which led the KMT to oppose the reforms, and how the whole debacle makes Chen look "vacillating, treacherous, and weak, easy to panic and liable to give in to threats."

Thursday, November 28

A NYT article about blogs by a self-confessed blogger with no links. It can't be NYT policy against printing links, because Katie Hafner mentions A.Word.A.Day and explains it's at Wordsmith.Org. If I didn't get so much spam, I might subscribe.
With regard to the new US trade plan, Ian Campbell argues

Bush and EU leaders must be willing to take on their domestic farm lobbies. They show no sign of having the political courage and the economic sense to do so. While that is the case, developing countries are going to go on being poor, angry, and uncooperative.
Maybe out of a billion, it's not that much, but still, why are so many Chinese willing to poison innocents in order to hurt their enemies? It's anybody's guess about why Yang Bin got arrested. But I'm sure the average Chinese person will believe it's only the capricious nature of the justice system that nailed him while others go free.

Many analysts and diplomats take Yang's troubles as a sign that China is displeased that North Korea launched a plan to develop a free-trade area and named Yang to run it without consultation. Even though North Korea is just imitating the the special economic zones that kicked off China's great economic expansion nearly two decades ago. (Zones that some argue are modelled on similar areas in Taiwan.) So I guess China's behavior is only what one can call neo-imperialism.
Why we're going to be using fossil fuels for some time, from Pete Geddes, with some thoughts on what politicians are doing to "help".
According to Amnesty International, Internet users in China are at risk of arbitrary detention, torture and even execution.
Despite the measures introduced by the authorities to stifle freedom of expression over the Internet, the new technology is a cornerstone for economic growth in a country with over a fifth of the world's population. As the importance of the Internet grows so too will the millions of users and the demands of those seeking justice and respect for human rights in China.
We'll see. (via Blogcritics).
I'm blogging on Thanksgiving because frankly, it's just another day to me. Not that I don't appreciate how happy I am. But as a non-believer, I guess I've got to say I'm not really thankful, except to my fellow humans, or at least those who behave themselves.

So what's for dinner today? Sometimes we have jiaozi. (I hate callling them dumplings, because to me a dumpling is boiled dough with no filling.) Here are some recipes, but I can't vouch for them. The hardest thing is making the wrappers, as this site describes. I can't say much for the fillings, though.

Anyway, for lunch today, we're having leftovers (better than it sounds: pork meatballs mixed with rice). Then for supper, home-made hamburgers. I like mine really rare. A couple of days ago, we had Vegetarian Black-Eyed Pea Stew, with some hot peppers added to the recipe, and served with cornbread. Yum. Last night, we had the Tortilla Pie again. We used cottage cheese and mozzarella from Aldi; maybe that's why it wasn't really tasty. For a snack last night, I had ratlami sev, which I discovered at our local International Grocery Store ("spices and specialty foods from all over the world; including dry foods and fresh fruits and vegetables"). Yum. So I'm thankful for all of that.

However, I'm not so thankful that the tasty French/Belgian dark chocolate tablets that one can find in supermarkets like Monoprix or ED, often own-brand, also C�te d'Or, are not readily available here. I guess we'll have to rent an apartment in Paris.
I found this tool via Cranky Professor. I have found a few blogs I like, but the only one that really stands out is greg allen. The others mostly look like conservative/libertarian ranters--and how much of that can I read? And I didn't realize that's what my politics are. It's a little like the strange suggestions Tivo or Amazon comes up with for their consumers. (link via GeekPress). Not that I'd know. I've only bought one book from Amazon, and Tivo's a little to pricey for me. Actually, I like the idea. Too bad it doesn't seem to work as well as it ought...so far, anyway.
Andrew Sullivan criticizes the mealy-mouthed response to the Muslim Miss World riots. I can't agree with his characterization of the Nigerian columnist Isioma Daniel remark as "crude" that apparently caused the riots. Her joke was that Mohammed might approve of the Miss World pageant since he might pick one of his wives from the throng of beauties. That's not crude! I'd show you crude, except being a college professor living in a politically correct world, I don't dare.

Tuesday, November 26

An article about the deterioration in the way the United States has been treating Saudis says the resulting Saudi unhappiness with the US has taken an economic toll.
"We've scared off a lot of tourism and scared off a lot of medical patients, and the impact on our economy is more substantial than people realize or want to recognize," said Charles Kestenbaum, a commercial officer at the U.S. Embassy here until becoming a corporate consultant last summer.
Hmm. As Matt Welch wrote, Former U.S. diplomats have become Saudi Arabia's apologists. Neither the article nor Mr. Kestenbaum says a single word about the Wahabi fundamentalists the Saudi government won't or can't put the lid on.
I don't see why everything has to be political, but according to Kimerly Rorschach, "'Global political art' is what's happening right now....". Erik Eckholm explains she's using "political" in the broadest sense to refer to works that engage social themes. Ugh.
A letter to the editor offers further evidence of why the Chinese are going to
take over.

While Chinese students do "self-assigned homework" on Sundays to beef up their six-day school weeks, lots of American college students are cutting classes to add a few extra days to their Thanksgiving vacations.
They don't do that here--because we give them a full week. Not that we're all that demanding anyway.

Monday, November 25

Randy E. Barnett on what the Republicans could do to attract more libertarian votes. Funny, I agree with all of them. (link via Eugene Volokh)
The pro-DPP Taipei Times has a couple more editorials criticizing Chen Shui-bian and his policy for reforming the credit unions. But there's nothing criticizing Lee Teng-hui's behavior.
The Chinese stage version of "Animal Farm" still isn't attracting a big audience. Still, at least it wasn't censored, even though a Beijing publishing company received an official warning after several chapters of "Animal Farm" appeared in 2000.

Sunday, November 24

This week I showed my students Eat Drink Man Woman, Not One Less, and The Personals. I thought there might be time to discuss them, but in each case, we ran out of time before we had much discussion. But in preparing for class, I came up with some ideas, which made me realize I don't like analyzing this stuff intellectually nearly as much as I prefer to enjoy the emotional/aesthetic experience without going into it.
Today there was an NPR report on privatizing the publication of government documents. The concern was that government reports would become less accessible, but there's practically nothing about electronic versions. It's true that some of the government sites I've visited don't make it easy to find the documents they have available, so maybe even if we don't need someone to catalog them, we need someone with more websmarts to make everything easily accessible to people who aren't experts in the field.

This reminds me of a meeting we had a couple of weeks ago about how the university library was going to cut some of its dead tree subscriptions in favor of electronic ones. The point of the presentation as I saw it was that the electronic ones come in packages, so if/when there are more cutbacks, it'll be really hard to decide what to cut next. But the faculty seemed mostly exercised about not being able to hold paper texts in their hands. There was also complaining about the fact that the journals weren't getting any cheaper, even though the publishers' costs were plummeting. I pointed out that faculty could get together and publish their own electronic journals, which after all cost virtually nothing. But I was told that such journals probably wouldn't be acceptable to administrators reviewing people's publications. I still don't get it. If academic journals are edited by academics, all the editors of a particular journal have to do is to move en masse to establish an entirely new journal that preserves everything but the name of the dead tree version. In fact, the electronic journals could post the experts' corrections & additions to the original, for which they'd be credited. Maybe I'm missing something here, but it looks like the real problem is conservatism.

Meanwhile, we're about to start building an addition to the library even though years from now, I suspect most everything in it will be digitized. Not the customers, though. Apparently there's going to be a coffee shop. I guess we're competing with Barnes and Nobble.
Last week I wanted to make a blueberry variation on these Cranberry Wreaths, but I stupidly looked at the wrong page of the dead tree cookbook the site is drawn from, and started making Hot Cross Buns. I decided to make those instead, but then discovered I was using sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk. I didn't like them much. Today I did bake my "blueberry wreaths". I used a lot more blueberries than the amount of cranberries called for, and ended up with lengths of dough too wide to easily form into wreaths, so I simply had twists. When they came out of the oven, I was surprised to see they turned out to be very similar to a kind of patisserie that a bakery in Paris sells under the name sacristan. Although the sacristans I've seen don't have blueberries, and are richer than the ones I made this morning.

Then I had some leftover evaporated milk, so I made these Crispy Peanut Butterscotch Fudge Squares. Pretty sweet even after I left out the sugar. My wife seems to like them more than I do.

And speaking of tapioca starch, I tried making some coffee cookies with instant coffee, 1/3 tapioca starch, 1/3 soy flour, and 1/3 white flour. Not so good.

Finally, we tried the Tortilla Pie and the Ziti Casserole I mentioned earlier. Frankly, I prefer Chinese food.

Saturday, November 23

Shelley Rigger on Taiwan's political paralysis. I think she blames the KMT and PFP too much and Chen Shui-bian not enough.
But it's clear that with friends like Lee Teng-hui, Chen doesn't need enemies. Lee Teng-hui first chose Lien Chan as his successor, then plotted against him, supporting Chen, then set up the TSU, and is now criticizing Chen for his efforts to reform Taiwan's credit unions and looking for an opponent for Chen. The pro-DPP Taipei Times has an editorial defending Chen. Meanwhile Lien Chan and PFP Chairman James Soong are expected to demonstrate alongside farmers and fishermen protesting the reforms.
Jacques deLisle on a delegation of scholars & officials from the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region who came to the United States to see how America votes.
Mao as a deity.
Nicholas Kristof tells us once again that the Chinese are going to take over. Why? He argues:
One reason for Chinese educational success emerges from cross-cultural surveys. Americans say that good pupils do well because they're smarter. Chinese say that good students do well because they work harder.

A growing body of evidence suggests that Chinese students do well academically partly because their parents set very high benchmarks, which the children then absorb. Chinese parents demand a great deal, American parents somewhat less, and in each case the students meet expectations.
Meanwhile, we expect less and less of our students.
An article by Melody Petersen on how advertising companies bankroll and manipulate research on drugs. I'm all in favor of capitalism, but this is what happens when we refuse to fund independent research in academia.

Thursday, November 21

Via Best of the Web: according to Damien McElroy, China has launched a campaign to stop Westerners referring to the world's tallest peak as Mount Everest and instead start using its official Chinese name, Mt Qomolangma, by next year. "'British colonialists raped the sacred mountain of the Tibetans by giving it a false name,' said the report." Here's another article, which doesn't mention the 'rape' business. All pretty silly, if you ask me. By the way, when are we going to start calling China "Zhongguo," hmm?

Wednesday, November 20

China Hand also states that "The life of the average worker or peasant just does not compare with twenty years ago." True, but over the past ten years, peasant incomes have stagnated, especially for those too far from infrastructure to sell to the cities. Meanwhile while younger urbanites have plenty of possibilities, there are still many older workers who worked or are still working in state-owned factories, and their pensions are gone. The government is afraid to stop lending to these inefficient factories so the money can be redirected to new private industries, because they don't know what to do about all the employees. This is not to say that China hasn't made huge progress since Mao died. If they awarded Nobel prizes on the basis of the numbers of lives materially improved, Deng Xiaoping would've gotten one. The trouble is, there are now lots of poor and unemployed. When they see people getting wealthy, they assume, rightly or wrongly, that it's at the expense of the poor.

But I like China Hand's site.
China Hand claims that Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward was responsible for a mere 100,000's of deaths. The standard estimate is 10-30 million. And blaming the peasants for it is a little harsh, since the starvation, as I understand it, was due to overly optimistic estimates: the supervisors over-reported to please their superiors, so people thought they had surpluses, and didn't work. So the starvation was basically bad management, but the whole point of communism is that it makes the decisions on behalf of the people. Still, those deaths weren't intentional, so maybe we should put a footnote after Mao's ranking among the killers; The Straight Dope credits his predecessor Chiang Kai-shek with 10 million.
The most significant thing about this is that it appears on the NYT list of most e-mail articles. I think it's stupid. If you want to do what Jesus would do, there's a lot of other consumerism you ought to reconsider as well. Plus didn't he have some kind of spiritual thing going on? For the record, I'm neither a believer nor an environmentalist, but I drive a subcompact: a Mazda GLC that I bought in 1985, yes, 1985.
Michael A. Fletcher on the yawning achievement gap separating black and Latino students from whites and Asians. What's the reason?
One explanation comes along after another....we run through these explanations the way women's fashions run through skirt lengths without getting much closer to solving the problem.
My sister loves Bowling for Columbine. I'm not pro-gun, but I'm afraid like Mr Cranky I'll find it too heavy handed, with all the leftist ideas sanctimoniously thrown together in the assumption that that's what all right-minded (left-minded) people believe in. I don't like being preached at. It's like being at a Commie political rally.
Charles Murtaugh laughs at the idea of using fiction to teach economics, but likes it for other stuff. I don't think so. Using fiction to teach stuff other than fiction suggests dumbing down to me.
Let's hear it for fascism. As Nicholas Kristof says, China's Communists
are not Communists at all in any meaningful sense. Chinese leaders are not so much Communists as fascists, for they aim to preside over a capitalist economic system with a large state-controlled sector, while using military power to suppress opposition.

Calling them fascists actually puts them in good company. Communist countries stagnated economically and eventually collapsed, while fascist countries (Spain, Taiwan, South Korea, Chile) flourished economically, bred a middle class and eventually proved flexible enough to evolve into greater democracy.

Tuesday, November 19

Robert Reich on the future: If you think prescription drug coverage is a big deal now, wait until medical science promises boomers we can look young and have sex like rabbits and party until we drop. Across the land there'll be outcroppings of "Med-Meds" for boomer geezers--think of Club Meds combined with medical facilities. Snorkeling all morning; extra oxygen in the afternoon. (via Geitner Simmons)
China's Salt Police. I thought it was about the salt monopoly that the Chinese started 2,600 years ago, but it's about forcing people to eat iodized salt to promote healthy brain development and reduce mental retardation.
Ugh. To keep students' attention, we're supposed to break up our lectures with quick entertainment periods.
Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy argues that coverage of the military's proposed Total Information Awareness database is actually "a proposal to create a database to "data mine" evidence the government has already legally collected, not to collect new evidence", and those who claim otherwise are misleading.

Monday, November 18

Someone in France found me while looking for the Oxfam yuppies. As Dave Barry would say, isn't that a good name for a band?
Via Dancing with Dogs: Marxists' Apartment A Microcosm Of Why Marxism Doesn't Work. Pretty perceptive for a satirical site.

Speaking of the Dogs, they claim that wealth brings happiness. I'm not so sure. What it brings is the freedom not to worry about the struggle for daily life, but as humans, we tend to worry about something, so wealth means worrying about things other than one's daily struggle to keep alive. I'd think that after we've satisfied our basic physical needs, the worries that face us then would seem minor, but then we need to satisfy various psychosocial needs, and things that are in the grand scheme of things really very silly loom just as large as life and death matters, unless they pop up and put things in perspective for us.
John Pomfret on guanxi in action.
Racial profiling

An Asian and Caucasian may be the same weight and height, but the Asian is at greater risk for fat-related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
In China, more than 60 percent of people do not do any physical exercise, according to a survey conducted by a Chinese government sports research organization. It said less than 8 percent of China's 1.2 billion people exercise with "average intensity" compared to 41 percent of Britons and 20 percent of Americans.
What about all those damn bicycles?

Sunday, November 17

Who's on top? It looks like it's not "Hu's on top". But, "Sooner or later Jiang is going to be forced to step aside."
Philip P. Pan notes how few women made it onto the Central Committee. I can't say I see this as that big an issue, since the party isn't democratic anyway. And if it were, does this mean that people can only be represented by members of their own identity group? Not to mention the fact that:
many Chinese take a dim view of women who aspire to political office. Sometimes, they are seen as ruthlessly ambitious in the tradition of Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, who is blamed for the disastrous Cultural Revolution, or Ci Xi, the cunning Dowager Empress of the last imperial dynasty. Others -- like Wu, the new Politburo member -- are described as nuqiangren, a phrase that literally means a strong or capable woman. In the 1980s, it was mainly considered a compliment. But today, in a sign of growing unease about the role of women in China's fast-changing society, people use it as an insult to describe women who have placed their careers before their families.
What a mess. Deborah Sontag in the NYT Magazine on wife-beaters.
"Mainstream feminism has maintained a stranglehold on our explanations of, and responses to, domestic violence, and it is time to take our voices back."...the black-and-white portrayal of domestic violence that currently guides public policy. In that view, there's a batterer and a victim; the batterer is an ogre molded -- misshapen -- by patriarchal society; the victim, a mouse made helpless by it. There is only one happy ending: the batterer is punished, the victim liberated....Sometimes a woman really has no choice; she's scared that leaving would make him more dangerous, or she doesn't think she can survive financially on her own. But other times she stays for the same reasons that people in other kinds of imperfect relationships do: because of the kids, because of her religion, because she doesn't want to be alone or simply because she loves him....The system...patronizes victims by failing to listen to them, usurping their decision-making power and underestimating them -- underestimating their ability to negotiate their own safety and underestimating their role in the abusive relationship....women, too, are aggressive and violent....arrest makes low-income men more violent than does a simple warning by the police....Arrests generally deterred employed offenders, the studies showed, but provoked unemployed offenders to commit up to twice as many more assaults. That is, if a goal of the arrest policy is to protect women, the policy seems to backfire when applied to the low-income population that is most likely to be arrested for domestic violence....
Will Tapioca Pearl Tea Conquer Starbucks? C'mon, folks, there's room for both cappucino (although it doesn't have to be st*rbucks) and zhenzhu naicha.
I tried modifying this recipe for oatmeal cookies, and they came out pretty well. My modifications included the date version instead of the raisin original, half the sugar (because I've come to find American cakes, cookies, and candies too sweet--probably my wife's influence), two egg yolks for each egg called for, a few tablespoons of tapioca starch, and exercising care not to cook too long. They're OK, but I think I'll cut down on the butter next time. It also looks like I should substitute tapioca starch for flour. In browsing for further info, I see from preparedfoods.com, which also incidentally has this article about artisanal bread, that the issue of food texture is highly complicated.

Saturday, November 16


The news from SCSUScholars: Half the population of which earns below the median household income of about $37,000 -- less than what it would take to provide a "middle class" lifestyle !!
What's up, doc? (via HealthFactsAndFears.com).
Henry I. Miller of the ACSH argues that the risks of widespread smallpox vaccination outweigh the benefits:
In summary, given the difficulty of estimating the risks and benefits of vaccinating against a non-existent disease using a vaccine that carries known, serious, sometimes-lethal side effects, one must agree with the conclusion of Dr. David Busch, head of infectious diseases at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco: "It's inappropriate" to vaccinate the entire country for a disease whose threat is only theoretical, and immunization should only be given "as needed, not as desired."