The Dream of the Great Firewall of China

Yesterday evening we found out that none of the Chinese websites are reachable.

ZM said maybe the fiber-optic cables are broken? I thought that was too drastic. But i don’t want to believe it is some kind of sick joke that the Great Firewall of China is playing. “Experimenting of cutoff all communications? because it can?” I tried our usual trick at playing mouse and cat with GFWoC, unplug our DSL modem and plug it backin, in the hope of getting a new IP. It usually works when we couldn’t reach one particular site. Never had to deal with the situation when all the sites are down.

Turned out ZM was correct. The 7.1 and 6.7 earthquake hit Taiwan also damaged 6 out of a dozen fiber optic cables lieing in the southern China sea. What’s amazing is that each cable is only 2/3 of an inch in diameter, that is only 1.67 centimeters!

It is fascinating that such a thin cable could carry so much data from continent to continent. It is amazing that all of them would be laid in exactly the same location. I guess no one thought of putting in a disaster recovery plan for that. Considering the funcky geological formation the area has…

We will see how long it will take for the rest of world to reach China, or vise versa. Meanwhile, everyone maintaining GFWoC could go home and have a peaceful New Year. Nature did a much thorough job for them.

On the other hand, maybe when the fibers are finally repaired, the entire China netizens would have learned how to use Proxy? thus rendered GFWoC useless? One can always dream. 🙂

We shall see.

Free Smile! Free Hug!

Heard a hilarious news on BBC as I was walking to the shuttle stop this morning.

“Only 9% of Chinese smile to strangers. According to a new survey conducted by Chinese media. That got Shanghai worried. The city is going to host the upcoming world class blahblahblah… The city hired X numbers of free smilers on the streets, to smile at strangers and to teach local residents how to smile to strangers. There was an similar effort by volunteers earlier this year in Beijing, they were offering free hugs to strangers on the street until the police detained them.”

I laughed out loud. That is the difference between China and France. Could you imagine the city of Paris to hire a bunch of volunteers to stand on Paris street corner and smile to strangers?

Paris Inspired Topic: French Revolution and Marxist

It has been six years since I last came to Europe. I was expecting more immigrants on the streets of Paris. Surprisingly, I didn’t see too many headscarved women. But I did notice that lots of souvenirs peddlers were African immigrants. Gui asked me who were peddling these trinkets on the streets before? I thought for a while, nobody. I don’t remember peddlers on the streets of Paris before.

How interesting.

While we were in Paris, we were constantly comparing the French to the Chinese, Paris to Beijing, Paris to Shanghai, Parisians to Shanghainess.

One thing that puzzled me was why communism never flourished in France?

The French revolution is every bit as bloody and maddening as any Communist Country’s revolution. But why didn’t it go anywhere? Why did it just fizzle?

As we walked the maze-like alleys of the Latin Quarter, as we climbed the steps of Montmartre, as we wondered the quietness of cemeteries, as we pondered the such familiar rudeness of Paris service staffs, we tried to figure out.

The French’s forever suspicion attitude toward anyone or anything the resembles previlege could have been a sure sign of its inclination toward communism. But there maybe a couple of other factors prevented it from becoming red. Its free spirit and easy-living attitude. Deep down, maybe, just maybe, French is too bourgeoisie to care about maximize efficiency or productivity. They care, rightly so if you ask me, more about having a good cup of coffee, a delicious piece of pastry, a nice dinner, and a good conversation than about having a revolution.

Or it maybe because the French revolution happened too early, there is no The Maoist or Marxist to guide them? There is no theory to help them keep the fruit of their revolution? Without the shinny beacon of Communist Manifesto, with nothing better to model after, they settled for the dictatorship of Napoleon?

Then I came upon this: The French Revolution and Socialist Tradition, and I realized how upside down my thinking has been.

To say all of this is not the same thing as saying that the revolution died or that the revolutionary faith, for it is a faith, had simply run its course. The French Revolution did not directly produce the 19th century ideologies known as socialism or communism. But the Revolution did provide an intellectual and social environment in which these ideologies, and their spokesmen, could flourish. In other words, the history of the socialist tradition is something more than the words of Marx and Engels (the subject of Lecture 24). We must remember that Marx and Engels, major prophets of this tradition that they were, were educated in the peculiar circumstances of late 18th and early 19th century revolutionary activity. What, after all, would Marx and Engels have been had it not been for the French Revolution?

That settled it. 🙂

Plaza Reial – The Prettiest Square in Barcelona

It’s one thing to turn off the bustling Rambla, walked through an arched doorway, and entered into the warm toned Plaza Reial. It is something completely different to wander around the maze-like old town‘s back alley, and to follow its twist and turns, to come upon little neighborhood grocers or a butcher shop (often unexpected because none of them has signs as you walked down the alley, then suddenly there is, an oasis of commerce opportunities amidst the quiet and desolate cobble stone pathways, which was occasionally punctuated by a hurrying local), then there you see it, an archway of light and sun, at the end of one such dark and still alley.

As you walked closer to the light, as you walked into the light, the sudden joy and warmth you would feel, was simply overwhelming. At that moment, Plaza Reial suddenly assumed a complete new importance and a brand new kind of prettiness.

Then you find an empty chair under the palm, in the shaded sun, you sit down, started admiring the after lunch crowd to disburse, observing local elders spread around the square’s bench, reading newspaper, or talking to each other, snooping on the lucky residents of the square making phone calls on their balcony, or having a loud conversation with neighbors three balconies away, while the fountain happily bubbling away. You would find yourself grasping for a reason why would you ever want to leave.

The magic of the old continent.

Girona – The Overwhelmingly Beautiful Medieval City

Girona is a pleasant surprise of the trip. Completely unexpected for me.

I was only considering it to be a transit point. A place that we must stop for a while in order to go from A to B. A being Paris, B Barcelona. There was no G.

When Gui told me that we should plan on spending the day in Girona, I was a little shocked, “for what?”

“It sounded like an interesting place, very well preserved medieval town, conquered first by the Romans, then the Moors, then the Catalans. It was attacked by pretty much everyone in the neighborhood. ” That does sound interesting, especially the Moorish part.

I’ve seen plenty little medieval towns in the South of France. The narrow walk ways cut through fortress-like walls, Churches on the top of the hill, where all road leads to. Lots of stone walls, cobble stoned streets.

But Girona was prettier.

The maze like streets were fascinating.

The buildings were well preserved from outside, and extremely modernized from inside. All glass and steel, plus decorative rough stone walls thrown in for good measure. The genius of Spanish architects (or is that Catalan?) shone through in all the lovely curves and artistic touch in the little places: door handles, signs, lamp shades, etc..

After four full days of walking in Paris, my tired feet were begging for some rest. But this pretty little town attempted me so, that i couldn’t stop wandering among its mysterious alley ways. From day to night.

During our wandering hours, one of us always exclaimed, at every turn, at every new alley we managed to step into, every bridge we found through the dark entrances, “Why is it so quiet?” “Why isn’t there more tourists?” “Why are we the only guests here?” Gui was the only sane one, ‘What are you guys saying?isn’t it great?! We have this lovely place all to ourselves!”

We have to thank Ryanair for the discovery. More people start to discover this pretty town because Ryanair chose GIrona-Costa Brava Airport its airport for Barcelona.

Our host told us that Girona actually has the highest income per household in the entire Spain. That explained all the quiet but still well run businesses, shops, bars, tapas tavern, restaurant, etc. etc.

I loved this description from Gui’s travel book, “Rough Guide to Barcelona”, on Girona.

“The ancient walled city of Girona stands on a fortress-like hill, high above the River Onyar. It’s been fought over in almost every century since it was the Roman fortress of Gerunda on the Via Augusta and perhaps more than any other place in Catalunya, it retains the distinct flavour of its erstwhile inhabitants. Following the Moorish conquest of Spain, Girona was an Arab town for over two hundred years, a fact apparent in the maze of narrow streets in the center, and there was also a continuous Jewish presence here for six hundred years. By the 18th century, Girona had been besieged on 21 occasions, and in the 19th century it earned itself the nickname “Immortal” by surviving 5 attacks, of which the longest was a seven-month assault by the French in 1809. ”

Overwhelmingly beautiful medieval city.

Girona photos (click the photo below to see more):

All photos from the trip: Paris, Girona, Figures, Barcelona