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Tonight, I decided to get a pre-run snack at Sogo. I headed out around 7:30, and stumbled into a sea of protesters wearing red shirts as soon as I stepped out the door. So, I ran back in and grabbed my camera and followed them towards their congregation point at Zhōngxiào Dūnhuà.

They were screaming support for Shī Míngdé and telling President Chén to step down. I’ve never seen crowds of protesters like this in my life. There was even a miniature economy that had sprung up to support the protesters. Street vendors appeared out of nowhere and started selling sausages, water, red shirts, and various other protesting supplies.

Look at that! I sure wouldn’t be seeing anything remotely like this if I were still living out in Guīshān.

I have some photos up on Zooomr.

From the time I started writing this blog, my intent has been to make an apolitical blog. Truth be told, I’m not a very political person, and I don’t like politics. There comes a point, though, when I feel I have to take a stand, and my one vote back home isn’t enough. Just continuing to write letters to my representatives isn’t enough. About hundred and fifty people read this blog each day, and from what I can tell from sitemeter, about 40 or 50 are Americans. If I don’t speak up now, it may be hard to forgive myself in the future.
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China’s president, 胡锦涛, will be making his first trip to the U.S. next week. He isn’t going to the White House, though. He’s going to Bill Gates’s mansion. There, he’ll be served gourmet cuisine:

The guests will be served a three-course dinner, starting with a smoked guinea fowl salad, a choice of either beef filet with Walla Walla onions or Alaskan halibut and spot prawns before a dessert of rhubarb brown butter almond cake, the event organizers said.

He’ll be bringing a nice little dinner gift for the host, though:

Like any good dinner guest, President Hu will not come empty handed. The Chinese government issued a decree two weeks ago that all PCs will need to have a licensed operating system software installed before leaving the factory gates in an effort to crack down on piracy.

Also at the dinner will be a hundred other people, a veritable who’s who list of the rich and powerful in the west coast, including Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz, among others. Bill Gates will even have Homeland Security working the door at his party. Something tells me that Hu’s going to get the better end of any interactions at this event. It’s very interesting to me that a president of such a powerful country would see business leaders in his first visit to the US, rather than the US president or at least members of his administration. Is it an intentional slight or is it just common sense?

Another blog in Taiwan caught my eye today. It was so funny, I had to link to it. Ryan Whalen’s talking about the ridiculously nationalistic/Taiwan-aggrandizing maps in every classroom at Shīdà. Ryan ridicules the side by side placement of the flags of Taiwan and the UN (which doesn’t even recognize Taiwan). Further confusing matters, is the fact that these maps adhere to the “One-China Principle”, but rename Bĕijīng to Bĕipíng and label Táibĕi as the capital of all of China. I noticed those same weird maps back when I was a student there, and often chuckled when I saw them. I’m sure glad that somebody blogged about them, though. Here’s an excerpt of Ryan’s rant:

PICT2404-01 Cartographer: Right, so here’s your map. As you can see I’ve put Asia in the middle, that’s standard for maps around here. Anything else you want before I send this puppy to the printer?
Publisher: Well, we were thinking we could have, I dunno, flags all around the outside. So like, if you want to know what a country’s flag looks like, it’s right there.
Cartographer: Sure we can do that. Lots of people like flags on their maps. Makes sense really. You want ’em alphabetical or what?
Publisher: Well the order really doesn’t matter. But we want a box in the middle for the Republic of China, OK?
Cartographer: Sure thing. You’re the boss.
Publisher: No make the box a bit bigger. Let’s put two flags in there.
Cartographer: Ummm…OK. Who else? America? They’re a good friend and ally, plus they’ve got a really pretty flag. I like stars.
Publisher: We were thinking the United Nations.
Cartographer: You mean that pasty powder blue thing with the weird laurel leaves?
Publisher: That’s the one.
Cartographer:: What the hell? They kicked us out! We’re not even a member country! Why would we put their flag in the box of honour? That doesn’t make any sense.
Publisher: Yeah, but you know…maybe…well, maybe they’ll see on the map that our flags are friends, then they’ll wanna be friends too. Then we can be a member country again.
Cartographer: What the hell is wrong with you?…

Be sure to see Ryan’s blog for the rest.

I’m not a big fan of blogging about politics. I see two problems that usually happen. The first problem is, everybody congregates towards bloggers who they agree with. Most political blogs link to several other political blogs that share the same views, of course. The result of this is that everyone can just vilify those they don’t like, and only rarely encounter or have to deal with sharply differing view points. The second problem is that when visitors of different view-points do show up, the result is usually nasty but rarely educational. Don’t get me wrong, I love to debate with people about politics, religion, and many other sensitive topics. When it’s in a more personal setting, people will often hear out opinions that conflict sharply with their own and sometimes even learn something new in the process. I just haven’t seen it work out so well online. People usually just get angry and learn very little. I don’t feel that way about the three political blogs I link to, of course. Even though all three are lean very strongly to one side or another, they’re run by people who are more open-minded and polite than I could be running a political blog!

Anyway, I recently took a quizilla quiz to see where it ranked me on the U.S. political spectrum. It ranked me right in the middle of the liberal half of the scale (i.e. halfway between moderate and “far-left liberal”). The thing is, it’s a pretty useless quiz. During the occasional online political discussions I do find myself involved in, I find myself arguing about all kinds of political topics with other people who have been placed on the exact same spot on the spectrum that I have! The problem of course is that the American definitions of “left” and “right” include such a motley assortment unrelated political and economic issues that most people don’t really agree with either “side”. I did some reading on the topic online, and found a much better political quiz, called the political compass.

The political compass is a two-dimensional representation of a person’s political views. It separates issues of political control such choice of religion, from issues of economic control such as taxation and welfare. This is from their site:

The old one-dimensional categories of ‘right’ and ‘left’ , established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today’s complex political landscape. For example, who are the ‘conservatives’ in today’s Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher ?
On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It’s not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can’t explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as ‘right-wingers’, yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.

I took the test and put up my results, along with the rankings of various world leaders and 2005 Canadian political parties for comparison.