Steve's China Blog

Monday, March 24, 2008

Super Bowl Party v2.0

Last month my father recorded the Super Bowl on DVD and sent it to me. This Saturday I had some co-workers come over for an American style Super Bowl party! There were about 12 guests from China, 3 from India, and one from Norway. Out of all of the guests there was only one person from India (who had lived in the US a few years ago) who had ever watched American football before.

The game was pretty exciting for a Super Bowl and I was glad it was not just a blowout like some years. The commercials were not as good as usual, but everyone enjoyed watching them very much!

Kwai Ling enjoying the game

One of the strange things about the DVD was that when I played it on my DVD player the play-by-play announcers were speaking in Spanish. Everything else was in English. It really didn't matter since no one really understood the rules or the terminology anyways.

Enjoying some snacks and watching the game

I didn't cook anything this year, but we had a lot of food and drinks. We had some cut up vegetables with some ranch dressing to dip them in, some cashews and peanuts, chips and salsa, dried fruit and regular fruit, cheese and crackers, a few little cakes, beer, orange drink, and Coca Cola. We ordered several pizzas from a pizza place nearby also. Since the weather outside was so nice people could go out on the balcony whenever they wanted to.

Some friends chatting during the game

It turned out to be a nice party, and I'm looking forward to having another party soon... maybe a pot-luck dinner. Another first for my friends here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Debunking rumors

Earlier this week there were some stories going around the internet here in China about some Tibetan terrorism taking place in ChengDu. The stories included pictures, and as the stories spread it got worse and worse. Eventually the story became...

On March 18, extremely terrifying events took place in Chengdu. At around the same time, Tibetan terrorist actions occurred on the east, west and south sides of Chengdu. At Huashi Hospital in the south side, five Tibetans suddenly used knives to attack and killed a patient waiting in the front, a pedestrian and a man waiting for a taxi. Two other attackers injured other members of the public as well. On a Number 78 bus on the websies, a Tibetan suddenly poured gasoline on a backpack. Then he sprayed the remaining gasoline onto the passengers. A fire was set off, but fortunately no one caught fire. When the fire was put out, it was discovered that there were five kilograms of dynamite in the bag. On the east side, several Tibetans suddenly assaulted pedestrians including small children. Two Han youth were also killed by a knife-wielding Tibetan at Telecommunications Road.

Note: Some of these pictures are rather graphic, so you might not want to click on them and enlarge them...

A lot of my co-workers were very scared. I bet a lot of people in town were. I'm not sure who put this story out. Some would think the government did it to stoke fear and hatred of Tibetans, but the government actually came out quickly against the story...

At 10:30pm on March 18, the deputy director of the Chengdu public security bureau held an emergency press conference to deal with the Internet-fueled rumors. Here are the facts as he presented them. At around 10:30am, a man visitor to Chengdu attempted to flag down a Number 78 bus. As the spot was not a bus stop, the driver did not open the door. So the man took out a knife and and smash the glass on the door. Afterwards, the man vented his fury by vandalizing two parked cars. During the process, he wounded a man who was waiting for a taxi. The police arrived quickly, put the man under control and took him away. So far, it has been established that the man is from the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan province.

Here is an English translation of the event by an eyewitness on

According to an eyewitness account: "I was coming out from Huahi hospital and ready to take the Number 45 bus home. As soon as I came out, I saw a Tibetan man swinging a machete. I was walking towards the bus stop and I went past a parked white car. The Tibetan smashed the car window with his machete because he wanted to go after the people inside. The driver started the car and sped away in terror. The Tibetan turned around and saw a young man coming down on a bicycle. With a few swings, he knocked the young man down on the ground. Someone called the police. The police cars came and more than a dozen of them cornered him by the iron fence in front of a garage. He kept swinging his machete and he even stabbed himself. Many more anti-riot and armed police officers arrived. The standoff lasted about 30 minutes. Finally, several armed police officers knocked his machete down and everybody rushed up to subdue him.

A lot of the posts and photographs that accompanied the internet stories appear to come from other events. The road under the bodies seems to be different from picture to picture. The picture of the bus that was said to have been attacked actually came from an incident in Fuzhou in 2005 (see story here). The only picture that came from the incident is the last one. The first one I'm not sure of.

Like I said earlier I am not sure who put this story together. I'm not sure what their motive was except maybe to create fear of and/or hatred against Tibetans. Yeah, that's what we need more of here in China... more fear and hatred.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I've been very busy so I haven't had a chance to post much, and there is a lot going on. Most has to do with the protests and riots in Tibet and here in parts of China. ChengDu has a large Tibetan population, and after Friday's rioting broke out in Lhasa the Tibetan areas here in ChengDu have been locked down. There has also been a huge increase in the police presence here. The other day I saw several policeman armed with submachine guns downtown.

There's a lot of stories going around here too. There was one story that someone stole a bunch of explosives and were going to set them off in ChengDu, but that turned out to be false. Another story about a Tibetan man who stabbed someone and the police said it had nothing to do with what was going on in Tibet, but who knows? I've also heard stories about Chinese (police and civilians) beating and killing Tibetans here. There's also a story about several hundred arrested monks in Lhasa were flown to ChengDu and are being held here... no idea of that's true or not.

There's also a lot of different stories about unrest coming out of Tibet, and a few other provinces here in China that have large Tibetan populations. I think the official Chinese versions of the stories are complete BS, and I think most people outside of China know they are, but they are not really aimed at foreigners. Censorship of news stories on CNN and BBC here are very obvious, and they Great Firewall of China has been very busy censoring the internet here.

These are signs of just how weak the government is here in China... They can not tell their own people the truth, and they have to brutally repress their population with fear and intimidation. Things are going to get very bad here when the inevitable downturn in the economy happens. I would not be surprised if the Dalai Lama outlives the CCP.

Although this article was written nine years ago, and I disagree with some of the author's assumptions, it has some good insight into how Chinese think about Tibet...

Tibet Through Chinese Eyes

Here is an informative post about how the violence by Tibetans isn't helping matters...

Black Days for the Dalai Lama

And another interesting article about the differences between China and India, and how they handle dissent...

China and India: Oh to be different

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Bookworm

In ChengDu we have a place here called the Bookworm. It is a restaurant/bar/library/book store. The Bookworm has a lot of books from all over in many different languages. I had been to the Bookworm only once before and bought a few books there. They do not have a lot of books for sale in English that I really like or need, but there are not many places here that have as many. There is also a Bookworm in Beijing and one in Suzhou.

For a few weeks in February and March the Bookworm is having a book/author festival, and several authors show up to discuss their books or whatever. On Monday I went there to hear from an author named Qiu Xiaolong. He is originally from Shanghai, but moved to the United States back in 1988. He wrote a few books of poetry in Chinese, and the started writing mystery novels in English. I had heard about him, but had never read any of his books.

I decided to show up early and have dinner at the Bookworm. I had never eaten there and I discovered that the food was rather good! I had the Nabokov - a juicy chicken breast stuffed with cheese in cognac sauce served with mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus. I also bought a copy of Qiu Xiaolong's first mystery novel - Death of a Red Heroine, and read a little of that while I was eating.

After dinner I went to hear Qiu Xiaolong talk about his books. There were about 30 to 40 people there for the event. Admission was only 30 Yuan (about $4.22), and that included a glass of wine. The audience was mostly young Chinese, most likely college students. After talking about his books for awhile he took questions from the audience. The questions varied a lot... about the main character, about the murderers, about living in the United States, about writing books in a foreign language, etc... It was an interesting evening. Afterwards I got him to autograph the book I bought.

Since then I have read about half of Death of a Red Heroine (one of the reasons I haven't gotten around to completing the video of my commute to work). The book is pretty good and it's one of those hard-to-put-down books that I like. I have a few ideas of who I think the killer is, but I am not totally sure about any of them yet.

I've also found the history of the time of the book interesting. The story takes place in Shanghai in 1990... lots about people recovering from Mao's tragic Cultural Revolution and how they endure the changes to a free market economy. I have come up with a lot of questions for my Chinese friends and co-workers. I am curious what they're lives were like during those times.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Video, lunch, and parts

One day last week I woke up and it looked nice and sunny outside, so I decided to take along my handycam and make a video of my commute to work. When I get free time I have been editing it down in size, and I hope to have some of the video posted on the blog later this week or early next week.

On Sunday I went out to lunch with some co-workers to have some more 大盘鸡 at the same place that Reese and I had gone to a week earlier. It was really good, and afterwards we walked around the city for about a half and hour. Eventually we arrived at a part of the city nicknamed computer city where they have a lot of stores selling computers, computer parts, cell phones, mp3 players, dvd players, etc...

Since I have been having problems with my graphics cards and monitor on my home computer I figured I would check out what they had. The last time I was in this place the best graphics card any of them had was the GeForce 7600GS, which is not a very good graphics card. This time they had a bunch of the GeForce series 8's and a few places even had some of the GeForce series 9's!

I bought two GeForce 8600GT cards. They are not real high quality graphics cards, but just some cheap Chinese made cards that use NVidia GeForce technology. The cooling fans on them looked really fragile and the cards did not even have a power connection, but they can be run in SLI mode so I got them. I figured they will hopefully last me until I can get a pair of really nice graphics cards the next time I am in the States.

I also wanted to replace my cheap 17" monitor that I had bought in Dalian about two years ago. It started showing dead pixels about 6 months ago, so I figured it was going bad on me. I had a list of monitors that had gotten good reviews and wanted to see if any of the stores had any of the ones on my list. Eventually we found a few places that had the LG226WTQ 22" widescreen LCD monitor, so I got one of those.

When I got home I installed the new graphics cards and discovered that my 17" monitor wasn't bad... My old graphics cards were worse off then I thought. After getting the cards installed I hooked up the new monitor and it looks great! The strange thing about the new larger monitor is that I have to sit up straight to see the whole monitor. I had not realized how much I had been leaning forward to see, and how close I had had my face to, the old smaller monitor.

I ran a bunch of different software to see how the new graphics cards and new monitor worked out. I was really worried about the graphics cards, but they seem to be working really well. The cooling fans on the graphics cards can be adjusted and monitored using RivaTuner and I could not get them to overheat, even by running some intensive 3D games. The only problem seems to be that the fans make noise... they are the only thing on my system that makes any noise. It's not loud and I'll probably get use to it.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Warm weather and Da Pan Ji

The weather here has started to warm up. Most days get up to around 20°C (about 68°F). Pretty nice for the end of February and beginning of March. It is still cloudy and a little rainy, but some days we get some sunshine. I was reading this article awhile ago about whether or not there is global warming...

Extreme weather is normal?

In the article they interviewed a wide range of meteorologists, climatologists, a tornado expert, scientists and professors about the subject. I thought this one source was kind of out of place...

"It certainly seems like something ominous is going on when you experience these extremes," says Gregory Berg, an assistant professor of music at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.

They're asking a music teacher?!

Anyways, it's nice to have some pleasant weather for a change. On Saturday I went out and got a haircut and bought some groceries. On Saturday evening Reese took me to a place that serves 大盘鸡. This is a dish from the the XinJiang province and consists of chicken, potatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, and spices in a nice broth. It is usually served with large noodles. You can see a picture of what it looks like here. I use to get Da Pan Ji at the Muslim restaurants in Dalian, but have not had any since moving to ChengDu. It was wonderful!