Teaching, 30 years on

Teaching, 30 years on
JISHOU, HUNAN — Thirty years ago this month, I started teaching. It seems like an incredibly long time — nearly half my life — but at the same time, those years have slipped by quickly. In that time, I have taught more than a thousand students on three continents, in several subjects, from kindergartners to adults. And I gotta say, I still like it. As with most careers, everyday work in teaching is fairly routine, run-of-the-mill stuff. At times, it is downright boring (reading essays, grading homework, marking tests, in-service meetings — ACK!), but most times it’s one of the most rewarding occupations in the world — not in the financial sense, but in a deeper and more significant sense. I get to watch young people grow and learn, and at the same time, I grow and learn. Every teacher can list his or her success stories, I think: students who were nondescript at first, but who later achieved something, no matter ow small, that was noteworthy in some way. It’s those moments that make teaching so worthwhile. After 30 years, I have lots of stories to tell, but I will offer three examples from the last several weeks to ...

What’s up, Jade Rabbit?

JISHOU, HUNAN — China’s lunar rover, 玉兔 Yu Tu (Jade Rabbit), woke up March 13 for its fourth lunar day of work, but its roving days are over. Last month, Jade Rabbit lost its ability to move. Now it seems the craft has stopped working altogether. Meanwhile, China’s Internet censors seem to be blocking space-related websites that have been covering the mission since Yu Tu and its sister craft, the Change’E lander, arrived on the Moon in December. When I tried to visit Universe Today, Nature and The Planetary Society for updated news reports, all attempts failed. Spaceflight101.com, however, worked, so that’s where this update largely comes from. While everything was working according to plan, Chinese media were all over the story. Now that Jade Rabbit is largely out of commission, perhaps Chinese media censors want to keep updates muted. The two probes’ soft landing in the Mare Imbrium basin were the latest coup for China’s aggressive space flight program. Both Change’E and Yu Tu were working optimally during the first month of the mission, sending back data and photos through January. Yu Tu was able to drive away from the landing site, as planned. Then as the second lunar ...

April update 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — I’ve been lax in keeping up the blogging, so here’s an update on life here in Jishou. This weekend is a holiday, 清明节 (Qingming Jie), which is called Tomb Sweeping Day in English. It was Saturday, and many offices and schools got Friday and Monday off. Most Chinese families use the day to visit the graves of deceased family members, clean them, and leave offerings of “money” and food to their ancestors’ spirits. For those who live close to home, it’s also a chance for some quality time with family. For others, it’s a welcome respite from a 6-days-a-week, 51-weeks-a-year work schedule. My holiday was the calm and peaceful kind. I didn’t go anywhere special — it’s been pouring outside — and anyway, I had private lessons to give on Sunday. The university has offered me a generous raise for the following year, so I have agreed to stay another year. It will be my seventh year teaching here. To be frank, I never expected to stay this long, but the time has flown by, so I take that as a sign that my annual choice to stick around has been a good one. My weekend teaching ...

First Lady Michelle Obama begins her Chinese tour

JISHOU, HUNAN — First Lady Michelle Obama (米歇尔•奥巴马 mi xie er ao ba ma) arrives in Beijing this evening to begin her six-day tour of China. Accompanying her are daughters Sasha and Malia, and her mom, Marian Robinson. Their tour will unfortunately not include Jishou, or even Hunan. The closest they will come is Chengdu, in neighboring Sichuan, home of the Giant Panda Research Center. Other stops include Beijing (natch) and Xi’an, home of the Terracotta Soldiers. Obama will meet with her counterpart, China’s own first lady, Peng Liyuan 彭丽媛. The two will spend a day together in Beijing, visiting a school and touring the Forbidden City. Then, Obama will speak at Peking University, meeting with students. Later, the Obama contingent will make the obligatory tourist visit to the Great Wall. The visits to Xi’an and Chengdu will follow the Beijing sojourn. The Obamas are widely admired in China. It should be interesting to see how the Chinese react to Robinson’s presence, as grandparents in China traditionally stay at home to take care of the grandchildren.

Jishou’s ‘Bernie Madoff’ executed for financial crimes

JISHOU, HUNAN — During my first year here, citizens here were caught up in a big real estate scandal that cost many of them their entire life savings. Some of those people are my friends and students. The man ostensibly at the head of this scandal was Zeng Chengjie, a local real estate developer. I say was, because Zeng was executed last July. As a former reporter, I am ashamed to say I didn’t learn about it until just last week, from a French traveler of all people. But, as they say, better late than never. Jishou is normally a very calm and peaceful place. (Another way to put it is, “boring.”) The only times it gets loud and crazy here are when it’s a big holiday, like Spring Festival, or when an NBA exhibition game is at the city sports arena. But, in September 2008, there were mobs of angry people downtown, many outside the gates of the city government complex, demanding compensation for losing money in an investment scheme. For a time, there were police in riot gear and soldiers patrolling the streets. My foreign affairs officer called me on at least two different occasions to advise me ...

Great adventures in high school journalism 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Wonkette has already commented on this story in its inimitable way, but I haven’t written a high school press freedom blog in years. So, suffer me this rare chance. Student journalists at Fond du Lac (Wisconsin) High School did a boffo piece on rape, rape culture, and rape jokes. Scroll to the end of this linked page and read it yourself. It was well written, informative and mature, and included helpful links for readers needing counseling or advice. I mean, it was nearly professional, the kind of piece student newspapers get state and national scholastic press awards for. The administration of FDLHS spiked it. That’s right. Right now in the 21st century high school students still cannot discuss sex in print, no matter how well written and researched their articles are. If I were the principal of this school, I’d be damned proud of these kids. But, you know, I’m not the boss. And also, sex, teenagers. OMFG! The administration did not break any laws, because the Supreme Court ruled long ago that schools have the right to censor student publications if they are part of an academic course. The best we can do as sympathetic observers ...

What fools these mortals be 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Just to be clear, I am not Satoshi Nakamoto. Nor do I write for Newsweek. Under the circumstances, these are both good things. Dorian Sakamoto also says he is not Satoshi Nakamoto. He’s the 64-year-old Californian who Newsweek says is the man responsible for the Bitcoin technology. Dorian, who was born Satoshi in Japan, told The AP he doesn’t even know what Bitcoin is. (He called it Bitcom.) Here’s the short version of this Shakespearean comedy. Bitcoin was invented in 2008-9 by an anonymous programmer going by the name Satoshi Nakamoto. He identified himself as 38 years old and living in Japan. His true identity was unknown even to his closest collaborators on the Bitcoin protocol. Newsweek, which has just been brought back from the dead, made its re-premiere cover story an exposé of the “man behind Bitcoin,” asserting he is Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, a naturalized American citizen living in a nondescript neighborhood of Temple City, California. The reporter who tracked him down, Leah McGrath Goodman, pored through public records, contacted Bitcoin developers, former associates and family of Dorian Nakamoto, and even obtained his email address from a business in the UK. Dorian likes model trains, ...

Bitcoin: not just for the privileged few

Bitcoin: not just for the privileged few
On Thursday, the liberal website, Think Progress, published a critique, Bitcoin: By The Privileged, For The Privileged, saying the controversial digital currency only benefits the privileged, and does not address the needs of the poor and working poor. Basically, says writer Annie-Rose Strasser, Bitcoin’s libertarian proponents oppose government intervention in financial matters, while the underprivileged need government protection from financial abuse. So, she says, Bitcoin cannot help the underprivileged. Bitcoin users’ rejection of the government reflects the luxury of being able to live well without state support, while the less advantaged desperately need a larger government role in the banking system to help them them overcome deep, systemic bias. Strasser raises some valid points in her column, but her suggestion that Bitcoin offers nothing to the underprivileged and the “unbanked,” as the phrase goes, does not follow logically from her objections to the currency. Rather, she seems opposed to the idea of Bitcoin simply because of libertarians’ fondness for the currency. She fails to see the advantages Bitcoin may offer the less privileged. To be honest, Bitcoin proponents have done a piss-poor job marketing their pet project to the public at large, and debacles such as the recent collapse of ...

History repeats itself 2

Well, fuck. It looks like Russia is going to invade Ukraine. Russian troops are already in Crimea. It’s 1968 all over again.

We now resume regularly scheduled programming, now in progress

JISHOU, HUNAN — Nothing like a server crash to slow down your writing projects. I had practically all of last weekend free to write, and the drive to do it, but as I said in the last post, my site was down for the count until midweek. Coincidentally, that big Bitcoin exchange in Japan, Mt. Gox, also went dark about the same time. Their situation is more dire, as they’ve “lost” more than 850,000 bitcoins somehow and have filed for bankruptcy protection. Their site remains dark. I don’t have those bitcoins. I promise. If I did, I would probably be sitting near some tropical beach now, sipping a piña colada, not sitting in my flat at Jishou University sipping green tea. Unless I were being sly. Muhahaha! In fact, my experiment with Bitcoin is doing better than I had expected. Prices are still not above the levels when I first entered Bitcoin land in early December, but Bitcoin has not tanked completely, even after the Mt. Gox fiasco. I successfully used Bitcoin last week to transfer some of my pay from China to the USA, netting $25 in the process because of changing prices and arbitrage. You can read the ...

Site was down for a while

JISHOU, HUNAN — Spammers or hackers were attacking all the WordPress sites hosted at Planet Earth Hosting over the weekend, at least on the server this sites shares, so our hosts shut us all down until they could resolve the issue. So, if you tried to access Wheat-Dogg’s World recently, you probably got nothing at all. Even the DNS entries were coming up blank. But all seems OK now. We are back in operation. The hackers or spammers were apparently hitting the login page for WordPress, trying to gain access to the WP sites on the server. Earlier versions of WP may have had a vulnerability they were trying to exploit, but this site is up to date. The shutdown was frustrating, because there was nothing I could do about it, and I had blogs in mind to post over the weekend, which was when I had time to write. Now classes have started, so you’ll just have to wait a few more days.

A new writing gig

JISHOU, HUNAN — A feller approached me the other day about writing for his blog, Better Off Bitcoin. Unpaid, but it’s exposure, so I took Justin Hawley up on the offer. So far, I’ve written only two blogs there. One is cribbed from a post I wrote here, Moving Money the Modern Way, and another I just penned today, Why I Bitcoin. I got more than 330 hits on the first one, not bad for my first run. One reader noticed that I’ve been posting pages at Little Green Footballs. I started that a few months ago, whenever I caught something interesting I wanted to share there. It’s not exactly blogging — more like clipping and commenting — but I find some items don’t suit this blog very well. LGF gives me another venue to share my thoughts. I’ve written diairies at The Daily Kos in the past, but so much this past year. It seems I can only keep up with one political blog at a time, and Daily Kos has too much stuff going on for me to keep up with. Maybe I’ll write there again soon, if the muse visits me. The feeds from here to Twitter ...

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