JISHOU, HUNAN — In Sangzi, Loudi, Hunan, which is a few hours from here by bus, children have to climb ladders up the side of a mountain to get to school. Watch this video, courtesy of The Guardian and Reuters.
Hunan is a mountainous province, so we’re used to climbing hills, but the last time I took a trip like that was visiting a park in Zhangjiajie. Those ladders were metal, had safety cages around them and the angle was less steep. These kids are negotiating 70-meter (229-foot) vertical drops in some places.
I can only imagine what they’ll tell their grandkids: “You think you have it rough? When I was a boy, I had to climb up ladders 300 meters to get to school — coming and going!”
I’m including a screencap from Google Maps to show where Sangzi lies in relation to Jishou. Jishou is on the left (west) and the red pin is Sangzi village. If you want the satellite view, enter “Sangzi, Loudi, Hunan, China” in Google Maps.
JISHOU, HUNAN — Well-to-do Chinese love to dote on their “little emperors and empresses,” but one Chinese mother has raised the bar by purchasing a $6.5 million Manhattan condo for her daughter to live in while she is in college.
Her daughter is two years old.
Apparently, this doting mother expects her darling to attend Columbia, NYU or Harvard, according to news reports. (Mom needs to brush up on American geography, I suspect.)
The property in question hasn’t even been built yet. According to CBS News, it’s the proposed One57 project, a rectangular glass-and-steel monolith overlooking Central Park south.
Sorry, I have no nude photos of Mr Chiwayo or his partner
JISHOU, HUNAN — Chinese people already have a pretty poor opinion of Africans, and South Africa’s consul-general to China has not helped matters.
Lassy Chiwayo (at left, with his partner) was allegedly caught three months ago wandering naked near his home in Shanghai. Chiwayo also allegedly assaulted the South African ambassador to China, Bheki Langa, at a Beijing function.
So, according to news sources in China and South Africa, he’s been ordered home (some say deported, but it’s not clear) and relieved of his duties. The official word is that he’s experiencing medical problems that have caused his erratic behavior.
Chiwayo denies he’s done anything wrong, and insists he is still consul-general to China, although he is now in Pretoria.
And the only reason I am blogging this tidbit is that I get to mention China and South Africa, where I have both lived, in the same post.
JISHOU, HUNAN — Selling textbooks printed abroad in the USA does not infringe the copyright of the books’ publisher, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a 6-3 decision. The decision means a Thai entrepreneur can legally resell textbooks in the States.
The adversaries in this case were John Wiley & Sons, which publishes the text I used for AP Physics for many years, among others, and Supap Kirtsaeng, a Thai student who found a clever way to make money. He bought Wiley’s texts legally in Thailand, where the prices are lower than in the States, and then resold them (legally) in the USA for a tidy profit, while still undercutting Wiley’s American retail prices.
(Which is not hard, considering how high those prices are, especially for science, technology, engineering and math — STEM — texts. One book alone might cost $150 or more.)
As you can imagine, Wiley was not pleased, and took Kirtsaeng to court, contending that he was violating its copyright by reselling books intended for Thai consumers in the USA. Two lower courts found in Wiley’s favor, but the Supreme Court overturned those decisions, finding no clear provisions in existing copyright law that would make Kirtsaeng’s enterprise illegal.
At issue was the “first sale” doctrine, which presumes that the buyer of a copyrighted item can resell the item (or give it away) without the permission of the copyright holder. In other words, it’s legal to resell or give away books, CDs or DVDs. You don’t need to ring up Doubleday or Disney to get their OK first.
Siding with Kirtsaeng by filing amicus briefs were libraries, used booksellers, retailers, tech companies and museums, who argued Wiley’s interpretation of the law would seriously hamper their activities.
Wiley argued that as the publisher it had the right to set geographical restrictions on the sale of its products. Books printed in Thailand, for example, could only be bought and sold in Thailand and other markets as specified by Wiley. It initially won on that contention, but a majority of the Justices said such an interpretation flew in the face of centuries of common-law doctrine.
Whether the decision will bring textbook prices down remains to be seen. The publishers profit from the sale of textbooks (and their interminable “new” editions that come out almost annually) to an essentially captive audience. Schools and professors choose the texts, and students have to buy them.
Meanwhile, the publishers make it difficult for sympathetic teachers to save students money. For example, while a physics teacher, I found that Little Brown, which published Paul Hewitt’s Conceptual Physics college text, made it a point to reclaim all surplus “old” editions from booksellers when issuing revised versions. This policy made it nearly impossible for our school to buy a set of used texts to save students money. We had no choice but to buy the new, more expensive edition, which was 97% the same as the last one.
Sure, the economy of scale plays a big part in textbook publishing. The potential market is relatively small, and there a bewildering number of competing texts for each subject. So, a particular text may only have a few tens of thousands of buyers. Publishers, then, seem to feel justified in charging high prices to make a profit. How much of a profit, I can’t say, but Wiley must have felt threatened enough to go after Kirtsaeng.
Wiley was trying to extract every last ounce of blood from the turnip (students) by going after Kirtsaeng, who, after all, was not pirating anything. He was buying low and selling high, taking advantage of the market conditions set up by Wiley itself. Too bad, Wiley, so sad.
We can expect the publishers will now start lobbying their favorite congress-critters to amend copyright laws to protect their revenue stream. They’ve got nowhere else to go.
JISHOU, HUNAN — This term is shaping up to be a lot more relaxed than the last three have been.
First off, I have only 10 class sessions a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. Those are for Oral English with the sophomores and Listening Comprehension with the freshmen. Then, a new feature (since I am expected to have at least 16 class sessions a week) is six periods of “office hours.” Having never really had office hours in the past, this is a new concept to me.
My initial impression was office hours similar to those at American universities. The professor sits in his office doing what-not, waiting for anxious students to appear. But no! Those office hours are expected to be tutorials, à la Oxbridge. So, for three of those hours I was asked to make a schedule for the students I will meet (freshman class 1) and devise some kind of exercise for them. The other three “office hours” will be devoted to meeting with a gaggle of non-English majors preparing for the English speaking contest. These have yet to be scheduled.
Since I didn’t teach the freshmen last term, I’m using the first session as a get-acquainted time, to learn something about them and suss out their speaking and listening skills. After I see all of them, which will take another week and a half, I will give them some kind of task to prepare for the next session.
Luckily for them, I won’t be here for most of April, so they’ll have plenty of time to get ready. My daughter is getting married April 13 and my college and the university has graciously given me three weeks leave. I don’t need to make up the classes, but I am not sure whether I’ll paid for the month of April. (Note to self: better ask ASAP!)
As has been pretty typical of my life here, my now-ample free time has quickly been filled with tutoring sessions, a visit to a primary school in Fenghuang, and several proofreading and editing tasks.
The most time-consuming task is an editing job. Several of the teachers in our college are working to translate a book on cultural anthropology written by a Jishou professor, with the aim of getting it published in the States. They’re doing it on speculation right now; if the first few chapters read well, we’ll get the job and therefore money for our efforts. I have to admit the editing is slow going, not because their translation is bad, but because the presentation is less than entrancing.
The author of course is Chinese, and academic prose here is quite different from American academic prose. Whereas American prose is fairly direct, following a (hopefully) logical and linear line of argumentation, the Chinese style is more indirect and much more repetitve, so I find myself reading the same statements over and over again in a spiraling fashion, taking a long time to get the main point.
Were I the editor-in-chief of this particular project, I’d suggest a complete overhaul of the structure to bring it in line with American prose style, but that’s the journalist in me. (Can books on cultural anthropology ever be light, tight and bright? Doubtful.) It would require a lot more work, and more expertise than I have at my command. I took one anthro course at university. Took it pass/fail for a distribution requirement, and naturally got an A. Damn.
To be fair, I’ve only read one chapter — the introduction — so far. The second chapter, a longer one, awaits my perusal beginning tomorrow. Perhaps it will get the meat of the matter more quickly.
Oh, the topic regards the interplay and inter-relationships between ethnic groups, especially when they are involved in joint commercial or economic activities. The introduction makes some interesting observations, so reading the book is not really all that bad, given enough patience and a ready supply of coffee or tea. I’ll manage just fine.