China protest zones unused

The three parks that China designated protest zones are going unused, although its not for lack of trying.

Below is a quick link to a New York Times article on the three so-called “Protest Zones” established in Beijing during the Olympics.  (It should be pointed out that World Park is quite a distance from central Beijing.)

In an authoritarian country that bans almost all forms of public protest, the newfound openness seemed too good to be true. And it was.  


Five days after the Olympics began, not a single demonstration had taken place in the official protest zones. The authorities have declined to say whether any applications have been approved, and they did not acknowledge the detention of would-be demonstrators.

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Howard Zinn: maybe American history is not so nice after all…

A colleague sent us a link to a series of videos posted by MIT about American political culture.

Myths About America poster

Myths About America poster

There are four videos of lectures given by Howard Zinn, Alan Wolfe, Eric Foner, and Leo Marx.  Each is about an hour long, followed by Q&A.  We’re making our way through them ourselves and will post reaction/commentary soon!

American travels to Tibet, stirs up trouble

A quick link to the story of a Chinese-American young woman who, in a sort of quarter-life crisis, takes up pro-Tibet activism and makes a pilgrimage there.  (This seems to be based on the Huffpo blogger’s interview of the woman alone.)

A plain-clothed Chinese man was holding up his cell phone unusually high in her direction. Wen didn’t think anything of it, but as she was walking down, the police officer who had come to her room and threatened her the night before, stopped her and told her to follow him to the police station. “I thought, this is it. I can’t believe I took those pictures.”

What’s striking to me is that her American nationality was of no help when Ms. Novick was detained by Chinese authorities, because she was traveling under her Taiwanese passport, and so was treated as a Chinese citizen, without consular protection.

State to citizen: try applying for naturalization

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot from colleagues about the process of obtaining a visa to work or study in the United States.  The comic below, for example, was held up as an excellent depiction of what an international student goes through.

The F-1 Student Visa Process Explained

The F-1 Student Visa Process Explained

I’m posting with a message to those international students, or other prospective immigrants: don’t feel bad about this process, about the need to produce your undergraduate transcript, or your advisor’s C.V.  We’re making American citizens go through it, too.   Continue reading

Beijing Opening Ceremony Leaked

Breaking: Via the Foreign Policy blog, a secret taping of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony has been aired.

The video was posted on [Video “no longer available due to a copyright claim by a third party”] and [Video “removed due to copyright violation”!]. FP also asks who could have sent takedown notices to YouTube and LiveLeak: could have been the Korean television network that aired the video, or perhaps the Beijing Olympic organization.
Excerpts can be seen on news sites (;
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Laptop: $100. Power: free as sunlight.

Sometimes living in Cambridge makes it easy to come up with material.

At lunchtime today I saw someone sitting with an XO Laptop from the OPLC project.  I know that this project has issues, but I like the idea in general, and especially its use of open-source software.

I guess I’ll consider the conversation I had with this person as off-the-record, but I will mention that I didn’t bring up the “nail in [OLPC’s] coffin” that I had read earlier this morning.

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But how much RAM does it have?

A seemingly complete description of the “Antikythera Mechanism” was recently published in the scientific journal Nature.  Mainstream accounts with interviews of the authors are also available.  (There’s also a cool streaming video, but I’m not sure if that’s accessible to non-scubscribers.)

This is a pretty amazing device, in that it appears (to me as a layman) at least as complex as the mechanical clocks that emerged in the early Renaissance in Europe.  This raises several questions: why are these devices so rarely described in contemporary texts?  What happened to the knowledge and technology required for designing and building things like this between Greek times and the Renaissance?  How could only one such device survive, to be discovered by fortuity in 1901? 

Given the importance of the mechanical clock to the age of discovery during the Renaissance, it’s amazing to think what might have been if a few of these had been safely kept and widely used in ancient times.

Figures from the Nature paper after the break.   Continue reading