Friday, August 22, 2008

More Proof that the Chinese Government is Crazy

This article is in the Houston Chronicle today.

By JOE MCDONALD Associated Press
Aug. 22, 2008, 6:34AM
BEIJING — Customers in China of Apple Inc.'s iTunes online music store were unable to download songs this week, and an activist group said Beijing was trying to block access to a new Tibet-themed album.

In Internet forums, iTunes users complained they had been unable to download music since Monday. That was a day after the Art of Peace Foundation announced the release of Songs for Tibet, with music by Sting, Alanis Morissette, Garbage and others, and a 15-minute talk by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader.

Michael Wohl, executive director of the New York City-based group, said he believed the album was the reason for the iTunes interruption, though he had no proof.
"We issued a release saying that over 40 (Olympic) athletes downloaded the album in an act of solidarity, and that's what triggered it. Then everything got blocked," Wohl said by phone.

Beijing encourages Internet use for education and business use but tries to block access to foreign sites run by dissidents and human rights and Tibet activists.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which regulates Internet use, did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Public Security, who would give only her surname, Wang, said she had no information.

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., acknowledged that customers were having trouble.
"We are aware of the logon problems but we have no comment at the moment," said Huang Yuna, an Apple spokeswoman in Beijing. She declined to say how many customers were believed to be affected.

Blocked iTunes users poured out their frustration on Internet bulletin boards.
"It seems like suspending iTunes is punishment for iTunes, but really it doesn't hurt iTunes, it hurts us," said a note on, a Chinese site for Apple users.

The Dalai Lama has been vilified by Chinese authorities, who claim he is trying to split Tibet from China. He says he only wants greater autonomy for the Himalayan region to protect its Buddhist culture.

Violent protests broke out in March in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Many Tibetans insist they were an independent nation before Communist troops invaded in 1950, while Beijing says the Himalayan region has been its territory for centuries.

Wohl said his group contacted Olympians ahead of the games and offered free copies of the 20-song album. He said those who downloaded it included competitors from the United States, Canada, Britain, Spain, France and Australia.

Most got the album before entering China, but "some in Beijing did download, and I think that's what spooked the Chinese government," Wohl said.

Wohl declined to identify the athletes by name, saying he wanted to avoid making trouble for them with the Chinese government or the International Olympic Committee.

China has the world's largest population of Internet users, with 253 million people online as of June, according to the government. The United States is in second place with 223.1 million people online, according to research firm Nielsen Online.

Apple has no China-based iTunes service. Users must log onto sites for the United States or other markets. Despite that, the company's iPod digital music player is hugely popular in China.
Wohl said he had heard no complaints from Apple about the possible impact of the album on iTunes access.

"They're incredibly supportive people. They wouldn't do anything like that," he said. "They support freedom of speech and freedom of expression."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nigel the Flippin' 8 Year Old

My fellow yoga ninja in training, Nikole, our yoga ninja master, Mandy, and myself have started a weekly ritual of enjoying a tasty froyo from Swirll. It's big fun...we sweat our butts off for a couple of hours and indulge in yogurty goodness for anywhere between $6-9...well worth it.

The first time we went, we were sitting outside partaking in some excellent girl talk....when out of the corner of my eye I saw a little boy doing flips back and forth along the sidewalk. He was a cute and petit little guy and for about 5 minutes entertained us with roundoffs, flipflops, walking on his hands, and even a little bit of breakdancing. We were speechless. Then, just as quickly, he got in his mom's corolla (she had been parked while he was putting on the show), rolled down the window and waved, and then they drove off. The three of us let out a collective, "WTF?" and a "Did that just happen?" Yeah it was weird..but I thought for sure it was a one-time act of randomness.

Low and behold, same time, same place last week...the kid is back. We had more witnesses with us this time, so we knew we weren't crazy. We cheered him on. Then we asked his was Nigel...of course. He is in gymnastics and apparently just wanted to do some flips. When a friend's husband said he could show him some new tricks, Nigel said "I don't NEEEEED any new tricks" So said husband sat back down....only to be assaulted by little 8-year old Nigel moments later.

Nigel walked up to the hubby, grabbed his shoulder and said "Don't make me have to tell you to move!!!" He had the most serious look on his face and clearly he was not joking...I was honestly a bit scared of the kid.

Nigel may be performing randomly at a Swirll near you...but watch out, he's feisty! Just let him do his thang and get back in the car. He accepts applause, but that's about it. Best of luck kiddo.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

You know you work in the ghetto when...

Engineers are known for being frugal, well not all of us, but most...and engineering companies aren't much different.  My office building is in the most GHETTO part of Houston and that's not an exaggeration folks.  When you turn on the TV in the morning and see murders and other acts of crime....they're in the general vicinity of my office.  Here are some things that I've seen and I really can't make this stuff up:

  • Helicopters flying around looking for criminals
  • Apartment complex across the street blocked off because a body was found in a car
  • People throwing bricks at our cars
  • A carjacking of a fellow employee in the parking 2pm
  • There's a gym around the corner called "Phat Body Gym" (niiiiice)
  • Prostitutes walking on the street and pimps buying them the Subway special of the day
  • Last week there was a car pulled over in front of the building, at lunch, and four cops had their guns drawn
  • We found bullet holes in the conference room (always a good 'Safety Moment' for meetings)
  • The stairwells in the parking garage are locked to keep you from getting mugged...hopefully the elevators don't break.
  • The gas on the street is some of the cheapest in Houston, but for fear of my life I won't dare take advantage of the discount.
Unbelievable, right?  And I thought that working in the chemical plants was dangerous...

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Well it looks like even the local New Orleans Original Daiquiri drive-thru is going green.  I saw this last weekend at near my parents' house and had to stop to take a picture.  It all starts here folks...go to the drive through, order your alcoholic beverage and sip it out of a refill mug while you're cruisin around the Crescent City!  

Friday, August 8, 2008

Music Report

Here's some music that's been rockin' my world lately:

  • Elbow's new album, The Seldom Seen Kid, is on constant repeat in my car. The song "One Day Like This" is starts off with Guy Garvey's soft vocals and as soon as he breaks into his first "Cause holy cow, I love your eyes!", it instantaneously brings a huge smile to my face. Then he and the orchestral band build up into an invigorating chorus of "Throw those curtains wide!..." and wow. The lyrics are just unbelievable. Obviously this is my favorite song on the album, but the additional 10 tracks are just as enjoyable. "Grounds for Divorce" is another fav.
  • The D'Urbervilles' (not to be confused with the novel Tess of the D'Ubervilles) track, "The Receiver" is Linkin Park-ish but much more artsy. I am always a sucker for the singing/rapping combo...
  • Plants & Animals are yet another Canadian indie rock band. I don't know what they are putting in the water up there, but keep bringin' it, eh? Their album Park Avenue rocks...the whole thing, beginning to end. The songs are long and jammy and the beginning of every track never sounds like the end. You need it!
  • Fun dance music that I've been digging includes: Cut Copy, Hercules and the Love Affair, Crystal Castles, Walter Meego, Girl Talk.

I've got tons more....