I was having doubts about whether I really wanted to give more money to Rowlings, and today decided it. I think she’s taking her books way too seriously, and being an asshole about it, caring little for other people’s freedoms.
she claims to speak for the readers in not wanting any news about the book to come out before her imposed date of july 21 – I think that’s arrogant and insulting. if people don’t want to read spoilers, they’re perfectly capable of, well, not looking at them! as for people who accidentally received the book a couple of days early being asked to set it aside and not start reading until the 21st – again, wtf? it’s theirs now, they can read it whenever they damn well please. at least, that’s what I think – the BC Supreme Court disagrees with me.

seeing as I’m way over here in china, it’ll be quite easy for me to not buy it anyways. I bet it would be hard to find an english version in bookstores here, the chinese version doesn’t come out until august, and there are no (legal) e-books for harry potter. I’ll probably go to a library once I’m back in canada.

{July 19, 2007}   standards? what standards?

so a few days ago I was thinking about the apparent lack of health or safety standards in china. Then I opened the bottle of juice I’d just bought, and saw black stuff near the rim. gross. upon closer inspection, there were smaller black spots all around – must have been mould. this bottle had two dates stamped on it – january 2008 and april 2007, iirc. creation and expiry dates. it concerns me a little that the stuff lasts that long – and concerns me much more that some similar juice in the store seems to have expired a while ago, and is still being sold, with various discounts and bargains (a couple of days ago it dropped to “buy one get one free”). the dates for that juice are printed on the side of the lid, which is uneven, so they’re quite hard to read. I can’t help wondering if any poor student has gotten sick from it yet.

I’ve seen other things that creep me out, too. of course, I guess I can’t expect leafy green veggies to have *all* the bugs washed off, and a piece of bone or gravel showing up in my tofu dish won’t kill me, but mysterious chemical-y tastes that cause stomach problems for a day aren’t much fun. dealing with the foreign bacteria and 90% of dishes being full of oil is hard enough on our stomachs already.

I’ve found some pretty nasty stuff in canada (like slivers of metal in a pack of bacon) but it seems to be far more rare. canada’s food standards seem to be high enough that I can just not think about it, avoid processed foods and assume I’ll be ok.
over here, I don’t have any idea what sort of standards are enforced, but I doubt they’re much good. the air and water quality makes it quite apparent that the government doesn’t even pretend to care for the health of its people. oh yeah, and there was that toothpaste issue too.

I feel like I’m being slowly poisoned here by everything I eat, drink and breathe… what makes it even worse is the lack of choice. I don’t really see anything resembling “health foods” around here. trying to read ingredients is tiring and frustrating, and I’m not even sure how far I should trust the labels. soft drinks and candy bars aren’t very popular here, which is nice, but the yummy fruit drinks are very syrupy, and the dried fruit is incredibly sugary too. sometimes I buy vitamin water just so I can get a flavoured drink that’s not overpoweringly sweet. supposedly my friend found a loaf of brown bread once, but when I went to haoyouduo they just had the usual white stuff – all bread products are sickly sweet too. we haven’t even found any real peanut butter (ie, peanuts and maybe salt, nothing else) – I’m thinking of trying to just make some, since peanuts themselves are quite popular.

as for breakfast, it’s basically fried oily things or rice soup. and if you don’t get up early enough in the morning, the cafeteria’s closed and there’s just jidan bing from across the street (or some other type of bing that’s less greasy, but I don’t know what it’s called).
I’ve been thinking of buying a bag of oatmeal and some packages of milk for breakfast, but seeing milk in unrefrigerated plastic bags still creeps me out too much. plus, the milk tastes different here, and I don’t like it much. having been reminded of the nasty stuff that gets into american milk put me off dairy products for a little while, too.

one nice thing is the fruit stands everywhere. watermelon, bananas, and other fruit are easy to get, although you don’t always get to choose them yourself (one time I just threw out the banana I’d bought because it didn’t look worth eating). all the grapes have seeds, and are much more tasty than what I’m used to. they still have that certain something that I became mildly allergic to a few years ago, though. must be either pollen or pesticides – washing seems to help sometimes.

of course, we’ve been warned against that too, with stories of people injecting water into watermelons to make them heavier (water that’s not safe for us to drink). raw vegetables are very rare – salads are only served in fancy foreigner restaurants like pizza hut, and I wouldn’t trust them anyways. for now I’m trying to eat fruits that can be peeled, which usually means bananas, but the ones I like best have always been ones that can’t be peeled. I think my body is definitely upset about this – last week I had an irresistible urge to eat some cooked tomatoes, despite the fact that I’ve always hated cooked tomatoes. I guess I needed whatever nutrients they had so badly that they actually tasted good.

mostly I try not to think about where food comes from, since I tend to get overly paranoid and not want to eat anything for a while, but here I feel like I need to pay some attention, and at least try to avoid the most troublesome things… assuming I’ve even got reliable knowledge on that. food is the main reason I’m feeling homesick – I miss the variety, the freshness, the lack of worries…
oh well. maybe I’m better off not knowing, seeing as I also don’t know how to do anything about it. the air’s probably more likely to shorten my life anyways.

{July 18, 2007}   uhoh

so, I was about to change the license on my little scraps of pyqt code to be gpl3. then I discovered a problem: qt is gpl 2 only. from what I know of the gpl, that might make it impossible for me to use the (incompatible) gpl3 license for any of my qt code. since the python code isn’t actually being compiled into a binary I’m not 100% if this is true… but I’m fairly sure it would be true for my c++ code, at least.
this looks like it could be a problem.
a problem that could become quite big. for many people. meep.

{July 13, 2007}   this is the life

vacation’s going pretty well. I’ve been practising my juggling (three balls sewn – I’ll make more *after* I can properly juggle three) and reading lots of history n’stuff online.
one thing I haven’t been doing much of is studying. :) but I still have a few days before class starts. I’m trying to get in the habit of doing a bunch of stuff that I want to continue doing – not easy for me. procrastination tends to win, but this time I’m hoping I can beat it.
having a couple of days properly alone has been good for that… I can just tune out the outside world and focus on myself for a while. for me, any good vacation involves spending a few days alone :)

this evening I biked over to 好又多 for dinner and shopping… went to the same little restaurant as last time I ate there. the noodles are nice, but… I give up on 肉 now, completely. I just don’t like the meat here. the shredded chicken at the mexican place is good, but that’s it. I guess I just don’t like eating something that’s obviously an animal. however, when I tried to order a drink I ended up with some cold lentil soup (绿豆汤) – and it was quite yummy. :)

inside 好又多 itself I only meant to buy some shelves for my room, but I ended up with a bunch of useful stuff that I’d forgotten I wanted. took me forever to find string so that I could tie stuff to my bike – I’d given up and was going to buy tape instead when I saw the one brand of string on the bottom shelf. only one colour too – pink. :)
there were plenty of interesting things I didn’t buy, too… but I’ve forgotten what. all I remember is that they seem to sell porn there. o.0
a few days ago I bought a blender there, but I haven’t taken it out of the box yet. I think I’ll do that in a minute – I bought some fruit on my way home, so I can make a smoothie. I’m just not sure how to compensate for the lack of milk and have it still taste good.

one odd thing is that I haven’t done any programming for a while. I was planning to – I spent all of thursday morning rereading my extensive notes on a personal project. but… when it came to actually coding, I simply didn’t want to. perhaps my mind’s just preoccupied with other stuff right now.
I’m feeling kinda homesick, too. lucky pete, he gets cheap flights so he can go home during our august vacation. I guess I should figure out the dates of our january break and plan a trip back for then. for now I’ll try and focus on studying and learning.

{July 11, 2007}   tourism

tuesday I went to 乌镇 (wu1 zhen4) with my friend. it was a generic touristy thing – we went on a tour bus and got herded along with a bunch of other tourists while the tour guide kept talking into her megaphone.
my alarm went off around 6am – and I’m not a morning person. ugh. just to make things more fun, it was raining too. so about 6:45 we meet up and walk alll the way to the main gate, there a van picks us off and heads to some tour group center, piccking up some other people on the way. we got on a bus, but then had to switch to another one because there were too many people. once the bus finally set out (sometime around 8:30 I think) we just slept.
I think we were just outside 杭州 (hang2 zhou1) when we stopped at some tea place… they gave us tea and talked about it and then we had to pass by a bunch of stalls to get out. they were selling quite a variety of things – toys, clothes, food… but I just wanted to get back on the bus and sleep more.

after another nap, the bus arrived at 乌镇, and we stumbled out. I think it was vaguely around 10:30 by that point. there were lots of other tour groups there too, so we got to spend a couple of hours being herded along narrow streets, poked by umbrellas, with no chance to sit down… I didn’t really enjoy that. a few minutes in, I’d already stopped listening to the tour guide – I could understand a lot of individual words, and a few things made sense (like ‘the bus leaves at 2:15’) but most of the time I just couldn’t figure out how the sentences fit together or what they meant. trying to understand chinese is quite tiring after a while – it was enough work trying to understand what my friend said, let alone anyone else.

the place itself was fairly interesting, though. it was a little old village on a river – lots of stone everywhere, and a large amount of wood too. the water was lined by houses on both sides – stone going down in to the water, stone bridges, no dirt to be seen except in one patch of trees. the streets were quite narrow, giving the place a kind of.. medieval feel. inside some of the buildings I saw a lot of wood – nice polished wood staircases and such. there was a wood carving museum, too. and of course, gift shops all over the place.
one of the first places we were led into was showing how they made the designs on the fabric that was all over the place. basically they put a stencil over the cloth, put some white sticky stuff on, and then dyed it – with the white stuff stopping those parts from getting dyed, I guess. there were a bunch of other things – old currency, information about some famous people, etc – and it probably would have made a lot more sense if I’d been able to understand what the tour guide said. the last building was some sort of temple-like thing, with big statues of people (or they could easily have been gods). along the walls were twelve statues to correspond to the twelve signs – pig, goat, etc… I was never really interested in that stuff. by that point I also was feeling kinda sick, so I wasn’t paying attention. I decided I needed to go sit down, so we left the building, and it turned out that everyone else wandered out within the next 10 minutes anyway, and we could do what we liked after that.

since neither of us had brought real food (it’s not easy to pack a lunch in this country) we wandered along and bought some rice-things and tofu-things from some of the many stalls along the streets. we also bought some stuff made from the fabric they have – it was pretty cheap. the place was a lot more enjoyable when we weren’t stuck in the middle of a crowd, and the rain had stopped by then too. :) I saw some nice plants outside some of the houses. there was one vine with a single big gourd growing on it that looked as if it should be too heavy to be just hanging there. :) the river water actually looked clean (although it was still murky green) and there were a lot of small fish in it.
both of us were pretty tired by the time we had walked back to the main gate. conveniently, it was quarter to 2 by then anyways, so we just went and sat on the bus. I did some juggling practice, and the kids on the bus seemed fairly amused by my attempts. :) the bus actually did leave at 2:15 sharp, so we got back home before dinnertime.

I guess it went pretty well overall, but I’m *reallly* not a tourist sort of person. everyone else is off in shanghai for the weekend now, and I’m staying in my room with my AC. I did originally have plans for the weekend, but those fell through, and I think one day of tourism is quite enough for me anyways.

{July 5, 2007}   kwin composite

so a few days ago, I decided I wanted to enable those shiny kwin_composite features that I’ve seen so many youtube videos of. I was up pretty late figuring it out.

first, make showed me this:
— The following list of OPTIONAL packages were located on your system. —
— You will have all the following features available from this software. —
+ Compositing support

…regardless of whether libxcomposite-dev was actually installed.

then, when I actually started x, I wanted to get at the kwin debug info, so I do kwin –replace and get this:
kwin: Compositing was not available at compile time

so do I have composite, or don’t I?

eventually I went digging in the source, and found that while cmake only checks for xrender and xcomposite, the actual composite.cpp first checks for xcomposite and xdamage. naturally I don’t have this xdamage thing installed.

installed that, recompiled, and everything was all wonderfully pretty! :)
maybe this would’ve been solved with a svn up, since my sources are a few weeks old, but I originally though it would be too slow to download and rebuild kdelibs, kdepimlibs, etc.

unfortunately composite was unusably slow, though. I’ve got intel graphics and haven’t really looked into whatever acceleration options there might be… I’m not really sure where to start, actually. anyone got any tips for making composite stuff go at a normal speed? I know my comp should be capable of it – it may not be a very powerful machine, but I can at least play neverball.

oh, and wendy: your blog won’t let me comment. blogger doesn’t seem to accept my google account, and you don’t have anonymous comments on. I wanted to say that the konqui intro idea sounds hard to do without ending up like clippy, but konquigotchi sounds like a good game idea :)

{July 2, 2007}   yay! vacation!

well, technically I have one more exam thursday morning, but judging by the practice one I could do it in my sleep ;)
we just finished the hardest exam an hour ago. my chinese grammar really isn’t so good lately, and I don’t know how to write as many characters as I should… but still, I think I did okay.
yesterday our 口语 test was delayed quite a bit – some other class was taking forever, or something. since they were individual ten-minute speaking tests there wasn’t much to be done but wait. at least we had some entertainment while we were waiting – at one point I heard a strange noise and turned just in time to see the back 2/3 of a cat hanging out of the hallway ceiling! it scrambled back up and disappeared, leaving a couple of ceiling tiles on the floor. now pete wants to go find the ceiling cat and take a picture for lolcats ;)

oh, and I did lose net access from sunday afternoon to monday afternoon, but since aKademy was offline too it seems I didn’t miss much. :) and it forced me to get more studying done, so in a way it was a good thing. :)

so now I don’t have classes again until the 16th. yay! I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing with my vacation time.

et cetera