Jul 28, 2007

Häagen-Dazs gender and age requirements

The other day I was near Shuang An (双安), by People's University, a sort of upscale area of Beijing with a five-star movie theater and a number of multinational chain restaurants. I walked by the Häagen-Dazs ice cream store, and noticed this "help wanted" posting in the window:
年龄:18-30 周岁之间
能上夜班 (至 24:00)
This store is currently recruiting restaurant wait staff:
Request: female
Age: between 18-30 years old
Able to work night shift (until 12 midnight)
Now, of course this is the PRC, not the US, so employers aren't subject to our laws and regulations. But in this case, it's a US-brand, Häagen-Dazs, licensed by a Swiss multinational, Nestlé. It seems like they should make the effort to set a good example and not engage in discriminatory hiring practices abroad.

Had this occurred in the US, it's clear that this type of gender discrimination would be in violation of Title VII. I believe that the age discrimination part would be illegal under The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

Jul 27, 2007

China Circuit Championship in Beijing

I recently learned that Beijing has a cute little 2.4 km long race track out near the airport expressway. From what I've read, you can even pay to drive your own car around it. This is the aerial view from Google Earth.

This last weekend, the course was host to a professional car race as part of the China Circuit Championship. It included a handful professional racing teams. Each race lasted from thirty minutes to an hour each, with two classes of stock cars, 1600 cc and 2000 cc. There are some photos of the race I found to get an idea of the cars.

One of the 1600 cc races consisted entirely of souped up Volkswagen Polos, a smaller economy car marketed in Europe and China, something that would remind you of a modern-day Dodge Omni. It was fun to watch these little four-bangers buzz around the race track like little mosquitoes. On top of that, it was even more amusing because the Volkswagen Polo has the reputation in China as being the car of choice for the mistresses of Chinese businessmen (二奶车). My joke of the day was that the winner of the Polo race would get a month's worth of free manicure coupons.

My friend, who had connections with Ford Motor Company, brought me back behind the pits to meet their team of three drivers who were in the 2000 cc race. Being near the pits and in the racetrack infield was definitely the most exciting place. There were packs and packs of scantily clad model girls roaming around like grazing gazelles. I've never before seen so many tall, skinny Chinese women in one place. I don't think even one of them was any shorter than 5'11", or any heavier than 120 pounds. Before this day, I was under the impression that very Chinese girls made it past 5'6", but boy was I wrong. For the most part, though, the models were lacking in the area of voluptuousness. None of them had more than a B-cup, but they looked quite nice all dressed up in little skirts and bikinis. It was a lot like looking at a Monet painting, in that it looks nice from far away, but when you get in close it's a mess.

The 2000 cc competition was probably the most interesting to watch of all the races. Other than Ford, the rest of the cars were rice racers, like Honda and Nissan. Given that we're in China, and there's not nearly the sense of legal liability as in the US, my friend and I were able to get over by the pits for the race start. We were literally ten feet away from the starting line, safely, so we thought, behind a concrete barrier and a wire fence. After ten minutes or so, a safety official kicked us out and we watched from one of the grandstands in the hospitality area. These four cylinder race cars were surprisingly noisy, and ear protection was a must. Some of the locals were stuffing cotton balls into their ears, or hastily misusing foam ear plugs.

It was a lot of fun to watch this relatively small-scale race, not to mention the great opportunity to be surrounding by swarms of lithe model girls. I would definitely sign up to go again next time.

Jul 18, 2007

Beijing weather websites

Some of my friends and family in the US enjoy looking at the local newspaper to see what the weather is like in Beijing. Unfortunately, the local newspaper is not very globally-oriented. Their specialty is the local news, so they tend to just print any random temperatures for Beijing. From what I've heard, they've been continuously printing that Beijing's weather has been 100 degrees Fahrenheit since the start of June this year. They print the same temperature for every day. I can totally understand the newspaper's laziness. People living several thousand miles away in America probably don't need an accurate weather forecast for Beijing.

So, if you do want an accurate weather forecast for Beijing, I'd recommend these two sites:

Site one: Sina weather
Site two: tq121.com.cn

If you're one of those people that can't be bothered to understand Celsius, check out this Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion chart.

The weather sites are in Chinese, but the important information is in numerical and picture format. The Sina weather page gives a little more information, such as basic air quality, UV strength, recommendations on what clothes you should wear that day, and whether it's a good day to wash your car. This information is in Chinese only, but you can get the gist of it if you run in through the Babelfish translator.

Here's some links to automatically translated versions of the Sina weather site:
Based on the poor jobs that both Babelfish and Google do of creating a readable translation, it looks to me like professional translators and interpreters still have quite a few years to go before they are put out of a job by computers.


Jul 13, 2007

Transformers movie censorship

I saw the Tranformers movie on opening night in Beijing. The premier was at midnight about a week after it had already opened in the US. It was an excellent movie to see in the theater to get the full benefit of the visuals and sound.

I'm not a fan of dubbed movies, so it of course I saw the original English version. As I listened to some of the dialog, in particular the scenes with Jon Voight (the Secretary of Defense) and some of the NSA and Pentagon scientists, I noticed some garbled words.

They'd be having a conversation, and it would go something like this: "What we need to do, Mister Secretary, is to make sure the garble garble garble don't garble garble garble. Then we can proceed with the original plan."

Obviously, the communist censors were hard at work here. During the movie premier, I made a mental note of where the garbling took place, and then afterwards I re-watched an uncensored bootleg of the movie. What follows below are the scenes of dialog. The bold garbles in the dialog indicate what was censored. Hold your mouse over the garbles to see what the censors actually were afraid that audiences would hear.

Censored dialog 1:
about 27 minutes into the movie
Scene: Inside the Pentagon

Scientist 1: Guys, I think the other team figured it out: Iran.
Scientist 2: Come on man, this is way too smart for Iranian scientists. Eh? Think about it.
Scientist 3: What do you think Kay? Garble?
Sc: No way, this is nothing like what the garble are using.

Censored dialog 2:
about 36 minutes into the movie
Military person 1: Every time we try an antivirus it adapts and speeds up. It's like it's not a virus, it's become the system.
Military person 2: Obviously it's the first phase of a major attack against the US. The only countries with this kind of capability are garble garble garble.
Military person 2: Maybe you can explain then how our latest satellite imagery shows garble garble doubling its naval activity?

Censored dialog 3:
about 1 hour and 27 minutes into the movie
Scene: videoconference with US military leaders

Military person:
The garble garble garble are nearing our area of operations in the western Pacific. We feel that this could get out of hand real fast.
2-star general: garble garble garble task forces approaching 190 nautical miles of cruise missile range.
Jon Voight: Tell the strike crew commander that he's not to engage unless fired on first.
2-star general: Yes sir.

Censored dialog 4: about 1 hour and 30 minutes into the movie
Scene: Tom Banachek, the Sector 7 man, is debriefing Jon Voight on the video from Mars

Tom Banachek: Here is the image your special ops team was able to retrieve from the base attack. We believe they are of the same exoskeletal type. And obviously not garble garble garble.

So it looks like it's a no-no in China to mention the names of Russia, North Korea, or China during a film. Is there something in common between those three countries, past and present? I couldn't really think of any, other than the fact that they have territories in Asia. There might be some political similarities I hadn't thought of.

I think that dialog 2 above is a great compliment to all three countries, North Korea, Russian, and China. The dialog in the movie is commending the capabilities of those three regimes. I would have expected the Chinese censors to leave that one in to bolster their national pride and that sort of thing.

Jul 12, 2007

Hikers swarming Yosemite's Half Dome

I was reading this article in the SF Chronicle and reminiscing about my last hike up Half Dome.

If you're not familiar with it, Half Dome is a peak within Yosemite National Park that requires a 17-mile round-trip hike to access. The hike has a 4,800 ft elevation gain, and it is supposed to take 10-12 hours round trip, according to the National Park Service. A couple years ago I went by myself and maintained a relatively brisk hiking pace up to the top. I made it there in less than three and a half hours, and did the round trip in about seven hours. As I recall, I needed to bring about a gallon of water with me to drink, and hiking boots were a must.

The important thing to remember is that Half Dome is one of the highest peaks around in Yosemite Valley. What means that when you climb up and down the summit, you hold on to what is essentially a giant lightning rod, the steel cables anchored to the rock. You would not want to be holding onto that cable during an afternoon lightening storm.

Since Yosemite Valley tends to have thunderstorms in the mid-afternoon in the summer, I made sure to get up and down with my hike well before then. I remember that I set off sometime between five and six in the morning, and I had the trail pretty much to myself. It was so desolate that I was glad to have brought along some pepper spray, should any cougars try to make a meal out of me.

From the looks of the Chronicle article, there's way too many weekend warriors on that particular trail these days. So far they've had a few tourists tumble to their deaths off the final ascent. The whole thing looks dangerously crowded.

After seeing the crowds on the final ascent cables and the tourists wearing Teva sandals for a 17-mile hike, I thought to myself, gee, this reminds me of some places I've been before. It looks like a scene out of any hiking trail in China, where you've got Chinese women wearing skirts and high heels climbing up precipitous trails, and men wearing leather soled dress shoes and their Sunday best clothes trying to do the same. This is the typical scene at mountains like Huang Shan, Tai Shan, and Hua Shan in China. I've been to all of those, and unfortunately there's not much opportunity to really get in touch with nature like you can in our national parks in America.

Has the outdoors culture in America regressed so much in the past couple years that we're now a bunch of ill-prepared hikers, crowded and pushing against each other? I had a blast on my last hike up Half Dome, mostly because I had the place all to myself, especially on the hike up. It's disappointing to see this new problem with every weekend warrior in central California trying to push and shove their way up the trail.