We all have those moments. Sometimes we show up in a social gathering with supposedly close friends to talk about major events in their lives, yet as the conversations go on, one just finds oneself drifting away, aloof, staring into the space. It is not that the conversations are boring. In fact, they might be humorous, full of exciting details, drawing interest of everyone else involved in the conversations. But even as everyone else laughs and ask follow-up questions, one cannot do much beyond weakly laugh along without understanding the context, just to be polite.
Monday, July 31, 2017
at 10:28 AM
In my nearly one month of travels across South America, there was one thing that was commonly done in every country and city that I set foot in. That is, the bars and restaurants repeatedly played this summer's (or in South America, this winter's) smash hit, Despacito. While the Spanish-language reggaeton dance number is just as popular in the US and many other countries around the world, in South America, the craze is at a whole new level, with the song played as part of the pop music hit list so frequently that it is impossible to not go anywhere that plays music without hearing it at least once (if not more).
Sunday, July 30, 2017
at 10:58 AM
In the past years, reality shows have become a staple of Chinese television. In particular, owing to the popularity of karaoke and pop music, American Idol-style programs that seek to discover untapped musical talents in the general populace have become extremely popular and widespread. Different TV stations and independent media websites have invested and competed to host the biggest, most professional, and most lavishly set "talent search," drawing some of the biggest popstars of Chinese musical industry today to help discover some of the best raw talent hidden in plain sight.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
at 11:38 AM
With increase in global connectivity and the importance of international trade, a new kind of trade pattern is emerging. Small traders, towing no more than a couple of suitcases each, cross international borders in search of merchandise they can potentially sell back home. They purchase the merchandise in (rather small) bulk in foreign markets, throw them into their suitcases. Once back at home, they throw open their suitcases and sell the contents at a margin. The profits on the foreign merchandise finance their next trips, which hopefully would involve more scale and more valuable products over time.
Monday, July 3, 2017
at 9:34 AM
Now as it had ever been, there are many advertisements of get-rich-quick schemes, on TV, on shady websites, and as inline ads for social media. Along with the texts claiming Mr. xxx had made $yyy in the course of just few years, many of these unbelievable figures also add in that the new wealth allowed Mr. xxx to retire in his 30s or 40s. Without saying so explicitly, the ads assume that logically, what someone who earned a massive quantity would do is to immediately retire, so that s/he does not have to slave for some heartless employer or work hard for him/herself anymore.
Saturday, July 1, 2017
at 2:45 PM
Recently, there has been talks of a new way of dealing with growing problems of air pollution caused by emissions of carbon-based pollutants into the atmosphere. The idea is to install large numbers of large air purifying devices that filter large quantity of air in the surrounding area, removing the carbons in the air that the devices then proceed to pump back into the atmosphere. Optimists speak of such devices benefiting not only as a scalable mechanisms to rid air of toxic elements, but also as a way to manufacture man-made diamonds with the captured carbons.
Thursday, June 29, 2017
at 11:05 AM
In a recent podcast for the Odd Podcast, Vanderbilt University anthropologist Prof. Arthur Demarest discussed the signs of a civilization on the verge collapse. Prof. Demarest postulates a unique point of view, arguing that a civilization is at its very vulnerable at its supposed zenith, when its political, economic, and cultural achievements are at their highest, and the territorial extent at the greatest. Instead of the civilization showing gradual decline with reduced wealth and territory over centuries, civilizations are much more likely to collapse decades after achieving the zenith.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
at 12:44 PM
In the previous blog post, I discussed the potential correlation between economic development and presence of nationalism at a state (rather than tribal) level. But of course, to incentivize economic development requires a whole host of different factors, the presence of many at the same time in equal importance, rather than any particular dominant one, allow for an economy to take off. I have no illusion that nationalism is the most important factor, and for many poor countries where nationalism is a fact of life, its presence is not even the obstacle holding back development.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
at 11:15 AM
Surfing the Internet around the world is often an exercise in homogeneity. With the exception of China and a few other countries restricting Internet access to certain sites, every country in the world popularizes the same website and Internet services. Facebook is used by people around the world in dozens of different languages to connect with friends, while Google and Wikipedia are nearly unanimous as the first sources of knowledge. On the mobile phone, the likes of Uber and Tinder have provided people in all countries with similar services, despite different on-the-ground conditions.
Sunday, April 30, 2017
at 11:33 PM
As even the least developed corner of the globe undergoes continual shift of populations off farms and rural villages into the embrace of concrete jungles of urban society, the influence of cities on the overall outlook of the society and its future trajectory is becoming more and more significant. However, to say that major cities are the primary indicator of a society’s characteristic would exaggerate the role that such cities may play in the overall economic and cultural development of the society in question. Instead, the primary focus should be on small towns and rural villages, where the poorest of the poor continue to reside.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
at 5:43 AM
In the capitalist societies of today, often winners in the race to the top, of wealth, prestige, and power, is determined by constant competition for limited resources among all capable actors. Many have been taken aback by the ruthlessness of such constant competition, arguing that the hostility of the competitions bring out the worst in our leaders, prioritizing success over ethics and goods human relations. However, examples can demonstrate that for the youth to become good leaders, competition is still necessary for honing their necessary skills, including the very ability to seek cooperation in order to achieve certain goals.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
at 4:00 AM
A few months ago, there was a good article written on the prevalence of chabuduo (roughly translated as “close enough”) mentality in China. A mentality widespread among the nation’s craftsman, it is responsible for countless examples of shoddy manufactures that together plague the reputation for “Made in China” both at home and abroad. The article argues that the persistence of the chabuduo mentality, so ingrained in modern-day Chinese economy but largely absent historically in its ancient civilization, presents itself as a massive obstacle for the country to move up the value chain.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
at 4:29 AM
The author has been living in the town of Iringa for so long that, not entirely deliberately, he has become a frequent customer in many of the town's local eateries. Given that it is rather unusual to see Chinese people hanging out in local eateries to begin with, he has become a largely recognizable face among the staff of these eateries. And as a recognizable face, he is often treated with smiles, handshakes, and quite a bit of eagerness with it comes to being informed of what are on the menu and recommended for the day. For the longest time, the author simply thought such behaviors are just the norms of how staff in food places talk.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
at 3:28 AM
A few years back, the author was traveling through the city of Hamburg in northern Germany during his vacation days as a Master's student. Perhaps one of the most shocking (at least to the author) was how the subway trains crisscrossing the city did not have actual entrance gates in most stations. Instead of a series of gates where commuters had to stick their train tickets into before emerging on the other side so that they can proceed to the train platforms, the Hamburg metro simply had ticket machines inside the trains to validate tickets, while the stations themselves simply connected to the outside without restraint on entry or exit.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
at 9:55 AM
About a year ago, the author wrote about how few people here in Iringa carry umbrellas and do not mind being in the rain. It was just another when the author was taking a motorcycle taxi across town when the rains started to fall heavily. The author did have an umbrella in his hand, but the motorcycle was going way too fast for it to be opened. Even as the drizzles turned into downpours, the author did not even attempt to get the motorcycle driver to slow down or stop. As his clothes grew wetter from the rains, he realized that he stopped minding being in the rains...in a way more Tanzanian, maybe.
Monday, February 20, 2017
at 11:55 AM
When the author was traveling around Eastern Europe a few years ago, a Chinese man met on the bus told him of a Chinese friend who used to work on a potato farm in Russia. The man said his friend was busy gathering potatoes during the season when all the sudden, the boss of the farm told him to stop.
“Hey, we got enough potatoes for the season, so you can stop now,” the boss said in a rather matter-of-fact way.
“Wait, so what do we do with the rest of the potatoes? We still have many hectares that we haven’t harvested,” the friend was positively confused by the boss’ order.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
at 5:06 AM
There is an interesting fact that few foreigners know about Japan. That is, the biggest ethnic population of Japanese people outside Japan live in Brazil, numbering more than 1.6 million for a diaspora that just 2.6 million strong worldwide. From a modern-day perspective, the oversized presence of the Japanese in an economically struggling and geographically distant country like Brazil seem rather strange, especially when Japanese migrant populations everywhere, including in US, Europe, and Asia, are shrinking as fewer Japanese seek to go and live abroad.
Monday, January 30, 2017
Saturday, January 28, 2017
at 12:06 AM
Chinese New Year, come to think of it, can be a very elusive holiday. Since it follows the lunar calendar that shifts back and forth relative to the Gregorian calendar in use today, the exact date for it fluctuates every year. There simply is not a clear reminder that "ah, it is Dec 25 today, so it is Christmas" or "ah, it is Jan 1 today, so it is New Year's Day." Instead, to remember Chinese New Year's, one often just go with the flow as everyone else celebrates. The local malls and streets, and at home the dinner table and the decorations certainly would not have one forget the important day.
Sunday, January 1, 2017
at 12:19 AM
Looking at international news on New Year's Day, they are filled with the revelations of big ities around the globe. The massive firework displays, the pulsing light shows emerging from skyscrapers, and the thronging crowds counting down in joy, the big city celebrations certainly deserve the coverages they get for their sheer scales, efforts, and mass participations. Here in the little frontier Tanzanian town, the same, of course, cannot be expected. But in its own, much more toned-down way, the people did go out to usher in the New Year, with drinks, food, and more reasonably scaled gatherings.