January 2007

Walking along my favorite stretch of the canal near Dawanglu, I came upon a King of Diamonds lying face up on the path in front of me. Of course I assumed it was meant for me. Through the years I have encountered nearly whole decks discarded on the streets of Beijing, the casualty no doubt of a lost or damaged card in the deck that seemingly warranted scattering the remaining cards to the wind. There are certainly plenty of people playing cards in the city, often gathering huge crowds, in a similar fashion to the Chinese chess matches that get small groups of onlookers very excited on occasion. So, it is not surprising then to encounter single cards, or small groups of cards as fate and the winds may blow them. It occurred to me a few years back when I came across a favorable card that perhaps I could take it as a good omen. Since that time, whenever I chance upon some cards dealt by the hand of fate, I don my divination cap and do a quick interpretation.

The King of Diamonds symbolizes the King of Pentacles, Disks or Coins, depending on your preference. Depending on your school of thought the exact meaning may vary, and one can never remove the context from the situation. As this card just popped up “out of nowhere” I went with a general indicator of the thoughts I hold most regularly and intently in my head. This is usually related to my goals of establishing an Ecovillage in China, the financing and realization of which is one of the primary drivers for my life in Beijing, but could also be related to any of a half dozen projects I’ve got boiling away. The King of Diamonds usually signifies a rich, powerful and successful man, often indicating that someone of that description is going to arrive on the scene. Nice! Maybe a new mentor? An investor?

I walked a bit further and eventually found the Ace of Diamonds, apparent sole surviving kin to the King out of the whole deck. This was a pleasant development, as the Ace represents the beginning of a new profitable venture, often at the culmination of a previous cycle (as the ten becomes a one). Taken with the first card, this appears to be a very good omen. Easy to go along with it when the cards are good! Of course, this isn’t always the case - I have come across a five of coins before, which really pissed me off at the time because I was going through financially tough times at the moment and didn’t wish to be reminded of it. For some reason, I do seem to come a across a lot more good cards though. Regardless of the future they portend, I enjoy passing time with the tarot of happenstance.

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Wow, something happened today and all of a sudden, my broadband is seeming like a broadband connection instead of something more reminiscent of a 1995 dialup connection. It’s still not perfect, but much better than its been since the Dec 24, 2006 quake. When you consider that the cable they are repairing was submerged 4,000 meters under the sea, and that they had to pull it all the way up to do the repairs, it puts things into perspective, so I can understand its taken a while.

What hasn’t been fixed is email, which lends credibility to the rumor that the Chinese government has rolled out a more sophisticated filtering system. The fact that Hong Kong has reportedly had good connection speeds two weeks ago, while we were still experiencing problems here in the mainland does lend credence to the theory. If they did choose this time to upgrade the “Great Firewall of China” system, it was very much affecting traffic for the world wide web, but now problems seem limited to SMTP or POP. The modok.us domain appears to be on an IP address that has been universally blocked by the the new email filtering system, as I have not been able to receive a single email at that domain in over a month, despite repeated attempts, deleting and recreating accounts and other little tweaks. I guess its time to invest in a dedicated IP address for Eye of Modok.

One thing that has become obvious is that China should not rely on a single connection to the outside world. Currently, all European traffic is routed through the US en route to China, which seems a bit circuitous, although understandable, as communication cables like the one that was severed do not come cheaply nor easily. I don’t really care what is done, so long as I don’t have to go a month without Internet again!

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One thing I can’t stand here in Beijing, and all over China for that matter, is that I simply cannot go into a public restroom without getting fumigated by a revolting cloud of urine-tinged cigarette smoke. There are a lot of people living in this city, so odds are by the time you need to relieve yourself, so do at least a couple of other souls, and if they are men, as in this case I would certainly hope, they are statistically likely to be smokers. Much of the time they stand right in the doorway, barring my entry, only having come in for a quick puff and lighting up as soon as they step foot through the door. They probably misinterpret my scowl as I enter the room as stemming from their rudeness at blocking my way and moving so slowly to get out of the way, and throughout the course of a given day, that too is a very common scenario; disapproval at smoking the restroom is likely an alien concept to most of them who see public toilets as the logical place to go for quick ciggie. The men’s room should probably have a sign on it re-designating as the de facto smoking room. They should hang a sign on the door, maybe right above the no smoking sign prominently displayed but utterly ignored. Lest you mistakenly assume this only happens in the less than prime real estate, I’ve worked in quite a few of the fanciest office towers in the city, and it is always the same, even worse if the building has a comprehensive ban on smoking. Can nothing be done?

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