Cryptocurrency in the news: VII

Thanks to Ben, Jeff, Koen, Cedric, Jon and others who sent in links.

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Another Brick in the Wall: Link Edition XIV

A few links regarding China.  Read Sinocism for more (been too busy to peruse it).  Thanks to James for some links.

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Cryptocurrency in the news: VI

Thanks to Vijay, Koen, Jeff and others for the links.

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Cryptocurrency in the news: V

Thanks to Vijay, Ben, Jeff and others:

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Another Brick in the Wall: Link Edition XIII

A few links regarding China.  Read Sinocism for more (been too busy to peruse it).  This past week was the annual Shanghai Auto Show, hence all the cars news.  Thanks to Kevin for a couple of the links.

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Cryptocurrency in the news: IV

Thanks to Vijay, Jeff, Bryan and Aaron for a few of these links:

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Another Brick in the Wall: Link Edition XII

Below are a list of mostly business-related links from the past two weeks (mostly about China).  Thanks to Peter and Sinocism for a few of them.

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Stat of the day: internet speeds in China

As mentioned in Chapter 9, according to their Q3 2012 speed survey, ChinaCache, the largest domestic content delivery network (CDN), notes that while the overall speeds are a little slower than previous speed rankings, Shanghai currently leads the country in average speeds at roughly 3.44 Mb/s and Beijing is 10th at around 2.5 Mb/s.12 Akamai Technologies (a global  content delivery network provider) ranked China’s average internet-connection speed at 94th globally, at 1.6 Mb/s.3

Here is a new estimate from Qihoo 360 (in mb/s):

china-internet-speed-province-2013

Via Tech In Asia

  1. ChinaCache Releases Third Quarter 2012 China Internet Connection Speed Rankings from China Web Report []
  2. For comparison, the average download bandwidth in the US is 11.6 Mb/s.  See International Broadband Data Report (Third) from the Federal Communications Commission []
  3. China’s ‘Wall’ Hits Business from The Wall Street JournalI []
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Cryptocurrency in the news: III

Thanks to Isaac, Vijay, Raffael, Aaron and other nameless ones.

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Cryptocurrency in the news: II

Many thanks to Keegan, SK and Vijay for some of the links.

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I may have found the Drudge formula and Raymond Nize

Ray Nize and the Marine

Ray Nize, aka Robert Wenzel (left) and an anonymous Marine

[Note: scroll down to Part IV for sock-puppets and identities]

Yesterday I may have been given a SEO scheme purportedly devised by Robert Wenzel (just one alias, see bottom for other possible names) that supposedly allows its users to receive direct hyperlinks from sites like DrudgeReport.com.  The scheme remains unharmed and no hacking took place to retrieve it.

I would link to the website maintained by Robert called EconomicPolicyJournal.com (warning: IP malware) but users will inadvertently copy the entire contents of the website.  Modern browsers such as IE, Firefox, Safari and Opera — by default — copy the content of websites that are visited into a temporary directory.  This action instantly reproduces the exact CSS and HTML code on a given site and can be done without the express written permission of a site proprietor.  Yet the original site remains unscathed, all of the information and data — the digitized mathematical patterns — remain unharmed.

Anachronistically, Robert is under the impression that information is scarce.  Here is an example to illustrate that information is not scarce.

If you are reading this, please follow this short guide:

  • Step 1: Open up a copy of a word processor (MS Word, Google Docs, LibreWriter)
  • Step 2: Go to the homepage of your favorite website (TheOnion.com of course)
  • Step 3: Press Crtl – A   (this will highlight everything on this site)
  • Step 4: Press Crtl – C  (this will temporarily copy all of this content on to your computer clipboard)
  • Step 5: Go back to your word processor
  • Step 6: Press Crtl – V  (this will paste everything that was highlighted into the word document)

If you follow these instructions you will have successfully reproduced all information bit-by-bit without the original site losing anything.  The integrity of the original data remains disabused on the host servers of TheOnion.

Throughout each day, artificial intelligent scripts called “robots” or “spiders” continually scour the internet scanning, copying and pasting content — yet the sites they visit never are at a loss of property.  The reason why is information is not scarce in the economic sense (see Scarcity, Rivalrous and Against Intellectual Property).  Thus when robots and spiders created by Google, Yahoo, Bing and even Baidu to catalog the internet pore through your site, they are not “stealing” anything or acting as information pirates (nothing is stolen as the original remains unperturbed) but rather they are merely reproducing the exact data structures as they appear.  And thus sites that Google or Bing scan, are not deprived of the original data.  Or in layman’s parlance: no data or information is harmed in the making of this post.

Yet time and again (I would link to his sites but do not want users to inadvertently, accidentally download other IP malware) Robert contends that some kind of theft is taking place.  In other words, he contends that users have somehow physically taken something and he thus has the right to excise control over the patterns of data on your drives and ultimately the copies in your brain.  You see, taken to the logical extreme, to prevent a user from reproducing data you would need some kind of thought police, some kind of enforcement program to bore inside each brain, to prevent the various neurons, axons and dendrils from copying and storing the information in the lobes (a scenario that Charles Stross explores in his novels).  Or in otherwords, IP itself is a form of steampunk malware — imagined in the Age of Sail to protect existing business models and special interests by granting intellectual monopolies which would not exist in a free-market and are only enforceable via coercion (e.g., the state).

Part II

A friend of a friend of mine recently sent me some troubling information (that has been reproduced perfectly bit-by-bit — without any harm or destruction done to the original copy).  According to this contact, Robert Wenzel may have massaged part of a talk he gave at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Below is a transcript from Wenzel’s talk at the LVMI last month.  Here is what Wenzel said in the speech (see 28 minutes in) — An Examination of Key Factors in the Collapse of the Soviet Union:

“If a peasant handed over his surplus grain, the state would get what it wanted. Any who did not were labelled ‘kulaks’ and, therefore, were ‘enemies of the state’ and suitably punished – along with their grain being confiscated.

“He ordered ‘the destruction of kulaks as a class.’ . . . No one was quite sure, though, what was a ‘kulak’ and no one wanted to ask Stalin. . . .

“The kulaks were divided into three groups. . . [These were the groups]: those to be killed immediately, those to be sent to prison and those to be deported to Siberia or Russian Asia. The third category alone consisted of about 150,000 households, one million people. Stalin believed that such a brutal policy would persuade others in agricultural regions to accept the rule of Moscow and that resistance would end. Stalin wrote to [his aides] “We must break the back of the peasantry.”

Compare Wenzel’s passage to this excerpt from an online encyclopedia article, The Great Famine:

“If a peasant handed over his surplus grain, the state would get what it wanted. Any who did not were labelled ‘kulaks’ and, therefore, were ‘enemies of the state’ and suitably punished – along with their grain being confiscated.

“He ordered ‘the destruction of the kulaks as a class.’ No one was quite sure as to what determined a ‘kulak’ but no one in Moscow was willing to raise this issue with Stalin.

“The kulaks were divided into three groups. . . : those to be killed immediately, those to be sent to prison and those to be deported to Siberia or Russian Asia. The third category alone consisted of about 150,000 households, one million people. Stalin believed that such a brutal policy would persuade others in agricultural regions to accept the rule of Moscow and that resistance would end. Stalin wrote to Molotov, “We must break the back of the peasantry.”

Yet Robert holds firm positions on plagiarism elsewhere.  This next statement is copied and pasted, without the destruction or harm of the original information from Robert regarding Stefan Molyneux:

“That a plagiarist like Molyneux can simply grab another person’s writing and give the impression that it is his original writing, in my view, it is a sleazy move and theft.”

While his whole talk is long block quotes from cited sources, why did he lift this without attribution from an encyclopedia narrative?  Why is copying and reproducing okay to do in that circumstance, but not in others (e.g., copying a music file or movie)?

A similar instance occurred during a recent debate between Wenzel and a patent attorney in which Wenzel restated the definition of multivariable calculus word for word, without citing the source (Wikipedia).

Part III

A year ago, Robert claimed he spoke “at the invitation of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.”  At the time he claimed to have read these prepared marks at the NY Fed.  Yet the stark reality is that he only spoke to two other people at the Fed, including the acquaintance who invited him to lunch.  He has thus misled everyone by making it seem it was some kind of keynote speech:

This was not a “speech” at the in sense that Robert Wenzel was holding forth in front of large room full of Federal Reserve policy makers and analysts. I spoke with Richard Peach at the New York Fed: the “speech” was just Robert Wenzel having lunch in the dining room with two people — Richard Peach and one colleague — during which Wenzel read his speech to the two of them over lunch. This was not Netanyahu at the UN.

Wenzel’s claim is misleading, it is disingenuous.  I frequently walk nearby various CPC (Communist Party of China) buildings throughout the year.  I have even talked about free-market ideas with a couple of my Chinese friends near those buildings.  Yet it would be false of me to claim that I “spoke” at the CPC or that I gave a speech to Party officials.

Which brings us back to the Drudge formula.  Like all SEO, there is no ironclad mathematical formula to get on Drudge.  Hyperbolic headlines, purported insider scoops, specific keywords and posting first — are all part and parcel to the SEO/SEM industry.  That is how link-baiting sites like Business Insider and HuffingtonPost work.  Yet no matter who buys/copies/transfers the purported formula, the original remains as unharmed as the day it was first assimilated — no information was destroyed or stolen.  However Robert, like all people who communicate and convey information, must now compete with others who have observed and procured a non-scarce entity.

Part IV – unmasking the sock puppet

So who is this Robert Wenzel character (rw@economicpolicyjournal.com)?

  • There used to be a site called EconomicPolicyReview.com (2007-2008) run by Raymond Salter (rs@economicpolicyreview.com).  Here is a 2007 copy from TheWayBackMachine.  He wrote near identical copy to EPJ today.  The Phil Gramm post on EPJ (careful IP!) is identical to the one on EPR (same date even).  Here is a SS.
  • Prior to that was another similar site called EconomicsDaily run by Raymond Fuller (raymond.fuller@economicsdaily.com), here is a 2005 copy from TheWayBackMachine.  During this time, Fuller even was involved in a spat with Gene Callahan (who used to be affiliated with the LVMI).  Fuller also wrote similar copy and content as EPJ today.
  • From 2002-2005 another site, Menrohm.com was maintained by Robert Menrhom (rm@menrohm.com), here is a 2005 copy which discusses some of the same topics (Freakonomics) and quoting libertarians like Justin Raimondo.
  • In 2006 a Peter Stojan piece (SS) at LRC cites Raymond Keller (not Fuller) as a source of commentary.  Stojan’s company (montreauxadvisors.com) does not exist.  A 2006 copy of Raymond Keller’s site is up on TheWayBackMachine and Keller’s Blogger profile is expired but turns into (SS) Raymond Salter’s.  Keller also wrote about economics (Freakonomics) and talks about his letters to the late LRC publisher, Burt Blumert.

While it would be fallacious to connect those dots (guilt by association) consider the case of Los Angeles resident Raymond Nize, owner of Beacon Hill West and Nize Holdings.

In 2006 there was press release issued (SS) on behalf of Raymond Nize a supposed expert in economic forecasting who would be speaking at a World Economics Forecast Conference.  The conference did not exist nor was the book by the title that Nize supposedly wrote ever published (“Understanding Macro-Economic Forecasting: A guide for Business Executives and Investors”).  This same Nize may be the same poster at LVMI (see here and here and here).  If it is the same Nize (nize@nizenotes.com), then TheWayBackMachine also has a 2006 copy of yet another Blogger site that once again is written in similar style/copy as EPJ (e.g., macro economics).  Nize also commented on this post (SS) about re-finance mortgages in California but later removed his last name.  Nize’s other Blogger profile (SS) leads to a dead end pointing to a non-existent site about the 213 area code of LA — a common theme through many of these domains and aliases is they are usually affiliated with LA.  Looking through Technorati a site originally dedicated to indexing and searching blogs), Nizenotes is claimed (SS) by a mont99.  One mont99 (located in LA — room730@gmail.com) also has a profile (SS) at LibraryThing that includes favorites along the same genres/topics of all the other blogs thus far (libertarianism/Austrianism).  (Note: this mont99 is probably a different room730.)

All of these sites have very similar look, feel and commentary to EconomicPolicyJournal.com and a few posts that are on all of the sites (with small changes) plus EPR also shows history going back to 2002 while it was really created in 2007.  It is very likely that the same person is behind all of the Blogger sites but nothing besides the spartan aesthetic looks, content genre (all libertarian/econ), content layout (short blurbs/block quotes) and email addresses (similar style) confirms that.  EPR seem to have been picked up in 2009 by other people and then dropped again, the domain is unowned at the moment.

The smoking gun however, is a lawsuit filed (SS) on January 14, 2008 where Ray was named as a defendant in a case filed in California: La Jolla Cove Investors, Inc vs Stomar Partners, Inc, Jim Miller, Raymond Nize and Does 1-10 (case no: 37-2007-000642640CU-BC-CTL).  While I cannot weigh on the merits of the case (the plaintiff’s site is just one side of things… install Quicktime/IE for his 2nd monologue here), the plaintiff was apparently friends with Ray and his ex-gf.  Here is a picture (SS) of Ray with the plaintiff (also seen at the top of this post).  Compare that with his alias (Robert Wenzel’s) video from the LVMI speech last month (see side-by-side comparison at the bottom).  Furthermore, if you do a WhoIs database search on EconomicPolicyJournal.com, it is registered to EPJ Holdings — to a Los Angeles address (5042 Wilshire Blvd) and the registered phone number (213-2593-55XX) is an area code for LA as well (SS).

Possible known aliases:

  • Raymond Nize
  • Raymond Sabat
  • Robert Menrohm
  • Raymond Fuller
  • Raymond Keller
  • Peter Stojan
  • Raymond Salter
  • Robert Wenzel
  • Robert Wallach (see update 1)
  • Raymond Walkosz (see update 3)
  • Paul Trombley

According to a friend of a friend who tipped me off on this, he suspects that there are many more aliases out there.  I think it is more likely than not that Robert Wenzel is not his original name and probably even not his actual current name.  And it seems like EPJ was his biggest success story so he stuck with that name because of that.  Furthermore, it is hard to verify his claims of working at a hedge fund or in Wall Street itself let alone corroborate his purported predictions of booms and busts like the 2008 financial crash when he seems to have a history of backdating posts.

And while I personally have no qualms with people reinventing themselves or even leading multiple lives this entire escapade is beginning to look more and more like the Libertarian Girl hoax (see here and here) with a dash of bravado from Catch Me If You Can, a dab of whodunnit from The Usual Suspects and a smattering of interconnected cast members from Cloud Atlas.

Is Robert Wenzel/Raymond Nize the modern-day Keyser Söze?  Or is he a mere internet sockpuppet?

Update 1: another source just emailed the following information, there are two more similar sites.  EconomicBriefing.com (copy at TWBM and SS) and EconomicsBriefing.com (copy at TWBM and SS). The last one was active 2005 and 2007, with two different authors.  All linked to the alias, Raymond Sabat and a new one, Robert Wallach (rw@economicsbriefing.com).  The latter has the same Blogger layout and the former is an already known alias.  Both cover the same genre/topics and writing format as the other Wenzel/Nize aliases.

Update 2: Over the night (or during the day depending on your time zone) there have been a few other sightings/uncoverings.  It turns out a few years ago Bob Murphy accidentally uncovered one alias (Raymond Sabat) and didn’t know it at the time.  At the time, Wenzel/Nize outs the same persona (SS), calling it a “pen name” that he used due to “other business commitments.”  Another Raymond Nize sighting was discovered in 2006 at Econlib, in a comment discussing LA.  Robert Wallach (the new alias mentioned in the first update) was found to have published a piece over LRC (SS).

Update 3: Two weeks later a new source sent me new information regarding another Wenzel/Nize alias that was involved in penny stock scheme of a company called IVAY (Investigative Services Agencies).   At one point IVAY promoters used a notorious “pump & dump” message board (Investor Hub) — which was heavily active during February – March of 2007 during a price rise of over 100 percent .07 to .26 (see several hundred posts here).  Users stevo51 and creede claims to have spoken to Ray several times during this period: 1 2 3 4.  This company produced a number of PR notices claiming that “we [IVAY] anticipate hiring more than 400 new employees and a multimillion-dollar increase in revenues over the term of this contract.”  PR news source: 1 2 3  Keep in mind the company had $6,425 in cash as of December 31, 2006. The stock then got suspended March 8, 2007 as part of an SEC crackdown of 35 companies that were accused of manipulation and failing to disclose material information to the public.  According to the Rip Off Report complaint a police report was filed May 5 because of theft.  This IVAY firm involves yet another Nize/Wenzel alias, named Raymond Walkosz (rw@stomarpartners.com) who was the “president and founder of the financial public relations and investor relations firm Stomar Partners. Walkosz has represented companies trading on the American Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, the OTC Bulletin Board and the Pink Sheets.”  According to DeletedDomains (which tracks domain expirations), stomarpartners.com was vacated on March 10, 2006 and is empty today.   This same IVAY issued a press release listing 100 VIPs invited to a Beverly Hills gala; Raymond Nize was a named guest.  This same Nize may be the creator of an inactive LinkedIn profile (SS) which lists his residence as LA and industry as entertainment.  In addition, the case noted above (# 37-2007-00064264-CU-BC-CT), the outcome was judgment by default — the plantiff was awarded $95,439.95 damages and $10,809.55 prejudgment interest at 9.75%.  This case involved a stock sale agreement between the parties (Nize/Wenzel was a defendant).  In 2005, this same Raymond Walkosz alias published at least one more PR release, this time promoting another seemingly phantom company called Worldwide Manufacturing USA (website) that is another penny stock (OTCBB:WMFG), yet it does not seem as if the company produces or sold anything and its CEO, Jimmy Wang, has been thus far unlocatable.   See more details at the Acceleritas thread and at the Mises community forum.

Update 4: This blog has received trollish comments from a “Paul Trombley” (paul.trombley@yahoo.com).  A bit of cursory googling reveals that this same “Paul” has similar interests as Nize/Wenzel and even quotes Nize/Wenzel in various threads on sites like Mises.org.  See this post longer post here.

Robert Wenzel, Ray Nize, Marine

Robert Wenzel, Ray Nize (middle), and an anonymous Marine

 

 

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Cryptocurrency in the news

Thanks to Vijay and Isaac (@aniceberg) for some of these stories.

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Neologisms and wordsmithing

An old business school student I used to teach in Anhui recently sent me an email about economic development and created a new word that actually makes a lot of sense.  See if you can spot it.

On the other hand, some claims made by others include the assertion that releasing the city’s burden cannot solely rely on moving big companies out. It is a convenient life that drives people to live in downtown, such as easy access to educational resources and health care. However, this alone is not convincible, especially in the fast developing society, it unlikely to become a problem to build up those necessary facilities in a new community.

I recommend Language Log if you enjoy the twists, turns and the art of wordcrafting.

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Another Brick in the Wall: Link Edition XI

Below are a list of mostly business-related links from the past week (all about China).  Thanks to James and Sinocism for a few of them.

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The ADB on China: This Time Is Different

[Note: below is a guest post from Mark DeWeaver]

The Asian Development Bank has just published its Asian Development Outlook for 2013.  Turning to the “Economic Prospects” section for China (on p. 157 of the report), we find that the ADB is expecting GDP growth of 8.2% for this year, up from 7.8% in 2012.  Next year, however, growth is expected to fall to 8.0% as the new leadership replaces the “previous pursuit of fast-track growth” with a new approach focusing on the “quality, efficiency, and the sustainability of economic growth”

While I agree that faster growth is likely this year, I don’t see a new approach to economic development leading to a slowdown in 2014.  There are two things wrong with this idea:

First, there is nothing new about the “new approach.”   Every five-year plan (FYP) since the Sixth, which ran from 1981-1985, has stressed the importance of transitioning to a more efficient “mode of growth.” Consider the following history of official statements on this issue (all taken from various issues of the Zhongguo Jingji Nianjian [Almanac of the Chinese Economy]):

In 1982, then-Premier Zhao Ziyang told the National People’s Congress that “raising economic efficiency” was to be the “center of all economic work” during the period of the Sixth FYP.

In 1985, describing the Seventh FYP, Zhao told the National Party Congress that “we must not one-sidedly pursue excessively high economic growth rates.”

In 1991, Zhao’s successor Li Peng told the National People’s Congress (NPC) that the Eighth Plan not only had “clear requirements for the speed and quantity of growth,” but “an even greater emphasis on raising the quality of economic growth.”

In a 1996 speech to the NPC on the Ninth Plan, Li called for “actively advancing the economic structure” and “the fundamental transformation of the mode of economic growth.”

Zhu Rongji, Li’s successor as premier, put the case even more emphatically at the March 2001 National People’s Congress. During the period of the Tenth Plan, structural adjustment would be the “main line.” China had, Zhu said, “already reached a point at which further development would be impossible without adjustment.”

In 2007, Hu Jintao told the National Party Congress that during the Eleventh Plan period China would transition to “scientific development,” which he defined as development that is “comprehensive, balanced, and sustainable.”

As it turns out, economic efficiency has been a central government priority since the early 1980s.  Yet progress in this area has been elusive.  The share of investment in GDP continues to grow at the expense of household consumption even as income inequality becomes ever more severe.

The second problem with the ADB’s 2014 forecast is the fact that local officials’ “investment enthusiasm” (as the Chinese call it) is always strongest immediately after Communist Party congresses.  Many officials get new assignments around the time of these meetings, which are held every five years.  Generally they want to start new projects right away, in order to ensure that as much of the resulting GDP growth as possible will occur while they are in office.

The five-year peak-to-peak period of the typical Chinese investment cycle is thus closely linked to the timing of Party congresses.  All six of the investment cycle tops that have occurred since 1977 happened within the first two years following a congress.  And every congress except the 1997 15th Congress has been followed by a top within the following two years.  (See Chapter 4 of my new book, Animal Spirits with Chinese Characteristics, for a detailed history of the Chinese investment cycle.)

Given that a Party congress was held at the end of last year, this suggests that investment growth is unlikely to slow in the second half of this year as the ADB is expecting.

The ADB believes that this time will be different because of the leadership’s “new approach.”  But given that this new approach is already over 30 years old, it’s hard to see why a transition to a new “mode of growth” should now be the basis for anyone’s baseline forecast for the Chinese economy.

Mark DeWeaver manages the emerging markets fund Quantrarian Asia Hedge and is the author of Animal Spirits with Chinese Characteristics: Booms and Busts in the World’s Emerging Economic Giant.

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Working as an educator in China

[Note: below is a guest post from a friend, Glenn Howlett, who is originally from the UK.  As mentioned in Chapter 9, due to the high demand, there are approximately 100,000 foreigner teachers and experts working in China.  For comparison, there are about 600,000 foreign residents currently living in China.  Should you come to China and work in one of these positions?  Unlike the transient backpackers that come and go, Glenn is a focused professional and was awarded a teacher of the year award in Anhui three years ago and thus gives a unique perspective to this labor segment.]

I’ll start by stating that I’ve been in China coming up to 7 years and I’m 29 years old. I’ve worked for 4 years in a small city (but excellent University) in Anhui province and approaching 3 years in a “private University” in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province. In addition to these full time jobs I’ve helped colleagues by teaching someone on their behalf (helping my colleague to build their relationship with someone, this is called guanxi (关系) and is vitally important in China) and also worked in an established training centre during summer vacations.

The term I’m probably labelled by is a “Foreign Expert” which usually means some kind of EFL or English teacher. This has been my role in my two Universities, and also occasionally been handed a “Cross Culture Communication” course. At the training centre I’ve taught both Oral English to students preparing an IELTS examination (International English Language Testing System) and Oral English to children at a summer camp. From what I’ve found teaching “Oral English” is whatever you choose it to be, I consider myself to be a responsible individual so I prepare thoroughly and always try to improve both my teaching and lessons… however I’ve found that you’re never really put under any pressure, never have a curriculum provided and whenever you approach a colleague or liaison to ask then the common response is always “to just do anything.” Therefore it seems that many “Foreign Experts” really do take that to heart and do whatever… or nothing at all. In my experience Universities are quick to show appreciation if you’re exceeding their expectations and in Anhui I received a provincial award for my efforts.

I don’t believe that I’ve faced too many problems here, compared to others. As already stated a lack of direction, curriculum and teaching materials are just the norm. You will probably receive a textbook but really I only find them of use when teaching extremely low level English learners. Possibly two inconveniences that I’ll mention are salary and problems being solved.

  • In my first position, I was to be paid monthly at “around” a certain date. This proved to be extremely inconsistent as if the “boss” was away (which was common) then you didn’t receive the salary on time. I remember one time I wasn’t paid for 7 weeks! Then just a week after I was paid on time for the following month. In my current University no such problems exist.
  • With regards to problems being solved… maybe I’m being specific to living accommodation problems. If there’s a problems you contact the correct person, he/she’ll have a look to clarify the problem, then they’ll contact a guy to come and take a look, again just to clarify. Then after sometime action will be taken, this can be extremely frustrating as many of these problems could seem minor to them but to “us” are huge… like a broken shower, dodgy plumbing, dodgy door lock, broken air-conditioner or shower etc. From my experience you really need to point out the obvious: “OK my shower/air-conditioner/toilet is broken, you expect that it won’t be fixed for 3 days — give me a key to another flat.”

Most immediate opportunities open to foreigners in the education industry are as “Oral English” teachers, occasionally overlapping with other courses. However in big cities there are many teachers employed in Chinese public High/Middle Schools, Kindergartens and International Schools. In my opinion only the large capital cities will see options other than an “Oral Teacher.”

You can probably maintain usual hobbies here, especially in the large cities. I regularly play football (soccer) on a foreign team that I joined and also with students in my University. Traveling must be an important hobby here — China is so large and varied, you really must make the effort to get out and see this country while you’re here, especially since most don’t know if they’re here for 6 months or 10 years.

The overall lifestyle will be completely different for everyone, I started in a small city of a “poorer” province (compared to it’s Eastern neighboring provinces) so everything was a complete culture shock. Luckily there was often a pool of 3-6 foreigners who were in the same boat and all got along. This is an excellent environment to understand the Chinese ways, culture and language, sadly for most they’re always missing “home comforts” or long for the foreign lifestyle again. In the large cities you can probably find many ex-pat areas/bars and circles of friends, sports groups and organisations, even western restaurants and supermarkets. This of course is much more comfortable but at the same time you probably won’t experience the Chinese way of life, and the cost of living a foreign lifestyle here is quite high. In my mind it’s not worth the cost of such meals or drinks. I’m much happier doing my own thing with my wife, playing football (soccer) or going to the gym and travelling.

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Windows 8 first impressions

My other laptop has been whimpering a slow death so I grabbed a Lenovo Y500 from Amazon.com (a friend recently brought it back from the US).

The new Metro tile UI is very beautiful, very modern and very useless unless you have a touchscreen or tablet.  I tried, in vain, to only use the Metro skinned theme without cheating or reverting to the classic pre-8 look.  However this was just too unproductive and unintuitive.  After a few days of trying to find useful apps (small selection in the marketplace), waiting for apps to load and figuring out how to close them (not intuitive), I finally stooped to the lowest of lows and got a start menu replacement (IObit StartMenu8).  One positive note is that the sleep/start process is incredibly snappy and the Task Manager is very informative (and detailed).

The machine itself is pretty good thus far, although I haven’t really pushed its insane specs (dual GPUs, 16 GB RAM, i7).  The trackpad is horrible, probably the worst one I have used.  In fact, I wrote my entire book on a Toshiba Satellite L510, without a mouse (just the trackpad).  In comparison, the trackpad on the Y500 is slow, unresponsive and inaccurate.

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Publishing and printing content part 2

A couple weeks ago I mentioned the son (Jacob) of a good friend (David) published his first book, Minecraft for Dummies.  I heard back from his father that:

The book has sold very well in the US and is going into a second printing.  It goes on sale tomorrow in the UK and other international Amazon stores tomorrow.

You might be interested in the community called MinecraftEDU which builds various lesson plans on top of a Minecraft Mod.   Some of the leaders of this movement are in Singapore and other parts of Asia / Australia.

And not missing a beat, a few days ago Jacob was interviewed by Parents magazine as well.  Congrats!

If any reader has other stories about self-publication (non-gimmicky) or even Minecraft, post a note in the comments or send me an email.

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Bitcoin community in China

Got an email last night from an expat in China asking if there were any domestic BTC exchanges.

My response was that the largest one is BTCChina — but if you’re on the mainland you cannot access the site unless you have a VPN.

There are also a few Chinese-language BTC community sites, like Bitecoin and Bitcoin talk forum, but again you also need a VPN to access them.

A few news stories that I bumped into during the day:

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Another Brick in the Wall: Link Edition X

Below are a list of mostly business-related links from the past week (all about China).  Thanks to Bobbie Wu and Sinocism for a few of them.  The number in (brackets) is the book chapter that more detailed information about the topic can be found.

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How to use Bitcoin

Had lunch with a couple of friends today and the topic turned to Bitcoins (BTC).  If you’re unfamiliar with this digital currency in addition to the obligatory wiki entry, I recommend reading Are Bitcoins The Future? from Priceonomics.

If you are interested in actually mining for new BTC I would suggest holding off, unless you own a supercomputer connected to a solar powered grid.  The reason why is that until recently it actually cost more in terms of electricity than you actually made in mining new coins.  See Bitcoin Mining Update: Power Usage Costs Across the United States (this analysis was done in July 2011 so rates are different now.)

If you are looking to buy/sell BTC I recommend creating an account at Mt. Gox which is the biggest BTC exchange globally as well as Dwolla which makes it very easy to move money from you bank account into it and get BTC from exchanges like Mt. Gox.  Once you have some BTC you need to move them into a wallet, one of the most popular is BlockChain.

And if you plan on drinking in NYC there is now a bar that accepts BTC.

Update: Meet the $2 Million Bitcoin Pizza from Hit & Run

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Another Brick in the Wall: Link Edition IX

Below are a list of mostly business-related links from the past week (all about China).  Thanks to Terrence and Sinocism for most of them.  The number in (brackets) is the book chapter that more detailed information about the topic can be found.

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