Sunday, May 25, 2008

Must read: China's All-Seeing Eye

There's been a lot of talk about China in recent weeks, especially after the Tibetan protest and crackdown, the subsequent chaotic Torch Relay and the relentless march towards this fall's Olympic Games. China and everything to do with it is a hot topic.

If you've got a few minutes to spare, I highly recommend you sit back and read this fascinating report from Rolling Stone magazine on China's booming technology industry - especially the parts that are helping to track the movements of every citizen.

Canadian journalist Naomi Klein is a master storyteller and her tale moves from the factories in China right through to the corridors of power in the US and other western countries.

Her message is simple: "With the help of U.S. defense contractors, China is building the prototype for a high-tech police state. It is ready for export."

Here's the intro:
Thirty years ago, the city of Shenzhen didn't exist. Back in those days, it was a string of small fishing villages and collectively run rice paddies, a place of rutted dirt roads and traditional temples. That was before the Communist Party chose it — thanks to its location close to Hong Kong's port — to be China's first "special economic zone," one of only four areas where capitalism would be permitted on a trial basis. The theory behind the experiment was that the "real" China would keep its socialist soul intact while profiting from the private-sector jobs and industrial development created in Shenzhen. The result was a city of pure commerce, undiluted by history or rooted culture — the crack cocaine of capitalism. It was a force so addictive to investors that the Shenzhen experiment quickly expanded, swallowing not just the surrounding Pearl River Delta, which now houses roughly 100,000 factories, but much of the rest of the country as well. Today, Shenzhen is a city of 12.4 million people, and there is a good chance that at least half of everything you own was made here: iPods, laptops, sneakers, flatscreen TVs, cellphones, jeans, maybe your desk chair, possibly your car and almost certainly your printer. Hundreds of luxury condominiums tower over the city; many are more than 40 stories high, topped with three-story penthouses. Newer neighborhoods like Keji Yuan are packed with ostentatiously modern corporate campuses and decadent shopping malls. Rem Koolhaas, Prada's favorite architect, is building a stock exchange in Shenzhen that looks like it floats — a design intended, he says, to "suggest and illustrate the process of the market." A still-under-construction superlight subway will soon connect it all at high speed; every car has multiple TV screens broadcasting over a Wi-Fi network. At night, the entire city lights up like a pimped-out Hummer, with each five-star hotel and office tower competing over who can put on the best light show.

Here's the link to the story.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Glenn Wakefield is home in Victoria

Glenn Wakefield, the Victoria Sailor whose solo circumnavigation was cut short by bad weather near the Falkland Islands, arrived home last weekend, safe at last in the arms of his family.

He's posted a note of thanks on his website.


Previous Posts about Glenn and the voyage of the Kim Chow:

APRIL 27, 2008
Kim Chow Update
APRIL 27, 2008
Glenn Wakesfield continues his journey despite rollover
FEB 19, 2008
Halfway around the world
JAN 10, 2008
Around the world update
OCT 17, 2007
The voyage of the Kim Chow

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Monday, May 05, 2008 is sorry that the wait was so long

In fact...they were so sorry, the folks at waited about seven months or so to finally get back to me with an apology.

That seems a tad long, given the nature of my original complaint.

First, a little background. Back in October, 2007, I wrote about my issues with Expedia's call centre. The gist of it was that I was on hold for hours over the course of a few days without ever getting through to anyone who could help me.

You can read the original post here.

In the days that followed the original post, I added a couple of updates to the story, but the end result was that I never did hear back from anyone at the company.

Until today.

Here's what showed up in my inbox this morning:
Dear Traveller,

At, we value your business and want you to know we're committed to providing you with quality service. We are contacting you because our records show that you contacted our customer support centre and may have experienced a longer than acceptable wait time.

We sincerely regret any inconvenience you experienced. A number of events contributed to long wait times including administrative and system changes compounded by much higher than expected call volumes.

While we know the reasons for the issues will be of little comfort to you, we hope you will accept our apologies. Please be assured that our customer support centre is once again operating to the standards you require and have come to expect from

As a way of showing our appreciation for your business, we are offering you a $50.00 electronic voucher to be used for a future travel booking. This voucher can be used on any flight, Expedia Special Rate hotel, or Build Your Own Package on The voucher is valid until March 31, 2009 and can be used for travel completed by December 31, 2009. Full Voucher Rules can be viewed by clicking here.

To deposit this electronic voucher into your account, click on the link below; you may need to sign in before you can save the voucher to your account.

We look forward to helping you with your future travel plans.


Sean Shannon
Managing Director
Note the "Dear Traveller" opening. I suppose it's a step up from "To Whom It May Concern" but I can't say it makes me all warm and fuzzy. You know there must have been a big problem (although they haven't mentioned it to me) when you have to send out form letters to disgruntled customers.

Sorry Sean. I appreciate that you're a fellow traveller, and the original problem was probably not your fault, but lost this customer quite awhile ago.

Since the fiasco last year, I've used several times, with no problems. I haven't had to call them with a problem, since everything has worked fine. But just for fun, I called their customer service centre and my call was picked up right away. Just like it should be.

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