Vin Crosbie's Personal Blog

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Renting a Car? Don’t Do This When You Do

When your smartphone uses Android Auto or Apple Car Play to connect with the a rental car, that rental vehicle can download all your phone’s contacts and their phone numbers, your phone call history, and a variety of other private information which the rental car then keeps in its memory for the next renter to see–unless you manually delete that information.

Most Americans’ Obsolete Perceptions of China

Something that surprised me now that I’ve decided to stop teaching graduate school, return to my native eastern Connecticut, and reconnect with many of the men and women whom I went to elementary and secondary school is that most still think the world outside the United States is the same as it was when they graduated from secondary school in 1973. I know that Americans sociologists for more than a century have noted that most people’s perspectives and experiences during their teens and twenties tends to form their worldview for the rest of their lives. However, my generation and the two generation who were born after my own (those American demographers call ‘Generation X’ and ‘Millennials’) are living during a truly unprecedent time in human history. That might seem easy for any generation to state, but people born during the past 120 years and particularly during the past 60 are living when the pace of change in civilization has begun accelerating exponentially. Nowhere on Earth has that been more so than in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Yet most the Americans with whom I grew up still seem to think China is a nation of people dressed in drab green clothes and conical straw hats who push water buffaloes pulling plows through rice paddies. That wildly outdated and obsolete perspective of China unfortunately warps their perceptions and political opinions of the world’s second most powerful nation and economy.

Because what those sociologists said, plus that most of the Americans are relatively untraveled (‘I’ll try foreign travel once I’ve seen all 50 U.S. states.’ To which I think, oh yes indeed, do see Iowa, West Virginia, and Oklahoma during your finite lifetime before you see Italy, France, the U.K., Japan, etc.?) , I perhaps can understand their remarkably outdated misperceptions about foreign nations now 50 years after the men and women with whom I went to elementary and secondary school still hold. However, not only do their obsolete perceptions distort their political opinions but makes them unable to understand how far behind the U.S. infrastructure and many components of American society have falled behind other nations, not just behind the Chinese.

Typical Chinese street scene in 1974. Photographed by my maternal grandmother Teresa Shea Bartlett.

Don’t get me wrong: I oppose the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which I know for a fact is putting huge numbers of their nation’s minority Uigher peoples into concentration camps, stomps on Chinese freedom of expression, and is woefully corrupt. I first learned about China from my maternal grandmother, a former daily newspaper publisher, who visited the PRC during 1974, when hundreds of millions of Chinese likely were laboring in rice paddies. But that was shortly before CCP dictator Mao Zedong‘s successor Deng Xiaoping, the ‘Architect of Modern China,’ made the brilliant political decision to abandon economic communism and adopt ‘state capitalism’ in which, like in Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan during the post-war period , a single political party maintains its monopoly on political power but transforms its nation’s economy to capitalism. Throughout human history, the Chinese peoples have been among the world’s most mercantile.

Indeed, from 1978 through 2005, China’s economy grew annually by ten percent or more, the greatest economic growth in anywhere in the world. Its economy has grown a multiple of 27 times! Between 1978 abd 2018, China brought more than 800 million of its 1.4 billion citizens out of poverty, more than any other nation in history. That nation’s poverty rate dropped from 88% to 1.85%. The Chinese economy is now the world’s second largest, accounting for 18% of the world’s total weath. The nation has the second largest number of billionaires (465) and millionaires (6.2 million) in the world. China overtook the U.s.S as the home to the highest number of people who have a net personal wealth of at least $110,000, according to the global wealth report by Credit Suisse. And the nation is now home to five of the world’s top ten cities by economic production (BeijingShanghaiHong KongShenzhen, and Guangzhou in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 10th spots, respectively).

Above is Italian tour guide Michele Ponte‘s English-language video about his shock arriving in China and spending a week in Chongqing (former known as Chungking), a city of 9.6 million citizens (32 million in its metropolitan area) in central China. I know what he means. My first business trip to China was 23 years ago, a time when the CCP was replacing old neighborhoods in Chinese cities with modern apartments, shopping centers, and office buildings. Ten years later, Beijing looked like a bigger and more modern version of Los Angeles. And nowadays Chinese cities are distinct more modern, clean, and efficient than American or European ones. China’s domestic airlines market is now the world’s largest. And that nation has build the world’s more extensive networks of bullet trains and superhighways.

During the early 1800s, Napoleon Bonaparte, who knew from history that China had been the world’s first or second most powerful nation for four millennia but had begun withdrawing from the world scene during the late 1400s, remarked, “Let China sleep; when she wakes she will shake the world.” China has nowadays awaked and is shaking the world. A powerful China is a reality, as it had been for most of the past four millennia. It is vitally important that most Americans know just how modern, developed, and sophisticated China has become. And likewise where and how United States is falling behind it. Only then can America pursue relations with it. Clinging to outdated and obsolete perceptions of China only extends dangers, nonetheless misunderstandings.

I’ve a number of such videos I plan to share, and not just about China.  

The Ruined Temple of Karnak

Begun around 2055 BC and used until circa 100 AD, the Temple of Karnak, located near the banks of the Nile in the city now known as Luxor but then known as Thebes, was built as a cult temple dedicated to the Egyptian gods Amun, Mut, and Khonsu. Until the construction of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome between 1506 and 1626, the Temple of Luxor was the largest religious temple ever to be constructed.

Here are the firsts of a series of photographs I took there during October 2022.

The entrance to the Temple of Karnak.
Ranks of Goat-Headed Sphinxes
Hieroglyphics on the Second Pillar of Horemheb
Hieroglyphics on the Second Pilar of the Temple of Karnak
Ramses II Statue
Statue of Ramses II at the Temple of Karnak
The Great Hypostyle Hallway
Entrance to the Great Hyposytle Hall at the Temple of Karnak
Inside the Great Hypostyle Hall
Columns within the Great Hypostyle Hall at the Temple of Karnak
Inside the Great Hypostyle Hall
Columns in the Great Hypostyle Hall at the Temple of Karnak
Inside the Great Hypostyle Hall
Capstones in the Great Hypostyle Hall at the Temple of Karnak
Inside The Great Hypostyle Hall
Massive Columns within the Great Hypostyle Hall at the Temple of Karnak
Inside the Great Hypostyle Hall
Slabs in the Great Hypostyle Hall at the Temple of Karnak
The Ruins of Karnak
Ruins with the Temple of Karnak
The Ruins of Karnak
Ruins of the Temple of Karnak
Ruins of Karnak Temple
Rubble within the Temple of Karnak
The Obelisk of Hatshepsut
The obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut (1473 -1458 BC)
Ruins of Karnak
Silence at Temple of Karnak
The Great Scarab at Karnak
As a gift that would forever demonstrate his love for his wife, Pharoah Amenhotep the Great (1391 to 1353 B.C.) commissioned a giant sculpture of scarab beetle in front of the holy lake in the temple of Karnak, Egypt. Ancient Egyptians subsequently believed this royal scarab had sacred powers that were a source of happiness. They believed that it you walked counter-clockwise for 7 laps, then your most secret wishes would be granted; while merely 5 laps around would nullify envy and bring luck; and only 3 laps eventually make your rich. Tourists today circle it just in case it’s true.

Motivation + Strength = Success

So many times during life, you find yourself doing something in which you think, “Why am I doing this? Am I getting anyplace? Am I crazy? I don’t seem to be advancing? Should I keep this up or quit?” You march on and nothing seems to change. Each arduous step is just another that seems to be among never-ending thousands more to come!

Those were my thoughts, roped, handling an ice axe, and clad in mountaineering boots with spikes (i.e., crampons), during March of 1998 while climbing El Pico de Orizaba (5,636 metres / 18,491 feet), the third highest mountain in North America. Indeed, when we four, sucking air, pulled ourselves onto the summit rim, we saw that we still had another 30 stories of snow to climb to the actual summit.

I was age 43 when we summitted and the other guys were age 28, 27, and 21. I was sure that I was slowing them down. Yet when we reached the true summit, they thanked me, saying they had wanted to quit and turn back; that they would have never reached the summit had I not been goading and cheering them on (“Come on, guys! Just a little bit more!”) Although I had thought I was slowing them down, they had been climbing because they too had thought they couldn’t do it but were more embarrassed to fail in my company. So many things in life can be that way. Although they had the strength I didn’t, I had the motivation they lacked, so we combined our efforts. Was this all worth it? Ultimately, yes! As long as you are not foolhardy, any notable accomplishment in your life will be like this. Don’t doubt yourself. And don’t let them doubt themselves. Do it!

Why Online versus Printed Books

Amazon Kindle (2008)

I don’t know how many printed books I’ve read so far (22 years) this century, but I do recollect that I have read only one printed book during the past five years. That is because there was no online version of that obscure book about specific episode in the colonial history of eastern Connecticut. It was a book published during the early 1970s and which I inherited. I remember thinking how inconvenient reading a printed is: I could read it only during the daytime or where after the sunset I had sufficient electric lighting (certainly not in bed lest I wake my wife).

Meanwhile, I read 552 books online since 2008. Although I’ve owned a RCA eBook reader since 2001 (when I was invited to RCA’s research laboratory to consult briefly about the devices applicability for reading periodicals), 2008 was when I purchase my first Amazon Kindle eBook reader. It was the first generation of that device, which used electronic ink, rather than a LED screen, to display type (no photos, no graphics, no color, only black & white), and, like a printed book it could be read only where there was daylight or electric lighting; but its direct free wireless (via mobile telephone circuits) connection to Amazon’s book store, as well as its ability to run for weeks on a charge, forever changed my reading habits. About ten years ago, I stopped using electric book reading devices and switched to using the Amazon Kindle app on my desktops, laptops, and smartphones.

On those devices, particularly the smartphones, I don’t have to worry about daytime or electric lighting when reading (indeed, I can easily adjust my smartphone’s Kindle app to display white type on a black background, just bright enough to read in the dark of a bedroom so not to wake my wife). Moreover, all my devices that have the Kindle app synchronize with each other so that, for example, this morning my desktop computer goes automatically to where I left off in a book last night. An each of the 552 books I’ve read online since 2008 are not only instantly accessible wherever I am with my smartphone or the other devices, but I can electronically search through any one or all of them. Which book noted that “conservativism really does speak to and for people who have lost something.” Oh, yeah, that was on page 58 of Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. Or it might show such reference across multiple online books I have purchased (such if I ask it to find me a specific topic in books about software or camera manuals. I can do none of these things with physical bookcases or bookshelves. I can’t imagine living without such convenience!

My such heavy use of ebooks alarms some of my older friends. “But what about the physical sensation of holding a printed book, of feeling its pages, even the scent of printed pages?” Well, yes, I do like the feel or leather jackets, too, but such clothing isn’t convenient in in all conditions (nor have I had a paper cut in ten years). I believe the future of printed books is like the future of compact discs (CDs) and digital versatile discs (DVDs): perhaps you will own in those physical formats a copy of your favorite book, musical album, or movie, but you will likely use only streaming or downloadable versions of most books, music, and movies. Indeed, this conversion is already happening worldwide. By the way, although I’ve digitized all my music, I still own a music record player and a few vinyl long-playing (LP) music discs. But as a character played by Tommy Lee Jones in the movie Men in Black remarked about extraterrestrial technology, “Just another new for a copy of the Beatles’ White Album“)