Chronicles of Culture Shock: The Internet and the Tortoise of Freedom

Sometimes in life, you move to Asia. Sometimes in life, you move to Asia twice. Chronicles of Culture Shock continues the series detailing my adjustment to life in Canada by looking at my adjustment to life in China.

The tortoise drum

Scoot forth! Into the great beyond!

Brigitte needed a copy of PowerPoint. Apparently it was all the rage in Korean pedagogy, and people at the orientation were already preparing introductory slideshows about themselves, their nations, their interests and hobbies and families. Everywhere around us people were on the Office crackpipe, mainlining delirious helpings of star wipes and flashy, 1980s music-video dissolves. We all sat in a mind-bendingly tedious presentation, so she took to the hotel wifi and purchased a copy of Office, and began the download, thinking she might be able to begin the install some time around lunch.

Something strange was happening on her computer. A thin strip of grey was gradually filling up with blue progress, ticking along with an alarming speed. People began to gather around, marvelling all the while.

“That whole program downloaded in under a minute,” we cooed. “This is the greatest country in the world.”

What was this devilry, this witchcraft? What had this country sacrificed to the gods of the internet to allow for such unholy download speeds, for unlimited bandwidth, for constant, omnipresent wireless connection with five gleaming bars of full signal? What gods from the depths were summoned, what demons from beyond were called upon for such unfathomable agility and electronic prowess? I imagined a Korean Andromeda, chained to the rocks, the personified anima of the internet devouring her alive, cackling as he slithers back into the ocean, the boon of high-quality broadband and and impressive wireless routers left in his bloody, rupturous wake.

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The Internet in Pioneer Times

The calming white star on my VPN had turned a venomous, disconcerting scarlet. Whatever electronic magic connected me to the outside world and the glorious outside internet had suddenly been snuffed out. As someone who has grown up with the internet, like a close friend or a long-term umbilical cord, this loss usually feels like being thrown into a well and trying to see the world from the miniscule circle of light above.

More disconcertingly, all attempts to access the regular Chinese internet, as constrained and manipulated and tightened as that is, were thwarted by a blue screen swirling in Chinese text. Upon clicking to investigate, I was whisked away to a page with “recharge” in the url. I blinked.

My internet had run out of money. Like a vibrating bed or an arcade game.

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Strange Voyages on the Internet Seas

Haeundae Beach
Of those few meager hits that I accumulate, I often wonder how people came to find me. Sure, there are people I personally harangued in the real world, and some who have gotten through this, the great series of tubes, via vigorous linking. But some people stumble here on the sandy shores of Stupid Ugly Foreigner purely by chance, by looking out into the great waters of the electronic world and forging forth in search of the weird, the sexy, the funny, the gruesome, and usually some gangrenous, misshapen mixture thereof. How exactly did they end up here? How happy were they that they arrived? Let us cast a look upon these wayward travelers and remark upon their glorious sojourns.

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A Year (or Sixish Months) in Blogging

As someone who finds statistics and charts  inherently soothing, I was pleased that WordPress inundated me with regular updates on the hit counts of my blog in bar graph form, helpfully detailing from whence each hit came. During the long periods of desk-warming, periodic checks of blog functioning have been a staple in by boredom-combat diet. It was thus that I was exceptionally pleased to receive an email wrapping up my year (or sixish months, since I started Stupid Ugly Foreigner late in July of 2010) in glorious charts and summaries. It’s raw numbers are meaningless as I have no point comparison, and its conclusion that my blog health reads “Wow!” seems spurious and arbitrary at best, and yet, I still let out a childish squeal of excitement. That some website, upon which I rely to spread my useless yammering, thinks I’m doing a tip-top job is satisfying in a vague and incomprehensible way. After the jump, see what WordPress.com has to say about my stats.

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Guy and Sheep: Why WordPress Search Terms is Amazing

A real post is coming later today about teaching and pedagogy (aren’t you excited?), but in the interim, I have this. On the WordPress dashboard, you can see fairly comprehensive graphs of the statistics for your blog: number of visits, pages viewed, referrers, linkbacks, all the good stuff. My favourite is search terms: it displays what search terms brought views to your blog. The most amazing ones that brought people to Stupid Ugly Foreigner are below. (And also, by putting them in this post again, I only invite more strange internet wanderers stumbling upon my site in their nomadic quests for out-of-the-way erotica, but if you’re Googling some of the following things,  you’re probably asking to be thrown off course occasionally .)

 

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