Archived entries for Around-The-World

Cambodia’s homebrew bamboo trains

Cory Doctorow:
Entrepreneurial railway hackers in Cambodia have built “bamboo trains” powered by electric motors that ply the abandoned rails of the nation’s decrepit rail system. With only one scheduled train per week, these jerry-rigged trains are an easy way to move people and cargo around the Cambodian countryside.

A tiny electric generator engine provides the power, and the passenger accommodation is a bamboo platform that rests on top of two sets of wheels. A dried-grass mat to sit on counts as a luxury.

It would be a white-knuckle ride – if there were actually anything to hold on to.

The bamboo trains reach about 40km/h (25mph), with the track just a couple of inches below the passengers. Warped and broken rails make for a bone-shaking journey…

Low fares add to the appeal, but the service is not without its quirks. There is only one track – so if two trains meet, the one with the lightest load has to be taken off the rails so the other can pass.

(via Neatorama)

Beijing’s “hutong” destruction

Beijing’s historic layout, which dates back six hundred years to the time of the Ming Dynasty, consists of hutongs, narrow alleyways that run in a maze-like fashion around the centre of the city. The hutongs, while revered as a direct link to China’s venerated past, are also regarded as a source of shame – representing a backward way of living that Beijing does not want the world to see in 2008 for the summer Olympics.

The character Chai that means “destruction” or “destroy” earmarks the building to be demolished

The destruction of hutongs has been taking place for a number of years, but since Beijing was awarded the Olympics, the rate at which they are now being cleared has increased exponentially.

According to UNESCO, in the past three years a third of the 62km squared area that makes up the central part of the old city has now been destroyed. This has displaced close to 580,000 people.

The overwhelming feeling amongst many locals is one of reluctance that they cannot do anything about what is happening to them. Frustration by some residents escalated in 2003 with a spate of suicide attempts, aimed at highlighting the hutong clearance plight.


The true impact of these events may only be fully seen after 2008, when the construction dust has settled slightly over a post-Olympics Beijing. What is clear now is that a fundamental way of life that has existed for hundreds of years is being destroyed. It is a bittersweet irony that the very ‘Chinese flavour’ the Communist Party want to project to the outside world in 2008 and beyond, is swiftly disappearing.

The article made me think of Baron Haussmann. Wikipedia writes: “There are two views of Baron Haussmann: One depicts him as the man who destroyed Old Paris, and the other as the man who created New Paris.”

Via the excellent Subtopia < Open Democracy. Photo show by Sean Gallagher.

US branch of “Pirate Party” launches

Cory Doctorow:
Brent Allison, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Georgia, has founded an American branch of Sweden’s “Pirate Party,” a political party dedicated to copyright reform:

All non-commercial copying and use should be completely free. File sharing and p2p networking should be encouraged rather than criminalized. Culture and knowledge are good things, that increase in value the more they are shared. The Internet could become the greatest public library ever created.

The monopoly for the copyright holder to exploit an aesthetic work commercially should be limited to five years after publication. Today’s copyright terms are simply absurd. Nobody needs to make money seventy years after he is dead. No film studio or record company bases its investment decisions on the off-chance that the product would be of interest to anyone a hundred years in the future. The commercial life of cultural works is staggeringly short in today’s world. If you haven’t made your money back in the first one or two years, you never will. A five years copyright term for commercial use is more than enough. Non-commercial use should be free from day one.

We also want a complete ban on DRM technologies, and on contract clauses that aim to restrict the consumers’ legal rights in this area. There is no point in restoring balance and reason to the legislation, if at the same time we continue to allow the big media companies to both write and enforce their own arbitrary laws.


Japan Likes Green Lifestyles – China Next?


From an Associated Press report we see evidence that Japanese consumers are adapting lifestyles like those TreeHugger embraces. “A U.S. lifestyle concept that combines consumerism with a bit of ecological conscience is proving a hit in shopping-crazy Japan, where workaholic “salarymen” are looking for quick fixes for stress and thinking green is becoming fashionable.” “…A Tokyo department store has a section for the Daily Camera .

WOW! organic wine, aroma therapy, and bringing your own grocery bag is now SO IN! I am so hip, you guys!

New life outside the jungle

In Colombia, the Nukak-Makú who have lived in the wild for generations have emerged from the forest and abandoned their old environment. Having no concept of money, clothes or modern living practises, they are set to remain in the city, rather than returning to the forests. It is a strange phenomenon that communities like this still exist and I wonder how the government and its people will handle the changes as the Nukak-Makú’s lifestyles will change drastically from hunting and gathering to working for a living.
Seems like a movie plot, only this time it’s real.
Read more.

straight from the jungle book!

Victorian London poverty map – from “semi-criminal” to “wealthy”

Cory Doctorow:

Leo sends us this “map of the location of the poor people in London in 1889, along with a contemporary map of poverty in London. The most interesting thing is the defintion of the poor classes. The lowest is called: ‘Vicious, semi-criminal’.”
(Thanks, Leo!)

Update: Andrew sez, “The Economist ran an article on the map Leo sent you this week. Basically, not a lot has changed in the 108 years since it was drawn.”

i like maps.

Via Boing Boing

Japanese “nature video” about American nerds

Cory Doctorow:

This Japanese video clip, “Otaku from USA,” is a news-program about groups of American tourists who come to Tokyo to indulge their obsession with Japanese nerdly pursuits — manga, cosplay, etc. There’s lots of video about how cool and odd Japanese teenagers are, but it’s nice to see the lens reversed here, Japanese media looking at America’s fascination with Japanese media. As Gavin puts it, “It’s basically a nature video about nerds. Totally awesome.”
(Thanks, Gavin!)

i dedicate this clip to Juan

Via Boing Boing

Germany’s Rhine: No Longer a “German” River


A recent New York Times article gives us an important lesson on the damage incurred by chemical “spills,”—despite the best efforts to clean them up. In 1986, when a plant near Basle, Switzerland had a chemical spill, millions of fish for hundreds of miles downstream Germany’s Rhine river were killed, and Rhine salmon wiped out. Thanks to an initiative by Dutch minister of water resources Neelie Kroes, salmon is back. In some parts, you can actually see them leaping through the air. But this Rhine, as the article’s headline tells us, is “No Longer Europe’s Sewer, but Not the Rhine of Yore.” Now, salmon from Ireland, France, Scotland, and Scandinavia call the river home. They share this aquatic turf with immigrants including a small crab, which moved on in when the Danube was connected to the Rhine in 1992 by the Main-Danube canal. It’s frustrating to think, even with a clean-up project carrying a 20-25 billion euro price tag, we can’t quite clean up these “spills.” ::The New York Times

Image Martin Specht for The New York Times.

Chinese “ghost ship” fishing boats rotting off of W African coast

Cory Doctorow:
Greenpeace has published an amazing first-person account of visits to the rusting Chinese “ghost ships” floating off the West African coast. These fishing ships are loaded, supplied and collected form at sea, without any dock-time for maintenance (or for their crews to desert). They are floating wrecks, riddled with holes, hemorrhaging fuel, rotting to the water-line, and their crews are stuck on them for years at a time.

We head for the ‘graveyard’ itself. The first battered ship, the Lian Run 02 has holes near the waterline. They’re so big, I could reach out and put my fist through. The two crewman are cheerful enough – or maybe just happy to see new faces. They’d been waiting there a month, in the hope of getting new crew – so far, there’s no sign.

Next was the crumbling ‘Happiness’ ship already mentioned, the Zhang Yuan Yu 15. After we wave goodbye to the lone occupant, we head towards the next two ships. They appear roped to each other – the Zhang Yuan Yu 17 and the Lian Run 16. No one answers our calls on the first ship – but I see some movement behind the bridge, a cat… I’m not sure.

We move to the second ship, where again, a bunch of friendly young guys have been sitting at anchor for two months, waiting technical help and a new crew. Their engine doesn’t work, and they no safety gear or radio. They can, however, run their watermaker, for desalinating seawater. Lines of drying fish hang over the deck, but they’re running out of other food, and are often forced to signal other fishing boats for help. Like everyone else, their future is uncertain.


crazy story!

Via Boing Boing

Thailand: huge anti-gov demonstrations, media largely silent

Xeni Jardin:

BoingBoing reader Jit in Thailand says,

Thai television has been notorious for remaining silent when historic events are happening.

Right now history is happening — a mob is marching on Government House with the intent to overthrow the Thaksin administration.

What is Thai broadcast television showing? This.

Full coverage of the recent unrest is here — this is what blogs are for!

post about today’s demonstrations, full blog-coverage here.

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