How My Domain Turned Into a Porn Site, and How I Got it Back

I’d purchased the domain sometime in the late 2000s, and had been posting on it sporadically in English and Chinese for a couple of years when I discovered one day that the domain wasn’t working. I think this was sometime in 2010. Apparently I’d forgotten to renew it. I can’t remember exactly what happened, but I think the credit card I had it set to charge automatically expired, and I somehow missed the renewal notices that were sent to me. Anyway, the domain had been picked up by someone else. I was bummed.

To make matters worse, pretty soon the domain was redirecting to a porn site. I had links to it on twitter and LinkedIn, and I got some kind emails from friends saying things like, “Um, I’m pretty sure that’s not your site.”

I tried to contact the new owner of the domain to purchase it back. At first they wanted a ridiculous amount, but I eventually negotiated them down to $100 (still ridiculous?). Unfortunately, their preferred method of payment was “wire me the money, then give me your domain registrar account info and I’ll switch it over,” which I didn’t feel that comfortable with, so I decided to just let it go.

At various times I toyed around with finding a new domain name, but I couldn’t find one I liked, and I wasn’t excited about switching the wordpress install over to a new domain. Then a couple of. O the ago I noticed that they had let the domain expire (I guess it wasn’t bringing in more than ten bucks a year for the porn site), so I used GoDaddy to do a domain back order ($20, including a year of registration if you get it). It took a while, and I learned that it can actually take 70+ days after a domain expires for it to become available, but I ended up “reclaiming” the domain.

So here it is. Maybe every once in a while I’ll have something to say!

Ubiquitous Communication?

I’m in the Starbucks on the first floor of XinZhongGuan, and there is a girl at another table sitting alone reading a book.

Every once in a while she laughs and then says something. My first thought was, “that must be a good book”, but when she started talking more frequently, I started to think that she might be a little bit crazy. After a while, though, I noticed the headphones, and realized that she was talking on the phone. Yes, sitting in Starbucks, reading a book, and carrying on a passive phone conversation.

I wonder if this is the future.

Now we have ubiquitous communication through instant messaging when we’re at a computer, or SMS when we’re away from a computer with a cell phone. I wonder if in the future people that I approve will be able to speak directly into my ear without having to interact with a device.

I think this is probably less far off than most suspect.

5 Minute Review: Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Anathem is the first Neal Stephenson book I’ve ever read, but after finishing it I’d like to read more. I think I’ll need to wait at least a month, though, to give me time to digest the ideas presented in Anathem.

Narrated by Erasmus, an Avout* living on the planet Arbre, Anathem is an exploration of consciousness. It explores the idea every possible/plausible organization of particles exists, and that these states of existence are tied together by consciousness into narratives. Or something like that. In addition to getting me interested in Stephenson’s other work, reading Anathem also makes me want to read up on quantum mechanics.

The story is fascinating, but it’s not what I would call a page-turner, and it’s quite long. I read it on the iPhone Kindle app, and often found myself wanting to flip back to earlier in the book to confirm some detail of the story, but the Kindle app isn’t built for that.

If you like to think about consciousness, and enjoy emerging yourself in speculative worlds, Anathem is a great read.

*An an Avout is someone who adheres to the Discipline. You’ll learn what these words mean when you read the book.

Update: The Amazon page for Anathem has two great videos of Stephenson: one of him reading from the book, and another of him giving an introduction to the story.

A Way Out (Win-Win?) for Google and the Government

I shared some thoughts about Google in China a while back, and I still feel the same way. Now that the Chinese government is making itself very clear, and it looks like Google is about to make a move, I’d like to express more succinctly what I think (and hope) Google is going to do:

1. and will “close”. The best result for Google would be that the and domain names will stay around and simple redirect to

2. Google will focus government relations on providing faster and more reliable access to services in China, rather than trying to legally host the services in China (which is what they’ve been trying to do with

This is an acceptable solution for both Google and the Chinese government, as Google gets to follow through on their pledge to no longer censor search results, and the government doesn’t back down on its laws and regulations.

The big question is whether or not Google will be able to be successful with improving access to services in China. Blocked google services include Spreadsheets, YouTube, and Blogspot. I’m going to go out on a (very long and fragile) limb and say that Google has come to some sort of understanding with the Chinese government to allow improved access to the core Google services in China. YouTube and Blogspot will almost certainly remain blocked, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Spreadsheets starts working by the end of the month, and maybe even other stuff will speed up (Google counts in nanoseconds). The government may choose to censor results from the China side (blocking some searches, etc.), but Google’s hands are “clean”.

If Google is successful in this, then the whole ordeal will have had very little effect on Google’s business in China, and may even end up a net positive. Ads from Chinese companies can still be served on (and have always been served on, and Google can continue to do R&D for Chinese language products (and whatever else they do) even without The original purpose of was to serve a fast and reliable version of Google in China, and if they can achieve this goal without, then becomes less important.

We’ll see.

Google Is Not Leaving China

Like a lot of people, I’ve been following the storm that Google set off with this blog post, and I wanted to share three thoughts. Before continuing, make sure you’ve read the “Clearing Up Confusion on Google and China” post on the WSJ’s China Realtime Report. I’ll reference some of the stats but won’t review all of the info in the post.

Here is what Google has said:

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.

My three thoughts are that 1) I like; 2) shutting down does not mean the end of Google’s China business; and 3) Google is almost certainly not going to shut down its China office (but it might dramatically scale it down), and even if they do it doesn’t necessarily mean an end to Google’s China business.

I Like is a locally-hosted version of that is fast and reliable.  It also censors results in accordance with Chinese law.  This was a compromise that Google was heavily criticized for, but one they justified by pointing out that was still available in China. Before was established in 2006, was accessible, but it was periodically blocked and often slow.  In addition, searching for certain terms (for instance, strangely, the English word “freedom”) would return an error and sometimes leave Google inaccessible from your computer for about 15 minutes.

With the introduction of, Google also started to invest more in localizing other Google products, and hosted them on the domain.  Google maps ( is now a valuable resource, and Google Music (free, legal music downloads at is almost reason enough to move to China.  What Google explicitly did not do was introduce services that held sensitive user data (Gmail, Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Apps, etc.) to the domain.  Doing so would have put user data at risk of censorship and even legal seizure by the Chinese government.  These services were still available through, but they faced the same (and often more severe) reliability and speed issues as search at  Google Apps, for instance, remains blocked (I think), and Google Docs is currently extremely confusing to access (for instance, spreadsheets are only viewable using https).

I love how gives me a fast and reliable Google in China, but I don’t think anyone believes that China will allow Google to run an uncensored version of, and Google didn’t leave themselves much wriggle room in their blog post, so it appears likely that will shut down. What does that mean for Google’s business?

Shutting Down Does Not Mean the End of Google’s China Business

Google had a 13% market share in 2006, before they introduced (see the WSJ post referenced above).  Since the introduction of (also accessible from, they have raised their market share to around 36% (see here).  If they shut down, or redirected it to, their market share would not immediately disappear.  In fact, it would probably remain at well over the 13% it was back in 2006. It’s not even beyond the realm of possibility that Google would be able to continue to expand their marketshare.  In addition to expanding marketshare over the past several years, Google has also expanded its “mindshare”.  While it used to be conventional wisdom that Baidu had better results in Chinese, Baidu’s reputation was damaged by their practice of mixing paid and “natural” search results, and Google continued to improve its Chinese search results.

It’s worth pointing out that life as a Google search user in the days before wasn’t really that bad.  I used Google, as did 13% of all internet searchers in China.  When Google hiccuped, I used Baidu, but I always went back to Google.  

So if goes away, Google’s China business doesn’t automatically go away.  Ads for Chinese companies appear on searches as well, so Google’s China search revenue wouldn’t just disappear, and Google’s other Chinese products could fairly easily be moved over to and served to Chinese users (as far as I know, the only difference between a search and a search is that the .cn one is probably slightly faster)

I wonder what Google’s market share today would be if they had not started in 2006 and had instead focused their efforts on ensuring better access to products in China?  A safe guess is somewhere between 13 and 36%.

Google Is Almost Certainly Not Going to Shut Down Its China Office (But It Might Dramatically Scale It Down), And Even If They Do It Doesn’t Necessarily Mean an End to Google’s China Business

Google closing its China office strikes me as a very remote possibility.  The blog post mentions it, but it also states that Google China executives had not yet been involved in the decision-making process.  I’m fairly certain that Google’s China executives will be able to convince headquarters to maintain an office in China.  Suppose, though, that Google did decide to close their offices here. Would that mean an end to Google’s business in China?  Maybe, but maybe not.  Even leaving a shell company in China to collect money would allow Google to continue to do business here.  While Google has depended more on a physical sales force in China than I assume they do in other countries, they could very easily do sales remotely from the US.  

Google appears to be worried that their China staff has been compromised, and may not feel comfortable maintaining development teams in China. One possibility in the short term is that they may outsource all China-related R&D to other countries, and only leave a sales force and PR team in China. Google already has a huge number of high-caliber Chinese employees working for them around the world, and they are working on and could continue to work on localizing and creating excellent Chinese-language products (I have no data to back this sentence up, but I know it’s true).  

Again, I don’t think that Google will close its China office, but want to point out that doing so wouldn’t necessarily mean the end of Google’s business in China, or, more important in the long-term, Google’s presence in China.

Those are my three thoughts. My hope is that Google will focus their energy on improving access to products in China, but I’m worried that their blog post was a heavy-handed start to the delicate negotiations that will be required.

China Menu iPhone App

My friend Wiley just released his first iPhone/iPod Touch application, and it’s very cool.
IMG_0565 IMG_0560
China Menu is at its heart an ordering tool to use at Chinese restaurants in China. It has hundreds of popular dishes ordered by cuisine and type, and large Chinese characters to show waiters and waitresses.
In addition to the dish browser, it also includes a simple interface to access simple phrases in Chinese related to all steps of the eating process (from “How do I get to…?” to “Check please!”).
You can also set your own “Meal Prefs”–from how much spiciness you can take to whether or not you eat dairy–and then show the waiter/waitress a simple screen to communicate them.

My favorite part of the app is in the details. The more time you spend with the app the more you come to realize that it was created by someone who loves Chinese food and loves sharing knowledge about eating in China. See for instance, the note attached to “Chicken Feet”:

A genuinely popular Chinese appetizer. Those possessed of western culinary sensibilities might ask questions like: “What is there to eat on a chicken’s foot?” It’s a reasonable question that highlights a key difference between Western and chinese food culture. Generally speaking, in china, the process of eating is itself something to be particularly enjoyed. Examples of this include commonly serving meat on the bone, as opposed to in fillets or boneless chunks. The result is that the process of eating is slowed and the diner is forced to nibble and gnaw to get the pieces of meat off of the bone, enjoying the subtleties of flavor in the process.

Chicken feet follow in this tradition. There is no “meat” to speak of, just bone and cartilage. But they have often been marinated or otherwise prepared in seasoning that is savored as you nibble. As you explore Chinese food you will find other examples of how the process of cooking and eating is savored in a way that to the Western palette can often seem irritating, such as cooking the meal in a dry wok or hot pot right at the table as you eat it. Overcoming initial irritations or apprehension about eating something new and strange is all part of the fun of discovering food in China, and we recommend that you try it, if for no other reason than to say that you did!

Wow. Eating with China Menu is like eating with an experienced China (restaurant) hand! It’s also a great app to show people to demonstrate what an iPhone/iPod touch can do.

I would say more, but Wiley says it better on the China Menu site.

China Menu is $2.99 for the first week. I think the price rises after that, but I’m not sure to how much.

Update: Here’s an interview with Wiley about the app.

Health Care

Here’s what I think might be happening with the health care debate in the United States.

  1. The Obama administration figured out early on that a “public option” and “co-ops” could be, in some ways, quite similar. One way of looking at it is that a good co-op system would be better than a bad public plan, and bring about many of the benefits that a better public plan would.
  2. They decided to push the public option hard, knowing that it was something they could compromise on.
  3. The opposition pushed back really hard on the public option.
  4. But the methods they used and/or tacitly supported alienated a lot of people.
  5. 50% (these percentages are made up) of people thought the government should be more involved in health care before, and 55% think so now.
  6. The administration pulled back on the public option, making the opposition feel like they won a huge victory.
  7. But the administration still has the co-ops, people opposed to more government involvement seem a little crazy to more and more people (even though being opposed to government involvement is not necessarily crazy), and health care reform is still moving in the desired direction, which was probably the best they could hope for in the first place.

(Full disclosure: I should admit that I approach this issue with a strong bias to believe that Obama is a pragmatic genius.)

What he said

Bob Herbert has the definite analysis and commentary on the Gates-Crowley incident in “Anger Has Its Place“:

The very first lesson that should be drawn from the encounter between Mr. Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, is that Professor Gates did absolutely nothing wrong. He did not swear at the officer or threaten him. He was never a danger to anyone. At worst, if you believe the police report, he yelled at Sergeant Crowley. He demanded to know if he was being treated the way he was being treated because he was black.

You can yell at a cop in America. This is not Iran. And if some people don’t like what you’re saying, too bad. You can even be wrong in what you are saying. There is no law against that. It is not an offense for which you are supposed to be arrested.

I would probably replace “nothing wrong” with “nothing remotely warranting arrest”, but the point still stands. Even if Gates overreacted, he was most certainly the person who was “wronged” in this situation.

And this quote (although I’d like to see a citation) really makes me angry:

As of mid-2008, there were 4,777 black men imprisoned in America for every 100,000 black men in the population. By comparison, there were only 727 white male inmates per 100,000 white men.

While whites use illegal drugs at substantially higher percentages than blacks, black men are sent to prison on drug charges at 13 times the rate of white men.

How to Activate China Mobile Tethering on an iPhone 3G

After activating MMS, the only iPhone 3.0 feature I was missing was tethering. A couple of days ago I was finally able to get it working.(1)

Google had sent me to this site a while back, but it didn’t have any profiles for mainland China.

After dead ends elswhere, though, I decided to try using the above site to create a profile.

I clicked(2) on “Mobileconfigs… create” and entered the following settings (I left the rest of the settings blank):

Mobile Internet
APN: cmnet

Tethering: On

Then I clicked on “GENERATE!”. It asked me to accept, I did, and then the tethering option was available in Settings–>General–>Network–>Internet Tethering.

So tethering now works, but I haven’t yet had the need to use either it or MMS. At least they work…

(1) Try this at your own risk. It worked for me, but your phone might explode. Also, I assume it only works with an iPhone 3G or 3GS (although it doesn’t need a 3G network, because I’m using China Mobile’s Edge(?) network).
(2) I guess “clicked” is the wrong metaphor, but “touched” doesn’t seem right either.

How to Activate MMS on iPhone OS 3.0 in China

After upgrading my iPhone 3G to iPhone OS 3.0, I wanted to try out MMS, but it’s not activated by default on the China Mobile network.

Google sent me to these two sites, which provide the answer in Chinese.

In case other people are looking for the same info, I thought I’d reproduce the info here in English:

China Mobile GSM Users

1. Go to Settings –> Phone –> My Number
and enter your number.

2. Go to Settings –> General –> Network –> Cellular Data Network
and enter the following settings under “MMS”:

APM: cmwap
MMS Proxy:

3. Restart your phone

China Unicom GSM Users

1. Go to Settings –> Phone –> My Number
and enter your number.

2. Restart your phone

3. There is no step 3.

China Unicom 3G Users

1. Go to Settings –> Phone –> My Number
and enter your number.

2. Go to Settings –> General –> Network –> Cellular Data Network
and enter the following settings under “Cellular Data”:
APM: 3gnet
and the following under “MMS”:
APM: uniwap
MMS Proxy:

3. Restart your phone.

Good luck!

1. I’ve heard that China Mobile limits the size of MMSs, and that pictures taken with the iPhone camera sometimes exceed that limit. My experience is that some go through and some don’t.

2. I suspect that jailbroken phones have had MMS for a while, but I’m not sure. I haven’t yet found a compelling reason to jailbreak. Is there a killer app out there that I can’t get in the app store?

3. I haven’t been able to find a similar method for activating tethering, another much-hyped iPhone OS 3.0 feature. This could be because I don’t know how to say “tethering” in Chinese, which limits my Googling abilities. Does tethering only work on a 3G network? Maybe tethering is the killer app that will convince me to jailbreak…