Voting in the USA – Chengdu Consulate Rocks

For those of you concerned about voting in the USA, I suggest you get after it.  I was disenfranchised by the Express mail two years ago.  I paid China Post a lot of money and the ballot, which was supposed to be delivered in five business days, arrived at the Clerks office a week late.  See: Fast Mail and Voting

This year I got after it earlier and by contacting my Township Clerk’s office, I was able to file a request for absentee ballot and receive it the same day.  I filled out the request and took a picture with my cell phone. I emailed it to the Township Clerk and she immediately sent me the ballot by email.  I checked with my advisers in the USA on the various ballot issues, Supreme Court Candidates, School Board, etc. and completed my ballot in a couple days.

The American Secretary of State has a website on voting and there is a postage paid envelope available which I used. First I had to get the envelope, with ballot enclosed to the Chengdu Consulate. They put the envelope in a diplomatic pouch and it gets mailed from the USA. A Chinese friend from Chengdu was visiting her parents in Guiyang during the October holiday so I gave the envelope to Daisy. She was going to deliver it to the Chengdu Consulate.

Daisy showed up at the Chengdu Consulate today and was turned away by the Chinese Police guarding the consulate. She wasn’t permitted to enter unless she had an American Passport. She called me, and while she was on hold, I went to the US Embassy website for Beijing.  I called the number and told them the problem.  They put me on hold and called the duty officer. in Chengdu. The Chengdu Consulate was closed due to the holiday.

They put me through to the duty officer, named Ben.  Somehow my call was being handled by the emergency hotline.  I gave Daisy’s phone number to Ben  and the spelling of her name.  He got after it.  He was near the Consulate so he either went there himself, or had somebody go outside to find Daisy. Case closed. The ballot will be in the diplomatic pouch tomorrow morning.

I spoke to another American about voting. His state, Washington, has a pure vote by internet system available.  I think each state has it’s own system   I believe that they all take this subject seriously. If you want to vote, you can go to your State’s website, probably the Secretary of State in your state to find out how to do it.  I hope you vote. A democracy is a terrible thing to waste.

My Neighborhood

It is hard to explain what it is like to live in a nice part of Guiyang, of Guizhou Province. It is best to just show a video of my neighborhood.  My neighborhood is maybe ten or fifteen years old, and has been surpassed in values by newer, and better construction in and around Guiyang. My neighborhood is still very nice. I have a little electric bicycle that gets me up and down the hill in front of my apartment.  I am on the twelfth floor and can ride my bicycle to the elevator . . . no stairs. 
I had to to out for bread so I put the cell phone in my shirt pocket and tried to give you a flavor for what my neighborhood looks like. It is considered one of the nicer parts of Guiyang.
Click to view:
Riding Home from the Bread Store

Macao by Gaotie (Fast Train)

I was about to post what an uneventful (pleasant) trip to Macao I had when I had occasion to find out what happens when a passenger loses a ticket. In short, you go to the ticket office, show your passport, and buy your replacement ticket. You can then get a refund in the place where you bought your ticket. I had removed my overcoat with the ticket and remembered it before forking over the 337.50 RMB for another full fare ticket.

This is the Zhuhai Railway Station. It is right next to the border crossing (Gongbei Port).

So the cost of a bullet train (Gaotie) ticket from Guiyang is less than a plane ticket. On a good day, the plane ticket costs about 900 RMB round trip (rt). The Gaotie ticket costs 675 RMB rt every day.

Comparing plane vs train is interesting. The plane is about 1.5 to 2 hours flight time compared to about 6 for the train. The train takes about twenty minutes for the security check and boarding time, while the plane takes two hours to be safe. At the destination the plane needs another hour to park and retrieve bags. It’s about five minutes for the train.

This is the Gongbei Port border crossing. It takes about five minutes to walk from the railway station into the border crossing building.

I need to cross the Chinese border every 60 days to stay legal under my tourist visa. So arriving by plane in Zhuhai or Shenzhen still leaves me at least an hour from my border crossing (Hong Kong airport is cost prohibitive). The Zhuhai/Macao border crossing is only a 5 minute walk from the train station. The two parcels are literally adjacent to each other. There is no need for a taxi or bus.

The Mighty Arduino Uno

The MIghty Arduino

I finally got around to getting serious with my Arduino. It's a cheap little computer that can be made to behave as a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) and literally control machinery. I bought the machine in June of 2016 and finally got a couple teens interested in working with me on it. See: http://www.tourguizhou.com/technology-arduino-unboxing/ . The kids are in the 14 to 16 range, really an "at risk" age. This is a "traffic light" application which is a beginner introduction to programming in C++. I am hoping to

Stop Light Coding

create a curriculum or some kind of club that promotes technology. If that doesn't happen, no problem.  Screwing around with these cute little computers is a very good way to spend time with kids. In about two hours, only one kid looked at his cell phone, one time.  Wow. This application created a stop light scenario where the program turned the red, yellow, and green lights on at appropriate times, as if it were a real traffic light.  Right now we are at the beginning, with plug and chug operations. We did teach input/output, circuits, positive/negative, and some other electronics. It is very cool.