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DTE EnergySmarts Spring 2020

Work done for Michigan utility company DTE Energy’s B2B custom publication EnergySmarts, Spring 2020 issue. (Three PDFs, one for each of three articles written)

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WeChat Censorship Example

Last June, I sent my friend in China a voice text while I was back in the US for a visit. I ranted about annoying people in my home state. (I was on a short kayaking trip, and while transporting a kayak someone intentionally ran over my paddle that fell onto the street.)

My message rambled into talk about living in China, and in the process I mentioned Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet.

Surprise, surprise — it never went through. And the “resend” button that usually appears if it’s a network issue never popped up either. I checked with my friend when I returned to Beijing and even looked at his side of the thread on his phone. Nothing had ever appeared on his end.

On my end, the message just pulsed ominously. Almost two years later, it’s still doing the same thing.

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DJ GB

After much fiddling around, I have finally gotten my Soundcloud page organized. Though I don’t DJ anymore, it’s nice to have some of the mixes I made over the years collected and reachable in place. And for my loyal fans, all three of you now can listen to them at will and don’t have to ask if I still have the mp3 files!

Good workout music too.

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Idea Sketch: Carbon League of America

Carbon dioxide molecule
Courtesy of Royalty Free Vectors by Meggi - Vectorstock 21149685
Carbon dioxide molecule
Courtesy of Royalty Free Vectors by Meggi – Vectorstock 21149685
Idea

Local groups organized through employers get together to plant trees. The groups make up a larger national network called the Carbon League of America that as whole would represent a massive endeavor to capture carbon that people have pumped into the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. A 2019 research project by the Crowther Lab in Switzerland showed the earth has a lot of extra space for planting trees, enough to put a major dent in this accumulation. The work would extend to protecting existing forests and helping them flourish.

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Content Marketing: Article for County Census Count Effort

A widely used rule of thumb says that each person counted in the U.S. Census represents $1,800 a year in federal funding. Oakland County has an estimated 211,507 people who are at risk of being undercounted, according to the Michigan Department of State. That would come to more than $380 million a year, or more than $3.8 billion over the course of a decade, in potentially lost revenue. For reference, Oakland County’s 2020 budget is $922 million.

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Communist Party workplace materials for CCTV employees

You’ll never see CGTN come out and announce that it takes orders from the Communist Party of China, but it’s clear in the workplace who’s running the show. Party materials made specifically for CCTV (of which CGTN is a part) employees are littered throughout the newsroom.

I took some as souvenirs of my time working there.

"CCTV Party-Building"  an "internal" publication put out by China Central Television Communist Party Membership
“CCTV Party-Building” — an internal publication put out by the China Central Television Communist Party Membership Committee
Subtitle says (roughly): “Keep up with innovation and struggle” “Strive to create a world-class new mainstream media”
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Chinese censors physically remove pages from print editions of The Economist

You probably have heard of China’s “Great Firewall” that blocks outside news sites and social media. But somewhat to my surprise, I saw firsthand that the country also censors print publications.

My surprise wasn’t in the censoring so much as it was in the method: physically removing stories from print newspapers. I had a print subscription to the weekly newspaper The Economist, and the copies would show up with stories on China removed. Often the entire section on China had been taken out.

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Liu Xin named a ‘top ten’ host by CCTV’s Party Committee

Liu Xin named a 'top ten' host by CCTV's Communist Party of China Committee; as seen in the March 30, 2018 employee newsletter distributed at headquarters in Beijing
Liu Xin named a ‘top ten’ host by CCTV’s Communist Party of China Committee. From the March 30, 2018, employee newsletter distributed at headquarters in Beijing.

A certain American-right-wing propagandist might be interested in this image of a certain Chinese government propagandist. This is Liu Xin, a CGTN show host, as shown in the March 30, 2018, edition of Dian Shi Sheng Huo, a Communist Party of China newsletter for CCTV employees. It recognized her as a “top ten” host and applauded her work in telling China’s story.

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A Glimpse of Hong Kong Subversion

It’s very satisfying to at last be able to put up this post. It is full of — gasp! — messages against China’s central government. I visited Hong Kong in late November, about a month before leaving China for good. There I was able to take many photos of graffiti and other anti-government messaging put up by protesters.

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Last Storage Trip from Beijing

I stepped outside on Christmas Day 2019 to a gloriously foggy morning. I was overjoyed. Fog is my favorite weather.

“Ah, that’s right! Michigan has weather! This is why I moved back.”*

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Broadcast Word Play

I used to loathe puns, but as a reporter and assigning editor I was grateful to have copy editors in my corner who could turn a phrase or come up with something clever on the spot for a headline or title.

So I made a conscious effort to get better at them and become a more well-rounded copy editor. I learned that it’s the hokiest ones — that is, safe for all audiences — that are the hardest to make. Anyone can make a stupid sex pun.

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Gallery: China Zun

This building has become in my mind a symbol of my time in Beijing. It’s the first thing I found myself absorbed in when I first arrived. It’s across the street from where I work and was right outside the window of the first place I sat down at there, at a little hallway table meeting with an HR person. It was visible from the roof of the first apartment building I lived in, where I’d go at sunrise to stretch and drink coffee. It’s visible from my current apartment.

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An insightful visit to the National Museum of China

Shenzhou 5 spacecraft reentry capsule, from China’s first manned space mission in October 2003, and the spacesuit worn by the astronaut who was inside it, Yang Liwei

Seeing a new strain of wheat being touted in the same room as the spacesuit of China’s first astronaut was the moment that awakened me to the country’s perspective. It went from being the backward agrarian country American parents once used to guilt their kids into eating their vegetables (“People are starving in China, and you won’t even finish your plate!”) to being an economic powerhouse, in just a few decades.

This came during an October 2016 visit to the National Museum on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and was surely the reaction curators hoped to elicit. The Chinese people are coming from a point of view the rest world overlooks, underestimates, or is just plain unaware of.

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Fiat Currency

My fascination with Chinese money continues…

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Hong Kong Money is Cool

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Containerships full of our shit

In case you weren’t already painfully aware of the amount of consumption going on in the world, I created this handy visual aid based on shots from the observation deck at the far end of one of Hong Kong International Airport’s terminals.

I also saw one while still in the air on the way in to the city. From my window seat I could see islands, the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai- Macao Bridge, and then a containership that was as large as the island I’d just seen, with no meaningful difference in distance.

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China 24 – 11.20.2019

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China 24 – 11.19.2019

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China 24 – 11.18.2019

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China 24 – 11.15.2019