The highlight of this evening was, without doutbt, drinks on the 35th floor of the Nikko Hotel in Dalian. A small group of us sat and listened to sci-fi author and blogger-provacateur Cory Doctorow address hot Saville Row bespoke designer Ozwald Boateng on the finer points of Linux while swilling a Chinese alcohol-free beer. Cory had pulled his sticker-covered IBM tablet Thinkpad out of a fuzzy orange Muppet-monster case and showed an Ubuntu distribution--he explained how the South African creator of that particular distribution basically made the thing user-friendly and easy to install--while Ozwald critiqued its overall aesthetic. Then Cory went on at length about the political peculiarities of early open source trailblazers like John Stallman, who evidently was an unreconstructed Marxist and something of an idiot savant.
Meanwhile I queried a very well-spoken Dutch conflict management diplomat named Jaime (H.R.H. Prince de Bourbon Parme), who happens to be a scion of both the Duth and Spanish royal families, on the best way for the U.S. to extricate itself from the Iraqi quagmire. He's been in Kosovo and elsewhere in the Balkans, in Northern Afghanistan brokering deals with warlords, and in all sorts of other hot conflict zones. But he's clearly never seen anything so intractable as Iraq. He and I are of the same mind: A staged withdrawal, ownership of the mess the U.S. has made, and abject apology to our allies--"who are very much like us, and who probably have some good reason to object when they object."
Earlier, on the way up to the bar, I had a good and very serious chat with Cory about Singapore, China, the spectre of social unrest that haunts and scares people in neo-authoritarian technocracies like these two states, China's constant appeals to historical exemptionism, and whether--and if so, for how long--we should buy into those appeals.
It's a pity that this sort of shit only happens at gatherings like these: far too rare, and far too short.