Every month there are moments I dread. I don't mean dread as in 'there's yet another picture of Caitlin Moran's mug gurning on the cover The Times' type horror, though those are pretty pant soiling when they take you unawares with 'cargo on the ramp', so to speak. No, I mean moments I know are coming but still depress me when they occur.
One such moment of lurking dread is when I start to run low on bandwidth. Some months, my server emails me the warning message around the 20th and I feel pretty grim in the knowledge that my websites will go dark within days. This might seem odd, even mildly hypocritical, given that I sometimes go weeks without updating this blog, but even in my lapses, I still like to think that The Spine is here disagreeing with 90% of what the rest of world thinks. I also know my blog doesn't load as fast as I'd like (damn you, the other 100+ websites on this shared host) and I've explored options of moving to a cloud server, even a low level VPS, which is a virtual private server providing processor capacity available to load the site quickly for anybody visiting. However, until the prices of those services drop a little more, I'm stuck here sharing web resources with countless cheese appreciation websites, military re-enactment societies, and whatever other freaks of British culture think they need a web presence.
This month's bandwidth message arriving late last night and in the early hours, I found myself examining my monthly stats, which I haven't done in very long time. That's how I came to make the shocking discovery that China is eating up my bandwidth. I don't want to understate the significance of this so let me put it in the following way: I'm under attack from the RED CHINESE!
Damn those hardline communist capitalist types who have already eaten 12.40 GB of my allowance this month and make my site slow to load. But that got me to thinking: why are the Chinese reading my blog?
The only answer that reasonably makes sense is that they're not reading my blog. They're finding my blog, they're loading my blog, and they're doing something with my blog but I'm not sure what or if it's entirely legal. My best theory is that they're to blame for all the spam I receive and I do get spam like it's arriving by freight container straight from Asia. Countless fake comments arrive in my inbox every hour and I get hundreds of spam emails from Chinese companies daily trying to sell me plastic crates. That's right: plastic crates.
For no apparent reason, one particular post, which I titled 'The Great Slag Heap', gets hammered hard by Chinese spammers. There are probably a few hundred comments on that one article alone that I've yet to clear out of my Spam filter and every one will be trying to send you to this garish website which my rudimentary Mandarin tells me either promotes the godfather of plastic crates or the Chinese Graham Norton.
Clearly I need to act but at the moment, I just can't afford to fund a military blockade of China's ports, a ban on their exports, or even a covert hacking program on their IT networks. So how do I block China?
I've done my research and I've discovered there are low level changes I can make to the htaccess file on my server which would block Chinese IP addresses but, frankly, that seems too much effort and not enough fun. Plus I think my solution is much simpler.
You know Tibet? Snow. Yeti. Strange wooden rollers you spin whilst chanting 'The Krankies are evil' under your breath...
You might also know that China has a terrible human rights record, especially towards the peace loving people of Tibet. The Dali Llama is always bending Prince Charles's ears about it (hard work, they're big ears) and then Charles begins to do that thing he does with his mouth and name drops Richard Gere before jetting across the world to tell Bono that everybody should stop jetting across the world and start riding Yaks to work.
'Freedom for Tibet' is what I often hear myself chanting around the 20th of the month and I'd like to take a page out of the book of Chinese dissident artist, Ai Weiwei, and dance Gungham style in opposition to Chinese authorities in Beijing who clearly support their plastic crate industry's spamming operation.
Tibet. Tibet. Tibet.
Free speech. Liberty. Hong Kong protests. Jackie Chan's films aren't as good as they used to be.
Cheap Chinese radios. Poor working conditions inside Chinese factories. I don't like iPads. Pot Noodles are horrible. I particularly hate the curry flavoured Pot Noodles. Not sure curry is Chinese. I think it's Indian, or something we British brought over from India and then made our own. Not that I have a problem with Indians visiting my blog. They don't nick 12Gb of bandwidth in order to sell me plastic crates.
Bad Chinese stereotypes. You can't beat 'em! The Li Kee Shipyard in that Pink Panther movie? I can't remember the title but it was the one where he dresses up as a gangster and somebody breaks wind in a lift. Hong Kong Phooey wasn't Chinese but at least he didn't make Buddhist monks set themselves on fire.
China. Human Rights. China. Human Rights. Hey guys! Let's riot in Hong Kong!
Taiwan is an independent nation. It's not part of China even if we do tend to say 'cheap Chinese rubbish' whenever we spot 'Made in Taiwan' on the handle of the frying pan that just melted when we put it on the stove. Is that racist? Can you be racist towards a plastic frying pan? I don't know but eating dogs it pretty horrible but nowhere near as bad as eating spitting cobra soup or the penis hacked from the corpse of a frozen Norwegian you mistakenly thought was a polar bear.
Oh, they can try to stifle free speech with their so called Great Internet Wall of China, which prevents the good and honourable people of China from accessing foreign websites that promote FREEDOM FOR TIBET but we won't be silenced, even if that means my website being added to the blacklist that would make it impossible to access from within China. Oh, I won't be silenced even if that means I'll regain 12Gb of bandwidth I'm paying for each and every month and the Chinese are STEALING FROM ME. Not when something as important as freedom for the Chinese people is concerned.
Did I mention Tiananmen Square? I think I should.
There. That should do it. At the time of my writing this, my website is accessible from within China. Here's the proof (or you can check yourself, here).
I'll be monitoring the Chinese situation over the coming days. Hopefully, the automatic Chinese censor will step in and ban my domain. If the hits from mainland China stop, this website might make it through to the end of the month without my feeling guilty that I've not coughed up more money to keep it live so the Chinese can spam me some more.
Meanwhile, if for any reason, you suddenly can't read this blog in the coming days, it means that my bandwidth has run out until it resets on the 1st November. Either that or you're in China, in which case, you and 1.357 billion other people are entirely on your own. Xhù ni hao yùn!