2014-03-28

Unblocking websites that block (or are blocked in) certain countries

I can somehow accept the fact that certain computer hardware, especially the new one, is not available in Israel, and even when it becomes available, we pay much more than, for example, in the United States, while we earn much less. But I can't accept the fact certain websites block certain countries, including Israel, refusing to give their service to us. They include three websites I wanted to use: Google Play Books, Google Play Newsstand, and Zinio Store. The third one does allow me to enter, but it refuses to sell me certain magazines because of my physical location, while the first two don't even allow me in for the same reason.

This is nothing but discrimination, and the reason for it is absurd and unacceptable. Those websites that are freely accessible in certain countries must also be equally accessible in others. This is what the Internet is all about. I thought there was nothing I could do except for relying on the mercy of these websites, until I found three types of solutions this week.

The first solution, which is the easiest, is to use an online proxy. There are hundreds of free online proxies. The one I have bookmarked is Hide My Ass. It does work, but it's so slow. I'm afraid that many other free online proxies are slow. Though I don't have to install anything, I find it rather cumbersome to have to visit the website every time to surf some blocking website.

The second is to install the so called VPN software. It helps us not only unblock websites but also protect our online privacy. There seem to be a number of free VPN software programs. What I've found attractive is Hotspot Shield. I've installed and confirmed that it enables me to have an access to Google Play Books and Google Play Newsstand as if I were living in the United States. But personally I find this method an overkill as these two stores are the only services I want to use at the moment.

The third, which is what I've decided to keep using after trying it and seen it works, is to use a proxy add-on with my browser. Firefox, which is my default browser, has a number of proxy add-ons. On all the add-ons I've tried I find ProxMate the best not only because of its ease of use but also because it doesn't slow down the speed of page rendering. It's also available for Google Chrome from the website of the add-on.

These methods can be helpful not only for those like myself who feel that they are discriminated geographically but also for those lucky ones who have full access to certain websites in their own countries but have to visit a country whose regime blocks these websites. But unfortunately, they can circumvent country restrictions only as long as you view contents, but I couldn't complete any business transaction at Google Play Books with any of these three tools.

So in short, I still remain at the mercy of these discriminating websites, and the Internet is still far from being a truly universal platform, at least in terms of access and contents.

2014-03-14

Weekly yoga lesson

My teenage dream was to become a yogi. ;-) When I was a high school student back in Japan, I realized that there was (and still is) something more fascinating for me than yoga - languages, until I ended up becoming a professional linguist teaching Hebrew and Jewish linguistics at an Israeli university.

When I was a junior high school student, I taught myself the so-called asanas of Hatha yoga from a book I stumbled upon at a local bookstore. The author of the book turned out to be the person who popularized Hatha yoga in Japan. I practiced it for a few years, until I switched to running (with stretching) as a way of maintaining physical fitness, and I'm still running. About five years ago I also started swimming for the same purpose, but I soon found that it could also relieve my stress enormously.

Unfortunately, however, the stress I feel because of the insensitivity of too many people in the Israeli society has built up so much that running and swimming alone have stopped relieving it enough. So I thought of practicing yoga again after about 35 years. Having looked for several months for a weekly yoga lesson convenient for me in terms of both time and place, I have found one and started participating in it regularly. I participated in it only twice so far, but I already see that it helps me ease my mental (and physical) stress so much that I have decided to get up one hour earlier in the morning than I used to for practicing yoga every weekday morning, and not only in the weekly lesson.

Here is a list of links I have collected as a preparation for starting yoga. Some of the them may also be useful for someone, especially in Jerusalem, who is interested in starting yoga. Hatha yoga is the most popular school of yoga now; Iyengar yoga is the most popular modern derivative of Hatha yoga; and my yoga teacher practices a variation of Iyengar yoga.

By the way, I have also made sure that enough people, including frum Jews, consider yoga "kosher". The following is a list of links about yoga with a Jewish slant.