What the Chinese exchange student killed in Boston thought of the United States

While the Chinese Consulate in New York has, at the request of family members, withheld personal details about the Chinese graduate student at Boston University who was killed in Monday's bombings, the New York Times is reporting that "a classmate, a Chinese university official and a state-run newspaper in her home city have said she was Lu Lingzi, who accompanied a friend to watch the marathon from near where the blasts shook the streets." 

Indeed, many other news outlets have mentioned Lu, and she is already being widely discussed across the Chinese Internet. Besides some basic details -- she grew up in the Chinese rust-belt city of Shenyang and studied international economics in Beijing -- not much is known about her. The last post on her Sina Weibo page -- a photo of cubes of bread and vegetables with the caption "my wonderful breakfast!" -- has drawn more than 21,000 comments, the recent ones mostly consisting of red candles.

Much of Lu's 545 microblog posts focus on food: her love of chocolate and ice cream, "fattening products," and a meal that was a reward for her diet. Because most of her posts are just a sentence long or less, it's sometimes difficult to contextualize her remarks. But they nonetheless paint a fascinating portrait of a Chinese student's views of the United States -- not always the easiest place to live. There are "too many Chinese people" here, she said at one point. "Could orientation be any more boring!!" she complained.

Lu remarks "wow" on a post about strange U.S. legislation, including the supposed Massachusetts law that "it's illegal to go to bed without first having a full bath." A day after posting on the "maddening" process of finding a place to rent, she wrote, "America's level of efficiency makes me so speechless... how did their country ever develop?" Lu is not always down on the United States. A January post features a blurry picture of Boston at night, with the caption "I love this city!" 

As for Boston's metro system, "there's nothing crappier," she wrote.


Am I sleeping with my cousin? There's an app for that

In a country with a population of just 315,281, it turns out it's not very hard to accidentally hook up with a close relative. 

"Everyone has heard of (or experienced) it when someone goes all in with someone and then later runs into that person at a family gathering some other time," writes the website News of Iceland.

Now, there's an app for that.

Three enterprising entrepreneurs have used the information from Íslendingabók -- a website with a geneological database of more than 700,000 Icelanders, past and present -- to make an Android app that allows users to bump phones and find out if their genes are a little too close for comfort before an encounter goes any further (slogan: "Bump the app before you bump in bed").

As the Global Post noted back in 2011, sexual encounters are becoming more anonymous as Iceland becomes increasingly urbanized. Íslendingabók began as a geneological website but has since taken on the additional role of helping couples search for common roots. Presumably, having the site available in app form will make it a bit easier to conduct these incest checks in, say, a bar or at one of those famous volcanic hot springs (couple on the right, above: take note!).

Of course, in Iceland, the question is not whether you're related -- it's how closely. The new technology leaves up to the user the decision about whether hooking up with a third or fourth cousin is too much. But here's hoping for a few less awkward Icelandic family reunions this summer.