>This time google.cn appears to do much better than Baidu. But if we look closely at the top 20 search results, we’ll find there are 7 results at google.com and 5 results at google.cn that direct us to Web sites that use traditional Chinese characters, which are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and by the overseas Chinese community.
> It can be rather challenging for the mainland Chinese to read traditional Chinese, though they can understand most of the message. Nonetheless, this mix of simplified and traditional Characters is not the most user-friendly approach. Verdict: Baidu wins.
I was somewhat surprised by this conclusion. While it’s true that reading simplified characters is more comfortable for the average mainland Chinese citizen, one would think that breadth of search counts for something. If, for example, I’m doing a search on a Taiwanese politician, I’m likely going to want to see articles from Taiwan (which will be in traditional characters). I also know for a fact that many of my Chinese friends prize very highly information sources from Hong Kong or Taiwan.
I’m not saying the author is wrong in his conclusion, though. I think that the Chinese people I hang out with are a rather international-minded bunch. I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Also, while the whole subprime thing is not at all a favorite conversation topic of mine, when I hear it referred to in Chinese, it’s usually by the abbreviated name 次贷. The search numbers for this term are a bit different:
– Baidu: 6,940,000 results (compared to 1,050,000)
– Google.com: 2,180,000 results (compared to 387,000)
– Google.cn: 2,220,000 results (compared to 1,540,000)
Clearly, searching for 次贷 gives Baidu a clear advantage. I realize perhaps the author was trying to go for the “translation feel” in his search results, but it’s interesting to see the results of the same search “with Chinese linguistic characteristics.”
Aric was involved in ChinesePod in its early days (that’s where I met him), and was host of the much-loved ChinesePod Saturday Show. Later he was involved in other events in Shanghai such as GigShanghai and GigLive (discontinued). I don’t know all the other projects he’s been working on lately, but he’s also been making regular DJ appearances at Windows Tembo, a bar managed by our mutual friend Brad.
Speaking of Windows Tembo, it has just moved to a new location on Nanjing Lu, and is now called Windows Underground (because it’s underground). Oh, also it has cool live indie music shows. The Grand Opening is tonight (698 Nanjing Xi Lu). I’ll be there.
It’s Friday night, and I’m doing the opposite of partying. Tomorrow morning I defend my masters thesis.
Originally I thought I’d be spending the evening going over my presentation, anticipating questions, and practicing my answers, but I suddenly got these three 硕士学位申请书 (Masters Degree Application Forms). I have to fill out six pages of academic history and mini-essays by hand (in Chinese, of course). In triplicate!
What a waste of my time. I can’t wait to graduate…
May 25 UPDATE: As some of you noticed from my Twitter status, I did, in fact pass my thesis defense. It actually went much smoother than I expected. I’ll write more on this soon.
In the meantime, even after my defense is over with and I have been granted an MA, I still have more paperwork to finish before it’s official. Arrgh…
A Chinese friend of mine told me that at her workplace, there was a fund-raising effort going on for the victims of the recent earthquake. Most employees contributed 100 RMB. My friend wanted to give a bit more, so she was about to put in 500 RMB when a co-worker pulled her aside.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m giving 500 RMB.”
“Everyone else gave 100. The boss only gave 300. Who do you think you are, giving 500?”
My friend ended up giving 100.
At the office where I work, there was a similar fund-raising effort this past week. Everyone was encouraged to contribute.
What blew me away was that at the end of the week an e-mail went out to all employees, listing who contributed and how much!
Ahhh… cultural differences.
Lots of fund-raising events are planned in Shanghai this weekend. Go clubbing to help the victims of the quake. Eat BBQ to help the victims of the quake. Charity, Shanghai-style.
There are a number of ways you can help victims of this disaster.
My friend Illy passed on to me a link to the blackout poems of Austin Kleon. Here’s the one that most caught my eye:
The craziest thing is that I actually had this idea before. I tried to do it with stories about China, and I failed miserably. I’m not sure whether it was the material I had to work with or my own lack of creativity at fault. Cool to see that Austin has more than pulled it off…
An old high school friend recently visited me here in Shanghai with her husband. Our chat made the usual rounds of old friends, life updates, etc., and then settled on China. When it comes to discussing life in modern China, one topic I find myself returning to again and again in my conversations with Americans is the whole cell phone thing. Americans are always blown away by how easy and convenient (for the consumer) the system here is.
My own situation:
– Monthly 30 RMB plan with China Telecom, comes with talk time and plenty of text messages. I don’t think I ever exceed my limit, but if I do, I pay very little extra.
– Cell phone bill paid by prepaid card, which I can purchase at any convenience store in increments of 100 RMB or 50 RMB. I only need to do this about once every three months, and it takes 5 minutes to add the money to my account. China Telecom SMSes me when I need to re-up.
– My account and phone number are linked to my SIM card, which I can remove from my cell phone at any time and use in any other cell phone here in China. Upgrading a cell phone is as easy as removing and inserting a SIM card, and takes less than a minute.
– No mail, no credit cards.
I don’t even know the full extent of the hell that American telecommunications companies put their customers through, because I never had to deal with it myself. I got my first cell phone in China. But it all sounds really stupid. The whole concept of “cell phone minutes” annoys me.
The one drawback of not being enslaved by the telecommunications companies is that any cell phone you can steal you can use immediately by simply swapping out the SIM card. Small price to pay, I say. Just be careful.
The worst part about all this is that when Americans come here and realize that even China has a way better cell phone system in place, they are blown away, but they are nevertheless completely resigned to their fate. And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way…
Life has just gotten way better for me. Last Friday Praxis Language (home of ChinesePod) moved to the Zhongshan Park area (where I live).
Why is this a big deal? Well, it means I can walk to work. It’s about more than convenience, though.
I used to take the subway to work every morning, and then back home at night. My commute took me down Line 2, through the People’s Square exchange, over to Line 1, at rush hour. Hey, millions of people do this every day in this city, so why shouldn’t I? Well, eventually I learned why. Over time the crushing commuting hordes really got to me. I would start every day lying in bed cursing my alarm clock, dreading my commute, and then, after running the gauntlet again, arrive at work in a foul mood. At the end of the day when work was finally over and I could relax, my bad mood would be reinstated by the commute home. It all added up to a significant amount of unhappiness, far exceeding the daily hour and a half I spent in commute.
I tried carpooling, but that didn’t work. Eventually I started taking taxis a lot more. It was kind of expensive, but I learned it was well worth it. I was buying back a pleasant emotional state, and it was a good value.
Toward the end, John B and I started carpooling by taxi in the morning and taking the subway home after work. We had to leave a half hour earlier in the morning to ensure that we’d get a taxi every day, but we could split the fare. Totally worth it.
Starting Monday I’ll be walking or biking to work every day. It’s going to be sweet.
If you’re planning on living in Shanghai and wondering how close to work you want to live, I say VERY.
This picture, taken over the weekend, shows Barack Obama with his secret evil twin, “Evil Obama,” in Shanghai. (Evil Obama is recognizable by his mustache, goatee, and evilly slanted eyebrows.) Careful study of this photo shows that no Photoshop work has been done.
I’m not sure what Obama is doing in Shanghai at a crucial election time like this, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Evil Obama donning an attractive Sinosplice sweatshirt.
Now, as regular readers of this blog know well, I do apolitical China commentary. In this case, however, it’s Obama advocating Sinosplice. Nothing political about that!
You may have heard of Kevin Rudd, the latest laowai to become famous for speaking fluent Chinese. This guy is kind of different, though, because he happens to be the new Prime Minister of Australia.
Yesterday’s ChinesePod lesson is about Kevin Rudd’s Chinese. Overall a very positive review, of course, but it’s an interesting exercise for advanced students to hear what 小语病 (little language problems) he still has in his speech.
My co-worker Clay commented that if you compare the Chinese Rudd uses in his public appearances from a few months ago with the Chinese he uses now, it has gotten a lot better. It does make me wonder what kind of coaching Rudd gets on his Chinese, and as the Prime Minister of Australia, what kind of priority does he put on improving his Chinese (a truly powerful diplomatic tool)? Is it worth 10 hours of intense language training a week? More?
It has been a while since I went on a trip like this on China, so I was reminded of an important fact: When you go as an uninformed tourist, you get the full tourist experience. We didn’t do a whole lot of research before going. My wife found a pretty nice place to stay online, and the “mountains + bamboo” scenery was great, but we ended up visiting various locations as just two more cogs in the tourism machine. If we ever go back, we’ll remember to do it a bit differently. The following are some of my observations for those of you that are interested in Anji.
Early April was a good time to go because it wasn’t too hot and the crowds were tolerable, but the mountain waterfalls are a little less full, and the bamboo a little less green this time of year. It’s a trade-off.
The place with the most attractive name, 中国大竹海 (Great Bamboo Sea of China), was something of a rip-off. I think my wife’s observation was pretty astute: “they’re just trying to make a tourist buck off of their bamboo production land.” True enough. They also rely heavily on being the bamboo forest location in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. (See image below)
The text on the billboard which greets you when you arrive reads:
> Filming location of cinematic works such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Love Story in Shanghai
Chow Young-fat, Zhang Ziyi came,
Zhou Xun, Chen Kun came,
Stephen Chow, Liu Dekai came,
Hey, the stars all came — what are we waiting for?
We didn’t go too deep in, because we didn’t like what we saw in our first hour there: truckloads of cut bamboo on their way out (which tourists had to dodge), fairly thin bamboo forest, bamboo in the forest marked for cutting in big black characters, and tourists frenziedly trying to find and dig up new bamboo shoots (which they’re told they can have if they find). Other random additions included a mini roller coaster and an alpine zipline.
We tried the roller coaster (40 RMB per person), and it was pretty fun. What was interesting is that it had a hand brake. Fortunately my wife let me man the brake, because I was determined to use it as little as possible (whereas must of the Chinese tourists seemed to be applying it right away on the initial descent). It did raise the troubling question, though: is this hand brake here for tourists’ peace of mind, or can this track really not handle us going around the corners at full speed? There was a net along the sides of the track in some places, but not others (including a few tight turns), and the end of the ride requires the riders to brake themselves.
竹博园, something of a bamboo-themed botanical garden, was also pretty lame. You get to see lots of different types of bamboo, but it wasn’t looking very beautiful. There was also a fair amount of random park-like stuff, including the inflatable bubbles on the pond, and even a stage for performances, which radiated loud annoying techno-pop (not the best thing for the atmosphere).
We stayed in the 九龙峡 (literally, “Nine Dragon Gorge”) scenic area, where we saw 白茶谷 (literally, “White Tea Valley”) and 藏龙百瀑 (literally, “Hidden Dragon Hundred Falls”), which were both pretty decent, scenery-wise. The area at the top of 白茶谷 was still under construction, so we couldn’t go all the way to the top. We only went as far as a Buddhist temple about 3/4 of the way up. We had some 白茶 (“white tea”) on the mountain, and it was tasty.
We didn’t go all the way to the top of 藏龙百瀑 either, because we were both a bit tired from our first mountain climbing experience that day, it was getting dark (no lights), and everyone said the best spectacle was the waterfall halfway up.
Anji in general is still rapidly developing for tourism. I talked to a worker on the way up 藏龙百瀑 who told me the mountain paths (cement/stone stairways in the mountainside) were all only 7-8 years old. (That is, probably not so coincidentally, right when Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon came out.)
Overall, a pleasant visit, but be prepared for the stuff that comes with a newly developing tourism industry, and learn from my mistake: do your homework first! We only saw a few parts of a large beautiful region. There is still lots to see.
The phrase 中国特色 means “Chinese characteristics,” and it’s one you hear a lot in China-centered conversations. When it comes to instant messaging with Chinese characteristics, the only game in town is QQ. Even though it started out as a clone of the once-popular IM client ICQ, over time it has gained its own personality (although I will never forgive it for its malware phase). I really like its “hide” feature, and I wonder why other IM clients don’t use a similar one.
[To learn Chinese related to QQ, check out this ChinesePod lesson: MSN and QQ.]
Anyway, browsing Youku (a Chinese YouTube clone), I stumbled upon this “music video with QQ characteristics.” Here’s a screenshot:
I don’t like the song itself, but the QQ-style presentation is enjoyable (for 30 seconds or so).
It has been my pleasure to work with the SpanishPod team at Praxis Language over the past year, and they have just made it to their 100th lesson today (if you listen carefully, you may hear a mention of me in that episode). They’re really doing amazing things!
Today was Easter, a good good day to complete the rough draft of my thesis. It came out to about 27,000 characters (40 pages). I still have a bit to add and polish, but the majority of the workload is now off my shoulders. What a relief.
Today Easter mass at Xujiahui Cathedral was packed. My wife and I couldn’t help chuckling at the little Chinese kid behind us, continually pestering his dad with questions:
> What does “hallelujah” mean? Does it mean “I’m awake now?”
> Why did they put out the carpet? It’s not raining today. [In Shanghai you frequently see mats or even broken-down cardboard boxes by the entrances of buildings on rainy days to help collect the water off of people’s feet. In this case, it was a red carpet leading to the altar.]
> What happened to the bishop’s hat? Did someone cut it open? It looks like someone cut it open.
> saw on old lady bring her own egg to the jian bing guozi seller to save money
Sam is talking about 煎饼果子 (pictures). They’re made by spreading a basic batter on a hot plate, and cooking an egg on top, and then spreading a sauce on it. The total cost (including the price of the egg), is usually 1-3 RMB (depending where you are in China). Eggs generally cost much less than 1 RMB each.
1. Gladder: an auto-proxy addon for Firefox. Very convenient! Unlike TOR, it’s not either “always on” or “always off.” Just works for the sites you need it to work on. How did I not find out about this sooner?? (Via JP)
2. Olympic Game Piracy. Shameless. The best thing to do about this is to spread the word when it happens and turn up the scorn. (Via Dave)
3. The Deadly Huashan Hiking Trail: a photo journey. Don’t let the use of Comic Sans fool you; this is one hardcore mountain climb. Make sure you see the pictures toward the end…
I haven’t been married for long, and one of the challenges is getting used to having Chinese in-laws. Mine are great, so it hasn’t been very challenging, but I’m always looking for more common ground and good conversation topics. Besides our love for one particular Chinese girl, we really don’t have a ton in common.
When it comes to food, my father-in-law and I usually agree. (I may not be as fond of the rice wine, but at least we can agree on beer.) Recently my mother-in-law bought a jar of “Russian style” pickles at the grocery store and was delighted to find that both of us loved them.
The last time my in-laws came over for dinner, my father-in-law and I finished off another jar of those pickles. As I was smiling at the idea of pickles bringing two very different people together, my father-in-law reached for the pickle jar. “They’re all gone,” I was thinking. “What’s he going to do?”