There’s a whole lotta reorganizing going on over here.
Helene leaves at 7:00am. She arrived in Hangzhou at the same time as Wilson, but unlike him, stayed for most of the summer. She has been my next door neighbor at ZUCC for the past year and a half. She’s now moving out and returning to Miami. She will be missed.
Right after she leaves, some workers are gonna come in and rip up and replace the flooring in her place. Our apartments are really quite nice; it’s a shame that higher quality construction materials weren’t used. Keeping them nice requires frequent repairs/replacements.
The new ZUCC teachers start arriving Monday. (To all the other people out there that wrote to me about working here at ZUCC this coming semester, I’m sorry I couldn’t help you. These guys contacted me way back.)
I have to get ready for a week-long trip to Japan (Aug 26 – Sept 1) to attend my homestay brother Masakazu’s wedding. It’ll be great to be back in Japan among friends. I only regret that my visit will have to be so short, as the timing for this wedding was not ideal for me. I need to acquire a “re-entry visa” next week so that the Chinese government will let me into the country when I come back.
My classes at ZUCC start September 8th, and my Chinese classes start soon after. So much to get ready for….
Also, the China Blog List has just undergone a massive update. Highlights include:
- 11 new blogs added
- 7 blogs deleted, for various good reasons
- a bunch of blogs moved around
- @nonymouse links added via cute little icons for all “Blockspot” blogs
That blog list is a lot of work, but I think it’s worth it. Maybe it sounds cheesey, but I really believe that helping people to learn more about China will promote peace in the long run. Do your part for world peace and learn more about China.
I’m not sure, maybe this is a common practice. But just in case it isn’t, I’d like to offer a tip to you happy web surfers out there, and an extra special tip to those of you studying Chinese.
Every one knows about Google now. “Google” is pretty much a verb in common usage already. I urge you to use the Google Toolbar if you don’t already. It’s so useful — I get annoyed now when I’m on someone else’s computer and I actually have to go to the Google site to use Google. I just use Google that much. Then there’s Google Images, which is your key to a vast lode of virtually untapped digital imagery ore. Sure, you can use those pictures for your own unscrupulous Photoshop purposes or whatever (I sure have)… But what people don’t realize is that Google Images is also a reference resource.
I’ll give an example. Suppose you want to know what a Pekinese looks like. You know it’s a kind of dog, but you want to know exactly what it looks like. If you looked it up in a dictionary, you’d get a nice (possibly vague) description, but what you really would want is a picture. An encyclopedia might provide that, but it might not, plus looking something up in an encyclopedia is a big pain in this modern age. All you have to do is pop “pekinese” into Google Images, and voila! you have a whole smattering of visual testimony, all provided unwittingly by people across the web.
But none of that is revolutionary. What I find Google especially useful for is checking up on Chinese words [sorry, you'll need Chinese input capability for this]. There are a lot of Chinese words that are in common practice but have not made it into dictionaries. Proper nouns are not usually in dictionaries anyway. So what do you do in a case like that? Google them. Take a guess at the characters. If you’re wrong, you’ll know by the search results.
I’ll give an example. You want to search for information on Jay Chou in Chinese. You know his Chinese name is Zhou Jielun, but you’re not sure which “lun” the last character is. Google all your guesses. Chances are, the one which turns up the greatest number of results is the right one. In the case of Zhou Jielun, it clearly is.
This works great for famous people’s names, place names, new slang, etc., and it sure beats any traditional dictionary method I know. The only problem is that you’re choosing the “correct” answer by following the herd. When the herd is 1.3 billion strong, though, in the name of convenience… why not?
Instead of wisely sleeping, I decided to beef up the Language section of Sinosplice tonight. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while, and I don’t think I’m going to have as much free time as I do now much longer. Anyway, this is just the beginning of some of the plans I have.
If you’re just starting to learn Chinese, this stuff is for you!
I got my dad his own domain for his birthday this year. Pasden.com, all his, to do whatever he pleased with. It could be a beautiful shining beacon to Pasdens everywhere. It still might be, but he hasn’t actually launched it. Until then, the world waits….
I check up on it every now and then to see if there are any changes, but there’s nothing up yet. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I checked again recently to discover that the page wouldn’t load. Immediately I doubted my decision to go with a domain forwarding service. You see, you can pay a much lower yearly fee to just have the domain name forwarded to another URL. Thus, when you type “www.pasden.com” into your browser, you are actually viewing the contents of www.sinosplice.com/~pasden/. I also paid for masking, so even though you’re viewing the contents at www.sinosplice.com/~pasden/, your browser tells you you are at pasden.com. Cool, eh?
But it wasn’t working anymore! I was pissed. It had just been working fine a few weeks before. I fired off an e-mail to the company demanding the reason why the service I had paid good money for was no longer being provided. They responded in a timely manner politely informing me that according to their systems the forwarding is still working perfectly.
Huh? Oh no… could it be???
I went to @nonymouse and put in pasden.com. It loaded up fine.
The inescapable conclusion? China is blocking PASDEN.COM!
I am mystified. I had thought the government was getting laxer and laxer about internet censorship, but evidently this was one dissident site they could not allow to slip by unnoticed.
Yes, that was sarcasm. I suppose it’s a part of some IP grouping that was blanket-banned or something. Annoying. But as long as Sinosplice is OK I suppose I won’t have to hurt anyone…
Attention Xixi students! Your pictures are online now. Go look at them. They will not be online forever, so get what pictures you want now.
Attention everyone else! These are some pictures of the students I taught for three weeks at Zhejiang University Xixi Campus. The schedule was ideal for summer work: 1:30pm to 4pm daily, Mon. – Sat. Most students were between 18 and 20, many having just graduated from high school. They were a good bunch, and mostly very eager to study English in my un-air-conditioned class, despite the record-breaking Hangzhou temperatures.
I have become somewhat notorious for one of my teaching techniques at ZUCC. I demand that my students speak only English in my class, but when students don’t take the rule seriously, you’ve got to enforce it somehow. This is important because a lot of my class activities are small group activities, and I can’t listen to everyone speak at once. My first year at ZUCC I came up with an idea. I bring a squirt gun to class. When I hear someone speak Chinese, they get squirted immediately. Where I get them depends on my mood and their attitude; sometimes I get their arms or their backs, but I’ve squirted people in the face too. The students love this. Class suddenly becomes exciting.
There are a few drawbacks to this method. One, although it’s great for summer, it doesn’t work well in the winter. Two, not speaking English in class can turn into sort of a game, where the students daringly speak in Chinese in low voices whenever I’m at a distance, and I try to catch them at it.
I’m pretty good at catching them, though. Even when I can’t make out what people are saying, I can usually tell by the speed of their speech and their body language (i.e. students will be much more animated when speaking Chinese) that people are not speaking English. Every now and then someone doesn’t speak very clear English, and I mistakenly think they’re speaking Chinese. The students feel incredibly wronged when I squirt them by mistake. I shrug it off with a “speak more clearly and it wouldn’t happen.” I reign supreme in my classroom, and make no apologies for things like that.
For this past class, my squirt gun policy had an interesting effect. This class had a vengeful quality to an extent that none of my other clases ever have before. The first day I started squirting them, two students conspiratorially constructed a makeshift squirt weapon out of a water bottle with a hole poked in the top. Other students tried to steal my gun. Both plots failed, and all guilty parties got soaked just for trying.
The next day I got squirted from behind while at the blackboard and couldn’t find the guilty party. It was later revealed that several students had brought squirt guns to class. Things were starting to get out of hand. I set out a rule that if they wanted to take me on, they should do it after class. They agreed to that, but with such evil gleams in their eyes that I wondered if I had done myself in.
That day immediately after class, Jessica came at me determinedly with her water bottle, leaving a large wet spot on my shirt. Hoping to set an example in front of the whole class, I dumped my water bottle all over her, just soaking her. She got me kinda wet, but I got her much worse. I had more water, and made two things clear to her: (1) I could soak her even more right then, but I wouldn’t because I knew when to quit. (2) If she tried something like that again, I would get her back worse.
So the rest of the semester was conducted in sort of an uneasy state of watching my back, especially after class. Meanwhile, the effect of my squirting policy was spreading. Wayne had adopted my method on the third floor. Lots of students started bringing small super soaker-type water guns to class. The class next door was having regular water wars before and after class. One day I walked into the classroom to discover an abandoned battlefield. Every desktop and seat was covered in water. What had I started?
It wasn’t easy, but I was able to get them to cut out the water in the classroom. They never did exact their revenge, even on the last day. Somehow the target of their aggression was transferred from me to themselves. At one point I felt like the whole water thing was undermining my authority in the classroom rather than strengthening it, but in the end it turned into more of a catalyst for class bonding.
Now that summer session is over. I managed to soak a bunch of my students and still largely escape their wrath. I still support the idea of the teacher bringing a gun to class… but that teacher best be careful.
It was a wild Friday night out here at ZUCC, as Wayne, Derrick, Lenny, and I stayed home for a homemade game of Risk… China Risk! The game is won when one player’s armies occupy all of China (including Taiwain). The tricky part is that forces can be positioned outside of China as well (Russia, Japan, India, etc.).
Yes, it was extremely nerdy, but pretty fun. Last night was the dry run of the new game. It definitely needs some tweaking, but we will play again. Read Derrick’s coverage of the game. Derrick’s photos:
Recently I visited a photographer to discuss the possibility of doing some work for him. He’s a nice guy, a Hangzhou local, probably pushing 60. It didn’t take long to conclude our business, and it became clear soon thereafter that he just wanted to chat. I was happy to oblige him.
He talked for quite a while about his wife, who happened to work at the high school adjacent to ZUCC. He went on and on about how my school had taken some of the land that had originally been alotted to the high school. I wasn’t particularly interested — other than some vague curiosity about how the Chinese government zones land and allots it to private schools — but I listened.
Things suddenly got interesting again when he started talking about foreigners. The guy was funny. He had one word to sum up entire nations of people. Here are some of the ones I remember:
Americans – undisciplined （散漫）
Australians – lazy （懒）
Germans – inflexible （死板）
Japanese – cunning （狡猾）
I think he also said something about Italy being full of nothing but thieves, and New Zealand being the greatest country on earth because it not only had gorgeous scenery, but also very few people.
I didn’t take offense at any of this. I was really interested in hearing his opinions because his point of view is a rare one. Here was a man of my parents’ generation who spoke only Chinese but has nevertheless been to many foreign countries and has actually had significant contact with foreigners, both at home and abroad. Naturally, he took with him his Chinese biases wherever he went. In many ways, this guy was just like a Chinese version of so many Americans.
I like how he so matter-of-factly told me that Americans are all sloppy and undisciplined. I got a kick out of it. (I’m pretty punctual, but I guess it turned out to be very cooperative of me to arrive 5 minutes late that particular day.)
What most surprised me was what he had to say about black people. I’m pretty used to comments like, “I’ve got nothing against them, but they’re just so ugly.” It seems a lot of Chinese people discriminate against blacks solely on “aesthetic” grounds. But whatever. I’m not trying to get into that. What this guy had to say was different.
“Black people are good people. I’ve met a lot of them, and they’re really good people. The bad people are the mixed ones, who are only part black. They’re really bad.”
I asked for clarification on that: “I thought Chinese people believe mixed babies are beautiful and smart.”
His response? “Sure, mixed Asian and white babies are. But if you mix either Asians or whites with blacks, you get bad people.”
Bizarre. What can you say to that? Just smile and nod….