Not so Sino

So I’m now in Japan. All things considered, it was a pretty smooth trip here, although leaving my place and the few days leading up to my departure were pretty hectic. None of that is so important at the moment, though. I’m here in Japan because a good Japanese friend is getting married this Saturday. With the new semester at ZUCC approaching fast, I can’t stay in Japan long this visit, so there’s nothing I can do but enjoy it. And that I am.

Since the purpose of this visit is to attend a wedding, I had three big fears about my return to Japan: (1) that I don’t have the right clothes for the occasion (and clothes in my size are pretty hard to come by anywhere in Asia — I don’t know where Yao Ming shops), (2) that I’d be asked to make a speech, and (3) that my Japanese has gotten worse than I thought (which related also to #2). All of my fears have been realized!!!

My dark gray suit has gotten tight, so I didn’t bring it, electing instead to go with khaki pants, a blue long-sleeved shirt, and a nice tie. Turns out at the formal Japanese wedding ceremony (I’ve never attended one) the suits should be dark. The difference between Japanese wedding and funeral menswear, it seems, is that at funerals the ties are also black, but not at weddings. So I need a black suit, fast. We’re looking. The actual couple are way laid-back about it all, though, so if we can’t actually find the right clothes it’s not a terribly big deal.

My Japanese is still very functional, but I get a bit flustered at times, which is annoying. After a few trips to Japan from China, I’ve stopped responding to Japanese in Chinese (which is really embarrassing), but the Japanese doesn’t come readily enough, and I’m impatient, dammit! I guess the worst thing is that I keep comparing my Japanese level to my Chinese level, and since I can express myself in Chinese with relative ease, it’s frustrating to be so limited again in a language I once considered myself to be quite proficient in. If I were here for a month, though, I’d be OK….

The speech thing is actually no longer a problem. Shingo (ex-Japanese homestay brother) and I had quite a few beers at dinner tonight and decided to write my speech. I told him in Japanese and English (Shingo has spent time in Australia) what I wanted to say, and we worked out the Japanese. It’s fairly short and to the point, yet kinda moving without being at all silly, since the formal occasion does not warrant an ounce of silliness. (Oh, and yes, we did try it out on soberer people before declaring it officially “good.”) Fortunately after the formal ceremony there’s also an informal party. That’s when the fun begins.

The wedding is going to be fine, but I really wish my Japanese was better. There was a really interesting conversation going on last night involving the true nature of Japanese patriotism/nationalism, the question of Japan’s attitude toward China and revisionist history, and the political manga of Kobayashi Yoshinori in particular. The fact that I can even still attempt said discussion is reason for encouragement, but I really wish I could have followed more of what was said — I mean the complex, juicy stuff — and actually added something substantial.

Ah, well. I think I’ll return to the task at hand for the time being: enjoying Japan.

The Newbies have Landed

So this past week three of the new teachers for the foreign language department arrived. (To be fair, one of them — Alf — is not actually a newbie. But he’s new here. Hangzhou is quite different from backwoods Henan!) Anyway, as ZUCC’s foreign teacher liaison it’s my job to welcome new teachers and show them around. So that’s what I’ve been busy with lately. Fortunately it’s a lot of fun.

New teachers that have arrived so far: Russell Alf Carl

So far I have greeted them, helped them move into their new apartments, helped get everything distributed and operational (water dispensers, washing machines, refrigerators, TVs, etc.), took them shopping for household necessities, took them out to different restaurants, took them to West Lake, took them to Bank of China to change money, took them cell phone shopping, took them furniture shopping, took them to a super cheap Chinese bar right by West Lake, took them to a nice expat bar on Hangzhou’s lakeside bar street, took them to Hangzhou’s famous student hangout called the “Reggae Bar,” and took them to “L.A. Disco,” Hangzhou’s most popular dance club. Oh yes, I had more alcohol this past weekend than I’ve had in a while.

The expat bar scene is a much-reviled aspect of life here, but it’s certainly something they have to experience. I think this past weekend’s trips were pretty good. There were a few females involved too, the most noteworthy of which we have nicknamed “Biter.”

Some funny quotes from today (each coming from a different person, one of them belonging to me):

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s getting kicked in the nuts. Ahhh, that blows cold. [Referring to air conditioning] Tea and water are kind of the same. Must have more fun!

Yes, these guys are gonna make great English teachers.

University classes on this?

Via Wilson at Racingmix by e-mail:

Creating the Berkeley China Internet Weblog
CCN# 48162, Journalism 298, section 13
10-11:30 WF, 209 Greenhouse
3 units
Instructors: Xiao Qiang, Paul Grabowicz, John Battelle

China is currently undergoing a digital revolution. In this class, students will create a collaborative news Weblog, the Berkeley China Internet Weblog, which will cover the development of the media and technology in this complex, rapidly changing society. Students will also develop an understanding of Weblogs, a new form of online publishing that has quickly become a popular way to get news and information on particular topics. In the United States, Europe and around the world, Weblogs are redefining the boundaries and practice of journalism, and transforming the landscape of both traditional and new media. The Berkeley China Internet Weblog aims to act as a comprehensive resource center and a forum for public discussion on the social, political, economic and cultural impact of China’s Internet development. The Weblog site will publish news, commentary and in-depth analyses, as well as generate original stories on topics such as the interplay between online information and the traditional media, virtual communities and grassroots reporting, state control mechanisms and the role of international ICT corporations in developing China’s digital infrastructure. Through designing and maintaining this Weblog, students will explore online journalism issues such as credibility, incentives and news ethics and standards. The resulting Weblog column will be posted to the school’s Web site and to an email list of interested subscribers. Qiang, a 2001 MacArthur Fellow, is the former Executive Director of Human Rights in China, and the Director of Berkeley China Internet Program. Grabowicz, Director of the New Media Program, writes a column for the Online Journalism Review on Internet resources for reporters and is co-author of California Inc. Battelle is a founder of Wired and a former CEO of Industry Standard.

Hmmm, should I be getting college credit for Sinosplice? Will other people be studying Peking Duck or Brainysmurf or T-Salon or China Weblog or even my blog in class?? Craziness. [link]

Looking for what?

I think it’s high time I did the “weird search terms people entered to stumble upon my site.” I’ve never done it before. Now that I’m hosting a bunch of other blogs as well, it’s hard to say who exactly is responsible for these. What’s more, putting these terms in Google frequently does not get a Sinosplice result, so I’m not sure what search engines these weirdos are using. Without further ado, some of the results:

bleached hair pics (26)
With is one that I actually understand. I do have a pic of this. What’s surprising is that it got me 26 hits!

shu qi nude (12)
Ah yes, that was a good post. Adolescent boys everywhere (well, maybe 12 of them, anyway) are thanking me for that link, I bet.

�߿� entrance exam (10)
This is because of Prince Roy. I think it’s kind of odd, though, that so many people seem to be looking for information in English but can nevertheless enter gao kao (the name of the Chinese college entrance exam) in Chinese.

dalian girls (10)
Undoubtedly Derrick‘s doing. That guy wouldn’t shut up about the dazzling beauty of Dalian girls the whole month he was here. It was jealousy of Hangzhou and Shanghai’s abundance, no doubt.

depressing monologues (3)
Hehe… ssshhhh! Don’t tell Hank!

how can i improve my students spoken english (2)
Well, that one was because of me. I don’t think many people are reading it, but if you’re a brand new teacher in China (or anywhere in Asia, really), you might find my guide useful.

underaged girl gets covered in cum (2), older men with big dicks (1)
OK, these I really cannot explain. I thought maybe someone in the network was writing about something I didn’t know about, but I did a search in Google, and Sinosplice was not among the pages and pages of other wholesome family entertainment that turned up. Weird. You can’t find mention of this stuff on Sinosplice! Well, er… until now, that is….

兰兰的漫画

好象兰兰是一个在美国留学的中国艺术学生。住在美国的中国人对美国的观点真有意思。

看一下她画的漫画:

兰兰的漫画1   兰兰的漫画2
兰兰的主页有更多漫画,动画,图画,照片,还有blog。

Reorganizing

There’s a whole lotta reorganizing going on over here.

HeleneHelene 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.

Google Dictionary?

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?

Studying Chinese

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!

New areas: The 5 Stages to Learning Chinese The Process of Learning Tones Chinese Study Book Reviews

Pasden Under Attack!

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…

Guns in Class

click here for picturesAttention 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.

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