Unicode with Blogger

Unicode is great, but so far underused. It’s basically a newer, larger character set designed to make multilingual computing easier, indirectly bringing peace and harmony to all. Maybe one day we’ll be free of the mojibake and luanma (that’s Japanese and Chinese for “garbage characters”) that thwart our otherwise well-intended communications. Unicode is a step in the right direction.

What does implementing Unicode mean? It means you’ll no longer load up a page to find “garbage characters” and have to change the encoding used for the page. It means you can have characters from completely different character sets (say, Chinese and Korean and French) on the same page. Check out Glome for a good example of that. Unicode is great.

I bring this up largely because I think other China bloggers really ought to adopt Unicode in their blogs. Alf’s latest post reminded me of that. Even though he entered his Chinese name, “阿福,” correctly in Blogger, I can’t read it even when I change the encoding, and he made that post on my computer!

So I’d like to provide some instructions for those that use Blogger.

  1. In Blogger, go to Settings, then Formatting.

  2. Change the Encoding to “Universal (Unicode UTF-8)”.

  3. Save Changes.

  4. Go into the Blogger template.

  5. In the <head> section of the document (that’s the part between the <head> and </head> tags), insert this line:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />

  1. Save Changes.

  2. Publish.

Now when people visit your blog, it will automatically load with Unicode encoding and characters should display fine.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When you input Chinese into your blog entry through Blogger, you must be sure your browser is in Unicode encoding already. Otherwise it’ll all turn out as garbage. If you remember to switch over halfway through your entry, post first, then change the encoding, because changing the encoding will make you lose everything you’ve written in Blogger’s “Edit Post” window. If some of what you’ve written is in Chinese, then you’ll want to copy and paste it into a text file, switch over to Unicode encoding, then copy and paste back in. Nothing lost.

IMPORTANT NOTE 2: If you’ve written in Chinese in the past and it can be viewed successfully in your archives simply by switching to Chinese encoding, it will nevertheless become garbage after you switch over to Unicode. You’ll have to decide if you think it’s worth it to switch. I do.

<gulp!>

I finally officially registered for my Chinese classes at Zhejiang University of Technology today. That means I forked over about 6500rmb (almost $800 USD), I got my textbooks, I got my schedule, and I got my new student ID.

I got a little nervous looking at my new schedule and my new textbooks. First, my week is now completely filled. Every morning, every afternoon (with very few gaps), plus two evenings. I know, most people work 40 hour weeks, but teaching can be pretty tiring, and I’m not sure how great of a student I’ll be. For one thing, I haven’t been a real student for over 3 years, and for another, these classes look really challenging. I’ve described my Chinese level as “high intermediate” before, but these classes are definitely high, not intermediate. These are the textbooks:

  • 高级汉语口语—话题交际 (北京语言文化大学出版社)- Advanced Speaking

  • 桥染—实用汉语中级教程(下) (北京语言文化大学出版社)- Intensive Reading

  • 高级汉语读写教程 (北京语言文化大学出版社)- Reading and Writing

  • 中国社会概览(三年级教材,上) (北京语言文化大学出版社)- Survey of Chinese Society

  • HSK中国汉语水平考试 (北京语言文化大学出版社)- HSK Training

Looking at the textbooks, I see a lot of characters I haven’t learned. I can’t be lazy this semester.

There are only 10 students in the high level. There’s another white guy (Russian or something — not sure), a Japanese student, and the rest are Koreans.

I’m looking forward to making friends with all the other international students, and I’m really ready for another big jump in my Chinese level, but I think it’s gonna be a hard semester. I have to relearn how to work hard!

Asian Ear Cleaning

I found this link via Zod. It’s true in China too — Chinese people do pay a lot of attention to cleaning ears. In the USA common tools found on keyrings include bottle openers and penlights. In China the little metal “ear wax scoop” is quite a hit. It may seem dangerous to one’s hearing to use one of those things, but you see people using them around town (no, it’s not pretty), and I don’t think it’s causing widespread hearing problems.

The way this “culture of ear cleaning” affects me personally is that when I go to get my hair cut, that comes with a shampoo, and an upper body massage, and an ear cleaning, all for 25rmb (just over $3). They do use Q-tips. It’s a weird form of vulnerability, submitting to a stranger’s Q-tip.

Back from Japan

2 of 3 Tazawa brosI’m back from Japan and busy once again. It was a great trip, allowing me to catch up with old friends and have lots of great food and great beer. Unfortunately I was feeling incredibly lazy and I hardly took any pictures. The one day I wanted to take pictures — the wedding day — I got up early and was too groggy and forgot to bring my camera! D’oh! Some digital pics of that are going to be sent my way soon, though.
The wedding was really cool, and struck me as almost entirely like a Western one (and unlike a Chinese one), except that instead of having the religious service in a church, we had it in a Shinto shrine.

The bride was in a beautiful kimono, as were both mothers. The groom wore a hakama (male version of a kimono). The fathers wore dark Western suits. All the rest of the men were in black or blackish suits and light ties (except for me), and all the rest of the women were in nice dresses.

The Shinto rituals were interesting. Fortunately there wasn’t too much of the “sitting on your heels” kind of kneel-sit thing going on, because that hurts me. There was some sake drinking in the ritual. Afterward Okaasan (my Japanese homestay mom) asked me if I had understood the ritual at all. I said no. “Neither did we” was her response.

Then there were bride/groom photos and a group photo, and we all headed over to the hotel for the reception. We had a great meal which was an interesting mix of Japanese and Western food. Obaasan (my Japanese homestay grandma) didn’t want her steak so she gave it to me. Niiiiice.

Beer flowed and flowed, as everyone went around toasting each other. I got tons of omedetou (congratulations) practice in Japanese. Speeches were made intermittently throughout the meal. When mine came around I was already buzzing pretty hard, but I pulled it off pretty well. Everyone seemed to like it. It was kind of hard to write the speech because I couldn’t say anything bad about the groom at the formal reception, but the groom is kind of a crazy, gambling slacker kind of a guy. The content of my speech was basically:

Congratulations to both the bride and the groom, and all present. I lived with the Tazawas for a year and got to know the groom pretty well. When I first came to Japan I had only studied Japanese for one year, and I was completely unprepared for Kansai dialect. The groom helped me with Japanese (read: taught me bad words and funny sentences) and helped me learn about Japan in ways that you can’t learn about in books (He was in his fifth year of college when I met him, and was always skipping classes to drink, gamble, and play guitar in his rock band. His major was English, but he couldn’t speak more than a few words of it. He shattered all my preconceptions about Japanese people.). By fostering this mutual cultural understanding, he acted as a bridge (¼Ü¤±˜ò) between the USA and Japan. Today, in matrimony, another bridge is being forged between the two families. I’m really happy to be here to witness this, and I wish you both the best.

OK, I know the metaphor seems a bit forced, but the Japanese loved it. Shingo (homestay brother) helped me write it, so it wasn’t awkward in Japanese.

Somewhere amidst all the eating and speech-making and even karaoke (yes, in the middle of the reception, instead of a speech, some people sang), the cake was cut and the bride and groom switched into Western style formal wear. Masakazu wore a tux, and Yuki wore a red wedding dress and a nice tiara.

At the end the parents gave speeches. The bride’s father elected to sing a song to his daughter about the bittersweetness of “giving away” one’s daughter to her new husband. The bride was crying pretty hard, as was the bride’s mother. Then the groom’s parents gave speeches, and they were crying too. Obaasan (granny) was crying off and on for almost the whole reception. She was so cute. The groom didn’t cry at all, though.

After the reception there was a casual party for friends at a Chinese restuarant. The food was really good and not at all like real Chinese food. Unfortunately I was still so stuffed that I could hardly eat any of it. There were more speeches. Some of the groom’s friends’ speeches were hilarious.

Masakazu, the groomThe highlight was probably the massive paper-rock-scissors contest. Everyone paid 500 yen to enter, and just went through the brackets, single elimination. I was eliminated in my first match. When one guy won the pot (something like 6000 yen, around $50), the groom challenged him to one more match for all of it. The winner accepted. A big hush fell over the room, and friends of each participant whispered their psychological counsel. There was a big drum roll, and then the groom won it all, scissors over paper. He thought it was so hilarious.

One thing I definitely noticed at the party was the hot Japanese girls. The bride had some hot friends, and the groom’s friends’ girlfriends were pretty hot too. I keep trying to tell myself that Japanese girls only seem hotter than Chinese girls because of the makeup and fashionable clothes, but I have been forced to accept that Japanese girls are just hotter. I don’t think it’s because of genetics, although you definitely see some certain face types in Japan that you don’t see in China, and vice cersa. Oh well. The no make-up innocent look (China’s specialty) is cute too.

After that dinner the party moved on to a bar. It was owned by one of the groom’s friends. Definitely a cool place. The bar was a blast, but my memory of all the details is sketchy. All in all, a very fun day.

I had a great time in Japan with the Tazawas, but unfortunately I was kept busy the whole time and didn’t have time to see my other Japanese friends in the Kyoto area. Oh well… the wedding was the reason for my trip. I just hope my Japanese friends didn’t feel like I was snubbing them.

So that’s my account of the wedding. Classes start at ZUCC on September 8th, and my Chinese classes at ZUT start September 15th. This is gonna be a great semester.

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.

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