personal


15

Aug 2007

Avast! Fails, Google Pack Wins

I’ve been battling viruses/trojans on my computer the past few days. I think I was using an outdated copy of Norton. The worst thing is that I think I got infected when I borrowed a software CD from a friend. There’s something especially sinister about a CD with a virus burned onto it.

I while back I used AVG. I like to use free software when I can. But then it failed me and I got infected with something or other, so I abandoned it.

Most recently I tried avast!. At first I was impressed by the quality of the free software, and I’ve got nothing but respect for the pirate connection. Avast! cleaned up my system a bit, but there was a trojan or two it could detect but couldn’t eliminate. So then it was just constantly warning me, running boot scans, and failing every time.

I put up with it for a while. It wasn’t crippling my system as far as I could tell. It seems like a lot of users in China just don’t worry about “benign” virus infections. But eventually I just had to exterminate the infestation completely.

Finally what worked was the combination of Norton Security and Spyware Doctor that come with Google Pack. Norton Security only found 1 item that needed attention, but then Spyware Doctor fixed over 200 issues (including those pesky trojans). Best of all, it’s free!


12

Aug 2007

Digging a Hole to China: Fun with Antipodes

Watching the Simpsons Movie over the weekend, I was reminded of something I frequently heard as a child: “if you dig a hole straight down through the Earth, you’ll end up in China.” It’s not true, of course… you’d end up in China only if your tunnel totally missed the center of the Earth.

I asked some Chinese friends about this. Were they ever told that if they dug a hole straight down through the Earth they’d end up somewhere? To my disappointment, they said no.

Still, there has been plenty of interest in antipodes (the exact opposite point, running straight through the earth’s center, of any point on the globe). Here’s a wikipedia map showing what regions overlap:

Antipodes Map

So you can see that China mostly just overlaps with Argentina, and most countries don’t overlap with any land at all. According to another website, China gets these exciting antipodes match-ups:

1. Beijing – Bahia Blanca, Argentina
2. Shanghai – Buenos Aires, Argentina
3. Wuhan – Cordoba, Argentina
4. Xi’an – Santiago, Chile
5. Taipei – Asuncion, Paraguay

If you want to explore your own antipodes, there’s a cool “dual Google Map” Antipodes Map that let’s you do just that graphically, as well as a (more boring) online antipodal calculator for figuring out actual longitude and latitude.

Key takeaway: China is a cool place to visit, but you better do your homework before you go to the trouble of digging a hole all the way through the center of the Earth.


08

Aug 2007

nciku

There’s a new Chinese online dictionary called nciku. Oh, wait, excuse me… it’s “more than a dictionary.” The service may have a pretty bad English name, but the site itself looks well designed.

Anyway, I’m very impressed with the handwriting recognition. The interface is a very slick blend of Flash and javascript that puts other online handwriting recognition attempts to shame.

It’s great because it can recognize fluid handwriting where the strokes run together. Yes, you may have seen that kind of software before, but keep in mind that this is a free online dictionary.

Below are some examples of horrible handwriting being correctly recognized.

nciku-1

(Each character to the right displays its pinyin when you mouse over it.)

One of the really cool things about the handwriting recognition is that it keeps going in realtime as long as you write, and it always guesses. I’ve used programs that reach their recognition limit and just say, “nope, can’t do it.” Well, not this one. It gets an A+ for effort.

This, of course, leads to some fun experimentation. Here are a few of mine:

nciku-2

Thanks to David for introducing me to this website.


07

Aug 2007

Meals Measured in Chopsticks

Here in China we often have our food delivered. There’s rarely a charge for it (well, as long as you’re ordering Chinese food, anyway). When your food comes, it normally arrives with napkins and chopsticks. This is all well and good and normal.

photo by Daddy’s Girl

But how do they know how many pairs of chopsticks to include with each delivery? Well, they don’t. Based on the amount of food ordered, they make a guess as to how many people are probably eating and include that many pairs of chopsticks. If it’s obviously food for only one person, you get one pair. The more you order, the more chopsticks you get.

Therein lies the challenge.

I guess it began with my first double-chopstick order. “Huh,” I thought. “I guess they imagined it was two people eating this food.” Then I proceeded to consume the whole lot, all by my lonesome. It’s no big deal, though… What I ate was probably the right amount if it were two girls. So I didn’t think anything of my double-chopstick orders.

…that is, until my first triple-chopstick order. I was about to devour a nice load of grub all by myself, and although no one would be there to witness the spectacle, at least my impressive gluttony was acknowledged by those two extra pairs of chopsticks.

I still remember my first quadruple-chopstick order. It was a big old mess of Xinjiang food. Those four pairs of chopsticks were an ill omen. I’m ashamed to admit that I did not “break the quadruple” on my first try. (It doesn’t count unless you finish all the food in one sitting.) That wasn’t meant to be until about a year later.

My metabolism finally slowed down a few years back. My waistline can actually grow now, so I don’t take “the chopstick challenge” much. But I always notice “how many chopsticks” my meals are, and think back to my several glorious “quadruple-chopstick meals” of days gone by.

How big of an eater are you? Just count the pairs of chopsticks.


05

Aug 2007

"Join, or Die" Meets Chinese Cuisine

The latest t-shirt design:

Snake is Nutritious

The graphic should be familiar to those that know their American history. The Chinese says 食蛇补身, which means something like “eating snake nourishes the body” (i.e. “snake is nutritious”). I’ll let you figure out what it means when you put the two together.

As always, you are welcome to purchase this shirt or browse the others in the Sinosplice Store. Thanks for the support!


04

Aug 2007

Design Update for the CBL

The China Blog List recently got a design update. It looks like this now:

China Blog List: site design update

For a while now, the CBL has been suffering from massive spam attacks. John B, the original architect of the current version, had already helped me implement simple filters and batch delete functions, but I was still just getting bombarded by automated spam blog submissions. Recent additions of a captcha on the submission page and a “check range” greasemonkey script (which allows me to check hundreds of spam submissions for deletion at once) have enabled me to get the problem under control.

Being back in control inspired me to do the long-overdue layout update. Now that I am back in control, I also have a lot of blog submission approving to do. If you’re one of those people that submitted a while ago and you feel like you’ve been waiting forever, this is the explanation. And I will get to your submission.

I still have a bit of work to do on the layout. It breaks in IE. I’m not overly concerned though. (Do real web designers still care about IE??)

Oh, and while I’m on the subject of web updates, be sure to check out Dave Lancashire’s latest contribution to ChinesePod: the ChinesePod Dictionary. Very cool!


03

Aug 2007

Learn Chinese with Real Chinaman

I just found these on YouTube. Hilarious. Just watch.

The amazing thing is that there are apparently over 30 of them! The camera work and pedagogy don’t get any better over time.

The full description of the first one led me to believe that the whole thing is just mocking a well-meaning old Chinese man, but then why would it go on for over 30 lessons? Plus more and more effort is clearly going into the on-screen presentation with the later clips.

I don’t get it.


30

Jul 2007

China: Worth the Trip

I found this brief review of China pretty amusing:

> Pros
Lots to see, Beautiful historical buildings

> Cons
Run-down areas, Communism

> The Bottom Line
Definitely worth the trip!

No mention of the people… perhaps because the pros and cons of the people cancel each other out?


29

Jul 2007

Your Chinese Is Not Standard

OK, so you know a thing or two about China. You may even speak great Chinese. You’ve been called an “Old China Hand” on more than one occasion. The real question now is… are you arrogant enough? Well, this t-shirt should help you along on that path. If someone’s 普通话 (Mandarin Chinese) is not 标准 (standard), then they need to know!

你的普通话不标准

Your Chinese Is Not Standard

Possible uses for this shirt include (but are not limited to):

– Humiliating your fellow students of Chinese that are below you. They probably don’t realize that their bad tones and poor palatals hurt your ears. This will tell them.

– Humiliating the nice, hard-working peasants from the countryside. You can understand your Chinese teacher just fine, but you can’t understand these folk when they speak “Mandarin.” They need a wakeup call!

– Humiliating everyone in the south. Because you could walk through any city south of the Yangtze, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone this shirt’s message doesn’t apply to!

– Humiliating yourself. Wouldn’t it be great to wear a shirt that tells people their Chinese sucks (in Chinese), but you don’t even speak the language yourself? I think you should do that.

Anyone who wears this shirt in China is plenty to end up with a story or two. Be sure to share them with me.

[The opinions expressed here may or may not be real, but this is a real shirt. Please support Sinosplice by buying it or something else in the Sinosplice Shop. Thanks!]

28

Jul 2007

China Is the Place for Exotic Juices

Just in the past few months I’ve had blueberry juice (in Beijing) and bayberry juice (in Shanghai):

Blueberry Juice and Yanjing Beer Bayberry Juice

This got me thinking about some of the other interesting juices in China. Although not so exotic, I never saw watermelon juice and cucumber juice on the menus back home (no, I have never hung out in health spas). But they’re regular features on the menu in Shanghai.

Then of course there’s kiwi juice and strawberry juice.

What interesting fruit or vegetable juices have you had in China?


24

Jul 2007

Missing Person on the Subway

On my way home from work yesterday I saw this ad on the subway:

Missing Person

At first I was really confused by the composition of the ad, but in fact someone had slipped their own (quite professional-looking) ad behind the plastic ad display cover. (They chose an oral contraceptive ad.)

The content of the ad:

> 寻人启事
吕金花:女,24岁,身高1.60米
左右,河南周口人,于2007年5月
12日晚19时许走后至今未归,家人
非常担心,着急。如有知道下落着,
请于高家保联系13764498186,当面
酬谢!!!如金花本人看到此广告,
请速回电!!!

And in English:

> Missing Person Notice
Lu Jinhua: Female, 24 years old, 1.60 meters tall,
from Zhoukou, Henan. On May 12th, 2007
at about 7:00 pm she left home and has not returned since. Her family
is extremely worried and concerned. If anyone knows her whereabouts,
please contact Gao Jiabao at 13764498186. A reward will be given
on the spot!!! If Jinhua herself sees this advertisement,
please get in touch right away!!!

I was impressed by the sly way they got hundreds of people to view the ad on the subway (although the ad probably won’t last until tomorrow morning). And they got their ad on the internet, through me.

This whole thing has me curious, because the ad seems so professionally done. And maybe Jinhua doesn’t want to be found. Seems like there’s a story there.


22

Jul 2007

Happy Every Day

If you have ever taught English in China, you have mostly likely heard the saying, “happy every day” (天天快乐) from your students. This ridiculously cheerful saying was my inspiration for this simple t-shirt design:

happy every day

Is it being sarcastic? Ironic? Wear it and find out what everybody else thinks.

Happy every day” is available in the Sinosplice Store for less than past t-shirts sold for. (Extensive research has revealed a shocking truth: people like cheap stuff!) Thank you for the support.


21

Jul 2007

More Bondage for English First

In early 2007 English First (an English training school) was running this ad in Shanghai:

English teacher, or...?

What kind of message is that sending?

Apparently they later decided that they needed to make sure that the foreign teacher in the ad was more mature (and perhaps had better eyesight), and that the teachers they pimped provided equal bondage opportunities for both sexes. These are the ads they’re running now:

DSC00410

DSC00411

Conclusion: English First is a company with a progressive attitude towards advertising, based on the firm principles of purple backgrounds and bondage.


19

Jul 2007

A Disturbing New Trend

The most annoying form of advertising, by far, is the guys that pass out little business card ads around the city. They do it on the subway, and they like to hang out around subways, particularly at the top of escalators, where they can push their unwanted ad-cards on you.

Pushy Moto-cabbies

Then there’s the most annoying form of transportation, the motorcycle guys. They carry around an extra helmet and park outside subway stations so that when you come out they can yell “hello!” at you (translation: “want a ride?”).

Well, it seems that the motorcycle guys have taken a lesson from the ad-card kids, and starting just recently they now get right up in the faces of commuters coming off the escalator outside the Zhongshan Park Station to badger them (see picture at left). Ah, what a perfect union of unpleasantries.

I’m a wuss, so I took this picture from a distance. They noticed me photographing them, though, and it did kind of freak them out and make them unhappy. (Take that, pushy motorcycle dudes!)


17

Jul 2007

Prison Break Tattoo

Chinese Tattoo Parlor

I passed by a tattoo shop near my home the other day and snapped a picture of it. I briefly mused that with more and more Chinese tattoo shops opening, maybe foreigners can come to China to get their tattoos and finally get the Chinese characters right! (Of course then most people would have a language barrier to deal with, but that seems more surmountable to me than depending on a random tattoo artist to really know Chinese characters.)

Anyway, after looking at the picture of the shop at home, I decided to check out its website, yueyutattoo.com. Here’s what greeted me:

Prisonbreak Tattoo

I hadn’t paid any attention to the Chinese name of the store until I saw its website. The tattoo shop is capitalizing on the success in China of the TV show Prison Break to sell its tattoos. The Chinese name for “Prison Break” is 越狱 (Yuèyù). I understand the main character has a big tattoo vital to the storyline.


15

Jul 2007

Your Dog is a Flashcard

dog-gou-sample

This dog is a flashcard!

Sure, you may enjoy your dog’s company, and maybe he can lift your spirits when you’re down in the dumps. But what does your dog really do for you? Precious few dogs even fetch their masters’ slippers these days (not to mention the morning paper). It’s a disgrace.

So it’s time to put your dog to work! Make your dog into a flashcard. Buy this shirt and put it on your dog, and then instead of merely prancing around in empty-headed glee, he’ll actually be educating you, continually exposing you to the character 狗 (in the perfect context) and how to pronounce it: “gǒu.”

dog-gourou-sample

If you’d like to take it a step further, your dog could even educate you on the characters for dog meat: 狗肉. Your Chinese houseguests are sure to love that. (Just be sure they realize it’s a joke.)

Note: After creating the “dog meat” t-shirt I did a check, and indeed, I am not the first person to make such a shirt. Gou-rou.com had already thought of it (shocker!). Their shirt promotes their website, and mine promotes education, though.

Both the 狗 Flashcard Dog Shirt and the 狗肉 Flashcard Dog Shirt are available in the Sinosplice Store. Thank you for your support!


12

Jul 2007

Drug Lesson Testimonial

ChinesePod has a reputation for creating extremely useful lessons. We’ve done one on buying feminine products, and one on specifying that you want your beer cold, to name just two. I thought our recent lesson entitled The Drug Dealer was pretty interesting, but maybe not quite as practical as some of the others. But then we got this testimonial in the comments:

> interesting lesson… i have a chinese friend who was telling me about a friend who likes to do drugs. I asked “what kind of drugs” and my friend replied “i don’t know how to say in english, but their head will shake” i assumed it must be something like ecstacy, but now i’m sure – thanks chinesepod

Well, you’re weclome, KennyK. (摇头丸, literally, “shake head pill,” is the Chinese name for ecstasy.)


10

Jul 2007

Questions for Yao Ming, and Other Tall People

A friend of mine is supposed to interview Yao Ming next weekend here in Shanghai. The Yao Ming.

He’s a famous guy, so I can understand if she feels a little nervous about interviewing him. Since I have a lot of experience in China and being tall, I thought I’d help her out a bit. These are the questions tall people love to be asked that she can ask Yao Ming:

1. How tall are you?
2. Do you play basketball?
3. What size shoe do you wear?
4. How’s the weather up there?

(Well, 3 out of 4 is not bad.)

I know what you’re thinking: those are the exact same questions we’d ask a non-Chinese tall guy! Amazing, isn’t it? Some facets of human nature know no cultural bounds.



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