Sep 2007

Tickets to Turkey?

My wife and I would like to go to Turkey soon. However, over the past few weeks I’ve been discovering that it’s kind of difficult for Chinese people to go to Turkey. Difficult… but not impossible.

Now that we’re sure we can both actually get in, we just need to buy plane tickets, but we want to go during–you guessed it–the October National Day holiday. Somehow we kind of forgot that there are a freaking bazillion* people in this country, and a good number of them also plan to leave the country during the same time period. Demand drives plane ticket prices up. Good old capitalism.

Anyway, if anyone has some suggestions for travel agencies or other good ways to get to Turkey from Shanghai, please let me know, either by e-mail or comment. Thanks!

* Rough estimate


Aug 2007

Shanghai VS Dubai

Some may view Shanghai as glamorous, but it’s got its share of expat whiners. So how does it compare with Dubai, one of the richest, most exotic expat destinations?

According to this analysis, it’s got a lot of the same issues.

I’ll leave the item-by-item comparisons to you, but Shanghai still seems pretty good to me.


Aug 2007

Putin knows… t-shirts

The latest t-shirt design, inspired by an Economist cover (pictured below):

Putin knows

Putin” in Chinese is 普京. 知道 means “to know.” If you think it doesn’t make sense, you’re thinking too much. It’s just a t-shirt.

The black t-shirt looks better, but the white t-shirt is a lot cheaper. Blame CafePress.

I’ve been busy writing papers lately, so I haven’t been working on t-shirts much, but there are others in the Sinosplice Shop, of course. Thanks for your support!


Aug 2007

Proxy Tricks and Flickr

The Great FireWall of China (GFW) is quite a nuisance, but I haven’t been thinking about it much lately. That’s because all Flickr pictures display fine for me when I have the Access Flickr! Firefox plugin installed, and Wikipedia, Blogspot, and others display fine for me since I started using an automatic proxy trick for Firefox which I first discovered on Lost Laowai. The combination of these two tricks satisfies most of my regular browsing needs. They most likely won’t work forever, but they work for now.

This attitude is a little self-centered, though. A lot of visitors may not have these tricks at their disposal, and if they’re in China, they can’t see the Flickr-hosted images I use regularly on my blog.

I contacted Yee of Ya I Yee, the blog which tipped off Lost Laowai about the proxy trick. Yee seems to be quite the knowledgeable guy, and he pointed me to:

– a WordPress plugin which makes substitutions in Flickr image URLs, rendering them visible in the PRC (I am now using this plugin on this blog)
– a site which discusses the Flickr block in some detail (in Chinese), including a manual workaround
– a site which shows how the Access Flickr! Firefox plugin works

Enjoy them while they last.


Aug 2007

¿Dónde están mis pantalones?

Funny English on t-shirts is the norm in Shanghai, but I rarely see anything in Spanish (especially comprehensible Spanish). So I had to share this one, which gave me a chuckle:

Amusing shirt

Translation: “Where are my pants?”

I didn’t intentionally leave the girl’s lower half out of the photo, but yes, she actually was wearing pants.


Aug 2007

Alice in Karmic Chains

Term papers are keeping me from my regular blogging and t-shirt design amusement, but I had to share this little note I stumbled upon while researching Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for one of my papers:

> Publishing highlights

> 1865: Alice has its first American printing. As was the case with most American books of this period, this was pirated from the British edition without any payment.

What goes around comes around, huh? Even if it takes 130 years…


Aug 2007

The Filthy Foreigner Flaw

You may have heard foreigners complaining about sanitation in China once or twice. It happens. What those foreigners don’t know is that behind their backs, the Chinese are also talking about westerners’ dirty habits. Dirty bedroom habits.

Now, before I lead your imagination even further into the gutter, let me elucidate: it’s about showering and sleeping.

photo by Heidi McKay on Flickr

I believe it was in college sometime that I started showering in the morning. I considered myself a hero of hygiene for going to the effort of showering daily, and I did it in the morning to help wake myself up. I started each day clean and bright-eyed. Nothing wrong with that, right? Wrong.

Shortly before we were married, my wife laid down the law. She told me that I walk around all day, working up a good smelly white boy sweat, and it was not cool for me to get into the bed every night without cleansing myself first. The Chinese shower nightly, and that was the way it had to be.

Naturally, I had to object. My system was flawless. True, I may get sweaty during the day, but I’m clean again to face the world every morning. So maybe my sheets get a little grungy… so what? I emerge from my cocoon of filth and go right into the shower every day, no harm done.

Well, obviously, that didn’t fly. My bachelor ways were fine as long as I was single, but in our new married life I was going to be sharing a bed with her every night, and my “cocoon of filth for two” plan was not an option.

You have to choose your battles. I don’t always give in to my wife, and I have the scars to prove it. Honestly, though, the Chinese way makes more sense. Your sheets do stay cleaner longer when you shower before bed every night.

However, if you still think that showering in the morning makes more sense, well… I guess you’re just a filthy foreigner.


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!


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.


Aug 2007


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.


(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:


Thanks to David for introducing me to this website.


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.


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!


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!


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.


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?


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!


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!]


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?


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

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.

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