After my last two posts, my parents were complaining that my blog was all of a sudden too tech-focused to follow. Oops. So I decided to follow up with something with a bit more universal appeal: smiles!
The following photos are all from the excellent Flickr photostream of Expatriate Games, one of my favorite China photographers on Flickr. Enjoy!
I was quite amused to stumble upon a whole array of fake (but humorous) Chinese documents last weekend. The documents adopt the official style of Chinese 证书 (official documents), but the names are a lot more fun. Here are the three I bought (for 5 RMB each):
The three types of documents above, left to right, are:
– 美女证 (Babe Certificate); “PLMM” stands for “漂亮妹妹” (pretty girl)
– 帅哥证 (Cute Guy Certificate)
– 白痴证 (Moron Certificate); “SB” stands for “傻屄” which I’ll politely translate as “dumbass”
There were at least 10 different types, including things like “World’s Best Mom,” “World’s Best Dad,” “Certified Genius,” “Certified Virgin,” etc.
The insides even look official, with space for a photo:
For comparison purposes, here are some real Chinese certificates, collected from the internet:
I can’t imagine the government will be particularly happy about these things, especially with the Expo looming. I wouldn’t be surprised if these became scarce really quickly (especially in Shanghai).
Looks like my Flickr photos aren’t showing up for the time being; you can thank the GFW for that. The photos are viewable via proxy.
I just recently had the pleasure of trying out the beta version of the new Pleco iPhone app. In case you’re not aware, Pleco is the software company behind what is regarded as the best electronic learner’s Chinese dictionary for any mobile device (and possibly the desktop as well). Given the dearth of really good Chinese dictionaries for the iPhone, Chinese learners have been eagerly awaiting the release of this iPhone app for quite some time. The wait has not been in vain; Pleco for iPhone is an outstanding app.
The Video Demo
Michael Love, Pleco founder, has made a two-part video of the new Pleco iPhone app:
I’ve never owned a device running Windows Mobile or Palm OS, so I’ve never been able to own Pleco before, but I’m familiar enough with previous versions to make basic comparisons.
The Pleco user interface received a much-needed makeover for the iPhone. While older versions of Pleco squeezed a plethora of buttons and options onto the screen (you have your stylus, after all), this iPhone Pleco had to find ways to increase buttons to tappable sizes and limit button clutter by hiding options on screens where you don’t need them all. Compare (Windows Mobile on the left, iPhone on the right):
One of the things I love about living in China is that I just keep on discovering bizarre things. I thought I had already seen pretty much all the “alien” fruits China had to offer, and then recently a co-worker brought some “姑娘” back from China’s northeast. Apparently these are called physalis in English. (How did I miss them all this time??) Anyway, bizarre, and kinda good!
> The typical Physalis fruit is similar to a firm tomato (in texture), and like strawberries or other fruit in flavor; they have a mild, refreshing acidity. The flavor of the Cape Gooseberry (P. peruviana) is a unique tomato/pineapple-like blend. Physalis fruit have around 53 kcal for 100 grams , and are rich in cryptoxanthin.
Here are some photos from Flickr, all taken by their respective owners:
Unfortunately, none of the photos I was able to find on Flickr included a picture of what the inside of the fruit looks like. I attempted a photo at night with my iPhone, and it didn’t turn out great, but you get the basic idea:
The seeds kind of reminded me of green pepper seeds, but smaller. Here’s a Chinese article with more pictures and info in Chinese.
I’ve always been good about eating my vegetables, but coming to China was a total game-changer for me, vegetable-wise. Here were veggies I’d long since written off as “nasty,” forcing me to reevaluate them in their new oriental guise. And reevaluate I did! In the end, I found myself growing to love the Chinese version of many of the vegetables I thought I didn’t like. (It’s probably more than just the effect of MSG.)
Of course, then there are also the ones I’d never heard of or seen before coming to China. One of them even made it all the way to #1 on my list. Definitely noteworthy!
The pictures below all come from Flickr, and each photo was taken by someone other than me. Please click through to see the photo on Flickr, and comment there if you would like to praise the photographers. Anyway, in reverse order, here are the top ten vegetables China taught me to love:
10. Cauliflower (花菜)
This one was always disgusting to me in the US, unless it was drowned in cheese. Good old Chinese MSG and spices seems to take care of the issue, though!
At lunch with co-workers Christophe (of FrenchPod) and Marco (of ItalianPod), we noticed something interesting on the photo-laden menu. In the photo of the obligatory raw cucumber dish, the pieces were curiously arranged. In fact, they looked just like a stack of Jenga pieces. Cucumber Jenga pieces.
We had to investigate. The waitress said that yes, it looked like that. Yes, it was 6 or 7 layers high (enough for a game of Jenga). Satisfied, we placed our Cucumber Jenga order. It arrived with the pieces on the plate in an entirely un-Jenga-like configuration.
Not to be thwarted so easily, we erected our own Jenga stack. Oh yes, it worked.
We realized intuitively that Cucumber Jenga should be played with chopsticks.
It didn’t last long, because our other food arrived, and we were hungry. Marco lost.
One interesting feature of the game from an architectural standpoint is the shape of the pieces. They’re rough quarter-cylinders, not rectangular solids. Obviously, this makes a difference to the structure of the tower.
Engineers and fellow vegetable gamers, if you’re interested, the restaurant is at 886 Loushanguan Road, just a bit south of Changning Road (娄山关路886号，近云雾山路) [Dianping link]. You’ll know you’re at the right place when you check the menu and spot the Cucumber Jenga. [Note: It may be possible to play this game even without going to said restaurant.]
Give it a try. More fun than Moon Cake Shuffleboard, guaranteed.
The Chinese internet has been all kinds of slow lately. Foreign sites load extremely sluggishly, and I can’t upload to Flickr at all.
Enter Firefox 3! The Chinese internet is still damn slow, but at least the browser is faster! Gmail works dramatically faster.
The one problem with upgrading immediately is that many Firefox addons might not be up to date and no longer work. Actually, though, most of these plugins can be forced to work by editing the compatible version range in the XPI file. Since I’ve started using Gladder as my proxy tool of choice, I can’t live without it. I figure some of you may be in the same boat, so I’m sharing my unofficial, hacked Gladder XPI file:
I’m a Firefox user, and one of the greatest things about it is its extensibility. PicLens, a full-screen 3D image viewer that works especially well with Flickr, has got to be one of the best extensions I have ever seen (even if it is almost too iPhone). I never blogged about a Firefox addon before because there wasn’t really a reason to. Now I never want to go back to boring HTML views on Flickr.
You have to see it in motion to really appreciate the addon, but check out these screenshots of PicLens views of some of my favorite (Greater) China-based photographers:
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
Just in the past few months I’ve had blueberry juice (in Beijing) and bayberry juice (in Shanghai):
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?
My web hosting provider, DreamHost, got hacked recently. In an e-mail to me, they wrote:
> We have detected what appears to be the exploit of a number of accounts belonging to DreamHost customers, and it appears that your account was one of those affected.
> We’re still working to determine how this occurred, but it appears that a 3rd party found a way to obtain the password information associated with approximately 3,500 separate FTP accounts and has used that information to append data to the index files of customer sites using automated scripts (primarily for search engine optimization purposes).
> Our records indicate that only roughly 20% of the accounts accessed – less than 0.15% of the total accounts that we host – actually had any changes made to them. Most accounts were untouched.
So yes, I was affected. So was Brendan at Bokane.org. Apparently what the hackers did on my websites was replace every index.php file with their own copy, which just linked to all kinds of ad sites, and apparently even contained some viruses (probably only an issue for IE users). Anyway, the whole thing is very annoying, but easy enough to undo. (Luckily I do have backups of those files.)
The blog and main page are back to normal, and other pages should be returning to normal in the next few days.
P.S. Has anyone else noticed that a lot of Flickr’s image servers are all of a sudden being blocked in China? Not all Flickr images are blocked, but many are now. For instance, I can no longer see the Chinese doughnut image from my last entry.
For the past two days or so, none of the little button images on any Flickr pages will load. This is what I see above each image on the individual photo page:
The actual photos load fine. Fortunately most of the site navigation is text, but the little buttons above each image are image files, and none of them display. What’s worse is that there are no alt tags or tooltips for them, so I have to guess if I am to use any of them.
While I’m whining about sites not loading properly in China, I feel the need to mention that YouTube hasn’t loaded reliably for something like a month. The earthquake which affected all of China did a number on YouTube as well, but it seems like YouTube has been a lot less reliable ever since Google bought it. I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising, since you can’t even play Google videos in China (Google’s decision), but it sure is annoying.
“Don’t be evil” is a nice goal, but I’ll settle for “give China its free video” for the time being.
2006-01-31 Update: YouTube is finally working again! Flickr also seems back to normal.
Kid art! Dontcha just love it? I mean, how can you not get some interesting results when you combine children’s undeveloped fine motor skills, a severely incomplete understanding of the world in virtually every aspect, and ART? It’s a clear recipe for entertainment, I say. Sure, you may get the occasional four-year-old’s disgustingly pathetic attempts at cubism, but you also get some real gems.
About a year ago, a kindergarten gave me a pack of postcards which were made from their students’ artwork. It’s actually some really innovative work. The design company, “Redo Studio” (上海瑞德美术设计有限公司), created most postcards by combining several children’s artwork and adding fancy Photoshop effects. The results are worth a peek. I scanned them and put them in a new “Chinese Kids’ Art” Flickr album. Some sample thumbnails:
I was briefly tempted to do Maddox-style art evaluation, but apparently I’m just not that mean. Plus I really do think these postcards are a cool idea.