Tag: site news


Jun 2007


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.


Apr 2007

RSS Dead?

I upgraded to WordPress 2.1.3 lately. Since then, my RSS feed doesn’t seem to be working. I’ve been pretty busy at work lately, so I won’t have time to try to fix it until next week. I’m running the Feedburner plugin. Anyone know anything about this?

Gotta work all weekend, and then the May holiday starts on Tuesday. I am so looking forward to it…

Update: OK, I think I fixed the feed. Please let me know if I’m wrong.


Mar 2007

Forced Break

Wednesday my hard drive died. When I tried to boot my computer, I got this message:

> OS not installed

Yikes! Luckily I had my Ultimate Boot CD, but even that is of little use when your system has decided that your main hard drive (the one with Windows installed on it) is no longer there.

That hard drive was only three months old, so the company I bought from will replace it free of charge, but they can’t do the data recovery. Furthermore, if I want them to replace the hard drive right away and give me the bad hard drive back so I can find someone to recover the data, I need to pay for a new hard drive because they need the bad one to return it to the manufacturer. They’ll refund my money when I return the bad hard drive.

I think I’m just going to pay for the bad hard drive, then when I return it, exchange it for a new one. I’ll then have three 160 GB hard drives. That will be nice (especially if they stop breaking).

Anyway, I am on a short break. Once I get my computer back tomorrow I need to rewrite my 3000 character semantics/pragmatics paper that was due today.

UPDATE: It turned out the problem was that an IDE setting in the CMOS spontaneous changed. I still can’t figure out how that would happen, but anyway, it was an easy fix and no data was lost! The guy showed me which setting to change if it happens again. No charge. I didn’t end up buying another HD after all, and I got a signed, stamped note proving my computer was broken to give to my school. Heh.


Jan 2007

WordPress Upgrade Today

My web host, DreamHost, offers a really great one-click install feature through its control panel. Using it, you can install the latest version of WordPress ridiculously easily. Even better, you can upgrade any WordPress install with a simple click… as long as that WordPress installation was installed using the one-click install system.

So here’s my problem. I have recognized the awesomeness of the one-click install/upgrade system, but if I want to take advantage of it, I have no choice but to export my entire blog — entries, comments, theme, plugins, modifications and all — and then re-import them all on a fresh one-click WordPress install. I’m doing this today. I think it will be worth it.

Anyway, if there’s any down time, you know why.



Dec 2006

The earthquake broke my internet

There was recently an earthquake in Taiwan which destroyed the key nodes in China’s trans-Pacific internet connection. As a result, most traffic between China and the US on the internet has slowed to a near-impossible crawl. Fortunately Google (and Gmail) still work.

This means I won’t be updating this blog much until it’s fixed. It means ChinesePod has quite a headache (our servers are in the US). It means it’s going to be a lot harder to get good material from my critical discourse analysis presentation next week. (We had wanted to use American presidential campaign videos or presidential speeches as source materials.)

Life goes on. In the meantime I’ll probably read more (books!) and get more sleep. Frightening. (My only other alternative is to make due with the Chinese internet, and I really don’t see that happening.)

[More news on this internet-shattering earthquake event]


Nov 2006

Not Making You Think

WARNING: geeky tech/webdesign stuff ahead!

I haven’t been satisfied with the Sinosplice homepage for a while. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do to make it better until I read Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, a manual of website usability. Yesterday I finally got some time to implement a few changes I’ve been wanting to make. Now there is a new homepage.

Old homepage design:

Old Sinosplice Homepage

– Simple; almost all text
– Extensive use of RSS feeds to display latest content
– Javascript toggles to hide feeds and lists so that the page isn’t too long and cluttered with text

I think the problems are pretty apparent. It’s just so boring to look at. The javascript toggle just hid a deeper problem: too much info on the page. I’m guessing very few people ever clicked on the links to “open” the extra content for each section.

New homepage design:

New Sinosplice Homepage

– Tagline added (as recommended by DMMT)
– Graphical content teasers added (as recommended by DMMT), which rotate randomly on every page load
– Most feed-supplied content and many unessential links removed

It’s obviously just a lot more interesting to look at, and with the rotating graphics as well as the content from the blog RSS feed and the latest Flickr photos, seems a lot fresher. I still don’t have a concise welcome blurb, though. I also think there’s still too much text on the page. I’ll get to that stuff later.

Now that I’ve got the Tone Pair Drills done and the homepage redesigned, I’ll be spending more time on writing better blog entries (English and Chinese). I think it’s about time.


Oct 2006

The 'Please speak Mandarin' T-shirt

please speak mandarin

please speak Mandarin

Some of you may have noticed that when I put up my new Tone Pair Drills I added a new Products section to this website along with it. I’ll introduce one of the items here from various fascinating sociopolitical angles.

The shirt says 请讲普通话 which means “please speak Mandarin” (rather than some other local dialect). The inspiration for this shirt can be seen at countless bus stops all over Shanghai: completely ineffectual “请讲普通话” propaganda. The Shanghainese continue blissfully barking at each other in their dialect regardless.

Simply by wearing this one shirt, you can:

– subtly poke fun of the PRC’s language policies
– inform Chinese people around you that you want to talk to them in Chinese
– inform Chinese people around you that you don’t want to engage them in whatever crazy dialect they speak (especially useful in Shanghai)

But I also created this shirt for another special reason. My roommate Lenny plans to move to Taiwan in December. He has made it clear on several occasions that he won’t put up for the degenerate dialect of Mandarin the Taiwanese call 国语, and he has made it his personal mission to reform the speaking habits of the whole island.

While I’m sure he will have no problem at all with that task (maybe he can even get Prince Roy to help, although Mark and Poagao may be thorns in his side), I thought he could use this shirt to aid his righteous crusade in some small way. The shirt is great for Taiwan because:

– The Taiwanese never say 普通话 (Mandarin), as that’s a politicized PRC word; they say 国语 (also Mandarin).
– Three out of five of the characters on the shirt are simplified. Simplified characters are, of course, an aesthetic affront to the Taiwanese which offends every fiber of their being.

Obviously there are many reasons why you need to order this shirt now. (Oh yeah, also: I ordered some merchandise before deciding to go with CafePress, and I can confirm that the quality of their stuff doesn’t suck anymore.) For more Sinosplice merchandise, check out the Sinosplice Store (more stuff to come soon).


Oct 2006

New Feature: Mandarin Chinese Tone Pair Drills

Mandarin Chinese Tone Pair Drills (box cover)

It’s been a while since I’ve added significant non-blog content to Sinosplice, but I’ve just completed something that could be really useful to learners of Mandarin Chinese. That something is Mandarin Chinese Tone Pair Drills.

I actually began this project all the way back in 2003. I put my ideas together into a rough form and some friends (including John B, Brendan, Greg, and Alf) helped me test them out. They gave me good positive feedback, but I felt the whole thing still needed a fair amount of work. I didn’t find the time and inspiration to finally put in that necessary work until this month, almost three years later. I spent a good chunk of my October holiday working on it, and quite a few nights over the past few weeks.

The main idea behind these drills is that learning tones of individual characters is not enough. Learning tone combinations is the key. Mastering those combinations necessarily involves extensive practice with tone pairs. A mastery of tone pairs will lead to significant progress with any number and combination of tones in succession. Although I was not fully cognizant of the exact process at the time, I believe it was this method which lead to my own successes in correctly producing tones of Mandarin Chinese in succession.

This concept is not exactly unique. In the past few years I have even noticed several other websites take the “tone pair” angle. I think where the other websites fall short is:

1. The words chosen are random words, both in terms of part of speech as well as level of difficulty.
2. There is no clear method for how to use the tone pairs to improve one’s tones.
3. There is no clear connection between the tone pairs and actual speech.
4. They often rely too heavily on visuals (tone marks) to teach the tone combinations.

I tackled these problems in several ways.

1. I focused on adjectives, which are both highly likely to be useful in elementary conversation, as well as plentiful in almost all tone combinations at the elementary level.
2. I developed a clear method which progressively increases in difficulty, and, in the later stages of the method, can also be used by intermediate learners looking to improve their tones. (That method is provided in pinyin, simplified characters, and traditional characters.)
3. Following the method progressively will eventually result in practicing useful, grammatical sentences.
4. I included audio files for all the words in the drill, both in simple clickable online versions, as well as in downloadable MP3 versions with playlists for drilling and quizzing.

I also licensed the method using a Creative Commons license, encouraging others to build on it.

The method I developed is labeled as a “drill.” As such, there is definitely plenty of room for it to be built on using a Chinese teacher’s experience and a little creativity. I should also stress that the drill was designed to be practiced with a native speaker Chinese tutor, but I still believe it can be useful even without the guidance of a tutor.

I welcome your feedback. I do expect to update and improve this feature over time.


Jul 2006

Jobs in Shanghai (now!)

If you need a job in Shanghai, like right now, I might be able to help you. Two people have been after me lately to help them find foreigners to do these jobs. Both are jobs I might consider myself if had time and needed the work.

The first is a job teaching Korean kids. From what I understand, the pay is 200+ RMB/hour (which is quite good), and class size is small. A Korean classmate of mine is trying to help the school find teachers.

The other is a translation job (Chinese to English) for an educational company I used to work for. The nice thing about this one is you can do it from home, but you have to be in Shanghai to meet the employer and then receive your payments.

I put both job offers on the newly reformatted Sinosplice Jobs page. (Yes, there are a few ads. Deal with it.) If you want to contact me about either of these jobs, please use the “jobs@” e-mail address linked to on that page.

UPDATE: There’s now a third job on the page (also for someone in Shanghai).

UPDATE 2: The job teaching Korean kids is no longer available. Go to the Sinosplice Jobs page for the most up-to-date info.


May 2006

Spammers, You Flatter Me

Some of what I write attracts criticism, and even the occasional hateful comment. It’s nice to see compliments every now and then. What’s not nice is that these days the vast majority of my admirers are spammers. Scrolling through my blog’s collected spam I see the following:

– Excellent site, added to favorites!!
– This is a great site. Not everyone has to agree but I sure do. Can’t wait for some more posts.Keep it real.
– Best site I see. Thanks.
– Your site is very cognitive. I think you will have good future.:)
– So interesting site, thanks!
– HI! I love this place!
– I’m really impressed!
– Your home page its great
– Great website! Bookmarked! I am impressed at your work!
– I like your site

So if you’ve got a blog, my advice to you is: beware the flatterers.


Mar 2006

Vocabulary Lists Are Back!

A long time ago I made a page for names of different types of alchohol in Chinese. At the time, I had grand visions of lots of atypical and interesting vocabulary lists (i.e. no list of “countries” or “animals” or “fruits” in Chinese). That project stalled. For a long time.

Well, it’s back: Sinosplice Vocabulary Lists. Right now there are only three, but that number will expand. I’ve already started working on some new ones. (I also gladly accept additions to existing lists or new list ideas.)

One of the new ones is Chinese Onomatopeia. I compiled this list myself, and I haven’t found a similar list anywhere else on the internet. So get it here first, until other people copy it! (Better yet, link to it and give me some Google rank love.)

Onomatopeia are fun. My dad taught me a love for animal noises in foreign languages, but there are more than just animal noises in the list. Here are some wacky questions you can answer by browsing the list:

1. What noise in Chinese sounds like the name of a cheese in English?
2. How many of the 52 Chinese onomatopeia in the list are identical to the corresponding English onomatopeia? (Hint: not many!)
3. What bird makes the same noise as a frog?
4. What Chinese onomatopeia are missing? (Hint: this is a trick question to which I do not know the answer!)

The other new list is Cartoon Character Names. Kastner helped me out by compiling this one. I still owe him for that. (Thanks, man!)

Your conversational Chinese may be pretty decent, but you can likely stand to take it up a notch or two by adding the Chinese names of the Transformers, He-Man, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to your vocabulary. Yes, you need this. (Did I mention it impresses the ladies?)

With the exception of the original alcohol list, I have been using AdsoVocab to generate the lists. The auto pinyin completion saved me a lot of time. I recommend you check it out if you have not seen it already.

I would love to add stuff like this to my site all the time, but the sad, ironic truth is that I very rarely have time for this kind of thing anymore because I’m going to grad school so that maybe I can get paid to do something like this down the road. Anyway, enjoy! I’ll be out of grad school in 2007.


Jan 2006

Moving to a new server

I’m in the process of moving my whole site to a new server. What a headache. I think it will be worth it, though.

Anyway, you won’t see any new entries for a little while, and if the site goes down at all, you know why.

Please don’t comment until I say that everything is working on the new server, or your comment may be lost. Thanks.

UPDATE: I have hit a major snag which will probably delay the move quite a bit. My WordPress database on my current host is encoded in UTF-8. The database on the new host is also encoded in UTF-8. As far as I can tell, the encoding is preserved through every step of the export/import process. Why, then, do Chinese characters come out garbled? Not cool.


Dec 2005

Sweet Tomato Juice

There’s this brand of Chinese juice called 味全每日. The brand’s juice (and it actually is juice, instead of flavored water) is pretty good… with one exception. The tomato juice is sweet. At first I just thought that this is one of those little cultural differences I would get used to. I got used to sweet popcorn instead of salty popcorn, and I even like the stuff now. But no, there are some things you have to just declare vile and never look back. For me, sweet tomato juice is one of those things.

Sweet Tomato Juice

As long as I’m mentioning 味全每日 juice, I should mention another thing. This brand’s juice bottles have a special status here in China, especially among students. In the winter, when everyone is drinking boiling hot liquids nonstop all day long, many drinking containers are required, sometimes of the disposable (or at least extremely cheap) variety. You can’t use a regular plastic water bottle for that, because they crumple and shrivel when boiling water hits them. 味全每日 bottles, however, are nice — thick and sturdy. They hold even boiling water. Thus they can hold your hot drink, and simulataneously keep your hands warm without burning them (the plastic is just the right thickness). These bottles are the makeshift thermos/hand warmer of choice.

There’s only one problem. The inside of the bottle opening is quite rough. I find drinking from these bottles rather uncomfortable on my lips. Chinese friends don’t agree, though. Apparently I have wussy white man lips.

P.S. I had some technical difficulties yesterday related to vulnerabilities in old scripts I had left on my server. Yikes. With great scripting power must come great responsibility. Remember that, people!


Nov 2005

Slight Site Reorganization

Some of you may have noticed that the URL of my weblog has changed. It’s now /life/ instead of /weblog/. This is not because I think “Life” is a great name for my weblog, or because I think this is not a blog or something. I actually liked using the name “weblog” because it’s the simplest, most accurate description.

The reason for the change is Google. I had the word “weblog” in both the title of the HTML document as well as in the URL, and as a result, almost all the Google ads going on my archived pages were for blogging services instead of something related to the actual content of the entries. This means I was losing out on potential ad revenue, and possibly that Google search results in which Sinosplice turns up were skewed as well. All because of my stupid title tag and weblog URL.

So I did the practical thing and changed them. Hence /life/. All I had to do was change the directory and make a few changes in WordPress. Then I was able to avoid dead links with a bit of code in my .htaccess file (which normally all fits on one line):

> Redirect permanent /weblog http://www.sinosplice.com/life

I think my ads are doing better already, but it’s hard to say this early.

I also updated my home page, reflecting the new look I began implementing a while ago. I incorporated javascript visibility toggle and RSS feed integration, as well as lots of feed links, eliminating the need for the /feeds/ page I created a while ago. I like the new page.

I also finally redid my /china/ page, so now the five sections of my site (as listed in the top nav bar) have a uniform look and feel. (Next up: the sorely outdated /network/ page. I’m glad to get this stuff done; it helps pave the way for new content.

I have a presentation on Noam Chomsky in one of my linguistics classes coming up in early December that I’ll be working hard on in the next two weeks, but more (non-blog) content is coming soon after.


Nov 2005

Shanghainese Study Materials

I was recently asked to help someone find some study materials (books, tapes, CDs, etc.) for Shanghainese. Clearly, Shanghai is a good place to look, but I soon discovered that finding good materials was not as simple as going to a big bookstore in Shanghai. To assemble a rather complete collection of materials I had to visit seven bookstores in Shanghai. What is strange is that almost every bookstore had one or two books on Shanghainese, but almost every store’s books were different! For that reason I can’t be sure that there aren’t still some good ones out there, but I think I got most of them.

This will probably only be helpful to students of Shanghainese in Shanghai, but the following is a list of materials I found. I have not used these materials, nor am I fluent in Shanghainese (although I do understand quite a bit), but I think I understand a thing or two about what makes a good language textbook, so I have made a few key observations about each book. Note that the three books which I deemed the best got their own reviews elsewhere on Sinosplice. (Chinese Textbook Reviews now has a small section on Shanghainese.)



Nov 2005

Blame it on John B

A while back I decided to try an experiment. I said that I would begin posting one entry every morning (China time), Monday through Friday. And I’ve been doing that, for over 14 weeks now. So how do I feel about it?

Well, it wasn’t that hard. My inspiration (or desire to write uninspired posts, as the case may be) comes in spurts, and during those times it’s pretty convenient to write up a bunch of posts and schedule them for the next week or so. I like that.

The problem is that for the past two weeks or so I’ve been really busy. So when I thought of something I wanted to write about, I would think of a title, make a note or two, and save it as a draft. Then I would still end up writing the actual full entry the night before, in most cases. Sometimes that can be pretty inconvenient.

But what’s the point anyway? I don’t think it improved my readership or my content. It improved the quantity of my content, maybe. But big deal.

So I’m going to stop with the clockwork posting. I’ll probably post just as often, on average, but my rests won’t always be on weekends. And my new entries won’t always appear sometime from 7am to 10am Shanghai time.

Why blame it on John B? He was the one who mentioned he liked my weblog (to at least appear) more spontaneous. I think I agree now.


Oct 2005

New CBL around the corner…

The new China Blog List will be finished pretty soon. John B has done some amazing work, starting from scratch, and the new version will be way better than the current one. I’ve known for some time now that the burgeoning CBL is decreasingly user friendly. The new version will change all that.

I’m not going to spell out all the new features at this point, but I will say this: during the switchover there will be a lot of deletions of dead (resting?) blogs. The China Blog List will stop listing “no longer updated blogs.” I’m going with the definition of blog which includes “frequently updated,” so anything that hasn’t been updated in the past three months or so gets axed. That means if you use any of those links, get them while they’re still there.

New submissions have been suspended until the switchover is complete. Thanks for your patience.


Sep 2005

Photos Moved to Flickr

Ever since Flickr moved its data to servers in the US, I’ve been complaining both online and offline about how maddeningly slow Flickr pages load in China. This weekend, though, Flickr suddenly started loading normally again. Afraid that it wouldn’t last, I immediately did something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while: I moved all my old photo albums onto Flickr. Each photo album became a “set” on Flickr. (You only get unlimited sets if you’ve paid for Flickr Pro.)

The reasons I moved to Flickr:

1. Convenience. Putting photos online and creating albums is so easy, with the automatic resizing and everything…
2. Bandwidth. My photo albums get hit quite a bit, thanks to Google Images and other online photo indexing engines. Once I remove those albums from my own webspace, I’ll be using a lot less bandwidth serving photos, which means I free up more bandwidth for other things.
3. Mobility. If I ever have to move to a new server again, I won’t have to move my photo albums. Without the photo albums, my site takes up a lot less disk space, which means a simpler move.

The downside is that I will now be paranoid that Flickr will get blocked by China, and then a huge proportion of the images on my site will no longer display for visitors in China. I’m really banking on Yahoo (owner of Flickr) keeping a good relationship with China and keeping its services unblocked in China.

Anyway, check out the new Sinosplice Photo page (also accessible via that handy menu at the top of this page). Only the album index is hosted onsite; the albums themselves are on Flickr.

The photo page has been redesigned in keeping with the more uniform look I’m trying to give the site. You’ll notice I’ve also done the same with the About page and the Language section. More to follow, all in accordance with the master plan…


Sep 2005

Double Cock Action

A while back (years ago, I believe) I offered to host Jamie Doom on the Sinosplice Network (wow, that page is really in need of a makeover). Apparently Jamie is aware of neither the gradual decline of the Sinosplice Network nor the unspoken statute of limitations on such a verbal offer (it’s one year). By resurrecting my long expired offer, I was put in an embarrassing situation which I handled deftly… by agreeing immediately to host him. And then set up a WordPress blog for him. And then customize and edit his theme for him. And then write a post on my blog promoting his new blog location. Such are the powers of awkwardness between friends that haven’t actually seen each other in a long time.

But I suppose I should say something about the double cock action, which is presumably what drew you to this post in the first place.

double cock action

Jamie was originally going to do his theme in some kind of wussy bamboo green theme (who likes green, anyway??), but I talked him out of it. I had seen the strength of the double cock action in his photo collection, and I knew that strength could be a part of his new blog as well.

From that humble double cock beginning, the theme took on a life of its own and matured. Jamie is anything but one dimensional, and double cock action alone is a completely inadequate representation of all that is Jamie Doom.

Anyway, we like how it turned out. So check out Jamie Doom’s new blog.


Sep 2005

Comment Submit Issues

I’ve been getting reports of difficulty submitting comments. I’ve been having them too, and in the WordPress interface as well. The commenting difficulties go something like this:

IE users get a “page cannot be found” error after clicking “submit comment.”
Firefox users get absolutely nothing after clicking “submit comment.” It looks like it’s working, like a new page is loading, and then it just dies.

I’m not sure what’s causing this. It’s not a China issue, because it’s happening to people outside of China as well. That means it’s either a hosting issue or a WordPress issue. I’m guessing it’s the latter, probably caused by a plugin. I’ll try to fix it soon, but I don’t have a lot of free time on my hands.

In the meantime, you can still submit comments. IE users, hit back and submit again. Repeat as necessary. Firefox users, just click and wait for it to go through. Repeat as necessary.

Sorry for the inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.

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