Blog


11

Sep 2003

Double Bummer

Bummer #1

Recently the CD-RW drive on my computer quit reading CDs of any kind. That was annoying, because it’s my only CD-reading drive and I rely on it to play music CDs. Since my computer is still under its one-year warranty, I took the whole thing in, thinking I might also add a regular CD-ROM drive and possibly a hard drive. (I’m not much of a hardware guy.)

I went on a Sunday. I was really hoping they could fix it really fast and give me back my computer, because being somewhat of an internet junkie, I hate being without my computer. There was no one on duty. They let me leave my computer there, telling me I could pick it up the next day. Oh well, mei banfa

The next morning I got a call telling me to come in and they could have my computer ready for me immediately. When I showed up it was a completely different story. They told me they had to ship off the CD-RW drive elsewhere to be repaired (a 2-week process), but they could install my new CD-ROM drive. They did. But the brand-new CD-ROM drive wouldn’t read.

They concluded that it was a system problem, not a hardware problem. That would explain why neither CD drive would read, even though the CD-ROM drive was brand new. The CD-RW drive must actually be fine, and wouldn’t have to be sent off to be repaired after all. But they would have to reinstall Windows. I try to keep only Windows system files on my C: drive for this very reason. When they asked me if I had any important documents on C:, I confidently told them no. They could go ahead and wipe C: and reinstall Windows XP.

It wasn’t until much later that I remembered that one of my very important files — “outlook.pst” — was kept on C:. And it contained every e-mail and e-mail address I had.

So there you have it, folks. If you sent me e-mail before two days ago, it’s gone. I lost it all. It’s very likely I don’t have your e-mail address anymore, either, so e-mail me. This includes friends and “China Blog Listing” requests. Sorry.

In a way it’s kind of relieving, as I had waaaay too many old e-mails backed up. I’m going to try really hard to be better about replying promptly to e-mails and keeping my inbox lean, but that may be a challenge since this semester promises to be super-busy starting next Monday.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. When I went in the next day to pick up my computer, they told me it was all better, both CD drives were installed, and I could try it out if I’d like to. I said I would. I put in an MP3 CD to test the CD-RW’s reading ability. It wouldn’t read. It was exactly like before. I tried out the same CD on the new CD-ROM drive. It worked fine.

The computer guys all acted flabberghasted because “it had just been working.” Yeah, whatever. I have to wait 2 weeks for my CD-RW drive to be repaired. Fortunately my computer is now back home and I at least have a working regular CD-ROM drive so I can listen to music.

Competence. It can be a tall order in China.

Bummer #2

Last Sunday I had a meeting with a director of a TV show. He needed a foreigner to play a part. I had a busy day Sunday. I needed to take my computer in to be repaired, so I had to lug my computer to the meeting.

The director looked me over and had me stand up, talked to me a bit, and decided I would be fine for the part of French police chief. Chinese police chief, that is. But French. In China. Speaking Chinese. Yes, strange, I know. But it sounded like fun, and my coming week was pretty wide open for filming.

Well, the director isn’t ready to start filming until this coming Sunday, Sept. 14th. He wants to film for three days, straight through Tuesday. Well, it just so happens that I have a jam-packed teach/study schedule, starting Monday.

I really wanted to do it, but I just don’t have the time. Not only is the pay not great (only about 800rmb/day), but being in a stupid TV drama is just not a priority. Studying and teaching definitely is. The TV people were trying to get me to postpone/skip 2 days (14 hours’ worth) of English and Chinese classes so I could do the filming. Nope, I don’t think so.

A “famous” HK actress, Mo ShaoCong (莫少聪) is gonna be in the series, too. (Has anyone ever heard of her?) Here I thought I’d have the chance to attempt to compete with one of Wayne‘s cool China experiences, but alas, it was not meant to be….


10

Sep 2003

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" />

6. Save Changes.

7. 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.


09

Sep 2003

<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!


07

Sep 2003

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.


04

Sep 2003

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.


28

Aug 2003

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.


24

Aug 2003

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.


20

Aug 2003

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.


18

Aug 2003

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….


17

Aug 2003

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。


15

Aug 2003

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.


14

Aug 2003

Google Dictionary?

I’m not sure, maybe this is a common practice. But just in case it isn’t, I’d like to offer a tip to you happy web surfers out there, and an extra special tip to those of you studying Chinese.

Every one knows about Google now. “Google” is pretty much a verb in common usage already. I urge you to use the Google Toolbar if you don’t already. It’s so useful — I get annoyed now when I’m on someone else’s computer and I actually have to go to the Google site to use Google. I just use Google that much. Then there’s Google Images, which is your key to a vast lode of virtually untapped digital imagery ore. Sure, you can use those pictures for your own unscrupulous Photoshop purposes or whatever (I sure have)… But what people don’t realize is that Google Images is also a reference resource.

I’ll give an example. Suppose you want to know what a Pekinese looks like. You know it’s a kind of dog, but you want to know exactly what it looks like. If you looked it up in a dictionary, you’d get a nice (possibly vague) description, but what you really would want is a picture. An encyclopedia might provide that, but it might not, plus looking something up in an encyclopedia is a big pain in this modern age. All you have to do is pop “pekinese” into Google Images, and voila! you have a whole smattering of visual testimony, all provided unwittingly by people across the web.

But none of that is revolutionary. What I find Google especially useful for is checking up on Chinese words [sorry, you’ll need Chinese input capability for this]. There are a lot of Chinese words that are in common practice but have not made it into dictionaries. Proper nouns are not usually in dictionaries anyway. So what do you do in a case like that? Google them. Take a guess at the characters. If you’re wrong, you’ll know by the search results.

I’ll give an example. You want to search for information on Jay Chou in Chinese. You know his Chinese name is Zhou Jielun, but you’re not sure which “lun” the last character is. Google all your guesses. Chances are, the one which turns up the greatest number of results is the right one. In the case of Zhou Jielun, it clearly is.

This works great for famous people’s names, place names, new slang, etc., and it sure beats any traditional dictionary method I know. The only problem is that you’re choosing the “correct” answer by following the herd. When the herd is 1.3 billion strong, though, in the name of convenience… why not?


10

Aug 2003

Studying Chinese

Instead of wisely sleeping, I decided to beef up the Language section of Sinosplice tonight. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while, and I don’t think I’m going to have as much free time as I do now much longer. Anyway, this is just the beginning of some of the plans I have.

If you’re just starting to learn Chinese, this stuff is for you!

New areas:
The 5 Stages to Learning Chinese The Process of Learning Tones Chinese Study Book Reviews


09

Aug 2003

Pasden Under Attack!

I got my dad his own domain for his birthday this year. Pasden.com, all his, to do whatever he pleased with. It could be a beautiful shining beacon to Pasdens everywhere. It still might be, but he hasn’t actually launched it. Until then, the world waits….

I check up on it every now and then to see if there are any changes, but there’s nothing up yet. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I checked again recently to discover that the page wouldn’t load. Immediately I doubted my decision to go with a domain forwarding service. You see, you can pay a much lower yearly fee to just have the domain name forwarded to another URL. Thus, when you type “www.pasden.com” into your browser, you are actually viewing the contents of www.sinosplice.com/~pasden/. I also paid for masking, so even though you’re viewing the contents at www.sinosplice.com/~pasden/, your browser tells you you are at pasden.com. Cool, eh?

But it wasn’t working anymore! I was pissed. It had just been working fine a few weeks before. I fired off an e-mail to the company demanding the reason why the service I had paid good money for was no longer being provided. They responded in a timely manner politely informing me that according to their systems the forwarding is still working perfectly.

Huh? Oh no… could it be???

I went to @nonymouse and put in pasden.com. It loaded up fine.

The inescapable conclusion? China is blocking PASDEN.COM!

I am mystified. I had thought the government was getting laxer and laxer about internet censorship, but evidently this was one dissident site they could not allow to slip by unnoticed.

Yes, that was sarcasm. I suppose it’s a part of some IP grouping that was blanket-banned or something. Annoying. But as long as Sinosplice is OK I suppose I won’t have to hurt anyone…


07

Aug 2003

Guns in Class

click here for picturesAttention Xixi students! Your pictures are online now. Go look at them. They will not be online forever, so get what pictures you want now.

Attention everyone else! These are some pictures of the students I taught for three weeks at Zhejiang University Xixi Campus. The schedule was ideal for summer work: 1:30pm to 4pm daily, Mon. – Sat. Most students were between 18 and 20, many having just graduated from high school. They were a good bunch, and mostly very eager to study English in my un-air-conditioned class, despite the record-breaking Hangzhou temperatures.

I have become somewhat notorious for one of my teaching techniques at ZUCC. I demand that my students speak only English in my class, but when students don’t take the rule seriously, you’ve got to enforce it somehow. This is important because a lot of my class activities are small group activities, and I can’t listen to everyone speak at once. My first year at ZUCC I came up with an idea. I bring a squirt gun to class. When I hear someone speak Chinese, they get squirted immediately. Where I get them depends on my mood and their attitude; sometimes I get their arms or their backs, but I’ve squirted people in the face too. The students love this. Class suddenly becomes exciting.
There are a few drawbacks to this method. One, although it’s great for summer, it doesn’t work well in the winter. Two, not speaking English in class can turn into sort of a game, where the students daringly speak in Chinese in low voices whenever I’m at a distance, and I try to catch them at it.

I’m pretty good at catching them, though. Even when I can’t make out what people are saying, I can usually tell by the speed of their speech and their body language (i.e. students will be much more animated when speaking Chinese) that people are not speaking English. Every now and then someone doesn’t speak very clear English, and I mistakenly think they’re speaking Chinese. The students feel incredibly wronged when I squirt them by mistake. I shrug it off with a “speak more clearly and it wouldn’t happen.” I reign supreme in my classroom, and make no apologies for things like that.

For this past class, my squirt gun policy had an interesting effect. This class had a vengeful quality to an extent that none of my other clases ever have before. The first day I started squirting them, two students conspiratorially constructed a makeshift squirt weapon out of a water bottle with a hole poked in the top. Other students tried to steal my gun. Both plots failed, and all guilty parties got soaked just for trying.

The next day I got squirted from behind while at the blackboard and couldn’t find the guilty party. It was later revealed that several students had brought squirt guns to class. Things were starting to get out of hand. I set out a rule that if they wanted to take me on, they should do it after class. They agreed to that, but with such evil gleams in their eyes that I wondered if I had done myself in.

That day immediately after class, Jessica came at me determinedly with her water bottle, leaving a large wet spot on my shirt. Hoping to set an example in front of the whole class, I dumped my water bottle all over her, just soaking her. She got me kinda wet, but I got her much worse. I had more water, and made two things clear to her: (1) I could soak her even more right then, but I wouldn’t because I knew when to quit. (2) If she tried something like that again, I would get her back worse.
So the rest of the semester was conducted in sort of an uneasy state of watching my back, especially after class. Meanwhile, the effect of my squirting policy was spreading. Wayne had adopted my method on the third floor. Lots of students started bringing small super soaker-type water guns to class. The class next door was having regular water wars before and after class. One day I walked into the classroom to discover an abandoned battlefield. Every desktop and seat was covered in water. What had I started?

It wasn’t easy, but I was able to get them to cut out the water in the classroom. They never did exact their revenge, even on the last day. Somehow the target of their aggression was transferred from me to themselves. At one point I felt like the whole water thing was undermining my authority in the classroom rather than strengthening it, but in the end it turned into more of a catalyst for class bonding.

Now that summer session is over. I managed to soak a bunch of my students and still largely escape their wrath. I still support the idea of the teacher bringing a gun to class… but that teacher best be careful.


02

Aug 2003

China Risk

It was a wild Friday night out here at ZUCC, as Wayne, Derrick, Lenny, and I stayed home for a homemade game of RiskChina Risk! The game is won when one player’s armies occupy all of China (including Taiwain). The tricky part is that forces can be positioned outside of China as well (Russia, Japan, India, etc.).

Yes, it was extremely nerdy, but pretty fun. Last night was the dry run of the new game. It definitely needs some tweaking, but we will play again. Read Derrick’s coverage of the game. Derrick’s photos:

China Risk

Fighting Over China


02

Aug 2003

全球变暖

image (c) 2003, Sinosplice.去年我的朋友在杭州过了暑假。那个时候我在佛罗里达。他说杭州的夏天真的太热了,他再也不在杭州过暑假。今年我在杭州过暑假。真的很热,但没有到受不了的程度。(但我倒是经常开着空调躲在房间里。)杭州人都说今年比去年热,也想不起更热的一个夏天。

为什么今年最热呢?恐怕就是因为全球变暖。

我问了我的学生:你们对全球变暖这个问题有什么看法?他们没有什么看法(至少不肯用英语跟大家分享)。而且好象都不太看重这个问题。

现在美国用电用得最多。关于这个全球变暖的问题我想如果要怪一个国家只能怪美国。但是好象中国人都希望能够生活得跟美国富人一样舒服。这是理所当然的,可是如果只有13亿个人的一半像美国人一样用电,我们都完蛋了。

如果一年比一年热,我们有什么办法?只能开着空调呆在家里。但是我们越用空调,世界越变暖。

唉,我真的不想考虑这个问题了。最可怕的就是没人在乎。

但是到时候怎么办呢?怎么办?


01

Aug 2003

无声电梯

最近在电梯里我看到了这样一个小牌子:

为了你我他,请勿讲话。

他们有没有搞错??难道在电梯里说话是不好的吗?我不能确定,但好象这个牌子是非典之前贴的。我想不通为什么会有这样的牌子。


01

Aug 2003

Weird Racism

Recently I visited a photographer to discuss the possibility of doing some work for him. He’s a nice guy, a Hangzhou local, probably pushing 60. It didn’t take long to conclude our business, and it became clear soon thereafter that he just wanted to chat. I was happy to oblige him.

He talked for quite a while about his wife, who happened to work at the high school adjacent to ZUCC. He went on and on about how my school had taken some of the land that had originally been alotted to the high school. I wasn’t particularly interested — other than some vague curiosity about how the Chinese government zones land and allots it to private schools — but I listened.

Things suddenly got interesting again when he started talking about foreigners. The guy was funny. He had one word to sum up entire nations of people. Here are some of the ones I remember:

> Americans – undisciplined (散漫)

> Australians – lazy (懒)

> Germans – inflexible (死板)

> Japanese – cunning (狡猾)

I think he also said something about Italy being full of nothing but thieves, and New Zealand being the greatest country on earth because it not only had gorgeous scenery, but also very few people.

I didn’t take offense at any of this. I was really interested in hearing his opinions because his point of view is a rare one. Here was a man of my parents’ generation who spoke only Chinese but has nevertheless been to many foreign countries and has actually had significant contact with foreigners, both at home and abroad. Naturally, he took with him his Chinese biases wherever he went. In many ways, this guy was just like a Chinese version of so many Americans.

I like how he so matter-of-factly told me that Americans are all sloppy and undisciplined. I got a kick out of it. (I’m pretty punctual, but I guess it turned out to be very cooperative of me to arrive 5 minutes late that particular day.)

What most surprised me was what he had to say about black people. I’m pretty used to comments like, “I’ve got nothing against them, but they’re just so ugly.” It seems a lot of Chinese people discriminate against blacks solely on “aesthetic” grounds. But whatever. I’m not trying to get into that. What this guy had to say was different.

“Black people are good people. I’ve met a lot of them, and they’re really good people. The bad people are the mixed ones, who are only part black. They’re really bad.”

I asked for clarification on that: “I thought Chinese people believe mixed babies are beautiful and smart.”

His response? “Sure, mixed Asian and white babies are. But if you mix either Asians or whites with blacks, you get bad people.”

Bizarre. What can you say to that? Just smile and nod….


29

Jul 2003

“热闹”

最近一个中国朋友问我:“热闹”英文怎么说?”

这可是个很简单的问题,但答案并没有那么简单。

本来我想是“noisy”但不能这样翻译因为“noisy”是贬义词,而“热闹”是褒义词。

我的美籍同事徐惟说应该是“lively”但我认为这样也不行因为“lively”这个词不一定包括“有声音”的意思。而且“lively”平时翻成“活泼”。“热闹”和“活泼”的确是两个概念。

我和徐惟都用《牛津精选英汉•汉英文词典》。按照它:

热闹:lively; bustling with noise and excitement
lively:充满生气的;精力充沛的
活泼:lively; vivacious; vivid

好象最好的翻译就是“bustling with noise and excitement”,英文里面没有一个词可以用来表达“热闹”的意义。有时候很简单的单词真的没有好的翻译,词典也并不是很有用的。



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