2008 Archives

civ_building.jpg

One of the things that always bothers me about mainland China are the weird usages of certain words. Take 文化 'culture', for instance. If someone here says that someone "has culture" (有文化), what they really mean is that they've been educated. Having taken, e.g., Anthro CIV my freshman year, this is totally bizarre to me. Everyone has culture (note that the Chinese word 文化 has the anthropological meaning as well); just because it's different doesn't mean it's not as good as yours. But that seems to be exactly the implication here: if you haven't received a proper education in Chinese, you don't really have culture.

I noticed a similar thing with 识字 'literate' when my language consultant said that his father was illiterate (不识字). I was confused---didn't his father read Tibetan? But what he meant was that his father couldn't read Chinese characters.

Then there are all sorts of weird naming conventions, like "Culture Road" 文化路, "Liberation Road" 解放路, "Unity Road" 团结路, and things like "People's Road" (人民路) and "People's Park" (人民公园). I guess they all show how cultured, liberated, and unified the "people" are now.

But perhaps the most bizarre is 文明 'civilized', which you see everywhere in mainland China. There's apparently a great push there for people to be more "civilized". At urinals there are signs that say 向前一小步 文明一大步 "Step a little more forward, be a lot more civilized". I can't decide if this is insulting (i.e., you're so backwards that you don't even know how to use a urinal) or false security (look at how civilized I am, I don't drip all over the floor when I pee).

Pictured above is a "Safe, Civilized Building". In case there's any doubt, it's been posted four times.

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Here's another example, an effort to have tourism be more civilized. My favorite part is where it tells you, "Don't force foreign tourists to take photos." Here's the complete English translation (copied verbatim from the sign) for your enjoyment:

In order to build a civilized and harmonious tour environment and to improve the moral standards of both tourists and our citizens, please abide the following rules.

  1. Please keep the environment clean. Don't spit. Don't spit the chewing gum. No littering. No smoking except in the designated area.

  2. Please follow the public order. Keep silent. Don't jump the queue. Please keep gateways clear. Please don not talk loudly in public places.

  3. Please protect the ecological environment. Don't step on the grassland. Don't pick flowers or fruits. Don't chase or beat animal. Don't give animal any food without permit when you are in the zoo.

  4. Protect the historical relics and sites. Don't paint or carve on the historical relics. Don't climb up the historical relics. No photos without permit.

  5. Value the public facilities. Don't dirty or destroy any installment in the hotel. Don't destroy the public facilities. Do not be out for small advantages. Save water and electricity. Don't waste food.

  6. Respect other people's rights. Don't force foreign tourists to take photos. Don't force other people to buy or sell something. Do not occupy public facilities for a long time. Respect people in the service sector. Respect religious customs of different nationalities.

  7. To be polite. Wear clean and proper clothes. Do not wear clothes exposing the neck or shoulders in public places. Take care of the elderly, children, the sick and the handicapped. Do not utter dirty words.

  8. Advocate a happy and healthy way of life. Resist superstition. Avoid pornography, gambling and drug.

accommodation

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Listening to my field recordings, it's kind of amazing how much better I can understand the Sichuanese Mandarin that my consultants spoke now (compared with when I first got there in June). Simple things like [m̩˩ te˦] 'no'/'not have' (compare with Standard Mandarin méiyǒu 沒有).

It's hard enough understanding a different dialect of Mandarin, so it's annoying when people modify it to try to accommodate you. So in this segment I was going over today, my consultant was telling me that [zɿ²⁴] meant [ɕje¹¹ tsɿ⁴⁴]. So at first I was like, oh, it means 'write' (xiězì 寫字). It didn't cross my mind that he meant xiézi 鞋子 'shoes', because in their dialect 'shoes' is [hai¹¹ tsɿ⁴⁴] (or more accurately, [xai], but let's not confuse the IPA-rusty). He had switched from "hai" to "xie" because he knew that was the standard form! This is actually apparent in the recording if you listen carefully to it... he says [xa... ɕje¹¹ tsɿ⁴⁴], correcting himself. (Also, the tone for 'write' is different from the tone on 'shoe', which is what finally tipped me off.)

Gah! Don't try to accommodate me by mixing dialects! It only makes it more confusing!

...sigh...

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british_museum.jpg

what has dominic been up to in the last two months
don't look at me, i just sit on his desk all day

i get so bored sitting here
lately dominic's been leaving the lid up on the laptop
to record arthur
the tv show
so now i figured out how to post on this blog
don't worry he's still alive

life hasn't been as amusing after we got back from china
except for london
that's me at the british museum
dominic headed straight for the rosetta stone
i liked the roof and the shadow it cast on the walls

Hung Lee

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If you're in the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Hong Kong and need to eat, I highly recommend 洪利粥店茶餐廳 (Hung Lee), on Hau Fook Street 厚福街, which is not on the tourist map but is right in between Granville and Cameron, off of Carnarvon.

The 粥店 part means they serve jook, etc. (the etc. part being noodles). The 茶餐廳 part means they serve milk tea (奶茶) and other drinks, and Hong Kong-style breakfast (A餐 B餐, etc.). Before you go, brush up on your Chinese---I didn't see any English menus.

Wikipedia on 茶餐廳:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cha_chaan_teng

and the Cantonese version:

http://zh-yue.wikipedia.org/wiki/茶餐廳

I ♥ Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is so great. I forgot how great it was, after being in mainland China for so long. I forgot how great it was to have people smile at you when you pay for dinner, or be friendly when you pick up brochures at the tourist info booth. I forgot how nice it was not to live in a police state. (According to today's HK edition of the Epoch Times, foreigners in Beijing are afraid of the stern police marching around on the streets.) The police here can chat with each other while they're patrolling, they look like they enjoy their jobs, and they actually look like nice people.

dollar bills vs. dollar coins

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Anticipating my Guangzhou metro trip in a couple days (the machines only take 1-kuai coins, not bills), I asked if they had coins at the counter after having dinner.

"冇啊," she said. "有嗰陣時又冇人要。" ("No, and when we do no one wants them.")

I laughed. I guess the preference for light paper bills over annoying, heavy coins is universal (note the reluctance of people in the U.S. to replace the dollar bill with a dollar coin).

SCSHHSYYXZRGS

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08-03-08_1712.jpgHere's a lovely little supermarket logo. I think it's a person on a bike. The unfortunate part of it is the string of letters of along the top, which seem to make no sense at first glance. Guess what the letters SCSHHSYYXZRGS stand for... (scroll down for the answer)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, here's the answer: 四川省互惠商业有限责任公司. I found it on the side of a package of toilet paper, right about the time one of the ladies in the store walked over to me and said, sir, you can't take pictures here.

Sichuan University Museum

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Today I went to the Sichuan University Museum, which, according to reviews, is one of the better museums in the southwest of China, with a good ethnographic section.

Peh! This does not make me want to visit other museums in southwest China.

I found the collections to be rather sparse and superficial. I suppose it was, perhaps, worth the 10 kuai student admission (about USD 1.50---I actually had a conversation with myself to convince myself that it would be worth that much to take a look even if it sucked), and their "ethnicities" section dutifully displayed artifacts and clothing from Tibetans, Qiang, Miao, Naxi, and Yi, but it hardly does justice to the complex ethnographic and linguistic make-up of southwest China. The language that I'm studying, for example, is not even mentioned (since it's subsumed under the general category of "Tibetan", even though the language isn't Tibetan at all). The English descriptions posted on the walls were passable at times, and utterly nonsensical at others.

There's a kind of interesting archaeology section in the basement, but it too is superficial. It briefly introduces various archaeological sites that have been excavated in Sichuan, displays some artifacts from them, and shows you the innards of a scaled-down model kiln. I still have no idea how a kiln actually works. (Maybe you stick bricks in one end, and plates and bowls come out the other...) But there's so much more they could have said. What was significant about these discoveries? How did they change our understanding of history and pre-history? How does modern development, e.g., the building of the Three Gorges Dam, affect archaeological excavation? For the ethnography section, which groups have become more Sinicized, and which groups have maintained their own language and culture? How are people dealing with the loss of language and culture in the face of Han expansion? Are there efforts being made to preserve or at least document these cultures? None of these questions are addressed in the museum exhibits.

I expect the party line in tourist brochures and web sites. But from a museum affiliated with an academic institution, I expect better.

(To be fair, the shadow puppets were pretty damn cool.)

NOW

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Chendu bus announcement

There is a brief moment of levity at every bus stop in Chengdu, when the name of the stop is announced (prerecorded) in both Mandarin and English. The English version is the following: "Now. [insert name of stop in Mandarin here]."

adding passport pages

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If you ever need to add passport pages, I highly recommend doing it abroad, where they do it while you wait. Every page of my passport has now been stamped or visa'd, so I went to the consulate here in Chengdu, which (after getting past the security) was an extremely pleasant experience, since the waiting room was air conditioned and they had old copies of the South China Morning Post (the Hong Kong-based English-language newspaper whose front page is one of the ones posted outside Moffitt, for those of you in Berkeley). Since I get no news here, even week-old news was welcome. I don't make an effort to watch the TV news here, since it's mostly sob stories about various natural disasters happening around the country---either that, or reports of where the "holy Olympic torch" was paraded around today. International news is pushed to the very end, it seems---you know, the spot where, in American news broadcasts, they show pictures of the cute puppies from today's county fair dog show. Newspapers are probably better, but I don't bother spending money on those either since all information is filtered by the you-know-who.

computers and humans

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I've been doing a lot of transcription on the computer lately, and my left elbow is starting to bother me again. I think I have to switch to paper transcription. If only there was handwriting recognition that recognized IPA! Computer technology just isn't "there" yet; we have to adapt ourselves to computers, when it really should be the other way around.

/ʂw/ > /f/

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In the town I'm in (Mianning), there's been a particularly disturbing and/or hilarious sound change in their variety of Southwestern Mandarin, namely /ʂw/ > /f/, the result of which is that, e.g., 'drink water' (喝水) is /xo⁵⁵ fei⁵⁵/, 'fun' (好耍) is /xao⁵⁵ fa⁵⁵/, and 'read' (看书) is /kʰæn²¹ fu⁵⁵/.

This sound change, as I hope all my Ling 130 students will recall, is a kind of fusion, since /f/ retains the manner of articulation from the fricative /ʂ/, and the labial place of articulation from /w/.

kayaking china (on TV)

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I confess... my guilty pleasure here is the National Geographic channel. (Actually, English-language TV in general, but the other two channels are movie channels and the movies are usually a family affair. Hot Fuzz is a great movie, by the way.) Last night I watched "Whitewater Kayak China". It was definitely superficial on the cultural commentary (one of the guys was even going to stay in China for a whole six months to learn "the language"), but it was definitely well-shot and the kayaking was pretty damn cool.

at the travel agency

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There is exactly one travel agency here, and I went there today to buy a plane ticket from Chengdu to Guangzhou. I was originally going to take an overnight train from Kunming, but my plans now require going back to Chengdu first, and a train from there to Guangzhou will take something like two days---too long to be trapped in a train in China, for me. So here I am at the single travel agency here, they tell me they have a ticket for 50% off, I say I want it, they ask for my ID, and I pull out my passport. Dear goodness, they say, what country is he from? (In such circumstances people always seem to prefer to ask the person I'm with where I'm from, even though I'm obviously capable of telling them myself.) I tell them. The boss says, normally we don't do business with Americans, but since you're Chinese (华裔), it's OK. (And one that can speak Putonghua, too, the woman working there adds.) He tells me that Bush is to blame for the high oil prices, along with all the war around the world. They don't do business with Americans or Japanese, he tells me. (They're anti-Japanese for WWII reasons... I've been kind of shocked at how many TV shows and movies here are about the Japanese invasion of China, which naturally vilify the Japanese. I'm also kind of surprised that the actors portraying the Japanese are actually speaking Japanese, though I can't tell if their accents are horrible or not.) I try to explain how the foreigners they meet here are just ordinary people, and remind him that pretty much half the people in the U.S. didn't even vote for Bush, and the woman helps out by saying yes, it's not like everyone's a political scientist. He says, but maybe it will send a message if people know that Americans are disliked even in a small, remote town like here. He goes on to bring up the March incidents in Tibet. Isn't it good that it's being developed, he asks rhetorically. He goes on to tell me, pretty much every foreigner here ends up reporting to our travel agency, since they have to buy train or plane tickets. I smile and nod.

We walk out of the travel agency, and the important thing is, I have my half-price plane ticket in hand.

Obama

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Dude, when did Obama get the nomination? Dammit, I get no news here.

gone swimming

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river-pan.jpg On the other hand, it's very beautiful here... (this is a 360-degree pan... if anyone knows how to clean up the boundaries i'd appreciate help!)

backing up

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So now that I have a large-ish external hard drive (long story short: I bought one, the enclosure died on me, and then I had an adventure buying a new one in Beijing), I finally decided to try out the new Time Machine feature in 10.5. I have to admit, it's pretty slick. It always used to be such a chore to back up, and now all I have to do is plug in the hard drive and off it goes. I think it might have actually decreased my productivity, it's kind of amusing going in and seeing old versions of my hard disk.

web cafes

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Web cafes are kind of terrible here, if only because of all the smoke. Also, there are notices posted saying "no minors allowed", but I swear last time I witnessed a twelve year old kid committing both offenses: puffing away at a cigarette and surfing the web at the same time.

bees

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The TV is on pretty much all the time here. Today I had some TV time to myself, during which time I discovered the National Geographic Asia channel. To celebrate ten years of "Nat Geo in Asia", they were counting down the top 30 documentaries. The one I saw was about how bees are disappearing. CCD is what it's called--Colony Collapse Disorder. Basically a third of the food we eat and something like 70% of the plant life out there depends on bees for pollination (and thus reproduction), and for a variety of reasons bee populations in various countries including the U.S., France, and possibly England experienced massive decreases last winter (I assume they meant 2006-07?). Here in Sichuan, China, the town of Hanyuan has no bees at all because a couple decades ago they killed them all using pesticides. Hanyuan provides something like 80% of the pears in the region, and they way they do this, now that there are no bees, is by hand-pollination by humans. It's extremely labor-intensive, and unsustainable--with people increasingly moving to the cities nowadays hand-pollination probably won't be a viable option in ten or fifteen years.

internet withdrawal

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In high school my online friends would joke about experiencing withdrawal after not logging on for a day or two... It's been almost a week for me, and I suppose I am experiencing somewhat severe withdrawal symptoms. At night I'll have dreams of easy internet access, like an ethernet jack in the hotel room ("Why didn't I notice that earlier?"). Or I'll dream that I'm talking to a housemate: "Since we don't have internet access at our house this summer, where are you going to go online?" And they'll say, "Oh, at my office." Then I'll think, of course, I can just go to my office for internet access. Then I wake up and realize my office is thousands of miles away.

An anti-smoking ad

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06-03-08_1115.jpg Ran across this one this ad this morning on the campus of the Southwest University for Nationalities 西南民族大学. Using a video game metaphor, it says, 游戏开始了 / 你的生命正因此减少 "The game has begun. Your life is reduced because of this." Again, it's refreshing to see things like this, compared with the old man on the boat six years ago, who asked if I smoked. When I told him no, he told me, 你要学! (You should learn!)

cheap food

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While eating 水饺 for dinner, I realized that I don't like expensive food. Twelve 水饺 with 白菜肉 filling (dumplings with meat and lettuce, I think... I think 白菜 in these parts is not the same as the bok choy we are normally familiar with) cost 3 kuai. Three kuai! And they were good! Of course, I am partial to delicious bits of meat and vegetables wrapped in a thin layer of dough, but still... Compare that to the 107-kuai hot pot (for two people), or juk 粥 for 97 kuai (for two people). I mean, sure, the juk was good, and the meat was tasty and whatever, but was it 20 times as good??? I don't think so.

bilingual signage

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DSCN0429.JPG Here's a sign, bilingual in Tibetan and Chinese, advertising new phone numbers:

ཁ་པར་ཨང་གྲངས་གསར་པ་བཙོང་རྒྱུ་ཡོད།

手机新号

Amazingly I can actually read the whole sign, which generally isn't true of the Tibetan signs around here. Although, around here it's not that important since everything's in Chinese, too. It says "new phone numbers for sale". (In Chinese, it says "new cell phone numbers".)

Bus in Chengdu

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DSCN0400.jpg Please take the initiative for being old, weak, ill, incomplete, pregnant and offering one's seat.

Tibetan food in Chengdu

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DSCN0392.JPG Today I had lunch with some friends at this Shambhala Tibetan Restaurant ཤམ་བྷ་ལའི་བོད་ཟས། in the 武侯祠 district. We had tibetan tea and yogurt and groma གྲོ་མ་ (a beany kind of root, 人生果 in Chinese) and momos.

I'm staying at Holly's Hostel, whose primary selling point is that it's located right in the Tibetan district. So it was kind of infuriating to see scrawled on the "expression wall" on the third floor (where guests can write in crayon things like "I had a great time" or "greetings from Greece")---written there at least three times, in English---the sentence "Tibet was, is, and will always be a part of China." I actually saw this in Beijing on the back of someone's shirt, where the front said "I HEART China", where the heart was in the theme of the mainland Chinese flag (red background, yellow stars). Most of the time these shirts are otherwise innocuous, with, say, the Olympic logo on the back. I-heart-china shirts are very popular here. But the first one I saw was the one with the Tibet message on the back, which rather shocked me.

hard sleeper, top bunk

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WHAT'S THE POINT of having separate "smoking rooms" in between the trains if all the windows are closed and all the smoke wafts back into the cabins anyway?????????

No Parking

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DSCN0389.JPG Here's a parked car, located conveniently next to a sign on the sidewalk that says "Parking is Forbidden".

DSCN0384.JPG I know I've seen this on the web before, since it's located in the foreigner-heavy district of Cháoyáng 朝阳, specifically Jiànwài 建外 (short for 建国门外, outside the Jiànguó Gate). It's still hilarious, though.

北京西站

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DSCN0383.JPG The magnitude of the Beijing West Train Station is not done justice by this photo, which only catches the middle of it. There are 38 or so ticket counters on the first floor, which you have to x-ray your bags to even get into. Counter number 1 promises an English-speaking clerk, and the last counter sells 1-kuai tickets to people who want to enter the platform area to say goodbye to their loved ones. The second floor has the waiting areas for the train, along with various eating establishments ranging from cheap to McDonald's. It's like an airport but for trains, and the bathrooms (which say "no smoking" but people smoke in there anyway) are more disgusting than the ones in the airport.

environmentalism in Beijing

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05-25-08_1726.jpg I've been somewhat pleasantly surprised by various things in Beijing. One interesting thing was this reusable shopping bag. The lettering says 'For a caring life / 环保"袋"回家', (environmental "bag" it home, where "bag" dài is a pun on 'bring'). So even though the streets and rivers are filled with trash, there is a growing awareness that that might be bad.

lining up at the bus stop

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DSCN0352.JPG Here's another pleasant surprise (I'm actually writing this after the next entry about the reusable bags)... Signs encouraging people to line up. 自觉排队 礼让光荣 - "Take the initiative and line up; politely yielding is glorious."

Everything is glorious here. (Either that, or civilized...) Some of the official receipts (发票) have a scratch-and-win portion. If you don't win, it says 护税光荣 - "Protecting taxes is glorious". I suppose there's some logic to that, since tax money is how the government pays for things.

cheap food

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The best part of China is cheap breakfast. Mmm... 馅饼 (pancake-like things with various kinds of stuff sandwiched inside) for 1 kuai, 包子 (buns with various kinds of stuff stuffed inside) for 0.5 each, soy milk for 1 kuai a cup, and not that disgusting thick stuff they sell to white people in the U.S.

beijing air

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it is my first day in beijing, and the two main impressions i have are these: first, the air is really bad. The pollution is bad, for one, but the even more distressing (to my eyes - literally) is how sandy/dusty the wind is. it's huge. The city is big, the streets are big, and it takes a long time to get anywhere.

On the plane to Hong Kong, I heard someone say, "I lived in China for two years". I think for me it's on the same order of weirdness as saying "I lived in the U.S. for two years"... the U.S. is such a huge country, how is that sentence particularly informational? Saying "I lived in China for two years" makes it sound like it doesn't matter where in China you lived, that it's all the same, which is of course not true.

In the other direction, sometimes people in China will ask me questions like "Does it snow in the U.S.?" What they mean, it seems, is "does it snow in the U.S. where you live (in Berkeley)", but it seems like an overly general way to ask the question.

On the other hand, I wonder if I'd have the same reaction to, e.g., "I lived in Australia for two years".

what do you like to do?

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i hate that question. But thanks to Kevin C., I have an answer.

watching TV. reading the comics. skateboarding. taichi. eating cheap food. making jokes/being sarcastic. hiking. chatting with people. maps. playing 20 questions.

China visa issues

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I got to the consulate yesterday at 8:30am (the office opens at 9) and was already the 42nd person in line for a visa. Thankfully, once in, it moved fairly quickly--about one person a minute. I think it slows down later in the day as people arrive who don't know they need both plane tickets and hotel reservations, which I had this time.

They told me to pick up my visa on Friday. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I'm a firm believer in not counting your chickens before they hatch... even though of course whether or not you count them has no effect on the hatch rate. (There was an interesting article in the Science Times about how people who buy flight insurance actually believe they're less likely to crash... though I guess in this case it's more to psychologically prepare oneself for disappointment.)

Ann Arbor

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Here I am on the "Michigan Flyer" bus on the way back to the airport. It's actually really nice, it's a fancy bus with free wi-fi, three electricity outlets down each side, and even free bottled water, for some reason. I'm listening to this interesting conversation with the driver about how business has been picking up, how you save $5 by reserving online or over the phone with a credit card, and which times you need reservations (christmas, thanksgiving, and when Michigan U starts up/gets out).

I was here for a historical linguistics workshop and got to meet lots of famous historical linguists. I also got to meet Ian Catford, a famous phonetician, and the entire first-year cohort (four people), two of which are from Berkeley.

I am at the airport now, so must stop typing.

PlecoDict on my T3

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PLECODICT FILLS UP THE ENTIRE SCREEN NOW!!! WOOHOO!!!

Apparently, Palm didn't ship the T3 with the appropriate (software) libraries to allow third-party developers to resize the screen. But after asking about it on the forums, the developer pointed me to the fix.

http://www.pleco.com/products.html

So yeah, PlecoDict. Freakin awesome. Handwriting recognition and everything. Buy it now.

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It's always interesting when you learn a character for a word you know but didn't know had a character. Especially when it's super-complex. Take, for example, Cantonese zok6 'chisel':

Looks like 丵 zok6/zhuó 'dense grass' (?) is the phonetic, then there's a mortar (臼), and some beating (殳) with a metal object (金).

戊、戌、戎、戍

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Here are some characters that look alike.

戊 wù/mou6 '5th of the 10 Heavenly Stems'. Used as phonetic in 茂 mào/mau6 'luxuriant; profuse'

戌 xū/seot1 '11th of the 12 Earthly Branches'.

戎 róng/jung4 'weapons; military affairs'. Used as phonetic in 絨 'down, velvet'. Interestingly, 'thief' 賊 zéi/caak6 looks like it has this as a component, but the original character had phonetic 則 zé/zak and the weapon radical 戈 gē/gwo1. According to Wenlin, there's an obsolete form 𧵪.

戍 shù/syu3 'defend; garrison'.

Bean: An OS X Word Processor

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I chanced upon this program, which looks like it could be a good TextEdit replacement:

http://www.bean-osx.com/Bean.html

Apparently, it's inspired by WriteNow, which gives it mad points in my book.

According to Marten van de Kraats, WriteNow was "the best program ever written". WriteNow was pretty damn good, but I think HyperCard should be up there too.

MacWorld 2008

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Here I am at the "Microsoft Bloggers' Lounge" at MacWorld, which is a convenient place to get internet access because they only let in people who have blogs. It's like a little exclusive club. Plus they have M&M's with various Office 2008 icons stamped on them. I wonder how many M&M's they had to kill for those...

Let's see, highlights from the show... Well, first, what isn't here: Unfortunately, Fetch isn't here this year, so no cute Fetch dogs... Also, it looks like Bare Bones isn't here either, so no BBEdit shirt upgrades.

On the other hand, Better Energy Systems is showing off their solar-powered chargers (the "Solio"):

http://www.solio.com/charger/

It has the cool factor, and the green factor, but I'm not sure how much I would actually use it. The medium model will set you back $100.

Joby is selling their Gorrillapods at a discount, which is nice.

Also, MacSpeech is showing their new dictation software, which apparently uses a new recognition engine and is better than their old iListen, though it's hard to push in and actually get to try it.

On the other hand, it looks like they're showing off Word 2008 on these computers, so maybe I can see if they fixed that bad accent stacking problem.... Nope, combining accents are still ugly in Word 2008.

"Better Cantonese"

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Recently I've been listening to these one-minute segments on how to make your Cantonese more correct, called 粵講粵o岩一分鐘.

http://www.rthk.org.hk/elearning/bettercantonese/listenpro.htm

It's basically a big prescriptivist-fest, telling native Cantonese speakers to correct their "lazy sounds" and not merge /n-/ and /l-/, not drop initial /ng-/, etc. There's two "hosts": the guy is 何文匯, whose name is on various Cantonese dictionaries, and the girl is 黃念欣, who I don't know.

For some reason, the guy is really good at making you feel stupid. "People are too lazy to look up the dictionary," he says. Or, "if people would just think logically, they wouldn't pronounce things all wrong." The girl is much more encouraging, but says things like, "if you say things wrong, you'll sound really childish."

Despite the tone, there are some interesting etymological/philological notes in some of the segments, and I did learn some obscure characters which I've seen before but never knew how to read.

Although they can get rather pedantic, in some ways it's kind of reassuring that people are being prescriptivist about Cantonese, because that means people actually care about preserving the language... and that's a luxury not all languages enjoy.

new and old system software

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Since I had backed up everything for the hard drive upgrade, I decided to upgrade to OS X 10.5 (Leopard) while I was at it. I'd been waiting to upgrade, just to see what everyone else's problems and gripes were, and to wait for the instabilities to settle down, and to copy over some data I still had in a HyperCard stack. That's right, HyperCard! The unfortunate thing is that Leopard no longer supports Classic, which means there's no way to run older programs.

Or is there? It turns out that SheepShaver can actually emulate a PowerPC running System 7.5 - 9.0.4. So perhaps all is not lost. I installed it using an all-in-one prepackaged installation I found through google, and to my delight in runs all the oldie-but-goodies: HyperCard, WriteNow, Pathways into Darkness. Along with other gems such as Polytris, Beehave Beehive, and the amusingly named Save a BNDL. And it's fast, your emulated PowerMac is up and running in ten seconds. Ah, just listening to the default Simple Beep brings me back....

Unfortunately M$ Office 98 and 2001 don't seem to work, which might put a hamper in my LTBA pdf-ification project, but at least Word 5.1 works...

If you'd like to install, the nicest guide I found is by GimmeSlack12:

http://www.alkemic.com/music/travis/Mac%20Emulator%20Tutorial/MacEmulator.html

So, my impressions of Leopard... Aside from the stupid new Dock, and the Finder still needing a major overhaul, I really like 10.5. It's fixed so many things... big things like spotlight, traditional chinese input, Tibetan fonts that work and that you can actually read without squinting... little things like not selecting the file extension when renaming, the print dialog, the Network prefs... and i think Spaces is very well done. I never thought I needed virtual desktops, but I like it now.

And finally, there's slideshows from the Finder, which are actually usable now. Select some photos, and hit cmd-opt-Y. Damn. Gives Phoenix Slides a run for its money.

hard drive upgrade

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To increase my geek points, I decided to replace the hard drive in my powerbook. I am happy to report that the operation was a success! It's gone from 80 to 160 GB. (I followed the instructions at ifixit.com, and benefited from the comments on this blog:)

http://meanderingpassage.com/2006/04/09/al-powerbook-g4-15-hard-drive-upgrade/

The last time I tried to take apart a laptop was with my old iBook. It was a disaster. Halfway through, I ended up stripping the head of a screw and had to give up. I almost ended up doing the same thing this time, but this time I was able to stop, calm down, take a break, and look up "stripped screw laptop" on google.

I got myself out of my predicament by using the next smaller screwdriver (#00--the mounting bracket is very narrow!), pushing down very very hard to increase the friction, and turning slightly the wrong way to kind of loosen it.

Lessons learned:

  • Be more careful the further in you go. Opening up electronics is mentally taxing (and the fumes probably don't help either). Don't underestimate the fatigue factor. Take breaks.
  • My iBook experience wasn't a complete waste, since this time I at least knew what I was getting into. Also, I already got most of the tools.
  • Don't skimp on your tools.
  • Spudgers are cool.

Next time: notes on my software upgrade.

fancy bike wheel light

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i just found this link on frostyplace.com... wheel lights that spell out messages! is that cool or what?

http://www.heyshopping.com/products_detail.asp?products_id=6520

One of the settings displays your current speed...

OK, I did some searching, and here's a Japanese site:

http://www.digitalcowboy.jp/products/lex/

And a U.S. seller calls them "Hokey Spokes":

http://www.hokeyspokes.com/

BART Widget

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If you ride BART and have a mac, you should install this:

http://worrydream.com/bartwidget/

It's very pretty, and is actually a model of interface design.

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