Thursday, March 31, 2005

It's easy to make lists when you only require them to have two or three items.

Things I'm Wondering About Chinese Language

  1. The origin of the word 干部.
  2. Why 80% of building material stores have 五金 in their name.
  3. Who 汤姆 is.

Things You Thought You Knew, But Any Chinese Preschooler Can Tell You Better

  1. The sun is... red.
  2. Monkeys' favorite food is... peaches.

Cool Samples To Make Your Electronic Music Have "Chinese Characteristics"

  1. Zhou Xuan songs.
  2. Shanghai subway announcements.

Words I Thought Were Stupid In Chinese, Until I Realized That The English Is Exactly The Same

  1. 耳环 (earrings, not always rings)

Signs Of Spring In Shanghai

  1. Ice cream ads.
  2. Mini-skirts.

And in closing, the last four characters on a notice in the lobby of my apartment about paying for your bicycle parking in the underground "bike garage" (自车库) of our building:



John links to Clocky. These days, my Clocky is a chunk of perl code.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Tonight there was a breakcore performance at The Creek Art Center here in Shanghai. Here's the little review I wrote up for the ShanghaiExpat forums:


First, let me say that the Creek Art Center is an awesome venue. Like Chris said the other day, now that the old Gua'er Music Factory is closed, this is probably the hippest place in Shanghai to catch live music. From what I read on their website and what I saw when I was there, a bunch of Norwegian and Chinese took an old storage warehouse along the Suzhou River and turned all six floors of it into an art exhibit space, restaurant/lecture room/bar, and performance venue. The building is fantastically fixed up: solid, worn brick walls, thick wooden rafter beams, a wooden staircase (there's an elevator too!)... For what they use it for, I really like this place.

About the concert: I guess I don't have the musical background to appreciate break-core. Or maybe, since I'm a working stiff and had to leave "early", I wasn't there when the good acts came on.

I dunno.

At least when a DJ just stands behind a laptop and clicks the mouse, you can dance to the music.

Also, I think it suggests something when the lobby, which was about a fifth the size of the performance hall, had just as many people standing around and chatting as were inside listening to the show.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

They're like rats. They pop up everywhere, invading the neighborhood, spreading filth and disease, and scaring innocent housewives.

OK, maybe I exaggerate. But I swear that last week there were 4 less real estate offices in the row of shops down outside my apartment.

I had a visitor in my house yesterday. And note that I blog this because it's not a regular occurrence:

A tiny tan gecko about the length of my pinkie, glued to the tile wall near the window.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

I picked up some He-Man comics last summer from a street-vendor in Dali, Yunnan, China.

希曼,宇宙的巨人: Cover 1, Cover 2, and a blurry sample page.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Wayne visits Shanghai:

"先下后上," I say as I bodycheck some 15 year-old girl so I can get off.

I'm honored to be a...


There are a lot of (English language) weblogs in Shanghai.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Today in my internal monologue I quoted Slick Rick to counter Hannah Arendt.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

When I first got to Shanghai, I kept seeing these stickers on the back of all-wheel drive vehicles, round yellow stickers with a picture of a ferocious roaring bear on them that said:


I always thought this was something like "The bear came out and I didn't notice". But what that was supposed to communicate was always a mystery to me.

This month's 读者 (Du Zhe) had a short little explanatory article about this phrase, as if it were written just for me. It turns out that there is a region in Japan that is famous for their small brown bears; but these bears were getting hit by cars so signs were put up to warn drivers about the possibility of, basically, bear crossings. Then saving the bears turned into a hipster cause, so the stickers became popular, even in mainland China.

So knowing the real meaning of the stickers hinges on being familiar with the phrase 出没, which means "coming and going". Therefore: "Bears coming and going: Be attentive".

This is a romantic list that I found in the latest issue of 读者 (Du Zhe), a sort of Chinese Reader's Digest. I liked it a lot, I'll probably hang it up on the wall:

The Guy That Warms My Heart

  • 有点害羞,但曾在分别的街头,大声说我爱你
    He's a little shy, but when we're on the opposite sides of the street, he'll yell out "I love you".
  • 同我去庙里求签,轻轻捉住我的手一同跪下。
    When I go to the temple to pray, he lightly holds my hand and kneels with me.
  • 言而有信。
    His words can be trusted.
  • 从来不迟到——我迟到他不生气。
    He's never been late—and when I'm late, he doesn't get mad.
  • 拥抱很久、很紧——每次我起身时几乎是需要慢慢推开他。
    He holds me long and tight—each time I get up, I nearly need to slowly push him away.
  • 睡得比我迟一点,醒来早一点。
    He goes to sleep a little later than me, and wakes up a little earlier.
  • 朦胧醒来轻呼我的名字——没有呼错。
    When he wakes up groggily he groggily calls out my name—and gets it right.
  • 记得我的日期、鞋号、密码、最怕的事。
    He remembers my birthday, shoe size, password, and the things that scare me most.
  • 我很怕虫子,见到虫子大声尖叫他不会笑我。
    I'm very afraid of bugs; when I see a bug and let out a shriek, he doesn't laugh at me.
  • 雨后的早晨我去花园,用小树枝爬到路上来的蚯蚓送还草地——他在一边帮我。
    After it rains, I go to the garden and use a small branch to return earthworms that have wandered onto the path to their homes in the grass—and he's by my side helping me.
  • 笑起来很像个坏蛋——其实不是。
    He laughs like a maniac—but he's not really.
  • 不舒服时,请假带我去看医生,回来路上买冰淇淋做奖励。
    When I'm feeling bad, he takes a day off to take me to see the doctor, and buys me an ice cream on the way home as a reward.
  • 开车绝不喝酒,让我系上安全带。
    He never drinks before driving, and makes me wear my seatbelt.
  • 帮我做家务,每天。边做边聊天。
    He helps me do the housework, everyday; we chat as we work together.
  • 常常帮助别人,不为什么。
    He often helps out other people, for no reason.
  • 答应我:永远不。然后永远不。
    He answers: I won't, ever. And he doesn't.
  • 一边吹口哨一边修马桶。
    He whistles as he fixes the toilet.
  • 说:希望你是我的女儿。
    He says: I hope you'll be my girl.
  • 白煮蛋的黄可以给他吃。
    He will eat the yolk of my egg for me.
  • 雨天散步,背我过积水,说:你还可以再胖一些啊。
    On rainy days, he carries me over puddles and says: you could stand to gain a few pounds, you know.
  • 吵嘴时不会一走了之。
    When I yell at him, he doesn't just walk away.
  • 错了会认错。
    He admits when he was wrong.
  • 阅读女士脱毛器的说明书然后教我。
    He will read the instructions to the hair removal machine, and then teach me how to use it.
  • 我说笑话他笑。
    He laughs at my jokes.
  • 逛街时我看中同一款式三种颜色的裙子,他说:都试一遍好了。
    When we're shopping and I see three identically priced skirts of different colors, he says: try them all on.
  • 试鞋时,他把我的卡通袜叠叠塞进上衣口袋。
    When I try on shoes, he stuff my cartoon-themed socks in his pocket.
  • 常常说,有我呢。
    He often tells me: I'm here for you.
  • 事情过了才告诉我,轻描淡写。
    He doesn't boast about things he's going to do, and when he does them, he's modest about it.
  • 指甲整齐干净,喜欢我替他剪指甲。
    When he decides to clip and clean his toenails, he likes me to clip them for him.
  • 我做的菜他每样都爱吃,要求明天再做。
    No matter what dinner turns out like, he loves it and asks me to make it again tomorrow.
  • 小孩子都喜欢他,常常在楼下玩一裤子泥回来。
    Little kids like him, and he often plays with them downstairs until he gets all muddy.
  • 轻轻拧开我拧不开的汽水瓶。
    He lightly twists open bottles of soda that I can't open.
  • 忙时给我订机票,让我带父母一起出去玩。
    He reserves airplane tickets for me when I'm busy, and lets me take my parents out on trips.
  • 告诉我——24小时随时打电话。
    He tells me: you can call me 24 hours a day.
  • 告诉我——不要省钱。
    He tells me: don't be so thrifty. *去义务献血,回来笑嘻嘻掏出一块“福利饼干”给我尝。
    When he comes back from donating blood, he giggles and pulls out the "thank you" cookie for me.
  • 偷偷买一件两人合穿的雨衣放在车上。
    He secrectly buys a two-person raincoat and hides it in the car.
  • 我喜欢赤脚,他在副驾驶位脚下铺一小块羊绒毯。
    I like going barefoot, so he puts a small sheep's-hair rug on the floor in front of the passenger seat.
  • 留言时画一个小老虎头当签名。
    When he writes me notes, he draws a little tiger as his signature.
  • 偶尔叫我妈妈。
    Every once in a while he calls me "mama".
  • 说谎时结巴。
    He stutters when he doesn't tell the truth.
  • 与人争论听上去像是解释。
    When he argues with people, he sounds like he's just calmly explaining things.
  • 教我滑旱冰,扶着我跑了快一千公里。
    When he taught me how to skate, he held my hand for a thousand kilometers.
  • 送我的花是盆花,叮嘱我浇水 He gives me potted flowers, and reminds me to water them.

I was going to type these all in by hand, but luckily somebody had alread posted them to a BBS (and lots of other places, if you search for them). Interestingly, they added a bunch. Here's a quick translation:

  • 从不上网聊天。
    He doesn't chat online.
  • 他的秘书说帮他缝上脱落的纽扣,他说谢谢,不用。
    When his secretary offers to help him button up, he says: thanks, but no thanks.
  • 和我下棋,允许我悔棋。
    When we play chess, he lets me take back moves.
  • 他其实很早就对他的父母说起我…… He actually told his parents about me a long time ago...
  • 喜欢运动,带我去招待女宾俱乐部。
    He likes excercise, and takes me to girls' clubs.
  • 穿十年前的牛仔裤仍然合身。
    He wears his ten-year-old jeans, and they still fit.
  • 他养了一条大狗,他的狗喜欢我。
    He keeps a big dog, and it likes me.
  • 吵嘴时我要他还我送给他的维尼熊,他坚决不还。
    When I yell at him to return the Winnie the Pooh I gave to him, he still won't give it back.
  • 我不辨方向,他体内有指南针,说——跟牢我。
    I have no sense of direction; he has a compass built into him, and says: follow me.
  • 吃我吃剩的东西。
    He eats my leftovers.
  • 我失眠时他陪我聊天。
    When I can't sleep, he chats with me.
  • 用双肘和膝部支撑体重……
    He uses his elbows and knees to support his weight.
  • 她以前的女友有困难会来找他。没有困难则不会。
    When his old girlfriend has problems, she comes to him for help. When she's fine, she doesn't.
  • *上有一道伤——和几个小流氓打架时捏住对方的刀,我警告他下次不要这 样了,他点 头一笑不答。
    Last time he was hurt, it was because he got into a fight with some riffraff. I warn him that he shouldn't fight next time, and he will nod and laugh curtly.
  • 我洗澡时他拿了本杂志近来坐在马桶上看。
    When I take a shower, he grabs a magazine and sits on the toilet, reading.
  • 比我高,我取不到的东西让他取。
    He's taller than me, and takes down things that I can't reach.
  • 重大的事情和我商量,比如明年的投资计划、周末野餐带不带烧烤架,晚 饭吃大白菜还是小白菜。
    He talks over important things with me, like our financial plan for next year, whether to bring the barbacue to the picnic, or whether to eat large cabbage or baby cabbage for dinner.
  • 站在商店的洗手间外面等我。
    He stands and waits for me outside the mall bathroom.
  • 我感冒了,他还是会用我的杯子喝水。
    When I have a cold, he'll still use my cup to drink water.
  • 打电话嚷:我办公室的热带鱼生小鱼了! He'll call me and shout: the tropical fish at our office had little baby fish!
  • 和大人在一起像大人,和孩子在一起像孩子,和狗在一起像狗。
    Around adults, he's an adult. Around kids he's a kid. Around dogs he's a dog.
  • 喜欢我,从未犹豫,从不和别的女人比较。
    He likes me, has never given me reason to doubt, and doesn't compare me to other girls.
  • 必须非常合心的东西才会买——买时从不问价格,然后用很久很久。
    He won't buy things unless we really need them—we never talk about the price, but he uses things for a long time.
  • 火车站接我,早到十分钟,带一盒蓝莓酸奶。
    He comes to the train station to meet me, arrives ten minutes early and brings a cup of blueberry yoghurt.
  • 常常央求我唱一支歌。
    He often asks me to sing a song.
  • 我买给他的东西都合他心,不转送他人。
    He treasures the things I buy for him, and never gives them to other people.
  • 身上的味道很好闻,但他自己不知道。
    He smells good, but he doesn't know it.
  • 逛街回家,一只眼看电视球赛一只眼看我试新衣。
    When we come home from shopping, he'll have one eye on the TV, and one eye watching me try on new clothes.
  • 对女人有风度,也有距离。
    To women, he's polite but not familiar.
  • 有了他,电脑罢工不必彻夜痛苦。
    When he's here, I'm not doomed if the computer stops working.
  • 很少叹气。
    Doesn't get angry often.
  • 不想当官。
    He doesn't want to be bossy.
  • 真的可以随时找到他。
    I can find him anytime.
  • 和他在一起不怕死——也不害怕活下去,活到很老……
    When I'm with him, I'm not afraid to die, nor to continue to live, to live until we're old...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I'm really too busy to write a good weblog post. I'm spending a lot of time writing e-mails these days, though. Here's a quick one I sent to Asa that tells what I've been doing lately as far as the music scene. I apologize in advance for the lazy, meandering style!

OK, I just messaged him with your e-mail address.

Yeah, there was this "Spring" (Chun) music festival in Hangzhou with a bunch of bands, and Goahead said she would go so I took the train up there on Saturday (at this point I get a reply from Chris: "Kiss mah grits!"). Hangzhou is cool, the lake is such a great focus point for the city. Anyhow, the art bar where the concert took place was neat, they had a courtyard where the bands played until it started raining, and then they took it inside to a very cozy (but bigger than Harley's concert space) bar/restaurant with stage. The Hangzhou/Nanjing/Wuhan bands were cool, but of course I was only out there dancing fot the Shanghai bands: Sonnet, and Cold Fairyland. The Yuyintang lady was there too, with her husband, taking pictures. I said hi to Lindi, and then I ended up sitting at their table for most of the concert and we went out to dinner together afterwards, CF + Sonnet + some guys that were doing photography for them. Most of them went to a bathhouse to spend the night, but I stayed back at the hotel with the guitarist (I need to learn his name, heh) and we talked late into the night and eventually got some sleep. The next day I went to the train station, bought a ticket and then hung out by myself; what Lindi and the other folks did afterwards I think you can deduce from her LJ and photos... something like walk to a certain river and take band pics.

It was cool, I got to meet some more people and talk with friends... the Austrian punk band played at Harley's last night (Monday) and the place was packed, and CF drummer, Sonnet drummer, Sonnet vocals, and Johnny (Sonnet guitar) were there so I said hi. Met some more cool people: Ronnie, a graphic design student from Jitong, Max and Chris were there and we moshed, Michael, my friend from the Shanghai Webloggers Meetup; Rebea and Goahead were there too, in fact we went out afterwards to Ark to catch Jing Gong Zhi Niao play, I saw CF bassist (crikies, I need to get their names) hanging out in the back. The place was packed for a Monday night, and the band really pulled a nice one, basically ramping up the energy at the very end.

Yeah, it's too bad you're not here. Yuyintang is really pumping a lot into the Harley concert series, and they're really getting big. I wish they had a bigger venue... Speaking of venues, the Gua'er finally shut down the factory location :( and are opening up a bar next to the bus stop. There's a big opening party this Saturday that I'll probably drop by to see.

Don't have too much fun without us.


Friday, March 18, 2005

I've really got nothing great to post. I need to write some e-mails.

When I moved into my 17th-floor apartment, I decided that I would use dead time in the elevator to practice beatboxing. So maybe it's only natural that the main record spinning in this house over the last week has been "Rahzel's Greatest Knockouts".

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I took a picture of sprouts appearing in a teacup that I have on my balcony window sill.

Radishes: the plant that even a guy with two left green thumbs can grow from scratch. (where scratch is a RMB 5 packet of seeds from the Nanfang Guangchuang Carrefour.)

Today at work I was bummed because I had been slated to do a teacher training session tomorrow afternoon, and because of the layout of my schedule that would mean that I had to prepare this afternoon's classes, tomorrow morning's classes, the training session content, and both Thursday morning and afternoon classes, all in one morning.

Needless to say, by the time I left to teach my afternoon classes, I was still very poorly prepared for tomorrow and Thursday. So I was overjoyed when I got this text message as I arrived at the pre-school:


Class cancelled tomorrow morning! Hooray.

This was good news to receive at that time, because it let me relax a little for what is one of my toughest kindergardens (how come they send a Chinese teacher with me to teach the tame working class kids, and then send me alone to do the spoiled rich kids?).

The point of the above is to say that I got to spend a relaxing evening with Josh, an old friend from Princeton in Beijing several years ago, eating at the Hunan restaurant that Jodi took me to a couple weeks ago—classy place, well-decorated, and so popular/small that you actually have to wait to be seated, and people do! The funny thing is that Josh and I share very few common memories of our time at PiB, so we spent most of the evening filling in gaps for the other person. Afterwards, we walked down to Lu Xun Park, which was dark but lit up very romantically by red lanterns for an ice sculpture exhibition. Then tea from the Bi Feng Tang tea house 外卖 window, and a short light rail ride later we said goodbye. Josh should be around for a while, and I hope we can meet up again.

Monday, March 14, 2005

I had written on my calendar "New Dance Starts Tonight" for this Monday, so after work I raced over to 150 Xizang Road, right off People's Square, and hoofed it up to the fourth floor. Class was in full session, of course, since it starts at 7:30 and I'm teaching late Mondays this semester, but I was relieved to get a warm welcome from the teacher (in mid-step!), see a lot of familiar and friendly faces and find that they were still doing the next-to-last class session of "Cowboy", which I take is some form of line/square-dancing. It looks like a very lively dance. I'm glad I skipped it; I was waiting for something more elegant.

I had forgotten how much fun dancing was. At first, I just toed the sidelines and watched, but I couldn't get helped but get sucked in by my dance friends, and by the end of (the half-)class I had the steps down, met a couple new people, and was completely exhausted.

Next up: Rumba. Classes start next Monday. I'm signed up. I picked up a flyer with which to evangelize my co-workers.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Friday night I went out for a long walk with Chris. We discovered: a cinema near my house that I had sighted from the bus a few weeks ago, a place called Hello Pizza that Chris assures me is good pizza, a Be For Time teahouse with piping hot bubble tea and a lost fifty RMB bill lying on the sidewalk in front of it (that financed our dinner and entertainment, woo!), and a Da Niang dumpling shop where we had 30 dumplings for RMB 18 (about USD 2.25).

But the highlight of the evening was the Tom's Arcade next to the dumpling place. We spent nearly two hours there. They had a bunch of classic games and a bunch of new ones, most costing two tokens. And since tokens were fifty for RMB 20, this worked out to about a US ten cents per game: old school prices! We played a shooting game, a drumming game, a semaphore game ("red up! white down!"), a tank game, and ice air hockey. It was so much fun, a great chance to loosen up and have a good time. You can bet I'll be back there in the near future.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I've been coming up with questions recently, and I was thinking what I would say to the question "would you accept a divorce?" And the answer was something like "if it made her happier, then yes; but I would put forward my greatest effort to avoid it." Then I wondered what my greatest effort would be, and I came up with something like "let her go back to her parents while we cooled off" and then I thought "well, why couldn't I go back and live with her parents at the same time, or both of us go to my parents. It would be like live-in divorce counselling." That would not be cheap to get elsewhere. Parents are cool to have like that.

My parents' 30th anniversary is coming up soon.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

 Not only do I have my balcony curtains thrown wide open tonight again, but I have the windows open and I'm drinking in the cool night air by the pair-of-lungs-full. The weather is supposed to be turning cold again this weekend, so I'm enjoying it while I can!

Money spent on food today:

Celery/beef noodles down the street from the office for lunch.
Sweet popcorn that somebody brought into work.
RMB 11.5
Big gallon jug of water and four muffins.
RMB 12
Bowl of ramen in bone-marrow broth.
Five pan-fried dumplings.
Two cups of bubble milk tea, one for the fridge, one for tonight.

A total of RMB 36.5, about four and half dollars. About average for a noodle day.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

This is the first night in a long time that I've felt comfortable enough to leave open the curtains to the balcony when I got home at night, because the temperature outside of my bedroom was at a reasonable sufferable level. I love the view, but the windows are usually a huge heatsink.

I was looking into buying a portable, high-quality digital audio recorder for taping concerts and doing interviews with people, recording ambience noise, lending it to Chris to do his Boredoms work. But I found that the reasonable contenders turned out to be unreasonably priced at USD 400 and some. So I lost interest. This was over the course of the last month or so.

Then tonight I was reminded why I wanted one in the first place. After work—Monday is the 市立幼儿园 marathon—I needed to unwind so I went downtown and caught a performance by Shanghai's greatest band, Cold Fairyland, at Shanghai's coolest concert venue, the Ark in Xintiandi. They played some songs I hadn't heard, and a lot of old favorites. The light show was fantastic. I made a single glass of USD 6 ginger ale last for the whole 3 hour concert.

Then again, I went alone. When I go to concerts alone, I end up convincing myself that I'm there for the music. But I'm getting more and more unconvinced that chasing after something so impersonal of the music is the right thing to do. Like I told Chris and Asa, I'm looking for the Answer and one thing I know is that music is not the Answer.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Some expats in China get offended when Chinese people call them laowai. I don't; I think it's all in fun, a term of endearment that comes from the same tradition as calling Grandpa "gramps". Laowai is literally "Ol' Outisde(r)". I think what bugs people is that Chinese folks use the word laowai when they're cracking jokes about the foreigners. I see it more as a way to hide discomfort around strangers than a way to disparage them. I won't get angry because somebody is uncomfortable around me.

But there is a Chinese term for addressing foreigners that bugs me a lot. I ran across it again today while digging into my new book, "Foreigners Studying Chinese: Sticking Point Made Clear". The title of the introduction is 写给学汉语的外国朋友, Written to Foreign Friends Studying Chinese. Foreign friends! Argh!

Often-times when I hear "friend" here in China, it has a bad connotation. Let me give you two examples. When I was living in Tianjin, I went to the Great Wall at Simatai a few times with different groups of people. Each time, there were souvenier vendors who walked up the wall with foreign tourists, and then back down with them, and them pressured them to buy a book about the Great Wall. One time, I didn't outright tell the woman tailing me that I wasn't going to buy a book, so when we got to the bottom she was very forceful in making her pitch, as usual. What made me the most upset was that, at one point, she called me her friend. I ended up lecturing her that in my culture, you don't become friends with somebody by following them around for an hour. Maybe it is just because I'm picky about choosing friends, and I value friendship very much. But in any case, it made me angry that she would abuse the name of "friendship" in order to sell me something. Is that all that the word "friend" means?

Another way we use the word "friend" a lot here in China is in preschools: a generic term for adults to call little kids is 小朋友, "little friend". You really don't have to know the kid, or feel any personal connection to him to call him "friend". To me it implies disingenuity and sense of having to take care of the (weaker) person that does not come from having any feelings from the kid, but out of a social duty. I feel like this is often the same attitude people show towards foreigners: don't try to get to know them, just nod and laugh at their silliness, and keep them from hurting themselves, like kids. I believe that the term "foreign friend" is a vehicle for this attitude.

Now, I'm not writing this as a criticism of Chinese people specifically. People who don't speak the local language anywhere get treated like kids. I'm just against using a term of address that propogates and supports that kind of treatment.

So just say NO to 外国朋友!

(This rant was brought to you by the influence of my current read, Rey Chow's deconstructionist book The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism, and by the inspiration provided by John's tirade against the word "Hello".)

This afternoon I made it over to Xujiahui to check out a bookstore that John had recommended to me. Here's what I picked up:

  • Foreigners Studying Chinese: Sticking Points Made Clear (外国人学汉语难点释鉴)
  • Brushing Up Your Vocabulary For HSK, Vol 1 (HSK单词速记速练,上)
  • Brushing Up Your Vocabulary For HSK, Vol 2 (HSK单词速记速练,下)
  • A Course of Study for Printed Material, Vol 1 (报刊语言教程,上)
  • Shanghai: DaYa China Tourism Illustrated (大雅中国旅行图鉴)

The Printed Materials book looked interesting because I read the paper everyday. The folks, the HSK is the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试) or Chinese Level Test, a test that is like the TOEFL but for Chinese. Lots of universities and companies ask for HSK scores from applicants. I'm not looking to apply anywhere just yet, or even to take the test at all; for me, the important thing is that I get some independent study material in front of me.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Beautiful, beautiful RAM upgrade. From 256 MB to 256 + 512 MB. And like almost everything I'd done hardware-wise on this computer, the installation was smooth as silk, just plugged it in, booted up, and saw the new RAM total, triple of before! Woo! I got 512 MB of Kingston PC3200 CL3 RAM. Cost me RMB 525, about USD 64. Considering this starts for USD 55 on Pricewatch, I'd say I got a pretty good deal.

After picking that up at the Metro City shopping center in Xujiahui, I hopped down to Harley's Bar for the Lei Feng Memorial Concert. Highlights were the performances by The Herb:

...And 惊弓之鸟 (Bird Scared at the Sight of a Bow... Maybe Scaredy Cat?):

Joel was there with a bunch of his co-workers; Max was there with a couple of his pals; in fact this concert was well attended all-around. Where were you?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Friends who subscribe to my main RSS feed may wonder why some posts pop up again after a day or two, or maybe even a week after they've been posted. This is mainly for two reasons:

  1. This RSS feed is an aggregator, and sometimes it aggregates by simply scraping another weblog's front page, not by checking its RSS feed. When I add these scraped posts to the main aggregate RSS feed, I include the little "Comments: 0" bit, so that when somebody comments on a post that is on the front page of the aggregator, the comment bit will change to "Comments: 1" and it will show up in the RSS feed as a new post.
  2. I'm a stickler for web standards, so sometimes when a post breaks the validation of my homepage, I will go back and fix the mark-up. If this happens after your RSS feed reader has downloaded the feed containing the non-validating post, then when youre feed reader downloads the new feed with the updated, now-validating post, then it will show up a second time as a new post.

Stuff like this happens when you DIY.

Friday, March 04, 2005

I'm getting to the point where my Chinese is good enough that I don't groan when handed a large chunk of written Chinese like, say, a magazine or promotional flyer. Basically, it's good enough to quickly analyze a text and pick out the important bits, and be able to understand enough characters/words to get the gist of those key sentences. I've gone beyond the basics of struggling word by word, even sentence by sentence, and I've progressed to absorbing entire texts at a time. This means that the way in which I learn Chinese has to change. I'm still trying to figure out how. One of my tasks for this weekend is to make a trip to a certain bookstore in Xujiahui to pick up an HSK study book or two and make a schedule of regular study times. Of course, this will have to be accompanied by plenty of fun reading to reinforce what I'm learning. John keeps recommending to me to hire a tutor from the Far East Normal University (Huadong Shifan Daxue). Once I feel comfortable coming up with suitable lessons for myself, I'll seriously consider doing that.

One of the ways I'm approaching this change in learning style is to examine how I learn new words in my primary language, English, another language in which I take entire texts at a time instead of struggling word by word. Fortuitously, the book I just started a few days ago (The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Rey Chow) is full of words I "don't understand". I went back and read the preface (four pages), and wrote down these words. They fit into several categories.

This is actually a word coined by Foucalt that is explained later in the text. Some Chinese words that I think I don't know are actually new words that the writer is coining and that a native speaker would not understand until it is explicitly or implicitly explained. These words are particularly frustrating because I don't know that I'm not supposed to know them.
I should know this one, but I looked it up. It is the adjectival form of epistemology, which is the theory of knowledge. In any case, this is a legitimate advanced vocabulary word.
Deceptively simple, this is one of those words that are being redefined in academia. Sometimes I run across a word that I think I know, then I realize from context that it has been given another different meaning, or is a word with several meanings of which I was only familiar with one. This is one of those, in English.
Legitimate word.
Legitimate word, but curiously not in any online dictionaries.
Legitimate word.
Legitimate word.
poststructuralist theory
Academic term in vogue. I don't read this kind of stuff in Chinese, but this kind of vocabulary is usually pretty easy to figure out because it's usually a direct literal translations from the English. This one is likely to be something like 后机构理论 (literally "after structure theory").
Another word taken a step further by theorists.
existentialist freedom
I don't even know how to go about looking up what this means. That's when you find an appropriate person and plain ask them.
Legitimate word. Why do I think this is just a high-falutin' version of "resentment"? Ahh, same French roots.
Legitimate word. I've been meaning to figure this one out for a while.

So this shows that there is more than one reason why I would "not understand" a word, and that the answer to the question of "what should I do to understand, speak and write better Chinese" is pretty much in line with my stock piece of advice to all other language learners: use multiple inputs and outputs.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

It's affirming to see somebody I admire call John Piper's writing barely-thought-out conservative evangelical [reasoning].

我等不及了! = I can't wait!

I used that in an SMS today. I'm going out to dinner tomorrow with a friend I haven't seen in a while.

These are extra-simplified characters that I've seen in the wild: