Friday, February 27, 2009

Tonight I'm doing some survey response analysis for the introductory course in the MEd program at school, and as I was grouping interviewees by age and skimming over their responses it dawned on me that I was doing a mental word frequency analysis and that there might be a more efficient and fun way to do this. Following that train of thought, I quickly recalled Wordle, the Java applet that does makes so-called "tag clouds" out of any text you give it. So I fired up the site, enabled Java and, voilà:

Wordle: 20-30-Q1

That's the word cloud for how elementary school students responded when asked about what teachers do. Nifty!

Friday, February 20, 2009

This video had me in stitches: the combination of the music/lyrics, the woman, the location, the passers-byers' comments, and the note at the end. Shanghai's got class.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ever since Jodi got me a new phone for my birthday, I've been listening to music on my walk to school in the morning. The problem is that I walk about 8 minutes and I'm too lazy to load up the phone with new songs regularly, which means I ended up listening to the same old songs every morning.

So I decided to do something I've been talking about for a long time and start listening to the radio instead. My phone can do FM radio when the earphones are plugged in, and eight minutes is just enough to catch a few news stories. It's a good way to start the day; it takes me back to high school when I used to read the paper each morning over breakfast. Or back to when we live at Zhongshan Park and I read the paper on my morning commute. Language-wise, it's nice to have"news Chinese" reinforced orally, something I need to do since I spend so much time reading news stories online. The station I'm listening to is 98.1; I haven't caught the name yet but it seems to have a consistent stream of news stories when I walk to work in the morning and come home at about 4:45pm.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I just updated the English translations of the Shanghai bus routes that I maintain. Since the last time I updated them, the Shanghai Traffic Administration changed the format of their website so I had to tweak my code to match it. In the intervening months, many lines have changed stops or changed numbers and I was getting more e-mails from people looking for lines that exist but weren't in the list of translations. Also, I made a few small tweaks to the translation algorithm so that some stop names have better translations this time around. There are still bound to be mistakes in the over one thousand routes; if they are major and keeping you from easily using the translations, then please e-mail me. If you can't find the route you are looking for or just want directions from one place to another, e-mail me as well. Happy traveling and thanks for supporting public transportation!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A couple days ago in Physics class I had a group of students set up a regelation demo, and we observed the ice melting and refreezing as it was slowly sliced through by a metal wire. The block of ice came from a plastic take-out tub that I froze overnight, so the "cloud" that you usually see in the middle of ice cubes was large and very obvious. One of the students wondered why ice cubes have the white cloud.

The best hypothesis that I can synthesize from the information I found through Google is that the cloud comes from two sources: air that forms bubbles, and minerals or other impurities.

The solubility of air in water goes down as the temperature of water drops, so air comes out of the water and forms bubbles. Bubbles at the edges of the ice cube have a chance to escape to the outside, but after the edges freeze the bubbles in the core of the ice cube are trapped and embedded in the ice as it freezes the rest of the way. One way to avoid these bubbles is by boiling the water first to deaerate it. You can then try putting the boiling water directly into the freeze to observe the Mpemba effect: "in certain specific circumstances, warmer water freezes faster than colder water". Also, if you boil water, cool it, and then boil it again, you will notice air bubbles forming on the inside of the boiling container before the first boil, but not before the second boil because the water is already deaerated. We will try that in class today.

It's possible to eliminate clouding from minerals by using distilled water, or by using this interesting method used in ice manufacturing plants:

A technique used in most ice manufacturing plants that make large blocks of ice is to put a tube in the center of the container of water that is to be frozen. Through the tube they bubble a very low pressure stream of air. Before the tube becomes ice-bound, they remove it, and they pour or suction the water that is left in the center of the ice block away. All of the impurities -- dirt, dissolved air and minerals -- are forced into this water by the crystallizing ice. They fill the void with fresh water (or not) and continue freezing. The core of the block is clouded but the rest of the block is clear. If the core is not refilled and frozen, the entire block is clear.

See the white cloud?

Friday, February 06, 2009

There's a few things that I ran across on the Chinese web today that caught my eye. First is Isaac Mao's re-ordering of the "Rules For Elementary School Students" published by the Ministry of Education in 1981 and revised in 2004. He makes changes like taking the #1 rule and making it #10. Read his post (in Chinese) for the full reasoning behind the re-ordering; it's good. Isaac got a cynical reception at the Danwei post where Adam S interviewed him at the Bloggercon, but I admire him a lot and I like to support him. My translation:

Revised Revised Rules for Elementary School Students

  1. Love nature, cherish your living environment.
  2. Be honest and trustworthy, one in word and deed, correct your shortcomings, and be responsible.
  3. Love unity, unite with your classmates, help one another, and care for others.
  4. Be filial to your parents, respect your teachers, and be courteous to others.
  5. Work hard, be frugal and thrifty, do on your own what you are able to do.
  6. Have self-respect, self-esteem, self-confidence, and develop healthy and civil habits.
  7. Hold life dear, be safe, excercise your body, and keep good hygiene.
  8. Love science, study diligently, question and be curious, delight in investigation, take part in social practice and beneficial activities.
  9. Respect the law, increase your awareness of the law, honor school discipline and punishments, show respect for social ethical values.
  10. Love the motherland, love the people, love the Chinese Communist Party.

Another is this article copied on the Pro-State In Flames weblog about an earlier essay in the Xinmin Evening Post entitled "New Heroes Rush The Bund, An Elite Not Delimited By Hukou" containing an inflammatory quote that had the Shanghainese up in arms, something about speaking Shanghainese in Lujiazui being a mark of low-class because of the high concentration of non-Shanghainese that live and work there. From the post:

The article's publication lead to protests by the Shanghainese people. Even retired former national government leaders [*coughJiangZemin?cough* -Micah] expressed concern over the matter in a phone call to the Shanghai Municipal Committee Secretary Yu Zhengsheng. Yu himself gave the order to resolve the problem, and yesterday the Xinmin Evening Post convened a panel to discuss the issue, and also published an apology admitting that the essay "violated our relationship with the Shanghainese people."

At the Chinese Bloggercon in Guangzhou last November, I sat down to lunch one day with my frequent acquaintance at these tech events, Aether from Tudou. One of the people at the table was a stocky, jovial guy with a quick wit and clearly respected by his tablemates. Impressed, I later found out from John Kennedy that this guy blogs under the name Hecaitou. Adding him to Google Reader, I've found him to be one of the Chinese language weblogs to which I look forward to slogging my way through each new post. Take a look; today he has an insightful piece into one facet of the current crackdown on online content:

It's like the guy who got 20 years of hard labor in Xinjiang for "dirty dancing" in the 1980s. Today when he gets out he sees all the "saunas" and "KTVs" and all he can do is let out a long sigh: Fuckin' A, nowadays prostitution gets you a fine of a few thousand; me, I did a dance and got 20 years.

Poor Charlotte

(Back story: This week I am renewing my work visa, and since Charlotte is my dependent she had to have her picture taken to apply along with me. I took her to the photo studio three times, the third time bringing Mom along, before she would agree to take the picture. The first two times she fought and screamed her way out, and the third time took a lot of coaxing, pleading, and a candy from the photographer lady before she finally agreed to wipe the tears off and stand for a single photo. The above is a failed attempt from the third session. Then we went out for dinner at Jepsons (and get to stay in China another year), so it was all worth it.)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

5% Making Phone Calls, 30% Text Messaging, 65% Checking The Time

(From GraphJam, via Zawodny.)