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Archive for January, 2007

While living in Guatemala, before I came to Taiwan, I developed something of a cast-iron guy. Sure, I was sick, really sick, for the first month or so. But after that, it seemed like I could eat just about whatever I wanted to there and I didn’t get sick anymore. I tried not to drink the tap water, though I’m sure most of the ice I had there came from the tap, but I basically just ate the same stuff everyone else did. By the time I left, there was no way that wussy Taiwanese bacteria in the foods at the markets would get to me. Great, right? Well… not really.

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Here’s a Danwei video interview with the two founders of Antiwave, arguably China’s most influential podcast. “When I was a kid, my father used to tell me stories about the Japanese during the war. But history sometimes should just be left as history.”Pingke, a veteran of over a decade in the traditional radio business and Flypig, a popular blogger, explain how they created the Antiwave podcast to get around the traditional restrictions of the media. While they obviously still have to obey they law, they can say things and address topics that nobody in the traditional media would touch… such as the extreme anti-Japanese sentiments now so common in Chinese youth.

Steve Kaufmann, a well known polyglot, gives an English/Mandarin interview and talks about his experiences learning nine languages.

I’ve always liked Steve Kaufmann’s writing. He presents himself as a linguist only so far in as he is a language learner. He’s very down to earth, and makes good points about the importance of learning words in context.

David, turned up a surprisingly balanced article from the Taipei Times about learning Chinese in Taiwan. In the past, I’ve found most of that papers pieces about tourism or learning Chinese in Taiwan to be little more than advertisements, this one was long and pretty well thought-out.

Learning Chinese is hot, but you would hardly know it here in Taiwan, where many people want to speak English. From kindergarten to business school they believe it is the key to higher earnings. They may be right, but the gains of teaching the world to speak their own language have been relatively neglected and the government is scratching its head and wondering what to do about it.

Taipei Times: Chinese, if you please

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One of the primary disadvantages of buying produce at a traditional or farmer’s market instead of a grocery store chain is that foods from the market tend not to keep as long.

How long would you keep pre-cut fruit from the market in your fridge before eating it?

  • I'd eat it on the same day (52%, 13 Votes)
  • 2-3 days (28%, 7 Votes)
  • 4-7 days (12%, 3 Votes)
  • I don't go to "the market" (8%, 2 Votes)
  • more than a week (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 25

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Does the ability to write with a pen and paper matter? Apparently not, to quite a few Chinese as a second language learners. “Nobody really writes by hand anymore,” says one.

“Writing by hand is useless; I can just type everything at my computer,” explains another.

I disagree both arguments. While it is possible to get by without the ability to write by hand, it’s also possible to get by without learning Chinese at all. In fact, I know foreigners who have lived here for nearly two decades and who speak less Chinese than most students do after a single year. One of them was even my former boss. He got by just fine. The existence of people such as him is evidence that having fully functional language skills means something more than just being able to survive in a Chinese speaking city. Being fully functional in a language means using it to accomplish whatever daily tasks one chooses, not choosing daily activities based upon the limits of one’s language skills.

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WordPress 2.1 is out, and I’ve just installed it. It’s actually a much bigger update than I had realized. Here are the biggest changes I’ve noticed:

  • The visual editor is far better than it was before. You can also tab back and forth between the WYSIWYG editor and the code very easily.
  • There’s a spell checker built into the editor. For users of Firefox 2.0, this is superfluous, but for those living in the dark ages and still using IE, it’s a useful feature.
  • WP 2.1 autosaves drafts regularly.
  • Users can now arbitrarily chose any page to be their home page, and display a list of their posts on any other page. I personally spent hours figuring out how to code around the lack of this feature several months ago. Now, it’s easy.

This upgrade is a “must have”.  With it, WP is now more useful as a CMS than ever before. The full list of features is at

Last night, I went out to eat with some faux Italian food with some buddies, and Franc had an interesting surprise afterwards. He led us to a Duncan Donuts, which I hadn’t even realized existed in Taiwan. Unlike Mr. Donut and its disappointing Japanese imitations of doughnuts, these were the real deal. I hadn’t eaten a real US-style doughnut in four years, and so I could barely restrain myself. I managed to limit myself to a box of six. TC captured the moment perfectly:

Cinnamon Roll!!!Cinnamon Roll!!! Hosted on Zooomr

Photo by TC: I met up with such community luminaries

I devoured them, and between mouthfuls still felt the need to explain exactly how great they were. I don’t think I’ll be going often, but it sure was worth it go once.

Last spring, I wrote about an “awesome blog” I’d found. The writer, John B., was an American who had just moved from Hangzhou to Shanghai. He wrote about language learning, cultural observations, and a number of other topics. In particular, he had written an inspiring post about his goal of learning five languages, an amusing account of The perils of being a preschool teacher, and an interesting post about this picture. To top it off, the layout of the blog was phenomenal. I loved it. Less than two months later, he destroyed the entire thing.
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How does this video make you feel?