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It’s been a long, long time since I’ve written anything here. Part of the reason is that I’ve made some fairly big changes. I moved away from Taiwan, where I’ve spent half my adult life, and I’ve moved on from EFL. When I first started this blog back in 2005, one motivation was to keep in touch with friends and family back home, but it also served as an outlet for my interests of learning Chinese and teaching English to others.

Why I stopped

I’m not teaching English anymore. My former students meant very much to me and I’d love to hear of their progress from time to time, but I don’t have the same passion for teaching that I did 3 years ago. Similarly, I’m not so as interested in studying Mandarin as I was before. I’m still interested in languages in general, but it’s way more exciting for me to learn a few phrases in a language I don’t speak everyday, like Swedish or Cantonese, than it is to study more Mandarin. I’m not in Taiwan anymore either, and a large chunk of this blog has been about living in Taiwan. I miss a lot of things and a lot of people in Taiwan, but it’s not home anymore.

Another reason I stopped blogging is that I’ve been weighing the upsides and downsides of having an online presence. On one hand, the vast majority of the contact I’ve had with others through the internet has been good. I’ve even made some good friends through this blog. On the other hand, there are a few truly nasty people and it only takes one to ruin my mood! Beyond them, there are a lot of people with various axes to grind that just get tiring to deal with. Worst of all, I noticed that arguing with people online has a tendency of locking me into whatever views I hold at that time, potentially retarding my personal growth.

I never made a conscious decision not to blog… I just started writing more an more in my paper journal. This was good in some ways. I’ve been more comfortable writing things I wouldn’t necessarily want on a fairly high-traffic website. One example was a dream journal. I’ve been fascinated in Lucid Dreaming ever since high school. Keeping a daily log of dreams is a basic tool in lucid dreaming, but it’s not necessarily the sort of thing that others would get much value out of reading. As I wrote more and more that wasn’t appropriate for toshuo.com and got busy with other things, weeks became months and now it’s been nearly an entire year.

Why I’m resuming

Despite its drawbacks, writing online is worth it for me. I organize my thoughts more clearly when other people will be reading them than I do in my paper journal. People drawn to what I write are self-selected and often have something to offer me in return. Some of the most interesting ideas I’ve encountered for language learning (and learning in general) were due to John‘s various now defunct blogs. In personal terms and even in professional terms, the good has far outweighed the bad.

Also, while I’m not in Taiwan and I’m not teaching EFL anymore… I am still me. I’m living in Beijing and I’m working at a tech start-up which has built the largest platform for educational iPhone/iPad apps. So there is some continuity. Even if I were to move to California or enter an entirely different career, I expect that an interest in technology and a love of education will still be a very important part of me.

Posting older journal pieces

I may post some of my paper journal entries here. My initial struggles adapting to standard PRC Mandarin, my visa run to Mongolia, my thoughts about Taiwan after leaving and a bunch of other entries fit the site well. If I do that, I’ll probably post them, and then after a week or so, update the date of the entries to the true date of when I wrote them.

I’ve decided to move my investing writing off of this blog. I’m still investing, despite the pat few rough months and I’m still beating the market over the long haul. I may also share some of my ideas about investing, but the personal portfolio may have to come down. It’s just too much of a hassle calculating my returns and updating my portfolio in so many different places at once, especially since investing is a topic a bit outside of most of this blog’s readers sphere of interest.

I’ll leave everything here for a week or so, so that anyone who wants to read it can, but most of the investing updates will come down.

My one “classic” investing piece, the first one I did on this blog, will stay.

Baidu- Valuations and Verse

clean

It’s already time consuming to calculate annualized returns, but presenting them has taken me far more time than I can afford to spend. Creating HTML tables and populating them with my investment data just sucks. It’s not so bad when presenting the results of a single sale. An update of my entire portfolio, is a different matter.

So, starting now, I’ll be relying on the charts generated by Stockalicious. Here’s one that compares my portfolio performance over the last year to that of the NASDAQ and the SP500.

A rough year
As Investor Blogger pointed out, I’ve been “treading water”. It’s true. The Toshuo Portfolio has fallen by about 3% over the last year. The market as a whole, though, has suffered far worse. Over the same time period, the SP500 and NASDAQ each fell by over 20%.

Yeah, I've crushed the market!

The two-year chart is much more dramatic– 60% growth for the Toshuo Port while the market indexes were in the negative.

In the future, I plan to use Stockalicious to do portfolio recaps. It saves quite a bit of time, and takes care off all the error-prone calculations for us.

I’ve decided to start recycling older entries on this site. I don’t know too many people doing that, but there are a few reasons I find the idea appealing.

When I started writing on this site, I had a lot of things I wanted to write about, many of them already written in paper journals. There was a steady supply of things to write about, and I had a fair amount of time in which to write it. Now, though, things are different.

This blog already has nearly five hundred entries, some of which have been useful to me or interesting to my friends, but others which haven’t. Still other entries were very useful, but have limited shelf-life. It only makes sense to update them. I may be able to improve them, too.

Hackers may have taken it down for a while, but the Taiwan Blog Feed is redesigned and up again!

I have no idea why it was under such a brutal attack. I added any sites which met the criteria of being about Taiwan, teaching English or learning Chinese, and promptly removed anyone who asked to be. On top of that the site was entirely non-commercial, with no self-serving purpose what-so-ever. Nonetheless, it was under constant bombardment; perhaps some Chinese activist was upset at all the political blogs being aggregated, but it seems unlikely. In any case, it was pretty clear that the attacker had a Drupal kit. I upgraded the site to the newest version of Drupal in order to close some of its security holes, but that broke half the add-ons I had used to make the site.

So, I’ve moved the Taiwan Blog Feed to wordpress, which I’m much more familiar with. It should be easier for me to keep on top of maintaining the site now, too. People can’t add their sites anymore. Just leave me a comment if you want a particular site added (or if you’re the author and you want it removed).

This is a demonstration of David‘s new Adsotrans plugin. Below is a copy of 85度C’s drink menu. Click on any Chinese words you can’t read to see a popup with both pinyin and an English translation. You can also edit translations. I’m interested in hearing how you like these popups compared to those previously on my blog. Unfortunately, while this plugin is installed, my old pop-ups will be broken. There’s one on my Chinese blog to see for comparison, though. Hover your mouse over the English words in this post.

冰咖啡

招牌冰咖啡
美式冰咖啡
冰巧克力牛奶
冰拿鐵
冰卡布奇諾
冰摩卡可可
冰焦糖瑪琪朵
冰法式榛果拿鐵
冰法式焦糖拿鐵

熱咖啡

招牌熱咖啡 美式熱咖啡
熱巧克力牛奶
熱拿鐵 
熱卡布奇諾
熱摩卡可可
熱焦糖瑪琪朵
熱法式榛果拿鐵
熱法式焦糖拿鐵

冰茶

烏龍煎茶
茉莉鮮綠茶
大吉嶺紅茶
蔓香梅果釀
多多綠茶
梅果綠茶
葡萄柚綠茶
韓式柚子茶
健康梅果醋
檸檬梅子
鮮桔茶

熱茶

烏龍煎茶
茉莉鮮綠茶
大吉嶺紅茶
梅果綠茶
韓式柚子茶
檸檬梅子
鮮桔茶

冰奶茶

英式奶茶
布丁奶茶
杏仁牛奶
鮮奶茶
阿華田

熱奶茶

英式奶茶
布丁奶茶
杏仁牛奶
鮮奶茶
阿華田

冰沙

芒果雪泥
卡布冰沙
拿鐵冰沙
摩卡冰沙
黑炫冰沙
香橙抹茶冰沙

What do you think of the adsotrans plugin? What would you change if you could?

Note: Todd’s got this drink menu up on his blog (where I found it). It’s straight text, and it’s not undergoing constant revisions!

This web site may be near its end. My US bank was recently bought out by ING Direct, they closed the accounts of all their customers living abroad. That leaves me without a debit card. Unfortunately, even after living in Taiwan for five years, I still haven’t found a local bank willing to give me one. I made a very exhaustive search in 2003, and then again in 2005 and came up with no success. Automatic refusal of all foreigners, including long term residents seems to be the norm.

I asked my current banks again. Taishin and Huanan refused me outright, while Fubon gave me a card specially crippled for foreigners, to prevent us from buying things online. I don’t really have the energy to check with a dozen banks again, especially since all evidence points to them being just as discriminatory as they were two years ago. Maybe I’ll look for a US bank that will serve international customers, but it will take a while.

For now, no debit card means no way to buy books online, no way to buy Skype credit, no way to order stuff, and most significantly, no way to pay for my web hosting. I’m not quite sure when Dreamhost will try to charge me for this month, but when they do, the site will go down. The same goes for everyone else I’ve been sharing hosting with. Such is life.

Related Posts:
No Debit Card for Round-eye
Denied Banking (frostfox.com)
First Full Day in Shanghai

Update: If you’re a foreigner and want to be able to get a debit card, try calling the government help number at 0800-024-111 and telling them so. They were the ones who ended up helping me find a way for a couple of my friends here to get phone lines (without a local to sign for them), but when I asked about debit cards, they said that it wasn’t an issue for many foreigners.

I wasn’t kidding when I said I liked the new dictionary at labs.chinesepod.com. After getting used to using it all the time via the search bookmark I made last week, I started wondering why I still had the MDBG searchbar up on my page.

After I quick consultation with David (CPod’s CTO), I had my answer. There wasn’t a searchbar for CPod’s uber-adsotated dictionary with audio recordings. So I decided to be bold and make one. You can see it in context in the picture below, and it’s now a part of toshuo.com’s sidebar. I’ve already run this by David, and if anyone would like to copy and distribute the image or the code to make the searchbar, go ahead!

My searchbar for the new Chinese Pod dictionary

Here’s the code:

<!-- CPod Dictionary Search -->
<div id="cdict">

<form method="get" action="http://labs.chinesepod.com/" target="_blank">
<div style="border: 1px solid rgb(192, 192, 192); padding: 0px 3px 5px;
background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); width: 200px; text-align: center;">
<a href="http://labs.chinesepod.com/dictionary"target="_blank">
<img alt="Chinese Pod Chinese-English dictionary" src="labsdict.png"
title="Chinese Pod Chinese-English dictionary" border="0"/>
<input value="node/4" name="q" type="hidden"/>
<div style="clear: both;"></div>
The Dictionary<input name="search" size="26" value="" onclick="this.focus();
 this.value='';" type="text"/></div></form>

</div><!--End Dictionary-->

And here’s the image (which you’ll have to upload to your blog host):

I have no design skills! If anyone can improve upon the look of the searchbar, I’m sure people would appreciate it.

For the first time in a few weeks, I have a little bit of free-time, and I don’t feel like going outside, either. Typhoons have that effect on me.

I’ve been thinking about pruning my blog. This blog is a mish-mash of personal entries, ideas I’ve been thinking about, news, and other things. Some posts are more transient than others. Posts such as NY Teacher of the Year Against School or Geeky, but Efficient: Firefox Tweaks are just as relevant now as they were when I wrote them. Others, such as iDrone isn’t dead, are completely useless (especially considering that iDrone is dead).

A part of me resists the idea of deleting anything, but a louder voice tells me that sometimes more is less. I’m not sure how extensive it will be, but the pruning begins soon!