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Blogs & Columns
21
Jul
2010
Studying Chinese: Tired? E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Bro Fan
Alright. All of us here are well-aware just how loquacious the average Xi'an cabbie can be, certainly far more aware of that, than the correct spelling of loquacious. He’s no doubt the first guy you had your real didao Chinese conversation with - aside from your teacher of course, who has already gone through 40 years of having us dim-witted foreigners asking the same basic questions after completing unit 3.

I tell you, there’s a limit of just how busy or tired someone can be. But upon starting to learn the lingo here, ni mang ma? ni lei ma? are drilled into you as if this was your key to the conversational elite that overpopulate this country. That, I guess, or Chinese people are constantly tired, or busy, or both, like a monolithic pillar of cultural understanding. Or perhaps they just have great comeback lines to those questions that you never really appreciate, simply because you don’t have a bloody clue what anyone’s saying to you. Imagine, all that scything wit going to waste. Frittered away on the ears of another laowai obsessed with what I’m doing, or whether I want to drink tea.

 
13
Jul
2010
Crap, just crap. E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Bro Fan
CCTV 9 is hands down the biggest pile of crap on TV, anywhere. China Central Television boasts like 15 different channels, rather originally named CCTV 1, CCTV 2, CCTV 3 and so on, until you get to 12. After this, other handles are used, probably because everyone forgot what they were before, plus the fact that no-one could stand watching the rest of them to check what number they actually managed to get up to.

They are all, without exception, rubbish. As a result, my obscenely large television here at home is nourished almost entirely on a diet of pirated DVDs, plus the odd CD, if I can stand being in the same rooms as the accompanying bright blue screen when it is playing. Should lethargy have overcome me entirely, and I find myself in the unfortunate situation of eating my Teriyaki Chicken on the sofa alone, with no energy left to trudge to the DVD walk-in library, I might give the box in the corner a run for its money, and allow one final chance to redeem itself from the nadir of my criticisms.

 
09
Jul
2010
Navigating Crowds E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Mary Higgins
Have you ever seen one of those little robotic floor sweepers? It looks like a tiny UFO that drives around your floor and sweeps up whatever gets in the way. When you first unleash the robo-vac on your place, it has no idea about anything and it knows only to move in straight lines.  If it bumps into something then it changes course and continues again in a straight line until it yet again bumps into something else.

A good one of these machines is supposed to create a map of your floorplan and get used to the location of items…I guess.  This machine essentially works on the premise that it will bump into things and it’s only solution is to wait for the unavoidable and make a course correction afterwards. The Chinese are understandably upset because they have not been properly credited with the development of this machine artificial intelligence that they so obviously created thousands of years ago.  If you change the word “robo-vac” to “ person” then you are left with a pretty good description of crowd navigation in China.  It’s amazing. You would think that being surrounded by over a billion of your fellow countrymen would, over time, necessitate the evolutionary development of some sort of proximity detector. 

 
08
Jul
2010
The Healthy Department E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by David A. Dayton
I spent part of last weekend helping translate for a friend who was in the emergency room of a local hospital. Probably more scary to me than being sick in China is being taken to a hospital in China. My father was a doctor in a small town (the only OBGYN in a couple of counties) so I spent probably weeks of my childhood in the lobbies and waiting rooms of hospital rooms waiting for him to deliver babies so we could get on with whatever family activity was being postponed.

(I also endured many many embarrassing comments by girls in highschool who had been to my father’s office.) Yet even in a small town hospital I never saw blood (or dirt or urine) on the walls or garbage on the floors. Nor did I ever remember complaining about how putrid the bathrooms were; because they weren’t. I never got infected with something from someone else in the hospital or from unclean instruments - I never knew of anyone else who did either.

 
11
Jun
2010
Western Media on China E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by David A. Dayton
Apple Admits Child labour was Used to Build iPods and iPhones in Chinese Factories.This is at best an (educated) guess but at worse a lie - Apple did not admit this. From the article: The exact location of the factories has not been identified. Apple has factories which supply parts in Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, the U. S., the Czech Republic, Malaysia and the Philippines, but most of its products are assembled in China.

Why does this article lead with China? Why not the US? Or Taiwan or Thailand? Not sexy enough? Not “threatening" enough? Just another example of media bias that I talk about below. Now we may find out that later on that this is all true. Wouldn’t surprise me. And since most of their products are made in China, odds are it is true. But we don’t know for sure yet–so how can you lead with that? ! Yes, the article points out specifically that in CHINA there were cases of underpayment and chemical poisonings. But we do NOT know if China used underage workers at this point. Of course ‘using kids’ sounds really evil, and we need a new villain so that’s the lead in.

 
06
Jun
2010
Daily Horror E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Bro Fan
Just what kind of freakshows live in my building? Every day, the office toilets on my floor are reduced from a gleaming shrine to the wonders of bleach to a pit of filth by around 4pm. Just what exactly are people doing in there? The people I see striding down the corridors are respectably-attired folk, but it seems as soon as they enter the public domain and relieve themselves, all hell is unleashed. I have just come back now and there’s footprints on the toilet seat. What is this? A bit of adventure and acrobatics between meetings?

Last week someone had been cutting his hair at the sink - not that I have anything wrong with a spot of coiffing of course - but it might have been nice had he decided to dispose of his unwanted hair instead of distributing it liberally around the (rather small) facilities.

 
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