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Archive for the ‘Lost in My Mind’ Category

XKCD’s latest comic caught my interest.  They decided to round up some random “Americans” and draw a map of the world as they saw it.  The map, it turns out, is not so bad:

World According to Americans

As a result, I decided I would test my own knowledge by looking for some obvious errors (looking beyond some of the gross simplifications, of course), without looking at Wikipedia or any other source outside my brain.  Here goes, feel free to join in;

1) China is the wrong shape, there should be another bit extending up beside the western border of Mongolia.

2) On a related issue, Tibet is actually much further south.  the area depicted looks to be a portion of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (aka Xinjiang), the other part being the missing bit I mentioned above.

3) OK, yes this is a simplification, but they pointed out Ireland without highlighting the region of Northern Ireland (which is actually part of the UK).

4) Hawai’i (and pretty much the entire Pacific Ocean) is omitted, probably because the artist failed to provide space on the paper for it.

5) I think Algeria has a coast, meaning that it would be wrong on this map.  Unfortunately, Africa is about as much a black hole for me as it is for these guys, so I can’t be sure on that one.

6) Russia seems a bit too large, maybe some of those borders reflect former Soviet territory that is not part of the Russian Federation.  Not entirely sure on this one, though.

… going further would get into nitpicking about regions I know fairly well and redrawing some of the vaguely hashed-out regions, and quibbling about some scale issues (I think Japan’s island chain is longer than that), and a couple nomenclature issues (Taiwan and the Republic of China “complications”, many scholars would have the “Middle East” include more of northern Africa).  On my own, I could probably fill in the South American map with a good degree of importance (and maybe a *little* finer detail on language by naming some major American Indian languages), and I would probably be able to hash in several more countries in the other regions, and probably work in several provinces, autonomous regions, and major cities of China.  If I blew up the map big I could roughly fill in the autonomous communities of Spain as well, but that’s just going too far for this excercise.

I think the big thing to take away from this would be: Unless you make world maps for a living, you probably can’t possibly draw a perfect map of the world with every country in place.  Most of the places I could improve here are regions or countries I have studied fairly in-depth and/or travelled to.   All told it seems that at least this group of Americans, as XKCD mentioned, is pretty good at world geography, coming right off the top of their heads.  That said, feel free to geek out explaining how they totally screwed up your favorite country/region 😛

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Every so often you have one of those dreams that you wish to share with people immediately.  Last night I had a dream that I was going to see an old friend from China.  Oddly, though within the dream this friend, a woman in her fifties or sixties who had endured several divorces and moves around China, was very familiar to me, when I woke up I realized that she and her family were entirely fictional.  Not that uncommon in a dream, I guess, but it was surprising.

Getting on with the story, when I arrived to meet her I found her standing outside a room where a wedding was going on.  Apparently her daughter was getting married and with her father unavailable, I was asked to escort her.  Everything proceeded as normal, with an appropriate nervousness on my part, until the question “Who gives away this bride?” (or however it was phrased) was asked (in English).  For some reason, I had three responses in mind, in Chinese: “她妈妈” (“Her mother.” Would’ve worked I guess), “她妈妈和我” (“Her mother and I.” Translation of a familiar usage, but awkward in context.), and finally “我” (“I/me.”  Extremely awkward under the circumstances.)  Only after I woke up did I realize that it would probably be best not to say anything in that situation, letting the mother take that particular formality.

Luckily, that was apparently not the actual wedding, just a rehersal, so I wasn’t entirely put on the spot.  I guess my subconscious was trying to save itself some embarrassment.  In any case, I had a conversation with a few people that I was feeling uncomfortable with the responsibility and wanted to bow out, but my own mother (my whole family was suddenly there) convinced me to go ahead with it, citing that one relative had already addressed the groom as “princess” and there’s no possibility that I could cause any more embarrassment than that.  I have no idea where such a “princess” comment would come from, by the way.  If it happened in real life, I’m sure Alzheimer’s would be involved.

I never saw the conclusion to the story, as I woke up before the actual wedding started.  Maybe it’s better that way, as although the pastor was one from my past church, I am sure that there would be some parts of the ceremony in Chinese, and since I’m not familiar with Chinese weddings, any lines my subconscious would generate would almost certainly be flawed or even entirely wrong.  I’m sure the story would have turned out alright, though.  In any case, that was my dream, and if you read all the way through, thank you for your indulgence… and your boredom.

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Image from Wikipedia*

So, the remake of Red Dawn has been in the news recently, and from what I’ve heard of it, I have a feeling I won’t be going to see it.   Why?  There’s several reasons floating around that might make it not such a palatable movie, especially for people interested in China:

  1. It is steeped in American nationalist mythology and propaganda
  2. It appeals to xenophobic attitudes toward China
  3. It’s a product of outdated, Cold War era “red menace” thinking.

And all of those reasons have an influence on me, but my main reason for not being so interested is this:  The major premise is so contrived and ridiculous that I would find it difficult to maintain suspension of disbelief.

Why would China invade the US, which is probably at this point it’s most important economic partner?  What possible interest would they have that would override keeping us stable?  And would they really be able to take a US city without some serious resistance from our military?  It just seems ridiculous that an event like that could occur in the current political climate.  From what I’ve picked up through searching around (warning: spoilers), there are a series of very unlikely events that lead to the attack, chief among them being a deployment of US troops to Taiwan.

Now, on a note of fairness, I have never seen the original 1984 film (it came out before I was born), so I don’t know what the source material was like.  But seeing what I see of it, I don’t think I’ll be seeing this in a theater.  If I go for it at all, I’ll wait and rent it on DVD or find it on TV.  Anyway, here are a couple places to find info on the film, including more reasons not to watch it.

  • Official Movie Site: Not much going on here, yet
  • Red Dawn 2010:  An unofficial site with some news and fan-made content
  • Daily Finance: A good overview of some of the criticisms and the plot points of the movie.
  • The Awl (via Evan Osnos):  This Article actually launches into a lot of broader topics.  Though I do feel at times the author reached a little too far in attempts to dig up more xenophobia, it’s worth clicking to see some rather bizarre little snippets of the script.
  • People’s Daily: The expected response from Chinese media.  In this case I think it’s … partly justified.  Not entirely I’m sure

*Small note:  I’m really curious as to why the star has 八一 (eight-one) inside it. EDIT: Carl on the sofa told me that August first commemorates the founding of the People’s Liberation Army (August 1, 1927 to be exact, the date of the Nanchang Uprising).

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This message slightly frightens me: Spam Message: Chen Shui-bian Why does it worry me?  It’s not like I’m the only one whose gotten this message.  Far from it. What interest me, and forgive me for not doing the research, is that the names dropped suggest that the spammer has some idea who I am and what I’m interested in. Chen Shui-bian is the former president of Taiwan who was imprisoned last year for corruption.  Since I read Chinese and am interested in Taiwan, I knew this and it made sense to me that Chen might have some money he might want to be willing to get rid of.  I wonder if this spammer somehow has access to some information about my browsing habit.

Eh, probably just one of those rare clever spam attacks that actually has some intelligence behind it.  I doubt they’re targeting anyone in particular.

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There is an urban legent that the Chevy Nova had to change it’s name in Mexico because it could be interpreted as “no va”.  it’s a cute story, but it’s false.

Now, apparently there is a little claim going around that Bing, the brand name of Microsoft’s search engine in fact sounds like the word for “disease”.  And this is based on what?  A fortune cookie. Of course, the fortune cookie is right in this case (they usually aren’t bad, but never take them seriously), there is a character 病 that is pronounced bìng* and means “disease.”  However, one thing that you can always count on in Chinese, especially with single-character words, is that there are homophones and near-homophones that are just as likely.  Lots of them:

binginchinese

What matters is what characters you use to transliterate it.  It should be noted that Google could have been transliterated to mean “skeleton”, but the company wisely found a couple characters that could loosely mean something like “valley song” (in other words, a nonsense phrase with non-offensive characters).

Of course, Microsoft seems to just want to dodge it altogether.  Their China site has no transliteration of their name, just the name in Latin characters:

bingchinapage

Not sure if what the deal is there.  Maybe they expect Chinese people to pronounce it as pinyin and be done with it (ok for mainlanders, but what about Taiwanese people who don’t learn pinyin in school?)  In any case, if Microsoft has any Chinese speakers in their marketing staff, I’m sure they will never, ever brand themselves as “disease”.  Some nasty netizen might make fun of their name, but I don’t think there’s much chance of avoiding that in Chinese.

*the pronunciation may or may not be the same as various English realizations of <Bing> but I won’t get into that right now.

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… and moved into Hong Kong.

I haven’t posted anything for a while, but while I still get a little trickle of views I thought I’d finally follow up on something I covered a while back.  I’ve been following the Google China news and as of yesterday, Google officially left its China offices and redirected google.cn to a simplified-character version of google.com.hk.  The theory was that since Hong Kong has uncensored Internet, they would be able to provide uncensored search from their Hong Kong servers.  That is, until they get blocked, and they apparently already have — at least selectively.

News hype has been pretty big up to this point, and there was a popular response: a group of Chinese netizens put up an open letter (Chinese) to the government asking to have a say in the case (English translation here).  Anyway, this topic is already being discussed everywhere, so here’s a few links I’ve rounded up on the matter:

Anyone in mainland China reading this, have you had any issues with Google in the mainland so far?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.

UPDATE: ChinaSMACK has some translated netizen reactions from various Chinese forums.

UPDATE 2: The BBC has a short write up on some anti-Google Chinese reactions, slightly unclear though.  Also, Han Han (韩寒, a famous Chinese writer and blogger) has something about it in his latest post:

事实上,无论谷歌是做这个决定的真正原因是什么,在展现给公众的说法上,谷歌有一个失策,谷歌说,他不想再接受敏感内容的审核了。注意,这里说的敏感内容 其实不是指情色内容, , , 这里所谓的敏感内容只是指不利于政府利益的内容。但是所谓的开放所有审查结果,现实的中国人有多少人在乎呢?这在正常的国家可以感动国人的理由,在中国看似不太管用。

Actually, it doesn’t matter what the real reason for Google’s decision is.  According to the theory that is coming out publicly, Google made a miscalculation, they no longer want to have to censor senitive content.  Note, “sensitive content” is not a reference to pornographic content…  This so-called “sensitive content” is content that does not benifit the government’s interest. But as to this so-called opening-up of all these censored results, how many real Chinese people care?  In an ordinary country this could move the reason of that countries people, but in China it doesn’t seem to be very effective.

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Yesterday, I took part in the Coffee Party‘s national event.  Our event was small, mostly just my own family (it was all arranged by my brother, Burr Corley)  but it was a pretty good discussion.  Everyone there seemed to feel that health care and the economy were the biggest issues we need to tackle in this country.  I feel the same way, and I also feel that in the current political climate, the Coffee Party seems to be exactly the right response — a pragmatic group that wishes to work with our government, however imperfect, to find real solutions.

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