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I don’t know how many people follow this blog, but I have decided to create my own site and port everything over there.  You can find me now at www.gacorley.com, where I will have not only this blog, but hopefully in the future a bit more about myself put together over there.

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{In retrospect, it may not have been smart of me to post this.  I was acting on impulse after reading the Shanghai Shiok article.  I will leave it up, as it has already been linked from there, but in the future if I import this blog onto another site (something I have been wanting to do), I may leave this post out. The fact is, it was not appropriate for me to insert myself in this conversation the way I did, and this post has major potential to offend and to excuse exoticization and fetishization of Asian women. I apologize for posting it.}

Recently I read an excellent post at Shanghai Shiok talking about an Asian girl’s discomfort when she is in public with her white boyfriend, and it inspired me to talk about something personal.

Basically, to state it bluntly, I am attracted to Asian girls, especially Chinese girls.

Now, there are a variety of possible reader reactions.  Some will be totally supportive in a “Hell yeah” sort of way.  Others will say “So what?  Lots of young white American guys like Asians.”  Still others will have a negative reaction.  A few will say “you only like asians because they are obedient/easy/<insert ignorant stereotype here>”, while others will accuse me of being a “loser” who “can only get Asians”.  A few extreme Chinese nationalists might accuse me of trying to “steal our women” or somesuch.

Thankfully, I have not experienced much in the way of extreme negative reactions.  But nonetheless, I am not totally comfortable stating this preference (and of course there are plenty of cases where I shouldn’t).  I fear that people will hear it and automatically assume that I am a creepy loser who will never accomplish anything.  On the other end, saying it in certain circumstances I worry I might attract those few girls that fit the stereotypes — which I really don’t want — though on a higher level I know that they aren’t so common, and easy to avoid when they do come around.

My attraction is based on a mixture of physical traits common in East Asian populations (epicanthic folds, facial bone structure, skin tone, etc) and cultural fascination.  I have been learning Chinese for over three years, and studied abroad in China for a semester (and greatly enjoyed it — not only for the girls).  And yes, I did persue a few girls while in China, as well as back home.  Reactions varied, from cultural dissonance (“I’m to old for you” from someone only a year older) to the expected flat rejections.  A few girls that seemed somewhat interested rejected me for racially motivated reasons — not because they didn’t like white people, but because they were not sure if their parents would approve, or they feared the cultural differences would make it too difficult.  And of course, plenty of rejections had nothing to do with anything racial or ethnic at all, simply problems of distance, or “I just don’t like you” … stuff that a guy comfortable in relationships expects anyway.

While it does affect me when rejection comes from racial or ethnic reasons, really I get more uncomfortable with things totally outside the courtship issues.  Most friends are supportive, but I hear in media and through friends countless stories about white guys going after Asians because they are supposedly easy or submissive or have some dubious sexual quality.  I have seen other guys who are “into Asians” and compared myself to them, on a lower level maybe fearing that I was a little like some of the idiots and jerks among them.  There have also been times when I have made jokes about my own little preferences, to be shot down by a friend who worried I would offend people.

When it comes down to it, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my preferences.  I feel I have a healthy attitude.  I will not date an Asian girl simply because she is Asian.  I have to get to know her first, find some other connection before I really pursue.  And there are plenty of other things that attract me: geeky interests, ability to speak different languages, some physical traits that aren’t specific to East Asian populations.  If “Asian” were my only criterion, I would be simultaneously limiting myself and also opening myself up to trying to pursue an insane number of girls.  No, it’s something that makes me notice, but I do not completely exclude non-Asians from my interest, nor do I pursue every Asian girl I see romantically.  If merely having more interest in girls from one part of the world makes me racist or shallow, then it is what it is.  I can’t really change what attracts me.

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When you’re not able to practice a foreign language, it gets rusty. The best way to practice, of course, is to surround yourself with native speakers. I have always spent a good amount of time doing this, and it always takes some effort. Even when I was studying in China, it took a little push to get out of the foreign student bubble at the university, and now that I’ve been back in the States a while, I’ve had to put in even more effort.

Those efforts led me to discover the Morgantown Chinese C&MA Church (摩根城華人宣道會). Let me preface by saying that although I was raised in a traditional Methodist church, I am not a religious person. A friend of mine needed a ride to church, and I was curious about the place and how it might differ from other churches I have attended.  What I walked into was a very traditional service that could have occurred in the church I attended as a child, save for the fact that it was bilingual.

Most of the hymns I readily recognized, though I was not confident enough reading the Chinese lyrics (projected on a screen up front in traditional characters) to attempt to sing with the congregation.  The sermon itself wasn’t necessarily my kind, it was heavily reliant on an analysis of a fairly long scripture passage, meaning that the Chinese was somewhat difficult and the English translations felt a little boring.  Other than the formality of the affair, the only particularly “Chinese” thing I heard in it involved a part at the beginning where a Chinese emperor was quoted — unfortunately I have forgotten the quote.

Of course, there was also the inevitable reaction of the Chinese congregation to the only white person in the crowd.  I was immediately singled out to introduce myself as a new attendee, and did my best to introduce myself explain my reasons for being there in Mandarin.  Afterward quite a few of the congregation came to me specifically to compliment me on my Mandarin (“你的中文很好 / Your Chinese is very good” was heard a lot) and didn’t seem to mind that I was more interested in language practice than religion.  Of course, I couldn’t help showing off by trying to read the bulletin (mostly in Chinese), just as much as I couldn’t resist talking to the little kids in the congregation.

Will I be going back to that church?  I may.  Perhaps not every Sunday, but once in a while it may be fun.  The bottom line is that often you can find cultural experiences where you would never expect in — in little pockets near where you live.  Get out and try it.

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EDIT: Video (I forgot that wordpress.com doesn’t like YouTube embeds.)

I was waiting a while to see if English-language press would pick this up.  Unfortunately, the only news I am finding on my searches from English langauge sources involves another robot in Mexico.

The robot in the video, however, was developed by Cinestav (Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Avanzados / Center for Advanced Research and Study) in Guadalajara Mexico, and here’s the kicker (via Once TV):

La ligereza de su estructura y el bajo costo de su construcción lo hacen uno de los desarrollos más competitivos en el mundo. En él se han invertido apenas 100 mil dólares comparado con el millón y medio de dólares que han costado otros androides similares.

It’s light structure and low cost of construction makes it one of the most competitive developments in the world.  Only 100,000 dollars have been invested in it, compared to the one and a half million dollars that similar androids have cost.

And if you’re wondering why it’s just a tourso, don’t worry, they’re building the legs in Boston.

Another interesting thing is that the robot has an advanced learning capability, and it seem that it can even dream (via La Cronica de Hoy):

Su cerebro son dos computadoras conectadas a un servidor inalámbrico que serán las procesadoras de información del robot incluso cuando “duerma”. Al desconectar el robot, este cerebro artificial podrá refinar el equivalente a miles de redes neuronales, optimizar parámetros usando algoritmos geométricos y encontrar reglas de inferencia que almacenen la información útil que acumuló durante su actividad, crearle memoria.

Its brain is two computers connected to a wireless server that will process information even when the robot “sleeps”.  When the robot is disconnected, this artificial brain wil refine the equivalent of thousands of neural nets, optimize parameters using geometric algorithms and find rules of inference that store the useful information that it accumulated during it’s activity, creating memories.

Ok, this android may not be seeing images of electric sheep, but this is something like what our brains do when we sleep, and that makes us just a bit closer to building intelligent robots.  The plan, according to reports, is to improve the robot through several successive versions to develop robots ever more intelligent.  The engineers are already thinking of applications such as household servants and education.

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I listen to the Popup Chinese podcast feeds (for free, no I don’t have the money to pay for lessons) in order to get a little listening practice while I have no Chinese classes and don’t always have the time or persuasive power to get my Chinese friends to talk to me in Chinese.  The last elementary session brought up a vocabulary term that I have been wondering about for some time: 方便

方便 (fang4bian4) is a Chinese euphemism for using the toilet.  It’s literal meaning is “convenience”, and it is believed to be derived from translations of Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures, and that the use as a euphemism for our unpleasant excretions started among Buddhist monks.  What has confused me about this term is the way Chinese friends have reacted to it.  Here are the reactions I’ve gotten:

  1. pleasant surprise (the usual response when you use something Chinese don’t expect you to know about)
  2. saying it’s unnecessary (some prefer me to use the slightly cruder 上厕所)
  3. not nice enough (a few female friends have told me this, saying I shouldn’t even imply what I am doing)

As  I stated, #1 is pretty much expected.  Saying even a single word of Chinese will get praise from strangers, partly out of flattery and partly from surprise at seeing a white guy who speaks Chinese.  But #2 and #3 have always interested me.  It seems that in some cases, I’m being “too polite”, like someone who uses very bookish and sophisticated language while hanging at a friend’s house, while in other cases I end up feeling my friends seem a bit like uppity Victorians.  It seems a lot more complex than, say, when I decide to show off my vocabulary of curses (which almost invariably ends with people labeling certain terms as too vulgar or dangerous for a foreigner to use … EVER).  I wonder, if any Chinese are reading, how do you deal with 方便?  When is it appropriate, and when isn’t it?  When it’s not appropriate, what do you say instead?

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Ever since China unpegged the renminbi from the US dollar, it looks like people are tracking every miniscule movement in the currency.  Check out this AFP story (via the Hindu):

The People’s Bank of China said it set the central parity rate — the centre point of the currency’s allowed trading band — at 6.7890 to the dollar, a fraction stronger than Friday’s 6.7896. It was the strongest level policymakers have set since China un-pegged the currency in July 2005 and moved to a tightly managed floating exchange rate, but analysts said the move did not signify a major shift. In Monday trade, the yuan was weaker at around 6.7912 to the dollar.

Really?  I’m not an expert, maybe six ten-thousandths is more significant that I expect, but did it really need a story written on it (albeit a really short one)?  Particularly when your unnamed analysts are downplaying it?

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So, this is a bit old, took me a long time to get to it, but in addition to they’re ridiculous immigration law, Arizona has also been evaluating English teachers by their accents.  Language Log has a pretty good article about it.  For me it basically boils down to this:  These teachers already have certification of their English fluency, and English is very wide-ranging in terms of differing dialects and native accents, including having several different standards for different countries that a certain amount of foreign accent isn’t that far from the norm.  Not only that, the same teachers being targeted because of foreign accents may speak the native language of the ESL students they teach, which can benefit their learning.  They shouldn’t be discriminated against because they have not 100% internalized the phonology of some native variety of English.

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