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?

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.

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 It’s a product of outdated, Cold War era “red menace” thinking.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).

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.

Recently I have been working for the 2010 Census as an Enumerator.  That sounds like a fancy title, but really what I do is not so glamorous, I’m the guy who goes around door-to-door, finding people who haven’t turned in their forms, as well as a couple other things.  While federal privacy laws prevent me from going into too much detail about respondents, I hope it will suffice to say that I have met all kinds of people doing this.  Old people, young people, people from other countries, people out in the sticks, etc.  I have also encountered different attitudes toward the Census.  Most people are very cooperative and understand that it’s just something that has to be done.  Others are curious about the Census.  A few others are snarky, but ultimately cooperative.  And then there is on occasion that one person that is afraid of the government, or just doesn’t like people coming to their home, and get a little combative.

I may be slightly late in saying this, but to all those who might be getting a visit from a Census taker, keep this in mind: Almost all of the people out there giving the surveys are temporary workers like myself.  What does that mean?  Well, it means that practically all of us are new to the job, at most having worked a little more than a month at it.  Because of this, you might get someone who insists on doing everything strictly by the book, with no time for argument or small talk.  Or you might get someone who tends to forget pencils or information sheets and has to run to their car.  Or you may just run into someone who got lost and needs help finding their next address.  In any case, when a Census person comes to the door, please try to be understanding.  Hopefully, if they are doing things anywhere close to right, the Enumerator will be in and out in ten minutes and you will never see them again.  Whatever you feel about the Census, to these people it’s a job, and they want to get it over and done with as much as you do.

I’m not asking for any extra hospitality.  If I come to your door, you don’t have to invite me in, you don’t even have to come out the door.  Just take a few minutes to answer some questions and I’ll be on my way.

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:


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:


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.

… 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.