Thursday, November 22, 2007

All our orderers are fulfilled!

I estimate that I receive at least a dozen spam emails per day. Normally, I open up the spam folder and scan the list of senders before I empty it, just to make sure a legit email didn't get sent there. I also like to skim the subject lines because they provide some light humor.

Based on the 32 spam messages that I received over the past 48 hours, I've discovered the following:

  42% of the senders feel that my penis is too small (how did they know?!). They guarantee that I can "make her grin with a larger male organ."

  29% are confirming my online prescription order. I must have ordered Alzheimer's medication, because I don't recall placing any orders.

  23% are sharing their passwords with me for porn sites. I figure these folks must have spoken with the 42% above and decided that, with my shameful dimensions, I'm constantly dateless and hence in excessive need for porn.

  6% are anxious to give me hot tips on stocks and "the finest Replica watches."

Out of curiosity, I opened one of the emails offering me a free porn password:

Of course, these people who claim to know such intimate details of my life--like my substandard wiener--should know that I judge the quality of porn sites by their adherence to standard rules of English grammar. I mean, c'mon!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Damn computer, and a couple of books

Yeah, well, my PC blew up again last month, hence no blog entries for awhile. It's still in the shop, so I'm writing this from school. I'm hoping to have enough money to buy myself a laptop before I leave for SF in January, but with Christmas coming up, I seriously doubt it.

Now that I'm sans computer I have more time to read. Since I hadn't read a novel in quite awhile, I went to Borders the other day to see what would catch my interest. It took great self-control to pull myself away from the language reference section (do I really need another book on Sanskrit morphology?)

I ended up buying
The Best Little Boy In The World by Andrew Tobias aka John Reid. I devoured it in one day. I found myself relating to so many of the thoughts and feelings Tobias had as a child and teenager. Although some critics dislike his ego, I admired his honesty, which, for me, solidified the credibility of his story. These same critics must have missed Tobias' many self-deprecating references to his feelings of self-importance.

While perusing the shelves at Borders, I realized that, as someone who hopes to be teaching English overseas very soon, I was completely unfamiliar with Shakespeare's works. I figured I should have at least a basic familiarity with the person popularly regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. My only exposure to The Bard was in 10th grade when my English class was forced to read Julius Caesar. Remembering the indigestion that 16th Century English caused me back then, I opted to get one of those "Shakespeare Made Easy" books, where the original language appears side-by-side with a modern translation. Because I'm a beginner, I figured that comedy would be more palatable than heavy drama or tragedy. I decided on Twelfth Night.

I finished reading the play last night, and yes, I did enjoy it. Although I managed to read the original English, I had to turn to the modern version after every few lines to truly understand what was going on. Yet, I'm glad that I got to see the original also, because there were many instances where the full effect of Shakespeare's clever use of language was apparent only in the original.

I'm still plugging away at Chinese. After a couple of months, I'm finally gritting my teeth and tackling the written language along with spoken. So far I know about 40 characters. I can recognize the meaning of others, from my one year of Japanese, but that doesn't help me with the pronunciation. My goal is to know enough phrases and written words to survive somewhat at the beginning. I know that I won't really improve until I'm in Taiwan and forced to speak.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Across The Universe

I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie today. It looks to be a sort of cross between Moulin Rouge (the musical aspect) and Forrest Gump (the historical aspect), set to Beatles music. I'm a sucker for musicals (last one I saw was Hairspray, which I loved) and cool visuals. Although I don't put too much stock in professional movie reviewers, I probably disagree the least often with Roger Ebert, and he gave the film 4 stars.

I had originally hoped to dress up in my Geisha Halloween costume and go out tonight, but there's not really too much happening tonight in Humboldt County, as least not much that's of interest to me. Yesterday my math teacher informed the class that we could earn 5 extra credit points if we show up to our test on Wednesday in costume. I haven't decided yet if I'm brave enough to show up at school dolled up in Japanese finery.

PS: I'm continuing with my Chinese studies. I don't sit at the computer and do the exercises each day, but I do practice listening and speaking each day while in the car. My ear is getting more attuned to differentiating between tones, so I'm excited to see some progress.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Potato bugs

I recently did a presentation in my speech class on the topic "Ugly Bugs." I was inspired by my instructor who had shared her fear of caterpillars with us. Her confession reminded me of my own phobia of the darling creature you see to the left. This is the Jerusalem Cricket, or more commonly called "Potato Bug" on the West Coast. I hoped that doing this speech--which was a visual aid speech to boot--would provide some sort of therapy for me to overcome my irrational fear of these disgusting, horrific, useless bugs.

I grew up in Southern California where potato bugs are common. I've feared these insects for as long as I can remember. My mom was also terrified of them, so perhaps it's hereditary. I killed them the moment I saw them--well, at least right after I recovered from the initial shock of stumbling upon one. My potato bug murdering spree (I prefer to use the term "saving humanity") usually involved a shovel or nearby brick, as I could not bring myself to actually step on one. I had tried that once, but discovered that whatever the thickness of shoe or boot, the sickening crunch of the creature's exoskeleton along with the resulting goosh of its innards was too much for me to bear. Nowadays, being older and more mature, I have a neighbor child kill the beast and dispose of the remains, while I cower inside a corner of the house.

Actually, doing research on this insect taught me that Jerusalem Crickets are shy and are basically harmless to humans, being neither poisonous nor predatory. They prefer to keep to themselves, staying underground and chewing up dead plant material, thereby helping in composting and aerating the soil.
You can even hold them (shudder), but if you frighten them they may bite you with their powerful mandibles.

I found out that my sister-in-law, when she was a kid, used to play with potato bugs and pretended they were baby dolls for her Barbies. Such an odd child.

I ended my speech by avowing that the next time I saw a potato bug, I wouldn’t automatically kill it (or, more likely, hire an assassin), but I would let it be, remembering its usefulness, and realizing that it’s more afraid of me than I am of it. Yeah, right.

For more information about potato bugs (I feel like an announcer for a PBS special) visit I'm serious.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


I was listening to my Chinese language tapes this morning, and heard an interesting bit of vocabulary. "Bounce a check" in Mandarin is 跳票 tiào piào. I had to chuckle because, to me, the rhyming words "tiào piào" sound like the noise of a ricocheting object. As in a bouncing ball (or check) ricocheting around. Oh well...

These tapes are supposed to teach beginner's Mandarin, and I found it odd that this phrase is considered necessary for new arrivals in Taiwan. I hope that's not an indication that payroll checks could be dicey. In any case, I certainly won't be forgetting this phrase.

I also found out today that the cat speaks Chinese, at least a bit. It's always walking around the house saying "秒" which means "second" (as in short amount of time) and is pronounced "miǎo", complete with the dipping intonation. I guess the cat is trying to let me know just how long it'll tolerate my inattention to him.

Note: I've changed my default font to Arial. Sans serif fonts seem friendlier to me, both in appearance in in being able to handle the pinyin characters.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Testing Chinese input

OK, here goes the tiny amount of written Chinese that I can muster. Let's see if it shows up:


OK, I managed that using Microsoft's IME. I'm inputting using pinyin right now, but I want to learn bopomofo since I've read that it's used in Chinese beginning readers much like furigana.

I downloaded a pinyin converter, which I'll try here. I believe I have to change the font to Arial Unicode MS.

Nǐ hǎo. Wǒ jiào Steve. Wǒ shì Měiguorén. Wǒ lǎojiā zài Jiāzhōu. Nǐ shuō Zhōngwén ma?

I'm a beginner at Chinese, so I don't know if 中文 Zhōngwén is the correct word, since I think it refers to the written language. This is just technical experiment right now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

On a roll

I've been interested in languages since about sixth grade. In high school I dreamed of being a language teacher, but due to certain circumstances (life) I wasn't able to pursue that dream until recently. I hope to be teaching English in Taiwan by early next year.

One of my goals while I'm in Taiwan is to learn Chinese as fluently as possible. I feel this is necessary because:
  • Life will go a heckuva lot smoother for me if I can order food and buy toilet paper in the native language.
  • I think it's rude to live and work in a country and not use their language.
  • Learning Chinese is totally cool!

So I gathered a few books and Cd's a couple of months ago to begin learning some basic Mandarin while I'm still in the US. My favorite materials so far are found on the internet at a site called FSI Language Courses. These courses were developed by the Foreign Service Institute of the United States government and are now in the public domain. And, unlike the government's $700 hammers, these courses are free!

I'll update my progress--assuming I make progress--from time to time on this blog.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My First Time

First blog entries are always a pain. I mean, you have all these visions of a glorious online journal that readers will find fascinating--readers who will hang on every word, who will scramble to comment on your daily musings.

And then reality sets in.

You really have no idea what to write, and when you finally do come up with a topic, well, it reads as dry and bland as a stale communion wafer.

And yet, as you can see, I've managed to fill in some of the white space on this page. With actual English sentences. Well, sentence fragments anyway ( generous paragraphing and font sizes help too). I feel accomplished, if not somewhat smug.

If you have read this far (by "you" I mean my one sympathetic friend who will reluctantly visit my blog just to humor me), I'll take it to mean that my blog has some potential.

Potential for what? Hell if I know. Let's find out together!