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!