Wednesday, December 31, 2014

China Travels One

Well so much for live blogging since the Chinese government has done it's best to rob every bit of fun that they can out of the Internet.  I write this passage using a bit of light technical chicanery that allows me to remote on to my home computer.  Otherwise, Google, VPN sites, Twitter, and others are outright inaccessible while other huge swaths of the internet crawl since no one bothers to set up distributed caching servers on the other side of the Great Firewall.  It brings to mind the description that I read of this book where the author puts forward the idea that China will be perpetually bottled up in a no man's land between the third and first worlds due to their government.

Along those lines, one might be afraid of police in America since they're so citation happy, but Chinese police, oof, I don't care for those dudes eyeballing me at all.  It may be better for clueless natives, but I can feel those dudes sizing up my organs whenever I walk by them.  I should point out that one needn't come to the Far East for such a fun experience though!  Before getting on our flight bound for Toronto, (where the connector to our China flight was located), some U.S. stormtroopers stood in the terminal tunnel interrogating citizens as to how much money (specifically) they had on them.  These are the jackasses that shouldn't exist: State troopers who can take your cash for laughs under the guise of trying to stop drug money laundering (something which has obviously been a rousing success).

The flight?  Ah yes, fifteen hours in an aluminum tuna can.  Mrs. Sandmich expected the usual spartan airline experience and packed about ten pounds of food (I exaggerate of course, it was probably only 9.5 pounds).  Little did we know that Air Canada serves two and a half meals along with a rolling beverage service (I sucked down four beers without much thought before my bladder told me that I should probably hold off).  As usual I couldn't sleep, so I hit the ground ready to pretend whatever time it was supposed to be.  So let's make with some photos, presented in no particular order:

$100 water pots, a basic requirement due to water quality.  I remarked to Mrs. Sandwich that we go into our American appliance stores and find inexpensive Chinese appliances whereas in China they have crazy expensive Japanese appliances.  Anyone in the mood for a $200 electric rice pressure cooker, or perhaps a $700, 50 liter hot water tank?  I have the store you then.

A major intersection in town, note the lack of any traffic signs

Part of a typical, Chinese construction production.  I don't know enough about large scale production to know if their approach (which appears to be heavy with the use of wood staves) is good or bad.

Sally's dad's new house.  The construction is glass and concrete.  Even small houses are built this way so I guess cement is easier to come by than timber.

Older ladies exercising in the evening in the city's main square (it's a "town" by East Asian standards, but would be a major metropolis anywhere in America).

Santa is everywhere

A winterized scooter (some are electric jobbies that are completely silent)

The arrival area of the Shanghai airport.  Maybe I don't travel enough but I've never seen that many people waiting directly outside of an arrival gate.

In what at one point in time was probably a fishing village.  Every spare piece of dirt in this area had a vegetable of some sort growing in it and the gardens were quite impressive.

Well that's enough of that.  It took me all day to crank out this post over my painful faux vpn connection and I doubt that I'll have the patience to do more until I get back, sorry!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

December Notes

Bengals

So they finally won a prime time game and, alas, my travels will prevent me from seeing the next two Bengals games.  Argh!  Perhaps though, the secret to the Bengals success will be me not watching them in their playoff appearance, though more likely their success will be related to how much they can get away with not having the inconsistent Andy Dalton throw the ball.  Yeah Marvin Lewis isn't as good as the NFL coaching elite and Dalton certainly isn't as good as even near-elite quarterbacks, but they sure go to the playoffs a lot.  A special thanks to Mike Brown for not pulling a Dan Snyder and firing everyone because the team didn't go 15 and 1.  That's a recipe for eventually going 1 and 15.  (If they manage to beat Pittsburgh on Sunday night, something I that doubt will happen, the Bengals will have won four AFC North titles under Lewis, which is four more than the Browns over the same time frame, which is even more remarkable given how many Super Bowl wins his division opponents have racked up).

Chinese

Yeah the Chinese language is it's own special form of screwed up.  The grammar isn't automatically intuitive, but isn't bad (and is forgiving if it gets goofed), the vocabulary is limited since it lacks noun/verb conjugations (for the most part, certainly nothing like the screwball 'past pluperfect/action verb' combinations needed in Spanish for something like "I was going to the store yesterday because I was going to buy some meat for tomorrow, but then I changed my mind and decided that I would get it next week.").  However what it does have is tones which even those who know nothing of the language are passingly familiar with due to recurrent jokes ("You'll ask for water in China and get in trouble because you actually asked if their mom is a horse, haha!").

It's not so bad since (hopefully) since context should clue natives into the desired word, but the problem is that the sentence structure needs to be (mostly) correct so that the context can be properly ascertained.  There's a few examples (the derivations of 'ma' are rather notorious) however even something as simple as water (shuǐ), whom (shuí), and sleep (shuì) can get confusing, especially since (and this is really hard) one has to remember NOT to put the English tones on the word (for questions, etc.) since they're the same.  Oh well, not quite sure why I'm bothering since I'm sure I will forget it all shortly, except for the word for beer.

International Womanizing

Along those lines, it seems that every piece of language training software circles around the idea of the salaryman sitting in the bar ("Ask the woman if she would like a drink/Ask her where she would like to go to get a drink/Order two beers/etc.").  Really?  Does that crap work?  "Hey baby, I can barely speak your language, but let's forget about that and go get wasted at the hotel!".  I need the domesticated version with fun stuff like "I need to do laundry", "Please cook something that walks", and inevitably, "I have dysentery".  I guess that kind of thing won't sell too many volumes though.

Man Cave Game Review

I didn't play that many games of note this year.  I guess if I had to pick one winner out it would be Borderlands 2 since I sunk some serious time into that game (though it only really shined when I was playing online with people who aren't jerks, which can take some doin').  I'd like to speak for a moment about game called Bulletstorm, though.  In fact that Wikipedia article sums up the noise surounding the game when it was released some years ago:
[T]he game was targeted because of its profanity, crude behavior (examples of which including the game's skill-shot system, which has a move that rewards players for shooting at an enemy's genitals), and sexual innuendo. [Foul language as well].
When playing through the game the reason for such hatred became obvious: they hated it because it was a game unabashedly targeted towards men, heaven forbid!  I could describe the following scene that sums the game up nicely, but it's best to just check it out yourself, crank it up!