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Bob’s Travels & Daily Life

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Stupid China Firewall!

3 December, 2007 (21:49) | Geek | 2 comments

GAH! - how I hate this firewall….Most blogs I like to read are blocked by this ….P.O.S….Can’t even read wikipedia….GAH!……

To Erhu or not to Erhu…

2 December, 2007 (10:01) | China, Daily Life | No comments

After getting a haircu t

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today (albeit different than what I was hoping for, I guess is the style right now

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in China), I went with my trusty guide (a student from another class) to a music shop to pickup her Guzheng (A Zither instrument). I forgot how neat they looked – I wanted to learn that instrument while in Chien-Tan (Taiwan Summer Study Abroad kinda thing). Well actually wanted to learn the wooden swordplay, but overslept the day of picking, and got stuck with Flute (my ears ring & hairs on the back of my neck stand up when thinking of those lesson sessions)…though guess it could have been worse, I could have been stuck with Fan Dancing ;-)…

Guzheng

Apparently learning the Zither isn’t that bad/hard. However after consulting with a few people, the consensus is that it’ s a girly in

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strument.

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:-p. I think I mostly wanted it because it just looks really neat, but seems silly to own something like that if you don’t know how to play it (hence me wanting to learn how to play it). My attention then got diverted to the Erhu.

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It seems pretty basic, just 2 strings and a bow…However because of this minimalism it may be fairly difficult to learn…My trusty guide is looking into possible teachers for me to contact about this instrument, so I guess we’ll see.

http://www.dkimages.com/discover/previews/768/69137.JPG Erhu

You may be wondering why I want to pick up the Guzheng or for that matter

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the Erhu now.

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I really don’t think I have any musical talent, however I do like stuff.

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I like stuff even more when its obscure or rare – both the Zither and Erhu are pretty rare (and probably instructors as well) in the U.S.

Below are links to Information about the instruments.

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I wish I could review them before posting their links, but will have to rely on Wikipedia’s good run thus far…Stupid China Firewall >:-(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zither

http://www.philmultic.com/guzheng/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erhu

http://www.paulnoll.com/China/Music/mus-erhu.html

Cross Cultural Humor…

31 October, 2007 (00:32) | China, Daily Life | 1 comment

Apparently not everything what we find funny/slightly amusing in the west is

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entertaining in China…

To make the class more interesting for the 3rd lesson, I thought I would do stories (handouts), with discussions & vocabulary of the less common words….

As for discussion topics, when asked what is the “funny” part of the story, everyone I called up for each story to tell me their opinion, said they didn not find the story interesting at all ;-) … They did however like my discussion about “Do you know a joke or a true story about beggars?”, I guess I should rephrase that…they liked my story (they didn’t have anything to say about this topic) about a 20/20 report on some people acting like Homeless folk (you know the ones, with a “Will Work for Food Sign” walking around intersections, only taking “donations”, no work offers) and some making upwards of $ 50

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K a year doing this “job”…

Anyway here were the stories….

Story # 1 – Poor Cat

As a student I ate my meals at a seaside boarding-house. The landlady was a good cook and, as her husband was a fisherman, we always ate fish for dinner. Eventually I got tired of it, and took to slipping it under the sofa, where the family cat would find and devour it.

This worked very successfully until one day the landlady tiptoed up behind me and said, “Young man it’s high time I told you that our cat was run over by a truck three weeks ago.”

Vocabulary Practice
Mark the best choice.

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1. A ‘boarding-house’ is a ………..
1. building which is near the sea
2.

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3. house giving room(s) and food
4.

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kind of school with a pool
2. A ‘landlady’ is a woman who ……..
1. is old and weak
2. keeps a boarding-house
3. has a lot of money
4. only looks after her family
3. ‘Eventually’ means …..
1. naturally
2. in the end
3.

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4. happily
4. To ‘take to’ here means to….
1. carry something to somewhere
2. ask someone to do something
3.

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begin to do something as a habit
4. go away to some place to hide
5. To ‘devour’ here means to …..
1. look at something angrily
2. play with something
3.

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throw something away
4. eat something hungrily
6. To ‘tiptoe’ means to ……
1. walk quietly on the toes
2. say something softly
3. hit something by foot
4. run towards something
7. To ‘run over’ means to…..
1. hit something while running
2. drive over something
3. take something away
4. steal something from a pl

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ace

Discussion:

  1. What po int is funny

    in the story?

  2. What would you do if you were the student?
  3. What can probably be found under the sofa now?

Story #2 – The Best Accountant

An accountant answered an advertisement for a job with a large firm. At the end of the interview the chairman said, “One last question– what is three times seven?” The accountant thought for a minute and replied, “Twenty-two”.
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he should have said twenty-one. He concluded that he had lost t

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he job. A fortnight later, however, he was offered the post.

After a few weeks, he asked the chairman why he had been when he had given the wrong answer.

“You were the closest,” the chairman replied.

Vocabulary Practice
Mark the best choice.

1. An ‘accountant’ is a ……
1. person who wants a job
2. machine which adds, deletes, etc.
3. person who keeps money records
4. company manager
2. ‘Firm’ here means ….
1. strong person
2. business company
3. shop manager
4. important decision
3. A ‘chairman’ is a person who …..
1. sells or buys chairs
2. controls a meeting
3. answers phone calls
4. says the latest news
4. A fortnight is ……
1. one month
2. one year
3.

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twenty days
4. two weeks
5. ‘Appoint’ here means to ……
1. interview someone
2. choose a person for a job
3. call a person to come
4. let a person visit a place

Questions for Discussion

1. What did the chairman mean by the last sentence?
2. How true can such a story be?
3. Why do you think should an accountant make such a mistake?

Story #3 – Beggar Replacement

The doorbell rang, and the housewife answered it. She found two beggars outside. “So, you’re begging in twos now?!” she exclaimed.

” No, only for today,” one of them replied. “I’m showing my replacement the ropes before going on holiday.”

Vocabulary Practice
Mark the best choice.

1. A ‘beggar’ is a person who…….
1. sells food and clothes
2. has no money
3. asks for money
4. does the housework
2.

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To ‘exclaim’ means to……….
1. say something kindly
2. say suddenly and loudly
3. walk quickly
4. look angrily
3. A ….. is a person that you put in place of yourself or another.
1. beggar
2. rope
3. housewife
4. replacement
4. ‘Ropes’ here means …….
1. the rules and customs in a place or activity
2. pieces of strong thick cord
3. people you probably meet in a special place
4. houses which are expensive

Questions for Discussion

1. This joke is telling us something about beggars’ life. What is it?
2. Do you know a joke or a true story about beggars?

Story #4 – In Pajamas

Staying at a hotel in Kentucky, I couldn’t sleep because the television in the residents’ lounge was so loud. As I could see from the top of the stairs, the lounge was in total darkness, so I crept downstairs in my pajamas. I went to the TV and after some fumbling with the knobs I managed to switch it off.

As I turned to leave, I suddenly became aware of a semi-circle of people sitting in the dark who, up until that moment, had been enjoying a television program.

Vocabulary Practice
Mark the best choice.

1. ‘Lounge’ is ……….
1. kind of taxi in the airport etc.
2. small room for workers
3. public sitting room in a hotel
4. special case for television
2. To ‘creep’ means to ………
1. run quickly
2.

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jump off
3. shout out
4. move quietly
3. To ‘…….’ means to move the hands awkwardly to do something or to find something.
1. fumble
2. manage
3. switch
4. reside
4. A ‘knob’ is a…..
1. hotel room
2. small TV
3. round handle
4. special table

Questions for Discussion

1. What is the main funny point in the story?
2. Why did the man go downstairs in pajamas?
3. What do you think will happen next?

Story #5 – A Soldier’s Lie

Once a soldier asked his commanding officer for a day’s leave to attend his sister’s wedding.

The officer asked him to wait outside the door for a few minutes while he considered the request.

The officer then called the soldier back in and said, “You are a liar. I’ve just phoned your sister and she told me she’s already married.”

“Well, sir, you’re an even bigger liar,” the soldier replied, “because I don’t even have a sister.”

Vocabulary Practice
Mark the best choice.

1. ‘Leave’ here means ……
1. going out from a place
2.

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one part of a tree
3. permission to be absent from work
4. asking a person for some money
2. To ‘attend’ here means to …
1. take care of
2. pay for
3. be present at
4. look at

Questions for Discussion

1. Why did the soldier tell the officer a lie?
2. Why did the officer tell the soldier a lie?
3. Can you remember telling such lies?

First Day of Class

19 October, 2007 (21:45) | Daily Life | 3 comments

Well the day finally came… the day when I finally got off my ass and worked for my pay (was getting paid for doing nothing up until now :-D). Yep, today was my first day of teaching… I had 2 classes, or as they like to say 4 sessions (each of my classes is 2 sessions long, each session 45 minutes long with a 10 minute break in between). Yes I know its weird that my classes started on a Friday teaching (almost got pushed back again, as it was theorized to be “Sports Day” where everyone gets a day off on campus :-p … campus holidays such as this are decided on 4 days prior…but that’s a topic for another day), these 2 classes are going to have one more lesson than the others which doesn’t seem all that fair…

My two classes were pretty good – though a bit crowded (40 & 35 head count, was suppose to be 30). The level of English for both classes was fairly high, but I think my first class was a bit more sharp/attentive :-), my second class seems to have the slackers, whom I will pick on often ;-). I started with my planned 45 minute introduction where I make the students write a question or two to ask me, from there I go through each student and make them ask me their question (while marking them on a scale from 1-5 on their oral English capabilities at that moment ;-) ). The second half of class was going over rules & lesson selections. My rules I think are fairly simple & most likely standard:

- Mobile phones switched off or silent (if it rings, they get sent outside with a note saying “Mobiles should be turned off while in class) ;-)
- No talking out of turn
- No eating (drinking permitted though)
- No skipping the second half of class o

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therwise they will be marked absent.

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As for lesson selections, I broke them into groups of 4 and giving them time to flip through the book allowing them to pick 3 chapters they wanted to learn & 2 topics not in the book for me to go into detail/cover.

After repeating this for the next 6 classes (maybe 7 if I take an additional one), I’ll tally up the results :-).

Some of my students seem quite nice…some wrote me letters…see below :-p

Note 1 Note 2

Pulled the trigger on a DSLR…

18 October, 2007 (23:47) | Geek | 2 comments

Well I pulled the trigger for a DSLR :-D.  I decided on the Pentax K100D Super.  I got it for around $400 after shipping, taxes & a rebate.  Now I just have to wait 5 weeks to get it (shipped to a sister, who will very nicely file my rebate for me, then hopefully ship it to me :-) ).  Hopefully it’s a nice as everyone says online (blogs, reviews, etc).  I did a major no-no and didn’t try it in a store first (can’t seem to find this model here), however it’s the only DSLR of this size (small form factor DSLR) that takes AA batteries…so hopefully it works out :-P.

Pentax K100D Super

Visit to Guanqian Jie 觀前街

18 October, 2007 (22:39) | China, Daily Life, Travels | No comments

Guanqian Jie located in the middle of Suzhou (about a 15rmb cab ride from my place) , is a pedestrian only section of road with lots of shops… Somewhat similar to L incoln Road

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It is much larger but doesn’t feel as upscale - especially when you get that random whiff of stinky/smell tofu or cut durian :-p It has a temple (the Mysterious Temple, it was there before the road was apparently) in the middle of it, surrounded by KFC & McDonalds… ;-) Upon walking around its side streets I also find U-Town is about 1 block away :-p I think I may be visiting this strip somewhat regularly :-D. More pictures soon to come…

Guanqiang Jie Sign Guanqiang Jie Temple of Mystery

“Finger Licking Braised Pork Flavor”…

17 October, 2007 (22:05) | Daily Life, Food | 1 comment

Not really…More like Salty Cardboard…. :-/

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A visit to U-Town…

16 October, 2007 (22:05) | Daily Life, Geek | No comments

After picking up my free ticket to an Oktoberfest event (for being an Expat :-p) this Sunday, I swung by an electronics place known as “U-Town”. I was told it was the place to go to get electronics here…Upon getting to the store, I realize it was more like an indoor (4 floors) electronics flea market – which I liked a lot.

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It makes the vendors competitive in pricing – it makes shopping kind of fun :-P. I found my laser printer and broke down and bought a Linksy Wireless access point (my justification that my desk chair in my office/second bedroom hurts ;-)). The Access point while the vendor claimed to be new (and affixed a manufacturer sticker on it when I gave them the cash), came in a plain white box with no instructions/software – it worked when I brought it home (after looking up instructions online), for $28 (in the states sells for 60) I guess I wont complain :-).

Walking around the shops, I find Playstation portables, not only come in Black & White, but also Pink, Blue & Gold…

PSP-Colors After U-Town

Walking around town…

15 October, 2007 (21:34) | Daily Life | 5 comments

Spent a few hours today walking around, looking for an electronics store that was suppose to be near the main square of the district (I’m in “New District”, SND for short)…

Suzhou New District Downtown Canal Traffic Sculpture in the middle of traffic

Never found it, however I did find a St

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ver seen. This is probably due to the obscene prices for their drinks here, keeping most people at bay.

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The prices are about the same price as in the states (but of course most people here get paid a bit less than the states). The cashier & barista speak their menu items/options very well, if I had not asked them about something else, I would have assumed their English was fluent :-p. I ordered their Green Tea Latte (30rmb/4usd for a tall), which I’ ve ne

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It was…ok…I guess. It tasted as you would think green tea & steamed milk would taste with a little sugar/syrup, but it had this weird bitter after taste…I still prefer the regul ar l

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attes, but this was a nice change.

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I think I’ll probably swing by there once a month or so to “borrow” one of their English magazines for class.

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;-)

Green Tea Latte

//update
Well it looks like this was in the U.S. for a little bit, but never took off…it appears most people found it disgusting :-p
Link to Article

Wanting another Camera…

14 October, 2007 (19:48) | Geek | No comments

Yes…I guess you could say I have enough cameras… I brought three with me to China:
A ruggadized water/dust proof Pentax Optio 43wr
An easily pocketable Sony T-100
A powerful zoom Canon S1-IS

I find that

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I use my S1 the most for when I am traveling to places and want to take clear pictures.

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Even though it takes less than half the megapixels of my Sony T-100 (3.2 mega pixels vs 8 mega pixels), I find the images are clearer & focused properly, this in part to a better lens & larger CCD (sensor).

You can read more about this detail at:
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/biztech/articles/070615/15digitalphoto.htm
http://www.panohelp.com/themegapixelsmyth.html

While I’ve been mostly happy with my Canon S1, its becoming more apparent the more I use it and reviewing the pictures afterwards that its pictures are just “OK”, I’m finding that I do a lot of cropping lately & I’m also beginning to notice more Chromatic Aberrations (CA)/ Purple Fringing than I like.

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More about CA/Purple Fringing can be read here:

http://www.dpreview.com/learn/?/key=chromatic+aberration

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It has 6 megapixels and a slightly larger sensor (1/2.5 vs 1/2.7). I didn’t really consider the S5 as it uses the same sensor, but just makes it work harder to get its 8 megapixels which would just make the photo look worse…

Canon Powershot S3 IS

However after more thought, I don’t think the S3 would have that much less Chromatic Aberrations than the S1, it would just allow me to crop more…Then I bump into the Sony DSC-R1

This seems like the ideal camera (as much as I hate Sony), it has a very large sensor (5x the size of the S3, equivalent to most Digital Single Lens Reflex –DSLR cameras), comes with a very good lens & has a cool rotating LCD similar to my S1 that I’ ve come to lo

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Only problem, is that Sony quit making them last year (this camera was Sony’s stepping stone into the DSLR market), and on the used market, its not uncommon to see them go for a higher price than their MSRP of $900 USD :-(

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Right now I’m looking at the Nikon D40 or maybe the D40x with their 18-200mm Vibration Reduction lens…this option is however pretty pricey, and the funds would probably be better spent on traveling right now :-/

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