Give us this day our daily Chinglish

It’s gibberish, Jim, but just as we know it.
ptown When I went after some oil for my bike chain this afternoon, I noticed this shop across the street. I have no idea what it’s meant to say. Perhaps the owner is taking the… [Don’t say it! Don’t even think it! –ed.]
 
I took a trip to Walmart after tea tonight and went for a little stroll around the place. I see that the audience for free-view DVDs has shrunk, the queue for eggs has gone, and the place is busier than it was when I first went there, but what caught my eye was some of the signs in the fruit and veg section. Have you ever heard of flurbunwiths? This is the alleged, er, translation of 酸菜 suāncài “pickled vegetables”. I can’t see any connection between this and flurbunwiths in the way “usa califoruia brrf noodlr hing” (on the menus in California Beef Noodle King) is obvious.
jimao cai But there were other peculiar labels such as “and boolean” for 黑布林 hēi bù lín which, according to Baidu, means “black plum” where I assume 布林 is a quasi-phonetic rendering of plum. Then there was 鸡毛菜 jīmáo cài (see picture) which was translated as “cooking chicken feathers”. The word 鸡毛 is in the dictionary and seems to be used in phrases meaning something that’s small or trivial, but there’s no mention of the vegetable. There was also 伊丽莎白瓜 yīlìsuōbái guā (see picture below) which was translated as Elizabethan melon; or, to be more exact, the Chinese is obviously a rendering of “Elizabethan”. The questions are what the melon used to be called (because I don’t imagine that it always had this name), why the name was changed, and why this became the new name. I can’t imagine the word “Elizabethan” has the same resonance to the Chinese as it does to me.
elizabethan melon
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When is a bike shop not a bike shop?

When it’s a Chinese bike shop.
 
I’ve been in China long enough not to be surprised that when I go to the Giant bike shop to get the chain of my bike oiled, I’m informed they have no oil. It’s a bike shop; I think they repair bikes there; I’d conclude that they might also oil bike chains. But they don’t.
 
Instead, I had to go to one of the local bike shops where Mr Repairman painted some black liquid of dubious quality and provenance on the chain. I meant to have a look in Carrefour the other day to see whether they might have something suitable such as WD-40 or something akin to 3-in-1 oil.
 
I want to go home, but it’s sort of politic to hang around at school a bit longer even although my lesson plan for Monday morning is done, was done – this morning. Well, there’s always the demo of Shredder 4 which I installed after the Shredder 3 demo finally died. It makes me sing for my supper, though, because the Elo rating is higher. I seem to be able to hold it at around 1100, but I’m a little sceptical whether that’s an accurate rating. I still think 1000 is closer to the truth and the demo version doesn’t quite have the range of the full version.
 
I see that Asterix is celebrating his 50th anniversary. Asterix was one of my favourite comics when I was a boy. If you’d offered me the choice between something American or Asterix, I would’ve chosen Asterix every time. I never managed to collect the whole series, but I think I had most of them. It wasn’t until I was older that I appreciated some of the puns because they required a knowledge of Latin or Latin and grammar which I didn’t have early on. It was a long time before I understood such gems as "The competitors are at the present tense" and "The starter’s mood is imperative" from Asterix at the Olympic Games.
 
Anyway, it’s time to go home.

An unfortunate division

The police spotter card.
card A recent story in The Guardian has been about the police spotter card with pictures of so-called domestic extremists, including a shot of Mark Thomas (Doth I protest too much? [His ungrammatical state­ment, not mine.]).
But what caught my eye was the red text at the top of the card which, being centred like a title, I misread as two separate statements. I took the first line as some sort of telegraphic statement where “as” was being used to mean “because it is”, but there wasn’t enough room on the line to be more explicit. The second line seemed to commence with an imperative verb form which made it sound like the card was to be taken round the back and shot after the event.
Now realising that the whole thing was a single statement, I can only suspect the police perhaps preferred centring it because if it’d been left-aligned, it might’ve been felt to be too sympathetic towards the protesters.

Beating around the city

The further adventures of Mr Bamboo.
 
I went on a circuitous trip out to the New District this afternoon via 江海东路, which turns out to be the long stretch of dullness where the principle business is the repair of motor vehicles. I managed to find my way to Auchan from a different direction before continuing towards the posh estate beyond it. On the way (well, somewhere on the way) I saw this:
 
vanke
 
To be a little more accurate, 万科 is wànkē which, as astute readers will notice, is lacking one crucial letter that aptly describes the sort of black-car driving tosser who inhabits places like these.
 
I’ve come to the conclusion that half of Wuxi has been demolished and the other half is under construction.
 
I was wondering whether there’s a word or term in Chinese for places like 宽巷子 or 文殊坊 in Chengdu, or the 巷子 at the east end of 江尖公园, or the recently completed 运河公园. That is, is there is a Chinese word for those manufactured historical sites? Nothing seems to be happening to the 巷子 on the island. There’s some scaffolding and a little green gauze, but that’s as far as the latest phase of the development has gone. Perhaps the PLA could use it for urban combat training. Or urban combat shopping. Have I ever mentioned that Chinese boys end up carrying the handbags and the shopping?
 
And it was another sunny day today. Fourth or fifth in a row. After two years of predominantly grey skies in Chengdu, the novelty of sunshine hasn’t quite worn off.
 
I watched the 4th series of Weeds yesterday. It was like an extended version of the flashbacks in the 5th series. In other words, I didn’t really need to buy the 4th series to know what happened in it. Yeah, I went DVD shopping yesterday at a shop Rob recommended. The shop has slightly more than the usual range of TV series, but the usual collection of old films. I was looking at some of the more recent releases which I haven’t seen and feeling disinclined to purchase any of them.
 
And now I’m inclined to go off and have tea. I went to California Beef Noodle King last night in the hope that there might be something interesting going on around there. Again, nothing. The rollerblading imps were out. That was it. Even 青石路 was merely the usual mess of idiot motorists who all think they’re 车皇帝, and idiot pedestrians who are still incapable of distinguishing between road and pavement.

The Open Day

In the aisles.

I’m allegedly meant to be at a top school in Jiangsu Province. Well, a top school in Wuxi, perhaps. Yesterday was the school’s open day when hordes of parents [insert slight pause here] and teachers from other schools came by the coach load to observe classes throughout the school, including ours. I was expecting a few people to turn up to the AS class, but ended up with them right along the back wall, right alongside the windows down to the front of the class, and about half way down the aisle beside the doors. People took pictures and a cameraman appeared at the back door briefly at one stage.

Obviously people had heard of me and wanted the chance to see Mr Bamboo in action.

[The truth is somewhat different. The pupils in Colin’s class told their parents to go to Mr Bamboo’s class, hence Colin had no observers during the course of that lesson. –ed.]

Dave, who can only be described as a dozy prune who sits at the front of the class, got dragged out of the room by his mother, much to everyone else’s amusement. It was interesting that Dave then started participating in class, knowing that his mum was there somewhere in the background.

I got to the end of the class and gave the little darlings their homework only to then be informed that they were sitting their SATs this weekend, which put paid to their homework – for the time being. The AS class are going to have to get used to writing essays in English, although to them longer means anything over 200 words.

Danwei II has an interesting piece about the experience of a foreigner banged up in a Chinese jail (A foreigner’s life in a Beijing jail.) Prison life sounds every bit as dull as I’ve heard it is. No idea what he was in for or where he was from.

 The quick grey wolf jumped over the wooden gate. This picture won the Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award for 2009. (BBC story.) It’s a great image and yet I thought it lacked any personality because there’s no interaction between the wolf and the viewer or the wolf and anyone or anything else unlike, say, your typical big cat shot where the lion / tiger / jaguar looks at the camera and makes eye contact. It contrasts with the pictures of the squabbling yellowhammers because there’s action and drama in that picture, and the same can be said of the picture of the cat seeing off the fox. I’m sure that I could devise some pretentious interpretation of the picture of the leaping wolf, but I think the picture is merely what you see – an impersonal moment in the life of a Spanish wolf. [02.12.13. I know there was some controversy over the authenticity of this picture, but can’t recall whether it was proved to be fake or not.

Meanwhile, Madagascar, which I had thought was one of those places which seldom features in the news, has been in the Guardian a couple of times recently. The previous story was, I think, about the island as a travel destination while today’s story is about the effect of climate change on the country (Ravaged by drought, Madagascar feels the full effect of climate change). As you can see from the story, the southern parts of Madagascar have some serious environmental problems which are not being helped by the current political situation.

Is it really twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall? Blimey. I know that when I was young, I couldn’t imagine such a thing ever happening, or the reunification of Germany, or the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Windows 7 is out and, it seems, an improvement on Vista even if it’s what Vista ought to have been (or even Vista 3.0). I think I’ll see about getting an upgrade the next time I go to Hong Kong. I was never happy about having to buy a laptop with Vista on it, but because I needed a new machine about a year ago, I won’t be due to buy a replacement for this machine for another couple of years.

Speaking of computers, I see my hit count has dropped dramatically this week (about a fifth of what I’ve been getting on average for the past few months) and my visitors are back to coming almost exclusively from searches. Then again, I haven’t been posting here so frequently because there’s been little worth mentioning. The PAL classes give me no cause for concern; the AS1 class is still behaving like a less bad version of any of the Senior 2 classes I’ve taught since I came to China. Caleb told me that we’re going to be moving to another building in December while the building we’re currently in is actually going to be demolished. I thought that we wouldn’t be moving until the very end of the term and that the building was merely being refurbished.

Lunchtime has arrived, after which I’m off to check out a DVD shop which Rob recommended to me. I’m hoping to get the 4th series of Weeds and that there’s other stuff worth getting.

Diligence personified

Once again, Mr Bamboo is greater than the sum of his parts. No, I didn’t grow an extra head.

I was the epitome of diligence this morning and would’ve won a prize for it if they were awarding them. I wrote the lesson plan for class this afternoon (all right, there was some cutting and pasting involved), and the one for the AS class tomorrow; marked the AS class’s vocab test and recorded the marks, and decided at that point that I wasn’t going to sit around at school playing chess against Shredder 3 (although I did and defeated it using the Dutch Defence; I’m getting a bit bored with Shredder play 1. d4 when it’s white because it’s a rather vague sort of opening; it seems Shredder has been trying to play the London System; I did try playing a King’s Indian Defence in another game, but it ignored my efforts).

So I came home, did a little more work cataloguing the openings in the various pgn files I’ve got because the name on the box is not an especially accurate representation of the contents. For example, a file called Nimzo4Nf3.pgn has 58 different openings and not just from ECO E00-99 (which includes various and numerous Nimzo openings).

But I also thought that I ought to go and do some shopping while Carrefour might be a little deserted since the place is an utter nightmare on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

I went to Gizma for tea the other night for the first time in ages. The area outside Walmart was actually comparatively empty, although when I came out of Gizma, the usual hordes of rollerblading children were out gliding across the paving. As I was heading down 青石路 there was the inevitable traffic jam. This one, though, was not the product of the usual discourteous motorists but caused by a small mob of people who had gathered around a police car. I’m guessing that Plod had nicked some nefarious local villain and the mob wanted to see what a nefarious local villain looked like. Meanwhile, black cars being driven by far worse villains were passing by.

I finally finished off Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, a series of three [I think the word “trilogy” gave that away. –ed.] novellas with an existentialist theme a couple of days ago. Then last night I put an end to A Bottomless Grave, which is an anthology of 19th horror stories published by Dover Books. I’ve read them slowly over rather a long period of time, but if I remember rightly, I’d classify one or two as ’tec fic rather than horror. The final story in the collection was about a vampire mummy; but from what I read in The Guardian just recently, zombies are the new black (though only if you’re a boy). Can’t say I think much of zombies, which are too dull-witted to be of interest. Hmmm, rather reminds me of my little darlings from the other programme.

Lies, damned lies

And pgn files.

I haven’t done a lot this weekend. I went for a brief adventure yesterday only to confirm that in Wuxi you’ll end up back where you started your journey sooner rather than later. I did see a drunk man who seemed to have been causing a commotion at a bus stop. He was red-faced and unsteady, but the policemen who were there when I passed through didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. Perhaps it was a despondent droning-top man, who was back in action today after a prolonged absence. As I think I suggested, he was probably advised to be quiet because the last thing a corrupt official wants is a tired, irritable concubine. [01.12.13. I haven’t heard a peep out of droning-top man in quite some time. Either he’s moved on or the police moved him on.]

Meanwhile, it appears that work might be resuming on the half-built buildings on the island. Fences have gone up, blocking access, and someone set off a barrage of fireworks from the empty ground on the far side last night. 

It’s been an uneventful weekend apart from Mr Bamboo pursuing his nerdly activities. I’ve been using ChessBase Light to have a look through the pgn files I’ve downloaded from the pgnmentor site and finding that they seem to have been compiled inconsistently. At best, they contain sets of related openings, but the method I was using for generalising the opening I suppose was the common theme of each file was merely producing the most frequently used opening without revealing the others. 

And just to muddy the waters further, in the course of my investigations I’ve found that there appears to be some inconsistency from one source of openings to another. Perhaps. Not every opening necessarily follows the standard order, but I wonder what the correct answer is when an Old Indian Defence (thus ChessBase Light) is classified an English, Smyslov Defence (thus 365Chess.com). The openings have two moves in common and the Old Indian could become the Smyslov Defence.

A21 English: Smyslov Defence
1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 d6 3. Nf3 Bg4

A53 Old Indian Defence
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6

I don’t suppose I’ll ever know or even ever really be that bothered. Nonetheless, my inclination for classificatory rigour is disturbed by the apparent casualness with which the pgn files have been compiled. One opening, one file, kids.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that when an opening is rather vague, the following move is whatever.

I finished watching the first series of Mad Men the night before last. I’m not sure whether it’s really doing anything different or whether the setting – conservative, sexist, chain-smoking America of the early 1960s – is merely disguising the same old human drama. It’s entertaining enough, although the revelation that Don Draper is not who he claims to be ended up being a damp squib when the firm’s senior partner declared that it didn’t matter.

No, I haven’t forgotten you

When life is as dull as a beige suit.
 
I know that many of you have been saying, Mr Bamboo, where art thou? A good question, but one which has no interesting answer because there’s been little or nothing worth mentioning of late. The city is passing slowly into autumn, which is heralded by days which though sunny are a little on the cool side. The mornings are surprisingly quiet. There’s none of the usual noise from the whirling top people whose drone used to be heard far and wide in the mornings. Perhaps some corrupt official had them beaten up for disturbing his concubine. Similarly, the Tai-chi ladies of 江尖 aren’t being accompanied by grating music which has been wafting across the canal from the island. This may seem to be a boon form those of us who prefer tranquillity as our morning theme, but I rely on the noise as a weather forecast because if I can hear something, it means that the morning, at least, is fine. If I can’t hear anything, then I assume that I’ll soon be using the phrase “livid aspect” to describe the sky.
 
The pattern of my life has also changed. I’ve been coming home to have a quick lunch before going back to school, which means that I end up having for tea what I might’ve had for lunch instead of going out to tea. That means no trips to Walmart and, therefore, no observations about the local inhabitants and their ways. At lunchtime, though, I went to Baoli outside of which there was a display celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Mini. You do see the occasional Mini in China (usually a Mini Cooper; it’s probably what corrupt officials buy for their concubines), although you more often see those cars which look like Minis but are another make. I’m inclined to feel a little nostalgic about Minis because I learnt to drive on my Mum’s nearly – ahem – years ago.
 
We’re enduring the local mosquito season at the moment and I’ve been putting a new poison gas machine to good use to see the little bastards off. I’m somewhat annoyed by their adventurousness since I had thought that at my exalted altitude, I was beyond the range of the blood-sucking little bastards. The office is a different matter, though, being at ground level. It was with some satisfaction that I noticed a mosquito flop onto my desk. I do hope it was dying horribly from the poison gas machine we have in the office.
 
The PAL classes are all right and did rather well in the rather easy test I set for them. The AS class are behaving like a bunch of dicks and struggling with a lower advanced textbook because none of them are beyond upper intermediate. When we were trying to teach that awful academic writing book back in 2003-04, I remember thinking (Danger, Will Robinson! Digression ahead!) that the whole book was utterly saturated with America as if the aim was less the teaching of academic writing than it was the teaching of American culture. The books we’re using at the moment are both American and both the same. There’s nothing in them that’s not solely about the US. It rather reminds me of what Kirsten used to say about the state of the news in the US in the days when she used to visit Nick in Chicago. News coverage was parochial. I must admit my view of the US has shifted in recent years, moving from regarding them as not so different to regarding them as a rather alien bunch.
 
I’ve been amusing myself at school with the demo version of Shredder 3. Although outwardly it’s very similar to Shredder 4, its behaviour is different. I find that if you play badly against it, it deliberately plays a bad game and resigns. For example (I’m playing as white), it plays this idiot version of the Centre Counter Defence (ECO B01):
  1. e4 d5
  2. exd5 Qxd5
  3. Nc3 Bg4
  4. Nxd5 Bxd1
  5. Nxc7+ Black resigns. 1-0
The version of the game where I play as black runs
  1. e4 e5
  2. d4 exd4
  3. Qxd4 Nc6
  4. Bg5 Nxd4
  5. Bxd8 Nxc2+ White resigns. 0-1
Shredder 4, on the other hand, plays a variety of openings (not all of them nice[1]) regardless of your level, but then seems to try to play for a stalemate no matter how many opportunities you give it to checkmate you.
 
I watched the 5th series of Weeds, although I haven’t seen the 4th because I couldn’t remember what I’d already seen when I bought it. Nancy Botwin seems to have stopped dealing pot altogether, and, like Homer Simpson or characters in French films, appears to have no visible means of financial support. Anyway, she was up the duff to some Mexican politician-cum-gangster who she ends up marrying quite willingly. As characters go, Nancy isn’t as interesting as some of the minor characters in the series who are threatening to eclipse her. I started watching the first series of Mad Men the other night, which comes under the category of so far so interesting. It’s slightly different being a series about an advertising agency in New York in the 1960s. I tried watching District 9, but it was dull and I had to stop watching because I had to go and have a shower. The Damned United about Brian Clough was all right, even although I’m not remotely interested in football. Clough, who’s always come across as abrasive, was given a sympathetic portrayal as the man who briefly and disastrously became the manager of Leeds United after the departure of his arch rival, Don Revie.
 
Notes
1. Take the Sicilian Defence which has so many variations that the lot of them may as well be generically described as 1. e4 c5 2. whatever. While more learned players may mention the word “theory” to frighten away beginners, the phrase “bewildering plethora of options” would do a better job.

And we’re back again (again (again (again)))

Time flies when you’re having fun.
 
I’m not sure that I’m feeling any more inclined to write this entry now than I was when I got back from my adventure. I’m inclined to feel that the moment has passed. I did write an entry about the excessive saccharinity of Chinese bread at lunchtime, but Windows Live seemed to be out for the count (if not for the earl or the duke) when I tried to post it. It’ll suffice to say that it was a rant about the excessive sugar content in bread in this country. It’s ironic that China’s indigenous bread, 馒头, is completely bland. I bet the French turned up with brioche and then a recipe for that got mixed up with one for cake and one for ordinary bread and the result was Mankatten [sic!], which is so heavily sugared that the smell permeates the plastic bag.
 
In spite of the complete absence of recent posts, the hit count here has now passed 72,000.
 
Anyway, the holiday was good and it was nice to get away from this enclave des nouveaux riches.
 
I’ve been playing chess again having acquired Shredder 4, which my Dad was nice enough to buy for me even although I told him to take the money out of my bank account. Good thing I delayed because v. 4 has only just appeared and I’m able to compare it to v. 3, which I was trying before the holiday. V. 4 plays rated games against you by default and then adjusts its strength automatically to your level. I’ve been slipping a bit in the past few games but seem to have an Elo rating that wobbles around the thousand mark. It appears that I’m going to have to learn something about the Sicilian Defence whether I want to or not. Shredder keeps playing that and various other openings which I’ve never encountered before. It does, however, have an opening book which you can consult until Shredder goes off piste.
 
Wuxi has been suffering from an infestation of mosquitoes and I don’t just mean on the ground floor. I’ve seen one or two mosquitoes up here on the 15th floor since I arrived, but I thought I was generally safe from them. In the past few days I’ve seen a few more and they’re making absolute pests of themselves in the office. This evening my feet and ankles got so badly bitten within minutes of exposing them that I went off and bought a poison gas machine. There’s at least one of the bloody little monsters in the study at the moment, and in here I hope it dies horribly, disowned by its parents and regarded by spiders as unworthy of consumption before its corpse is opened as a public toilet for some parasite that preys on mosquitoes.
 
We were back at school today and tomorrow’s Thursday – oh joy. But we do get Sunday off before returning to the usual routine.