Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Japanese Cool

A Japanese TV show interviewed people in the streets of New York, Paris, and London, asking them to name famous Japanese people. Check out the French kid who names Mishima!

This is only one in a long series from the show on YouTube.
I posted previously about a sci-fi writer's reflections on Japanese cool.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Yahoo Mail Beta

I have used Yahoo Mail for many years, but recently I have been phasing out that account in favor of Gmail. I just started using Yahoo's new beta version, and I have to say it is a big improvement. I am starting to use that account again.
It is sort of like using an online version of a traditional email program, with your boxes on the left, a list of messages on the top, and the message you have selected on the bottom.
I just received a message with some Chinese in it, though, and the Chinese came out garbled. I went to switch the encoding in my browser, and lo and behold Yahoo Mail was telling me to switch the encoding via an option on the page! A very nice way to get around the problem that Gmail had for a while. With Gmail you have to select "View Original" and then change your encoding. Yahoo does it for you--theoretically. Unfortunately, I selected my appropriate flavor of Chinese (Big5), and it still came out scrambled. I will have to mess around with it to see if it isn't a problem on the sender's end.
Gmail has most of the kinks worked out by now, and I have few problems with mixed-language messages and attachments now.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Free International Calls?

A friend emailed me a few weeks ago about a service that allows you to make a call to an Iowa number here in the States and then dial out from there to international numbers for free. It's called Futurephone.
I was wondering about its legitimacy, and I found an article by David Pogue, technology writer for the New York Times, on it. See the comments on his blog here.
The Futurephone website has a list of countries that you can call using the service, and Japan and Taiwan are on there, but it hasn't worked for me. I get an error message every time.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Princeton Going Mac

According to a story in the Daily Princetonian, 45% of computers purchased through the university were Macs this year. In 2003, only 15% of incoming freshmen bought Macs. In 2004, that went up to 25%, and last year it was 38%. (Figures include only computers purchased through the university.)

Students in the article cite PC problems due to spyware and viruses as a key factor in their decision to go with a Mac. Now that the market share for Mac is going up, though, I bet the malware will increase too.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Sorrows of Translation

A translation led me to the Chinese name of The Sorrows of Young Werther: it's called 少年維特的煩惱. I thought that was a little odd--煩惱 means something like "frustration," and the Chinese version gives me a feeling like "Little Werther's Headaches."

I had heard before that there was a rash of copycat suicides in Europe after the novel appeared in 1774--Goethe (or his fictional Werther) was the Kurt Cobain of the 18th century. What I hadn't heard before is that it got so bad that someone came along and wrote a version of the story with a happy ending called The Joys of Young Werther. Goethe didn't like that, so he wrote a poem in which the Joys author defecates on Werther's grave. Is this true, or a Wikipedia joke? Wikipedia goes on to list a handful of other literary references and appearances of the book and its characters. These days, however, you can get sued for doing that kind of thing.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Traditions vs. Academia

I watched an interesting show on TV last night. A panel was discussing whether or not Chinese researchers should open the tomb of Tang empress Wu Zetian. There was also a live audience holding little signs that looked like ping pong paddles, with "agree" on one side and "disagree" on the other.
The pro argument was that by this point, Chinese technology and expertise are up to the job. Furthermore, things inside are only going to decay further, so why wait any longer?
The con arguments were varied. Some said that objects from previously exhumed sites had not even been properly catalogued and preserved yet, so why add to the pile? Others--and I thought this was interesting--thought that opening the tomb would be disrespectful of "our" Chinese ancestors and should never be done, no matter what discoveries might be made.
It is easy for non-Chinese academics to stand outside the tradition and study it "objectively." But must Chinese academics have to consciously step outside their tradition in order to study it? If they do, what do they step into?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Wikimania comes to Taiwan

It's just been announced that next year's Wikimania conference will be held in Taipei. Check out more details here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Back in Mac

Not much time for blogging for the past few months, and not much to say on this blog's usual topics. What have I been up to? Switching to a Mac, for one thing.
You know, they say Macs are "easier," and that may be true for people completely new to computers (are there still such people?), but if you've been using Windows for a long time, there are some concepts to wrap your head around. The one-mouse-button thing wasn't as hard to get accustomed to as I thought it would be, but I often find myself hitting command-whatever when it should be option or control. I have a feeling they are switching functions on me from app to app.
The other thing is, where are all the files? You can open up a Windows app's folder and see all the gunk inside, while the Mac keeps it all safe and out of view. That's probably a good thing--as is not having to worry about a "registry."
The ads say things "just work." There's even an ad with the Mac guy holding hands with "that new camera from Japan" and speaking her language. All I can say is apparently she wasn't made by Sony.
OS X is supposed to be more stable than Windows, too, though it's crashed on me 2-3 times in a month. Firefox has also crashed on me several times.
I've had a few little problems with Firefox and Chinese/Japanese, but when it acts up I switch over to Safari (or just restart the program). NeoOffice is a good replacement for my PC's OpenOffice, and it's been working fine with Asian languages.
In general, though, I like my new MacBook quite a bit and am glad I switched.