A week in Magic Kindergarten

Dear Princess Celestia,

CC: Anyone else reading my blog.

So I’m a week into my course now, more than one seventh of the way to magic Vietnamese fluency. Or something like that. Between work, classes, minimal homework, and an annoying head-cold, I’ve been pretty much flat out, which is lucky as I don’t have any other plans or commitments. (Or none I can’t procrastinate away, rather)

Magic Kindergarten has been an interesting experience. As a mature-age student at the ANU, I was generally taking classes where the lecturers were pretty senior, and therefore much older than me. However, here I’m confronted with the fact that as a foreign-language student (equivalent of the English course at ANUTech, I guess) I’m actually working with fairly junior teachers. Specifically, junior to me. My oldest teacher is three years younger than me, and the youngest is… well I suspect she’s actually only just graduated from my current creepy dating range. (Bet that’s not how you thought that sentence was going to end…) This actually caused my one main personal pronouns flub, as I hadn’t realised she was my teacher, and called her “em”. In my defense, she’d called me “anh” and herself “em” first, so I took my cue from that. That’s been the weirdest part, actually, as my main technique for dealing with personal pronouns was to simply guess until the native-speaker used some, and reflect them. Apparently that’s not a viable strategy.

For people who aren’t familiar with Vietnamese personal pronouns (like myself ^_^), the system is generally age-based: people your age and older up to your father’s age are “anh” and “chị“, people younger than you are “em” and people older than your father are “ông” and ““. There’s a couple of exceptions to the age rules, such as “thầy” for male teachers, “” for female teachers and women slightly older than your father whom you think it would be safer to call “auntie” than “grandmother”. I’m not sure exactly how that last one works, I think it’s supposed to be for unmarried women only, but I call my landlady cô when I can bring myself to vocalise properly and she seems to get a laugh out of it. The age rules also have more complications, e.g., apparently my friend’s eventual children will be “anh” and “chị” to his younger brother-in-law’s already born child as the parent’s ages override the children’s.

To complicate things a little further, I was taught in class that one’s self is “tôi” until one is close to someone, in which case you refer to yourself as they would refer to you, and vice versa. I believed that was keyed off the more senior person using the personal pronoun for themselves, but haven’t really tried that out. So far I’m sticking with “tôi” for everyone I meet here who hasn’t told me to use the personal pronoun. (Which has actually been no-one here, but certainly my bilingual friends have told me to use the personal pronoun from the outset. It doesn’t clarify matters that I’m “anh” to pretty much all of them, limiting my sample size.) I’ll take a being deliberately a little stand-off-ish over unintentionally insulting for now. Call it a little “Gaijin Smash” if you like.

Here’s a “primer” on Vietnamese personal pronouns if the above wasn’t clear.

I’ll gladly receive corrections to the above in the comments, of course.

Speaking of Gaijin Smash, one of my lecturers was telling me that one of his students used to get out of traffic fines and such by simply repeating “I don’t understand” in Korean until the officer gave up. However, many police officers now speak English, so I can’t really rely on that technique, and I doubt I’d get away with it if I tried Korean. Apparently French might work unless I get an older police officer. If anyone knows the Gaelic expression for “I don’t understand. Do you speak Gaelic” feel free to post in the comments? Perhaps wildly mispronouncing “I don’t understand Vietnamese” in Vietnamese will work. “Thuy khon hieeeuuuuu thing Vietnam”. Actually, simply trying to say that normally would probably be enough to warm them off.

If any Vietnamese police officers are reading this, this is of course hypothetical.

I briefly considered explaining the term “Gaijin Smash” to my lecturer, but decided against it. We lost enough time trying to explore the abstract concept of “half-past”. It seems Vietnamese doesn’t have such a concept, but does contain a grammar rule that depends on it. (The correct use of “kém” in reading time) Another longer-than-expected discussion was “a little far” being not quite as far as “far” in Vietnamese, while meaning “just too far” in (Australian) English. I don’t know if this is direct translation (“hơi” is the adverb “a little”) or if that’s a different English dialect. This turned into a discussion of Australian indirect expressions (“How are you?” “Not bad”; “How was the test?” “Not great”) which at the time seemed related, but on reflection, maybe not.

So… back to Magic Kindergarten.

It’s Kindergarten because the first lesson was dedicated to my placement test. I did so poorly and slowly on it that my second lesson (and the homework inbetween) was also spent on the placement test. That’s not encouraging. I described myself as being sent back to magic kindergarten because I was initially enrolled for level B, but am currently “reviewing” the level A-2 book. The fact that all my lecturers are younger than me didn’t become apparently until later in the week. I don’t know if I’m psychic, lucky, or if the universe really does rearrange itself to match my subconscious. In which case I need to have a few discreet words with my subconscious on a number of topics.

I guess University’s not Magic. But certainly Vietnam is. I kept telling people that I was coming here because simply from sheer population size, there are as many attractive young women in Vietnam as there are women in Australia. Turns out I was actually right about this; which is a bit of a surprise ’cause I was simply covering the fact that I didn’t have a good reason to be here. I have several poor reasons, so I’m relying on the aggregate. Think of it as a motivation bubble, where I rebundle bad reasons until they look like they’re worth a single good reason, and then sell it to someone who is being insufficiently critical. This is one aspect of reality my subconscious has done a terrific job of, no complaints at all.

And everyone’s so industrious, I don’t feel so bad being a workaholic. I dunno what my landlords do during the day (they’re usually out) but given the huge amount of UPSes and Huawei equipment in an insulated and shielded room on the roof, and the two company signs on the door, I suspect there’s two or three businesses going on here. Particularly when every bedroom in my home has a LAN cable, and when I pointed out that the one in my room had been cut off, the “son-in-law who speaks English” (Mr Quy) produced a crimping tool and RJ-45 cable head and expected that I’d know how to use them.

Having done this, and bought a USB multi-card reader to read the CF card driving my Alix 2c2 router, I installed OpenWRT on it and now have a private WiFi network in my room. And decently fast Internet, even if Facebook is DNS-blocked. (But Google’s DNS service is not. If you’re a Vietnamese official from the relevant ministry or bureau of public safety, that’s hypothetical.) So now I’m no longer paying $1 per 40MB for 3G data.

It probably reflects my poor communication skills that I got my Internet connection because I was trying to borrow a screwdriver. ^_^

Nonetheless, that particular interaction as well as the discovery of a street full of computer shops nearby cheered me up quite a lot. A belly full of Cháo and nem chua rán helped too. I’d been feeling rather down that morning (partly because I’d just discovered the night before that I’d misread the above-mentioned 3G data plan, and partly because of the heavy cold I was suffering) but by the end of the day, being back on the Internet for real, I was feeling much more like I had arrived somewhere magical.

Then again, perhaps it’s simply that a sufficiently different culture is indistinguishable from magic?

For those who don’t consider the mere ability to walk down the street and be stared at by attractive women to be magical, there’s also the fact that I can buy Steam games at US prices on my Australian credit card. So hit me up if you want something gifted, for a small appreciation. ^_^

If none of the above strikes you as magical, or at least amusing, you might be at the wrong blog. Or you’re hoping to hear me report about the magic of friendship, in which case you’ll have to wait for a later post, as I’ve experiments to run, there is research to be done, and a forgotten but returning ancient evil to thwart.

tl;dr: I feel FANTASTIC and I’m still alive.

Your Faithful Student, TBBle.

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Actively pwning my Wii, old-school

Dear EA Sports active Team,

I have recently purchased your fine product, but have a few concerns I wish to raise with you.

Firstly, despite your strong insistence, and in fact obstinate refusal to proceed without it, a nunchuck accessory is not required to navigate your user interface menu.

Secondly, given the nature of your target audience, shipping a thigh-wrapping strap with a device for making it shorter, and nothing to make it longer, seems a surprising oversight. In case it is not clear, your target audience for a video games console-based exercise assistance program is people who both need exercise assistance, own a video games console, and feel that there is a sufficient level of overlap between these two ideas to spend money on such a program. Many such people will have thighs which exceed your apparent circumference estimations, particularly the upper thigh where you suggest this device is best placed.

Thirdly, it is a breach of Section 53 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 to indicate that your product is “Fitness made Fun and Easy” or to use the phrase “fun, easy-to-learn exercises” when your product holds these two ideas as antonyms. I realise I have not yet fully explored your product, and in fact there may be exercises in your product that match both terms, but surely it would be appropriate to use “and/or” in place of “and”, or possibly ensure that the exercises that are both fun and easy-to-learn are in the first day’s routine.

Fourthly, for a product that purports to encourage good health, it is a concern that your female trainer appear to smile somewhat more frequently and widely than is healthy. Whether this effect is caused by botox, abuse of medicinal substances or simply because she is attempting to reinforce the “fun” aspect of the program by appearing to enjoy herself, it is rather offputting.

Speaking of offputting, my fifth point relates to the representation of myself during many of the gym-style (as opposed to track or game style) activities. The trainer in the Picture-in-Picture window is facing me, as is correct. However, the representation of myself is also facing me, and then undertakes actions with the incorrect arm. If I am told to lift my right arm, and the image of me lifts my left arm, that is confusing. If there were some indication of a mirror being involved, that would alleviate the confusion somewhat, although that indication would probably be hampered by the appearance of a large, lightly wooded grassland behind me, making the existence of a mirror somewhat jarring.

Ante-penultimately, the suggestion in the front of the manual that the player register this game online in order to access cheat codes seems rather out of place in an exercise game, where cheating should probably be discouraged more than it already should be. This issue is somewhat alleviated by the fact that the manual does not appear to contain the required registration code, so access to these cheat codes appears to be impossible.

Penultimately, and this should probably be passed on to any of your VO-script-writing colleagues who may be tempted to similar behaviour, it is inappropriate to describe the player as “owning” anything that is not either chattel or property, unless the target audience exclusively consists of 12-year old male citizens of the United States of America or her conquered territories.

Despite the above comments, I am quite pleased with your product over all, and after a period of time sufficient to ensure that this pleasure is not simply the result of exercise-induced lightheadedness, I will not hesitate to recommend it to my friends who fall within the target market. Although my list of friends is rather limited, the broad appeal of the Wii gaming platform and the broadness of many of my friends means that I feel this recommendation will be of some benefit.

Yours sincerely,
Paul “TBBle” Hampson, Exhausted.

PS. If you were intending to pronounce “pwned”, that leading descender attached to the initial o similarly attaches a bilabial stop to the front of the initial rounded lower middle vowel, unless you are intending to sound like a 12-year old male citizen of the United States of America or her conquered territories.

So, yeah. I bought EA Sports active for the Wii, and foolishly decided, despite my raging cold, to start with the “high intensity” workout. About 10 minutes in I thought my head was going to explode, but it appears to have not done so, and I was able to finish the workout. Mind you, that’s largely because they don’t actually tell you about the “skip current exercise” button during the workout, but rely on you to wander into the help menu on the front screen.

Despite my above comments, I think it’s actually a good thing, assuming I can keep it up. The resistance band however, I’m not hugely fond of. I’d rather have free weights, if they’d tell me the amount of weight I should be carrying for the relevant exercise.

Apart from that, I spent the day downloading Old Time Radio shows: Abbott and Costello [another set], Sherlock Holmes [another set, part 1] [another set, part 2] [another site], Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Candy Matson, Yukon 2-8209, You Bet Your Life and Mindwebs. I’ve downloaded or queued all the above, so if you want to avoid a several-gigabyte download, feel free to poke me into putting them onto a USB stick for you if you’re ’round my place.

This should ensure I have sufficient mp3s to not get bored when I start taking long walks for exercise reasons. Of course, it’d prolly be healthier to walk with someone who can both ignore my whinging of physical discomfort in good humour and whom on with I can carry a conversation for a half hour to an hour, but I don’t have anyone who intersects those two groups, who I feel up to tapping for such a plan.

Oh, and my friends aren’t actually broad. Many of them are broads, but that’s a much harder pun to work into a sentence, without offending them. Not that many of the broads I know are easily offended. ^_^

Tension in Debian changelogs

Holger Levsen wonders what tense people write their changelogs in. Andrew Pollock feels that his tendancy is past-tense.

Looking back over some of mine, FreeRADIUS from a long time ago, and openjpeg more recently, it appears that my preference is to actually write them as untensed fragments. I think I’m answering the question “What does this change do?” from the perspective of the change. This would make sense, mirroring somewhat the comments I put in dpatches (and the overly verbose names that have been known to occur) which are usually the patch talking about itself in the plural. Unless that’s the patch _and_ I talking about ourselves in the plural?

Bollypocalypse

Went to see Race tonight. It’s actually not marked on the Hoyts site, but it’s Hindi/English blend with English/nonsense blend subtitles. It’s mentioned on the IMDB front page, but I missed it looking for the comments on the plot. The front page comment was satisfyingly spoiler free, and very positive. Had I noticed that the commenter was Indian, I might have clicked. Ah, hindsight. >_<

As an aside, the Hindi/English mix was interesting. I haven’t seen enough Bollywood films to know if it’s particular to this film or is part of the style (a friend suggested it was the latter) although I noticed while researching this post that one of the actresses doesn’t speak Hindi. I need to learn more languages, at least reaching the point where I can watch movies in Japanese, Cantonese and now Hindi. And of course I wonder if I can possibly swing a research project into a Hindi/English pidgin. A university-funded Bollywood movie collection would be a thing of beauty…

So I took a few friends, all of us completely unprepared. I really should have clicked to it being Bollywood, given I’d noted the Indian director, actors, etc…

On the plus side it’s really good. Turns out that the best way to improve a twisty, turny, windy plot, double-plot, cross and recross fest (ala Wild Things, which I’ve raved about here before) is to have the actors stop to sing and dance about what they’re feeling every so often.

Also, attractive people are important. ^_^ I now have a new secretarial hiring policy, and a new fashion model hiring policy.

These policies remain subserviant to my existing Neve Campbell hiring policy and Mew Azama hiring policy. But not by much. I’m an equal opportunity employer.

I also want to get married in Cape Town, at the registry office.

If you haven’t seen Wild Things or Race, go do so.

Now Playing: Wild Things. My housemate hadn’t seen it! This is a revelation akin to discovering another friend of mine hadn’t seen The Princess Bride. There’s also a Princess Bride Game coming, although I’m a little concerned, after seeing the trailer.

And just in case you didn’t twig, this post’s title is of course related to revelations. I’m not harbingering the end of Bollywood…

AmazonJP digs smart chicks like me

For reasons which I suspect are more due to the purchase of のだめカンタービレ 特典 のだめの鍵盤ポーチ付き than DS陰山メソッド 電脳反復 正しい漢字かきとりくん and 漢字そのまま DS楽引辞典, Amazon has emailed me to recommend this:

Now, my Japanese is not exactly spectacular, and rikaichan proved unhelpful as well, but this appears to be to be a 3-month exercise cartridge for women to increase their 女ヂカラ. As the joke goes, you fuck just one goat…

(Japanese is my best non-native language, too. My knowledge of Modern Standard Chinese currently extends only to 你有好乳房 “You have excellent breasts” and 你的妹妹有十六歲嗎 “Is your sister 16?”, although if pressed occasional other words, interspersed with Japanese and the occasional mumble will emerge. ^_^)

Now of course I need to go assert my masculinity by buying something like this:
(The infamous witch touching game)

Granted, I’d have bought this game whether Amazon was trying to make me buy girly things or not and I realise that my other purchases (Kakitorikun, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon DVDs, for example) may have given Amazon the impression that I was a female Japanese primary-school student, but seriously, who gives a credit card to an eight-year-old girl named Paul?

Of course, my last AmazonJP shipment went to a female friend who was in Japan, maybe they assume I’ve been pretending to be a foreigner all this time to avoid sales tax? (Which is the opposite of online games, where I usually claim to be from very very south Okinawa, on the grounds that they don’t actually ask what country you’re from, just which prefecture of Japan…. This isn’t a problem, both because I am roughly south of Okinawa, and because Japanese MMOs lost their appeal to me once I realised that the Japanese seem to produce nothing but grinding MMOs.)

On that topic, I was disappointed to see that the Romance Of The Three Kingdoms MMO, at least from the two gameplay videos posted on YouTube, looks like another grinder. A translation of a beta test announcement however suggests that some level of facitonality will enter into it. Shame, really. ROTK would have been an excellent setting for the MMO I’ve been dreaming of creating. And sadly, the link to Dynasty Warriors Wave on the Wii is still not actually a link, at the Koei site. They showed this at the Tokyo Games show in 2005. And after the wonder experience The Godfather turned out to be, I was so looking forward to uniting China under the kingdom of Wu with nought but a pair of chakrams, a Wiimote, and the sweat of my brow (and other body parts). I guess I’ll just have to grab Dynasty Warriors DS: Fighter’s Battle when it ships somewhere in English.

I just now finished watching Dexter, (Warning, Wikipedia article contains unmarked spoilers) which I enjoyed quite a lot. I have to say though, I’d have been frustrated to be watching it week by week. And the second half of the season involved me yelling at him a lot for being an idiot.

Oh, and I joined Mensa the other day. I’ve spent all week telling people I’m a card-carrying genius, which is a bit of an exaggeration, as I don’t know if I get a card (I’ve been too busy to check my post office box.)

Just to reinforce my genius status, I tonight completed all the character writing and drills for the grade 1 of Kakitorikun. That’s 80 kanji, and technically I’ve got an academic transcript that says I know several hundred, but… yeah. That’s not as impressive when I write it down, it turns out my level of Japanese approaches that of an particularly uncommunicative six-year-old. But I have gotten a stamp for every day this month so far. ^_^

I get proud about completely the wrong things, sometimes.

In somewhat more age-appropriate educational news, I’m finally getting back to uni this coming semester, taking Morphology part-time. Work’s pretty good about flexible hours and stuff, so this will hopefully only consume time from my life, rather than life from my veins, as per my previous attempts at part-time study. It helps that this time I’m not travelling interstate to work and further again to study. However, I think I’m going to have to withdraw from the ANUAS comittee, as I’m going to be even more pressed for time than I am now.

If anyone from the ANUAS exec is reading this, sorry. I’ll prolly make an official announcement this week, although given the way things are going, that’s about as reliable as everything else I’ve promised I’d do for the exec.

At least this won’t crimp my social life. My social life couldn’t be crimped by an angry hairdresser with an AK-47 crimping iron, since it’s basically completely absent.

If only I could find an amazonian smart Japanese chick who digs me… Although frankly, I’m flexible on nearly all those details.

Conga-line parking

Oh you lucky things, today this blog becomes a photoblog!

Anyway, walking back from LCA07 to International House…

Front-to-rear An unusual sign was seen in a UNSW parking area

Front-to-kerb This is probably what they actually meant…

Scene from a UNSW parking lot They are of course referring to the same parking lot. But at least they’re not in the parking lot of a department which has a large amount of contact with cars and the like…

Identity revealed Oh.

In other news, I may not have mentioned, but I got a Kodak C310 camera for Christmas. Happily, it is supported by gPhoto’s libgphoto2 so I can pull my photos and movies (no sound) in linux

Internet on Internet action: Routing around the bad to (speech-)recognise the good

Hmm, time to resurrect an old posting format…

Good
The Internet — automatically routing around damage such as a DMCA from Apple.
Bad
Storyline patents — Everytime I think the world has dug itself to rock-bottom, someone hits me on the back of the head with a shovel.
Educational
Kotodama, a video game research prototype for teaching Japanese to anime fans — Now this is where I’d like to be taking my university education… I wonder where the project’s going, and how I can get onboard… And of course, this led me to Julius, a speech-recognition system that I wish I had time to play with.

Thanks to Hellblazer via Slashdot for the heads-up on the patent.

Slashdot is prolly also the viaduct via which I got the Kotodama link, as well as a reminder about the Linux-based GP2X portable gaming doodad, and AnoNet, like FreeNet but built from VPN and SSH tunnels which leave you in control of your own machine’s actions. I guess the difference is that on AnoNet, if someone does work out who you are and they seize your equipment, you don’t have the I didn’t know that was on there defense you get from FreeNet. There’s also the issue that, if you do something heinous enough, such that international authorities can co-operate on it, then you can be tracked down.

One of the things AnoNet’s Wikipedia entry suggests would be a good thing to protect on AnoNet is bnetd, the Battle.net Server that Blizzard Entertainment had shutdown in the US. Mind you, even on the regular Internet finding bnetd source was as easy as following the link from the bnetd Wikipedia entry, once again demonstrating how the Internet routes around damage. ^_^