Thursday, December 29, 2005

8 years ago today...

Back in 1997, I wrote about the first Chinese New Year that I spent with my then-future in-laws, but the only version left of that story is archived here...

Monday, December 19, 2005

In response to this:*

'Are you guilty?' said Winston.

'Of course I'm guilty!' cried Parsons with a servile glance at the telescreen. 'You don't think the Party would arrest an innocent man, do you?' His frog-like face grew calmer, and even took on a slightly sanctimonious expression. 'Thoughtcrime is a dreadful thing, old man,' he said sententiously. 'It's insidious. It can get hold of you without your even knowing it. Do you know how it got hold of me? In my sleep! Yes, that's a fact. There I was, working away, trying to do my bit -- never knew I had any bad stuff in my mind at all. And then I started talking in my sleep. Do you know what they heard me saying?'

He sank his voice, like someone who is obliged for medical reasons to utter an obscenity.

"Down with Big Brother!" Yes, I said that! Said it over and over again, it seems. Between you and me, old man, I'm glad they got me before it went any further. Do you know what I'm going to say to them when I go up before the tribunal? "Thank you," I'm going to say, "thank you for saving me before it was too late."
--from 1984

[Update, 12/27/05: Well, now that (as everyone probably knows), the student in question has admitted to lying, I guess we should all let down our guards and realize that the wiretapping and other domestic spying activities the U.S. government is conducting couldn't possibly endanger the freedoms of patriotic Americans. After all, Colin Powell says it's OK...]

Friday, December 16, 2005

A must-read from the latest Written Communication

At the top of my list of articles to read:

Lillis, Theresa, and Mary Jane Curry. "Professional Academic Writing by Multilingual Scholars: Interactions With Literacy Brokers in the Production of English-Medium Texts." Written Communication 23.1 (2006): 3-35.

Authors' Abstract:
Scholars around the world are under increasing pressure to publish their research in the medium of English. However, little empirical research has explored how the global premium of English influences the academic text production of scholars working outside of English-speaking countries. This article draws on a longitudinal text-oriented ethnographic study of psychology scholars in Hungary, Slovakia, Spain, and Portugal to follow the trajectories of texts from local research and writing contexts to English-medium publications. Our findings indicate that a significant number of mediators, "literacy brokers," who are involved in the production of such texts, influence the texts in different and important ways. We illustrate in broad terms the nature and extent of literacy brokering in English-medium publications and characterize and exemplify brokers’ different orientations. We explore what kind of brokering is evident in the production of a specific group of English-medium publications—articles written and published in English-medium international journals—by focusing on three text histories. We conclude by discussing what a focus on brokering can tell us about practices surrounding academic knowledge production.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Update; upcoming vacation

A few items:
  • The writing workshop with Charles Bazerman on Dec. 3 went really well. There were over 100 people attending. Dr. Bazerman's talks on the history of literacy and of social organization and on assessment were well-received, as were the panels on text-type in teaching and assessment. I hope that we'll be able to do something like this again in the future. (And as Dr. Bazerman himself said, we don't necessarily need to have a big scholar from the U.S. to come in order to have such a conference. Though it was nice to have him here!)
  • Saturday the 10th I went to Tainan to give a talk to Dr. Clyde Warden's IMBA class on using secondary sources in research. The IMBA program at National Cheng Kung University has students from many countries (I met some from Taiwan, New Zealand, the U.S., and Cambodia) and conducts its classes in English. Some students seemed to have done quite a bit of research before and some hadn't, so I tried to aim my talk to those with less experience. I was happily surprised to see Robert, a former student from Tunghai who's now in the IMBA program. Quite a coincidence to run into him!
  • Both Chuck and Clyde talked to me about my dissertation, encouraging me to "finish it!" So I'm going to try to work harder on it, cutting out some of the less necessary distractions in life. (Though there seem to be more and more necessary distractions...) One of the LNDs for me is blogging, so I'm going to be taking what I hope is an extended vacation from the blogging life (contingent upon my ability to control myself!). I hope to be back at some point in the next few months with some good news about my dissertation...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

House of flying kitchen tiles, or The former native speaker's kitchen self-destructs! 2

In this episode of the continuing story of the slow demise of the former native speaker's kitchen, we see the former native Chinese speaker making lunch, oblivious to the kitchen's murderous intent...

Suddenly, she hears creaking sounds. Before she can do anything, pieces of tile fly toward her, pointing their sharp edges at her...

Fortunately, her slow-moving but loyal companion Bing Xiang (冰箱) blocks the ceramic shards of death, saving her life.

The gruesome aftermath (caution: not for those with weak stomachs!):

To view the first episode in this series, click here. Note that this sequel has come out less than a year after the first episode. Take that, Sam Raimi!

Actually, the real story is the FNCS heard the noises and quickly got the camera to take shots as the tiles flew off the wall. (Unfortunately, the battery was dead, so she had to wait until it recharged to take pics of the aftermath...) But why ruin a good story with the truth?

Plagiarism and the Chinese news media

ESWN has helpfully translated an article from on the prevalence of plagiarism in news organizations in China.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Light-pole thievery in the ol' hometown

(Well, actually I grew up in Baltimore County. But it was close to the city! Anyway...) This article in the New York Times caught my attention: "Light Poles Are Vanishing, and Baltimore's Police Are Baffled":

Thieves are sawing down aluminum light poles. Some 130 have vanished from Baltimore's streets in the last several weeks, the authorities say, presumably sold for scrap metal. But so far the case of the pilfered poles has stumped the police, and left many local residents wondering just how someone manages to make off with what would seem to be a conspicuous street fixture.

The poles, which weigh about 250 pounds apiece, have been snatched during the day and in the middle of the night, from two-lane blacktop roads and from parkways with three lanes on either side of grass median strips, in poor areas and in some of the city's most affluent neighborhoods. Left behind are half-foot stubs of metal, with wires that carry 120 volts neatly tied and wrapped in black electric tape.

Things like this happen in Taiwan, also. Every time a typhoon is coming, someone discovers that some industrious thieves have stolen the steel water gates that are needed to help prevent flooding. But it's amazing to me the trouble the Baltimore thieves are going to to take these light poles. As the Times reports,
The culprits seem to have pole-snatching down to a model of precision and efficiency, city officials say. They appear to have gone so far as dressing up as utility crews, the police say, and placing orange traffic cones around the poles about to be felled, to avoid arousing suspicion among motorists.
(My question here is, if the police know that the thieves have done this, why haven't they caught anyone yet?)

(Thanks to MJ for the New York Times reference.)

Abstract for my part of Dec. 3's panel on writing instruction

Earlier I mentioned that my department is hosting a workshop on writing instruction on December 3. I'm on a panel about text-type in teaching and will talk about teaching students to use reference materials such as different kinds of subject dictionaries, subject encyclopedias, and handbooks when they're doing research. I want to post the abstract for my part of the panel and make a few comments about what I'll talk about. Here's the abstract:

Tunghai sophomore English majors are required to take an introductory course in research methods. Some of the more important ideas that I hope students in that course will think about concern how they understand themselves as users of (English-language) texts and how they understand how the texts they are using have been designed to function. I will use basic reference works such as dictionaries and encyclopedias to serve as an example to discuss orienting students to texts that are nominally of the same genre. In Research Methods, students look at how surface differences (such as textual conventions like the use of complete sentences vs. fragments, use of headings, bold typeface, and italics) among various reference materials can inform them of those materials' different purposes and audiences. I hope that this focus will help students become more conscious users of reference materials (in particular) and of texts (in general).
In my 10-minute talk, I want to take people through some of the experiences I had teaching the research methods course and coming to an awareness of what students needed in order to be able to use reference sources. I remember at first, years ago, when I gave students an exercise summarizing subject encyclopedia and subject dictionary articles related to their research topics, some of them would have a lot of trouble figuring out the main idea of the article. There turned out to be several reasons for this trouble, one of which was that the articles didn't always organize information in the same way. Articles in some reference works start out immediately with a brief explanation of exactly what the concept is. (Sometimes the brief explanation is all they have.) Others begin with a "funnel"-like introduction--moving from general to particular in ways similar to how students are often taught to write English essay introductions. (David Crystal's Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language is like this, for instance.) The variations in the organization of articles disrupted student expectations about how to identify the main idea(s). So part of what I found I needed to do was help students put aside those expectations.

Another related issue I will discuss concerns helping students see typographical conventions such as bolding, italicization, capitalization, and the use of different fonts as information rather than decoration. The idea that those surface features (what Paul Prior calls "typographical cuing systems") mean something was something I took for granted until I taught people and worked with people who didn't take it for granted. (This reminds me of Prior's story in Writing/Disciplinarity about an Indonesian undergraduate in one of his classes who had copied down a call number from the index but didn't know what to do with it. Prior's point is he considered libraries "transparent spaces" until then. What he considered "basic" knowledge was not so basic to the student who perhaps had never before used a library with an open-stacks system.) So one of the in-class activities I initiated involved looking closely at various dictionary entries on the same word, comparing and contrasting the information that different dictionaries presented about that word. (This exercise is similar to one that Roy Flannagan had us do in his graduate class in Milton back in the early 1990s, except, of course, we worked with different versions of a poem by Milton.) From there we could begin to discuss purposes and audiences for reference works and begin to see how compilers of those works find ways to condense different kinds of information in different ways for those audiences and purposes. Finally, we would look at the Oxford English Dictionary (which I think English majors should work with at least once before they graduate--if it's available, of course) in its physical and virtual forms. We worked on understanding the types and forms of information that the OED provides. The students' final assignment in this sequence was an exercise in "decompressing" the information in an OED entry and writing a brief "study" of a word based on that entry.

I hope that students were able to take out of these activities the idea that reading and using information in English requires attention to, and interpretation of the "typographical cuing systems" as well as the ability to read "through" the words to get at the meaning. I have some sense that many were able to do this. I think it also can help create an atmosphere in which learning how to use the MLA citation system is tied to communicative purposes rather than being merely an exercise in formalistic correctness.

Anyway, that's basically what I'm going to talk about on Dec. 3. If you're in the area, stop by! (Not just to hear me talk, though! More interesting people than I will be on hand!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The celebrations continue...

The former native speaker just found out that his brother, a.k.a. "the former blogger" (heh... he's gonna kill me for that) won, along with a coworker, the Creativity and Innovation Award at his place of work. He works at Vanderbilt University's Peabody Library. Congratulations, Chris!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A weekend of celebrations

Friday was the former native Chinese speaker's birthday (she heard that Michael Turton's wife was born on Nov. 11 and just wanted to get in on a good thing, I guess). But she had to work on Friday night so we waited till Saturday to celebrate. I made reservations to go to a fancy shmansy hotel restaurant for a seafood dinner. She really wanted to have some Alaskan King Crab. When we got there, after braving Taichung's Saturday night traffic, we found out that what they had available was 'Alaskan King Crab Surprise'--the suprise being that we were supposed to have ordered 3 days in advance and that the AKC would have cost NT$9000... So I guess we were lucky not to have gotten the AKC. Anyway, we did have a decent meal of prawns and lobster, though if we had known... if their website had given any indication... *sigh*

And today (well, actually, Nov. 13) is my parents' 40th wedding anniversary! (How 'bout you, Michael? Anyone in your family having an anniversary today? heh heh...) My parents like to say they were married on Nov. 13; 13 months later my brother was born, and 13 months after that I was born. Good thing we're not superstitious...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Workshop on writing instruction in an EFL context

The Tunghai FLLD will be hosting a workshop entitled "Situating Writing Instruction in an EFL Context: A Conversation with Charles Bazerman" on December 3. Information about the workshop can be found here. Charles Bazerman (as the workshop's website says)
is an influential scholar in the field of Writing Across the Curriculum and has lectured in many countries about writing theory and practice.

He has authored and co-edited such books as Shaping Written Knowledge: The Genre and Activity of The Experimental Article in Science (1988), What Writing Does and How It Does It (with Paul Prior, 2004), and Reference Guide to Writing Across the Curriculum (with Joseph Little, Lisa Bethel, Teri Chavkin, Danielle Fouquette, and Janet Garufis, 2005).

He is Professor and Chair of the Department of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara (USA).
Dr. Bazerman's website contains a bibliography of his works and online versions of many of his essays.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Where are the interculturalists?

Kerim over at Savage Minds bemoans the lack of linguistic anthropologists among the interviewees written up in a Forbes special issue on communicating. Virtually rolling his eyes, he groans, "When they wanted an article on 'cross-cultural communication' they went to a zoologist!"

I'm feeling similarly after skimming through the articles--but I'm wondering where the scholars in intercultural communication are--or the speech comm. people in general. Or a token rhetorician. I mean, the topic is communication...

Don't ...

You'd think ...

I mean ...

Oh, never mind.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bourdieu_boy on Hero

Bourdieu_boy has a smart analysis of Zhang Yimou's Hero that I've been meaning to link to. One quote in particular, that compares Hero to Crouching Tiger, stood out for me:
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon spoke from the margins of the Chinese-speaking world, from the diaspora, Chinese-America, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan, and from this position addressed both the rest of the world and mainland China itself. Hero has stepped up to speak from the centre in an indignant register, aiming to be more spectacular, more impressive and more successful than its marginal rival. Hero can be understood as an emphatic and wholly deliberate response by mainland cultural producers to both the globalization of Chinese culture and the presumption of other "Chinas" to speak for China.
I remember when Crouching Tiger came out, I looked somewhat condescendingly upon its "Chineseness." So this piece is something of an antidote to my previous chauvinism. (What right would I have to be a Chinese cultural chauvinist, anyway?)

Another tempting CFP: Conference on Intercultural Rhetoric and Written Discourse Analysis

Found this at the Indiana Center for Intercultural Communication website. The ICIC's Third Annual Conference on Intercultural Rhetoric and Written Discourse Analysis will be held in June, 2006. I copied the cfp details from their flyer (a Word document... can I just mention that it drives me crazy when folks do that?):
Call for Abstracts

3rd Annual Conference on Intercultural Rhetoric and Written Discourse Analysis

June 7, 2006

8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

Chairs: Ulla Connor (IUPUI) and Alan Hirvela (The Ohio State University)

Papers are invited on topics including (but not limited to):
  • Theoretical and Empirical Investigations
  • Language- and Culture-Specific Studies
  • Changing Methodologies for Research
  • Practical Applications
  • Teaching and Classroom Practices
  • Writing in School and College
  • Writing in Business and Professional Settings
  • Orality and Literacy Connections
  • Critical Approaches to Contrastive Rhetoric

Deadline for Submission: April 1, 2006
Notice of Acceptance/Rejection: April 15, 2006

Papers should be 20 minutes long with an additional 10 minutes for discussion.

Abstracts should be no more than 250 words long, typed on a single page. In the upper left-hand corner, place the submitter's name, address, institutional affiliation, phone and fax numbers, and e-mail address. Send submissions to:

Ulla Connor
Indiana Center for Intercultural Communication
ICIC Conference on Intercultural Rhetoric & Written Discourse Analysis
620 Union Drive – Union Bldg. Rm. 407
Indianapolis, IN 46202-5170

For more information:

(317) 274-2555

Registration Fees (Lunch Included): $70 early registration, $80 onsite registration
$35 student registration, $45 onsite student registration
Sounds interesting...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Tempting CFP: "Intervention in Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Encounters"

Came across this cfp for the 2nd Conference of the International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies. The deadline is Nov. 30 and the conference date is in July 2006. But I've gotta work on the big D...

Some details about the conference (swiped from the cfp):
Translators, interpreters, and other intercultural communicators and commentators are indispensable mediators in processes involving the movement of people, ideas, technologies, and literatures between different places, cultures, languages, and even times. Their role can, however, also be described as one of intervention, which stresses a more-or-less self-conscious commitment to effecting change and determining outcomes in societal, cultural, economic and other encounters. This, the 2nd Conference of the International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies (IATIS), aims to address issues of intervention in interlingual and intercultural encounters, asking, for example, how such intervention can be conceptualised and enacted? And if, following Hermans (2001), such encounters require the speaking subject to position itself in relation to, and at a critical distance from, a source text, does intervention grow as we take up positions that are in direct opposition to source texts? Or does maintaining the status quo not itself sometimes imply complicity with a position that may change the future for others?

Following the success of its inaugural conference in Seoul in 2004, the International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies now invites proposals for papers and panels addressing the theme of Intervention in Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Encounters. The Conference will welcome contributions in areas where the ethical and ideological dimensions of translation, interpreting and other intercultural practices have traditionally been a focus, as well as in areas where these dimensions have been addressed less explicitly, although they are always present. Contributions in the following areas are thus particularly encouraged:
  • Interpreting cultural interfaces

  • Translator and interpreter training
  • Language survival and nation-building/nationalism/transformation
  • Post-colonial acculturation and hybridity
  • The translation of literature (adult and children's) as intervention
  • Oral literary traditions and folklore as intervention
  • Globalisation and localisation in the developed/ing world
  • Interpreting and the authentic voice
  • Interpreting silences
  • Corpus translation/interpreting studies
  • Forensic linguistics
  • Translation technology
  • The crisis of representation in Western theory
Contributions may be approached from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds including, but not restricted to: anthropology, corpus-based studies, cultural studies, gender studies, intercultural studies, interpreting studies, linguistics, literary theory, localisation, media studies, pedagogy, postcolonial studies, pragmatics, sociology, translation technology.

The conference will be held at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa and will be truly international in its outlook, while at the same time drawing on South Africa's recent and rich experience of cultural and political transformation.
Well, maybe next time, though I have an idea for a paper on translating silences...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

BBC News on Taiwan's work on a Tamiflu copy

BBC News has an article titled "Taiwan to ignore flu drug patent" on its website.

I wrote this commment to BBC:
I don't think the headline "Taiwan to ignore flu drug patent" is an accurate reflection of the situation. The health official you quoted does say that they are in communication with Roche to try to get permission to mass produce. So they're not "ignoring" the patent.

Also, you might mention that Taiwan has never been allowed into the World Health Organization. (This means it probably won't get any WHO assistance if the bird flu attacks the island, just as it didn't get [any real] assistance from WHO when SARS struck.) In the end, we might need to balance the company's right to a patent against the right of the people of Taiwan to live.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Weekend projects


  • Figure out what went wrong after I upgraded the ZoneAlarm firewall on our desktop computer. Now we can't access the Internet at all on that computer (but I can on this notebook, which is on a wireless network with the desktop). I even removed the firewall from the desktop, but the Internet connection still doesn't work. Help!!!
    [Update, 10/24/05: Still trying to figure this one out. I tried the "complete uninstall" but there are about 3 files I just can't get rid of. Whenever I get on the Web I get Zone Alarm's warning page that they've locked down the Internet service. Then they give me a bunch of instructions that don't work. I'm contemplating a complete reformat of my C drive (!), but will try a few more things before I get to the point...]
    [Update, 10/28/05: Finally got the Zone Alarm completely uninstalled. Didn't have to reformat C drive, either. Evidently I'm not the only person who has problems with Zone Alarm 6.0. 5.0 worked fine for me and I wish I still had a copy of it to reinstall. Now I've got to find a decent firewall program that won't gum up the works again...]

  • Check in on the online chat that the students in my Intercultural Communication class will be doing (either Friday night or Saturday morning--not sure yet). I'm enjoying that class--got a great bunch of students. (Actually, I've always had a great bunch for that course!)
    [Update, 10/24/05: The chat seemed to go OK. There will probably be another one Tuesday morning for those who couldn't make it on Saturday.]

  • Respond to the ICC students' comments on our course blog. I'm way behind on that...
    [Update, 10/24/05: Er... uh...]

  • Put together a poster for the upcoming workshop on the teaching and practice of writing that our department will be hosting (Saturday, Dec. 3). The title of the workshop: "Situating Writing Instruction in an EFL Context: A Conversation with Charles Bazerman". Dr. Bazerman, who is professor of education at UCSB, will present on text type in teaching and on theory and practice of writing assessment and we'll have panel discussions on those topics, too, and how they might be applied in writing instruction in Taiwan universities. (Also, perhaps, on how EFL contexts like Taiwan's can challenge North American understandings about teaching text type and assessing writing.) Should be fun! I also need to get some work done on the website for the workshop. Got a draft up, but I'm not ready to unveil it yet...
    [Update, 10/24/05: We (the former native Chinese speaker and I) got the poster done. Looks good and will be sent to a university English department near you soon! (If you're near a university English department in Taiwan, that is...)]

  • Continue preparing for dissertation-related interviews that will be coming up in the next few weeks.
    [Update, 10/24/05: Worked a bit on this. Mostly basked in the nice, helpful, and encouraging comments from my advisor, though...]

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Babelfish: a new approach to EFL composing?

Recently I've been coming across some English compositions that have me completely dumbfounded. They contain sentences the likes of which I have never seen--grammatical errors and diction problems that are completely new to me (and I've been teaching EFL writing for over 10 years). I am about 90 percent sure that the students writing these compositions are composing in Chinese, then using some sort of translation program (either online or some software) to translate the compositions into English. As you can probably guess, the compositions that come out of such an approach are sometimes pretty bizarre. I'm not going to quote any student writing here, but I'll copy some text that I plan on showing them tomorrow.

I copied a paragraph from one of the stories we read, "The Judge's House" (originally written by Bram Stoker and retold in simplified version by Rosemary Border), into the Babelfish translator. Here's the sentence:
He almost dropped the lamp. He stepped back at once, and the sweat of fear was upon his pale face. His knees shook. His whole body trembled like a leaf. But he was young and brave, and he moved forward again with his lamp.
Then I had the translator turn it into Chinese:
他幾乎投下了燈。他立即跨步, 並且恐懼汗水是在他的蒼白面孔。他的膝蓋震動了。他的整體打顫了像葉子。但他是年輕和勇敢的, 並且他再今後搬走了與他的燈。
The Chinese is a bit odd (OK, it's positively weird). First of all, "dropped" becomes "threw"; then "stepped back" becomes "stepped" (no indication of direction); "the sweat of fear was upon his face" is rendered into very unidiomatic Chinese. A more likely sentence would be something like "他蒼白的面孔上冒出了恐懼的汗水。" (I'm sure someone can come up something better, but...) His knee is now no longer shaking--it's vibrating. And so on... Toward the end, "he moved forward again with his lamp" becomes a sentence about moving out (as in, from one's home) again from this day forward... er... with his lamp.

Just for the fun of it, I used Babelfish to translate the Chinese back into English:
He has nearly thrown down the lamp. He steps immediately the step, and the frightened sweat is in his pale face. His knee vibrated. His whole trembled has liked the leaf. But he is young and brave, and he from now on moved out and his lamp again.
If you're saying, "Huh?", you're right. And this is what I'm seeing: mistakes that I've never seen non-native writers make before. Mistakes that are different--and usually more severe--than they probably would have made had they written it themselves in the first place.

My question about this is, how does this fit into the usual discussions of student writing and academic integrity? I sort of feel that if used correctly, these translation programs aren't much worse than using bilingual dictionaries--if the students can be taught not to depend on them blindly, the programs can help. (I've used them sometimes to help me write stuff in Chinese--but usually I have to do a lot of "repair work" to what gets produced.)

On the other hand, I also have to think that one of my purposes for asking students to write something is for them to practice using the English that they have already learned rather than merely generating English text. Perhaps I need to make that purpose clearer to them...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Abecedaria on Chinese dyslexia

Link here. The author, Suzanne McCarthy, cites C K Leong, a professor who has worked on this topic for quite a number of years. Very interesting.

Uses and abuses of the "impact factor"

Crooked Timber has a post about an article in the latest Chronicle of Higher Ed regarding uses and abuses of the concept of the "impact" factor by journals in or wanting to be in the ISI's listings of "important" journals. (ISI--owned by Thomson--produces the SSCI, SCI, and A&HCI, as we'll recall.) One interesting place in the Chronicle article is where Eugene Garfield, who helped develop the concept of the impact factor, "compares his brainchild to nuclear energy: a force that can help society but can unleash mayhem when it is misused":
"We never predicted that people would turn this into an evaluation tool for giving out grants and funding," says Mr. Garfield.
One abuse of the impact factor is the pressure to self-cite (that is, cite other articles published in the same journal) in order to boost the journal's impact factor. Another problem has to do with the shaky relationship between journals' impact factors and that of the articles published in those journals:

Mr. Garfield and ISI routinely point out the problems of using impact factors for individual papers or people. "That is something we have wrestled with quite a bit here," says Jim Pringle, vice president for development at Thomson Scientific, the division that oversees ISI. "It is a fallacy to think you can say anything about the citation pattern of an article from the citation pattern of a journal."

Such warnings have not helped. In several countries in Europe and Asia, administrators openly use impact factors to evaluate researchers or allocate money:

  • In England, hiring panels routinely consider impact factors, says Mr. Nevill.

  • According to Spanish law, researchers are rewarded for publishing in journals defined by ISI as prestigious, which in practice has meant in the upper third of the impact-factor listings.

  • In China, scientists get cash bonuses for publishing in high-impact journals, and graduate students in physics at some universities must place at least two articles in journals with a combined impact factor of 4 to get their Ph.D.'s, says Martin Blume, editor in chief of the American Physical Society, who recently met with scientists in China.

The obsession with impact factors has also seeped into the United States, although less openly. Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, says a young faculty member once told him about a policy articulated by her department chair. She was informed that in order to get tenure, scientists should publish in journals with an impact factor above 5.

"We are slaves to the impact factor," says Mr. Frank, whose organization publishes 14 science journals.

Although the article is focused on the sciences, one might wonder if there are similar problems with the abuse of this approach in the social sciences and humanities. (It's not hard to guess what my answer to that would be...)

There's an online discussion hosted by the Chronicle. (Begins at 1 p.m., US Eastern time)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Allergy season

If this keeps up, I'm going to rename this blog "Red Eyes and Runny Nose"... (*sniff*)

Monday, October 10, 2005

A meme I can't resist...

(via Clancy at CultureCat)

For this, you go to Google and type "[your first name] needs"... I got the following:

Jonathan needs to be redeemed, or made completely evil. (They're both tempting...)

Jonathan needs to draw up a business plan to demonstrate to potential backers that his idea is a sound investment.

Jonathan needs to restructure his portfolio.

Jonathan needs to start drinking more beer.

Jonathan needs to leave.

Jonathan needs some help with healthy eating and exercise, so Kathleen casts his little Brother as an aide. (Well, I'll agree with the first part, but I don't have a little brother...)

Jonathan needs to stop by and do some landscaping. (OK, but only if you don't make me mow the lawn.)

Jonathan needs to have the sh*t beat out of him. (And I know who's willing to do it...)

Jonathan needs to refocus his life as well as his career. (That's almost as harsh as the previous one!)

Jonathan needs to be sent to La Paz for an electrocardiogram at an estimated cost of 1,650.00 pesos. (Can't I just do it at the Veteran's Hospital in town?)

What Jonathan needs is some kind of crash course in how to come to grips with what has become of his life. (Best advice so far...)

Jonathan needs to be a man and own up to his own mistakes. (Maybe that's what the crash course would teach me?)

Jonathan needs to learn the definition of a "clean lead."

Jonathan needs to find a pit filled with punji sticks. (And to learn the definition of "punji sticks"...)

Jonathan needs a punch in the face...seriously. (What is it with these people?)

Jonathan needs to be struck down hard because of his actions. (Ouch!)

Jonathan needs some love cuz he's been spurned by an unfeeling Hollywood. (Especially if they're the folks beating the sh*t out of me, punching me in the face, and striking me down hard...)

And finally...

jonathan needs his beauty sleep. (Amen!)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Watch that language...

From today's Liberty Times (自由電子報) comes the story of PHILIP (his name is in all caps throughout the article), a British businessman who got accused by a former employee of "publicly insulting" (公然侮辱) the employee by using the F-word (also all caps--maybe he was shouting) at a meeting. Fortunately for PHILIP, the judge in Taipei declared him not guilty because PHILIP had used the word to describe the employee's watch (the employee was 20 minutes late) and not the employee. Meanwhile, a guard at an apartment building was fined NT$1500 for using the Chinese version of F--K because the court decided he had used it to insult the other party directly. So if you're going to use the word, be careful how you use it!

Al Gore on democracy, the media, and public discourse

Al Gore spoke on Oct. 5 about the "grave danger" that public discourse in the U.S. is in. The transcript is available here.

[Update: Rebecca MacKinnon summarizes Gore's speech.]

Monday, October 03, 2005

Discussion about rhetoric and the humanities at the Blogora

The Blogora, a rhetoric blog that doesn't often seem to contain posts about rhetoric (at least as far as I can tell), has an interesting post by James Aune where he tosses around some of his views about the relationship of rhetoric to the humanities and social sciences. He has already received two comments, and hopefully will get more feedback for the position paper he's working on. I'm looking forward to seeing what he finally comes up with.

(By the way, I registered for an account--who knows, one of these days I might be brave enough to post a comment there--and was pleasantly surprised to receive my password in the form of an e-mail from the "World Wide Web Owner". Glad to see the ol' owner of the Web is keeping busy sending out passwords to ordinary folks like me...)

Word verification activated

What Rank said. Except as a rhetorician, I'd like to see some words like "bdelygmia", "insinuatio", or "verborum bombus"...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Big autumn typhoon on its way...

Its name is "Longwang" (龍王) or "Dragon King" and it's got a big ol' dragon eye... It looks like it will be affecting us tomorrow and possibly Monday (which might mean no classes Monday?...)

(picture from the Central Weather Bureau website)

[Update, Oct. 5: Longwang passed through quickly and hardly left any rain in the Taichung area. We had classes on Monday, much to my FENM students' dismay. (We had a quiz that day.)]

Friday, September 30, 2005

Where the former native speaker realizes answering an easy question isn't that easy...

My wife was watching a show where flight attendants were talking about their experiences doing job interviews. When they did the English job interview, one of the applicants--who had practiced a lot for this interview--was asked the simple question, "What's your favorite fruit?"

Not expecting this kind of question, she thought and thought. To help, the interviewer asked again: "What's your favorite fruit? You know, strawberries? Or bananas?"

"Oh yes!" said the interviewee. "I like to eat umbrellas!"

When she told me about this, I laughed and wondered aloud how anyone could say such a thing. My wife said maybe the applicant mixed the words "strawberries" and "bananas" to make "umbrellas". (They sort of sound similar. Sort of.) But I wasn't convinced. "I still don't see how anyone could do such a thing."

So she asked me, in Chinese what my favorite fruit was.

"香草!" (Oops...)

(Little extra credit: what did I mix up to get that result?)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Empires of the Mind: a new book in the former native speaker's library

The complete title is Empires of the Mind: I. A. Richards and Basic English in China, 1929-1979 by Rodney Koeneke. I just got it today.

It looks like it will shed some important light on an aspect of I. A. Richards's life that has not been deeply (or widely) discussed--his experiences in China. I don't remember how I first found out that Richards had traveled to China several times, mostly during the Republican era (1911-1949), but that, and mention of him in the preface to Anne Cochran's (the Tunghai FLLD chair in the '50s and '60s, not the singer) Modern Methods of Teaching English As A Foreign Language (a book I briefly mention here), motivated me to take a look at a biography of him by John Paul Russo. Russo discusses Richards's relationship with China in one chapter, and I'll be interested in reading how Koeneke expands on that discussion.

Two things I noticed while skimming the bibliography and index of Koeneke's book, though: 1) he doesn't seem to have used any Chinese-language sources. I wonder, then, if this book will cover more of Richards's perspective toward China than vice-versa. I'll have to see... and 2) a minor quibble--Tseng Yueh-nung (Beauson Tseng), first president of Tunghai, is mentioned (Tseng worked with Richards in China on a Subcommittee on Vocabulary Selection for Middle Schools), but his name is written "Tsing" for some reason. I wonder if that's how Richards wrote his name? (But I remember Tseng mentioned as "Tseng" in Russo's book.) Anyway, as I say, that's a minor criticism. Overall, I'm looking forward to reading this book and adding it to the background for my dissertation.

[Update, 1 Oct. 2005: Having read the first chapter of the book, I need to mention that Koeneke does acknowledge/comment upon his own lack of Chinese and this lack's relationship to his scholarship. He writes,
To a large extent, the decision to reconstruct the dramatic transformations which occurred in China and the West during the years of Richards's Basic enterprise from the evidence of his diaries, letters and published writings reflects the kinds of questions I asked about the way we narate the history of British imperialism. It also reflects my own limitations. British historians of the future will no doubt read a number of languages in addition to English (many already do) as the history of Britain is increasingly folded into that of the empire which for so long gave it its meaning. I read no Chinese, and speak about as much as my subject did. As a consequence, the enormously important story of Chinese reactions to Richards's efforts, as well as to those of the Rockefeller Foundation and other Western institutions in China during the tumultuous years between the Ching Dynasty and Mao's Revolution, can only be hinted at here. ... (17-18)
He also mentions that he has purposely "retained Richards's spelling of Chinese names." He says, "In doing so I hoped to convey something of the air of privileged aloofness which Richards enjoyed as an Englishman abroad" (19).

Friday, September 09, 2005

Another complication for those wanting to do research ethically

Tom Stafford at the University of Sheffield has been conducting an exchange with the people of Reed Elsevier about the academic publisher's involvement in hosting arms trade shows (though a subsidiary, Spearhead Exhibitions). If, like me, you hadn't heard about this before, you can read his exchange with the company here and here and here and here. He also has two other posts about the situation (here and here). Stafford's argument (quoted from his Sept. 8 post) is as follows:
I believe that the DSEi arms fairs are immoral, geopolitically reckless, sometimes illegal (e.g.) and improperly regulated (e.g.). Beyond this, I resent that a publisher which profits from the hard (and publicly funded) work of academics uses those profits to support the sale to undemocratic & repressive governments of such things as depleted uranium shells, cluster bombs, missile technology and small arms. The arms fairs Spearhead organises (yes, DSEi isn't the only one) are a measly amount of Elsevier's business, but it is a part that makes academics complicit in the deaths of civilians, in torture and in political repression around the world.
Reed Elsevier's response to his letters basically claimed that arms trade is "legitimate business" and that "it is your democratic right" to disagree with RE's involvement in arms trading (though it won't affect their business).

When teaching Research Methods, I talk a lot about research ethics in terms of using sources properly--accurating citing sources, not taking the source's ideas or arguments out of context, using sources that are reliable, ... But this is sure a new twist on research ethics: what do we do when our school's library subscribes to journals and databases whose publishers are involved in business that many of us would consider immoral? And what should we teach our students about this?

(via Crooked Timber)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Two experiments

We're experimenting with keeping the air con off these days. We've got the windows open and some fans on, and there's sometimes a nice breeze that comes in through the balcony window. The view from that window looks like this:

OK, I'm a liar. That picture was from the Chiang Kai-shek Camping Area in Dakeng. Our balcony view actually looks more like this:

Except now we have some creepy vines on the balcony that I pulled off the walls because they were tearing the tiles off the wall of the balcony.

Anyway, that's our first experiment--no air con. It's OK, but it's a litle humid in here.

Second experiment: I was reading Academic Coach today--she has some suggestions regarding writing daily and keeping records of how long you write a day. So I'm going to try that out. Every week I'll report on how much time I spent on my diss. that week. (This will make for exciting reading, I'm sure...)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


OK. Back to the diss. Classes start next Thursday, so...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Typhoon holiday

We just got our power back after a morning without electricity. It's still raining prety hard outside and the wind is blowing the rain in all directions. We still have water, but I filled up the bathtub anyway last night.

According to one report I heard, Talim evidently split in two when it hit the central mountain range. This weakened it--the rain hasn't been as heavy as predicted, but it is still pretty heavy.

I don't have any pictures yet, but Michael Turton has some pics of his neighborhood that he took when he "went out for newspapers this morning in a driving rain and strong winds" this morning. (Guess he's going for the nutty foreigner award. On the other hand, I heard the garbage truck driving around our neighborhood this morning and we saw a someone on a motorcycle almost get blown over outside our window. So I guess he's in good company!)

After hearing reports that there may be "thousands dead" in New Orleans, it's hard to get too uptight about what's happening here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Gettin' windy here...

Typhoon Talim is starting to affect us right now, as you can see from the images below from the Central Weather Bureau:

Update, 11:23 p.m.: Still windy (getting windier). And have some rain leaking into the apartment--somehow getting in through the air conditioner.

Here's the latest satellite image from the Central Weather Bureau.

Taiwan's down there somewhere...

I heard Mike Chinoy on CNN earlier, saying that Taiwanese are even more serious about this typhoon because of the coverage of Katrina that has been on the news here. Maybe. But I think it's also because this is such a huge typhoon. One news article mentioned that it has winds up to 184 kmh.

The news has announced that businesses and schools will be closed all over the island tomorrow. We'll probably have to prepare for a water shortage too, I imagine. Hopefully it won't be like last year. Time to fill up the bathtub...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Speaking of Taiwan and rhetoric...

Rhetoric doesn't actually get a mention, but the Taiwan News has an article about a discussion group on deliberative democracy that was held during the Youth National Affairs Conference in Taipei:
In a discussion group on the Youth National Affairs Conference, a panel of National Youth Commission officials and youth representatives shared with international experts how the "deliberative democracy" decision-making process is being implemented locally.

"Deliberative democracy" refers to a fairly direct form of democracy similar to a political debate and decision-making process found in Swiss cantons, and was the theme of the meetings over the weekend, which focused on the "Impact of Deliberative Democracy on Youth of Taiwan."

The meetings included "Citizen Dialogue Circles", which "are group sessions that use study group methodologies to clarify and discuss issues by means of role-playing, active listening and vision building", and "Citizen Consensus Conferences", which

targeted issues related to educational resource allocation, career development for youth and even prenatal medical tests. Another major discussion stream centered on Taiwan's global role - as a globalized economy, as a global nation and as a global civil society.
According to the article, last year's conference included discussion of the presidential election.

The process results in reports that might summarize discussion and/or make recommendations to leaders. According to Zeng Jhao-ming of the National Youth Commission,
"In the Taiwanese case, National Youth Commission is responsible for a view of policy rather than having a direct impact on or being responsible for implementation of policy...we are in a position to send out the recommendation or advice made..."
The Youth National Affairs Conference website is here (Chinese only). Sunday's session was also attended by international scholars including James Fishkin of Stanford University's Center for Deliberative Democracy.

I haven't thought much about this youth conference or how (or if) deliberative democracy is being implemented in Taiwan. I'll have to come back to this at some point, though.

Update 8/31/05:
The Taiwan News has an editorial in today's edition: "Deliberation tools can boost quality of Taiwan democracy." The editorial comments on the potential usefulness of deliberative forums to increase citizen understanding of and participation in national and local issues.
As several analysts noted, deliberative forums or polls can provide an important supplement to both indirect representative institutions and to process of direct democracy, such as national citizen referendum, by providing channels for reasonable and informed discussion of urgent or important issues on a community or even national scale.
The editorial goes on to point out that two of the basic prerequisites for successful citizen forums or other forms of public deliberation are the people's (and organizers') willingness to keep their minds open and their willingness to see discussion and deliberation as an end rather than a means:
Methods of deliberative democracy, such as citizen forums, "storytelling" among people of various ethnic and social groups and political views, and deliberative polling should be used to explore such critical questions in an open-ended manner instead of being seen as a means to "solve" a predefined problem.
As the editorial points out, however, there is a great deal of "political polarization" in Taiwan--particularly in the Legislature--that would make "a bill that would require citizen discussion of proposed laws and programs" hard to pass. They suggest "an independent institution under the Cabinet or under the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission or its proposed replacement National Development Commission" as an alternative.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Another new book in the former native speaker's library

台籍菁英的搖籃:台中一中 (The Cradle of the Taiwan Elite: Taichung First Secondary School), by 朱珮琪 (Zhu Peiqi).

This book is an extensively revised version of Zhu's master's thesis. It's a history of a school that was the first secondary school established for Taiwanese boys during the period of the Japanese occupation (1895-1945). The school was established through the efforts of Taiwanese elites like Lin Xiantang (林獻堂), Lin Lietang (林烈堂), and Gu Xianrong (辜顯榮). Looks like it'll be a good book! (The school is now a senior high school, by the way.)

Friday, August 26, 2005

mmmmm... Dr. Pepper....

OK, why didn't anyone tell me that Tesco in Taichung has Dr. Pepper for a mere NT$25 per can? (That's about 77.383 cents US, btw.) Dr. Pepper fans of Taichung, run out there and buy 'em up! Let the folks at Tesco know that they need to keep this stuff in stock! (And maybe devote more shelf space to it. I almost missed it--it's on the far end of the carbonated beverages shelf.)

Oh, and there's some A&W Root Beer too, for fans of that. Ahem.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Helping out a blogger and her family

Academic Coach has set up a way to help an ABD blogger named "Badger" deal with the medical costs for her terminally ill husband. Check out the link and consider contributing to the "Badger Fund." The family's medical costs are enormous, the U.S. government is no help (of course), and anything we can spare will surely help.

Here's Badger's blog, by the way.

Update, 8/30/05: News from Academic Coach that Badger's husband has passed away. Also this from Badger herself.


I've posted a few article summaries on my "disserblog", Kun zhi ji (困知記) that pertain to intercultural rhetoric. So far the summaries are of
The summaries are part of a lit. review I'm working on. I'll be revising them and posting more summaries/commentaries as I work on them. I'm particularly interesting in the ways in which rhetoric and writing studies have approached rhetoric and writing in intercultural contexts, especially as it pertains to China, Taiwan, and more generally, East Asia. I'm less interested, at this point, in contrastive rhetoric articles that simply compare "thought patterns" or writing styles/organizational patterns of different cultures. Right now I'm more interested in studies of rhetorics in contact. I'd like to get feedback, especially from folks interested in intercultural rhetoric. Thanks!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Farewell to the White Terror

This evening I finished reading 走出白色恐怖 (Farewell to the White Terror) by 孫康宜 (Sun Kang-i). As I mentioned earlier, her father was arrested and jailed for 10 years. He was imprisoned in 1950, when Sun was six years old. He spent some time imprisoned on the infamous Green Island and then was moved to a military prison in Xindian (新店) in 1953, where he spent the rest of his 10 years of imprisonment. Sun's father was jailed because of some relatives who were members of an anti-KMT organization (though he was not a part of that--one of Sun's uncles, however, was involved in the Luku Incident [鹿窟事件] of 1952). Sun's father actually got out after 10 years, which was not by any means guaranteed at that time, but his health was affected by the experience (he got tuberculosis).

But Sun's book, as she emphasizes, is not "accusatory literature" (控訴文學) or "scar literature" (傷痕文學, also translated as "literature of the wounded"), but rather a book about gratitude. She thanks family members who took her, her mother, and her brothers in when her father was jailed; she thanks a teacher (Mr. Lan) who helped her family, even taking in her brother when her mother had to stay in the hospital for a while; she even thanks a rickshaw driver who took her family from the Xindian bus station to the military prison and refused to accept her mother's money for the trip because of his sympathy for the family's plight. In fact, most of the essays that make up Farewell (many of which have been previously published in various magazines and newspaper literary supplements) are organized around a person or group of people to whom Sun wants to express gratitude for their help during her family's time of need.

Part of the reason for this "literature of gratitude" comes, I'm sure, from Sun's deeply held religious beliefs. As a Christian, Sun wants to demonstrate how God led her family through the difficult circumstances of their lives during their time of suffering. One of the most difficult issues that many Christians (or any believers in a religious faith, I imagine) are asked about or have to face themselves regards why people suffer. While Sun's book is not a theological treatise on the roles of evil and suffering in the world, one gets the impression that she might view suffering as one way through which people can have the opportunity to help one another (and have the opportunity to be helped by others).

So close it's eerie...

My wife just took the Book Quiz... It's quite accurate, except for the part about "Celeste"...

You're Babar the King!

by Jean de Brunhoff

Though your life has been filled with struggle and sadness of late, you're personally doing quite well for yourself. All this success brings responsibility, though, and should not be taken lightly. Life has turned from war to peace, from damage to reconstruction, and this brings a bright new hope for everyone you know. These hopeful people look to you for guidance, and your best advice to them is to watch out for snakes. You're quite fond of the name "Celeste".

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Composing interview questions

I'm writing interview questions (actually a list of questions to send to a potential interviewee). Lately, my questions have been along the lines of, "Fifty years ago, you said ..... What did you mean by that? How did people respond to it?" etc.

Sometimes I feel like one of Chris Farley's characters on Saturday Night Live--the one who would interview movie stars like Bruce Willis and say, "You know that time when you were in Die Hard and you tied the firehose around your waist and jumped off the building?"


"That was cool."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Well, I should have figured...

You're The Sound and the Fury!

by William Faulkner

Strong-willed but deeply confused, you are trying to come to grips with a major crisis in your life. You can see many different perspectives on the issue, but you're mostly overwhelmed with despair at what you've lost. People often have a hard time understanding you, but they have some vague sense that you must be brilliant anyway. Ultimately, you signify nothing.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Mail call

After a day of working on my dissertation, reading and writing (mostly reading) and struggling in spots with where I want it to go and how I'm going to get it there, I get to settle back and take a look at today's mail.

I got a "big brown envelope" from my parents (as promised in an e-mail from my father). It contains a letter that my mother typed around a photocopy of a "Doonesbury" comic. (It's the one from July 24, in case you're interested--the one where Mike is daydreaming about Bush apologizing for the Iraq war. Dream on, Mike...) Among other things, my mother mentions that one of my uncles has just turned 65. ("I barely remember being that age!" she exclaims.) She also recounts their pastor's children's sermon, where the pastor
made the mistake of asking them if they'd ever gone swimming in the ocean, and they proceeded to yell out their experiences in the pool, ocean, bathub, whatever, and she couldn't shut them up to give the sermon. Finally said let's bring an end to this, and dismissed them.
The brown envelope also contains an obituary for Richard H. Hart, a gentleman from Morgantown (but born in Martinsburg) who "died unexpectedly on July 20, in the Morgantown Public Library, his place of employment for the last 10 years, surrounded by his beloved books." My parents didn't know him, but they understand his feeling about books...

The envelope also contains a copy of the "Journal Junction" (from Martinsburg's newspaper The Journal), where some folks have called in to voice their opinions and The Journal has printed some of 'em. One caller's opinion is notable:
From my observations of the political scene in the past five years, I have concluded that the real difference between the Democratic and the Republican parties is that the Democrats want to improve the lives of the American people from the cradle to the grave and the Republicans want to control the lives of the American people from before the cradle to beyond the grave.
Hmmm... I resonate with that... (Well, I should, considering the caller was my mother!)

Wrapping up this inventory, there's a (mighty late) apology letter and baggage tracing/claim form from United (they lost our luggage for close to a week while we were in the States, but it finally got to us). There are two pictures of my mother's four-foot tall (or is it five feet tall?) teddy bear playing the piano, and there's a copy (actually the original) of a treatise I wrote on "animal sex" when I was 6. (There--that last mention will definitely bring some new readers to this site!)

(And no, I'm not going to make a Technorati tag that says "animal sex"!)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

New books in the former native speaker's library

Went to 7-Eleven this evening and picked up 3 books I had ordered from 博客來網路書店 (which translates "Berkeley Internet Bookstore", although they don't call themselves Berkeley in English). They're owned by the same company, President (統一) that owns 7-Eleven (and Starbucks, among other businesses) in Taiwan, so you can order books through the website, have them delivered to your neighborhood 7-Eleven (in Taiwan only, natch), and pay for the books there. (And you don't have to pay postage.) Anyway, that's a long preface to listing the books I bought--sorry! Here's what I got:
  • 走出白色恐怖 (Farewell to the White Terror) by 孫康宜 (Sun Kang-i), a Tunghai graduate (FLLD, 1966) who teaches in the East Asian Languages and Literatures Department at Yale. Her father (a mainlander) was arrested during the White Terror period in Taiwan and jailed as a political prisoner for 10 years. The book was recommended to me by a Tunghai Chinese department professor, Hung Mingshui. I've gotten through the first 40 pages so far.
  • 野火集 (Wildfire Collection) by 龍應台 (Long Yingtai). Republished in 2005, this is a 20th anniversary edition that includes her reflections on the essays she wrote and the reactions to those essays. I found out about this book from the post "Unpolitical Political Statements" on the EastSouthWestNorth blog. Interestingly, the first essay in the collection, 〈中國人,你為什麼不生氣〉("Chinese person, why aren't you angry?") is the first Long Yingtai essay that I read--years ago, in a collection of the R.O.C.'s best essays of 1984. At the time I read the essay, though, I had no idea who Long Yingtai was/is. (I don't mention this to show how well-read I am; rather, I think it demonstrates the huge role serendipity plays in my reading habits...)
  • LA流浪記 (Roaming about in LA)*, by 蔡康永 (Cai Kangyong). Cai is a writer and a host of several kinds of shows on TV here (including interview shows about literature/the arts, shows about relationships, shows that interview celebrities, and even the recent Golden Horse Awards show). He also happens to be a Tunghai graduate (FLLD, 1985), which I didn't know until I saw this on the Tunghai website. Hmmm... Wonder if he'd be interested in doing an interview about his experiences as an FLLD student?
Well, those are the books. Now back to reading them...

*I made up the English translation for Cai's book's title... was thinking about Harry Franck's books of the first half of the 20th century, like A Vagabond Journey Around the World (1910), Roaming Through the West Indies (1920) (both of which I have copies of), and Glimpses of Japan and Formosa (1924) (which I'd love to get a copy of sometime...). Anyway, guess I could have translated Cai's book "Vagabonding in LA", too...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Links (before I lose 'em)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

According to Academic Splat!, getting the book published is only half the battle...

According to Professor Camicao, even getting that book published and getting tenure doesn't help you if you really care about the idea of people reading your work.
Whatever its faults, I did archival research that uncovered some important facts, and provided a synthesis and overview of a large, important subject that --surprisingly-- had not been examined before through an interdisciplinary lens. And thanks to my editor at Respectable U Press, I wrote it clearly (with minimal jargon) so that non-academics and academics in disciplines outside of literature could read it without being annoyed.

But Respectable U Press only did a library edition that costs and arm and a leg. While my pals got their feet in at Bigshot Press and had astonishingly beautiful and affordable paperbacks produced, my gentle creation, dressed in quiet blue, marched anonymously into libraries across the nation. He did not get a viewing at the MLA book-fair, and missed several of the other interdisciplinary book fairs where he might have been seen. When he was displayed, he cost too much for anyone to take home with him. He got no posters. He got no cover jacket. He was dressed in gentle blue and he went gently into the good libraries of this nation.
And that wasn't all: then he got a lousy review by someone who evidently didn't read the book very carefully. *sigh* A depressing tale it is...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Interesting "Frog in a Well" entry on a Chinese wartime dictionary

I love to hear about old dictionaries or encyclopedias that people come across, so was interested to read this entry by Konrad Lawson about a dictionary published during the War of Japanese Resistance. (The title of the dictionary, 《抗戰建國實用百科辭典》, translates as Practical Encyclopedic Dictionary of the War of Resistance and National Reconstruction--quite a mouthful...)

Lawson notes that the dictionary has a lot of censored entries, though many of the blacked-out entries are still readable "because of the slight indentation that the printed characters make on the poor quality paper." Though a lot of the censored entries are blacked out for obvious reasons (they sound pro-Communist or sympathetic to Communist ideas), some seem to be censored just because they appear to "reflect badly on the performance of the Nationalist government in some way." This reminds me of some of the odd things I saw blacked out of English-language encyclopedias from the late 70s that you can (still) find in Tunghai's library. It appeared to be unacceptable, for instance, to suggest that the Nationalists had ever tried to cooperate with the Communists during the war. (Kind of like it's unacceptable to some to suggest the U.S. cooperated with Saddam Hussein a few years ago...?)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Still preparing for that conference...

Mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was at work preparing a presentation for the ISHR conference in LA. I'm still at it and the conference is (ack!) next week! As usual, my paper is about 3 times too long for the 20 minutes I'll have to talk. And I still haven't mastered the art of talking quickly (never managed to go to the SusanSinclairSchool of SpeedSpeech, unfortunately). So have no choice but to continue hacking away at the paper. I'm trying to paraphrase all the things I had quoted (hate saying "According to Burke, Quote ... Endquote"). Then I have to figure out how much of the theory I should toss and how many stories I should cut. I don't know about others, but I always prefer to hear stories in conference presentations. Any other suggestions? (ERG will say, "Finish it!")

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The grass is roughly the same shade of green over here

In the latest Chronicle of Higher Education, Donald Hall writes about faculty life in U.S. and European universities. Some of what he mentions about European universities (heavy teaching loads and comparatively low pay, in particular) sound quite familiar to me. On the other hand, the cost of living isn't quite as high here as it is in European cities, I don't think. Probably not even as high as in major U.S. cities, I would guess. And then there's what he says about academic administration in European universities, which may or may not be similar to the situation here. ("May or may not," that is...)

Security threat for PHP-based blogging

Netcraft reports that PHP-based blogging programs have been found to have a security hole:
Many popular PHP-based blogging, wiki and content management programs can be exploited through a security hole in the way PHP programs handle XML commands. The flaw allows an attacker to compromise a web server, and is found in programs including PostNuke, WordPress, Drupal, Serendipity, phpAdsNew, phpWiki and phpMyFAQ, among others.
(via Michael Jacques)

English articles on aftermath of chemical plant fire

Image of run-off from the scene of Sunday's fire
(from Yahoo!-Kimo News)

Here are a couple of articles in the English-language newspapers about Sunday's fire at the chemical plant:
"The major reason for the water (from the scene of Sunday's fire) turning yellow was because of the 30 percent of hydrolysis protein found in the chemical fire-fighting foam," the Cabinet-level Environmental Protection Administration explained in a statement released later yesterday.

The statement acknowledged that the concentration of sodium nitrite and nitrate nitrogen in the creek was on the high side but did not exceed levels considered safe.
Yesterday, two filtering systems in nearby rivers were established. Seven trucks collected sludge from the rivers and sent them to sewage plants for treatment. EPA officials said that the yellow color in the rivers is normal because decomposition of nitrate released from the factory had been processed in water.

The pH level of river water also remained at "acceptable levels," the EPA said. Since the river water is not source for drinking water, the public should remain calm, officials added. However, agricultural agencies in charge of irrigation management will be closely monitoring the river in the near future.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Industrial park fire in Taichung

Turned on the news earlier this afternoon to hear that a big fire was going on at a chemical plant in the industrial park near Tunghai. Thick black smoke could be seen pouring out of the burning plant. Evidently some sodium nitrite was in danger of spreading over the city as well. According to a recent report on Yahoo!-Kimo's news site (in Chinese), the fire is under control now and there wasn't any evidence of dangerous chemicals in the air.

[Update, 9:25 p.m.: Now Zhongtian news is reporting that chemicals have leaked into the Fazi River. From what I know, the Fazi is the only major river left in Taichung City that still had fish swimming in it (although I imagine the new "Science Park" they're building in Xitun will take care of that sooner or later). No news yet on how they plan to clean up the river, but the news was showing a lot of a thick foamy substance in it.]

[Update, 7/5/05: 12:10 a.m.: A lot of the fish that I mentioned above are turning up dead now.]

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Taiwan's indigenous channel

Among other news sources, the BBC reports on Taiwan's new cable network--ITV (Indigenous Television Network), which will broadcast programs focusing on aboriginal groups here.
Aboriginal groups, who account for less than 2% of Taiwan's population, have long complained the mainstream media either neglects or misrepresents them.

They see the new channel as a historic chance for their own voices to be heard, not just in Taiwan but around the world through collaboration with other indigenous television programmes.

The 12 aboriginal tribes in Taiwan, who trace their roots back 6,000 years, have their own traditions and languages, although the new station will mainly broadcast in Mandarin Chinese.