Category Archives: Language

Learning Mandarin via Podcasts

This is a great idea, beautifully implemented:


I like the fact that they’ve broken down the podcasts into newbie, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I especially like their business model: Distribute the podcasts for free, and charge for the additional learning materials.

They have chosen the blog format to present the material, and have made it available for subscriptions via iTunes and comments are open. Not to mention, a fairly attractive site design. Well done, useful, and innovative.

The New Bach

This is a huge find – to discover a yet-unknown composition by J.S. Bach, simply amazing.

Bach composed the work for a soprano, to be accompanied by strings or a harpsichord, to mark the 52nd birthday of the duke of Saxony-Weimar, for whom he worked as a court organist, the foundation said.

A solo soprano was to sing a 12-verse poem beginning with the duke’s motto, Everything with God and Nothing Without Him, written by Johann Anton Mylius, it said.

The work was Bach’s only known strophic aria, in which several stanzas are set to the same music, and the precise date made it valuable to researchers studying the development of the German composer’s style, the foundation said.

And can I just mention how much I love the Translation Widget from the Tiger Dashboard? I was just sitting here on the couch with my laptop reading the news and I wanted to tell her about the story, but my Mandarin language skills have a ways to go for I can engage in any effective dialogue that is more complex than “Please pass the asparagus”. So just quickly hit F12, type in something translator-friendly, and we were finally able to talk abut discovering a Bach manuscript that was saved from a fire at some historic library in Germany.

注音 Keyboards!

After a long search, I finally have installed a Taiwanese keyboard on Yingwen’s iBook with the 注音 (Zhuyin) / ㄅㄆㄇㄈ (Bo Po Mo Fo) glyphs imprinted on the key caps, to enable proper typing in Chinese. But holy crap, what an ordeal.

First off, the North America search yielded little. I finally found one vendor called We Love Macs that I had liked and used in the past for RAM purchases and they were willing to do a special order for me. Well turns out they sent me a keyboard for a 12″ PowerBook, not a 12″ iBook, even after I had read them off the damn serial number. They refused to take it back even after I showed proof that I had indeed ordered an iBook keyboard and not a PowerBook one. Really lame. It was actually worse than I make it sound here. I’ll never shop with them again, but I digress…

So I finally tracked down contact information for an Apple sales rep in Taiwan. Nice fellow. We emailed back and forth, and although they could only ship domestically through their distributor, I happened to have several very close friends in Taiwan that could have easily helped out with relaying my order. I then wired our good buddy Carol over some ducats and she ordered and shipped to me a brand spankin’ new Taiwanese iBook keyboard.

Installation of the new keyboard for the iBook was a snap. Just lift out the keyboard, remove the Airport card, unscrew the little cover, pull out the old keyboard by the ribbon, stick the new ribbon in, and replace everything. Works perfectly. Apple has detailed instructions for iBook keyboard replacement on their website.

So now I had this Taiwanese PowerBook keyboard. Should I just hawk it on eBay? Well, it happened to be the replacement model for my own 1GHz Aluminum 12″ PowerBook, so…

Installing a new keyboard on an Aluminum 12″ PowerBook is not the same cakewalk as it is on the iBook. I finally found some decent instructions for replacing the PowerBook keyboard on the MacFixIt website. Seeing the words “This is scary” on page three was not comforting. OK deep breath… here goes…

OK not so bad. Before I had found the instructions, I was trying to lift the keyboard not knowing that there was a long screw found in the RAM panel on the back of the PowerBook that was holding it down. Instructions are good. Lifting off the key caps wasn’t too bad, but I managed to pull of the suspension assembly from F12 completely. Oops. Well it snapped right back on anyway, so no big deal after all.

So many little parts. And one thing that the instructions didn’t mention was the foil covering the keyboard’s ribbon hole. This looked useful. I peeled it off carefully and set it aside so that I could replace it with the new keyboard. Looked like it would be handy keeping dust and crud out of the PowerBook’s innards. And speaking of crud, I found traces of a sticky substance that looked like it might have been apple juice at one time. Hmmm…. which child is always asking for apple juice and playing on the Disney site? Well it wiped up well enough, and it didn’t look like any had seeped into the motherboard, so the boy will live.

Well I put the thing back together and noticed two of the screws on the RAM cover didn’t match. They were nearly identical sitting there on the desk! But now clearly two of them didn’t seat exactly flush, and didn’t have quite the refined finish. Oh no – I had used the good ones for the fastenings under the F1 and F12 keys and covered them up with the little plastic dot insulators that came with the keyboard! Remove keys again, unscrew, rescrew, replace keys, replace fastening screw and RAM cover. Get out my little Yea flag and wave it.

So now as part of my Mandarin language studies, I get to learn the 注音 input method! I am actually very psyched about this, having found a utility that will help me learn 注音.



I just found this cute and very useful little program called Aiya! which teaches the Chinese language learner the Bopomofo/Zhuyin Chinese phonetic alphabet and where the corresponding characters would be when using the Zhuyin input method at the same time. Such a nice, focused little program.

My Fear / West Point cadets speak of experiences at U.S. academy

But the TOEFL scores didn’t prevent Li and Tan from running into language difficulties that ultimately proved embarrassing.

Li told the Taiwan News that during his first year of training, there was an air assault drill requiring students to jump from a helicopter.

The officer supervising the drill was called ‘air assault sergeant.’ But the situation did not allow me to pronounce the words clearly, and my accent was not good enough, so when I addressed him, the words came out sounding like ‘asshole sergeant,'” Li recalled.

Yeah, that’s my fear when speaking Chinese. A single mispronunciation and I’ve turned my compliment into a curse. It hasn’t happened to me yet, thank goodness. But I’ve heard stories…