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纽约大学申请记

之前已经发过了一篇暴走状态飞速申请蒙特雷国际研究院并且失败的博文,接下来就介绍一下后续的发展好了。再过不到半年就30岁的人了,要留学必须趁现在。学一定要留,接下来选什么学校就是个问题。

经过漫长的研究,最终老夫只得承认,美国看似靠谱的学校只剩下一个。美国翻译协会的成员单位中有众多提供翻译硕士学位教育的院校,但涉及英汉/汉英翻译的只有俩:蒙特雷国际研究院、纽约大学继续教育与职业教育学院。那不用说了,都没得选,咱就闷头干吧。

首先大概打听了一圈,因为中国人嘛,未能免俗,总觉得“继续教育”和“职业教育”这俩词儿怎么看都是蒙人骗钱的。一问之下发现还好,纽约大学没有所谓“总校”,就是一大堆学院分散在纽约市各个角落。其中继续教育与职业教育学院(SCPS)主要负责研究生教育、技能培训认证,以及一部分本科教育,而且名声还不错,毕竟是NYU的一分子嘛。

申请NYU SCPS看起来倒是省事,因为需要的东西和蒙特雷基本一样:报名费、托福成绩、本科成绩、学历学位证明、推荐信两封。简单的很嘛。参考蒙特雷速推的案例,老夫就本着半个月搞完的预期值开动了,没想到一动就是好几个月。

报名费理所当然是最容易的。信用卡号填一下就搞定了。开户,得到NYU申请平台账户一枚。NYU的计算机化程度很高,连招生平台都是外包出去的,由第三方公司管理运营。开户之后就能看到自己的所需材料,以及目前的提交和完成状态。

本来以为推荐信最难,但没想到的是接下来完成的就是这个。多亏NYU高度自动化的平台,提交推荐信超简单。只要在账户后台填写两个推荐人的信息(名字、工作单位、职务、电子邮箱),NYU申请平台就自动发邮件通知相关人等,推荐人按照指示在线提交就行了。

理论上说,托福成绩应该是次一等简单的。因为都考完了嘛,直接让额外邮递一份成绩就好了。但是万万没想到,整个申请过程中就托福成绩最费劲。可能是天灾人祸吧,这成绩我寄了一份就没回音了(100多块打水漂),又寄了一份又没回音(又100多打水漂)。咱虽然不差一百二百的,三天两头这么往里扔钱时间长了也受不了。后来无奈,问招生官说你看我寄两份都能连着丢,咱能不能先收个托福成绩上网查询页面的截图凑数,真要是把我录取了再继续给你邮递原件,或者我亲自带去啊?招生官人很好说话,说OK。于是乎直到今天老夫的托福成绩还标着“非官方”字样- -+

成绩单和学历学位这一步也碰到了完全没想到的波折。之前在蒙特雷,校方二话没说,只要是寄来盖着公章的东西照单全收。但NYU这边审查极为痛苦。首先是托亲戚从大连拿回来的成绩单寄过去居然被列为“非官方材料”。愤然写信质问,被告知学校方面无法确定东北大学在中国究竟是怎样一所学校、颁发的学位是否有价值、本科课程是否达到与美国本科相当的水平。为了让非官方变官方,校方建议去WES(wes.org)等专业教育资格鉴定机构做一份学历学位和成绩单的评估报告。WES则要求申请人在缴纳服务费之后到中国教育部学历认证中心做以上三份文件的英文认证书。具体步骤基本是这样的,在这里说一下以供其他有类似需求者参考:

  1. 到WES网站开户,选“course-by-course evaluation”服务,连服务费带报告邮递费等一共249美元,用信用卡支付没障碍。这个评估一般是7天完成,但是也有3天和当天两种加急选项。其实7天就已经很快了(参考等一下将要提到的天朝效率),没必要加急,而且加急费相当贵,3天加100美元、当天加195美元。
  2. 按照WES提示,将学历学位证书的影印版邮递一份过去。这个简单,老夫把扫描文件发给纽约的朋友,那边直接打印出来寄了。
  3. 按照WES提示,到中国教育部学历认证中心为学历、学位、成绩单三份文件申请英文版认证。这个过程比较简单,先去认证中心(cqv.chinadegrees.cn)在线填表,申请两项服务,第一是学历学位认证,第二是成绩单认证。然后网银交款,邮递材料。学历学位认证只要提交这两个证书的复印件即可(每样2份),成绩单认证则最好附上一份学校盖章的英文版。如果没有英文版成绩单,我记得认证中心也有翻译加认证服务,就是多收钱。如果您也是北京的,而且一样信不过邮局和快递,自己跑一趟也成,就在王庄路上,坐地铁挺方便的。
  4. 教育部认证中心的效率就那啥了。正常速度我记得是20天能处理完一份,所以说加急(5天完成)非常必要。加急手续是这样。先搞完网上申请,交完款,确认资料已经收到了。然后打电话给认证中心,报上申请号,问问能不能办加急。对方查半天,说能办,这就成了。再登录认证中心网站,您就发现自己账户处于欠费状态。走网银把欠的加急费交了,大功告成。
  5. 坐着等吧。教育部认证中心做完了直接把材料发给WES,WES把剩下的评估做完了直接发给学校,没有任何一件事您能插上手。

这个环节还出了点乱子。就在WES通知说“您的评估报告已完成”的当天,飓风Sandy来了,快递什么的不用说了直接瘫痪,连NYU SCPS貌似也被原地干掉了,网站无法访问,招生官邮件设为自动恢复,说学校严重受损。
等到评估报告终于送到NYU,招生官好像已经对我那拖拉N个月的缓慢申请失去耐心了,不断催说赶快,现在凑齐资料说不定还能赶上春季学期哦!您催,我自己也不想那么慢不是么……

终于啊终于,该凑的都凑齐了,招生官终于准许进行翻译考试。和蒙特雷不一样,这边的翻译考试貌似一定要等到材料全都交齐才能够开始。中间我曾经好几次明示暗示问反正闲着也是闲着,咱能不能抽空先把这个搞了,但对方一直不许。

在北京时间斯巴达开会的第二天、访问国外任何网站都极为费劲的那天凌晨,NYU的翻译考试题发来了。预约的考试时间是北京时间早0点到3点,接到邮件后回复确认开始计时,中间允许有15分钟的技术延迟。在家里远程考,在线查字典比较方便。但是3个小时,二半夜的临时请别人代工之类的怕是有点来不及。

战战兢兢地回信、打开附件,看题……

一段汉译英,一段500字的命题短文,完。

擦,您耍我呢吧……?仨小时?

经过反复斟酌、三遍校对润色,终于用掉了两个小时,交卷了。

过了24小时左右,得到学校确认邮件,说申请结果已经出炉,请登录NYU申请账户自行查看。大清早8点多挣扎着爬起来,心惊胆战开电脑查。结果居然是中了,2013年秋季汉英翻译专业硕士研究生录取。请填写报到表格,并交纳300美元学费押金以占坑。

打死没想到这么快。一则估计2013年秋季学期报名高峰还没来,二则是不是这几个月来招生委员会的各位已经把我那份卡在那里一万年的申请文书都看烂了……

通过这次尝试,我发现了一个事情。美国大学不是那么在乎本科成绩,尤其是报考的硕士研究生专业和本科跨越幅度比较大的情况。本人是计算机专业本科,死程序员出身,而且本科成绩极差。翻译考试的前一天在信箱里收到了WES来的航空信。因为知道自己本科成绩超差,我就没让WES给我发留底的评估报告副本,没想到他们还主动给寄来了。拆开一看,满篇都是C,最后折算出来GPA只有2.5。要是光看分数,这个GPA恐怕去哪都是死路一条。

美国大学招生貌似综合考虑各个方面,哪个都不是唯一标准。GPA固然重要,但是如果实在不咋样,还有后面几关能够补回来。托福分数是一个机会,虽然中国考生有各种填鸭大法顶分数、显得成绩不值钱,但是我那个机考115分应该多少还捞回一点面子。再就是推荐信,找靠谱的推荐人很重要,而且要注意看看推荐信里都什么内容,要确定他们给你说的好话能说到点子上。再就是个人报告中的“学习目的陈述”,这东西写起来超费劲。本来只要500单词左右即可充数,我写了1000出头还没打住,生怕自我表现不足。这个东西的写作有几个要点:

  1. 不卑不亢。语气不要太谦虚,西洋人不吃这套传统美德。不要写得像日语一样。
  2. 条理分明,要有层次、有逻辑、有展开。
  3. 要适当的拍马屁。为什么就要选这所学校?非得NYU吗?要学翻译你上蒙特雷不行吗?要喜欢纽约市你去报哥伦比亚不行吗?得摆事实讲道理,证明“爷非你不嫁啦!”
  4. 这不是选秀,卖苦情没用。要使劲推销自己的优势。拿我自己当例子。我本科成绩低,明摆着的事,就先跟你说明白了。然后话题一转,说因为我大学念错科,不信你看我编程类课程成绩烂,但英语日语都很高嘛。洒家就是为了纠正N多年前那个错误,经过漫长的曲线救国,在翻译业内摸爬滚打十年,就为了换个专业。十年来口译笔译全干过,游戏本地化视频字幕组都混过,给杂志也干过给出版社也日过,现在闭关遇到瓶颈,需要找个明师开导啊!
  5. 一些容易被中国式思维忽略的内容:你将来的志向是什么(美国人不鼓励为念书而念书)、想通过这段教育履历得到什么、学校招收你之后能够得到什么(学费不算,说说你能给学校贡献哪些学术和社会影响力之类的)。
  6. 全文一定要有中心有主线,不要想到一笔写一笔。这不仅是招生官读着费劲的问题,更关系到申请者自己的写作水平。一个翻译,要是用目标语言(汉译英专业,目标语言是英语)写作连行文流畅、逻辑分明都做不到,就别玩了。写完了勤看勤改。要么您先用中文打好主干结构,然后用英文照着写。
    所以说学校要求的各个指标里有一项丢人了还没什么,总能通过其他的补回来。另外可能没事多跟招生官email聊一聊加深印象也有帮助?

另外在个人简历里我附上了平时供稿的两家英文科技媒体,以及我公司的博客。说不定招生官也会脑袋短路跑去点PDF文件里的超级链接……

总之就是这样。汇报完毕,希望能够对同道中人有一点帮助。

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I’ve been troubled by this funny phrase in the Bible (Chinese version) for many years. Not until a few minutes ago did I finally decided to figure how to make some sense out of it.

In John 15:4 (Chinese version), it says this:

“你们要常在我里面,我也常在你们里面。枝子若不常在葡萄树上,自己就不能结果子;你们若不常在我里面,也是这样。”

Translated, it means:

“You must always live/exist (physically) inside me, and I must you. If a branch is not always attached to the vine, it can’t bear fruits. Similarly if you don’t always live/exist inside me.”

This is extremely disturbing. Jesus is a man, or mostly a man, and believers are human beings. How could a human be, literally, INSIDE another human, except for having sexual intercourse or being pregnant? I’m not doing either of those  to Jesus even if for the love of God or whoever.

So I check the King James Version of the Bible, and in John 15:4 it says:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruits of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”

The key here is “abide”, not “in”. “Abide” could have several meanings in Chinese, including “to be together with”, “to persist”, or, in the problematic translation of the Bible, “to live (in)” or “to exist (in)”. The translator happened to pick the most improper meaning decades ago, and later his translation was eventually appointed as the authenticate copy for Chinese Christianity.

This is not much of problem in theory, consider back then the Chinese language was quite different from its shape today, and there was no such advanced English education. However, in practice, the mistranslation managed to create a major problem in, for lack of a better name, “Chinese Christian divinity”.

Because “abide in me” shows up in the New Testament quite frequently, the Chinese ministers when preaching do have to explain how come Jesus could physically go into a believer and reside there. Over the years I’ve heard several different theories, and none of them sounds satisfying enough. Here is one example I just found on the web:

http://woaiyesujidu1314.blog.163.com/blog/static/168523447201127742262/

The author argued in Chinese that Jesus was brought back from death by the God, as a spirit. And in Greek, “spirit” shares the same word with “wind/air” (I don’t know if that’s true, honest). Jesus = spirit. Spirit = air. Consequently Jesus = air. That’s math for you, amen. Thus solves the problem how Jesus could be INSIDE one: as a human being, one has to breathe in order to sustain life, and breathing is nothing but taking in the air, and the air is Jesus, so Jesus is inside you. QED.

I appreciate the determination to go so far in order to prove something that’s not even a problem. But is this necessary? A whole debate in divinity just for a mistranslation? Why waste breath on this? To waste breath is to waste air, and to waste air is to waste Jesus. Shame on you ,sinner.

Thus my point is very simple: the Chinese Bible should be retranslated, by proper people, in proper modern Chinese language. That’s it.

And for the record, I’m a Buddhist, honestly.

[End]

本文是早先这篇博文的中文版,应老婆大人要求,说这么大的事怎么说也得双语。那么中文版就来了:

说是这样的,要告诉大家说橘子还在用功能手机,估计你们有的人都不信,说“得了吧,你丫手机玩得那么频,还能那么亏待老婆?” 怎么说呢,我也觉得实在太亏待老婆了,直到最近才给换上智能手机。其中来龙去脉如下文所述:

话说为什么要换呢,主要因为我实在看不下去了。我现在刷的是HD7,她用的是索爱什么型号来着一个功能机,每次把俩人手机掏出来放一起,我都觉得自己简直丑恶得跟黄世仁似的。这叫一个卑鄙下作,痛心疾首啊,一把一把抓头发,咣咣捶胸口。于是乎我再也看不下去了,就琢磨着管咋说呢咱还是给老婆鸟枪换炮吧。

之前也不是没提过这个事,主要是每次一提起来就被她推掉,说不要不要真不要。我一直以为是橘子特会过日子,不太在乎手机这回事,能省就省呢。这个有点犯不上了,好歹咱出来混了这么些年,虽然没啥大钱吧,买个手机还是没啥压力的。所以说这次必须得换,不择手段也要换。于是乎我就不择手段了。正好赶上我要过生日,我就说:“今年我给你换个智能手机,就算是我的生日礼物了,咋样?”

反正甭管咋样,被我软磨硬泡两三天,事就这么成了。开始挑手机啦。

话说手机也没有太多好挑的。webOS已经挂了,Symbian快要挂了,Meego刚出生就直接挂了,黑莓就是个笑话。要挑无非就三样:iOS、Android、Windows Phone。其中取舍判断大致是这样的:

  • 首先我们两口子都看不上苹果的产品设计。什么简约啥的是一点没觉得,主要感觉iPhone都长得一个样,一片大白、造型都差不多、到处是圆角。我是觉得尺寸和重量很重要,iPhone是给基佬用的。橘子喜欢颜色鲜艳、造型比较特殊的。于是乎iPhone家族就败了。
  • 然后是Android。话说我用Android那段日子没少被橘子笑话,原因很明显:一到关键急用的时候手机就掉链子,要么死机要么没电。用Windows Mobile的日子也是同样情况,而且我觉得Android就是换皮版Windows Mobile。于是乎她的手机待机得靠谱、不能死机、不能关键时刻突然冻结15秒啥的,平时卡顿1秒都嫌长。那么Android目前为止是不成了。
  • Windows Phone还可以,虽然应用少点吧,她不太在乎这个。而且一年多快二年了,她一直玩我HD7玩得挺high的,有个Accuweather、有一批益智类游戏就成了。稳定性没话说,从2010年11月至今死机重启不到5次,从来不卡顿,也不用刷机啥的。

我觉得这事挺靠谱的,毕竟橘子一直有拿我手机玩游戏的传统。我用UIQ她玩Legacy,我用Palm OS她玩Chuzzles,我用Windows Mobile 6.5她玩Bejeweled,我用Windows Phone以后她有事没事就拿我手机玩Flowerz还有几个连锁反应类游戏。这下一人一个了,不是挺好的嘛。

于是乎咱就买吧,商量了一下,决定买个第一代WP手机,反正现在便宜了。我们的长远目标是等叛逃以后跟AT&T签约拿个便宜的Lumia 900,或者如果到时候传说里的诺基亚“Prodigy”已经出了那就更好了。现在买这个手机里外里用不上一年,搞太新的也没啥用,先弄个入门级的算了。第一代WP就非三星莫属了,要么Omnia 7要么Focus。

淘宝行情很搞笑,Focus均价大概1300,然后Omnia 7均价1900。我勒个去,这俩机器里头不是一样一样一样的吗?不就是差个外壳吗?一个壳子值600?奸商坑爹有个限度啊,莫名其妙。但是橘子看了一眼造型说Omnia 7比较好。那得了,就Omnia 7了。奸商坐地起价加600我不爽,但得老婆大人一句喜欢,加6000咱也上。

于是乎就买了,但是卖家很那啥,买完两天不发货,非但不发货,而且在旺旺上说已经发了,还在淘宝物流那里填了个不存在的单号凑数,比预料的多等了两三天才到货。

结果万万没有想到的是,手机到了,橘子不换……

我是完全估计错了。人家一直说不想换手机不是省钱,是干脆就真的没想换。大屏幕啥的人家也不在乎,游戏需求也不高(老手机上一个麻将一个数独就玩得超high),功能机电池续航还长,换机在她看来真的没有必要嘛。不过买都买了,就使劲劝着换吧。我说智能机好,以后咱或者MSN或者微信,不用短信了,省钱;她说本来短信就没多少,没差多少钱。我说新手机游戏多;她说里头没有能换衣服的数独(那个Java数独能给人物买衣服貌似- -+)。我说智能机好啊,你打开People Hub就能看见我所有twitter更新、4SQ签到之类的了,监视老公这事儿多少女人梦寐以求呢;她说这么下作的事她不干。我说以前玩我手机上的游戏,现在你不用蹭机啦;她说继续蹭也无所谓。我说用这东西能免翻墙上Twitter,跟国际接轨;她说她连微博都不玩,Twitter更没兴趣。反正是无论如何都劝不动。更要命的是橘子恋旧,无意识地把所有用过的东西拟人化,说旧手机就被这么抛弃了太可怜了。我就orz……

那就因势利导,既然要拟人,就拟个大的吧。先劝她把俩手机一起带身上,算是让它们增进感情、方便新老班子交接。为了给Omnia 7在这阶段撑面子,我还特意给装了一堆东西。Xbox Live数独顶替“换衣服数独”,找了个台湾16张麻将,装上Accuweather啥的,还有平时在我手机上玩的一系列游戏。

这个阶段本来应该很快,结果带带拉拉一直到现在……双枪一段日子之后橘子说让我写个blog吧,还要双语版,写完了就彻底换机。但是现在口风又变了,说要把老手机里面那个数独的所有衣服都买完了就换。唉,男人不好当啊,干点好事都要遭受万般抵抗。我现在琢磨要不要上网找个数独解决器,开外挂刷分一夜之间完成任务……

Guess this won’t make it to the news. All you guys who know me must know that I’m sort of a geek, although I usually refuse to address myself so. And upon seeing the title, a number of you might even yell in astonishment “Wut??! Your wife hasn’t got a smartphone yet?”

Yes, she hasn’t got one until quite recently. And the process of getting her one makes a lengthy story by itself. That’s what I’m about to tell you about.

First things first: why, and why now. It’s pretty simple: I’m currently sporting a HTC HD7 (my I-don’t-quite-remember-how-many-th smartphone), and my wife a Sony Ericsson feature phone. Whenever we put our phones together, at home or outside, the sight makes me feel like an asshole. And the guilt only gets worse. So I’ve decided enough is enough. This is as good as time as any. This will be the beginning of the smartphone era for you, my dear.

Previously I’ve tried many times to persuade her into getting one, and the attempts non-exceptionally failed. I thought she’s just been trying to save unnecessary spending. This is not a problem. You know honey, we are not making a lot of money, but we are definitely much richer than, say, a couple of years ago. A bit fancy spending is totally affordable. Thus I’m trying to play hard this time. It was close to my birthday, so I simply told her “the birthday gift I want this year, dear, is a smartphone for you”.

No cry of happiness though, and no showers of kiss, just some refusal without much enthusiasm. But no worries. I can be a pretty persistent bastard when I really really want something done. After a couple of days she gave in. We were mercifully in the phone-picking stage.

When it comes to smartphones, we really don’t have a lot of choices these days. webOS was nice and all, and it died. Windows Mobile died, Meego died without really being born, and Symbian is dying. What? You say Bada? What the f*ck is that? The world is really quiet with only 3 players: iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. We laid out what we need, and made the analysis:

  • Neither of us dig Apple’s sense of beauty. Those small, white things with rounded corner every damn where do not appeal to us, seriously. I believe “size is power”, and a man’s gear should be black, big, heavy, with straight angles and spikes (steam punk preferable), and feels badass from the first look. On the other hand, my wife prefers bright color (NOT white) and inspiring design (her favorite being Sony Ericsson S500). This kicks all iPhones out.
  • She doesn’t tolerate stuttering and freezing and crashing in devices, not a bit. I’ve been frequently laughed at back in my Windows Mobile and Android days. For her, a smartphone should be instantly available under ANY circumstances save for flat battery. Even one second of freezing is too long. This wipes out all green robots.
  • There’s just one option left. And from wife’s response to my HD7, she’s liking it all right.
  • The stability of Windows Phone is more than fine. I’ve been using this baby since November 2010, and it never freezes, and has crashed less than 5 times so far.
  • The relatively lack of apps isn’t a problem to her, since she doesn’t need many. Mostly she just asks for a great app weather (Accuweather does fine), and some nice puzzle games (plenty of those in Xbox Live collections).

So I figured she should like it all right. I was pretty sure she would end up love smartphones, because she’s always been playing with mine, particularly games. For example, she has a lot of love for Legacy (on UIQ 2.0), Chuzzles (on Palm OS), Bejeweled (on Windows Mobile 6.5). And on my HD7 she’s been playing Flowerz and several chain reaction games all the time when we are in the subway or waiting at the bank. Would she continue rejecting a smartphone after she’s grown used to it? Hell no, or so I believed.

With the fundamental problem solved, we moved into the model selecting phase, which is rather simple. Firstly, our long term plan is to get out of China, sign contract with AT&T, get subsidized Lumia 900s, and upgrade to the rumored Nokia “Prodigy” if it comes later this year. There’s no point getting the latest model like Lumia 800 or Samsung Focus S. A first-gen WP device should do fine for an entry-level smartphone. And there are cheap at the moment. No hard feelings ditching them after a few months. The choices are pretty clear: either Focus or Omnia 7, Samsung anyway.

What I didn’t expect was the price. Samsung Focus is now priced about CNY 1,300 on Taobao, but Omnia 7 is 1,900. What the… Them two buggers are about identical inside, only in different casings, all right? I know Omnia 7 has more metal parts outside, but I’d be dead retarded to believe that’s where the 600 kuai gap came from. When dragged to the computer to compare the look, wife pointed at Omnia 7 and said “I like the look of this one better.” Now THAT justifies the 600 kuai. I’m willing to pay whatever to get an “I like it” out of her. Omnia we go!

Place the order, pay the bill. Smooth like butter so far. The vendor turns out to be less reliable though. Told us he’s sent the phone by courier while he actually didn’t. Took us half a week extra to get it. You might think it’s the end of the story, but in fact it’s the real start of it.

What happened next is that wife refuses to use the new phone. She doesn’t say so though, just puts it aside to collect dust. Apparently I made a grave mistake from Day One. It’s never the extra spending stopping her from getting a new phone. She really didn’t feel the drive for smartphone adoption. Why bother switching when the old feature phone is obviously smaller, lighter, and more power-efficient than ALL  smartphones out there? Anyway, the phone is already bought. We have to carry on. So I was like:

– Hey honey, don’t you think it great we can send messages with Live Messenger without having to turn on the computer, and the chat thread integrates with our SMS history?
– Why should we?
– Like… it saves some money?
– But we are not texting a lot. (Actually makes sense…)

– Yo, see these games all available to you now?
– No sudoku games with purchasable avatar items?? (Why should you want that…?)

-  Don’t you like it when you can just pop into the People Hub and see my tweet stream, and my 4sq check-in? You can get to know where I am, and what I’m saying behind your back anytime, anywhere!
– Why should I ever want to spy on you? (Thanks baby, I’m in tears…)

– Eh… Remember those games you play on my phone? Now you can enjoy them on your own!
– I’ve been playing them anyway. On your phone is fine. (…)

– It’s Twitter! Onna phone! Without the GFW screwing! Ain’t it great?
– But I don’t even have a Twitter account, and don’t want one. (You will, sugar, you will. Some day…)

Anyway, every trick of mine hit the wall. Apparently she agreed to get a new phone just because I insisted. Besides, as part of her kind nature, she has a habit of personifying things, and tends to cling to old things a lot. For example, she’s still keeping a lot of things from her childhood around. One reason why she refused to replace her phone is that she feels guilty “abandoning and betraying” the old one, which is still functional. This doesn’t make much sense to me, but I dig the feeling. When it’s put on the table, there’s hardly any way to argue against it.

Then we came up with sort of a personified solution: she carries BOTH phones with her for a couple of days, to make the two gadgets “get to know each other more”. And then, the emotional bound should be easier to deal with. To make sure the new boy performs better, I’ve bought some games for it, intentionally *avoiding* the ones I have got on my phone. The primary objective is to fully replace the pathetic game arsenal on her old phone, which includes:

  • Sudoku (replaced with an Xbox Live title, without avatar items, but has ACHIEVEMENTS!)
  • Mahjong (replaced with a pretty nice mahjong game, with voice over and stuff)

And I’ve got Bejeweled Live, Flowerz, Minesweeper, a couple of chain reaction games and such, hoping to enhance the phone’s likability. Oh, and of course Accuweather. So far as I understand, her needs for apps includes:

  • Weather apps with detailed data and great live tile updates.
  • Email. Technically this isn’t an app at all. It’s part of the OS.
  • And apparently nothing else, not even the Office suite came with the OS.

And her needs for games are:

  • Some puzzle games, relying more on logic than reaction time.
  • Apparently nothing else at the time being. We’ve got Xbox 360, PS3, PSP, Nintendo DS here. Counting the two 5-year old crappy PC, we have more than enough stuff to have serious fun. Phone games are really nothing but to kill some time with.

Luckily for me and the Omnia 7, she’s reasonably liking it after carrying it around (without a SIM card) like a PDA. The switching time is nigh. Actually it should happen pretty soon after I hit the publish button for this blog post, as this is what we agreed to seal the deal with. I blog about it, she switches. The weird thing is that I’m still feeling sort of like an asshole, not for mistreating my wife, but for forcing my will onto her…

This is just a start though. Windows Phone has a lot of cloud services baked in. I’ve got greater plans for when she gets more used to it, like:

  • Mobile instant messaging. Unlike many other Chinese families, we don’t use QQ that much. Live Messenger has been playing pretty big part in our life. This won’t be much of a problem, I reckon.
  • Cloud storage. There’s SkyDrive baked in. Don’t know what to stimulate her with though.
  • Social networks! Currently trying to persuade her into creating a Twitter account.

Let’s see what happens next…

Note: This is some fun trivia about how powerful the tones of Chinese language could be. You might need some fundamentals on what in pinyin and what are tones to get the whole picture of it. However, a thorough Chinese lesson is not my intention of writing this post or any other similar post that might come after it. Sorry, no can do. But I believe there are plenty of online resources to help you catch up with it if you are interested.

OK. Whoever hasn’t closed the browser tab by now should know how funny the Chinese language could be to a foreigner. Just a slight tweak on the tone could change the topic dramatically. Here is a very good example showcasing what you can achieve by simply tweaking the tones.

The following is a tongue-twisting paragraph written by great Chinese linguist Chao Yuen Ren. Mr. Chao here used nothing but one single sound. By repeatedly twisting the tone of it, coupled with the complexity of Chinese characters system, he managed to tell a short story.

Oh yes, it’s the poet & lion story. It’s quite old really. If you’ve already heard about it, well, sorry for wasting your time… It’s about the only thing in this post. You can feel safe to close the browser tab now…

OK, to whoever is left, here it is:

《施氏食狮史》
石室诗士施氏,
嗜狮,
誓食十狮。
施氏时时适市视狮。
十时,
适十狮适市。
是时,
适施氏适市。
氏视是十狮,
恃矢势,
使是十狮逝世。
氏拾是十狮尸,
适石室。
石室湿,
氏使侍拭石室。
石室拭,
氏始试食是十狮。
食时,
始识是十狮,
实十石狮尸。

试释是事。

shī shì shí shī shǐ
shí shì shī shì Shī Shì,
shì shī,
shì shí 10 shī.
shī shì shí shí shì shì shì shī.
10 shí,
shì 10 shī shì shì.
shì shí,
shì shī shì shì shì.
shì shì shì 10 shī,
shì shǐ shì,
shǐ shì 10 shī shì shì.
shì shí shì 10 shī shī,
shì shí shì.
shí shì shī,
shì shǐ shì shì shí shì.
shí shì shì,
shì shǐ shì shí shì 10 shī.
shí shí,
shǐ shí shì 10 shī,
shí 10 shí shī shī.
shì shì shì shì.

Totally twisted, right? It’s quite merciful already, with every instance of the number 10 written as the number itself instead of yet another “shí”. It’s just a showcase of what the Chinese language is capable of. We by no means talk like this in daily life. And this short story can not be delivered verbally. No one, even Chinese linguists, could tell what the the heck those “shi” are in verbal conversation. The magic is a mix of basic Chinese pronunciation, the versatility of characters, and a tiny bit of Old Chinese (what we call 文言文 or simply 古文) grammar.

Translated into English it’s like this:

The Story of Mister Shi Eating Lions
There was this poet mister Shi who lived in a stone chamber.
Shi was very fond of lions, and vowed to eat 10 lions.
So he visited the market every now and then, to see if they sell lions there.
At 10 o’clock there happened to be 10 lions on sale.
At that time Shi happened to be at the market too.
He saw the 10 lions, and made them dead by the power of arrows.
He collected the dead bodies of 10 lions, and came back his the stone chamber.
But the chamber was damp, so he told his servant to wipe it dry.
With the chamber cleaned, he began to try eating the 10 lions.
Only upon eating them, did he realize the 10 lions were actually 10 stone lions.
Now how would you explain that?

Pretty neat, right? There are 3 other short-story-told-in-one-sound tongue twisters entitled to Mr. Chao. If you are feeling this one really interesting, feel free to leave a message here, and I’ll bring the others later.

I think whoever clicks into this forgotten blog to read this has strong interest in gadgets and consumer technology, and knows what I’m talking about. If I’m wrong on that, please first read this press release announcing the partnership between Nokia and Microsoft in the smartphone sector. And if you clicked into that page, pay attention to the items under the proposed partnership.

And here are my two cents on the whole event and where the trend might go in the near future.

There are a lot of people on twitter already shouting Nokia making the biggest mistake ever in desperate attempt to save itself. This, IMO, can’t be more wrong. Yes, Nokia is falling behind other in the smartphone games. But no, it’s still quite some distance from desperation.

If I read it right, according to IDC, in 2010 Nokia shipped 100.3 million units of smartphones, taking up to 33.1% of the global smartphone market. No one denies that Nokia has seen better days. But watch out, it’s still the King of Smartphones you are talking about.

Nokia is not Palm, who bled itself drier than a rock before being acquired by HP. The Finnish giant is still making huge profit. It’s just taking an unexpected fall, which has lasted a bit too long to be comfortable. It’s looking for something to break the fall, and maybe get back to rising. You can almost say Nokia is being proactive instead of reactive.

Clearly Nokia is in the mood of “concerned” instead of so said “panic” or “desperate”. That’s my first point made. Based on this point, well, I don’t know why Nokia is getting into such a ground-shaking partnership with Microsoft.

Let’s have a look at the…

Pains & Gains

According to the partnership, Nokia will adopt Windows Phone 7 as its primary smartphone platform. That’s hardly any surprise at all. But more than that, Ovi map is going to be merged into Bing Map, Ovi Store to become a section of WP7 Marketplace, Bing will be the search engine behind (what I think is) Nokia’s entire smartphone line, Microsoft adCenter to provide advertising services for (what I think is) all Nokia smartphones. Nokia will utilize its vast and long-lasting carrier network to provide operator billing agreements to Windows Phone 7.

Clearly the biggest earning goes to Microsoft. World’s biggest smartphone vendor bringing it’s gigantic market share over. And more than merely contributing to cellphones, the newly gained land has already been cleaned and decorated, ready to embrace Bing Map, Bing Search, and adCenter. The Bing team should be bathing in happy tears right now.

For Nokia, it gained a quite new ecosystem, with great OS experience built already, and plenty of room for growth. It’s not sure whether or not WP7 works well enough to break Nokia’s fall. But it’s a good try like any other. Seriously there are only 4 options out there. iOS doesn’t welcome new kids. webOS is still tuning itself to the new ownership. Android is bursting with all kinds OEM fighting each other. Hop into a jungle battle, or join an emerging township hoping to build it a city then become one of the rulers. Can’t say which is better than the other.

The real pain here, I guess, should be felt by Google. No, I’m not talking about WP7 vs Android at all. It goes deeper than phones or OSes. Google doesn’t really care about Android phones. It’s not like it makes any money from them anyway. With a million seemingly free apps and services, Google’s only purpose is to attract users, and make them stay, to view or click advertisements. That’s Google’s problem, doing dozens of different free products ultimately to channel more fuel into its advertising platform, and profit there. That is actually putting a billion eggs, Google’s and its developers’, into one huge basket.

The Nokia-Microsoft deal is effectively barring Google’s extensive ad platform out of the world’s biggest share of smartphone market. That’s eating into Google’s lifeline. The search giant won’t be happy about this. We will see what it has to do to make up the lost-before-ever-gained share.

And in China…?

Most of my stuff has something about China, and so here it is: Microkia’s influence on the Chinese market. Partly because I AM IN CHINA, and the other part is because China is a Nokia country. Up to today, I’m still seeing more Nokia S60 devices on Beijing streets than anything else. Previously I’ve started a hobby watching what phones people are using on Beijing subway from Sanlitun to Dawanglu, some of the most active business/recreation blocks in town. The first half month I’m seeing enough Symbian phones to equal all Android, WinCE, Windows Mobile, iOS, NDS, PSP, E-ink reader combined on each trip. Counting and analyzing ceased to have any meaning with that kind of advantage. Even this year, when Android and iOS is supposedly “dominating the world”, I’m still seeing more Symbian phones them either of them in Beijing.

The Nokia-Microsoft partnership will surely facilitate the release of official full scale Chinese voice/text support on WP7 in China. Because China is one of Nokia’s final strongholds now, and Microsoft expected it to help with language support.

The partnership will also facilitate the app economy in China, since WP7 Marketplace supports buying apps through phone bills, and Nokia is a good old friend with China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. In a country where credit cards are seldom used and in a primitive form, paying through phone bill is about the most effective and painless way of buying apps. It’s not like Chinese consumers like to pay for apps. But whenever some want to show proper support and respect to developers, they have the most sensible option. iOS is stuck on credit card payment in China, while Google clearly refuses Chinese user to find any paid apps (or even some free apps like Kindle) on Android Market at all. That’s significant progress.

Baidu won’t be comfortable. When the local leader of smartphones suddenly gets locked to Bing Search, the Chinese search engine provider will suffer the same concern as Google obviously will do. Their business models and profit sources are not much different anyway. Therefore I predict Baidu will hurry up making a search app for WP7 (upcoming Chinese version), as well as a Baidu Map app.

Baidu’s move will very possibly push Tencent over the border. Tencent is now keen on taking up every promising platform to promote its services centered around its QQ IM. Once QQ IM comes to WP7, there will be a surge of Chinese user growth, since Chinese smartphone users use “whether there is a QQ client” as a key standard measuring the usability of a phone.

Tencent will trigger microblog platforms that are competing with it. Sina will almost surely roll out a Sina Weibo client for WP7. It’s not like there is none at the moment. Despite lack of Chinese input support, Chinese devs have already made an unofficial Sina Weibo app for the English-only WP7, with a makeshift Chinese input method packed in-app.

After that a series of Chinese companies will follow. Chinese local apps will not come for now. But once Nokia brings WP7 to China, it will come quick, and like an avalanche.

And Microsoft China will probably get bucketloads of bashing and cursing in the process. Bing Search has been steadily eating shares from Google and (previously) Yahoo as a nice “Decision Engine”. However, it’s Chinese brother is still a pretty normal search engine that looks and works like something from year 2000. Force-binding of this “Bing” to all Nokia Chinese phones will be like a disaster. Hopefully it could remind Microsoft to show some love to Bing Chinese, and bring it closer to the flagship US engine.

Conclusion

I’m not sure this makes sense. But all-out partnership at such scale seldom happens. From what I feel is common sense I got aforesaid ideas. Any different voice is welcomed. Gratitude for any feedback left here or shot to me on twitter at @chassit.

After almost a week in the United States, this veteran Chinese has found the following things common on this side of the globe but unheard of in the commieland.

The Good:

  • People are nice in general. Don’t have to worry about being backstabbed by strangers, and asking for directions is easy like a breeze. Been doing that a lot and never once seen the all too familiar get-the-fuck-lost-you-suspicious-loser look.
  • 7-11 sometimes has gas pumps.
  • McDonald’s sometimes have arcade machines. Woo! Not only kids, now adults could also have some fun!
  • Mobile carriers have more reasonable contract policies. To get subsidies on phones, you just sign a contract, and pick a (maybe more than sufficient) plan. In China, you have to sign a contract, pick a (maybe more than sufficient plan), AND DUMP A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF MONEY IN YOUR ACCOUNT. The whole idea of carrier subsidy is to make your initial payment minimum, right? Doesn’t make sense if you have to pay what’s apparently “cut off” in the form of pre-paid phone bill.
  • Wildlife everywhere, and people don’t feel anything special about them.
  • Stray cats seem to be rare, and taken good care of.
  • Stray humans seem to be aplenty, without chengguan 城管 kungfu-thugs arresting them every now and then.
  • Theme parks are very logically designed. Exit is exit and entrance is entrance. You don’t see people waiting to take a rollercoaster ride blocking the way out. And theme parks do actually have themes. Found the Curious George section of Universal Studios really sweet. All things in that section combined tell a short story, with plenty of fun for kids. In China we usually pile up a bunch of similar-looking but totally unrelated stuff to make the place look grand.
  • Supermarkets like Walmart and Best Buy are a thousand times more interesting than their Chinese versions.
  • Drivers are super nice. You don’t see cars swaying back & forth across lanes as if not knowing which way to go, or rushing without pedestrians in mind. Feeling awfully guilty when we miss a green (actually white here) light but cars still wait there for us to cross the road. That happens a lot.
  • When service is involved, the quality is usually super good. Staff at hotels, parks, and shops are extremely patient, friendly and helpful. Same applies to public services. Asked an Orlando police officer where we could hitch a cab around the block, she made a phone call & got us one in no time. Chinese popular chain hotels like Home Inn are rendered almost inadequate. 
  • Good TV networks. Programs generally are not boring, and often enough quite interesting. Many ads are inspiring. Those TV shopping programs seem more sensible, not like those insane stuff you see on almost every Chinese TV channel after midnight.

The Bad:

  • Certain cities like Orlando is very much difficult for pedestrians to explore. I’m not only talking about low planning density or too big size. A lot of times I find there is just NO SIDEWALK. Worse still, when there is a sidewalk, chances are pretty good I find it coming to an abrupt end half way to my destination. And sidewalks are shared by pedestrians and bikers. Staying longer than a week without a driver license means you are seriously fucked, front & back & all over again.
  • The tax system is utterly confusing. Why not just build them into item prices? No matter what, the tax A) must be paid, B) comes from consumers. It’s not like you have an option of not paying that part or could haggle with your cashier. So why not put tax and the base price together, if only to make things more predictable? Even Japanese are doing better. They tag everything in two prices, one the actual amount of money you should pay, the other a base price without tax.
  • Domestic flights tend to charge for every single baggage checked, usually $20 to $25 for the first baggage each people.
  • TSA opens our baggage to see what’s inside. Even China, with supposedly inferior technology, could do the security check with X-rays. This Chinese sincerely begs TSA to A) stop doing that or; B) put everything back in their original orders or; C) don’t put the “we have opened your stuff” paper there. Right now it feels a lot like being laid by a hot babe, waking up the next morning only to find the babe gone and a $5 on the kitchen table. I will feel much better if you don’t make it feel like prostitution, or screw me secretly when I’m asleep without me knowing, or don’t screw me at all. Thank you big big comrade.

The Amusing:

  • Carrefour seems to be absent here. Buddy in Orlando said he doesn’t know what is Carrerour and there’s none of them in the town.
  • There actually ARE things labeled “Made in USA”.
  • The Holy Trinity of Totally Uninteresting Tourist Souvenirs: T-shirts, baseball caps, and magnets. And 13.46257 out of 10 times they are made in China.
  • The exits of tourist attractions are always planted in some kind of gift shop. Not so bad in practice since there is no staff urging & bullying us to buy stuff.
  • Unrivaled cultural diversity. All kinds of skin colors and accents.
  • Sense of distance is wildly different from that of Chinese. When an American says “it’s only 3 minutes driving away”, it means “you will be damned if you are planning to walk it”. They drive fast, and not troubled by abysmal traffic jam. 3 minutes in Atlanta or Orlando take you a looong way. In Beijing or Xi’an “3 minutes drive” more often than not means “maybe 2 minute walk, 5 at most”.

Just read on the web that the average (annual) income in the United States is somewhere above 40 thousand USD, while the number for China is around 17 thousand CNY. The article went on to discuss the huge gap of purchasing power in the two countries. That makes me wonder: what’s the practical value of 1 kuai in our country? From what I’ve seen on App Store, Amazon, Xbox Live, etc, 1 dollar is pretty darn useful in the States. Well you guys might very likely have a much better idea about that than I do. So let’s talk about what good could 1 CNY do you instead.

I started this #1RMB hashtag on Twitter the almighty. Surprisingly, I got drowned in feedbacks within 1 hour. According to feedback, the following are the true value of 1 kuai in the reality:

  • 5 small mantou 馒头 in the refectory of a certain college
  • 1 sausage (packaged)
  • 1 big piece of filter paper (for science labs)
  • 1/3 bowl of reganmian 热干面 noodle (in Wuhan)
  • 1 very tiny sized bread, if you are in luck (in Guangzhou)
  • Brandless, fake, or half-sized bottle water
  • 1 youdunzi 油墩子, some sort of snack
  • 1 small pack of paper tissue, or 2 (depends on which city)
  • 1 bus ride (in Kunming)
  • 1 extra egg in your breakfast combo meal. Sorry, breakfast itself not included.
  • 1 “candied gourd” 糖葫芦 (not sure where, but in Beijing it’s at least 2 kuai)
  • 150g pancake 葱油饼 (in Shenzhen)
  • 1 single egg
  • 1 bus ride, the kind without air conditioning (in Guangzhou)
  • 1 disposable lighter, the cheaper kind.
  • 1kg tomatoes, or 4 baozi, or 2 youtiao 油条 (city unknown)
  • 1 condom from the auto vendor machine (in some cities it costs 2 kuai though)
  • A nice heap of electronic parts (resistor, capacitor, etc)
  • 1, or 2, or 0.5 copy of newspaper, depends on which paper you have in mind
  • Hire a “web commentator” a.k.a. 50-center/wumao/五毛党 to write 2 replies in your favor
  • 2 lollipops
  • Play 2 rounds of Taiko no Datsujin game (in Nanjing)
  • A couple of kebabs
  • An old fashioned icecream (not sure which city)
  • 2 bandaid
  • Shoe polishing service, 1 time
  • Take a piss at the nastiest kind of public toilet, no, no poop, that takes more (not sure which city)
  • 1MB GPRS data (at China Mobile) or 3MB 3G data (at China Unicom)
  • “Bloody nothing at the small shop downstairs” (not sure where but peace on you, man)
  • “Down here we have stopped using 1 kuai coins and notes, they are no good for anything” (not sure which city)
  • 1 envelope (2 mao) and 1 stamp (8 mao)
  • 1 pathetically small roast sweet potato
  • 0.04 cup of coffee at Starbucks (Shenzhen)
  • A ball pen refill
  • A mind in peace after you give the coin to a beggar

That’s it for the time being (3:08 2010/11/18 GMT+8). It looks like the majority of people are using food as the measurement, especially baozi (yeah our favorite). However, the unit itself isn’t so stable. Depends on where you are and what kind of baozi exactly you are talking about, your 1 kuai coin might get you 4 tiny sized 小笼包, or up to 4 small vegetable baozi, or 1 meat baozi in more proper size. But no matter how you look at it, the power is 1 kuai is pathetic at best.

Even ignoring the (1:6.5 or so) exchange rate, Americans are on average making several times more money than we do. Yet one good old dollar could still get you somewhere. And in China? I don’t know what is “inflation” if this is not.

Track the development of #1RMB hashtag here.

Thanks everyone for your kind reply. 非常感谢大家的积极反馈。XD

For questions such as “what is 360”, “what is QQ”, please consult Wikipedia or Google. As to the war, it refers to an epic event featuring one 600-million-user company fighting a 300-million-user one, hurling users as canon balls. For details please Google.

The war has lasted for less than a week yet is already showing signs of splitting the internet industry of China into three factions: Tencent gang, 360 bunch, and everyone else.

So far featured in Tencent gang:

Baidu: China’s dominant search engine provider, named an ally by Tencent at the very start of the war. However, up to this moment Baidu has done absolutely nothing visible to help. This is probably because it has nothing to do with either side the first place. If anything, it had faced a challenge from Tencent (weapon: Sousou Search) on the search engine battle ground, and crushed the challenger single-handed. Curiously how it ended up being named a Tencent-friend without any protesting.

Kingsoft: One of China’s oldest software companies with products spreading across productivity, anti-virus, dictionary/translation, offline and online games. Kingsoft has been staying generally silent until today, after the legendary night of November 3rd 2010 (GMT +8) when 360 appeared to be on its knees, did it make a real move. This morning Kingsoft announced its anti-virus product free for a full year, trying to gain some ground from 360’s 300 million followers.

KeNiu: A start-up anti-virus company whose founder is an ex-360 staff. You know 360 and KeNiu won’t get along with each other by nature. KeNiu has always been sitting here and helping Tencent with nothing more than curses. It announced an upcoming product “360 patrol”, which once installed will uninstall 360’s app that was blocking much of Tencent QQ’s functions. However this product never materialized or has never been picked up. Nothing more came from the boy’s side. It’s too tiny to be of any real usage anyway. KeNiu is rather smart. A tiny grain gained in this war may mean a lot to it, but it can’t afford to lose anything.

Meanwhile, on 360’s side…

NetEase: One of the largest and oldest portal websites in China. NetEase made a con-QQ feature page on its tech portal. This doesn’t exactly put it on 360’s side but hey, that’s the ONLY portal site that so far have shown any pro or con in the mess. Let’s just put it into the 360 bunch or else the guy is practically fighting on his own.

Shanda: Top online games provider of China. It’s now putting up a notification in its flagship game that reminds subscibers “shut down QQ before you log into the game in case it steals your password, well, according to 360”. Back in years when leisure games (chess, poker, etc) was on the rise, Shanda acquired such a company Haofang to fight the then-leader Lianzhong. Tencent jumped in with QQ Games and, thanks to its millions of users, kicked the two of them to the edge of oblivion in terms of months. Besides, Tencent now is also running more serious MMO games. Shanda could gain seriously something from Tencent’s defeat, if it ever happens.

And some people who should have got involved but actually wasn’t…

Microsoft. This is probably the only force that has every reason to get into the war and gain from the loss of either side. Firstly Windows Live Messenger (previously MSN Messenger) is the second most popular IM service in China. Yes it’s beaten by lightyears by QQ but still the 2nd. Secondly its Microsoft Security Essentials has been proved to be as powerful as Kaspersky but doesn’t cost a you dime, where 360, not really a security suite, boasts “free” as the No.1 attraction. The installation of MSE also requires a genuine copy of Windows. If the anti-virus app spreads, Microsoft will no doubt make an extra push down its never ending anti-piracy campaign in this piracyland. But for some reason Microsoft didn’t make as much as a comment on the poop war.

And the guy secretly working behind the scene…

Sina: One of the biggest portal website. Actually, like many other companies, Sina didn’t take any side in this war. Through an insider I’ve heard that they worked the team almost through the epic night, not only updating website about war progress, but feverishly pushing its product Sina UC, which is an IM service with history almost as long as QQ’s. With all respects and frankness, UC was, is, and will always be a lackluster in terms of features, functions, and even the look. The few Sina employee I know all expressed disappointment about their own IM abomination. The feverish push won’t likely get any payback, but at least there’s someone working hard right?

And they guys who didn’t take the bait…

Almost everyone else who have made a name in China’s internet business. Tencent published a series of articles bullying them “if you guys don’t join me, someday 360 will be trying to kill you!” These may vary in size, topped by the God-like Alibaba, all the way down to NetQin (small phone anti-virus app maker). Funny enough, despite Tencent poured several hundreds of exclamation marks into those articles, none of them got aboard.

QQ is practically the emperor of China’s IT industry. It has always been taking a cautious approach by copying and (sometimes) improving others’ hot services, integrate them into the QQ IM, and watch its hundreds of millions of faithful IM users make the new business grow. To a certain degree, QQ IM is the one single pillar of the gigantic empire. At the unlikely event of Tencent’s death (or being severely wounded), the entire internet business of China will take a series of ground-breaking changes, which may run across blogs, microblogs, online games, social games, instant messaging, virtual currency, etc. Those with exception of e-commerce and search engine, which have always been ruled by Alibaba and Baidu respectively.

As a wicked bastard who always enjoys sitting high up and watching poop hitting the fan, I’m truly hoping more forces out there could take the chance and let the chaos burn even further. Right now 360 seems to be crawling in defeat, but it may just be buying some time for its rumored IM service “360 Safe Chatter”, a warhead that aimed at QQ’s homeground.

In awe and fun we behold.

Summer came along with changes to virtually every aspect of life. Things, welcomed or not, got into ridiculous flourish indifferently. There was the temperature rising into a comfortably warm zone then rocketing beyond, and was the swarm of mosquitoes as well as a thousand other kinds of bugs. Maddening humidity seemed to crawl all the way from coasts into this inland city. Even sound, the shapeless messenger, took a weird change as summer got to its peak time.

It was as if sound travels faster in such boiling, dripping air. Identifying the source and distance of a sound became harder and harder in my compound. This was further aided by the fact that the compound itself was built into a silo-like fashion, which sent any communication within the central garden bouncing and booming among the buildings. With bedroom window kept open all the time, nightlife in my home temporarily became mildly frustrating to seriously annoying. Sometimes I would hear couples furiously fighting which sounded like right beneath my window. It was not until I get up and shout back “Will you fucking people please keep your fucking problem to your-fucking-selves thank-fucking-s!” did I realize the fight was actually happening several buildings away.

That was the time when I began to hear the calling for “hopper”.

Can’t remember exactly which day it was. What I could say for sure is that the calling always came on the turning of evening and night. When the shade of darkness began to descend, there would always came someone’s repeating voice hollering “Hopper!”. The voice felt like that of a woman not far into her old age, with a somehow disturbing accent. It was hard to imagine a granny getting so excited upon seeing some grasshoppers, thus in my mind I secretly pictured a kind old woman calling her grandson, young Mr. Hopper, home for dinner. The idea resonated with me in a wave of nostalgia since in my childhood, grandpa used to summon me from the crude playground in the same way.

Sadly the fun got old after about three days of repeating. Endless “Hopper!” attacks went this way at an interval of roughly 15 minutes, starting from nightfall, sometimes lasting all the way into midnight. Initially I thought someone equally annoyed will do something about it, but a long week of waiting for rescue completely failed me. Then, on a Saturday night when me and wife were trying to enjoy some reading, I decided rescue, if there was going to be any, must come from within. It was already hard enough lying there and holding a book from my sweaty body, and the routinely “Hopper!” only made it impossible to concentrate on anything. I got up and uncomfortably dressed, going downstairs to find this Master Hopper and teach the little bastard a good lesson about always coming home on time for dinner. Wife told me to “be easy on this Hopper kid”, but I found a trace of encouragement beneath her kind words nonetheless.

Beneath our balcony, as the calling seemed to come from, was nothing but some bushes and several stray cats. I stood there in full alert waiting for the next holler. My logic was that if I manage to find the granny, and wait by her door, eventually I would catch the brat on his much anticipated returning. After 2 tries, a.k.a. 30 minutes or hundreds of mosquito bites, I was led to a far corner on a piece of lawn. There wasn’t any door opening to this direction on the adjacent building, and its windows were mostly unlighted. But still, I was pretty sure that was the spot where the endless callings originated. While waiting for the next clue my flashlight picked up a patch of baldness on the lawn, in the center of which was what seemed to be a human mouth planted in the exposed dark earth. The sight sent a wave of chillness up my spine despite the steaming weather. Believing somebody buried a corpse here, I fumbled for my phone to call the police. Just before I push the “talk” button, the thing moved.

A tongue protruded between the lips, licked them as if adding some moisture. Then, with disturbing accent, the mouth said, loudly, “Hopper!”

That’s when I came home and kept the finding to myself. Every day, upon nightfall, the persistent calling for “Hopper!” floated through the window, and I was reluctant to even think about the origin of the sound. The horrible voice went on for another week before mercifully ceasing, for whatever reason. That is one thing I will never want to find out.