Saturday, July 26, 2014

Compare and contrast: Pollution levels

The Air pollution chart for Taipei (a lower number means lower pollution levels):

And here is one for San Francisco:

One for Western Europe, including London and Paris:

And one for LA, known for its smog, notice the higher numbers, even as high as 99:

And Shanghai:

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Google translate fun

Some cool things you can do to check how Google Translate works. For example, does it always translate language to language, or does it first translate into English, and then into the target language?

This can be tested in some interesting ways. If you know Italian and German, check this out:

And if you know Italian and Chinese, check this out:

Notice the mistakes, and what caused them?

I originally got these from here:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Shanghai Library

At Shanghai Library. Great selection of foreign books and magazines, nice cafe and bookstore. Probably one of my favorite places here.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

I'm getting fed up with people who are fed up

Today someone posted this on my Facebook feed:

And a week or two ago, it was this:

Aside from the fact that the quote from the first link is apocryphal (There's an explanation here), the commonly accepted assumption here is that, since people are looking into their phones, they must obviously be playing stupid games and filling out dumb quizzes, rather than engaging in great banter or living their life to the fullest, as we all did with such fervor only 7 years ago.

Obviously none of these assumptions can necessarily be held as true. We wasted just as much time in past years as we do now. Before smartphones we had cell phones, before those we had tamagotchis, before those we had discmans and walkmans, and before those we still had trashy magazines, as so on and so forth. We always found a reason to be "anti-social". Case in point:

We all choose to use smartphones because they increase the choices we have in life. We can choose whether or not to install said game or app, and we can make full use of the ones we do decide to keep.

In fact, I would venture to say that a greater sign of our dumbing-down times is how we recreate the same tired arguments every time a new disruptive type of technology appears. In comparison to the Phone, Telegraph or TV, the smartphone is a rather small step, all things considered, and yet we still believe it will be the downfall of society. Well, I believe cynicism will bring our society down far sooner than any smart phone.

Here are some more quotes we can regurgitate for our smartphones, and how we don't have time to appreciate anything anymore (useful phrases are in bold):

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cheap Flights from Geneva to Beijing

So yesterday I found this:

So if you live in Geneva and want to fly to Beijing this fall (and return to Paris), then boy do I have a deal for you. Seriously though, it doesn't work the other way around if you (like me) are trying to go back to Europe.

Monday, April 28, 2014

My book is out! Read it, rate it, spread the word!


Translators can now earn a great living in ways that were unimaginable just 10-15 years ago. You can get paid to translate documents for the clients you choose, during the hours you choose, and wearing the clothes that you choose. Unfortunately, many translators will miss this opportunity because freelance translation means an entire new process that no course or school teaches.

Do you know where to find clients? How do you discern the useful clients from the wastes of time? How can you make sure they pick you as a translator? How will you get paid, and get paid in time? How can you avoid working for a pittance?  

You've learned your language, and this book concentrates on everything else. It walks you through the process of becoming a successful freelance translator: from preparation, to being chosen, to the translation process, to getting paid, and even to expansion - if you want to see how far you can take your translation business. 

Also, don't worry. If you buy a copy of this book, we will send you all future editions for free! The online translation world can change quickly, or maybe we forgot to mention something. Regardless, there is no reason to wait for the "perfect time" to buy this. Buy this once, and you will constantly be up to date. 

About the Author: HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL FREELANCE TRANSLATOR is about 18,000 words long.

What others have to say about "How to be a Successful Freelance Translator:
"Really great information in this book. Especially since most of it can be applied to other freelance categories such as proofreading." - MARLEY GIBSON BESTSELLING AUTHOR & FREELANCE EDITOR
"This book is an absolute must for every new freelancer. Wish I had had it when I started!" - BEATRIX OSTERKAMP ENGLISH-GERMAN TRANSLATOR AND TRANSCRIPTIONIST, OWNER OF OSTERKAMP SPRACH & BUEROSERVICE

  I am offering this book at the temporary introductory price in all formats, but this is for a short time only!

Final Cover Smashwords copy

  Do you want to be able to earn a living with Freelance Translation? Then buy your copy of HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL FREELANCE TRANSLATOR right here for the introductory price of $8.99:

Final Cover Smashwords copy

Or buy our Kindle version, for the introductory price of $2.99:

Our Kindle version

Or, if you prefer formats other than Amazon, you can find several more here, all for $2.99 (clicking each logo will take you to the respective website):
Our ibook


Barnes and Noble

Final Cover Smashwords copy

Friday, April 18, 2014

And a Yea from Apple and Amazon

And my book is in two more places. Hopefully this means everyone finally approves of it. Barnes and Noble, Sony, Scribd, Kobo and a couple more to go...

Monday, April 14, 2014

All the places you will be able to get my new book.

Soon you will have no excuse not to buy it. Or recommend it. Or buy 10 copies for your best friends. And 10 more for your worst enemies. 

Well, these should be available shortly. For now you can get the Kindle version here:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

RIP Dumbagent

Unfortunately it looks like we're closing the doors on We had some weird deal that made it not worth the money to host it. All our material can be found on, courtesy of my sister, but we don't really have a plan going forward.

In the meantime I ran across these Economist articles, which I had planned on tweeting out or commenting on for DA, but won't be able to. So, now I need somewhere to park them. Basically these are the most interesting Economist articles from the past several months:

And a nice one from the Christmas Special edition:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

New Year Goal Achieved

I just realized I never published my NY resolutions/goals for this year. Oops. Well, one of them was to win a game of chess against the computer, since I've never won a game of chess in my life (in my defense, since I don't like losing, I gave up playing when I was 11 or so).

Anyway, here is the proof of my first win ever:

Boom. 1 down. 7 more to go. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Due to a poorly planned New Year's resolution, I can't read any books until I hit certain milestones. So I have a collection of books waiting for that day. If you also want to read any of these books, chances are we'll get along.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

10 Reasons to love Taiwan (and to love living here)

1. Musical Garbage Trucks 

Video by mom2ag

Several years ago, some (awesome) mayor decided that the best way to collect garbage, rather than leave it outside, was to announce the arrival of the garbage truck, so people could come out and throw the garbage out directly. And what better way to announce its arrival than some classical music? As it is now, it's often a social event for blocks and neighborhoods, where you get to interact with those in your area. So, yeah, it might sound like ice cream, but it's garbage.

2. 7-11's (Convenience stores in general)

These exist all over the world, but in Taiwan they achieve their full potential. They're open 24 hours, and offer everything from meals, food, clothes, liquor, as well as photocopying, printing, scanning services. You can also use their machines to order movie tickets, call a taxi, buy train tickets. You can also order your Chinese New Year meals to be delivered from nice restaurants (including Din Tai Fung) from these convenience stores. Also I just signed up, and paid the fee, for the national Chinese language exam at a convenience store two days ago. Most of them also have places to sit with free wi-fi, and yes, some even have washing machines. And when you buy something, don't forget to keep the receipt, because...

3. Receipts

Photo by n3sabishii

The back of each receipt has a number, which is a lottery number. So hold onto these and you can win. The winnings aren't usually all that big, but they're winnings nonetheless. And yes, these are receipts from everywhere in Taiwan, not just convenience stores.

4. Weird license plates 

5. Burning offerings (and general religiosity) 

Most of these Chinese religious traditions went by the wayside thanks to the cultural revolution, but they are alive and well in Taiwan. So on certain days you will see people burning fires and offering fruit outside their stores. The fires are burning effigies of money, as offerings to gods.

You will also witness some pretty cool festivals and processions, especially when you head out of Taipei (or right through one of the main roads of Taipei, as you can see here). The temples are also a lot more interesting and elaborate than anything on the mainland:

Photo by SpirosK

6. Aborigines

Yes. Taiwanese are not the original inhabitants of Taiwan. Much like North America, Taiwan has native inhabitants, and much like North America, these aborigines have been moved to the mountains and countryside and have more or less been neglected, so much so that many tourists don't know about their existence. There are 14 (currently) recognized tribes, however, and they are more closely related, in blood, language and customs, to aborigines from Tahiti and Samoa, as well as Maori and some Philipino tribes, than to Han Chinese.

Tribes - Past and Present. Photo from Wikipedia

Atayal women with facial tattoos - Photo by Claire Mono

Oh, yeah, and there's a cool movie by John Woo about an Aboriginal tribe during the Japanese occupation:

Video by water1124

7. The language

Basically, Chinese is an ancient language, with ancient writing (it is the only language left that uses what, in essence, are hieroglyphics). The interesting thing is that mainland China changed the written language during their cultural revolution, using what we today call Simplified Characters. Hong Kong retained the original Chinese characters, but it also retained Cantonese, a language different from Mandarin. So Taiwan is the only country that still uses the ancient language and alphabet known as Chinese, and the same one used by Confucius, Lao zi, and all the others (minus variation due to the passing of time, which is less than you'd think). So, basically, if you want to experience the real Chinese language, visit Taiwan.

8. This:

This was the weather forecast for Wednesday, January 29th, 2014, to Monday, February 3rd, 2014. During this same time this was happening in Europe:

And this was happening in Atlanta:

9. The people

It's impossible to show an image of this, but the fact that ICRT (the local English language radio station) found that one of the top complaints foreigners had in Taiwan was that the locals were "Too helpful", should explain a lot. Call me weird, but that sounds like a good problem to have. 

10. Night markets

Skip Shilin night market. In fact, if you can hit the Keelung or Tainan Huayuan night markets then definitely check them out, but otherwise just find the night market closest to you ( and try whatever you wish. Everything is safe to eat and every night market has its own atmosphere and specialty. 

Tainan Huayuan night market