Late New Year Update

Yes, this is one of those late-late February New Year round-ups! And what a year it’s been in general. Moving back to the ‘real world’ (aka London) has now come and gone, and I’m safely wrapped up in trying to stay ahead of the world’s general downward curve.

This site has fully moved from it’s previous Dreamhost location and is now being hosted by Slicehost. This has allowed me to add bug tracking through Redmine, which has helped considerably in keeping track of the state of things. I’m still experimenting with the right settings, and there are occasional weekend dips as I move things around, but everything should now be running quite nicely with a combination of Apache and Phusion Passenger. If you’re not afraid of managing your own system then Slicehost are highly recommended.

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Dr Zhivago

I’ve been churning through a lot of books recently and so I thought I’d talk about some here.

First up is Dr. Zhivago. I’ll admit a distinct liking for Russian literature, ever since Crime & Punishment blew me away. The country is so big and has so much history. I just wish I could explore it all. As I do not possess an unlimited budget I have to make do with whatever books I can get my hands on, and this was provided by Boris Pasternak.

I knew almost nothing about this story. I’ve never watched the movie, although I was aware it was a big thing back in the 60’s. It even seems to have been remade for the TV, and stars the delightful Kiera Knightley (shown above for decorative effect).

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Learning Chinese

I’ve been trying to learn Chinese for over half a year now and, well, it’s kinda tough going. Not only do you need to learn a whole new way of speaking, but you also need to learn two written languages: pinyin (the English transliteration of Chinese words, so you can actually read anything), and Chinese characters themselves.

The spoken language is difficult in its own right due to tones. These are like the accents found in other languages, but more complicated and unfortunately much more important – getting the wrong tone in a word can change the meaning completely, to the extent that you could call your mother a horse by using the wrong inflection.

This is further complicated by different dialects. The majority of people in China speak Mandarin, while people in the South (and most of the Hong Kong expatriates around the world) speak Cantonese. They both use the same characters, but they are pronounced very differently. Actually, that’s not entirely true – Mandarin speakers use ‘simplified Chinese characters’, while Hong Kong and Taiwan use ‘traditional characters’. Sometimes they look similar, sometimes not.

Did I mention the other half-dozen regional variations? It’s enough to cause you to weep.

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